Archive for February, 2009

That’ll be 5 cents, please…

From the New York Post:

“In a move every bit as bold as its decision to buy into the newspaper business, Cablevision yesterday said that it plans to charge readers for access to Newsday’s Web site.

Newsday (a Long Island, NY newspaper) will be among the first general-interest newspapers to adopt a paid online model, and the move will certainly add to the industry debate about whether news outlets should make their Web sites free or paid.

Cablevision gave no details on how it will execute the pay model for Newsday, or how much it will charge for access.

Proponents of the free online model argue that it generates more traffic, which in turn allows companies to charge advertisers higher rates. Those in favor of the paid online model claim that advertisers aren’t paying enough online to make up for the revenue losses on the print side, and therefore need to find other ways to subsidize their business.”

There’s no talk that I’m aware of about making such a move at the AJC. But as …

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Can’t we all just get along?

It’s been a fractious, divisive week here on the blog, so I thought I’d send us all home on this rainy Friday afternoon with something that everybody can agree upon:

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the greatest jazz pianist of all time.

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The Fairness Doctrine is still dead

Many conservatives have been downright certain the Democrats were going to try to  revive the Fairness Doctrine and thus silence right-wing talk radio. Why did they think that? Because right-wing talk radio hosts told them to think it, hoping to stoke the paranoia of their audience.

This week, however, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to once again kill the long-dead doctrine. I’ll even quote Fox News on the subject, just to fend off any claims that the vote is some left-wing media fabrication:

“The Senate approved an amendment Thursday that would outlaw the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” an off-the-books policy that once required broadcasters to air opposing viewpoints on controversial issues.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint’s amendment passed by a wide margin of 87-to-11. The South Carolina senator had attached his proposal, called the Broadcaster Freedom Act, to a bill to give the District of Columbia a voting representative in the House.”

Of course, I’m under no …

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Time is ripe for revolution

A lot of pundits, commentators and politicians are expressing amazement at the scope of ambition revealed by President Obama’s budget proposal. And for good reason.

However, they’re also expressing doubt that he can pull it all off, also for good reason. But I was struck by some numbers I ran across yesterday while researching health care issues and public support for reform.

In a nationwide poll conducted earlier this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 46 percent of Americans said they had a great deal of confidence in Obama’s leadership in health care reform. Only 23 percent said they had a great deal of confidence in congressional Democrats to lead that reform; 21 percent said they had a great deal of confidence in professional groups such as the American Medical Association; only 12 percent had a great deal of confidence in labor unions.

And congressional Republicans?

Seven percent.

Numbers like that give Obama a lot of running room.

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Obama campaign talk becomes budget reality

There seems to be a new sheriff in town…

From the Washington Post:

“President Obama delivered to Congress yesterday a $3.6 trillion spending plan that would finance vast new investments in health care, energy independence and education by raising taxes on the oil and gas industry, hedge fund managers, multinational corporations and nearly 3 million of the nation’s top earners.

The blueprint, meanwhile, would overhaul programs across the federal bureaucracy to strengthen assistance for millions of people who have borne the consequences of what Obama called “an era of profound irresponsibility,” helping them pay for college, train for better jobs and save for retirement while taking less of their earnings in taxes.

The ambitious agenda for the fiscal year that begins in October would not come cheap. This year’s budget deficit, swollen by spending to combat a severe recession, would hit a record $1.75 trillion, or 12.3 percent of the overall economy, under the president’s plan, …

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Republicans give themselves a tongue-lashing

Bay Buchanan has long struck me as a little … out there, even when compared to her brother, Pugnacious Pat.

But as the Rev. Joe Lowery likes to say, there’s good crazy and then there’s bad crazy. In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference now underway in Washington, Bay got a little good crazy.

Of course, there’s a reason the Republicans governed so incompetently, and so much in contradiction to their stated principles: Their ideology, while appealing to many in the abstract, is unworkable as an approach to actually governing.

Ronald Reagan understood that. But with his skills as an actor, he could talk one way and govern another. He could preach about spending discipline while raising federal spending by 68 percent (compared to 32 percent under Clinton). He could preach tax cuts while signing three major tax increases. He could talk tough overseas while skedaddling from Lebanon as soon as our forces there came under attack.

His GOP successors lack that …

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Ronald Reagan, closet socialist

President Obama is being accused by some of pursuing a socialist agenda. His critics claim that under Obama, the federal government will consume more and more of what the American people produce, leaving less and less to be spent by the private economy.

It raises an interesting question: How much of our nation’s annual income OUGHT to be available for spending by the federal government? What’s the right level? Since 1970, the annual federal budget has been as low as 18.4 percent of our gross domestic product, and as high as 23.5 percent. (In 2008, preliminary figures say it was 20.5 percent.) (Source, Historical Tables, Office of Management and Budget).

Interestingly, that peak of 23.5 percent occurred in 1983, under President Ronald Reagan. In fact, the federal government consumed a greater share of our national income that year than in any year since the end of World War II.

To take it further, since 1947, the four years in which the federal government consumed the biggest …

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Ga. legislators take ownership of nuke plants

You know who’s going to own those nuclear reactors that Georgia Power and other utilities want to build near Augusta?

In a legal sense, the utilities would own them. But in a political sense, state Sen. Don Balfour would own a good piece of them too, at least if Senate Bill 31 becomes law.

Written at the behest of Georgia Power, SB 31 would strip authority from the Public Service Commission, the body created to regulate utilities and make highly technical decisions about how to finance complex multibillion-dollar projects such as nuclear plants. Balfour, the sponsor of the bill, apparently believes that the interests of Georgia would be best served if such technical decisions are made by Waffle House executives, insurance salesmen, retired farmers and others serving in the state Legislature. Such people do have wisdom, of course. It just doesn’t generally extend to the intricacies of utility regulation.

The bill would also require Georgia Power customers to start paying …

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Torture commission grows more likely

from Salon:

“Spearheading Senate efforts to establish a torture commission is Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. As a member of both the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee, Whitehouse is privy to information about interrogations he can’t yet share. Still, regarding a potential torture commission, he told Salon, “I am convinced it is going to happen.”

In fact, his fervor on the issue was palpable. When asked if there is a lot the public still does not know about these issues during the Bush administration, his eyes grew large and he nodded slowly. “Stay on this,” he said. “This is going to be big.”…

Last week, retired Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba, known for conducting an honest investigation of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, discussed his support for such a commission in an exclusive interview with Salon. Taguba joined a group of former high-level diplomats and law enforcement officials who also announced their support for a torture commission late last week, …

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The light at the end of the Iraq tunnel….

“WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is expected to order all U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq by August of next year, administration officials said, closing the door on a war that has led to the deaths of at least 4,250 members of the U.S. military.

The pullout recommended by Obama’s security advisers would free up troops and resources for the war in Afghanistan, where Obama has said the threat to national security is acute. The Iraq withdrawal would be completed 18 months from now….

Obama built enormous grass-roots support for his White House bid by promising a quick end to the unpopular Iraq war. His 16-month withdrawal plan, based on removing roughly one brigade a month, had been predicated on commanders determining that it would not endanger U.S. troops left behind or Iraq’s fragile security….

The emerging plan now leaves Obama two months off his campaign pledge, and with between 30,000 and 50,000 troops still in Iraq to advise and train Iraqi security forces and …

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