Sunday, August 25, 2013

Thursday's Tea Party hearing: "Stranger In A Strange Land" time

In 1961, Robert Heinlein, one of the most renowned authors in the science fiction genre, wrote a classic of the genre, Stranger In A Strange Land.

To summarize the story in a very oversimplified way, the story is about a man who was born and raised on Mars being exposed to Earth-bound human society and the strange and baffling behaviors and social mores of greater society.

Which kind of describes my Thursday afternoon in Mesa, spent at a tea party "Congressional field" hearing at the Mesa Arts Center.

The purpose of the event was ostensibly to hear testimony on "abuses" of Arizonans by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Given that sort of dog-whistle subject, I wasn't surprised to be greeting by this sight upon arrival at the event.

Anti-immigrant protesters
Unfortunately, that was the best picture of the day - the event didn't allow anyone other than credentialed media to bring cameras into the event (though a few folks who appeared to be staffers or other insiders had them).  Any pics later in this post were taken with my cell phone, which I found out isn't a great camera for pics taken in low light situations from more than a few feet away.

The event was had an announced start time of 3:30 p.m., but didn't get rolling until around 3:50.  However, being a dedicated blogger, I arrived early and found a seat at 2:30.

Which was a good thing, because tea party types were drawn to this like salmon looking for a place to spawn.

Among the people spotted in the crowd before the event began:

- Gabriela Saucedo Mercer (R), a challenger to Congressman Raul Grijalva.  Given the way that the tea party types deliberately mangled Grijalva's name ("Greeeeehaaallllllva"),  it probably isn't a coincidence that she was introduced around as "Gabby Mercer".

- Wes Harris, a tea party bigwig.  Overheard pimping his new organization, which doesn't have "Tea Party" in the name; also overheard deriding other tea party type organizations as being led by people with "massive egos".  First "irony alert" of the day.


Harris (in the red t-shirt)
 - Former AZ legislator Chuck Gray, now a staffer for Congressman Matt Salmon

- Former AZ legislator Sylvia Allen, now a county supervisor in Navajo County

- Current AZ Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump

- Current state legislator Chester Crandell (at least, I think it was him)


After brief opening remarks from Scott Smith, mayor of Mesa (who tried to stake out the "moderate" position by stating that conflicts with the EPA are "bipartisan"), the real show started.

First, when they went to have a state-sponsored prayer, they couldn't find the invited preacher, so Congressman Trent Franks volunteered to do the job.

And he did a fine job, if "American Exceptionalism as religious dogma" is your thing.

After that,  the Four Horsemen of the Teapocalypse, Arizona chapter (aka - Congressmen Matt Salmon, Paul Gosar, Trent Franks, and David Schweikert) took shots at the EPA in turn.

(L-R) Salmon, Gosar, Franks, and Schweikert
A pattern of "demonization by association" quickly developed, one designed to associate the EPA, something with which most people have no direct familiarity, with something they think they know better, and despise.

- Gosar, as the nominal chair of the event, led off the "festivities" with a diatribe that linked the EPA to President Barack Obama, someone who is hated by the vast majority of the crowd.  He also lied early and often, with the biggest whopper being that "coal ash is not hazardous".

Umm...that is less than truthful.

- Salmon went for the "everything including the kitchen sink" approach, invoking the faux "scandals" ginned up by the GOP (Fast and Furious, Benghazi, anything they can associate Hillary Clinton's name with) and calling USAG Eric Holder a "criminal" who should be investigated by a "special counsel like Ken Starr (harkening back the GOP's glory days of conducting witch hunts, looking for BJs in the White House).

- Schweikert was the most direct in his attack on the EPA, claiming that EPA regulations were anti-business.  His attack was effective enough that one of the women seated behind me called for the hanging of all EPA employees (Note: Let me be clear, this was not stated by Schweikert.  In addition, while it was uttered in a "normal" voice, given the distance from the stage and the background noise, Schweikert and the other members of Congress almost certainly didn't even hear the statement).

Schweikert also expressed his outrage at the audacity of someone who invests in "green" energy daring to lobby him on the subject.  Guess he isn't bothered by the lobbying efforts of "traditional" energy business enterprises, which includes the direct purchase of members of Congress -



- Franks spent his opening statement essentially rehashing the "American exceptionalism as religious dogma" approach of his opening prayer.

Money lines (and there is a theme here) -

"Rights come from God, not the government."

"When rights are in human hands, we are in trouble."

 And when he wasn't rhetorically minimizing the value of civil society, he was making sure that he used the words "Obama" and "antithetical" in the same sentence.

One common thread that the Four Horsemen each wove into their statements was thumping on their assertion that the EPA's proposed air pollution emission limits for the Navajo Generating Station are not anti-pollution, they're anti-Arizona.

Franks even said that the EPA's "haze rule" is part of a "sinister plot" against Arizona.

After the Four Horsemen were done, the first "witness" was Tom Horne, Arizona's Attorney General.

Horne continued the theme established by the four members of Congress, that of pounding on the EPA by pushing the "hot" buttons of tea party types.  Horne called EPA regulations a "violation of the Tenth Amendment".

Gosar and Horne engaged in a bit of a colloquy (basically, a scripted "discussion") and gave us the second irony moment of the event.

Gosar asked Horne if he could give  USAG Eric Holder "lessons in upholding the law".

Horne replied in the affirmative.

Three words - "Hit and run".

Three more - "Campaign finance violations".

Yet three more - "Permanent SEC ban".

I could keep this going for a while, but you get the point - Horne isn't exactly a paragon of ethical behavior or professional conduct.


After Horne was done, it was the turn of Andy Biggs, president of the state senate.

Biggs
Biggs' remarks were light on substance but heavy on buzzwords -

He complained about the "tyranny of the federal government" and pronounced that "environmentalism equals a state-sponsored religion".

To be fair to Biggs, however, he wasn't a one-note wonder.  He took the opportunity to criticize EMTALA, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.  Enacted in 1986 (yes, during the Reagan Administration), it requires that hospitals that participate in Medicare and offer emergency services to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay.

A concept that totally pisses off Andy "No insurance? Then lay down and die" Biggs.

He also called for the elimination of the IRS.


Anyway, by the time he was done, it was nearing 5:30 and I left, but according to a press release from Gosar's office, the "witnesses" continued long into the evening -
List of witnesses who provided testimony include:
Tom Horne, Arizona Attorney General
Andy Biggs, President of the Arizona State Senate
Buster Johnson, Mohave County Supervisor District III
Carlyle Begay, District 7, Arizona State Senate
Bob Stump, Chairman, Arizona Corporation Commission
David M. Martin, President, Arizona Associated General Contractors
Mary L. Frontczak, Senior Vice President & General Counsel,  Peabody Energy Corporation
Mark Ourada, Vice President for Central Region, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity
Brenda Barton, District 5 Representative, Arizona House of Representatives
Joy Stavely, President & Chief Operating Officer, Canyoneers, Inc.
Shane Krauser, American Academy for Constitutional Education, Inc.
Chris Rossiter, Greater Phoenix Tea Party
Kelly Townsend, District 16 Representative, Arizona House of Representatives
Nick Dranias, Director of Policy Development & Constitutional Government, Goldwater Institute

The interesting names on this list are Carlyle Begay and Mary Frontczak.

Sen. (for the time being, anyway) Begay is the newly-minted state senator from LD7.  In addition to apparently not residing in LD7, Begay is apparently as close to being a wholly-owned subsidiary of Peabody Energy as one can be without articles of incorporation. (see: some great research by Steve at Arizona Eagletarian).

Frontczak, as listed above, is General Counsel and a Senior VP for Peabody Energy.

The same Peabody Energy that (apparently) owns Begay.

The same Peabody Energy that buys "makes campaign contributions to" elected officials by the bushel.

The same Peabody Energy that derives massive amounts of profits from supplying coal to the NGS, profits that stand to be reduced if clean air standards for NGS are tightened.


So, to summarize the meeting (or at least the portion I sat through):

1.  The Four Horsemen of the Teapocalypse are not complete morons*.

2.  They seem to believe that their base is.

3.  Based on what I saw Thursday, they may be right about that.

4. Taking advantage of that perceived lack of intellectual capacity of their base, one of their basic tactics is to promulgate a "science is wrong" talking point.  For this event, the speakers kept stressing their claims that the "haze rule" is only a visual standard and that the proposed changes to NGS' emissions won't result in a reduction in haze that will be visible to the naked eye.

And that things that can't be seen by the naked eye cannot affect people.

Yeah, right.


To summarize the summary:  It looks as if the GOP game plan for the next year plus to spew as much BS as possible because truth won't help them win the 2014 elections.

* = OK, occasionally** I'm not so sure about Trent Franks.

** = In this context "occasionally" means "most of the time". 



2 comments:

Thane Eichenauer said...

I enjoyed the first two sentences of this post but the rest is a long but detailed version of Republicans will be Republicans.

As for Trent Franks, the largest problem about him is that he is not a moron. He is a captive US House member of the Military Industrial Complex. He is very talented at fanning the flames of fear that keep the executives at US defence companies warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

cpmaz said...

For some reason Thane, I am not surprised that you are a Heinlein fan. :)

While I liked Heinlein's storytelling, I was always more of an Asimov fan.

As for Franks, you may be correct.

However, whether he is a dumb tool or a smart tool, he's still a tool.