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Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

Here’s a titter: Bill Kristol, the one-man juggernaut pushing a lot of neo-conservative policy over the last 20 years, says conservatives ought to be pushing to break up the banks “some.” “If they are too big to fail, make them less big.” That’s not big government, he says “That’s classic anti-trust.”

It must be a difficult time for neoconservatives (also, in Kristol’s case, known as minicons, as second-generation neocon progeny). Their disastrous war in Iraq has left a lot of them on the sidelines after it swamped the Republican Party. Kristol, who helped invent a lot of the nastier forms of politicking to push an aggressive foreign policy agenda, has now found himself in a weird position of trying to offer counsel to a backlash of anti-government hysterics when neoconservatives, at their core, believe in government and think it can be the tool of idealism conservative style.

To watch him try to play elder statesman after a life of being a partisan hack (albeit a brilliant one) is kind of sad. He knows he has to speak politely to Tea Party crazies but also offer reasoned analysis of Barack Obama’s successes to sound like a venerable analyst. So it hurts to watch him manicure his sentences to fit in the ears of so many tiny heads. He extols small government in this video but also says that legislation to limit huge Wall Street excess is OK and reasonable. Guess what? You can’t have it both ways. Government gets big only because life is complicated, and we need decent government watchdogs on Wall Street, not the current array of lap dogs. That means resources. Which means taxes. To say that financial legislation is just words on paper curbing excess and nothing more is disingenuous to say the least.

I give him this. He is much more subtle at trying to say two contradictory things in one sentence, unlike Ron Paul, who tries to do the same thing and often leaves you reaching for aspirin.

Kristol should just stand up, be a man, and admit what some former conservative colleagues are: that Reaganite deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy have failed to make life better for the majority of people, which is what Kristol, the liberator of the Iraqis, has always said he stands for.

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As Americans stopped today to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and ponder his message of freedom for all regardless of race or creed, they soon afterward began using him to score cheap points against each other on all sorts of matters Dr. King likely had no opinions about.

“Americans have to move on from a spirit of racism, which is why I want to end the alternative minimum tax,” said Jesse Stamford of Columbia, S.C. “I know that’s what Dr. King would have thought of as equality.”

“Dr. King fought for the rights of common people, which means the protection of unions and that’s why we at United Auto Workers will not budge in our upcoming talks with Ford,” said union leader Ray Johnstone.

African-American leaders led the way in arguing over the legacy of this great civil rights leader. Al Sharpton said that Dr. King would have found today’s Tea Party a travesty, while others said Dr. King would have certainly agreed with them that no matter what you think of the Tea Party, Al Sharpton is “a showboating political fringe dweller and an embarrassment to all of us,” in the words of Washington, D.C. resident Kim Watkins.

President Barack Obama, weeks after political violence erupted in Arizona, tried to use the occasion to strike a conciliatory tone.

“Dr. Martin Luther King showed what this nation could be if it had more community organizers,” said Obama. “Like me.”

But it wasn’t only politicians piling on. Democrats were quick to say Dr. King would have wanted better health care, while others said Dr. King would want “absolutely no government health care whatsoever.” Gays pointed out King’s history of tolerance while Jesse Jackson said King would have wanted him to be president.

“Also, he showed it’s not that big a deal having a girlfriend on the side,” said Jackson.

Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush said that Dr. King would likely want to give to their charity, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahjadinejad said that Dr. King would have wanted Iran to have nuclear power.

Dr. King’s message was one of using civil disobedience to achieve the goals of equality and peace. Americans said that message was needed now more than ever as they raised fresh petty political arguments and showed the dissent and discord that is evidently part of human nature.

“I want ice cream!” screamed 8-year-old Beth Marshton of Bryn Mawr, Pa. in the back seat of her parents’ Lexus. “Dr. King would have given me ice cream!”

Dr. King was assassinated in 1968 by a limited, brutish man with some sort of personal agenda of his own.

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I’ve said lots of times that far-right Republicans and Tea Party members likely don’t believe half the things they say. People who use the words “freedom” and “socialism” without clarification, qualification or even subject-verb agreement are merely doing it to stop a conversation, not to get points across. It allows them to stun opponents into mute stupidity, because being against freedom is like being against kittens or puppies or children. Why you could even cry “freedom” if you’re leading people to the gas chamber if you wanted to. Playing victim is a great tactic because it always works, even when you’re using it against uninsured children.

I’m sorry … I used sick children to force you to concede a point. How very Tea Party of me. How about special needs children? Cheryl Ladd in a bikini?

If you try to introduce universal health care policies, something more than two-thirds of the American public have long wanted, you will have to mind being bullied by cretins who insist that this is an “experiment against their liberties.” Never mind that under such a strict view of the Constitution, Medicare, Social Security and the CIA are also “experiments.” Social Security, in fact, is an experiment that provides half the income for 52% of elderly married couples and 72% of elderly unmarried people. That’s a lot of old people depending on government money. This experiment, this “innovation” against your freedom is also providing more than half of the money that your grandparents live on.

So when you see so many vigilante mob members animated about basic freedoms they aren’t losing, you might at least take comfort that they’ll step up for you when there’s an actual threat to the real Constitution, not an apocryphal James Madison quote (like the one about the experiments). You might hope they would defend Wikileaks cables, for example, as an archive of information that, for all its flaws, strengthens freedom of the press, curbs the power of centralized government to protect its own power first and illuminates the misdeeds of our foes and heroes both. It’s unfortunate that the founder has silly anarchist beliefs or hasn’t redacted information that could get people hurt, which is why I’m not a big fan. But his mission is actually an important one for people who claim they want to be politically enfranchised, who yell in the streets that their freedoms are being violated by centralized authority.

Where are these freedom defenders now? Gone huntin’. You’ve got Sarah Palin saying that Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange is comparable to an Al Qaeda and Taliban leader and his acts “treasonous.” (Never mind that treason applies only to U.S. citizens). Newt Gingrich calls Assange an “enemy combatant.” I pick on these two frauds a lot, but only because they are positioning themselves for the presidency in 2012, and neither has shown real courage to defend the teeth of the Constitution where it’s needed.

There has been a lot of debate about whether Gingrich and Palin are implicitly condoning Assange’s murder by the CIA, but even if they aren’t, other crackpots are. You must savor the irony when you have a loud chorus of so-called patriots and Constitution fundamentalists call for the death of a journalist. Their fundamentalism is suddenly gone, and what’s left is their slave morality.

Perhaps that’s harsh, extremist language to use? Consider that anybody trying to get health insurance to children for the last two years or even trying to get small business owners health insurance subsidies has been compared to Hitler.

Of course, there are some right wingers who see this contradiction in their arguments against Wikileaks, but not nearly enough of them given the way they go into temporal lobe seizure over, say, the public health option. One troubled Tea Party writer flirts with the contradiction with his stance this way: “I’m all for 1st amendment freedoms and the freedom of information act. I am protective and thrilled we are not a secretive and communist society, BUT, there is never an excuse for leaks between to top level officials or heads of state regarding sensitive national security issues.”

You mean, like the Pentagon Papers?

Are you surprised that right wingers show the white feather when it really comes to Constitutional protections? I’m not. I’ve said all along: These people have already shown during the previous administrations their ambivalence about Constitutional protections over and over. Habeas corpus was gutted during the Clinton administration, and there was no groundswell of right wingers coming forward to protect Constitutional freedom. Of course, that ambivalence was nothing compared to the way they let George Bush gut the Constitution. The Patriot Act allowed law enforcement officials to look at what we were taking out of the library. The Iraq War, fought with a huge disinformation campaign and tons of publicly issued debt, was the right wing’s patriotic rallying point. Where was the right wing when George Bush was running up record deficits? Or getting the NSA to spy on us without wiretaps? Even if the right has now been chastened on the war issue, how can they not at least admit that it is the American taxpayer’s bill to pay?

Or let’s talk about their interest in religious freedom. If they really supported it, they’d have to support it for everybody, even for Muslims building mosques in lower Manhattan. Right wingers also take a crap all over separation of powers, too, as Republican legislators did in Oklahoma recently. The Oklahoma legislators said judges could not consider Sharia law (or any other international law) in making decisions, even though it’s never been a threat to the Oklahoma legal system. They didn’t seem to notice how they’d made the mistake of telling the courts what they could and couldn’t do. Separation of powers didn’t cross their minds. The establishment clause of the First Amendment didn’t cross their minds. International business contracts (which Oklahoma dearly needs to diversify its heavily oil-dependent economy) also didn’t cross their minds. No, it was only the bigoted fear of Islam, whose system of religious law has never posed a threat to this heartiest of heartland states.

Of course, there are very consistent Republicans, like the reliable Ron Paul, who deserve much credit for their brave stances against the forces of right-wing conformity, bigotry and alarmism. I know there are moderate Republicans out there who negotiate the ethical problems of government with an open mind and without dogma, but such Republicans are running scared and with few happy exceptions will not confront the bigots, demagogues, culture warriors and superstitious yahoos in their ranks. The fact of the matter is that loud bullying Republican minorities get away with a lot in our public discourse because they can so ably bully the soft-bellied moderates in their own party and through this lever and fulcrum mechanism turn a tiny bit of hate into a lot of hateful action.

Constitutional fundamentalism is a show for these people. Any right thinking person would hold the Park 51 mosque against the right wing they cry about their gun rights. Would hold Wikileaks against the right wing when they shout about how income tax enslaves them. There is a real experiment against liberty going on–the Tea Party experiment. Its adherents want to see how many of you it can fool.

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We’ve heard all the complaints about the current state of Washington: a new president has broken his promises and pursued a far left agenda, reneged on promises to get us out of Guantanamo, continued to employ Bush-era policies on surveillance and signing statements. Conservatives say he has quadrupled the deficit spending and forced an unpopular health care bill down the throats of American taxpayers, one that will force Americans to buy health insurance, a mandate that might possibly infringe their Constitutional rights. He has had the government take control of vast parts of our auto and banking industries. At the same time he and the progressive caucus in Washington are steering us toward tax increases at the worst possible time–when we are still suffering the withering effects of a recession and crippling unemployment that continues to hover around 10%.

Americans, angry about the state of the economy, their unemployed neighbors and perceived loss of freedoms, are very susceptible to these arguments and have taken the only course they know–they’ve lashed out and tilted right, vowing not only to vote in Republicans, but those approved by the libertarian-minded Tea Party.

Americans, in other words, are about to shoot themselves in the face.

I’m sorry, that doesn’t seem strong enough. What other aphoristic or pithy phrases could I use to get people’s attention? What if I said Americans are going to shoot their children in the faces? Or kill their own dogs? Or disembowel their family members?

It seems hard to choose the right violent imagery to describe how Americans are about to get it so entirely wrong on November 2–when they send to Congress people who loudly cried for a new Great Depression. Who rail against unemployment insurance when 10% of America is unemployed. Who scream against federal tax increases that haven’t actually happened.  America is about to elect people whose biggest argument is that unemployment is still 10%, therefore we should have elected a government that did nothing to help save the economy in the first place. President Bush shouldn’t have kept banks solvent with a bailout (you do remember it was Bush who did that, right?) and President Obama shouldn’t have injected stimulus into the economy. The Tea Party argument? We should have let the economy crash and burn and unemployment go to 26% or 30%.

Shooting. Yourself. In the face.

We are about to punish Barack Obama for saving the economy from a new Great Depression. It’s as  simple as that. We are about to thump the Democrats for keeping the car industry and several venerable financial institutions from imploding. We are about to body check a Democratic Congress for their part in making sure 95% of Americans have health insurance by the end of the decade. We are going to head butt Nancy Pelosi for making sure health insurance companies can’t turn away children for pre-existing conditions. We’re going to sucker punch Barack Obama for dragging the last combat battalions out of Iraq. We’re going to rabbit punch Congress for giving the middle class a tax cut (and even offering to extend it). We’re going to bitch  slap Barney Frank for trying to police Wall Street, to stop the promiscuous mixing of bank deposits and speculative investments and stop excessive risk taking by banks  that helped lead to the financial crisis. It was this free-market biases, deregulated, Wild West Wall Street that in 2008 led to people to lose their savings, their hedge funds and their faith in the meaningless pieces of paper that are the foundation of capitalism. We have short memories in America. We have decided Barack Obama is now responsible for all of that.

Shooting. Ourselves. In the face.

And what are we going to trade all this all in for? A group of people with no real agenda other than to hate government spending — at least if it is not spent on them. People who say the market takes care of itself. People whose only stated virtue is their anger. People who at worst make schizophrenic connections between Joseph Stalin and Nancy Pelosi and who at best are actively calling for the conditions that led us to financial ruin in the first place. Mainstream Republican leaders complain about the skyrocketing U.S. deficit on the one hand but refuse because of rigid ideology to do the one thing all economists agree would need to be done to balance the budget: control spending, yes, but also increase taxes, especially on the top 2% of the wealthiest Americans. The Tea Party is worse. They show little agenda but vanity and petulant conviction in categorically untrue things. They think cap and trade is a redistribution scheme. They think illegal Mexican immigrants are destroying the middle class. They think Medicare is a private company. They show no policy imagination but instead flaunt their ignorance as if that, like their anger, were somehow a virtue. These are not people who have not ever learned or cared about how policy affects real people like your grandparents and your poor neighbors but instead have learned only to smugly curl their lip and deride people who spent their lives in public service (whether it be Democrats or Republicans). It’s the kind of knowing smile you often see on people who know nothing at all–a popular gambit with teenagers who haven’t done their homework. We laughed at “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” when Jeff Spiccoli “cruised” history. Now Sarah Palin is the one cruising history. She’s gotten a free pass for knowing nothing. She makes dummies feel secretly wise.

These are the people you are about to entrust your economy to. Shooting. Yourself. In the face.

The problem with electing people who have no respect for government and no real policy agenda is that when they get elected, they are incredibly weak and susceptible to the new accouterments of their power. They will find themselves agreeing with more aggressive people who do have strong policy agendas. Lobbyists. Think tanks. The insurance industry. The military industrial complex. News Corp. And make no mistake–the real agenda of many alpha Republicans is a gutted government at home (one that pays, it seems, for nothing but Medicare) and an expanded empire abroad. Were Republicans to take power today in both Congress and the White House, they would not only ignore the ailing economy (since they believe it’s government’s job to do nothing), but they would try to get you to ignore it too by refocusing your attention on Iran, which would once again take center stage in our national discourse. A Congress of weak-minded Tea Party hacks would suddenly shed their “leave me alone” philosophy, which is not their real philosophy at all, and go along with the nationalistic, sloganeering patriotism that characterized the Bush era. Need proof? They already did. The Tea Party already failed the libertarian test by showing up late for the real executive power grab–and dressed for the wrong party.

This is perhaps the biggest danger of what we’re about to do. One of the biggest reasons that America is about to shoot … itself … in the face.

Often when you hear people on the far right complain about the government, they will tell you in a nice, clear, concise and short epigrammatic prose all you need to know about the economy: you have to cut taxes, deregulate and get out of the way. This is an article of faith for people who don’t realize how complicated economies really are. Macroeconomics is not the type of thing that easily gives itself over to the platitudes of the left wing or the right. The fact is that the economy, like your father, is more complicated than that. Ask almost anybody, even Republicans, what ended the Great Depression and they’ll say the Second World War, but they won’t work through the logic–government spending saved the economy. Ask them why Ronald Reagan was a great president and they’ll say he helped save the economy by cutting taxes and deregulating. They won’t talk about his huge military buildup–in other words, how government spending helped save the economy.

Meanwhile, overseas, another government has shown that throwing a trillion bucks in stimulus into your economy can make a great difference: the Chinese government has thrown about as much money into its sagging economy in the last two years as America has. Unlike we Americans, however, the Chinese forced their banks to lend. Of course, they suffered some overheating speculation in property, but their GDP has run circles around ours. In part this is because China is going online with its own major consumer demand–a huge engine of growth as the country urbanizes. But without a doubt, government stimulus saved it from plunging into the morass. Unlike Americans, the Chinese have no strange and self-defeating bias against a government helping its people against the depredations of capitalism gone out of control.

Tea Partiers do. They are so wedded to their beliefs, in fact, that they would let the economy fall apart and our society plunge into Malthusian chaos before they gave up on these beliefs. You don’t need proof for this belief. They have said it out loud. The Republicans poised to take over in the House of Representatives, not Tea Partiers, by the way, have said that if they takes over in the next session, they won’t be able to work with the president unless the president concedes that government spending doesn’t help the economy. In other words, Barack Obama will have to believe in the Easter Bunny if he wants Republicans to work with him.

Our banks should have been allowed to fail, say Tea Partiers, and the consequences be damned, even if it’s the average American who would have suffered the most. Theirs is a millenarian philosophy, a law of the jungle. “Creative destruction” means that if capitalism eats itself and mass unemployment results, so be it. Has any member of the Tea Party talked about what it would take to bring jobs back other than cutting taxes? Do you honestly think the real problem is that taxes weren’t cut enough? They were already at historic lows, as were interest rates, and that’s when rampant, crippling, stupid risk taking took place at almost every level of the economy, from subprime home borrowers to hedge fund managers. Look at the balance sheets of American companies and look at the record amount of cash they are sitting on, in an environment where taxes continue to be low, and then ask yourself if you can still be wedded to your obnoxious faith in economic libertarianism. It’s a bit like starving your baby by not giving up your belief in veganism. The reason unemployment is still high is that American companies find spoiled Americans with their luxury goods and their iPhones too expensive to hire. It has nothing to do with anything Barack Obama has done.

And yet it’s people who are crying about high taxes that you are about to hand your economy to. People who don’t even know their taxes haven’t increased. Shooting. Yourself. In the face.

Of course, it’s important to ask when government should be involved in the economy and when it should back off. Instead, the discussion has been hijacked by free market fundamentalists who make up in vitriol they lack in real economic insight. Centrists, Blue Dog democrats and even reasonable conservatives are afraid of these people. For some reason, when nobody seems to know what to do, we are always impressed by the people who have the most conviction of spleen.

You can definitely criticize Obama’s deference to these people. Deference to enemies somehow only gets the blood of your enemies up even more. I can’t think of any president in recent years so hot to cooperate with the party across the aisle and who for that quickly got Hitler mustaches painted on his effigy.

For that we’re going to hand at least one house of  Congress back to the Republicans next week. Some are even talking about impeaching the president. For what? Starting an illegal war? Codifying water boarding? No, just for being, in their minds, a communist.

You can dislike the state of the nation. You can be unhappy, from either side of the aisle, with what Barack Obama has done or hasn’t done. But if can’t vote for him, then it’s important to know this Election Day that there is definitely somebody you should be voting against: extremists. The Tea Party is a dangerous movement of crackpots, at worst racist and at best willing to destroy the middle class and wreck the economy because of a reductionist, idea fixe. If there is a group of reasonable Republicans who want to discuss how misplaced liberal good intentions hurt the middle class, I’ll be happy to listen to them. But that is not who we are about to elect. We’re about to elect the people of Jonestown. Cultists. Crazies.

Shooting. Yourself. In the face.

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As we count down the days until the 2010 midterm election, we’re likely going to be treated to a swelling, tumescent heightened political rhetoric on television and in newspapers, as loud debates echo through student union arcades, in town hall meetings, on the steps of state capitals and in the dankest of Red State outhouses. Many lies will be told. Many ribs will be eaten. Your gay friends will be used as political fodder for people scoring cheap points. Thanks, gays!

As you careen through this veld of poison poppies, you are likely to feel sometimes like other people control the terms of debate, leaving you speechless and/or helpless to raise your own concerns and objections. Many memes and buzzwords will be used, like electrical shunts, to skirt you around the troublesome ideas underlying them. You will hear some of your older friends, for example, say things like “I am not politically correct,” as a shorthand way of saying, “Actually, I still don’t like black people.” You will hear phrases like “Barack Obama thinks I’m trash because I’m white,” which actually means, “I am actually trash, and I hate successful people who remind me of that fact, even more so if they are black.” You will hear some Democrats say President Obama’s critics are racist, but really they just hate being unemployed.

The best way for you to fight back against word games played by partisans is to try to drill down into semiotics and try to figure out the code. Here are some of the words you will hear a lot of in the next few weeks:

Elites: this refers to somebody who corrected you when you got something wrong.

Maverick: somebody who doesn’t look things up.

Going rogue: failing to finish a sentence

Socialist: to most of us, this word is pretty clear. It has given us Medicare, Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps, home loans, student loans and everything else that buttresses the American middle class and keeps the streets free of homeless mendicants and the other signs of blighted pre-revolutionary France. But if you think of it instead as robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, then you are undoubtedly not a fan of childhood favorite Robin Hood.

Unemployment: depending on who is using this word, it either means the natural result of socialist tendencies (which is a complete contradiction in terms) or the natural result of corporations finding American workers too expensive (which is so true that saying it out loud will get you pelted with eggs).

Obamacare: legislation passed in early 2010 that has already resulted in many of your friends and family members being sent to euthanasia camps. (Really! It checks out on Snopes!)

Nanny state: a nanny is somebody who doesn’t let you eat a dog turd off the ground. Anti-union, anti-minimum wage, pro-restaurant lobbyist Rick Berman reminds you: “Don’t listen to the nannies, kids. You go ahead and eat that turd.” You don’t have to be mollycoddled by government when you’ve got corporations looking out for your best interests with absolutely positively no agenda of their own.

Middle class: Both sides will use this phrase liberally over the next few weeks, and you’re sure to be confused, because both sides will claim they are protecting it and blaming each other for its disappearance. I’m sure that both liberals and conservatives on the Titanic would have blamed each other for it sinking, too. So let’s just stay there’s a hole in the boat and nobody knows how to fix it. The Democrats onboard will blame the Chinese for the disaster and the Republicans will declare war on Iran. “Nearer My God to Thee” in the key of F major, please.

Racist: anybody angry about the bank bailouts

Racist: Anybody who doesn’t fully support the beliefs of the Honorable Clarence Thomas.

Bigot: Anybody who doesn’t believe Jesus was two substances brought together in hypostatic union and now lives at the right hand of God in a milky ball of interstellar gas like the Bible says. (Checks out on Snopes!)

Racist: anybody who believes in a progressive income tax, which hurts rich black people

Racist: Anybody who supports abortion rights, which is really a black genocide scheme.

Racist: Anybody who supports unions, which use black members’ money only to support Democratic causes, which is not fair since some of those black people are probably secretly Republican.

Racist: Anybody who Rush Limbaugh says is racist, and by the way, he also says poor black people getting subprime loans caused the recession, not overly leveraged Wall Street banks. (Checks out on Snopes!) Anybody who blames the overly leveraged Wall Street banks and not the black people is just a racist.

Racist: President Barack Obama, who, unlike white people, is a member of a “race.” (Checks out on Snopes).

Purple: This word is politically neutral. You are free to have no opinion on it.

Multiculturalism: The auspices under which black racists will take over our country.

Libertarian: somebody with a strict, prescriptivist adherence to the Constitution as it pertains to the WASPs who wrote it.

WASPs: These people are still in charge. So you will not likely hear this word at all.

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As the Tea Party movement gains strength and raises its national profile, thousands of students and tutors across the country, in town halls and public plazas, libraries and convention halls, have fanned out to bring vastly needed reading and spelling skills to millions of Tea Party movement members.

“Are governmint is trying to take are money,” railed Tea Party protester Max Bonhof, a resident of Fort Wayne, Indiana who has been attending the party’s events since early 2009 and struggling to communicate his basic frustrations with the role of government in his life. “This soshialism has to stop rite now.”

What began as a few spottily organized demonstrations over the last few years has grown into a nationwide movement with a proven ability to win elections, all at a time when the Democratic leadership in Washington seems unable to cure crippling unemployment. Now that Tea Party members might actually move into leadership roles, pundits and analysts on both sides of the political spectrum agree: the movement badly needs book learning and spelling skills.

“We’re talking about a seismic upheaval in American politics,” says Jay Rundson, a Republican pollster. “These people are going to sweep into office on waves of dissatisfaction with the direction of our country. They will be tackling items like the environment and the alternative minimum tax, and I’m just horrified, with blood rising to the surface of my skin, that most of them don’t know what the AMT is and can’t even spell ‘alternative.'”

“President Obama is a muslin,” said Ruth Gabel of Carlsbad, Calif., trying to refer to the religion of Islam but instead referring to loosely woven white cotton fabric originating in the Middle East. “Liberals wont report the truth.”

As the frustration with Washington reaches critical mass, the Tea Party movement, bereft of basic understanding of politics, statistics, science and spelling, has turned to problematic candidates with little understanding of the political process or the mechanisms of legal procedure.

The Republican primary winner for the U.S. Senate seat from Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, has in the past criticized masturbation and reportedly used campaign contributions to pay her rent, and is considered so unelectable that even Karl Rove, the Republican political strategist and senior adviser to George W. Bush, has called her “nutty.”

“As the winds of change whip through the neoclassical white peristyles, arcades and hallways of Washington, we need to be prepared, just as we were not for Hurricane Katrina, to deal with this onslaught of poorly read, even more poorly skills-tested people reaching the pinnacles of political power,” said moderate Republican Abe Hochstein. “They are about to put their hands on the levers of government. They not only don’t have the instructions, but they probably wouldn’t understand them if they did.”

“We’re at a crossroads in America,” said President Barack Obama. “We face a different set of challenges than our ancestors did. Social Security could be put on ice. Deep sea oil wells are going to rupture or explode. Carbon emissions will change the composition of our skies. Americans are frustrated. So frustrated they can barely articulate their rage. And when I say barely articulate, I mean, they can’t put it into coherent sentences, linear arguments or even understandable grammar.”

Laura Franklin, a grade school teacher from Pensacola, Fla., has been tutoring Tea Party members for the last year or so to help give them better language and speaking tools to get their points across.

“These are people with lots of feelings and strong convictions,” says Franklin. “Things are happening that they don’t understand, and when a person feels disoriented and disenfranchised, at the mercy of political forces he can’t fathom, then he makes self-defeating mistakes out of anger and has a compulsion to repeat them. What I want to do is get these people reading some books and learning something about the forces affecting them. That will help them better focus this awesome energy they have … or, better yet maybe they can peaceably leave the tea party if they wish.”

“I’m through with the taxes and the bailouts and the government messing with Medicare,” said Rosemary Grothe, of Lubbock, Texas, repeatedly contradicting herself.

Jerry Rathskiller, however, of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, was more sanguine after working with a tutor for a few months.

“I used to be a birther,” said Rathskiller, “But after my tutor Shelly taught me what the concept of scientific falsifiability was, I realized how much I don’t know and thought I better shut my mouth before I start to look any stupider.”

An important thing to do with tea party members is to teach them strong verbs, says Franklin.

“They tend to do poorly with these. Usually what you see in tea party members is strings of nouns with no correlation to each other: ‘bailouts,’ ‘Obamacare,’ ‘Acorn,’ ‘Socialist,’ ‘Communist,’ ‘Palin,’ ‘taxes,’ ‘liberal media.’

Franklin says that verbs used with these words and phrases might illuminate them better.

“When a man says ‘Obama is a socialist,’ that doesn’t tell us much,” said Franklin to one of her students. “Maybe you explain with a strong verb what he has done that makes you think that. Perhaps you could make a more concrete statement such as ‘Obama will not let the alternative minimum tax expire.'”

The student stared into his notebook perplexed. Franklin shook her head.

“Patience,” she shrugged. “That’s the hallmark of a good teacher. John Maynard Keynes was so smart he could argue mathematicians like Bertrand Russell under the table. Now we have all these people on the Internet calling Keynes ‘stupide.'”

“I remember the very first things crossed off the “to do” list of our emboldened leaders,” said O’Donnell* speaking at a Family Research Council conference in a barely coherent jumble of hot-button words with no diagrammable structure. ” … They started talking about Obamacare and the bailouts. One industry after another. And our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Confusion everywhere with chatter about withdrawal dates. Plans for closing Gitmo and trying terrorists in Manhattan. And looming Supreme Court vacancies.”

“Reading is fundamental,” said Rove. “I don’t want to bash anyone. All I can say is that I’ve gotten a lifetime of joy out of reading, and although I have preached to dummies all my life, I can finally say that it has come back to bite me in the ass and I sure wish now that we could send an army of brigadistas out to explain some basic ideas about science, math, statistics and meteorology to the tea party movement. If we don’t, we may be surely lost.”

*Most of the quotes here are fictional. The O’Donnell comments are unfortunately not.

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It seems like whenever you tear down a building, rats always come out.

Likewise, there’s a certain stink of hypocrisy that always surrounds controversial topics like Park 51, (also known as the Cordoba Project), the 13-story Muslim cultural center (and small mosque) planned for construction in Lower Manhattan. If you haven’t heard, it’s a mere two blocks from the World Trade Center site, where thousands of Americans (of all faiths) lost their lives in a jihad carried out in the name of Islam by extremists almost nine years ago.

Because 9/11 is such a sensitive topic for so many Americans (especially New Yorkers), it requires extra critical thinking by both sides–especially, I hate to say, by those hurting the most. Those most inclined to yell and those in best stead to do harm to other people.  But instead of tolerance or listening or ratiocination, we have instead the pastiche and passion play that now pass for democracy: screaming tantrums, threatening, bulling, political posturing, recrimination and thumb sucking cries of persecution by the people who actually hold the real power.

And of course there are lies. Stinking piles of them reeking like a colony of dead rats behind your drywall. Untruth can be found on both sides of the debate. Opponents who know nothing about New York City think the mosque is going up right on the site, not two blocks away (and if you’re not familiar with the place, two blocks in New York City can take you through as many cultural dynamics as the Epcot Center). Some liberals (even, sadly, the otherwise heroic Keith Olbermann) have said there will be no mosque at all, which is odd considering that the Park51 site itself advertises a small mosque.

But it’s probably no surprise that Cordoba House opponents are the ones lying more, not only about the specifics but about the big picture. Do they have a good reason? After all, politics play a role in how we use our space. Yes, the First Amendment protects Muslims and whatever the hell they want to build even if they want to build it within homogeneous white enclaves. That’s an irrefutable fact.

But you’ve got to pick your battles. Law is not the only yardstick with which we measure our relationships to each other and at some point you have to turn to the Cordoba House builders and ask … did you have to plan one so close to the World Trade Center? It’s just two blocks away. If the objective of Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam, was to build interfaith bridges and span the gulf between cultures, as he says, I would argue that not every beachhead is a good one for a bridge. You have to find the shortest span where the goods are really going to flow and where there can be some real commerce between us. It might be right for you to fight on legal points, but it wouldn’t further your stated cause.

If you are going to fight, I would have to start arguing again, for opponents, that lots of churches in the United States get denied permission to build for all sorts of reasons all the time. It mostly happens because they run afoul of municipal ordinances–their domes are too high, or their driveways cause traffic problems, or the planned use of the adjacent community centers do not square with local zoning and cause disruption. If I were on the New York City planning commission, I might make a reasonable argument that safety and traffic and historic use of the land are all factors to take into account before I let, say, Oral Roberts build a giant golden egg in an overdeveloped downtown. Some have argued to protect the building that’s already there with landmark status. A nice argument unless you’ve seen the building. There’s also the argument that the developer is a bit unsavory, so why should the city help him out?

But if it’s reason you’re looking for, why do I feel the Muslims have more of it?

Hopefully, if you are paying attention, the month of debate has reinforced the point for you that bigoted conservative pundits lie as easily as Kelly Slater surfs. After fanning across the country for the past year and a half like self-flagellating monks, they have cried that their Constitution has been under attack–and by that they mean the universally prescriptive, strictly constructionist view of the Constitution that allows no “experiments” like Social Security, the Federal Reserve, Medicare, the CIA,  presidential cabinets or greenback money. If you want proof, you have only to go to YouTube where these zealots insist that their freedom has been hijacked by extra-Constitutional chicanery, thus they have every right to harass health care reform supporters and bray like mouth-frothing fanatical anabaptists.

Yet when the time comes for them to defend the actual text itself, the Elephants are no longer in the room. Not one high profile Republican has stood up for the First Amendment in this case except for always reliable libertarian Ron Paul. Who’s against? Palin. McCain. Gingrich. Giuliani. The Tea Party leadership. Meanwhile, others such as George W. and Mitt Romney are conspicuous by their silence.

Of course, some high profile Democrats like Sen. Harry Reid have also showed us the white feather, turning tail against the haters and coming out against. But in a courageous move (one badly needed from him lately) Barack Obama did, and for that he was falsely labeled a Muslim (again). Mike Bloomberg stood up for freedom of religion, and for that he was called a hypocrite for not supporting the Second Amendment also. In other words, no other notable right winger (unless you label Paul right wing) will fight the merits of the issue itself. Nobody supports the First Amendment here when it’s a Muslim right that’s being discussed. Why? They are playing a game of reverses and switchbacks. They want only to win.

I had hoped that eight years of George Bush running up enormous deficits and doing away with civil liberties by creating a law outside the law would expose the simple truth that most conservatives don’t believe what they say about big government. They have had plenty of chances to prove the purity of their libertarianism and they fail repeatedly. Only recently have some of them come around to the idea that gay marriage is an issue that ought to be accommodated by their “leave me alone” view of government. But most of them haven’t, and the 9/11 mosque just shows us again that right wing libertarianism is a smokescreen for conservatives whose biggest desire isn’t freedom but power. I’m talking about the usual suspects: Rush, Newt, Side Show Glenn, Laura, Ann … etc.

But those are just extremists. Let’s talk about the people who really matter: New Yorkers and 9/11 victims’ families. Most New Yorkers don’t want this mosque. But in Manhattan proper, the vote swings toward Park51. (The borough most against is dependable Republican bastion Staten Island, whose opponents are 73% strong and a good five miles away by boat.) Even if most New Yorkers don’t want the mosque built, they have also said Imam Rauf has a right to build it. That might seem like an unimportant distinction to you (or The New York Post), but it isn’t. When New Yorkers say “I don’t like what you’re doing, but you have a right to do it,” it’s important for you to read the inflection because it defines the statement. It suggests that New Yorkers might understand the bigger picture here–individual liberty–than the people from Scottsdale operating Web sites.

We also have to remember that Muslims are New Yorkers, too. “A small community!” you say. Try about 600,000 (according to one conservative estimate). Let’s do some math people: the Muslim population in New York might be bigger than the total population of all other U.S. cities except the top 25 or 26. If I told Christians in any city under 600,000 in this country that they couldn’t build a new church there because of Christian persecution of the Indians, I’d be laughed out of town.

Which brings me to the next point about 9/11 victims. The idea that we were attacked by Islam rather than Islamic fanatics is a fantastically awful meme that has to stop in this country. If you are a well-meaning Christian, you must be aware that this sort of criticism opens you up to personal responsibility for the Crusades, the Inquisition and the genocide of indigenous American peoples. Newt Gingrich, a man considered a serious contender for president in 2012, has made the comparison that a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero would be the same thing as hanging swastikas near a Holocaust museum (in other words, he’s calling a mosque an implied threat). Honestly, if you really find it odious that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls the Holocaust a hoax, how can you sit still when such a high profile American politician calls a quarter of the world’s population murderers?

Then we have to talk calmly with the victims’ families. Not all of them are against the Mosque. Those who are against have to concede a few points for their pain. They refer to this crime scene as hallowed ground. I’d like to say you had me at “hallowed.” But as we all know from The Wall Street Journal and the phone book, there are topless bars right around the corner from this hallowed ground that nobody has ever complained about. And as much as we might like to see the entire area turned into a park, the fact is that we’re putting up new giant commercial buildings with vast business space. That’s political reality and ought to be a much bigger pain to victims’ families. Helpless to do anything else, it’s much easier to project anger on Muslims. The families opposed now seemed not to care that there have been other mosques in the area over the last decade (within four blocks, if not two). Why are they bothered now by something that hasn’t bothered them before? If anybody is injuring them more, I’d say it’s the people inciting them to hatred. In fact, since the horrible day that our country was attacked (a day in which the ashes of the World Trade Center flew down on my house in Brooklyn), the people we have had to distrust the most are the people telling us whom to be angry at. Newt Gingrich is Iago. Sarah Palin is Cardinal Richelieu. Glenn Beck is Lady MacBeck. It was bad enough that we had to attack Muslims in the street after 9/11. But it was people who used that hatred to convince us to invade Iraq, a country that had not attacked us, that are just as culpable. They have the same strategies. They have the same political interests. Your pain is their gain. Your anger is their medicine show.

If your family member was a victim on 9/11 and you are at peace with this strategy … you find you must indeed continue to hate all Muslims for what happened on 9/11, then I can’t tell you anything other than that’s a war you’re never going to win.

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