political convention

political convention

Monday, March 5, 2012

Andrew Breitbart Lives

Andrew Breitbart, a longtime conservative writer, blogger and notorious political provocateur, died March 1 after collapsing on a Los Angeles sidewalk. He was 43. The cause of death wasn’t immediately known. Breitbart gained notariety in 2009 when he and associates distributed an undercover video purporting to show members of ACORN, a liberal voter registration organization, offering assistance to actors posing as a pimp and prostitute. An investigation by the California Attorney General’s office concluded that the video had been selectively edited to show criminal activity when none existed. Nevertheless, a national conservative outcry forced ACORN to cease operation. In 2010 Breitbart was responsible for a video broadcast on cable news that showed Shirley Sherrod, a Department of Agriculture official, speaking to the NAACP about her work in rural Georgia. Sherrod, who is black, acknowledged that she was hesitant to help a white farmer get government aid because of her past experience with racism. However, she later recognized that her feelings were wrong and she successfully helped the man. Breitbart’s video, however, was edited to leave the impression that racial animosity continued to affect her work. As a result of the video, Sherrod was abruptly fired. Later, when it became clear the video was an intentional distortion, Sherrod was offered her old job back, which she declined. She sued Breitbart for defamation and the case is pending.

Note to video editor: Edit to fit highlighted audio.
Andrew Breitbart isn’t really dead.  LaughingStockNation sent out video producers posing as tearful acolytes to investigate his death.  Paramedics were asked to confirm that the body taken to the hospital was Breitbart’s  They said:  "All we know is that we hauled away a very dead middle-aged man.  His identity is unknown."  Later the coroner told us identification of the body awaits lab results. "We are not able to say if  the man is or is not Breitbart."  Our reporters also checked with local people in the area and showed a picture of Breitbart to them.  Asked if a man seen walking away from the scene of the collapse was the same person  in the picture, a news vender said he wasn’t sure.  Later, a spokesperson for Breitbart was asked to describe what his close friends were feeling about Breitbart's mysterious death.  Smiling, he said, we all await the reincarnation, but we are all saddened, of course, by the tragedy.” Asked what he meant by reincarnation, the spokesperson said, “well, we think Andrew may come back as a liberal. Of course, no one associated with a major intellectual force like Andrew believes such nonsense.” He turned with a wink to a stocky man in the far corner of the room wearing a long raincoat and a hat pulled low over his eyes.  

The old saying goes that one mustn’t speak ill of the dead.  But ,why not? They’re dead.  Of course, it’s an open question whether Breitbart has indeed passed on.  As an exposed liar and defiler of accepted ethical standards, there’s more than an even chance he faked his own death. Why would he do that?  Like any conjurer and con artist he needs a break to refresh his act.  It’s a good guess he‘ll turn up at the Democratic National Convention with his concealed video camera to secretly tape President Obama’s remarks to an aide just before his acceptance speech: 

Note to video editor: Edit to fit highlighted audio.
Obama: “After that fiasco at the Republican convention, I’m feeling like….Wow, Romney is a sorry character. He is never going to win. Not a chance.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The news media and the immoderate moderate

Journalists working for media organizations like CNN, the New York Times and NPR have taken up the practice of rating members of Congress on a scale—call it the moderation scale. In the middle are "moderates," the few brave politicians willing to work across party lines to get things done. All the rest are ideologues or political hacks falling at varying distances to the right or left.

The problem with the moderation scale is that it has little to do with what’s really going on in Congress. The prototypical “moderate,” is Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska. Reporters and commentators hail Nelson as an independent whose distain for party loyalty makes him immune to partisan bickering. But is he really moderate in the normal sense of the word—someone who avoids extremes?

Two examples show why Nelson is in fact a conservative who has sided with far-right Republicans on key issues that stir ideological undercurrents.

For months Nelson was an uncompromising holdout during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s healthcare initiative. He threatened to vote with Republicans against the legislation, even though it was the centerpiece of the new Democratic president’s agenda and was supported by most members of his party, as well as a few Republicans.

The proposed law created government programs to address longstanding healthcare problems but also had features that were sympathetic to the needs of private sector players such as hospitals and insurance companies. Legislators not consumed by ideology should have been able to find reasons to support the law, or at least have cause to work with colleagues to address its deficiencies. Nelson, however, stayed in opposition until it looked like he would be the lone senator who could scuttle the bill. He eventually relented and voted in favor, but only after strenuous pressure from the White House and other Democrats. In the end his resistance encouraged lingering doubts about parts of the law and gave cover to right-wing attacks.

More recently, Nelson strayed again from the middle by voting in favor of a harshly ideological amendment to a transportation bill that would have excused employers from providing insurance coverage for contraceptives for female employees. The aim of the Republican-backed legislation was to weaken the Affordable Care Act under the guise of protecting religious freedom. Placing the amendment in a transportation bill was just one small part of this deceitful conservative ploy.

Nelson’s affirmative vote was not motivated by fear of losing his next election. He is about to retire. The only other plausible explanation is that he shares the ideological objectives of the amendment’s right-wing sponsors. Yet the day before the vote he was still being labeled a “moderate” by a network reporter and a cable news commentator.

The moderation scale is deeply flawed when it is used to justify this kind of inaccurate labeling. It is also well off the mark when it suggests, as it does, that there is an equal distribution of “non-moderates” to the left and right of center. The radical right Tea Party House of Representatives should put this idea to rest. So why do reporters and commentators choose “moderate” as the essential category in their version of the political spectrum?

One good answer is that journalists feel most comfortable when they focus on the perceived middle. It helps them avoid unpleasant accusations of bias and it makes it a lot easier for them to do their jobs. For one thing, there’s less pressure to verify the factual accuracy of opposing arguments—the guy in the middle must be right because everyone else has some reason to be unhappy with him.

So in practice the moderation scale is a lousy tool. It has little value as an accurate description of reality and it gives the public the corrosively false impression that simply straddling the border between the two parties is the best and most constructive place for a politician to be.

It’s time for reporters to do the immoderate thing and edit “moderate” from their vocabulary.

Related posts: Tax compromise? For Republicans it adds up to zero, Dec. 7, 2011; 
                             A political dictionary of slippery words, Nov. 24, 2011.

Monday, February 20, 2012

LaughingStockNation endorses Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum says sinful Americans have forgotten the real reason for sex, so banning contraceptives will focus their attention more on procreation and less on promiscuity. He believes children suffer from a public education system run like a factory; home schooling for everyone is the answer, even for children who are homeless. Poor people rely too much on federal handouts; ignoring them will stiffen their resolve to get jobs.  As you can see, Rick Santorum can fix our problems by awakening the soul of America.

Santorum’s followers will tell you that he is more passionate than Romney, more Catholic than  Gingrich, and more Christian than just about everyone else, including you-know-who. As a matter of fact, Rick Santorum aspires to sainthood. And who can doubt he will make it? The U.S. bishops, two of whom have now ascended to the rank of cardinal, practically endorsed him with their recent condemnation of birth control. No other politician, as least in the last half century, has spoken out so firmly on the subject. That’s courageous because most benighted Americans still think sex is at least as fun as playing video games and rarely see it as a legal strategy to grant state-sanctioned personhood.

If Santorum is to succeed, however, he needs to be cautious about a few things. He may lose points when conservatives discover that his parents weren't blue collar factory workers, as the candidate has insinuated. His father was a psychologist and his mother a nurse and they worked for the federal government. Also, given his stance on government and education, he might want to downplay the fact that he attended a public high school and graduated from a state university. Finally, he should reconsider the teary-eyed story of his grandfather, who worked in the coal mines until the age of 72, after which he died. Most people still believe that Social Security, which Santorum has derided, was invented so old people could have a few days of leisure before passing on.

There are also a few things Santorum could do to strengthen his platform.

1. Advocate the elimination of credit cards. They lead to overindulgence and profligacy and the bishops frown on that.

2. Discourage the tendency of Americans to eat more and more of their meals in restaurants. Eating out diminishes the traditional role of women in the household and gluttony is a sin.

3. Support repeal of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Its infamous passage in the early years of the Roosevelt Administration ended prohibition, returning America to its current intemperate condition.

With these modest steps, Santorum will continue on to victory and become the Republican nominee. Imagine what happens next.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Collected Sayings of Mitt Romney

Let them eat food stamps

I’m not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who, right now, are struggling, and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.CNN interview.

No room for democracy

I think it’s fine to talk about those things [inequality, equal distribution of wealth] in a quiet room along with tax policy and the like. –Television interview.

The greening of America

We already have a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy…
I think it’s about envy. It’s about class warfare. I think when you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing Americans based on 99 percent vs. 1 percent…that’s inconsistent with one nation under God. –Television interview.

Is he homeless too?

I should tell my story. I'm also unemployed. –Speech to Florida job seekers.

It’s a tough world even if you own the company

There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip. –Speech to New Hampshire voters worrying about unemployment.

 Metaphorically speaking, that is

You remember during the Ronald Reagan/Jimmy Carter debates? That Ronald Reagan came up with this great thing about the 'misery index,' and that he hung that around Jimmy Carter's neck, and that had a lot to do with Jimmy Carter losing. Well, we're going to have to hang the 'Obama Misery Index' around his neck. And, I'll tell you, the fact that you've got people in this country, really squeezed, with gasoline getting so expensive, with commodities getting so expensive, families are having a hard time making ends meet. So, we're going to have to talk about that, and housing foreclosures and bankruptcies and higher taxation. We're going to hang him —uh, so to speak, metaphorically — with, uh, with, uh — you have to be careful these days, I've learned that, with an Obama Misery Index.—Comments in New Hampshire.

Sounds like a corporate raider but he  just wants to fire his gardener

I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I want to say, you know, I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me. –Comment in New Hampshire.

Personhood for all

Corporations are people, my friend…of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings, my friend—Response to Iowa heckler.