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Updated: 2 hours 27 min ago

O’Reilly to reporters: Americans ‘hate you.’

Fri, 2007-06-22 18:31

“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.”

Health Insurance Industry, Big Pharmaceuticals Launch Michael Moore Smear Campaign

Fri, 2007-06-22 15:57

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 exposé 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.”

Other health-care industry front groups — such as the Galen Institute, Pacific Research Institute, and the Heritage Foundation — have recently launched their own attacks on Moore’s film.

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.

Bush’s Scandal-Ridden DoJ Nominee Withdraws Over Fear Of Senate Fight

Fri, 2007-06-22 15:06

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 .

(HT: Atrios)

Officer: military ‘pressured’ to name ‘enemy combatants.’

Fri, 2007-06-22 13:53

“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.”

Perino Confirms White House Canceled Meeting On Guantanamo Closure After AP Report

Fri, 2007-06-22 13:05

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:

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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.

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Transcript: (more…)

White House On Cheney Ignoring Executive Order: ‘It’s A Little Bit Of A Non-Issue’

Fri, 2007-06-22 12:12

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.”

Watch it:

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UPDATE: Steve Benen has more.

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Transcript: (more…)

Late Sen. Craig Thomas replaced.

Fri, 2007-06-22 11:34

“Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) today appointed state Sen. John Barrasso (R) to succeed the late Sen. Craig Thomas (R), who died June 4 after a seven-month battle with leukemia.” Barrasso has “been in the Wyoming Senate for about five years” and “was one of three finalists for the vacancy selected Tuesday by the 71-member state Republican central committee.”

Ed Schultz: ‘How Many Markets Do I Have To Beat Hannity In Before I Get 200 Or 300 Stations?’

Fri, 2007-06-22 10:40

Progressive radio host Ed Schultz appeared on MSNBC last night to discuss the new report by the Center for American Progress and Free Press, which revealed the conservative monopoly that currently exists over talk radio.

Schultz — the host of the most popular progressive radio show in the country — debunked the right-wing myth that conservatives dominate simply because they are winning in a “free market.” Schultz explained that the market is being controlled by a few ownership groups that are forcing conservative talk shows into local markets:

I beat Sean Hannity in Denver. I beat him in Seattle. I beat him in Portland. I beat in San Diego. How many markets do I have to beat Hannity in before I get 200 or 300 stations? It’s an ownership issue. … The fact is, it’s market opportunities and liberal talkers, progressive talkers are being held to a totally different standard than conservatives.

Watch it:

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John Halpin — one of the principal authors of the radio report — noted that there is no “free market” under the current system. “There is little free speech or free choice in a market system that pushes out one-sided information 90 percent of the time on the radio,” he said. “Radio stations are licensed to operate in the public interest. Promoting one point of view over all others does not meet any reasonable public-interest standard.”

Transcript: (more…)

Rep. Feeney opens legal defense fund.

Fri, 2007-06-22 10:35

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) has established the Tom Feeney Legal Expense Trust, filing papers this week with the House stating that he “has incurred legal expenses in connection with his official duties and position in Congress, and matters bearing on his reputation or fitness for office.” Feeney was recently questioned by the FBI about his connections to criminal GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Feeney attended an international golfing trip with Abramoff and former Reps. Bob Ney (now in prison) and Tom DeLay (now under indictment).

Skelton And Conyers Introduce Major New Habeas Reform Legislation

Fri, 2007-06-22 09:52

Last month, the House Armed Services Committee “dealt a blow to the human-rights community” by failing to include a provision restoring habeas corpus rights in the 2008 defense authorization bill. At the time, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the House would address habeas reform in a stand-alone bill.

Today, House chairmen Ike Skelton (D-MS) of the Armed Services Committee and John Conyers (D-MI) of the Judiciary Committee announced legislation that would finally restore habeas corpus rights to U.S. detainees being imprisoned indefinitely without trial. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed habeas legislation earlier this month.

In a statement, Skelton said the legislation takes aim at the “seriously flawed” provision in the Military Commissions Act that stripped detainees of their habeas rights. The support of Skelton, considered a leading moderate in the House, suggests the bill will have broad-based support. Conyers added:

Habeas Corpus is one of the fundamental touchstones of our constitutional democracy. We cannot preach freedom abroad if we are not willing to give prisoners the ability to establish their innocence; and, we cannot advance the cause of fighting terrorism at home if our government takes constitutionally dubious short cuts.

The announcement from Skelton and Conyers comes just days after the D.C. Circuit Court ended two months of delay and put into effect its decision that Guantanamo Bay detainees “have lost all rights to pursue habeas challenges to their prolonged imprisonment.”

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Read the full Skelton/Conyers statement: (more…)

McNulty: Domenici call key to Iglesias’ firing.

Fri, 2007-06-22 08:59

On Oct. 4, 2006, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) called former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty to complain about his state’s then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. In testimony yesterday, McNulty confirmed that the call “was a significant factor” in Iglesias’ firing last year:

When McNulty found out that Iglesias’ name was on the list of U.S. attorneys to be fired, he said that Domenici’s call came back to him and was key in his decision to support Iglesias’ ouster.

That was a significant factor in my thinking as to not - as to why I did not object, yes,” McNulty said on March 30. McNulty confirmed that statement under questioning on Thursday.

Domenici, who is being investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee, also “personally appealed” to both President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for Iglesias to be fired.

CNN: Guantanamo closure meeting was scheduled.

Fri, 2007-06-22 08:42

The White House is denying an AP report that senior administration officials were to hold a meeting today to discuss closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. But CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux reported last night that the meeting was scheduled, and that the White House canceled it:

[T]he spokesman for the National Security Counsel, Gordon Johndroe, says that this is a meeting that is no longer the schedule for tomorrow. He won’t go into the details about why this meeting isn’t taking place. … I’m not sure whether or not [the meeting was canceled] was because of the news that broke about this story. The wording from the White House is very careful if you’ll note. They said there will not be a White House meeting tomorrow, which — there’s a little wiggle room there, in terms of whether or not there was something on the schedule for that meeting. We now know that there was something that was scheduled for tomorrow that is no longer taking place.

Watch it:

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Transcript: (more…)

Former Bush EPA Chief: Giuliani ‘More Concerned With Image Than Safety’ During Anthrax Scare

Fri, 2007-06-22 07:55

In an interview last night with New York NBC affiliate WNBC, President Bush’s former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman revealed that mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration “appeared to be more concerned with its image than the safety and speedy response of EPA employees in the wake of the 2001 anthrax scare.”

Whitman disclosed for the first time that when anthrax letters were sent to NBC headquarters, Giuliani and then-New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik would not allow EPA inspectors to be seen entering the building in their hazmat suits. Instead, a tent had to be set up where they first could change into their gear, “hidden from public view.” Whitman said:

There was concern by the city that EPA workers not be seen in their hazmat suits going in because [the city was] still recovering from 9/11. They didn’t want this image of a city falling apart. I said, “Well, that’s not acceptable, and this is the way we’re going to have to do it.”

WNBC said Giuliani chose not to respond to the report. Watch it:

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Whitman’s revelation puts another hole in the media caricature of Giuliani as a “commanding daddy” who “owns 9-11” and has a “claim to combat” experience from his actions during the terrorist attacks. New York firefighters have repeatedly criticized Giuliani’s handling of 9/11, and Jerome Hauer, New York City’s first emergency management director, has characterized Giuliani’s anti-terrorism record as “deeply flawed.”

27 percent.

Fri, 2007-06-22 07:49

President Bush’s approval rating in a new American Research Group poll. (Via Atrios)

Election integrity panel turns partisan.

Fri, 2007-06-22 06:52

In 2004, President Bush established the bipartisan Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to help states overhaul their broken election procedures. But just three years later, the EAC is now facing allegations that “in response to pressure from the Justice Department, the commission altered or delayed research to play down findings on sensitive topics such as voter fraud and voter identification laws that many Republican figures and appointees would have found objectionable.”

ThinkFast: June 22, 2007

Fri, 2007-06-22 06:09

“House Judiciary Committee Democrats warned yesterday they would pursue a contempt of Congress motion if the White House fails to respond to subpoenas for testimony and documents” related to the U.S. attorney scandal by June 28. “If the White House does not comply, it opens the possibility of a constitutional showdown between the two branches.”

29: Percentage of Americans who say the U.S. is winning the war against terror networks.

“The recent rise in U.S. troop deaths in Iraq is the ‘wrong metric’ to use” in assessing the effectiveness of escalation, outgoing Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Peter Pace said yesterday. “[I]t’s not about levels of violence. It’s about progress being made, in fact, in the minds of the Iraqi people, so that they have confidence in their government in the way forward.”

Asked about the National Archives’ effort to have the Justice Department determine whether Vice President Cheney is exempt from an executive order designed to safeguard classified information, a DOJ spokesman said, “This matter is currently under review in the department.”

Pollution and smog standards are “too weak to protect people from the air they breathe,” EPA administrator Stephen Johnson said Thursday. Yet, “under pressure from big business,” Johnson ignored the recommendations of EPA scientific experts and “left the door open to keeping the rules as they are.” (more…)

Bill O’Reilly’s “serious” news.

Thu, 2007-06-21 23:06

Fox’s Bill O’Reilly claims he doesn’t cover the war because explosions in Iraq “don’t mean anything.” Instead, he covers topics that are “new” and “relevant to your life.” This week, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann reviewed some of the “relevant” stories that O’Reilly has been exploring lately (like bear attacks and Playboy centerfolds). Watch it:

Bush aides quit ‘amid little sense of purpose.’

Thu, 2007-06-21 21:25

“When asked whether he was quitting the Bush administration because it would be good for his political future, Rob Portman, the outgoing budget director, replied: ‘It would be good for my mental health.’ Although Mr Portman was joking, a growing list of officials have already acted on that impulse. At least 20 senior aides have left important posts in the White House, Pentagon or State Department over the past six months, as chaos has deepened in Iraq. ‘There’s a real sense of fatigue and very little sense of purpose,’ said a senior official, who asked not to be named. ‘My guess is you’re going to see a lot more departures.’”

“I’m not proposing an electrified goat fence.”

Thu, 2007-06-21 20:34

Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) offers some keen wisdom on curbing illegal immigration:

“If the answer is ‘build a fence’ I’ve got two goats on my place in Mississippi. There ain’t no fence big enough, high enough, strong enough, that you can keep those goats in that fence.”

“Now people are at least as smart as goats,” Lott continued. “Maybe not as agile. Build a fence. We should have a virtual fence. Now one of the ways I keep those goats in the fence is I electrified them. Once they got popped a couple of times they quit trying to jump it.”

“I’m not proposing an electrified goat fence,” Lott added quickly, “I’m just trying, there’s an analogy there.”

Asked for clarification as to what exactly the analogy was, Lott spokesman Lee Youngblood said…”A fence in and of itself is not enough… You can have technology to support the fence and to supplement the fence.”

It sounds like Lott should talk to Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who has “designed” an electric fence for the Southern border. “We do this with livestock all the time,” he said.

Europe’s winter warmest in 700 years.

Thu, 2007-06-21 20:19

“Last autumn-winter season was Europe’s warmest for more than 700 years, researchers say. The last time Europeans saw similar temperatures to the autumn and winter of 2006-07, they were eating strawberries at Christmas in 1289, according to Jürg Luterbacher at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and colleagues.”