Archive for October 2011

Lessons From Prohibition

I watched Ken Burn’s documentary on Prohibition while working out on my elliptical the last week or so (I DVR’ed it off off PBS).  What I found so fascinating was that it was about today and today’s politics.  All the lessons were there to learn and just like our approach to economics and our deep recession, we have unlearned all of them.  I have never figured out why it is that we think we have changed so much, that human experience in the past simply doesn’t apply.  It’s like saying, “This is the 21st century and gravity doesn’t apply anymore.  Just jump off that cliff and you will be fine.”

I will leave the economic lessons we have lost to Paul Krugman as we watch failed economic policies fail.  What I want to focus on are what I thought the three main themes (there were many others) of the lessons of our experiment with Prohibition and what they teach us for today.  They go like this:  How wedge issue politics can be a powerful tool ; How legislating morality begets an across the board disrespect for the law; and finally, how radicals with no sense of moderation lost everything.

In my blog Politics As It Ever Was, I wrote about how a wedge issue, prohibition (drys) became a litmus test for political success.  With local elections very close, a small minority could swing an election to either party, so if you had a small group in each district that would only vote for you if you were a “dry”, they controlled the election.  That is why Republican primaries have become so radical right.  The Tea Party is that radical group, even though a minority of voters, that is making sure the only Republican who can survive is rabid red.  Thus the litmus test for Republican candidates and it works.  But the idea was invented and successfully used to take the whole country dry.  This is the lesson Occupy Wall Street and the rest of us Progressives need to apply if we want to make government responsive again.  We have to find our wedge issue (like making taxes fair) and then organize to make sure that that issue is the defining issue for political success.

The next lesson, legislating morality or more succinctly said, passing a Constitutional amendment that took away a right instead of protecting a right, is almost bound to fail and does severe damage to respect for law and order.  As Ken Burns so aptly chronicled, alcoholism was a real problem in this country.  But the solution, banning the consumption of alcohol was impossible to enforce.  It was ignored at the highest levels of our government.  And when it was enforced, it was enforced unequally and many innocent people were damaged.  It became the joke of the country and the respect for government institutions and law enforcement, so necessary for the successful functioning of our government, went on the skids.  It also created an amazing market for very profitable crime.  Do we see any parallels today?  Does the war on drugs come to mind?  Does the Feds crackdown on Marijuana in California ring a bell?  Will outlawing abortions prevent them?  We have a whole conservative wing of our politics who want to pass Constitutional amendments to deny a right, and the results are and will be similar.  Wedge politics may control the process of what gets passed, but enforcement depends upon acceptance by most of the people, and by its definition, wedge issues are destined to fail in their application in law.

The final lesson is in the repeal of Prohibition (the 18th Amendment) and the only repeal of a Constitutional Amendment (a mistake) in our history.  Prohibition was a reaction to a real and troubling problem in our country.  The amount of alcohol consumption and its effects on many homes was staggering.  So the answer from the Bible thumping crowd was enforced abstinence.  Note this was not the original intent of the Temperance Society.  They simply wanted to control it and its effects in moderation.  But the group that got the politics right to pass the 18th Amendment was radical (that is what wedge issue politics requires).  So when the problems became apparent, instead of modifying the law to correct its most glaring deficiencies and recognize some realities in the country, they drew a line in the sand.  It was their Waterloo.  The lesson here is quite simple.  Legislating morality is bound to fail.  Telling people you can’t do something is like waving a red flag in a bull’s face.  The issue was abuse of alcohol, not the alcohol itself.  Making alcohol evil simply did not work in a society where alcohol has been an accepted vice throughout the history of mankind.  So attack the real problem, alcoholism,  and adjust the law to reality.  But the real believers couldn’t accept the demise of their moral imperative and they lost it all.

On the last one, we see the same flawed logic whether it is immigration reform, drugs, taxes, and on and on.  Radicalism and moral imperatives are bound to fail. Not all illegal immigrants (most aren’t) are dangerous.  Treating all illegals as law breakers punishes innocent people.  The war on drugs is a total failure and most of the population has tried them.  Just saying no on taxes is stupid.  Some are needed, some are not.  All government is bad is the same stupid logic.  Radicalism is bound to fail and the answers lie in the details of reality, not some moral imperative.  Ken Burns presented all this for us and he let us draw our own analogies to our current problems.  But they are there to draw and if we fail to see them, we are destined, dare I say it, to repeat history and our mistakes.


A Level of Disconnect and Denial that Boggles the Mind

We are now at a level of denial and disconnection with our government that just boggles the mind.  On disconnection, do you think Washington and the deficit commission will do anything but damage us further?  Instead of asking what kind of a country we want to be, we keep thinking small, and asking what we can cut.   Think about where we have come from.  We don’t even have a way to get our astronauts to the space shuttle.  We have major bridges failing and we can’t gather the political will to solve those problems.

So where is Washington?  Still playing Republican games that destroyed this country.  Somehow we still think bipartisanship solutions will get us anywhere?  Washington doesn’t even understand the problem.   I listened to some moron Democrat talk about how they have to work together to solve this problem, and I know that is code for doing more stuff to hurt this country.  Conservative economic policies have brought us to our knees and Democrats are enablers.  Both offer nothing to address what the OWS folks are pointing out as our real problem:  Government isn’t working for us anymore. The things Washington thinks are the solutions will just make our demise more rapid.  We have become the Kings of thinking small.

But then in conjunction with the disconnection of Washington with the real problem, is the massive denial of where we are.  Americans like to think we are special.  We hear all the time that we have the best science, medicine, opportunity, in the world.  It is simply not true.  Again, how do our astronauts get into space?  Answer: on a Russian rocket.  Who is the leader in alternate energy development?  Answer:  China.  Who is investing and upgrading their infrastructure?  Answer:  Just about everyone else but us.  But we are number one.  Who are we kidding?  Answer:  Ourselves and only ourselves.  One of our biggest problems is all the people in a position to start solving our problems are fat white people, totally removed from the reality of the problem.

The slide is undeniable, yet we seem to be a country determined to keep doing the same stupid things and claiming doing these things (more tax cuts, less government, thinking small and waiting on the market) will change our direction.  As Charles Blow noted in his op-ed this morning (America’s Exploding Pipe Dream)  “in a report released on Thursday by the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation of Germany entitled “Social Justice in the OECD — How Do the Member States Compare?” It analyzed some metrics of basic fairness and equality among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries and ranked America among the ones at the bottom.”  We are becoming a third world country.  But not to worry, no more taxes, less taxes for the rich, cutting back even more and more, will solve all these problems.

We have lost our collective minds and unless we fire everyone in Washington and head off in a whole new direction, leaving conservative nonsense behind us, the country is doomed to the dustbin of history.  What I can’t figure out is with all this data out there demonstrating our decline, how we continue to ignore it and try to reinvent  us as a country before the Enlightenment.

Vine/Wine Friday

Fall at Chateau Lightner 10/28/11

It’s over!  Thursday morning at first light they harvested the Mourvedre.  It was 38 degrees, but warmed up to the low 60s in the afternoon.  It did not take them long and within about 2 hours, the vines are finally sans fruit.  The Mourvedre was the best of my varietals this year and look and tasted wonderful.  On my other varietals, my production was down due to the smaller fruit, but the Mourvedre was larger than my usual harvest.  Go figure.  Now Donkey and Goat have all my grapes and hopefully they will find some special juices.  Maybe soon there will be a Lightner Vineyards Four Thirteen Rhone blend made entirely of my grapes.  Then I will have died and gone to heaven.  Here are the pictures and there is not much more to say this year.  Now we just watch the leaves change and think about next year.

Los hombres taking the Mourvedre - buckets to bin to crusher

A bin of Mourvedre leaving the vineyard - the birds are so sad.











Loading the bountry

Three bins of Mourvedre and 1/2 bin of counoise headed for Donkey & Goat











Mourvedre - Last day on the vine



Stepping Back and Taking Stock

I don’t know about you, but I think things are a mess.  I have a habit of working in my office during the day with the TV news on in the background which gets reflected in this blog from time to time as I hear truly inane things.  But it is becoming more and more obvious that nobody is stepping back and looking at the big picture.  We seemed to be all about the latest doings of Obama campaigning here and there, or the Republican candidates and their next crazy outbursts which the media treats as serious policies, who is being arrested in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests, or the infighting of the Europeans trying to solve their debt crisis, but nothing is changing and we seem to be adrift going nowhere.

I mean when you step back, turn loose of your ideology, and just observe, it is not a pretty picture.  Let me give you a list which I think goes in the category of non-political observations and we can leave out who we want to blame or what is the fix:

  • Money is migrating to the top and for the rest of us, our prospects for increased income or real growth is dimming
  • Education is getting gutted as we layoff teachers and refuse to properly fund our schools
  • College is more and more unaffordable and the debt our young people are carrying into a depressed economy has never been greater
  • We are doing nothing to upgrade, much less repair, our infrastructure that is badly deteriorating
  • Although we celebrated (well some did) covering more people under the Health Care Reform Act, the reality is that cost continue to spiral and soon, fewer and fewer businesses will be able to offer it
  • We have no energy policy as we seem to be on a race to the bottom to allow more and more extraction of dirty fossil fuels as the answer to our problems
  • Job growth is lagging and quite frankly we really aren’t making much we could sell to the rest of the world
  • By world standards our health care, education, and competitiveness is falling and we do nothing about it
  • We seem to lack a vision about where we want to go as 74% of us think we are on the wrong path
  • Most importantly, we are worried about our kids and their future.  They may never be as well off as we are as our own stability erodes

Meanwhile on the political front nothing is happening that even marginally addresses any of these problems.  There is no big plan.  There is no big dream.  Just little skirmishes at the margins.  Okay, up to now, I don’t think you can take much issue with what I said.  Now I go political.  And here, once again, look at what the parties are doing, not what they say.

Republicans don’t have any big dreams.  That is the whole point of their ideological approach.  The market place will solve all problems.  But the market place went wild in the roaring 20’s and again in the roaring 2000’s with little regulation and the result was a massive debt crisis.  Lower taxes (if they could get any lower) and less regulation don’t address 90% of my list up above, even if they actually did work.  But what we have actually seen is that this approach simply favors the system we have which is transferring the nation’s wealth to a few as the rest of the country stagnates.  Job creation was anemic during the Bush years when tax rates were as low as they have been in 50 years and there was a Republican Congress and a Republican President with government looking the other way.  It is just beyond me why anyone would think we need to reinvest in these ideas unless you are sitting on a pile of cash and want to keep things just the way they are.

Probably even more disturbing is their candidates and what we are seeing being offered by them.  Flat tax approaches that simply don’t add up or address how to fix our treasury so we can reinvest in infrastructure, education, health care, etc.  Reinstating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, building a giant wall on our Southern border, letting home mortgages just default and throw people out on the streets, their answer to our job problems is drill baby drill,  we just need more competition by health insurers, and let us not forget ending a woman’s right to choose.  And of course, more cutting taxes and regulations for businesses so they will hire when nobody has any money to spend on what ever they make.  It is a joke and we are treating it seriously and no one is stepping back and saying, we are in the middle of a looney bin.

On the state fronts, Republican legislatures want to declare life at conception, outlawing the birth control pill.  They want to redistrict to disenfranchise anyone who doesn’t vote their way.  They want to layoff government workers, reduce salaries and benefits, destroy their unions as though these people caused the problems and this reduction in spending is going to help, not to mention being able to attracted good workers.  They are working frantically to put in place voter ID laws that just suppress the votes of those who don’t agree with them claiming voter fraud when there isn’t any.  See any jobs in any of this?  See anything that might improve our economy or make us more competitive?  See any of our real problems being addressed?  No, I am not making any of this up.  This is what we are busy doing.

So what about the Democrats?  Well the Democrats spent so many years trying to be Republican lite to appeal to the independents and taking polls to see which way to blow, that they don’t really stand for anything.  Since the Reagan days they have been instituting policies that have glorified greed and drifted further and further right while not investing in our infrastructure.  The latest round was their totally buying into the Republican deficit narrative which has paralyzed the nation from doing anything about our problems.  Now we have some bills that make abundant sense, but will go nowhere and the reality is, if they would go anywhere, they do not even begin to address the size of the problem. It is just political posturing.   Worse, they have never really had the spine to really establish the alternative narrative that would layout a path forward.  For the last three years of the Obama administration, Democrats have stood for accommodation of Republican failed ideas.

So finally real people are being heard from.  This whole thing isn’t working.  Do something.  But we have a political system bought and paid for by the status quo and so much more interested in taking polls to make sure they get re-elected than thinking seriously about what the path forward should be, and then leading.  So my day is spent listening to talking heads pretending that any of what is going on has anything to do with reality or would solve our problems and thinking opinion polls decide what the facts really are.  There is so little original thinking about what will solve our problems instead of who is up and who is down.  And sadly, as Paul Krugman said so astutely the other day in his blog (The Amnesiac Economy):

The crisis we’re in is not something unprecedented. It’s a close cousin to the Great Depression — milder, but recognizably the same sort of thing. And we understand — or used to understand — how the Depression happened, and what to do in such a situation. Most of what’s required are fairly straightforward translations of existing concepts….I’ve been arguing for a while that much of the economics profession has lost its way, recapitulating old errors because it made a point of unlearning what Keynes taught. But it’s not just economists who willfully threw away hard-won insights….The result of all this is that the supposedly sober, serious people are actually radicals insisting that we can make the economy work in ways that it has never worked in the past — hence the embrace of magical thinking on expansionary austerity and the power of structural reform.

In other words we know how to solve this problem, but it will take someone with a grand vision and the courage to sell it to a country that no longer understands its own history and has been sold on the idea of a free ride through low taxes.  We need a leader who has that grand vision and so far all we have gotten is looney tunes, small minded attempts at what is “politically feasible” and not being too radical, but no real consideration of what we need to really address our problems.  Meanwhile, I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about tomorrow, and  like most of my fellow Americans, knowing my government has no plan in sight to solve any of our problems.  We are not even having a serious discussion about them yet.



Thinking Small and Going Nowhere

A latest poll in the NYT finds that there is a deep distrust of government to do the right thing (New Poll Finds Deep Distrust in Government).  “Not only do 89 percent of Americans say they distrust government to do the right thing, but 74 percent say the country is on the wrong track and 84 percent disapprove of Congress — warnings for Democrats and Republicans alike.”  Republicans alleged that the Obama policies have failed and I would agree with them here, but not in the cure.  Obama’s failure was not to lead and lead and think big.  Now he offers band aids instead of real strategic plans for our future. Either way Congress is not going to act on them so why not propose a real way forward?   Meanwhile in Republican land, well we are lost in la la land.  Don’t believe me?  Well when Pat Robertson thinks they are over the top, we are truly out of control.  But if you doubt me, take it from the horse’s mouth:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2012 – The Great Right Hope – The 180 Club
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook



Stupid is As Stupid Does

Here we have Forrest Gump with the perfect insight into our current situation.  City and State governments move in to disrupt and displace the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstrations and they simply reinforce the protestors point and increase the movement.  Their point is graphically made that the government doesn’t represent them anymore.  In New York, pressure was put on the police from the Governor’s office to break it up, but cooler heads prevailed in the fear that arrests would just grow it (Keith Olbermann).  But in Oakland, well they are morons (Cops Raid Occupy Oakland Protests).  Suppress those peasants and the problem will just go away.  Just ask the French royalists prior to the French Revolution.

A Major Disconnect

There seems to be a general disconnect between real Americans and, oh should I say it, the Military-Industrial Complex that controls Washington.  Maybe that term is no longer operative.  It is more like Washington, corporations, and the Financial Industry live in a gated community and the rest of us are out here unprotected.  And I guess it isn’t just Washington, it is political/pundit/corporation leadership across the nation.  They all live in this gated community that everything is just fine and we just need to wait out this latest business cycle and things will restore themselves.  Then they spend their days talking to each other reinforcing a false perception of reality.  That’s what it feels like as the nation falters and there is no sense of urgency.  Some examples:

  • Rick Perry has added Steve Forbes to his campaign to push a flat tax.  Sounds good, but the devil is in the details and that is another tax cut for rich and corporations and more taxes for the poor.  They keep telling us, don’t worry, they will invest.  The rest of us know flow down doesn’t work
  • David Brooks, always chained to his ideology, tells us that OWS has it wrong and nobody wants income redistribution.  Really?  Then why have the Republicans been bent on transferring all our wealth to the wealthy.  Numbers don’t lie David and these people are telling you that all you stand for is not working for them.  Oh, I forgot.  You blame all our problems on government
  • Business leaders, insulated by their high salaries and corporate boards continue the propaganda about regulations and taxes hurting them when the numbers say they are doing great and job creation has been depressed since the early Bush days when they got what ever they wanted
  • Meanwhile we have a whole segment of our population who believes that if we could just fix a few problems people would spend again.  Dean Baker points out that the savings rate is 5% which is less than before the fall in 2007.  What that tells you is that they are already spending what have and they are falling behind
  • The Republicans are content to block everything and in their incestuous group think, don’t see that the majority of the nation wants to move forward and start addressing some of our problems.  They continue with the no-tax mantra that is paralyzing our ability to do anything about our problems and are oblivious to the pain that is causing
  • Democrats aren’t much better in that they still think government and their timid approach to it works. or there is some middle ground solution
  • Half our population, as Republicans like to complain, do not pay federal income tax.  That means that over half our population makes less than $24,000 for a family of four (more or less).  That is a prosperous nation?  Here is a factoid they seem to ignore, the bottom 90% of us earn an average of $31,244 and that bottom is losing ground while wealth grows among the wealthy
  • And most important, with Americans only saving 5% of their income, and we are cutting spending (read jobs) just where is that demand going to come from, yet we continue with the austerity chant, low regulations, low taxes (emptying our treasury), less government,  Huh?
  • One look at the Republican candidates (and listen) tells you everything you want to know about a bubble they live in occupied by the  ignorance they continue to reinforce to each other to have such views.  Let’s face it, they and most Republicans talk about a reality that does not exist and imagine villains (illegal immigrants, women’s right to choose, high taxes (when they are at record lows), gays) that don’t exist or have nothing to do with our current economic woes

I can’t help but think that one of two things is going on.  Either we have this massive example of group think within the rich and Republicans, or they simply are too selfish to share any portion of the pie with the rest of us.  Either way, things are getting worse and people are getting desperate.  There will be a reckoning as our present course is simply not sustainable.  The OWS surprised everyone because the media is part of that group think.  Reality:  Government doesn’t work except for the very rich (doing nothing is helping them), income concentration and inequality is getting worse, and most people have awoken to this reality because it is now touching them, just not the Republicans.  Income inequality did not work too well for the royalty in France and it won’t work very well here either, especially when it kills our economy and real opportunity for the majority of our citizens.

Dysfunctional Government

I don’t know about you, but starting the first primaries on 4 January and already having debates a year before the election to me just seems to turn all of us off from politics.  Who can remember what they stood for back a year ago when we finally go to vote for them (except of course for the video of them pandering to the base which will be the smear campaign commercials next year)?   Then again we are having Iowa and New Hampshire and other small minorities set the pace for who is leader of the pack and that seems fairly disconnected also.  Has our whole nominating process just become one big mess the ensures the candidate cannot appeal to the middle, much less lead the country when it is time to actually run the country?  I think so.

The biggest problem with this process starting so early is that we really don’t get anything from the debates unless you are interested in persecuting immigrants, denying women choice, and other non sequitur issues except of course for the radical base.  These debates basically are pep rallies for each candidate without any real meat to what they would do.  “He stinks, elect me.  The economy sucks, elect me.”  The format is set up to be a he said/she said, without real fact checking by the moderators.  So for instances no one is going to challenge the claim “the stimulus failed” because all the candidates have a vested interest in this lie.  What would inform the public in a much more healthy way than feeding them sound bites crafted to titillate the base, is for a panel to question each candidate armed with real data and challenge their claims.  But I am a dreamer.

Maybe what tells us most about this dysfunctional system is that it results in dysfunctional government.  Exhibit A is that our economy is dying for jobs and Congress can do nothing.  And the nothing is all about the issue of how you pay for it, at least on the face of it.  The reality is that if the Democrats would capitulate to anything the Republicans wanted, but the Republicans thought that might actually help the economy, they would block it because the game is all about power, not national interest.   That is what this system has produced and that is what we have elected to office with this system.  You tell me it is working.

So we have elections that start way too early and go on forever, with most Americans losing interest.  We have a primary system that focuses on electing someone who has pandered to the base and does not represent the general electorate, or must then flip flop on many issues, and we have a debate process that does little fact checking and allows candidates to hurl claims that the other must refute, leaving us with a he said/she said debate.  Then our political pundits, ignoring the content of their programs and plans, wax brain dead on who looked most presidential.  Is it any wonder we have a screwed up system.  I think I will go occupy Wall Street.  Those people are on to something.

Thoughts on Iraq

As an aging Vietnam War veteran, I am wondering if Iraq won’t end up in the same dustbin as the Vietnam War did.  But I get ahead of myself.  With President Obama’s announcement that we are leaving Iraq by the end of this year, the reaction was rather interesting.  Of course the Republicans want to make anything Obama does look bad so the responses were all over the map.  McCain and Graham, who would continue our involvement forever, warn of dire consequences.  They are positioning themselves to say I told you so if the country (quite likely) degenerates into civil war.  Or course the counter to that argument (which will never be made by the media) is just how long do we referee, at what cost, and if Iraq doesn’t want us there, on what grounds would we stay?

Then there is the question of should we stay if our soldiers are at the mercy of Iraq courts, which if Obama had conceded to, the Republicans would have gone berserk.  And remember this whole issue is because of Black Water and their abuses.  And who is a good friend of Black Water?  Republicans.  So from that quarter, you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.  No surprise there.  Republicans don’t want to lead, just criticize.  And lets not forget John McCain with his sidekick Lieberman in Libya with Muammar Gaddafi agreeing to make arms deals with this guy for help with the war on terror.  No we don’t negotiate with terrorists.

But there is criticism from other quarters that do give me pause.  Saddam Hussein was an evil man, but when we invaded the country our shock and awe destroyed their infrastructure and civil service.  It is estimated that 650,000 Iraqis were killed and millions were displaced,  One thing Hussein’s tight grip on the country did provide was to keep the different sects in check.  Watching how Muammar Gaddafi was disposed raises a real question about whether boots on the ground were ever really necessary and the resulting chaos and destruction as a result of those policies.  As Colin Powell once said, “You break it, you own it.”   So there is the issue of how and what our engagement should be down the road.

Here is my take.  As long as we are in a Muslim country, our presence is counter productive.  Libya should be a lesson for all of us.  Both it and Iraq may degenerate into civil wars.  But they are “civil’ wars, and that is a war not of invasion, but of civil disagreement within a country.  Al Qaeda is not an issue and quite frankly neither is Iran, which is the other big bugaboo that Republicans like to worry about.  That fear is a function of our lack of understanding of the history, xenophobia, and national politics of the area.  And the bottom line here is we can’t win civil wars for other countries because the war itself is about the national identity of the country.  They must fight it out themselves.  For us to be involved with boots on the ground simply muddy the waters and in fact mobilize Al Qaeda like organizations.  So our involvement should be to help, if we can, with international support, but it is their future to settle.  Should give you some fuel for thought about our involvement in Afghanistan, although I think our presence there has more to do with Pakistan than it does with Afghanistan itself.  A blog for another day.

So bottom line and this may be hard to swallow:  It was not worth it and it really didn’t accomplish much except to kill some very brave Americans, a ton of Iraqis, and put us in major debt.  Sooner or later the Arab Spring would have sprung in Iraq.  Ten years from now our Iraqi War veterans will look back on Iraq and like most of us who served in the Vietnam War, be proud of our service and the people we served with, but not our strategic mission.  Sadly our military has been the only employer for many young Americans and as the wars go away, they come home to find an America who says they honor their service, but will do nothing to improve their employment opportunities after their service is complete. Oh yeah, and don’t forget we need to cut the budget, not raise taxes and that will impact their support services when they come home. This may result in some real anger in the streets in our near future from a whole generation of Americans who were taught that “Shock and Awe” is a way to solve our problems.

The Difference is in the Details – Tea Party and OWS

Some pundits are telling us the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (OWS) are really very similar, raging against the machine.  Meanwhile the Tea Partiers tell us that they are not the same because OWS has the wrong target and should be protesting in Washington instead of Wall Street (Wall St. Protest Isn’t Like Ours). The problem is Washington, not Wall Street.   The people who are saying they are similar must be brain dead or can’t tell the difference between black and white (no pun intended).

Well there are similarities in that the members seem to have many different agendas, but that is about it.  From my TV experience of watching the two groups, the Tea Party is made up primarily of fat white people who hate government and are fairly ignorant about the government they hate.  The OWS crowd seem to be a diverse group whose focus is showing how our government system is not working, and protesting the opulence of Wall Street while the rest of the country suffers.  Tea Partiers are primarily government hating Republicans.  OWS is made up of Republicans and Democrats who know the system is not working for them and they are protesting the 1% who are getting an unfair share of the rewards of our economy.

So what you have are two very different groups.  One who hates anything government and who simply wants government to go away.  I might also comment that this is anti-intellectual and counter intuitive to solving any of our problems..  Then you have this other group that is connecting around the world with the idea that the economic system is favoring the few over the many and want that system corrected, mainly through government action.   They are not proposing a specific solution because the reality is that a whole spectrum of solutions are represented by the OWS protest, whose commonality is their sense government isn’t working for them.  No Wall Street didn’t unlevel the playing field, they bought the politicians who did.  So in a sense, they are at the source of their problems.

So what I get out of these two movements is the fallowing:

Tea Party – Mainly fat white people who are fairly ignorant of what government provides for them and wants to lower taxes and reduce regulation (through smaller government) as though that is not what we did for the last 10 years, and yet they expect a different result.  They have miss-diagnosed the problem and learned nothing from the Bush years – my definition of morons, continuing to do the same thing and expect a different result.  Oh, and leveraged and used by the big money interests in the Conservative movement to further increase the transfer of wealth.  They are a U.S. centric phenomenon. Their political impact was the 2010 election and taking bad government and making it inoperable.

OWS – A diverse mixture of cultures, races, and age groups, some nutty, some very serious, but with one thing in common:  our present system of government is not representing them and their interests.  They are neither about big government or small government, but effective government that works for them.  They come from both sides of the political spectrum.  Their appeal is worldwide in our world recession as many feel that the world economy is not working and providing benefits to those who work hard and play by the rules. They have focused the discussion on jobs and the people in our economy who are suffering. Their political impact remains to be seen, but just getting the discussion focused where it should be, jobs, instead of the deficit may already be felt.

So the answer to the question of why they aren’t protesting in Washington is because the people who control the system are not in Washington.  The are  the monied interests represented by Wall Street.  If they vote their dissatisfaction next year, they might just force the Democrats to show a little spine and throw those who want to do nothing out of office.  That would be nice.