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Archive for May 2nd, 2009

Lou Cannon on Ronald Reagan

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 2nd, 2009 4:44 am by HL

Lou Cannon on Ronald Reagan

book cover

The debate over our 40th president’s role in ending the Cold War continues with the publication of James Mann’s “The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan.”

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Souter Is Outer

Souter Painting

U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter is reportedly planning to retire from the bench at the end of the court’s current term. Souter’s decision to leave will likely not affect the political balance of the court, as his replacement by President Obama will likely be another liberal-minded justice.

The BBC:

US Supreme Court Justice David Souter plans to step down at the end of the court’s current term, US reports say.

The 69-year-old, one of four liberal-leaning judges on the bench, had informed the White House of his decision, media reports said.

Analysts say his retirement is unlikely to affect the balance of the court, which also includes four conservative judges and a centrist.

Justice Souter had no comment on the reports, a court spokeswoman said.

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Howie Klein: Which California Congressmen Are Owned By The Special Interests?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 2nd, 2009 4:43 am by HL

Howie Klein: Which California Congressmen Are Owned By The Special Interests?
Yesterday over at DWT we looked at the dynamic between congressmen who have taken large quasi-legal bribes from the banking sector and their willingness to…

Huff TV: Arianna On “Countdown,” Discusses How Dem Senators Screwed Homeowners
Arianna appeared on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” Friday night to talk about why a number of Senate Democrats voted against legislation aimed at stemming foreclosures…

Blagojevich Lawyer Wants Campaign Fund For Payment, Calls Case More Complex Than Death Penalty Trial
CHICAGO (AP) — Ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s lawyer made a fresh plea Friday for permission to tap campaign money to pay legal bills, saying defending…

White House Reiterates Its Commitment To Repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’
It’s been a disturbing 24 hours. But the White House has just updated its Web site to indicate that it continues to support the repeal…


Foser: The media shouldn’t follow this Supreme Court precedent

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 2nd, 2009 4:42 am by HL

Foser: The media shouldn’t follow this Supreme Court precedent

Now that it is likely there will soon be a debate over a Supreme Court nominee, let’s take a look back at the media’s coverage of the last such debate.

In 2005, President Bush nominated the staunchly conservative Samuel Alito to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat on the high court. Former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie and Bush strategist Steve Schmidt formally ran the campaign to get Alito through the confirmation process, though at times it seemed much of the news media was auditioning for the job.

Reporters often responded to Democratic skepticism about Alito by suggesting the Democrats were “prejudging” Alito or reaching an “early verdict” — while applying no such assessments to Republicans who spoke favorably of him. As I explained at the time:

A frequent theme of media coverage of Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s nomination hearing has been that Democrats — but not Republicans — entered the hearing with closed minds, having already decided how they were going to vote.

[…]

In repeatedly suggesting that Democrats had made up their minds about Alito before the hearing began — and less frequently suggesting it of Republicans — news outlets reinforced a claim often made by Republicans: Democrats would oppose anybody Bush nominated. And by focusing on the Democrats, the media let Republicans off the hook. In fact, the Republicans’ job is no more to grease the wheels for Bush’s nominee than the Democrats’ is to decide in advance to oppose.

Reporters not only suggested it was inappropriate for Democrats to prematurely oppose Alito, they suggested it was inappropriate for Democrats to examine Alito’s record and background. When they did so, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto called Democrats “villains” while on-screen text labeled them “vicious” and “clueless.” On CNN, Ed Henry uncritically repeated GOP claims that the Democrats were guilty of “hitting below the belt.” And on CBS, Gloria Borger suggested they “took this a step too far,” adding, “[S]ome say they went over the line.” Newsweek called the Democrats “bullies,” and Gwen Ifill described liberal criticism of Alito as “demonization.”

Reporter after reporter accused Democratic senators of being so abusive they made Alito’s wife cry. In fact, Martha-Ann Alito had an emotional reaction to questioning of her husband by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), during which Graham asked Alito if he was “really a closet bigot” and told him, “I am sorry that you’ve had to go through this. I am sorry that your family has had to sit here and listen to this.”

Graham was referring to questions about Alito’s membership in an organization called Concerned Alumni of Princeton — a group that opposed increased admission of women and minorities to the Ivy League school, arguing “a student population of approximately 40 percent women and minorities will largely vitiate the alumni body of the future.”

But, to the news media, asking Alito about his membership in such an organization was so vicious and over the line that Democrats had driven Alito’s wife to tears.

It should be no surprise reporters rushed to downplay Alito’s ties to the group. Bob Novak, for example, claimed there was “no evidence” Concerned Alumni of Princeton was “against women.” In fact, there was considerable such evidence. Then there was this exchange between Chris Matthews and Chuck Todd:

MATTHEWS: Calling him a racist because he’s a member of some tired-ass yesterday’s mossbag Princeton alumni group, that’s all he’s got on him?

CHRIS CILLIZZA: Well, like Chuck —

TODD: Bill Bradley was a member of that group.

CILLIZZA: Right.

TODD: Now granted he —

MATTHEWS: — for a while.

CILLZZA: Yeah.

TODD: — yeah, I mean, so you can’t, look —

MATTHEWS: Thirty-year public adult record, and all you can nail him for is some club he never went to?

It probably isn’t any great shock to see Matthews dismissing the relevance of membership in a group that opposed the admission of women and minorities to Princeton. But it should be noted that Todd’s invocation of former Democratic senator Bill Bradley’s membership in the group was wildly misleading. See, Bradley quit and renounced his membership in 1973, calling it a “right-wing” organization and criticizing its opposition to admitting women and minorities. Alito, on the other hand, bragged about his membership in the alumni group on a job application he filed with the Reagan administration. So the situations were a little different.

The controversy over the Princeton alumni group wasn’t the only criticism of Alito the media twisted and turned into a vicious and inappropriate attack. When a Democratic National Committee document noted that, as a prosecutor, Alito lost a high-profile case — a loss one contemporaneous news account described as “stunning” — Matthews distorted the document, falsely claiming it had attacked Alito’s “ethnicity” and accused him of being “lenient on the mob.” Matthews’ lies were quickly picked up by other media.

When concerns were raised over Alito’s broken pledge to recuse himself from cases involving companies in which he had a financial interest, the media rushed to cover for Alito. The New York Times, for example, reported without challenge Alito’s claim that the pledge had been limited to a certain period of time after his confirmation. That claim was false.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien said of the criticism of Alito’s failure to recuse himself:

Doesn’t it bode poorly for Democrats when you say this is the smoking gun you’re coming up with, something over a relatively small investment in Vanguard, which legally, technically, he didn’t have to recuse himself from anyway?

The “relatively small investment” in question was at least $390,000.

Meanwhile, reporters portrayed the Democrats as desperate to find an excuse to oppose Alito. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer suggested that Democrats’ efforts to examine documents relating to an organization Alito belonged to was “simply a fishing expedition designed to look for something that may or may not be there.” His CNN colleague, Bob Franken, declared that the Democrats’ “questioning could turn to the desperate side.” Also on CNN, John King told viewers: “The Democrats are looking … either for some way to trip him up on the way to nomination or for some — perhaps a reason to justify a filibuster.”

And they made it quite clear that a filibuster would be inappropriate. One CNN anchor suggested a filibuster would not be “dignified,” while another wondered if Alito would “get the fair vote the president has been asking for.” The Wall Street Journal‘s Daniel Henninger pretended Democrats had invented the concept of filibustering judicial nominees in order to keep Bush appointees off the bench — an absurd claim in light of the fact that Republicans filibustered a Democratic Supreme Court nominee nearly 40 years earlier, and filibustered and otherwise denied a vote to dozens of Clinton’s nominees.

Throughout the process, media portrayed Alito as a moderate (he wasn’t) and claimed that Clinton nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg was seen as very liberal when she was nominated (no, she wasn’t) but won Republican support anyway — suggesting that Democrats should support Alito.

Tim Russert, for example, suggested that because Republicans supported Ginsburg, Democrats should support whoever Bush selected. But Clinton nominated Ginsburg in consultation with Senate Republicans; Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT) actually recommended her to Clinton. Pointing to GOP support for Ginsburg as a reason why Democrats should support Alito was a nonsensical and perverse portrayal of the history of the Ginsburg nomination — but it was quite common.

Now, if you’re going to mislead viewers about a Supreme Court nominee this badly, it helps if you stack your guest lists so there are few people on air who might correct you. And that’s just what television news didagain and again and again. (Oh, by the way: Guess who will be on Meet the Press this weekend to discuss David Souter’s resignation? Former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie.)

To be clear: I am not suggesting the media should act as cheerleaders for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees the way they did so for President Bush’s. Far from it. The media’s coverage of the Alito nomination was a low point, even by the standards of their generally compliant coverage of the Bush administration. Such fealty to power is an abdication of their responsibility no matter who sits in the Oval Office. But neither should they repeat the eager repetition of false conservative spin that marked their conduct during the Alito hearings. Their coverage of Alito’s nomination skewed heavily in favor of conservatives; they should be careful not to allow that to happen again.


Cuomo Subpoenas 100 Hedge Funds, Enlists 36 States In Mushrooming Pension Probe

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 2nd, 2009 4:41 am by HL

Cuomo Subpoenas 100 Hedge Funds, Enlists 36 States In Mushrooming Pension Probe
What did we tell you? The New York state pension fund scandal is starting to look pretty national. New York AG Andrew Cuomo just issued 100 subpoenas to investment firms in his expanding investigation of pay-to-play schemes that defraud public…

Marc Correra: The Link Between New York’s Pension Scandal And “Toxic Waste” In New Mexico?
Three weeks ago we told you about accusations that the New Mexico State Investment Council had been under political pressure to invest teachers’ retirement funds in risky investments like a $90 million “toxic waste” CDO backed by subprime mortgages –…






The Problems of Right-Wing Media Are Treatable by Modern Psychology

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 2nd, 2009 4:38 am by HL

The Problems of Right-Wing Media Are Treatable by Modern Psychology


40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 2nd, 2009 4:37 am by HL

40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation
James Carville demonstrates why the right-wing faithful shouldn’t be holding their breath for their party’s second coming.

What Happens When Angry Citizens Crash the Gates of America’s CEO Class?
They chicken out at the last minute. Recounting the doomed bus tour of AIG executives’ posh homes in Connecticut.

Some of Us Still Think They Can Get Rich Quick from the Real Estate Bubble
A visit to a packed real estate seminar on how to "get paid to buy a house" reveals that the bubble mindset still hasn’t popped.

AlterNet Announces the Winners of the 6-Word ‘Why I Love AlterNet’ Challenge
More than 1,000 people entered AlterNet’s "6 Word Challenge" — it was a tough choice, but we’ve picked out the best.


Presented By:

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 2nd, 2009 4:36 am by HL

Presented By:

Let’s Make PPIP Fun!
Timothy Geithner seems intent on moving forward with his scheme to subsidize the banks by providing up to a trillion dollars of non-recourse loans to investors to buy their junk assets. As many of us have pointed out, this is…

Ha’aretz Predicts Israeli Attack on Iran: “Is Netanyahu Bringing Israel Closer to a ‘Second Holocaust’?
This is amazing stuff. Aluf Benn, a top Israeli journalist, is predicting an imminent Israeli attack on Iran. He thinks Netanyahu has already made the decision. Read this and be scared. This is a lot more dangerous than swine flu….


The Week In Blog: Everybody Hates Arlen Edition

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 2nd, 2009 4:35 am by HL

The Week In Blog: Everybody Hates Arlen Edition

The latest edition of The Week In Blog is up at bloggingheads.tv, featuring Matt Lewis and myself discussing blog reaction to the Specter switch, conservative movement strife, flu response and Obama’s handling of the torture issue. Watch it below.


FEMA removes ‘scary? 9/11 coloring book from its website.

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 2nd, 2009 4:34 am by HL

FEMA removes ‘scary? 9/11 coloring book from its website.
The Smoking Gun reports that FEMA has “removed a children’s coloring book from its web site following criticism over its inclusion of drawings of the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The coloring book, titled ‘A Scary Thing Happened,’ is geared towards helping kids ‘cope with disasters.’” A picture of the book’s […]

The Smoking Gun reports that FEMA has “removed a children’s coloring book from its web site following criticism over its inclusion of drawings of the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The coloring book, titled ‘A Scary Thing Happened,’ is geared towards helping kids ‘cope with disasters.’” A picture of the book’s cover:

0429091fema11.jpg

The book was originally created in 2003 for the Freeborn County Crisis Response Team in Minnesota by Marlys Jentoft, a grandmother of 10, who said she didn’t realize the 9/11 images would be controversial. “I feel like it was happening in the world and kids saw it,” she said. “It is life.” Other “scary” images in the book include floods, fire, and tornadoes, and Gawker points out that one page asks children to “Draw a picture of yourself before the disaster.”

Other 9/11 image from the coloring book below:

911color.gif

Priest: The Post Doesn?t Call Waterboarding ?Torture? Because ?The Bush Administration Would Dispute That?
Last week, Washington Post reporter Paul Kane was asked in an online chat why his newspaper calls the Bush administration’s terror detainee questioning methods “harsh interrogation” instead of “torture.” “Aren’t you guys continuing to catapult Bush-era propaganda when you use such NewSpeak euphemisms for what we all (finally) know was clearly torture?” the questioner asked. […]

washington-postweb.jpgLast week, Washington Post reporter Paul Kane was asked in an online chat why his newspaper calls the Bush administration’s terror detainee questioning methods “harsh interrogation” instead of “torture.” “Aren’t you guys continuing to catapult Bush-era propaganda when you use such NewSpeak euphemisms for what we all (finally) know was clearly torture?” the questioner asked. Not so, Kane went on to explain:

KANE: You can’t call someone a convicted murderer until he/she has actually been convicted. Understand? Get it? The reason we say “alleged” murder and things like that is for our own legal protection. So we can’t be sued for libel.

Yesterday, during a chat with the Post’s Dana Priest, a questioner revisited the issue, specifically asking why the paper doesn’t call waterboarding “torture.” This time however, the questioner received a different (and somewhat shocking) answer. According to Priest, the Post doesn’t call waterboarding “torture” because the Bush administration doesn’t:

Q: If they are going to follow the analogy on reporting other criminal issues, why wouldn’t reporters use the term “alleged torture” or “accused of torture”? Waterboarding is torture, no one disputes it. To substitute “harsh interrogation techniques’ with regard to waterboarding is like saying “manslaughter” when the charge is “murder.”

PRIEST: Not true. The Bush administration would dispute that waterboarding is torture. That’s what the memos are all about. Torture is a crime. There is not a lot of case history to define torture.

Let’s be clear, as the questioner noted, waterboarding is torture and torture is a crime under U.S. law (as Priest acknowledged). Prominent Republicans and Democrats — from Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder — all agree. In fact, the United States “convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war” after World War II.

The Bush administration (even President Bush himself) admitted that it had authorized waterboarding on three terror suspect detainees, and the Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel memos released earlier this month confirm it.

Note to The Washington Post: The reason many former Bush administration officials who were involved in authorizing waterboarding don’t call it “torture” is because they would be admitting to a crime punishable with long prison sentences. Presumably, they make this argument because the do not want to go to jail.

As Media Matters’ Jamison Foser noted of Kane’s “libel” arguement, “So who does the Post think is going to sue them for libel if they refer to torture as ‘torture’? It doesn’t seem like there is a long line of people who participated in harsh interrogations torture who are eager to litigate their conduct, but maybe I’m wrong.”


U.S. Drops Case Against Ex-Lobbyists

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 2nd, 2009 4:33 am by HL

U.S. Drops Case Against Ex-Lobbyists
Federal prosecutors yesterday abandoned an espionage-law case against two former lobbyists for a pro-Israel advocacy group, a case that had transfixed much of official Washington because of its potential to criminalize the exchange of sensitive information among journalists, lobbyists and policy…


Replacement Speculation Begins
As President Obama begins the search for a replacement for Justice David H. Souter, the following people are being mentioned as possible nominees by administration officials, interest groups and others who watch the court. The list is heavy with women and minorities, because the last three justic…


Successor To Souter Anticipated By October
President Obama said yesterday that he plans to move quickly to name a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, as senators and interest groups on both ends of the ideological spectrum began mobilizing for the first court confirmation battle of his presidency.


Expert Groups Largely Back Obama’s Nuclear Stance
Two bipartisan panels of nuclear weapons experts are endorsing much of President Obama’s ambitious arms-control effort in advance of next week’s nonproliferation talks here between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.