Entries from February 2011

Regan Affidavit Alleges That Ailes Asked Her to Lie

February 25th, 2011 at 2:34 pm 7 Comments

The New York Times reports:

It was an incendiary allegation — and a mystery of great intrigue in the media world: After the publishing powerhouse Judith Regan was fired by HarperCollins in 2006, she claimed that a senior executive at its parent company, News Corporation, had encouraged her to lie two years earlier to federal investigators who were vetting Bernard B. Kerik for the job of homeland security secretary.

Ms. Regan had once been involved in an affair with Mr. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner whose mentor and supporter, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, was in the nascent stages of a presidential campaign. The News Corporation executive, whom she did not name, wanted to protect Mr. Giuliani and conceal the affair, she said.

Now, court documents filed in a lawsuit make clear whom Ms. Regan was accusing of urging her to lie: Roger E. Ailes, the powerful chairman of Fox News and a longtime friend of Mr. Giuliani. What is more, the documents say that Ms. Regan taped the telephone call from Mr. Ailes in which Mr. Ailes discussed her relationship with Mr. Kerik.

It is unclear whether the existence of the tape played a role in News Corporation’s decision to move quickly to settle a wrongful termination suit filed by Ms. Regan, paying her $10.75 million in a confidential settlement reached two months after she filed it in 2007.

Depending on the specifics, the taped conversation could possibly rise to the level of conspiring to lie to federal officials, a federal crime, but prosecutors rarely pursue such cases, said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia University law professor and a former federal prosecutor.

Of course, if it were to be released, the tape could be highly embarrassing to Mr. Ailes, a onetime adviser to Richard M. Nixon whom critics deride as a partisan who engineers Fox News coverage to advance Republicans and damage Democrats, something Fox has long denied. Mr. Ailes also had close ties with Mr. Giuliani, whom he advised in his first mayoral race. Mr. Giuliani officiated at Mr. Ailes’s wedding and intervened on his behalf when Fox News Channel was blocked from securing a cable station in the city.

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Trump Could Spend $200 Million of Own Money on Presidential Bid

February 25th, 2011 at 2:29 pm 5 Comments

CNN reports:

If he runs for president, Donald Trump is likely to take a page out of other recent billionaire political aspirants and cut himself a check to the tune of $200 million to finance the expensive endeavor.

That’s according to longtime GOP operative Roger Stone, who is currently an informal adviser to Trump.

“I would imagine he would be a self-funder,” Stone told Politico Thursday.

“I think he passes up public finance because he then could say, ‘I don’t answer to anybody but myself and the American people, not special interests,’” Stone also said.

“He’s sitting on $2 billion in cash. That’s what he says. And if that’s true, he could write a check for $200 million if he wanted to.”

Trump would be the latest in a string of wealthy individuals who have completely self-financed their campaigns with mixed results. Most recently, ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman dropped close to $150 million of her own fortune in her unsuccessful bid last year to become governor of California.

In 2009, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent $90 million of his own money only to narrowly squeak out a re-election victory over the poorly funded city comptroller William Thompson.

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Fannie, Freddie Fix Won’t Stop Next Housing Crisis

February 25th, 2011 at 2:18 pm 42 Comments

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae’s smaller but still enormous recently reported losses aren’t a surprise. The very structure of the two massive government-supported enterprise mortgage securitizers means that they’re overwhelmingly likely to lose money so long as a large percentage of American houses remain “underwater.”  This makes reform all the more urgent. This, I think, is both good and bad. Here’s why:

The Good: As long as these losses continue, there will be more pressure for Democrats and Republicans to work together to do something that takes Fannie and Freddie off of the taxpayers backs. Unlike other issues—where the parties have little common ground—the outlines of consensus on Fannie and Freddie seem to be emerging. The relatively warm reception for the Obama administration’s own plan for phasing out Fannie and Freddie, furthermore, shows that a consensus plan might well pass Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The Bad: Americans really love thirty-year fixed rate, self-amortizing mortgages with modest down payments and any plan that passes Congress will somehow assure that they continue to exist. This, in turn, will almost certainly lead to another mortgage bailout at some point in the future.  Such mortgages, which don’t really exist outside of the United States, involve asking the private institutions to take on more risk than is wise. This, in turn, means they’ll only continue to exist if the government somehow guarantees them.  And, one way or another, the government will. This means that another housing crisis is likely in the next few decades.


FBI Sends Out Fertilizer Bomb Warning Letter

February 25th, 2011 at 2:12 pm 7 Comments

ABC News reports:

On the same day federal authorities announced the arrest of a Saudi Arabian man in Texas on charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, ABC News today obtained a letter sent by the FBI to businesses across the country, warning them to watch out for anyone who might be planning a terrorist attack using fertilizer, chemical or pesticide-based explosives.

The FBI’s Denver field office has sent a letter to farm supply stores in its region warning employees to be aware of anyone who might be acting in a way that could indicate potential terrorist activity.

“Current trends in terrorist bombings show that fertilizer-based explosives are continuing as a threat throughout the world,” the letter states. “Ammonium nitrate and urea-based fertilizers pose an explosive threat if prepared and initiated properly. In addition, certain pesticides can be used to cause widespread harm to people.”

FBI officials insist there is no new intelligence suggesting an imminent terrorist attack, saying the letter is a continuing effort of a nationwide program known as “Tripwire”— designed to keep a dialog open between businesses and federal, state and local law enforcement. FBI field offices around the country were told by headquarters to reach out to businesses in their divisions.

“This is our reengagement of those companies to make sure that they’re still on alert and that these things still exist,” said FBI spokesman Dave Joly.

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Governors Take Spotlight Ahead of Winter Meeting

February 25th, 2011 at 1:54 pm 4 Comments

ABC News reports:

Though events around the world and here at home (see, for example, Libya, rising gas prices and the threat of a government shutdown) loomed large over Washington all week, the last few days have also become a seminal moment for the nation’s governors.

The epicenter of unrest has clearly been Wisconsin where the state Assembly passed a bill early this morning that would strip most public employees of their collective bargaining rights — a plan favored by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and vehemently opposed by Democrats and organized labor. There’s no telling whether Democratic state senators will return from their hideout in Illinois to vote on the measure or if they’ll continue to block its consideration. http://abcn.ws/hQwDGW

Gov. Walker is unlikely to be among the group of governors who are descending on Washington this weekend for the National Governors Association’s winter meeting, but many of his Republican and Democratic counterparts will be there, including the majority of the 29 newly-elected governors from around the country.

As USA Today’s Gregory Korte notes, “Part commiserating, part lobbying and part strategizing, the gathering this weekend is an opportunity for governors of both parties to present a united front to the president and Congress. Officially, job creation and staying competitive in a global economy top the agenda.”

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Man Behind South Park Threats Gets 25 Years

February 25th, 2011 at 1:44 pm 2 Comments

MSNBC reports:

A Virginia man who encouraged the murder of “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker over an episode that portrayed the Muslim prophet Muhammad dressed as a bear was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday.

Zachary Chesser had written in multiple Internet posts over a four-month period last year that the South Park creators should “wind up like Theo Van Gogh,” who was murdered by a radical Muslim because he objected to the Dutch filmmaker’s negative portrayal of Islamic society.

But Stone and Parker were only a piece of the case against Chesser, who also tried on two occasions to join al-Shabab, a terrorist group in Somalia, and encouraged like-minded people on the Internet to leave suspicious packages in public places in the U.S. so that if and when real bombs were planted they’d go unnoticed.

Chesser also encouraged violence against cartoonists who were planning to participate in “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.”

This was a plan — that never came to fruition — created to show support for Parker and Stone and for free speech.

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Qaddafi’s Son: We Will ‘Live and Die in Libya’

February 25th, 2011 at 12:48 pm 2 Comments

The Los Angeles Times reports:

As protests escalate in Libya, Seif Islam, one of the sons of embattled Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, has vowed his family will remain in the country and “live and die” there.

Asked by a reporter from CNNTurk about whether his family has a backup plan or if they might consider leaving the country amid the growing unrest, Islam answered that there are three plans.

“Plan A is to live and die in Libya, Plan B is to live and die in Libya, Plan C is to live and die in Libya,” he said in an excerpt from the interview, which was reportedly published on the website of CNNTurk news anchor Cuneyt Ozdemir ahead of the full broadcast on Friday.

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Hitchens: Obama’s Response to Arab Unrest ‘Pathetic’

February 25th, 2011 at 12:41 pm 13 Comments

Christopher Hitchens writes at Slate:

However meanly and grudgingly, even the new Republican speaker has now conceded that the president is Hawaiian-born and some kind of Christian. So let’s hope that’s the end of all that. A more pressing question now obtrudes itself: Is Barack Obama secretly Swiss?

Let me explain what I mean. A Middle Eastern despot now knows for sure when his time in power is well and truly up. He knows it when his bankers in Zurich or Geneva cease accepting his transfers and responding to his confidential communications and instead begin the process of “freezing” his assets and disclosing their extent and their whereabouts to investigators in his long-exploited country. And, at precisely that moment, the U.S. government also announces that it no longer recognizes the said depositor as the duly constituted head of state. Occasionally, there is a little bit of “raggedness” in the coordination. CIA Director Leon Panetta testified to Congress that Hosni Mubarak would “step down” a day before he actually did so. But the whole charm of the CIA is that its intelligence-gathering is always a few beats off when compared with widespread general knowledge. Generally, though, the White House and the State Department have their timepieces and reactions set to Swiss coordinates.

This is not merely a matter of the synchronizing of announcements. The Obama administration also behaves as if the weight of the United States in world affairs is approximately the same as that of Switzerland. We await developments. We urge caution, even restraint. We hope for the formation of an international consensus. And, just as there is something despicable about the way in which Swiss bankers change horses, so there is something contemptible about the way in which Washington has been affecting—and perhaps helping to bring about—American impotence. Except that, whereas at least the Swiss have the excuse of cynicism, American policy manages to be both cynical and naive.

This has been especially evident in the case of Libya. For weeks, the administration dithered over Egypt and calibrated its actions to the lowest and slowest common denominators, on the grounds that it was difficult to deal with a rancid old friend and ally who had outlived his usefulness. But then it became the turn of Muammar Qaddafi—an all-round stinking nuisance and moreover a long-term enemy—and the dithering began all over again. Until Wednesday Feb. 23, when the president made a few anodyne remarks that condemned “violence” in general but failed to cite Qaddafi in particular—every important statesman and stateswoman in the world had been heard from, with the exception of Obama. And his silence was hardly worth breaking. Echoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had managed a few words of her own, he stressed only that the need was for a unanimous international opinion, as if in the absence of complete unity nothing could be done, or even attempted. This would hand an automatic veto to any of Qaddafi’s remaining allies. It also underscored the impression that the opinion of the United States was no more worth hearing than that of, say, Switzerland. Secretary Clinton was then dispatched to no other destination than Geneva, where she will meet with the U.N. Human Rights Council—an absurd body that is already hopelessly tainted with Qaddafi’s membership.

By the time of Obama’s empty speech, even the notoriously lenient Arab League had suspended Libya’s participation, and several of Qaddafi’s senior diplomatic envoys had bravely defected. One of them, based in New York, had warned of the use of warplanes against civilians and called for a “no-fly zone.” Others have pointed out the planes that are bringing fresh mercenaries to Qaddafi’s side. In the Mediterranean, the United States maintains its Sixth Fleet, which could ground Qaddafi’s air force without breaking a sweat. But wait! We have not yet heard from the Swiss admiralty, without whose input it would surely be imprudent to proceed. …

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Qaddafi Asks Backers to ‘Retaliate’

February 25th, 2011 at 12:36 pm Comments Off

NBC News reports:

Libya’s embattled Moammar Gadhafi called on his supporters Friday to defend against the surging oppposition, telling a crowd of thousands that “we are ready to triumph over the enemy.”

Gadhafi, wearing a fur cap and sunglasses, spoke from the ramparts of the Red Castle, a historic fort, overlooking Tripoli’s central Green Square to more than 1,000 of his supporters, who waved pictures of him and green flags.

Libyan state television showed Ghadafi pumping his fist in the air and telling the crowd to “retaliate against them, retaliate against them” and “prepare to defend the nation and defend the oil.”

Across rebellious cities in the east, tens of thousands held rallies in support of the Tripoli protests, the first in that city in days.

Gadhafi loyalists have clamped down hard in Tripoli, the center of the eroding territory that the Libyan leader’s regime still controls. The uprising that began Feb. 15 has swept over nearly the entire eastern half of the country, breaking cities there out of his regime’s hold.

Even in the pocket of northwestern Libya around Tripoli, several cities have fallen into the hands of the rebellion. Militiamen and Gadhafi forces on Thursday were repelled in trying to take back opposition-held territory in the cities of Zawiya and Misrata, near the capital, in fighting that killed at least 30 people.

Zawiya, an oil refining town on the main coastal highway 30 miles west of Tripoli, has on successive nights fought off attempts by government forces to take control, said witnesses who fled across the Tunisian border.

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Newt: 1995 Shutdown Was GOP Victory

February 25th, 2011 at 12:25 pm 6 Comments

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich writes at The Washington Post:

The Washington establishment believes that the government shutdown of 1995 was a disastrous mistake that accomplished little and cost House Republicans politically.

The facts are exactly the opposite.

While the shutdown produced some short-term pain, it set the stage for a budget deal in 1996 that led to the largest drop in federal discretionary spending since 1969. The discipline imposed by this budget – overall spending grew at an average of 2.9 percent a year while I was speaker of the House, the slowest rate in decades – allowed us to reach a balanced-budget deal in 1997.

This would all have been impossible had Republicans not stood firm in 1995 and shown the American people (and the White House) that we were serious about reducing spending.

Those who claim that the shutdown was politically disastrous for Republicans ignore the fact that our House seat losses in 1996 were in the single digits. Moreover, it was the first time in 68 years that Republicans were reelected to a House majority – and the first time that had ever happened with a Democrat winning the presidency.

Neither these historic achievements nor this historic win would have been possible had Republicans not stood firm and showed the country that we were serious about keeping our commitments.

The lesson for today’s House Republicans is simple: Work to keep the government open, unless it requires breaking your word to the American people and giving up your principles. Becoming one more promise-breaking, Washington-dominated, sellout group is a much worse fate – politically and ethically – than having the government close for a few days.

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