Bill Maher Destroys Trump Advisor and Heritage Fellow Stephen Moore With Facts

Painful…

The 20 Senators Who Voted For Wall Street Bailout But Against Auto Industry Rescue

THINK PROGRESS DEC 12, 2008

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Last night, the Senate failed to approve the auto rescue package, voting 52-35 in favor of proceeding on the bill — just eight short of the 60 votes that were needed. Over on the Wonk Room, Dan Weiss takes a look at the 20 senators who voted for the Wall Street bailout but voted against the auto rescue last night (as well as the 10 others who skipped the vote last night, but voted for the financial bailout):

New SEC Chief Mary Schapiro/Getty

Yes to TARP, No to auto Yes to TARP, Absent for auto
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Sen. Kay Hutchison (R-TX)
Sen. John Isakson (R-GA)
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Sen.Ted Stevens (R-AK)
Sen. John Sununu (R-NH)

Biden was tending to transition duties, while Kerry was in Poznan, Poland, participating in U.N. climate change talks. Alexander was home recovering from surgery. Why did these other Senators feel auto workers weren’t as deserving as Wall Street? We’d like to know. If you see statements from them, please let us know by email or in the comments section.

UpdateSen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher in his heyday, was scheduled to appear Sunday at a sports card show in Taylor, Michigan to sign autographs. “But Bunning was kicked off the schedule after he helped derail an auto-industry loan package in the Senate Thursday night.” (HT: TP commenter cali)

Blackwater Guards Charged With Manslaughter

Dispatch from Baghdad

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

(God Bless You Guys)

Iraqis applaud charges against Blackwater guards

The shooting that killed at least 17 in a Baghdad traffic circle last year resonates strongly among Iraqis, who believe it was unjustified and are eager for justice.

By Tina Susman and Usama Redha

December 10, 2008

Reporting from Baghdad — The traffic circle hums on a cool and sunny afternoon, as motorists round the center median with its fake orange palm tree that sparkles at night, blooming flower beds and chunky sculpture.

On such a calm day in Baghdad, it is hard to imagine the carnage that erupted here in Nisoor Square in September 2007, when Blackwater Worldwide security guards killed at least 17 Iraqis in a hail of machine-gun bullets and grenades, but the evidence remains.
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Bullet holes pock the small shelter where traffic cops dived for cover. Splotches scar the wall of a school off the square that prosecutors say was hit by American gunfire. Memories rankle people familiar with the story, which still resonates powerfully in Iraq even as the legal repercussions have shifted to courthouses thousands of miles away in the U.S.

Five Blackwater employees, all of them U.S. military veterans, were charged Monday with manslaughter and attempted manslaughter in the case, which strained U.S.-Iraqi relations and galvanized Iraqi opposition to the Western security companies that had operated with impunity here.

Starting Jan. 1, private security details such as Blackwater will be subject to Iraqi jurisdiction if accused of crimes committed while off American bases, a change demanded by Iraq’s government after the Blackwater incident and others involving different companies that resulted in civilian deaths on a smaller scale.

The current Blackwater defendants won’t face trial in Iraq, but they could face decades in prison in the United States if convicted, something that pleases Iraqis such as Ali Abdul Ali.

“This is good,” said Ali, an unemployed military veteran. “It means no one is above the law, even if he’s an element of foreign forces. It also means the victims will get justice.”

Ali, who comes often to an abandoned bus stop near Nisoor Square to sit in the sunshine and think about life, has a friend whose mother was among 20 Iraqis shot and wounded in the incident. Like other Iraqis in the circle that day, the friend said the shooting was unjustified, he said.

“These people were armed and they were shooting innocent people,” Ali said.

That’s not how the Blackwater guards tell it. They say their convoy came under attack as they escorted U.S. State Department officials and that they fired in self-defense.

In the square Tuesday, the sound of gunfire was constant and clear over the cacophony of car engines, tooting horns and sirens from the intimidating convoys that still tear through the circle, but it was from an Iraqi police firing range nearby.

Police officers stationed in the circle were happy to discuss the Blackwater case and to show off the bullet holes from that day. One of them quickly interrupted his lunch of beans, rice and bread to weigh in.

“I heard about [the charges against the Blackwater employees] yesterday on the news,” said the officer, who like his colleagues was not authorized to speak to reporters and would not give a name. “Because they killed 17 innocent people, of course they should be arrested.”

The policeman, who has worked this spot for five years, was not in the square the day of the shooting but came to work the next day to see wrecked cars, blood-stained streets, bullet casings. He pointed to a section of gnarled concrete in the busy street a few feet away.

“That’s where the doctor and her son died,” he said, referring to Mahasin Mohssen Khadum Khazali and her son, Ahmed Haitham Ahmed Rubaie, who were in a white sedan that the Blackwater guards said they suspected of being rigged to explode.

“Justice should be served. These victims — their rights should be taken into consideration,” said another policeman, edging in front of the first cop and quickly taking over the conversation. This officer said that if the Blackwater guards are convicted, they should die.

“This is the law of God. In the Arab world, anyone who kills someone, he should be killed,” he said.

They scoffed at the idea that the guards might have felt genuinely threatened because of the situation in Baghdad at the time. Violence was far worse then, when attacks on U.S. forces were daily events. That month, 70 foreign troops, including 66 Americans, were killed across Iraq, according to the independent website icasualties.org. Last month, the total was 17.

“This place is surrounded. It is secure,” the second officer said, noting the national guard base on one side of the square and another government building on the other. “It’s impossible” that anyone could have felt threatened, he said.

Minutes later, a U.S. military convoy entered the circle. Civilian traffic ground to a halt to let the vehicles pass, but they stopped midway through. A group of U.S. soldiers walked toward the Iraqi police.

“Let’s have it,” one of them sternly said to a U.S. journalist who had been filming the square, referring to the memory chip of his video camera.

The soldier uttered an obscenity about filming the convoy but backed off without taking the memory chip after another American intervened, satisfied that the journalists were more interested in the scene at the square, not the convoy that had rolled into view.

Afterward, one policeman joked that it was good the journalists were of the “same tribe” as the soldiers. If they’d been Iraqis, he said, they would have been locked up.

Susman and Redha are Times staff writers.

tina.susman@latimes.com

The FCC is a Cesspool of Distrust, Suspicion and Turmoil

“a blueprint of what not to do”

Investigation finds pattern of mismanagement at FCC

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

WASHINGTON: In a scathing report released Tuesday, congressional investigators outlined a pattern of mismanagement, dysfunction and abuse of power at the Federal Communications Commission under the agency’s Republican chairman, Kevin Martin.

The report – the result of a nearly yearlong, bipartisan investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee – accuses Martin of manipulating data and suppressing information to influence telecommunications policy debates at the agency and on Capitol Hill.

kevin-martin_fcc

The report charges that the commission has become politicized and failed to carry out some important responsibilities under Martin’s leadership. It also blames him for undermining an open and transparent regulatory process.

In addition, Martin is accused of micromanaging commission affairs, demoting agency staffers who did not agree with him and withholding information from his fellow commissioners. “Chairman Martin’s heavy-handed, opaque, and non-collegial management style has created distrust, suspicion and turmoil among the five current commissioners,” the report says.

Robert Kenny, a spokesman for Martin, said the committee “did not find or conclude that there were any violations of rules, laws or procedures.” Martin is widely expected to leave the commission after the White House changes hands.

Martin’s legacy at the FCC will be “a blueprint of what not to do,” said Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who chairs the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

“The findings suggest that, in recent years, the FCC has operated in a dysfunctional manner and commission business has suffered as a result,” said Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., who will be relinquishing the reins of the panel to California Democrat Henry Waxman next year.

Among the findings of the 110-page report:

– Martin manipulated the findings of an FCC inquiry into the potential consumer benefits of requiring cable companies to sell channels on an individual – or “a la carte” – basis. The House investigation concludes that Martin undermined the integrity of the FCC staff and may have improperly influenced the Congressional debate on the matter by ordering agency employees to rewrite a report to conclude that a la carte mandates would benefit consumers.

– Martin tried to manipulate the findings of an annual FCC report on the state of competition in the market for cable and other video services to show that the industry had a big enough market share to permit additional government regulation. When the full commission voted to reject that conclusion, Martin suppressed the report by withholding its release.

– Under Martin’s leadership, the FCC’s oversight of the Telecommunications Relay Service Fund, which pays for special telecommunications services for people with hearing or speech disabilities, was overly lax. This resulted in overcompensation of the companies that provide these services by as much as $100 million a year – costs that were ultimately passed along to phone company customers.

Kenny said Martin makes no apologies for his “commitment to serving deaf and disabled Americans and for fighting to lower exorbitantly high cable rates that consumers are forced to pay.” He added that Martin remains confident that pricing channels on an individual basis would bring down cable rates.

The House report is a significant victory for the cable industry, which has fought Martin’s efforts to impose a la carte requirements and other regulatory changes. At Martin’s urging, the FCC in October opened an investigation into the industry’s pricing policies, including its practice of moving analog channels into more expensive digital tiers of service.

Among the companies being investigated are Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc. and Cox Communications Inc.

Gene Kimmelman, vice president for federal policy at Consumers Union, which helped bring attention to the cable pricing practices now being probed, said the issues highlighted by the House report are not new or unique to Martin.

“The FCC processes have been an enormous problem for years,” Kimmelman said. “This is just more of the same.”

“A Senate Seat is a Fucking Valuable Thing, You Don’t Just Give It Away For Nothing”

-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich-

What role did Blagojevich play in Tribune’s bankruptcy?

THE DEAL

A day after Sam Zell’s Tribune Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Chief of Staff John Harris on charges of corruption, alleging that, among other transgressions, they meddled with Tribune’s troubled businesses, including the auction of the Chicago Cubs.

patrickfitzgerald2005Mr. Patrick Fitzgerald Will F#ck Your Sh*t Up Bro

The Chicago Tribune’s editorial page has been critical of the governor, and suspicious of his activities; if the government’s allegations turn out to be true, then they had plenty of reason to be wary. Interestingly, Blagojevich was equally suspicious of the Tribune’s editorial board, and allegedly sought to trade his influence in the auction of the Cubs and Wrigley Field in exchange for the Tribune firing its editorial board. Below is the Department of Justice’s allegations against Blagojevich that specifically involves the Tribune:

According to the affidavit, intercepted phone calls revealed that the Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Cubs, has explored the possibility of obtaining assistance from the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) relating to the Tribune Company’s efforts to sell the Cubs and the financing or sale of Wrigley Field. In a November 6 phone call, Harris explained to Blagojevich that the deal the Tribune Company was trying to get through the IFA was basically a tax mitigation scheme in which the IFA would own title to Wrigley Field and the Tribune would not have to pay capital gains tax, which Harris estimated would save the company approximately $100 million. Intercepted calls allegedly show that Blagojevich directed Harris to inform Tribune Owner and an associate, identified as Tribune Financial Advisor, that state financial assistance would be withheld unless members of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board were fired, primarily because Blagojevich viewed them as driving discussion of his possible impeachment. In a November 4 phone call, Blagojevich allegedly told Harris that he should say to Tribune Financial Advisor, Cubs Chairman and Tribune Owner, “our recommendation is fire all those [expletive] people, get ’em the [expletive] out of there and get us some editorial support.”

On November 6, the day of a Tribune editorial critical of Blagojevich , Harris told Blagojevich that he told Tribune Financial Advisor the previous day that things “look like they could move ahead fine but, you know, there is a risk that all of this is going to get derailed by your own editorial page.” Harris also told Blagojevich that he was meeting with Tribune Financial Advisor on November 10.

In a November 11 intercepted call, Harris allegedly told Blagojevich that Tribune Financial Advisor talked to Tribune Owner and Tribune Owner “got the message and is very sensitive to the issue.” Harris told Blagojevich that according to Tribune Financial Advisor, there would be “certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he’s going after that section.” Blagojevich allegedly responded. “Oh. That’s fantastic.” After further discussion, Blagojevich said, “Wow. Okay, keep our fingers crossed. You’re the man. Good job, John.” In a further conversation on November 21, Harris told Blagojevich that he had singled out to Tribune Financial Advisor the Tribune’s deputy editorial page editor, John McCormick, “as somebody who was the most biased and unfair.” After hearing that Tribune Financial Advisor had assured Harris that the Tribune would be making changes affecting the editorial board, Blagojevich allegedly had a series of conversations with Chicago Cubs representatives regarding efforts to provide state financing for Wrigley Field. On November 30, Blagojevich spoke with the president of a Chicago-area sports consulting firm, who indicated that he was working with the Cubs on matters involving Wrigley Field. Blagojevich and Sports Consultant discussed the importance of getting the IFA transaction approved at the agency’s December or January meeting because Blagojevich was contemplating leaving office in early January and his IFA appointees would still be in place to approve the deal, the charges allege.

The reference to “Tribune Owner” would seem to mean Sam Zell. If that’s the case, is Zell in hot water? Did he help the government? What impact if any will the Blagojevich allegations have on Tribune’s bankruptcy filing? In the end, it’s doubtful that Blagojevich’s alleged role in the Cubs auction, which may have slowed the sale, was directly material to its bankruptcy filing. The team, for instance, is not part of the filing. Nonetheless, it offers some colorful insight into the auction. – Matthew Wurtzel

See the DOJ’s_complaint_(pdf)

Matthew Wurtzel is the editor of Dealscape.


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