Monday, June 24, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

President Obama Nominates Three to Serve as District Court Judges

Today, President Obama nominated Judge Landya B. McCafferty, Justice Brian Morris, and Judge Susan P. Watters to serve as district court judges.

“These individuals have had distinguished legal careers and I am honored to ask them to continue their work as judges on the federal bench,” said President Obama.  “They will serve the American people with integrity and an unwavering commitment to justice.”

Judge Landya B. McCafferty: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire
Judge Landya B. McCafferty currently serves as a United States Magistrate Judge for the District of New Hampshire, a position she has held since 2010.  Before becoming a federal magistrate judge, Judge McCafferty served as Disciplinary Counsel for the New Hampshire Attorney Discipline Office from 2003 to 2010 and as a staff attorney for the New Hampshire Public Defender Program from 1995 to 2003.  She clerked for Judge A. David Mazzone of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts from 1994 to 1995 and worked as an associate at the law firm of McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, P.A. from 1993 to 1994.  Judge McCafferty began her legal career as a law clerk for the Honorable Norman H. Stahl of the United States District Court of New Hampshire; she continued clerking for him upon his elevation to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.  She received her J.D. in 1991 from Northeastern University School of Law and her A.B. cum laude in 1984 from Harvard University.

Justice Brian Morris:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Montana
Justice Brian Morris has served on the Montana Supreme Court since 2005.  Prior to his appointment to the bench, he served as the Solicitor of the Montana Department of Justice from 2001 to 2005.  From 2000 to 2001, Justice Morris was a Senior Legal Officer at the United Nations Compensation Commission in Geneva, Switzerland. He worked at the law firm of Goetz, Madden & Dunn, P.C. in Bozeman from 1995 to 2000, and from 1994 to 1995, he worked as a legal assistant with the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague.  After graduating from law school, Justice Morris clerked for Judge John T. Noonan, Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist of the United States Supreme Court.  He received his J.D. with distinction in 1992 from Stanford Law School and his M.A. and B.A. in 1987 from Stanford University.

Judge Susan P. Watters:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Montana
Judge Susan P. Watters is currently a judge on the Thirteenth Judicial District Court of Montana, a position that she has held since 1998.  From 1996 to 1998, she practiced both criminal and civil litigation at the law firm Hendrickson, Everson, Noennig & Woodward, P.C. in Billings.  Judge Watters was a sole practitioner focusing on criminal defense from 1995 to 1996 and a Deputy County Attorney in Yellowstone County, Montana, from 1989 to 1995.  From 1988 to 1989, she was a law clerk for two different judges on the Thirteenth Judicial District Court of Montana.  Judge Watters received her J.D. in 1988 from the University of Montana School of Law and her B.A. in 1980 from Eastern Montana College.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Obama: S. Korea to show united front on N. Korea

US President Barack Obama and South Korea's new leader Park Geun-hye will seek to present a strong front against North Korea's nuclear threats when they meet at the White House Tuesday. But they also want to leave the door open to talks with Pyongyang.

White House senior director for Asian affairs, Daniel Russel, said the joint appearance of the two leaders at the White House would make it crystal clear to Pyongyang that the allies stand shoulder-to-shoulder. (AP)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Obama Talks Deficit, Energy With Female Senators

President Barack Obama hosted a bipartisan group of female senators at a White House dinner Tuesday night and urged them to come together to reach a deficit-reduction deal.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said the president used the dinner with all 20 female senators – 16 Democrats and four Republicans – to push for a renewal of talks aimed at a broad deficit-reduction package.

Ms. Klobuchar said Mr. Obama spoke about his deficit reduction plan and didn’t introduce any new ideas during the session.

The dinner also saw a discussion of energy policy, perhaps a nod to moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Ms. Klobuchar said that when the matter of the Keystone pipeline was raised, the president didn’t commit to approving or rejecting the pipeline.

She said the president cited an overhaul of the country’s cyber security system as a priority.

The House passed a largely partisan bill last week aimed at preventing cyber security attacks on the U.S., despite a veto threat from the White House.

The Senate tried twice in the last Congress to pass a version of the bill, both times unsuccessfully. The Senate has now effectively gone back to the drawing board on the issue, meaning it could be some time before the chamber takes another crack at passing legislation.

In hosting the dinner, Mr. Obama wanted to strengthen personal ties to senators who are crucial to advancing his legislative agenda. The event was the fourth dinner Mr. Obama has held in recent weeks with members of the Senate.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D.,N.Y.) said she had suggested to Mr. Obama on a flight on Air Force One, after the elections in November, that he meet with the women senators. Ms. Gillibrand told MSNBC that she had asked him to attend one of the women senators’ quarterly dinners. Mr. Obama said he’d “have you one better” and “have you come to the White House,” the senator said.

“Tonight’s dinner with the president was a productive extension of the bipartisan working dinners Senate women hold monthly,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), in a statement emailed by her office.

“While we obviously still need more women in the Senate, women do now represent one-fifth of the chamber, and our willingness to work across the aisle has made a difference in the way the Senate functions. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss our work with the President this evening and hope that moving forward, Congress can build off of the bipartisan inroads Senate women have made in recent years,” she said.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Michelle Obama praises Jackie Robinson movie

Michelle Obama said Tuesday that a new movie chronicling Jackie Robinson's rise through Major League Baseball, including the racial discrimination he endured while breaking the sport's color barrier in the 1940s, left her and the president "visibly, physically moved" after they saw it over the weekend.

The film, "42," also left the couple wondering "how on Earth did (the Robinsons) live through that. How did they do it? How did they endure the taunts and the bigotry for all of that time?" she said.

Mrs. Obama commented at a workshop for a group of high school and college students who saw the movie in the White House theater. Some of the students attend a Los Angeles charter school named for Robinson and others are undergraduate scholars in a program that bears the baseball great's name.

The students also participated in a question-and-answer session with Robinson's widow, Rachel, and members of the cast and crew, including Chadwick Boseman, who plays Robinson, Harrison Ford, who stars as former Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey, and director-screenwriter Brian Helgeland.

President Barack Obama held a separate screening of "42" for the cast and crew Tuesday evening.

Mrs. Obama said everyone should see the movie, which opens nationwide April 12.

"I can say with all sincerity that it was truly powerful for us," she said. "We walked away from that just visibly, physically moved by the experience of the movie, of the story," and the "raw emotion" they felt afterward.

The first lady added that she was also "struck by how far removed that way of life seems today," noting how times have changed despite progress still to be made toward eliminating racial discrimination.

"You can't imagine the baseball league not being integrated. There are no more "Whites Only" signs posted anywhere in this country. Although it still happens, it is far less acceptable for someone to yell out a racial slur while you're walking down the street," she told the students. "That kind of prejudice is simply just not something that can happen in the light of day today."

After playing for the Negro Baseball League and the International League, Robinson became Major League Baseball's first black player on April 15, 1947, batting for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His number was 42.

Barack Obama broke a similar barrier in politics by winning election in 2008 as the first black U.S. president.

Mrs. Obama said the Robinsons' story is a reminder of the hard work it takes to move a country forward.

"It reminds you how much struggle is required to make real progress and change," she said, echoing her husband.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Obama library battle heats up

March Madness is here, and the competition is getting intense.

And the battle for President Obama's library appears to have boiled down two finalists: Chicago and Hawaii.

Universities and community groups in both places are busy lobbying the president's people for the facility that the contestants see as an economic and cultural boon.

"It is a tough choice, but it's not one that I've made yet," Obama told an interviewer last month.

In the meantime, the Associated Press reported:

"In December, top officials from the University of Chicago, where Obama once taught law, traveled to Dallas and met with archivists at The George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University. At the meeting was Susan Sher, first lady Michelle Obama's former chief of staff and longtime friend and now a senior adviser to the University of Chicago's president. ...

"In Honolulu, where the president was born, University of Hawaii officials have visited nearly all the 13 official presidential libraries to talk to officials involved in setting them up. An American studies professor, Robert Perkinson, is leading a statewide effort coordinated by the university, with support from Gov. Neil Abercrombie and other state and federal officials. The state Legislature has passed two resolutions urging Obama to pick Hawaii; one resolution calls it 'a matter of great state pride that President Obama is the first Hawaii-born citizen to hold that high office.' ...

"Advocates for placing the library in Chicago speak of Obama's coming of age as a community organizer there and his service in the Illinois Senate and as the state's U.S. senator. They say a presidential library on the city's South Side could revitalize the community and be a force for economic growth. ...

"The emerging consensus in Honolulu is that the state university is best prepared to house the library. But there's no such sense of agreement in Chicago, where a host of groups are publicly stumping on behalf of other sites on Chicago's South Side, where Michelle Obama grew up, voters first sent Barack Obama to public office and the Obama family has their home."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Premier rules out SA police budget top-up

The Premier has ruled out any top-up funds for the South Australian police budget.

Police and Finance Minister Michael O'Brien earlier told reporters police were likely to struggle to meet their $150 million savings target.

He spoke of possibly approaching Treasury for budget relief if the force was to meet a Government pledge to recruit hundreds of extra officers.

Mr Weatherill, who is also Treasurer, said he would not be providing police with a budget top-up.

"We'll be insisting on the savings targets, but the position I made the other day is very clear, that we'll also be pursuing the increase in police numbers that we're committed to," he said.

Mr Weatherill conceded recruitment might be slowed and said the Government's target was set to be achieved by 2016.

Mr O'Brien appears to have back-tracked on his earlier comment that a budget shortfall for police might see him ask Treasury for more money.

He now said he had been misunderstood and police could be entitled to 'modest' new funding if they put a proposal to the Government aimed at creating safer neighbourhoods.

It could well be that within that context, which is very, very specific, SAPOL come to us with a spending proposal that aligns with the safer neighbourhood proposition," he said.

"But, as for meeting their savings objectives, we are determined that all agencies will do what is required of them."


Police Commissioner Gary Burns said the budget savings target would have to be significantly reduced to guarantee police numbers.

Mr Burns said $60 million of the $150 million target still needed to be found.

He said it was putting in doubt 184 promised police positions, on top of 116 filled so far.

"The savings that we're expected to get can only come from removing police positions, particularly in the numbers to do with the increased numbers of 184 through R300 (recruitment target of 300)," he said.

The Police Association has urged the Government reduce its police savings target by $50 million, a sum it added to the original $100 million target last December.

Union official Mark Carroll said some small country police stations might be in the firing line.

"We'd want to make sure that if any police stations did close that there would be proper community consultation in relation to it," he said.

"[We hope] we wouldn't lose the resource and that may be relocated to a neighbouring station to increase the size of that station, as opposed to losing that resource in the country."

Monday, February 4, 2013

Conservatives Take on Obama Over Gay Scouts

A conservative group that wants the Boy Scouts to keep their ban on gays today released an ad apparently countering President Obama’s remarks this weekend urging the scouts to drop the ban.

“To compromise moral principles under political and financial pressure would teach the boys cowardice, not courage,” says the ad by the Family Research Council and a number of other religious and socially-conservative organizations.

In an interview aired Sunday before the Super Bowl, Obama expressed his hope that the ban would become a thing of the past.

“My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunities, the same way  as everyone else does, in every institution and walk of life,” Obama told CBS’ Scott Pelley. “And you know the Scouts are a great institution, that are promoting young people and exposing them to opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives. And I think nobody should be barred from that.”

A spokesperson for the scouting organization has said BSA leadership was “discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation” but that decision would not come until after today, Feb. 4.

The scouting organization has not said whether the push from the president will sway their decision.

“We appreciate President Obama’s opinion and his recognition of the positive impact Scouting makes on our nation,” BSA spokesperson Deron Smith said.

According to Smith, groups that oversee scouting would still have the freedom to implement policies that suited their beliefs without the rule in place.

Repealing the ban “would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” Smith wrote in a statement a week ago. “BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.”

In his first term,  the president worked to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the rule that kept gay and lesbian Americans out of the military. Early in his second term, Obama seems to be making advancing rights for that same group an even bigger priority.

President Obama took one of his strongest ever stances in favor of expanding rights for gay and lesbian Americans in his second inaugural address.

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” Obama said in his address on the Capitol steps after his swearing in. It was the first time a U.S. president mentioned gay rights during inauguration.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Obama: Media is to blame for promoting gridlock

How the media shapes the debate is “one of the biggest factors” in determining whether his second-term priorities have a fighting chance of survival in Washington, President Obama said.

In a sit-down interview with The New Republic, Obama covered an array of themes likely to define the beginning of his second term, and reflected on the role of the media in shaping the political conversation during his first four years in office. Lawmakers, he argued, would be more willing to compromise if they did not have to worry about their media image.

“Nobody gets on TV saying, ‘I agree with my colleague from the other party.’ People get on TV for calling each other names and saying the most outlandish things,” Obama said.

To prove his point, the president said he felt House Speaker John Boehner “genuinely wanted to get a deal done” on the fiscal cliff, but had his hands tied in balancing the expectations of extremists within his caucus. Obama said lawmakers during the negotiations were unwilling to compromise for fear of becoming vulnerable to attacks from members of their own party.

“If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you’ll see more of them doing it,” he added.

The president went on to warn of false equivalencies in how reporters cover the Beltway under the guise of impartiality and objectivity. While Democrats can also be culprits of partisan gridlock, Obama argued they could not be equally compared to the obstructionism seen on the right.

“I think the difference is just that the more left-leaning media outlets recognize that compromise is not a dirty word,” he said. “And I think at least leaders like myself—and I include Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in this–are willing to buck the more absolutist-wing elements in our party to try to get stuff done.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Obama taking heat from some backers over deal

President Obama is taking heat from some supporters on the fiscal cliff deal.

One of the critics' biggest complaints: The agreement doesn't address the soon-to-be-topped debt ceiling, setting up yet another budget fight with Republicans over the next two months.

Some liberals also said Obama settled for too high a threshold for higher income taxes. The agreement ends the George W. Bush-era tax cuts only for individuals who make more than $400,000 a year, and couples who make more than $450,000.

It also ends the payroll tax holiday, so that tax went up 2% on Tuesday.

In urging Democrats to reject the agreement, Timothy Noah of The New Republic wrote: "Your president has sold you out … The White House means well, but it has bargained incompetently."

Noah and other critics said Obama would have had more leverage over Republicans if the nation had gone off the fiscal cliff Tuesday and been hit with the automatic tax hikes and budget cuts that came along with it. Now, said Noah, "the deal gives Republicans carte blanche to take America hostage all over again in a month or two over raising the debt limit."

All that said, the Senate easily approved the measure early Monday by a vote of 89-8. Only three Democratic senators voted against it.

The Republican-run House is expected to take up the measure on Tuesday.

In a statement issued after the Senate vote, Obama noted that "neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted," and that the agreement "is the right thing to do for our country."

Obama and aides also noted that the deal increases taxes on Americans making more than $400,000 a year, the first such tax hike in more than 20 years. They said the plan also sets a template for future debt reductions.

"We will continue to reduce the deficit through a combination of new spending cuts and new revenues from the wealthiest Americans," Obama said.

Of course, Republican congressional leaders are also taking some heat over the fiscal cliff agreement, their backers saying the party gave up too much. They noted that it includes tax increases, but no meaningful spending cuts.

"I am a Republican," tweeted Donald Trump. "But the Republicans may be the worst negotiators in history."

Trump also said: "Obama and the Democrats are laughing at the deal they just made...the Republicans got nothing!"

Five Republican senators opposed the agreement. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, said the plan "just postpones the inevitable, the need to solve our growing debt crisis."