Friday, January 07, 2011

Fox's 2012 GOP Influence

Media Matters:
In a November ad for their special series "Fox News Reporting: The Challengers for 2012," Fox News promised "unrivaled access" to "the GOP's top White House contenders." Such access, however, isn't hard when correspondents just have to walk down the hall.

That Fox News helps Republicans get their message across to their conservative base -- long documented and publicly acknowledged by Republican officials -- is nothing new.
But what's unprecedented is the level of influence one news organization can exert on a party's presidential primary, and the rest of the media's coverage of that primary, by simple fact of who is on its payroll.

Fox News employs five Republicans considering runs for the GOP nomination: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and John Bolton. All five regularly appear on the network through exclusive contracts and all five have used their employment to position themselves for their respective runs.

Take the cases of Rick Santorum and John Bolton -- two potential candidates who have so little chance of winning the nomination that Fox didn't even include them in their twelve challenger profiles.

Both would largely be out of the public spotlight if not for their Fox News contracts, yet Santorum -- who lost his Senate seat to Bob Casey (D-PA) by 17 points in 2006 -- has appeared on the Fox programs America's Nightly Scoreboard (twice), America's Newsroom (twice), The Willis Report (twice), America Live, On the Record (twice) and Varney & Company (twice, as a "special guest") in the past two weeks.

During the same time, Bolton has appeared as a foreign policy and national security expert on America's News HQ (where he has a regular weekly slot), Follow The Money, America's Newsroom (twice), America Live, Fox & Friends, Hannity, On the Record, and Varney & Company (as a "special guest"!).

On the other side of the spectrum is Sarah Palin, who has little trouble attracting attention. But as her TLC program and public comments indicate, Palin prefers a certain type of attention in which she can tightly control the messaging.
It's no wonder then that her media appearances have mostly come within the friendly confines of Fox News, where she can pass on debunked theories and pal around with conservative opinion makers like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.

After leaving public office in disgrace, Newt Gingrich signed his "first television deal since leaving Congress" with Fox News in 1999. Since then, Fox News has treated him like royalty during his attempted rehabilitation. Gingrich has hosted Fox News Specials on college costs, religion, international gangs and bird flu (yes, bird flu).
On one day in 2009, Fox dispatched a reporter to provide round-the-clock coverage to a Gingrich-convened "Jobs Summit." Last year, during a typical softball interview, a Fox "straight news" program directed viewers to Gingrich's GOP tour and website.

Mike Huckabee is the only Fox candidate with a regularly scheduled show, the weekend talker Huckabee. Huckabee's show has always been closely tied to his political machine: the show was first announced in a statement posted on his political action committee and, according to the New York Post (via Nexis), "not, as is customary, from the network."

Since then, Huckabee has unsurprisingly used his program to position himself for a potential political run.
The former Arkansas governor has used Fox News' airwaves to grow his PAC and email lists directly (he touted the address of an email catcher website run by his PAC) and indirectly, through regular solicitations to give "feedback" to, which conveniently links to his PAC and an email signup page. Huckabee has also used his program's guest list as an extension of his PAC.

But why wouldn't Huckabee run? Again, Fox News' influence comes into play.

In November 2009, Huckabee remarked on Fox News Sunday that if he doesn't run for president, it's because "this Fox gig I got right now" is "really, really wonderful." Last month, conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg wrote that there's "growing buzz" that Huckabee "may not run because he's got a big new contract with Fox News in the works" (a Huckabee aide responded that there were no Fox talks).
Financial considerations could also come into play for Palin, who reportedly makes $1 million a year with Fox News.

According to Politico, Fox "indicated that once any of the candidates declares for the presidency he or she will have to sever the deal with the network." ABC's George Stephanopoulos noted that the Fox candidates may actually delay their announcements to reap the benefits of the Fox cocoon for as long as possible.
Reporter Claire Shipman replied that Fox's "very healthy platform" allows the Fox candidates to keep visible without spending money early.

The potential delay of their "official" announcements means that the Fox candidates can also compile staff and resources while still cashing a paycheck.

Huckabee, Palin and Gingrich have Fox-promoted groups ready to convert to campaign mode if each chooses to run. Santorum has already hired a staff member (for his PAC) in the important primary state of New Hampshire and, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader, is "expected to formally" announce "in the spring." And Bolton is reportedly "very serious about a presidential bid and has begun to speak with potential staff."

During this non-"official" period, the Fox candidates can also cite their Fox contract as a reason to decline appearances on other news organizations who may offer a tougher environment than Fox (a low bar). Indeed, Politico reported that "C-SPAN Political Editor Steve Scully said that when C-SPAN tried to have Palin on for an interview, he was told he had to first get Fox's permission -- which the network, citing her contract, ultimately denied. Producers at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC all report similar experiences."

Fox's 2012 situation has a parallel in something that happened in the 2010 midterms with former Fox News host and contributor John Kasich.

After leaving Congress in 2001, Kasich openly considered running for higher public office and joined Fox News to keep himself in public view. A former Kasich pollster told the Columbus Dispatch in 2002 that Kasich was "leaving himself in a position so that if something happens, he is as well-situated as somebody else."

On March 27, 2008, the Dispatch reported that Kasich announced "he is paving the way now for a gubernatorial bid" and quoted Kasich stating: "I'm going to go forward even more aggressively, and we're going to continue to ramp it up (for a gubernatorial run)." But Fox News didn't take him off the air -- presumably because he still hadn't "officially" announced his candidacy -- and by the time he formally announced his bid on June 1, 2009, Kasich had logged more than 100 Fox News segments as a guest host or contributor.

In a column last November, Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race author Dick Morris wrote that the "GOP primaries of 12 will be held on Fox News. ... we will see all the candidates on Fox News. Not just in debates, but in frequent appearances on the opinion and news shows on the network." For once, it seems Morris is right.

JUST A NOTE: USA needs to produce over 310,000 new jobs EVERY MONTH for the next 3.5 years to get EVEN with 3 years ago!

Private Sector Improves Jobs Picture Only Moderately

The United States economy ended the year by adding 103,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department said Friday, a number that missed expectations. In addition, the unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent last month from 9.8 percent.

The agency also revised estimates from the two earlier months, now saying that 210,000 jobs were created in October instead of 172,000, and 71,000 in November, instead of 39,000.

As with previous months, all of December’s gain — 113,000 jobs — came from private employers.

Federal, state and local governments continued to shed jobs — cutting another 10,000 last month after trimming 8,000 in November, revised from 11,000 — mostly on the local level. States and municipalities dealing with tighter budgets may be faced with further cuts as they try to shrink their deficits.

While the overall job picture showed growth, the additions in the private sector in December were not enough to significantly reduce the ranks of the unemployed or keep pace with people entering the work force. The outlook remains bleak for many workers. More than 14.5 million people were out of work in December, among them 6.4 million who have been jobless for six months or longer.

Still, economists noted that the jobs data is a lagging indicator and pointed to other signs of a turnaround, though their outlook for 2011 remained varied.

“The U.S. economy finally appears to be picking up steam and headed toward recovery,” said Steven Blitz, a senior economist for ITG Investment Research. “Several economic indicators — including manufacturing and services output, and sales of cars and consumer goods — have shown noticeable improvement over the last few months.”

The economy is predicted to have grown at least 3 percent in the fourth quarter, with estimates even higher for the 2011. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, for example, have forecast growth of 4 percent for this year.

Economists noted that manufacturing, consumer confidence, capital spending, and claims for first-time jobless benefits were among the data that have generally been improving in recent months, though December’s retail same-store sales reported this week were weaker than expected.

Personal income and consumer expenditures were higher, while the savings rate declined during the year.

“The figures clearly show that with demand for goods and services increasing, employers have far less justification to cut their payrolls,” said Bernard Baumohl, the chief global economist for the Economic Outlook Group, in a research note.

But the question, Mr. Blitz asked in his research note, is whether the labor market will keep pace with other economic growth “or will high unemployment be an enduring feature of the United States’ economy?”

In Washington, Congress returned to work this week, and Republicans, who have taken control of the House, have promised to make the economy and job creation a priority. Last month, President Obama and Republican lawmakers reached a compromise that extended tax cuts to all Americans and included $57 billion for unemployment insurance, a bipartisan effort that underscored the urgency felt by the administration and by lawmakers in both parties to prop up the still-struggling recovery.

On Friday, President Obama is expected to announce several additions to his economic team, including Gene Sperling to replace Lawrence Summers as director of the National Economic Council, White House officials said. The president will make the announcement at a window-manufacturing company in Landover, Md. The company, which makes energy-efficient windows and doors, recently expanded and hired new workers as a result of tax credits created by Mr. Obama’s policies.

Economists generally estimate that the economy needs to add more than 120,000 jobs a month simply to absorb newcomers into the labor force, a pace that employers fell behind last year.

That requires economic growth of about 2.5 percent, said Dan Greenhaus, the chief economic strategist for Miller Tabak & Company. “Until now, that has barely been the case; one reason the unemployment rate has drifted around this level for 12 months,” he said in a research note.

Goldman Sachs economists predicted the unemployment rate would fall significantly this year and in 2012.

Sven Jari Stehn, an economist at Goldman Sachs, noted that initial unemployment claims declined sharply in the latter part of 2010, a trend typically associated with an acceleration in hiring. That, he wrote, was “a prediction in line with our forecast for an average monthly payroll gain of around 180,000 in 2011.”

Investigation into death of Notorious B.I.G.

Mystery surrounds rappers' deaths
Christopher Wallace was shot and killed in 1997
A source says the unsolved case was "reinvigorated" because of new information
The source would not say what the new information was

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A task force made up of local and federal law enforcement agencies is actively pursuing leads into the 1997 slaying of hip hop artist Christopher Wallace, better known as Biggie Smalls or Notorious B.I.G., according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

According to one law enforcement source, the investigation into the 13-year-old unsolved case was "reinvigorated" months ago as a result of new information, but the source would not elaborate further because of the ongoing investigation that includes the Los Angeles Police Department, L.A. County District Attorney's Office and the FBI.

On March 9, 1997, Wallace, 24, was shot and killed while riding in a Suburban that was driving away from a music industry party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles police said a lone gunman in a Chevy Impala pulled alongside the Suburban and opened fire on Wallace, who was in the passenger seat. Witnesses described the suspect as being an African-American man wearing a suit and bow tie.

The main theory behind shooting was payback in a so-called rap war between East and West Coast hip hop artists and their record companies -- Bad Boy Entertainment in New York, which represented Wallace, and Death Row Records, headed by Marion "Suge" Knight, in Los Angeles.

Six months earlier in Las Vegas, a gunman opened fire on a car driven by Knight, killing one of his top artists Tupac Shakur. That murder remains unsolved also.

"East Coast was Biggie, West Coast was Tupac," Wallace's mother Voletta Wallace told a filmmaker in the 2002 documentary "Biggie and Tupac."

"Come on now, you're messing with lives here and that's exactly what happened. Two lives were lost as a result of what? Stupidity?" Voletta Wallace told the filmmaker.

Retired Los Angeles Police Detective Russell Poole, who worked on the Wallace case, told CNN that he believes Knight was behind the murder, even though the Death Row Records' boss was serving time on a probation violation at the time.

"Suge Knight ordered the hit," Poole said, adding that he believes it was arranged by Reggie Wright Jr., who headed security for Death Row Records.

Reggie Wright Jr. told CNN he had nothing to do with the murder, and Knight has repeatedly said he had nothing to do with the crime. Poole said he retired early from the LAPD, in part, because he was thwarted in following leads in the Wallace case involving police officers, some of whom worked off-duty for Death Row Records.

"I think I was getting too close to the truth," Poole said. "I think they feared that the truth would be a scandal."

One of the officers Poole said was involved is David Mack, a rogue policeman tied to the LAPD Rampart Scandal, who was sent to prison for robbing a bank in 1997, the same year Wallace was killed.

Poole said Mack owned the same type of car driven by the gunman who shot Wallace, and Poole said a friend of Mack's resembles a police sketch of the shooter.

CNN was unable to reach Mack for comment, but when allegations of his involvement in Wallace' slaying originally surfaced more than a decade ago, his criminal defense attorney Donald Re called the claims ridiculous.

Poole also assisted Wallace's family in their wrongful death lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department alleging a cover-up in the investigation.

Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks was the chief of police when Poole was investigating, and he told CNN the accusations about a police cover-up are "absurd."

"We would have never ignored a lead that could have helped us solve that murder," Parks said.

Perry Sanders, Voletta Wallace's attorney, told CNN the family's lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2002, was put on hold in April after Los Angeles police said turning over evidence from the case would interfere with a beefed up investigation.

Mack was released from federal prison on May 14.

Homeless YouTube sensation Ted Williams offered Hollywood movie role

Global sensation Ted Williams, the homeless man with the pitch-perfect voice, has been offered a role in a Jack Nicholson movie, Entertainment Tonight reported Thursday.

The 53-year-old Ohio man has been flooded with job offers after showcasing his pitch-perfect voice in a YouTube video recorded by a Columbus Dispatch reporter.

He is currently weighing up an offer as an announcer for NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and was offered a commercial stint recording an ad for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese that will air on ESPN during the Fight Hunger Bowl on Sunday.

Now he may be making his way into Hollywood.



"As a matter of fact, Jack Nicholson had contacted one of my in-laws who happens to be in Columbus Ohio," Williams told entertainment news program ET.

"They're supposed to be making a movie in which Jack is playing opposite a disc jockey, which he would like me to portray in the movie."

The news comes after Williams reunited with his mother Julia Williams in New York Thursday for the first time in 20 years.

Williams said, "Mommy, mommy” as he rushed to his mother in an emotional meeting at a Manhattan conference room, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

"My prodigal son has finally come home," his mother said.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Williams’ rapid rise to fame thanks to the YouTube video that has received 11 million hits has taken the world by storm.

A Dispatch reporter saw Williams, who was born in Brooklyn, panhandling beside an Ohio highway with a sign saying he the God-given gift of a radio voice so he stopped by with a video camera.

Before making world headlines Williams had a lengthy rap sheet -- according to law enforcement records -- that landed him in several Ohio lockups on criminal charges including theft, robbery, escape and drug possession, CBS reported.

Williams admitted his shady past during an appearance on American morning news and talk show "Today" and explained that he turned to crime so he could afford his drug habits.

CBO says health care repeal would deepen deficit

Rescinding the federal law to overhaul the health-care system, the first objective of House Republicans who ascended to power this week, would ratchet up the federal deficit by about $230 billion over the next decade and leave 32 million more Americans uninsured, according to congressional budget analysts.

The rough estimate by the Congressional Budget Office also predicts that most Americans would pay more for private health insurance if the law were repealed. The 10-page forecast was delivered Thursday to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), installed a day earlier to shepherd the new GOP majority. He immediately dismissed it.

The CBO's assessment, arriving as Republicans have mobilized to make the law's repeal the first major House vote of the new Congress, touches on a sensitive area for the GOP. Republicans are vowing to take tough measures to reduce the deficit, although they already have exempted the health-care measure from rules requiring that any spending increases be accompanied by offsetting reductions so that the net effect on the deficit is null.

The CBO's analysis provided an early glimpse of the brute force politics spreading across Capitol Hill and beyond in the new era of divided government. The broad changes to the health-care system, pushed through Congress by Democrats who controlled both the House and the Senate until this week, are among President Obama's proudest domestic accomplishments -- and now a central target of the GOP. On Thursday, congressional Democrats and their allies seized the budget analysts' prediction as ammunition. "It's plain and simple: We can't afford to increase the deficit by nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars, especially with the very first substantive vote of the 112th Congress," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana).

With equal speed, Boehner and other House Republicans repudiated the forecast of the nonpartisan CBO, saying that its analysts had relied on flawed assumptions they had been provided by Democrats. "CBO is entitled to their opinion," Boehner declared at his first news conference as speaker.

Specifically, the CBO, in what it called a preliminary analysis, said that the law's repeal would cost $145 billion by 2019 and $230 billion by 2021, then swell after that, because various money-saving and revenue-raising provisions would be undone. The 32 million uninsured Americans refers to the number predicted to gain coverage under the law.

House Republicans countered with their own report, containing their portrayal of the financial effects of keeping the law intact. The report, filled with the incendiary language the GOP has adopted to discuss the law, is entitled: "Obama-care: A budget-busting, job-killing health care law" and features on its cover a gate padlocked with a thick chain.

The GOP report contests the CBO's assessment that the law would lower the deficit. And it picks apart aspects of the law that Republicans especially dislike, including a requirement that many employers offer their workers health coverage or incur a fine, and tax reporting requirements.

Meanwhile, David Cutler, a Harvard health economist who was an influential health-care adviser to Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, plans Friday to release a paper predicting harmful effects of repealing the law on health insurance prices and on jobs.

The dueling appraisals reprise the partisan acrimony that surrounded the law's passage last March. Some aspects have taken effect already, including provisions designed to let young adults stay longer on their families' coverage, help people who are sick find insurance and encourage older Americans to get more preventive care.

The heart of the law takes effect in 2014. For the first time, most people will be required to carry health insurance. More people will qualify for Medicaid, a public insurance program for people with relatively low incomes. And states are to open health-care marketplaces, called exchanges, intended to make it easier for people to buy coverage on their own or in small groups -- most with help from new federal insurance subsidies.

In their zeal to abolish the law, House Republicans have said they intend to offer their own recipe to replace it. They have not defined the specifics but are trying to portray themselves as more than obstructionists of Democratic thinking.

As a result, the House Rules Committee has drafted a resolution to be put to a vote on Wednesday, after the main vote on repealing the law, that would direct four House committees to produce legislation to replace it.

The resolution sets out a dozen broad goals that align with long-standing GOP preferences for changes to the health-care system. Among them are "increased competition and choice" in insurance, changes to the medical liability system, and giving states more freedom over the shape of Medicaid. One item -- to "provide people with preexisting conditions access to affordable coverage" -- appears to refer to an idea the GOP historically has liked: high-risk pools, which are part of the new law.

The common wisdom is that the House will have ample votes to approve its legislation to repeal the law - but that the idea then will die in the Senate before it has a chance to reach the White House, where Obama would be certain to veto it.

In light of those prospects, Boehner was asked at his news conference whether he thought the vote Wednesday will be a waste of time.

"No, I do not," the new speaker replied. "I believe it's our responsibility to do what we said we were going to do. And I think it's pretty clear to the American people that the best health-care system in the world is going to go down the drain if we don't act."

Man arrested in sexual assault against children (This a dealth penalty case!)

Las Vegas police arrested a former day care employee Wednesday on charges of sexual assault against two girls.

Cameron Thomas, 27, was arrested on one count of first-degree kidnapping, six counts of sexual assault with a victim younger than 14, three counts of lewdness with a minor and attempted lewdness with a minor under 14. He is being held at the Regional Justice Center without bail pending a court appearance today.

Thomas, who lives in Las Vegas, is accused of abusing the girls, now ages 9 and 11, starting when each was about 5 years old. The girls, who now live in Phoenix, knew Thomas because he was a family friend and also worked at a day care center they attended.

Thomas worked at Kids R Kids Day Care, 2830 S. Cimarron Road, from January 2005 to March 2010.

According to a Las Vegas police report, the girls told Phoenix police that Thomas molested them in cars, bedrooms of various homes, in cars while running errands and while swimming with them in pools.

They said that he tried to molest them in a storage room at Kids R Kids but that each time they were able to escape him.

He also was employed by The Bright Child Learning Center, 8060 Blue Diamond Road, from March to December .

Las Vegas Police Lt. Robert DuVall said investigators are not aware of any other victims but are asking anyone with information about Thomas to contact them.

"We're reaching out in the off-chance that there are more cases out there that need to come to our attention," he said.

According to a police report, Thomas performed various sex acts on both girls and repeatedly raped one between the spring of 2004 and last spring. The family moved to Phoenix last January.

The case was a joint investigation involving the Metropolitan Police Department's Sexual Assault Detail and the Phoenix Police Department, which began investigating after a tip from child welfare officials and which later notified authorities in Nevada.

The children's parents told Phoenix police that they had known Thomas for years -- one since childhood -- and that Thomas would lavish the girls with expensive Christmas and birthday gifts while being much less generous with their other children.

Those children told police they were not molested.

The parents also said Thomas would "request" that the children stay overnight at his home, and they often allowed them to do so.

After being contacted by Arizona Child Protective Services, Thomas called the mother of the girls and asked her what was up, police said.

After being told that the parents believed the girls' account, Thomas reportedly responded, "Well, then, it is what it is.''