New Gingrich: In the Lobby with Lobbyists

Newt Gingrich loves to make sure everyone knows that he isn’t a lobbyist, but with Bloomberg News reporting that he made between 1.6 and 1.8 million consulting for Freddie Mac, Gingrich appears to be playing the semantic game.

Image from the Daily Kos

When asked about his “lobbying” activity Gingrich is suspiciously vague.

First, he told CNBC that he was strictly a “historian” for Freddie Mac, making him one of the most well paid historians of all time. Plato’s account of Atlantis wouldn’t even fetch a price that high. Next, when asked on Fox News Channel about his consulting work Gingrich told Sean Hannity that he was just doing his civic duty.

” As a citizen, I’m allowed to have an opinion.” he said.

But most citizen’s aren’t paid millions of dollars for their “opinion”. And that “opinion” isn’t informed and connected to politicians and an insider culture of power elite. Bloomberg goes on to say (unfortunately with anonymous sources):

Former Freddie Mac officials familiar with his work in 2006 say Gingrich was asked to build bridges to Capitol Hill Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company’s public-private structure that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it.

 

Building bridges between politicians and the private sector is what lobbying is all about. In most job descriptions for historian there isn’t a bridge building clause. And with regards to the whole citizen defense, since when do any of us get paid to be citizens? If that’s a paying job sign me up.

Gingrich likes to walk a slimy rope between lobbyist and “citizen”. Ultimately he defends himself by saying that he is paid for opinions he already has, so the money doesn’t influence what he already believes. From the New York Times piece:

Referring to the health records issue Mr. Gingrich said, “I happen to believe if you’re traveling — as you do — and you get into a car wreck or have a stroke or something happens, we ought to be able to instantaneously access a record to know exactly what medicine you’re taking; to be able to provide you a treatment in the emergency room without risking killing you. I believe this very deeply,” he said.

 

He continued, “If Newt Gingrich believes that, happens to also be working with companies that care about that, and I go walk in to see friends of mine to talk about the issue, they’re responding to what Newt Gingrich believes. Because they know that I don’t go out and say ‘Tell me what you believe in — I’ll be for apples this week if you’ll pay me for apples.’ I walk in and say ‘Look, this is what I believe in.’”

 

The Colbert Report says it best:

 

Luckily for Gingrich a lot of very elite and wealthy people believe in the same things. What he doesn’t understand is that he is the poster boy for something that the everyday citizen doesn’t believe in: the revolting door culture of Washington. Whether Gingrich calls himself a lobbyist or not isn’t the real issue. Most people will look at Gingrich as a facilitator between private interest and members of Congress. So, from a citizen giving out my opinions for free I have to ask Gingrich: Where is my check?

 

 

Governor Goes for Hair Pull, Girl Reaches for First Amendment

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has switched roles with an 18 year-old high school girl. The girl, Emma Sullivan, tweeted to her friends that the governor “sucked” while he gave a speech at her school and the governor is like totally angry at that stupid bitch.

Of course, his office monitors all mention of the governor’s name on Twitter and decided to take the step of informing the girl’s principal, who mediated the two bickering sides and came to the conclusion that Sullivan should write Brownback a letter of apology.

Let the hair pulling, Facebook attack messaging, “That bitch said what?!?!” commence. It’s going to be a smack-down in the lunch room and the governor isn’t taking his promise ring off before he starts slapping.

But wait…. O snap. This 18 year-old girl took the high road and left the governor kicking a single mattress that his parents bought. That’s right, she refused to sign a letter of apology and doubled down, asking instead to sit down with the governor and have a conversation about her policy disagreements. The governor’s office did what any privileged click would do: they ignored her, and have since ignored requests from NPR to comment. What a world we live in; a high school girl defends the First Amendment as a governor complains that he doesn’t, in fact, suck. You’ve got to give this girl credit, she didn’t even make fun of his name. And it’s so easy.

King Bloomberg’s Proclamation: NO PAGES ALLOWED!

Mayor Bloomberg seemed smugly happy about his eviction of the sleeping Occupy Wall Street protestors in the middle of the night on Tuesday. He took full responsibility at the press conference that morning, saying,

We have been in constant contact with Brookfield and yesterday they requested that the City assist it in enforcing the no sleeping and camping rules in the park. But make no mistake – the final decision to act was mine.

But if Mayor Bloomberg was so pleased with his large scale police action, including reports of an LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) being deployed in the streets, why didn’t he let any of the press cover it?

There are multiple reports from journalists who experienced violence by the NYPD and were denied access to the operation. Journalists who were corralled and kept away from the scene, and reporters from the New York Times and NPR who were arrested. CBS News has confirmed that the airspace in Lower Manhattan was restricted, making it impossible for images of the operation to be broadcast from the air.

The restriction of press coverage of the OWS raid is one of the most unsettling revelations to come out of the NYPD’s operation of overwhelming militarized force. Initial reports that tear gas was used on the protestors hasn’t been confirmed, presumably because no one was allowed to cover it and anyone that was tear gassed is still sitting in jail. The press in Lower Manhattan were restricted on Tuesday more than in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.

With press censorship systematic during the NYPD raid journalists set up #mediablackout on twitter to spread instances of repression and censorship by police officers. One photographer was shoved away when he tried to photograph a protestor being led to an ambulance on a stretcher.

Bloomberg later said that there weren’t any serious injuries. But what happened to the guy on the stretcher? And what about City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who was arrested and last seen bleeding from the head? I suppose Mayor Bloomberg didn’t consider his injuries “serious” enough.

According to Bloomberg press were kept from covering the raid out of fear for their safety, but does that mean reporters are safer in a war zone than they are in one of the riches areas of Manhattan? And what does that say about the CBS news helicopter? It’s completely false to imply that covering the NYPD using military tactics on peaceful civilians is a danger to journalists. Bloomberg violated the First Amendment and stifled freedom of the press in the name of state secrecy and government repression. New York was a police state on Tuesday. We need to remind King Bloomberg that New York isn’t in Syria. The only danger on Tuesday was the power elites silencing the truth, then covering it up with the thinnest of veiled excuses.

Technocrats: the Waiters of Austerity

The debt problem in the European Union has led to the ousting of prime ministers from two countries, Italy and Greece. With George Papandreou and Silvio Burlusconi stepping down amid a toppling house of cards made of debt that threatens the integrity of the EU,  a new class of leader appointed by elite interests has emerged as a hope for stability: the technocrat.

Both the successors of these elected politicians have been called technocrats by newspapers all over the world, but the idea of a technocrat in charge looks more like a reliance on mysticism than a commitment to democracy. A recent Slate article notes that a technocrat is:

“An expert, not a politician. Technocrats make decisions based on specialized information rather than public opinion. For this reason, they are sometimes called upon when there’s no popular or easy solution to a problem (like, for example, the European debt crisis). The word technocrat derives from the Greek tekhne, meaning skill or craft, and an expert in a field like economics can be as much a technocrat as one in a field more commonly thought to be technological (like robotics).”

So, the technocrat is appointed and all of the problems of these countries are solved, right? These men are considered experts in the systems which dominate world relations, namely free-market capitalism. But what if the system is the problem? Working under the assumption that no expert can fix a flaw deeply embedded in the ideology, in the very fabric, of our globalized market system the adventure of the technocrat could be a folly without end. The technocrat isn’t concerned with giving voice to the of the Greek or Italian people, that isn’t his job. In this case his only job is to avoid default. Unfortunately for the people of these two Mediterranean countries default is exactly what is going to save them from the market’s heavy handed dish of austerity, a dish best served to the unrefined palate of the middle class.

 

 

Anarchy in P.A.

How do you frenzy a crowd to the point of violence? Ask the Penn State board of trustees. Penn state is one of the most tight knit universities in the country, if anyone has actually been to State College it becomes obvious that there isn’t anything in that town besides the university. So, it kind of makes sense that when the unofficial sage of collegiate sports, probably the only “celebrity” within 100 miles of Penn State,  is so unceremoniously fired people are going to be a little pissed off. The groan during the press conference was palpable, and that was just from the typically unemotional press corp.

Outside, however, things got real. Students literally ran to the “protest” and things quickly escalated. Then they took it downtown. Cars were dented, bottles and rocks were thrown, and for the finale a news van was toppled over. A news van…why? If anything this whole episode shows how important sports still are in American life, more important than say, I don’t know…politics. People can barely get off their asses to vote, let alone protest. But fire my coach? Hell no!

Spontaneous violence is deeply emotional, and it’s obvious that these kids respected Joe Paterno like no one else at the university. Sure, he had the most wins in college football history, but it baffles me that no one stopped for a second and said to themselves “wait, it’s only football”, I’m going to just go start (or keep) drinking.

The board of trustees made a terrible decision by holding a press conference at 10 PM on a Wednesday, at a university. That’s four hours of solid drinking time for a determined 19 year old. Alcohol escalates emotion, emotion creates tension, tension leads to violence, and then the newsman better watch the hell out, cause his van is gonna get it.

Maybe anarchy can take a page from the Penn State book. I just have to wonder if it would be helpful for the anarchists uniform to change. I say do away with the black bandanna, scummy black jeans with do-it-yourself patches and fingerless gloves. Instead put on a pair of grey sweatpants, light running shoes, and put a t-shirt on your head. I have a feeling one of those string backpacks can fit more than a few Molotov cocktails. And you can easily dodge pepper spray bombs with those nimble shoes. Just throwing it out there.

Occupy Wall Street and the Mainstream Media, or–What’s my Job again?

What's my job again?

Occupy Wall Street is putting new issues on the table that the mainstream media is all too happy to sweep under the rug, namely growing wealth inequality. The media has increasingly proved itself to be ill-equipped at representing the voice of anyone except the elites of the United States, but the Occupy movement has really thrown a wrench in the machine, bringing events to people before journalists have an opportunity to put their pants on.

The question has become: Why even read the media when you can get the events straight from the source? Video cameras and photography are much better at providing the reality of what’s happening on the ground during this protest movement, so what’s the point of reading the hollow words of some reporter who looks to be more out of touch than a grandpa at a dub-step show? Has the media lost it’s value at showing people the “truth”?

A recent piece in the New York Times puts the head-scratching of elite journalists into glaring perspective. The Times

“reached out to journalists outside The Times who have been editors and understand the challenge of mobilizing reporters and editors to cover complex stories.”

The responses were pretty pathetic. Including an illuminating response from a former editor of the Lexington Herald-Ledger, “If I were an assigning editor, I’d start with the basic 5 W’s and How,” he said.

Really? So you would do what every journalism student is taught on the first day of journalism school. What a novel idea. The Times is so out of touch with what is going on at Liberty Square they are grasping in the dark for a direction. Sure, the story is huge in terms of scope and geographical area, but come on. Might I recommend maybe going down there to talk to people directly? Conduct an interview and some of that other reporting stuff journalists used to do.