tv PBS News Hour PBS December 8, 2010 5:30pm-6:30pm PST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> lehrer: good evening. i'm jim lehrer. president obama urged lawmakers to back the tax cut deal, and told them to "get it done." >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. on the newshour tonight: political editor david chalian fills us in on the president's appeal for support and the response from his own party. >> lehrer: then, two takes on immigration. marcia coyle goes through today's supreme court arguments over sanctioning employers who hire illegal workers. >> ifill: and judy woodruff referees a debate on the dream act, a measure to allow the
children of illegal immigrants to become citizens. >> lehrer: plus, spencer michels reports on the cyber attacks against wikileaks and the hackers who have come to the defense of wikileaks. >> right now there are like 500 web sites set up just by supporters mirroring wikileaks' content. wikileaks was never in danger of being pulled off the web. now it's only more popular than ever. ♪ attend the tale of "sweeey todd" ♪ >> ifill: and jeffrey brown talks to broadway legend stephen sondheim about his life, his times and the art of writing rhymes. >> if the lyric is too packed, then the ear, the audiences' ear, can't take everything in. it's like an over-egged cake; it just is too rich. >> lehrer: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> this was me-- best ribs in nelson county. but i wasn't winning any ribbons managing my diabetes. it was so complicated. there was a lot of information out there, but it was
frustrating trying to get the answers i needed. then, my company partnered with united healthcare. they provided on-site screenings, healthy cooking tips. that's a recipe i'm keeping. >> turning complex data into easy tools. we're 78,000 people looking out for 70 million americans. that's health in numbers. united healthcare. >> opportunity can start anywhere and go everywhere. to help revitalize a neighborhood in massachusetts; restore a historic landmark in harlem; fund a local business in chicago; expand green energy initiatives in seattle. because when you're giving, lending and investing in more communities across the country, more opportunities happen.
chevron. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> lehrer: the president stepped up the pressure on disgruntled democrats today to get behind the tax cut deal he struck with republicans. he insisted again he has not forgotten his principles or his base.
>> lehrer: the event was a meeting with the president of poland, but mr. obama's focus quickly turned back to defending the tax deal. >> i think it's worth noting that the majority of economists have upwardly revised their forecasts for economic growth, and noted that, as a consequence of this agreement, we could expect to see more job growth in 2011 and 2012 than they originally anticipated. and i just think it's very important for congress to examine the agreement, look at the facts, have a thorough debate, but get this done. the american people are watching, and they're expecting action on our parts. >> lehrer: the action the president wants would preserve all the bush-era income tax breaks for two years, extend jobless benefits for 13 months, cut social security payroll taxes by 2% for one year, and cut the top rate of a new estate tax from 55% down to 35%.
after a day of digesting the deal, a number of democrats argued it gives too much to the wealthy and adds $900 billion to the deficit. outgoing house speaker nancy pelosi said the response was "not very good" when her caucus met last night. >> well, i think it is fair to say that there is a certain amount of unease with the proposal that was put forth by the president. >> lehrer: vermont congressman peter welch was even circulating a letter asking fellow democrats to reject the president's proposal. >> and what the president did by agreeing to the extension of these tax cuts to the wealthy and the very well off was essentially leave that fight and leave the field in the seventh inning when we have much... when we had a couple more innings to go. >> lehrer: on the senate side, majority leader harry reid suggested action might come quickly, but he said democrats do want changes in the plan. >> i'm right where i was yesterday. it's something we have to work
on. i've gotten a lot of input from the caucus. i've got... we had white house representatives again there today. they were... they did some good... they did some explanations that i think were helpful to the caucus. i'm where i was yesterday. more work to do is what i said yesterday. >> take a tally. >> lehrer: on tuesday, the president used words like "sanctimonious" and "purists" to describe his critics on the left. today, he rejected any talk that he might be viewed as a turncoat by that side of the aisle. >> it is inaccurate to characterize democrats, writ- large, as feeling "betrayed." i think democrats are looking at this bill, and you've already had a whole bunch of them who've said this makes sense. and i think the more they look at it, the more of them are going to say this makes sense. and republicans are going to have to explain to the american people over the next two years how making those tax cuts for the high end permanent squares with their stated desire to start reducing deficits and debt. i don't think that formula
works. >> lehrer: some republicans said they are concerned that the deal's not paid for, but most, like california congressman david dreier, appeared ready to support it. >> i'm not happy with every aspect of it, but i think about what could happen if we don't pass this measure. if we don't pass this measure, every american that's working that pays taxes will see a tax increase. >> lehrer: all of which left the president trying to round up enough democratic votes for passage. he dispatched vice president den the capitol again, this time to lobby house democrats. and here now is newshour political editor david chalian. david, so where do things stand right now? >> well, i think you do have to look at both chambers separately, the house and the senate. let's begin at the house side because that's where vice president biden went up to today to talk to house democrats. talking to house democratic source inside the room there said there is still significant
opposition. most of what the house democrats stood up to talk about to the vice president was in opposition of this deal. however, this same source said that the vice president made a forceful, coherent argument for the white house position here, which to me sounded like there might be some room here to bring some democrats on board. remember, jim, 63 democrats just lost their seats. a lot of them were democrats in more moderate or mccain-winning districts. they're new blue dogs. they're still here for this vote. it's not the new congress yet. so you might see a lot of those democrats that lost their seats in the election actually be the very ones who support the president. lehrer: also th lost e election. they have nothing further to lose. so any kind of pressure from any larger democrat isn't going to really ring true to them, is it? >> without a doubt. there's no ability for the liberal left wing, which is opposed to this deal, to bear pressure on them because, as you said, it's a free vote for them. i also met with a house republican leader today, and he
said to me, he said he thinks that a majority of his conference -- - youst heard david drye there -- a majority of his conference will support this. on the senate side we heard mitch mcconnell say a vast majority of his conference will support this. so the president looks like he's going to be able to get this through with a hefty amount of republican support and enough democratic support to cross the finish line. >> lehrer: so there is no sign that this thing is not going to pass? >> the senate i think is a pretty safe bet that this will get through the senate. minority leader -- majority leader reid still wants to tinker with it, but the white house is pumping out every minute another democrat announces their support for it. they're making sure every reporter in town knows that there is enough moderate, centrist, democratic support there that i think they're safe there. the house is very interesting because although i do think they will get the votes at the end of the day, it's going to be i think a closer vote and a tougher vote, and the republicans are going to have to hang on. if you hear from people like
sarah palin today, already dissing this deal. well, if conservative leaders start getting too concerned and publicly opposed to it because it does add to the deficit, because the tax cuts for the wealthy are not permanent and if some of those house republicans start to buckle, there's not a very big cushion among the democrats for the president. >> lehrer: what's the current reading on what kind of blood is spilled, is going to be on the table if it pass, liberal democratic blood? >> the president will have his work to take care of and tend to his base. there is no doubt that he has upset his base in a significant fashion her and i don't think it's going to be all this easy for him to repair it. however, he's got a two-year election cycle ahead of him, and there's plenty of time to repair the work with the base. what they're probably, in talking to white house aides, my sense of their political calculus, what there was no time for was any more erosion in the middle, and i think that they made a calculation here that the
president in 2008 campaigned, and a key component of that campaign of the obama brand was that washington's broken, i'm going to get there, i'm going to get both sides to agree on big issues and we're going to do the work of the american people. he himself has said one of his big regrets thus far is that he hasn't been able to come through with that, that he hasn't been able to change the way washington works. that's why you saw him so passionate at that news conference yesterday, jim, because he wantedo get out there and reclaim a bit of that brand that says, we've got to put the politics aside. i'm here making sure we get a deal for the american people. >> lehrer: and yet as we saw in the clip here, the president today said, okay, all right, we may lose it now, but we're going to fight again in two years on particularly tax cuts for the wealthy. >> right, his liberal base says, well, why do we believe you now? you said you were going to fight for i this time around and you didn't, but the white house in talking to aides, they're eager to have this as a central fight in that 2012 reelection fight.
i do think you will see him relit gait this matter obviously with the hopes on their part that the economy will be in better shape, negating that argument that it's still too bad of an economy to have taxes go up. >> lehrer: we have a little more time to talk about it between now and then. >> that we do. >> lehrer: okay. thanks, david. >> ifill: still to come on the newshour: sanctions for employers who hire undocumented workers; citizenship for young immigrants; cyber attacks on wikileaks; and a lifetime of lyrics from stephen sondheim. but first, with the other news of the day, here's hari sreenivasan in our newsroom. >> reporter: house democrats moved today to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year at a cost of $1.2 trillion. the so-called "continuing resolution," or c.r., would freeze the budgets of most cabinet departments. democrats and republicans sparred over the bill on the house floor. >> there are many arguments in this resolution that i have lost, but the fact is sooner or
later, if you're going to be responsible, you have to set aside your first preferences and simply do what is necessary in order to keep the government open so that congress doesn't become the laughingstock of the country. >> this is a christmas tree bill that provides more spending for the majorities, many domestic priorities before their time in the majority comes to an end in early january. >> i am encouraging our colleagues on both sides of the aisle who are concerned about excessive spending to oppose any effort to extend the c.r. beyond february. >> reporter: the capital ofof haiti was at times chaotic today after officials posted results from last month's presidential election. the government-backed candidate qualified for a runoff next month while a major opposition candidate was shut out. thousands of protesters claimed fraud and poured into the streets of port au prince. they set fire to the ruling
party headquarters, burned tires and put up barricades. haiti's president, rene preval, dismissed talk of fraud, and he criticized the u.s. embassy for questioning the results. state department spokesman p.j. crowley answered in washington. >> what we... we are determined to help haiti achieve is a credible election and a result... not one that the united states will impose, but one that the people of haiti can participate in fully, and that the government that emerges reflects the will of the haitian people. >> reporter: the presidential runoff is scheduled for january 16. in afghanistan, defense secretary robert gates voiced cautious optimism about progress in the war effort. he met with president hamid karzai in kabul and said he'll add his observations to the latest u.s. review of the war. >> i will go back convinced that our strategy is working and that we will be able to achieve the key goals laid out by president
obama last year, further embraced by other nato heads of state in lisbon. that is for afghan forces to begin taking the security lead as they have in kabul in more and more areas in the coming year. >> reporter: gates' visit came as the taliban released a video including images of u.s. army specialist bowe bergdahl. he has been captive for nearly 18 months. he did not speak in the video. also today, nato announced the deaths of two more soldiers in afghan fighting. a fire in a crowded prison in chile has killed 81 inmates. the blaze erupted early this morning during a prison riot. a nationwide television audience could hear the inmates' screams after a prisoner called for help on a cell phone. chilean president sebastian pinera condemned conditions in the prison as "absolutely inhumane." the complex holds 1,900 inmates, nearly three times its capacity. commercial space ventures took a major step forward today. a rocket owned by space exploration technologies was fired into orbit from cape canaveral, florida.
the "falcon nine" rocket carried an unmanned capsule named "dragon." the capsule splashed down later in the pacific ocean, the first time a privately owned space vehicle has managed that. the craft could become a kind of taxi to and from the international space station. on wall street, stocks managed modest gains. the dow jones industrial average added 13 points to close at 11,372. the nasdaq rose ten points to close at 2,609. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to gwen. >> ifill: we have two stories about immigration policy tonight. the first played out at the u.s. supreme court today, where justices weighed the constitutionality of an arizona immigration law. today's arguments arise from a 2007 arizona law that punishes employers who knowingly hire workers in the country illegally. the "legal arizona workers act" requires employersrs to us federal database to verify the eligibility of new workers. violators can have their business licenses suspended or revoked.
supporters of the law say the federal government hasn't done enough to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants. arizona governor jan brewer: >> well, the bottom line is that we believe that if the government isn't going to do the job, that arizona is going to do the job. we are faced with a crisis, and in regards to today's hearing, certainly we do issue licenses. we do, do that. and if we giveth, we can taketh away. >> ifill: backed by the obama administration, businesses and civil rights groups have insisted that t only teral government, not states, can enforce immigration laws. >> let the federal government do its thing, make a final determination. and if, at the end of that, in ordinary course, if you'd add a sanction to it, then arizona is free to do that. but what it's not free to do is create an entirely parallel mechanism for that, that purports to be state law in the guise of enforcing federal law. >> ifill: the employer database
used to check out potential employees, called e-verify, was the subject of this public service announcement from u.s. immigration and customs enforcement. >> why do people come to the united states illegally? they come here to work. the public can and should choose to reward companies who follow the law and employ a legal workforce. >> ifill: dan stein, president of the federation for american immigration reform, says he thinks the program is working. >> we know that the e-verify program is effective because employers get a yay or nay, and then the alien has a certain number of days so he can get the information or he's not going to be hired. so clearly its worked. e-verify would work a lot better if the obama administration would actually apprehend illegal aliens found on worksites, and they're not doing that. >> ifill: but national immigration forum's grisella martinez, who opposes the arizona law, believes e-verify will not fix immigration issues. >> when it comes to e-verify, you know, no technology on its own is going to solve the
problems of illegal immigration, and e-verify is always put out there as the magic bullet that's going to do that for us. but no technology erases the laws of supply and demand. ifl: aurey the associated press of county prosecutor's offices in arizona found that the law has had limited effect. of 101 employer sanctions complaints, only three civil cases have been filed. but dozens of business raids have led to the arrests of 131 illegal immigrant workers on criminal charges, like using forged documents or stolen identities to get work. today's case is just a fraction of the heated debate over immigration policy taking place in arizona. outspoken supporters and opponents of another controversial and even more expansive immigration law protested across the country after it was enacted earlier this year. that law is now under circuit court review and could also be on its way to the supreme court.
marcia coyle of the "national law journal" was at the court today and is here tonight to walk us through today's arguments. this is one of these strange bedfellows cases where we had the america civil liberties union on one side and the chamber of commerce on the same side for change. >> that's true, gwen. you had the chamber concerned about the impact of state law on businesses. hadome very tough penalties. and you have civil liberties groups and labor unions concerned about whether in overenforcing the law there might be discrimination against legal workers who just look foreign. >> ifill: was this really an argument about immigration, or is it an argument about what the state is allowed to do? >> it boils down to the latter. under our constitutional system, federal law is supreme. and this case is really about whether the 1986 federal immigration law allows arizona to do what it wants to do here. >> ifill: so in the courtroom today, how did the arguments break down? >> well, since the chamber of commerce and the a.c.l.u. lost
below and brought the appeal to the supreme court, their lawyer, carter phillips went first. and he told the justices that congress in 1986 enacted an exclusive and an exhaustive enforcement scheme for determining whether a worker is authorized or not. the 1986 law he said expressly states that it preempts, supersedes state or local laws that impose sctio otherthan through licensing or similar laws, on employers who hire illegal aliens. >> you mentioned licensing. in some ways i suppose the state is trying to argue this is a case about licensing businesses. they have the power to do that, not the power to punish. is that another key distinction? >> it absolutely is. in fact, the attorneys for the chamber not only mr. phillips, but for the united states, the solicitor general, they ran into sceptical questioning from chief justice roberts and justice kennedy who said that perhaps
arizona's law does fit within that exception in the federal law for licensing laws. but mr. phillips and mr. conte said this is not a licensing law. traditionally that's a law that says you're fit to do business. on its face they said this law is a pubishment law. >> ifill: because it's saying you're not fit to do business. the other way around. >> and here are some heavy sanctions we're going to impose if you hire an unauthorized worker. >> ifill: did other members of the court, other justices weigh in? >> yes, when arizona's attorney stepped forward, that was arizona's solicitor general mary o'grady, she said this is a licensing law, it's a fit-to-do-business law. we're saying in arizona if you hire an unauthorized worker, we're going to take an action related to your fitness to do business. we will impose a range of sanctions depending on the severity and the repetition of the violation. so she ran into some questions, sceptical questioning from justice ginsburg, who ted,
okay, well, arizona mandates that employers use e-verify. that's a federal program that's voluntary. how can arizona take a voluntary program and make it mandatory? and also... >> ifill: that's the state overstepping once again? >> exactly. it's a potential inconsistency with the federal law whi could ultimately result in the federal law preempting the state law. >> ifill: has the federal law been enforced? >> yes, it has, but that's also a sore point of contention here. justice scalia made it very clear in the argumes today that he similar -- sympathized with arizona ads's immigration problem. he said arizona had the take this massive step. he said it is massive step but they had to take it because basically the federal government isn't doing its job. >> ifill: justice eli that kagan, the newest member of the court, recused herself from this case presumably because she had something to do with it when she
was attorney general. what impact does that have? >> judging on the arguments today, it seems a real p potenti the court could split 4-4. there are only eight justices now. they seem divided. f they do split 4-4, arizona wins because it did win in the lower court and the lower court's decision will be left in place. >> ifill: and if arizona doesn't win or if it does win, does this have broader impact for other states poised to cotheir own immigration enforcement? >> other states have already taken steps, and, yes, it does have impact. as the united states' attorney pointed out, 40,000 municipalities can do what arizona did if this law is upheld. it also may have some real impact, for example, on the law that you mentioned in the pretape here, arizona's sb-1070, which is being... other stays --
states and other local governments are modeling laws after this. >> ifill: remind me what that does. >> sb-1070 requires local law enforcement to stop and detain people that they suspect might be in the country illegally. what the supreme court says in the employment case today about what a state can do in the area of illegal immigration, which is primarily a federal responsibility, will have an impact on what states and local governments can do and may give us a signal as to how the supreme court will look at that other arizona law, which inevitably is coming our way. >> ifill: an impact, chilling or otherwise. marcia coyle, thank you. >> lehrer: another branch of the federal government was also dealing with immigration issues today. judy woodruff has that story. >> reporter: the house of representatives is debating the dream act this evening, and the senate is expected to vote tomorrow. young illegal immigrants would
be offer patd to citizenship. the act has been a democratic priority for the lame duck session. dream stands for develop, release and education for alien minors. it would allow the children who enter the united states illegally before age 16 legal status to stay provided they attend two years of college or enter the u.s. military. we get two views now. angela kelley is vice president we talk with an advocate and opponent othe legislation: angela kelley is vice president for immigration policy and advocacy at the center for american progress; and mark krikorian is executive director of the center for immigration studies. thank you both for being here. well, as we said, the house is debating and voting tonight, the senate tomorrow. let's talk about the whys and the wherefores. angela kelley, you're in favor. what are the main reasons this should be enacted. >> sure. this is a limited program. it's for children and young adults who have been in the united states for at least five years. they're children and youngg adults that came at the age of
15 or younger. they can't be older than 29 to qualify. and what it does is it takes these kids who came through no choice of their own, their parents brought them, and it puts them on a conditional path. for ten years they're in a non-immigrant conditional status, can't get benefits, can't apply for their family members. they have to stay on the straight and narrow. after this period, presuming they meet the requirement, going to college or serving in the military for two years, they can apply for residency. seems like it's a reasonable program for kids who have grown up in the u.s., are very american, and it ensures they're working at microsoft and not mcdonald's their whole lives. >> reporter: mark krikorian, why is it a bad idea? >> the dream act, the actual piece of legislation, has a germ of a good idea and expands it into frankly a really bad piece of legislation. clearly those illegal immigrants who are brought here as very young children, as toddlers or infants and have spent their
entire lives here are a sympathetic group of people, no question about it. even they don't have any... their parents are the ones that are morally culpable. there is a case to make for an act of grace. the problem is it's very different if you came here at six weeks old and lived here for the following 25 years than if you entered at 14 or 15 because you are not in that situation what the advocates say american in all be the paperwork. it doesn't apply. >> so your problem is with the age? you're saying if they made it younger it would work? >> if they narrowed it dramatically. and the other problem is that it really is an amnesty. and so the question is you have to deal with the consequences any amnesty has, which is attracting new illegal immigration and generating future legal immigration. >> reporter: tackle both of those. first the age question, why 15? why not make it younger? >> look, i'm the mother of a 14-year-old, i can tell you,
she's a kid. she has to do and go where i tell her to go and do and she's supposed to do what i ask her to do. we're talking about people who came as very young people. they have already been here for at least five years. there is no magnet effect he, judy. if people in mexico are watchig this debate and they're thinking, hey, i can come over and get status for my kid, no way. you have to have been here, let's say it passes this month. if you weren't here in december 2005 or before that, you don't qualify. so there is not a magnet effect. this is for kids. these are for kids we've already made an investment inch now we want to make sure they're paying their tax, that they get a higher education or that they serve in our military. it's a very limited proposal for a very important group of people. >> reporter: so it sounds like a methodical, step-by-step approach. >> the problem is several. first of all, i have a 15-year-old. and if i were to take him and sneak into mexico and live there, which is very difficult to do because they're much more
serious about their immigration laws than we are, he would remain psychologically an emotionally an american because, yes, he's still a kid, but he's already... his identity has been formed here. that's why the advocates of the dream act never trot out people who came at 14 or 15. they always present, trot out for the media people who came here at six weeks or 13 months old and with good reason, because they're the ones that will resonate with the american people. >> >> reporter: are you saying there is an age at which this system would work? >> there's no magic number, but under the common law and in the roman catholic church, the age of reason is seven years old, so maybe if it was kids younger than seven that you'd have a much stronger case to make. >> reporter: the age? >> if this is what we're down to, whether it's age of reason when you're 15 or 12, the point is we have a broken great lakes system. this doesn't begin to solve it, but this at least takes people who have been in the united states for at least five years, their kids, and it makes them walk the straight and narrow, no
federal benefits. they're going to have to pay their own way, and they're either going to have to go to college or serve in our military. this is why the department of defense supports this bill. colin powell, secretary gates, they support this bill. 100 universities and college presidents have come out in support of this bill. it's very narrow, and it's for children. >> reporter: what about the education and the military benefits? >> well, the military, that's really malarkey. the migration policy has looked at the numbers. maximum at the absolute outside maybe 31,000 people would end up enlisting. it's not even a drop in the bucket in the military's enlistment. it's really more a political effort to try to make it more palatable for republicans. and, i mean, we haven't really touched on the fact that it's... there's nothing in this bill that relates to enforcement to blunt the effect that amnesties have in pulling new illegal immigrants. yes, the bill doesn't apply the people not here yet.
that's not correct. that's not the magnet effect amnesties have. end a message, come on in, keep your head down and you'll get the next amnesty. >> let's talk first tact military. with all due respect to the migration policy institute, i would rather vote with what the department of defense secretary has to say, what colin powell has to say and frankly the department of defense and their strategic plans looking forward, what's going to make our nation stronger, they recommend passing the dream act. so there is no doubt that there is a positive net effect for our military. >> reporter: quickly on the other point, that this just opens the door and says come on in. >> it's limited. first of all, our congress has already passed numerous enforcement measures this year. there is the biggest buildup we've ever had at the border. secondly there is no magnet effect to this bill. they want to have you believe it's an open-ended amnesty. what it is, it's a limited program. if you arrive, if you... you have to have been here for five years from date of enactment.
if it passes this month but you came in january 2006, you don't qualify. report all right. we've only got a minute or so left. let's talking about the politics of this. the prospects for it we understand look good this evening in the house. tomorrow the senate much tougher. where does this go from here? >> well, the senate... the house isn't even guaranteed. it's more positive for the bill in the house, but even there it's still iffy. the senate is very unlikely it's going to pass. this is really a last gasp measure. they've had two years to present this, have hearings on it, all of that. they never did it. now in the lame duck it really smells of desperation. >> it's a bipartisan bill. it was introduced by dick durbin and richard lugar. there are ten sitting senators right now who are republicans who have supported this bill in the past. it's been around for ten years. will they do the right thing tomorrow, i don't know. i hope some here's what we do know, they can pass on this issue, but the issue isn't going
away. at the end of the day it's going the take democrats and republicans to solve it. >> reporter: and if it doesn't happen this year, prospects in the future even tougher with a republican majority in the house. is there some prospect of a compromise? >> i don't see any legislation coming up in the next congress or the next two years, so 2013 would be the soonest anything like this would come. >> i worry that this issue is going to fall like many issues that need to be solved, but it's going to get caught up in the gridlock of washington. i think senate will have smart and sober debate on this next year. i'm not so sure on the house of representatives based on who will be taking charge of the judiciary committee. but this is an issue that... this is a political one quite frankly that any member who is seeing how the demographics are changing in this country has to recognize that it's important to latino community, and they're going to watch how people are or are not voting. >> reporter: we'll leave it there, angela kelley and mark
krikorian. >> thank you so much. >> ifill: next, wikileaks and the cyber attacks surrounding it. last night, we looked at the legal challenges ahead for the web site and its founder, julian assange. since its latest release of confidential government documents, wikileaks has also been the target of computer hackers. its supporters are striking back, temporarily shutting down mastercard's web site and targeting other companies who are severing ties with wikileaks. newshour correspondent spencer michels has our story on the online battle. >> reporter: for months, beginning when it revealed to the world secret u.s. war logs from afghanistan and iraq the wikileaks organization has been engaged in a global battle to keep its financial and distribution system intact on the web. now, the effort to stop wikileaks has redoubled as it slowly drips out in small, daily handfuls some of the 250,000
u.s. state department cables in its possession-- all stemming, allegedly, from computer theft committed by an army private, bradley manning. wikileaks is being bombarded daily by cyber attacks attempting to shut down its web sites. >> as they were getting ready to launch the state department cables, there was what is called a distributed denial of service attack. this is a very common problem on the internet. >> reporter: kevin poulsen is a senior editor at wired.com. he's been closely following the cyber war surrounding wikileaks. i talked with him in wired's san francisco office. >> basically, any hacker with what is called a "botnet," a collection of hacked machines that it can control, can direct those machines to flood any web site with so much traffic that it becomes unavailable. so, that's what happened the very first day, even before the state department cables were launched, and wikileaks went down for a while. >> reporter: that means that people wanting to get on the web site to read the disclosures couldn't.
>> the first attack, they actually know who did it. a hacker who calls himself "the jester" took credit for it. he has a history of launching these kinds of attacks on jihadist web sites. he considers himself to be somewhat of an activist or an independent cyber warrior. so he took issue with what wikileaks was doing, and he took the opportunity to take it down for a while. there have been more attacks since then where the attribution is a little sketchier. we don't really know who is doing it, but there is no reason to think that it is anything but a random hacker because there are just so many people out there with the capability of doing this. >> reporter: despite more attempts to stop it, wikileaks can still be found on the web. it is now housed at more than 1,000 "mirror" web sites and under different domain names. a major challenge for wikileaks is where its information lives on the web, requiring powerful servers that can handle the massive amounts of data and high numbers of visitors simultaneously, so it leases space from server companies in several countries.
last week, amazon, the huge internet book seller which also makes millions of dollars a year housing data on the internet, kicked wikileaks off its servers for what it called a violation of terms of service. amazon web services, or a.w.s., released a statement which read, in part: wikileaks posted a response on its twitter account.
poulsen questions amazon's actions here and points out they have hosted previous wikileaks releases, like the iraq war logs. >> amazon actually hosted the iraq war logs, the big leak from the iraq war, and they apparently were fine with it. they didn't shut it down. it's only now with these state department cables, less than a thousand of which have been published, that amazon has taken action against wikileaks. the massively large publication of the logs from iraq was completely undisturbed by amazon. >> reporter: senator joe lieberman, chairman of senate homeland security committee, reportedly urged amazon to break with wikileaks and called for more companies to follow the example, saying: amazon says it did not act because of government pressure,
but other companies are distancing themselves from wikileaks, and paulson says that means more serious problems for wikileaks. it has seen a major source of its funding instantly cut off when paypal, the popular online finance site, broke ties with julian assange, wikileaks' founder. until saturday, supporters only had to click on a button on the wikileaks page to make a donation; now its gone. paypal says assange broke user rules, and, in a statement, added: >> this, i think, is actually a much more seouous thre wikileaks than i think these half-hearted censorship attacks. now, we are seeing problems with their finances, we are seeing paypal decide to block wikileaks.
you can't give them money anymore. that's actually a danger to them because that is how they go most of their funds. >> reporter: how is that? you could just donate to wikileaks on paypal? >> yeah. they made more than a million dollars over the last year in donations, and most of that has come through paypal. and now that is cut off. and it just broke recently that mastercard has joined in, so you cant even make a direct contribution in to them through mastercard. >> reporter: today, we couldn't reach mastercard's site on the web. it is believed to be under internet attack from wikileak supporters. visa has stopped any payments to wikileaks, as well. in poulsen's view, it's all worked to the benefit of julian assange. >> it's no coincidence that assange set up hosting with amazon, a u.s. company, a very, very mainstream company. he did that knowing that there was a very good chance amazon would shut him down and that that would generate controversy and discussion. that would lead to more support, financial support and moral support.
so, basically, he set up... he set up the u.s. when he chose amazon for his hosting. and now, people who aren't necessarily devoted to assange's brand of radical transparency but are devoted to free speech are supporters of wikileaks. wikileaks was never in danger of being pulled off the web, but by trying it-- and trying it in such a clumsy way-- now it is only more popular than ever. >> reporter: the attempts to attack wikileaks' content will ultimately fail, poulsen says, because once something is on the internet, it stays there forever. >> ifill: there's more online about the coalition of hackers behind today's retaliatory attacks. hari has a conversation with brendan greeley of "the economist," who interviewed some of the people who worked to bring down the mastercard site and others. >> lehrer: finally tonight, a master class from a musical master. jeffrey brown talks with stephen sondheim.
♪ when you're a jet you're a jet all the way ♪ from your first cigarette to your last dying day ♪ >> reporter: from the opening lines of "west side story," stephen sondheim has been rhyming his way into theater history. today he's widely seen as the most important writer of musicals in the last half century. among his many renowned and often revived works where he served as both lyricist and composer, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. ♪ something for everyone a comedy tonight ♪ >> reporter: "company" ♪ cheers to the ladies who lunch ♪ everybody laugh "a little night music" ♪ isn't it rich are we a pair ♪ me here at last on the ground you in midair
♪ send in the clowns and the dark tale often considered his masterpiece "sweeney todd" ♪ attend the tale of sweeney todd ♪ he served a dark and a vengeful god ♪ now at age 80, he's looked back at his words in a book called "finishing the hat," talking about grudges, wines and anecdotes. that's all there, but what this really, is as we discussed during a recent visit at the music center in strathmore in maryland, is a tutorial on the craft of music writing. >> music goes with lyrics. it is so filled with emotion. if the lyric is too packed, the audience's ear can't take everything in. it's like an overegged cake.
it's just too rich. if the lyric is too sparse, its dull. it's always a juggling act to have the lyric just rich enough and just full of ideas enough and just full of surprises enough and just full of images enough. >> reporter: sondheim grew up in new york and had the great fortune of being taken under the wing of family friend oscar hammerstein, he of "oklahoma" and other shows written with richard rogers that revolutionized musical theater. >> he taught me to examine with laser-like focus on every word in a lyric and what the thoughts are. >> reporter: every single word? >> every single word because there's so few words in a lyric. i've soften said, if you think of a lyric as a one-act play, then each line is a theme, and a qaw train becomes an entire act. each line a scene. you have seven words. so let's say each word is a speech. well, if you're writing a play and something's wrong with the speech, you cut or change the speech, same way you do it, word by word. it is as focused as that.
♪ and how you're always turning back away from the grass ♪ the kind of woman willing to wait ♪ not the kind you want to find waiting ♪ >> reporter: and the greatest focus is on words that rhyme. sondheim writes when lying down, better for a quick nap when things aren't going well. he uses an old rhyming dictionary and a 1946 edition of roget's thesaurus. >> a rhyme can take something that is not too strong anake it much stronger. if you tell a joke in rhyme, it's twice as funny as it would be if you just told it in prose, as if it was just a speech. same words, but the rhyme does that to it. and that is one of the uses of rhyme is not only to focus the attention on the word, but to strengthen what you're saying. now, sometimes you avoid a rhyme
because if you don't want to draw the ear's attention, you want the fool them. one of the things youant to do in a song and in a scene and in a play is surprise an audience. ♪ he's a very smart prince he's a prince who prepares ♪ knowing this time i'd run from him ♪ he spread pitch on the stairs i was caught unawares ♪ and i thought well, he cares ♪ this this is more than just malice ♪ better stop and take stock while you're standing in stock ♪ on the steps of the palace >> reporter: that surprise can come in very subtle way, something happening between the ear and the brain. for example, he believes words that are spelled differently and sound alike, such as rougher and supper engage the listener more than those spelled similarly,
rougher and tougher. >> i think we see words as if they're on paper, sometimes when you hear them. i don't mean it's an absolutely conscious thing, but i'm absolutely convinced that people essentially see what they're hearing. >> reporter: so i'm hering rougher and supper and i'm... >> and that's a surprise. i got a rhyme colonel and journal. on paper they seem to have no relation at all. when you rhyme them, it's, oh. i really may be wrong about this, it's just something that struck me over the years. ♪ i feel pretty oh so pretty ♪ that's a... >> reporter: but sometimes the lyricist can try too hard and fool himself. one of the delights is when sondheim pokes fun at his own work most, memorablely when he collaborated with leonard bernstein as a song known and loved by millions. ♪ i feel charming oh so charming ♪ it's alarming how charming i
feel ♪ and so pretty that i hardly can believe i'm real ♪ >> it's far too sophisticated a phrase for a puerto rican girl to say. it sounds like there's a writer in the room. >> reporter: you say the lyricist wants to show off his rhyming skills, meaning yourself. >> most of the rhymes in "west side story" are very simple, go and so and may and day. it was more first broadway show. i wanted to show i could rhyme skilfully. >> reporter: people love it. >> well, they love it but they shouldn't. >> >> reporter: we love it but we shouldn't? >> i mean you'd love it more if it were true to to the character. who uses a phrase "how alarming to see you." that's literary. >> reporter: don't they go to the theater to get extra? >> sure but you have to be true to the character. i think you go to the theater to be losin the story, lo in the characters.
♪ not a day goes by not a single day ♪ but you're somewhere a part of my life ♪ and it looks like you'll stay as the days go by ♪ >> reporter: finishing the book takes sondheim through 1981. the second volume, still to come, will bring us up to date. what of that story and what of the enormous changes on broadway and musical neat center sondheim fears the economics of broadway have forced producers to go for the big spectacle and away from smaller and more challenging works like his. >> i can understand that safety play on the part of producers, but it's terrible because young writers aren't going a chance. the major thing is you cannot write shows just on paper.
you learn to write by writing in front of an audience. that's the difference between writing for the theater and writing books or painting paintingsment you learn by doing and you can only do it that way. nobody writes a sensational show the first time out. they just don't because they have to learn the craft, and the craft is not just the craft of writing. it's the craft of doing. it's the craft of putting it on. it's the craft of the combination of the orchestra and the sirntion and the final collaborator, the audience, because the audience is the final collaborator on every show. until you work with that collaborator, you haven't written a show. >> reporter: stephen sondheim, writer of many broadway shows, has spent much of this year being feted as he celebrates his 80th year. he told us that once that's out of the way, it's back to his writing couch and piano and work at writing some more. >> ifill: again, the major
developments of the day: president obama stepped up the pressure on disgruntled democrats to get behind the tax cut deal; the house pushed a bill to fund the government for the rest of the fisl year, at a cost of $1.2 trillion; and thousands of people set fires and built barricades in haiti's capital, charging fraud in the presidential election results. and to hari sreenivasan in our newsroom for what's on the newshour online. hari? >> reporter: you can watch all of jeff's interview with sondheim, including the tale of what happened when the then 15- year-old composer brought his first work to oscar hammerstein. also, on art beat, we mark the 30th anniversary of the death of john lennon. jeff talks to music writer and critic greel marcus. and judy writes about california's budget crisis and the task ahead for newly-elected governor jerry brown. that's on the rundown blog. all that and more is on our web site, www.newshour.pbs.org.
>> ifill: and that's the newshour for tonight. on thursday, we'll get an update from haiti on the post-election protests. i'm gwen ifill. >> lehrer: and i'm jim lehrer. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> i want to know what the universe... >> looks like. >> feels like. >> from deep space. >> to a microbe. >> i can contribute to the world by pursuing my passion for science. >> it really is the key to the future. >> i want to design... >> a better solar cell. >> i want to know what's really possible. >> i want to be the first to cure cancer. >> people don't really understand why things work. >> i want to be that person that finds out why.
>> we need small businesses. they're the ones that help drive growth, like electrician, mechanics, carpenters. >> they strengthen our community. >> every year chevron spends billions with small businesses. that goes to the heart of local community, providing jobs, keeping people in work. they depend on us. >> the economy depends on us. >> and we depend on them. and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century.
and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org