Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cheap Tea

Some emailers want to know my reaction to the Tea Bag protests. Disinterested contempt, mostly. As someone who's been blogging about economic issues for years now, I have the same question that Andrew Sullivan does on civil liberties: "Where the f*ck have you been?" Aware of this vulnerability, some Tea protesters argue that it's a matter of degree, that the level of economic profligacy is worse with Obama. They're right. But the timing of their newfound concern is so precise and so incontrovertibly political -- the motivation synchronized with the swearing-in on January 20, and the action catalyzed solely by a historically evocative slogan that came soon after -- that by itself it almost totally discredits the protesters. This was a political stunt in search of a palatable cover story. Before the election and indeed during the past few years, the only protest about purely fiscal or monetary issues that I saw was this one. There weren't more than about a dozen people there, and I didn't see it mentioned by any of the bloggers or media figures who now champion the Tea protesters. It's like that old baseball joke about how after 1951 millions of people claimed to have seen Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard Round The World" in person, even though the Polo Grounds only had 56,000 seats.

Beyond the issue of timing, there's a strange new tolerance and inclusivity, isn't there? Political movements are dynamic and heterogeneous. So I thought it was unfair a few years ago when the prowar Right used some of the fringe elements on the Left to disparage the entire antiwar movement, and I feel the same about judging all Tea protesters solely on videos like this (or on the timing issue, for that matter). But during the Bush years, the administration and its defenders pounced and pounded on anything that hinted of conspiracism -- from 9/11 truthers to critics of the Federal Reserve. Take a look at some examples here. Have any prominent Tea boosters disowned the fringe element or the conspiracists? From what I've seen, they've either been embraced, defended, or silently indulged -- another indication of the underlying motivation.

I admit I haven't paid much attention to this during the past few weeks, mostly because whenever I see it promoted by some of the Right's more execrable figures I immediately click away or change the channel. So let me know if I'm missing anything.


Anonymous JohnR said...

My level of contempt for this whole thing is hard to over-estimate. That the loathsome cretins pushing this piously proclaim that theirs is a "grassroots movement" with no corporate support, sponsorship or promotion while simultaneously advertising their corporate support, sponsorship and promotion, is so icredible that I'm constantly surprised that they haven't already been struck dead or turned into pillars of salt on the spot just on Godly principle. This has done more to shake my faith in God than anything that the "Godless Left" could ever hope to do.

4/16/2009 11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a legitimate cause to rally against certain aspects of our current fiscal policy, but is 'Taxed Enough Already' really one of them? It's the same old wolves herding the same old sheep.

4/16/2009 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm beyond contempt. Contempt was making me mad all the time. Now, I'm more Stoic, more Zen, more Existential, whatever.

There ARE two Americas, two kinds of Americans pulling not together, but in a tug of war. The winner gets the empire, or what's left of it.

The model to focus on is not the Boston Tea Party. It's Rome.

4/16/2009 12:23 PM  
Anonymous RMP311 said...

I'm less disgusted and more entertained by it... its always dangerous when "causes" are taken over and demonstrated over by the very people who don't really understand whats going on.

There is ample room for criticism of the Fed, our government's power over the economy, and the ineptitude of both the previous and current administrations, but this just reeks of self righteous pomposity, full of politics and lacking understanding...

4/16/2009 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couldn't have said it better. Imagine if the last 8 years had been a D instead of an R; the Hannity crowd would have gone bonkers. Instead... nothing.

4/16/2009 12:45 PM  
Blogger Chris Bray said...

Protests against the Iraq war were dominated by ANSWER idiots, professional Marxists, smelly hippies, 60s leftovers, and hooded anarchist dipshits. And they were right: The war was a really dumb idea, sold with lies.

The teabaggers look like idiots, mostly because they are. The dumb signs, the pathetic interviews, the partisan hypocrisy, all of it. But the federal government has committed nearly the equivalent of GDP to massive corporate giveaways, and your children will have to pay down the debt.

Choose for yourself where you most want to allocate your contempt.

4/16/2009 2:58 PM  
Anonymous judyo said...

dumb idea aka thousands upon thousands of dead & displaced people

4/16/2009 4:14 PM  
Blogger Chris Bray said...


We agree. I'm sorry if my phrasing was inadequate.

4/16/2009 4:17 PM  
Anonymous mary said...

Many of the antiwar protests were organized by ANSWER - they got the permits and the mikes and all that. And they were annoying in many ways. But most of the participants (myself included)were ordinary people -- whatever that means -- who didn't believe the rationale(s) for war, couldn't believe the media was cheerleading for it, and didn't know what else to do once they'd written letters and called their representatives. Not that there's anything wrong with all the tired stereotypes dredged up in Chris Bray's comment . . .

Anyway, the tea party phenomenon feels more like entertainment than anything else. A spontaneous, grass roots uprising over future tax increases? Please. But . . . whatever.

4/16/2009 4:59 PM  
Blogger Chris Bray said...


The stereotypes were the point -- did you notice the part that said "they were right"?

4/16/2009 5:26 PM  
Blogger Chris Bray said...

Jesus, let me make this super-extra-explicit, to help people who comment after skimming briefly: The appearance of a protest, especially as presented through media, can very easily mask the substance of the thing. The image of a freakshow can obscure the participation of ordinary people, and the focus on silly talking points and outrageous signs can miss the reasonable participation of smart people.

People who protested against the war in Iraq made reasonable arguments, which were diminished by the circus and the focus on the circus; people who are protesting against the use of state funding to subsidize financial corporations and socialize private losses are surely making at least some reasonable arguments, which are being diminished by the circus and the focus on the circus.

Maybe that's clear enough.

4/16/2009 5:34 PM  
Anonymous NeilS said...

What were they protesting about?

I listened to the song sung at the Atlanta ralley that Hannity hosted. The climax of the song was "They are shutting down Detroit."

Is the singer aware that Hannity and most conservatives have argued that that is exactly what should happen?

The conservatives are trying to harness populist anger to use it for their own ends (whatever that is), but they should be careful. This tactic dangerous and it is nearly impossible to predict, much less, control the actions of an angry mob.

I just hope the crazies stay in their holes.

Finally, what is a national news organization (FOX) doing running PR for a poltical movement????

4/16/2009 6:56 PM  
Anonymous mary said...


Yes, we're all reading quickly, but you need to take some responsibility for not being quite clear enough on your first try. (It's hard to make your point clear to a bunch of strangers in a brief comment typed in a little box.) But I'm glad you clarified.

As for the tea parties: I would be thrilled if even a small number of the protesters were motivated by concerns about the socialization of risk. But I don't think that's the case. For one thing, the socialization of risk has always been with us, alas. And the alternative stimulus plans (for lack of a better term) presented by conservative leaders have been incoherent at best. And so on. In other words, sometimes what looks like a circus is a circus -- a wrongheaded but perfectly legitimate form of entertainment (er, political protest).

4/16/2009 7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The circus is designed to get the media to cover it. I went to a Tea Party in a small town and the people are scared. The financial meltdown ignited the fear. Their immediate solution is a demand for term limits. They are FED UP with DC. And they have decided to agitate. What's wrong with that? Sure right wing opportunists abound. But it is rare to get conservatives to march as they are predisposed to such behavior. Something is stirring; let's see what materializes for the 4th of July.

4/16/2009 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant they are not predisposed to such behavior.

4/16/2009 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rush and crew are going to lose big $$ if taxes are reset to pre Bush levels. I think I saw somewhere Rush would be out a cool million a year. Beck just sees this as a way to increase his viewers. Can a new contract be near?

4/16/2009 9:01 PM  
Anonymous KAIMU said...


I attended the Hilo, Hawaii TEA PARTY protest and I would say there were some 300 people there. All standing along the street with various signs disapproving of BIG GOVERNMENT spending. I think I saw one sign that was disapproving of Barney Frank other than that I saw nothing about DEMS or REPS or Pelosi or any other Left Wing types. Maybe two that had OBAMA's name. Mostly I saw stuff like "PROUD OWNER OF AIG AND FNM". My sign said "CSI DC" and "CSI FED" and I had yellow crime scene tape on the edges of the sign. What else can you call what is going on now other than "CRIME SCENES"? They were CRIME SCENES when BUSH was in office and they have been CRIME SCENES ever since 1913!

I was there to make known that I disapprove of the US MONETARY SYSTEM and US CONSTITUTION as it is interpreted by the current US CONgress, where every other appointee of both REPs and DEMs give GOLDMAN SACHS special seats of power that WAY over-represent GOLDMAN SACHS type interests. Just exactly why does GOLDMAN SACHS have so many high-powered positions in the US GOVERNMENT? I call this a POLIT-BANK where certain privilege status is given to private banks. I mean do we NOT have a bank crisis? If these guys are the best and brightest and the "experts" then where did they go wrong, because as I have posted here before a CHIMP could do just as bad a job of bankrupting the US financial and banking system and we only have to pay a CHIMP a few bananas each day!

My belief is that the USA cannot afford "business as usual". I thought that was why OBAMA was elected .. to CHANGE!

The sad part for me is that it has taken this long for Americans, any Americans, to get off their sofas to protest anything! I was just happy to see people on the streets again. I have no TVs at my house so I have no idea how this was portrayed in the media other than what you guys say here and what friends say, which was down played by CNN and played up on FOX! Still CHANGE has to happen somehow. Are we not still pounding away in the MIDDLE EAST and circle jerking our way through US FOREIGN POLICY? Are we not now SPENDING like there is no tomorrow, like BUSH did? I can show you the US TREASURY DAILY STATEMENT where two line items entitled "OTHER" and "UNCLASSIFIED" show a combined total of close to $1.5TRIL USD for FY 2009(six months), yet it is never mentioned at any US CONgress inquisition of Geitner. He's the man now ... he took over from ex-GOLDMAN SACHS CEO Paulson! WASSUP TIMMY??

I have not voted REP or DEM in decades. I believe the two parties are an aristocracy where they both assume power is theirs as an inheritance and have little to no intention of fair representation of WE THE PEOPLE. I believe they represent the US Banks and corporations far more than is needed.

I will tell you that I only saw one incident where a person driving by slowed down to engage the protesters by saying, "SO I GUESS YOU WON'T BE NEEDING YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CHECKS!" Hummmm, okay! Will there be one in ten years? I was actually surprised to see as many 20 and 30 somethings out there! I saw some Vietnam Vets and some biker gang types from Kona. There was a guy from Santa Rosa,CA who was on vacation standing next to me! As far as I could tell I was the only orchid farmer there! So a diverse crowd ...

I would say there were some 95% of passing motorist supporting what they saw and waving the Hawaiian shaka. I did not see one FU finger or thumbs down or anything negative from motorists. The UPS drivers were the most supportive!

You can call it anything you want ... Grassroots, Right Wing, Circus, Idiots, but pretty much as I recall most of the posters here sound like the same Right Wing Archie Bunker types that proliferated the 1960s when they saw student anti-Vietnam War protesters first take to the streets. During those times my Father was for the Vietnam War and could not stand to see the long-haired hippy types protesting, but in a couple years he saw the War was just a joke and a waste of American and Vietnamese lives and sided with the anti-War protesters and just wanted the big mess to end ASAP! During those times I did my legal duty of registering for the draft but then I also participated in anti-War rallies and riots on the campus of CSUF and later when I moved to Perth, West Australia, the university there.

So movements start and usually they are unpopular with the masses at first because real CHANGE is something most people are uncomfortable with, because they have spent their entire lives adjusting to certain beliefs and lifestyles that they were taught in school rooms and peer groups. Maybe you can call it "tunnelvision"!

You tell me what people are suppose to do when we write and call our elected representatives and get no representation? I don't know ... sit and watch more TV and blog once in awhile, pop open a Heineken?

Isn't this our RIGHT as Americans? The Declaration Of Independence allows this. I am allowed to peacefully protest against my government if I believe there have been abuses. I did it when Bush was in office and I am doing it when OBAMA is in office. I have been voting Libertarian, third party since 1984. I do not believe in BIG GOVERNMENT!

I exercised my RIGHTS ... get over it and quit "profiling" me and all those who protest as Right Wing Pinko freaks! So there are some 17 comments here and out of the 17 who actually went to one of the protests? One ... two? Show of hands? Who here were spoon fed their comments from the TV? Yeah ... its a lot easier to stay home and watch TV. That's what we Americans are bred to do! Actually, come to think of it, I never saw one ANTI-TEA PARTY protester out on the streets.

So when is it socially permissible to protest in America? When OPRAH and BONO say so?

Once again the DEM and REP voters are duped again ... What a shock!

Anyone seen Biden? HA ... typical VP!

Please-e-e-e ... what CHANGE?

4/17/2009 6:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Merchants of Outrage

FOX News managed to take what was perhaps the closest thing to a grassroots movement in a long time and co-opted it for its own purposes. Like marketing companies who scour teen hangouts for the latest home-grown fashion trends, and then mass markets these trends to unsuspecting adolescents all over the country, FOX News took the genuine anger of the few who were willing to act and robbed them of their sincerity and, ultimately, their power.

When will the religious right realize that it has much more to lose from the destructive forces of free market capitalism than anything liberalism could ever dream up?

Where one offers the truly religious a counter-point from which they can sincerely deepen and practice their own faith, the other seeks to commoditize and, ultimately, compromise their religion in exchange for commercial gain.

4/17/2009 9:22 AM  
Anonymous RW said...

“When I look up,” said Yossarian, “I see people cashing in. I don't see heaven or saints or angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and every human tragedy.” - Catch 22 (Joseph Heller, 1961).

Most people never become aware there is a real catch, an insurmountable catch, because they think there really are sides hence they are congenial when they think 'their side' is winning and angry or threatened when they think 'their side' is not doing as well.

Con men and tyrants understand this and use it when overpowering their prey; to understand but not so use it opens the hidden gate to a good life.

4/17/2009 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever the Tea-Party movement was in the beginning is now irrelevant. The movement belongs to Fox now.

Fox will decide what it stood for on April 15, and what it stands for today, and what it will stand for tomorrow, and on April 15, 2010.

And anyone who suggests differently, even the original Tea-Party organizers, will be shouted down with such a forceful rush of patriotic rage they will hardly know what hit them.

4/17/2009 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Pete said...

Anonymous, you are wrong. The Tea Party organizers I know aren't waiting for Fox or anybody else to cover it. This is a growing movement that will culminate with a million person march on DC. The fact Fox provided such promotion and coverage certainly helps the cause. Lots of people saw the coverage and it will galvanize them.

4/17/2009 1:25 PM  
Anonymous RW said...

Pete, I don't doubt your sincerity but if the Tea Party movement ever leads to a million person march or even half that much, I’ll buy you a beer (but I'll still be laughing).

Bruce Bartlett at captures my own view close enough: “Of course, people are free to protest whatever they want whenever they want, and are also free to change their minds. Maybe this week's tax protesters would have been out protesting even if McCain were president, but I don't think so. …

People should remember that while they have the right to their opinion, they are not entitled to be taken seriously. That only comes from having credibility gained by the correct presentation of facts and analysis and a willingness to be even-handed--criticizing one's own side when it is wrong and not only speaking up when the other party does the same thing.”

Maybe the current protestors were with us in spirit when we protested Cheney and Dubya's corruption, fiscal recklessness, warmongering, torture, spying and general assault on civil liberties but I strongly doubt it. Speaking of which, were you out there with us or were you in the crowd that spat on us? Just curious.

4/17/2009 2:07 PM  
Anonymous JohnR said...

I also have no doubt that the people involved sincerely believed in what they were saying. It's simply that what they were saying made no sense. "Deficits are bad!"? What about Reagan via Cheney? That didn't stir any outrage. "No taxation w/o representation!"? Eh? "No to higher taxes!"? Who among the many protestors had to worry about higher taxes? My pay doesn't go as far as it used to, even as the Federal taxes were being noisily lowered the past 8 years, because the state and city taxes and the various "fees" and costs of everything I buy have jumped. "Big government = bad!"? That's such a stupid statement it makes me stammer - in comparison to what, exactly? Smaller government run by incompetent ideologues? To boil it down: as far as I can tell, the people at these protests were motivated by anger and fear, but directed at the wrong targets by cynical villains for motives that may include fear but more likely amount to lust for power and inherited hatred for FDR, that traitor to his class. I don't think of the protestors as hypocrites; merely as proudly ignorant and willfully blind fools.

4/17/2009 3:05 PM  
Anonymous judyo said...

I think, John, the word is pawns.
However, there's enough craziness out there to be pretty dangerous brought together in mobs.

4/17/2009 5:08 PM  
Anonymous KAIMU said...


Please-e-e JohnR ... What's your definition of BIG GOVERNMENT since you know all about it?

I will define the lunacy for you since you don't seem to have the ability to think outside the box you semi-live in!

First ... who sent 58,000 American kids to their deaths in Vietnam? Was that a small government?

What size government was it that was dropping bunker busters on innocent Iraqi civilians in the SHOCK AND AWE invasion of a sovereign country? Was that what you call a small government John?

John ... how many countries does the US MILITARY have bases in around the World? Is 134 really necessary? 134 countries John! Can you even name 134 countries? Does that sound small? What other country has that many bases and what other country spends so much on DEFENSE? What are we afraid of? We have all the nukes!

Obviously you have no problem with killing millions of people and maiming millions more in the name of what? What is it John? What size is that GOVERNMENT you love?

Who is proudly ignorant and willfully blind John? Did you go to Vietnam? Iraq? Where have you gone?

NOW ... Here is the REAL LUNACY of BIG GOVERNMENT! See if you can follow this John!

Okay ... The BIG CENTRALIZED ALL KNOWING AND ALL SEEING WASHINGTON DC takes my tax money from little old Hilo, Hawaii and they run it through a gauntlet of special interests like BIG PHARMA and the DEFENSE CONTRACTORS and criminal banks and corrupt politicians with huge earmarks for "Bridges to Nowhere" and the unbelievably insane AFGHAN/IRAQ WAR(which is near the cost of WW2)and OBAMA is still strafing villages like we did in Vietnam indiscriminately killing and killing and killing more and more every day ... So all my tax money heads to DC where it is gradually cut down to fund LUNATICS IN DC WITH VERY EXPENSIVE AGENDAS and how much of my taxes end back in little Hilo, Hawaii? John ... how much is left for my people here in Hawaii and our roads and hospitals and our needs? I have never seen OBAMA working here in my town or Nancy Pelosi or John McCain or Bush, so how is it they know best how to spend MY MONEY that I worked my ass for? HOW JOHN? Do you even know John? Do you even care? 15% is all I get back John!! John do you even know what the average tax bracket is for the AVERAGE AMERICAN? If you add up income tax, excise tax, property taxes, utility taxes ... all the taxes there is and there is a huge list, the AVERAGE BRACKET is 54%. So you work over half your life for BIG GOVERNMENT! I guess you are proud of that! I AM NOT!

GET A CLUE MATE! Seriously ... enjoy YOUR DEBT!!!

4/17/2009 6:15 PM  
Anonymous Bill in CA said...


BIG CENTRALIZED ALL KNOWING AND ALL SEEING WASHINGTON DC takes your $1 of tax money from little old Hilo, Hawaii and they run it through a gauntlet of special interests like BIG PHARMA and the DEFENSE CONTRACTORS and as of 2005 adds $.44 to it and returns it to you. As someone from CA who got $.78 back for my $1, I think you have a pretty good deal.

4/17/2009 7:29 PM  
Anonymous Goldhorder said...

lol. You guys r going to send poor Kaimu over the edge. Little to do but buy gold and silver... Plant carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce. Ain't country livin grand? A country boy can survive!

4/17/2009 7:38 PM  
Anonymous Goldhorder said...

the saddest thing i hear is that Capitalism has failed. Our best and brightest...ivy league educated elite... Are the biggest destroyers of capital the world has ever seen. They took the most wealthy country the world has ever known and reduced it to begging communists to keep themselves afloat. Hell...kaimu...what is the matter with you? Just buy gold and silver and laugh at all these numbskulls. Be happy our evil tyrants left us an out. I have 10k in cash. I plain on maintaining that through my salary. All the rest of my wealth is in US rural real estate, metals, and foreign equities that pay dividends. At this point everything else is bullsh&@. Too many parasites making too good of a living. Kaimu...the host has to die. Prepare yourself.

4/17/2009 11:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's how I feel.

I'll listen to anyone criticize Obama who doesn't listen to Fox News, Rush, or the other right-wing nimrods.

I'll listen to anyone praise Obama who doesn't listen to MSNBC or any of the left wing nimrods.

That's where I stand.

4/19/2009 12:46 AM  
Anonymous Mr. Hedley Bowes said...

I agree, from experience. I organized a 'pro-war' demonstration in October 2002 with a dozen fellow media-mocking pranksters and got more local air time than the over 50,000 marchers (among millions marching that day: February 15, 2003) that legitimately warned against the imminent invasion of Iraq nearly 6 months later. Beware the lens through which you are presented 'reality': it distorts.

4/19/2009 4:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't trust the media, especially Fox. They are mostly useless.

I agree, this feels political. Where have these folks been for years.

Bush admin & right-wing nuts attacked this sort of stuff, but now it's okay.

As far as politicians go, my Republican Representative is better than most. But he went to the tea-bagging party and bragged to the media. And he has towed the line for Bush, Delay, Hastert, nut job right wingers, and NOW he jumps on this tea bagging party. The only thing I can say to justify his actions is, the Republican party is so broken, so dictorial, that they don't DARE speak out during Republican control. They are too scared.

4/19/2009 4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No tea defenders here?

4/19/2009 10:15 PM  
Anonymous Borealis said...

Mary: Yes, we're all reading quickly, but you need to take some responsibility for not being quite clear enough on your first try.I dunno, I got it at the first whack. You have enough time to craft a critical reply, but not enough time to extract the meaning from a perfectly straightforward comment?

Mr. Bowes: Beware the lens through which you are presented 'reality': it distorts.No kidding. And I no more give a rat's what sniffy Bruce Bartlett thinks about the meaning of Tea Parties than I care what bore-bag Limbaugh has to say. People are pissed. But if you wanna believe that everyone on the street was some Fox News 'droid who was completely cool with Dear Leader Bush's portion of the ongoing insanity, what can I say? You're complaining about other people parroting what they've been told to say?

4/20/2009 12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought SeeingTheForest had a good perspective on this issue:

"Americans should all understand the reasons behind the formation of this country. We formed this country because a wealthy elite, called royalty, controlled the economy and set up legal monopoly operations for the benefit of their cronies, called corporations, and then set up the lows and tax structure to benefit those corporations and their owners at the expense of the rest of us.

We fought a revolution to change this. We set up a government and economy that is supposed to be controlled by We, the People. Think about the meaning of that the next time you hear corporate-funded voices complain about "big government." They are complaining that the people make the decisions instead of the corporate elite -- once known as royalty."

4/21/2009 7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A piece at Reason magazine addresses the perception of the Tea Party protests:

4/29/2009 5:20 PM  
Anonymous singapore escort said...

This can't truly have success, I think so.

5/23/2011 7:29 AM  

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