“Germany faces a heightened threat of terrorist attacks because of its military involvement in Afghanistan, government security officials here said Friday,” the New York Times reports. “The danger level, they warned, was comparable to the months before the 9/11 attacks in the United States.”
“Bill O’Reilly said newspapers have a dismal future and also criticized a writer in the audience during a speech Friday at the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) conference.”
“Newspapers are dying, and there are two reasons why,” said the Fox News host and Creators Syndicate newspaper columnist. “One reason is the Internet. The other is ideology.”
O’Reilly contended that many newspapers are losing circulation because they’ve allowed the “liberal” ideology of their editorial pages to “bleed into news coverage” — despite, he said, there being a greater number of “traditional conservatives” than liberals in the American population.
The result? “Audiences are estranged from most major newspapers,” O’Reilly told the columnist attendees. “They hate you. When someone hates you, they’re not going to give you your money.”
In his new movie SiCKO, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore exposes the deplorable practices of the major health insurance and pharmaceutical companies in working to deny coverage to individuals who are insured. As Moore told ABC’s Nightline:
There’s no getting around the fact that people are dying in this country as a result of the decisions that get made by these health insurance companies. People are dying in this country because they can’t afford the pharmaceuticals because of the price gauging that takes place.
For his damaging expos© of the health care industry, Moore is now under attack from front groups supported and funded by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. The New York Sun reports:
The pharmaceutical industry and think tanks it backs financially are readying a multifaceted counteroffensive against Michael Moore’s film about the health care industry. [...]
The drug companies and their allies have been on their toes ever since the movie was being filmed, when they warned personnel to watch out for film crews from the “Fahrenheit 9/11″ director. But in advance of the film’s release, they are upping the volume and the tempo of their activities.
Armed with the plenty of cash from the health care industry, these organizations are lobbing personal insults against Moore and propagating the message of those invested in maintaining the status quo. Some examples:
FreedomWorks: FreedomWorks has launched a new campaign claiming that policies favored by Moore, “healthy individuals” would “wind up subsidizing people like Moore, who are overweight and and/or live decidedly unhealthy lifestyles by frequenting fast-food restaurants, smoke, or use drugs.” FreedomWorks is run by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, whose PAC has received significant contributions from the health care industry. Several industry members serve on its board of directors. Additionally, it has a deal with Medical Savings Insurance Co. allowing the company’s brokers “sell high-deductible insurance policies and tax-free savings plans at a group discount to buyers who join the conservative political organization.”
CATO Institute: CATO receives funding from multiple insurance and pharmaceutical companies, including Amerisure Insurance, Pfizer, and Merck. It has written numerous pieces attacking Moore’s film, arguing that he “ignores the positive side of American health care” and instead “focuses on life expectancy.” It held an event after the DC premiere of the film, screening conservative films that “highlight problems” with “government-run health care.”
Manhattan Institute: The Manhattan Institute receives funding from multiple pharmaceutical giants such as Bristol-Myers Squibb. One of its senior fellows started a site called Free Market Cure, which argues SiCKO is “set to inject a large dose of misinformation and propaganda into our national dialog about health care policy.” The group is advising reporters covering SiCKO that scholars “at the institute’s Center for Medical Progress…were available to comment on the health care industry.”
For the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, Michael Moore’s film exposing their history and their misdeeds is a serious threat, and they have no shortage of funds to try to distort it.
William Mercer, the Acting Associate Attorney General, asked President Bush today to withdraw his nomination to be the permanent No. 3 official in the Justice Department, “saying it was unlikely that the Senate would confirm him to a post he has held on an interim basis since September.”
Mercer, who is also the current U.S. attorney in Montana, is enmeshed in both the U.S. attorney scandal and the politicization of the Justice Department. He reportedly told fired U.S. attorney Daniel Bogden of Nevada that his dismissal was “to make room for others to gain experience so the Republican Party would have a strong bench of candidates for federal judgeships.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) called for Mercer to resign after the Washington Post reported that he “worked to alter federal law so that he and a handful of other senior Justice officials could escape residency requirements that governed their assignments as U.S. attorneys.”
In a statement, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said Mercer withdrew his name to avoid testifying under oath:
The White House has found many ways to keep sunlight from reaching some of the darker corners of the Bush Justice Department, but this is a new one. They have withdrawn this nomination to avoid having to answer more questions under oath.
Gonzales said in a statement today that he is “very pleased that the department will continue to benefit from his leadership, talent and experience through his role as U.S. attorney in Montana.”
Mercer, whose confirmation hearing was set for Tuesday, served in the Department for two years, as both a temporary senior official and as the U.S. attorney in Montana .
Turns out that Townhall’s Matt Lewis had the story on Rudy Giuliani’s loyalty to Alan Placa, alleged child molesting ex-priest, back in February. These are the kind of associates that tend to bring down a campaign.
“An Army officer with a key role in the U.S. military hearings at Guantanamo Bay says they relied on vague and incomplete intelligence and were pressured to declare detainees “enemy combatants,” often without any specific evidence:
His affidavit, released Friday, is the first criticism by a member of the military panels that determine whether detainees will continue to be held.
Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a 26-year veteran of military intelligence who is an Army reserve officer and a California lawyer, said military prosecutors were provided with only “generic” material that didn’t hold up to the most basic legal challenges.
Despite repeated requests, intelligence agencies arbitrarily refused to provide specific information that could have helped either side in the tribunals, according to Abraham, who said he served as a main liaison between the Combat Status Review Tribunals and those intelligence agencies.
“What were purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence,” Abraham said in the affidavit, filed in a Washington appeals court on behalf of a Kuwaiti detainee, Fawzi al-Odah, who is challenging his classification as an “enemy combatant.”
- A requirement for utilities to provide 15 percent of their electric power from renewable sources by 2020, and
- An energy tax package that would have created $30 billion in incentives for renewable power, biofuels, plug-in hybrids, and other clean technologies.
Still, the bill deserves a solid “B” for what is in it. Here are the major components, from the office of Jeff Bingaman (D-NM):
Increases Auto Mileage for First Time in Decades. It raises auto fuel economy to a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, a 40% increase over current requirements for cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks.
Increases Production of Ethanol. It requires ethanol fuel production to grow to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, a sevenfold increase over the amount of ethanol processed last year.
Spurs Research on Fuel-Efficient Vehicles. It provides federal grants and loan guarantees to promote research into fuel-efficient vehicles and supports pilot coal-plant projects to capturecarbon dioxide and store it underground.
Saves Taxpayer Dollars By Increasing Energy Efficiency. The bill includes new appliance and lighting efficiency standards plus a requirement that the federal government accelerate use of more efficient lighting in public buildings.
Here are some comments on the Bill, first from Bingaman’s office, then from Richard Lugar’s (R-IN):
Last night, the Associated Press reported that the Bush administration was “nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” and that senior officials were “expected to discuss the move at the White House on Friday.”
The White House originally denied there was a scheduled White House meeting to discuss the topic. During a press briefing today, White House spokesperson Dana Perino confirmed that the White House had tried to mislead the public:
Yes, there was going to be a meeting today. But there was a determination that it wasn’t needed. … I think that the decision to not have the meeting happened late in the day after that story came out.
Perino confirmed that the closure of Guantanamo was a focus of the meeting. “The meeting was going to be focusing on doing what the president has asked them to do for the past few years, which is work to get the facility closed,” said Perino. “I wasn’t there to decide why the meeting was canceled,” she said. “All I know is that the meeting was canceled.” Watch it:
Vice President Dick Cheney is not interested in closing Guantanamo. The Washington Post reported today that “there has been significant opposition from Vice President Cheney as well as from the Justice and Homeland Security departments.” It appears the forces against the Guantanamo closure will use any excuse — including the release of a tepid AP article — to delay what needs to be done.
Transcript: Read more
During a heated press briefing today, White House spokesperson Dana Perino tried desperately to downplay yesterday’s report showing that Vice President Cheney has exempted his office from a presidential executive order designed to safeguard classified national security information. At one point, Perino called it “a little bit of a non-story.”
She repeatedly said that Cheney exempt from a mere “small portion” or “small section” of the executive order, and that President Bush never intended for the executive order to apply to Cheney any differently than it applies to the president’s own office.
Perino later contradicted herself: first, she stated definitively that Cheney’s office is “complying with all the rules and regulations regarding the handling of classified material.” But when questioned how she could be sure, Perino said it was a “good question” and admitted she isn’t “positive” that his office is in compliance.
Perhaps most importantly, Perino failed to answer two key questions raised by the scandal:
– Perino offered no explanation for the fact that Cheney’s office followed the requirements of the executive order in 2001 and 2002, then abruptly stopped. “That I don’t know,” she said. Later, she responded sarcastically when asked whether Cheney’s office would offer more than the one-line statement it released yesterday. “I’ll ask the vice president if he’ll come to the press briefing room and answer your questions,” she said.
– Perino refused to say definitely whether Vice President Cheney is part of the executive branch. She would only say it is an “interesting constitutional question that people can debate.”
UPDATE: Steve Benen has more.
Transcript: Read more
The current issue of The American Prospect is the first one produced in years where I haven’t been present at editorial meetings where people discussing upcoming articles, thus ruining the surprise when the issue actually comes out. Thus imagine my shock when I discovered it included not one, but two articles indicating that despite the public’s recent leftward turn and the relatively bright prospects for Democratic gains in 2008, that there’s a great deal of voter skepticism about large new government programs. First, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira warn that the “Emerging Democratic Majority” requires the support of independent voters whose appetite for big government is limited:
The new Democratic coalition is center-left; independents are more toward the center, especially on fiscal and economic issues, than Democratic identifiers are. In California, independents backed moderate Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in November 2006 by virtually the same margin they had given John Kerry over George W. Bush in 2004. Democrats will continue to attract independents — and independents will make up a significant ideological segment of the Democratic majority — so long as Democrats don’t forget the “center” part of center-left and so long as Republicans remain on the right, especially on social issues.
In the second article, Stanley Greenberg reports:
The results of a February study we conducted for Democracy Corps that assessed people’s attitudes toward government stunned us. By 57 percent to 29 percent, Americans believe that government makes it harder for people to get ahead in life instead of helping people. Sixty-two percent in a Pew study said they believe elected officials don’t care what people like them think, and the same number believe that whenever something is run by the government it is probably inefficient and wasteful. The Democracy Corps study found that an emphatic 83 percent say that if the government had more money, it would waste it rather than spend it well.
I could imagine finding grounds on which to quibble with these results, but considering the source they’re pretty striking and seem pretty firm to me. Ed Kilgore looks at these same article and concludes that Democrats need to embrace a tough reform agenda to rebuild public faith in the possibility of effective government action:
Some Democrats understandably hope that “Happy Days Are Here Again” in terms of progressive public activism, and many may well think of “accountability in government” as a 1990s gimmick or even as an accomodation of conservative anti-government sentiment. But as Greenberg shows and passionately argues, progressive cannot rescue the country from the Bush disaster unless we first clearly re-establish our own, and government’s, ability to get things done right.
I don’t think we should create false choices here. Something like Barack Obama’s just-announced good government agenda strikes me as both a fairly pointless gimmick and a an accommodation of conservative anti-government sentiment. But it’s also probably a good gimmick that could help those who embrace it to win elections. A gimmick, after all, isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have in a campaign.