Inept vs. Insane: The National Feud

Last night I watched the conclusion of Kevin Costner’s McCoys & Hatfields on the History Channel. After years of Hitler documentaries and speculative programs connecting space aliens to the Big Foot phenomenon, History and Discovery have spawned a new awakening of rural culture in America. Whether it’s huntin’ gators in the Cajun swamps of Louisiana or gold mining in the wilds of Alaska, audiences just can’t get enough sleeveless no-collar jobs and hobbies. With Costner’s effort, History has upped the ante and joined the networks with an original history-based mini-series on the most famous regional disagreement since the Civil War.

I was struck by the dumbness of it all. Watching the argument escalate from a stolen pig to a conflict that wiped out entire families was facinating, if somewhat grisly. Even the marriage of a Hatfield to a McCoy was dumbness squared. I found myself yelling at the TV…”Don’t tell your wife where your cousin is hiding and that he has a $100 bounty on his head!!!” Sure enough, she runs to her family and a hunting party is organized. Not exactly as romantic as Romeo and Juliet.

Most distressing were those moments where the families try to defuse the situation, only to be rebuffed with buckshot or a knife in the gonads. Pride and principle are too important to bother with reason. The moonshine doesn’t help.

Of course, the parallels to the ongoing disagreements between conservatives and progressives were obvious. The presidential sweepstakes have gone into second gear now that Clem Romney has emerged as the GOP’s top dog.  Fox and MSNBC are doing their part to stir the mash. The lies, distortions and vitriol from both camps has gone viral, even as the lawyers caution the parties to keep their powder dry until the big showdown come harvest time.

However the election turns out, the losing party will no doubt be unwilling to cede power to the victor. Pride and principle are at stake. Keep your powder dry and please, if you’re going to drink moonshine, get a designated driver.

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55 Responses to Inept vs. Insane: The National Feud

  1. Brad Croul says:

    Redneck Romeos – good name for a band.
    Dagnabit, somebody already thought of it –
    These guys look a little too clean-cut though. You wouldn’t even notice them on the streets around here on any given weekend.

  2. The main difference I see in the contending sides is that one says, your way won’t work because it will put all of us in a poorhouse surrounded by barbed wire; therefore let us go do our thing, and you can do your thing. The other side says your way is unfair, and you have to stay and pay us to make our way work (and we’ll use the barbed wire if we have to).

    • Ryan Mount says:

      How many sides are there? 2? 3? 7? 1?

    • Michael Anderson says:

      George, what’s/who’s stopping you from creating a new country where you can “do your thing” within the border of the USA?

    • RL Crabb says:

      Both sides have exhibited bizarre attitudes and prejudices. In the recent West Virginia primary, Democrats gave almost half their votes to a candidate who was allegedly a chicken. He might have won, except no one could verify his hatchin’ papers and most of the hillfolk believe Kenya is a town somewhere near the Pennsylvania border. On the other side, the religious freedom-loving rednecks of Tennessee have rallied to halt construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro. The residents claim it’s about zoning, but most of the protesters are yelling about “them lousy muzlums” the way their grandparents were yelling about “them lousy niggers.” Most want to return to the traditional teachings of the Bible concerning the origin of man. You know, the ones that used to ride dinosaurs in the garden of Eden.
      I find it difficult to find any good guys in this movie.

      • Ryan Mount says:

        I really don’t think there are any “sides” in these “debates.” [quotes necessary here] That implies some kind of debate which will lead to resolution. In classical terms that would be called a synthesis of the opposing schools of thought. In Hegelian terms [the name-drop is aimed squarely at Greg ;-)] this would be the dialectic.

        What we have really is a false dichotomy, or the illusion that we have only two choices.

        What we have now are “camps” or as James Madison would have called them, factions. Each faction has an agenda and an ideology which trumps, IMHO, their ability to engage in civil discourse. The debates are not about truth, but rather about access to power in order to enforce one’s ideology.

        or not.

        • Greg Goodknight says:

          So, if the ruling party wants to sacrifice 20 virgins to the volcano, and the challengers want none, the statesman like action is to only sacrifice 10?

          It’s compromise that’s led us to unsustainable spending levels. On of the few things Limbaugh ever got right is that for Democrats in Washington, bipartisanship means Republicans caving into Dem demands.

          BTW Ryan, I think you must have slept through the discussions of Hegelian Dialectics, as they most certainly do end with a synthesis, not to imply that Hegel’s thesis-antithesis-synthesis was original.

          • Ryan Mount says:

            Hey, I’m just saying there are more than two ways to look at something. No need to, as the psychologists like to point out, “split” things. Haven’t really thought of that this way, but we seem to have a borderline personality disorder electorate.

            Anyhow, more to the point, that what we’re presented with is not really two choices. But I will grant you [dear Greg] that elections have consequences. “Both” major platforms seem like, well, crap. My more Right leaning friends like to say the social issues are easier to live with and the pocketbook ones, so they vote Republican. My Left leaning ones seems to favor big picture causes claiming that if we screw up, say the environment, it won’t matter how much money we have. So they vote Democrat.

            And with regards to Hegel. I wasn’t fast asleep. I might have been stoned, but that might have helped. Kant, yes. I was fast asleep drooling on my copy of Critique of Pure Reason as everyone should.

      • Todd juvinall says:

        Maybe a Syrian Hatfields and McCoys would gain some viewers. We could have the Syrian dictator and his troops versus the folks. Then we can see them murdering each other by the thousands. Oops, sorry, that is really happening.

        Well, ummm, how about some Mexican ex-military dudes, we will call them, ummm, Zeta’s who take on their Hatfields called, ummm, Sinaloa and watch them murder say, fifty thousand men women and children over drugs. oops, that is real true, Darn it.

  3. Brad Croul says:

    If you can bear to go over to Pelline’s site, he has a video of Jim
    Reed talking about ways both sides can get what they want.

  4. Don’t worry, the great divide will get worse.

    A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll asked a sampling of Republicans and Democrats if it is more important for a president to stand up for his convictions or seek common ground. 65 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Democrats said it is more important for the president to stand up for his convictions.

    So much for compromise.

    • TD Pittsford says:

      Yes, I think the president should be convicted along with about 98% of congress going back several administrations…oh, we’re discussing a different kind of conviction. Never mind.

  5. MichaelA 1019am – that’s sorta like asking the citizens of the USSR, who outnumbered the Party members about 50:1, the same question. That’s the correct reply.

    However, a more comprehensible answer is a) two plus generations of citizens graduated by our public schools, and b) the ‘progress’ of our republic toward a democracy. There is no way that the gimmes are going to let their meal tickets go.

    • gregoryzaller says:

      I don’t know, George. The truth goes the other way you intended more readily. The far right are the intrusive ones who will jail those they find morally different and who want less government so they can develop more schemes to exploit people.

      • Todd juvinall says:

        GregZ, you got to be kidding. The left is the nanny state lovers nit the right. You have it exactly backwards.

    • Michael Anderson says:

      George wrote: “therefore let us go do our thing, and you can do your thing.”

      I didn’t get an answer that I thought addressed the question, so I’m going to try again. The point I was trying to make with my question was that I thought your proposition was dishonest. You contend that conservatives just want to be allowed to “do our thing, and you can do your thing.”

      Seriously? Let’s just focus on one tiny aspect of that “thing,” health care. As I have stated many times, as a small business person I am currently paying for both the health care of gov’t employees like SCOTUS (who should have recused themselves from a ruling on PPACA) as well as indigents who show up at the emergency room to have their leprosy bandages changed.

      So, your “thing” is digging into my back pocket and it irritates the hell out of me. The conservatives also have made no honest proposals that will stop this “thing” from happening. Now, I hate Obamacare. I think nationalized health care is the only equitable way to address the problem. But I support PPACA because I believe it will get us to nationalized health care faster than any other route.

      Unless conservatives are willing to state that the leprosy people must die in the streets to prevent their “thing” from hoovering my bank account, the liberal “thing” appears to be the only way to manage a complex issue in the most equitable way possible.

      That’s what I was trying to get at, George.

      • Ryan Mount says:

        Or the constant rant on teachers and the Neo-Liberal fix that requires a market solution with vouchers, etc.

        Well, they only go 1/2 way on that Micheal. They want better teachers, driven by a market solution of “choice,” but they don’t want to pay for it. They want their cake and eat it too. They want a good price, good service and good quality. You can’t have all three at the same time.

        • Greg Goodknight says:

          “They want better teachers, driven by a market solution of “choice,” but they don’t want to pay for it.”

          That doesn’t match the facts.

          California already has nearly the highest teacher salaries nationwide with nearly the lowest student performance. Without culling the lowest performing teachers, how do you change that?

          • Michael Anderson says:

            You don’t. And it should be done.

            And frankly, I would also like the education bureaucrats in Sac to be culled by half, and then the remainder should declare the 20-yr.-old charter “experiment” a brilliant success, and ALL the schools in California should become charter schools.

            As a reminder, one of things the charter system does is cull the California Education Code, the pen-to-paper of that glorious document beginning in 1854. Time for some serious pruners and loppers on that baby.

            And since since we’re in a lopping mood, let’s cut back on the empire building by also selling many of the lesser school buildings to private sector professional property managers, and let’s get rid of buildings vigorously as we embrace a new educational approach that embraces online learning, and transforms the lecture concept to a more hands-on, one-on-one approach that crosses the t’s and dots the i’s of the online experience.

            City College in San Francisco has 12 campuses. Talk about idiotic empires and hogs slopping at the trough:

            I think it is totally do-able to pay the best teachers even better salaries, reduce the total cost of the state educational budget by at least 10 billion, and rocket our kids’ test scores to within the top 5 national percentile. But the only way to do this is to face head-on some very strong-willed empires, and move forward with the creative destruction that is happening in so many other economic sectors in this country.

          • Michael Anderson says:

            BTW, I am totally against vouchers. If you want to pay teachers to take students to the Creation Museum in Kansas, where a life-size replica of a dinosaur w/ a Western saddle is in the front lobby, do it on your own dime.

            Sorry, the First Amendment puts the kibosh on that silly plan.

          • Ryan Mount says:


            We need to get rid of under-performers and raise salaries. My proposal is a market-ish (granted via internal revenue/taxes) solution:

            Let’s double salaries (or something enough to stimulate demand and competition) and get rid of the unions and/or at least mute them. Those that want to stay in the union, with it’s protections, can stay but at reduced salaries: safety in place of liberty. That’s a reasonable trade off.

            You are correct, current California teachers are at the top of the salary grade, yet live in one of the more expensive States in the Union. However buy cheap, buy twice. You get what you pay for.

            Some folks want better quality, but don’t want to pay for it. That’s my point. Service. Quality. Price. Pick two.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Sorry Ryan, your analysis doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. California’s teachers have compensation 45% above the US average but the cost of living in California is only 30% above average. For parity, the state’s teachers would still need a hefty pay cut.

            And then, if judged by results, they’d still be overpaid.

            Get a real system in place to nudge the bad ones towards the door, and to unceremoniously boot out the really bad ones.

          • Ryan Mount says:


            Are we going to quibble over 15%?

            I’m not. My point is, for the third time, if we want the best for our kids, we need to pay for it. Slowly liquidating the public education system over time would create all kinds of havoc.

            Fiscal and social conservatives talk a good talk about apply market forces to our education system, which I wholeheartedly support, but they don’t really mean it.

      • Greg Goodknight says:

        “As I have stated many times, as a small business person I am currently paying for both the health care of gov’t employees like SCOTUS (who should have recused themselves from a ruling on PPACA) as well as indigents who show up at the emergency room to have their leprosy bandages changed.”

        Taking that to it’s logical end, the Congress should also have not voted on it, and the President should not have signed it.

        Then there would be no PPACA for us to be able to read after it was passed (and not before) for the SCOTUS to later overturn.

        Perfect. More laws should be handled like that.

        • Michael Anderson says:

          I thought that PPACA had something in its innards about Congress (and eventually all fed employees) having to eventually be on the same program as everyone else. But maybe I’m wrong about that.
          But if so, then the president and Congress would be A-OK to pass and sign the legislation.
          Michael A.

      • Tony Waters says:

        Well, Michael, issued a good question of the conservatives on this blog, and so far you get no straight answer. So I will ask it again for you:

        “Unless conservatives are willing to state that the leprosy people must die in the streets to prevent their “thing” from hoovering my bank account, the liberal “thing” appears to be the only way to manage a complex issue in the most equitable way possible.”

        So conservatives, are you indeed ready for lepers to die in the streets for lack of care (I know that the answer is no, by the way). So then, how do you propose to deal with the indigence of the poor in an equitable and efficient manner? Do you really think that the current “national health care system” run by the emergency rooms of this country is the best solution?

        • Michael Anderson says:

          Thanks Tony, your question “Do you really think that the current ‘national health care system’ run by the emergency rooms of this country is the best solution?” is exactly what I was getting at, and your observation that conservatives do not want lepers to die in the streets is of course rhetorical.
          I am going to address a lot of other RR points over on his blog, since he said he was willing to allow CCW bloggers onto his site, and he actually asked to move the discussion over there.

          I like to think of RL’s site to be the place where the Gentlemen Callers take their tea after a hard night of buffoonery. It’s where the backstory happens, and where RL gives the world a hardscrabble view of the inner tinkerings of Nevada County who/what/where/why/&how.

          Pretty important stuff.

          • Michael Anderson says:

            PS Not just Nevada County, of course, but his world view is appropriately persuaded by those roots. Very helpful, IMHO.

        • Greg Goodknight says:

          I can’t answer for conservatives because I ain’t one, but I do know giving everyone the same prepaid health care benefit (let’s not call that insurance) isn’t the answer to spending less on healthcare.

          Tony, the current health care mess is 7 decades after the income tax/wage control dodge of employer paid health care started, and 5 decades after nearly half of healthcare was socialized. Bringing back some semblance of a free market by making the health care benefit taxable (adjusting the tax tables to be revenue neutral), some simple rules for inclusion in risk pools and allowing interstate competition for insurance would be a good start.

          Americans weren’t dying on the streets before WWII, there’s no reason to think universal socialized health care is the only good way to keep that from happening before WWIII solves all our problems.

          • Tony Waters says:

            Greg–one of the problems is that we do in fact give everyone the same prepaid health care system already–it’s called the emergency room. You are right to point out some of the errors that have corrupted the free market in medical insurance over the last seven decades. But pointing to the flaws of the past does not tell us where to go in the future now that we have the tax deductions, etc., you mention.


          • Greg Goodknight says:

            No Tony, showing up to the ER or a clinic isn’t the same; it’s rationing by wait. You really have to need care to wait for hours for it.

            I was lucky enough to have a gold plated employer based insurance when my first wife was diagnosed with late stage cancer. She got better care than average. I’ve since had much lousier insurance, and had to deal with that.

            During the visit to cancerland, at one point her oncologist suggested one particular off-label treatment might be appropriate but the insurer might not approve; by stating we’d pay the $50K if needed meant the preliminary lab tests got done without delay… unfortunately, her cancer wasn’t a candidate for Herceptin therapy, but the insurer did approve it a few weeks later so even the testing was paid for.

            I’ve had really good insurance and I’ve had really, really lousy insurance. You usually get what you pay for.

        • Greg Goodknight says:

          “But pointing to the flaws of the past does not tell us where to go in the future now that we have the tax deductions, etc., you mention.”

          That’s what comes of being blind, and I covered this one already: include the cost of medical benefits (in fact, all non-salary benefits) in reported pay. Apply Social Security and Medicare taxes on the income that’s been hidden, and adjust the tax tables to be revenue neutral.

          The gold plated plans will become less popular when people actually have to pay taxes on what is now essentially unreported income and this also drives prices higher. Very popular among high income individuals, including many union beneficiaries.

          • Tony Waters says:

            If I had a time machine and could turn back time, we would be pretty much on the same page. But we can’t turn back time, and we have a behemoth of a medical system which assumes employer provided coverage, medical inflation, specific scopes of practice of medical sub-fields, and so forth. All founded on the assumptions of the 1945 which we both now bemoan.

            I’ve also had real good, and real lousy insurance in Europe and America. Really good insurance is about the same everywhere, but costs a lot more in the US. Really lousy insurance is lousiest in the US, and still costs more. So it goes!

            Again I suspect we are getting to a technical point where things are better discussed over coffee–but I’m in Thailand, and you are in…?


          • RL Crabb says:

            Tony – Are you there for a cheap operation?

          • Tony Waters says:

            Not this time. But indeed there are ads in the papers for plastic surgery of various sorts!

          • Greg Goodknight says:


            You seem to think the choices are Obamacare or the status quo, and that nobody has to buy individual policies now. They do. Taxing benefits, with adjustments to make that revenue neutral for most plans, was even a campaign platform of McCain’s four years ago.

            The average plan (2010 numbers) cost about 10K; John Kerry proposed at one point only taxing health care benefits over $20K, which is where a number of gold plated union plans, and the plans of some high paid individuals land.

            Why do good Democrats resist closing the biggest tax loophole in the income tax law? The current loophole is unlimited… think it might be because of Democratic constituencies?

            This *is* the biggest stumbling block between what was the status quo and a more market based health care system. It may be again, if Obamacare is overturned by the SCOTUS. Even if Obamacare is left standing, which isn’t what the smart money seems to think, I believe benefits become taxable in 2018, at which time socialized health care would pretty much be complete anyway.

          • Tony Waters says:

            Im not Obamacare or nothing. And I certainly think eliminating the deduction on health insurance should be on the table along with many other things, and I think Michael agrees with this. What I’m against is the current “emergency room as insurance” system which is extraordinarily expensive, and very inefficient.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Tony, there is no deduction for health insurance, and I’m not suggesting there be a deduction for health insurance.

            The issue is declaring the cost of health insurance be counted as income, with taxes adjusted so the vast majority do not have higher taxes as a result. This is a simple change to the tax law which would go a long way to correcting an error that goes back almost seven decades.

          • Tony Waters says:

            Greg, what I was trying to say is that I’m ok with counting health benefits as income, as long as it is accompanied with other reforms.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Tony, all who have wanted benefits to be taxed wanted offset tax credits so most people wouldn’t see their after tax income hit.

            What else matters? Gold plated, “Cadillac” plans have helped to drive inflation in health care, and remain a significant tax dodge. The only reason this hasn’t been done is that the biggest beneficiaries are Democratic sacred cows.

    • Brad Croul says:

      The “gimmies” are not only the occupy wall-streeters, but also the wall-streeters and the subsidized corporateers . So, how do the gimmies vote: liberal or conservative? I think both parties can count plenty of gimmies in their ranks.

  6. Russ Steele says:


    Where do you get this stuff about conservatives, for year the liberals have been making laws that will put us all in jail for minor infractions. Rules on top of rules all to attempts to social engineer our lives. The result take away our freedom. This is not jail, but is it far more stifling of the human spirit. That freedom is the essence of success. If we are free we can be come anything we want, no one to hold us back. But you on the left want to remove our freedom, to manage our lives with laws, rules and mandates. You on the left are the intrusive forces, not the conservatives who want fewer rules, smaller government, and responsible leaders who follow the Constitution, and not spend us into poverty.

    • gregoryzaller says:

      Listen guys, few know more than I how deeply government is the problem. In a few minutes I will be off to court to defend my right to evict some folks that got the way they are clearly because of government. I would be the hardest right republican possible if they also weren’t a bunch of hypocrites.

      My point isn’t that the left is right. It is that the right is equally as wrong. We need to get out of the box, there are other ways to do this, and we need to stop squabbling, and get get busy truly solving these problems.

  7. RL Crabb says:

    Gentlemen, please check your shootin’ irons when you sign in. I don’t want any holes in my new blog.

  8. RL Crabb says:

    You have to wonder if future historians will look back on this period with the same amount of disbelief we have today for the Hatfield/McCoy conflict. The answers to our current logjam have been spelled out in detail by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, but neither side is willing to abandon their crusade to take home all the marbles. It’s about having a national purpose, a willingness to put aside old grudges to put our house in order. It will demand sacrifice from all quarters, but in a nation as rich as America, it needn’t be as bad as both parties would have you believe.

    • Ryan Mount says:

      I’m pretty sure it’s been like this from the get-go here in the USA. Some periods more heated than others. The pre-Civil War period immediately comes to mind when you had fights breaking out in the Congress.

      We have an adversarial government which in my opinion is a reflection of our core values.

    • Steve Frisch says:

      Bob, I believe that indeed future generations will look at our current period of frozen governance, national disunity, and lack of innovation in overcoming our problems as a made for TV soft core poorly acted movie.

      And let me be the first (second if we count you?) to state here–as I have on other blogs–that I strongly support the vast majority of the recommendations made by the Simpson/Bowles Commission; believe we must simultaneously reduce debt and raise revenue; make cuts in what does not work or is not necessary and increase investment in areas that will provide strong ROI; and that President Obama made a serious mistake by not championing the findings of Simpson/Bowles.

      However, this is not a zero sum game. As long as reactionaries propose tax cuts (lets not forget that the Bush tax scheme was a temporary tax cut) and maintaining the largest military in the world, while realizing savings solely by cutting social and human services, this battle, and frozen governance, will go on.

      • Steve Frisch says:

        Oh, and lets also remember that charting a middle course that actually pragmatically attempt to solve societal problems and find consensus on action, makes one a collectivist, socialist, communist, fascist and idiot, according to one side of the socio-political-cultural divide.

  9. In compliance to Bob’s request to minimize holes and to give a more complete response to the comment thread here, I have posted ‘The Great Divide – the debate continues’ on RR here –

    • RL Crabb says:

      Thank you, George. My time is limited right now, so I’ll let the debate go on here. Just try to have a little respect for each other, if possible.

  10. D. King says:

    How do you un-blowup a hydroelectric dam?
    What should be the response?

  11. Michael Anderson says:

    I’d be willing to forgo single-payer health care if health care insurance was decoupled from employment. I agree with Greg that it should be taxed just like regular income since the benefit is considered to be a part of the total pay package. But the tax reformer in me also wants to seriously reduce personal income taxes. If we want to encourage employment, why tax it?

    We should be taxing things we don’t like, such as time&energy-wasting commute traffic, gross polluters, and things that make our fisheries carry less fish (these are just random examples).

    And health care should be independent of employment, which would make it more efficient (less costly).

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      All of the proposals to count employment benefits as income were and are revenue neutral, and the cost to employers would be no more in any case, since they deduct the cost of salary and benefits irrespective of the taxes owed by employees.

      The only downside of this is that folks with gold plated insurance plans would scream bloody murder because the gravy train is finally over.

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