Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why Al Gore is My President

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GENE AND GABLER AND JANE AND THE PRESS CORPS! Gabler and Lyons and Hall know the things your “mainstream press corps” won’t tell you: // link // print // previous // next //

THIS JUST IN FROM THE PLUTOCRAT PRESS CORPS: What does a plutocrat press corps look like? Go ahead! Just take a look at Dana Milbank’s piss-pitiful Tuesday “Sketch.”

For reasons only Zeus can explain, Milbank gets fobbed off on liberal viewers almost every evening, on Countdown. On Tuesday morning, though, the world’s greatest body-language guru was at his usual perch in the Post, sounding off about Social Security. Alan Greenspan has repeatedly said, on recent programs, that Social Security isn’t facing a crisis; but then, we would have thought that everyone knew that after the extended discussions of same back in 2005. But on Tuesday, Milbank was typing from plutocrat scripts—although, who knows? Given the company Milbank keeps, he may even believe them! At any rate, his Tuesday “Sketch” teaches a valuable lesson. Most likely, this is how any press corps will work when its opinion leaders are multimillionaires.

Russert could hardly have bungled it better! “Starting next year,” Milbank intoned, “the 80 million-strong baby-boom generation...will begin to bankrupt the nation by crashing the Medicare and Social Security systems.” The statement is absurdly disingenuous, especially when it comes to Social Security, but Milbank was eager to enhance it. “As the boomers retire, Social Security will go into the red in 2017 and become insolvent 24 years later,” he wrote, making a statement that could perhaps be defended as technically accurate—if you know what “insolvent” means in this context, which (trust us) few Post readers do. But the plutocratic scripting continued throughout, even extending to the photo caption, which shows a baby boomer “sign[ing] up for benefits while they still exist.” And, plutocrat tool that he is, Milbank simply couldn’t resist this old iconic groaner:

MILBANK (10/16/07): So, the Social Security commissioner has secret ideas for fixing the system and lawmakers secretly want to take action? No wonder the members of Generation X— born after 1964—are more likely to believe in UFOs than in receiving their Social Security checks.

Who knows? Maybe they believe the UFOs are already here after reading a press corps of Milbanks! All kidding aside, Gen X members believe such things for a simpler reason. They believe such things because people like Russert and Milbank have recited that crap for many long years. (Astoundingly, so did Obama and Edwards, at the last Democratic debate.)

It would be hard to produce a dumber column—and remember, this is the person with whom we get stuck on our nightly “liberal” news program. His “Washington Sketch” is almost always a mess—although, in fairness, he dissembles wildly against targets from both major parties. But try to believe that a semi-liberal is still out there peddling bull-roar like that. What does a plutocrat press corps look like? Go ahead! Read Milbank’s column!

ON A ROLL: In his typical “Washington Sketch,” Milbank offers inane analyses of the body language of whichever pol he’s dissembling about. Thanks to C-SPAN, we can often see how baldly dishonest his factual statements really are. (A recent piece about Rep. Tom Davis, R-VA, was an instant classic.) But even by Milbank’s comical standards, this recent chunk about Nancy Pelosi had to bring a smile:

MILBANK (10/10/07): Pelosi may have realized that her words sounded too calculating, for at one point she begged the reporters' indulgence for her to "be allowed a partisan moment." She smiled at her joke, then chuckled.

The ready grin seemed at odds with other body language that suggested Pelosi was not having an enjoyable lunch. She ignored her salad and roll, then waved off the chicken and vegetables and left her dessert untouched. "The tea is fine," she told the waiter, taking her first sip more than halfway through the lunch.

Omigod! It was just too perfect! These days, if you don’t eat your roll, that’s “body language” too!

In a rational world, Milbank would be dismissed as a clown, treated as a figure of fun. In our world, though, he’s constantly dumped on us unsuspecting liberals. But then, he’s part of a plutocrat press corps. If you doubt that, go ahead—just read Tuesday’s column.

GENE AND GABLER AND JANE AND THE PRESS CORPS: What do voters deserve to be told about their “mainstream press corps?” We’ll answer that a bit later. But many of the press corps’ most troubling traits were on full display during Campaign 2000, when it staged an ugly, twenty-month war against the Democratic candidate, Gore.

From that day to this, members of the mainstream press corps have tried to keep the public from knowing about that remarkable episode. But out in the country, some observers do know what happened. Take Neal Gabler of USC’s Annenberg Center, for example. On Saturday’s Fox News Watch, the panel discussed the press coverage of Gore’s Nobel Prize. Because the segment was so illuminating, we’ll post the transcript in full. Gabler clearly understands his country’s recent presspolitical history—and Jane Hall, of the American University, quickly chimed in too. The host was Eric Burns. We do some helpful highlighting:

BURNS (10/13/07): It has been a remarkable week for Al Gore. As the expression goes, you can't buy publicity like this. The week didn't start out well, as a judge in England ruled his film about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, was full of errors and students must be told about them, all nine of them—errors, not students, that is—before they can watch the film. The week ended with a draft-Gore-for-president movement gaining momentum. And the announcement that Gore had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

This, it seems to me, Neal, is going to cause an eruption in the press. Those who are pro-Gore and think he got a bum deal eight years ago, point out who could be better candidate for the presidency than a Nobel Peace Prize winner? And those who dislike him will be inflamed by the pro- Gore rhetoric?

GABLER: People will hate him no matter what he does, deny the science of global warming no matter how much it's proven to be the case.

BURNS: This is going to lengthen the debate and the argument and make it front and center

GABLER: To me, what is interesting is last month Vanity Fair had a piece talking about the war against Gore, how the media—not the right-wing media; she wasn't talking about Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, she was talking about Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd and Ceci Connolly—and how they went after Gore to destroy him. And that is something that's very, very interesting. The media needs to pay penance for that, for what they did to Al Gore and the country as a result.

CAL THOMAS: Gee whiz.

JIM PINKERTON: They gave Gore an Emmy, Academy Award and now the Nobel Peace Prize.

GABLER: They didn't—not the media.

PINKERTON: The culture has. Gore got some bad press in his life. It's fair to say—I encourage bloggers to look this up—if you study the positive press that Gore has gotten, he's a huge win for a long time now. Yes, I agree a lot of reporters think he got ripped off in the 2000 election. I don't think they wanted him to be president, but they love to rub Gore in Bush's face, as it were.

JANE HALL: Neal is right. I wrote about this in 2000 and analyzed stories in the New York Times. Media completely differently treated Gore and Bush. They loved Bush. It's in the face of what everybody thinks. It's not true.

Now he doesn't need to run. Why would he want to invite the coverage? He's getting the praise now. The Vanna White principle, he's loved now. If he opens his mouth, everybody will go after him.

THOMAS: Al Gore to the media is a secular messiah. He will deliver us from our flatulence and other things causing the global warming. This is the religion of much of the secular left-wing media. He's the perfect messiah figure. He doesn't require a lot of stuff out of us other than we give up our lifestyle and the way we have lived for many years.

GABLER: Secular left-wing media! Let me read something—from the, Vanity Fair quoted—Margaret Carlson said to Don Imus. "You can disprove what Bush was saying if you get in the weeds and get out your calculator or look at his record in Texas. But it's real easy and fun to disprove Al Gore as a sport, as our enterprise. Gore coming up with another whopper is greatly entertaining." It cost him the presidency of the United States.

BURNS: Neal, please.

PINKERTON: Neal picks out quotes from seven years ago.

GABLER: Seven years ago is when he lost the presidency, because the mainstream press cost him the presidency. War on Gore.

PINKERTON: That's what you think. Bill Clinton cost him the presidency.

THOMAS: He won the popular vote so let's leave it.

PINKERTON: In the seven years since, most people, maybe not Neal, agree Gore got a good run.

HALL: He's run outside the media. He's run outside politics. He's “reinvented himself,” the knock of the media on him. He's laughing all the way to the dad-gum Nobel Peace Prize and an Oscar. Who needs the media?
THOMAS: False doctrines. Secular messiah, false doctrines.

BURNS: Okay. We'll close on that.

Quick notes: Host Burns, who is normally fair and competent, misstated vastly when he said that the British judge “ruled that” Gore’s film was “full or errors.” And while we personally like Jim Pinkerton, “Big Pink” was just cosmically wrong about Gore’s press in the past seven years.

But let’s focus on the things Gabler knows—the things he quickly emphasized. He knows that it was the mainstream press corps—not Fox; not Rush—which played the lead role in that “War Against Gore.” He knows it was Maureen Dowd, and Frank Rich, and the Washington Post’s Ceci Connolly who were the main story here. (And Margaret Carlson, quoted speaking to Imus.) He knows to repeat the main idea, the one that might surprise many viewers: “The mainstream press cost him the presidency.” And somehow, Hall knows these basic things too! The New York Times loved Candidate Bush, she correctly said: “It's in the face of what everybody thinks.” (To read Hall’s real-time report, you know what to do: Just click here.)

Somehow, Gabler and Hall have managed to learn these important facts about recent history. But then again, down in Little Rock, Gene Lyons has managed to learn them too! In his new column, appearing around the country this week, Lyons also discusses Gore’s treatment. And somehow, he too understands the important recent history involving the mainstream press corps. Here’s a substantial chunk:

LYONS (10/17/07): Gore shared the honor with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientific organization founded in 1988—about when the then-Tennessee Senator began giving lectures about an issue that had galvanized him since his undergraduate days at Harvard. So no, Gore hasn’t “re-invented himself” after winning the popular vote in 2000 but seeing the Supreme Court, led by two justices appointed by his rival’s father, award the presidency to George W. Bush.

The idea of Gore as an insincere phony who habitually invents new personas is part of the Washington group narrative originally crafted—as most such stories are—by the Republican National Committee. For a concise version of how the Kool Kids at Beltway High—i.e. “mainstream” political reporters and pundits—trashed the Democratic nominee with fictionalized tales like “invented the Internet,” see Evgenia Perez’s incisive “Going After Gore” in the October 2007 Vanity Fair (available online).

The trashing didn’t end with the election. In October 2002 Gore gave a prescient speech warning that a dismembered Iraq would be more dangerous to American interests than Saddam Hussein. Presuming to speak for the entire “Beltway/Broadway clan,” Newsweek’s Howard Fineman denounced Gore as "as an annoying and ungracious bore who should have the decency to get lost." Around the same time, Fineman praised Bush’s taste for imperial purple and “ermine robes.”

But now Gore had accomplished something in the realm of intellect most politicians could only imagine. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown found his work “inspirational.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed appreciation that “a great American used his position to set an example.”

And the Washington Post? Its front page coverage of Gore’s Nobel Prize referred readers to an article headlined “Judge Rules Gore's Climate Film Has 9 Errors.” In a condescending editorial, it described Gore’s achievement as “impressive and important, notwithstanding factual misstatements and exaggerations such as the "nine significant errors" in the film cited by a British judge Wednesday. By also awarding the prize to the IPCC, the Nobel committee bolstered the more solid scientific assessments of the U.N.-sponsored organization…moderating some of his more questionable assertions.”

What, British judges now settle scientific disputes? Based upon what qualifications, I wonder? Maybe it won’t surprise you to learn that the word “significant” didn’t appear in Judge Michael Burton’s ruling. Nor did the word “errors,” unaccompanied by ironical quotation marks. The judge ruled in a lawsuit seeking to prevent “An Inconvenient Truth” from being shown to British schoolchildren. Known for his conservative sympathies, Burton threw out the case, ruling that “Gore's presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate.”

Like Gabler and Hall, Lyons knows it was the group still known as the “mainstream” press corps which drove the war against Candidate Gore. And when he notes, contra Big Pink, that “the trashing didn’t end with the election,” it’s Newsweek and the Washington Post he holds up for ongoing censure. “Your liberal media at work,” he snorts, at the end of his column. “Compared to Gore’s achievement, the Post’s ‘nine significant errors’ are childish quibbles.”

Somehow, Gabler, Hall and Lyons all know the shape of our recent presspolitical history, especially as this story played out in the mainstream trashing of Candidate Gore. And yet, this important story has rarely been told within the mainstream and “career liberal” media. It’s no surprise that Lyons and Gabler sound off from Little Rock and L.A., or that Hall is in academia, no longer a part of the press corps. Within that press corps, miscreants and their young enablers have worked very hard, for eight-plus years, to keep the public in the dark about the things these outlanders describe. For example, Jonathan Chait makes a fool of himself about these subjects in his new book and in last Sunday’s column (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/16/07)—but then, he’s part of a long tradition. Somehow, Gabler, Hall and Lyons know the truth. But career types refuse to tell.

We write all this with continuing reference to Paul Krugman’s Monday column. Once again, let’s be clear: Krugman has been/is/will be a hero; by light-years, he has been the most important figure in the upper reaches of our national press corps over the past eight years. Indeed, the past eight years would be hard to imagine without the superlative work he has done. But many readers didn’t understand why we found Monday’s column unfortunate. Tomorrow or Friday, we’ll spell that out—and we’ll refer back to Gabler/Lyons/Hall.

In the end, this story isn’t about Paul Krugman (great as he has been, great as he will be). It isn’t about Gabler or Hall or Lyons or Chait or The Daily Howler. It isn’t even about Al Gore—although anyone with a sense of justice would want to see his full story told. This story is about the American public—their right to know the basic facts about the way their “press corps” works. Before the week has ended, we’ll spell out a few more things the public ought to be told about their modern, plutocratic press corps. But the mainstream press has worked, for eight years, to hide the facts about Campaign 2000. These facts are known in L.A. and Little Rock. But in the end, these facts must be told in DC and New York—at the top of our national press corps.

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401 (K)s...hmmmmm.
Cash-strapped Americans raiding their 401(k)s

By Jilian Mincer

Dow Jones Newswires

October 14, 2007

Despite potential tax and investment problems, more investors have been borrowing from their 401(k) plans or taking hardship withdrawals in recent months, some retirement plan providers say.

Many in the field expect more borrowing in 2008, as consumers struggle with tighter credit and potentially higher mortgage payments.

"I don't think it's a groundswell but it's enough to be noticed," said Rick Meigs, president of, which provides information on 401(k) plans.

Increased borrowing on 401(k)s could be because of the credit crunch and slumping housing prices. To be sure, the indications are preliminary; it's too early to say why it's happening, according to the Hartford Financial Services Group.

Borrowing against your retirement nest egg may seem tempting but it presents a host of problems. It could significantly reduce your savings at retirement and create an expensive tax bill if you can't repay the loan when it's due.

Almost all plans allow borrowers to take money out of their 401(k) accounts and repay it plus interest, which is typically 1 or 2 percentage points above prime. Although plans vary, the most you can borrow typically is the lesser of 50 percent of a vested balance or $50,000.

Employees usually must repay money borrowed for a mortgage within 15 years, and money used for other purposes within five years. Most loans also have a $50 to $100 fee.

If you fail to pay back the loan on time and are younger than 59 1/2, you are subject to regular income tax and a penalty tax of 10 percent for early withdrawal.

"A few years ago, the buzz was about borrowing from a 401(k) to buy a second home," said Jeff Carbone, a financial adviser in Cornelius, N.C. "Now it's people looking at their 401(k) because they've extended themselves on their homes and credit lines."

Even though his clients typically have investable assets of at least $750,000, Carbone said some have "maxed out their credit" and feel the pain of higher payments for a home-equity line of credit.

Pamela Hess, director of retirement research at Hewitt Associates, sees "a marginal uptick" in borrowing. "The economy isn't as strong as it was a couple of years ago," she said.

Indicative of some of the stress, the amount of calls to Principal Financial Group Inc. about hardship withdrawals, while small, has jumped significantly in recent months, company officials said. Not all 401(k) plans permit hardship withdrawals, but the IRS allows them for, among other things, medical or funeral expenses, purchasing a primary residence, or avoiding eviction from or foreclosure on a primary residence.

The number of calls asking about withdrawals to prevent a potential foreclosure or eviction doubled in August over July, said Janet Fossell, director of individual investor services for Principal. There were fewer calls in September than August, but still more than in July.

"I think a lot of individuals are looking for different options," she said. "This is really a last resort."

Jamie Cornell, senior vice president, employer marketing at Fidelity Investments, which hasn't seen a loan increase, said: "This should be the lending source of last resort."

About 20 percent of Fidelity 401(k) investors have a loan, a figure in line with the industry.

Loans on 401(k)s are popular, said Bill Arnone, a partner at Ernst & Young, because there's no credit check, making them easy to obtain.

Even a person who pays such a loan back on time, and therefore avoids the 10 percent penalty, is getting taxed twice, Arnone said -- once when repaying the loan with after-tax dollars, and a second time when the money is withdrawn at retirement.

People who take the loans also lose out on potential retirement earnings while the money isn't invested.

T. Rowe Price has calculated that someone with a balance of $150,000 who borrows $10,000 at age 40 would see an $83,137 difference at 65 even if the loan is repaid, given an 8 percent return on investments and a 7 percent interest rate on the loan.

Should you lose your job, the costs could be even higher.

"The biggest reason [not to borrow] is the consequence if there's a separation from your employer," said Stuart Ritter, a financial adviser for T. Rowe Price.

Borrowers who are fired, laid off or quit typically have to pay off the loan within 90 days, Ritter said. If they don't and are younger than 59 1/2, they face income tax and penalties.

And the income could throw you into a higher tax bracket, said Linda Leitz, a financial adviser in Colorado Springs.

"What I'm finding is Americans in general are spending more than they make," Leitz said.

"And as the mortgage industry implodes, they look for where else they can borrow."

David Wray, president of the Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America, a non-profit association of companies that sponsor plans, expects that higher payments on adjustable mortgages will have people "looking for ways to make up that gap."

He warns people not to use their 401(k) savings if they're going to end up in bankruptcy. That's because in most plans, the 401(k) assets are protected in bankruptcy.

"The real issue is, what are people facing foreclosure going to do?" he said. "You don't want to tap the plan just to buy time because then you lose your home and your retirement."

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

WWIII predicted By A BUSH

Bush warns of World War III if Iran goes nuclear

Oct 17 11:45 AM US/Eastern

US President George W. Bush said Wednesday that he had warned world leaders they must prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons "if you're interested in avoiding World War III."
"We've got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel," Bush said at a White House press conference after Russia cautioned against military action against Tehran's supect atomic program.

"So I've told people that, if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," said Bush.

Copyright AFP 2007, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium

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