Friday, April 17, 2009
Tea Parties: Sore Losers
I Love Secession In the Springtime! Rick Perry's New One-Man Show from Texas
by Rachel Farris at HuffPo
Stephen Colbert must be having a hard time coming up with material these days. It's difficult to create political satire when the GOP's reality has become more like an HBO one-man comedy show, live and uncut. Texas Governor Rick Perry, the new Sarah Palin of the South, rallied with teabaggers in the city of Austin yesterday, reinforcing his secession message from last week that the "federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state." He forgot to add, "You're welcome, America."
All of this hypocrisy had this tax-paying Texan thinking of the Colin Powell Pottery Barn caveat: You break it, you buy it. The Republican party has been an elephant in the china shop for the last eight years, yet suddenly their base is turning up their noses at the mess. They're trying to distance themselves from their dismal leadership, clinging only to talking show hosts and those with a moral code low enough to pander to their deluded notions that somehow, this isn't their fault. Enter Rick Perry, stage left.
When Dubya was in office (you know, the guy that got us into this mess?), if you dared to ask what the color orange represented on the color-coded "The Terrorists Are Coming" scale, you were considered an anti-American Bin Laden sympathizer. Now suddenly the new fight song of Texas is "Secede!" and our Governor is calling these empirically-frustrated teabaggers "patriots."
But the nationwide tea parties yesterday came across more like self-satisfactory pity parties, a group of sulking sore-losers who are too consumed with their own ideology to look up from their Bibles to notice that their administration allowed all of this to happen. They want to complain about deficit spending? Our last Democratic president left office with a surplus that Bush whittled away to pay for two wars and color-coded threat assessment charts. Government intrusion? It was your guy who signed the Patriot Act into law.So, spare me. Teabag away, but spare me the "life's not fair" grumblings while you wave flags to the sounds of Toby Keith and watch your party die a slow, strange death, like stunned deer losing a fight with a Suburban. I don't remember Rick Perry asking me how I felt about spending $300 million tax dollars a day while occupying Iraq for the last six years. And if anyone had asked, they wouldn't have listened to the answer. They were too busy calling us unpatriotic.
Texas Wants to Secede... "They're Tired Of Paying Taxes to The Federal Government!" Time for a Reality Check.
And the Federal Government Spent $6,372 per person in the State of Texas.
For those of you that can't do math (Texans) it means that you got more money FROM the federal government than you gave TO the federal government.
The numbers are similar in 2004.... $5,684 Per Capita from Texas to the Feds and $6,327 from the Federal Government to Texas.
Again 2005.... $6,437 from Texans to the Federal Government... and $6,514 from the Federal Government to Texas.
And the trend continued in 2006, 2007, 2008.
What does all this mean? Texas is a Welfare State. An Idiocracy. If you leave, the rest of us will have more money. Those of you complaining about paying taxes are complete morons.
So go, Texas... Don't Let the Door Hit You In The Ass On The Way Out.
Hugs and Kisses,
Texas Wants To Secede... I say Good Fucking Riddance.
What's Left Of Texas
by James Moore
"If I owned Texas and hell, I'd rent out Texas and live in hell." - U.S. Gen. Phillip Sheridan, 1866
When they held their constitutional convention in a cotton gin on the edge of the Texas Hill Country, they seemed a merry band of pranksters. The Republic of Texas Militia, which became a movement in the state during the mid '90s, had decided the state was not a part of the union. The fuzzy-haired leader of the organization, Rick McLaren, had studied the state's constitution and was convinced that the legislature had not ever taken the appropriate votes to rejoin the United States after the Civil War.
McLaren was an intelligent man and was capable of endlessly debating law. There was no charisma to his leadership of the group but his fire kept inspiring fringe characters to join the ROT organization. When the separatist group got a permit to march on the state capitol, McLaren stood on the steps and declared the independence of Texas.
"We don't have to put up with Washington," he said to about 50 followers and a few reporters. "We aren't part of the United States. We haven't been since the beginning of the Civil War. Why should we pay taxes? Look at what Washington is doing with our money and how they are meddling in our lives and we don't even belong."
Although the language is a little different the message and the rhetoric coming from the current governor of Texas is essentially the same as delivered by a man who led his tiny militia to the mountains of West Texas and bought a run-down trailer to establish a Republic of Texas Embassy. McLaren was willing to begin diplomatic relations between the ROT's new government and the U.S. Whenever I went to interview McLaren and keep track of his legal tricks and size up his politics, we sat on a rock outside his embassy. On the ridgeline above and in the trees I saw men patrolling with high-powered rifles and I kept reminding myself to make no sudden moves toward the leader of the ROT.
Nothing good was going to transpire. McLaren became more fervent. He declared the government in Austin defunct because it was established under state charter and Texas was a republic, in his analysis, and not a state. His embassy was the new location of the Texas Federal government. Eventually, he made even more absurdist statements that began to threaten other residents in the Davis Mountain Ranch and the Department of Public Safety was dispatched to reduce McLaren to custody. He did, however, have guns, and a week-long standoff ensued, which ended with a shootout that took the life of one of McLaren's "soldiers." As DPS officers closed in on his embassy, I heard McLaren calling out on the short wave radio, "Nations of the world, mayday, mayday, mayday; this is the Republic of Texas calling for all due military assistance to protect our sovereignty." He lived his fantasy to the end but his inglorious accomplishment turned out to be a life sentence in a federal prison.
McLaren's misadventure began with the same hysteria that Texas Governor Rick Perry has been stirring. Perry blatantly suggested during the Fox News National Tea-Bagging Festival that Texans are about ready to leave the union because they are sick of Washington. In one cartoonish moment, the Republican standard bearer in this state insulted our entire democracy and every man or woman from Texas who has served under the Stars and Stripes. What is it they fought and died for governor? Was it so you could leave the union when people who had different politics than you were in the majority? I think we had that horror already in our history and, if you read when you were growing up out in Paint Rock, you would know that it was called the Civil War.
If a governor of a Democratic state had suggested such a thing during the administration of the previous president then you and every Republican in the land would have been demanding he or she be tried for treason. Suddenly, you fancy yourself a folk hero leading a band of revolutionaries. Turn around for a minute, pull back the hair from your forehead, and take a good look at who's following you. They are the 2009 version of Rick McLaren's wingnuts.
When Perry finally tempered his remarks there was a naked political motive. The state is in line for $17 billion from the Stimulus Bill. God knows that after six years of B**h and going on nine of Perry that the money is sorely needed for a state increasingly in disrepair. Eliot Shapleigh, a state senator from El Paso, compiles a report each legislative session called "Texas on the Brink." Skimming it will provide more than enough data to show just how functional the Republican leadership of this state has been since 1994. Here are a few embarrassing tidbits about Texas that Rick Perry doesn't want the rest of the nation to know so he can start planning his little fantasy of national politics.
1) 49th in teacher pay
2) 1st in the percentage of people over 25 without a high school diploma
3) 41st in high school graduation rate
4) 46th in SAT scores
5) 1st in percentage of uninsured children
6) 1st in percentage of population uninsured
7) 1st in percentage of non-elderly uninsured
8) 3rd in percentage of people living below the poverty level
9) 49th in average Women Infant and Children benefit payments
10) 1st in teenage birth rate
11) 50th in average credit scores for loan applicants
12) 1st in air pollution emissions
13) 1st in volume of volatile organic compounds released into the air
14) 1st in amount of toxic chemicals released into water
15) 1st in amount of recognized cancer-causing carcinogens released into air
16) 1st in amount of carbon dioxide emissions
17) 50th in homeowners' insurance affordability
18) 50th in percentage of voting age population that votes
19) 1st in annual number of executions
Shapleigh's little book of horrors comes fully footnoted to avoid being attacked by partisans. His staff gathers data from the Census Bureau and Texas government agencies. One assumes they then go out and get deeply, profoundly intoxicated to deal with their sense of hopelessness. In many categories, we are no longer ahead of poor Mississippi. This, then, America, is what Texans have acquired after 15 years of Republican guidance from B**h and Rick Perry. You want some of this? Didn't you just get a big overdose?
There is little doubt that Perry is serious about seceding from the union. My guess is he's grown tired of fighting it out for last place with Mississippi.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Idiocracy: Rich Right Wing Radio and News Personalities Convice Poor Working Class Whites That Obama's Policies Will Hurt Them.
Reporting from the Tea Bagger Hate-Fest in Sacramento
Joseph A. Palermo @ HuffPo
The hatred was palpable today on the State Capitol's steps. Hatred for taxes, hatred for government, hatred for state workers, hatred for teachers, hatred for Democrats, and hatred for all of the straw men that leap from the imaginations of talk radio jocks. But the most hated figure of all at today's "Tea Bag" anti-tax rally in Sacramento was President Barack Obama. One of the first placards I saw as I entered the Capitol grounds read: "Wake Up! Fresh Prince of Belair is Destroying Us -- Stop Drinking the Red Koolaid." A state police officer told me that he thought the crowd was "a couple thousand."
It was a sea of American flags of all shapes and sizes and many "Don't Tread On Me" yellow flags as well. The crowd was predictably very white, very Republican, and on the older side. I didn't see one African American (except for one of the musical performers on the stage who denounced Obama), and I didn't see any Latinos. George W. Bush could have been the focus of some of this rage because theoretically their hatred could just as well be aimed at him. But since he is a "good" Christian, white Republican Bush remained unscathed. I didn't see one sign that would indicate that it was anything other than a Republican hate rally.
Several placards called Obama the "Teleprompter in Chief" probably because Glenn Beck denounced the president for using one. The crowd chanted in unison: "No More Bail Outs! No More Stimulus! No More Taxes!" I was given an ice-cold coke from a vender who was handing them out for free and I strolled around for a good hour taking in the scene. There was one Jumbotron television or otherwise I couldn't see the stage because of the number of people packed into the Capitol grounds. It was a sizeable rally. Bigger than many of the anti-Iraq War protests I attended there. Obama's name or face was featured with sickles and hammers so much that his likeness became synonymous with something deeply un-American.
An elderly woman on a scooter -- I didn't ask her if Medicare paid for it -- had a sign affixed to her chair: "If I wanted Socialism, I'd Move to Europe." Many of the participants in today's Tea Bagging protest seemed to be as old as John McCain but there were a smattering of families with little kids and some tweens who were waving American flags.
Speakers from the local right-wing talk radio establishment led the crowd in chants: "Vote Them Out! Vote Them Out!" There were plenty of signs depicting Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as criminals, or the Three Stooges, or terrorists. One local talk radio speaker denounced Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano daring her to come and arrest this crowd. The straw man being that President Obama and the Democrats have somewhere denounced their tax revolt as being "un-American." In the land of Fox News and right-wing talk radio truth and falsehood blend together in an ideological muck that denounces Obama and the Democrats as "socialists," "fascists," "communists," and "terrorists" all at the same time. Speakers at the rally attacked labor unions and "card check" (a reference to the Employee Free Choice Act), which was ironic because most of the people in the crowd were clearly working class.
The Right has a monopoly on Sacramento's AM radio dial (1380 and 1530 where Rush Limbaugh started his career). So it was easy for them to pump up the volume and get people out. There's no progressive or even liberal information flowing on the public's AM airwaves in this region of California but somehow the Right always gets to play the "oppressed" victim. Ironically, after denouncing the "Liberal Media" and anyone else who suggested the Tea Bagging phenomenon was a product of cheerleading from Fox News and right-wing talk radio, a local AM jock confirmed to the crowd just that: "A lot of this is because of talk radio and Fox helped us defend ourselves!" This statement brought a huge cheer from the crowd. The right-wing talker also complimented channels 1380 and 1530 for bringing in people "from Rancho Cordova, Placerville, and El Dorado Hills." And he said the liberals want to impose the "fairness doctrine" that would undermine the good work of right-wing radio and urged people to go to "Talkback.com" to find out how they can save talk radio from the Democrats.
With the U.S. military base at Mather Field close by the veteran contingent loomed large. They were older vets though, mostly Vietnam, I only saw a few I thought were the age of the average Iraq or Afghanistan vet. There was a contingent of Republican state legislators and their staffers milling about who stood out because they were the only ones wearing suits and ties. Most of the people there were crusty-looking, grizzled biker types with American flag T-shirts and jeans, men with gray beards and baseball caps, women with big sunglasses and cheap jewelry. None of those people looked to me like they earn anywhere near $250,000 a year (like the AM jocks or Republican legislators do).
And therein lies the beauty of the whole Tea Bag "movement." Affluent people like Michelle Malkin and Grover Norquist and the army of radio "personalities" convince working people, most of who have a relative or are themselves on Medicare or Social Security, to denounce taxes on affluent people. Many of the people at the rally were from the eastern foothill communities that are pretty impoverished and would benefit from Obama's health care, economic, and education policies. The foreclosure rate alone east of Sacramento would lead one to think that far more people in this region could use some government help.
We will see if the Tea Bag phenomenon can be sustained or if it is just a one-time Republican gimmick. But remember, in 1994, Newt Gingrich took the House of Representatives with a similarly cornball gimmicky set of "principles" that channeled the same kind of blind right-wing hatred and anger. The lesson from today I think is that Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration should work together to make the public AM radio airwaves more competitive so more diverse voices are heard. As long as the Republicans and the Right hold on to their monopoly on AM radio they'll be able to stage these kind of hate-fests easily and more often. I'd take the Tea Baggers seriously and move to use the FCC to open up the public airwaves and also use the Anti-Trust Division of the Justice Department to break up Rupert Murdoch's media empire along with the other media corporations that have become as dysfunctional to our democracy as the "too big to fail" financial corporations.
George W. Bush's entire eight years was nothing but a neo-liberal experiment in skewing government and every other public good toward serving the interests of profiteers and the rich. That was apparently fine with these rightwingers as long as the government money was flowing upwards into the hands of the rich and corporations. But as soon as a Democratic administration is elected to power everything's different now. The sky was the limit during the Bush spending binge on war and giveaways to Wall Street and lavish contracts for shoddy or nonexistent "government" services and corporate welfare and so on and on. But now with Democrats trying to put a little spare change in the pockets of the other 95 percent of the population who gained nothing from the Bush years all of a sudden the sky is falling! The Tea Baggers I encountered were very polite and well-mannered, even passive. They need cajoling to act out. They need their anger stoked. They need straw men to knock down and people to hate -- people like state workers and teachers and Democrats. I couldn't help but think that the whole damn thing is just one big constructed product of the propaganda from right-wing talk radio and their ideological soulmates at Fox News.
Monday, April 13, 2009
The Corporate Republic Plays On.... This Time With "Tea Parties"
Spontaneous Uprising? Corporate Lobbyists Helping To Orchestrate Radical Anti-Obama Tea Party Protests
Yesterday, Think Progress reported on Republican lawmakers planning to speak at anti-Obama “tea party” protests taking place nationwide on April 15. Last night, Eric Odom of the DontGo website — one of the organizers of the protests — wrote a blog post stressing that these protests are displays of “regular American[s] in protest of government spending and extreme taxation,” rather than something affiliated with a political party or special interest agenda.
Today on Fox News — which has actively been promoting the protests — Glenn Beck pushed the tea party talking points, similarly claiming that the protests aren’t “coordinated” and are fully organized by “regular” people. Watch it:
Despite these attempts to make the “movement” appear organic, the principle organizers of the local events are actually the lobbyist-run think tanks Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works. The two groups are heavily staffed and well funded, and are providing all the logistical and public relations work necessary for planning coast-to-coast protests:
– Freedom Works staffers coordinate conference calls among protesters, contacting conservative activists to give them “sign ideas, sample press releases, and a map of events around the country.”
– Freedom Works provides how-to guides for delivering a “clear message” to the public and media.
This type of corporate ‘astroturfing‘ is nothing new to either organization. While working to promote Social Security privatization, Freedom Works was caught planting one of its operatives as a “single mom” to ask questions to President Bush in a town hall on the subject. Last year, the Wall Street Journal exposed Freedom Works for similarly building “amateur-looking” websites to promote the lobbying interests of Dick Armey, the former Republican Majority Leader who now leads Freedom Works and is a lobbyist for the firm DLA Piper.
Americans for Prosperity is run by Tim Phillips, who was Ralph Reed’s former partner in the lobbying firm Century Strategies. The group is funded by Koch family foundations — a family whose wealth is derived from the oil industry. Indeed Americans for Prosperity has coordinated pro-drilling ‘grassroots‘ events around the country.
Tea Parties: More Proof that Right Wingers are Fucking Idiots.
The Corporate Lobbyist Behind the Tea Parties
by Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake
Anyone who has watched Fox News of late has seen them talking about the April 15 "tea party" demonstrations, which they take pains to characterize as a spontaneous grassroots uprising against government spending that they are simply "covering."
We are are going to be in the middle of these protests because at Fox, we do not pick and choose these rallies and protests. We were there for the Million Man March, even though, as I pointed out, it turned out to be well shy of a million men.
Why all the effort to distance themselves from the teabaggers? It's obvious they are integrally involved -- Fox has given them millions in free publicity, despite the fact that there's no evidence of "ratings gold" here. Four of their biggest stars will be appearing at the rallies, Fox Nation will be hosting a "virtual tea party," Glenn Beck is holding a $500 a plate fundraiser for them and Fox has been officially promoting the entire affair as the FNC Tax Day Tea Parties:
Maybe they're afraid that if people knew that those behind the demonstrations were the very same lobbyists and influence peddlers the teabaggers claim to decry, the whole thing would be revealed to be what it is -- a hollow excercise in extremist right-wing hypocrisy.
A report by Lee Fang at Think Progress documents the involvement of corporate lobbyists FreedomWorks in organizing the teabaggers. FreedomWorks is run by ladies' man (and registered lobbyist) Dick Armey, and if they're not "organizing" the Tea parties, it's news to him. From a letter he wrote on March 10:
FreedomWorks has been organizing many of these "tea parties" and we are listing the details on our website IamWithRick.com
If you visit the website, you can rsvp for an event near you, and you can download guidelines to organizing a tea party in your home town if there isn't one being planned already.
On the Freedomworks website, it says: "If you are not able to organize or attend a Taxpayer Tea Party, you can still help the cause by donating or buying a t-shirt.
The "donation" for the Tea Parties page goes to -- you guessed it -- the FreedomWorks Foundation. The "thank you" letter is signed by Matt Kibbe, President & CEO, who cut his teeth working for Lee Atwater. He was behind the attempt to get Ralph Nader put on the ballot in Oregon in 2004, prompting a complaint to the FEC of illegal collusion with the GOP.
FreedomWorks was launched a GOP version of MoveOn. "We believe that hard work beats daddy's money," said Dick Armey at the time. Armey seems to be a bit irony challenged -- Steve Forbes is on the FreedomWorks board. As Krugman notes, their money comes from the Koch, Scaife, Bradley, Olin and other reliable funders of right wing infrastructure including Exxon Mobil.
This fact that none of this would be possible without the open checkbooks of right wing billionaires and the lobbyists who love them is beyond the grasp of Glenn Reynolds:
These aren't the usual semiprofessional protesters who attend antiwar and pro-union marches. These are people with real jobs; most have never attended a protest march before. They represent a kind of energy that our politics hasn't seen lately, and an influx of new activists.In 2004, a woman who identified herself as a "single mother" in Iowa, Sandra Jacques, appeared at a George Bush town hall and gushed about his plan to privatize Social Security. She left out the part about being an employee of Freedomworks, who were lobbying on the issue at the time.
Before any media covering these events accept the idea that this is just a grass roots outpouring of populist sentiment, they ought to take a look behind the curtain -- where Dick Armey is laughing and counting his cash.
Jane Hamsher blogs at firedoglake.com