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The quiet, unassuming middle

This is, of course, a drum that we've beat long and hard at Reason, in all its emanations: That broadly defined believers in "Free Minds and Free Markets" are in fact the dominant group in the U.S. of A.

--Nick Gillespie


Funny Statements I have encountered in Evolution Debates

The Grand Canyon was created by the great flood.

If Evolution is true why do we still have monkeys?

Blood clotting could not have occurred by accident.

All species have a "genetic lock" that keeps them from changing into anything else.

A fish-shaped rock does not prove anything.

The bible predicts that the earth is spherical therefore it qualifies as a theory.

And my favorite:

"I'm surprised you didn't know that carbon dating has been debunked."


Ratigan still in a different universe

Micha believes a news story about the protests yesterday vindicates Dylan Ratigan's view that the Tea Party contains a significant number of people who say, "I want to kill blacks and Jews and women."

There's a clear difference between an insult, even a very ugly one, and a death threat. I've been called all sorts of names during my life, but the only time I've been shaken is by a death threat. Saying, "I want to kill you" is very different from saying, "You are a ______."

The first thing I noticed about that particular story was the fact that the "witnesses" were three politicians and a writer for the Huffington Post. Call it my tinfoil helmet sense, but I get a distinct tingle about the timing and setting of these accusations.

Where are the other witnesses? In the age of ubiquitous camera technology, why is there no video of the chants? The only video I can find remotely close to the incident was this one:

I don't hear any slurs. You'll notice the caption was added later which reads, "This footage was taken about 5 minutes after Lewis was initially accosted by the angry mob." So maybe the slurs came before the time the footage was recorded. Could very well be, but as I said, where are the other witnesses? Is it a conspiracy to stay silent?

Edit: In the comments below, Andrew Ian Dodge linked to another site with a different video which looks to take place earlier than the above footage.

Ann Althouse writes,

A member of Congress said he was spit on? Guards were right there. Was no one detained? Show me the person who was arrested. Otherwise, I'm assuming it's a lie.

I have a friend who attended the rally and took 417 pictures. I looked at every single one. Not a single racist, anti-gay, anti-woman sign in them.

--------------------------------------------

Now let us suppose, for a moment, that these accusations are indeed true. Maybe some evidence will come out, some video footage, or some witness will corroborate the accusations. Does that mean that the sentiment represents the essence of the Tea Party protesters? I think we can all agree it doesn't. Does it represent a significant number of the protesters? There were anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 protesters. Three politicians and a Huffington Post reporter heard the accusations. Can we not surmise that the number of such epithet hurlers can probably be counted on a pair of hands? Can we not all agree that this number is not significant and represents neither the essence or even a meaningful part of the Tea Party?

Get 10 people in a room, you'll have at least one idiot. Get a 100 people in a room, you'll have a few that believe the moon landing was faked. Get 20,000 people together, and you will have some who believe Elvis is alive, Xenu brought his minions to Earth millions of years ago, and yes, some racists. It does not mean they represent any meaningful part of the whole.

---------------------------------

Why does this burn me so much? Because it is an effort by mainstream politicians and media to paint the only populist libertarian movement in the world as a bunch of racists, when it's clearly not true. As Randy Barnett says,

Now the political consciousness of an enormous number Americans is entirely focused on government and the political class. There is a genuinely grassroots "liberty movement" in this country that has not existed in my lifetime - perhaps not in a century or more. And they are not interested forming in a third party.

Micha- a few years ago, you began to see yourself as allied with the "left". I think that's a big mistake, not because it's the wrong side, but because there's no need to pick any side. Picking sides is at best, a fixed-sum worldview, and at worst, a fashion statement. It leads to purges and schisms. And I think you're being very unfair to the Tea Party because you see them as being on the "right", and therefore, you believe have to be against them. They are "the other" that you must distance yourself from, if not purge outright.

I don't believe that to be true. I don't agree with everything the Tea Party says, but I don't have to. If a movement sprouted on the left that was skeptical of the government and supported free markets, I'd be blogging about them daily. Left and right doesn't matter to me.

There was another march that took place this weekend, an antiwar protest made up largely of leftists. This is one picture:

Why is there no media outrage about this pic? Why aren't you arguing that the antiwar left includes a significant number of people who say, "I want to kill Jews!" Would you be so credulous if such a story was reported in the news?


On Populism

Micha Ghertner notes media accounts of bigotry among the Tea Partiers. As I noted in that context, this phenomenon doesn’t strike me as unique to the Tea Party; rather, the practice of organizing around a common enemy is the hallmark of populism.

Thus, I expect contemporary conservative gatherings to attract a following from people motivated by animosity against ethnic minorities, religious minorities, sexual minorities, etc. Because these people have a justifiable fear that the prevalence of their world view is declining, they may well be among the most energized people at conservative gatherings. Similarly, I suspect that liberal gatherings attract Communists and people who regard riches as the sole capital offense.

I don’t think these dynamics to say much about conservatism or liberalism. But they do speak to the political “marketplace of ideas.”

Both liberals and conservatives can marshal principled reasons for their positions – well, “principled” by their own standards, anyway. Those principles speak to a certain segment of the electorate. And then we’re left with elections being driven by people who are not motivated by those principles. So politicians go around eating the local burritos and kissing the local babies and otherwise trying to appeal to people on some other-than-principled basis.

Among the strongest of these bases is appealing to people’s sense of grievance. During war every government beats the drums about the harms that the government’s opponents are inflicting on the public. Those rapacious Jews! Those dirty Japs! Those fanatical Islamists! Those cowardly conscientious objectors! It’s us vs. them!

A large component of the hippy movement involved a populist revolt against the war in Viet Nam. ("Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming; we're finally on our own...!") Nixon was able to flip the white South to the Republican camp by conveying the idea that Democrats were sacrificing their interests to the interests of blacks. I suspect that Carter, Reagan, Clinton, W. and Obama were able to win office in large part based on populist disenchantment with their predecessors, distinct from a positive statement about their own merits or agenda.

Obama has given frequent speeches about the problems that the aging population will create for the future, and for the federal budget in particular. Whatever the merits of these discussions, they did little to motivate people who were not already motivated. So then he started playing the populist card: Those health insurance execs are evil! Their gouging us with rate increases! It’s us vs. them! While insurance creates an unavoidable Moral Hazard problem – and nothing in the health care reform bill will eliminate that – I understand that health insurers were actually one of the few market forces that succeeded in moderating the growth of health-care spending. So, in his drive to push the health care bill, I suspect Obama has been flogging his friends in order to whip up the crowds. If the public needs a morality play, we’ll give them one.

Similarly, arguments about the need to avoid certain abuses in the financial markets are all very nice and intellectual, but are going nowhere. But whip up a little populist resentment about bonuses paid by investment banks and – well, it’s probably still going nowhere. But that’s the most effective lever Obama’s got. And once health care is off the table I expect we’ll see more of it.

So with the Republicans out of power, their best hope to influence public policy is to appeal to populism. Oh, now Republicans are deeply concerned about deficits; that’s what the crowd wants to hear. We dare not grant civil rights to those accused of terrorism; the Republicans are the only thing that stands between you and terrorists attending your schools! And Republicans want no part in negotiating public policy with the Obama Administration; that would muddle the clear Us vs. Them narrative.

Populism is the One Ring of Power: it may help you achieve your objectives, but you get a little more evil every time you use it. For better or worse, populism is the only tool the Republicans have right now, so they need to don the Ring a lot, even in counter-intuitive ways. As I noted before, the Republican leadership has positioned itself as the true defenders of Medicare. Oy.

But once the Republicans return to actual power -- and they may take control of the House in November -- they'll have to do some actual governing. And then the populists will feel betrayed because the simple narrative will no longer apply.


Stay Classy, Tea Party

A few weeks ago on this blog, Jonathan Wilde expressed incredulity "that MSNBC has a host [Dylan Ratigan] who actually believes that the Tea Party constituents include a significant number of people who say, 'I want to kill blacks and Jews and women.' What universe is this guy living in?"

Apparently, Dylan Ratigan lives in the same universe as Jonathan and me.

Tea party protesters scream 'nigger' at black congressman

WASHINGTON — Demonstrators outside the U.S. Capitol, angry over the proposed health care bill, shouted "nigger" Saturday at U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia congressman and civil rights icon who was nearly beaten to death during an Alabama march in the 1960s.

Protesters also shouted obscenities at other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, spat on at least one black lawmaker and confronted an openly gay congressman with taunts.

"They were shouting, sort of harassing," Lewis said. "But, it's okay, I've faced this before. It reminded me of the 60s. It was a lot of downright hate and anger and people being downright mean."

Lewis said he was leaving the Cannon office building to walk to the Capitol to vote when protesters shouted "Kill the bill, kill the bill," Lewis said.

"I said 'I'm for the bill, I support the bill, I'm voting for the bill'," Lewis said.

A colleague who was accompanying Lewis said people in the crowd responded by saying "Kill the bill, then the n-word."

"It surprised me that people are so mean and we can't engage in a civil dialogue and debate," Lewis said.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said he was a few yards behind Lewis and distinctly heard "nigger."

"It was a chorus," Cleaver said. "In a way, I feel sorry for those people who are doing this nasty stuff - they're being whipped up. I decided I wouldn't be angry with any of them." [...]

Protesters also used a slur as they confronted Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., an openly gay member of Congress.

Frank told the Boston Globe that the incident happened as he was walking from the Longworth office building to the Rayburn office building, both a short distance from the Capitol. Frank said the crowd consisted of a couple of hundred of people and that they referred to him as 'homo.' A writer for The Huffington Post said the protesters called Frank a "faggot."

"I'm disappointed with the unwillingness to be civil," Frank told the Globe. "I was, I guess, surprised by the rancor. What it means is obviously the health care bill is proxy for a lot of other sentiments, some of which are perfectly reasonable, but some of which are not."

"People out there today, on the whole, were really hateful," Frank said. "The leaders of this movement have a responsibility to speak out more."

Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the Capitol on Saturday as the House Democratic leadership worked to gather enough votes to enact a health care overhaul proposal that has become the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's domestic agenda. Most were affiliated with so-called tea party organizations that originally sprang up during last summer's protests of the health care proposals.

Heated debate has surrounded what role race plays in the motivations of the tea party demonstrators. During protests last summer, demonstrators displayed a poster depicting Obama as an African witch doctor complete with headdress, above the words "OBAMACARE coming to a clinic near you." Former President Jimmy Carter asserted in September that racism was a major factor behind the hostility that Obama's proposals had faced.

The claim brought angry rebuttals from Republicans. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who is black, accused Carter of playing the "race card."

On Saturday, Frank, however, said he was sorry Republican leaders didn't do more to disown the protesters.

Some Republicans "think they are benefiting from this rancor," he said.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., said Saturday's ugliness underscored for him that the health care overhaul isn't the only motivation for many protesters.

"I heard people saying things today I've not heard since March 15th, 1960, when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus," Clyburn said. "This is incredible, shocking to me."

via Julian Sanchez


Dear Liberaltarians

The anti-abortion faction in Congress was the last barrier to the Democrats' health insurance nationalization bill. They very nearly killed it. Social conservatives continue to be libertarians most powerful ally. When it comes to gun rights, federalism, and fiscal restraint, they are often reliable, and they turn out the vote.

Christians value freedom because they have a moral code that they take seriously and it often conflicts with the values of the technocrats in Washington. So they value being left alone.


Happy Dependence Day!

Mark Steyn writes:

If Barack Obama does nothing else in his term in office, this will make him one of the most consequential presidents in history. It's a huge transformative event in Americans' view of themselves and of the role of government. You can say, oh, well, the polls show most people opposed to it, but, if that mattered, the Dems wouldn't be doing what they're doing. Their bet is that it can't be undone, and that over time, as I've been saying for years now, governmentalized health care not only changes the relationship of the citizen to the state but the very character of the people. As I wrote in NR recently, there's plenty of evidence to support that from Britain, Canada and elsewhere.

There is a qualitative difference between living in a country with mountains of private capital chasing new ideas and a country where every spare dollar is sucked up to pay for increasingly expensive government benefits. In our lifetime, it is likely that we will experience that difference.

Progressivism, with its short-term rewards and long-term consequences, is an ideology that is difficult to beat back at the ballot box. America is home to the Western world's only effective anti-progressive movement. And it is currently in retreat.


HCR's Eve

It looks like there will be a vote tomorrow. Part of me wishes this thing passes so that the entitlement crash accelerates. The faster it arrives, the faster we can move on from the currently dominant entitlement-welfare state that began in the previous century.

Intrade's contract for HCR passing is currently at 80.


"Fair share"

I can't stand Glenn Beck either, but the first sentence of this Media Matters piece raised my blood pressure a little:

Want to annoy Fox News' Glenn Beck in five minutes or less while simultaneously making sure your community gets its fair share of federal money?

I am interested in seeing the calculator that determines my fair share of someone else's money.


Battlestar Political-Economica?

I just started watching the first season of Battlestar Gallactica and I find it curious that the Cylons don't appear to have any politics or economic activity. I would think that beings advanced enough to be sentient would have disagreements, factions, problems of collective action, specialization, and trade. Maybe the writers reveal more about Cylon society later in the show.

It is an interesting choice to make the cybernetic lifeforms monotheistic (I'm guessing based on hints through the first six episodes and Caprica). The BSG writers have a more creative imagination than most when it comes to envisioning the culture of killer robots. I'll be disappointed if it stops at that one little detail. Also, I would have been more impressed if the robots developed a religion themselves instead of apparently inheriting it from their human creators.

In episode 3 the humans were wise to choose democracy as a form of rule. Libertarians often criticize democracy because voting acts as an "opiate of the people". By dangling the hope of non-violent change through the ballot box in front of discontents it stifles the growth of revolutionary movements. This is a priceless feature for the government of a tiny human society in constant threat of military annihilation. Governing by the consent of the governed reduces the chance of conflicts that would split the human remnant and leave them weakened. Besides, with only 50,000 survivors they will not have to worry about the danger of a government growing too large, entrenched, and powerful.

I won't be reading any comments so as to avoid spoilers. And yes, I know I am terribly late to the party.