John McCain’s All-Lobbyist Express

The past few weeks has brought repeated announcements from the campaign of pseudo-maverick John McCain regarding the dismissal of staff members due to their lobbying activities. It’s not enough that McCain raises more money with the help of lobbyists than any other presidential candidate…

McCain Lobbyists

Nope, McCain also employs so many lobbyists that there seems to be a new one falling from the campaign tree every week. Amongst those having taken their leave so far are Doug Goodyear, Doug Davenport, Eric Burgeson, and Craig Shirley. The latest casualty is the campaign’s national finance co-chairman, Thomas Loeffler. Hanging low on the branch are super-lobbyists Charlie Black and campaign manager Rick Davis. Media Matters has compiled a superb list of even more tainted McCain staffers.

And speaking of McCain staffers with ties to lobbying, the announcement of Loeffler’s departure was made by Tucker Bounds, McCain’s deputy communications director. Bounds recently left his position with the American Insurance Association to join McCain’s campaign. The AIA is the “leading property-casualty insurance trade organization, representing 350 insurers that write more than $123 billion in premiums each year.”

This relationship raises an interesting question: Since Bounds, the McCain spokesperson, is himself bound to a major lobbying group, will he be called upon to announce his own dismissal?

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Republichol: For The Change You Deserve

The more things change…..

In an increasingly complex world, many people find it difficult to cope with the stresses of day to day life. The strain of caring for a family, paying the mortgage, job insecurity, and terrorists lurking at the Dairy Queen, can result in crushing anxiety and fear. But now, from the makers of The War in Iraq™ and Katrina Neglect™ comes a breakthrough in the treatment of depression caused by incompetent and dishonest national leadership. Now there is an alternative to the endless years of suffering brought on by deficient representation.

DemocracynAfter extensive research and focus grouping, the Republican National Committee is proud to introduce Republichol™ for the treatment of Latent Impotent Electoral Syndrome (LIES). Republichol™ is specially formulated to deceive the patient into believing that the utterly discredited Republican Party is actually pursuing an agenda of change. American voters can now enjoy the relief and satisfaction that comes from masking reality with comforting platitudes.

If there is a defining theme for 21st century politics, it is “Change.” Every actor on the political stage has extolled its virtues. Barack Obama promises “Change you can believe in.” Hillary Clinton touts her record of “35 years of change.” Even George Bush stakes out this territory:

“In 2000, I said, ‘Vote for me, I’m an agent of change.’ In 2004, I said, ‘I’m not interested in change. I want to continue as President.’ Every candidate has got to say ‘change.’ That’s what the American people expect.”

In his own, nearly incomprehensible way, Bush admits that he wasn’t interested in change even as he asserts that every candidate has to embrace it. His lack of comprehension is a hallmark of the party he leads. This is why House minority leader, John Boehner, personally developed the Republichol™ campaign and it’s slogan “The Change You Deserve.” The slogan was carefully composed to avoid the promise of change that you need, or change that will actually be beneficial. By focusing on change that you deserve, Republichol’s™ patented time-release formula distributes any change on the basis of personalized determinations of merit. For instance:

  • Oil companies deserve control over protected off-shore and wilderness areas.
  • Telecom companies deserve retroactive immunity for crimes against innocent customers.
  • Defense contractors deserve international hostilities that create demand for their products.
  • The media deserve military analysts who are secretly provided and coached by the Pentagon.
  • Health insurers and drug manufactures deserve freedom from regulations that inhibit their ability to gouge patients.
  • Corporations deserve to consolidate into unregulated monopolies.
  • The top 1% of American income earners deserve more tax relief.

And…..

  • American workers deserve to have their jobs outsourced to India and China.
  • Iraqi civilians deserve to be killed in the tens of thousands.
  • Veterans deserve reduced benefits and substandard treatment for service related injuries.
  • Women deserve prosecution for exercising choice with regard to family planning.
  • Children deserve limited access to, and lower standards for, education.
  • Voters deserve to be disenfranchised by special interests, discrimination, and insecure voting technology.
  • Middle class households deserve to pay more in taxes, as a percentage of income, than the wealthy.
  • Citizens of the world deserve widespread climate catastrophes brought on by global warming.

The Republican model has conveniently defined the deserving as those who have already acquired wealth and power (thank you Ayn Rand). This is enormously helpful in the development of guidelines for dispensing benefits under the new Republican program for change.

Unfortunately, the new slogan was not composed carefully enough to avoid infringing on another product that already claimed “The Change You Deserve” as its marketing mantra. Wyeth Laboratories trademarked the phrase for its Effexor XR anti-depressant medication. While this sort of conflict might ordinarily result in costly litigation, the Republican Party and the multi-national drug maker are notoriously friendly and a mutually acceptable accommodation is expected. In fact, this partnership may even expand marketing opportunities for both, as the implementation of Republican policy is likely to produce greater demand for anti-depressants like Effexor.

DemocracynNot to be outdone, the Democratic Party has developed a product of its own to address mood disorders related to Weak/Unstable Shrinking Spine (WUSS). Democracyn™ works on brain functions to relax the patient’s outrage mechanism triggered by Congressional activity based on fear or self-interest. It can also be prescribed after legislative actions taken on behalf of corporations rather than constituents.

The pharmaceutical cocktail of Democracyn™ and Republichol™ provide a potent antidote to the travails of modern sociological distress. Taken together within a regimen that includes counseling, re-education, and aggressive doses of media punditry, a wall of delusion can be constructed that serves as a defense from the troubling realities of civic life. And as the people become less agitated by affairs of state, those who serve as our representatives benefit as well. Remember, a medicated electorate is a compliant electorate. What began 200 years ago as an experiment in Democracy has evolved into a Pharmocracy™ – an institution defined by two dominant characterizations:

  1. Pseudo-representational legislative bodies that seek to control the behavior of populations through the use of psychoactive propaganda and sedative rhetoric.
  2. Constituent bodies that are heavily medicated and susceptible to the influence of media-dispensed government perspectives.

The media itself plays a major role in the advancement of Pharmacratic principles. No institution in American society is as effective at mood manipulation as the media. As metaphorical opiates go, television has replaced religion in the veins of the masses. Consequently, all sides are rushing to revitalize their brand. The problem for Republicans, however, is that their brand has been severely damaged by the present administration. Even Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), the former chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee confessed that:

“The Republican brand is in the trash can. … If we were a dog food, they would take us off the shelf.”

That’s even worse than my own brand analysis (The Republican Scare: A Branding Nightmare) written in June of 2007, in response to Boehner’s previous attempt to rehabilitate his Party’s brand. The Republican Scare was how I analogized the situation to the Tylenol Scare of 1982 (another drug calamity):

“After six years of a toxic administration whose policies have led to a poisoning of public discourse; with corruption infecting Capital Hill, the Justice Department, the Pentagon, and the White House; and a president whose market share is dipping into historic lows; Republicans have concluded that they need to persuade the American people that their brand of politics is safe for our families and our country.”

~~~

“…they are trying to design new packaging without enhancing product safety or purpose. While some of them recognize that it will take more than a fresh coat of varnish to restore their credibility, many are convinced that they can improve their image in the eyes of the public if they can just spin some more wool to pull over said eyes.”

After only a year, Boehner is back with the same crippled brand but a brand new PR effort to polish his bruised political fruit. But the Republican brand is rotting in the mud. There seems to be little likelihood that the new “change” campaign will see any more success than the failed campaign it’s replacing.

For real change to take place, the American people need to complete a program of detoxification. They need to flush the poisons from the political system, which will require flushing some of the politicians as well. When finally cleansed of contamination we will have a chance to implement a true reform agenda. One that consists of more than the placebos prescribed by cynical Republican quacks who think that they can dictate what we each deserve.


Bill O’Reilly’s Dementia: Caught On Tape

O'Reilly Fear FactorI may have been a little too hard on Bill O’Reilly in my past assertions of his crumbling mental state:

“…all that will be left for us is to watch with a sickly curiosity because he is beyond us now. He has reached that destination about which he cautioned us a thousand times while pointing menacingly. He has finally and irreversibly entered a Zone that is thoroughly devoid of Spin – or, for that matter, reason or sanity.”


Apparently this is not a developing problem. Apparently he has been insane all along:

[YouTube pulled the first version of this video due to “a copyright claim by CBS.” Now there are 40+ versions of it on YouTube. In case they all get pulled, you can still view this must-see video at Gawker]

Bill Don’t Block the Shot O’Reilly is a TV studio massacre waiting to happen. Fox should issue Kevlar vests to all Factor employees. The irony is that, after making millions off of his dementia, O’Reilly would go out providing Fox with exactly the sort of blood-stained tabloid story they feed on.

See also The Collected Verses for more O’Reilly insanity.


Bush Spiritual Adviser Endorsed Obama

The media obsession with pastors to politicians has an exciting new vein to mine.

Rev. Caldwell

The picture above shows Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, frequently identified as President Bush’s spiritual adviser. He presided over the wedding of Jenna Bush on Sunday. And ….. he has publicly announced his endorsement of Barack Obama for President of the United States, citing his “character, confidence and courage.”

Will the press that has been relentlessly pounding Obama for his association with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright (whom Obama has repudiated) be as eager to report that Bush’s pastor (who officiated at both of his inaugurations) prefers Obama to Bush’s aspiring successor, John McCain? Will they saturate the airwaves with this news? Will they even ask Bush or McCain a single question about it?

God knows.


Republicans Vote Against Mother’s Day

As a tribute to the contribution mothers make to our lives, the House of Representatives sought to pass a resolution to honor America’s moms on the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day. The resolution said simply that the House…

“…celebrates the role of mothers in the United States and supports the goals and ideals of Mother’s Day.”

The resolution passed on a voice vote of 412 to 0. Then Kansas Republican Todd Tiahrt rose to request a recorded vote wherein he and 177 other Republicans, including Minority Leader John Boehner, decided to cast their vote against mothers. Boehner said:

“Oh, we just wanted to make sure that everyone was on record in support of Mother’s Day.”

By voting against it? Even Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), the bill’s original sponsor, voted against it.

Despite this cynical and childish ploy on the part of House Republicans to stall House business, the resolution passed. Happy Mother’s Day.

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Fox News Fires Woman For Negligent Honesty

TVNewser is reporting that a Fox News employee was fired for telling John McCain that she voted for him and that he was going to win. Jennifer Locke was a production assistant on assignment for Fox News to cover the Time 100 Gala when she confessed her admiration for McCain. McCain reportedly replied:

“You’re not supposed to reveal that.”

Quite right, Senator. She was not supposed to reveal that. It’s a good thing you were there to scold her for letting the cat out of the bag. Your Fox handlers will reward you for that with more fawning coverage. Everyone knows that it’s perfectly alright for Locke to think that way, so long as she keeps it to herself. All Fox personnel should be aware that any disclosure of political bias is a violation of company policy and is punishable by termination. Particularly if you are an anonymous PA with no real clout. Of course, if you are a chief political consultant (Carl Cameron) or a Washington managing editor (Brit Hume) you are exempt.

Locke’s views would seem to have little relevance while working the entertainment beat, but she still needed to made into an example. It’s not as if her employers were unaware of her views. In 2004 she was the subject of an Associated Press article (published in the Washington Post) wherein she related her experiences as a lonely Republican at the American University of Paris:

“Locke surfaced in an informal sampling of AUP students at a broadcast journalism course. When an AP reporter asked students who favored Bush, her hand shot up.

Most students accused Bush of spurring terrorism and alienating America’s old allies, but Locke, an international affairs major whose ambition is to be an anchor on Fox News, stuck to her guns.”

What a sadly poignant tale. This young woman, who dreamed of stardom at Fox News, was on her way to realizing her dreams, but was summarily dismissed for articulating the sort of opinion that likely got her hired in the first place.

If only she had followed the lead of wise elders like Karl Rove, who appears regularly on Fox News without ever disclosing his role as an adviser to the McCain campaign. Or she could have looked to role models like the Pentagon Pundits (SPINCOM), who appeared on TV news programs (mostly Fox) clandestinely spewing pro-war disinformation.

The trick is to keep your prejudices safely behind a curtain of obfuscation. You can season your reporting with all the partisanship you want as long as you never admit that you’re doing it. You can enter into relationships that are clearly journalistic conflicts of interest as long you deny such relationships exist. Had Locke known better than to publicly reveal her biases she would still be able to pursue her career at Fox and advance to positions where she could happily slant her reporting. As it is, she will just have to chalk it up to experience and take her learned lessons with her to the next propaganda outfit down the road.


Junk News Gets FCC Seal Of Approval

Junk NewsTelevision news has taken criticism from every direction imaginable. It is accused of being too far left, or too far right, or too shallow, or too consumed with profit, etc.

Now the Federal Communications Commission has settled the argument. Television news is too newsy. The FCC’s latest satire-defying ruling has declared that the gossip-mongers at TMZ, and the God-casters at Pat Robertson’s 700 Club, are “bona fide” news providers. In arriving at that ruling, the Commissioners had to conclude that there would be no overt political partisanship in the news content from these parties.

The significance of this ruling is that the broadcast licensees of these programs will not have to comply with political equal-time requirements. In the case of TMZ, the licensees are the stations in the Fox Television Station group owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The 700 Club, of course, is openly partisan and is controlled and hosted by a former Republican candidate for president. So obviously the FCC found that there was no risk of political favoritism from these notorious right-wing entities.

Perhaps the most embarrassing revelation in this story is that the FCC justified the ruling by citing Entertainment Tonight as a precedent. Apparently the standard for newscaster bona fides is that they cover:

“…some area of current events, in a manner similar to more traditional newscasts.”

More traditional newscasts like Entertainment Tonight? This is the modern media measure for newsworthiness. And this why the legacy news networks have all taken to emulating ET. It is why Lindsay Lohan leads the evening news broadcast even when soldiers are fighting and dying in Iraq. It is why Rev. Wright dominates the news cycle even when the economy falters and thousands of Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure.

It may seem ludicrous that the FCC would grant newscaster status to TMZ and the 700 Club, but the real joke is that, by contemporary standards, they deserve it.


Elitistism And The Presidency: A Handbook For Victory

It’s taken over 200 years, but American politics is finally evolving into a mature process that reflects the inherent nature of her people. This experiment in Democracy has taken innumerable turns and tumbles over the years, most often relying on the dominant presence of an elite ruling class to steady the ship of state. Despite the egalitarian ring of our founding principles, a nation “of the people, by the people, for the people,” still seemed more obeisant to the privileged. But no more.

A new breed of populism has spread like a rash across the land. Its mission is to dismantle the doctrine of elitism and advance the rule of the common man and/or woman. This crusade promises to forever alter the complexion of American government and deserves a closer examination.

First and foremost, anyone who purports to be a leader in this environment, must be an avid consumer of beer. This is important to establish one’s credentials as a down to earth representative of commonality and humility. It is also necessary so that voters have a way of indicating their preference for drinking companions.
Education is a key component in this new paradigm. It is absolutely critical that you not have too much of it. And never, ever use the word paradigm. Once the American people get the impression that you know more than they do about issues like economics or foreign policy, you’re disqualified from service. Achievement and expertise only spotlight how different you are from ordinary Americans.
A show of strength will give any candidate a boost. You must not be timid about threatening enemies, advocating torture, or bombing busy population centers of third world countries. And once having taken a position, it is political suicide to change it, regardless of changing circumstances. Americans demand stubborn certitude from their barely educated leaders.
A vocal commitment to family values is mandatory. Not an actual commitment, mind you. Just a vocal one. Speaking frequently of the sanctity of marriage, no matter how many times you have violated it, will shield you from any detrimental impact. Conversely, life-long faithfulness holds no advantage unless accompanied by a virulent denunciation of same-sex marriage.
It is easy to be distracted by trivialities when engaged in a competitive campaign. But you must not let the appeal of junk food politics knock you off course. Stay focused on the issues that matter most to the people and you will always prevail. Those issues include flag lapel pins, ex-pastors, and quail hunting.
Two words: Go bowling. [Note: Take a few practice frames first]
Two more words: Don’t windsurf.
Immigration has taken a prominent role in public policy. No issue inflames the emotions of citizens like who gets to be a citizen. The Statue of Liberty notwithstanding, America is an exclusive club that can’t let just anybody in. Even the most disadvantaged, undereducated alien represents a risk to American workers, whom we’ve already established have a low regard for education, lest it turn them into the elite.
Finally, a foundation of faith is required of any seeker of high office. Submission to an unseen authority may be the single best evidence of a candidate’s refusal to be submissive. So long as you pronounce your allegiance to God, all of your other pronouncements are divinely inspired. Unless, of course, you are Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, or Allah forbid, Muslim. You may also want to steer clear of quirky, ethnic Baptist’s.

Yes, it’s taken over 200 years, but American politics is finally evolving into a mature process that honors the mediocrity of its people. In doing so it has laid the groundwork for electoral victory for anyone who understands and respects the new reality

George W. Bush understands, and he has provided a working model for success: You don’t have to be like ordinary Americans, you just have to be able to pretend you’re like them. How else could this son of Connecticut aristocracy; this progeny of senators and presidents; this oil baron and sports magnate, pass himself off as Texas bumpkin who enjoys clearing brush? This inarticulate, draft-dodging, C-, dynastic runt actually validates the American dream. As the first remedial president he has proven that you can grow up to be the Commander-in-Chief, in America, no matter how stupid you are. What other country can say that?

The presidential campaign of 2008 is shaping up as a testament to Elitistism: the practice of discriminating against those who are, or are perceived to be, elite. The goal of Elitistism (aka Simpsonism) is to drive from public life anyone who diverges from the sacred visage of American Averagism.

From an electoral perspective, the highest attainable ambition is ordinariness. Of the three remaining candidates we have:

  1. A millionaire lawyer/senator, who is married to a former president, with decades on the government teat.
  2. Another millionaire son of Admirals with a trophy wife and even more decades of being supported by the public.
  3. A mixed-race child of a single mother who has spent years as a community activist and organizer.

For the record, number three is regarded by the media as the Elitist. Go figure.


Clinton And Obama On Fox News: A Damage Assessment

Clinton on O'ReillyHillary Clinton’s rendezvous with O’Reilly is now history. All that is left is to try to assess the damage and establish what lessons were learned.

The Damage: Bill O’Reilly’s ratings leaped 81% in total viewers and 43% in the 25-54 demo (two night average). That is a massive, though temporary, increase and it will have the effect of inflating his average over time. I’m assuming that the bulk of the new viewers were Clinton supporters, curious independents, or morbid voyeurs hoping to observe a train wreck. It is highly unlikely that these numbers will endure. Last year I did an analysis that showed that Fox News viewers were more loyal to the network and its stars than they were to Bush or Republicans: The Cult Of Foxonalityâ„¢. O’Reilly’s base audience will quickly return to normal, probably tonight. (For the record, The Factor’s ratings dropped significantly from part one of the Clinton interview, to part two. There was a 12% decline in total viewers and a 26% drop in the 25-54 demo).

However, the damage is done. O’Reilly gets his ratings spike, bragging rights, and legitimacy transferred by osmosis from Clinton. Clinton gets nothing. O’Reilly’s base audience is firmly predisposed against her. The visiting viewers have all had plenty of opportunities to see her on other networks. So if you’re scoring it’s O’Reilly: 1.2 million (viewers) – Clinton: zero.

Clinton on O'ReillyThe Lessons: Now that both Clinton and Obama have capitulated to Fox News, will Fox abandon their crusade to defeat Democrats? Hardly. Consider a couple of the classic taunts frequently leveled at Democrats by Foxies:

“If you can’t deal with Fox how can you deal with Iran or Al Qaeda?”

Now that the Democrats have dealt with Fox, will Fox announce their confidence in the Democrats’ ability to deal with terrorists and hostile nations?

“The Democratic Party is held hostage by “far-left, liberal interests groups” like MoveOn, DailyKos, and MediaMatters, who pressure them to reject Fox.”

Now that the Democrats have accepted Fox, proving that these groups are not controlling them, will Fox cease to make these accusations? Will they refrain from disparaging our patriotism? Will they stop insinuating that we’re socialists? Will they present honestly our positions on war, faith, global warming, health care, etc.?

Clearly the answer to the questions above is “No on all counts!” In fact, the reversion to form has already begun. Chris Wallace can hardly contain his glee that the Democrats have folded. This morning he explained to the Fox & Friends crew why he was in such a good mood:

“…after all the boycotting, after all the huffing and puffing, [the Democrats] have found their way to Fox News, and you know, it’s really fun to watch, and particularly to watch the heartburn among the left-wing base – the anti-war, the MoveOn.org, they can’t stand it.”

In this spew of triumphant ecstasy, Wallace has just admitted his own personal bias against a broad swath of progressive citizens. And, shockingly, it is not just a political bias. He is actually deriving pleasure from the pain of the ideologically diverse majority of Americans who oppose the war. Indeed, he is laughing at them … at us.

He also joked with F&F that John Edwards’ poor performance in the presidential race is somehow attributable to his refusal to go on Fox? By that logic, Obama’s and Clinton’s success in the race is likewise attributable to their refusals to go on Fox. They only just agreed to appear this week, so all of their prior success was achieved without Fox and, therefore, due to its Foxlessness.

O’Reilly has been in just as good a mood as Wallace.

“The greatest thing about this interview . . . is that it’s emasculated all these far-left extortion types like MoveOn and the Kos, which threatened Hillary Clinton and threatened Barack Obama and all the other Democrats.”

So the greatest thing to O’Reilly is “emasculate[ing] all these far-left extortion types.” The most fun for Wallace is “watch[ing] the heartburn among the left-wing base.” It should be noted that the number of members of MoveOn and DailyKos alone exceed the number of viewers of many of Fox’s programs. And there is much more to the liberal base than those two examples. From what part of this should Democrats and progressives draw comfort? Fox doesn’t care about the interview. They don’t care about informing the public. They only care about how badly they can cripple their enemies.

Bill O’Reilly, Chris Wallace, Brit Hume, et al, were flailing pathetically when they were being ignored by the cool kids. We were having a real impact on their ratings, their revenue, their reputation, and their respiration. It was unwise to loosen the screws at this time. Hopefully, after having seen how they’ve reacted to our largess, our Democratic representatives will realize that Fox News is unfriendly and untrustworthy. They will whine about not being invited to the party, but will break all your furniture when you admit them. Then the whining will begin all over again.

Just stay the HELL off of Fox News!