There are Chambers, and then there are Chambers

News Briefs for December 31, 2010, from The New Hampshire Gazette, Volume 255, No. 7, posted on Monday, January 17, 2011.

The concluding portion of this fortnight’s Rant discusses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s central but unadvertised role in initiating the Right Wing’s propaganda war almost forty years ago. While that sordid story can be readily found by anyone who looks for it, relatively few Americans are likely to be aware of it.

In more recent years, though, the U.S. Chamber has been far less bashful about its pro-oligarchy agenda.* As a result of its increasingly thuggish behavior, the national Chamber has finally begun to acquire, among the public at large, the tarnished reputation it has long deserved.

This led us to inquire, in our paper of August 27th, whether there was any connection between the U.S. Chamber of Commmerce, and our local Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce. Doug Bates, President of the local chapter, told us then, “We get asked at least once a week. It’s guilt by association. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce gets no money from us, period. They represent big business and have totally opposed views to ours. We represent small business.”

Despite its admirable clarity, even that statement was not sufficient to ease the mind of one of our faithful readers, so we did a little more digging. We found that the U.S. Chamber’s official website,, confirms what Doug Bates told us: the Greater Portsmouth Chamber’s Membership Expiration Date is listed as “January 31, 2008,” and its Membership Status is listed as “lapsed.”

That seems authoritative enough to us. If anyone still harbors doubts, let us know and we’ll contact our friends in the Spanish Inquisition.

* Oligarchy: A small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution. A state governed by such a group. — New Oxford American Dictionary.

Penny Ante Mercenaries in the Class War

While we were mucking about in the Chamber’s sordid history — appropriately and stylishly attired in a bespoke haz-mat suit, of course — we suddenly found ourselves in No Man’s Land, that hazardous ground where the corporate world clashes with us mere mortals.

First we found a reference to (Astro)Turf Wars, a film by Australian documentarian Taki Oldham. Although we have not seen it, a reliable source (George Monbiot, who writes a column for The Guardian) says it includes “secretly recorded [footage of] a training session organised by a rightwing libertarian group called American Majority [in which the] trainer, Austin James, was instructing Tea Party members on how to ‘manipulate the medium.’ ”

The specific method being illustrated consisted of visiting websites that rate books and movies, and giving low ratings to liberal-leaning examples, and high ratings to conservative/libertarian examples. Ayn Rand gets five stars, Michael Moore gets one. As a result, books and movies that suit the corporate agenda are more highly rated. Later visitors to the site who are susceptible to the herd mentality are thus nudged in the “right” direction.

Nothing very earth-shattering about that, but with a little more poking around we found something amusing on the website, a sputtering accusation that “Taki went undercover as a free-market loving Australian university student, creating a fake blog and a fake study grant as part of his cover,” in an effort to feed “the deceptive narrative that today’s free-market activism is fake.”

Welcome to the Looking Glass. In fact, the Sam Adams Alliance, as Monbiot points out, provides more than 75 percent of the funding for American Majority, the outfit that Oldham caught red-handed training Tea Partiers. And, no, the benificent Sam Adams Alliance is not a project concocted by half a dozen retired school lunch ladies.

The Sam Adams Alliance’s funding situation is at once both murky and dazzling. In 2006 it got by on a mere $400,000 in direct public support. Things looked up in 2007, when plain folks kicked in $1.8 million. Then, suddenly, in 2008, thanks to an anonymous “unusual grant,” it hauled in $4,222,604.*

Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but not long after that sudden influx of funds Denis Calabrese became a Director of the Alliance. Calabrese was formerly the Chief of Staff of ex-Congressman Dick Armey, who gave up governing to become one of the nation’s most energetic practitioners of the art of astroturfing.

* Perhaps the Alliance was aided by the same magical source that provided Congressman Frank Guinta with his mysterious half-million.

[Our thanks to Karoli at for these sordid facts. — The Ed.]

DeLay Sentencing Delay

We’ve had an epidemic of schadenfreudus interruptus in the newsroom since December 20th, when a Texas court postponed the sentencing of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on his felony money laundering conviction. But, relief may be on the way. Austin’s reports that sentencing is now scheduled for January 10th.

Still Dick

Speaking of taking cruel pleasure from the misfortunes of criminals, Dick “Still Dick” Cheney has been back in the news this month. First, on the 17th, the BBC reported that Nigeria had dropped bribery charges against the former Halliburton CEO, after the oil services/defense contracting company agreed to … wait for it … pay a $250 million bribe fine!

Four days later CNN reported that Halliburton had announced it would “pay Nigeria $35 million to settle bribery allegations.” That must have been some tough negotiating, to result in an 86 percent discount. Perhaps Halliburton threatened to unleash Dick.

CNN quoted Cheney’s attorney, Terrence O’Connell, as saying there was “no reason to suspect the former Vice President was guilty of any wrongdoing.” The same story noted that Halliburton had pleaded guilty in the U.S. last year to foreign bribery charges, paid a $402 million fine, and shelled out another $177 million to settle related civil complaints.

So, Halliburton coughs up $579 million in criminal penalties for the bribery of foreign officials. Cheney’s lawyers say there’s “no reason to suspect” he had anything to do with it, and CNN reports it all without a single wisecrack. See? That’s why we could never cut it in the world of corporate media.

The Nation’s John Nichols reported on Monday that Cheney’s “stay out of jail” strategy is running into opposition in Nigeria. A prominent lawyer in that country maintains that, according to Nigerian law, “once a criminal charge has been filed in a competent court, [the] issue of penalty or fine is for the courts to impose and not parties.” Sadly, though, Nichols holds out no hope that Cheney will ever see the inside of a Nigerian jail cell.

Congressman Guinta

The Associated Press reports that in response to a complaint filed by the state Democratic Party, the Federal Elections Commission has assigned a case number to the matter of former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta’s mysterious $500,000 bank account. The Union Leader reports that Guinta should have received notification about a week ago, and will be expected to reply within 15 days.

Business As Usual

Cong. Carol Shea-Porter was interviewed on ABC News on December 23rd. Three days later Shawn Millerick, in a post on his “bipartisan” website,, made it sound like she was blaming the Chinese for her defeat. The next day and the Wall Street Journal’s website repeated that misinformation. did the same thing the following day.

To its credit, reported on the 29th that the story is bogus. They went to the trouble of actually listening to the interview and reported that Shea-Porter had been misquoted.

Hardy? Or Crazy?

On the evening of December 27th, as the bells of the North Church struck seven, the alleged editor of this newspaper observed a young man walking with a group of friends down Congress Street attired in a pair of pants and a T-shirt. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the temperature in Portsmouth at that time was 16.3 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind was blowing at 32 miles per hour. The NWS Wind Chill Calculator states that under those conditions, the apparent temperature is four degrees below zero, but by all appearances the young man seemed perfectly comfortable.

Wikileaks Hacks Flag Police

Little noticed among the flood of items released by Wikileaks was the following transmission from Officer Krupke to the Chief of the Flag Police:

The boys at the Department gagged on their doughnuts when they witnessed this atrocity, this crime against civic virtue, fluttering forlornly o’er a local commercial enterprise. Subpoenas are currently being issued for summary estoppel, discipline, sanctions, and other court-ordered adjudications, per order of the Lord High Executioner.
Officer Krupke

Even accounting for the high winds frequently encountered at this time of year down there at the southwestern end of the North Mill Pond, that’s one nasty looking flag. Good work.
The Chief

Window of Opportunity

As journalists, we are expected by the public to maintain a posture of absolutely rigid objectivity, and to report the news without fear or favor. Despite that stricture, we are pleased to report that Nature has, for once, allowed the Christmas shopping season to come and go without dealing a series of relentless meteorological blows to our local downtown merchants.

Now that the annual religio-commercial extravaganza has been safely concluded, some local businesses may be casting about for a way to prevent their cash registers from seizing up due to lack of use. For them we have some good news: a certain amount of our future advertising space is now available. Those tempted by this opportunity are advised to call (603) 433-9898 without undue delay.

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