Monday, March 31, 2014
The way it should be done
Sorry Miley ... these ladies just bring it:
digby 3/31/2014 06:00:00 PM
You don't have to draw a picture, it's perfectly obvious what's going on here
Is this really ok, guys?
It’s hard to imagine a political spectacle more loathsome than the parade of Republican presidential candidates who spent the last few days bowing and scraping before the mighty bank account of the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. One by one, they stood at a microphone in Mr. Adelson’s Venetian hotel in Las Vegas and spoke to the Republican Jewish Coalition (also a wholly owned subsidiary of Mr. Adelson), hoping to sound sufficiently pro-Israel and pro-interventionist and philo-Semitic to win a portion of Mr. Adelson’s billions for their campaigns.
Gov. John Kasich of Ohio made an unusually bold venture into foreign policy by calling for greater sanctions on Iran and Russia, and by announcing that the United States should not pressure Israel into a peace process. (Wild applause.) “Hey, listen, Sheldon, thanks for inviting me,” he said. “God bless you for what you do.”
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin brought up his father’s trip to Israel, and said he puts “a menorah candle” next to his Christmas tree. The name of his son, Matthew, actually comes from Hebrew, he pointed out.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey also described his trip to Israel, but then did something unthinkable. He referred to the West Bank as the “occupied territories.” A shocked whisper went through the crowd. How dare Mr. Christie implicitly acknowledge that Israel’s presence in the West Bank might be anything less than welcome to the Palestinians? Even before Mr. Christie left the stage, leaders of the group told him he had stumbled, badly.
And sure enough, a few hours later, Mr. Christie apologized directly to Mr. Adelson for his brief attack of truthfulness.
I was going to say that I don't know what to call this, but I do. These politicians are all kissing the ring of this wealthy man because he will give millions to the one who agrees to do his bidding. It's called corruption.
digby 3/31/2014 04:30:00 PM
"Cultural Marxism" (They're on to us, guys ...)
Sure, this is perfectly normal:
A preferred ploy of left-wing change agents is to ridicule critics when they point out the undeniable parallels between the goals of today’s “progressive” movement, to include the Democratic Party in general, and the goals of the early, and very much still alive, communist movement.
The full bill of indictment follows.
If, for instance, one mentions the historical fact that nearly every adult who, at any time, was in any position of influence over a young, soon-to-be-radicalized Barry Soetoro was an avowed communist, to include his own parents, then one is immediately mocked and dismissed as a neo-McCarthyite hack pining for the bygone days of the Red Scare. This is an evasive, ad hominem strategy employed by those who are caught, for lack of a better word, red-handed.
To all this I say, if the jackboot fits, wear it. If it quacks like a commie and goose-steps like a commie, then a commie it is.
There are multiple layers within “progressivism’s” pseudo-utopian, truly dystopian Marxist philosophy. The left’s lust for redistributionist statism is well-known. Less understood, however, is the “progressive” rush toward cultural Marxism.
Cultural Marxism entails, among other things, that secularist aspect of left-wing statist ideology that seeks, within society, to supplant traditional values, norms and mores with postmodern moral relativism. Cultural Marxists endeavor to scrub America of her Judeo-Christian, constitutional-republican founding principles, and take, instead, a secular-statist Sharpie to our beloved U.S. Constitution.
Historian and U.S. military affairs expert William S. Lind describes cultural Marxism as “a branch of western Marxism, different from the Marxism-Leninism of the old Soviet Union. It is commonly known as ‘multiculturalism’ or, less formally, Political Correctness. From its beginning, the promoters of cultural Marxism have known they could be more effective if they concealed the Marxist nature of their work, hence the use of terms such as ‘multiculturalism.’”
Pastor, attorney and Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Scott Lively is globally admired by liberty-loving traditionalists. Conversely, he’s universally reviled by cultural Marxists. He drills down a bit deeper: “Cultural Marxism is a variation of the Marxist strategy to build a utopian socialist order on the ashes of Christian civilization, but through subversion of the moral culture, especially the elimination of the natural family, rather than solely through destruction of capitalism.”
True though this may be, the ideological seeds of contemporary cultural Marxism nonetheless sprout from deep within the dead soil of historical communism. It is not economic redistributionism alone through which “progressives” seek to both “fundamentally transform America” and otherwise conquer the world, but, rather, and perhaps primarily, it is also through victory over the pejoratively tagged “social issues” (i.e., the sanctity of marriage, natural human sexuality and morality, ending the abortion holocaust, religious liberty, the Second Amendment and the like).
Or you could just watch this. It pretty well covers it:
This man concludes with a full throated cri de guerre:
Look around. We are no longer the United States of America. We have become The Communist States of America.
Which means, for those who love liberty, revolution is once again at hand.
digby 3/31/2014 03:00:00 PM
We're against it but if we were for it we'd be very upset
Noam Scheiber catches Congressperson Marsha Blackburn chattering mindlessly about Medicaid and helpfully supplies the translation:
Blackburn says Obamacare is a failure because the promised Medicaid expansion isn’t happening. Journalist points out that Blackburn’s own state has blocked Medicaid expansion from happening. In response to which Blackburn says, Damn right! No way would we ever let Medicaid expand!
This is pretty bad, I'll admit. But it's not the only example of this sort of confusing argument around Obamacare. The whole hissy fit they're having about the administration allegedly "cooking the books" about the sign-up numbers is similarly dissonant. Basically they're saying "we hate Obamacare --- but it's terrible that so few people are signing up and the administration is lying about it!"
Actually, that’s not entirely fair. Blackburn’s response was more like: Hillarycare-Sebelius-debacle-no way would we ever let Medicaid expand! But you get the idea. It’s quite possibly the most cynical exercise in Obamacare-bashing I’ve ever seen.
Or this one: "how dare the president extend the deadlines for this program nobody wants!" If it's so terrible why should they care if the deadlines are extended? If people don't want it they don't want it, right?
This is actually a tough issue for them. They want it to fail but they have to sound as if they don't. But conservatives are actually very good at simply delivering gibberish in an appropriately hysterical tone to get their point across which, in this case, is basically: "we're against health care reform but if we were for it, this would be very upsetting because this is a disaster!" They don't need much more than that to get their people to the polls.
digby 3/31/2014 01:30:00 PM
Evergreen myths and legends of the conservative corner
I confess that I pretty much hate twitter these days, which is sad. I used to love it. But lately it's an endless loop of scolding and finger-pointing and denouncing and renouncing and apologizing and after a while I feel like I'm in church. Circa 1692.
Anyway, the upshot is that I pay less attention to it and I miss things. Like this latest from the wingnut corner in emails, Facebook and twitter:
Haiyo! (Or should it be Hooah!?)
That's a fairly typical example of right wing humor. It often features punching a fey liberal in the mouth.
Like this one from the early days of the war, in which bloodthirsty right wing sites sold t-shirts that looked like this, to support the marine NBC journalist Kevin Sites had caught on camera in the act of killing a wounded Iraqi in cold blood inside a Mosque:
This was the sales pitch:
Support our Marine
The Marine who killed the wounded insurgent in Fallujah deserves our praise and admiration. In a split second decision, he acted valiantly.
On the other hand, Kevin Sites of NBC is a traitor. Beheading civilians, booby-trapped bodies, suicide bombers?? Sorry hippie, American lives come first. Terrorists don't deserve the benefit of the doubt. This Marine deserves a medal and Kevin Sites, you deserve a punch in the mouth.
Printed on high quality superheavyweight, preshrunk cotton (6.1oz)
Adam Weinstein at Gawker helpfully compiled all the relevant liberal responses to the latest hippie punching hilarity and some of them are really good. Like this one:
Unfortunately, I would guess that the fans of the original might not get that this is a parody. There's a lot of that going around.
It reminds me of back in the day when the right was really feeling its oats after America was attacked. The war porn was everywhere and this kind of puerile mythmaking was all the rage. But it wasn't only macho marines kicking ass. This widely circulated email from 2003 (which sounds as if it came from an older Republican woman) comes to mind:
They call my President a "cowboy"?
It used to tick me off when the liberals called our President a cowboy, but the more I think about it, the more I like it.
When I was a kid, cowboys were heroes. You know, the ones in the white hats, not the black hats. There was Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Johnny Mack Brown, Hopalong Cassidy, Red Ryder, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, then later Marshall Matt Dillon. Personally, I think Gene Autry could whip em all, and then sing a song to his girl friend. He was my favorite.
What were common attributes of these legendary cowboys? Here are a
1. They never looked for trouble.
2. When it came, they faced it with courage.
3. They were always on the side of right.
4. They defended good people against bad people.
5. They had high morals.
6. They had good manners.
7. They were honest.
8. They spoke their minds and they spoke the truth, regardless of
what people thought or "political correctness," which no one had
ever heard of back then.
9. They were a beacon of integrity in the
wild, wild west.
10. They were respected. When they walked into a
saloon (where they usually drank only sarsaparilla), the place
became quiet, and the bad guys kept their distance.
11. If in a gunfight, they could outdraw anyone. If in a fistfight,
they could whip anyone.
12. They always won. They always got their man. In victory, they
rode off into the sunset.
Those were the days when there was such a thing as right and wrong, something blurred in our modern world, and denied by many. Those were the days when women were respected and treated as ladies, because they acted like ladies.
They represent something good, something pure that America has been missing. Ronald Reagan was a cowboy. I like Ronald Reagan, he was brave, positive, and he gave us hope. He wore a white hat. To the consternation of his liberal critics, he had the courage to call a spade a spade and call the former Soviet Union what it was -- the evil empire. Liberals hated Ronald Reagan.
They also hate President Bush because he distinguishes between good and evil He calls a spade a spade, and after 9-11 called evil "evil," without mincing any words, to the shock of the liberal establishment. That's what cowboys do, you know. He also told the French to "put their cards on the table" (old west talk), which they did, exposing their cowardice and greed.
The Arabs are wrong. In the old West, might did not make right. Right made right. Cowboys in white hats were always on the side of right, and that was their might.
I am glad my President is a cowboy. He will get his man. Cowboys do, you know.
It's sort of precious, isn't it? Kind of like a 5th grade essay about a little girl's puppy.
I'm not sure why this stuff is making a comeback right at this moment --- maybe it's because they all think the Russians are coming. But it's evergreen. Rand Paul cannot possibly compete.
digby 3/31/2014 12:30:00 PM
QOTD: "Crying Squirrel"
I wrote about this bizarre Republican assertion that the issue of equal pay is nothing but a distraction the other day, but I hadn't realized it was an established talking point for GOP women:
“Republicans recognize that [equal pay] is also the Democratic party’s latest attempt to cry ‘squirrel!’ so women in this country, who control two out of every three health care dollars that are spent and are disproportionately health care consumers and providers… divert their attention from the unspooling of Obamacare.”
It's obvious that this is coming from polling done last winter that showed white women were souring on Obamacare. (Of course, as with so many of these polls, they fail to differentiate between those who think the law is too liberal and those who think it isn't liberal enough.) In recent polls, more women still support the law than men although it may very well be that a majority of white women are hostile to it.
Still, this strikes me as an awkward way to appeal to women: "those Democrats are trying to distract you by pointing out that you're getting screwed in the workplace. You should be upset about Obamacare instead." I suppose some people might think that makes sense, but I suspect they are all hardcore partisans who will vote for the GOP anyway. It certainly isn't going to persuade anyone that the GOP is looking out for women's interests.
digby 3/31/2014 11:00:00 AM
From the "if you build it they will use it" files
Apparently, tea and gardening are suspicious acts:
Why did a SWAT team raid Bob and Addie Harte's house in Leawood, Kansas, two years ago, then force the couple and their two children to sit on a couch for two hours while officers rifled their belongings, searching for "narcotics" that were not there? KSHB, the NBC station in Kansas City, reports that the Hartes made two mistakes: Bob went to a hydroponics store in Kansas City, Missouri, with his son to buy supplies for a school science project, and Addie drank tea. It cost them $25,000 to discover that these innocent actions earned them an early-morning visit by screaming, rifle-waving men with a battering ram.
The Hartes, who tried to reassure their neighbors by showing them the search report indicating that nothing was taken from their home, were naturally curious what they had done to attract police attention. But the Johnson County Sheriff's Office would not say, so the Hartes hired a lawyer to help them obtain the relevant records, which according to KSHB is not easy in Kansas because state law favors darkness over sunshine. Eventually the Hartes learned that a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper saw Bob at the hydroponics store on August 9, 2011. Seven months later, state police passed on this hot tip to the sheriff's office, which sprang into action (after a few weeks), rummaging through the Hartes' garbage three times in April 2012. On all three occasions, they found "wet plant material" that a field test supposedly identified as marijuana.
Such tests are notoriously unreliable, confusing chocolate with hashish, soy milk with GHB, and soap with cocaine, among other hilarious errors that result in fruitless searches, mistaken arrests, and false imprisonment. But the cops did not bother to confirm their field results with a more reliable lab test before charging into the Hartes' home, three days after their third surreptitious trash inspection. When the Hartes starting asking questions about the raid, the sheriff's office suddenly decided to test that wet plant material, which it turned out was not marijuana after all. The Hartes figure it must have been the loose tea that Addie favors, which she tends to toss into the trash after brewing. Field tests have been known to misidentify various possible tea ingredients, including spearmint, peppermint, lavendar, vanilla, anise, and chicory, as marijuana.
One might ask why they were so concerned about marijuana in the first place but I think we know the answer to that. The bigger question is why they used a SWAT team to break down the door with a battering ram at the crack of dawn?
Answer: because they have a SWAT team and it has to do something, right? The Johnson County sheriff serves a wealthy suburban county and has lots of money for military goodies. Obviously, they don't have as much opportunity to suit up in their costumes and break down doors as they would have in say, Fallujah, so they need to be creative.
And you'd better hope it isn't you. Just in case, don't take up any kind of hydroponic gardening (or anything that be construed as such a thing) and whatever you do, don't drink tea. These are clues that you are a drug dealer and armed police can burst into your home anytime they choose. (And, by the way, they can shoot you if they feel threatened, so don't even think of protesting.)
digby 3/31/2014 09:30:00 AM
"Universal" is not an American value. Never has been.
I had a lot of trepidation about the ACA when it was proposed, mostly because its a contraption with many moving parts, any one of which, if removed will make the whole thing weak, if not useless. But I supported it because the Medicaid expansions was the biggest expansion of a government program for the poor in decades and there was no walking away from that. Still, it was one of the weakest links, always subject to funding problems and the lack of a dedicated voting constituency that could keep it strong. And with the Supreme Court decision to allow the states to opt out, it's a tragic missed opportunity for millions of people.
This piece by Alec MacGillis in the New Republic about the failure of the Medicaid expansion in half the country spells out the details. He gives all the specifics, and they're terribly, and comments:
[R]ight now, we have passed a law meant to expand coverage to all Americans, and yet it does not reach the poorest of our fellow citizens in nearly half the states in the country. That, on its face, is a major policy failure. No one really wanted to say this during the law’s drafting, but its underlying goal was to get coverage to people in red states where there was no local political will to address the problem. It’s generally preferable to let states address their own needs, but in this realm, only Massachusetts and a few others had even attempted to bring about near-universal coverage. The only way people in Birmingham or Brownsville were going to get covered was if the federal government saw to it that they did.
MacGillis quotes President Obama saying, "if I am concerned about leaving it up to states to expand Medicaid ... it may not simply be because I am this power-hungry guy in Washington who wants to crush states’ rights but, rather, because we are one country and I think it is going to be important for the entire country to make sure that poor folks in Mississippi and not just Massachusetts are healthy."
I think the health reforms could have been sold as universal health care, but that wouldn't have been true. There were always going to be people who fell through the cracks and if you didn't go through several bureaucratic hoops anyone could easily find themselves uncovered when they need the care. It was never intended to cover everyone --- indeed, they went out of their way to exclude undocumented immigrants, even their kids. But the Medicaid expansion was supposed to make it possible for the working poor who could never afford to buy insurance even with the subsidies to have health care. And we couldn't even get that across the whole country.
The problem is the idea of "universal". That issimply not an established American value. We are generally quite content to live in a country with vast disparities in rights, health, wealth and security out of some outdated fealty to "states' rights." And that lies at the root of so many of our problems.
Take a look at the map of the states that refused the Medicaid expansion. Look familiar?
digby 3/31/2014 08:30:00 AM
Sunday, March 30, 2014
"I fled fascism for this?"
Speaking of history, I just spent a very enjoyable week-end reading Greg Mitchell's new e-book about liberal Hollywood called WHEN HOLLYWOOD TURNED LEFT: The Election Campaign That Changed Politics in Films Forever. (It's only $4.00 bucks!)
Here's how Greg put it when he announced the book on his blog:
Okay, we all know Hollywood has been pretty damn liberal for a long time, but how did it get that way? This book traces it back to the 1934 race for governor of California when the outrageous actions by the conservative studio bosses--such as docking every employee one day's pay for the GOP candidate--forced left-leaning (but still powerless) actors and screenwriters to organize and fight back, in spades. And the rest is history.
Here's a video featuring the nation's first attack ads. Plus ca change ...
He featured this excerpt on his blog:
Re: one of the most notorious aspects--almost all the studio chiefs docked their employees, from low-level to top stars, one day's pay to go for the slush fund of the Republican candidate, Frank Merriam. One of those who tried to protest was the young screenwriter Billy Wilder, who had arrived in the U.S. just recently. I interviewed Wilder a couple of times for this.
This is a very nice companion piece to Perlstein's new book, which goes deep into the politics of Hollywood in its background on Ronald Reagan.
Stars in the studio system like Hackett and Cagney enjoyed certain
privileges. The studio bosses at least asked them to donate to the Mer-
riam fund before threatening to dock them. Some writers, such as Don-
ald Ogden Stewart, went along with the request. Less established figures
were given no choice in the matter.
Take the young writer Billy Wilder over at the Fox studio, for exam-
ple. Wilder, who was still trying to salvage Raoul Walsh's “East River,”
received his latest paycheck, normally $250, only to find $50 missing.
"There's something wrong," Billy said to the studio cashier in his
heavily accented English. "There's been a mistake."
"There was no mistake," she replied. "They took fifty dollars from
everyone to give to Governor Merriam. If you have any complaints, talk
to Mr. Sheehan."
Billy didn't know what this was all about, but he knew one thing: he
desperately needed that fifty dollars to make the rent on his tiny room
at the Chateau Marmont and to pay for his English lessons. He was
behind on payments on his '28 De Soto, too. In no position to approach
Winnie Sheehan, Fox's top man, he cornered another studio exec in-
"Will you please explain?" Wilder asked. "I'm just here on a visa, I'm
not interested in politics."
"Sinclair is dangerous," the executive replied, "he must be defeated.
The Communists want to take over."
"Shouldn't I have the privilege of making the donation myself?" Billy
"No, the house is burning down," the exec said, "and we need as
much water as possible to put it out. That son of a bitch bolshevik
Sinclair must be stopped."
"And my hard-earned fifty dollars is going to stop him?" Wilder
Billy was aghast. It seemed childish, foolish, and incipiently fascist at
the same time. And he knew something about fascism. He went back
to his office and asked his colleagues, red-blooded Americans all, what
he should do. After all, he was just a hick from Austria and unwise to
the ways of American politics. This just didn't seem like the American
way, as he understood it.
They said, "It had to be done," and "There's nothing you can do."
You can't fight city hall, and all that. Some of them agreed that Sinclair
was a Communist. Wilder said he knew a little bit about Sinclair and
he was not by any means a Communist.
"Oh, you're a Communist too?" one writer replied. "You better
Wilder was out of fifty dollars and left with two conflicting thoughts
concerning the forced donations. One was: It may not be democratic, but
it's a brilliant idea. Maybe if businessmen in Germany had deducted fifty
marks from their workers to stop Hitler, Europe would be a safer place
The other was: I fled fascism for THIS?
There are very good reasons why artists and performers are liberal --- mainly because they can't express themselves freely in conservative and authoritarian society. On the other hand, money elites everywhere are conservative and Hollywood's moguls and corporate robots are no different. It's always been a place where that struggle vividly plays itself out. And unfortunately for the men in suits, the public usually identifies with their favorite stars and artists. That's why they're powerful. And that's why the bosses always try to shut them up.
digby 3/30/2014 06:00:00 PM
The good old days
This story from Ed Kilgore is for those who are nostalgic for the time when liberals allegedly ruled the earth (or America at least ...)
There’s quite a buzz this morning over research published by CBS subsequent to a long ongoing 60 Minutes investigation of the My Lai massacre of 1968 indicating that the White House may have sought to intimidate witnesses of the massacre to avoid prosecution of its perpetrators—most famously Lieutenant William Calley. While the “story” is of another in a long list of illegal activities of the sort that were exposed by the Watergate scandal, a sub-item was of particular interest to me, as someone who watched public reaction to My Lai in horror:
According to historian Ken Hughes, it’s the historical context that makes for a convincing argument. He calls My Lai “a political threat to Nixon,” and points out that a substantial part of Nixon’s support base refused to believe that killing civilians in a war zone was a crime. According to Hughes, Nixon’s approval rating dropped by 10 points after Lieutenant William Calley received a life sentence for murdering civilians at My Lai.
As Perlstein reminded us a while back, in his epic Nixonland:
Nixon intervened, and Lt. Calley’s sentence was reduced. He was paroled after only three years under house arrest.
To be clear, it was association with the prosecution of Calley, not with the massacre itself, that was a “political threat” to Nixon.
I assume everyone knows that he went on to win one of the biggest landslide election victories in history right?
The President was glad for a politically useful distraction. On March 29, after the longest court-martial trial in history, Lieut. William "Rusty" Calley was convicted of murder by a jury of his military peers.
When Calley had first been called to Washington in June of 1969, he thought it was to receive a medal. He was shocked to learn it was for a court martial: "It seemed like the silliest thing I had ever heard of. Murder." It betokened a national confusion. At the trial his defense lawyer said, "This boy's a product of a system, a system that dug him up by the roots, took him out of his home community, put him in the Army, taught him to kill, sent him overseas to kill, gave him mechanical weapons to kill, got him over there and ordered him to kill." He argued that the decision to scapegoat Calley went all the way up the chain of command--better to indict a lieutenant, shut down this whole embarrassment incident as neatly as possible, than the entire system of "pacification" and "free fire zones" and "search and destroy missions" itself. He tried to call Defense Secretary Laird as a witness. The judge overruled him.
The argument was lent support by the fate of Calley's commander, Major General Samuel Koster. Koster had witnessed the massacre from his observation helicopter and complained only that they weren't recovering enough enemy weapons. He signed off on an Army report that noncombatants had been "inadvertently killed...in the cross fires of U.S. and V.C. forces." After the Army's investigation into the My Lai massacre, he suffered a mere reduction of a grade in rank. Everyone else involved ended up acquitted or with their charges dropped.
Calley stood ramrod straight at his sentencing and mewled in a breaking voice about his victimhood: "Yesterday, you stripped me of all my honor. Please, by your actions that you take here today, don't strip future soldiers of their honor." He was sentenced to life at hard labor. You didn't have to construe Calley a put-upon innocent to conclude that something stunk. "Calley Verdict: Who Else Is Guilty?" read Newsweek's cover line. "Who Shares the Guilt?" asked Time.
John Kerry, the VVAW spokesman, had an answer: "We are all of us in this country guilty for having allowed the war to go on. We only want this country to realize that it cannot try a Calley for something which generals and Presidents and our way of life encouraged him to do. And if you try him, then at the same time you must try all those generals and Presidents and soldiers who have part of the responsibility. You must in fact try this country." It was a common conclusion of liberals: Senators Ribicoff and Hatfield, the New Yorker, Telford Taylor, a prosecutor of Nazis at Nuremberg and the author of Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy.
But that was what the Communists were saying, too, conservatives observed. And if Calley was their villain, he must be our hero.
The VFW's national commander Herbert Rainwater led the way: "There have been My Lais in every war. Now for the first time we have tried a soldier for performing his duty." A little Mormon boy in Utah, Timmy Poppleton, wrote his senator begging him to intervene: "I'm only eight years old, but I know that Lieut. Calley was defending our freedoms against Communism." His mother--many mothers--had explained that the villagers of My Lai must have done something to deserve it. Joseph Alsolp agreed. The hawkish one of the columnizing brothers complained in his second column after the verdict about what his editors did to his first one: "by no fault of this reporter, the persons Lt. Calley was convicted of killing were miscalled 'civilians.'.... These victims from My Lai in fact came from a 'combat hamlet' of a 'combat village.' From about the age of four on up, all persons in a 'combat village,' of both sexes, are trained to kill. by the iron rules of the Viet Cong, if they do not follow their training, they are killed themselves after one of the VC kangaroo-trials."
The American Legion post at Columbus, Georgia, home of Fort Benning, pitched in a promise they would raise $100,000 to help fund Calley's appeal "or die trying": "The real murderers are the demonstrators in Washington who disrupt traffic, tear up public property, who deface the American flag. Lieut. Calley is a hero. He's an all-American. He fought for us in a country where Communism is still trying to take over. We should be proud of him. We should elevate him to saint rather than jail him like a common criminal." Calley was now Columbus's favorite son. At a revival at the football stadium, the Rev. Michael Lord pronounced, "There was a crucifixion 2,000 years ago of a man named Jesus Christ. I don't think we need another crucifixion of man named Rusty Calley."
Entrepreneurs stood at attention. "Free Calley" stickers managed to blossom on car bumpers within 24 hours, like toadstools after a spring rain. A Nashville record producer slapped a solemn recitation as if in William Calley's voice over a backing track of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," and moved 200,000 45-rpm records in a day and a million in a week:
While we were fighting in the jungles they were marching in the street
While we're dying in the rice fields they were helping our defeat
While we're facing V.C. bullets they were sounding a retreat
As we go marching on...
When I reach my final campground in that land beyond the sun
And the great commander asks me, 'Did you fight or did you run?'
I'll stand both straight and tall stripped of medals, rank and gun
And this is what I'll say:
Sir, I followed all my orders and I did the best I could
It's hard to judge the enemy and hard to tell the good
Yet there's not a man among us would not have understood
We took the jungle village exactly like they said
We responded to their rifle fire with everything we had
And when the smoke had cleared away a hundred souls lay dead...
There's no other way to wage a war when the only one in sight
That you're sure is not a VC is your buddy on the right...
Glory, glory hallelujah, glory, glory hallelujah...
And radio stations played the silent majority's "Four Dead in Ohio" over and over again, only pausing in between to call for donations to Rusty Calley's defense fund, as respectable editorialists stood aghast. "We responded to their rifle fire"? A jury of six decorated combat veterans had ruled there had been none. "For the first time we have tried a soldier for performing his duty"? The stockades were full of soldiers and Marines tried for killing Vietnamese captives in combat. "The only difference," wrote William Greider, who covered the four-and-a-half month trial in the Washington Post, "is that, instead of 22 people, most of them killed only one or two." The Wall Street Journal pointed out, "This is a young man duly convicted of taking unarmed prisoners entirely at his mercy, throwing them in a ditch, and shooting them. Is this nation really to condone such an act, as a strange coalition of super-patriots seems to urge?" The Washington Star said "the day this country goes on record as saying that unarmed civilian men, women, and children of any race are fair game for wanton murder, that will be the day that the United States forfeits all claims to any moral leadership of this world." Scott Reston, in the Newspaper of Record, wondered whether "somebody were going to propose giving Lieutenant Calley the Congressional Medal of Honor."
Above and beyond all the commotion, Nixon spied simple commonality: super-patriots and peace were on the same side.
The White House had done its polling. 78 percent disagreed with Calley's conviction and sentence; 51 percent wanted him exonerated outright. Within 24 hours the White House got 100,000 telegrams, calls, and letters. They were 100 to one for Calley's release. Meanwhile the President's handling of Vietnam in general he was heading into Lyndon Johnson territory: 41 percent approval, 47 percent disapproval. On March 30 the White House alerted the media that on March 7 the President would go on TV to announce more troop cuts. Then they got to work exploiting Calley.
Nixon delegated the legal questions to John Dean's office. Overnight his staff became experts on military law. The conclusion: the conviction was by the book, the sentence would likely be reduced on appeal, the President was extremely limited in his power to intervene, and that any White House interference mitigating "a gross violation of the customary law of war" could have a domino effect weakening the good order of the military justice system.
Military justice be damned. Nixon conferred with his new favorite political enforcer John Connally. He complained to Haldeman and Ehrlichman the "lawyers provide no political gain for us on the argument." It was Chuck Colson who came up with his first move: he could immediately order Calley released from the stockade until his appeal was decided. On April 1 President made the call to Admiral Moorer. "That's the one place where they say, 'Yes, Sir,' instead of 'Yes, but,'" he pronounced with satisfaction. The action was announced at the House of Representatives; the floor broke out in spontaneous applause (the President was so proud of the response he noted it in his memoirs).
And a man convicted by fellow Army officers of slaughtering 22 civilians was released on his own recognizance to the splendiferous bachelor pad he had rented with the fat proceeds of his defense fund, as featured in a November 1970 Esquire feature laid out like a Better Homes & Gardens spread--padded bar, groovy paintings, and comely girlfriend, who along with a personal secretary and a mechanical letter opener helped him answer some 2,000 fan letters a day.
April 2, in San Clemente, the leader of the Free World allotted almost a full day for discussion of l'affaire Calley (save for three hours with the governor of California to try to talk him down from sabotaging the Family Assistance Program as part of Reagan's "all-out war on the tax taker"). White House polls showed 96 percent of the public was following the case, the highest they'd recorded on any subject. They had to move: it was time for some virtuoso difference-splitting. The Old Man ordered a course "on the basis of what does us most good"--anything to to buck up his approval rating to end Vietnam "our way." Ehrlichman summarized the final recommendation: "The President does nothing"--in a way that strongly hinted at a future pardon.
At the next day's morning briefing Ron Ziegler said before any sentence was carried out the President would "personally review the case and finally decide it." Ehrlichman took the podium: this "extralegal ingredient" was appropriate in a case which had "captured the interest of the American people," and which required "more than simply the technical, legal review which the Code of Military Justice provides." The officers involved in the appeal, he reassured the press, would be in no way influenced by their Commander in Chief.
The political reviews were stellar. Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, the "Conscience of the Senate," released a statement: "I think the President performed a very wise and useful service to his nation.... it was impressively evident that the President caused many Americans to pause in their judgement, to gain perspective, and to replace emotion with reason." Senator Robert Taft (whom Nixon called in other contexts a "son of a bitch...peacenik") said he had restored the morale of the military. The White House's private polling showed his actions found favor with 75 percent of the American people. Only 17 percent disagreed.
The legal reviews were not so salubrious. Privately, Secretary Laird complained, "Intervention in the Calley case repudiates the military justice system." Publicly, the case's prosecutor, Captain Aubrey Daniel, wrote the President, in a four-page single-spaced letter made available by Senator and presidential candidate George McGovern's office, "The greatest tragedy of all will be if political expedience dictates the compromise of such a fundamental moral principle as the inherent unlawfulness of the murder of innocent persons." Bill Greider asked in the Post: "Should it open the doors at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and release all the other soldiers convicted of the same offense as Calley?"
Then there were those enraged the President hadn't gone nearly far enough. On the front page of The New York Times on April 4, one of the Green Berets charged but never tried for killing a Vietnamese civilian, Robert F. Marasco, now a life insurance salesman in New Jersey, announced he had carried out murder on "very, very clear orders" from the CIA. "He was my agent and it was my responsibility to eliminate him with extreme prejudice."
John Dean once more proved his usefulness to the President by crafting the White House's subsequent talking point: in such ongoing legal cases, "it would be improper and inappropriate for White House staff members to make any comments or statements."
That would turn off some problems. Secretary Laird, Colonel Daniel, Robert F. Marasco, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and all the rest would have to howl in the wilderness.
Luckily for the President the Post and Times weren't howling as loudly as they might. Two days later, on April 5, Senator Hatfield read the "Winter Soldier" testimony from Detroit into the Congressional Record. He stated on the floor that they revealed "the institutionalized racist attitudes of the military in the training of men who are sent to Vietnam--training which has indoctrinated them to think of all Vietnamese as 'gooks' and subhuman," and that atrocities were the consequences of "policies adopted by our military commanders." If the Times had reported on it readers would have learned about, from SP/4 Gary Keyes, the time "there were some fishermen out on the ocean and a couple of our sergeants thought it would be good sport to use them as target practice"; or of Marine Sergeant Scott Camil, whose buddy, when a woman one of their snipers shot asked for water, "stabbed her in both breasts, they spread her eagle and shoved an E-tool up her vagina, an entrenching tool, and she was still asking for water. And then they took that out and they used a tree limb and then she was shot." Or the prisoner of war interrogator, Lt. Jon Drolshagan--discharged soldiers bravely using their names and stepping up publicly didn't risk court martial any more, just ostracization from their communities--who described one of their "normal things": "The major that I worked for had a fantastic capability of staking prisoners, utilizing a knife that was extremely sharp, and sort of filleting them like a fish. You know, trying to check out how much bacon he could make of a Vietnamese body to get information."
The Times did, however, run a sentimental story on Nixon's latest appeal to the silent majority.
He went on TV Wednesday, April 7 from the Oval Office at 9 PM (first he read a handwritten note from Henry Kissinger: "Because you go on tonight I want you to have this note to tell you that--no matter what the result--free people everywhere will be forever in your debt. Your serenity during crisis, your steadfastness under pressure have been all that has prevented the triumph of mass hysteria. It has been an inspiration to serve").
The speech was the usual: it announced a dizzying new pace of troop withdrawals; included the selective historical review, the optimistic assessment ("tonight I can report that Vietnamization has succeeded.... Look again at their chart on my left. Every action taken by this administration, every decision made, has accomplished what I said it would accomplish"); the affirmation of the selflessness of the American effort ("never in history have men fought for less selfish motives--not for conquest, not for glory, but only for the right of a people far away to choose the kind of government they want"); the mournful lament that the only roadblock to progress was the recalcitrance of the enemy negotiators in the face of generous American offers, the wild-eyed insanity of setting a date for withdrawal ("we will have thrown away our political bargaining counter to win the release of American prisoners of war...we will have given enemy commanders the exact information they need to marshal their attacks against our remaining forces at their most vulnerable time.... Shall we leave Vietnam in a way that--by our own actions--consciously turns the country over to the Communists?"). He again mobilized the trope of shame as cheap shot at those who argued for a different way ("I know there are those who honestly believe that I should move to end this war without regard to what happens in South Vietnam. This way would abandon our friends. But even more important, we would abandon ourselves.... We would lose respect for this nation, respect for one another, respect for ourselves").
Then finally, as ever, he wound up for the sentimental dénoumente. Which this time was a masterpiece. "While we hear and read much of isolated acts of cruelty, we do not hear enough of the tens of thousands of individual American soldiers--I have seen them there--building schools, roads, hospitals, clinics, who, through countless acts of generosity and kindness, have tried to help the people of South Vietnam. We can and we should be very proud of these men. They deserve not our scorn, but they deserve our admiration and our deepest appreciation...."
His voice took on a honeyed Norman Rockwell tone.
"The reason I am so deeply committed to peace goes far beyond political considerations or my concern about my place in history, or the other reasons that political scientists usually say are the motivations of Presidents.
"Every time I talk to a brave wife of an American POW, every time I write a letter to the mother of a boy who has been killed in Vietnam, I become more deeply committed to end this war, and to end it in a way that we can build lasting peace."
(You cared about peace because you cared about those brave Americas left behind in the Hanoi Hilton. They, on the other hand, do not.)
"I think the hardest thing that a President has to do is present posthumously the nation's highest honor, the Medal of Honor, to mothers or fathers or widows of men who have lost their lives"--he was nearly whispering--"but in the process have saved the lives of others."
This was a rhetorical gambit. It let him end with a story about little Kevin: the Checkers of 1971.
"We had an award ceremony in the East Room of the White House just a few weeks agao. And at that ceremony I remember one of the recipients, Mrs.--Karl--Taylor.
"He charged an enemy machine gun single-handed and knocked it out. He lost his life. But in the process the lives of several wounded Marines in the range of that machine gun were saved.
"After I presented her the Medal, I shook hands with their two children, Karl, Jr.--he was 8 years old--and Kevin, who was 4. As I was about to move to the next recipient, Kevin suddenly stood at attention and saluted."
"I found it rather difficult to get my thoughts together."
His voice deepened.
"My fellow Americans, I want to end this war in a way that is worthy of the sacrifice of Kevin Taylor."
He was speaking very slowly.
"And I think he would want me to end it in a way that would increase the chances that Kevin and Karl, and all those children like them here and around the world, could grow up in a world where none of them would have to die in a war; that would increase the chance of Americans to have what it has not had in this century--a full generation of peace."
I wrote about my own childhood recollections of My Lai here if anyone cares.
digby 3/30/2014 04:30:00 PM
Another casualty in the war on the mentally ill
This is justice?
David Tarloff, a man with schizophrenia who bludgeoned and stabbed a psychologist to death during a botched robbery six years ago, was found guilty of her murder on Friday by a Manhattan jury that rejected an insanity defense.
This man is so sick that an earlier trial had to be ended because he was too unstable to continue. Putting him in jail is cruel and unusual punishment --- he needs treatment. Yes, society obviously needs to be protected from him, but it hardly follows that the only possible way that can happen is to put him in prison. The family says they got "justice" but it's very hard for me to see how this is anything but revenge. Revenge against a mentally ill man.
The verdict in State Supreme Court came in the third attempt to convict him. A year ago, a mistrial was declared after the jury announced it was deadlocked. The first trial, in 2010, stalled during jury selection when Mr. Tarloff became unstable.
Mr. Tarloff, who appeared with long, scraggly hair in a dingy sweatsuit, betrayed little emotion as the jury forewoman rose to read the verdicts, reached after seven hours of deliberations.
The jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in the attack, with a meat cleaver and a rubber mallet, on the psychologist, Kathryn Faughey. He was also found guilty of assault and attempted robbery for maiming Dr. Kent D. Shinbach, a psychiatrist who shared an office with her.
Mr. Tarloff’s lawyers, Bryan Konoski and Frederick L. Sosinsky, argued that their client had a long history of delusions about communicating directly with God. He told doctors who examined him that his plan to rob Dr. Shinbach — which spun out of control when Dr. Faughey confronted him first — had been sanctioned by the lord.
But the lead prosecutor, Evan Krutoy, argued that Mr. Tarloff’s mental illness never grew so severe that he could not distinguish right from wrong. Nor, he argued, did Mr. Tarloff show signs he was out of touch with reality on the day of the killing.
Mr. Tarloff, 47, told the police he went to Dr. Shinbach’s office on East 79th Street on Feb. 12, 2008, to rob the doctor of $50,000 for a far-fetched scheme to kidnap his mother from a hospital and move with her to Hawaii.
And in case you think the jurors know something that we don't, get a load of this:
Jurors said they were convinced that even though Mr. Tarloff at times had delusions about communicating with God, he still knew that the robbery and murder were immoral in society’s eyes and understood that he had committed a crime.
Right. Because that makes so much more sense.
“He’s sick, but I feel like he knew what he was doing,” said a juror, Dana Torres, 27, a construction worker. “For me, if he had said Satan told him to do this, it would have been a different story.”
The good news is that New York does not use the death penalty so the worst that happens is that this very, very sick man lives out the rest of his life in jail instead of a hospital. Which is pretty damned awful.
digby 3/30/2014 03:00:00 PM
So, fraudulent voters are busy during the week?
Can someone explain to me what this has to do with "voter fraud"?
Pivotal swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls.
Are they saying that more potential fraud happens on the week-end? That there is some correlation between voter fraud and having more available days to vote? I haven't seen any evidence that this is the case but seeing as there's no evidence of any kind of systematic voter fraud of any kind, I think it's unlikely it exists. This is clearly just straight up vote suppression.
The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote.
Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election.
I wonder if there are any other legitimate democracies in the world that are actively trying to make voting more difficult?
digby 3/30/2014 01:00:00 PM
Sunday Funnies Part II
Via Daily Kos:
I'm afraid he's right ...
digby 3/30/2014 11:30:00 AM
Sunday funny: "Choice"
digby 3/30/2014 10:30:00 AM
Architects and Human Rights
Apropos a recent blog post, Graeme Bristol, Executive Director of the Centre for Architecture and Human Rights wrote me the following email:
I appreciate your Hullabaloo post this morning linking to the Andrew Ross op-ed. The Zaha Hadid quote in his article reflects a prevailing attitude among professionals: “I have nothing to do with the workers,” she said. “It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it.”
After all the reports from Human Rights Watch about the abuses of migrant construction labourers in the UAE (2006), the Beijing Olympics (2008), Russia(2009), Abu Dhabi (2009), Bahrain (2012), and the construction of the World Cup venue in Qatar (2012), this is still the common response from the architectural profession when I talk to them at conferences about the relationship between human rights and architecture and, more specifically, the abuse of migrant construction workers . Legislated professions are expected to work to a higher standard and they are expected to have the 'common good' as their first interest.
Sadly, this is not, nor, I expect, has it ever been the case. And yet, back in 2011, a group of international artists began a boycott of the Guggenheim in response to the conditions migrant workers faced in the Guggenheim construction site in Abu Dhabi. Any architects? Any representative architectural associations – the UIA? the AIA? Not a peep. Indeed, they give those architects awards for their stellar work in architecture.
The way we look to a distant constellation
That's dying in a corner of the sky,
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don't cry baby don't cry
tristero 3/30/2014 09:00:00 AM
Egypt shows the not-so-glorious results of anarchic change
by David Atkins
Two stories out of Egypt are making some headlines. First, over 500 people sentenced to death--for the killing of one police officer:
More than 500 people in Matea, Egypt, have been sentenced to death. On one street alone, a juice store owner, a sweets shop owner, a doctor and more than 20 others have been condemned.
Now to rural Egypt where the people of one town are reeling from a shocking court ruling earlier this week. Five hundred and twenty-nine people were sentenced to death for the killing of a police officer in street violence last year. Many were tried in absentia and the judge's ruling came after barely any evidence was heard. Amnesty International says it might be the largest mass death sentence in modern times.
NPR's Leila Fadel visited the town.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Some 100 miles south of Cairo, there is a town called Matea, a town that feels condemned. Five hundred and twenty-nine people from a town of maybe 50,000 people who live here and in the surrounding villages were sentenced to death this week. This is a small spot on the map of mostly unpaved roads, low slung buildings and mom and pop shops.
And on every narrow street, at least one family, often more, have a relative or several who may be hanged for accusations they couldn't defend themselves against. Last August, this town, like a lot of Egypt, saw clashes between police and Islamists. One policeman was killed and for that crime, after barely an hour of court time this week, a judge sentenced hundreds to die.
Then there's the bill labeling student protest a terrorism crime punishable by death:
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) expresses its grave concern over two draft legislations that the Egyptian Cabinet has referred to the State Council Administrative Court for legal review. The first consists of amendments to provisions related to the crime of terrorism in the penal code while the second deals with the procedural aspects relating to combating terrorism. These laws are at the final stage and their adoption could take place shortly.Anarchic revolution does not produce a just world. Under extreme oppression it is sometimes necessary, but it must be followed immediately by a strong progressive organization for improvements to be made. That didn't happen in Egypt, and this is the result.
If Egypt's history is of any indication, the adoption of more repressive legislations and security measures is not successful in deterring terrorist attacks, or even in identifying and punishing their perpetrators in most cases.
What Egypt needs are not more legislations to address terrorism, but serious revision to its legislative framework to ensure its conformity with international standards. The government has been using this framework to arrest and detain arbitrarily political dissidents and subject them to torture and ill treatment. This week's ruling of a criminal court sentencing 529 people to death, possibly the largest mass death sentence in the world in recent years, testifies to the lack of basic due process protections and the urgent need for reform.
The legislative reforms in question are extremely worrying in the current context as they step up repression by criminalizing many peaceful and legitimate activities that fall within freedom of expression, association and assembly, lumping them as 'terrorism crimes' punishable by the death penalty. Indeed, these measures are paving the way for an undeclared state of emergency and arbitrariness.
thereisnospoon 3/30/2014 07:30:00 AM
Saturday, March 29, 2014
Saturday Night at the Movies
City mouse, country bear
By Dennis Hartley
|The beginning of a beautiful friendship: Ernest and Celestine|
The "odd couple" meme has become a staple narrative in filmdom. The reason is obvious; there's something in our DNA that makes us root for the Mismatched Lovers or the Unlikely Friends to overcome the odds and find their bliss (especially when they're defying the "rules" by doing so). I mean, who in their heart of hearts (those with sociopathic tendencies aside) wouldn't want to see the wolf living with the lamb, the leopard lying down with the goat, dogs and cats living together...or in the case of the animated film Ernest and Celestine, a street-busking bear adopting a 'lil orphaned mouse?
Co-directed by Stephan Aubier, Vincent Patar, and Benjamin Renner, and adapted by screenwriter Daniel Pennac from the children's book by Gabrielle Vincent, the film is set in a fairy tale universe populated by anthropomorphic bears and mice who live in segregated cities above and below ground, respectively. Woe be to the mouse who gets spotted aboveground or to the bear caught wandering below (you can already see where this is headed, can't you?). Fear of the Other is systemically ingrained in the mice, as evidenced by the Grimm's Fairy Tale-like opening scene, where young Celestine (voiced by Pauline Brunner in the French-language version) and her fellow orphans are having the hell scared out of them by their mean-spirited matron (Anne-Marie Loop). She's telling them a bedtime story/cautionary tale about the "Big Bad Bear", whom they should never, ever approach, because he has an appetite for anything that moves...especially young mice ("Alive and kicking, with their little coats and backpacks!" she exhorts). "How can you be sure he's so bad?" ventures Celestine, who gets admonished for heresy.
The bears, on the other hand, assign the mice a more benign archetypal role in their bedtime tales, telling their kids it's the "Mouse Fairy" who leaves the coins under the pillow whenever they lose a tooth. Of course, if they actually see a real mouse, their first impulse is to jump up on a chair or to grab a blunt object. That's what Celestine discovers one evening whilst tiptoeing around a bear family's home, looking, in fact, to steal a young cub's tooth from under his pillow (an assignment from her dentistry school instructor; turns out that whittled down bear's teeth make perfect replacement molars for the mice...who knew?). Fleeing for her life, she ends up hiding in a garbage can, in which she becomes trapped overnight. In the morning, she's discovered by a bear named Ernest (Lambert Wilson), a perpetually hungry street musician who is scrounging for food. The fast-thinking Celestine talks Ernest out of turning her into breakfast by giving him a hot tip about a place she knows where he can find some good eats-the storage cellar of a nearby candy store. Ernest returns the favor by helping Celestine break into a bear dentist's stash of teeth. It's the beginning of a beautiful friendship, which is about to be challenged by the fears and prejudices of their respective societies (and the "authorities").
It's a rather simplistic fable about tolerance and empathy, but beautifully told. The animation, with its hand-drawn aesthetic and comforting palette of soft pastels, resembles the illustrations of Ludwig Bemelmans (creator of the "Madeline" books I remember reading as a kid). Funny, touching, and charming to a fault, the film, while primarily aimed at children, has wry, offbeat touches that adults should appreciate as well. Interestingly, I was strongly reminded of Fred Coe's 1965 dramedy, A Thousand Clowns. In that film, Jason Robards plays a happily unemployed free spirit named Murray (not unlike Ernest) who has likewise taken on a young ward (his nephew). Murray encourages his nephew to flout society's conventions, especially when it comes to the concept of "finding a career" (Ernest encourages Celestine, an aspiring painter, to forget about dentistry and find her expression through her art). However, Murray soon finds himself at odds with the Child Welfare Board, who challenge his competence as a guardian (Ernest and Celestine are each brought up before a judge, ostensibly for their "crimes", but are really on trial for being non-conformists). On one level, Ernest and Celestine is a fairy tale for kids, but can also be seen as license to follow your bliss. And that is a good thing.
Previous posts with related themes:
Dennis Hartley 3/29/2014 05:00:00 PM
Wingnut welfare queens rebel against the usurpers
I must admit that I find this to be hilarious:
Republican leaders are stepping up their campaign to discredit tea party activists who are challenging them on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail, accusing conservatives of lining their own pockets at the expense of the GOP.
A recent radio ad for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — who is under attack from the right in his own primary — blasts the Senate Conservatives Fund for spending its money “on a luxury townhouse with a wine cellar and hot tub in Washington, D.C.” House Republicans joke privately about the “conservative-industrial complex.” Even Ann Coulter has warned of “con men and scamsters” infiltrating the tea party movement.
Such claims hold more water for some groups than others in a movement with no clear leader. The tea party, loosely defined, is scattered among more than a dozen multimillion-dollar organizations, from the Club for Growth to FreedomWorks, to the Tea Party Express and the conservative startup Madison Fund, all with different bottom lines and spending patterns.
Some of the groups that have come in for the most criticism, such as the Senate Conservatives Fund — which calls the McConnell radio ad inaccurate — actually do spend most of their money on candidates. Others, such as the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, have spent exactly zero in this election cycle on candidates, even as they raise millions from low-dollar donors.
Whatever their overhead, tea-party-aligned groups are spending tens of millions collectively, sometimes with little or no board oversight. Such groups tend to operate multiple fundraising entities, simultaneously pulling in checks for a 501(c)(3) charity, a 501(c)(4) advocacy group, a conventional political action committee subject to contribution limits and an unrestricted super PAC. Public records filed with the IRS and the Federal Election Commission revealed some unusual expenditures.
Club for Growth President Chris Chocola earned $510,786, from mid-2012 to mid-2013, tax records for the group’s advocacy arm show, pushing his election-cycle earnings to more than $1 million. Club spokesman Barney Keller called that “a pretty good deal,” given that U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue earns $5.5 million a year. “I would argue we have exactly the same effect on policy as the chamber does,” Keller said.
The Tea Party Express PAC raised $10 million in the 2012 cycle, more than three-quarters of it from donations of less than $200. But the group made only $259,500 in campaign contributions and $686,124 in independent campaign expenditures in that election, public records show. In the meantime, one of its lead organizers, political consultant Sal Russo, handled the bulk of the group’s fundraising, travel, consulting, direct mail and ad production — earning his California consulting firm Russo Marsh & Associates a cool $2.3 million, according to Political MoneyLine.
FreedomWorks paid its president and CEO, Matt Kibbe, $470,000 in 2012, or about $940,000 for the full election cycle. The group’s advocacy arm pulled in $15 million in 2012, according to its most recent tax disclosures, and spent $5 million on “advertising and promotion,” $1.4 million on “office expenses,” $1.3 million on “conferences, conventions and meetings,” and $74,285 in severance to a departing employee. A FreedomWorks board member also reportedly paid former House Majority Leader Dick Armey an $8 million settlement following his departure as chairman amid a FreedomWorks shakeup.
The Madison Project, a conservative PAC that has spent $51,884 opposing McConnell, spent $1.8 million in the 2012 election cycle. Some $97,500 of that was donated to candidates, FEC records show. But still more went to pay the group’s top organizers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Chairman and ex-Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., earned $66,540, according to the CRP, while his son, political director Drew Ryun, made $67,932.
Conservative organizers say they spend their money efficiently and employ relatively few staff while making a major impact. They take credit for helping elect such conservatives as Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky. When McConnell told The New York Times recently that the GOP would “crush” conservative activists “everywhere,” tea party organizers turned his warning into a fundraising pitch.
This is the beast they created. And that flood of money they uncorked will be used against them as well. I think that's what we used to call poetic justice.
digby 3/29/2014 03:30:00 PM