Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

America’s Unfunniest Home Videos

June 7, 2010

Nothin’ to see here, move along now.

Anybody with the privilege of an Internet connection can do a search for “police brutality” on YouTube to see that there are tons of cops out there doing ruthless, illegal shit to innocent people all the time. I’m not talking about kicking a murderer while he’s handcuffed after a high speed chase. Cops are out there every day engaging in sociopath behavior that would make Joe Pesci’s character from Goodfellas proud: tazing little kids and old ladies, shooting people in the back, pushing women down stairs, yelling racist slurs while stomping on innocent bystanders, kicking people off their bikes, shooting people’s dogs, and pretty much everything short of water-boarding baby panda bears.

This is nothing new, of course – check the story of Jon Burge for a good example of how systemic this behavior is. Burge was a Chicago cop who used Viet Cong tactics to torture false confessions out of black men for decades and was promoted for his viciousness and even protected from prosecution by Chicago’s current Mayor, Richard Daley. Fortunately, the ubiquity of camera phones has finally given regular people a safety net against unchecked police brutality. I use the term “safety net” because catching cops in the act is really the only chance of protection against the wrath of police – it might not save you, but at least you have a chance.

Usually after the cops assault (or murder) an innocent person, they blame the victim. Good luck trying to win your case or pursue a civilian complaint against the police when it’s your word against theirs. Video evidence has been the smoking gun that’s saved an increasing number of people from false charges and in a few cases, the tables have even been turned when public outrage resulted in cops actually being charged with their crimes (gasp!).

Since cops only like rules when the rules are on their side, now they’re trying to destroy our only safety net. According to Wendy McElroy, “a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer. Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.”

What’s next – are they going to take a cue from Jennifer Lopez and pass a laws that makes it illegal to look a cop in the eye?

If the cops beat your ass, but no one was around to film it, did your ass ever really get beaten?

The “no filming cops” rule could dovetail interesting with another emerging trend in law enforcement: the Blackwaterization of police departments. The San Francisco Chronicle revealed this week that the relatively affluent town of San Carlos may deal with its budget crisis by “dissolving its Police Department and outsourcing the job of law enforcement.” The mayor of neighboring Google City – oops, I mean Redwood City – said “There’s no question in my mind that this is the wave of the future.” (Bummer. I was still hoping that hover-boards would be the wave of the future.)

Anyway, you don’t need to be Nostradamus to speculate on the disastrous confluence of these unconstitutional trends of not being able to record the police and outsourcing police departments.

Just remember: Power will always seek to turn the odds in its favor, justify even the most unjustifiable atrocities and humiliate anyone who dares oppose it.

Let’s check out a few stories from this week’s news to see this equation in action: Sarah Palin blamed environmentalists for the BP disaster; a Clear Channel radio station in Ohio sponsored a contest to send listeners to Arizona “to chase aliens and spend cash in the desert;” Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, wants to prosecute U.S. citizens aboard the ship that was attacked by Israeli commandos for supporting terrorism while the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer denies that there’s a humanitarian crisis in Gaza…

As this never-ending list of laugh-until-you-cry hypocrisy, nihilistic celebration of misery and proud ignorance unspools like ticker-tape charting the crash of what Jeremy Rifkin called “the empathic civilization,” I get the feeling that humanity is not too big to fail.

And for better or worse, there won’t be any bailout when this market collapses.

Salt: Still Safer Than Anthrax and Tastier, Too!

June 1, 2010

You'll know that the food industry lobbyists have won when you start seeing ads for this new "protein shake" popping up at your local health club.

Despite government health experts’ claim that cutting salt consumption could save 150,000 lives a year, the processed food industry is “working overtly and behind the scenes” to “delay and divert” potential regulation or guidelines.

According to the New York Times, trying to get corporations like Kellogg, Kraft Foods and Cargill to cut back a little on the salt is like trying to get a tweeker to reduce their meth  consumption – they just don’t wanna give up those little white crystals.

Corporate “flavorologists” argue that processed food tastes like “cardboard” or “damp dog hair” without added sodium, so unless you want crackers that taste like a homeless guy was sleeping inside of them or cookies that taste like a mutt’s wet ass, you better just learn how to deal with that hypertension, grandma.

Well… actually, they admit that you can make processed food taste better simply by using fresher ingredients instead of just dumping more salt into them, but that would “risk losing profits.” So instead of investing in healthier food, the food industry is throwing millions and millions into a massive marketing push with junk science and PR front groups like “The Salt Institute.

This is how the folks from The Salt Institute unwind after a long day at the propaganda factory.

Here’s my favorite clip from the Salt Institute’s Web site (and when you’re reading this, just remember that this is all funded by corporations that sell globs of chemicals designed to look and smell like food with names like “Green Slime” (a children’s cereal) and “Chicken Rings”):

Most are unaware of the 14,000 known uses for salt, how it’s produced and our success in ensuring the environmental compatibility as it provides the foundation for the quality of our lives. Mankind evolved from the sea and we have a saline “sea” within us as do all fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Environmental author Rachel Carson is best known for her book on birds, but she also wrote The Sea Around Us offering this insight: “When the animals went ashore to take up life on land, they carried part of the sea in their bodies, a heritage which they passed on to their children and which even today links each land animal with its origins in the ancient sea.”

Excuse me while I wipe a salty, delicious tear from my eye – but you’ve just gotta love the corporate behemoths responsible for FrankenFoods and the dominance of factory farms quoting the godmother of the modern environmental movement. These guys must have giant, genetically modified balls to feed us propaganda so ridiculous that if irony was a dude his head would have just exploded.

Cargill’s “Salt 101” campaign is another wonderful case study in corporate psychology and ethics. In response to more and more scientists warning us that excess salt leads to terrible health problems and premature death this company launches an pro-salt advertising blitz that suggests “sprinkling it on foods as varied as chocolate cookies, fresh fruit, ice cream and even coffee.” This would be like if the gun industry put up ads saying “Shoot More People!” so they could increase bullet sales.

Cargill even recruited Food Network celebrity chef Alton Brown to push the “put salt on everything” message. “You might be surprised,” Mr. Brown says, “by what foods are enhanced by its briny kiss.”

Mr. Brown, you can kiss my briny ass – I hope my butt sweat enhances the flavor.

This is the only Salt that I think we need more of…

Don’t Ask Rush Limbaugh to Take Care of Your Plants Next Time You Go on Vacation

May 20, 2010

Judging by the view from Rush Limbaugh's apartment, the coastline still looks fine. (Yes, Rush actually owns this place -- but who's his interior decorator? This looks like the bedroom of Jimmy Buffet and Marie Antoinette's offspring.)

Rush Limbaugh is still pretending that the BP oil disaster is no big deal, despite the fact that the Louisiana coast is now greasier than Mickey Rourke. Rush serves up more whoppers than Burger King – he claimed for years that nicotine isn’t addictive – so I never really considered the guy Mr. Wizard, in the science department, but his latest claim is even more absurd than the décor of his $14 million New York apartment.

Rush dismissed the devastating effects of this environmental catastrophe by saying that “oil can be a great fertilizer.”

Wow, I can’t wait for the next nuclear plant meltdown so I can hear Rush defend it by claiming that all that radiation will be like free chemotherapy for people with cancer.

Rush Limbaugh's heart. (Just kidding, it's really a tar ball, but what's the difference?)

Not In My 171,000-Acre Vanity Ranch

May 7, 2010

This is not picture of billionaire Louis Bacon, but it's what he's acting like.

Although the media likes to break everything down into “he said/she said” sound-bites, most issues are pretty complicated. Nothing is really as simple as it seems on the surface, and in order to develop a critical analysis, you need consider things from various perspectives and weigh each argument delicately, like a fancy truffle.

That’s why it’s so refreshing when billionaires act egregiously douchy – because it makes figuring out who the bad guy is so easy.

Most billionaires are acutely aware that their vast privilege makes them targets of scorn and envy, so they employ their wealth and power stealthily. When advancing Mr. Burnsian agendas, they use loopholes and facades to influence events from behind the metaphorical curtain.

But not hedge fund titan and founder of Moore Capital, Louis Bacon – this guy’s about as smooth as a frat boy on spring break trying to get laid with a pick up like “nice shoes, wanna fuck?” Moore wields his power like a snot-nose little kid who just got a toy light saber.

According to AP, a huge project to transfer solar energy across Colorado has been delayed and may be reduced in capacity because Bacon doesn’t want the proposed power line to run across his 171,000-acre vanity ranch – the largest privately-owned piece of land in Colorado. This one dude is screwing up Colorado’s respectable efforts to shift from relying on nasty, harmful fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. And he owns a ranch nearly twice the size of Manhattan.

If he doesn’t like transmission lines, it’s not like he doesn’t have anywhere else to hang out. He also has crash pads in the Bahamas, the Upper East Side, a Long Island estate (which includes a hunting lodge on nearby Robins Island, all of which is owned by Bacon), a grouse moorland in Scotland and three private polo grounds.

Perhaps being recently named to the list of UK’s Top 50 Richest People gave Bacon the urge to throw his weigh around ostentatiously like break-dancing sumo wrestler. Or maybe he’s bummed that his hedge fund just got slapped with a $25 million penalty for attempting to manipulate the platinum and palladium markets… but I don’t know, that’s couch cushion money for a baller whose wealth boomed by an estimated 69% last year.

No, it’s probably since he’s given so much loot to protect the environment over the years that now he feels entitled to fuck it over because there’s a downside in it for him. As his spokesman said, “Mr. Bacon is and has long been well known for his deep and long-standing support of environmental conservation.”  Just in case you didn’t get it the first time, his spokesman added, “He is a nationally known environmental conservationist.”

Now, even though NIMBYism gets a bad rap, a lot of the time it’s totally justified. Can you blame people with little kids for not wanting an incinerator setting up shop down the block? Or Native American tribes for not wanting their sacred burial sites turned into a nuclear waste dump? But a billionaire “environmentalist” blocking a clean energy project –  put that one in the NIMBY Hall of Shame next to the Cape Codders who tried to block the wind farm and the Castro neighborhood business association that blocked a shelter for teen runaways a few years back.

Instead of “Fatal Gunshot Wound,” Let’s Just Call it “an Ouchie”

May 1, 2010

A courtroom artist's depiction of Officer Johannes Mehserle

When is somebody who gets shot in the back while they’re lying face down on the ground not “a victim”?

On New Year’s Eve 2009, Johannes Mehserle, a white BART cop, killed Oscar Grant by shooting the young African American man while he was laying face-down on the ground. Following the release of a widely-viewed YouTube video and youth-led riots through the streets of Oakland, Mehserle was charged with murder. The trial was moved to Los Angeles because it was deemed that Mehserle “couldn’t get a fair trial” in Oakland.

Now Mehserle’s lawyers are trying to stack the rhetorical deck by convincing the judge that a guy who got shot to death by a cop should not be referred to as “the victim” – but “Mr. Grant,” instead.  That certainly sounds a lot more respectful “bitch-ass n*gger” – the term that BART cop Tony Pirone used to address Grant shortly before Mehserle shot him.

The lawyers also want Johannes to be called “Officer Mehserle” rather than “the defendant,” even though Mehserle quit the force six days after the shooting.

As long as they’re re-writing legal definitions, why stop there? If they really want to win over the jury why not really get creative?

Why not refer to Mehserle as “the hero” and Grant as “the thug”? Why not manipulate the YouTube video and sprinkle some digital PCP on Grant and put a gun in his hand?  In fact, instead of showing actual footage of the murder, why not just show the jury re-runs of the TV show “Cops” until they decide to acquit Mehserle so they can just go home?

A courtroom artist's depiction of Mr. Grant.

Teapublicans Want You to Bomb the Capitol Building (Metaphorically, of course)

April 25, 2010

The new face of the Republican Party is pretty creepy... but its definitely an improvement over Dick Cheney.

Ever since the election of America’s first black president, Republican leaders and pundits have been invoking some pretty dubious role models. Texas Rep. Pete Sessions compared Republicans to the Taliban. Sean Hannity called a gathering of Tea Partiers “a bunch of Tim McVeigh wannabes” and they responded with wild applause. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman organized an anti-health care reform rally on Guy Fawkes Day last year, where she described her followers as “insurgents” and urged these “freedom fighters” to storm the Capitol building to “scare” members of Congress.

Now, some might find it hypocritical for Bachman, a woman who has received more than $250,000 in welfare checks (in the form of corn and dairy subsidies for her family farm), to choose Guy Fawkes as the mascot for her anti-government crusade. Fawkes, after all, was a “terrorist” who was executed for attempting to detonate 36 barrels of gunpowder beneath the UK Parliament with the King and all the noble aristocrats inside.

Guy Fawkes: Hero of the Left or Paleo-Teabagger?

However, Bachman did resign from a school board over controversy involving the movie Alladin promoting “witchcraft;” belonged to a church that thought the Pope was “the anti-Christ;” and recently advocated armed revolution in response to Obama’s energy policy, so the Fawkes thing actually rates pretty low on the Bachman Wack-o-meter.

Anyhoo, getting back to the point, the Republican Governors Association just unveiled a new campaign called “Remember November” that not only rips off its title from the Guy Fawkes legend, but uses the famous “V” logo created by Alan Moore for his Fawkes-inspired comic book “V for Vendetta” (the “V” is subtly inserted into the word “NoVember” at the end of the video.)

Are they serious? It was silly when RNC chairman Michael Steele was co-opting dated rap lingo to sell an “off-the-hook” “hip-hop makeover” for the GOP, but this is just ridiculous. I knew that RGA President and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour was looney tunes when he said that not mentioning slavery in a proclamation about Confederate History Month “doesn’t matter for diddly,” but now he’s running a campaign that’s culture-jacking from Alan Moore – a vegetarian, anarchist pagan?!

Alan Moore: Serpent-Worshipping Hermit or the Next Karl Rove?

Plus, people dressed up like the “V” character were a staple at anti-Bush rallies for years. Republicans can’t steal this from left-wingers – that would be like if progressives started wearing tri-corner hats at street protests or if Glenn Greenwald wore a bow tie during his next MSNBC appearance. Some lines you don’t want to cross.

And, frankly, this is unfair. Right-wingers have so many action heroes to choose from. They made Arnold Schwarzenegger a governor. Chuck Norris was Mike Huckabee’s body-guard/confidant. Sylvester Stallone has recruited a whole horde of washed-up ‘roid-heads for a new anti-Hugo Chavez movie. Besides the blue guy from Avatar and Matt Damon, what kind of ass-kickers do the left have? Emma Goldman?

Instead of co-opting V for Vendetta, here’s a list of movies that I think would be more appropriate for the Teapublicans to use for their next campaign:

Grumpy Old Men
Why: Self-explanatory.

The Wrestler
Why: I think a lot of Tea Partiers should be able to relate to Mickey Rourke’s character: a creepy, over-the-hill white guy who is addicted to pain-killers (like Republican patron saint Rush Limbaugh).

300
Why: The violent, xenophobic nature of… actually, forget it. I don’t want to any super-sized wingnuts running around in loincloths and capes.

Groundhog Day
Why: Because Republicans always make the same mistakes over and over again (failed imperial military adventures; driving up the Federal budget after the say they’re going to “shrink government”; passing “family values” laws and then getting busted for gay affairs and/or soliciting sex workers; etc.)

A Day Without a Mexican
Why: I don’t think they would like the actual movie, but the GOP’s widespread support for Arizona’s new law that makes having brown skin probable cause for arrest indicates that most Republicans are supportive of this concept.

Road Warrior
Why: Mel Gibson, ultra-violent militias and everyone is obsessed with fossil fuel. ‘Nuff said.

OK, since I’ve given all this free advice to the Republicans, I really owe at least once suggestion to the Democrats. If the Dems decide to base a new campaign on movie, I think it should be…

The New Star Wars Trilogy
Why: It didn’t live up to the hype, it was hard for fans to follow the plot, and it didn’t close Guantanamo, just like the Obama Administration, so far…

"Yeah, I know I said I was going to ban corporate lobbyists from working in my administration, but if you don't quit bugging me about that I'll slice your arm off!"

Maybe They’re Too Big To Fail Because They Ate So Much Pie

April 10, 2010

This is like America's richest 1%, but with money instead of corn.

Imagine the wealthiest one percent of America as a single person. Obviously, he’s an old white guy. Now, picture Mr. Moneybags inside a bank vault that contains all the cash in the entire country and he’s using a vacuum cleaner to suck up all the money.

The vacuum cleaner is so big that he can’t run it all by himself, so nine of his closest friends are in the vault helping him capture the towering piles of cash stacking up all around them. The reason why the mountains of money keep getting bigger is because there are 90 people outside of the vault who keep bringing them money.

Since the 10 people running the vacuum cleaner already have more money than they could possibly ever spend, they use about a quarter of the money inside the vault to keep this nice little arrangement running smoothly. They make sure that the bank tellers get some benefits and that the security guards have enough to feed their families. Some of these tellers and guards are living pretty comfortably, so they don’t complain and do what they’re told… because they don’t want to be on the outside.

On the other side of the bank’s heavily guarded gates, there are 50 people – the rest of America. Most of them think that if they just keep working hard enough, they can get a job inside the bank, too. Some of these folks outside are too hungry or sick to even try. The rich guys know that maintaining this arrangement is a balancing act, so they don’t take money from the poorest outsiders – they just keep a steady trickle of small bills and pocket change flowing to help them survive for a while (but not so much that they won’t want to work “for themselves.”)

This is the America I see when I look at this graph:

The world is not a simple place. Our country’s vast and unequal distribution of wealth is not a conspiracy – it’s the result of many influences ranging from complicit corporate media to our “pay-to-play” democracy. Rich people are obviously not all amoral money-grubbers. “Upward mobility” – while increasingly difficult – is still more possible for America’s working class and poor than in many other parts of the world.

But, really – don’t you think we can do better than this?

These charts are from a collection called “15 Mind-Blowing Facts About Wealth And Inequality In America.”  I would like to see people print out poster-sized versions of these charts and walk around Tea Party rallies with them. That way, when a Tea Partier starts screaming about how wealth is being redistributed, you can point to the sign and say, “Yes, the wealth of America is clearly being re-distributed. Which way do you think it’s going?”


*Note: I know that these figures are pre-Obama, but these trends have not changed significantly, and any “re-distribution” is certainly not of the radical, socialist variety that Glenn Beck is crying about.

Regarding my suggestion to confront Tea Partiers with the facts... don't even bother with clowns like this guy. There are lots of good folks out there who have been brainwashed by FoxNews and a little reality check could go a long way.

It Would Make Sense if You Had the Memory of a Fruit Fly

April 6, 2010

“9/11 was an inside job!” What's next -- Rudy Giuliani joining the Truthers?

Even though talking about John McCain is more 2008 than telling people “I drink your milkshake,” this little tidbit is just too ridiculous to pass up.

Old “Crazy Train” McCain actually told a Newsweek reporter: “I never considered myself a maverick.”

This is like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suddenly saying  “I’ve always been cool with Israel” or if George Bush came out and revealed that he actually can read.

Steve Benen over at Washington Monthly sums up the migraine-inducing hypocrisy of this statement:

“In 2008, McCain’s television ads described him as “the original maverick.” When McCain and Sarah Palin would routinely take different positions during their national campaign, aides insisted this was to be expected from ‘a couple of mavericks.’ A quick search of McCain’s Senate website turns up several dozen references to the senator being a ‘maverick’ — in some cases, press releases, instead of quoting McCain by name, would simply note, ‘The Maverick said…’ McCain’s website for his Senate campaign does the same thing, using ‘McCain’ and ‘Maverick’ interchangeably, as if they were practically the same word.”

Jeez. If John McCain is willing to distance himself from the maverick label, you’ve got to wonder what other startling revelations we might need to start preparing ourselves for…

"I have a confession to make... this isn't my real hair."

"Deep down, I've always been more of the sensitive artist-type."

"I've never really conidered myself inspirational... hope is for suckers. You should all just go home, because nothing will ever change."

Anarchists + Tea Party = Black Tea Party?

April 4, 2010

Not Likely

A call to disrupt Tea Party protests scheduled for April 15 was recently posted on Infoshop.org, a popular anarchist news site and forum. Once right-wing Web sites found out about the anarchists’ plan to invade their rallies, the cyber-insults and threats quickly piled up like clogged assembly line. That is to say, there was a lot of cookie-cutter trash talk from both sides, but it didn’t lead to productive results*.

Most of the anarchists’ online comments were little more than slight variants of the over-generalized description from the initial Infoshop article, which described the Tea Party movement as “a coalition of conservatives, anti-Semites, fascists, libertarians, racists, constitutionalists, militia men, gun freaks, homophobes, Ron Paul supporters, Alex Jones conspiracy types and American flag wavers.”

Most of the Tea Partiers’ comments involved at least one of the following three themes:

  • “I hope anarchists really do try to confront us so I can shoot them / attack them with my dog”
  • “All anarchists are smelly idiots/confused college students/entitled bums/narcissists/undercover provocateurs/fascists/liberals/Democrats”
  • “I’m confused. I thought anarchists were anti-government. Why do they want to fight us in order to protect government programs?” (This theme is in response to a line from the Infoshop article that says “If the tea party movement takes over this country they will really hurt poor people by getting rid of social programs like food stamps, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, student aid, free health care, etc.” Frankly, I wouldn’t expect Tea Partiers to up-to-date on the somewhat paradoxical nature of modern anarchist theory, so I can’t really blame them for being flabbergasted by what would seem to be a major philosophical contradiction. But I’m not going to get into that.)

OK, so that’s a quick and admittedly over-generalized overview of the situation so far. What will happen next? I’m no Miss Cleo but here’s my prediction:

On April 15, groups of anarchists confront larger groups of Tea Partiers. There will be screaming and name-calling along the lines of “You’re a fascist!” “No, you’re a fascist!”. There might be some minor skirmishes, but a lot of cops will be on hand to prevent anything too crazy. The cops will probably arrest a few anarchists. Both sides will go home confident that they “won” and spend the next few weeks re-hashing their triumphs. The animosity will continue to simmer.

Maybe next time, a few months from now, somebody will really get hurt. A Vietnam vet will re-assert his patriotism by pumping a bullet into some kid wearing black clothes and a black bandana over his face. Or maybe an anti-capitalist revolutionary will hurl a brick into a crowd and it will crack some old lady’s skull. Maybe the next level of violence will be instigated by an undercover government agent. That last option is just about the oldest trick in the book when the government wants to crack down on a movement – or two.

Either way, more government “attention” on both of these groups would be the inevitable next step in this utterly predictable sequence of events. History as well as current events informs us that the Feds are already keeping close tabs on organizations at both ends of the political spectrum. Moles and provocateurs are common.

This surveillance is understandable with situations involving violent factions like the Hutaree militia, who were arrested last week for plotting a mass murder, or animal liberation groups that send mail bombs to scientists. However, well-documented revelations of illegal spying and infiltration of totally peaceful anti-death penalty and anti-war groups like the Raging Grannies in recent years proves that if the government wants to spy on you, they will, whether you’re violent or not.

The point is that it could get much, much worse.

First they came for the Raging Grannies...

While I’m neither an anarchist nor a Tea Partier, I share some principles advocated by both sides. Resistance to unjust, unconstitutional invasions of privacy and anti-democratic policies is at the top of that list. In a nutshell, I don’t think the government should be allowed to violate people’s rights.

There are obviously irreconcilable differences between Tea Partiers and anarchists. I’m not naive enough to advocate for any kind of Tea Party/anarchist coalition (“the Black Tea Party”?). But as a confrontation that would seem to have no potential for a positive outcome draws near, I worry that these two movements will squander energy that could be focused on legitimate, mutual concerns involving serious threats to freedom that are rapidly emerging because they’ll be too busy arguing with each other.

Here’s one example: The government and corporations are teaming up for a massive crackdown on Internet freedoms.

Check out “Cyberwar Hype Intended to Destroy the Open Internet” for a great overview on a growing push by the military-industrial complex (including telecom and tech corporations) to “re-engineer the Internet.” According to a new Wired article, former national intelligence director and current Booz Allen Hamilton VP Michael McConnell is “talking about changing the internet to make everything anyone does on the net traceable and geo-located so the National Security Agency can pinpoint users and their computers in retaliation if the U.S. government does like what’s written in an e-mail, what search terms were used, what movies were downloaded.”

There’s already a Senate bill that would give the President “emergency powers” to take over the Internet and a bill in the UK that would outlaw open Internet connections, so some of these crackdowns could be right around the corner. While there are some cyber-activists organizing against this, a few groups like the nonpartisan Electronic Frontier Foundation are shouldering much of this burden (and there are lots of easy ways to plug into their campaigns to protect online freedoms).

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Tea Party movement for people on the left – and why it’s hard for anyone from mainstream Democrats to the crustiest anarchist to take their movement seriously – is that they waited until now to get angry. They certainly weren’t in the streets showing any concern when there was a white Republican in the White House violating the constitution, expanding executive power and driving up the national deficit to record levels. But now they’ve emerged as the biggest populist movement in recent history… and the only reaction from the left so far seems to be mockery and unfocused scorn (some of this is well-deserved), but it can’t be the only response.

Of course racist elements within the Tea Party are inexcusable and must be exposed. Regarding the Tea Party’s supposed platform of fiscal responsibility, their commitment to cut government spending would be a lot more believable if they focused on the most bloated and costly source of government expenditures, defense spending, instead of obsessing over welfare programs with budgets that are pocket change compared to military costs.

Along with “less spending,” the other vague pillar of Tea Party economics is “small government,” which has been the code language for irresponsible deregulation since the Reagan-era. In practice, “shrinking the government” is usually just a Trojan horse for exploiting people by, for example, lowering labor and environmental standards, and siphoning wealth into already deep pockets. However, the Tea Party has also made questioning the government and demanding accountability a top priority, and that streak of anti-authoritarianism is promising.

Even the wild-eyed hysteria and fact-challenged, paranoid hypocrisy spewed by demagogues like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh occasionally contains kernels of truth. Regardless of your political persuasion, even if you’re the most mainstream, middle-of-the-road centrist, there are tons of legitimate reasons to be really angry at the government. This much we should all be able to agree on.

I just hope this anger isn’t wasted on anonymous online pissing matches and street corner posturing. There are more productive ways for groups that disagree with each other to “confront” each other – ways that aren’t as likely to end with poor results for both sides.

[*Since I started writing this post, I’ve started to see some more thoughtful analysis, like “Tea Parties & The White Working Class” by Andrew Epstein, so hopefully that signals a shift towards less knee-jerky rhetoric.]

I Know Why the Caged Tea-Bagger Screams

March 23, 2010

Tea-Paine: White Gangsta Rap

In the final hours before the House passed the health care bill yesterday, the right-wingers protesting outside the Capitol became increasingly frothy and deranged. As the Democrats trudged closer to victory, the atmosphere of the Tea Party mobilization evolved from status quo hysteria to Russell Crowe-in-a-barfight angry. Oh, that’s right, they don’t believe in evolution.

OK, well, it wasn’t just a deep feeling of emptiness and disappointment, like watching an entire NASCAR race with no crashes that washed over the crowd. It was more like if at the end of a NASCAR race, the winning driver took off his helmet… and it was Barack Obama! That was the level of bewildered fury.

Anyway, so how do people who are normally red-faced and always screaming like the whole world was their deaf grandmother and waving Hitler-mustachioed signage express that they are even more pissed off than usual?  Obviously, the less media-savvy patriots hurled racial and sexual orientation slurs at some of the more non-conformist members of the House who chose not to be straight white men.

This whole scenario was entirely predictable. What would the Tea Party movement be without uncorkable, ignorant rage?

However, in the events that followed, a truly flabbergasting opinion was voiced. Criticizing an Ohio congressman who denounced “these teabagger protesters,” Debbie Gunnoe, a Tea Party organizer from Florida, told Politico that “[calling the Tea Partiers ‘teabaggers’] is a denigrating word with negative connotations. It’s as bad as calling a black person the N-word.”

Let’s all take a deep breathe before responding.

First, I could write a book about why this is one of the dumbest things anybody has ever said, but nobody reads long blog posts, let alone books. Plus, I’m sure most people don’t need to be convinced.

Second, it’s actually not that surprising that people in the Tea Party are identifying themselves as an oppressed class, despite being white and mostly middle class. The fetishization of victimhood so enthusiastically embraced by the Right since Obama took office has manifested itself so thoroughly in the spongy brains of Tea Partiers that the most privileged people in the entire fucking world now see themselves as… America’s new n_gg_rs.

Hopefully, the police start feeling this way, too. Hey, cops, give black people a break and beat up some Republicans!

Black Power!