Despite Their Own Conceit, Fox News Is About As Scary As Honey Boo Boo

As America’s number one network for extreme, right-wing political bias and propaganda, Fox News relishes every opportunity to disparage their ideological foes and to sanctimoniously exalt themselves as protectors of their twisted versions of the truth. One of the favorite tactics of Fox News is to taunt public figures who make the completely rational decision to avoid the abuse that they would endure were they to submit to being interviewed by the network’s bullies and ignorant partisans. This week there was another example of that attempted intimidation by Fox’s media reporter, Howard Kurtz.

Fox News

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Kurtz appeared on The Kelly File with fill-in host and terrorist profiler Shannon Bream, a former beauty pageant contestant and graduate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University with no journalism training. The topic of the segment was departing Attorney General Eric Holder’s scheduled interviews with some news networks that did not, as of yet, include Fox. Bream queued Kurtz up by asking “Does he help himself at all by walking out the door and slamming it in our faces.” That totally unbiased question got this response from Kurtz:

“I think that it’s a sign of confidence when any politician, political figure, cabinet officer, congressman, is willing to sit down and take tougher questions from those you might perceive to be your harshest critics. […] Is the nation’s top law enforcement officer really afraid of [Fox News anchor] Bret Baier?”

Any suggestion that Holder, or anyone else who chooses to keep their distance from Fox News, is afraid of them is utter nonsense. That’s like saying you’re afraid of being interviewed by Honey Boo Boo, when the truth is you’re just smart enough to not waste your time. Notorious liar Bill O’Reilly has used the accusation of fear repeatedly, but frankly I’d be more afraid of Honey Boo boo.

Furthermore, if Kurtz even bothers to take his own analysis seriously, then why doesn’t he apply it to Republicans? He seems so disturbed that a single administration official is waving off Fox News, but he doesn’t seem bothered at all that the entire Republican Party is boycotting MSNBC. Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee has stated publicly that there will be no GOP presidential primary debates on that network. There will be four on Fox. Therefore, according to his own logic, Kurtz is implying that that every single one of the GOP candidates for president are afraid of Rachel Maddow?

What’s even more interesting about this is that the GOP candidates are even afraid of the friendly venues they have chosen for themselves. The RNC has drastically reduced the number of debates and assumed control of who will moderate them and ask questions. That was done to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing displays put on by Republicans during the 2012 election cycle. On one hand that may be a wise decision on their part considering the proclivity for Republicans to say stupid things. On the other hand it shelters them from the real world of political brawling that might toughen them up for the general election. And it exposes them as fearful of letting their candidates express themselves by taking positions for which they would later be held accountable.

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After being left off of a preliminary list of networks that would be interviewing Holder, Fox News VP Michael Clemente whined that Holder’s reluctance to subject himself to the petty carping of Fox’s confirmed haters does a disservice to “the interests of a free press.” Apparently he doesn’t understand the phrase “free press.” You have to wonder where he gets the notion that a free press requires every public figure to submit to every media outlet, no matter how disreputable and hostile. It would be more correct to applaud Holder for showing respect for a free press by declining to validate Fox’s deceitful brand of pseudo-journalism.

Whether or not Holder grants Fox News an opportunity to malign him in person, it is clear that neither he, nor anyone else, is afraid of Fox. They just show it the measure of respect it deserves. But Republicans are demonstrating that they terrified of MSNBC and every other media outlet, including Fox, by implementing a policy that prohibits them from engaging in any public debates that aren’t sanctioned by the party apparatchiks. That’s a story that Kurtz will never report.

Now THIS is Comedy: The Conservative Political A-Hole Conference (CPAC)

The annual parade of wingnuttery known as the Conservative Political Action Conference has been steaming along for a couple of days now. Most of the star attractions have had their say and the general message that we can take away from the affair is that President Obama is an Islamic terrorist, Hillary Clinton is an old liberal, and ObamaCare, Common Core, the IRS, and immigrants must all be abolished.

How’s that for an electoral platform for 2016? It’s pretty much the same agenda that has been broadcast on Fox News for the past six years. And the clapping conservo-bots in the CPAC conference hall responded precisely the way they were trained to respond. Not a single speaker said anything new or insightful. It was hour after hour of regurgitated right-wing dogma, and it absolutely thrilled the glassy-eyed audience who couldn’t have been more predictable if they were hooked up to a machine.

GOP Dream Team

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However, just for the sake of entertainment, there were a couple of moments that deserve some special attention. And it wasn’t Ted Cruz whining about ObamaCare, or Sarah Palin pretending to support the troops, or Scott Walker comparing American working people to terrorists, or Ben Carson calling for unity after saying that, because of liberals, America is very much like Nazi Germany. None of those easily foreseeable sentiments earn much more than a yawn. But there was some unintentional comedy displayed at the conference.

First of all, we have Duck Dynasty’s patriarch Phil Robertson. This long-haired, bearded, headbanded, camo-clad freak took a swipe at hippies. Has he ever seen one (or looked in the mirror)? Somehow that clean living, nature loving subculture that faded into obscurity forty years ago is to blame for every sexually transmitted disease in America today. Now that’s a powerful message for a 21st century Republican Party.

Robertson was invited to the conference to receive the Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award, which is not even worth the time or energy to make fun of. In his remarks Robertson divided the nation into the pious patriots for whom the Constitution was written and “any other” treasonous sinners who are not entitled to its liberties:

“You know what’s happened GOP? We’ve got too many “any others” in the White House. It [the Constitution] wasn’t written for them. […] Stand on the Bible, stand on the Constitution, don’t budge. Hold on to your weapons. That’s what brought us here. We had to have all three to run the Brits back to where they came from.”

Let’s just set aside the divisive elitism that Robertson evokes in order to elevate himself above those he regards as his inferiors. Robertson’s assertion that we needed the Bible, weapons and the Constitution to beat back the British has a glaring flaw. There was no Constitution until four years after the Revolutionary War was won and over. And the British also had weapons and the same Bible, but it didn’t lead them to victory.

The other moment of hilarity was the speech by Donald Trump, the reality TV show host who is so bad at real estate that he couldn’t profitably run a casino (a casino!), and has declared bankruptcy four times. Trump, as usual, spent his time bragging and promoting himself as the bestest, toughest, smartest, conservativest person in the room. He said that he is 80% sure that he is running for president. You could still make a bundle betting against it. He will pull out as soon as he is asked to release his financial statements.

Trump ventured back into the birtherism that he has long espoused. He claimed that Obama “wrote a book when he was a young man and it said born in Kenya.” That’s a flat-out lie. Trump also bragged that he was responsible for Obama releasing his birth certificate. That’s a flat-out lie. Then he bleated “Now we have to find out whether or not it was real.” So Trump is still a full-bore birther. Funny, he has never told us what happened to his team of investigators that he claimed he sent to Hawaii. Does he ever get tired of making a fool of himself? What’s worse is that there was a room full of people who applauded his raving madness.

If you thought that 2012 was fun, with its circus of right-wing loonies, you aint seen nothing yet. 2016 is already shaping up to be even wingnuttier. I really can’t wait for the campaign season to get started.

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Fox News Surrenders: Domestic Recovery Forces Narrative Shift To Foreign Policy For 2016 Election

The Republican News Network (aka Fox News) is taking a hard turn away from domestic issues in advance of the 2016 election cycle. For the past several years Fox and the rest of the Right-Wing Media Circus has focused heavily on matters that hit close to home like the economy, unemployment, immigration, marriage equality, education, and relentlessly, healthcare – or more accurately, opposition to it.

Unfortunately for the GOP, every one of those issues has been trending favorably for the Obama administration and the Democratic Party. The economy has grown by historic rates. The stock market has hit record highs. The deficit has declined by two-thirds. Unemployment dropped from 10.1 to 5.7 percent and wages are beginning to rise. The majority of the public support the President’s positions on immigration. Marriage equality is being affirmed by courts across the country. Both academic and financial education reforms proposed by Obama are hugely popular. And ObamaCare reached new plateaus of success signing up more than 11 million new people this year.

Fox News

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Also influencing the right is a Gallup poll released this week showing that terrorism has jumped in importance to the electorate. Fox News immediately began promoting this poll as evidence that Americans are convulsed with worry about being blown up in a cafe on Main Street. What they don’t mention is that terrorism in the poll shot up to a mere 8% and is still in fifth place behind four domestic issues. Also not mentioned is that another Gallup poll released the same day shows the President’s standing is on the rise. The poll shows him making significant gains with independents and even Republicans. And those gains are seen both personally and for his stance on issues.

So what is an obsessively hostile cable TV “news” network with a mission to promote conservative policies and Republican candidates to do? Of course, they have to pivot to foreign policy in a desperate bid to find a narrative that will advance their political goals. That is what’s happening now as this exchange from Fox News yesterday demonstrates:

Charles Krauthammer: This is going to be be one of those rare presidential runs in which foreign affairs is one of the dominant issues […] That is a very ripe field for the Republicans.
Ron Fournier: Charles is right. This is going to be a foreign policy election. I think that’s going to be really tough for Hillary given her last job.

Huh? Fournier didn’t elaborate on why Hillary Clinton’s last job as Secretary of State would make things harder for her if foreign policy were to take precedence. Running the State Department for four years would ordinarily be seen as a prime resume enhancement in an environment that prized international experience. Presumably the right is hankering for an opportunity to beat the Benghazi drum some more, but since they have failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing after three years and dozens of investigations (including findings that exonerate Clinton and Obama by the GOP led House Intelligence Committee), it seems rather far-fetched that they can make an issue of it now. And when the election heats up Clinton will have a strong record of achievement about which to brag.

More to the point, the effort by Fox to divert attention away from the positive domestic news is bound to fail for three reasons. First, whatever plausible case they have to make against Obama and/or Clinton on foreign policy, they aren’t making it. Instead, they are wasting breath on such ludicrous trivialities as whether or not the word “Islamic” is appended to every mention of terrorism. Their mantra on this is that you have to “call it what it is” in order to win. They seem to believe that just changing the rhetoric all by itself would cause the bad guys to throw in the towel. That, of course, is absurd. The truth is that tarring all Muslims with an association to terrorism would only alienate the Islamic allies we need to prevail. The only parties who insist on this language are GOP/Fox News conservatives and the terrorists themselves. So why is Fox taking their side? That’s a question that Fox News will answer by shouting as loudly as possible, “Benghazi!”

The second reason that latching unto a foreign affairs campaign theme would fail is that, in addition to not making a negative case against Clinton, Republicans are also not making an affirmative case for themselves. Their fierce condemnations of Obama as being weak and incompetent (besides being somewhat unpatriotic by their own definition) imply that their alternative would be to recklessly leap back into a war footing around the world with fronts ranging from Iraq to Iran to Syria to Afghanistan to Ukraine, and even to Russia and North Korea. That would be a hard sell to the American people. What’s more, Republicans are already leaning on the same people that so profoundly wrecked the nation’s international relations as the would-be architects of the next GOP administration’s foreign policy.

Finally, after failing to make a foreign policy case against Clinton or for themselves, Fox and the GOP are forgetting the universal truth about presidential campaigns. As immortalized by James Carville, “It’s the economy, stupid.” No matter how much the right wants to avoid the domestic progress the nation has made in the years since George W. Bush and his cronies cratered the economy, that will always be the primary driver in voting for a national leader. And on that subject Republicans have nothing but failure to point to, while Democrats under Obama have an increasingly prosperous country and an agenda advocating on behalf of the middle-class. In addition, Clinton happens to be married to the last president to balance the budget while producing strong economic growth and job creation.

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It’s no wonder that Republicans don’t want to run on domestic issues. And as their PR division, Fox News is valiantly striving to help them to change the subject. But no matter how hard they pray their wishes will not be realized. 2016 will be decided by an economic debate, just like every other presidential election. That fact, however, won’t deter the right from trying to elevate foreign policy because it’s all they have. And in a presidential election year, when turnout is higher, demographics favor Democrats, and the GOP has more at-risk seats than their foes, the outlook for Republicans is filled with the gloom that they have been trying to project on Democrats ever since the black guy moved into the White House.

RepubliCare: The GOP Alternative To ObamaCare Is A Corporatist Sham

Republicans in Congress just held their 56th vote to repeal or cripple the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). It is a pointless waste of time and taxpayer dollars that will never become law, but the wingnut obsession with this boondoggle never seems to let up.

Throughout the debate over ObamaCare, conservatives have tried to pretend that they are concerned about the welfare of the American people and that they intend to replace ObamaCare with their own version of reform. But more than four years have elapsed since ObamaCare was rolled out and there has not been a single bill introduced as an alternative.

ObamaCare Ruling

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Now the Republicans with a newly fortified majority in Congress are promoting a plan that they say can replace ObamaCare. There are, however, two major problems with their initiative. 1) It isn’t actually a draft of legislation at all and will not be voted on. And 2) it illustrates their bias toward corporations and their animosity to the American people they profess to support. Here is a summary of their “plan:”

The GOP’s Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment – or CARE – Act

  • Calls for the outright repeal of President Obama’s signature health care law, and with that, the individual mandate to buy insurance or pay a fine.
  • Provides for targeted tax credits to individuals and families up to 300 percent above the poverty line to encourage people to buy plans in the market place.
  • Allows insurers to sell plans across state lines.
  • Caps the amount of monetary damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice litigation.
  • Calls for a specific ‘continuous coverage’ protection where individuals moving from one plan to another cannot be denied.

What this amounts to is just another ObamaCare repeal bill decorated with gifts to the insurance industry. There is no realistic way to make insurance coverage affordable without broadening the customer base via mandates. The GOP plan would shrink the base and result in premiums that would be out of reach for most people due to the dominance of high-risk patients in the system. The provision to cap damages in lawsuits has been on the corporate wish list for decades and does nothing to help patients. To the contrary, it would result in people who suffered actual harm not being compensated fairly.

Most disturbing is the hoax that the GOP is proposing as their version of a coverage guarantee to people with preexisting conditions. In the RepubliCare model you would already have to have insurance and then you could not be denied a continuance. Of course they never explain how you got the insurance to begin with. And if you were attempting to get insured for the first time, the companies could reject you without consequence. In other words, it is no protection at all.

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The GOP likes to complain that ObamaCare is a government-run healthcare program, despite the fact that the government has no role whatsoever in providing healthcare. It merely sets standards for insurance companies to make certain that everyone has access to coverage that is effective and affordable. Meanwhile Republicans claim to favor a more “patient-centered” approach, but then offer this fraud that was very likely written by insurance company lobbyists.

If these Republicans are successful, millions of Americans will lose their current insurance and suffer both medically and financially as a result. In its place will be a windfall for corporations that expands their profits at the expense of the American people, particularly those who are already sick. Nice work, RepubliCare.

DEM Senator: GOP Hearing Turns Into Soundbite Factory For Fox News

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee, meeting for the first time since the Republican Party assumed the majority, held a hearing on the confirmation of Loretta Lynch to be the next Attorney General of the United States. And the new GOP leadership demonstrated just how corruptly tied they are to their propaganda arm at Fox News.

Fox News Soundbite Factory

Now that Republicans have the power to control the proceedings, they began by inviting a panel of overtly biased right-wingers who admitted that they had nothing to say about the AG nominee. The sole purpose of their attendance was to rag on the current AG, Eric Holder, and President Obama. The Republicans were using the hearing to express their hostility toward Holder and to try to make political points against the President that had nothing to do with the confirmation of Lynch.

What’s even worse is that the panel consisted of sham witnesses with notorious biases. They included disgraced former reporter Sharyl Attkisson, Tea Party Sheriff David Clarke, and voter suppression activist Catherine Engelbrecht of TrueTheVote. The giveaway was that these plants left the hearing upon completion of their testimony and hightailed it down to the Fox News studios for a turn on Sean Hannity’s show where they continued their bitchfest. That eventuality was actually predicted during the hearing by Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (video below) who called out the wingnut ringers saying that…

“I regret that this hearing and this solemn occasion has been co-opted to that extent and turned into what appears to be a soundbite factory for Fox News and conspiracy theorists everywhere.”

He could not have nailed it better. The fact that Republicans in Congress will abuse the process to stage a political theatrical affair is not particularly surprising. They have long ago proven themselves to be dismissive of democracy and willing to subvert government institutions in order to achieve their partisan goals. But the blatant exercise of casting a panel of “witnesses” who have dual roles as Fox News flunkies really indicts the new Senate majority as hopelessly corrupt.

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Free To Be Dumb: The Republican Iowa Freedom Summit Lives Up To Its Billing

This weekend Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who maligned immigrants as drug mules who “have calves the size of cantaloupes,” and supports dog fighting because laws that protect animal welfare are, “exactly what our founding fathers wanted to avoid,” hosted his annual Iowa Freedom Summit with a star-studded cast of prospective GOP presidential candidates. And Fox News was there to capture every thrilling moment.

Fox News

For some reason Fox thinks it is breaking news that Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, and Rick Perry said mean things about ObamaCare. Their definition of “thrashing” must be “to mutter childish slogans and stomp your feet.” And they continue to ignore the fact that their calls to repeal it have failed repeatedly, including when the Supreme Court upheld it. Also forgotten is any mention of what they would replace it with as they throw millions of Americans off of their insurance plans.

The timing of this event couldn’t have been better as this week saw the advancement of several possible candidacies, including Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, both of whom were in attendance. Palin distinguished herself by posing with a sign that said “Fuc_ Michael Moore,” as part of her campaign to defend the box office hit, American Sniper. She addressed the same subject in her speech when she further demonstrated her grown up, Christian values by shouting “Screw the left in Hollywood.” Somebody might want to tell her that Hollywood is responsible for the movie she is defending. Note to GOP: She aint running.

The Donald was his typically arrogant, Narcissistic self. He insulted fellow Republican Mitt Romney (a no-show) saying that he would not be a good candidate because “he choked” last time around. He also raised the tender issue of Romney’s 47% remarks and said that his RomneyCare in Massachusetts was enough to disqualify him from further consideration. He also slammed Jeb Bush (another no-show) because of his name saying that “The last thing we need is another Bush.” He may get some agreement from Democrats on that. And of course, he bragged about himself. Even though there is little chance that he will enter the race, like every other time he has pretended to run, he is just promoting his own interests and image (like Palin).

Dr. Ben Carson took the stage to further prove that he must have have missed every class in college except brain surgery. He began by complaining that he doesn’t believe in taking healthcare and “putting it in the hands of the government.” Setting aside the fact that ObamaCare doesn’t do that, he expresses his preference for putting healthcare in the hands of greedy, soulless corporations. And he actually said that even if it worked he would oppose it. Um, OK. Then he declares that immigrants only come to America because it is so attractive. Therefore, he proposes that that be reversed. That might actually work. Make America less attractive and nobody will want to come. However, it’s a terrible campaign slogan, and besides, George Bush already tried that.

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The comedy extravaganza continues with featured guests like Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, and Rick Santorum. The prospective candidates from the so-called “establishment” wing of the party (Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio) all declined to attend. That may cost them some Tea-fection when the race begins in earnest. But from this small glimpse into the nascent campaign season, it is bound to be a bountiful cornucopia of laughs. Just wait for the debates to get started.

KNEE-JERKS: The Predictable Ass-Holiness Of Fox News And The GOP Post-SOTU

In a development that will surprise only a few mentally deficient cave dwellers, President Obama’s State of the Union speech was greeted by Republican politicians and conservative pundits with barefaced disdain. Naturally, Fox News took the lead in developing a hostile rapid response in order to provide the President’s foes with an easily referenced collection of attack themes. In fact, Fox was so diligent that their oppositional strategy was actually launched before the speech even began.

To set the scene, Obama presented a rosy picture of the nation after six years of his presidency. He spoke of the economic renewal that has created more than 11 million new jobs, reduced the deficit by two-thirds, and produced unprecedented private sector growth. He addressed many of the issues that have long been a part of the Democratic agenda including tax reform that eliminates loopholes for the rich and benefits the middle-class, enhancing opportunities for education, reducing our dependency on foreign oil and advancing the development and use of alternative fuels, Climate Change, equal pay for women, raising the minimum wage, Net Neutrality, and access to affordable and effective health care. And he noted that the successes of the last six years were achieved despite the fact that “At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits.”

So how did the right respond to these facts? By denying them, of course. And they topped that off with some distractions and ad hominem insults. The apparent primary line of attack from the right is to accuse Obama of not having heard the message sent by voters last November. However, if there was any message at all it was delivered so faintly that the President could be excused for not hearing it. It was the lowest voter turnout in 70 years. Sixty-two percent of Americans didn’t vote at all, and the Republican victories were achieved with about 20% of eligible voters. That’s not exactly a mandate.

The GOP complained that the American people want him to work with Congress. But their definition of that is to abandon his principles and capitulate to Republicans. Obama tried to work with the GOP for six years and was rebuffed at every turn. It’s ironic that Republicans demand that Obama pay heed to the election results when they so flagrantly ignored them in 2008 and 2012, even plotting to oppose everything he did from day one of his administration. Where were the Republicans insisting on respect for the decision of the voters when Mitch McConnell declared, on inauguration day, that his first priority was making Obama a one term president? And it should be noted that Obama enjoyed landslide victories with much larger voter participation.

It didn’t take long for one of the points Obama made in his speech to get rolled over by the Fox News editorial positioning. The President sought to inspire a more substantive relationship between the White House and Congress saying…

“There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for?-?arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision. […] A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than ‘gotcha’ moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.”

The response to this by Fox anchors and guests was to embrace trivialization and fake controversies. Within seconds of the end of the speech, Bret Baier complained that Obama had not said the name “Al Qaeda” during the address. Of course, Obama did speak at length about terrorism and his administration’s commitment to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the enemy. The problem is that if you don’t specifically say “Al Qaeda” you are criticized for it. If you do say it you are criticized for not saying “jihad.” If you do say that you are criticized for not saying “Islamist.” If you do say that you are criticized for not saying ….. Well, you get the idea. Obama would have to make a list of every word the right obsesses over and make sure to stuff them all into every one of his speeches.

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The Fox News collective, and the Republican Party they serve (or is it the other way around) suffers from Oppositional Defiant Disorder: a persistent pattern of tantrums, arguing, and angry or disruptive behavior, generally associated with children. A perfect illustration of this is the way the Fox Nation website characterized a post-SOTU article by the Associated Press. Their headline was “AP Fact Check Obliterates Obama’s SOTU.”

Fox Nation SOTU

To be sure, the AP took a decidedly biased and negative tone, as the so-called liberal media usually does, but even so, they could not find substantive fault with Obama’s speech, much less obliteration. Here are the “facts” they allegedly checked:

  • Obama: At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry and booming energy production – We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.
    — The AP’s analysis essentially concurred saying that “Job growth has been healthy. […] Inflation-adjusted median household income…is about 4 percent higher than when it bottomed out in 2011. […] Booming energy production is indeed a reality.”
  • Obama: I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college to zero.
    — This, of course, is not a refutable fact and the AP didn’t bother to refute it. They simply argued that Republicans in Congress will not be receptive to the plan. But that knee-jerk obstructionism has been the GOP stance ever since Obama became President.
  • Obama: We’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.
    — The AP acknowledged that this is true saying that “Expansion of the massive Pacific islands monument puts Obama on top.”
  • Obama: Thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small-business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007.
    — Yes, said the AP: “A survey of small businesses by the National Federation of Independent Business does show that a rising proportion plans to raise wages.”

It appears that Fox News is confusing the concept of “obliteration” with the diametrically opposed concept of “nearly complete concurrence.” That degree of cognitive failure explains the antsy grumbling of FoxPods and the GOP who are distressed that Obama has not concluded that the last two years of his presidency are irrelevant and that he should work on his presidential library and let Republicans in Congress govern the country. And it also explains how they can insist that his speech was defiant and combative despite these closing remarks:

“If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.”

It would be naive not to recognize that this sort of rhetorical communion is common in political discourse and is often insincere. But it was nevertheless an outstretched hand and the GOP ought to at least try to grasp it before they swat it down. But that would be totally out of character for a party that has made rancid animosity the hallmark of their tenure.

The Republican Politburo Threatens To Censor Their Own Presidential Candidates

Anyone who followed the 2012 presidential primaries for the Republican Party were treated to a circus extravaganza that featured a parade of clown-like characters humiliating themselves and their party. It included Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich. And always on the sidelines were were Sarah Palin and Donald Trump pretending that they were just about to jump in.

Right-Wing Media Circus

It’s no wonder that the Republican National Committee is so determined to prevent a repeat of that embarrassment. There were nearly two dozens debates leading up to the Republican convention in August of 2012. That was an enormous about of time for the candidates to make asses of themselves, and they used that time to good advantage.

So the RNC chairman Reince Priebus has just announced their schedule of sanctioned debates for the 2016 campaign season. There are only nine firm dates with another three penciled in as pending. That’s smart on their part because, as they learned last go around, the more people saw of their candidates, the less they liked them. And by forcing them to actually articulate their positions on issues, it made it harder for their ultimate nominee, Mitt Romney, to waver vaguely in the winds of “Etch-a-Sketchy” opportunism. But has the RNC gone too far by dictating this mandate:

“To give their push to control the debate process teeth, any candidate who participates in a non-sanctioned debate will not be allowed to participate in any more sanctioned debates.”

That is an awfully strict decree that borders on totalitarian control of what is supposed to be a democratic process. In the past, debates were sponsored by media organizations and political groups with an interest in educating the public. For instance, The League of Women Voters was a frequent sponsor of non-partisan candidate forums. And the participation of the media insured that the candidates would have access to voters.

The notion that there will be only officially sanctioned debates means that they are more likely to be propaganda affairs than contests of ideas and abilities. That outcome is even more likely since the RNC is retaining control over who the debate moderators will be, and they have signaled that they will all be GOP-friendly. So no tough questions, no adversarial jousting. And that is by design of the RNC debate architects. They have previously said that they don’t want their candidates tearing each other down during the primaries.

Consequently, whoever emerges from the Republican field (probably Bush) will not have been battle-tested for the general election. He will face his Democratic opponent unprepared for the sort of contentious discourse that is part and parcel of a national election. He will not have had an opportunity to sharpen responses to hostile questions or address his weaknesses. That’s good news for the Democrat (probably Clinton).

Another problem with limiting the debates to officially sanctioned affairs is that it’s difficult to force everyone to comply. There will be parties who will feel left out. Take for example, the Tea Party. It is hard to imagine that those notoriously antsy malcontents will be easily persuaded to sit back and let the party apparatchiks dictate who can speak and when and where.

Likewise, the media is under no obligation to refrain from offering their own candidate forums. Should they do so, the candidates would be hard-pressed not to participate and gain valuable airtime. Particularly the second tier candidates who have more trouble raising money. And if the second tier agrees to a network debate, the first tier are not going to want to let them have the stage to themselves to beat on them.

This would put the RNC in the position of having to enforce their stated punishment. Would the party actually ban viable candidates from participating in their sanctioned debates? That would anger both the candidates and their supporters. Plus, it would make them look small and unpresidential, like naughty children. That’s not a particularly flattering way to go into the convention or the general election.

In addition to the threats imposed by the RNC, they also announced that they will be partnering with Fox News for three of their sanctioned debates (two on Fox News, one on Fox Business), and another one in the pending status. CNN will get two debates, and each of the broadcast networks will get one. MSNBC was completely shut out by the good folks at the RNC. Let’s just hope that the DNC has the good sense to shut out Fox News.

The debate granted for Fox Business is unusual in that the network has no measurable audience. They do not permit Nielsen to publish their ratings, a decision generally taken when the ratings are embarrassingly low. Either the RNC feels guilty about including CNBC on their debate schedule, or they are just giving Fox a gift. Needless to say, Fox will be the favorite media outlet for the GOP for the duration of the campaign.

Fox Nation vs. Reality: Republican vs. Democratic Billionaires

The toxic effect of the billions of dollars in special interest donations to political candidates and causes can be seen every day in the way that politicians rewards their most generous benefactors. It is not a coincidence that the first bill brought to a vote in the Republican-dominated 114th Congress was one to advance the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline favored by wealthy oil barons like the Koch brothers.

The current corrupt state of political funding was made possible by the notorious Citizen’s United decision that freed donors to make virtually unlimited contributions without disclosing their identity. Despite the fact that Republicans defend this practice, their media mouthpiece, Fox News, tries to play both sides of the debate by accusing Democrats of being equal offenders. Or, in the case of a new item posted on Fox Nation, even worse.

Fox Nation

According to Fox, “Dem Billionaires Donate More To Politicians Than Republicans.” The article that the Fox Nationalists cited as their source was originally published by Politico. Fox posted the first three paragraphs from the Politico story that said in part…

“Democrats spent much of the 2014 campaign castigating Republican big money, but, it turns out, their side actually finished ahead among the biggest donors of 2014 – at least among those whose contributions were disclosed.”

The key portion of that quote are the eight words at the end. It is impossible to do an analysis of political donations without taking into consideration the “dark money” made possible by Citizen’s United. In the beginning of Politico’s article they noted that donations attributed to Democrats from disclosed sources totaled $174 million in 2014. Donations from Republicans came to only $140 million. And from that data Fox declared that Democrats were the bigger donors.

However, in the fourth paragraph of the article, the one right after the point where Fox Nation cut off their excerpt, a far more relevant statistic was reported:

“Of course, that edge doesn’t take into account contributions to deep-pocketed non-profit groups that don’t disclose their donors. They heavily favored Republicans […] For instance, the network of mostly secret-money non-profit groups helmed by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers was on pace to spend $290 million in 2014.”

So the truth is that the Koch brothers all by themselves donated more money than all of the Democrats cited by Fox combined. It’s a fact that Fox left out of their excerpt and blatantly lied about in their headline.

To illustrate how dishonest it is to use numbers that only include disclosed donors, David and Charles Koch rank only 10th and 29th on the list of such contributions. But clearly they are number one by a wide margin if all of their donations are counted, including those from the dark money organizations they run like Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, and Donors Trust. But don’t expect to learn about any of this from Fox News. Their mission is to disinform and to prop up the right-wing elitists, bankers, and captains of industry.

For More Blatant Lies by Fox, Get the ALL NEW 2nd volume of
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

See also this analysis of the stark differences between the Republican rich and the Democratic rich: What’s The Difference Between Wealthy (Koch) Republicans And (Soros) Democrats?

Right-Wing Media Lusts For Images That Offend Muslims

The murders of the staff of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris are universally regarded as a heinous assault on humanity and free expression. Virtually every public commentary on the crime repudiates the killers and the violently extremist ideology they claim to represent. That includes the prominent Muslim advocacy organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the major Islamic governments of Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Egypt, Iran, and more.

Yet even as this international chorus of condemnation resounds throughout the world, there are some petty voices in the media that seek to take political advantage of the situation. One of the tactics they employ is to attempt to cast shame on any media enterprise that fails to publish the offensive images that are reputed to have incited the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Many conservatives are calling anyone who doesn’t repost the images cowards and terrorist appeasers.

Why is the willingness to give more attention to a specific example of insulting imagery a test of dedication to a free press? Certainly the right to publish such material is one that must not be infringed in a free society, but that doesn’t make it a requirement for everyone to do so. It is possible to protest censorship, intimidation, and terrorism aimed at free speech without engaging in the same speech.

For instance, conservative extremists like Ted Cruz have every right to compare supporters of ObamaCare to Nazis, as he did on the Senate floor. But that doesn’t mean that in order to uphold his rights I have to stand up in public and make the same asinine comparison. It is quite enough for me to articulate my opinion that he is free to say whatever idiotic and inflammatory bullcrap he wants.

The problem is that there is an ugly underpinning to the calls by the right to post offensive images of Mohammed everywhere. And that is that they get off on it. They are only too happy to malign the prophet of a religion that they hate and regard as an evil enemy. Never mind that, by far, most Muslims are as appalled by the Paris murders as everyone else. The rightist, Christian martinets of virtue won’t be happy until every magazine, newspaper and television program has featured the images on their front pages and at the top of every broadcast.

It goes without saying (though I’ll say it anyway) that these same defenders of freedom would never insist on such widespread reproduction if the images maligned their sainted Ronald Reagan. Can you imagine Todd Starnes of Fox News calling out the cowards in the media for not prominently displaying an offensive picture of Reagan? Of course not. But that’s what he did to those not displaying the Mohammed cartoons.

A few years ago there was a movie about a fictionalized assassination of President Bush. It wasn’t even a political film, but rather a crime drama that delved into the complexities of an investigation into the killing of a president. Conservatives were apoplectic, complaining about the film and demanding that it be pulled from distribution. CNN and NPR refused to air advertisements for it.

The Dixie Chicks had the temerity to exercise their rights to free speech by saying merely that they were ashamed that Bush was from Texas. That rather tame bit of criticism led to record burnings, concert boycotts, and even death threats. No one was demanding that everybody play their music on the radio to demonstrate a commitment to free speech.

And then there was the notorious parody ad that appeared in Larry Flynt’s Hustler Magazine. It was a mock ad for Compari that played off of the liquor’s ad campaign at the time. However, Hustler’s version put televangelist Jerry Falwell in, shall we say, a compromising position. The response to that was both outrage from offended Christians and a lawsuit from Falwell. Eventually, Flynt prevailed in the Supreme Court, scoring a victory for free speech. But none of the conservatives today who are so anxious to see more public displays of Mohammed cartoons were clamoring for such a movement of solidarity in defense of Flynt. And it should not be forgotten that Flynt was also the victim of a terrorist attack when he was shot by a white supremacist, severing his spinal cord and leaving him confined to a wheelchair.

Jerry Falwell Compari

What is painfully clear is that conservatives would never condone reproducing images, or promoting other forms of speech, that they find offensive. But they are drooling ravenously to see more of the images that offend Muslims. And it’s all in the name of defending free expression. But beyond the obvious hypocrisy, it is apparent that they are more interested in satisfying their own repugnant desires to denigrate their perceived foes than in standing up for freedom.

Get the ALL NEW 2nd volume of
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

[Addendum] As an example of some of the intrepid Fox News soldiers of press freedom, these statements were recently broadcast:

Ralph Peters: The correct response to this attack by all of us in journalism – we pretend to be so brave. If we had guts those cartoons would be reprinted on the cover pages of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the L.A. Times, the Washington Post tomorrow. They won’t be. We’ll cry, but we’ll continue to self-censor.

K.T. McFarland: If there is any guts, if there is any courage, if there is any role that a free media has, it is to go out and call it what it is. If we are already self-censoring, if we are already cowering under the desk because we’re afraid of this, we’re afraid of that, then you know? Free speech is already lost.

Note that the official position of Fox News is to not display the images from Charlie Hebdo. They issued a statement saying that “The safety of its correspondents and questions of taste are at issue.” So apparently, free speech is already lost. But if they are still interested in publishing images to demonstrate their solidarity with oppressed journalists, maybe they will publish this image of a cardinal giving Jesus a blow job on the cross. It was featured on the cover of the German satire magazine, Titanic, who have encountered their own problems with censorship and could use the support.

Titanic