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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

The Zombie Bank Monster Mash, by Mark Fiore (click here to play the animation)

All the President’s zombies (by Paul Krugman)
Ben Bernanke’s testimony over the past two days gives us our best clue yet about where the administration and the Fed are going with bank rescue. And the answer seems to be … nowhere… As long as capital injections are seen as a way to bail out the people who got us into this mess (which they are as long as the banks haven’t been put into receivership), the political system won’t, repeat, won’t be willing to come up with enough money to make the system healthy again.

Now, the details: Treasury to give banks unlimited refills (McClatchy)
Taking the wraps off its much anticipated bank-rescue plan, the Obama administration on Wednesday announced that it will provide a virtually unlimited solvency guarantee to the nation’s 19 largest banks.

The Banks’s Rigged Stress Test (by Dean Baker)
Read it and weep. The NYT tells us that the baseline scenario for the stress tests is that the unemployment rates rises to 8.4 percent and home prices fall 14 percent. The worst case scenario is that unemployment rises to 8.9 percent and house prices fall 22 percent. Okay, unemployment will almost certainly reach 8.0 percent and possibly 8.1 percent in February. It might cross 8.5 percent in March. The worst case scenario is that it hits 8.9 percent by the rest of the year? Remember, this is the same crew that told us that there was no housing bubble…

These stress tests indicate that our economic policy makers are still in a serious state of denial. Why isn’t the media ridiculing them and telling the public that the folks making economic policy still don’t understand the economy.
Well, Dean, it’s because the media don’t understand the economy, either.

Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz: Obama Has Confused Saving the Banks with Saving the Bankers (Democracy Now)
We get reaction to President Obama’s speech from Nobel economics laureate and former World Bank chief economist, Joseph Stiglitz. Stiglitz says the Obama administration has failed to address the structural and regulatory flaws at the heart of the financial crisis that stand in the way of economic recovery. Stiglitz also talks about why he thinks Obama’s strategy on
Afghanistan is wrong and that Obama’s plan to keep a “residual force” in Iraq will be “very expensive.” On health care, Stiglitz says a single-payer system is “the only alternative.”

Pres[i]dent Obama puts astronomical $4 trillion price tag on new budget (New York Daily News)
President Obama unveiled a staggeringly huge budget this morning, telling the country it will take almost $4 trillion to run the U.S. next year. That will be a whopping $1.75 trillion more than the President expects the government to raise in revenue, creating the largest federal deficit in real dollars since the country was fighting World War II. The giant numbers are due in part to Obama administration’s decision to print all of the red ink, including the wars in 
Iraq and Afghanistan and national emergencies, which the Bush administration left out. “This budget is an honest accounting of where we are and where we intend to go,” Obama said in releasing the outline of his massive spending plan. “For too long our budget has not told the whole truth about how precious tax dollars are spent.” In spite of the gusher of spending, Obama insisted he’s being tight-fisted. He said he’s scouring the budget for waste and targeting popular but unnecessary programs for elimination.

Policy shift will avert $9 trillion deficit-Orszag (Reuters)
President Barack Obama’s budget director said on Thursday that without a shift in policies the
U.S. deficit would reach $9 trillion over the next decade. White House budget chief Peter Orszag said the Obama administration’s budget outline reflects costs for the war in Iraq and other items that were previously not included in the budget. “All told we are showing $2.7 trillion in costs in this budget that were excluded from previous budgets and I think that is a mark of the honesty and responsibility contained in this document,” he said.
Excellent.  This is the kind of explaining that needs to be done, but that Democrats have avoided for so long.  The only way to fight the right’s mighty propaganda machine is to explain, educate, and debunk.  Then do it again.  And again.  And again.  And never, ever stop.  The Clintons are the absolute best at doing this.

Highlights of Obama’s proposed fiscal 2010 budget (McClatchy)
Here are some highlights of the $3.55 trillion fiscal 2010 budget, which President Barack Obama proposed on Thursday.

Gallup: Big Majority Thinks Obama Moving At Right Speed (by Greg Sargent at The Plum Line)
Still more polling out today shows the public wants President Obama to think very, very big and has the stomach for Obama to try to get a great deal done — right now. The latest: Gallup finds [Wednesday] that a surprising total of 69% think that Obama is either moving at the right speed or not fast enough in addressing the nation’s problems… Of that 69%, 59% think he’s moving at about the right speed, and 10% think he’s not moving quickly enough. Barely one fourth think he’s going to fast. Separately, the poll finds broad public support of Obama’s spending levels, which have been attacked relentlessly by Republicans in recent days.

Obama Budget Would Create $634 Billion Health-Care Fund (Washington Post)
President Obama [released] a budget … that creates a 10-year, $634 billion “reserve fund” to partially pay for a vast expansion of the U.S. health care system, an overhaul that many experts project will cost as much as $1 trillion over the next decade.

Obama Creates a Fund for Health Care Reform (by campskunk at Alegre’s Corner)
I’m hopeful in a manner born of desperation, but I’m also very afraid this will be a squandered opportunity to do the right thing, and give the moneyed interests another dozen years like the ones they got by killing the 1995 proposal. Check out the article and decide for yourself whether this signals a willingness to get serious about health care, or whether he’s going to cave in to the corporate interests who put him in the White House.

Pushed To the Margins, Finally (by Joe Conason)
At the brink of global ruin, [perhaps]  now Americans will look abroad and notice that other countries provide quality care to all of their citizens, spending less than half what we do and achieving better outcomes. In the coming decades, countries in
Europe, as well as Canada and Japan, will be able to invest their resources in energy and education, while we try to figure out how to borrow enough to keep our hospitals open. What they all have in common is that they do not devote a huge proportion of their health spending to the profits of insurance companies — and they negotiate budgets with health providers, such as pharmaceutical companies. The superior performance of these alternatives is at long last coming to the attention of the mainstream media, which has so long ignored it.

As always, Congress will resist change on behalf of the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies, preferring to do nothing. But perhaps in the coming years, the public will realize that such feckless politicians should be told to go do nothing somewhere else.

Bill Clinton: Why Obama Will Succeed At Health Care Reform (by Greg Sargent at The Plum Line)
In my interview with Bill Clinton, the former President also talked at some length about why he’s certain that President Obama will succeed at his vow in his speech to tackle health care reform this year. Clinton’s basic take: The recognition that the health care system is a disaster is now overwhelming; there’s been a major cultural shift towards government activism; the Congress is more willing to tackle reform; and the opposition is in disarray and has run out of arguments. “It’s a better than 50-50 chance he’ll succeed,” Clinton said.

Six in Ten Americans Want Access to Medicare (by masslib at Alegre’s Corner)
Obama has a huge opportunity to solidify his legacy early on as one of
America’s great Presidents.  Only in times of turmoil do Presidents get to achieve great things, and here we are in one of those times.  Public opinion on health reform continues to shift, and the winds argue for universal access to Medicare… Deep public dissatisfaction with the current health insurance system is evident in a new poll showing that 64% of Americans support expanding Medicare as a choice for anyone who wants an option to the private insurance market. The poll numbers illustrate unease with rising premiums, diminishing benefits and loss of health coverage when a job disappears…

The poll also finds a clear majority choose Medicare for All over our current private for-profit system, and Americans view public health coverage more positively than private insurance.

President Obama to Propose Medicare Premium Increase for Top 5% of Recipients (by Jake Tapper at Political Punch, ABC News)
To partially fund the Health Care Reserve Fund, another new source of revenue — or tax hike — the President will propose applying the same income standard for premiums for Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) that applies already to Medicare Part B (doctors’ visits). That is to say, right now couples who make more than $170,000 a year… This will impact the top five percent of Medicare recipients, the Obama White House anticipates, or about 1.5 million people, and will raise $8.1 billion over 10 years. This would start in FY 2011.

Obama to Seek Higher Tax on Affluent to Pay for Health Care (New York Times)
President Obama will propose further tax increases on the affluent to help pay for his promise to make health care more accessible and affordable, calling for stricter limits on the benefits of itemized deductions taken by the wealthiest households, administration officials said Wednesday… The president will also propose, in the 10-year budget he is to release Thursday, to use revenues from the centerpiece of his environmental policy — a plan under which companies must buy permits to exceed pollution emission caps — to pay for an extension of a two-year tax credit that benefits low-wage and middle-income people.

The combined effect of the two revenue-raising proposals, on top of Mr. Obama’s existing plan to roll back the Bush-era income tax reductions on households with income exceeding $250,000 a year, would be a pronounced move to redistribute wealth by reimposing a larger share of the tax burden on corporations and the most affluent taxpayers.

Budget Expects Revenue From Limits on Emissions (Washington Post)
Today, the White House [unveiled] a budget that assumes there will be revenue from an emissions trading system by 2012. Sources … said it would direct $15 billion of that revenue to clean-energy projects, $60 billion to tax credits for lower- and middle-income working families, and additional money to offsetting higher energy costs for families, small businesses and communities.

Center for Public Integrity Reports Boom in Climate Change Lobbying (Legal Times)
The number of lobbyists working to influence policies regarding climate change has exploded over the past five years, increasing by as much as 300 percent, according to a new report by the Center for Public Integrity.

52 Million Tuned In to Watch Obama’s First Address (Advertising Age)
Rash Report: Speech Draws 40% More Than Bush’s
Last State of the Union

Top Democrats brush off the president on earmarks (The Hill)
Leading Democrats on Wednesday appeared to brush aside President Obama’s suggestion that they sacrifice earmarks in the federal budget, arguing Congress knows better than “faceless bureaucrats” how to spend taxpayer money. The pushback came just hours after the president, during his address to a joint session of Congress, implored lawmakers to help put the nation back on a path to fiscal health.

House to Approve Thousands of U.S. Budget Earmarks (Bloomberg)
Washington’s respite from congressional pet projects known as earmarksappears to be over. President Barack Obama , who insisted on keeping his economic stimulus package free of money for lawmakers’ projects, may soon be faced with a bill stuffed with thousands of them.

House Kills Move to Examine Campaign Contributions’ Links to Earmarks (CQ Politics)
House Democrats killed a resolution Wednesday that would have called for an ethics committee inquiry into the relationship between campaign contributions and earmarks.

Reid increased congressional budget to allow GOP to maintain its staff levels. (Think Progress)
The Huffington Post reports that the congressional operations budget has been increased to $4.4 billion “because Senate Republicans wanted to retain previous staff levels” — despite losing 20 percent of their seats last year and railing against government spending recently. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) discussed the issue at a press conference today: “We had a situation — you should direct that question to Senator McConnell because we had trouble organizing this year. He wanted to maintain a lot of their staffing even though they had lost huge numbers. And the only way we could get it done is to do what we did.”

Obama might target Lockheed Martin’s F-22 for defense cuts (McClatchy)
President Barack Obama may have Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor fighter jet in his sights as a prime target for cutting big-dollar defense programs.
Lots of these military boondoggles need to be scrapped.

Sen. Byrd questions Obama’s use of policy ‘czars’ (New York Times)
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who for decades has battled White House power and championed congressional clout, is questioning President Obama’s appointment of “czars” to oversee key policy areas, including energy and climate. “The rapid and easy accumulation of power by White House staff can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances,” Byrd wrote in a letter to Obama. “At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.”
I have to say that although I don’t like the pushback on earmarks, I am glad to see that Democrats refuse to march in lock goose-step, the way the Republicans did for eight years.

Leahy announces hearings on Bush investigations set for next Wednesday. (Think Progress)
Speaking on the Senate floor [Wednesday] morning, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reiterated his call to hold a truth commission to investigate Bush wrongdoings, and announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee would hold hearings on the matter next Wednesday. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) rose after Leahy to support the call for investigations into “this past carnival of folly, greed, lies, and wrongdoing.” “If we blind ourselves to this history, we deny ouselves its lessons,” he said, warning that such an investigation will not be comfortable or easy.

Pelosi criticizes Truth Commission as inadequate, advocates criminal prosecutions (by Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory, Salon)
In an interview [Wednesday] with Rachel Maddow … House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeatedly advocated the need for criminal prosecutions, not merely fact-finding… Leahy’s overt argument against prosecutions — no matter what his “Truth Commission” finds — is nothing more than an attempt, by definition, to place the President above and beyond the rule of law. Whether she’s sincere or not about it, it’s at least good (and potentially productive) to see Pelosi being critical of such a lawless posture from the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman.

Jamiol’s World

Pelosi: Thirty to fifty thousand ‘residual troops’ in Iraq is too many. (Think Progress)
President Obama is expected to announce this week that he will withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by August 2010, but reports say he will initially leave a residual force of 30,000 to 50,000 troops to “train the Iraqi military, conduct targeted counterterrorism operations and protect American personnel and assets.” Yesterday on the Rachel Maddow show, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made clear that she wanted far fewer residual troops than this.
Click through to watch the video.

EXCLUSIVE-Guantanamo abuse has worsened since Obama -lawyer (Reuters)
Abuse of prisoners at
Guantanamo Bay has worsened sharply since President Barack Obama took office as prison guards “get their kicks in” before the camp is closed, according to a lawyer who represents detainees. Abuses began to pick up in December after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike. The Pentagon said on Monday that it had received renewed reports of prisoner abuse during a recent review of conditions at Guantanamo, but had concluded that all prisoners were being kept in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
I am thinking that the Pentagon can’t be trusted when it comes to Guantanamo.

Obama Supports Telecom Immunity (by Steve at The Left Coaster)
Well, I’ll say one thing for Obama: he’s making it easy for someone in the party to run at him from his left in 2012. Eric Holder and Leon Panetta are doing little if anything to show any change in direction from Bush on domestic surveillance and executive privilege, nor does the administration show any interest in holding people accountable for past illegalities. And now in office, they sanction telecom immunity… Progressives will have to accept that Obama plans to allow no room to his right when it comes to national security, even if it means disappointing progressives and pissing on the Constitution.

[Wednesday], the president met with Treasury Secretary Geithner, chief White House economic adviser Larry Summers, and the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee to begin work on a new set of regulations to monitor a modern banking system… “While free markets are the key to our progress, they do not give us free license to take whatever we can get, however we can get it,” he said. “But let me be clear: The choice we face is not between some oppressive government-run economy or a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism. Rather, strong financial markets require clear rules of the road, not to hinder financial institutions, but to protect consumers and investors and ultimately to keep those financial institutions strong.”

SEC Says Investment Management Firm Swindled Millions (Legal Times)
It may not amount to the multibillion-dollar investment schemes orchestrated by Madoff or Stanford, but the SEC has filed a complaint against another investment manager.

Texas financier accused of fraud owes IRS $104 million, too (McClatchy)
Texas billionaire financier R. Allen Stanford was in a heap of hot water with federal authorities even before the Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges Feb. 17 accusing him of running an $8 billion ”massive ongoing fraud” at his financial empire.

US January new home sales slump to record low (Reuters)
Sales of newly built
U.S. single-family homes slumped to a record low in January, while prices fell to their weakest level in five years, according to a government report on Thursday that highlighted the continued distress in the housing market.

Child Citizen Protection Act would give leeway on deportations (McClatchy)
Gloria Gonzalez-Garcia’s family was torn in two Dec. 2. Her husband, Jose Alfredo Garcia, was arrested by Mineral Wells police, and his status as an illegal immigrant quickly got him a one-way ticket to Mexico. He was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deported the next day. It didn’t matter that he had been paying taxes, buying a house or taking care of his daughters, who are American citizens because they were born in the U.S… Garcia’s abrupt deportation is an example of how tens of thousands of parents are separated from their children when immigration law catches up with them.

ABC News: Obama to Seek New Assault Weapons Ban (ABC News)
The Obama administration will seek to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 during the Bush administration, Attorney General Eric Holder said [Wednesday]… Holder said that putting the ban back in place would not only be a positive move by the United States, it would help cut down on the flow of guns going across the border into Mexico, which is struggling with heavy violence among drug cartels along the border.

Locke’s China work complicates bid (Politico)
Locke’s post-gubernatorial efforts to drum up business for an array of companies in the rapidly expanding Chinese market may require steps to reconcile with the administration’s ethics policy… The problem is that Locke, a partner in an international law firm’s China division, has advocated for Microsoft, Starbucks, and banking, timber and shipping interests in recent years, raising potential conflicts for him as head of a department charged with promoting U.S. trade around the globe.

Burris Son Got Job from Blago (Political Wire)
The son of embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) “is a federal tax deadbeat who landed a $75,000-a-year state job under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich five months ago,” the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. “Blagojevich’s administration hired Roland W. Burris II as a senior counsel for the state’s housing authority Sept. 10 — about six weeks after the Internal Revenue Service slapped a $34,163 tax lien on Burris II and three weeks after a mortgage company filed a foreclosure suit on his South Side house.”

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen — A Democrat — Might Reject Portions of Stimulus (Dissenting Justice)
Democratic Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen recently announced that he might reject portions of the stimulus budget. If he actually follows through with this action, he would join several Republican governors who have indicated that they will reject stimulus money allocated to their states. Bredesen complains that in order for states to receive federal money that Congress has allocated to increase the level of unemployment benefits, states must apply a new formula, which, if utilized, would increase the number of beneficiaries in Tennessee. Bredesen says that the overall expansion of unemployment benefits would put additional pressure on the state’s already constrained budget.

Bill Clinton: GOP’s Only Hope At Comeback Is To Go Along With Obama (by Greg Sargent at The Plum Line)
Yet another installment from my interview with Bill Clinton: I asked the former President if the Republican Party has any hope at a comeback anytime soon and what they needed to do to make it happen. Clinton said the GOP is in such a deep hole that their only prayer is to go along with President Obama’s agenda now and try to articulate a reality-based alternative vision over the long term.

Bunning’s statements, feuding create concerns in GOP (McClatchy)
Republican insiders are hedging their bets on the fate of Sen. Jim Bunning’s 2010 re-election bid as the rift between Kentucky’s junior senator and GOP leaders widens.

Colorado state senator says HIV testing for pregnant women rewards ‘sexual promiscuity.’ (Think Progress)
[Wednesday], Colorado State Sen. Dave Schultheis (R) caused outrage by announcing that he would vote against a bill requiring HIV tests for pregnant women because the disease “stems from sexual promiscuity” and he doesn’t think the government should reward “unacceptable behavior.” 

Anti-Obama Author Still Questioning Obama’s Citizenship (by Sam Stein at the Huffington Post)
Jerome Corsi, author of the anti-Obama book “The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality,” remains (shockingly) unconvinced by the president’s first month in office. Speaking in the halls of the Conservative Political Action Committee conference here in Washington D.C., the libertarian author, who caused a brief campaign stir with the publication of his book, said that multiple questions and concerns remain, on everything from Obama’s politics to his citizenship…

“It is not going off the table because people care about the Constitution. And it is in the Constitution that a president needs to be nationally born,” he [said]. “It is not settled. Barack Obama has not released his natural birth certificate. I don’t know what is on that document. I’m not a mind reader. But I know that politicians of note do not hide documents unless there is something embarrassing that they don’t want seen. And a birth certificate should be a mundane certificate. Obama could make this issue go away.”
There’s apparently a suit by another American soldier in Iraq—oh, and Phil Berg wants Obama deported as an illegal alien.

The Media Continue to Ignore Welfare for Citi Shareholders (by Dean Baker)
The NYT piece on bailout III for Citigroup looks like it was written by Citi’s lobbyists. The piece never once points out that the government has handed tens of billions to Citigroup for almost nothing. The article even includes a bizarre statement to discourage those who oppose welfare for the super-rich: “Nationalizing Citigroup outright would be a huge challenge, given the company’s size and international sweep. In countries like Mexico, for instance, a state-controlled bank might run afoul of local ownership regulations.”

This could almost be a line in a comedy routine — Mexico is going to keep the United States from putting a bankrupt bank in receivership. It’s too bad that the NYT didn’t identify anyone who made such a statement, we all could ridicule this person until they faded from public life.
Sort of like George Bush attacking Iraq because fanatical Muslims from Saudi Arabia and based in Afghanistan attacked us.

Paging Will Bunch … Will Bunch to the white courtesy phone … (by Jamison Foser at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
During an online discussion [Wednesday], Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon touted “the Reagan years” as an example of “low spending by the government”… This is complete bunk.  Federal government spending increased under Ronald Reagan.  Increased significantly more than it did under, for example, Bill Clinton. It’s obvious why conservatives tell fairy tales in which the wise and noble Ronald Reagan kept government spending in check: they think it helps their political and ideological fortunes.  It’s less apparent why reporters like Perry Bacon repeat these myths.

Lauer to Santelli: Gibbs “wasn’t threatening you” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
This is very new—having mainstream media mavens telling the truth when confronted by right-wing anger.

Shuster, Gross “bust” the “myth” that “nationalization is a form of communism” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

Beck contrasts CEOs spending taxpayer money on private jets, Feinstein flying in husband’s plane (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

Media: Meet Gov. Bobby Jindal, Washington Outsider (try to contain your laughter) (by Karl Frisch at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Over the past few days I’ve seen some in the media describe Gov. Jindal [as] an outsider devoid of any connection to those unpopular Congressional Republicans. There’s one small problem with that description. It just isn’t true.
Click through for the details of Jindal’s Washington ties.

Right-wing media fracture over Jindal (by Eric Boehlert at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Even before Rush Limbaugh announced his unwavering support for Jindal Wednesday afternoon, lots of far right  were furious with Jindal’s performance… But then Limbaugh announced that kind of talk was off limits for conservatives… GOP bloggers didn’t take too kindly to those marching orders. Hot Air thought it was obvious Jindal blew his big night, and wondered what was wrong with admitting that… The headline for the Riehl World post: “Is The Limbaugh Era Nearing An End?” We can dream, can’t we?

Brzezinski gushes about her “crush” Rush Limbaugh: “I love Rush. I do…we’re emailing” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)

Limbaugh To Convene A ‘Female Summit’ To Figure Out Why Women Hate Him (Think Progress)
Women don’t really like Rush Limbaugh. On Feb. 23, Public Policy Polling released findings showing that only 37 percent of women hold a favorable opinion of the hate radio host, compared to 56 percent of men. As Jill Zimon notes, Limbaugh brought up this poll yesterday on his radio show, noting that it was one of the largest gender gaps Public Policy Polling has seen on any issue it has polled in the past year. His solution? To convene a summit of women to find out why they dislike him.
I’d like to see the “Nine to Five” ladies put in charge of this summit.

Limbaugh, touting “Female Summit” to address his “huge gender gap,” excludes anyone “who’s had a…chop-a-dick-offa-me” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Oh, then I guess the the “Nine to Five” ladies won’t be invited.

Sanford: Rush Limbaugh is an ‘idiot.’ (Think Progress)
In an interview with the website Real Clear Politics, Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) was asked about the “view that perhaps Republicans are rooting for President Obama to fail.” This question was a clear reference to Rush Limbaugh, who infamously said, “I hope Obama fails.” Sanford responded in unequivocal terms: “SANFORD: I don’t want him to fail. Anybody who wants him to fail is an idiot, because it means we’re all in trouble.” In the past, Limbaugh has attacked other Republicans who have expressed hope for President Obama to succeed, declaring that they are “drinking the Kool-Aid… they’re afraid of being called racists.”
Make that a Big, Fat Idiot, as senator-elect Al Franken told us.

Right-wing TV hosts gain viewers since Obama victory. (Think Progress)
“Conservative talk hosts, or at least those who anchor Fox News Channel’s lineup, are enjoying a solid post-election bump,” Variety reports. Fox News saw its daily viewership increase by 24%last month, compared to Feb. 2008. Bill O’Reilly was up 33% (3.6 million viewers) in February compared to the previous year. Sean Hannity rose 38% (to nearly 2.8 million). And newly-minted right-wing talker Glenn Beck “has doubled his timeslot.” Liberal hosts Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow posted gains of 32% and 134%, respectively, in total viewers since one year ago. “But both programs experienced ratings erosion versus last month.” Olbermann was down 4% and Maddow was down 8%.

David Sirota Launches Campaign For MSNBC Gig (FishbowlDC, Media Bistro)
“As many of you know, I’ve appeared on MSNBC many times as a guest with my friend Rachel Maddow, and appear regularly on other networks. I also have a syndicated newspaper column, two bestselling books and a blog, thanks in no small part to all of your support over the years. So, after a lot of scratching and clawing (and help from you), my work is starting to get out there. And in all of those forums, I try to focus on the economic and political issues important to regular folks – the issues that get short shrift by so much of the media. Over the years, I’ve worked with so many of you – you’ve given me ideas, provided leads for stories and critiqued me. It’s improved my work so much, and now we have a chance to take it to the next level – and if we do, our work together will only intensify.”
Just what we need is another misogynistic Obot at MSNBC.

Unions File Complaint To Strip Anti-Labor Group’s Tax Status (by Sam Stein, the Huffington Post)
Two of the nation’s largest unions have filed a joint complaint with the IRS, urging the agency to revoke the tax-exempt status of two organizations for engaging in partisan political activity. The AFL-CIO and Change to Win submitted their complaint to the IRS on Thursday, officials told the Huffington Post. The two unions allege that Rick Berman’s Center for Union Facts and Bernie Marcus’ the Marcus Foundation violated rules regarding their tax status by explicitly endorsing and trying to raise money for Republican senatorial candidates in the 2008 election. Berman, in a comment to the Huffington Post, downplayed the threat to his organization’s tax status as nonexistent and political “theater.”
Good.  More of this, please.  Right wing stink tanks have been getting away with blatant Republican partisanship for many years, while retaining their tax exempt status.

Accountability Now: a Latte Rebellion? (by Pacific John at Alegre’s Corner)
A group of largely net-centric liberals is forming a counterpart to the conservative Club for Growth, the group that finances primary challenges against moderate Republicans. Accountability Now includes: MoveOn, SEIU, Color of Change, Democracy for
America, 21st Century Democrats and BlogPAC. FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher and’s Glenn Greenwald will serve in advisory roles, while Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos will conduct polling, with analytical help from’s Nate Silver.
I want nothing at all to do with any organization that includes MoveOn, Markos Moulitsas, or Jane Hamsher.  I guess I’ll have to take their link off my website.

Media Matters for America headlines

NY Times drew false equivalence between Will and Gore

MSNBC’s Brewer, Watson aired Gingrich’s gratuitous Twitter attack on Pelosi

O’Reilly advanced falsehood that “the Democrats in charge of the finance committees” resisted regulating mortgage industry

Politico falsely claimed that Santelli’s “rant” criticized “careless banks”

Fox & Friends’ Carlson allows guest to misrepresent speech to claim Obama engaged in “class warfare”

O’Reilly latest to advance UAW pay falsehood

Confronted with the truth, Hannity refused to back down from debunked mouse, LA-Vegas rail falsehoods

FCC fines small telcos on customer info rules 
The Federal Communications Commission has slapped more than 660 small telecommunications companies with a total of $13.3 million in fines for failing to certify that they’re keeping their customer information safe. The FCC’s action is part of its attempts to tighten the rules governing customer information.

UK rules out charges against Pentagon hacker
British prosecutors said on Thursday they would not bring charges against a computer expert accused by a U.S. attorney of the “biggest military hack of all time,” dealing a blow to his bid to avoid extradition.

Finns urged to check Web, curb guns after rampages
Finnish authorities should monitor the Internet more effectively and tighten licensing of firearms to prevent more gun massacres in schools, a government commission said on Thursday.

‘Die Hard’ Director Is Allowed to Withdraw Plea
A judge has allowed John McTiernan to withdraw his guilty plea in a case that involved the wiretapping of
Hollywood celebrities.

Ex-editor: The pay/no-pay issue already has been resolved by consumers
“Readers will not pay for online news content provided by traditional mass-market news organizations,” writes former Spokesman-Review editor Steve Smith. “For traditional newspapers, the genie is out of the bottle. No organization can hold on to its information long enough to make it a viable commercial commodity in the digital world. Once published anywhere or in any way, the information is out there, for free, for everyone.”

“Read for free, pay for print or stuff” model delivers revenue
The New Yorker has successfully employed the model, says Michael Josefowicz.

FT Aims New Subscription-Only Digital Pub At China Investors (Paid Content)
The Financial Times is set to launch a new website and e-newsletter called China Confidential next week. The new publication is in keeping with the UK business paper’s focus on offering more premium digital content. And since world markets are continuing to flail, China still looks like a comparatively solid place to invest… The FT’s model of mixing free and premium content has recently gained currency as a way to save newspapers as advertising shrinks. But this example is even more resistant to emulation by general market papers—if only because it will be almost exclusively marketed to investment professionals and analysts, who will be able to cover the subscription cost through their work.

Gawker Absorbs Defamer: Business Model Lessons (by Mac Slocum at Poynter Online)
Gawker Media founder Nick Denton has rolled the L.A.-ceGawker Media founder Nick Denton has rolled the L.A.-centric gossip site Defamer into his company’s flagship blog, Gawker.According to Silicon Alley Insider (which engaged in some recent rolling-up of its own), Defamer’s absorption will boost traffic for Gawker and make it easier to attract those all-important media buys. “Scale matters — both for marketing to readers and advertisers,”
Denton is quoted as saying. “The dream of micropublishing is dead!” Sounding micropublishing’s death knell is an exaggeration, but Denton is correct in one respect: sites that rely on page-view-based advertising are in trouble. The CPM rates — even good CPM rates in the $50 to $100 range — don’t scale. You can’t support a staff of 50 writers, with accompanying overhead and benefits, on a page-view model.

So what can be done? Two things:
1. Advertising-dependent Web publishers should stay intentionally small…
2. Build products with natural scarcity and treat advertising as a secondary revenue stream.
Click through for more detail.

“It’s easy to imagine an online-only Post-Intelligencer staffed with as few as 20 people”
“Officially, both inside and outside the P-I headquarters, all plans for the online-only P-I are discussed in purely hypothetical terms — if at all,” writes Eli Sanders. “But it’s increasingly hard to imagine that an online-only launch isn’t going to happen.”

Earnings Call: Cablevision: We Can Better Manage Newspapers’ Transition To Digital (Paid Content)
Despite Cablevision’s Q4′s loss CEO Jim Dolan insisted that the company is weathering the recession pretty well and … the company will maintain its dividend payments at its current level to investors… When the company bought Newsday, many observers questioned Cablevision’s thinking. For one thing, the business is going through an existential crisis. Secondly, what does Cablevision know about newspapers anyway? Addressing those issues, Rutledge said that the company was well aware of the troubles of the newspaper industry. But Cablevision continues to believes that it can better manage the industry’s transition from print to digital and use it to align and strengthen its own services.
It occurred to me while reading this that a cable television company could put newspaper content right there on the teevee, making it accessible to people who don’t do the internets.

“Twitter first to publish dramatic crash pictures”
The social networking site Twitter again stole a march on traditional media when it was the first outlet to publish dramatic pictures of the Turkish Airlines crash. Moments after the plane crashed at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport on Wednesday morning the news was appearing on Twitter, CNN International correspondent Errol Barnett said. “This is a story that broke on Twitter first and continued to unfold from there. Eyewitnesses were posting comments about the shock of seeing the plane ‘dive’ and amazement of passengers walking out of the wreckage,” Barnett said.

Hearst to Use Citizen Journalists From Helium
Online writing community Helium Inc. will provide local and lifestyle stories written by its citizen journalists to the Hearst Newspapers chain. The deal gives Hearst’s newspapers access to Helium’s marketplace of freelance writers.

NYT: We were misled about Dating a Banker Anonymous
Had the nature of the “tongue in cheek” blog been made clear at the outset, says a Times editors’ note, “the article would have described it accordingly, not as a support group.”

Callaway: Newspaper industry’s old names will be replaced with new online heroes
While it sometimes feels like we’re all in Detroit in the news industry these days, the darkness sweeping over legendary news organizations masks a new era of innovation that will bring tremendous opportunity, says David Callaway. “By all means, mourn the passing of great names, just as we do in other industries. But look for the new channels from which all the talent that made them great will flow.”

It’s NYTCo’s Turn To Complain About Aggregators (Paid Content)
The dispute between Michael Wolff’s news aggregator Newser and the over the method of linking by the former to the latter is a little surprising, considering the similarities it has with the NYTCo’s recent court case in Massachusetts… Shortly after posting a item about the death penalty and the recession, Wolff was a sent a letter from the NYTCo’s legal department ordering him to take down a link that included a photograph with the company’s trademark “Gothic ‘T’” logo without permission. This could be a problem for Newser, since all the aggregated stories that appear on its home page feature graphical links to the original article and a logo from the news source.

NY Times Cuts Frequency of T Magazine
In a sign that even its most promising titles are falling on hard times, The New York Times is scaling back the number of issues it publishes of T, its fashion and lifestyle supplement. After appearing 15 times last year, the struggling newspaper company is scaling back T’s frequency to 12.

Earnings: Washington Post’s Profit Drops 77 Percent; Display Ads Up 10 Percent (Paid Content)
So what if the Washington Post Company is continuing its $2.15 dividend, unlike the New York Times Company and Gannett? In this jittery market, that’s not enough to compensate for a 77 percent drop in net income for Q408 and investors spent the morning saying so, sending the stock down more than $14 to $370.71, nearly 4 percent, in post-earnings trading. The education and publishing company—in revenue determined names it might be called KapCo instead of WaPo— reported a 3 percent rise in revenues, to $1.16 billion from $1.125 billion in Q407.

Gannett slashes dividend by 90%, to 4 cents per share
It had been 40 cents. Gannett will save about $325 million annually with the dividend cut — the first in the company’s history.

Hearst’s San Antonio Express-News cuts 75 newsroom positions
“Incremental staff and budget cuts, we are sorry to say, have proven inadequate amid changing social and market forces now compounded by this deepening recession,” editor Robert Rivard tells his staff. “No one is being asked to leave the Express-News today unless you so choose. March 20 will be the final day for those whose jobs are being cut.”

Denver newspaper unions agree to wage and benefit cuts that average 11.7%
The Denver Newspaper Agency sought $18 million in concessions as part of a broader $35 million cost-cutting package. It’s not clear if the tentative agreement, reached early Wednesday, meets that $18 million goal.

Tribune Tower Pulled Off the Market
Tribune Co. has scrapped plans to put the
Tribune Tower up for sale because of cratering real estate prices and the company’s bankruptcy filing. The sale of major assets like Tribune Tower and the Times Mirror buildings in Los Angeles were part of Sam Zell’s strategy to pay down Tribune’s debt load.

MediaNews’ Singleton Watching SF Chronicle Situation ‘With Interest’
William Dean Singleton, whose company owns nearly every daily newspaper in the Bay Area outside of the San Francisco Chronicle, remained mum on whether he would be interested in the Chronicle following Hearst’s announcement that it may sell or close the paper.

Anderson News Hit With Lawsuits
The situation at magazine wholesaler Anderson News keeps getting worse. A little more than two weeks after ceasing “normal business activity” and laying off much of its staff, the Knoxville, Tennessee-based company has been slapped with at least two lawsuits.

Coming Soon: Streaming-Only Subscriptions From Netflix (Paid Content)
It was probably inevitable. Netflix is now planning to offer its streaming-video service, which has been a hit among consumers, as a stand-alone option. CFO Barry McCarthy told attendees at the Jefferies Internet and Media conference that the company was “likely to do that in the foreseeable future,” according to Reuters—though he made a point to note that the company was still committed to its rental-by-mail business.

Revenue Drops 31% at DreamWorks Animation
Despite the success of “Kung Fu Panda,” the company did not meet analysts’ expectations for the quarter.

WGA to Determine If Jay Leno Broke Strike Rules
Comedian Jay Leno appeared before his own union’s trial committee Wednesday to address charges that he broke guild rules during last season’s writers strike. The NBC late-night host announced on the air that he was penning his own monologues while the strike was still in full swing.

ABC Made $72 Million on 26 Minutes of Oscar Ads
ABC sold 26 minutes of advertising time for about $72 million in its Feb. 22 Academy Awards broadcast, the most since 2004, TNS Media Intelligence says. The high number of sales came despite General Motors and L’Oreal, two major sponsors, pulling out.

New NBC Reality Series for Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Seinfeld is reteaming with NBC to launch his first reality series. The comedian’s project is tentatively called The Marriage Ref and features celebrities, comedians, and athletes who will judge couples in the midst of marital disputes while recommending various strategies to resolve their problems.
Because what the world needs more of is narcissistic celebrities showing off their narcissism.

Springpad: An Intelligent Online Notebook for Everything (Mashable)
Online notebooks are a dime a dozen, with Evernote at the head of the class and at least 17 other eager alternatives close behind. So, do we really need another one competing for our online filing needs? We’ll leave the answer to that question up to you, but we certainly think that Springpad, an online notebook that collects and manages tasks, web notes, and events in a super clean and user-friendly Web interface, is worth a nice long look. The site, which launched in beta last November, adds a few fresh features to the mix.

TrialPay can help you get freebies online
With the economy in the dumps, you might hesitate before buying discretionary goodies like video games or pizza. But what if you could get those things for free by doing something you might already be inclined to do?

comScore: Light PC Internet Users Are 30 Percent More Likely than Heavy PC Internet Users to Access Mobile Internet Content
comScore, Inc. … today reported the results of the first study of its cross-media panel of PC and mobile Internet users in the U.S., finding that  light PC Internet users are 30 percent more likely than heavy PC Internet users to use their mobile devices to  access Internet content. In total, 42 million people used their mobile devices in October 2008 to access news and information content on the Internet, an increase of 57 percent from October 2007.

Search Spending Expected To Rise, But What About The Clicks? (Paid Content)
A pair of reports from eMarketer and The Kelsey Group paint a rosy picture of the search advertising market over the next four years—with double-digit increases in spending for both web-based and mobile search. It’s not surprising, given the instant gratification (and perceived ROI) marketers get from paid search ads.

Google Deploys Ads In News Results; Shutters “Shared Stuff” Bookmarking Service (Paid Content)
If cost-cutting and boosting revenues are the keys to thriving amid a recession, then Google has proven it’s adept at doing both. The latest push to generate more revenue is by running search ads against Google News results, much like it has done with ads in image search, Google Earth and Google Finance

Mark Cuban: Will Mobile Devices Replace Laptops? (Paid Content)
An interesting discussion over on our sister site, where Mark Cuban gave us permission to publish a post about the mobile future that first appeared on his Blog Maverick. An excerpt ( keeping Mark’s punctuation):

“I would love to be able to ditch my laptop and desktop and only have a single, pocket sized device.  If I could carry my Sidekick or ITouch with me and when I set it on my desk, or even walk into a hotel room, it immediately makes a connection with my monitor or HDTV , my full size keyboard and either with a usb cable or wirelessly, lets me connect to a thumbdrive or some external hard drive.  If by carrying this little device, a full computing environment could be recreated and I didnt feel like I was giving up something dumping my laptop and desktop, I would be its 1st lifetime customer.  My digital and computing world would immediately be revolutionized.”
Yes, Mark, that is exactly what’s going to happen.

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