Archive for January 28th, 2009

January 28, 2009

Kazart! Republicans grow a pair!

The stimulus bill (H.R. 1) passes the House 244-188, without a single Republican voting “yes.”

“Finally. A party of opposition worth its name.”

UPDATE: Man, if all it took to get Republicans to vote conservative was to elect a Democratic president, this is a change I can believe in. Republicans were also able to get a vote on their alternative plan, so they can say they didn’t just vote “no.” Allahpundit says “for good or ill, this is entirely the Democrats’ baby now.” Surely it will be for ill.

UPDATE II: Worthy mentioning that 11 Democrats also voted “no,” so the opposition is bipartisan. Heh.

January 28, 2009

On ‘stimulus,’ taxes and morality

Responding to an argument from Matt Yglesias over tax cuts vs. new spending, Philip Klein of The American Spectator says:

Liberals believe that the best way to stimulate the economy is for the federal government to spend taxpayer money on pet projects, while conservatives believe it’s better to allow families and firms to keep more of what they earn and that permanent tax cuts are better because much economic planning is done over the long-term. Furthermore, liberals fail to grasp the moral argument for tax cuts. Liberals see tax cuts as inefficient because people who end up with more money may either save it or spend it on something like new Blu-ray players, which wouldn’t be as effective at boosting the economy as government spending, so they argue. But the the fact remains that it’s the taxpayers’ own money, and they should be able to do whatever the heck they want with it.

The point about the morality of markets is one I’ve made myself:

Whereas transactions in a market economy are voluntary and peaceful, the actions of government are essentially coercive, backed with the threat of violence to those who disobey. What government does, it does “at the point of the bayonet,” so to speak. Therefore, the fearsome power of government ought to be constrained to limited and specific purposes — defending the life, liberty and property of citizens.
When government begins to meddle in the economy, picking winners and losers, using appropriations and fiscal policy to transfer money from one group of citizens to another, it divides society into two classes, taxpayers and tax consumers, punishing the former in order to reward the latter.
Such a policy is not merely misguided, it is immoral — indeed, it is sinful . . . and by displaying the spectacle of government engaging daily in legalized theft, the welfare state tends to corrupt the morals of its citizens.

If conservatives are unwilling to defend the market economy on moral grounds, if they are unwilling to denounce coercive expropriation as immoral, all that remains to be settled is the question Lenin bluntly summarized as “Who, whom?”

January 28, 2009

Media ‘on our knees’ for Obama

So says Jake Tapper (who insists that he’s actually still standing), prompting Quin Hillyer to recall Time magazine White House correspondent Nina Burleigh’s famous offer to provide fellatio to Bill Clinton:

The difference is, Burleigh would not have had to wait in line behind about 1,000 other reporters.

An interesting mental image there. I’m sure Chris Matthews would be at the head of the line, so to speak.

January 28, 2009

Equal opportunity

Lutherans can discriminate against lesbians, a California court declares.

We assume that lesbians are similarly free to discriminate against Lutherans.

Freedom, What a Beautiful Concept!

January 28, 2009

Insta-Ace

What we need is a blog that combines the terseness of Instapundit with the hilarity of Ace of Spades. Here’s Insty:

THE “STIMULUS” BILL: “A 40-year wish list.
UPDATE: “Not a moment to spare.” Because given enough time, people might wise up . . . .?

And here’s Ace, with the same two items:

Obama’s Spokesman Gibbs: We Just Don’t Have the Time to Patrol the Stimulus for Wasteful Spending
We need to act. Now.
Do something, even if it’s stupid as fuck. . . .
A Forty-Year Wish-List: Democrats are wasting no time wasting all the money they were prevented from wasting since Reagan.

You see the possibilities here. It could be the great collaboration since George and Ira Gershwin.

January 28, 2009

‘It speaks volumes . . .’

OK, so the National Republican Congressional Committee issues a press release asking whether freshmen Democrats in the House support $335 million in STD prevention programs in the so-called “stimulus” bill. And the Democrats respond:

“It speaks volumes about the overall health of the Republican Party that they are getting their ideas from the Drudge Report and their mouthpiece is Rush Limbaugh.”

It speaks volumes about the Democrats that their idea of a response to a legitimate policy question is to make idiotic ad hominem attacks on a Web site operator and a radio personality who have nothing to do with the policy question.

January 28, 2009

Black tea and white liberals

The book I most often recommend as a guide to understanding liberalism is Thomas Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. If you haven’t read it, you should, because Sowell hits the nail on the head in identifying the basic psychological instinct of modern liberalism, namely its function as an expression of moral narcissism: “Oh, look at me! How enlightened and tolerant and generous I am!”

The obverse of this self-congratulatory instinct is the liberal’s habit of seeking out villains to denounce as benighted, intolerant and mean-spirited. James Taranto observed one such example in the case of a Denver Post columnist who waxes indignant over an allegedly racist incident at her health club:

One of the employees was checking the tea and noted out loud that they were out of black tea. To the other server, she made a joke about ordering some more “Obama tea.”
On this day, of all days, I could not turn away, pretend I didn’t hear.
My pulse raced a little. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach. In the larger scheme of things, calling her on it was a small act.

(Via Instapundit.) Now, there are several questions here. Was the health-club employee’s reference to black tea as “Obama tea” self-evidently racist? Better yet (and this is a question seldom asked) what exactly do we mean by “racist” in such a context? And perhaps best of all, in what sense is this kind of “racism” actually harmful to anyone?

Think about it: This “Obama tea” remark was made by an employee of a health-club snack bar, someone who probably makes about $10 an hour. The snack-bar employee is being denounced by a style columnist for the Denver Post who makes at least twice as much, and whose social influence and prestige is infinitely greater. The influential columnist is afflicting the afflicted, so to speak, by picking on a low-wage laborer who almost certainly intended no harm with her stupid joke.

It is, of course, entirely possible that this snack-bar employee is a genuine bigot. But even if she were, if we borrow the Left’s formulation that racism equals prejudice plus power, what sort of power is exercised by someone earning $10 an hour serving protein smoothies in a health-club snack bar?

This is not about her. Even if the employee’s joke represents real prejudice, the purpose of the columnist’s denunciation is not to make a statement about the snack-bar worker. Rather it is the columnist making a statement about herself: “Look at me! I am a courageous crusader for social justice!”

If there is one lesson you should synthesize from this incident, it is this: When someone points the accusing finger at “racism,” a reasonable person must examine the motives of the accuser. And this is what Sowell does in The Vision of the Anointed. Sowell shows that when the anointed adopt as “mascots” various oppressed victim groups — the homeless, the mentally ill, AIDS sufferers — what they are doing is using those people as symbols. Advocacy on behalf of “mascots” serves to demonstrate the enlightenment of the anointed, and denunciation of allegedly oppressive “targets” serves the same purpose.

Thus, a crusade to distribute free condoms in San Francisco serves the same purpose as a crusade to provide legal protection for illegal immigrants: These crusades function as demonstrations of the moral superiority of the crusaders.

This is why liberals become so furious when you try to draw them into a discussion of the actual merits of their crusades. The simplest question — “Are gay men in the Castro district so impoverished that they can’t afford to buy their own condoms?” — is enough to spur the liberal into a vehement denunciation of your homophobia. Nothing you can say in your own defense will persuade the liberal to abandon his idee fixe. Opposition to his policy is synonymous with fear and hatred of gay people, and on sober reflection you realize that the liberal isn’t really interested in policy qua policy. He is a moral narcissist engaged in displaying his own “tolerance” and “sophistication.”

Crusading on behalf of “mascots” allows otherwise privileged people to co-opt the Complete Moral Authority of the victim, to bask in the warm glow of reflected glory of the oppressed. (A point that Ann Coulter makes in Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America.) And so the style columnist for the Denver Post — a privileged white woman — stages her own little psychodrama by taking a courageous stand against a $10-an-hour snack-bar worker who lamely jokes about “Obama tea.”

The half-Kenyan son of a Harvard-educated economist is thus converted into a proxy for 40 million African-Americans, and an unfunny joke — the tea is black, Obama is black, LOL — must be denounced as “blatantly racist” (to quote the columnist) so that we can be piously lectured:

If those of us who are offended by bigotry don’t speak up, if we don’t examine our own assumptions about race, how will the offenders ever get the message?

As interesting as it might be to learn more about how Kristen Browning-Blas has examined her “own assumptions about race” — out there in the blindingly Caucasian state of Colorado (90% white, 4% black) — it is reasonably safe to surmise that she’s never even scratched the surface, that her “assumptions” are those of millions of others of privileged white liberals who think their vaunted humanitarian benevolence (dare I call it “pity”?) toward black people is both necessary and courageous.

The Kristen Browning-Blases of the world wear their moral narcissism like a warm sweater, secure in the assumption that their goodwill is beyond interrogation. They are the bien-pensants, smugly condescending with “the courage of their convictions” by lending their moral superiority to assist those whom they patronizingly assume are incapable of acting on their own behalf. And if you call their bogus philanthropy what it really is — a manifestation of what Shelby Steele identifies as White Guilt — they will lash out to denounce you as an uncaring bigot.

It’s not about you any more than it’s about that poor snack-bar worker who made that stupid joke. It’s not about you, it’s not about Obama, it’s not about racism. It’s about them, the anointed.

It is never enough for the anointed to congratulate themselves on their moral superiority. Rather, they must strut about on the stage, inviting us all to applaud them for it. You can applaud Kristen Browning-Blas if you wish, but that’s not my cup of tea.

January 28, 2009

Your tax dollars at work

Surfing online porn:

[A] report from the National Science Foundation . . . says NSF employees have been spending significant amounts of company time on smut sites and in other explicit pursuits. [Iowa Republican Sen. Charles] Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, on Tuesday fired off a letter to the NSF’s inspector general requesting all documents related to the “numerous reports” and seven investigations into “Abuse of NSF IT Resources” cited in the foundation’s 68-page semiannual report. . . .
The report says they were watching, downloading and e-mailing porn, sometimes for significant portions of their workdays, and over periods of months or even years. In one particularly egregious case, the report says one NSF “senior official” was discovered to have spent as much as 20 percent of his working hours over a two-year interval “viewing sexually explicit images and engaging in sexually explicit online ‘chats’ with various women.” Investigators calculated the value of the time lost at more than $58,000 — for that employee alone.

The “stimulus” will provide more money to hire more “senior officials” to surf porn. Maybe this is the bailout Larry Flynt was looking for . . .

January 28, 2009

Go, Roscoe!

My congressman is Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who is 82 years old and offered a little history lesson to a young man yesterday:

Said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.: “Mr. President, I probably come at this from a slightly different perspective. I remember when FDR beat Hoover in 1932. So I remember the Great Depression very well. I don’t remember any of the many government programs affecting the course of the Depression. Government programs didn’t work then, I don’t know why we think they would work now. Mr. President, I think our obsessive borrowing has fully mortgaged my kids and my grandkids. Now we’re working on mortgaging my two great-grandkids. Mr. President, I think it’s more than a little bit selfish to try to solve our economic problems which we created by burdening future generations yet to be born.”
This prompted applause.

Via Gateway Pundit, who calls our attention to a new CBO analysis that finds only 21% of the proposed “stimulus” will be spent this year, and suggests a visit to ReadTheStimulus.org for more information.

Thanks to Smitty for the tip.

January 28, 2009

‘Stimulus’ priorities

Peter Ferrara examines the grab bag of goodies in the proposed “stimulus” bill:

For example, the “stimulus” package includes $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts to help “the arts community throughout the United States.” Wouldn’t want our economy to get behind in the international arts competition. The government is going to borrow $50 million out of the private economy to spend on this, which will result in a net loss of economic output rather than a net gain.
Another $2.1 billion is for Head Start, another program not previously known for stimulating the economy. A further $2 billion is to be spent on Child Care Development Block Grants, which provide day care. We are going to revive economic growth through the federal government spending billions on babysitting, rather than tax cuts for capital investment. A similar initiative involves $120 million to finance part-time work for seniors in community service agencies.
Then there is $500 million to speed the processing of applications for Social Security disability claims. This has already created one net new job in the employment of a person within the Obama Administration assigned to figure out what this has to do with stimulating the economy.

Arts, babysitting, disability claims — yes, these are the key industry sectors for reviving the economy!