Friday, January 24, 2014

Bloomberg, De Blasio, et al: Rich people’s scolding is really a form of snobbery masquerading as concern for poor people’s well-being

New York Mayor Bill de … Blasio’s undeniable truism—that Gotham is really two cities—goes a long way toward explaining the nanny-state policies that de Blasio will likely continue 
writes Benny Huang.
As a city councilman, de Blasio had a mixed voting record toward then-Mayor Bloomberg’s restrictions on salt, trans fats, smoking, baby formula, and whatever else he felt like regulating. Nonetheless, de Blasio has made no indication that he will repeal Bloomberg’s legacy and even thanked the outgoing mayor for his accomplishments in the field of “public health.”

In order to understand Bloomberg’s (and likely de Blasio’s) impulse to regulate other people’s bad habits, it’s necessary to understand that powerful people in New York City are mostly rich and feel entitled to make the rules for everyone else. Michael Bloomberg’s personal worth is estimated at about $31 billion, making him the tenth richest person in America. De Blasio is a mere multi-millionaire.

Rich, politically-influential New Yorkers have both the means and the motive to force reform upon their fellow citizens in skid row neighborhoods like East New York and the South Bronx. The affluent really believe that they like poor people despite the fact they are physically repulsed by their presence and thus never associate with them. In their own minds, however, they are staunch supporters of the less fortunate because they use tax dollars to secure indigent citizens’ political allegiance, something we used to call vote-buying in a more candid age.

It’s not poor people who make them cringe. It’s smokers and the obese.

But smoking is undoubtedly the [pastime] of the lower class. A 2010 study from the Center for Disease Control found that 28.9 percent of adults below the poverty line were smokers. The stigma attached to smoking increases the closer one gets to high society.

Bloomberg’s fanatical antismoking crusade has driven up the price of cigarettes and made it illegal to smoke nearly everywhere. Twenty Marlboros will cost you about $12.50 in New York today. Discount brands like Pyramid cost $10.50 per pack, the city-imposed minimum price.

It’s for your own good, the nanny-staters would say. But it isn’t the government’s business to make us stop smoking, or eat our vegetables, or go outside and play. In any case, while the added tax burden has driven some poor smokers to quit, it has also driven others (deeper) into the poor house. Smokers in New York who earn less than $30,000 per year are watching about a quarter of their income go up in smoke. Tobacco taxes are regressive taxes.

Bloomberg’s controversial Big Gulp ban is another example of rich people dictating lifestyle choices to poor people. No one in Bloomberg’s social circle would be caught dead with an oversized plastic cup of fizzy water and corn syrup. It’s just tacky. They prefer Perrier, or a fine Scotch before bed.

Rich New Yorkers recognized (correctly) that the city’s underclass suffers from a bit of a weight problem and resolved to fix it for them. What they really wanted to do was ban gluttony, which is the true scourge, though impossible to eliminate via legislation. So they began by banning sugary drinks larger than sixteen ounces.

Mayor Bloomberg knows exactly which demographic group needs to shed some pounds. As he explained on Face the Nation in March 2013, “It — being overweight is the first time it’s gone from a rich person’s disease to a poor person’s disease. We’ve just got to do something.”

 By “do[ing] something” he means banning Big Gulps. When that doesn’t solve the obesity crisis, and it won’t, the city will move on to banning buffet restaurants, free drink refills, twinkies, ho-hos and whatever else the benevolent government thinks its citizens should not consume.

Take note, however, of which economic class Mayor Bloomberg thinks he is saving from themselves. In his mind he’s doing poor folks a favor when he assumes the role of portion police, but in reality he’s merely showing his prejudice that poor people are disgustingly fat and too stupid to understand why. He must believe that they need the government to ban their bad habits, one after another, until they’re eating organic arugula from Whole Foods.

New York’s failed expedition into governmental nannying is symptomatic of its class structure. Rich people’s scolding is really a form of snobbery masquerading as concern for poor people’s well-being. Rather than admit that the underclass repulses them, wealthy New Yorkers try to strip away their repulsive behavior by force of law. Expect the trend to continue through the de Blasio years.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Worse Than Albania: "It's quicker to get a Swedish colleague back to work if you have an operation in two weeks' time rather than having to wait for a year"

Oh Lord, thank you thank thank you! Thank you for bringing Barack Obama to America, so that Americans — so that those poor American wretches, those clueless clods — will finally have the same kind of outstanding health care as in Europe, notably in that avant-garde region which is Scandinavia, with its Nordic Model, where people are treated with the utmost digni—

Wait a minute.

According to Sweden's The Local (tack till Valerie), the Swedish health care system's rank is worse than Albania's:

One in ten Swedes now has private health insurance, often through their employers, with some recipients stating it makes business sense to be seen quickly rather than languish in national health care queues.

More than half a million Swedes now have private health insurance, showed a new review from industry organization Swedish Insurance (Svensk Försäkring). In eight out of ten cases, the person's employer had offered them the private insurance deal.

"It's quicker to get a colleague back to work if you have an operation in two weeks' time rather than having to wait for a year," privately insured Anna Norlander told Sveriges Radio on Friday. "It's terrible that I, as a young person, don't feel I can trust the health care system to take care of me."

The insurance plan guarantees that she can see a specialist within four working days, and get a time for surgery, if needed, within 15.

In December, the queues in the Swedish health care system pushed the country down a European ranking of healthcare.

  Health system wait times in Sweden were deemed so lengthy that they pulled Sweden down the European ranking despite the country having technically advanced healthcare at its disposal.

"The Swedish score for technically excellent healthcare services is, as ever, dragged down by the seemingly never-ending story of access/waiting time problems," the reported noted, underlining that the national efforts to guarantee patient care had not helped to cut the delays significantly.

In its year-ahead report, industry organization Swedish Insurance said many people now felt they did not know what they could expect from their health care providers.

"There is a lack of certainty about what the individual can expect from public welfare and which needs have to be taken care of in another manner," the report authors noted.

Anzio! Rare Photos From World War II

Fox News links a story from Life Magazine's archives of the 1940s:
On January 22, 1944, six months after the Allied invasion of Sicily, American and British troops swarmed ashore at Anzio, roughly 30 miles south of Rome. The brainchild of Winston Churchill and dubbed Operation Shingle, the attack caught German troops stationed along the Italian coast largely by surprise; but after the initial onslaught, the Germans dug in. The next four months saw some of the fiercest, most prolonged fighting in World War II’s European Theater 
Also: World War II in color

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hostility towards mass immigration arises not just from fears of economic “progress”, but from various instructive experiences

The best response to The Economist's “Europe’s Tea Parties” comes from David Ashton:
Hostility towards mass immigration arises not just from fears of economic “progress”, but from instructive experiences of cultural incompatibility, social disadvantage, imported crime and terrorism and an uninvited threat to national identity. To brush aside such considerations as trivial, intolerant, nostalgic, racist, nasty and even Nazi exposes a faulty and counter-productive analysis, itself blinkered by global-growth criteria.

An economy is not a country. Although bankers may not appreciate this, voters understand it all too well.
• "Undocumented Worker" — The Left's Preferred Expression for "Illegal Alien" Is False and Misleading 
• No, Liberals, there Is Not a Single "Undocumented Worker" in the United States (or on This Planet)
Illegal immigration is to immigration what shoplifting is to shopping
No one talks about legal immigrants who are hard working men and women, who wait for the frustratingly slow process that seems to discriminate against those who want to do it by the book
If the U.S. were to treat Mexican nationals in the same way that Mexico treats Central American nationals, there would be humanitarian outrage

Monday, January 20, 2014

Europe's Tea Parties? Not So Fast

European versions of the Tea Party are sprouting among, and due to, the continent's troubled economies warns (sic) The Economist. "Warns", because that is mainly a bad thing, according  to the London newspaper.
In May voters across the 28-member European Union will elect 751 deputies to the European Parliament. Polls suggest that the FN could win a plurality of the votes in France. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has similarly high hopes, as does the Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands. Anti-EU populists of the left and right could take between 16% and 25% of the parliament’s seats, up from 12% today. Many of those votes will go to established parties of the Eurosceptic left. But those of the right and far right might take about 9%. And it is they, not the parties of the left, who are scaring the mainstream.
There are numerous problems with this simplistic put-'em-all-in-th'-same-barrel view.

For instance, France's National Front should in no way be assimilated to the Tea Party. As No Pasarán and Le Monde Watch have reported numerous times,  
the Front National's Marine Le Pen criticizes privatization and "extreme" free market policies, holding that France needs "a strong state", while one of her top aides speaks of taking advantage of the fears engendered by globalization and surfing on insecurity and on social suffering
When told "that in the U.S. she would sound like a left-wing politician", she went as far as telling the New York Times's Russell Shorto that Barack "Obama is way to the right of us”!

Meanwhile, Adam Shaw is perhaps more on the money when the Fox News reporter says that "the often stale British political system is being rocked by its very own Tea Party."
The UK Independence Party (UKIP), formed in 1993 opposing Britain’s entry into the European Union, failed to make an electoral dent for a long time. However UKIP has built up steam in recent years and is spearheading a seismic shift in the British political spectrum.

In this year’s local elections – the British version of midterms -- UKIP took a stunning 23 percent of the vote, up from the 3.1 percent they won in the 2010 national election. Their leader, Nigel Farage, is buoyed by their recent success.

“We want to take back our country, we want to take back our government, and we want to take back our birthright,” Farage told in forthright language rarely seen in British politics.

 … It is here where UKIP spied an opportunity, adopting an anti-establishment, populist platform that argues for lower taxation, privatization, smaller government and getting Britain out of the European Union.

 … “The sense of frustration the Tea Party feels about the remoteness about the bureaucratic class of the Washington beltway is similar to our frustration with being dealt with by Brussels,” said Farage.

Many experts agree. Andrew Russell, Head of Politics at the University of Manchester, told that the comparison between the Tea Party and UKIP is an accurate one, and that he believes that UKIP could take the 2014 elections by storm,

“UKIP will do well in the 2014 European elections. They may even win them in terms of the popular vote. This will increase the pressure on the Conservatives.”

Yet instead of reaching out and finding middle ground, the Tories have snubbed UKIP. In 2006 David Cameron dismissed the newcomers as full of “fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists,” and top Tory Kenneth Clark recently branded them as “a collection of clowns.”

 … As a right-wing libertarian, populist movement, there are many comparisons to be drawn with the Tea Party, yet Farage argues that there are differences too, particularly that UKIP wants to take votes away from the Tories, not to reform them.

It is here that could make them bigger in Britain than the Tea Party in America – UKIP is making inroads as a party, not just through individual candidates.

What remains to be seen is how UKIP will capitalize on their situation, and in that the next year will be vital.

“Like the Tea Party UKIP might have a profound effect on their closest neighbors politically,” Russell told “But like the Tea Party they might repel the crucial section of support needed for that party to win.”