Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax revolt a recipe for tea parties

Jenny Beth Martin remembers the day she became a protester. Her husband's business had gone under, and the two were cleaning houses in Atlanta to stay afloat. That was when they heard about a tirade against President Obama's mortgage bailout scheme by a financial news analyst calling for a modern-day Boston Tea Party revolt. "We had just lost our house and had ... moved into the rental house," says Martin, 38, whose husband Lee's temporary-employee firm had 5,000 workers before it went down in the recession. "I didn't want other people paying for my mortgage, and I wanted to prevent that in other places," she says.

What started out as a handful of people blogging about their anger over federal spending — the bailouts, the $787 billion stimulus package and Obama's budget — has grown into scores of so-called tea parties across the country. The biggest demonstration so far drew 6,000 people in Cincinnati. A nationwide protest in 500 cities and towns is scheduled for Wednesday, the deadline for filing federal income tax returns. The goal is to pressure Congress and states to reject government spending as a way out of the recession and build an anti-spending coalition around regular taxpayers. "The tea parties are a means, not an end," says lawyer Mark Meckler of Grass Valley, Calif.

The events have largely been gatherings of people venting frustration over a variety of tax issues, carrying signs such as "Tar and feather Washington" and "Spread my work ethic, not my wealth."

Reuven Avi-Yonah, a tax historian at the University of Michigan, notes that the United States was born out of a tax revolt by British colonists, but little happened in the two centuries that followed until the California property-tax revolts of the 1970s. "I don't know how much this represents popular sentiment," he says of today's tea parties. "I'm not sure that the majority of the middle class agrees or that this is going to be politically effective."

Where the tea-party protesters see irresponsible borrowers and politicians heedless of the growing federal budget deficit, others see downtrodden homeowners and public officials making tough choices. Brendan Daly, spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, says concern over the deficit is justified, but "we need to have this budget bill ... to grow our economy."

The inspiration for the tea parties was an on-air rant Feb. 19 by Rick Santelli of CNBC, who complained that Obama's $75 billion bailout of mortgage defaulters "rewarded bad behavior." As traders at the Chicago Board of Trade behind him cheered, Santelli said it was time for a new Tea Party, referring to the tax protest in 1773 by colonists who dumped chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The remarks spread quickly through e-mail and websites such as Facebook and YouTube, which has recorded more than a million views of the Santelli video clip. Organized parties soon popped up in Atlanta, Denver and St. Louis. Some attracted no more than a few dozen people. Others drew thousands.

Organizers say they were not pleased by former president George W. Bush's performance on spending, either, but what moved them from yelling at the TV to rallying in the streets was Obama's proposed $3.6 trillion budget, a package the Congressional Budget Office says would produce record-breaking deficits of $9.3 trillion over 10 years.

Bridgett Wagner, director of coalition relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation, sees a possible reprise of the tax revolt of the 1970s and '80s, when a California movement to slash and cap property taxes led to successful ballot measures from the West Coast to Michigan and Massachusetts. "These movements in the past have shown that when people have finally had enough, even the politicians at some point have to listen," says Wagner, calling it a "bottom-up" phenomenon.

The Information Age has given people the ability to network as never before, she says. In that sense, the Tea Party movement resembles the early days of, which began in 1998 as a small, tech-savvy liberal group and became a behemoth in Internet fundraising and rallying. "They're catching up on the tools," says Ilyse Hogue,'s spokeswoman. Hogue was dismissive of the several hundred events the Tea Party organizers plan for Wednesday, saying her group routinely mobilizes many more.

Nevertheless, Jenny Beth Martin, a former paid consultant for local Republican candidates, says the strength of the Tea Party movement is the emergence of people not known for street action. "It's not your hippie protesters," she says. "It's people who are working hard for their families and they don't want their money taken away from them to be given to people who aren't working hard."

Meckler agrees. He says, "They're supposed to energize a group of new activists, show them there are people much like themselves." Dawn Wildman of San Diego, who is organizing four tea parties, says lawmakers should not be dismissive. "We're seeing how you vote," she says. "You're not paying attention to your constituency. We put you there, and we can take you out."


Info here for those who wish to take part



Google wins one and loses one. Some hours ago, Google blocked my AUSTRALIAN POLITICS blog, allegedly for violating their "Terms of Service". But it unblocked the blog only about an hour later. That is surprisingly fast. They have blocked most of my blogs over the years and it usually takes a couple of days to lift the blocking. The economic downturn must have made them more eager to please their "customers".

But I have just noticed that Google's "Chrome" browser truncates my side column in this blog. Firefox does too, but at a different point. IE7 truncates nothing. It confirms what I have always found: That IE7 is the best browser for just reading stuff. For other things Chrome is best and for different things again Firefox is best. It's rather tedious to have to use 3 browsers to get the best results so I think I will upgrade to IE8 as soon as I get the time. Hopefully, it has the good features of all the other three browsers all in one. I can dream, can't I?

Curiously, I have in recent times been posting an extra copy of this blog using a more modern template here. It's partly paranoia about Google blocking this blog and partly the fact that it takes me only a few seconds extra to do so. And THAT copy of this blog is correctly read by all 3 browsers! Strange are the ways of the internet!



Muslim daughter killed over mini-skirt: "An Azeri immigrant in Russia's northern city of Saint Petersburg has been charged with hiring hit men to kill his 21-year-old daughter for wearing a mini-skirt, police said today. The man's arrest follows the detention last week of two other citizens of Azerbaijan, a majority Muslim state in the Caucasus, who confessed to murdering the girl, a university medical student. “They admitted to being paid 100,000 rubles ($4140) by the girl's father. They said he wanted to punish his daughter for flouting national traditions and wearing a mini-skirt,” a police source told said today. The girl was abducted on the street in Russia's second city on March 8, taken to the outskirts of Saint Petersburg and then shot twice in the head, the source said."

Clever lawyers could not get this garbage off: Music producer Phil Spector was today found guilty of second degree murder in the shooting death of an actress at his Hollywood mansion in 2003. A Los Angeles jury returned the verdict against Spector, 69, after a five-month retrial. Spector could spend the rest of his life behind bars after he is sentenced on May 29. The first trial ended in a jury deadlock in September 2007. Lana Clarkson, 40, a B-movie actress, died from a shot through the mouth fired from Spector's gun in the foyer of the his fake castle home on February 3, 2003 in the Alhambra community of Los Angeles. The two had met only hours earlier at a Hollywood nightclub. In the second trial, the jury was given the option of finding Spector guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter. Under California law, a decision to convict or acquit must be unanimous". [But they'll probably keep appealing it until the day he dies]

A criminally stupid war on drugs : “How much misery can a policy cause before it is acknowledged as a failure and reversed? The US ‘war on drugs’ suggests there is no upper limit. The country’s implacable blend of prohibition and punitive criminal justice is wrong-headed in every way: immoral in principle, since it prosecutes victimless crimes, and in practice a disaster of remarkable proportions. Yet for a US politician to suggest wholesale reform of this brainless regime is still seen as an act of reckless self-harm.”

A new leaf? “Back in the 1980s, I pored through hundreds of pages of microfiche, the compact storage method for written material before the digital age, to research the Register’s opinions about drug laws through the decades. I found any number of editorials and columns written during the 1970s that confidently predicted that the laws against marijuana possession, cultivation and use would be repealed within a matter of years. This was in the years, remember, immediately following public release of the 1972 Shafer Commission report, headed by the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, that found that the dangers of marijuana were vastly overestimated and that attempts to prohibit its use had not only failed but had inflicted serious social harms on the country — harms far greater than the use of marijuana itself, including financing of criminal gangs and widespread disrespect for laws that were obviously unenforceable. It didn’t exactly turn out that way, did it? That’s something to remember in a period when serious discussion of the possibility of repealing or reforming America’s drug laws is at a level higher than almost anybody can remember.”

Politicians’ false health care promises: “Washington politicians are gearing up again to bring us health care reform. But as has happened so often before, the debate will be truncated and no really tough choices will be made, in order to hold together a political coalition to get a law enacted. For the politicians, passing a law is the goal. They don’t worry themselves with whether it can actually be implemented or achieve what they have promised. Most likely, they won’t even read it before voting on it.”

FDR’s anti-business crusade : “In 1938, after having spent many New Deal years signing laws that banned discounting and established cartels, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt denounced ‘the concentration of economic control’ that many of his laws promoted. He went on the attack against big employers, even though, with unemployment still in double digits, surely the top priority should have been to encourage the creation of private-sector jobs.”

Are you ruled by your cultural rulebook? : “If you’re a good Catholic you don’t eat meat on Friday. If you’re a practicing Pentecostal you might speak in tongues. If you’re a regulation issue American woman you don’t like spiders and snakes. If you’re a traditional John Wayne manly man you don’t say ‘That’s fabulous’ or wear bright pink shirts. If you really are a libertarian you don’t advocate initiation of force or the threat of force or fraud against others. These things are in the rulebooks. Once you settle on your identity you also adopt the rulebook, knowingly or not, that comes packaged with that identity. Some of these rules are perfectly reasonable. Some of these rules are merely arbitrary. Some of these rules are outright irrational. So the surmising of the rational layman comes down to this: Marxist socialist left liberal progressives fear and hate guns because the Marxist socialist left liberal progressive rulebook says they should. There is a word for people who harbor an irrational fear of guns. The word is hoplophobe. The problem here is that nobody forces Friday fish-eating on others, or arrests Glossolalia speakers, or outlaws spiders and snakes, or dictates what manly men may say or wear, or conscripts anyone into the libertarian movement. The exception to all of this is the Marxist socialist left liberal progressive, who insists that everyone must be forced to abide by the Marxist socialist left liberal progressive rulebook.”

When jurors talk back: “Jurors occupy an unusual position: They are expected to make vital decisions without being allowed to ask questions. While a trial is going on, courtroom spectators may hear from lawyers, judges, witnesses, aggrieved parties, defendants, and even court stenographers. But the people in the jury box, who hold the final power over the outcome, are required to sit as mute as the furniture. In the past few years, some courts have tried a novel idea: letting jurors actively participate instead of serving as courtroom ornamentation. The federal courts in the 7th Circuit, encompassing Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, conducted an experiment in which members of the jury sitting in civil trials were allowed to submit questions for anyone testifying. From all the evidence, justice was well served.”

What is fascism? : “Fascism, as I tell my students in my political philosophy classes, endorses absolute and arbitrary rule by a charismatic figure — Eva Peron comes to mind as the female of the species. And what these rulers promote differs, although quite a few capitalize on nationalist and racists sentiments so as to gather support from the local population. The United States of America is what is best described a mixed system, with democratic, fascist, socialist and other elements — not surprisingly, considering the incredible diverse citizenry who send representatives of a great variety of viewpoints to centers of power. Just now the fascist element is strong in Washington, especially where government’s relationship to economic affairs across the country is concerned. The signs are not difficult to spot.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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