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June 05, 2009
09:46 AM EDTPart of my job, as the Deputy Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Associate Director for the Office of Public Engagement, is to find ways to engage communities in a two-way conversation with the White House. Last week, that conversation led me to the northernmost point of the United States and other parts of Alaska.I traveled north to Alaska with the Department of Health and Human Services to participate in the Region 10 Tribal Budget Consultation Session in Anchorage. After the session, we visited the sites of planned health facilities in Northern Alaska. I saw personally how the President is changing lives and conditions for Alaska Native communities. HHS funding from the Recovery Act has been committed to replace the tribally-operated Norton Sound Regional Hospital with a new facility in Nome, Alaska. We visited the construction site and observed the true meaning of "shovel-ready." The pilings were set into the ground already, and the crews were just waiting for spring barges to deliver the steel as soon as the ice conditions would permit sea navigation. In Alaska, the construction season is much shorter (as building materials must be shipped) and the cost of construction is extremely high. The community was excited and proud of the work they had already done in past years to prepare for the construction.
We visited Teller, a community near Nome, to witness the marvels of technology as Community Health Aides demonstrated the telemedicine kiosk, where medical conditions could be viewed and diagnosed remotely using state-of-the art technology.Later that day, we traveled to Barrow, the northernmost community in the United States, to visit the site of another facility slated for replacement, starting with the President’s 2010 Budget.All the communities we visited in Northern Alaska were accessible only by air. We spoke to community members, health professionals and tribal village and corporation leadership and they described the challenges related to the vast distances separating needs from services. I knew things would be different as I tried to imagine what words like "remote" and "isolated" really would look like. My imagination fell far short of reality. We were in coastal communities, with rolling hills and flat deltas. I was awestruck by the beauty of this terrain still filled with grand herds of caribou and musk ox. I heard the bowhead whales were nearby, migrating through the Arctic Ocean. All of these things and more sustain the people who live there, who proudly call this place home. Their unique situations have expanded my perspective of what constitutes Indian Country.During the HHS Region 10 Tribal Consultation Session, we engaged in meaningful dialogue with Tribes regarding their budget and policy priorities. These discussions also aided in my understanding of how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is being implemented in rural and frontier communities across America.Many of the people I spoke with were very excited about the White House’s Office of Public Engagement’s interest in Alaska Natives and health care. It was a great chance for the White House to get outside the Beltway to witness the remarkable changes in communities whose voices seem very far away from Washington, but are so vital to the fabric of America.Jodi A. Gillette is Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement & Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
June 04, 2009
05:49 PM EDTDr. Jill Biden called on all Americans to support our troops and their families in any way they can during a visit to the Today Show on Tuesday: "We’re Americans, that’s what we do, we support one another."Dr. Biden joined dozens of volunteers on a mission to pack 5,000 boxes with the USO, but noted that there are endless ways to show support, and even a simple "thank you" can mean a lot:I try to encourage every American to either call their National Guard unit, or their Army unit, or Marine unit in their area, and say what can I do to help? What that means is that when the families at home are taken care of, our soldiers can then concentrate and focus on the job they’re supposed to do. So if you help by mowing somebody’s lawn, or sending a note to a soldier, or packing boxes like the Today Show is doing today, anything at all, just saying to a soldier that you see in an airport ‘Thank you for your service.’
As Dr. Biden said, there are multiple ways to get involved, so take the time today to think about what you can do to help support the troops. For more information, you can visit the USO.
Jesse LeeJune 04, 2009
03:20 PM EDTIn today’s speech in Cairo, the President outlined his personal commitment to engagement with Muslim communities, based on mutual respect. He also emphasized that Islam and America are not competing identities and that the U.S. has a long history of defending freedom of faith, including going to court over it if need be. All of these aspects of the American tradition are woven into the story the President referenced of our Justice Department arguing for the right of a Muslim student to wear the hijab to school:Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That's why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it. (Applause.)In 2004, Nashala Hearn was beginning sixth grade in Muskogee, Oklahoma. At the time, the 12-year-old began wearing a hijab – a Muslim headscarf – to school. While not all Muslim girls wear headscarves, some Muslims interpret the Islamic requirement of modesty to require the headscarf.After wearing the hijab to school for several weeks without incident, Nashala was told by school officials that her headscarf conflicted with the school’s "no hats" policy, and that she could not continue to wear it. She and her parents told school officials that wearing the hijab was required by her faith and that she could not stop wearing it. When she continued to come to school wearing the headscarf, she was suspended from school twice.Nashala’s decision to wear a headscarf was protected by the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and religious freedom. Public primary and secondary schools, as well as public colleges and universities, should be open to all members of the public, regardless of their faith. Students should not face discrimination or harassment because of their faith background, beliefs, religious expression, or distinctive religious dress.And so, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division stepped in to protect Nashala’s rights to equal protection of the law to wear a hijab.The court-ordered agreement reached by the Justice Department with the school board permits Nashala, and any other child in Muskogee whose religious beliefs and practices conflict with the school dress code, to receive an accommodation. This decree reflects the principle that children should not have to choose between following the requirements of their faiths and their right to a public education, and is just one of the ways the American government ensures the rights of all of its citizens every day.
June 04, 2009
02:00 PM EDTJudge Sotomayor has delivered detailed and substantive answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questions, which are available on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s website. The answers demonstrate how Judge Sotomayor’s three decade career and her significant contributions to the law and her community provide her with unique and unprecedented qualifications to be the next Supreme Court Justice.In an effort to advance her nomination through the Senate as swiftly as possible, Judge Sotomayor has completed her questionnaire faster than any Supreme Court nominee in recent history – in just 9 days. For historical context, it took Chief Justice Roberts 13 days, Justice Ginsburg 15 days and Justice Alito 30 days from the time they were designated to the time they completed their questionnaires. With her record of 17 years on the bench, this historically fast completion of the exhaustive questions is no small feat that will hopefully lead to her swift consideration by the Senate and enable her to be a member of the Supreme Court by the time they begin selecting cases in September.The best guide in determining the type of Supreme Court Justice that Judge Sotomayor would make is her judicial record. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated a record of judicial excellence, frequently grappling with a broad range of legal issues and demonstrating a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine. On the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most demanding circuits in the country, she has participated in over 3,000 panel decisions and authored more than 230 majority opinions. She has handled difficult issues of constitutional law, complex procedural matters, high-profile criminal cases, and lawsuits involving complicated business organizations. At every turn, she has upheld the rule of law, and demonstrated herself to be an impartial, non-ideological jurist. She takes each case as it comes, narrowly applying the law to the particular facts of the case.Judge Sotomayor also served for six years as a trial judge on the federal district court and as a big city prosecutor for five years. She 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.As the U.S. Senate weighs her confirmation, it is important that she be judged by her extraordinary record.But to examine as much information about Judge Sotomayor as possible, we encourage you to take a look at the more than 60 speeches and writings that can be found on the Judiciary Committee website.Since her college days, Judge Sotomayor has been an active speaker and prolific writer on some of the greatest issues of our time, including the roles of race and gender in our society and in our courts. She is also a Lecturer at Columbia University Law School and was an adjunct professor at New York University Law School until 2007.Throughout her work, Judge Sonia Sotomayor consistently demonstrates not only her brilliance in the law but also a commonsense understanding of how the law works. Her distinguished record includes a body of legal essays that show a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine and a keen awareness of the law’s impact on the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.The writings and remarks you will find on the Senate Judiciary Committee website include:Impartiality in Judging: Judge Sotomayor said "It is very important when you judge to recognize that you have to stay impartial. That’s what the nature of my job is. I have to unhook myself from my emotional responses and try to stay within my unemotional, objective persona." [Latinos in Law: Wonderful Life, 2000]Role of Diversity and Ethnicity: Judge Sotomayor said, "[D]iversity and ethnicity shapes who we are and the contributions we make to the world but they don’t and shouldn’t define our humanness or limit the giving to the larger community of people we share this planet with... On September 11, fire-men and women, police-men and women, and other heroes gave their lives without taking note of the colors of the faces they were trying to save. Countless people stood on blood giving and food lines, hundreds if not thousands of people volunteered their time and donated resources to the rescue effort and none asked about the race, color or religion of the people they were helping." [Unity Day at the FBI, 5/1/02]Diversity on the Courts: Judge Sotomayor has written and spoken frequently about how life, including gender and race, can impact how judges understand cases. Similar to remarks by Justice Ginsberg, Justice Alito and other Supreme Court justices and nominees, Judge Sotomayor believes that life experience can inform the process of judging. Judge Sotomayor said "First, if Prof. Martha Minnow is correct, there can never be a universal definition of ‘wise.’ Second, I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion. What is better? I, like Professor Resnik, hope that better will mean a more compassionate, and caring conclusion." [March 17, 1994, Conference on Law Reviews] [Note: This speech was included in Judge Sotomayor’s 1997 Judiciary Committee questionnaire for her nomination to the 2nd Circuit.]Citizenship: Judge Sotomayor said, "But with freedom and liberty and opportunity comes responsibility. As citizens we all share the responsibility of working together within our democratic system of government -- to strengthen it – to ensure that the promise of America and its freedoms shall endure for us and for all generations to come. You are now citizens. Remember to make your voices heard. It is your right and your obligation to vote because voting is your fundamental way of expressing your views. Remember, however, that voting is not enough. Write your elected officials and express your views. Volunteer your time and talents to civic or social activities and become an active part of our community. When called for jury service, come and serve. This is one of the most central and important obligations of citizenship." [Naturalization Proceedings, August 27, 1993]On Checks and Balances: Judge Sotomayor said, "Few political events bring to the general public’s attention and fascination the dynamic dichotomy and interplay of our system of separation of powers than does the confirmation process. A supreme court confirmation is a historical snapshot moment that exposes to the public the delicate balance and checks that our constitution creates in the relationship among the branches of government." [Federalist Society Panel, February 28, 2009]In the text of the speeches Sotomayor delivered from Buffalo to Brooklyn and from Princeton to Yale, you will get to know an inspiring woman with an incredible legal mind who will make a great Supreme Court Justice.Commitment to Service: Judge Sotomayor is deeply committed to her community, and serves as a role model for young people from all walks of life. In addition to speaking at local high schools and community events, Judge Sotomayor is active in 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 mock trial workshop in which the students play various roles, including the parts of the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the defendant and witnesses, and in the process they get to experience openings, closings, direct and cross-examinations.Through this questionnaire, and throughout Judge Sotomayor’s record, it’s clear to all how Judge Sotomayor earned a reputation as a sharp and fearless jurist. She’s inspired so many others – through her words and her deeds – to work hard and reach for their own dreams, and to give back to our country.
Greg Craig is White House Counsel.
Jesse LeeJune 04, 2009
09:52 AM EDTCourtesy of the State Department, read translations or videos with translated captionings of the President's speech, or translated captionings of the White House video on Muslim Americans serving in the U.S. government. Languages will include Arabic, Chinese, Dari, French, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Malay, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, and Urdu.
Watch or read the President’s speech in Cairo on America’s relationship with Muslim communities around the world in EnglishAlso, in case you missed it, watch a short video posted yesterday with a few stories of Muslim Americans who are proudly serving their nation in the federal government.
The White House Photo Office sends along another perspective:
June 03, 2009
08:00 PM EDTIn her address to the graduating seniors of Washington Math and Science Technology Public Charter High School today, the First Lady told graduates they would be more than ready for the world after high school.The First Lady said she wanted to speak at a DC public school to celebrate the achievements of young people in her new hometown. WMST, which aims to provide a rigorous education integrating science and mathematics with technology, has a 99% graduation rate this year. The First Lady said the school helped prepare its students for success:They are coming from a school that believes that all children, young people, can learn -- that's an important start; just hearing the stories of these speakers, a school that is welcoming, that is open, where teachers know and love their kids; a school that believes that all students should be able to succeed and should be held to the highest standards; a school that challenges stereotypes and proves that African American and Latino students can excel in math and science. (Applause.) That's amazing. So let's be clear: These graduates will be just as prepared for anything they do, they will be just as prepared as any other student that will arrive at their new schools.Despite this preparation, the First Lady said it is natural for graduates to doubt themselves and question their abilities when they first set foot onto their new college campuses. She said that she had these same feelings when she first attended Princeton, but she told students they shouldn’t be intimidated:When you set foot on the soil of whatever campus that has admitted you, understand that you are responsible for your own experiences. So what I want you to do is own your voice. Own it. Don't be intimidated by your new surroundings. Remember, everyone else is in the same position that you're in. Be an engaged and active participant in all of your classes. Never, ever sit in silence, ever. That first day, raise your hand, use your voice, ask a question. Don't be afraid to be wrong, don't be afraid to sound unclear, because understand this is the only way you'll learn.The First Lady concluded her inspiring message by saying that graduates need to have confidence in themselves, and that they have what it takes to succeed:So graduates of 2009, with a solid education foundation and a firm hold of your dreams, and with the support of your families and a willingness to work hard, I can assure you, you're more than ready.
Beth NoveckJune 03, 2009
06:59 PM EDTYesterday we talked about the transparency suggestions from the Open Government Brainstorm. Today, we move from idea-gathering into this discussion phase. We want to use this series of blog postings to inform how we think about creating actionable recommendations on open government. To reiterate, this initial public engagement process on open government policy will take place in three phases (brainstorming, discussion, drafting). Following this initial process, we will distill the input received here, from submissions of proposals in From the Inbox, and from government experts and develop a set of draft recommendations for both public and inter-governmental review. These recommendations will, in turn, help to guide the development of government-wide policy on transparency, participation, and collaboration.In this Discussion Phase, we start by thinking more deeply about the principles that should define transparency and guide our policy priorities.Transparency extends both to data maintained by the government and to making government operations more open. As President Obama said in his January 21st Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, the goal of transparency is to "promote accountability and provide information for citizens about what their Government is doing." Additionally, transparency facilitates public participation and provides people with information that can generate both economic and social benefit.Starting with principles is an important first step in achieving these goals. Principles lay the foundation for future discussions about which specific policies to adopt to make government more transparent and which actions to prioritize.The Challenge of Establishing PrinciplesThere are two primary challenges in talking about transparency principles – defining and prioritizing:
An Example: Airline On-Time DataA concrete example may be helpful to bring this discussion to life. Consider airline on-time performance data and information on causes of flight delays provided by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics – available on Data.gov.Having this information be publicly available might ensure more informed regulations by the Federal Aviation Administration, in which case data accuracy might be paramount. If the goal is to help travelers make better-informed travel decisions then the information must be comprehensive. If transparency serves the goal of enabling companies to build information-related businesses that incorporate on-time data then timeliness is of the essence.An agency would need to weigh the competing principles – accuracy, comprehensiveness, and timeliness – in prioritizing its investments. Waiting to publish a complete data set for all the airlines might force us to sacrifice some timeliness in relaying that information to the public. Therefore, we need to consider how to prioritize among different definitions to achieve different goals.What We Learned in Phase IThe Brainstorm phase yielded a number of suggested transparency principles and definitions for those principles. For example,
- Defining: If transparency is to be implemented meaningfully in government, we need to agree upon a more specific definition of what it means to be transparent. Drafting a set of principles, which explain what we mean by transparent data and transparent operations, helps us to do this.
- Prioritizing: Your government is looking for guidance about how to prioritize the different principles of transparency. While many decisions will not be either/or choices, some tradeoffs will be inevitable. We need to understand which buckets of principles make sense in a given context. Prioritizing demands understanding what each principle means in practice and then weighing the relative costs and benefits.
Launching the DiscussionWhen making Open Government recommendations, we may want to include a set of transparency principles. We need your help articulating those principles, their definitions and the rationale behind them. We need to explain what they mean in practice and prioritize among them. Specifically:
- Adopt the eight Open Government Data Principlesdeveloped in 2007 by an open government working group in Sebastopol, California, namely that data should be: complete, primary, timely, accessible, machine-processable, non-discriminatory, non-proprietary, and license-free;
- Adopt the Carter Center Plan of Action for the Advancement of the Right of Access to Information;
- Adopt "crowd-sourcing" as a principle, wherever it makes sense to evaluate data;
- Ask government agencies to explain all policy decisions and the rationales behind them in readable language (i.e., in plain English)
In discussing these issues, please try to follow three important guidelines:
- Which of the above-mentioned principles – or others – should we adopt? Provide us with your insights into the costs and benefits of each. Let us know if we’ve missed the output of other working groups or governments who have previously created lists of principles that should be integrated into this discussion.
- Help us to flesh out what each of these potential principles would mean in practice. How do we articulate a single set of transparency principles with enough flexibility to apply Government-wide?
- Share your insights into how to prioritize principles relative to each other. For instance, as highlighted by our airline example, is it better for an agency to publish some data faster, possibly at the expense of structure and comprehensiveness, or to wait longer for a more complete roll-out? Help us to identify and weigh the pros and cons of such tradeoffs.
- Weigh in on the topic of if-and-when these principles should be treated as hard and fast rules versus as standards or norms. For example, rules might better promote clear accountability, while standards might allow for more flexibility and entrepreneurship within government agencies.
How to ParticipateTo share your thoughts, go to the Office of Science & Technology Policy's blog. You must be registered to comment. Once you are registered and logged in, you will see the links to "Submit Comment" and "Leave a Reply" at the bottom of the page, or next to comments posted by other contributors. In addition, you can improve the visibility of well thought-out and important points by voting on posted comments. To vote, simply click on either the "plus" or "minus" icon to the left of the name of the comment’s author. If you come across a comment that violates the Terms of Participation, you should "flag" it by clicking on the red icon to its right. Please flag with care. The appropriate away to express disagreement is by posting a reply to the comment, not by flagging. For more about how to use this blog, see our Real-World Guide to Using this Blog.Transparency is critical to open government. As the President discussed in his Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, openness ensures the public trust, promotes efficiency and effectiveness in government, and strengthens our democracy. We look forward to your continued thoughtful engagement as we strive toward these larger goals.Beth Noveck is Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government.
- Be succinct: We find that a short, well-structured comment is often easier for others to grasp and respond to than long laundry lists of ideas.
- Be topical: To focus the discussion, please post only on the topic of transparency principles. Unrelated comments may be flagged by community participants and then subject to removal by a moderator. You can find the terms of participation here.
- Be responsive: Build on what others have posted, tie your insights to previous comments whenever possible, and help us to drive this discussion forward.
Jesse LeeJune 03, 2009
04:26 PM EDTEd. Note: On Facebook? Join the discussion and watch the speech on our new White House Live Facebook application, if not tune in at 6:10 AM to WhiteHouse.gov/live. [Update: The President has concluded his remarks, check back later for transcript and video.]The history of the relationship between America and Muslim communities is deeper and more complex than the common perception might suggest. Thomas Jefferson taught himself Arabic using his own Quran kept in his personal library, and had the first known presidential Iftaar by breaking fast with the Tunisian Ambassador at sunset. President Dwight Eisenhower attended the dedication ceremony of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 1957. President Bill Clinton issued the first presidential greeting for Ramadan, appointed the first Muslim American ambassador, M. Osman Siddique, to Fiji, and sent the first presidential Eid al-Adha greeting to Muslims. And one year after President George W. Bush placed the Holy Quran in the White House library in 2005, Representative Keith Ellison took the oath of office on the same Quran owned by Thomas Jefferson two hundred years before.With his speech in Cairo, the President will lay another marker, addressing America’s relationship with the Muslims around the world in the heart of the Middle East. Whereas the past years and decades have deepened the rift in that relationship, the President will seek a new start by opening up a serious, honest dialogue to find areas of common interest where we agree, and new ways of communication where we do not. By continuing unprecedented outreach to Muslim communities, the President is strengthening national security and opening up new opprtunities to address some of the problems that have seemed so intractable over recent years.The speech will be given at 1:10 in the afternoon in Cairo, 6:10 in the morning here in Washington, D.C. No matter where you are, watch it live on WhiteHouse.gov/live. For those abroad, sign up to get text updates in Arabic, Urdu, English or Persian at America. gov.UPDATE: In advance of the speech tomorrow morning, we thought we would share with you a few stories of Muslim Americans who are proudly serving their nation in the federal government. Check out the video:Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.download .mp4 (40.1 MB)
Jesse LeeJune 03, 2009
02:56 PM EDTYesterday the President met with some key Senators on health reform, emphasizing the urgency of the situation in his remarks beforehand: "So we can't afford to put this off, and the dedicated public servants who are gathered here today understand that and they are ready to get going, and this window between now and the August recess I think is going to be the make-or-break period. This is the time where we've got to get this running."Today the White House released a letter sent by the President to Senators Ted Kennedy and Max Baucus, the Chairmen of the key committees in the Senate handling health care reform, spelling out in detail what he would like to see in this historic legislation. The full letter is below:
June 2, 2009The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy
The Honorable Max Baucus
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510Dear Senator Kennedy and Senator Baucus:The meeting that we held today was very productive and I want to commend you for your leadership -- and the hard work your Committees are doing on health care reform, one of the most urgent and important challenges confronting us as a Nation.In 2009, health care reform is not a luxury. It's a necessity we cannot defer. Soaring health care costs make our current course unsustainable. It is unsustainable for our families, whose spiraling premiums and out-of-pocket expenses are pushing them into bankruptcy and forcing them to go without the checkups and prescriptions they need. It is unsustainable for businesses, forcing more and more of them to choose between keeping their doors open or covering their workers. And the ever-increasing cost of Medicare and Medicaid are among the main drivers of enormous budget deficits that are threatening our economic future.In short, the status quo is broken, and pouring money into a broken system only perpetuates its inefficiencies. Doing nothing would only put our entire health care system at risk. Without meaningful reform, one fifth of our economy is projected to be tied up in our health care system in 10 years; millions more Americans are expected to go without insurance; and outside of what they are receiving for health care, workers are projected to see their take-home pay actually fall over time.We simply cannot afford to postpone health care reform any longer. This recognition has led an unprecedented coalition to emerge on behalf of reform -- hospitals, physicians, and health insurers, labor and business, Democrats and Republicans. These groups, adversaries in past efforts, are now standing as partners on the same side of this debate.At this historic juncture, we share the goal of quality, affordable health care for all Americans. But I want to stress that reform cannot mean focusing on expanded coverage alone. Indeed, without a serious, sustained effort to reduce the growth rate of health care costs, affordable health care coverage will remain out of reach. So we must attack the root causes of the inflation in health care. That means promoting the best practices, not simply the most expensive. We should ask why places like the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and other institutions can offer the highest quality care at costs well below the national norm. We need to learn from their successes and replicate those best practices across our country. That's how we can achieve reform that preserves and strengthens what's best about our health care system, while fixing what is broken.The plans you are discussing embody my core belief that Americans should have better choices for health insurance, building on the principle that if they like the coverage they have now, they can keep it, while seeing their costs lowered as our reforms take hold. But for those who don't have such options, I agree that we should create a health insurance exchange -- a market where Americans can one-stop shop for a health care plan, compare benefits and prices, and choose the plan that's best for them, in the same way that Members of Congress and their families can. None of these plans should deny coverage on the basis of a preexisting condition, and all of these plans should include an affordable basic benefit package that includes prevention, and protection against catastrophic costs. I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans. This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest.I understand the Committees are moving towards a principle of shared responsibility -- making every American responsible for having health insurance coverage, and asking that employers share in the cost. I share the goal of ending lapses and gaps in coverage that make us less healthy and drive up everyone's costs, and I am open to your ideas on shared responsibility. But I believe if we are going to make people responsible for owning health insurance, we must make health care affordable. If we do end up with a system where people are responsible for their own insurance, we need to provide a hardship waiver to exempt Americans who cannot afford it. In addition, while I believe that employers have a responsibility to support health insurance for their employees, small businesses face a number of special challenges in affording health benefits and should be exempted.Health care reform must not add to our deficits over the next 10 years -- it must be at least deficit neutral and put America on a path to reducing its deficit over time. To fulfill this promise, I have set aside $635 billion in a health reserve fund as a down payment on reform. This reserve fund includes a number of proposals to cut spending by $309 billion over 10 years --reducing overpayments to Medicare Advantage private insurers; strengthening Medicare and Medicaid payment accuracy by cutting waste, fraud and abuse; improving care for Medicare patients after hospitalizations; and encouraging physicians to form "accountable care organizations" to improve the quality of care for Medicare patients. The reserve fund also includes a proposal to limit the tax rate at which high-income taxpayers can take itemized deductions to 28 percent, which, together with other steps to close loopholes, would raise $326 billion over 10 years.I am committed to working with the Congress to fully offset the cost of health care reform by reducing Medicare and Medicaid spending by another $200 to $300 billion over the next 10 years, and by enacting appropriate proposals to generate additional revenues. These savings will come not only by adopting new technologies and addressing the vastly different costs of care, but from going after the key drivers of skyrocketing health care costs, including unmanaged chronic diseases, duplicated tests, and unnecessary hospital readmissions.To identify and achieve additional savings, I am also open to your ideas about giving special consideration to the recommendations of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), a commission created by a Republican Congress. Under this approach, MedPAC's recommendations on cost reductions would be adopted unless opposed by a joint resolution of the Congress. This is similar to a process that has been used effectively by a commission charged with closing military bases, and could be a valuable tool to help achieve health care reform in a fiscally responsible way.These are some of the issues I look forward to discussing with you in greater detail in the weeks and months ahead. But this year, we must do more than discuss. We must act. The American people and America's future demand it.I know that you have reached out to Republican colleagues, as I have, and that you have worked hard to reach a bipartisan consensus about many of these issues. I remain hopeful that many Republicans will join us in enacting this historic legislation that will lower health care costs for families, businesses, and governments, and improve the lives of millions of Americans. So, I appreciate your efforts, and look forward to working with you so that the Congress can complete health care reform by October.Sincerely,BARACK OBAMA
June 03, 2009
01:06 PM EDTThese are the moments when I cannot help but be excited – and humbled – about the opportunities ahead for our new office (recently announced at the Global Philanthropy Forum) and for the Department of State in general. Today we are expecting over 700 guests to fill Dean Acheson Auditorium here at the Harry S Truman Building to hear the first government sponsored TED Talks. This is the inaugural event for Secretary Clinton’s new Global Partnership Initiative; and it is part of the launch of her broader mandate for the Department of State to open its doors to foundations, businesses, non-governmental organizations, universities, and faith communities.By establishing the Global Partnership Initiative within the Office of the Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton recognizes and appreciates that these are the groups that are already on the frontlines of foreign affairs. For these reasons, we are hosting events like the TED Talks to encourage greater participation from all of these outside voices. Today’s theme – "new ideas for a better world" – encapsulates exactly why we are engaging with all of these groups. As Secretary Clinton said at the Global Philanthropy Forum, "We just need you to walk through with your ideas, your energy, your commitment, and to put to work all that you bring with so many others who share our concerns about the challenges we face, and our absolute conviction that we’re up to meeting all of them."These are such exciting times to work on partnerships from within the U.S. government; and I should mention that the State Department is not the only group involved. We are also working closely with the Office of Social Innovation and the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the White House, among others across the federal government, on all of these efforts. In that sense, it is a particular thrill to be blogging about all of this on the White House’s Open Government Initiative.I realize that you might be wondering what all of this excitement is about and who or what TED is anyway. If you don't know about TED, then click away from this page immediately and visit www.ted.com. Spend a few minutes watching the videos that pop up on the screen. While it is easy enough for those minutes to rush away and turn into hours (or whole afternoons and evenings, in my case), no matter how much time you spend watching these videos, discovering for the first time that TED exists is one of those phenomenal little moments in life that is only rivaled by a few experiences -- for me, traveling abroad (anywhere) and learning about other people (anyone) elsewhere in this world, or watching that first Blu-Ray video and not even caring about picking my jaw off the floor because the effects were just so incredible, or listening to the Beatles for the first time and realizing that there was a whole new level of genius I just been missing out on entirely. TED often has that kind of a spontaneous, drastic impact. And it should: these futurists, visionaries, scholars, and experts are challenged to give the best speech of their life on any topic of their choosing in eighteen minutes or less. Now that's setting the stage for something really magical to happen. And I have not even mentioned the best part: TED shares all of this wisdom, inspiration, and passion on the internet for free by posting the videos on their website. Really, you have to visit www.ted.com. You are going to get addicted to this stuff.I have already gotten so many of my friends hooked; and a number of bloggers and journalists are, too, calling TED, "an intellectual Mardi Gras;" "a caldron of ideas and innovation;" and "the place for glimpses into the future." My favorite is this one, however, from one of last year’s TED attendees in Monterey: "I believe in miracles, I just don't believe in scheduling them. Apparently you've found the secret to allow you to do just that." That is how it feels around here today. There is a certain bit of magic about what opening the doors of the State Department really means. I cannot wait to hear what the speakers will say when they come today to share their "new ideas for a better world," especially since no one knows what will be said until the TED speaker takes the stage. Take a moment to check out what they have said in previous TED Talks for some clues; and I am sure they will be well worth watching once they go live on the web in a few days. I'll write again then to follow up.TED@State speakers:Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, here is his 2005 TED on institutions vs. collaboration .Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of the Acumen Fund, here are her talks on ending poverty: here, here, and here .Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion, speaking about his groundbreaking book .Hans Rosling, Karolinska Institutet Professor of International Health, who has shared some amazing statistics at previous TEDs here, here, and here .
Rob Lalka is the Partnerships Liaison at the U.S. Department of State.
Beth NoveckJune 02, 2009
10:05 PM EDTLast week the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) hosted the Open Government Brainstorm on behalf of the White House Open Government Initiative – the first of three phases in an unprecedented process of public engagement. The Brainstorm generated more than 1000 ideas to inform the crafting of recommendations on open government policy. Thank you to all who recognized the importance of this effort and participated thoughtfully.Phase I was designed to elicit a wide array of actionable suggestions for creating a more transparent, participatory, and collaborative government. As we look toward tomorrow’s start of Phase II – the Discussion Phase - we have culled a short list of topics for deeper and more focused conversation from among the suggestions you posted during this Brainstorm, from those ideas shared by government employees during a similar online conversation in March, and from proposals submitted to "From The Inbox."We read and considered all the proposals. We took the voting into account when assessing your enthusiasm for a submission, but only somewhat in evaluating relevance. The ideas that received the most organized support were not necessarily the most viable suggestions.Today, we want to share with you a little about what we’ve learned from you about transparency. Transparency is of vital importance. As the President emphasized in his Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act: "A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, ‘sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.’ …At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike."There were plenty of great ideas that we read but that unfortunately did not make sense to bring into the next phase, including those with no relation to transparency policy, endorsing a product, or describing legislative action outside the purview of the Executive branch. We are bracketing suggestions for long-range change, such as proposals that require a constitutional amendment in favor of working with those that can lead to change in the shorter term. We are also temporarily putting to one side suggestions about transparency in specific agencies (ie. environmental or food safety transparency, creating Facebook pages for mail carriers, greater budgetary transparency in the Central Intelligence Agency). We will hold onto these proposals for subsequent conversations involving the decision-makers from the relevant agencies. Some ideas (ie. on regulations.gov or open source software) labeled with "Transparency" will fit better in our later discussions about Participation and Collaboration.Here are some examples of specific submissions, grouped by issue. We’ve attached a "mindmap" of the redacted transparency proposals so you can see a summary and overview of the themes that are emerging. We have also attached the National Academy of Public Administration’s analysis of the Brainstorm (pdf).
While Phase I focused on idea gathering, Phase II focuses on defining the challenges in greater depth. We will be asking for your help with fleshing out the issues, potential solutions, and the pros and cons of proposed approaches.Tomorrow, June 3rd, we will invite your comments on the first blog post of the Discussion Phase. The first set of posts will focus on each of the five transparency themes (principles, governance, access, data, operations) listed above, followed by a series of posts on participation and collaboration.The goal of Phase II is to explore proposals for a Government-wide framework to achieve transparency, participation and collaboration. We want your help with translating good ideas into concrete, measurable and cost-effective solutions.Beth Noveck is Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government.
- Transparency Principles: How do we define transparency so that we can prioritize our policymaking?
- Adopt 8 Open Government Data Principles (complete, primary, timely, accessible, machine processable, non-discriminatory, non-proprietary, license-free);
- Adopt Carter Center Plan of Action for the Advancement of the Right of Access to Information;
- Crowdsourcing should be adopted as a principle and best practices around the use of crowdsourcing to evaluate data should be established;
- Agencies should explain all policy decisions and the rationales behind them in readable language;
- Transparency Governance: How do we institutionalize transparency across all government agencies and establish structures to ensure thoughtful and considered progress toward transparency?
- Replicate Florida's model of an Office of Open Government;
- Establish a Transparency Officer/Open Government Officer and interdisciplinary team in each agency whose job it is to inventory and proactively make data available to the public. Transparency officer must not be an information technology expert only but someone knowledgeable about legal frameworks, such as Privacy and Information Quality;
- Create a data governance program/framework in each agency to evaluate data quality and priorities;
- Seek public input on data to be made transparent;
- Identify candidate agencies or programs as pilots for transparency;
- Use Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) to bring together government and public researchers to collaborate on making data more accessible;
- Confer transparency/open government awards.
- Information Access: How do we improve the efficiency and effectiveness of access to government information? How do we improve the Government’s ability to disclose information pro-actively and bring down the cost and burden of compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?
- Impose penalties on agencies not following FOIA or tolerating excessive delays. Look at India’s approach, in which government officials become personally liable and must pay fines if they do not act in a timely fashion;
- Use visualization tools to show timeliness of FOIA processing in real time and track which official has responsibility for the request at any given time, i.e. workflow management;
- Post frequently requested categories of information;
- Require agencies to accept FOIA and Mandatory Declassification (MDR) requests via email;
- Simplify implementation of FOIA;
- Implement requirement to post disclosed information in electronic reading rooms;
- Paper duplication costs should be reasonable. Electronic duplication should be free.
- Data and Metadata: What technological approaches might be used to improve access to Government data? What Government-wide approaches to data and metadata should we be undertaking? How can we improve the usefulness of Data.gov, the Government’s new platform for access to data?
- Inventory and prioritize agency data for publication in open, downloadable formats;
- Set agency targets: by a given date, X percent of non-sensitive agency data should be online;
- Use Data.gov as a repository of newly declassified information;
- Make contributed data subject to a waiver of copyright and database rights using the "CCO" scheme from Creative Commons;
- Standardize discovery and method calls to data sets;
- Offer a crawling program to identify data that agencies could make available;
- Establish a monitoring program to ensure that sensitive data is not released;
- Collaborate with private sector on conferences on visualization to design tools for Data.gov;
- Adopt data dictionaries to ensure that terms have the same meaning across agencies;
- Adopt better software for comparing relevance and meaning of documents to make government information more searchable;
- More RSS data feeds and other points of access to government information;
- Government should create permalinks on the paragraph level to make documents easier to cite;
- Maintain a transparency dashboard to show progress toward transparency, e.g. the number of documents released;
- Bring government services online and make them reusable by the private sector; if citizens own the services they should be able to build on top of them. This requires a "Services Oriented Architecture" approach (see: VA Loan Guaranty example);
- Digitize all government research reports and make them available free via NTIS (the National Technical Information Service);
- Convert Depository Libraries around the country into Regional Data Centers;
- Make the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) the off-site electronic backup data center for all agency e-record systems.
- Open Government Operations: What are the strategies for making the workings of government more open and accountable? How do we balance openness and other constraints, like privacy and efficiency?
- Create a "MyGov.gov" customized data feed/alert system that reaches across all federal agencies; i.e. create a "Citizens Portal";
- Publish a directory of who works in government. Agencies state there are legal issues and policies in place that prohibit them from posting their organization charts. Changing this might help increase transparency;
- Publish a list of everyone who meets with the President;
- Allow government employees to speak to journalists more freely to foster news-gathering;
- Electronic voting machine hardware and software, from the machine in the polling booth to the collection systems used to collate results, should be subject to publication and verification;
- Executive branch documents, such as the Federal Register and the Compilation of Presidential Documents, should be made available in downloadable and accessible formats;
- Use innovative, new technology to create more transparent, effective, and efficient procurement strategies;
- Require that all public agency meetings be webcast. Require that all Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) meetings be webcast;
- Create weekly progress reports in which government employees rate and rank each other's announcements as a mechanism to select the best ideas to report to the Secretary;
- Every agency should develop a "Web 2.0" communications strategy to set forth how it will use new media to accomplish its mission;
- Identify common innovation platforms -- the basic frameworks needed across agencies for open government -- and invest in building those.
- Transparency Principles: How do we define transparency so that we can prioritize our policymaking?
June 02, 2009
06:50 PM EDTToday Vice President Biden hosted a roundtable with business leaders, ranging from small business owners to corporate CEOs, to discuss how the Recovery Act is providing new opportunities for creativity and innovation in business.In his opening remarks the Vice President discussed how, in addition to providing direct benefits to business owners, the Recovery Act also includes numerous tax credits that are helping to drive new product demand, including over a dozen energy-efficiency and renewable energy tax credits that are creating new opportunities for companies.John Berger, Founder and CEO of Standard Renewable Energy, was one of the business leaders who attended the roundtable. Previewing the roundtable, he gave a statement on how the Recovery Act has allowed his business to expand:The Recovery Act provides innovative ways for businesses and consumers to save money while also investing in energy efficiency.Because of the Recovery Act, our business is growing, not shrinking. We just opened a new office in Phoenix, and by year's end, our workforce will have grown over 70 percent.Steve Chen, Executive Vice President of Crystal Window & Door Systems, Ltd., praised the Recovery Act’s emphasis on Energy-star rated products:The Recovery Act is not just an injection of cash into the economy; it goes a long way in educating the public and changing perceptions about Energy-star and greener products – how homeowners can invest in their homes, the environment and the economy at the same timeAdditionally, the Recovery Act allocated billions of dollars to develop and commercialize renewable energy sources. This has prompted companies to make targeted venture capital investments in companies that are developing the energy technology that will serve as the basis for economic recovery.
June 02, 2009
03:23 PM EDTToday, Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been visiting Capitol Hill to meet with both Republican and Democratic senators. Her first stop was the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who called her "the whole package."When the President announced his nomination of Sotomayor, he cited her extensive experience and breadth of perspective, working at almost every level of the judicial system, noting that, "She's been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator. She spent six years as a trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and would replace Justice Souter as the only justice with experience as a trial judge, a perspective that would enrich the judgments of the Court."At the beginning of that trajectory, as a young assistant prosecutor, she was assigned her first murder case, People v. Richard Maddicks -- known as the "Tarzan burglar." Hugh Mo, Judge Sotomayor’s co-prosecutor in the case, writes in today’s Politico that Sotomayor’s real world experience will serve her well as a Supreme Court Justice:As the political debate continues over the meaning of "empathy," or the impact of her gender and ethnic heritage on Judge Sotomayor’s qualifications, judicial philosophy and her commitment to interpreting the Constitution, in the end, I believe the best way to view her qualifications is through the lens of her time as an assistant district attorney in New York during one of the worst crime sprees in a generation. That real world experience – as a skilled legal practitioner who not only ruthlessly pursued justice for victims of violent crimes but understood the root causes of crime and how to curb it – will serve her, and the country, well on the Supreme Court.The "Tarzan Burglar" went on a three-month crime spree from 1981 to 1982 that left three people dead and many more injured. Mo describes an assistant prosecutor who dove into every aspect of the case, from helping to write the opening statement, to establishing relationships with the detectives and victims’ families, to presenting half of the prosecution witnesses, all in the context of an amazingly complex case. According to Mo, her impressive trial skills helped lead to a 62 1/2 years-to-life sentence:Judge Sotomayor played a pivotal role in the Tarzan case as an imposing and commanding figure in the courtroom and as a skilled practitioner who could weave together a complex set of facts, enforce the law and never lose sight of whom she was fighting for.
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusJune 02, 2009
03:02 PM EDTOur Administration is committed to eliminating the barriers between the American people and their government, and we want to ensure government is open and accountable to you.We have already acted to make government more transparent. Today, we are taking another big step in the right direction by announcing the creation of the new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Transparency Task Force. The FDA is responsible for protecting the food we eat and the medicine we use -- its work impacts every American, and ensuring the agency is open and accountable to the American people is critical.The Task Force will gather recommendations for appropriate ways to make information about FDA’s actions and decisions that is useful and understandable more readily available to the public. You can learn more by visiting our new site.The Task Force will hold its first meeting on June 24 in Washington and we want you to be involved. Register to attend the meeting by emailing us by June 17, 2009.If you can’t attend the meeting in person, e-mail your comments to us by the August 7th deadline.We appreciate your thoughts and ideas and look forward to hearing from you.Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department.
Jesse LeeJune 02, 2009
12:40 PM EDTThis morning the White House Council of Economic Advisers issued a pivotal report entitled "The Economic Case for Health Care Reform," explaining in the greatest depth to date why health reform is vital for the future of the American economy. The release comes on the same day that the President is visiting leaders on Capitol Hill to discuss the urgency of getting the job done at this unique moment in history.Read -- or even skim -- the full report (pdf), which is full of startling charts and analysis. The rise in costs for businesses alone is enough to demonstrate how imperative the issue is:Christina Romer, Chair of the CEA, led the press conference announcing the report this morning, and also penned an op-ed for Yahoo! News discussing it:Years of diagnosis on the ills of the U.S. health system have produced no cure. Health care expenditures in this country are currently 18 percent of GDP and, without change, will keep rising, until they account for nearly one-third of our total output by 2040. Even with this exorbitant bill, about 46 million Americans lack health insurance coverage today, and this number is predicted to rise to 72 million over the next three decades.She goes on to discuss the impact bringing down costs will have on families, writing, "For a typical family of four, income would be higher than it otherwise would have been by approximately $2,600 in 2020 (in 2009 dollars) and by nearly $10,000 in 2030." But she notes that the effects are even further reaching than that, explaining how health reform can impact GDP, the deficit, unemployment, standard of living, and the labor market.
Dr. Jill BidenJune 02, 2009
10:02 AM EDTThursday night was a very special night for me. I attended the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals. I had been looking forward to the event for weeks, and was thrilled to meet many of the spellers and their families and welcome them to Washington D.C. These energized young students came from all over the United States as well as from Ghana, China, New Zealand and other countries. It was an incredible gathering.As I told the spellers in person, they were living out one of my dreams. When I was in the 6th grade, I was the spelling bee champ in my class, but on the day of the competition to go on to the next level, I told my mom that I wasn’t feeling well. I was too nervous to continue. So you can imagine how much respect I have for these students.As a mother and an English teacher, I know how hard these young people worked and the discipline it took to make it here. I thanked their parents, families and teachers for all of their support along the way. I truly believe that confidence is the most important thing we can give a child, and all 293 of the spellers demonstrated such confidence.The finals were full of nerves and excitement: I cringed when I heard "the bell" and knew a speller had missed a word, and stood on my feet and cheered with the crowd when a speller successfully navigated a challenging word. It was inspiring to see how much these energized students love words: the night was an English teachers’ dream.I am already looking forward to the 2010 Bee.
Jesse LeeJune 01, 2009
04:23 PM EDTGiven that author names are now appearing on the blog here, it seems a reasonable time to run through some recent tweaks to WhiteHouse.gov that you might have missed but might be happy to know were made.
More broadly, WhiteHouse.gov is of course a work in progress, look for continued changes and improvements (large and small) over the coming weeks, months, and years.
- First and foremost, the First Lady’s page has been significantly improved, featuring the latest news about her in the right sidebar and a new slideshow from the always-amazing White House Photo Office.
- That news section on her page is modeled on the revamped Issues pages where, as of a few weeks ago, you can also find the latest news and blog posts on whatever issue you are interested in.
- In addition, we have reorganized the categories in the Briefing Room section of the site to make it more intuitive and user-friendly. Have a look around, you will find the drop-down menu in the top navigation.
- And finally, back where we started, every blog post will now have an author name associated with it. You can find some background on this particular author here.
June 01, 2009
03:35 PM EDTFrom May 19th to May 22nd the Vice President Joe Biden set out on a three-day tour of Southeastern Europe, traveling to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo, as well as to Lebanon for the final leg of his trip. He met with political leaders, as well as U.S. officials and troops stationed in the region. The aim of the trip was to demonstrate renewed U.S. interest in the Balkans, a region the Vice President is familiar with from his travels in the Senate.The Vice President began his trip with a visit to Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Vice President met with the Bosnian Tri-Presidency, as well as other government officials before addressing the Bosnian Parliament. He was accompanied by the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy for the European Union Javier Solana. They released a joint statement discussing their objectives for the region, which include support for Dayton and Bosnian sovereignty, as well as for state-building reforms that are necessary to transition to the EU:As representatives of the United States and the European Union, we visited Sarajevo with a message of support and concern. We support Bosnia and Herzegovina, a single state with two entities. We support the Dayton Accords. We support the aspirations of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to join European and Trans-Atlantic institutions. We also support the reforms that will be needed to realize this European future. And we support leaders who have the courage to reach across the ethnic divide to find compromise, build trust, foster stability and bring prosperity to Bosnia and Herzegovina.From there, the Vice President traveled to Belgrade, Serbia where he met with President Boris Tadic. The Vice President expressed his desire for Serbia to be a positive leader in the Euro-Atlantic community:I came to Serbia on behalf of the Obama-Biden administration with a clear, distinct message, Mr. President: The United States wants to, would like to, deepen our cooperation with Serbia to help solve the problems of the region, to help Serbia become a strong, successful democratic member of the Euro-Atlantic community. That's our objective.Ever since the end of World War II, generations of Europeans and Americans have worked very hard to build a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. Southeast Europe remains the missing piece, and Serbia is central to Southeast Europe's future. Simply put, the region cannot fully succeed without Serbia playing the constructive and leading roleOn Thursday, the Vice President traveled to Pristina, Kosovo, where he met with officials and addressed the Assembly of Kosovo. He underscored the United States’ commitment to a unified, multiethnic, independent Kosovo. His visit was the first by a senior American official since Kosovo declared its independence last year. He later traveled to Camp Bondsteel where he talked with U.S. troops, applauding their efforts:Ladies and gentlemen, for just as I’ve seen other bases around the world and made dozens of trips into what we call war zones around the world, what I see reaffirms my absolute belief and knowledge you are the most powerful, you are the most disciplined, you are the best-trained warriors America has ever produced. And that is literally true. You’re the most visible, most vital symbol of our sense of justice and compassion that could possibly be demonstrated to the rest of the world, along with your colleagues in the multinational force. You’re the embodiment of our deep-seated ethic of selflessness and sacrifice.After his tour of the Balkans, the Vice President traveled to Beirut, his first trip to the Middle East as Vice President and the first trip by any American Vice President to Lebanon since 1983. In his address to President Sleiman, he reinforced the United States’ support for an independent and sovereign Lebanon:I also want to convey to you that the Obama-Biden administration is committed to comprehensive peace in the region that benefits all people, including the Lebanese. That's why within the first 50 days of our administration we made it clear that we were fully, totally committed and will stay committed to pursuing a lasting peace.Lebanon has suffered terribly from war. We have a real opportunity now, Mr. President, in my view, for peace. So I urge those who would think about standing with the spoilers of peace not to miss this opportunity to walk away from the spoilers.Mr. President, you know it and I know it: Lebanon has immeasurable potential. And as I said to you and your colleagues earlier, I can't envision peace in the Middle East without a stable, strong Lebanon. The potential for a vibrant democracy, the potential to be a model for other Middle Eastern nations moving toward freedom and reform is, I think, within your grasp.The Vice President closed his trip with an announcement of a comprehensive U.S. military assistance effort in Lebanon, stating that the United States is committed to supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces:I'm also here to assure you that every member of the Lebanese army -- every member of the Lebanese army -- that the United States of America considers itself a partner in your effort to defend your sovereignty -- the sovereignty of the Lebanese state and the security of all the people of Lebanon. That's why, since 2005, the United States has committed more than a half a billion dollars to provide training and equipment, and why we've sat with you and Secretary Gates has talked about a multi-year plan.And that's why we continue to support you. As I said to the President today, a free and democratic Lebanon hinges on the strength of your national institutions. The Lebanese Armed Forces are as vital a national institution as any other in this country, arguably more vital. We know how much the Lebanese people look to you to protect their interests.
Jesse LeeJune 01, 2009
01:36 PM EDTOMB Director Peter Orszag posts another contribution to the conversation on health care costs:"As the debate about health care reform takes center stage this summer, more and more commentators will be focusing – rightly – on the impact of reform on the federal budget."Read the full post on what he calls "A 'Belt and Suspenders' Approach to Fiscally Responsible Health Reform."