Monday, March 30, 2015

Odds and ends 3/30/2015

Daniel Greenfield highlights the Obama administration’s preferential treatment of enemies:

Iran’s Supreme Leader just said, “Death to America”, but that won’t impact the negotiations. The White House explained that was “intended for a domestic political audience”. When Netanyahu says something during an election that the White House doesn’t like, the fact that it was intended for a domestic audience doesn’t matter. But when Iran’s leader calls for “Death to America”, we can just ignore that because it surely doesn’t reflect his deeper feelings on destroying America.

Terrorist regimes are treated as untrustworthy when it comes to their rhetoric, but absolutely reliable when they negotiate. The same Ayatollah who calls for “Death to America” is supposedly lying to his own people, but his representatives will be absolutely honest when they pledge not to build a bomb. The Palestinian Authority shouldn’t be paid attention to when it calls for destroying Israel, but should be relied on when it signs on the dotted line no matter how many agreements it broke in the past.

Investor’s Business Daily calls QE a disaster:

The idea behind all these grand experiments was to encourage consumers to buy more on credit and investors to take greater risks with their money.

Did it work? The answer, of course, is no. Japan and Europe are still slumping. The U.S. recovery and expansion are the worst since the Great Depression. And while stock markets and corporate bond markets appear to have benefited from these moves, incomes have lagged and job growth has been slow.

Joseph Calhoun writes at Zero Hedge:

So it appears we will be getting more of the same from the monetary side of the economic growth equation, a mix of zero interest rates (negative real rates) and the hope that the wealth effect is greater than all the research says it is. Not that either policy has worked to date. The euthanasia of the rentier, that Keynesian disdain for those lay about savers, has failed so miserably that one wonders how long it will be before monetary policy takes a Logan’s Run turn and shifts to the real thing. Surely if we just kill all the seniors trying to live off their savings we can get down to the business of spending our way out of this lousy economy. The Fed’s policy of lowering interest rates at any sign of economic weakness over the last few decades has distorted capital allocation so badly that a new theory—secular stagnation—had to be invented to explain the poor performance of the economy.

Secular stagnation is not a discussion topic because we’ve run out of ideas—except maybe at the Fed—but because low interest rates in this cycle accomplished nothing more than allowing corporate insiders to borrow against company assets to line their own pockets and governments to continue avoiding structural reforms that are the real impediment to better growth. Yes, some of the easy money leaked into student and auto loans here in the US and certainly it boosted borrowing outside the US as the weak dollar enticed borrowers from Beijing to Rio, but that has only made the problem worse as the global debt pile has grown even larger in the years since the Great Recession. The now rising dollar has exacerbated the problem for all those non-US borrowers and the Fed can’t get off the zero bound for fear they will prick the debt bubble for which they provided the air.

QE and ZIRP were supposed to work through the two channels of the portfolio balance effect. The twin policies would force investors into riskier securities in a reach for yield, allowing lower rated borrowers to gain funding.

Charles Hugh-Smith writes:

The central banks have manipulated the market for sovereign bonds by creating new money out of thin air and buying bonds. The goal is to suppress interest rates. And since central banks can create as much money as they want, whenever they want, there is no limit to how many bonds they can buy.

Rising yields once acted as a limiting factor on governments' issuing more bonds to fund their fiscal deficits. But since central banks have created trillions of dollars out of thin air to buy as many bonds as the Treasury issues, rates can be suppressed for as long as central banks are free to create trillions out of thin air.

Matt O’Brien writing in the Washington Post exemplifies the thinking that continued monetary easing has a bigger upside than a downside. Over the short term, he’s right.

What’s the Fed to do? Well, it could continue on its plan to raise rates because of low-ish unemployment, and risk killing whatever momentum the recovery has with a strong dollar. Or it could keep rates at zero because of the strong dollar, and risk ... well, it’s not clear what. Not inflation. Overall prices are up an anemic 0.7 percent the past year, core prices just 1.3 percent, and wages are stuck at 2.2 percent. And not a bubble. Household debt ratios are still falling, and while subprime auto loans are worth watching, that’s still a tiny market at only $20 billion.


Christopher Chantrill writes at the American Thinker:

In our age the economic, political, and cultural sectors are nominally separate, and the political class, assisted by the cultural class in the media, relieves the poor without taking on the responsibility of actually paying to feed the poor. The powerful political magnate receives the heads of the poor in his hands, and then pays for the benefits for its bondsmen not from his own estates, as of old, but from tax monies taken from the economic sector, from businesses and wage earners, by force.

Let’s move to Ferguson, a great place to do business and raise a family, no one said in the last 8 months. Ed Driscoll writes:

Fusion, a Website that’s an, err fusion between Univision and ABC/Disney is shocked that Ferguson real estate prices are “Down nearly 50 percent since Michael Brown’s death.” There’s more than a hint of bias in that subhead, as the cause wasn’t Brown’s death after he slugged a convenience store clerk and attempted to steal a police officer’s gun, but the riots and looting that followed—which were another kind of media fusion, ginned up by via the minicams of CNN and fueled further by NBC anchorman Al Sharpton’s corrosive presence.

If “sexual orientation” doesn’t fit the definition of a protected class, then discrimination is constitutionally protected, including in setting the definition of marriage. Ryan T. Anderson writes:

Part of the reason why ENDA creates these threats is that the definition of sexual orientation and gender identity is ambiguous. ENDA makes illegal what it considers to be discrimination based on an “individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

ENDA defines “sexual orientation” as “homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality” but offers no definition of those terms or what principle limits “orientation” to those three. Likewise, ENDA defines “gender identity” as “the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.”

These classifications are problematic. Paul McHugh, MD, University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Gerard V. Bradley, Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, explain:

Social science research continues to show that sexual orientation, unlike race, color, and ethnicity, is neither a clearly defined concept nor an immutable characteristic of human beings. Basing federal employment law on a vaguely defined concept such as sexual orientation, especially when our courts have a wise precedent of limiting suspect classes to groups that have a clearly-defined shared characteristic, would undoubtedly cause problems for many well-meaning employers.

McHugh and Bradley caution against elevating sexual orientation and gender identity to the status of protected characteristics because of the lack of clear definition: “There is no scientific consensus on how to define sexual orientation, and the various definitions proposed by experts produce substantially different groups of people.”

Because there is no clear definition, the phrase is inherently elastic. McHugh and Bradley conclude:

Despite the effort of ENDA’s legislative drafters to confine “sexual orientation” to homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality, the logic of self-defined “orientation” is not so easily cabined. ... Even polyamory, “a preference for having multiple romantic relationships simultaneously,” has been defended as “a type of sexual orientation for purposes of anti-discrimination law” in a 2011 law review article.

There is no limiting principle for what will be classified as a sexual orientation or gender identity in the future. Indeed, Wesleyan College has extended the LGBT acronym and created a “safe space” for LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamorous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism. Will ENDA be used to protect these orientations and identities as well? If not, why not?

An excellent question that won’t make a damn’s worth of difference to Anthony Kennedy.

Don’t fall for this libertarian seduction:

In a recent speech at Boston University, University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock observed that America’s sexual revolution seems to be going the way of the French Revolution, in which religion and liberty cannot coexist. Today pro-choice and gay rights groups increasingly view conservative Christians as bigots hell bent on imposing their primitive beliefs on others.

Rather than viewing today’s culture wars as battles between light and darkness, Laycock sees them as principled disagreements. What one side views as “grave evils,” the other side views as “fundamental human rights.” What is needed if we want to preserve liberty in both religion and sexuality is a grand bargain in which the left would agree not to impose its secular morality on religious individuals while the right would agree not to impose its religious rules on society at large.

Any takers? Is it really necessary to pin a scarlet letter on those who believe the Bible prohibits gay marriage? Or might we learn to be satisfied with preserving liberty for ourselves without imposing our ideals (on sex or religion) on others?

Because it’s just too hard to tell someone they’re not supposed to be doing what they’re doing; therefore, let’s pretend all these hedonistic acts are on par with normal, healthy sexual relations between husband and wife and that the mass deviancy this will arouse won’t have negative consequences. Just like liberalizing marriage and abortion and contraception “rights” were a boon for the lower and middle classes.

What a load of trash. This delusion is willful.

I oppose RFRAs because they don’t tackle the root of the problem, which are attacks on the right of ownership, not religion. But if you’re going to enact RFRAs, enact them with gusto. Don’t monkey around with social moderates, quislings, and appeasers like Mitch Daniels, moneyed Republican donors, et al. Tim Swarens writes:

[Indiana Governor Mike Pence] adamantly insisted that RFRA will not open the door to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians. But he did acknowledge that Indiana’s image — and potentially its economic health — has been hurt badly by the controversy.

I spoke with Pence on the same day that thousands of people rallied at the Statehouse in opposition to the law. And the same day that Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle announced that his company will abandon a deal with the state and city to expand the company’s headquarters in Indianapolis because of RFRA’s passage.

Oesterle’s statement is a telling sign that the outrage over RFRA isn’t limited only to the political left. Oesterle directed Republican Mitch Daniel’s 2004 campaign for governor. And it’s a signal that the damage from the RFRA debacle could be extensive.

You can’t satirize some people because they take their absurd ideas to such logical ends that they impugn themselves. For example:

On no less than 15 occasions over the last two weeks, I have been greeted by the military personnel at the gate with the phrase “Have a blessed day.” This greeting has been expressed by at least 10 different Airmen ranging in rank from A1C to SSgt. I found the greeting to be a notion that I, as a non-religious member of the military community should believe a higher power has an influence on how my day should go.

The idea being that atheists are put upon by public religion; therefore, all public references to God must be scrubbed.

In a desperate bid to stay relevant, Presbyterian Church USA becomes irrelevant. What is novel and appealing about being hedonistic culture’s amen corner?

The Christian Post reports:

A small congregation in New York has voted unanimously to leave Presbyterian Church (USA) following the mainline denomination’s recent vote to approve gay marriage.

Brighton Presbyterian Church, a 200-year-old congregation in Rochester, voted Sunday to seek dismissal from its PCUSA regional body, the Presbytery of Genesee Valley.

The vote to disaffiliate came not long after a majority of presbyteries in PCUSA approved an amendment to their Book of Order defining marriage to include same-sex couples.

Kerry E. Luddy, spokeswoman for Brighton Presbyterian and wife of the head pastor, told The Christian Post that the decision to leave "is not a sudden decision.”

“We have been prayerfully considering this for about two years, and officially began the discernment process in mid-2014,” said Luddy.

“Our reason for leaving is centered on the status of biblical interpretation within the PC(USA). We believe that Scripture’s meaning and intent should not be altered to fit a current culture.”

Vox Day said: “Society cannot destroy the Church, but the Church can destroy itself by making societal approval its priority.”

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