Saturday, January 16, 2010

Political Digest January 16, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

Polls show race for 'Kennedy seat' about even
Excerpt: The drama that could see the Senate seat held by the late Edward M. Kennedy slip to Republican control began to sprout during what is traditionally the quietest week on the political calendar. "Things began to change the week between Christmas and New Year's," said Eric Fehrnstrom, a strategist for insurgent Republican Scott Brown. "That's the week we put our JFK ad up." The commercial, which aired for only five days, depicted John F. Kennedy, the Democratic congressman who 58 years ago ran an insurgent campaign to capture the Republican-held "Cabot seat," morphing into Brown, the obscure state senator who surveys suggest might do the same with what's become known as the "Kennedy seat" when grumpy Massachusetts voters go to the polls on Tuesday. But although the audacious spot was ripe for challenge -- the tax breaks JFK trumpeted were the calibrated adjustments of a committed Keynesian, hardly a philosophy embraced by Brown -- not a peep was heard from the campaign of Martha Coakley. Having won the Democratic primary by remaining the aloof front-runner, the state attorney general was not about to engage with a Republican whom the latest poll showed trailing her by 30 points. "Not a bad strategy, by the way," Fehrnstrom acknowledged. "But when the shift in voter mood and opinion takes place, and you fail to catch it, then it becomes a disaster. And I think that's what happened with her. I think she did not sense the movement in what they should have known was a very volatile electorate." Coakley knows it now. With polls showing the race a dead heat -- a Suffolk University survey released Thursday night had Brown up by 4 points, at the edge of the margin of error -- national Democratic organizations are scrambling to hold on to the 60th Senate vote crucial to the health-care overhaul being negotiated in Washington and to every other initiative of President Obama. The airwaves of the commonwealth fairly hum with ads attacking the upstart, and Coakley has begun to campaign with the zest of a front-runner knocked from her perch.

The Fix: New poll shows Brown ahead in Mass. Senate special election
Excerpt: A new Suffolk University poll shows state Sen. Scott Brown (R) has surged to a 50 percent to 46 percent lead over state Attorney General Martha Coakley with four days left in the Massachusetts Senate special election. The poll, which was released late Thursday night, reveals fascinating data, most of which paints a tough portrait for Coakley. An example: Just one in four voters think she will be an independent voice while 64 percent said she would "toe the party line." The poll suggests that Coakley's best (last?) chance to salvage the race might be to bring President Obama to the state; Obama is still viewed positively in the state with 55 percent having a favorable opinion of him and 35 percent regarding him unfavorably. The White House has been mum about a last-minute Obama visit although a trip by the president to the state even as the disaster in Haiti continues to play out on television screens across the country would be a clear risk. The new Suffolk numbers come just as the television airwaves have reached their saturation point -- one Republican tells the Fix that there is almost no television time left to buy. What that likely means is that the paid media for both sides will likely cancel itself out and the final few days will be a battle for so-called earned media -- a.k.a. press coverage by the state's newspapers, television channels and radio stations. That means that what Coakley and Brown do -- or don't do -- tactically over the next few days on the stump can make all the difference. Still, Coakley is hoping to break through the ad clamor with her closing ad, an endorsement spot from Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator, that hits airwaves this morning. "It's not the Kennedy seat, it's the peoples' seat," she says in the ad. "The mother struggling to make ends meet, the father trying to find a job. My husband fought for them and so does Martha Coakley." We asked one smart strategist from each party to break down what their side needs to do to win on Tuesday. From the Democratic side: "It is about the message -- can Brown really be an effective ambassador for you to Washington? The answer is no, but we aren't there yet. If they make it about that message, we will win. If they make it about Democratic big-wigs, we will lose." From the Republican side: "Brown needs to keep doing what he's been doing, partly riding a national wave that might engulf Massachusetts, and partly being a nice guy Republican who's a reasonable alternative to the chilly Coakley. Brown has been skillfully riding these two waves and that's got him in likely a dead heat in a 3-1 Democratic state." (My take: If Obama tries to ride to the rescue, and Brown wins anyway, his standing with endangered Democrats will drop through the cellar. If he doesn’t, he’ll be accused by Democrats of throwing her under the bus.)

Obama to Massachusetts on Sunday
Going all in. Excerpt: President Obama will travel to Massachusetts on Sunday to campaign for Martha Coakley, according to sources. The trip represents an unprecedented role for Obama in a special election. He didn't appear during the runoff in Georgia's Senate race in December 2008 or in an early 2009 New York special House election. He did hold a fundraiser for now-Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) in another special House election in New York late last year, though it was outside the district, in New York City, and included no public events.

The 10 Percent Rules
Excerpt: If Massachusetts was the Department of Homeland Security, the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s senate seat would have the Democrats about four-fifths of the way up the terror alert code. Green: Everything is fine, and who cares if we spelled “Massachusetts” wrong in one of the ads. Blue: Don’t forget to vote. It’s next Tuesday. You’ll remember to vote, right? Yellow: Bill Clinton is coming for a rally. John Kerry has got to show up, too. I don’t care if he just had hip-replacement surgery. Orange: You know, it really doesn’t matter whether you win by a million votes or one vote, just so long as you win. The campaign has not hit red yet, although, for the Democrats, the whole world has begun to look orange with dark tints. Like a decaying pumpkin. It cannot be a good sign when the Massachusetts secretary of state has to deny rumors that he plans to stall certification of the election results until after the health care bill is passed.

Healthcare talks in race with Massachusetts’s special election
Excerpt: Democrats are rushing to finalize healthcare legislation as their hold on the 60th vote in the Senate appears to be slipping. A deal on healthcare reform is “very close,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday. “I would certainly hope that within the next 24, 48, 72 hours, we have a general agreement between the Senate and the House.” Hoyer’s prediction comes as Democrats face increasingly difficult odds in holding the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) seat. Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) has said she will vote for healthcare reform while state Sen. Scott Brown (R) said he will vote against it. This week two of Washington’s biggest prognosticators, the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report, changed their rating of the race to a "toss up."

(Satire—you have to say that for the humor-impaired)
Reid: Martha Coakley 'more than just my 60th Yes-Man
Excerpt: With just hours to go before Tuesday's special Senate election in Massachusetts to fill the unexpired term of the late Edward M. Kennedy, Sen. Harry Reid said that Democratic candidate Martha Coakley would be "much more than just my 60th yes-man." "Sure, she'd be a rookie senator, who's never functioned in a legislature, with no power, eager to please, inheriting the onus of the longest liberal dynasty in history," said Reid, "but that doesn't mean she'd be just a rubber stamp, or some kind of inert mass of protoplasm that responds predictably to the stimuli of her partisan overlords ... no, not at all." Coakley, the attorney general of the commonwealth, immediately released a statement endorsing Reid's remarks, and noting: "I will not be just a rubber stamp, or some kind of inert mass of protoplasm that responds predictably to the stimuli of my partisan overlords ... no, not at all." She continued to emphasize her independent-minded agreement with Reid's position on health care reform, and constitutional rights for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as well as other accused terrorists. Wearing a bracelet sporting the letters 'W.W.H.D.', Coakley said she would be willing to stand up against her own party leaders on matters of principle, "if they ever do anything in the future with which I disagree ... like in 1962, when JFK proposed that awful income tax cut."

Not Satire. Hard to tell nowadays.
Candidate Coakley and the ‘Pedophile Priest’
Excerpt: The “Pedophile Priest” Case, 1995-2002: Coakley cut secret deal in 1995 that allowed Father Geoghan to molest again. Martha Coakley is running for the U.S. Senate in part on her track record of keeping children safe from predators. The actual facts, however, are somewhat at odds with her campaign biography. One of the most notorious cases of homosexual child abuse in the “pedophile priests” scandal that rocked the American Catholic Church in general and the Archdiocese of Boston in particular over the past twenty years involved Father John Geoghan, who came to symbolize the cancer in the church.

More bad news for Coakley
Excerpt: Gerald Amirault was on WEEI radio’s ‘Dennis and Callaghan’ show today, discussing the shameful role of Martha Coakley in the prosecution of a false child molestation case. The hosts talked about how the entire Fells Acres trail was a truly shameful episode in local history. Amirault himself recounted all the years he spent in “protective custody” i.e. solitary confinement, because of concerns that as a convicted child molester he would not be safe in the general population. When he finally did go into the general population, the reaction of the other inmates was be cool man, we know you aren’t guilty. Amirault also talked about Martha Coakley being unable to admit her office had wrongfully convicted him despite the fact they changed all the procedures on collecting and presenting evidence in molestation investigations long before his commutation hearing in 2001. He comes across as a really nice guy with no real bitterness or anger. That makes the interview an even more devastating indictment of the miscarriage of justice that happened in Coakley’s office and her moves to prevent the commutation of his sentence.

Massachusetts: 'Bottom has fallen out' of Coakley's polls; Dems prepare to explain defeat, protect Obama
Excerpt: Here in Massachusetts, as well as in Washington, a growing sense of gloom is setting in among Democrats about the fortunes of Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley. "I have heard that in the last two days the bottom has fallen out of her poll numbers," says one well-connected Democratic strategist. In her own polling, Coakley is said to be around five points behind Republican Scott Brown. "If she's not six or eight ahead going into the election, all the intensity is on the other side in terms of turnout," the Democrat says. "So right now, she is destined to lose."

Did Democrats outsmart themselves in Massachusetts? Excerpt: When Ted Kennedy died on August 25, 2009, Massachusetts law required the state to hold a special election to fill the opening he left in the US Senate. That law was put in place by the state legislature in 2004 when John Kerry ran for President, and it was championed by Ted Kennedy himself. Why? The governor at the time, Mitt Romney, was a Republican — and Kennedy didn’t want Romney appointing an interim replacement that wasn’t a Democrat. Fast forward five years, to when Kennedy was days away from death. The Kennedy family released a letter written by the Senator demanding that the law he pushed in 2004 get repealed in 2009 in order to allow Governor Deval Patrick to appoint his successor. Why? Patrick is a Democrat and a reliable liberal who would select someone in Kennedy’s mold. The state legislature responded by acceding to Kennedy’s dying wish and Patrick appointed Paul Kirk to fill Kennedy’s seat temporarily, until the special election could be held. This all seemed to go by plan for the Democrats. They had ensured ideological continuity of the seat, and more importantly gave Harry Reid back his 60th vote for cloture, which allowed Reid and Obama to press forward with their plans to overhaul the American health-care system. All they would need is to keep Kirk in place until Massachusetts sent another Kennedy protege to the Senate. But did they outsmart themselves? The special election date was the earliest possible date, as I recall, but the continued focus on ObamaCare came directly from the Democrats’ insistence on changing the Massachusetts law so that Patrick could appoint Kirk to the seat. Without that, the seat would have remained vacant — and Reid and Obama would have been forced to put ObamaCare aside and start working on the economy, especially in November, after the House finally passed its version. It would have given Reid and Obama an excuse to suspend the effort, and make the special election a referendum on health-care reform as a concept, rather than the specifics of the proposal that came out of the Senate.

One year out: President Obama's fall
Excerpt: What went wrong? A year ago, he was king of the world. Now President Obama's approval rating, according to CBS, has dropped to 46 percent -- and his disapproval rating is the highest ever recorded by Gallup at the beginning of an (elected) president's second year. A year ago, he was leader of a liberal ascendancy that would last 40 years (James Carville). A year ago, conservatism was dead (Sam Tanenhaus). Now the race to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in bluest of blue Massachusetts is surprisingly close, with a virtually unknown state senator bursting on the scene by turning the election into a mini-referendum on Obama and his agenda, most particularly health-care reform.
A year ago, Obama was the most charismatic politician on Earth. Today the thrill is gone, the doubts growing -- even among erstwhile believers.

Obama tells Dems that economy, healthcare will help in midterms
Oh, yeah, healthcare is really helping Coakley in the bluest state. Excerpt: President Barack Obama rallied House Democrats Thursday around the healthcare bill and an economy he said will improve as they head into a midterm election campaign. Obama said that the legislation Congress passed since he became president is moving the economy forward and that Republican opposition to the healthcare bill will buoy Democrats in November.

Democrats see healthcare finish line in sight after negotiations
Pass something, anything, we can call healthcare reform. From my experience as a state senator, it is better politically to be on the losing side of controversial issues. The winners aren’t too angry with you, because they are happy they won. The losers are really angry, because they lost, but not with you. And there are going to be a lot of losers in this bill, many of whom don’t know it yet. Some won’t know it until it goes into effect after the 2012 presidential election—there’s a reason for the timing. I think this will be devastating for Democrats. But it will also create new interest groups among the winners who will defend it. It will definitely devastate the best healthcare system in the world. The world will suffer too, as innovation originates mostly in America and that will slow. Excerpt: President Barack Obama and House Democrats claimed significant progress Thursday as momentum appeared to increase for swift final action on healthcare reform.

What healthcare “reform” really means
If you missed it, this was my take on what these bills mean.

Why not tax free speech or going to church?
Interesting point from my friend Tom. If healthcare is a right, like freedom of speech or religion, how can you tax a “right”? Could you tax freedom of speech?

Ben Nelson tries to repair damage at home
Warning to Democrats—this will happen to you! Excerpt: Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson and his wife were leaving dinner at a new pizza joint near their home in Omaha one night last week when a patron began complaining about Nelson’s decisive vote in favor of the Senate’s health care bill. Other customers started booing. A woman yelled, “Get him the hell out of here!” And the Nelsons and their dining companions beat a hasty retreat. “It was definitely a scene in there,” said Tom Lewis, a 41-year-old dentist and registered Republican who witnessed the incident. A second witness confirmed the incident to POLITICO. It’s a new experience for Nelson. He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the “N” on the University of Nebraska's football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal-cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.

Hope and delusion in health care
Democrats imagine political victory in popular disgust
Excerpt: Like a parched man crawling on hands and knees through the sandy desert, Democ- rats are beginning to hallu- cinate - not about an oasis, but about throngs of supporters who will enthusiastically turn out to vote in the 2010 elections if only they pass health care reform.

AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka: Chalking up a win for class warfare.
Excerpt: Big Labor carved out a tax exemption for union members' health plans on Thursday, paving the way for passage of health care reform. Call it what it is: a bribe to cronies in an increasingly corrupt overhaul. With Nebraska winning "free" coverage of its Medicare costs in the Senate version of the bill, and Louisiana getting a tax exemption of its own, what's one more bone to a favored political group on a bill Democrats are determined to pass no matter what? That's what made it easy for labor leaders, following a sit-down with the White House, to carve out a special set-aside for union members' gold-plated health benefits acquired under collective bargaining agreements. Nobody gets more special treatment from Democrats than Big Labor.

The Latest, Greatest Tools for Health Care Reform: Soap, and Fewer Drugs
Excerpt: In recent history, hospitals have become increasingly successful at making people sick—or worse. Studies show that each year, 100,000 Americans die from medical mistakes, and that healthcare-associated infections account for an estimated 1.7 million infections and 99,000 associated deaths each year. But, as NPR’s health blog recently reported, two recent reports show that following some pretty basic practices can prevent infections and save lives. These low-tech answers include bathing patients before surgery and swabbing their noses with antibiotic ointment. One of the studies found that “when doctors clean the area on the patient’s body where surgery will be performed with chlorexidine, an antiseptic, their patients get 40 percent fewer infections than those cleaned with iodine, another antiseptic.”

Meet Mikey, 8: U.S. Has Him on Watch List
Don’t you feel safer? Bet you can’t wait until these people are running our healthcare! Excerpt: The Transportation Security Administration, under scrutiny after last month’s bombing attempt, has on its Web site a “mythbuster” that tries to reassure the public. Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy. Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list. “Meet Mikey Hicks,” said Najlah Feanny Hicks, introducing her 8-year-old son, a New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has seldom boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person. “It’s not a myth.” Michael Winston Hicks’s mother initially sensed trouble when he was a baby and she could not get a seat for him on their flight to Florida at an airport kiosk; airline officials explained that his name “was on the list,” she recalled. The first time he was patted down, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mikey was 2. He cried.

U.S. said to eye D.C. for Guantanamo detainee trial
Obama creates a dilemma for terrorists. Should they attack during the KSM trial in NY, or this one. Decisions, decisions. Let us all pray I’m wrong, and that BO is not creating a setting for tragedy. Excerpt: The Obama administration is considering a criminal trial in Washington for the Guantanamo Bay detainee suspected of masterminding the bombing of a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people, a plan that would bring one of the world's most notorious terrorism suspects just steps from the U.S. Capitol, The Associated Press has learned.

Good news for al Qaeda
"Most of the domestic groups that we pay attention to here are white supremacist groups. They're anti-government, in most cases anti-abortion, they are usually survivalist type in nature, identity oriented. ... Those groups are groups that claim to be extremely anti-government and Christian identity oriented." --TSA nominee Erroll Southers. "The Patriot Post

First, the Good News ...,_the_good_news_
Excerpt: Last week on Fox News Channel, I described how the Haqqani network -- perhaps the most dangerous terror group operating against NATO forces and the Karzai government in Kabul -- was tripped up by the malfeasance of its leaders. A grotesque series of pornographic videos, apparently made by senior members of the Haqqani organization, shows them committing serial rape. The perpetrators and victims -- young ethnic Pashtun girls and boys -- are clearly visible in videos being distributed on Islamic Web sites, DVDs and VHS tapes sold at "porn bazaars" in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Outraged Muslim clerics have accused those involved of "crimes against Islam." The "founder" of the terror network, Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, was once the Taliban minister of borders and tribal affairs. His eldest son -- Sirajuddin, aka Siraj -- now runs the day-to-day operations of the organization and maintains close ties with Taliban leaders and al-Qaida. The network operates from tribal havens along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and is believed to be connected to a wave of suicide bombings -- including the Dec. 30 attack at Camp Chapman in Khost province, which killed seven CIA personnel and wounded six others. Widespread dissemination of the "Haqqani porn videos" by clerics calling for "righteous Muslims to rise up against those who perform such acts" may seriously damage the network's base of support -- and disenchant supposedly devout Wahhabi financiers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates. If that were to happen, it would be very good news indeed.

Gates: Ft. Hood shows military must focus on internal threats
Gee, ya think? Excerpt: The Defense Department failed to anticipate the shootings in Fort Hood, Texas, because the agency is not focused on internal threats, officials said Friday. The Pentagon is "not properly focused on ... workplace violence and self-radicalization," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said. He added this explains in part why Army officers failed to anticipate the threat Maj. Nidal Hasan posed to his colleagues at Fort Hood last year.

Senate GOP presses Napolitano on delayed visa security measures
Excerpt: Secretary of Homeland Security Janet 9the System Worked) Napolitano is under fire from Senate Republicans over delays to a program that would tighten the security of U.S. visas.Visa security has taken on new political significance since the attempted bombing of a jetliner arriving in Detroit on Christmas Day. The bombing suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, held a multiple-entry visa despite being placed on a terrorism watch-list.

How to Guard Against Stimulus Fraud
Based on past experience, thieves may rip off the taxpayers for $100 billion.
Peanuts. Wait until they get their hands on healthcare. Medicare is already beset with billions in fraud. Excerpt: The Obama administration—and state and local governments—should brace themselves for fraud on an Olympic scale as hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars continue to pour into job creation efforts. Where there are government handouts, fraud, waste and abuse are rarely far behind. The sheer scale of the first and expected second stimulus packages combined with the multitiered distribution channel—from Washington to the states to community agencies to contractors and finally to workers—are simply irresistible catnip to con men and thieves.There are already warning signs. The Department of Energy's inspector general said in a report in December that staffing shortages and other internal weaknesses all but guarantee that at least some of the agency's $37 billion economic-stimulus funds will be misused. A tenfold increase in funding for an obscure federal program that installs insulation in homes has state attorneys general quietly admitting there is little hope of keeping track of the money.

Haiti: Where will all the money go?
I contributed—who wouldn’t in the face of this tragedy. But as with many thrird world countries, too much of the aid goes to the pockets of corrupt statists, and far too little to the people we are trying to help. Excerpt: Haiti has received billions of dollars in taxpayer and private aid from the United States and others, yet is so poor that few homes had safe drinking water, sewage disposal or electricity even before the earthquake. With sympathetic donors around the world sending money, making sure that aid is spent properly will be a challenge. Corruption, theft and other crime and Haiti's sheer shortage of fundamentals — reliable roads, telephone and power lines and a sound financial system — add to the difficulty as foreign governments and charities try not only to help Haiti recover from the disaster but pull itself out of abject poverty. It is one of the poorest places on Earth. Most basic public services are lacking, people typically live on less than $2 a day, nearly half the population is illiterate and the government has a history of instability. The public has little opportunity to be sure that aid to the government is used honestly and well. Nor is following the money easy for donors, including the United States, 700 miles away and one of the country's biggest helpers.

Now we know
When the disaster first hit Haiti, I sarcastically said the media hadn’t told us if Global warming or Bush was responsible. Now we know: It was Bush.

Ascendant Chile Joins OECD: A Triumph of Liberty
Free Markets and free trade win again—and the statists never learn! Excerpt: Given the high drama of the ongoing healthcare debate and new fears about al Qaeda, it would be easy to have missed a triumph for liberty and prosperity this week south of the equator. On January 11, Chile became the first South American country to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). At first glance, I know it may not sound all that exciting that a Paris-based multilateral institution has welcomed Chile to its ranks, given everything else going on in the world. But with its accession to the OECD, which is effectively the club of the world’s 30 developed nations, Chile has laid down an important milestone for anyone who cares about growth and freedom. Why? First, Chile was experimental like no other country when it comes to economic liberalization, and it has benefited as a result. The legendary “Chicago boys,” a group of 30 Chileans who studied under Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago, spent more than a decade in the 1970s and ’80s liberalizing trade, deregulating markets, de-politicizing the economy, and implementing a host of other free-market reforms. Given that these reforms occurred under General Augusto Pinochet, they have received some understandable criticism. Pinochet’s oppression and violence are well-known, and history has now judged him. Any attempt to implement sensible market reforms under a corrupt dictator is going to be messy and subject to grave abuse. However, given these obvious limitations, it is nevertheless hard not to argue that when Pinochet effectively handed over the economy to the Chicago boys, the seeds of Chile’s economic revival were sown. Chile’s resulting positive economic trajectory over the past several decades is a big part of why the OECD has admitted the nation. How ironic that while the OECD was busy admitting Chile to its ranks, Hugo Chavez devalued Venezuela’s currency by half.

Bank Tax Misses the Real Bailout Deadbeats in Detroit and DC
Facing rising populist anger over his administration’s billion-dollar bailouts, President Barack Obama proposed a $117 billion tax over the next 12 years on financial companies with assets of more than $50 billion. “We want our money back, and we’re going to get it,” the President said. The President is half right. Taxpayers are going to get their money back from the banks that received bailout money … but don’t expect to see any of the money the Obama administration poured into General Motors and Chrysler at the behest of their union allies. That is where the real losses are coming from. The TARP program has so far distributed $247 billion to more than 700 banks. Of that, $162 billion in principal and $11 billion in interest and dividends have already been repaid. Except for AIG, almost all banks that received taxpayer money are expected to pay back the American taxpayers in full. As The New York Times reports: “The losses from the bailout fund are expected from money paid to rescue Chrysler and General Motors and the insurance giant American International Group, and from a program to help homeowners avert foreclosures.” So the real deadbeats that are not giving us “our money back” are not the banks, but the union-backed car companies and failed government mortgage modification programs. But guess what? The White House has chosen not to include the car companies among the institutions that will pay this so called “Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee.” Also exempted are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored entities that helped create the crisis.

Special protection for Black Panthers
Excerpt: Racial cowardice, thy name is Eric Holder. For those who don't remember, Attorney General H. Holder Jr. had the gall last February to claim that Americans form "a nation of cowards" with regard to racial issues. Saying that this nation must examine its "racial soul" and that "we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race," Mr. Holder explicitly vowed to "have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us." In that same context, he also vowed repeatedly last year to "restore" the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to a supposedly renewed focus on protecting minority rights. Yet Mr. Holder was far from explicit about exactly what he meant. Judging from the Civil Rights Division's actions - and now from a highly revealing speech by a newly exiled member of the division - it appears that the civil rights of blacks and Latinos will be protected but those of whites and Asians are treated as irrelevant. Far from having a "frank conversation" about that highly problematic change in policy, Mr. Holder's Justice Department instead is hiding the change behind bureaucratic smokescreens, spurious claims of legal "privileges" and outright gag orders.

Obama Gives Speeches, Interviews but Few Press Conferences
Excerpt: There's a tug of war in every administration between the White House and the media that cover it. Reporters want more access and more quality time to question the president, while staffers want to control how the message plays. The two goals are quite often at odds. In the era of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs, the Obama Administration has been savvy about how it communicates its message and seems to agree with the previous administration on at least one point: Go around the media filter and engage directly with the U.S. public.

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