Tea Party Diversity Rally A Big Bust

Organizer Jeffrey Weingarten set the bar pretty low for the Uni-Tea diversity rally today, saying that if even one “other than white” person attended, they’d consider the event a success.

So I guess, by that standard, it was a success. There were at the very most 200 people, counting a couple dozen members of the press (it was hard to get a better count, since the area is also frequented by tourists there to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell).

The crowd was serenaded by The Bangers and their American Heroes and Patriots Tour™ (featuring appearances by Rita Cosby), a mediocre rock band with song lyrics like “Thank God for you/You protect us from terror.”

The lead singer urged people go up to any veterans at the rally “and give him a big hug.” Then he exhorted the crowd: “The left will never be right” and announced ear plugs would be distributed to the crowd “for the left ear only.” (Get it?)

I walked around and talked to a few people in the sparse crowd. Linda Hertzog, 62, a housewife, lives in suburban West Chester, PA and is active in the Valley Forge Tea Party group.

“I’m here supporting my brothers and sisters,” she said. “We’re told we’re a majority white organization, and we have African-American speakers here today. I wanted to support them.”

She spoke of capitalism being “demonized” and insisted the reason corporations were sitting on record cash reserves was because of the “uncertainty” of Obama’s policies. (And here, I find them predictably pro-corporate. Go figure!)

“How many people are in the stock market? We have to protect them,” she said.

College student Matt Hissui, 21, and bartender Brendan Kissam, 25, are self-described gay conservatives. “Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you have to be a liberal,” Hissui said.

“I advocate a government so small, it can fit into a clutch purse at the Tonys,” Kissam said. Oo, snap!

Hissui, a libertarian, is all for legalizing drugs — but not gay marriage. (Something to do with Anglo-Saxon law and “morality.”) Although a member of College Republicans, he said, he was frustrated. “The party’s umbrellas is little, they don’t want to expand.”

Mark Hutchinson, 52, of Mays Landing, NJ, carried a New Jersey state flag. He’s a retired chef who, unlike the other attendees I spoke to, has actually been concerned about constitutional issues for a while, through a militia-type website called LibertyandProsperity.org.

He’s most concerned about government spending. When I asked which spending, he replied, “All of it. We don’t need cash for clunkers, buying auto companies. This stimulus spending is nothing but a slush fund for Obama and his cronies.”

I pointed out that war spending dwarfed all that, and asked why that didn’t upset him. He sidestepped the question: “Congress needed to declare war. Congress abdicated its responsibilities.”

While trying to talk to people who have such a narrow perspective does make my head hurt, I do identify with their sense of frustration. It’s that to them, the solution is to embrace an extreme, uninformed ideology that dismisses nuance, and doesn’t leave much room for common ground. (It’s very disorienting to talk to people who have more sympathy for corporations than the unemployed.)

The right wing supplies them with a consistent narrative that validates their worldview, and as I walked away, I thought that it was a damned shame progressives couldn’t figure out an effective way to get their message through. When I said that to my friend R., she quickly set me straight. “They’re Republicans who want to accept the re-branding because Republicans have fucked everything completely up.” So these are not people who can be persuaded with facts they don’t even want to hear from us.

She went on to say:

They’re the perfect storm of non-critical thinking authoritarians who feel disenfranchised and accept blindly that it’s always their fellow victims who are holding them back. It’s not the corporations’ faults they’re unemployed–it’s illegal aliens stealing their jobs, it’s blacks unfairly being promoted over them because of affirmative action, it’s the liberals for demanding regulations to protect their safety or a minimal living wage.

Okay, she’s right. What was I thinking?
(Photo: Lynn Taylor)

More photos here by Ray Skwire.

Summer Camp of Destruction

Max Blumenthal:

AL-ARAKIB, ISRAEL — On July 26, Israeli police demolished 45 buildings in the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Arakib, razing the entire village to the ground to make way for a Jewish National Fund forest. The destruction was part of a larger project to force the Bedouin community of the Negev away from their ancestral lands and into seven Indian reservation-style communities the Israeli government has constructed for them. The land will then be open for Jewish settlers, including young couples in the army and those who may someday be evacuated from the West Bank after a peace treaty is signed. For now, the Israeli government intends to uproot as many villages as possible and erase them from the map by establishing “facts on the ground” in the form of JNF forests. (See video of of al-Arakib’s demolition here).

“Moments before the destruction of the Bedouin village of al-Arakib, Israeli high school age police volunteers lounge on furniture taken from a family’s home. [The following four photos are by Ata Abu Madyam of Arab Negev News.

One of the most troubling aspects of the destruction of al-Arakib was a report by CNN that the hundreds of Israeli riot police who stormed the village were accompanied by “busloads of cheering civilians.” Who were these civilians and why didn’t CNN or any outlet investigate further?

I traveled to al-Arakib yesterday with a delegation from Ta’ayush, an Israeli group that promotes a joint Arab-Jewish struggle against the occupation. The activists spent the day preparing games and activities for the village’s traumatized children, helping the villagers replace their uprooted olive groves, and assisting in the reconstruction of their demolished homes. In a massive makeshift tent where many of al-Arakib’s residents now sleep, I interviewed village leaders about the identity of the cheering civilians. Each one confirmed the presence of the civilians, describing how they celebrated the demolitions. As I compiled details, the story grew increasingly horrific. After interviewing more than a half dozen elders of the village, I was able to finally identify the civilians in question. What I discovered was more disturbing than I had imagined.

Feeling Safer Yet?

I know I’m not:

When Alain Reyes’s hair suddenly fell out in a freakish band circling his head, he was not the only one worried about his health. His co-workers at a shipping company avoided him, and his boss sent him home, fearing he had a contagious disease.

Only later would Mr. Reyes learn what had caused him so much physical and emotional grief: he had received a radiation overdose during a test for a stroke at a hospital in Glendale, Calif.

Other patients getting the procedure, called a CT brain perfusion scan, were being overdosed, too — 37 of them just up the freeway at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, 269 more at the renowned Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and dozens more at a hospital in Huntsville, Ala.

The overdoses, which began to emerge late last summer, set off an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration into why patients tested with this complex yet lightly regulated technology were bombarded with excessive radiation. After 10 months, the agency has yet to provide a final report on what it found.

But an examination by The New York Times has found that radiation overdoses were larger and more widespread than previously known, that patients have reported symptoms considerably more serious than losing their hair, and that experts say they may face long-term risks of cancer and brain damage.

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