More Good News for People Who Like Shiny Metal

May 13, 2010

I wonder if there’s a leprechaun inside.

Here’s a story that’s sure to excite rappers, libertarians and James Bond villians: A hotel in Abu Dhabi has installed a machine that dispenses gold. According to AP, “The ATM-style kiosk in the Emirates Palace monitors the daily gold price and offers small bars up to 10 grams or coins with customized designs.”

I kind of wish they would install one in my neighborhood so I wouldn’t have to keep shaving slivers off of the gold bar that I keep under my bed ever time I need to tip the pizza boy. On second thought, a gold-spewing machine would probably attract unsavory characters… like Glenn Beck and his fans.

Just a reminder that this is where gold actually comes from. If you thought that genocide of indigenous people only happens in James Cameron movies, check out http://www.protestbarrick.net/ for the full story.

Land exposed to gold mine runoff water. Scariest before/after image I've seen since...

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Why Doesn’t Nike Just Put the Homeless to Work in Their Sweatshops?

May 12, 2010

Remember when high tops with “pumps” started coming out in the early 90’s? Everyone knew it was a gimmick, but at least it made sense in theory. When you’re shooting hoops and you’re about to charge the paint for an in-your-face tomahawk dunk, you’ll want to pump some more air into your kicks to cushion the landing when you come thundering back down to earth, right?

But why the hell would you ever put audio production equipment inside of a shoe? The only reasoning I can think of behind this new ad campaign in Japan is that Nike needed to come up with something outrageously distracting to draw attention away from the fact that this multinational mega-corporation recently bought a public park from some shady Tokyo politicians and is now evicting all the homeless people.

This is the literal equivalent to shaking your shiny keys in front of a baby to make them forget about the shit in their diaper.

Remember the good old days before everything had to have something else built into it?

Is This Guy Running for Congress or Auditioning for a Job at FoxNews?

May 9, 2010

I can’t wait to see Dan Fanelli’s first debate. I hope it goes something like this:

Moderator: Mr. Fanelli, what’s your policy on national security?

Dan Fanelli: I’ll send our enemies where they belong – and that’s not to a courtroom.

Moderator: Just pack ‘em off to Gitmo, huh? Even though the majority of arrests on “terrorism” charges have resulted in acquittals or been dropped completely because the government is so desperate to make headlines that they’re willing to book people on bogus cases?

Dan Fanelli: Well, let me be clear. I would only support torturing and illegally detaining Muslim or other brown-skinned terrorists. If the people advocating the violent overthrow of the U.S. government are white or pinkish, I actually think they should have more guns. God Bless America.

Moderator: And what about your own background – despite your constant spewing of clichéd Republican sound-bites about stopping “Big Government,” your entire professional career has been funded by taxpayers. You were a Navy pilot and let’s not forget that the government has been known to spend billions of dollars to develop planes that are never even used in combat. Then you worked as a commercial pilot for a major airline that is only able to exist because the airline industry is so heavily subsidized by the U.S. government.

Dan Fanelli: So what’s your question?

Moderator: Are you an idiot?

Dan Fanelli: No… USA! USA! USA!

Moderator: I noticed on your Web site that point 4 of your “8-Point Plan” is: “Respect all human life and support strond family values.” Is that a typo? Did you mean to say “strong family values?”

Dan Fanelli: No, I support those, too, but my real priority is Strond family values. Strond is a small town in Denmark’s Faroe Islands renowned for it’s annual whale and dolphin slaughter. In Strond, it’s a rite of passage for young men to kill their first whale or dolphin.

That’s what I’m talking about when I say Strond family values – fuck marine mammals and fuck the terrorists. Nuke ‘em all and let the ACLU sort out the bodies and then we’ll nuke them, too. Drill baby drill!

Moderator: Ok, I’ve had enough. Time for you to go back to your gated community – I think Glenn Beck is almost on and I know you wouldn’t want to miss that.

Dan Fanelli: I Tivo’d it.

Moderator: Fine, any last remarks?

Dan Fanelli: Ronald Reagan shock and awe I want my country back 9/11 founding fathers Obama is a Muslim guns guns guns with us or against us stem cells are bad… fuck the dolphins!

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.

Nuke the Rainforest: That Would Make As Much Sense

May 4, 2010

“One size fits all” works fine with the “Snuggie,” but not so much for a national policy on levee maintenance. Could someone please tell that to the US Army Corps of Engineers?

Stories like this really make you wonder how our government was ever competent enough to send a man to the fucking moon.

According to an article in today’s Sacramento Bee, “The federal government is pressing forward with a policy that could require trees to be stripped from California levees, eliminating what shade and wildlife habitat remain along the state’s rivers.”

New guidelines on levee maintenance developed by the Army Corps of Engineers require levees to have nothing other than grass on them. In other words: goodbye foliage.

Right now you might be thinking, “Hey, don’t be a dick! I’m sure these professional engineers have a really good reason for this policy – they’re probably trying to keep you from drowning next time there’s a flood, Mr. Smartass.”

If that’s what you’re thinking: You’re wrong.

And why would you have that kind of faith in the Army Corps of Engineers, anyway? They were supposed to be in charge of the levees in New Orleans, too, and remember how that turned out?

Anyway, the Army does claim that trees along rivers can cause floods if they’re over-turned during storms and rip out chunks of levee, and they’re right about that… in the South. During hurricanes and tropical storms along the Gulf Coast, that’s exactly what happens. But in California – where we don’t get too many hurricanes – flooding is different and the trees actually strengthen the levees by binding the soil together with their roots.

Doesn’t the Army know we’re not part of the South? I mean, this isn’t the Middle East, where it’s pretty easy to get lost and end up fighting a war in Iraq when you were supposed to be in Afghanistan.

I guess cultural homogeneity could be partially to blame. After all, California is now chock full of Cracker Barrels, NASCAR fans (even in Sonoma County where tailgating fans beer bong Pinot Noir) and racist bumper stickers… so it’s not too hard to believe that the Army doesn’t understand the difference between Louisiana and California.

But this is quite a double-whammy, even for the Army. In the short term, they want to destroy what’s left of California’s thriving and biologically diverse river ecosystems. And in the long run, the flooding will be worse because removing the trees will actually weaken the levees. This plan is so evil and stupid that I hope it makes national news, because I would love to see FOX News and Rush Limbaugh figure out ways to defend it. Probably something about how protecting trees is all part of Al Gore’s phony climate change “agenda.”

Fortunately, there is one factor that may prevent the tree massacre from happening: it would cost $7.5 billion. All we need is another economic meltdown and then our government won’t be able to afford to cut down the trees.

Considering Congress’s characteristically inept and even more characteristically corrupt efforts to “reform” Wall Street and pass meaningful legislation to prevent another devastating bubble… well, let’s just say that those trees might not have too much to worry about after all.

The US Army "liberating" insurgent trees. Soon, unmanned drones will be called in to "pacify" extremist ferns and bushes hiding out in California's notoriously ungovernable mountain regions.

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.]