Target Rich Evironment Part III.

October 18, 2010

Section I. Raese to the Bottom

Tea Bagger, superstar inheritor and perennial West Virginia Senate candidate John Raese is at least a part-time resident of Florida.  That’s where Raese’s home with the fancy, not at all ostentatious and tacky, soft pink marble driveway is.  It’s also where he claim’s “homeowner exemptions, only available to Florida state residents, including a $25,000 one this year,” according to Palm Beach County property records accessed by Politico. Most famously, Florida is also where his wife is registered to vote and his kids go to school.  Yahoo/CQ-Roll Call have the latest developments in this hilarious example of bumbling Tea Party delusion, deception and cognitive dissonance, reporting that “Elizabeth Raese is registered to vote in both states but has not voted in West Virginia since 1998.”  According to the same report, Politifact discovered Raese’s wife “has been registered to vote in Palm Beach County, Fla., since 2001 and voted there in 2008.”   She is now being officially removed from county voter rolls in Morgantown, West Virginia.  Where the story really gets funny, and veers into Great Moments in Republican Implausibility territory, is the revelation that Mrs. Raese defiantly told a Time reporter the following:

“‘We are West Virginians,'” Elizabeth Raese said, according to Time reporter Jay Newton-Small. “We live here, we vote here, people know that. We also have a home in Colorado, but we’re not residents there either.”

See, normal ole’ CEO/Gilded Age enthusiast John Raese and his family don’t really live in Florida, or Colorado, except for all of the easily available evidence that says they do.   Move along, nothing for the rubes to see here.  In the latest entry to Great Moment in Republican Implausibility sweepstakes, a Raese campaign spokesman told CQ-Roll Call that “Elizabeth Raese does not remember the conversation with the Time reporter, but he added that, ‘If she did say this, she obviously misspoke.'”  I can relate, I always seem to forget speaking with reporters from Time.   Talking with members of national media outlets is so boring and commonplace, it just slips your mind during those long journeys from mansion to mansion.    The hapless Raese was also given an anvil by Palm Beach, Florida resident Rush Limbaugh who further corroborated his residence in Palm Beach by saying, of Raese, on his radio show:

“He is a part-time resident here in Palm Beach, and he has a locker right across the, right across the bench from me at a prominent local club. I’ve never played golf with him, but I’ve met him”

You know, regular guy stuff that you and all your friends who own at least 3 homes and belong to ‘prominent’ clubs can relate to in between rounds of Golf.  When are Tea Partiers going to see the absurdity and cognitive dissonance inherent in listening to one multi-millionaire defend another by saying “Hey, West Virginia voters, go vote for this good guy I know from our ‘prominent’ country club in Palm Beach, Florida.”  And Tea Baggers have the nerve to wonder why they don’t get taken seriously.  Keep on fighting for Rush and Raese’s tax rates to stay low, you brave and mighty patriots!  Godspeed.  West Virginia governor Joe Manchin, who is running for the Senate against Raese, ran an ad with one of the best lines of the entire cycle:

“Raese’s wife is registered to vote in Florida so she can’t even vote for him. Why should we?”

Section II. Joe Miller-Moron Militia

Senate candidate Joe Miller’s private security “arrested” a journalist for “trespassing” at a public event yesterday.  You read that correctly.  There are many scary WTF levels to this debacle.  Miller’s private security is provided by a company called Drop Zone.  Shannyn Moore reports, on her excellent blog Just a Girl From Homer, in a post titled “Joe Miller’s Alaska Militia,” that Drop Zone brags “to patrons about their security squad being littered with former Blackwater operatives” and that “not disclosing full names and a preference for cash transactions were commonplace” aspects of Drop Zone’s business.  The man employing these people wants to be a member of the United States Senate.  It’s chilling.   Moore continues, stating the obvious in a year where, sadly, it needs to be emphasized and restated more than ever (emphasis mine):

Having a personal militia is not common. Joe Miller’s narcissistic, militant disorder has come to full light with the detainment of journalist Tony Hopfinger. Political candidates with their own mercenaries are a recipe for disaster.”

I can’t believe this is where we’re at in our public life at this point in our nation’s history.  Before the fireworks and Kafkaesque arrest of journalist Tony Hopfinger of Alaska Dispatch, Miller favorably referenced East Germany’s border security methods and practices in an answer to a question regarding illegal immigration.   Sadly, Miller’s fondness for the former home of the Stasi isn’t confined to his penchant for stringent personal security and militias, listen to the language used in their official statement regarding this debacle (emphasis mine):

“The Miller campaign was required by the facility to provide security at the event. Even though Joe had spent nearly an hour freely answering questions from those in attendance, the blogger chased Miller to the exit after the event concluded in an attempt to create and then record a ‘confrontation’ with the candidate. While Miller attempted to calmly exit the facility, the blogger physically assaulted another individual and made threatening gestures and movements towards the candidate. At that point the security personnel had to take action and intervened and detained the irrational blogger, whose anger overcame him. It is also important to note that the security personnel did not know that the individual they detained was a blogger who reporting on the campaign. To them, the blogger appeared irrational, angry and potentially violent.”

I’ve read statements from the North Korean state media less Orwellian than that.  This is my favorite passage: “detained the irrational blogger, whose anger overcame him.”  Dear Leader would surely approve!   It should be noted that Hopfinger is not a “blogger” (blogger=catchall boogeymen term for factually challenged conservative frauds) and that the Alaska Dispatch is “a for-profit start-up news website that employees four reporters, two of whom have won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting,” according to the HuffingtonPost.

To recap-the man with personal security culled from ex-Blackwater mercenaries orders some sort-of surreal “arrest” of a journalist for appearing “trespassing” while “irrational” and “angry” at a public event.  Got it.  Joe Miller is also a strong, strong advocate of “freedom.”  Mostly his own “freedom” to run for the Senate without answering pesky, yet legitimate, questions about his fitness for that office.   Hopfinger summed this absurdity up brilliantly (via HuffPo):

“I think, just like in other parts of the country, the media is finding itself having a hard time doing its job in this political cycle because, whenever we ask questions, there are certain candidates out there who decry ‘lamestream media’ or whatever. Mr. Miller has had plenty of time to answer questions. He has been given plenty of opportunities. He somehow believes he shouldn’t be questioned about his background and yet he wants a job in six years, to a post where there are only 100 in the entire country, and we are not supposed to ask questions about anything of his past. There is a little bit of shoot the messenger. It is happening up here, and other parts of the country. There are certain candidates who just want to turn this around and act like it’s the media causing the problem. That has always been there, that element. It is just more ramped up this political cycle.”

Exactly.  People like, so-called ‘liberal,’ Chris Matthews need to dispense with this false equivalency nonsense and stop tripping over themselves in a rush to say “both sides do it” when discussing, or more importantly not discussing, happenings like this in our politics.  “Having a personal militia is not common,” as Moore stated, and people like Joe Miller need to stop getting a pass on the very real instances and examples of extremism, corruption and hypocrisy in their backgrounds under the false, tired, yet set in stone, old media formulation that “both sides do it.”   There just AREN’T any Democratic candidates walking around with personal militias or dressing up like Nazis.  They DON’T exist.  So start doing your job and shining the spotlight on these extremists, label them what they are (extremists and liars) and start asking hard questions as Mr. Hopfinger suggests, so that we can salvage the soul of our nation from some of the worst available men.

Ignorance is Bliss

October 15, 2010

I wrote about the sad, and I believe, socially dangerous follies of voters rewarding incompetent, inadequate candidates like Christine O’Donnell as an act of self-glorification/self-recognition here. I used a quote from a Washington Post article where a voter was quoted as saying (emphasis mine):

“‘Christine O’Donnell is just an ordinary citizen, and that’s what I like about her,’” said Greg Gergen, a Wilmington Republican who said he will vote for O’Donnell.”

An eerily similar quote was included in a New York Times recap of O’Donnell’s disastrous debate with Senate candidate, Chris Coons, wherein a 23 year old voter working her way through college remarked that O’Donnell was someone “she could relate to.”  What does it say about the level of narcissism in our society that people like this are so obsessed with self-affirmation and seeing their reflections in candidates?  In this debate Christine O’Donnell referred to herself as a “congressman” while answering a hypothetical question regarding how she’d react to a policy issue if elected.  Besides the obvious fact that she’d be a “congresswoman” if elected to the House; she’d first have to run to serve in the House, not the Senate, which is what she is actually doing.  On a more substantive note, O’Donnell talked nonsensically of America’s battles against the Soviets in Afghanistan and was unable to cite one recent Supreme Court case that she disagreed with.  That she can’t name a recent Supreme Court case might be a cute, ‘non-elitist’ piece of ignorance the aforementioned voter has in common with O’Donnell, thus making her easier to “relate to,” but it makes a mockery out of the concepts and responsibilities of actual governance, while illuminating significant problems in our collective psyche.  In an excellent post on Swampland today, Joe Klein perceptively says that this type of thinking is indicative of “a society that no longer takes itself seriously.”  Strong words, but completely on the mark in this instance.  You see, were “congressman” O’Donnell actually elected to the Senate, on the strength of all the pathetic “I like her because she’s dumb like me” votes, she could potentially get assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee whereupon she’d be tasked with vetting and confirming Supreme Court nominees, and her fantastically photogenic ignorance will no longer be able to mask the fact that she has absolutely zero knowledge to draw upon to enable her to make informed decisions on matters of such crucial importance to millions of Americans.   Acquaintance with recent Supreme Court litigation can no longer be smugly dismissed as abstract elitist fodder when you decide to run for the United States Senate.   O’Donnell has to know this stuff to be taken seriously.  The fact that she doesn’t, explains why she isn’t.  Not thanks to the mean, misogynistic liberal media being too hard on her.  You’d think that O’Donnell would have at least learned from the mistakes of her mentor and had one Supreme Court case at the ready for these tricky, “gotcha” style debate moderators.   The person in the audience comforted by their recognition of ignorance in O’Donnell is not running for Senate, so their ignorance of the court’s docket can be excused because it can’t cause any damage.   O’Donnell’s malignant ignorance of something so important would provoke wide-ranging consequences and cannot be dismissed or rewarded.   I know people hate the concept of “elites” (aka people who have the nerve to actually know stuff about the Supreme Court while running for Senate) but society can’t function without them.  It’s humbling meeting people who are obviously smarter than you.  But when I need a doctor or lawyer, the last thing on earth I want from them is a reflection and/or recognition of my own ignorance so I can feel better about myself.  Why so many Americans require this reflection/recognition from within their politicians nowadays is frightening.    Joe Klein brutally sums up this aspect of O’Donnell’s “appeal” in the post I’d quoted previously:

“There is no way she could ever be confused with a member of the elites; there is no way she could be confused with an above average high school student. Her ignorance, therefore, makes her authentic–the holy grail of latter-day American politics: she’s a real person, not like those phony politicians. In that sense, she–and the lifeboat filled with other Tea Party know-nothings–follow in the wake of our leading exemplar of ignorant authenticity, Sarah Palin”

To O’ Donnell’s credit, she is, at least, smart enough to exploit the sense of recognition many voters see in her ignorance, running, typically subtle, ads that say: “I Am You.”   But again this is symptomatic of a larger decline in our national standards, overall, and as Klein writes “there is something profoundly diseased about a society that idolizes its ignoramuses and disdains its experts.”  The tendency to recognize ignorance as a virtue and reward its dangerously shameless purveyors with access to the highest levers of power in our society is a “disease.” And, long-term, the decay and damage this disease inflicts, if -unchecked, will be more harmful to our national health than anything terrorists anywhere in the world could dream up.   This upside-down conception of ignorance as “authenticity” must be reversed and rejected.

BP’s Senator strikes again

October 13, 2010

Just a quick update regarding British Petroleum’s Senator at large Mary Landrieu:

Last week I wrote about her heroic and principled hold on Jacob Lew’s nomination to become director of the Office of Management and Budget.  She, or the lobbyist/industry exec.using her as a conduit, chose very interesting language to, rather unconvincingly, assert that her hold on Lew’s nomination wasn’t just a petty form of oil industry blackmail.  Today the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deepwater drilling and—surprise!  Senator Landrieu and her oil industry colleagues still aren’t satisfied.   Landrieu’s office/lobbying shop released a statement saying (via TPM):

“Today’s decision is a good start, but it must be accompanied by an action plan to get the entire industry in the Gulf of Mexico back to work.  This means that the administration must continue to accelerate the granting of permits in shallow and deep water, and provide greater certainty about the rules and regulations industry must meet.”

Pretense dropped.  There is no discernible space between Landrieu and the oil industry she is making demands and threats on behalf of within the language employed in that statement.  She even has the nerve to threaten the administration over the harsh “certainty” of the pathetically inadequate regulations that the ever beleaguered, and always under-siege, ‘little guys’ in the oil industry heroically have to adhere to while they make their billions and ravage the earth.

Again, I defy anyone reading that statement to tell me that she isn’t an full-blown industry employee, or, worse, a paid cipher devoted entirely to furthering the industry’s cause at all times, no matter the cost to her constituents and the environment.

Warning Shot

October 12, 2010

I’ve written before about the conservative fixation on the rubbish spewed out by in Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged and it reared it’s ugly, pitiful head again in the recent debate between prototypical Tea Bag hypocrite Ron Johnson and Senator Russ Feingold.

According to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, the ‘hot novel’ provided the debate with its “most spirited discussion.”   Johnson was asked about his admiration of Atlas Shrugged and said the following:

It’s a warning of what could happen to America…When you hear people talk about a tipping point, that’s what we’re concerned about. . . . We have more people who are net beneficiaries of government than are actually paying into the system. That’s a very serious thing to think about.”

Johnson, he of the brave, innovative and proud tradition of in-law supplied, and government subsidized wealth, is clumsily furthering the faint, fledgling meme that bold, indispensable producers such as himself may just one day act out this adolescent fantasy of withholding their invaluable services (that, in this case, wouldn’t exist at their current level without government investment) just to teach all the rest of us lazy socialist leeches a lesson once and for all.   Glenn Beck seemed to imply a similar warning in his appalling defense of the fire department who refused to put out the man in Tennessee’s house due to his failure to pay a municipal fee.  Beck said (never will I link to or support his nonsense) something to the effect of “America had better start thinking about these types of things,” basically confirming Keith Olbermann’s conception of the whole disgusting incident as a harbinger of an emerging “a la carte government” that would make John Galt proud.

The easily lead, “low-information,” voters who follow these people need to realize once and for all that the entire rationale for the Tea Party’s existence is so that people like Johnson, Glenn Beck and John Raese can continue to pay less taxes.   That’s it.  Period.  They have no other platforms or principles and they are getting poor, misinformed people (aka Tea Party followers/”low information” voters) to fight their battles for them, while they vote completely and utterly against their own true interests.

Target Rich Environment Vol. II (Post and Examiner edition)

October 7, 2010

Examining conservative pathologies:

One of my guilty pleasures since moving to D.C. has been reading the Washington Examiner a few times a week.  It’s funnier than the Washington Times because it exudes this sort-of faux intellectual seriousness, Reverend Moon and the Times just can’t aspire to, while spouting the exact same, straight from the playbook, conservative gibberish you hear in every other conservative media outlet.  Yesterday I had to laugh while reading an article titled “GOP Star Chris Christie endorses Bob Ehrlich” which was filled with breathless, fawning quotes about Christie being “a big star” and providing the “type of leadership voters want to see everywhere.”  The smiled faded when I encountered the following passage (emphasis mine):

“Since taking office, Christie has identified more than $2 billion in unspent funds, forced schoolteachers to pay for their health care benefits and slashed state spending by $3 billion without raising taxes.”

The fact that Christie forced teachers to pay for their own health care benefits was actually offered as evidence of his AWESOMENESS in a supposedly serious newspaper in our nations capitol.  I never cease being shocked and saddened by the pathological hatred and contempt conservatives have for teachers.  It’s mind-blowing.  The “heroic” Christie “slashed” $560 million in education funding for New Jersey schools.  Think about that.  Imagine the impact those cuts are having on teachers and schools in places like Camden, Hoboken and Newark.  Christie said he’d free up some of that aid if teachers agreed to a wage freeze and pay for a higher percentage of their benefits out of pocket.  Here is one of the many places the conservative mind goes entirely off the rails and out of the realms of reality: people like Christie and bottom-feeding, dime a dozen, radio hacks such as Neal Boortz actually seem to think that teachers are rich, pampered, overcompensated “terrorists.”  Part of me understands the reasons for this pathological antipathy towards teachers (in as much as I can as someone with a brain/soul).  Conservatives entire world view, ideology and conception of history shrinks and recedes further into fantasy every time a textbook is opened and a lesson is taught.  The shallowness, inadequacies and failures of their philosophy is laid bare as a child progresses through junior high and beyond.  They know this, so they do things like labeling plain-old curriculum based teaching and learning “indoctrination,” because it doesn’t adhere to, or reinforce, the fantasies conservatism depends on.  Modern education can’t nurture conservative fantasies because as Stephen Colbert once famously said: “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”  Labeling education “indoctrination” hasn’t gained much traction outside of the closed circle of the same-old fevered minds, so they are stepping up their efforts by going straight to the source and writing their own textbooks; objective reality be damned.
The other reason conservatives hate teachers so much is that they are unionized.  Not satisfied with decimating and destroying labor unions in almost every other economic sector, conservatives demonize unions like the National Education Association incessantly.  Starting in 2004 when Secretary of Education Rod Paige actually referred to the NEA as a “terrorist organization” in a speech, this dangerous and despicable slur has been echoed by unoriginal con-men like Boortz who took it a step further declaring teachers unions to be “more dangerous than Al-Qaeda.”
Why because they refuse to let what’s public be privatized?
Look, these teachers could get paid more money annually than Rush Limbaugh, Bill Gates and Tom Brady combined and it still wouldn’t enough in some cases.  Schools are underfunded from the outset and falling part, morale is low, parents expectations are different etc. etc. and there is always a conservative ‘star’ like Christie looking to squeeze blood from a stone and take more and more funding away.   Harold Meyerson said it eloquently in his Washington Post column yesterday, describing the conservative penchant for scapegoating teachers pitch-perfectly:
“Blaming teachers for the dysfunction of inner cities and the decline of American industry lets a lot of other, more culpable, parties off the hook.”
My biggest fear is that one day the idealism and commitment to public service that drives most men and women to become teachers will no longer be strong enough to withstand the low-pay, the demonization, the deteriorating schools, etc.  The conservative con-men and women like Sarah Palin who thrive on un-educated, so-called “low information” voters may then, finally,  be ensured of Rove’ “permanent majority” and Mike Judge’s prophecy of an Idiocracy will be fulfilled.

Lobbyist/Oil Industry exec. or Senator?

Senator of British Petroleum, Mary Landrieu wrote a letter to the Washington Post yesterday in which she attempted to defend her hold on Jacob Lew’s nomination to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.  The language is interesting to say the least.  I can’t tell if it was written directly by one of her BP colleagues, only to have her name stamped on it at the last minute, or if she can no longer publicly maintain the fictional notion that she works for the people of Louisiana.   Let’s take a closer look at the language and tone (emphasis mine):

“Since the day an unprecedented moratorium shut down deep-water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for every company except the one that was drilling relief wells after causing the April oil spill, I have tried in vain to show the Obama administration how its handling of this situation completely missed the mark. In the parlance of the industry, the administration’s policy struck a dry hole.”

Senator, you know what else is “unprecedented?”  The scale and scope of BP’s negligence in the destruction of the Gulf Coast.  You can actually sense the mask slip while reading the “In the parlance of the industry…” sentence.  I’m sure if Landrieu actually wrote this she had to hit the backspace key a few times to fix the initial draft where she’d no doubt instinctually written: “In the parlance of our industry.”

She, or the lobbyist, continues:

“My hold on Jacob Lew’s nomination to be director of the Office of Management and Budget comes as a last resort, after months of meetings, hearings and testimony from citizens and experts failed to move the administration from a misguided course. Instead of curtailing “big oil,” administration policy has crippled independents and smaller operators.”

You gotta love the paternalistic tone of the oil companies seeping directly through Senator Landrieu in the use of the phrase “misguided course” to describe Administration policy.  It is corporate speak extraordinaire.  Also note the dismissive use of quotes around the phrase “big oil” like it’s some radical, out-of bounds, Marxist epithet.  Then comes the predictable chorus of how it’s the poor small “operators” who are being hurt.  There is nothing like the spectacle of monolithic multinational companies speaking through corrupt Senators and hiding abjectly behind the concept that they are acting nobly in the interests of the little guy.

Cue the strings for Landrieu’s grand finale:

“When we met some weeks ago, Mr. Lew gave no indication that he understood how devastating the moratorium’s effect is on the Gulf Coast economy or how a prolonged blockage of new offshore oil production can affect the national economy. As the president’s top economic adviser, the budget director has the power and responsibility to overturn a detrimental economic policy. Mr. Lew simply repeated the administration’s policy stance and refused to consider the economic hardships it is causing. That is not good enough for me or the people I represent.”

It can, almost, go without comment and/or explication.   You cannot tell me a lobbyist or BP employee didn’t write this letter/press release.

The moratorium is “devastating” and “detrimental” (to BP’s bottom line).   A “prolonged blockage” will effect the “national economy.”  Can you sense the vague threat and overt fear-mongering in that sentence?   Finally, this policy just isn’t “good enough” for the Oil execs. “I represent.”

The truth at last.


Target Rich Environment

October 7, 2010

Section I. Great Moments in Implausibility

I’m going to quote liberally from an excellent piece by Mike McIntire that the New York Times ran a few weeks back regarding a non-profit, Republican attack-dog outfit called Americans for Job Security.  Frank Rich brought this piece to my attention in his column on Sunday.   First, let me just say that you have to love the names they come up with for these things.  Americans for Job Security: In brave, steadfast opposition to those vast, staggering numbers of Americans against Job Security.  The active degradation of the English language perpetrated every second of every day by corporate interests in the United States, and beyond, is as appalling as it is impressive in a brutal, Machiavellian sense.   Linguistically, the name Americans for Job Security is so empty and devoid of actual meaning that it’s almost artful in a way.   Furthering the dissolution of meaning and signification, Americans for Job Security claims to advocate a “pro-paycheck public policy.”  It is good to know there’s a courageous bulwark against the strident, surging proponents of “anti-paycheck public policy.”  What’s funny is that these people are probably going to run ads on behalf of West Virginia Senate candidate John Raese, who really does seem to be, at least mildly, anti-paycheck.   But as investigators in Alaska found out, noble provision of paycheck protection aside, Americans for Job Security is actually just a “front for a coterie of political operatives, devised to sidestep campaign disclosure rules.”  Shocking.

According to the Times, the group showed up in Alaska two years ago and spent $1.6 million to influence voting on a referendum that would “restrict development of a gold and copper mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay.”  Local people in support of the development filed a complaint with the state, which lead to the investigation of Americans for Job Security that is covered in McIntire’s article.  In short, the Alaska Public Offices Commission report found that:

Americans for Job Security has no purpose other than to cover various money trails all over the country

Now let’s start admiring those Great Moments in Implausibility!

Fact #1.  According to Campaign Finance Law (via McIntire’s column, emphasis added by me),  Americans for Job Security must:

not spend the majority of its resources on political activity or coordinate with party committees, and may keep its donors secret only as long as their contributions are not intended for specific ad campaigns close to an election.”

Fact #2. Americans for Job Security is housed in a space that is:

“sublet from a Republican consulting shop, Crossroads Media, whose other clients include the national Republican Party, the Republican Governors Association and American Crossroads, a Karl Rove-backed group raising millions to support Republican candidates.”

Great Moments in Implausibility part I.  In light of the facts posted above-Americans for Job Security’s President, and sole employee, Stephen DeMaura testified, in Alaska, that despite sharing office space with these powerful, supremely connected, overtly Republican operatives, they exerted no influence on his activities.

“I work with them closely on a day-to-day basis, but we don’t discuss our work or coordinate anything,” he said. “It’s firewalled off.”

Fact #3.  Crossroads Media, one of the firms that shares office space with Americans for Job Security, is run by a man named Michael Dubke, who, as McIntire reports, was the president of Americans for Job Security until April 2008 when Mr. DeMaura took over.   Dubke remains a “consultant” for Americans for Job Security and Crossroads Media places “many” of the group’s ads.

Great Moments in Implausibility part II.  Yet, in light of the facts posted above, Mr. Dubke:

denied that the agenda of Americans for Job Security was driven by the political interests of his firms. “Nothing is ever done in coordination with another campaign,” he said. “I’m always trying to follow the letter of the law.”

Fact #4. The Times reports that “the National Republican Congressional Committee — a sometime client of Mr. Dubke’s — sent local reporters an Americans for Job Security announcement and transcript of a new ad opposing a Democratic congressman, Representative Michael Arcuri.”

Great Moments in Implausibility part III.  Yet, in light of the facts posted above:

A committee spokesman said he was not coordinating anything with the advocacy group, but merely passing along “a public document.” The document, however, could not be found on the group’s Web site, and a reporter who received it said the committee was his only source for it.”

There is a lot more that bears reading in McIntire’s excellent work and I urge anyone reading this post to please read the whole article. It is a rare and revealing glimpse into the dishonest, unethical and basically illegal world of corporate conservatives, largely successful, attempts to buy elections.  In the words of the watchdog group Public Citizen’s research director Taylor Lincoln:

“A lot of nonprofits game the system, but A.J.S. is unusual in that they so blatantly try to influence elections and evade disclosure…By any common-sense, reasonable interpretation of what they do, they are in violation of the rules.”

I’ve been interested in these shadow groups since I started doing research for LittleSis and I hope to write a book on the subject someday.  This article was invaluable.  One last parting shot from the Alaska’s Public Offices Commission report regarding Americans for Job Security’s assertion that they protect the identities of their members and donors so that they can “speak without fear of reprisal”:

“One would hardly expect reprisals for ‘promoting a healthy and vibrant economy'”

Section II.  The continuing chronicles of Tea Party hypocrisy

I mentioned Gilded Age enthusiast, and self professed ‘flamboyant businessman,” John Raese, earlier, because he is the subject of my latest look at the truly awesome, would be funny if significant numbers of American voters weren’t so gullible, hypocrisy exhibited by Tea Bag candidates in this political cycle.  Raese finds the minimum wage “hideous,” a new and increasingly popular theme mouthed by millionaires on campaign trails amidst increasingly desperate, misinformed people, and, of course, he thinks BIG Government spending is the DEVIL…BUT, when you look into the details (I’m actually fucking tired of typing this sentence) of his business dealings…Surprise, Surprise…Raese’s company, Greer Industries has received $2.4 million in government contracts over the past decade, according to Media Matters Political Correction blog.  Media Matters goes on to note that Raese is also a big proponent of deregulation, which might be explained by the unfortunate fact that Greer Industries has been fined for over “627 safety violations since 1995.”

Would-be King Carl (Tea Party Hypocrisy, New York State of Mine)

October 5, 2010

A man named Carl Paladino is running to be governor of New York.  You’ve probably heard of him thanks to his infamous endorsements of, and dalliances with, bestiality videos and forwarded emails full of porn and racist images of Barack and Michelle Obama dressed up as “pimps” and “hoes.”  Bob Herbert (his excellent NYT column on Paladino is now behind a paywall) said it best regarding this issue:

“Is the Republican candidate for governor of New York a racist, sexist, pornography-loving creep? Or are there other, more benign, explanations for the stomach-turning e-mails distributed by Carl Paladino?”

Paladino and his lackeys (The suicide rate among his “staff” has to be high) lazily attempted to dismiss the emails as indicative of  “bad judgment,” which, besides being cynical and pathetic, begs the question: Why should New Yorkers entrust their vote to someone with such admittedly “bad judgment.”  If he’s not smart enough to realize that sending his co-workers puerile, disgusting emails might be a  bad idea especially when he has designs on the governor’s mansion, how can he be expected to handle grown-up stuff like the Empire State’s staggering $5.5 billion deficit.  I can just hear the shallow, deluded voices yelling back at me through the void: BUT, PALADINO’S A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSMAN, HE’S A MILLIONAIRE, BUDDY!  HE KNOWS HOW TO RUN THINGS.  I hate this damn near pathological strain of blind worship in far too many Americans that holds that someone like Paladino’s worth and success not only automatically guarantees them to be a genius, but also automatically washes away their, in this case, hideous faults and glaring deficits of character.

Let’s look a little further into Paladino’s success.  Much like fellow Tea Party hypocrite Wisconsin Senate Candidate Ron Johnson, Paladino has staked his electoral claim as a fiery, unhinged avenger against Government HANDOUTS and WASTE, but right on cue the New York Daily News found out that Paladino has “received millions of dollars in tax breaks over the years.”   Blatant hypocrisy. Check.   But it gets worse (emphasis mine):

In 2002, one of his companies, J-P Group LLC, won a major tax break from the Empire State Development Corp. by promising to upgrade 16 properties scattered near downtown Buffalo within what was then designated as an Empire Zone.

The properties included a doctor’s office, a shopping center, several retail shops, a bank and a handful of vacant lots.

The program’s incentive was to generate jobs and inject investment into a downtrodden area that would, in the end, offset the sales and real estate tax revenue lost.

It didn’t work out that way.

From 2001 through 2007, Paladino’s company received $1.47 million in tax breaks, but invested only $1.1 million in payroll and capital improvements. The end result was a net loss of $300,000, defeating the purpose of the program.

Also, when the tax break began, J-P Group had one full-time employee. By 2008, that number had grown to two”

This is why the blind worship of success and money that I mentioned before is so naive and galling.  It is almost always a scam or a shell game with people like Paladino leaving cut throats and destroyed lives in their wake while they plumb loopholes to steal money from the governments and/or investors as demonstrated here by the Daily News.  This man has nothing if not balls and is desperately fighting the good fight “to hold on to a $1.4 million tax break for a company that created  only one job and put back into the economy less than it took out.”  Yep.  An Anti-Big Government Tea Party candidate sustained and subsidized by Government handouts is actually fighting tooth and nail in court to keep his corporate welfare while braying incessantly about its EVILS to the rubes on the campaign trail day and night–Who would have thunk it??  And as Rachel Maddow astutely and insistently points out: They’re not ashamed.    When the state rightfully reexamined and then revoked Paladino’s tax break due to his company’s failure to “provide economic returns to the state” he took them to court to get it restored and as of this past August he succeeded, brazenly taking an arrogant parting shot at “the fools in the legislature” on the way out the courtroom door.  Of course those “fools in the legislature” would be his colleagues were he to win, so at least they won’t have to worry about seeing people have sex with animals whenever they open one of his emails.

But let’s look at another predictable layer of Paladino’s appalling hypocrisy.  True to a long, loud and proud conservative, “Chickenhawk” lineage ole’ Carl was a big proponent of the Vietnam War until…wait for it…it was his time to go and then it was deferments all day, every day.  Take it away, Greg Mitchell (from an excellent column entitled “Carl Paladino’s School Days”)

“like so many gung-ho types, Paladino took his ROTC money and commitment to serve and… took a pass for three years, getting a deferment to go to law school at Syracuse in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam escalation, not joining up for his tour until 1971, when withdrawals were well underway. He did not go off to war, spending less than a year on active duty—yet has bragged about his military record and compared his campaign to the exploits of Gen. George Patton.”                                                                                                                                   (emphasis mine)

His feverish, delusional “chickenhawk” equation of his ROTC exploits with Gen. Patton’s service goes along way to explaining his already legendary surreal, cartoonish, tough-guy confrontation with the New York Post’s Fred Dicker a few days ago.  It also goes to show that, all hyperbole aside, this man is unfit for office by any measurable standard.

Besides calling the state legislature “fools,” Paladino bragged to the Associated Press (via HuffPo) that his time in office “wouldn’t be pretty” and that he “would only work with people of his choosing” while in the same breath lamenting the dictatorial tone of those currently in Albany.  Think about that sentence.  Paladino is openly bragging that he would only work with other elected officials of his choosing because the people who currently run Albany do so like dictators.  It’s a surefire gold medal winner in the Orwellian Olympics.  I’m confused because I thought dictators were the type of tough-guy, manly men who only worked with the people of their “choosing.”  You also find out in this priceless AP article that Paladino hates campaigning:

“Doing this, this campaigning, is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever got myself involved with, but it’s a necessary evil so that I can do the real job,”

Translation: I’m rich, I have enough money to buy the governor’s seat, but I have to go through the motions, interacting with these ‘disgusting’ rubes and mongrel races when I should be in court making sure my corporate welfare keeps flowing.  It just isn’t fair.  Handouts for me: legally mandated right of God and Country.  Handouts for you: a disgusting, unconscionable waste of money, and a breach of the Constitution, or something

Again, all hyperbole aside, this man is not fit for ANY public office.  He somehow survived the racist emails with his lazy, half-hearted denials and insistence that the people they offended didn’t have a “sense of humor,” but when you look deeper at this man the picture, amazingly, only becomes more seedy, appalling and unsettling.  Paladino is emblematic of a new breed of openly brazen “pay to play” avatars in American Politics, like his fellow gubernatorial candidates Medicare embezzler/fraud king Rick Scott and bumbling idiot/accidental CEO Meg Whitman, whose only talents are the ability to game the system and accumulate wealth, while creating nothing as the New York Legislature affirmed in Paladino’s case, and whose only principles consist of using said wealth to purchase elections and titles so that they may perpetuate the system they so expertly game, insulating it from any meaningful change by holding official levers of power.

A true parade of the horribles.

Double-Barrelled Hypocrisy (Tea Party edition)

September 24, 2010

A “self-made” man named Ron Johnson is a Tea-Party backed candidate running for Senate in Wisconsin against Senator Russ Feingold.  Johnson pushes the boundaries of caricature and parody as it is, his rally cry, according to The Awl, is: “First of all, Freedom,” but he doesn’t stop there: pimping a full-blown Atlas Shrugged fetish as well as his belief that climate change theories are “lunacy.”   But what Johnson can’t stand most of all is BIG government.  Johnson characterizes government spending and subsidies as “a threat to our freedom,” while insisting that “government doesn’t create jobs” etc. until you look closely at his background, as Abe Sauer from the Awl did, and find out, predictably,that “his company received millions of dollars in industrial revenue bonds.”   TPM goes into the specifics:

“In 1979 a company called Wisconsin Industrial Shipping Supplies, owned by Johnson’s brother-in-law, received a $75,000 development grant from the city of Oshkosh to build a rail spur to a plant it was building. One of the conditions of the grant required WISS to hire 11 people in exchange for the funds. Just a few months later, WISS became Pacur — the company Johnson owns today — and the factory was opened. The factory itself was also built with the help of a $1 million government-issued development bond.”

The hypocrisy is so brazen it would be funny if it wasn’t, sadly, putting the excellent, progressive Senate career of Russ Feingold in peril.  I just assume people like Johnson are pathetic, lying hypocrites and wait for the revelation to come and prove it, and it always does.  The only thing ever truly in doubt is the depth of their hypocritical dishonesty.

Sauer’s excellent piece in the Awl dissects the dissonance and Orwellian “doublethink” inherent in someone basing their whole sales pitch on being a gritty self-made Horatio Alger style hero steadfastly against evil government handouts, yet owing their entire success and livelihood to precisely those evil government subsidies and handouts.   There is a further, more openly comedic, layer of hypocrisy and doublethink in Johnson’s story, painfully omitted from his campaign bio, which is:

“the story goes that after moving to Wisconsin ‘Ron started a business called Pacur with his brother-in-law’ and he has said he built his business from ‘from scratch,” from “the ground up.’  But what Johnson’s campaign doesn’t often mention is that the candidate was set up with the business by his billionaire father-in-law. Uppity Wisconsin has unearthed evidence that Johnson’s firm Pacur is the beneficiary of less-than-market-driven business from its main client, Daddy Inc.”

This is indicative of a pattern you see in Right-Wingers from Tucker Carlson to Aubrey McClendon echoing that infamous quote uttered by Molly Ivins regarding George W. Bush: “He was born on third base, and swears he hit a triple.”  The gods and giants of nepotism are always on hand to give you condescending, paternalistic advice about hard-work and the merits of slogging through hardscrabble American days and nights with the aid of your father’s million dollar cane collection. It’s a cottage industry.  So to recap: Government subsidies for me and/or the random machinist in Racine, WI-horrible and antithetical to American Way of life; but they magically become indispensable, ingenious tool of capitalist creation and moxie when employed by Ron Johnson and his ilk.  Got that?  Here’s the most Orwellian exchange and ridiculously implausible language destruction in the whole damn episode, a textbook example of how doublespeak is the new norm in our political ‘discourse,’ as reported by WKOW in Madison (emphasis mine):

The Oshkosh plastics factory owned by Republican senate candidate Ron Johnson was built, in part, with the assistance of a $1 million government-issued industrial development revenue bond

According to records provided by the city, the money was loaned to Wisconsin Industrial Shipping Supplies – Pacur’s previous name – a company owned by Johnson’s brother-in-law…

The funds were used to buy land, construct the building and buy equipment at the new factory, which Johnson said he co-owned on day one…

Johnson’s campaign says the money is a loan from private investors.

“‘I believe we’ve thoroughly covered industrial revenue bonds earlier on,” Sara Sendek, a Johnson spokeswoman, said. “It does not utilize taxpayer money or put taxpayers at risk.'”

See if you just grit your teeth and stare off into space, while insistently, yet always serenely and professionally, repeating that “What appears Black is, actually, White” you may be able to win a seat in the United States Senate at the expense of one of the few members of that body who actually puts the concerns of his constituents into legislation.

Yet another layer of Johnson’s loathsome Orwellian doublethink dissonance is that like all Tea Party ciphers he is ostensibly, openly a fierce critic of the bank bailout, until you look at his campaign donations and strangely enough you notice a lot of contributions from the very banks he swore should not have been bailed out.  Again, the Awl reports:

“For example, the cash Johnson received from the Financial Services Roundtable PAC on August 27 and the American Bankers Association PAC on July 8 and July 30 came from, amongst others, hardcore Treasury bailout beneficiaries such as JP Morgan Chase, SunTrust, Bank of America, Regions Financial, Zions and First Horizon. The money Ron Johnson received from the Bluegrass and Senate Majority Fund PACs came, in part, from one of the greatest bailout beneficiaries of them all, Goldman Sachs. Despite statements about staying out of politics this cycle, Goldman donated to both PACs on March 31 of this year. On June 24, Ron Johnson’s campaign received two $5,000 donations from the Bluegrass PAC, a day later the campaign received two donations from the Senate Majority PAC in the same amounts.

To be clear, while it may not be the backbone of his funding, some of the very bailout money that Ron Johnson has criticized is now funding his campaign.”

There you have it: The New American Way in Politics.

Sounds of the Animal Kingdom

September 15, 2010

“I could buy a parrot and train it to say, ‘tax cuts,’ but at the end of the day, it’s still a parrot, not a conservative.”

Delaware Republican Party Chairman Tom Ross on Tea Bag Cipher Christine O’ Donnell

That quote was uttered by the chairman to the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne before said trained parrot defeated 9 time U.S. Representative and former Delaware Governor Mike Castle in a primary yesterday evening.   Continuing with the animal motif, Mr. Ross had previously stated that Ms. O’ Donnell was “not a viable candidate for any office in the state of Delaware” and that “she could not be elected dog catcher.”  Those remarks would actually earn Ross death threats.

Who would have ever thought that the United States depicted in Mike Judge’s brilliant film Idiocracy would become reality so quickly?  Dionne’s piece is titled “The Tea Party: From Rebellion to Absurdity,” but absurdity isn’t even a strong enough word to describe the candidacy and actual primary victory of Ms. O’ Donnell, whose incompetence, ineptitude, and fringe religiosity is a bridge too far for even Karl Rove. Rove’s, unprecedentedly truthful, comments haven’t earned him death threats, yet, but a bunch of conservatives are calling him an effete liberal traitor (really) and other colorful, witty things.   For once, I agree with the man.  From what I’ve seen O’ Donnell makes George W. Bush seem like Stephen Hawking.  If you think that’s harsh, revisit the quote at the outset which was uttered by the chairman of the Delaware Republican Party.  Tea Party candidates have knocked off siting Republicans like Bob Bennett all year, but, tellingly, this is the first time state and national Republican leaders have spoken out so vociferously and vehemently against an insurgent challenger.  O’ Donnell, has myriad personal and financial question marks surrounding her and according  to an ex-aide “was living on campaign donations-using them for rent and personal expenses.”  Being capable of that sort of brazenly fraudulent graft and hucksterism usually favorably impresses state and national GOP brass, which again shows you how extreme this woman truly is-that it does not in her particular case.

When George W. Bush was installed into the Presidency and started practicing his special brand of reverse alchemy turning gold into rubbish and ruin many people in the blogosphere started recalling the startlingly prescient H.L. Mencken quote which said:

“The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.
The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

This quote can be applied even more strictly and presciently to the case of O’ Donnell’s victory in an effort to discern why America is indeed hurtling headlong into Idiocracy, when you isolate, what I believe to be, the key passage, which is: “As Democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more, the inner soul of the people.”   Mencken was referring specifically to the office of the Presidency, but the “inner soul” of a frightening number of Americans is what is being honestly reflected in the ascendancy of people like Christine O’ Donnell, and that’s what is so troubling.   Nobody, particularly conservatives, wants to admit that an honest self-examination of the American psyche and collective consciousness would uncover traumatic and highly unflattering things, completely at odds with the notion of “American Exceptionalism” taken as gospel by many on both sides of the political spectrum.  A perfect example of what I’m talking about can be found in The Washington Post, which ran a story on Monday where they looked at the divisive nature of O’ Donnell/Castle primary and it featured the following quote (emphasis mine):

“‘Christine O’Donnell is just an ordinary citizen, and that’s what I like about her,'” said Greg Gergen, a Wilmington Republican who said he will vote for O’Donnell.”

The quote emphasizes the importance of the “inner soul” of the people and how the reflection of that soul in candidates like O’ Donnell is what guides their votes.  This voter feels ordinary and wants a national leader to reflect that quality as well.  The problem with this is that many “ordinary citizens” I know can be found sitting in fast food restaurants talking about Lebron James, Lady GaGa and/or fantasy football.  I’m guilty of a some of those things as well, but I’m not running for office, you see.  The problem with “ordinary” is that the world is a bafflingly complex place, that more often than not calls for extraordinary intellect, discipline, intangibles, willpower, restraint etc. etc. to keep things from reverting to a bad, old-fashioned Hobbesian maelstrom.  Nobody wants to feel inadequate and be crushed under the heels of the dreaded “elitism” label, but the fact remains that worthwhile leaders should and do exhibit “elite” qualities and the trend of American voters looking at those qualities with disdain and/or as a negative is a big, big problem going forward and is one of the pillars of the accelerating slide into Idiocracy.

“Second Amendment Remedies”

September 14, 2010

I’ve been writing a lot about Blackwater recently.

One of the passages in Jeremy Scahill’s incredible book on Blackwater that has always haunted me is actually only tangential to the company itself.  In outlining, and giving proper context to, Erik Prince’s worldview by showing his connections to the hardcore, right-wing Christian conservative movement, Scahill examines Prince’s relationships with Christian conservative heavyweights such as Charles Colson, Gary Bauer and Richard Neuhaus.  Neuhaus established a journal called First Things which published a “symposium” titled “The End of Democracy?” in November 1996, the same month President Clinton easily won re-election.

Scahill noted that The First Things symposium asked:

“whether we have reached or are reaching the point where conscientious citizens can no longer give assent to the existing regime”

Notice that language.  You hear strikingly similar language used all over the right-landscape these days.  They couch what is basically a call to insurrection in “moral” terms.  They choose derogatory, and pointedly condescending, and demeaning language in the attempt to de-legitimize a Democratic president, branding the Clinton administration a “regime.”  Unfortunately President Obama’s background has given them a vast wealth of non-sensical, outrageous fantasy to embarrass themselves with.

Scahill continues, on page 30 of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, noting that the symposium seemed to “predict a civil war scenario or Christian insurrection against the government.”  The First Things symposium explored options “ranging from non-compliance to resistance to civil-disobedience to morally justified revolution” (emphasis mine).

There it is stated plainly: “morally justified revolution.”  We’ll consider resorting to bloodshed, ‘morally justified’ bloodshed, if we don’t get our way at the ballot box in a Democratic society.  This was in 1996.  It cannot be overstated that the essays in this symposium were not written by fringe characters like Terry Jones, but by “mainstream,” supposedly respectable, figures like judge Robert Bork who was famously defeated in his confirmation hearings after being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan.

The unsigned introduction to the symposium bellowed that:

“The Government of the United States no longer governs by the consent of the governed…What is happening now is the displacement of a constitutional order by a regime that does not have, will not obtain, and cannot command the consent of the people.”         First Things, November 1996

The hubris and dangerous arrogance contained in that statement is stunning.  In 1996 Bill Clinton won re-election with 379 electoral votes and over 8 million more popular votes, yet ominous things are written about the “displacement of the constitutional order” and the President’s inability to “command the consent of the people.”   This is how Democracy functions.  Yet, the silence four short years later, when a conservative was installed into the Presidency by the Supreme Court under questionable circumstances after losing the popular vote, was deafening.  No veiled threats of insurrection from the Charles Colson’s of the world when a strong case could be made that the Bush Administration did not have the “consent of the people.”   Scahill’s reporting on this helped me discern a pattern, which is, that religious and otherwise extremist conservatives immediately start trying to de-legitimize Democratic, and Democratically elected, Presidents; in conjunction with that they start whispering about imaginary offenses against the Constitution (while real ones silently piled to the sky during the reign of George W. Bush) and threatening insurrections and revolutions, which brings me, finally, to Sharron Angle.

Sharron Angle, Senate candidate in Nevada, steeped in the exact same extremist religious conservative milieu that shaped Erik Prince, infamously remarked that:

“I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.”

Besides the linguistic similarities of Angle remarks to the ones by the authors of the First Things symposium, these dangerous, irresponsible words fit squarely into the right-wing narrative that if fundamental Democratic principles and methods, such as free and fair elections, produce outcomes unfavorable to conservatives then it becomes to OK to start advocating “morally justified revolution,” with guns of course.

This language and rhetoric has finally started to unsettle fellow conservatives, which may be one of the only ways to stop its spread.  The Huffington Post reported, via the Las Vegas Sun, that Nevada Republican Danny Tarkanian, who lost in the GOP primary to Angle, took the rare step of speaking out publicly against the dangerous and irresponsible notion of “Second Amendment Remedies” saying:

“Now, I’ve been on the campaign trail, and I heard a lot of people say to me, you know, why do we have our Second Amendment rights, it’s to, so the public can overthrow the government if they fail to respond to the government’s will. That may be all good and well, but I’m not going to take the position that we need a civil uprising to overthrow our government.”

This is the corrosive effect of such language, over the course of years, writ large.  Thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Charles Colson, advocating the violent, religiously sanctioned overthrow of our government when you don’t like specific election results, to a public official nonetheless, is now apparently so widespread that Tarkanian was rattled and/or moved enough by this realization to publicly inveigh against it.  Tarkanian continued, saying explicitly:

“You know, we have a process where you go out and you vote for your elected leaders, and if you don’t like them then you’ve got to get enough people to vote against them, and then they’ll get out of office. I don’t believe you go out and you start shooting people… I don’t believe the vast majority of Americans are going to agree with having a civil war because our elected leaders aren’t voting the way we want them to. That’s why we have elections and you vote them out of office the next time.”

It is unbelievably sad that a grown-up has to actually come out and re-state such basic, structural Democratic principles in this manner.  Tarkanian is obviously not a national figure with a lot of stature, but I view his going public with these comments as a positive development.

Backlash against this incendiary rubbish has to come from moderate conservatives as well as from independents and Democrats.  I hope this is a step in that direction.