Crazies Offended by Being Called Crazy: Can't Take It? Don't Dish It.

Tea Partiers, anti-tax zealots, and assorted other Troglodytes are shocked–shocked I tell you–by reports that former Internal revenue Service official Lois Lerner didn't like them. But wait–it gets worse. She called them names!!!! Awwwwww–poor babies.

And not just any names; Lerner called the Tea Party Republicans "crazies" and the people who troll on right-wing radio "assholes." I'm not seeing the problem here–sounds like straightforward description to me. Nonetheless, Rep. David Camp of Michigan said Lerner demonstrated "disgust with conservatives." Funny, I thought the First Amendment gave her the right to hold such views, but we'll come back to that. Others, of course, claim she "targeted" conservative groups to audit because of her politics. We'll come back to that as well.

First, how about some context? The IRS was under intense attack by the Tea Party, including many that wanted it shut down. If you were Lerner, might you too have thought a bunch of "crazies" were at the gates? Her comments stemmed from hearing a rightwing woman rave that "America was going down the tubes." She emailed a colleague about it, who told her that the standard line on rightwing talk radio was that "The US is through; too many foreigners sucking the teat; time to hunker down; buy ammo and food, and prepare for the end." Lerner's in context response was, "Great. Maybe we are through if there that many assholes." When told that the callers were more rabid still Lerner remarked, "So we don't need to worry about alien terrorists. It's our own crazies that will take us down." I couldn't agree more, but let's move on.

If the right is going to whine when it's called names, maybe it should STFU. Dear old Rush Limbaugh has called pro-choice advocates, "extremists" and the Surgeon General "obese" (said the fat man!), claimed that Democrats opposed voter ID because they want to preserve "cheating," castigated young people for having "a romantic attachment to civil rights and "emancipating people from oppression," liberally (pun intended) drops the term "feminazi," and lampooned liberals as "champions of ignorance." He's lame compared to Ann Coulter, who counsels we should "invade other countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity," calls swing voters "idiots," says that soccer moms are "as likely to receive anthrax in the mail as they are to develop linear thinking," calls for a return to poll taxes, and accuses liberals and Democrats of treason. Give me a buck for every time the Tea Party uses the N-word to describe Barack Obama–and its members tend to misspell it on signs!–and I'll buy Fox News and fire these assholes.

The Crazy Right did this.
Do you want crazy? Trent Franks (MS) called President Obama "an enemy of humanity," Glen Urquhart (Tea Party candidate DE) thinks those wanting church/state separation are Nazis, Carl Paladino (governor candidate NY) thinks urban kids want to go to prison for their excellent facilities, and the NRA put a target on a map showing Gabby Giffords' home before she was nearly assassinated. Eight Planned Parenthood workers have been murdered since 1993 and there have been bombs at 41 clinics and arsons at 173. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, schools are like NRA firing ranges, and far-right ideologues have killed 34 people for political reasons since 9/11. Does anyone remember the bloodiest attack on US soil before 9/11? That would be Timothy McVeigh at Oklahoma City in 1995, a man who thought himself right–Far Right. So yeah, there are a whole lot of assholes out there and they're probably a bigger threat than Al Qaida.
Is anyone over the age (chronological or mental) of twelve surprised that the IRS (and FBI, ATF, DEA, etc.) is sometimes politically motivated? Google COINTELPRO and get back to me. Or is it okay if it's the left that's targeted? In my view, all agencies and (especially) banks and businesses ought to be scrutinized by the IRS, but you have to be a crazy not to think this stuff hasn't been politicized for decades. And the answer is always the same–have nothing to hide. Imagine the gall of the IRS to check on whether or not an organization was cheating on its taxes! Let's say it again: Awwwww! Poor babies! 


A Cafe for People, not Laptops

Yesterday's mail brought my new issue of Vermont Life. Sure–it's a glossy mix of nostalgia and propaganda, but I always relish it. I also happen to think that Vermont is one of the few islands of sanity left in what's left of the United States.  

One small story caught my eye: August First, a small café in Burlington's south end decided to turn off the WiFi and ban laptops. Imagine the radicalism of such a move. Why the unmitigated gall of owners Jodi Whalen and Phil Merrick–expecting people to use their tables to consume food and converse instead as their own personal office space.

It was a risk in today's it's-all-about-me-and-it-should-be-free society. A risk, but a calculated one. How often have you walked out a café or restaurant in which there were no tables because about 75% of them were filled by a single pretentious hipster with a laptop and one cup of tepid coffee he had been nursing for the past three hours? It happened too often for Whalen and Merrick, a husband-wife team who actually have to make a living selling cups of Joe, pastries, and sandwiches. And guess what? When August First turned off the wireless, its sales went up by a whopping 20% in the first year. I've not been there, so maybe that's because they make really good muffins, but I think it had a lot to do with reclaiming the café as a public space instead of a private wombs for the wired and selfish.

I applaud August First and I sincerely hope this is the beginning of a trend. Many's the time I've walked out of a local favorite, Woodstar Café, upon seeing a laptopper per table. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to scream, "Get a room, ya' cheapskate @$#&*%^s." 

You can bet that I'll be at August First my next trip to Burlington. For those living nearby, please support Whalen and Merrick. August First is located at 149 South Champlain Street, open Monday to Friday from 7:30 am to 5 pm and Saturday from 8 am to 3 pm. Here's the menu

Hooray for August First! Cafés of the world unite; you've only your freeloaders to lose.


Five Takeaways from Canada

There's nothing like a little travel to make you reflect upon your normal routine–including those daily interactions that make up the cultural air that one breathes. We've just recently returned from a trip through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and brought back five things that Canadians do that could improve life here in the US of A. This isn't to say that Canada is utopia by any means, but we'd happily teach the Canadians a few things about marketing and public relations–subjects about which Canadians in the Maritimes are clueless–if they send a few coaches across the border to teach Americans the following:

1. Courteous driving: The Trans-Canada and other roads have numerous climbing lanes for trucks and slow vehicles. These, of course, eventually come to an end. The American way is to gun your engine for all it's worth to make certain you pass as many cars as possible, even if you have to squeeze a few drivers off the road. The Canadian way is to gauge your speed and that of the car ahead of you and politely drop back and wait for the next passing zone if you can't comfortably overtake that car. Lesson: Drive nicely.

2. Waiting in general: Driving habits are indicative of an overall patience commodity that's in short supply in the USA. One sees it everywhere. Pedestrians routinely wait for walk signals, even if traffic is light; bicyclists use hand signals and follow traffic laws. No one jostles in supermarket lines or makes a mad dash whenever a new lane opens. I saw exactly one child take a tantrum. He was tucked into the back of a car with Maryland plates. Lessons: What's the hurry? And it's not all about you.

3. No penny for your thoughts. Canadians have pretty much phased out pennies and no one stands around moaning about getting cheated. They simply round up or down to the nearest nickle and figure that sometimes they'll make out by a penny or two or will pay a few cents more. Either way, it's been centuries since old Ben Franklin's adage "A penny saved is a penny earned" was close to being true. Pennies cost more to produce than they're worth and they simply make routine exchanges cumbersome. As one clerk at a store said when I asked about pennies said, "It's just a penny. What's the point?" Lesson: There is no point to pennies.

4. Modicum of national pride: Nova Scotians are as far from Ottawa as a lot of Americans are from Washington, DC. Like folks here, Canadians complain about Ottawa and politicians in general. What they don't do in the Maritimes (or even in wide swaths of Quebec these days) is confuse the good of their nation with the worst of her politicians. Never thought I'd say this, but Canadians  have much more pride in their country than Americans do. Lesson: Rooting for American soldiers is not the same as loving your country.

5. Being nice: It comes up all the time. The first thing that pops into most people's mind when they think of Canadians is the word "nice." I've met a disagreeable Canadian or two, but it's generally true. They go out of their way to be helpful or strike up conversations. Some people would say that Canadians are too wholesome and, hence, are on the boring side. I say, "Smite me with such boredom." Lesson: I'll quote my good friend Steve,"You might as well be a mensch."