Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

They just don’t get it

They don’t get a couple of things.

First:

When Army Sgt. Patrick Hart decided a decade ago that he would not serve in the war in Iraq, he expected to follow the same path as thousands of American war resisters during the Vietnam era and take refuge across the border.

But after five years of wrangling with the Canadian immigration system, he came back to the U.S. — and ended up in a military prison.

Of course, Hart swore this oath at his enlistment and any re-enlistment he did:

I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

When your service is contingent upon that voluntary agreement, via oath, to fight all enemies “both foreign and domestic” and “to obey the orders” of those placed above you in your chain of command, you don’t get to decide who the enemies are or what orders you’ll obey. And if you do make a decision not to fight a particular enemy or obey a particular order, then you must also be willing to stand up and suffer the consequences of your principled stand.  Not run and hide.

Yes, there are illegal orders and it is your duty to disobey them – and then stand your ground and ride out the aftermath.  Same with refusing to fight.  Do so and stand there and take the consequences.

But when you voluntarily take an oath such as the armed forces requires, you better think seriously about what those words mean before you utter them and then sign your name to them.  As mentioned, this is a volunteer military.  No one makes you go in, no one makes you swear the oath, etc.  And nowhere does the oath allow caveats on who or what you may or may not fight.

So, knowing that, I have little to no sympathy for prisoner Hart.  He got what he deserved and I’m quite happy to see that Canada gets the difference.  Apparently some other folks don’t:

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has not committed to letting the resisters stay, but many are buoyed by his family history. It was his father, Pierre Trudeau, who while prime minister during the Vietnam War said Canada should be “a refuge from militarism.”

“Why not do it again? It’s only a couple of dozen people,” said Michelle Robidoux, spokeswoman for the War Resisters Support Campaign in Toronto, which has been lobbying members of Parliament.

The difference between the military of the Vietnam era and the military of today is summed up quickly: draft army vs. volunteer army.  You can actually have some sympathy for those who fled to Canada during that era instead of doing something they were “press ganged” into doing or didn’t believe in.  For most, no oath was involved and they hadn’t volunteered for anything.

“Why not do it again?”  Because these people deserting now are deserting a voluntary commitment that suddenly became inconvenient for them.  They voluntarily swore an oath and now, instead of fulfilling it, they’re cutting and running.  That’s why you don’t do it “again”?

~McQ

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The politics of political convenience, Harry Reid style

Did you know that Harry Reid and Donald Trump agree on the immigration issue? Or they certainly sound like they do.  Of course Reid will likely tell you that his position has “evolved” over the years – what is commonly called a “flip flop” in politics.  Like Hillary Clinton’s present position on gay marriage (and any number of other issues).  They’re positions of political convenience, not principal.

Of course, today Harry Reid condemns Donald Trump’s position on illegal immigration.  But not so long ago, Harry was an immigration hawk:

Reid authored the Immigration Stabilization Act of 1993 to remove asylum seekers, end birthright citizenship, expand deportations, and exclude legal immigrants from public assistance. The bill also included amendments that closed loopholes dealing with criminal aliens and mandated more cooperation between local and federal law enforcement, the Conservative Review reported on Tuesday.

“Our borders have overflowed with illegal immigrants placing tremendous burdens on our criminal justice system, schools and social programs. The Immigration and Naturalization Service needs the ability to step up enforcement,” Reid said in a statement.

“Our federal wallet is stretched to the limit by illegal aliens getting welfare, food stamps, medical care and other benefits often without paying any taxes,” Reid continued. “Safeguards like welfare and free medical care are in place to boost Americans in need of short-term assistance. These programs were not meant to entice freeloaders and scam artists from around the world.”

Apparently 1993 marks the date when Mr. Reid allegedly held the interests of American citizens to the forefront recognizing the drain unchecked and illegal immigration has on the nation’s budget, health and resources.

Now, not so much.

Had a Republican said all of what Mr. Reid said back then, he’d be branded a “racist”.

Oh, wait …

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 9 Jul 15

Chain stores today are reporting mostly stronger rates of year-on-year sales growth in June.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 15,000 to 297,000. The 4-week average rose 4,750 to 279,500. Continuing claims rose 69,000 to 2.334 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.5 points to 43.5 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $2.2 billion last week, with total assets of $4.481 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $1.2 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $19.8 billion in the latest week.


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America’s problem of “contempt for the law”

We’ve recently seen how multiple jurisdictions openly ignoring the law resulted in circumstances that led in the death of Kathryn Steinle at Pier 14 in San Francisco last week. Why? Because, ideologically, they’re opposed to the law as it stands and are refusing to consider its validity, much less enforce it. The results are inevitable. Steinle’s death is just a symptom of a much more wide-spread threat to our nation. The left’s contempt for laws that don’t fit their ideology. Victor Davis Hanson says:

Ultimately, no nation can continue to thrive if its government refuses to enforce its own laws. Liberal “sanctuary cities” such as San Francisco choose to ignore immigration laws. Imagine the outcry if a town in Utah or Montana arbitrarily declared that federal affirmative action or gay marriage laws were null and void within its municipal borders.

Once an immigrant has successfully broken the law by entering and residing in the U.S. illegally, there is little incentive for him to obey other laws. Increasing percentages of unnaturalized immigrants are not showing up for their immigration hearings — and those percentages are higher still for foreign nationals who have been charged with crimes.

The general public wonders why some are selectively exempt from following the law, but others are not. If federal immigration law does not apply to foreign nationals, why should building codes, zoning laws or traffic statutes apply to U.S. citizens?

And that’s the threat. That’s the danger. If our political leadership can ignore the laws at will or only enforce them when the whim strikes them or it is to their political advantage to do so, why should the ordinary citizen follow laws he or she doesn’t like?

If you can’t count on government enforcing the laws on its books, why should one obey those it disagrees with? As Hansen points out, there’s little incentive to do so. And, eventually, you end up with … Greece. Or Mexico. Or any of a number of third world countries who seem to be on the verge of collapse.

There is a process for changing laws one doesn’t like or think need improvement. The fact that the process takes time, leadership and energy doesn’t mean one can arbitrarily ignore laws that aren’t politically useful at the time. But that’s precisely what is happening with immigration laws in this country.

Then there’s the lack of accountability that runs rampant within government circles. Hillary Clinton knew perfectly well that setting up a private email server as Secretary of State was ethically wrong if not illegal. Yet she really had no fear of being held accountable. She merely shrugs the controversy away and cruises along as a potential presidential candidate. She is indicative of an outlaw government, that, we’re finding out, saw the IRS, FBI and other agencies actively meet with an eye to prosecuting political enemies. During the time of this investigation, the IRS has consistently obstructed the investigation, stonewalled and refused cooperation. Has anyone been yet held accountable? Will anyone? If I were a betting man, I’d lay long odds on it ever happening.

Hanson concludes by saying, “Civilizations unwind insidiously not with a loud, explosive bang, but with a lawless whimper.” He’s precisely right. And, given the propensity of this administration to enforce laws by whim or not at all, that’s exactly where we’re headed.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 8 Jul 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 4.6% last week, with purchases up 7.0% and refis up 3.0%.

Consumer credit rose by $16.1 billion in May, with revolving credit up a moderate $1.6 billion, following strong April and March gains.

The FOMC minutes from the last meeting indicates some members are edging towards rate hikes, but most want to see data improve.


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Almost half of all Federal criminal charges are made in 5 southern border districts, but we don’t have a border security or illegal immigration problem

41.7% of all Federal criminal charges come from 5 districts that are on the US southern border.  In one district, West Texas, the US attorney filed 5,832 cases.  That’s more than all the cases filed for the entire length of the US norther border (5,257).  The southern district of Texas ranked 2nd, followed by Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California.

And that’s not all:

“In addition to criminal cases brought before United States district judges, the United States Attorneys also handle a considerable criminal caseload before United States magistrate judges,” explained the U.S. attorneys’ statistical report for fiscal 2013. “The utilization of magistrate judges varies from district to district in response to local conditions and changing caseloads.”

“Magistrate judges are authorized by statute to perform a variety of duties as assigned by the United States district judges, including presiding over misdemeanor trials, conducting preliminary hearings, and entering rulings or recommended dispositions on pretrial motions,” said the report.

In fiscal 2014, according to the Table 2B, 67,401 criminal defendants were determined to be guilty in magistrate proceedings. Of those, 63,253 — or 93.8 percent — were in the five districts along the U.S.-Mexico border.

And yet this administration has, for its entire tenure, ignored the crisis on the border and even encouraged illegal immigrants to enter the country. While some may buy into the argument that the fault lies with Congress (and, more specifically the GOP) for not passing immigration reform legislation, the problem at the border is a law enforcement problem.

Law enforcement is not a Congressional duty, but instead, the job of the Executive branch.  However, despite their being laws on the books concerning illegal immigration, this administration refuses to enforce them and has, in fact, has defied them.  Compound that with blue cities offering sanctuary to illegals (again, in defiance of existing law) and you have a situation out of control.

While it is certainly true that some form of immigration reform needs to be legislated, that doesn’t excuse the lax or non-existent enforcement of existing laws by the administration.  It is clear to most that this crime wave that has engulfed the southern border is squarely the responsibility of the Obama administration, and no amount of attempted blame shifting will change that.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 07 Jul 15

The US trade deficit rose $1 billion in May to $41.9 billion, with a goods deficit of $61.5 billion, and a services surplus of $19.6 billion.

The Labor Department’s JOLTS survey shows job openings rose 0.5% in May to a record 5.363 million.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales rose to a still-sluggish 2.0% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.7%.

The Gallup Economic Confidence Index fell for the 5th straight month, down -1 point to -8 in June, the lowest reading since November, 2014.


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Culture War 4.0 – the “overreach” cycle

Benjamin Domenech and Robert Tracinski have an intriguing article up at The Federalist in which they opine the left in general, and Social Justice Warriors in particular, are setting up a huge cultural backlash by their triumphalism and overreach following the SCOTUS finding in favor of gay marriage.  They site the “iron law of the cultures wars” as their premise.

The iron law of the culture wars is that the public hates overreach—and each side will always overreach.

Domenech and Tracinski take us through the history of our recent culture wars.  1.0 was the ’60s and 70’s “counterculture”.

[C]onsisted of a combination of two things: a promise of “liberation” from restrictions that seemed overly Puritanical and outmoded, combined with an ideological goal of the destruction of existing social institutions such as church, family, and capitalism.

The first aim had a broad appeal, promising freedom from blue-nosed moral scolds and a liberating revolution in human behavior. But the second was a more aggressive and provocative attack on institutions that had endured since before the country existed. By the late 1970s, the effects of the Counterculture were hitting with full force, and people didn’t like what they saw.

Which led to the backlash of 2.0.  The birth of the “Religious Right” which became the “Moral Majority” and a move back toward more traditional values.

Reagan Democrats partnered with Republicans to pursue a law-and-order agenda. Overwhelming bipartisan majorities passed religious freedom laws, which Bill Clinton dutifully signed.

Then came the overreach:

Political wives started a crusade against violent and sexually explicit television, movies, and popular music.

The desire to “ban” what isn’t “acceptable” by the culture driving the train at the moment seems overwhelming, regardless of the side.

On to 3.0 which is a bit more complex.  Clinton was impeached, which much of the country saw as overreach (it was none of the business of politicians, they figured), especially in light of those condemning him (remember Jimmy Swaggart and the Bakkers?).  But again, what it primarily did was put the “counterculture” kids back on the offensive and the more traditional side, guilty of the overreach, on the defensive again:

The Counterculture kids from the 1960s and 70s were now ensconced in positions of power. They had taken over the universities in the 1990s and began to assert a campus culture of conformity on issues involving religion and sex. They had established themselves as the leaders in entertainment and popular culture. The nostalgic and implicitly conservative pop culture of the 1980s and 1990s, where villains were Nazis, Communists, feckless bureaucrats, and irresponsible reporters—gave way to influential depictions designed to press a change in social norms. 1998 brought Bill Clinton’s impeachment, but it also brought “Will & Grace” and a push for greater tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality. The crusade for gay marriage—a key change in goals for the gay-rights movement—threw religious conservatives into a defensive posture, causing them to fight to maintain their mores as public policy via gay-marriage bans.

Boom – here we are, and we’ve entered 4.0 and the beginnings of overreach by the left:

Today we live in the early stages of that triumph, and as a small number of public intellectuals and media commentators predicted, it is a bloody triumph indeed. Culture War 4.0 brings the Counterculture full circle: now they have become the blue-nosed, Puritanical establishment. Once they began to achieve their goals and saw the culture moving their way, they moved from making a plea for tolerance and freedom to demanding persecution of anyone who dissents against the new orthodoxy in even the smallest way.

Whichever side believes it is winning will tend to overreach, pushing too far, too fast, and alienating the public.

In just the past two years, the Counterculture’s neo-Puritanical reign has made things political that were never thought to be: Shirtstorms and Gamergate, Chik-fil-A and Brandon Eich, Indiana and Sad Puppies, and don’t you dare say Caitlyn Jenner isn’t a hero.

Instead of being content and modest in their victory for gay rights, the left has chosen instead to be aggressive and intolerant.  Overreach begins:

Within hours of the Supreme Court’s resolution of the battle over same-sex marriage—the triumph of a generation of gay-rights activists—some were already calling for further steps to take tax exemptions away from churches, use anti-discrimination laws to target religious non-profits, and crack down on religious schools’ access to voucher programs. We learned media entities would no longer publish the views of those opposed to gay marriage or treat it as an issue with two sides, and the American Civil Liberties Union announced it would no longer support bipartisan religious-freedom measures it once backed wholeheartedly. A reality TV star pushed the transgender rights movement into the center of the national dialogue even as Barack Obama’s administration used its interpretation of Title IX to push its genderless bathroom policies into public schools. And we learned that pulling Confederate merchandise off the shelves isn’t enough to mitigate the racism of the past—we must bring down statues and street signs, too, destroying reminders of history now deemed inconvenient and unsafe.

On college campuses and in the workplace, across mass media and social media, for American celebrities and private citizens, every comment, act, or joke can make you the next target for a ritual of daily attack by outraged Twitter mobs. It is now an unavoidable fact of life that giving money to the wrong cause, making a “clumsy attempt at humor,” or taking the wrong side on a celebrity, religious debate, or magazine cover can lead to threats of violent death, end your career in an instant, or make you the most hated person in America for 15 minutes—longer if you bungle the apology.

American society is, for the most part, an incredibly tolerant society.  However, there is a point beyond which it won’t be pushed.  It reacts, sometimes subtly and sometimes more forcefully.  It is that innate tolerance that drives this reaction.  Tolerance cannot abide the intolerance of those who would impose their cultural values on others by force – i.e. the force of law, bans, infringement on rights, etc.  There are lines drawn by society at large and it doesn’t care what side the culture warriors are on, it refuses to let them cross those lines.

We’re again seeing a coalition forming in opposition to the current “victors” of the culture wars, interestingly including many on the left.  We’re also beginning to see the SJWs and their like begin to “eat their own” as their rigid orthodoxy is applied to their own kind.  It was inevitable and it is somewhat humorous to watch.  But the bottom line is they’ve overreached and are now beginning to reap the backlash they have sown.

Frankly, that is long overdue.  As Domenech and Traciski conclude:

This is the hopeful side of the culture wars—a call for engagement, not retreat. Religious believers weighing the option of withdrawing from a culture increasingly hostile to their values should redouble their efforts to cultivate their ideas within active subcultures that influence the nation and the next generation of Americans. Those who share a commitment to the freedom to think, speak, associate, publish, and express their beliefs may not have the American Civil Liberties Union in our corner any more—but that just means that we get to take up the noble cause, and the moral authority, they have abandoned.

Yes, this can be a dangerous time to be active in the culture. But it’s very hard to make speech codes, safe spaces, and other anti-thoughtcrime measures work in the long term. Sometimes all it takes for the whole apparatus to come crashing down is a handful of people brave enough to speak their minds without fear.

~McQ

 

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