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.


The DHS Shoe On the Other Foot

Wikileaks latest has indicated that DHS was keeping tabs on the Occupy Movement as a potential danger. Naturally, of course, the Left has freaked about “oppression”, a freak-out which includes this laughable quote:

On Current TV last night, host Cenk Uygur blasted the agency for focusing exclusively on Occupy Wall Street. “The Tea Party… that happens to be pro-corporate America is not anywhere to be found here [but] when Occupy Wall Street is not pro-corporate America, all of a sudden, they need to be investigated by the Department of Homeland Security.”

As the author points out, this is all kinds of stupid. First of all, their “keeping tabs” on Occupy mostly involved trolling Twitter and other public media. The only remotely ominous thing is their concern that the protests could turn violent and threaten infrastructure (which kinda happened). Second, the DHS did keep track of the Tea Party and had a controversial report on the potential for Right Wing violence. Third, comparing the Tea Party to Occupy is a little ridiculous. Whatever else you might say about the Tea Party, they gathered, had their marches and went home, usually leaving the public spaces clean and tidy. They didn’t camp out, they didn’t have problems with women being raped, they didn’t demand free food and trash stores that wouldn’t comply and they didn’t have links to the people who created chaos in Seattle and other places. And finally, describing the Tea Party as “pro-corporate America” is a bit silly given the hatred the Tea Party has for bailouts and subsidies.

Frankly, keeping tabs on the Occupy movement and making sure there was no threat to public safety is the DHS’s job. If we find out it went deeper than that, then we can be concerned. But I find it ironic that the people who either ignored or applauded the DHS’s report on potential right wing violence now have a case of the vapors when it comes to the DHS looking out for potential left wing violence.

Civil liberties are civil liberties, guys. It doesn’t matter who they’re exercised by. We all have a stake in them.

On The Night Liberty Died, I Held Her Hand…..

This is tangentially about the SCOTUS hearing on ObamaCare that’s coming up in the first quarter of next year, but it’s not the crux of the subject I wish to comment on.

On March 20 – 22 of last year, I was in Washington D.C. for the vote to pass the health care bill. I had heard a few people suggest a gathering of some sort. Bachmann and some Tea Party notables mostly. For me it was different though. It wasn’t at anyone’s behest that I went, it was an irresistible draw. Think: Richard Dreyfuss in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” as he, along with all the others who had been affected by some extraterrestrial force, somehow knew that their presence was required at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, and nothing was going to stop them from getting there. I woke up on Friday, March 19th, and told my wife I had to go. She got it, and gave me her blessing (and started making food that would keep in a cooler to try to save money – I was unemployed at the time).

I have no idea if the old regulars here at Right Thinking had any fellow members who went to D.C. that weekend, who could provide you with a first-hand account of the event, but I do know that I was either the only one, or one of only a couple who went, on the other sites I frequented at the time. As I hear the punditry about the upcoming SCOTUS challenge, I keep getting a familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach that many commentators just aren’t/weren’t getting what this was all about. Which Justices are going to recuse themselves, will SCOTUS uphold or overturn or some compromise in-between, will certain politicians’ careers rise or fall on the outcome of the case……blah blah.

It is my firm belief that ObamaCare goes well beyond a simple debate over the finer points of constitutional law. It’s about what force of nature will triumph, the natural yearning of humans for freedom, or the raw evil of despotism and tyranny. While it is my belief that if America falls to the latter, so too will follow the entire world, that belief doesn’t really influence my committment to dedicate what remains of my life to preserving the former. The forces of the latter are global in nature, while the mindset that created the former is still, generally-speaking, only found here in America as a collective force to be reckoned with, diminished and weaker than needed though that force may be.

On the day I got back in town from the health care vote, I posted my take on where we stood as a country at Survivalist Forums, and you could see the epiphany that occurred within me that the above articulates in its first incarnation in that post. After giving my take, I summarized it thusly, which I used a part of to title this post:

“That’s why I went. I watched the grandmother I was raised with die. I watched my favorite aunt die. I watched my mother die. I held all of their hands in their final death throes and witnessed their final breaths. Last night I did the same thing with American Liberty. And I did it with a family of about 2,000 or 3,000 Brother & Sister Patriots who stayed till the end. Last night wasn’t about politics. It was about the death of American Liberty.”

I feel stronger about it now than I did then, some 20 months hence. This SCOTUS ruling will tell us, The People, if the rule of law, wholly inspired by the aforementioned natural yearning for human freedom, still holds any sway against the forces of despotism. And even if it does and the ruling goes against ObamaCare, will this chapter in American jurisprudence be enough to wake The People up to the fact that the fight is never-ending? Or will they give a collective sigh, saying to their collective self, “Shwew! That was close!” and go on about their work-a-daddy lives taking for granted the freedoms and immunities from government intrusion that court victories over highly controversial, important issues tend to mask as even being threatened? Are we collectively peering through the eye-holes of that mask? I think not.

Win or lose at SCOTUS on ObamaCare, it, in and of itself, is not the threat to our liberties that many describe it as. Apathy, complacency, and lack of civic participation are much more deadly enemies to freedom, that allow the rich environment in which travesties to liberty such as ObamaCare, the Patriot Act, and myriad examples of constitutional usurpations that have riddled this country for decades without so much as a whimper from the masses to proliferate, than any one piece of legislation even has the potential to be, no matter how egregious against liberty its provisions are.

So that’s what I felt compelled to say. Of course I hope ObamaCare is overturned, but I implore my readers not to take it as the end-all, be-all of victories over tyranny if it is. The American Revolution started in 1776, but it is a never-ending struggle, and neither the ratification of the Constitution itself, nor the passage, or upholding, or overturning of ObamaCare, can or will portend its conclusion. The precepts of the American Revolution can only be maintained and nurtured, never concluded. But it can be defeated. One entity can prevent its defeat; We, The People. Your participation is required.

CC

Occupy Continues To Lose Sympathy

You know, I heard a lot of criticism of the Tea Party back in the day. But I don’t recall them do anything like this:

Police have arrested an Occupy Fort Collins protester in connection with a $10 million arson fire that damaged dozens of condominiums and businesses in Fort Collins.

Benjamin David Gilmore, 29, was arrested on Thursday night on suspicion of arson, burglary and criminal mischief.

On Oct. 24, a fire started at 3:30 a.m. in a four-story apartment complex under construction. The fire spread to the occupied Penny Flats condominium and retail building next door.

I’m sure the OWS folks will say this is just a rogue element. But these elements are becoming more and more common and, fairly or unfairly, becoming the face of the movement. The “rogue elements” are becoming a rogue movement.

The problem with the Occupy movement is the occupy part. The Tea Parties had the right idea: everyone protest then go back to work. By not creating a permanent presence, they kept things under control. But with Occupy, you have tons of people just sitting around day after day, becoming a magnet from criminals, anarchists and rapists. This has not been helped by the encouragements of certain dim-bulb mayors.

Early on, I said that I was encouraged by the Tea Party but wanted to see a coherent agenda emerge. It sorta did. But for OWS, the need is even more urgent because they have a much more intrinsically volatile situation. Occasional agendas emerge but they are lost in the howl of protest for the sake of protest and increasingly anti-social destructive behavior.

It’s time to back off, drain the dangerous energy and coalesce behind an agenda, even if it’s a liberal one. If OWS doesn’t shift to protesting FOR something, rather than against everything, this is only going to get worse.

Update: Crap like this isn’t helping either. Memo to Occupy DC — both parties are to blame.

A word that needs to be added to the dictionary: Ineptocracy

Wish I can claim I articulated it this nicely:

*_Ineptocracy_****(in-ep-toc’-ra-cy) – a system of government where the least
capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the
members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded
with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number
of producers*

I think the 99 are definitely part & parcel of this ineptocracy: the group electing the morons. Considering I read attempt after attempt by the LSM to present shit like this in the best possible light, while someone burping at a Tea Party rally resulted in clearly false accusations of racism, violence, sexism, cruelty to animals, and chaos and mayhem that they portend will lead to cats & dogs sleeping together and grandma being pushed off a cliff by an evil rich fat cat that needs to keep his $100 bills to light his cigars, shows the double standard and complete lack of honest reporting by these DNC owned advocates pretending to be in the news business.

Here is the horrible truth: we have this fucked up world because the majority keeps giving power to the least qualified to lead, solely because they promise to steal from others to buy their votes, in the process hurting the very people they portend to want to help the most. Sadly, as things keeps devolving, I am now convinced the disciples of Ayers/Alinsky are going to get what they want. Hoepfully those of us better armed and less inclined to go along with this bullshit will prevail. Queue the idiots saying that all is well, make fun of anyone pointing out the problem, and forcefully advocating that all we need to do is take more from the deminishing number of producers, to make all well.