The Daily Show returned from a week-long hiatus Monday to deliver an epic smackdown on the deadbeat cattleman in Nevada. Cliven Bundy has been widely rebuked for failing to pay customary grazing fees and declaring that he doesn’t “recognize the United States government as even existing.” The roots of his extremism was exposed here on News Corpse Sunday. The only people who support Bundy’s greedy, self-serving, churlishness are fellow terrorist militiamen and Fox News hosts. But Jon Stewart, as usual, provides one of the best perspectives on the situation that captures the absurdity of the affair in an honest and hilarious manner (video below). He sums it all up by observing that…
“The law isn’t on Bundy’s side. The court isn’t on Bundy’s side. Even the Nevada state constitution, which Bundy claims to abide, isn’t on Bundy’s side. Who the hell is on this guy’s side? [...Cue Sean Hannity video montage...] How out there is Hannity on this issue? Sean Hannity has now made Glenn Beck the voice of reason.”
Stewart’s take thoroughly demolishes any defense of Bundy that could be mustered within the bounds or reason. And his graphic depiction of “Apocalypse Cow” perfectly conveys the radical theo-con leanings of Bundy & Company. However, in searching for the Daily Show video there were some unexpected discoveries that Stewart may not have been aware of:
Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan
If you think you’ve seen it all — WORLD WAR Z, THE WALKING DEAD– you haven’t seen anything like this. From the twisted brain of Michael Logan comes Apocalypse Cow, a story about three unlikely heroes who must save Britain . . . from a rampaging horde of ZOMBIE COWS!
Apocalypse Cow – Three Floyds Brewing Co. & Brewpub
This complex, double India Pale Ale has an intense citrus and floral hop aroma balanced by a velvety malt body which has been augmented with lactose milk sugar. With this different take on an IPA we have brewed an ale that is both pleasing to drink and, once again, “not normal.” Cheers!
Cletus, zombies and beer. How appropriate. And who knew this was such a popular theme? Anyway, here is Stewart’s version for your viewing pleasure.
And in honor of the Heifer joke above, please give to Heifer International: Together we have the power over hunger and poverty.
Last month Sharyl Attkisson resigned from her job as an investigative reporter for CBS News. She blamed the departure on what she perceived as a liberal bias by the network’s brass that kept her stories off the air. But that excuse has little support behind it considering the fact that the current president of CBS News is David Rhodes, a former executive at Fox News who presided over the most brazenly biased right-wing propaganda that ever masqueraded as news.
This weekend Attkisson appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources and was subjected, for the first time, to some pushback regarding her version of the events that led to her separation from CBS. In the course of the interview Attkisson made an irresponsible accusation for which she failed to offer any evidence. She alleged that Media Matters may have been paid (by some mysterious entity she declined to name) to attack her and her reporting:
“I clearly at some point became a target. I don’t know if someone paid them to do it or they just took it on their own. [...] I think that’s what some of these groups do, absolutely.”
Media Matters responded with a prompt denial saying that their coverage of her was “based only on her shoddy reporting.” And Attkisson’s wild claim about Media Matters is an excellent example of such shoddiness. Without a scintilla of proof, Attkisson went on a national news program and made an accusation of the worst sort of journalistic malfeasance. If that’s the kind of reporting she brought to CBS it’s no wonder they spiked her stories. And it is strikingly lazy, unethical, and self-serving to invent and disseminate an unsupported charge against Media Matters.
For the record, this is not the first time that Atkisson has been caught in an embarrassing breach of ethics. She has produced reports on issues like Benghazi and green energy that were riddled with flaws and omissions. But she seems most prone to crossing the line when the story is about her.
Last year she revealed that her computer was hacked by an unknown intruder. She appeared on Fox News with Bill O’Reilly and implied that the only plausible purpose for the hacking was to intimidate her due to her investigations on Fast and Furious and Benghazi. That put the suspicion squarely on somebody in the administration that didn’t like her snooping into those matters.
However, just as with her smearing of Media Matters, she offered zero evidence of her charges. She dismissed out of hand any possibility that she may just have been one of millions of victims of criminal hacking that goes on every day. At one point O’Reilly asked if she knew who the hacker might be and she said “Well, I think I know. But I am just not prepared to go into that.” This all happened nearly a year ago and Attkisson has still not told us what she allegedly “knows” about the identity of the hacker. What she did say was that she would proceed with her investigations and that she had the full support of CBS:
“We’re continuing to move forward aggressively, CBS News takes this very seriously, as do I.”
What’s interesting about that is that she is admitting that CBS was supportive of her efforts, contrary to her new story that they are hopelessly liberal and were holding her back. She described her relationship with Rhodes, the right-wing former Fox News exec, as being one where they had a “meeting of the minds.” That was her opinion at the time she was actually doing the work. Now that she has left CBS, and is preparing to publish a book that is critical of the Obama administration, her view has flipped 180 degrees, just in time to generate some controversy that might raise interest in her book (which is being published by Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins). But I’m sure all of that is just a coincidence.
There is, however, a clear pattern of sloppy journalism and wild claims when Attkisson spouts off about computer hackers, liberal bias at CBS, and paid attacks from Media Matters, none of which is backed up by any proof. Her tendency to fling unsupported allegations at her perceived enemies shows that the disgrace with which she is now viewed by responsible journalists is well deserved. Lucky for her, Fox News regards that sort of bias and unprofessionalism as an asset, so her future employment prospects look good.
The unfolding drama in the Nevada desert over a deadbeat cattle rancher’s refusal to pay customary grazing fees like every other rancher, continues to excite the Tea Party pseudo-patriots who believe that threatening a range war in defense of personal greed is a mark of virtue. However, Cliven Bundy’s domestic terrorism serves nothing more than his own selfish financial interests, and the crusade he purports to lead is rooted in the worst sort of perversion of constitutional principles.
Bundy has resisted paying to graze his cattle on federal land because he doesn’t recognize the authority of the government to assess those fees. In fact, he doesn’t even “recognize the United States government as even existing.” His argument has lost repeatedly in court, but he continues to ignore his responsibility and to defy the law. His malfeasance amounts to the theft of over a million dollars from the American people. Ironically, if his argument prevailed he would be subject to paying the state of Nevada for grazing rights at $15.50 per head of cattle, rather than the federal rate of $1.35. But simple math, like simple logic, is too complicated for these cretins. So instead, they take up arms against their fellow Americans and pretend to defend their twisted misinterpretation of the Constitution.
Now we have evidence of where Bundy may have picked up his constitutional delusions. In a recent media appearance, Bundy was proudly displaying a copy of the Constitution in his shirt pocket.
After searching for the distinctive cover of the document in Bundy’s pocket, the publisher turned out to be the innocuously named National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS). However, the NCCS is not the commendable educational organization it purports to be. It began life as the Freemen Institute, a vehicle for the far-right, Mormon, anti-commie, history revisionist, W. Cleon Skousen. Skousen taught that the Constitution was inspired by a God who intended America to be a Christian nation. He also professed the canon of white supremicism that Anglo-Saxons are descended from a lost tribe of Israel. The Southern Poverty Law Center chronicled the NCCS curriculum based on Skousen’s philosophy saying that he…
“…demonized the federal regulatory agencies, arguing for the abolition of everything from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to the Environmental Protection Agency. He wanted to repeal the minimum wage, smash unions, nullify anti-discrimination laws, sell off public lands and national parks, end the direct election of senators, kill the income tax and the estate tax, knock down state-level walls separating church and state, and, of course, raze the Federal Reserve System.”
Sound familiar? Skousen’s warped ideology syncs up perfectly with the Tea Party and other purveyors of fringe fear mongering like politi-vangelist Glenn Beck, who literally begged his audience to read Skousen’s book, “The 5000 Year Leap,” which Beck said was “divinely inspired.” The conspiracy-obsessed NCCS shares with Beck and Bundy an animosity toward government that exceeds the boundaries of common sense. Along with Skousen’s books, the NCCS website features anti-UN screeds (“Confronting Agenda 21″), treatises on wingnut electoral reforms (“Repeal 17 Now!”), harbingers of one-world government (“The Rise of Global Governance”), and appeals for institutionalized theocracy (“America’s God & Country”). No wonder Bundy was sporting a version of the Constitution that was distributed by the NCCS, an organization that advances ultra-conservative conspiracy theories and promotes anti-government hostility.
The threatening hysteria and deception emanating from Bundy, and the armed militias that came to his defense, are emblematic of the apocalyptic doctrine of the NCCS. It is no accident that Bundy’s Constitution was provided by a group whose teachings have been denounced by historians and constitutional scholars. But it does explain the extremism and advocacy of violence that Bundy et al have espoused. All of this makes it all the more inappropriate and irresponsible for Bundy to be hailed as hero by conservative media outlets like the National Review and Fox News who, just last week, compared Bundy to Gandhi in a feat of epic cognitive collapse.
Fox News has given out some monumentally idiotic advice over the years. They advised people not to fill out their census forms (which is a violation of law). They counseled young people not to sign up for health insurance (which could lead to medical and financial disaster). They have beat the drums for every potential war that has come along (Syria, Iran, North Korea, etc.) But now they are making a suggestion that far surpasses their prior imbecility by light years.
Todd Starnes is the resident Fox News theocracy advocate. His reports are almost entirely concerned with what he regards as the oppression of Christians in America and elsewhere. He is a religious zealot who favors replacing science with Christian dogma in schools, business, and government.
His latest screed is titled “Maybe It’s Time to Arm Ukrainian Jews.” Starnes is responding to reports that Jews in Ukraine were allegedly asked to identify themselves and to register as Jews. If true, that is indeed a repugnant development that recalls the practices of the Nazis and other anti-Semitic regimes. Certainly such a move should be condemned and resisted. However, Starnes is proposing a response that can only make things far worse:
“In the spirit of diplomacy, it’s time for our Commander-in-Chief to grow a backbone.
“And if the reports are true — at the very least – we should send every Ukrainian Jew — man, woman and child – a gun and a box of ammo.
“The last thing the country wants is to be dragged into another war. But we cannot – and must not — stand by and allow our Jewish friends to be targeted.”
What exactly does Starnes think this would accomplish? Does he think that the Jewish minority in Ukraine would be able to defeat the forces of the majority? Does he think that they could also fight off the Russian army? Is he so desperately stupid that he believes putting guns in the hands of a few people would result in their more numerous and better armed oppressors surrendering to them? Starnes complains that President Obama is lacking a backbone, but there is surely no evidence of one in Starnes. His vision of Jewish children parading around with “a gun and a box of ammo” would be comical if not for the tragic consequences. And his claim to not wanting to be dragged into another war is transparently disingenuous. That’s precisely what he wants, and it’s what his proposal would achieve.
The Jewish people of Ukraine do deserve protection from bigots in their nation and their government. But the the method of providing that protection is not to pit them against a mightier force that would slaughter them. The proper response is to pressure the Ukraine dissidents, and their Russian benefactors, to back off with a threat of [international diplomatic] force greater than that which they can muster. You do not send ten people into a frenzied crowd of ten thousand and wish them luck.
Starnes and his bosses at Fox News would like nothing better than to instigate a massacre about which they can then fulminate and use to advance their lust for war. And if some Jews have to get killed in the process, that’s just too bad. If Starnes is so concerned about the welfare of Ukrainian Jews, then he should hop on a plane to Crimea and put himself in the line of fire, rather than suggesting that others risk their lives from the comfort of his American studio.
The only positive part of this disgusting story is that Starnes is a well known douchebag whose advice is not likely to be taken up by anyone with any authority. He is just another in a long line of conservative chickenhawks who are only too happy to put other people’s lives in danger. If he ever did go to Ukraine, or any other hot spot, you know exactly where you can find him: Cowering under the nearest rock with soggy pants and whimpering for someone to rescue his sorry ass.
The pseudo-patriots at Fox News have made it a staple of their programming to accuse President Obama of being a lawless president. This is usually in response to something that is perfectly legal like the issuance of an executive order (of which Obama has produced fewer than any two-term president in at least one hundred years). But when it comes to bona fide lawbreakers, Fox is fully supportive, so long as it can be used against Obama or the administration he leads.
Cliven Bundy is cattle rancher in Nevada who doesn’t recognize the federal government’s authority to manage the land that it owns. So rather than pay customary grazing fees for his cattle, like all other ranchers do, he has defied the law and exploited public lands for his own private financial benefit. In the process he has threatened violence against law enforcement personnel and implied a readiness to engage in hostile activities that would put innocent members of the public in danger.
If a Republican were currently serving as president, Fox News would surely denounce Bundy as an outlaw who was stealing from the American people. That’s if they bothered to report on it at all. In fact, a similar case involving the Colvin Cattle Company of Nevada was resolved in federal court in 2006, during the Bush administration, with a judgement in favor of the Bureau of Land Management. There was no wailing about big government or tyranny. There was no outcry from Republicans, militias, or Fox News.
However, since the government that Bundy is defying is run by a Democratic chief executive (and a black one at that), Fox News has elevated Bundy to hero status. They broadcast frequent remotes from the Nevada desert with fawning interviews of the Bundy clan. They completely ignore his threats to public safety. Sean Hannity even lauds their efforts and has promised to join them on the battle lines (yeah, sure he will). They also misrepresent the nature of the dispute as one that involves environmental issues rather than the failure to pay grazing fees as the law requires.
Now Fox News has crossed a line in their reporting that suggests that they are in favor of violent insurrection. On their Fox Nation website they have featured an article sourced to National Review with the title “The Case for a Little Sedition.” Apparently Fox News is comfortable with advocating treason in small amounts. But the twisted reasoning they use is both absurd and offensive:
“Mohandas Gandhi and George Washington both were British subjects who believed that their legal situation was at odds with something deeper and more meaningful, and that the British were a legal authority but an alien power.”
What makes this article especially reprehensible is that it seeks to compare Bundy with Gandhi. To be clear, Gandhi was a man who sacrificed his life for the benefit of his people so that they could be free of a foreign oppressor. And Gandhi was committed to achieving that goal with non-violence. Bundy, on the other hand, is a man who has openly expressed his intention to cause violence against his fellow Americans in pursuit of his private financial self-interest. See? They are exactly the same.
Likewise, the comparison to George Washington is unfathomably ludicrous. Washington led a revolutionary army aimed at untethering the British colonies from a monarchy that ruled them while neglecting their interests. But Bundy is leading a personal criminal enterprise in order to enrich himself at the expense of the nation.
For Fox News to support this criminal behavior is unconscionable and grossly inappropriate for an alleged journalistic organization. Any hostilities that may ensue as a result can be directly attributable to Fox News and their affiliated wingnut media like National Review. Should violence breakout the victims would have legal standing to pursue Fox News criminally and civilly.
Fox’s viewers also have a responsibility related to this. If they continue watch and support a network that has openly called for sedition against the government, then they bear a symbolic culpability as well. And they certainly cannot portray themselves as patriots going forward.
One of Bill O’Reilly’s favorite new attack themes is something that he calls the “Grievance Industry.” Apparently it is any person or group who registers a complaint against something that O’Reilly likes. For instance, racial discrimination or tax policies that favor the rich. It’s curious, though, that he would invent a disparaging way of looking at something that is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution: “…to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” And the larger irony is that no one is more of a complainer than O’Reilly himself.
Take his latest Talking Points Memo segment wherein he makes a case for voter suppression via voter ID laws that do not address any actual problem. He begins with his boilerplate whining about how “the grievance industry believes that requiring an ID to vote is a right-wing plot to deny some Americans their voting rights.” He asserts that the push for voter ID is because of voter fraud, but like everyone else on the right who has beaten this path, he provides no evidence of the fraud that he alleges.
In an effort to belittle his opponents, O’Reilly says that the left denies that there is any voter fraud. That’s a lie. In fact the left acknowledges that there is voter fraud, but that it is on such a small scale as to be insignificant. And it doesn’t come close to justifying the imposition of obstacles to voting for millions of legitimate citizens.
Attempting to introduce some substance, O’Reilly cites an “investigation” into voter fraud in the state of North Carolina. The only problem with that is that it has produced precisely zero examples of any unlawful activity. The project was so flawed that when Dick Morris made the same reference to it as O’Reilly, PolitiFact slapped him down with a rating of “False.” They further pointed out that the data used was previously shown to be utterly unreliable. In Kansas they bragged that they had uncovered 185,000 potential cases of voter fraud. But all that came of it was fourteen referrals for prosecution and zero convictions.
O’Reilly then specifically made an allegation, which he portrayed as a fact, that “at least 81 North Carolinians voted in 2013 after they died.” But there is no evidence to support that claim either. In previous similar incidents there was always a simple explanation such as that the voters had cast absentee ballots and then died prior to election day.
O’Reilly then endorses a plan to put photos on Social Security cards and use those as voter identification. Critics of this proposal note that it would introduce serious privacy risks, a complaint that O’Reilly casually dismisses. However, Social Security cards have a unique purpose in our society and the prospect of making them a universal form of identification does expose people to a greater risk of identity fraud. Your Social Security number was never intended to a form of identification.
Perhaps the most outlandish assertion in O’Reilly’s rant was that “There are about 12 million illegal aliens in the U.S. who could vote without proper ID in place.” Oh my. That’s twice the margin by which President Obama beat Mitt Romney in 2012. So where all of these illegal aliens plotting to corrupt the American electoral system? There certainly isn’t any evidence of them having voted. And they’ve been around for many election cycles. It doesn’t even make any sense that people who are here without documentation would risk jail and deportation in order to cast a ballot for candidates who will not represent them.
The only reason that O’Reilly would even raise this phony issue is to fan the flames of bigotry that are already burning in the souls of his audience and much of the extremist right-wing that he represents. It is a reprehensible and irresponsible appeal to people who are predisposed to hate anyone different from themselves. And sadly, it is an appeal that will find agreement by viewers of Fox News despite the irrationality of the argument.
O’Reilly invented the “grievance industry” concept so that he could dismissively waive off any allegation of prejudice as something unwarranted, trivial, and/or fabricated. It’s his way of belittling those who make observations about the racism that still infects our society. But he is the best example that bigotry, in all its hateful glory, continues to be a problem that the goodhearted American people need to redouble their efforts to eradicate. And we could start with Bill O’Reilly.
An Ohio Tea Party candidate seeking to oust Republican House Speaker John Boehner has released a Viagra-themed campaign ad (video below) that is actually pretty funny. J.D. Winteregg’s ad hits all the top Tea Party talking points. He’s anti-immigration, pro-gun and promises to defund ObamaCare and Planned Parenthood. And for some reason he also felt it necessary to declare his opposition golf.
Winteregg is just one of many Republican fringe candidates taking on establishment GOP figures like Boehner. He doesn’t have much chance of winning, but he can certainly be a major annoyance and, by reminding conservatives of all the things they hate about Boehner, he can contribute to Republican voters sitting out the election in November.
The ad slams Boehner as having “Electile Dysfunction” as a result of being in Washington, D.C. too long. It shows Boehner in videos being chummy with President Obama, a fatal flaw to the close-minded, Tea Party bigots who consider such fraternization to be akin to treason. And it charges Boehner with being spineless for having given in to liberals. Apparently shutting down the government for three weeks, supporting Darrell Issa’s McCarthyite inquisitions, and holding 50+ votes to cripple the Affordable Care Act is an expression of weakness in the eyes of Tea Party extremists.
Perhaps the the best moment in the ad is when the announcer gets to the disclaimer and warns that…
“If you have a Boehner lasting longer than 23 years, seek immediate medical attention.”
With that Winteregg has distinguished himself as the only candidate with the guts to make a dick joke in his official campaign video. And while it may not help him to win the primary, it’s a pretty good bet that he’ll get an invitation to appear on Bill Maher’s show after he loses. It will also get him some attention from the press, which is surely the whole point of the ad. The problem being that it will likely get more play on MSNBC than on Fox News.
And therein lies the flaw in Winteregg’s media strategy. It is not likely to appeal to the conservative media that he needs to rally voters. Consequently, the people most likely to vote for him may never see the ad. Democrats, on the other hand, will love the ad but will never vote for a far-right Tea Partier whose platform consists of nothing but negative attacks on Democratic policies and politicians.
So with this ad Winteregg has demonstrated that he (or more likely his media advisers) has a sense of humor, but he has also revealed that he has no idea how to manage a successful campaign. Which, of course, is also good for Democrats as well as Speaker Boner…er…Boehner.
Fox Nation is a website that traffics in the most pure form of propaganda the American news media has ever produced. On a daily basis they disseminate lies and slander aimed at their ideological enemies (which is anyone to the left of Attila the Hun). Which makes it all the more ironic that they are now hyperventilating over a piece of historical art that was hung in the kitchen of Press Secretary Jay Carney’s home.
A fluffy human interest piece in the Washingtonian Magazine profiled Carney’s wife, journalist Claire Shipman. The feature included a photograph of the Carney’s at home making breakfast. But lurking in the background was evidence of the nefarious associations that everyone in the Obama administration has to the dark evil of communism. So, of course, Fox Nation posts an item that points the bony finger of accusation and bellows that “Jay Carney Decorates Home With Soviet Propaganda.”
In fact, the artwork in question is a classic example of Russian Constructivism from the 1930′s. It is a historically significant period style that is collected by art connoisseurs and museums. The specific piece was created by a well known Russian artist, Dmitry Moor and was used as a recruiting poster in Russia’s war against Hitler and the Nazi regime of Germany, in much the same way the United States used its “Uncle Sam, I Want You” posters.
As usual, Fox Nation leaves out all of the relevant context that might inform their readers about the subject on which they pretend to report. That’s because the mission of Fox News is never to inform, but to indoctrinate. In this case, Fox omitted the fact that Carney and his wife first met while on assignment in Moscow for their respective news agencies, Time Magazine and CNN. Adding that factoid to the story makes the presence of the poster less ominous and more romantic. Also, Fox chose to only publish a version of the Russian artwork (and the wrong version at that) rather than the actual photo from the Washingtonian that reveals a rather charming and thoroughly American family enjoying their morning at home.
Frightening, aren’t they? And notice that they are engaged in some sort of witchcraft, cackling as they mysteriously levitate chicken embryos.
For Fox Nation to get so flustered by this innocent display of artwork is typical of their efforts to take the most petty trivialities and blow them up into subversive acts of villainy. And while the Fox Nationalists froth at the mouth over art of a bygone age that offends no one, they are never bothered in the least by present day American Tea Party rightists who wave the Confederate flag that still represents slavery and oppression to millions.
[Update 4/13/2014] Not surprisingly, the Kiddie Crew on the Curvy Couch of Fox & Friends regurgitated the inane criticism of the Carney family’s decor. But host Tucker Carlson inexplicably made an argument that implied his frustration at not being able to display his Nazi posters saying, “Why is it OK to put Soviet propaganda posters up but not Nazi propaganda posters?” Poor Tucker. He will probably have to keep his KKK posters locked up in the garage too.
Although Letterman only announced his pending retirement a few days ago, Colbert was almost instantly regarded as a top contender to fill the vacancy. His unique brand of characterture and satire has won him numerous Emmys and even a couple of Peabody Awards. When he assumes the position at the Late Show desk he will immediately challenge his peers to up their game in both raw comedy and creativity. It is fair to expect Colbert to reshape the concept of late-night television.
For extra added entertainment pleasure, watch the conservative martinets of Puritan culture grasp their throats and gasp for air as their lungs veritably burst with outrage. Colbert, and his Comedy Central mentor Jon Stewart, have long been targets of right-wing animosity. To the extent that they manage to get the jokes, they despise them and whine about more liberal domination of the news (as if Stewart and Colbert were actually journalists). They tried in vain to mimic the Daily Show and to launch (or relaunch) careers for conservative comics like Dennis Miller, Steven Crowder, and Victoria Jackson.
Just yesterday, Bill O’Reilly devoted his nightly Talking Points Memo segment to Colbert, whom he called “a deceiver” for mocking O’Reilly’s ludicrous defense of income inequality. O’Reilly went on to say that…
“Colbert can be dismissed as clueless, but the guy does do damage because he gives cover to the powerful people who are selling Americans a big lie, that this country is bad, that it intentionally oppresses many of its own citizens. That is a lie. That point of view is shameful.”
Well, O’Reilly is the authority when it comes to doing damage by giving cover to powerful people selling lies. But even as Fox News blasts Colbert and Stewart as hopelessly biased, they have recognized the falsehood in that characterization. News Corpse documented 29 occasions where the Fox Nation website praised Stewart for taking the conservative side on his program. That, however, has never stopped them from asserting that Stewart is a socialist who only satirizes conservatives.
In response to the Colbert promotion, Breitbart News editor, John Nolte tweeted “Low-Rated Hyper-Partisan Lefty to Replace David Letterman.” He previously critiqued Colbert saying that…
“There’s a HUGE left-wing agenda behind what Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert is doing, and it’s a serious agenda that has nothing to do with satire.”
That’s typical of the viewpoint that Nolte has held for years. In a series of ignorant columns attacking Colbert, Nolte pointed out what he considered to be the poor ratings performance of The Colbert Report. But due to his embarrassing ignorance of the television business, Nolte failed to realize that Colbert’s ratings were better than those of Fox News. What’s more, no knowledgeable person would compare the ratings of a niche cable channel with those of a broadcast TV network. When Colbert moves up to CBS he will inherit the audience that goes along with it.
Rush Limbaugh weighed in saying that…
“CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American, conservative values. Now it’s just right out in the open.”
NewsBusters’ Dan Gainor tweeted…
“Colbert: From liberal asshat pretending to be conservative to liberal asshat who gets to be honest about his asshattery.”
Karl Rove was personally offended by Colbert’s “Ham Rove” bit, which he took as a threat of violence:
“One liberal replacing another one. Only this one apparently knows how to wield a knife.”
Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post published a screed titled “Picking Colbert to replace Letterman? CBS really screwed up,” in which author Kyle Smith (who?) says that Colbert is…
“…only funny if you accept the premise (conservatives are morons) while you snort Mountain Dew out your nose.”
There will surely be more to come from these media geniuses who live in fear of Colbert’s brand of truthiness. If they were smart they would withhold their juvenile insults and accept the fact that CBS made a decision that is in the best interests of their bottom line. They could simply declare that their silly #CancelColbert boycott campaign was a huge success and return to something they have a much longer history of – insulting women and minorities.
The prospect for Colbert’s future as a late-night host are promising. He has an appealing personality and an engaging rapport with the guests he interviews. He is likely to have less political content on CBS, where their Standards and Practices department will keep a tighter rein on him. That will be a loss for those of us who cherish his outlook on society and culture, but you can’t blame him for aspiring to advance his career. And while he may tone it down, he likely will not abandon it altogether.
What many of the people commenting on this news are neglecting to mention is that there will now be a vacancy at Comedy Central. Here’s hoping that Jon Stewart, whose production company put Colbert on as his lead-out, will have some say in the matter of what follows him next. Due to his irreplaceable persona, it will not be possible to slip someone else into the same format. But another snarky news send-up is still the obvious choice to fill out the late-night hour. Perhaps Comedy Central could parody Fox News’ The Five, with a panel show featuring Daily Show regulars like Lewis Black, John Hodgeman, Kristen Schaal, Al Madrigal, Jessica Williams, Wyatt Cynac, etc.
They have no shortage of talent available. And, thanks to Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media circus, they have no shortage of material either.
[Update] On his show last night, Bill O’Reilly ignored the news about Colbert’s new job, but Time Magazine caught up with him and elicited this response: “I hope Colbert will consider me for the Ed McMahon spot.” Proving once again that O’Reilly is hopelessly stuck in the past, his attempt at humor reached back to reference a decades old sidekick, rather than a more relevant choice like Paul Shaffer or Alan Coulter. But O’Reilly would be a good choice for an Ed McMahon role, whose comedic persona was that of an old Irish loudmouth and a notorious drunk.
Late last month Bill O’Reilly offered his rebuttal to the argument that income inequality is contributing to the current state of economic stagnation and the bitter partisanship in political circles. He dismissed any notion that there is a problem with having 400 of the richest Americans controlling more wealth than the rest of the 350 million of us combined. Instead, O’Reilly said that…
“The truth is there will never be equality in this world. That’s impossible, an opium-laced dream. I will never have equality with my fellow Irishman Shaquille O’Neal he is bigger and stronger than I am by nature. I will never be as smart as Einstein, as talented as Mozart or as kind as Mother Teresa. Each human being is born with abilities, but they are not equal abilities.”
This demonstrates that O’Reilly doesn’t have an inkling of understanding what the income equality debate is about. It has nothing to do with artificial uniformity of human life forms, physically, intellectually, or emotionally. It is about society sharing responsibilities fairly. It is about insuring that powerful elites and faceless corporations are not permitted to exploit everybody else while shirking their own civic duties. Or as Stephen Colbert said facetiously…
“Shaquille O’Neal is taller than Bill O’Reilly, therefore the richest 1 percent of Americans should control 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.”
Colbert’s hilarious smackdown of O’Reilly (video below) must have gotten to Papa Bear. On last night’s episode, O’Reilly devoted his opening Talking Points Memo to lambasting Colbert in the harshest terms. He called Colbert “a deceiver” and an “ideological fanatic” who is “misguided in the extreme.” But O’Reilly wasn’t done yet. He continued saying that…
“Colbert can be dismissed as clueless, but the guy does do damage because he gives cover to the powerful people who are selling Americans a big lie, that this country is bad, that it intentionally oppresses many of its own citizens. That is a lie. That point of view is shameful.”
Of course, Colbert never said or implied that the country is bad. But he and millions of other Americans recognize that it is flawed with respect to the over-weighting of influence by upper-crusty plutocrats. Recent decisions by the right-wing dominated Supreme Court that give ever-more power to the rich are evidence of the wealth-centric bias that keeps average citizens from having an equal say in public affairs. When money equals speech, the rich get more of it, and the poor can only buy silence. That’s a position that fits squarely with O’Reilly’s world view. Last year he actually lamented the fate of the rich as the ones who were really oppressed.
O’Reilly also sought to school Colbert on the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saying that “Maybe Colbert should understand that Dr. King gave his life for equality of opportunity.” But that is a stupendously false and ignorant misreading of King’s message. King gave his life in the fight for actual equality and freedom from oppression, not the “opportunity” of it. And the fight continues to this day with people like O’Reilly who defend a status quo that favors rich folks like himself.
One thing that O’Reilly got right is that “Each human being is born with abilities, but they are not equal abilities.” And clearly O’Reilly doesn’t have the intellectual or comedic ability to go toe-to-toe with Colbert.
The Republican Party has been desperately seeking a solution to what they admit are serious problems connecting with the American people. Their sobering losses in 2012 to a president they were convinced had no hopes for victory shook them to their core. The Republican National Committee published an “autopsy” of the election that conceded its failure to appeal to minorities and young voters, among other critical constituencies.
Since the release of the autopsy, it seems that the party has decided to ignore its conclusions and concentrate on what it calls “branding.” So despite the mountain of evidence from their own internal analysis, the GOP still thinks that their only problem is one of poor communication, rather than their strict adherence to policies that voters have rejected.
The latest example of this cognitive disconnect comes with Republicans bragging about their new Internet top-level domain “.GOP,”“Your Street Address in the Republican Neighborhood.” Apparently the missing piece in their path to victory was a website domain like vote.gop. Now that they have fixed that problem, they can rest easy as they coast to electoral success without having to bother with addressing issues like the economy, health care, immigration, or international diplomacy. Commenting on this technological leap forward (that Fox News calls a “potential boon for online organizing”), the RNC said…
“The goal here is to really make investments and be on top of all of the newest in technology to compete with the Democrats and move up ahead of them,” Republican National Committee Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski said.
Exactly! Because having a domain name on the Internet is the bleeding edge of modern communications. It will enable the Party to join such American institutions as “.beer” and “.porn” and “.Walmart.” It has the potential to corral all of the Party’s supporters under a single digital flag. And what could go wrong? Just because anyone will be able to register a domain with the new moniker doesn’t mean that radical fringes of the Republican universe will put sites up on DumpBoehner.gop, or EndSocialSecurity.gop, or KillDemocrats.gop, or SarahPalin2016.gop. And certainly there would no chance of mischievous lefties posting Nazi.gop, or Scumbag.gop, or AmericansAgainst.gop. [Feel to contribute your own suggestions]
It cost the RNC $185,000 to secure this prestigious Internet real estate (plus $25,000 a year). That’s money well spent if it distracts enough low-information voters from focusing on actual issues long enough to steal an election. That is the central goal of the GOP digital initiative. They have even formed a unit called “Parabellum Labs” specifically to advance the state of their technology and to compete with Democrats. But someone should have told them that Para Bellum is Latin for “for war,” and it is also the name that Germans gave to their iconic Lugar pistol.
The GOP really knows how to work branding. Too bad they don’t know how to legislate or govern or develop a platform that people support.
Like the Tea Party, Fox Nation is turning five and behaving very much like any other five year old. They whine when they don’t get their way. They throw tantrums if they are denied. They invent their own reality and dismiss facts that don’t validate their delusional world view. They exaggerate their victories and insult their perceived enemies. It’s a truly pathetic display of childish egoism.
“These are not mere differences of opinion or discussions that might have varying degrees of perspective. They are obvious, provable, out and out lies. They are manifestations of a disconnect with the real world. But they are not the result of psychosis or mistake. They are deliberate and purposeful. They are aimed at an ill-informed audience that is only interested in having their prejudices affirmed. And Fox News is only too happy to accommodate them.”
As an example from the book of one of the blatant departures from reality employed by Fox, take a look at this article where Fox Nation published an item with the headline “Obama More Unpopular Than Tea Party.” However, the New York Times poll cited in the article actually reported Obama’s favorability at 48% and the Tea Party at 20% – a complete reversal of the declaration in the headline.
That’s typical of the way Fox Nation distorts the real world for the benefit of readers who prefer fantasy. And now Fox Nation is bragging about how they have been providing these tales for half a decade. So let’s wish them a happy birthday, but continue to keep an eye on their falsifications and deception as they endeavor to defend the wealthy individuals and corporations they were created to support.
[Update] Joining Fox Nation’s birthday celebration is Breitbart News who interviewed the website’s editor, Jesse Watters (who is rarely identified as the editor in public). Watters revealed that “Matt Drudge and Andrew Breitbart were inspirations” for the site, removing all doubt that it was designed as a right-wing propaganda outlet from its inception. Watters also admits that he is unconcerned with truth-telling:
“If there were any stories his Fox Nation promoted that turned out to be less than factual, Watters won’t dwell on such things. ‘Everyone has regrets about things that are posted. You learn from mistakes and move on,’ he said.”
Of course, what Watters means by “learning” is not taking care to be more truthful, but taking care to avoid getting caught when lying. He also expressed his pride in the site’s followers whom he described as “vibrant, engaged and fiercely loyal.” He left out fiercely racist – like this, or this, or this.
In February of this year, the unrepentant liar and alleged pervert, James O’Keefe, released another in his series of dishonest, pseudo-journalistic video escapades. In it he falsely asserted that Battleground Texas, a local organization that promotes voter participation, had violated state laws while registering citizens to vote.
The News Corpse analysis of the video proved that O’Keefe was badly misinterpreting the law and making unfounded accusations against civic-minded volunteers. That is the hallmark of his body of work as a lying propagandist. And he almost always attacks people or organizations that seek to assist the poor or other disadvantaged constituencies. The aforementioned analysis said in part that…
“What O’Keefe did was to clip a portion of the Texas election code that says ‘The registrar may not transcribe, copy, or otherwise record a telephone number furnished on a registration application.’ What he either fails to understand, or is deliberately misrepresenting, is that this section of the law applies only to the Registrar of Voters and other county officials. It does not apply to the volunteers or organizations that distribute and collect voter registration forms.”
Now a team of Special Prosecutors in Texas have affirmed that O’Keefe’s video hackery fails to expose any wrongdoing on the part of Battleground Texas. It can’t be over-stressed that these are Texas-based prosecutors who were assigned by a Texan judge to investigate the charges raised by O’Keefe in his video project. The prosecutors report concluded that…
“The Veritas video was little more than a canard and political disinformation. The video was particularly unprofessional when it suggested that the actions of Battleground Texas were advocated by a Texas gubernatorial candidate and the that actions of a single volunteer deputy registrar may even involve private health data, which is not involved in the voter registration process.”
The report also explicitly addressed the question of whether the Texas election code prohibited the transcription of voter data, including phone numbers. What they concluded, with citations from the current Texas Attorney General (who is running for governor against Democrat Wendy Davis), is that the “statutory provision applies only to the official county registrar, not to a volunteer deputy registrar.” And that just happens to validate the analysis published here on News Corpse two months ago.
The Special Prosecutors closed their report with a recommendation that “the complaint be dismissed for insufficient evidence and failure to state an offense.” The judge agreed and signed the order to dismiss. This marks only the most recent embarrassment for O’Keefe who regularly engages in fraudulent activity in pursuit of his radical, partisan agenda. Some of his other antics have resulted in his arrest and conviction in a Louisiana senator’s office and a legal order to pay a $100,000 settlement to a former ACORN employee he defamed. He himself has broken voter registration laws in a failed attempt to defend suppressive voter ID legislation. And let’s not forget his sleazy plot to seduce a CNN reporter aboard his “Love Boat.”
O’Keefe has not yet commented on this ruling that certifies his blatantly unethical behavior. It is also notable that none of the media outlets that promoted O’Keefe’s lie-riddled video have bothered to report this legal development. Apparently they don’t think it is newsworthy that their trusted source has been deemed a purveyor of “political disinformation” by Texas legal authorities. Amongst those who giddily peddled O’Keefe’s video, but now ignore the legal smackdown, were National Review, Breitbart News, WorldNetDaily, NewsBusters, FreedomWorks, The Daily Caller, Townhall, and Human Events. And of course, Fox News also hyped the video on their Fox Nation (a website that regularly spreads political disinformation and outright lies). This is to be expected from the conservative media circus that is only there to distort and confuse rather than to inform.
Conservative opponents of the Democratic health insurance agenda are heavily invested in its failure. From the outset they have portrayed it as a dangerous descent into tyranny that would destroy the magnificent American health care system and the nation as a whole. In its role as PR division of the Republican Party, Fox News did its part to demonize the law and frighten people away from signing up.
Now that the numbers are in showing that, defying all expectations, the program surpassed the goals that had been set in an early analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, Fox News is shifting into high gear to dismiss the facts. The latest example of this determination to avoid reality comes with the release of an extensive survey conducted by Gallup. The core of the survey’s results are apparent in their headline which reads “In U.S., Uninsured Rate Lowest Since 2008.” And if that isn’t clear enough, Gallup leads off their analysis by saying that…
“The uninsured rate has been falling since the fourth quarter of 2013, after hitting an all-time high of 18.0% in the third quarter — a sign that the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage.”
The news of Gallup’s results was widely reported by the media. The Associated Press distributed an article to its member news organizations with the headline “Survey: Health insurance gains pick up.” This story was published by numerous outlets that represented a broad array of opinion, including the Miami Herald, ABC, Washington Times, Newsmax, NPR, Houston Chronicle, and even local Fox affiliates in Atlanta, Orlando, Phoenix, Chicago, and more. All with the lede provided by AP. However, Fox News chose to handle the same AP story in its own unique way by altering much of the content and changing the headline to “Gallup survey suggests sign-ups under ObamaCare not as high as White House says.”
Clearly Fox News contrived to present a more negative version of the story than the one told by the survey’s actual findings. A closer look at the differences between the AP’s original article and the one published by Fox reveals just how committed Fox is to misrepresenting the facts. The AP’s article began…
“A growing share of Americans got health insurance as sign-up season for President Barack Obama’s health care law came to a close last month, a major survey released Monday has found.”
The Fox News version altered that to say…
“A major new Gallup survey suggests the ObamaCare sign-up numbers are not as soaring as the White House claims.”
The AP’s article goes on to say that…
“The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index provides independent validation for White House claims that the law is expanding access, particularly for working people with no coverage on the job.”
That sentence was removed entirely from the Fox article, which choose instead to focus on speculation as to whether the total number of enrollees reached the 7.1 million mark touted by the administration. Although another sentence that was edited out by Fox said that…
“‘The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as `Obamacare,’ appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance,’ said Gallup’s analysis of the findings.”
In addition, Fox removed a couple of quotes in the AP article. One was by White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, who pointed out that there were “200,000 people who had started applications but weren’t able to finish by the deadline.” The other by HHS spokesman Aaron Albright, who noted that “This survey and other independent analyses highlight a historic expansion in coverage.”
To be sure, there were elements of the survey results that addressed possible shortcomings in the law’s uptake. These were covered by both Gallup and the AP. But they were featured prominently by Fox News, to the exclusion of most of the positive data. But Fox wasn’t satisfied with merely cutting out parts of the AP article that they didn’t like. They also added their own segments in order to further slant the coverage negatively. Where the AP said this…
“The survey also speaks to concerns about the consequences from last fall’s wave of insurance cancellations. Gallup’s data suggest most of the people whose existing policies did not measure up under the law were able to get new coverage, or took advantage of exceptions belatedly issued by the White House.”
Fox News substituted this…
“Some feared the cancellations of more than 4.7 million policies that didn’t measure up to the law’s standards would actually swell the ranks of uninsured people. That created huge political problems for Obama, who had promised Americans they could keep their insurance if they liked it.”
When comparing the presentation of the same data side-by-side, it couldn’t be more clear that Fox is endeavoring to manipulate their audience so that they come to a negative conclusion about ObamaCare. Gallup’s results are recognized as being a neutral snapshot of the nation’s opinions at a specific point in time. And even though many other news sources, including those with staunchly conservative views, published the AP’s story without alteration, Fox couldn’t help itself and chose instead to introduce a blatant bias into their reporting through a series of deceitful edits.
It is this sort of unethical and unprofessional conduct that makes it impossible to take seriously the Fox claim to being “fair and balanced.”
As evidence of how far American journalism has fallen into the abyss of infotainment, minus the info, on Friday NBC’s Today show assigned their crack correspondent, Jenna Bush Hagar, to interview her father George at the opening of an exhibition of his paintings at his presidential library.
The interview violated a slew of journalistic ethics, most notably avoiding a conflict of interest, real or perceived. The relationship between the former president and his daughter obviously precluded any potential for an enlightening news report. An example of the depth attained in this segment is this brief exchange about Bush’s encounters with Vladimir Putin:
Jenna Bush Hagar: You could tell from the very beginning that he was interested in power. And there is an anecdote that you’ve written about that is symbolic of that. George W. Bush: Well, as you know, our dear dog Barney, who had a special spot in my heart, I introduced him to Putin. Putin kind of dissed him.
Indeed. Putin’s uncomplimentary remarks about the First Dog are symbolic of his aspirations to embark on a territorial clampdown that destabilizes the region and sours his relationship with the community of nations. Thanks to Jenna’s dogged reporting we now know more about the Barney Doctrine than was ever previously disclosed.
Unfortunately, Jenna never asked her dad about the war in Iraq, enhanced interrogation (aka torture), the economic meltdown, or any other area of controversy that enveloped the Bush presidency. And since Bush has rarely subjected himself to the media since he left the White House, any unfulfilled chance to fill in some of the blanks is a bitterly missed opportunity from a journalistic perspective.
For NBC to broadcast this charade represents a sad milestone in the collapse of television news. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to let Bush be questioned by his daughter should suffer eternal shame in the eyes of his or her colleagues. What’s more, any media critic that doesn’t condemn this sort of fluffery isn’t doing their job. Imagine the outrage that would have ensued if NBC News permitted Chelsea Clinton (whom they did briefly employ) to interview Bill Clinton. Fox News would have had a collective conniption.
And speaking of Fox News, their ability to fairly recognize media malfeasance is lacking, to say this least. On today’s episode of MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz made the following observation:
“Look, I know this constant coverage has been very, very good for [the] ratings, but I just don’t get the obsessive focus.”
Kurtz was talking about CNN’s coverage of the missing Malaysian plane. The first part of that statement that rubs reality the wrong way is that he doesn’t “get the obsessive focus.” Of course he does. He knows very well that it’s about ratings and he even says so in the beginning of the sentence. But more importantly, he is oblivious to the fact that the same commentary could be applied to Fox’s coverage of Benghazi. Although Fox’s motives are far more nefarious than merely goosing their ratings. Their obsession is focused squarely on attacking President Obama, and Hillary Clinton.
In other Bush news, Fox aired an hour long commercial for Jeb Bush’s prospective presidential campaign. It came in the form of an interview at the George H.W. Bush library during an event that was closed to the press. Lucky for Fox, they are not regarded as press and their own Shannon Bream was the interviewer. Her segments with Jeb were broadcast on the Fox News Channel along with cutesy bits from Mama Bush and other close associates.
However, the program may do Jeb more harm than good. He articulated a couple of positions that are not going to endear him to the fanatical Tea Party wing of his party that of late holds the keys to any nomination. For instance, he offered a rather sane opinion on immigration that will surely boil the blood of folks like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin:
“They crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”
In addition, Jeb defended the Common Core educational initiative. Saying that “I’m totally committed” to Common Core is not going to win him any friends in the Tea Party. But what will surely bring the knives out in force is his criticism of fellow Republicans who caved to the irrational opponents of Common Core:
“I just don’t seem compelled to run for cover when I think this is the right thing to do for our country. And others have, others that supported the standards all of a sudden now are opposed to it. I don’t get it.’
Between George Bush’s inquisition by his daughter Jenna, and Jeb Bush’s friendly sit-down with a Fox anchor at a supposedly press-free event, the media has demonstrated this week that ethics are the last thing on its mind. And the fact that both of these affairs involved members of the Bush dynasty suggests that they, and the media, are not yet through screwing up our country.
Always on the lookout for ways to help the Republican Party, Fox News published an editorial by Maggie Gallagher, a founder of the anti-marriage equality group, National Organization for Marriage, entitled “Hey, GOP, want to win in 2016? Fix fundamental flaw in Republican brand.”
Indeed, the Republican brand has suffered of late with even the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, conceding that the problem is so serious it required an “autopsy” following the 2012 election to address the party’s tendency to drive away critical constituencies. The RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity” report identified several areas of concern that included poor outreach to minority voters, alienating the youth demo, and too many candidate debates (an admission that the more people see their candidates, the less they like them).
Now Fox News is weighing in with an opinion as to what the “fundamental” flaw holding back the GOP is. The article begins with a premise with which it is difficult to disagree:
“America’s economic problem isn’t just unemployment, it’s the deadly combination of steady mild inflation and stagnant wages that is leading to pervasive declines in middle class working families’ standard of living.”
Setting aside the curious assertion that “mild inflation” contributes to a “deadly” situation, Gallagher’s recognition that stagnant wages lead to a decline in the living standard of middle class working families is spot on – and something that Democrats have been focused on intensely. Republicans, in the meantime, have been staunch opponents of raising the minimum wage; they have drafted legislation to eliminate overtime pay; they support corporate policies that encourage sending American jobs to other countries; and they favor mergers that result in massive layoffs.
The Democratic agenda is squarely aimed at improving the economic status of America’s middle class, while the Republicans drive headlong into crushing it in favor of the wealthy business elites whom the right mistakenly regard as job creators. [This graphic illustrates who the Real Job Creators are] While Gallagher acknowledges that GOP rhetoric is overly focused on the needs of voters’ bosses, she also dismisses the notion of raising the minimum wage as “feeble.” So what is Gallagher talking about when she refers to the fundamental flaw in the Republican brand?
“One obvious place Republicans could show they “get it” is relentlessly focusing on the pay cut ObamaCare means for many middle class working families.”
Of course! It’s ObamaCare. The cause of the entire world’s descent into a dystopic cataclysm that threatens to devour liberty and thrust the planet into eternal depression and tyranny. Never mind that ObamaCare is actually reducing the financial burdens that have plagued middle class families who have suffered either exorbitant and ever-increasing insurance premiums, or worse, devastating medical bills that drive them into bankruptcy. With ObamaCare the middle class no longer needs to worry about being denied coverage or having their policy canceled should they have the audacity to file a claim. Nor do they need to remain shackled to a low-paying and unfulfilling job just to stay insured.
Gallagher’s retreat to ObamaCare as the universal thorn in whatever right-wingers are complaining about at the moment is absurd in the extreme. But her contention that this is the fundamental flaw that the Republican Party needs to fix makes even less sense. Where has she been the last four years? Undoing ObamaCare has been the single most prominent obsession of the GOP since it was introduced. If she thinks that the Republican brand is suffering because they haven’t done enough to oppose ObamaCare, she may need to take advantage of the mental health care benefits the new law has made possible.
Finally, Fox News frequently does stories about how the GOP can improve their electoral prospects. However, they never do stories with similar advice for Democrats. That may not be particularly fair and balanced, but judging by the advice that Fox is giving to the GOP, perhaps the best thing they can do for Democrats is to keep giving advice to Republicans.
The recent decision by the Supreme Court to permit unlimited contributions to political candidates and committees represents a further degradation of democracy as an experiment in self-rule. Along with the Citizen’s United case, this ruling puts more power into the hands of an elite minority of wealthy plutocrats whose only interest is in feathering their own already luxurious nests.
The decision impacts about five hundred people whose political contributions have reached the previous limits. That leaves the rest of the 350 million Americans who don’t have private fortunes to struggle for recognition from politicians who feast off of money. It is incomprehensible that five legally trained justices can plausibly deny the fact that big donors are able to extract favors from congressmen and senators, and that such favoritism corrupts the electoral system.
The reasoning articulated by Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the decision, defies logic. It is evidence that he and his conservative comrades on the Court were more interested in producing a desired result than in interpreting the Constitution. Here is the key argument presented by Roberts:
“Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects. If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests and Nazi parades – despite the profound offense such spectacles cause – it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opinion.”
The problem with this argument is that it confuses the content of political speech with the manner of it. Everyone would agree that content, regardless of its popularity or lack thereof, is protected speech. But this case had nothing whatsoever to do with content. The plaintiff was contesting campaign laws that put limits on the amount of aggregate contributions any individual may make to candidates and/or political action committees. These laws were intended to prevent the sort of manipulation and influence peddling that existed prior to their enactment. The laws in no way prohibit free expression and the plaintiff never alleged that they did so.
The manner, or process, in which speech is made, however, is constitutionally subject to regulation. Everybody knows the legally justified consequences of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. In addition, you cannot slander or libel someone; you cannot claim that your pomegranate smoothie cures liver cancer; you cannot spray-paint your message onto a citizen waiting for a bus; you cannot hack the satellite feed of a television network and broadcast your speech instead of American Idol; and, until this week, you could not spend unlimited sums of money to buy an election and a candidate or candidates.
The statement above by Chief Justice Roberts illustrates the faulty logic of content vs. process. Flag burning is an example of the content of speech. But contribution limits are an example of process. The process can be regulated without ever affecting any content, opinion, or exercise of free expression. Not being able to continue making donations after you have reached a proscribed limit does not prohibit you from continuing to speak. Put up a billboard. Publish an editorial. Call into the Rush Limbaugh radio show. Buy yourself a half hour of primetime television. Your rights are obviously still in effect. But it is perfectly reasonable for legislatures to enact contribution limits that protect the democratic process from being co-opted by wealthy special interests.
The right to donate unlimited sums of cash to a candidate exists nowhere in the Constitution. This court has invented a right on the shaky premise that it is tied to free speech. However, if I can’t stand in front of Donald Trump’s mansion with a bullhorn day and night, I still have other means of expressing myself. The same is true for the Koch brothers if they are not allowed to pour unlimited funds into the bank account of GOP hack who will do their bidding.
However, the irony of Roberts invoking free speech in his decision delivers a rather appropriate juxtaposition of ideas. By trying to conflate process with content, Roberts produced an example that puts extravagant campaign spending in the same category as repugnant behavior like flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades. On that measure, I’m gonna have to agree with him.
As the March deadline for enrollment in the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) arrived, the White House proudly revealed that it had surpassed the goal of seven million enrollments set by the Congressional Budget Office. It was a target that many thought to be out of reach following the technical glitches that plagued the program’s Internet rollout. Under ordinary circumstances, such an achievement would have dominated the news for several days. The positive glow from having succeeded when most predicted failure could have permanently altered the public perception of ObamaCare which was already trending more positively in recent polls.
The very next day there was a horrific reprise of a deadly shooting at the Fort Hood army base in Texas that has sucked up every ounce of airtime across the television dial. Coincidence?
Of course it is. To be clear, there is absolutely no chance that either the Republican Party or Fox News had any part in orchestrating the Fort Hood shooting, despite the admittedly sensational headline of this article. This has been a demonstration of how Fox News would have responded if the news about ObamaCare was negative and some other news event pushed the bad news out of the spotlight. Fox would have objected strenuously to the media giving the President a pass rather than drooling over a potential White House flop.
This is not conjecture. It is precisely how Fox News has behaved in the past when they alleged that everything from the minimum wage to Syria to immigration reform were deliberate efforts to distract the public from the health care law when it appeared to be in trouble. It seemed like it would just be a matter of time before some rightist conspiracy nut (probably Glenn Beck) would come up with an alien baby for Sarah Palin as an excuse to avoid discussing ObamaCare.
The Fort Hood shooting is a tragedy that deserves the attention of the media. However, it is usually the case that the press will fetishize a story to boost ratings, rather than to objectively inform their audience. Consequently, the uplifting success of ObamaCare will get short shrift following the Fort Hood homicides. Also bumped from the news cycle is the previous press fixation on Malaysia’s flight MH370.
One of the more interesting tangents dangling from the ObamaCare story that is now likely to be ignored, is the utter failure of right-wing critics of the law to predict the eventual outcome. Notable among them is former Bush crony and current GOP Super-PACman, Karl Rove who, when asked about the seven million sign up figure, said with complete and delusional confidence that “There is no way they’re gonna get anywhere close. It just ain’t gonna happen.” And he was not alone in mistakenly predicting failure for ObamaCare long before the numbers were in:
Investor’s Business Daily: Obama Just Guaranteed ObamaCare’s Failure
Human Events: ObamaCare’s ultimate failure
New York Times: Obamacare, Failing Ahead of Schedule
Daily Caller: New enrollment numbers suggest Obamacare is hurtling toward failure
New Republic: Obamacare Failure is a Threat to Liberalism
CNN: Opinion: Obamacare and the failure of half-baked liberalism
Townhall: Obamacare Is Failing Because The Product Sucks
Newsmax: Coburn: Obamacare is ‘A Failure Already’
Fox News: Former Gov. Sununu: ObamaCare ‘a complete failure
Fox Nation: ObamaCare: A Failure in Progress
As usual, there is no accountability for the media when they are wrong. It simply doesn’t matter how often they screw up, they will continue to enjoy a platform for their pitiful prognostications. As a result, the press gets to rant for months about what an abject failure ObamaCare is, and when all of that is proven to be bovine excrement, they pretend they never said it and hurriedly adopt a new obsession. Either that or they double down on their lies with no push-back from their pals on Fox. Even still, GOP deceivers like Sen. John Barasso go on Fox News and, without any evidence, claim that the administration is “cooking the books.” And Fox News clown-in-residence Jesse Watters alleges that Obama was “straight-up lying” about the sign-ups.
The GOP and Fox News certainly did not plan the Fort Hood shooting, but they gladly exploit it for their own partisan self-interests. So don’t expect to hear any more about the seven million ObamaCare enrollments on Fox, unless it is to claim that the numbers are fake. Ultimately this will leave Fox viewers in the dark again when everyone but them knows the truth about ObamaCare and everything else that actually happens in this world.
When it comes to making up fake stories in order to advance a partisan, right-wing agenda, nobody does it quite as well or as often as Fox News. Generally it involves deceptively spinning some event or purposefully mischaracterizing the comments of a Democrat. But frequently they will manufacture a phony story from scratch, and that may be what happened with this one by Fox News reporter Todd Starnes.
Starnes is perhaps the Fox figure who is most fixated on the perceived persecution of Christians in America. He has produced story after story on the same subject with alleged examples of innocent believers being harassed, oppressed, or maligned. However, many of his yarns turn out to be fables that are proven to be false when examined in full.
This week Starnes reported on a five year old girl whose father claims she was prohibited from praying in her school’s cafeteria. No one else can corroborate the charge. The school administration investigated and found no evidence to back up the claim. And there is no policy at the school that would prohibit a student from praying at lunchtime. This how Starnes began his story:
“A Florida school district is giving teachers a refresher course on religious liberty after the parents of a five-year-old kindergarten student said a teacher told their daughter that she was not allowed to pray before eating her lunch time meal.
“Marcos Perez, of Oviedo, Fla., said the incident occurred earlier this month in the lunch room at Carillon Elementary School.”
However, Starnes left out a pretty significant bit of information regarding his personal relationship with the family in the story. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Marcos Perez, the father of the girl, is also the Vice-President of Sales for Charisma House, a Christian book publisher that just happens to be publishing Starnes’ own book about – guess what – discrimination against Christians: “God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values.” That is a fact that Starnes failed to disclose in his story. [Note: After this association was revealed by the Sentinel, Starnes edited his column to add his relationship with the girl's father] It can hardly be seen as an inadvertent omission when Starnes’ story includes quotes from a man he surely knows without revealing that fact.
So to recap: Starnes has a book coming out soon that describes alleged episodes of discrimination against hapless Christians. A Christian schoolgirl is allegedly forbidden from praying in a story that could have come right out of Starnes’ book. And the beleaguered child is the daughter of the man responsible for selling the book and coming up with attention-getting marketing schemes. But I’m sure it is all just a harmless coincidence.
In the past five years since Rick Santelli, a correspondent for CNBC, led a bevy of options traders on an anti-government rant, the Tea Party has gained enormous influence over conservative politics and particularly the Republican Party. Despite their small numbers, Tea Party Republicans have dominated the GOP in Congress and beyond. They threaten establishment Republicans with primary challenges and negative media campaigns. And all of this has occurred while appealing to less than a third of the American people and registering their lowest favorability ever.
The GOP today is no more popular than the sagging Tea Party. Following their crushing losses in 2012, the RNC produced a study that they themselves referred to as an autopsy that contained a laundry list of suggestions for reviving their future prospects. High on the list was expanding their outreach to African-Americans, Latinos, women, and young voters. However, in practice they have only further alienated all of those critical groups since the report was issued.
Recognizing the emerging trends, the Republican National Committee has conceded that they are no longer an effective organizational unit. Consequently, insiders are reporting that the party will soon announce a major reorganization, the principle feature of which will be a re-branding of the party of Lincoln with an even older historic reference: The Tea Party.
This turn of events may come as a surprise to many rank-and-file Republicans, but hints of this fundamental transformation were visible to those paying close attention. Michael Steele, the former chairman of the RNC, addressed this a couple of years ago saying that…
“It’s important for our party to appreciate and understand [the Tea Party] so we can move toward it, and embrace it.”
The current RNC chair, Reince Priebus (whose name without the vowels is RNC PR BS), has also attempted to erase the line delineating the Tea Party from the GOP saying that…
“It’s not Tea Party tactics. This is what the American people want.”
Of course, every poll shows that that statement is not true. Nevertheless, Republicans continue to wrap themselves in Tea Party linens. House Speaker John Boehner joined the choir saying that…
“There really is no difference between what Republicans believe in and what the Tea Party activists believe in.”
The ribbon round the package has to be Sarah Palin’s admonition in a speech she gave to the National Tea Party Convention:
“The Republican Party would be really smart to start trying to absorb as much of the Tea Party movement as possible because this is the future of our country. The Tea Party movement is the future of politics.”
It may be the sentiment in that speech that resulted in Palin being tapped to become the chair of the newly reconstituted GOP. Sources say that she was chosen by acclamation among an elite group of Republican Party leaders during a closely guarded conclave last week at the Florida residence of David Koch, one of the infamous Koch brothers who are responsible for bankrolling the Tea Party since its inception. Others in attendance were said to include Texas senator Ted Cruz, radio politi-vangelist Glenn Beck, outgoing House Tea Party caucus chair Michele Bachmann, and Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (who was sporting a “Draft Putin 2016″ button on his lapel).
The process of converting from Republicans to Tea Partiers will not begin in earnest until after the mid-term elections in November. After that there will be a flurry of activity from construction and furnishing to letterhead and logos. And by 2016 what was once referred to as the “Grand Old Party” (and more recently as the “Greedy One Percent”) will be a footnote in American history.
But don’t expect these changes to be anything more than cosmetic. The all new Tea Party will still be an intolerant, compassionless, science-denying, theocratic, advocate for corporations and the rich. Whether they are called Republicans or Tea Partiers, they are still committed to wealthy interests and opposed to ordinary working Americans. Some things never change.
[Update 4/2/2014] April Fools! But for the record, the first two paragraphs and all the quotes are true. So the re-branding has already occurred in principle.