Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, Exposed and Humiliated

Feminists today should be up in arms about the sexual abuse of children in Rotherham, England. Over 1,000 white girls were raped and abused and prostituted by gangs of Pakistani Muslims in England over a period of more than a decade.

They have not weighed in on this one, because it does not fit the narrative. Which narrative might that be? Why the one about white privilege and the oppression of people of color. By this narrative, the rage of the oppressed justifies their humiliation of white males? The best way to humiliate the white patriarchs is to violate their daughters with impunity.

As I say, nearly all feminists have been notably silent about this one.

Not so with the great hacking scandal. By now you know that an anonymous hacker got into the Apple iCloud servers and exposed private nude photos of female celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton.

Other celebrities were involved, but the nakedness of Jennifer Lawrence, everyone’s sweetheart and a great actress, coupled with semi-pornographic photos of Kate Upton, everyone’s favorite swimsuit model, with her boyfriend, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander caught the greatest attention.

Funnily enough, no one is making too much of a fuss about the privacy of Justin Verlander and the close-ups of someone’s (Verlander's?) virile organ. In fact, Sarah Miller, an indomitable feminist does not understand why there are no photos of anyone’s penis. Apparently, Miller does not understand why there is no market for penis pictures.

It isn’t sexism; it’s reality. One suspects that feminists will never grasp the difference.

Ideology aside, I have it on good authority that the uploaded celebrities naked selfies do include photos of a penis. As it happens, no one much cares. Apparently, Miller did not even notice.

Of course, this scandal is grist for the feminist mill. Many young American women have taken naked pictures of themselves on their iPhones. Many American girls have done the same. Many of these same women and girls have passed these photos on to other people, most especially to men and boys. And some of those men and boys have shown the photos to their friends.

You would imagine that every mother in America has told her daughter to be very, very cautious about taking and sending naked selfies. Why incur an unnecessary risk? What can be gained by risking humiliation?

Is there anything wrong with a mother telling her daughter to err on the side of caution? Is there anything wrong with a mother telling her daughter not to drink too much and risk being violated or abused at a party?

Surely, the people who exposed the celebrity naked selfies are criminals. Surely, the people who abuse and assault drunken coeds are criminals. And the people who post revenge porn ought to be considered criminals. All deserve to be prosecuted.

But, why tell a girl or woman that she can and should do whatever she pleases, because the fault for her violation will entirely be the man’s? Isn’t the point of motherly advice to ensure, as much as possible that the abuse not happen?

If you allow a woman to believe that there is nothing she can do to protect herself against male predators, aren’t you disempowering her?

In the meantime, normal motherly advice is generally denounced by feminists, because, after all, they believe that the root of all evil lies with the male of the species. They believe that telling a woman to be more judicious with what she posts online or even what she wears is blaming the victim.

It isn’t, but try telling that to the feminist.

British comedian Ricky Gervais made the point and was so widely attacked that he took down the tweet. For those who missed it, Gervais said:

Celebrities, make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on your computer.

Does this advice really blame the victims? In fact, it does not. It counsels caution. It offers the advice that any sensible mother gives to her daughter. And it is factually true that if you do not put nude pictures of yourself online you are at less risk of having your privacy compromised.

The fact that Gervais was denounced for having committed a thought crime means that, from the feminist perspective all evil resides with men and there is nothing a woman can or should do to protect herself. Unless, of course, she becomes a feminist and tries to bring down the patriarchy.

By this feminist ethic, women should be able to do whatever they want. If anything bad happens, the fault lies entirely with their abuser.

True enough, up to a point. But only up to a point. There is nothing empowering about taking unnecessary risks. If you, by nature of your sex, are more vulnerable and physically weaker, the better part of caution tells you not to pick fights.

If you do and you lose, the fault lies with the person who beat you up. But, what virtue lies in taking an unnecessary risk. You might, from your hospital bed, feel consoled by the fact that your attacker will be prosecuted. But wouldn't you prefer that it had never happened at all?

The feminist critique of this event is directed at women who have engaged in sexting. And who have been hurt by it. As I said, it’s a recruiting tactic.

Yet, the celebrities whose privacy was violated did not, as best we know, send their naked selfies to anyone. They kept them to themselves. Storing them on the cloud does not count as sharing them in public.

So, the situation is different from that of a teenage girl who sends her boyfriend a naked picture one night. I hope that most teenage girls are not learning from the feminist response to this episode that they can share whatever they like with their boyfriends, secure in the knowledge that if said boyfriend shares the pictures with the hockey team, he is at fault.

But, the act of the hacker who exposed the naked pictures is more like the work of a peeping Tom and less like oversharing. Clearly, it is a criminal act.

And yet, ask yourself this. Assuming that a peeping Tom is a criminal and that nothing you do mitigates his crime, does that mean that it’s OK to undress in front of an open window? Don’t most people pull the blinds before they disrobe? And if you are a major celebrity, wouldn’t you want to be even more cautious?

Should celebrities show a greater level of caution about what pictures they save on their computers? Should two of the most photographed women in the nation, Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton exercise more than usual caution?

Of course, Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton are not really the same kind of celebrity.

Jennifer Lawrence is an actress… and an excellent actress at that. She has never, to my knowledge, done a nude scene and has never exposed herself on film. She does not incite, excite, invite or delight the dread male gaze.

Like it or not, we feel more sympathy for her than we do for some other celebrities.

Kate Upton is a fashion model. In particular, she is a swimsuit model. She graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. In case you missed it, here’s a SFW gallery.

Upton has never appeared fully nude, but, to say the least, she has mastered the art of the suggestive pose. In more than a few of these shots she is a twitch away from naked. This talent, if you like, is not within the skill set of all high fashion models.

There is no such thing as a heterosexual male who is not at least curious to see what is behind the veil. One might denounce men for being men, but the fact is that Kate Upton’s career has been built on her ability to attract the male gaze and with male desire.

It’s a career choice and she has done very well with it. To imagine, as the dour Jessica Valenti suggests, that all men and presumably all women should look away when offered a chance to see Kate Upton naked is simply unrealistic. At the least, it shows that Valenti knows nothing about men.

Does this mean that Upton has sacrificed her right to privacy? Absolutely not. She retains it as much as does any women who wears a skimpy swimsuit on the beach.

It does mean that she should be abundantly cautious when doing semi-pornographic pictures with her boyfriend.

Celebrity in America pays very well. Unfortunately, it also exacts a high price.

One is saddened for all of those who were exposed in the data breach at Apple’s iCloud service.

And yet, one lesson should be that all women should be far more cautious in sexting images that they do not want in public circulation. Cell phones get stolen. Computers get hacked. Even the cloud is not immune.

Obviously, there is a distinction between a nude picture that is intended for public viewing, the kind that appears in a movie, and one that is taken for personal consumption.

Like it or not, one aspect of the distinction is that you are paid for the one and not the other.

Still, young people should come away from this unfortunate episode knowing the sexting is dangerous behavior. And it is dangerous even if we know, with great clarity that the person who distributes such material without authorization is committing a crime.

Obama's Selective Rage

Of all the horrors in the world, of all the atrocities being committed, of all the wars and terrorist actions… only one nation merits the “rage” of President Barack Obama.

Bret Stephens explains:

Barack Obama "has become 'enraged' at the Israeli government, both for its actions and for its treatment of his chief diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. " So reports the Jerusalem Post, based on the testimony of Martin Indyk, until recently a special Middle East envoy for the president. The war in Gaza, Mr. Indyk adds, has had "a very negative impact" on Jerusalem's relations with Washington.

Think about this. Enraged. Not "alarmed" or "concerned" or "irritated" or even "angered." Anger is a feeling. Rage is a frenzy. Anger passes. Rage feeds on itself. Anger is specific. Rage is obsessional, neurotic.

And Mr. Obama—No Drama Obama, the president who prides himself on his cool, a man whose emotional detachment is said to explain his intellectual strength—is enraged. With Israel. Which has just been hit by several thousand unguided rockets and 30-odd terror tunnels, a 50-day war, the forced closure of its one major airport, accusations of "genocide" by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, anti-Semitic protests throughout Europe, general condemnation across the world. This is the country that is the object of the president's rage.
  
Think about this some more. In the summer in which Mr. Obama became "enraged" with Israel, Islamic State terrorists seized Mosul and massacred Shiite soldiers in open pits, Russian separatists shot down a civilian jetliner, Hamas executed 18 "collaborators" in broad daylight, Bashar Assad's forces in Syria came close to encircling Aleppo with the aim of starving the city into submission, a brave American journalist had his throat slit on YouTube by a British jihadist, Russian troops openly invaded Ukraine, and Chinese jets harassed U.S. surveillance planes over international waters.

Mr. Obama or his administration responded to these events with varying degrees of concern, censure and indignation. But rage?

He continues:

Now think about what, specifically, has enraged the president about Israel's behavior. "Its actions and its treatment of his chief diplomat."

Actions? Hamas began firing rockets at Israel in June, thereby breaking the cease-fire it had agreed to at the end of the last war, in November 2012. The latest war began in earnest on July 7 when Hamas fired some 80 rockets at Israel. "No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the next day, "and we support Israel's right to defend itself against these vicious attacks."

On July 15 Israel accepted the terms of a cease-fire crafted by Egypt. Hamas violated it by firing 50 rockets at Israel. On July 17 Israel accepted a five-hour humanitarian cease-fire. Hamas violated it again. On July 20 Israel allowed a two-hour medical window in the neighborhood of Shujaiyeh. Hamas violated it. On July 26 Hamas announced a daylong cease-fire. It then broke its own cease-fire. On July 28 Israel agreed to a cease-fire for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. The rocket attacks continued. On Aug. 1 Israel accepted a 72-hour cease-fire proposed by the U.S. Hamasviolated it within 90 minutes. On Aug. 5 Israel agreed to Egypt's terms for another three-day cease-fire. Hamas violated it several hours before it was set to expire, after Israel announced it would agree to an extension.

If Hamas had honored any of these cease-fires it could have saved Palestinian lives. It didn't. Mr. Obama is enraged—but not with Hamas.

How did Israel become so special? What does it mean for the president of the United States to single out one country… and, by extension, one people for an especially mindless passion? What makes Jeremiah Wright’s protégé believe that Israel is the root cause of the worst of the world’s problems?

Unfortunately, this is not a difficult question. Stephens is too kind and too gracious to say it, but Obama’s selective rage bespeaks nothing but pure, unadulterated bigotry.

Why was there ever any doubt?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Human Sacrifice in Rotherham, England

We know that British attempts to appease radical Muslims have failed. Not only has the nation been attacked by home-grown Islamist terrorists but many of its Muslims have been migrating to the Middle East to join ISIS in its fight against civilization.

Last week we were forced to recognize that enlightened multicultural attitudes have fostered a “rape culture” in a small British city called Rotherham.

There British leftists created a culture where young white girls were sacrificed to the sexual depravity of Pakistani Muslim men. An idolatrous ideology has now brought back human sacrifice. And it did so with the connivance of feminists. Good feminists are so afraid of being called racists that they are covering up the depravity of Muslim men. As of now most of the stories about the “rape culture” in Rotherham come to us from conservative media outlets.

If, perchance, someone had, instead of the word multicultural, called it polycultural we would more quickly grasp the connection between this ideology and pagan polytheism.

The story broke last week in a report by social worker and Professor Alexis Jay.

Mike McNally (via Maggie’s Farm) summarized its conclusions:

The horrific details of the Rotherham “grooming” scandal were laid out in a report published by Professor Alexis Jay, a former senior social worker. Professor Jay wrote: “It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated.”

The report, published by Professor Jay, a former senior social worker, says staff at Rotherham Council “described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.”

John O’Sullivan also offered details:

Since Tuesday afternoon, however, Britain has felt real shock and horror over the report that 1,400 young women in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham had been groomed, raped, prostituted, trafficked, and brutally abused in almost every possible way by a criminal gang for the last 16 years. In addition, the authorities — which in this case are the local government authority, the police, and the child-protection services — had been repeatedly informed of these crimes but had dismissed the reports as false or exaggerated and taken no action to investigate, halt, and punish them.

Some of the examples of this depraved official indifference are barely believable. In one case, a girl was found drunk in the company of her exploiters and was arrested while the men were let free. In another, a father found his daughter, tried to rescue her, complained to the police, and was himself arrested while the authorities took no action on his complaint.

It is not as if this series of crimes was hidden or unknown. No fewer than three official investigations (prior to this one) looked into these crimes. They reported the broad truth that we now know and called for further investigations and arrests. The police and child-protection services did nothing whatever about them. Indeed, they quietly pigeonholed the findings with dismissive comments. The local councilors looked the other way or, on some occasions, intervened to discourage investigations by the police. Only the general public was innocently ignorant.

O’Sullivan continued:

The 1,400 girls were all white and of Christian background and English ethnicity while all but one of their exploiters were Muslims of Pakistani heritage. (The report describes the men delicately as “Asians,” but so far no Hindus, Sikhs, or Hong Kong Chinese are among their number.) As in other recent cases, the men targeted the girls in large part because they were white Christians, culturally speaking, and thus “worthless.” They actually told the girls that this was so. Still worse, the police also treated the girls as worthless when they bravely ignored the physical threats against them (one man poured petrol over a girl and threatened to light it) and sought police help. As a result, some of the girls came to believe they were in fact worthless, which, of course, made them more tractable to the gang. Others committed suicide. Many of the survivors will experience, perhaps for the rest of their lives, prolonged bouts of depression, self-contempt, shame, and other psychological disorders.

To O’Sullivan, the official collusion with the “rape culture” manifested leftist political ideology:

But what explains the silence, the acquiescence, even the cooperation of the authorities? Their motives seem to derive from the rich stew of progressive absurdities that constitute official attitudes in modern Britain. The first is the fear of being suspected of racism. Again and again the police and the social workers shrank from intervening or responding to complaints because to do so would invite the accusation that they were “racist.” Most people in the Muslim community were unaware of this criminal conspiracy (and, shocked and horrified like everyone else, they now condemn it). But when it was brought to the attention of  “community leaders,” they too played the race card to suppress further investigation. To uncover such scandal would be not only racist, it would commit a sin against the ideal of multiculturalism that now actuates much official policy.

One would be happy to entertain an alternative explanation. As of now, there is none.

As for the feminist response, Ian Tuttle offers his own explanation of their silence:

Feminists of the vocal, bathe-in-male-tears sort find proof of “rape culture” all about: in newspaper satire, in ’80s movies, in the verb “to force.” So one would think news that between 1997 and 2013 at least 1,400 children in Rotherham, England, were victims of sexual exploitation would confirm the feminist narrative and ignite their righteous fury.

Not so fast.

Tuttle summarizes the official response to the testimony of a girl named Emma Jackson. For now she is the face of the horror:

The U.K. Mirror, for instance, reports that “Emma,” a Rotherham-area girl, was raped once a week beginning when she was 13 years old. When she provided to police the names of 250 men she claimed had raped her, police ignored her. Hundreds, if not thousands, of girls in Rotherham and throughout England probably experienced the same.

When these acts were brought to the intention of authorities, they responded that these girls, 12 and 14 had engaged in consensual sexual relations.

Robert Stacy McCain summarized material provided in Prof. Jay’s report:

As early as 2000 (i.e., two years before Emma Jackson’s exploitation began), social workers and the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) were aware of the case of Child A, who had been “associating with a group of older Asian men” and had already had sexual intercourse with five adult men by age 12! Yet a criminal investigator argued against treating her case as criminal abuse because it was “100% consensual”? Insanity, I tell you!

The rape culture could not have continued for a dozen years without the connivance of authorities. One suspects that their ideological predilections contributed to their willingness to suppress the truth and to consign young girls to the rape culture.

If so, feminism has some explaining to do.

In Tuttle's words:

And we’re talking about not just one rape but thousands of them, committed against girls as young as eleven, over a period of many years, with the full knowledge of many social workers and other complicit authorities. When a glut of horrifying crimes against women is revealed, feminist talking heads do not have the moral seriousness required to confront it.

And:

In Rotherham there is a real-life “rape culture.” But you will not learn anything new about it from Salon, the Daily Beast, Jezebel, or Slate. It has gone unmentioned at Feministing, Bitch Media, or the Feminist Majority Foundation. There have been no outraged op-eds from Jenny Kutner, Jessica Valenti, or Samantha Leigh Allen.

These are, apparently, not the rapes they are looking for.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Motivated by Uncertainty

What motivates people to work harder? What causes them to strive to improve their economic circumstances, to get ahead in the world, to earn more and to be more productive?

Are people better motivated when they receive more government payouts or when they are uncertain about their economic future?

Those who believe in the welfare state see great benefits in providing economic security to everyone. In motivational terms, they believe that a secure individual, one who is not worrying about his next meal, who does not suffer the burden of quotidian concerns, will be liberated to work at what he really wants to do.

Allison Schrager has summarized the arguments of those who believe in the virtue of providing enhanced security through a guaranteed income:

A proposal in Switzerland ensures that everyone, whether through work or government handouts, is paid enough money for a comfortable lifestyle. Artist and founder of the movement Enno Schmidt explained to the magazine: ”What would you do if you had that income? What if you were taking care of a child or an elderly person?” Schmidt said that the basic income would provide some dignity and security to the poor, especially Europe’s underemployed and unemployed. It would also, he said, help unleash creativity and entrepreneurialism: Switzerland’s workers would feel empowered to work the way they wanted to, rather than the way they had to just to get by.

The question then becomes: does having a comfortable lifestyle guaranteed by the government motivate people to do what they really want to do? Or does it turn them into slackers?

Does the recipient of government largesse feel infantilized? Does he believe that he is being paid not to work? Does he feel like a decadent aristocrat, living off the labor of others?

Apparently, his comfortable condition does not provoke more initiative and more hard work. 

After consulting with psychologists and economists Schrager responds that people are not motivated by security. They are motivated by uncertainty.

In her words:

But if we define success as economic growth, security hardly holds the key. Economic growth comes from employing labor and capital more efficiently. That comes from people working hard and innovating. Each of these requires motivation. Thus, motivation is the foundation of success. What drives motivation? The need to resolve uncertainty. In other words, the opposite of guaranteed security.

And:

Because uncertainty is inherently uncomfortable, when it crops up we’re compelled to resolve it. That’s how uncertainty motivates people. 

Also:

But if you are certain to be paid a comfortable salary, no matter how many hours you work or education you have, there’s no motivation to become more productive or educated—and that undermines growth.

So far, so good.

The problem is: just as too much security demotivates, so does too much uncertainty. Some people who are wards of the state feel that they are so far that they cannot imagine getting up. Too much uncertainty makes people feel hopeless about changing their circumstances through their own initiative.

Schrager writes:

Ideally, policy strikes the right balance it protects the most vulnerable from hardship but also exposes people to the right kind of uncertainty. This requires ensuring that low-wage workers have viable way to provide their own security, by enhancing economic mobility. 

The right degree of uncertainty must be coupled with job opportunities. Otherwise, it will produce despair.



An Era of Lost Confidence

Speaking on The McLaughlin Report, Mort Zuckerman offered yet another trenchant critique of the Obama presidency. We know well that Obama has lost the confidence of world leaders. Now, Zuckerman says, he has also lost the confidence of American business leaders.

The result, they are cutting back on new investment.

Initially an Obama supporter, Zuckerman saw the light very early on in the Obama presidency.

His views today, as summarized by Breitbart News:

“[The economy] has...grown by about 2%, 2.1%, for the last five years, which is the lowest rate of growth coming out of a recession we have had ever, since the Great Depression. And what’s more, that only took place, not because of the fact that the economic environment was that good, it's because we have a hugely stimulating monetary policy and fiscal policy. We have run up huge national debt and we have undermined the value of the dollar, and this is in my judgment not representing a good economic policy” he argued. And “he [Obama] has lost the confidence of the business community and the business world in terms of where it counts, which is investment, and new plant[s] and equipment.”

Zuckerman concluded that the national debt would “restrict what we are going to be able to do as a country for decades,” adding that “we have a situation where we are losing the competitive edge that we had, not totally, but in many, many areas.”

Something worth thinking about.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Rule of Lawyers

One understands their chagrin. One sympathizes with anyone who is named in a contract.

No, not the kind of contract you study in law school. Not the kind of contract you negotiate with your boss.

I am referring, instead to the kind of contract a Mafioso puts out on you.

And that Shakespeare seems to have put out on lawyers.

In Henry VI, Part II, a character named Dick the Butcher said:

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

Ever since, lawyers have been seriously discommoded. One feels their pain. Would you want to be named in a contract put out by the bard himself? It may not cost you your life, but it will certainly damage your professional reputation.

Obviously, the state of the legal profession in the time of Henry VI (fifteenth century) was not the same as it was in the time when Shakespeare wrote the play (sixteenth century). Neither was the same as today’s.

And yet, when today’s audiences watch the play, they often break out in applause when they hear Dick the Butcher put out a contract on lawyers.

Perhaps they are thinking that the legal profession is not subject to checks and balances, so… the best they can do is laugh at it.

Those who defend the good name of lawyers have been known to perform a  bit of critical exegesis on the bard’s words. They point out that Dick the Butcher wants to kill the lawyers because he wants to jettison the rule of law… the better to establish a tyranny based on royal edicts, or, as they say today, executive orders.

And yet, a little bit of extra exegesis will tell us that there is a difference between the rule of law and the rule of lawyers. Playing fair and playing by the rules is one thing. Hobbling business with a mountain of regulations concocted by overzealous bureaucrats is quite another.

Everyone who runs a business knows how bad the regulatory burden has become during the Obama administration. It did not start with the current administration, but the Obama team has used the financial crisis to fulfill its wish to hobble business with regulations.

In many ways, it has succeeded.

But, it gets worse. When lawyers run wild they produce some serious negative effects on the economy.

We are grateful to The Economist for having pointed out the dangers that lie in the rule of lawyers.

Wrap your mind around this. This week the sober and often left-leaning publication ran an editorial and a major report denouncing the American legal profession as “an extortion racket.” Strong words those. It comes as something of a surprise, because no one that I know of, on the right, the left or the center, has offered such a vigorous denunciation.

Why do people hate lawyers? Read a few choice paragraphs from The Economist:

WHO runs the world’s most lucrative shakedown operation? The Sicilian mafia? The People’s Liberation Army in China? The kleptocracy in the Kremlin? If you are a big business, all these are less grasping than America’s regulatory system. The formula is simple: find a large company that may (or may not) have done something wrong; threaten its managers with commercial ruin, preferably with criminal charges; force them to use their shareholders’ money to pay an enormous fine to drop the charges in a secret settlement (so nobody can check the details). Then repeat with another large company.

The amounts are mind-boggling. So far this year, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and other banks have coughed up close to $50 billion for supposedly misleading investors in mortgage-backed bonds. BNP Paribas is paying $9 billion over breaches of American sanctions against Sudan and Iran. Credit Suisse, UBS, Barclays and others have settled for billions more, over various accusations. And that is just the financial institutions. Add BP’s $13 billion in settlements since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Toyota’s $1.2 billion settlement over alleged faults in some cars, and many more.

In many cases, the companies deserved some form of punishment: BNP Paribas disgustingly abetted genocide, American banks fleeced customers with toxic investments and BP despoiled the Gulf of Mexico. But justice should not be based on extortion behind closed doors. The increasing criminalisation of corporate behaviour in America is bad for the rule of law and for capitalism.

You would almost think that the legal profession, or large parts of it, is an organized criminal enterprise. Being the law seems to have put it above the law.

Apparently, the rule of lawyers stifles capitalism. It stifles job creation. It stifles economic growth. If we are to believe The Economist the American legal system is a parasite, sucking the lifeblood from the American economy.

Obviously, it does not reflect capitalism:

This proliferation of cases is not a preordained consequence of America’s capitalist system. Instead, it reflects profound changes over the past century or so in thinking about the respective responsibilities of individuals and institutions and about the role of the state as an increasingly active participant in many areas of business. Collective responses to crises, notably war and depression, have also played a part, as has the embodiment in law of (often transient) economic theories.

The worst part is, it all feels completely extra-legal:

Perhaps the most destructive part of it all is the secrecy and opacity. The public never finds out the full facts of the case, nor discovers which specific people—with souls and bodies—were to blame. Since the cases never go to court, precedent is not established, so it is unclear what exactly is illegal. That enables future shakedowns, but hurts the rule of law and imposes enormous costs. Nor is it clear how the regulatory booty is being carved up. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, who is up for re-election, reportedly intervened to increase the state coffers’ share of BNP’s settlement by $1 billion, threatening to wield his powers to withdraw the French bank’s licence to operate on Wall Street. Why a state government should get any share at all of a French firm’s fine for defying the federal government’s foreign policy is not clear.

Of course, it does not just damage corporations. It is not merely a form of stealth socialism of businesses that are assumed to be guilty. It makes it far more difficult for people to respect lawyers and the rule of law. 


The Can't-Do President

When you’ve lost the Washington Post….

I do not, as a rule, follow Washington Post, so this editorial slap-down of President Obama might be the norm. I suspect that it’s the exception.

Either way, it’s devastating.

The Post is editorializing about the news conference where Obama declared that he had no strategy for dealing with ISIS.

The Post points out that several other senior administration officials, including cabinet secretaries have been sounding the alarm in the strongest terms.

The Post explains:

The discrepancies raise the question of whether Mr. Obama controls his own administration, but that’s not the most disturbing element. 

What would be the most disturbing element?

The Post writes:

When Mr. Obama refuses to acknowledge the reality, allies naturally wonder whether he will also refuse to respond to it.

One fears that allies already know the answer to that question.

The Post continues:

Throughout his presidency, he has excelled at explaining what the United States cannot do and cannot afford, and his remarks Thursday were no exception. “Ukraine is not a member of NATO,” he said. “We don’t have those treaty obligations with Ukraine.” If Iraq doesn’t form an acceptable government, it’s “unrealistic” to think the United States can defeat the Islamic State….

… none of the basic challenges to world order can be met without U.S. leadership: not Russia’s aggression, not the Islamic State’s expansion, not Iran’s nuclear ambition nor China’s territorial bullying. Each demands a different policy response, with military action and deterrence only two tools in a basket that includes diplomatic and economic measures. It’s time Mr. Obama started emphasizing what the United States can do instead of what it cannot.