Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea morons

For the second time in a week, I find myself pulling my punches in talking about the antics of the far right. Earlier, it was a far right christianist group’s latest anti-gay crusade and its inept implementation. Now, it’s the stupid “tea bagging” protestors. For goodness sake, can’t these rightwing whackjobs use Google?!!

That’s the thing that holds me back: Making fun of the right wing is just too easy, too obvious—so much so that it feels a bit like punching someone who’s in a straightjacket (cuz, you know, they sorta are… or ought to be?). What they try and present as “ideas” are the same old steaming piles of non-intellectual poo that they’ve been trying to pass off for decades. Instead of ideas, they give us tired extremist religious dogma, instead of arguing for freedom they still offer nothing but theocracy.

So, quite frankly, I can’t be bothered with this tiresome lot or their vapid, shallow and utterly meaningless “tea bagging” (snicker) protest. Of course I’m keenly aware of the dire threat they still pose to freedom and liberty, and I’ll take them on from time to time; it’s just—how can you take seriously a bunch of cranky, moaning, whining malcontents who think “tea bagging” would be bad, or that “M4M” would agree with them?


Faethe said...

Hey Arthur - This is Faethe (Rhonda). I have been going to Tea Parties with people since about 2007, prior to the nomination. This was started by the Ron Paul people, and then picked up by the Libertarians and the Flat Tax people.

Normally, I am a Libertarian and a Flat Taxer. Last election I went Republican because I supported Ron Paul until the moral majority got involved. Then I split to Obama :)

Most of the people going to these rallies are there for the Flat Tax. It seems to be fiscal conservatives who are annoyed at the Republicans. They didn't support Bush, so they sort of formed their own movement.

Honestly - I have only heard this called 'tea bagging' in the past few days. Before, it was Flat Tax Rallies, and the Tea Party rally (which was a Ron Paul thing). Yes, the irony is lost on most people there :)

From my personal experience and involvement in these events, it seems like this is a hodgepodge of the various conservative movements looking for a new home. From the press reports, I don't know what to think. It doesn't appear to be what's happening at all.

The rallies weren't organized to petition against Obama - they were held to support the Flat Tax and Ron Paul (who supports the Flat Tax). I have t-shirts and everything, really :p

I don't disagree that the movement may have people riding on it's coat tails and that these people are identified as the 'spokes people'. The person who is touting the Flat Tax in my part of the country is Neil Bortz - A Libertarian talk show host.

I can get you pictures of the next rally if you want. It's all very confusing to be honest. It makes me happy because so many people are starting to become active in the movement. I'm used to going to protests and seeing other groups present, or people trying to hijack stuff.

The extremists are no doubt trying to do this now. I did not go to the protest on the 15th. There was a large one in Orlando (like a thousand people at the court house and more in Eustis which is close by). It looked just like what I was used to seeing when I was campaigning for Ron Paul. It was the same people.

I've told several people online about this and they are confused because they think it's a right wing thing. There is an element of it that is, but the majority are for tax reform.

Happy 'tea bagging' bagging to you! (smirk). Hey - maybe it's getting weird press because it's all starting to take off :)

Faethe said...

Oh OK - I see what I did there :)

It's the Fair tax


I have numerous t-shirts and things with this on it and here I am calling it the 'Flat Tax'! Fair Tax is from a book written by Neil Bortz in '06 I think? It spawned it's own movement and has been picked up by the Libertarians and fiscal conservatives.

But the Tea Party thing was Ron Paul. Now that was in '07 and it was supposed to be a giant fundraiser. It did take in like 20 million (most ever in one day aside from Obama I think?). That was created by another radio DJ who started using a revolutionary theme :)

Arthur Schenck said...

In the earlier version of this post (which I alluded to), I mentioned the ordinary, normal, rational people who were at these things and hoodwinked because they thought it was really about taxes. I think it all started to go wrong when the radical right seized on it—especially Faux News performers. It was around that time that "tea bagging" started becoming the common name for it.

What you're basically talking about is a normal political movement that was hijacked by far right nutjobs and racists who probably couldn't care less about Fair Tax OR Flat Tax!

I looked at footage of these things from all over the country and people's signs were promoting a laundry-list of far right causes, including abortion—what that has to do with taxes is beyond me. Most disturbing to me were the huge number of blatantly racist signs carried by some protesters.

Among the folks I saw interviewed across the country, I doubt there was more than one or two who could articulate what this whole thing was about. The only consistent thing I saw were signs calling for the Federal Reserve to be abolished.

Speaking of Libertarians, with the capital "L", I've noticed that the radical right is increasingly co-opting them. I think some of that is because the Republican Party is controlled by far right christianists, and the people who are right wing but not religious don't feel comfortable in the Republican Party, or maybe they realise they can't sell that theocratic christofascism to ordinary voters. In any case, the people who are doing this are far right on social issues, too, which—as I know you well know—is definitely NOT Libertarian ideology, which has long held that the government has no business dictating private morality, among other things. This will be a challenge for real Libertarians.

Bob Barr was an example of the sort I'm talking about: An extreme social conservative in a party that doesn't follow that line. He was an architect of the the Defense of Marriage Act, which, as Libertarian Party candidate for President, he had to disavow and, basically, apologise for. I remember when he won the party's nomination, there were real Libertarians who were unhappy precisely because as a Republican he'd been such an outspoken social conservative ("far right extremist" is more accurate).

Maybe he changed, maybe he was trying to pass, I don't know. But I do know that many of the same people who co-opted these tax protests to push their far right agenda are trying to take over the name "Libertarian". So, even though I don't share Libertarians' beliefs, it seems to me we have a common enemy in far right extremists.

Faethe said...

After Ron Paul dropped out and Bob Barr got in, I voted for Obama. I didn;t realize the guy was one of the founders of all people, the moral majority. I mean, really?

And yeah, there is a lot of oscilation going on inside the 'neutral' right. I think the issue is that so many things that used to be thought of as tin foil hat material have come to pass.

The Federal Reserve must die people are the left overs from the Ron Paul campaign. Paul did a lot to enlighten people about the horrors of an expanding government. Then he just sort of went away which I think was like coitus interruptus for a lot of them.

I was part of that movement. What made me happy about it was that it united a lot of, like you said, otherwise rational right of center people who were shocked. I don't really know how else to put it. All of this is quite shocking and unfamiliar to me, as well.

I feel bad for the radical right people too, because they are frightened. Fear makes you lose your intelligence first, I think. If there was something I could tell them, I would say 'doesn't it disgust you that you are expected to have a public opinion on the private habits of adults? Doesn't it make you feel like the dialogue you are expected to take part in demeans all of us? When did religion marry politics and become a legislative issue? When did the government decide that morality should be uniform by law? It cuts both ways. You pay for it whether you agree or not.'

There just so many frightened people now. It's not normal for people to be so despairing and afraid of the government here. I don't think they know how to react.

What identity the Libertarians and others ultimately decide on I think will have a lot to do with how much they can take. One good thing I think is that they feel that Obama is listening, even if they don't agree. So they will not abandon any hope of being heard, and won't embrace violence.

But they will remain frightened.

I think a lot of people are trying to channel that into their otherwise unspeakably ridiculous ideas. So this is a fight to see who controls all these disaffected extremists, the centrists, and the completely confused.

The Republicans are responsible for this. I think most people at the rallies understand that, and it has shaken their identities.

Ron Paul said he was against abortion, but that it was not the government's duty to address a private matter. He also said that marriage should be taken out of the purview of the government and left to the churches.

He said a lot of things that people interpreted as empowerment, and that is what people want - to have self determination again. I think this is also why people backed Obama.

Perhaps the end of all this is a dialogue that consists of ideas instead of hatred? Like this is the last gasp of Karl Rove's bi-cameral influence? You can cry all you want and it changes nothing. You can be afraid and it changes nothing. Someone needs to interject ideas - which is why the Fair Taxers are attracted to all this.

If everyone can keep their head out of their naughty bits for ten minutes, perhaps the level of dialogue will be raised?

I hope so. I still think this is a good thing because at the very least people are off the couch and in the street. They're just not very sure why they are there, is all.

Arthur Schenck said...

I like your term "neutral right", which is a good way to describe folks who are at the right end of the spectrum, but not necessarily religionists of any sort. Over the years, I've known plenty of Libertarians who bristled at being called "conservatives", which I think is partly because they rejected the religious/social conservatism the name "conservative" now implies.

It's frankly getting harder and harder to find any universal names for ideology. The folks that the far right insists on branding "socialists" or "communists" aren't even liberal from my perspective, and are often actually slightly right of centre, or simply centrist most of the rest of the time. Maybe this all relates to that confusion you spoke of.

It does concern me greatly that there seem to be so many Americans who say they hate their own government—even as they enjoy the rights their country protects and the benefits their country gives to them. This cannot continue indefinitely without real trouble—Timothy McVeigh was just that sort of person, and some on the far right are just as much traitors as he was.

What concerns me the most, however, is that it's clear that most of the braying far right is concerned about one thing far more than any other: That America has an African American president. Most of the rest of the stuff they talk about is a cover, a mask designed to give a veneer of respectability to their underlying racism. Not all of them are hate-filled bigots; some are racist in the sense of people who are frightened about people of other races and react to it. To me, this is the underlying reason why the far right seems so unfocused, so scatter-shot in its discontent: They can't admit that their fear is really focused on having a black president.

This is what I was getting at when I said that real Libertarians are going to have to take their movement back from the Republicans who are trying to co-opt it to advance their far-right agenda of a christianist theocracy built on fear of gay people, Hispanics and African Americans.

Real Libertarians have nothing in common with those extremists, but they do have something in common with real Republicans and real Democrats alike (I use the modifier "real" because both parties are plagued with folks trying to use the parties to promote agendas not in keeping with core party values; oddly enough, the threats for both parties are coming from their right flank).

At any rate, as a Liberal Democrat I don't agree with real Libertarians on much. But I at least know that they respect individual rights, unlike the nutjobs who are trying to take over the Libertarian Party just as they took over the Republican Party. I hope that it won't be necessary to lump them all together in the future.

Faethe said...

I will answer your post a little later :) (Dinner, life, television, internets!).


^ This is why some people are scared.

Arthur Schenck said...

I looked at the video, and there are two things that ought to be immediately obvious: Police in the US have abused their powers for as long as there have been police—in that sense, this was nothing new. But the specific aggressiveness is the specific result of the policies pf Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Ashcroft and the rest of that cabal, a group that "pastor" was probably fully supportive of in the past. I cannot udnerstand how the far right can blame this sort of thing on the Obama Administration when it was a Republican one that created it.

We also know that the guy is a rightwing bigot, which makes him a not particularly sympathetic victim which, if we're honest, is what will be needed for the mainstream to take any notice of such incidents which we all know do happen all the time.

But it seems to me that the answer to real aggressiveness by police isn't some ill-focused "tea bagging" protest against all government, but to use the power of government to clean up the messes created by the regime we just got rid of, and to make structural changes to make sure that evil people like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, John Yoo and the rest can never take control again.

But I also think that dinner, life, television and internets are worthy distractions. Enjoy! No one should ever feel obligated to comment on anything, or else it isn't fun anymore.

Faethe said...

Hi Arthur :) I read your last two posts and I can see where you would feel that the government does provide things for us. It used to - most things are privatized now, including the police and prisons. During the RNC last year, Blackwater acted as crowd control. Many people were harmed. The RNC provided the city with a 10 million dollar surety bond against lawsuits. They budgeted for it.

Most state agencies - unemployment, welfare, everything, have been privatized. My state doesn't really employ many people in full time positions any longer. Most people are contract workers without any benefits.

People have little voice in anything now. Look at the bank bailouts - that happened first, before anything was done for the individual. And it's still happening. The bailout money is going to states who are supposed to let it trickle down in the form of jobs. That's not happening.

Plus, I am not sure you understand how bad things are now as far as if you get arrested or something happens to you with the police. If you have any police record at all, it's very possible for you to end up on the no fly list, or on another list that bars your employment. You can't get school loans if you have ever been convicted of a felony.

Employers now run credit checks on everyone - it doesn't matter what sort of job you are applying for. This is for everyone. If you have bad credit, you are not getting hired. Employers also use these credit checks to get around federal law, like finding out how old you are, if you have unpaid medical bills relating to a condition.

So people shy away from interacting with the police at all. If you wind up arrested for something real or imagined, you could have that on your record permanently. You can also be thrown out of school - that's happened to people here in Orlando who have had charges brought against them even after they have been dropped.

This has alaso been used as a reason not pay people unemployment benefits. Like if you want to get out of paying unemployment, you can point to a police record, or negative information on a credit check that was not disclosed when you accepted employment.

As for getting out of that circle altogether and running your own business, it's extremely hard to do so without credit of any kind.

Not to mention the games the banks have been playing at with credit cards. You wake up one morning and through no fault of your own, all the limits on your credit cards have been lowered, or your account has been closed. For each account closed you get an immediate 50 point reduction in score. My husband had this happen with four of his accounts. His interest rate shot immediately to 29.9% - even on the balance transfers that in theory were for the 'life of the loan'.

And all this affects working class people. Retired people, or those who could retire now have no savings, and no safety net. 401ks that were even conservatively invested have lost their principles. People can not live on social security, so they work - but no one will hire people who are of retirement age.

And the homeless, the foreclosures - I live in an area where 1 out of 160 homes is in foreclosure, and most of those are out by me. The banks do not want to sell these properties below what they were mortgaged for. They are waiting on the fed to buy out the assets at a price closer to what the loan amount was for so they don't have to show the entire loss. So the homes sit empty with no one buying them. It creates ghost towns and strains everything - communities, police departments, the county.

Because people are so desperate, you see a LOT of corruption in government officials. Everyone seems to think that everything is coming to an end, so they steal as much as possible before taking off. The cops down here are well known for stealing from people.

I'd go into more, but it's just so broad. I have no idea which bit to center on anymore, and am frankly very afraid to make any sort of obvious moves towards anything myself. Most people spend their time being very afraid because no one knows what will happen a few months down the line.

So where you see political squabbling - honestly, that's entertainment. What's behind it is a system of checks and balances that has completely left the building. I have nothing to compare it to. This is why people are fractioning into different groups like this. Did you know that the Department of Homeland security issued a 'warning' against 'far right extremists' who are 'becoming organized'? No one is very sure what that means.

I do know Governor Perry has 'alluded' to Texas Seceding. I know that sounds like nonsense, but after talking to several Texans, it is something the people of that state seem to be favoring? Like 1 in 5, and that's a very large state.

Vermont has made the same noises. I know that when you lived here you would here these things all the time. Like someone would pick an issue and say that they were splitting the union.

Well it seems to have gone beyond the nutcases and is inching into the middle extremists. It was the nutters who get blamed for the civil war, but one must remember a lot of people went along with it.

So in the middle of this you have people that are frankly terrified and not knowing what to do. Of course they are extreme and ugly in their views - they are scared. The things you used to count on - a safety net - is gone. If you go under, you are not likely to come back up again.

This is why I want to leave, because I know New Zealand is settled in the way it takes care of itself. The US has come unglued. It might be amusing to think it's because of a Black President, but it's much, much more vast than this. That's the soundbite, or a summary for the confused. Having a black President is inspiring to most - even those who don;t agree with him - because it was so unlikely. Like if that can happen, we can all find a way out.

Arthur Schenck said...

I obviously can't comment on your state—I've never even been there!—but I can assure you that things are not that bad in Illinois. The state and localities haven't outsourced anything significant, which isn't surprising, given the state's reputation for using government jobs as political rewards.

The no-fly list is even worse than anything to do with the police, and is an issue of its own. The mess in this area was created deliberately by Bush-Cheney and it will take time and determination to end it.

Companies were beginning to try and use credit reports on prospective employees when I lived there, which is what led to the practice being outlawed in some areas.

I haven't heard anyone express the kind of fear you mentioned, apart from open resentment of Hispanic immigrants (legal and illegal get bunched together). Some of the reason for that is that the mainstream media doesn't report such things, but most of it is the people I'm close to—the people who are honest with me—have never expressed that kind of fear or anything approaching it. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, just that I've never heard it personally.

I actually wrote about the right wing threat you mentioned, and it seems pretty clear they’re talking about extremists attempting to exploit the sort of fear you’re talking about to recruit new members (as, in fact, white supremacist group Aryan Nations is now doing).

The problem as I see it is this sort of paranoia that—even when it has a logical reason to exist—has become a kind of cancer, sucking the life out of otherwise rational Americans. It starts to feed on itself and the fear demands ever more fear added on, like an addictive drug. I'm NOT saying that people don't have reason to have fears, because they definitely do, but much of that fear is irrational or misplaced and, more often than not, it's being whipped up by people who are exploiting it for political or monetary gain (or both). It's like the TV preachers who con poor old ladies into contributing their last $10 out of fear of what will happen if they don't.

But what of the real fears, like constant downsizing, outsourcing, runaway corporate greed? These aren't part of some government conspiracy, though certainly Bush/Cheney encouraged it. Instead, they're all things that government can fix with the right people in charge. That's why I'm a Liberal Democrat—I believe that government can make a positive difference in the lives of ordinary people.

Back during the Depression, President Roosevelt declared that "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself," and he was right. It took unimaginable courage for Americans back then to put aside the raw fear they experienced every day and start to rebuild the country. That sort of courage is required again. Whether America rises to the challenge will determine whether it moves past this or not.

I'm an optimist, and I refuse to believe that Americans can't be brave again. But it begins with the choice to be brave and to reject the politics of fear. It's not easy—in fact it requires a helluva lot of hard work and determination. But I think America's worth it.

Having said all that, things in New Zealand are not at all as you describe the US as. Despite the global financial crisis, the country remains pretty easy-going and relaxed (and it's one of the easiest countries in the world to start or run a business). However, even we have paranoid folks on the fringes of society; they're just not as public as in the US nor, apparently, as numerous as in the US, proportionately speaking. By comparison, life here seems pretty sweet, indeed.

Faethe said...

Your news isn't quite as crazy, either. I watch channel nine's podcast, and some of the others, and it's just nice to watch. By comparison, I live down the street from the whole Casey Anthony debacle which has taken on a life of it's own. Whatever gets covered here gets sold around the country, so 'it bleeds, it leads' takes on a whole new meaning. The result is that everything is a crisis, and it's hard to divulge whether everything is a crisis, or that the crisis makes for good marketing.

Florida is pretty crummy so far as workers rights, or rights in general goes. This is a 'right to work' state which means you can be fired because 'someone does not like the color of your shirt'. Any reason is a valid reason. Getting out of paying unemployment is a but trickier, but it does happen.

I think a lot of problems with suckage, real or perceived, is that so many people here have adopted a 'sucks to be you' attitude. Like if you're in a mess, it's squarely of your own making. What this overlooks is the fact that people can not control every aspect of their circumstances. If they could, they would not chose what happens to them. There will always be hard cases and people that do invite idiocy, but they are usually in the minority. When everyone has a crisis at the same time, that would indicate an issue.

But you, know - I watched Katrina go down and people are still trying to blame all that on the people that lived in NOLA. That was the year after 8 storms nuked Florida (three hit me directly) and no one even remembers that. Or last year, when Galveston was hit so very hard by Ike. I mean, straight up, Arthur - these were events that if I were in Australia, would have been mitigated by people's concern.

This is where I've come to believe that so many of the issues here are because people refuse to acknowledge what they can't see. If food is in their mouths, ipod has music, car is in yard, then all is well in the universe.

Getting around that, you get a lot of resistance. I think one of the reasons why I am so paranoid is that I have choices. I am dual citizen, and I have traveled so I know there are systems that operate just fine that are not here. You left, you have happiness with your partner now (your husband. I know. In my mind you're both husbands :p). How many people do you know who never left and have lost their chance at that?

Knowing that something else exists that works better than what you know, I think it works both ways? It makes you critical of processes others see no alternative to, or try to find sense in so they can live with it. It also makes you more sensitive to criticism because there's really no defense.

Like the torture, the corporate shenanigans, and the banking thing. There's shame in that, but there's no getting away from it. It's gone right out of the average person's ability to affect. You can have all the opinions you want on it and they are meaningless - or that's how people see it. If you protest in the streets, the cops will get you and then you get a record, and that impacts not just you but your whole family now.

Young people (I am 45 this year) who don't know any better are protesting. I'm glad in my heart that they can envision a future where these things are reversed. It makes me glad to think that someone has the courage to call all this out for what it is and address it head on.

The thing is, all of this makes the people trying to just get on with life really annoyed. Like if you are the one that says 'this is utter shit' everyone else is going to argue just to get you to go along. Like you diminish what they have by pointing out that it's not quite what they believe it is.

Ah, wish me luck getting papers and whatnot sorted through the Australian embassy. I've been doing this for about two years now and I think I finally have all my paperwork in order. I need my background checks reprocessed (they expired while I was waiting on Homeland security to get me copies of my mother's immigration records) and that's about it.

In the meantime, I'll shoot you some local news on stupidity when it crops up if you want to read it. It's pretty odd down here. Perhaps I can work up some video of the foreclosures sometime in the future. Like how many places are abandoned and so forth. In my direct area, it's pretty impressive. Huge development went in about three years ago (20k homes) and now big patches of it are deserted. You don't really know, though. You have to guess because sometimes there's no signs in the yard. Like big condo apartments gone empty - you can tell because there's no furniture even though the lights are on :p

Have a good day, sweetheart :)