Current TV announced plans to expand its progressive news talk lineup with simulcasts of Bill Press’s and Stephanie Miller’s liberal-oriented radio shows in the morning. The six additional hours of content help to fill out the progressive cable news network that in the past year installed an evening block of left-leaning talk shows featuring The Young Turks with Cenk Uygur, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The War Room with Jennifer Granholm.

Press, who previously hosted CNN’s Crossfire and Spin Room and co-hosted a news program on MSNBC with Pat Buchanan, has had his radio show since 2005. He is onetime chairman of the California Democratic Party and is now based in Washington, D.C.

Miller, a standup comic based in Los Angeles, has worked in radio since the 1980s and debuted her current radio show in 2004. She generally offers a comic liberal take on the news, along with impressionist Jim Ward and producer Chris Lavoie (her “mooks.”) Regular guests include two other comics, John Fugelsang and Hal Sparks, who have joined her this past year on their self-styled “Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour,” which not only grossed $1.4 mln over 12 months but also produced a best-selling comedy album that was the first political comedy album to reach No. 1 on comedy charts of iTunes, Amazon and Billboard. Miller’s previous stints on cable news networks include co-hosting CNBC’s Equal Time with conservative Bay Buchanan and a brief simulcast of her radio show on MSNBC in 2007. Her father was former congressman William E. Miller, who was Barry Goldwater’s running mate in 1964.

“I’ve followed Stephanie and Bill for years. They provide the kind of smart, insightful news analysis that our viewers want to hear,” Current TV Chairman, Al Gore said in a press release. “Bill brings a vital perspective directly from the heart of the Beltway, and Stephanie’s fresh take on politics and news has a decidedly outsider flair. We’re really looking forward to bringing their voices to our viewers.”

David Bohrman, president of Current TV who formerly directed programming at CNN, said the addition of Press and Miller to the lineup “delivers on the promise of creating a 24-hour progressive cable network that speaks truth to power and offers a true alternative to traditional programming.” Bohrman added, “2012 is a crucial year in the history of our country and we felt that morning cable television programming was simply not speaking to Americans with progressive viewpoints and ideas. This new block will be an alternative to the tired banter and light news that is found on the air today. We are proud to be the only cable news network presenting independent, intelligent and engaging progressive programming for viewers every morning.”

Current TV’s audience is still very small. Brian Stelter noted at the New York Times (1/13) that on the night of the Iowa caucuses the channel had an average of 47,000 viewers, compared with 1.3 mln who watched CNN, 1.2 mln who watched MSNBC and 2.6 mln who watched Fox News — but while the average Fox or MSNBC viewers are in their 60s, the average Current viewer was 36 years old, which might help the channel attract higher rates for ads in the future. Miller, who ranked 21st among the “100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts” by Talkers magazine in 2011, has an estimated 3 mln listeners to her radio show.

If you don’t find Current TV on your cable and your city doesn’t have one of the 100 liberal talk radio stations (as opposed to almost 2,000 right-wing talk stations), you can hear the shows online at stephaniemiller.com and billpressshow.com (or on numerous smartphone apps that stream radio shows live or in podcasts).

RUSH SYNDICATOR SUSPENDS ADS. Rush Limbaugh said he is not concerned about the withdrawal of advertisers in the backlash against his repeated sexist attacks on a Georgetown law student who testified before Democratic House members in support of birth control, but Premiere Networks, which syndicates Limbaugh’s show, told its affiliates (3/12) that they were suspending national advertising for two weeks. ThinkProgress reported (3/12) that 140 advertisers, including dozens of major national corporations, had requested their ads no longer air on Limbaugh’s show. Lifelock and Lear Financial are among the only companies standing by Limbaugh, ThinkProgress reported. Limbaugh apologized for calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute,” but blamed leftists for forcing him to relax his standards. “Against my own instincts against, my own knowledge … I descended to their level when I used those two words to describe Sandra Fluke, I descended to their level and I feel very badly about that.” A Rasmussen poll found that just 29% of likely voters believed his apology was sincere.

LIMBAUGH’S NOT THE ONLY ONE. Rush Limbaugh is not the only right-wing nutter on “conservative” talk radio. Tom Junod noted at Esquire.com (3/8) that Neal Boortz, who claims to be a libertarian, called poor people “worms” in his 3/7 show. As Junod recalled, Boortz said, “The situation in this country is like a dog with worms. You bring the dog to the vet to be dewormed, but the vet is Dr. Obama, and he says you can’t get the dog dewormed because the worms have a vote. And that’s the problem, folks: the worms have a vote.” Boortz repeated, “the worms have a vote,” several times, Junod wrote, and then quoted somebody who emailed Boortz: “I’m going to call my dog Section 8 because so many parasites live there.” Junod concluded, “So Rush is particularly loathsome. But he isn’t the only one.”

It’s not a new trend, either. Ed Schultz on MSNBC last year (6/15/11) complained about racist and violent right-wing rhetoric, citing comments by Boortz who told his listeners “you need to have a gun ... And you do in fact need to carry that gun and we need to see some dead thugs littering the landscape in Atlanta.” Schultz also accused Glenn Beck of promoting violence for saying, “Why would you get a gun? To prepare for tough times, that’s why,” while pointing at a picture of President Obama.

SUPER PACS DOMINATE, ARE HATED. Unaccountable “independent super PACs” accounted for a stunning 91% of TV political advertising in the month before Republican presidential primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, Bloomberg News reported (3/13) but ThinkProgress.org noted that while more than $75 mln already spent nationally by these groups has undoubtedly altered the dynamics of the presidential race, it has also annoyed the vast majority of Americans. A Washington Post-ABC poll (3/13) showed a bipartisan 69% of adults don’t just dislike super PACs, they want to see them banned entirely.

KAPTUR EMERGES FROM SHOWDOWN WITH KUCINICH. Ohio Republicans who control the Legislature got what they wanted when they redistricted Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) against Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) to pit two progressive Democrats against each other. Kaptur used aggressive TV and radio ads, some of it deemed “false: or “half-true” by the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s fact checkers, to tamp down Kucinich’s vote in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) and Kaptur coasted to an overwhelming 56% to 39% win (the rest went to a third candidate). In his concession speech, Kucinich groused that Kaptur’s campaign “was utterly lacking in integrity with false statements, half truths, [and] misrepresentations.”

Tom Troy wrote in the Toledo Blade (3/8) that one of Kaptur’s most biting radio ads put Kucinich in the same category as LeBron James and Art Modell, two sports figures who are still hated in Cleveland for leaving the city. The Kaptur radio ad picked up on Kucinich’s earlier flirtation with relocating to a more winnable congressional district in Washington state. But Kaptur noted that Kucinich also put forth a group called “Veterans for Peace” that accused her of being in league with the “war machine.”

“We both voted against Iraq; we both voted for Afghanistan. I voted for defense bills; he did not. He was very misleading. He started it out,” Kaptur told the Blade. The day after the election, Kucinich would not say if he would support Kaptur in the general election against Sam “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher.

Kucinich is better known on the national stage for his runs for president as a principled anti-war progressive in 2004 and 2008. But while Kaptur was depicted by some of Kucinich’s progressive supporters as a conservative, her voting record was a solid progressive with a reputation of being more of a team player than Kucinich, as reflected in her position as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.

John Nichols noted that both candidates had 95% records with the AFL-CIO and 100% ACLU records. Both were strong allies of labor and opposed free trade deals and economic policies that favor the 1% over the 99%.

“Kaptur’s boldness in opposing the big banks and Wall Street, as well as her passionate advocacy on behalf organized labor, would have been missed, as well, in a Congress that needs all the economic populists it can get,” Nichols wrote for The Nation. “But losing Kucinich will be hard. In some of the toughest days for the American experiment as a Republican administration plotted to wage a war of whim in Iraq, Democratic ‘leaders’ stood down. It was Dennis Kucinich who spoke up for peace and who kept speaking up with a determination that gave hope to activists across the United States and around the world.

“The Republican mapmakers in Ohio may have drawn Dennis Kucinich out of his district, and out of Congress. But they will not draw him out of the history of these times. Indeed, when the story of America in the first years of the 21st century is told, Dennis Kucinich will be remembered as the rare member of Congress who opposed wars that could not be justified, who defended rights that could not be surrendered, who demanded accountability from the presidents and vice presidents who could not be allowed to have their way with the republic.”

WORK HOURS POINT TO CONTINUED JOB GROWTH. Work hours are nearly restored to pre-recession levels is nearly complete, the Economic Policy Institute (epi.org) reported (3/8). Economist Heidi Shierholz explains that the increase in hours was a drag on employment growth early in the recovery. But now that we have nearly worked off the “hours overhang,” employers needing to add additional hours will be more likely to add new workers instead of increasing the hours of the workers they have. This is a positive sign for future employment growth.

ROMNEY ‘CLEAR FAVORITE’ OF LOBBYISTS. A Reuters analysis of public disclosure records confirms that Mitt Romney is winning the inside-the-beltway primary of Washington lobbyists. Nearly 390 registered lobbyists and lobbying political action committees have contributed more than $1.5 mln to “clear favorite” Romney’s campaign and the super PAC supporting him, “far more than what any other Republican candidate or his Super PAC has received.”

Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) have together raised a combined $94,000 from registered lobbyists, while their super PACs have not received any money from K Street.

Romney has also used lobbyists as “bundlers” to help raise contributions, 16 of whom had collected more than $2 mln for Romney’s campaign through the end of 2011, according to a New York Times analysis (2/13), Alex Seitz-Wald noted at ThinkProgress.org (3/12).

Romney’s lobbyists donors mainly represent the healthcare, finance, and energy sectors. And Romney’s agenda would likely benefit the bottom line of many of these corporations, as he’s called for cutting corporate taxes, eliminating important environmental and labor regulations, and repealing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law and post-Enron Sarbanes-Oxley corporate accounting overhaul.

“The insiders approach this from a lot of different angles than a casual voter. They’ve been in town for a long time, they’ve watched this process for a long time, they can smell a winner,” said Tom Korologos of the law and lobby firm DLA Piper on Romney, Reuters reported (3/9).

MITT DECLINES MEDICARE, EMBRACES VOUCHERS. Mitt Romney marked his 65th birthday (3/12) with the announcement that he won’t enroll in Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors. Instead, the multimillionaire will pay for his own health care. He also supports the Republican plan drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and passed by the House last year to turn Medicare into a voucher program that would require seniors to seek coverage from private insurers. The plan, which was stopped in the Senate, would end the guarantee of coverage that the government now makes to seniors and likely would require most seniors to pay much more for their health costs.

Jonathan Cohn noted at TNR.com (3/12) that Romney might be able to get health insurance from his former employer, Bain Capital. If he tries to buy insurance on his own, it might be impossible. Even if he gets insurance coverage for himself, his wife, Ann, has multiple sclerosis, so she is likely uninsurable. With an estimated worth between $100 mln and $200 mln, he probably could afford to pay for his family’s medical needs out of his own pocket, but that makes him exceptionally rare.

“I still remember the day my father qualified for Medicare,” Cohn wrote. “Even though he and my mother are relatively affluent, he was thrilled when that day arrived, because he knew Medicare provided the kind of financial security that even the two of them would need as they get older.

“Forgoing Medicare may be an easy decision for Romney. For most Americans, it would be unthinkable,” Cohn wrote. As an insurance agent in Stamford, Conn., told him, “When you talk about the reach of the ordinary man or woman, somebody who doesn’t have multimillion dollars backing them up, it makes absolutely no sense.”

WE’RE STUCK PAYING MEDICAL BILLS OF WOMAN WHO SUED OBAMACARE. The lawsuit filed by the National Federation of Independent Business had a hiccup. The named plaintiff, Mary Brown, a 56-year-old owner of a car repair shop in Panama City, Fla., complained that the federal government wanted to force her to obtain health insurance. “She firmly believes that no one should have the right to tell her she has to use her own money to pay for health insurance,” Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB legal center, said when the NFIB filed its lawsuit in 2010.

But last year, Brown shuttered her business and filed for personal bankruptcy. Among her debts: nearly $4,500 in medical bills. More than $2,000 was owed to the Bay Medical Center in Panama City.

The NFIB scrambled to find another small business owner to replace Brown’s name at the top of the lawsuit and it settled on Kaj Ahlburg, a retired investment banker who now lives in Port Angeles, Wash. But Wendell Pottter, a former health insurance executive who turned into a critic of health insurance abuses and advocate of health reform, noted in a column at HuffingtonPost.com (3/12) that Brown’s experience illustrates that “It is people who have decided not to buy coverage — but who nevertheless get sick or injured and seek medical care when they do, even if they don’t have the money to pay for it — that make health insurance so expensive for the rest of us. And it is why the cost of coverage has become completely unaffordable for millions of other Americans who, unlike Mary Brown, really want it and know they need it.

Potter added, “While Brown says it was not just the unpaid medical bills that forced her and her husband into bankruptcy, the fact is that more than 60% of people who file for personal bankruptcy in this country do so at least in part because of medical debt. That doesn’t happen in any other developed country in the world.”

The most recent National Health Interview Survey by the Centers for Disease Control makes that abundantly clear. According to the CDC’s survey released in early March, one in three Americans say their medical bills are a “financial burden.” And it is not just the uninsured, Potter noted. “More than a fourth of those with private insurance said they were struggling with medical debt. That’s because insurers and employers are moving more and more of us into limited benefit or high-deductible plans. Why? Because of the absurd cost-shifting that is the hallmark of the US health care system.”

The spokeswoman the Bay Medical Center in Panama City that was stuck with Brown’s unpaid bills told Potter the hospital delivered $30 mln in uncompensated care every year, a burden that forced it to consolidate with another hospital system.

“Now do you see why we have to get everybody covered? Mary Brown might have avoided paying those medical bills by filing for bankruptcy, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us are off the hook,” Potter concluded.

ANOTHER CON TALKING POINT FALLS APART. Conservatives seized on a number in the president’s new budget, claiming that it shows that the Affordable Care Act will increase the deficit, because tax credits for working- and middle-class Americans who need financial assistance to purchase private health insurance will cost $111 bln more over 10 years than the administration had projected last year. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) demanded an explanation from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. But Jon Cohn noted at TNR.com (3/8) that a further review found that the $111 bln in extra subsidies for the health exchanges, which will start operating in 2014, would reduce demand for Medicaid, the program designed to provide health care for low-income Americans. The administration projects that spending for Medicaid will decline by $272 bln because some low-income workers will get their insurance from the health exchanges. So, Cohn noted, “the overall cost of Obamacare is, if anything, *lower* than it seemed a year ago.”

MEDICARE GROWTH SLOWING. A pair of researchers have found that per-capita Medicare spending is on a long-term downward path which is likely to continue into the future. Kevin Drum of WashingtonMonthly.com noted (3/9) that their argument is pretty simple: Although Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula has been overridden year after year (the infamous annual “doc fix”), they say that other attempts to rein in spending have actually been pretty effective. This suggests that the cost controls in Obamacare have a pretty good chance of being effective too.

FEDS DENY TEXAS WOMEN’S HEALTH MONEY. The federal government will not renew funding for the the Women’s Health Program after the state cut Planned Parenthood clinics out of the program, US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said (3/9). Perry said he would come up with the $30 mln to make up the 90% federal share of the cost to care for 130,000 poor women with state funds, although nobody is saying where the money will come from in the cash-strapped state budget. Critics say that without Planned Parenthood clinics the program won’t have the capacity to operate as well as it does now. TexasTribune.org reported (3/9) that Planned Parenthood treats 45% of the program’s clients, even though those clinics make up less than 2% of the program’s clinics. State officials are confident that the remaining clinics that aren’t affiliated with abortion providers can take care of the Planned Parenthood clients. But opponents of the Planned Parenthood cuts argue that many of the remaining clinics are run by individual doctors who are unlikely to want to take on more government-subsidized patients.

SENATE REJECTS KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE. A Republican amendment by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to force immediate approval of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline failed to get the 60 votes it needed, on a 56-42 vote. Democrats Max Baucus (MT), Begich (AK), Conrad (ND), Hagan (NC), Landrieu (LA), Manchin (WV), McCaskill (MO), Pryor (AR), Tester (MT), and Webb (VA) voted with Senate Republicans to strip authority for the pipeline’s approval from the president of the US. Brad Johnson of ThinkProgress Green noted (3/8) that despite the intensity of climate activism, New England Republicans Ayotte (NH), Brown (MA), Collins (ME) and Snowe (ME) stayed with the Republican bloc in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline. The amendment was attached to the unrelated highway funding bill.

Before that vote, an amendment by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to keep the tar sands pipeline American-made and keep its oil for American markets was defeated 33-65. The amendment to the unrelated highway bill was designed to expose the hypocrisy of Keystone XL advocates who have argued that the foreign-owned, foreign-oil pipeline was a patriotic American priority, Johnson noted at ThinkProgress.org. As Sen. Hoeven admitted before the vote, the passage of this amendment would doom the project — because Keystone XL’s owner, TransCanada, intends to build the pipeline with foreign steel and ship its foreign oil for export to foreign markets.

GOP BLOCKS JUDGE NOMINEES IN SNIT. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tried to shake loose the logjam of federal judicial nominees by moving to approve 17 of President Obama’s nominees with little success (3/13). Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) admitted that, even though the judges will be confirmed eventually, he was blocking them because he was upset that Reid was making him look bad.

Ian Milhiser noted at ThinkProgress.org (3/13), “If this is truly McConnell’s reason for blocking these judges, then he just made an absolutely shocking admission. Thanks to excessive judicial vacancies, America’s courts are increasingly unable to function. In some courts, judges are so overburdened they have to rush major felony cases through as if they involved minor traffic violations. In one court, felony caseloads nearly doubled in just two years. Every court that is unable to handle its caseload means wrongly fired workers waiting months or years for justice and businesses that must delay making new hires until they are sure they won’t be hit with an unwarranted legal judgment. And yet McConnell says he is willing to punish all of these workers and businesses because he is upset that Reid has made him look bad. America can ill afford this kind of tantrum.”

Milhiser and Adam Peck noted (3/12) that obstruction of judicial nominees has skyrocketed, as the average Obama nominee must wait nearly four times as long for a vote as the average nominee at this point in the Bush presidency. The number of days between committee approval and a Senate vote for circuit court judges averaged 28 days for Bush appointees and 136 days for Obama appointees. The wait for district judges averaged 22 days for Bush appointees and 93 days for Obama appointees, according to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Federal courts reported 83 current vacancies, with 39 nominees pending (3/13).

From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2012


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