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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

You say goodbye, I say halo (by Joseph Cannon at Cannonfire)
Remember when AP ran a photo similar to this one [below] featuring Dear Leader George Dubya? Remember how the progblogs (correctly) screamed for weeks about that gross exercise in Messianic imagery? Do you think any progs will complain about this? Naw. It’s very, very different, y’see.

Gregg plan at center of summit debate (MSNBC)
Sen. Judd Gregg was one of more than 120 members of Congress and economic experts attending a White House summit on fiscal responsibility yesterday… Most of the debate, Gregg said, centered on the Conrad-Gregg bill, a proposal by Gregg and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Budget Committee. The proposal would have a bipartisan task force of Democratic and Republican senators and members of the administration hash out policy and then send it to the floor of both Houses for a yes or no vote, with no amendments or debate…

“Fixing Social Security is a shared, bipartisan goal, and it can be accomplished right away,” Gregg said. “I believe this is the right place to start.” [Emphasis added.]

Poll: Majority Doesn’t Want Obama To Be Bipartisan (by Greg Sargent at The Plum Line)
You routinely hear it asserted that the public wants bipartisan comity in Washington, but some striking numbers buried in the internals of the new New York Times poll find that in the current context, precisely the opposite is true:

“Which do you think should be a higher priority for Barack Obama right now — working in a bipartisan way with Republicans in Congress or sticking to the policies he promised he would during the campaign:
Working bipartisan way: 39%
Sticking to policies: 56%

So a sizable majority wants Obama to pursue his policies with our without Republican support. Meanwhile, a huge majority says that Republicans should emphasize working with Obama in a bipartisan way over pursuing their policy ideas:

Democrats Resisting Obama on Social Security (New York Times)
Mr. Obama considered announcing the formation of a Social Security task force at a White House “fiscal responsibility summit” that he [convened] on Monday. But several Democrats said that idea had been shelved, partly because of objections from House and Senate leaders… Liberal Democrats are already serving notice that they will be equally vehement in opposing any reductions in scheduled benefits for future retirees. But any solution, budget analysts said, must include a mix of both approaches, though current beneficiaries would see no change.

See How That Works? (by Susie at Suburban Guerrilla)
Obama starts talking about reforming Social Security.
The progressive wing pushes back.
Obama backs off. (For now.)
Let’s do this more often.

News, comment, and entertainment (by Avedon Carol at The Sideshow)
Baby-Boomers didn’t just pay for their parents’ retirement during their working lives, but also for their own, thanks to Ronald Reagan giving us the biggest tax hike in American history – on payroll taxes. I paid for those benefits, Mr. Obama. Why are the people you invited to that conference trying to steal them?

Obama Gets Push-Back on Social Security “Reform” (by campskunk at Alegre’s Corner)
The same advisers who keep pushing to bring this up, from OMB chief Orszag on down, will keep pushing. Stay vigilant. There’s a crying need for education of some of our elected officials on Social Security. I was flabbergasted by this quote from an alleged Democrat: “…is it a nice-to-have or a have-to-have?…” I would modestly submit that any program which reduces the number of seniors in poverty from 48% to 8% is a have-to-have. Thirteen million seniors owe their access to adequate food, clothing, shelter, AND dignity to Social Security. You don’t want that many people voting in the 2010 election right after they’ve been plunged into poverty, Congresswoman Tauscher, now do you?

Democrats Make Obama Retreat on Social Security (by myiq2xu at The Confluence)
[The] bad news is the fauxgressive NeoRepublican Obama administration hasn’t given up, they’re just moving the SS task force idea to the back burner.  Social Security “reform” isn’t dead, it will be back sooner or later, just like Jason Voorhies. So keep those pitchforks and torches handy, you’ll need them again.

Health care costs to top $8,000 per person (AP)
A new government report on medical costs paints a stark picture for President Barack Obama, who is expected to call for a health care overhaul in a speech Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress.

The Problem is Health Care, Not Entitlements (by Marie Cocco)
Now that so many of us have been whipsawed financially, it is time to wipe the term “entitlement reform” out of the political dictionary. The phrase is a monument to the dark art of disinformation. Its premise is that federal “entitlements” — that is, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — are bankrupting the country and weighting down generations of younger Americans with the extraordinary burden of caring for their aging parents and grandparents… “Social Security is the most fiscally responsible part of the entire federal budget,” says Nancy Altman, who served as a top aide to Alan Greenspan when the 1983 commission headed by Greenspan really did have to avert an imminent crisis. “Social Security is in surplus for the next two decades.”…

Rather than feed the myth that Social Security is part of an entitlement “crisis,” Obama should seize this moment to debunk it… [T]he public has to understand what the problems really are. At the moment, it doesn’t. That’s partly because the current dire economic circumstances are likely to require years of deficit spending just to keep the downturn from worsening. But it’s also because we’ve been bombarded with false claims and over-the-top warnings about Social Security and Medicare that often have come from those who are ideologically opposed to these programs anyway. When it comes to entitlements, the last thing we need is an “entitlement commission.” What we really need is a truth commission.

Obama Budget: Billions On Health Care For Reform This Year (by Sam Stein at the Huffington Post)
President Barack Obama’s first budget will call for tens of billions of dollars to be devoted to health care, in an effort to help ensure that major reform of the current system is considered within the year. A senior administration official tells the Huffington Post that the president will provide “many billions of dollars” over a “ten-year period” to fund health care in the upcoming budget, to be introduced Thursday. As confirmed by the official, the money will provide a pool of resources to help shore up the health care system on the benefits and coverage side. With that in place, the administration is hoping that Congress will push through a legislative overhaul for the health care system within a year.

Santelli Claims The White House Is Threatening Him: ‘My Kids Are Nervous To Go To School’ (Think Progress)
CNBC’s Rick Santelli appeared on at least two radio programs today to promote his “rant” against President Obama’s housing program. On G. Gordon Liddy’s radio program, Santelli called attention to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’s response to his tirade. He cropped a quote from Gibbs to suggest the White House was pursuing a campaign of intimidation against him.
Oh, puh-leeze!  Not even Rahm Emanuel is that evil.  But if you repeat a lie often enough, people may just believe it.

Santelli’s “Tea Party” Illustrates Press Failure (by Ryan Chittum, Columbia Journalism Review)
We know that some half of all subprime borrowers actually qualified for prime mortgages, with better terms, lower interest rates and lower payments, but were fraudulently put into more expensive ones by brokers who were incentivized with bonuses by the Countrywides of the world. But the vast majority of people, and I’ll bet you just about every last one of the commenters on my Santelli post yesterday, don’t know that… The boiling anger we’re seeing by citizen against fellow citizen is understandable given that the press still hasn’t fully told the story of the boiler rooms, “the crooked heart of the credit crisis,” as Audit managing director Dean Starkman called it.

That this burst of outrage erupted after homeowners got a (relatively meager) bailout rather than after Wall Street and the banks got their trillions ($10 trillion by Bloomberg’s count) with repeated trips to the trough illustrates as clearly as I’ve seen it the failure of the press to fully portray the real cause of this catastrophe.

2,488,298 Santelli Rant Views… And Counting (WebNewser)
That’s how many views Rick Santelli’s rant has gotten so far since it went online last Thursday. Most of the views, 1,815,680 as of this morning, went to the original clip on CNBC.com. The other 670,000+ were from versions on YouTube.
The right is in the process of capturing the anger that people feel over the collapse of the financial system.  Whether they succeed in turning that anger against “losers,” whatever Santelli meant by that term, rather than the banksters, will depend on how well the Democrats fight back.  If past is prologue, Democrats will wimp out and Republicans will make significant gains in 2010.  That’s because Democrats refuse to play the role of educator.  They refuse to debunk Republican spin and lies.  I’m still convinced that it’s because too many Washington Democrats have, themselves, bought into the Republican mythology.

Republicans Follow Newt’s Playbook (Political Wire)
“Republicans are hatching a political comeback by dusting off a strategic playbook written nearly two decades ago,” Politico reports. Three key themes: “Unite against Democrats’ economic policy, block and counter health care reform and tar them with spending scandals.” In 1994, Republicans used this same strategy to complete a historic takeover of Congress.

Limbaugh: Obama’s fiscal rhetoric is “female-based,” like saying “No Michelle, that dress does not make you look like a sausage” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America )

Morris: Obama heading fiscal responsibility summit is “like Mike Tyson heading the non-violence summit” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America )

On Hannity, Coulter calls Santelli “my new hero and who I want to run for president” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America )

Norah O’Donnell asks: “is America becoming a socialist nation?” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America )

Beck suggests U.S. on course to make same “mistake[s] that Germany made during Weimar Republic” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America )

Scarborough advances Obama “most liberal” Senator and “center-right” country myths (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America )

Discussing economic plan, Limbaugh says “I think there is an anger and a rage on the part of Obama and his wife” (County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Limbaugh also says: “I think there is a desire to punish the people they think have made life so tough for those who they think are suffering and have not won life’s lottery.”

Michael Steele Threatens To Withhold RNC Funds From GOP Senators Who Backed Stimulus (by Greg Sargent at The Plum Line)
On Fox News, Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele said he was open to withholding RNC funds from the three GOP Senators who backed President Obama’s stimulus package:

CBS News’ New Right-Wing PR Chief: “I Never Said Democrats Are Evil” (by Greg Sargent at The Plum Line)
CBS News kicked up a big controversy over the weekend when the news broke that the network had hired as its new public relations chief one Jeff Ballabon, a conservative Orthodox Jew who helped Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004. Things got hotter when liberal Jewish activist Ira Forman wrote on The Huffington Post that he recalled Ballabon saying that Democrats are “inherently bad people” when the two debated each other in New York a decade ago. HuffPo’s piece also pointed out that Ballabon once called President Obama “incredibly dangerous.” Ballabon, whose new title is CBS News’ senior vice president for communications, is denying he ever said those things about Dems, however.

“I never said Democrats are evil,” he told me by phone just now. “My mother is a Democrat.” Asked whether he would have any impact at all on editorial content at CBS, Ballabon said: “No.” But Ballabon wouldn’t comment further, and he declined to say whether he still thinks Obama is “incredibly dangerous.”
He’ll fit right in.

Study: Network TV Favored GOP in ’92-’04 Presidential Elections (Indiana University Newsroom)
Release: A visual analysis of television presidential campaign coverage from 1992 to 2004 suggests that the three television broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — favored Republicans in each election, according to two Indiana University professors in a new book.
And Republicans won consistently during those years.  It’s no coincidence, my friends.

The same prejudice—rich people (Republicans) are inherently good, poor people (Democrats) are inherently bad, enters in to the way the automobile companies are being treated, vs. the banks, by Congress and the administration:
Why Bankruptcy For Autos But Not Banks?
(by Barry Ritholtz, thanks to Anglachel)
Banks must be saved at all costs, but GM and Chrysler must go the bankruptcy route. The only explanation in treating the two industries so radically differently is an overt hostility to Unions on the part of many.

Obama to address Congress, nation on economy (AP)
Barreling ahead on a mammoth agenda, Barack Obama is ready to offer a detailed sketch of the first year of his presidency, casting the nation’s bleeding economy as a tangle of tough, neglected problems. In a prime-time speech from the House of Representatives, Obama will make his case Tuesday that much more has to be done to turn around the economy — a message he knows he must explain.

White House: Obama still confident in Geithner (AP)
The White House says President Barack Obama still has confidence in Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, despite the withering criticism that has come Geithner’s way over the government’s plan to rescue the financial industry.

Obama’s Goal: Halving the Budget Deficit by 2012. Really? (by Robert Reich)
The President’s message on fiscal responsibility — that he’ll cut the current one by half by the end of his first term — is smart politics right now, but it may be dumb politics by November of 2012, and doesn’t make much economic sense regardless… [W]e’ll probably have to have a second stimulus. And if the second isn’t enough, a third. And so on… [So] what happens when and if it’s 2012 and the economy continues to need boosting? That promise could be a huge liability… [R]emember that when it comes to deficits and debt, the real issues over the long term are (1) the ratio of debt to GDP (we’re still under 50 percent, which ain’t bad, considering all the spending that’s been going on; at the end of World War II it was substantially above 120 percent). And (2) whether and when we’re back to growing the GDP, which is the most reliable way of improving the ratio.

Cut the Military Budget–II (by Barney Frank, writing in The Nation)
I am a great believer in freedom of expression and am proud of those times when I have been one of a few members of Congress to oppose censorship. I still hold close to an absolutist position, but I have been tempted recently to make an exception, not by banning speech but by requiring it. I would be very happy if there was some way to make it a misdemeanor for people to talk about reducing the budget deficit without including a recommendation that we substantially cut military spending.

Sadly, self-described centrist and even liberal organizations often talk about the need to curtail deficits by cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that have a benign social purpose, but they fail to talk about one area where substantial budget reductions would have the doubly beneficial effect of cutting the deficit and diminishing expenditures that often do more harm than good. Obviously people should be concerned about the $700 billion Congress voted for this past fall to deal with the credit crisis. But even if none of that money were to be paid back–and most of it will be–it would involve a smaller drain on taxpayer dollars than the Iraq War will have cost us by the time it is concluded, and it is roughly equivalent to the $651 billion we will spend on all defense in this fiscal year.

House Democrats propose $410B spending bill (AP)
House Democrats unveiled a $410 billion spending bill on Monday to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year, setting up the second political struggle over federal funds in less than a month with Republicans.

U.S. Economy: Consumer Confidence Drops to Record Low (Bloomberg) — U.S. consumer confidence fell to the lowest level on record in October as stocks plunged and banks shut off credit, raising the risk spending will collapse. The Conference Board’s confidence index tumbled to 38, lower than forecast and the worst reading since monthly records began in 1967

Danger, Gordon Brown! Danger! (by Mike Flugennock at Stop Me Before I Vote Again)
Perhaps the Brits could send a bit of this rage across to us, as they gave us the gift of the Beatles and Stones… although a comparison to The Who or Slade might be more appropriate… “Police are preparing for a ‘summer of rage’ as victims of the economic downturn take to the streets to demonstrate against financial institutions, the Guardian has learned.”

Bulls get back in the game (MarketWatch )
Stocks higher in early trading after Monday’s big sell-off that took S&P to lowest level since 1997 as Bernanke testifies before Congress.

Home sales down 18.5% over year
Home prices in 20 major cities drop 2.5% in December from the prior month and were down a record 18.5% from the final month of 2007.

Could US Have Worse ‘Lost Decade’ Than Japan? (CNBC)
“We did suffer a lot of the same symptoms that
Japan did,” said Stephen Roach, chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, in an interview with Erin Burnett. But what worries Roach the most? “The bubbles that have burst in the U.S. have ended up infecting the biggest sector of the U.S. economy, the American consumer, which at its peak was 72 percent of the U.S. GDP,” he said… “The bubbles in Japan only infected the capital spending sector, which at its peak was only 17 percent, so we really have a bubble infection that is four-times as bad as the Japanese one, and that’s a worrisome sort of hangover to deal with,” he said.

Fed May Need to Recast TALF on Commercial Real Estate  (Bloomberg) — The Federal Reserve may need to loosen the terms of a new $1 trillion credit initiative aimed at averting a meltdown in commercial mortgage-backed securities, analysts and industry representatives said. The Fed would prop up the CMBS market by lending against the securities for a five-year term rather than three years, and taking as collateral existing debt rather than just new bonds, they said. The Fed hasn’t said when the program, the Term Asset- Backed Securities Loan Facility, will begin accepting the debt.

Stress test could lead to some bank nationalization (MarketWatch)
U.S. banks that fail a looming government stress test of their financial viability could be forced to accept government investment, pushed into shotgun marriages or simply nationalized if the institution’s situation is bad enough, regulatory observers said.

Bank regulators pledge more help, reject nationalization (McClatchy)
Amid growing concerns that the U.S. government may be forced to take over large parts of the banking system, five federal regulators issued a joint statement Monday announcing the creation of a special lifeline to keep troubled banks afloat, but they rejected outright nationalization.

U.S. Clears Path to Bank Takeovers (Washington Post )
The Obama administration yesterday revamped the terms of its emergency aid to troubled financial firms, setting a course that could culminate with the government nationalizing some of the country’s largest banks by taking a controlling ownership stake. Administration officials said the change, which allows banks to repay the government with common stock rather than cash, is intended to give banks more capital to withstand a continued deterioration of the economy, and not to nationalize the banking system.
So which is it?  Are they rejecting nationalization, or paving the way for it?  Or are they SAYING they reject nationalization, but preparing, just in case?

M.C. Escher, Economist (by Susie at Suburban Guerrilla)

AIG Seeks More US Funds As Record Loss Looms (CNBC)
American Insurance Group, the insurance giant that is 80-percent owned by the US government, is in discussions with the government to secure additional funds so it can keep operating after next Monday, when it will report the largest loss in
U.S. corporate history, CNBC has learned. Sources close to the company said the loss will be near $60 billion due to writedowns on a variety of assets including commercial real estate. That massive loss is likely to spur downgrades in its insurance and credit ratings that will force AIG to raise collateral that it doesn’t have.

Bank takeovers would leave shareholders in the cold (McClatchy)
The government’s blueprints for the banking industry have a lot to say about protecting the taxpayer and the struggling homeowner. But they offer virtually nothing for the banks’ shareholders, many of whom once planned to use those investments for dreams like college, retirement or down payments.
Yes, well, that’s what happens when you make a bad investment.  You lose money.  That’s what capitalism means.

Obama to Announce Iraqi Troop Withdrawl (Political Wire)
President Obama “plans to withdraw most of its troops from Iraq by August 2010,” 19 months after his inauguration, the AP reports.  “The withdrawal plan would fulfill one of Obama’s central campaign pledges, albeit a little more slowly than he promised. He said he would withdraw troops within 16 months, roughly one brigade a month from the time of his inauguration.” Obama is expected to make the announcement this week.

Administration Draws Fire for Report on Guantánamo (New York Times)
The Pentagon official who inspected the 
Guantánamo Bay prison at the behest of President Obama and declared its conditions humane described himself Monday as a “fresh set of eyes” who had been given free rein to go about his work. But detainees’ lawyers and human rights groups ridiculed the 85-page report that the official, Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, sent to the White House this weekend. They called it a public relations gesture by the new administration to try to quiet criticism of the prison while officials work to close it within a year.

“There is no basis to believe, other than his say-so, that this was an independent report,” said Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Coming in the early days of the Obama administration, the exchange was notable for its similarity to the back-and-forth during the Bush years over what the Guantánamo prison is really like.

Guantanamo detainee arrives in Britain, renews torture claims (McClatchy)
Binyam Mohamed, a gaunt-looking, bearded man wearing a cream sweater, white tennis shoes and a white skullcap, stepped off a chartered jet at a British air base Monday after a 10-hour trip from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, closing a dark chapter in his life that he claims included torture.

U.S. May Set Greenhouse Gas Standard for Cars (Washington Post)
The Obama administration is considering establishing national rules for regulating greenhouse gas emissions for automobiles, according to White House officials, a move backed by both auto manufacturers and some environmentalists… “The hope across the administration is that we can have a unified national policy when it comes to cleaner vehicles,” Browner said at the Western Governors’ Association meeting in
Washington.

Obama’s Auto Team Drives Imports (Political Wire)
The Detroit News reports that “vehicles owned by the Obama administration’s auto team could reflect one reason why Detroit’s Big Three automakers are in trouble: The list includes few new American cars.” “Among the eight members named Friday to the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry and the 10 senior policy aides who will assist them in their work, two own American models.”

Senate confirms Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary. (Political Wire)
Today, the Senate voted 80-17 to confirm Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary. The vote is a defeat for anti-worker conservatives, who have been stalling her nomination since Obama nominated her on Dec. 19.

Obama close to naming ex-Washington governor Locke for Commerce (McClatchy)
Former Washington Gov. Gary Locke, the nation’s first Chinese-American governor, will likely be named secretary of commerce, an administration official and Capitol Hill sources confirmed Monday.

Burris’ Allies: He Hasn’t Ruled Out 2010 (by Sam Stein at the Huffington Post)
Allies of Roland Burris insist that the embattled Senator has not ruled out running for election in 2010. Under public and private pressure to vacate the seat, Burris is still keeping his political options open. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Bud Jackson, the Senator’s former communications guru and current voluntary political and legal adviser, said that the staff had “not made any decision about 2010, either ruling it in or ruling it out.”

Female candidates line up for 2010  (Politico, thanks to Alegre)
A slew of formidable female candidates, mostly Democrats, are lining up to run for the Senate in 2010, enough to raise the prospect of a surge of women into a chamber that currently has just 17 women senators… “This is really unprecedented for leading female candidates jumping in,” said Karen O’Connor, director of the Women and Politics Institute at
American University. “It really is a landmark year because there’s a farm team now,” O’Connor said. “Now you have mayors, congresswomen, secretaries of state; they’re waiting in the wings, and they’re not going to sit back any longer.”

Quinn Will Run for Election in 2010 (Political Wire)
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D), who took office after the Illinois legislature ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich (R), told Lynn Sweet that he would run for election in 2010. Said Quinnn: “I have no reason not to run. I think I am doing a good job today. I anticipate I will continue to do that. Stabilizing the ship of
Illinois is vitally necessary. I think even in the first three-and-a-half weeks we’ve done a decent job of turning a page in an unhappy chapter in the state’s history.”

Sen. Bunning apologizes for Ginsburg cancer remark (AP)
Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning apologized Monday to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for saying he believes she could die within a year from pancreatic cancer. At the same time, his planned bid for a third term in 2010 may have gotten tougher with one of Kentucky’s top Republicans saying he has not ruled out a possible run.

Ginsburg Goes Back to Work (Political Wire)
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is expected to be in attendance when the Supreme Court returns from a three-week break today, the AP reports. Ginsburg had surgery for pancreatic cancer on Feb. 5.

Legal Experts Propose Limiting Justices’ Powers, Terms (Washington Post)
For starters, the group proposes a form of term limits, moving justices to senior status after 18 years on the court. The proposal says that justices now linger so long that it diminishes the likelihood that the court’s decisions “will reflect the moral and political values of the contemporary citizens they govern.” To get around the Constitution’s prescription that justices serve for life, the group would let justices stay on the court in a senior role — filling in on a case, perhaps, or dispatched to lower courts — or lure them into retirement with promises of hefty bonuses. It would set up a regular rotation on the court by providing for the nomination of a new justice by the president with each new two-year term of Congress. If that results in more than the current nine justices, only the nine most junior would hear cases.
You bet, though ten years sounds better to me than 18.

D.C. Circuit Grants Obama (Another) Extension in Subpoena Case (Legal Times)
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Monday gave the Obama administration another week to decide its course in a case involving one of President George W. Bush’s most expansive claims of executive privilege. The briefing schedule has changed three times in the last two weeks, after two motions by the Justice Department for more time to allow for an out-of-court settlement in the House of Representatives’ lawsuit against former White House counsel Harriet Miers and chief of staff Joshua Bolten. The Justice Department now has until March 4 to file its opening brief in the case.

Rove ignores House Judiciary Committee subpoena (Think Progress)
Pursuant to a subpoena issued earlier this month, Karl Rove was due to appear for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee today. But as CongressMatters reports, despite being “expected” to appear this time, Rove was a no show. Contacted by ThinkProgress, the House Judiciary Committee confirmed the report of Rove’s absence. Days before leaving office, “Bush’s White House counsel, Fred Fielding, sent letters to Rove, Miers, and Bolten, instructing them to continue to ignore congressional demands for information about anything they did while at the While House.”

Sanford Offers Unemployed South Carolina Resident ‘Prayers’ Instead Of Stimulus Funds (Think Progress)
Following the lead of a number of his fellow Republican governors, Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) has given some indication that he will not accept some of the money slated for South Carolina in the $787 billion economic recovery bill President Obama signed into law last week… On C-SPAN’s Washington Journal [on Monday], Sanford received a call from a Charleston resident who said he lost his job because he has been taking care of mother and sister, both of whom have serious illnesses. The caller told Sanford he is “wrong” to decline the money. “A lot of people in
South Carolina are hurting. And if this money can come and help us out we need it.” In response, Sanford could offer him only his prayers:

Bush turns down greeter position at a Dallas hardware store. (Think Progress)
Earlier this month, Elliott’s Hardware store in Dallas offered former President Bush a job as a part-time greeter. “We think it would be a great fit for him as he settles back into life in
Dallas,” the store’s owner said. Bush showed up at the store on Friday “lookin’ for a job,” he said to some of Elliott’s employees. Bush ended up turning down the offer but continued on his quest for “flashlights and batteries.” [Click through to watch] a local Dallas news report.
That’s too bad.  Really.  He’d be very good at that job.

Bush launches speaking tour, promoting his policies that were ‘controversial at times’ but ‘kept the country safe.’ (Think Progress)
As the Dallas Morning News reported earlier this month, George W. Bush’s first post-presidency address will be in Canada on March 17. The closed event is being billed as “a conversation with George W. Bush,” during which he will “share his thoughts on his eight momentous years in the Oval Office.” Politico reports that Bush has already scheduled at least 10 more speeches this year, in the 
U.S., Europe, and Asia. He is now represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau.

Times Editors Cut From Story Their Own Reporter’s Debunking Of GOP Mouse Tale (by Greg Sargent at The Plum Line)
As I noted here yesterday, the infamous GOP talking point that the stimulus package contains gobs of cash for saving marsh mice found its way into a New York Times story, without the paper mentioning that the claim is untrue. It turns out, however, that earlier drafts of the story did describe the claim as “misleading” — but Times editors removed that description from the copy, leaving the assertion to stand on its own. An email from the author of the story to a reader confirms this.

Rupert Murdoch personally apologizes for controversial cartoon. (Think Progress)
News Corporation chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch issued a rare apology today for the controversial chimpanzee cartoon that ran in the New York Post last week. In the statement, he took full responsibility for the cartoon, saying the “buck stops with me,” and called the decision to run the cartoon “a mistake”.

Ryan Lizza’s People Magazine love letter to Rahm Emanuel (by Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory, Salon)
The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza has written a very lengthy profile of Emanuel – almost 5,300 words — that is so reverent, one-sided, and glorifying that it is hard to believe it wasn’t written by Emanuel himself.  In fact, much of the piece consists of Emanuel praising himself and Lizza writing it all down uncritically.  It’s almost impossible to walk on the streets of
Washington, DC, without bumping into a vehement critic of Emanuel, but Lizza doesn’t manage to include any comments from any of them.  Instead — like a writer from People Magazine wanting to ensure continued access — he confines himself to quoting only Rahm’s best-est friends…

Rahm, you see, is — as his good friend Stan [Greenburg, with whom Rahm lived rent free for five years] put it — “not an ideological Democrat.  He’s not ideologically liberal.  He comes out of Chicago politics, which is more transactional.”  He gets things done.  Every political slogan of the Obama White House –pragmatism over ideology; we’re problem-solvers not partisans – magically weaves its way into Lizza’s narrative paean to Rahm… Lizza just let Emanuel speak without any real challenge.  He wasn’t on a mission of examining claims from powerful government officials in order to allow their truth to be assessed (i.e., journalism), but instead devoted himself to transmitting and endorsing those government claims without scrutiny (i.e., stenography and propaganda).

Sean Penn, Naomi Watts Attached to Valerie Plame Film (E!)
Sean Penn is in talks to join the cast of Fair Game, about the government-orchestrated outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame. Penn would play Plame’s husband. Doug Liman is set to direct and Naomi Watts is attached to play Plame.

Chuck Todd reveals that Chris Matthews doesn’t stand for anything (by Eric Boehlert at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Well, not technically. But boy, it sure sounded that way. It’s from a US News & World Report item about Todd discussing why Matthews decided not to run for the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania (one of the great non-stories of our time): “…It was a childhood dream to be a senator, but he didn’t know what he was going to do if he got there.”… Matthews, who has been inside the Beltway for going on, what, four decades, who once worked on the Hill and has been commenting, non-stop, about politics for countless years, had no idea what he’d do if he were a senator.

Coulter on Hannity: “Nobody cares about our grandkids, that’s why nobody cares about global warming… they can get their own planet” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America )

Because bipartisanship is the most importnat issue facing the country right now, cont’d (by Eric Boehlert at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
ABC headline: “A Strong Start for Obama – But Hardly a Bipartisan One”. As we noted before, the press always judged new presidents on whether or not they were able to pass their early legislative initiatives. But with Obama, the press, artificially obsessed with the issue of bipartisanship, has changed the rules and decided it’s how those bills get passed is what’s key. And if Republicans in Congress, or Republicans voters, are somehow not happy, than Obama is to blame. In other words, all Republicans have to do is disapprove, and Obama has failed.

Shuster to Rep. Issa: “Congressman, there is no project for a train from California to Las Vegas. You Republicans know better.” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America )

Matthews calls Jindal’s “train from Disneyland to Las Vegas” claim “cartoon talk,” “stupid talk” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America )

Shelby Backs Off, Newspaper Stands By Story (Political Wire)
Though Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) backed away from his comments questioning President Obama’s citizenship, Cullman Times editor Derek Price emailed Ben Smith to say that his reporter affirmed to him that “we reported
Shelby‘s comments on Obama’s birth certificate accurately and completely… We stand by our story.”

Religious Groups Rally Against Hawaii Civil Unions Measure (American Constitution Society)
Thousands descended on
Hawaii’s Capitol grounds [Sunday] to protest the legislature’s consideration of a bill that would provide equal rights to gay couples who enter into civil unions. The protestors, The Honolulu Advertiser reported, represented religious organizations, from local churches, temples, synagogues and mosques… The civil unions bill is intended to provide many of the same rights afforded to heterosexual couples who marry in Hawaii to same-sex couples.

When Asked Whether He Would ‘Consider’ Gay Civil Unions, Steele Replies, ‘What Are You, Crazy?’ (Think Progress)
[Sunday] night, actor Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black both won Oscars for their work on “Milk,” which told the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official. [Monday], the right wing expressed its disgust that the movie received such acclamation. On his radio show, Mike Gallagher slammed Penn for ignoring “the majority of Americans” by supporting gay marriage rights, saying it went against
America’s “fundamental values.” Gallagher asked guest Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican Party, if he thought the party “ought to consider” something like civil unions. Steele replied immediately, “No, no, no,” adding, “What are you, crazy?” He made it clear that the party would not budge on gay rights:

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