19 August 2006

Unlimited Terms of Endearment Part XII: Adrift In A Sea Of Lies (And Cash)

Follow the Money

I am going to put aside my journalist's hat for a moment here, and pick up my social critic's tinfoil hat, so be forewarned.

Today, in the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal-Star, an impossibly snooty Heather Wilhelm decided to snark the redoubtable newspaper for ... well, let's let HER explain it (all the while, please remember that Ms. Wilhelm is the "Communications Director" and PR flack for Howie Rich's ALG, USTL, Club For Growth State Action, et al, and politesse would seem to suggest that one obtains more flies with honey than with vinegar, but let's let "Vinegar" Heather Wilhelm do her thang):
A less dramatic story

I was surprised to see your article on Americans for Limited Government ("Group led by N.Y. mogul funded petition drives," Aug. 10), especially since no one contacted me for comment.

Perhaps that was part of the plan, since the reality of the situation is much less dramatic than your story implied. It's also much more mundane than conspiracy theorists - or those who would like to distract from the real issues at hand - would like.

Americans for Limited Government is proud to support groups that are working for limited, accountable government across the country. We broadcast this on our Web site, in our newsletters and in just about every communication we have with reporters. I guess we could skywrite it over Omaha, but then fans of big government would probably accuse us of subliminal advertising.

It's no secret that we're helping out the Nebraska SOS coalition. This year, we have been inundated with requests from local groups for help, and we're happy to do so.

As for America at its Best, it is another group that shares our mission: helping local activists in their uphill climb against big money, special interests, and, often, politicians. They have done a great job of supporting campaigns for responsible state spending, which is precisely why we support them. When it comes to other issues, on health care or otherwise, America at its Best will fund who it chooses to fund.

If it decided to fund, say, a Center for Responsible Journalism, it would be completely free to do that. In fact, that's sounding like a better idea all the time.

Heather Wilhelm,
Chicago,
director of communications,
Americans for Limited Government
Get it? A "Center for Responsible Journalism." This, from our bargain-basement Phillips Foundation Fellow, best known for snarking France, Chicago, Mooooslims for song lyrics, et al, etc. The sheer hypocrisy of a hate-filled, pretentious pseudo-journalist snarking that a newspaper ran a report on her nest of vipers and DARED to NOT allow her to give the story her spin is ... irresponsible journalism?

But let's take Heather's epistolary mendacity point by point:

1. Heather is surprised that no one contacted her for comment. Get over it, Heather. She herself has a long 'journalistic' track record of writing vicious attacks without bothering, herself, to ask for comment.

The Sand Creek, Oklahoma church story is only the latest example. A slanted tale, based on an untruth (that eminent public domain was being used to take a black Baptist church, when no such action was threatened or provably contemplated) without bothering to ask city officials for comment? What pot is lecturing which kettle? Hmmm.

2. Now, Ms. Wilhelm decides to duck into the Twilight Zone:

"Perhaps that was part of the plan, since the reality of the situation is much less dramatic than your story implied. It's also much more mundane than conspiracy theorists - or those who would like to distract from the real issues at hand - would like."

Paranoia? Or the barest hint of "the LIBERAL MEDIA" saw? Well, Lincoln, Nebraska is no hotbed of wild liberalism, Ms. Wilhelm might note. But the accusation of a conspiracy is a nice pre-emptive strike, and will set up her NEXT accusation of "conspiracy theorists" below. (The "skywrite it" comment -- which doesn't seem to quite parse in English, alas. 'Sky-ligraphy,' perhaps?)

Joe McCarthy would surely be pleased at this mini-masterpiece of dark innuendo. I'm sure that I'm one of the "conspiracy theorists" she refers to. But there is a difference between the faux slur of "conspiracy theorists" and the actual evidentiary exposition of an actual conspiracy.

("I hold here in my hand the names of Communists ..." Turned out finally that Senator Joe's manila folder contained no names. Just blank paper. But nobody ever called his bluff.)

But, if not a conspiracy -- ALG, USTL, et al -- why, then do they go out of their way to hide contributions, involvement, and their actions? And why is William Wilson of Fairfax, Virginia the treasurer of IRS record for BOTH the ALG (Chicago, IL) and America At Its Best (Either Kalispell, Montana, or Boise, Idaho, depending on the state that money's being sent to)?

I've outlined the sleazy money transfers and the shell game of phony foundations at enough length that this accusation is merely laughable. (See Part IV: The Friends of Howie Rich, etc.)

And more than a bit paranoid: Heather pooh-poohs the demonstrable truth as karaaaazy "conspiracy theory" when she has not a chance in hell of proving that it's not.

So, in finest mendacious form she merely denies and moves on. Fiat lux (or, in this case, fiat id est).

The classic talk-show strategem: facts by fiat without any actual facts. "It IS so because I SAY it is so."

But who the heck are YOU? Oy.

3. "proud to support" groups all across the country and "inundated with requests." Then how come ALG manages to fund at nearly 100% levels when all those (by implication) grass roots people are just DEMANDING help? Don't they have any money? And where are their supporters? We have tried and tried, and can never find enough local supporters to fill a small elevator, but that's the long-repeated and oft-cited lie that's the favorite of the Friends of Howie Rich: "The PEOPLE" will be in charge. "THE PEOPLE" are doing this.

Bullshit. This is yet another machiavellian manipulation by a tight little gaggle of irresponsible and unresponsive plutocrats. They hide their cash (although I can guarantee you that if you oppose their ballot 'initiatives' they will outspend you 6-1, historically), their connections, and claim to be populists.

They create political mischief for well over a decade, but their "term limits" battle doesn't seem to apply to them. They create political firestorms, change constitutions, but are immune to the after effects: they do not live in the affected states.

But the normal rules of civil behavior don't apply. If someone questions you, ATTACK.

Heck. Heather just did. And, while dumping her nauseating little load of sarcastic treacle -- How DARE you question us? -- even manages a bit of martyrlike nobility. WE, who give so much, and YOU, who disobey the canons of JOURNALISM! Zowie. I mean, who would dare question ALG's own Heather?

OK: I dare. Back up ONE assertion, Heather. And live up to ONE 'journalistic' standard whose alleged absence you decry (de crocodile tears, evidently). Thus far, you're rather long on bullshit and short on facts. And, lest you think I'm not a supporter of equal rights for women: If you were a man, I'd promise I'd think you were just as full of shit.

How's that for egalitarianism? It's sure less nauseating than as load of faux populism spewed from a rhetorical satrap operating for crypto-Croesuses.

4. "It's no secret that we're helping out the Nebraska SOS coalition." No: but it IS a secret who "We" are, isn't it? And it's not like there was any attempt to "announce" the fact. Mostly, the spokesmen for ALG's causes deflect the question: "It doesn't matter where the money comes from" say they. Not exactly "no secret," after all. This is known as a "weasel."

5. Wilhelm continues: "We broadcast this on our Web site, in our newsletters and in just about every communication we have with reporters. I guess we could skywrite it over Omaha, but then fans of big government would probably accuse us of subliminal advertising."

This statement is such a slimy agglutination of fallacies that it's hard to know where to begin. That they broadcast a 'message' doesn't mean it's true. Many messages that we hear aren't true. We all know that. Nonetheless, the assertion is made irrespective of, like, rational thought.

But creating a straw man that they'd "skywrite it over Omaha" not only betrays the fact that Heather has no idea where Lincoln is (hint: it's 59 miles more or less due West of Omaha), but she also reveals an imperious sense of haughty rebuke for having DARED to question the integrity and/or methods of Americans for Limited Government, U.S. Term Limits, Club for Growth, States (all at that 30 Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois address, and evidently staffed and serviced by UNPAID interns.)

That's not the snippy mouthpiece of a self-appointed oligarchy? These are NOT 'malefactors of great wealth'? (To borrow Teddy Roosevelt's 1895 phrase).

Good grief. Let's take the emotional interpretation and baggage of the phraseology out of it, and just examine the statement:

"Americans for Limited Government is proud to support groups that are working for limited, accountable government across the country." That begs the question of what sort of 'groups' and how many collaborators are necessary to form a 'group'? When the initiatives are supplied, when local agents are hired, when money sluices in at just exactly the same flow necessary to a) pay the armies of the lowest-paid legal migrant workers in America to collect signatures like farmers used to pay per ton of cotton picked; b) when the only money that remains in the state are a few thousand dollars to a Public Relations Firm; c) several thousand dollars to hire a 'paid spokesperson' in the state, and for office and legal services from a cyber-lawyer in the Omaha suburbs; d) to send $1.7 million dollars through the state without hardly any 'sticking' in the state, and only perhaps a handful of local donations ...

WHERE are these "groups" to which Ms. Wilhelm refers? Sounds more like hired hands doing Howie Rich's bidding. (And by Howie Rich, I mean a mysterious cluster of monied Molochians scattered across the land.)

Did you know that in 2002 in Idaho, less than $8000 was contributed by Idahoans on a "Term Limits" initiative, that $500,000 plus was contributed by the USTL group of astroturf foundations, and another $100,000 plus by one woman in Hayden, Idaho?

She'd only moved to the state in 1992, after sitting on the board of e-trade, and had been a Manhattan investment 'professional' for years before her delightful semi-retirement in Idaho resort country. But she's not nearly as interesting as her husband, the former CEO of Clorox, Inc, and who sits or sat on the boards of Unocal, The Potlatch Corporation (hint: other board members are named, often, "Weyerhauser.")

Somehow, one finds it astonishing to assert that the Idaho vote (won by 52-48 after Rich & Co. spent nearly six times as much on the campaign as the opposition, who mostly entirely came from Idaho) was a 'people's movement.'

Vox populi: vox bullshit.

No?

Well, the plutocrats have certainly learned the old Joe Goebbels advertising lesson: Repeat the big lie often enough and it becomes the truth.

They don't waver, they don't vary the message. In every state I've shown you, you get the same denials from each spokesman -- whether said spokesman is brother to a member of the board or not: We didn't spend that money. It doesn't matter where the money comes from. It's those POLITICIANS and SPECIAL INTERESTS (like the "Chamber of Commerce" in Arkansas and Michigan campaigns) that are keeping "THE PEOPLE" from being "in charge." (They like that "in charge" soundbite, and use it at every opportunity.)

OK. I'll bite. Where's all the people? I mean, if everyone who wasn't receiving remuneration in each state stepped away from the "grass roots" campaigns of the ALG, I have a feeling that you'd have a rough time rounding up enough players for a game of solitaire.

6. "It's no secret that we're helping out the Nebraska SOS coalition. This year, we have been inundated with requests from local groups for help, and we're happy to do so."

And Brutus is an honorable man. Onward.

7. "As for America at its Best, it is another group that shares our mission: helping local activists in their uphill climb against big money, special interests, and, often, politicians. They have done a great job of supporting campaigns for responsible state spending, which is precisely why we support them. When it comes to other issues, on health care or otherwise, America at its Best will fund who it chooses to fund."

The Reagan Meander is best described as an exercise in dream logic: string several points together that ARE connected, but not connected logically: teddy bear, baby, bath, candles, candlelight dinner, what's for dinner tonight? and where did I put my keys?

By the time you get to the end, you can't remember that you started out with "teddy bear." Teddy is long gone. Now, just do that with an accusation and you've got a Classic Meander:

America At Its Best is "another group" that "shares our mission." This, of course, begs the question.

Well, is it another group? It was formed this year, and has received almost all of its largesse from Howard Rich-associated groups, and its oft-times partner the National Taxpayer Union. Its "president" is Laird Maxwell, who runs the Idaho franchise of NTU (He met his new bride at the 2005 NTU conference) and told a Boise reporter last week that while he doesn't know "Howie Rich" he'd gone to Rich and said: "I've got the time, and you've got the money. Let's make this thing happen."

OK: they share the ALG mission. But a "separate group"? No time to process THAT question, though, because ANOTHER astonishing assertion is about to be made:

"helping local activists in their uphill climb against big money, special interests, and, often, politicians."

Right. It's them rich bastards! (Oh. We're rich bastards. Dang. Hope nobody notices. Well, we don't pay our office 'interns' and we barely pay our petition gatherers, so I guess nobody will notice that we have truckloads of money. Well, except for those amazing C&Es filed in every campaign in every state in the West this year -- EXCEPT Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah).

Them RICH BASTARDS are keeping the "local activists" downhill, apparently. And ... hunh?

Teddy Bear.

But the meander hasn't concluded yet. Not by a long shot. The next statement is the doozy:

8. "They have done a great job of supporting campaigns for responsible state spending, which is precisely why we support them."

Excuse me? AAIB has only existed THIS year, and only WITH massive ALG funding. How could they have a track record, and what is the meaningless tautology "which is precisely why we support them"? unless it's a clever way of saying that we pay them well, and that they do what we say while SEEMING to say that "we agree with their lofty accomplishments." Because, of course, they HAVE no accomplishments.

A tautology is a statement that is self-evidently 'true' but tells us nothing: we support them because they do what we support them doing. (And, by implication: "Would you DARE ask that we DON'T support them because they do what we support them doing?") The argument veers improbably close to being a double negation of a double negation, ergo: No, NOT! Yes, NOT! No, not yes NOT! No, yes NOT no not!

["Duck season!" "Wabbit season!!"]

Teddy bear.

9. Ms. Wilhelm, undaunted, continues: "When it comes to other issues, on health care or otherwise, 'America At Its Best' will fund who it chooses to fund."

Leaving aside for a moment the 1984-ish nomenclature of "America At Its Best," Howie's Heather has cooked up a whopping souffle of meander.

Which is the final meander: that a group funneling, now, literally millions of dollars into Nebraska via a Kalispell, Montana lawyer's office, HAS AN ABSOLUTE RIGHT to do whatever with their money that they want to do.

Oh. Sorry, we ....

WAIT A MINUTE.

The assertion begs the question and is constructed by-the-numbers from the textbook that our modern mendacious seem to have purchased (at reduced prices) from the Heritage Foundation (or another).

You can't argue with it because it doesn't make sense.

Teddy bear.

It SEEMS to say that the Mysterious Brotherhood of America At Its Best (which does not reveal its donors, EXCEPT in Nebraska, whose 1997 sunshine law demands it) are saints and sanctified holy servants of democracy, above reproach, incorruptable, and able to wear white clothes without ever getting spots or stains on them.

Which utterly begs the question: who the heck ARE these guys? I mean, all we have is Heather Wilhelm's devastating sarcasm, and withering media criticism, and her shrill-yet-irrational screeching about the HIDEOUS VICIOUS UNWARRANTED SUSPICION of the mysterious benefactors who remain mysterious and are seeming less and less like benefactors.

Teddy bear.

10. And now, the coup de grace, the matador's killing stroke from Heather Unleashed:

"If it [AAIB] decided to fund, say, a Center for Responsible Journalism, it would be completely free to do that. In fact, that's sounding like a better idea all the time."

You are irresponsible journalists and AAIB may decide to GET YOU! (Hideous cackle undoubtedly suppressed.)

Oh, but we can't criticize YOU, right?

Teddy bear with fangs.

I don't know about Howie, but attacking local media doesn't seem like a great start to a sly campaign of pseudo-populism aided and abetted with humongous media buys late in the campaign (past experience suggesting future action to a high degree).

After all, it's the "people" who count. At least their votes do, and they're prepared to pay ten, fifteen and even twenty dollars per vote to fill up them ballot boxes. (Not direct bribery, of course, just more advertising shekels than the local TV and radio stations have seen in many a moon.) Besides, as most modern post-mortem political studies show, there's a direct correlation between money spent and campaigns won. The exceptions only prove the rule.

Were I Howie Rich, though, I'd caution my propaganda minister that Public Relations people do best when they attack local media least. The idea isn't to cold-cock them; it's to SEDUCE them. And Heather's letter was anything but seductive -- unless, of course, you're into S&M.

Of course, if all else fails, their messages can always be limned in skywriting over Omaha. I'm sure that the staff at Strategic Air Command Headquarters at Offutt AFB just south of Omaha will love it.

It's not like they don't have the cash.

Courage.
.

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