Tuesday, December 18, 2007
F.C.C. Eases Media Ownership Rule By STEPHEN LABATON WASHINGTON — By the narrowest of margins, the Federal Communications Commission adopted proposals by its chairman to tighten the reins on the cable television industry while loosening 32-year-old restrictions that have prevented a company from owning both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city. Last month the chairman, Kevin J. Martin, suffered a setback when he was unable to find two commissioners to support his proposal to more tightly regulate cable television. But in a highly contentious meeting on Tuesday, Mr. Martin re-established control when he became the pivotal vote on two rules that could significantly reshape the nation’s media landscape by determining the size and scope of the largest news and cable companies. In one 3-to-2 vote, he sided with the agency’s two other Republicans to relax the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules in the 20 largest markets. As part of that order, the commission also granted dozens of permanent waivers of newspaper-broadcast combinations in large and small markets that had been given temporary waivers as they awaited the outcome of the rulemaking. In a second 3-to-2 vote, Mr. Martin joined with the two Democratic commissioners to impose a limit that would prevent the nation’s largest cable company, Comcast Communications, from growing much larger. Under that rule, no company can control more than 30 percent of the market. Analysts say that Comcast is close to that limit. Mr. Martin has said that a relaxation of the ownership rules was a modest, though vital step toward assisting the newspaper industry as it struggled financially as advertising and readership migrates rapidly to the Internet. He has been critical of the cable television industry for raising rates far greater than the rate of inflation and for failing to offer consumers enough choices in subscription packages. “We cannot ignore the fact the media marketplace is considerably different than when the media ownership rule was put in place more than 30 years ago,” he said of the newspaper-broadcast rule. The dissenting commissioners complained strongly about the outcome. Michael J. Copps, a Democratic commissioner who has led a nationwide effort against relaxing the media ownership rules, said the rule was nothing more than a big Christmas present to the largest conglomerates. “In the final analysis,” Mr. Copps said, “the real winners today are businesses that are in many cases quite healthy, and the real losers are going to be all of us who depend on the news media to learn what’s happening in our communities and to keep an eye on local government.” “Despite all the talk you may hear today about the threat to newspapers from the Internet and new technologies, today’s order actually deals with something quite old-fashioned,” Mr. Copps said. “Powerful companies are using political muscle to sneak through rule changes that let them profit at the expense of the public interest.” And Robert M. McDowell, a Republican commissioner, was sharply critical of the cable restrictions. “The cap is out of date, is bad public policy and is not needed in today’s public market,” he said. He called the cable rule “archaic industrial policy” that would surely be struck down by an appeals court, as an earlier rule was six years ago. Although Mr. Martin appears to have won a high-stakes battle within the commission over some of the most important proposals of his tenure, he has expended significant political capital and made political enemies of powerful industry groups and influential lawmakers. For opposite reasons, both proposals approved on Tuesday have been criticized by industry. The Newspaper Association of America has attacked the proposal for being too modest, and said that Mr. Martin did not go far enough. “Today’s vote is only a baby step in the actions needed to maintain the vitality of local news, in print and over-the-air, in all communities across the nation,” the president of the Newspaper Association, John F. Sturm, said. “Eliminating the cross-ownership ban completely would enhance localism by enabling broadcasters to increase local news and would not distract from the diversity of viewpoints available to local audiences.” The cable television industry has said it has repeatedly been an unfair target of Mr. Martin, and that his efforts to regulate the industry are at odds with the broader policies of the Bush administration to remove or lessen regulations. Over the last year, the commission has approved a series of proposals over the objections of the cable television industry, including one last December to force municipalities to accelerate the local approval process for the telephone companies to offer video services in new markets. Another one last October struck down thousands of contracts that gave individual cable companies exclusive rights to provide service to an apartment building. Consumer groups, which have long pushed for tighter cable television regulation, were split over the media ownership rules. Some were relieved that it did not go nearly as far as they had feared and that Mr. Martin tightened a loophole by making it more difficult for companies to get exemptions from the rules in smaller markets. Other groups were critical because they said the rule could open the door to further consolidation and a decline in the diversity of voices on the airwaves. Moreover, a significant chorus in Congress has been deeply critical of Mr. Martin and repeatedly requested that he delay action on the media ownership vote. Earlier this week, 25 senators led by Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, sent Mr. Martin a letter in which they vowed to take legislative action to revoke any new rule or nullify Tuesday’s vote. But the administration expressed support for Mr. Martin. In a significant victory for the newspaper and broadcast industries, Mr. Martin has signaled that he will not use the new rules to force any companies that already have waivers or exemptions to sell some assets. Some companies, including The New York Times Company, have been able to own both a newspaper and a radio station in the same market under permanent waivers because they held both properties before the restrictions were imposed in 1975. Others have been granted what are supposed to be temporary waivers while the agency considered how to rewrite the rules. Under Tuesday’s order, 42 newspaper-broadcast combinations that had previously been granted temporary or grandfathered exemptions will not be forced to sell any assets to comply with the new rule. Both the newspaper-broadcast ownership rule and the cable rule are certain to be reviewed by federal appeals courts. Three years ago, a federal appeals panel in Philadelphia struck down a series of deregulatory measures proposed by Mr. Martin’s predecessor, Michael K. Powell, including one that loosened the cross-ownership rules. The court said that the agency had the authority to relax the rules, and that it also had the authority to impose some limits on ability of a conglomerate to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city. But the judges also concluded that that the commission had not provided a reasoned analysis to support the limits that it chose. The court has continued to hold the case and asked the commission to report back to it once it reconsidered the rules. The cable concentration caps, as they are known, have long been the subject of debate and litigation at the commission. Six years ago a federal appeals court in Washington struck down a rule that was similar to the one adopted on Tuesday. The three-judge panel concluded that the commission had failed to provide an adequate justification to overcome the First Amendment rights of the cable companies. But commission officials said that they had provided a different justification for the new rule, which they hoped would pass court muster.
Waxman to Atty Gen: Stop ignoring my requests for Plame info Nick JulianoPublished: Tuesday December 18, 2007 Recently appointed Attorney General Michael Mukasey seems not to be living up to his pledge to remain independent from White House meddling, and he apparently is ignoring a long-standing request for Justice Department documents regarding former CIA operative Valerie Plame's outing by former Bush administration figures, according to a top congressional Democrat. House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman on Tuesday reiterated his previous appeal to Mukasey for documents from Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the Plame leak. Waxman said that the attorney general has no reason to obstruct his committee's investigation, as Mukasey did last week with a congressional inquiry into the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes. Waxman noted that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- the former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted after Fitzgerald's investigation -- has dropped his appeal, and the Justice Department is not conducting any further investigations. Therefore, the California Democrat says, Mukasey has no excuse to continue withholding the documents. "Thus," he wrote in a letter to Mukasey, "I request that you provide the Committee by January 3, 2008, with the documents requested in the Committee’s July 16 letter to Mr. Fitzgerald, including the reports of interviews with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and other White House officials." Responding to congressional requests for information on the CIA's destruction of videotapes showing harsh methods being used on waterboarding, Mukasey told lawmakers, essentially: Back off, we've got this one. The AG argued that attempts at congressional oversight could inhibit investigations being carried out within the CIA and Department of Justice. "In the Plame matter, there is no pending Justice Department investigation and no pending Justice Department litigation," Waxman reminded him. "Whatever the merits of the position you are taking in the CIA tapes inquiry, those considerations do not apply here." Libby was convicted of four felonies -- including obstruction of justice and perjury -- for his role in outing Plame then lying to investigators about how her name came to be funneled to several Washington journalists from within the Bush administration. President Bush commuted Libby's 30-month sentence before the former high-profile White House aide was shipped off to prison, and Libby has decided to stop appealing the conviction. Waxman's committee wants to know whether Libby was acting at the president's or vice president's behest when he outed Plame, whose name first appeared in a July 2003 Robert Novak column. The conservative columnist said he received the information from former undersecretary of state Richard Armitage and former White House political adviser Karl Rove. Several other journalists also said they learned the identity of Plame, whose husband Joseph Wilson was then criticizing the administration's false pre-war contention that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Libby was the only official convicted of criminal charges, and none were fired from their administration posts as a result of the leak.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Edwards Takes Step Back as Two Others Slug It Out
By JULIE BOSMAN DES MOINES, Dec. 4 — As Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama exchanged frequent and increasingly personal jabs on the campaign trail this week, John Edwards found himself on the sidelines. And enjoying it. In Waterloo, Iowa, Mr. Edwards recounted the exchange by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama on whether Mr. Obama had been pining to be president since kindergarten, as her campaign said when it referred to an essay that Mr. Obama supposedly wrote in kindergarten. Its title was “I Want to Become President.” “I have to confess,” Mr. Edwards said, “when I was in third grade, I wanted to be two things. I wanted to be a cowboy, and I wanted to be Superman.” The audience roared. In his second bid for the Democratic nomination for president, Mr. Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, has used his carefully honed populist passion, attacking lobbyists, oil companies, drug companies and what he calls the corporate-minded Washington establishment. More notably, he has been showing flashes of anger and intensity as a campaigner, sharply criticizing Mrs. Clinton in debates and on the trail. But not this week. On a six-day swing through Iowa a month before the caucuses on Jan. 3, Mr. Edwards lightened up and reprised the role of the upbeat optimist he had in 2004, when he ran a close second in the caucuses. “Listen, I don’t think America benefits from any personal fighting between candidates,” he told reporters. “They don’t care about fighting between politicians.” That attitude was evident in the National Public Radio debate on Tuesday, when Mr. Edwards cited differences between himself and Mrs. Clinton. His measured touch was a clear break from his performance in a televised debate, when he turned virtually every question into an attack on Mrs. Clinton and when he sarcastically replied to a jab from Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio by muttering, “Cute, Dennis.” In the last week, he has rarely referred to Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, except to poke fun at their sparring. On Sunday, he ducked the opportunity to join Mrs. Clinton in criticizing Mr. Obama’s campaign, which used a political action committee to spend money in early primary states. “I’m going to respectfully decline to get involved in that fracas between the two of them,” Mr. Edwards said. He has even doled out sugar-laden compliments to the Democratic field. “We have great people running for president on our side,” he told a crowd on Monday. In a television commercial that began running this week in New Hampshire, Mr. Edwards criticizes lobbyists in Washington, but not the other candidates by name. Privately, Mr. Edwards’s aides said he had no reason to involve himself in fights with Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama. Mr. Edwards has been stuck in third place for months, most Iowa polls report, showing no gains with his aggressive stance — and receiving criticism from voters, former supporters and others who disapprove of the angrier candidate. Iowans are particularly disdainful of candidates who resort to negative campaigns, as former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont and Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri learned in 2004. Iowa is crucial to Mr. Edwards’s efforts. His campaign is low on cash and relying on public financing, and he is even farther back in the polls in other early primary states like New Hampshire and South Carolina. Mr. Edwards’s aides would not acknowledge that their candidate was softening in response to polling or other specific criticism. But Mr. Edwards, in an interview between stops in Algona, Iowa, acknowledged that his failure to move up in the polls was on his mind. “I feel like we’re in a dead heat,” he said. “And we’ve been in a dead heat for months now.” He said he believed that Iowa voters, many of whom are still undecided, did not like personal attacks. “They’re looking for a president who’s positive,” Mr. Edwards said. His cease-fire has not extended to the White House. At numerous stops, he continued to attack President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, criticizing the response to Hurricane Katrina, its Iraq war position and its domestic surveillance, positions that cannot hurt him among Democrats here. “The Democrats can’t stand George Bush,” Mr. Edwards said. “Most of America can’t.” Some Iowans said they were tired of the mudslinging among candidates and appreciated a more positive take. “I think he’s wise not to get into a little catfight with the other candidates,” said Maureen White, an Edwards supporter who went to a forum on Monday in Waterloo. Her husband, Roger White, agreed, though he said he was torn between supporting Mr. Edwards or Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware. “We all get sick of it,” Mr. White said. “I think if the other two continue to bloody each other, the next tier of candidates will gain from that, whether it’s Biden, Richardson or Edwards.”
CNN: Seymour Hersh 'vindicated' by new Iran intel estimate David Edwards and Muriel Kane Reporter believes Cheney 'kept his foot on the neck of' report A new National Intelligence Estimate released on Monday indicates that 16 US intelligence agencies have concluded with a high level of confidence that Iran has not had an active nuclear weapons program since 2003 and that even if it resumed weapons development, it would be unlikely to obtain a nuclear bomb in less than 5 to 10 years. The NIE apparently came as a surprise to President Bush, who insisted at a news conference the next day that "I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was, John – Mike McConnell – came in and said, 'We have some new information.' He didn't tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze." However, the NIE was no surprise to veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who has been writing about it since November 2006. Hersh told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday that he believes the White House deliberately kept the NIE bottled up for over a year because the vice president was dissatisfied with its conclusions. "At the time I wrote that, there was a tremendous fight about it, because Cheney ... did not want to hear this," Hersh recalled. "I think the vice-president has kept his foot on the neck of that report. ... The intelligence we learned about yesterday has been circulating inside this government at the highest levels for the last year -- and probably longer." As early as July 2006, Hersh had reported that the US military was resisting administration pressure for a bombing campaign in Iran, because "American and European intelligence agencies have not found specific evidence of clandestine activities or hidden facilities." By November 2006, Hersh's sources had told him of "a highly classified draft assessment by the C.I.A.," which concluded that satellite monitoring and sophisticated radiation-detection devices planted near Iranian facilities had turned up absolutely no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. However, Bush and Cheney were expected to try to keep those conclusions out of the forthcoming NIE on Iran's nuclear capabilities. As Hersh explained to Wolf Blitzer at the time, the White House was attempting to counter the CIA assessment with an Israeli claim, based on a "reliable agent," that Iran was working on a trigger for a nuclear device. "The CIA isn’t getting a good look at the Israeli intelligence." Hersh explained. "It’s the old word, stovepiping. It’s the President and the Vice President, it’s pretty much being kept in the White House." RAW STORY's Larisa Alexandrovna further reported in January 2007 that the NIE on Iran was intended to be released later that month, but that John Negroponte's was being replaced as Director of National Intelligence because he had refused to tailor the NIE to Vice President Cheney's specificiations. Despite feeling vindicated by the latest developments, Hersh warned Blitzer that the White House push for war with Iran is "still not over. ... There's always Israel." He explained that "the Israelis were very upset about the report. They think we're naive." However, Hersh was confident that there was very little chance the NIE could be mistaken, because "It's been four years since we've had any positive evidence of a parallel secret program to build a bomb -- and we've been all over the country." Hersh and Blitzer then recalled Hersh's past appearances on CNN -- including several long interviews discussing the Abu Ghraib scandal -- and how the White House would regularly accuse him of using "anonymous sorces" or just "throwing crap against the wall." Hersh concluded by emphasizing what a serious problem the NIE poses for Bush. "It's a lose-lose for them," he stated. "The fight I'm talking about began last year. ... This is going to pose a serious credibility problem. ... That's not what we pay the guy to do." However, Hersh's sources tell him that despite the NIE, Bush's negotiating position is still that the Iranians "have to stop everything ... destroy it. ... Inspectors have to come in that we pick. ... He's not saying that publicly, but that's the private standard." This video is from CNN's Situation Room, broadcast on December 4, 2007
Republican bloggers need to grow up and stop their schoolyard whimpering. The incessant whining last week over the non-story about how some Democrats were allowed to ask Republican candidates legitimate questions during the CNN/YouTube debate was as revealing as it was embarrassing. When did Republican bloggers conclude that their candidates were so brittle and fragile that they had to be protected from unnecessary exposure to everyday citizens? Naturally, the bloggers' hatred of the press meant that the first cries of foul after the debate alleged that the "out of control" campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) had been in cahoots with CNN and that the debate questions sprang from a vast liberal media conspiracy. (The charge, of course, was baseless.) It's all part of the bloggers' attempt to create a parallel universe of sorts, where their own facts don't have to collide with harsh reality. It's a world where inquisitive Democrats who submit video questions to candidates are denounced as "plants," part of an elaborate media scheme to derail Republicans. How, you ask? By posing legitimate, factual questions about the pressing issues of the day. That's what produced last week's shrieking, the-sky-is-falling hysteria across the right-wing blogosphere, with some even making childish demands of "A Do Over" and frantically waving petitions around, insisting that CNN executives be fired for their unpardonable sin. These GOP bloggers are so afraid of democracy that they spend their days and nights blaming the press for allowing it to take place. In fact, following the earlier Democratic debate hosted by CNN last month in Las Vegas, right-wing bloggers crowed about the "scandal" they had uncovered: CNN allowed Democrats in the audience to ask questions to Democratic candidates. More on that later. But where did this far-right fantasy spring from that only registered Republicans are allowed to ask Republicans questions at nationally televised debates? And that it's the media's fault if that precious bubble is penetrated? Sadly, some of the GOP candidates signed off on the parallel universe approach. In reference to the debate question posed by Retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, who lent his name to the Clinton campaign and became one of nearly 50 co-chairs of Veterans and Military Retirees for Hillary, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) after the debate said, "I think that should have been made public if this individual was a member of another -- any other campaign, then people would, obviously, have a better way of judging the quality of the question." Here was Kerr's question: "I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians." Would McCain have dubbed the quality of that question to be inferior if he'd known Kerr had lent his support to a Democratic campaign? Then again, this debate season has been punctuated by the refusal of most Republican candidates to debate in front of black or Latino audiences, presumably because it would include too many non-Republicans; too many people who might be hostile to what the candidates say. And sure enough, on the eve of the CNN/YouTube debate, anxious online conservatives demanded to know how CNN executives would protect Republican candidates from having to answer questions from non-Republicans. And no, this is not just like the Democrats' decision to boycott Fox News debates earlier this year. That was never about the questions being asked, or the candidates being afraid of the Fox News crew. It was, in my mind, a brilliant, blogger-led initiative to de-brand Fox News, to publicly declare that the organization itself is not an independent news forum. Just as Democrats would never sanction the National Review or Rush Limbaugh to host one of their debates, there's no reason to let Fox News do the same. Of course, if Republicans want to boycott CNN or MSNBC by claiming that neither are legitimate news organizations, they're free do to so. I think it's telling that none of the candidates have tried to make that fanciful claim. The truth is that Democratic candidates have faced hundreds of debate questions to date and haven't waged media campaigns protesting the fact that not all the people who asked the questions were not knee-jerk supporters. (Progressives have, however, complained when some of the questions were factually inaccurate.) Frankly, I'd be embarrassed if Democratic candidates for the highest office in the land, or their staunch online supporters, ran around complaining that questions asked at a CNN debate were unfair based solely on the fact that the person posing them were not registered Democrats. In fact, as the Los Angeles Times reported last week, one of the questioners at the Democratic YouTube debate was an obvious Rudy Giuliani supporter. And it didn't take an Einstein to figure that out; it was postered on the questioner's MySpace page. Also, the query he posed to Clinton -- "How do you think you would be taken seriously" by Arab and Muslim nations that treat women as "second-class citizens"? -- made his political allegiance clear. But guess what? She simply answered the question and not a single supporter cried foul. Because that's how a democracy works. It was CNN itself that created a point of contention over the questions asked at the Democratic debate, by announcing prior to the GOP forum that it was going to weed out any Democratic gotcha-style questions prior to the Republicans' YouTube debate, despite its failure to extend the same courtesy to Democrats during their YouTube debate. But note that prior to realizing that several of the questioners at the CNN/YouTube debate had Democratic leanings, right-wing bloggers praised the event. At the Media Research Center's (MRC) NewsBusters site, Brad Wilmouth, immediately following the event, wrote approvingly that it "largely lived up to its promise to be a debate fitting for Republican voters as the vast majority of the questions used were asked from a conservative point of view." [Emphasis added.] And as blogger Steven Benen noted, Malkin herself conceded on Wednesday that "the questions were almost all coherent and well-framed." Meaning, nobody in real time was suggesting the questions themselves were out of bounds. To put the right-wing bloggers' media paranoia into perspective you have to go back to the previous Democratic debate, when conservatives online -- in a preview of last week's YouTube nonsense -- whipped themselves into a post-debate frenzy, claiming CNN had allowed Democrats in the audience of the Las Vegas debate to ask the Democratic candidates questions. I kid you not, and that deserves repeating: Following the debate, the MRC's NewsBusters site announced it had had uncovered a vast, liberal media conspiracy in which CNN allowed Democrats in the audience to ask questions at a Democratic debate. The NewsBusters crew and their friends online raised the red flag because during the debate CNN's host claimed the questions from the Las Vegas audience would be asked by "undecided voters." But after much digging, the online sleuths discovered one questioner had once served as an intern for a Democratic senator, another was in a labor union, and a third was a "prominent Muslim leader." Bloggers had no idea if the questioners were actually undecided voters or not. But because they were Democrats, or in a union, or Muslim, that meant they never should have been allowed to interact with Democratic candidates at a televised debate because they were "plants." Meaning, they were alleged Democratic voters who infiltrated the audience at a Democratic debate. After much digging, one conservative blogger announced: It can be said with certainty that at least the three people I mentioned here were NOT ordinary "undecided democratic voters", but rather people who were prepared and planted into the audience to ask these specific questions. Disclaimer: I am not making this stuff up. The conservative blogosphere was up in arms because some audience members had shown up at the Las Vegas debate "prepared" to ask "specific questions." Quickly falling into their media conspiracy mode, bloggers demanded to know how the plot had been coordinated and how many candidates knew in advance of the stealthy plan to have Democrats ask questions at a Democratic debate! (My guess? All of them knew.) The bloggers' next step was depressingly predictable; attack the citizens who asked the questions at the Las Vegas debate: So I popped her name into my Yahoo search engine to discover that Luisa is her middle name her full name is Maria Luisa Parra-Sandoval, and she worked in Harry Reid's office in Nevada and DC. (Picture on page 23) She was also invited as a guest on the floor off the 74th session of Nevada Legislature, by a man named Rubin Kihuen, he was elected in 2006 and a member of the Nevada Assembly Democrats. Upon further research and a tip from a commenter on another message board, it turns out that she came here illegally from Mexico as a child with her family, but since gained legal status, and has won scholarships to attend UNLV. If that doesn't creep you out, I don't know what will. A college student asked a question at a CNN presidential debate, and furious right-wing bloggers, hunting for proof of a liberal media bias, commenced with a cyber deep-dive and quickly posted unflattering information about the student's family. I'll say it again: GOP bloggers are so afraid of democracy that they spend their days and nights blaming the press for allowing it to take place.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Rep. Hoekstra Was Source Of Joe Klein’s FISA Lies, Decries ‘Paranoid,’ ‘Self-Absorbed’ ‘Far-Left Critics’ In Time Magazine last week, columnist Joe Klein baselessly claimed that Democrats’ proposed fix to FISA would require “every foreign-terrorist target’s calls to be approved by the FISA court.” Today, House Intelligence Committee member and “Bush loyalist” Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) revealed that he was a “source” for Klein’s error-filled column, and proudly defends Klein in a column titled “Klein Kerfluffle” in the National Review. In his original column, Klein insisted that Democrats’ legislation to provide constitutional protections for government surveillance of Americans, or the RESTORE Act, would require a court order to spy on foreign terrorists (Klein has since recanted these statements). In the column, Hoekstra insists that “Klein was correct in his original contention.” In reality, as the legislation clearly states: A court order is not required for electronic surveillance directed at the acquisition of the contents of any communication between persons that are not known to be United States persons . Klein ignorantly claimed the RESTORE Act “would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans.” Hoekstra adds that Klein’s assertions are a “demonstratable fact.” Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), a chief author of the RESTORE Act, countered that the legislation does exactly the opposite: This bill provides exactly what the Director of National Intelligence asked for earlier this year: it explicitly states that no court order is required to listen to the conversations of foreigners that happen to pass through the U.S. telecommunications system. It does not grant Constitutional rights to foreign terrorists. In his National Review piece, Hoekstra attacks progressive bloggers as “civil liberties extremists,” stating that a “belief that efforts to target al-Qaeda operatives in foreign countries” may involve U.S. citizens is evidence of “self-absorption” and “paranoia.” “The issue is not nor has it ever been about surveillance of Americans,” he alleges. But under the hastily-passed Protect America Act, there are “virtually no protections” for U.S. callers in international communications, leaving surveillance authority to the administration. In fact, 61 percent of voters favor court protections for surveillance of Americans. Marcy Wheeler notes that Hoekstra “is nuts, and very much in the business of creating propaganda.” And Joe Klein is willing to blindly publish whatever lies Hoekstra spews to him.
Biden's warning to Bush: Bomb Iran and face impeachment David Edwards and Nick Juliano Sen. Joe Biden, the loquacious long-shot Democratic presidential candidate, warned President Bush Thursday that he would move for impeachment if the president unilaterally authorized a military strike against Iran. "The President has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran and ... if he does, as foreign relations committee chairman and former chairman of judiciary, I will move to impeach him," Biden told a crowd of about 100 potential voters at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. Biden said he is meeting with constitutional law experts and plans to send Bush a legal memo formally outlining his warning, according to Seacoast Online, which reported his comments. The senior Delaware senator told the crowd that calls for Bush's immediate impeachment were valid but may not have enough constitutional support to make them viable. He added that Bush wasn't the only White House figure who deserves to be booted. "If you're going to impeach George Bush, you better impeach Cheney first," Biden said, garnering applause from the crowd. On MSNBC's Morning Joe Friday, host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, criticized Biden's proposal. "It is so unfortunate, that this is how we campaign now, talking about impeachment," Scarborough said, "when you have [Iranian president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad talking about obliterating Israel, talking about obliterating the United States, talking about building nuclear weapons, how we can't stop him. Saying just absolutely horrendous crazy things, sending Iranian forces into Iraq to kill American troops. "And Joe Biden, who I like and respect, talking on the campaign trail about impeaching a commander in chief because of a decision that he may make against a madman," he continued. "And everybody knows that Ahmadinejad is a madman, and that Iran is one of the most dangerous planets on Earth." One assumes Scarborough meant to say "most dangerous countries on Earth." This video is from MSNBC Morning Joe, broadcast on November 30, 2007.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Murdoch and News Corp. accused of Sleazy & possibly Illegal efforts to protect & promote Giuliani By Steven Leser Rupert Murdoch wants to continue to have a friend in the White House. That is one of the emerging themes of election 2008. Murdoch, the conservative billionaire who founded News Corp and right wing publications and media like the New York Post and Fox News has been a visceral supporter of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for President. As reported in the New York Times, a new lawsuit by Judith Regan, a former head of a subdivision/imprint of Harper publishing, itself a subdivision of News Corp, alleges that News Corp senior executives encouraged her to lie to Federal Prosecutors investigating Bernard Kerik, a prominent friend of Giuliani. Regan says the reason given to her as to why she should lie was that her truthful input into the investigation of Kerik could harm Giuliani’s effort to win the Presidency. Murdoch - A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma The famous Churchillian quote about Russia applies to Murdoch. My research on him reveals a man who is enigmatic and ruthless but generous in terms of money and effort for his friends. But while Giuliani has been a good friend of Mr. Murdoch and Murdoch’s clear favorite to win the White House in 2008, as in the past Murdoch isn’t above hedging his bets. Murdoch contributed to the Kerry campaign in 2004 despite backing Bush and is contributing to the campaign of Hillary Clinton in 2008. You could spin the contribution to and support of Clinton a number of ways. You could say that Murdoch believes Clinton is the easiest for Giuliani to beat and therefore Murdoch wants her to be the nominee. Alternatively, you could say that of the candidates, he finds Hillary Clinton’s positions on the issues are the most palatable to him. Or, you could simply say that he believes she has the greatest chance to win among Democrats and he is hedging as I posited. I discussed another aspect of the enigmatic nature of Mr. Murdoch in one of my first articles, “Rupert Murdoch, Funds Red, Lives Blue” http://www.elitestv.com/pub/2004/Dec/EEN41c45dd4b93d3.html which explored the contradiction of a man who is a staunch supporter of all conservative causes and candidates yet chooses to live in New York City the epitome of a Liberal American city. At the time, December of 2004, Murdoch was preparing to spend $44 million for a New York City Co-op, which, in a city known for pricey real estate, would have been at the time the largest amount ever spent for a New York Co-op. So, Murdoch doesn’t just have a wee preference for liberal New York, he likes it so much he is willing to make an otherworldly massive investment in living there. Ruthless The Judith Regan lawsuit shows, allegedly, how far Murdoch is willing to go to promote and protect a friend. I reached out to News Corp for a comment on Regan’s allegations but the request went unanswered. According to the New York Times, Regan’s suit alleges: “…an effort to discredit and defame her starting in November 2006, including the release of what she calls false and defamatory statements by company executives to The New York Post, which is owned by the News Corporation, and to The New York Times...when she [Regan] realized the company had been assembling material with which to justify firing her she called a company lawyer. She says she wanted to confirm that accusations she had made about executives’ creating a hostile workplace had been included in her personnel file. One of those accusations was that an executive had advised her to lie about Mr. Kerik to protect Mr. Giuliani. “This smear campaign was necessary to advance News Corp.’s political agenda, which has long centered on protecting Rudy Giuliani’s presidential ambitions,”... The complaint asserts that a second unnamed executive advised her “not to produce clearly relevant documents in connection with the government’s investigation of Kerik.” “Thus, because of the damaging information that defendants believed Regan possessed, defendants knew they would be protecting Giuliani if they could pre-emptively discredit her,” the lawsuit says.---------------------------------------------------- Regan was accused of asserting that “A Jewish Cabal” was behind her ouster from her various News Corp positions. Regan says that the smear campaign made this up. She acknowledges that she used the word cabal, but Regan, who herself is Jewish, says she never mentioned a ‘Jewish’ cabal. Regan seems to have witnesses who corroborate her version of events in this regard. Intent to Protect and Support Giuliani Backfiring If the balance of Regan’s accusations is true, they paint an astounding picture of the ruthlessness of Murdoch and News Corp and how important Murdoch and News Corp consider the support of Giuliani’s Presidential ambitions. In an interesting twist, these efforts will probably do more to hurt Giuliani than anything else will, because Regan’s resulting lawsuit will keep Kerik and Giuliani’s friendship and support of Kerik in the news for the near future. There is also the hint of yet unrevealed information that would be extremely damaging to Giuliani if released.
Edited on Fri Nov-02-07 11:28 PM by Dems Will Win Rudy has no experience in national-level policy.Rudy picked a police chief who was mob-connected, and who is now headed for federal charges — tax fraud, bribery, taking money from the Mafia (he later recommended this guy for the U.S. cabinet!)He hired an unqualified crony for the NY Housing Development Corporation who later went to jail for child porn.Rudy’s key supporter in the Senate has been exposed using prostitutes both in Washington and Louisiana. Later he hired a child molester, boyhoood friend and Priest, Alan Paca, at his law firm.His urban reconstruction effort displaced low-income families to make room for big corporations.He indulged in racial profiling.He angered big chunks of his community for his support of the NYPD during the aftermath of the Amadou Diallo shooting.He tried so often to restrict free speech against his opponents that he lost 35 lawsuits on that one issue alone — thirty-five!The Farmersville garbage scandal helped force him to quit the 2000 Senate race.Rudy’s many scandals also forced him to take himself out of consideration for the Homeland Security job.He had to annul his first marriage because he was found to have married his first cousin; he dumped his second wife via a press conference rather than break the news in person — he was having an affair with the woman who would become his third wife. He actually was having 2 simultaneous affairs at the same time: Judith Nathan AND Christyne Letagano, from his office!Rudy unilaterally grabbed a $7 million endowment for the Brooklyn Museum of Art because he didn’t like one of their artworks. Then he tried to evict the entire museum. A judge slapped him down, and then warned him not to try to retaliate.Rudy tried to put public schools under a Catholic curriculum.Rudy told the police to permanently confiscate the vehicles of drunk-driving suspects — some of whom were acquitted.Rudy claims credit for reducing crime in New York, which actually began during the tenure of his predecessor, Dinkins, because of Dinkins’ policies (and enhanced by Clinton‘s decision to fund additional police officers, and the work of police chief Richard Bratton who later did the same for LA; Rudy still doesn‘t give Clinton or Bratton credit).He claimed credit to crafting the strategy for destroying the Mafia in New York, which was actually the work of Professor Bob Blakey at Cornell.He claimed he spent as much time at Ground Zero as the first responders; he later had to admit he lied. Giuliani also claims he knows more about foreign policy than McCain (Senate Armed Services Committee) or Biden (Foreign Relations Committee Chairman), but then he had to admit that he didn’t know North Korea was much further along than Iran in developing nuclear weapons!Giuliani spend a ton of money on ads claiming he turned a deficit into a surplus in New York. Actually he left a bigger deficit than he started with, and it would have been bigger even if 911 hadn’t happened. The next mayor, Bloomberg, was forced take extraordinary measures to save the city from collapse. How did this happen? Giuliani indulged in the same brain-dead wishful thinking Bush has indulged in, passing irresponsible tax cuts, occasionally raiding pension funds for money (which experts called irresponsible). Even there, Rudy’s claims are misleading: he claims he cut taxes 17 percent, but taxes really went from 8.73 percent to 7.24 percent..Rudy ignored the threat from Islamic extremists in New York even after the first WTC attack.His decision to locate the Office of Emergency Management headquarters in a long-identified target for a terrorist attack at the World Trade Center damaged the city’s response — the center was of course wiped out. The diesel fuel tanks placed at 7 World Trade Center to power the command center actually caused the building to collapse and burn.Firefighters on 911 were using exactly the same kind of radios that failed after the 1993 WTC bombing: 343 firefighters didn’t hear the evacuation order and died in the towers; Giuliani later claimed falsely they heard the order but ignored it.Ten days after 911 he claimed the air was safe to breathe despite the presence of serious contaminants; he botched the air quality issue at Ground Zero even though he knew there was a safety problem, and firefighters lacked proper protective gear and were insufficiently protected against pollutants (contrariwise at the Pentagon the workers were properly equipped and no one got sick).After 911, turf wars, sweetheart deals and Giuliani’s personal projects impeded the handling of the crisis further.Victims’ families complain they were shut out of the process of designing the 911 memorial.By 2007 Giuliani had to limit his appearances in New York because of protest from victims’ families, police and firefighters. Relatives and firemen said they didn’t want Giuliani even to speak at the 911 ceremonies in September 2007, saying it would be a “disgrace”.As Rudy left office he put his office records under the control of a private firm so that he could retain permanent control.Rudy represented heavily-polluting coal plants and Big Tobacco.His firm represented Purdue Pharma when the drug maker was nailed for lying about Oxycontin; the federal prosecutor who was handling the case was threatened by the White House to back off the investigation, and when the lawyer said no, the White House, only days later, put him on the list of US attorneys to be fired.Rudy’s firm worked for a guy who wants to do security work for the federal government — even though he is a confessed drug smuggler.Rudy probably hasn’t told the far right that his firm worked for the race tracking gambling industry.Rudy promised to leave his security consulting firm when he began his campaign, but he failed to do so; firm employees work for his campaign and the firm pays for his campaign security. He is violating federal campaign law.Only a small percentage of the electorate really knows Rudy, even on the social issues which have been the central focus for months: only 37 percent even know he’s pro-choice, and only 18 percent know he originally favored civil unions before he changed his mind. He supports school vouchers, supports torture, supports school prayer, supports putting the Ten Commandments in schools, and promises to appoint Scalia-like judges to the bench.Rudy wants to ban late-term abortion, mandate parental notification, and ban federal funding for most abortions under Medicaid.Rudy flipflopped on immigration and on civil unionsRepublicans in Iowa already complain that Giuliani only talks about one issue, terrorism.Rudy incessantly claims the Democrats will slash military budgets, impose socialism, and cause more people to die from terrorism. Lies and smears.Rudy hired the same smear team that crushed a black Senate candidate, Harold Ford, in the Tennessee Senate race by implying he had sex with a Playboy bunny (the same team that smeared McCain for Bush in South Carolina in 2000).A number of Republicans think he’s unfit for office. One might expect that from the far right, which has already rejected him because of abortion and his flipflops on some of their favorite issues. But even Al D’Amato – no reactionary – admitted that sponsoring Giuliani for a prosecutor job in New York was “the biggest mistake I ever made”.My favorite Rudy quote: “Freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.”
Via Dem U
Friday, November 16, 2007 Primary ruling likely to be delayed Court suggests it needs extra time to decide whether Michigan can go ahead with Jan. 15 vote. Gordon Trowbridge / Detroit News Washington Bureau LANSING -- Michigan's presidential primary is likely to remain in legal limbo for several more days after an appeals court on Thursday suggested it needs more time to rule on whether plans for the Jan. 15 contest violate the state constitution. State officials had asked the three-judge panel to rule by today, but during oral arguments Thursday, the Michigan Court of Appeals judges got the state's lawyer to admit that they could delay their ruling without imperiling the election. "Do we face a drop-dead date? I think it's hard to say," Assistant Attorney General Heather Meingast told the judges. "The more we delay, the harder it is to follow the process that needs to be followed" to hold the election, she said. The appeals judges on Thursday expressed sympathy with the arguments of East Lansing political consultant Mark Grebner, the lead plaintiff of the group whose lawsuit has placed the primary in doubt. They won a ruling from an Ingham County judge last week holding the primary law unconstitutional because it would turn over voter lists generated in the state-funded primary to the Democratic and Republican parties but bar the public from accessing the lists. Because the law includes a clause invalidating the entire law if any part of it is rejected by the courts, the ruling placed the entire contest in jeopardy. "Why are they not public property?" Judge William Whitbeck, chief judge of the appeals court, asked Meingast about the lists. Whitbeck suggested the state was arguing the lists had been magically "transmuted from lead to gold," from public to private. When Meingast argued that turning over the lists to the parties served the public by discouraging masses of one party's voters from voting in the opposing party's primary, Judge Donald Owens said that amounted to "intimidation" of voters. Whitbeck also seemed to stump Grebner's attorney, Randolph Bodwin, when he asked if a law with any benefits for private parties invoked the constitution's requirement for a two-thirds vote, even if the law also has public purposes. When Bowdin said that yes, he believed that to be the case, Whitbeck said that argument would render virtually every state appropriation unconstitutional. After the hearing, Grebner said he believed the judges are looking for a way around the so-called "nonseverability" clause, which invalidates the entire law if any part of it falls. "It solves everything if they say, 'You can't steal the lists, but you can still hold the election,' " said Grebner.
ANDREW TAYLORAP Features Nov 15, 2007 21:50 EST House Republicans on Thursday night easily sustained President Bush's veto of a Democratic health and education spending bill. The 277-141 vote looked deceptively close, falling just two votes short of the two-thirds tally required to overturn Bush's veto. But as they did on three previous occasions, GOP leaders confidently managed their ranks to make sure Bush would not be embarrassed. Some of the congressional combatants already were looking past the veto in hopes that it might prompt the White House to negotiate on that measure and 10 other bills that provide money to Cabinet departments for the budget year that began Oct. 1. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters that when Congress returns in December from a two-week Thanksgiving recess, Democrats would send Bush a catchall spending bill combining Congress' unfinished budget work — after cutting about $11 billion from them. Democrats have written domestic spending bills adding more than $22 billion to Bush's budget, prompting a wave of veto threats from the White House. Reid promised to cut that amount in half, saying it was a fair compromise. "We're going to bundle these bills up and send a bill splitting the difference," Reid told reporters. If Bush vetoes that bill, Democrats might just put the government on autopilot at current spending levels for weeks, months. "If the proposal is to split the difference," said Rep. Jim Walsh, a New York moderate serving as GOP bill manager for the health, education and job training bill, "I would advise the president to take yes for an answer." The Democratic-driven education and health bill contains $151 billion in discretionary appropriations under lawmakers' direct control. More than any other spending bill, it defines the differences between Bush and his Democratic rivals. In recent years, Bush has sought to cut the labor, health and education measure below the prior year's level. Lawmakers always have rejected the cuts, but the budget that Bush presented in February sought almost $4 billion in cuts from levels for the 2007 budget year, the largest he's ever recommended. Democrats responded by adding $10 billion to Bush's request for the 2008 bill, with another $2 billion in future-year funding devoted to education. The increases cover a broad spectrum of social programs backed by Democrats and moderate Republicans. Bill author Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., said Thursday night that splitting the difference with Bush on the health and education bill would still lead to unacceptable budget cuts such as a $400 million decrease for special education and a $200 million cut in community health centers that would affect 600,000 people. Republicans on Capitol Hill admit Bush's health and education cuts aren't sustainable. Some of them hope the unsuccessful veto override might spur the warring factions into negotiations aimed at averting a fiscal train wreck. "I've got the feeling that this will lead to some serious movement," said California Rep. Jerry Lewis, top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. "If you work that bill out, everything else falls into place," Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said. But plenty of lawmakers remained pessimistic that the impasse could be broken. Many GOP stalwarts want Bush to take a hard line, and thus far, he's shown no sign of wavering. The increases in the education, health and job training bill cover a broad spectrum of social programs, including: _A 20 percent increase over Bush's request for job training programs. _$1.4 billion more than Bush's request for health research at the National Institutes of Health, a 5 percent increase. _$2.4 billion for heating subsidies for the poor, $480 million more than Bush requested. _$665 million for grants to community action agencies; Bush sought to kill the program outright. _$63.6 billion for the Education Department, a 5 percent increase over 2007 spending and 8 percent more than Bush's request. _A $225 million increase for community health centers. ___
Senate blocks Iraq war money Senate Blocks Bills to Pay for Iraq, Afghanistan ANNE FLAHERTY AP News Nov 16, 2007 10:36 EST The Senate on Friday blocked a Democratic proposal to pay for the Iraq war but require that troops start coming home. The 53-45 vote was seven votes short of the 60 needed to advance. It came minutes after the Senate rejected a Republican proposal to pay for the Iraq war without strings attached. The Republican measure failed 45-53, 15 short of the number of votes needed to go forward. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the only way to get troops the money was to approve the restrictions outlined by Democrats. "Our troops continue to fight and die valiantly. And our Treasury continues to be depleted rapidly, for a peace that we seem far more interested in achieving than Iraq's own political leaders," said Reid, D-Nev. Republicans said Democrats were being irresponsible. "We need to get our troops everything they need," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "We need to get it to them right now." Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said this week that if Congress cannot pass legislation that ties war money to troop withdrawals, they would not send Bush a bill this year. Instead, they would revisit the issue upon returning in January, pushing the Pentagon to the brink of an accounting nightmare and deepening Democrats' conflict with the White House on the war. In the meantime, Democrats say, the Pentagon can eat into its $471 billion annual budget without being forced to take drastic steps. "The days of a free lunch are over," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. At the White House Friday, deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said: "DOD would have to eat into their annual budget and I believe that still presents difficulties in getting the troops in the field the resources they need to carry out their mission." "We'd rather see the Department of Defense, the military planners and our troops focusing on military maneuvers, rather than accounting maneuvers as they carry out their mission in the field," Fratto said. "I think Congress should send this money, allow these troops to get the equipment they need. There is no reason why they should not get the money. This isn't like this is a last-minute effort and call for funding." Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that unless Congress passes funding for the war within days, he will direct the Army and Marine Corps to begin developing plans to lay off employees and terminate contracts early next year. Gates, who met with lawmakers on Wednesday, said he does not have the money or the flexibility to move funds around to adequately cover the costs of the continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "There is a misperception that this department can continue funding our troops in the field for an indefinite period of time through accounting maneuvers, that we can shuffle money around the department. This is a serious misconception," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon. As a result, he said he is faced with the undesirable task of preparing to cease operations at Army bases by mid-February, and lay off about 100,000 defense department employees and an equal number of civilian contractors. A month later, he said, similar moves would have to be made by the Marines. Some members of Congress believe the Pentagon can switch enough money to cover the war accounts, Gates said. But he added that he only has the flexibility to transfer about $3.7 billion, which is just one week's worth of war expenses. Lawmakers, he said, may not understand how complicated and restrictive the situation is. ___ On the Net: Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov Pentagon: http://www.defenselink.mil/ (This version CORRECTS SUBS 2nd graf to correct that vote on Democratic proposal was seven votes short of the number needed to advance; INSERTS 2 grafs to UPDATE with White House comment.)
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Everyone raise a glass to Michigan Repug Thad McCotter for being named by Keith Olbermann as the "Worst person in the World" for attacking a group named Catholics United. What was the sin committed by Catholics United? They had the nerve to run TV ads questioning how can he claimed to be pro-life when he backs the Shrub veto of SCHIP. How did Thad respond? Well Thad wrote a piece over at the GOP water carrier the National Review where called the group "leftist" “false Prophet,” a “devil” and as being in “sin.” Again congrats Thad for attacking a group that support health care for kids.
Brighter vision of Detroit shines on national TV November 13, 2007 By TOM WALSH FREE PRESS COLUMNIST NBC-TV news anchor Brian Williams and sister station CNBC made one of their infrequent forays to Detroit on Tuesday to give the nation’s viewers a glimpse of the bleak, battered industrial heartland. What they saw was a bit different. Their cameras were set up inside the Warren Truck plant of the suddenly lean and lively Chrysler LLC, whose new superstar executive, Jim Press, was interviewed by Williams. “This is an opportunity to realize the American Dream, a chance to see American industry come back,” Press said of Chrysler’s new life under private equity ownership.Detroit’s newspapers screamed of good news for the long-derided city center: “QUICKEN TO BRING HQ, 4,000 WORKERS DOWNTOWN” was the headline on the Free Press that CNBC anchor Erin Burnett held up at the start of her 2 p.m. “Street Signs” business program.The overall thrust was decidedly “Detroit, sunny-side up.”Even the mid-November Michigan weather outside was sunny and bright. Go figure.Burnett’s producer juggled her guest lineup Tuesday to squeeze a remote interview of Quicken founder Dan Gilbert in between on-set chats with investment manager David Sowerby, Masco Corp. Chairman Richard Manoogian and Chris Ilitch, chief executive officer of the Ilitch family pizza, sports and entertainment empire. “There’s a gritty resolve among the leaders in this community to reinvent itself, to build on the old automotive manufacturing model and add to it,” said Chris Ilitch, who was interviewed by CNBC after joining his father, Mike, at the celebration of Quicken’s commitment to move downtown.Gilbert is pushing the tagline Detroit 2.0 to describe the next generation of business growth, moving the region beyond the Detroit 1.0 industrial world with a high-tech cluster of new companies and young workers moving into the city center. Quicken Loans is the nation’s largest Internet mortgage lender, with most of its 4,000 employees in Michigan.When CNBC’s Burnett interviewed Frank Ewasyshyn, Chrysler’s executive vice president of manufacturing, she rattled off grim statistics, such as Chrysler cutting 23,000 jobs. To which Ewasyshyn matter-of-factly replied that today’s Chrysler, unlike past regimes, won’t keep producing slow-selling vehicles and dumping them onto dealer lots. “We have to react to the marketplace,” he said, referring to a cutback from three shifts to two at Warren Truck.He said Chrysler is pleased with the flexibility its new UAW contract, which provides a two-tier wage for new hires, allowing the company to pay a lower wage to about 15% of its workers in a typical assembly plant who do noncore jobs not directly tied to building vehicles.Manoogian told me after his CNBC interview that Michigan and Detroit are now facing up to the reality that today is not like the old days, when a cyclical automotive downturn would be followed by a surge of growth and hiring. “This downsizing is more permanent,” he said, “and our challenge is to take that talented pool of people into alternative energy, life sciences and other growing fields.”No one should think that Michigan’s difficult days are over, just because Quicken is shifting a few thousand jobs from Livonia to Detroit, or because the sun shined on a November day when NBC and CNBC were filming here.The sunny side of the talk Tuesday is that it was grounded in a reality about what Detroit is and still can be, rather than more whining about what used to be, what will never be again and who’s to blame.
Iraq, Afghanistan wars twice as expensive as expected, report says Nick Juliano Published: Tuesday November 13, 2007 President Bush's six-year invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq will end up costing Americans about $1.5 trillion, or nearly twice as much as the White House has actually spent to fight its wars, because of unseen costs like inflation, rising oil prices and expensive care for wounded veterans. The estimate was revealed in a Democratic staff report from Congress's Joint Economic Committee. The staff report, titled "The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War," estimates that the Iraq and Afghan wars have cost the average family more than $20,000. "The full economic costs of the war to the American taxpayers and the overall U.S. economy go well beyond even the immense federal budget costs already reported," said the report, which was obtained by the Washington Post. The White House apparently has vastly underestimated the war's costs. It requested $804 billion -- just more than half the total costs -- to keep up its wars and occupations through 2008. "The report argues that war funding is diverting billions of dollars away from "productive investment" by American businesses in the United States. It also says that the conflicts are pulling reservists and National Guardsmen away from their jobs, resulting in economic disruptions for U.S. employers that the report estimates at $1 billion to $2 billion," reports the Post's Josh White. Furthermore, the report takes into account the massive healthcare costs for injured veterans and the declining economic productivity of vets who return home seriously injured. It also takes into account the massive interest the US will have to pay on the borrowed money that is funding the war. Republicans took issue with the Democratic staff report. "We'll see what they come up with, but it sure seems that the Senate leadership is trying to protect their continual proclamations of defeat instead of working for bipartisan progress," a spokesman for Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), the top GOP member of the joint panel, told White. Some of the report's estimates need to be taken with a grain of salt, experts warn, because it is difficult to ascribe factors like increasing oil prices to the war in Iraq alone. The report finds that skyrocketing oil prices -- which tripled since 2003 to surpass $90 per barrel recently -- cannot be blamed solely on the war in Iraq, but declining production from Iraq's ravaged oil fields have likely caused the price to tick up "between $4 and $5 a barrel." The Democratic staff on the Joint Economic Committee -- which includes bipartisan representatives from the House and Senate -- is hardly the first to try to sum up the true costs of the war. Harvard University economist Joseph Stiglitz last year attempted a similar study that would take into account outside costs of war -- such as long-term care for the thousands of US troops injured on the battlefield. He estimated a total cost as high as $2 trillion for the war in Iraq alone. The Post spoke to Robert D. Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs and a former National Security Council staffer under Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter. Hormats took issue with the specificity of some of the Democratic report's findings, but he said President Bush has taken greatly differed from his predecessors when it comes to funding the war. "The wars will cost a lot more than the appropriated sums, and it's certainly true our children will be paying for this for a long, long time," he told the paper. "I'm very critical of the way they have financed the war, but I always hesitate to try to quantify any of these things, to make these numerical judgments."
Host tries to get aggressive liberal blogger booted from law school For Bill O'Reilly, ambushing your political enemies with a video camera is just fine, as long as the camera is pointed in the opposite direction. Blogger Mike Stark has a history of haranguing O'Reilly during his call-in radio show, and he once visited the Fox host's house to mock him over sexual harassment allegations. And now Stark, 39, has become the target of a network executive working on behalf of the combative Fox News pundit. Fox VP Dianne Brandi has written to the dean of the Univeristy of Virginia's law school, where Stark is in his second year, urging an investigation of his conduct. Stark told RAW STORY his dean has shown him a copy of the letter but would not allow it to be distributed to others. The letter accuses Stark of violating the university's codes of conduct, and it warns that he would have trouble passing the fitness review required for admission to the bar. The showdown began with Stark's calls to O'Reilly's radio show -- "telling the truth when he didn't want to talk about the truth," as Stark characterizes it -- and escalated to a videotaped confrontation in O'Reilly's driveway. Brandi claimed the visit amounted to harassment, but Stark said he sees it as a reasonable response after O'Reilly sent a producer to the home of Jet Blue CEO David Neeleman when the airline sponsored this summer's YearlyKos conference of progressive bloggers and activists. O'Reilly made YearlyKos one of his favorite targets in August, when he smeared the conference's namesake blog, Daily Kos, with a few offensive comments dredged from the thousands posted by readers every day. Stark accosted O'Reilly at his Manhasset, NY, home and implored him to "stop lying" about the blog. He also distributed copies of a 3-year-old sexual harassment lawsuit filed against O'Reilly to his neighbors and displayed signs branding the host a pervert -- actions some say cross ethical boundaries. "Nobody's going to convince me that what I did is wrong," Stark said in a recent interview. O'Reilly is no stranger to ambushing his political enemies and shoving cameras in their faces. Just two weeks ago, an "O'Reilly Factor" producer showed up at a public book signing to ask former "View" co-host Rosie O'Donnell about her speculating that 9/11 was an inside job. In Stark's eyes, his actions are no different than those authorized by the Fox host, especially the Jet Blue visit. That's not how O'Reilly or Fox News sees things, and the bombastic host's latest assault mirrors earlier incidents when Fox's legal beagles have been unleashed against critics. O'Reilly's most famous legal troubles came in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former coworker. Before that lawsuit was even filed, O'Reilly and the Fox News legal team hit the host's accuser -- Andrea Mackris, a former Fox News producer -- with a countersuit claiming she was trying to extort $60 million from O'Reilly. The top-rated cable news host eventually settled for several million dollars and dropped the extortion suit against Mackris, who claimed O'Reilly had accosted her with sexually harassing phone calls. O'Reilly would ask his then-producer about masturbation, encourage her to purchase vibrators and appeared to be pleasuring himself during the phone calls, Mackris alleged. O'Reilly's legal troubles provided plenty of giggles for his critics when the story broke in October 2004. Stark, who runs the blog Calling All Wingnuts and is a regular commentor at Daily Kos, latched on to the most amusing allegation in the suit, taken from O'Reilly's description of his shower fantasies in a phone call with Mackris. "Then I would take the other hand with the falafel (sic) thing and I'd put it on your p---y but you'd have to do it really light, just kind of a tease business," O'Reilly told Mackris. Stark was confused as to how the Middle Eastern dish of chickpeas and vegetables would fare in the scene O'Reilly outlined. "How'd you keep the falafel together in the shower," Stark asked O'Reilly in the video as the host, wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt emerges from his house to fetch the morning paper. The antagonism directed O'Reilly's way is not limited to the driveway confrontation. Stark also distributed copies of the sexual harassment lawsuit to O'Reilly's neighbors in official-looking envelopes, and he displayed signs in the neighborhood branding O'Reilly a "pervert" and saying he "can't be trusted with your daughters." The letter to Stark's dean claims his actions "may constitute criminal harassment" under New York law, and it warns that a civil lawsuit could be headed Stark's way, he told RAW STORY. While he acknowledges that some may take issue with his tactics, Stark said the letter was more about damaging his personal reputation than raising any serious legal concerns. He has followed up with a letter to Fox News CEO Roger Ailes requesting an apology "for the attempt to harass and intimidate me at my school place," but he's received no response from Fox. "Ms. Brandi’s false and malicious assertions have the potential to redound to Fox’s negative benefit," Stark wrote to the network chief, "and Mr. O’Reilly’s bizarre abuse of the legal process reflects poorly upon the Fox News brand." Brandi, the Fox lawyer, also told the law school dean that Stark recently threatened to post O'Reilly's home address online, a claim the activist disputes. Her letter is not limited to defending O'Reilly; it alleges Stark has harassed his guests as well. Widely quoted political analyst Larry Sabato appeared on The O'Reilly Factor in late July, and that prompted an e-mail and phone call from Stark to Sabato "to inform guests that appear on O'Reilly's programs of his irresponsible rhetoric and behaviors." Brandi claimed Stark's letter and phone call interfered with the ability of Sabato -- one of the most prolific experts on elections -- to express his views on talk shows. The letter encouraged an investigation into whether Stark violated the university's code of conduct. "I have no public comment whatsoever," Sabato told RAW STORY via e-mail when contacted for this article. Stark said his dean does not plan to follow-up on the allegations in the letter. Calls and e-mails to the University of Virginia law school seeking comment were not returned. Brandi and a Fox News spokesperson did not return calls seeking comment. Despite the letter, Stark said he does not plan to curtail his criticism of O'Reilly, who he calls a "propagandist" whose methods deserve to be challenged. "This guy's going to other people's houses," Stark said, "and I had to impress the gravity of that on him by going to his house." Stark posted the following video online in August, after O'Reilly began targeting sponsors of the Yearly Kos
Ex-Publisher Says News Corp. Official Wanted Her to Lie to Protect Giuliani By RUSS BUETTNER Judith Regan, the book publisher who was fired by the News Corporation last year, asserts in a lawsuit filed today that a senior executive at the media conglomerate encouraged her to mislead federal investigators about her relationship with Bernard B. Kerik during his bid to become homeland security secretary in late 2004. The lawsuit asserts that the News Corporation executive wanted to protect the presidential aspirations of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Kerik’s mentor, who had appointed him New York City police commissioner and had recommended him for the federal post. Ms. Regan makes the charge at the start of a 70-page filing that seeks $100 million in damages for what she says was a campaign to smear and discredit her by her bosses at HarperCollins and its parent company, the News Corporation, after her project to publish a book with O.J. Simpson was abandoned amid a storm of protest. In the civil complaint filed in state court in Manhattan, Ms. Regan says the company has long sought to promote Mr. Giuliani’s ambitions. But the lawsuit does not elaborate on that charge, or identify the executive who she alleged pressured her to mislead investigators, nor does it offer details or evidence to back up her claim. Ms. Regan had an affair with Mr. Kerik, who is married, beginning in the spring of 2001, when her imprint, Regan Books, began work on his memoir, “The Lost Son.” In December 2004, after the relationship had ended and shortly after Mr. Kerik’s homeland security nomination fell apart, newspapers reported that the two had carried on the affair at an apartment near Ground Zero that had been donated as a respite for rescue and recovery workers. Mr. Kerik, who in 2004 said he withdrew his nomination because of problems with his hiring of a nanny, was indicted last week on federal tax fraud and other charges. “Defendants were well aware that Regan had a personal relationship with Kerik,” the complaint says. “In fact, a senior executive in the News Corporation organization told Regan that he believed she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign. This executive advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, investigators concerning Kerik.” Officials of the News Corporation were asked in a telephone call for comment on the lawsuit, but had yet to issue a statement. One of Ms. Regan’s lawyers, Brian C. Kerr of the firm Dreier L.L.P., said she possesses evidence to support her claim that she was advised to lie to federal investigators who were vetting Mr. Kerik. But Mr. Kerr declined to discuss the nature of the evidence. “We’re fully confident that the evidence will show that Judith Regan was the victim of a vicious smear campaign engineered by News Corp. and HarperCollins,” Mr. Kerr said. The News Corporation controls a vast array of media outlets worldwide, including Twentieth Century Fox, the New York Post and the Fox News Channel, where Ms. Regan once hosted a talk show.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Vote puts early primary in doubt Senate restores Jan. 15 date but Democrats refuse to go along Charlie Cain / Detroit News Lansing Bureau LANSING -- Michigan lawmakers failed Thursday in their attempt to save Michigan's endangered Jan. 15 presidential primary. The Senate voted 26-9 on a bill to restore the primary in a way that could pass legal muster with a judge who this week declared the law establishing the primary unconstitutional. But Democrats refused to vote for a companion procedural motion to give the bill "immediate effect." And without that, the bill cannot become law until around March 1 of next year -- long after the proposed primary vote. The state parties have until Wednesday to tell the secretary of state, who oversees elections, if they plan to hold a primary. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Michelle McManus, conceded that without immediate effect the primary is all but dead. She blamed Democrats and their union allies who want party caucuses, rather than a primary. Caucuses likely would work to the favor of ex-North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who has powerful friends in organized labor, because unions would have a better chance of controlling caucuses than a primary in which anyone who requested a Democratic ballot could vote. "These guys want to do it behind closed doors, they want political bosses to decide who their presidential candidate is," she said. Democratic caucuses likely would attract around 100,000 voters, while a projected 1 million would be expected to vote in a Democratic primary. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has a substantial lead among likely Michigan primary voters. Her name remains on the ballot, but the other leading Democrats, including Edwards, have taken their names off because the date violates the national party's pre-set calendar. Those advocating an early primary say it would give Michigan a greater voice in selecting both parties' nominees. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, had urged his colleagues during Senate debate to vote to restore the primary. "If you don't support immediate effect, you have destroyed our opportunity to have a presidential primary on Jan. 15," he said. "Make us relevant in this (nominating) process." Bishop was hoping the House would pass the bill and return it to the Senate, where another vote on immediate effect then could be held. But later Thursday evening, House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, cast doubt that will happen. Dillon said the primary wouldn't be very meaningful if all of the Democrats, except Clinton, decide not to participate. "It costs us $10 million to have the election," Dillon said. "When the (top) Democrats pulled out, it hurt the quality of it ... I'm not sure it's worth $10 million to hold a primary that only involves one party." Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis said the Senate "took the right step to re-establish" the primary, and urged House Democrats to quickly pass the primary legislation. GOP spokesman Bill Nowling said the Senate vote was troublesome. "I think we can still pull off a Jan. 15 primary," he said. "With the Senate vote, we got half a loaf, so we'll take that and keep moving forward. We're just in limbo at the time being." Republicans say a presidential primary remains their first option. But if the primary fails to win legislative support, Republicans would likely hold a statewide presidential nominating convention on Jan. 25 and 26. Between 3,000 and 5,000 party activists would likely participate in a GOP convention. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan member of the Democratic National Committee, worked feverishly to round up votes for the primary. And she said Thursday it isn't dead. "Not yet," she said. "We're still moving forward on the legal side and the Legislature may come back next week and could take it up." If the primary isn't held, Dingell said the fallback plan is to hold a Democratic caucus the same day as New Hampshire's primary, which will take place in early January -- although the date has not yet been set. "I want the primary because I think it's the right thing," Dingell said. The primary law was struck down Wednesday by Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette. He said it was unconstitutional since it would have allowed the lists of voters who took part in the primary to go only to the Democratic and Republican parties. He said the Legislature would have had to give the law, approved in August, a two-thirds vote to allow the spending of public money to benefit a private interest, in this case the political parties. The law didn't have two-thirds support. In other developments on Thursday, the national Republican Party, as expected, said it will punish five states -- including Michigan -- for scheduling nominating contests before Feb. 5. It said Michigan would lose half of its delegates to next summer's nominating convention. But GOP Michigan Chairman Anuzis said he took that as an idle threat. "I remain confident that all of Michigan's 60 national delegates will be seated next year in Minneapolis-St. Paul," he said.
Enjoy the dark ages by Jack Lessenberry 11/7/2007 How would you like it if a group of religious nuts seized your state government and vowed to choke off important advances in science and medicine — even at the expense of further damaging our state's badly limping economy? Well, guess what. That's what's happened in Michigan, without most of us even noticing, and that's no exaggeration. I am talking about embryonic stem cell research, biology's hope of the future. Our state is being prevented from making progress or doing research in this vital area by fundamentalist zealots — mostly, the badly misnamed group Right to Life of Michigan. Right to Life was set up, as you likely know, to prevent women from having the right to control their own reproductive systems. They are, in other words, an anti-abortion group. That's fine; Right to Life is perfectly free to argue against what the U.S. Supreme Court says is a constitutional right. They are, at least, fairly honest about where they are coming from on abortion, though, like most of their ilk, they generally show little or no interest in what might become of the unwanted babies they would force women to bear. But now they are also doing their best to destroy our medical and economic hopes for the future. They oppose stem cell research, something that doesn't involve destroying a single potential life, though they sometimes lie and say it does. They also like to pretend researchers can learn just as much from stem cells that come from healthy adults, though virtually no biologists believe that. The fact is that embryonic stem cell research has more potential for good than any other technology in a long, long time. Embryonic stem cells are, scientists tell me, sort of a fast-growing, universal genetic substance that, properly prodded, can grow into all sorts of different kinds of cells. Thanks to a new technique called "somatic cell nuclear transfer," it may be possible to solve the problem of tissue rejection. The potential that opens up is almost beyond imagining. Otherwise crusty scientists have been known to wax lyrical about the potential of all this. There is a real possibility that, with time and experimentation, the effects of diseases from Parkinson's to Alzheimer's may be rolled back. People with severe spinal cord injuries might be able to recover function in their paralyzed limbs. Michigan has excellent research facilities, including the University of Michigan's medical center and the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids. But not only can such research not qualify for government funding here, it cannot even be legally done. Believe it or not, Mississippi's laws on embryonic stem cell research are better than ours. Only four small, backward states have laws as restrictive as ours: North and South Dakota, Arkansas and Louisiana. None of those states have the ability to do world-class stem cell research anyway. We do, but our scientists, such as Sean Morrison, director of the University of Michigan's Center for Stem Cell Biology, are forbidden from it by our medieval laws. Some of our best scientists have left. Others are, sadly, certain to go. State Rep. Andy Meisner (D-Ferndale) knows how stupid this is. He's holding hearings on a bill that would allow embryonic stem cell research. State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) is trying to do the same thing in the Michigan Senate. But they are unlikely to succeed. The elected zombies Right to Life controls are too strong. There is an alternative, however: Putting a constitutional amendment on next year's ballot that would allow this, and a group called Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures is trying to do just that. Right to Life, which has a lot in common with the Taliban, will fight that tooth and nail. They know that if it gets on the ballot it will win overwhelmingly. You can contact the good guys at stemcellresearchformichigan.com or 248-948-5555. By the way, here's something else the Taliban won't tell you. Every day they stymie stem cell research is another day they steal money from you. Civilized states like California know this. Our pathetic president has twice vetoed, you may remember, federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, his fellow Republican, promptly encouraged his state to defy the Shrub and invest $3 billion. He's no fool; a nonpartisan study shows they'll get back up to $12.6 billion as a result. Naturally, this doesn't matter, because we don't need new jobs or money in Michigan, right? After all, we'll always have clapboard churches. And, for the refined, Gregorian chants. Coming a Cropper: State Sen. Alan Cropsey (R- Dewitt, west of Lansing) isn't a guy you would normally think of as a transportation expert. During his college days at that intellectual powerhouse, Bob Jones University, he studied how to teach math (fundamentalist math, naturally) to little kids. Nor is he on the transportation committee. But he has been fighting hard to protect the interests of Matty Moroun, the shadowy billionaire who wants monopoly control of commercial traffic across the Detroit River. Old Matt has that now, thanks to his ownership of the Ambassador Bridge. Economically, that ancient bridge is the single most important border crossing between the United States and Canada. More than $100 billion worth of stuff crosses it every year, and if something were to happen to it, there is no backup system. For a long time, Matty contended there was no need to build any other bridge, that one wasn't needed. Then one day a joint Canada-United States group called DRIC, for Detroit River International Crossing, started a serious, federal-and-state-funded study of where a new bridge should go. Suddenly, the Matster announced that he would build a second bridge, right next to his old one. Imagine that. He said we should stop studying other alternatives, right now. You'd expect him to say that, just as you would expect cooler heads to tell him to stuff it. What you wouldn't expect is that Alan Cropsey would turn into Matty Moroun's free (?) lobbyist. During the budget negotiations, Cropsey tried hard to kill the DRIC study, even though that would mean the state would have to pay millions of dollars back to the federal government. What reason did he give? "None that made a whole lot of sense," state Sen. Ray Basham, a Democrat who is on the transportation committee, told me. About all Cropsey would say in public was that the state couldn't afford a publicly funded bridge. No, except that such a bridge would mean lower tolls for the taxpayers. A fully loaded tractor-trailer pays far less to cross the much longer Mackinac Bridge than what Matty soaks 'em for. Plus, while Cropsey probably didn't learn much about diplomacy at Bob Jones, he needs to understand, however dimly, that Canada is a sovereign country. All indications are that they don't want a second Ambassador Bridge, and if they say no, Old Matty will have to stop his second span right in the middle of the river. That might make for an interesting wrought-iron work of abstract art, but wouldn't be much help in transportation terms. Wouldn't it be a good idea for some reporter at this point to carefully scrutinize who has been donating to Alan Cropsey's political campaigns?