The Left-Right coalition

The same Congressional coalition of Tea Party conservatives and far-left liberals that blocked an attack on Syria also came close to reining in the NSA surveillance program.  Washington Post political columnist Greg Sargent sees an on-going alliance coming together. [Read more...]

Boycott or Buycott?

The Occupy Wall Street folks are planning to “occupy” publicly traded retailers in their efforts to protest American big business.  They are calling for boycotts to stop corporate profits.  In response, Tea Party folks are calling for everyone to go out on so-called Black Friday to buy lots of stuff, thereby supporting American business and helping the economy.

Anti-Occupy Wall Street” groups are taking on the protesters of “Occupy Black Friday” with “BUYcott Black Friday.”

Liberate Philadelphia/Liberate America, a Tea Party coalition of groups countering the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, are challenging the latest move by Occupy Wall Street protesters to occupy or boycott publicly traded retailers on Black Friday by instead encouraging consumers to shop on Black Friday to help the economy recover.

“At a time when our economy is most fragile and ratings agencies are talking about another downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, it’s completely irresponsible for Occupy Wall Street to attempt to bring the U.S. economy to a halt on the busiest shopping day of the year,” Liberate organizer and a spokesman for the Tea Party, John Sullivan, stated in a press release.

via Tea Party Activists Challenge ‘Occupy Black Friday’ With ‘BUYcott Black Friday’ – CNBC.

If any of you witness any Occupying when you go out for the pre-Christmas sales, please report it here.

My own sense is that any attempt on the part of Occupiers to camp out at Walmarts, Targets, and Best Buys and to interfere with people trying to buy Christmas presents will turn the actual 99% of Americans decisively against them.  And that Democratic politicians, including the president, who came out in support of the Occupiers will rue the day.

Since part of what is holding our economy back is reportedly the lack of consumer spending, would it be a patriotic gesture to spend a lot this Christmas?

A plague on both your houses

Allan Sloan, an editor of Fortune, blames BOTH tea party conservatives AND the Obama administration for bungling our economic crisis:

What the hell is going on? We thought the worst was behind us, but it wasn’t, thanks largely to fallout from the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. credit brought on us by the incompetence of our alleged national leaders.

Only three short years ago, the world financial system was on the brink of disaster after Lehman Brothers went broke in September 2008. Those scary times seemed to have disappeared in the spring of 2009. But now, things are even scarier.

After the worst sell-off since the financial crisis, traders and passersby react to grim news about the stock markets and the global economy.

Our current mess is different from the Lehman-related horror because it stems primarily from politics, not economics. The previous fear-fest came about because Lehman’s bankruptcy disrupted financial markets in unanticipated ways. Today’s crisis was completely avoidable. You can blame it directly on the fools who brought our country to the brink of defaulting on its debts in the name of saving us from . . . I’m not sure what.

Yes, the tea party types bear primary responsibility — but they couldn’t have done it without the cowardice and incompetence of the Obama administration, which let things get way out of hand. This whole fiasco just enrages me. And it ought to enrage anyone who wants the United States to act like a real country rather than some third-rate failed state run by fanatical factions that hate one another. . . .[He goes on to detail why both sides are at fault.]

Now that I’ve finished venting, let me make one more attempt to be reasonable — and show how relatively easy it would be to solve our problems while allowing both the tea party and the left wing to claim victory and go home. This requires (1) that we survive the 2012 election cycle (boy, that’s going to be a blast) and (2) that the winners recognize that our current federal income tax rules and rates, Social Security benefit formula and Medicare provisions are historical and political accidents rather than holy writ handed down to Moses by the Lord on Mount Sinai.

We need more jobs, more growth and more tax revenue. Note that I said more revenue, not higher rates. There are lots of proposals kicking around that would cut rates, eliminate the alternative minimum tax and broaden the tax base by drastically reducing itemized deductions.

Only about a third of taxpayers, primarily higher-income types, itemize deductions, so only they would be affected. Do this right, and you end up with more tax revenue from high-income people (which allows the “tax the rich” types to be happy) but lower rates (which lets the tea party folks claim victory).

On the entitlement front, we modify Social Security and Medicare formulas, imposing higher costs on higher-end retirees (which would include me, should I ever retire). What’s in it for the right-wing fanatics? Those programs’ projected costs drop. For liberal wing nuts? They can claim victory because people are living longer than when these programs were introduced and will collect more benefits over their lifetime than originally intended.

Yes, rationality is out of style, and fanaticism is the new normal. But do we really want a national life like the one we’ve had the past few years? All shrieking and no thinking?

via This time, the economic crisis is no one’s fault but the government’s – The Washington Post.

What do you think about his solutions?  Tax reform that increases revenue, while lowering rates (pleasing liberals). Entitlement reform (pleasing conservatives).  Is there any way politically to adopt that kind of centrist something-for-both-sides program?

The “hobbits” vs. Mordor

Did you hear about how former Republican presidential nominee John McCain has been mocking the Tea Party folks as “hobbits”?  He apparently never read Lord of the Rings.   The lowly hobbits ended up defeating the unlimited government of Mordor.  And, according to Marc Thiessen, this is what happened in the debt reduction battle:  How the Tea Party ‘hobbits’ won the debt fight – The Washington Post.

I think the Tea Party folks should drop the Boston harbor revolutionary label.  They should do as “Christians” and “Protestants” and “Lutherans” have done:  embrace the label intended as derogatory.  Tea Partiers should change their name, trademarks, and stationery and start calling themselves “Hobbits.”  That reference, with its connotation of ordinary down to earth villagers up against overwhelmingly superior power, would make them far more sympathetic.  I know John McCain’s attempt at a putdown (what if he were president?), which he got from the Wall Street Journal, makes me appreciate more these populist activists who are forcing the government to control itself.  Again, conservatives need to win the battle of language and the battle of metaphors to win over the nation’s imagination.

A liberal tea party?

Liberals are afflicted with tea party envy.  According to leftist political theory, populist movements–grassroot uprisings of the masses–are supposed to advance the agenda of the left.  But in America most populist movements lean right.   So Democrats are trying to organize a tea party of their own:

At last weekend’s Netroots Nation gathering in Minneapolis, liberal activists expressed frustration that they lacked the political power or media focus given to the conservative tea-party movement. Former White House environmental official Van Jones is hoping to change that with a new political effort dubbed “The American Dream Movement.”

Organizers are hoping to emulate the the success of the tea party, which became a significant force in the 2010 midterms, uniting like-minded people across the country who were previously uninvolved in politics or participating locally but not at the national level.

They hope to motivate unemployed veterans, struggling homeowners and other alienated Americans who are angry at Republicans’ desire to drastically cut government spending in Washington and collective bargaining rights for state employees in places like Wisconsin. And to lure those people simply struggling to find a job while worried about their unemployment benefits ending.

“We think we can do what the tea party did,” Jones said in an interview with The Fix. “They stepped forward under a common banner, and everybody took them seriously. Polls suggest there are more people out there who have a different view of the economy, but who have not stepped forward yet under a common banner.”

Jones is a former Obama environmental adviser who resigned from the White House in 2009 amid controversy over his past activism. But he’s lauded in liberal circles for his charisma and organizing abilities.

“There’s a lot of organizational muscle behind the initiative, and Van is one of the most inspiring figures in the progressive movement, so I’m looking forward to these efforts, and they certainly come at a time when Republican overreach has primed progressives to take action” said Markos Moulitas, the founder of the liberal blog network Daily Kos.

Jones’ “Dream” movement will launch Thursday night with a rally in New York City. The Roots are performing; MoveOn.org, a well known liberal advocacy group, is co-sponsoring the gathering.

via Can liberals start their own tea party? – The Fix – The Washington Post.

Populist movements organized from the top and funded by billionaires are kind of a contradiction in terms.  Still, do you think the American Dream movement will catch on?

Tea partiers kill Patriot Act

Tea party Republicans  in the House of Representatives joined with liberal Democrats to vote down the Patriot Act, which gives the government wide powers to investigate potential terrorists, some say at the expense of civil liberties.  The Obama administration wanted to extend the bill, which is set to expire, and mainstream Republicans were on board with that.

The surprise defeat of the bill has lots of pundits confused.  Aren’t the tea partiers right wing extremists?  Aren’t they the type that want to lock up foreigners and clamp down on everyone’s freedom?  How could these conservatives vote against this conservative bill?

As I keep trying to explain to my liberal friends, there are many different kinds of conservatives.  This vote makes perfect sense and is in exact accord, for better or worse, with the Tea Party ideology, which is most emphatically not liberal, even though on this issue they voted with liberal civil libertarians.

The Tea Party stands for limited government.  Therefore, it can be expected to oppose measures such as the Patriot Act  that increase government power over its citizens.

The Tea Party has a high view of the Constitution, which it insists on interpreting literally and applying to the letter.  That means that Tea Partiers will be zealous defenders of the Bill of Rights.  Therefore, they can be expected to oppose the Patriot Act, which arguably violates some of those rights.   But by this same thinking, they will also oppose gun control measures, which also go against the Bill of Rights.

See how that works?

Patriot Act upset vote: Can tea party lawmakers, liberals be friends? – CSMonitor.com.


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