Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

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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Economic Statistics for 3 Sep 15

Chain store retailers today are posting mostly higher rates of sales growth for August than July, the 4th straight month of improvement.

Challenger reports 41,186 lay-off announcements in August, and far lower than July’s 105,696 which was skewed by a big Army cutback.

The nation’s trade deficit narrowed to $-41.9 billion in July following an upward revised deficit of $-45.2 billion in June.

The Gallup U.S. Payroll to Population employment rate fell -0.2% to 45.3% in August.

The PMI Services Index rose 0.4 points in August to 56.1.

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index fell -1.3 points in August, to a still-high 59.0.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.6 points to 41.4 in the latest week.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 11,000 to 282,000, which is still historically low. The 4-week average rose 3,250 to 275,500. Continuing claims fell 9,000  to 2.257 million.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $0.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.476 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-9.3 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $33.1 billion in the latest week.

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Israel, the new Czechoslovakia

Who knew Richard Cohen reads QandO?  Today’s headline on his op/ed:”Iran: The Obamacare of Foreign Policy”.

Of course he means it differently than I did yesterday.

There was no “better deal” — the fantasy of all those who hate Iran and hate Obama (which of them more is often unclear). The nuclear deal has become “such a luscious piece of Republican propaganda,” William Luers, the director of The Iran Project, whose goal is to improve American-Iranian relations, told me. And a long election season has already begun.

Or said another way, the “deal” was the goal. Not a good deal or the best deal, but any deal.  Any deal at all.

My guess is Chamberlin had exactly the same goal in mind when he returned from Munich. And we all know how that turned out.

Sorta like Iran thinks this is going to turn out:

“The US officials make boastful remarks and imagine that they can impose anything on the Iranian nation because they lack a proper knowledge of the Iranian nation.”

Also today, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said they have work to do.

The IRGC’s top commander in Tehran province, Brigadier General Mohsen Kazzemeini, told operating units undergoing drills in the capital that “they (the US and the Zionists) should know that the Islamic Revolution will continue enhancing its preparedness until it overthrows Israel and liberates Palestine,” according to Fars.

“And we will continue defending not just our own country, but also all the oppressed people of the world, specially those countries that are standing on the forefront of confrontation with the Zionists,” Kazzemeini said.

Yessiree … peace in our time!


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Economic Statistics for 2 Sep 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 11.3% last week, with purchases up 4.0% and refis up a very strong 17%.

The ADP Employment report shows only 190,000 net new private sector jobs were created in July.

Following the upward revision to 2nd Quarter GDP, productivity for the Quarter has been revised up to 3.3%, with labor costs down -1.4%.

Gallup’s U.S. job creation index held unchanged at 32 in August for the 4th consecutive month. 

Pulled down by petroleum and coal products, factory orders rose a lower-than-expected 0.4% overall in July, but the durable good orders component rose a strong 2.2%.

The Fed’s Beige Book reports that 11 of 12 districts report only moderate to modest growth with the Cleveland district reporting only slight growth.

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Stray Voltage

“There’s a lot of ignorance, they are claiming that they’re uncomfortable. I don’t believe for a second that they are. I think this is pure and simple bigotry,” Perry told local news station KMOV.

That’s a quote from a gay fellow who has decided he’s really a girl,  wears a wig and dress and therefore  believes he is “transgendered”.  In fact, he’s merely a cross-dresser since he’s not had any sort of treatment or surgery to change his gender.

As you might imagine, his demand that he be able to use the girls locker room (instead of a gender neutral bathroom available to him) has been met with stiff resistance by the girls of the school (and their parents).

A few back his demand:

But another 40 students expressed their support for Perry, who has identified as female since the age of 13.

Good for him … that doesn’t make him a female.  Biology 1o1.  He may want to revisit it, speaking of “ignorance”.

The above reminds me of a great rant I read this week:

The perpetually offended want to wrap themselves in metaphorical bubble wrap to ensure that no offense, no bad word, no insult – perceived or otherwise – grinds sand into their delicate vulvas. And they take it as a given that you must conform to their standards – protect them, spoil them, shield them from all possible indelicacies – or else…

That’s precisely what is happening in the school cited in the first paragraph.  Attention seeking narcissists and their “ignorant” backers demand others “conform to their standards” or else … bigots!

Read the whole thing.

A couple of CUNY professors write approvingly of the rise in the minimum wage (they claim government must set a floor for wages – uh, no, that’s what a market is for) but note a great number of disadvantages in doing so, among them:

Second, there are two reasons why minimum-wage increases do not significantly affect poverty rates. In 2010, only 12 percent of minimum wage workers lived in households with incomes below the poverty threshold ($23,000), and only one-third in households with incomes less than double the poverty threshold. Indeed, almost half of minimum-wage workers lived in households with incomes above the national median. Thus, the minimum wage is not well targeted to the poor.

In addition, among poor or near-poor households that do gain wage increases, most will lose significant government safety-net benefits. With higher incomes they qualify for less in food stamps, earned income tax credits, and housing and child-care subsidies. With increased payroll taxes, these households could easily give back at least half of their wage gains. For a significant share, it could be more than three-quarters.

They’ve almost convinced me that the raise would be worth it. Of course, getting all those off government benefits would never mean a tax roll-back, would it, so screw ’em.

But they do pop the bubble of the effect on poverty.

President Barack Obama locked in enough support in Congress Wednesday to ensure he can overcome bipartisan opposition and implement a landmark nuclear accord with Iran.

Yes, friends, the Democrats have again sold you down the river.  This is the Executive Department equivalent of ObamaCare and as usual, the Democrats have to pass it to see what is in it.

The NY Times remarks on the problem with murders in a number of US cities, to include, New York City:

Cities across the nation are seeing a startling rise in murders after years of declines, and few places have witnessed a shift as precipitous as this city. With the summer not yet over, 104 people have been killed this year — after 86 homicides in all of 2014.

More than 30 other cities have also reported increases in violence from a year ago. In New Orleans, 120 people had been killed by late August, compared with 98 during the same period a year earlier. In Baltimore, homicides had hit 215, up from 138 at the same point in 2014. In Washington, the toll was 105, compared with 73 people a year ago. And in St. Louis, 136 people had been killed this year, a 60 percent rise from the 85 murders the city had by the same time last year.

Name two things these cities all have in common.

And finally the “blender test” as applied to Hillary Cliton’s email excuses:

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tore into Hillary Clinton defenders Wednesday morning, saying anyone who believed her email excuses was too stupid to be trusted with household appliances.

“She’s Secretary of State,” the Morning Joe host said. “This is her only server. You would have to be really, really stupid–”

“It’s the blender test: Do I trust you with a blender in my home to not stick your hand in there and get it all gnarled up?” Scarborough continued. “If you believe that Hillary Clinton’s only account did not receive and send classified material in high volumes, then you should not be allowed within five feet of a blender.”

There are a whole lot of people out there who don’t need to be in the same room as a blender, then.


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