BUSTED: Mitch McConnell Secretly Recorded At The Koch Brothers Donor Summit

Every year the Koch brothers hold one or more conclaves of their conservative millionaire and billionaire pals to discuss future strategies and collect donations for candidates and causes that will benefit their parochial interests. These affairs are put on under the tightest security so as to protect the elite attendees from being identified or from having to encounter the riff raff (i.e. ordinary American citizens) they hope to oppress.

Earlier this year, an event in the California beach resort at Dana Point, the Lear Jet Set gathered as usual, but they had a mole in their midst. A recording was just published by The Nation that includes some frank talk by participants including GOP senate candidates Tom Cotton (AR), Joni Ernst (IA), and Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell. McConnell kicked things off by expressing his gratitude to his wealthy benefactors, Charles and David Koch saying that…

“I want to start by thanking you, Charles and David for the important work you’re doing. I don’t know where we’d be without you.”

Mitch McConnell / Koch Brothers

McConnell’s smarmy sycophancy extended to some blatantly miscast interpretations of the onerous Citizen’s United decision by the Supreme Court. McConnell said…

“What did the case decide? Well as you all know, corporations that own a newspaper or a television station (inaudible), they’re free to say whatever they want to say about anybody at any time. But if you were a corporation that didn’t own a newspaper or didn’t own a television station, you couldn’t. So all Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech. In other words, no longer did corporations have to own a newspaper or a television station in order to say whatever they wanted. It simply leveled the playing field.”

That is a deliberate bastardization of the decision and McConnell, a lawyer by profession, knows it. Corporations have always been able to say whatever they wanted at any time. They have the money to run ads in those corporate newspapers and television networks. They can fund any number of public relations campaigns to disseminate whatever message they please. And they can hire lobbyists to promote their interests to politicians and the media. They have always had these avenues of communication.

What Citizen’s United gave them was a veil behind which they could covertly mold the political landscape to their liking. They can now contribute unlimited sums to Super PACS without disclosing where the money came from. It wasn’t speech they were angling for, it was anonymity. They needed to disguise their participation in campaigns because American’s know that these upper-crusters don’t have the people’s interests at heart.

It was that secrecy that Citizen’s United provided. It was never about “leveling the playing field.” The field was already slanted severely toward the rich, and this just made things worse. It made it more difficult than ever for the voices of average citizens to compete with the wealthy captains of industry who could shout everyone else down.

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With the publication of this recording we are afforded a view into the luxury suites of the plutocrats who seek to dominate our society. We have always known their self-serving intentions, but it is chilling to hear it from their own lips when they think no one is listening.

Common Shaky Ground: Left And Right Agree To Let The Red States Secede

Very few political observers would argue that our current system of government in Washington isn’t broken, or at least in a state of serious disrepair. The House of Representatives is being bullied by a minority faction of Tea Party dimwits who have utterly dominated the pathetically weak Speaker, John Boehner. The Senate is floundering under rules that allow the minority to obstruct any legislative progress through filibusters that redefine a majority as sixty senators. But a solution is being proposed that has found supporters on both ends of the political divide.

To Secede Or Not To Secede

Fred Jackson, news director of the uber-rightist American Family Association, told his radio audience that he thought a caller had a “good idea” when he said that secession is “the only solution that we have because voting doesn’t work.” The idea called for the red states to separate from the union. Jackson lamented that the American people may not be ready for such a measure, but that’s only because they haven’t yet realized “that we are about to hit that wall.”

The day before this broadcast the right-wing pseudo-news wire, Washington Free Beacon, published a story on the same theme but with a geographic limiter. They wrote that “A major Democratic donor said he supports Southern secession because the South is ‘dumbing down national politics.” It’s hard to argue with his reasoning while derps like Louie Gohmert and Ted Cruz are wandering the halls of Congress.

There is some real merit to this idea. After all, both sides would agree that neither is being particularly well represented when the legislative branch of government is so divided. By jettisoning the South the rest of the nation would be relieved of bible-belters who want to invoke a theocracy that believes Jesus rode a dinosaur to his sermons against gay marriage and climate change science. The South would be free to abolish all taxes and prohibit African-Americans from voting. This is not to say that establishing the Mason-Dixon line as the new border would automatically correct the problem. After all, Michele Bachmann would still be up in Minnesota and Darrell Issa would still be out in California. But a large chunk of the causes of division would be resolved.

There are, of course, some drawbacks as well. First among them is the fact that there are a lot of decent, thoughtful people in red and Southern states that would be horrified to find themselves sequestered in a new country that would rank at the bottom of the intelligence scale. A report published by (of all places) Fox Business, surveyed the nation’s academic profile and found that the ten states with the best educated citizens were all “blue” states, while nine of the ten worst educated were “red” states (and eight of those were in the south).

foxbusiness-education

There is also an economic issue since the South is comprised of the states with the highest percentage of people living below the poverty line (31%). And that number reflects an increase of nearly 50% since 2000. The South is currently a net receiver of federal assistance, meaning that it gets more from the government than it contributes in taxes. That would bode ill for a new nation that couldn’t support itself, particularly if it implements the low-tax strategy that it wants to impose on the whole of the United States.

The better educated and financially secure Blue/Northern states would have a distinct post-separation advantage. However, the Red States of America would be a non-starter from the outset because too much of its population would be too stupid and too financially inept to be sustainable. These variances could not be resolved simply by having people relocate to the region they prefer. That would be too great a burden that would involve uprooting families and businesses, finding new jobs and schools and friends, and very likely overcrowding the Blue states, while draining the Reds of their smartest and economically savviest residents. The Blues would be well positioned to compete with international rivals in Europe and Asia. The Reds would be closer to Libertarian Utopias like Somalia.

There is a far better solution than secession. However, it requires the American people to participate in their democracy. First of all, they have to become informed. And that means venturing beyond the increasingly biased mainstream media to find sources that are diverse and independent. Then they have to actually vote. The U.S. has one of the lowest voter turnout rates of any industrialized country. That is a slap in the face to the Founders who were optimistic enough to believe that future generations would appreciate the gift that was left to them.

With their voting power, the people need to demand an end to the anti-democratic gerrymandering that allows representatives to choose their voters rather than the other way around. And part and parcel to that, judicial atrocities like Citizen’s United must be overturned. The people must demand that only real, human, citizens can vote and contribute to campaigns. Corporations, unions, and all other wealthy special interests should not be electing our representatives. Corporations are not people, and money is not speech.

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A final suggestion for reform is a tad more radical, but still far short of secession. The Senate should become a representative body. There is no reasonable justification for Wyoming’s half million residents to have the same political clout as the 38 million residents of California. Two senators per state is an anachronistic solution to a problem that ceased to exist shortly after the Constitution was ratified. Today it permits a tiny minority of sparsely populated, unrepresentative states to hold the rest of the nation hostage. In fact, it is mathematically possible for just 35 million residents (10% of the population) to dictate the national agenda for all 350 million Americans. That is a perversion of democracy.

So it isn’t necessary to dissolve the United States to find a more perfect union. It just requires civic commitment and the will to make substantive reforms. And it wouldn’t hurt if the media stopped deliberately making their audience stupider.

How The Media Got EVERYTHING Wrong About Cantor’s Primary Defeat

Last week a tsunami of shock washed over the Washington press corps as the second highest Republican in congress was swept overboard in a primary race against an unknown Tea Party opponent. Eric Cantor’s embarrassing loss has sparked debate as to how such a powerful GOP leader could have been caught looking. Unfortunately, the media contribution to the debate is rife with speculation and error.

Koch-Cycle Dave Brat

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First off all, the characterization of Cantor’s opponent, Dave Brat, as an outsider who sprung from the grassroots to slay Goliath is a reflection of the shallowness of the research conducted by the mainstream media. Thom Hartmann went deeper and discovered that Brat was on the radar of the billionaire Koch brothers long before he launched his allegedly underdog campaign. Koch-affiliated financiers endowed Randolph-Macon College with half a million dollars to seat the Ayn Rand disciple as a trickle-down economics professor. Then, when the campaign commenced, radio talk show hosts like Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin took the baton and fervently promoted Brat’s candidacy. Ingraham and Levin are just a couple of the radio talkers who are sponsored by Koch front groups like Americans for Prosperity.

This brings us to the second point. The media repeatedly cast a spotlight on the campaign spending differential between Cantor and Brat. Cantor raised more than $5,000,000 compared to Brat’s $200,000. Many reporters latched onto the amusing anecdote that Cantor spent more on steak dinners than Brat spent in total. However, what they failed to take into consideration was the value of the airtime contributed by the likes of Ingraham, Levin, Beck, Limbaugh, Fox News, et al. It could cost a couple of hundred dollars for a thirty second spot on a high performing radio program. Extrapolate that to twenty or thirty minutes of direct advocacy by the the program’s host every day for a month or two and you could easily have exceeded Cantor’s budget for broadcast advertising.

Adding in the value of the donated airtime rips apart the third fallacy peddled in the press – that Brat’s low cost campaign disproves the contention that money makes the difference in elections. This is a target that has been in the sights of conservatives since the Citizen’s United debacle in the Supreme Court. The rush to exonerate wealthy donors of having any untoward impact on electoral outcomes was head-spinning. Every right-wing pundit with a microphone hailed the demise of the theory that cash-laden campaigns had an unfair advantage. In truth, Brat’s campaign was far richer than acknowledged due to the media support detailed above. But even if there were no other factors, a win by a single candidate in one race surely doesn’t negate the fact that in 99.99% of other races the better financed candidate prevails. If the right is so convinced that Brat’s showing proves that money doesn’t matter, I dare any of them to announce that they are halting their fundraising and capping their spending at $200,000.

Fourth: Tea Party supporters were quick to jump on Brat’s win as evidence of a Tea Party resurgence. In just about every other race this cycle, the Tea Party challenger lost to an establishment incumbent. With Brat’s resounding victory, they claim to have regained their mojo. But the only way they can make that argument is if they forget that they lost just about every other race this cycle.

Finally, the Washington set is dead certain that Brat’s triumph was due to his stance against immigration. After all, he did feature it in his campaign ads and it was a point of departure between him and Cantor. Unfortunately for those who seem to have a desperate yearning for that to be true, polling on the day of the election proved otherwise. Public Policy Polling released the survey showing that “72 percent of registered voters in Cantor’s district polled on Tuesday said they either ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ support immigration reform.” And the anti-immigration forces conveniently ignore the fact that on the same day Sen. Lindsey Graham, an establishment, pro-immigration candidate, from an even more conservative state, handily dispatched a slew of Tea Partiers. More likely, the problem for Cantor was that he mustered only a 43% job performance approval, just a couple points off of his losing election results.

So Dave Brat won a peculiar contest in Virginia where he had hidden support from billionaires and an opponent who was widely disliked. Then he disappears and refuses to speak to the voters he hopes will be his constituents. It’s been three days and he hasn’t held a post election press conference. And yet the press continues to misrepresent the realities that produced the results of this election. It’s a state of affairs that proves that Cantor wasn’t the only loser last week. The voters and others who rely on the media to provide useful information and analysis also lost. But they should be used to that by now.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts: Koch Brothers = Flag Burning Nazis

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.”

John Roberts Political Speech

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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.

RNC Threatens NBC, CNN: Cancel Hillary Projects Or Lose GOP Debates

The Republican National Committee is flexing its acutely atrophied muscles this morning with a nearly impotent threat aimed at their foes in the mainstream media.

RNC Debates
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This is just too funny. RNC chair Reince Priebus has sent letters to the heads of CNN and NBC to protest their plans to produce projects about Hillary Clinton, who is a possible candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. Priebus is very upset and is issuing an ultimatum to the networks that will surely cause them to lose sleep – due to their uncontrollable fits of laughter.

What isn’t so funny is a political party that thinks it has the right to demand that entertainment producers bend to its will. In fact, it’s an open assault on freedom of expression. It would be one thing for the RNC to decline to work with a network that it believes has a partisan slant against them. But it is something else entirely to threaten a network in order to force them to alter specific programming.

Priebus begins his missive by whining about the perceived bias that has been a part of the GOP gospel for decades:

“It’s appalling to know executives at major networks like NBC and CNN who have donated to Democrats and Hillary Clinton have taken it upon themselves to be Hillary Clinton’s campaign operatives.”

Appalling indeed! I’m sure that Priebus is just as disturbed by the million dollar gift that Fox News (News Corp) gave to the Republican Governor’s Association, and all the other right-wingers at Fox who have donated to Republicans, including News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch. And there is no network that has so brazenly acted as a partisan campaign operative than Fox News, the PR division of the GOP. Priebus’ letter to Fox must still be in the mail. In the meantime, he is making his position to CNN and NBC crystal clear:

“If they have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s Summer Meeting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote stating that the RNC will neither partner with these networks in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates they sponsor.”

Oh my. If CNN and NBC were unable to acquire any of the GOP primary debates they might be forced to schedule interesting and entertaining programs instead. That’ll show ‘em.

Let’s face it, the RNC has never been thrilled about putting their candidates in situations where they might face fair questions about their records and policy positions. They herd them onto Fox News where they can expect softballs and gushing praise. During the 2012 campaign right-wingers like Hugh Hewitt and Breitbart’s John Nolte were counseling the RNC to ban debates hosted by what they believed to be unfriendly media. Sarah Palin was advising Republicans to “speak through Fox News.”

The best thing that could happen to the Democrats is for Republicans to sequester themselves in the bosom of Fox News. It would limit their exposure to the broader electorate and the independents they need to win. It would also insure that their candidates were unvetted and unprepared for the real-life battles of a campaign. If they spend the primary season being fluffed by Fox, when they eventually face the general election they will be surprised by sharp criticisms from which they were shielded in their chummy primary.

One positive aspect of this strategy is that fewer voters, and a more narrow, conservative subset, would see the primary telecasts. Considering how often the GOP candidates in 2012 embarrassed themselves, that could be a benefit. Of course, those segments would still be looped on every other news broadcast the following day, so the benefit would be short lived.

By giving CNN and NBC the cold shoulder, the RNC increases the likelihood that only voters who have already decided to vote Republican will see the debate in its entirety. And while that limits their exposure to gaffes, it also limits their opportunity to make an appeal to undecided voters. Since Priebus has already promised to hold fewer debates in the future, the GOP’s visibility to anyone outside their circle shrinks considerably. The result is that GOP primary voters will be more partisan, more extreme, and more out of pace with the general population. That’s a recipe for a Republican nominee who will lead the party to a massive defeat.

Ironically, the motivation for the Priebus ultimatum is the prospect of a couple of Hillary Clinton projects being released several months prior to the 2016 election. That was precisely the issue that sparked the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling that now permits corporations and individuals to make unlimited, anonymous donations to political campaigns. At the time, Republicans were fiercely supportive of the Citizen’s United production and its release just a few weeks prior to an election. Now they are just as fiercely opposed to it.

What’s more, Priebus accuses the networks of producing a “political ad masquerading as an unbiased production.” How he arrived at that conclusion he doesn’t say. He has not seen either production or spoken with the producers. He has no idea whether they will be complimentary, derogatory, or neutral representations of Clinton. He is making a wholly uninformed assumption and using that as the basis of his attempt to bully the networks.

So let the RNC snub CNN and NBC and any other “lamestream” media that they are afraid of. Let them take their balls and go home to Fox News where their cult-like disciples will embrace them with enthusiasm. It will only result in there being less of their obnoxious blather littering the television landscape and a better chance of them losing in November of 2016. Nice work Reince.

[Update: Priebus took his whining to (where else) Fox News last night and reiterated his silly ultimatum. Meanwhile, both CNN and NBC have refused to cave saying that it is “premature” to judge the projects that are not even in production at this time. Priebus gave an 8/14 deadline for the networks to comply. Here’s hoping he is dumb enough to follow through.

Fox News Inadvertently Proves Phoniness Of Phony Scandals

When President Obama correctly noted that Republicans have spent an inordinate amount of time obsessing over so-called “scandals,” rather than addressing the real issues that matter most to Americans, it touched off a spate of pundits spending an inordinate amount of time obsessing over Obama’s remarks, rather than addressing real news.

Fox News, of course, created a bunch of fancy new graphics with scary fonts alerting their perpetually frightened viewers that the President had called a bunch of phony scandals phony. Which makes it all the more delicious that a Fox News contributor pulled the veil aside this morning and exposed the fallacy at the center of one of the alleged scandals.

Radio loudmouth Lars Larson squared off with Democratic strategist Mark Hannah over the question of whether the IRS targeting of Tea Partiers was a legitimate scandal. The answer is obvious in that the GOP, despite a concerted witch hunt, has never found the least bit of evidence that the White House was connected to any of it.

The real scandal in all of this is that most of the groups seeking tax-exempt status, whether from the left or the right, should never have received it. They are overtly political operations disguising their activities as educational or charitable. They deserve to be scrutinized and rejected. They are the detritus of the Citizens United decision that effectively legalized special interest and corporate influence peddling. But this larger question always seemed to get lost in the skirmish over trivialities. Until today.

Near the end of what was otherwise a typical cable news spitting match, Larson let his guard down and expectorated some truth:

Did you catch that? Larson admitted that the activities of the Tea Partiers are political. And as Hannah astutely noted, that is not permitted under the law that governs tax exempt organizations. Here is the transcript:

Larson: The fact is that those groups were delayed. The law says that they are supposed to get an answer within 180 days. Some of them were delayed up to 27 months. And they described in detail to congress what those delays do in an election year to the ability of political groups to engage in politics, which is protected by the Constitution.

Hannah: You mean social welfare organizations, right?

Larson: No. I’m telling you that when they go out to educate people about the issues.

Hannah: They’re not allowed to be political.

To be clear, this was not a gaffe. This was an accidental articulation of the truth. Larson even brushed back Hannah’s polite (and somewhat snarky) correction before stumbling toward a step-back. The IRS is entirely justified in denying preferential tax treatment to these sort of groups, and they should be even more aggressive in doing so. And now we have a conservative on Fox News making the need for enforcement and reform abundantly clear.

This is precisely why Citizens United is so dangerous. It allows Super PACs to game the system, collect unlimited donations from conflicted parties, and keep their identities secret. And while pretending to be non-partisan, social welfare organizations, they brazenly engage in political activities. Everyone in politics knows it and, on occasion, when they aren’t carefully watching their words, it slips out.

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GOP Voter Suppression Struck Down By The Courts Again – That’s 7 Straight Victories So Far

This election cycle has been stained by some of the most cynical and anti-democratic legal maneuvers ever perpetrated on the American public. Over the past few years, in states where Republican governors assumed power, they quickly set about abusing their position in order to corrupt the democratic process and deny citizens the right to vote.

One Vote

The methods used by the GOP included partisan redistricting, inhibiting registration, curtailing early voting, purges of voter rolls, and discriminatory voter ID procedures. Most of these gambits were described by conservatives as prudent measures to protect against voter fraud. However, they were never able to demonstrate that voter fraud was a problem calling out for a solution. In fact, experts have conducted studies that proved that such fraud was nearly non-existent. In the meantime, these new policies resulted in millions of legitimate citizens being at risk for losing their access to the ballot. In almost every instance it was Democratic-leaning constituencies who were adversely affected: minorities, seniors, students, and those with low-income.

Fortunately, these oppressors were challenged by civil libertarians and grassroots activists who took the vote-killers to court. The result has been an unprecedented string of legal victories that are restoring the Constitutional rights of citizens who want to participate in their democracy. Today the Supreme Court refused to alter the ruling of an Ohio court that restored early voting to all residents. Here is a list showing that and other recent court rulings that have put the brakes on the Republican initiative to suppress the vote:

The one message that can be derived from this is that the law is on the side of the people. When would-be tyrants strive to deny Americans their rights, the courts are a reliable resource for restoring the rule of law. Of course, this is not always the case, and there is still a lot of work to be done. And certainly the advocates of silencing the voice of the people have not terminated their efforts to shut citizens out of the process.

Amongst the most difficult fights ahead are the challenges to Citizen’s United, the court decision that paved the way for wealthy individuals and corporations to buy elections. If money is speech, as the Supreme Court ruled, then our Democracy is reduced to “one dollar, one vote,” and the rich get more speech than the rest of us. Corporations and multimillionaires should not have a greater voice in the government than the millions of citizens it was designed to serve.

Overturning Citizen’s United must be among the top priorities going forward. We will never be able to achieve our goals if we can’t have fair elections that represent the will of the people. As we approach election day, it is important to recognize that one of the best reasons for voting to reelect President Obama is to insure that the Supreme Court isn’t handed over to right-wing extremists who will dilute our civil liberties.

Fox News Airs Hour Long Commercial For Anti-Obama Film On Hannity

Fox News has long served as the public relations arm of the Republican Party. Their purpose, as always, is to promote the GOP and the conservative agenda throughout their broadcast day. In pursuit of that mission they regularly feature Republican guests in the friendliest of environments. And whenever there is a conservative cause to promote (i.e. Tea Party, Palin movie, right-wing blog, anti-left messaging, etc.), Fox steps up to take the leading role.

Consistent with this mission, Friday night’s episode of Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News was a blatant infomercial promoting an anti-Obama movie by the people who brought us Citizens United. The crocumentary “The Hope and the Change” consumed the entire hour of Hannity’s program.

Sean Hannity - Hope and Change

The primetime program featured lengthy clips from the film as well as interviews with the film’s creators, David Bossie and Steve Bannon. Bossie is the head of Citizens United, the organization that prompted the abhorrent Supreme Court decision that made it possible for individuals and corporations to donate unlimited sums of cash to political candidates and causes. Bannon is the director of the monumental flop, “Sarah Palin: Undefeated,” a movie that managed to fail miserably despite millions of dollars in free publicity courtesy of Fox News. Bannon went on to take the reins of Breitbart News after the sudden death of Andrew Breitbart, and he somehow succeeded in making the site even more idiotic.

Hannity opened the infomercial with the stark declaration that…

“I don’t say this lightly, but I mean every word of this. This is the most powerful documentary I’ve ever seen in my life.”

That’s quite a testimonial. Hannity didn’t reveal what other documentaries he’s seen, but it’s fair to guess that his second favorite would be “Triumph of the Will,” Hitler’s propaganda film directed by Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. Now that may seem like an unfair attempt to associate Hannity and the anti-Obama film with the Third Reich, but the film actually incorporates portions of Riefenstahl’s score, and Bossie openly admits to intentionally including the music for effect. When asked about his choice of music Bossie confessed that “There are no accidents in this film.” So the Hitler reference was deliberate on the part of the filmmakers.

Along with Bossie and Bannon, a key figure in the film’s production was Pat Caddell, the former democratic pollster who has become a fixture on Fox News whenever they need someone they can falsely identify as a Democrat who will mercilessly, and dishonestly, savage his former colleagues. Caddell’s role was to assemble a group of disenchanted Obama supporters who could be manipulated to bash the President’s reelection bid.

In fact, the whole focus of the film’s message was that there are some folks who voted for Obama in 2008 who don’t plan to vote for him again. That isn’t exactly an earth shattering revelation. Many people on both sides of the political spectrum change their minds. But the people featured in this film were particularly daft. They expressed their disappointment in the President because he didn’t fulfill their expectations of miraculous healings and the saving of souls. In their own words they seemed to believe that Obama could achieve the impossible, and when he didn’t they abandoned him. That is probably a tiny demographic in America and they are not likely to have a noticeable impact on the election.

By comparison, the Obama campaign just released a video of former Republicans who will be supporting the President in November. Their stories are far more representative of typical moderates who are surprised and appalled by the extremist leanings of the modern Republican Party.

Republicans just adopted a platform for the party’s convention that illustrates how far from the mainstream they have drifted. It includes an anti-abortion plank with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother; an immigration plank that calls for “self-deportation;” a plank advocating a return to the gold standard; a provision denying women a role in combat; opposition to same-sex marriage; and support for turning Medicare into a voucher program that will cost seniors thousands of dollars more.

Those are real issues that will drive the voting decisions of rational moderates. The glassy-eyed sycophants plucked out of obscurity by the anti-Obama film crew will have zero effect on clear-thinking voters as they evaluate the agendas put forward by Obama and Romney. What may have an effect, however, are the millions of dollars the filmmakers have promised to spend on advertising their crocumentary. They can finance their campaign with funds acquired from the sort of Super PACs that their Supreme Court decision enabled.

What’s disturbing about this is that they freely admit that their purpose is not so much to promote the film, but to let their ads serve as disguised political messages aimed at disparaging the President and affecting the outcome of the election. The reason that they chose this month to release the film was so their advertising would appear during the campaign season and they could pretend that it was merely marketing for the movie. And I repeat, this is not a conspiracy theory, it is something they specifically admit to and boast about.

Of course, the filmmakers always have Fox News to fuel their hype. The GOP network is more than happy to donate as much time as necessary to promote the movie, just as they have done for prior projects. The Hannity show was just the beginning. The film will officially debut at the Republican National Convention Etch-a-Sketch next week, and there will surely be more segments devoted to the film on Fox News. And while they will help to boost the success of this commercial, for-profit hit piece, it is highly unlikely that Fox will give much time (if any) to the political communication above from the Obama campaign. That would, after all, be too much like actually reporting the news which, as we know, Fox doesn’t do.

Karl Rove Inadvertantly Argues Against His Own Fundraising Machine

The Wall Street Journal, once a respected financial news publisher before Rupert Murdoch got his hands on it, is now the home of rabidly partisan propagandists who seek only to advance self-serving political agendas. One of those is former Bush flack, Karl Rove.

Karl RoveIn an op-ed today, Rove addressed the intricacies of modern campaigning and passed along some of the lessons he has learned from a lifetime of electioneering. But in his haste to demean President Obama as a profligate spender obsessed with winning reelection, Rove ended up making a convincing case for campaign finance reform, including eliminating SuperPACS like his own Crossroads GPS.

The op-ed opened with Rove regurgitating a few well-known, and widely debunked, out-of-context misrepresentations of the President’s remarks. In rapid succession he rattled off what he called Obama’s “problematic statements:”

  • “You didn’t build that.” Where Obama was actually referring to roads and bridges, not private businesses.
  • “The private sector is doing fine.” Where Obama was correctly making a relative comparison of the private sector to the public sector.
  • “We tried our plan and it worked” Where Obama was referencing the success of the Clinton era policies as opposed to the failure of the GOP’s years under Bush’s policies.

The GOP is laying the entire foundation of their campaign on these deliberate lies, and it is not surprising to see Rove commence his editorial by highlighting them. What’s surprising is what comes next. Rove squeezes out some faux sympathy for the President’s exhaustive workload. He goes into some detail enumerating the stressful itinerary of a candidate for the White House.

Rove: Many people don’t fully appreciate how much of a drain it is on a candidate—involving travel, a speech or two, private meetings with particularly energetic (or obnoxious) money bundlers, and always plenty of advice. Most fundraisers also include a long photo line where the candidate grips and grins for dozens, sometimes hundreds, of photographs.

I observed first-hand how difficult it was to wedge 86 fundraisers onto President George W. Bush’s calendar over the 14.5 months from May 16, 2003 (when he filed for re-election) through July 2004.

Indeed. Raising money for a viable presidential campaign is a back-breaking endeavor that diverts the candidate’s attention from other pressing matters, whether they be communicating with voters, developing policies and campaign platforms, or fulfilling any other duties outside of the campaign, like running a country.

Unfortunately, fundraising is a fact of campaign life. No one, including Rove, would suggest that a candidate could neglect this duty and still have a chance of winning. This is more true than ever in the post-Citizens United era where corporations and wealthy individuals have been freed to make unlimited (and sometimes undisclosed) contributions to candidates. The new electioneering environment forces candidates to spend more time and effort on soliciting donations than ever before. These observations are powerful evidence for why reform is such an imperative. Corporate cash and secret bankrolls have no place in democratic elections and they only make the practice of fair elections more difficult. Thanks for pointing that out, Karl.

Ironically, Rove is a prominent advocate of Citizens United. He is also a major beneficiary of it via his network of political action committees. Rove has boasted that he intends to raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars this election cycle. So, in effect, Rove is cashing in on a practice that he admits is detrimental and places undue burdens on office-seekers. He further admits that, despite Obama’s best efforts, he is still trailing Romney and the GOP, largely because of Rove’s own prowess at hauling in boat loads of bucks from billionaires with aspirations to buy election outcomes.

If we were to take Rove’s initial points seriously, the country would rise up against Citizens United and the flash flood of cash that it unleashed on the electoral process. Without meaning to, Rove has made an excellent case for overturning CU and restoring the democratic principle of one-man-one-vote, rather than one-dollar-one-vote. But Rove doesn’t take his own arguments seriously because he is too heavily invested in the windfall he receives both personally and for the benefit of his GOP pals. As usual, he is demonstrating the brazen hypocrisy that is typical of his species of parasite.

John McCain Throws Mitt Romney Under The Corporate People’s Bus

Remember when Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, NJ, disagreed with President Obama’s attacks on Wall Street? Remember when Bill Clinton defended Mitt Romney’s record as a businessman at Bain Capital? Have you noticed that anytime an Obama surrogate says anything remotely contrary to a position taken by the President the media harps on it for days and characterizes it as a fracturing of support for the President?

Yesterday John McCain was interviewed on the PBS Newshour and made some remarks that utterly obliterated Mitt Romney’s position on campaign finance as well as the whole of his election operation. And, so far, it has been ignored by the mainstream press. Here is what McCain said (video below):

JUDY WOODRUFF: But in the wake of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United, we are seeing enormous sums of money going into this campaign, to the campaigns themselves, to outside supporters.

Is this — is it just inevitable that we’re now in a period where money is going to be playing this dominant role in American politics?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I’m afraid, at least for the time being, that’s going to be the case, because of the most misguided, naive, uninformed, egregious decision of the United States Supreme Court I think in the 21st century.

To somehow view money as not having an effect on election, a corrupting effect on election, flies in the face of reality. I just wish one of them had run for county sheriff. So what we are. . .

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean one of the justices?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: One of the five Supreme Court justices that voted to invalidate what we know of as McCain-Feingold.

Look, I guarantee you, Judy, there will be scandals. There is too much money washing around political campaigns today. And it will take scandals, and then maybe we can have the Supreme Court go back and revisit this issue.

Remember, the Supreme Court rules on constitutionality. So just passing another law doesn’t get it. So I’m afraid we’re in for a very bleak period in American politics. You know, we all talk about — and you just did — about how much money is in the presidential campaign.

Suppose there’s a Senate campaign in a small state, and 10 people get together and decided to contribute $10 million each. You think that wouldn’t affect that Senate campaign?

JUDY WOODRUFF: This question of campaign money highlighted today by this — the announcement that there’s a huge amount of money coming in from one donor in the state of Nevada.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Mr. Adelson, who gave large amounts of money to the Gingrich campaign. And much of Mr. Adelson’s casino profits that go to him come from this casino in Macau.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Which says what?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Which says that, obviously, maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American campaign — political campaigns.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Because of the profits at the casinos in Macau?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Yes. That is a great deal of money. And, again, we need a level playing field and we need to go back to the realization that Teddy Roosevelt had that we have to have a limit on the flow of money, and that corporations are not people.

That’s why we have different laws that govern corporations than govern individual citizens. And so to say that corporations are people, again, flies in the face of all the traditional Supreme Court decisions that we have made — that have been made in the past.

That’s about as strong a denunciation of Romney’s campaign as can be made without adding profanities. How can Romney balance his assertion that “Corporations are people, my friend,” with McCain’s total repudiation of that nonsense?
Jon Stewart Citizens UnitedAnd McCain goes further to blast Romney’s newest billionaire supporter, Sheldon Adelson, as injecting foreign money into American politics. McCain’s opposition to the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court shatters any argument that Romney could make to justify his reliance on billionaire donors and SuperPACs.

These are not the comments of some obscure, second-tier Romney supporter. John McCain is a top Romney surrogate, as well as the just past nominee for president from the Republican Party. And the sharpness of his criticism contrasts with the vague remarks from Clinton and Booker who, it could be argued, were merely acknowledging that Romney had been successful in business, but that those skills do not transfer to success in governing (as was the case in Massachusetts).

There are few examples of political contradiction more severe than that offered up here by John McCain. So where is the feverish reporting of a fracturing Republican coalition, or even an acknowledgement of the flagrant difference of opinion? This is not a tangential issue. It goes to the core of what is making Romney competitive as a candidate – his fundraising. Yet his top surrogate demolishes his position and, after trumpeting the alleged gaffes of Democrats, the so-called “liberal” media remains silent.

Breitbart Wins! The Most Epically Idiotic Article On The Internet – This Week

The World Wide Web is a cornucopia of Olympian ignoramusi. The field ranges from hollowed out heads in suits like Jonah Goldberg, to asylum escapees like Ted Nugent, to pitiful has-been bimbos like Victoria Jackson, to messianic delusionaries like Glenn Beck. With such an abundance of talentless charlatans like these posting staggeringly asinine missives online, the competition for Most Epically Idiotic Article On The Internet is stiffer than Mitt Romney at a gay bar four hours after overdosing on a bad batch of Viagra.

Leave it to Breitbart’s John Nolte to sink to the occasion and compose a work of astonishing stupidity. The title of Nolte’s opus, “Why the Media Hates and Fears Super PACs,” pretty much gives away the fundamental foolishness of his premise. The media is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Super PACS (more on that later). But foolishness is the hallmark of Nolte’s career. Take for example this article wherein Nolte advocated murdering the mother of a young actress:

Breitbart's Penis Envy

Breitbrat Nolte begins his incoherent rant with a typical bashing of the press as liberal, despite all the evidence to the contrary. With no substantiation whatsoever, he called the media “a gaggle of left-wing operatives disguised as journalists.” Nolte goes on to assert that the media fears the Citizens United decision handed down by the Supreme Court because the media is in the business of the “furthering of leftist causes.” Notice how he refers to the media as a single-minded entity shuddering frightfully at the thought of Citizens United. He makes no effort to document that assertion. But finally, Nolte gets around to what he regards as the core of the problem:

“[T]he media is objecting to free and unlimited political speech – the very thing protected by the very first Amendment. The media’s outrage that there are now no longer restrictions on how much money a company or individual can spend to further a political cause, is the same as expressing outrage that that most sacred of American rights – unlimited political speech – is no longer limited by a tyrannical government.”

Of course. The media is “outraged” that individuals and corporations can now spend unlimited amounts of money on ….. MEDIA! Where does Nolte think that the hundreds of millions of dollars that he concedes will be raised and spent is going to go? By far, the biggest share of that bounty will be spent on advertising in the media. The very same media that Nolte refers to as an amorphous singularity that is united in opposition to Super PACs. So obviously the media is beside themselves with rage. Their secret plot to advance socialism is way more important to them than the windfall in unprecedented profits. Anyone can see that.

Well, anyone that suffers from the same moronic myopia of Breitbrat Nolte, whose grasp of the particulars of the Citizens United decision is utterly confused. Nolte does not seem to understand that the decision opened the funding floodgates to allow unprecedented levels of unaccountable contributions that are tantamount to giving wealthy individuals and corporations permission to buy election outcomes. He describes it as a “First Amendment victory,” but it is a victory for dollars, not for voters. It changes the dimensions of democracy from “one man, one vote,” to “one dollar, one vote,” because now free speech comes with a price tag that only the wealthy can afford. How can the average citizen’s voice be heard when it is competing with Exxon or Karl Rove’s American Crossroads?

Nolte’s whining that the media has been enforcing a liberal tyranny over the nation and is enraged by new competition from the Super PACs created by Citizens United ignores the fact that the media themselves are participants in the rush to exploit the Super PAC phenomenon. Every major media corporation (Time Warner, General Electric, Comcast, Viacom, Disney, News Corp) already has their own. And they are spending heavily to advance their interests over those of the people. But Nolte has trouble with the concept of facts to begin with, as is apparent in this example from his article:

“Fact : In 2008, you heard almost no media outcry against all of that ‘outside money affecting elections.’ Today, that’s all you hear, especially after a Republican victory like the one last week in Wisconsin.

First of all, Nolte needs a remedial course in identifying facts. He cannot assert as fact that “you” heard nothing in 2008 about outside money. How could he know what you heard? Secondly, his main point as to the “media outcry” on campaign finance completely ignores that actual fact that fundraising by independent groups has long been a huge topic of discussion. It resulted in the passage of the McCain–Feingold Act in 2002 that put restrictions on certain types of contributions and spending. That act was still in effect in 2008, but was largely overturned in 2010 by Citizens United. If Nolte didn’t hear people talking about outside money in 2008, it’s because his ears were stuffed with right-wing bias and the smears and tangential trivialities that he helped to promulgate (i.e. Rev. Wright, Anthony Weiner).

Nolte makes an extraordinary leap in logic to assert that media companies are de facto Super PACs and that they have always been “allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money to push a political agenda.” But Nolte is not talking about any actual PAC activity. He is asserting the premise that any money spent collecting or reporting news is identical to spending for political advocacy. That’s because Nolte believes that all news is the work of the left-wing gaggle mentioned above. He writes that everyone from the Today Show to Saturday Night Live are “shill[s] for leftist causes.” Therefore, he sees the advent of Citizens United as a leveling mechanism.

“Thanks to ‘Citizens United,’ though, what you now have are mainstream media corporations forced to compete on a level playing field with other individuals and corporations, who can now spend as much money as MSNBC and Politico and The Washington Post, etc. to affect the outcomes of our nation’s politics.

“And this is why the media so loathes ‘Citizens United’ and those beautiful super PACs that have blossomed as a result.”

And therein lies the heart of Nolte’s Epic Idiocy. He actually sees Super PACs as “beautiful,” a blossoming bouquet of wholesome, corporate goodness. In fact, he veritably tingles at the thought of corporations being able to affect the outcomes of elections. Who wouldn’t want corporations – soulless entities whose only purpose is to increase shareholder wealth – to decide everything from how are children are taught, to the state of our environment, to Wall Street regulatory policy, to when, and with whom, we go to war? Nolte’s lust for allowing unaccountable corporations to assume control over the most profoundly personal aspects of our lives is downright perverse. It is also a nearly textbook definition of fascism.


And it’s a perversion rooted in ignorance because the backbone of his thesis is utterly false. It should come as no surprise that a web site called “News Corpse” is not suffering from a naive affinity for the press. But the stated mission of this site recognizes that the problem with the media is that it has evolved into an incestuous family of a few giant corporations whose interests lean more toward their own welfare than the welfare of the public they serve or the nation that protects their independence. The problem with the media is that it IS composed of giant, multinational corporations that exploit their market power and their influence over government.

It is difficult to comprehend how Nolte can harbor such a schizophrenic viewpoint wherein he worships corporations, but despises the media which are, in fact, corporations. He makes no sense in castigating the whole of the media for bitterly opposing Super PACs (for which he provides no evidence), even while they have formed their own and are projected to earn billions of dollars from the advertising headed their way. His opinion can only be described as twisted by a paranoid neurosis that prevents him from observing reality as it is.

It is that blindness that has created a monumental obstacle to rationality and earns Breitbart’s John Nolte the award for the Most Epically Idiotic Article On The Internet. And due to his puerile dimwittedness and cognitive ineptitude, this will surely not be the last time he will be so (dis)honored.

The Decadence Index: How The Wealth Gap Is Hastening The Fall Of The American Empire

If there is anything that history teaches us about empires, it is that they are temporary and often fall of their own decaying weight. Ancient Rome is notorious for a descent that was widely speculated to have been driven by a massive class disparity. The aristocratic patricians devolved into a morass of immorality and obscene opulence. Meanwhile, the other 99% of the empire’s subjects were burdened by lives of oppressive labor or slavery.

The parallels to contemporary American class division are striking. We have our own aristocracy that arisen to a place of privilege and power, while working families are working harder for less, if they’re fortunate enough to be working at all. The 400 richest Americans control more wealth than the bottom 150 million of their fellow citizens – combined. And they exploit the power that comes with that wealth to further enrich themselves. Between 1979 and 2007, average after-tax incomes for the top 1% rose by 281%, compared to a 16% rise for the bottom 20%. The Roman elites would have felt right at home.

There is one difference, however. An historical study published by the Cambridge University Press looked at the Roman economy and calculated the measurement used by the CIA to rank the wealth gap of the nations of the world. What it found was that the United States actually ranks lower on income inequality than Ancient Rome.

Let that sink in for a moment. History’s most conspicuously ostentatious society of Bacchanalian excess had a less severe chasm between its rich and poor subjects than contemporary America. That astonishing fact led me to wonder where the U.S. stands when compared to its modern counterparts. So I consulted the CIA World Factbook and ranked the twenty richest nations by the index that represents income inequality. What I found was that the U.S. ranks 18th out of twenty. I call it The Decadence Index, and countries like Iran, Russia, and India are all less decadent than the United States in terms of economic disparity.

Click to enlarge
Decadence Index

The CIA collects this sort of data because it can be useful in predicting where civil unrest might flare up in the world. So what does that say about the stability of our social structure going forward? It certainly explains the Occupy movement. The question now is what are we going to do about it?

The solutions are not all that difficult to comprehend. Those who have benefited so lavishly by exploiting the system for their own enrichment should now be required to share a fair portion of the sacrifice necessary to restore economic health and balance. It’s not rocket science. Malcolm Gladwell offers a compelling explanation as he demolishes the rightist fable that taxes on the wealthy impede economic growth:

If we want to raise our position on the Decadence Index above that of the Ancient Romans (or the Russians or the French, for that matter), we need to reject the reckless and insensitive agenda of the right-wing patricians whose sole purpose is the accumulation of wealth and power. These patrons of plutocracy unabashedly advocate cutting, even eliminating, taxes on themselves, the rich, and intensifying the tax burden on everyone else. They falsely portray themselves as “job creators,” but this InfoGraphic shows who The Real Job Creators are. They pretend to fret over a class war that they themselves are waging. And because they know that the people overwhelmingly support the principles of economic fairness and justice, these conservative elites are conspiring to suppress the votes of average Americans, particularly seniors, minorities, students, and low-income voters.

Make no mistake, this is a coordinated campaign financed and managed by shadowy, but powerful, business and political entities like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Their mission was aided by the Supreme Court’s odious decision in the Citizens United case that opened the floodgates of corporate money into the electoral process. And, of course, they have the propaganda power of Fox News to advance their greedy, magisterial interests. But the people are fighting back against ludicrous notions like “Corporate Personhood,” and the Upper Crusters are afraid. Even Republican strategist Frank Luntz is admitting as much:

“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death. They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”

So keep up the fight because Corporations Are Not People. Here are some ways to contribute and participate:

Move To Amend is organizing a national action on January 20, 2012, to oppose and reverse Citizens United: Occupy the Courts!
Public Citizen is organizing a national action on January 21, 2012 to oppose and reverse Corporate Personhood: Occupy the Corporations!

Get up. Get involved. Get mad. And get to work.

Priorities USA: More Of This, Please

Prioroties USA just released this video exposing the dangers of the extreme (aka mainstream) Republican/Tea Party:

Transcript: The extreme right is aptly named. They are extremely powerful, extremely well-funded, extremely frightening, extremely paranoid, extremely hateful, extremely irresponsible, extremely ill-informed. And just plain extreme. Which makes them all extremely dangerous. It’s time to stand up and fight back. Join us at PrioritiesUSAAction.org. Taking on the politics of fear and smear.

This video addresses the cream of the rightist assault on America. It covers everything from the Koch brothers, to Glenn Beck to Karl Rove and more. The folks behind Priorities USA are familiar Democratic operatives like Bill Burton, former deputy White House spokesman. The group appears to be a lefty version of Rove’s CrossroadsUSA.

It’s about time. While these sort of groups are exploiting the onerous Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that permits unlimited, anonymous donations by corporations, as long as that decision is the law of the land, the GOP should not be alone in benefiting from it. In fact, Democrats should exploit the hell out of it in the hopes that Republicans will eventually see the harm and join Democrats in drafting a legislative repeal.

So, as the video says, “It’s time to stand up and fight back.”

Keith Olbermann Quits MSNBC, Joins Fox News

* * * Psyche! * * *

Keith OlbermannA cable news bombshell was dropped this evening, but not the one in the headline above. And anyone who clicked on this article thinking it might be true should take a minute or two to have a little chuckle at your own expense.

The actual breaking news is that Keith Olbermann closed his program tonight with the announcement that it would be his last. That’s pretty shocking in and of itself. Countdown is the highest rated program on MSNBC. It has been the launching pad for the rest of the network’s primetime lineup and its ratings cornerstone. It isn’t often that a network will jettison its top fare without some compelling justification. Although it should be noted that MSNBC did it once before when they canceled the number-one-rated Phil Donahue Show. At that time it was conservative politics that precipitated the cancellation. One can only hope that it is not the same case here.

There has already been rampant speculation as to the reason for this split, most of it centering on the just-approved acquisition of NBC by the notoriously conservative folks at Comcast. I find it unlikely that the new management stepped in to abruptly set Olbermann adrift before they have even moved into their offices. But since speculation is the special of the day, I’ll add mine. Olbermann’s au revoir began with him noting that…

“I think the same fantasy has popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I’ve been told: That this is going to be the last edition of your show.”

Keith Olbermann has always been an artful author who chooses his words carefully. In saying that he was “told” that this show was his last, it is fair to say that the decision to leave was not his own. So what sort of issue could get a popular news anchor canned on such short notice? Generally it is either something he did recently, or something he was about to do. And since there doesn’t appear to be any event in the recent past that might have gotten him in trouble, it is more likely that there was some conflict with where Olbermann wanted to go in the future. My guess is that he wanted to cover a major event in the world of television news: The Comcast acquisition of NBC.

If Olbermann were to produce a report on this merger, I would expect that he would insist on addressing the passionate opposition to it. Most progressive media reformers have been lobbying mightily to prevent the merger from going through. Coincidentally, today happens to be the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s disastrous support for corporations over people in the Citizen’s United decision. There may have been an irresistible temptation for Olbermann to comment on the loss of rights for average Americans resulting from the CU case in the context of a media merger which puts even more power into the hands of a giant corporation. And if Olbermann pitched this story to his bosses who are presently jockeying to keep their jobs post-merger, they may have forbade him to do the report. And that could possibly have led to a heated disagreement and a parting of ways.

[NOTE: Sign this petition from MoveOn to Support a Constitutional Amendment to Reverse Citizens United: Corporations Are Not People]

Phill GriffinOf course, this is just conjecture. No one will know what the real low down is until the parties involved spill the beans and, as of now, no one’s talking. However, it would be in line with the management philosophy of Olbermann’s boss, Phil Griffin, who is an admirer of Roger Ailes, the CEO of Fox News.

The biggest unanswered question after why is where. What will happen to Olbermann going forward. CNN stands as the biggest potential beneficiary. If the 3rd place network were able to snap him up it would deliver another million or so loyal viewers. But the hardest part of this to understand is how Olbermann, a caring, passionate, honest, progressive voice has lost his job, while Glenn Beck, a hostile, lying, egomaniacal, rodeo clown remains employed even after telling his viewers that to stop progressives “You’re going to have to shoot them in the head.”

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Election Flawed: Rupert Murdoch Plays Politics For Profit

The present state of the American political process is in dire distress. In order to even contemplate running for any federal or statewide office, a potential candidate must have access to sums of money in amounts that either prevent participation or invite corruption. And if there’s one thing that Washington doesn’t need it’s invitations to be corrupt.

In a new wrinkle, unprecedented quantities of funds are being raised by independent advocacy groups whose donors are allowed to be kept secret, thus depriving voters of information critical to assessing the character and independence of the candidate. The recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United made the situation even worse by permitting corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money directly to candidates and causes with no transparency or oversight.

I’m not sure, however, that anyone anticipated the prospect of a media corporation turning their ability to make political contributions into a profit center and earning money on the funds they donated to candidates. It’s bad enough when media is simply acting out of greed and failing to serve the public interest. But leave it to News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch to discover a whole new vein to mine that yields results for both his greed and his megalomania.

The Nation just published an enlightening commentary co-written by media reform heroes John Nichols and Robert McChesney titled The Money & Media Election Complex. Their premise is that the confluence of media and wealthy partisans in politics is as dangerous as the military/industrial complex Pres. Eisenhower warned us about. And exacerbating the risk is the fact that, to the extent that independent reporting might once have uncovered suspicious relationships and activities, the press has been gutted in many respects and is incapable of playing their traditional role as watchdogs.

While there has long been a problem with massive infusions of cash polluting the electoral environment, the problems today are unique in the way that the media participates and benefits from the process. This past election cycle is estimated to bring in billions to the television networks airing campaign ads and hosting candidates. Thus they have a vested interest in provoking controversy and manufacturing volatility in order to stimulate more ad buying. Nichols and McChesney wrote that…

The most important yet least-recognized piece of the money-and-media election complex is the commercial broadcasting industry, which just had its best money-making election season ever. [...and that...] We have to stop thinking about the crisis of our politics merely in terms of reforming the campaign finance system (though of course it’s important to fight for reforms). It’s a media ownership and responsibility issue as well.

After it was disclosed that Murdoch had contributed a million dollars each to the Republican Governor’s Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it was obvious that these ultra-partisan organizations would be using that money largely to advance the electoral prospects of conservatives and Republicans by producing and distributing television ads. And those ads would likely be placed on networks and stations specifically selected to reach a friendly audience – like maybe Fox.

Rupert Murdoch DonationsAn analysis of data obtained from Media Matters reveals that one of Murdoch’s beneficiaries, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, purchased over $20,000,000 in ads on local broadcast stations across the country. In five of those markets (three in the top ten) there are one or more stations owned by Fox Television. On those stations the Chamber bought $1,223,770 in ads. That means that News Corp earned $223,770 in profits on their million dollar donation to the Chamber.

Looking at this another way, News Corp gave the Chamber a million dollars to buy ads with. Then the Chamber gave the money right back to News Corp with 22% “interest.” So News Corp makes a healthy profit and the Chamber gets their ads broadcast for a 78% discount. And both get to further their shared political agenda. Remember also that the revenue on the analysis above is just from Fox-owned broadcast stations. It does not include ad buys on the cable Fox News Channel. Nor does it include revenue from any other recipient of Murdoch’s largesse, like the Republican Governor’s Association. So there may be millions more in earnings from these allegedly benevolent contributions flowing from the Murdoch media empire.

The fact that this is apparently legal is disturbing, to say the least. It is a thinly disguised kickback scheme. If any other company were to seek to inflate their balance sheet by covertly providing funds to a vendor so that the vendor could purchase that company’s products, somebody would be going to jail. How is this any different? In this scenario News Corp gets to book the revenue, the Chamber gets to air their ads, and the public is subjected to propaganda designed to sway the election. And because of the weakness of the press and the perversion of the current campaign finance legal landscape, the public is also precluded from learning about any of it.

There is the making of a crime syndicate in all of this. Murdoch is not the only media mogul who can employ this scheme. Throw in Richard Mellon Scaife and Philip Anshutz and a variety of other TV, radio, and newspaper barons, and there is potential for significant manipulation and deception through collusion between wealthy media corporations and powerful political operators.

The lesson here is that the media is in need of serious reform, along with campaign finance regulations. If these matters are not addressed adequately, we can expect to see more severe and more frequent corruption of our democratic processes. This is an issue that requires our nation’s immediate attention. And it’s an issue that should be pursued by a true nonpartisan alliance of Americans devoted to fair elections and a free press. The media and political bosses exploiting these loopholes think that the people are too lazy and/or stupid to notice and to challenge them. Are they right?

Fair And Balanced Fox News Funds GOP

A report from Business Week reveals that Rupert Murdoch is keen on electing Republican governors. His News Corp donated a million dollars to the Republican Governors Association in June.

Fox News GOP TeaThis is a significant contribution to a partisan electoral committee. There are 37 governorships on the ballot this year. Democrats currently hold a majority of state houses, Republicans hope reverse that. And since this is census year, the control of state governments can have a huge impact on the make up of Congress for the next decade by managing the redistricting process.

It should come as no surprise to political observers that partisans on both sides are lining up to support the party they regard as most sympathetic to their views. Unions will back Democrats. Wall Street and Oil companies will back Republicans. But what makes this unique is that the media are supposed to be unaffiliated politically. How can they produce unbiased coverage of electoral issues while they are spending millions to benefit one side. Can we really expect them to be critical of the GOP when they are bankrolling their campaigns?

Not that Murdoch’s news enterprises have ever produced unbiased coverage in the first place. His Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Fox Radio, etc., have made it their business to advocate on behalf of the GOP for years. Their anchors and reporters routinely bash Democrats and liberals. But the funds they are providing to the RGA will result in further Democrat bashing which Fox News will dutifully report on the air. And no doubt the RGA will allocate a considerable amount of their advertising budget to Fox News and other Murdoch entities. So Murdoch is effectively putting that money right back in his own pocket while advancing the goals of Republican candidates.

This is one of the most disturbing consequences of the modern media environment where giant corporations have been permitted to control so much of the press. They are devoted only to their own fiduciary interests as opposed to the public interest. Their international stature means that have no loyalty to any particular nation including the United States. Yet they can provide virtually unlimited funding to influence elections that impact the lives of millions of actual citizens who cannot hope to match that kind of political philanthropy. And with the recent ruling in the Citizens United case, these corporations can now expand their charitable largess to federal campaigns. Congressman Paul Hodes and Senator Chris Dodd have each introduced legislation in their respective chambers to reverse Citizens United, but there is still much work to be done.

What Can You Do?

  • Support Congressman Alan Grayson who has introduced a package of bills designed to “Defend Our Democracy.”
  • Sign on to the Pledge to Protect America’s Democracy sponsored by People For the American Way and Public Citizen.
  • Move to Amend the Constitution to establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
  • Support The DISCLOSE Act to combat the new, unregulated corporate influence over elections.
  • Join the Fair Elections Now campaign to end corporate funded elections.
  • And get aboard the Free Press movement to reform the media, save the Internet, and restore independence, diversity and local representation in the media.

If we don’t succeed in returning control of our elections and our media to the people, we will continue to see perversions of democracy like that which News Corp is engaging in. Media corporations can’t serve the public while simultaneously financing partisan politics and padding their bank accounts, all at the public’s expense.

Update: For reference, the RGA also received donations (pdf) from wingnut billionaire David Koch ($1,000,000), GE ($105,000), Comcast ($50,000), Time Warner ($25,000), and SEIU ($100,000) Does Glenn Back know about that last one?

The DGA received donations (pdf) from AFSCME ($1,000,000), GE ($105,000), Comcast ($100,000), Time Warner ($35,000), and SEIU ($325,000), but $0.00 from News Corp.

Note that many organizations, including unions and media companies, play both sides of the fence. But News Corp is the only media enterprise that contributed to just one party. Fair and balanced my ass.

Generation Zero vs. Capitalism: A Love Story

Last Night Sean Hannity devoted the entire hour of his Fox News program to the documentary “Generation Zero.” This morning Fox Nation featured it on their web site as a “Must-See” film.

Generation Zero recently made its public debut at the Tea Baggers Ball in Nashville and was subsequently screened at CPAC, where it was introduced by the terminally choleric Andrew Breitbart. The film was produced by David Bossie of Citizens United, the plaintiff in the recently decided Supreme Court case that granted corporations unprecedented financial participation in federal elections. It was directed by Stephen Bannon who, in another life, produced the Sean Penn directed “The Indian Runner.” Don’t tell Bill O’Reilly, who is boycotting Penn’s films.

I haven’t seen this film (it’s not actually been released yet), but its pedigree and cheer leaders reveal something of its intended mission. The web site says the film is not about the failure of capitalism, but it goes on to say that it will “change everything you thought you knew about Wall Street and Washington.” That assertion makes it difficult to separate the movie’s message from the tenets of capitalism. From reviews and discussion of the film, it seems the basic premise is that the current economic meltdown we find ourselves struggling through was caused by the selfishness and egocentrism of the children of Woodstock. This is a peculiar and illogical theory.

It’s a peculiar theory in that it presumes to blame the “Baby Boom” generation for today’s economic catastrophe. But in doing so, the film is really blaming the poor parenting skills of the “Greatest Generation” who, in their zeal to shield their kids from the pain of depression and war, acceded to their every material want and raised them to be shallow and self-indulgent. That’s a pretty harsh condemnation of the generation that survived decades of trauma in the first half of the last century. The filmmakers are essentially charging the generation that fought its way through the economic disasters of the 1930’s and the worldwide conflagrations of the 1940’s with raising their children to be so socially decadent as to lead the nation into near economic collapse. Do the filmmakers really believe that these parents passed no lessons on to their kids about the hardships they endured?

It’s an illogical theory in that it attempts to create linkage between the hippies of the 1960’s and the financial barons of the 1990’s. So much of the rhetoric of right-wing history revisionists relies on castigating the youth movement of the 1960’s. They are portrayed as drug-addled degenerates and dropouts who contributed nothing of value to society. Their preoccupation with trivialities like civil rights, peace, and free love, permanently labeled them as subversive and anti-social. Since when did their reputation get rehabilitated to the point that they are now seen as captains of industry and finance with the blood of our capitalistic empire on their hands? Surely many former hippies went on to successful careers, but I would venture to say that not one of them became the CEO of AIG or Merrill Lynch.

The Baby Boomers that took the helm of big business were the ones that kept their hair short and listened to Pat Boone in the 60’s. They were the hall monitors and the narcs at their prep schools. They were born to wealth and privilege. It was they, who were already inbred with self-indulgence and egotism, who held the reins of power in the 2000’s. It certainly was not a bunch of idealistic, public school, counter-culture, former flower children who somehow grew up to be greedy sociopaths.

It wasn’t a cabal of aging hippies who invented credit default swaps. It was a cooperative of Wall Street pirates and their Washington patrons. It wasn’t the result of permissive parenting, but of submissive regulators and legislators. While Generation Zero dwells way too much on an unrealistic Leave It To Beaver version of the 1950’s, it actually does approach this part of the problem as well. The movie does not neglect the culpability of an entrenched financial class that has no historical memory whatsoever.

Ironically, that’s exactly what Michael Moore presented in “Capitalism: A Love Story.” Moore’s film was an indictment of the coziness between Wall Street and Washington. And it assailed the notion that solutions had to be afforded to the tottering financial institutions, rather than to the suffering citizens who were the victims. So some of the themes in Generation Zero that are now being heralded by the rightist media were previously explored by Moore. But while there are clear parallels between Moore’s Capitalism and Bannon’s Zero, it is unlikely that either side will acknowledge it. The chasm is far too wide to cross. Even on Hannity’s show there was an exchange that came close to recognizing this ideological affinity, but it was ultimately ignored as they broke away to a commercial.

Sean Hannity: Is it the political system that is more corrupt? Because I believe Capitalism works. Capitalism is the answer.
David Bossie, Producer: Clearly Capital Hill is corrupt. Capital Hill is the problem, not Wall Street here.
Stephen Bannon, Director: I think it an inextricably linked network between Capital Hill and Wall Street. [...] You’ve had the American taxpayer, the average, middle-class American, paying taxes to bailout these big firms, and there’s been no change in behavior, no change in structure no change in regulation.

It’s interesting to see Bossie quickly suck up to Hannity and absolve Wall Street of any liability. It’s even more interesting to see Bannon contradict both of them and spread the blame evenly across the econo-political spectrum. But most interesting would be if all the people that go to see Generation Zero would pick up a copy of Capitalism: A Love Story as well. They may realize that Michael Moore is not the demon he’s made out to be by the right. And conversely, Moore might take a look at Generation Zero. If it isn’t stuffed with right-wing polemics and denunciations of 60’s “radicals,” perhaps he could promote it alongside his own movie.

If both of these films tell the same story of overarching corporate greed and government complicity, it would make a compelling double bill.

Supreme Court Gives Control Of America To Corporations – Like Fox News

In one of the worst decisions by the United States Supreme Court in decades, they ruled this morning in favor of Citizen’s United, a right-wing group who sought to distribute an anti-Hillary Clinton film during the 2008 election season. But the court’s narrowly decided 5-4 ruling went much farther than the issues raised by this case. In finding for Citizen’s United, they also ruled that corporations should be free from limits on political spending that have been in effect for more than 60 years.

The consequences of this ruling are monstrous, both in terms of its broad sweep and its destructive impact. The multinational mega-corps that already wield so much power over politics via pseudo-independent, AstroTurf offshoots, will now be able to directly finance overtly political endeavors. While they still cannot contribute to a candidates general fund or PAC, they will be able to throw millions at friendly legislators independently to ensure passage of pet projects. They will be able to threaten legislators with massive negative campaigns should they fail to be cooperative. The only limits now are their balance sheets and the sky. And the disparity between what these multi-billion dollar businesses can raise and spend, and what citizens can do in response, is wider than the Grand Canyon.

In short, our representatives will become wholly owned subsidiaries of wealthy business magnates (even more than currently). They will pursue interests that benefit their new masters rather than the public interest. And many of these masters will be foreigners whose parent entities reside in Germany or Dubai or China. Even when the companies are U.S. based they may still have prominent shareholders and members of their boards from offshore. What ever happened to the conservative cries of “Country First” or the value of sovereignty?

This ruling is an assault on democracy. It makes a mockery of free speech as it gives preference to speakers who are rich. And it elevates the role of the media in partisan politics. First of all, media companies will see a huge windfall in revenue from all the new advertising on the part of self-serving corporations. Then, as corporations themselves, they can reinvest that income to buy their own congressmen and senators. This cycle repeats ad infinitum as media dollars fund the passage of laws that produce more media profits to fund more legislation, and on and on. The same principle holds true for any industry that can now buy laws that increase their bottom lines so they can buy more laws that increase their bottom lines.

Imagine now how this will effect Fox News. They have already contributed millions to right-wing politicians and causes via the free air time they have devoted to them. Republicans are able to make fundraising appeals on Fox News whenever they want. Fox even re-branded the Tea Bagger’s events as FNC Tea Parties while promoting them incessantly in the weeks prior. Going forward they will have much greater latitude to support or oppose candidates with financing that goes directly to advertising that they can buy from themselves. In the end, this makes Rupert Murdoch even richer and more capable of influencing American (and world) governments and spreading lies and disinformation to his readers and viewers.

There needs to be a rapid and forceful response to this abhorrent decision. President Obama released a statement saying:

“With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer has promised to hold hearings within a couple of weeks. Sen. Russ Feingold (of McCain/Feingold fame) has expressed his opposition to the ruling. And so has John McCain. So there may be congressional will to remedy this atrocious stance by the five rightist justices who regard corporations as, not just persons, but preferred parties in the eyes of the law. It is imperative that Congress rectify this error, but they must go further to eradicate the perverse legal notion of “corporate personhood.” If that takes a Constitutional amencment then let’s get started. In fact, some folks already have:

Move To Amend

And here is a great analysis by Greg Palast describing the risk of hidden and foreign campaign funds.