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On the Backs of Tennessee's Middle Class (or, The Story Behind Tea Party Nation's Dishonest Beginnings)

Posted by – 1/12/10

This is the story of the tea party movement in Nashville and the duplicitous behavior, dishonesty, authoritarianism, and downright fraud that this movement is trying to ferret out of our Government. Unfortunately, this particular case comes from the inside. It’s lengthy, but important. What began as a short blog post has become a novella. I left out as many extraneous details as I possibly could and this is the boiled-down result.

In February of 2009, Rick Santelli let out the now famous rant during a segment on CNBC calling for Americans frustrated with Obama’s mortgage bailout “solution” to stand up, make their voices heard, and do something about it. In the days and weeks that followed, thousands of Americans answered his call for a new tea party, in the spirit of the Boston tea party, to present a show of force that the country wasn’t entirely in lockstep with Obama’s plans. Numerous organizations attempted to cultivate the outrage into something politically useful. While the national Republican Party and its like-minded lobbying groups would have liked immediately to lead the parade of opposition, they were woefully unprepared. That wouldn’t be the case many months later, but at least initially, the popular demand for tea party rallies sprang up in the larger cities like Nashville with such swiftness that the de facto local leader was the first moderately organized and connected person to the table. In an age of social networks and 24/7 access to the Internet, this meant that the yet uncreated position was open to almost anyone. In Nashville, the first man out of the gate was Judson Phillips.

Judson sent the word out on Facebook to the myriad groups created in reaction to Santelli’s rant that he was planning a tea party rally on February 27th at Legislative Plaza in Downtown Nashville. Anyone who could throw in and help was invited to contact him. He specifically needed someone to photo document the event so that this event could get some media coverage. I know my way around a camera, and I knew a nice SLR that I could borrow from a friend. I volunteered.

When I arrived at the plaza, I had to call him to find him in the already sizable crowd. As the phone was ringing in my ear, I saw a middle-aged man in a suit reach into his pocket and retrieve his cell phone. I hung up instead of waiting for him to answer and walked over to greet him instead. He smiled, and I introduced myself. I handed my business card to both him and the man to his left that he had been speaking with. Judson looked at my card and smirked. “hearSAY,” he said. “Well of course I like that.” In return, he handed me his business card: Judson Phillips, Attorney at Law. He patted me on the shoulder and added, “Don’t take the test. Call me in the morning.” I must have looked like some kind of lush. Apparently he was the kind of attorney that works to alleviate drunk drivers of their responsibility to the community. He was also, I would later come to discover personally, the kind of attorney who would regularly use his status as a legal professional to threaten and intimidate people into giving him what he wanted.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. More…

Where I've been for a while

Posted by – 4/6/09

I’ve been working overtime to get this online.

tnteaparty.org is a social network designed to bring together folks planning and interested in attending the upcoming tea parties in Tennessee. It’s the official website of the “Tennessee Tea Party,” but we’re not interested in micro-managing or stepping on the ongoing efforts of tea parties already in the planning process. We just want to bring together all the information currently available into one location, and provide resources for folks who want to plan their own tea parties in counties without one.

But it’s not just for tea partiers. Even if you’re not attending one, if you’re sick of the way the Government spends our money and ignores the pleas of We The People, you should sign up! It’s for lovers of limited gov’t and free markets in Tennessee. Does that include you? Check it out.

(And if you know of anyone that needs web work, seriously, send them to hearSAY, my web design and new media marketing company.)

Obama takes unprecedented powers, still doesn't understand markets

Posted by – 3/30/09

Many of my friends had major problems with W., and reasonably so. He may have claimed the label of Conservative, but he was certainly not a President with a respect for constitutional limits or free markets. But rather than a positive change, Obama is turning out to be more of the same. If Bush was driving blind, Obama is driving blind down a mountain pass with the clutch wide open screaming, “At least I’m doing something!”

Today we learned that Rick Wagoner is resigning as CEO from G.M. at the request of the Obama Administration. A new precedent of companies acting in response to Government desires rather the desire of the consumer has been set, and it is worrisome.

The auto industry is dying in the U.S. quite simply because the car buying market is not interested in buying enough cars at their current price-point to keep the big auto-makers afloat. So far, the “Big Three” have either been unwilling or unable to adapt. Apparently Obama thinks the problem is that the auto industry just isn’t churning out enough “green” cars. Either that, or he must think that he can both revive the auto industry and force a radical makeover of their product line at the same time, requiring them to flood the market with a product that only a niche market seems to desire. Obama apparently knows nothing of early adopters, those consumers willing to take a hit on price and reliability in exchange for being the first to try a new technology. But why would he know anything about that? He’s never run a successful business. (Or any business, for that matter.)

Require an industry to churn out something that neither the market demanded nor the resources supplied and watch the impending disaster. Government should be in the business of government, not in the business of business. Government cannot intelligently and consistently make the right market decisions. That whole ethanol thing seemed to work out real well for us, didn’t it? Just ask the a few of the 100 million people new to poverty thanks to rising food costs.

The very thing that is so impressive about market forces is that we do not need to have great amounts of Hope that one person or a few small groups of people take a risk and get it right. The market is a vast sea, full of business-owners, managers, and start-ups taking all sorts of risks. The best ideas are rewarded because a sufficient number of people desire the offering, and the worst ideas fail for the opposite reason. That’s the invisible hand Adam Smith wrote about. If it’s all up to the elite in Washington to make the right decisions, I’m worried for our future. I just can’t let them reserve the right to be the risk-taker in this economy. That really would be Too Big to Fail.

The auto industry is simply not in the business of applying the President’s wish-list to its assembly lines. Their compliance will bring us the long-awaited dissolution of those great giants, of course. They already fail to compete in the marketplace race. Now Obama’s broken their legs and wants them to run the race with these brand spankin’ new prosthetics. But it’s promising technology! 

If only we’d ignored the politics of fear, they could’ve reached their demise sooner, cheaper, and, some might even argue, cleaner. Jeffrey A. Miron called for bankruptcy instead of bailout back in September (regarding the banks, but the principle applies), explaining:

Bankruptcy means that shareholders typically get wiped out and the creditors own the company.

Bankruptcy does not mean the company disappears; it is just owned by someone new (as has occurred with several airlines). Bankruptcy punishes those who took excessive risks while preserving those aspects of a businesses that remain profitable.

Friends on the Left, why do you let the leader of your own party run unencumbered with a banner you never would have even let the opposition party’s leader carry? Trust? Do you trust one and not the other? Trust neither! It is our duty as citizens, not to demand the most from Government, but to ensure its constraint! Regardless of our ideological situation, we should all be students of history. And if history shows us a simply remarkable inefficiency in an institution, by a degree proportional to its size, should we not strive against its growth? And if that institution is named Government — an institution which, to be sure, always retains the ugly potential of tyranny and oppression — should the true patriot not then struggle against the very bloat that will lock his children in chains?

"At least the Vikings did it openly"

Posted by – 2/27/09

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A response to a full thread of thoughtless comments about the Tea Party here. I’m too tired to write another post, so here’s my best for the night along with some great photos of the event.

Alright angry people, let’s calm down a bit. Get it out of your heads that any of us showed up today because Republicans got it right and we’re just mad at the Democrats. Not in the least. Just because the GOP showed up and gave their support does not mean they were running the affair. The GOP speakers at the rally were mostly challengers, not currently in office, so they’re campaigning to replace those who caused this mess. Including Republicans. They’re opportunists just like any political party. That’s politics. Though it’s easy and you might think you’re being cute by making the typical racial, classist, party-line remarks, it’s just ridiculous. Get past the Dem vs. Repub mindset.

Those of us who organized it are not professional protesters. We’re not partisans. We’re not even all in agreement on everything, and I’m sure we’d form a rather lackluster political party if we tried. But that’s not what this is about. It’s about being fed up with big, wasteful government, something to which George W. Bush was an extraordinary contributor. But guess what? He’s out of office now. That’s in the past. Petitioning him and blaming him does no good. The only problem causers we need to be concerning ourselves with at the moment are the elected officials currently in office. Blaming GW might make you feel awesome and superior, but it’s fruitless. Get past it. Barack Obama is President, and we will not give him a pass just because Bush did the same awful things.

dsc_0389The libertarians and conservatives among us who are truly limited-government and free market folks are more than happy that the Republicans took a lashing during the election. It’s forcing them to come to terms with their “say one thing and do another” philosophy. At least with Obama, we saw it coming. He’s delivering on his promises, but weak-minded, ill-advised ideas delivered remain weak-minded and ill-advised.

On a side note: I am still quite startled every time some angry leftist throws out a racial comment in a situation where there was no need. It seems to me that those on the right who do this are the marginalized, the few number of actual rubes who the left pretends formulate the entirety of the conservative movement. But it seems to be a very kitch, pseudo-enlightened thing on the left to say things like, “Nice to see the diversity in that crowd . . . What? Uh, oh, I must’ve looked at the wrong flicker set.” Oh, I’m sure you thought that was a cute comment. But really, be an adult.

Take a look at the pictures. Sure, you’ll no doubt zero in on the one nutjob with a crazy sign, a guy who is probably rambling on about conspiracy theories. But let him go, there’s one in every crowd. Look at the majority of the people. Quite normal, non? In Nashville, we had a whole swath of folks arriving on their lunch break, walking over from their workplaces downtown. So yes, BrassAss, they should be working, and thank the Lord they are. They gave up their precious lunch break to show their frustration alongside a host of people who feel helpless, like a thief is being allowed to ransack each of our houses right in front of us and all the while we are told by the authorities, on their way out with another helpful box load, that we should stop being so greedy.

We were frustrated with Bush, and that’s why you saw such a defection of true conservatives from the GOP. And our frustration is mounting with those currently in power. Gov’t is CLEARLY the problem, not the solution. Bush proved it, and Obama is merely the same song in a different key. If you’re honest with yourself, you can see it. We’re only going to get louder from here, friends. Put the petty bickering about parties aside; study up on sound economics, the fight for liberty, and the histories of the all-providing government; take a look at the facts, and join us.

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Keep your eyes on this blog for more photos coming soon. My flickr account is maxed so I need to find some way to get these online. For these and the upcoming photos… update: photos are here.

Creative Commons License
The photos (only) in this post are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

To the New Tea Partiers, A Sober Call to Action

Posted by – 2/22/09

Many of us have become inspired with the idea of a Tea Party for our own times to protest government intervention into our lives. Before we do this, we need to reflect on the original Tea Party:

The decision to dump 45 tons of tea into Boston Harbor wasn’t made at the spur of the moment. It had been carefully discussed and planned by the leaders of Boston’s patriot community. They knew exactly what they were doing when they boarded those three ships and began breaking open the heavy chests filled with tea from the East India Trading Company. They were committing an act of insurrection, not political theater. 

This can’t be merely a show, folks. Think carefully about your involvement in this. What our government continues to perpetrate upon us—all the while convincing the weak-minded among us that it is for our benefit—is egregious. They have consistently gone too far, and I am unwilling to further accept this generational theft and regulation of my pursuit of Happiness lying down. We must be deliberate:

Are we content to merely register our disapproval, or are we seeking to change what Congress and our president have done? If it is the former, I’m sure the politicians will note our objection, and wait for us to quiet down. If it is the latter, I fear our current protests are too scatter-shot to do any real good. 

What is the target of our protest? Are we protesting the President and Congress for an act already passed, or are we petitioning our state and local governments to refuse to accept the stimulus money?

What do we do if these protests do not result in the change in policies we are asking for? What happens next?

We must take Clarendon’s words to sober thought. What is our intention here?

And a word from Dr. Joseph Warren, addressing a crowd that gathered to commemorate the Boston Massacre only shortly before the Battle at Lexington Green:

Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of. Our enemies are numerous and powerful; but we have many friends, determining to be free, and heaven and earth will aid the resolution. On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important question, on which rest the happiness and liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves. The faltering tongue of hoary age calls on you to support your country. The lisping infant raises its suppliant hands, imploring defence against the monster slavery. Your fathers look from their celestial seats with smiling approbation on their sons, who boldly stand forth in the cause of virtue; but sternly frown upon the inhuman miscreant, who, to secure the loaves and fishes to himself, would breed a serpent to destroy his children.

Which of the above described are you? Are you willing to sacrifice self for the freedom and liberty of our sons and daughters? Or will you trade it all—the Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness for Americans to come—to selfishly grab the rancid scraps given you from leaders vested with the interest to keep you dependent?

Think about this, my countrymen. Inspect your will carefully. And if you recognize that you were placed in this very moment in time for a definite reason…

If your eyes have become moist with the broken promises of a neglectful God-state: forever demanding more, unable to deliver, proven inept with breath-taking regularity…

If you have grown weary of watching your fellow countrymen of different race or class pitted against each other for political gain…

If you are no longer content with the mere feelings of admiration for our fictional heroes on screen, join us. Become that which you so admire. Recognize with brutal honesty that the thirteen colonies did not have unanimous support; they too had to vigorously fight the status quo. There are always those among us unwilling to ruffle the feathers for fear of losing the few bits they still have. If your life goal is to remain inoffensive, you will have lived an unremarkable life indeed.

So with respectful approach, take yourself to the moment in time our forefathers recognized the grave injustice directed upon their fellow countrymen—and the millions to come—and purposed their lives to change it.

…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…

- Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Free to speak, unless you're a meanie

Posted by – 2/19/09

Here we go, banning hate speech seems all well and good. (Unless, of course, you’ve read any dystopian novel. Ever.) And if you’re the type who finds yourself rather unpleased with the rights of others to say unpleasant things about you, this definition from a gov’t funded study makes a solid stab at removing any meaningful protection of the first amendment:

We identified four types of speech that, through negative statements, create a climate of hate and prejudice: (1) false facts [including "simple falsehoods, exaggerated statements, or decontextualized facts [that] rendered the statements misleading”], (2) flawed argumentation, (3) divisive language, and (4) dehumanizing metaphors.

Much more here. Note, of course, how the examples provided at the link are so undeniably subjective. Yet another reason why “fairness” is such a horrible, horrible end goal for us to pursue through government means.

Arguing against the realities of Porkulus

Posted by – 2/12/09

While the Democrats are making emotional appeals, fighting the Republicans with straw man arguments, and continuing to pretend that the issue is already settled (have you noticed how Dems love pretending there’s a consensus?), Republican House Leader John Boehner’s blog details some serious problems with the “stimulus” and backs them up with hard numbers. Highlights:

  1. The final agreement will cost each and every household more than $6,500 in additional debt.
  2. The “Making Work Pay” tax credit at the center of the plan amounts to $1.10 a day, not even enough to ride the bus one-way to work.
  3. The final agreement is almost as much as the annual discretionary budget for the entire federal government.
  4. The $789.5 billion final agreement slated for a House vote either today or tomorrow will exceed more than $1 trillion when adding in the interest of approximately $300 billion between 2009-2019.
  5. Apparently included in the final “jobs” bill is money for plug-in vehicles, money for STD prevention, and money for ACORN (via the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and CDBG program).

Not that I am under some illusion that Republicans have suddenly come back to sound fiscal policy — how many Austrian economists could there possibly be in Congress?— but the points he makes are excellent nonetheless.

And while I’m at it, I should note that I cannot find a single, non-partisan economist who thinks this thing is a great idea. (Not to mention that this stimulus bill is so bloated beyond direct monetary injection it looks nothing like the specter of a bill that they’re arguing in favor of!) Obama sets up an awfully good argument that “[t]here is no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jump-start the economy.” Except with all due respect Mr. President, that is just not true. There is serious disagreement with the President on this.

What about you? Are you too partisan to see beyond this ruse, or are you willing to look at the facts, listen to the experts, and make a rational decision based on common sense? If artificially low interest rates, astronomical government spending, corporate and personal welfare, and unchecked printing of the dollar is the key to prosperity, why are we in this mess?