Why the Hate-Filled, Retrograde Politics of the Tea Party Are Here to Stay

The Tea Party is not a movement, it’s a geographical region: the Old South.

Source:Alternet

Author: CJ Wehleman

N.B.: To triumph over the Tea Party, we must win the message war!

“After last Tuesday’s creaming in the Virginia governor’s race, and with Tea Party negatives creeping toward 75 percent, the political punditry class has divided itself into one of two camps: those celebrating the demise of the Tea Party versus those forecasting its inevitable end. Who’s right? They’re both wrong, because it’s not a movement. It’s a geographical region, and if history has taught us anything, southern folk are a pugnacious bunch.

Despite political feel-good rhetoric, there are two Americas. Not just ideologically, but geographically. That’s what still makes this country unique among other Western democracies. America is two distinct nations with a distinguishable border that runs the breadth of the country from the Mason-Dixon line across the southern border of Pennsylvania, finishing in some Baptist church somewhere in rural Texas.

The Tea Party is overwhelmingly Southern. Michael Lind, author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States, writes, “The facts show that the Tea Party in Congress is merely the familiar old neo-Confederate Southern right under a new label.” If you include Texas as a member of the Old South (banning tampons from the state house earns the Lone Star state that honor), nearly 80 percent of the Tea Party’s support comes from the former Confederate states. So, stop calling it a movement.

The Republican Party is not only the party of plutocrats and oligarchs; it’s also the party of the South. The party’s leaders are predominantly southern. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky. House Speaker John Boehner is from Cincinnati, Ohio, but Cincinnati is as close to the South as a northern city can be, given the city’s airport is actually in Kentucky. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is from Virginia. ‘

And then there are the likely 2016 presidential hopefuls. With the exception of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and the pathologically homophobic Rick Santorum, the rest of them are as southern as Colonel Sanders. Rand Paul is from Kentucky. Bobby Jindal is from Louisiana. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are from Florida.

While movements and ideas may die, a land mass does not, and while that southern land mass is occupied by a people who are willing to destroy the country in order to get their way, and while the GOP remains dependent on its “Southern strategy,” the South’s fixation on everything related to controlling race, sex, religious practice, abortion laws, and dismantling the federal government will remain the revolutionary fervor of not only the Tea Party but also the GOP.

The trend lines in America are moving against the South thanks to increasing urbanization, the “browning of America,” and the declining place for religion in American life. These are great challenges to the South’s way of life, and southerners don’t like it. So don’t expect one governor’s race in an off-year election to read as an obituary for the Tea Party. As much as the media and the GOP establishment would like you to believe Chris Christie, a moderate only by Tea Party standards, to be the presumptive nominee, the neo-Confederates are more likely to pick a gay atheist from San Francisco.

The GOP’s most agitated and mobilized voting bloc is its predominantly southern evangelical base. In their minds, they’ve experimented with non-Southern “moderates” in the form of John McCain and Mitt Romney, and they got trounced. The base gets its cues from Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity, all of whom are juicing the base for a “severely conservative” 2016 candidate. Thus a northern governor who supports climate change, evolution, immigration and gun control will likely be sacrificed on the altar of southern radicalism—a fate realized by one former northern mayor in 2008, Rudy Giuliani.

The South, and by association the GOP, sees America increasingly through the prism of race. It’s central to their worldview. In 2012, 92% of the Republican vote came from white people who, within the next three decades, will no longer be in the majority. Despite losing the gubernatorial race, Ken Cuccinelli received more than 70% of the white vote. White southern voters view entitlements and immigration reform as liberal programs to buy votes. They believe food stamps and healthcare are an effort to take money from hard-working white people, and in turn, redistribute it to lazy black people. When Reagan spoke about a “welfare queen,” he didn’t need to mention her race. White southern voters had already painted a picture in their own minds.

In his seminal Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, Chuck Thompson writes:

The unified southern resistance to every initiative from any “liberal” administration has deep historic roots. The persistent defiance of every Democratic attempt to deal intelligently with national problems—be they recession, debt, or childhood obesity—has nothing to with political ideology, taxes, healthcare, or acceptable degrees of federal authority. It has everything to do with nullification, disruption, zealotry, and division. It’s part of a time-sharpened effort to debilitate nearly every northern-led government by injecting it with the Seven Deadly Sins of Southern Politics: demagogic dishonesty, religious fanaticism, willful obstructionism, disregard for own self-interest, corporate supplication, disproportionate influence, and military adventurism.

The next Republican Party presidential nominee will need to speak to these white southern fears and attitudes. Given that Civil War hostilities ended more than 150 years ago, and given the GOP is now backed by unprecedented levels of campaign finance thanks to Citizens United, don’t fool yourself into thinking the Tea Party strain of Republicanism is going away anytime soon. It’s more likely they’ve only just arrived.

CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America and God Hates You, Hate Him BackFollow him on Twitter @cjwerleman.

Emphasis Mine:

See: http://admin.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/why-hateful-politics-tea-party-isnt-going-anywhere-hint-its-region-us?akid=11133.123424.w5CfWK&rd=1&src=newsletter922618&t=5

 

Actually, Tea Party Groups Gave the IRS Lots of Good Reasons to Be Interested

RS profiling was a fiasco. Yet, some tea party groups have left a trail of fiscal problems and possible tax-code abuse.

Source: Mother Jones

Author: Stephanie Mencimer

“Virtually everyone in Washington agrees on at least one thing about the IRS scandal: The tax agency’s trolling for tea party groups and giving extra scrutiny to their applications for nonprofit status was an egregious violation. Exactly how and why that conduct took place remains under investigation. But as conservatives in particular decry the IRS failure, it’s also worth considering the dubious fiscal history of some tea party groups, including their pursuit of non-profit status. While the IRS had absolutely no business profiling any groups based on political criteria, it is not blaming the victim to observe that scrutiny was warranted in specific cases—and they include some major tea party outfits and their leaders, documents show.

Indeed, despite the tea party’s emphasis on fiscal prudence in government, would-be nonprofit groups launched since the movement’s rise in 2009 have left a trail of tax-code shenanigans, infighting, and fiscal irresponsibility. Money raised by some groups was spent frivolously, and in some cases in ways that appeared to flout the tax rules barring nonprofits from political activity. There have been lawsuits between competing organizations over money, and tea party groups have disintegrated because of financial and other mismanagement.

None of which is particularly surprising, given the deluge of fledgling groups. After the tea party movement took off in 2009, thousands of people around the country rushed to join in, many of them creating small nonprofit groups in their local areas. It didn’t take long for infighting to set in and for claims of financial improprieties to fly—for example, there was the story of Saint Augustine Tea Party vs. Saint Augustine Tea Party Inc. Scuffles arose around the country as aspiring tea party groups saw money disappear or rules violated.

Since 2009, the Tea Party Patriots, a large national umbrella group, has claimed no fewer than 3,500 affiliates. Many applied for nonprofit status with the IRS, a prime reason the agency was so overwhelmed with applications. The people leading these groups were often neophytes politically and organizationally—or, as Dan Backer, a lawyer for TheTeaParty.net, explained in an interview with Mother Jones this week, “they didn’t understand the complexity of what’s involved.”

Other tea partiers were part of a constellation of right-wing groups that seek to make money with fundraising appeals for conservative causes. And finally, some high-profile tea party leaders wrestled with personal tax problems before trying to start new political organizations.

Whether the IRS focused on any specific groups for any of these reasons is not clear. But here are some examples of these groups and why the IRS might have wanted to take a closer look at them:

True The Vote/King Street Patriots: True the Vote was among the active conservative groups that sought to police the polls during the 2010 and 2012 elections to root out alleged voter fraud. The group was created by the King Street Patriots, a Houston-based tea party organization and a 501(c)(4). But True the Vote is a 501(c)(3), a tax-exempt designation that allows a group’s donors to write off their contributions but also has strict rules prohibiting electioneering and partisan political activity. True the Vote and King Street share board members and often co-sponsored events.

True the Vote trained volunteers to go into predominantly minority neighborhoods across the country and keep an eye on potential violations by presumed Democratic voters. Its activities drew accusations of voter intimidation; in Ohio, its volunteers were banned from Franklin County polling places amid allegations that it had forged signatures to secure poll-watcher status. In TexasTrue the Vote’s alleged partisan activity included a poll-watching guide instructing trainees to consult the Harris County Republican Party website for advice on voting rules, and the group only invited Republicans to its candidate forums.

Catherine Engelbrecht, True the Vote’s president, is among those now complaining that her group was inappropriately targeted. “The IRS treatment of us lends to the appearance of a politically-motivated abuse of power and an assault on free speech,” she told Breitbart News. (She did not respond to a request for comment.)

Engelbrecht has released a letter from the IRS requesting extensive documentation and information from True the Vote as part of its nonprofit application. But the IRS’ requests point to concerns that critics have long raised about the organization. In 2010, an ethics complaint and lawsuit against King Street Patriots alleged illegal political activity, and last year a Texas judge agreed, ruling that the organization was not a nonprofit but in fact was operating like a political action committee and illegally helping the GOP. In August 2012, True the Vote donated $5,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee, a 527 group that raised nearly $30 million dollars to elect GOP candidates in state legislatures.

TheTeaParty.net/Stop This Insanity: TheTeaParty.net/STI is a 501(c)(4) group incorporated in Arizona in early 2010 by Todd Cefaratti, who runs a “lead generation” company that provides contact information to reverse-mortgage companies, some of whose operations have been compared to those of the subprime lending industry. The group advertises under a number of variations on the tea party name, and some other tea partiers have complained almost from its inception that the group is nothing more than a data harvesting operation. (Cefaratti defended himself against the criticism in a long post here.) FEC filings show that a “leadership fund” set up by the group raised almost $1.2 million in 2012, and gave only $52,000 to candidates for federal office.

TheTeaParty.net/STI has not yet received non-profit status approval; Dan Backer, the group’s lawyer, says he is now considering suing the IRS for targeting his clients. Yet, Backer also describes the group’s founders as neophytes, and he acknowledges that some tea party groups may have run in to trouble trying to properly manage grassroots organizing around politics. “These are folks who are not lawyers, they’re not part of the political establishment,” he says. “In fact they deeply reject the political establishment, so they’re trying to navigate a system designed by the establishment.”

More than one aspect of TheTeaParty.net/STI’s forays into politics might have triggered a closer look from the IRS. Its founders initially set up the group as both a 501(c)(4) and a political action committee that it registered with the FEC—as a single entity. That was a clear violation of the non-profit rules on political activity, as Backer himself acknowledged to me. (The group eventually shut down the PAC.) In 2012, when the group sought to create a “leadership fund” in hopes of collecting unlimited campaign contributions, it ran afoul of federal campaign finance rules; it ended up suing the FEC, arguing that the agency should be prevented from enforcing those laws against it (and it lost).

Tea Party Patriots: One of the largest tea party umbrella groups that formed as a 501(c)(4), it was co-founded by Mark Meckler, a former high-level distributor for Herbalife, a multilevel marketing company that has repeatedly been accused of operating in a manner similar to a pyramid scheme. (Meckler, who left TPP in February 2012, has long refused to talk to Mother Jones and never responded to requests for comment on his past business enterprise when we first exposed it in 2010.) In 2009, the organization raised $12 million in fiscal 2010. But only about $3 million of that went to its “social welfare” mission, according to an IRS 990 form filed in May 2012. Millions more went to professional telemarketing firms, which in some cases cost more than they raised; extensive travel costs; and legal fees incurred as the group sued competitors over its claim to own the “tea party” franchise.

Some conservative leaders came to the tea party with significant tax or financial problems of their own. Another TPP founder is Jenny Beth Martin, a Georgia-based political activist. When she started TPP in 2009, her husband Lee Martin had a half-million dollars in federal tax liens against him; he went on to serve as the group’s “assistant secretary” in 2010 and 2011 and was intimately involved with the group’s financial management.

Other tea party leaders with tax problems include:

Michael Patrick Leahy, a management consultant who organized the National Tea Party Coalition, had $150,000 worth of IRS tax liens and court judgments to his name.

Judson Phillips, the founder of the (for-profit) Tea Party Nation filed for bankruptcy in 1999, and had $22,000 in federal tax liens in his past. After Tea Party Nation planned a July 2010 tea party convention in Las Vegas and then canceled due to lack of interest, the organization stiffed the Venetian Hotel for more than 1,500 rooms it had reserved. That resulted in ajudge ordering the organization to repay the hotel nearly $750,000.

And then there was tea partier Christine O’Donnell, the Senate candidate from Delaware whose IRS tax lien for nearly $12,000 came to light during her 2010 campaign.

Conservatives now say there was a partisan motive behind the IRS targeting of tea party groups. (An Inspector General’s report released Tuesday did not find any evidence to that effect.) As evidence, they point to a lack of similar scrutiny directed at liberal groups. But it is also true that the tea party movement does not have an equivalent on the left; the Occupy Wall Street movement, perhaps the closest parallel, did not receive financial support on the scale that tea party organizations did, nor did it spawn legions of aspiring tax-exempt groups. When Occupy groups did seek out formal structure, they tended to use the traditional charitable 501(c)(3) status, which bars all political activity.

The tea partiers, on the other hand, went for the c(4) designation for political non-profit organizations, helping make them the focus, as we now know, of IRS staffers.”

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/irs-tea-party-tax-problems

 

The 10 Worst Weather Disasters This Year and Why They Are Happening

We’ve already had 10 disasters topping $1 billion each and it’s only September — what gives?…is hoping that people may begin to better understand how global warming can affect us by stepping back and seeing these disasters as part of a bigger picture.

From Alternet, by Tara Lohan

N.B.: The article contained the ambiguous, misleading word ‘midwest’.  I replaced it with one more accurate.

Floodwaters remain threatening in parts of the Northeast. Acresting Susquehanna River caused evacuations late last week in Pennsylvania — the culprit that time was tropical storm Lee, which came on the heels of Hurricane Irene. These days extreme weather is beginning to seem like the new normal in a year marked by disastrous events — deadly tornadoes, raging floods, crippling drought and wildfire, massive hurricanes, and don’t forget the great white-out of “snowpocalpyse.”

All these events have taken their toll on the country, both in terms of human lives lost and the amount of damages incurred. FEMA’s disaster fund has dipped so low it is having to divert funds from Joplin, Missouri, site of the heartbreaking May tornado, to areas clobbered by Irene. The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reports that we’ve already set a record of 10 disasters over $1 billion each this year— and it’s only September.

So how bad have things been, and what’s to blame? Let’s take a look at the NCDC’s list of wreckage of the last nine months.

1. Ground Hog Day Blizzard, Jan 29-Feb 3

It may be hard to think back to the frigid days of winter, but the massive storm that blanketed central and eastern states was a killer. It put Chicago under several feet of snow, claimed 36 lives and caused losses over $2 billion. The storm stymied travel, exhausted plowing budgets, and brought major cities to a standstill. For New York, the storm capped a month of snowfall that hit 36 inches.

2.Central/Southeast Tornadoes, April 4-5

Next came the beginning of a horrifying tornado season, which included five events topping $1 billion. The first, on April 4-5 hit 10 southern and central states with 46 tornadoes, losses over $2.3 billion and nine people killed.

3. Southeast/Great Lakes Tornadoes, April 8-11

Then came another 59 tornadoes that battered the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin. Total losses topped $2.2 billion but no casualties were reported.

4. Mid Atlantic/Southeast Tornadoes, April 14-16

This round of 160 tornadoes rocked Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia and Pennsylvania. North Carolina received the brunt with tornadoes killing 22 people out of the storms’ total of 38 casualties. More than $2 billion in losses were reported.

5. Southeast/Ohio Valley/Miss. Valley Tornadoes, April 25-30

And still the tornadoes kept coming — this time 305 tornadoes and 327 people dead, 240 of them killed in Alabama. The twisters hit more populated areas like Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Huntsville and Chattanooga, bringing the tab to over $9 billion.

6. Central/Southeast Tornadoes, May 22-27

Then came 180 tornadoes that terrorized central and southern states, claiming 177 lives and costing over $7 billion. The town of Joplin, Missouri lost 141 people and received the unfortunate honor of being the site of the country’s deadliest tornado strike. Before and after photos of Joplin showed obliterated neighborhoods, roads, schools, churches and hospitals, and the media was filled with heartbreaking stories of people searching for loved ones.

7. Southern Plains/Southwest Drought, Heatwave and Wildfires, Spring-Summer

Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, southern Kansas, western Arkansas and Louisiana have been massively hot and dry. This has resulted in mammoth wildfires, lost crops and livestock, charred homes, and dwindling water supplies. Texans have now experienced the hottest three months (June through August) ever recorded in the U.S. Climate-denying Texas governor Rick Perry has been praying for rain, but his prayers have done nothing to help the 3.6 million acres torched in his state. (It also hasn’t helped that he cut the volunteer fire department budgets from $30 million to $7 million — a really bad decision considering that most Texans’ first line of defense is from the volunteer corps.) Across the Southwest and southern plains states, firefighting costs have reached $1 million a day. The total economic damages are still being tallied as this summer of hell is far from over, but losses to agriculture, cattle and buildings are more than $5 billion.

8. Mississippi River Flooding, Spring-Summer

The combination of massive rainfall and melting snow made for an epic flood event this year along the Mississippi and its tributaries, with losses creeping toward $4 billion and several lives lost. Homes and fields were submerged and towns evacuated. Photos showed water reaching the top of street signs, barns floating away and roadways disappearing into the floodwaters.

9. North Central Flooding, Summer

That wasn’t the only big flood event of the year either. The same disastrous combo of snow melt and hefty precipitation set the Missouri and Souris rivers on a wild ride. Minot, North Dakota‘s 11,000 folks were sent packing as the water claimed 4,000 area homes. In all Montana, the Dakotas, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri lost homes, businesses and farms with damage estimates at over $2 billion and five deaths reported.

10. Hurricane Irene, August 20-29

And that brings us back to Irene’s recent course through Eastern states. The final tab is still a guess, especially in a stunned and soggy Vermont. According to Circle of Blue, “Standard & Poor reported that total economic losses from the disaster could reach $US 20 billion, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, catastrophe modeler AIR Worldwide has insured-loss estimates between $US 3 to 6 billion, and risk-management firm Kinetic Analysis Corporation has estimated the total damage from Hurricane Irene at $US 7 billion.” The death toll has now reached 45.

Why All the Weather Disasters?

After tallying the lives lost and property damaged, has all this weather taken a toll on our consciousness yet? Are people beginning to wonder if it’s just a crappy, unlucky year — or is there something else going on? Bill McKibben, the environmental author and activist, is hoping that people may begin to better understand how global warming can affect us by stepping back and seeing these disasters as part of a bigger picture. As McKibben told Amy Goodman this week on Democracy Now!:

We’re in unprecedented, off-the-charts territory. It’s not that there haven’t been disasters before. There have always been disasters. Nature is relatively random in that sense. But now we’re seeing two things. One, disasters that go beyond the bounds of what we’ve ever seen before. Because there’s more water in the atmosphere, it’s possible to have bigger floods, record snowfalls when it’s cold, record rainstorms. And we’re seeing more of them in conjunction. Think about what’s been going on just on this continent this year. We’re about one-and-a-half percent of the surface area of the globe in the continental U.S., and we’ve had not only this extraordinary flooding, but on the same day that Hurricane Irene was coming down, Houston set its all-time temperature record, 109 degrees. We’re in the middle of the worst drought ever recorded in Texas. And, you know, Governor Perry’s prayers for rain have so far been unanswered, maybe because he’s done so little to ameliorate the flow of carbon into the atmosphere. We’re in a new situation.

It doesn’t mean that everything that happens is caused by global warming. Hurricanes aren’t caused by global warming. They’re caused by tropical waves drifting off the coast of Africa and encountering the earth’s spin that can begin to set them into rotation. But they are made more powerful. As this hurricane rode up the coast, one of the reasons it was able to pick up so much water, that it’s now dumping on Vermont and Quebec, is that sea surface temperatures were at an all-time record high off New York and New Jersey. Never–the last two years have seen the highest temperatures ever recorded in those waters. When you amp up a system–and so far we’ve added about three-quarters of a watt per square meter of the earth’s surface extra solar energy to the planet by burning coal and gas and oil--when you do that, you can expect more dynamic, more amped-up, more violent weather. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing.

So, to recap — it’s not that any one of our weather events was caused by global warming; it’s that global warming can make them worse. There is an increase in the frequency and the severity of storms — wet storms get even wetter, heat waves get hotter and droughts get even drier. As Seth Borenstein writes for the AP, “This year, there’s been a Pacific Ocean climate phenomenon that changes weather patterns worldwide known as La Nina, the flip side to El Nino. La Ninas normally trigger certain extremes such as flooding in Australia and drought in Texas. But global warming has taken those events and amplified them from bad to record levels, said climate scientist Jerry Meehl at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Associated reported that this year was the second hottest on record — and last year was the hottest. They also turned up a few more disturbing facts:

  • Only nine of the lower 48 states experienced August temperatures near average, and no state had August average temperatures below average.
  • Wetter-than-normal conditions were widespread across the Northeastern United States, which had its second wettest August, as well as parts of the Northern Plains and California. Drier-than-normal conditions reigned across the interior West, the Midwest, and the South.
  • Despite record rainfall in parts of the country, drought covered about one-third of the contiguous United States, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The Palmer Hydrologic Drought Index indicated that parts of Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas are experiencing drought of greater intensity, but not yet duration, than those of the 1930s and 1950s.
  • An analysis of Texas statewide tree-ring records dating back to 1550 indicates that the summer 2011 drought in Texas is matched by only one summer (1789), indicating that the summer 2011 drought appears to be unusual even in the context of the multi-century tree-ring record.
  • Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana had their warmest (June-August) summers on record.
  • The U.S. Climate Extremes Index, a measure of the percent area of the country experiencing extreme climate conditions, was nearly four times the average value was during summer 2011.

And if that’s not enough, Arctic sea ice is at a record level low.

So, we’ve got extreme weather that is getting more dangerous. What are we going to do? Apparently not much. Writing for the Guardian, Jule Boykoff takes politicians — especially the climate-denying Republicans — to task for ignoring the perils of climate change. Boykoff writes:

As Republican candidates rehearse Exxon-esque talking points, journalists need to ask them where their weather and climate change thresholds lie. Someone should ask Perry, “At what specific threshold would you begin to ‘believe’ in global warming?” Would he reconsider his position if Texas were thrashed by an Old Testament-style concoction of droughts and tornadoes on an even more regular basis? How regular would this thrashing have to be? More than 97% of active climate scientists are in consensus that humans are contributing significantly to climate change. What percentage does he require to eliminate doubt? 99%? 109%?

Same goes for Obama. How many deaths and billions in economic damage from extreme weather would it take for him to take action to mitigate climate change and, for example, put the kibosh on the Keystone XL pipeline?

Here’s the crux of this issue — at what point are we willing to do everything we can to change the course we’re on and demand the same from our elected officials? Perry and his Republican cohorts in the presidential race (minus Jon Huntsman) are adamant in their belief that climate change is not real despite the the conviction of 97 percent of people trained in that scientific field. Seems crazy right? Even crazier if you think about it this way: There’s a 97 percent change our ship is going to sink. Wouldn’t you want to get the heck off that boat?

There’s no way off this planet, so why aren’t we doing everything we can — Republicans, Democrats, everyone — to divert our ship from its disastrous course?”

Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet and editor of the new book Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/152385/the_10_worst_weather_disasters_this_year_and_why_they_are_happening__?page=entire