Tag Archives: Fox News

News From a Fire House Sprinkles on the Republican Finance Committee

April 3, 2017:  Republican Party issues the following announcement

“I am delighted to announce the addition of these longtime friends of the Party and supporters of this administration to our Finance leadership team,” said Chairwoman McDaniel. “Elliott Broidy, Michael Cohen, and Louis DeJoy will serve as National Deputy Finance Chairmen, and Brian Ballard, Bob Grand, Gordon Sondland, Geoff Verhoff, and Ron Weiser will serve as Regional Vice-Chairmen. Together this team will employ their extraordinary talent and understanding of Americans across the country to maintain and build uponF our unprecedented fundraising success.”

January, 2018:  Former casino owner Steve Wynn, steps down from the RNC finance committee as reports of sexual harassment hit the headlines. [Politico] Wynn has since resigned as casino company CEO (March 22, 2018), has settled a six year legal battle with his ex-wife (WSJ), and has asked to be removed as a “qualifier” from the list of key employees required to undergo background checks by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. [BostonH]  However, Wynn’s donations to a Trump super-PAC aren’t going to be returned:

“Wynn gave $500,000 to America First Action Super PAC on Jan. 23, just days before the first reports of his alleged harassment of women were published, according to first-quarter financial data from the Federal Election Commission. CNBC asked the group whether it has any intention of returning the contribution following the stories of Wynn’s alleged misconduct.

“We’re not returning the donation,” a spokeswoman for America First said.” [CNBC]

Thus, the next time a member of the GOP sputters about Democrats accepting money from a potentially dubious source, the appropriate response is, “Steve Wynn.” Chicago Cubs owner, Todd Ricketts, became the new RNC Finance Chair. [CNBC]

April 13, 2018: Another shoe drops — on Elliott Broidy.

“A major donor with close ties to the White House resigned on Friday as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after the revelation that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who became pregnant during an affair.” [NYT]

Mr. Broidy comes with a bit of a “past,”

In 2009, Broidy pleaded guilty to committing a felony by giving nearly $1 million in illegal gifts to state officials in order to secure a lucrative deal with New York’s public pension fund for his then-firm Markstone Capital Partners.

Broidy avoided jail time by blowing the whistle on the same people who accepted his bribes. He admitted to ponying up $75,000 for an all-expanses paid luxury trip to Jerusalem, which included first-class tickets, luxury hotel suites, a helicopter tour, and a personal driver for New York State’s comptroller and his family. [TWrap] [WSJ] {Markstone Capital, NYT}

His appeals worked such that Reuters reported in 2012:

Los Angeles money manager Elliott Broidy was spared jail time and a felony conviction on Monday for his role in a “pay to play” scheme at the New York state pension fund.

Justice Lewis Bart Stone reduced Broidy’s felony to a misdemeanor and sentenced him to a conditional discharge.

Mr. Broidy had a busy social calendar entertaining those who sought access to the White House, including the following:

Mr. Broidy offered tickets to V.I.P. inauguration events, including a candlelight dinner attended by Mr. Trump, to a Congolese strongman accused of funding a lavish lifestyle with public resources. He helped arrange a meeting with Republican senators and offered a trip to Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private Florida resort, for an Angolan politician. And he arranged an invitation to a party at Mr. Trump’s Washington hotel for a Romanian parliamentarian facing corruption charges, who posted a photograph with the president on Facebook. [NYT]

The “past became prologue” when he used the services of yet another RNC Finance Committee member to clean up — dare we say “fix” — his issues with the Playmate and her pregnancy. Therefore, the correct response to any Republican who wishes to discuss “family values,” is… “Elliott Broidy.”

April 13, 2018:  Who helped arrange the $1.6 million payout to the Broidy’s ex-mistress? Another RNC Finance Committee member Michael Cohen. [CNN]  Mr. Cohen has drawn the attention of the prosecutors in the SDNY, complete with a highly publicized raid.

“The longtime attorney for President Donald Trump’s real-estate empire, Michael Cohen, went to federal court on Monday in a bid to block federal prosecutors from reading documents and other materials that were seized from Cohen’s home in a sweeping raid. The porn star Stormy Daniels, whom Cohen allegedly paid off to protect Trump, was there to watch. And the hearing was presided over by Judge Kimba Wood, who ordered Cohen to reveal the name of a client he’d tried to keep secret: the Fox News host Sean Hannity.” [Atlantic]

The paragraph above sums up the Trumpian swamp which is looking more like a sink-hole with every passing day.  Thus, the appropriate reply to Republican assertions of “transparency and accountability” is “Michael Cohen.”

Meanwhile, will the last member of the Republican National Finance Committee please turn out the lights and lock the door?

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Filed under campaign finance reform, campaign funds, corruption, Nevada politics, Politics, RNC, Steve Wynn

She Did It She Did It…well maybe sort of

One of these days the Fox News logo will be a shiny pretzel.  Not to be out-speculated by US broadcasts concerning the results of Donald Jr.’s June meeting with Russian emissaries, Fox News has cooked up a brew the ingredients of which require a long boil before the mass comes together…

This whole Moscow Mess shows that Hillary Clinton maybe, could have, might have, perhaps was associated with, could be considered to be cooperating, colluding, conspiring, with the opponents of the Magnitsky Act… because (now grip the rope on your logical thinking skills firmly) —

Secretary Clinton expressed the initial Obama Administration’s objections to the Magnitsky Act in 2010.  The administration argued that the State Department was already denying visas to those Russians who were implicated in Magnitsky’s death, also of interest to the administration in 2010 were Russian cooperation to keep supply lines to Afghanistan open, to negotiate with the Iranians concerning their nuclear program, and to deal with the Syrian Civil War. [NewYorker]

However, to the Residents of the Fox News Bubble Zone this translates to a flat statement of “Clinton opposed the Magnitsky Act.”  Now comes the Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc portion of our program.   “Her initial opposition coincided with a $500,000 speech her husband gave…”  Yes a few weeks later Bill Clinton gave a speech at the Renaissance Capital annual investment conference.  No connection is demonstrated — it’s all in the timing, as in post hoc ergo propter hoc line of illogical thinking.

From the perspective of the Republican apologists we have to “fast forward” to 2016 when the Clinton campaign email (hacked and stolen) said: “With the help of the research team, we killed a Bloomberg story trying to link HRC’s opposition to the Magnitsky bill a $500,000 speech that WJC gave in Moscow.”  There are a couple of things to note about the use of this statement which illustrate the problems with Fox reportage.

First, if one doesn’t put much thought into the process, the image is created that there was a connection (between Secretary Clinton’s opposition to the act and the payment of former President Clinton’s speaking fees) and that the “killing” of a story implies something nefarious about this.  Remember, the Secretary’s opposition was tied to Obama administration policy regarding dealing with the Russians in 2010.

Secondly,  the image requires a person to ignore the initial clause in the e-mail, “with the help of the research team.”  It’s not too hard to spike a story if the publisher is assured that the report is a collection of idle speculation infused with inaccurate information.  Note as well that the pilfered e-mail stated the proposed Bloomberg piece was “trying” to link the Secretary’s opposition to the Magnitsky Act to her husband’s speaking fees — not that the report succeeded in making such a connection.  If the research shows no connection, there’s no story.  Little wonder the story got the spike.

And how did Fox News get the e-mail concerning how research submitted to Bloomberg News caused the latter to put the story in the bin?  It came compliments of the unfriendly hackers.  There’s no small amount of irony in having the Trump Apologist Network utilize the same stolen e-mail the Trump’s themselves may have encouraged?  To make this connection we need to wait for the conclusions of two Congressional intelligence committees, and the Special Counsel’s investigation.

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Filed under Foreign Policy, media, Politics

The Fanatic Season: Politics as Liturgy

Fanatic Eric Hoffer summed it up in The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements in 1951:

“The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.”

Consider how often the right wing insists on doing the unthinkable?  Why would anyone launch a deliberately provocative  “Cartoon Contest” and call it an exercise in ‘free speech?’  Why would anyone put a gun site target on the names of members of Congress? Why would anyone think it appropriate to print the addresses of physicians who provide abortion services?  Because, perhaps, these are arrogant gestures, with a complete disregard for the safety and well being of others, defying convention (and good sense) as would a single-handed hero in defense of something, anything, whatever…

On the national level this allows Fox News to promote the demonization of Islam and its adherents, or to declare a “War on Christmas,” or to offer comfort to the bigot, the intolerant, and the racist.   On a state level the concept allows the elevation of the gun enthusiasts and supports their sense of victimization – as some unspecified “they” are perceived to be “coming for your guns. “ It also allows the faithful to identify “public servants” as “pigs at the trough” when they aren’t being vilified for not doing their jobs with insufficient resources; and, to degrade the humanity of the working poor for “not making good choices,” thereby relinquishing their right to be treated with compassion as fellow human beings.  Hoffer had a line about this concept as well:

“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.”

Indeed, the current manifestation of the conservatives in the Republican Party (and this may mean just about all of its leadership at the moment, the moderates being driven from the field) is beset with devils of all sorts.   At this juncture political ideology becomes confused with something we might call political liturgy.

Let’s look at the definitions. First, ideology is defined as “a system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.”   Liturgy means “a form or formulary according to which public religious worship, especially Christian worship, is conducted.”  A formulary “is a collection of formulas or set forms, especially for use in religious ceremonies.”

The fanatic may have some difficulty differentiating between an ideology and the performance of liturgy. Ideology is properly understood as a position a person takes regarding, say, how revenue is collected for the operation of a government and the priorities for its distribution.  A liturgical element inserts itself as time after time a politician asserts talking points which are faith based with little or no rational substance.

Some Examples

The standard Republican talking point (liturgical element) concerning proposals to increase the minimum way is that doing so will have a negative economic effect.  This is often reduced to the formulaic: Increasing the minimum wage will cost jobs.  The problem is that there is no substantive research confirming this notion.  There are several credible studies indicating there would be no “negative employment effects” of increasing the minimum wage, and the talking point defies the common sense notion that an employee of one company is always a customer of others.  Empirical studies demonstrate that lower wage workers are more likely to spend marginal income than wealthier ones. [Salon]

The standard Republican talking point (liturgical element) is “Support the Troops;” and a person can easily obtain a yellow ribbon car magnet for this message to place alongside the “Love Your Country Live With Pride” bumper sticker.  That this is a liturgical insertion rather than an ideological position is illustrated by the disinclination of Republicans in general to vote in favor of increased wages for members of the Armed Forces, in favor of more benefits for service members and veterans, in favor of more job training programs for veterans, and in favor of the extension of more VA medical services to veterans who served during peacetime.  At the risk of sacrilege, I’d say this is roughly analogous to reciting “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison” without thinking of the meaning.

And then there’s the standard GOP line … “the government is the problem.”  Until, of course, it’s the solution.  We might consider Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s remarkable illustration of how this liturgical element can be reversed as he begged for federal aid for Texas cities literally drowning in flood waters.  This, from the self-same Senator who voted against federal relief expenditures for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. [DailyBanter]  This line is hauled out of the vestry and applied to attempts to curtail malfeasance (and worse) in the banking industry, to curb polluters, to put the brakes on corporate mismanagement, until the nation becomes a victim of banking malfeasance (or worse), the state has to clean up a toxic spill, and the investors in a corporation despair of any relief from greedy executives.

The Ramifications

When policy positions (political ideological statements) become articles of faith (as part of a liturgy) then there’s a danger that portions of the electorate are no longer participating in a political process, but are voting and behaving as a “mass movement” in which the Devils will be scourged by those who can recite all the correct elements of the liturgy.  Nothing contemporary illustrates the liturgical quality of Republican leadership statements as the current blathering about climate change.

When the Pew Foundation did some polling on the subject it found that 67% of all adults surveyed believed that climate change is occurring, and 84% of Democrats (or those leaning toward the Democratic party) agreed.  Among Republicans 46% agreed the climate is changing, and this represents 61% of “mainstream GOP” who agree the climate is changing, and 25% of Tea Party adherents who agree.

Bear in mind the Tea Party  percentage when noting that 66% of Democrats agreed that human activity was a major cause of climate change, compared to 43% of independents, and 24% of Republicans in the 2013 survey.

The 24-25% of Republican voters would likely find nothing untoward about presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s request that the Pope leave the “science to the scientists.” [CSMonitor]  It’s probably important to note at this point, that no, the Pope doesn’t have the equivalent of a master’s degree in chemistry – but he did have a degree in chemistry in the Argentine educational system and according to a fellow Jesuit: “Liebscher said he hopes this does not sound like “we’re denigrating his education. Francis certainly respects the scientific method, and careful measurement ranks high in his list of values.”   The “correct” liturgical response about climate change has evolved in Republican political parlance.

Initially, and there are still adherents to the position, the GOP response was that Climate Change was misinformation, or at worst a hoax.  Later on the position was Climate Change is real but human beings aren’t responsible. The present iteration seems to be that Climate Change is real, human beings just might be responsible for some of it, and ordinary people shouldn’t talk about it because “science is best left to scientists,” the optional liturgical insertion may be “I’m not a scientist.” [Bloomberg]

Moving beyond a single illustration of how the transformation of ideology into liturgy is problematic for a democratic republic, when the correct formulaic recitation of liturgy stands in place of a discussion of policy alternatives only the True Believers are deemed fit to carry the party banners.  This is what former Republican official Bruce Bartlett complains of when writing that Fox News has actually harmed the political prospects of the Republican Party.

‘Fox has now become a problem for the Republican Party because it keeps a far right base mobilized and angry, making it hard for the party to move to the center or increase its appeal, as it must do to remain electorally competitive….One of the reasons Mitt Romney was so unable to pivot back to the center was due to the drumbeat at Fox, which contributed to forcing him to the right during the primary season.’

Compare this to one of the original quotations above:

“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.”

The unspoken assumption seems to be that Fox News will only beat out the rhythms of the Pure, the uncontaminated unadulterated liturgy of the extreme right.  It will only sate the political appetite of those who prefer liturgical formulations rather than explain the underlying catechism; in other words – those who wish to cast out the “devils” — be they African Americans in urban areas, minimum wage workers, environmental advocates, human rights activists, critics of the banking industry, or Democrats.

The proper incantation of the political liturgy will comfort those who wish to be comfortable in their biases, prejudices, and ideology.  Just as their unquestioning belief in a particular confession of faith grounds them, their insistence on a political liturgy relieves their anxieties keeps them anchored.   A liturgy which validates their fears – of African American men, of the working poor, of unemployment, of immigrants, of members of the LGBT community, of Muslims, of economic displacement, of anyone or anything outside their immediate experience – is consoling.

The Bottom Line

The problem, as Bartlett observes in a political realm, is that the more ideology is replaced by a confession of faith, and the more the confession of faith is sustained by the participation in ritualized liturgy, the more likely it is that the movement devolves into a sect.  Once a movement is reduced to a sect at least two things can happen, and they’re both bad.

First, as Bartlett notes, the sect becomes so restricted that it cannot reach a wider audience, and secondly the sect is inclined to defend the indefensible, merely because a fellow member is being criticized.  Witness the defense of the Duggar family’s handling of their son’s molestation of his sisters which almost perfectly summarizes the DARVO position – Deny, Attack, Reverse the Victim and the Offender.  Again, the more the sect becomes identified with a cultish adherence of defending the indefensible the more narrow the appeal of the movement.

One one hand there is some consolation in the idea that the Republican Party may eventually restrict itself to a narrow cult of unelectable True Believers, however, as one who finds the restriction of alternative points of view counter productive in politics and public policy the prospect of a degenerating GOP is not very appealing.

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Filed under banking, conservatism, ecology, energy policy, financial regulation, Republicans

GOP: Getting Back to Base-ics?

Now, would someone in the corporate media care to discuss “Republicans in Disarray?”  Heaven knows it’s been a hallmark of coverage about issues within the Democratic Party.  As a former adherent of the GOP, and now as a complete outsider, I’ve had some rambling notions about what’s been happening since the 1980’s.  Here they are.

Ancestor Worship

The election of President Ronald Reagan was a significant one for the Republicans, and the popularization of the Southern Strategy by GOP activist Kevin Phillips continued into the decade.  The Republicans offered a home for the Dixiecrats, the gun lobby, and the “God, Guns, and Gays” wedge issue proponents who found succor within Republican realms.  His was the “Southern Strategy Fulfilled.”  All of this made it far easier for the beknighted President to advance an agenda that was blatantly anti-union, persistently pro-banking, and generally pro-corporate.   He was, however, not the consistent opponent of the New Deal some conservative would like to remember.

“Reagan increased payroll taxes in 1983. History records that, alarmed by spiraling deficits, he signed tax increases during six of his eight years in office. Even so, his administration tripled the national debt, to almost $3 trillion.” [Salon]

He pulled U.S. forces out of Lebanon after the Beirut Barracks bombing. He gave amnesty to undocumented immigrants.  He did not privatize Social Security, instead he raised the payroll taxes.   What he did do was to popularize some right wing ideas which advanced the corporate agenda (to break the social compact between citizens and their government) such as the “welfare queen.”  Reagan’s world was “Leave it to Beaver” without the unionized employees who made the show possible.  It was “Ozzie and Harriet” without any African American neighbors.  It was “See The USA In Your Chevrolet” without acknowledging the Eisenhower Administration’s grand public works project — the Interstate Highway system.  Reagan, instead, paved the route for the Bush and Rove show.

The Bush-Rove Bargain

The Show was abetted by the advance of right wing talk radio in the AM revival after the fairness doctrine was eliminated during the Reagan Administration in 1987.   The Reaganesque mythology of welfare queens was translated to the John Birch Society – Randian free market mythology, and further transmogrified into Compassionate Conservatism, proving  once and for all times that a snappy slogan exempts the speaker from having to provide any specific, cogent, or rational policy proposals on any given subject.  The spins, the twists, and the dog whistling created an environment in which the Oil Barons, the Bankers, and the CEO’s were the Blesséd Among Us, while the rest of the nation’s population would have to demonstrate their worthiness to receive the charity of the country.  If this is sounding a bit familiar, it should.

The Truth Tellers

One of the well documented features of the Romney-Ryan election efforts was the casual association their campaign had with the truth.  Nor did their campaign suffer from a surfeit of consistency.   Indeed, one of the highlights came when this quotation was captured: “I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was,” Romney responded.” [RS]  How on Earth could a candidate get away with this?  Even worse, there was this comment from the Romney camp: “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News.” [HP]  The answer may well be that Governor Romney assumed that the Mythology of Reagan, the focus group centered conservatism of Bush, the fulfillment of the Southern Strategy, and the cynicism toward information from the media created by the GOP-Fox-Right Wing radio Echo Chamber, would all culminate in a successful election effort.

What Went Wrong?

Policy Matters.  Those corporate friendly policies of the Bush Administration which tended toward de-regulation, capital flight, and “creative” products to enhance investment revenues collapsed in a staggering heap circa 2007 and 2008.  We went from “Greed Is Good,” back to “Greed Is One Of The Seven Deadly Sins.”

Item – The vaunted and well publicized Supply Side Theory of economics proved illusory, in all probability because it was a hoax in the first place.  It may take the American public some time to understand the facts, but as of 2008 they were inescapable — low taxation did not, and never had, create economic growth in the real economy. No amount of spinning, theorizing, generalizing, or rationalizing can make this ideological theory whole again. Yet the Romney campaign persisted, enabled by the plutocrats on the Rove donor lists, the Club for Growth, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the bankers.

Item – The Republicans themselves, at least in the form of former House Speaker New Gingrich, recognized that they had a Financialist candidate in a race wherein the electorate was still reeling from the effects of financialist excesses.   American voters rejected the Supply Siders, in favor of a candidate whose economic policies emphasize growth not European style austerity, which seems to have done precious little for the Eurozone economic growth rate.

Item – the conservative complaints about immigrants being a curse upon the civil state were strident enough to cause Hispanic voters to express their opinions in the polling that mattered.  Opposition to the DREAM Act, calls for self-deportation, “papers please” legislation,” and charges that the Hispanic community was basically “unAmerican,” didn’t help expand the numbers for the Republican Party.

Item – That “rape thing” in combination with wholesale assaults on the Affordable Care Act, attached to radio ranting about “sluts” who take birth control pills, and associated with the most extreme anti-abortion rhetoric wasn’t good for Republicans either.  Only 15% to 20% of Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in all instances. [PR]  Proposing to adopt policies supported by 20% of the population doesn’t seem to be a constructive way to attract votes from the 46.2% of American women who are registered to vote. [Census]

Leadership 

Leadership matters.   Those not self identified members of the Republican Party have marveled at the importance attached to the opinions of the right wing radio ranters in GOP politics.  There have been several instances in which members of Congress, for example, sought to distance themselves from or disagree with radio commentator Rush Limbaugh — only to walk back their criticism almost immediately. Unfortunately for Republican politicians, Mr. Limbaugh’s misogynistic, racist, and otherwise radical offerings are associated with the fringe right not the moderate middle.

It is handy to have one’s own television network, but Fox News however helpful it seeks to be has done a poor job of informing its viewers.  Studies from the University of Maryland and Fairleigh Dickinson University both demonstrated that Fox viewers were the least well informed, and were often willing to accept obviously inaccurate information.  [HP] Fox’s response was to attack the Universities, not to deny the results of the studies.  The Republicans could be certain to count as theirs the votes among the Fox viewers, but while Fox draws about 604,000 per day [TV] it should be recalled that there are 112,806,642 people in the country between the ages of 18-44, another 81,489,445 aged 45-64, and some 40,267,984 over 65.   In slightly more stark terms, Fox is reaching 604,000 daily viewers out of 234,564,071 of those eligible to vote.

Item – An echo chamber can also be a trap.   From the outside it appears the Republicans can’t decide if they are a Party with its own radio and TV broadcasters, or if they are the operatives responsible for promoting the policies sought by  one television network, and a handful of broadcasters on AM radio.   The Party appears to be functioning without a national spokesperson — is the anointed one Rush Limbaugh? Senator John McCain? Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly?  Governor Mitt Romney? Senator Mitch McConnell?  What are we to think of a party that for two election cycles didn’t (or couldn’t) use the services of its most recent incumbent?

Having an incumbent in the White House is always an advantage, but President Obama is the acknowledged leader of the Democratic Party, and has secured the support of former President Bill Clinton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Dick Durbin, Senator John Kerry, and the imprimatur of the Kennedy family.  GOP spokesperson may rail about the “Chicago” clique responsible for the Obama Campaign, but there’s no mistaking the fact that unlike the GOP there is a clear coterie of national Democratic leadership aligned with an incumbent president.

In Fine

Ancestor worship, focus group politics, and the narrowing perspective along polarized lines promoted by a self referencing media does not constitute a recipe  for long term success.  Self definition works better.  If the GOP is truly the Small Government Party, then the privacy invasive anti-abortion portion of the base will be disappointed.  If the GOP is the Party of Big Business, then eventually small business owners will come to define themselves separately from the mega-corporations and the bankers.  If the GOP is the Party of Social Conservatives then does it permanently constrain its membership to the 20% to 30% of voters for whom issues like abortion are primary considerations?

Perhaps the Party might want to look at Democratic efforts to realign itself after 1988?  There’s a template there should the GOP choose to follow it, but WARNING — it requires moderation.

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Filed under 2012 election, conservatism, Politics, Republicans