Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The most important media event since Bruce Jenner's coming out

Friend of the blog Bumbling American has a Twitter feed.

Don't drink coffee while reading.

By the way, any conservatives still bothering to vote for Republicans, Netanyahu's speech was all cover for the Republican leadership to cave on immigration amnesty.

Also, Christopher Roach observes that the spectacle of a foreign leader invited by a separate branch of government to tweak another branch of government (the one that's run by the US plenipotentiary) is unseemly and dangerous precedent.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Storing Paco

Via Marginal Revolution.

Tyler is referring to the current interest rate environment in Europe, where banks pay middle-aged women to borrow money to fund their sexual hook-up site, and tell students they don't need their crummy little checking accounts.
To breathe life into Europe’s economy and stoke inflation, policy makers recently resorted to a drastic measure tried by some other central banks. The European Central Bank, which dictates policy in the 19-member eurozone, announced a plan that involves printing money to buy hundreds of billions of euros of government bonds.

Just the anticipation of the program prompted bond prices to soar and the euro to drop in value. Other countries that do not use the euro were then forced to take defensive countermeasures to keep a lid on the value of their currencies, encourage lending and bolster growth.

Switzerland, for instance, jettisoned its currency’s peg to the euro, shocking markets, and cut interest rates further below zero. Denmark’s central bank has reduced rates four times in a month, to minus 0.75 percent. Sweden followed suit earlier this month.

The most profound changes are taking place in Europe’s bond market, which has been turned into something of a charity, at least for certain borrowers. The latest example came on Wednesday, when Germany issued a five-year bond worth nearly $4 billion, with a negative interest rate. Investors were essentially agreeing to be paid back slightly less money than they lent.

Bonds issued by Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Finland and even fiscally challenged Italy also have negative yields. Right now, roughly $1.75 trillion in bonds issued by countries in the eurozone are trading with negative yields, which is equivalent to more than a quarter of the total government bonds, according to an analysis by ABN Amro.

One reason investors are willing to tolerate such yields is the relative safety of the bonds, in a weak economy. Traders are also betting that the prices of the bonds will keep going up.

Up, up and UP! We've never heard that before, have we?

Tyler's metaphor, his pet dog Paco, refers to the fact that savers now have to pay the banks to store their money (Paco) instead of having their money run around and play (generate positive returns). Negative interest on deposits basically transforms cash into gold, implying huge, zombie-army levels of risk, like a survivalist who incurs storage and opportunity costs in order to hoard canned beans and ammo. But the risk doesn't seem to be out there, with healthy profits and positive consumer confidence. So this implies, to Tyler, that there is some barrier to new investment. (He loses me at this point--economic stagnation? wealthy entrepeneurs cashing in their chips?)

Tyler continues: "I liked Paco (more importantly Paco liked me), but I do not enjoy living in a Paco economy. I think of the calm before the storm and wonder how to reconcile the observed calm and the potential for the storm. I do not like the most obvious attempts at reconciliation."

In other words, something really obvious should be happening to explain negative interest rates (which, as a practical matter, are economically impossible) but darned if anybody can find it.

The impolitic (Austrian, crackpot) view is that the ECB is distorting the supply-demand curve for loanable funds by charging member banks for "excess" reserves and handing out free money for bonds that should be deeply discounted. Tyler loves being obscure (i.e., Straussian), and he's extremely smart, so he could very well be saying what I think he is saying: this is nuts and it will end badly.

Old friend of this blog Archer Of The Forest has a more succinct explanation.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


A reflection on gay marriage from Fr. Stephen Freeman:
As the day draws near for the US Supreme Court to insist on nationwide approval for gay marriage, a watershed in modern thought has been reached. For although the Supreme Court is not the arbiter of morality, its decisions generally signal a deep level of cultural acceptance. Of course, in American practice, the court represents the apex of legal/forensic imagination. Its decision will signal the bankruptcy of the forensic model for continuing Christian thought. When questions of sexual behavior are placed before the legal model, Christians are simply unable to make a persuasive case for much of anything. It is at least true, that the culture has become completely deaf to the sounds of Christian thought spoken in legal grammar.

Of course, the consequences of this will likely be long-lasting. For it is Christianity, in a certain form, that taught the culture to think with a legal imagination. Therefore, it’s not likely that the culture will listen to gainsaying Christians on the topic, regardless of how they frame the conversation. And the consequences reach far beyond sexual matters.

The same legal imagination seems increasingly mute in the face of other pressing questions: euthanasia, abortion, gender management, genetic manipulation and conception, etc. We are quickly reaching a place where the will to act becomes the right to act.

For the Church, the most immediate question is not how to regain a culture that it has now lost, but how to speak to the Church whose members have been nurtured in a failed legal/forensic imagination. For what seems obvious to the Supreme Court will likely seem obvious to teenage Christians as well (and many others). Christians are hardly counter-cultural revolutionaries (despite all of our protests to the contrary). The culture in which we live is, whether we want to admit it or not, of our own making.

Sexual morality and other related social issues have been addressed in a moral framework that is essentially forensic, grounded either within a legal reading of Scripture or in natural law. Scripture no longer holds a place of central authority within Western culture and natural law arguments have been lost in a constant battle of science and counter-science. Everything seems to have been swallowed by a popular acceptance of radical Nominalism: anything can be whatever we want it to be. The wanting is the thing.

In other words, we are f--, er, excuse me it's Lent.

In other words, the Church is done influencing the larger culture and the goal at this point is to protect (attempt to protect) our teenagers from Establishment propaganda. It is useless to lecture the World on the error of its ways when there is sufficient surplus wealth for things like gender re-assignment surgery, in vitro fertilization and a large, well-armed State to enforce positive rights. There are ample resources and a healthy market to support whatever "family" arrangements modern humans can conceive, including as dreamed up by Sally Kohn:
I live in the liberal bubble of Park Slope, Brooklyn, where no yuppie would ever admit to wanting their kid to be anything in particular, other than happy. But more often than not, we define happiness as some variation on our own lives, or at least the lives of our expectations. If we went to college, we want our kids to go to college. If we like sports, we want our kids to like sports. If we vote Democrat, of course we want our kids to vote Democrat.

I’m gay. And I want my kid to be gay, too.

Kohn is primed to tell her daughter (which ovum did they use? whose sperm?) that even though she may inherently feel attracted to the opposite sex, she can still do this thing that would really, really please mommy:
The idea that no one would choose to be gay is widely held — even in the gay rights movement. In the early ’90s, partly as a response to the destructive notion that gay people could be changed, activists pressed the idea of sexuality as a fixed, innate state. Scientists even tried to prove that there’s a “gay gene.” These concepts about sexual orientation helped justify the case for legal protections. The idea that folks are “born gay” became not only the theme of a Lady Gaga song, but the implicit rationale for gay rights...

If my daughter is gay, I don’t worry about her having a hard life. But I do worry about people expecting her to have a hard life — helping to perpetuate discrimination that might otherwise fade more quickly. I want my daughter to know that being gay is equally desirable to being straight. The problem is not the idea that homosexuality could be a choice but the idea that heterosexuality should be compulsory. In my house it’s plainly, evidently not. We’ve bought every picture book featuring gay families, even the not-very-good ones, and we have most of the nontraditional-gender-role books as well — about the princess who likes to fight dragons and the boy who likes to wear dresses.
While we're at it, can anybody explain to me why at Ground Zero of any atomic bomb deployed against traditional culture, you can always find a Jew dialing in the coordinates? I know they get plenty of help from other quarters, but if there's a socially destructive movement out there, they are bound to be in the vanguard.

It can't last, of course, as the fertility rates of r-selected and traditionalist societies outpace Gnostic societies and the money for Heaven-on-Earth disappears. And along those lines, here's some handy reference charts to print out for your grandchildren when you're reminiscing with them about all those wonderful things that used to be the unremarkable standard for civilization.

Back to the OP, there is a lengthy comment thread with more insights from Fr. Stephen.

Tradition as the "ison" of the Faith

That the commandments are what they are because they describe reality (and thus warn us) is a very clear way to describe their ontological character rather than their legal character.

There is an old story about a ship in a fog. It sounds its horn, and hears one in reply. The ship tells the other to turn to the starboard, and is told, “No, you’ll have to turn.” And on the conversation goes. The ship’s captain explains that he’s an admiral and he’s on a Carrier and the other will have to give way. The reply comes, “Well, I’m just a seaman, but I’m in a lighthouse…”

The commandments describe reality (that’s what ontology is about) not a legal fiction.


More anti-Gnosticism:
The story (creation, etc.) is not a controlling moral story. It is an explaining story. It describes something quite real (hence ontological – really truly existing). But in the new accounts of human “union,” we want to make the body of no real consequence or importance.

We are not disembodied. We are not minds who happen to inhabit a body. We are a body. The hands and feet analogy is, in fact, quite apt (it’s the first time I’ve heard it, surprisingly). One of the tragedies of homosexuality is the dysphoria that exists between mind and body and the social relationship that is appropriate to the body. It is indeed tragic.

But under the new view, we are not even allowed to ask, “What’s wrong?” We are told that nothing is wrong. With this comes a relativizing of the body – it’s simply something I use however I want – it has no “nature.” There is nothing obvious about the body. All that is natural and obvious is what I, in the recesses of my mind, decide is natural and obvious.

The absurdities of this can easily be pressed with analogy upon analogy – but they cannot be pressed because they are not allowed. And they are not allowed because they are considered “immoral,” i.e. a form of hate speech, etc.

There need be no hate nor ill will involved in any of this. I am not the enemy of anyone, regardless of how they experience their sexuality. None of this is about what offends man or God. It’s not a moralistic issue. But it is an issue of speaking the truth and in speaking the truth to move towards truth as it is in Christ – and through Him – union with God.
Political philosophy, which I'll post here in full:
Things become tedious and complicated when the political landscape is brought into the Church’s life and discussion. The language of “rights” is not native to Orthodoxy, though they can certainly be encompassed in our thought. But as “essential” matters that are absolutely due as a matter of course, they become problematic.

Orthodoxy would always affirm the importance of freedom – it is necessary to Persons, as Persons. But the State always limits freedoms for a variety of reasons. A good State, wisely limits freedoms only as required by the common good, and this is never a matter of absolutes (which is why wisdom is required).

But we cannot read these things back into the teaching of the Church. I think, for example, that people should generally be free to hate other people – though hatred is a very wicked sin. But to eliminate hate by law yields a greater evil of oppression. Thus, I think “hate crimes” are a bit “over the top,” and perhaps too intrusive. “Did you hate him when you killed him?” Almost beside the point.

I think, for example, that the State should make provision for inheritance and property rights, visitation rights, etc., for certain persons without describing such as a “marriage.” I don’t even think such arrangements should be called “civil unions.” They are contract arrangements.

There are requirements, I think, of traditional marriage that should be upheld and protected, even encouraged (responsibility for biological offspring, etc.), and that the State should wisely remain very committed to this and be careful not to endanger it.

But I say all of that under the heading of “wisdom,” and what would be involved in “governing wisely.” But I’m not a governor, just a citizen who’s been around for a while. Radical social changes are always alarming to me – under the rubric of the “law of unintended consequences.” And so I would characterize myself as a Burkean conservative (following the gradualism of Edmund Burke). We are seeing the overturning of laws of very long-standing, in the name of a very novel ideology. We have no idea what the long-term consequences will be. That seems foolish.

But that conversation is more or less beside the point of the article, though I did comment on what will likely be a sudden change introduced by the Court this summer.

On the whole, a culture does indeed have to have a live-and-let-live attitude in many things, particularly because of modern pluralism. Though, this will only go so far.

It is fascinating to me that Europe, completely enamored of the Modernist ideology, invented an unnecessary pluralism in little more than a single generation, pretty much on the grounds that multi-culturalism was the preferred mode of living. There are many ways in which Europe has never – never (!) renounced its colonialist hubris. When they were planting colonies everywhere and taking on “the white man’s burden,” they knew better than everybody else what everybody needed. And today, they still do, although “multiculturalism” is the new Colonialism. They have colonized their own countries and are going to fix everyone there. And they will do this in the name of rejecting their Colonialist history.

Once an arrogant Colonialist…always an arrogant ….

Another gem here.

And, things are going to get difficult:
What I see is that Christian thought expressed in the grammar of the legal/forensic model has ceased to have any effectiveness (or very limited) in our culture. The sexuality/anthropology discussions have collapsed it. This will effect the evangelical Churches the hardest (its been a strong grammar for many of them). Many mainline Protestant Churches continue to speak in this grammar but have long been adjusting their “legal” ideas to accommodate cultural change. That will continue, I think.

Rome is struggling. It has spoken in the forensic grammar for a long while and it’s not working very well. But I’m not very privy to how things work in Rome – so I’ll watch them with great interest.

Europe is in a very serious post-Christian era already. If American Christianity were to have a serious cultural set-back, we could be in for a very difficult time indeed.

In other news, U.S. Appoints First-Ever Envoy to Defend Global LGBT Rights
“Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally – the heart and conscience of our diplomacy,” Kerry said in a statement. In his new role—officially the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons—Berry “is charged with advancing government initiatives to reduce violence and discrimination against LGBT people around the world, including in the more than 75 countries where consensual same-sex relationships are criminalized,” Reuters reports. “[Berry] also will be able to utilize the State Department’s Global Equality Fund, created in 2011 to provide critical emergency, short-term, and long-term assistance to protect and advance the human rights of LGBT communities in over 50 countries.”

As we slouch toward Gomorrah friends, take heart. There are good and holy men among us with sound heads on their shoulders.

Monday, February 16, 2015


I am trying to get a feel for the Tumblr format. For those who don't know, if you hover on the upper-left corner of the Tumblr masthead, you'll get a prompt for Archives or Ask Me Anything, and can type in a comment thread.

Tumblr seems like a good way to generate more numerous posts, and I don't really like the Twitter format. Would welcome any comments or advice, either here or there.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

James Howard Kunstler, Reactionary

When last we discussed Mr. Kunstler, he had had it up to here with immigration:

The New York Times editors seem to think that if they tell enough sob stories about illegal immigrants in their ongoing sentimental series “The Way North,” that the national debate will turn into a giant pity party and the nirvana of a human peaceable kingdom will come true, with no consequences — except for more interesting cuisine in states that formerly subsisted on Salisbury steak and pie.

The New York Times, like just about every other institution in the progressive orbit, has surrendered its collective brain to a morass of feelings, longings, and promptings that leads ever deeper into a wasteland of dishonesty. As a long-time registered Democrat who started voting in the year of Watergate, I resent being taken for a ride to the place where anything goes and nothing matters. And especially where nothing matters less than clear thinking and straight talk.

Jim was just getting warmed up.

He says the US has no interest in the Ukraine, and Russia does:

In both cases, Russia owed its survival to the vast expanse of flat geography represented by Ukraine where “General Winter” was able to carry out his own defensive operations of relentless howling wind, snow, sub-zero temperatures, and frostbite that eventually vanquished the invaders. Through most of modern times Ukraine has been under the explicit “protection” of the Russian Czars or has been an outright province under the former USSR. Hundreds of years before that, Kievan Rus was the center of an emerging Russian culture and kingdom that only later picked up and moved to Moscow.

You get the picture: Ukraine has a long association with Russia, a principal association, not always happy, sometimes tragic, but a fact of life and history that the US and its foolish stooges in the EU bureaucracy now wish to challenge for absolutely no good reason. Does anybody who is not whacked out of his/her head on crack, or focused like a laser beam on the gender schism within the Kardashian Klan, remember when the US ever challenged the Soviets over Ukraine? No. And for the excellent reason that we accepted the relationship for reasons stated above. So, whose idea is it now that we should start World War Three over this remote region where so many other reckless adventurers came to grief? And what, by the way, do our people mean by “defensive weapons?” Are not most modern weapons designed to work both ways? Anyway, I see the list includes “anti-armor missiles” (i.e. tank-killers) and “drones,” the latter presumably guided by comfortable American military gamers effortlessly targeting pixelated “bad guys” between Slurpee gulps and taco bites, not exactly American Sniper style.

Hates scale:

Those necessities include freeing a hostage public from the tyrannical clutches of corporate despotism — the evil empire of big boxes, big burgers, big pharma, Big Brother — and the atrocious rackets fostered by them that masquerade as an economy. The template of the life we have known is broken and the pieces within are flying apart, and no amount of wishing or promising can keep them going. If this society is even going to survive, the people have to smash their way out of this template prison, probably against the efforts of the people and organizations now running it merely for their own benefit.

The future is telling us very clearly: get smaller, get finer, get more local, get less complex, get less grandiose, do it now. Do you want to eat food in the years ahead? Better make sure you live in a part of the country where small-scale farming and backyard gardening is possible because the General Mills Agri-Biz GMO Cheerios model will be folding its big tent along with its financing agents in the debt Ponzi banking system.

Do you want to have a personal economic future? Think about what you can do to make yourself useful in a local economy made up of your neighbors. And if you live in one of the thousands of soulless, neighborless suburban wastelands that amount to nothing but big box and big burger plantations, you better get out and find a real town in some other part of the country.

He's as disgusted by Bruce Jenner as I am:

Bruce Jenner’s journey to transgender sainthood was interrupted Saturday on the road to Malibu, and with it perhaps the Kardashian Klan’s hopes and dreams for achieving supremacy of the known universe. All of America was twerking at the news because that is what we do and who we are now. The nation’s attention these blizzardy days would have otherwise gone straight from the Super-bowl halftime hallucination to the stupendous narcissistic grandiosity of the Grammy Awards. America becomes, day upon day, one gigantic act of “performance art” geared to shocking a bourgeoisie that has dwindled so deeply that, curiously, there may be absolutely nobody left to shock.

Of course the Kardashians are a mere metaphor for what has happened to this country, and Bruce Jenner is a metaphor for what has happened to American men. Maybe that’s why they persist in the spotlight. It is a well-known fact that motorists on a highway always slow down to see just what happened at the grisly scene of the accident. We can’t take our eyes off these freaks and geeks.

And again, sees no reason why Ukraine should be a casus belli with Russia:

It is heartening, finally, to see Europe attempt to creep away from the intrigues of our Klown Konfederacy at least in the current matter of Ukraine, that poor perpetually over-trodden land of potato-eaters lately torn asunder by America’s idiotic wish to wrest it away from Russia’s 1000-year sphere of influence. Merkel and Hollande stole over to Moscow last week to confab with Mr. Putin. They evidently omitted to inform the haircut-in-search-of-a-brain, Secretary of State John Kerry. Who would want that mule-faced ninny at the table? The Europeans are beginning to say some sane and arresting things, such as: Russia and Europe are part of the same civilization — note the implication that perhaps America is not so much in that club anymore. Perhaps it should be left twerking out on one of its fabulous lost highways until it is all twerked out.

Finally, calls for a return of classical masculine virtues:

One thing is clearing up: Europe does not want or need to start a war with Russia at America’s insistence. What America needs is a war with itself, a war against the lazy narcissism that has left it susceptible to armies of grifters and racketeers, because ordinary people were too busy twerking and jerking to pay any real attention to the systematic dismemberment of their culture. Waiting in the wings is a whole category of human endeavor quaintly known as virtue, lately absent in the collective consciousness. What a shock it would be if Americans began to witness acts of fortitude and valor among us.

Looking forward to Mr. Kunstler's continued contributions.