Sunday, March 7, 2021

Multiculturalism Promotes Misogyny

In a recent article in the Spectator Ayaan Hirsi Ali presents some of the arguments contained in her new book, Prey.

In particular, she weighs the cost of multiculturalism, especially when it led European nations to turn a blind eye to the cultural practices that Muslim migrants brought into their countries.


For failing even to try to assimilate arriving Muslims, Europe has sacrificed their children, and especially their girls and women to bands of predators. Apparently, human sacrifice is endemic to multiculturalism.


It began with guest worker programs:


Multiculturalism also meant that little effort was made to promote the cultural assimilation of immigrants and their children. ‘Dish cities’ — cultural enclaves watching satellite television broadcasts from abroad — became a feature in many parts of Europe. What was over-looked is that multiculturalism is often at odds with a commitment to universal women’s rights, particularly women’s autonomy and security in the public sphere.


Europe’s leaders did not realize that opening the gates brought not just guest workers, but also their culture. Sometimes — often — the cultures of newcomers contained misogynistic norms incompatible with the modern notions of women’s rights that had made rapid progress in Europe from the 1960s on. Suddenly, Europeans were confronted with the unfamiliar: traditional practices such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and honor violence.


Standing up against misogyny-- a quaint notion that falls before the gods of multiculturalism:


When I lived in Holland in the 1990s, interference into issues surrounding traditional practices was generally discouraged. Confronted with evidence of abusive behavior by men, Dutch experts frequently empathized with migrant women, but remained reluctant to wade into controversial cultural issues.


Multiculturalism was sacrosanct. The consensus among the leadership of both the center-left and the center-right was that drawing attention to the mistreatment of women and girls in immigrant communities would only stigmatize immigrants, which in turn would impede their integration. If many women in these immigrant communities became collateral damage, it was lamentable but unavoidable. There were other, bigger issues and events demanding the political class’s urgent attention: economic downturns, the European integration process and so on.


A few feminists complained, but their voices were silenced:


Even as dissident feminists began asking serious questions about the mistreatment of women, relativist dogmas continued to hold. In many cases, the European authorities looked away from child marriage, female genital mutilation, grooming gangs, even honor killings.


No one cared that Muslim women were openly degraded and demeaned. And no one cared that they were forced into child marriages and not allowed to pursue any educational goal:


In the public sphere, women from migrant backgrounds were unable to enjoy the freedoms and autonomy available to European women. Across Europe, fully shrouded women were seen walking three feet behind their men. Teenage girls were removed from school and married off, their education and careers curtailed, their prospects of any kind of success in western society stunted. In many cases, the authorities turn a blind eye because these were issues for ‘them’ not ‘us’.


Hirsi Ali continues:


Many migrants, especially those from Muslim-majority countries, brought with them a different relationship between men and women. Women unaccompanied by a male guardian could be seen as prey: if a girl is left unaccompanied or unveiled, it means no one cares to protect her.


So, thanks to multiculturalism, Western women became prey to Muslim males. You will ask where the feminists were while this was happening. Of course, they were hiding under the sofa, occasionally coming out to defend abortion rights:


My new book, Prey, documents the wave of sexual harassment, assault and rape that followed the surge in immigration that occurred in the wake of the Arab revolutions and reached a peak in 2015 and 2016. Politicians and the mainstream media have done their best to downplay this post-2015 wave of harassment or assault, leaving populists and far-right-wing groups to exploit it (and to exaggerate it) for electoral advantage.


Of course, no one reports this news. It would make Muslims look bad. And we can’t have that.


Remember the Uighurs.

Muslims in Europe Wage War against Christianity

Raymond Ibrahim gets us up to speed on European efforts to assimilate its unruly Muslim population. We all know that Islam is not a threat to our civilization, because Islamophobia is. And we know that Muslims are peaceable neighbors who want only to become productive citizens of the West.

After all, Barack Obama never denounced or even mentioned Muslim terrorism, so we know to a certainty that Muslim terrorism is not a problem.


Ibrahim reports on the news that no one dares cover. It concerns the war that European Muslim migrants are waging against Christian churches. 


A few days after Muslim migrants firebombed an 800-year-old Swedish church twice over the course of four days—once on Jan. 20, 2021, and another on Jan. 24—a Feb 4 report came out saying that 829 “hate crimes” against churches in Sweden have been reported between just 2012-2018, or about 138 attacks on average every year.


Keep in mind, pretty little Sweden has also become the rape capital of the West. Need I tell you who is raping all of those Swedish women?


It’s not just Sweden, of course:


Thus the churches of Sweden join those of other Western European nations that have taken in sizeable Muslim migrants. In France, for example, two churches are vandalized every day. According to a 2019 PI-News report, 1,063 attacks on Christian churches or symbols (crucifixes, icons, statues) were registered in France in 2018. This represents a 17 percent increase compared to the previous year (2017) when 878 attacks were registered—meaning such attacks are only going from bad to worse.


They are also getting increasingly vile. As one example, vandals used human excrement to draw a cross on the Notre-Dame des Enfants Church in Nimes in 2019; consecrated bread was also found thrown outside among garbage. One week later, vandals desecrated and smashed crosses and statues at Saint-Alain Cathedral in Lavaur; they mangled the arms of a crucified Christ in a mocking manner and burned altar materials.


Similar reports are coming from Germany. After reporting how four separate churches were vandalized and/or torched over the course of four weeks in 2019, PI-News, a German news site, explained: “In this country, there is a creeping war against everything that symbolizes Christianity: attacks on summit crosses, on holy figures on the way, on churches and recently also on cemeteries.”


When the press reports they blame it on right wing extremists. Didn’t you know that QAnon and the Proud Boys are burning down and desecrating churches throughout the Western world:


Another telling indicator is that those European regions with large Muslim migrant populations often see a concomitant rise in attacks on churches and Christian symbols. Before Christmas, 2016, in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany, where more than a million Muslim migrants reside, some 50 public statues of Jesus and other Christian figures were beheaded and crucifixes broken.


In 2015, following the arrival of another million Muslim migrants to Dülmen, a local newspaper said “not a day goes by” without attacks on Christian statues.


France, where one of Europe’s largest Muslim populations resides—and where churches are attacked every single day—is also indicative that where Muslim numbers grow, so do attacks on churches. A January 2017 study revealed that “Islamist extremist attacks on Christians” in France rose by 38 percent, going from 273 attacks in 2015 to 376 in 2016; the majority occurred during Christmas season and “many of the attacks took place in churches and other places of worship.”


More Muslims means a greater war against the symbols of Western Civilization. But, pay it no mind. We need to stand up for the Uighurs.

The Meghan-Harry Show

Picking up where her husband’s late mother left off, a second rate actress by name of Meghan Markle, aka the Duchess of Sussex, is going to take on the British monarchy tonight in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Obviously, Meghan is a self-important twit who will certainly not hurt the British monarchy. People prefer stable institutions to self-aggrandizing egomaniacs. This truth is perfectly obvious to anyone who knows anything. And Meghan is hardly in that category.


Besides, the British public will side with the Queen, who has never done anything to deserve this.


As for the British press, we turn to the Daily Mail to get a read on public opinion in Great Britain:


Spare a thought for the Queen this weekend. At a time of life when she has surely earned a little peace, there's trouble and turmoil on all fronts.


Her 99-year-old husband lies seriously ill in hospital, she has suffered the pain of seeing her son Andrew sidelined from public life for associating with a notorious paedophile, and senior courtiers face accusations of having covered up reports of bullying at the Palace.


To add insult to emotional injury, we reveal today that the Ministry of Defence is preparing to axe the Queen's Flight aircraft, maintained by the RAF for the use of senior royals.


And if all that were not enough, at 1am on Monday her grandson and his wife are set to launch a full-frontal assault on the whole structure and integrity of the monarchy.


Even for a woman who has known more than her share of crises, disappointments and betrayals, this really is the Queen's weekend from hell.


Poor put-upon Meghan is casting herself in the lead role in a grievance story, wherein she was totally oppressed by the big, bad monarchy. Now she has found liberation and a pot of gold in Southern California. 


Break out the crying towels:


We don't know exactly what Meghan will say to Oprah Winfrey in her tell-all interview. But from the snippets so far, we can see she's in no mood to hold back.


While Harry plays a supporting role, this is very much Meghan's drama, in which she casts herself as a caged victim who had to liberate herself from the clutches of the malign and overpowering 'Firm'.


As Winfrey puts it, she will tell 'her truth', though whether that is the actual truth or a one-eyed travesty of it will be for the audience to decide.


Apparently, the audience has already decided. Grievance culture has its limits. Thankfully.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Annals of American Marriage

There’s good and bad in this week's Ask Polly advice column. This makes it a cut above the usual column, where the advice is generally embarrassing. To the advice-giver, that is.

So, here we have another portrait of an American marriage. It is currently going South, thanks to the wife’s constant complaining. You see, her father just died of the coronavirus and her husband is not quite as emotionally labile as she would like. 


Dare I mention that we know nothing about what either husband or wife do for a living. We know that she is in her late 20s and that they married recently. We do not know where they live, how they live or what they play for the future. Surely, her grief is real, but she would do better to imagine naming their first child after her father. 


She is moody, psychodramatic and self-centered. She complains all the time, and she is distressed, to the point of thinking about divorce, because he is not as moody and psychodramatic. He does not share her pain. He does not feel her pain. He does not suffer a surfeit of empathy.


To be honest, I am shocked and happily surprised that the word “empathy” does not enter the conversation. Clearly, this wife has read too many books on empathy and wants her husband to feel what she is feeling. He, being a normally constituted male, does not feel what she is feeling. Polly understands well that the husband is trying to anchor the wife, while she flies off into constant complaining and permanent psychodrama. Because that is what he ought to be doing, to support and to help her through her grief. 


Unfortunately, our culture has prescribed empathy as the ultimate psychic balm. It is yet another effort to girlify the culture. As I have said in the past, an excellent antidote is Paul Bloom's book, Against Empathy. Creating the expectation that empathy cures has damaged more marriages than I care to think about.


So, for you edification, here are some excerpts from the letter, especially the part about their marriage:


He is doing his best but he cannot emotionally support me. He agrees that this loss is unfair, hugs me, etc., but he doesn’t know what to say. I am in my late 20s, and I got married a few months ago. I’m never the most straightforward person, as I am prone to moods, but this is something else. I feel a physical pain like I am being ripped in half. Very dramatic and self-centered, but there it is. I am trying to support my mom, as are my brothers. So I am basically taking all of my rage and frustration out on my husband. He is kind and patient but I am beginning to think that we are completely incompatible and that I should have seen this earlier. However, I know that I am too mercurial and impatient and selfish — I do make resolutions to behave better but then snap pretty much straightaway. He is patient and emotionally very constant.


I asked him to talk to me about stuff, like my dad, but he just wants to focus on practical tasks, like home improvements. I do not care about home improvements right now — I care about making things okay for my mom and not going entirely crazy/setting fire to everything else in my life right now. And yet we have one-sided conversations, in which I get mad and he becomes more taciturn and withdrawn. I say things like “We should get divorced, I am horrible and I just want to be by myself, and you don’t even like reading,” and he says things like “I don’t want to divorce you, you don’t mean it.” Polly, I am so confused and unhappy. I can hardly get my head around the fact my dad is gone, and now I am also beginning to fear what self-sabotage I will get into for the rest of this miserable year.


So far, not so good. If she wants emotional support, she can talk with female members of her family. Or else, she can adopt an emotional support llama-- it's all the rage.


Of course, while Polly does not use the word empathy, she regales us with absurd stories about her own marriage and her own husband. Apparently, she is writing a book about what a clod he is, but that she still loves him. All things considered, if he married Polly and if he puts up with her publicizing intimate details of their marriage, he is probably something of a clod.


In truth, no one really cares about Polly’s private life. I understand that she is trying to comfort the letter writer by explaining that all men are lacking in feminine feeling, but still, why not address the woman herself and not embarrass yourself and your husband with your indiscretion. As opposed to the letter writer, Polly is not anonymous. Thus, from a purely rhetorical perspective, Polly is practicing indiscretion, and this a genuinely bad idea. She is setting a bad example.


A while back I quoted Washington Post columnist Carolyn Hax, to the effect that it is a bad idea to make imperious demands and to issue threats.


So, of course, Polly opens by recommending just the same, not as a threat, but as an insistence. There is little difference between the two.


I think you should insist that your husband take walks with you and not talk about home improvements. You need him right now, and it’s important to ask for exactly what you want in a calm, consistent way. It’s good for you and him and your marriage. You should tell him that. Say to him: This is what it means to be married. You do things for someone else when they’re in crisis, things you might not normally do.


In truth, if she wants to spend more time with him, she should stop psychodramatizing her loss. Her grief is certainly real, but making it into a family drama is not going to help it work itself out. 


Of course, the letter writer is undergoing a normal mourning period. It is not a crisis, of course. As for the marital crisis, she is manufacturing itself with her incontinent displays. If she manages to speak more reasonably and to distract herself with other activities, she might find her husband to be more willing to reciprocate. If he believes that she is about to drown him with an intemperate rant about her feelings, he will protect himself by walking away. She would do well to follow his example.


No Ask Polly column would be complete without her saying something stupid, like this:


Stand up for your right to feel what you’re feeling.


She feels grief. She should let it work itself out. You do not stand up for your right to grieve. The concept is inarticulate and incoherent. Besides, no one questions her right to feel her feelings. What else would you do with them besides feeling them? The question involves the way she is conducting her marriage and her wanting to make her feelings into the defining element in said marriage.


Then, to our surprise, Polly starts talking sense. She does so because she begins to appreciate the husband’s attitude.


You say that you’re mercurial and dramatic, and it also sounds like you can’t see straight when you feel emotionally overwhelmed. I would argue that you wisely married someone who can handle this, who doesn’t turn against you when other men might. I don’t mean you’re impossible, not at all. I mean you’re a specific sort of prickly pear, and your husband is a specific sort of arid, gravelly soil that looks like not much of anything at all — at least, until you throw down a few prickly pear seeds and they flourish there.


Dare we say that the metaphor about the prickly pear and the arid soil is lame. Some people should not be pretending to know how to use metaphors.


Polly adds another salient point, to the effect that by not coddling her emotional incontinence, he is doing her one great favor. And that his being stolid and stalwart in the face of a storm is highly admirable. It certainly does not mean that he does not love her.


Focus on how much he cares about you — how solid he is when you tell him to pull over, how solid he is when he calls the hospital for you, how solid he is when you cry and tell him that you feel like nothing will ever be good again. Stand where you are and let your husband love you. It won’t always feel like enough. That’s how love is sometimes.


Friday, March 5, 2021

Canceling Dr. Seuss

Maybe you thought you lived in a free country. You don’t. In truth, your freedom to think and to speak is now controlled by tech monopolies. They decide what you can or cannot read. By their dim lights conservative thought is beyond the pale. It stokes violence and contains offensive imagery. God forbid, your pristine mind should ever be exposed to offensive imagery.

As for the larger issue, who decides what is or is not offensive, the answer is, the tech oligarchs in Silicon Valley. 

One understands that the tech oligarchs have been indoctrinated in leftist thought. They do not know it, but their minds have been manipulated by the media and their teachers, to the point where they can no longer think coherently. They think that they are free thinkers. In truth, they are tools of an intellectual elite that has taken over their minds. 


Worse yet, we the American people, are putting up with it. Don't we have laws against monopoly practices? Don't we have laws against inhibiting and proscribing speech? How docile do the American people have to be to allow this to continue?


Surely, no one elected Jack Dorsey. And yet, Jack, by his lonesome, had some kind of brain spasm and cancelled the Twitter account of a former president of the United States. Is a country where one man can silence the president a free country?


Youtube has has banned Trump on the grounds that his words incite violence. Yesterday, YouTube CEO, a pretentious and arrogant twit named Susan Wojcicki announced that Trump’s words were a threat to civil order and would remain suppressed until the threat passed.


Who elected her? And how does it happen that tech oligarchs consider the January 6 protest a violent insurrection while completely ignoring, not only the Black Lives Matter insurrection, but the Congresspeople who encouraged and fomented it.


As it happens, YouTube, like Twitter, is a quasi monopoly. There is no real competition, so, being banned by one or the other simply means that you have been silenced.


And then of course, Amazon, a monopoly bookseller, banned a book on transgenderism. The book, by Ryan Anderson, was called: When Harry Became Sally. Transgenderism has become a dogma in the Church of the Liberal Pieties, as I have been wont to call it. That means, any dissent must be suppressed. Dare we mention that transgenderism has no scientific basis. So, we are dealing with religious dogma.


Again, being banned by Amazon means being banned. Threats to ban books that violate Church dogma will surely lead publishers to refuse to publish any books that contest Church dogma.


And then, of course, Amazon also took down a film about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Without explanation. Was it because of his race? Was it because Anita Hill accused him of-- we don’t remember what? Was it because he is a conservative justice, and such thinking is beyond the pale?


One is struck by the boldness. It’s as though Amazon, which already suppressed a site called Parler, can do whatever it wants to censor speech, with perfect impunity. It knows that no one has the spine to do anything about it.


And now, there’s Ebay, the online auction site. You would think that Ebay would stick to commerce, to being an open marketplace. But no, it has taken to remove a certain number of books by one Dr. Seuss. It has deemed these books to be offensive and to be inciting violence.


For the moment Amazon is still selling them, so that is a saving grace. But still, Theodore Seuss Geisel was a liberal Democrat. He supported Democratic politicians and liberal causes. And yet, the left’s rage about gaining complete imperial control over the American mind knows no bounds. The Dr. Seuss story also suggests that what was once considered to be totally anti-racist can become, in the hands of the morons who constitute our new thought police, totally racist, in a twitch of their gray cells.


Irony of irony, this same Ebay, righteously intoning that Dr. Seuss is promoting racism and violence, that is, offensive material, allows copies of Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf to be sold. And no one has dared take down any copy of the works of Louis Farrakhan.


As you know, any suggestion on your part that Saint Anthony Fauci might have gotten anything wrong will get you banned from major social media outlets. It’s hate speech, don’t you know. It is fomenting disease. Any suggestion that you should not take the vaccine is surely a cause for dismissal.


And yet, when Louis Farrakhan tells his followers not to take vaccines, the social media world shrugs.


The Cleveland Jewish News reported this in December, 2020. Does it sound racist to you?


Ishmael Muhammad, National Assistant to Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan, warned blacks against COVID-19 vaccines in a recent lecture series titled “America’s Wicked Plan.”


Quoting Farrakhan, Muhammad said, “In the 1960s, the honorable Elijah Mohammed [who led the Nation of Islam before Farrakhan] advised his followers not to take the polio vaccine. He said some of the earlier vaccines we could take, but now that this Kissinger National Security Study Memorandum 200 on depopulation is the policy of our government, we have to be careful of what injections we allow ourselves to take.”


Farrakhan, said Muhammad, had learned that there were two types of flu vaccine, one containing mercury and other additives and another, without them, “for Jewish people, and those who are knowledgeable about the chemical additives in these vaccines.”


“Why do you put additives in one, and remove it from another, except that there’s something in that additive that you want to infect the population with, that over time will manifest in ailments, sickness, disease and a compromised immune system,” said Muhammad.


Muhammad quoted Farrakhan as saying that such things were part of a “plot to kill an entire people because we are the next inheritors of rulership over the planet. He, the enemy, already knows this. He knows our future but doesn’t intend for us to see that future. Because we are rising.”


We have the country that we deserve. We have the free expression that we deserve. Right now, tech monopolies are flexing their muscles in order to suppress anything that resembles conservative speech. It’s well past time for our legislators to join together and to break up these trusts.


Monopoly power is subject to abuse. Nothing about it bespeaks the free market. In truth, it has more in common with absolute government control over the marketplace of ideas. Considering that the Democratic Party has openly encouraged social media platforms to deplatform conservatives should tell you all you need to know about these practices and their authors.


Thursday, March 4, 2021

Tom Friedman on the Abraham Accords

It feels like Tom Friedman is staging an intervention. He does not say it, but he must have written his last New York Times column for the benefit of the Biden administration. He does not say that the Biden administration is in the process of undermining the Abraham Accords, engineered by the Trump administration, with the help of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He does not say that the Biden administration has placed numerous anti-Israeli activists in positions of authority in its foreign policy team. And he does not say that the pathetic John Kerry still believes that all roads to Mideast peace pass through Ramallah.


So, Friedman is telling the Biden administration to change course before it is too late. It is telling the Biden administration that it erred in issuing a public indictment of MBS and that it erred in canceling the sale of military equipment to the United Arab Emirates.


In the past Friedman reported fairly about the reforms instituted by MBS in Saudi Arabia. And, as he reminds us, he always supported the Abraham Accords. He, like your humble blogger, sees these treaties as having produced a major structural realignment in the region. Which is more than we can say about today’s left wing of the Democratic Party. After all, the Biden administration seems hellbent on reviving the Iran nuclear deal, even if it compromises the progress that the Trump administration made in the region.


As he states:


I believed from the start that the openings between Israel and the U.A.E., Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — forged by Jared Kushner and Donald Trump — could be game-changing. 


Note well, that Friedman dares speak well of Trump and Kushner. That, in itself, shows where he stands on these issues. And it shows that he does not stand with the Biden administration.


He retains some skepticism, because previous peace treaties have not produced a strategic realignment, but that is simply sensible. 


That caveat aside, something big seems to be stirring. Unlike the peace breakthroughs between Israel and Egypt, Israel and Lebanon’s Christians and Israel and Jordan, which were driven from the top and largely confined there, the openings between Israel and the Gulf States — while initiated from the top to build an alliance against Iran — are now being driven even more from the bottom, by tourists, students and businesses.


The matter of tourism strikes him as especially important, because it is a bottoms-up, not a top-down movement:


In the middle of a global pandemic, at least 130,000 Israeli tourists and investors have flown to Dubai and Abu Dhabi since commercial air travel was established in mid-October!


Consider also, he continues, some of what has been happening in the U.A.E.


A new Hebrew language school that holds classes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi has been swamped with Emiratis wanting to study in Israel or do business there. Israel’s Mekorot National Water Company just finalized a deal to provide Bahrain with desalination technology for brackish water. The Times of Israel recently ran an article about Elli Kriel in Dubai, who “has become the go-to kosher chef in the U.A.E. … Last year, Kriel launched Kosherati, which sells kosher-certified Emirati cuisine, as well as fusion Jewish-Emirati dishes.” And, by the way, those 130,000 Israeli visitors helped to save the U.A.E.’s tourist industry from being crushed by the pandemic during the crucial holiday season.


Surely, in a nation that is preparing for the moment when it will run out of oil, tourism is a major industry. The same applies, incidentally, to Saudi Arabia.


Friedman would be happy to see Saudi Arabia make peace with Israel, though obviously, the recent Biden administration indictment of MBS makes that far more unlikely. Friedman does not say that it was a mistake, but he implies as much.


If the Abraham Accords do thrive and broaden to include normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, we are talking about one of the most significant realignments in modern Middle East history, which for many decades was largely shaped by Great Power interventions and Arab-Israeli dynamics. Not anymore.


Consider what is happening in the U.A.E.


The U.A.E., by contrast, is transitioning from decades of oil abundance to an era of oil scarcity by building its own ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship in the same fields as Israel.


The U.A.E.’s growth strategy for the 21st century — of which the opening to Israel is a key part — is to become THE Arab model for modernity, a diversified economy, globalization and intra-religious tolerance.


As is happening in Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. is liberalizing its culture, moving to produce a Reformation at the heart of Islam:


To that end, in November the country announced a major liberalization of its Islamic personal laws — allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate, which, among other things, makes the U.A.E. more accepting of gay and lesbian people; criminalizing so-called honor killings of women who “shame” their male relatives — as well as made divorce laws much more equitable for women and loosened restrictions on alcohol.


What impact will these events have on Lebanon where Hezbollah has been destroying the country:


If you are a Lebanese Shiite living in the poor southern suburbs of Beirut having to scramble every day to barter eggs for meat — as the economy teeters on collapse — you’re asking, Why are we stuck with Iran and its axis of failing proxies like Hezbollah, which just keep letting the past bury our future?


That is a dangerous question for Iran and Hezbollah. And more Lebanese are asking every day. Which may explain why the outspoken Lebanese anti-Hezbollah journalist and publisher Lokman Slim was shot in the head in southern Lebanon a few weeks ago. All fingers point at Hezbollah as the culprit.


Finally, a last word about Saudi Arabia, where MBS is both politically repressive and religiously progressive:


As for Saudi Arabia, it is already letting Israel’s national airline, El Al, fly across Saudi airspace to the U.A.E. But will it follow suit and formally normalize with Israel? That would be huge for both Israeli-Arab and Jewish-Muslim relations.


That call will largely be made by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. M.B.S. is the most politically repressive, militarily aggressive and, yet, socially and religiously progressive leader that Saudi Arabia has ever had. His C.I.A.-reported decision to have Saudi democracy advocate Jamal Khashoggi, who was a longtime U.S. resident, killed and dismembered was utterly demented — an incomprehensible response to a peaceful critic who posed no threat to the kingdom.


Note that Friedman does not consider the Khashoggi assassination to be decisive. 


 Getting the Saudis to join the Abraham Accords is the best way to ensure their success. Because, if done right, their participation could create new energy for an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution, which, in turn, could make it easier for Jordan and Egypt to fully normalize relations with Israel as well.


I respect the worry some have that Saudi Arabia’s making peace with Israel could be a vehicle for rehabilitating M.B.S. They might be right. But I don’t believe that is a reason to oppose it. In the Middle East, big change often happens when the big players do the right things for the wrong reasons.


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

New York's Condo Bust

On the one hand, there’s commercial real estate. As per the last post, it is not doing very well. And then there is residential real estate. As per this Zero Hedge story, it is not doing very well either. But then again, as the story explains, it had not been doing very well before the pandemic.

This is the world of multimillion dollar palaces in the sky. Many developers thought that the sky was the limit, literally, and built amazing buildings, filled with modern amenities, inhabited by no one in particular. You see, most of these places were bought by foreign investors, the better to park their money in a safe haven. Others bought these places to flip them at a profit. 


And yet, as far back as 2020 these new condos were going unsold. Hmmm. The culprit-- the elimination of the state and local tax deduction, a centerpiece of the Trump tax cuts. But then the pandemic hit, and people flew south, forever. No one wanted these places anymore.


Manhattan's luxury condo market peaked a few years ago and has since developed into a nightmare for sellers. Massive supply is quickly eroding values as inventory builds. In early 2020, half of all new luxury condo units constructed after 2015 in the borough were unsold. A confluence of macroeconomic headwinds, as well as SALT deduction caps and transfer taxes, cooled the market. Then came the big bad pandemic that wreaked even more havoc in the borough. 


For instance, you might be in the market for a dazzling new condo on Columbus Circle. It is being offered at a discount of approximately 30%. That's the offering, not the sales price:


Olshan said a deal at 80 Columbus Circle for a 74th-story condo recently listed at $25 million. The seller combined two apartments in the tower, one unit purchased in 2011 for $17.5 million, and the other unit (next door) purchased in 2014 for $18 million. 


Of course, the downturn has brought some people back into the market. They think that they see a bargain. Then again, if large banks are moving operations out of the city, the new places become rather expensive as pied-a-terres.


There is some good news in the luxury real estate market - after writing about the downturn for 18 months and the plunge following the pandemic, the decline in prices has brought buyers to the table


As for whether the market has bottomed out, your guess is as good as mine. You have probably heard the old line about catching a falling knife. Buyer beware.


The fault lies with New York’s radical leftist mayor, Comrade de Blasio:


With Mayor Bill De Blasio doing everything he possibly can to drive both businesses (like Goldman Sachs) and individual citizens out of the city, the effects of his colossal mismanagement and general cluelessness have come at a loss for some wealthy elites who bought luxury condos in the last several years, thinking they could flip the unit(s) for a quick buck. Many have transformed into bagholders, or recently, they want out and are willing to take realized losses. 


Some people will be losing money on their investments. One hopes that they can afford it. And yet, the people who voted for de Blasio are seeing their neighborhoods infested with crime, their children losing their minds and souls because of the school closings, and their jobs vanishing in the cold night air.


Sadly, they voted for this. And they are paying for their vote.