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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Post-Modernity

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

Anti-Gnosticism:
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.

Homosexuality

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

Tumblr

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.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Tyler Cowen is troubled


Nerdy white guys insufficiently admiring of non-nerdy, non-white guys

Overall I was surprised how few of you approached the question the way I have, rather as a group you picked too many nerdy white guys. Now I don’t like to play “the PC card,” and if a process generates a lot of nerdy white guys, I don’t then assume that process is necessarily biased or requiring correction. Still, the fact that my list creates so much room for women (and non-whites) suggests it reflects the universality of human experience more than what most of you came up with.

So, in an effort to improve Tyler's mood, I've put together this list of non-nerdy (quite non-nerdy), non-white (i.e., non-WASP) guys I admire.

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda

On 6 April 1994, Rwandan President Habyarimana's plane was shot down near Kigali Airport, killing Habyarimana and the President of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, as well as their entourage and three French crew members.[51][52] It is unknown who carried out the attack. Historian Gérard Prunier, in his book written shortly after the incident, concluded that the shooting of the plane was most likely a coup d'état by extreme Hutu members of Habyarimana's government and was planned as part of the genocide.[53] This theory was contradicted in 2006 by French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, and in 2008 by Spanish judge Fernando Andreu,[54] who both alleged that Kagame and the RPF were responsible.[55] The French government later ordered a more thorough judicial inquiry, which employed ballistics experts and concluded in 2012 that the shots emanated from Camp Kanombe, an area controlled at the time by the Rwandan army; this report reaffirmed the initial theory that Hutu extremists assassinated Habyarimana.[56]

Following Habyarimana's death, a military committee led by Colonel Théoneste Bagosora took immediate control of the country.[57] Under the committee's direction, the Hutu paramilitary group Interahamwe and the presidential guard began to kill Hutu and Tutsi opposition politicians and other prominent Tutsi figures;[58] within 24 hours they had killed all moderate leaders, [59] including prime minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana.[60] The killers then began targeting the entire Tutsi population, as well as moderate Hutu,[61] beginning the Rwandan Genocide.[62] Over the course of approximately 100 days, between 500,000 and 1,000,000[63] Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were killed in well-planned attacks.[64]

On 7 April, Kagame warned the committee and UNAMIR that he would resume the civil war if the killing did not stop.[65] The next day, the Rwandan government forces attacked the national parliament building from several directions, but the RPF troops stationed there successfully fought back;[66] Kagame began an attack from the north on three fronts, seeking to link up quickly with the troops isolated in Kigali.[67] An interim government was set up but Kagame refused to talk to it, believing that it was just a cover for Bagosora's rule.[68] Over the next few days, the RPF advanced steadily south, capturing Gabiro and large areas of countryside to the north and east of Kigali.[69] They avoided attacking Kigali or Byumba at this stage, but conducted manoeuvres designed to encircle the cities and cut off supply routes.[70] The RPF allowed Tutsi refugees from Uganda to settle behind the front line in the RPF-controlled areas.[70]

Throughout April there were numerous attempts by UNAMIR to establish a ceasefire, but Kagame insisted each time that the RPF would not stop fighting unless the killings stopped.[71] In late April the RPF secured the whole of the Tanzanian border area and began to move west from Kibungo, to the south of Kigali.[72] They encountered little resistance, except around Kigali and Ruhengeri.[68] By 16 May, they had cut the road between Kigali and Gitarama, the temporary home of the interim government, and by 13 June, they had taken Gitarama, following an unsuccessful attempt by the Rwandan government forces to reopen the road. The interim government was forced to relocate to Gisenyi in the far north west.[73] As well as fighting the war, Kagame was recruiting heavily to expand the army. The new recruits included Tutsi survivors of the genocide and refugees from Burundi, but were less well trained and disciplined than the earlier recruits.[74]

Having completed the encirclement of Kigali, Kagame spent the latter half of June fighting to take the city.[75] The government forces had superior manpower and weapons, but the RPF steadily gained territory, as well as conducting raids to rescue civilians from behind enemy lines.[75] According to Roméo Dallaire, the force commander of UNAMIR, this success was due to Kagame being a "master of psychological warfare";[75] he exploited the fact that the government forces were concentrating on the genocide rather than the fight for Kigali, and capitalised on the government's loss of morale as it lost territory.[75] The RPF finally defeated the Rwandan government forces in Kigali on 4 July,[76] and on 18 July took Gisenyi and the rest of the north west, forcing the interim government into Zaire and ending the genocide.[77] At the end of July 1994, Kagame's forces held the whole of Rwanda except for a zone in the south west, which had been occupied by a French-led United Nations force as part of Opération Turquoise.[78][79] (Wikipedia.)

King Abdullah of Jordan

Illustrating Jordan's intention to avenge the murder of pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh by Isis, King Abdullah has been photographed in full military kit, striking a pose like a Hollywood action star.

The picture, posted on the Royal Hashemite Court's Facebook page, gave rise to rumours that Abdullah himself would participate in the planned bombing of Isis targets.

The King, a qualified helicopter pilot, was trained as an army officer at Sandhurst, and served in the British army before running Jordan's special forces in the 1990s.

The Royal Court yesterday said such rumours were "not true" but the image and fantasy had already taken off online — a fine PR move by the massively popular monarch.
The story is enhanced by reports of what he said in Washington DC right before cutting his visit short to attend to the crisis at home.

Talking to US congressmen on Tuesday night, King Abdullah is said to have quoted a scene in the Clint Eastwood film Unforgiven in which the hero says he will go on a rampage.

Abdullah, who had tried to negotiate a prisoner trade for Kasaesbeh, this week authorised air strikes against Isis following the release of a video showing the pilot's immolation.

Dozens of Jordanian fighter jets have launched bombing raids on Isis targets, hitting what are believed to have been training centres and weapons caches.

A statement read on Jordanian state television declared: “This the beginning and you will get to know the Jordanians.” (The Independent.)

James Shikwati, Economist, Kenya

Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there's a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program -- which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It's only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it's not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa ...

SPIEGEL: ... corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers ...

Shikwati: ... and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle.

SPIEGEL: If the World Food Program didn't do anything, the people would starve.

Shikwati: I don't think so. In such a case, the Kenyans, for a change, would be forced to initiate trade relations with Uganda or Tanzania, and buy their food there. This type of trade is vital for Africa. It would force us to improve our own infrastructure, while making national borders -- drawn by the Europeans by the way -- more permeable. It would also force us to establish laws favoring market economy.

SPIEGEL: Would Africa actually be able to solve these problems on its own?

Shikwati: Of course. Hunger should not be a problem in most of the countries south of the Sahara. In addition, there are vast natural resources: oil, gold, diamonds. Africa is always only portrayed as a continent of suffering, but most figures are vastly exaggerated. In the industrial nations, there's a sense that Africa would go under without development aid. But believe me, Africa existed before you Europeans came along. And we didn't do all that poorly either.

SPIEGEL: But AIDS didn't exist at that time.

Shikwati: If one were to believe all the horrorifying reports, then all Kenyans should actually be dead by now. But now, tests are being carried out everywhere, and it turns out that the figures were vastly exaggerated. It's not three million Kenyans that are infected. All of the sudden, it's only about one million. Malaria is just as much of a problem, but people rarely talk about that.

SPIEGEL: And why's that?

Shikwati: AIDS is big business, maybe Africa's biggest business. There's nothing else that can generate as much aid money as shocking figures on AIDS. AIDS is a political disease here, and we should be very skeptical. (Spiegel, July 2005) (Shikwati is a harsh critic of Kagame).

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Central bank policy, in one post


From The Kakistocracy:

I haven’t written much lately about The Economy. And that is a failure to prioritize, as he is the second most important American in history. The Economy has (capriciously, one must concede) modified what this country produces and who draws assistance for not producing it. One feature that was previously of grave concern to The Economy was the government’s bond purchase program called Quantitative Easing. That’s always been a formidable sounding name. Evoking images of plucky 4SD prodigies poring over abstruse datasets. Tuning economic models to the exquisite precision of a Patek Philippe. Uncovering the encrypted key to turn the impenetrable lock. Allowing The Economy to slip its surly bonds and soar untrammeled into the starlit night.

Though a perhaps less inspirational scene is the more accurate.

The Economy sucks, so we’ll print an avalanche of money to paper it over.

How much do we print?

How the fuck should I know? Just do it. We’ll figure it out later.


Some four and a half trillion subsequent, QE got “tapered.” Kind of like America’s founding stock…tapered. Though before progressing on to the QE news that now has most of you quivering like a housecat, I wanted to point out a fact that the Federal Reserve will not: money printing is a tax. Inflation is a tax. The truth is the government could operate exclusively through QE financing and defenistrate the antiquated tax regime entirely. It’s always surprised me that Krugman hasn’t suggested exactly that. Though I’m sure even the more obtuse of the herd might start noticing the outline of an abattoir in that scenario. But it is technically feasible. And if it were, do you think you’re getting those ten naval carrier groups protecting our freedoms for free? Unfortunately no. You’re still out the tab; only the form of payment is altered.

And at least one Fed president says the public has a delinquent balance.
Reuters) – The Federal Reserve should consider restarting its controversial bond-buying stimulus if inflation does not start moving back to 2 percent once downward pressure from the recent drop in oil prices dissipates, a top Fed official said on Tuesday.

(Minneapolis Fed President Narayana) Kocherlakota’s view is likely in the minority at the Fed, which stopped its bond-buying program last October after the U.S. unemployment rate dropped faster than expected. Most Fed officials now believe it is only a matter of time before inflation, which is running well below the Fed’s target, will improve as well.

Kocherlakota said Tuesday that it is a mistake to assume that just because the real economy is healing, inflation will automatically return to healthy levels.

Ah yes. Those dreadful sticky wages. All prices should perpetually rise, except the price for labor, which must always perpetually fall. I'm not privy to the Fed's personnel manuals, but I'm guessing the wages of central bank employees are damn near Loc-Tite.

Anyway, with that impressively alien name, I decided to hop over to Wiki and have a look for Herr Kocherlakota:

Kocherlakota was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to an American mother and an Indian American father, both of whom earned PhDs in statistics from Johns Hopkins University. They taught at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where Kocherlakota spent most of his childhood.

I asked this once at Marginal Revolution: if we can 'quantitatively ease' (i.e., print money and buy our own debt with it), why don't we just eliminate taxes and the Fed can print up the money the government needs. The answer I got, as best I can phrase it, was 'institutional structures are needed to assure optimal outcomes.' That is how these creatures think, all 130+ IQ points of them.

The truth is far more ghastly than poor old Joe Sixpack with his flag and his hope in the institutions and his son in the military can ever possibly comprehend: the people at the top of the food chain are being given freshly printed money and buying real goods and services with it. Strip away all the arcane lingo and formulas, and that is all there is to it.

Thus, the inexorable, grinding price rise as the early bidders take goods off the market and the new money works its way through the economy, eventually immanentizing into groceries at $50/bag. This is ameliorated only by phenomena such as the Saudis suddenly deciding to open the taps, or that part of the real economy still allowed to function and harness productivity gains.

All the macroeconomics, econometrics, Krugman's tears, Cramer's screams, all of it is to obscure the fact that we are printing money and handing it out to some people first. (The fancy phrase for this is, money is non-neutral in the short term and neutral over the long term.) That is why government is living so high on the hog and Wall Street is swimming in cash. Slowly, the false capital crowds out the real capital (the savings from prior production). Slowly, the bubble economy replaces the real economy. It works so long as it works, until it doesn't.