Saturday, March 31, 2012
Friday, March 30, 2012
Their latest story bears what must have been a galling headline to write: New Details Darken Outlook for Zimmerman’s Claim of Self-Defense. It is underneath a gigantic piece alleging some sort of ill-defined venality by Sen. Carl Levin for wanting to install electric car chargers at the Capitol. Obviously, you wouldn’t want a proper walk-back above the fold. READ MORE »
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Pennsylvania state Sen. Jane Orie (R) on Monday was convicted of 14 counts, including theft, conspiracy, conflict of interest, forgery, and evidence tampering, according to the Associated Press.
The 50-year-old lawmaker was accused of using her state-funded staff members to perform campaign work for herself and her sister, a state judge. Orie was acquitted of 10 other counts, including perjury and election-code violations.
“I think the outcome was positive,” Jennifer Knapp Rioja, a former intern for Orie, told the Pittsburg-Tribune Review.
“I think it shows that misusing state resources for your own gain will not go unpunished,” she continued. “Especially in a time of such severe budget cutting, that any money was diverted illegally is shameful. How many people are scheduled to lose food stamp benefits? How much less money is Pitt getting this year? Where else did that money belong?”
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.’s office launched an investigation of Orie after Rioja filed a complaint against the Pennsylvania senator in 2009.
“Any serious convictions like this are exactly what the prosecution sought, and the senator is now probably going to jail,” University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff said. “Convicted of 14 different counts is a lot. It’s serious judgment against her.”
Orie is not the only Pennsylvania lawmaker to have allegedly engaged in illegal campaign activities. Former state Rep. Stephen Stetler (R) is awaiting trial for similar charges.
At the outset of the call, Romney said he has some connections to Wisconsin.
“One of most humorous I think relates to my father. You may remember my father, George Romney, was president of an automobile company called American Motors … They had a factory in Michigan, and they had a factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and another one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” said Romney. “And as the president of the company he decided to close the factory in Michigan and move all the production to Wisconsin. Now later he decided to run for governor of Michigan and so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign.”
That is funny! READ MORE »
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Monday, March 26, 2012
The Oklahoma Senate has dropped legislation that would require politicians throughout the state to be drug tested along with people receiving temporary public assistance.
The bill, passed by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on Monday, would still require applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to undergo a mandatory drug test.
The Department of Human Services estimates 22,000 people in Oklahoma receive TANF benefits, which helps poor families with children pay for living expenses, including rent, heat, utilities and personal care items..............
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012
See, the President noted, somberly and steadily, that Trayvon Martin looked like he could have been his son. Even the Daily Caller, try though it did, wasn’t able to find anything wrong with Obama’s statement itself, only that it had clearly been made at the behest of the Black Panthers, because duh of course it was. But you, Newton, are a special fellow. Open that pretty piehole, show us what you’re working with: “What the president said, in a sense, is disgraceful.” Because the president is racist? Yes. READ MORE »
Thursday, March 22, 2012
"Final Nail In The Coffin Of This Country": Another Year Of Wild Attacks On The Health Care Law
After waging an epic misinformation campaign during the debate over the Affordable Care Act and throughout the year following its signing, right-wing media have continued attacking the health care law, claiming that it is the "final nail in the coffin of this country" and that it "makes everyone a slave." As the two-year anniversary of the health care law approaches, Media Matters looks back at the right-wing media's latest attacks on health care reform. Read More
The Limbaugh "Slut" Firestorm
On February 23, 2012, Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee regarding the impact of new health care regulations on expanding contraception coverage. Her point - that a prescription medication used to treat a wide variety of women's health issues should be covered by health insurance - was lost on Rush Limbaugh, who took the opportunity to use his radio platform to viciously and personally attack her repeatedly over several days. Since those attacks, dozens of advertisers have left his show and more than one hundred others have refused future association. But even in the face of this public outcry, Limbaugh has not changed his behavior and continues with his standard misogynistic and hateful language. Read More
Wash. Post's Cohen's Misguided Push For A Strike On Iran
In a Washington Post column, Richard Cohen justified a potential Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities by claiming that it would delay Iran's ability to build nuclear weapons, as evidenced by Israel's 1981 strike on Iraq's Osirak reactor. But experts say that the Osirak reactor strike did not delay -- and might even have accelerated -- Saddam Hussein's pursuit of nuclear weapons. Read More
“I was born in the same hospital as you, Kapiolani Hospital,” she gushed, at which he stopped and turned back. “Do you have a birth certificate?” he asked her, because now he is apparently hilarious as well. She reports exclusively to Wonkette that she did not have an awesome witty comeback, but just said, “Yeah.” READ MORE »
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Experts deny that drilling brings down gas prices, despite how often Republicans claim to have the “silver bullet.” Now, the Associated Press reports that an analysis of 36 years of Energy Information Administration data shows “no statistical correlation” between domestic oil production and gas prices.
U.S. oil production is back to the same level it was in March 2003, when gas cost $2.10 per gallon when adjusted for inflation. But that’s not what prices are now.
That’s because oil is a global commodity and U.S. production has only a tiny influence on supply. Factors far beyond the control of a nation or a president dictate the price of gasoline.
When you put the inflation-adjusted price of gas on the same chart as U.S. oil production since 1976, the numbers sometimes go in the same direction, sometimes in opposite directions. If drilling for more oil meant lower prices, the lines on the chart would consistently go in opposite directions. A basic statistical measure of correlation found no link between the two, and outside statistical experts confirmed those calculations.
Domestic oil production is at its highest level in eight years. According to the AP, if drilling dictated gas prices, they should already be at the $2 Republicans promise. However, gas prices fluctuate based on a variety of factors, including speculation and tensions in the Middle East.
These facts haven’t stopped Republicans from rallying around “drill, baby, drill.” President Barack Obama quipped last week on the GOP’s drilling fever: “I guess there’s some empty spots where we’re not drilling. We’re not at the National Mall. We’re not drilling at your house.”
HOW DARE SHE AND ET CETERA! What is she going to do next, claim that there is still institutional racism, particularly at the intersection of race, the courts and the law? How will Tucker Carlson and Ghost Andrew Breitbart feel about this? Will they call her a race pimp? Will they taint everyone who’s ever hugged her with guilt-by-hugging?
For some reason, we do not think so. They might even pretend to forget that Condi staunchly defended Affirmative Action too — along with fellow whiny-ass titty-baby Colin Powell — but will they ever be able to get over the fact that she does not even bother to explain that the worst racism is pointing out when something is racist? OUTRAGING video and transcript, after the jump! READ MORE »
Jason Mattera is the official Bad Boy Reporter of Washington, D.C. — always wearing his rebellious leather jacket, pickin’ up chicks with his Harley, showin’ ‘tude to the Man, the Liberals. The guy will do anything! He’s a wildcat, and he don’t care. Just check how he stuck it to Bono in this video shot last month, calling out that Irish fuck on his taxes — what kind of Irish fuck cheats his taxes but also tries to “save Africa”? WHAT IS THAT? Stupid hypocrite Bono! Expose him!
Sean Hannity aired the audio on his radio show yesterday, while The Blaze and Breitbart.com each posted the ambush video. But wait a minute… why is the Breitbart.com story page down? Why are the YouTubes now private? Was there some sort of… problem… The Blaze? “There is widespread discussion on Twitter that the person Mattera interviewed in the videos may have been a Bono impersonator.” Oops! READ MORE »
Think Progress flags an amazing exchange on CNN, in which Eric Fehrnstrom, a top adviser to Mitt Romney, seems to confirm that the conservative positions Romney has been forced to take during the primary won’t be a big deal because he can simply erase them once he becomes the GOP nominee:
Here’s the exchange:
HOST: Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.
There you have it. Dems, predictably, are pouncing on the remark, arguing that it validates their message that Romney has no core and will say or do anything to get elected.
But you’d think this exchange should have more meaning for conservatives. Fehrnstrom has come awfully close to admitting that the most damaging conservative positions Romney has had to adopt in the primary will be “reset,” and — to continue the Etch A Sketch analogy — can be erased at will if necessary. You’d think conservative reporters and commentators might want to press for a bit of clarification here.
One other point: Note how casually these remarks were greeted by the panel of commentators, as if his kind of thing is just business as usual. As I and others, such as Steve Benen, have been pointing out, it seems likely that many commentators will forget all about Romney’s flirtation with far right positions and grant him the presumption of moderation the second he becomes the nominee. It will be widely accepted that Romney didn’t really mean any of the things he said to get through the primary; all that silly stuff was just part of the game. The above foreshadows this perfectly.
The NFL announced Wednesday that New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton will be suspended for one season without pay for his involvement in the team's bounty program. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has been suspended for eight games. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely.
The team has also been fined $500,000 and will have to give up its second-round picks in the 2012 and 2013 NFL Drafts.
The league said in a news release that the involvement of individual players in the program is still being reviewed, and that any discipline will be announced at a future time.
In addition, Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt has been suspended without pay for the first six games of the 2012 season.
Payton's suspension is without pay. It will begin April 1 and last for the entire 2012 season. Loomis' suspension will be for the first eight games of the 2012 season.
Williams, who was hired to be the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator earlier this year, will have his status reviewed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the 2012 regular season has ended, according to the release. Goodell will then decide if Williams should be reinstated.
Sources close to Williams told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora that they were shocked by the news. The sources said they had been expecting a shorter suspension, something like a month or six games, and had been hoping for something less than half a season.
The NFL revealed March 2 the findings of a lengthy investigation into a Saints "bounty" program that gave thousands of dollars in payoffs to players for hits that knocked opponents out of games. The program, administered by then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, reached its height in 2009, the season the Saints won the Super Bowl.
The program ran in violation of league rules, and the investigation showed that Saints players received $1,500 for a "knockout" hit and $1,000 for a "cart-off" hit, with payouts doubling or tripling during the team's three playoff appearances.
The NFL Players Association formally requested that the league not punish the 22 to 27 players it cited in the scandal until the union had completed its independent investigation, which is underway, an NFLPA source told NFL.com's Steve Wyche.
The league initially did not respond to the union's request. The NFL told the NFLPA last Thursday, according to SI.com, that it was free to question any current or former Saints officials about the matter, but that it would not delay announcing its own decisions.
"We have given your requests careful consideration, and have concluded that there is no basis for delaying the imposition of any discipline in this matter, and particularly not as it may apply to a club or any non-player employee of a club," NFL attorney Jeff Pash wrote in the letter to union general counsel Richard Berthelsen on Wednesday. "Any disciplinary action affecting any player would be imposed only in a manner consistent with our Collective Bargaining Agreement. As you know, the sole authority to investigate and impose discipline in this matter rests with the Commissioner."
Williams, now defensive coordinator of the Rams, has admitted to and apologized for running the program.
Saints head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis also were implicated in the scandal, and they released a statement March 6 in which they took full responsibility for the violations.
"We acknowledge that the violations disclosed by the NFL during their investigation of our club happened under our watch. We take full responsibility. This has brought undue hardship on (owner Tom) Benson, who had nothing to do with this activity. He has been nothing but supportive and for that we both apologize to him.
"These are serious violations and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game. Both of us have made it clear within our organization that this will never happen again, and make that same promise to the NFL and most importantly to all of our fans."
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Bret Baier Ignores Fox News' Role In Fueling Obama Muslim Myth
Fox News anchor Bret Baier responded to a new book reporting that in 2010, President Obama criticized the network for pushing the myth that Obama "is a Muslim" by saying: "For the record, we found no examples of a host saying President Obama is a Muslim." In fact, Fox has repeatedly questioned and promoted falsehoods about Obama's faith, including pushing the false claim that Obama attended a "madrassa." Read More
STUDY: Media Missing The Mark On Gas Prices
A Media Matters analysis of print and television coverage of rising gasoline prices between January 1 and February 29 finds that news outlets often provided a shallow and shortsighted treatment of the issue. For instance, several outlets largely overlooked fuel economy standards -- a key policy solution that mitigates U.S. vulnerability to price spikes -- while promoting increased U.S. drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline, which would likely move gas prices by only a few cents, if at all. In addition, cable news outlets primarily hosted political figures rather than energy experts or economists to comment on gas prices. Fox News, which covered gas prices far more frequently than any other outlet, regularly blamed President Obama for the recent price increase, a claim in line with Republican strategy but not with the facts. Read More
How State Media Turned A Blind Eye To ALEC's Influence On The Voter ID Debate
Dozens of voter ID laws have been introduced in state legislatures over the past two years, including particularly strict measures passed in seven states in 2011 -- Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and Wisconsin. There is widespread evidence that this surge of voter ID laws stems from model legislation crafted in 2009 by a conservative group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). But a Media Matters analysis has found that the largest newspapers in the seven states that enacted voter ID laws in 2011 have largely ignored ALEC's influence. Indeed, of the newspapers examined, only Rhode Island's Providence Journal mentioned any connection between the state's voter ID bill and ALEC. Read More
CNN's Dana Loesch And The Bullying Campaign Against Sandra Fluke
Amid the controversy over Rush Limbaugh's misogynistic attacks on Sandra Fluke, CNN contributor Dana Loesch has aggressively pursued the right-wing campaign to bully the Georgetown law student. After announcing that she would call Fluke "whatever I want," Loesch has called Fluke a "nympho" and used her radio show and posts at Big Journalism to claim that Fluke "embarrass[ed] herself and her sex by ... discussing about how she has a huge inability to control her sexual urges." Read More
Top GOP Congressman Reaffirms His Doubts About Obama’s Birth Certificate, Cites Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Investigation
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), who was roundly criticized last week after ThinkProgress reported the Florida congressmen questioning whether President Obama’s birth certificate is “legitimate,” confirmed today that he is indeed a birther.
When asked about the issue on Capitol Hill today, Stearns told reporters, “I am, shall we say, looking at all the evidence.” He called for credence to be given to birth certificate investigations, saying, “I don’t think it is unreasonable just to see what they have to say.” The Hill has more:
In April 2011, the White House released Obama’s long-form birth certificate to the public, hoping to put the matter to bed for good. But the issue has popped back up repeatedly — most recently in early March, when Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he had evidence the document was a fake.
Asked Tuesday if he thinks the birth certificate is legitimate, Stearns cited an inquiry by an Arizona sheriff – an apparent reference to Arpaio – and noted he believed there is “another investigation” as well.
“I think we are just going to hold in abeyance a final decision until we hear, you know, some of these people seem to have legitimate concerns, so I don’t think it is unreasonable just to see what they have to say,” Stearns said.
The man Stearns finds it reasonable to listen to is disgraced Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, generally known for rampant racial profiling against Latinos, but more recently for assembling a team of volunteer self-styled investigators to examine Obama’s birth certificate. Earlier this month, that team concluded that the birth certificate is a “forgery and fraud.”
Not so long ago, Stearns actually accepted the fact that President Obama was born in the United States. In 2009, his office looked into the matter and concluded that there was “no reason to question the President’s citizenship.” It’s unclear whether new evidence or a right-wing primary challenger has since led Stearns to dive into the murky world of birtherism.
Stearns is chairman of the the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, a perch he has used to spearhead the investigation into failed solar manufacturer Solyndra and Planned Parenthood.
Former Army Contractor Sentenced to 39 Months in Prison for Role in Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme Related to Department of Defense Contracts
U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins for the Northern District of Alabama also ordered Hall to serve one year of supervised release following the prison term. Hall has agreed to forfeit $15,757,000, as well as real estate and a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Hall pleaded guilty on February 18, 2010 to bribery conspiracy and money laundering and agreed to testify against his co-defendants, former U.S. Army Major Eddie Pressley and his wife, Eurica Pressley. The Pressleys were convicted on March 1, 2011 of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services fraud, money laundering conspiracy, and engaging in monetary transactions with criminal proceeds.
The case against Hall and the Pressleys arose from a corruption probe focusing on Camp Arifjan, a U.S. military base in Kuwait. As a result of this investigation, 17 individuals, including Hall, have pleaded guilty or been found guilty at trial for their roles in the scheme.
According to evidence presented at the Pressleys’ trial, from spring 2004 through fall 2007, Hall operated and had an interest in several companies, including Freedom Consulting and Catering Co. and Total Government Allegiance. The companies received more than $20 million from contracts and blanket purchase agreements (BPAs)—a contract that allows the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to order supplies on an as-needed basis at a pre-negotiated price—to deliver bottled water and erect security fences for the U.S. military in Kuwait and Iraq.
Hall testified that, to obtain the contracting business and facilitate unlawful payments by other contractors, he made more than $3 million in unlawful payments and provided other valuable items and services to U.S. Army contracting officials stationed at Camp Arifjan, including to Eddie Pressley and former U.S. Army Majors John Cockerham, James Momon, Christopher Murray, and Derrick Shoemake.
According to Hall’s testimony and other evidence presented at the Pressley trial, Eddie Pressley demanded a $50,000 bribe before he would issue bottled water orders or “calls” to Hall. Hall testified that in April 2005, he and his associates arranged for Pressley to receive the money in a bank account established in the name of a shell company, EGP Business Solutions Inc., which was controlled by Eurica Pressley.
Hall testified that soon after the $50,000 bribe was paid, Pressley and Cockerham, another U.S. Army contracting official, increased the bribe demand to $1.6 million, which consisted of $800,000 for Pressley and $800,000 for Cockerham. After Hall and others agreed to pay the money, Pressley and Cockerham issued calls for bottled water and fencing, arranged for Hall to receive a fence contract, and modified Hall’s agreement to remove the upper limit of the money Hall could receive from the DoD under the bottled water BPA.
Evidence at trial also showed that Eddie Pressley enlisted the help of his wife, Eurica, to receive the bribes. Eurica Pressley traveled to Dubai with Hall in May 2005 and to the Cayman Islands in June 2005 to open bank accounts to receive the bribe money. Hall testified that he and the Pressleys attempted to conceal the true nature of their corrupt scheme by having Eurica Pressley execute bogus “consulting agreements.” They also prepared false invoices that were designed to justify the bribe payments as payment for non-existent “consulting services.”
Hall testified that, in total, he transferred approximately $2.9 million in bribe payments to the Pressleys, approximately $1.6 million of which consisted of payments from other contractors that Hall facilitated for Eddie Pressley. Bank statements, wire transfer reports, and other records presented at trial showed that the Hall and Eddie Pressley used approximately $2.9 million of the money to purchase commercial real estate in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
In addition, Hall testified that, after Eddie Pressley and Cockerham left Kuwait, he paid Momon more than $300,000, approximately $100,000 of which consisted of unlawful payments from another corrupt military contractor, which Hall facilitated by routing the money through bank accounts in Kuwait controlled on Hall’s behalf. In exchange, Momon issued calls under Hall’s bottled water BPA worth more than $6.4 million. Hall also testified that he paid Murray approximately $30,000 in exchange for official acts that benefited Hall and his companies.
On January 5, 2012, Eddie Pressley was sentenced to 144 months in prison, and on February 23, 2012, Eurica Pressley was sentenced to 72 months in prison.
On August 13, 2009, Momon pleaded guilty to receiving approximately $1.6 million in bribes and agreed to pay $5.7 million in restitution. Momon’s sentencing has not yet been scheduled. On January 8, 2009, Murray pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and making a false statement. He was sentenced on December 17, 2009 to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay $245,000 in restitution. On January 31, 2008, Cockerham pleaded guilty to participating in a bribery and money laundering scheme at Camp Arifjan. He was sentenced on December 2, 2009 to 210 months in prison and ordered to pay $9.6 million in restitution. On June 9, 2011, Shoemake pleaded guilty to two counts of bribery, including receiving $215,000 from Hall. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 18, 2012.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Peter C. Sprung and Edward J. Loya Jr. of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. Assistance also was provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs. The cases are being investigated by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, FBI, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and the International Contract Corruption Task Force (ICCTF). The ICCTF is a joint law enforcement agency task force that seeks to detect, investigate, and dismantle corruption and contract fraud resulting from U.S. Overseas Contingency Operations worldwide, including in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
World’s biggest polluter spends £4bn a year on wind and solar power generation in single region as it aims to cut fossil fuel use.
The remote, wind-blasted desert of northwestern Gansu could be the most unloved, environmentally abused corner of China. It is home to the country’s first oilfield and several of the coalmines and steel factories that have contributed to China’s notoriety as the planet’s biggest polluter and carbon dioxide emitter.
But in the past few years, the landscape has started to undergo a transformation as Gansu has moved to the frontline of government efforts to reinvent China’s economy with a massive investment in renewable energy.
The change is evident soon after driving across the plains from Jiuquan, an ancient garrison town on the Silk Road that is now a base for more than 50 energy companies.
Wind turbines, which were almost unknown five years ago, stretch into the distance, competing only with far mountains and new pylons for space on the horizon. Jiuquan alone now has the capacity to generate 6GW of wind energy – roughly equivalent to that of the whole UK. The plan is to more than triple that by 2015, when this area could become the biggest windfarm in the world.
This is the other side of China’s development. Although it is the world’s biggest CO2 emitter and notorious for building the equivalent of a 400MW coal-fired power station every three days, it is also erecting 36 wind turbines a day and building a robust new electricity grid to send this power thousands of miles across the country from the deserts of the west to the cities of the east.
It is part of a long-term plan to supply 15% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2020. Most of that will come from nuclear and hydropower, but the government is also tapping the wind and solar potential of the deserts, mountain plateaus and coastlines.
The scale of investment has led to hopes that China may emerge as the world’s first green superpower. This is premature. Breakneck economic growth has left much of the country enshrouded in a murky grey smog. But the environmental crisis is so bad that it is a driver for change.
Carbon dioxide emissions have more than doubled in the past 10 years, taking China past the US as the world’s No 1 source of greenhouse gases. Dirty smokestacks and illegal discharge pipes contribute to the hundreds of thousands of annual premature deaths from pollution related diseases. Environment ministry statistics suggest that 40% of river water can make you sick...................
Monday, March 19, 2012
Fox's Varney Attacks "Feel Good" Food Stamp Program As Hunger Reaches Elevated Levels
Fox's Stuart Varney dismissed the federal food stamp program as an "entitlement" that "make[s] you feel good" and attacked an outreach program intended to ensure that people know whether they are eligible for benefits, suggesting it was being used by the Obama administration to "buy votes." But the food stamp program -- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- is effective and necessary as the number of hungry Americans has reached elevated levels, and the SNAP outreach program goes back at least to President George W. Bush. Read More
The Rush From Limbaugh
Media Matters has compiled the following list of 56 companies who have issued public statements confirming that they are excluding their ads from running on the The Rush Limbaugh Show. Read More
Sunday, March 18, 2012
1. The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex.
2. Former Senator Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum has garnered quite a bit of attention recently for his animated remarks against pornography, and on two separate Sunday shows the Republican presidential candidate refused to cede an inch, doubling down on his crusade against “hard-core pornography.”
A recently added section on the candidate’s website declares that America is “suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography,” and laments that the “Obama Administration has turned a blind eye to those who wish to preserve our culture from the scourge of pornography and has refused to enforce obscenity laws.” The site goes on to say that the Justice Department “seems to favor pornographers over children and families.”
Asked to defend this odd claim, Santorum argued Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union that the Justice Department is not enforcing pornography laws as rigorously as President George W. Bush’s DOJ did.
“Well you have to look at the proof that’s in the prosecution. Under the Bush administration, pornographers were prosecuted much more rigorously under existing law than they are under the Obama administration,” Santorum said. “My conclusion is they have not put a priority on prosecuting these cases, and in doing so, they are exposing children to a tremendous amount of harm. And that to me says they’re putting the un-enforcement of this law and putting children at risk as a result of that.”
It’s not clear what data there is to back up Santorum’s claim, and his spokesman did not immediately return TPM’s inquiry for evidence. A Justice Department spokesperson also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The former senator made the same argument on ABC’s This Week.
“There are laws against purveying hard-core pornography,” he said. “And that — we have attorney generals in the country, at least under the Bush administration, who did prosecute that. And this administration isn’t. And I simply said I would follow the law, which I know in the case of Barack Obama can be somewhat of a hefty challenge for him.”
The sudden emphasis on pornography is a questionable strategy for a candidate whom top Republicans, eager to keep the focus in 2012 on fiscal concerns, worry has a tendency to get sidetracked with culture-war issues that are often a dead end with swing voters. While it animates a segment of social conservatives, battling pornography doesn’t make the list of top concerns for most Americans.
Yet, Santorum isn’t confining his anti-pornography crusade to enforcement of the law — he’s passionately making the case against the broader concept.
“Congress in its wisdom understood that hard-core pornography is very damaging,” he said on ABC, “particularly to young people, and that exposure on the Internet can be very damaging, and of course it’s very damaging to a lot of folks.”
Saturday, March 17, 2012
In the “War on Women” that’s been raging these past few months, it’s clear that the Democrats have succeeded in framing the debate in their favor. The GOP—especially in the recent Obama contraception mandate controversy—has been painted as the anti-woman party, and even Republican insiders fear that the misstep could cost them dearly in an election year in which women will represent a significant portion of the voting public.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Is she really just a Georgetown 3L with an expertise in women’s health law who’s trying to make her case for mandatory employer insurance coverage of contraceptives with poise and professionalism? Or is she an rich jet-setting trillionaire Marxist Communist radical provocatrix with a rich Jew boyfriend from a super-communist ancient Jew family of Jews intent on being Jewish all the time? Some idiot bloggers are on the case. READ MORE »
Your Wonkette warblog has already briefed you about four such items just today, so your editor is going to skip over the gory details of this “Wisconsin Assembly votes to ban abortion coverage from insurance policies” story that popped up and go straight to the part of the AP article where it notes the two economically critical legislative proposals that will likely be pushed until next session so that lawmakers could sermonize about sex organs. Any guesses as to what the neglected bills are? READ MORE »
Republicans and conservative media are cherry-picking a figure in a new Congressional Budget Office spending estimate (PDF) to assert that the cost of “Obamacare” has nearly doubled to $1.76 trillion. But the claim ignores the corresponding savings during the additional period of the spending projection, thus distorting the actual cost estimates of the law.
“The new CBO projection estimates that the law will cost $1.76 trillion over 10 years — well above the $940 billion Democrats originally claimed,” Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), the No. 4 House Republican, declared in a press advisory. Republicans on the powerful Energy & Commerce Committee said the CBO report “reveal[s] a shocking new sticker price of $1.8 trillion.”
Fox News and other conservative outlets have trumpeted the out-of-context number as vindication for those who warned that the Affordable Care Act will cost far more than advertised.
CBO’s actual revised estimate is that the “gross costs of the coverage provisions,” — the money used to provide people Medicaid or private insurance — has risen by about $50 billion over the 2012-2021 period since its previous estimate, from $1.445 trillion to $1.496 trillion. That’s the only relevant change to spending projections in the report.
So where are conservatives getting the idea that the cost of the law doubled? When it passed in 2010, CBO said its 10-year outlays would be about $940 billion. But because the law isn’t set to be fully implemented until 2014, when the coverage expansion takes effect, that initial estimate included several years in which the law cost very little. Now that it’s 2012, CBO’s 10-year outlook captures more years during which the law will be in full effect. The law’s price tag appears higher, but its costs in no way doubled.
Conservatives, however, want to use the effect of this sliding window to make it appear as if the health care law is a budget buster. But this latest CBO report focuses exclusively on the law’s spending provisions, and ignores its savings — the taxes and spending cuts, that also mostly take effect in 2014.
Indeed, CBO still holds that the law reduces the deficit by billions of dollars over 10 years. That’s just not in this report.
“CBO and JCT have not estimated the budgetary effects in 2022 of the other provisions of the ACA; over the 2012-2021 period, those other provisions were previously estimated to reduce budget deficits,” the CBO report reads.
All of which means that the cost projections have only experienced minor changes in the CBO report, a far cry from the conservative claims that the Affordable Care Act’s price tag has skyrocketed or doubled.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Scotland Yard has arrested six people—including former-News International CEO Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charles Brooks—on “suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice,” according to The Guardian. Police have not named those charged but confirmed that among those arrested were a 43-year old woman and 49-year old man. These charges most likely involve alleged bribes of “hundreds of thousands” of dollars paid to British police, military, and government officials, for which they may have been paid to look the other way. This is just the latest legal problem for Rupert Murdoch, News Corp, and by extension the Fox “News” Channel, as investigations continue into sordid practices on several continents.Read more
“One of the ones promoting that [a brokered convention] is Sarah Palin, who has suggested herself as the choice,” Coulter said. “I think as long as it’s between us girls — I’ve been observing something about her. I don’t think it’s likely to happen. I don’t know what these people are cheering for. As I wrote in a column a few weeks back, who is this dream candidate we’re hoping to get from the convention, because Rick Perry used to be the dream candidate. Can we see them in a debate first?”
As tensions rise over Iran’s nuclear program, a majority of Americans want Israel and the U.S. to pursue diplomacy over military action.
President Obama insists “all options are on the table” to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But Obama and American officials have cautioned Israel against a preemptive strike against Iran, urging diplomacy and sanctions instead. There is still a “window for diplomacy” to deter Iran’s nuclear development, Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month. Netanyahu insists that Israel reserves the right to secure its own national security.
But only one in four Americans favor Israel launching a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program, according to a new University of Maryland poll. Seven out of 10 respondents believe the U.S. and other world leaders should continue to pursue negotiations with Iran. President Obama called for continued diplomacy in a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday. Cameron agreed.
Only one in five respondents believe a strike against Iran would delay its ability to develop a nuclear weapon for more than five years, according to the poll. And about half of Americans polled believe the conflict would go on for years.
Six in 10 respondents believe Iran is actively working to produce nuclear weapons. Nine in 10 believe Iran will eventually develop them. U.S. intelligence agencies continue to believe there is no evidence Iran has decided to build a bomb. The tensions over Iran’s nuclear program appear to be taking a toll. Last month, Iran topped Gallup’s “greatest enemy” list. Threatening Israel, announcements of its growing nuclear program and the possibility that Iran could disrupt the flow of oil all contributed to the antipathy, according to the poll.
See the full results of the University of Maryland poll here.
POLL: 2 Of 3 Americans Blame Gas Price Hikes On Big Oil ‘Taking Advantage Of The Situation To Make More Money’
A new Bloomberg poll shows that two-thirds of Americans blame rising gas prices on “oil companies and Middle East nations who are taking advantage of the situation to make more money.” Meanwhile, 23 percent cited the Obama administration’s policies. The findings echo yesterday’s National Journal poll, where a combined 66 percent blamed “the manipulation of prices by large energy companies” or tensions in the Middle East, whereas 14 percent cited President Obama’s policies.
In an exchange that seems designed to prove why fewer Americans approve of Congress than approve of communism or the BP oil spill, Senate Leaders Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) engaged in a long debate this morning over why Reid is currently trying to break seventeen filibusters of President Obama’s judicial nominees. The exchange culminated with McConnell admitting that, even though all these judges will be confirmed eventually, he is blocking them now because he is upset that Reid’s making him look bad:
REID: I’ve got a great idea. My friend the Republican Leader said these judges are all going to get approved anyway, so I’ve got an idea. Let’s go to this IPO bill immediately after finishing the highway bill, with the agreement that we’ll dispose of these judges immediately after that. . . .
McCONNELL: It is highly unlikely any of these district judges are not going to be confirmed. We’ve done a number of them this year. We’ve done seven this year. District judges are almost never defeated. This is just a very transparent attempt to try to slam dunk the minority and make them look like they are obstructing things they aren’t obstructing. We object to that. We don’t think that meets the standard of civility that should be expected in the Senate. And, so, any effort to make the minority look bad or attempt to slam dunk them that is sort of manufactured as this is is gonna, of course, be greeted with resistance.
Let’s explain what’s going on here. Both Reid and McConnell agree that there is nothing objectionable about these judges — in McConnell’s words, “it is highly unlikely any of these district judges are not going to be confirmed.” Additionally, both men agree that the Senate should vote on the “IPO bill” that Reid refers to, a bill dealing with investments in small businesses that recently passed the House. Initially, Reid wanted to vote on the seventeen judges awaiting confirmation before moving on to the IPO bill, but he even concedes this point — saying that he is willing to “go to this IPO bill” first as McConnell prefers.
And then McConnell says this deal is unacceptable because Reid “ma[de] the minority look bad.”
If this is truly McConnell’s reason for blocking these judges, then he just made an absolutely shocking admission. Thanks to excessive judicial vacancies, America’s courts are increasingly unable to function. In some courts, judges are so overburdened they have to rush major felony cases through as if they involved minor traffic violations. In one court, felony caseloads nearly doubled in just two years. Every court that is unable to handle its caseload means wrongly fired workers waiting months or years for justice and businesses that must delay making new hires until they are sure they won’t be hit with an unwarranted legal judgment. And yet McConnell says he is willing to punish all of these workers and businesses because he is upset that Reid has made him look bad. America can ill afford this kind of tantrum.
TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.
I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.
When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.
Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.
How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.
What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.
Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.
It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.
It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.
These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.
When I was a first-year analyst I didn’t know where the bathroom was, or how to tie my shoelaces. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, finding out what a derivative was, understanding finance, getting to know our clients and what motivated them, learning how they defined success and what we could do to help them get there.
My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.
I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.
Greg Smith is resigning today as a Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
IN place of paid advertisers, public service announcements now fill some of the time between Rush Limbaugh’s monologues on radio stations, a consequence of an ad boycott against the conservative talk show host that is now nearly two weeks old.
It is, analysts say, the most serious rebellion against “The Rush Limbaugh Show” in the more than 20 years that the show has been broadcast. This week, new evidence emerged that the ad boycott was costing Premiere Radio Networks — the show’s syndicator — money, though the total amounts are unclear.
This month, powered by online organizing tools, liberal activist groups and other critics of Mr. Limbaugh have successfully highlighted the host’s repeated attacks on a Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke, and persuaded companies to advertise elsewhere, at least temporarily.
Mr. Limbaugh apologized to Ms. Fluke — a supporter of the Obama administration’s contraception policy — on March 3, three days after calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute,” but national advertisers have continued to shun his show. The case is a reminder that associations with offensive figures — no matter how popular they might be — carries risks for companies.
To date, Premiere, a unit of Clear Channel, has stood by Mr. Limbaugh, defending his right to express opinions and otherwise saying next to nothing in public. “They’re giving it time,” said a radio executive with direct knowledge of Premiere’s strategy.
About 600 stations carry the weekday afternoon show by Mr. Limbaugh, who is the most popular radio talk show host in the United States. (Two stations are known to have canceled the show since the uproar started.) Stations get to broadcast local ads during the show, and in exchange they play the national ads that Premiere provides.
On Monday, Premiere caused a stir by telling its news and talk affiliates — the ones that carry Mr. Limbaugh’s show — that for the next two weeks, they could stop running the barter ad spots they were normally required to broadcast. “Replace them with LifeLock and Lear Financial or a local spot of your choice,” said an internal memorandum, referring to two companies that remain sponsors of Mr. Limbaugh’s show.
Premiere said the suspension of its barter spots (which are played by stations in lieu of paying for services directly) did not affect live programs like Mr. Limbaugh’s show, but its critics interpreted the move as proof that local radio stations were being affected by the boycott. The Web site that first published the memo, Radio-Info.com, called it unusual.
Similarly, Carl Marcucci, the managing editor for the Radio and Television Business Report, wrote in a column last week that companies that didn’t advertise on Mr. Limbaugh’s show, but did advertise on the newscasts that precede his show, “are being spooked into staying away” from the radio format in general. He said that the “Twitter bombing” by Mr. Limbaugh’s opponents “is hurting the broadcast companies and the jobs that they create.”
As the memo suggested, the boycott has been a headache for the advertisers and the local radio stations that have received complaints from Mr. Limbaugh’s critics. There have been “logistical difficulties” in moving ads away from Mr. Limbaugh’s program, Lewis Dickey, the chief executive of Cumulus Media, said Monday in a conference call with investors.
Last week, some local listeners even noticed silence — “dead air,” in industry parlance — instead of ads, according to Media Matters for America, a liberal media monitoring group that has been campaigning against Mr. Limbaugh for years.
Media Matters found that on Tuesday, on the New York City station WABC, nearly every commercial spot was a public service announcement, typically played free by stations for nonprofit groups and causes.
Although the dearth of paid commercials may be unpleasant for Premiere, it has had only a minimal effect on the company’s finances, according to a person with knowledge of the company who insisted on anonymity because the information was confidential. Less than $2 million in revenue has been lost to date, the person said, and some of that has been recouped by moving ads to other slots.
Ad boycotts happen from time to time across the media landscape, and they vary in their effectiveness. In one notable case in 2009 that liberal activists see as a template for this case, advertisers abandoned Glenn Beck’s television show after he called President Obama a racist.
In this instance, the companies that have withdrawn their ads “are more or less articulating their longstanding policies of avoiding controversial content,” said Jeff Haley, the president and chief executive of the Radio Advertising Bureau. “No-buy lists” routinely make the rounds in the radio industry, identifying companies that don’t want their ads to be broadcast on certain programs.
Along with LifeLock and Lear Financial, at least one other advertiser, Hillsdale College, remains supportive of Mr. Limbaugh. An ad for Hillsdale, a small conservative college in southern Michigan, appeared on his Web site on Tuesday. In a statement, Hillsdale said that his remarks about Ms. Fluke were “of a kind that are destructive to reasonable political discourse,” but that it accepted his apologies.
It is unclear whether Mr. Limbaugh’s audience has been affected by the uproar. Arbitron, the measurement company that the radio industry relies upon, does not release national ratings the way that Nielsen does for television.
But the tumult has been a boon for liberal broadcasters who love to rail against Mr. Limbaugh. Liberal hosts on the cable news channel MSNBC, in particular, have dedicated segment after segment to the ad boycott. Conservative critics of MSNBC are said to be considering their own boycott campaign, aiming at liberal commentators like the Rev. Al Sharpton.