Friday, October 1, 2010

Party of the Dead!

Very early in his term, President Barack Obama says he knew that Republicans were going to oppose him at every turn.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Obama explained that it was first apparent to him while attempting to negotiate the stimulus bill.

I still remember going over to the Republican caucus to meet with them and present our ideas, and to solicit ideas from them before we presented the final package. And on the way over, the caucus essentially released a statement that said, "We're going to all vote 'No' as a caucus." And this was before we'd even had the conversation. At that point, we realized that we weren't going to get the kind of cooperation we'd anticipated. The strategy the Republicans were going to pursue was one of sitting on the sidelines, trying to gum up the works, based on the assumption that given the scope and size of the recovery, the economy probably wouldn't be very good, even in 2010, and that they were better off being able to assign the blame to us than work with us to try to solve the problem.

But even with that clear signal, the White House continued to try to make compromises with their opponents. The Obama administration took single-payer off the table and offered little support for the public option when campaigning for the health care bill. The final bill -- which contained neither -- had almost no Republican support.

In March, the president adopted a conservative call to open more waters to offshore oil drilling but got little in return. In the end, partisan bickering led to the climate bill being pulled in the Senate. Republicans have vowed to block legislation in the next Congress.

Politics Daily columnist David Corn thinks there is one fact that Obama should have been aware of: Republicans are zombies.

"If on the eighth day of the administration, if the president knew the GOP has been anti-everything, why has he been negotiating with them as if he could get a yes from them?" MSNBC's Keith Olbermann asked Corn Tuesday.

"Because the president doesn't watch zombie movies," answered Corn. "And you can't negotiate with zombies, you can't trust zombies."

"After getting that big no from them on stimulus spending, he ran into it again and again on the energy front, on health care, on Wall Street reform, and each time he was, you know, he spent a lot of effort and a lot of political capital trying to work with the zombie party," said Corn.

"And he kept hitting his head against the same wall. Maybe if he'd come to that conclusion earlier, things would look a little different today," he said.

"These zombies, though, don't eat brains, clearly," joked Olbermann.

While Corn doesn't explain exactly why Republicans are the "zombie party," he may be giving a nod to philosophical zombies. Wikipedia states:

A philosophical zombie, p-zombie or p-zed is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except that it lacks conscious experience, qualia, or sentience. When a zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain. While it behaves exactly as if it does feel pain (it may say "ouch" and recoil from the stimulus, or tell us that it is in intense pain), it does not actually have the experience of pain as a putative 'normal' person does.

One liberal blogger postulated that Republicans are zombie-like because of their mob mentality. Jason N wrote:

If you say anything that indicates you're open to discussing alternatives to the status quo, the Republican zombies attack. They hurl accusations of socialist, liberal or some other simplistic insult.


This angry mob is intent on arguing not with what you say but with the straw man they created prior to your discussion. It's not that some liberal groups don't have much the same reaction to their hot button topics. I just find this new wave of Republican imbecility a particularly anti-Republican movement.

RL Miller of Grist explains that many Republicans were zombies when it came to their constant denial of man's role in climate change.

Meet the Climate Zombies.

They're mindless.

Their stupid is contagious.

And if they win, humanity loses.

"Climate zombies like [Alaska's] Joe Miller mindlessly replicate. If you listen carefully, you can hear them moan: 'caaaash!' Or maybe they cry 'kooooch!'" wrote Miller.

A comprehensive Wonk Room survey of the Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate finds that nearly all dispute the scientific consensus that the United States must act to fight global warming pollution. In May, 2010, the National Academies of Science reported to Congress that “the U.S. should act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a national strategy to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change” because global warming is “caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for — and in many cases is already affecting — a broad range of human and natural systems.”

This finding is shared by scientific bodies around the world. However, in the alternate reality of the fossil-fueled right wing, climate science is confused or a conspiracy, and policies to limit pollution would destroy the economy.

Remarkably, of the dozens of Republicans vying for the 37 Senate seats in the 2010 election, none supports climate action. Even former climate advocates Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) now toe the science-doubting party line.

Many of the Senate candidates are signatories of the Koch Industries’ Americans For Prosperity No Climate Tax pledge and the FreedomWorks Contract From America. The second plank of the Contract From America is to “Reject Cap & Trade: Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.”

In reality, a carbon cap-and-trade market — by rewarding work instead of pollution — would increase jobs, lower electricity bills, restore American competitiveness, and forestall a climate catastrophe.

ALABAMA – Richard Shelby
ALASKA – Joe Miller
ARIZONA – John McCain
ARKANSAS – John Boozman
CALIFORNIA – Carly Fiorina
DELAWARE – Mike Castle and Christine O’Donnell
FLORIDA – Marco Rubio
GEORGIA – Jonny Isakson
HAWAII – Cam Cavasso
IDAHO – Mike Crapo
ILLINOIS – Mark Kirk
INDIANA – Dan Coats
IOWA – Chuck Grassley
KANSAS – Jerry Moran
KENTUCKY – Rand Paul
LOUISIANA – David Vitter
MARYLAND – Eric Wargotz, Jim Rutledge, John Kimble, et al.
MISSOURI – Roy Blunt NEVADA – Sharron Angle
NEW HAMPSHIRE – Jim Bender, Gerard Beloin, Bill Binnie, Kelly Ayotte, Dennis Lamare and Ovide Lamontagne
NEW YORK #1 – Joe DioGuardi, Bruce Blakeman, and David Malpass
NEW YORK #2 – Gary Berntsen and Jay Townsend
NORTH DAKOTA – John Hoeven
OHIO – Rob Portman
OKLAHOMA – Tom Coburn
OREGON – Jim Huffman
UTAH – Mike Lee
VERMONT – Len Britton
WISCONSIN – Ron Johnson

Overwhelmingly, the Republican candidates not only oppose action to limit global warming pollution, they question the validity of climate science. Here are a few quotes drawn from the Wonk Room report:

Gov. John Boozman, Arkansas:

“Well I think that we’ve got perhaps climate change going on. The question is what’s causing it. Is man causing it, or, you know, is this a cycle that happens throughout the years, throughout the ages. And you can look back some of the previous times when there was no industrialization, you had these different ages, ice ages, and things warming and things. That’s the question.” [KTHV Little Rock, 3/10]

Rep. Roy Blunt, Missouri:

“There isn’t any real science to say we are altering the climate path of the earth.” [Human Events, 4/29/09]

Rep. Rob Portman, Ohio:

“When you analyze all the data, there is a warming trend according to science,” he said. “But the jury is out on the degree of how much is manmade.” [Columbus Dispatch, 7/25/10]

Jim Huffman, Oregon:

He casts doubt on scientists’ findings about global warming. It’s “rooted in some fairly vague science,” he says. “There are a lot of studies out there that offer alternative explanations for global climate variations.” Huffman opposes a cap and trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, largely because it will be too expensive. He argues that it’s more realistic to adapt to climate change than disrupt peoples’ lives trying to prevent it. If some island nations become uninhabitable, he says, “I think that’s a tragedy, but we can adapt to that.”[Portland Tribune, 9/2/10]

-Dead Press- Journalism that's not sold-out!

Operation Shut Your Mouth!

Like most others in Congress, Senator Patrick Leahy is no progressive. He voted to fund imperial wars, regressive Obamacare, Wall Street-friendly financial reform, and other pro-business measures, including agribusiness-empowering bills, harming small farmers and consumers.

Now he's at it again. On September 20, he introduced S. 3804: Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), "A bill to combat online infringement, and for other purposes." Referred to committee, it awaits further action. In fact, it needs a dagger thrust in its heart to kill it.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Richard Esguerra:

If enacted, this bill lets the Attorney General and Justice Department "break the Internet one domain at a time - by requiring domain registrars/registries, ISPs, DNS providers, and others to block Internet users from reaching certain websites."

Two online blacklists will be created:

-- one for web sites the Attorney General may censor or block, and

-- most disturbing, domain names the Justice Department decides (without judicial review) are "dedicated to infringing activities."

The bill doesn't mandate, but "strongly suggests" that second category domains be blocked "as well as providing legal immunity for Internet intermediaries and DNS operators" that do it willingly at the behest of authorities.

Without question, "tremendous pressure" will be applied to comply, the alternative perhaps being recrimination for refusing.

Though fairly short, COICA may dangerously impair free expression, "current Internet architecture, copyright doctrine, foreign policy," and more. In 2010, "efforts to re-write copyright law (targeting) 'piracy' online" have been shown "to have unintended consequences."

Like other 2009 and 2010 bills, COICA "is a censorship bill that runs roughshod over freedom of speech on the Internet," an outrageous First Amendment violation by "tr(ying) to define a site 'dedicated to infringing activities,' (by) block(ing) a whole domain," not that one part alone if legally proved, rather than by government edict.

The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) "already gives copyright owners legal tools to remove infringing material piece-by-piece." It also lets them get injunctions requiring ISPs block infringing offshore sites. Misusing these provisions "have had a tremendously damaging impact on fair use and free expression."

If enacted, Leahy's COICA will take a giant leap, "streamlin(ing) and vastly expand(ing)" existing damage. It'll let the Attorney General shut down domains, including their "blog posts, images, backups, and files." As a result, "legitimate, protected speech will be taken down in the name of copyright enforcement," and basic Internet infrastructure will be undermined.

For example: when users enter web site URLs into their browsers, the domain name system server identifies their Internet location. COICA will let the Attorney General "prevent the players in (those) domain system(s), (possibly including your ISP) from telling you the truth about a website's location."

To trust the federal government with the power to regulate free speech by means of a licensing system for the Internet and not expect the state to abuse such power is the height of stupidity. Cass Sunstein, Obama’s information czar, openly wrote in a 2008 paper of his desire to combat “conspiracy theories” (ie any information communicated primarily through the Internet which represents a threat to the image of the state) by empowering the government to tax or even ban outright opinions of which it disapproves. This is what cybersecurity is all about, eliminating the voices of the oppressed as big government seeks to quicken its takeover of America with the aid of silent obedience.

The cybersecurity assault on the Internet is also dovetailed with an attack from a slightly different angle. Numerous private networks, from transport hubs, to libraries, to universities, to federal government agencies have installed filters that censor political websites which engage in the “hate speech” of dissenting against the state. Since the entire Internet consists of a fusion of privately-owned networks controlled by corporations such as Verizon, AT&T and Qwest, how long before such filters are standardized?

-Dead Press- Journalism that's not sold-out!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fox News Ratings Plunge; MSNBC Ratings Rise

Cable news ratings for the third quarter reveal that FOX NEWS’ ratings have fallen 21% in total viewers - and 26% for younger viewers. To add insult to injury, check out how MSNBC is doing.

From Politicususa

Fox News is still dominating the cable news ratings. The network has the top 11 programs in cable news, but there are ominous signs that the empire is starting to crack. Compared to the third quarter of 2009, Fox has lost 21% of their total viewers, and 26% of their younger viewers. The biggest loser on the network was Bill O’Reilly who saw his program The O’Reilly Factor lose 12% of its total viewers and 21% of its young viewers. Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bret Baier, and Greta Van Susteren rounded out the top five cable news shows, and they each posted double digit declines.
Fox News is now averaging 1.831 million prime time viewers a day, and only 443,000 viewers age 25-54. The problem for Fox News is even more acute because second place MSNBC is actually growing. While Glenn Beck suffered double digit losses at 5PM, Chris Matthews posted modest gains of 1% overall and 8% in the demo. While Bret Baier declined, Ed Schultz has seen his viewership skyrocket at 6 PM. The Ed Show is up 24% over last year in total viewers and 8% in the demo. Keith Olbermann’s Countdown was down over last year by 6% in total viewers and 19% in the demo, but Olbermann’s was the only cable news show to gain audience since the second quarter. Rachel Maddow gained 6% in total views, but lost 1% with the demo.

Ah, hope at last! Is this a sign that America is finally realizing who our real enemy is?
Please leave a comment below. I would love to hear your take on it.

-Dead Press- Journalism that's not sold-out!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

15 Shocking Facts Show That the Middle Class is Being Wiped Out

As wealth continues to leave the United States and as the U.S. gets even deeper into debt, more Americans are going to become poor.

The "America" that so many of us have taken for granted for so many decades is literally disintegrating right in front of our eyes. Most Americans are still operating under the delusion that the United States will always be "the wealthiest nation" in the world and that our economy will always produce large numbers of high paying jobs and that the U.S. will always have a very large middle class. But that is not what is happening. The very foundations of the U.S. economy have rotted away and we now find ourselves on the verge of an economic collapse. Already, millions upon millions of Americans are slipping out of the middle class and into the devastating grip of poverty. Statistic after statistic proves that the middle class in the United States is shrinking month after month after month. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are starting to wake up and are beginning to realize that we have very serious problems on our hands, but they have no idea what is causing our economic distress and they are unaware that most of our politicians have absolutely no idea how to fix the economic disaster that we have created.

On the mainstream news, the American people are treated to endless footage of leaders from both political parties proclaiming that the primary reason that we are in the midst of such an economic mess is because of what the other political party has done.

Republicans proclaim that we are experiencing all of this economic chaos because of the Democrats.

Democrats proclaim that we are experiencing all of this economic chaos because of the Republicans.

Even many readers of this column (who are generally more educated and more informed than most average Americans) leave comment after comment blaming either the Democrats of the Republicans for our current economic mess.

But do you really want to know who is to blame for our economic problems?

Both of them.

This economic nightmare has taken literally decades to develop, and both Democrats and Republicans have contributed greatly to this disaster.

Both parties have absolutely refused to stand up to the Federal Reserve and the horrific economic policies that they have been shoving down our throats for decades.

Both parties have stood idly by as the U.S. trade deficit has absolutely exploded in size and the United States has become significantly poorer month after month after month.

Both parties have refused to do anything as month after month after month large numbers of factories and good paying jobs leave the United States.

Both parties have shoved the spending accelerator to the floor when they have been in power and now we have the largest national debt in the history of the world.

Both parties have done essentially nothing as the health care industry, which was once the envy of the world, has degenerated into a cesspool of corruption and greed and now seems designed to do little more than to provide pharmaceutical companies and health insurance crooks with obscene profits.

If factories keep leaving the United States and jobs keep leaving the United States and the federal government keeps going into more debt and state governments keep going into more debt and local governments keep going into more debt, then things are going to keep getting worse.

It does not take a genius to figure that out.

The United States is continually getting poorer and is continually going into more debt.

Can anyone out there explain how that is a formula for economic prosperity?


Can anyone explain how that would work?

Please leave a comment and explain that to all of us if you can.

The truth is that as wealth continues to leave the United States and as the U.S. gets even deeper into debt, more Americans are going to become poor.

It really is that simple.

The following are 15 shocking poverty statistics that are skyrocketing as the American middle class continues to be slowly wiped out....

#1 Approximately 45 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009.

#2 According to the Associated Press, experts believe that 2009 saw the largest single year increase in the U.S. poverty rate since the U.S. government began calculating poverty figures back in 1959.

#3 The U.S. poverty rate is now the third worst among the developed nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

#4 According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on a year-over-year basis, household participation in the food stamp program has increased 20.28%.

#5 The number of Americans on food stamps surpassed 41 million for the first time ever in June.

#6 As of June, the number of Americans on food stamps had set a new all-time record for 19 consecutive months.

#7 One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program.

#8 More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.

#9 One out of every seven mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.

#10 Nearly 10 million Americans now receive unemployment insurance, which is almost four times as many as were receiving it in 2007.

#11 The number of Americans receiving long-term unemployment benefits has risen over 60 percent in just the past year.

#12 According to one recent survey, 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job.

#13 Nationwide, bankruptcy filings rose 20 percent in the 12 month period ending June 30th.

#14 More than 25 percent of all Americans now have a credit score below 599.

#15 One out of every five children in the United States is now living in poverty.

As millions more Americans continue to climb on to the "safety net", how long is it going to be before it breaks?

The reality is that the system can only support so many people. We are now at a point where our anti-poverty programs are clearly unsustainable in the long-term, but nobody has a solution for how we are going to get all of these people off of these programs or how we are going to provide good jobs for all of them.

The cost of every U.S. government anti-poverty program is absolutely soaring. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is already running a budget deficit that is approaching 1.5 trillion dollars every year. If you cannot understand that we have a very serious problem on our hands then you are probably not awake.

The U.S. economic system is dying. Blaming the other political party is not a solution. Running around the country offering "hope" and "change" and giving people a vague sense that things will get "better" soon is not going to cut it either.

The American people need very real economic solutions to very real economic problems.

But nearly all of our politicians are way too busy either trying to get elected or trying to stay in office to tackle the very serious problems which are destroying our economy.

Unfortunately, the American people love to watch our politicians play politics. They love to watch the little ping-pong ball of blame go back and forth. They love to pick sides and to cheer for their "team".

None of that is doing any good. Right now millions of Americans are getting sucked into poverty each year and neither major political party is doing anything real to address the very real economic problems that are causing that to happen.

But most Americans have become so "dumbed down" that they don't even understand what the real problems are anymore.

All most Americans seem to want these days is to watch a good show.
So send in the clowns.
There are certainly enough of them in Washington D.C. to keep Americans entertained for quite a long time.

-Dead Press- Journalism that's not sold-out!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fox Special Report: I Know You Are But What Am I!

Fox News is (and has been) deploying reporters/pundits to distort the Facts on everything from Enron, to tax cuts, to national security, to Acorn, to 'New Black Panthers', to Anchor Babies; Fox News has used its reporters, anchormen and pundits to parrot the Bush administration's right-wing policies as if they were conventional wisdom or fact and it's only gotten worse since they've adopted their infantile tea party propaganda.

I'm bringing back to light some older "reports" as a reminder of the corruption for over a decade now. These pundits have nothing to offer our evolving civil society and they must be exposed for the liars they are!

FOX: ANCHOR MAN SAYS ENRON HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BUSH ENERGY POLICY: Despite the White House coordinating its energy policy with Enron's Ken Lay during the energy crisis, Brit Hume said Enron, "is not a scandal about the Bush energy policy." [ABC, 2/9/02; Fox anchor Brit Hume, 1/16/02]

FOX: REPORTER IGNORES POLLS, SAYS EVERYONE HAS TO AGREE TAX CUTS HELPED: Fox News correspondent Brian Wilson claimed, "A lot of people are doing their taxes right now and seeing the benefits of that kind of tax cuts that's in the system. Last time, everybody will have to agree, it did generate quite a little bump in the economy." He said this despite Fox News' own September 2003 poll showed that 61 percent of Americans believed tax cuts have not helped their families finances, and a January New York Times poll finding "fewer than one in five people said their tax burden had been eased." [Fox reporter Brian Wilson, 3/5/04; FOX Poll, 9/23-24; NY Times, 1/18/04]

FOX: HOST SAYS BUSH DID 'EXACTLY THE RIGHT THING': Despite questions about Bush's Iraq policy, Bill O'Reilly declared "Americans are looking for a strong leader. Mr. Bush has been that. And most Americans had emotion invested in him. He did exactly the right thing after 9/11." [Fox host Bill O'Reilly, 7/22/03]

FOX: ANCHOR SUGARCOATS IRAQ, OFFERS NO PROOF OF CLAIM: Despite burgeoning violence in Iraq and the Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow said Bush's Iraq policy "has created peaceful conditions in more than 90 percent of Iraq." He offered no source for his statistic= [Fox anchor Tony Snow, 10/14/03]

FOX: ANCHOR & REPORTER SPIN BUSH EDUCATION POLICY: Despite the prospect that Bush would propose reducing education funding, Fox's Jim Angle reported "Bush seems to see education reform as the next big front in the battle for Civil Rights. And of course, it will be the number-one priority once he takes office." When asked about Bush's clear plan to push for vouchers, Angle said, "Well, it's a mischaracterization, obviously, of his education plan." [Fox reporter Jim Angle, 1/15/01]

FOX: HANNITY SPEWS UNSUBSTANTIATED LIES ABOUT IRAQ: Fox's Sean Hannity claimed "We now have documents proving the connection between al Qaeda and Iraq but that's not enough to convince people. We had weapons dumped in the Euphrates. That's not enough to convince people." He produced no evidence of his assertions, and they have never been substantiated. [Fox host Sean Hannity, 4/28/03]

FOX: ANCHORMAN SUGARCOATS ANTI-UNION POLICIES: Chastising AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, Fox anchor Neil Cavuto claimed Republicans' anti-union agenda was acceptable because it represented "a view of individual worker spirits, a boundary-less type of environment where managers can talk directly to workers rather than through an intermediary like unions." [Fox anchor Neil Cavuto, 7/30/02]

FOX: REPORTER SAYS PUBLIC SUPPORTS RIGHT-WING ECONOMICS: While Fox News' own polling showed 69 percent of Americans thought the economy under Bush was either "fair" or "poor" in early 2002, and 68 percent in a Bloomberg poll felt that Bush's economic policies had made no difference on the economy or made it worse off, Carl Cameron reported, "Most polls show that the public prefers the Republican economic approach over that of Democrats." [Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, 1/9-10/02; Bloomberg Poll, 1-13/02; Fox reporter Carl Cameron, 1/18/02]

I know this video is a bit dated but it came to mind the other night when I heard Jimmy Carter on the Daily Show say that the only political change since he was president is we have now suffered 20 years 24/7 Right-wing talk radio and the Fox News Republican propaganda machine. Carter made the point that where once conservative conspiratorial nitwits made up about 5% of our electorate, it's now up around 25% which means those seeking office must suck up to them to get elected.

It's a hard road defending Senator Tom Colburn who is the most conservative Christian Republican rabid Pro Life Talibanie in the Senate, but pointing out liars often makes strange bedfellows.

This is just one example of the lies the Fox Network shoves around each and every day.

Newshounds, Faux News and Media Matters all give us daily reports on the lies Fox tells us, which results in Fox News gaining more viewers, more share, more money, more coverage and more political power.

The answer of course is to go back to the Fairness Doctrine which was stomped out of existence by Ronald Reagan and company in 1987. It was only a few months later that a man who had made his mark on California radio by pushing the laugh and applause buttons while he read off the names of men who had died of AIDS, moved to New York and into syndication. Rush Limbaugh. And that is no lie. Laughed and applauded as he read the names of men who died of AIDS is what made him famous. Which makes him one of the most respected men in America and the nominal leader of the GOP. Four marriages, three divorces, no children, morphine addict and the spokesman for American Family Values. All about Rush Limbaugh

-Dead Press- Journalism that's not sold-out!

What Happened to 'Drill, Baby Drill'?

From "drill baby drill" to a mere footnote: House GOP tiptoe around energy, environment in a policy agenda short on details.

What a difference two years and 4.4 million barrels of spilled oil makes.

House Republicans Thursday confirmed their commitment to standing against whatever the Democrats are standing for. Despite claims from House Republican Conference Chair Mike Spence (R-Ind.) that the GOP could now be referred to as 'the party of yes' for putting forth real solutions to the critical problems this country faces, the 2010 Republican agenda,"A Pledge to America" (pdf), offers no new solutions to our growing energy problems and ignores climate and the environment altogether.

In their exceedingly brief treatment of energy, Republicans make the specific point that they will fight a "cap and trade energy tax," yet provide no alternative solutions. If that's not an example of being the party of no (i.e defining your entirely policy position to a critical problem by explaining what it is you are against), I don't know what is.

But two years ago, it was a different story. Republicans couldn't talk enough about energy. Fresh off a convention in Minneapolis that gave rise to the "drill baby drill" rallying cry, and energized by conservative Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who was being touted by her presidential runningmate as 'one of the foremost energy experts in the U.S.,' energy was one of the central political causes--if not the central political cause--for the Republican Party. And while McCain, Palin and a handful of other Republicans gave modest lip service in support of renewables, when they were talking about energy, they were talking about oil, natural gas, and especially in Senator McCain's case, nuclear power.

Republicans were not bothered by the fact that drilling hear and drilling now would have no impact on gas prices, stepping up domestic fossil fuel production was something they could rally political support for, because it was what 'real Americans' want.

Things are shaping up a bit differently during this election cycle. And judging by the brush-aside House Republicans give to energy and the environment in their vague pledge, the GOP apparently thinks the best way to handle the political ramifications of high profile energy accidents like the BP oil spill and the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine accident is to avoid talking directly to the issue.

GOP energy policy strategy: status quo

Other than two very brief mentions of a 'cap and trade energy tax'--one of which was in the context of explaining how Republicans felt slighted by a parliamentary move while Congress was working on Waxman-Markey in late 2009--"The Pledge to America" is virtually devoid of any mention of energy, the environment or the climate (and in the case of the word, "environment," the only time it appeared was to describe the "polarizing political environment" in the country today).

But if you look real carefully, buried on page 43 (the last page of substantive text), four bullet points down, The Pledge reads:

“We will fight to increase access to domestic energy sources and oppose attempts to impose a national 'cap and trade' energy tax.”

That's it. In 45 pages--which, to be fair, has nearly 22 pages of negative space, photos of iconic American places and images of Republican members of the House visiting with mostly white, mostly older groups of people--of railing against government, trumpeting family and 'American values,' tying economic growth to tax cuts and committing to a strong national defense, the Republicans buried their entire energy agenda into a single 22-word bulletpoint just inches from the end of the document. They make no mention whatsoever of the actual environmental problem a cap-and-trade program would be designed to address--or even if they accept anthropogenic global warming as a fact--let alone suggest alternative solutions. In stead, they lump cap-and-trade together with all the other taxes they vow to fight.

Daniel Weiss, a senior fellow and director of climate strategy at the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund, told Greenwire that the document remains oblivious to public opinion and mainstream science. "When it comes to energy policy, the GOP leaders actually ignore public opinion, ignore science and instead promote the same old ideas flogged by big oil lobbyists and other energy interests," he said.

It's kind of like when you were a kid and wanted to avoid some bit of information, you would cover your ears and begin sing-talking in a loud voice: "la-la-la-la-la I-can't-hear-you la-la-la-la..."

The difference between a Pledge and a Contract: details

But its not just the left or enviros that are critical of The Pledge, leading conservative pundits showed that not everyone on the right is in love with it either.

Calling it "the most ridiculous thing to come out of Washington since George McLellen," Erick Erickson of conservative blog, Red State, was particularly critical of "The Pledge," saying: "This document proves the GOP is more focused on the acquisition of power than the advocacy of long term sound public policy."

If Republicans are hoping to resurrect the spirit of Newt Gingrich's 1994 "Contract with America"--which was also released six weeks before the November mid-term elections with a sitting Democrat in the White House--and sweep into Congress on the coattails of a well crafted and clear policy agenda, they are going to fall short.

While the Contract with America offered actionable policy prescriptions, the 2010 Pledge to America fails because it spends too much time on rhetorical chest-thumping and conservative platitudes and not enough time detailing specific solutions to the critical problems this country faces today -- and as much as they want to avoid them altogether, that includes energy and climate.

-Dead Press- Journalism that's not sold-out!

The Fox Monster!

Paul Waldman argues today that although the left has made some progress catching up to the right's media infrastructure, it hasn't closed the gap yet. That's especially true in one key area:

Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism at Columbia University, says the key is Fox News....On the right, he says, "it's Fox that makes the difference." While MSNBC's evening schedule features three liberal hosts (Olbermann, Maddow, and Ed Schultz), it doesn't have the same around-the-clock consistency of both ideology and story selection that Fox does.

Fox does more than amplify the conservative message; it builds momentum for a story by hammering it over and over for days or weeks until the mainstream media finally feels compelled to discuss it. While Maddow may take an interest in a particular story other media are ignoring, she won't be backed up by six separate MSNBC shows doing a dozen segments a day on her new pet topic. But Fox routinely takes that all-hands-on-deck approach. Recently Media Matters counted 95 separate segments on the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case — a contrived story conservatives did their best to trump up — in a period of two weeks on Fox. This kind of relentlessness doesn't work every time, but it works often enough. Eventually, many other news outlets covered the voter-intimidation story.

Yep. In most areas the left is at least close. The right has Drudge, we have the Huffington Post and TPM. The right has Rush, we have NPR. The right has the Wall Street Journal, we have the New York Times. The right has the Heritage Foundation, we have CAP. All of these comparisons are imprecise in one way or another (NPR isn't an anti-Rush, Heritage is bigger than CAP but the left boasts lots of center-left think tanks, the WSJ's editorial page is far more agressive than the NYT's, the right has nothing to compete with Daily Kos or Jon Stewart, etc.) but they're at least in the same ballpark.

But nothing we have comes even close to the power of Fox. It is unique. MSNBC is so far behind in the agenda-setting arena that it's hardly even playing the same game. So far, the mainstream media simply hasn't figured out how to deal with Fox, and there's no hint that they're getting any closer.

-Dead Press- Journalism that's not sold-out!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Patriot Act 2.0: Obama Administration Attacks Civil Rights to Privacy!

Daily KOS: Several news stories have converged since Friday, and none of them are good news for the fight to protect our civil liberties and right to privacy.

Last week, the Departement of Justice Inspector General issues a scathing review of post 9-11 FBI "terrorism investigations" targeting various peace and social justice groups, finding that the "FBI improperly investigated some left-leaning U.S. advocacy groups after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Justice Department said Monday, citing cases in which agents put activists on terrorist watch lists even though they were planning nonviolent civil disobedience." But on Friday, the FBI carried out raids on the homes of peace activists in the midwest in what appears to be a large scale and unfocused fishing operation against anti-war activists.

Then, via John Cole, on Saturday the Obama administration filed a brief urging the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki's father asking the court to enjoin the administration from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without the benefit of due process. What's particularly disturbing about the government's brief is that it once again rests on states secrets--meaning the administration is asserting that the President has the right to order American citizens killed, without the benefit of due process, and those decisions will be shielded from all scrutiny--including judicial--because they are "state secrets."

And we have two stories emerging today, the WaPo reporting that the administration "wants to require U.S. banks to report all electronic money transfers into and out of the country, a dramatic expansion in efforts to counter terrorist financing and money laundering." That's all transfers. Everything, whether the person transferring the money is under suspicion or not. Currently, banks are required to report transactions over $10,000. What's particularly frustrating about this one, as Glenn points out isn't that it's just a continuation of Bush era excesses in surveillance--it's a continuation of the inefficient and counterproductive collection of data "swamping the Government with more data than it can possibly process and manage."

Add to all that data coming in the other new proposal from the administration.

WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages....

James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the proposal had “huge implications” and challenged “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution” — including its decentralized design.

“They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” he said. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”

As Glenn points out, there are really unforunate parallels in tthis proposal to Saudi Arabia's and the UAE's ban on Blackberries. It's not banning specific devices, but the outcome would not be so different--there would be no means of technology available that couldn't be monitored by the government.

The new law would not expand the Government's legal authority to eavesdrop -- that's unnecessary, since post-9/11 legislation has dramatically expanded those authorities -- but would require all communications, including ones over the Internet, to be built so as to enable the U.S. Government to intercept and monitor them at any time when the law permits. In other words, Internet services could legally exist only insofar as there would be no such thing as truly private communications; all must contain a "back door" to enable government officials to eavesdrop.

This is precisely what Senator Frank Church was warning against after his committee found extensive illegal domestic surveillance by the Nixon and previous administrations. Speaking specifically about the techonological advances the NSA was making at the time:

"That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people," he said in 1975, "and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."

Should the government have the ability to monitor communications? Absolutely--when they have evidence or solidly grounded suspicions of criminal activity and actually get the warrants and follow the requirements of due process that the Constitution demands. That requires smarter, more targeted, and more effective solutions--solutions that are fundamentally American in guaranteeing our Constitutional rights.

-Dead Press- Journalism that's not sold-out!

FactChecking ‘The Pledge’

Republicans' "Pledge to America" falls short on some of its facts.

The Republican “Pledge to America,” released Sept. 23, contains some dubious factual claims:
It declares that “the only parts of the economy expanding are government and our national debt.” Not true. So far this year government employment has declined slightly, while private sector employment has increased by 763,000 jobs.
It says that “jobless claims continue to soar,” when in fact they are down eight percent from their worst levels.
It repeats a bogus assertion that the Internal Revenue Service may need to expand by 16,500 positions, an inflated estimate based on false assumptions and guesswork.
It claims the stimulus bill is costing $1 trillion, considerably more than the $814 billion, 10-year price tag currently estimated by nonpartisan congressional budget experts.
It says Obama’s tax proposals would raise taxes on “roughly half the small business income in America,” an exaggeration. Much of the income the GOP is counting actually comes from big businesses making over $50 million a year.
For details on these and other examples please read on to the Analysis section.
The document, "A Pledge to America" is posted on the website of the Republicans in Congress.
Portrait or Caricature?
The Pledge is full of high-sounding pronouncements such as "America is an idea" and "an inspiration to those who yearn to be free." We won’t argue with any of that.
It is also full of partisan political opinions. At one point it says that an "unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people." The GOP is certainly entitled to state those opinions, and it’s not our role to argue for or against them. Nor is it our job to say whether the promises laid out in the document would be good policy or bad policy. That will be debated elsewhere for the remainder of the campaign.
Our role here, as always, is to say when facts cited to support the arguments are false or misleading. And there are plenty of factual claims to check out.
In general the Pledge draws a gloomy picture of the sputtering economy, the horrid state of joblessness, and a federal budget wracked by record deficits and ballooning debt. Many of the claims are true. But as might be expected in a partisan manifesto, this is a lopsided rendering. At times it is more caricature than portrait: any facts that might brighten it are simply left out, and some claims are exaggerated or incorrect.
The Economy
Pledge, page 5: Our economy has declined and our debt has mushroomed with the loss of millions of jobs.
Fact: It’s true that the economy lost nearly 8.4 million jobs from the peak of employment in December, 2007 to the bottom of the job slump in December of last year. More than half (4.4 million) were lost before Obama took office. The economy has regained 723,000 jobs since hitting bottom, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pledge, page 14: Private sector unemployment remains at or near 10 percent, jobless claims continue to soar, and the only parts of the economy expanding are government and our national debt.
Fact: It’s true that the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, but that’s actually down from the peak of 10.1 percent reached last October. It’s also true that new claims for unemployment compensation – “jobless claims” – continue at a high level. But they are actually running eight percent lower than they did at their worst levels, so they are slowly declining, not soaring.
And it’s not the case that only government is growing. The opposite is true — the private sector has gained a net total of 763,000 jobs this year, according to the BLS.
But at the same time, the total number of government jobs has declined by about 40,000, despite a transitory spike in hiring by the Census Bureau to conduct its decennial head count. That spike is now over. The decline in overall government employment is mostly due to public schools shedding 62,000 positions as local property tax rolls decline due to plunging real-estate values.
Health Care
Pledge, page 26: The Obama Administration has been forced to acknowledge that the new law will force some 87 million Americans to drop their current coverage.
Fact: This is a misrepresentation. It’s true that the president over-promised when he repeatedly told Americans that "if you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan." As we noted shortly before the bill passed, he can’t make that promise to everyone. It’s also true that after the bill passed, the administration released estimates showing that only about 55 percent of large employers and 34 percent of small employers would be offering the same insurance coverage in 2013 as they do now, under "grandfathering" rules. That works out to about 87 million workers — more or less — whose policies are likely to change in some way.
But it’s deceptive of the GOP to claim that employers of these workers will "drop" their coverage. It would be accurate to say they are expected to change it.
In many cases policies will be replaced by more generous coverage, accompanied by government subsidies to help pay the premiums. Some workers will lose grandfathered status merely because their employers buy substantially similar policies from a different insurance company. In other cases coverage might get worse — plans would lose grandfathered status if they were significantly changed to cut benefits; raise co-insurance payments, copays or deductibles; lower employer contributions; or add or tighten caps on payments. But while the law would allow this, it certainly does not "force" employers to reduce coverage, as many have done in the past.
Pledge, page 27: Skyrocketing medical liability insurance rates have distorted the practice of medicine, routinely forcing doctors to order costly and often unnecessary tests to protect themselves from lawsuits, often referred to as “defensive medicine."
Fact: The claim that "defensive medicine" contributes to high medical costs is true — but it doesn’t add much. For years the majority of economic studies consistently failed to validate the claim that fear of lawsuits drove up costs by any measurable amount, as we reported extensively in 2004. But last year, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office revised its thinking based on new studies, and concluded that limiting malpractice liability would reduce total national health care spending by about one-half of 1 percent, or about $11 billion in 2009.
The new health care law addresses that by giving five-year demonstration grants to states to come up with alternatives to malpractice lawsuits. The Pledge promises "common sense" reforms to "rein in junk lawsuits." Just don’t expect them to lower health costs by much.
Pledge, page 28: Roughly 16,500 IRS auditors, agents, and other employees may be needed to collect the hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes levied on the American people by the new health care law.
Fact: This is simply not true. As we reported last March, this figure "stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation." For an eye-opening account of how Republican staff members of the House Ways and Means committee came up with this inflated figure, see our Ask FactCheck item posted March 30. Most of what the IRS will do under the law is hand out tax credits, not collect penalties.
Stimulus Bill
Pledge, page 14: The trillion-dollar “stimulus” spending bill
Pledge, page 15: . . .the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ was signed into law
Fact: The stimulus bill is a big one, but CBO says it won’t cost $1 trillion, even spread over 10 years. CBO’s most recent estimate puts the price tag to $814 billion. That’s higher than originally estimated at the time of passage, but still well short of $1 trillion.
Pledge, page 15: Despite the ‘stimulus’ and Democrats’ promises the unemployment rate would remain below eight percent, the unemployment rate climbed from 7.7 percent in January 2009 to 9.5 percent in August 2010.
Republicans have a point here, as we noted some time ago. Back in July of last year we wrote, “the original projections from President Obama’s economic advisers on what would happen with and without the stimulus plan are still off — and significantly so.” But nobody “promised” that unemployment would remain below 8 percent.
As we also wrote in June of last year, the White House explanation was simple: “They say President George Bush left them a worse mess than they realized" when Obama’s advisers came up with their predictions. And that’s true. The original chart – produced Jan. 9, 2009 — was based on economic projections that were in line with what private economists were forecasting. Those forecasts were being revised for the worse even before any stimulus money was spent.
And for the record, CBO’s experts calculate that the stimulus has had a positive effect on employment. In its most recent report on the measure, the agency estimated that in the second quarter of 2010, stimulus spending lowered the unemployment rate between 0.7 and 1.8 percentage points and increased the number of people working between 1.4 million and 3.3 million.
Small Business
Pledge, page 14: [Obama] also wants to raise taxes on roughly half of small business income in America.
Fact: This is an exaggeration. Republicans are equating "net positive business income" reported on individual returns with "small business income," which isn’t correct. They rely on a report from the nonpartisan staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (p. 12), which estimated that about 3 percent of taxpayers who have any business income on their personal returns would see a tax increase under Obama’s proposal, and that those 750,000 taxpayers account for about half of all the business income reported.
But some of that income is from big businesses raking in tens of millions of dollars a year. The JCT stated quite clearly that "These figures for net positive business income do not imply that all of the income is from entities that might be considered ’small.’" Some in fact are quite large, and those big businesses account for a good chunk of that income.
The JCT said: "For example, in 2005, 12,862 S corporations and 6,658 partnerships had receipts of more than $50 million."
Republicans do have a point here. Many small businesses and some large fraction of small-business income will be adversely impacted by raising the top rate on individual taxpayers.
The fact is, though, that the JCT couldn’t estimate how much of the total business income was accounted for by "small" businesses, or how many of the 750,000 individuals affected own "small" busineses. What we do know is that a good deal less than half the small business income, and something less than three percent of small business owners, would be subject to higher taxes.
Pledge, page 14: Unless action is taken, a $3.8 trillion tax hike will go into effect on January 1, 2011 that will unravel these policies. A family of four with a household income of $50,000 a year will have to pay $2,900 more in taxes in 2011.
Fact: True, but misleading. What the Pledge fails to note is that Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress have consistently promised to extend the Bush tax cuts for all families making less than $250,000 a year, and singles making less than $200,000. It’s true that hasn’t happened yet, but the reason is that several House and Senate Democrats are agitating to extend the cuts for everybody, even those with the highest incomes.
Congress might yet fail to extend most or all the cuts before they are scheduled to expire next year. As we reported in a Sept. 3 Ask FactCheck item on this issue, there’s always a possibility that Congress will grind to a halt in a stalemate. And sure enough, on Sept. 23 Senate Democrats announced they would put off any vote on extending the cuts until after the election. A spokesman for Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said, "Democrats believe we must permanently extend tax cuts for the middle-class before they expire at the end of the year, and we will."

-Dead Press- Journalism that's not sold-out!

They Come In Peace!

Aliens have landed, infiltrated British nuclear missile sites and deactivated the weapons, according to US military pilots.

The beings have repeated their efforts in the US and have been active since 1948, the men said, and accused the respective governments of trying to keep the information secret.

The unlikely claims were compiled by six former US airmen and another member of the military who interviewed or researched the evidence of 120 ex-military personnel.

The information they have collected suggests that aliens could have landed on Earth as recently as seven years ago.

The men's aim is to press the two governments to recognise the long-standing extra-terrestrial visits as fact.

They are to be presented on Monday 27 September at a meeting in Washington.

One of the men, Capt Robert Salas, said: "The US Air Force is lying about the national security implications of unidentified aerial objects at nuclear bases and we can prove it."

He said said he witnessed such an event first-hand on March 16, 1967, at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana which housed Minuteman nuclear missiles.

Capt Salas continued: "I was on duty when an object came over and hovered directly over the site.

"The missiles shut down - 10 Minuteman missiles. And the same thing happened at another site a week later. There's a strong interest in our missiles by these objects, wherever they come from. I personally think they're not from planet Earth."

Others claim to have seen similar activity in the UK.

Col Charles Halt said he saw a UFO at the former military base RAF Bentwaters, near Ipswich, 30 years ago, during which he saw beams of light fired into the base then heard on the military radio that aliens had landed inside the nuclear storage area.

He said: "I believe that the security services of both the United States and the United Kingdom have attempted - both then and now - to subvert the significance of what occurred at RAF Bentwaters by the use of well-practised methods of disinformation."

The site was then the base of the US 81st Tactical Fighter Wing.

Capt Bruce Fenstermacher, a former US Air Force officer, also claims he saw a cigar-shaped UFO hovering above a nuclear base in Wyoming in 1976.

-Dead Press- Journalism that's not sold-out!