The Rant 

Hurricanes in New York; earthquakes in Virginia; drought in Texas; historic flooding on the Mississippi; and the tornadic destruction of Joplin, Missouri, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. That's quite a summer. But climate change is a hoax, right? It's just another racket for Al Gore to cash in on, like he did with his invention of the internet. Every sensible person knows it's only the Earth's cyclical behavior, and we're just at the metaphorical top of the Ferris wheel. We'll come down someday. Meanwhile, floodwaters are raging through Vermont, and it's still too early to calculate the damage caused by last weekend's hurricane. But go ahead and have another cocktail and try not to think about it. Historic, destructive weather events are the government's responsibility. Or they were before the conservatives chimed in. Ron Paul declared there should be no FEMA relief for the storm's victims and that federal disaster relief is "bad economics, bad morality, and bad constitutional law."

In any other time in our history, if there's one thing the populace could depend on, it is federal aid in a natural disaster. Even the criminal Bush got to New Orleans, eventually. But since the Tea Party is flexing its flaccid muscle and trying to abolish the federal government, this time there are strings attached. Even while the hurricane was bearing down on majority leader Eric Cantor's district, he was explaining that no federal relief would be forthcoming without equivalent cuts in other social programs. Arrogance like this can only come from a representative who doesn't fear for his reelection, but let a bridge collapse in Richmond and we'll see if he combs the budget for something to cut before requesting funds. Cantor, the only Jewish Republican, is what is known in Yiddish as a nar, or a fool. He has many positions on social matters, but they're all contrary to the Judaic principles of social justice. If I weren't so concerned about ugly mail from my fellow tribesmen, I'd go so far as to say Cantor is a disgrace to the Jews. The really troubling fact is that not a single Republican disagreed with or disavowed Cantor's statement about holding emergency funds hostage to their asinine budget process.

The televangelical wing of the Republican Party was quick to blame the erratic weather on an angry and judgmental God who is displeased with us for not mentioning Him before the football game. Pat Robertson pointed out that the Virginia quake put a crack in the crown of the Washington Monument, and he immediately took it as a sign of impending national destruction. Franklin Graham has been saying the end times are at hand ever since the Japanese tsunami, and phony reverend Glenn Beck stated that the hurricane was a "blessing" to remind us that mankind is not in charge. I suppose a hurricane's a "blessing" until it hits your house. And if corporate radio blatherer Rush Limbaugh hasn't found a way to say the hurricane was sent to postpone the opening of the Martin Luther King Memorial, he will. The current GOP has a faith-based emergency response where you love your neighbor, unless they're poor, black, brown, Mexican, or Muslim, and any government assistance is viewed as creeping socialism. As a grateful beneficiary of a Christian charity, the Church Health Center, I can testify to the great good they do both in a disaster and on a daily basis. Why is there always some hair-sprayed, half-bright rube explaining God's motivation for visiting destruction on humanity? I would never have known why Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans if not for Jerry Falwell's explanation that it was divine retribution for a gay pride parade.

Leave it to the Tea Party to lose another argument. As soon as they begin chanting "Drill, baby, drill," there's a historic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They scream for more nuclear energy and additional power plants right before Japan goes radioactive. Then here comes Rick Perry with a six-gun in one hand and a Bible in the other. Pridefully ignorant, Perry believes he was called by God to run for president. But then so does Michele Bachmann. I guess it's true that many are called but few are chosen, but somebody's God is punking them. This perfectly illustrates the difference between progressive and conservative thought. Liberals come by their beliefs by reading and staying informed of the news. The evangelical right is indoctrinated in church. Progressives have opinions. Evangelical conservatives hold to their beliefs as acts of faith. The most recent poll shows that the Tea Party is the same old religious right that's been around since Richard Nixon recruited them to his cause. They're the Silent Majority, the Dixiecrats, the States Rights Party, the Moral Majority, and George Wallace's American Independent Party. Nothing new to see here, folks. Just move along. My question is, how do you reason with someone who's convinced that their way is the only way?

Hurricane Irene could have been worse, but the damages will be substantial. With washed-out roads and damaged infrastructure, this could be a golden moment for the president. I expect Obama to seize this opportunity to introduce vast new employment programs to repair crumbling bridges and electrical grids, flooded tunnels, and deteriorating highways. Give the old interstate system to the 16-wheelers and build a new one just for cars. Try some New Deal programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps, which employed people to build public works and parks, or the Works Progress Administration, which involved millions in the construction of roads and buildings across the nation. Whatever Obama does, it may as well be something bold, because while the country is in need of a new New Deal, the GOP is still trying to repeal the last one. It's now clear that the time for negotiating with rigid ideologues is over. In the last presidential election, I had hoped to be voting for another FDR, not the next Gerald Ford. The Tea Party believes Obama re-regulated Wall Street because liberals hate capitalism. If the president would stop trying to appease those who only wish for his destruction, maybe we could make some progress on the nation's economic recovery and the emotional well-being of its people. To paraphrase Cee Lo Green, forget the Tea Party. They've become irrelevant. Yet again.

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