Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

So we’re not all Charlie Hebdo …

David Brooks opines today concerning the murders in Paris (quit calling them “executions” and giving them some sort of legal patina):

Americans may laud Charlie Hebdo for being brave enough to publish cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, but, if Ayaan Hirsi Ali is invited to campus, there are often calls to deny her a podium.

So this might be a teachable moment. As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it’s a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists.

The first thing to say, I suppose, is that whatever you might have put on your Facebook page yesterday, it is inaccurate for most of us to claim, Je Suis Charlie Hebdo, or I Am Charlie Hebdo. Most of us don’t actually engage in the sort of deliberately offensive humor that that newspaper specializes in. 

We might have started out that way. When you are 13, it seems daring and provocative to “épater la bourgeoisie,” to stick a finger in the eye of authority, to ridicule other people’s religious beliefs.

But after a while that seems puerile. Most of us move toward more complicated views of reality and more forgiving views of others. (Ridicule becomes less fun as you become more aware of your own frequent ridiculousness.) Most of us do try to show a modicum of respect for people of different creeds and faiths. We do try to open conversations with listening rather than insult.

Yet, at the same time, most of us know that provocateurs and other outlandish figures serve useful public roles. Satirists and ridiculers expose our weakness and vanity when we are feeling proud. They puncture the self-puffery of the successful. They level social inequality by bringing the mighty low. When they are effective they help us address our foibles communally, since laughter is one of the ultimate bonding experiences.

A lot of people are panning Brooks today, but on the large point, I think he’s right.  What was done was, in many people’s opinion, “puerile” and “offensive”.  But as he further points out, even those who are puerile and offensive in that regard do indeed serve a “useful public role.”  They point to things that need pointed at and they do it in a way that is difficult to ignore.  That doesn’t mean I have to like their methods or even their message, but I do want them to have the freedom to express it.

For myself, I usually avoid that sort of offense.  I personally think most points can be made within reasonable bounds of propriety.  But those are limits I put on myself.  It’s a personal belief that I am able to sway more people with reasonable arguments and bits of sarcasm that I am from being puerile and offensive.  I believe that those who engage in that sort of behavior turn off more minds than they turn on.  But that’s my belief.  However, for those that believe otherwise, they have the full right to engage in such behavior as long as it doesn’t violate the rights of others.   And no, you have absolutely no right to not be offended.

So in that regard, Brooks is right.  I’m not in the mold of Charlie Hebdo … but I defend their right to be offensive, profane, blasphemous and puerile via their speech with everything I have.  That doesn’t at all mean I like it, am not offended by it or think it is right.  And whatever they do, their right to free speech also opens them up to the consequences of exercising that right.

Murder is not one of them.  Violence of any sort is not one of them.  We hear a lot about proportionality.  What is a proportional response to being offended?  Off the top of my head I can think of any number of “proportional” responses – depending on what you find offensive, there are several ways to make that point – condemnation, boycott, peaceful activism, ignoring them, dismissing them, etc.  But their right to say what they want is as fundamental a freedom as the consequences that come with it.  And that’s how it should be.

Modern Christians, for instance, have seen many examples of profanity and what they’d consider to be blasphemy writ large – in supposed “art” for instance.  However, they’ve responded proportionally to the offense.

So Brooks is right in the large sense.  I’m not Charlie Hebdo – but I’ll support Charlie Hebdo’s right to do what they did to the death.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 8 Jan 15

Chain stores reporting sales today are generally showing mostly higher rates of year-on-year sales growth in December.

Challenger’s count of layoff announcements for December totals 32,640 vs 35,940 in November and 30,623 in December 2013.

Gallup’s US Payroll to Population rate for December was 44.3%, virtually unchanged from November’s 44.2%.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 4,000 to 294,000. The 4-week average fell 250 to 290,500. Continuing claims rose 101,000 to 2.452 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.9 points to 43.6 in the latest week, the highest level in seven years.

Consumer credit rose $14.1 billion in November, but revolving credit fell $-0.9 billion, the second contraction in the last four months.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $1.9 billion last week, with total assets of $4.5 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-0.6 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $12 billion in the latest week.


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Meanwhile in Congress

The new Senate is only a few days old and they’re at it already.  Of course, roles have been reversed:

Democrats launched the first filibuster of the new Congress on Thursday, objecting to the GOP’s effort to try to bring the Keystone XL pipeline bill to the floor early next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to schedule action early next week on the bill, and promised an open process, including allowing both sides to offer amendments to the bill — an attempt to break with the previous few years, when Democrats controlled the floor and kept a tight lid on amendments.

Now that was mostly the status quo of the last Senate with two exceptions.

-Democrats are in the minority and determined to obstruct the Repblican majority

-Democrats are filibustering just to filibuster.  Republicans filibustered because former Senate Majority Leader Reid refused to allow any amendments to bills he brought to the senate floor.  McConnell has said the GOP will welcome amendments, a process which allows open and bi-partisan participation.

Yet that’s not good enough for Democrats – which sort of foretells what this session of the Senatorial side of Congress will likely look like from here on.   It seems less likely that this is all about Keystone, since the pipeline has bi-partisan support.  Instead, this is just petty and spiteful Democrats refusing any sort of appeasement/olive branch from the GOP.

Which should tell the GOP something, if they’re smart enough to pay attention.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 7 Jan 15

The US Trade deficit narrowed to $-39.0 billion in November from October’s $-43.4 billion, largely on falling oil prices.

The minutes of the December 16–17 meeting indicate moderate economic growth, with restrained inflation and still-weak job market. Discussions about the timing of coming interest rate hikes, with indications that interest rate increases could come even with inflation below 2%, indicate rate increases are possible this year.

ADP estimates that private payrolls grew by 241,000 in December, versus November’s 208,000, but recent ADP figures have overstated those in the government’s official Employment Situation report.

Gallup’s Job Creation Index fell -1 point to 27 in December, in contrast to ADP.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -9.1% last week, with purchases down -5.0% and refis down -12.0%.


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The end of “tolerance?”

Probably not, but you’ll notice “tolerance” in quotes.  Tolerance, today, seems to mean that no one has a right to “judge” another culture or religion or ethnic group based on their actions or by their “prejudices” – you know, “white privilege” and all that.   That we should all understand that each of these are “equally good”, just “different”.

Thus what happened in France today is just a “different” way of reacting to certain “stimulus”.   We must “understand” what motivates these sorts of actions and …

Well, you can fill in the blank.  Isn’t that the natural end to that sort of “tolerance?”  Putting up with it?

The question is, have we seen enough of this sort of slaughter that we can bring ourselves, as civilizations, to say “that’s bad and NOT to be tolerated” and that all those who are a part of this should be exterminated from the face of the earth?  Hmmm?

Well, you’d think so – or at least you’d think there’d be some sort of an attitude change in general.  I’ll be interested to see how the French react.  The same country that let “youths” burn 10,000 cars a few years ago over the same sort of nonsense.  Props to the French for this time calling it what it is – terrorism.  Islamist terrorism.  At least they’re not trying to put the “workplace violence” tag that the political cowards here in the US draped on the Ft. Hood massacre by an Islamic extremist.

Meanwhile, even with the scope of the tragedy, there are those who would excuse the killers.

Via Hot Air, here is the Financial Times take on the situation:

Two years ago it published a 65-page strip cartoon book portraying the Prophet’s life. And this week it gave special coverage to Soumission (“Submission”), a new novel by Michel Houellebecq, the idiosyncratic author, which depicts France in the grip of an Islamic regime led by a Muslim president.

In other words, Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling French Muslims. If the magazine stops just short of outright insults, it is nevertheless not the most convincing champion of the principle of freedom of speech. France is the land of Voltaire, but too often editorial foolishness has prevailed at Charlie Hebdo.

This is not in the slightest to condone the murderers, who must be caught and punished, or to suggest that freedom of expression should not extend to satirical portrayals of religion. It is merely to say that some common sense would be useful at publications such as Charlie Hebdo, and Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, which purport to strike a blow for freedom when they provoke Muslims, but are actually just being stupid.

The other day I pointed out how feminists use the same tactics as the KKK.  This, on the other hand, hits me as the same thing as those who excuse rape by saying, “you know, if you hadn’t have worn that, you probably wouldn’t have been raped”.

Always entertaining to catch this type of a critic in the usual pretzel logic that, in another form, they’re sure to condemn.

Freedom ain’t free – and it is messy and dangerous.  More importantly, you have to fight for it.  And the first step in doing so is being intolerant of anyone who would limit it or take it away – and that includes the murderer’s fellow travelers as well.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 6 Jan 15

Factory orders fell for the 4th straight month in November, down -0.7%, with nearly all major categories declining.

Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index rose 3 points to -5 in December.

Redbook reports retail sales rose 4.3% on a year-ago basis, slowing from last week’s 5.4%.

The Markit PMI services index fell -2.9 points in December to 53.3.

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index fell -3.1 points to 56.2 in December.

The JP Morgan Global Composite PMI fell -0.9 points to 52.3 in December.

The JP Morgan Global Services PMI fell -1.2 points to 52.3 in December.


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So, why does this even make it to the “presidential level”

The “this”?  Keystone XL pipeline.  Why is the president at all involved in this decision?  Why is he threatening a veto if the Republican Congress passes a bill authorizing it?

After all:

The nation’s pipelines are a transportation system. Pipelines enable the safe movement of extraordinary quantities of energy products to industry and consumers, literally fueling our economy and way of life. The arteries of the Nation’s energy infrastructure, as well as one of the safest and least costly ways to transport energy products, our oil and gas pipelines provide the resources needed for national defense, heat and cool our homes, generate power for business and fuel an unparalleled transportation system.

The nation’s more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines safely deliver trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of ton/miles of liquid petroleum products each year. They are essential: the volumes of energy products they move are well beyond the capacity of other forms of transportation. It would take a constant line of tanker trucks, about 750 per day, loading up and moving out every two minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to move the volume of even a modest pipeline. The railroad-equivalent of this single pipeline would be a train of 75 2,000-barrel tank rail cars everyday.

Pipeline systems are the safest means to move these products.

The source?  The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation.  Yes, that’s right, the US government.  Executive branch.

Note the facts – 2.6 million miles of pipeline safely moving petroleum products 24/7.  Look at would be required without them.

Oh, wait, look what’s required without Keystone – trucking and railcars, of course. And who has a major stake in those operations continuing?  You know how this works … follow the money.

Can you say “cronyism”?

Sure you can.

The most “transparent administration”, ever!

Btw, GOP … make his veto it or forever be held as the cowards most think you are (after all, you didn’t even have the courage to dump Boehner).

~McQ

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Here’s a point to ponder

What’s old is new again.

What you need to focus on is the way the feminists would have you take any rape allegation made, without exception.  That in the wake of any number of examples of false (Duke LaCross) and exaggerated stories (Dunham/UVa, etc.) and the propensity of certain institutions to ignore due process while having no qualms at all about forever branding the alleged perpetrator as a rapist for life.  Facts are not necessary, just an accusation in many cases.  No appeal.  No place the accused can present evidence or demand evidence be presented (I’m talking particularly here about universities and the so-called rape epidemic that feminists are trying to allege is happening).  If you’re accused, you’re condemned.  the accuser’s narrative is inviolate  (until it comes apart).

Guess who else used those sorts of tactics?

Automatic belief of rape accusations was a central principle of the KKK’s war on rape, too. This was one of the things that most shocked Ida B Wells, the early twentieth-century African-American journalist and civil-rights activist. ‘The word of the accuser is held to be true’, she said, which means that ‘the rule of law [is] reversed, and instead of proving the accused to be guilty, the [accused] must prove himself innocent’. Wells and others were startled by the level of belief in the accusers of black men, and by the damning of anyone who dared to question such accusations, which was taken as an attack on the accuser’s ‘virtue’. The great nineteenth-century African-American reformer Frederick Douglass was disturbedby the mob’s instant acceptance of accusations of rape against black men, where ‘the charge once fairly stated, no matter by whom or in what manner, whether well or ill-founded’, was automatically believed. Wells said she was praying that ‘the time may speedily come when no human being shall be condemned without due process of law’.

The author of this article goes on to say that at least no lynching is going on today. I disagree.  There are all sorts of “lynchings” going on, they just don’t result in the death of the accused.  But it certainly results in his reputation being lynched.

I can hear the feminists now – “how dare you compare us to the KKK”!?

I’m not.  I’m comparing your tactics to those of the KKK.  You can draw your own conclusions from there.

~McQ

 

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