“I’m known as a strange, aloof kind of man,” Salinger told the New York Times, in 1974. “But all I’m trying to do is trying to protect myself and my work.” He passed away yesterday, at the age of 91.
This extraordinary film from The Mises Institute—which features Ron Paul, Joseph Salerno, Hans Hoppe, and Lew Rockwell—is a clear and compelling analysis of the Fed, and why curbing it is a must.
Anyone who’s seen Mike Tyson fight is aware of the benefits a violent childhood can bring. You don”t have to condone kids getting beat up every day to enjoy seeing him in the ring. You don”t want your children to follow the same path, but as far as Tyson’s shitty life goes, there’s no better job. Not just anybody can step in the ring. Athletic commissions regulate boxing licenses and make sure things don”t get too gory. Tyson himself had his license rescinded in 1997 after biting off his opponent’s ear. This is the way it should be. Boxing is a violent sport that can do serious, permanent damage. I have never been the same after challenging a professional MMA fighter to a fight. I didn”t have the experience to handle the guy and ended up in the hospital with cerebral contusions. I”ll never do that again.
Pornography is exactly the same. I love watching porn stars like Ava Devine get violated, but I”m well aware the odds of her having been sexual abused as a child are about 99.99 percent. You don”t have to condone sexual abuse to watch porn. It’s a great job for someone who is dumb, unambitious, and devoid of sexuality. In fact, the only way you can do “sex work” (as naÃ¯ve feminists like to call it) is to have no sex left in you. Some perverted uncle or disgusting friend of the family robs a girl of her most intimate and valuable asset and it’s like a light switch goes off. Now they can have sex with anyone because they’re numb. I”ve talked to a lot of strippers and prostitutes about this phenomenon and have yet to meet one who denied the vast majority of people who have sex for money are abuse victims. An ex-prostitute I dated for a while made it all too clear. “Sex isn”t the same thing to me as it is to you,” she said. “To me it’s like playing soccer or swimming.” I spent about half the relationship thinking of all the different ways I was going to kill her dad for what he did to her. This obsession eventually ended the relationship.
There is no athletic commission to regulate who goes into porn and ensure no fragile eggs get trampled. The very nature of the business has always kept the innocent away. Until now. Until hipster porn: Also called alt porn, it’s a genre of pornography that is mostly pictures on websites but also includes actual pornographic videos. Hipster porn stars tend to be middle-class punk girls who come from pretty stable backgrounds and have been convinced what they”re doing isn”t porn at all and therefore doesn”t deserve a lot of money. These girls haven”t been molested as kids and are in way over their heads.
This sexist plague began with Scene Queens: Young, punk girls on social networks who put up titillating pictures of themselves for free. They get thousands of friends and often correspond with them online. I”d never allow my daughter to do this, but it’s not the end of the world. I don”t even think I”d call it misogynist. Unfortunately, once this became cool, a new wave of pornography took hold. Websites like Suicide Girls (the Playboy of the genre) and Burning Angel (the very NSFW version) popped up and convinced even MORE girls it was hip to pose nude for next to nothing. They weren”t porn stars, they were “pin-ups”, and the whole thing was lumped in with Roller Derby and Burlesque as a fun and empowering way to show your Girl Power. Pornographic video jumped on the bandwagon and guys like Eon McKai (named after the singer of a punk band from the 80s) has convinced a whole new generation of girls porn isn”t porn. But it is porn. And porn is supposed to pay. Real porn stars hate hipster porn because they see it as rich kids devaluing the sex dollar for laughs. You”re not supposed to get $100 to have sex on camera. You”re supposed to get $1,500. These girls are stepping into the ring with Mike Tyson and getting knocked out for free again and again.
When the religious right rails against pornography and portrays it as male predators taking advantage of vulnerable women, I roll my eyes. Porn is simply victims of abuse making the best of a terrible situation. Porn producers aren”t predators. They”re entrepreneurs. However, Pat Robertson is correct when it comes to hipster porn. The men who make money off this new breed of porn star are exactly the predator the religious right say he is.
In my twenties, I lived with two punk chicks who were lazy and wanted a job where they didn”t have to leave the house. They chose phone sex. Neither of these girls were molested as kids and despite the tattoos and pink hair, ultimately just wanted a nice boyfriend whom they would eventually marry and make babies with. Guess what happened. The job rotted them. I would come home after a hard day’s work and feel glares burning through the back of my head. I would turn around and find them staring at me like I habitually raped them both. “That job made me hate men,” one of them admitted to me years after quitting. “It messes with your head.” Their boss eventually convinced one of them to go to hotels and urinate on perverts for money. She recently described the experience as “damaging”—though she”d never have admitted it back then.
I”ve always said this kind of pornography is not cool, but it’s hard to prove something is damaging in the long run when it’s only been around for a few years. A few months ago, I was interviewed at dinner along with some other media types including a blogger/hipster porn star who called herself Baby Sinead. She told me her parents were totally cool with her doing pornography. I did my best to explain to her that her sexuality is actually very sacred and not something to be tossed around willy nilly. That’s why people pay so much for it. It has value. Lawsuits that include “violating a woman’s chastity” are a very big deal because the courts understand a woman unanimously seen as a slut is in for a lonely life. Now, if someone already took your chastity and threw it in the garbage, selling it isn”t such a big deal. She doesn”t fall into that category but I couldn”t convince her it mattered. “Take what’s left of your innocence and get out while you can,” I pleaded with her. “This job will ruin your life.” The eponymous Baby looked at me like I just told her Dick Cheney is sexy. In about ten years, when she’s a lonely cougar, she”ll realize I was right but by then it will be too late.
Cougar isn”t a good thing by the way. That’s another lie women are told.
Would it surprise you to hear that the New York Times has managed an economics fail? Again? No, I suppose it probably wouldn’t but you will at least be interested in finding out which part of the dismal science they’ve managed to entirely misunderstand I have no doubt.
It’s here, in one of the editorials, moaning about how big big business is:
Big Oil is so big that Royal Dutch Shell is the world’s 25th-biggest economy, bigger than Norway.
No, it isn’t. It’s not even close to that sort of level. This is entirely nonsense, nonsense upon stilts, nonsense that betrays a sad and woeful lack of knowledge about what an economy is and how we count and measure it.
The truth is that Shell is around and about the size of Luxembourg, number 68 or so on the list.
So, what is it that the New York Times has got wrong? Well, basically, they’ve looked at a few numbers, seen some that look about the same and then hared off cock-eyed to their conclusion: about what we expect from children just past the “why’s the sky blue, daddy?” stage.
The GDP of Norway is (I’m rounding everything here, just to conserve the world’s supply of digits) around $400 billion. The turnover of Shell is around $400 billion. Thus Shell is the same size as Norway, right?
No, entirely wrong. GDP is Gross Domestic Product. There are a number of different ways to think about it but the one we want here is that it is the value added in the economy over the year. What it isn’t is the turnover in the economy. Think of housing for a moment: you sell your house (umm, well, if you can at the moment of course) and someone else buys it. That’s a transaction and is it included in GDP? No, it most certainly isn’t. Total sales of houses in the US are around $12 trillion a year and the total economy is $15 trillion: whatever you might have thought of the past few years it isn’t true that housing is 80 percent of the US economy. No, the bits we include in GDP are the bits of added value: the realtors fees, the closing costs, the points you pay the mortgage broker. Yes, I know, tough to think of these as added value but to economists (a strange breed indeed) they are.
However, to get that $400 billion figure for Shell we’re not measuring value added, we’re measuring turnover. So to equate the two numbers is somewhere between the apples and pears thing and comparing apples to Rush Limbaugh: somewhere between inappropriate and surreal.
The value added at a company (and I’ll agree that there are different ways of doing this) is best represented by the profit that they make. Take all the sales, take all the costs, net them off and you’re left with that profit: the value that’s been added by incurring all those costs to make those sales. Shell’s profits are around $30 billion a year. So that’s the number that we want to equate to the GDP of a country and Luxembourg’s GDP is about $30 billion and so Shell is about the size of Luxembourg.
“But, but, wait” I can hear the confused leftist at the back of the lecture hall saying “Shell is still the size of a country and that’s bad, right?”
Well, no, not really sure that this is still bad. Shell employs a couple of hundred thousand rich world people in its business. Luxembourg employs a couple of hundred thousand rich world people in its business as a country. Why should anyone be surprised that a couple of hundred thousand rich world people produce about the same value added even if employed in different ways?
As to the New York Times editorial writers, well, next time they tell us that politicians run things better than markets, that taxes or the minimum wage should be higher, you know, the sorts of things that those arts graduates love to lecture us on, just remember that on matters economic they simply haven’t the first clue of what they’re talking about. They might know where to put, commas, and how to spell stuff but numbers clearly confuse them.
With James Cameron’s Avatar shouldering aside George Lucas’s original Star Wars and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight for second place on the all time movie box office rankings (behind only Cameron’s own Titanic), it’s a good time to note one of the odder twists in the evolution of popular film culture: the rise of the self-proclaimed do-it-all writer-director-producer.
Of the last thirty Best Picture nominees (2003-2008), ten had directors who also took screenwriting credits (including George Clooney for Good Night and Good Luck). And of the top 30 box office hits of all time”a list dominated by recent films due to inflation”the director has also served double-duty as a screenwriter on 16.
The growing allure of the writer-director extends even to Lucas and Cameron, both of whom seem more intrigued by technological innovation than by fine-tuning dialogue. Lucas is notoriously tin-eared, while Cameron abstains from originality in plot and dialogue to”as he explains it”avoid confusing the audience.
After triumphing as the sole writer-director on the original Star Wars in 1977, Lucas took a public role for his 1980 sequel The Empire Strikes Back more like hypomanic producer David O. Selznick’s on 1939’s Gone with the Wind. Lucas handed the screenwriting credits to old-timer Leigh Brackett and young gun Lawrence Kasdan, and the directing credit to Irvin Kershner. Is it surprising that The Empire Strikes Back is widely considered the best of the five follow-ups?
Indeed, when Lucas returned in 1999 with The Phantom Menace, he took sole credits for both writing and directing. And it showed.
Still, The Phantom Menace made plenty of money. People like the idea of the embattled genius coming back after 16 years away (or 12 years in Cameron’s case) with his deeply personal revelation. Ironically, a variant of the auteur theory”that dauntingly intellectual Parisian rewrite of Hollywood history intended to establish the primacy of the director as the “author” of the film at the expense of the actors, screenwriter, producer, and the rest of the crew”is becoming the standard way to make crowd-pleasing popcorn movies. The public adores identifying with megalomaniac filmmakers.
This is not to say that old time directors such as Howard Hawks never rewrote scripts. They were, though, more reluctant to insist upon a writer’s credit. Back then, directing was seen as a fun, fulfilling, well-paid job that introduced you to lots of beautiful women. Securing your place in artistic history by insisting upon your authorship was less of a priority.
The young French critics, such as Francois Truffaut, who in the 1950s put forward the auteur theory extolling pre-WWII Hollywood directors had pressing career concerns. They wanted to direct, but the French film industry was then dominated by screenwriters. Moreover, the older generation of French intellectuals, such as Sartre, were pro-Soviet, so the (short-lived) pro-American bias of the Cahiers du CinÃ©ma crowd brought them welcome notoriety. (Eventually, General De Gaulle returned to power and gave them the money to make their New Wave movies.)
This Parisian innovation of organizing Hollywood history around directors caught on in film schools and in Hollywood, where the auteur theory was less adopted than adapted. Insiders know perfectly well that no matter how talented the director, a film can”t get started until somebody does the typing, and that a film can”t get made until somebody arranges the financing. Hence, the trend has been less for the director to gain at the expense of writers and producers than for individual men (and they are almost always men) to try to take on at least part of all the major behind-the-scenes roles so as to fully stamp their authorship on films.
I noticed its advantages in 1984, when I tried to explain to friends that I was looking forward to the upcoming baseball movie The Natural because its cinematographer Caleb Deschanel had done outstanding work on Black Stallion and The Right Stuff. I soon learned, though, that virtually nobody could keep track of anybody besides stars and directors. Describing The Natural to casual movie fans as “a Robert Redford movie” or to intense fans as “a Barry Levinson movie (you know, the guy who did Diner?)” worked, while references to cinematographers just led to blank expressions all around. Tracking anybody beyond stars and directors was just too much to keep in mind.
Besides, saying “I like John Ford Westerns” sounds more sophisticated than saying “I like John Wayne Westerns,” even though they are more or less the same movies.
The auteur theory is popular because it is less scholarly than it is Romantic, an aid to hero-worship. It personalizes the vastly complicated business of making movies into one man’s struggle for self-expression. In this way, it’s similar to the 1960s and 1970s Cult of Authenticity that worshipped Baby Boom singer-songwriters, such as Bob Dylan, for writing their own material.
Sure, the 1956 version of I”ve Got You Under My Skin is a finer piece of popular art than any Neil Young recording, but exactly which middle-aged pro’s work of art is it? Singer Frank Sinatra’s? Songwriter Cole Porter’s? Arranger Nelson Riddle’s? In contrast, Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush (“Flying Mother Nature’s silver seed to a new home in the sun”) is lousier on every objective dimension, but Baby Boomers loved it because you can be sure that, whatever it means, Neil really meant it.
And, sure, nobody much cared about Lucas’s leaden line in The Phantom Menace, “The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.” But at least you knew George cared about it.
Reading good books is like making love. Reading bad ones is like masturbating. I’ve just read three good ones, one of which got on my nerves because it was about a homosexualist, as opposed to a homosexual. Which in fact the other two were about.
Now if someone had suggested to me long ago that I would be reading three books about three men who preferred their own sex, I’d have said they’ve been puffing on the magic dragon, but that’s neither here nor there. I was curious to read about James Lees-Milne, by Michael Bloch, because although I never met him, I knew and know some of his so-called straight friends. The other two are the biography of Somerset Maugham, by Selina Hastings, and of John Cheever, by Blake Bailey. But let’s start with Lees-Milne. The homosexualist.
Lees-Milne was—like the other two subjects—bisexual, but unlike the other two had no children. His was a benign idiopathic homosexuality, but he viewed things only through the prism of homosexual eroticism. Hence my calling him a homosexualist. Here was a man who fell in love with women, although the affairs were almost never consummated, a serious lover of beautiful old buildings, and a writer of note, whose whole life was shaped and influenced by his homosexual mentors and gay friends. Yet he had a horror of those who flaunted their proclivities and he often called such people buggers and homos. Mind you, this was the buttoned up England of the thirties and forties, with no Elton Johns around to wave the gay flag.
Still, Lees-Milne emerges as a hell of a gay cat, cattiness being the operative word. He thought of many of his fellow gays as shallow, slick, sophisticated and absurd, adjectives I used to use about old queens who hung out around Monte Carlo in the fifties. He adored the Nicolsons, Harold Nicolson having been his lover earlier on, only to see Alvide, his wife, fall madly in love with Harold’s wife, the ghastly Vita, thirty years later. Nice upper class stuff, but not my cup of tea. James adored Vita almost as much as his wife did, but without the cigar.
Lees-Milne is best known for his diaries, which I admit I never read. In his biography, however, I came across his mean-spirited and back-biting, waspish comments about some friends of mine—all heterosexual, I may add—which I obviously didn’t like. In contrast, he refers to Rory Cameron and to his mother’s house on Cap Ferrat, La Fiorentina, as something exceptional. Actually I went there about five times and thought it was the pits. Cameron was a grab-arse pansy, now long dead of Aids, who used the house to lure young tourists on board, his mother a terrible snob who pretended to come from something she didn’t come from. I smelled things early on and stayed away.
I have to admit, however, I couldn’t put the book down, and Michael Bloch—a fellow gay—has done tremendous research and writes with love for his subject. There was one passage that made me laugh and wonder how the white, upper middle class of England ever survived, by which I mean the species. There is a wedding lunch in Thurloe Square after James’s and Alvide’s wedding. Of the five men present all five were homosexual although three were married. Three of the five were Jim’s ex-lovers. “It was rather strained and uneasy,” wrote Harold Nicolson of the lunch party. I bet it was.
When I read Selina Hastings’ biography of Waugh ten years or so ago, I was stunned by the extent of Waugh’s rampant homosexuality during his youth. I suppose it is an English thing, but the guy did have seven children, and with a woman to boot. I was also pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the author, whom I tried to put the moves on during a Spectator summer party, but she would have none of it. Her book on Maugham is as wonderful as she is. I was once asked when still in my teens by a renowned Riviera “bugger” to lunch at La Mauresque, Maugham’s grand villa. Like a fool, I declined because I was intimidated. By the time I discovered that writing was what life’s all about it was too late. The great man was dying, but I did visit the house with my friend Leonidas Goulandris when it was put up for sale in 1965. Ronald Searle showed us around. The place reeked of old fashioned sin and old fashioned writing. If I had had the moolah back then, I would have bought it on the spot.
Maugham is the most underrated writer in the world, and I read all of his works when I was young. In fact for awhile I wanted to be Larry Darrell, but then chose to be Dick Diver instead. I read Ted Morgan’s biography of the master twenty-five years ago, and this one is just as good. How anyone can call his work sentimental slush is beyond me. In fact how anyone can read a word by Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie is even more beyond me. But I’ve run out of space. I will get back to John Cheever in future, but for the moment, while still recovering from partying, I plan to read Marcus Scriven’s splendid book on yet another terrific bugger, John Bristol, a man who makes everyone I’ve mentioned above sound like choir boys.
I do not much care for the obese. Worse, they make me feel nauseous. I dislike their shuffling and snuffling ways and believe them to be slothful, gluttonous, self-indulgent, undisciplined, manifestly unattractive and malodorous. You like them, you keep them, cherish them, embrace them as they invade your space with their open pores and stretch-elastic pants and eat noisily in the seat beside you on the airline.
There, I”ve said it. For I am prejudiced”unashamedly so”and I defy any to find a fellow-human who is not. Prejudice is simply gut reaction and preconception, is to have a point of view, is the bias within us all. It is as natural to Mankind as walking, talking, and making love. To attempt its control or suppression is as predestined to fail as commanding back the waves; to decry it is sheer cant and hypocrisy and ignorance of the human condition.
Which brings me to the smug liberal-left. As self-appointed guardians of modern orthodoxy and rigorous policers of our thoughts, these touchy-feely fascists go after dissenters with preachy and puritanical zeal. After all, to be left-of-centre is enlightened, while to be on the right is regarded as beyond the pail. Yet in my experience, the most blinkered, judgemental and lacking in common warmth are these brothers and sisters of the Left (ask the chauffeurs who have ferried Labour ministers around Britain for the past thirteen years).
Prejudice on their terms is somehow acceptable, for double-standards ever were the norm. They may attack me on grounds of class, but woe betide should I accuse one of their own of being unutterably common; a black MP may whine over a surfeit of blonde and blue-eyed nurses in the Health Service, but I cannot carp at African-sourced cleaners tramping the same wards; the Left will talk of “inclusivity”, but falls remarkably silent when asked to represent the interests of those”among them huntsmen and armed forces personnel”outside their immediate voter base. How unpleasant. Scratch a “liberal-thinker” and you will invariably encounter a proto-Robespierre or St. Juste itching to consign you to the nearest re-education camp or guillotine.
When recently in Scotland, I listened to the mewling complaints of those discussing racism and homophobia. Call me brave or foolish, but I felt compelled to point out that latent racism is merely tribalism by another name (of which we all are guilty); mild homophobia is often little more than residual dislike of difference, irritation at evangelistic “pride” and foot-stamping special pleading, and the by-product of concern felt by a species for its long-term genetic survival (something buggery and fellatio are unlikely to achieve). For good measure, I illustrated their own pet hates and prejudices: against the privately-educated, against town-dwellers, against any English incomer to Scotland. The revelation appeared to shock them. Later, during an interview with Radio Inverness, and bored with repeated questioning as to why I had never visited the Highlands, I replied that my forbears had doubtless been there to help with the Clearances. More controversy and consternation. For chippiness is as endemic to the Scots as alcoholism, meanness and acid-ginger hair.
Oops. I commit the cardinal sin of stereotyping. But stereotyping exists because it captures the whisper of a truth, because it provides a convenient shorthand and is fun. Thus, Frenchmen have halitosis and Englishmen are repressed; Scandinavian males are dull and Welshmen lachrymose and depressive; German men are hidebound and Italian men are spoilt hysterics with peckers scaled to their classical statues. As for the Greeks…Another time, maybe.
It is”or should be”a free market. That is how ideas are traded and tested and society thrives, with humor, insult, and ribald remark. To micromanage and legislate for every nuance and slight is to drain away our lifeblood. In some quarters, there is such innate fear at the risk of causing offence that many in conversation will hesitate to complete a sentences. As one British actor remarked, throughout Hollywood they simply use Oh, my God as a non-specific and uncommitted catchall. It has come to this. There is a need for manners, fairness and compassion; there is also a desperate requirement for space in which opinion and offense can be given. That balance is our birthright and the key to a robust democracy. You cannot iron out every kink.
I am no fan of the tyrant, the thug, or the bully. Nor would I condone the persecution or prosecution of an individual on grounds of race, color, creed, career, class, earnings potential, gender, age, size or shape, dress, political persuasion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle. But I recognize and accept that people will choose their group and comfort zone, will judge others by such criteria. I myself might even stoop to the occasional low jibe. The world is imperfect and so too its inhabitants. So, be like me. Throw off the shackles of political correctness and the dead hand of the Orwellian apparatchiks. Kick back and be kind to your inner intolerant self. Dream of hanging cyclists like voles from lampposts as a warning to others or dropping your least favorite thespian down a well. Articulate your views. And embrace prejudice.
“Elections don’t matter!” conservatives have long groused. “No matter who you vote for, things never change.”
Well, we may have an exception here.
Scott Brown told Massachusetts’ voters if they elected him to what David Gergen calls “the Kennedy seat” in the Senate, he would go to Washington and run a sword through Obamacare.
Thirty-six hours after Brown’s triumph, a disconsolate Nancy Pelosi emerged from the House Democratic caucus to announce that the votes were not there to pass a bill that had, on Christmas Eve, gotten 60 votes in the Senate.
A 78-seat Democratic margin is apparently insufficient to save a health care reform bill that is the highest priority of a Democratic president elected just a year go.
What argument is then left for Democratic control of Congress?
The shock wave from Brown’s victory also appears to have killed cap-and-trade and immigration reform. Democrats are in open flight.
For what Massachusetts revealed is that this Congress, where Democrats still hold 59 percent of the Senate and 59 percent of all House seats, is no longer representative of America, if ever it was.
We have a center-left Congress imposing a minority ideology on a center-right country.
Obama has gotten the message. Thursday, doing a passable imitation of William Jennings Bryan, he ripped the Wall Street banks and endorsed “the Volcker Rule” to force Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase to divest themselves of their hedge funds and stock-trading operations, or lose their protections as banks.
Panic is also evident in Harry Reid’s caucus, where the Brown victory put in sudden doubt Obama’s nomination of Ben Bernanke to a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Sens. Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer immediately bailed on Bernanke, as has Sen. McCain.
Liberals are asking why they should go to the wall to confer a second terms on a Fed chairman appointed by George W. Bush.
Reacting to the president’s attack on the Street and the sudden peril to Bernanke’s reappointment, the Dow went into a three-day dive that wiped out 5 percent of its value. Should Bernanke be rejected, it is said, the effect on Europe’s markets will be like that on Europe’s monarchs when news arrived that Louis XVI had gone to the guillotine.
“Chairman Bernanke helped the president … steer through some very turbulent times and rough waters,” said the White House Monday.
Fine. But was not Ben in the wheelhouse when we hit the iceberg? And never saw it. In his first two years, did he not preside over an easy money policy that fueled the housing boom that created the housing bubble, the popping of which brought on the crisis from which the good professor has helped to save the republic?
If a snoozing camper’s unattended fire sets Yellowstone ablaze, do we single him out for honor for alerting the Park rangers and leading a bucket brigade?
Paul Volcker, the Fed chairman who wrung inflation out of the economy to prepare the ground for the Reagan tax cuts, said of his harried successor, “Bernanke has been through a fire, and given the experience he has had, he’s a lot more … qualified than he was four years ago.” Were Bernanke to be rejected, Volcker added, “I don’t think that would be received well here or abroad.”
But if rejection of Bernanke would cause turmoil in U.S. and world markets, what does that say about the real stability of the system? And is it not time we stopped treating the Fed as a holy of holies?
In 1913, when the Fed was created with the duty of preserving the dollar, one 20-dollar bill could buy one 20-dollar gold piece. Fifty 20-dollar bills are needed today to buy one 20-dollar gold piece. Under the Fed’s custody, the U.S. dollar has lost 98 percent of its value.
Against the euro, in the George W. Bush decade, the dollar lost close to half its value.
The dollar is the storehouse of our wealth. Has the Fed faithfully safeguarded that storehouse? Was it not Thomas Jefferson who taught us, “In questions of power let us hear no more of trust in men, but bind them down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution”?
Every monetary crisis is a result of Fed action or inaction, for the Fed controls the money supply. As Milton Friedman wrote in the book that won him a Nobel, the Fed’s easy money fueled the market bubble that burst in 1929. In our time, the Fed fueled the dot-com bubble, the stock market bubble and the housing bubble. Bubbles appear when money is created faster than the supply of goods that money buys.
This populist uprising is a product of rage and revulsion at the Washington and Wall Street elites, the unindicted co-conspirators who created this crisis, neither of which has paid a price commensurate with what they did to the country.
Let this rebellion not end until all receive their just desserts, and we get real “change we can believe in.”
“Tiger Woods in sex rehab clinic” seemed to be all that the newspapers of my native land could talk about one day last week. If you managed to miss the more staid US dailies’ coverage of the momentous event it is simply that Tiger is hanging out at a “clinic” somewhere in Hicksville, The South, getting “treatment” for his sex addiction. I say “clinic” and “treatment” as activities seem to include “art classes, exercise and fitness regimes, shame reduction work, a spirituality group, a grief group, and yoga”. Plus sharing a room and having, horror of horrors, to have to clean it himself. This sounds a great deal more like a New Age retreat center than it does treatment for ambitious and wandering gonads”but we’ll come to that in a moment.
The next day the same papers were full of pieces about whether sex addiction is in fact an addiction. Details of the treatment do amuse: first, a ban on Tiger pleasuring himself for 90 days. The New Puritanism has gone too far if a sporting god and near billionaire isn’t allowed even to play with himself. Indeed, a complete and total ban on sex of any kind might also not be the way to convince a healthy young man to resist any cocktail waitresses who might throw themselves at him. Finally, the revelation that, unlike the others, Tiger gets maid service also raises a snigger: maid service of what?
The greatest surprise to me was that this clinic seems to be unisex: men and women with any (but obviously voracious) sexual habits are treated together”which, again, doesn’t seem likely to lead to a reduction in sexual activity. Perhaps appropriate is a story from a friend who did medical training: one young man was seen trolling for dates amongst those attending the sexual diseases clinic. When asked why, given the obvious probability that they were infectious, the response was that, well, at least the young man did know that they were up for it in theory, even if not right now.
But I think there’s a more serious observation that can be made about this whole hoopla. Sex addiction, whether it’s a disease or not (I think not), clearly and obviously transgresses the boundaries of what the society thinks is acceptable. Even in this very much less religious age, it is a sin against public expectations. And sins, even if they are simply against public expectations, need to be expiated.
Which is where other details of the treatment come in. Apparently Tiger must recount all his transgressions to his wife Elin, in sordid and excruciating detail. He must, as above, serve a period of abstinence, during which he must exercise and meditate (“mens sana in corpore sano”, no?). Then, if all of this is done successfully, he can be forgiven and welcomed back into the arms of his family and the hearts of the public. All of which sounds terribly Catholic to me really. Confession, contrition, and penance being the center of that sacrament normally called confession and all those being present in this treatment for “sex addiction”.
You might, if a cynic like me, simply assume that both the Church and the clinic have hit on the same psychological dramas that need to be played out before wives or the public will forgive. You might be more cynical and think that the clinic has simply copied a system that has worked well for a millenia or more. Or you might simply look at this and think that while organized religion is direct, the belief in a vengeful and omniscient God has declined the form of religion necessary to carry on.
And as to whether sex addiction actually exists or not we might go along with Chesterton. When people stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything. The idea that 90 days of enforced celibacy is the way to induce a man to be faithful on day 91 certainly counts as “anything”.
In 1935, British journalist James Agate admitted to obsession with a juicy but fundamentally parochial murder case, while from Quetta”now in Pakistan, then in the Raj”came news of a quake which had left 20,000 dead. He told readers of his diary, Ego:
“This trial has moved me immensely, while the dreadful affair at Quetta makes no impression. The thousands who perished in that earthquake might be flies. I see no remedy for this, since one can’t order one’s feelings, and to pretend something different is merely hypocrisy.”
(Alistair Cooke and Jacques Barzun have been but two of the nine-volume Ego‘s admirers.)
A decade after Agate’s musing, George Orwell either offered in person, or saw somebody else offer, to a woman (whom he only identifies as “intelligent”) a book that dealt with Nazi atrocities. The woman responded to this offer by begging: “Don”t show it to me, please don”t show it to me. It”ll only make me hate the Jews more than ever.”
To watch the coverage of Port-au-Prince’s latest and most spectacular descent into Hobbesianism is to wonder how widespread, in the West, similar sentiments now are apropos Haiti. Of course no-one”at least, no-one who wishes to hold down a responsible job”will now actually admit to being as indifferent to suffering Haitians as Agate was to suffering Quettans, or as shockingly malevolent as was the female whom Orwell mentioned toward exterminated Jews. We are all weepers now; have been ever since Dianamania first compelled the entire West’s population to check into Heartbreak Hotel. (“Now hear this. You will sob your heads off when contemplating the death of the People’s Princess in a car crash. And you will like it.”) Of global citizenship’s public demands on the tear-ducts, there is today simply no opting out. In private … it might, just might, be another tale.
It would be even more obviously another tale if more Westerners were to acquaint themselves, or reacquaint themselves, with the outcome of a disaster almost as great as Haiti’s in terms of lives lost (approximately 100,000), but on the other side of the world. The earthquake in question, starting two minutes before noon and finishing at approximately seven minutes after noon on September 1, 1923, precipitated the wiping-out of Tokyo and nearby Yokohama. There is no improving, for sheer evocativeness, upon the words used by Richard Storry (1913-1982), Professor of Japanese Studies at Oxford, in his History of Modern Japan:
“Nearly everything … redolent of Yedo [the medieval Japanese capital] was a heap of ashes. In its place there rose a city of a striking beauty, with wide streets and high modern buildings at its core, surrounded by a vast jumble of new wooden houses clustered along undistinguished thoroughfares; some of these resembled country lanes and so acquired a certain pensive charm. Within three or four years there was little sign that Tokyo had ever known calamity.” [Emphasis added]
Does anyone not a moron seriously suppose that within three or four years, or within 30 or 40 years, Haiti will be similarly furbished? Does anyone with the smallest knowledge of the devastation which the December 2004 tsunami inflicted on Indonesia and Sri Lanka, in particular, imagine that Tokyo-style infrastructural improvement will take place in those miserable lands? Confronted with the ample evidence that successive Indonesian regimes since the 1940s have diverted all foreign aid either to Zurich bank accounts, or to improved military methods of turning subject races into glue (or, of course, to both), it would necessitate a Bono”worse, a Bob Geldof”to conclude that the average post-tsunami welfare donation was ever put to anything even vaguely resembling post-tsunami welfare.
But we can”t continue thinking on these lines now, can we? The horrible suggestion that Japanese can run a country, and that Haitians can”t, might lead to the equally horrible suggestion that Japanese have a recognizable civilization and that Haitians don”t. Or the comparably unmentionable conjecture that the Marshall Plan did good to Italy and the Netherlands but would probably have been wasted on, say, Liberia. Which in turn”gasp!”foreshadows the appalling premise that some groups of people might conceivably be worthier of our practical help than are other groups of people. And once we”ve taken that diabolical idea on board, well, it’s Auschwitz all over again by Tuesday next.
With Haiti, then, as with most of life in 2010, it is quite simply better (as well as easier) not to think. Deciding which charities we can legitimately support, and which charities are merely shills for Idi Amin’s heirs, is a procedure too risky to be tried. Let us suppress all tendencies to the evils of Thought by recalling Steve Sailer’s words from 2005: “the economics of mass media are: ‘Clever things make people feel stupid and unexpected things make them feel scared”.”
So when the next natural catastrophe occurs”in Togo or Nicaragua or Laos or wherever”let us operate feel-good campaigns on the same non-principle we now employ, the one spelt out by Woodrow Wilson in 1915. “I am going to teach the South American republics,” he harrumphed, “to elect good men.” He was really talking about Mexico”not about the South American republics at all”but then, geography and foreign history were never his strong points. Heaven forbid that they should ever be ours.