Thursday, December 15, 2011

Morning Brief: Dems cave on tax on millionaires; Iraq War officially declared over, President says he's OK with law permitting Americans to be shipped to Gitmo; Australian committee recommends overhaul of media regulations

Tell me if you've heard this one before: the Democrats are caving. I know, I know, a real surprise. This time the surrender involves caving into demands from Republicans that there be no new tax on millionaires.

The proposal was never serious to begin with, of course, since such a proposal stood absolutely no chance in the House, where Republicans hold a solid majority. But the proposal made good politics, Democrats thought, and so it was proposed.

I'm sure quite a number of Democrats, including the White House, are now glad the proposal is now dead and the Congress can now move on to more serious proposals, like how to wrench more money from the poor and the middle class.

The AP is reporting that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has "formally shuts down US war in Iraq" – quite a trick since no declaration of war was ever announced. But I'm sure the AP is referring just to the costs of the war.

In that regard, the AP sums up the war: 4,500 Americans dead, 32,000 wounded, over 100,000 Iraqis killed. Panetta concludes that the war "has not been in vain." Well, that makes me feel better.

Speaking of caving in: the President said he would not veto a new defense bill that allows for the indefinite detention of Americans and the right of the government to send these Americans to Guantánamo Bay.

I have nothing else to add about this.

The Athens News reported this morning that unemployment in Greece has jumped to 17.7 percent in the third quarter of this year, from 16.3 percent in the previous quarter. Yes, that number is accurate, 17.7 percent.

"Public support for austerity and reforms will be difficult to keep with the economy in a deep recession and unemployment at a record high," said Diego Iscaro, at IHS Global Insight.

Police in Victoria, Australia raided the offices of The Age, the daily broadsheet published by Fairfax Media, according to a report by Agence France-Presse. Police were investigating charges that the newspaper had hacked into the computers of the ruling Labor Party.

A later report in the Sydney Morning News said that the paper was granted an injunction by the Victorian Supreme Court stopping the police from taking hard drives and other materials.

"This morning a team of six Victorian police arrived at The Age at Media House in Melbourne," said Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood. "The police have served search warrants and are presently conducting searches of electronic and hard copy files in relation to The Age's reporting of information on an ALP database prior to last year's Victorian election."

"This was a story with significant public interest -- a powerful, highly influential organisation collecting private information on voters without their knowledge and giving campaign workers, including, it seems, volunteers, access to it," said the paper's editor, Paul Ramadge.

The Morning News in Sydney is also reporting that a government commission will recommended that Australian media laws be scraped and rewritten.

"The media laws in Australia were largely put in place 20 years ago, and this is an opportunity to bring them up to date with all the technological change we've seen," said Glen Boreham, chairman of the review commitee. "This is just a chance to take a clean sheet and start from scratch."

According to the current regulations in place, a media company may own two properties in any given market – whether they are radio, television or newspaper. The regulations require "five diverse media voices in each capital city and four in a regional area, according to the Morning News story,.