November 12, 2004

Secession Diaries, Part IV: World of Hurt

Tad and Sheila Devaney remembered the straw that broke the camel's back..

"We were living in Framingham Massachusetts. I was working as an accountant for a software company, which went under because of the tariffs. So I got a job as an accountant with the county, which I figured, "Cool, it's a union gig", but that only lasted about six months, because all the lowest guys on the totem pole got laid off first. Then I got a job as a bookkeeper with a gas station, but then when the fuel tariffs went into effect and the State of Massachusetts took over fuel distribution..." The narrative tailed off for a moment. "Which woulda been fine, I've seen hard times before, but not only was I out of work with two kids and another on the way, but then I got a notice in the mail that on top of the income tax, sales tax, and property tax hikes, they're adding a Value Added Tax to pay for agriculture price supports. I emailed my cousin in Cleveland, and he told me his company needed an accountant ASAP. I drove to Cleveland, interviewed, got the job the next day, and filed for my work visa from an internet cafe on the way home. It was waiting for me when I got there".

The young family sold their home at a big loss into the rapidly-depressing Massachusetts economy in the fall of 2009, and became the initial trickle of what became, by 2010, a torrent of people emigrating from the United States of Canada. Tad Devaney says it was the best move he ever made.

Interviewed at his office at Hexotech, a Cleveland company that makes holographic memory storage crystals, Devaney looks like a happy man. Sitting in his office in a renovated steel plant overlooking the Cuyahoga River, his office has a few mementoes: his MBA from Boston College; a picture of him shaking hands with former President George W. Bush ("That's how you knew I'd changed", Devaney notes, "I actually voted for Kerry. And Gore. And Clinton, twice. And Dukakis. And Mondale. Yep, I was a d**k", he chuckles), and a framed letter from the USoC Ministry of the Interior.

He asks me out to lunch. We spin down Ian Hunter Drive, to a small clutch of restaurants that are gradually taking over an old steel-era office park. "Most of these places weren't here six months ago. Most of them moved here from New York and Boston." He motions toward a Thai restaurant going in at the corner. "That place is run by a couple of French guys who used to run a haute cuisine joint on Park Avenue. I used to read about 'em in New Yorker. Life is good for Tad Devaney today; he is the Chief Operating Officer of Hexatech, is in line to manage its expansion to Europe and Africa, and teaches one night a week at the Cheney School of Business at George W. Bush University, a new "Red League" university that sprouted almost overnight in Cleveland.

We take a seat at a popular Italian bistro, "Two Guys from Hoboken", run by - yep, two guys from Hoboken, who've prospered in their three years in Cleveland.

"So", I ask, "Tell me about when you heard the news".

Devaney pauses. "Yeah. Well..." and he becomes lost in a memory only barely dimmed by the passing half decade.

"Sheila and I were going to a play - this was about when the Red State theatre scene really took off, back in late '09, back when all the New York directors started spending more time in the Reds to make ends meet. Anyway, during intermission, we heard about the hurricane. We thought "how could a hurricane catch ANYONE by surprise these days? But sure enough, they turned on a TV in the lobby, and we watched the breaking coverage on Real Clear News. Sheila and I were horrified - it looked like Bangladesh, not Boston."

Immediate Action

The No-Name Storm killed several hundred people on the Eastern Seaboard, inundating low-lying areas and blowing buildings apart. No warning was ever issued, even though satellites and aircraft had tracked the storm for nearly five days. The National Storm Center, mired in a turf squabble with the Ministry of Sensitivity over the naming of the storm, never received bureaucratic clearance to release the warning until a day after it struck shore. Boats sank, ferries foundered, cars drove into washouts, shoreline homes were swamped, fleeing people were hammered by flying debris - the final death toll topped 1,000. The most expensive storm in history, it caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, from north of Boston to Baltimore.

Worse? The relief effort - the attempt to bring food, fuel, clothing, even fresh water to the storm's victims, especially the hundreds of thousands left homeless or without power - was bogged down by a civil and bureaucratic turf war that beggared the imagination.

Dennis Kucinich, Minister of Peace, ordered units of the Peace Force to the affected area. But at the edge of the damaged areas in Boston, Providence, New York, Hartford, Philly/Camden and Trenton, the convoys of troops were met by teams of armed agents and lawyers from the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Housing. Under court order, the MODP agents ordered the MOP troops to hand over their weapons; most complied. These weapons - rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers - were handed over to Housing and Labor agents, and hundreds of AFL-CIO, Teamsters and AFSCME members who'd been deputized as "provisional agents", who proceeded to go door to door serving pre-printed injunctions against homeowners carrying out repairs without union labor on the job. Homeowners who failed to comply were arrested, and their insurance payments attached by the unions as damages by drumhead civil courts issuing summary judgements under the Emergency Law Act of 2008.

Outrage ensued; outrage at the Ministry of Peace's inability to control the situation; outrage that the Ministries of Housing and Labor along with the unions had turned into officially-sanctioned looters and profiteers.

And outrage at the Red USA.

Devaney remembers. "I got a call from my brother, Sean, who still lived in Charleston Mass. Their house had folded up like a UN peacekeeping mission. "You know how bad it was? My brother, Sean, a good guy but a total agnostic, got religion. He became a priest. Oh, and he moved to Montana."

Devaney organized an effort among Hexatech's 2,000 employees to gather up canned goods, blankets, tents, aspirin, money, the works. They loaded up three donated semi-trailers. Devaney climbed into the lead semi, and in what he calls the most thrilling moment of his life, yelled "OK, Red Staters - we gotta boogie!" The small convoy drove through the border checkpoint, and made it to Boston in good time.

"I was standing there in my 'Cleveland Heart Boston' T-Shirt, handing out stuff, and we had these goons watching us, making sure we didn't give out tools, medicine, weather information or religious content. I was wondering about that, when this gaunt-looking grad-school-looking chick from Swarthmore yells "you DO realize you red-staters wouldn't have anything to give if it weren't for us, right?' She draws a round of applause from the goons! I finished giving the stuff out - but instead of staying over, we all just piled in and drove back to Ohio, all night long. I swear, I kissed the ground when I got home".

USoC insurance companies, strained to the limit by the losses, applied to the government for aid. The Legislature, reeling from paying for hurricane damage, as well as unemployment benefits for an increasing number of unemployed workers in the USoC, and subsidy programs in agriculture, healthcare and manufacturing that were growing geometrically, had to propose another tax increase, which the Blue Parliament rubber-stamped over increasingly loud grumbling from the smaller, more removed provinces of the USoC - Minnesota and Western Canada.

But the big scandal was the disastrous performance of the Peace Force. The all-volunteer force, modeled after the German Army, was intended to serve as a peacekeeping tripwire under UN command, and at first blush would have seemed perfect for the disaster assistance role. But it was clear that it needed to be bigger, better-disciplined, and better trained. And recruitment was way off, especially in the class of recruits they really wanted - people who spoke English, with high school diplomas or more. Peace Force Chief Executive Adrian Bollock said that he needed one of two things - either a 50% increase in funding, or a draft. (In a later interview, he told a Instanet reporter than he only threw in the draft to make the other option look better). And, in fact, since the USoC had effectively demilitarized itself, and had banned the draft in the Constitution, the traditional draft was impossible.

But the draft caught on - because of an unlikely proposal from a mid-level bureaucrat.

The Armies of Love

Assistant Peace Minister for Force Maintenance Ross Tavish was an up-and-coming organizer for the confectioner's union in Portland Oregon when he started working for the Kucinich campaign in 2003. He quickly worked his way up the hierarchy, proving on the way that his capacity for endless work on assignments made up for his lack of curiosity and creativity. He was placed in the "Force Maintenance" position as a reward - since the USoC was the first major nation to effectively demilitarize itself in all of history, the theory was that there'd be really nothing for him to do; the US Peace Force was under operational control of the United Nations.

But Tavish had a keen eye for the obvious. He put together the factors; rising unemployment, especially among young blue collar workers and college graduates, a large underclass of undereducated males, an imperative to create something from nothing - and that "no draft" injunction in the Constitution...

...Tavish drafted a memo advising the Prime Minister that while the original plan - drafting high school graduates - was both illegal and impractical, there might be some benefit in trying something differerent; actively recruiting undereducated males and unemployed/unemployable college graduates, and declaring eminent domain on the ones they needed to fill out the numbers.

The Prime Minister 1092 approved, presented the plan to Parliament, and within the month announced a plan to increase the Peace Force, and other military forces controlled by the Minister of Peace, to 150,000 men and women. Their weaponry was to be augented with stocks of former US Army weapons - tanks, artillery, etc - taken from depots around the USoC.

However, the powerful labor bloc in the Ministry of Labor worried about the concentration of so much power in the hands of the Ministry of Peace. They rammed through a measure allowing Labor to recruit and, if needed, draft 80,000 armed Labor Enforcement Police.

Suspicious of Labor and Peace, the Transport Ministry snuck in a measure allowing it to recruit or draft 75,000 National Highway Patrol, including a squadron of F-16 Tactical Traffic Control fighters.

Not wanting to be left out, the Ministry of Justice created a force of 45,000 Field Marshals. To prevent violence and terrorism in schools, the Ministry of Education was authorized to recruit/draft and train 50,000 Tactical School Patrols. The Customs Department followed suit with 35,000 Customs Patrol Inspectors, the National Endowment for the Humanities with 20,000 Special Museum Guards, the Ministry of Safety added 40,000 armed Emergency Workers, the Ministry of Housing with 20,000 Tactical Housing Inspectors, and even the Ministry of Sensitivity, which brought on 10,000 plainclothes Sensitivity Detectives.

Thus, over the course of six months from November of 2009, the world'd first officially pacifist country recruited and drafted half a million armed paramilitary soldiers.

Other agencies jumped onto the bandwagon, too; the Ministry of Welfare took on 100,000 Associate Social Workers, the Ministry of Agriculture 50,000 Extension Associates, and the Department of Commerce 10,000 Commerce inspectors.

The Cheese Rebellion

While the USoC struggled with building a byzantine tangle of pseudo-militaries, a story broke on page B-22 of the New York Times:

Farm Voters Upset
MADISON, WI (SNN) - Farmers upset by the strengthening of pre-split price subsidy compacts demonstrated on the steps of the Wisconsin Capitol today.

"Farmers are getting screwed" said New Granger leader Joe Pyylopenhaapo of rural Black River Falls. "We get lower subsidies than the farmers in California or the Coast, and we have to pay higher transportation fees because of the MIinistry of Transportation's support fees - and then all the taxes! It's impossible!"

Minister of Agriculture Hermione Throckmorton responded "these farmers should just make it happen. They're sounding like a bunch of red-staters. Did I mention they used to be slave states?" A system of luxury and excise taxes was proposed. but no action was taken.

Over the course of the next year, the New Granger movement spread throughout the USoC's farm districts in western Canada, Minnsota and Wisconsin, Illinois and Pennsylvania. In the summer of 2010, they organized the first Farm Strike.

The government responded with a Ministry of Information ad campaign; "Eat Less".

Exit Polls

In the summer of 2010, the number of people emigrating from the USoC approached an epidemic. It was a problem in both countries - while the US unemployment rate was still at near-negative levels, in many sectors the available jobs were finally close to the number of applicants. And in the USoC, despite the unemployment rate (flirting with 8% by August 2010), it was getting to be hard to find people to fill some positions; doctors, engineers, project managers, architects, all were in critically short supply.

The Parliament voted down bill to ban emigration - by a 40 vote margin in the 890 seat Lower House.

2011 loomed. In every sense of the term [1]

Part IV - World of Hurt
Part III - Death and Taxes
Part II - Irrational Exuberance
Part I - Push Comes to Shove

[1] including the sense of using a loom to weave cloth, although that's purely tangential to the story.

Or is it?

Posted by Mitch at November 12, 2004 03:04 PM | TrackBack

I'd wager that the inland portions of the Pacific coast states wouldn't take to USoC very well - not as much deference to authority as you find in MN and WI farmers. I also would expect a USoC Hawaii to face some substantial military challenges.

Posted by: Gregg the obscure at November 12, 2004 10:18 AM

Heh. '1092'. Heh. Gotta wonder what a few thousand, bored, uneducated and undisciplined paramilitary types are likely to do to offset their meagre income.

Posted by: Aodhan at November 12, 2004 10:26 AM

The only flaw in this history is that we already know that the city-dwelling coasters will never leave their overpriced, overcrowded cities for flyover country in order to achieve a better lifestyle. When you can't afford to live in NYC on minimum wage salary, it is of course impossible to move from NYC to Iowa because....hmmm, I don't know why because but of course we know that the solution is that minimum wage in NYC must be artificially inflated so that everyone who wants to be able to survive in NYC can do so.

Posted by: Elizabeta at November 12, 2004 10:58 AM

some of you guys are jumping an epi or two ahead.

Posted by: mitch at November 12, 2004 11:06 AM

Awed...and humbled.

Posted by: Pious Agnostic at November 12, 2004 12:38 PM

Starting to sound an awful lot like the "end-game" in "Atlas Strugged"....USoC will of course collapse into an orgy of coercion, slavery and violence....Red States/Real America will pick up the pieces after this death cult called socialism runs its course.

Posted by: Greg at November 12, 2004 02:49 PM

I would figure in the trade Alberta and perhaps Manitoba would join Jesusland

Posted by: rick at November 12, 2004 10:36 PM

I'm quite certain most of us would not miss the states threatening to secede anyway.

Uhm, my comment on the "Filling in for Hugh Hewitt" post went poof.

Posted by: Nixon Casablanca at November 13, 2004 09:23 AM

Personally, I don't think I could move to Jesusland. Nothing wrong with the people, it's just that I like cool coasts. Sucks to be me in that respect. I grew up 45 minutes from moody beaches, now I'm two and a half hours because Seattle it a lot farther from the coast than Palo Alto.

I am kinda of waiting for the typical solution socialists tend to have: invade others. One thing people seem to forget is that business in general doesn't like war. Most sectors lose in a war economy. In that sense, capitalism is as much a barrier against war as democracy is. ( Neither are sure things, but they help. )

Posted by: Aodhan at November 13, 2004 12:07 PM


You need to make sure the "Peace Force" is deployed abroad to kill Israelis, since it's an official organ of the blue helmets.

Posted by: Mark at November 14, 2004 07:28 PM

Hmm, you left out the massive exodous from SanDiego and Orange counties immediately after the secession. Camp Pendelton, MCAS Miramar, the west coast MCRD, and the Coronado naval base collectively mean a lot of military families. The area also has a significant south vietnamese expat community which might not exactly trust the USoC. I'd expect similar exodouses from eastern Oregon and Washington and from blue counties in Florida.

Nonetheless, good story.

Posted by: CCR at November 14, 2004 11:08 PM

Hey Aodhan,

Anchorage or Juneau would probably fit the bill for you.

Posted by: Gregg the obscure at November 15, 2004 03:32 PM