November 8, 2012

Bless their hearts

Filed under: Humour, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:18

I used to work for a company that had offices in Tallahassee, Florida. Over several years, both on the phone and during on-site visits, I think I heard at least half of these phrases used in earnest.

H/T to Radley Balko for the link.

Has Stephen Harper begun “starving the beast”?

Filed under: Cancon, Government — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:43

In Maclean’s, Stephen Gordon says that Republicans should carefully observe the way Stephen Harper has gone about his goal of reducing the size of the government:

The “starve the beast” strategy works like this:

  1. Cut taxes.
  2. Wait until the resulting budgetary deficit becomes a problem important enough to solve.
  3. Cut spending in order to deal with the budget crisis.
  4. Go to 1.

The goal of this exercise is to steadily reduce the size of government. The idea has its origins in the US conservative movement, but US conservatives haven’t had much success in implementing it. Steps 1 and 2 work as advertised, but politicians can never get the hang of the third part.

[. . .]

Meanwhile, Stephen Harper is quietly implementing a Canadian “starve the beast” strategy, and not without success. Unlike the Republicans, the Conservatives have actually reached stage 3. Step 1 was the reduction to the GST, which created a structural deficit. After a certain period of denial, step 3 was reached in the austerity measures announced in the 2012 budget.

Federal revenues have been held below 15 per cent of GDP for four years in a row, well below the levels we’ve seen in the last fifty years. And the outlook is for more of the same.

Republicans are entering a rebuilding phase. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them start paying close attention to how the Canadian Conservatives have managed to pull off the “starve the beast” trick that always seems to elude U.S. conservatives.

QotD: The English Gentleman

Filed under: Britain, Education, History, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:26

The idea of a gentleman was a more inclusive one than it sounds to modern ears. One of its greatest advantages was that you could define it so as to include yourself. You could behave like a gentleman, without possessing any of the social attributes which a gentleman might have: there was no need to possess a coat of arms, or a country estate, or engage in field sports, or wear evening dress. At least since Chaucer’s time, there had been a distinction between the social meaning of the word, and the moral. It was evident that well-born people, who ought to know how to behave like gentlemen, did not always do so, while others sometimes did.

Philip Mason, whose perceptive study, The English Gentleman, was published in 1982, argues that “the desire to be a gentleman” runs through and illuminates English history from the time of Chaucer until the early 20th century. He suggests that “for most of the 19th century and until the Second World War” the idea of the gentleman “provided the English with a second religion, one less demanding than Christianity. It influenced their politics. It influenced their system of education; it made them endow new public schools and raise the status of old grammar schools. It inspired the lesser landed gentry as well as the professional and middle classes to give their children an upbringing of which the object was to make them ladies and gentlemen, even if only a few of them also became scholars.”

Andrew Gimson, “Strange Death of the English Gentleman”, Standpoint, 2012-09

The Swiss children of Malthus

Filed under: Environment, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:59

In sp!ked, Patrick Hayes points out the odd way that Malthusians and xenophobic far-right political groups converge:

For greens, the ends will always justify the means when it comes to saving the planet. In the UK, they have opportunistically latched themselves on to left-wing movements to try to gain purchase with a broader public. But, as Swiss campaign group Ecology and Population (EcoPop) has demonstrated, in an attempt to pursue their Malthusian goals, greens can be equally happy tapping into the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the far right.

In a stunt last week, members of EcoPop carried dozens of cardboard boxes into the Swiss chancellery which contained 120,700 certified signatures calling for immigration into Switzerland to be capped at 0.2 per cent of the resident population. Under Swiss law, this means that a referendum will now be held on the proposal. Such a move trumps even the efforts of the far-right Swiss People’s Party, which has long lobbied for greater immigration controls.

But these greens aren’t mobilising for an immigration clampdown with banners claiming ‘keep the darkies out’ as right-wing groups have done in the past. Nor are they using dodgy, discredited scientific arguments to justify racial superiority, wielding books like Madison Grant’s The Passing of The Great Race for evidence.

No, instead EcoPop delivers its demands for immigration curbs carrying a banner asking: ‘How many people can the Earth tolerate?’ The group’s members use the (equally dodgy and discredited) Malthusian science of population growth and babble on about our ‘finite planet’. And they have reportedly been strongly influenced by the theories of US Malthusian Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb.

EcoPop bends over backwards to claim that it is not singling out particular races when advocating its policies. According to the BBC, it claims to be ‘opposed to all forms of xenophobia and racism’. But, the group says, ‘Switzerland must limit immigration to avoid urbanisation and to preserve agricultural land’.

You could almost believe that EcoPop is just a bunch of backward-thinking NIMBYish Luddites wanting to stop a flood of immigrants from destroying what it sees as a rural idyll — until you see what the group has tacked on to its proposed referendum for immigration caps. EcoPop slipped an additional clause into the referendum calling for a tenth of all foreign aid to be used ‘for birth-control measures abroad’. (It’s highly questionable how many people would have signed a petition for that alone.)

So it’s not enough to keep foreigners out of Switzerland, then, it’s also necessary to keep them from breeding too much in their own countries as well. And the fact that most of the aid will go towards stopping poor black and brown families from breeding too much suggests that if they’re not intentionally being racist, then EcoPop’s members should really think very hard about how they come across.

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