Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July from James Howard Kunstler's Tea Party!


I made two comments about what I'd post on July 4th. First, from the most recent weekly roundup:
I began July by wishing Detroit's neighbors across the river Happy Canada Day! It's the first of three patriotic holidays I celebrate on my blogs during the month of July, so expect greetings for July 4th and 14th as well.
Then, in part one of my sustainability news linkspams, I speculated on what I'd do for July 4th.
I might also make a special post on July 4th to observe Kunstler's My Tea Party, which was posted almost exactly a year ago. He's also swimming against the flow in that one. Since I'm a member of Coffee Party USA, I really can't leave that opportunity unexploited.
Why not combine the two?

First, happy U.S. Independence Day!

And now, James Howard Kunstler's My Tea Party, edited for clarity and Fair Use, with commentary afterwards.
Now that congress has passed a fake financial reform bill that will accomplish absolutely nothing to correct a recently engrained culture of swindling, I want to start my own tea party. I don't want to associate it with the other tea parties that have already formed because I am allergic to much of the idiot ideology they express - especially the bent for merging Christian fundamentalism with governance.

One of the few things I agree on with the existing tea parties is that the Republicans and Democrats have made themselves hopeless hostages of political money and bargained away their legitimacy. In line with my general belief that American life must downscale or die, I'm not wholly persuaded that federalism can survive in any case - but assuming it will lumber on for a while anyway, the two major parties cannot retain their monopoly on power. Indeed, it is in the natural order of things that this country must periodically endure a realignment of political ideas and political power. This tends to occur during moments of cultural convulsion, and that is exactly the moment we are in as the sun sets on the fossil fuel based industrial extravaganza and we enter a crisis of intense resource austerity.

The other tea parties have been silent on the war because of the ties between Christian fundamentalism and military chauvinism...[M]y tea party would shut down that operation [Afghanistan and Iraq] ahead of schedule.

My tea party would reduce legal immigration to a tiny trickle and get serious about enforcing sanctions against people who are here without permission...My party does not believe in unbounded multi-culturalism. My party also views the lawlessness of the current situation to be corrosive of the rule-of-law generally. My party views the global population overshoot problem as a condition that requires a more rigorous defense of US territory, sovereign resources, and even whatever remains of American common culture.

My tea party would systematically dismantle Too-Big-To-Fail banks into smaller units subject to real reforms that would prevent any further "socialization" of losses by financial buccaneers. In effect, my party would re-enact the Glass-Steagall laws - and get rid of the 3000-page bundle of prevaricating crap in the current "Fin-Reg" law, which has been constructed with all the guile and mendacity of a collateralized debt obligation. My party would seek the return of banking to its function as a utility, while letting investment freebooters gamble with their own funds without any government back-up. (You'll see the investment houses get small fast that way.)

My tea party would get the government out of the housing business. The main effect of 70 years of federal intervention for the sake of "affordable" housing has been to drive the price of housing up far beyond the ability of normal people to afford a place to live. And the current policies devised during the bubble crackup crisis have only served to prevent the price of houses from returning to a level where people might be willing to buy them. Of course, the whole process has also encouraged local governments to jack up property taxes to a level that can only be described as intolerable (in the 1776 sense of the word).

My party would undertake a rebuilding of the US passenger railroad system - not a flashy new "high speed" system, which we cannot afford, but the system that is lying out there rusting in the rain waiting to be fixed. This is imperative because we are on the verge of very disruptive problems with our oil supply which are going to put our beloved Happy Motoring matrix out-of-business. We also face the end of mass commercial aviation (even if flying remains an option for the wealthy). A restored passenger rail system will not solve all the problems connected with the demise of mass motoring, but it will help a lot, and would be an aid to the necessary re-activation of our small towns and cities as suburbia inevitably loses its value and utility.

The leaders of my tea party from the president on down would make a concerted effort to inform the public in straight talk about the real problems that we face involving peak oil and debt. My tea party would promote reality-based politics rather than techno-grandiose fantasies and wishful thinking. My tea party would encourage the necessary downscaling of all the critical activities of American daily life, including the re-localization of food production, the rebuilding of local commercial networks, the revitalization of the small towns and cities, and the difficult transition out of extreme car dependency. My tea party will do everything possible to construct a coherent consensus about what is happening to us and what we can do about it. My tea party is based on the true spirit of 1776 - the binding together of common interests and common culture - not the destruction of them as in the spirit of 1861.
That post attracted 540 comments, but I'll call your attention to just four of them. First, Bicycle Tourist expressed his skepticism.
Sorry, Jim. Your Tea Party is based upon critical thinking, a realistic assessment of extant reality and practical problem solving.

It would never catch on.
That gave me my opening.
There is already an answer to the Tea Party based on critical thinking. It's called the Coffee Party. Here's what it stands for:

This is the Coffee Party vision for uniting America. Reason and civility in public affairs; A government of public servants accountable to the People; A People committed to the Common Good & Civic Virtue. This vision may seem too idealistic to some. Too difficult. Naive. Impossible. To us, that's tantamount to saying let's give up on America. And to give up on America is to give up on the most important experiment in modern history: Democracy.

Most of us are aware of the ways in which lobbyists and special interest are corrupting Congress. We often talk about how our politicians are failing us. Or the media. Or the lack of transparency and accountability in government. All these concerns are valid and reform in these areas are critical to improving our democracy. We intend to work hard to address these concerns. However, we also believe that in an important way we are failing ourselves and our democracy. Our participation level during elections and in the ongoing democratic process is so low -- especially at the local and state levels -- that our governments become more vulnerable to the influence of organized extremists and big-pocketed special interest. The extremists and special interest skew the wants and needs of the majority of Americans. In short, they thwart the will of the People. It's time for the common sense of the majority of Americans to be at the center of our politics.

For the upcoming election, the Coffee Party goal is to increase participation across the board and call on all Americans to participate. We need the majority to make the kind of systemic changes we need to make in our political process. To get money out of politics, we can't do it as a few individual advocates or even a coalition of many good organizations. We need the will of the People, the majority of Americans.

In general, the Coffee Party mission is to create an informed and involved citizenry. We aspire to create a community of people who care about facts, solutions, the sanctity of our democracy and one another. We continue to cultivate our values -- civility, respect, personal responsibility and compassion -- and integrate them into our actions, the Coffee Party methodology for social change. I hope that you join us by committing to this project. It's hard work and it will be a long journey. We cannot make these cultural and institutional changes overnight. The journey begins now.
They quite agree with Jim about the major parties being hostages to political money, and would also agree about many of his goals. The only thing they would not agree with Jim about would be severe restrictions on legal immigration, as Annabel Park, the Coffee Party's nominal leader, is Korean-American and would not get on board with any policy she sees as immigrant bashing.

Just the same, Jim and all the rest of you would be quite welcome at a meeting near him, so long as he and any of you sign the Coffee Party Civility Pledge.

"As a member or supporter of the Coffee Party, I pledge to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest, and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures, I value people with different ideas, and I value and cherish the democratic process."

I'm pretty sure that Jim can remain civil for the length of a meeting. I've seen him be be civil during interviews, for example. I'm sure a lot of the rest of you can, too.

As far as such a movement not catching on, it already has. Coffee Party USA has 228,614 fans on Facebook. That's right up there with the Tea Party Patriots, the largest Tea Party group on Facebook, with 292,680 fans.
David replied cautiously.
The Coffee Party may be all well and good, but I have a gut feeling about Facebook, Twitter and even Google. This social networking thing gives me the willys It's everywhere. And when the Main Stream Media starts touting it, that scares the crap out of me.
I acknowledged his concerns.
David, I appreciate your sentiment and recognize the irony of using Facebook statistics as a means of measuring things. I believe Facebook to be the part of the Internet most captured by capitalism and as such is integral to what Joe Bageant (and starting last week, Jim himself) calls "The Hologram." My deep-seated feeling about Facebook's effect on society is summed up by the catchphrase "while the world burns, Farmville thrives." Facebook is mostly a gigantic profitable distraction, even though it can be subverted to rally people for worthy causes such as the Coffee Party, which began on Facebook.

That said, it is the biggest game in town and a convenient, consistent, and commensurate way to determine the relative popularity of people and causes. Speaking of which, I'm sure it says something that Lady Gaga has more Facebook fans (10,792,341 and counting) than any living person. She surpassed President Obama (9,875,366 fans) last week.
A year later, I'm amazed that I managed to get the last word in that conversation!

As for Kunstler's manifesto, I think it has managed to stand the test of time. I just posted the link to Coffee Party USA's Facebook page with the following comment.
Here is a post from a year ago by social critic and author James Howard Kunstler in which he describes what his Tea Party would look like. Other than his stance on immigration and his unorthodox austerity agenda in his last paragraph, I suspect much of his agenda would be in alignment with ours. Maybe he'd be worth interviewing on a blog talk radio program.
Maybe? Hey, I have a macro for that!



  1. What.A.Trip. Kudos to you! I have no patience for doing that online, can't read tone,intent,etc of the opposing person. I love the hell out of face-to-face or even phone call-ins on radio shows type of exchanges.

    In my past working life I was a negotiator and I use it well. ;-)

  2. Hey, Dusty, thanks for stopping by and commenting! Would you believe you're the first commenter in a month and a half? Three thousand page views yet no comments--amazing!

    I've been online for 21 years, so I have a lot of practice reading between the lines for tone and intent. I was actually better at it than in person for years. I used to have more patience for it, but I now have a real life in meatspace, so I don't have as much time for it.

    My late father was a negotiator. He was very effective, but he was rather brutal. I saw him at work once and was astounded at how tough he was. I actually had more fear and respect for him after that.

  3. This entry became the most viewed entry from the first year of the blog, as I detailed in Second Year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Kunstler's Tea Party. It has fallen this year, as I describe in Popular entries from the back catalog for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News. It was in fifth place in March 2015, sixth place in May 2015, and is now in seventh place. Maybe the people reading the entry this year can lift it back up again.

    BTW, if any of you are interested in this year's entries about the holiday, I have three, Bald Eagle facts for 4th of July weekend from DNews, A drum corps Stars and Stripes for the 4th of July, and Drink recipes for July 4th from Tipsy Bartender.