Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Do You Think The Tea Baggers Really Want Progress For America...Read This

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April 15, 2009

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers, and Lee Fang
Tea Baggers Against Obama

While Americans across the country prepare to pay their taxes today, many right-wing activists plan to spend the day dressed in colonial tri-corner hats as they wave tea bags in the air. Conservatives are calling for these "tea party" protests, allegedly modeled on the Boston Tea Party, to oppose President Obama and to denounce taxes. Though the "tea" in tea party supposedly stands for "Taxed Enough Already," no American household or business will face higher taxes this tax day. In fact, the economic stimulus package signed into law by Obama enacted one of the largest tax cuts ever for middle-class families, making good on Obama's campaign promise to cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans. The first benefits from these cuts arrived in paychecks earlier this month. What's more, a recent Gallup poll found that Americans' views of income taxes are among the most positive since 1956. In his budget proposal, Obama has recommended raising the top income tax brackets back to rates under the Clinton administration and closing corporate loopholes, two issues he campaigned on, in order to strengthen America's economy by funding health care, clean energy, and education reform. Well-heeled corporate lobbyists are helping engineer today's "tea party" protests as an act of opposition to the Obama agenda.

SPONTANEOUS UPRISING?: Although spokesmen of the tea parties have made significant efforts to portray the protests as organic uprisings of like-minded citizens, corporate lobbyists have engineered much of the planning and execution of the events. The corporate front group FreedomWorks, run by lobbyist and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), had its staff organize the very first tea party on Feb. 27 in Tampa, FL, following CNBC's Rick Santelli's call for a Boston Tea Party-like upheaval to protest Obama's housing plan. Soon after, FreedomWorks began planning nationwide tea party protests and had their operatives help coordinate logistics, call conservative activists, and provide activists with everything from organizing tips to sign ideas. Americans for Prosperity, a front group run by corporate lobbyist Tim Phillips (a former partner to Ralph Reed), assisted with the effort, drawing upon its extensive field staff to plan events, write press releases, and distribute talking points for people on the ground. Newt Gingrich's American Solutions for Winning the Future -- which is funded by polluters and helped orchestrated the "Drill Here, Drill Now" campaign last summer -- has also signed on to support the protests.

FOX NEWS MEGAPHONE: Both Fox News and Fox Business have run back-to-back promotions explicitly encouraging viewers to attend the tea parties. The Fox broadcasts are in turn being used by the tea party organizers to promote their protests. Promising "fair and balanced" coverage, Fox News hosts such as Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto, and Sean Hannity are all planning to broadcast live from the events. The segments for the tea parties are replete with enthusiastic endorsements, like the recent announcement of one Fox pundit that it's "time to party like it's 1773!" In their drive to promote the protests, Fox is fueling paranoia by making unsubstantiated, conspiratorial claims that the Obama administration may send "spies" to the tea parties. Another claim Fox asserts to justify its nonstop promotional coverage is that the network provided similar coverage for the Million Man March in 1995. However, Fox News didn't launch until 1996.

A POLITICAL STRATEGY: Congressional Republicans have fully embraced the tea parties as a channel for opposing Obama. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) is speaking at a tea party in Bakersfield; Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be speaking at an Americans for Prosperity tea party in Madison. Over 35 other Republican lawmakers have been invited to speak at other tea party rallies. Republican governors who opposed the economic stimulus package -- such as Rick Perry of Texas and Mark Sanford of South Carolina -- plan to address tea party protests in their own states. Even after being rebuked by organizers of the tea parties, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has moved the RNC to officially support the protests. If the GOP's effort to brand and own the protests weren't already apparent, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) introduced legislation formally honoring April 15th as "National Tea Party Day." "It's going to be more directed at Obama," observed Daily Beast reporter Ana Marie Cox on the Republican Party's obsession with the tea parties. "This is very much, I think, part of the midterm strategy."

THE UNIFYING MESSAGE -- OPPOSE OBAMA: Despite steady, high approval ratings for President Obama, the proponents of the tea parties seem intent on demonizing him as the cause of the country's problems. The ostensible anti-tax platform of the tea parties in fact has not resonated with all the participants. The events have drawn various elements of the fringe right-wing movement, with gun rights militias, secessionists, radical anti-immigrant organizations, and neo-Nazi groups currently working to contribute to the organizing effort, bringing with them their own pet issues. Past tea parties have featured gatherings of people inspired to protest Obama over conspiracies related to the President's birth certificate. One of the most prominent Obama birth certificate conspiracy theorists, Alan Keyes, is the keynote speaker of the Washington, D.C. tea party today.

RADICAL RIGHT -- DHS REPORT: AFTER OBAMA'S ELECTION, RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM 'MAY BE GAINING NEW RECRUITS': The extreme right -- those who are "hate-oriented," "mainly antigovernment," or those dedicated to a "single issue" -- is a legitimate threat that law enforcement must deal with, according to a new assessment from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. The report, which was coordinated with the FBI and is being given to federal, state, and local law enforcement, warns, "The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment." Most extremists have made "rhetorical" statements and have "stopp[ed] short of calls for violent action," but since the 2008 election, right-wing extremists are "reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers." The DHS under President Bush was apparently more reluctant to make such assessments about the right. According to CQ, a 2005 report outlining terrorist threats "does not mention anti-government groups, white supremacists and other radical right-wing movements." Conservative bloggers -- such as Michelle Malkin and Newsbusters -- are up in arms over the report. A DHS official responded to the right's criticism, noting that DHS did an assessment of left-wing extremism in January. "This is nothing unusual. ... This is about awareness," the official said.
IMMIGRATION -- REPORT: 75% OF IMMIGRANTS DEPORTED FOR CRIMES COMMITTED NON-VIOLENT CRIMES: A report by Human Rights Watch finds that "the U.S. government's stepped-up enforcement in recent years has led to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants convicted of nonviolent crimes," despite the government's claims that it is prioritizing violent criminals. According to the report, nearly 75 percent of the 897,000 immigrants deported between 1997 and 2007 after serving criminal sentences were nonviolent offenders, and one-fifth were legal permanent residents. "The top reasons for deportation during the 10-year period were entering the U.S. illegally, driving while under the influence of alcohol, assault and immigration crimes, such as selling false citizenship papers." The report comes just days after the AP released an investigation showing the the U.S. has imprisoned or even deported "dozens, probably many more" of legal U.S. citizens. "A monthslong AP investigation has documented 55 such cases, on the basis of interviews, lawsuits and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. These citizens are detained for anything from a day to five years. Immigration lawyers say there are actually hundreds of such cases." Last week, Obama administration officials said the White House's push to enact comprehensive immigration reform could come as early as this year.

MEDIA -- EDITOR: 'I'M EMBARRASSED' I PUBLISHED REP. BACHMANN'S CAP AND TRADE LIES: On April 8, global warming denier Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) published an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that attacked green economy legislation by claiming that "cap and trade" is really "cap and tax." To make her argument, Bachmann wrote, "[A]ccording to an analysis by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the average American household could expect its yearly energy bill to increase by $3,128 per year." This claim, however, was a flat lie, as a letter to the editor published the very next day pointed out. In fact, Bachmann's lie had been debunked publicly by MIT's John Reilly with on Tuesday, March 24. Reilly also sent a letter to the congressional Republican leadership denouncing their repeated use of the fabricated figure. In an interview with the Wonk Room's Brad Johnson, Eric Ringham, the opinion page editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, acknowledged that the MIT lie was fully debunked before the column was submitted by Bachmann. "It wasn't on my radar. I'm embarrassed to have let it go unchallenged," said Ringham. Ringham told Johnson that with both the limited resources he has and the role of the opinion page as a forum for argument, it is "an uncomfortable role" for an op-ed editor to run corrections after a column's publication. "I'm not equipped -- or really inclined -- to go, after the fact, probing someone's assertions," said Ringham. Despite the fact that a correction will not be run, Ringham said, "You can rest assured this study is never going to be represented in the paper again without confirmation it's being accurately portrayed."


Forty-one percent of Americans now believe that lower-income people are paying their "fair share" of federal taxes, up from 32 percent last year, according to a new Gallup poll. At the same time, just 23 percent say that upper-income taxpayers pay their “fair share," while 60 percent say they pay too little.

The Obama administration plans to "disclose the conditions of the 19 biggest banks in the country." Administration officials concluded that "keeping many of the findings secret could send investors fleeing from financial institutions rumored to be weakest." All the banks are expected to pass the "stress tests," but "some are expected to be graded more highly than others."

While details remain vague, "clues are now emerging" that suggest President Obama intends to strengthen President Bush's No Child Left Behind law by toughening "requirements on topics like teacher quality and academic standards" and increasing the law's emphasis on helping failing schools.

"The Obama administration is leaning toward keeping secret some graphic details of tactics allowed" in CIA interrogations, which include stories about head smashing. Top CIA officials and "some in the White House...argue that disclosing such secrets will undermine the agency's credibility with foreign intelligence services."

A 21-year-old Guantanamo detainee, Mohammed el Gharani, called Al-Jazeera "to say he was severely beaten for refusing to leave his cell." Al-Jazeera would not disclose how it managed to speak with el Gharani, whom a judge ordered to be released in January.

Human Rights Watch reports that the government has deported hundreds of thousands of immigrants convicted of nonviolent crimes in recent years, despite its claim to prioritize violent criminals for deportation. "Nearly three-quarters of the roughly 897,000 immigrants deported from 1997 to 2007 after serving criminal sentences were convicted of nonviolent offenses, and one-fifth were legal permanent residents."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today "that he was preparing a new proposal to resolve disputes with the West over Iran's nuclear program, opening the door to talks with the United States." Ahmadinejad "did not elaborate on the contents of the proposal," but his announcement appeared to be a response to the recent U.S. decision to join discussions with Iran on its disputed nuclear program.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told an audience at Morehouse College that "recently we have seen tentative signs that the sharp decline in economic activity may be slowing," noting that housing and consumer spending may be flattening. "A leveling out of economic activity is the first step toward recovery," he said.

And finally: It seems that fallen governor Rod Blagojevich isn't quite ready to get out of the spotlight. Since losing his gubernatorial perch, Blagojevich has filled in as a talk radio host on WLS radio in Chicago. Now he may star in an NBC reality TV show called "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here."

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Today, a U.S. ship carrying food aid destined for Kenya "foiled an attack by Somali pirates" who are pledging revenge for their recent defeat by Navy SEALs.

THINK PROGRESS: Sen. John Ensign (R-NV): Republicans will revive "Drill Here, Drill Now" push this summer.

WONK ROOM: Ralph Peters plays his only tune, "crush the barbarians."

YGLESIAS: Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is trying to start bank runs.

FIREDOGLAKE: Newt Gingrich's American Solutions spent over $3 million on private planes in 2008.

ALASKA: Gov. Sarah Palin (R) says global warming is real but advocates more drilling to solve it.

ILLINOIS: Former governor Rod Blagojevich pleads not guilty in federal court to sweeping corruption charges

CALIFORNIA: Los Angeles school district plans to lay off more than 5,000 teachers, counselors, custodians, and other staff.

>"There's a big difference between covering something and promoting it."
-- Fox Business's Charles Payne, 4/14/09, on Fox News advocating for the tea parties


"It's now my great duty to promote the tea parties."
-- Fox News's Stuart Varney, 4/13/09

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