Friday, February 19, 2010

Terror In Austin

Benjamin Franklin famously declared that death and taxes are the only two certainties and life, but no single event in recent memory has welded these two things together more graphically and more shockingly than the 9/11-inspired domestic terror attack yesterday. Joseph Stack, a disaffected software entrepreneur who had been forced to give up two businesses in California after tax regulators intervened and who continued to have trouble with the Internal Revenue Service, flew a plane into an office building in Austin, Texas housing 190 IRS employees.
Stack published a long rambling manifesto on the Internet explaining his tax problems and his desire to strike back. After setting fire to his own house, he did just that, taking off in a Piper plane at a local airport and striking the IRS office, killing himself and one other person.
I would be remiss if I did not comment on this story, as it apparently wasn't important enough to get on the front page of my local paper this morning. (It was on page three.) While some people are likely to blame the tea party movement for this attack, I won't. Stack was apparently a frustrated businessman whose problems with the IRS went back years before the tea party movement was even a gleam in the eyes of the Fox News commentators who encouraged it. While the tea party movement has produced scary rhetoric, it hasn't produced any killers. To blame conservatives for the Stack suicide attack on Austin's Echelon Building would be as unfair as blaming liberals for the Weathermen would have been.
Nevertheless, the heated rhetoric from the tea party crowd looks quite embarrassing in light of this story, so I would advise anyone involved in the anti-tax movement to simmer down and take a breather. Stack may have had nothing to do with this, but all it takes is one nut to draw inspiration from the movement and do something horrendous, just as heated left-wing rhetoric inspired the Unabomber.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Americans need to chill out right now. The federal government has enough problems without someone attacking its bureaucrats.

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