Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

The death knell of establishment politics?

As much as the media would like to cast what’s going on during the GOP presidential nomination process as a “crisis for the GOP”, the Dems have their own establishment crisis problem.  And it is getting very little media coverage.  But Kim Strassel talks about it today in her WSJ piece.  As much as the Democrats (and media) would like voters to believe the right is melting down and heading toward Tea Party land, it seems clear the left is getting ready to “Move On.”

On both sides, frustration with the establishment is the most evident feature:

Some of Mrs. Clinton’s struggles are self-imposed. She’s a real-world, political version of Pig-Pen, trailing along her own cloud of scandal dust. Even Democrats who like her don’t trust her. And a lot of voters are weary or unimpressed by the Clinton name. For all the Democratic establishment’s attempts to anoint Mrs. Clinton—to shield her from debates and ignore her liabilities—the rank and file aren’t content to have their nominee dictated.

Especially because many of those rank and file belong to a rising progressive movement that has no time or interest in the old Clinton mold. Barack Obama’s biggest legacy may prove his dismantling of the Democratic center. He ran as a uniter, but he governed as a divisive ideologue and as a liberal, feeding new fervor in the progressive wing.

These progressives proved more eager than even the Republicans to steadily pick off Democratic moderates—and helped the GOP to decimate their ranks. The Democratic congressional contingent is now at its smallest size since before FDR. But boy is it pure, and it retains an unwavering belief that its path to re-election is to double down on the Obama agenda.

I have to admit loving the characterization of Hillary as “Pig Pen”.  That notwithstanding, you’d think Hillary, who has prepared for this since Bill first stepped into the White House, would be a natural choice of the left.  But then how does one explain the rise of someone who uses the term “socialist” to describe himself because communist would likely be a bridge too far?  It’s because the left and right have drifted further apart over the years and the “establishment” of both parties has been set adrift.  It’s because to more and more Americans (who didn’t live during the Cold War and didn’t see the wreck the Soviet Union was when it imploded) are enamored with the idea of “equality” as the left now describes it.  Equal income, high minimum wage, free this and free that.  When you’re an economic illiterate, those things are appealing.  And when you further believe the government is the instrument of all things good, well, you’re on the road to serfdom.

Just as Donald Trump is busy calling out the GOP pretenders to the throne, the lefty heroes are undermining the chances of the anointed one:

The president insists that financial institutions were entirely to blame for the 2008 crisis, and that government’s role is to transfer more from those greedy capitalist owners to poor Americans. Out of this class warfare came the likes of Occupy Wall Street, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and today a Sanders campaign that describes “wealth and income equality” as the great “moral issue” of our time.

Mrs. Warren, a progressive hero, went out of her way last week to praise the Sanders Wall Street “reform” plan. Even Joe Biden wanted in on the action, lauding Mr. Sanders and suggesting that Mrs. Clinton was still “relatively new” to the income-inequality debate. Hillary is stuck trying to explain why her campaign donations from bankers aren’t a disqualifier.

The usual subjects have also rallied around the Clinton opposition:

These movements and activists (who also embrace the gun debate, and the women’s-rights debate, and socialized health-care debate) are now the beating heart of the Democratic Party. And they are rallying around Mr. Sanders. MoveOn.org has endorsed Bernie. The liberal Nation magazine has endorsed him. Bill McKibben, the head of 350.org, has endorsed him. Jodie Evans, the co-founder of the antiwar group Codepink has endorsed him. Celebrity activists like Susan Sarandon and Mark Ruffalo are feeling the Bern.

Now no one is saying that all that is enough.  But for both parties, if ever they figured out they had missed their wake up call, this is the season that drills that home.  For too long, both establishment parties have taken their voters for granted, essentially merged into a tax and spend entity that no one is satisfied with, and have missed the proverbial boat for government reform.  Of course, reform is defined differently by the right and left, but you get my point.

The party that is in trouble this year isn’t the GOP or the Democrats, per se.  It is the party of establishment politicians who’ve ignored the restless and frustrated voters one election too many.  People are tired of the Obamafication of politics – talk, talk, talk and then do what the hell you want to do.

We’ll see how it all turns out, but it is one of the more interesting political periods of my lifetime – and I’ve been around since Truman.

~McQ

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Who changed the deal?

That’s the question here.  Which entity decided, arbitrarily, to change the conditions of the agreement?

DC officials are furious as Walmart has reneged on a promise to build stores in lower-income areas of the city. Walmart announced last week that they will be shuttering 269 stores throughout the country. (The already-existing three DC stores will remain open.) The company cited the unexpectedly high building and labor costs as to why they would not move forward with the additional locations, but was more open in a meeting as to how DC’s labor laws, including its higher minimum wage, are making it harder to operate a business.

Let’s see.  Was raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour within the District a part of the deal?  Do you think Walmart would have agreed to build had it known that such a raise in labor costs was in the offing?  My guess is “no”.  Thus the citing of “unexpectedly” high … labor costs.   And obviously, it also costs more, then, to build the store in a union town, because when the lowest paid worker gets a raise such as this, guess what happens to the pay of the higher paid workers?  That’s why unions back the minimum wage.

The WaPo sheds some more light on the subject:

Evans said that, behind closed doors, Walmart officials were more frank about the reasons the company was downsizing. He said the company cited the District’s rising minimum wage, now at $11.50 an hour and possibly going to $15 an hour if a proposed ballot measure is successful in November. He also said a proposal for legislation requiring D.C. employers to pay into a fund for family and medical leave for employees, and another effort to require a minimum amount of hours for hourly workers were compounding costs and concerns for the retailer.

“They were saying, ‘How are we going to run the three stores we have, let alone build two more?’ ” Evans said.

Exactly!  When the government that made the deal then changes the conditions, it isn’t the company which is the problem.  It is the government assuming the power to set the labor cost for the company (plus this new fund that’s likely to pass into law) which is at fault.  If anyone should be “furious” it is the company and the citizens now denied the low cost of goods Walmart would have brought to those neighborhoods.  A perfect example of the government engaging in “bait and switch”.

So who, exactly, is it that gets hurt?

Why the very people they were purported to want to help.

The poor.

What a surprise.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 15 Jan 16

Producer prices fell -0.2% in December, but prices less food and energy rose 0.1%, and prices less food, energy, and trade services rose 0.2%. On a year-over-year basis, the PPI is down -1.0% overall, but up 0.3% in both core categories.

December retail sales fell a disappointing -0.1% overall, -0.1% less autos, and were unchanged less autos and gas. 2015 was a lackluster year.

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey plunged from -4.59 to -19.37 in December, the lowest reading since 2009.

Industrial production declined -0.4% in December, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories fell 0.5% to 76.5%.

Business inventories fell -0.2% in November, but a -0.2% drop in sales left the stock-to-sales ratio at 1.38.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment index rose 0.7 points to 93.3.

Now that we’ve gotten a look at December sales and industrial production, GDP growth for the 4th quarter isn’t looking great.


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Stray Voltage

So yesterday was one of those days with a million things to do and not enough time to do them … such as blogging.  Anyway, today, we see a college pushing back against the tyranny of the ignorant:

Oxford University installed its first female vice-chancellor this week, Louise Richardson, who boldly stressed the importance of free speech and critical thinking at university amid roiling student protests.

Addressing students for the first time in her new role, Richardson urged them to be open-minded and tolerant; and to engage in debate rather than censorship, alluding to countless calls from students at Oxford and other universities across the U.K. to ban potentially offensive speakers and rename or remove historical monuments.

“How do we ensure that we educate our students both to embrace complexity and retain conviction?” she asked. “How do we ensure that they appreciate the value of engaging with ideas they find objectionable, trying through reason to change another’s mind, while always being open to changing their own? How do we ensure that our students understand the true nature of freedom of inquiry and expression?”

Richardson’s installment comes as students at Oxford’s Oriel College campaign to dismantle a statue of Cecil Rhodes, the British colonialist who endowed the Rhodes Scholarship.

They claim the monument glorifies a man who was “the Hitler of South Africa” and speaks to “the size and strength of Britain’s imperial blind spot.”

Uh, that’s history, and that’s precisely the message that was conveyed by Ms Richardson to those who would take down Rhode’s statue:

Richardson stood by the university’s chancellor, Lord Patten of Barnes, as he referenced the statue debate, reminding students that history cannot be rewritten “according to our contemporary views and prejudices.” He, too, was forthright in his criticism of speech codes and calls for “no-platforming” controversial speakers.

The point Richardson makes seems to be a difficult one for the SJWs to grasp.  Obviously none of them are Rhodes Scholars.  Good for Louise Richardson.

The “melting pot” makes a comeback:

A generation ago the Europeans, who had bled themselves white in war after war, usually in the service of chauvinistic nationalism, decided they could save the day with a new concept called multiculturalism. The concept was vague but expansive, which celebrated ethnic and other cultural differences and sprinkling them with holy water. “Multi-culti” became fashionable.

Soon Europe’s native minorities were joined by vast new numbers of arrivals from places far from Europe, many from former colonial appendages. By cultivating their differences, rather inviting them to join a melting pot that had worked so well for so long in North America, tolerance and “cultural enrichment” became the norm.

But there’s a growing realization that maybe “multi-culti” hasn’t worked so well, after all. Prominent Europeans are turning their backs on the idea. Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany have called the scheme, however well meant, into serious question.

Segregating by culture, claiming all cultures are as viable as the next and “tolerating” what is intolerable in the native culture do not lead to a harmonious or united nation.  You’d think smart people could have figured that out before going all in on this sort of experiment that had “bad idea” written all over it when it began.  And that’s been proven now, with the wrecked lives of a number of British girls (Rotherham):

The British Home Secretary, Theresa May, told Parliament that “institutionalized political correctness” was responsible for the lack of attention given to the mass rape.

In other words, between protecting over a thousand girls from repeated gang rape and protecting Muslims from being identified as the rapists, British authorities chose to protect multiculturalism and “diversity.” In the competition between multiculturalism and one of the most elementary instincts and obligations of higher civilization — the protection of girls and women from sexual violence — higher civilization lost.

And look what their choice got them.  The authorities need to be in jail for their refusal to do what was right and, by the way, their job.  Oh, and feminists?  Where are you?

How bad a candidate is Hillary Clinton?  This is just an indicator:

Bernie Sanders has a 19-point lead over Hillary Clinton among Democratic and independent women ages 18 to 34, according to a USA Today/Rock the Vote poll.

The Vermont senator, who has been surging in the polls in the last two weeks, won 50 percent compared to Clinton’s 31 percent among millennial women.

However, I have to say, if your choice on that side of the political spectrum is narrowed down to these two, you’re stuck with two bad candidates anyway.

Yeow.  Really?

A poll out Thursday from the Pew Research Center shows more Americans distrust sharing their personal information with social media companies, smart cars and homes than office surveillance cameras, retail loyalty programs and health services websites.

According to the study, 54 percent of American adults polled found the prospect of security cameras in their workplace capable of tracking employee performance and attendance with facial recognition technology and stockpiled footage “acceptable,” compared to 51 percent who said it was “not acceptable” to give up personal information in exchange for free use of a social media platform, which would use the data to target users with ads.

“More acceptable”?  How about finding neither “acceptable.”

By the way, if you’re wondering why Clinton is losing millennial women to Sanders, this may be the cause:

As for Mrs. Clinton, she has clearly been rattled by Mr. Trump’s merciless resurrection of her alleged complicity in the sometimes brutal handling of women involved in her husband’s dramas. This reminds everyone of—and introduces young voters, who were children during the Gennifer Flowers through Monica Lewinsky stories to—the whole sordid underside of Clintonism. Mrs. Clinton clearly wasn’t expecting it, and she bobbled. She has never gone up against a competitor like Mr. Trump.

History is a bear, and this is a history that I would bet (especially in the light of the Cosby problem) that many of those women weren’t familiar.  It really puts “hollow” in the claim of feminism Clinton has been trying to sell them.  Instead, it shouts “enabler”.  Add in all the other negatives and the candidate looks even less attractive to them.  Most of us would consider it to be well earned shadenfruede.

Is the next recession already teed up?  And will it be worse than 2008?

A major contributor for this imminent recession is the fallout from a faltering Chinese economy. The megalomaniac communist government has increased debt 28 times since the year 2000. Taking that total north of 300 percent of GDP in a very short period of time for the primary purpose of building a massive unproductive fixed asset bubble that adds little to GDP.

Now that this debt bubble is unwinding, growth in China is going offline. The renminbi’s falling value, cascading Shanghai equity prices (down 40 percent since June 2014) and plummeting rail freight volumes (down 10.5 percent year over year), all clearly illustrate that China is not growing at the promulgated 7 percent, but rather isn’t growing at all. The problem is that China accounted for 34 percent of global growth, and the nation’s multiplier effect on emerging markets takes that number to over 50 percent.

China has been in trouble for a while.  In my best Rev. Wright voice, I wonder if the “chickens are coming home to roost?”  I also wonder if so, what that means in terms of stability for China’s ancient totalitarian ruling class.

And in the world of participation trophies and no consequences, this was inevitable:

With nothing but hope and her faulty judgement, Cinnamon Nicole allegedly spent her entire life savings buying up all the Powerball tickets she could afford. But the Cordova resident ended up a broke loser when none of her lucky numbers matched Wednesday’s $1.6 billion Powerball numbers.

So what’s a penniless woman to do when she’s still all filled with hope but not a hint of common sense? Create a GoFundMe page, get donations and “spend another fortune trying to hit it big again.” That’s what Nicole did before GoFundMe decided they weren’t going to stand idly by while she makes a mockery of the crowdfunding site and shut her Powerball Reimbursement page down.

And yes, before GoFundMe shut her down, she had actually raised $800.

*sigh*

Have a great weekend.

~McQ

 

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Economic Statistics for 14 Jan 16

Import/export prices continued to sink in December, with prices for exports down -1.1% and imports down -1.2%. On a year-over-year basis, import prices have fallen -8.2% and export prices are down -6.5%.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 7,000 to 284,000. The 4-week average rose 3,000 to 278,750. Continuing claims rose 29,000 to 2.263 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.2 points to 44.4 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $15.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.502 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $3.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-16.7 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 13 Jan 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 21.3% last week, with purchases up 18% and refis up 24%.

The Atlanta Fed reports that Business Inflation Expectations fell to 1.8% for January.

The Fed’s Beige Book reports that consumer spending growth is only slight to moderate, while price pressures are minimal.

The US government budget deficit for December was $-14.4 billion. For the FY to date, the deficit is up 22% at $-215.6 billion.


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SOTU: all about narrative … and fantasy

Another SOTU, another trip to Fantasy Land.  I saw it all summed up in one wag’s sentence: “Obama has put Joe Biden in charge of finding a cure for cancer.”

There were some blatant lies and some pure nonsense in the mix last night.  One that stood out to me was this:

I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world.

No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead — they call us.

Surveys?  Really?  That’s his “source” of information.

I wonder if the surveys answered this question posed by David French.

Yet if America is the world’s most powerful nation, why are so many of our worst enemies far stronger and more dangerous than when Obama took office?

Probably not.  In fact, much like Hitler’s “paper divisions” weren’t worth the paper they appeared on, I’d guess these surveys are about as worthless.

Claudia Rosett does a yoeman’s job of setting the record straight:

Here’s the real State of the Union, which is inextricably linked to the increasingly alarming state of the world: It is open season on America.

Not that America is by any stretch a lone target. Terrorist slaughter has become a staple of the world news. On the same Tuesday that just saw American sailors seized by Iran, the news was filled earlier in the day with accounts of a terrorist bombing in the historic center of Istanbul (which the State Department at least labeled “terrorist,” as opposed to “workplace violence”). ISIS, al Qaeda, the Taliban and a host of their kindred organizations are bedeviling the civilized world.

And then there are the sovereign-state behemoths: an expansionist China and an aggressive Russia, pushing the boundaries and arming for war — as the U.S. guts its military and turns over its resources to a domestic bureaucracy that is busy regulating America’s old free markets and resulting economic muscle into fading memory.

Obama’s presidency began in 2009 with apologies for America, a “reset” with Russia, a bow in Cairo and an outstretched hand to Iran — promising that this would boost America’s standing and security, and pave the way to more peaceful world. After seven years of American retreat, appeasement, vanishing red lines, diplomatic farce and an implausible nuclear deal with Iran, the clear message to every opportunist on the planet is: grab what you can.

But, as this graphic illustrates, Mr. Obama resides down another road the rest of us can’t afford to live on.

narrative_versus_reality_article_1-12-16-1

It is, as usual, all about the narrative and before he ever stepped to the podium, we knew that.  We knew we’d hear the narrative even when it is so obviously fantasy.  Reality is and has been banished from this administration as being unfriendly if not down right hostile to the narrative.

Are we the most powerful nation on earth?  Yes, I think so … but that was so before Mr. Obama.  I see it as much less of a fact now.  The most powerful military in the world?  Yes, but again, in decline.  And I’m sorry, but there is no nation that I know of that is calling the US for help and certainly not to “lead”.  Not with this yahoo in the Oval Office.  In fact, as Rosett points out, two very powerful nations are pushing the envelope even as we speak and our answer, thus far has been the chirping of crickets.  China has decided to take over the South China sea and has established its first military base in Africa.  What have we done or said about that?  Nothing.

It’s nice to be considered the most powerful nation on earth with the most powerful military.  But it means nothing if that power isn’t used to advance the interests of your nation and its citizens or those of your allies.  That doesn’t mean war, it usually means deterrence – maintaining the peace or the status quo in some instances.  And it requires leadership, something we’ve been without for the last 7 plus years.  Its about drawing limits and enforcing them.  We have refused to do either these past 7 years.

The world knows that.  That’s why little pop-gun states like Iran feel they can pretty much do what they want without fear of all that power we have.  And that means we really don’t have any power at all.  That’s been proven any number of times over the years with red lines crossed and the obvious refusal to recognize or meaningfully engage ISIS.  At home the refusal to even say “radical Islam” has diminished the stature of this administration domestically as well.

We’re leaderless in a perilous world.  Yes, we’re powerful – potentially.  But without resolution and the threat of meaningful action that potential means absolutely nothing … except in the narrative.

~McQ

 

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Economic Statistics for 12 Jan 16

The Fed’s Labor Market Conditions Index rose from 0.5 to 2.9 In December.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose 0.4 points in December to 95.2.

The Labor Department’s JOLTS report indicates that online job openings were  5.431 million vs a revised 5.349 million in October. 

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales fell to a sluggish 1.7% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 2.9%.


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The New Left – hypocrisy and entitlement

One of the things always clear about oppressive and totalitarian ideologies is the rules only apply to the ruled.  And the rulers see nothing wrong or hypocritical about that.  Today’s liberalism is precisely like that and demonstrably so.  For instance, as Victor Davis Hanson points out:

The rich supporter of affirmative action still uses, without apology, the old-boy network to pull privileged strings to get his own son admitted to the proper college. Al Gore flies on a carbon-spewing private jet, saving the planet by getting to conferences more quickly and enjoyably. High-tax proponent John Kerry docks his yacht where he can avoid taxes; how else to ensure downtime for furthering social justice?

A spread-the-wealth Obama, who warns others about making too much money and profiting at all the wrong times, nonetheless chooses the tony haunts of the moneyed and privileged — the Hawaiian resort coast, Martha’s Vineyard, Rancho Mirage — in preference to the old Chicago hood or even Camp David.

And then there are the Clintons who seem to believe that the laws of the land simply shouldn’t be something they have to follow. These are only a few of the hypocritical examples that highlight the left’s bankruptcy.  The rules are for the little people, as is the facade these sorts of people erect to attract their votes.

The examples of the left’s hypocrisy abound and aren’t at all hard to find (btw, before anyone wonders, yes, there is hypocrisy on the right … see the GOP Congress, but this is about a pernicious ideology which usually devolves into a form of oppression).   For instance, this beauty:

State Senator R.C. Soles (D – NC) Long time Anti-Gun Advocate State Senator R.C. Soles, 74, shot one of two intruders at his home … The Senator, who has made a career of being against gun ownership for the general public, didn’t hesitate to defend himself with his own gun when he believed he was in immediate danger and he was the victim.

And he has every right to defend himself.  But he’s all for taking your right away and my guess is he felt no hypocrisy at all when he defended himself with a private firearm.  Among the torch bearers of today’s progressives or liberals, there is a sense of entitlement that is astonishing.  Camp David?  My goodness, use a private and secure location built specifically for presidential vacations when one can use whatever funds needed to take dream vacations at the expense of others (especially in the midst of one of the worst economic downturns in modern history)?!  Heaven forbid! “I’m entitled!”

It is that attitude that is both infuriating and dangerous. Because it inures them to the reality that they’re attitudes and actions lead to oppression.  Since they never believe their ideology necessarily pertains to them, it isn’t difficult then for them to impose it on us … for our own good, you see.  It is a “do as I say, not as I do” ideology.

It is also an ideology that constantly gets tripped up when it’s ideas clash.  More hipocrisy ensues:

Thousands of first- and second-generation Middle Eastern immigrants, at least some of them recent arrivals, went on a rampage in many German cities over the New Year’s holidays, pawing, manhandling, and sexually assaulting hundreds of German women — a classic foretaste of the coming collisions between the Morlock premodern and the Eloi postmodern worlds.

But, in essence, the progressive leaders of Europe have suppressed these events, playing all sorts of games through the media while, I’m sure, expecting you to believe they believe strongly in women’s rights.  You certainly wouldn’t know it by their actions.  Which brings me to something else Hanson said:

How does one adjudicate when various –isms and –ologies conflict with one another — radical feminism versus sexual emancipation, environmentalism versus the customs of indigenous peoples, free speech versus correct speech, integration and free expression versus safe spaces and trigger warnings? Does not even PC marijuana tar the lungs, give off second-hand smoke, and, in double-martini fashion, impair driving?

Yet in truth, liberal correctness trumps all lesser progressive agendas. The master ring of leftwing politics rules the lesser rings of race, class, gender, immigration, and environment. Ideology alone makes Barack Obama, prep-schooled in Honolulu, a more authentic representative of the Jim Crow South than Clarence Thomas, or Bill Richardson more Latino than Marco Rubio.

 

His point is dead on.  “Liberal correctness” is the trump card they use when finally forced to choose between two competing portions of the ideology.  In this case, the rights of women take second place to the PC staple of multiculturalism (a failure if ever there was one).  One mustn’t presume to judge a culture based on our own because apparently good and evil are malleable concepts and we have no right to decide what is good or evil.

As for authenticity, they are the deciders of what is or isn’t authentic.  Why?  Because a) we’ve allowed them to introduce authenticity into all aspects of race, class, culture and gender to the point that now favored minorities are allowed to whine about “appropriation” of their culture.

It’s all a big mess – but at bottom it’s all about the imposition of “right thinking” and “right acting” according to them.  But it doesn’t apply to them.

Just you.

~McQ

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