Read all posts from May 2009

  • The President discusses the breadth and depth of experience held by his nominee for the Supreme Court. In the course of a life that began in a housing project in the South Bronx and brought her to the pinnacle of her profession, Judge Sonia Sotomayor accumulated more experience on the federal bench than any incoming Supreme Court Justice in the past 100 years, touching nearly every aspect of our legal system.
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  • As we mentioned earlier today, the administration has been working hard on a coordinated effort to prepare for hurricane season. This afternoon, the President met with FEMA at the National Response Coordination Center to discuss hurricane preparedness. The President stated that he had no greater responsibility than the safety of the American people, and emphasized the importance of planning in ensuring that safety:
    Our top priority is ensuring the public safety. That means appropriate sheltering in place, or, if necessary, getting as many people as possible out of harm’s way prior to landfall. But most of the work, as you would hear from these individual agencies, most of the work takes place before a hurricane hits. True preparedness means having federal and state and local governments all coordinating effectively, and as you just heard, one of the most important things we can do is make sure the families have prepared appropriately.

    The President is briefed on Hurricane Preparation(President Barack Obama confers with Homeland Security adviser John Brennan at the conclusion of a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA headquarters in Washington Friday, May 29, 2009.  At left is Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate briefed the President on preparedness efforts and the seasonal forecast for the 2009 hurricane season. Fugate echoed the President’s statements about the importance of preparation before a hurricane strikes:
    Preparing before a hurricane strikes lays the groundwork for a successful response and recovery, and we urge every American living in a hurricane-prone area to take the steps necessary to keep their families safe. Today’s briefing allowed President Obama to hear firsthand our plans and preparations to support state and local governments during hurricane season.

  • Another update from Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, in the spirit of transparency as always:
    I am writing with an update on the President’s March 20, 2009 Memorandum on Ensuring Responsible Spending of Recovery Act Funds. Section 3 of the Memorandum required all oral communications between federally registered lobbyists and government officials concerning Recovery Act policy to be disclosed on the Internet; barred registered lobbyists from having oral communications with government officials about specific Recovery Act projects or applications and instead required those communications to be in writing; and also required those written communications to be posted on the Internet.  That Memorandum instructed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review the initial 60 days of implementation of the stimulus lobbying restrictions, to evaluate the data, and to recommend modifications.
    Following OMB’s review, the Administration has decided to make a number of changes to the rules that we think make them even tougher on special interests and more focused on merits-based decision making.
    First, we will expand the restriction on oral communications to cover all persons, not just federally registered lobbyists.  For the first time, we will reach contacts not only by registered lobbyists but also by unregistered ones, as well as anyone else exerting influence on the process.  We concluded this was necessary under the unique circumstances of the stimulus program.
    Second, we will focus the restriction on oral communications to target the scenario where concerns about merit-based decision-making are greatest –after competitive grant applications are submitted and before awards are made.  Once such applications are on file, the competition should be strictly on the merits.  To that end, comments (unless initiated by an agency official) must be in writing and will be posted on the Internet for every American to see.
    Third, we will continue to require immediate internet disclosure of all other communications with registered lobbyists.  If registered lobbyists have conversations or meetings before an application is filed, a form must be completed and posted to each agency’s website documenting the contact.
    OMB will be consulting with agencies, outside experts and others about these principles and will publish detailed guidance, but we wanted to update interested parties on the outcome of the initial review.  We consulted very broadly both within and outside of government (including as reflected in previous posts on the White House blog) and we are grateful to all those who participated in the process.

  • OMB Director Orszag explains why the fiscal problems the President inherited don't preclude health reform, but rather necessitate it.

  • Melissa Hathaway, Cybersecurity Chief at the National Security Council, discusses securing our nation's digital future:
    The globally-interconnected digital information and communications infrastructure known as cyberspace underpins almost every facet of modern society and provides critical support for the U.S. economy, civil infrastructure, public safety and national security.  The United States is one of the global leaders on embedding technology into our daily lives and this technology adoption has transformed the global economy and connected people in ways never imagined.  My boys are 8 and 9 and use the Internet daily to do homework, blog with their friends and teacher, and email their mom; it is second nature to them.  My mom and dad can read the newspapers about their daughter on-line and can reach me anywhere in the world from their cell phone to mine.  And people all over the world can post and watch videos and read our blogs within minutes of completion.  I can’t imagine my world without this connectivity and I would bet that you cannot either.   Now consider that the same networks that provide this connectively also increasingly help control our critical infrastructure.  These networks deliver power and water to our households and businesses, they enable us to access our bank accounts from almost any city in the world, and they are transforming the way our doctors provide healthcare.  For all of these reasons, we need a safe Internet with a strong network infrastructure and we as a nation need to take prompt action to protect cyberspace for what we use it for today and will need in the future. 
    Protecting cyberspace requires strong vision and leadership and will require changes in policy, technology, education, and perhaps law.  The 60-day cyberspace policy review summarizes our conclusions and outlines the beginning of a way forward in building a reliable, resilient, trustworthy digital infrastructure for the future.  There are opportunities for everyone—individuals, academia, industry, and governments—to contribute toward this vision.  During the review we engaged in more than 40 meetings and received and read more than 100 papers that informed our recommendations.   As you will see in our review there is a lot of work for us to do together and an ambitious action plan to accomplish our goals.  It must begin with a national dialogue on cybersecurity and we should start with our family, friends, and colleagues. 
    We are late in addressing this critical national need and our response must be focused, aggressive, and well-resourced.  We have garnered great momentum in the last few months, and the vision developed in our review is based on the important input we received from industry, academia, the civil liberties and privacy communities, others in the Executive Branch, State governments, Congress, and our international partners.  We now have a strong and common view of what is needed to achieve change.   Ensuring that cyberspace is sufficiently resilient and trustworthy to support U.S. goals of economic growth, civil liberties and privacy protections, national security, and the continued advancement of democratic institutions requires making cybersecurity a national priority.
     

    Cybersecurity

    Watch experts from the public and private sectors discuss the Administration's combined arms approach to securing our nation's digital future:
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  • With Monday marking the beginning of hurricane season, this afternoon the President will attend a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA Headquarters.    The President has already called on all Americans to plan ahead and help secure the safety of those facing advancing storms, declaring May 24 through May 30, 2009 National Hurricane Preparedness Week.
    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano said preparing for disasters is one of the highest priorities of Homeland Security. Last week, she visited Florida with FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate, to assess the preparations for the beginning of hurricane season. This followed a teleconference with governors from across the country to discuss hurricane preparations in their states. Secretary Napolitano announced that the Department is ready for this year’s hurricane season, and prepared to support local, state and tribal partners in need of assistance. However, she said preparedness is a shared responsibility among government agencies, the private sectors and individuals. Individuals need to do their part to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.
    For more information on hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Hurricane Center’s site. You can also learn what you need in your emergency supply kit at Ready.gov.  

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    This afternoon the President held a one-on-one meeting, and then an expanded meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, read the President's opening remarks when they spoke to the press together afterwards:
     
    PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Hello, everybody.  Well, it is a great pleasure to welcome President Abbas to the Oval Office.  We had -- we just completed an extensive conversation, both privately as well as with our delegations, about how we can advance peace in the Middle East and how we can reaffirm some core principles that I think can result in Palestinians and Israelis living side by side in peace and security.
    As I've said before, I've been a strong believer in a two-state solution that would provide the Israelis and Palestinians the peace and security that they need.  I am very appreciative that President Abbas shares that view.  And when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here last week I reiterated to him that the framework that's been provided by the road map is one that can advance the interests of Israel, can advance the interests of the Palestinian people, and can also advance the interests of the United States.
    We are a stalwart ally of Israel and it is in our interests to assure that Israel is safe and secure.  It is our belief that the best way to achieve that is to create the conditions on the ground and set the stage for a Palestinian state as well.  And so what I told Prime Minister Netanyahu was is that each party has obligations under the road map.  On the Israeli side those obligations include stopping settlements.  They include making sure that there is a viable potential Palestinian state.  On the Palestinian side it's going to be important and necessary to continue to take the security steps on the West Bank that President Abbas has already begun to take, working with General Dayton.  We've seen great progress in terms of security in the West Bank.  Those security steps need to continue because Israel has to have some confidence that security in the West Bank is in place in order for us to advance this process.
    And I also mentioned to President Abbas in a frank exchange that it was very important to continue to make progress in reducing the incitement and anti-Israel sentiments that are sometimes expressed in schools and mosques and in the public square, because all those things are impediments to peace.
    The final point that I made was the importance of all countries internationally, but particularly the Arab states, to be supportive of a two-state solution.  And we discussed how important it is that the Arab states, building off of some of the recognition of the possibilities of the two-state solution that are contained in the Arab Peace Initiative continue to provide economic support, as well as political support, to President Abbas's efforts as he moves the Palestinian Authority forward, as he continues to initiate the reforms that have taken place, and as he hopefully is going to be able to enter into constructive talks with the Israelis.
    So, again, I want to thank President Abbas for his visit and a very constructive conversation.  I am confident that we can move this process forward if all the parties are willing to take on the responsibilities and meet the obligations that they've already committed to, and if they keep in mind not just the short-term tactical issues that are involved, but the long-term strategic interests of both the Israelis and the Palestinians to live side by side in peace and security.
    So, thank you again, Mr. President.
    President Obama and President Abbas(President Barack Obama meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office Thursday, May 28, 2009.  The man sitting between them is an interpreter. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    President Obama in expanded meeting with President Abbas(President Barack Obama meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office Thursday, May 28, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    President Obama and President Abbas(President Barack Obama listens as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responds to a question during a joint meeting with the press in the Oval Office Thursday, May 28, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

  • Beth Noveck, Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government, brings us an update on the Open Government Initiative:

    Open Government Initiative

    Last week, the White House launched an unprecedented online process for public engagement in policymaking. That process began with a week of Brainstorming, hosted by the National Academy of Public Administration.

    You have shared almost 900 submissions and 33,000 votes on ideas ranging from strategies for making government data more accessible to legal and policy impediments to transparency.  Thank you!
    The Brainstorming phase is drawing to an official close tonight at midnight.  We are reviewing all material on the site in preparation for the Discussion Phase, which begins on Wednesday June 3rd.  We’ll be distilling both the ideas from the Brainstorming and the comments from an online dialogue with government employees that took place earlier this spring on the MAX federal wiki.  All comments from MAX will be publicly posted tomorrow on the Open Government website.
    Our goal is to use the ideas from this first phase of the process as well as other input to inform deeper discussion on the Open Government blog in the Discussion phase. While the voting on the brainstorming submissions will be instructive, it will not determine which topics are discussed in the second phase. Rather, the Discussion is designed to dig in on harder topics that require greater exploration or refinement.
    While we are doing our analysis of the first phase of brainstorming and moving on to the Discussion Phase next week, the Brainstorming has been lively and productive. So we will keep the Brainstorming site turned on for addition submissions through June 19th.   While new postings may not feed into the Discussion or Drafting Phases, we’ll be on the lookout for interesting new posts.
    At the end of the public engagement process, all posted submissions will go up on the Open Government website. (For you records management fans, the Open Government website is run by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and subject to the Federal Records Act.)
    The tight schedule of this process is designed to ensure that your ideas inform the development of open government recommendations and the writing of subsequent policy and the development of open government projects as soon as possible. So while we are keeping the Brainstorming open, we will also move on to the next phase of the process beginning on June 3rd.
    Longer reports and papers can always be submitted through opengov@ostp.gov.
    The process of crafting open government policy will not end this week, this month, or this year.  This is an ongoing effort, and your participation has been and will continue to be essential to its success.

  • Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden thanked the 1,046 newest graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy not only for their dedication and achievement, but for their future service in guaranteeing America’s security. He called on graduates to set their own course for the future in an uncertain and ever-changing world, saying that although these modern challenges are daunting, they present many new opportunities:
    This is a moment that requires us to act or face the consequences of our inaction. Other generations have had the luxury of not acting, knowing that the status quo would not in any fundamental way be altered. You don’t have that choice. This is your moment to bend history towards a service of a better day. It’s a moment that will be defined by you and your civilian counterparts – by a generation that I’m convinced has the intellect, the character and the judgment to ensure that America will lead the 21st century as it has the 20th century.

    Vice President Biden at the Air Force Academy CommencementVice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Cadets after delivering the commencement address at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Wednesday, May 27, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Vice President Biden at the Air Force Academy CommencementCadets throw their hats in the air as the Thunderbirds fly overhead after Vice President Joe Biden delivered the commencement address at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Wednesday, May 27, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • This afternoon, on the 100th Day since the President signed the Recovery Act, he joined Senate Leader Harry Reid, one of those most responsible for its passage, in his home state of Nevada at the Thunderbird Hangar at Nellis Air Force Base. The President noted in his remarks the Recovery Act has already saved or created more than 150,000 jobs, but just as the report issued this morning and even round-ups like the one here today show, taking a closer look at how individual projects and initiatives affect real communities is the only way to really appreciate the impact the Recovery Act will have:
    You know, it's always a pleasure to get out of Washington a little bit. Washington is okay, but it's nice taking some time to talk to Americans of every walk of life outside of the nation's capital. And there's nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week. (Applause.) Like millions of other Americans, we come to this beautiful city for the sights and for the sounds -- and today we come for the sun.
    Because right now, we're standing near the largest solar electric plant of its kind in the entire Western Hemisphere -- the entire Western Hemisphere. More than 72,000 solar panels built on part of an old landfill provide 25 percent of the electricity for the 12,000 people who live and work here at Nellis. That's the equivalent of powering about 13,200 homes during the day.
    It's a project that took about half a year to complete, created 200 jobs, and will save the United States Air Force, which is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, nearly $1 million -- $1 million a year. It will also reduce harmful carbon pollution by 24,000 tons per year, which is the equivalent of removing 4,000 cars from our roads. Most importantly, this base serves as a shining example of what's possible when we harness the power of clean, renewable energy to build a new, firmer foundation for economic growth.
    Now, that's the kind of foundation we're trying to build all across America. One hundred days ago, in the midst of the worst economic crisis in half a century, we passed the most sweeping economic recovery act in history -- a plan designed to save jobs, create new ones, and put money in people's pockets. It's a plan designed not only to revive the economy in the short term, but to rebuild the economy over the long term. It's a plan that we passed thanks to the tireless efforts of Harry Reid and Congresswoman Berkley and Congresswoman Titus and all the other outstanding public servants in Washington.
    The President at at Nellis Air Force Base(The President visits Nellis Air Force Base, in Las Vegas, Nevada May 27, 2009. Obama marked the 100th day of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by highlighting the development and use of geothermal and solar energy. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • It’s been 100 days since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed, and even as much of its benefit will be felt through projects and ripple effects yet to come, the impact is already real. This morning, the White House released "100 Days, 100 Projects," a report showing a snapshot of some of the projects funded by the Recovery Act, including new jobs in emerging sectors like renewable energy, and holding on to jobs in critical areas like law enforcement and education.
    While the report this morning highlighted some of the best from the past 100 days, even looking at the past week gives an idea of what is happening all over the country.
    "One of Hartselle's busiest roadways should have a smoother driving surface by year's end.  A unanimous City Council approved contracts that will allow the Alabama Department of Transportation to engineer and construct the Sparkman Street resurfacing project.  ‘It's always good when we can pave streets,’ Council President Kenny Thompson said at Tuesday's meeting.  The contracts will allow the state to resurface Sparkman Street from the north end at U.S. 31 to Hayes Street and then to the south end at U.S. 31… The council is using federal stimulus money to fund the project."
    "Stimulus funds will pay for 200 jobs for young people in Yuba County, California. Mid-Valley shops, restaurants, nonprofits and government agencies will employ hun­dreds of young people this summer – and pay them with federal stimulus dollars. The funding is part of a $1.2 billion program approved by Congress in February to provide short-term work training and employment for disadvantaged 14- to 24-year-olds. Sheila Moore, a Yuba County One Stop training and employment counselor, said the $465,000 share allocated for Yuba County will pay minimum wage salaries for up to 200 youth jobs, as well as transportation vouchers and other work-related expenses. ‘They really got the dollars down to us fast,’ Yuba County One Stop Director Patti Clary said of the $465,000."
    "Southern Illinois University Carbondale has received $16,694 in funding for student and/or teacher training from the National Institutes of Health. The grant, announced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will create research experiences over the next two summers for high school and college students and science teachers at NIH-funded laboratories across the country. ‘This is an example of Recovery Act funds creating jobs,’ Costello said. He noted that by supporting jobs in the fields of education and science, the funding also provides additional benefits that will result from the training."
    "Federal stimulus money will help upgrade the lock and dam on the Mississippi River near Red Wing, creating about 500 jobs for two years, according to officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps has received $70 million as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and plans to use the funds to renovate the 70-year-old facility, according to Tom Crump, Chief of Project Management at the Corps' St. Paul District office."
    "Tennessee's plan to spend $635 million in stimulus money to plug holes in higher education and grade-school budgets has been approved by federal officials, a formality that will likely save hundreds of jobs. The pressure of potential job losses lessened once President Barack Obama announced details about stimulus money, but Tennessee's plans on how to spend the cash influx had to be approved before the deal was finalized. The state also will be eligible for an additional $313 million in funds this fall.  ‘These funds will help Tennessee tremendously in a time of very difficult and challenging budgets,’ Gov. Phil Bredesen said in a statement last week."

  • With the President in Nevada talking about clean energy, Green Jobs, and the Recovery Act, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis talks about all of that from her perspective -- in English and Spanish:
    As the Secretary of Labor, I believe investing in our nation’s clean energy future will not only secure America’s energy supply and promote economic stability, but also advance all of our communities.
    Investments in the green economy can revitalize old industries, create new industries and generate new jobs for our workforce. These are jobs that will stay in the United States and cannot be outsourced. They will help pave a pathway out of poverty; strengthen urban and rural communities. Through these jobs we can export products - not paychecks. And these jobs will help rebuild a strong middle class and protect the health of our citizens and planet.
    In the past several months, I had the opportunity to visit workers who are receiving training and acquiring new skills for green jobs. In places like the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania and the East Los Angeles Skill Center, underserved adults are being trained for green jobs like the ones the Recovery Act is creating. These jobs range from the manufacturing of advanced batteries and wind turbines to the installation of solar panels and skills to conduct energy audits.
    The Labor Department officially announced plans to release $500 million from the Recovery Act for grants to prepare workers for careers like these. These funds will help both dislocated and incumbent workers, at-risk youth and underserved communities. $50 million of that money will assist communities affected by auto industry restructuring. The competition for grant money is anticipated to begin in June 2009.
    Through these grants and the partnerships I have entered into with the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Energy and Education, we are working to rebuild our economy in a more equitable manner, one that is inclusive of all Americans regardless of socio-economic background or gender. Together we can help individuals enter career pathways leading to economic self-sufficiency. The new foundation green jobs can provide long-term security for the economy as a whole, and bring security to a family to help pay their mortgage, get their children health care, and put food on their table.
    In these tough economic times, there are those that argue that we can’t afford to focus on the environment. But if we work to create a new clean energy economy, we can both make our planet cleaner, and provide good stable work for all Americans.
     
    ******
    Como la Secretaria de Trabajo, creo que al invertir en una economía basada en la energía limpia no solamente aseguramos nuestro futuro en materia de energía, sino nuestro progreso económico y, al mismo tiempo, creamos oportunidades para todas nuestras comunidades.
    Inversiones en una economía verde pueden crear nuevas industrias y nuevos trabajos. Estos trabajos no pueden ser exportados. Estos trabajos pueden ayudar a revitalizar nuestras comunidades y a crear oportunidades para personas pobres. Mediante estos trabajos podemos exportar productos y no los salarios de nuestros trabajadores. Estos trabajos pueden crear una clase media más grande y proteger la salud de nuestros ciudadanos y nuestro planeta.
    En los últimos meses, he tenido la oportunidad de visitar trabajadores que están recibiendo entrenamiento y se están preparando para aprovechar estos nuevos empleos verdes. Ejemplos son el Community College del condado de Allegheny en Pensilvania y el centro de capacitación (Skill Center) en el este de Los Ángeles, donde adultos están siendo entrenados para los trabajos verdes que serán creados por la Ley de Recuperación y Reinversión. Estos trabajos incluyen la manufactura de baterías y turbinas de viento, instalaciones de paneles solares, y la auditoria del uso de energía.
    El Departamento de Labor anunció oficialmente sus planes de hacer públicos $500 millones de la Ley de Recuperación y Reinversión en forma de becas para preparar a los trabajadores en carreras como estas. Estos fondos ayudarán a trabajadores que han perdido sus empleos, trabajadores nuevos y trabajadores jóvenes. $50 millones serán otorgados a trabajadores afectados por la reestructuración de la industria automotriz. El proceso de licitación para recibir este dinero comenzará en Junio del 2009.
    Mediante estas becas y los acuerdos establecidos con los Departamentos de Energía, Educación, y Vivienda y Desarrollo Urbano, estamos trabajado para crear una economía mas equitativa que incluya a todas las personas sin importar su antecedente económico y social o su sexo. Juntos podemos asistir a los trabajadores y ponerlos en camino hacia un futuro más prospero. Los empleos verdes pueden sentar una nueva base para nuestra economía y darles la seguridad económica a las familias para pagar sus hipotecas, pagar el seguro médico de sus hijos y alimentar a sus familias.
    En estos tiempos de crisis hay individuos que dicen que no podemos invertir en el medio ambiente. Pero si creamos una economía basada en la energía limpia, podemos limpiar nuestro medioambiente y al mismo tiempo crear nuevos y buenos trabajos para todos.

    (DOL Photo/Shawn Moore)

  • At 1:00 White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle will be leading another Health Care Stakeholder Discussion, this time with over 30 physician leaders from around the country, including deans of medical schools, CEOs of teaching hospitals, leaders of specialty societies, chairs of academic departments, and several private practice physicians.
    UPDATE: This event has now concluded but Rebecca Adelman, our reliable HHS correspondent, reports back:
    Over 30 physician leaders from across the country, including deans of medical schools, CEOs of teaching hospitals, leaders in medical specialties, and practicing physicians gathered on the third floor of the Old Executive Office Building today to talk in very specific terms about ways to reduce health care costs, assure quality health care and improve the experience of practicing medicine in America. Director of the White House office of Health Reform Nancy-Ann DeParle opened the event along side four physicians working on health care reform in the Administration: Dr. Dora Hughes, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, Dr. Bob Kocher and Dr. Kavita Patel.
    The discussion, moderated by DeParle and the four physicians, touched on a wide range of issues affecting the practice of medicine. Dr. Kocher began the discussion by outlining the President’s vision for health care reform: a health care system that guarantees choice of doctors and plans, invests in prevention and wellness, improves patient safety and quality of care, and assures affordable health coverage for all Americans. Dr. Emanuel then asked for specific ideas from the physicians "in the trenches" on how to improve quality and keep health care costs down. From there, the spirited conversation centered on concrete ways that hospitals and medical practices could be more efficient, notably by incorporating health information technology, and many spoke of the need for new financial incentives instead of fee for service.
    There was wide agreement that health care reform must address the shortage of primary care physicians, as debt from medical school is discouraging new physicians from choosing primary care as a specialty. Dr. Hughes also asked the group to weigh in on the role of the government in health care reform, and many doctors responded that encouraging personal responsibility and increasing education are ways the government could help improve public health and prevent chronic diseases. Thanking the doctors at the conclusion of the 90 minute meeting, Nancy-Ann DeParle called the meeting both "invigorating" and "helpful."

  • Ed DeSeve, Coordinator of Recovery Implementation, tells us about a new report:
    It seems like a long time since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on February 17. In fact, it’s only been 100 days. In that time, we’ve obligated over 100 billion dollars, created more than 150,000 jobs and started important projects in every state and territory of America. Today, President Obama released a snapshot of these projects called "100 Days, 100 Projects."
    As we worked to compile the Report, all of us were struck by the very personal stories that we came across. We learned that Recovery is about more than just projects. It’s about helping people who have been hit hard by the worst recession of our lifetimes. It’s about people like Joe Jamiel who was able to keep his family’s shoe store open in Rhode Island with an SBA loan; or Chang Suhn Lee and his wife Soon Oak who will be expanding their small farm in Virginia; or the more than 54 million Americans who got an extra $250 in their Social Security checks this month to help make ends meet.
    Recovery means that a health care clinic in Pearl, Mississippi can serve an additional 9,000 patients over the next two years and the Housing Authority of Laredo Texas will install $1,500,000 of green improvements to lower costs and improve people’s homes. In Allen Parish Louisiana, there will be four new fire trucks and in the State of Maine a new ferry to serve the people on islands in Penobscot Bay.
    As we move forward during the next 100 days and beyond, we are creating a road map that we will present soon to highlight the commitments and milestones ahead. Starting in October, the Recovery.Gov website will provide detailed information on how monies were spent, an estimate of how many jobs were created, and where these jobs are. 
    As Vice President Joe Biden said, "We’ve done a lot in 100 days. But we know there is still much to do... You know, as we do, that the road to full recovery will be long and not always smooth. But we also know that, working together, there is no doubt that we will reach the end of that road. When we do, America will be better and stronger than ever."

  • Jared Bernstein, the Executive Director of the Middle Class Task Force and the Vice President's Chief Economist, puts recent events on clean energy and the economy into perspective:
    Hey, taskforce fans. We’re just back from Denver where we hosted our fourth meeting. It was on the green economy and the opportunities therein for middle-class folks. VP Biden was joined by all kinds of interesting partners from our world, including Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis; Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan; Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack; Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Poneman; United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk; and Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Van Jones.
    Once again, the Vice-President hosted a town-hall style meeting because that’s the best way for him and the rest of this crew to learn what middle-class families are going through right now, and how these issues resonate with them (read the Vice President’s opening remarks).
    Vice President Biden at a meeting of the Middle Class Task Force
    (Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a middle class task force even at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature in Denver, Colorado, Tuesday, May 26, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
    Those who’ve been with us from the beginning will notice that this is our second taskforce meeting on this topic of green jobs. This is no accident: our emphasis on green energy occurs at the intersection of two of the Obama Administration’s most important policy initiatives: protecting the environment and creating good jobs.
    On the first point—fighting back against global warming—this past week has been a good one. On Tuesday the President hosted an historic event where stakeholders who have been at odds for years on this stuff came together to support a much higher mileage standard for vehicles. (BTW, IMHO one of President Obama’s more important skills is the ability to take folks who traditionally line up on opposite sides and bring them together—you see it in health care too.) 
    The administration’s plan to promote clean energy use also made some headway in Congress last week.
    Then there’s green jobs, which we define broadly (and loosely—there is no official definition) as jobs that help to improve the environment in some way. That includes blue collar workers building out the smart grid to efficiently move the wind power (green, renewable energy) across the land. It includes "weatherizers" who can diagnose and repair the energy inefficiencies in your house or business. And it includes the green manufacturers who made those wind turbines or the scientists and lab technicians who developed those renewable energy sources and weatherization materials.
    It’s important to see the connection between these various initiatives: our clean energy agenda, mileage standards, and green jobs. By setting higher mileage standards and by promoting incentives to use clean energy (while reducing our dependence on foreign oil), we create new demand for the science, techniques, products, and tools to meet the standards. We help to grow the market for more efficient engines and new production techniques that reduce carbon emissions. And a growing market means more jobs for middle-class families.
    Now, with new markets come new labor demands, and new demand requires new supply. In this case, we’ll need more workers with the skills to meet the demands, and that’s a big focus of our Denver meeting. We’re announcing a great, new green jobs training program funded by $500 million from the Recovery Act.
    So, go green, and go taskforce!
    Vice President Biden at a meeting of the Middle Class Task Force(Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a middle class task force even at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature in Denver, Colorado, Tuesday, May 26, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • We asked Van Jones, Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, to explain the significance of today’s meeting of the Middle Class Task Force.
    To rebuild and strengthen the middle class, Vice President Joe Biden wants Americans earning more money in enterprises that upgrade America’s buildings, increase their efficiency, save money, and at the same time, help to improve our environment.
    A smart plan will ultimately save Americans billions of dollars in energy costs, while creating jobs and reducing the strain on our nation’s power grid. Reducing the load on our coal-fired power plants would, in turn, cut air pollution - letting our kids and seniors breathe a little easier.
    At the same time, retrofitting American homes will also enhance their value - since energy efficient homes are more valuable than drafty ones. In other words, an aggressive program to retrofit America will create more work, more wealth, and better health for middle class Americans.
    That is why today Vice President Biden asked the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to help the administration develop long-term, innovative proposals to begin weatherizing and retrofitting our nation’s building stock.
    Fortunately, the Obama-Biden administration is already off to a great start! Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the administration made a significant investment in making America’s homes more energy efficient, dramatically increasing previous funding levels for weatherization and retrofit of buildings. 
    For example, the Weatherization Assistance Program was funded at only around $250 million in 2008. The Recovery Act boosted funding to $5 billion. That translates to jobs for professionally trained crews using computerized energy audits and advanced equipment to determine the most cost-effective measures. To meet this demand for workers, there will have to be a huge ramp-up in training workers. That's why the Recovery Act also includes $500 million for green job training through the Department of Labor.
    Moving beyond those who are presently benefiting, the Obama-Biden administration wants to find ways to extend energy efficiency to the entire middle class. On average, a complete weatherization reduces a household’s annual gas heating consumption by 32 percent; that translates to an average of $350/ year, at current prices. Retrofitting and upgrading buildings so they waste less energy benefits the middle class in numerous ways: job creation; entrepreneurial and business opportunities; a healthier environment; and reduced home energy costs.
    We don’t want the national drive to cut America’s home energy bills to come to an end when the Recovery Act funding is spent. So, over the next 90 days, we will review proposals that build on the foundation laid in ARRA to expand green opportunity and energy savings for the middle class. We at CEQ are happy to accept the challenge!

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    There is no question that nominating a Supreme Court Justice is amongst a president’s most important responsibilities.   In replacing Justice Souter, the President has vowed to seek someone with a sharp and independent mind, and a record of excellence and integrity.   As a former constitutional law professor, he believes it paramount to select someone who rejects ideology and shares his deep respect for the Constitutional values on which this nation was founded. 
    And as the President has made clear, upholding those constitutional values requires more than just the intellectual ability to apply a legal rule to a set of facts.   It requires a common sense understanding of how laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives. As the President noted in his remarks this morning, Judge Sonia Sotomayor fits that bill – he began recounting her spectacular credentials, before describing the life story that made her who she is:
    But as impressive and meaningful as Judge Sotomayor's sterling credentials in the law is her own extraordinary journey. Born in the South Bronx, she was raised in a housing project not far from Yankee Stadium, making her a lifelong Yankee's fan.  I hope this will not disqualify her -- (laughter) -- in the eyes of the New Englanders in the Senate.  (Laughter.) 
    Sonia's parents came to New York from Puerto Rico during the second world war, her mother as part of the Women's Army Corps.  And, in fact, her mother is here today and I'd like us all to acknowledge Sonia's mom.  (Applause.)  Sonia's mom has been a little choked up.  (Laughter.)  But she, Sonia's mother, began a family tradition of giving back to this country.  Sonia's father was a factory worker with a 3rd-grade education who didn't speak English.  But like Sonia's mother, he had a willingness to work hard, a strong sense of family, and a belief in the American Dream.
    When Sonia was nine, her father passed away.  And her mother worked six days a week as a nurse to provide for Sonia and her brother -- who is also here today, is a doctor and a terrific success in his own right.  But Sonia's mom bought the only set of encyclopedias in the neighborhood, sent her children to a Catholic school called Cardinal Spellman out of the belief that with a good education here in America all things are possible. 
    With the support of family, friends, and teachers, Sonia earned scholarships to Princeton, where she graduated at the top of her class, and Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal, stepping onto the path that led her here today. 
    Along the way she's faced down barriers, overcome the odds, lived out the American Dream that brought her parents here so long ago.  And even as she has accomplished so much in her life, she has never forgotten where she began, never lost touch with the community that supported her. 
    What Sonia will bring to the Court, then, is not only the knowledge and experience acquired over a course of a brilliant legal career, but the wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life's journey. 
    It's my understanding that Judge Sotomayor's interest in the law was sparked as a young girl by reading the Nancy Drew series -- (laughter) -- and that when she was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of eight, she was informed that people with diabetes can't grow up to be police officers or private investigators like Nancy Drew.  And that's when she was told she'd have to scale back her dreams. 
    Look through a slideshow of photos from her life (view full size):
    play
    The Law School Admission Council has a video discussing her story as part of their "Believe and Achieve: Latinos and the Law" program that is also well worth watching. Finally, the White House also sent out the following background, giving a thorough look at Judge Sotomayor’s life and career:
    Judge Sonia Sotomayor
     
    Sonia Sotomayor has served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since October 1998. She has been hailed as "one of the ablest federal judges currently sitting" for her thoughtful opinions,i and as "a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity"ii for her ascent to the federal bench from an upbringing in a South Bronx housing project.
    Her American story and three decade career in nearly every aspect of the law provide Judge Sotomayor with unique qualifications to be the next Supreme Court Justice. She is a distinguished graduate of two of America's leading universities. She has been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator. Before she was promoted to the Second Circuit by President Clinton, she was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush. She replaces Justice Souter as the only Justice with experience as a trial judge.
    Judge Sotomayor served 11 years on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most demanding circuits in the country, and has handed down decisions on a range of complex legal and constitutional issues. If confirmed, Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years. Judge Richard C. Wesley, a George W. Bush appointee to the Second Circuit, said "Sonia is an outstanding colleague with a keen legal mind. She brings a wealth of knowledge and hard work to all her endeavors on our court. It is both a pleasure and an honor to serve with her."
    In addition to her distinguished judicial service, Judge Sotomayor is a Lecturer at Columbia University Law School and was also an adjunct professor at New York University Law School until 2007.
    An American Story
    Judge Sonia Sotomayor has lived the American dream. Born to a Puerto Rican family, she grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Her parents moved to New York during World War II – her mother served in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps during the war. Her father, a factory worker with a third-grade education, died when Sotomayor was nine years old. Her mother, a nurse, then raised Sotomayor and her younger brother, Juan, now a physician in Syracuse. After her father’s death, Sotomayor turned to books for solace, and it was her new found love of Nancy Drew that inspired a love of reading and learning, a path that ultimately led her to the law.
    Most importantly, at an early age, her mother instilled in Sotomayor and her brother a belief in the power of education. Driven by an indefatigable work ethic, and rising to the challenge of managing a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes, Sotomayor excelled in school. Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York. She first heard about the Ivy League from her high school debate coach, Ken Moy, who attended Princeton University, and she soon followed in his footsteps after winning a scholarship.
    At Princeton, she continued to excel, graduating summa cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa. She was a co-recipient of the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest honor Princeton awards to an undergraduate. At Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and as managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order. One of Sotomayor’s former Yale Law School classmates, Robert Klonoff (now Dean of Lewis & Clark Law School), remembers her intellectual toughness from law school: "She would stand up for herself and not be intimidated by anyone." [Washington Post, 5/7/09]
    A Champion of the Law
    Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system – yielding a depth of experience and a breadth of perspectives that will be invaluable – and is currently not represented -- on our highest court. New York City District Attorney Morgenthau recently praised Sotomayor as an "able champion of the law" who would be "highly qualified for any position in which wisdom, intelligence, collegiality and good character could be assets." [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/09]
    A Fearless and Effective Prosecutor
    Fresh out of Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor became an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan in 1979, where she tried dozens of criminal cases over five years. Spending nearly every day in the court room, her prosecutorial work typically involved "street crimes," such as murders and robberies, as well as child abuse, police misconduct, and fraud cases. Robert Morgenthau, the person who hired Judge Sotomayor, has described her as a "fearless and effective prosecutor." [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/09] She was cocounsel in the "Tarzan Murderer" case, which convicted a murderer to 67 and ½ years to life in prison, and was sole counsel in a multiple-defendant case involving a Manhattan housing project shooting between rival family groups.
    A Corporate Litigator
    She entered private practice in 1984, becoming a partner in 1988 at the firm Pavia and Harcourt. She was a general civil litigator involved in all facets of commercial work including, real estate, employment, banking, contracts, and agency law. In addition, her practice had a significant concentration in intellectual property law, including trademark, copyright and unfair competition issues. Her typical clients were significant corporations doing international business. The managing partner who hired her, George Pavia, remembers being instantly impressed with the young Sonia Sotomayor when he hired her in 1984, noting that "she was just ideal for us in terms of her background and training." [Washington Post, May 7, 2009]
    A Sharp and Fearless Trial Judge
    Her judicial service began in October 1992 with her appointment to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush. Still in her 30s, she was the youngest member of the court. From 1992 to 1998, she presided over roughly 450 cases. As a trial judge, she earned a reputation as a sharp and fearless jurist who does not let powerful interests bully her into departing from the rule of law. In 1995, for example, she issued an injunction against Major League Baseball owners, effectively ending a baseball strike that had become the longest work stoppage in professional sports history and had caused the cancellation of the World Series the previous fall. She was widely lauded for saving baseball. Claude Lewis of the Philadelphia Inquirerwrote that by saving the season, Judge Sotomayor joined "the ranks of Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams."
    A Tough, Fair and Thoughtful Jurist
    President Clinton appointed Judge Sotomayor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1998. She is the first Latina to serve on that court, and has participated in over 3000 panel decisions, authoring roughly 400 published opinions. Sitting on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has tackled a range of questions: from difficult issues of constitutional law, to complex procedural matters, to lawsuits involving complicated business organizations. In this context, Sotomayor is widely admired as a judge with a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine. "’She appreciates the complexity of issues,’ said Stephen L. Carter, a Yale professor who teaches some of her opinions in his classes. Confronted with a tough case, Carter said, ‘she doesn’t leap at its throat but reasons to get to the bottom of issues.’" For example, in United States v. Quattrone, Judge Sotomayor concluded that the trial judge had erred by forbidding the release of jurors’ names to the press, concluding after carefully weighing the competing concerns that the trial judge’s concerns for a speedy and orderly trial must give way to the constitutional freedoms of speech and the press.
    Sotomayor also has keen awareness of the law’s impact on everyday life. Active in oral arguments, she works tirelessly to probe both the factual details and the legal doctrines in the cases before her and to arrive at decisions that are faithful to both. She understands that upholding the rule of law means going beyond legal theory to ensure consistent, fair, common-sense application of the law to real-world facts. For example, In United States v. Reimer, Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion revoking the US citizenship for a man charged with working for the Nazis in World War II Poland, guarding concentration camps and helping empty the Jewish ghettos. And in Lin v. Gonzalesand a series of similar cases, she ordered renewed consideration of the asylum claims of Chinese women who experienced or were threatened with forced birth control, evincing in her opinions a keen awareness of those women’s plights.
    Judge Sotomayor’s appreciation of the real-world implications of judicial rulings is paralleled by her sensible practicality in evaluating the actions of law enforcement officers. For example, in United States v. Falso, the defendant was convicted of possessing child pornography after FBI agents searched his home with a warrant. The warrant should not have been issued, but the agents did not know that, and Judge Sotomayor wrote for the court that the officers’ good faith justified using the evidence they found. Similarly in United States v. Santa, Judge Sotomayor ruled that when police search a suspect based on a mistaken belief that there is a valid arrest warrant out on him, evidence found during the search should not be suppressed. Ten years later, in Herring v. United States, the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion. In her 1997 confirmation hearing, Sotomayor spoke of her judicial philosophy, saying" I don’t believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it." Her record on the Second Circuit holds true to that statement. For example, in Hankins v. Lyght, she argued in dissent that the federal government risks "an unconstitutional trespass" if it attempts to dictate to religious organizations who they can or cannot hire or dismiss as spiritual leaders. Since joining the Second Circuit, Sotomayor has honored the Constitution, the rule of law, and justice, often forging consensus and winning conservative colleagues to her point of view.
    A Commitment to Community
    Judge Sotomayor is deeply committed to her family, to her co-workers, and to her community. Judge Sotomayor is a doting aunt to her brother Juan’s three children and an attentive godmother to five more. She still speaks to her mother, who now lives in Florida, every day. At the courthouse, Judge Sotomayor helped found the collegiality committee to foster stronger personal relationships among members of the court. Seizing an opportunity to lead others on the path to success, she recruited judges to join her in inviting young women to the courthouse on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and mentors young students from troubled neighborhoods Her favorite project, however, is the Development School for Youth program, which sponsors workshops for inner city high school students. Every semester, approximately 70 students attend 16 weekly workshops that are designed to teach them how to function in a work setting. The workshop leaders include investment bankers, corporate executives and Judge Sotomayor, who conducts a workshop on the law for 25 to 35 students. She uses as her vehicle the trial of Goldilocks and recruits six lawyers to help her. The students play various roles, including the parts of the prosecutor, the defense attorney, Goldilocks and the jurors, and in the process they get to experience openings, closings, direct and cross-examinations. In addition to the workshop experience, each student is offered a summer job by one of the corporate sponsors. The experience is rewarding for the lawyers and exciting for the students, commented Judge Sotomayor, as "it opens up possibilities that the students never dreamed of before." [Federal Bar Council News, Sept./Oct./Nov. 2005, p.20] This is one of many ways that Judge Sotomayor gives back to her community and inspires young people to achieve their dreams.
    She has served as a member of the Second Circuit Task Force on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts and was formerly on the Boards of Directors of the New York Mortgage Agency, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
    _________________________
    i American Philosophical Society, Biographical Essays of Moderators, Speakers, Inductees and Award Recipients, Annual General Meeting, April 2003, at 36.
    ii Honorary Degree Citation, Pace University School of Law, 2003 Commencement.

  • The President will make an announcement regarding his nomination for the Supreme Court at 10:15AM EDT in the East Room of the White House, watch it streamed lived at WhiteHouse.gov/live.
    UPDATE: This event has now concluded, check back later for the transcript and video.

  • President Barack Obama participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier(President Barack Obama participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, May 25, 2009. White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson)
    The President returned from Camp David last night so that this morning he could have breakfast with Gold Star Families in the State Dining Room, participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, and speak at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery:
    Here lie Presidents and privates; Supreme Court justices and slaves; generals familiar to history, and unknown soldiers known only to God.
    A few moments ago, I laid a wreath at their tomb to pay tribute to all who have given their lives for this country.  As a nation, we have gathered here to repeat this ritual in moments of peace, when we pay our respects to the fallen and give thanks for their sacrifice.  And we've gathered here in moments of war, when the somber notes of Taps echo through the trees, and fresh grief lingers in the air.
    Today is one of those moments, where we pay tribute to those who forged our history, but hold closely the memory of those so recently lost.  And even as we gather here this morning, all across America, people are pausing to remember, to mourn, and to pray.
    Old soldiers are pulling themselves a little straighter to salute brothers lost a long time ago.  Children are running their fingers over colorful ribbons that they know signify something of great consequence, even if they don't know exactly why.  Mothers are re-reading final letters home and clutching photos of smiling sons or daughters, as youthful and vibrant as they always will be.
    They, and we, are the legacies of an unbroken chain of proud men and women who served their country with honor; who waged war so that we might know peace; who braved hardship so that we might know opportunity; who paid the ultimate price so we might know freedom.
    Those who rest in these fields fought in every American war.  They overthrew an empire and gave birth to revolution.  They strained to hold a young union together.  They rolled back the creeping tide of tyranny, and stood post through a long twilight struggle.  And they took on the terror and extremism that threatens our world's stability.
    Their stories are the American story.  More than seven generations of them are chronicled here at Arlington.  They're etched into stone, recounted by family and friends, and silently observed by the mighty oaks that have stood over burial after burial.
    President Barack Obama bows his head for a moment of silence at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery(President Barack Obama bows his head for a moment of silence at  the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery  Monday, May 25, 2009.  White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson)
    Those in attendance salute(A U.S. Marine and U.S. Airman join guests attending Memorial Day ceremonies Monday, May 25, 2008, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., where President Barack Obama gave remarks in honor of those who serve and have served in the U.S. military. White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

  • On this Memorial Day weekend, President Obama calls on the American people to join him in paying tribute to America’s veterans, servicemen and women – particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice - and their families. 
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