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Make Them Accountable / Media & Politics (one section only today)

Media & Politics (one section only today)

Permanent link to MTA daily media news

Stop Me Before I Vote Again

598,000 jobs lost last month, 3.6 million since recession began. (Think Progress)
The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 598,000 jobs were lost last month, “far worse than the 525,000 economists expected.” The unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent. The Wall Street Journal notes that the
U.S. economy has lost 3.6 million jobs since the recession officially began in Dec. 2007… January was a brutal month for layoffs, “as major companies ranging from Microsoft, Boeing and Caterpillar to Home Depot and Starbucks all announced substantial job cuts.”

Senate centrists’ plan = 600,000 fewer jobs. (Think Progress)
The Senate “centrists,” led by Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME), are cheering the fact that they’ve cut $86 billion in spending from the economy recovery package. “Spending for the states and education took the biggest hit, compared with the House bill. State fiscal stabilization funding was cut back $40 billion, school construction dropped $16 billion, and a proposed $3.5 billion line for higher education construction was zeroed out.” Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman puts those cuts in perspective: “…My first cut says that the changes to the Senate bill will ensure that we have at least 600,000 fewer Americans employed over the next two years.”

‘Centrist’ Economic Recovery Package Disproportionately Cuts Programs For Women And Children (Think Progress)
 Conservatives opposed to the Democratic economic recovery package have been voicing their complaints by calling out individual programs they believe to be wasteful… Many of these cuts, however, would disproportionately affect women and children — similar to the cuts to the House bill.
Click through for some highlights.

Clusterf#@k to the Poor House – Economic Recovery Plan (video, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart)

Appeasing the centrists (by Paul Krugman)
[S]houldn’t Obama have made a much bigger plan, say $1.3 trillion, his opening gambit? If he had, he could have conceded to the centrists by cutting it to $1.2 trillion, and still have had a plan with a good chance of really controlling this slump. Instead he made preemptive concessions, only to find the centrists demanding another pound of flesh as proof of their centrist power.
Obama’s lack of negotiating skills, apparent when he was my senator, was one of the reasons I didn’t support his candidacy.

Where’s that silhouette I’m trying to trace? (by Avedon Carol at the Sideshow)
John Perr notes that the Senate has confirmed what he calls Krugman’s Law and agreed on a “compromise” stimpack that “balances” anything useful with tax cuts that will seriously undercut its effectiveness. “And as I’ve previously suggested, there is also Krugman’s Corollary. Fearful of a Democratic majority for years to come, Republicans are afraid not that Barack Obama’s economic recovery package will fail, but that it might succeed.” And conservative Democrats are helping them… We spent eight years watching the Democrats help the Republicans pass crappy bills, and now, apparently, we’re all prepared to spend more time watching them do much the same. [Emphasis added.]

Peter Schiff: Stimulus Bill Will Lead to “Unmitigated Disaster” (by J –SOM at Liberal Rapture)
Listen to Peter Schiff on the stimulus bill here. Remember that Schiff is one of the few voices that called the housing and financial collapse correctly. He was mocked to his face on national television along the way. His take is important because his track  record is so good. The problem, he says, is the government is trying to perpetuate a “phony economy” based on borrowing and spending.

They Blew It (by Steve at The Left Coaster)
[Obama] is now supporting a stimulus bill that economists from all sides say will not be enough… Team Obama had a flawed strategy coming in, still has one, and is soon to be saddled with a “recovery package” that is inadequate and represents a grand failure in terms of effective stimulus spending. And they have no one but themselves to blame.
And they will get blamed, along with all other Democrats, when the stimulus package fails to stimulate.  Blaming others is what Republicans do best.  How could people as experienced as Obama’s advisors not realize that?  They just cannot bring themselves to believe, no matter how much evidence is right in their faces, that some Republicans will destroy the nation if they believe doing so will increase their power.

More Post-Partisan Depression (by Susie at Suburban Guerrilla)
The article header sums up David Sirota’s latest: “Even under the new president,
Washington is the same one-party town it always has been — controlled not by Democrats or Republicans, but by thieves.”

“Bipartisan” (by emptywheel at Firedoglake)
[T]he new definition of “bipartisan”: three Republicans screw with a bill, and in the end, only one of them even votes for it.

Obama called 3 Repubs to thank them for their “patriotism” in achieving the stimulus compromise (by jawbone at Corrente)
From the NYTimes article on the Gang of Screw the People compromise Obama and Rahmbo reached [Friday] night, this amazing paragraph: “Mr. Obama called Ms. Collins and Mr. Specter, as well as Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, another Republican expected to support the deal, to acknowledge they were acting against pressure from their party and, one official said, to thank them for their patriotism in helping advance the bill at a critical time.”

Centrists to states, people who need jobs: Drop dead (by lambert at Corrente)
[C]entrists, now oh-so-fiscally responsible when help for us is on the able, handed over $700 billion in TARP money to the bankers NOW NOW NOW without even holding hearings on the bill.

Supporters Of $1.3 Trillion Bush Tax Cuts In 2001 Now Call $900 Billion Recovery Plan Billion ‘Too Much’ (Think Progress)
As the senate version of the economic recovery package makes its way through Congress, a significant (though misguided) criticism of the package from Senate Republicans is that it is “too big.”… Such objections are indeed ironic coming from some of the greatest advocates for President Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax cut package in 2001… If you compare the condition of the economy in 2001 to the current state of the economy, the numbers show that those who now call the recovery package too big, were willing to spend far more when the economic situation wasn’t nearly as precarious.

Sixteen years (by Paul Krugman)
A tale of two presidencies

Coulter on stimulus: “Japan tried it. And if the Japanese can’t pull it off — as Charles Murray has pointed out, they do have higher IQs — if they can’t pull off this kind of spending your way into an economic recovery, then we certainly can’t” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

The Japan example (by Joseph Cannon at Cannonfire)
During its bad decade, Japan spent trillions on its own version of a stimulus package. Much of the money went into infrastructure — roads, bridges, and so forth… But: “In the end, say economists, it was not public works but an expensive cleanup of the debt-ridden banking system, combined with growing exports to China and the United States, that brought a close to Japan’s Lost Decade.” Okay. So that brings us to an appallingly simple question: What should we concentrate on exporting? I mean aside from jobs.

Rove: ‘No one that I know of is talking about tax cuts only.’ (Think Progress)
On Fox News [Friday], former Bush adviser Karl Rove responded to President Obama’s criticism last night of Republicans who offer “more tax cuts as the only answer to every problem we face,” by claiming, “no one that I know of is talking about tax cuts only.”… Apparently, Rove doesn’t know any Senate Republicans. Yesterday, 36 out of 41 Senate Republicans voted for an amendment offered by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) that was an alternative “stimulus” plan consisting of nothing but permanent tax cuts. An analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund found that DeMint’s plan would “cost over $3.1 trillion over ten years — more than three times the amount of President Barack Obama’s plan — and be largely ineffective at creating jobs.”
Click through to watch the video.

Krugman squashes GOP stimulus talking points; asks of “completely crazy” GOP alternative package: “[H]ow much bipartisan outreach can you have when 36 out of 41 Republican Senators take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh?” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

The Destructive Center (by Paul Krugman)
So has Mr. Obama learned from this experience? Early indications aren’t good. For rather than acknowledge the failure of his political strategy and the damage to his economic strategy, the president tried to put a postpartisan happy face on the whole thing. “Democrats and Republicans came together in the Senate and responded appropriately to the urgency this moment demands,” he declared on Saturday, and “the scale and scope of this plan is right.” No, they didn’t, and no, it isn’t.

The Education of Barack Obama (by Deacon Blues at The Left Coaster)
President Obama, no matter how distasteful it may be to you personally, if you want to get a package and turn this economy around, you have to run over a few Republicans in this battle, leave them bloodied by the roadside, and make an example of them for future battles. And that goes for the media too.

Already Back on the Trail, Now to Sell a Stimulus Plan (New York Times)
In an effort to build support for his signature economic stimulus plan, Mr. Obama is setting off for Indiana on Monday, holding his first prime-time news conference on Monday night and heading to Florida on Tuesday. In both states, he will be working to counter Republican criticism of his $800 billion recovery package and take greater control of the debate. He also is hoping to refill his reservoir of political capital and escape Washington after a bruising week in the White House.

Will Obama Mobilize His Millions of Supporters?… (by David Corn, Mother Jones)
[W]hen Ronald Reagan came to Washington in 1981, determined to pass an economic package of tax cuts and draconian cuts in social programs, he delivered multiple televised addresses and urged his supporters to call their members of Congress and demand passage of this legislation. The phones on Capitol Hill lit up; the legislation was passed–over the objections of the leaders of the Democratic-controlled House.

Low numbers on Obama’s stim plan house parties (by lambert at Corrente)
Since it’s McClatchy: “Few supporters are answering President Barack Obama’s call for nationwide house-party gatherings this weekend to build grass-roots support for his economic stimulus plan. A McClatchy survey of sign-up rosters for a score of cities across the country revealed only 34 committed attendees in
Tacoma, Wash., as of midafternoon Friday; in Fort Worth, Texas, only 54, and in Sacramento, Calif., just 78. ‘Before the election, we would have had 500 to 800,’ said Kim Mack, 46, a Sacramento city-facility manager who’s hosted house parties for political figures and causes since the mid-’90s.”

He’s just not that into you (by lambert at Corrente)
[Chris Bowers at Open Left]: “The mantra of ‘change from the bottom up’ was something that Obama regularly mentioned in his campaign speeches. It is difficult to connect that hopeful vision to Susan Collins and Ben Nelson re-writing the stimulus package against the wishes of the population at large. This is especially the case given that Obama’s grassroots network is being asked to politely sit on their hands and ask Tim Kaine a few questions about the bill, rather than to take meaningful action… If President Obama would let us know which side he was on–the center-right Senate coalition’s or the Democratic congressional leadership’s–and urged people to take specific actions to help that side, everything would be a lot clearer.”

It’s not clear now?
It’s not clear to those who prefer not to see clearly.

Obama’s Natives Get Restless (by masslib at Alegre’s Corner)
Well, well, well, seems like some of Obama’s grassrooters have their own priorities.  This, I can believe in… “RENTON, Wash. – The gathering Friday night in Daryl Berry’s house in this suburban city 20 miles south of Seattle was both a dozen people sitting around talking in a den and a history-making political event… Berry, a mathematician and data mining consultant with the didactic lecturing style of a college professor, made it clear at the start that his main goal for the evening was to deliver a PowerPoint presentation on the necessity for a national government-administered medical insurance system, not talk about the economic stimulus legislation that is currently at the center of political wrangling in the Senate.

Obama Has Upper Hand in Stimulus Fight (Gallup)
President Obama receives a 67% approval rating for his handling of the government’s efforts to pass an economic stimulus bill, compared to 31% for the Republicans in Congress. A majority of Americans (51%) agree that passing such a bill is critically important to improving the nation’s economy.

Obama Hits Back at Republican Critics (Political Wire)
As his economic stimulus package nears a vote in the U.S. Senate, President Obama continues to strike a defiant tone towards Republican critics … of the spending in the bill. A sampling of his comments before House Democrats [last week]: “Understand, the scale and the scope of this plan is right.”
“First of all, I found this deficit when I showed up (long standing ovation from members)… I found this national debt doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me when I stepped into the Oval Office.”
“Come on, we are not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that for the last eight years doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin. We can’t embrace a losing formula that says only tax cuts will work for every challenge we face.”
“I don’t care whether you’re driving a hybrid or an SUV, if you’re heading toward a cliff, you’ve got to change direction.”
Watch the video here.

Republicans Slam Obama As Partisan (by Greg Sargent at The Plum Line)
This strikes me as potentially a major turning point in the “bipartisanship” wars: The Republican Congressional leadership, which had previously been targeting House Dems as “partisan” while praising President Obama’s outreach to the GOP, has dropped this strategy and is now openly hitting the President as partisan, too.

When the press plays dumb about itself, cont’d (County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Question: What’s the easiest CW column to write this week?
Answer: How Obama ‘lost control’ of the stimulus bill message.
Question: What’s the No. 1 rule when writing that CW column?
Answer: Never acknowledge the role the press has played in the ‘debate.’…
Did the White House make missteps in publicly framing the stimulus bill. Some insiders there might concede they did. At the same time, the press has spent the last two weeks dramatically effecting the stimulus ‘debate.’ Why won’t journalists acknowledge that? How can the media have no impact on a public policy debate?

On MSNBC, GOP strategist launches new stimulus talking point: “it just might be the political equivalent of Hillary Clinton’s health care bill” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

Stimulus debate reminds WSJ’s Bendavid of ’94 crime bill, when GOP “would always talk about midnight basketball because… that was easy to ridicule, easy to mock, not necessarily representative of the whole” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

MS/NBC reporters continue to line up against stimulus (County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Andrea Mitchell isn’t even pretending to be neutral here. She’s opposing the stimulus package. She’s insisting it is embarrassing and will necessitate apologies – though she doesn’t explain why. Whatever the reason, the list of reporters at the supposedly liberal MSNBC who oppose the stimulus continues to grow.

Beck on O’Reilly Factor: “We are really truly stepping beyond socialism and starting to look at fascism”; compares proposals to Nazi Germany (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

Take it from the master: CNN’s Dobbs warns that Obama, Pelosi are “fear-mongering” and using “the politics of fear” to pass stimulus bill (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

REPORT: GOP Lawmakers Outnumber Dem Lawmakers By Almost 2 To 1 In Cable News Stimulus Debate Again (Think Progress)
In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that Republican lawmakers outnumbered Democratic lawmakers 75 to 41 on cable news interviews by members of Congress (from 6am on Monday 2/2 through 11pm on Thursday 2/5):

Bill Moyers, Glenn Greenwald, and Jay Rosen (County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Had a fascinating discussion about the Beltway press on Moyers’ most recent PBS program. To watch it click here. Noted Rosen: “Well, what cannot be considered is that there could be anything radically wrong with Washington. That the entire institution could be broken. That there are new rules necessary. That idea, that the institutions of Washington have failed and need to be changed, doesn’t really occur to the press, because they’re one of those institutions.”

Obama officials delay bank bailout announcement (McClatchy)
The Obama administration on Sunday postponed the announcement of its new bank rescue plan so that it could concentrate on pushing passage of economic stimulus legislation in Congress.

Bank Bailout Plan Revamped (Wall Street Journal)
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to announce that the government will become a partner with the private sector to purchase banks’ troubled assets, according to people familiar with the matter. The plan for a so-called aggregator bank, a variation on a theme that Obama administration officials have wrestled with for weeks, is among four main components of Mr. Geithner’s bailout revamp, which he is expected to announce Tuesday… The aggregator bank, which some refer to as a “bad bank,” would be designed to solve a fundamental challenge: How can banks purge themselves of their bad bets without worsening their weakened condition?

The entity would be seeded with funds from the $700 billion financial-sector bailout fund, but the idea is that most financing would come from the private sector. 

Let’s Start Brand New Banks (by Paul Romer, senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, , thanks to Economist’s View)
Everyone agrees that the United States urgently needs a few good banks. Turning bad banks into good banks is a difficult and risky way to get them. It’s simpler and safer to start entirely new banks. In this context, “good” means a bank with assets and liabilities that are easy to value using market prices. At a good bank, officers, regulators and investors can be confident about the value of the bank’s capital. The government has $350 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds that it can use to encourage new bank lending. If this money is directed to newly created good banks with pristine balance sheets, it could support $3.5 trillion in new lending with a modest 9-to-1 leverage. Right out of the gate, the newly created banks could do what the Fed has already been doing — buying pools of loans originated by existing banks that meet high underwriting standards.

And Now We Know…., (by Tim Duy at Fed Watch, Economist’s View)
Why are we here? Why, months after TARP, are we still not willing to dig down in the balance sheets of troubled banks and disgorge the questionable assets once and for all? Why, with a new Administration, supposedly unfettered from the ideological positions of the last Administration?… We used to wonder aloud at the intransigence of Japanese policymakers. How could they allow their banking system to deteriorate? Why not take decisive action? Now we know: Fettered to an adherence to the status quo and an aversion to the concept of nationalization, the political will to attack the problem head-on is overwhelmed by the enormity of the financial crisis.

Watchdogs: Government overpaid for Wall Street assets (McClatchy)
The federal government overpaid by about $78 billion for stock and other troubled assets when it bailed out big banks last year, and it lacks sufficient internal controls to police and protect taxpayers’ investment in the institutions, government watchdogs said Thursday.

Heads of 10 bailed-out banks took home $200 million in 2007 (McClatchy)
However you count their stock options, bonuses and perks, the chief executives of 10 banks that have gotten at least $161 billion in federal bailout money were doing swell the last year in which their income was publicly disclosed.

Are bankers paid too much? (by Thomas Philippon, NYU and CEPR, thanks to Economist’s View)
Evidence from a new century-long dataset suggests that the key factors driving relative wages in the financial sector have been regulation and corporate finance activity, followed by financial innovation. Over the past decade, however, “rents” account for 30% to 50% of the sector’s wage differential. In this sense, financiers are overpaid.

Executive Compensation Limits: He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune (by Andrew Samwick, Capital Gains and Games, thanks to Economist’s View)
If the government is going to put taxpayer money into distressed firms, then it has the obligation to regulate every way that money leaves the firms before the taxpayer money is repaid.  That includes dividends, large purchases, executive compensation – everything… As a taxpayer, I want competent people running the organizations that I expect to repay the funds.  Almost by definition, we can assert that those running these organizations are not competent.  The big problem is that they have not been fired.  The small problem is that we may be overpaying them.

Goldman, JPMorgan Won’t Feel Effects of Executive-Salary Caps (Bloomberg)
Executives at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and hundreds of financial institutions receiving federal aid aren’t likely to be affected by pay restrictions announced yesterday by President Barack Obama. The rules, created in response to growing public anger about the record bonuses the financial industry doled out last year, will apply only to top executives at companies that need “exceptional” assistance in the future. The limits aren’t retroactive, meaning firms that have already taken government money won’t be subject to the restrictions unless they have to come back for more.

Bailout banks hired FOREIGN workers with taxpayer cash (by Joseph Cannon at Cannonfire)
I cannot believe this. I cannot freaking buh-LEIVE this. Warning: Reading this AP story will turn your face stoplight red. “Major U.S. banks sought government permission to bring thousands of foreign workers into the country for high-paying jobs even as the system was melting down last year and Americans were getting laid off, according to an Associated Press review of visa applications…” In general, I am a law-abiding fellow who feels no desire to commit any crimes — certainly not any violent crimes. But if the U.S. state and federal codes were re-written in order to allow me to slit the throats of the bankers who made that lovely decision, I would see my duty and fulfill it instantly. And I would sleep well that night, secure in the knowledge that I had done the work of the Good Lord. Yes, I’m serious.

Proof once again: Capitalism can work only if the capitalists are kept controlled, chained and whipped.

From the Dept. of You Gotta Be Kidding: GM to Spend $1 billion bailout $$ in Brazil (by Sarah at Corrente)
claiming it’s a better investment for the money than using it in US operations. So, how do we get these managers and financiers straightened out? This ain’t a UNION problem — this is a CORPORATE MANAGEMENT problem, and if we don’t put a spike in this wheel, it’ll be an AMERICAN BANKRUPTCY problem!!

The scams have already started.  The ad for this deal below (buy their CD and get free money from the Obama administration) was on a YouTube video.  For years, I’ve suspected that the guy with dollar signs all over his suit who advertises his guide for getting government grants was really a Republican shill.  You only saw his ads during election time, so I think his purpose was to remind people how badly the government supposedly spends our tax money.  See also: Bail Me Out Obama.

Obama signs kids’ health insurance bill (AP)
President Barack Obama signed a bill Wednesday extending health coverage to 4 million uninsured children, a much-needed win a day after he lost his nominee to lead his drive for sweeping health care reform… Obama said adding 4 million children to the program was a key step toward his promise of universal health care coverage for all.

Obama lifts restrictions on kids’ health coverage (AP)
The Obama administration on Thursday lifted a Bush-era directive to states that restricted some middle-class families from getting government health insurance… “These requirements have limited coverage under several state plans that otherwise would have covered additional, uninsured children,” Obama wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services. “As a result, tens of thousand of children have been denied health care coverage.” He said that if he had not lifted the restrictions, “many more children will be denied coverage.”

Panetta Says Harsh Interrogations Are Still Possible (American Constitution Society)
President Obama’s choice to head the CIA, Leon Panetta, told a Senate panel that in some instances he may urge the president to allow the CIA to use harsh interrogation methods on suspects detained on allegations of terrorism involvement… Panetta said that in extreme situations, he might request permission from the White House to use interrogation techniques beyond those authorized by President Obama’s recent executive order. Panetta would not say what type of interrogation methods he would push for. 

Panetta also testified that the “practice of ‘rendition’ — picking terrorism suspects off the street and sending them to a third country,” for detention and interrogation would continue. He claimed, however, that renditions would not take place in countries “known for torture,” the Red Cross would be granted access to prisoners, and prisoners could not be kept indefinitely.

Leon Panetta Pledges That No CIA Employees Will Be Prosecuted For War Crimes (by Jonathan Turley)
CIA director nominee Leon Panetta gave startling testimony in his confirmation hearings this week by retracting a statement critical of the Bush Administration’s rendition policy and proclaiming that CIA employees will not be punished for any war crimes that they committed.

Obama considering at least 2 Iraq withdrawal plans (AP)
The White House is considering at least two troop withdrawal options as it weighs a new Iraq strategy—one that would preserve President Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to get all combat brigades out within 16 months and a second that would stretch it to 23 months, two officials said Friday. A third, in-between option of 19 months is also being weighed, according to the officials, neither of whom would discuss the sensitive topic without being granted anonymity. One of the officials said the main focus appears to be on the 16-month and 23-month options; 23 months would run to the end of 2010. Under either timeline, the U.S. would hope to leave behind a number of brigades that would be redesigned and reconfigured as multipurpose units to provide training and advising for Iraqi security forces, one official said.

Obama reconsidering Afghanistan surge? (Think Progress)
President Obama was expected to “formally approve additional deployments” to Afghanistan last week. But on Friday, ABC News reported that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was deferring a decision on whether to send more more troops “until President Obama decides what force levels he wants.” The Pentagon has presented a proposal to send three additional brigades — 17,000 troops. The U.K. Sunday Times reports: “The Pentagon was set to announce the deployment of 17,000 extra soldiers and marines last week but Robert Gates, the defence secretary, postponed the decision after questions from Obama…” Obama and Gates seem to be leaning towards a “more modest approach, defining the mission as limited solely to stabilizing
Afghanistan.”

U.S. stand on Guantanamo documents angers British (McClatchy)
Facing a furor in Parliament, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband all but confirmed on Thursday that the U.S. had threatened to break off intelligence sharing if details were revealed about the alleged torture of a British resident held at the
Guantanamo Bay military prison.

Pentagon pulls Cole charges to avoid Guantanamo hearing (McClatchy)
The Pentagon on Thursday ended the standoff between an Army judge and President Barack Obama by dismissing war crimes charges against an alleged al Qaeda plotter accused in the 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole.

9/11 families applaud Obama at meeting on Guantanamo (McClatchy)
After an emotional, private meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama, survivors and victims’ relatives of two al Qaida attacks said Friday that the president quelled some of their fears about closing the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention center, promised them an “open-door” policy and a hand in shaping anti-terror policies, and said he is considering a modified military commission system to try detainees.

Guantanamo judge who defied Obama issues new ruling (McClatchy)
An Army judge who is defying a White House request to freeze the Pentagon’s war court ruled Thursday that he has the authority to decide whether the military’s security measures at
Guantanamo impair a captive’s ability to defend himself… The prospect of the hearing is setting up a tug-of-war over whether the Pentagon will honor President Barack Obama’s Jan. 22 Executive Order instructing Gates to stop the military commissions for 120 days. Pohl last week refused a prosecution motion for the delay, saying “the public interest in a speedy trial will be harmed by the delay.”
Lambert asks, “‘Whether the Pentagon will honor an Executive Order’? Who’s running the country, anyhow?”

The U.S. government further nationalizes over religion, liberalism takes another hit (by heidiliofpotpourri at The Confluence)
President Obama has signed an executive order creating “a revamped White House office for religion-based and neighborhood programs, expanding an initiative started by the Bush administration that provides government
support — and financing — to religious and charitable organizations that deliver social services.”… What the expanded office does is to advantage certain groups – faith-based ones – not on grounds of the likelihood of their contributing to efficient wealth production, but on the grounds that the President believes they are “good” and will do “good”…

If one of the tasks for our society is to aid those who have fallen on hard times, we have two established, liberal ways to accomplish that task. We can entrust the job to the market, assuming that entrepeneurs will find a way to serve their own economic interest while helping others… Or we can choose to add social safety nets officiated over by civil servants acting directly on behalf of the state. The Time article notes: “In announcing the expansion of the religion office, Mr. Obama did not settle the biggest question: Can religious groups that receive federal money for social service programs hire only those who share their faith?” Sometimes a conspicuous lack of an answer tells us more than any answer could.

Obama appoints gay man to faith-based initiatives office. (Think Progress)
[Thursday], ThinkProgress noted that President Obama was stalling in overturning Bush’s rule that allowed religious groups to discriminate — usually against gay people — in their hiring. [Friday] Obama made an important gesture in naming Fred Davie, the openly gay president of Public/Private Ventures, to serve on on the policy council of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Speaking about his hopes for the Office yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama emphasized the importance of reaching out to “foster a more productive and peaceful dialogue on faith“.

Obama Strikes Again: Overturns Bush Anti-Labor Rule On Gov’t. Projects (by Sarah at Corrente)
[Friday], the President overruled the Bush administration’s previous orders on PLA’s. This action overturned one of Bush’s first executive orders, according to AFL-CIO NOW. Mark H. Ayers, president of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD), praised Obama’s action, saying: “…We acknowledge and praise this executive order as being one of the first steps in ushering in a new, more pragmatic and value-conscious approach to governing. Project labor agreements generally set wages and establish work rules and methods of settling grievances on large multi-contractor construction projects.”

Salazar cancels Bush-era energy leases in Utah (Los Angeles Times)
The Interior secretary voids the December sale of 77 environmentally sensitive parcels to oil and gas companies.

The Public Says “No More DEA Raids!” The President Says “No More DEA Raids!” So Why Are There More DEA Raids? (NORML)
While campaigning for the
US presidency, Barack Obama pledged not to “use Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state (medical marijuana) laws.” Nearly three-quarters of the American public agrees with this position… But since President Obama took office two weeks ago, the US Drug Enforcement Administration has undertaken at least seven separate raids of state-authorized medical marijuana providers in California and Colorado.

Justice Ginsburg plans quick return to court (AP)
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg plans to be back at work for the court’s next public session, less than three weeks after surgery for pancreatic cancer. Ginsburg intends to be in court when the justices hear arguments on Feb. 23, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Friday. The 75-year-old justice is currently recuperating at a New York hospital after undergoing surgery on Thursday.

Ginsburg’s cancer prompts talk of who’s next on high court (McClatchy)
Ginsburg’s diagnosis with a dangerous form of cancer underscores the fragility of the court’s current makeup and the likelihood that, for one reason or another, it could change as early as this year.

Sebelius Under Serious Consideration for HHS (Political Wire)
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) “was very near the top of President Barack Obama’s list of candidates to head the Health and Human Services Department,” the AP reports. “The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private administration deliberations, said no decision was imminent. But the official added the former Kansas insurance commissioner was rising as Obama considers prospective candidates.”

Harkin, Grijalva push Dean for HHS (The Hill)
Two prominent Democrats are urging President Obama to nominate former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) as secretary of Health and Human Services. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over HHS and sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Thursday that tapping Dean – the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and a presidential contender in 2004 – would be “a very good move.” Meanwhile, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), an emerging ally of the president, penned a letter to the White House Wednesday urging the same pick. Dean, a medical doctor, would be in a position as HHS secretary to lead the administration’s push for major healthcare reform.

“While most of the public have only known Howard as a ground-breaking candidate for president and one of the most successful leaders of our party, I have also known him as [a] champion for universal healthcare,” Grijalva wrote Obama. “It has been the cause of his life.”
Angry as I am with Howard Dean for his part in manipulating last year’s primaries in Obama’s favor, universal health care is too important not to have a real champion at HHS.

Solis confirmation vote postponed. (Think Progress)
After weeks of Republicans “burying her in paperwork,” the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was finally prepared to vote on Hilda Solis’s nomination for Labor Secretary today. However, Politico now reports that the scheduled vote has been postponed.. The delay was announced moments after USA Today reported that Solis’ husband had recently paid off $6,400 in tax liens on an auto shop he owns in
Los Angeles.

White House Intends to Circumvent Gregg on Census (Political Wire)
A senior White House official told CQ Politics that the Obama administration intends to strip Commerce Secretary nominee Judd Gregg of census responsibilities “to assuage black and Hispanic leaders who had raised concerns about Gregg’s commitment to core functions of the department.” Politico confirms the story, noting “sources on the Hill close to these negotiations say the Census would, more or less by default, would fall under the jurisdiction of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.” Republicans, however, see it as an effort by Emanuel “to seize power over the politically delicate issue of counting Americans.”

Gregg Will Help Move Entitlement Reform (by David Broder)
[I]n months to come, Gregg will be worth celebrating. He is one of the smart guys on Capitol Hill, especially when it comes to fiscal policy… Gregg and North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, respectively, the top Republican and Democrat on the Budget Committee, have been pushing for the creation of a bipartisan commission that would tackle the looming bankruptcy of the three big entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid… The problem is likely to be in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains opposed to the commission idea and where Republicans are adamant against considering tax hikes along with benefit reductions in any kind of “grand bargain.” It will be a heavy lift, but there are willing hands.
They want to steal from us the money we pre-paid for our retirement.

Former Gregg Aide Tied To Abramoff Scandal, Court Documents Report He Took Gifts In Exchange For Favors (Think Progress)
[T]he AP reported that Kevin Koonce, who worked as Commerce Secretary-nominee Judd Gregg’s legislative director from 2002-04, “has been caught up in a long-running investigation into a Capitol Hill lobbying scandal.” Koonce “was cited in a guilty plea last week by Todd Boulanger, a former deputy to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff,” as having taken gifts exceeding $10,000 in exchange for favors in spending legislation.

Ruling Favors Ex-Congressman and Could Limit Other Investigations (Washington Post)
The order, which has not been made public, came during the grand jury investigation of former representative  Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) and his potential ties to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the sources said. The appellate judges who issued the ruling did not say when they would release an opinion explaining their decision, which reversed a lower court order favorable to prosecutors seeking documents and grand jury testimony, the sources said…

[L]egal experts said it is important because it is the second time in two years that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has sided with Congress in its fight with the Justice Department over what protections lawmakers are granted under the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause. The clause is designed to shield lawmakers’ official work from executive branch interference and has been increasingly cited by members of Congress under federal investigation.

Stevens prosecutors admit another error (McClatchy)
Federal prosecutors have found a new reason to apologize over misleading information they’ve provided to the judge in former Sen. Ted Stevens’ trial, and this time Stevens’ lawyers are saying the government should be held in contempt.

Was Blogojevich’s Ouster Itself Corrupt? (Political Wire)
Jonathan Rauch: “I think that Blagojevich is probably a crook, and so does everyone else, so the question may seem academic. But it’s not. Overturning an election is fundamentally antidemocratic and, in a democracy, potentially dangerous. When it needs to be done, the proceedings need to be objectively distinguishable from a railroading. In other words, the rules must be scrupulously fair. Otherwise, the process for removing corrupt politicians becomes, itself, indistinguishable from political corruption.”

Campbell Brown: “Who is actually leading the Republican Party these days? And if you listen to Rush Limbaugh, he is”; Steele: “Limbaugh is a conservative voice for our party” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

Poll shows Limbaugh less popular than Ayers, Rev. Wright (County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Over at The Daily Beast, Max Blumenthal looks at Rush “number one voice of conservatism” Limbaugh, whom, you’ll recall, was named an honorary member of Congress by House Republicans back in 1994 when they took control of both the House and Senate. Blumenthal notes that, “Rush polls seven points lower than Rev. Jeremiah ‘God Damn America’ Wright and eight points below former Weather Underground domestic terrorist William Ayers.”

Steele Cleans House at RNC (Political Wire)
A Republican source tells Ben Smith that newly elected RNC Chairman Michael Steele “has requested the resignations of the entire RNC staff and signaled a dramatic turnover at the party organization… Some aides may be retained, though Republicans are under the impression that Steele will lead a large-scale changeover in the institution, which has about 100 staffers.”

Steele’s Campaign Spending Questioned (Washington Post)
Michael S. Steele, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, arranged for his 2006 Senate campaign to pay a defunct company run by his sister for services that were never performed, his finance chairman from that campaign has told federal prosecutors.

Alaska Senate finds Todd Palin in contempt in ‘troopergate’ (McClatchy)
The Alaska Senate voted today to find Gov. Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd, and nine Palin aides in contempt for failing to show up when ordered by subpoena to testify in the Legislature’s “troopergate” investigation of the governor.

Texas evangelicals helped effort to stop Palin ‘troopergate’ probe (McClatchy)
New state gift disclosures show it cost Liberty Legal Institute and the two law firms working with it $185,000 to represent six Alaska legislators in an unsuccessful lawsuit to halt their colleagues’ “troopergate” investigation into whether Gov. Sarah Palin acted improperly in firing the state’s public safety director.

Dallas hardware store offers Bush door greeter position. (Think Progress)
Elliot’s Hardware — a local
Dallas hardware store — has “appealed to former President George W. Bush to spend his new-found retirement working as a part-time greeter at its Maple Avenue store.” “Our greeters are a legendary part of our customer service,” said Kyle Walters, Elliott’s Hardware president and CEO. “And we are offering the position to Mr. Bush in all sincerity. We think it would be a great fit for him as he settles back into life in Dallas.” If he chooses to take the position, Bush will enjoy company perks such as “a flexible part-time schedule (to allow travel to Crawford),” a parking space, and an employee discount.
At last, a position he’s qualified for.

AP Alleges Copyright Infringement of Obama Image (AP)
The famous Shepard Fairey image of a pensive Barack Obama looking upward, splashed in a Warholesque red, white, and blue, is based on an Associated Press photograph taken in April 2006. Now the AP says it owns the copyright, and wants credit and compensation. Fairey disagrees.

Fairey arrested. (by J –SOM at Liberal Rapture)
Shepard Fairey, “creator” of the much imitated, and wretch inducing “Obama hope” Warhol rip off poster has been arrested in
Boston.  For tagging. He’s 38. I could stop here, since by now we all know the mental age of the most fervent Obama Pods is 16. There isn’t much reason to repeat the obvious. The punk trashed other people’s property. What a shock… AP is rightfully suing Fairey. There is a myth that many alleged artists perpetuate around “fair use” rules. The biggest being that if a certain percentage of the copyrighted material is changed then it is “new”. This is bullshit. If the original work is recognizable in any way it is not fair use.

WaPo’s Cillizza Twitters From the White House (FishbowlNY, Media Bistro)
Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post has been twittering Robert Gibbs’ daily briefings at TheHyperFix since they began. “The old days of journalism where we simply put out the paper and assume people will find it and read it are over,” he says.

Defining the news (County Fair, Media Matters for America)
[Last week], former Bush chief of staff Andy Card criticized Obama for allowing men to go jacket-less while conducting business inside the Oval Office. Card thought this was a very big deal because during the Bush years men were never allowed inside the Oval Office without a suit and tie. (A claim that’s flatly false.) Meanwhile, … Republican Congressman Pete Sessions invoked the Taliban and used it as a “model” in suggesting how the Republican Party needed to become an insurgency force within the nation’s capital. Now, which one of those statements seems more newsworthy? An out-of-office Republican talking about dress codes, or a sitting GOP Congressman comparing Republicans to the Taliban?

If you guessed the dress code, you are correct. According to TV Eyes, Pete Sessions has only been mentioned five times on TV in the last 24 hours, but Card has garnered nearly 25 on-air references.

Who Should Replace Kristol at the Times? Nobody. (by Jack Shafer, Slate)
The first reflex at the Times will be to offer another conservative the Kristol slot. I’ve got a better idea: Why not drop the Kristol slot into a vat of boiling acid and turn the space over to the best copy deputy editorial page editor David Shipley can lasso on whatever turf he’s wrangling that day.

Former WSJ Editor ‘Highly Doubts’ Madoff Tip Occurred (Editor & Publisher)
Former Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger said he does not recall the tip a Journal reporter supposedly received about Bernie Madoff three years ago, and adds he “highly doubts” it happened. “I don’t recall it and it would have come up to me,” Steiger said.

Evans-Novak Political Report Publishes Final Edition (Political Wire)
The Evans-Novak Political Report, which just hasn’t been the same since Robert Novak’s illness forced him to stop writing, is ending its 42 year run.

If you’re wondering why I so seldom link to the Huffington Post:
Libs pick Republican as ‘hottest freshman’ in Congress
(On Politics, USA Today)
Stop reading now if you are interested in substance. For the rest of you, on a day when there’s little campaign or election news, we point you to The Huffington Post’s contest for hottest House freshman. Readers of the liberal website have, gasp, chosen a Republican – Aaron Schock, 27, of Peoria, Ill.

Ann Coulter under investigation for voter fraud. (Think Progress)
Connecticut’s Elections Enforcement Commission is undertaking a “thorough investigation” of right-wing pundit Ann Coulter for potentially breaking the law by voting in Connecticut while living in New York City, according to a commission spokesperson. Officials are responding to a formal complaint filed by Coulterwatch.com blogger Dan Borchers. “For over 10 years, Ann Coulter has gotten away with illegal, immoral and unethical behavior, ranging from plagiarism to defamation, perjury to voter fraud,” Borchers wrote.
I thought she was voting in Florida, and breaking the law there.

Bernard Goldberg: If NY Times attacked me like it attacks O’Reilly, “I probably would have gotten a baseball bat and gone down to the New York Times with it and found the person that wrote the editorial, but that’s me.” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

Cunningham to Fox Dem Analyst Kirsten Powers: “The official platform of your Democrat party is that a womans’ womb is a tomb.” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

Savage: Would Obama “order an important Muslim to seek the 72 virgins immediately in order to permit the maximum leader to appear at his funeral in full Muslim garb? Only time will tell.” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

Federal workers win benefits for same-sex spouses in 9th Circuit Court ruling. (Think Progress)
The ABA Journal reports, “Two federal judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have required payment of health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of lawyers employed by the U.S. government.” Judge Stephen Reinhardt declared that the federal Defense of Marriage Act — which denies federal recognize of same-sex marriages — is unconstitutional… A lawyer for the federal staff attorney “said this is believed to be the first time federal employees will get benefits covering a same-sex spouse.”

It’s Time to Rethink Our Welfare Policy (by Seth Wessler at RaceWire, ColorLines Magazine)
[Last] week the New York Times reported that even as many states have skyrocketing unemployment, their welfare rolls are shrinking. As a researcher for a racial justice think tank, I’ve been traveling the country collecting accounts of how this recession is playing out in the lives of every day people. Millions who are out of work, losing homes and struggling to stay afloat are nevertheless denied access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The punitive rules established after twenty years of racially coded frenzy to “end welfare as we know it” have left Americans with no safety net during this deepening economic crisis…

A society cannot survive without a safety net and we don’t have one during the worst economic crisis in decades. TANF needs serious reconsideration including a rescinding of punitive work requirements and an end to the time limits that cut people off after 5 years total enrollment. We need to ensure that families have access to supplementary benefits like food stamps, fully subsidized child care, transportation and housing assistance and we need to remove debilitating eligibility requirements that exclude many documented immigrants and people with past involvement with the criminal justice system. To do these things Americans have to be willing to move past their racial stereotypes about people of color and welfare.

Please Raise My Taxes (by Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, thanks to Economist’s View)
I’M the chief executive of a publicly traded company and, like my peers, I’m very highly paid. The difference between salaries like mine and those of average Americans creates a lot of tension, and I’d like to offer a suggestion. President Obama should celebrate our success, rather than trying to shame us or cap our pay. But he should also take half of our huge earnings in taxes, instead of the current one-third. Then, the next time a chief executive earns an eye-popping amount of money, we can cheer that half of it is going to pay for our soldiers, schools and security. Higher taxes on huge pay days can finance opportunity for the next generation of Americans.

The Ravages of Tribalism (III): Learning to Hate “The Other” (by Arthur Silber at the Power of Narrative)
The “bad” people are not simply mistaken or misguided. They are bad. Not only are they bad, but they know they’re bad. Despite this knowledge — which the accuser knows the “bad” people to possess with the certainty of the True Believer — the “bad” people persist in their evil… [A]ccording to this perspective, we aren’t faced with a problem of knowledge or understanding… So what is one to do in political battles? Try to overwhelm your opponents by sheer numbers? If you can’t do that, what then? Eliminate them?

One need only consult the leading liberal and conservative blogs on any given day to appreciate that this perspective is widely held on both left and right.
Substitute the term “mass movement” for the word “tribe”, and Eric Hoffer can enter the discussion:

“The fanatic cannot be weaned away from his cause by an appeal to his reason or moral sense.  He fears compromise and cannot be persuaded to qualify the certitude and righteousness of his holy cause.  But he finds no difficulty in swinging suddenly and wildly from one holy cause to another.  He cannot be convinced but only converted.  His passionate attachment is more vital than the quality of the cause to which he is attached.

“Though they seem to be at opposite poles, fanatics of all kinds are actually crowded together at one end.  It is the fanatic and the moderate who are poles apart and never meet.  The fanatics of various hues eye each other with suspicion and are ready to fly at each other’s throat.  But they are neighbors and almost of one family.  They hate each other with the hatred of brothers.” – Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

Media Matters for America headlines

Drudge-hyped Wash. Times ”analysis” cited only Republicans to declare Obama’s ” ‘Doom’ talk scored as ‘not Presidential’ “

Right-Washing the New Deal

Fox promotes falsehood that provision in recovery bill would prohibit any religious activity in facilities receiving money

Schieffer carries water for GOP, mouthing myth about stimulus

NY Times reported claim that 61 Guantánamo detainees have “returned to the fight” without noting DOD made different claim in January

Limbaugh, Hannity, and the GOP: an iron triangle of stimulus misinformation

Media Matters: Fundamentally flawed stimulus coverage

Declaring GOP winner in “stimulus message war,” media oblivious to their cohort’s role in skewing debate

Matthews says Republicans had “a lot of fun” with contraceptives issue in recovery bill — but so did Matthews

Hannity still flying with Pelosi plane falsehood

Congress Changes DTV Switch Date to June 12
After heated debate by legislators Wednesday and a year and a half of broadcasters, cable operators, and the government drilling the Feb. 17 “hard” date into the hearts and minds of viewers, the House voted Wednesday to change the cut-off date for analog TV to June 12.

Some TV stations to end analog signal on Feb. 17
Television viewers who use antennas and were expecting a few more months to prepare for digital TV may not have much time left before their sets go dark: Many stations still plan to drop analog broadcasts in less than two weeks.

Group Says 109 Media Workers Were Killed in 2008
At least 109 reporters and media workers were killed either intentionally or accidentally last year while on assignment, the International Federation of Journalists said. In its annual report on press freedom around the world, the group said covering stories in hot spots remained a “perilous” task.

Shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist faces Feb. 19 trial (McClatchy)
Iraqi authorities on Sunday set a Feb. 19 trial date for the Iraqi journalist who hurled his loafers at President George W. Bush and narrowly missed him.

What’s to be done when teens text nude photos?
The cell-phone-to-cell-phone sharing of nude and raunchy photos is innocent fun to some teens, a way to flirt or be adventurous. It’s only a short hop to the Internet, where Facebook entries have long shocked parents. Police and prosecutors aren’t amused when the streaming is steaming. When underbelly behavior involves the underage, the photos are often destined for the courtroom. In recent weeks, that’s where cases are landing.

Lawsuit alleges Netflix, Wal-Mart acted improperly
Several lawsuits filed across the country in the past two weeks allege Netflix Inc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc improperly negotiated Wal-Mart’s departure from the online video market in 2005 to enable both companies to benefit illegally, said a lawyer involved in two suits on Thursday.

Student Fights Record of ‘Cyberbullying’
A student who was suspended from high school for ranting against a teacher on Facebook is suing to have the blemish removed from her record.

Prop 8 Donor Web Site Shows Disclosure Law Is 2-Edged Sword
A Web site makes donors’ information public, pitting concepts of political transparency and privacy against each other.

Why Television Still Shines in a World of Screens (by Randall Stross, New York Times)
Consumers are increasingly avoiding newspapers — and books, too — because the text mode is now used so infrequently that it can feel like a burden. People are showing a clear preference for a fully formed video experience that comes ready to play on a screen.
Is he saying that people don’t want to read any more?

How to Save Your Newspaper (by Walter Isaacson, Time)
I am hoping that this year will see the dawn of a bold, old idea that will provide yet another option that some news organizations might choose: getting paid by users for the services they provide and the journalism they produce.

Diller Prowling for a ‘Transformational’ Acquisition
Barry Diller is poised to take his biggest gamble yet, betting the house on a “transformational” acquisition. He alluded to this possibility in a largely ignored early February earnings call. It’s also possible that he will repatriate the company’s $2 billion in cash to shareholders.

Tennessee Developer-Publisher Offers $13.3M for Creative Loafing
Brian Conley, who once owned the alternative newspaper in Knoxville, TN, and is now helping to finance the Sunday Paper’s expansion into other cities, has offered to buy all six papers in the Creative Loafing alt-weekly chain. Offer price? $13.3 million.

Hearst: Still No Decision on Seattle P-I Going All-Online
Hearst Corp. says it has not yet decided whether to turn Seattle’s oldest daily newspaper into an Internet-only operation. In a letter to the Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town, which is a group devoted to keeping the Seattle Post-Intelligencer alive, the company says it’s still reviewing its options.

Google Wants Out of AOL Investment
Time Warner executives said Wednesday that Google notified the company last week that it planned to exercise its “demand registration rights,” which would essentially force Time Warner to buy back Google’s stake in AOL or spin off AOL and take it public.

Earnings: McClatchy Swings to Loss On Writedowns As Total Revs Sink 17 Percent; Online Up 10 Percent (Paid Content)
Citing a “horrible economy” amid newspapers’ “transitional period,”  The McClatchy Company swung to a net loss of $21.7 million ($0.26 cents a share). The
Sacramento company posted a pre-tax non-cash impairment charge of $59.6 million “to newspaper mastheads.” Trying to stanch the bleeding, McClatchy also said it was undertaking yet another cost-cutting plan. The latest initiative promises to reduce costs by an additional $100 million to $110 million, or approximately seven percent of 2008 cash expenses.

News Corp. Loses $6.4 Billion in 2Q — Huge Write-Down of Assets Blamed
News Corp. lost $6.4 billion in its most recent quarter because of a massive write-down in the value of its assets. The company also forecast a 30 percent drop in operating profits for the fiscal year to June from a year ago, when it earned $5.13 billion.

Wall Street Journal to Cut 14
Layoffs have arrived at the Wall Street Journal. Managing editor Robert Thomson announced in a memo that 14 positions will be eliminated, and the Fashion and Retail group will be closed. According to Thomson: “The number [of layoffs], while regrettable, has been kept to a minimum.”

WSJ.com Launches India Edition; No Word on Print Edition Yet (Paid Content)
Keeping in line with new owner Rupert Murdoch’s focus on key Asian markets, WSJ.com, the online edition of The Wall Street Journal, launched its India edition … at India.wsj.com. India and China are the only two markets now with a dedicated section on the WSJ site. Readers accessing WSJ.com from India are automatically redirected to the
India section, where you have an option to choose your edition. On 9 January, the Indian government’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board had approved an investment of about $0.45 million by Dow Jones to set up a wholly owned subsidiary that will bring out a facsimile edition in India, after deferring the decision for months. A facsimile edition is the exact replica of a newspaper published abroad and it cannot carry local content or ads.

Bloomberg Lays Off 100 In TV And Radio; Plans To Staff Up Print, Sales Still On For This Year (Paid Content)
Bloomberg is laying off 100 staffers in its U.S. TV and radio operation, but a spokeswoman told paidContent that the company still expects to hire 1,000 new employees in print news, product development, sales and customer service. The reduction of the TV/radio staff—including 45 in the newsroom—was part of a planned global reorg… Bloomberg has stepped up its TV offerings as more demand for financial news has brought more challenges to the dominant CNBC. Furthermore, the company believes it can benefit from of newspapers’ dire situation as well, by getting consumers to go to its website and TV channels directly.

Tribune Merges Online Entertainment News Operations
Tribune Co. established an “online entertainment news bureau” Thursday by merging its television and movie listings service, Zap2it.com, into the Los Angeles Times. The goal is to aggregate Tribune’s entertainment coverage from its media properties and boost its presence on the Web.

Tribune Co. to Reduce Severance Payouts
A bankruptcy judge has approved reduced severance terms for Tribune Co. employees who lose their jobs as the Chicago-based media conglomerate restructures to cope with shrinking ad revenue. The policy essentially halves the payout to workers who are fired without cause.

Financial Times Axes Sports Coverage
The Financial Times is dropping sports coverage and cutting its page count as part of a cost-cutting drive. A spokesman said the Saturday sports page would be dropped as “part of a strategy to focus on core strengths” of news and business.
Why was the Financial Times covering sports?

Media Companies’ Sports Teams Are Still Assets Buyers Want (by Jon Fine, Business Week)
These days media companies will get smaller, not bigger, stick closely to what they know, and not take flyers on glamorous new ventures. Especially at the vertiginous price tags that sports teams command today.

About.com Cuts 19
The New York Times
Co.‘s About.com online encyclopedia laid off 19 people, or about 9.5 percent of its staff, on Thursday because of cost cuts in response to a prolonged economic crisis. The job cuts came after About.com suspended pay raises, limited travel budgets and cut discretionary spending.

Tina Brown Discusses The Book Beast: ‘It’s Really Important to Support Books’
Tina Brown just this week announced the addition of the Book Beast page to her website The Daily Beast. “It’s really important to support books and I am so distressed by what is happening to the publishing world…We want to provide readers with a rich experience of the content of these books and the chance to buy them.”

The Plot Thickens For E-Books: Google And Amazon Putting More Titles On Mobile Phones (by Dianne See Morrison at Paid Content)
You might get eye strain after reading a few chapters, but that hasn’t stopped both Google and Amazon from making more e-books available on mobile phones. On Thursday, Google said on its Book Search blog that the 1.5 million public domain books it had scanned, and can be accessed for free on PCs, were now available on cell phones, including the iPhone and T-Mobile G1. In addition, the nytimes.com is reporting that Amazon is working on making the titles currently available on its e-book reader, the Kindle, accessible on phones. 

Electronic Book Start-Up Finds Partners
The company, Plastic Logic, plans to announce partnership deals on Monday that it says will bring a number of major publications to its planned device.

Wal-Mart’s Empty Magazine Racks
Sports Illustrated editor Terry McDonell may have a big headache as he gets ready to publish SI’s swimsuit issue next week. Unless things change dramatically, copies of the issue won’t go on sale in more than 3,000 Wal-Mart stores as a result of an ongoing distribution battle.

TV Guide Prez: ‘ASME Guidelines Should Be Blown Up’
TV Guide president and CEO Scott Crystal blasted the magazine industry for lagging behind other media when it comes to creative branding opportunities for advertisers-including featuring ads on the cover of magazines.

Fashion Mags See Declines on the Newsstand
For the second half of 2008, nearly every large fashion and lifestyle title saw a steep decline in single-copy sales. The declining economy is likely a reason, but consumers’ attention also may have been turned elsewhere during the election.

ESPN The Magazine Looks Beyond the Magazine
“While the magazine is our core, we are not bound by print and paper,” ESPN The Magazine vice president and general manager Gary Hoenig said. “From mobile to the laptop to the magazine, we’re expanding our dimensions so sports fans can find our content on whatever platform, anywhere.”

Playboy Hires ‘GNR’ Guitarist Duff McKagan as Columnist
Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses fame celebrates his 45th birthday today with a new job — a national financial columnist on a mean mission. Playboy magazine hired the rocker for an undisclosed sum to write a crusading column aimed at skewering and reforming the crooked ways of Wall Street.

Interview Owner Axes Staff, Keeps Pricey Jet
Newsprint billionaire Peter Brant has reportedly been firing Interview staff left and right to cut costs. But amid all the cost cutting, Brant took delivery of a new, $50 million Bombardier Global Express, which is classified as a business expense.

Makers of sports film launch soundtrack competition
Rick Bieber, writer-director of “The 5th Quarter,” starring Aidan Quinn, Andie MacDowell and Ryan Merriman, is holding an Internet-based talent search to find original songs for the sports-themed film’s soundtrack.

Pay TV providers fret over penny-pinching viewers
[W]ith fewer subscribers, cable operators will pay less money to programmers for the right to air their content. But the networks’ hands largely are tied. People are illegally swapping files of shows and movies over the Internet already, so the networks might as well make money off it with advertising and take some control over their content. While cable and satellite TV companies worry about any consumers cutting service, it would appear younger people pose the biggest threat, given the wide generation gap in online TV viewing.

Obama’s Preemptive Strike Costing Networks
President Obama’s desire to talk to the American public could cost broadcast networks millions of prime-time TV dollars. Broadcasters are bracing themselves for the likelihood of three prime-time interruptions in three weeks, totaling at least three hours of prime time — and ad breaks — yanked.

Bloomberg TV Tries to Become a Player (by Jon Friedman, Marketwatch)
To reach the big time, Bloomberg Television now must change its basic philosophy by making its offerings more entertaining. Bloomberg has a reputation for presenting a relentless stream of bland, factual information.

HBO Taps Joe Buck for Sports Show
HBO is tapping Fox sportscaster Joe Buck to host a new sports-based talk show for the pay cabler. The move by HBO comes just a day after the network lost its longtime face of sports coverage Bob Costas to MLB Network. Development of the new show is still very early in the process and will debut in May.

MLB.TV Adds Enhanced Video and User-Selected Replays
For the 2009 baseball season, MLB.TV will introduce a host of ways for fans to follow their favorite teams in detail.

Online Video Viewership Hit High of 14.3 Billion in December
Web video viewership jumped 13% in December from the month before, comScore reported. The online audience measurement firm found that Internet users in the
United States watched a record 14.3 billion online videos in December, a 13% rise from the previous month.

YouTube Adds Title and Rating to Embeds (Mashable)
YouTube is inserting more of the information you can get on the website into the embedded videos that are spread far and wide across the Web. Embeds now include both the Title and the Rating for each video – information that dissolves once you click play… While this addition won’t blow you away, it does point to the increasing functionality that YouTube is adding to embeds. YouTube now features both related videos and a search box at the conclusion of videos, as well as the longer-standing options to copy embed code or go directly to the original on YouTube.

MSN Celeb Site Wonderwall Flips The On Switch (Paid Content)
Microsoft’s MSN is following AOL’s TMZ and Yahoo’s OMG with a 10-letter word: Wonderwall, the joint production of MSN and BermanBraun Interactive going live today. Wonderwall exemplifies the latest rage in portal strategy—a site that can stand alone with its own brand while feeding from and feeding into the portal. To most, it looks like MSN is playing catchup. Not so, argues MSN GM Rob Bennett, who contends that Wonderwall provides a single destination for content scattered across MSN, not something completely new. “The reality is a lot of the same content and the same audience is there.” That lack of a single destination is “why it looks like we’re further behind than we probably are.” Bennett expects the promotional power of MSN to help Wonderwall catch up fast: ” I think when we turn the firehose on in different places; it’s going to be a close race.” MSN also has an off-network campaign in the works.

Google Reportedly Deleting Some Entries on Music Blogs
Google, some music bloggers believe, has quietly changed the methods by which it enforces its user agreement. Whereas in the past, a blog owner would receive a warning before a post’s removal, Google is now simply hitting the delete button on posts that include MP3 downloads from record labels.

JuicyCampus Shuts Down
A Web site that publishes anonymous, sometimes malicious gossip about college students has agreed to cease operations. Matt Ivester, founder and chief executive officer of JuicyCampus.com, cited the national economic meltdown and falling ad revenue as reasons.

Google Now Knows Your Heart Rate (Mashable)
Together with IBM, Google has launched a new Google Health initiative: the service will now be able to pull data directly from various medical devices: heart rate monitors, scales, blood-sugar measurement meters and so on… There are very palpable benefits to this; for example, your personal trainer, doctor or nutritionist will now be able to remotely monitor how your body works… The service is, of course, voluntary, but concerns are raised about the fact that this data can be used for health marketing; if Google knows you have a high blood pressure, it also knows which health-related ads to serve you.

Google’s G1 phone makes it easy to track surfing habits
The new Google phone, dubbed the G1, has been touted as a working man’s smartphone a cheap, Web-friendly wireless device that can make life easier for millions of consumers. The G1 also stands to make life a whole lot easier for Google by making it a snap to track your movements on the mobile Web and send you ads as it does on the desktop. The device, sold exclusively by T-Mobile, gives Google access to your e-mail, instant messages, contact lists, Web-search history and geographic location. By keeping tabs on your mobile life, Google can quickly figure out what sort of ads to send your way, and when.

New App Lets Spammers Target Twitter
Twitter may not being making any money yet, but that hasn’t stopped spammers from trying to benefit from the micro-blogging service. In fact, a new software tool, called Tweet Tornado, has the unfortunate potential to be a real game changer. Launched last week, TT is designed to help spammers and malware distributors get the most out of their Twit-based offenses.

Linux Phones on Tap for 2009 from Verizon, Others
Your next cheap phone might be a Linux phone – but you might never know it. The LiMo Foundation announced Monday that Verizon Wireless and other global carriers will be rolling out Linux-based phones in 2009, possibly including low-cost devices capable of running advanced Web apps.

Taiwan Revamps WiMax Plans
The global economic crisis has taken a bite out of plans to roll out WiMax, the speedy new wireless broadband technology. But despite setbacks, Taiwanese companies are forging ahead.

Not Everyone Is Cheering as Wi-Fi Takes to the Air
Wireless Internet service on airlines may become a new source of tension between passengers on packed planes.

Digital Archivists, Now in Demand
The organizing and protecting of digital files has become a new career field.

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