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“The Decline Of Conservative Publishing”: The Days Of Two-Bit Hacks With Anti-Liberal Screeds Getting On Bestseller Lists Are Over

As a liberal who has written a few books whose sales were, well let’s just say “modest” and leave it at that, I’ve always looked with envy at the system that helps conservatives sell lots and lots of books. The way it worked was that you wrote a book, and then you got immediately plugged into a promotion machine that all but guaranteed healthy sales. You’d go on a zillion conservative talk shows, be put in heavy rotation on Fox News, get featured by conservative book clubs, and even have conservative organizations buy thousands of copies of your books in bulk. If you were really lucky, that last item would push the book onto the bestseller lists, getting you even more attention.

It worked great, for the last 15 years or so. But McKay Coppins reports that the success of conservative publishing led to its own decline. As mainstream publishers saw the money being made by conservative houses like Regnery and the occasional breakthrough of books by people like Allan Bloom and Charles Murray, they decided to get into the act with right-leaning imprints of their own. But now, “Many of the same conservatives who cheered this strategy at the start now complain that it has isolated their movement’s writers from the mainstream marketplace of ideas, wreaked havoc on the economics of the industry, and diminished the overall quality of the work.”

I find that last part puzzling; it isn’t as though the anti-Clinton screeds of the 1990s were carefully researched and written with style, but that didn’t stop them from selling well. It seems as though this is mostly a reflection of the problems in the publishing industry as a whole. But one sub-niche that is definitely suffering is the pre-presidential-campaign book. Bizarrely, publishers still compete fervently to sign every last senator running a quixotic presidential campaign, on the off-chance that he might become president and then his book would sell spectacularly. But all but one of the candidates fails, and then the publishers have wasted their money. Just look at the pathetic sales some of these guys have generated:

For example, Tim Pawlenty, a short-lived presidential candidate in 2012, received an advance of around $340,000 for his 2010 book Courage to Stand. But the book went on to sell only 11,689 copies, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks most, but not all, bookstore sales. What’s more, Pawlenty’s political action committee bought at least 5,000 of those copies itself in a failed attempt to get it on the New York Times best-seller list, according to one person with knowledge of the strategy.

This pattern continues as you scan the works of recent and prospective Republican presidential candidates. According to one knowledgeable source, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker received an even larger advance than Pawlenty’s, and Bookscan has his 2013 book Unintimidated selling around 16,000 copies. Sen. Rand Paul’s latest, Government Bullies, has barely cracked 10,000 sold; and despite spending months in the 2012 GOP primaries, Rick Santorum’s book about the founding fathers, American Patriots, sold just 6,538 copies. Perhaps most surprising, Immigration Wars, co-authored by Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who consistently polls in the top tier of the Republican 2016 field, sold just 4,599 copies.

Meanwhile, Marco Rubio’s 2012 autobiography, American Son, has sold around 36,000 copies — a figure one conservative agent described as “respectable,” before pointing out that Rubio received an astounding $800,000 advance, according to a financial disclosure. The publisher’s bet, he speculated, was that Rubio was going to be selected as Mitt Romney’s running mate. He wasn’t.

Frankly, I have trouble seeing why anyone would want to drop $26 on one of these books, because they’re uniformly awful, even if you really like the guy who “wrote” it. Yet when one after another of these books sells terribly, the publishers keep buying them. This is yet more evidence, in case anyone needed any, that publishers are terrible businesspeople.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, March 20, 2014

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Wall Street That Cried Wolf”: Banks Complain About Onerous New Regulations While Reaping Record Profits

The headlines have been nothing short of dazzling: “Bank of America profits soar“; “Citigroup’s profits surge“;  “Bank boom continues: Goldman Sachs profit doubles.” In fact, the six biggest Wall Street banks – Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley  – all beat their profit expectations in the most recent quarter, according to results announced over the last week. JP Morgan Chase is even on pace to make $25 billion (yes, billion with a b) this year.

If you’re thinking that these numbers don’t at all square with the ominous warnings of bank executives and lobbyists, who have been saying non-stop that new regulations meant to safeguard the financial system and prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis are going to irreparably harm their ability to do business, you’re right. But that hasn’t stopped the banks’ griping.

The latest iteration of this argument played out after regulators recently announced new rules regarding bank capital – the financial cushion banks must keep on hand to guard against a downturn. Failed presidential candidate turned bank lobbyist Tim Pawlenty, for instance, said that the new rules “will make it harder for banks to lend and keep the economic recovery going.” JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who has been scaremongering for years about various regulations, warned that the new rules would put U.S. banks at a competitive disadvantage with foreign lenders.

But this same dynamic has been playing out since the Dodd-Frank financial reform law was signed by President Obama in 2010. Banks and their allies complain about onerous new regulations, while at the same time reaping record profits.

And as the New Yorker’s John Cassidy explained, those profits are due to many of the same practices that helped cause the 2008 debacle in the first place: “an emphasis on trading rather than lending, a high degree of leverage, and implicit subsidies from the taxpayer.” That would seem to make the case that new regulations, rather than going too far, have not gone far enough.

Perhaps that’s why banks haven’t been crowing about their new avalanche of profits, and Dimon is even warning about an upcoming profit squeeze. As the Financial Times’ U.S. banking editor Tom Braithwaite explains:

In the next 12 months the Fed will hit the banks with a new flurry of measures. … Those are coming, they are serious and the banks fear them. There is an outside chance that lawmakers will go even further, such as by restoring the split between investment banking and commercial banking known as Glass-Steagall. There is still plenty to play for in deciding how painful the next round of regulations will be.

But, with every earnings season, warnings of calamity look more and more hollow.

One of the major knocks against Dodd-Frank – beyond the obvious one that it left the biggest banks even bigger than they were before the financial crisis – is that it left too much discretion to regulators to write new rules. Corporations and trade organizations familiar with how the agency rule-writing process works are almost inevitably going to have the upper hand in such a system.  And there are still so many rules left to be written – some 60 percent, according to the law firm Davis Polk – that Wall Street will have ample opportunity to water the law down to meaninglessness.

But it’s hard to keep saying with a straight face that new regulations will spell doom for the industry when the new rules that are in place so far, which were accompanied by similarly dire warnings, have done nothing to even dent Wall Street’s bottom line. In fact, the huge pile of profits may be the best thing that could have happened for those trying to bring a modicum of sanity back to Wall Street regulation.

 

By: Pat Garofalo, U. S. News and World Report, July 18, 2013

July 19, 2013 Posted by | Big Banks, Financial Institutions | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Lord Knows He’s Been Vetted”: A Moment Of Sympathy For Tim Pawlenty

So how would you like to have been Tim Pawlenty yesterday, who was informed not by Mitt himself, but by Tagg Romney that he had been passed over for the vice presidential nomination for the second straight cycle?

It must have been a bitter cup indeed. Four years ago the McCain campaign had all but settled on TPaw before deciding he was such a cipher that he wouldn’t move the dial an inch. Being rejected in favor of Sarah Palin must have seemed, at the time and even more in retrospect, as sorta like getting dumped by your high school sweetheart after years of slavish devotion in favor of that troglodyte who used to beat you up during recess.

So now this time around TPaw spent months hearing that Mitt actually wanted a nondescript running-mate, acceptable to everyone and posing no danger of distracting attention from the Big Chief. Pawlenty certainly qualified, having abundantly demonstrated during his own brief presidential campaign that no quantity of visigothic rhetoric could make hearts beat either for or against him (the efficient cause of his demise, let us remember, was his inability to get a couple of thousand people to show up for him at an event a couple of hours down I-35 from his home state). With no day job, Pawlenty dutifully went wherever the campaign sent him and mouthed its talking-points. And now he’s again passed over in favor of a guy who’s been attacked by the bishops of his own church as somewhat morally depraved, and who, in Charles Pierce’s vivid phrase today, is “still the high-school kid living off Social Security survivor benefits and reading Ayn Rand by flashlight under the sheets.”

Pawenty remains a solid option for a minor cabinet position if Romney-Ryan win, and for all we know, could be on the short list for Veep in 2016 if the ticket crashes and burns. Lord knows he’s been vetted.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 11, 2012

August 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iowa Straw Poll: Let The Fight For The Right Begin

Technically, the margin of victory for Michele Bachmann at Saturday’s Iowa straw poll was slight, with second-place finisher Ron Paul falling just 152 votes (or 0.9 percentage points) short of her tally.

But everyone knows that Paul is a niche candidate. The 27.65 percent that he earned on Saturday is impressive, in that it speaks to the sizable and devoted following he has built, but it’s also probably the same share he would have received if there’d only been two candidates on the ballot, instead of nine.

Bachmann’s real competition was Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who had poured massive time and energy into the straw poll, hoping to post a breakthrough victory — and to stave off an early elimination from the GOP race. As the stakes had crystallized for Pawlenty in the days leading up to the straw poll, he’d even gone on the attack against Bachmann in a desperate effort to peel support from her. Saturday’s results demonstrated forcefully just how futile Pawlenty’s strategy was: He finished a very distant third, with just 13.57 percent, winning fewer than half as many votes as Bachmann.

In other words, this was a very big win for Bachmann. She crushed her biggest mainstream competitor and she avoided the indignity of finishing behind Paul. In the run-up to the straw poll, there was talk that she might be a victim of her own early success — that by making so much noise this spring and summer and moving up so quickly in polling she had set the bar too high for herself. Finishing behind Pawlenty (and Paul, for that matter) would have encouraged this view, raising questions about whether Bachmann really had the staying power and organization to win the Iowa caucuses this winter. But now she’ll leave Ames with the political world taking her more seriously, not less.

And her victory was doubly significant in light of the day’s other major political development: Rick Perry’s formal entry into the GOP race. The Texas governor made his long-expected announcement early in the afternoon at a conservative blogger conference in South Carolina. Perry is a heavyweight candidate, to be sure, and enters with considerable momentum. But he would have even more momentum right now if his announcement had been followed hours later by news of an unexpectedly weak straw poll showing for Bachmann — a development that would have created the immediate possibility of defections of Bachmann supporters to Perry’s side. Perry, after all, is supposedly Bachmann’s worst nightmare — someone who appeals to the same rigidly conservative base she does, but who is far more acceptable to the party’s establishment. Perry may yet end up taking the wind out of Bachmann’s sails, but the straw poll outcome suggests that she’ll put up a whale of a fight.

Thus, the stage is a set for a fascinating battle for the loyalties of the “purist” wing of the party between Perry and Bachmann. Which is very good news for the other major candidate in the race, Mitt Romney, who has also stood to lose by Perry’s emergence. The threat to Romney is that Perry might marginalize Bachmann and gobble up most of her support and that the GOP establishment will then rally around him, judging him to be a safe enough choice and more acceptable to the base than Romney. So the longer Perry is tied down in a fight with Bachmann for the true believer vote, the better Romney has to feel.

And no doubt Perry himself would much rather focus his attention on Romney, whose ideological credentials have long been in doubt and who would be relatively easy to run against from the right. But trying to convince Bachmann supporters to abandon her is far trickier — especially now that the straw poll results have lifted their spirits to the stratosphere.

So if you’re keeping score at home, Saturday was a very good day for Bachmann, and a decent one for Romney. And it wasn’t bad for Perry, either, although he would have preferred to see Bachmann lose the straw poll. It was, however, a dreadful day for Pawlenty, who’s now pretty much run out of time to demonstrate that a candidacy that makes sense on paper is remotely interesting to Republican activists.

 

By: Steve Kornacki, Salon War Room, August 13, 2011

August 14, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Iowa Caucuses, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michele Bachmann’s Views, Not Her Headaches, Make Her Unfit

There is no doubt that Michele Bachmann gives many of us a headache. But to attack her, as Tim  Pawlenty has done in such a sexist way, as unfit to be president because of  migraines is absurd.

Many of our presidents have had health problems much more  serious than headaches—Roosevelt,  Kennedy, Taft, to name a few.

The problem with Michele Bachmann is not her migraines, it’s  what is in her head. It’s her ideas that  matter.

Just as Republicans who pay attention to politics were  terrified of a possible Sarah Palin nomination, they are equally petrified that  Bachmann might catch on in Iowa, South Carolina, and among the Tea Party  wing. Could she, in fact, squeak by and  actually win the nomination? Most think  not, but they are nevertheless nervous when they watch her poll numbers rise,  her bank account fatten, and the attention she is getting from the “lame stream  media” increase.

There is no question about her misstatements and problems with facts (John Wayne’s birthplace, associating Jimmy Carter with swine flu,  Founding Fathers working “tirelessly” to end slavery, maintaining that Obama  issued “one oil drilling permit” when he issued 200, etc., etc.). Check out the Pulitzer Prize winning website Politifact for a disturbing list.

The real problems we should be focusing on are her  outlandish and dangerous views on the issues.

Some are becoming very well known. Her views on gay and lesbian rights, for  example. She believes gays and lesbians are “part of Satan.” She and her husband have mounted campaigns  against gays and lesbians, beginning in Minnesota and now on the campaign  trail.

She was against TARP and proudly proclaimed her opposition  in the New Hampshire debate. Most  economists believe that this saved the American economy from complete meltdown  and a severe depression. Plus, most of  the money is being paid back, and we have a strong American auto industry  because of the actions of President Bush and President Obama.

She believes we should not only abolish the entire tax code,  but we should abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education,  the Department of Energy and the Department of Commerce. (Politico 4/18/2011, among numerous other  sites) This is irresponsible,  shortsighted, and destructive to the United States.

I find it extraordinary that Michele Bachmann should be  even considered for the office of the presidency. Her views, her lack of competence and  experience, and her minimal leadership skills all are much more worrisome than her  headaches. Actually, just watching her out there makes my head spin.

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, July 25, 2011

July 27, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Iowa Caucuses, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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