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May 26, 2009

Judge Sotomayor – Hispanic Nuyorican Nominated To US Supreme Court

President Obama made history today by nominating the first Hispanic to the United States Supreme Court. Her name is Sonia Sotomayor, a Judge who sits on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Sotomayor would replace retiring Justice David Souter, and become the second woman to serve currently on the high court and only the third in history. Born and raised in a South Bronx housing project, the Judge would be the first person of Puerto Rican (she calls herself a Nuyorican which is a blending of the terms “New York” and “Puerto Rican”) heritage to serve on the high court.

In nominating Sotomayor, President Obama cited her professional achievements and compelling personal story, calling her an “inspiring woman who I am confident will make a great justice.”

“It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, or what challenges life throws your way. No dream is beyond reach in the United States of America,” Obama said.

In a statement in the East Room ceremony announcing her nomination, Sotomayor said, “Never in my wildest childhood imaginings…did I ever dream that I would live this moment.” Judge Sotomayor loved Nancy Drew mysteries as a child and yearned to be a police detective. But a doctor who diagnosed her childhood diabetes suggested that would be difficult. She traded her admiration of Nancy Drew for an allegiance to Perry Mason — she became a huge fan of TV’s Perry Mason and decided to become a lawyer.

Unless there is a scandalous revelation about Sotomayor, she is expected to be confirmed. Conservative will without a doubt make a fuss about the nomination of a Hispanic woman and further alienate Hispanics.  Wendy Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network said, “Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written. She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one’s sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.”

Judge Sotomayor is the infamous Judge that ended the 1995 Major League Baseball strike. She ruled against the baseball team owners and in favor of the ballplayers, a decision that ended a lengthy strike and resumed play. At age 54, Judge Sotomayor would be the second-youngest member of the court, after Chief Justice John Roberts, thus potentially setting up decades of clashes between competing views of the Constitution and a variety of issues.

Sotomayor has served on the federal bench for 16 years, as a US district court judge in New York City from 1992 to 1998 under the great Robert Morgenthau and as a judge on the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York from 1998 to present. Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing in the Senate is expected to begin in approximately two months and her record will no doubt endure microscopic scrutiny.

Judge Sotomayor’s was born in the South Bronx to Puerto Rican parents; she was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8. Her father died when she was 9, and she and her brother were raised by their mother, a nurse, in a housing project near Yankee Stadium.

She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979. After law school, she prosecuted violent criminals in the District Attorney’s Office in New York from 1979 to 1984. She then worked for eight years in private practice representing international corporations and was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to a federal judgeship.

She was later nominated by President Clinton to her current post on the appeals court. She was confirmed in 1998 by a vote of 67 to 29 to 2.

May 21, 2009

NBA Playoffs: Magic Dust Beats Chalk Dust

The game started with Superman Dwight Howard’s dunk bringing down the goal — literally — and the crowd in the “Q” oohed and aahed.  It seems like Howard doesn’t know his personal strength but Team Magic proved that it is strong enough to take down the Cavaliers.

When the game started the Cavs had all the momentum.  They have only lost two games at home all season, they had won their first eight playoff games – they seemed ready to sweep everyone out of their way to being champions.  They came out firing on all cylinders right from the get-go and dominated the Magic for most of the first three quarters. LeBron and the entire team seemed focused, forceful and fierce. They seemed invincible. The referees seemed to even help the Cavs at times by giving them calls that should have gone the other way.  This seemed like it would be an easy victory and the Cavs would blow the Magic out of the water.

LeBron had a terrific game – he was simply awesome but he alone cannot beat a team that can get really hot at anytime during the game because of their 3-point shooters. James even broke his career playoff high – he scored 49 points but his bench did little to help him offensively. For most of the second half it looked like the Cavaliers of old — they gave the ball to LeBron and watched him hold the ball for 20 seconds then shoot. That strategy won’t work against the Orlando Magic.

Coach Van Gundy strategy of putting Mickael Pietrus (who did a GREAT job) on James allowed Hedo Turkoglu to put more energy in his offense and he ended up with 15 points and 14 assists. In addition Zydrunas Ilgauskus is a terrible matchup for the young Super-strong Howard who had a sensational game and ended the night with 30 points and 13 rebounds. Illgaukus is too old and slow to defend Howard in the paint or guard Lewis and Turkoglu on the pick and roll. The Cavs weren’t able to get back in transition and seemed totally unprepared when the Magic kicked-out for threes off the fast break. Rashard Lewis had a terrific game and ended the night with 22 points.

Turkoglu and Lewis combined for 21 of Orlando’s 29 points in the fourth quarter and Lewis buried the game winning 3-pointer with 14.7 seconds remaining!

The “Q” crowd started the game oohing and aahing but filed out of the Quicken Loans Arena stunned and silent.

Game 2 tips off on Friday at 8:30pm ET on TNT.

May 18, 2009

NBA Playoffs: Will We See a Kobe/LeBron Final?

Kobe LeBron 2  There should be no political correctness during the playoffs and that’s the way it should remain.  Supporters should not hide their love for their favorite teams.  I understand players being diplomatic because they don’t want to provide fodder that will annoy, irritate or anger their opponents.  But I’m not a player so I don’t have to be genteel.  

I’m simply a fan who loves basketball and I want to see a Kobe/LeBron final.  I specifically didn’t say Kobe versus LeBron or LeBron versus Kobe. Simply a Kobe/LeBron final. I want to see a modern day gladiatorial style sports battle. 

No disrespect to the Magic or Nuggets but I hope Team Kobe and Team LeBron bounce you out of the way – quickly.

I am not completely delusional; I do know that both the LeBron Cavaliers and the Kobe Lakers face teams that could in fact maybe possibly beat them.

Kobe LeBron 1

Yes, the Denver Nuggets swept through their first two rounds and the Lakers had to go to a game 7 in their second round. But the Lakers are consummate warriors and I believe that they will come out to battle every night against the Nuggets.  I think their every-other-game lackadaisical play against Houston is a thing of the past and taught the Lakers a lesson about public perception and they now have something to prove so they will come out with crazed passion and fervor!

So, can the Nuggets get pass the Lakers who have home court advantage?

There is also the really, really far-flung possibility that Orlando might come out roaring and magically upset Cleveland’s chances of going to the finals buuut NOT so much.  I have heard from a not so reliable source that Team Magic is spending today in Church and lighting candles for St. Christopher, the patron saint of sports because in order to win this series Orlando will have to win at least two close games and win at least one game, maybe two, in Cleveland.  I don’t think that will happen.

Kobe LeBron 3 

A Kobe/LeBron showdown between these two friends is what most of us want to see but our gifted athletes have to defeat some great teams to get to the finals, so go ahead and freely and unapologetically root for the Lakers or Cavaliers.  But as always the human factor will come into play: 

Which team will remain healthy?

Which team has the mental strength to put the living fear in their opponent? 

Which team is faster, stronger and wiser?

Watch the hilarious Nike commericals below:  🙂

The White House: Have You Met Our ROTUS?

This is such a great and responsible position to have.  But I’m sorry Mr. President, our ROTUS’s salary should be much, much more that $36,000! 

Our ROTUS has to be someone who is personable, educated, VERY reliable, trustworthy, a good communicator and has to dress in a respectable manner since a major part of her responsibility is meeting and greeting heads of states and dignitaries.  I understand that this is a privilege and I know Ms. Page loves her job (and she might not be complaining) but $36,000 is not a reasonable salary for this position!

Darienne Page ROTUS 2   “Have you met ROTUS?”  This is a question President Obama has taken to asking some of his visitors to the White House. In a bureaucratic world awash in abbreviations and acronyms, this one in particular seems to amuse him.

Mr. Obama, of course, is POTUS (president of the United States). Michelle Obama is FLOTUS (first lady of the United States). And the title of ROTUS (receptionist of the United States) is worn by Darienne M. Page.

“This is the receptionist of the entire United States,” Mr. Obama said, introducing Ms. Page to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

“How long was your confirmation hearing?” Mr. Holder asked with a smile.

“You want to say, ‘Hello, POTUS,’ ” Ms. Page said later, recalling her interactions with Mr. Obama, who picked up the ROTUS nickname from young aides and now uses it nearly every time he sees her. “But then you say, ‘Hello, Mr. President.’ ”

Ms. Page presides over the beehive of activity that is the West Wing lobby of the White House. At 27, she is among the hundreds of young aides who help the new administration tick. But her vantage point offers a considerably closer view of this presidency than most of them.

She is on hand to greet nearly every official visitor who has an appointment with the president or his top advisers. She oversees the front of the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, serving coffee to former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, making small talk with a delegation from Kazakhstan and trying to chew a mouthful of almonds quickly before saying hello to Tiger Woods as he stands at her desk.

Darienne Page ROTUS  “I tried not to be very star-struck,” Ms. Page said of the golfer’s recent visit. “I’m usually not, but I was caught completely off guard. All of the people that come in, I think, are humbled by the office, so they are all very nice.”

Last week alone, the list of visitors ranged from Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate, to the actors Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller, in town for the domestic premiere of their movie, “Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian,” at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.

Ms. Page tries to memorize the faces of the senators and representatives who come to the White House. But after a guest passes through the security gate on the North Lawn, she has approximately five minutes to do a Google search if they are unfamiliar, all so she can make small talk during their inevitable wait.

The White House, at least the portion of it where the president’s official business is conducted, is smaller than it looks on television. If the three sofas and half-dozen chairs in the West Wing lobby are filled, visitors must stand as if they were in a waiting room at a busy doctor’s office — although one with better artwork, like the 1861 oil painting “Cannonading on the Potomac” by Wordsworth Thompson that hangs above the receptionist’s desk.

“Hi, how can I help you?” Ms. Page said in greeting a visitor on a recent morning as men and women in business suits milled around. “Are you here for Nancy? You can have a seat.”

For her $36,000-a-year salary, Ms. Page schedules all the activity in the Roosevelt Room, just steps from the Oval Office, and in the Wardroom Room, which is outside the White House mess hall. Even with a dawn-to-dusk schedule, the meetings often run overtime, creating a logjam that she is left to contend with.

One sign of a busy day? An ever-growing pile of BlackBerrys and cell phones.

The Roosevelt Room is secure, so she must collect all personal electronic devices at the door. She uses yellow Post-it notes to write the last name of the owner on each device before placing it in a wicker basket on her desk, next to a vase of fresh flowers that is rotated at least every three days.

Her path to the White House began in a bar in downtown Chicago, where she and a group of friends from the University of Illinois stopped by for happy hour and dinner one night in fall 2007. A man in a “Veterans for Obama” shirt was sitting nearby, and they began talking about the campaign. Soon, she was a volunteer. A few months later, she was hired to work in the operations department to make travel arrangements and handle logistics for campaign field workers and senior strategists.

“You can tell a lot about a person’s temperament based on how they travel and what they’re willing to take and what they’re not willing to take,” Ms. Page said. “It helps dealing with them now.”

This is her first White House job, but Mr. Obama is the second president she has served. The first was George W. Bush, her commander in chief when she was an Army sergeant stationed in Iraq.

Ms. Page joined the military after finishing high school in Maryland, following a long line of others in her family. She worked as a paralegal in Baghdad, taking depositions in the Abu Ghraib prison. She still wears a metal bracelet on her right wrist inscribed with the name of Sgt. Maj. Cornell W. Gilmore, her commander, who was killed when enemy fire struck his helicopter in late 2003.

“He taught us to lead, but to lead with a smile and be calm under pressure,” she said. “A lot of lessons that I learned in the Army help me here. There is a lot that goes on that I have to do with a smile even if I really don’t want to.”

A task that requires particular diplomacy is overseeing the presidential boxes at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. A few days a week, she goes to pick up tickets and checks to be sure that the V.I.P. seats in all three theaters are in order and that the minibar is stocked with small bottles of Korbel champagne, white boxes of M&Ms with the presidential seal on them and a few cans of Bud Light.

The next challenge? “The Color Purple” is playing this summer, and requests far exceed the number of seats at Ms. Page’s disposal. As she walks down the center’s grand hallway, where coming performances are advertised, another worry pops into her mind.

“I’m dreading ‘Peter Pan,’ ” Ms. Page said, hurrying back across town to the White House. “Oh, Lord.”

This very interesting article was written by JEFF ZELENY of the New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/18/us/politics/18rotus.html?emc=eta1

May 14, 2009

No (Declassified) Memos For DICK Cheney

A few weeks ago former vice president Cheney challenged President Obama to declassify two memos that he said he believes shows that the Central Intelligence Agency had reversed acts of terrorism thanks to information collected from interrogations which included waterboarding.

Said Cheney, “The memos do exist. I have seen them. I had them in my files at one time. Now everything is part of the National Archives. I’m sure the agency (CIA) has copies of those materials.”

“If we’re going to have this debate, it ought to be a complete debate. Those memos ought to be out there for people to look at and journalists like yourself to evaluate in terms of what we were able to accomplish.”

Cheney has made it clear that part of his motivation is to defend against possible legal action against Bush officials who authorized or carried out the controversial interrogation policies.

Unfortunately for Dick Cheney he has to continue his ‘I must defend myself tour’ because those memos will not be released. 

A letter dated May 7, 2009, from the CIA’s Information and Privacy Coordinator, Delores M. Nelson, rejected Cheney’s request because the documents he has requested are involved in a Freedom of Information Act court battle.

“In researching the information in question, we have discovered that it is currently the subject of pending FOIA litigation (Bloche v. Department of Defense, Amnesty International v. Central Intelligence Agency). Therefore, the document is excluded from Mandatory Declassification Review,” Nelson wrote in the letter to the National Archives, the agency responsible for handling Cheney’s request.

Cheney spokeswoman Lucy Tutwiler has said, “Vice President Cheney is preparing his appeal to the decision.”

It’s unlikely this matter will dissuade Cheney from criticizing Obama for eliminating the program that he said amounted to torture, though some Republicans are worried about the suddenly high profile of the not so popular former VP.

Cheney has also said he is seeking the documents to help with his memoirs.

May 13, 2009

President Obama: Commencement Speaker At Arizona State University

Arizona State University

In response to President Barack Obama’s challenge for the United States to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020, Arizona State University (“ASU”) is increasing its student accessibility by expanding its financial aid program to more Arizona families. ASU will honor President Obama by renaming its scholarship program at its commencement ceremony today, May 13.  The program will be now be known as the President Barack Obama Scholars Program.  Some of the new Barack Obama Scholars will be introduced at graduation.

ASU has expanded qualifying family income level for scholars program to $60,000, increasing the number of students receiving funding for tuition, fees, books, and room and board from 500 to more than 1,600 students!

President Obama is ASU’s commencement speaker and will address his largest crowd in the U.S. since his inauguration.  About 71,000 people are expected to brave long lines in 99-degree heat to attend the open-air ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium.

Alice Cooper  Crews spent the past few days building the stage and setting up signs for the big event.  There will be mariachi music, Native American performances and marching bands. Rock icon Alice Cooper will be the opening act.

But for graduates Obama’s speech remains the major draw. Arizona native Alex Linden, 22, an English major, said she’s looking forward to hearing a message of hope.

“President Barack Obama giving my commencement speech seems like the perfect cap to my ASU experience,” Linden said. “I expect his speech, in typical Obama style, to be riveting and full of the ability to spark excitement and a sense of accomplishment.”

Having a sitting president speak at commencement posed significant logistical hurdles for ASU. The frenzy for tickets began as soon as the college announced its speaker in March. Ads for graduation tickets have even appeared on Craigslist and eBay.

May 11, 2009

Healthcare: Insurers Offer President Obama $2 TRILLION In Healthcare Savings!

This news is hotter than a Times Square Rolex!

Healthcare reform is a top priority of the Obama administration and the Obama administration wants to provide healthcare for the 46 million American citizens who do not have healthcare.  It seems that President Obama has been working on the healthcare problem even though we haven’t heard anything about it and we now know that there is a viable plan to finally get Americans a civilized healthcare system.

Some of America’s largest private healthcare providers plan to voluntarily tell President Obama that they will reduce the spending growth rate of healthcare by 1.5 percentage points per year.  Hospitals, drug makers and doctors, among others, wrote a letter to President Obama outlining their plan. The letter didn’t have many details but suggests savings could come from simplified billing, restructuring the way hospitals are paid and using more information technology, among other steps.  Several of these same industry groups — including insurers, whose lobbying group signed the letter — played central roles in defeating earlier efforts to reshape the American healthcare system — including the Clinton administration’s push in the mid-1990s.

If their plan works it could translate into significant savings for families — up to as much as $2,500 a year for a family of four by the fifth year of the program!  And the federal government could see savings as well — as much as $2 trillion during the next decade.

These momentous saving in health care could potentially reduce the growth of the federal budget deficit when similar savings are passed on to federal programs such as Medicare!

White House officials have said that representatives from six healthcare groups including America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, the Service Employees International Union, and the California Hospital Association signed the letter and came to them with the offer without any quid pro quo – without giving up something in exchange for something else.

Leaders of these groups have been working behind closed doors for weeks and could lose some money if healthcare spending were substantially slowed.

It seems to me that these healthcare groups realize that President Obama means business and they don’t want him to put their backs against the wall or for him to put them in a business choke-hold so they have decided to work among themselves and come up with a more balanced plan that has some give and take that will benefit Americans. It seems to me that because of the way President Obama has been efficiently taking care of business, healthcare companies have felt some pressure and have finally decided that they want to be part of the solution.

White House officials have indicated that some of the savings would come from simple things such as common claims forms that would reduce administrative costs or a universal explanation of benefits. The groups were expected to come to the White House with concrete proposals.

The steps the healthcare industry will need to take will depend on healthcare reform, for example, under current law providers are penalized if they are more efficient.  The Obama administration wants to remove the bureaucracy that stops efficiency and clear the path for a more stream line, modern, straightforward and less expensive healthcare system. 

White House officials estimate that right now healthcare expenses are growing at about a 7 percent annually. If the companies succeed with their plan, by the fifth year, there would be a zero growth rate. By the 10th year the savings would be equal to 3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) or $700 billion – a figure close to the economic stimulus package that was enacted in January!

These are funds that could be used to pay down our debts or invested in education or other economic priorities.

Our next assignment as American citizens is to support President Obama by putting pressure on Congress when his plan his ready so that we can get a healthcare bill passed.

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