Sunday, April 11, 2010

Academics join the tea-party=racism claim

You have to read academic writing carefully. Most people probably would conclude that the following survey is of tea-party members. It is not. It is about attitude to the tea partiers among a rough "sample" of the general public, including 494 whites and 380 blacks -- which shows it was not a random sample. Blacks are only about 12% of the overall population.

What that tells you is anybody's guess. It is more likely to reflect what the media have said about the tea partiers than be the fruit of any actual contact with tea-partiers.

The whole thing is clearly just a feeble attempt to give some patina of academic respectibility to current Democrat propaganda. Being a very experienced survey researcher, I have no doubt that if I looked at the detailed survey protocols I would find much more to laugh at -- but why keep shooting a dead horse?

The tea party movement has gotten much attention in recent months, but aside from decrying big government and excessive spending, who are the supporters and what else do they appear to believe?

A new University of Washington survey found that among whites, southerners are 12 percent more likely to support the tea party than whites in other parts of the U.S., and that conservatives are 28 percent more likely than liberals to support the group.

"The tea party is not just about politics and size of government. The data suggests it may also be about race,"said Christopher Parker, a UW assistant professor of political science who directed the survey. It found that those who are racially resentful, who believe the U.S. government has done too much to support blacks, are 36 percent more likely to support the tea party than those who are not.

Indeed, strong support for the tea party movement results in a 45 percent decline in support for health care reform compared with those who oppose the tea party. "While it's clear that the tea party in one sense is about limited government, it's also clear from the data that people who want limited government don't want certain services for certain kinds of people. Those services include health care,"Parker said.



The Scientific Socialism of Today

A certain kind of mind believes that human beings exist as objects to be experimented upon as society is perfected by the privileged class -- a utopia engineered by elites. There's a reason why Engels called it Scientific Socialism. Thomas Sowell alluded to it when he wrote: "The grand delusion of contemporary liberals is that they have both the right and the ability to move their fellow creatures around like blocks of wood -- and that the end results will be no different than if people had voluntarily chosen the same action."

But Sowell's insight tells only half the story. Allow me to furnish the other half with a little posthumous help from Thomas Edison.

Conventional wisdom credits Edison with inventing the electric light bulb, but conventional wisdom is wrong. It was actually an English physicist, Sir Joseph William Swan, who invented the first working light bulb. But sadly for Sir Joseph, his "working light bulb" did not work very well, burning itself out after only 13.5 hours -- far too short an operating life to be commercially viable. What Edison did was improve Sir Joseph's invention, extending its operating life first to forty hours, then to a hundred, and eventually to fifteen hundred.

This did not happen overnight. It took three years and the testing of "at least three thousand different theories" to develop the first practical incandescent light bulb. When Edison famously described genius as "one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration," he knew what he was talking about.

Three years passed, during which time the public did...what? They continued to use the existing technology -- candles, kerosene lamps, and (for public lighting) arc lamps. And if Edison had failed, if developing a practical incandescent light bulb had proved impossible, surely people would have continued using the old technology until someone came up with something better.

Now imagine a different scenario. Imagine that 21st-century liberals had governed 19th-century America. Would anything have been different? In the words of a certain hot biker chick, "You betcha!" For one thing, candles and kerosene lamps cause pollution (soot), and to liberals, even the most miniscule amount of pollution is intolerable. So it's a safe bet that a liberal in 1878, as today, would already have been on the lookout for an alternate, less polluting source of illumination -- a "green" light, as it were. But then, as now, that would be just step one. Step two would be to force people to use the new stuff by banning the old stuff. This, in fact, is precisely what a Democratic Congress did in 2008, when it banned the incandescent light bulb in favor of the "CFL" (compact fluorescent light bulb).

To be fair, Congress didn't actually ban incandescent light bulbs; they merely set new, higher, and more energy-efficiency standards -- standards so high that no incandescent bulb could possibly meet them.

Perhaps a liberal Congress circa 1878 would have decreed that all candles and kerosene lamps produced after 1891 would be required to emit a flameless light. A bolder Congress might ban candles and kerosene lamps outright. But one way or another, candles and kerosene lamps would be banned.

Needless to say, complaints that the new light bulbs cost much more than candles and kerosene and needed to be replaced after only 13.5 hours of operation would be ignored, as would arguments that the new bulbs' "pollution-preventing" effects might be more than outweighed by the pollution-creating effects of the new power plants needed to generate the electricity to light the bulbs. And anyway, improvements in cost and efficiency would come. In time.

But how to get that time? Edison, of course, had all the time in the world because Edison conducted his experiments with inanimate matter in the world of the physically tangible. But how does one guarantee oneself sufficient time to conduct an unlimited number of experiments on an entire society?

For liberals, the solution is a simple as it is obvious: Eliminate all the alternatives. Entice, if possible, and force, if necessary, the American people to cross the bridge, and then burn it behind them. Cut off all paths of retreat and leave no alternative to the old ways of doing things, even if the old ways were better, and, liberals reason, society will have no choice but to go in one direction: theirs. And they -- we -- will thank liberals for having forced us against our will to go there.

For liberals, it's not enough merely to promote their policy preferences, insufficient to argue the merits of their ideas in the marketplace of ideas, intolerable to allow people to test these ideas against competing ideas. And there is no room to allow people to decide for themselves which ideas have the most merit; to communicate their preferences to their elected representatives in letters, phone calls, town hall meetings, and, ultimately, at the ballot box; to choose, each of us, what we want and allow that same freedom of choice to others. All of this is intolerable. Liberals' ideas are just too important, too "incandescently" brilliant, the need to implement them too urgent.

So if one is a liberal, one must ban drilling for oil now, in as many places as possible (ideally everywhere) before an efficient, economical and practical alternative energy source can be developed. Private companies must be forced, both by law and through the creation of artificial shortages, to produce whatever products and services liberals deem best for us. And finally, Americans must be forced to buy and use them, whether they want them or not, cost and efficiency be damned.

As it is with light bulbs and oil, so it is with health care. Anyone who thinks that ObamaCare won't put a lot of private insurance companies out of business, or perhaps even eliminate private insurance in America entirely -- anyone who doesn't think that the bill the Democrats rammed through both Houses without a single Republican vote was purposely designed to do precisely that -- is either naïve or a liberal, and probably both.

Some call it socialism, some call it fascism, and some call it Chicago politics. I call it what Marx and Engels called it: Scientific Socialism. And our system of government? No, it's not a tyranny: The American people who voted these pols into office retain the power to vote them out. But it's not a democracy, either, when elected representatives ignore and govern diametrically against the will of the people who elected them.

What we have in America today is a new system of government for which a new term must be coined: Scientific Oligarchy, wherein a self-styled enlightened elite arrogate to themselves the right to decide the kind of society in which they would like us to live someday and then experiment on human beings until they can get it right -- however long it takes, however much their unwilling subjects suffer in the process. In this system, this scientific oligarchy, we are neither citizens nor subjects. We are guinea pigs.

Edison never gave up. Liberals won't, either. If we vote them out in November, they'll wait patiently for the day when a future generation foolishly votes them back in. Then they'll pick up where they left off.

Maybe it's time we conservatives did a little bridge-burning of our own.



The Ongoing Melodrama of Victims and Oppressors

President Obama, in the tradition of progressive Democratic leaders, believes government should ask the more economically fortunate citizens to be responsible for helping the less well off.

But the president seems to fail to acknowledge that there are plenty of actions an individual can take to avoid becoming part of that growing crowd of "less fortunate." Instead, in Obama's world, there exists a simple zero-sum melodrama of victims and oppressors.

If recent poll numbers are correct, many Americans find that life in the real world is a lot more complicated than the near-constant us vs. them rhetoric about bad-guy insurers, surgery-hungry doctors, reckless financiers, greedy bankers, heartless corporations and tight-fisted employers who con and hurt the blameless good guys now in need of Mr. Obama's all-knowing benevolent government help.

Surely life is too complex to be such a fairy-book morality tale.

Take finance. Of course, we are all still furious at the speculators on Wall Street for the September 2008 meltdown. But not all Americans took out sub-prime mortgages for homes at inflated prices. So why must some continue to pay their underwater mortgages to keep their homes, while others, as victims, may not have to?

Everyone should pay some income tax. So, why does the administration talk about raising rates sharply and adding even more taxes on the 5 percent who already pay 60 percent of all federal income-tax revenue?

Health care also is also poorly defined by Obama's simplistic view of a noble public victimized by a few greedy insurers. Some Americans budget $100 to $200 each month for high-deductible, private catastrophic health plans. That means they pass on some consumer purchases to ensure they won't get stuck without coverage for an unexpected operation or accident. In other words, people make choices on how they allot their resources, and are not always just victims who are cruelly denied, or cannot afford, some sort of basic health insurance.

One reason so many Americans were against federalizing their health care is that those who do avoid some medical risks - alcohol and drug use, poor diet, obesity, or lack of exercise - are, in some cases, asked to pay for the health problems of those who don't.

Obama now may take on immigration reform in the same sort of bipolar fashion. He decries the present policy toward illegal immigration and cites heartbreaking stories about workers forced to toil in the shadows by profit-hungry employers and an indifferent public. But again, we hear no mention by Obama of the role of human choice and individual responsibility.

When one breaks the law by entering the United States without proper authority, and then continues to live as an illegal alien, choices are made that have many unfortunate consequences, both for self and society at large. A failure to learn English or a decision to send back thousands of hard-earned dollars to Mexico or Latin America can only compound the dilemma of living without legal certification.

In all these cases, Obama commendably wants to help the less fortunate. But he seems to care far less for those who act responsibly - except to demonize them if they question whether it is either fair or even sometimes wise to subsidize those who at times don't.

The president would surely improve his standing if he urged Americans to buy fewer DVDs and instead more insurance plans - or to avoid drugs and drink, or not to borrow money that they have no desire or ability to pay back, or not to enter the United States in the first place without a proper visa.

Here I do not mean just offering the usual presidential generic good advice and platitudes, but tougher talk -- backed up by decisions on policy -- about the inability of any government always to make right the freely incurred bad choices of its citizens.

Then when things unexpectedly get rough, my bet is the American people would be more than happy to help the unfortunate.



Shocker: Massive aid does not mean improvement

Even the Left-leaning "Lancet" says so

Do massive donations of cash as aid to poor nations allow them to focus on structural improvements and increased spending on health? Or does that money allow corrupt governments to divert resources that they would have spent on those issues to other priorities? A new study by Lancet strongly suggests the latter — even when the donors believe they have secured the distribution of the funds:
After getting millions of dollars to fight AIDS, some African countries responded by slashing their health budgets, new research says.

For years, the international community has forked over billions in health aid, believing the donations supplemented health budgets in poor countries. It now turns out development money prompted some governments to spend on entirely different things, which cannot be tracked. The research was published Friday in the medical journal Lancet. …

The research raises questions about whether international aid is sometimes detrimental. Previous studies have found pricey United Nations health initiatives haven’t paid off and occasionally hurt health systems. Experts estimate about half of international health aid can’t be traced in the budgets of receiving countries.

Murray’s paper also found debt relief had no effect on health spending. Activists like Bob Geldof and Bono have long argued canceling African debts would allow countries to spend more on their health problems, but there was no evidence of that.

“When an aid official thinks he is helping a low-income African patient avoid charges at a health clinic, in reality, he is paying for a shopping trip to Paris for a government minister and his wife,” said Philip Stevens, of the London-based think tank International Policy Network. He was not linked to the study.

What can we learn from this study that we really should have already known?

1. Money is fungible – Giving block grants to a state for one purpose doesn’t mean that the purpose gets more money. It allows the state to divert its already-committed resources to other purposes. We’ve learned that here in the US with Porkulus block grants to states. Without accountability, that money can go anywhere and either directly or indirectly feed the corruption at the heart of Africa’s problems.

2. Corruption is the root cause of nationwide poverty – We have sent monetary aid to Africa for decades in attempts to fix the problems of poverty and disease. That should tell us that money isn’t really the root problem in these countries. The governments, mostly corrupt dictatorships, create the problems through outright theft or the imposition of incompetent central economic planning. In Zimbabwe, for just one example, it’s both. That nation’s land used to provide for much of Africa’s food, and now it can’t even feed itself.

3. We need to change direction in Africa – None of us want to see an entire continent fail, but we apparently have two choices. Either we drop billions on Africa every year in aid that extends the status quo, or we cut off the aid and force African nations to change from within. The US had moved toward the latter in the last few years, but guilt-trip initiatives (however well meaning) keep putting political pressure on nations to maintain the status quo.

If we really want to solve the problem of poverty and illness in Africa, we need to demand political reform. Everything else is a band-aid, and not the kind of Band Aid that means aging rockers taking to the stage on G-20 conferences.



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