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Archive for July 15th, 2009

Dick Head

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 15th, 2009 4:44 am by HL

Dick Head


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Maegan Carberry: DC’s Changetastic Makeover: Myth or Reality?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 15th, 2009 4:43 am by HL

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Eric Boehlert: Saradise Lost: How Alaska bloggers dethroned Sarah Palin

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 15th, 2009 4:42 am by HL

Eric Boehlert: Saradise Lost: How Alaska bloggers dethroned Sarah Palin

It turns out that blogger Phil Munger hears all his big, breaking Sarah Palin news in the kitchen of his house, which overlooks Neklason Lake and sits just 10 miles from the center of Wasilla, the Southcentral Alaska town where Palin once served as mayor.

On July 3, Munger, a music professor and former ’60s anti-war activist who started his blog Alaska Progressive in November 2007, was in his kitchen and got gobsmacked by the announcement that Palin was handing over the reins of the state to her No. 2, and doing it for the good of Alaskans.

Munger’s immediate reaction to the stunning news? He emailed me a succinct response: “WTF??!!!”

For Munger, it was déjà vu all over again. Back on August 29, 2008, Munger, again in his kitchen, heard the jaw-dropping news that Palin had been picked as John McCain’s running mate. “She’s just totally unqualified,” was the blogger’s first thought.

Stunned, confused, and more than a bit concerned about an America with Palin in the No. 2 position, Munger immediately blogged it. He wanted to warn people about the newcomer to the national stage, the one he first met in the early ’90s, when she was a 26-year-old serving on the Wasilla Planning Commission; the one who once told him she believed Jesus Christ would be born again in her lifetime. And when Munger sat down to write his first impressions about Palin’s meteoric rise, he opted for an Alaska slang term that described the idyllic frontier realm as depicted by Palin’s most fervent Republican supporters: “Saradise.”

Munger’s blog post was headlined “Saradise Lost,” and in the ensuing days, weeks, and months, he kept adding updates, or chapters, as the fall campaign unfolded, and then as Palin returned to govern Alaska. That was last August. Over the recent July Fourth holiday weekend, Munger completed Book Two of his “Saradise Lost” installment. In total, he’d posted more than 250 Palin chapters.

Now the governor was quitting. While she never said it out loud, it certainly wouldn’t have been a shock if she’d directed a Nixonian parting phrase toward Alaska bloggers: “You’re not going to have Palin to kick around anymore.”

I’m not suggesting that homegrown bloggers alone were responsible for Palin’s “no más” moment, but there’s no question that the online activists played a key role. That with their shit-kicking brand of frontier citizen journalism, they drove Palin to distraction and changed the way voters nationwide thought about the governor. So if conservative bloggers get credit for driving Dan Rather out of the anchor chair in 2004 following their Memogate campaign-season tale, then the band of scrappy liberal bloggers in Alaska ought to be allowed to bask in a bit of glory, because they made their own history when Palin announced her exit.

And the truth is, bloggers didn’t back off after last November’s election. Their dead-on pursuit of the facts continued right through Palin’s awkward farewell bid. As Howard Kurtz noted on CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday:

It took some liberal bloggers to poke some holes in some things that Sarah Palin said. For example, she had said that most of the ethics complaints against her in the state of Alaska were filed by Democrats. That’s not true. She said millions of dollars were spent on legal fees defending her, and she felt badly about that. But actually, the figure was less, and these were mostly staff salaries paid to state lawyers who would have been paid anyway.

Indeed, read this utterly thorough dissection of Palin’s tall tale about the cost of ethics complaints for a lesson in what Alaska bloggers have been doing to the governor for the past 10 months. Like a bartender at Wasilla’s Mug-Shot Saloon, Palin keeps setting up the tall tales, and local bloggers keep knocking them down. Again and again and again. (Earlier this year, they helped torpedo Palin’s pick for Alaska attorney general; the nominee was the first in state history not to be confirmed.)

Brandishing dogged reporting skills and wonderfully insightful, entertaining writing, Alaska bloggers turned the 49th state (and a very, very red one, at that) into a hotbed for plugged-in citizen journalism and showed the rest of the liberal blogosphere, as well as media elites, what’s possible when passion and creativity are harnessed online.

Just ask Palin.

And the phenomenon can all be traced back to that morning in late August when word first broke about Palin’s ascension to the national stage. That morning, liberal bloggers at sites like Alaska Progressive, Mudflats, Celtic Diva’s Blue Oasis, Just a Girl From Homer, Kodiak Konfidential, Own The Sidewalk, What Do I Know?, Alaska Real, AndrewHalcro.com, and Immoral Minority began tapping away at their keyboards, wearing the same stunned expression that Munger had stuck to his face. They didn’t realize it right then, but within just a matter of days, Alaska bloggers would emerge as one of the most important local newsgathering sources of the entire election season. (Their hit counts also zoomed into the stratosphere.) And collectively, they wrote a new chapter in campaign journalism.

I was so struck by their contributions last year that I profiled them in my recent book, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press. Their groundbreaking work since the election simply confirms their place in Internet history.

In the right place (i.e. far, far away from the Beltway) at the right time and boasting unmatched knowledge about Palin, the bloggers served an invaluable function last year. While major media organizations scrambled to even get reporters to Alaska to start their background reporting on the governor, the bloggers were teeing up all kinds of meaty morsels hour after hour on that weekend the Palin news broke. (If McCain had tapped former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to be his VP, I just don’t think Boston-based bloggers, for instance, would have had the kind of impact on the VP story that Alaska bloggers did.)

Media companies had few bureaus and even fewer political contacts on the ground in Alaska. And the state’s major newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, just couldn’t cover the sprawling Palin story with the kind of obsessive detail that bloggers could; the daily couldn’t satisfy the tidal wave of Lower 48 interest in Palin, so bloggers jumped in and started pumping out information and impressions about their governor.

The Bridge to Nowhere, Troopergate (which bloggers Andrew Halcro and Linda Kellen Biegel helped break during the summer of 2008), Wasilla’s Palin-era policy on making rape victims and their insurance companies pay for test kits, Palin’s unorthodox religious beliefs, her previous love affair with federal earmarks, her anti-science beliefs, and her dubious claim of being “commander in chief” of the Alaska National Guard. It was like a smorgasbord. And quite simply, for long stretches of time, the Alaska bloggers owned the Palin story, as they did their best to paint an accurate picture of the new VP candidate for the rest of the world, a picture that didn’t always mesh with the mavericky picture presented by the press.

What happened during the campaign was that organically, Alaska bloggers formed their own “all-Palin, all-the-time” reporting collective — their own de facto reporting pool — that often rivaled traditional outlets in terms of output, and one that regularly surpassed the mainstream media for local knowledge and insight.

Did they sometimes play a bruising brand of hardball? You betcha. (What else would you expect in the Last Frontier?) But were they mostly fair and accurate in their Palin coverage? From what I’ve seen, absolutely. Remember, last year, it was Alaska bloggers who tried to put the brakes on the far-fetched blogosphere campaign, launched outside of Alaska, that raised doubts about whether Palin was really the mother of her new son, Trig, or if Palin’s daughter was actually the mother.

Palin and the Alaska bloggers have become, in a way, inseparable. You can’t really talk about the roller-coaster ride that Palin’s been on over the past 10 months without talking about the local bloggers who have been responsible for so many of the political dips she’s suffered since August 29.

A completely unique (and contentious) relationship formed between the bloggers and Palin, and looking at the liaison from afar, I’m not sure which side was more obsessed with the other. Certainly the bloggers, collectively, have shone a homegrown, 24/7 spotlight on Palin that I doubt any other local politician has ever been subjected to. With their relentless pursuit of the facts and their rooting out of whatever Palin prevarications stood in the way of the truth, Alaskan bloggers, as well as their energized army of readers, have been relentless in fact-checking the governor, calling out her abuses of power, and holding her to the standard of transparency that she herself promised as a statewide candidate in 2006.

So, yes, Alaska bloggers have been obsessed with Palin. (They’ve become Palin-tologists?) What’s been so unusual is that that fascination has been reflected right back at them by Palin, who seems utterly fixated on the bloggers and driven to distraction by her inability to control them. Not yet sporting the kind of alligator-thick skin that’s pretty much required to run for national office, Palin has shown a real propensity to latch onto the online critiques of her and lash out at the bloggers.

As Time noted last week, “A more experienced, more familiar politician would have been ready for the ramping, but Palin seemed consumed by it. Instead of ignoring hostile bloggers, she combed the Web for their latest postings.” And Wonkette recently captured the obsession with the snarky headline “Sarah Palin Will Soon Condemn, Bomb Entire Internet.”

It was fitting, then, that the day after making her resignation announcement, Palin had her attorney issue a strange, over-the-top, four-page letter threatening legal action against any news organizations that picked up on the Palin resignation speculation that had been aired by influential Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore.

Appearing on MSNBC in the wake of Palin’s stunning announcement, as observers tried to make some sense of it, Moore, searching for a possible explanation, pointed out that there had been a “scandal rumor” floating around Alaska for months about a possible corruption investigation centered on Palin. Moore clearly did not validate the claim of the rumor. She simply pointed out that it existed. Palin’s legal eagle, though, then claimed Moore had stated the corruption charge as “fact.”

By singling her out for public denunciation, all Palin did was turn the Alaska blogger into a media celebrity and guarantee that she’d be given a larger media platform to discuss the rumor. As the wildly popular Anchorage-based site Mudflats noted with glee:

Shannyn Moore, the aforementioned blogger has now, courtesy of the Palin numbskullery, appeared on The Thom Hartmann Show, The Ed Schultz Show, The Ron Reagan Show, Alan Colmes, Countdown with Keith Olbermann. She’s also been written up on the Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Politico, Crooks and Liars, Brad Blog, Think Progress, Daily Kos, and dozens of others. The Associated Press has picked up the story, and so has KTUU and the Anchorage Daily News. Way to squash that rumor. [emphasis in original]

In other words, Alaska bloggers have been blessed with a perfect foil: a politician who overreacts to criticism and who often lashes out in hopes of exacting personal revenge, a politician who can’t walk away from a fight, but who often doesn’t have the facts on her side when she enters the online fray.

Saradise lost, indeed.

Great Call: In Emails To Sanford’s Office, Right-Wing Media Dismissed Missing Gov Story

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 15th, 2009 4:41 am by HL

Great Call: In Emails To Sanford’s Office, Right-Wing Media Dismissed Missing Gov Story
digg_url = ‘http://digg.com/politics/While_Sanford_hiked_right_wing_press_kissed_staff_s_ass’; The State newspaper of South Carolina has used a public records request to obtain emails sent to and from Governor Mark Sanford’s office during the hectic few days last month when he had gone missing. It’s…

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The Assassination Tangle

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 15th, 2009 4:37 am by HL

The Assassination Tangle
For more: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” – From Executive Order 12333, signed by President Ronald Reagan. Quoted by Marcy Wheeler, Emptywheel, July 13, 2009. Cheney’s CIA Secret Was an Assassination Squad David Swanson, After Downing Street, July 13, 2009. Dick Cheney […]

Daily Pulse on Health Care Politics

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 15th, 2009 4:36 am by HL

Daily Pulse on Health Care Politics
House Democrats released their proposed health care reform package yesterday and all the coverage focuses on who pays for it.

New York Times: “House Democratic leaders took a big step toward guaranteeing health insurance for most Americans on Tuesday as they unveiled a bill that detailed how they would expand coverage, slow the growth of Medicare, raise taxes on high-income people and penalize employers who do not provide health benefits to their workers.”

Washington Post: “House Democrats announced a plan yesterday that would force the richest 2 million U.S. taxpayers to shoulder much of the cost of an expansion of the nation’s health-care system, by imposing a surtax of as much as 5.4 percent on income above $350,000 a year.”

Wall Street Journal: “House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled sweeping health-care legislation that would hit all but the smallest businesses with a penalty equal to 8% of payroll if they fail to provide health insurance to workers.”

Nonetheless, the bill is still a work in progress and as Roll Call notes, House Democratic leaders “acknowledged they still have much work to do to bridge intraparty differences and get a bill passed by August.”

In the Senate, The Hill notes the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee “was poised to complete its four-week-long markup of its portion of the upper chamber’s bill Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, the Finance Committee would begin its markup as soon as next week.”

Democrat Chu Wins California Special Election
Judy Chu will be headed to Congress after winning Tuesday’s special election in California’s 32nd congressional district, reports CQ Politics.

She was a heavy favorite in the House district vacated in February after Hilda Solis was confirmed as President Obama’s secretary of Labor.

The 10 Dumbest Things Republicans Have Said About the Sotomayor Hearings

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 15th, 2009 4:35 am by HL

The 10 Dumbest Things Republicans Have Said About the Sotomayor Hearings
A list of the most ridiculous questions, jabs and rants by GOP lawmakers and other conservatives.

Is Iraq Doomed to Become Just Another Mideast Petro State?
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Goldman’s Back, and Why We Should Be Worried

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 15th, 2009 4:34 am by HL

Goldman’s Back, and Why We Should Be Worried
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Afghan women call for end of war
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Texas Tech Administrators Brush Aside Outcry Over Gonzales Hiring, Defend $100,000 Salary

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 15th, 2009 4:33 am by HL

Texas Tech Administrators Brush Aside Outcry Over Gonzales Hiring, Defend $100,000 Salary
Last week, Texas Tech announced that it had offered former Bush attorney general Alberto Gonzales a position to teach political science during the upcoming fall semester. Gonzales will be a visiting professor leading a course on “contemporary issues in the executive branch” and focusing on “recruiting and retaining first generation and under-represented students.” Reactions from angry […]

Last week, Texas Tech announced that it had offered former Bush attorney general Alberto Gonzales a position to teach political science during the upcoming fall semester. Gonzales will be a visiting professor leading a course on “contemporary issues in the executive branch” and focusing on “recruiting and retaining first generation and under-represented students.”

Reactions from angry students and alumni were swift. Two Facebook groups with several hundred members total have even popped up:


The Daily Toreador, the student newspaper, wrote an editorial saying that Gonzales was Texas Tech’s worst hire since controversial coach Bob Knight. The editors noted that while students may be excited to take a class from such a notorious figure, “when he’s talking about the right thing to do…remember his lasting image in American politics“:

By leaving Capitol Hill in disgrace, Gonzales did not fulfill his duty as attorney general, and he did not reach his full potential as a role model for minorities.

So why hire him?

This trumps hiring a fiery coach from Indiana known for tossing a chair across a basketball court. Gonzales is notoriously accused of much more serious problems.

One point of contention is the former attorney general’s salary. Gonzales, a visiting professor, will be earning $100,000 for the year — which is approximately what full professors make — in addition to any speaking and mediation fees he does for outside work. Tech Provost Bob Smith has defended the pay, saying that it’s appropriate for someone “with a national presence and a long list of accomplishments.” Texas Tech alumni and high school government teacher David Ring said that making $100,000 “to teach one section of no more than 15 students…doesn’t seem like a fare shake to those professors at the school who, I don’t know, haven’t perjured themselves in front of the U.S. Congress.”

One Texas Tech faculty member said that administrators at the school don’t value a liberal arts education. She noted that at a Texas legislative hearing last year, Chancellor Kent Hance — who considers Gonzales a “good friend” — said that “research on ‘the best part of Shakespeare’s play’ isn’t on the same level as the research his university is conducting for the Defense Department.”

Hance is largely ignoring the criticism. He said that he received a “substantial number” of supportive e-mails about the hire, and just nine critical ones. He added that “he wasn’t dwelling on the negative ones because they didn’t come from loyal university donors.”

Glenn Beck complains about softball questions to Sotomayor on day that no questions were asked.
Yesterday was the first day of the confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The day consisted of opening statements by Sotomayor and by each member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but no actual questioning. Glenn Beck apparently wasn’t paying much attention. “As our country burns to the ground,” bellowed Beck […]

Yesterday was the first day of the confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The day consisted of opening statements by Sotomayor and by each member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but no actual questioning. Glenn Beck apparently wasn’t paying much attention. “As our country burns to the ground,” bellowed Beck on Fox News yesterday, “this is the questioning,” as he played clips of senators praising Sotomayor. Watch it:

(HT: Huffington Post and Newshounds)

President Obama Delivers Remarks on Community Colleges

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 15th, 2009 4:32 am by HL

President Obama Delivers Remarks on Community Colleges
[*] OBAMA: Hello, Michigan. (APPLAUSE) Thank you. Thank you so much. First of all, give Joe a big round of applause for the wonderful introduction. (APPLAUSE) We’ve got some special guests here now. If everybody has chairs, go ahead and use them. (LAUGHTER) Feel free. We’ve got some speci…

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Sen. Lindsey Graham Holds a Hearing on the Nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to Be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
Review all exchanges organized by Senator

Sen. Herb Kohl Questions Judge Sonia Sotomayor During Her Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing
Review all exchanges organized by Senator SEN. HERB KOHL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and good morning, Judge Sotomayor. SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Good morning. KOHL: Senator Sessions has spent a great deal of time on the New Haven case, and so I would like to see if we can’t put it into s…