Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

First they came for the beer …

You have to wonder when the real backlash is going to begin … if ever.  But until then, these people are going to push the West until finally the West pushes back.  For example, a petition is being circulated and the following letter was sent to the City Council of Munich, Germany:

Dear City council of Munich,

I am writing this letter to bring to your attention something that I and many Muslims believe is unfair and requires attention.

I would like to inform you that the Oktoberfest is an Intolerant and Anti-Islamic event. We tried to ignore the event, but there too many Un-Islamic acts done at the Oktoberfest. Such as alcohol consumption, public nudity etc.

We understand that the Oktoberfest is a yearly German tradition, but we, Muslims, can not tolerate this Un-Islamic event, because it offends us and all Muslims on the earth.

We are requesting the immediate cancellation of the upcoming Oktoberfest event.

We also believe that the Oktoberfest might also offend all the Muslim refugees coming from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. The cancellation of the Oktoberfest event will help refugees not to forget their Islamic history. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Morad Almuradi

Now, obviously, a tradition that has been going strong since 1810 isn’t likely to be cancelled anytime soon.  What’s interesting about this letter is its effrontery.  And note too that it is Saul Alinsky fueled.  Focus on the words used – “tolerate”, “offends”, “unfair”.  Using the West’s own rhetoric against it.  Of course, it seems obvious after you read the letter the irony must be “Un-Islamic” too.

But in the West, most folks would say, “hey, if you don’t like it, don’t attend, don’t drink and don’t get nude”.  That’s apparently the Western notion of “tolerance”.  But apparently the Muslim notion of tolerance is vastly different. They want the whole affair canceled because it is “Un-Islamic”.  And whatever they determine to be “Un-Islamic” can’t coexist with them, it must be banned.

Syrian refugees are flooding Germany as we speak.  Already Islam is not only large but real in Germany.  At some point, when enough Muslims are of voting age, it will use Germany’s democratic institutions to elect its own to the government.

Given their apparent intolerance, it won’t be pretty if they do.

And, ironically, I think we’ve seen this movie in Germany before.


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Economic Statistics for 15 Sep 15

Well, I’m back from vacation, so I guess I’ll start doing the economic stuff again. There were no economic releases yesterday, so I guess I got an extra day off from it. Anyhoo…

Retail sales rose 0.2% in August with sales ex-autos up 0.1% and sales ex-autos and -gas up 0.3%. All were slightly below expectations.

The Empire State Manufacturing Index remains at meteor-crater-low levels for the second month in a row, up only 0.75 points in September to -14.67.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales rose to a still-soft 1.7% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.3%.

Industrial Production fell -0.4% in August, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories fell -0.4% to 77.6%. Manufacturing production fell -0.5%.

Business inventories rose 0.1% in July, though a 0.1% rise in sales left the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at a hefty 1.36, versus 1.29 a year ago.

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Stray Voltage

I remember when flying was mostly a pleasant and enjoyable experience.  Not so much anymore:

Not too long ago, flying could be a relatively pleasant experience, but executives focused on cutting costs have stripped away everything flyers associated with luxury or even dignity. Food, baggage handling, boarding in a logical manner: Things once taken for granted now must be paid for or done without. Flights are more crowded than they’ve been since World War II, when they were carrying troops.

Competition has winnowed all the perks out of the process (mostly due to the demand for lower fares), security has made the boarding process a nightmare and, frankly, rude and short-tempered people who simply don’t know how to act in public have killed off the rest of the enjoyment.  As they like to say, “you get what you pay for.”

Is anyone else laughing out loud at Hillary Clinton’s latest ironically impaired attempt to relate?

I want to send a message to every survivor of sexual assault.

Don’t let anyone silence your voice. You have a right to be heard. You have a right to be believed. We’re with you.

I hear Juanita Broadrick and Kathleen Willey agree.  But Willey has a few words of her own in response:

She believed what happened for sure,” Willey tells The American Mirror. “She just chose to ignore the plight of all of his victims, thus enabling him to continue to abuse and rape women in the future.”

Willey adds, “She’s a money-hungry hypocritical witch who will do anything for money. 

“She’s a lying pig. I CANNOT believe that she had the gall to make that commercial. How dare she? I hope she rots in hell.

Yup, so do a lot of us.  One place we don’t want her, though, is in the Oval Office.

Bernie Sanders, the darling of the socialist left, has been getting a bit of traction against Hillary Clinton.  In fact, Clinton is losing support so fast that even Joe Biden is considering entering his clown car into the race.

And what does Sanders bring to the table?  Bigger government (much bigger), more spending (18 trillion, in fact) and much higher taxes.  Wow, what a deal (one that has always appealed to the liberal left):

In all, he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal, a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause. Mr. Sanders sees the money as going to essential government services at a time of increasing strain on the middle class.

His agenda includes an estimated $15 trillion for a government-run health-care program that covers every American, plus large sums to rebuild roads and bridges, expand Social Security and make tuition free at public colleges.

To pay for it, Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent running for the Democratic nomination, has so far detailed tax increases that could bring in as much as $6.5 trillion over 10 years, according to his staff.

And the “but the government is paying for my stuff” crowd is going wild over him.  How do you explain to the economically illiterate where this is all headed and what the result at some point in the future MUST be?

Oh, and by the way, they’re not even trying to deny it:

Mr. Gunnels, the Sanders aide, said the campaign hasn’t worked out all details on his plan—for instance, his version might allow each state to run its own single-payer system. But he said the $15 trillion figure was a fair estimate.

So, let’s elect Bernie and double our debt!

What a load:

Monday at North High School in Des Moines, IA, President Barack Obama said the notion that people who illegally come to live in the United States, as they have for generations, are suddenly now “less worthy in the eyes of God,” is “un-American.” Obama said, “This whole anti-immigrant sentiment that is out there in politics right now is contrary to who we are. Because unless you are a native American, your family came from someplace else. And although we are a nation of laws and we want people to follow the law, and I have been pushing Congress to make …” yatta, yatta, yatta.

Who is making the argument that anyone is less worthy because of how they ended up here?  I think the argument is they’re “illegal”!  There is no “anti-immigrant” sentiment.  There is an “anti-illegal immigrant” sentiment since our laws prohibit it.   As for the “native Americans” they were merely the first immigrants as their families “came from someplace else”, namely Siberia.  And this guy, who refuses to enforce the laws about immigration already on the books has the temerity to lecture others about being a “nation of laws”.  Ironic guffaw follows ending with a contemptuous sneer.

Did the Obama administration turn down a Russian offer in 2012 to dump Syria’s Assad?

If true, this was a staggering missed opportunity. The President’s string of misjudgments on the Middle East—on the peace process, Erdogan, withdrawal from Iraq, Libya, ISIS as the “J.V. team”, and Syria—is one of the most striking examples of serial failure in the annals of American foreign policy.

Generally speaking, what the President seems worst at is estimating the direction in which events are flowing. He thought Erdogan was taking Turkey in one direction; Erdogan was going somewhere else. He thought there was a transition to democracy in Egypt; there never was a prospect of that. He has repeatedly been caught flatfooted by events in Syria. And Putin keeps running rings around him.

Understanding the intentions and estimating the capabilities of people who don’t share his worldview are not our President’s strong suits.

And now, who is it again that Russia and Iran are reported to be cozying up too?  Worst president ever.


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This isn’t America anymore

VDH has had enough of the whiners too.  Since the football season has started he has chosen to highlight Brandon Marshall, the New York Jets wide receiver and occasional sports commentator’s remarks that the NFL is, apparently, racist.

He claims that the NFL favors white players over black players, especially white quarterbacks.  Never mind the fact that while blacks make up approximately 12% of the population, they hold 67% of the positions on NFL teams.  Never mind the fact that Marshall just signed a 3 year contract for $27 million.  Never mind that blacks make up 16% of the coaches and 24% of the general managers … the league is just “racist.”

For whatever reason, Marshall just has to lay racism as a charge.  His “reasoning?”

Tuesday, on Showtime’s Inside the NFL, the talented New York Jets receiver said about the reversal of Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, “The race card. There are a lot of players out there that believe that white players—specifically, at the quarterback position—are treated differently.”

If Marshall is accusing the NFL of racism, this is a pretty poor example. The NFL threw the book at Brady for his alleged role in the football deflation scandal. Federal Judge Richard Berman reversed the four-game suspension. Roger Goodell upheld it.

Well, it’s the best Marshall can come up with to illustrate his ill founded charge.  He has become another of a legion out there that want to blame every little grievance, substantiated or not, on race, or gender, or men, or whatever.  And he’s obviously ignorant of the facts.  But in the era of the victim (thanks Obama), none of that matters.  It’s the grievance and the narrative that accompanies it that are important.

The cult of the whining victim is now ubiquitous. Two high-school football players in Texas, angry that their team is losing and galvanized by their whining coach, decide to take out a referee and smash him with two cowardly hits. The reason? They claim the flattened ref got what he deserved — because of course he was a racist. The Marine Corps has discovered, as Nature might have advised it, that male ground troops on average perform more muscularly and effectively in rough combat-simulated training than do women. They apparently prove stronger, more combative, blood-thirsty, and aggressive, and fight with greater stamina. One reaction is not to accept the data, but, of course, by whining how the data has been improperly — and no doubt — socially constructed in sexist fashion, or is irrelevant altogether, maybe the standards can be lowered a bit.

This cult has, unfortunately, infected a large portion of our population.  And, as pointed out about the Marine Corps test, if the results don’t measure up to the predetermined solution, someone will whine, and they have.  The narrative will win out, regardless of reality or the consequences of ignoring it in the real world.  And frankly, I agree wholeheartedly with this:

The 21st century has become a cowardly era in which we point to collective race, class, or gender rather than own up to our record of behavior and performance when our exalted expectations are not met.

This was inevitable.  It is no longer about equal opportunity that it is your responsibility to take charge of, it is about equal outcomes that is someone else’s job to ensure:

The culprits are not just our obsessions with race, class, and gender, or the careerist aspirations of elites. We also live in the most affluent and leisured era in the history of Western civilization. But given human nature, our bounty has not given us pause for appreciation, but rather increased our appetites in geometric fashion. The more we have, the more we think we deserve — or else. In an affluent society, society can afford now to have no losers. There is enough stuff and praise to be shared by all. In T-ball everyone is a winner; so is today’s student who feels A’s are his birthright. The poor man in the inner city has more computing power in his palm with an Apple smartphone than did the billionaire twenty years ago in his study — but, of course, not as versatile a phone perhaps as that of today’s billionaire, and thus he can legitimately whine that life is not fair due to the machinations of someone else.

And so, as we’re seeing in our colleges and universities, we’re raising a generation of hot house flowers who will never survive in “Hard America”, but will have a thousand and one excuses for their failures and a thousand and one lawsuits presented by lawyers happy to take their (parent’s) money.

This isn’t America anymore.



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What has become of due process in this country?

Especially when it comes to our colleges?

This should absolutely stun and frighten you if you’re a college age man:

At a congressional hearing on campus sexual assault, Colorado Rep. Jared Polis suggested that expelling students based solely on the idea that they might have committed a crime is an acceptable standard. And the hearing audience applauded him.

Polis, a Democrat, was discussing due process and standards of evidence as they apply to colleges and universities adjudicating sexual assault. Currently, colleges must be only 50.01 percent sure that an accusation is valid before punishing an accused student (more on that later). Polis began advocating for allowing colleges to use a lower standard than that.

“I mean, if there’s 10 people that have been accused and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, seems better to get rid of all 10 people,” Polis said. “We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we’re talking about their transfer to another university.”

For this, the audience applauded.

Of course I understand why the audience applauded.  It was loaded with people supporting the “victims” who were testifying and should come as no surprise.  But what about the resident idiot Polis?  Can he even imagine the same standard applied to him?  Glenn Reynolds applies it:

Well, since there’s at least a 20% chance that Polis is a corrupt hack, let’s just boot him from Congress and disqualify him from holding any future office. After all, it’s not like we’re putting him in jail or anything.

After all, one only has to look at our Congress to understand that corruption is rampant and he’s as likely corrupt as the next guy.

Trust me, if he were caught up in some sort of movement like that he’d be whining his head off about “due process”.  He declare any move to oust him a “witch hunt”.  He’d scream for the rule of law.

But, in order to toe the liberal line and since he’s all about toeing that line, he’ll put those principles aside in order to do so.

Big surprise.




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The Iran deal sucks

As if you likely haven’t figured that out yourself by now.  Why does it suck?  Well, here’s the promise:

Touring the Sunday morning talk shows, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz argued that the 24-day delay the deal provides is immaterial.

“We are very confident in our ability to detect the vestiges of any nuclear work beyond 24 days,” he said, and later explained, “When environmental samples are taken and nuclear activity has taken place, it is virtually impossible to clean up that place. You can paint the floors.  You can do what you want. We feel very confident that we would find evidence of nuclear activity.”


Yet, this assumes that the IAEA will be able to inspect Iran’s military sites. What if those sites are off limits?

Ah, the key question.  So … will there be sites that are off limits?

You bet.

Khamenei’s foreign policy adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, was even more explicit. On July 25, he told al Jazeera’s Arabic service, “The access of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency or from any other body to Iran’s military centers is forbidden.” This was 11 days after the deal was struck.

Just days ago, according to Fars, the Iranian defense minister, Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan, announced, “Iran does not plan to issue permission for the IAEA to inspect every site.” He made clear that inspectors would never be permitted access to missile bases.

While some analysts and officials have dismissed such statements as the ranting of the hardest of hardliners (albeit the foreign and defense ministers and the supreme leader’s closest advisers), the Associated Press has reported that the IAEA has agreed to inspection procedures at the Parchin military site that would deny the agency physical access to the site, relying instead on photographs, videos, and samples collected by Iran. The IAEA disputes the AP story, but has not specified the procedures agreed to with Iran.

Former IAEA chief inspector Olli Heinonen writes, “If the reporting is accurate, these procedures appear to be risky, departing significantly from well-established and proven safeguards practices. At a broader level, if verification standards have been diluted for Parchin (or elsewhere) and limits imposed, the ramification is significant as it will affect the IAEA’s ability to draw definitive conclusions with the requisite level of assurances and without undue hampering of the verification process.”

My guess is the reporting is quite accurate, given the reaction of the Iranians.  They have no intentions of letting anyone into their military installations.  And certainly not representatives of the West.  Of course the administration denies that these two people speak for the regime, even if they are the foreign and defense ministers as mentioned above.

Oh, and what if the IAEA “sniffs” something in the atmosphere?  Then it is the IAEA’s word against Iran’s, given Iran won’t let them inspect the site.  Then what?

Again, you’re asked to suspend your reasoning, ignore facts and statements from high government officials in Iran and believe an administration that has done nothing but lie about just about everything since it has been in power.

Yeah, no sale here.


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Our society of victims

Anyone who has read QandO for any time at all knows I am fascinated by these sorts of topics.  This comes out of Reason’s “Hit & Run” blog.  It offers an explanation concerning what we’ve been watching happen over the last 20 to 30 years.  The change from a more self-reliant people who tried to be better to a growing culture of “victimhood”.

Some background first:

In honor cultures, people (men) maintained their honor by responding to insults, slights, violations of rights by self-help violence. Generally honor cultures exist where the rule of law is weak. In honor cultures, people protected themselves, their families, and property through having a reputation for swift violence. During the 19th century, most Western societies began the moral transition toward dignity cultures in which all citizens were legally endowed with equal rights. In such societies, persons, property, and rights are defended by recourse to third parties, usually courts, police, and so forth, that, if necessary, wield violence on their behalf. Dignity cultures practice tolerance and are much more peaceful than honor cultures.


Sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning are arguing that the U.S. is now transitioning to a victimhood culture that combines both the honor culture’s quickness to take offense with the dignity culture’s use of third parties to police and punish transgressions. The result is people are encouraged to think of themselves as weak, marginalized, and oppressed. This is nothing less than demoralizing and polarizing as everybody seeks to become a “victim.”

Indeed.  I’ve seen it any number of times personally over the years.  And, as you might imagine, this transition into the victimhood culture is becoming both extensive and actually supported by, well “victims” and those with some sort of pseudo-guilt.  The “white privilege” nonsense is a perfect example.  Cultural “appropriation” is another victimhood scam.

With that background, this is a very interesting explanation of what we have going on and where it is likely to lead (and, of course, note where the impact, at this moment in time, is the strongest and how well that’s going):

A) Microaggression as Overstratification
According to Black (2011), as noted above, changes in stratification, intimacy, and diversity cause conflict. Microaggression complaints are largely about changes in stratification. They document actions said to increase the level of inequality in a social relationship – actions Black refers to as “overstratification.” Overstratification offenses occur whenever anyone rises above or falls below others in status. [Therefore…] a morality that privileges equality and condemns oppression is most likely to arise precisely in settings that already have relatively high degrees of equality… In modern Western societies, egalitarian ethics have developed alongside actual political and economic equality.As women moved into the workforce in large numbers, became increasingly educated, made inroads into highly paid professions such as law and medicine, and became increasingly prominent in local, state, and national politics, sexism became increasingly deviant. The taboo has grown so strong that making racist statements, even in private, might jeopardize the careers of celebrities or the assets of businessmen (e.g., Fenno, Christensen, and Rainey 2014; Lynch 2013). [p.706-707] [In other words, as progress is made toward a more equal and humane society, it takes a smaller and smaller offense to trigger a high level of outrage. The goalposts shift, allowing participants to maintain a constant level of anger and constant level of perceived victimization.]

B) Microaggression as underdiversity
Microaggression offenses also tend to involve what Black calls “underdiversity” – the rejection of a culture. Large acts of underdiversity include things like genocide or political oppression, while smaller acts include ethnic jokes or insults. The publicizers of microaggressions are concerned with the latter, as well as more subtle, perhaps inadvertent, cultural slights…. Just as overstratification conflict varies inversely with stratification, underdiversity conflict varies directly with diversity (Black 2011:139). Attempts to increase stratification, we saw, are more deviant where stratification is at a minimum; likewise, attempts to decrease diversity are more deviant where diversity is at a maximum. In modern Western societies, an ethic of cultural tolerance – and often incompatibly, intolerance of intolerance – has developed in tandem with increasing diversity. Since microaggression offenses normally involve overstratification and underdiversity, intense concern about such offenses occurs at the intersection of the social conditions conducive to the seriousness of each. It is in egalitarian and diverse settings – such as at modern American universities – that equality and diversity are most valued, and it is in these settings that perceived offenses against these values are most deviant. [p.707]. [Again, the paradox: places that make the most progress toward equality and diversity can expect to have the “lowest bar” for what counts as an offense against equality and inclusivity. Some colleges have lowered the bar so far that an innocent question, motivated by curiosity, such as “where are you from” is now branded as an act of aggression.]

C) Victimhood as Virtue
When the victims publicize microaggressions they call attention to what they see as the deviant behavior of the offenders. In doing so they also call attention to their own victimization. Indeed, many ways of attracting the attention and sympathy of third parties emphasize or exacerbate the low status of the aggrieved. People portray themselves as oppressed by the powerful – as damaged, disadvantaged, and needy. [They describe such practices going back to ancient Rome and India] … But why emphasize one’s victimization? Certainly the distinction between offender and victim always has moral significance, lowering the offender’s moral status. In the settings such as those that generate microaggression catalogs, though, where offenders are oppressors and victims are the oppressed, it also raises the moral status of the victims. This only increases the incentive to publicize grievances, and it means aggrieved parties are especially likely to highlight their identity as victims, emphasizing their own suffering and innocence. Their adversaries are privileged and blameworthy, but they themselves are pitiable and blameless. [p.707-708] [This is the great tragedy: the culture of victimization rewards people for taking on a personal identity as one who is damaged, weak, and aggrieved. This is a recipe for failure — and constant litigation — after students graduate from college and attempt to enter the workforce].

Fascinating, frightning and enlightening.




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How well has Obama done in the foreign policy arena?

Well it is much easier to list his abject failures than any success, that’s for sure.  But what about Syria?  Well, in term of incompetence, it is the tragic gift that keeps on giving:

One little boy in a red T-shirt, lying face down, drowned, on a Turkish beach, is a tragedy. More than 200,000 dead in Syria, 4 million fleeing refugees and 7.6 million displaced from their homes are statistics. But they represent a collective failure of massive proportions.

For four years, the Obama administration has engaged in what Frederic Hof, former special adviser for transition in Syria, calls a “pantomime of outrage.” Four years of strongly worded protests, and urgent meetings and calls for negotiation — the whole drama a sickening substitute for useful action. People talking and talking to drown out the voice of their own conscience. And blaming. In 2013, President Obama lectured the U.N. Security Council for having “demonstrated no inclination to act at all.” Psychological projection on a global stage. . . .

This was not some humanitarian problem distant from the center of U.S. interests. It was a crisis at the heart of the Middle East that produced a vacuum of sovereignty that has attracted and empowered some of the worst people in the world. Inaction was a conscious, determined choice on the part of the Obama White House.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus advocated arming favorable proxies. Sunni friends and allies in the region asked, then begged, for U.S. leadership. All were overruled or ignored.

In the process, Syria has become the graveyard of U.S. credibility.

Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Russia, Iran, you name the country, it is pretty probable that the situation is worse there or our relationship with the country is worse.

Foreign policy is one of the exclusive jobs of the executive branch.  A crook and a clown have held the Secretary of State’s job now, and the disastrous results are in.

Now one of them wants to be President to carry on this “legacy”?

Oh, goodie.



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