TURN THE OTHER CHEEK: Obama Picks Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice, Anti-Stem Cell Pastor For Inauguration

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FAITH IN PUBLIC LIFE: Rick Warren, whose recent remarks on issues ranging from war and torture to sexuality and abortion have generated some justifiable pushback lately, will give the invocation at the inauguration. The pick was news to us. But he’s not the only one who will be praying from the podium on January 20. Rev. Joseph Lowery a civil rights icon and supporter of same-sex marriage, is giving the benediction at the end of the event. I can’t read the administration’s mind, but my guess here is that they’re crafting an inauguration meant to appeal to voters who voted against Obama as well as his supporters. They certainly could have achieved the same bridge-building gesture by inviting a conservative evangelical who has not recently affirmed the Biblical validity of assassinating the president of Iran. MORE

RIGHT WING WATCH: Rick Warren was poised to become the nation’s new Jerry Falwell, but chose a more moderate seeming path in an effort to broaden his reach without, of course, moderating his agenda. And so he shiny_beasts_newweb-705071.thumbnail.jpgcontinues to sell his right-wing views while hiding behind a veil of moderation and civility. As we’ve pointed out several times before, in 2004 Rick Warren declared that marriage, reproductive choice, and stem cell research were “non-negotiable” issues for Christian voters and has admitted that the main difference between himself and James Dobson is a matter of tone. He criticized Obama’s answers at the Faith Forum he hosted before the election and vowed to continue to pressure him to change his views on the issue of reproductive choice. He came out strongly in support of Prop 8, saying “there is no need to change the universal, historical defintion of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population … This is not a political issue — it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about.” He’s declared that those who do not believe in God should not be allowed to hold public office. So why has this man been tapped to deliver the invocation at Obama’s inaguration? MORE

obamanymagdog_1.pngNEW YORK TIMES: President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday will announce Mary L. Schapiro to be the chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Democrats familiar with the decision, elevating Ms. Schapiro from her current position as the head of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority. Mr. Obama has also settled on Representative Ray LaHood, Republican of Illinois, as his choice for transportation secretary, officials familiar with the decision said, and on Friday is scheduled to announce that Mr. LaHood will be nominated to lead the department through a vast public works program intended to stimulate the economy. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to lead the Interior Department, Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado, will inherit an agency demoralized by years of scandal, political interference and mismanagement. Mr. Salazar, wearing his customary ten-gallon hat and bolo tie, said that his job entails helping the nation address climate change through a “moon shot” on energy independence. But that would include not just the development of “green” energy sources like wind power, but also the continued domestic development of coal, oil and natural gas, fossil fuels that generate greenhouse gases when they are burned.Environmental advocates offered mixed reviews of Mr. Salazar, 53, a first-term Democratic senator who served as head of Colorado’s natural resources department and as the state’s attorney general. Mr. Salazar was not the first choice of environmentalists, who openly pushed the appointment of Representative Raul Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, who has a strong record as a conservationist. MORE

FORBES: As details continue to emerge in the prosecution of brokerage chief Bernard Madoff‘s alleged $50 billion sec-seal.thumbnail.pngPonzi scheme, the Securities and Exchange Commission has gone on the defensive. Critics have long argued that the agency, which sees enforcement of federal securities laws as its primary mission, lacks the teeth to stop financial fraud in its tracks and should be abolished or fundamentally changed.SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said Tuesday and again on Wednesday that the agency would investigate its own failure to investigate Madoff. The SEC had been tipped as early as 1999 that Madoff, a former Nasdaq chairman and fixture on Wall Street for decades, was running his private investment vehicles as a Ponzi scheme. The SEC sent examiners to the firm twice, including an enforcement team last year, but came up with nothing. MORE

blackwater_logo_1.jpgASSOCIATED PRESS: A State Department advisory panel is recommending that Blackwater Worldwide be dropped as the main private security contractor for American diplomats in Iraq, The Associated Press has learned. A senior official familiar with a report commissioned by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the AP on Wednesday that the panel has called for Blackwater’s contract not to be renewed when it expires next year. A decision on the recommendation will be left to the Obama administration, which will be in place when the contract comes up for renewal in the spring. Rice ordered a review of the department’s use of private security firms last September after an incident in which Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqis in Baghdad. Five guards have been indicted on manslaughter and other charges stemming from that incident. The company was not implicated. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: BAGHDAD — Up to 35 officials in the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior ranking as high as generalbaath_party_hq.jpg have been arrested over the past three days with some of them accused of quietly working to reconstitute Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, according to senior security officials in Baghdad. The arrests, confirmed by officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security as well as the prime minister’s office, included four generals, one of whom, Gen. Ahmed Abu Raqeef, is the ministry’s director of internal affairs. The officials also said that the arrests had come at the hand of an elite counterterrorism force that reports directly to the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. MORE

obamapersonofyeartime.thumbnail.jpgBBC: Barack Obama has said he aims to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and put a clear end to torture in the US within two years of becoming president. The president-elect told Time magazine he aims to restore the balance between US security needs and the Constitution. US President-elect Obama was speaking to Time having been named its Person of the Year for having what the magazine called “the confidence to sketch an ambitious future in a gloomy hour”. Asked how voters would know whether his administration was succeeding in two years, Mr Obama listed a series of benchmarks his team had set during his presidential campaign. “On foreign policy, have we closed down Guantanamo in a responsible way, put a clear end to torture and restored a balance between the demands of our security and our constitution?” he said. MORE

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