Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

How do you argue a point with a side which hasn’t a clue how the real world works or what a logical “non-sequitur” is?

I think we all know which side that is.

Here’s the premise put forth by an article in The New Republic:

“Libertarians Who Oppose a Militarized Police Should Support Gun Control”

Here’s a sketch of the argument:

There is indeed agreement between many liberals and libertarians that the militarization of the police, especially in its dealings with racial minorities, has gone too far. But this consensus may crumble pretty quickly when it’s confronted with the obvious police counter-argument: that the authorities’ heavy firepower and armor is necessary in light of all the firepower they’re up against. At that point, many liberals will revert to arguing for sensible gun control regulations like broader background checks to keep guns out of the hands of violent felons and the mentally ill (the measure that police organizations successfully argued should be the gun control movement’s legislative priority following the Newtown, Connecticut shootings) or limits on assault weapons and oversized ammunition clips. And liberals will be reminded that the libertarians who agree with them in opposing police militarization are very much also opposed to the gun regulations that might help make the environment faced by police slightly less threatening.

But it doesn’t “crumble” at all.  You have to buy into the premise that it is a more lethally dangerous out there for police than it appears to be.  But it isn’t:

The number of law-enforcement officers killed by firearms in 2013 fell to levels not seen since the days of the Wild West, according to a report released Monday.

The annual report from the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund also found that deaths in the line of duty generally fell by 8 percent and were the fewest since 1959.

According to the report, 111 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty nationwide this past year, compared to 121 in 2012.

Forty-six officers were killed in traffic related accidents, and 33 were killed by firearms.

The number of firearms deaths fell 33 percent in 2013 and was the lowest since 1887.

And the drop is credited to bullet proof vests, not SWAT Teams and MRAPS. Pretending that the threat is any higher now than it always has been seems obviously wrong, given the facts.  Certainly there are toxic cultures within our society who believe that violence is the answer to whatever they encounter as a problem. And yes, police have to face that potential threat all the time.  Do I think police should be armed adequately?  Yes, but that doesn’t at all begin to cover what we see among today’s police forces in terms of both equipment and tactics.  In fact, I believe it is all of these “wars” on everything from drugs to terrorists which have had a hand in helping to militarize the police.

That said, agree or disagree with that point, gun control is essentially not only been shown to be ineffective but is a non-sequitur in this “argument”.  See Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC for proof the ineffectiveness of the ban.  But you have to ask, who in this day and age,  but a clueless journalist would begin to believe that “broader background checks” are going to keep guns out of the hands of “violent felons?”  Have they in the past (their answer is they just haven’t be stringent enough)?  Honestly, do they really believe a felon is going to waltz into a gun store to buy what he wants knowing full well he’ll have a background check run?  Really?

Have these rubes never heard of a black market (they can buy guns from Mexican cartels, thoughtfully provided by the DoJ)?  Do they not realize that any “violent felon” who wants a gun isn’t going to even try to get one legally?  So, knowing that, why in the world would any libertarian grant the absurd premise knowing full well that doing so limits the freedom of the law abiding citizenry?  It’s absurd on its face.  And, logically, it is a non-sequitur to any libertarian (again, libertarianism isn’t about shrinking rights and freedoms for heaven sake).  How does making it more inconvenient for citizens who aren’t “violent felons” to buy a gun for self-protection going to stop a felon from obtaining his gun illegally?  It isn’t.

Because, of course, that’s not what they really want (i.e. incremental change via “broader background checks”).  They want a total ban on guns, for government and felons to be the only people with guns and to essentially outlaw then outright.  Obviously they are oblivious to the danger of only government having guns and they certainly don’t seem to be able to wrap their heads around the fact that felons aren’t going to pay any attention to the law.  Nor will the black market in illegal guns.  So why, again, should anyone grant this argument credence?

I swear, you just wonder at times what goes on between their ears all day, because it certainly has nothing to do with the real world or reason.

~McQ

Economic Statistics for 21 Aug 14

The PMI Manufacturing Index Flash for August rose 1.7 points to 58.0.

The Philadelphia Fed Survey for August rose a sharp 4.1 points to 28.0, a rise not supported by the report’s underlying indices. Both new orders and shipments slowed by half, while unfilled orders are shrinking and delivery times are improving. All of these are symptomatic of slowing activity. The headline number is not a a composite of components but is based on a single subjective question in the survey. This month, at least, the answer to that question seems at variance with the other indices in the report.

Existing home sales rose 2.4% to an annualized rate of 5.15 million units in July.

Initial jobless claims fell 14,000 last week, to 298,000. The 4-week moving average rose 5,000 to 300,750. Continuing claims fell 49,000 to 2.500 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.2 points to 36.6 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-19.0 billion last week, with total assets of $4.412 trillion. Reserve Bank credit fell $-3.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 Money Supply fell by $-8.7 billion last week.


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Cupcake policing

I think George Will is on to something:

In physics, a unified field theory is an attempt to explain with a single hypothesis the behavior of several fields. Its political corollary is the Cupcake Postulate, which explains everything , from Missouri to Iraq, concerning Americans’ comprehensive withdrawal of confidence from government at all levels and all areas of activity.

Washington’s response to the menace of school bake sales illustrates progressivism’s ratchet: The federal government subsidizes school lunches, so it must control the lunches’ contents, which validates regulation of what it calls “competitive foods,” such as vending machine snacks. Hence the need to close the bake sale loophole, through which sugary cupcakes might sneak: Foods sold at fundraising bake sales must, with some exceptions, conform to federal standards.

What has this to do with police, from Ferguson, Mo., to your home town, toting marksman rifles, fighting knives, grenade launchers and other combat gear? Swollen government has a shriveled brain: By printing and borrowing money, government avoids thinking about its proper scope and actual competence. So it smears mine-resistant armored vehicles and other military marvels across 435 congressional districts because it can.

Examples?  Will provides plenty of them.

Here’s the point though:

A cupcake-policing government will find unending excuses for flexing its muscles as it minutely monitors our behavior in order to improve it …

“Improve” should be in scare quotes, because the deeper the medling, the more it “minutely monitors our behavior”, the less it improves it and the more it interferes with it.

But … that’s the state of being now in the US.

Nick Gillespie at Hit and Run agrees with Will but issues this warning:

He’s right that confidence in government is plummeting mostly because of the simultaneously stupid and overreaching actions of politicians, administrators, and bureaucrats at all levels. Recognizing such a reality may be the beginning of (libertarian) wisdom, but as I’ve written before, it also carries a very serious potential risk. Counterintuitively, distrust in government may lead to calls for more government.

And that’s one of the reasons we suffer Leviathan today.  Many of our “problems” in the past have had their roots in government interference or over-reach.  The real problem is we petition government for relief and government’s answer is always more government.

Here’s a clue: when you ask government to fix any problem it will always answer with more government, regulations, laws, whatever – nature of the beast.  Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to look to government for relief from all our problems. The end-state of that is always more government control and less citizen control.  And here we are.

But:

A major ray of hope—indeed, the beam of sunshine that’s warming up this libertarian moment—is really the ways in which people are creating workarounds that simply bypass government whenever possible. Taxi regulations screw consumers? Create Uber. Public-school educators are unresponsive? Create your own curriculum or even your own school. Can’t sell unpasteurized milk products? Create a buyers club. Major parties won’t listen? Create the Tea Party. And on and on.

As Matt Welch and I discussed at length in The Declaration of Independents, workarounds are a great thing and easier to pull off than ever, but they have serious limitations (witness foreign policy, Ferguson, the drug war, and so much more). It’s well past time that we start insisting on a limited, trustworthy government that is actually competent and restrained at the few things that it should be doing. That will not only reduce the desire for more government, it will free up even more time and resources for the free-range experiments in living that will actually make the world better, more interesting, and more prosperous.

Btw, I disagree this is necessarily a “libertarian moment” (although like the “Tea Party”, I see the liberals loading up the rhetorical guns to shoot down anything that might take flight suggesting it).  However, what Gillespie talks about above is where this sentiment that has grown tremendously over the past 6 years (surprise, huh?) needs to be herded.  Whether that’s possible or not will tell us all how “libertarian” the moment has been.

Until then, enjoy your cupcakes.

~McQ

Reaping the consequences of incompetence

Like her or not, I think MoDo pretty much nails it here:

A front-page article in The Times by Carl Hulse, Jeremy Peters and Michael Shear chronicled how the president’s disdain for politics has alienated many of his most stalwart Democratic supporters on Capitol Hill.

His bored-bird-in-a-gilded-cage attitude, the article said, “has left him with few loyalists to effectively manage the issues erupting abroad and at home and could imperil his efforts to leave a legacy in his final stretch in office.”

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, an early Obama backer, noted that “for him, eating his spinach is schmoozing with elected officials.”

First the president couldn’t work with Republicans because they were too obdurate. Then he tried to chase down reporters with subpoenas. Now he finds members of his own party an unnecessary distraction.

His circle keeps getting more inner. He golfs with aides and jocks, and he spent his one evening back in Washington from Martha’s Vineyard at a nearly five-hour dinner at the home of a nutritional adviser and former White House assistant chef, Sam Kass.

The president who was elected because he was a hot commodity is now a wet blanket.

The extraordinary candidate turns out to be the most ordinary of men, frittering away precious time on the links. Unlike L.B.J., who devoured problems as though he were being chased by demons, Obama’s main galvanizing impulse was to get himself elected.

That fact was apparent to anyone who took the time to review what little we knew of Obama’s sparse political record.  He only stopped at each elected office long enough to get himself elected to the next higher office.  He had no record of accomplishing anything of substance at any of those stops and spent most of his time campaigning for the next job he wanted.

Yet that was ignored.  What was gobbled up were his words.  Words that were backed by nothing but hot air.  He had no record as a “uniter”.  He had no record as a legislator.  He had no work record nor had he ever actually run anything that could be described to have given him “executive experience”.

So, what some of us saw, everyone got.  An empty suit.  A clueless political face that managed to pull off one of the most incredible, and it appears, devastating victories of modern times.

And yet his own party is now “surprised” he’s so useless and clueless.  They’re surprised he’s been so pathetically incompetent. As they watch the world crumble, they still want to complain that it is someone else’s fault (meaning those old reliable standbys – the GOP and Bush).

But as each horrific day of this presidency moves into the next, it is clear that most of the country hold the president responsible for most of the problems – both domestic and international – we are suffering.

And Democrats, as well as the liberal media, have finally figured out that defending this failure is “politically dangerous”.

So we see the Claire McCaskills and Maureen Dowds of the world beginning to really distance themselves from “The One” – the one they backed to the hilt.

Rats.  Sinking ship.

Sometimes though, it’s not particularly helpful to be right about something or someone, as those of us who pointed out all these problems before Obama was elected were.  Because when you’re right about something like that, it means you’re also right about the consequences.

Cast your eyes upon them – they are exactly what logic dictated would happen when you give a job as important as the presidency to a grossly unqualified man or woman.

~McQ

Economic Statistics for 19 Aug 15

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.1% in July, at both the headline and core level. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is up 2.0% at the headline level, and up 1.9% less food and energy.

July housing starts jumped 15.7%, to a 1.093 million annual rate.

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales fell -1.3%, but were up a strong 3.8%% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook, meanwhile, reports a slowing to 3.7% in retail sales over last year, compared to 4.8% last week.


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I’ve been sort of following Ferguson

But not that much.

Why?

Because it is a re-run.  In fact, it’s a re-run of a re-run.  A re-make if you prefer.  The same-old, same-old.

It is so predictable that you could set up a timeline and be pretty sure that you’d be 90% right.

It begins like this:

Incident occurs.  In this case, black teenager, white cop (template says black/white with black the victim).  Tensions build.  Protests erupt and violence ensues.

Then the real problem occurs.

Before everything can be sorted out and calmed down, the media shows up.

Of course, as soon as the media grows enough to include national outlets, the professional race baiters are soon to follow.  Right on their heels the other opportunists arrive – the anarchists, communists, community activists, agitators and looters.  And soon the circus is in full swing.

Rumor is published as fact.  Hate rages from both sides.  Social media is inundated with trash talk, nonsense and stupidity aided and abetted by an agenda driven media. Death threats, threats of violence, racial hate and other garbage flows like a river.  Anchors from the national outlets put on their safari jackets (or now I guess it’s their protective vests and helmets) and get cameo shots near the protests to certify their “bona fides” as brave news men and women.  Irresponsibility and immaturity on all sides rules the day.

And the flames get fanned even higher.

Former CNN anchor and Fox News Channel’s “MediaBuzz” host Howie Kurtz criticized some outlets for creating “almost a lynch mob mentality” in Ferguson, MO in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown.

“Some liberal outlets [are] creating almost a lynch mob mentality around this, the Huffington Post today, screaming banner headline ‘Arrest Him.’ Now, the Huffington Post, nor you or I, knows exactly what happened” he said. And “when you cross that line into becoming an advocate and to demanding that somebody be prosecuted before the facts are in, while the investigation is going on, you’re grandstanding, you’re trying to keep the story alive and I really think it’s troubling.”

Kurtz also criticized CNN for showing the house of accused officer Darren Wilson, stating, “It defies my understanding how you could put his life or the life of his family in danger by even briefly showing the house or naming the street.”

When it all finally sorts itself out, we’ll likely find that the problem wasn’t necessarily about race, didn’t conform to any of the preconceived notions presented by the press (like, you know, “George Zimmerman” wasn’t white) and wasn’t any of the nonsense the “experts” opined endlessly about.

It was an unfortunate incident that needs to be addressed, but hasn’t had the chance to be addressed.  And now the DoJ has decided the Civil Rights division needs to be involved along with 40 or so FBI agents.  And the governor has sent in the National Guard.

Is there an injustice here?  Possibly, but I don’t know yet.  I’d go as far as to say probably, but again, I don’t know. I do know that it points to a growing trend of over-policing that I attribute to a seeming change in philosophy among police departments. Police, in many cases, seem to escalate a situation instead of defusing it. That needs to be reversed, in my opinion.  But I certainly don’t know if this officer would have acted any differently if the teenager had been white.  Nor do I yet know whether his actions were warranted or not (which is why we impanel juries and have evidence presented in cases like this).  And neither does anyone else.

But in the street theater all of this has become, that’s likely to be lost in the shuffle.

In other words, this is the Trayvon Martin template redux with nightly violence added for variety.

Formulaic, predictable and disgusting. But that’s how we do it in America today.

~McQ

The left’s “new” idea

I don’t think anyone would attempt to persuade us that “feminism” is a product of the right.  In fact, most feminists would argue that feminism is necessary because of the right … and men, of course.  Feminism began on the left as a fairly benignly defined movement: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

Of course, that didn’t last long and feminism evolved and began characterizing women as victims – victims of men, the “system”, the “patriarchy, etc. because, well, men controlled everything (the fact that technology had advanced to a point that women were more able to participate in a vast number of more areas of life than previously, and that as such, the culture needed to go through a natural evolutionary cycle to adapt to that apparently never occurred to them) and that was bad.  And as it built up the cult of victimhood and focused on men – well, except for Bill Clinton or any other useful man on the left – it became more militant and radical.  Men went from being partners to necessary evils to just plain evil.  Stereotypes of the “typical male” became etched in the concrete of their dogma as “the truth”.  “All sex is rape” and “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” became popular catch phrases that were representative of their developing creed as the movement morphed from one to gain equal rights to one that essentially declared war on men.  It wasn’t about equality anymore, it was about rejection of men and everything they stood for.  Men, to radical feminists, were the problem … and although never said, it was clear most of the radical feminists would be quite happy if men were essentially eliminated.

Well rejoice radfems, one of your ilk has spoken what you have dared not say outloud.  The reason you’ve not said it becomes clear when you realize the natural end state of radical feminism and how it has to be achieved, at least according to this fembot.  She outlines the “utopian” vision of the radical feminist movement – and trust me there’s nothing about equality involved.  Instead it is filled with ignorance – one which imagines the “state” as the ultimate tool necessary for radfems to change the world into what this silly woman imagines would be a utopia.  What is interesting to note is what would have to happen for this “utopia” to evolve.  Yes, I know it is extraordinarily far-fetched and absurd, but then we can point to many current and past ideologies – all pointed at their own brand of “utopia” - that somehow gained credence and backing to establish itself, much to the detriment of those who were identified as “enemies” of the ideology.

Anyway the point is this particular nonsense is a good example of how leftist ideologies usually imagine their ascendence.  It is through the state and their control of it.  The state is their tool, their ideology is the weapon and the individual – well individuals don’t exist for these ideologies.  They become nothing more than pawns to be used as necessary for the “good of society” and the collective as a whole.

What you’ll read will seem radical as hell, which is why it is so perfect for the point – you don’t have to explain subtlety here - there is none.  It is pure elitist power and abuse wrapped up in what this person hopes is a benign description that shows those who can read between the lines what extent and what horrors radicals on the left would set in motion to accomplish their “utopia”:

VICE: I assume The Ratio refers to your belief the male population should be reduced to between by 90 percent.

The Femitheist: I believe that conventional equality, with a 50/50 female-to-male ratio, is an inferior system. Essentially my ideas lead to men being made a special class—a far more valued class—having choice of a myriad of women due to the difference in sex ratio. That is my intention. Men would be made more valuable, and their quality of life would be dramatically improved. They would have a subsidised existence if you will, akin to going on an all-expenses paid vacation that lasts from birth to death.

Assuming people are down for that, how could you reduce the male population by that much? Are you talking culling or selective breeding over years?

Obviously men comprise a substantial portion of the victims of violent crime and participate heavily in war, so there will always be deaths there—but certainly not culling. I don’t advocate selective slaughter or brutal processes.

The first thing to notice in this word salad is she claims not to want to do anything via a selective slaughter or anything. How nice.  Stereotypical men will kill themselves off and aid in their extermination.  Also, note the characterization of those men who are left (if you’re confused, she wants only 1 to 10% men and 90 to 99% women as the “proper ratio) as “more valuable” and that the “quality of life” would improve.

Yup, and they said the Jews were going to work camps where they’d be properly looked after in 1939, didn’t they? “Arbeit macht frei”!   This is all about the “selling” of the idea and easing the victims of the ideology into the cattle cars without a disturbance.

She says the way to ensure the ratio is reached and maintained is through genetic manipulation and abortion.  Any guess as to what would manage and mandate that process?

Another role for the state?

It’ll require the re-teaching of everyone—female and male—in classrooms, homes, through literature, media, art, and networks. It is a process that would take decades, generations, and perhaps even a few centuries. Nevertheless, these are things that should be done to forge a new and vastly superior world.

Vastly superior because, well you know, the self-appointed elite certainly have been successful creating “vastly superior” societies in the past, haven’t they?

Would men be kept in isolation like stud horses?

I believe we must remove men from the community and place them in their own specific sections of society, akin to subsidised or state-funded reservations, so they can be redefined. We can make not only men safer, but women as well. By subsidising said reservations through the state we can provide men with activities, healthcare, entertainment, shelter, protection, and everything that one could ever require in life. This will remove conventional inequality from society. By reducing the number of men to 10 percent of the total population, their socio-biovalue will be raised. They will live out their lives happily and safely, and male disposability will be a thing of the past.

She knows this is true because, well, because it is obvious she knows so much about men … not.  Stereotypically all men want is “sex, beer and a TV”.  Man has never striven for anything else and would obviously be content to be penned up and have their needs serviced.  History is bereft of examples of men striving for or wanting anything more.   No mention, of course, of what the “state” would do to those men who chafe at these restrictions and want more out of life.  Of course since they are reduced to a life of nothing more that of a stud horse, it is obvious that their place in any human society is substantially below that of the women in that society.  I.e. they’re the “harem” for the women who run the world.

Are you ready for the dismissal of the individual and the one-size-fits-all solution so common to these leftist dream-worlds?

What about the ambitions of the individual? Some men may aspire to more than luxury breeding pens.

Some would argue it would be a dystopian world because it wouldn’t be free in the present conventional sense. However that is misguided. It will be utopian because it will be a world almost without conflict where people cooperate and are treated properly within a well-engineered and long-forged system. If everything is great for almost everyone the point is null. Survival and socio-organic wellbeing are the most important elements in life. Diversity of principles and standards is only necessary in a world of multiple nations, cultures, societies, and religions due to fear of oppression. So, how is this world any better? Because some people have potential opportunities to do certain things?

That’s kind of depressing.

The purpose of living is merely to persist and perpetuate our species. If someone is willing to give you all you require to survive and live comfortably, simply because you exist, then you have already achieved all that truly matters.

Kind of depressing?  It is staggeringly stupid not to mention incredibly oppressive.  And how about the redefinition of the “purpose of living”?  That’s all?  That’s all there is?  Well, except for the elite (among which she would likely place herself).  That’s not the sole purpose of their being – they live to control you and achieve “utopia” … their utopia.  You drones just need to fall in line and procreate.

And what about the “family” in this matriarchal wonder world:

Doesn’t all this dismiss the notion of companionship and the family unit?

Heterosexual companionship and the nuclear family model, yes.

What do you propose as alternatives?

Children should be raised communally and by the state. The nuclear family model is a breeding ground of deceptions, mediocrities, treacheries, hypocrisy, and violence. It needs to be abolished. Bigotry, prejudice, and antiquated convictions are passed down through each generation. The conventional family unit indoctrinates our youth and drains them of their potential. My solution would be to assign children caretakers whose task would simply be to provide shelter, food, clothing, and protection for each child—all of which would be yielded by the state. Perfect girls will be conceived, developed, and engineered in state-owned breeding centers. They will be bound together in a communal venue under the instruction and control of female savants.

It takes a village, baby.  A female village.  No males allowed – well except those allowed to be born to repopulate the stud farm and they’ll be completely indoctrinated by the time they reach puberty.  Perfect girls in state-owned breeding centers … what more could you ask for?

Now you’re probably saying that this is so far fetched that it would never stand a chance of ever being established or condoned.  Why even waste time on it?

Well, I’d simply point you toward Nazism of the past century and say, “BS”.  It is the same plan with a twist.  Nazis also wanted a perfect society (they just wanted “Aryans”, not just women), they too believed everyone belonged to the state, they also pushed selective “breeding” (rewarding Aryan couples for having children and euthanizing the retarded and deformed), and through their Hitler Youth program, the state took on the total indoctrination of the youth for it’s own purposes (rat on your folks, get a reward).  They even had a program to weed out the undesirable from society.  In this woman’s case, it is men.  Then it was Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, slavs and political enemies.  So yeah, this is a rehash of the Nazi “utopia” with a twist. Instead of the “final solution” we get the “90% solution”.

 No one said the left was original.  And for the most part, it may be horrifically ignorant of history.  But it is persistent.  And that is the danger of people like this.  You never know when the events of history will converge as they did in Germany so many decades ago, to make an ideology seem “fresh” and “good” again.

~McQ

Economic Statistics for 15 Aug 14

The Producer Price Index for total final demand slowed to  0.1% in July. Prices excluding food & energy rose 0.2%. Prices excluding food, energy, and trade services increased 0.2%. Prices for goods were unchanged, while services rose 0.1%. On a seasonally adjusted year-ago basis, PPI final demand was up 1.7 %. Excluding food & energy, PPI final demand was up 1.6%.

The New York Fed’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey fell to 14.69 in August vs. 25.60 in July.

Net foreign demand for long-term U.S. securities fell to $-30.2 billion in June. Foreign accounts were heavy sellers of Treasuries and corporate bonds.

Industrial production in July rose 0.4%, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories rose 0.1% to 79.2%.

The Reuters/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index in August fell -2.6 points to 79.2.

E-commerce sales rose a very sharp 4.9% in the second quarter of 2014, compared to 3.3% in the first quarter.


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