Outside certain broad parameters, the Tea Party Movement remains something of a mystery, at least to the media.
It has its positive aspects--for example the incredible level of self-education it is producing about the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers, other founding documents and the political process itself. It also, admittedly, has less flattering components, like those who seem to find their way in front of the television cameras who are relentlessly negative, focused on ephemera or are just plain angry.
Either way it is clear it is a force to be reckoned with, at least for this political cycle. It is also clear that the established order, the dominant liberal, Democratic establishment currently in power is afraid of it, but not so much because they do not understand it as because they do.
It's one thing when an individual idiot shouts bad words or issues threats against political figures. It's something else entirely when those threats, even by implication, come from an organization that should know better. And it's far more serious, especially when there is no dispute about what occurred. The CBS affiliate in New York City reports the Bergen County, N.J. Education Association recently sent out a memo that included a hint it would like to see Republican Gov. Chris Christie--who is trying to get the union to agree to wage and benefit concessions that may keep the state from bankruptcy--dead. From the memo:
"Dear Lord this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor."
To her credit, the president of the New Jersey Education Association, Barbara Keshishian, denounced the memo in strong terms, saying "Language such as that has no place in civil discourse," and apologized to Christie for both the message's content and for "the lack of respect it demonstrated."
It may just be that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood forgets to engage his brain before he puts his mouth in gear. Either that or he is deliberately trying to make it harder for Toyota to maintain its share of the American automobile market.
Right now, thanks to the way the media has hyped the story, it would be hard to blame a consumer who questioned the overall safety of Toyota's passenger car fleet. LaHood has not helped matters, missing wherever he can the opportunity to calm the fears of the American public.
Back in February, he raised more than a few eyebrows when he suggested the proper response for anyone concerned about the safety of Toyotas was to "stop driving" them, a comment he was later to retract as an embarrassing misstatement. Now LaHood, who has just announced the Japanese automaker faces a record $16.4 million fine, is accusing the company of being "safety deaf" and says he would not be surprised if further reviews of internal company documents find additional problems with the vehicle fleet.
A few months ago, I wrote on the dangers of great news headlines making for bad government policy, especially when it comes to technical scientific matters. Well, it appears the hype is back.
Today, Time Online compiled a list of “Household Dangers,” that inferred a class of chemicals, known as phthalates, could be linked to a variety of health effects and developmental problems in children. While the article is correct in its description of phthalates as, “a class of chemicals used to soften polyvinyl chloride plastics, found in products ranging from shower curtains to cosmetics to intravenous-fluid bags,” that’s pretty much all Time was right about.
While the author was correct that phthalates is a class of chemicals he didn’t explain what this means. This class of chemicals covers a broad product range with different toxicology profiles. While some animal testing has shown that high levels of exposure to some phthalates may cause some concern in rodents, other common phthalates have received a clean bill of health by many top government agencies. In fact, the phthalates used most widely in consumer products have undergone decades of review by independent scientists and numerous government agencies have proven over and over again that these phthalates pose no measurable risk to humans. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Toxicology Program, the Center for Disease Control, and a variety of other independent institutions around the world, have all extensively reviewed the phthalates used in toys for example, and determined them to be safe.
The difference between these sound scientific studies and Time’s article is sensational packaging. Time combines catchy phrases like “perilous plastics” with compelling graphics and the highly controversial work of Dr. Shanna Swan to paint everyday objects as dangerous poisons lurking all around your house. The result is that individuals and our government panic – without stepping back to fully evaluate the validity of these claims, and the implications of a knee jerk overreaction.
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), a law passed by Congress in 2008 to address the safety of consumer products as exhibit A. This well intentioned legislation place a temporary “precautionary” ban on commonly used phthalates that had already been reviewed and approved by the government commission responsible for oversight of consumer products. Rather than protect consumers, this ban wasted millions of dollars in inventory for businesses, and ultimately increased the risks consumer products posed to children by requiring the use of largely unstudied alternative chemicals, that lack the proven safety record of the phthalates most commonly used in toys. In fact, none of the alternatives that have replaced the temporarily banned phthalates have been risk assessed by a U.S. government agency.
As I’ve said before, “in dealing with complicated scientific analyses, emotion and bias must be removed from the equation; science is, after all, about demonstrable facts.” Time has done a serious disservice to its readers by carefully selecting the “facts” that produce the best headlines. The reality is that the half truths, sensational theories, and fear-inducing headlines in that copy of Time on your table are the real peril lurking in your home.
Here is a link to the phthalates portion of the Time piece on chemicals:
It is nearly axiomatic that a Republican who backs a tax increase is headed for a rough ride. Everyone remembers how President George Herbert Walker Bush, who won the White House in 1988 by making a strong anti-tax pledge to the American electorate, lost the confidence of the voters—and his bid for re-election—when he went back on his word. Nevertheless, the temptation to raise taxes, especially when political advisers come up with a way to spin them as "necessary," is sometimes too much to resist. Even in the current political environment.
The Obama recession left a lot of economic holes the stimulus package could not fill. This put more than a few governors of both parties in the position of finding ways to at least make them smaller—either by cutting spending or by drumming up new revenues. Some, like New Jersey's new Republican Gov. Chris Christie, chose to take a hard line on spending and to confront the public employee unions whose contracts have driven the state close to bankruptcy. Others, like Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, chose to make a "deal with the devil," sacrificing principle in the name of political and economic expediency.
In what some are calling "a late-night, behind-closed-doors deal," Herbert recently put his signature on legislation that increased the state's tobacco tax, provoking the ire of the Tea Party movement and putting the governor's re-election bid in jeopardy.
Now that the healthcare bill has passed, President Barack Obama is engaged in the arduous task of selling it to the American people.
It's a tough job. In the latest Rasmussen poll, 54 percent of likely voters favor outright repeal of the new law as opposed to 42 percent who say they support it. According to pollster Scott Rasmussen, the numbers are "virtually unchanged from last week and the week before" and include 43 percent who strongly favor repeal versus 32 percent who strongly oppose it.
Against this background, Obama is trying to present the new law as a moderate compromise. And he's being watched like a hawk while he does it.
Today, the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank, issued a broadside complaining that, in an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer, Obama had distorted its position on healthcare reform in an effort to show the plan had wider support than it actually enjoys....continue reading.
Rather than a victory lap on healthcare, the White House is signaling that President Barack Obama will immediately plunge back into they fray. A surprise trip a la George W. Bush to Afghanistan to visit the troops and an arms reduction agreement having burnished his national security credentials, he is now ready, his closest advisers say, to turn his attention to the rest of his domestic policy agenda.
"An emboldened President Barack Obama will take a stronger hand with Congress in coming weeks, planning to push lawmakers to pass new regulations for Wall Street by September, the second anniversary of the meltdown," veteran Washington reporter Mike Allen wrote Sunday in Politico.
"The spring offensive, if successful, would allow Obama to claim concrete progress on all of his domestic priorities, despite a 'lost year' between the passage of a stimulus package in February 2009 and the signing of health reform last week," Allen wrote--and he's right.