What You Missed At The Beverly Hills Tea Party

In lieu of the next 1,000 words…

The much ballyhooed Beverly Hills Tea Party took place yesterday and exceeded all expectations – for lameness. It was the epitome of a Beverly Hills Flop. The turnout was a paltry couple of hundred in a city of four million. And, not surprisingly, it was almost exclusively white.

Just to underscore the significance of that, the population of Los Angeles, which surrounds the tiny patch of real estate that makes up Beverly Hills, is only 49% Caucasian. It would be nearly impossible to snap a photo at random anywhere in L.A. County without capturing a fair representation of people of color. Only at a Tea Party could this homogeneity be accomplished. [Note to Tea Partiers: Relax, that’s not a gay reference. Look it up]

What they hope to achieve by staging an anti-tax rally in the heart of one of the most affluent communities in the country is difficult to surmise. The denizens of Beverly Hills are the prime benefactors of Republican policies that favor the rich and well-connected. And since those are the same people who bankroll the Tea Party you can’t help but notice a certain conflict of interest. The sad part is that the Tea Partiers have fallen for this crusade on behalf of the enfranchised insiders and truly believe that these elitist millionaires are fighting for the interests of working and middle class citizens.

The festivities were led by ancient pop crooner Pat Boone. And it just got better from there. The speakers roster included the terminally choleric Andrew Breitbart, the neo-fascist David Horowitz, and internationally renowned political analyst Victoria Jackson, who sang her big Tea Party hit “There’s a Communist Living in the White House.” That’s just a representative sample of the reality-based insight emanating from the 90291 stage.

And what Tea Party would be complete without Fox News pumping up the propaganda volume? William La Jeunesse covered the event for Fox like a giddy high school newspaper correspondent at a Justin Bieber concert. After a perfunctory acknowledgment that L.A. is predominately liberal, as are many actors, directors, etc., he says that behind every one of those celebrities are numerous grips, electricians, and production people, who he implies would sympathize with the Tea Baggers. Had he spent more time in Hollywood he would know that those people are mostly union workers who support health care reform, Wall Street regulation, taxing the rich, and other Democratic initiatives that form the basis of the Tea Party’s grievances.

To be sure, there are celebrity types who embrace conservative causes, including those held by the Tea Party. They include inspiring contemporary artists like Chuck Norris, Jon Voight, and Ted Nugent. But if they think that their little soiree in the park adjacent to Rodeo Drive is an indication of their widespread acceptance, they are even more delusional than was previously believed.

John McCain And Citizens Against Government Waste

Now that all three presidential debates have been concluded, there is a notable thread of consistency that John McCain maintained throughout the process. In all three debates he cited Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) as a non-partisan watchdog group that voters could go turn for more information about his policies.

  • Debate 1: I suggest that people go up on the Web site of Citizens Against Government Waste, and they’ll look at those projects.
  • Debate 2: And now I suggest that maybe you go to some of these organizations that are the watchdogs of what we do, like the Citizens Against Government Waste or the National Taxpayers Union or these other organizations that watch us all the time.
  • Debate 3: Let’s look at it as graded by the National Taxpayers Union and the Citizens Against Government Waste and the other watchdog organizations.

The only problem is that CAGW is anything but non-partisan. Last month I wrote about how Fox News used CAGW as a source for a story on earmarks by correspondent William La Jeunesse (who may be the most politically biased reporter on Fox, and that’s saying something).

“[CAGW] has publicly endorsed McCain for president and donated $11,000.00 to him or to PACs he controls. CAGW has also worked as a shill to attack McCain opponents in a manner that may have violated election law. It has also been connected to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

On the board of CAGW is long-time McCain associate, Orson Swindle. They met as cell mates in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp where Swindle says that he and McCain ‘slept side-by-side for almost two years.’ Swindle is now the McCain campaign’s veterans liaison and was appointed to his campaign Truth Squad a couple of months ago.”

This is McCain’s idea of a non-partisan source? It’s not particularly surprising that McCain would exploit his cronies to boost himself. But it would be nice if the press would at least make a small mention of this deceit. Then, maybe I’m just too idealistic.

Shill Baby Shill: Fox News Pumps Up Big Oil

William La Jeunesse is rapidly becoming the most promising contender for the Excrements in Journalism award. Last week he did a report on congressional earmarking in which his primary source was a McCain front group that he identified as nonpartisan. This week his report on offshore oil drilling is just as slanted as he becomes an outright advocate of Big Oil and their agenda.

In this story, La Jeunesse excitedly related news that the Santa Barbara County Supervisors had voted 3 to 2 to allow offshore drilling 100 miles off the coast. He veritably reveled at the notion that this coastal community was considering opening their beaches up to potentially devastating environmental disaster. In an earlier report he implied that the people’s wishes were going to be disregarded because California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were opposed to offshore drilling. How he concludes that the people are more represented by three county supervisors than they are by the majority of their state and congressional representatives and their governor, he never quite explains.

The report itself soft peddles the inherent dangers associated with offshore drilling. La Jeunesse cites a study that claims that one in every 156,000 barrels of oil is ever lost to a spill. He editorializes that that is “literally a drop in the bucket.” What he fails to say is that this number calculates out to over 70 million barrels of spilt oil. That’s a lot of dead of fish and seagulls, and a lot of lost revenue for a state that is highly leveraged in tourism.

If La Jeunesse wasn’t bad enough, Fox anchor Martha McCallum chimes in at the end to congratulate him on his report:

“This is the kind of debate and people say we need to drill off of our shores and I think a lot of people think that is a good idea but then you get into this Congressional debate and things get stymied.”

The problem with her comment, aside from her taking a position on what she thinks people want, is that there was absolutely no debate presented in the report. It was thoroughly one-sided and she even progressed the argument further to blame Congress as obstructionist. But she didn’t end it there. She still felt it necessary to praise Big Oil for their track record on spills:

“There is all of this pressure about the oil companies and oh they make so much money. Oil companies have spent a tremendous amount of money researching and making this process as clean as possible and they have done a pretty good job of it when you look at the numbers of what actually gets spilled out there, it’s extremely minimal. So, something everyone needs to know to get the full picture.”

To which her co-anchor Trace Gallagher responded:

“And that was pretty much the full picture.”

There you have it. Courtesy of Fox News, you now have no need to engage in any further research. The “full picture” has been revealed and it is one of clear waters, blue skies, and endless rainbows. All thanks to America’s oil companies.

Someone might still want to check with these corporations and ask them why gas prices have not dropped commensurate with the 37% drop in the price of crude oil since July. An equivalent decrease in gas prices would have us paying about $2.65 today. Is that what you’re paying?

You may also want to inquire of John McCain why the “Drill Baby Drill” mantra is still being chanted at his rallies. With Crude prices having dropped from nearly $150.00 a barrel to about $92.00, it apparently wasn’t necessary to expand domestic production in order to get the price down. So what Barack Obama and the Democrats have been arguing for weeks was correct. Yet I haven’t seen them get any credit in the press for being right. I haven’t even seen any analysis of what has transpired in the oil markets over the last couple of months.

Unfortunately for consumers, gas prices are still near record levels. Since it is not a problem at the wholesale level, it seems that the friends of McCain and his lobbyists are now indisputably at fault for the gouging we are experiencing at the pump. Unfortunately for voters, Republicans intend to press the case for more drilling regardless of the facts as they exist today. And the Democrats in Congress aren’t much better. They are expected to go along with Republican proposals to permit offshore drilling, albeit in compromised legislation. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) explains:

“The American people are very conscious that we need an alternative energy policy and the they’re not too distant from the memory of the $4 dollar-a-gallon gas. They know we need an investment in alternative energy and we can’t keep doing what we’re doing […] I think there’s still an urgency to get this done and get it done now.”

The argument appears to be that the momentum for a knee-jerk response is too swift to resist. That would make this a good time to contact your representatives and let them know that you’re paying attention; that you know that crude oil prices have fallen 37% but that gas prices have remained inordinately high; that you know that drilling for more domestic oil, particularly offshore, will not resolve our energy problems, in fact, it will exacerbate them and preserve our dependency on fossil fuels. Tell them not to accept the Republican arguments that have been proven false, and not to vote for their agenda that is designed to help their benefactors in the oil industry.

Don’t let the chanting cultists at McCain rallies win this debate when the truth is the opposite of their zombie anthem. And don’t let lying, corrupt Republicans and Fox News dictate our nation’s energy policies.

Fox News Uses McCain Front Group To Blast Obama

A report was broadcast on Fox News today (and published on FoxNews.com) that purported to be an examination of the congressional earmarks of the presidential candidates. As one might expect, the report fell something short of what a reasonable person would call “fair and balanced.”

Correspondent William La Jeunesse’s report only went into detail on earmarks requested by Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The story came complete with on-screen graphics to illustrate his points. But no numbers or graphics were provided for John McCain or Sarah Palin. This deliberately one-sided hit piece would be bad enough all by itself. Unfortunately, the worst part is revealed with a little further investigation. And it gets much, much worse.

The source Fox News used for the research in the story was Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), an organization that Fox described as a “nonpartisan, nonprofit group.” In fact, the group is far from nonpartisan. It has publicly endorsed McCain for president and donated $11,000.00 to him or to PACs he controls. CGAW has also worked as a shill to attack McCain opponents in a manner that may have violated election law. It has also been connected to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

On the board of CAGW is long-time McCain associate, Orson Swindle. They met as cell mates in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp where Swindle says that he and McCain “slept side-by-side for almost two years.” Swindle is now the McCain campaign’s veterans liaison and was appointed to his campaign Truth Squad a couple of months ago. He spoke last week at the Republican National Convention. He is also a senior policy advisor at the big DC lobbying firm of Hunton & Williams whose clients include American Express, Eli Lilly, GE, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart.. These duties violate McCain’s own policy of not allowing people working for “independent entities” to serve on his campaign staff.

Taking these facts into account, it should come as no surprise that CAGW awarded McCain a 100% rating, while giving Obama 10% and Biden 0%. The group claimed that Sarah Palin was not included because the ratings evaluate only members of Congress. But they did rate Alaska’s performance in their 2008 Congressional Pig Book (Uh oh, they’re calling Palin a pig) where they said that “Alaska led the nation with $556 per capita ($380 million).” In the 2007 edition they reported that Alaska and Hawaii “have been the top two states in pork per capita every year but one since 2000.” None of that was included in Fox’s report on television or online.

I’m not sure why it still shocks me to hear that Fox News broadcasts fiercely biased reports that abandon every tenet of journalistic ethics. But citing an organization that is known to be supporting McCain, identifying it as nonpartisan, and using it to pummel Obama, is such a blatantly dishonest and disreputable act that in a just world their press credentials would be immediately revoked. It is just infuriating to know that Fox will get away with this time after time without paying a price for their unscrupulous and unprofessional conduct.

The only demonstrated way to effectively punish Fox is to deny them access to Democratic lawmakers, candidates, and officials. When we are united in embargoing the network they have been noticeably distraught. They may puff up their chest and threaten us, as Bill O’Reilly did when he said that “If you dodge us, it is at your peril.” Or they may invoke juvenile tactics like Chris Wallace’s Obama Watch to bully us into compliance. But that behavior just affirms the effectiveness of staying away. They were obviously troubled and desperate, and they can’t maintain a pretense of balance if Democrats refuse to certify their bias by appearing on their tainted air.

Starve The Beast!