Monday, April 28, 2008

Prozac for the economy?

A fair number of "underground" or anti-establishment economists and pundits think we're in for a sequel: Great Depression 2. Some of them can be found at Financial Sense.

Jim Willie, who operates a site called The Golden Jackass, sums up the Cassandra vibe as well as anyone:
The United States is tragically entering a gradual state of failure, from insolvency, corruption, and indescribably horrible economic counsel. An astronomical rise in USGovt federal deficits could occur in the next few months. Capitalism has failed in an historical spectacle of catastrophe. The nation has lost its legitimate income sources from industry. The nation has relied upon inflation contraptions and financial engineering devices for two decades. The exotic devices have blown up in our faces. The reflection upon the USDollar is certain to continue.

Recent adoptions of broader US Federal Reserve lending facilities has given a cup of water, a piece of bread, and a peptalk to a crippled man burdened by a 150-lb backpack of debt even as Wall Street thieves empty his pockets of loose money and all pension receipts. To accept that the worst is over is an exercise in stupidity, naivety, and further con game victimizations.
The more realistic story is that the United States is entering a failed state condition.
Can he be serious? Well, he claims to be. Here's part of his analysis:

  • USGovt is running huge federal deficits, to grow worse as recession worsens
  • US trade deficit is widening, as is the corresponding Current Account Deficit
  • US bank system is in technical insolvency, with negative non-borrowed core assets
  • Nearly 10% of homeowners have negative equity in homes, to reach 20% by year end
  • US car industry is reeling from higher gasoline costs, and piglike SUV emphasis
  • US airline industry is reeling from higher jet fuel costs, and strangled networks
  • US truckers are being squeezed, as highway actions are on the rise
I've been reading a fair amount of this sort of commentary lately, as well as more orthodox economic soothsaying, trying to figure out what to believe. The exercise has been enough to do my head in. Most of the predictions, from all quarters, are based on assumptions that are untestable by ordinary folks like me, or maybe anyone. The arguments are scaffolded with all sorts of economic jargon, arcane formulas, the dubious benefits of charting price moves, and in some cases hints of secret Dark Forces at work.


Since I make no claims of expertise in this area, my take-away from studying the economic omens is probably no more valid than the predictions of the experts. Anyway, here goes:

We would be smart not to let our attention get too fixated on political issues, as urgent as they are, and forget to be defensive about personal finances. And I do mean defensive. The downside risks at the moment are far greater than the upside potential.

There's no doubt in my mind that we have a lot to worry about. For years, the economy has been riding on credit spending, by the U.S. government as much as by citizens. As a country we've been mainlining cheap credit so long we've forgotten what it's like to live within our incomes. Now the banks that poured out credit have turned off the tap, some of the biggest having themselves been suckered into gorging on complicated derivatives of the housing market that has now tanked. Bear Stearns was the first of the big boys to puddle, and I don't think it will be the last. Who's next? Citigroup? Bank of America? We'll see.


That's bad enough, but you also have to take on board the background. By and large, this country no longer produces wealth. Its economy is based on financial speculation, a zero-sum game, and selling stuff to itself. When the buyers can no longer buy, no fallback position is left. And then there's our tragic misadventure in Iraq, whose direct costs are rapidly heading toward $1 trillion. Even if you argue that
it's worth it morally, or for national security, from an economic standpoint the only beneficiaries have been war contractors. The rest of the money might as well have been sent to the moon.

Still, considering worst-case, or even bad-case, scenarios doesn't mean it's time to panic and start hoarding canned foods, DVDs and gold bars in a clandestine lair in the hills. Our New Depressionists are probably partly right, but not completely right. One point to keep in mind: nobody in the economy predicting business is a purely disinterested, objective observer. Some are covering for the government, some for the financial institutions. The Götterdämmerung Gang have their own vested interests: they want to sell you anti-Depressants — precious metals or commodities or subscriptions to their newsletters.


Nonetheless, this is a time to play defense. Metals and commodities are cyclical like any other variable investment, but they seem like a better bet than dollar denominated bonds or most U.S. stocks, especially if you buy on the inevitable downdrafts.

Once again: I am not a financial professional and this is only my own speculation. Always get a second opinion — your own.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Shut up, they explained

"We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind."

The words came from a Supreme Court decision by one of this country's most renowned legal minds, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in a 1927 ruling upholding the compulsory sterilization of the mentally retarded. The opinion ended, famously: "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

You may agree or not. But I wish that our public officials were permitted such plain speaking today. Many of the most important questions now have to be discussed in a kind of code.

Peggy Noonan gripes:
America is in line at the airport. America has its shoes off, is carrying a rubberized bin, is going through a magnetometer. America is worried there is fungus on the floor after a million stockinged feet have walked on it. But America knows not to ask. America is guilty until proved innocent, and no one wants to draw undue attention. …

Why do we do this when you know I am not a terrorist, and you know I know you know I am not a terrorist? Why this costly and harassing kabuki when we both know the facts, and would agree that all this harassment is the government's way of showing "fairness," of showing that it will equally humiliate anyone in order to show its high-mindedness and sense of justice?

Why does she write like this, when I know, and you know, and she knows, and she knows we know, what she means? She means: If someone is going to blow up the airplane you're flying in without asking your permission, the overwhelming odds are that it will be a Muslim. The TSA should turn every Muslim boarding a plane upside down and shake them, and leave the rest of us to get on with our day.

Again, you are free to agree or not. But we have entered a frightening era when a journalist doesn't dare say what she means because the "rights" mob will immediately demand that she be banned from the public prints.

Our national government has now decided that the word "jihad" is taboo:

Federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center, are telling their people not to describe Islamic extremists as "jihadists" or "mujahedeen," according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Lingo like "Islamo-fascism" is out, too.

The reason: Such words may actually boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates. For example, while Americans may understand "jihad" to mean "holy war," it is in fact a broader Islamic concept of the struggle to do good, says the guidance prepared for diplomats and other officials tasked with explaining the war on terror to the public.

"New York, July 4, 2010 — Extremists who have hijacked the holy and peaceful religion of Islam set off a nuclear device that obliterated Manhattan at 3:25 p.m. yesterday. A spokesman for the extremists said in a press conference at the National Association for Intercultural Understanding, 'Our brothers have taken a further step in the struggle to do good. Such will be the fate of all infidels, Crusaders, and sons of pigs and monkeys.'

"President Obama had no immediate comment other than to say that 'I will be communicating with, not confronting, these extremists in a televised address tomorrow immediately following American Superstar. Please stay tuned following the show.'"

Consider now the case of Colorado state representative Douglas Bruce. He is apparently a very brave man, or perhaps one whose formative years predated the PC Age and who hasn't gotten the message. In a debate in the legislature about migrant workers, he said, "We don't need 5,000 more illiterate peasants in the state of Colorado."

The Denver Post describes what followed:
Audible gasps and cries of "no" filled the House chamber before Gunnison Democrat Rep. Kathleen Curry, in charge while the speaker handled other business, took the unusual step of banning Bruce from further comment on the bill.

"How dare you?" Curry asked him.

How indeed? It was daring in a way that our leftist Grand Inquisitors believe should be met with severe penalties.

Premeditated bigotry is what Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, called it. He said that, as a descendant of "illiterate slaves," he believes that Bruce's comment warrants ethics hearings that could result in reprimand, censure or expulsion from the legislature.

"This statement is so bigoted . . . clearly it violated the decorum of the House," Carroll said.

Rep. Carroll is a First Amendment illiterate who would like us all to be slaves of his ideological preferences. Oh, sorry, Terrance — I should be communicating with, not confronting, you. Wouldn't want to give you a veneer of credibility.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The EU regulates mediumship

A certified Obama-free posting™ !
No artificial ingredients

The totalist State — e.g., the European Union — cannot leave any aspect of personal life unregulated. It is particularly concerned, or perhaps afraid would be the mot juste, about any practice that stems from a competing worldview. You can double and triple that concern if the competing worldview challenges scientific reductionism. The State feels its control is endangered as long as anyone believes that our lives have their source and meaning in a realm beyond politics and economics. As in classic Marxism, modern political monoliths like the EU depend on their subjects dwelling in a mental world consisting of nothing but matter and measurable forces.


So it's not surprising that the EU now has a "directive" — ominous term — regulating mediumship. And many of Britain's mediums, who are concerned about it, are protesting. According to The Independent:
Today, representatives of British mediums will march up Downing Street to deliver a petition containing some 10,000 signatories demanding that the Government change its decision to repeal the 1951 Fraudulent Mediums Act in favour of a new EU directive. …

"What we have here is a fundamental attack on our right to practise our religion. We want to stop the charlatans but the existing Act gives us reassurances which the Government seems unable to do under this new legislation. They tell us we will probably be all right but we fear this will end up with one of us in court in front of a judge," said David McEntee-Taylor, head of the Spiritual Workers Association (SWA), that organised the protest.

The SWA complains that the 1951 law, which replaced the 1735 Witchcraft Act, guarantees "genuine" mediums legal protection, penalising only those who seek to hoodwink the public. However, by treating spiritualism as merely a consumer service, mediums believe they risk being sued if customers are dissatisfied with advice brought from the other side – advice they say they always point out should always be treated with care.

The Witchcraft Act has been invoked to prosecute a medium, Helen Duncan, as recently as 1944. To modern worshipers of The State, any belief in transcendent levels of reality is witchcraft.


The Indpendent is a left-wing paper, the twin of The Guardian, and blood brother of the EU in contempt for mediumship. To begin with, the tired joke in the headline ("Shouldn't they have seen it coming?") confuses mediumship with fortune telling. Spirits sometimes talk about future events through mediums, but that is rarely their main purpose in communicating with the sitter. Expressions like "the crystal-ball fraternity" and "purist believers" (as opposed to the purist non-believers of the Heaven-on-Earth utopian socialist school) give the game away, as does the quote from Richard Wiseman, who is always available for a put-down of psychical research and psychics.

Wiseman's claim that there is no reputable scientific evidence for psychical experience is as biased as biased can be, and particularly ludicrous coming from someone who regularly delivers papers at the Parapsychological Association and has every opportunity to be familiar with the more than 120 years worth of research in the field, much of it very reputable and scientifically rigorous. Check out the sites listed under "Spirit/Psychical" on the blogroll to the right.


I've said it before, and no doubt will again: yes, there are fake psychics and mediums, and many who are honest but just not very talented. Those mediums who are both honest and talented are the first to deplore those who drag the profession into disrepute.

So if some reliable mediums exist, and presumably perform a service for their clients, why shouldn't they be regulated like hairdressers or airplane mechanics? Because psychic ability or mediumship isn't a trade or skill that works all the time. It can't be objectively graded. Communicating with discarnate entities isn't like flipping open your mobile phone and speed dialing the office. The best mediums are pretty good at it, as much evidence attests, but none are able to get a clear "connection" or to convey messages from spirits accurately all the time.


For the skeptic, of course, that's just one more reason for skepticism. In the world of matter, it's relatively simple to put cause and effect together and make something happen by tapping a kneecap or flipping a switch. In the realm of trans-material phenomena, though, our ordinary laws of matter and energy don't apply. That doesn't mean the phenomena don't exist, just that they can't be demonstrated in a way that satisfies the materialist. But they have been demonstrated countless times in ways that have convinced open minded, rational observers, including scientists not of the material-reductionist faith.

Should a baseball fan be able to sue a player who only gets a hit 35 percent of the times he's at bat?

I think I'm wandering away from my original point. I don't believe the EU's primary interest in issuing its directive is consumer protection. It's first, discouraging belief in truth emanating from a non-material world, and second, adding, ever adding, to its power in this world.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mozart: The poet of Spring

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all to short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair, from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed ...

William Shakespeare

What Shakespeare and his contemporaries are to verse, Mozart is to music. Theirs is the poetry of transience: love that will not last, beauty erased by time, the seedling stunned by a sudden frost. Mozart lived in the late 18th century, but by temperament he was an Elizabethan. He worked within the conventions of a gilded and frivolous musical style and gave it a soul.

Even when Mozart's music is at its sunniest -- and it often is very balmy indeed, as well as galant in the best 18th century manner -- it can become sad or nostalgic in a twinkling. The sun, instantly, is veiled in clouds. It may emerge straightaway, but you cannot forget that the clouds may reappear to devour the radiance.


Mozart's music sometimes has an apparent simplicity, but it plucks every string of feeling. It can change mood almost from measure to measure -- a courtly minuet, perhaps, interrupted by a dying fall. This poignancy is stronger in Mozart than in his contemporaries, other than Haydn, who in many ways was Mozart's equal in distilling magic from sound. Beauty tinctured with sadness, a sense of the vanishing of everything, seem to impregnate many a musical phrase.


For someone of his sensitivity (musically, that is; as a man, he is said to have been charmless and vulgar), Mozart chose a poor moment to be born. In his era, composers were penny-a-liners who earned their keep by pandering to the Church or nobility. (At most courts they wore the livery of servants.) The potentates who employed them -- with some honorable exceptions, like the Esterhazys for whom Haydn worked -- wanted pretty, undemanding tunes for dances and parties.

Mozart was no musical revolutionary. He didn't break the mold like Beethoven was to do later, but he took the "givens" of his time and made them do for all time. The aristos wanted dance music? He gave them a whirl through Paradise. They wanted singing violin music, of a sort that the Italians of Vivaldi's period gave Europe a taste for? He gave the violins something worth singing.


Always, with that flavor of transience. Mozart was around during the French Revolution, but it is doubtful that it surprised him. He had sensed all along that the palaces' hundred-candle chandeliers would burn themselves to a smoky end.

In London there is a beautiful painting by Fragonard, which is nonetheless disturbing if you look closely. A richly dressed young man and woman of the 18th century are enjoying each other's company; sunlight bathes the glade in the center of the picture where they romp; pink ribbons adorn the ropes of their swing.

But the picture darkens toward the outer edges: just outside their awareness is the coming storm. Fragonard saw the guillotine at the end of the mirrored hall. Mozart simultaneously saw the shimmer and gleam of the silk, and saw it as food for the moth.


My favorite Mozart symphony is no. 40, in G minor. In the opening movement, a triplet phrase in the strings tumbles over itself, trying ever more insistently to force the lock of heaven. Another orchestral phrase answers, a dialogue ensues in varying inflections; the answer has the last word, but it does not seem absolute.

The second, slow movement is a "pastorale," but though it suggests summer, clouds are boiling up over the mountain. The music could be a background for a dalliance in the fields, but something tugs at the edge. Why can't this beauty last? What is being hinted at, and why?

Then comes a minuet. We are at a grand ball, the quintessential one that transcends any particular event. This is what Napoleon's minister Talleyrand was talking about when he said that only those who had lived before the Revolution knew the true sweetness of life. In the candlelight, with these musical strains in the air, all the women are beautiful, and the men genteel. It should go on forever, but will be dead with the dawn.


Now the finale, and utter glorious urgency, summed up in a phrase choired by the strings, caressed by the woodwinds. Triumph ... mixed with doubt. Is beauty truth?

Mozart is this season's poet. His music is for Spring because it contains the world, dying to be born; the earth dressing for its yearly tryst with the sun; the buds telling us that we, too, will be born again. And the rough winds.


Friday, April 18, 2008

The kudzu variations

A certified Obama-free posting™ !
No artificial ingredients


The last posting drew thoughtful comments from yih and mansizedtarget (see the entry for April 15), which prompts another look at how many aspects of life are now government business.

Kudzu is a vine that was imported to the United States from Japan for erosion control and other purposes, but went hog wild in the perfect climatic conditions for its growth and absence of natural predators in the southeast. Politically, we live today under a system of Kudzu americanus.

Bloated government has been a sore point for conservatives at least since the New Deal, and it may not seem urgent compared with militant Islam and the Mexican Invasion. But our getting used to it is one reason it flourishes. We pay our taxes and just assume that a great deal of our money will go to fund useless, if not intrusive, bureaucracies. We've almost given up even bothering to ask, "Why?"

Let's look at a list of government agencies and offices. Forget the federal government — that's a measureless galaxy. Just try to comprehend the functions of a single state, California, shown here. Start at ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) and scroll through to Workforce Investment Board. (Amazingly, California has not yet managed to come up with agencies whose names begin with X, Y, or Z.)

Takes your breath away, doesn't it?

Join me on a trip to Wonderland as we sample some of the offices that the citizens of the Golden State pay for to improve their lives.

California Office of Binational Border Health.
Mission: "Proteger y mejorar la salud en las comunidades de California afectadas por las condiciones y actividades fronterizas o binacionales, mediante la cooperación entre los funcionarios y los profesionales de la salud en California y México."

Center for Distributed Learning.
"At the CSU Center for Distributed Learning (CDL), we build tools and facilitate educational communities that support teaching and learning. Working with faculty and students to understand instructional challenges and brainstorm possible solutions that can be shared among campuses, we are guided in all of our projects by the way teachers teach and students learn. Then we apply our knowledge of web technologies and design to create powerful applications and tools that support faculty and students in their teaching and learning processes."

Fair Employment and Housing Commission. "The
Fair Employment and Housing Commission is a quasi-judicial administrative agency which enforces California civil rights laws regarding discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations; pregnancy disability leave; family and medical leave; and hate violence. The Commission engages in five primary activities: administrative adjudication; mediations, regulations; legislation; and public information and training." Among its many functions, the FEHC promulgates harassment training regulations.

If you are a Californian and you have property to rent, remember the FEHC is looking over your shoulder. Don't even dream of taking into consideration
a possible tenant's "ancestry, color, disability (mental and physical) including HIV and AIDS, familial status, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and source of income."

Governor's Mentoring Partnership. "Mentor Programs Making a Difference."

Infopeople. "Infopeople was started in order to provide points of public access to the Internet in public libraries throughout California. That aspect of the project was substantially completed by 1999. The project now provides a wide variety of training to those who work in California libraries." In other words, the agency fulfilled its purpose nine years ago. Abolish it? Are you out of your mind? No government agency ever ends. It just finds new tasks to keep it busy.

Outreach and Technical Assistance Network for Adult Educators. "Big Huge Labs
offers free tools to create a variety of classroom projects appropriate for ABE and ESL classes as well as older adults and parent education. One project is a calendar, easily created with photos from class activities or other photos selected by students or teachers. The captioner tool lets users add thought bubbles or text boxes to a photo, telling a story or making a joke. Slideshow can be used to create a slideshow... ."

And so on.

You can say I'm being selective, just cherry picking a few of the more useless or objectionable state offices out of a much larger number that perform valuable services. Certainly a state government has legitimate functions. I submit for your consideration that most of those functions could be performed by about half as many people by eliminating the political patronage jobs, the positions consisting of completing forms and writing reports for other government drones, and affirmative action hires among the staff.

But waste isn't the most significant issue. It's the hypertrophy in the concept of the role of government. We haven't gone as far down the road to the Total State as Britain or the EU, but we seem to be trying to catch up. The greater the role played by the government beyond the functions that individuals and private groups can't perform for themselves, the greater are the opportunities for the abuse of power. The more the government becomes a partner in aspects of daily life, the less motivation people have for self-reliance, cooperation on behalf of the common good, and the self-respect that comes with autonomy.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Uncle Sam, marriage counselor

A certified Obama-free posting™ !

The Soviet Union only tried to plan every detail of the economy. As far as I know, it never planned people's marriages. That's an idea left to U.S. federal and state governments, if certain "experts" have their way.


According to the Seattle Times:
Divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing cost U.S. taxpayers more than $112 billion a year, according to a study commissioned by four groups advocating more government action to bolster marriages. Sponsors say the study is the first of its kind and hope it will prompt lawmakers to invest more money in programs aimed at strengthening marriages. …

The study was conducted by Georgia State University economist Ben Scafidi. His work was sponsored by four groups who consider themselves part of a nationwide "marriage movement" — the New York-based Institute for American Values, the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Families Northwest of Redmond, and the Georgia Family Council, an ally of the conservative ministry Focus on the Family.
The "movement" is nanny state social engineering if this is any example of what it's about. Do these outfits imagine that government agencies, managed perhaps along the lines of the Motor Vehicles Bureau, the Department of Substance Abuse Prevention, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement can save a marriage that's shipping water?
"The study documents for the first time that divorce and unwed childbearing — besides being bad for children — are costing taxpayers a ton of money," said David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values. "We keep hearing this from state legislators, 'Explain to me why this is any of my business? Aren't these private matters?' " Blankenhorn said. "Take a look at these numbers and tell us if you still have any doubt."
Okay, Mr. Blankenhorn, I'll explain to you why I still have a lot of doubt.

In the first place, not everything can be valued on the basis of money or numbers. There are certain principles, one of which is the limitation on the power of the government over people's private lives, that are more valuable than any supposed tax saving. Yes, I know, we already allow the government to sentence people to psychotherapy and marriage counseling. Both may do some good — but even therapists are generally skeptical about what they can offer to unwilling clients.


Regardless, it is a bad practice. At most, the government should make such interventions available, not require people to participate. Governments are there to protect lives and property and perform public services, not private attitude adjustments.

Second, what this "marriage movement" seems to be advocating — I surmise from that dreaded word programs — goes beyond trying to help individual couples patch things up. They want to throw out a dragnet, pull in segments of the population, and "educate" them. That means more bureaucracies to run the programs, and more state and federal employees to do the educating. Where would this new Marriage Corps be recruited from? Why, I'm sure there are many organizations, like, oh, I don't know, maybe the Institute for American Values or Focus on the Family, who could supply educators.


One other thing. Government programs and costs to the taxpayer go together even better than love and marriage. A hundred and twelve billion a year? Why, a few government programs can burn through that much faster than an African tribal chief can get divorced.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Ignoring the apocalypse

It came to my attention Friday that the world is in a very bad way.

On that day I had brain fever over a U.S. election campaign featuring three candidates who wouldn't be fit to hold the door open for Thomas Jefferson; the Islamization of Europe and once-Great Britain; the Latin American colonization of the United States, in response to RSVPs from George W. Bush and his mob, the corporate oligarchy, and the Democratic Party; the repression of free thought and free speech under the iron blanket of political correctness; and a few other signs of the times.


Then I went home and made the mistake of watching the BBC World News. Lead story: food price inflation and shortages. Tape and stand-up from the Philippines: queues for bags of rice distributed by soldiers. Sound bite from young woman waiting in line: "I'm here because I need to feed my 12 kids." That's right: 12 children. Tape and stand-up from someplace in Africa: the usual sullen faces and starving children. Talking head: We must vastly increase aid to Africa. Rapidly growing population.

Until it can no longer afford to, the West will keep sending aid, encouraging the very behavior that plays the largest role in creating the problem in the first place. They get more food, they get more medicine, they produce more babies and thus more of what the pundits call "population pressure," because they can't pronounce the word "overpopulation." We're killing people with compassion.

A person could get to feeling bad, or even worse.


For the weekend, I practiced avoidance therapy. And I'm here to tell you it works. Remission of symptoms occurs remarkably fast, no prescription is needed, and it's free.

Saturday and Sunday I completely avoided anything resembling news. My only reading was about the past — Herodotus. Adrian Goldsworthy's major biography of Julius Caesar. Boswell's Life of Johnson. Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. For me, all our present troubles were hundreds, or thousands, of years in the future.


And I looked at the glories of springtime. Pink fountains of flowering weeping cherries. The pale yellow of daffodils, ribbony purple hyacinths, tie-dyed pansies. Living flying machines, perched on greening branches, chirping happily to welcome the lengthening days.

And meditation.


Just two days was enough to get me sorted. Was it escapism? Frivolousness? Copping out? I don't think so. The past, the imagination, the natural world, are just as real as the countless tragedies that occur daily and the threats to our well-being.

Which is to say, they are both real and unreal. The phenomena of time and space are utterly real to our normal mode of consciousness, and our moral will demands that we treat them as such, doing what is in our power for good and reducing suffering as we can. On another level of consciousness, only the spiritual is real. Stepping back temporarily from the world's agonies and worries helps give us the time and insight to prepare a place within for the ultimate reality of God, whenever and however it arrives.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Is there a diverse doctor in the house?

Better yet, board certified in diversity.

Stanford University is worried that the doctors its medical school turns out aren't Latino enough. (Tip of the hat: Discriminations).

It's bad enough that blacks make up 12 percent of the country's population, but there have only been 1.5 black presidential candidates, including Jesse Jackson, or 2.5 if you count Bill Clinton. But there's worse news, the Stanford Daily tells us:

Latino Americans only make up five percent of California’s doctors, according to a recent study at UC-San Francisco, though they constitute one-third of the state’s population.

Fernando Mendoza, Associate Dean for Minority Advising and Programs at the Stanford School of Medicine, said the lack of diversity within the medical profession can actually reduce the effectiveness of physicians.

He assures us that non-Latino doctors are biased against Latino patients — unconsciously, you dig? They see that -ez suffix in the patient's family name and the Hippocatic Oath goes plop into the bin, not that the physician notices.

Mendoza, who has advanced degrees in managementspeak and diversityspeak (implement, outreach, targeted, under-representation), identifies the cause of the lack of Latino medical students:
“Some reasons for this are that the socioeconomic class of Latinos gives them less ability to go on to colleges,” he said. “Another aspect of it is that they’re perhaps not encouraged to go into those careers. And some of it also has to do with the unconscious cultural biases about who should be and who shouldn’t be physicians.”
It's probably my unconscious cultural bias ("Doctor! My bias is turning blue and its eyeballs are rolling up!") speaking, but I can't help thinking we are getting into the near-suburbs of — shhh — quotas here.

"The problem is that our measures by numbers don’t predict the ability of people to think critically and work hard, or measure the passion they have to succeed," Mendoza says. Well, there is no way to perfectly measure aptitude for a profession, but generally, standardized tests (including IQ tests) do a pretty fair job of sorting out those who can think critically and those who can't.

As a basic rule of thumb, if I must ever undergo surgery again, I'm inclined to put my money on the nice Jewish boy with the 130 IQ, a father and uncle who were doctors, and who aced his medical school admission exam, over the fellow who got top grades in Passion to Succeed.

While critics of this approach to admissions worry that the quality of students admitted to the medical school will be reduced in the name of diversity, Mendoza said that this does not necessarily have to be the case.

“I came as a medical student with affirmative action,” he said. “There were four of us then. Now, I’m a professor here at Stanford, one colleague is head of a children’s hospital in Mexico City and another is quadruple boarded.”

Righto. I don't know about the doctors, but I'm sure his being a Stanford professor has absolutely nothing to do with affirmative action.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The European indigenous people's movement

Not a moment early, to my way of thinking.

The eloquent commentator on the Islamification of Europe, who quite wisely goes under a nom de blog and calls himself Fjordman, has a new posting at Brussels Journal titled "Creating a European Indigenous People's Movement."

Fjordman says:
An American friend of mine has proposed that native Europeans should create a European Indigenous People's Movement. I have hesitated with supporting this because it sounded a bit too extreme. However, in more and more European cities, the native population is being pushed out of their own neighborhoods by immigrant gangs. The natives receive little or no aid from their authorities, sometimes blatant hostility, when faced with immigrant violence. In an age where the global population increases with billions of people in a few decades, it is entirely plausible, indeed likely, that the West could soon become demographically overwhelmed. Not few of our intellectuals seem to derive pleasure from this thought.
As always when we are talking about immigration, it's important to be clear. Although some of us have heavy doubts about the ability of people from vastly different cultures to live together, we don't hate immigrants. I'm for strictly limited and selective immigration, not zero immigration, except perhaps during a time-out period, and I think Fjordman would concur. But what's happening now isn't immigration in the traditional sense — it's large-scale colonization. Or invasion, if you will.

Whether it's a conspiracy, self-interest, or short-sightedness on the part of the Western world's power elite, there can be no doubt that they are promoting ethnic replacement of their own countries' indigenous cultures big time. That would be bad enough, but they're determined not just to ignore the wishes of the populations being replaced, but to criminalize opposition.
In decadent societies of the past, the authorities didn't open the gates to hostile nations and ban opposition to this as intolerance and barbarophobia. What we are dealing with in the modern West is not merely decadence; it's one of the greatest betrayals in history. Our so-called leaders pass laws banning the opposition to our dispossession as "racism and hate speech." To native Europeans, when listening to our media and our leaders, it's as if we don't even exist, as if it were normal for them to put the interests of other nations over their own. Despite having "democratic" governments, many Western countries have authorities that are more hostile to their own people than dictators in some developing countries.
Multi-culturalism means, in practice, subsuming the culture of Western nations to alien cultures. It means apologizing for our own heritage and maintaining that every other culture fills some alleged deficit in ours. We're racists. We're colonialists. We consume too much. We're out of touch with Gaia. We need a substitute population that doesn't groan under our original sin.
I like cultural diversity and would hope this could be extended to include my culture, too. Or is Multiculturalism simply a hate ideology designed to unilaterally dismantle European culture and the peoples who created it? If people in Cameroon or Cambodia can keep their culture, why can't the peoples who produced Beethoven, Newton, Copernicus, Michelangelo and Louis Pasteur do the same? As Rabbi Aryeh Spero points out, European elites insist "on the primacy of indigenous cultures and religions when speaking of other faraway regions, yet find such insistence arrogant when it concerns the indigenous culture of its own lands."
The United Nations has recognized the rights of indigenous peoples. You can be sure they weren't thinking of the indigenous peoples of Europe, the United States, or Australia. Nevertheless, the provisions of Article 8 should apply equally to them:
Article 8

1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to
forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.
2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their
integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their
lands, territories or resources;
(c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of
violating or undermining any of their rights;
(d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;
(e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic
discrimination directed against them.
Fjordman proposes six goals and objectives for a European Indigenous People's Movement, beginning with:
The right to maintain our traditional majorities in our own lands, control our own sovereignty and our own self-determination. We do not wish harm or ill-feeling toward any other peoples on earth, but we assert the right to maintain our own majorities in our own lands without being accused of "racism." We reject current trends which preach that we have no right to oppose, control or lessen unlimited immigration from non-indigenous cultures.
That sounds reasonable enough, except to the European Union, which would take it as a declaration of war. Is it quixotic to go against the mighty EU? Perhaps. But there are still quite a lot of indigenous Europeans. Enough to see off a cadre of zombie functionaries in Brussels, should they ever decide to.


Monday, April 07, 2008


Pressure of blogging blamed for men's deaths

The deaths of two bloggers were yesterday linked by the US media to an obsession with updating their websites.

The Times, April 7

To Whom It May Concern:

I cannot go on.

Life is no longer worth living. I have failed myself, my readers, and the Bloggers' Central Committee members who awarded me the plum of Blogger of the Hour. I blame no one but myself, and the shame hangs over me like a clinging metaphor.


Let none say that I have not tried to overcome my self-imposed compulsion. Faced with yet another inner deadline and having no insight, no witty comment on the passing parade, barren even of words of cutting invective, I find there is no help for it.

I have tried every source of inspiration and come away empty handed and empty headed. Stuck my head in books, classic literature and provocative modernism, and felt no spark leap the gap. Drunkenness left me drunk but no more eloquent. Became an Opium-Eater but decided Thomas de Quincy was pulling our leg about its effects on the creative powers. Took long walks in the heaving effulgence of nature and, well, what can you blog about wiping mud off your shoes?


So what is left but to abjure this rough magic. All my blogging thoughts are melted into air, into thin air. Blogs are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little postings are rounded with an empty comments space.

It is only meet, then, that I depart the blogosphere and — what was that other thing? Oh, yes, I remember, life. Being of unsound mind, all my remaining bandwidth I herewith bequeath to generations of bloggers yet unborn, with a strenuous caution: let not the Curse of the Blogger fall on you! When you find the urge has become insatiable, when you wake up trembling with a bitter taste in your mouth from last night's entry, when friends and family urge you to turn your keyboard into a plowshare, heed, o heed!

From one who knows.

Merrill T. Blameworthy

At the sign of the Mouse and Keyboard.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Neither fish nor …


Well, actually, it
is a fish. A fish that walks, sort of, on its fins.

Thanks to the world's most interesting English-language newspaper, London's Daily Mail, for bringing this to my attention, and hence to yours.

My purpose in presenting this odd bod — having just been discovered, his species doesn't seem to have a name yet — is … well, look, if you clicked over to this currently subprime blog in the foolish expectation of sipping from a fount of wisdom, I wanted you to at least get something for your trouble.

How fantastical and at the same time absolutely functional for their environments living creatures often are. Make of that what you will.

If I may be allowed to once again haul out Sir Arthur Eddington, the astronomer:
"Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine; it is stranger than we can imagine."


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Watch this space

I hate to go this long between postings, I really do. But a heavy work schedule and no ideas worth writing about have this blog frozen for the moment.

That will change at some point. As soon as desperation — sorry, I mean inspiration strikes, there'll be more here. Thanks for stopping by.