As you might expect, being the editor of City Paper means you'll spend a certain percentage of your day talking to misfits, whack-jobs, and malcontents.
And that's just the staff meeting. There are also plenty of phone calls that come in from various members of the tinfoil-hat community, folks who want you to get to the bottom of their sinister conspiracies.
But I got a call just now that I thought I'd share. It came from a perfectly pleasant gentleman who wanted to know details about a "Tea Party" event that is apparently coming up tomorrow, which will feature former Presidential candidate (and perennial nutter) Alan Keyes.
Information is my business, so I help the guy out by providing him time and location details. The event is being held at Allegheny Landing (that sculpture park along the Allegheny River, just east of PNC Park), and the guy asks if there's a specific street address.
"I need an address to give to my ACCESS driver," he says.
ACCESS, of course, is a door-to-door transit service that the Port Authority provides to elderly riders and people with disabilities. In other words, this guy was going to use government-provided transit to attend a rally opposing big government.
Of course, this particular protest, we're told, is being directed only at "a long train of abuses and usurpations of our tax dollars to bail out banks, financial institutions, and special interests." But the broader agenda here is pretty obvious: The home page of the official 'Tea Party' Web site features Ronald Reagan asserting, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem." Elsewhere, the site decries the fact that "We, the People, face foreclosures, hardships, and distress without any assistance whatsoever."
I'm not a big fan of the bailouts myself (who is?). The whole way this is shaking down confirms my longstanding fear of the financial sector's influence on Barack Obama. I also don't want to single my caller out. (I resisted the temptation to tell him to trust the free market to get him to the rally.) After all, people with disabilities should be able to participate in empty-headed political gestures too. That's one of the things that makes this country great.
But this just sums up our political situation, doesn't it? For decades we've heard right-wingers denounce "government intervention" in the economy ... with the fully predicatable result that once financial markets were deregulated, the whole system turned to shit. We've got flat-taxers and flat-earthers who have sought to strip revenues from government ... and all of a sudden, people are wondering why our bridges and roads are in such miserable shape.
Somehow, we've ended up with a political scene in which millions of people demand the abolishment of institutions that, while they are far from perfect, have made our way of life possible. And hardly any of them are even aware of the hypocrisy.