Corollary of Samuel Johnson’s Law

On the C2 overnight chill thread, “Kosh’s Shadow” wonders:

In #58 Kosh’sShadow said: Reply to realwest in #41: I’m OK but tired; heading to bed soon. How did we end up with media and academia that hates the country that gives them the freedom to do so?

Let me have a shot at an answer.

Samuel Johnson once memorably stated: “The knowledge that one is going to be hanged in a fortnight has the habit of concentrating the mind wonderfully.”

People in the “chattering class” who get off on moral preening and who are insulated from the consequences of their own recommendations feel uninhibited by the latter.

Israel (where I currently am on business), for example, has no shortage of preening moral narcissists in her media and academia either. But most of them there know that if, for example, the Security Fence is taken down, they themselves might get blown up in a suicide bombing attack. This “Samuel Johnson effect” tends to bring them down to Earth.

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0bama the post-racial President? Yeah, right

James Taranto: “The Politics of ‘Anything Goes’”:

  • “Even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us–the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of ‘anything goes.’ Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America–there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America–there’s the United States of America.”–state senator Barack Obama, Democratic National Convention, July 27, 2004
  • “In the video message to his supporters, [President] Obama said his administration’s success depends on the outcome of this fall’s elections and warned that if Republicans regain control of Congress, they could ‘undo all that we have accomplished.’ ‘This year, the stakes are higher than ever,’ he said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by Democratic officials. ‘It will be up to each of you to make sure that young people, African Americans, Latinos and women who powered our victory in 2008 stand together once again. . . .’ “–Washington Post, April 26, 2010

Res ipsa loquitur.

Cathy Young: Tea Partiers Racist? Not So Fast

In RealClearPolitics, Cathy Young of Reason Magazine [h/t: one of the fine denizens at C2] looks at surveys that ‘prove’ that the charge that Tea Partiers are raaaaacist, and basically finds: ‘no more or less than the general population’.

Ever since the “Tea Parties” gained national attention, the debate has raged on whether they are a grass-roots protest movement in the proud tradition of American dissent, or a hysterical mob driven by fear, intolerance and selfishness. Recently, two much-discussed surveys — a CBS/New York Times poll and a multi-state University of Washington poll — have been bandied about as proof that the leftist caricatures of the Tea Partiers as mean-spirited rich white bigots are accurate. Yet a look at the data suggests that this interpretation is highly skewed by political bias.

In a Salon.com article titled “The Tea Partiers’ racial paranoia,” editor Joan Walsh notes that in the University of Washington poll, only 35% of pro-Tea Party whites regarded blacks as “hard-working,” 45% as “intelligent,” and 41% as “trustworthy.” Walsh scoffs, “And Tea Party supporters don’t like it when anyone notices the racists in their midst?”

Not so fast. The respondents in the UW poll were asked to rate on a 1-7 scale how intelligent, hardworking, and trustworthy they perceived “almost all” blacks (and, in separate questions, whites, Latinos, and Asians) to be. Whether the findings expose Tea Party bigotry hinges on two things: how the “Tea Partiers'” opinions of blacks compare to their views of other groups, and how their answers compare to those of other, non-Tea-Partying Americans.

The UW researchers’ initial analysis compared only whites who were strongly pro-Tea Party and strongly anti-Tea Party, concluding that the latter held a much more positive view of blacks. These data are no longer on the UW website; instead, there are tables for other race-related questions (such as “Over the past few years blacks have gotten less than they deserve”), with separate results for whites who were either neutral toward the Tea Party movement or had never heard of it, as well as for all whites.

But what about the racial stereotyping items? The lead investigator, political science professor Christopher Parker, graciously provided me with the fuller data — which strongly contradict the notion of the Tea Parties as a unique hotbed of racism.

Thus, while only 35% of strong Tea Party supporters rated blacks as hardworking, only 49% described whites as such. While the gap is evident, these responses are close to those for all whites (blacks are rated as “hardworking” by 40%, whites by 52%). While whites who are strongly anti-Tea Party seem free of bias on this item — blacks and whites are rated as “hardworking” by 55% and 56%, respectively – this is not true for intelligence and trustworthiness. Whites in every group are less likely to rate blacks than whites as “intelligent” by similar margins: 14 points for Tea Party supporters (45% vs. 59%), 13 points for all whites (49% vs. 62%), 10 points for Tea Party opponents (59% vs. 69%). On “trustworthy,” the gap is smaller in the pro-Tea Party group (41% vs. 49%) than in the anti-Tea Party group (57% vs. 72%). One could write headlines about the “racial paranoia” of white liberals who consider blacks less trustworthy than whites!

The endurance of racial stereotypes in this day and age is disturbing; but Tea Party supporters differ little in this regard from mainstream Americans.  (It is also worth noting that, as in many other surveys, Asian-Americans in the UW poll are rated much more positively than whites.)

Compared to middle-of-the-road whites, Tea Party supporters show far more agreement with the statement that blacks should work their way up “without special favors” the way other minorities such as Italians and Jews did, or that blacks would be as well off as whites if they worked harder. The standard left-of-center view, shared by the UW researchers, is that such attitudes represent a subtler form of racism, or “racial resentment.” In some cases, that is surely true. Yet these sentiments may also reflect a genuinely race-neutral belief in self-reliance and self-help — or the view, shared by many black commentators, that the black community’s problems are partly rooted in damaging behavioral and cultural patterns.

John McWhorter, a noted black scholar and author whose works include the 2000 book, Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, says that “the idea that ‘racism’ is behind the Tea Partiers is based on a lazy and vain extension of the term ‘racism’ to meaning ‘that which many black people would not approve of.'” According to McWhorter, “The position that the government does too much to help black people is not necessarily one based in inherent bias against people with black skin — it can be argued as a reasonable proposition based on the spotty record of social programs since the 1960s.”

The other charge against Tea Partiers is that they are not “the people” but the privileged defending their privilege. Walsh gleefully points out that in the Times/CBS poll, 12% of Tea Party sympathizers had an annual income over $250,000 — forgetting to mention that so did 11% of all Americans. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne asserts that “Tea Party enthusiasts … side with the better-off against the poor”: 73% of them, versus 38% of all Americans, say that “providing government benefits to poor people encourages them to remain poor.” (Of course, they couldn’t possibly be sincere in the belief that poor people are often harmed more than helped by government programs.)

What, then, do the new polls tell us about the Tea Partiers — or, at least, Tea Party sympathizers? (In the Times/CBS poll, only one in five self-identified Tea Party supporters reported actual involvement in Tea Party activities.) They are mostly white and more likely to be male (59%); three-quarters are 45 and older, compared to half of all Americans. They are more religious than average, though not dramatically so: 39% are evangelical Christians and 38% attend church every week, while the figures for all Americans are 28% and 27%.

Not surprisingly, the Tea Partiers are disproportionately Republican and right-wing: 39% consider themselves “very conservative” and 34% “somewhat conservative” (compared to 12% and 24%, respectively, of the general population).[…] In other words, the Tea Party movement is mainly conservative — which is hardly the stuff of headlines. That does not make it a haven for racists.

Read the rest.

0bama follows Europe into places Europeans are moving away from

Having spent half my life in Europe, I’ve on many occasions made wry comments about America under BHOzo adopting Euro-style social-democratic policies (which I once advocated myself) at the same time that European countries are seeking to get away from them.

Now Matt Welch explores this theme at some length (via Insty):

With the stunning emergence of the consumption-based Value Added Tax (VAT) as a legitimate public policy option, the Obama administration has now all but made it official: There is no European economic idea too extreme for 21st century America. Even if the Europeans themselves are largely headed in the opposite direction.

VAT, first rolled out in 1950s France, is a sales tax on everything that every person or entity buys within a country, with exceptions or reductions carved out for things like food, newspapers, or various links along the industrial supply chain.

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Compared to the H&R Block subsidy program that is the US tax code [heh!], the VAT is a straightforward way for governments to skim 20% or so off the top of every transaction. By penalizing consumption and not earnings, it encourages savings and resists gaming by well-connected special interests. In an ideal world, you could enact a VAT while slashing America’s corporate income tax rate, which is the globe’s second-highest.

But as the last 18 months of federal misgovernance has aptly demonstrated, we do not live in anything like an ideal world.

The only reason VAT is even on the table right now is that bureaucrats like VAT enthusiast Nancy Pelosi have an appetite for spending that far outpaces Americans’ willingness to cough up their hard-earned dough. Every statehouse and city council across the land is literally out of money, and turning to the only people who can print the stuff: Washington.

The federal government spent $3.5 trillion last year while taking in just $2.1 trillion, producing a deficit-to-Gross Domestic Product ratio of 10%, a level not seen since World War II. By contrast, the European Union requires member countries to keep deficits at 3% of GDP. If America was in Europe, we’d be Greece.

[…] The VAT isn’t a way to streamline a complicated tax code; it’s a new spigot to flood money into the pockets of teachers who can’t be fired, and securities regulators who can’t get enough porn.

The grand irony here is that the very continent we’re scrambling to emulate has been moving aggressively in the opposite direction on taxes and economic policy.

While the US keeps corporate taxes frozen near 40%, EU countries have slashed them down to an average of around 25%. Top marginal income tax rates, which in the US are 35%, are under 25% all across the former East Bloc.

As the share of government spending in health care has been steadily increasing in the US, it has been inching downward in Europe. While first Bush and then Obama pushed through massive new public entitlements, governments from Stockholm to Rome have been grappling with real private reform.

Though conservatives especially like to sneer at the democratic socialism of Old Europe, it is precisely those cheese-eaters in France and Vikings up north who have been leading the world in privatization these last two decades, selling off everything from airports to sewage companies.

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It was hardly an accident that, in the midst of Washington’s partial nationalization of Detroit automakers, Swedish Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson announced “The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories.” With this week’s news that General Motors is “paying back” one set of Troubled Asset Relief Program loans from another pile of TARP money, we can see why Europeans have a lot to teach us about separation of industry and state.

Where Republicans look across the Atlantic and see soft socialists worth avoiding, Democrats see enlightened progressives worth emulating. And it does not matter how little reality conforms to either fantasy.

So now the federal government is pushing to ape Germany and France in paying individuals far-above-market prices for selling their excess solar or wind power back to the electricity grid. The only problem? Those countries are running, not walking, away from those unaffordable programs.

The same dynamic is at play with labor relations. President Obama is on record pushing organized labor’s dream policy of “card check,” which would drastically bump up private sector unionism after decades of steady decline, and he has gone so far as appoint to his bipartisan “deficit commission” the notorious labor honcho Andy Stern.

Meanwhile Germany, which has the tightest labor-management-government relations in the EU, has been aggressively loosening, not tightening, workplace rules.

The fact that America’s most influential public-sector union leader is within a thousand miles of a deficit commission, let alone one that is floating the idea of an American VAT, tells you all you need to know about the relationship between any new consumption tax and fiscal responsibility. Which is to say, there isn’t any.

Read the whole thing.

Veterans Administration discovers “menstrual disorders” in… men

Government healthcare at work! And indeed, SNAFU doesn’t begin to describe this.

Last month, a decorated Gulf War hero received a letter from the Veterans Affairs Administration that said: We are working on your claim for menstrual disorder.

There was just one problem: The claim was submitted for fibromyalgia.

Make that two problems: The claim was submitted by Glenn McBride, a 40-year-old man from Roanoke, Va., who most definitely does not get menstrual cramps.

[…]

The Department of Veterans Affairs is notorious for bungling health care benefits, and its Roanoke regional office, which handled McBride’s claim, has long been considered among the worst.

In September 2009 a surprise inspection found the office was collapsing under the weight of its own bureaucratic incompetence. Literally.

Its filing system — floor-to-ceiling stacks of overfilled file cabinets and loose claims folders — weighed twice as much as the building’s structure allowed, threatening the lives of everyone inside. Inspectors also found missing and improperly filed, stored and processed claims, among other problems. The regional office was ordered to overhaul the health care processing center completely.

By last month, six months later, there should have been some improvement. Instead, McBride received a letter that included this perplexing request for additional information:

“On the VA Form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim you sent on October 8, 2009, you included menstrual disorder. Please specify what you intended to claim for this condition.”

Click here to see the VA’s menstrual letter in all its “glory”. And weep.

One really (ahem) wonders why most Americans don’t think government-run healthcare is a great idea… 😉