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Fox Business’s so-called ‘online shopper’ unmasked.

Tue, 2007-11-27 15:59

In honor of Cyber Monday, Fox Business did a segment yesterday on online shopping. A Fox reporter went to ESPN Zone in Washington, DC and interviewed Peter Perweiler, who was identified only as an “online shopper.” Perweiler told Fox Business that he is planning to shop on Cyber Monday and is looking at “big-ticket items this year.” Watch it:

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It’s no surprise that Perweiler was boosting online shopping. As Silicon Alley Insider uncovered, Perweiler is actually the marketing manager at the National Retail Federation. The NRF has blamed Fox Business’s sloppy reporting for the incident:

All consumers who were interviewed were approached directly by the media. It was neither hidden nor disguised to reporters that some shoppers at the event were employed by the National Retail Federation. In one instance, an NRF staff member specifically identified himself and the reporter chose to interview him regardless.

(HT: Atrios)

Media: Pelosi’s Syria Diplomacy = ‘Foolish’; Bush’s Syria Diplomacy = ‘Victory’

Tue, 2007-11-27 15:18

When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi traveled to Syria to visit President Bashar al-Assad last spring, the right wing immediately excoriated her diplomatic efforts.

President Bush said the trip “sends mixed signals” to the Assad government, and Dana Perino called the trip “a really bad idea.” Vice President Dick Cheney said Assad’s “bad behavior’s being rewarded.” Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) viciously accused Democrats of being “so drunk with grandiose visions of deposing Bush that they break bread with terrorists and enemies of the United States.”

The media picked up the conservative talking points and ran with them:

CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux: “Why should the Americans, or even the international community, see this any more as a political stunt here, a publicity stunt, a big wet kiss to President Al-Assad?”

Washington Post Editorial Board: “Ms. Pelosi’s attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish.”

Thomas Sowell of the Baltimore Sun: “All that Ms. Pelosi’s trip can accomplish is to advertise American disunity to a terrorist-sponsoring nation in the Middle East while we are in a war there.”

NBC’s Matt Lauer: “But if the Democrats and Speaker Pelosi appear to be acting irresponsibly or incompetently — and let’s face it, a lot of people think she messed up on this one — what’s the impact for Democrats overall?”

Now that the Bush administration has come to its senses and invited Syria to become part of the solution in the Middle East, the media has missed the administration’s reversal, instead praising Bush’s “victory” in securing Syria’s attendance:

New York Times: “Syria announced Sunday that it would attend the Middle East peace meeting beginning here Monday night, joining Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab League participants in a turnabout that represented a victory for the Bush administration.”

The Denver Post:Victory for U.S.: Syria to attend summit.”

The AP’s Amy Teibel: “The Bush administration was able to declare a clean sweep when Syria, the last Arab world holdout, said Sunday it would attend this week’s high-stakes Mideast peace conference.”

The Wall Street Journal: “The Bush administration is even courting a long-time pariah, Syria. … Talks with Syria could go some way in weakening Tehran’s strongest alliance in the region.”

The AP’s Sam Ghattas: “The Syrian participation is already seen in Washington as a success for the Bush administration.”

With the exception of a right-wing editorial in the Wall Street Journal attacking the Bush administration, not a single media outlet appears to have noticed that only six months ago, they — and the White House — were imprudently ripping the Speaker for reaching out to Syria.

K Street firms eyeing Lott for his ability to ’schmooze.’

Tue, 2007-11-27 14:50

The U.S. News Political Bulletin reports that Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) is already a hot commodity on K Street:

Among those expected to be interested is the legal-lobbying power house Patton Boggs. But the associates also said that at least two unidentified investment houses with operations in Washington are interested in bring Lott onboard. K Street insiders said that Lott’s ability to make deals and schmooze allies and enemies is legendary.

The Progress Report has more on Lott’s “deals.”

Right-Wing Magazine: Veco Oil Scandal Contributed To Lott’s Resignation

Tue, 2007-11-27 14:02

Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) refuses to say why he is retiring from Congress. Many in the media have reported that Lott likely wants to enter the lucrative world of K Street before “tougher restrictions in a new lobbying law” take effect.

But the right-wing American Spectator magazine speculates that brewing corruption scandals may have contributed to Lott’s decision:

The tin-foil-hat crowd was almost immediately pushing a Jack Abramoff angle to the surprise resignation of Sen. Trent Lott. But a more recent scandal brewing — which has already ensnared Sen. Ted Stevens, among others — may also be playing on Lott’s mind.

Lott, Stevens, as well as Rep. Dennis Hastert all have ties to Bill Allen, a larger than life Alaskan businessman who owned Veco, an oil-field services company, and who was a huge benefactor of Republican politicians.

Allen has pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska legislators, including Ben Stevens, the son of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). The elder Stevens is currently the target of multiple federal investigation, including one on his ties to Veco.

Lott continues to stand by Stevens, donating $5,000 from his political action committee to Stevens’s re-election campaign. Lott also has ties to Allen, who accompanied him to the lavish annual “Waterfall Fishing Tournament” in Alaska. Since 1996, at least 10 current and former lawmakers have attended the trip, an opportunity for “the energy industry’s top brass” to influence lawmakers.

In addition to the lawmakers, high-ranking executives from the nation’s top oil firms — including Allen — attended the Waterfall excursions. Companies with business before Congress occasionally provided free trips to Waterfall for lawmakers and top executives on private company jets. Lawmakers may have violated congressional ethics rules by not paying for the trips. Marketplace, which originally reported on the event, noted that it could find no PAC, personal, or campaign payments for the trip from Lott.

Below is a picture of Lott next to Allen at the Waterfall Resort:

UPDATE: Larry Flynt’s Hustler offers another reason for the senator’s resignation: “Senator Lott has been the target of an ongoing HUSTLER investigation for some time now, due to confidential information that we have received.”

Iraqi parliament unlikely to approve long-term presence.

Tue, 2007-11-27 13:30

In a White House press briefing yesterday, Iraq war czar Gen. Doug Lute claimed that the Bush administration would not need congressional approval for it’s new long-term occupation plan that envisions an endless, unqualified, “enduring” presence in Iraq. Though it is unclear if Lute is correct in his assertion, it is clear, as Spencer Ackerman points out today, that the Iraqi constitution requires “that Iraq’s parliament has to ratify any such agreement.” Considering that 144 out of 275 parliamentarians signed a petition in May for U.S. troops to begin withdrawing, it is unlikely that two-thirds would now vote for them to stay.

Romney falsely spins his anti-Muslim bigotry.

Tue, 2007-11-27 12:47

After facing intense scrutiny for his bigoted comments about Muslims serving in public office, Mitt Romney attempted to “clarify” his position during a campaign stop in Florida by saying he opposes religious quotas:

It’s something I rejected, number one. And number two, point out that haven’t given a lot of thought to the people I would have in my Cabinet. I don’t have boxes I check off in terms of ethnicity, and it’s not that I need a certain number of people representing ethnic groups. Instead, I would choose people based on their merits… I’m open to having people of any faith, ethnic group. But they would be selected based on their capacity and capabilities and what they could bring to the Administration, but I don’t choose people based on checking off a box.

In his spin, Romney conveniently forgets his original argument that a Muslim shouldn’t be given a cabinet position “based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population.” As Matthew Yglesias points out, the original “account of Romney’s answer makes it seem as if Romney has no problem in principle with the idea of a Muslim quota,” but he “just doesn’t think there are enough American Muslims to justify a cabinet post.”

Holt turns up the heat on Klein.

Tue, 2007-11-27 12:27

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) sets the record straight, after Time magazine columnist Joe Klein ignorantly claimed the Democrats’ FISA reform legislation “would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans.” Holt explains the Restore Act “explicitly states that no court order is required to listen to the conversations of foreigners that happen to pass through the U.S. telecommunications system. It does not grant Constitutional rights to foreign terrorists.” Glenn Greenwald writes, “It would be nice if other Congressional Democrats spoke up and objected to Time’s false smearing of them.” Meanwhile, FDL reports that Time is circling the wagons around Klein, refusing to answer questions about his errors.

REPORT: Coalition Of The Defeated

Tue, 2007-11-27 11:27

Last weekend, Australian Labor leader Kevin Rudd defeated staunch Bush ally Prime Minister John Howard, handing the conservative party its “worst election defeat in its 63-year history” and ending 12 years of conservative rule. Howard “suffered the additional ignominy of losing his own constituency seat,” the first time since 1929 that an Australian prime minister has been voted out of parliament.

Howard’s fate is similar to the story of many other Bush-friendly world leaders. After joining Bush’s Coalition of the Willing in 2003, several countries’ leaders have been ousted from office. In fact, of the original 49 countries who joined the Coalition, the AP reports that roughly 20 remain, with several in the process of withdrawing troops.

ThinkProgress has compiled a new report, highlighting the fate of world leaders from “coalition of the willing” countries who sent troops to support the invasion. Of 14 major partners in the Coalition, eight leaders were defeated in elections, two stepped down, two were term limited, and two remained in office. Click here to view the full report.

COUNTRY LEADER ELECTORAL STATUS Albania PM Fatos Nano Defeated, July 2005 Australia Pres. John Howard Defeated, Nov. 2007 Britain PM Tony Blair Stepped down, June 2007 Denmark PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen In office (pledged withdrawal in Feb. 2007) Dominican Republic Pres. Hipolito Mejia Defeated, May 2004 El Salvador Pres. Francisco Flores Perez Term Limited, March 2004 Hungary PM Peter Medgyessy Defeated, Aug. 2004 Italy PM Silvio Berlusconi Defeated, April 2006 Japan PM Junichiro Koizumi Stepped down, Sept. 2006 Norway PM Kjell Magne Bondevik Defeated, Sept. 2005 Poland Pres. Aleksander Kwaśniewski Term Limited, Dec. 2005 Romania PM Adrian Năstase Defeated, Nov. 2004 South Korea Pres. Roh Moo-hyun In office Spain PM Jose Maria Aznar Defeated, March 2004  

Australia, Britain, Italy, and Spain contributed tens of thousands of combat troops to the war. But as the war unfolded, each leader lost popularity at home and was eventually voted out of office. Their successors either have withdrawn — or are in the process of withdrawing — their nations’ troops from Iraq.

These leaders’ fates should also carry a clear message here at home — support Bush’s war and be voted out of office. View the compilation HERE.

Always wrong, never in doubt.

Tue, 2007-11-27 11:00

“Rudy Giuliani said yesterday he ‘never had any doubt‘ that if he were President four years ago, he would have invaded Iraq. He said he is now ‘even more certain’ that it was the correct national security move.” Rudy then kicked it up yet another notch: “I actually believe that Democrats are going to agree with me on that by the time we get to the general election.”

O’Reilly ‘Bitches’ And ‘Whines’ For Military Charity To Send Dr. Laura To Meet With U.S. Troops

Tue, 2007-11-27 10:00

After he returned from his recent trip to Afghanistan, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly attacked the United Service Organizations (USO) for not sending more celebrities to the country to entertain U.S. troops. The USO swiftly responded to O’Reilly, pointing out that it has already sent seven entertainment tours to Afghanistan this year, and expects to send approximately 19 celebrities total in 2007.

Last night on his show, O’Reilly hosted USO CEO and President Edward Powell, sharply criticizing him for not sending more high-caliber celebrities — the “big guns” — to Afghanistan. His entire tirade was based on a complaint by right-wing radio show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who told O’Reilly that the USO turned down her offer to go to Afghanistan:

I had my staff call the USO at least four, if not more times and volunteer me and run-arounds and rejection. They said, “You can’t just come once or twice. You have to go on a specific tour of going back 18 million times or something.” Anyway, they just blew me off.

After mocking the fact that the biggest name celebrity USO has taken to Afghanistan is Wilmer Valderrama of “That 70’s Show,” O’Reilly told Powell that “Dr. Laura wants to go, you get her butt over there, sir.” Watch it:

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Dr. Laura is hardly a “big gun.” Yet O’Reilly is intent on pushing the USO to send her. It appears that his real motivation is to get more right-wing figures to meet with the troops. Dr. Laura, however, may not be the best choice. In May 2007, before appearing at Fort Douglas in Utah, Schlessinger disparaged “lonely” military wives, saying that they were “bitching” and “whining”:

Raging radio relationship guru Laura Schlessinger says she is tired of hearing the complaints of lonely and overwhelmed military wives whose husbands are deployed.

“He could come back without arms, legs or eyeballs, and you’re bitching?” Schlessinger asked before taking the stage at the Fort Douglas base theater today.

“You’re not dodging bullets, so I don’t want to hear any whining - that’s my message to them,” she added.

After her comments were reported, Dr. Laura claimed that they were taken “out-of-context” by the Salt Lake Tribune. She then turned to O’Reilly to help her hit the newspaper. O’Reilly went after the reporter, Matthew LePlante, personally, saying he “isn’t a journalist” and wants to “hurt military families.” “He’s out to hurt you,” he consoled Dr. Laura.

It’s not all together surprising that the USO may not be too enthusiastic about bringing such a divisive public personality to entertain the troops.

UPDATE: Newshounds has more.

Transcript: (more…)

Bush butchers pronunciation of ‘Olmert’ and ‘Mahmoud.’

Tue, 2007-11-27 09:24

While reading a joint agreement on principles established between the Israelis and Palestinians at today’s Annapolis conference, President Bush stumbled in pronouncing the names of the two leaders standing right next to him — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Watch it:

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Flashback: In September, a marked-up draft of Bush’s speech to the U.N. was inadvertently released. The draft included “phonetic spellings of some names and countries.” Dana Perino said at the time that it was “offensive” to suggest Bush has a hard time pronouncing certain names:

REPORTER: Does the president have a hard time pronouncing some of these countries’s [sic] name?

PERINO: I think that’s a offensive question. I’m going to just decline to comment on it.

Digg It!

UPDATE: Check out Middle East Progress for more analysis of the summit.

Religious Minority Candidate Mitt Romney Comes Out In Favor Of Religious Bigotry

Tue, 2007-11-27 08:39

In a recent interview with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former conservative Fox News pundit Mansoor Ijaz asked the former governor whether he would consider nominating a Muslim to be a member of his national security cabinet. Ijaz reports:

I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that “jihadism” is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, “…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.”

Note to Romney: As a Mormon running for President, you’re going to need to come up with a better justification for religious bigotry against Muslims.

According to the CIA World Factbook (which uses 2002 numbers), Mormons comprise just 2 percent of the U.S. population, while Jews and Muslims comprise 1 percent each. Based on 2001 numbers, there were 2.8 million Mormons and 1.1 million Muslims in the United States. Surveys since that time indicate that the number of Muslims may have eclipsed the number of Mormons living in the U.S.

Moreover, according to a recent Pew survey, Americans are about as familiar with Mormonism as they with Islam:

Overall, the public’s level of self-reported familiarity with Mormonism and Mormons is not much greater than its level of familiarity with Islam and Muslims. Roughly half (49%) say they know a great deal or some about the Mormon religion and its practices, while about as many people (48%) say that they know someone who is Mormon. (By comparison, 41% have at least some knowledge of Islam and 45% say they know a Muslim.)

Steven Benen writes, “Open and unabashed discrimination towards certain Americans — Muslims and gays, among others — is not only acceptable to too many conservatives, it’s expected. It’s why Romney’s vow to discriminate against Muslims will probably not hurt him politically — given the ideology of the GOP base, it might even help him.”

He adds, “The Muslim percentage of the U.S. population is similar to the Mormon percentage of the U.S. population. By Romney’s logic, wouldn’t he also support discrimination against members of his own faith?”

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has more.

UPDATE II: Kevin Madden, Romney’s national press secretary, told Politico: “At this point, we’re not focused on what Gov. Romney’s Cabinet might look like. But the governor does not believe that in order to effectively fight radical jihad you need to have Muslims serving in the Cabinet.”

Digg It!

Columnist compares peace summit to ‘gang rape.’

Tue, 2007-11-27 08:11

Writing in the Washington Times this morning, conservative columnist Frank Gaffney compares the Middle East peace conference being held in Annapolis, MD today to “a gang-rape” because of the inclusion of Saudi Arabia and Syria in the talks. According to Gaffney, holding the conference is equivalent to appeasing Hitler in the 1930s:

Despite official efforts to low-ball its significance, Miss Rice’s conclave is shaping up to be a gang-rape of a nation on a scale not seen since Munich in 1938, when the British and French allowed Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to have their violent way with Czechoslovakia.

ThinkFast: November 27, 2007

Tue, 2007-11-27 07:04

While President Bush is attending a Mideast conference in Annapolis this morning, “he won’t remain there for long.” He “plans to head back to the White House after delivering his opening speech to the diplomats and dignitaries at the U.S. Naval Academy.” White House aides said he wasn’t planning to offer new American proposals to resolve the conflict.

The WSJ’s Bret Stephens recalls, when the House Speaker visited Syrian President Bashar Assad back in April, “President Bush denounced her for sending ‘mixed signals’ that ‘lead the Assad government to believe they are part of the mainstream of the international community, when in fact they are a state sponsor of terror.’” Today, Assad will sit with Condoleezza Rice.

At least 1.4 million homeowners will lose their properties to foreclosure in 2008 while “the property value of U.S. homes will fall by $1.2 trillion,” says a new report by the the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Council for the New American City. The report predicts “deep economic impact from ongoing housing market problems.”

In an attempt to put to rest concerns over his ignorance about FISA reform legislation, Time magazine columnist Joe Klein writes, “I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who’s right.” Glenn Greenwald responds by noting “the extreme lack of professionalism and corruption required” for Klein to say he “isn’t interested in bothering to find out (and isn’t even capable of determining) if anything he wrote was accurate.”

USA Today’s DeWayne Wikham writes, “While there is still little evidence to suggest that Bush was knowingly involved in this coverup [of the Plame outing], the evidence against Cheney is piling up. … This trail of lies and deception has put Cheney on the same path that led to Nixon’s impeachment.” (more…)

White House’s new benchmark: ‘enduring’ presence.

Mon, 2007-11-26 19:09

The New York Times recently reported that the Bush administration has “scaled back” its benchmarks for political progress in Iraq, instead “focusing their immediate efforts on several more limited but achievable goals.” Today, the administration announced one of its goals: an endless, unqualified, “enduring” presence in Iraq. Spencer Ackerman reports that the White House and the Maliki government released a joint declaration of “principles” for “friendship and cooperation.” The key principle:

Iraq’s leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America, and we seek an enduring relationship with a democratic Iraq. We are ready to build that relationship in a sustainable way that protects our mutual interests, promotes regional stability, and requires fewer Coalition forces.

The White House’s embrace of a permanent presence contradicts their long record of declarations against permanent bases. White House war czar Gen. Doug Lute said the new long-term occupation plan won’t require Congress’ approval.

Hastert’s resignation effective 10:59 PM CST today.

Mon, 2007-11-26 17:42

After announcing his resignation on Nov. 15, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) today formally handed in his letter of resignation, which goes into effect at 10:59 PM CST tonight. A special election will be held to fill his position on Feb. 5. See the full letter HERE.

Probe finds fake DHS press briefing in 2006.

Mon, 2007-11-26 16:34

Late last month, FEMA came under intense criticism for staging a fake news conference on the California wildfires at which agency staffers posed as journalists and asked softball questions. But as AP reports today, this “was not the first time a Homeland Security public affairs official has acted like a reporter by asking questions during a briefing”:

In January 2006, an official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement asked a question during a news conference in San Antonio, Texas, according to an investigation by the Homeland Security Department — the parent agency of both FEMA and ICE.

The ICE public affairs official was standing with about 12 reporters but did not identify herself when she posed the question, Homeland Security’s head of public affairs, J. Edward Fox, wrote in a Nov. 19 letter to the chairman of the House Homeland Security committee. The government employee was verbally reprimanded for asking the question after the news conference, Fox told Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

Fox has assured Thompson that “reforms to FEMA’s external affairs are already under way.”

Barbour’s Proposed Special Election To Replace Lott May Violate Election Law

Mon, 2007-11-26 15:33

Earlier today, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) announced that he “will be retiring from the Senate by the end of the year.” Soon after the announcement, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) put out a statement declaring that “pursuant to Mississippi law,” he would “call a Special Election for United States Senator to be held on November 4, 2008″:

Pursuant to Mississippi law, specifically § 23-15-855 (1), of the Mississippi Code, once the resignation takes effect, I will call a Special Election for United States Senator to be held on November 4, 2008, being the regular general election day for the 2008 congressional elections.

If Lott does indeed retire by the end of 2007, as he says he wishes to do, Barbour’s proposed timing for the election might run afoul of state election law. According to the Mississippi secretary of state’s office, Barbour would have to hold the election before Nov. 2008:

While Lott sneaks in under the wire for the extended ban on lobbying Congress by retiring this year, the secretary of state’s office said Monday that state law appears to require a special election within 90 days if he does so.

Conversely, if Lott were to wait and retire in 2008, the law allows for the special election to be held the same day as the general. Of course, he would then be subject to the new two-year ban on lobbying his former colleagues, instead of the current one-year ban.

Because 2007 was a statewide election year, it “could affect how the language of the law is interpreted.” The secretary of state’s office is “checking that law to make sure the 90-day window still applies,” according to spokesman Kell Smith.

Barbour’s office, however, appears to not be concerned about the potential legal brouhaha, saying simply that the governor’s statement “speaks for itself.”

It is speculated that Lott is retiring now so that he can avoid tougher restrictions on former members of Congress’ lobbying activities, but if Lott leaves before 2007 and forces an earlier special election, he may threaten his party’s continued control of his seat:

An earlier special election would likely produce smaller turnout, which would probably benefit Democrats in an overwhelmingly GOP state with a concurrent presidential election.

Lott faces a tough decision: Sacrifice a year of cashing in on his Senate seat or potentially sacrifice his seat to his political opponents.

Gore’s meeting with Bush was ‘very cordial.’

Mon, 2007-11-26 14:49

After his Oval Office meeting with President Bush, Al Gore described their exchange as “very cordial” and “substantive,” confirming that they had spoken about global warming. The Swamp’s Mark Silva reports:

In his private Oval Office meeting with President Bush, the former vice president insisted that they had spoken about global warming “the whole time.” It wasn’t clear if the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who shared the honor for his work on climtate change, was serious. […]

But Gore, calling the meeting with Bush “very cordial” and “substantive,” declined to elaborate on their meeting. “I’m not going to do an interview here,” Gore said in his walk down the streets outside the White House. “I don’t want to comment more.”

UPDATE: The AP adds:

The two men stood next to other, sharing uncomfortable grins for photographers and reporters, who were quickly ushered in and out.

“Familiar faces,” the former vice president said of the media. Bush, still smiling, added nothing.

Cheney diagnosed with irregular heartbeat.

Mon, 2007-11-26 14:16

While examining him recently for “a lingering cough from a cold,” doctors discovered that Vice President Dick Cheney was “found to have an irregular heartbeat, which on further testing was determined to be atrial fibrillation, an abnormal rhythm involving the upper chambers of the heart.” Cheney, who has a history of heart problems, will be evaluated at George Washington University Hospital.