Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

One Man Show

October 9th, 2013

John_Boehner_111th_Congress_2009It seems to be insufficiently remarked upon that there is one person who is solely responsible for the shutdown. The Koch brothers, however despicable their machinations, are not members of the House of Representatives, although they do seem to own a chunk of it. The Tea Party, after all, is not a majority of the House of Representatives. It is a plurality of one party. That party happens to be the majority party, but the Tea Party does not represent all of its members. Legislation can be passed and business can continue without the Tea Party. What has stopped the process is not the Tea Party, but the Speaker of the House, who chooses not to allow a vote on a continuing resolution which could start the machinery of government moving again and for which by most accounts there is majority, bipartisan support. This whole thing belongs to John Boehner. How odd that one man should have such power, in a so-called democracy. How can it be that the Speaker of the House has the power to single-handedly bring the whole show to a screeching halt? Isn’t that even weirder than the Senate’s filibuster rule, that allows a minority of Senators to frustrate the majority? Here it’s not even a minority – it’s one guy, and he’s not just clogging up business in a single chamber of a bicameral legislature, he’s subverting the whole government! If there’s anything that screams for reform, and that my “freedom-loving” friends on the right really ought to be concerned about, it’s this. No one person in a democracy should have such power.

Standing the brouhaha on its head

May 15th, 2013

The media and our political leadership have it backwards, regarding the IRS/Tea Party scandal.  Let me say at the outset that I stand second to no patriotic American in my fervent desire not to be treated by the jack-booted thugs of the IRS the way our representatives overseas treat borderland Afghanis suspected of favoring the Taliban.  However, though it may indeed have been (to borrow words from among others our President) “disgusting” and “obnoxious” and “outrageous” for the Tea Party’s activist stalwarts to have to answer questionnaires, fill out forms, and wait months on end for bureaucratic action, just as if they were applying for long-term care Medicaid, fer crissakes, and my heart goes out to them, I believe that the  real defalcation of morality and justice lies elsewhere.  Congress imposed on the IRS the impossibly difficult and constitutionally suspect burden of distinguishing among forms of advocacy activity.  I say “constitutionally suspect” because when you get right down to it, the differences largely turn on the content of speech.  I hasten to add that the Supreme Court does not entirely agree with me.   For some seriously contorted, otherworldly reasoning, of the sort for which the  Court is so justly venerated, I refer you to Regan v. Taxation With Representation of Washington, 461 U.S. 540, 103 S.Ct. 1997, wherein 501(c)(4), the tax code provision in question, is not found to be problematic under the First Amendment.  But I digress.  Now, certain Congresspersons and others complain because the IRS, at a time of skyrocketing applications and much suspicion that 501(c)(4) tax exempt status was being abused, seems to have had a hard time figuring out where and how to draw these distinctions.  And here we get to the hard indigestible little nubbin of filth that everybody seems to be ignoring.  In what universe can the Tea Party accurately and truthfully be described as exclusively a social welfare organization only incidentally engaged in politics – which is what it takes to qualify under 501(c)(4)?  Not the universe I live in, where there are climate change and endangered species and nobody has the power to walk through walls.  Yet, if we are to believe the reporting, of some hundreds of Tea Party applications to receive tax exemption on this basis, only eight were denied.  Hmm…  If heads are to roll at the IRS, surely it should be for culpable laxity, not overzealousness?

Parte per te stesso

July 17th, 2011

I was going to begin this sentence with the phrase “in these times of massive lunacy,” but when, looking at the national political scene, could one not have described it thus?  Just the other day, Senator Orin Hatch (Shit-for-brains, Utah) trotted out once again the idea of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to have a balanced budget, just a bare two years after the federal government saved his ass and everybody else’s from economic catastrophe by (cue drums) deficit spending.  Meanwhile, the liberals’ Great Hope Obama calls for “shared sacrifice” to reduce the deficit, with cuts to social support programs coupled with raised taxes on some of the playtoys of the rich, as if there were some parity involved.  It brings to mind Anatole France’s quip that “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”  At the same time, on the right wing the Tea Partyers and their associated stooges for the megarich like Eric Cantor (Dickhead, Virginia) insist that the social contract should not apply to them, at least not insofar as they are expected to contribute to society – they’re perfectly happy to receive government benefits –  while across the room the progressives flounder in a myopia which cannot perceive the difference between Haley Barbour and Barak Obama.  A plague on all their houses.  As did Dante seven hundred years ago, I declare myself a Party of One.

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And my much-sought endorsement goes to…

October 4th, 2010

In our highly individualistic society, we sometimes have difficulty perceiving how tribalistic our politics is.  You’d think that progressives, with their sensitivity to issues of class and race, would be particularly aware of this, but even they have blind spots.  A very left-wing friend of mine, for example, is unable to understand what a big deal the election of Obama was.  “So what if he’s black,” he says, “he’s just another middle-of-the-roader.”  This friend doesn’t see much difference between Republicans and Democrats.  They all look the same to him.

A few recent events have reminded me just how tribal it is.  One is the triumph of the appalling Carl Paladino over Rick Lazio in the New York GOP gubernatorial primary.  Paladino is a favorite of the Tea Party.  During the campaign, it was discovered that his email traffic included blatantly racist “jokes”, conventional hard-core porn, and what the media have described as images of bestiality.  I’m sure we all get weird emails.  But if someone sent you a video of a woman fucking a horse, would you forward it to your friends?  Now, let us conduct a little thought experiment.  Imagine if such material were discovered on a Democrat’s computer.  Paladino’s supporters would demand that Democrat to be tarred and feathered and burned in the public square.  Yet polls give Paladino a credible shot at winning the election.  What, except that Paladino and Andrew Cuomo lead different tribes, and a tribe forgives conduct of its members that would not be tolerated from an outsider, can account for the fact that Paladino has any adherents at all?

Then there are the TV ads with which Brian Dubie and the Republican Governors’ Association have recently favored us.  According to them, Peter Shumlin is a monster of iniquity. He “always goes too far,” he is utterly unethical and unprincipled and will do anything to make government bigger, up to and including unleashing drug dealing pedophile pornsters on your neighborhood.  Dubie doesn’t explain how the unleashing of drug dealing pedophile pornsters on your neighborhood will make government bigger, but clearly it’s not a good thing, and only someone with the ethics of Jabba the Hutt would do it.  The thing is, nobody could possible really believe this stuff.  Vermont is a small enough state so that an attempt to depict an unusually adept wheeler-dealer such as Shumlin as the Greatest Monster in History, like the campaign a few years back that caricatured Bernie Sanders as a wannabe commissar who is going to make us all wear Stalinist grey and call each other “comrade,” simply will not fly.  We know who these guys are.  By most accounts, Dubie and Shumlin, while not close buddies, had mutual personal respect before the campaign, so I am sure that even Dubie doesn’t believe his advertising.  But the substance of it is not the point.  The point is to dehumanize Shumlin, to make him the “other,” the representative of bizarre and incomprehensible evil – not a member of our tribe.  A vote for Brian Dubie is a vote in favor of the tribe that makes effigies of its opponents, paints them black, and burns them in the public square.

I was asked the other day to allow my name to be used in an ad endorsing a Democrat for the Vermont House of Representatives.  It is a bit mystifying why they would want my name.  I’m not a Democrat.  I’m not a Progressive.  I’m not well known.  Perhaps it is a ploy to capture that all important demographic, indie poetry lovers.  After all, if you have the support of the unacknowledged legislators of the world, it doesn’t really matter if you win the election, does it?  More likely, it is because I had endorsed in previous years a neighbor whom I know and respect, who is also a Democrat.  But I digress.  I don’t know this guy.  I’ve never heard of him before.  But I do know and respect the person who asked me to endorse him, and I know and respect the person who she says introduced the candidate to her, and I prefer this candidate’s tribe to the tribe of his opponents.  What to do, what to do?  Here’s my solution: if it seems to you that your choice on election day is between Bert Munger and a member of a tribe that makes effigies of its opponents, paints them black, and burns them in the public square, by all means please cast your ballot for Bert Munger.

Are you listening, Barrie Dunsmore?

September 24th, 2010

A gurney used in Indiana for lethal injections

National Public Radio reported this morning on yesterday’s execution of Teresa Lewis by the state of Virginia.  The reporter, stationed outside the death chamber, gave us an eyewitness description of Ms. Lewis’ demeanor as she  went in.  According to the reporter, she looked scared.  The reporter repeated this several times.  That was evidently the strongest impression on the reporter’s mind.

On the same broadcast, our local station, Vermont Public Radio, carried a commentary by a former network news luminary about the decline of journalism in the face of blogging and internet media.  He opined that people seek out coverage that they find congenial in preference to  journalism that tells it like it is.

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Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and Barnaby Rudge

July 24th, 2010

I was reading Barnaby Rudge, Charles Dickens’ novel set in the London of 1780, and thinking of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.  The novel centers on the Gordon Riots, an outbreak of mob violence instigated by the anti-Catholic agitation of Lord George Gordon.  The entire city was paralyzed, many Catholics were killed or injured, and many Catholic homes, businesses, and places of worship were destroyed, as well as Newgate Prison.  Gordon’s mob briefly besieged and almost invaded Parliament itself.  Eventually the military had to be called out to restore the peace, killing 285 of the rioters in the process.

Dickens characterizes Lord Gordon as a weak-minded, physically striking, passionate, flamboyant politician, not taken seriously by his peers, heavily influenced by bad advisers, with a gift for inflaming that part of the population inclined to be inflamed by someone like him, excited to be leading a popular cause and soon addicted to that sense of power, mistakenly believing he directed the movements of the wave on whose crest he actually was riding.  Dickens observes that if Gordon’s policy proposals had been spelled out in dispassionate, clear language – mainly, maintain the crippling legal disabilities to which English Catholics of the time were subject, against parliamentary proposals to remove them – he might have won a few adherents but would have remained a figure of marginal significance.  Instead, he adopted a rhetoric in which the soul of Protestant England, its very existence, was imminently threatened by the purported papist machinations of its Catholic minority, and he terrorized the nation.  Dickens also observes that Gordon’s followers ultimately didn’t care what their cause was said to be about; they were motivated by their own rage, which Gordon fanned, providing a convenient outlet and direction for its expression.

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