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Free Markets, Free People

A Fork In the Road is Coming

As most of you know, I served on active duty as a USAF Security Policeman from 1984-1993.  Three of those years were spent in Brunssum, The Netherlands, working on the International Military Police force at Headquarters, Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT, now known as AFNORTH).  I noticed an interesting phenomenon while I was there.  As any policeman know, sometimes, you have some unpleasant interactions with members of the community you serve.  In general, those actions end up with you forcing that person to do something the really do not want to do.

In my experience, this type of unpleasantness usually occurred when dealing with a German, or an American.  But there was something interesting about the outcome.  When you forced a German to do something, every time they saw you after that, they would approach with a smile, “Hello, my friend!  How are you?”  It was almost as if they’d discovered during the confrontation where they stood in the pecking order related to you, and henceforth treated you with respect and friendliness.

Americans, on the other hand, didn’t react that way.  Once a confrontation had gone against them, then every time they saw you after that, they’d shoot angry glares at you.  Maybe they’d remark to a friend, “See that MP over there?  He’s a dick.”  Once you’d had that confrontation with an American, you were never going to be friends.

Frankly, Americans resent authority. We accept some measure of it as a necessary evil most times, but there are limits.  We can be pushed, often quite far, but when we reach a certain tipping point, enmity quickly flares.   We can have quite heated arguments as equals, then knock off and have a drink. But once we have a heated argument, then are forced to do something we don’t want to do…well,  we don’t like it.

That piece of our national character is being tried this month.

Over the past couple of days, we’ve seen arguments about national health care erupt into incidents of local violence. Yes, we yelled at each other bit back in 2005 or so, when Social Security reform was on the table.  But now we’re seeing thugs in SEIU T-shirts showing up and throwing punches at people who are gathered to demonstrate against the current version of health care reform. We’ve seen a local Democratic Party apparatchik shove a demonstrator in the face.  Billy Beck has often said it, and now he’s saying it again: “You have always heard it here first: All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war.”

At this rate, I’m afraid that it’s going to become painfully obvious that a large number of people in this country are not going to politely doff their caps to the local SEIU grandees, once they’ve learned their lessons like good Germans.  Quite the reverse, in fact.

I’ve also said before–and every time I do, people like Oliver Willis call me crazy for saying it–we’re preparing this country to split apart.  There are two political camps in this country: collectivists, and and indvidualists.  (Forget party labels.  The parties are, at best, loose approximations of those two camps.)  It’s a fairly even split between the two camps. And the fundamental philosophies of those two camps have become irreconcilable, for a number of reasons, but primarily as a  result of centralization of power in Washington.

Of course, the two philosophies have always been incompatible, but in a more federated America, the incompatibility didn’t matter as much.  People in Wisconsin could be as progressive as possible, and no one in New Mexico cared much.  And if people in Wisconsin or New Mexico didn’t like the local political climate, they could just move to somewhere whe the climate was more to their liking. But with the arrogation of so much power by Washington, that’s no longer an option.  In a federal system, nobody in Texas much cares if some yankees in a state far away set up The People’s Autonomous Oblast of Massachussets.  But if Bostonians think that some Alabama ‘seed  in Washington is gonna force them to dance while handling snakes and speaking in tongues…well, you can’t square that circle.

Unfortunately, if the solons in Washington declare we must do X, there’s no way to escape the consequences of that decision.  And so, every political decision is now fraught with national, rather than local consequences. As a result, the incompatibility between collectivists and individualists is reaching a boiling point.  The centralization of power in Washington, and the nationalization of practically every domestic issue, has done nothing but poison our politics, and degraded our political discourse.

This has happened once before in American history.  Between the founding of the country and the 1850s, Slavery moved from an issue of local sovereignty to a national moral issue.  And as abolitionists gained power in both the house–and especially the Senate–it became clear to the Southern states that the abolition of slavery by Congress was inevitable.  Once that happened, given the temper of the times, secession was inevitable as well.

Whether the Civil War was inevitable is a matter of debate.  I tend to think that the peculiar character of Lincoln made it so.  Given a different president, we might have two very different nations–and probably more, in what is now the United States.

By the same token, I don’t believe we are in for a shooting war between the Red and Blue states. Quite apart from the fact that people in the red states tend to be the people with all the guns, there seems to be a declining interest in both Red and Blue states to live under the same political regime.  Blue staters are increasingly uninterested in delaying their march to Utopia by having to make concessions to Bible-thumping, gay-hating hayseeds, and Red staters are not willing to live in a Peasants’ and Workers’ Paradise run by Godless, unborn-baby-killing Commies.

We’re already struggling with the nearly impossible political task of how to reconcile two irreconcilable philosophies under a powerful central government.  Having union thugs show up and deliver beatings and intimidation is only going to raise the anger level among Americans who feel they are being forced to do something they don’t want to do, increase their resentment, and push the country closer to dissolution.

And this won’t be a case like 1860, where 70% of the country successfully forced their will on the remaining 30%.  We’ve got a nearly even 50-50 split between those two philosophies now. We’re too evenly divided to make force an easy, or even viable option.  If things keep going in this direction, then I think we’re on the way to divorce court, where we’ll be citing “irreconcilable differences”.

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So, Were These Instances Of “Political Terrorism?”

The left has a very short and convenient memory – it apparently begins at January 20th, 2009 and has no memory of , say, 2005.  And the left now thinks that what his happening with these townhall meetings is simply unprecedented and a new, low chapter in right-wing extremism.

But as Jon Henke reminds us, this is nothing new:

* NW Progressive Institute, March 2005: “a boisterous crowd which frequently interrupted the discussion with shouts and hard nosed questions. … Democrats in the audience who were interrupting the panel…. the crowd erupted in angerDemocrats in the audience started shouting him down again.”

* Savannah Morning News, March 2005: “By now, Jack Kingston is used to shouted questions, interruptions and boos. Republican congressmen expect such responses these days when they meet with constituents about President Bush’s proposal to overhaul Social Security.”

* USA Today, March 2005: “Shaken by raucous protests at open “town hall”-style meetings last month … Santorum was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gantlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month. Many who showed up to protest were alerted by e-mails and bused in by anti-Bush organizations such as MoveOn.org and USAction, a liberal advocacy group. They came with prepared questions and instructions on how to confront lawmakers.”

You must understand that when Democrats did it in 2005, it was political dissent. Now that the right is engaged in the same sort of behavior, it is “political terrorism”.

They really don’t like it when their own tactics are used against them, do they?

~McQ

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Send In The Thugs (update)

Irony, as we’ve all learned, is not something with which the left is well attuned.

For instance, until the Obama administration unleashed the unions, the townhall meetings were a little raucous, but not violent.

But now that the White House has all but explicitly condoned the demonization and thus the marginalization of those who disagree with his attempt to “reform” health care, and further called on the unions to send in paid operatives to “punch back”, we have violence.

The irony? This, from Dennis Rivera, health care chairman of the SEIU after six of his goons had assaulted a protester in St. Louis:

“These are the times to clearly speak out in a civilized way, and tell them we won’t be prevented by these terrorist tactics from participating in these town hall meetings,”

Always nice to know how the opposition defines “civilized way” isn’t it?

Yup, raising your voice in a townhall meeting and not just shutting up and listening to the nonsense the man or woman (does anyone understand what the word “representative” means?) who works for you is spouting is now a “terroist tactic” according to the SEIU.

Solution – assault people in a ‘civilized way’, bar those who disagree with the administration from a place in the meeting while packing it with handpicked union members and call it a “townhall”.

Pure, unadulterated cowardice on parade is what it is. Apparently the Dems are not only unaware of the irony of the situation, but also unfamiliar with the first law of holes. And trust me, they are digging a deep one with their present behavior.

UPDATE: What are union members from Chicago doing at a St. Louis townhall meeting?

~McQ

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About Our Recent Outage

We had a server problem which caused us to be down for a few hours and you to get the message “Bad Domain Name”. Naturally when something like that happens we have no way of letting you know what the problem is. The good news is, we’re back. Sorry for the inconvenience but, as we all know, life happens.

~McQ

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Protesting Against Health Care Reform? You’re A “Political Terrorist”

Peggy Noonan, in her WSJ piece today, said this:

We have entered uncharted territory in the fight over national health care. There’s a new tone in the debate, and it’s ugly. At the moment the Democrats are looking like something they haven’t looked like in years, and that is: desperate.

If you’re wondering what that desperation looks like, Steve Pearlstein of the Washington Post provides the example:

The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they’ve given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They’ve become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

Of course there’s no mention of the multitude of lies propagated by those pushing this legislation – like taxes won’t go up, like the public option won’t eventually drive private insurance out of the market, or like Obama’s promise about keeping your doctor and your insurance aren’t reflected in the current version of the legislation.

Nope, those who oppose it and actually try to bring these things to light are now “political terrorists”.

That is so over the top that it is hard to find the proper words to reflect my indignation. Dissent is now political “terrorism”. Again the desperate left shows it is immune to irony and completely blind to its own hypocrisy.

But it should come as no surprise that an ideology which is, at base an authoritarian one would want you to just shut up and let their elite decide what is good for you. Here are couple of vids to show you who the “political terrorists” are and what they’re thinking:

Democrats are playing a very, very dangerous game with all of this. If they continue to try to squelch dissent and mischaracterize the citizenry as it tries to express its views in opposition to what they’re doing, 2010 will be a bloodbath for them.

They need to realize that they’ve totally misread the tea leaves of the election and this is obviously not what the American people want. If they ram it through despite what polls tell us is majority opposition to this legislation, they may very well see a completely different Congress in a year.

~McQ

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Racist Attack At Townhall Meeting (Update)

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t an “extreme right-wing mobster” doing the attacking. The scene was a townhall meeting in St. Louis, MO. The report is from the St. Louis Dispatch:

Kenneth Gladney, 38, a conservative activist from St. Louis, said he was attacked by some of those arrested as he handed out yellow flags with “Don’t tread on me” printed on them. He spoke to the Post-Dispatch from the emergency room at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, where he said he was awaiting treatment for injuries to his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face. Gladney, who is black, said one of his attackers, also a black man, used a racial slur against him before the attack.

“It just seems there’s no freedom of speech without being attacked,” he said.

So now we have violence introduced into these meetings where none existed previously.

And what’s been the only change?

The mobilization of unions to counter the protesters from the right.

Yeah, nothing can go wrong with that plan, can it?

UPDATE: Video of the attack.

Listen at about the 1:00 mark when one of the thugs that attacked him claims that Gladney “attacked America”. Also note that the black guy who runs away in the beginning is wearing a union tee-shirt as is the guy who is eventually arrested.

Freakin’ amazing.

~McQ

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THIS Is What “Astroturf” Looks Like

We now have real paid organizers promising to produce bodies to confront the citizenry showing up at townhall meetings to loudly voice their disapproval.

The nation’s largest federation of labor organizations has promised to directly engage with boisterous conservative protesters at Democratic town halls during the August recess.

In a memo sent out on Thursday, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney outlined the blueprint for how the union conglomerate would step up recess activities on health care reform and other topics pertinent to the labor community. The document makes clear that Obama allies view the town hall forums as ground zero of the health care debate. It also uses the specter of the infamous 2000 recount “Brooks Brothers” protest to rally its members to the administration’s side.

What could go wrong with this scenario? First, who says they’re all “boisterous conservative protesters?” This is about union members going to an event expressly to confront those who are voicing a dissenting opinion and quelling that. Talk about setting themselves up for a huge “fail”. Talk about setting themselves up for a huge backlash.

AFL_CIO

AFL_CIO

“The principal battleground in the campaign will be town hall meetings and other gatherings with members of Congress in their home districts,” reads the memo. “We want your help to organize major union participation to counter the right-wing “Tea-Party Patriots” who will try to disrupt those meetings, as they’ve been trying to do to meetings for the last month. …

Yeah, nothing could go wrong here.

But, of course, since this is true astroturfing, there’s a political payback being demanded:

But while the union conglomerate seems poised to flex its political muscle on Obama’s behalf, it may find some friction on the policy front. Detailed in Sweeney’s memo are certain legislative priorities that are clearly at odds with what seems likely to be produced in the Senate Finance Committee’s compromise bill.

Sweeney describes it as a “requirement that ALL employers ‘pay or play,'” that the final bill have “a robust public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers and drive down health costs,” and that the legislation contain “relief for company/union funds providing pre-Medicare retiree coverage, and no taxation of health benefits!”

Yes friends, these protesters will truly be paid protesters. If they help intimidate the citizenry at the townhall meetings, then they expect to see their legislative desires fulfilled.

As the AFL-CIO spools itself up to confront the “mobs”, its secretary issues the battle cry of the astroturfer:

Every American has the inalienable right to participate in our democratic process. Our politics is passionate, heartfelt and often loud — as was the founding of our nation. But that is not what the corporate-funded mobs are engaging in when they show up to disrupt town halls held by members of Congress.

Major health care reform is closer than ever to passage and it is no secret that special interests want to weaken or block it. These mobs are not there to participate. As their own strategy memo states, they have been sent by their corporate and lobbyist bankrollers to disrupt, heckle and block meaningful debate. This is a desperation move, meant to slow the momentum for change.

Mob rule is not democracy. People have a democratic right to express themselves and our elected leaders have a right to hear from their constituents — not organized thugs whose sole purpose is to shut down the conversation and attempt to scare our leaders into inaction

We call on the insurance companies, the lobbyists and the Republican leaders who are cheering them on to halt these ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’ tactics. Health care is a crucial issue and everyone – on all sides of the issue – deserves to be heard.

Does anyone out there have to wonder what tactics they’ll use to ensure others are “heard”? Republican can only pray they do.

~McQ

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An Interesting But Apparently Obscure Health Care Fact

One of the questions constantly posed as the debate over health care insurance reform rages is, “if we have such a great health care system, why is our life expectancy lower than countries with socialized care?”

Well apparently it is our propensity to murder each other and die in car accidents which obscures the fact that with those factored out, we actually enjoy the longest life expectancy. James Joyner provides the numbers and a handy little chart.

But the bottom line is when you remove homicide and car crashes, we jump from number 15 with a life expectancy of 75.3 to number 1 with a life expectancy of 76.9.

So we must be doing something right in the medical field wouldn’t you say – certainly more so than anyone else if you want to hang your hat on life expectancy data that only focuses on what medicine can help.  Drive safely and avoid getting on the losing side of a gun fight and you can expect to be around for longer than any of those in the so-called “more advanced” countries.

And, as Dodd points out, there’s even a way to improve the homicide numbers:

Homicide, however, we could impact immediately and irrevocably right now simply by decriminalizing most (or all) currently illegal drugs. Remove the artificial, government-created scarcity, and the profits and incentive to engage in underworld violence that goes with it, and the homicide rate would fall significantly. More of our young men would survive to middle adulthood, hundreds of thousands of prisoners would be freed (or never created) to engage in productive work, and our life expectancy at birth would jump immediately and permanently. All without the government having to nationalize one-sixth of the economy and expropriate trillions more dollars from the private sector to pay for the hope that the outcome will be improved.

He’s right, of course – remove profit, remove incentive. The drug market today is a government created market. And it reacts to the distorted incentives prohibition introduces into such a market.

We know how to regulate such markets legally. We do it fairly successfully with alcohol. And we don’t have booze gangs shooting it out in turf wars or finding bunches of bodies from bootleg deals gone wrong.

Why we don’t consider reform in this area is beyond me. Life expectancy numbers would certainly see an increase if we did. So would our freedom and liberty numbers.

~McQ

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North Korea’s Repeating Pattern

I find it interesting to see what the foreign press has to say about things we do.  It gives a different perspective than one you’re likely to see in the highly partisan atmosphere in this country.  That’s not to say that foreign press reports aren’t biased to some (or to a great) degree.  However, they often have some useful insights.

Pertaining to the NoKo/hostage release situation, the Financial Times is one of those.  Other than the obvious, the release of the hostages, the FT wonders what each side got out of this.  On the NoKo side, it seems everyone agrees it was a propaganda coup for them.  But of what use was it?

The extraordinary photographs showing him flanked by a former US president (doing his best to imitate a sphinx) and several former US officials are a propaganda coup. They will without any doubt be used to shore up his position at home and secure his ability to confer succession upon his third son, Kim Jong-woon, still in his 20s.

So, in effect, the coup primarily benefits internal succession concerns. Is that all? Well, not really. There was more to it than that they say:

Mr Kim has used the arrest of two journalists to secure the bilateral meeting he craved, albeit with the head of a former administration. Next, he will be after money and supplies.

This is the key sentence in the article. And this is what has those who’ve denounced the trip concerned. Kim uses tactics like this to get what he wants, no matter how phony it ends up being. He uses our humanitarian concerns against us. So, in reality, we end up rewarding his bad behavior by doing what he craves – giving him attention at a very high level, even if it is “unofficial”. Which brings us to the second part of this – what did the US gain other than the release of the hostages?

Barack Obama has sought to portray Mr Clinton’s visit as purely private. That is not credible, particularly given the former president’s relationship to Hillary Clinton, secretary of state. In more than three hours of discussions with Mr Kim, Mr Clinton must have strayed beyond idle chit-chat. It can only be hoped he sought to discover what is North Korea’s negotiating bottom line and what, if anything, could persuade it to part company with its nuclear weapons.

This is the story-line that is least credible – “strictly private”. First Kim would never agree to waste an opportunity like this for a “strictly private” settlement. He held all the cards and it is completely unlike him to trade the hostages for a photo. And, if reports are correct, Bill Clinton’s plane wasn’t met but some random diplomatic staffer, but by North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator. So you have to assume that something other than “idle chit-chat” was on the agenda.

So what comes out of all of this. We’ve again set the precedent of giving in to North Korea. I’m not so sure it wasn’t the best move given the situation which left us few choices. However, it does set us up to have to respond in a like manner if a similar situation presents itself. In the meantime, the question is “does that open a channel that will lead to future dialog”?

My guess is no. We’re talking about a criminal enterprise in the guise of a state. They see our humanitarian concerns to be a weakness to be exploited. And exploit them they will. That doesn’t mean what was done was wrong. It just means we have to understand that hoping for a breakthrough based on what we did isn’t very likely. Instead it is just another example of North Korea using us to score a political and propaganda victory before they settle back into their normal criminal routine.

~McQ

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A Word On “Manufactured Outrage”

It apparently was manufactured by lefty blog Think Progress.

Mary Katherine Ham takes a look at the “shocking, secret memo” that Think Progress “”unearthed and the DNC prominently displayed in their ad attacking those who are protesting at townhall meetings as “right-wing extremists” put up to the task by high-profile Republican groups.

As it turns out in this case “high-profile” means no one had heard of him, he is a libertarian and his “group” consists of 23 Facebookers who’ve joined his cause and 5 followers on Twitter.

When the “manufactured” outrage the Left is trying to demonize lines up so inconveniently with public polling, it’s sometimes necessary to create evidence for the “manufactured” storyline.

Enter Think Progress, which unearthed this shocking, secret memo from the leader of a small grassroots conservative organization in Connecticut, which allegedly instructs members on “infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress.”

Right Principles PAC was formed by Bob MacGuffie and four friends in 2008, and has taken in a whopping $5,017 and disbursed $1,777, according to its FEC filing.

“We’re just trying to shake this state up and make a difference up here,” MacGuffie told me during a telephone interview. He’s surprised at his elevation to national rabble-rouser by the Left.

Read all of MKH’s story about this elevation of a absolute unknown to an evil political manipulator by a blog, a national political committee and a willing network (naturally MSNBC jumped on this like a duck on a junebug).

In the meantime Jake Tapper has a report by Steven Portnoy about a townhall meeting in Mardela Springs, MD:

There were no lobbyist-funded buses in the parking lot of Mardela Middle and High School on Tuesday evening, and the hundreds of Eastern Maryland residents who packed the school’s auditorium loudly refuted the notion that their anger over the Democrats’ health care reform plans is “manufactured.”

“I went to school in this school,” a man named Bob told me. “I don’t see anyone in this room that isn’t from Mardela Springs right now.”

“We’ve been quiet too long,” said a woman named Joan.

So much for the “manufactured outrage” meme. Oh they’ll keep trying, but it appears the outrage is genuine and the only thing being manufactured is a story line by the left.

This sort of grassroots dissent obviously makes them very uncomfortable. And, of course they’re in denial right now – how could it turn around this fast to where they, who were on the offensive for at least 4 years, are suddenly on the defensive? The easiest thing to do is hand-wave the troubles away and deny their importance.

Well, they do that at their own political peril. This seems to be far more than a few angry right-wing dissidents as was evident when a registered Democrat called Steny Hoyer a liar the other day in a townhall meeting.

People are rightfully worried about the direction this current government has taken, and, apparently, they’re not going to sit quietly by as they tax and spend us into penury.

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