Tag: Tea Party protests

The Astroturf Study

The Left is jumping with both feet on this study:

A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry’s role in driving climate disruption.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party’s anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.

Taken purely as “science” — taxpayer-funded science incidentally — there are several problems with inhaling their conclusions without a hint of critical thinking. Sullum:

The main evidence for this thesis is that Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), a think tank co-founded by libertarian billionaire David Koch and economist Richard Fink in 1984, received donations from tobacco companies (mainly Philip Morris) between 1991 and 2002. A year or two later, CSE split into two organizations, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, that have helped support and organize Tea Party activists. How much tobacco money did CSE get? According to Glantz et al., $5.3 million over 12 years, which amounts to roughly 11 percent of CSE’s revenue as of 2002. That’s a substantial share, but was it enough to corrupt “a think tank dedicated to free market economics” and backed by an ideologically motivated billionaire? Glantz et al. show that CSE saw eye to eye with Philip Morris on issues such as tobacco taxes and smoking bans, which presumably is why the company supported it. But they do not present any evidence that CSE took positions contrary to its avowed principles because it was eager to keep the tobacco money flowing. Nor do they claim that FreedomWorks or Americans for Prosperity, the groups that have aligned themselves with the Tea Party, receive substantial tobacco industry funding, let alone that such money is important enough to sway the entire Tea Party movement.

I didn’t realize that smoking rights was such a big deal to the Tea Party. I mean, every Tea Partier I’ve talked to has had that moment when his eyes glazed over and he mumbled, “People should be free to smoke anywhere. Tobacco taxes are bad. I like Phillip Morris better than Cats. I am going to smoke it again and again and again.” But I never thought anything of it.

Incidentally, you know who else got money from Big Tobacco? Algore. Yet, somehow, this does not discredit his opinions on global warming.

Sullum again:

If these positions are so clearly indefensible, why does the money matter? “It is important for policy-makers to be aware of the corporate funding sources for organisations that work to influence public policy,” Glantz et al. write. “It is important for policy-makers,the health community and people who support the Tea Party to be aware of these complex and often hard-to-track linkages.” But they never really explain why. Surely it is possible to judge arguments and evidence on their own merits, without reference to the alleged financial interests of the people offering them.

But rather than respond with arguments and evidence of his own, Glantz seeks to discredit his opponents by implying that they do not really believe what they are saying, that they are only in it for the money. “It is important for tobacco control advocates to anticipate and counter Tea Party opposition to tobacco control policies,” Glantz and his co-authors write, “and to ensure that policy makers, the media and the public understand the longstanding intersection between the tobacco industry and the Tea Party policy agenda.” In other words, if you don’t have logic and facts on your side, smear your opponents as Big Tobacco shills or dupes.

Exactly. Ever since the Tea Party arose, the goal of the Left has not been to engage them or debate them or defeat them. It has been to discredit them. To claim that millions of people with concerns ranging from illegal immigration to Obamacare do not come by these views honestly, but are racists, sexists, idiots or shills in some sort of Koch-funded behaviorist experiment.

Liberals, of course, come by their views honestly and with intellectual rigor. But anyone who disagrees with them must be insane, deluded or brainwashed. So … tobacco money! … or something. It is part of what I call the Grand Liberal Conceit: the belief that everyone is naturally liberal, that liberal views are intrinsically objectively correct and that the only reason anyone isn’t a liberal is because of some evil conspiracy. This view, of course, is the descendent of the “false consciousness” of Marxism, an idea that still extends its vile and vain tentacles into all branches of intellectual thought.

Bullshit. I’ll repeat what I said in a slightly different context, when Bill Maher complained that Obama’s opponents were running against an imaginary straw man:

not all of the complaints against Obama — not even a significant minority — are illegitimate. Obamacare is not a figment of the fevered Right Wing imagination; it’s an actual law that was actually passed and actually massively increases federal control over the insurance system. The crummy economy is not some specter conjured up by Rush Limbaugh. The massive deficit is not an illusion created by Fox News. We can argue over how much responsibility Obama bears for these things; but we can’t argue over whether they exist.

If you ask people why they don’t like Obama, I guarantee you that, except for a handful of pundits, the words “Saul Alinsky” will never pass their lips. They will cite bailouts, which Bush started but Obama supported and manipulated to the advantage of his political allies. They will cite the economy and the debt. They will cite Obamacare. They will cite Dodd-Frank. They will talk about a man who looks at our ridiculous tax system and proposes more complications.

These are not imaginary hobgoblins we attribute to some Barack X candidate who only exists in our diseased conservative minds (Maher, of course, thinking all conservative minds are diseased). These are things the President bears responsibility for.

Yes, some of the organizations affiliated with the Tea Party have taken tobacco money at some point and some have been funded by David Koch. So fucking what. George Soros has been doing that for years and failed to get a real movement going. Ross Perot tried that and failed to get a movement going. All the tobacco and Koch money in the world would not not have made a lick of difference were it not for genuine and legitimate concern about the direction in which this country is headed.

To be honest, this study and the reaction to it tells you a lot more about the Left than it does about the Right. All politics they disagree with is the result of shadowy conspiracies and rich oligarchs. The world is filled with fundamentally evil forces — Big Oil, Big Tobacco, the Koch Brothers — who infest and corrupt anything they touch. There are not legitimate Right Wing movements, only Left Wing ones. And if that all sounds familiar, it’s because those are views and prejudices that they constantly accuse the Right of having.

Hell’s teeth, I tire of that attitude. I wish a thousandth of the energy spent investigating and spreading BS conspiracy theories about the Tea Party or any movement were spent engaging and exploring their concerns and ideas and how those can be addressed in a sensible way. But I guess that tolerance and patience only applies to Occupy Wall Street.

Occupy: One Year Later

It was one year ago today that the Occupy Movement was born when it camped out in Zuccotti Park. The movement got a lot of attention. The Left boasted about how it was more popular than the Tea Party (for about ten seconds). Elizabeth Warren tried to claim credit for it. But the movement seems largely dead, their dreams dissolved into mindless violence and stupid stunts.

Contrast that against the Tea Party. The Tea Party remains an active political force, has affected elections, has affected the debate, has affected policy. For all the crank candidates they gave us (Christine O’Donnell, Sharon Angle, etc.), the result of their activism was a Republican House and the first hints of budget control in over a decade. Without the Tea Party, it’s unlikely Paul Ryan would have been the VP choice. It’s even changed the Democrats to having to at least pretend to care about debt.

So why was Occupy a failure while the Tea Party wasn’t? There’s a lot of analysis out there. Doug Mataconis gets close, I think, in pointing out how incoherent they were and how they failed to crystallize around a specific agenda (other than the unworkable student loan forgiveness). They never did seem to cotton on to the idea that big government was the problem; that the Tea Party was the ally, not the enemy, of people who oppose entrenched power.

But I think it boils down to something simpler. As I said at the time, Occupy really was just the Protest of the Month. Some professional agitators and students looking to get laid marched in the streets because … well, because they like to march:

But the larger part of this is that you can get young people to turn out for jus about any protest. College students and graduates without jobs (of whom there are a lot right now) love to go to protests and march. They like to think it’s for a good cause, but they usually have no fucking clue what it’s about. Penn and Teller did a great schtick at an Earth Day Rally where they interviewed a slew of people who knew nothing about environmental issues. This included at least one of the organizers. In 1992, my campus common was flooded with students protesting the Rodney King verdict. And most of them were doing what college students to — hanging out, hitting on each other, playing frisbee. I talked to people who didn’t even know what the protest was about; they just knew it was on, man.

And as I predicted, their enthusiasm would fizzle when it came to actually doing something:

I suspect that when these guys run into the hard reality that not even Democrats will push their agenda, they’ll fade away. They’ll talk of a third party and how the Democrats aren’t really liberal. And they’ll vote for Obama anyway. I mean, if Barack Obama, with huge majorities in Congress, can’t get a public option done, what chances does a “living wage for the unemployed” have?

I’m not happy about this, actually, despite the smug tone of the post. I think OWS was concerned about very legitimate issues: the entrenchment of power, violations of civil liberties, corporate welfare, crony capitalism. I had hoped it would maybe get some of the ostensibly liberal to realize the danger of a centralized powerful government. But it didn’t. And in the end, that’s a loss for America.

Turkeys and Drumsticks 2011

For four years running, I have taken advantage of the Thanksgiving Holiday to give out my awards for Turkey of the Year and Golden Drumsticks. The latter are for those who exemplify the best traits in our public sphere. The former are for those who exemplify silliness and stupidity. I rarely give them out to someone who is evil; they are reserved for those who regularly makes me shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking. It’s a sort of “thank you” for making blogging easier.

We’ll start with the Turkeys of the Year. For reference, the past winners are:

2007: Alberto Gonzalez, Nancy Pelosi, Hugo Chavez

2008: Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin’s critics, Hillary Clinton, Congress, Joe Biden

2009: MIke Steele, Glen Beck, the State Department, Sarah Palin, Andrew Sullivan.

2010: Janet Napolitano and TSA, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, MSNBC, Lower Merion Schools, California Voters:

For this year, I’m going with:

Nancy Pelosi: This is her third award in five years. Nancy is the gift that keeps on giving, even after you’ve tried to return it to the store. To steal a joke from Bill James’ glorious Historical Baseball Abstract, Nancy is a complete five-tool silly person. She can run silly, hit silly, throw silly, field silly and silly for power. She is silly to all fields. She can silly behind the runner as well as anyone, and you talk about pressure … man, you never saw a politician who was sillier in the clutch. She is the Albert Pujols of idiocy. This is a woman who was cornered in an interview with Jon Stewart, claiming the Democrats didn’t pass a budget because Republicans would’ve filibustered it (memo to the former Speaker: budget bills can’t be filibustered. You might remember this because you passed Obamacare as a budget bill.) This is a woman who thinks unemployments benefits will reduce the deficit. There is not a month that goes by without Pelosi saying something that makes the Right Wing roar with laughter.

The Republican Presidential Field: You know it’s been that kind of year when the winner of every Republican debate is Barack Obama. You know it’s been that kind of year when the highlights of Mitt Romney clinching the nomination doesn’t include footage of Mitt Romney. About a year from now, we’re going to look at the list of people who, at one time, led the polls — Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich — and wonder how the Party of Reagan went so wrong. Newt’s Fannie Mae and healthcare mandate past will soon doom his candidacy. I suspect Santorum will be the next flavor of the month. This will last until people remember that he’s Rick Santorum.

And, really Donald Trump deserves his own entry. None of us were fooled that he would really run for President. And he showed himself thoroughly unfit. To me, the iconic image of Trump was his stoney face while being roasted during the White House Press Corps dinner. Presidents need to be able to laugh at themselves. Reagan could. Both Bushes could. Clinton could. Obama can. Even Nixon could laugh at himself. Taking yourself so seriously is a sign that you belong nowhere near power.

Occupy Wall Street: This is painful because I had hopes for them. I think the issue that motivates them — entrenched corporate power and wealth — is legitimate. I think it’s appalling that the banks paid so small a price for so big a catastrophe. But they’ve ruined whatever good will they had with criminal and anarchistic behavior, vague or far Left demands and mindless provocation.

Let me put it this way. A few weeks ago, the Left was crowing because OWS had higher favorability numbers among the public than the Tea Party. They’re not crowing any more because the latest poll shows them as far less popular. It took the Tea Party two years to tire the public; it took OWS about two weeks. And that was with media coverage in their favor.

Anthony Weiner: I still can’t make up my mind which is stupider: texting pictures of your dick to strangers? Or lying about it and making fools of your political allies? He’ll be back, probably with a commentary gig on MSNBC or something.

The Eurozone: If we get into a second Great Depression, it will be because of these guys. Everyone knows what needs to be done. No one can do it. But at least we know that drinking bottled water may prevent dehydration.

Dishonorable Mention: Rush Limbaugh, Andrew Sullivan, Bill Maher, Kim Kardashian, Charlie Sheen, Harold Koh, the NBA, the NCAA, Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Eric Holder and the ATF, the Supercommittee.

Now the Golden Drumsticks. Here are the past awards, the first round from WVR.

2007: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ron Paul, Barack Obama, David Petraeus, Juan Carlos, Burma’s monks

2008: US Military, Jeff Flake, Ron Paul, Republican Governors, Barack Obama

2009: The American Fighting Man, Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, George W. Bush

2010: The Tea Party, Chris Christie, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the Next Wave of Republicans, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, The American Soldiers

For 2011:

Seal Team Six: The biggest story of 2011 may be their execution of Osama bin Laden, carried out with incredible skill and courage. And a big bite of this goes to Obama, who gave the order.

Mark Kelly: Gabby Giffords is not all the way back, yet. Her interview, inspiring as it was, shows some remaining cognitive and functional difficulties. But that she has come so far is a God-damned miracle. On the day she was shot, I was convinced we’d next see her in a coffin or a permanent vegetative state. A lot of the credit goes to her husband, who has been a class act and shown his wife a devotion that should make us all proud. Bonus points to the parents of little Christina Green, who refused to politicize the most tragic fatality of that awful day.

The Arab Spring: It may still all end in tears and Islamofascism. But let’s be hopeful: the protesters who shook or toppled regimes in Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are what OWS deludes themselves that they are: real people putting their lives in danger to oppose brutal powerful dictators.

The Technicians at Fukushima Daichii: They made mistakes early on, but they risked their lives and their health to try to deal with this disaster. And really, the entire nation of Japan deserves recognition for responding to one of the biggest natural disasters in history with resolve, hard work and dignity.

Honorable Mention: John Boehner, Paul Ryan, the students of Penn State, the Shuttle program, Peter Schiff, Reason magazine, Hillary Clinton.

Occupy Washington

I dismissed the OccupyWallStreet crowd last week as the usual medly of agitators, rent-a-mobs and students. That might still be the case. But there is something very deep that they’re tapping into that I wanted to unwind while I still can. The movement is already being hijacked by unions and Democrats. Even Obama is trying to claim he’s on OWS’s side, which is, needless to say, hilarious:

Despite his rhetorical attacks on Wall Street, a study by the Sunlight Foundation’s Influence Project shows that President Barack Obama has received more money from Wall Street than any other politician over the past 20 years, including former President George W. Bush.

In 2008, Wall Street’s largesse accounted for 20 percent of Obama’s total take, according to Reuters.

When asked by The Daily Caller to comment about President Obama’s credibility when it comes to criticizing Wall Street, the White House declined to reply.

But before OWS founders beneath its “People’s Front of Judea” organizing principles, there’s something worth noting. As Tim Carney and Jim Harper note, OWS is tapping into the same vein of public anger that the Tea Party is. OWS is mad because business has too much influence in Washington. The Tea Party is mad, by contrast, because Washington has too much influence on business. The thing is, these are not opposing views. And we should not let our political establishment, lazy media and dipshit talk show hosts persuade us that they are. These are the same problem, seen from different angles. Like the blind men and the elephant, we are groping about the same awful mess, just from different perspectives.

Consider his graphic from Harper:

Consider just a few things we’ve seen over the past decade:

  • A lead toy scandal produced CPSIA regulations that crush small toymakers. Meanwhile, Mattel was given a dispensation for in-house testing.
  • The Minerals Management Service proved to quite literally in bed with industry, favoring powerful players in exchange for sex and drugs.
  • Wall Street banks got themselves hundreds of billions in trouble through insane financial policies. I’m currently reading The Big Short and what these guys did was unbelievably stupid. But instead of going bust, they got an unconditional bailout. Democrats made sure executive bonuses were protected and the subsequent regulations were written by two of the biggest banking shills in Washington.
  • Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank are strangling innovation, preventing IPO’s and making sure that only the rich “investor class” can invest.
  • Our energy problems have produced a slew of useless but heavily subsidized businesses like ethanol and Solyndra.
  • This isn’t capitalism; it’s a poor man’s mercantilism. Connected (usually but not always big) businesses donate to Washington; Washington protects connected businesses. And the rest of us get screwed.

    Left and right need to figure this out. The Tea Party should not be fighting OWS. We do that and the politicians will laugh their way to our bank accounts. We do that and they’ll become just another arm of the Democratic Party (assuming they’re not already.) We don’t have to agree with even 10% of what OWS wants. But if that 10% includes pulling government’s claws from our economy — creating, as Carney says, a separation beween business and state — let’s go.

    The long twilight struggle is not between Left and Right. It’s between the citizens and their government. It’s between those with pull and those without.

    The new talking points are..

    It’s the tea Party downgrade! I have heard this now from every leftwing shithead that has been given air time anywhere. That journolist thing must be back on. It’s a concerted effort to try and convince people that the problem isn’t government spending being out of control and them borrowing money we don’t have to prop up a socialist utopia that is anything but, at the expense of the next generation, but the problem is with those stupid and evil people pointing out that the shit is unststainable. It’s a shoot the messenger for daring to tell you the truth scenario.

    Here is that asshole Axelrod doing it. here is an even bigger asshole, Kerry, doing more of the same:

    It’s those evil bastages pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, and they need to be burned at the stake for daring to do so! Our benevolent ruling class has been doing all this for our own good, after all.

    In the mean time Obama’s plan to boost the economy is to tax it more and do some more stimuluspatronage spending. That’s cause the last time they did that it worked so well. Fucking genius! And the LSM is right there letting these assholes blame the people pointing out ogvernment is screwing us for the disaster of their making. Sure they really want to do what’s right. It’s the tea Partier’s fault they can’t!