Monday, September 29, 2008

Everybody fightin' about a spoonful


Men lie about that spoonful
Some cry about that spoonful
Some die about that spoonful
Everybody fight about a spoonful
That spoon, that spoon, that spoonful

— Willie Dixon, "Spoonful"

It's not a spoonful of your precious love they're fightin' over, child. It's a spoonful of cough syrup, and the trouble is, it's supposed to cure the American financial system's congestive heart failure.

Actually, there are a couple of fights going on. One — possibly the least important — is in Congress over the terms of the $700 billion bailout of the banking industry. Least important because it's not over the principle of the thing. It's over the Post-it notes that Congresswimps want to attach to the bill. The motive is to give a little juice to their favored constituents — mainly symbolic, but they can point to it and say, "See, I was looking out for you" while they were voting to take aboard worthless securities obtained from banks cynical enough to create them, or stupid enough to buy them.


The seven hundred billion is only a spoonful. It might restore Wall Street's trust in banks (or might not), but it won't restore the world's trust in the U.S. Treasury — and for years the government has been financing mind-boggling deficits by selling Treasury bonds to foreign governments who figure it's the price of doing business with us (i.e., selling us stuff we no longer make ourselves). It won't require financial institutions who have been tossed a life preserver to issue any home or car loans, but even if they choose to, we'd better hope they show infinitely better judgment about their lending standards than they did before. Yet why should they if they know they can always go to the Treasury for a reset?

Taking the heat off the banks — no guarantees that it'll work, mind you — won't be balm for homeowners and would-be homeowners. Not as long as home prices are stuck in orbit. What's next, a government takeover of every empty suburban mini-Hearst Castle, to be sold for half price, while flogging bonds to Sierra Leone and Turkmenistan to absorb the other half?


But the bigger fight, if there is enough determination left in this country to have one, is over the pending transition of our economic model into something Comrade Lenin would recognize: a state-controlled economy. We've been slouching our way toward this for some time. Part of the reason for the housing crisis is that the federal government insisted on banks giving ridiculous loans, bound to turn rancid, to minorities for the sake of political correctness. But the stakes are larger now by far. This bailout makes plain the state of things:

Our Congress has become representative at last. Only it's not the people in the home state or district it represents, but the big money interests and their lobbyists. Fiscal responsibility has been turfed out — we'll go on piling up debt on top of debt until even our overseas creditors decide our markets aren't worth the cost (especially when Americans not of the corner office class can't afford to buy those alluring imports anymore) and refuse to play the game. And the Treasury will click on the soft option (until the consequences) of currency inflation, the first and last resort of governments that think they can run an economy. Ask the Zimbabweans.


Centralized power, controlling everything from interest rates to corporate mergers to the size of the bananas you can sell. Not to mention what you can say and write. The European Union is already there, and is smugly sure we will be too before long. Some Americans wouldn't mind at all. The state as mother and daddy, looking after its dependents, transferring wealth to those it finds worthy, taxing and borrowing to the limit to dole out grandiosely, asking only the end of individuals' power to pilot their own lives, choose for themselves, think for themselves.

Maybe a free citizenry, responsible to itself and bending the knee to no one, is bound to be transient. What was bought at a high price comes to seem the natural order of things. Whatever anybody wants, including perfectly reasonable desires like good health care, turns into a supposed right rather than something that must be paid for one way or another. It seems a simple solution to life's struggles to demand that the government provide everything, arrange everything, fix everything.

But governments are composed of fallible human beings with their own power drives and self-serving motives. They have no money, except what they can tax, take, or borrow. Sooner or later, all those reach a point of diminishing returns. Franklin Roosevelt's campaign manager came up with the perfect formula for his times: "tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect." But eventually the middle class drew the line at further taxation. Today's variation among the political mandarins is: "borrow and borrow, spend and spend, elect and elect." We've long since passed the point of being able to borrow enough from ourselves or even our descendants; we're debtors to the world. And the world is starting to ask, why do we need to keep supporting these spoiled babies who can't control their appetites or stop their currency's value from melting?


A very old story: Back around 490 B.C., the Persian king Darius sent envoys to Athens and Sparta to demand earth and water, emblems of submission. The Spartans threw the envoys down a well, telling them to take earth and water from it and deliver it to King Darius.

An admirable impulse but bad behavior, and for sometime afterward the ritual sacrifices gave threatening omens to the Spartans, who were also known as Lacadaemonians. The Spartans were troubled by the omens, and eventually asked if there were any among them who would give their lives in atonement. Two noble youths volunteered, and traveled to the land of the new Persian king, Xerxes, to offer themselves as sacrifices to offset the bad karma from killing Darius's representatives.

Herodotus narrates:
On the road to Susa they presented themselves before Hydarnes. This Hydarnes was a Persian by birth, and had the command of all the nations that dwelt along the sea-coast of Asia. He accordingly showed them hospitality, and invited them to a banquet, where, as they feasted, he said to them, "Men of Lacadaemon, why will you not consent to be friends with the king? You have but to look at me and my fortune to see that the king knows well how to honour merit. In like manner you yourselves, were you to make your submission to him, would receive at his hands, seeing that he deems you men of merit, some government in Greece.

"Hydarnes," they answered, "you are a one-sided counsellor. You have experience of half the matter, but the other half is beyond your knowledge. A slave's life you understand, but never having tasted liberty, you can not tell whether it be sweet or no. Had you known what freedom is, you would have bidden us to fight for it, not with the spear only, but with the battle-axe."
That would not have been fighting about a spoonful.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Financial lifeboat drill


The market hasn't opened yet, but I have been suddenly blessed with second sight, I can see the future, and I see size XX-Large trouble brewing.

Since no mainstream news source will take notice of his statement, I will turn the remainder of this post over to Ron Paul, who I believe is still a candidate for president. A couple of days ago, he wrote (abridged; boldface emphasis added by me):
Dear Friends, Whenever a Great Bipartisan Consensus is announced, and a compliant media assures everyone that the wondrous actions of our wise leaders are being taken for our own good, you can know with absolute certainty that disaster is about to strike. The events of the past week are no exception. The bailout package that is about to be rammed down Congress' throat is not just economically foolish. It is downright sinister. It makes a mockery of our Constitution, which our leaders should never again bother pretending is still in effect. It promises the American people a never-ending nightmare of ever-greater debt liabilities they will have to shoulder. ...

The Federal Reserve System is actually positioning itself as the savior, rather than the culprit, in this mess!

• The Treasury Secretary is authorized to purchase up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets at any one time. That means $700 billion is only the very beginning of what will hit us.

• Financial institutions are "designated as financial agents of the Government." This is the New Deal to end all New Deals.

• Then there's this: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency." Translation: the Secretary can buy up whatever junk debt he wants to, burden the American people with it, and be subject to no one in the process. ...

Our one-party system is complicit in yet another crime against the American people. The two major party candidates for president themselves initially indicated their strong support for bailouts of this kind - another example of the big choice we're supposedly presented with this November: yes or yes. ...

The issue boils down to this: do we care about freedom? Do we care about responsibility and accountability? Do we care that our government and media have been bought and paid for? Do we care that average Americans are about to be looted in order to subsidize the fattest of cats on Wall Street and in government? Do we care?
When the chips are down, will we stand up and fight, even if it means standing up against every stripe of fashionable opinion in politics and the media?

Times like these have a way of telling us what kind of a people we are, and what kind of country we shall be.

In liberty,

Ron Paul

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Let's keep this crisis going

Consul Bernanke and Consul Paulson are seething, like Julius Caesar in the last days of the Republic, having to make nice to a bunch of old Senators who couldn't spear a Gaul. How tedious. The Banks (peace be upon their holy name) need a payday loan — what's $700 billion to trifle over? Probably just a smidgen above Ted Kennedy's career bar bill.

Should our (laughably called) representatives in Congress not jump to have the money siphoned out of our kidneys, they assure us, the temple will come crashing down.

Ignore for the moment that there isn't the slightest guarantee this new elixir will cure what ails us. Consider the benefits of stopping this juggernaut and letting fear, confusion, and uncertainty build up. Because those are the very things that might — just might — lead to the kind of systemic and value changes that will actually set us right.


We are told that the banking system needs this transfusion of public funds (i.e., yet another loan from foreign governments and investors, another debit for U.S. taxpayers, and a further downgrade of the U.S. Treasury's credit rating from ZZ to –ZZZ) because only that will end the "credit crunch." Credit is not a dirty word, and has been around for millennia, but the abuse of credit brought us to this wretched pass. What if we let credit dry up for a year or two? Suppose everyone, from corporations to individuals, had to develop some survival skills and mental habits that would enable them to live without borrowing?

Yes, there would be pain, and some of it would be felt by people who had nothing to do with creating the mess we're in. But I don't believe there would be mass starvation or homelessness; we are too creative, and too caring, a people to allow that. And it would not be long before new institutions, independent of the present financial establishment racketeers, would start to supply the need for operating capital. If the skyscraper-headquarters banks go under, good riddance. Smart, creative entrepreneurial institutions (which our business leaders always assure us in after-dinner speeches are the lifeblood of capitalism) will replace them.

Beyond that: a period of fear and trembling would be a boon to our national soul. It's possible to survive a stretch of poverty — I can testify, and so can many others. There'd be nothing like a limited period in which
most of our population struggled to make ends meet for getting young heads out from inside their iPods and away from staring at computer games all the live-long day. It could cure one or two generations of the idea that owning more and bigger stuff is the essence of felicity. Prosperity, and even being rich, can be a good thing — until it starts being accepted as a symbol of a person's worth and a "right" that justifies any kind of monkeyshines like packaging reeking loans and selling them as securities to some sucker.


Among that ever-shrinking demographic that hasn't been lobotomized by popular culture, a time of troubles might force them to consider the causes of our present Angst. For instance, one cause among others being that our government, through its now ingrained reflexes of political correctness and social engineering, demanded that mortgage institutions make loans available to customers who obviously couldn't repay them, provided said customers were of the proper skin hue or non-American origin.

As Ann Coulter writes, "
Now, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, middle-class taxpayers are going to be forced to bail out the Democrats' two most important constituent groups: rich Wall Street bankers and welfare recipients." (As usual, Ann combines sharp insight with sycophancy to the Republican Party, almost all of whom were collaborators in the madness.)

Perhaps some of those pondering cause and effect might even study history, and consider how what was intended as a limited federal government has become engorged and empowered to the point where it can tell banks who to loan money to and who companies must hire, control the money supply (and if it chooses, inflate the currency), enforce massive race replacement of the population, send armies to fight and die without a declaration of war, and nullify any legislation that doesn't fit with the political ideology of its black-robed judicial archons. And send its Treasury secretary and Fed chairman to the Capitoline Hill to demand $700 billion in protection money, or else.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In memoriam: Chessie 1995-2008


We got the dreaded word today: cancer. There was no more that could be done for her except see to it that she left this life easily and would not suffer.

She lost interest in eating. She chose to spend last night in the cat carrier, which she always used to hate, as if she expected to travel to the veterinary hospital today. In retrospect, I think she knew it was time to go. Animals seem to have precognition about things like that.

Goodbye for now, Chessie. You have given me much happiness, and I hope I have returned the favor.

I don't understand much about how it works when animals cross over, but I think she will be there on the Other Side to greet me when my turn comes. Looking forward to seeing you again, girl.



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Friday, September 19, 2008

Laughing (or something) all the way to the bank

The action on the financial field is faster than a video of a football game played in fast-forward. This time yesterday, the market had a sinking feeling. Today, it's sniffing glue. Up, up, and away.


It's hard to follow from minute to minute what actually is happening, what is rumor, what is hope, what is sheer dementia. Apparently, the Fed and the Treasury have locked themselves in the panic room and decided to donate the United States to the banking industry. The government will take on all the toxic debt and radioactive derivatives that the financial names are sinking in like quicksand. It'll also guarantee money market funds, those ultra-safe investments, one of which just failed.

Of course, the government can't simply pay off the losses of the banks, savings and loans, and investment banks like Daddy writing a check. It is the biggest debtor of all, a Red Giant star of debt around which all the little overwhelmed institutions circle in orbit. So the Treasury rides in like the Cavalry, armed with two multi-megaton weapons: the power to borrow yet more money, and the power to print vaporware dollars. If you think your tires are inflated, just watch the U.S. currency — that'll show you inflation.


Bear markets proverbially end when the market "capitulates" — everyone decides it's hopeless and sells their investments, so there are no sellers left and nowhere to go but up. Not this time, though; this time it's the U.S. government that has capitulated, agreeing more or less to do anything the financial industry wants or needs.

That includes prohibiting short sales on almost 800 names. It's "temporary" until October 2, but can be extended. Supposedly this is to prevent speculation, which is claimed to be partly responsible for the recent carnage in the markets. I wouldn't know. For now, investors are taking it as a sign from heaven. In hoc signo vinces.


But like all forms of artificial share pumping, it has a potentially gut churning downside. Should the herd get spooked and run for cover again, there will be a huge vacuum under stock prices. With no short selling, in a decline there will be no one to buy to cover their short sales, which normally gives price drops some braking action. It would be ironic if today's madcap buying frenzy turned out to be the prelude to a crash.

It's rare that I link approvingly to the BBC, but I think this article sums up the situation well.

UPDATE 9/22: My mind was out to lunch when I wrote the next-to-last paragraph. Short sellers buy when the market goes up, not down, to cover their short positions. Still, disrupting the normal market mechanisms could have a downside: no short-covering rallies, therefore limiting the extent of share price gains.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bust of future First Lady unveiled

Queen Michelle Oprahbama-Nefertiti

Just when you thought this presidential campaign couldn't get more bizarre ...

Bold sculpture of Michelle Obama with American flag
across her bare chest

... reads the headline in The Telegraph.
The powerful clay work shows Mrs Obama in the style of an African Queen, wearing large hooped earrings and an "afro pick" comb in her Egyptian-influenced hairstyle.

An American flag is tattooed across her naked chest and the comb is decorated with pearls, the traditional garb of a First Lady, and an American Eagle.

Assuming her consort wins the election, saves the world for all future generations of mankind, and Michelle Obama finally has reason to really feel proud of her country, whichever one that might be, the dress-up (or dress-down) inaugural ball should be very interesting, perhaps the first R-rated program broadcast from the Multi-Cultural (née White) House.
The work, by controversial sculptor Daniel Edwards, is clearly a nod to both Mrs Obama's ethnic roots and her position at the heart of American culture and politics. As her husband, Barack Obama, battles to win the next US presidential elections, she has come under intense media spotlight, and has been likened to former First Lady Jackie Kennedy.

However, Edwards said: "The goal is to create a look for Michelle Obama that eliminates excessive comparisons to Jackie Kennedy."

I don't think anyone will dispute that he has succeeded in that.
A gallery spokesman said: "Look out Oprah, a new 'Lady O's' in charge. Michelle Obama inspires a fashion template change that many First Ladies of the 21st Century may follow, as we witness minorities in this country becoming the majority."

The sculpture forms part of the Inspire America series by Edwards, which includes the Oprah Sarcophagus, and The Iraq War Memorial, featuring a work which depicts Prince Harry as if he had died in combat clutching the cameo-locket of his late mother, Princess Diana.

All hail, Queen Michelle!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The irrelevance of the mainstream media

With every passing day, our newspapers and TV news outlets demonstrate that they aren't worthy of the name. They have simply ceased to make any serious effort to sort the significant from the trivial. The "news" they deal in is a personality parade, combined with whatever is photogenic (hurricanes, floods, angry mobs, etc.).

The news media are like those CD changers set on "shuffle play" in restaurants. A random assortment of a few tracks: Palin, Obama, show business celebrities, identity politics, gas prices. News editors are essentially entertainment editors. They don't seek important stories; their job is to filter out any information that might confuse or bore a populace armed with channel-switching remotes.


Our mainstream news sources seem to be on an island designed by Hollywood and created by computer imagery, where every story must be in the script or it doesn't exist, and there's a star system with its A-listers like Obama, Palin, Hillary. Everyone else is just extras casting. The wider world isn't even atmosphere.

For every 500 stories about Obama versus McCain — neither of whom has any thoughts beyond campaign strategy, and neither of whom as president is likely to change the country's direction — you will find one or two about … well, let's see.

The government's ventures into state socialism in a desperate throw to stop the collapse of the economy aren't working. No one can say where it will stop — will the taxpayers soon own General Motors and Ford, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs? By the time the situation stabilizes, any pretense of an economic system based on private enterprise will be null and void.


Seven years after invading Afghanistan to prong the Taliban and set up a freedom-loving democracy, it was announced yesterday that we are sending 6,000 more Marines to support a Muslim government threatened by a revivified Taliban. Over in Iraq — ah, we're all tired of hearing about Iraq.

Does it matter that Britain's transition to a Muslim country is turning a corner and heading into the homestretch?

Five sharia courts have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester and Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

The government has quietly sanctioned that their rulings are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court. Previously, the rulings were not binding and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.

Does it matter that U.K. social welfare now taxes what's left of its rapidly emigrating middle class to support Muslim polygamy?
Husbands living in a "harem" with multiple wives have been cleared to claim state benefits for all their different partners.

A Muslim man with four spouses - which is permitted under Islamic law - could receive £10,000 a year in income support alone. He could also be entitled to more generous housing and council tax benefit, to reflect the fact his household needs a bigger property.

Does it matter that at least one European country seems to be on the verge of taking a stand against Muslim colonization?


English former church

I would think all these things matter. But they don't to our American media types, who strut and preen, proclaiming themselves to be professionals, insiders, responsible fact-checkers in contrast to those loony-tunes bloggers without press passes.

"This just in! Sarah Palin … "

Monday, September 15, 2008

Party like it's 1929

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias

Controlled panic is what it looks like so far.

And that's not bad, considering. Over the weekend, two U.S. financial colossi crumbled. Merrill Lynch was acquired by Bank of America in a deal that looks suspiciously like a shotgun wedding: B of A appears to have paid well over the odds. You have to think that the government cut a shady deal involving some kind of whispered "guarantees" to B of A.

At the same time, Lehman Brothers, the 158-year-old investment bank and an A-list name in U.S. financial institutions, declared bankruptcy because no one was willing to buy it. And insurance giant AIG is reportedly paddling furiously against the current as it approaches Niagara Falls.


The Big Blow-Up has begun. It's the inevitable product of decades of an economy based on consumer credit in lieu of genuine prosperity, of institutions from the Treasury to the Fed to the banking system putting the credit pedal to the metal, calling for stronger wine and madder music, building to a demented crescendo like Ravel's Bolero.

Now that it's breaking down, the federales are desperately trying to keep it from crashing all at once and touching off a worldwide depression. Having served for so long as the industry's drug dealer, they are now hustling the patient off to the sanitarium while telling everyone who asks that the economy is resting while it recovers from stress, thank you for your concern.

The good news is that a few more big players will soon be extinct volcanoes. Washington Mutual is probably next. It wouldn't surprise me if Citigroup is being measured for the coffin. Why is that good news? Because it's better to pump the country's stomach and get the poison out. The national gag reflex needs a workout, and it's going to get one. Then, maybe, we can rebuild the economy on a saner, more austere basis — if citizens and, equally important, our politicians can resist the impulse to start a new round of borrowing and spending.

But first, this is going to be a dramatic week, or several weeks. Today is only the curtain raiser. It is not time to go bottom fishing because we have not touched bottom. In my opinion, it's still better to play defense. Shorting and buying puts are only for very experienced and sophisticated investors (I don't consider myself savvy enough to do either, except that I have a position in the ultra-short financials exchange-traded fund SKF), but anyone can sell and go to cash. You don't make money that way, but you don't lose (except to inflation).

As one of our very smart ancestors said, "Keep your powder dry, and don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes."

Disclaimer: I have no qualifications as a financial advisor and could be wrong.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

The demography of terror

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German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn says that the West is doing everything it can to stop violent turmoil in the Middle East and Africa. The trouble is, everything it knows how to do is wrong.
If the leaders of the American-led "Coalition of the Willing" had known Gunnar Heinsohn's research, they would most likely never have left their troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. They would quickly give up any thought of intervention in Sudan's Darfur province. They would tell the Palestinian 10-children families that the West will no longer pay for their unrestricted childbirths. Western opinion-makers and politicians would also abandon their pet theory that virtually any act of violence in a belt from Northern Africa to the Philippines – in addition to miscellaneous acts of terror all over the world – are caused by the unsolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And worst of all seen from the prevailing political consensus in the West: Heinsohn does not believe for a second that economic aid and hunger relief in countries with large youth populations can prevent wars, social unrest, terror or killings. On the contrary he is convinced that in some cases material aid may start the killings. This is because starving people do not fight, they just suffer. However, if you give a lot of young men enough to eat and a certain education in a society where there are too many young men so that not all can get the recognition and positions that they feel entitled to, it may lead to violence.
His argument recognizes one of the realities of human psychological and physiological development: young men with testosterone flowing like lava, and actuarially in their healthiest and strongest years, are the most prone to violence of any population group. As long as their societies offer them attractive options and a hopeful future, their most aggressive impulses can be damped or channeled into acceptable outlets. But when societies produce far too many young men above the numbers it can usefully absorb, the young men are frustrated and angry. They go nuts.
The problem starts when families begin to produce three, four or more sons. This will cause the sons to fight over access to the positions in society that give power and prestige. Then you will have a lot of boys and young men running around filled with aggression and uncontrollable hormones. And then we shall experience mass killings, until a sufficient number of young men have been eradicated to match society's ability to provide positions for the survivors.

According to Heinsohn, 80 per cent of world history is about young men in nations with a surplus of sons, creating trouble. This trouble may take many forms — a increase in domestic crime, attempts at coups d'état, revolutions, riots and civil wars. Occasionally, the young commit genocide to secure for themselves the positions that belonged to those they killed. Finally, there is war to conquer new territory, killing the enemy population and replacing it with one's own.
Most societies, including Western ones, have experienced this phenomenon at one time or another in their history. Many have overcome it, reaching a balance between the numbers of young men and available resources. But that isn't true in many Third World countries — especially Muslim ones, where the politico-religious culture encourages dysfunctionally large families.

As Heinsohn notes, "In recent years the West has been facing a gigantic youth bulge in large parts of the Muslim world. This bulge is created by a Muslim population explosion. Over the course of just five generations (1900–2000) the population in the Muslim countries has grown from 150 million to 1,200 million [i.e., 1.2 billion] — an increase of 800 per cent [emphasis mine]."

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So-called "humanitarian" aid to desperate countries, given without any conditions to improve their demographic situation, does nothing except allow uncontrolled breeding — adding to what Heinshohn calls the "youth bulge," the cohort of young men with no future in a stable society and nothing to do with their raging energy except fighting and terrorism. It's trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

The standard liberal rejoinder is that we have to keep pouring in economic aid to create economically viable societies. That would be great if it worked. It doesn't. No country on earth — not the United States, not China, not Switzerland, not Norway, none — has or ever will have a need for six or eight or 10 young men per family. In the case of failed states, even less so. The very idea is laughable, so ridiculous that only someone who makes a good living in an international aid agency could believe it.

It's especially loony to keep lobbing resources into dark holes of fanaticism like Palestinian territories, which gives them the resources to breed more young violent madmen.

So you do not believe that the so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians is realistic?

"No, and the main reason is the big mistake that was made in Oslo in 1991, when the secret negotiations between Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin started. The error was that nobody took any notice of the Palestinian population explosion. The Palestinian population has multiplied almost 6 times within the last 50 years. We should have done two things: Israel should have stopped its settlements, and the world community should have said to the Palestinians: Every child in Palestine will be fed by the world community as before, because by accepting that every Palestinian child is a refugee, the world community has a responsibility for the number of children born. But from January 1st 1992 you will have to pay for your newborn children, just as a woman does in Lebanon, in Tunisia and in Algeria. That is what they should have told the Palestinians. Why am I mentioning these three countries? Because in those societies a women has fewer than two children on the average. Had we done that 15 years ago, we would have seen a generation of young Palestinian men with few reasons to commit violence against each other or against the Jews. But we did not, and therefore I do not believe in the peace process, even if Hamas should decide to sign everything. Their young men will tear such agreements to pieces."
Heinsohn offers a compelling argument for certain politically incorrect truths, and spells out why it is culturally suicidal for Europe to be welcoming large immigrant populations that can't fit into a modern society and become a burden on the welfare system and such productive natives who remain there. Before long, the welfare system will collapse under the weight.
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But he is not himself free from doctrinaire political correctness — hardly surprising for a European, but disappointing in someone who has demonstrated the courage to go against the multi-culti dictatorship. When he says, "For that purpose they [European countries] need young people who have grown up in a high-tech society. It is not because Africans or Muslims are not as intelligent as others, they are just not socialised in a way that makes them useful in our societies," he is either practicing self-protection or is remarkably ignorant for a sociologist. The evidence is in — the average sub-Saharan African IQ is around 70. They are socialized in a way that is appropriate for a low-IQ society. They cannot, as a group (there are individual exceptions, of course) be socialized in a way that is appropriate for a European society.

Heinsohn also has a spectacularly naive idea of the immigration policies of non-European Western countries, which he imagines are based on "quality" rather than "quantity" of immigrants. As if.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

New element discovered: Antimoney

I've no time for a real post today but can't resist quoting a couple of comments from the discussion board at Marketwatch.

Easyesteemer writes: "At the end of the day today what has changed? The market gave back all of yesterdays gains so nothing has happened. Oh, yes, a couple of fat cats walked with millions of severance pay. Kind of like watching one of those fuzzy videos of a store robbery. Only we are the ones getting robbed."

Robpublicagain writes:
The LHC [Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator] has discovered a new previously unknown subatomic state of matter. Scientists have named this new state of matter – Antimoney.

Antimoney identifying physical trait is that it completely annihilates regular money. Scientists are studying this behavior and are trying determine why the chain reaction continued even after the shut down of the LHC. Further, it appears a beam of Antimoney has been generated and focused in the direction of Wall Steet.
Even if we Americans lose everything else in the gathering financial apocalypse, we'll still have our sense of humor.


Monday, September 08, 2008

United States: "More Communist than China"?

Chairman, National Committee To Save
Fannie and Freddie
: "Thanks for the moo-lah"

If you live in the United States and have successfully paid off your own mortgage, congratulations. Now your reward is that you can pay to save devil-may-care banks and their enablers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who herded millions into buying homes they couldn't afford. As widely expected, the latter two institutions, incompetent and corrupt to the bone, are now wards of the state.

Jim Rogers, the commodity investor, says: "America is more communist than China is right now. You can see that this is welfare of the rich, it is socialism for the rich … it's just bailing out financial institutions."

It's not only a matter of "the government" — you, taxpaying sucker — plunging US$100 billion or so to make Fannie and Freddie whole again. With the federal deficit in deep space anyway, what's another hundred billion? (Or two or six hundred billion, who knows what the reckoning will eventually be?)

No, the thing is, we have just officially abandoned any pretense that we have a capitalist economic system self-regulated by Adam Smith's "invisible hand" of the market. The U.S. economy is now a government-directed system. Institutions are too big to fail. You are not. You are free to go broke without let or hindrance, as long as Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, etc. stay dry.

Not to mention, in the case of Fannie and Freddie, their top managers who got their positions as political plums, ran their organizations aground, and can now retire gracefully or step into another feathered nest.
Under the terms of his employment contract, Daniel H. Mudd, the departing head of Fannie Mae [whose shareholders are lighter by 86 percent at this writing], stands to collect $9.3 million in severance pay, retirement benefits and deferred compensation, provided his dismissal is deemed to be “without cause,” according to an analysis by the consulting firm James F. Reda & Associates. Mr. Mudd has already taken home $12.4 million in cash compensation and stock option gains since becoming chief executive in 2004, according to an analysis by Equilar, an executive pay research firm.
Richard F. Syron, the departing chief executive of Freddie Mac [shares down 82 percent at the moment], could receive an exit package of at least $14.1 million, largely because of a clause added to his employment contract in mid-July as his company’s troubles deepened. He has taken home $17.1 million in pay and stock option gains since becoming chief executive in 2003.
Rogers again: "This is madness, this is insanity, they have more than doubled the American national debt in one weekend for a bunch of crooks and incompetents. I'm not quite sure why I or anybody else should be paying for this."

But undoubtedly he has, quite legally and legitimately, gamed the system so that he won't be paying for this farce. Many of the rest of us can't say the same. Even to make a stab at paying off this new government expense, there will have to be higher taxes and printing presses or computers creating more dollars nonstop, hence higher inflation from now until someone notices that there is no longer a country left.

Have a nice life.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Wong Kar Wai's My Blueberry Nights

Wong Kar Wai has made his first American film, My Blueberry Nights.

Having been impressed with his
Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love, and particularly his near-masterpiece 2046
-- all of which I caught up with on DVD -- I was keen to see his latest opus in a real movie theater. Normally, I prefer DVDs (unless I can see a movie in a technically superb theater, like Hollywood's ArcLight Cinema), but Wong is such a strong visual director that I figured it was worth it to endure the hassles and expense of a trip to the bigger screen of the cineplex. But My Blueberry Nights lingered at my local semi-art-house theater for only a week, and I missed it. But at least it was quickly released on DVD.


Probably wisely, Wong didn't try for a tour de force like 2046 while getting his bearings in the American idiom. Nights is a leisurely paced, gorgeously tinted adult fairy tale -- shallow but engaging. It follows Norah Jones (the delightful singer and songwriter) as Elizabeth, who wanders into a New York cafe owned by Jeremy (Jude Law) after breaking up with her boyfriend. It soon develops that he, too, is nursing a wounded heart from a relationship cutoff. When he offers her a slice of blueberry pie, the running metaphor starts.

Fortunately, the script doesn't settle into pop psychology
clichés about two lonely people finding each other (not for most of the film, anyway). Elizabeth bolts from New York, spends some time in a Tennessee city working as a waitress in a restaurant and bar, later heads out to Nevada for more of the same. Along the way she becomes involved in the personal dilemmas of other characters she meets in her job.

Wong wrote the script along with the crime novelist Lawrence Block, presumably recruited to add some authentically American spice to the dialogue. Nights has a few islands of drama, effectively directed and acted, but it's mostly an exercise in atmosphere. Its cinematography is typical of Wong's films, with hot, saturated colors (red and, naturally, blue predominating somewhat). When the plot energy droops, the movie's stimulating painterly qualities are often enough to keep you immersed in it. There are moments, though, when even the candy store colors seem like an effort to fill in for ideas that aren't there.

At least Wong avoided one of his mannerisms -- there aren't any long takes of characters talking while soundstage rain drenches them. (A couple of cultural bloopers, though: people in Tennessee cities don't build streetcorner shrines with flowers and a photograph of the deceased; and a Las Vegas hospital shouldn't look like a middle-sized department store, with opening and closing hours stenciled on the window.)

Natalie Portman in My Blueberry Nights

Norah Jones conveys the kind of sweet openness that she projects in her music, and it's not inappropriate for the part. Unfortunately for her, she doesn't hold the screen as well as the more professional actors in the cast -- Law, Rachel Weisz, David Strathairn, and Natalie Portman. Weisz and Portman make a meal out of their flamboyant parts, and the always-impressive Strathairn does a superb turn as an emotionally shattered policeman Elizabeth meets in the bar where she serves and he drinks.

There is no reason to doubt that Wong has further exceptional films in him. Meanwhile, My Blueberry Nights is an enjoyable divertimento. It's superior to almost anything widely available and publicized in movie theaters this year, a sad commentary on audience and media tastes.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Hiding in Palin sight


I couldn't bring myself to watch the season finale of the Republican convention last night — or is there an anti-climactic thud scheduled for tonight? — but after reading some of the glowing reviews of Ms. Palin today, my torpid political bones were stirred into just enough action to catch some of the instant replay on YouTube.

At first I was sorry I bothered, as she banged on interminably about her family and displayed them like an album of vacation photos. How have we sunk to this? Our presidential campaigns aren't about policies anymore; they're not even entirely about candidates' personalities; they're about candidates' husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, parents, grandparents, third cousins twice removed, schoolteachers, childhood playmates, pets. By the 2012 campaign, if the country survives that long, the vote will be down to competing Facebook entries.


Can you imagine Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 opening his bid for the presidency by announcing, "Ladies and gentlemen, I know we're up to our eye sockets in a Depression, some of you might want to hear about that, and yes, I can see them putting up tents for a new Hooverville there in the second balcony, and the breadlines are winding three times around the convention hall, but wait. I'm first and foremost a family man. My wife Eleanor [pause for applause] is here with me tonight — Eleanor! And that young man beaming in the front row, Elliot — Elliot! Next to him is my pride and joy, my daughter Eleanora — Eleanora! That cute little chap she's holding is our terrier, Fala — toss the folks a bark, Fala! Of course you remember Teddy … ."

I'll give it to Sarah Palin, she's a cracking good speaker. Even when she's saying nothing really, you can look at her, and that causes no pain. But she knows timing and delivery, varying the volume as needed. Either she took acting lessons or she's a natural, gets a lot of mileage out of little bits of "business" and facial expressions.

Other than the standard flag waving, promising a brighter tomorrow, etc. that any candidate has to deliver — it's in their contracts — the best of her speech, or the portion of it I saw anyway, was negative. But in a good way. She took B. Hussein Obama to the woodshed and gave him a right thrashing.


And it was fun, just different enough and clever enough that I wanted her to go into true outrageous mode. She may be the only candidate in our time who could pull off a line like that of Virginia Senator John Randolph (1733–1833), an eccentric boozehound, dueler, and champion of states' rights, who said
of an opponent: "Fellow-citizens, he is a man of splendid abilities, but utterly corrupt. Like rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks."

It's been so long since we've seen a big-league candidate with stage presence and magnetism that we are entitled to whatever pleasure we can derive from it in this horrid campaign. But we her views are still almost as obscure as those of Mr. O himself. In any case, she is not running for president. Her firepower, for now, is in aid of that rotten mackerel John McCain, who doesn't shine, even by moonlight.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tighter little island

Peter Hitchens, bless his heart, feels sick at the prospect of the United Kingdom not only losing any of its traditional cultural identity but becoming wretchedly overpopulated, a European India.
Our Brussels masters predict that Britain will soon be the most crowded country in the whole of Europe. Presumably this is what they want, since it is their laws that have destroyed our borders and abolished British citizenship and British passports (that wretched puce thing in your pocket is an EU passport, not a British one, and the further east you go, the easier they are to get).

The European Commission says there will be almost 80million people crammed into our landscape by 2058. Just imagine all that concrete, the thousands of square miles (or square kilometres as they will be by then) chewed up by bulldozers.

Imagine the unending 24-hour whoosh and grind of traffic, the bulging trains, the seething, noisy, litter-strewn parks on hot summer Sundays, the crowded schools, the endless waits at enormous polyclinics to see a doctor you’ve never met before and will never see again, who probably doesn’t have English as a first language, and the multicultural schools where half the class will always be from somewhere else. I’m quite glad to think I’ll be dead by then.

England's "green and pleasant land" is being turned into an island-wide version of New York City and its New Jersey suburbs.


Americans have no reason to feel superior to this madness. The United States has added 100 million to its population since the 1970s, mostly through immigration and immigrants' high birth rates. On it goes, and goes. The process is like compounded interest, growth of growth, not addition.

The Liberal Establishment loves a booming population (as long as it's a non-Anglo boom), since that advances its program of race replacement. The Business Establishment loves bigger numbers because they mean more cheap labor and, in theory, more consumers.

White nationalists want to try to outbreed immigrants. The Catholic Church wants to soak in a bath of millions more Latinos accompanied by a consequent spiritual uplift for its collection plates.

"Green" activists wouldn't dream of population stabilization or reduction — they want us to adopt a meager lifestyle and live in high-rise multi-unit dwellings instead of houses, so we can shoehorn still more people into the country, since they imagine that will boost their leftist agenda. The social work Mafia wants lots more clients to build its empires on. Every group craves more people in the belief their own fortunes are thereby furthered.

We can look forward to a population of 400 million in another 30 years, unless there is a change of heart and our people say too much is too much.


The only thing that makes the U.S. any better able than the U.K. to absorb vast additional numbers is that we are a much bigger country and have more room — although that is deceptive, because population growth occurs in concentrated areas, not randomly distributed over all the so-far sparsely settled space.

Our new millions won't be living at 12,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains or the sandy hills of West Texas. They'll gravitate toward urban and suburban areas, where the effects of human density will make life less bearable with each passing year.

Who speaks up for quality of life? Almost no one, it seems, except for the occasional eccentric like Peter Hitchens. Everyone else worships growth, as though that is some kind of good in itself.


Overpopulation is the
hell we will deny, deny, deny, until it becomes totally intolerable. And incapable of amelioration.

Never has reincarnation seemed less appealing.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

L'affaire Palin

Whatever borderline rationality I have managed to hang onto when I think about this election campaign, which is now beyond bizarre, has become irrelevant. You can't use reason to understand surrealism. I wrote in this blog several months ago that both candidates were unelectable, and events are proving me correct.

My original tentative approval of Sarah Palin has sent me on another switchback trail. Regardless of any admirable qualities she might have, there is still this question that won't budge: what kind of woman would accept the vice presidential candidacy knowing that her daughter's situation would inevitably become an international news sensation? How could she expose her child to such hell?

As for Juan "Amnesty" McCain, he has sunk lower than the mineral kingdom in my estimation. What scale can measure the cynicism of announcing his choice of Gov. Palin, then waiting several days to reveal her messy personal situation? I can only guess that he and his handlers imagined that the initial burst of approval would cancel out any negative reaction to the delayed news. But this is not going to go away. Bad, bad judgment.

The only person in the controversy I have any sympathy for is Gov. Palin's pregnant daughter, Bristol. At most, she can be charged with the folly of youth. She and her intended husband will be paying for it indefinitely, thanks to her mother's yielding to an infinitely more dangerous lust than a corporeal one — the lust for power.

UPDATE 9/3: It appears that the announcement of her daughter's interesting condition came from Gov. Palin, not McCain. Why announce it at all? The media or the Democrats — same thing, mostly — would have leaped on the news anyway, but in that case McCain and Palin could have dined out on a show of indignation that her personal family life was being infringed for political gain.