Thought On Oregon

Something strange is happening in Oregon.

It appears that we’ve got ourselves another militia standoff out West, this time in rural, eastern Oregon, where armed activists are taking issue with the federal government over control of a wildlife refuge and the fate of two ranchers who are supposed to be on the way to jail. Complicating the issue (at least in the eyes of the media) is the fact that the protest is being organized and led by three sons of Cliven Bundy, who I’m sure you all remember.

The short version is this: a few years ago, ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of arson for setting fires, one of which may have been an accident, the other of which may have been set to cover up illegal poaching on federal land. They served their sentences but a federal judge decided those sentences were too light and they deserved more prison time. There was a peaceful protest against it but the men seem to have agreed to go back to jail.

Now three of Cliven Bundy’s sons, along with what they claim are 150 militia sympathizers have seized an unoccupied building on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in protests of both the sentences given to the Hammonds and general federal use of lands.

A few points to make:

First, many people are comparing this to Islamic terrorism. That’s absurd. The Bundys have not declared war on the United States. They have not taken hostages. They have not shot anyone. They have taken over a building. This is not terrorism. Robby Soave:

And here I was thinking liberals were just as skeptical as libertarians about the prudence of labelling everything and everyone a terrorist. Don’t they remember that every time someone brands someone else a terrorist, the Patriot Act gets a dozen pages longer? Government power relies upon such unfounded suspicions.

Keep in mind that the ranchers haven’t taken hostages, damaged property, or hurt anyone. The previous standoff between federal authorities and the Bundy family was resolved peacefully. It’s possible the situation at the wildlife headquarters escalates into something horrifically violent, but it seems wildly premature and speculative to assert that it will.

Nor is it treason, as some have claimed. They have not declared war on the United States. Nor have they treated with our enemies.

This incident has exposed a lot of the ugliness that underpins the Left’s supposed reasonableness. This is trending on Twitter as #OregonUnderAttack even though there has not, to this point, been any violence. Many of the liberals who were — rightfully, in my opinion — appalled by the tactics used against Occupy protesters are gleefully calling for an armed response. One of the comparisons being made is to the attack on MOVE in 1985. But a) MOVE had already engaged in armed conflict with police; b) the bombing of MOVE was a bad decision that destroyed a neighborhood and killed 11 people. Saying that the attack on MOVE justifies an attack on Malheur is basically saying that two wrongs make a right.

That’s not to say they aren’t wrong. They are occupying a federal building and demanding changes in federal laws before they leave. These are criminal acts and I believe they should be prosecuted. But I think, given how isolated they are and the lack of an eminent threat, it is perfectly reasonable to surround them and wait them out.

I also disagree that the federal use of lands is something that justifies this kind of reaction, as I noted in my post on the earlier standoff with the Bundy clan:

Whatever one may think of the Federal use of land (in this case, to protect an endangered tortoise) there is not much doubt that it is Constitutional. The federal government does have the power to buy land for public use (and, thanks to Kelo, private use too). Their land use may be stupid, but it’s Constitutional. Is Bundy arguing that the cattle aren’t on Federal land? Is he arguing that the Feds never properly compensated anyone for the land or that it is not a public use? Is he claiming that it was his family’s land and he was not compensated? It’s hard to tell since most of the media are ignoring the story so I only have fragmented reports from the edge of the blogosphere.

James Joyner:

I’m more libertarian than the next guy but don’t understand the fascination around such as the Hammonds and Bundys, who apparently think the entire country is some sort of commons for them to use as they please. We’ve had federal parks, wildlife refuges, and the like going back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt; how that has diminished our freedom of Americans is not clear.

It’s a little more clear to me, as I noted in my previous post. But even so, it does not seem to justify this sort of response. Jazz, from the link above:

But… with all of that said, I’m with John Hawkins on this one. This is crazy. (And I know that’s not going to sit well with those regularly spoiling for a fight with the feds.) Taking armed troops in to seize control of a federal building and essentially daring the government to come get you is pretty much the course of last resort. This is the fight you choose to draw the line in the sand over? If the Hammonds aren’t seeking protection and are planning to continue their appeal through the normal legal channels, this armed insurrection isn’t being done for their benefit. If you’re doing it to try to stop the feds from exercising control over a wildlife refuge, well… nope. Sorry. Still crazy.

Harness all of that energy and enthusiasm into getting a legal team to begin challenging the federal government in court over it. It will be a long, hard slog, but you’ll garner a tremendous amount of support around the nation, particularly among conservatives and libertarians. Taking up arms over this will produce just the opposite result. It’s time to get the troops out of the building before somebody gets hurt and this turns into a literally bloody debacle.

We have not slid down the slide of tyranny so far as to justify this.

Oregon Shooting

Yesterday, we had another mass shooting, this time at a community college in Oregon. You know what happened next. Before we even knew how many people were dead, Barack Obama was giving an angry press conference, blasting Second Amendment advocates and calling for more gun control, whether or not it had any relevance to this incident. Liberals, predictably, loved it.

The blogosphere has filled with the usual array of anti-gun deceptions and distortions. So here’s a free guide to the facts:

  • Gun violence is way, way down, not up. We are at violence rates we have not seen since the 1950’s. This has happened without any significant gun control.
  • Mass shootings are not rising, not how matter how much people try to pretend they are. What’s changed is not the frequency of shootings; what’s changed is the instant politicization of it. Past Presidents did not address the media before the bodies were even cold to demand more gun control.
  • When Barack Obama says these events don’t happen in other countries, he is wrong.
  • When people say there have been masses of school shootings, they are wrong.
  • It’s Friday, so they are probably out there saying “all the studies” show that gun control works. This is not true. It’s totally not true.
  • By the weekend, they’ll be back to complaining that the NRA has blocked any research into guns. This is also not true. The study linked above was funded by the Bloomberg school. Only federal funds are blocked. And given the shenanigans the CDC and EPA have been up to with public health issues, I don’t think that’s completely unreasonable.
  • Australia will be dragged out as an example of what we should do. Keep in mind two things. First, after Australia banned guns, their rate of gun violence did come down. So did ours. Faster. Second, Australia took away millions of guns. When people cite Australia as an example, they’re not talking about background checks. They are talking about taking away millions of guns.

One last thing. I hate doing this. I hate that when there is a horrible tragedy, I have to take up my keyboard and answer this stuff. But the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The Left takes the floor to cry out for gun control — no matter what the facts on the ground — after every single tragedy. They know, on some level, that what they’re suggesting would have, at most, a minor effect. But they can’t resist it because gun control is basically a moot issue. It’s not happening. So they feel they must exploit every tragedy to try to crack the edifice of the Second Amendment.

It’s hard to blame them if they honestly believe that gun control works. But then it’s hard to blame us when we points out … that it doesn’t.

That’s all I’m going to say on this subject. I’d much rather mourn the dead. And praise the heroes.

Kitzhaber Out

The governor of Oregon, John Kitzhaber, has reportedly resigned. The reason is that his fiance, a member of his energy task force, was getting tens of thousands of dollar of undisclosed consulting fees from energy interests. You can read the details here. This is all from “clean energy” concerns, by the way, including the involvement of liberal billionaire Tom Steyer.

Keep this in mind the next time someone starts ranting about the Koch Brothers and evil oil money.

Piling On

Apropos to Alex’s post below, the huge news in the last day is a study from Oregon that looked at the effects of expanding Medicaid. As McCardle points out, the study was done under near ideal circumstances. Oregon could not expand Medicaid to everyone who wanted it, so they created a lottery. Sociologists swooped in and recruited. The result was a study of 6000 people with Medicaid and almost 6000 without. One of the authors was an Obamacare architect. This is the kind of diverse randomly-selected sample that sociologists dream about.

The result is …. not much:

Utilization went up, out-of-pocket expenditure went down, and the freqency of depression diagnoses was lower. But on the three important health measures they checked that we can measure objectively–glycated hemoglobin, a measure of blood sugar levels [and diabetes indicator]; blood pressure; and cholesterol levels–there was no significant improvement.

It’s one of two major RCTs that have ever been done on insurance. And like the first one, it doesn’t show a signficiant effect. That is huge news. Not good news–obviously, it’s much nicer if giving people money to pay for health care makes them obviously much healthier. But big.

And it’s actually bigger, and more important than Obamacare. We should all be revising our priors about how much health insurance–or at least Medicaid–really promotes health. What this really tells us is how little we know about health care, and making people healthy–and how often data can confound even our most powerful intuitions.

In other words, insuring people resulted in more spending by the government, but not necessarily improved health. Gee, I think I’ve heard that before.

As you can imagine, the liberals are spinning as fast as they can. And, to be fair, they have a point. The study covers only of a couple of years and it might take a while for long-term effects to show up. But you know that if the study showed even the slightest improvement in health, they would be shouting it from the rooftops. They have, after all, spent years citing dubious studies that claim that the lack of universal healthcare kills, if I remember the Obamcare rhetoric correctly, at least 17.4 billion Americans every year. And, in fact, when the first Oregon study came out and showed that people weren’t healthier, per se, but felt better, the liberals crowed about it.

The new study is much more difficult to twist abut that’s not stopping their attempts. One thing they have harped on is that the insurance is preventing people from being financially destroyed by a health crisis. But Avik Roy is all over that in a must-read response to liberal excuse making:

Medicaid reduced financial hardship for the poor, by protecting them against catastrophic health risks. Wonderful, but we could have achieved the same outcome for a fraction of the price, by adopting the plan proposed by Florida’s Will Weatherford and Richard Corcoran: Offering low-income Americans a subsidy with which to purchase catastrophic coverage on the open market. That plan was foiled by people—including Republicans—who insisted on expanding Medicaid instead.

Ross Douthat is on the same page:

But what if we lived in a world in which the Republican Party had fully embraced the views of many right-of-center health policy writers (and some G.O.P. politicians, including the John McCain of 2008) and supported an alternative to Medicaid expansion, which would change the tax treatment of health insurance to free up money to create a universal tax credit or voucher designed to spur the purchase of catastrophic health insurance plans? What if the choice, in other words, weren’t between the current health care law and a repeal-plus-nothing G.O.P., but between the current health care law and the best conservative thinking on the issue?

This is, in fact, what most libertarians have advocated for years, including me.

I remind you that this isn’t a trivial question. Obamacare gambles some $750 billion on the idea that Medicaid will improve health outcomes, boost the economy, reunite the surviving Beatles and help us all lose ten pounds with diet and exercise. If the gain from that huge investment is this marginal, it is not worth it. I’m sorry to be cruel, but it not worth $750 billion to save only a few lives.

I do want to repeat my earlier caution that it would be odd to conclude that health insurance has no health benefit. We may not know for a while. But I do think it’s becoming clear that Medicaid expansion is not going to be the miracle breakthrough that so much of the Left has claimed it would be. If lack of insurance really were killing as many people as the Left insists it is, the Oregon data would show it. You might even already see a difference in mortality rates.

I know it surprises some people, but improving our nation’s health is not as simple as simply throwing lots of money around.

Clearly We Are Paranoid

The last few months, we’ve been told that the Democrats are only seeking sensible gun control. Mother Jones listed “they’re coming fer our guuuuns” as their #1 myth in their debunking. Clearly, only a paranoid Right wing loon would actually believe that … aw, crap.

Oregon has a new gun law proposal. Jazz Shaw runs down the basic:

Creates crime of unlawful possession or transfer of assault weapon or large capacity magazine.

Punishes by maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, or both.

Requires current owners to dispose of or register assault weapons and large capacity magazines.

Think about that. You could be put in prison for ten years for having a magazine larger than some legislators think you should or having a gun that looks kind of scary. Those are the same sentences you would get for having an illegal full-on machine gun. In addition to machine-gun like penalties, there are machine-gun like restrictions. Owners have to discard or destroy them. Some may be allowed to keep them but will be forced to register and cops will be authorized to check to make sure the weapons are stored safely.

The way machine guns are regulated is the way the gun grabbers want every weapon to be regulated. They have stated as much on numerous occasions, only backing off for the last few years because gun control isn’t popular. Oregon’s law makes it clear that the intention is to extend the law further this time; at least as far as they think they can get away with for now.