[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

This is rather annoying, seeing the New York Times advancing arguments that are quite so at odds with reality. For they’ve entirely missed the point that the US, almost uniquely among advanced nations, double taxes income from capital investment. Therefore we cannot look just at the tax rates supposedly paid by investors and conclude that that is the total tax rate. Instead, we should look at the taxation of profits before any distributions are made, add that to the rate paid by investors themselves and then calculate the total tax rate on capital investment. And the answer is then that investment income is taxed at higher rates than labour income, in direct contrast to the argument being put forward.

Before we run through that point again this is simply bad logic:

I.R.S. figures show that in most years since dividend tax rates were reduced, the superrich have reported that about half of their income came from tax-advantaged investments. For the very rich the proportion in 2011 was less than 17 percent. That is no doubt a chief reason for the substantial difference in tax rates for the two groups.

Of course, ordinary Americans also are eligible for preferential tax rates on dividends and capital gains, and for most of us they remain at 15 percent. The catch is that few of us have a lot of investments in taxable accounts and therefore derive little benefit from those breaks. In 2011, the average taxpayer earning less than $500,000 received just 2 percent of his or her income from dividends and long-term capital gains. Most of that money went to people earning more than $100,000.

So most of us face no tax bill at all on our capital income and yet the richer people who are actually paying tax on their capital income, it’s those rich people who are tax advantaged? I dunno, maybe, it’s said that it’s an infinite universe so there could be somewhere or sometime in which a 0% tax rate is a higher rate than 17%, I’m just not sure that it’s reachable from here without the use of powerful psychedelics.

But that’s not the worst of it, the failure to account for double taxation is.

In 2003, in one of the great steps to help wealthy investors, the Bush administration and Congress lowered the tax on dividends to match the capital gains rate, 15 percent. The effective rate paid by the superrich dropped to the low 20s from the mid-20s.

This simply isn’t true.

In theory there are two ways that you can tax profits and or dividends which are the distribution of said profits. We could say that’s a profit, here’s the profit tax rate and then once that is paid then whether the cash is distributed as a dividend or reinvested makes no difference, the tax has already been paid. Alternatively, we could not tax profits at all but instead tax the amount of that profit that investors receive. That is, tax the dividends. Almost all countries use one or other of these systems. My native UK combines them in a sensible manner. The profits are taxed at the company level and then dividends are taxed again only if the recipient is a higher rate tax payer. For something akin to the basic rate of income tax has already been paid on those dividends in the form of corporation tax.

America is the odd man out here. Full corporate income tax is applied to dividends before they are distributed. Then further tax is applied to them once they reach the wallets of the recipients. It is this which is double taxation: and the justification of the special lower, 15%, rate on dividends is that the special rate acknowledges that double taxation.

To get the full rate that is actually taken from those dividends we have to add those two taxes together. The 35% corporate income tax plus the income tax charged, what is called the integrated tax rate:

The personal dividend income tax is the second tax on corporate profits and contributes to the double taxation of corporate income. Suppose a corporation earns a profit of $100. It then needs to pay the corporate income tax rate of 39.1 percent ($39.10 corporate tax bill). Its after-tax profit is $60.90. The corporation then distributes these after-tax profits as dividends to its stockholders. The stockholders then need to pay the 28.6 percent personal dividends tax rate on the dividends ($17.41 dividend tax bill). In total, the tax burden on the corporate profits is $56.52, for an integrated tax rate of 56.5 percent. The United States’ two layers of corporate taxation places a heavy burden on corporate investment, especially considering the United States also has the highest statutory corporate income tax rate in the OECD.

And I’m afraid that saying that the company is paying one part of this tax, the shareholders another just doesn’t work. Companies cannot and do not pay tax: all taxes reduce the income of one or another live human being.

And I think we’d be in a rather better world if the would be newspaper of record actually bothered to tell us all the truth about such things rather than making such obviously incorrect arguments.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Stephen Tall

Linda JackLib Dem activist Linda Jack will shortly announce that she will be a candidate for the post of Party President in the all-member election that will take place this autumn.

To date, two candidates have declared their intention to run: Baroness (Sal) Brinton and Pauline Pearce. I understand Linda will officially throw her hat into the ring after May’s local and European elections.

Linda Jack has twice been a parliamentary candidate for the party: in Luton North in 2005, and in Mid-Bedfordshire (up against Nadine Dorries) in 2010. She also served as a a councillor on Bedford Borough Council for five years. She famously brandished a set of pink fluffy handcuffs to warn against the Lib Dems going into Coalition with the Conservatives in May 2010, and is Chair of Liberal Left. She was elected to the party’s Federal Policy Committee in 2006, serving on it until 2012. A former analyst in special intelligence (H.M. Forces), teacher and youth worker, Linda was most recently Youth Policy Adviser at the Money Advice Service. She blogs at Lindylooz Muse.

All three candidates who’ve declared so far – and any others who come forward – will require 200 nominations from conference representatives of at least 20 local parties to be eligible to have their name on the ballot. Given the dominance of white men in the party leadership – our leader, deputy leader, party president and all cabinet ministers – I’d be surprised if Lib Dem members didn’t choose a party president who breaks that pattern.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

[personal profile] azurelunatic
The call to lunch is not quite like the call to adventure, as it usually doesn't bring with it risks of gangrene and decapitation. I have also not yet refused the call to lunch.

At some point I will work out a better custody arrangement for my lunchtimes, as it were. Perhaps even something with a schedule. While I am not by any means required to eat lunch with my team, it is good for bonding and morale to do so on occasion.

The move is forcing some organization, so while I keep feeling like I did nothing, in fact there was a lot, and paper getting recycled, and there's my spare set of highlighters and that notebook, and I'm building procedures and things are making sense again. My Overlady has plots for improving things, and I am happy to get behind that, or in front of it, or in whatever direction I would be most useful.

It was an off week for the company togetherness, so there was unofficial togetherness. Read more... )
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Stephen Tall

sarah wollastonBlogging is back in the headlines again today. Dr Sarah Wollaston, the feistily independent Conservative MP for Totnes, has hit back at those online critics who denounced her role in the trial of her fellow Tory, Nigel Evans, acquitted this week on all charges of sexual assault and one of rape.

In an interview with The Times, Dr Wollaston was keen to stress that she was in no way challenging the verdict in the case, adding that she empathised with Mr Evans and his ordeal. She confessed, however, that the fallout from the case had been “very difficult”, particularly in the online sphere. She singled out The Daily Telegraph writer Dan Hodges, the libertarian blog Guido Fawkes, and the Tory publisher and writer Iain Dale, saying that she had been reading their “really quite aggressive attacks” about her handling of the allegations.

So far as I can make out, Dr Wollaston did absolutely the right thing throughout the case. According to her own account, she heard allegations of a sexual assault, took them seriously, attempted to address them without involving the police (at the specific request of the individuals who approached her) and, only when that option had been closed off, did she then pass to the two men who contacted her the names of police officers so they could contact them to make formal complaints if they chose to do so.

That strikes me as impeccable due process, the kind you’d expect from a former GP with experience of sexual assault cases. She has nothing to reproach herself for.

But reproach herself she does because of what has been said about her by those she terms “very aggressive male bloggers”. Here Dr Wollaston loses me a bit. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of “very aggressive male bloggers” – there are, as there are in lots of other areas of online activity. But, raw as I’m sure the past week has been for her, I’m not sure the case here stacks up.

The piece on the Guido Fawkes website – EXCLUSIVE: Evans Accuser Denies Witch-Hunt – is by the standards of that site a straight piece of reporting. On Dr Wollaston’s involvement, it notes that Nigel Evans “has expressed considerable anger” with her and quotes one of his accusers backing up her account (“At no time did Sarah put me under any pressure whatsoever”) and dismissing the suggestion she had an ‘ulterior motive’ (“I reject that idea entirely”). Yes, it concludes a bit snarkily that “Many of Wollaston’s colleagues disagree…”, but that’s quite tame and, however unfair, probably quite true.

As for Iain Dale, his ConservativeHome diary asserted that she needed to ask herself “some very searching questions”: “She no doubt felt she was exercising a duty of care towards the man who cried rape. She clearly believed his story, but today she must also be asking herself if she acted properly throughout this sorry saga.” This is the traditional columnist get-out clause – if there’s nothing specific you can think of that an individual did wrong, just say that it raises questions about their judgement. A week later Iain’s suggestion of what Dr Wollaston should have done instead was weak beyond belief: “I would have gone to the Chief Whip and trusted him to sort it.” Because obviously the Chief Whip is the best-qualified person to deal properly with allegations of sexual assault and rape against one of their colleagues. But, however ill-advised, it’s not a mean-spirited personal attack.

Dr Wollaston’s on stronger ground with Dan Hodgesblog-post in the Telegraph, ‘Nigel Evans has had his career ruined. That’s why you’re being criticised, Sarah Wollaston’. He concludes by saying she should extend the offer she made to the accusers – to resign as an MP if they felt she pressured them into going to the police – to Nigel Evans: “it’s his life that’s been ruined. Not theirs, Dr Wollaston. And certainly not yours.” Dan is a professional contrarian, but normally his brutal articles are fuelled by a searching logic. Not this one: it’s a cuttings smear, impure and simple.

So, of the three identified “very aggressive male bloggers”, one (the Guido Fawkes site) was neutral, one (Iain Dale) was silly, and one (Dan Hodges) fits the bill. That’s not much of a pattern. Actually the ‘blogosphere’ (how very 2009 that word seems) has been pretty fair-minded, not least because Dr Wollaston’s article in the Telegraph defending the integrity of her actions was so persuasive.

Her intervention has, though, prompted a Times editorial on blogging, praising sites such as LDV – “ConservativeHome, LabourList and LibDemVoice represent grassroots party members in powerful new ways” – before noting the downsides:

On the web, because there is little or no face-to-face accountability, anonymous individuals are often completely uncivilised. Some blog editors make no attempt to moderate the conversations that they host. Too often comment threads resemble argumentative sewers. One of the explanations for the worst examples of internet-based debate is said to be the dominance of men. Few of Britain’s main political bloggers are women. As traditional male only clubs close all over the country, the bloggers’ club remains unattractive to women, if not formally closed to them.

These are generally fair observations, but permit me to interject a couple of words in praise of LibDemVoice here.

We were one of the first mainstream political blogs to adopt an active comment moderation policy, way back in January 2010. Indeed, our volunteer editorial team goes to lengths I often regard as verging on the absurd to individually moderate comments, trying where possible to write to those who’ve over-stepped the mark and explain (once again) our very simple policy: be polite, be on-topic, be who you say you are.

Secondly, though being a 100% volunteer-run site often means our efforts are a bit more home-spun than those of our well-funded and professionally-staffed ‘rivals’, we benefit in other ways, not least the diversity of our team. Four of our 10 volunteer team are women, including my co-editor Caron Lindsay. And, as independent research showed last year, LibDemVoice is one of the least London-centric blogs around.

So my thanks to them – and to you, our readers and commenters – for showing that political blogs don’t have to be angry and don’t have to be male and don’t have to be part of the Westminster bubble to succeed. Happy Easter weekend!

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by John Holbo

My Chait thread was a moderate disaster. I was like: ‘by saying X, I think Chait meant Y.’ And you were like: ‘by saying ‘by saying X, Chait meant Z,’ are you saying Q?’ And I was like: what? Z? Q? No: Y!’ And you were like: ‘Y what?’ Anyway, I take almost full responsibility for how that went down wrong. Some of the comments came round but it was, overall, a poor frame for my point. My bad.

Let’s cut all that loose and try again, from quite a different angle. This post is also, sort of, a presentation of arguments I cheekily refused to disclose in this post. On we go!

Conor Friedersdorf’s argument that gay marriage opponents shouldn’t be likened to racist bigots goes something like this.

P1: Racism is pretty simple.

“A belief in the superiority of one race and the inferiority of another.”

P2: Opposition to same-sex marriage is complex.

“One thing I’ve noticed in this debate is how unfamiliar proponents of stigma are with thoughtful orthodox Christians — that is to say, they haven’t interacted with them personally, critiqued the best version of their arguments, or even been exposed to the most sophisticated version of their reasoning, which I find to be obviously earnest, if ultimately unpersuasive.”

C: Comparing same-sex marriage opponents to racist bigots falsifies by over-simplification.

Friedersdorf is braced for resistance to P2. But P2 is ok and the problem is P1. I hope it’s obvious to you, when it’s put so simply. Racism is not … simple. (How could it be?)

At this point you could try to say that racism is simple insofar as racist psychology/sociology cannot be tangled up in anything even potentially good, whereas anti same-sex marriage folks are trying to hold onto things that are, at least potentially, really good: community and identity and tradition, so forth. But obviously this emendation is a total loser. Racism is tangled up with norms about community and identity and tradition and so forth. Insofar as those are potentially good, racism is psychologically tangled up with things that are potentially good. Community is good. Having an identity you value is good. The antebellum South was graceful. Grace is good. (I’m not opposed to grace, per se. Are you?)

Friedersdorf would agree, I’m sure, so why did he make the bad argument? He was sliding from morals to psychology and back again. This is easy to do.

Ultimately, the moral arguments against racism are pretty simple; and, as a society, we have instituted a categorical moral ban (honored so often in the breach, but nominally a ban.) We aren’t inclined to get morally grey about this. ‘Moderately racist’ sounds, to our ears, more like ‘moderately murderous’ than ‘moderately violent’. Moderation in one’s racism is not an exculpatory factor.

So far I take myself to be describing, not recommending. But (because I know you will want to know): I think it’s on balance a good thing that our racism ban is so absolute – even though an obvious consequence of having set the bar high is widespread moral hypocrisy and confusion. Hence the problem with Friedersdorf argument, among other things.

The severity of our social ‘racism bad!’ ban does encourage (though it does not mandate!) psychological simplification. Obviously if you just ask people, ‘is racism psychologically/sociologically simple?’, they are going to say ‘no’, if they are sensible. But, insofar as we let our morals do our psychologizing for us, we have a certain tendency to simplify what we are dealing with.

Friedersdorf is just trying to say that not all same-sex marriage opponents are Bull Connor, ready to release the dogs to tear apart queers. That’s terribly unfair to the more civilized sort of same-sex marriage opponent. But, for that matter, it’s terribly unfair to most racists – today and in the past – to compare them to Bull Connor. All racists are not as bad as the very worst of racists, at their very worst.

If today’s most thoughtful same-sex marriage opponents are to be compared to racists, they should be compared, not to Bull Connor, but to the most thoughtful and moderate racists. Obviously it was very painful to moderate racists to see Bull Connor on TV. They knew they would be, personally, tarred with all that. When they themselves did not approve of it in the least.

Of course, given our absolute moral ban on racism, pointing this out is barely better than a bad joke – or at least a sneaky move on my part. Since we don’t now consider moderate racism more justifiable – hence acceptable – than the Full Bull Connor, there is no way to defend opposition to same-sex marriage, moderately, by saying it is only like moderate segregationism.

Same-sex marriage opponents are worried they will be excluded from polite society. Their opinions will fall outside the range of opinions that it is considered acceptable to hold. Establishing their moderate segregationism analog bona fides would be no way to insure against that. Rather, it would immediately guarantee their worst fears have come true.

Nevertheless, I do think that, logically (though this is a total political loser) same-sex marriage opponents really ought to argue, not that they are not like racists, but that, just as regarding all racists as like Bull Connor is psychologically oversimple, regarding all same-sex marriage opponents as queer-bashers is psychologically oversimple. And, perhaps, when we come to appreciate this truth about the complexity of the soul, categorical moral bans will soften, in turn. We will learn to tolerate moderate same-sex marriage opponents and moderate racists alike, as the subtle complexities of their souls may merit.

Like I said: tough sell.

But: is same-sex marriage opposition like moderate racism? Soft segregationism, say? Let’s simplify that. What is moderate racism?

I’ve been doing some reading on the so-called ‘soft Southern strategy’ of the 50’s and 60’s and 70’s. I’ve been reading moderate defenses of segregation, that is. Last year, you may recall, I posted reflections on a bunch of ‘moderate’ defenses of slavery. I’m proud of that post, and I’ve been meaning to follow up. It’s an important moral category: moderation, concerning an issue that seems to us, in retrospect, to admit no moderation. I’m now reading a good biography: Senator Sam Ervin, Last of The Founding Fathers [amazon], by Karl E. Campbell.

Sam Ervin was the face of the Watergate hearings. Nixon called him “that old incredible bastard,” which is great adjective order. Senator Sam told folksy jokes and stories. He set back the cause of civil rights for African-Americans, every chance he got. He got a lot of chances. He denied having a racist or bigoted bone in his body. I’m pretty sure he was sincere about that, although I don’t think he was right; not by a country mile.

Throughout his life the senator expressed deep anguish whenever anyone charged him with racism. During congressional hearings on immigration in 1965, Ervin suggested that Ethiopians had no right to be treated as favorably as immigrants from northern Europe. “I don’t know of a single contribution that the Abyssinians [Ethiopians] have made,” Ervin said. “Why should we put them on an equality with those countries that wrote our Constitution and gave us our common laws?” When a reporter concluded that Ervin opposed immigration reform because he held racist opinions about Africans, the senator called the newspaper and demanded an apology. George B. Autry, who served on Ervin’s staff, recalled: “Those charges really hurt the Senator. He couldn’t understand how people could say such a thing about him.” Ervin consistently disavowed any racist motivations in speeches he delivered against civil rights on the Senate floor. “My opposition does not arise out of any matter of race,” he insisted. “All of my life I have been a friend to the Negro race. As a citizen, a lawyer and a judge, I have done everything within my power to see to it that all citizens enjoy equality before the law.”

But when Ervin had the opportunity to publicly disclaim the racist theory of white biological supremacy, he demurred. In 1963 an interviewer asked Ervin point blank: “Do you agree with [Mississippi governor Ross Barnett] that the Negro race is inferior to the white race?” Ervin answered with a story: “There was a man in my county one time who was talking about building fences. He said the best fence posts were made out of a locust tree. He said they would last two lifetimes. He said he had tried it. I have only lived one part of a lifetime, and I don’t think you can measure the relative abilities of races in a generation.” In contrast to the hesitancy he revealed in his statements on white supremacy, Ervin proudly enunciated his views on Jim Crow when he told Look magazine in 1956:

“I believe in racial segregation as it exists in the South today.” Since his childhood, he had lived in, and approved of, a racially divided world. Ervin did not endorse the extreme segregationist positions held by some of his southern senatorial colleagues. He stated publicly that he thought it was wrong to deny African Americans access to any professional or business opportunity open to whites. But Ervin did believe that in the area of social relations the races should remain separated. He insisted that segregation was not the product of racial prejudice, but the result of “a basic natural law, which decrees that like shall seek like. Whenever and wherever people are free to choose their own associates, they choose as their associates members of their own race.”

Ervin argued that “the relations between the white and Negro races in North Carolina [were] as harmonious as relations between any two races anywhere on the face of the earth.” The senator denied that black Tar Heels faced economic discrimination, citing as proof that “they operate banks, insurance companies, public transportation systems and other substantial business enterprises.” Ervin also claimed that most African Americans in his state supported the Jim Crow system. “The majority of Negroes, like the majority of whites, prefer to go to their own churches, their own social organizations and their own fraternal organizations,” he explained. “I believe that they prefer to send their children to their own schools.” If North Carolina enjoyed such harmonious race relations, why then was there such an active civil rights movement within Ervin’s home state? The senator’s answer echoed the comfortable rationalizations popular among white southerners. He suggested that “the present attack on racial segregation is spearheaded mainly by three groups: well meaning outsiders, whose unfamiliarity with the South causes them to ‘darken counsel by works without knowledge’; political opportunists who hanker after votes; and Negro leaders who demand that all governmental powers be diverted from their proper functions to force the involuntary mixing of the races.”

It seems so strange today that Ervin, as the ‘moderate’ face of segregation, could be the figure Look magazine would look to, to say something sensible. We today regard out-and-out racism as more sensible, if it comes to that. If you are going to insist that people be treated worse, you should have the decency to regard them as worse people, hence as deserving of worse treatment! Otherwise you are saying people who don’t deserve worse, deserve worse. Which makes no sense. (I think I get no argument from you.)

Anyway, I’m planning a follow-up post to this one. What do we think of the likes of Sam Ervin? I’ll round out this post by offering a few reflections.

But first, a few links. The author, Campbell, published an article-length argument about Ervin here, several years before the biography came out. (You need JSTOR, but it is possible to get a free JSTOR account that gives you access to a few articles at a time. Inconvenient, yes.) Here is a review of the biography. And I just noticed – I haven’t yet watched myself – a c-span interview with the author. I probably won’t have my follow-up post up for a week, at least. It might be nice if, in the meantime, anyone who wished to weigh in on my eventual discussion, had also read the biography – or at least something substantive on the subject. I haven’t read any of Sam Ervin’s own writings [amazon]. But you can get Preserving the Constitution! for a penny! Good deal, I expect.

Campbell writes:

We underestimate the complexity of the South’s response to the Second Reconstruction, and overlook the intricacies of southern racist thought, when we portray all opponents of civil rights as ignorant and irrational demagogues. To be sure, many were. But some of the white defenders of the segregated South developed shrewd and coherent political philosophies to maintain segregation. Sam Ervin’s soft southern strategy represented one of the most insidious and effective examples of the white South’s response to the African American struggle for freedom.

I can’t go all the way to ‘coherent’. But I’ll buy the rest. The question is really how such a manifestly incoherent, yet towering structure of legalism, paternalism, pretext, folk humor, and confabulation can hold together, let alone conceal – from itself! – that racism and bigotry are part of the mix. They called him Claghorn’s Hammurabi, and he was strange guy. (Touching back on Friedersdorf’s argument, for a moment: if you think ‘sophisticated and earnest’ are distinguishing features of anti same-sex marriage arguments, over and against racist arguments, you need to read Sam Ervin’s sophisticated, earnest constitutional arguments against civil rights.)

Bigotry is an inherently negative attitude. But racism is, essentially, just a hierarchical notion. It really has nothing inherent to do with hate. Bigotry says someone is bad. Racism says ‘I am better’. Which implies someone is worse. But it doesn’t necessarily dwell on it, darkly, let alone violently. Racism can walk on the sunny side of the street, in its mind.

Ervin does not seem to be bubbling over with race hate, in an emotional sense. This is why he felt that charges of racism, against him, were unjust. A racist is a bigot is consumed with hate. Ervin looked in his heart, saw no bubbling hate, per se, for the black man. He exonerated himself on that charge, and felt anger at his unjust accusers for calling him racist.

What he felt was love of hierarchy and order and preservation of social status.

He had a two-week (!) debate, in hearings with Robert Kennedy, in 1963. ‘The Bobby and Sam Show’, they called it. Kennedy cited figures and figures and figures, as evidence that actually things were not so great for the black man, in the South. Senator Sam joked: figures don’t lie, but liars sure do figure! Kennedy, wearily: “If we cannot recognize the fact that there is a problem, Senator, we are not going to get very far.”

Ervin’s temper, which had been rising, now boiled over. Standing to defend his homeland he retorted: “Mr. Attorney General, I will maintain at any time, and in any place, under any conditions, that North Carolina is more like heaven than any other place on earth.

Of course, he then admits there are problems. There are problems everywhere! And probably people know best how to handle their own problems, without outsiders interfering.

But really the fixed point is this: if there are angels on earth, probably they have tar on their heels.

Another passage:

Howard Lee, the first African American to be elected mayor in North Carolina in the twentieth century, explained: “Blacks tended to be rejected in the South as a race, as a whole, but accepted individually, and I always found that if that kind of system could continue then the power brokers could decide who would have certain privileges and who would not. . . . And it would be those privileges that would still give them a certain amount of power.”

Lee’s description of the southern paternalistic system helps explain Ervin’s absolute opposition to all civil rights legislation. The mayor believed that “Senator Sam’s position [against civil rights] was based to a great extent on a very unique position that many power brokers took within North Carolina and throughout the South. And that position is that if laws are enacted which give freedom to the whole then there is no longer the opportunity to give and take privileges. . . . With the enactment of civil rights laws, this whole process, this whole system crumbled.”

Pulling it all together: animosity towards blacks – wishing them ill, for ill’s sake – is not the center of the picture. What is important is that good things for blacks should flow down from a morally and socially hierarchical peak, inhabited by the likes of Ervin. There is also an intense just world hypothesis-grade refusal to admit anything really bad could be happening, and have happened.

Civil rights need to be resisted, not because good things for blacks are bad, but because good things cannot come to blacks in a way that suggests that bad things came to them before.

That is, Ervin does not want bad things for blacks but wants it to be the case that things that are (we see so clearly today) bad for blacks, are good for blacks. This is a very normal type of racism. But it doesn’t fit with our paradigm racist case: hate.

This is common sense, but we’re on the internet, so let me add the thing I shouldn’t need to: I’m not saying that I know, for a certain metaphysical truth, that Sam Ervin’s heart was as pure as the driven snow, when it came to being free from the least little bit of racial animus. I assume the contrary, since I am not insane. Nevertheless, if you took his primary motive, in resisting civil rights, to be race hatred – i.e. bigotry – I think you would be mistaken. His racism wasn’t a felt emotion of hate but a blinkered vision of the social good. A will to ‘I am better’, not a will to ‘you are worse’.

You will object that these are two sides of the same coin. Yes, and that means you can always be looking at one side – or mostly be looking at one side – rather than the other.

And speaking of saying things that should be obvious: the overall moral of this Ervin story isn’t about same-sex marriage, obviously. The point is: moderate racism is an important psychological/sociological category, to which we are semi-blinded by our (rightful!) exclusion of moderate racism as defensible moral position. The importance of thinking about moderate racism is mostly this: there are more Sam Ervins around today than Bull Connors. As society becomes less tolerant of racism, racism involves more double-thinking. No one exceeded Ervin at that! But when we think about racism we think: Bull Connor and dogs and firehoses.

Probably you will say: you didn’t need to argue it at such length! Still, I don’t think we have a standard model of the Sam Ervin-type mind; only of the Bull Connor-type mind. We have a standard model only of the non-standard model, that is.

But, having made an argument about same-sex marriage the occasion for bouncing off into reflections on Claghorn’s Hammurabi, I might as well tie it back, tie it off. Friedersdorf – and many others – argue that it is wrong to compare same-sex marriage opposition to racism, because same-sex marriage opposition can be fueled by a kind of (perhaps hopeless, nostalgic) positive, hierarchical vision of the good, where social order is concerned. My point, coming off the Ervin case, would be this: this doesn’t prove same-sex marriage opposition is unlike racism.

[personal profile] andrewducker
A friend's child is suddenly obsessed with Batman. So I'm looking for some recommendations for Batman collections that would be suitable.
strangecharm: (Default)

Sleepy morning

Apr. 19th, 2014 09:36 am
[personal profile] strangecharm
I think Andrew must have an itch somewhere.

But since he's asleep and his hand is resting on my hip, he's scratching my hip instead.

Very gently. It's sort of cute. I can't help thinking it feels like he's trying to look after me, even though I know it's just coincidence.
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice

don fosterThe Bath Chronicle reports the news of the contenders seeking to succeed Don Foster as Lib Dem MP for Bath:

The party has this week decided on a shortlist of contenders who will battle it out for the Lib Dem nomination. Mr Foster announced in January that he would be standing down from the seat he has held since 1992.

Several hopefuls turned to Twitter to announce they had made the shortlist including Chris Lucas, Steve Bradley, former Bath City chairman Councillor Manda Rigby (Lib Dem, Abbey) and former mayor Councillor Andy Furse (Lib Dem, Kingsmead). …

Chair of the Shortlisting Committee for the Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Bath, Shaun McGall, said the party had received numerous applications that had now been scrutinised but he said he would not confirm the shortlist until party members had been officially notified.

“As you would expect we had a strong field of applications. We look forward to announcing our successful candidate in mid-May following an internal members only hustings, which will be the culmination of a thoughtful and good natured internal campaign and debate about who is best placed to build upon the legacy and public service of our fine Member of Parliament, The Right Honourable Don Foster.

“Our successful Parliamentary Candidate will work with Don Foster, Councillor Paul Crossley and our Lib Dem led-local council to outline to the residents of Bath how the election of another Liberal Democrat MP will benefit all. Not only to help to continue the work of Lib Dems in Government and locally on the council, but also to build a stronger economy and a fairer society for all our residents and communities in the city.”

Don Foster was first elected for Bath in 1992, beating the then Tory chairman Chris Patten. In 2010, his majority was 11,883 (25%).

Drink more booze for your health!

Apr. 19th, 2014 06:59 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

If you like to unwind with a glass of wine, then this might be the news you’ve been waiting for. Because according to a leading scientist, drinking just over a bottle a day won’t harm your health.

Dr Kari Poikolainen, who used to work for the World Health Organisation as an alcohol expert, examined decades of research into its effects. Men are currently meant to have no more than four units a day but women are supposed to have three units – around the equivalent of a large glass of wine.

A bottle of wine has ten units. But Dr Poikolainen believes drinking only becomes harmful when people consume more than around 13 units a day.

He also claimed that people who exceed the recommended limit could live longer than teetotallers.

Dr Poikolainen said: ‘The weight of the evidence shows moderate drinking is better than abstaining and heavy drinking is worse than abstaining – however the moderate amounts can be higher than the guidelines say.’

Pretty much the standard finding. As with so many things there’s a curve, t5he interesting thing being the shape of it. And that standard finding is that boozing up to some 40, 50 units a week is healthier than pure abstinence, after that more unhealthy.

So, given this statement of the standard finding, what do we hear next?

But Julia Manning, from think-tank 2020Health, said: ‘This is an unhelpful contribution to the debate. It makes grand claims which we don’t see evidence for.’ She added: ‘Alcohol is a toxin, the risks outweigh the benefits.’

Fuck off you sour old trout.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

So Deborah Orr tells us all about how her mother worked her fingers to the bone running the household, how poverty meant she never had, despite father working 6 days a week, store bought clothes or a takeaway. And she doesn’t have to do that, no one does these days in fact. Then:

Yet, despite all these profound and fundamental changes, the definition of what is “full-time” work and what is “part-time” work hasn’t altered. Red Pepper magazine points out that “Keynes thought that by the 21st century we would all be working about eight hours a week and getting paid liveable wages for it. The history of human progress up until fairly recently has been people working less and less, and having more time to actually live and enjoy life. The triumph of neoliberal doctrine has reversed this – and to the benefit of nobody.”

And what is “neo-liberal doctrine” anyway? Essentially it’s that people should be paid as little or as much as the market can bear, without social intervention of any kind. That’s it. That’s what human life should be all about, according to the dominant ideology of the age. Then we wonder why social problems are so endemic. People don’t exercise enough. People don’t cook enough. People don’t spend enough time with their children. People don’t read enough, to themselves or their kids. People don’t volunteer enough. It’s hard to look after the elderly. People drink too much. People watch too much TV. Why? Because people are at work, and if they’re not at work, then that’s the biggest of all the problems. The way we live our lives needs fundamental restructuring. Time is precious. But you wouldn’t think so, not at all, not from looking at the average earnings people get for spending precious time at work.

How damn stupid do you have to be to believe both parts of that argument?

As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, it’s those household production hours that have declined, in a manner that Keynes didn’t predict, leaving us all, both men and women, with vastly more leisure time. She actually points this out in the first part of the piece then entirely ignores it at the end. This is just so damn stupid.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

That was my first experience of the protest at Balcombe, last summer. It’s been a long journey since then, via five hours in the cells of Crawley police station, months of preparing our case, and finally six days at the magistrates court in Brighton.

Balcombe, as one of the first places in the UK to be earmarked as a potential fracking site, has been the frontline in a major struggle over the search and exploitation of yet more fossil fuels – and the stakes could hardly be higher.

No one intends to do any fracking at Balcombe. From The Guardian:

On Thursday, the company wrote to residents of Balcombe and released a statement saying that it was applying for an extension to its planning permission for an exploratory well, but added: “The analysis of the samples we obtained from the exploration well confirmed that the target rock underneath Lower Stumble is naturally fractured. The presence of these natural fractures and the nature of the rock means that we do not intend to hydraulically fracture the exploration well at Lower Stumble now or in the future.”

Ignorant sodding cow.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Inflatable wind turbines that float thousands of feet above the ground could be the key to sustainable energy for the future, developers claim.

The helium filled ‘buoyant air turbine’ (BAT) is designed to harness energy from the strong wind currents higher up in the sky, transmitting it down cables attached to tethering ties. The tethers can automatically adjust the height of the turbine to catch the strongest winds.

Or maybe not.

synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)

(no subject)

Apr. 19th, 2014 12:59 am
[personal profile] synecdochic
I follow Everest climbing season on and off -- my ex's father and sister are mountain climbers, and that got me into following mountaineering, especially the 8000-meter big ones. Today, news broke of an ice fall in the Khumba Icefall, on the South Col route -- historically one of the most deadly spots. Initial reports are saying anywhere between 12 and 16 dead, all Sherpas, with over a hundred people stranded above the Icefall (where they were trekking gear to Camp 1 or Camp 2), and unconfirmed reports that the ladder in the Icefall has been damaged or destroyed.

If the ladder is gone and can't be repaired, that pretty much drops the bottom out of this year's window -- maybe 10% (or less) of people who are trying to summit Everest these days have the technical skill and high-altitude mountain climbing experience to handle that area of the climb without the help. It's going to be an ugly season.

I can hold forth for a while on the state of Everest these days. I have a lot of opinions for somebody who would never dream of getting anywhere near it myself. Long story short: Everest climbing has turned into a perfect storm of the Western world marketing "climbing Everest" as one of those 'hardcore life-altering experiences', a number of unqualified people setting themselves up as guides to cash in on that marketing, a 'free market' for guiding where there's no regulation or objective standard of quality guiding so clueless hardcore-sports-tourists have no means by which to evaluate the capabilities of the expedition leaders to handle shit if shit gets ugly, a tendency to try to compete on price because aforementioned clueless mountaineering-tourists balk at paying what the non-shady expedition leaders charge, and over it all, the driving motivations (and associated ethical complications) of the Nepalese government depending on that Western money for support, thus creating incentives for them to maximize the number of people who buy permits every year. There's a lot of additional factors, but all of those combine to create a perfect storm of completely unqualified climbers being led by completely inadequate expedition leaders who rely on the Sherpas and don't give them anywhere near enough credit -- or pay -- which leads to resentment that's been bubbling for a while, to the point where last year there was a confrontation that nearly turned deadly. Everest is full of people who are trying to commit suicide in the messiest way possible and take a lot of people with them, and the honest and capable expedition leaders not only have to clean up the mess on the mountain but also deal with the market forces and the fallout later.

The fact is, though, that nobody would climb Sagarmatha (which is what the Sherpas call the mountain, although that's a recent coinage; before they used the Tibetan name, Chomolungma) without Sherpa aid and Sherpa knowledge. The Sherpas set the ropes up the entire mountain ahead of any other climbers, carry supplies up the mountain from camp to camp before any climbers start behind them, serve as porters for climbers throughout the process of climbing, and pack out all the trash (and I do mean all the trash, including human waste) behind. They're the first ones in at the beginning of the season and the last ones out at the end. Every person who's summitted the mountain in modern times has done so relying on the work of a Sherpa, and -- although this is changing somewhat (but not fast enough for a lot of the Sherpas) -- often without giving any credit to the Sherpas that make it possible.

So I'm saddened to hear that a dozen (or more) Sherpas died yesterday on the mountain (because the moutain will kill you as easily as not; it will not notice, it will not care), but I'm even more sad that they were there on that mountain because of alpine adventure tourism and Western demand. I've been pleased to see several news articles about the icefall include and acknowledge some of the ethical quandaries and the stark realities of Everest tourism. I wish this could help make meaningful change in how the commodified "climb Mt Everest" industry runs these days, and helps to get some of those unqualified people being duped by unethical expedition leaders off the mountain until they're at least a little more qualified, but I doubt it will.
kareila: "PERL!" (perl)

Changelog Digest for Fri, Apr 18

Apr. 18th, 2014 11:27 pm
[personal profile] kareila posting in [community profile] changelog_digest
Sorry I haven't posted an update here recently. The transition from Bugzilla to Github Issues will make things bumpy for a while.

[dw-free]

38ce1f7: Bug 215: Implement v-gifts
Add database table for vgift transactions.
428b6bf: Bug 215: Implement v-gifts
Strip trailing whitespace in DW/VirtualGift.pm.
0adfd1f: Bug 215: Implement v-gifts
DW::VirtualGiftTransaction - methods for working with transaction data.
d922b93: Bug 215: Implement v-gifts
New module DW::Shop::Item::VirtualGift.
9e3a057: Bug 215: Implement v-gifts
New event for delivery notification, LJ::Event::VgiftDelivered.
6e0a656: Bug 215: Implement v-gifts
Add vgift-trans.t for testing transaction methods.
4a66ec9: Bug 215: Implement v-gifts
Add methods related to viewing transactions on profile pages.
b81e166: Bug 215: Implement v-gifts
Requested code style tweaks.
30d6f37: Bug 5041: Include comments search in S2 search module
Add a "with comments" checkbox to print_search_form S2 method.
12bb380: Bug 5041: Include comments search in S2 search module
Style fixes as per review comments.
0e27559: Bug 5041: Include comments search in S2 search module
Put each element of the search form in a separate HTML span.
247eb2b: Bug 5041: Include comments search in S2 search module
CSS added for styles which don't inherit from Tabula Rasa.
9d4acb9: Issue 658: Improve accessibility on landing page for screened comments
Accessibility fix: screened comment link is now more descriptive.
2b02219: Issue 668: Change 'state' to 'states/regions/territories' for all countries when editing profile
Changed widget.location.fn.state.inline to "state/province/territory".
c9c43d2: Bug 5191: sticky posts won't work with slug URLs
Fix sticky_entry method to accept slug URLs as well as ditemids.
ebac26b: Bug 5191: sticky posts won't work with slug URLs
Tweak slug-finding regex to use non-capturing groups.
d6f033e: Issue 667: add ted.com as embed source
Add ted.com to whitelist for embedded videos.

Southern Gothic

Apr. 19th, 2014 03:59 am
[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by Belle Waring

“Midnight in the Garden of Good an Evil” is not a great movie but an OK one; certainly if you want to see a lot of purty pictures of Savannah it’s a good one. Kevin Spacey portrays, according to my grandmother Henrietta, the main character extremely convincingly—even going so far as to both have his mannerisms and resemble him somewhat, which she thought incredible for a picture of a dead man. There must have been video of him, obviously. There are a number of very unconvincing things about the book, mainly the idea that this white journalist from New York (IIRC) could insinuate himself into both white high society (second tier—but still) and black society in so short a time as to be both privy to all kind of secrets and taken by an…I don’t know voodoo I guess…practitioner on a midnight rowboat ride up in a marsh somewhere. (First-tier Savannah society is so insular you could only gain that kind of access by marrying someone, even though it’s true everyone loves to gossip. But getting invited to parties?) I say “voodoo I guess” because despite the fact that people totally do this thing, or practice this religion, or whatever, we don’t even really call it anything, so much do we not talk about it. No, that’s an exaggeration, we call it voodoo; there’s an island near my dad’s place in Bluffton called either Voodoo Island or Devil’s Elbow Island (or more cheerfully Potato Island, but I think the Crams pushed that and it never happened.) You can read a short story about it here, if you like. I had been thinking for a while people might like to read it, it’s from 2004, so quite a while ago. Yeah, voodoo, but not like in Florida where people have actual Santeria churches and storefronts and stuff; more like everyone is a devout Christian—but everyone—but still there are women who will do voodoo for you. As I say in the story, white people hire black people to put curses on other white people. And I’m not entirely sure how they find them, except that everyone knows who to ask? Everyone knows everything about everyone, is the answer to that. Well, no, there are information asymmetries: the black community as a whole knows more because maids know everything about their employers but not vice versa, and so on for a lot of other things.

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by David Herdson

Is 35% Labour’s new bedrock support?

It’s better to be lucky than to be good, so the saying goes – and in politics, success or failure frequently turns on the timing of events over which those involved have little or no control: their luck, in effect.  What they make of that luck is a different matter.

To that end, the Lib Dems going into coalition with the Conservatives delivered Ed Miliband a very great slice of luck.  Not only did it enhance his own leadership prospects (a Con minority government would have been less stable and could easily have swung the Labour electorate behind his brother as a more proven option), but it led to the biggest voter realignment since the early 1980s; one that Labour benefitted greatly from.  Indeed, so great has been that shift that the question has to be asked whether it’s enough by itself to deliver him victory next year.

On some measures, Labour is performing very poorly.  Questions of leadership perception and economic competence consistently put Cameron or the Conservatives ahead.  Labour’s own voting intention rating has steadily drifted downwards from the mid-forties in 2012 to the mid- to high-thirties now.  Indeed, were it not for the Lib Dem to Lab switchers, Labour would be frequently polling in the twenties.  As the only major Westminster party opposing a government that’s been making cuts for four years, that’s shockingly poor.

Yet that current weakness demonstrates just how strong Labour’s underlying position is.  Gordon Brown polled disastrously in 2010: only once in the previous three-quarters of a century had his party received so few votes at a general election, and then only just – so those who did turn out for them must be a pretty firm base of pro-Labour support.  Add in the Lib Dem to Lab switchers – who seem well motivated against the parties of both Clegg and Cameron – and that base rises to around 35%: only just below where Labour is right now.

So the simple question is: can Labour actually fall any further?  Bar a point or two at most, the only way the figures could decline further is if other parties start eating into those who voted Labour in 2010, or into the Yellow-to-Reds – or if people from either of those groups sit it out altogether.  That’s not impossible: Labour in 1983 and the Conservatives in 2001 both went backwards after losing power, and from a weak starting point in the case of the Tories.  However, neither election was held in circumstances as favourable to the opposition as now.

    If Labour is at or near its new rock-bottom core support, then that puts it in an extremely strong position for 2015 given how that support is distributed (assuming a Scottish ‘No’ vote in September).  The Conservatives would need to poll well into the forties just to hold their current seats.

 That’s only really possible if UKIP’s support collapses and if it goes overwhelmingly Blue: two mighty big ‘if’s.  To look at it another way, is the improving economy really likely to switch many votes from Lab to Con when Labour’s hardly gained any swing voters from the Tories since 2010 anyway?

It could have been very different.  Had Cameron won enough extra seats to form a majority government – even one with a small majority – Clegg and the Lib Dems would never have become tainted to those on the left and it’s quite possible that Labour would be scrabbling with the Lib Dems for second place in the polls.  But that’s not what happened and the consequences of what did are that lucky Ed’s been handed a solid electoral coalition on a plate sufficient for him to cruise towards Downing Street.

David Herdson

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

From the vasty deep

Apr. 18th, 2014 10:11 pm
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
"GLENDOWER
I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
HOTSPUR
Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?"

They do if you use the magic words David Brin Glory Season. Or one will, any, from the deeps of the interwebs.

matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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