Obama vs. The Senate

this article comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

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WASHINGTON (AP) — As the Senate prepares to begin debating new gun control measures, some of President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats are poised to frustrate his efforts to enact the most sweeping limits on weapons in decades.

These Democrats from largely rural states with strong gun cultures view Obama’s proposals warily and have not committed to supporting them. The lawmakers’ concerns could stand in the way of strong legislation before a single Republican gets a chance to vote “no.”

“There’s a core group of Democratic senators, most but not all from the West, who represent states with a higher-than-average rate of gun ownership but an equally strong desire to feel their kids are safe,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. “They’re having hard but good conversations with people back home to identify the middle-ground solutions that respect the Second Amendment but make it harder for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.”

All eyes are on these dozen or so Democrats, some of whom face re-election in 2014. That includes Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

The Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings Wednesday.

Interest groups, lobbyists, lawmakers, crime victims and others with a stake in the outcome will be watching these senators closely for signals about what measures they might support. The answers will say a lot about what, if anything, Congress can pass in the wake of the shootings of 20 school and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month.

At issue are Obama’s proposals to ban assault weapons, limit ammunition magazines, crack down on trafficking and require universal background checks. Leading the charge against those ideas is the National Rifle Association. The group wields enormous power to rally public sentiment and is a particular threat to Democrats in pro-gun states who face re-election.

The political concerns of Democrats create problems for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has his own history with the NRA.

The powerful gun lobby endorsed him in previous elections, but stayed neutral in his most recent race, in 2010. Even before Obama announced the gun proposals this month, Reid told a Nevada PBS station that an assault weapons ban would have a hard time getting through Congress. That comment irked Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., author of such a ban.

“Clearly it wasn’t helpful,” she said this past week in reintroducing her measure. But Feinstein’s original assault weapons ban was a stern political lesson for Reid and other Democrats. Its passage as part of President Bill Clinton’s crime bill in 1994 was blamed for Democratic election losses that year after the NRA campaigned against lawmakers who supported the legislation. When the assault weapons ban came up for renewal in 2004, Congress, under pressure from the NRA, refused to extend it.

Reid has pledged action on gun measures. “This is an issue we’re not going to run from,” he said. But he’s under pressure from all sides.

Some major pieces of legislation are shepherded by the Senate leadership to the Senate floor. But Reid is promising that the gun bills will go through the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman is Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a gun owner and Second Amendment supporter.

Reid also is promising an open amendment process, potentially a lengthy endeavor. Those signals have some gun control activists concerned that the process will go so slowly that it will grind to a halt without action. Some question whether that’s just the outcome desired by some moderate Democrats.

“I’m concerned just because Harry Reid has a mixed record on these things and we want him to be a champion,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

On the other side, the NRA, known for rewarding friends and punishing enemies, promises it will be closely watching Reid, too.

“He’s going to be torn and a lot of people are going to be torn, particularly Democrats, but I think as the debate goes on he’ll do more good than bad from our perspective,” said David Keene, NRA president. “All this stuff has been debated before and once you get into a debate and a discussion and say will this do anything to protect children, to prevent another Newtown, I think the answer is going to come out `no.'”

Baucus, Begich, Pryor and others have been cautious in their comments on Obama’s gun proposals.

Baucus called for “a thoughtful debate.” Begich told his home state Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that passage of any element of the package was “a long haul. … There are some of us who just fundamentally believe in a Second Amendment right.” Pryor has told Arkansas media that efforts on gun safety should start with enforcing existing laws.

Another Democrat closely watching the issue is Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, known for a 2010 campaign ad where he fired a rifle shot though a copy of Democratic-written climate change legislation. Manchin recently told a West Virginia radio station that he’s working on legislation to require background checks on most gun purchases. Details weren’t clear but that’s the area where advocates are most hopeful of finding a solution that could get through the Senate and possibly even the Republican-controlled House.

The NRA generally opposes legislation mandating universal background checks and disputes gun control groups’ claims that 40 percent of purchases happen without such checks. NRA officials question whether background checks could be done effectively in a way that makes a difference and doesn’t disrupt legitimate sales.

The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, is to testify Wednesday before Leahy’s committee.

Democrats, especially those from gun-rights states, will be weighing whether to side with the NRA or follow the president, or how best to split the difference.

“We’re a Second-Amendment state. I support the rights of sportsmen and target shooters and collectors to own firearms. It’s an important part of our culture and tradition,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in an interview. “But I just hear there’s such grave concern given the experiences we’ve had with Aurora, Columbine … people all over Colorado want to prevent these massacres.”

Jackson Williams.

Debt Ceiling? Again?

this article comes courtesy of Reuters:

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(Reuters) – Congressional Republicans, frustrated by the failure of earlier efforts to get President Barack Obama to agree to spending cuts, suddenly find themselves in a fight to keep their grip on the one tool they thought would give them better leverage: Their threat to block an increase in the government’s ability to borrow money next month.

That became clear on Monday as Obama used the last news conference of his first term for his most dire – and least wonky – portrayal yet of the woes that would befall the nation if the debt ceiling is not extended.

Rather than dwell on the impact of debt default on credit ratings that many people don’t fully understand, Obama spoke instead of troops, retireesand air traffic controllers all being without their paychecks shouldRepublicans make good on their threat.

“If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans‘ benefits will be delayed,” Obama said.

“We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialists who track down loose nuclear material wouldn’t get their paychecks.

“….Markets could go haywire. Interest rates would spike for anybody who borrows money – every homeowner with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire.”

Rather than try to explain how failing to raise the debt ceiling would impact borrowing, he compared it with eating “all you want” at a restaurant and then leaving “without paying the check.”

BARGAINING CHIP

The escalation (and simplification) of Obama’s rhetoric is designed by his own acknowledgement to take the debt limit entirely out of play as a bargaining chip by making it too hot to handle and thus non-negotiable.

Once having uncoupled it from the ongoing debate about spending, he can move on to the next controversy. That would mean negotiations about automatic spending cuts postponed for two months in January’s “fiscal cliff” deal and a less volatile debate at the end of March over continued funding of the government.

The United States scraped up against its $16.4 trillion debt ceiling on December 31 and is now employing special measures to meet its financial obligations. The Treasury Department said those steps could be exhausted by mid-February.

In response, Republicans are arguing that use of the debt ceiling as a bargaining tool is routine and that the consequences of refusing to raise it manageable.

Rather than prompting a default and an economic calamity decried by Democrats, these lawmakers say it will merely lead to a temporary shutdown of some government departments and programs – one that could jolt Obama into a meaningful deficit reduction deal.

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said in an interview with Reuters last week that it would lead to “temporary disruptions,” that would be blamed on Obama for refusing to bring down spending.

“Republicans should use, will have to use, for the sake of the country, any leverage they have to accomplish that goal. And the debt ceiling is one of the things that can be effective in helping to reduce spending.”

ahahaha. cartoon courtesy of Capitol Report New Mexico.

ahahaha. cartoon courtesy of Capitol Report New Mexico.

To back up their case that the debt ceiling is a routine bargaining device, senate Republican aides sent the media a note showing numerous cases of spending restraint going back to the 1980s that were attached to debt limit increases.

But lists compiled from the archives of Congress tend not to resonate with the public. And talk of shutting down the government – let alone actually going through with it – has proven counterproductive, even ruinous, to Republicans in the past.

After the government shutdown of 1995, polls showed that the public overwhelmingly blamed Republicans rather than President Bill Clinton for the disruption, a response which helped Clinton battle his way to a second term in office in 1996.

HEARTS AND MINDS

Some say that the current back and forth is still just early jousting over the issue.

“We’re still in the phase where you try to win the hearts and minds of voters before there’s any negotiations,” said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Potomac Research Group, which advises institutional investors on Washington politics. “Both sides are just digging in their heels.”

Obama and congressional Democrats are hoping the U.S. business community will help them win the debt limit argument by pressuring Republicans to promptly approve an increase in borrowing authority.

In recent days, U.S. Chamber of Commerce officials repeatedly have warned that leading the government to a default on its debt could result in serious economic disruptions.

Meanwhile, John Engler, the head of the Business Roundtable, a trade group of company chief executives, has recently called for a five-year increase in the debt limit, divorcing it from the spending debate.

With an inauguration address next Monday and the State of the Union address in February, Obama can be expected to keep hammering away on this theme.

Republicans want deep cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs and savings from the Social Security retirement program. Democrats are resisting these, and will likely only offer modest savings by adjusting inflation assumptions.

Some, though, do caution that while Obama may make headway in the public relations war, his approach could backfire.

“Obama blasting Congressional Republicans has this perverse flip side of only strengthening their resolve,” said Chris Krueger, a political analyst at the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners in Washington.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Fred Barbash, Martin Howell and Jim Loney)

Jackson Williams.

Newtown, Connecticut: What Happens Next

this article comes courtesy of Reuters:

(Reuters) – Parents of children who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut expressed mixed feelings on Sunday about what should be done with the facility and its grounds following a December shooting rampage that killed 20 students and six staff members.

Never Forget Newtown. 12/14/2012

Speaking at the first of two “community conversations” on the fate of the school, parents and residents of the community discussed whether to return children to the school or demolish it and build a memorial on the grounds.

Frantic parents who arrived at the school following the December 14 shooting had been directed to a nearby firehouse to learn the fate of their children.

“Unless you were a parent of a Sandy Hook student that day and had to walk to that firehouse, you don’t know how we feel,” Christine Wilford, the mother of two children who survived the shooting, said during her turn at the microphones set up in an auditorium at nearby Newtown High School.

“On that day, I looked around and it was my Sandy Hook family,” said Wilford, who echoed what most parents said at the meeting, which was they wanted to hear what families said privately about the facility’s future before deciding her own preference.

The mass killings plunged Newtown, a rural New England town of 27,000 residents about 70 miles northeast of New York City, into grief, along with much of the rest of the nation.

The shootings prompted President Barack Obama to place Vice President Joe Biden at the head of a task force that will find ways to curb gun violence. Biden is due to submit the recommendations as early as Tuesday.

The vice president has said he will recommend universal background checks for gun buyers and new limits on the capacity of magazines like those used by the Connecticut gunman. Gun rights groups said on Sunday that these restrictions would fail in Congress.

The elementary school remains closed to everyone but police investigating the attack. Its students, more than 400 children in kindergarten through fourth grade, have been relocated to a school in the neighboring town of Monroe.

Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra told the audience that the final decision on the school’s fate will come only after months of discussions with other groups, including teachers who were there during the shooting and families that lost children.

“The process ahead of us will take months,” Llodra said. “But we need to bring our Sandy Hook students home.”

‘AN ABSOLUTE INJUSTICE’

Merim Bajraliu, a senior at the high school whose sister attended Sandy Hook, said knocking the school down only increases the damage caused by the gunman.

“Some of my best childhood memories were at Sandy Hook school,” Bajraliu said. “I don’t think a psychopath should take this away from us. Razing the school would be an absolute injustice to those whose lives were cut short that day.”

Several parents agreed with Bajraliu, saying their children are asking to return to the school.

And yet one father who asked not to be identified said his first grader has said he never wanted to step foot in the school again, nor does his wife. He asked that whatever decision is made about the school’s future, that families be given the opportunity to attend any other school in the district.

Despite the differences, most of the parents agreed not to separate the children from their classmates.

“You can’t divide those kids up. They’ve been through too much,” said Jodi Markowski, mother of a second grader. “It’s not too soon. I want them to know where they are going to school.”

Families who lost children in the massacre are scheduled to meet town officials in the upcoming weeks, Llodra said. She is also meeting with the affected teachers in the temporary school.

Authorities have not offered a motive for the attack. The gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother before driving to the school. He shot himself dead following the rampage.

(Editing by James Kelleher and Philip Barbara)

Jackson Williams.

The Second Inauguration

obamainaug

this article comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s second inauguration is shaping up as a high-energy celebration smaller than his first milestone swearing-in, yet still designed to mark his unprecedented role in American history with plenty of eye-catching glamour.

A long list of celebrity performers will give the once-every-four years right of democratic passage the air of a star-studded concert, from the bunting-draped Capitol’s west front of the Capitol, where Obama takes the oath Jan. 21, to the Washington Convention Center, which is expected to be packed with 40,000 ball-goers that evening.

The first family will lead a parade of clanging bands, elaborate floats and marchers, including costumed dancers, prancing horses and military units, down Pennsylvania Avenue. The president will dance with the first lady, whose dress seems destined to be most anticipated fashion statement of the second Obama administration.

Estimates of turnout are 600,000 to 800,000, compared with the 1.8 million in the record crowd on the National Mall four years ago to see the first swearing in of a black president. The mood of this 57th inauguration will be tempered by the weak economy, high unemployment, the aftermath of the Connecticut elementary school shooting and the long war in Afghanistan that’s expected to require U.S. combat forces through the end of next year.

Yet recent developments have shown that inaugural enthusiasm is high.

A limited offering of $60 inaugural ball tickets for the general public sold out quickly, and inauguration planners have tried to crack down on scalping business that’s sprung up online. There’s an impressive list of celebrities, including Beyonce, Katy Perry and Usher, who have signed on to perform.

While organizers said Obama was cutting back the number of balls from 10 last time to just two this year, The Associated Press has learned that they are expecting more than 35,000 to attend the larger of the two and 4,000 to attend a ball in honor of U.S. troops – double the size of four years ago.

Another factor that could increase turnout is the unseasonably warm weather in Washington. Early forecasts indicate that Obama will be taking the oath of office while the temperature is in the 40s, with hardly any chance of precipitation.

Steve Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said that just because the festivities are going to be smaller doesn’t mean they are going to be any less significant.

“What we’ve been seeing from the very beginning is a passion and energy for this inaugural because people want to be a part of history,” Kerrigan said. “This is a moment that’s only happened 56 other times.”

Obama’s speech gives him a moment to command the world’s attention on a level that’s rare even for a president.

If history is any guide, Obama will try to put behind the divisive election. He has the State of the Union three weeks later to make his points on taxes, guns, immigration and other issues. It’s a good bet this day will be a patriotic love letter to America.

“Second inaugurals are often a kind of victory lap speech in a lot of ways, that would go back to Thomas Jefferson in 1805,” said presidential historian Leo Ribuffo of George Washington University. “Presidents are often reflecting on accomplishments of the administration and the challenges that will continue into the second term.”

The 2009 inauguration will be remembered as a milestone for a nation built on slavery and blood-stained by the civil rights movement. But Obama clearly has that historical context in mind for his second go-round, as evidenced by the Bibles he chose to place his left hand on while taking the oath of office – one owned by Abraham Lincoln and one by Martin Luther King Jr.

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Their selection is especially symbolic because Obama’s second inauguration comes on the federal holiday marking King’s birthday and in a milestone anniversary year involving both men. It was 150 years ago when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery, and 50 years ago when King delivered his “I Had a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – a monument that will be straight ahead in Obama’s sight as he speaks to his country.

“We’ve got the Bible of the great emancipator on top of the Bible of the leader of the civil rights movement for an African- American president to take the oath of office,” Kerrigan said. “It’s an amazing moment that people want to touch and feel and be a part of.”

The inauguration will transform Washington, where most federal offices would be closed for the King holiday, by shutting down streets downtown and bringing regular daily life in the city to a halt. Viewing stands are set up along Pennsylvania Avenue for the parade from the Capitol to the White House. Street lamps will be removed, then replaced at the day’s end.

It takes lots of people to pull it all off.

There are 550 people working for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, 1,300 members of the military coming in support roles and countless security officials, including police from multiple agencies and Secret Service providing security. The cost is high: Tens of millions of dollars in donations typically are raised to pay for the parade and parties, more than $1 million is appropriated by Congress for the swearing-in ceremony and security costs are kept under wraps but also covered by taxpayers.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who oversees the ceremony on Capitol grounds, has committed to preventing the crowd problems that marred the 2009 celebration, when thousands of ticketholders got stuck for hours underground in what became known as “the purple tunnel of doom.” That 3rd Street tunnel is being closed, and Schumer says there will be better signs to direct attendees, and staff will monitor Twitter and other social media to detect and address any problems.

Obama’s inaugural theme, “Our People. Our Future,” is meant to reflect the strength of Americans, their ability to overcome challenges and the country’s diversity. Diversity has been a focus in choosing participants throughout the festivities, with performers representing a range of demographics and parade participants from all 50 states.

The entertainment, too, reflects a variety of musical talents, with Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor performing patriotic standards at the swearing-in ceremony. Others such as Smokey Robinson, Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Marc Anthony, Stevie Wonder and the cast of “Glee,” are signed up for the other events, including a children’s concert next Saturday and the president’s two official balls.

Obama plans to kick off the weekend’s festivities on that Saturday with the National Day of Service, a call for Americans to serve their communities in honor King’s legacy. Obama, a former community organizer in Chicago, started the volunteer program four years ago and inaugural organizers say he hopes future presidents will continue it.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee is setting up a fair on the National Mall to encourage service that day and beyond and has staff working in all 50 states to coordinate local programs. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their families plan to personally participate in projects in Washington

Also on Saturday, first Lady Michelle Obama and Biden’s wife, Jill, are set to host a concert for America’s children as they did four years ago. Popular young artists are putting on a show and tickets are being distributed to Washington schoolchildren, among others. The concert will pay special tribute to military families as part of the two women’s focus on supporting their service and sacrifice.

At noon on Sunday, Jan. 20, the time the Constitution requires the new term to begin, Obama plans to take his official oath in the White House’s Blue Room with some media coverage, while Biden plans an official swearing in at the Naval Observatory. The public ceremony is not being held until the next day because inaugurations historically have not been held on Sundays.

Jackson Williams.

Anonymous & The Rape in Steubenville

anonymous

this article comes courtesy of Reuters:

(Reuters) – A county sheriff under fire for how he has handled a high school rape investigation faced down a raucous crowd of protesters on Saturday and said no further suspects would be charged in a case that has rattled Ohio football country.

Ma’lik Richmond and Trenton Mays, both 16 and members of the Steubenville High School football team, are charged with raping a 16-year-old fellow student at a party last August, according to statements from their attorneys.

Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, accused of shielding the popular football program from a more rigorous investigation, told reporters no one else would be charged in the case, just moments after he addressed about 1,000 protesters gathered in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse.

“I’m not going to stand here and try to convince you that I’m not the bad guy,” he said to a chorus of boos. “You’ve already made your minds up.”

The “Occupy Steubenville” rally was organized by the online activist group Anonymous.

Abdalla declined to take the investigation over from Steubenville police, sparking more public outrage. Anonymous and community leaders say police are avoiding charging more of those involved to protect the school’s beloved football program.

The two students will be tried as juveniles in February in Steubenville, a close-knit city of 19,000 about 40 miles west of Pittsburgh.

The case shot to national prominence this week when Anonymous made public a picture of the purported rape victim being carried by her wrists and ankles by two young men. Anonymous also released a video that showed several other young men joking about an assault.

Abdalla, who said he first saw the video three days ago, said on Saturday that it provided no new evidence of any crimes.

“It’s a disgusting video,” he said. “It’s stupidity. But you can’t arrest somebody for being stupid.”

The protest’s masked leader, standing atop a set of stairs outside the courthouse doors, invited up to the makeshift stage anyone who was a victim of sexual assault. Protesters immediately flooded the platform, which was slightly smaller than a boxing ring.

Victims passed around a microphone, taking turns telling their stories. Some called for Abdalla and other local officials to step down from office for not charging more of the people and for what they called a cover-up by athletes, coaches and local officials.

Abdalla then climbed the stairs himself and addressed the protest over a microphone.

Abdalla said he had dedicated his 28-year career to combating sexual assault, overseeing the arrest of more than 200 suspects.

Clad in a teal ribbon symbolizing support for sexual assault victims, Abdalla later told Reuters that he stood by his decision to leave the investigation with local police. He would have had to question all 59 people that the Steubenville Police Department had already interviewed in its original investigation, he said.

“People have got their minds made up,” he said. “A case like this, who would want to cover any of it up?”

Jackson Williams.

Al-Jazeera = Current TV

this article comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Al-Jazeera, the Pan-Arab news channel that struggled to win space on American cable television, has acquired Current TV, boosting its reach in the U.S. nearly ninefold to about 40 million homes. With a focus on U.S. news, it plans to rebrand the left-leaning news network that cofounder Al Gore couldn’t make relevant.

aljazeeralogo

CurrentTVlogoThe former vice president confirmed the sale Wednesday, saying in a statement that Al-Jazeera shares Current TV’s mission “to give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling.”

The acquisition lifts Al-Jazeera’s reach beyond a few large U.S. metropolitan areas including New York and Washington, where about 4.7 million homes can now watch Al-Jazeera English.

Al-Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, plans to gradually transform Current into a network called Al-Jazeera America by adding five to 10 new U.S. bureaus beyond the five it has now and hiring more journalists. More than half of the content will be U.S. news and the network will have its headquarters in New York, spokesman Stan Collender said.

Collender said there are no rules against foreign ownership of a cable channel – unlike the strict rules limiting foreign ownership of free-to-air TV stations. He said the move is based on demand, adding that 40 percent of viewing traffic on Al-Jazeera English’s website is from the U.S.

“This is a pure business decision based on recognized demand,” Collender said. “When people watch Al-Jazeera, they tend to like it a great deal.”

Al-Jazeera has long struggled to get carriage in the U.S., and the deal suffered an immediate casualty as Time Warner Cable Inc., the nation’s second-largest cable TV operator, announced it is dropping Current TV due to the deal.

“Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service. We are removing the service as quickly as possible,” the company said in a statement.

Previous to Al-Jazeera’s purchase, Current TV was in 60 million homes. It is carried by Comcast Corp., which owned less than a 10 percent stake in Current TV, as well as DirecTV. Neither company announced plans to drop the channel.

In 2010, Al-Jazeera English’s managing director, Tony Burman, blamed a “very aggressive hostility” from the Bush administration for reluctance among cable and satellite companies to show the network.

Even so, Al-Jazeera has garnered respect for its ability to build a serious news product in a short time. In a statement announcing the deal, it touted numerous U.S. journalism awards it received in 2012, including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award Grand Prize and the Scripps Howard Award for Television/Cable In-Depth Reporting.

But there may be a culture clash at the network. Dave Marash, a former “Nightline” reporter who worked for Al-Jazeera in Washington, said he left the network in 2008 in part because he sensed an anti-American bias there.

Current, meanwhile, began as a groundbreaking effort to promote user-generated content. But it has settled into a more conventional format of political talk television with a liberal bent. Gore worked on-air as an analyst during its recent election night coverage.

Its leading personalities are former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Cenk Uygur, a former political commentator on MSNBC who hosts the show called “The Young Turks.” Current signed Keith Olbermann to be its top host in 2011 but his tenure lasted less than a year before it ended in bad blood on both sides.

Current has largely been outflanked by MSNBC in its effort be a liberal alternative to the leading cable news network, Fox News Channel.

Current hired former CNN Washington bureau chief David Bohrman in 2011 to be its president. Bohrman pushed the network to innovate technologically, with election night coverage that emphasized a conversation over social media.

Current TV, founded in 2005 by former vice president Gore and Joel Hyatt, is expected to post $114 million in revenue in 2013, according to research firm SNL Kagan. The firm pegged the network’s cash flow at nearly $24 million a year.

AP Television Writer David Bauder in New York contributed to this report.

Jackson Williams.

Occupy This Movement!!

this article comes courtesy of The Guardian U.K.:

It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police.

The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

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The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated D.H.S., FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and D.H.S. working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI – though it acknowledgesOccupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization – nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a “terrorist threat”:

“FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) … reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat … The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.”

Verheyden-Hilliard points out the close partnering of banks, the New York Stock Exchange and at least one local Federal Reserve with the FBI and DHS, and calls it “police-statism”:

“This production [of documents], which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement … These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

The documents show stunning range: in Denver, Colorado, that branch of the FBI and a “Bank Fraud Working Group” met in November 2011 – during the Occupy protests – to surveil the group. The Federal Reserve of Richmond, Virginia had its own private security surveilling Occupy Tampa and Tampa Veterans for Peace and passing privately-collected information on activists back to the Richmond FBI, which, in turn, categorized OWS activities under its “domestic terrorism” unit. The Anchorage, Alaska “terrorism task force” was watching Occupy Anchorage. The Jackson, Michigan “joint terrorism task force” was issuing a “counterterrorism preparedness alert” about the ill-organized grandmas and college sophomores in Occupy there. Also in Jackson, Michigan, the FBI and the “Bank Security Group” – multiple private banks – met to discuss the reaction to “National Bad Bank Sit-in Day” (the response was violent, as you may recall). The Virginia FBI sent that state’s Occupy members’ details to the Virginia terrorism fusion center. The Memphis FBI tracked OWS under its “joint terrorism task force” aegis, too. And so on, for over 100 pages.

Jason Leopold, at Truthout.org, who has sought similar documents for more than a year, reported that the FBI falsely asserted in response to his own F.O.I.A. requests that no documents related to its infiltration of Occupy Wall Street existed at all. But the release may be strategic: if you are an Occupy activist and see how your information is being sent to terrorism task forces and fusion centers, not to mention the “long-term plans” of some redacted group to shoot you, this document is quite the deterrent.

There is a new twist: the merger of the private sector, D.H.S. and the F.B.I. means that any of us can become WikiLeaks, a point that Julian Assange was trying to make in explaining the argument behind his recent book. The fusion of the tracking of money and the suppression of dissent means that a huge area of vulnerability in civil society – people’s income streams and financial records – is now firmly in the hands of the banks, which are, in turn, now in the business of tracking your dissent.

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Remember that only 10% of the money donated to WikiLeaks can be processed – because of financial sector and D.H.S.-sponsored targeting of PayPal data. With this merger, that crushing of one’s personal or business financial freedom can happen to any of us. How messy, criminalizing and prosecuting dissent. How simple, by contrast, just to label an entity a “terrorist organization” and choke off, disrupt or indict its sources of financing.

Why the huge push for counterterrorism “fusion centers,” the DHS militarizing of police departments, and so on? It was never really about “the terrorists.” It was not even about civil unrest. It was always about this moment, when vast crimes might be uncovered by citizens – it was always, that is to say, meant to be about you.

(reporting by Naomi Wolf)

Jackson Williams.