The Astroturf on Lambeau Field

To understand the attack on Wisconsin, we need to perform a little “thought experiment.” Take this test with me, OK? (You, too CNN.) Here, in fig. 1 is Frank Zappa:

Now, who is this in fig. 2? (Take your time. Relax. Focus. Concentrate.)

If you are having trouble, I will drop the hint that it is Buster Keaton’s hat from an early silent movie still photograph. OK. Pencils down.

Who is this in fig. 3?

Rest assured, gentle reader, I am not mocking you. (Unless you happen to be reading this at CNN, in which case I AM mocking you.) Now, one more and then we’ll see who got them all correct.

OK. Pencils back down. Or … oh, forget it, CNN: Pencils down.

It is always Frank Zappa. Only the hats have changed.

Now, consider how this completely fools CNN. Here is the “You Don’t Speak for me, Cindy!” [Sheehantour bus in 2005:

Mysteriously, the website plays “Hail Brittania” as you look at the slide show

And here is the “Our Country Deserves Better” tour bus in 2008:

from the press release (.pdf)

And here is the “Tea Party Express” bus in 2010:

 The third tour was kicked off by Sarah Palin in Searchlight, Nev.

And here is the CNN bus, side by side with the TPE III bus (although CNN wasn’t the only one who got TP’ed here):

picture from CNN’s own coverage of the event

And, as I noted, after the election CNN really got into bed with the Tea Party Express [emphasis added]:

December 17th, 2010 12:06 PM ET

CNN and Tea Party Express to host first-of-its-kind Tea Party presidential primary debate

By: CNN Political Producer Shannon Travis

Washington (CNN) – CNN is teaming up with the Tea Party Express for a first-of-its-kind presidential primary debate, both organizations announced Friday. The Tea Party debate, featuring 2012 Republican presidential candidates, is scheduled for Labor Day week 2011. It will take place in Tampa, Florida – the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Since the spring of 2009, the Tea Party movement has been increasingly vocal in advocating for less government spending, lower taxes and shrinking the deficit. The Tea Party debate will place specific emphasis on those issues.

Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer talked to CNN about what activists hope to hear from Republican presidential candidates….

But the “Tea Party Express” is a phony project from a PAC that keeps shifting names, but is an old for-profit Sacramento political GOP Shop, run by Sal Russo of Russo Marsh + Rogers, with Howard Kaloogian, recaller of Calif. Gov. Gray Davis, heading up the PAC:

Sal Russo, Chief Strategist

And here’s Kaloogian (minus bus):

Howard Kaloogian

And, just in case you are still skeptical (or are CNN and are impossibly thick):

Joe Wierzbicki, PAC Coordinator

And here is a link to the SourceWatch article on Wierzbicki‘s activities with the tour:

Our Country Deserves Better

political action committee formed to oppose Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, called “Our Country Deserves Better,” has several officers currently or formerly leaders of MAF. These include MAF co-founder and former chair Howard Kaloogian, who chairs the PAC; PR executive Sal Russo, who serves as chief strategist for both MAF and the PAC; Russo Marsh & Rogers principal Joe Wierzbicki, who serves as grassroots coordinator for M[ove] A[merica] F[orward] and coordinates the PAC; and Marine mom Deborah Johns, who is MAF’s director of military relations and the PAC’s spokesperson. [2]

Note that Johns stayed up through the Tea Party Express phase, left and was replaced by Amy Kremer, who they recruited from the local “tea party” as spokeserpent. She’s only “Chair” because it sounds better than “employee.”

We read on, one more paragraph:


MAF had its beginnings in California’s October 2003 gubernatorial recall election, which movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger won. One month after the election, the Daily News of Los Angeles interviewed Sacramento-based political consultant Sal Russo. “We took on the political establishment and won, and they feel empowered,” said Russo of the 120,000 recall supporters in his database. “They want to be involved. . . . We’ll change the name to something like ‘Move America Forward,'” and go national, he predicted. [6]

Most importantly, however, note that it’s a FOR THE BUCKS operation. They make their living putting on these political stunts, and their track record indicates that, while they are partisan, mostly, they’re opportunists. (If you go to the old Russo Marsh + Rogers website, you’ll get the “Tea Party Express” store.) Here’s his new official “bio.”

Note the contact person for the “Stop Obama” tour

As Kenneth P. Vogel of Politico dug up, this was about making money, pure and simple. Here is the proposal he obtained that Wierzbicki wrote outlining the “Tea Party Express” project. (.pdf) Instead of winning a Pulitzer, a Polk or an Emmy, Vogel was ignored by the CNN/major media crowd.

So, what do you have? At least ONE major news source (not Faux Nooz) in bed with these weasels, giving them credibility and even “partnering” with them for a presidential GOP debate.

THAT is astroturf, kiddies. And Wisconsonians (ites?) don’t use no astroturf on “The Frozen Tundra” of Lambeau Field.

So: Listen to CNN

Tea party groups to join forces in Wisconsin

By: CNN’s Ashley Killough
August 2nd, 2011
05:03 PM ET

(CNN) – Two of the nation’s prominent tea party groups will merge for a Wisconsin bus tour in support of six Republican state senators facing recall elections.

Kicking off their four-day “Restoring Common Sense” tour Friday, Tea Party Nation and Tea Party Express will hold rallies in multiple cities and defend Republicans who supported Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial bill that curbed collective bargaining rights for state employees earlier this year.

“The tea party stands for fiscal responsibility, and Republican Senators in Wisconsin stood firm for those principles,” said Amy Kremer, chair of Tea Party Express. “Now they are under attack for doing the job they were elected to do. It is critical that we support and defend them from these undeserved attacks and in that effort we are proud to be joined by our friends at Tea Party Nation.”

The next round of recalls, scheduled for Aug. 9, is part of a summer long series of elections …

Yeah. If you remember “Tea Party Nation” they were the for-profit bunch that had the “Tea Party” Convention in Nashvillle, Tennessee that cost $549 apiece to attend, with “keynote speaker” Sarah Palin speaking for $349 per ticket to an audience nearly outnumbered by the press (introduced by Andrews Breitbart, naturally).

Latest tea party target: Its own convention

By Kenneth P. Vogel
Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:57pm EST

POLITICO (Washington) – The convention is being held at a fancy resort, features $550 ticket prices, a steak and lobster dinner and a guest speaker with a $100,000 speaking fee. It’s sponsored by a for-profit company with a mysterious wealthy benefactor, and its organizers, who have been accused of secrecy and corruption, have threatened lawsuits against dissenters and clamped down on news coverage….

Or maybe you saw this story that hit the wires on Moon Day, July 20:

Casino, Stiffed by Cancelled Tea Party Convention, Wants Its Money Back

Slate Magazine (blog)
David Weigel – ?Jul 20, 2011?

Ah, Judson Phillips. This blog has previously asked and answered a question: Is the affable leader of Tea Party Nation a real Tea Party player, or is he just a quotable guy who can fill out reporters’ stories and TV bookers’ segments 

Yeah. Phillips allegedly stiffed the Venetian Hotel for over $500,000* when he cancelled another “Tea Party” convention without warning. Evidently they’re not as lucrative as he thought.

[*  Some sources put the figure closer to $642,144.]

My point here is not to belabor the facts. My point here is that only a moron doesn’t know it’s the same bus over and over again with a different paint job.

The “mystery money” behind it?

Gee. I dunno. Why don’t you just take a wild guess?

(I’ll talk about the Kochs tomorrow.)

Now, CNN is not alone. In the “meetoo!” of the blogosphere, 0ther media uncritically jumped on it, like Raw Story.

But it’s still stunts that only seem to bamboozle the media and “tea partiers” —  who have always been difficult to separate from the con jobs who run the astroturf machines for their invisible funders.

It’s about bucks. And it’s about outside groups dumping cash and resources into Wisconsin, and dammit, that’s WRONG.

We need to return the “local” to “local government” and “home” to “home rule.”

Or else it’s just another sleazy publicity stunt.

We’re talking to YOU,  CNN …

Do it while your vote actually still matters. But right now there is now astroturf on Lambeau Field, and it’s headed everybody’s way.


A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.


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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.

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