Friday, October 29, 2010

ANOTHER GOPer with heart? What a total jerkess! DO & SAY ANYTHING TO GET ELECTED.

Meg Whitman: My ex-maid should be deported

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman of California says that, though it breaks her heart, her former housekeeper should be deported.

The former eBay chief executive has called for tougher sanctions against employers who hire illegal workers, but she's been accused of knowingly employing an undocumented immigrant for nine years.

"Well, the answer is it breaks my heart, but she should be deported because she forged documents and she lied about her immigration status," Whitman said in an interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News. "And it breaks my heart ... On Nov. 3, no one's going to care about Nicky Diaz. But the law is the law and we live in the rule of law. It's important."

In September, Nicky Diaz Santillan said she had worked for Whitman illegally for nine years, and that her employer knew her immigration status. Whitman countered that Santillan had misled her with false documents, and that she fired the maid when she found out the truth.

"As soon as we found that she was an illegal immigrant, we did what we had to do as an employer, which was to let her go," Whitman said. "But all of the documentation that we had said that she was legal."

Whitman said at the time that she kept the story to herself to protect Santillan: "Because Nicky had worked for us for 10 years, I was very fond of Nicky and I didn't want to make an example of her. It's not an obligation of the employer to turn in illegal employees."

Like we need more worries in this world! Anyone know how to solve this hate fest? Seems just like another USA congress election.

Al Qaeda Behind Terror Scare

U.S. officials have zeroed-in on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as the culprit in the purported terror plot disrupted Thursday.
Two suspicious packages sent from Yemen, both aboard cargo planes bound for the U.S., were intercepted by authorities, one in Britain and one in Dubai.
UPS flights that landed in Newark and Philadelphia were also searched out of security concerns.
"The president was notified of a potential terrorist threat on Thursday night at 10:30," the White House said in a statement.
The items were addressed to a synagogue and a Jewish center in Chicago, according to NBC News. Yemen, a known haven for terrorist groups, was also linked to the attempted bombing of a U.S. jetliner last Christmas. President Obama has ordered U.S. agencies to investigate whether the packages are part of a larger terrorist plot, according to CNN.

Read it at MSNBC


Texas Frees Innocent Man After 18 Years

On Wednesday of this week, charges were dropped against Anthony Graves
a man who was wrongly convicted of murdering six people in 1992 and imprisoned for 18 years.

Graves spent 12 of those years on death row but was released after a Texas judge signed a motion stating, “We have found no credible evidence which inculpates this defendant.”

The district attorney of the county prosecuting Graves said, “There’s not a single thing that says Anthony Graves was involved in this case. There is nothing.”

Last month, Texas Monthly examined the abortion of justice in Graves’ case. Describing his first day out of prison, Graves said, “For the first moments, for the few hours, I thought I would wake up and be right back in the cell.”

Read it at Texas Monthly

MEDIA MATTER weekly updater....

Media Matters: The real story of the 2010 election

By most accounts, the Democrats stand to lose seats in both the House and Senate this coming Tuesday. There are, of course, a wide range of explanations for why this is the case.

However, in endeavoring to explain how the GOP has seemingly managed to reverse its political fortunes in such a short amount of time, media outlets would be remiss not to mention one of the most important factors. In fact, we don't need to wait for Tuesday's results to pinpoint perhaps the most significant development in the country's political landscape over the past two years.

One of the two major political parties in the country is run by a "news" network.

Since President Obama's inauguration, Fox News has transformed from simply the mouthpiece and oppo research shop of the Republican Party into its headquarters. For the GOP, Fox fundraises, campaigns, gives strategic advice, picks candidates (and then provides them a comfortable platform to reach millions of voters, free of charge), throws and promotes rallies, gets out the vote, and, perhaps most importantly, sets the narrative.

They do all of this while continuing their time-honored tradition of tearing down liberal initiatives and politicians with shameless smears, lies, misrepresentations, and fabricated stories. But before we get to Fox's massive influence over the coming elections, some back-story is necessary.

Less than two months after Obama's inauguration, Fox News senior vice president Bill Shine gave an interview with NPR about how the network's ratings were soaring at the time. During the interview, Shine noted that some people were "rooting for [Fox] to go away" after the election, but "[w]ith this particular group of people in power right now and the honeymoon they've had from other members of the media, does it make it a little bit easier for us to be the voice of opposition on some issues?"

Fox's programming has effectively answered Shine's rhetorical question with a forceful "yes."

Right out of the gate, Fox led the charge against the stimulus, eschewing the views of economists to attack deficit spending and rewriting history to attack FDR and the New Deal.

The network was certainly "the voice of the opposition" on health care reform, spewing countless falsehoods about both our broken health care system and the proposals to fix it while promoting disruptions of health care town halls and GOP initiatives to kill reform.

And of course, Fox operates as a perpetual dishonesty machine, trotting out a steady stream of overhyped scandals and faux-outrages to dent the administration and Democrats (mustard on Obama's "fancy" hamburger, anyone?)

The network was integral to fostering discontent with Democrats and the administration through their relentless promotion of the Tea Party movement. Fox gave the Tea Party a huge assist last year in the run-up to the original protests, which Fox took ownership of by sending several of their top hosts to throw "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties."

Since then, Fox has shown that there is no Tea Party gathering too small to treat as a news event, and their personalities continue to regularly appear at Tea Party events around the country.

But Fox has done far more this cycle than foster an environment conducive to a GOP electoral victory, having assumed a more hands-on role in Republican electioneering. In addition to Fox's parent company donating $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association and another million to the GOP-aligned Chamber of Commerce, more than thirty Fox Newsers have supported GOP candidates or organizations in more than 600 instances in at least 47 states, as we detailed in a report this week.

While it would be nearly impossible to run through Fox's influence in all of the individual races this year, their "coverage" of a select few races is indicative of the network's complete transformation into GOP headquarters.

The network tipped its hand for how it would handle covering elections in the "voice of the opposition" era during the run-up to January's senate election in Massachusetts. Not only did Fox portray Scott Brown as a heroic Founding Father-like figure while smearing his opponent, it also actively aided Brown's campaign by hosting him repeatedly in the days leading up the election and allowing him to direct viewers to his website so they could find out how to "help with donating and volunteering." After Brown's victory, the network was jubilant.

With the successful trial run out of the way, Fox copied the Brown blueprint in several other races around the country.

In the Nevada Senate race, Fox has spent months promoting Sharron Angle and attacking Harry Reid. While Angle has mostly refused to grant interviews to news outlets, she has made an exception for Fox. In fact, their welcoming atmosphere led Angle to brag about how "friendly" outlets like Fox help her with fundraising.

Fox personalities have also worked overtime to aid her race. Fox contributor Sarah Palin endorsed Angle and her PAC gave $2,500 to the campaign. Fox contributor Karl Rove's GOP slush fund (aka American Crossroads) has indicated it will invest in GOTV efforts to aid Angle. It is also aired an ad targeting Reid. Fox's Dennis Miller appeared at an October fundraiser for Angle.

And then there's Dick Morris. Fox's human ethics scandal has repeatedly fundraised on Angle's behalf while also touting on-air the anti-Harry Reid group that he's advising.

And as Election Day rapidly approaches, Fox kicked off this week by launching an evidence-free smear of Reid. After Reid's office responded to Fox's desperate attempts to create a new "political scandal," Fox's flagship news program, Special Report, deceptively quoted a statement from Reid's office in order to continue to push the story.

And, just in case their blatant efforts to get Angle elected fail, Fox already has their backup plan in place. This week, Fox News has been hyping comically flimsy allegations of "voter fraud" in Nevada. As top Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston explained to a confused Bill Hemmer, the fraud allegations are merely a "preemptive" strike so the GOP can "cry fraud" in the event Angle loses.

But a candidate doesn't even need to be in a close race in order to receive the benefits of FoxPAC support. In Delaware, Fox News has thrown their full weight behind Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, Karl Rove's short-lived detour questioning O'Donnell's qualifications for office notwithstanding.

Rove quickly got with the program and endorsed O'Donnell. He was joined by fellow Fox personalities Sarah Palin and Michelle Malkin. The network's hosts have heaped praise on O'Donnell while playing dumb in order to claim her opponent has admitted to being a "bearded Marxist." While it would be difficult to list all of the effusive O'Donnell praise, one characteristic outpouring of affection came from Fox Business host Stuart Varney, who labeled her precisely the kind of "new face, new blood that we need to get in there."

Following in Angle's footsteps by bragging about the love she gets from Fox, Christine O'Donnell told GOP insiders at a strategy meeting that she has "got Sean Hannity in my back pocket, and I can go on his show and raise money by attacking you guys." A host who was concerned about maintaining any credibility may have bristled at being portrayed this way, but Sean Hannity has long-since demonstrated his lack of concern for ethics. Far from being upset, Hannity is still welcoming O'Donnell on his show.

The Ohio gubernatorial race features Republican candidate John Kasich, who just so happens to be a former Fox News host. Kasich repeatedly used his platform as a Fox host to position himself for a run, and continued to appear regularly as a Fox contributor and host from the time he announced that he was paving the way for a gubernatorial run in March 2008 until he officially declared his candidacy on June 1, 2009. Since declaring his candidacy, Kasich has continued to reap benefits from his cozy relationship with the network. Several Fox News personalities campaigned for him and openly root for him.

Two Fox hosts - Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee -- have told Kasich that they "love" him. Hannity has appeared at a fundraiser for Kasich, invited Kasich onto his show to plug his website, and reportedly "pledged to give $10,000 to Kasich's campaign should he run, as well as have his wife give another $10,000."

Rupert Murdoch and his wife also donated $10,000 each to Kasich, and Murdoch initially explained News Corp.'s donation to the RGA as resulting from his "friendship" with Kasich. After Kasich's opponent (accurately) criticized Fox as a "propaganda network" that is "committed to getting Republicans elected," Bill O'Reilly responded by attacking him for "whining."

Those are just three races. I haven't even detailed Fox's love for "rock star" Marco Rubio, or the fact that Glenn Beck (along with the rest of the network) has transformed his show into a GOTV operation for the GOP.

So when reporters sit down to explain the results of next Tuesday's election, it's important that they include the role of Fox News in shaping the outcome.

And if you think the last few months were bad, just wait until Tuesday's election wraps up and attention shifts to 2012 and the GOP's presidential primary. Fox currently employs no fewer than five potential contenders for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, and things could get awkward as they try to figure out which of their friends they want to help elect.

It looks like FoxPAC is just getting started.

This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Ben Dimiero, a research fellow at Media Matters for America.

Taxpayer Dollars on Deceased! Maybe the living could get same deal?

Grateful Dead: Washington Spends Taxpayer Dollars on Deceased
Government Audit Reveals $1 billion Sent to Dead Workers

With the midterm elections looming on Tuesday and the federal deficit soaring to record highs, politicians across the country have been emphasizing the need to cut wasteful government spending in Washington. They might consider putting a stop to sending money to dead people.

In the last decade the government has sent over $1 billion to approximately 250,000 dead people, according to a new report from Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Coburn's office said it came up with the eye-opening statistic after reviewing government audits and reports by Congress, the Government Accountability Office, and various inspectors general at federal agencies.

"Nothing represents the stupidity of wasteful Washington spending more than directing a billion taxpayer dollars to the deceased. This practice is disgraceful and, in many cases, robs the living of promised benefits," Coburn said in a statement.

The problem can be found all over the federal government, according to the numbers cited in the report. The Social Security Administration sent $18 million in stimulus money to 71,000 dead people and $40 million in benefit payments to 1,760 dead people.

Double-Dip Recession Unlikely as GDP RisesPolitical Tsunami: Will Republican Wave Wash Democrats Out of Control?America's 20 Richest WomenThe Department of Agriculture sent $1 billion in farming subsidies to dead farmers.

The Department of Health & Human Services sent $4 million for heating and cooling costs to 11,000 dead people.

The Department of Housing & Urban Development sent $15 million in housing aid to 4,000 households with at least one dead person.

Medicare paid $92 million in claims for medical supplies prescribed by dead doctors, plus another $8 million in supplies prescribed for dead patients.

Medicaid, meanwhile, paid $700,000 in claims for prescriptions for controlled substances written for 1,800 dead patients.

Where does all the money actually go? In some cases to dormant bank accounts, but in most cases, to relatives of the deceased, the report found.

The blame, Coburn said, lies with Congress. "Congress itself created this mess by allowing poorly designed programs to continue unchecked," Coburn stated. "If Congress is ready to get serious about spending restraint, ending subsidies for deceased people is a sensible place to start."

It's hard to argue with that.


On Wall Street: All Reward, No Risk

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Wall Street bankers, traders and executives get paid so much money year after year for doing jobs that rarely require them to innovate, enlighten or put their own capital at risk, and have the nasty habit of periodically sinking our economy.

After a two-year stint as a reporter on a daily paper in the early 1980s, I worked on Wall Street for nearly two decades, and quickly discovered that I could make more money in one year as a banker than I could in a lifetime as a journalist. And that was when I was a relatively junior banker. By the time I was a managing director, the pay — and the pay spread — was astronomical.

Hedge fund and private equity managers, like professional athletes, put it all on the line every day. But the big banks pay their employees millions to gamble with other people’s money.
Curiously, though, the amount of time and energy I devoted to the two professions on a daily basis wasn’t all that different; both were totally demanding. While it was true that as a banker I generated revenue, or helped to generate revenue, and as a journalist, the publisher likely figured I was part of a cost problem, the discrepancy in pay never made much sense to me since I always had trouble imagining a newspaper without writers.

Now, after six years of writing about Wall Street — including two lengthy books — I remain at a total loss to explain the pay phenomenon. What’s worse, even the most modest sleights when it comes to pay on Wall Street — “The guy next to me got a $2 million bonus, why did I only get $1.9 million?!” — is enough to reduce someone to tears. Indeed, I have yet to encounter a person on Wall Street who can, with a straight face, justify his compensation on other than the most painfully tone-deaf grounds, usually along the lines of how they “add value” for their clients.

The Wall Street Journal recently estimated that Wall Street bonuses in 2010 will total $144 billion, in a year that has been less than stellar for most banks. Goldman Sachs has set aside $13.1 billion in bonuses for its approximately 35,000 employees, an average of $370,000 per person, which completely ignores the fact that people at the top of Goldman’s golden pyramid get paid millions of dollars annually while those at the bottom do not.
(In 2007, the three top executives at Goldman split around $200 million.) Goldman’s accrued bonuses for the first nine months of the year equaled 43 percent of its revenue and were down from the $16.7 billion that the firm accrued in 2009, or 47 percent of its revenue. (In a nod to the political gales blowing in its direction, Goldman accrued nothing for bonuses in the final quarter of 2009.)

At Morgan Stanley, half of the $24 billion in revenue the firm has generated in the first nine months of the year has been earmarked for compensation. At Lazard — a somewhat different Wall Street animal, in that it largely limits its actions to asset trading and advising on mergers, as opposed to trading on its own account — 61 percent of the revenue generated so far this year has been set aside for bonuses. And, incredibly, according to the Financial Times, UBS, the giant Swiss bank, has asked Swiss authorities to waive a $1 million bonus cap for its bankers “amid complaints” the cap “has strained some executives’ personal finances.”

Do Wall Street firms exist for the benefit of their shareholders, like other public companies, or do they exist primarily for the benefit of the people who happen to work there? The answer to this rhetorical question is painfully, and sadly, obvious. No other large public companies pay out anywhere near as high a percentage of revenue to their employees. But where is it written that this madness has to continue? Why does a financial engineer have to get paid exponentially more than a real engineer?

With his usual narrative flair, the New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell recently tried to figure out, why Americans pay their “stars” so much money. “There was a time, not so long ago, when people at the very top of their profession — the talent — did not make a lot of money,” he wrote. That’s true of Wall Street as well: in 1949, when Felix Rohatyn started at Lazard Freres & Co., in New York, he was paid $37.50 a week. This was a 15 percent better weekly salary than Ace Greenberg received that year when he started at Bear Stearns, where he would eventually rise to chief executive and chairman.

As Gladwell explains — thanks to such visionaries as Marvin Miller, the former head of the Major Baseball Players Association, and Mort Janklow, the literary agent — the talent began taking a larger percentage of the pie. The logic evolved, soundly, that those who took the greatest risks or had achieved greatness on a daily basis deserved the bulk of the financial reward, as opposed to those who happened to own the team or the printing press. We may not always like Alex Rodriguez, but most Americans can understand why he got a $275 million, 10-year contract to play baseball; he’s one of the great players of all time, and his talents bring in the crowds (and TV money) to the Yankees.

In finance, the rough equivalent of A-Rod are top private-equity titans, like Steve Schwarzman and Henry Kravis, or hedge-fund managers, like John Paulson and James Simons. These men risk large chunks of their own money (as well as their investors’) and make calculated gambles they hope will pay off. If they bet right, they get fabulously wealthy; if they don’t, they disappear into oblivion. Teddy Forstmann, a onetime star of the private-equity firmament, explained to Gladwell why he chose that business: “I wanted to be a principal and not an agent.” He wanted to be the talent and to be paid like the talent, assuming he performed.

But unlike hedge-fund guys, investment bankers are not principals. They are agents. And they are at their best when they provide important services to their clients — such as advice on mergers and acquisitions or the capital their clients need to grow — and at their worst when they pretend to be principals, using other people’s money to make bets for their firms that they hope will be eventually reflected in their bonuses.

And yet, somewhere along the line, bankers decided that they deserved to get paid like those quantifiable talents who put themselves or their capital at risk day after day. This is what mystifies me, since, as a group, investment bankers are the most personally and professionally risk-averse people I’ve ever met. After all, in what other business could they make so much money without putting any of their own money on the line? Outsized financial rewards should be reserved for those who take outsized financial risks with their own money or have outsized, demonstrable talent. Investment bankers, by and large, just do not make that cut.

At the end of his essay, Gladwell tells the story of how the baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial, after turning in a batting performance that was 76 points below his career average in 1959, asked the St. Louis Cardinals for a 20 percent pay cut off his $100,000 annual salary. This was a decade before Marvin Miller came and changed the calculus for players. Gladwell concedes that Miller would have been appalled by Musial’s decision. “There wasn’t anything noble about it,” Musial said in explaining why he did it. “I had a lousy year. I didn’t deserve the money.”

Which brings to mind what happened to Felix Rohatyn, at Lazard, when he took the advice of Samuel Bronfman, the Seagram’s magnate, and switched from foreign-exchange trading to Lazard’s mergers-and-acquisition group, where he would go on to become a legend. The moment he made the switch, however, Andre Meyer, Lazard’s senior partner, cut Rohatyn’s annual pay to $10,000, from $15,000. And Rohatyn had not even had a bad year.

William D. Cohan on Wall Street and Main Street.