Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

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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Health Care Poll Numbers Highlight Citizen Worries/Priorities

The most recent Quinnipiac poll isn’t at all kind to “health care reform”. And, it should tell politicians all they need to know about what the priority of the American people is:

American voters, by a 55 – 35 percent margin, are more worried that Congress will spend too much money and add to the deficit than it will not act to overhaul the health care system, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. By a similar 57 – 37 percent margin, voters say health care reform should be dropped if it adds “significantly” to the deficit.

Voters know about political promises and “estimates” when it comes to cost. They are never – let me say it again – never accurate and they are always, again repeat, always on the conservative side. Or to say it more succinctly, they always cost more than the politicians say they will. This current version is said to conservatively add 1 to 1.5 trillion dollars in debt.

Voters also know that the CBO has twice come out and said this turkey will not “bend the cost curve” down. In fact Douglass Elmendorf, the director of the CBO has said all indications are it will bend that curve up.

Given that, the American people seem to be indicating rather strongly their preference for dropping this entire health care foolishness. And if that’s true and the Democrats ram something through anyway, they put themselves a real electoral risk.

By the way – if you thought the margins were rather large on the last question, check these out:

By a 72 – 21 percent margin, voters do not believe that President Barack Obama will keep his promise to overhaul the health care system without adding to the deficit, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University national poll finds.

I’m sure someone will send this poll to the White House office of fishy links, because this just can’t be right can it? This is a huge majority of voters saying that the bloom is off the rose as far as Obama goes.

And, another thing that politicians ought to be able to discern from these numbers is the anger out there is real and showing up at grassroots level at their townhall meetings. They dismiss them as “extremists” at their own political peril. According to this poll, there is a legitimate reason they’re shouting “just say ‘no'”.

Check out the politics of this thing:

American voters disapprove 52 – 39 percent of the way President Obama is handling health care, down from 46 – 42 percent approval July 1, with 60 – 34 percent disapproval from independent voters. Voters say 59 – 36 percent that Congress should not pass health care reform if only Democratic members support it.

Indies are deserting ship on health care big time. And, should Democrats try to use reconciliation to pass health care, they’ll pay for it heavily (if the Republicans have the wits to use such an abuse of power as they should during the mid-terms).

As for the sales job?

Voters are split 39 – 41 percent on whether the President’s health care plan will improve or hurt the quality of health care in the nation, with 14 percent saying it won’t make a difference.

Only 21 percent of voters say the plan will improve the quality of care they receive, while 36 percent say it will hurt their quality of care and 39 percent say it will make no difference.

Can you say “Edsel”?

~McQ

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This is getting surreal: Boxer says protestors “too well dressed”

Via Hotair, we see the Democrats’ poster child for intellectual firepower, Barbara Boxer, telling us these townhall protestors are fakes because they’re too well dressed.

The problem with this, of course, is that it doesn’t matter what the protestors do or how they act. Democratic propagandists will always tell us it’s wrong. If there were dressed like Code Pink wackos, then we’d hear how they are out of touch crazy people. If they’re quiet and just sit there in the townhalls, then the Democratic propagandists would claim it shows that most everyone is in favor of the healthcare bill(s). If they get up and make their displeasure known, then they’re disruptive extremists.

But Boxer is especially risible. I suppose coming from California, home of leftist protestors who sometimes wear no clothes at all, she really is suspicious when protestors dress like normal people. It must be some kind of plot! Activists just don’t dress like that!

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NoKo, Bill Clinton And The Hostages

I think the WSJ has the best take on the freeing of the kidnapped journalist situation to this point:

We don’t begrudge the congratulations Bill Clinton deserves for saving the two journalists from what might have been a nightmare 12 years of hard labor; that was the sentence a kangaroo North Korean court imposed for allegedly blundering across its border with China in March. But the important question going forward is whether Mr. Clinton’s visit was merely the down payment Kim extracted from the Obama Administration for a potentially larger set of American concessions.

The point, of course, is this time the hostage negotiations forced by NoKo required, as the WSJ says, “the full prestige of a former US president” to bring the situation to a successful conclusion, i.e. the freeing of the two US journalists.

Instead of assuming we know what transired and condemning it, we need to wait and find out. However, given the level of envoy and the obvious propaganda value NoKo milked from the occasion, the WSJ’s question is valid.

What, if anything, was the cost of getting the two journalists out of there. I’m sure we’ll eventually find out and then can render some sort of judgment as to whether the outcome was beneficial or not to the US. That said, I’m happy to see Clinton got those two out of that hell hole. I just hope we didn’t give away the store to do it.

~McQ

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The Perfect [Tax] Storm

Raising taxes is the preferred method of increasing revenue to the government (see “Zombie Government”) by both Obama and the Democrats, according to James Pethokoukis. He lists 5 reasons why Obama will raise taxes on everyone:

1) Obama knows the budget math doesn’t work.
2) Obama seems to prefer tax hikes to spending cuts.
3) Obama has already tried raising taxes.
4) Obama’s advisers are for higher taxes.
5) Obama doesn’t seem to think high taxes are harmful.

Pethokoukis explains each of his points in his article, but I listed them in short form so you could easily see that together the 5 create the atmosphere and ingredients necessary for the perfect tax storm. It is obvious to anyone that the 10 year budget proposed by this administration is outrageously expensive and without adequate revenue to implement it. What is also obvious, given the first Obama budget, is there is no desire to cut spending.

That leaves government with few choices for raising the revenue necessary to pay for the planned fiscal profligacy. International interest in our debt instruments is at a low. Mortgaging off the future of our grandchildren is much harder to do now. That leaves the administration with very few alternatives, all dealing at some level or another with taxation. So prepare to hear about increased taxes relatively soon – Turbo Tax Tim Geithner has already floated the “middle class tax” balloon. And of course there are any number of other sorts of taxes – sin taxes, fees, etc. – that the creative minds in Congress will explore and implement.

Yup, the tax man cometh, all the while telling us we have to cut the deficit the administration has run up. They’ll tell us it requires “hard choices”. Of course the only “hard choice” will be when to enact sweeping tax increases so they’ll be the least damaging politically.

Pethokoukis concludes:

Bottom line: The belief in the need for higher, European-style taxes (like a VAT) fills the policy cloud that surrounds Obama. It’s hard to overstate this. It’s right up there with global warming. Obama knows he faces a looming fiscal crisis and higher taxes will be his weapon of choice. To paraphrase Mondale, “Obama will raise middle-class taxes. He won’t tell you (yet). I just did.

Fair warning.

~McQ

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It’s Going To Be A Long, Hot August

The videos of what are described as “angry” townhalls around the country keep pouring in. Here’s one from Green Bay, WI.

Of course there are tons of others.

The Democrats and the left have answered the protests by claiming that they’re nothing more than “right-wing extremists” under the control of powerful interest groups. Thus the charge of “astro-turfing”.


These accusations by the DNC seem to ignore the Tea Party movement’s origins which was, on inspection, a true grass-roots movement (and one that has taken both Democrats and Republicans to task for their profligate spending). Notice too that they include the “birthers” in their vid to underline their “extremist” claim.

The White House, instead of trying to calm the waters, has chosen employ Saul Alinsky against the protesters:

A key part of the developing strategy: ridicule the opposition — and portray those who disrupt meetings with loud chants and signs as part of the same ilk of people who showed up at campaign rallies for John McCain and Sarah Palin right after the 2008 Republican National Convention.

So this turns into a propaganda war. The left will be attempting to turn public opinion against the protesters by portraying them a certain way.

Patronizing opponents is a tried and true tradition in Washington, and Democrats have used the tactic with success. They ridiculed the hundreds of thousands of conservatives who protested the stimulus package as “tea baggers.”

But Republicans are just as responsible for the perception. The folks who tend to show up at protest events tend to be to the right of the mean in the party. And, as the spread of the birther movement demonstrates, not a small chunk of these Republicans are reactionaries. The challenge for the White House and Democrats is that they find a way to separate genuinely anxious conservatives who ask good questions — even if those questions are provided by conservative groups — and the crazies who tend to pack town hall meetings.

Of course, most reasonable people would suggest, upon reflection, that if this was an “astro-turfed” movement, those who are paying for it would have much tighter control and avoid the obviously unhelpful signage and any connection with the birther movement. That’s obviously not the case.

So the right and Republicans have the momentum, at least for now, but it isn’t clear if they have an advantage for the reasons stated.

The challenge for Republicans is to prevent the media from labeling everyone who attends a meeting with a Democratic lawmaker and who calls him or herself a conservative as a crazy person. Some polling suggests that the percentage of Republicans who don’t know whether President Obama was born in the United States is fairly high, although it is hard to say how much of that confusion stems from ignorance or from a generally jaundiced, perhaps racist, view of the President.

A range of smaller, ideologically conservative interest groups are organizing the protests. Finding pockets of activist-oriented arch-conservatives in places like Texas, Missouri and Indiana is easy, especially if the set goal is to defeat Obama-care, which is being sold to these people as the approach of government-run health care, something that these folks have been worried about for years. Add to the mix a desire to hand the progressive President and his agenda a decisive defeat.

And there’s an interesting question about pushing back on the left – where are its activists and organizations?

The more troublesome question for Democratic strategists is why the major Democratic groups, including Organizing for America, the labor unions, Health Care for America Now, seem to be flatfooted and unable to match the much smaller conservative organizing capacity in these critical districts. One answer is that the media pays attention to the loudest voices, which are coming from the right. The other is that organizing around major — even popular — reforms of existing institutions is tough. The Democrats don’t have a single bill right now, and the elite left is worried about what’s not in the cards — a public plan — and is therefore fairly unenthusiastic. If the liberal elite isn’t enthusiastic, the liberal base — less knowledgeable — will be as well.

And of course, there’s the media – which, it seems, leans mostly toward helping the administration. For instance, the conclusion of the article from which I’ve been quoting from Mark Ambinder at The Atlantic:

To focus minds, Democrats are coordinating TV and radio ad blitzes, including the biggest expenditures by the Democratic National Committee to date. President Obama, his cabinet and his vice president will be ubiquitous. Quickly responding to disinformation will be a key goal, an administration official said, pointing to this morning’s release of a video from Linda Douglass, a former television and print reporter who serves as a key White House health care adviser, which rebutted a misleading video posted on the Drudge Report.

Linda Douglass “rebutted” nothing. She made a bunch of claims she’d have difficulty substantiating. But that is how it is being reported. The implication is that what is coming from the right is “disinformation” and the only true source of factual information is the White House.

I think we all know that dog won’t hunt.

But this should be a very, very interesting August.

[Welcome RCP readers]

~McQ

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