Right-Wing Harpie Bites Publishing Dust

Katherine ‘Hair-Helmet’ Harris apparently is not particularly interesting, not even to her own demographic. The chronicle of her martyrdom — with the self-congratulatory title ‘Center of the Storm’ — is officially on the virtual remainder table, even on the right wing World Net Daily web site. Published at $22.99. Now selling for five measly clams.

Kind of a nice reflection of that old ‘supply-and-demand’ Republican value.

Pick a Party, Already

During a press conference today, Sen. Chuck Schumer referred to the stalemate in Washington today as the “tea party shutdown.”   Schumer may be doing some political calculation in order to allow the GOP as a whole to save face.  After all, he’s got to work alongside of these people. However, it is completely disingenuous for him to characterize bringing the government to a halt as solely the work of the tea party.

We’ve watched over the last several years as the so-called tea party candidates have inserted themselves into the Republican party.  And the Republican party has done little or nothing to discourage them or their attendant extremism.  In fact, many in the Republican party used the ascent of the tea party as an excuse to espouse their own extreme right-wing views more openly and shamelessly.

Consequently, it’s virtually impossible to delineate where the GOP ends and the tea party begins.  They have become one and the same.  While there are certainly more extreme members with more extreme views, they blend in all too inconspicuously with the GOP at large.

With the current government shutdown, certain more centrist members of Congress have attempted to distance themselves from the tea party extremists within their ranks.  But the party as a whole has not yet come up with a strategy to restrict tea party influence within the GOP in a way that is commensurate with their actual numbers.  Consequently, the GOP owns this shutdown.

The basic questions that we were asking when the tea party first formed still haven’t been answered.  Which is it?  Are you upper or lower case?  Are you a faction of the Republican Party, and therefore the “tea party” or “tea party caucus”?  Or do you consider yourself an actual legitimate third party, or Tea Party?

If it’s the former, then the GOP needs to take your views into consideration but make its collective decisions based on the majority within the party.  (This especially means you, Mr. Speaker.)   That also means that the GOP owns all of the insanity within its ranks, in those cases in which the extremists convince the more mainstream members of Congress to vote with them.

If it’s the latter, then the tea party earns its upper case status, along with all of the responsibilities and obligations that a political party has.  So far, the tea party has reaped all the rewards of both positions and has borne none of the responsibilities of either.

So make up your minds.

To paraphrase Jesse Pinkman, “let’s Party, bitches.”

At Liberty

Mitt Romney today made one more stride at fusing church and state, with his speech at Liberty University. His pandering seems to know no boundaries.

In one fell swoop, Romney sucked up to the “religious” right and fumblingly grabbed at the youth vote, a demographic for which he desperately needs to gain traction.  (I hope, for his sake, that he doesn’t consider the students at Liberty University as being representative of the youth vote.)

The line in his speech that made the 30,000 or so lemmings in the stadium leap to their feet and applaud was:

“I believe that Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”

This, of course, is the same person who claimed in 1994 that he was going to be to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights.  This is the also same person who signed the nation’s first marriage equality law into effect.

Does anyone else find it somewhat ironic that a speech advocating significantly restricting liberty is being delivered at Liberty University?

View the Mitt’s entire speech at Liberty University (if you can stomach it) in the video above.

Holding a Losing Hand

The headlines today concerning the Republican politicians’ response to President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality either refer to a tepid, tiptoe response or make note of the general lack of response altogether.

While a few foolhardy mouthpieces tried to frame Obama’s statements as some kind of a flip-flop on gay issues, most GOP politicians were uncharacteristically quiet or guarded about their response.  (The usual suspects in the “religious” right wasted no time in mouthing off, but that’s par for the course.)

I’m sure there are a number of theories circulating as to why this has happened.  But my guess is that the Republican politicians are relatively certain that they cannot win by focusing on this issue.  I suspect that many of the Republicans have LGBT staffers, know LGBT people, perhaps even have gay family member (except for the occasional member of Congress who boasts overconfidently that they don’t).  I’d like to believe that there is sufficient conscience remaining in at least some of the GOP not to continue the tradition of claiming that their personal beliefs are one thing and their policy decisions are completely detached from those personal beliefs.  That “some-of-my-best-friends-are-gay” line will not work in this day and age.

The only outcome for Republicans if they raise a stink about this issue is that they will make themselves look even more extreme than they already have.  There may still be some Republicans who have a concern for their respective political legacy.  As many others have said, they’re clearly on the wrong side of history.

Pundits today have been talking about the risk that Obama took today, and there may indeed be some.  But the Republicans need to attract moderate voters in the upcoming election, as well; the risk may be even greater for them than for the President.  They’ve already done their best to drive away women, Latinos, and the LGBT community.  If they veer much farther to the right, they may go over a cliff.

Read more on Politico about the GOP’s silence:

Tampa, the GOP, and the Subprime Mess

There’s a stunning irony in the choice of venues for the GOP convention that is likely lost on most Republicans.  Tampa, Florida, was home to an entire division of Countrywide — the mortgage lender that played an enormous part in the nation’s economic downturn by saturating the market with subprime mortgages and then bundling them together into securities that could be sold by equally unscrupulous bankers on the open market to unsuspecting purchasers.

At the peak of subprime frenzy, Countrywide built out an entire facility in Tampa devoted to the sales and servicing of subprime mortgages.  The company could barely hire people fast enough to keep up with the demand that they themselves had generated by making loans available — on the worst terms possible for the borrower — to tens of thousands of borrowers who simply were not qualified to carry those loans.

At one point, Countrywide boasted of a record of $28 billion of mortgages written in a single month of lending, with many of those loans underwritten using the shoddiest of underwriting standards.

Consider these unemployment numbers for Florida:  In 2005-2006, unemployment bottomed out at 3.3%, right when all that subprime lending was going on.  With the subsequent tanking of the economy, due in large part to the collapse of the subprime market because of the fraudulent lending practices of Countrywide and others, unemployment in Florida skyrocketed to 11.4% in mid-2009, and remains to this day at or above 9%.

Florida also boasts one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, particularly on condominiums which were built (or overbuilt) in response to the new demand that all that subprime lending had created.  When the bubble burst, construction on half-finished developments came to a halt. Buyers who had bought into these developments were stuck with properties that were worth pennies on the dollar compared to what they now owed.  These early owners also took on the obligations of the condominium associations, the expense of which was to have been spread across dozens or hundreds of owners and now consequently was legally required to be borne by those unlucky few.

So, when the GOP opted to hold its convention in Tampa, organizers apparently were completely unaware of the optics of this choice.  Add to the bad optics of this backdrop the fact that the presumptive GOP candidate is touting a return to (or a doubling down on) the same economic policies that created this financial disaster, and it becomes hard to think that there won’t be some pretty significant negative repercussions for the Republicans.

The Democrats would be fools not to make hay out of this hypocrisy.  My guess is that the haymaking is already underway.

 

 

Glare Ice from the Dick

If you’ve ever wondered how a transcript can fail to take nuance into account, consider the following exchange yesterday between Dick Cheney and Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: You know, we’re out of time, but a couple of issues I want to raise with you: your daughter, Mary. She’s pregnant. All of us are happy she’s going to have a baby. You’re going to have another grandchild. Some of the — some critics are suggesting — for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family, “Mary Cheney’s pregnancy raises the question of what’s best for children. Just because it’s possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father doesn’t mean that it’s best for the child.” Do you want to respond to that?

CHENEY: No.

BLITZER: She’s, obviously, a good daughter —

CHENEY: I’m delighted I’m about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf. And obviously I think the world of both my daughters and all of my grandchildren. And I think, frankly, you’re out of line with that question.

BLITZER: I think all of us appreciate —

CHENEY: I think you’re out of line.

BLITZER: We like your daughters. Believe me, I’m very sympathetic to Liz and to Mary. I like them both. That was a question that’s come up, and it’s a responsible, fair question.

CHENEY: I just fundamentally disagree with you.

BLITZER: I want to congratulate you on having another grandchild.

Absent from the written transcript are the icy glares of the VP, along with Blitzer’s bad-little-boy look when Cheney challenged him. Blitzer’s physical reaction to Cheney made a deer in the headlights seem like a Tibetan monk deep in meditation. (CNN has also conveniently edited out all of the uncomfortable pauses from the video that they now have posted on their website.)

Here’s the unedited version:

Mary Cheney herself is a public figure. For whatever reason, she decided to go public about her homosexuality and her surrogacy. (She conveniently managed to avoid talking about any of that until there was a book deal in the works and until her father’s tenuous 2004 election campaign was already over with.) How absurd that Daddy Dick considers all of this a private matter.

The fact that Dick can’t own up to this is newsworthy, particularly because the administration that Dick so staunchly defends (perhaps “barricades” would be a better word) is making policy decisions about gay marriage, gays in the military, etc. Why shouldn’t he have to explain his position and the disparity between his personal life (the oh-so-sacred family) and his public positions? Cheney, as a man with apparently no conscience, simply cannot reconcile the fact his job was made possible in part by organizations like Focus on the Family, who condemn his own daughter without compunction. So his only option is to lash out. What a scumbag.

It was not, however, Blitzer’s only option to weenie out and back away. Apparently, he’s been following Larry King’s lead when it comes to follow-up questions. I got news for you, Wolf. The tension that you almost created but then backed away from is what makes both good journalism and compelling television.

Will Rove’s Behavior Finally Catch Up With Him?

Almost lost in all the hoopla about the most recent rerun of a rerun of a rerun (a/k/a the State of the Union address) was the juicy news coming from the first day of Scooter Libby’s trial. Libby is accused of perjury related to the leaking of Valerie Plame‘s identity as a covert CIA agent.

Libby’s lawyer, Theodore V. Wells, Jr., seemed completely ready to toss Karl Rove and unnamed White House officials to the wolves in an attempt to build a plausible defense for Libby. He’s basically accusing Karl of using Scooter as a scapegoat to protect himself and the Republican party. (There’s more detail in The New York Times or The Washington Post.)

It’s too early to tell if Wells’ assertions have enough to substantiate them. But one can only hope this is Karl’s comeuppance. Will this be Rove’s undoing? Or will this greased pig slip away one more time?

Sense and Sensenbrenner

I fired this missive off to the good congressman today, in response to his bad behavior. (You can view the background information here.)

Congressman Sensenbrenner —

I hope you are ashamed of your behavior today in shutting down a duly-called committee hearing regarding the Patriot Act, although I fear from your brazenness that you may be incapable of shame. Your attempts to silence the voices that might hold opinions that differ from your lockstep party line subvert the democratic process in ways that I have never previously witnessed.

Your actions are those of a man who desperately fears that his party is losing its vice-grip on the nation, so you must resort to bullying. But your behavior also tells me that you’re not clever enough to figure out that such actions only serve to galvanize your opposition. Your strategy isn’t even very smart politically.

Worst of all, such blatantly partisan manipulation doesn’t serve the interests of the country, because if we can’t deal with situations fully and truthfully, how can legislation be crafted that genuinely serves our needs? Isn’t that what you were elected to do?

Hard vs. Easy

‘There are hard cases and there are easy cases. This is an easy case.’ So said U.S. District Judge Denny Chin regarding the lawsuit that Fox News brought against Al Franken. In their overzealous attempt to squelch any criticism of their totally biased, right-weighted news coverage, Fox tried to get an injunction against the publication of Al Franken’s book ‘Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.’ Chin quickly dismissed Fox’s suit and did not grant the injunction.

Fox tried to win the injunction on the flimsiest of premises — that Franken was in violation of copyright law by using the phrase ‘fair and balanced’ in the subtitle of his book. Now, I ain’t no lawyer, and I’ve never even played one on TV, but I know enough about the law to know that their claim was frivolous at best. It is considered fair use (or maybe I should say ‘fair and balanced use’) to utilize portions of an original work in a work of satire. (For corn sake, Mad Magazine would have been stopped in its tracks forty years ago if that weren’t the case.) Secondly, the phrase itself is completely part of the vernacular. (Maybe I’ll attempt to trademark the words ‘salt and pepper’ to see if I can drum up a few extra bucks in lawsuits.)

How ironic it is that Fox feels the need to manage its viewers’ expectations by relentlessly promoting itself as ‘fair and balanced,’ instead of (heaven forbid) actually being fair and balanced.

The delicious part is that all the attention garnered on this suit has helped catapult the book to the second place on Amazon.com‘s bestseller list on its first day of publication.