Sunday, May 30, 2010

The View From The Peanut Gallery

OBSERVATIONS ON A TEA PARTY RALLY

Yesterday, May 29th, I attended a rally in Tempe Diablo Stadium called “Stand With Arizona”, intended to show support for our new anti-illegal-immigration bill. For those of you who’ve never heard of Diablo Stadium, it’s a baseball park where the Angels play. It’s also a good long way from downtown Phoenix, which is where the pro-illegal-immigration rally was being held. At the plaza in downtown Phoenix the Pro-Illegals could march for free; renting Diablo Stadium for the day cost the Anti-Illegal rally’s organizers considerable money, which shows how serious they were about avoiding physical confrontations with the Pro-Illegals crowd.

I’d dressed in one of my singing costumes (long pale-denim skirt and Indian blouse) and towed my guitar along because I’d had a handshake deal (agreed on by email) to sing at the rally. Once at the stadium, I saw that everybody else – including the speakers – was wearing shorts or bluejeans, T-shirts or knit blouses, so I was actually overdressed for once.

The entry was merry chaos: people welcomed through the gates by volunteers in corn-yellow T-shirts whose only idea of where to steer people was either into the free seats in the bleachers or down on the green near the speakers’ platform for $10. Where were the entertainers supposed to go? Not a clue. One volunteer suggested I try Operations, which I did, but there was nobody in the office. Another suggested the Press Box, but had to get help finding it. – and the lone harried organizer at the Press Box insisted that I couldn’t get in without “credentials”. Most Science Fiction conventions are better organized.

I eventually contacted two of the other singers, who guided me to the recording booth in the dugout. I’d arrived at a little after 5 PM, and the singing wasn’t supposed to start until 8, so I had plenty of time to re-string my guitar and observe the proceedings.

The first thing I noticed was the playful carnival mood among the participants, many of whom had brought their children; everybody was jolly and polite, and there was none of the self-righteous fury one usually finds at protest rallies. Next thing I noticed was the absence of hucksters; there were only four dealers’ tables, near the entrance, and they were selling only American flags of various sizes, T-shirts and trinkets with the organizing committee’s logo on them – obviously to offset the cost of renting the stadium and bringing in the speakers. I noticed that nobody was selling food or even soft drinks, though there were countless flats full of bottled water being given away for free. There were a few people – wearing clearly different T-shirts from the rally volunteers’ – handing out leaflets for the Libertarians and the Constitutional Party. I also noticed the signs huckstering hopeful political candidates (none of which, interestingly enough, included a party affiliation), and local radio and TV stations, particularly KFYI. In fact, as I sat near the sound-engineer’s mixing board, I saw a couple people come by wearing “press” badges and ID tags for KFYI radio who asked if they could get copies of the recordings.

The next interesting thing I saw was how many of the crowd were Black, Latino, Indian or Asian. I particularly noticed one little old Asian lady holding up a sign that read: “I was a Legal Immigrant”. Also, many in the crowd were youngsters. This was definitely not a collection of old White folks.

Many of them, though, had driven in from Texas. I learned the significance of that later.

Another interesting note was just how many cameras were in the audience. There were cameras set up near the speakers’ platform, which instantly transmitted the view of the podium to a huge TV screen at the back of the platform, so that even the last seat in the bleachers had a good view of whoever was talking. There were obvious media cameramen toting big professional cameras that needed tripods. There were freelance professional photographers with huge-lensed film cameras and transmission-quality videocams. Besides that, almost everybody in the audience was using either small personal videocams or the camera-apps on their cell-phones, and I saw at least one laptop computer with an antenna. I’d guess that the final population of the rally was about 8000 people, and that a good 5000 of them took pictures. Nothing that happened at that rally went unseen or unrecorded, and that was obvious to anyone there.

This fact did not go unnoticed by the one trouble-maker I saw in the crowd: a deliberately crazy-looking older White man who clapped and hooted at the speakers, danced clumsily around a choice spot in center-field, and did his best to attract the attention of the cameramen. The yellow-shirted volunteers kept a polite but watchful eye on him, and everybody else quietly moved away from him on the infield. After awhile, seeing that everyone was deliberately ignoring him, he sat down and kept quiet.

It soon became clear that the whole Tea Party movement is wildly decentralized. Despite the obvious time and money spent on the soundstage and recording equipment, and the presence of cheerleaders in the audience, shouting slogans and asking the crowd to join in (“Gimme an A, gimme an R…”) the rally was clumsily organized, more like a high-school pep rally than a political meeting. Everyone – including the crew at the sound-mixing board – did their individual jobs well, but nobody knew what anybody else was doing. I eventually found out that the singers were supposed to be in the middle of the field, behind the sound and recording equipment, at the speakers’ platform – so there I went. The rally started an hour late, so most of the speakers and entertainers had their time cut short, and – as low man on the entertainment totem-pole – I had my proposed two songs cut completely out of the program. Ah, well; there’s always next time.

So I went back to the dugout (which also turned out to be one part of the “no smoking” labeled stadium where one could discreetly light up), and hung out with the sound-recording engineer. As the clock ticked well past the official starting time, a man from KFYI came over and urged the sound-man to at least put on some music CDs. “We’ve got too much dead air here,” he complained. The sound engineer and his assistant argued a bit over what kind of music would appeal to this crowd, versus what CDs they actually had, and finally settled on some Johnny Cash songs. This bears out my theory that damn-near everybody in America likes Johnny Cash.

Anyway, one album later, the proceedings finally opened. The MC, from the Phoenix Tea Party chapter, did the usual brief welcoming speech – and then pointed out all the people who had “bussed in” from Texas, and invited them to all stand up and be cheered. There were a surprising number of them.

Then the speakers stepped up and the speeches started, and I noticed an interesting division; most of the out-of-towners were Conservatives, while the locals were primarily Libertarians. I could tell the difference by whether they said “God bless America” or asked “How many of you have read ATLAS SHRUGGED?” The MC carefully addressed the crowd as “whether you’re Conservatives or Libertarians or anywhere along the spectrum”. Speech by speech, I slowly got the picture. Most of the money for this rally had come from Conservatives in Texas, who were trying to pass a state law of their own that mirrored our SB 1070 – and with good reason.

The speaker from Texas told of a Somali terrorist who had recently sneaked across the Mexican border and was now holed up in Houston, claiming “sanctuary” and hiding in a church. This put the Conservatives in a serious dilemma; on the one hand, they’re addicted to their religious bigotry and didn’t want to weaken the power of their local church, but on the other, they badly wanted to keep Islamofascist terrorists out of the US. Whatever they did about the Somali terrorist, they meant to keep any more of his ilk from getting into the US so easily, and that would mean putting an ironclad barrier on the porous Mexican border. Yes, they honestly meant their slogan: “Stand With Arizona”.

Other speakers included two Latino ladies – one from Columbia and one from Mexico – who had immigrated legally and become citizens. Both of them agreed that, yes, it was difficult and took time, but it was worth it if you wanted to be an American citizen. Both of them stoutly agreed that nobody should come here to stay permanently if they weren’t willing to become Americans.

I noticed that nobody mentioned the corollary: that the Illegals, by and large, only want to become rich Mexicans at America’s expense. Nonetheless, comments by other speakers – such as the head of the local police union – made it clear how much the Illegals cost the state, and the country, by supplementing their minimum-wage incomes with welfare frauds and professional crime. The statistics on kidnapping, robbery, car theft and massive methedrine-dealing were infuriating, though the audience kept their expressions of outrage to boos and short slogans.

Other speakers, from as far as Washington state and Missouri, promised to combat California’s threatened boycott of Arizona with a “buycott”: a campaign to advertize Arizona-made goods and services, and to encourage tourism, in other states that were considering laws similar to SB 1070.

A lot of people in the crowd tossed out spontaneous ad-libs, usually quite clever, to which the audience laughed appreciably. When the speakers called for chants and slogans from the audience, the crowd responded politely rather than passionately. The loudest cheer of the evening came when the MC reported that live coverage of this rally had “crashed the servers” on the Internet – meaning that so many people had been following this event on live streaming video/audio that the servers couldn’t keep up with the demand. I understood this because I’d noticed how hard it’s been to get downloads from YouTube for the past couple of weeks. It’s clear that grassroots political organizing has entered the Internet age, and that the mainstream media can no longer control what the public sees, hears or believes.

The speaker who impressed me the most was Ted Hayes, an elderly but spry Black homeless-activist, the man who created the famous Dome City in Los Angeles. He spoke briefly of his career as first a Civil Rights activist in the ‘60s, and then got down to the subject of racism. “When I was a boy, growing up in Jim-Crow age Massachusetts,” he told, “I got called a Nigger maybe a dozen times. White kids would yell that, and we’d chase them and threaten to beat them up, and they’d run away – and the next day we’d all be back to playing stickball together as if nothing had happened.”

But when he and other activists, both Black and White, marched in Los Angeles in support of the anti-immigration law, it was a different story. “The Latinos called us Nigger a hundred times over, and called the Whites with us Honkies and Rednecks” and less printable things, and spat on them, and threw bottles and “all kinds of crap”. It was, he said “worse than Montgomery, Alabama”. At the end of the march, he said, he sat down and cried because racism was not dead in America – but it wasn’t the Whites doing it. “You tell me,” he finished, “Who are the racists.”

He was followed by another singing group, a small Conservative rock band. Their performance was good, but I concluded that in all the years since the ‘60s Conservatives haven’t yet produced good songwriters – nothing to compare with Libertarian musicians, such as Rush.

The final speaker of the night – who was clearly making this a big stop in his re-election campaign – was Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Despite his expectations of his audience, he’d taken care to be introduced by a celebrity: Lou Ferrigno, still impressively muscled all these years after he ceased playing The Incredible Hulk. The crowd was appreciative, despite Ferrigno’s obvious speech impediment. The Sheriff spoke briefly, mostly the expected platitudes, with one notable piece of news; if the ICE wouldn’t process any Illegals arrested in Arizona, Arpaio would still have them prosecuted under state law. He also mentioned that he had a sizable reserve of tents, enough to increase his tent-city jail “all the way down to the border of Mexico”. To this some ad-libbers in the crowd yelled that if anybody escaped from the tent-city jail, they could run to Mexico – and welcome. To his credit, Arpaio didn’t speak long and left the last word – and applause – to Ferrigno.

After that the MC stood up and announced that the rally was over, and asked the crowd – politely, again – to be sure to drop their empty water-bottles in the recycle-bins and take care not to snarl traffic on the way out. The crowd obligingly packed up and left, with much conversation but little noise. Nobody snarled traffic on the way out, and the cars pulled away with no delays. By then it was 10 o’clock, almost exactly. I got the impression that this was the time-limit the organizers had bargained for when renting the stadium.

Altogether, the crowd could best be characterized as playful, co-operative and polite. From what I could tell of the organizers, they were a little more affluent but less experienced than the old Mobilization to End the War – and were willing to delegate necessities like security, audio-visual systems and recording to various experts, regardless of their political leanings.

From what I saw, I’m guessing that there’s a certain internal political tension in the Tea Party between the Conservatives and the Libertarians. The Libertarian movement – and party – were founded back in the late 1960s, and have been studiously ignored by the media and the older political groups ever since, until they gained enough numbers to create the Tea Party. The media and the political groups don’t quite know what to make of them, and so try to cast them into molds they already know. Liberals dismiss them as racist-Republican-redneck Conservative nuts. Conservatives approach them tentatively because the Libertarians agree with them on some issues – such as limited government, free enterprise and enforcing the immigration laws – but depart wildly on others – such as Gay rights, religion in public, and abolishing the drug laws. The Conservatives are clearly trying to take over the Tea Party, just as Republican candidates are trying to woo it, but neither have succeeded yet. All that has prevented an open breach so far is the Tea Party’s sticking strictly to legal-political issues that the Conservatives agree on, and the Libertarians’ need for the Conservative’s support in numbers and, admittedly, more money.

I predict that this peace will hold until either the Tea Party becomes politically successful enough to win major elections for Libertarian candidates – such as Ron and Rand Paul – or the Conservatives try to push for school prayer or legal oppression of Gays. Until then, the balance will hold – with great politeness.

13 comments:

Ori Pomerantz said...

Personally, I believe the breaking point would be abortion. Conservatives can ignore most other issues for the sake of a smaller government, but not this one.

idiotgrrl said...

Just out of curiosity, what two songs had you planned to sing?

Aya Katz said...

Leslie, it's a shame they didn't let you sing. That thing about Johnny Cash being the only singer everyone likes is pointing in the direction that I think you should go: country music is tea party music. Sell your stuff to the country crowd, and there's a much better chance to spread both your ideas and your music than if you stick to the filk label. Was Flight93 one of the songs you were going to sing?

Mark Horning said...

I was going to say that picking Leslie Songs to play for Tea Party types is probably not too hard. And then I tried. Gun rights Rally would be easy. What would I pick for a Tea Party set list?

Lets see:
Freedom Road
The Old Issue
Jefferson and Liberty
Bureaucrats Taxes and Lies
Devil-Devil
(more libertarian than Tea Party though)
The Arizona Sword

However since this was a "Stand with Arizona" rally I suspect one of the songs was probably "Aztec go Home" and the other was "The Devil Came down to Phoenix".

Anyone else want to play this game?

Leslie Fish said...

Heheheheh. Mark, you know me too well; your song-choices were right on the nose. I was going to sing "Aztec, Go Home" and "Disbelief" (The Devil Came Down to Phoenix). On the rare chance that I might have to fill in some time, I also brought the lyrics to "Flight 93" and "Kitten on the Moon".

Yes, it does look as if -- do I want to expand my audience -- I'll have to tilt more toward Country-Western music, but I suspect I'll sound a lot more Western than Country.

Hmmm, Ori, I'd say that's a good guess. Conservatives might be willing to swallow their pride and look the other way about those "disgusting perverts" getting married -- in exchange for political power -- and they might even be willing to shut up about School Prayer, but yes, they'd absolutely balk over abortion. I've seen that even devout Catholics are willing to put up with abortion in the first trimester, but the Bible-bouncing Baptists won't even agree to that, never mind the medical facts. I'll suggest that to the Libertarians in the TP. Thanks.

--Leslie <;)))><

Ori Pomerantz said...

Leslie Fish: I'll suggest that to the Libertarians in the TP.

Ori: Please don't, at least not yet. The Tea Party is an alliance. The Social Conservatives and the Libertarians would have to split eventually, but it would be much better if that happened after we roll back some years and decades of government growth.

Tucci said...

--
I've attended the conferences of professional societies - put on by people paid (exorbitantly, in my opinion) to do so - and none of them were as well-managed as the average regional SF convention.

Some of them in the same hotels in which I'd attended SF conventions, creating some damned strange déjà vu experiences for me.

Oh, well. At least you always know where to find the bathrooms.

A good many of the libertarians with whom I'm acquainted (mostly the crowd gathered around The Libertarian Enterprise) are very much opposed to Arizona's "We've Had It With the Wetbacks" action, and want the borders thrown open so the informal immigrants can enter freely at the "legitimate" crossing points rather than working their way across the hostile countryside.

I tend to take the view that as long as our various socialists - not only the formal Red and Blue factions of our big, bipartisan Boot-On-Your-Neck Party but also most conservatives - insist that we have to have government-as-Santa-Claus (welfare as a "civil right"), an open-door policy with regard to immigration is simply not affordable.

The folks in government at every level are finally running out of other people's money to spend.

Had to happen sometime, I guess.

Aside from the ways in which the Hispanic immigrants do, indeed, batten upon the "free" services forced out of American citizens by law (I spent many years working various Emergency Departments, and I've seen it increasing over the past three decades), I have no objection to these folks becoming Americans.

I find Spanish a ridiculously easy language to understand and to speak - in the ways required to get people diagnosed and under treatment for their ills, but I think that this "Marque dos para Espanol" crap does 'em a helluva disservice.

I suspect that if somebody had done something similar for my grandparents when they came across, I'd have had to take English as a foreign language, and Sicilian would've been my milk tongue.

Better they get total immersion in the American language, no?
--

ravenclaw-eric said...

Pity that you didn't get to sing. You might have even sold some CDs!

I agree with Tucci about the reasons behind Arizona's actions.

Leslie Fish said...

Interesting, Tucci. None of the speakers at the rally had any objection to immigrants *becoming Americans*, either. Their complaint was that the Illegals don't want to become Americans; they want to become rich Mexicans in America. I've seen some of the newspapers that cater to the Illegal crowd, and yes, they're full of La Raza statements about "reconquista" and "taking back" everything but New England. There's a collection of such statements making the rounds on the Internet, and Snopes.com reluctantly validated them.

In any case, we simply can't take in any more "undocumented workers", even temporarily. Our social services -- even the most basic -- are splitting at the seams, and the crime problems the Illegals bring with them are overloading our courts and prisons. There simply aren't enough jobs now to go around, at minimum wage or even less, for the citizens living here. The federal govt. is not encouraging people to start small businesses, and neither are the banks and loan companies. The businesses that the Illegals start up on their own are overwhelmingly criminal: chop shops, crystal-meth labs and outlets, gambling halls and whorehouses -- ask me sometime about the mobile whorehouse in the supermarket parking lot -- and in any case, they hire only other Illegals.

The Illegals from Mexico are not honest immigrants; they're an invasion force that's draining our economy and threatening the public peace. We simply can't take in any more. In fact, we have no choice but to get rid of those we already have.

Given its piously Liberal talk of the past few weeks, do you think California would take them in? Heheheheheh.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Tucci said...

--
Hm. Just this morning I got an e-mail containing a Photoshop'd image of a supposed billboard with cactus in the foreground. The legend on the billboard allegedly reads:

"Attention Illegal Immigrants
Arizona does not welcome you, but Los Angeles loves you."
Free Housing, Free Food, Free School, Free Medical, Free Hospital.
No insurance cost, no taxes, and plenty of jobs.
Turn left on I-8 and follow your road to paradise!


I figure the gag would work better if the author had translated that fake "sign" into Spanish.

I have to take exception to Leslie's contention that "There simply aren't enough jobs now to go around, at minimum wage or even less, for the citizens living here."

Even in the middle of a recession - or a depression - there is never a lack of productive work to be done. What happens is that artificial impairments are imposed upon people able and willing to work and people desirous of getting that work done.

Minimum wage laws - which have never been purposed to ensure that anyone has a living wage - comprise only the most visible elements in a suite of impairments inflicted upon the private sector by civil government at every level, and in myriad ways.

Every factor of production (and I'm not just talking about megacorp market actors like Wal-Mart and Exxon but of the guy who tries to run a lawn-manicuring business out of his double-wide trailer home with nothing more than what he can pack on a trailer towed behind his old pick-up truck) is adversely affected by government restrictions, regulations, licensing practices, compliance requirements, "fair labor" practices, and other schemes of Shaitan designed by bureaucrats and politicians to justify their "phoney baloney jobs."

The older I grow, the more applicable seem to be the lessons of Blazing Saddles.

- More -

Tucci said...

- Continued -

Kee-rist, but look at that omnivorous omnibus Obamacare bill, which incorporated - mondo bizzarro - a measure which requires small businesses doing business with incorporated entities (like the utility companies) to file Form 1099 documents tracking their annual payments made to these providers.

As anybody who has ever worked freelance knows, the Form 1099 enables the local, state, and federal "income" tax people to keep track of money you earn by performing work for hire.

When you run a small business, if you employ a freelancer - as a subcontractor, say - you have to report his "income" by way of a Form 1099.

You do the same thing when you account for the expense of the rent you pay for the real estate you use in your business, if that rent is paid to a private person instead of to a corporate entity.

Can't let somebody rent out a storefront without government getting a piece of that action, right?

People working under schemes of incorporation, y'see, are obliged to prepare and submit reports of their revenues, and that tracking pretty much takes care of giving the government goons whatever knowledge they need to prey upon outfits like your local phone service provider.

The tax man doesn't need to know how much your business personally paid South Bupkis Power & Light this year because SBP&L reports that information at least as accurately as you and the rest of the utility company's customers could possibly manage in aggregate.

You know what this new requirement - in a health care bill f'chrissake? - is going to do?

- More -

Tucci said...

- Continued -

First, the tax-collecting bureaucracies at all levels are going to need to increase their operating expenditures to track all those Forms 1099, and reconcile the payers' submissions with the corporate submissions.

Second, lots of errors are going to show up, even if nobody's under- or over-reporting anything. Bound to happen, and that's going to wast gigabucks' worth of time and effort, both in civil government and in the private sector.

Third, the small businesses that are just barely surviving (and employing more and more of the diminishing numbers of people still working in the private sector) are going to suffer the not-inconsiderable compliance costs involved in grinding out these hundreds of millions more Forms 1099, with all the incidental errors entailed in that process.

This will kill jobs because the expenditures required to comply with this one National Socialist (we're not calling them "Democrat" anymore, okay?) slice of sh!t will draw spending power from small businesses to such an extent that they won't be able to hire people to do work that otherwise their customers would like to have done.

See how it happens? Is there a reason for this proliferation of Form 1099 filings?

Must be. But it has nothing whatsoever to do with either increasing government's tax bite (you can't tax what you're very effectively killing) or promoting economic recovery.

Some people are obviously making something big - for themselves - out of this, just as tax lawyers make a helluva nice living out of our Byzantine complex of tax codes at every level of civil government.

But the purpose is plunder, and the effect is that of decompensation imposed upon a division-of-labor economy, with malice aforethought and malignant effect.

We could absorb all the illegal immigrants - the "undocumented workers" - readily and still have plenty of jobs capable of providing the Americans already here with the material goods and services needed to live in comfort and safety.

But government has got to be gotten to hellangone out of the way.

There is no way around this.

Sorry for the length of this screed, but when the obvious is erroneous - that "There simply aren't enough jobs now to go around" - it's necessary to debride the wound before closing.

-30-

idiotgrrl said...

I don't remember whether you wrote this or not - a Star Trek Song called "Border Patrol."

"We are the crews that keep the peace in the Border Patrol!"