The Tea Party summarized

2009: No more government waste! Cut spending! Lower taxes! Stop giving money away to lazy (colored) people! (And please keep my social security flowing.)

2012: Taxes? lol wut? No abortion!

Greed and libertarianism

Charles and David Koch are two of the wealthiest men in the world. They’ve funded a vast number of projects, especially in New York, and it would be hard to say boo to a lot of what they’ve done: they’ve restored theaters, supported museums, and even funded cancer centers. This has all been at whopping costs, ranging into the hundreds of millions of dollars. But this is just the stuff that’s going to be mentioned in their eulogies.

The Koch brothers have also channeled millions and millions of dollars into efforts to deny reality. They’ve fought many Democratic policies tooth and nail, giving sly support (i.e., funding) to the Tea Party movement, and it’s all been done in the guise of libertarianism. The reality is much different.

In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

They have even gone so far as to fund an exhibit on evolution (good) in an effort to deny the significance of global warming (bad).

Underlying the libertarian ideology of the Koch brothers is greed. Given the massive revenues of Koch Industries ($100 billion annually), it ought to be surprising, but it really isn’t. Libertarianism has its root in the positive ideals of liberty and freedom, but it almost always is taken too far, taken to a point where it causes obvious harm. In this case, the Koch brothers are using their ideology to motivate a sizable portion of the country to do their biding, including: reducing government help for the needy, polluting the planet, and harming our infrastructure. No one wants these things. No one wants people to be needy, no one wants pollution, no one wants bad roads and bridges. The pragmatic (i.e., reasonable) position is to find a middle ground which allows us to afford all these good things while making sure we aren’t harming jobs and other necessities. Given the $100 billion in annual revenue, I would say Koch Industries doesn’t particularly need any more “liberty”; it has been thriving just fine within our current system. (And I suspect it would continue to thrive even if it didn’t skirt laws and undermine reality.) Pragmatism, in this case, tells us there is no need to further enrich the Koch brothers; if anything, they ought to be taxed more.

Of course, this all is somewhat a misrepresentation of libertarianism. The reality is that very few people actually adhere to such an abhorrent ideology because, like with all ideologies, it quickly reaches a point of ridiculousness and harm. Who can name an actual libertarian politician in America, after all? Rand Paul is the closest, but when he maintained his ideology and said people ought to be able to deny black people service, there was an uproar – even among Teabaggers. Unfortunately for all the so-called libertarians, Paul was perfectly in line with the ideology. It wasn’t that he said black people ought to be denied service. In fact, it’s unfathomable that he believes that. What he said was that people ought to have the right to deny others service. That is libertarianism. Sorry if facts rub you the wrong way, Teabaggers.

Besides that, most so-called libertarian Teabaggers are really just far right-wing conservatives who only favor economic libertarianism. Don’t believe me? Go to the nearest rally on April 15th and start asking how many Teabaggers think gay marriage ought to be legal. Or go far enough south and see how many still favor anti-sodomy laws. I doubt the spirit of libertarianism will be so buoyant at that point. And the reason is simple: libertarianism is a convenient excuse for greed. That is why it is so selectively applied to economic issues. People aren’t adhering to a bad ideology because they think it’s good. They’re adhering to a bad ideology because they think it’s good for their wallets.

There isn’t anything inherently bad about wanting personal wealth and success. You want it? You can get it? Go nuts. But if it’s done at the expense of the poor, of the middle class, even of other wealthy people (that last one is a stretch), then tough. Too bad. Back off. There is something inherently bad about wanting personal wealth and success when it makes the poor poorer, when it increases the income gap, when it makes workers weaker, when it harms the overall economy, when it’s done in an unfair way. We all want to see poor people rise up, we all want to see the middle class increase, we all want to see workers have control over their well being, we all want to see a strong economy, we all want to see a fundamental fairness in our system. Following a sloppy, or even worse, a stringent, libertarian ideology gets us further and further away from all that.

The racist endeavors of the Tea Party

Okay, I’ll admit it. Not every Teabagger is racist. Some of them honestly just want a balanced budget during economic hard times. So did Herbert Hoover, but I digress.

But then there is the majority that always seems to back the racist bullshit like we see in Wake County, North Carolina.

The sprawling Wake County School District has long been a rarity. Some of its best, most diverse schools are in the poorest sections of this capital city. And its suburban schools, rather than being exclusive enclaves, include children whose parents cannot afford a house in the neighborhood.

But over the past year, a new majority-Republican school board backed by national Tea Party movement conservatives has set the district on a strikingly different course. Pledging to “say no to the social engineers!’’ it has abolished the policy behind one of the nation’s most celebrated integration efforts.

As the board moves toward a system in which students attend neighborhood schools, some members are embracing the provocative idea that concentrating poor children, who are usually minorities, in a few schools could have merits — logic that critics are blasting as a 21st-century case for segregation.

Ah, the ol’ “social engineering” refrain. We’ve always known it was racist, but now we really get to see it in a blatantly racist context. “Send black children to black schools and white children to white schools…and have them all run by whites! It’s the only way to be fair! Uh, uh. We mean, uh, no social engineering…? Yeah, that last one is what we meant.”

I don’t pretend to be a Malcolm X expert, but I do know one of his biggest points was that institutions run by a group that has less than a full interest in the well being of another group will not be the best of possible institutions. Laws and government policies have corrected that in some places, Wake County being one of the best examples. Still in other places, we’re churning out kids with awful educations, kids who are destined to fail. So when we get schools that feature both poor kids and wealthy kids – and come on, we all know that largely is just code for minority kids and white kids – it isn’t surprising that we start to see some pretty great results. We’re taking all sorts of bright kids from all sorts of places and giving them all sorts of opportunities. This is an excellent example of government doing its job. It is this sort of policy which has forced the wealthy group to interact with the poorer group, thereby raising the standards for education on a broad basis. Or to put it another way, we have no one group running an institution for another group in which it has less than a full interest.

But I don’t think anyone ever thought the Tea Party was a pragmatic organization. Actual results aren’t what matter for that racist endeavor. It’s all about an agenda that is very loosely defined by libertarianism, but is driven by division and bigotry and, probably above it all, outright and unashamed greed.

Thought of the day

What if the Tea Party were black?

Bigots defeat bill containing anti-bigotry

The GOP/Tea Party/Bigots prevented the passage of a major defense spending bill because they’re sexually immature.

Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked an effort by Democrats and the White House to lift the ban on gays from serving openly in the military, voting unanimously against advancing a major defense policy bill that included the provision.

An estimated 13,000 people have been discharged under the law since its inception in 1993. Although most dismissals have resulted from gay service members outing themselves, gay rights’ groups say it has been used by vindictive co-workers to drum out troops who never made their sexuality an issue.

As usual, the party of hate and ignorance is advancing an agenda which is actively harmful to the lives of fellow humans. The worse part, I think, is that (with very few exceptions) this isn’t being done with the plausible explanation that the Republicans honestly think their policies will be good for most people. They just hate gays.

American libertarianism

Libertarianism is an ethical theory which has value. Most of us want and enjoy our personal liberty; it sounds appealing to declare that the good is maximized liberty. And, in fact, the constitution has a strong libertarian basis, as was common with the founding fathers, especially Jefferson. The only point where libertarians draw the line is when harm is done to others. Sometimes this gets tricky – defining “harm” is very value-laden thing, one that tries to make the world a bit black and white. But it’s easy to at least identify the extreme situations which constitute harm – murder, theft, rape, etc.

And this is where libertarianism can take on a distinctively American flavor.

When applied to not getting physically injured, sure, that’s harm and a violation of maximized liberty. Or when applied to economic well-being, theft is another violation. But many libertarians are unwilling to go beyond this point. Take what happened to Rand Paul last month.

INTERVIEWER: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

PAUL: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that.

INTERVIEWER: But?

PAUL: You had to ask me the “but.” I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners—I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant—but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I absolutely think there should be no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that’s most of what I think the Civil Rights Act was about in my mind.

This is entirely consistent with libertarianism. Again, it is an ethical theory – it is not a moral one. It is possible to favor something out of principle because it maximizes liberty while at the same time finding it immoral. Paul does precisely that. It’s immature – there’s no need to force one’s self to be so ideological (both consequences and intentions matter, contrary to the one-or-the-other principles of most ethical theories) – but it’s still in line with libertarianism. Soon after this, the Libertarian party in Kentucky distanced itself from Paul. More recently, Paul has returned the favor.

The original reason for the distancing was specifically Paul’s philosophical stance on private ownership.

Party Vice Chairman Joshua Koch said Wednesday that Paul has been a black eye for Libertarians because of stands he’s taken on issues, including his criticism of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

This was an unofficial position, but it’s the basic reason for the distancing.

Paul’s other positions fall from necessarily being libertarian-derived, but they should still be labeled libertarian – with the qualifier American. It isn’t that the good is maximized liberty, it’s that the good is my maximized liberty.

The Teabagging Party is the epitome of American Libertarianism. The physical liberty of people remains universal – no one should be harmed – but it becomes a my liberty mentality when it comes to economic and social circumstances. Businesses not allowing blacks? Sure, because it’s forcing someone to help someone else. That isn’t complete liberty for the person being forced to do the helping – and just screw the liberty of those darkies. Same-sex marriage? Philosophical consistent libertarian parties favor it, but American Libertarianism is against it. How does that help my liberty, after all?

Give it some thought. Stop a business from having no restrictions, that might help me get something cheaper, help me get paid slightly more, or help me pay my workers (or taxes) less if I open my own place. But allow two consenting adults to have insurance and easy joint custody of their children? How does that help me?

The funny thing about it all is that rights are rights are rights. Currently, marriage is not a right. It’s an arbitrary privilege which can be taken away from any group at any time, should we apply socially conservative ‘principles’ to it all the way to the end. The reason so many are blind to this has a number of reasons: majorities are almost always privileged and that isn’t always easy to see, people are ignorant and thus plainly homophobic, religion is a virus of the mind.

And this applies beyond same-sex marriage. Thirty states allow for faith healing, something which minimizes the liberty of children. American Libertarianism favors this; philosophical libertarianism does not. Or the war on drugs. Again, American Libertarianism, for. Philosophical libertarianism, against. Or restricting abortion. Or the death penalty. Or the immigration law in Arizona.

The list goes on and on.

We aren’t racist! We aren’t rac…hang on a second

It’s a lie that the Tea Party is not about pushing racist, bigoted agendas. All the movement represents is the philosophically incoherent libertarians of the Republican party. (Not that I want to suggest that there are a large number of Republicans who hold coherent philosophies, whether libertarian or not.) And here are some stats to back up this all-too-obvious fact.

Among whites who strongly support the Tea Party, 60 percent agreed that America “has gone too far in pushing equal rights.” By comparison, only 23 percent of white Tea Party opponents agreed with that statement.

Other findings from the survey:

  • 94 percent of Tea Party opponents said American society “should do whatever is necessary to ensure equal opportunity.” Of all whites polled for the survey, 79 percent agreed with that statement. Tea Party supporters agreed less. Sixty-four percent said America should do whatever’s necessary.
  • 72 percent of Tea Party opponents concurred that “we don’t give everyone an equal chance in this country.” By comparison, 55 percent of all whites and 23 percent of strong tea party supporters concurred with that idea.
  • 77 percent of Tea Party opponents agreed that “if people were treated more equally, we’d have many fewer problems in this country.” By comparison, 54 percent of all whites and 31 percent of Tea Party supporters agreed.

  • 90 percent of Tea Party opponents dissented from the idea that the “government can detain people as long as it wishes without trial.” By comparison, 70 percent of all whites and 54 percent of Tea Party supporters dissented.
  • 72 percent of Tea Party opponents disagreed that the government should be able to tap people’s telephones. By comparison, 50 percent of all whites and 33 percent of Tea Party supporters held that position.
  • 94 percent of Tea Party opponents agreed that “no matter what a person’s political beliefs, he or she is entitled to the same rights as everyone else.” By comparison, 89 percent of all whites and 81 percent of Tea Party supporters agreed.
  • 74 percent of Tea Party opponents dissented from the idea that “the government should be allowed to profile someone because of race or religion.” By comparison, 57 percent of all whites and 33 percent of Tea Party supporters opposed such moves.

When teabaggers say they want more liberty, they mean for themselves.

Teabaggers in Augusta

Everyone knows about all the incoherent, vaguely libertarian teabagging parties that went on across the country April 15. My state was no different. According to friends (I suggested to one that she ought to start panhandling just to make things interesting), one was held down in Portland with a number of signs insisting no one tread on any of the protesters. I suspect they enjoyed the ease of walking on their publicly funded roads amidst all the publicly funded statures as their children went by on the buses heading to the publicly funded schools. Another was held in Augusta. My favorite part was this quote from one of the speakers:

Pete Harring of Maine Refounders, one of two Maine Tea Party groups, said the movement has more than 1,000 members in Maine. He noted that this year’s event was much larger than a similar gathering held a year ago.

“If we were all a bunch of liberals, we could have filled the whole park, ’cause none of them have any jobs,” he said.

What makes this hilarious is local knowledge. A huge number of people attending the rally weren’t educated, job-holding conservatives. They were the scummy leaches of Augusta, Maine who get $674 a month in Social Security “disability”; their ‘income’ goes largely to alcohol and drugs, and the only reason they attended the tax day get-together was that it had “party” in the title and they thought it would be a good excuse to imbibe their various intoxicants. Honestly. There’s no real parking near where the event was held – and that was fine. None of these people have cars, and they are actually commonly seen strolling the streets of Augusta (of course, mostly around the 1st of the month when the government sends them their checks).

And the thing is, the fact that these people have no idea what the rally is about doesn’t separate them very much from everyone else. The major problem the teabaggers have had is articulating what makes them angry. They’ve heard a lot of rhetoric from FOX Noise, but they don’t have much grasp on what’s actually going on and how government actually affects them.

I like that this video identifies these are Republican protesters. As much as the teabaggers want to deny it, they’re just the more radical wing of the Republican party (which is a feat in its own right).

Silly teabaggers

There are two reasons I actually love the teabaggers. First, if they decide to run one of their own candidates anywhere, it’s going to Nader the Republican ticket. Second, they make hilarious signs.

Make ’em shake in their boots, right?

The title of this post, if it wasn’t intended as derisive of the Tea Party, would be almost as tasteless as those vaguely organized bigots.

The footage comes from the Columbus Dispatch’s coverage of a Health Care rally outside Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy’s (D) office. In it, an elderly man holding a sign that reads “Got Parkinson’s? I DO and YOU might. Thanks for Helping. That’s [illegible]” is shouted at, mocked, and ridiculed as the anti-healthcare protesters standing over him dismissively throw money at his face.

Take a look.

This is an association of people who are horrifically selfish and ignorant. “No handouts”? It’s a handout to treat Parkinson’s? Should that man work until he can literally do no more? Why should his quality of life be determined by a (to an extent) changeable circumstance? Why shou…my apologies. I’ve forgotten that this is the Tea Party. Let me put it a way these people can understand.

Raarrrr! Rarrr? Rar? Rarrarar. Rarraaar?!?! Rarrr. Rar. Rarr!

I would translate that, but it contains no fewer than 14 racist slurs. Sorry. I had to use them so the Tea Partiers would listen.