Saturday, October 25, 2014

Clay and potter

Same-sex marriage is compulsory at for-profit wedding venues in Idaho. Commerce is no place for morality, so it goes. Nicholas Freiling writes at the Ludwig von Mises Institute:

While the religious freedom perspective on this dispute is probably better for the chapel’s public relations, this issue is just as much economic as religious. Without the specious concept of “public accommodation,” disputes like this wouldn’t arise. Only because this category is accepted in the first place can the courts find justification for forcing vendors to service the demands of customers in ways that defy their religious convictions.

Public accommodation was introduced in the deeply flawed 1964 Civil Rights Act. The right to dispense with one’s own property yields to the “right” to lease someone else’s property.

Arizona went through this rigmarole earlier in the year. You can’t discriminate with your property for any reason, even if the patron is acting in a way you don’t like. Giving the property owner that kind of discretion is going to be messy sometimes because people aren’t perfect, but it respects their inalienable rights and allows the civil society to police itself.

Under the new determinism, people have no self-control. All their desires and actions were coded into them at birth; therefore, whatever they will is constitutionally protected under the auspices of equality.

They are not imbued with godly natures distinct from their earthly bodies. They are material products of the random evolution of atoms and energy. This sets up a Nietzschean war of wills to avoid being crushed, the clay assuming the potter’s chair.

“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭45‬:‭9‬)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

“Fundamentals”

Economics reporters try to attribute long-term trends to the short-term news cycle in order to cover up the weakness in the system and generate demand for their news products. For example, Reuters tried to pin yesterday’s stock market slide on the shooting in Ottawa:

Market benchmarks began drifting lower in late morning after a gunman fatally wounded a soldier in Ottawa, the Canadian capital, and then entered the country’s parliament buildings, chased by police. By early afternoon, the market had given up earlier gains.

“If markets can connect the dots that this is a wider-ranging concern on domestic terrorism, it’ll put weight on the markets along with global growth,” said John Canally, chief economic and investment strategist for LPL Financial.

“If it’s unrelated to terrorism, markets can probably move on and focus on fundamentals.”

Stocks trended higher 90 minutes after news of the shooting broke, making a weak case for causation. Reuters could just as well have blamed the drop on the Giants winning Game 1 of the World Series the night before. After all, the Royals won Game 2 last night, and markets surged today.

The fundamentals are reflected in erratic swings in stocks on low-volume trading. They’re poor, reliant more on debt and stimulus than productivity and value. Quantitative easing ends this month, and markets tumble as if the floor has dropped out from under them. Fed president James Bullard intimates more QE could be in the offing, and markets swiftly rebound.

Simon Kennedy of Bloomberg sounds optimistic the Federal Reserve will continue to underwrite the fake recovery.

Matt King, global head of credit strategy at Citigroup Inc., and colleagues have put a price on how much liquidity central banks need to provide each quarter to stop markets from sliding.

By estimating that zero stimulus would be consistent with a 10 percent quarterly drop in equities, they calculate it takes around $200 billion from central banks each quarter to keep markets from selling off.

“Fundamentals.”

With the Fed and counterparts peeling back their net liquidity injections from almost $1 trillion in 2012 toward that magic marker, King’s team said “a negative reaction in markets was long overdue.”

“We think the markets’ weakness owes more to an almost belated reaction to a temporary lull in central bank stimulus than it does to any reduction in the effect of that stimulus in propping up asset prices,” they said in an Oct. 17 report to clients.

Even on Keynes’ flawed demand-side economic theory, stimulus is supposed to be temporary. In opposite world, stimulus is normal.

A shot of adrenaline can be useful for a short time. Running on adrenaline for too long can kill you.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategists said in a report today that another 10 percent decline in U.S. stocks might spark speculation of a fourth round of quantitative easing from the Fed. That would mimic how the Fed acted following equity declines of 11 percent in 2010 and 16 percent in 2011.

The good news for investors in the eyes of Citigroup is that although the Fed is still reversing and set to end its bond-buying this month, the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan will more than compensate with more stimulus in coming months.

Well, as long as it’s good for “investors,” who have the disposable income to live comfortably off capital gains, go for it! Meanwhile savers continue to get slammed with low interest rates and an anemic recovery due to wealth stagnating in equities. And they wonder why the bane of inequality has increased under their watch. I’m sure the homebuyer market looked pretty good in war-torn Poland, too.

This is a pump-and-dump scheme, illegal except for when central banks do it. There’s no real value in equities, just the excitement of more stimulus.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Odds and ends 10/22/2014

Charles Kadlec reviews Charles Kesler in Forbes:

The newest, liberal innovation is the creation of what amounts to “living statutes.” Although Kesler does not use that term, here is how he describes ObamaCare:

“The law’s meaning is deliberately indeterminate, left vague so as to give maximum discretion to the unholy trinity of bureaucrats, congressional staffers, and private-sector “stakeholders” who will flesh out the act with thousands of pages of regulations (12,000 and counting so far), and then amend those as needed later on...

“This new kind of statute – one hates to call it law – is not meant to be ‘settled, standing rule,’ as John Locke defined law. On the contrary, it is meant permanently to be in flux, always developing and subject to renegotiation. It is law constantly suffused with wisdom, albeit constantly changing wisdom. It is what passes for law under a living constitution.”

The same could be said of the Dodd-Frank law, which gives new and expanded federal bureaucracies vast, new discretionary power with which to control the financial services industry and any other company they deem a systemic risk.

These new laws have given liberalism new life, and indeed make the “Reagan revolution” appear to be a transitory, not permanent shift in the trajectory of American politics. Elite public servants now have the power to rule by decree, for example demanding Catholic institutions violate the Church’s teachings and provide abortion drugs and contraceptives to their employees, while at the same time using their discretionary power to exempt various unions and companies from the law’s requirements. Make no mistake, we have arrived where the rule of individual men and women is rapidly displacing the rule of law.

But, Kesler claims, Obama’s successes have also accelerated the forces that are leading to a new crisis of liberalism, which may come to a head during his second term.

The first crisis is fiscal. The liberal state is simply running out of the money needed to fulfill its vast promises of government provided security and plenty to the American people. Obama’s solution to the looming bankruptcy of Medicare and Medicaid was to add ObamaCare, a third, trillion-dollar entitlement. Tax increases on those who make more than $250,000 in any one year can produce only a small fraction of the revenue needed to pay all of these bills.

The second, more nuanced crisis Kesler points to is philosophical. Obama, like his fellow modern liberals, has been schooled in moral relativism. There is no truth, nor absolute standards for good or evil, right or wrong. Thus, Obama’s desire to “shape” history rests primarily on his will to power.

That last line is key. It brings in the necessary element of Nietzschean hubris to understand progressive totalitarianism.


People are going to die because presumptuous, pointy-headed meddlers screwed up their healthcare. Tim Phillips writes:

Virginia will be hit the hardest — up to 250,000 Virginians will receive a cancellation notice by the end of November. Another 30,000 New Mexicans will have their plans discontinued in 2015. In Kentucky, another 14,000 individuals will receive notices in the coming weeks. Elsewhere, Colorado, Alaska, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Maine are expecting thousands of cancellations — after almost half a million notices went out last year. Other states, some of which either don’t count or don’t publicly release details on discontinued plans, will likely add to the tally.

...

In Colorado, small-group plans covering 143,000 people are being cancelled this year. In New Hampshire, as many as 70,000 small-group policyholders are being forced into new plans. It’s a double whammy for these unfortunate Granite State residents: Their new policies only cover 60% of the state’s acute-care hospitals, limiting access to care.

Northeastern small-group policies will be hit especially hard. In New Jersey, 650,000 people with small-group coverage had their policies disrupted this year, according to the state association of health plans. And Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield — covering Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware — estimate Obamacare is affecting nearly every one of the 5.3 million people covered under its individual and small-group policies.

There’s only one question left concerning supporters of Obamacare: death or exile?


We are at the point where we are croudsourcing intelligence operations.

A masked jihadist who alternates seamlessly between English and Arabic as he executes prisoners in a recent Islamic State propaganda video may be an American, and someone in the U.S. could help identify him, the FBI said in a plea for public help.

...

“We’re hoping that someone might recognize this individual and provide us with key pieces of information,” said Michael Steinbach, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. “No piece of information is too small.”


John Muir climbed Mount Ritter in 1872. His writing is majestic.

Lakes are seen gleaming in all sorts of places round, or oval, or square, like very mirrors; others narrow and sinuous, drawn close around the peaks like silver zones, the highest reflecting only rocks, snow, and the sky. But neither these nor the glaciers, nor the bits of brown meadow and moorland that occur here and there, are large enough to make any marked impression upon the mighty wilderness of mountains. The eye, rejoicing in its freedom, roves about the vast expanse, yet returns again and again to the fountain-peaks. Perhaps some one of the multitude excites special attention some gigantic castle with turret and battlement, or some Gothic cathedral more abundantly spired than Milan’s. But, generally, when looking for the first time from an all-embracing standpoint like this, the inexperienced observer is oppressed by the incomprehensible grandeur, variety, and abundance of the mountains rising shoulder to shoulder beyond the reach of vision; and it is only after they have been studied one by one, long and lovingly, that their far-reaching harmonies become manifest. Then, penetrate the wilderness where you may, the main telling features, to which all the surrounding topography is subordinate, are quickly perceived, and the most complicated clusters of peaks stand revealed harmoniously correlated and fashioned like works of art eloquent monuments of the ancient ice-rivers that brought them into relief from the general mass of the range. The cañons, too, some of them a mile deep, mazing wildly through the mighty host of mountains, however lawless and ungovernable at first sight they appear, are at length recognized as the necessary effects of causes which followed each other in harmonious sequence Nature’s poems carved on tables of stone the simplest and most emphatic of her glacial compositions.

Could we have been here to observe during the glacial period, we should have overlooked a wrinkled ocean of ice as continuous as that now covering the landscapes of Greenland; filling every valley and canon with only the tops of the fountain-peaks rising darkly above the rock-encumbered ice-waves like islets in a stormy sea those islets the only hints of the glorious landscapes now smiling in the sun. Standing here in the deep, brooding silence all the wilderness seems motionless, as if the work of creation were done. But in the midst of this outer steadfastness we know there is incessant motion and change. Ever and anon, avalanches are falling from yonder peaks. These cliff-bound glaciers, seemingly wedged and immovable, are flowing like water and grinding the rocks beneath them. The lakes are lapping their granite shores and wearing them away, and every one of these rills and young rivers is fretting the air into music, and carrying the mountains to the plains. Here are the roots of all the life of the valleys, and here more simply than elsewhere is the eternal flux of Nature manifested. Ice changing to water, lakes to meadows, and mountains to plains. And while we thus contemplate Nature’s methods of landscape creation, and, reading the records she has carved on the rocks, reconstruct, however imperfectly, the landscapes of the past, we also learn that as these we now behold have succeeded those of the pre-glacial age, so they in turn are withering and vanishing to be succeeded by others yet unborn.

Muir’s description of a formerly glacial landscape is apropos, his islets metaphor for the glacier that carved the cirque thousands of years ago mirroring the rocky islets that dot Thousand Island Lake, at the base of Mount Ritter.

The lake drains to the east, forming the highest reaches of the San Joaquin River. The river takes a wide turn south and west past modern-day Fresno and Stockton, California. Wikipedia says:

It was in the mid-1860s that the San Joaquin River and its surrounds underwent the greatest change they had seen in human history: the introduction of irrigated agriculture. As early as 1863, small irrigation canals were built in the Centerville area, southeast of Fresno, but were destroyed in subsequent floods. The vulnerability of the small local infrastructure led to the establishment of irrigation districts, which were formed to construct and maintain canals in certain areas of the valley. One of the first was the Robla Canal Company in the Merced River area, which went into operation in March 1876, but was soon surpassed by the Farmers Canal Company. The district built a diversion dam on the Merced, sending its water into a pair of canals still in use today.

One of the most powerful early irrigation empires was the Kern County Land and Water Company, established in 1873 by land speculator James Ben Ali Haggin, which grew to supply over 400,000 acres (160,000 ha) through their canal system. However, Haggin soon ran into conflicts with other landowners over riparian water rights, as the larger districts, including his, had more financial reserves and engineering expertise, and were the first to build dams and diversions on a large scale. This resulted in the drying out of streams and rivers before they reached downstream users and sparked conflict over how much water could be allotted to whom. In Haggin’s case, his company ran into problems with the Miller & Lux Corporation, run by Henry Miller and Charles Lux, who owned more than 1,000,000 acres (400,000 ha) throughout the San Joaquin Valley, Tulare Basin, and other regions of California. The court battle that resulted would change water laws and rights in the San Joaquin River valley forever, and ended up promoting large-scale agribusiness over small farmers.

Miller and Lux were not any newer to the San Joaquin Valley than had been Haggin, but were the driving influence on valley agribusiness until well into the early 20th century. The corporation had begun acquiring land in the valley in 1858, eventually holding sway over an enormous swath reaching from the Kern River in the south to the Chowchilla River in the north. Much of the land that Miller and Lux acquired was swamp and marsh, which was considered virtually worthless. However, with their huge capital, they could afford to drain thousands of acres of it, beginning an enormous environmental change that eventually resulted in the loss of over 95 percent of the wetlands adjoining the San Joaquin River and Tulare Basin.

Henry Miller exercised enormous political power in the state, and most San Joaquin Valley inhabitants either were avid supporters of him or despised him. When Miller died in 1916, his company owned 900,000 acres (360,000 ha) in the San Joaquin Valley alone with hundreds of miles of well-developed, maintained irrigation canals. As said by Tom Mott, the son of Miller and Lux’ irrigation superintendent, “Miller realized you couldn’t do anything with the land unless you had the water to go with it. Perhaps more than any other person, Miller had more of a lasting impact on the San Joaquin River than any other individual.”

Even as early as the 20th century, so much water was being diverted off the San Joaquin River and its tributaries that the river was no longer suitable for navigational purposes. As a result, commercial navigation began a decline starting in the late 19th century and was completely gone by 1911. With over 350,000 acres (140,000 ha) under irrigation along the river by 1900—this figure has only grown hugely since then – the river and its tributaries became much narrower, siltier and shallower, with large consequences for the natural environment, for sustainability of water supplies in its valley, and also huge changes for water politics in the state. The San Joaquin and its tributaries seemed to give rise to just about every single possible argument over water, including such cases as “When is a river not a river?” referring to the difference between a slough and a marsh. It has been said that fights over the river have caused “some of the most bitter and longest running lawsuits ever to clog the courts. Arguably, it is the most litigated river in America.”

This is the opposite of good stewardship. Here’s hoping Texas does better.


This guy writes excellent hiking trip reports. Capitol Peak is outside my skill range, but I’ve had my eye on Longs Peak and the Sawtooth for years.


Proving discrimination can be useful, this Pew poll distinguishes employed unmarried men and unemployed unmarried men, as if the former demographic is better marriage material than the latter. How offensive to suggest the ability to provide is a major qualification for men to be marriageable!

Nationwide, single young men outnumber their female counterparts. The overall male-to-female ratio is 115:100 among single adults ages 25 to 34. But when we limit the young men to those who are currently employed, the ratio falls to 84 employed single men for every 100 single women.

...

A smaller pool of employed men may not be good news for young women who are looking for a man with a job, but it could be good news for young single men.

Supply and demand.


Who is Satan?

Satan means “the adversary” in Hebrew and has come to be used as the proper name of the angelic being who tries to destroy people because of his hatred of God.

He is also called the devil, from a Greek word meaning “false accuser.” He delights in accusing the saved of sins that have been forgiven.

The Foe delights in seducing you into thinking your sin inevitable. It’s not. Jesus took your sin with Him to the cross.

Jeremiah saw Mosaic law’s inadequacy in consecrating the people to God.

“Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the Lord. (3:9-10)

Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts, you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it. (4:4)

“What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me.” (6:20)

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh— Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the wilderness in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.” (9:25-26)

I encourage you to read my allegory of the law.


Excellent news style writing by Ed Schriber:

National Guard units seeking to confiscate a cache of recently banned assault weapons were ambushed by elements of a para-military extremist faction. Military and law enforcement sources estimate that 72 were killed and more than 200 injured before government forces were compelled to withdraw.

Speaking after the clash, Massachusetts Governor Thomas Gage declared that the extremist faction, which was made up of local citizens, has links to the radical right-wing tax protest movement. Gage blamed the extremists for recent incidents of vandalism directed against internal revenue offices. The governor, who described the group’s organizers as “criminals,” issued an executive order authorizing the summary arrest of any individual who has interfered with the government’s efforts to secure law and order. The military raid on the extremist arsenal followed widespread refusal by the local citizenry to turn over recently outlawed assault weapons.

Gage issued a ban on military-style assault weapons and ammunition earlier in the week. This decision followed a meeting in early this month between government and military leaders at which the governor authorized the forcible confiscation of illegal arms.

One government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, pointed out that “none of these people would have been killed had the extremists obeyed the law and turned over their weapons voluntarily.” Government troops initially succeeded in confiscating a large supply of outlawed weapons and ammunition.

However, troops attempting to seize arms and ammunition in Lexington met with resistance from heavily armed extremists who had been tipped off regarding the government’s plans. During a tense standoff in Lexington’s town park, National Guard Colonel Francis Smith, commander of the government operation, ordered the armed group to surrender and return to their homes. The impasse was broken by a single shot, which was reportedly fired by one of the right-wing extremists. Eight civilians were killed in the ensuing exchange.

Ironically, the local citizenry blamed government forces rather than the radical extremists for the civilian deaths. Before order could be restored, armed citizens from surrounding areas had descended upon the guard units. Colonel Smith, finding his forces over matched by the armed mob, ordered a retreat.

Governor Gage has called upon citizens to support the state/national joint task force in its effort to restore law and order. The governor also demanded the surrender of those responsible for planning and leading the attack against the government troops. Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and John Hancock, who have been identified as “ringleaders” of the extremist faction, remain at large.


The nuclear-powered chihuahua, Mark Steyn, riffs on “Big Gay”:

When Rush Limbaugh interviewed me the other day, I airily used “transgendered bathrooms” as an all-purpose shorthand for the kind of peripheral cultural issues that cumulatively add up to far more profound societal changes than anything most conservative politicians fuss over. And so in Houston it has proved: When the transgendered bathroom ordinance runs up against the First Amendment, it’s the First Amendment that gets left for roadkill.

~Meanwhile, in Kentucky, a Lexington T-shirt company has fallen afoul of the local “human rights commission” for declining to print T-shirts for the gay pride parade that it found offensive. As part of his ruling, the “human rights” commissar, Greg Munson, has sentenced the T-shirt refuseniks to re-education camp:

The second demand is that Hands on Originals — a company with around 30 employees — would need to participate in diversity training within the next 12 months.

Or, as Laura Rosen Cohen says, “Off to Diversity Gulag”: The more we celebrate diversity, the more we have to enforce it with ruthless conformity. Big Gay has won most of its battles, and could surely afford to be magnanimous in victory. But it has a totalitarian urge to hunt down the last holdouts: Nobody cares if the T-shirt guy really has a change of heart; all that’s necessary is to force him to pretend to believe and to drone the mandated pabulum in public.

Wellesley University is navigating the anti-realities as best they can.

It was the first day of orientation, and along the picturesque paths there were cheerful upper-class student leaders providing directions and encouragement. They wore pink T-shirts stamped with this year’s orientation theme: “Free to Explore” — an enticement that could be interpreted myriad ways, perhaps far more than the college intended. One of those T-shirted helpers was a junior named Timothy Boatwright. Like every other matriculating student at Wellesley, which is just west of Boston, Timothy was raised a girl and checked “female” when he applied. Though he had told his high-school friends that he was transgender, he did not reveal that on his application, in part because his mother helped him with it, and he didn’t want her to know. Besides, he told me, “it seemed awkward to write an application essay for a women’s college on why you were not a woman.” Like many trans students, he chose a women’s college because it seemed safer physically and psychologically.

“He”? Is this approved pronoun policy at the Times?

From the start, Timothy introduced himself as “masculine-of-center genderqueer.” He asked everyone at Wellesley to use male pronouns and the name Timothy, which he’d chosen for himself.

For the most part, everyone respected his request. After all, he wasn’t the only trans student on campus. Some two dozen other matriculating students at Wellesley don’t identify as women. Of those, a half-dozen or so were trans men, people born female who identified as men, some of whom had begun taking testosterone to change their bodies. The rest said they were transgender or genderqueer, rejecting the idea of gender entirely or identifying somewhere between female and male; many, like Timothy, called themselves transmasculine. Though his gender identity differed from that of most of his classmates, he generally felt comfortable at his new school.

Last spring, as a sophomore, Timothy decided to run for a seat on the student-government cabinet, the highest position that an openly trans student had ever sought at Wellesley. The post he sought was multicultural affairs coordinator, or “MAC,” responsible for promoting “a culture of diversity” among students and staff and faculty members. Along with Timothy, three women of color indicated their intent to run for the seat. But when they dropped out for various unrelated reasons before the race really began, he was alone on the ballot. An anonymous lobbying effort began on Facebook, pushing students to vote “abstain.” Enough “abstains” would deny Timothy the minimum number of votes Wellesley required, forcing a new election for the seat and providing an opportunity for other candidates to come forward. The “Campaign to Abstain” argument was simple: Of all the people at a multiethnic women’s college who could hold the school’s “diversity” seat, the least fitting one was a white man.

“It wasn’t about Timothy,” the student behind the Abstain campaign told me. “I thought he’d do a perfectly fine job, but it just felt inappropriate to have a white man there. It’s not just about that position either. Having men in elected leadership positions undermines the idea of this being a place where women are the leaders.”

First of all, is it a man or not? Secondly, in the name of diversity, a man should be heralded at a women’s college.

Parents, don’t send your daughters to Wellesley.


The anti-Luddites at Reason gush:

[Virginia] Postrel writes that people in the mid-20th century believed the future would be better than the present because they believed their present was better than the past. They either had emerged from a pretty brutal recent past or the memories of just how rotten things had been were kept alive via historical consciousness and other forms of storytelling. In many ways, we’ve lost that sensibility despite ongoing improvements that are both large and small in our daily lives.

The sensibility of cultural groundedness is not holding up to the “technization of life.” Who out there thinks the ability to trade a stock option on your smartphone outweighs the loss of marriage and its importance in transmitting values to the next generation? The present is not better than the past.

Conrad Black hits familiar notes on the uncertainty in the economy and the illiquidity of the Fed’s failed stimulus in the New York Sun:

Something like a third of that additional debt was not sold at a yield that met the free-market test of attracting arm’s-length buyers voluntarily on the basis of fair value and the risk-reward ratio. Rather, the Federal Reserve, a 100 percent subsidiary of the U.S. Treasury, “bought” the unsold bonds and paid for them, not in cash that the government could use to pay its expenses that created the deficit, but in Federal Reserve notes that were largely swapped to banks for cash. Many of these banks had the cash to swap because of funds advanced at the height of the financial crisis to ensure liquidity.

The fact that most of this cash is still sitting in those formerly distressed or at least unstable banks, despite six consecutive years of almost negligible interest rates for substantial borrowers, indicates the lack of confidence on the part of borrowers and lenders in overall economic conditions. The fact that Berkshire-Hathaway has more cash on hand than ever in its history — $55 billion — may be taken as an indication that Warren Buffett, despite his noisy support of the administration, is sitting on his hands and his money-bags waiting for a descent of equity values. (And much of the stock-market rise has been caused by softness in most of real estate and low yields on other instruments because of the government’s ambition for low interest rates to avoid an even more stupefying rise in the deficit.)

As I have written here before (and many others have made the same and similar points) it is not surprising that there is a lack of confidence in the reliability of a recovery that has required the infusion of $8 trillion in six years, in debt that in fact has most of the characteristics of a straight money-supply increase, and that in earlier times would have been described as “printing money.” This is the classic formula for inflation: simply increasing the amount of money in circulation (including assets that can be easily liquidated, such as bank deposits), in no relationship to productivity increases. The other traditional method of inflation is cost-push increases in the cost of everything: an overheated economy.

What we have — massive deficit financing, so extreme that the bond markets won’t take it voluntarily, coupled with spurious debt issues that are really just running the presses — is far more dangerous, as it is the result of an under-heated economy and is an attempt to generate demand. Cost-push inflation has too much money chasing too few goods and services, forcing their price up, and what is then called for is a reduction in demand to prevent an inflationary spiral, which can be done comparatively easily, though it is painful to many (usually achieved by just raising interest rates).

Now, corporations and serious people will not borrow even at 2%, because they do not believe in the prospects for genuine economic growth, i.e., a benign cycle of increasing production to fill spontaneously increasing appetites for more goods and services. What we are getting has many of the characteristics of stagflation, as at the end of the Carter era (1978–81), when the United States was at or near double-digit inflation and unemployment, and interest rates were hoisted up to over 20% to cool out demand. The Reagan tax cuts and defense-spending increases that followed were accompanied by and encouraged an era of rapid technological advances that spurred sharp productivity increases.

...

I believe the sluggishness that is evident is the result not merely of incredulity that the vast federal borrowing and creation and disgorgement of money is really a solution. It is also, rather, the result of the evolution of an economy in which too little that is really saleable or even desirable is produced, and too much of the labor force is mired in parts of the service industry that add little value. It isn’t just that there are too many lawyers and stockbrokers and not enough plumbers and mechanics. Ultimately, a society cannot become more prosperous if value is not being added to its economy by an adequate number of employed people. Any extractive and transformative industry adds value, and so do some service industries, but much of finance, consultation, and the operation of the vast civil legal apparatus is just the velocity of money.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The gift of life

The doctor’s facial expression was unsettling. “I don’t know how to explain this,” he began ominously. “You’re in perfect health.”

My wife Stacia and I blew a sigh of relief. “That’s good!”

“It’s very good, and it’s also very strange. I’ve never seen a man at your age this healthy, Mr. Beauchamp. You have the vitality of a 30 year-old! You’re aging at half the rate as the average person. Unless you go swimming in the Ganges River, or kill yourself, you’ll live to 140. Maybe longer.”

I recalled how my grandmother looked at 95. I think I would find a way to die sooner than that!

“How can you tell the rate he’s aging?” Stacia asked.

He presented a printed chart. “We used your blood sample to examine the state of your liver. Look at these levels. I won’t get into what each of them mean, but look. They’re green across the board. Actually, you’re out of range on a few of these metrics, and if I wasn’t standing here talking to you now, if all I knew was your age and these numbers, I’d have called EMS by now. But, as far as I can tell from the rest of the examination, you’re at peak health. My son is 28, and I would be thrilled if his liver looked like yours. Do you drink alcohol?”

I shrugged. “Two glasses of wine a week, if that.”

“What makes you say he’ll live to 140, doctor?” Stacia pressed.

“That I can tell from your husband’s telomeres, Mrs. Beauchamp.”

“What are telomeres?”

“They’re strands of DNA that get shorter as you age. When your chromosomes divide, the telomeres get cut in half. The older you are, the more your chromosomes divide, the shorter your telomeres get. We started gathering data on telomere length 8 years or so ago to measure how quickly the general population ages. You said the last time you saw a doctor was 2014?”

“Yes. I went in for a colonoscopy. I haven’t been to see a doctor since then.”

“As I’m required to do by law, I uploaded your DNA profile to the National Institutes of Health database, Mr. Beauchamp. Your telomere length places you 5 standard deviations from the mean. On the outside, you look 63, but on the inside you’re half as old.”

I wrung my hands. “I don’t want to live that long. I’m retiring next year. I’ll go crazy.”

The doctor turned red from laughing. “Good one, Mr. Beauchamp! With your permission, I’d like to forward your medical chart to Lazarus Whitaker at MD Anderson. He’s an authority in the field of longevity. He may find your case interesting.”

“I don’t want to be some mad scientist’s lab rat.”

“Not at all, Mr. Beauchamp. I’m not asking you to do anything. You’ll remain anonymous. Dr. Whitaker won’t know who you are. Your under no compunction, of course. But your case could help other people.”

I looked at Stacia, whose expression remained soft and calm. She nodded, her way of echoing my conscience, the voice inside my head telling me what I should do.

“Fine. Send it to him, if it’ll help other people.”

The ride in the car was quiet. When we got home, I went to my shop and toyed with some projects I’d been working on. The afternoon seemed to drag on and on.

We finally sat down to eat, and I thought I’d be able to relax, but I found that I couldn’t. I was as impatient for dinner to end as I was for it to begin. I cleared my plate and went back to my shop.

Stacia came downstairs. “Hey. What are you working on?”

“Nothing.” I was glad to see her.

She came up behind me and squeezed my chest. “What’s the matter?”

“I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to do with all this time on my hands.”

“What do you mean?”

“You heard the doctor, Stacia. He says I’m going to live to 140. It’s not what we planned for.”

“So?”

“That’s too far off! What if I outlive you? What if I outlive the kids?”

“There was a chance that was going to happen anyway.” She let go of me and spun me around to face her. “When would you rather die?”

I scoffed. “Eighty.”

“So, at 80 years old, you’ll be done with life.”

“When you put it that way, it sounds ridiculous.”

“It sounds ridiculous no matter how you put it.”

The house phone rang. Stacia ran upstairs to answer it. “Len! It’s for you.”

I trudged upstairs. “Who is it?”

“John Whitaker.”

“The doctor?” I took the phone from her. “Hello?”

“Leonard Beauchamp? Dr. John Whitaker with MD Anderson here. I’m very excited to speak to you. I admit up front this a major breach in medical ethics, but I had to contact you personally about your longevity.”

“You mean my telo-whatevers.”

“Telomeres, yes. I’ve been studying your file since I received it this afternoon. I’d like to fly you into Houston to conduct some blood and tissue tests.”

I rolled my eyes. “No thank you. I released my file to you to help your research. I’ve done my part.”

“What does he want?” Stacia asked.

I covered the mouthpiece with my hand. “He wants to fly me in for testing.”

“Tell him yes.”

“What? Why? Hold on, doctor.” I lowered the phone. “Are you serious?”

“You just said you didn’t know what to do with all the time on your hands. Here’s your chance to help people live longer. What could be better than that?”

I wanted to tell her she was nuts, but the voice inside my head again told me she was right.

“I’ll do it.”

“Excellent! Thank you, Mr. Beauchamp. You’re very brave to take me up on this.”

“I have one condition, though.”

“Name it.”

“My wife gets to come with me.”

To be continued...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

In the service of sin

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Note: This is a companion piece to “Hell is self.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers presents in Smeagol/Gollum the saddest, most realistic portrait of sin in man. Possessing the ring for 500 years has split his personality in half:

  1. Smeagol: a remnant of his former innocent self, indulgent, weak, and usually under the sway of...

  2. Gollum: the will of the devil personified.

For a time, though, Gollum helps Frodo and Sam, seeming to put aside his desire for the ring. During that time, Sam calls Gollum belittling names like “stinker” “because that’s what he is, Mr. Frodo. There’s naught left in him but lies and deceit. It’s the ring he wants. It’s all he cares about.”

In Sam’s imagination he would not give in and be so completely dominated by sin as Gollum. There’s no coming back from the hell he’s been, so why not treat the sinner as he deserves?

Frodo, on the other hand, empathizes because, informed by his experience of the ring’s temptation, he sees the possibility of ending up that way himself. He wants to believe Gollum can be released from the captivity of his sin. He knows it’s not something you can keep at distance as Sam does. The truth has begun to dawn on him, since leaving innocence behind in the Shire, that everyone is a captive of sin.

We know how the story ends for Gollum. The ring takes him. It doesn’t take Frodo, who was no different than Gollum in the last moments. Redeeming the good from the bad is possible after all. We have cause to cling to hope.

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10)

This man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for his child porn collection. His physical freedom in the prime of life is forsaken. But what is that freedom in the service of spiritual corruption?

“I’d just like to say I’m sorry to the victims. What I did was wrong,” he told the court. “There is some relief that it’s out in the open and I can get help.”

There is more freedom in a prison cell, released from the torment of one’s sin, than there is outside the cell, weighed under by it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Texas water wars

San Antonio is big, maybe too big for a city perched on the edge of the desert. With or without an NFL team, its water needs are outstripping capacity.

In addition to the $2 billion taxpayers approved last year to spend ostensibly to develop Texas’ water infrastructure, San Antonio wants to spend $3.4 billion to pipe in water from 130 miles away.

“They want to farm our aquifer, and use it to build over your more sensitive recharge zone over the Edwards Aquifer,” [Linda Curtis] said.

The recharge zone is the best place for groundwater to seep into the acquifer, which historically has provided San Antonio’s freshwater supply. Just north of the city, the recharge zone is where most of the city’s growth is happening.

Piping in water from Burleson County to slake burgeoning San Antonio’s thirst is a very California idea (i.e., destructive). For a hundred years, once fertile parts of California have been bled dry to fuel the growing Southern California megalopolis. Water diversions start out to satisfy current need, but they end up incentivizing growth that then requires more water. Now, as Californians relocate to Texas, we are repeating their mistake.

The higher you build a fire, the more wood it needs to keep from burning out. Self-rationing is the correct response to a tightening of natural resources. San Antonio should try out conservation instead of attracting others here at fellow Texans’ expense.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Odds and ends 10/14/2014

“Liberty is the prevention of control by others. This requires self-control and, therefore, religious and spiritual influences.” –Lord Acton

When Katy Perry went gaga over Oklahoma University quarterback Trevor Night on College Gameday, Brent Mussberger, the sports analyst who revitalized former Miss Alabama Katharine Webb’s career by noting what a looker she is during the BCS Championship 2 years ago, must have smiled. Mussberger apologized for the liberal prudes at ESPN, who abhor reality but adore transhumanism.

The 29 year-old divorcée’s affections for a man 8 years her junior were yet another proof that women love quarterbacks—as if we needed further confirmation. Tom Brady, the most successful quarterback of the century, ended up married to the most successful supermodel of the century, Gisele Bundchen.


When Steve Goddard says to bookmark this, you bookmark it. Carbon dioxide does not correlate with temperature, rainfall, sea level, anything.


Charles Pope writes about marriage redefinition:

Monday’s decision by the Supreme Court not to take up numerous state appeals regarding same-sex unions pretty much signals that the secular redefinition is here to stay. This is really no surprise given the rather deep confusion about sexuality and marriage in our culture. The polygamists and any number of other groups demanding recognition for their aberrant notions of marriage are sure to follow with all due haste. And what is to stop them, legally, at this point? The word “marriage” is now largely meaningless since, if marriage can mean anything, marriage means nothing, in the linguistic sense.

Every edifice of the old regime that is allowed to stand proves the lie of the whole liberal enterprise, which is why it all must be destroyed.


Houston Mayor Anise Parker is a liberal fascist.

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

The Houston Chronicle calls them “foes,” so why shouldn’t she persecute the insufficiently progressive maggots?


Katrina Fernandez channels Robert Stacy McCain:

If you are having sex it’s safe to assume that you might get pregnant, you know, with a baby. That is the result of having sex.

Yes, yes, birth control blah blah blah. But really all that does is encourage risk taking behavior and well, more sex. Which causes babies. Because we all know the only thing that 100% prevents babies is to not have sex. It’s not rocket science. Just basic biology and common sense. Sex = Babies.

I’m always astounded when I hear women talk about their unexpected pregnancies. What exactly was unexpected about it? Were they having unexpected sex?

That’s one of many reasons why I dislike artificial birth control so much. The prevalent use of it has caused a mental divorce between the idea that sex causes babies and that sex has consequences. All these pro-abortion advocates running around talking about planned parenting...how about if you don’t want a baby just plan to not have sex.

I said it first, but I’m willing to share credit.


Games like this are a hit in Japan, where love is dead.

“The guys do it like they’re walking into a 7-11 and buying a Playboy,” he says. “It’s something that a lot of people do, but they’re not going to announce it. I want to say that some of them are almost ashamed. Because there’s that kind of embarrassment factor. What’s somebody going to think of me?”

The game technically has 35 levels but once you win you don’t have to stop playing or start a new relationship. Amerson hired a man on Fiverr to record a congrats message in a “Budweiser-ad” voice and the girlfriend dances around victoriously, but the game can continue.

“You can stay with it forever,” he says. “I sometimes get people writing into me that say, ‘Hey, I’m at level 65 now.’ And I kind of cringe a little bit, thinking, oh man, I didn’t really design the game for that.”

The furthest that he’s ever known someone to play?

Level 200.

You don’t play a game like My Virtual Girlfriend that long if you don’t have some kind of deeper connection with it.

“A lot of people are lonely,” Amerson admits. “They want some sort of entertainment or companionship, or a little bit of both.”

No, in the end, I couldn’t fall in love with My Virtual Girlfriend. Amerson created the game to be light and funny and, for most people, that’s what it is and that’s all they want it to be.

But it became clear talking to Amerson that maybe some people do wish we had a Love Plus equivalent, that they could be overcome by the same digital infatuation as those men in Japan.

Because, really, we could all use a little more love, even if we have to get it through a tiny screen.

It’s video game porn. It’s machine-assisted masturbation. It’s not love, and as a love substitute it turns people inward on themselves.


Hollywood ruins Ghostbusters:

Fear not: The new Ghostbusters movie you’ve heard about is officially on the way—and it’s starring “hilarious women.”

Bridesmaids director Paul Feig confirmed on Twitter on Wednesday that he’ll be helming the project, and he knows exactly who he’s “gonna call” to star in it.


Alaska doesn’t have a fake economy. Alaska has a real economy. The real economy sucks.

“Things look pretty good, if you’re just kind of looking superficially,” said Jonathan King, an economist in Anchorage. “It’s when you peel back and look at the guy behind the curtain you realize that you’re not where you think you are. There’s an unsettled feeling up here—when is the party over?”

What’s wrong with a gun or a tall building?

Brittany Maynard is planning to die on Nov. 1, and she's fighting to expand end-of-life choices for others in similar situations.

Maynard had just turned 29 when she was diagnosed with brain cancer in January. She had recently married husband Dan Diaz, and the couple were trying for a family.

...

“I’ve had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die,” Maynard wrote in the CNN piece. “But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.”

Death With Dignity acts have only been enacted in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. But Maynard aims to change this in her final weeks.

On Oct. 6, she launched a campaign called The Brittany Maynard Fund in partnership with Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit organization working to expand end-of-life options. The campaign works to raise awareness about the widespread need for death with dignity nationwide. Funds raised will go to supporting this effort.

Liberals aren’t satisfied with defiling just themselves. They have to fight for others’ “right to die.”

Related: Euthanasia spikes in the Netherlands.


The Texas legislature considers scrapping the state lottery. Good riddance.

The Lottery has fewer friends in the Texas Legislature now than at any time since the numbers game was approved in 1991, and former Gov. Ann Richards bought the first ticket at a suburban Austin convenience store.

Democrats have always complained that the Lottery preys upon the poor. They have now been joined by financial, “Tea Party” conservatives, who see the lottery as an unnecessary function of government, and by evangelical conservatives, who have long felt the lottery was immoral.

You’ll find gambling has more liberal support than conservative support.


National Review reports on transhumanist reeducation in Lincoln, Nebraska:

A Nebraska school district has instructed its teachers to stop referring to students by “gendered [sic] expressions” such as “boys and girls,” and use “gender [sic] inclusive” ones such as “purple penguins” instead.

“Don’t use phrases such as ‘boys and girls,’ ‘you guys,’ ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ and similarly gendered [sic] expressions to get kids’ attention,” instructs a training document given to middle-school teachers at the Lincoln Public Schools.

“Create classroom names and then ask all of the ‘purple penguins’ to meet on the rug,” it advises.

The document also warns against asking students to “line up as boys or girls,” and suggests asking them to line up by whether they prefer “skateboards or bikes/milk or juice/dogs or cats/summer or winter/talking or listening.”

The Adam Lanzas of tomorrow can rely on the “I was just shooting penguins” defense.

Excerpt from John C. Wright’s invective:

These people are mentally ill.

Yes, it is a voluntary mental illness, a group of sane people merely pretending to be mentally ill in order to adhere to the worldview of Cloudcuckooland, and when addressed on topic unrelated to whatever the fashionable faux-outrage of the day might be, seem as normal and sane as a human being. But when some social cue is given, like werewolves under the full moon, they suddenly transform, reason and decency fly away, and they transform themselves, willingly and eagerly, into frothing lunatics.

The mental illness is a lust to control the minds and souls of others. There are certain thoughts they do not want you to THINK, such as, for example, that boys are boys and girls are girls. That A is A. That sodomy is not marriage and marriage is not sodomy.

Burning question: “Which sports teams should transgender students play on?” Whichever team they want, since apparently there is no natural barrier liberal society will not throw out because it hurts someone’s feelings. How they contort themselves to coddle silly, sick, confused kids!

“Generally, our society is becoming more accepting in its understanding of gender identity and what that means, and we’ve been very lucky that in the last few years this cadre of young kids has started identifying themselves as trans from a young age,” said Helen Carroll, sports project director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who helped write a model policy for school systems. “It’s really pushing folks to really grapple with and understand what it means.”

But activists like Carroll have run into opposition, including from groups that say gender is a biological fact rather than a social choice and that schools should not cater to a small subset of the student body.

The nerve!

Vox satirizes:

I feel that I am 16 years old and fully eligible to play high school sports, and anyone who argues otherwise is transagist. After all, it should be obvious that the year of birth recorded on one’s birth certificate means no more than one’s sex recorded there, and “age” is nothing more than a social construct.

I know it’s hard to understand and there is a lot of controversy around this, but to be misaged as a middle-aged man when you are actually a teenage boy is incredibly offensive.


It’s not the NFL’s responsibility to police the motives of its players. But Roger Goodell has made it the NFL’s responsibility, and he is reaping the whirlwind:

A University of North Florida study finds that 25 percent of female NFL fans say the handling of the domestic violence case involving Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice would “discourage them from attending games” and consuming other “league-related media content.” While the NFL remains the top lure on TV, the league’s male viewership has been flat since 2009 as female viewers have jumped more than 10 percent, according to Nielsen. Women make up about 35 percent of the league’s regular-season audience, rising to 45 percent for the Super Bowl.

National Organization for Women president Terry O’Neill repeatedly has called for commissioner Roger Goodell to resign, most recently after Goodell’s Sept. 19 news conference during which he vowed to reform the league. Meanwhile, several female sportscasters, including ESPN’s Hannah Storm and Jane McManus, Fox Sports’ Katie Nolan and Pam Oliver and CNN’s Rachel Nichols, have been among the most prominent voices on the NFL story. “Sports is for everybody, but everybody was not being heard,” says Storm, who delivered a passionate critique on SportsCenter after she watched the video of Rice punching his then-fiancee while at the breakfast table with her three teen daughters. “Asking the tough questions, asking the right questions is critical to my job as a broadcaster and as a parent.”

What is Hannah Storm talking about? It sounds like she’s the one asking and answering the questions. I don’t tune to sports highlights to hear anchorettes talking to themselves.