Saturday, May 22, 2010

I Call Shenanigans on the Tea Party

There’s this great scene in The Road Warrior.

Well, OK, there are a lot of great scenes in The Road Warrior.

But the one I’m thinking of may be one of the most brilliant moments ever put down on film.

The Humungus and his Vermin have the oil compound surrounded.  The Humungus (The Lord Humungus! The Warrior of the Wasteland! The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!) is laying down terms to those trapped inside the compound. Give up, walk away, leave the gasoline, and he’ll spare their lives, end the horror, just walk away.  Unseen, the Feral Kid crawls out of a secret tunnel, takes aim, and throws his steel boomerang at the Humungus – and misses. He kills Golden Boy instead, and drives Wez into a murderous rage. Screaming, Wez picks up the boomerang and scales it with all his strength straight at the Feral Kid.  The Kid, all pipe-cleaner limbs and knotted hair and fearless expression, snatches the spinning weapon out of the air with practiced ease and his armored glove … and immediately returns it, straight at the Humungus again!

And an already surreal scene becomes even more surreal.

The Toadie rushes to intercept, shouting “I got it! I got it!”  He holds one hand up, stretching to catch the whirling steel like an outfielder chasing after a fly ball, and the razor sharp blade slices all four fingers off his hand bip bip bip bip like a cleaver chopping through a pack of hot dogs. The fingers fly, blood spurts, The Toadie gasps in horror and tucks his shortened hand under his other arm to staunch the flow of blood.

There’s a moment of stunned silence.

And then the Vermin begin to laugh.

It’s hysterical. The Humungus and the Vermin, the Smegma Crazies and the Gayboys, laugh at the foolish Toadie, slapping their thighs and holding their bellies at his astounding stupidity, at his crippling injury, at the fact that he managed to maim himself in such an idiotic fashion. Nobody moves to help, they just keep laughing, watching to see what The Toadie will do next.

The Toadie looks around at the laughing Vermin and at his own injured hand (which, in the brutal world in which he lives, will no doubt doom him to a lingering death), looks back up at the howling Vermin…and with this sickly pitiful hangdog expression on his face sheepishly begins to laugh himself .

And in that moment you understand the nightmare world the Toadie lives within.

Too stupid and cowardly to make it on his own, he’s latched on to The Humungus and The Vermin for survival – but he’s nothing to the powerful. A simpering fool, a clown, a lapdog, a toadie, and when his amusement value fades, he’ll be discarded in the trail of wreckage and destruction left behind.


That one scene sums up the entire movie, it tells you everything you need to know about The Humungus, The Vermin, and The Toadie’s world. 

In the compound, The People aren’t laughing. They wait. They watch. They know what’s coming next. They ready their weapons pragmatically and wait.

And that tells you something about their world too.


I was reminded of that scene this week, when the Tea Party reached up to catch the whirling boomerang of Rand Paul.


I get letters. Email. Asking me why I continue to ridicule the Tea Party.

I get lots of letters – apparently my email address is on some Tea Bagger hate mail list and is making the rounds.

So, I get letters.

Some are rambling incoherent, looking like they were penned by third graders. Third graders from the Texas public school system. I was going to publish a few of those, but honestly the amusement value dropped off pretty fast and it just seemed cruel in a taunting the spaz sort of way (I should note that I don’t think everybody in Texas is an idiot, but seriously folks I’d get the hell out the Lone Star state soon, before they start eating each other).

Many are angry incoherent, as if they were written by an enraged monkey with a head injury. These often contain threats of physical harm. These also often question my manhood, the size of my genitalia, my sexual orientation, and my patriotism (anybody else find it curious that blind patriotism and obsession with dick size seem to go hand in hand, so to speak?).

Some are reasonably well written, even respectful, but mournfully disappointed that I just don’t seem to “get it.” Many of these indicate that the writer will pray for me - whether or not the author is praying for me to see the light or to burn in hell is often unspecified (So far all the praying hasn’t changed my outlook on life, though it may account for the gas I had this morning. Prrrrrzzzt. Jesus Christ, open a window! Jesus, patron saint of flatulence).

Some start out sounding reasonable, and then descend rapidly into irrationality (Note: I still haven’t heard from Lipton’s lawyer, nor have I been smited (smitten?) – unless that’s the reason my dishwasher started leaking. Hmmm. If the Virgin appears in a water stain on the silverware holder I may have to reevaluate my position – I’ll let you know).

Angry, insane, threatening, reasonable, cajoling – all these letters have one thing in common, they implore me to understand that the Tea Party is made up of regular old wonderful, patriotic Americans in a wide variety of colors and flavors and they admonish me to disregard the few bad apples.  Sure there are racists, and bigots, and homophobes, and the stupids, and the Creationists, and the Birthers, and the ignorant, and the crazies, and the rednecks, and the intolerant, and the militia, and the separatists, and the illiterate, and loons, and the extremists, and the gun nuts, and the bible thumpers, and Truthers, The Nuge and Chuck “Kicked in the Head” Norris. Sure. Sure the entire movement is made up of angry old conservative evangelical white neocons who live on social security and welfare and can spend weeks camped out on the Mall in D.C. or parked in front of a computer surfing TEA party sites. Sure.  But other than those guys, the Tea Party is just ordinary everyday Americans. They all have one thing in common: they want to take America back for real Americans. They want less government meddling but they’re royally pissed The Government hasn’t fixed things. Real Americans forge their own destiny and how come the government hasn’t made us more jobs?  They want less taxation but more medicare and a bigger Army.  They want more freedom and more security.  They want death to political correctness and more Jesus in the schools. They want that stinky black guy out of the White House with his big jug ears and his healthcare for all Americans and his nasty America hating wife and they want President Palin and the First Dude instead.  They want abortion outlawed and Glenn Beck to father their children.  They want the troops to stay the course in Iraq forever and they want to nuke Iran and North Korea.  No bailouts! No Socialism. No Communists! No Nazi communist social programs like Stalin had. Bring back the Gold Standard! Death to Terrorism! Dissolve the Fed! Drill, Baby, Drill (but not in my backyard). And send the Mexicans back to Mexico! Speak English! Viva Arizona!

They want…well, hell, they don’t really know what they want, but they want something.

They’re mad as hell and it’s all Washington’s fault. Vote the bastards out! Take back America for real Americans!

Starting with Kentucky in 2010 where the Tea Party has been promoting Ayn Rand Paul, er, I mean Rand Paul.

By now, of course, most of you will have heard of Paul’s gaff last week when he criticized a landmark civil rights law.  Paul, in a series of television and radio interviews, suggested that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was too broad and should not apply to private businesses, such as cafes and restaurants and mom and pop stores and gas stations and so on. 

Yes, that’s right.

There was some backlash (he said dryly).

Paul went on CNN to clarify his statement.

First, Paul said, it’s the media’s fault for reporting his statements in the first place.  Now you can’t get any truer to Tea Party values than that. That’s right out of the Sarah Palin playbook – blame the “lamestream” media when you say something stupid. Suggest that President Obama can win reelection by starting a war in Iran, it’s the media’s fault for reporting your war mongering nonsense.  Ridicule the President for using a teleprompter (even though you do too) and then get caught writing notes on your hand? It’s the media’s fault. Repeatedly demonstrate profound ignorance of history, law, foreign affairs, current events, and pretty much everything that doesn’t involve hairspray, lip gloss, and chili recipes, it’s the media’s fault.  Paul is a regular Tea Party maverick, following the Humungus.  

Second, Paul said he would not support repealing the Civil Rights Act (which is a bit odd, considering that nobody was talking about repealing the Civil Rights Act, you know, unless of course they were). It’s funny how, if the Tea Party isn’t a bunch of racist bigots at their core, Paul and Palin and the rest of the speakers they hire feel it necessary to pander to racist ideology. Paul said that he “overwhelmingly agree[d] with the intent of the legislation, which was to stop discrimination in the public sphere and halt the abhorrent practice of segregation and Jim Crow laws.”

So, just to be clear, Paul supports the Civil Rights Act – and a business’s right to ignore it.

Paul supports civil rights – including the civil right to refuse service to certain races.

Paul is opposed to discrimination – as long as the wrong people don’t belly up to the lunch counter next to the good eye doctor, in which case he thinks the owner should be able to toss the miscreant out based solely the person’s race.

Paul is opposed to segregation – as long as those damned darkies remember their place.

Paul is a real man of the people - and to emphasize his Tea Party non-elitism, Paul held his election night celebration in an exclusive Bowling Green country club.

Yep, that sounds like Tea Party reasoning to me all right.

That sound exactly like Tea Party logic.  I’ll tell you, if I lived in Kentucky, and my skin wasn’t as white as Sarah Palin’s butt cheeks, I’d be damned worried about this racist Vermin. I’d have to wonder what kind of representation I’d be getting if Paul ends up as my senator - and then I’d register as a democrat and vote the hell against him  and I’d bring all my friends too.  Hell, if I was a Kentuckian with a disability, whatever my skin color, I’d be voting for the democratic candidate, even if it was cannibal Hitler’s head in a pickle jar, to keep this teabagging idiot out of office – since Paul also said he’s not particularly keen on the American’s With Disabilities Act either.

In fact, for a movement that has spent a great deal of time over these last few weeks vilifying big business, Paul’s emergence as the Tea Party darling is nothing short of bizarre. The day after his remarks on why discrimination is as American as apple pie, he called the Obama administration “un-American” for taking a tough stance with BP over the company’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Yes, that’s right. Said Paul:

“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,’ I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame-game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen.”

Accidents happen?

Accidents happen?

By Friday, when Paul made that remark, oil sludge had reached the fragile marshlands of Louisiana and was washing ashore in every Gulf bordering state. Dead fish and marine life are also washing ashore. The Gulf fishing industry has collapsed. The Gulf tourism industry is in ruins. It would appear that BP lied about their safety procedures. It would appear that they attempted to cohere their employees into covering up procedural and regulatory violations. It would appear that they were woefully under-prepared to deal with the disaster. And it would appear that they’ve been lying about the volume of oil flooding into the Gulf by a factor as large as ten – and in fact are still denying it despite blatantly obvious evidence to the contrary. The ‘accident’ Paul refers to has affected the lives of millions, and is likely to affect the lives of billions before it’s over – and it’s not likely to be over for a long, long, long time.  This ‘accident’ is going to cost the country billions. But Paul doesn’t want government to hold BP accountable? He hasn’t heard anything about BP not paying for this spill – I guess he missed the Congressional testimony that’s been going on for these last few week, eh?

Accidents happen? 

One wonders just what kind of eye doctor Rand Paul is – and if he’s running for Congress because with an attitude like that he can’t afford the malpractice insurance anymore.

These teabagger idiots, and yes I meant idiots as in stupid ignorant mouth breathing dolts, astound me with the degree of their insane irony.  They howl about their rights and deplore Washington’s “business as usual” – and elect an elitist country club doctor who appears to believe that some of his constituents should be able to legally discriminate against some of his other constituents based on race or ability and that big business should be able to destroy, literally destroy, an entire sea and the livelihoods of millions and precipitate a disaster on a scale almost unheard of and not be held accountable?  Oh yeah, this guy will represent your interests, Teabaggers, sure.

The Tea Party is crowing about its “victory in Kentucky.”

They remind me of The Toadie – they’ve sliced off their fingers and they’ve got this sickly look on their face, but they’re laughing right along with the Humungus and the Vermin, hellbound for disaster.

Accidents happen?

Yeah, and Rand Paul is a perfect example of one. 

My question to the tea baggers is this: if you’re not racists, if you’re not stupid and ignorant, if you’re not homophobes, if you’re not just angry old conservative white people who are scared shitless of the rest of us, then why do you keep electing leaders who are?


  1. Jim, you have nailed the Tea Party to a T(ea?). Great post!

  2. Well, it's all about them, you see. They want the government to stay out of their lives as long as the government forces others to do what they want them to do. They don't really want less government. They don't.

    They want the government match their beliefs, regardless of the constitution (although they'll talk about the constitution, most of them haven't really read it, and are happy to spout whatever Palin/Beck/Limbaugh/Hannity/O'Reilly et. al. say without, you know, actually checking for themselves.)

    They want the government to collect less taxes from them and what they do collect they want the government to quit spending on people except them.

    They want the government to leave businesses alone until those same businesses place money above everything else and in doing so affects them.

    They want the government to be spying in people's bedrooms and listening in on people's conversations and reading people's email and hold people's without access to a lawyer and torture people's and not read people their rights when arrested except them.

    Finally, their motto seems to be "Never let facts sway you in the face of a higher truth."

  3. Jim, I'm willing to accept that Paul isn't a racist in any meaningful sense (unlike teabaggers who parade around with signs depicting the President as a witch doctor); I'm willing to accept that he's sincere when he says that he thinks a private business has a right to discriminate and that he sincerely believes the solution to that problem is free market capitalism, that people such as himself simply won't patronize those businesses and they will therefore go out of business or change their policies, God bless the almighty dollar.

    And that's the problem with Rand Paul.

    Because Paul's views are New York Times aptly described yesterday as "unintentional reminders of the importance of enlightened government." The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not merely necessary to end de jure segregation, but because there had been a massive and widespread failure of the market to trump deep-seated and longstanding historical prejudices. White people didn't boycott racist establishments, most were at best grateful for having an easier time finding a seat and at worst were happy bigots who didn't want to eat next to one of "them." Indeed, the market pressures in much of the South were against business that wanted to desegregate, with "citizen groups" and/or members of organizations such as the Birchers or Klan visiting business owners who "didn't get it" to point out how much business they'd lose if they didn't get in line.

    (Oh, and as a parenthetical aside: note that when a number of civil rights groups proposed Paul's magic libertarian solution to racism be applied to the great state of Arizona in the wake of Arizona's anti-immigrant law, did the teabag crowd hail the virtues of using the corrective powers of the free market to "vote with your dollars" against discrimination or did they throw an tempestuous snit, with various threats of retaliation coming from some quarters? I'd say it was ironic, except irony is unexpected while this is an example of predictable hypocrisy, no?)

    This is why I wrote earlier in the week that Paul is a moron; his view of the corrective capability of a pure free-market libertarian utopia is simply naive and (as Gabriel Winant wrote at Salon) juvenile; it's also simply historically wrong--the market had nearly a century from the end of the American Civil War to the Johnson administration to get it right, and it took an Act Of Congress and the Supreme Court's approval of said Act to even get a hint of progress.

    At the heart of Paul's idiocy is actually a very important question: do you want a government that is strong enough and willing to intercede when self-correction fails to occur or (worse yet) when the market produces undesirable outcomes toxic to a society (as I've said before, the free market is very good at setting the correct price for toilet paper--and the correct hourly wage for seven-year-old factory workers). Paul believes the mostly-unregulated market will correct discrimination, environmental pollution, worker safety, consumer protection, and other various ills. It's an idea that isn't merely radical, it's also historically ignorant and hopelessly naive. In this respect, at least, I'm actually very grateful for his silly comments this week: he has provided an opportunity and object lesson as to why his philosophy isn't merely wrong--it's ridiculous and absurd.

  4. Eric, that's exactly why I didn't go into that aspect of it, because I knew you did earlier. And excellent observation BTW. Great comment.

    I meant to comment on your post, but I read it on my Blackberry and for some damned reason I can't comment on blogger blogs from the phone. I also meant to include a link to your post in this article and forgot. Thanks for putting one in the comments.

    The rest of you, go read Eric's post on Giant Midgets, linked to above.

  5. @Eric & Vince,

    Excellent comments guys!

    What happens when we dumb down our citizens by never, ever educating them as to their responsibilities as citizens? Or even as humans? Well, we're seeing it no in both the so-called teabaggers -- and in the morons they are getting elected.

    And Jim - I don't think you're going to get your email off the wingnut hate email lists with brilliant posts like this one! :)


  6. The emotional immaturity of the Tea Baggers (and big "L" Libertarians, actually) are exceeded only by their complete lack of compassion - hence their adoration of the "Fuck you, I've got mine" mentality.

    I really, really hope Rand Paul gets slaughtered in the general election. I hope, I hope.

  7. Me too, Janiece. Me too. I'd like to have my faith in real Americans confirmed.

  8. i don't know what "shenanigans" are but i *do* know you're the real "idiot" dr paul is just the first victory of many and then you libtards will get whats coming to your stupid socialist asss

  9. Well, I think the above "anonymous" comment just supports all you said in your post, Jim.

    One, not too smart. Doesn't know what shenanigans are.

    Two, attacking the messenger, rather than the message. You do that when the message is true.

    Three, name calling. Again, you do that when you have nothing better to say.

    Four, can't spell. There are only two s's in ass.

    Five, is embarrassed to leave his/her name, even a fake one. Has to hide behind "anonymous".

  10. Buwah?

    The kid and I take the 4-wheelers down the ATV trail and the trolls sneak into the station while we're gone. Damned dog is useless I tell you.

    What pray tell, Anonymous, will I get - you know, that I have coming? Are you Teabaggers going to engage in purges and work camps or will you just ship us off to the gas chambers?

    Forgive me if I don't want to live in Palin's Teabag America with you idiots and Rand Paul. Go ahead, threaten me, see where it gets you stupid fuckers.

    Seriously, anonymous, bring it on. Bring your friends.

  11. Is "Anonymous" for real? That comment reads like parody. Is that you, Nathan?

  12. Ha, I wondered that myself. It's not Nathan though. It was posted from a verizon cell phone in Ohio following a hotlink from Twitter.

    I suspect it's for real, I got a big increase in twitter links and followed it back to this

  13. Well, form Ohio, but don't use a cell phone to post, so it ain't me either (and right now I'm at Gun Lake).

    As I made a comment elsewhere, the difference between the fringe on the left and the right is that on the left they're marginalized, on the right they're given the microphones.

  14. Gun lake? In Michigan?

    Say hi to my folks, they live about ten minutes from there.

  15. Hey, wait a minute, hang on a sec, hang on, hang on--isn't a certain brilliant Linux dude with a puckish sense of humor who's been known to pull an occasional prank visiting Ohio right now?

    Hmmmmmm... now, I wonder....


  16. Hey! That's right. Annnnnnd he posts from a smartphone.

    Ooooh, this means war!

  17. So let me just get this straight.

    Conservatives and the Tea Party want a "small government" that stops being so horribly oppressive to good, upstanding businesses like BP, Haliburton, Enron and Blackwater, and restricts itself to telling women that they don't have the right to decide what happens with their bodies?

    I'm just a foreigner, so I could be wrong on this. Anyone want to help me clear that up?

  18. Someplace I saw the statement that Rand believes Property Rights trump Personal Rights.

    Which explains a lot of the Tea baggers philosophy

  19. No, Rens, I think you pretty much got it in one.


    subdont: subdont fly, subdont roll round the street, subjust go underwater and swim round with the fishies.

  20. Along somewhat similar lines, I can't help but wonder how the teabaggers would respond to this:


    Perhaps you could paraphrase it for less - Hmmmm - enlightened, Jim ...


  21. Lucy,

    Interesting. I'll take a look at that link in more detail when I haven't just driven 12 hours. I'm a little fuzzy at the moment.

  22. Just imagine, if you will, if the 'tea-bagger' movement was comprised of black or brown folk, or black and brown folk.

    Would the call for armed demonstrations, and protesters massing for the occupation of the nation's capital be greeted with praise for their 'patriotism'?

    Would their desire to deconstruct or tear down government and reconstruct it be viewed as just the common everyday desire of the downtrodden 'real Americans'?

    Would any of the rhetoric resonate with any of those who think they like the message of the tea-baggers ?

    The tea-baggers aren't anything new, they've just 'rebranded'. They're all nothing more than the same fringe subset of our society who have always clung to the exact same mantras and dogmatic idiocy.

    The 'rebranding' doesn't give them any more relevance or pertinence. The rebranding only gives them the cover they needed to go public with what the rest of society has rejected long ago.

    Why anyone gives them a pass, or spotlights their act, let alone supports it, is pretty much inconceivable, but then again, most of what passes for content or relevance today is generally inconceivably incomprehensible.


  23. Every time I hear one of BP's defenders attempt to dismiss responsibility by saying "Accidents happen" I keep flashing back to that scene in Aliens where Ripley confronts Burke about his order that sent the colonists to their facehuggery deaths without warning them, and his attempts to placate her.

    "Look, if I'd followed procedures quarantine steps in, administration steps in and there's no exclusive rights for anyone. Nobody wins. So I made a decision and it was wrong. It was a bad call, Ripley, just a bad call."

    "... 'BAD CALL'!? These people are DEAD, Burke!"

    Same here.
    "Accident" ? That ecosystem is DEAD, BP!

    Or at least it will be soon unless someone pulls a miracle out of their sleeve... And BP seems to be more concerned with not catching the blame than with fixing it.


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