TEA Parties: They Look So Innocent

"...One evening in the spring of ’89, Hendrickson and his girlfriend, Doreen Wright (they met while working on Paul’s campaign), were at a barbecue at her house in suburban Detroit with some fellow members of the Metro Detroit Libertarians. Eventually, the conversation turned to that old Libertarian bugaboo, the income tax. Like many people of his ideological persuasion, Hendrickson was familiar with a book titled “The Great Income Tax Hoax,” written by a former insurance broker named Irwin Schiff, which argued that, among other things, the tax was unconstitutional. In order to “raise the consciousness” about the evil of the income tax, Hendrickson proposed to the Metro Detroit Libertarians an audacious act of protest, something different from passing out fliers and holding up signs — something that, as he later recalled, “could not be kept quiet.” His idea found some takers and, over the course of the next year, Hendrickson, Wright and a married couple, Scott and Karen Scarborough, devised and carried out a plan to build a firebomb and mail it to the I.R.S.

On tax day, Hendrickson and the Scarboroughs drove a parcel containing the bomb to the post office in Royal Oak, Mich., where Scott Scarborough placed it in a mail bin outside. Hendrickson had wrapped a Bigelow tea bag around the bomb’s tubing — in homage to the Boston Tea Party, America’s founding act of tax protest — and addressed the package to “The Tax Thieves.” The return address read, “Freedom Loving Americans...”

Jason Zengerle
Hell Nay, We Won’t Pay!
New York Times Magazine
March 27, 2009


Roadkill said...


Oh my Gosh. I had no idea of the origins of this Tea Party movement as you describe it.

Here I thought it was all about regular six-pack Joe types worrying about Obama’s economic plan, including huge deficits and the potential (inevitable?) tax increases that will be required to pay for it all. I guess I didn’t realize the fact that these “tea” protesters are all potential terrorists. Thanks for the heads up. And it all comports with the Napolitano warnings of right-wing dangers to our country as well.

Good thing the Bush administration did not consider policy dissenters as potential terrorists. If so, you and half the country would have been under suspicion.

Then again, if the Bush administration had the arrogance and balls of the Obama administration, perhaps Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security might have branded all left-wing policy dissenters as potential terrorists. That would have shut you guys up - or more likely – would have provided the basis for highly justified outcry and outrage. But Bush -- unlike Obama -- did no such thing.

I guess you could argue that Bush was a constitutionalist wimp. Unlike his successor, he was inherently incapable of cutting off the ability of citizens to express their disapproval of his actions. Bush just wasn’t ballsy and/or arrogant enough to deem dissent not only wrong, but illegal as well.

But your guy is.

shambo said...

It would be nice if we could discuss from a point of fact. Such as the fact that the Dept. of Homeland Security's report on domestic terrorism was initiated and completed under the Bush administration. There was a component of that same report that discussed the potential for left-wing terrorism in disturbing terms as well.

And, please don't ask us to forget all of the noise coming from the extremists if anyone dared to question the direction the country was taking under Bush. I have quite a list of people who were told they were 'unpatriotic' for speaking up and were censored, whether on television, on radio or in print. No one was supposed to dare to question the president during a time of war. I guess that only applies when it's a republican president.

The middle-of-the-road-moderates in this country were not out at tea parties protesting taxes. They were more likely to be out protesting the thieves on Wall Street whose greed is the real reason we're in the mess we're in. Perhaps if our politicians were not beholden to every industry that contributes mega-bucks to their campaigns, we would be able to clean up the mess properly. But that would require firing overpaid CEO's and breaking up some institutions that are 'too big to fail'. We just can't do that in America. We must worship the almighty dollar at all costs. Anyone wonder why Canada isn't having a huge banking crisis? They stuck with old-fashioned regulations and responsible practices.

At the rate we'e going,we will be back in a similar position within a few years because the people in charge of 'fixing' the mess are too close to Wall Street or were actually involved in establishing the rules that let the financial sector take such common-sense defying risks in the first place.

Sunny Badger said...


As you know, I often try to bring up tid bits from the historical dust bin that apply contemporary events. I thought the story from back in 1989 was relevant to the taxation issues being discussed today. That there a nuts on the Right who would resort to violence and mayhem over taxes wouldn't suprise me. That there are nuts on the Left who would resort to violence and mayhem over issues like animal rights, global warming, etc. would not surprise me. All you got to do to prove my me right is to schedule a meeting of the G7 in a neighborhood near you.

How many Timothy McVeigh types are out there? How many ignorant racists prowl the Internet in search of complimentary groups of likeminded haters who will still tie a rope around a man's neck and drag him by their bumper because he is Black. How many Earth Firsters are there out there prowling the Internet looking for likeminded people to spike trees and kill a millworker.

Finally, Obama is a constitutional lawyer. He knows everything there is about the Constitution and he has swore to uphold that Constitution -- so help me God! Just like Bush and the Presidents before him. Evidently, people seem to have different visions and opinion about the Constitution and what it stands for.

Roadkill said...


As usual, I find your post outrageously partisan and at the same time your commentary eminently reasonable. Analogous, in some respects, to stopping a car with a goofy bumper sticker and finding the driver a regular guy who claims his young nephew (or niece) put that sticker on his bumper without his knowledge.

I was particularly drawn to you last paragraph regarding the Constitution. It sounds like you feel that upholding the Constitution is the prime directive. Well, certainly! The rub, of course, is what that platitude means. That is to say, it would seem to presuppose some agreement on the principles of the Constitution. But that is, of course, the divisive crux of the matter.

The fact is, a Liberal sees different things in the Constitution than does a Conservative. A Liberal sees expansive personal rights and liberties, as well as huge Federal obligations to support “the general welfare.” A Conservative, on the other hand, sees a balance of personal rights with civic obligations, and a limited, enumerated role for the Federal government.

The key, in our day, some hundreds of years after the Constitution was written, is how that fundamental law should be interpreted in light of current events For us Conservatives, we feel that the words that the founders wrote and codified should be understood in the plain language in which they were written or, if necessary, in the context of the then-contemporary legislative background. Such are the “textualist” or “originalist” interpretations, which stress that any changes to the plain meaning should be incorporated via the means provided in the document itself – i.e. by amendment – and not via judicial fiat or legislative overreach.

Liberals, on the other hand, do not feel constrained by the words of the constitution other than to give them some footing for exceeding – at times vastly – the implied or explicit limitations on the Federal government. This view, sometimes referred to as the “living constitution” approach, leads to a dismissal of the constitution as an anachronistic guide to decision-making or legislation. This interpretation, which empowers all three branches of government by removing constitutional limitations, naturally leads to a “lawless” government of men whose personal policy preferences – no matter how at odds with the plain text of the Constitution – become the new law of the land.

So once again, I agree with your commentary. “People [do] seem to have different visions and a opinion about the Constitution and what it stands for.”

The problem is, of course, who is correct?

More to the point, if we are in fact a government of Laws and not of Men, should we not have some common understanding of what that Law is?

Sunny B. said...


I am responsible for all the bumper stickers on my car. I've been pro-bumper sticker for well over 30 years. When I realized that bumper stickers could make people mad enough to try to rip them off, I was hooked. The last one I had ripped off said "TREE HUGGER". That's pretty innocent.

With the current display of bumper stickers, I have often had people actually accuse me of being a liberal. Especially during the 2008 election, I was quick to point out the Ron Paul would heartily agreed with my bumper stickers. That would put me somewhere in the conservative-libertarian range on the political bumper sticker range. Of course, most liberals would endorse my bumper stickers...

Concerning the Constitution, I believe the liberals and conservatives -- who were able to overcome their partisan intolerance -- could sit down and have a very agreeable conservative about what the Constitution covers. I think I heard the liberals complaining for the past eight years about the Bush Administration ignoring the Constitution. Now we will be hearing the conservatives complaining about the Obama administration ignoring the Constitution for the next 4-8 years.

I think I have developed my ears to listening to the political shouting match that is volleyed back and forth -- depending on who is in the White House. The same arguments are adopted by the non-presidential party. Bush=Hitler;Obama=Hitler, etc. I think the most vocal spit-shouters in today's political pissing match are the parrots who regurgitate the bullets points and hackneyed phrased the emanate from the opinionaters on the Right and Left. To say the Republicans and/or conservatives are bankrupt of ideas is nonsense. To say the Democrats and/or liberals have the whole truth is nonsense. However, figuring this out takes common sense and that ain't so common.

Like the Bible, I've read the Constitution. Reading the Bible didn't make me throw my hands up in the air, praise Jesus, and be saved. It did set me on a journey to a wide variety of Protestant churches over a couple year period and make me think deeply about religion. Being that I was raised on the Catholic catechism, I don't recall actually reading a passage in the Bible tell I got a free Bible in the "hotel" on Sunday morning.

Reading the Constitution has filled in a few gaps in my understanding of the founding documents of our nation. It hasn't made me go out and buy a picture of Justice Scalia or hang effigies of Justice Thurogood Marshall. However, I did read biographies of Earl Warren, Marshall, Thomas and read a few books about the court and its history. I still don't pretty to have all the answers, but I do know that history shows we don't drive in a fundamentally straight line and swerve to the left and right over the course of time. I see that as part of the checks and balances of our government and I actually see little impact on my daily life from the decisions handed down from the Supreme Court. However, I do see that over time, the Court tracks towards the individual’s freedom. By this, I mean equal rights for all races, gender and persuasions. Others might be individually focused on Court decisions that are more near and dear to their life experiences and worldview and that's part of the beauty of this American experiment we call the United States.

Ultimately, I think commonsense wins out in the Constitutional give-n-take of our governmental experiment that has been going on for some 233 years. I don't see it coming to a crashing end soon and I don't see the bonfires revolution burning on the road up ahead. However, I do expect the sparks of fundamental frustration ignite a few grass fires along the road. Be they anarchists or patriots, we've dealt with them before and we'll deal with them again.

On the partisan tone of the original post here, I say if provides a launching pad for a discussion. Surely, some would jump on the comments here and totally agree with the partisan nature of this post. Others would attack from the right with partisan bitterness. But few would actually take the time to have a discussion on the subject.

I tracking the counter on the blog and I've noticed over time the Ayn Rand posts and now TEA Party posts are good bait for getting hits. Obviously, you can tell by the lack of heated comments here that this ain't no Huffington Post or Dirge Report.