The 244 Accomplishments of President Obama

October 29, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

I rarely post anything political, but these next two years are too important to let go by without trying to make clear what is at stake. Below are 244 good reasons to support the President and the Democrats in 2012. No doubt more will be added.

The 244 ACCOMPLISHMENTS

of PRESIDENT OBAMA

NOTE: Special Thanks to Robert P. Watson, Ph. D., Professor of American Studies, Lynn University who compiled this list and writes “Like all presidents, Barack Obama has made mistakes. But, as a presidential historian, I have been struck by claims being put forward by Obama’s many critics and the news media that he has accomplished little when, in fact, his presidency is easily one of the most active in history

ETHICS

• Ordered the White House and all federal agencies to respect the Freedom of Information Act and overturned Bush-era limits on accessibility of federal documents (2009)

• Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible (2009)

• Placed limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House (2009)

• Placed limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration (2009)

• Signed a measure strengthening registration and reporting requirements for lobbyists (2009)

• Ordered that lobbyists must be removed from and are no longer permitted to serve on federal and White House advisory panels and boards (2009) * Note: After saying he would not hire lobbyists, a few have been hired in the Administration

• Companies and individuals who are delinquent on their taxes or owe back taxes are no longer allowed to bid for federal contracts (2009)

• Initiated the “e-Rulemaking Initiative” (in cooperation with Cornell University) to allow for online public “notice and comment” of federal laws and initiatives (2010)

• Issued the “Open Gov Directive” ordering all Cabinet departments to promote transparency and citizen participation in their policies (2010)

• Signed extensions on banning lobbyists from serving on agency boards (2010)

• Developed the “Don Not Pay List” with data on contractors and recipients of federal funds who are deemed to be ineligible because of fraud and abuse (2010)

GOVERNANCE

• The White House website now provides information on all economic stimulus projects and spending, along with an unprecedented amount of information on our government (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era practice of circumventing established FDA rules for political reasons (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era practice of having White House staff rewrite the findings of scientific and environmental regulations and reports when they disagreed with the results (2009)

• Limited the salaries of senior White House aides (salaries cut to $100,000) (2009)

• Has urged Congress to adopt “Pay-Go” (whereby each dollar of spending is offset by a dollar in cuts or revenues, which was used in the `90s but abandoned in the `00s) (2010)

• Has been holding open meetings with Republican leaders, although they complain of a lack of access and information (2010)

• Signed the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (2010) * Note: To curb wasteful spending

• Tasked federal agencies to develop plans for disposing of unneeded real estate and then to eliminate unnecessary or non-economical lands, properties, etc. (2010)

NATIONAL SECURITY

• Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane (which wasn’t even used in Iraq/Afghanistan) and other outdated weapons systems (2009)

• Announced his intention to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay (2009) * Note: The closure has been delayed due to massive opposition but it remains on the agenda.

• Stated his interest in housing terrorists at a new federal “super max” facility in the US (2009) * Note: this has been delayed in the face of massive opposition but it remains on the agenda

• Cut the expensive Reagan era missile defense program, saving $1.4 billion in 2010 (2009)

• Cancelled plans to station anti-ballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic (2009)

• Replacing long-range, expensive missile systems with more efficient smaller systems (2009)

• Increased US Navy patrols off the Somali coast in response to pirating (2009)

• Established a new cyber security office and appointed a cyber security czar (2009)

• Ordered the first nation-wide comprehensive cyber threat assessment (2009)

• Instituted a new Nuclear Posture Review, revising US nuclear deterrence policy to encourage more nations to join the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (2010) * Note: Components of the policy include: a pledge to stop nuclear testing; a pledge to not build a new generation of nucs; identifying nuclear terrorism, rather than a launch from another nuclear state, as the major threat; a pledge to not use nucs on a non-nuclear state in a conventional conflict; etc.

• Executive orders to block payment, transfers, exports, etc… of individuals and organizations support the regimes of North Korea, Iran, Somali pirates, and other foreign threats (2010)

• Presidential Memoranda to extend certain provisions of The Trading with Enemies Act which was to expire in September 2010 (2010) * Note: This includes freezing assets and banning trade that benefits the Cuban regime; however further efforts at normalizing travel to Cuba are supported

• Signed bill for southwest border security and increased funds and agents on the Mexican border (2010)

• Signed the Comprehensive Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act to deal with foreign regimes like Iran and North Korea (2010)

IRAQ & AFGHANISTAN

• Began the phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (2009); continuing the withdrawal (2010)

• Changed the US military command in the Afghan conflict (2009)

• Tasked the Pentagon to reorganize US policy in Afghanistan; the new policy includes 30,000 additional troops deployed, priority training of Afghan forces, developing agriculture and infrastructure, limiting aerial bombing, etc. (2009)

• Ordered the Pentagon to send additional helicopters to assist US Marine units and Special Forces in Afghanistan (2009)

• Increased unmanned drone strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era “stop-loss” policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date (2009)

MILITARY & VETERANS

• Ordered the Pentagon to cover expenses of families of fallen soldiers if they wish to be on site when the body arrives back in the US (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era “blackout” imposed on media coverage of the return of fallen US soldiers (2009) * Note: The media is now permitted to cover the story pending adherence to respectful rules and with the approval of the fallen soldier’s family

• Ended the Bush-era “black out” policy on media coverage of war casualties (2009) * Note: Full information is now released for the first time in the War on Terror

• Ordered better body armor to be procured for US troops (2009)

• Funding new Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicles (2009) * Note: The old Hummers were very vulnerable to roadside explosives and an alarming percentage of our soldiers lost in Iraq were on account of IEDs

• Working to increase pay and benefits for military personnel (2009)

• Improving housing for military personnel (2009)

• Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses (2009)

• Ordered that conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other neglected military hospitals be improved (2009)

• Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military to a post-Cold War, modern fighting force (2009) * Note: Bush announced in 2001 his intention to do this but backed off the reforms after 9/11, which include: new procurement policies; increasing the size of Special Ops units; deploying new technologies; creating new cyber security units; etc.

• Ended the Bush-era practice of awarding “no-bid” defense contracts (2009)

• Improving benefits for veterans as well as VA staffing, information systems, etc. (2009)

• Authorized construction of additional health centers to care for veterans (2009)

• Suspended the Bush-era decision to purchase a fleet of Marine One helicopters from suppliers in favor of American made helicopters (2009)

• Ordered a review of the existing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military (2010)

• New GI Bill for returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan (2009)

• Signed bill providing assistance for caregivers of veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan (2010) * Note: The omnibus bill does the following: Training, funding, and counseling for caregivers; promoting pilot childcare programs for women vets under treatment at the VA; independent oversight to prevent abuse; readjustment counseling for National Guard and reservist units; etc.

• Eliminated co-payments for veterans who are catastrophically disabled (2010)

• Fulfilled campaign promise to have combat troops (90,000) out of Iraq by August 31, 2010 (2010)

• Established a new interagency task force to assist veterans owning small businesses (2010) * Note: The efforts include promoting federal contract opportunities, improve access to loans and capital, mentor assistance programs, etc.

• Signed The Families of Fallen Heroes Act, which covers the moving costs of immediate family members of those lost in service (military, intelligence, and security personnel) (2010)

FOREIGN POLICY

• Closed the Bush-era “secret detention” facilities in Eastern Europe (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era policy allowing “enhanced interrogation” (torture); the US is again in compliance with Geneva Convention standards (2009) * Note: Obama has permitted some controversial interrogation techniques to continue

• Restarted international nuclear non-proliferation talks and reestablished international nuclear inspection protocols (2009) * Note: Bush withdrew from non-proliferation talks and dismantled the inspection infrastructure

• Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic (2009) * Note: These were suspended under Bush

• Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions (2009) * Note: These were suspended under Bush

• Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office (2009)

• Banned the export of cluster bombs (2009)

• Overturned Bush-era plans to increase the US nuclear arsenal (2009)

• Authorized the Navy SEALS operation that freed by force the US shipping captain held by Somali pirates (2009)

• Restored the US commitment to the UN population fund for family planning; overturned the ban on providing funds internationally for family planning (2009) * Note: The family planning efforts were suspended under Bush

• Instituted a new policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to return “home” to visit families (2009)

• Extended an offer of engagement (free from sanctions and penalties) to Iran through December 31, 2009 (Iran did not accept the offer) (2009)

• Sent envoys to the Middle East and other parts of the world, reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy (2009)

• Authorized discussions with North Korea and the private mission by former president, Bill Clinton, to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons (2009)

• Authorized discussions with Myanmar and the mission by Senator Jim Web to secure the release of an American held captive (2009)

• Renewed loan guarantees for Israel (2009)

• Signed the USIFTA trade agreement with/for Israel (2009)

• Authorized a $550m advance for Israel (six months prior to the scheduled date) in order to accommodate Israeli’s economic and financial needs (2009)

• Continued agreements with Israel for cultural exchanges, immigration, etc. (2009)

• Spoke on Arab television, spoke at an Egyptian university, and met with Arab leaders in an effort to change the tone of US-Arab relations (2009)

• Ordered the US to finally pay its dues to the United Nations (2009)

• Attended the Summit of America’s meeting in Trinidad and Tobago (2010)

• Dispatched several envoys and initiated talks with numerous nations (2010)

• Signed a nuclear limitation treaty with Russia (2010) * Note: The agreement calls for both countries to reduce their nucs by one-third (1,500) and launch systems by half (800)

• Hosted nuclear non-proliferation summit for several nations (2010)

• Executive Order to establish support offices in the State Department to assist the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan (2010)

• Presidential Memoranda to continue drug interdiction support with Columbia (2010)

ECONOMY

• Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants…) (2009) * Note: Bush was the first president since Herbert Hoover to not make infrastructure a priority

• Authorized the US auto industry rescue plan and two GMAC rescue packages (2009)

• Authorized the housing rescue plan and new FHA residential housing guarantees (2009)

• Authorized a $789 billion economic stimulus plan (2009) * Note: 1/3 in tax cuts for working-class families; 1/3 to states for infrastructure projects; 1/3 to states to prevent the layoff of police officers, teachers, etc. at risk of losing their jobs because of state budget shortfalls

• Instituted a new rule allowing the public to meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (in as quickly as one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying (2009)

• Authorized a continuation of the US financial and banking rescue plans initiated at the end of the Bush administration and authorized TARP funds to buy “toxic assets” from failing financial institutions (2009)

• Authorized the “Cash for Clunkers” program that stimulated auto sales and removed old, inefficient, polluting cars from the road (2009)

• Convened a “jobs summit” to bring experts together to develop ideas for creating jobs (2009)

• Ordered the FDIC to beef up deposit insurance (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era policy of protecting credit card companies (2009) * Note: In place of the old policy, new consumer protections were instituted and the industry’s predatory practices were banned

• Authorized the federal government to make more loans available to small businesses and ordered lower rates for federal loans to small businesses (2009)

• Placed a 35% tariff on Chinese tires and a few other products such as pipes after China was found to be illegally “dumping” exports below cost (2009) * Note: Clinton, Bush I, and Reagan all refused to “get tough” on China’s predatory trade practices; Bush II refused four times during his presidency

• In November 2009, Obama extended unemployment benefits for one million workers

and expanded coverage for some existing homeowners who are buying again (2009)

• Called on Congress to deliver a “Jobs bill” (2010)

• Credit card companies are prohibited from raising rates without advance notification or arbitrarily if customers are paying bills on time (2010)

• Signed a bill to extend unemployment benefits set to expire (2010)

• Signed historic Wall Street reform bill (2010) * Note: Designed to reregulate and end abusive practices and promote consumer protections

• Signed the HIRE Act to stimulate the economic recovery (2010) * Note: The bill includes: tax cuts for small businesses who hire someone unemployed for at least two months; small businesses can write off their investments in equipment this year; etc.

• National Export Initiative established to enhance federal support (technical assistance, training, trade missions, etc.) and coordination efforts to help US businesses export products and services (2010)

• Initiatives to promote a “Wireless Broadband Revolution” (2010) * Note: Among other things, broadband is finally being considered as necessary infrastructure, with efforts to expand use, access, and spectrum…

• Expanded agricultural credit to farmers during current economic crisis (2010)

• Signed bill – US Manufacturing Enhancement Act (2010)

• Signed bill – Single Family Housing Mortgage Insurance (2010)

TAXES

• Negotiated a deal with Swiss banks to permit the US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs (2009) * Note: The new policy promotes in-sourcing investments to brings jobs back to the US

• Signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which provides small tax cuts for 95% of “working families” (2009) * Note: The tax cuts were not as big as was suggested during the 2008 campaign

• Convened an advisory board that is looking into simplifying the tax code (2009)

• Ordered the closing of offshore tax safe havens (for individual and business tax evaders) (2009)

• Reduced taxes for some small businesses to stimulate the economic recovery (2009)

• Extended the Home Buyers Credit for first-time home buyers (2009)

• Proposed doubling the child tax credit (2010)

• Called for the repeal of the capital gains tax for small businesses (2010)

• Proposed rolling back the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (2010) * Note: This would be for families earning over $250,000/year and would return their tax rates to the 1990’s level

BUDGETING

• Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut federal spending (2009)

• Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify wasteful spending and practices (2009)

• Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient (2009)

• Overturned the Bush-era practice of not listing certain federal programs in the federal budget (2009) (2010) * Note: Bush did this (so did Reagan) in an effort to hide programs and make the budget look smaller; such “off budget” items are now included in the annual budget

• Full appropriations for war are now included in the budget (2009) (2010)* Note: Bush did not list many of the appropriations for Iraq, Afghanistan, and War on Terror

• Funds for emergency appropriations are now included in the budget (2009) (2010)

• Proposed a three-year freeze on federal discretionary spending beginning in 2011 (2010)

• Is in the process of cutting 120 federal programs identified as either wasteful or unnecessary (2010)

• Established a bipartisan commission on fiscal responsibility, staffed by House and Senate members and private citizens, tasked with submitting proposals to balance the budget (2010) * Note: In the face of Republican opposition, the powers of the commission were watered down

• Established a bipartisan commission on the future of Social Security, tasked with submitting proposals to preserve and strengthen Social Security (2010) * Note: In the face of Republican opposition, the powers of the commission were watered down

• Cut $20 billion from federal budget and has pledged to cut at least this much every year (2010)

• Ultimately decided to cancel planned new presidential helicopter fleet and stick with marine One (2010)

• Freezing all discretionary spending for next three years, except on national security (2010)

• Presidential Memoranda to freeze discretionary awards, bonuses, etc. for federal political appointees (2010)

• Beginning to use “Pay-As-You-Go” (Pay-Go) to offset budget expenditures with budget cuts or revenue enhancements (2010)

HEALTHCARE

• Removed Bush era restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research (2009)

• Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research (2009)

• Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children (2009)

• Established an independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare (2009)

• Reversed some of the Bush-era restrictions that prevented Medicare from negotiating with pharmaceutical firms for cheaper drugs, allowing government to again competitively bid (2009) * Note: Obama had promised to lift all restrictions but, while he did negotiate with drug companies for them to lower their costs the deal only lifted some restrictions

• Expanding government vaccination programs (2009)

• Issued new disease prevention guidelines and priorities for the CDC (2009)

• Authorized the FDA to finally begin regulating tobacco (2009)

• Tasked federal labs to prioritize research on and deployment of H1N1 vaccines (2009)

• Asked multiple congressional committees to bring forward a healthcare reform bill; held dozens of public hearings and town halls on the issue (2009) (2010)

• Established a new council on National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health to be chaired by Surgeon General and charged with promoting healthy lifestyles and integrative healthcare (2010)

• When accusations to the contrary arose, an Executive Order was signed to reaffirm that federal funds are not to be used for abortion services (2010)

• Historic healthcare reform bill signed – $940 billion over 10 years (2010)* Note: 32 million additional Americans will receive healthcare coverage and costs will be lowered for most Americans, but many of the goals are phased in over four years

Components of the bill

Prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals/family members with pre-existing health conditions; a temporary plan is being developed to cover high-risk individuals with pre-existing conditions until the full reforms go into effect in 2014

Prevents insurance companies from placing lifetime limits on benefits

Bans “rescission” so insurance companies can’t cancel coverage if individuals keep their policies current or if they become ill

An individual’s out-of-pocket healthcare expenses are capped

Closes the “donut hole” (Part D) for Medicare prescription drug coverage (under Bush, Medicare helped pay for drugs up to $2,600 and above $4,550, but individuals had to pay 100% of the costs in between these amounts); now Medicare helps cover costs irrespective of the amount – seniors will now pay only 25% of drug costs up to $4,550 and only 5% of drug costs above that amount

In 2010, an emergency provision will offer seniors a $250 rebate on the costs incurred within the “donut hole”

Individuals living at or below the poverty line were eligible for healthcare under Medicaid, but by 2014 individuals/families living slightly above (making up to $14,404/$29,327) the poverty line will also be eligible for benefits

Individuals/families making less than $43,320/$88,200 per year will qualify for government subsidies to help purchase health insurance

All individuals must have health insurance or face a government fine; all large (over 50 employees) employers must offer health insurance to employees or pay a fine

Small businesses can get a tax credit if they offer health care

There are hardship exemptions if individuals can’t afford health insurance

Families can keep their children in college on their plans through age 26

Promotes health insurance “exchanges” so consumers can buy “wholesale”

Creates consumer assistance offices to help consumers file complaints or appeal decisions from insurance companies; beginning in 2011, insurance companies can no longer make excessive rate hikes without justification and approval, and those doing so may be barred from participating in new health insurance exchanges

Funding sources:

Large employers (over 50 workers) that don’t offer health benefits will be charged a $2,000/worker fee; if the employer offers coverage but employees instead purchase federally subsidized insurance the fee is $3,000/worker receiving federal subsidies or $750/worker (whichever is lower)

Annual fees on pharmaceutical companies ($27 billion), health insurance companies ($60 billion), and medical device-makers ($20 billion)

Annual penalties on individuals who do not have health insurance (up to a maximum of $695/person)

Increase in the Medicare payroll tax from 1.45% to 2.35% for individuals making $200,000+ and families making $250,000+

3.8% tax on unearned income for millionaires

Insurance companies will be subject to a tax on each high-end insurance plan (so-called “Cadillac” plans) they offer

Miscellaneous:

Illegal immigrants are not eligible for insurance or subsidies

By Executive Order, such federal funding can’t be used for abortion

The federal government will assist states by covering all of the increased expenses of expanding Medicaid coverage (90% of costs after 2020)

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

• Removed a ruling that now allows individual states to enact automotive fuel efficiency standards above federal standards (2009)

• Offered attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles (2009)

• Overturned Bush-era rule that weakened the Endangered Species Act (2009)

• Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions (2009)

• Signed a measure requiring energy producing plants to begin producing 15% of their energy from renewable sources (2009)

• Announced that the federal government would reengage in the long-delayed effort to clean up “Superfund” toxic waste sites (2009)

• Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production (2009) * Note: Much of Obama’s energy reform was killed by Senate Republicans

• Proposed a new refuge for wild mustangs (2009)

• Cancelled several Bush-era mountain-top removal and mining permits (2009)

• Reengaged in international treaties and agreements to protect the Antarctic (2009)

* Note: Bush had withdrawn from such efforts

• Asked Congress for an energy reform and “cap and trade” bill (2009) * Note: The Congress failed to pass such a bill

• Developing plan to lease US coastal waters for wind and water-current energy production (2009)

• Overturned Bush-era policies that allowed uranium mining near national parks such as the Grand Canyon (2009)

• Expanded the Petrified Forest National Park (2009)

• Signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act that protects millions of acres of scenic, historic, and recreational lands and trails (2009)

• Requiring that government buildings and facilities be retrofitted to save energy costs (2009) * Note: These green retrofits are moving very slowly

• Authorized studies in several western states to determine how to support large-scale solar installations (2009)

• Attended the Copenhagen talks and, after the talks were stalled, negotiated an international (voluntary) agreement on reducing carbon emissions and raising funds to assist developing nations in offsetting carbon emissions (2009)

• Banned importation of pythons in response to a growing population of pythons damaging the Florida Everglades (2009)

• Committing the federal government to increasing research and use of renewable, clean energy sources such as wind, biomass, etc. (2009)

• Executive orders establishing a federal initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all federal operations (2009) (2010)

• Called for exploring the possibility of additional off-shore oil drilling in the Gulf, Atlantic, and off Alaska (but not in ANWR) (2010)

• Agreed to consider increases in nuclear energy production and requested a study on the feasibility of nuclear power plant construction (2010) * Note: Nearly all energy initiatives were defeated by Republican opposition in Congress

• Increased investment in clean energy projects (2010)

• Executive Order to develop a new strategy for and commitment to ocean and lake resources, and for scientific research on water quality (2010)

RIGHTS

• Instituted enforcements for equal pay for women (Lilly Ledbetter Bill) (2009)

• Appointed Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina, to the Supreme Court (2009)

• Held the first Seder in White House (2009)

• Appointed a diverse Cabinet and diverse White House staff (2009)

• Spoke at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization (2009)

• Signed the first major piece of federal gay rights legislation that includes acts of violence against gays under the list of federal hate crimes (2009)

• Reversed the Bush-era practice of politicizing Justice Department investigations and prosecutions against political opponents (2009)

• Pushing for some of the 9/11 perpetrators to be tried in federal court (2009) * Note: The process has moved at a snail’s pace and, in the face of opposition, Obama has remained quiet

• Signed an extension of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Bill to provide federal research and support for treating the disease (2009)

• Allowed the State Department of offer same-sex benefits for employees (2009)

• Proposed that the Pentagon repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; placed a “freeze” on current efforts to remove alleged homosexuals from the military (2009)

• After eight years of neglect, the Justice Department and EEOC are again enforcing employment discrimination laws (2009)

• Convened the White House Tribal Nations Conference, inviting representatives from 564 federally-recognized Indian tribes (2009)

• Provided increased school projects for Indian lands and increased funds for the Indian Health Service (2009)

• Signed an Executive Order mandating that his Cabinet develop plans to work with and consult Indian tribes on issues impacting Indian lands (2009)

• Commissioned a study to develop alternatives to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (2010)

• Called for federal agencies to look into recognizing gay partnerships in terms of benefits (2010)

• Signed an Executive Order for the President’s Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2010)

• Increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2010)

• Signed Executive Order to promote the federal government as a “model employer” when it comes to hiring the disabled (2010) * Note: This includes new efforts to increase the recruitment, hiring, and training for the disabled

• Programs to assist Spanish speakers with the US Census (2010)

• Elena Kagen appointed to Supreme Court (2010)

• Tasked all federal agencies to develop new strategies to address HIV/AIDS (2010)

• After organizing studies on the topic in 2009, tasked the Pentagon to eliminate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (2010)

• Signed Fair Sentencing Act (2010) * Note: The Administration continues to deescalate marijuana interdiction and raids; increased dramatically the amount of cocaine one must possess to be sentenced to jail; eliminated mandatory sentencing for first-time drug abusers and simple possession

EDUCATION

• Authorized construction funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access in K-12 public schools (2009)

• Increased funding for school construction (2009)

• Increased funding available for student loans (2009)

• Expanded the national youth service program (2009)

• Streamlined the federal student loan process to save $87 billion over the next 10 years (2009)

• Changed the rule to allow students struggling to make college loan payments to refinance their loans (2009)

• Beginning discussions with Congress for education reform (2009) * Note: Much of Obama’s education reform has been sidelined by opposition in Congress

• Initiated a “Race to the Top” competitive federal grant program for states who develop innovative policies (2009)

• Instituted a “judgment review” allowing families with student loans to petition to have their current financial status determine the loan rather than the previous year’s finances (2009)

• Launched “Educate to Innovate,” a public/private partnership making $236 million available for science, mathematics, and technology education programs (2009)

• Proposed capping the maximum amount students must pay on student loans (as percentage of their income) (2010)

• Proposed reducing student loan obligations for individuals going to work in community and public service jobs (2010)

• The federal government will offer direct student loans, cutting out the cost of private banks (“middle man”) who increase the costs in order to make a profit (2010)

• Increased investment in technologies for schools/education (2010)

DISASTER RESPONSE

• Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness (2009)

• FEMA once again reports directly to the president (2009) * Note: Bush removed FEMA (prior to the Hurricane Katrina disaster) from this status

• Demonstrated an immediate and efficient response to the floods in North Dakota and other natural disasters (2009)

• Ordered that funds be released and red tape be streamlined for the ongoing Hurricane Katrina recovery effort in the Gulf Coast (2009)

• Timely and massive relief effort in response to the January 2010 earthquake and ensuing humanitarian crisis (2010)

Components of the response:

The FBI’s National Center for Disaster Fraud was tasked to look into possible fraud with organizations soliciting funds for relief

Announced the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund

Established an emergency Haiti Task Force in the State Department

Established a website with information, resources, and a posting of a “person finder” online to help families and friends to locate loved ones

Joint aid and relief planning with the U.K.

Sponsored a resolution in the UN Security Council for additional security and police forces in Haiti

Dispatched the US Navy floating hospital (USNS Comfort) and, within 5 days, 9 naval and relief ships, 5 Coast Guard cutters, 8 Coast Guard aircraft, and 12,000 US military personnel

Initial dispatch of several ships and cargo planes full of humanitarian aid and supplies, 6 search/rescue teams (500 personnel), and 265 Department of Health & Human Services personnel for emergency medical and aid support

Established a mobile US air traffic control center at the destroyed airport in Port-au-Prince

• After the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a freeze was placed on new deep water projects (2010)

• Executive Order to establish new security measures to minimize accidental release of bio and chemical agents; new strategies for public health and bioterrorism response (2010)

• Established a national commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon spill to examine facts and report a plan of action; new efforts to prevent offshore spills (2010)

• After a slow start in responding to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the White House is promoting a long-term plan to reconstruct the damaged Gulf and negotiated with BP the establishment of a multi-billion dollar trust fund for victims of the spill (2010)

• Extended national flood insurance program for those in need during current economic crisis (2010)

OTHER INITIATIVES

• New federal funding for science and research labs (2009)

• Signed national service legislation; expanded national youth service program (2009)

• Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program (2009)

• Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud (2009)

• Ordered the DEA to stop raids on medical marijuana usage (2009)

• Ordered a review of existing “mandatory minimum” prison sentencing (2009)

• Signed an order to limit airport tarmac delays and the time passengers had to sit in the plane/on the tarmac during delays (2009)

• Restored the EPA to “Cabinet level” status (2009) * Note: Bush removed the EPA from this status

• Beginning discussions with Congress for comprehensive immigration reform (2010)

* Note: Much of Obama’s immigration reform had been stalled by opposition in Congress

• Commissioned expert panels and reports from NASA; announced a new direction for human space flight that involves funding a new heavy lift-launcher and jettisoning the Ares 1 program; boosting NASA’s budget by $1 billion in 2011 (2010)

• Ordered a ban on text-messaging for all commercial truck and bus drivers (2010)

• Signed bill – FAA Air Transportaiton Modernizatin and Safety Improvement Act (2010)

P.S. IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING…

• The Obamas paid for the renovations of the private living quarters in the White House with their own money rather than using the funds provided to all new first families (2009)

• The Obamas reused many Christmas ornaments from previous White House trees rather than buy new ones (2009)

• The Obamas used LED energy-saving lights on White House Christmas tree (2009)

• Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; donated the award money for the prize to several charities (2009)

• Planted a garden for the White House’s vegetables and flowers (2009)

• Installed a swing set/playground for the Obama daughters and children of White House employees (2009)

• Held over 150 public town halls, press conferences, interviews, etc. in first year in office (2009) * Note: Official numbers are not available on such things, but this seems to be a new record high

• Less than 30 days of vacation in first year in office (2009) * Note: Official numbers are not readily available on such things, but this seems to be a new record low

…And HE IS A FAMILY MAN !

Thank You Mr. President !

Print It…Pass It On…

SHARE THE FACTS !

Ya Haqq!


“I Was a Hidden Treasure…”

October 21, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“I was a hidden treasure and wanted to be known.” This is the beginning of probably the most famous hadith qudsi, or extra-Qur’anic Word of God, ḥadiṯs-e kanz-e maḵf.  Its more correct translation might be as follows:

“I was a Treasure unknown then I desired to be known so I created a creation to which I made Myself known; then they knew Me.”

Tradition says that it is the divine response to the Prophet David’s query, when he asked about the purpose of creation. These are not the words of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and no chain of transmission is known for this hadith, whether sound or weak, as Ibn Taymiyya and others state. But the meaning is true and is inferred from Q51:56:

“I created the Jinn and humankind only that they may worship Me!” meaning “that they may know Me” as the Prophet’s (SAW) cousin Ibn Abbas explained it.

Since human beings were created in His image (as self-aware consciousnesses evolved in a physical body), all human beings are also hidden treasures to each other. And all have this deep desire to be known. So, all of us create our own little worlds, each according to his or her capabilities of love, talents, and gifts. Of course it is a limited and ephemeral world, not comparable with Almighty Allah’s creation, but part of our nature nonetheless :)

- Edited and adapted from a post on Br. Fahad’s Freelance blog.

Ya Haqq!


El Maestro de los Jinn – The Spanish Translation!

October 19, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Alhamdulillah!  I am happy to announce that Master of the Jinn has been translated into Spanish and is now an Ebook entitled El Maestro de los Jinn. It can be read on Amazon’s Kindle book reader, any PC or Mac, and also the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry, and Android devices. If any of you can read Spanish, here is a link to the Amazon Kindle pages in the US and the UK, which covers Europe.

US: El Maestro de los Jinn

UK: El Maestro de los Jinn

Please let me know how it looks if you buy a copy :)  The paperback version will be out either by Eid al-Adha (November 17th in the US) or the Christmas Holidays, inshallah.

Ya Haqq,

Irving


Poetry Monday – Mark Nepo

October 18, 2010

Breaking Bread

The giver is used up in the giving
as rain evaporates in what it helps
to grow. It is human to fear this, but
we can no more resist it than the pit
…can resist becoming fruit.
When you listen, I release my song of
silence. When I see you, you release
your light waiting in the dark.
When you help me up, you absorb
part of my fall. But somehow it doesn’t
make you fall. This is the inoculation
of love.
As if it were a secret, I must confess:
the giver is used up in the giving as
the heart evaporates in
what it tries to hold.

Mark Nepo


Master of the Jinn in India

October 13, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Mohammed Ali Vakil, a friend from the Sufi Comics blog, sent this photo of Master of the Jinn for sale in a bookstore in Bangalore, the third largest city in India :)

If you are in India and see Master of the Jinn for sale, please take a photo and send it to me at:  Irvingk1945 at gmail dot com.

I will post them on the Master of the Jinn Facebook group page :)

Ya Haqq!

PS:  You can also order the book in India directly from Hay House, the publisher, by clicking HERE.


“Go to Los Angeles!”

October 8, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that many years ago, while Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, was staying in the New York khaniqah, he came out of his room one morning and walked over to where Mr. Niktab, his closest disciple and the Shaykh of Shaykhs of the Order, was conversing with two young dervishes.

They were sitting cross-legged on the Persian rugs that covered the floor and were about to rise when they saw the Master approach, but he motioned for them to remain seated and said to Mr. Niktab:

“Go to Los Angeles!”

He then turned and walked away.

Mr. Niktab said nothing; the other two dervishes looked at each other questioningly. There was no khaniqah in Los Angeles and it was three thousand miles away. Mr. Niktab asked the two if they knew anyone there. “My cousin lives there,” one of them said. “I think you can stay with him.”

“He meant all of us,” Mr. Niktab said. “Get ready.”

They packed a few things quickly and hurried to the airport, took the next available flight, and arrived in Los Angeles just after 4pm.

When the Master says go, you go.

When they arrived at their destination, it was just past 5:00 pm, and the cousin was yet home from work. The young darvish who suggested it confessed that he could not reach his cousin, so the visit was going to be a surprise. Mr. Niktab didn’t seem concerned, and led them to the small, fenced backyard where they found lawn chairs to sit on.

Mr. Niktab meditated for a while, and then began singing one of Master’s poems in Persian, and the other two joined in, clapping out the rhythm.

Soon an elderly man next door heard the singing and glimpsed the three swarthy strangers over the fence that divided the property. He came to the fence and asked:  “Who are you people?”

Mr. Niktab smiled at the old man. He did not speak English, but told the young darvish to translate, and tell him they were waiting for his cousin to arrive, and apologized for disturbing him.  The old man just nodded and went back inside.

When the cousin finally arrived, he was delighted to find his unexpected visitors, and that Mr. Niktab himself had come. He begged them to make themselves comfortable while he made tea.

One of the young darvishes was a good cook, and made a delicious dinner for them all, after which they sang and recited Master’s poetry, having an impromptu zekr.  Mr. Niktab told the cousin to invite the gentleman next door, and the old man gladly agreed, having been listening to the music through the open windows.

He sat next to Mr. Niktab, who through an interpreter chatted with him amiably, and explained about the Sufi path and its dedication to love and service. The old man listened politely, drank the tea, ate one of the offered sweets, and went home sometime later.

The next afternoon, one of the dervishes asked Mr. Niktab what they were supposed to be doing.

“We are supposed to obey Master,” he said. “And be patient.”

The next night, many more Iranians appeared, the cousin telling his friends that a Sufi Shaykh was visiting his home. And this time Mr. Niktab politely invited the old man for dinner.  The food and music and poetry, even in a language he did not understand, seemed to please the old man and put him at ease.

Mr. Niktab also told him that the next might, Sunday, was their majlis, their twice weekly spiritual gathering, and that although he was welcome to attend, he would have to listen from the next room, as only darvishes, those already initiated, were admitted into the circle of the Friend.

“Then will you initiate me?” he asked without hesitation. Mr. Niktab smiled and said that he would be delighted to do so, and instructed one of the darvishes to help him obtain the items needed, and explain the details of initiation.

And so it was that on the third day, the old man was initiated as a darvish of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order; he was given his zekr, and formally gave his heart to God and his head to the Master. And he was happily welcomed into the circle of Lovers.

After the meeting was over and everyone had departed, Mr. Niktab spoke to the two dervishes who had traveled with him.

“Tomorrow we can go home,” he said.  “The old man was the reason the Master sent us to Los Angeles.”

Ya Haqq!

Note: This is a true story, and it was also said that the old man completed the entire Sufi path in one year, which is truly unheard of, except as God wills.

PS: Sunday, October 10th, is the second anniversary of the passing of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, (12/10/1926 – 10/10/2008) who was for fifty-five years the Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order.


Book Review – Deserts and Mountains by Yilmaz Alimoglu

October 5, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Deserts and Mountains, the debut novel by Yilmaz Alimoglu, is a lovingly told tale, and an adventure of self-discovery that is also a Sufi journey, all written with warmth and wisdom, tenderness and real affection for the characters.

Ali Dogan is a expatriate Turk living in Canada who in the first chapter has separated from his wife and two children. He is also a new dervish on the Sufi path, and when he asks his Sheikh for advice, he is told (in a truly beautiful, descriptive way) to seek knowledge, so as to understand what his heart is telling him. This sage advice begins his journey, which takes him literally to deserts and mountains in both a physical and spiritual way.

From Canada to Turkey (and his mother and father who still live in the same village), with side trips to the Acropolis in Greece and the Alhambra in Spain, he takes the reader on his journey of knowledge – from the new world to the old, from the freedom of Canada to the repressive state in Turkey, where primitive and cruel customs still prevail, to Greece and the beginnings of real civilization, the “birthplace” of Western knowledge, to the Alhambra, a symbol of the golden age of Islamic knowledge.

Even in Istanbul, that ancient metropolis that is the bridge between East and West, there lingers what he calls the corrupt remains of the Ottoman Empire, and the old and ugly patriarchal ways women are treated like property. He encounter this first hand when he develops a crush on Nour, a brilliant Turkish co-worker who cannot escape the fate of being a divorced woman with a jealous ex-husband.

Onward the journey continues, to Germany where the emotional stress of Nour takes its toll, then to Mali and the Sahara, and at last coming to terms with the vulnerable and confused man that Ali is, and of the soul seeking knowledge, balance, peace of heart and mind, which in the end he finds where he began.

Deserts and Mountains is as much a Sufi journey as a human journey, made by each of us in our own way, and Ali finally discovers the truth of the words the great Persian poet wrote 800 years ago:

Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find
all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.

-Jalaluddin Rumi

Ya Haqq!


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