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.

Is JPMorgan Chase Bailing on New York City?

Those who persist in remaining optimistic about New York City often point to the giant expansion of Facebook. It is currently developing a massive complex in Midtown west.

On the other side of the ledger, JPMorgan Chase, a leading financial services firm is bailing on the city. Or so it would seem. True enough, the bank insists that it will build a new headquarters in Manhattan. In the meantime it is putting a large block of real estate up for sublease. To be fair, if you wanted to get out of your lease by subleasing you would be well advised to tout your optimism about the city’s future.


We remark in passing that Conde Nast, a major tenant of the World Trade Center has been trying to do the same with its lease.


Anyway, here is the story. For the record the number is 800,000 sq. ft.


JPMorgan Chase is looking to sublet big blocks of office space in Manhattan, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, citing people with knowledge of the matter.


The bank is looking to sublet just under 700,000 square feet at 4 New York Plaza in the Financial District and more than 100,000 square feet at 5 Manhattan West in the Hudson Yards area, the report said.


Why is it doing this? For one, it does not believe that New York City is going to recover. It does not believe that office workers will be returning to their desks in midtown Manhattan:


Due to COVID-19 pandemic-led lockdowns and stay-at-   home orders, fewer people have been going to office, which has prompted companies to reassess the need for real estate.


“It is too early to comment on specifics as we continue to learn and adapt to this current situation and how it impacts our commercial real estate needs. We are committed to New York and are planning for the next 50 years with our new headquarters here,” a spokesperson for the bank said.


Is New York City done yet? If it isn’t, it’s circling the drain.


Joe Biden, "Tragicomic Caricature"

A new book is out. It’s called Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency. Its authors are Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. Of course, the title is subject to dispute, but we will ignore that for now. 

To provide a public service here, we will offer some of the book’s most succulent tidbits. Among them, Barack Obama’s characterization of Joe Biden:


The book, which is published by Crown, says Barack Obama refused to support Biden even though he served as his Vice President for eight years because he feared he was a 'tragicomic caricature of an aging politician having his last hurrah.'


It’s a delightful turn of phrase, well worth the price of admission-- to this blog, that is.


Apparently, Biden did not see anything wrong with his public hair-sniffing fetish. That it was a simulated rape did not bother him or any of his feminist supporters:


And it claims Biden was so out of touch he didn't see why his habit of touching women was a problem because he 'didn't think he did anything wrong.'


Until the coronavirus hit the country, Democrats knew how limited Biden was:


They write that Democrats 'weren't willing to take a chance' on anyone who might jeopardize the most important mission: get Trump out of office.


The book says: 'Everything else, he'd (Biden) gotten wrong. He'd run a lousy campaign, flubbed debates, spent so much money on Iowa and New Hampshire that he teetered on the edge of insolvency, lost three straight states to start the primary, and allowed himself to be defined by his frailties.'


But, Biden was the perfect candidate for a pandemic. Hiding out in the basement did not appear to be an effort to keep the candidate from public view. It appeared to be an prudent exercise:


The coronavirus gave Biden a 'justification to lay low' but it played to his advantage as he could wait it out in the basement of his home in Wilmington.


One Trump adviser said: 'They used coronavirus as an excuse to keep him in the basement, and it was smart.


'Biden was able to hide his biggest weakness, which is himself. And he did it with an excuse that sounded responsible.'


Anyway, one hopes that this summary serves the public interest, whatever that may be.


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Twilight of Joe

A little cheer to brighten up your day-- this time from one Michael Walsh who writes in The Epoch Times about the impending end of the Biden presidency. (via Maggie’s Farm)

Since I have already predicted as much, I find his points salient. 

He opens thusly:

We’re now six weeks or so into the sham presidency of Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., and already the end of the Biden Era seems near.

A bumbling shell of a man, constantly attended by his wife, Jill, and with the lengthening shadow of his vice president, Kamala Harris, looming in the background, Biden seems incapable of doing anything except signing the slew of executive orders his handlers shove under his nose until at last, exhausted, his team “calls a lid” on his workday and packs him back off upstairs at the White House for a nice lie-down before noontime.

It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic—or perhaps it would tragic if it weren’t so funny. No one has ever mistaken Biden for an intellectual; indeed he has long acted like the bully at the end of an Irish bar, full of bluster and braggadocio, without being able in the slightest to back up his boasts.

Of course, in this nightmare scenario Kamala Harris will soon become the president of the United States. At that point, we might all start missing Joe.

If it happens this year, Walsh opines, the country will have lived through a year with three presidents. He compares it to a moment during the Roman Empire when they had the Year of the Four Emperors. 

Walsh explains:

Here in the United States, we’re on the verge of The Year of the Three Presidents. After all, 2021 began with Trump in the White House, followed by Biden on Jan. 20, with Harris now the odds-on favorite to supplant Sundown Joe once his deterioration becomes impossible even for the lickspittle robinettes in the media to ignore. Imagine, no more hard-hitting stories about Biden’s favorite ice cream, or how he beat his granddaughter in a video game at Camp David....

Keep in mind, one of the few physicians to call out Biden for his senile dementia, one Dr. Michael Burry, has explained that once it gets going,  the condition deteriorates rapidly. 

Stay tuned. 

The Case of the Complaining Wife

Just in case you did not believe that therapy ruins marriages, here is a slice of life from an American marriage. The couple is presumably not young. He is 64, a widower. We do not know how old she is or whether she was married before. We know nothing about children or occupations.

Now, she is complaining. In truth, all she does is complain. Presumably, she wants him to express more emotion. I wonder where she got that idea, which translates-- she wants him to act more like a woman.


I will repeat a remark that I made a while back, namely, that if she is trying to make her husband more like a woman, she would do better to divorce him and to marry a woman. Presumably, procreation is no longer at issue.


But, she has not just bought the therapy culture drivel about expressing feeling; she learned it from therapy and has decided that her husband must go into therapy too. She reminds me of the woman who wrote to Carolyn Hax, complaining that she would never marry any man who had not undergone therapy. Why she imagines that any man would want to marry her, escapes me.


Moreover, today’s complaining wife is also leaning in. She is ranting at her husband all the time about his failings. She is letting him know exactly how she feels. She is trying to force him to do something that feels unnatural, because it is unnatural. And, of course, it isn’t working.


So, this man has written to therapist Lori Gottlieb. Here, in its entirety, is the letter:


My wife has given up on me and is threatening to leave. She has given me six months to find treatment for the lack of emotion I am displaying towards her. I am 64 years old and love her very much. We have only been married for a couple of years. (I was previously happily married but my first wife died of ovarian cancer.)


My wife says that I just don't display affection to the degree she craves. I get frustrated because this is all we argue about—she says I don't kiss enough, have sex enough, hug enough, etc. All the pressure on me just pushes me further away. So what do I do?


In her first foray into this morass Gottlieb presents the salient point. That is, his wife’s appallingly bad behavior is going to make it less, not more likely that she gets what she wants. Threats never work, saith Gottlieb, and she is correct:


You say that you love your wife very much, so you don’t suffer from a lack of emotion—it’s just that she has specific ideas about how that emotion should be expressed, and demands that it be expressed on her terms. In fact, your wife’s response to not getting the physical affection she craves is ensuring that she won’t actually get the physical affection she craves. I’ve never heard anyone say, “You know what solved our relationship problem? A threat!” 


Then Gottlieb questions whether something else is at issue. Obviously, the question needs to be asked, but I fear that the woman has joined a cult based on therapy precepts, and wants to be living with someone who belongs to the same cult:


What probably hasn’t been explored is what you think the issue is about, what your wife thinks it’s about, how much of this is about you, how much is about her, how much of this is related to what’s happening between you two in the present, and how much is related to your respective histories. 


But then, Gottlieb goes a bit wrong when she recommends that the man offer up:


… a vulnerable display of affection along with a willingness to make things better.


Sorry to say, but vulnerability is the last thing he should offer. That would make him accede to her threats. Since Gottlieb just told us that it was not reasonable to expect him to do so, she is contradicting herself.


If I may, I would humbly suggest that if he wants to stop his wife from leaving him-- which is the headline-- there is a sensible and rational and adult solution-- he should leave her.


There, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?