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Archive for July 11th, 2009

‘Twitter Effect’ Hits Hollywood

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 11th, 2009 4:42 am by HL

‘Twitter Effect’ Hits Hollywood

Twitter theater

The time frame for projecting the success or failure of a newly released film has already been compressed to the point of asphyxiation, thanks to the Internet, but with the popularity of social networking services like Twitter, the window of box office opportunity has become even shorter, according to The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman.

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54 Die in Post-Withdrawal Bombings

Thursday saw the deadliest day since the withdrawal of most U.S. soldiers from Iraq’s urban areas, with 54 people being killed in attacks across the country. Some believe the increase in bombings is an attempt to delegitimize the post-U.S. Iraqi security forces. Others believe it to be just the continuation of six years of bloodshed.

The Los Angeles Times:

In the deadliest day of violence since the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq’s cities last week, at least 54 people were killed in bombings Thursday in Baghdad and other locations.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has warned that various armed groups will try to discredit Iraq’s security forces and cause instability as American troops pull back. The majority of U.S. troops left their bases in the cities June 30, in accordance with a security agreement signed by officials late last year.  

The worst attack Thursday occurred in Tall Afar in Nineveh province in the north, where a double suicide bombing killed 34 people, prompting a senior Iraqi official to express concern that the country’s security forces, now fully responsible for protecting the cities, had been penetrated by armed groups.

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Giannoulias Raises Almost $2M Toward Senate Run

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 11th, 2009 4:41 am by HL

Giannoulias Raises Almost $2M Toward Senate Run
Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has raised $1.8 million for his Senate bid, while his likely Democratic rivals have zero dollars in their war chests….

Obama In Ghana On Historic Africa Trip
ACCRA, Ghana — President Barack Obama has landed in Ghana on his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office. He landed soon after 9…

Josh Ruxin: What Obama’s Trip to Ghana Really Means
As President Obama and his family head for Africa, the choice of Ghana as the first sub-Saharan African nation to play host to the first…

McChrystal: Afghanistan Needs More Security Forces
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the newly arrived top commander in Afghanistan, has concluded that Afghan security forces will have to expand far beyond currently planned…

Youth Radio — Youth Media International: Super Intentions at Oakland Public Schools
Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe. By: Pendarvis Harshaw With unprecedented budget woes, the state of California…


Media Matters: Did you hear the one about the sleazy Obama photo? Don’t buy it.

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 11th, 2009 4:40 am by HL

Media Matters: Did you hear the one about the sleazy Obama photo? Don’t buy it.

At 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, a member of the right-wing message board Free Republic posted a Reuters photo that the news wire captioned as “U.S. President Barack Obama (C) and France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) take their places with junior G8 delegates for a family photo at the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy.” The Free Republic member invited other members to submit alternative captions for the photo, resulting in dozens of sexually suggestive replies, some using racist epithets.

Thirty minutes later, Internet gossip Matt Drudge promoted the same photo with the headline “Mr. President!” Drudge later revised his headline to read “Second Stimulus Package!

About two hours later, at 5:12 p.m., the Fox News website The Fox Nation posted the picture along with the headline “Another Stimulus?” It later revised the title to read “Busted?”

Just minutes after Fox Nation’s mocking of the photo, ABC News’ Jake Tapper posted the photo with the headline “When In Rome…?”

Around 4 a.m., almost 12 hours after he first posted the photo, Tapper posted this message on Twitter: “that foto of POTUS seeming to be sneaking a leer is misleading, im told – video shows the moment was completely innocent.” He also updated his blog post by adding “Actually, not so much” to the headline and including video of the incident. Tapper wrote in the updated post, “On first glance, the snapshot appears to show President Obama caught in a moment of less than lofty analysis. But upon looking at the video, the moment might seem to appear quite innocent — one of those times when a picture can be misleading. The president was on a higher step and was stepping down — so he looked down to assure his footing as the woman was walking up the stairs.” He concluded: “Although: not everyone agrees. Judge for yourself.”

Drudge subsequently included a link to Tapper’s blog post with the headline “ABCNEWS: NO HE DIDN’T …

A classic example of how the right-wing noise machine works was unfolding before the American people. A non-story starts on a right-wing website and works its way into the mainstream. It usually involves Drudge, the fedora-wearing boy who cries wolf (almost daily) on the Internet, and mainstream news outlets follow his lead, offering up under-researched and factually inaccurate story lines.

Had the mainstream media done their job — you know, checking the video to get the context from which the photo was taken — they would have clearly seen that Obama was attempting to navigate high steps, while reaching back to help someone behind him do so as well. As Fox News host Greta Van Susteren said after airing video of the event, “Yes, a still picture can lie. And this one does.”

Of course, the next morning after Van Susteren’s show, the Fox & Friends crew went right back to trashing the president with lascivious speculation that was contradicted by easily accessible fact.

News segments that set the record straight are unfortunately the exception and not the rule. Fox’s Van Susteren, ABC’s Good Morning America, and MSNBC Live should be commended for pushing back in segments about the faux controversy. Perhaps their colleagues could learn a thing or two from their example. After all, journalists and news outlets checking the facts before running with a “story” is the least we should expect.

Other major stories this week:

Looks like these networks need to gather better intelligence

Eight weeks ago, a controversy erupted after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed during a press conference that the CIA did not inform her and other members of Congress of its past use of waterboarding. Her statement was purportedly contradicted by CIA Director Leon Panetta, who later issued a statement that said, “It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress.”

In the days that followed, Pelosi was attacked repeatedly in the press as having besmirched the integrity of the agency in order to defend herself politically, with MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough leading the charge. Pelosi was “lying” and “changing her story,” he said on May 15, adding, “You don’t accuse the CIA of lying. Especially when they’re not lying.” Three days later, he was even more vocal: The speaker had “been caught in a lie, and I think she really, for the sake of herself and her political future — she needs to shut up.”

The situation changed this week after Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) released a letter on July 7 stating that Panetta admitted in a closed hearing that the CIA had not fully informed Congress on other classified matters. But rather than apologize for his earlier remarks, Scarborough seemed to pretend they had never happened, saying simply that Pelosi, whom he called “a friend of mine from Congress” had “caught a lot of grief.” Soon enough, however, MSNBC national security analyst Roger Cressey began the cycle of recrimination again, accusing Democrats of “refighting issues from five years ago.”

Economic coverage could have been stimulated by the facts

This week, the economic stimulus bill — signed by Obama as the first major act of his administration — failed. At least, according to the obituary it received in the press.

The trouble started when Vice President Joe Biden commented during an interview that the administration had “misread how bad the economy was.” The statement, which lent itself to exaggeration, was immediately pounced on by CNBC’s Larry Kudlow and Fox’s Sean Hannity and Van Susteren, who declared the stimulus “a misreading of the solution to the economy,” a “screw-up,” and “based on a house of cards,” respectively.

Scarborough and CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo soon rang further alarm bells about the national debt, in the process falsely claiming that the administration had justified its spending policies by predicting an economic growth rate of 4 percent “over the next decade.” In fact, the administration’s plans were not based on such a prediction; instead, it assumed a growth rate of 3.2 percent growth in 2010 and 2.6 percent from 2015 through 2019.

The dubious analysis continued when Stephen Moore claimed the following day, “The one thing this administration won’t do is cut taxes.” Though Moore is “senior economics writer” for The Wall Street Journal, he somehow missed that the stimulus included $288 billion in tax cuts. Van Susteren didn’t correct him, although ABC’s Claire Shipman at least tried to politely set the record straight the next day on Hannity. She almost got a second sentence in before being drowned out by misinformation.

On this particular issue, however, Fox was to be outdone. MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer was shocked — shocked — that the government was taking action to address the economy. Her impartial, journalistic assessment deserves to be quoted in full:

Ah, the nagging problem of a faltering economy and millions of out-of-work Americans. And the government’s solution? First, taxpayers shell out $700 billion in TARP funds. And then, a sweeping stimulus that costs $787 billion. Oh, and then there’s the minimum trillion-dollar health reform in the works. And now talk of another stimulus bill? What?

Contessa Brewer: this week’s winner of the Rick Santelli Award for Sage Financial Analysis.

While Fox’s Andrew Napolitano raged against the very idea of more stimulus funds — which he deceptively referred to as a “third bailout” — both Hannity and CNN’s Kiran Chetry were busy suggesting that the contents of the first bill had been doled out as political favors. As proof, they both cited a USA Today article that had actually said the opposite. Specifically, it stated: “Investigators who track the stimulus are skeptical that political considerations could be at work.” Perhaps it was no surprise, then, that Fox & Friends felt comfortable reporting on an alleged connection between a campaign contribution to Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and a stimulus-funded contract — without noting that Hoyer’s office had already denied any involvement in the awarding of the money.

But it was MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle who best illustrated what’s wrong with the overwhelming majority of current economic punditry. On Wednesday, he asked his Morning Joe co-hosts incredulously, “What are they doing with the [stimulus] money?” Then on Thursday, he reflected on the detrimental nature of America’s “amazingly impatient culture” where people can’t stop asking, “Where’s the money?” Simply put, this kind of schizophrenic analysis is still overwhelming logical thought, much to the detriment of the viewing public.

This week’s media columns

This week’s media columns from the Media Matters senior fellows: Eric Boehlert takes a look at Palin, the press, and her “no más” moment, while Jamison Foser discusses Mika Brzezinski’s “real Americans” elitism.

Don’t forget to order your autographed copy of Eric Boehlert’s compelling new book, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press (Free Press, May 2009).

Do you Facebook or Twitter?

If you use the social networking site Facebook, be sure to join the official Media Matters page and those of our senior fellows Eric Boehlert, Jamison Foser, and Karl Frisch as well. You can also follow Media Matters, Boehlert, Foser, and Frisch on Twitter.

This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Karl Frisch, a senior fellow at Media Matters. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary.


WH Counsel Gonzo To DOJ: When We Said We Cared About Your Legal Opinions On Surveillance, We Didn’t Really Mean It

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 11th, 2009 4:39 am by HL

WH Counsel Gonzo To DOJ: When We Said We Cared About Your Legal Opinions On Surveillance, We Didn’t Really Mean It
Another great nugget from that just-released inspector generals’ report on surveillance… Check out the amazing 2004 letter from Alberto Gonzales, at the time the White House counsel, to then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who had raised “serious issues” about the…

Bush Personally Sent Card And Gonzo To Ashcroft’s Hospital Bed
This great catch by Marcy Wheeler might be the most shocking nugget of all from the IGs report on surveillance. The report goes into some detail about that famous visit made by Andy Card and Alberto Gonzales to then-AG John…


It’s Different for the Republican Elite

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 11th, 2009 4:36 am by HL

It’s Different for the Republican Elite


Obama Puts Evangelical in Charge of National Institute

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 11th, 2009 4:35 am by HL


Obama Puts Evangelical in Charge of National Institute of Health — Will His Religion Get in the Way of Science?
Francis Collins has defended practices derided by the God squad. But a man committed to reconciling faith and science brings back bad Bush memories.

The Right-Wing Prescription for Economic Recovery: Lionize the Rich and Demonize the Poor
Wing-nut commentary about the crisis blames the victims. As if things weren't already bad enough.

The Hidden Health Toll of Race
The stress of living in a white-dominated society makes African Americans get sick and die younger than their white counterparts.

The Hidden Health Toll of Race
The stress of living in a white-dominated society makes African Americans get sick and die younger than their white counterparts.


The New GM: Maker Of Mobile Devices

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 11th, 2009 4:34 am by HL

The New GM: Maker Of Mobile Devices
Wilmot, New Hampshire. It is hard to think of a more wrong-headed take on the new GM than today’s Times report on how a new muscle car will save the company. Imagine someone writing that a new Bee Gees will…


Sponsored Topics: GeneralMotorsMuscle carBusinessTransportationOpel

What is a Reasonable Compromise on Health Care Reform?
All politics is about the art of compromise. But when is a compromise a victory and when is it a sell out? A good compromise is one that improves people’s lives, upholds basic principles, changes power relations, and lays the…






Sponsored Topics: Healthcare reformHealth careUSInsuranceMedicare

When Will The Recovery Begin? Never.
The so-called “green shoots” of recovery are turning brown in the scorching summer sun. In fact, the whole debate about when and how a recovery will begin is wrongly framed. On one side are the V-shapers who look back at…


Sponsored Topics: EconomicUnited StatesUSHomePersonal Finance


ThinkFast: July 10, 2009

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 11th, 2009 4:33 am by HL

ThinkFast: July 10, 2009
American International Group (AIG), the insurance giant that has received tens of billions of dollars in government bailouts, “is preparing to pay millions of dollars more in bonuses to several dozen top corporate executives after an earlier round of payments four months ago set off a national furor.” AIG “has been pressing the federal government […]


American International Group (AIG), the insurance giant that has received tens of billions of dollars in government bailouts, “is preparing to pay millions of dollars more in bonuses to several dozen top corporate executives after an earlier round of payments four months ago set off a national furor.” AIG “has been pressing the federal government to bless the payments in hopes of shielding itself from renewed public outrage.”

Thousands of Iranian anti-government protesters commemorating an attack on students at Tehran University in 1999 “were attacked with batons and tear gas by security forces” yesterday as they tried to gather “for the first protests in about two weeks.” Demonstrators are also gearing up to protest “the second-term inauguration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which is expected next month.”

Confidential Pentagon test results reveal that the F-22 requires “more than 30 hours of maintenance for every hour in the skies, pushing its hourly cost of flying to more than $44,000.” Despite such shortcomings and Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s stated desire to end the F-22 program, committees in both houses Congress voted to continue funding the program last month after being lobbied by the manufacturer.

CIA Director Leon Panetta “has ordered an internal inquiry into the agency’s handling of a contentious and still highly classified intelligence program that has caused a heated dispute” between the CIA and Congress. The move “appears to be an implicit acknowledgment by the agency that it should have disclosed information about the post-9/11 secret program to Congress much earlier than it did.”

Sen. John Ensign’s (R-NV) lawyer revealed yesterday that Ensign’s parents gave $96,000 to the family of the former staffer with whom he had an affair. The lawyer, Paul Coggins, described the payments as two separate $12,000 gifts to each family member. Under U.S. tax laws, gifts of up to $12,000 are tax-exempt.

A new General Motors emerged from bankruptcy this morning “as lawyers finished an all-night paperwork session transferring the automaker’s good assets to a brand-new company controlled by the U.S. government.”

The Senate has postponed action on clean energy legislation until later this fall. “There are a number of committees that need a little more time,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said. “Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer said Reid’s decision allowed her to push off a self-imposed deadline of passing climate legislation until mid-September. “

The G8 summit pledged $20 billion over three years, $5 billion more than initially expected, to boost agricultural investment and fight hunger. “UN food agencies say more than 1bn people in the world are going hungry. A downward trend over last decades in the proportion of the world’s population suffering from hunger has been reversed, in part because of soaring food prices.”

Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) will reportedly not seek election to the seat that he was appointed to by disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). “Almost two months after his appointment, a Tribune poll found only 37 percent of voters wanted Burris to run. As of the spring, he raised $845 with more than $111,000 in debt, a campaign filing showed.”

And finally: Politico profiles the culinary prowess of John Podesta. “I consult cookbooks for ideas,” the Center for American Progress President and CEO explained. “Cooking is what I do to relax. … It’s much easier to see the fruits of your labor. It’s fun.” As for his specialties, Podesta said, “I make a pretty mean moussaka, pastitsio, baklava and spanakopita,” reeling off Greek dishes that are complicated.

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Dr. King?s SCLC moves to oust L.A. chapter president over his support for gay rights.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) — the civil rights group founded by Dr. Martin Luther King — is “seeking to remove the president of its Los Angeles chapter,” Rev. Eric P. Lee, in response to his role in organizing opposition to California’s same-sex marriage ban, Prop. 8, last fall. Lee believed his public opposition […]

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) — the civil rights group founded by Dr. Martin Luther King — is “seeking to remove the president of its Los Angeles chapter,” Rev. Eric P. Lee, in response to his role in organizing opposition to California’s same-sex marriage ban, Prop. 8, last fall. Lee believed his public opposition to Prop. 8 would acceptable because the SCLC informed him that the organization was taking a publicly neutral position on the measure. The New York Times explains:

ericleeIn April, Mr. Lee attended a board meeting of the civil rights organization in Kansas City, Mo., and found himself once again in the minority position among his colleagues on the issue of same-sex marriage, but was told, he said, by the interim president of the civil rights organization, Byron Clay, that the group publicly had a neutral position on the issue.

Explaining that he was unable to come to Atlanta on such short notice, Mr. Lee then received two letters from the organization’s lawyer, Dexter M. Wimbish, threatening him with suspension or removal as president of the Los Angeles chapter if he did not come soon to explain himself.

Lee explained that his opposition to Prop. 8 “created tension in my life I had never experienced with black clergy. But it was clear to me that any time you deny one group of people the same right that other groups have that is a clear violation of civil rights and I have to speak up on that.” The SCLC refused to comment on the matter.


Sen. Roland Burris Abandons Reelection Bid, Citing Fundraising Hurdles

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 11th, 2009 4:32 am by HL

Sen. Roland Burris Abandons Reelection Bid, Citing Fundraising Hurdles
CHICAGO. July 10 — Six months into his tenure as a U.S. senator, Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.) acknowledged the inevitable Friday and announced that he will not run for election next year.

Democrats Agree on Tax Hike to Fund Health Care
House Democrats agreed yesterday to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for a sweeping expansion of the nation’s health-care system, proposing a surtax on the highest earners that could send the top federal tax rate toward 45 percent.


Sotomayor Girds for a Showdown at Confirmation Hearings for Supreme Court Post
White House officials spent hours this week preparing Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor for what they anticipate will be a concerted Republican effort to portray her as an “activist” jurist and will counter that her 17 years on the bench are a display of judicial restraint.

Inspectors General Report Faults Secrecy of Surveillance Program
“Extraordinary and inappropriate” secrecy about a warrantless eavesdropping program undermined its effectiveness as a terrorism-fighting tool, government watchdogs have concluded in the first examination of one of the most contentious episodes of the Bush administration.


President Obama’s Global Audience

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 11th, 2009 4:29 am by HL

President Obama’s Global Audience
Ronald Brownstein, National Journal

Why Waste $1.5 Trillion Only to Get Worse Health Care?
Rick Scott, RCP

The Night and Day Economy
Philip Klein, The American Spectator