Tag Archives: Tea Party

Kansas City Under Occupation

That’s right, the Occupy Wall Street movement is making noise in the heartland. According to the Kansas City Star, a group of around 300 protesters are camped out at Penn Valley Park across from the Kansas City Federal Reserve building. They had various signs and people speaking and all of that. The question still looms over this entire movement though. What do they want?

The answer doesn’t seem to be even remotely clear. I’ve heard various reports on these protests from different places in the country. To me it seems that people are just mad. The groups seem to have some diversity in political ideology, though it’s hard to tell how much. They seem to not like the idea of “corporate personhood” or the large amount of corporate influence in our elections.

I’ve yet to decide what I think of all of this. The footage I’ve seen looks like young people who want real change. Think of the beginnings of the Tea Party. It was a bunch of people who got upset over government bailouts of corporations and a ballooning deficit. They talked about fiscal responsibility and people from different sides of the political spectrum were involved. Then the ultra-right hijacked the movement using vast sums of money and turned it away from balancing the budget. Suddenly, The Tea Party was about cutting government spending and lowering regulations and taxes. Those who were not staunch conservatives left, and we had a national movement spouting talking points for billionaires and corporations. It is still to be seen if this movement will suffer the same fate from the right or the left.

After reading the piece on the Star’s website I took a look at some of the comments. One guy tried to somehow make an argument using Abraham Lincoln. I’m not sure why. Anyway, I came across this comment by playon266:

“as they all celebrate by making calls, taking pictures, and sending texts on their smart phones (made by big corporations, on carriers that are big corporations)… and then while driving home in their car or truck or hybrid (all made by big corporations), they’ll stop at Wal-Mart (a HUGE corporation) and buy cheap food (from corporate food producers) and cheap imported products (from big FOREIGN corporations)… and they’ll think they made an impact. Interesting…”

He makes a point. Corporations exist because we support them. If no one  went to Wal-mart, we would not complain about the evils of Wal-Mart. Playon662 misses the point however. These protesters don’t want corporations to be eliminated, they want them to get the same treatment we do. They want them to pay taxes. They want them to have less influence in our political system. They want the everyday citizen to pay less in taxes than the corporation with a multi-billion dollar profit margin.

Two pieces were written at the Kansas Free Press, about the Occupy Wall Street protests. One, by Christina Stein, celebrates the activism and drive of the protesters. The other, by Ken Poland, questions whether these protesters have the knowledge and ability to exact change. You should read them both.

It is too early to know what these protests will accomplish, if anything. One thing seems sure; the protests are spreading. The coming days will show if Americans are truly angry, and if they are, will politicians listen?

Read more:


For an explanation of the despair for my fair city look here.

I’m seriously thinking about attending.

Who Will The Republican Party Pick?

As the race for the Republican nomination heats up, I see the field narrowing very quickly. Let’s start with who’s in and who’s not. Haley Barbour said he isn’t running. Rep. Mike Pence, whose named was tossed about, would rather be governor of Indiana. Personally, I think Pence is making the strategic calculation that Obama’s going to win and the election in 2016 will be much easier with some executive experience under his belt. From what I’ve heard and read, I don’t think Sarah Palin will really get in race. I don’t think Mike Huckabee will either. Donald Trump is obviously making waves, but even if he gets in the race he won’t last long. He’s just playing on the right’s dislike of the President. He hasn’t put forth any real ideas. Former Ambassador Jon Huntsman seems to be in the field, but I don’t see him winning. The “he worked for Obama” argument will kill his campaign. Rick Santorum isn’t an unlikely choice, but his appeal to social conservatives isn’t going to separate him from the pack. I think Santorum could prove to be a valuable running mate for some of the other candidates. While any of these folks might get in the race I don’t think they really have a chance.

This brings me to the four that I think are most interesting Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Herman Cain. I don’t think Bachmann has a real shot at the nomination, but if she runs she could influence who does. She’s very popular with the Tea Party. Appealing to the Tea Party is going to be important to get both votes and money. I think you’re likely to see the support of American’s For Prosperity and similar groups going toward the most Tea Partyish candidates. This is why gaining her endorsement (and Sarah Palin’s) could be important. It might also make her a choice as a running mate, but she comes with baggage. Her Sarah Palinesque style and “slightly off-camera” speech delivery along with the fact that she was a Democrat who volunteered for Jimmy Carter, might make her not worth it.

Mitt Romney is often called the front-runner these days. Romney is charismatic and presidential looking. He’s a decent public speaker. He does have issues though. He is the former governor of not only a blue state, but perhaps the bluest of them all. Massachusetts has only fallen to Republicans four times since 1928. “Romneycare” will be a stumbling block. I believe 2012 will feel a lot like 2008 for Mitt Romney.

Tim Pawlenty is the quintessential Republican candidate. He’s a former Governor which is important. Only three sitting senators (Warren Harding, John Kennedy, and Barack Obama) have been elected president. James Garfield is the only member of the House to be elected president. The others were primarily governors. Americans seem to like the idea that governing a state is much like governing the country.  He’s a devout Christian, has a record of fiscal conservatism, and is one of the few Republicans that will appear on the Daily Show. The fact that he will go into an environment that obviously disagrees with him will help him gain some independents. If Republicans want to defeat President Obama, Pawlenty is their best chance. However, there is one candidate that brings something different to the table.

Herman Cain is an unusual candidate, and I think he may actually put up a fight. He has no political experience. That could work to his advantage as he faces an electorate largely disillusioned with politics. He is a successful businessman, and many people feel that an experienced CEO would make an experienced Executive. On top of that he’s an African-American who has a better chance of connecting to that community. The President enjoyed what would appear to many as an exotic childhood. He was raised in Hawaii and spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. Herman Cain, however, is a black, Christian man from Georgia. He attended Morehouse College, and was the first person in his family to earn a degree. Herman Cain has more in common with many black people than the President. He provides the Republican party with an opportunity to show that they are diverse and represent the interests of all Americans. That paired with the fact that drawing the votes of disillusioned, working class African-Americans who are begging for a reason to believe in the American Dream could spell doom for Democrats.

It is very early to be speculating about the next election. Polls from this far out are almost always wrong, but Republicans are at a crossroads. They can choose to remain the establishment that they have been, or follow a new more conservative path. The best part of this choice is that it will lie with the people who support the party. Establishment Republicans could not be happier if the status quo is maintained. Their constituents may have a different opinion. Interestingly, I hope the status quo is maintained. If I have to choose between the Republican I know, and one who may be far more conservative, my choice is clear.

A Special Thank You

I’ve been using my Netflix subscription to re-watch the TV show “The West Wing.” If you haven’t seen it, you should. It is easily one of the most well written shows in television history. It had a great cast, and was all around good drama. I was supposed to receive the final disc of the second season last weekend. It never made it. I was lazy and didn’t get around to reporting it to Netflix until the middle of this week. They kindly shipped me another disc and it was supposed to arrive today.

So yesterday, I’m listening to the news and all the talk is about a government shutdown.
Congress and the President can’t make a deal. The Tea Party wants to defund everything, Democrats would rather do nothing and stuck in the middle is me, and you, but mostly me waiting on a DVD.

If they had not come to an agreement, the government would stop working. The Post Office is a part of government. In fact they are the part of government that brings my Netflix DVD’s to me. All day yesterday I was worried about a shutdown of one of the more important things in my life; “The West Wing.” It would be sitting in a dark post office not half a mile from my house and I would have no way to reach it. It was a terrible feeling.

However, I awoke today to the greatest of news. A deal had been reached. The government stayed open. This afternoon my disc arrived. Today we will answer the persistent question, “Will President Bartlet run for a second term?”

It is therefore necessary to extend my thanks. Thank you President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and Sen. Reid for finding a solution. Thank you to the Tea Party Republicans for taking fewer spending cuts than you wanted. Thank you to Democrats for allowing cuts you did not want. For the next 2 1/2 hours I will be watching show about American government. A show where, in general, the government functions a lot better than any of you allow in reality.

Fear And Loathing In Conservatism

Will the Obama myths ever go away? I’m just getting tired of hearing about them. Is Obama a U.S. citizen? YES. I don’t care if he was born in Kenya. I don’t think he was but let’s look at it this way. Right now any kid born to an American citizen gets citizenship. Before 1986 this was true if certain criteria were met. One is that the parent had to live in the U.S. for ten years, five after the age of 14. Obama was born 3 months before his mother’s 19th birthday. So even if he was born in Mongolia he was on the bubble of U.S. citizenship. We should pay attention to the intent of the law. The intent is that a person raised in a foreign country who has no real understanding of American values shouldn’t be able to be President. Obama was raised in this country, with American values. Why two years into his presidency is this still an issue. Furthermore his birth certificate was released and analyzed. Why are we still talking about this?

My favorite myth is that Obama is a Muslim. This myth is ridiculous and offensive. First, it is ridiculous that Pres. Obama is a Muslim. He has spent his life talking about how he is a Christian. He has attended Christian churches, and we’re supposed to believe that it was all a conspiracy to conceal the fact that he is actually a Muslim. That’s a pretty far-fetched claim. More importantly, it is offensive because it shouldn’t matter? Is a Muslim unfit to serve in public office. There was a big controversy when Keith Ellison was sworn in while placing his hand on a copy of the Koran.  Ellison is a Muslim, shouldn’t he be sworn in using the Koran? The entire reason the Bible has been used at swearing-in ceremonies is that it is held sacred. We have been a predominately Christian nation in terms of our population so it made sense. Keith Ellison isn’t a Christian. How would it make sense to have someone sworn in on a text he doesn’t hold sacred.  I don’t care if they are a member of the Church of Seuss and want to be sworn in on a copy of The Cat In The Hat. Swearing on sacred text is supposed to have meaning to the person taking the oath, not to us. The idea is that they are not only subject to the people in their oath, but to God. The “Founding Fathers” that are often cited by the conservatives in this country took great pains to separate religion and the government. The idea was that any person of any religion can be President. Religion should not be a test to determine who can serve. So, why are we still talking about this?

We’re talking about it because conservatives are scared. Since the beginning of Pres. Obama’s campaign we started hearing the myths. The myths were easy enough to invent, but they all lead back to one thing. These people don’t like the President because he has African heritage. I say African heritage because I don’t like that anyone with an African ancestor is “black”. Most African-Americans also have some white genetics in their history. We need to move past the idea that you have darker skin so you are different. When it comes to American Conservatives, like the Tea Party movement they just seem afraid of the possibilities that stem from a black man being President. They don’t like the idea that a Muslim can be a great public servant. Those feelings in the moderate conservatives lead to the crazy paranoia in the ultra conservative. It leads to the people who think all Muslims are violent. It leads to the question of whether Pres. Obama can be seen as an “angry, black man.” That’s a question that was actually discussed across cable news. Would we have asked it if there wasn’t a stereotype of the “angry, black man?” We wouldn’t. That stereotype exists because there was a huge movement of angry black men. They didn’t like being treated as second-class citizens, when they were treated as citizens at all. Can you argue with that?

The political science definition of a “conservative” basically says that they do not want change. They are happy with the current conditions. The election of Pres. Obama was not the status quo. The myths easily grew from that place. The American public has to stand up and question these claims. Does it make sense that the President would hide his secret “Muslim” identity for a lifetime just to become President? Does it really make sense that a mother would engage in a conspiracy to provide her son with American citizenship by forging a birth certificate? Would she go to such lengths as to report his birth to newspapers in Hawaii? She wasn’t even 19 years old. Common sense would tell us that it’s not true.

The Tea Party, and Conservatives across this country are being pushed by a force they don’t want to see.  Big Business has benefited from the push for lower taxes and de-regulation. Most of the people in Tea Party protests haven’t benefited at all.  The current Republican attack on everyone from teachers to public broadcasting is hurting this country, but benefitting those who have the money to support campaigns.  We need true reform in our political process or the fear and loathing will continue to push this country in the wrong direction.

The Tea Party: Fed Up Fiscal Conservatives Or Anti-Obama Crusaders?

2009 saw the birth of America’s latest political outsider movement. In the 90’s it had been Ross Perot and the Reform Party. After that we had Ralph Nader and the Green Party. Today, in the age of Obama, we met the Tea Party. What was unique about the Tea Party was that they had no singular leader. There was no face of the movement. They were touted as everyday Americans fed up with Washington. An upstart grassroots movement meant to overthrow the establishment and put the power back in the hands of the people. That may be how it started. It didn’t last that long.

Since its inception the Tea Party has seemed to be a conservative movement. They claimed to have members from all walks of life; all political ideologies. They had only one core message. Control the deficit. Get government spending under control. Keep government limited. The banner at teapartypatriots.org reads: “Fiscal Responsibility, Limited Government, Free Market.”  Fiscal conservatism is supposed to be a Republican cornerstone. In the past 20 years that has changed. People who desire a balanced budget do come from both sides of the political spectrum. In fact, the only time recently that we have had a balanced budget was with divided government. When government has been completely in the hands of one party or the other the budget has not been balanced.  For a group of people to rise up and demand accountability from the government about its finances, and its intrusion on personal freedom, should be no surprise. That’s what the Tea Party’s message was. That’s what the Tea Party said they had been speaking out against for a long time. That wasn’t what happened. That version of history didn’t exist.

To claim that you are a group fed up with fiscal irresponsibility in 2011 means you need to account for some things. First off has to be why did you show up just now . The earliest references I can find to the Tea Party movement are in 2009. Our fiscal house was certainly out-of-order by then. It had been for some time however. Pres. Bush’s budget proposals led to the highest budget deficits in U.S. history. They were not only record-setting in number of dollars, but even if those dollars are adjusted for inflation. The first time the deficit has gone down since FY2002 (Pres. Bush’s first budget proposal) was FY2010 (Pres. Obama’s first budget proposal.) Yes Pres. Obama passed nearly a trillion-dollar stimulus package and the Tea Party was upset. Pres. Bush pushed a nearly trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street. Tea Party members today will tell you they were against it. They weren’t upset enough to protest. There were no raucous town hall meetings. Where was the anger over fiscal irresponsibility spanning a decade of deficit spending that ended with a collapse of the economy not seen since the Great Depression? Where was the anger over TARP? Where was the anti-establishment feeling against Washington run amok? It didn’t exist.

It doesn’t get any easier to explain the Tea Party’s desires for limited government. The Tea Party really gained traction during the debate over healthcare. The original healthcare reform proposals included a provision known as the “public option,” or the “government option,” depending on which party or media outlet you listened to. The idea was that the government would provide an option for citizens to buy health insurance from a government program if they could not obtain it through an employer. Republican’s denounced it as a “government takeover of healthcare.” Town hall meetings about the reform descended into chaos across the country. Finally the “public option” was removed from the final bill. The Tea Party movement generally seemed to be against the bill even after the “public option” was taken out. As the Tea Party Patriots website says, they are for limited government. Are they? The healthcare bill does put government into the healthcare field, but only slightly. It doesn’t even give the people the freedom of government help. It only helps people deal with private companies. That’s something the “free market” Tea Party should be happy about. The real problem is that this is small government intrusion compared to what has happened over the past decade. After Sept. 11th, the Bush Administration used the fear of the American people to start a war and engage in the largest expansion of the federal government in 50 years. They created a new cabinet level post. They established a new level of bureaucracy over the intelligence community with the NID(National Intelligence Director.)  It later came out that they authorized the NSA to conduct a warrantless wiretap program that circumvented all laws set by Congress for surveillance.  Was that limited government? Was that the freedom ensured in the Constitution? Where was the Tea Party outrage? Where were the calls to end the invasion of our rights? They didn’t exist.

The real story of the Tea Party lies beneath the rhetoric and anger of everyday people. Everyday people may have had the passion for the movement but they didn’t make it happen. The major Tea Party groups all have strong affiliations with some more familiar organizations like American’s For Prosperity. So what’s wrong with that? American’s For Prosperity is a front group funded by the Koch brothers. The heads of Koch Industries. Charles and David Koch are far-right Libertarians with a lot of money. Combined they have more wealth than anyone but Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet. It doesn’t end there. Tea Party rallies were organized by all kinds of conservative groups. Tea Party leaders have often been linked to conservative groups. A quick survey of the Tea Party Express website shows that they endorse only Republican candidates, and sometimes far-right candidates over more moderate Republicans. All this points to a movement funded by ultra-conservatives to achieve an ultra-conservative agenda. The Tea Party may have started out with a message of fiscal responsibility, but that has been lost. They are only the pawns of the conservative money movement. They are the far-right’s “Anti-Obama Army.”  When Obama comes out and endorses something they will be right there to refute him. That is why Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann have become Tea Party darlings. They oppose Obama no matter what. They will attack him and his supporters no matter how ridiculous it sounds. Evidence doesn’t need to exist.

Third party movements have made huge changes in American politics. The Whig Party shook us in the mid-19th century. Teddy Roosevelt’s third-party bid nearly won the presidency in 1912. The Reform Party can be credited with electing and keeping Bill Clinton in office. Without the Green Party Al Gore would have almost certainly been president. The Tea Party does not seem to be destined for that outcome. A movement based on opposition to a man instead of issues has no future. Until Obama, they were not against a decade of fiscal irresponsibility. Until Obama, they allowed government to expand unchecked and intrude into our lives. Until Obama, they didn’t exist. After Obama, they won’t exist.

What’s Kris Kobach Really Up To?

A couple of weeks ago newly elected Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach unveiled his new plan to eliminate voter fraud in Kansas. A video of him explaining it can be found here. He ran his entire campaign on this issue. The plan would require voters to show a government-issued photo i.d. when they went to vote. Government issued I.D.s range from a driver’s license or passport to state university issued I.D. cards as long as they have a picture. This provision seems reasonable enough. It turns out only 2 other states have such a requirement. Why so few? The issue is much more complicated than it appears on the surface.

Mike Hendricks points out some of these in an editorial in the Kansas City Star. Kansas is not a state of large cities. Most Kansas residents do need a driver’s license just to get around, but not all.  The elderly are a good example. When I was 17 I met a very interesting lady. Her name was Francis J. Koppers. She was 99 years old. I was a cashier at the local hardware store. Mrs. Koppers walked up to my register with a woman who I assume was her daughter, and wanted to pay for her purchase with a check. I asked for her driver’s license, because I was supposed to. It didn’t cross my mind that I was speaking to a very elderly woman. She looked me in the eyes and said, “Oh dear, I haven’t driven a car in 30 years.” I didn’t know what to do. It turns out that Mrs. Koppers was just giving me a hard time. She had a state issued I.D. It isn’t hard to see why she wouldn’t though. This was a woman who was 2 months short of her centennial birthday. She was born in 1899. She was older than the automobile itself. She still had the right to vote, though.

There is an even larger point here. Mr. Kobach’s intentions seem less than justified. He admits that only one case of voter fraud has been prosecuted since 2000. He says that’s because of a lack of resources among local prosecutors. I would question whether it doesn’t have to do with a lack of evidence. Mr. Kobach’s record would point to the fact that he is more xenophobic than righteous. He was a major architect of the controversial immigration law passed in Arizona last year. I understand that Mr. Kobach may want to prevent people from voting who do not have the right, but I don’t feel it’s that big of a problem. Republicans won every statewide office in the 2010 election. Remarkably the numbers were the same. Every election ended roughly 60-40. People weren’t even voting for candidates. They were voting for parties, and this time around Republicans were on the winning side.

Mr. Kobach’s problem is that he wants to win, no matter what. He is willing to spread a myth that voter fraud is a widespread problem when it is not. He knew that the Tea Party was in full swing. America’s fear of illegal immigrants and Muslims is at an all time high. White America is scared from the overblown media coverage of a rising minority population, and a growing Chinese economy. He knew he could use that to further his own extreme agenda. Mr. Kobach’s history points to a desire to keep white America where it is, on the top. It points to an attitude that minorities are always acting against the interest and values of this country. In this op-ed in the Wichita Eagle, Mr. Kobach argues that voter fraud is not generally motivated by financial incentive but a corrupt desire for power. I doubt Kris Kobach has ever encouraged voter fraud, but politics can be a game of a different kind of fraud. A “corrupt desire for power” is something that perennial candidate Kobach should think about.