Tag Archives: tea party

3 Videos That Explain the Government Shutdown

Yesterday, after Congress failed to pass a new budget (or a continuing resolution to give them more time to work out a budget), the federal government was shutdown. But what does that mean? It means that government services deemed “non-eseential” were closed until Congress passes a bill to allow them to re-open and some 800,000 government employees are currently not working.

VlogBrother Hank Green (the other VlogBrother is NYT Bestelling author John Green) posted a video yesterday that more clearly explains what it means when your government shuts down, what services are effected, and the deeper root of this problem:

But why is the government shutting done? 

To answer that question we turn to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D)  from Massachusetts. On Monday, September 30, Senator Warren gave a speech on the Senate floor about her disbelief of the current situation. “[The shutdown] is a last gasp of hope for those that can’t deal with the reality of this democracy,” is a quote from Warren’s speech that you have probably seen plastered all over your Facebook pages. Senator Warren drops even more knowledge about the Tea Party contingent of the House of Representatives forcing this shut down as a way to gut the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) in the full version of the speech below:

Wait, this is about Obamacare? Didn’t the Supreme Court already say it was constitutional? 

They did. The Affordable Care Act has been through all the proper steps to become a law – passed by the House and Congress, singed by the President and declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. It has checked off all the verses in that infamous School of Rock video we all had to watch in Civics class. And Obamacare is exempt from the government shutdown so it still went into effect yesterday, October 1, making the entire situation even more infuriatingly pointless.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to make a joke when explaining the reality is too baffling. Jon Stewart may have made the best metaphor possible on Monday night’s “The Daily Show” with a new segment “Rockin’ Shutdown Eve.”

In essence, politicians are playing chicken with the paychecks of almost 1 million government workers at stake. They have suspended vital services to underprivileged children and the elderly to bargain for their ideological ideals rather than by their desire to do what is best for this country, and that is unacceptable.

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, supporter of the Affordable Care Act or not, we can all agree that politicians need to stop holding America hostage for their own agendas – and that goes for both sides. We the people elected Congress to represent and work for us, and they need to do better. That’s really what you need to know about the government shutdown.

What do you think of the shutdown? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Openly Gay Politician Uses Tea-Party Dad in Awesome Campaign Ad

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There’s an adage that says, “parents just don’t understand” which openly gay Massachusetts lawmaker Carl M. Sciortino, Jr., who is running to replace now-Senator Ed Markey in next month’s state primary, is using to compel voters with is viral campaign ad.

“I’ll never forget that conversation with my dad when I had to come out and tell him…” Sciortino begins, and everyone thinks he’s going to say “that I was gay.” Instead, Sciortino throws a curveball and says, “that I was a Massachussetts liberal.” The rest of the ad cuts between the two recounting Sciortino’s increasingly liberal policies – from Wall Street and NRA regulation to equal rights initiatives.

It is touching though when Sciortino’s father begins lamenting over his son writing “The Buffer Zone” law – which protects women entering abortion clinics from harassment – but admits he’s proud his son got it all the way to the supreme court.

In the end it’s clear that neither will be giving in to the other’s political leanings, but the video ends with a Tea Party Republican saying he loves his openly gay liberal Democrat son. It just goes to show we can have different ideas and political ideals and still work together. Now if only Congress could make it work like these two.

What do you think of this campaign strategy? Share in your comments below! 


Deepak Chopra: Obama Knows the Magic Word to End Our Troubles

This week for the first time in the presidential race, a poll gave Mitt Romney the edge over President Obama (only a tiny one, within the margin of error). One foresees that a simple message may prevail over a complex one. The simple message, which Romney endlessly repeats, is this: The President is a nice guy, but he’s in over his head, and his wild spending has bankrupted the country. The complex message, which comes from Obama in mixed, varied, and confusing in ways, is this: We must revamp America in order to meet the future.

Because Romney has blame, impatience, and angry frustration on his side, he may succeed in his uphill climb. Already most of what the pundits told us – that Romney had been damaged in the combative primary race, that the conservative base is opposed to him, that the religious right is suspicious of him – has proved invalid. Republicans are rallying en masse behind the simple message, while seething underneath is an irrational hostility to Obama that no sensible person can quite fathom.

Yet it’s the President who knows the magic word that will end all our woes: Evolve.  He picked “Forward” as a simpler synonym, but the net effect is the same. The old America that was such a familiar comfort zone isn’t coming back, no matter how warmly the Republicans try to conjure it. Our future will not be the repetition of our past, because certain hard facts are set in place:

– Manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back.

– Workers with only high school diplomas are at a permanent disadvantage that grows larger every decade.

– Older blue-collar workers are forming a new class of the permanently unemployed.

– Safety nets in the form of pensions and benefits have drastically eroded.

– Fossil fuels are more in demand than ever from places like India and China.

– Economic inequality is wider than ever before in our history.

– The middle class has stagnated in income potential and burdensome debt.

– Society is getting older, putting pressure on entitlements as never before.

It’s a tragic irony that the Republican Party has become the domain of white blue-collar workers, because they are the worse off and the ones who need Obama’s vision the most.  All governing classes come from the elite (after all, both candidates have Harvard degrees, just as all the leading contenders in 2004 went to Yale). The difference is that the Democratic vision is fostered by an elite that wants to retool our whole society for the benefit of the greatest number. The Republican Party wants to benefit well-off white males.

Somehow, after forty years of reactionary conditioning, the working class has been persuaded to support rich white males while ignoring their own best interests. Abortion and gay marriage are typical red herrings, as are foreign wars and stoking mass fear about terrorism.  For all that, America must evolve on all fronts. Obama realizes this quite clearly; hence his programs for alternative energy, a cleaner environment, infrastructure repairs, universal health care, and on and on.  Nothing offered by Romney is remotely commensurate. One prays that in his heart he is the moderate, sensible person that the extreme right hates and fears.

But the larger point is that “evolve” is too complex a message to cut through Tea Party hostility and unreason, which Romney must cash in on.  For decades the elite mentality inside both parties has kept reactionary forces from doing their worst. We still have abortion, no prayer in the schools, increasing acceptance of gay marriage, etc.  But this kind of passive resistance has come to an end. Angry populism has battered down the doors of Congress. Endemic problems have finally come home to roost.  Without a doubt President Obama has the clearest vision for our future and the one that would benefit the very kind of voter who riles against health care, alternative energy, a sane immigration policy, and gay marriage. It would be a tragedy if these voters get what they want instead, which is another decade of decline and misery if reactionary politicians have their way.


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photo by: jurvetson

Deepak Chopra: Divided Politics and Bad Marriages

Whether the Democrats and Republicans like it or not, they are in bed together and may as well be married.

Neither has a majority in both houses of Congress that can impose one-party rule. The filibuster provision in the Senate allows a minority to stymie the majority. The Constitution doesn’t guarantee that political bedfellows will get along – there were no parties when the Constitution was written, and now we observe a marriage from hell. Unlike civil marriage, there’s no chance for a divorce.

Is it possible to approach the situation in the role of a marriage counselor? There are several aims a counselor has when working with two spouses whose relationship has become rocky:

– Provide a safe place for honest discussion.

– Air grievances without becoming obsessed by them.

– Find an opening for compromise.

– Encourage adult behavior rather than impulsiveness and a desire for revenge.

– Find a renewed basis for the relationship to move forward.

These aims aren’t always reached, and in the end the marriage sometimes dissolves. But since the Democrats and Republicans can’t divorce, our only hope is that reconciliation is possible.  For that hope to materialize, the points I’ve listed must become feasible.  What they imply is a process. One of the biggest problems in Congress is that both sides want to skip the process and jump straight to the results.

The results are also familiar from bad marriages. Both sides want to win, to be proven right, to make the other eat humble pie, and to bypass compromise out of a sense of self-righteous certainty. We hear the word “ideology” applied a lot to the most rigid partisans on the left and the right. But I think ideology is a mask for being a bad spouse. This marriage will never work when one or both spouses insists on getting their own way, no matter what.

Another problem with refusing to start the process of reconciliation centers on posturing. The term “political Kabuki theater” applies here. both sides say and do things for ritualistic purposes, like passing a budget that has no chance of being enacted, accusing the other side of being totally at fault, making demands that are stalking horses to satisfy the most extreme wing of the party. This resembles nothing more than two warring spouses fighting through their lawyers with wildly inflated blame, knowing all the while that the actual settlement will be a compromise.

I don’t think that compromise has become a dirty word, especially among the Tea Party, merely because of extreme intransigence or the vaunted ambition of making government less corrupt. Congress is no more corrupt than human nature and no less. The reason compromise is a dirty word is that when it is reached, neither side is satisfied. When Solomon offered to settle a dispute between two mothers by cutting the baby in half, the compromise was deliberately outlandish in order to bring the true mother to light – she would be the one who selflessly gave up her claim so that the baby might live.

In Congress we see bad-faith compromises that are designed not to work. The health care act is a prime example, and so is the debt-ceiling deal.  The right sabotaged a viable compromise by forcing legislation that they could denigrate in public afterwards.  In the final analysis, Congress is acting as badly as its constituency wants it to. The public decries how divided our current politics is while electing rigid representatives who make the division worse. The voting public is acting like the families of two bickering spouses, pleading for an end to the fighting while at the same time telling each party that they are right and the other spouse is totally at fault.

What this comes down to is human relations. In the coming year leading up to November, both parties seem ready to adopt a scorched earth policy. Kabuki theater and ideology will have a field day.  But behind the scenes, expectations have moved in a direction that nobody wants. Lincoln’s words about a house divided still apply. If Congress keeps up its current behavior, we may see all reasonableness come to an end, and the marriage may turn as ridiculously vicious as the one in the movie “the War of the Roses,” where nothing less than destroying our spouse is acceptable. Without the process of reconciliation, the only foreseeable outcome is a massive crisis with debt, entitlements, or Iran, that forces husband and wife to cling to each other because peril has forced them to go into survival mode.



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Oneness with Sarah Palin

One of the mantras of the new consciousness movement is “Oneness,” the idea that we are all inexorably linked as one being through the elemental energy at the basis of sub-atomic reality.  It is a concept easier to meditate on than to actually embody and live.  And being in Oneness with the guy next to you in yoga class is one level of living in Oneness, but it goes much farther than that.

As advanced souls we can go beyond just being aware of our Oneness with people who are like us.  We are now at a point in our evolution where we are able to step into the awareness of being in Oneness with everyone whether they think like us or not.  Whether they go to yoga class or ride motorcycles, whether they are vegetarian or eat red meat, or whether they believe we are One being or don’t believe we are One being.  If you believe it, here is your chance to prove the influential power of living it by example.

When you are evolved enough as a soul that you can see your Oneness with Sarah Palin, then, by George, you’ve got it!  An initial level of this awareness is when you can see that you may have influenced Sarah to be who she is today.  This is the law of karma in play.  Do you know any of your past lives?  Do you know how you have shaped world history through the ages?  In a past and lesser-evolved incarnation, who knows what you were up to and how this shaped the thought and belief patterns of the soul who is now Sarah Palin.  Maybe you were one of the American Revolutionaries and you were at the Boston Tea Party.  Sarah Palin’s soul saw what you did… angry, violent action against the British.  Now she is throwing her own Tea Party.  See the possibility here? 

Have we ever considered that maybe we could have worked with the rising British Industrial Revolutionaries on mutually beneficial terms of commerce to create our own independent country?  I was one of those British industrialists in that lifetime and we were friends with Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, it could have happened.   Instead we went to war and influenced how many other souls who were around at the time and who are now in positions of cultural leadership.  So before you throw stones at Sarah Palin, take a double take on who you might have been and what you might have been doing in previous lives that may have influenced her.

A subsequent and even higher level of awareness is next to take ownership of where you are now in your soul evolution and see how you are affecting Sarah Palin today by the energy you are sending her in your thoughts, words and actions.  If you are doing the good/bad, right/wrong game with her, then you are living in duality.  You can transcend the duality and go to Oneness by being humbled by the idea that you may have influenced her from a past life.  Then once there, your heart can open to how you are acting now.  If you are labeling, name calling, making jokes about Sarah Palin, that energy is released into the world and affects her and polarizes the situation even more.  If you can take responsibility for living in Oneness, you can provide a new example for her to follow, a powerful new model of Oneness and connection with all of life.   You don’t have to vote for her, you don’t have to accept her ideology, but see if you can love her as part of yourself and send good intentions for her own soul evolution. 

When we can move past the duality and really live like we believe we are One we can then have conversations, exchanges and political discourses that are mutually beneficial for all.  We don’t need to reinforce the dualistic Boston Tea Party, we need to initiate a new and improved Arthurian Round Table where all are equal and all serve our E Pluribus Unum. 



Lisa is the Bookings and Contracts Manager at the EarthRise at IONS retreat center at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) located in Northern California.  IONS’ research arm conducts and sponsors leading-edge research into the potentials and powers of consciousness.  EarthRise at IONS retreat center offers opportunities for personal transformative experiences. www.noetic.org

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / h.koppdelaney

Deepak Chopra: Why the Obama Strategy May Work

When a President is caught in a damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t vise – as President Obama was during the debt ceiling crisis – it’s tempting not to let him go. The right wing certainly feels that way, but the discourse on the left seems to be on the same track. Maybe it’s possible to raise the level of the discussion. One way is to see that the level of the solution isn’t found on the same as the level of the problem. Obama has taken that view as his long-term strategy. His position is that acrimonious divisions in government, which is the problem, can’t be solved by being even more acrimonious. His call for compromise, balance, and a reasoned approach to our difficult challenges is a sane adult’s way of rising above the level of the problem.

His adversaries on the right love this strategy because they have succeeded with distortion and demagoguery for a long time. In their view, acting like an adult is the same as showing weakness and in essence throwing away the game. By contrast, the left resents his strategy because they want to pound back at the right wing, getting in their licks while they have the chance. It seems to be the conventional wisdom, at this particularly volatile moment, to believe that the only person who is blind to his mistakes is the President himself. 

In many ways the facts are on his side but emotions aren’t. We were saved from a second Great Depression; the auto industry was put back on its feet; progressive policies were implemented on many fronts that steadily began the grueling work of undoing thirty years of reactionary indoctrination. Yet there’s no doubt that many cherished expectations were dashed. The rich still have their unjust tax cuts; the public option in health care wasn’t enacted. The President’s men argue that no one could have done any better, given the harsh political climate. I think the real question isn’t who’s right, the President or his critics, but whether adult reason is the course to follow. Let’s look at this question with an abbreviated pro and con, since we all know the particulars from following the news.


Obama’s strategy is viable because the opposition would win in any contest based on fear, greed, and anger. Bad guys are always willing to sink lower than good guys ever will.  Intolerance is never defeated by equal intolerance on the other side. Anger at the right wing is just as irrational as the right’s hatred of progressivism. The future is unknown, and second-guessing past decisions disregards how tough it was to make those decisions (e.g., no debt ceiling deal, however blessed on the left, would have been assured to avert the present meltdown on Wall Street).  Bridging divisions is ultimately the only way forward, and if now isn’t the right time to attempt that, then there never will be a right time.

Con:  An intolerant faction like the Tea Party cannot be tolerated. They must be stopped with harsh, combative measures. A crazy minority is running rough shod over the executive branch and shows no sign of relenting. Fighting for your principles is more honorable than compromise with immorality and injustice.  Reason is a foolish, impotent guide when you are under constant attack. The bad guys should be named in public and opposed with all necessary force.  Compromise is a nice word for lack of leadership, and lack of leadership will sink us all.

I’m well aware that the reader can pile more items on, probably weighing the con position more easily than buoying up the pro position.  But the fallacy among the editorial writers and pundits crying havoc is that they assume that they possess answers better than what the White House is considering. I strongly doubt it. Even in a climate of unprecedented hostility, the White House, the Fed, and the Treasury Department enacted every Keynesian-progressive economic solution available to it. Total success wasn’t achieved. Anger and despair still have their desolate way all over the country. What’s bitter about this situation is that the current global downturn cannot be fixed with a wave of the hand, either by our government, European governments, central banks here and abroad, fiscal and monetary policy, or the free market. Each country has faced the post-2008 financial crisis with its own solutions, and however different those solutions were, the results were distressingly short of success.

The New York Times ran a widely circulated and admired piece by a professor of psychology that deemed Obama a failure for not telling the American people a “story” that included villains and heroes, the kind of story our brains are constructed by evolution to understand.   Leaders do lead by promoting a narrative that helps guide a group or nation. But in and of itself, a story won’t change U.S. indebtedness, reverse the foreclosure rate, get legislation passed, or revalue the Chinese currency. While branding the Tea Party as villains may provide some emotional satisfaction to the Left, it is not clear it would lead to a better functioning Congress, without which we are well and truly sunk.  The villains of the piece are part of our social fabric, and the right course is to try and make no one a villain, I think. Even if its edges are frayed, “we are all in this together” is the right story. 

You and I have no power to alter the counsels of despair. Nor is it clear that when weighed in the balance, the pros of a rational economic policy will be sufficient. Sometimes you do have to stop tolerating the intolerant.  All I’m asking for is a sane consideration of how answers are reached when doing more of the same stops working. Asking for Obama to stride forth with a flaming sword and a mythic tale strikes me as short-sighted. The way out of a burning building isn’t to call for more kerosene.  The reason that the Obama strategy may work is the same reason that democracy has worked for many generations. Every other way is worse, and at times catastrophic.


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Mr. Smith Has Come to Washington, Now What?

The new Congress has an unprecedented number of first-time members, thanks to the Tea Party, and half of these (around 45, I believe) have never held any elected office. Leaving aside one’s reaction to the Tea Party, which on the left can be summarized as a horrified shudder, this influx of ordinary citizens is like a mass replay of Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: innocent, patriotic Americans have come to topple fat, corrupt politicians.

 Actually, I hope this isn’t a caricature. The Tea Party is fuzzy, angry, and irrational. But if everyone agrees that Washington is broken, throwing a lot of Mr. Smiths into the mix may start something rolling. The accepted wisdom is that it won’t. On his first day as House speaker, John Boehner backed off the Tea Party pledge to cut $100 billion out of this year’s budget, reducing it, maybe, to half of that. The Tea Partyers ran on other dubious promises like refusing to raise the country’s debt ceiling. Now that they have a seat in Congress, Boehner is urging new members to be sensible and act like adults. Without an increased debt ceiling, the U.S. cannot issue bonds and the government can’t keep running.

It’s hard to put aside that some of these Mr. Smiths are running on rage and fumes on the brain. Their thinking is preposterous, for example, when they pledge to reduce taxes while at the same time reducing the debt — the two are opposites. On the other hand, these new insurgents induce deep fear in sitting politicians, in both the House and Senate and across the aisle. If the Tea Party is stonewalled and business returns to the same old rigid ideas — no raised taxes if you are a Republican, no reduction in entitlements if you are a Democrat — more hornets may fly out of the nest in 2012. Last year an unprecedented number of incumbents were swept out of office. Why not more?

If we are lucky, the new Tea Party members, once they get past gimmicks like reading the Constitution on the House floor, will leverage change. It would be better if fear and unreason were not prime motivations, but the country has been caught too long in a political Catch-22 when it comes to taxing and spending. When times are good, nobody feels bad enough to push for reform, and when times are bad, everyone feels too weak to demand reform. We’re in very bad times now, yet the course ahead — budget cuts, entitlement reductions, and higher taxes — is coming into focus. A sort of begrudging consensus is forming in the back rooms between Democrats and Republicans. Even so, under normal conditions the logjam would continue until a deep crisis befell the economy. If we’re lucky, the Tea Party may be riding into town with sufficient warning to avert the kind of bad decisions that are made when catastrophe is just around the bend. The model that these history-addicted partisans need to look at isn’t the dumping of tea into Boston Harbor but the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

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The Real Winners in the 2010 Election: Fear and Confusion

 Elections are mirrors of a nation’s consciousness, so it makes sense — sad sense, unfortunately — that the 2010 election reflected fear and confusion. Many analysts disagree. They call it an election about anger. But anger is the surface expression of deeper anxieties. Recent polls show that 65% of Americans believe that they will not be able to maintain their current standard of living, around the same number who believe that America is on the decline. This doesn’t mean that each of these people watched an intelligent balanced news program or read an informed book. Quite the opposite. They were not aware of what was outside themselves. Instead, they were focused almost entirely on what was inside themselves. Since the primary thing that was inside amounted to deep confusion born of fear, that’s how the election turned out.

Facts have to match a person’s inner state before they make any impact. A poll asked people if the American economy has shrunk or grown under Barack Obama. By two to one they said it had shrunk, when in fact it has grown. They were asked if taxes had gone up. By two to one they said that taxes have gone up. Again the wrong answer; taxes have gone down under Obama’s administration. They were asked if the TARP program had largely earned back the enormous sums paid out to save failing banks. By two to one they answered no, when in fact TARP will cost hundreds of billions less than anticipated, and repayments have already exceeded the outstanding bailout debt. These facts were not secrets, but they might as well have been. They didn’t match people’s inner state, and so they didn’t register. If you or someone you know is in danger of losing a job — a third of Americans are in that category — it doesn’t matter that more private sector jobs were created under the Obama administration in eight months than in all eight years of the Bush administration. When you are confused and panicked, and the panic is exploited by fringe politicians who dress up as Nazis, want Social Security disbanded, have doubts about civil rights legislation, and propose that the best way to pay off a crushing national debt is to give larger corporate tax cuts, the reasonable side of human nature has been overruled.

Brain researchers tell us that fear, being a primitive inheritance, has a privileged pathway that overrides the higher regions of the brain, such as the cortex, where rationality prevails. That’s why a sudden fright will make a person instantly feel a rush of adrenaline, immediately leading to fight or flight. There’s nothing the higher brain can do to head this reflex off at the pass. It takes a few seconds and sometimes much longer, before a reasonable decision can be made. (First you jump, second you try to figure out what’s scaring you.) The evening news makes everyone jump all the time, yet somehow the political class, who should act as the voice of reason, can’t get through. The saddest aspect of 2010 is the rise of those who deliberately foment confusion and feed off fear — Sarah Palin, with her invention of death panels and other fear-inducing fictions, leads the list.

The Tea Party elected a sweeping number of new Congressmen with a cry that government cannot be trusted and should be dismantled. This reflects another finding by pollsters: 80% of responders said that their current congressman didn’t deserve re-election. But if you’re against everybody except those who agree with you that they are against everybody (the only bond that seems to link all Tea Partiers), what kind of future is being envisioned? Because the government is slower to turn around than the Queen Mary being pulled by a rowboat, the self-destructive aspects of this election won’t be fatal. The Tea Party is right when they see gross inequities in society, especially the unconscionable way that Wall Street looted the economy of jobs and pension plans, destroyed the housing market, and rewarded themselves with huge profits on the way up and the way down. But the Tea Party rage brought out the lunatic fringe. Instead of ending the gridlock everyone complains about in Washington, they voted in representatives who stand for gridlock.


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American Inequality: Who Is Subsidizing Our Lifestyle?

On the economic front, separate news stories are painting a disturbing picture of American inequality. The number of uninsured people has jumped from last year’s totals. The gap between the rich and poor has grown wider for 30 years (at current levels, the top fifth of earners takes home 50% of the money while the bottom fifth takes home 3%). Do you think of this being a fair country, a place where opportunity shines for everyone? Be prepared for a different reality. Among all Western industrialized countries, the U.S. stands last in income equality. England, the home of residual class antagonism going back for centuries, has leveled the playing field better than we have.

The problem is just that equality has become more like a myth than a fact. There are still many routes to upward mobility, and when one hears about the shrinking middle-class, it should be noted that a healthy percentage of that shrinkage was due to families climbing higher on the economic ladder (earning $75,000 or more) rather than sliding down. Yet the current recession has brought into stark relief an underlying flaw, not in American economics but in our consciousness. Money is creating a new, selfish class whose only interest seems to be in greed. The current Hollywood sequel to Wall Street brings back Gordon Gekko, an iconic figure from the go-go Eighties because of his maxim, "Greed is good." Gekko went to jail when greed took him too far. Now he has emerged from prison with a smirk on his face: Greed has become the new virtue in financial circles. It is no longer something to be ashamed of. You can drive the economy to ruin with insanely risky investments, get bailed out, and scamper down the road to make even more massive profits, some of them still based on too-high risk.

The ordinary person can’t stomach this, and the Tea Party is their enraged reaction. Anyone who is morally decent would have to share in the anger, but the Tea Party isn’t based on a drive for social and economic equality. Its toxic agenda is to push immigrants and the unemployed even lower. With sublime unreason we hear calls for lower taxes and an end to deficit spending, even though the two are exact opposites. If the Tea Party were swept into office tomorrow, the Republican Party would push for the overturning of Obama’s entire public policy, resulting in even greater inequality.

When you push greed, selfishness, rage, and crankiness out of the way, the future holds exactly what President Obama has been advocating; a more just society that can only solve the problems of debt and an aging population by raising taxes, lowering medical costs, and restructuring entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. The elderly are not immune to greed and selfishness, and many are reluctant to pay their fair share, even though most have the means. What could be more selfish than the now legendary cry of the senior citizen who yelled, "Keep the damn government out of my Medicare!"

What the greedy and well-to-do aren’t facing is their own flawed consciousness. The moneyed class is sitting on the sidelines, just as it did throughout the Great Depression, squeezing credit, refusing to invest, and demanding — with consummate gall — that the government should ask less of them in taxation. They refuse to face a stark fact: Their well-being and the general prosperity of this rich country is being subsidized. In his classic account of poverty in England during the Depression, The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell dourly noted that the smooth highways carrying cars across the land were built on the backs of coal miners — quite literally, in fact, since mine shafts often ran under the roads. He appealed to community and decency, to morality and empathy in the hope that England would become a fair state.

The same plea needs to be heard today, because your lifestyle and mine is being subsidized by immigrants working for low wages in order to keep prices down, while at the same time receiving marginal benefits from the state compared to the rest of us. We are subsidized by the uninsured, who never go to the doctor. We are being subsidized by a minimum wage too low to live on. We are subsidized by the unemployed who do without welfare support. Finally, we are being subsidized by the average worker, who became the most efficient producer in the world, only to see the corporation he worked for take that increased productivity, turning it into dividends and bonuses that would benefit stockholders, executives, and almost everyone but the workers themselves. The gap between rich and poor has resulted, to be blunt about it, because the wealth isn’t being shared. It’s being gobbled up by those who are already well off. There is much more to say about why a society cannot afford to subsidize the best-off at the expense of the worst. But at bottom, such a society can’t look itself in the mirror. We are getting perilously close to that point now.


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United States of Islamophobia?

Almost everybody has heard about the protests against the mosque and Islamic center planned to be built about two blocks from ground zero in Manhattan. But most people are still unaware that these anti-Muslim political campaigns are spreading throughout our beloved country as a new wave of Islamophobia hits.
Debate over the Islamic center has become ridiculously absurd. An ad objecting to the mosque depicts a plane flying toward the World Trade Center’s towers as they burn on the left, with a rendering of the center on the right, and is set to run in New York buses.

Far away from New York, some right-wing Republican political candidates in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, have denounced plans for a large Muslim center proposed near a subdivision and hundreds of angry protesters have subsequently turned out for a march and a county meeting on the matter.

A few months back, members of a tea party group in Temecula, California, took barking dogs and anti-Muslim picket signs to Friday prayers at a neighborhood mosque that is seeking to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby. A few Christian ministers in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, led a noisy fight against a Muslim group that sought permission to open a mosque in a former health-food store bought by a Muslim doctor.

More recently, American Muslim leaders in Bridgeport, Connecticut, eventually had to ask police and elected officials for security so they could worship in peace after an angry mob protested outside a mosque.
About a dozen members of a Texas-based group self-righteously calling itself "Operation Save America" confronted other peaceful American worshippers at the Masjid An-Noor mosque a few weeks ago; yelling what mosque members described as "hate-filled slogans" against Muslims.

Simply put, Islamophobia has become ridiculously out of hand. For those who argue that mosques are somehow inherently breeding grounds for extremism, a two-year joint study by Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of North Carolina concluded that American "mosques are actually a deterrent to the spread of militant Islam and terrorism."

The professors in the joint study further highlighted that "many mosque leaders had put significant effort into countering extremism by building youth programs, sponsoring anti-violence forums and scrutinizing teachers and texts."

Let us go back to the Manhattan mosque dispute for a moment.

Certain vocal right-wing national critics of the project — a coalition that includes Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and members of the tea party movement — have assailed it as an unnecessary provocation. Palin has infamously asked people to "refudiate" (sic) the mosque project. Some protesters, including right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson, have pledged to organize legal efforts to block its construction…


Photo: CC Flickr//Johnnie Utah

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