These are my news headlines for March 5th through March 6th:
Hugo Chavez, passionate but polarizing Venezuelan president, dead at 58 – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who went from a young conspiratorial soldier who dreamed of revolution to the fiery anti-U.S. leader of one of the world’s great oil powers, died March 5 in Caracas of complications from an unspecified cancer in his pelvic area.He was 58 and had been president since 1999, longer than any other democratically elected leader in the Americas. Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced the death.Mr. Chavez first revealed in a brief, dramatic television address in June 2011 that he had undergone two surgical procedures in Cuba. He would go under the knife two more times, greatly weakening the once robust leader. Mr. Chavez had been elected in October 2012 to a third six-year term. But he missed his swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 10 while lying gravely ill in a Havana hospital after undergoing what his aides had called a complex operation a month before.
The country was plunged into an institutional crisis, with Mr. Chavez’s foes accusing the government of violating the constitution. But Mr. Chavez’s lieutenants managed to buy time until their leader’s pre-dawn return to Venezuela on Feb. 18. He remained at a Caracas military hospital, with his Twitter account bursting out messages such as “Onward toward victory always!! We will live and we will triumph!!”
As an obscure 37-year-old lieutenant colonel, Mr. Chavez had led a failed coup in 1992 against President Carlos Andres Perez’s government. Six years later, on Dec. 6, 1998, Mr. Chavez was elected president in a landslide after pledging to replace a broken, corrupt political system and redistribute the country’s substantial oil-fueled wealth.
Jeb Bush is back in the spotlight — and thinking about 2016 – Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who has remained on the sidelines since his older brother left the White House with dismal ratings four years ago, has jumped back into the political fray this week with a new book, wall-to-wall television interviews and a round of public speaking engagements.His appearances mark a change in approach for Bush, 60, who has operated as more of a Republican elder statesman since leaving Tallahassee in 2007 but is now clearly considering a run for the White House.
Journalists as Ring Wraiths – Today’s Washington journalists are like J. R. R. Tolkien’s ring wraiths, petty lords who wanted a few shiny golden Obama rings — only to end up as shrunken slaves to the One.The Bob Woodward/Ron Fournier/Lanny Davis psychodrama is another small reminder that the Obama administration continues to assume that the press should be little more than a veritable Ministry of Truth. Its proper duty is to serve the White House and promote the progressive agenda of Barack Obama. Any were considered suspect who questioned whether those exalted ends should really be achieved by any means necessary — but they were so few and far between that it mattered little.
God and Jeb at CPAC – CPAC Has Become the Defender of the Status Quo – John McCain’s presidential campaign manager from four years ago, Steve Schmidt, has compared the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to the “Star Wars bar scene.”Reflecting on the dysfunctional 2008 freak show that passed for a campaign against Barack Obama, Mr. Schmidt would know.The conference’s problem, for many longtime participants, is not the diversity and raucous freedom one might expect to find in a social club on an alien planet. The quandary is that what is now the largest gathering of conservative activists in the nation has wandered far from its original intent, which was a rejection of the status quo.
In the old days, the event represented the best intellectual revolutionary elements of the conservative movement. Panel after panel would argue and debate issues such as abortion, foreign aid, spending policies and about what the true Holy Grail of conservatism entailed – defending institutions or individuals?
The conference was always separate and apart from the GOP establishment, even in the Reagan years. Today it no longer represents a joyous insurgency but is instead part of the Washington political establishment.
Boehner Pledges to Stick to the ‘Hastert Rule’ – Speaker John A. Boehner sought to assure his conference on Tuesday that the “Hastert rule” is still regular practice, on the heels of breaking it for the third time this Congress.Republicans breached the rule — under which the speaker only brings forward bills that enjoy support from the “majority of the majority” — last week when a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act passed with a majority of Democratic votes. Of three major bills passed this session, two have passed in violation of the rule. The House passed the fiscal-cliff deal Jan. 1 despite the rule as well.The rule — named after former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. — may be tested again in coming months on legislation relating to immigration and gun control, although a GOP leadership aide said that scenario is highly unlikely.
Video: Jeb Bush on 2016: ‘I’ve Decided . . . Not to Think About It for a While’ – Former Florida governor Jeb Bush continued to fend off speculation about his 2016 presidential prospects this morning, saying that he hasn’t decided whether he’ll run and won’t for at least another couple years.“I’ve decided not to think about it for a while, and I have the discipline to do that,” Bush told CBS’s Charlie Rose, and that his focus is on being a voice in immigration reform, the subject of his new book, Immigration Wars. When co-host Norah O’Donnell suggested that it was interesting he hadn’t ruled out running, Bush laughed it off: “I guess that’s interesting, I don’t find it that interesting.”
Jeb Bush’s False-Flag Operation – Jeb Bush generated quite a bit of publicity for his new book yesterday by suggesting that amnestied illegal immigrants should not be eligible for citizenship. Instead, he’s suggesting they be given some kind of permanent status that would provide them work cards, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, and the right to travel abroad and return, but not allow for eventual naturalization — in effect, a kind of permanent guestworker program or a green-card-lite, rather than an actual green card. This is consistent with suggestions from other pro-amnesty Republicans, including Senator Rubio and a group of House members working up an amnesty deal.Unfortunately, it’s a trick.
These are my links for April 3rd through April 4th:
Barack Obama, Constitutional Ignoramus – I’m grateful for the favor Obama did for us yesterday of exposing his extreme constitutional ignorance, with his comments on how it would be “unprecedented” for the Court to strike down a law passed by a “strong majority” in Congress. (As if a House margin of seven votes is a “strong” majority.) True, he walked back the comment today, but surely because his statement was not merely indefensible but outright embarrassing to his media defenders.
I’ve been growing weary of hearing people mention that he’s a “constitutional scholar,” since he never published a single thing on the subject either as editor of the Harvard Law Review or as a member of the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School. But hey—he taught constitutional law, didn’t he?
His course on constitutional law, one of several constitutional law courses on the U of C curriculum, dealt exclusively with the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment—the favorite, all-purpose clause for liberal jurists to use to right wrongs and make us more equal by judicial fiat. There is no evidence that Obama ever taught courses that considered other aspects of constitutionalism, such as executive power, the separation of powers, the Commerce Clause, or judicial review itself.
The list emerged from a two-year effort, similar to a project other medical specialties are undertaking, to identify procedures that do not help patients live longer or better or that may even be harmful, yet are routinely prescribed.
As much as 30 percent of health-care spending goes to procedures, tests, and hospital stays that do not improve a patient’s health, according to a 2008 analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget office.
“Our goal was to improve care and improve the value of the care we deliver,” said Dr. Lowell Schnipper, a cancer physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who led the task force assembled by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The group of more than 200 oncologists released the list from a report in its Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Although the task force emphasized that its recommendations — winnowed from about 10 suggestions by oncologists — were driven by medical considerations, the report makes clear that expense was a major factor. A number of cancer drugs cost nearly $100,000 but extend life a few months or not at all. Widely-used imaging tests cost up to $5,000 yet do not benefit patients.
The list has been closely guarded, with public announcements scheduled for Wednesday. Patients, advocacy groups, and policy experts contacted by Reuters were mixed in their reaction to the recommendations.
“The American people have a much higher opinion of doctors than of government bureaucrats,” said Kate Nix, a policy analyst at the free-market Heritage Foundation. Whether the ASCO recommendations to withhold some tests and treatments will be seen as rationing “depends on how they are used. Will they inhibit the ability of doctors and patients to make the best decision in each case?”
Wisconsin Democrats Ready to Go to War With… Themselves – On Friday, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, by a vote of 5-0, officially certified the recall election for Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and four GOP state senators (one of whom has resigned). Primaries to determine possible replacements will be held on May 8, with the final election taking place on June 5. The Friends of Scott Walker campaign committee estimates the recall will cost approximately $9 million in taxpayer money.
Since January, it appeared the leading Democratic contender would be former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, who received every major endorsement and the backing of large unions representing public workers and teachers.
But polling for Democrats haven’t been great, and former mayor Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett jumped into the race. Barrett lost narrowly to Gov. Walker in 2010.
With the most recent polling showing Barrett and Falk are tied, Barrett is trying to get Falk to agree to a clean-campaign pledge
The Explosion In Student Loan Debt – The federal student loan program seemed like a great idea back in 1965: Borrow to go to college now, pay it back later when you have a job.
But many borrowers these days are close to flunking out, tripped up by painful real-life lessons in math and economics.
Surging above $1 trillion, U.S. student loan debt has surpassed credit card and auto-loan debt. This debt explosion jeopardizes the fragile recovery, increases the burden on taxpayers and possibly sets the stage for a new economic crisis.
With a still-wobbly jobs market, these loans are increasingly hard to pay off. Unable to find work, many students have returned to school, further driving up their indebtedness.
Average student loan debt recently topped $25,000, up 25 percent in 10 years. And the mushrooming debt has direct implications for taxpayers, since 8 in 10 of these loans are government-issued or guaranteed.
They will also consider extending the pay cut to Superintendent Nick Salerno’s salary by 2 percent. If the changes to his contract are approved, he would be paid $171,500 a year beginning July 1.
The district, which faces an about $6 million budget deficit in 2012-13, made decisions on several cuts last month that mostly targeted its adult school.
While the original plan last month included salary reductions for eight adult school administrators, however board members requested that district administrators across the board share the burden.
The latest deficit amounts to approximately 7 percent of the district’s total annual expenditures of about $90 million.
The meeting takes place at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the South El Monte High School Professional Development Center, located at 1001 Durfee Ave., South El Monte.
Appeals court fires back at Obama’s comments on health care case – In the escalating battle between the administration and the judiciary, a federal appeals court apparently is calling the president’s bluff — ordering the Justice Department to answer by Thursday whether the Obama Administration believes that the courts have the right to strike down a federal law, according to a lawyer who was in the courtroom.
The order, by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, appears to be in direct response to the president’s comments yesterday about the Supreme Court’s review of the health care law. Mr. Obama all but threw down the gauntlet with the justices, saying he was “confident” the Court would not “take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
Overturning a law of course would not be unprecedented — since the Supreme Court since 1803 has asserted the power to strike down laws it interprets as unconstitutional. The three-judge appellate court appears to be asking the administration to admit that basic premise — despite the president’s remarks that implied the contrary. The panel ordered the Justice Department to submit a three-page, single-spaced letter by noon Thursday addressing whether the Executive Branch believes courts have such power, the lawyer said.
300 newspapers have erected paywalls – Turns out that many of the pay plans have been fashioned by a NY company called Press+, which was started by entrepreneur Steven Brill (American Lawyer, Court TV) and former WSJ publisher Gordon Crovitz. From AP:
The company says it has launched pay walls for 292 U.S. newspapers. Of course, convincing readers to pay for something that was once free isn’t easy. Brill recommends publishers give away enough free page views so that only the heaviest users are asked to pay. “You ease them into the idea that they’re going to be asked to pay,” Brill says. “It works much better than an abrupt message.” Many readers who realize they’re about to hit their limit sign up early to save themselves the hassle, he says. On average, a subscriber gained through Press+ pays $6.50 a month, of which Press+ keeps 20 percent.
[O]n March 14 and 15, Romney had raised over $3 million in New York and Connecticut. … The Romney campaign had a clever pitch for the event. Schmoozing with his money pals before the events, a Romney fund-raiser pointed out that “slightly more than half the delegates” to the GOP convention at Tampa “are evangelicals.” These true-believer conservatives are averse not only to Romney but to semi-reasonable types like Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels. As a result, said this fund-raiser, the “responsible Republican guys” are “starting to realize” that at a brokered convention “it’s not going to be Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan, a ticket they could really love. It’s probably Huckabee-Palin or Palin-Huckabee.” That was enough to scare the Wall Street crowd into getting out their checkbooks.
The new measure would apply to illegal aliens who are relatives of American citizens. Here is how it would work, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announcement posted in today’s Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government; the agency will grant “unlawful presence waivers” to illegal aliens who can prove they have a relative that’s a U.S. citizen.
Currently such aliens must return to their native country and request a waiver of inadmissibility in an existing overseas immigrant visa process. In other words, they must enter the U.S. legally as thousands of foreigners do on a yearly basis. Besides the obvious security issues, changing this would be like rewarding bad behavior in a child. It doesn’t make sense.
These are my links for February 24th through February 27th:
The State of the Twitterverse 2012 – Brian Solis – The first time I wrote about Twitter was March 2007. My, how time and Tweets fly. With 500 million registered users and 33 billion Tweets flying across the Twitterverse every day, Twitter has become a fabric of our digital culture. Twitter is now ingrained in our digital DNA and is reflected in our lifestyle and how we connect and communicate with one another.
While many struggle to understand its utility or its significance in the greater world of media, it is the most efficient global information network in existence today. News no longer breaks, it Tweets. People have demonstrated the speed and efficacy of social networking by connecting to one another based on interests (interest graph) rather then limiting connections to relationships (social graph). Twitter represents a promising intersection of new media, relationships, traditional media and information to form one highly human network.
I recently stumbled upon a well done infographic created by Infographic Labs to communicate the state of of the Twitterverse. It’s quite grand in its design. So, to help get the most out of it, I’ve dissected it into smaller byte-sized portions.
U.S. Agencies See No Move by Iran to Build a Bomb – Even as the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said in a new report Friday that Iran had accelerated its uranium enrichment program, American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb.
Stages in Developing a Nuclear Nation – A report by international nuclear inspectors offers new details about Iran’s nuclear program. While Iran has increased production of a type of fuel needed to create the core of a nuclear bomb, it stops short of crossing that line
55% Oppose Affirmative Action Policies for College Admissions – The U.S. Supreme Court last week agreed to hear a case involving the use of race as a factor in college admissions. Most voters oppose the use of so-called affirmative action policies at colleges and universities and continue to believe those policies have not been successful despite being in place for 50 years.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 24% of Likely U.S. Voters favor applying affirmative action policies to college admissions. Fifty-five percent (55%) oppose the use of such policies to determine who is admitted to colleges and universities. Twenty-one percent (21%) are undecided.
EPA Needs More Time to Reconsider Boiler MACT Rules – American workers and the industries that employ them face an ill-thought out and incomplete set of Boiler MACT regulations costing $14 billion to implement. Given current economic realities, these regulations place at risk the jobs of your constituents and 200,000 working Americans across the country. With the economic climate as it is now, we cannot afford to lose too many more American manufacturing jobs.
The EPA asked for proper time to reconsider the Boiler MACT rules, and even attempted to stay the rules to have more time to clarify them. The forest products industry, for example, is compiling additional data at the EPA’s request, but may not have time to complete needed testing. The courts have made it clear that only Congress can give the EPA the time they have asked for and need to provide clarity. As a result, this legal uncertainty is a cloud over American businesses, which must be able to plan for the future in these uncertain economic times. Our communities deserve environmental rules that have been fully considered, and will hold up scientifically in the long term
“Cutting the Bureaucratic Gridlock” by Senator Tony Strickland – While I was visiting Teixeira Farms to discuss agricultural issues, the owners told me that one state agency said they needed to recycle all their water, while another state agency said they couldn’t recycle any of their water. The owners of the farm told me they were happy to do whatever was needed, but they couldn’t recycle all their water and none of their water at the same time.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Constituents and small business owners in my district often call my office, telling me that one state agency has given them the run-around about an issue and referred them to yet another state agency. Round and round they go, from agency to agency, until they finally give up.
Cleary, California’s vast bureaucracy is not working. There has to be a way to make government more efficient and maximize your precious tax dollars that come to Sacramento.
This is why I’ve authored Senate Bill 953. SB 953 would create the Bureaucracy Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). SB 953 is modeled and named after the successful Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program, which was established by the federal government after the end of the Cold War. The Federal BRAC program successfully identified and closed obsolete military bases, saving an estimated $20 billion annually.
State party chief wants GOP candidates to rally around statewide theme – Tacitly acknowledging that the California Republican Party will likely be strapped for funds to support candidates in the tough new districts in which many of them will be running this fall, Chairman Tom Del Beccaro said Friday he hopes GOP candidates will rally around “statewide themes” to maximize the party’s efforts.
“We need to make this a statewide election around an issue that coalesces voters,” he said at a news conference at the opening of the state GOP convention. “We can’t be the party of no. Parties become more attractive when they have positive ideas.”
In an email obtained by TheDC, Meckler told the state coordinators of Tea Party Patriots on Thursday night that he “fought long and hard” to maintain the group “as an organization that is run from the bottom up, with the intent of serving the grassroots.”
“Unfortunately, it is my belief that I have lost this fight,” Meckler said. “I probably fought the internal fight longer than I should have, but I wanted to give absolutely every possible effort to preserving what I believe was the unique nature of the TPP organization.”
Since the organization’s founding, Meckler has shared the role of national coordinator with co-founder Jenny Beth Martin. But Meckler wrote in the email that he had lost “influence in the leadership of the organization, and it has been that way for quite some time.”
Meckler said the board granted Martin “almost complete power over the day-to-day operations” in November 2011 after a “protracted fight in which I was complaining about the direction, operation (top-down) and finances of the organization.”
A talk with Scott Walker – For many conservatives frustrated with the Republican Party, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been a bright spot. After taking office last year in a bluish state, Walker set out to close a $3.6 billion budget hole, in part, by reforming public sector unions. His reforms, which gave workers choices as to whether they wanted to join a union and curbed union collective bargaining powers that were crippling local budgets, sparked a wave a protests. But Walker stood firm and prevailed. Now unions plan to spend tens of millions of dollars on a campaign to recall him, with an election anticipated by June.
On Thursday, the Washington Examiner spoke with Walker by telephone about his reforms, the upcoming recall election, his decision to reject Obamacare funding, his views about the proper role of government and the extended Republican presidential primary.
Starting March 5, online readers will be asked to buy a digital subscription at an initial rate of 99 cents for four weeks. Readers who do not subscribe will be able to read 15 stories in a 30-day period for free.
Separately, The Times announced plans to launch a new weekly lifestyle section called Saturday for its print subscribers.
Other news outlets that have begun charging for online journalism include the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Dallas Morning News. Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper company, this week announced plans to launch a similar program at 80 publications, saying it could boost earnings by $100 million in 2013.
U.S. does not believe Iran is trying to build nuclear bomb – As U.S. and Israeli officials talk publicly about the prospect of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program, one fact is often overlooked: U.S. intelligence agencies don’t believe Iran is actively trying to build an atomic bomb.
A highly classified U.S. intelligence assessment circulated to policymakers early last year largely affirms that view, originally made in 2007. Both reports, known as national intelligence estimates, conclude that Tehran halted efforts to develop and build a nuclear warhead in 2003.
The most recent report, which represents the consensus of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, indicates that Iran is pursuing research that could put it in a position to build a weapon, but that it has not sought to do so.
Although Iran continues to enrich uranium at low levels, U.S. officials say they have not seen evidence that has caused them to significantly revise that judgment. Senior U.S. officials say Israel does not dispute the basic intelligence or analysis.
Could California swing the Republican nomination? – If no clear front-runner in the delegate count emerges by the end of April, Texas and California will move to the center of the political universe. These two gigantic, expensive states could then hold the keys to the nomination and determine whether we are headed for a brokered convention.
What would a hotly contested California Republican primary campaign, unseen in decades, look like? Certainly it would be very expensive, and waged almost entirely on television. The state is too big to quickly organize on a district level (ask anyone who has run for statewide office in California), making broadcast media critical. A quick bus tour, some fly-arounds and earned media stops would make up the rest. An insurgent candidate could also conceivably attempt to organize the small number of Republicans who live in heavily Democratic congressional districts in Los Angeles to score a few delegates.
California’s primary is “closed,” meaning only registered Republicans may participate. This results in a more conservative electorate than in “open” primary states where voters of other affiliations may vote in the Republican primary.
Although California votes late enough to be winner-take-all, it isn’t. Under rules adopted in 2000 and first put into effect in 2004, the California Republican Party will allocate delegates proportionally by congressional district. In 2008, John McCain won in 48 of 53 districts, with Mitt Romney winning in the remaining five.
On Monday morning, Obama reviled the “negative” tone of the super PACs, a dominant fundraising source in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. But by the evening, word leaked to POLITICO that Obama had offered his support for Priorities USA Action, which thus far has raised a fraction of what GOP-backed groups have raked in.
Obama’s top campaign staff and even some Cabinet members will appear at super PAC events. The president himself will not address super PAC donors, although there’s nothing to legally prohibit the president, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden from expressing their support for the group — as GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has done for the super PAC that backs him.
“We decided to do this because we can’t afford for the work you’re doing in your communities, and the grass-roots donations you give to support it, to be destroyed by hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads,” campaign manager Jim Messina told supporters in an email Monday night.
The timing of the announcement seemed rushed, several Democrats told POLITICO. It was made in a 10 p.m. call to Obama’s top bundlers, known as the National Finance Committee. Several party fundraisers raised the possibility that the campaign wanted to offset bad publicity generated by a Monday New York Times story, which reported that the campaign had returned $200,000 to the family of a wealthy Mexican fugitive seeking a pardon for drug and other criminal convictions.
Obama campaign to support super PAC fundraising – In a change of position, Barack Obama’s reelection campaign will begin using administration and campaign aides to fundraise for Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing the president.
Obama has been an outspoken critic of current campaign financing laws, in particular a Supreme Court ruling that allowed the creation of super PACs. Until now he has kept his distance from Priorities USA Action.
But in the wake of the group’s anemic fundraising, made public last week, the campaign decided to change its position, and announced the new stance to members of its national finance committee Monday evening.
Two Obama campaign aides confirmed that senior campaign and administration officials who participate at fundraising events for the president’s campaign will also appear at events for Priorities USA Action, the PAC supporting Obama.
“This decision was not made overnight,” one campaign official said. “ The money raised and spent by Republican super PACs is very telling. We will not unilaterally disarm.”
The president, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will not appear at super PAC events, the aides said.
In an e-mail to supporters, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said the decision was a reaction to massive fundraising posted by super PACs supporting GOP presidential candidates.
Judge Michael Hawkins Is No “Moderate” – Lyle Denniston’s SCOTUSblog preview of tomorrow’s Ninth Circuit ruling in the Prop 8 case includes the assertion that one of the panel members, Clinton appointee Michael D. Hawkins, “is considered to be a moderate.” Hawkins has described himself that way—“I think of myself as being entirely moderate in all things”—but even he has hastened to add the disclaimer, “but others might say otherwise.” Indeed, they might.
As I reported when the panel members were initially made public, a source I trust told me that of the nearly 50 active and senior judges then on the Ninth Circuit, there were only five or six other judges who were as aggressively and reflexively leftist as Hawkins and his fellow panel member, the ultraliberal Stephen Reinhardt.
Prop. 8: Final ruling due – The Ninth Circuit Court will issue a ruling tomorrow — apparently, in a single opinion — to decide the challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage, approved by the state’s voters more than three years ago. In a brief announcement Monday, the Circuit Court said it would issue an opinion at 1 p.m. Tuesday Washington time (10 a.m. in San Francisco) dealing both with the constitutionality of the measure (“Proposition 8″) and with the issue of whether the trial judge should have disqualified himself from the case.
The three-judge panel actually has three issues before it: whether the backers of Proposition 8 had a legal right to appeal the District Court ruling striking down Proposition 8 (the “standing” issue), whether — if “standing” to appeal did exist — the ballot measure is unconstitutional, and whether now-retired District Judge Vaughn R. Walker should have recused and thus whether his ruling should now be vacated by the Circuit Court.
Although the wording of the announcement Monday was not entirely clear and made no promises about the scope of the ruling, it could be interpreted as indicating that the panel will find that the measure’s proponents did have the right to appeal, and thus the panel would be free to move on to rule on the merits and on the disqualification issue. Given the makeup of the panel and the past records of the three judges, the chances would appear to be quite strong that Proposition 8 would be struck down.
The company says 26 Fisker employees have been let go from the Delaware factory where renowned automotive engineer Henrik Fisker promised to one day begin producing affordable electric sedans. A Delaware newspaper also reported that subcontractors working on the car venture have been let go.
“It’s temporary,” said Roger Ormisher, a company spokesman. “We’re being prudent and sensible as a company.”
Because the initial phase sounds like it’s been such an unqualified success, the company is asking for terms of the federal loan to be altered so the company can have faster access to their line of time-released taxpayer-backed credit:
Continetti: Combat Journalism | Washington Free Beacon – We can pinpoint the moment that foretold the arrival of combat journalism. At 11:59 p.m. on September 8, 2004, a pseudonymous blogger on FreeRepublic.com accused 60 Minutes of publicizing forged documents to cast suspicion on President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard in the early 1970s. The charge was publicized by conservative new media and soon proved correct: CBS was flaunting materials that had been produced using technology unavailable during the twilight of the Vietnam War. The ensuing backlash claimed the jobs of four at CBS and pushed anchor Dan Rather into early retirement. Conservatives had used the techniques of investigative journalism—documentary research, interviews, detailed reporting on the minutiae of typography and word processing—to debunk a media smear and force CBS and the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry into a defensive crouch.
Religious conservatives play culture war defense – Between the media’s uproar after a cancer-research charity temporarily suspended grants to the nation’s leading abortion provider, and the Obama administration’s recent decision to force Catholic schools to pay for 100 percent of their employees’ contraception, the last two weeks have helped clarify the shape of the culture war in America today.
The battleground is this: The Secular Left is on the offensive, while the oft-demonized Religious Right is mostly playing defense, trying to preserve the liberty of religious adherents to conduct their lives according to their own consciences.
“The right’s recent jihad against Planned Parenthood is about as loathsome as anything I’ve ever seen come out of them,” seethed Mother Jones writer Kevin Drum after Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a leading breast-cancer charity, briefly decided to not give new grants to Planned Parenthood for the coming year.
Drum was writing about conservatives’ opposition to taxpayer subsidies for Planned Parenthood, and, in this case, a charity under pressure from pro-lifers temporarily suspending funding for the abortion provider. It’s a peculiar “jihad” whose main weapon is refusing to give away your money to the enemy.
Prop 8 Merits Ruling Tomorrow – The Ninth Circuit has announced that it expects to issue tomorrow—by 10 a.m. Pacific time, 1 p.m. Eastern—its ruling on the merits of the Prop 8 appeal. Its opinion will address both the constitutionality of Prop 8 and the question whether former judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling should be vacated because of his failure to recuse.
As I’ve said, I think that it’s a sure thing that Judge Reinhardt and Judge Hawkins will vote to affirm Walker’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. I expect that they will stay their ruling from taking effect until the process of Supreme Court review is complete.
High-speed rail tapped state funds for unusual lobbying contract – In an extremely unusual use of taxpayer money, the leaders behind California’s $99 billion high-speed train quietly hired a lobbyist to sway the Legislature — the same politicians who appointed them to build the project in the first place.
Documents filed this week show the California High-Speed Rail Authority last year paid $161,103 to one of the country’s biggest public relations firms to lobby the state’s politicians as they consider spending $2.7 billion to launch the polarizing bullet train project.
Rail officials paid the lobbyists by issuing debt that will total about $300,000 with interest. It must be paid back through California’s impoverished general fund budget.
High-speed rail officials defended the spending as a “vital need” when their staff was too small. But both Democratic and Republican lawmakers and even die-hard bullet train backers decried the lobbying as a wasteful and unethical use of taxpayer funds, saying it essentially amounts to the state spending money to lobby itself.
“That is appalling to me. I’ve never heard of such a thing,” said Quentin Kopp, who helped launch the rail authority and was its longtime chairman before retiring in March. He said he never approved the expenses and that the state should go to court to keep the money. “That’s nonsense, absolutely nonsense. It’s embarrassing.”
Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers relied on mandatory Medi-Cal copayments to save $511 million in last year’s state budget and presumed that the state would continue saving in future years.
The governor’s latest budget, which estimates a $9.2 billion deficit, acknowledges the lost savings in 2011-12. But it is relying on $296 million to help balance next year’s budget, according to Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer.
In Arizona, Obama Approval at 41% – Many Democrats have high hopes for the Southwest in Election 2012 and some even think that President Obama even has a decent shot to move Arizona from Republican to Democrat in the Electoral College column this November. However, the president may have an uphill fight to achieve that goal as most voters in the Grand Canyon State disapprove of the way he’s done his job.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone poll found that just 41% of Likely Voters in Arizona approve of the way President Obama has performed his role. Fifty-six percent (56%) disapprove. Those figures are significantly lower than the president’s national ratings. They include 28% who Strongly Approve and 48% who Strongly Disapprove.
Scores of officers conducted the raid, removing the tents and clearing the area.
On Tuesday, more than 1,200 singing, sign-waving students and faculty members rallied for much of the day on Sproul Plaza, a site of the 1960s Free Speech Movement.
At one point, the demonstrators chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, police violence has got to go,” a reference to an incident last week in which baton-wielding police officers stopped an Occupy camp from being set up on the campus. Dozens of protesters were arrested in last week’s confrontation, and several were injured.
The march, which is timed to coincide with other demonstrations across the country to protest the imbalance of wealth and power in the country, is set to begin at 7 a.m. at Bank of America Plaza on Hope Street. It will then make its way through the Financial District to the corner of Figueroa and 4th streets, where demonstrators plan to shut down traffic by erecting tents in the middle of the street.
Jacob Hay, a leader of the coalition of labor and community groups that helped organize the march, said the group has secured police permits, but that protesters are prepared to be arrested for blocking traffic.
In a letter to Pelosi (D-Calif.) obtained by The Hill, the Texas governor wrote: “I am in Washington Monday and would love to engage you in a public debate about my Overhaul Washington plan versus the congressional status quo.
“I think it would be a tremendous service to the American people to see a public airing of these differences,” he continued. “Let the people decide. If Monday doesn’t work, perhaps we could find a time in Iowa over the course of the next month to discuss these issues in front of the people of America’s heartland.”
It took about 40 police officers in riot gear nearly four hours to clear the bank, but no one was injured. Police said many of those arrested were UC Santa Cruz students who were protesting fee increases and budget cuts.
Police removed the protesters methodically, placing them in plastic handcuffs, citing them for misdemeanor trespassing and sending them off in police wagons for further processing.
Wall Street clashes start Occupy’s day of action – Police arrested protesters who sat on the ground and blocked traffic into New York’s financial district on Thursday, part of a day of mass gatherings in response to efforts to break up Occupy Wall Street camps nationwide.
Police in riot helmets hauled several protesters to their feet and handcuffed them one block from Wall Street.
“All day, all week, shut down Wall Street!” the crowd chanted.
As the city braced for a “sizeable” crowd, observers on both sides said the scale of the protest would show whether the two-month-old movement could regain momentum after Tuesday’s demoralizing defeat.
OWS hoped anger over the NYPD raid that razed their iconic tent city at Zuccotti Park would breathe new life into a cause that had begun to sputter.
The “day of action” is to begin early, with protesters converging on Wall Street camouflaged in business suits hoping to blend in with office workers trooping out of the subway.
Nkrumah Tinsley, 29, was busted after cops saw a video of him claiming he would torch the city during Thursday’s mass protest posted online, police said.
“On the 17th (of Nov.), we’re going to burn New York City to the f—ing ground,” an angry Tinsley told a crowd of demonstrators in the video posted on Tuesday.
“In a few days, you’re going to see what a Molotov cocktail can do to Macy’s.”
When officers from the NYPD’s intelligence division saw the video, they immediately began working on trying to identify the raging man, police said.
“We didn’t want him out there [Thursday]. We wanted him in our custody,” said Paul Browne, top spokesman for the NYPD. “He was specific as to date, location and method for the fire bombing …maybe it was just a rant, but we didn’t want to take that chance.”
Cops later spotted Tinsley at Zuccotti Park Wednesday and collared him about 5 p.m., police said. He was charged with making terroristic threats.
Romenesko Leaves Poynter After Conflict Over Quotes – Jim Romenesko, the blogger who developed a large and loyal following by chronicling and summarizing news in the media world, quit his post on Thursday evening after a bizarre spat with the institute that hosts his writing.
An editor at Poynter, which purchased Mr. Romenesko’s blog 12 years ago, had questioned his failure to use quotation marks when summarizing articles in his daily round-ups of media stories — summaries that Mr. Romenesko never claimed credit for as his original work.
In an e-mail to the institute on Thursday night, Mr. Romenesko said, “I’ve had a great dozen years at Poynter, and I look forward to my next chapter.”
Felix • A couple of points about Romeneskogate, for those who aren’t completely bored of it by now – The original Julie Moos post was highly misleading in one respect — she made it seem as though Romenesko hadn’t blockquoted two full paragraphs in this post, when in fact he had used blockquote. I know Moos was misleading because Jack Shafer said that she “pointed to a recent example from Romenesko’s work in which he ran whole sentences from a Chicago Tribune story in his summary of it without placing the words in quotation marks or block quotation”. I suspect that the problem here is that Poynter’s CSS has problems with blockquotes-within-blockquotes, but in any case Moos should have been much clearer that only a minority of the text in question was outside quote marks or blockquotes.
Justin Peters managed to commit exactly the same sin that Moos did, when he reminisced about freelancing on Today’s Papers. “I knuckled down and found a way to say things in my own words, because I am a journalist, and that is my job,” he writes, managing to to completely miss the point of what an aggregator does. It’s not the job of a journalist, saying things in his own words: instead, it’s the job of a curator, linking to great content. If Peters thinks that Romenesko’s job was that of a journalist, writing things in his own words, he’s missing the point entirely.
Holding aggregators to journalistic standards – Moos is using the standards of original journalism, here, to judge a blogger who was never about original journalism. Copy-and-pasting other people’s stories is what Romenesko did, at high volume, and with astonishing speed and reliability, for many years. And the media community, including Poynter, loved him for it.
Moos might have “spent weeks in 2004 developing explicit publishing guidelines with the understanding and expectation that they would be adopted”, but guidelines are always reverse-engineered from already-existing best practice. And Romenesko is a shining example of best practice in the aggregation world. If he’s violating the guidelines, then it’s the guidelines which are at fault, not Romenesko.
Petty bureaucrats like Moos love to codify things, so that they can cite chapter and verse when telling people off. But if you’re running a grown-up media organization, please: follow Paton’s lead, and not Moos’s. Journalists will behave unethically, sometimes. When they do, they should be reprimanded or even fired. But basic common sense is always the best guide to whether a journalist has done something wrong. And when Julie Moos presumes to judge Jim Romenesko by the standards of a Moos-written rulebook, it’s right and proper that the wrath of the Twittersphere come down on her as a result.
But Walker doesn’t appear to be backing off one inch from his stance that he did what was right for his state.
Indeed, in a conversation with Tell Me More host Michel Martin, Walker essentially blamed outside agitators in organized labor for the recall effort.
He accused his political foes of really being after “power” while presumably camouflaging their true intent with platitudes about workers’ rights, among other things.
Unions are in particular coming after him, Walker said, because the new budget law he and the the Republican-controlled state legislature in Madison enacted, gave workers a choice about whether or not to belong to a union.
“You must understand: to Republican stalwarts, a relationship with Freddie Mac is the moral equivalent of satanism. Gingrich was a paid helper — and, believe me, he didn’t get paid $1.6 million to lecture the organization on the failures of government intervention in the market — in a ‘socialist’ effort to make home-buying easier for people who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to afford houses, an effort that famously went off the rails when the government began supporting sub-prime and other highly questionable mortgages.”
“In other words, Gingrich was supporting — the best guess was that Gingrich was hired to win some Republican support for Freddie — the very sort of program that he routinely excoriates. This sort of hypocrisy is astounding but, sadly, not unknown to Newt. After all, this was the guy who led the Republican Impeachment of Bill Clinton while having an extra-marital affair of his own.”
The total amount is significantly larger than the $300,000 payment from Freddie Mac that Gingrich was asked about during a Republican presidential debate on Nov. 9 sponsored by CNBC, and more than was disclosed in the middle of congressional investigations into the housing industry collapse.
Gingrich’s business relationship with Freddie Mac spanned a period of eight years. When asked at the debate what he did to earn a $300,000 payment in 2006, the former speaker said he “offered them advice on precisely what they didn’t do,” and warned the company that its lending practices were “insane.” Former Freddie Mac executives who worked with Gingrich dispute that account.
Gingrich’s first contract with the mortgage lender was in 1999, five months after he resigned from Congress and as House speaker, according to a Freddie Mac press release.
His primary contact inside the organization was Mitchell Delk, Freddie Mac’s chief lobbyist, and he was paid a self- renewing, monthly retainer of $25,000 to $30,000 between May 1999 until 2002, according to three people familiar with aspects of the business agreement.
Terror three plead not guilty – 38-year-old Iraqi-Kurd Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak, Uzbek David Jakobsen, 33, and alleged Uighur (China) mastermind 40-year-old Mikael Davud, pleaded not guilty to planning an assault using explosives on Danish paper Jyllands-Posten at today’s opening of their trial in Oslo District Court.
All also denied their guilt relating to charges of trying to obtain bomb ingredients, as well as plotting to assassinate Danish cartoonist and author of the contentious Prophet Mohammed caricatures, Kurt Westergaard.
Police Security Service (PST) officials arrested now indicted Bujak, Jakobsen, and Davud in Norway and Germany last year on suspicion of planning to blow up the Chinese Embassy in Oslo.
The case is also believed to be connected with plans to bomb a New York subway and a shopping mall in Manchester, UK, in 2009.
According to NRK, Prosecutor Geir Evanger said today that, “There is no doubt that David Jakobsen ordered hydrogen peroxide at a pharmacy on Jernbanetorget [in Oslo] on 02 September 2009. There is [also] no doubt that this can be used to make explosives.”
“He picked it up on 04 September, and the bottle was handed over to Mikael Davud in his Oslo apartment the same evening. However, police had already replaced the contents of the bottle contents with something harmless,” he continued.
All three men also have suspected links with al-Qaida. Officials believe Mr Davud had travelled to Pakistan and was trained by the extremist group how to make explosives, as well as agreeing he would commit acts of terror.
“He made a deal with Bujak and Jakobsen to hit Jyllands-Posten’s offices when he came back to Norway,” alleged Geir Evanger.
The trial of Mikael Davud, Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak and David Jakobsen is being seen as a key test of Norway’s anti-terror laws. The men had been under surveillance for more than a year when authorities moved to arrest them in July 2010.
Norwegian investigators, who worked with their U.S. counterparts, say the defendants were building a bomb in a basement laboratory — a plot linked to the same al-Qaida planners behind 2009 schemes to blow up New York’s subway and a British shopping mall.
The men deny the terror charges. Prosecutors must prove they worked together in a conspiracy, because a single individual plotting an attack is not covered by Norway’s anti-terror laws.
Prosecutor Geir Evanger told the Oslo district court that Davud, the alleged ringleader, received explosives training in Pakistan. They said he conspired with al-Qaida operatives to attack the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper, whose 12 cartoons of Muhammad triggered furious protests in Muslim countries in 2006.
Herdt: Opportunity knocks; is anyone home? – In the national struggle for control of Congress next year, both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge that Ventura County’s new 26th Congressional District will be an important battlefield.
It has all the key elements: voter registration that is closely divided, a healthy percentage of independents and a history of split results.
It has all the elements, that is, except for this: very few warriors.
There are two announced Democratic candidates, Moorpark City Councilman David Pollock and Westlake Village businessman David Cruz Thayne. Most observers are waiting for another to emerge — Supervisor Steve Bennett, or perhaps Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, or perhaps some other surprise candidate with proven fundraising ability.
There are no announced Republican candidates because everyone is waiting on Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, to publicly reveal his intentions.
The growing frustration over that uncertainty last week led Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, to issue what appeared to be a calculated poke at Gallegly to make up his mind. McKeon told his hometown newspaper that “as near as I can pin him down,” Gallegly intends to run in the 25th District against McKeon.
Gallegly actually lives in the 25th District, but his Simi Valley home is only a couple hundred yards from the boundary, and most of the 26th District is made up of areas he now represents. As long as the 26th District remains an option for Gallegly, other Republicans are frozen out by the political protocol that frowns on challenging an incumbent in a primary.