Monday, October 22, 2012

The Ventriloquist and The Dummy

Adam Curtis has made some of the most interesting and insightful documentaries in recent times. Even if some miss the point. When he isn't making documentaries he writes blog posts - and like his films, his blogs take the reader on a fascinating journey into a past that wasn't quite what it seemed.

His latest post on Britain's relationship with Colonel Gaddafi is the latest on the consequences (or what the CIA call blowback) from, Britain's intervention in Iraq and Britain's intervention in Bahrain. You get the drift.

Well worth the read/view.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Is Feminism Herstory?

It looks like 'Peak Feminism' has arrived sooner than I thought.   A survey in the UK by Netmums shows that only 1 in 7 young women describe themselves as feminist. The rate is twice as high for women in their fifties. Political feminism appears to have run its course as far as the younger generation of women are concerned.

This represents an interesting turning point. Women like Sarah Hoyt and Helen Smith are pointing out that political feminism has become an ideology intent on suppressing men, not achieving equality with them. Here's Hoyt:

The problem is that most of us don’t want to be equals.  And the reason for that is that most of us have been sold on the feminist creation myth of the great mother and the perfect society with men as the spoiler of paradise and the villain.  And most of us are stupid enough to buy it.  (Yes, I know men worshipped goddesses.  If you think that made the society feminist, you have birds in your brain and you probably also believe there’s some magical herbs that are as effective as the pill and have no bad side effects.  (No.  There aren’t.  There was a bush that had similar properties, but it went extinct in Roman times).  Societies that worshipped goddesses often demanded the most control over women and engaged in temple prostitution.  They also had a marked tendency to child sacrifice.  On the other hand, most societies worshipped both.) 
Also, most men are of course bigger than us.  Stronger. And there’s the whole historical inequity.  Just like the French peasants.  So we demand laws that favor us and more importantly we demand the blood of our enemies.  And we demand to be treated with a respect and a care that would have scared Victorian maidens.  We use the slightest thing as a weapon.  Because only when the oppressors are gone, will we be free. 
This was bad enough when it was the French peasantry.  But men are not some aliens dropped on the Earth from afar – they’re our fathers, brothers, sons and husbands.  They’re an integral part of what makes humans humans.  They’re not a monolithic group, just like women aren’t, but statistically they’re better abstract-and-visual thinkers and the people who are more likely to think outside the box, just like statistically we’re the socially-oriented people, more detail-specialized and better at cooperating. 
Society – a civilized society – needs both to survive and go forward. 
But women have been sold on males-as-the-boogeyman and therefore they see evil intention and coordination and conspiracy behind males’ being people.  Meet one abusive male, and you’ll go through life convinced that all men are like that.  Does anyone do the same when meeting an abusive woman?  I don’t know about you, but I’ve had bosses from hell in both genders.  So, why is only one accused of being “oppressive”? 
Because it’s the myth.  And it’s a myth the power-hungry people who took charge of the feminist movement (one that initially only wanted equality under the law) are happy to perpetuate.  It’s a myth every college, every entertainment gatekeeper cherishes.
Hoyt fears that the ideological pursuit of gender conflict - and the resultant glass cellar for men - will threaten the future of modern societies. She's right, of course. A political movement that started out to secure equal rights for women and men (the vote etc) has morphed into a movement that now wants to free women of responsibilities for the consequences of their actions (the collapse of the family in particular), with men (husbands, fathers, sons, and taxpayers) picking up the bill.

The worry is that Hoyt's warning is too late. The culture of narcissism that Charles Hugh Smith describes driving the world's economy to its doom is as much a consequence of third wave feminism as of financialization - though not that he sees it that way for now, anyway.

But perhaps a younger generation of women, no longer under the influence of the 'have it all/be what you want' solipsism of ageing feminist ideologues, will help pull us back from the brink.

Who knows, it might even happen sooner than you think.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Economic Singularity

Quote of the day from John Mauldin:
I think we can draw a rough parallel between a black hole and our current global economic situation. (For physicists this will be a very rough parallel indeed, but work with me, please.) An economic bubble of any type, but especially a debt bubble, can be thought of as an incipient black hole. When the bubble collapses in upon itself, it creates its own black hole with an event horizon beyond which all traditional economic modeling breaks down. Any economic theory that does not attempt to transcend the event horizon associated with excessive debt will be incapable of offering a viable solution to an economic crisis. Even worse, it is likely that any proposed solution will make the crisis more severe.
Well worth the read, and the free subscription.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Still Thriving

Gallup's latest poll of European sentiment once again begs the question: what kind of recession are we having in Ireland? The table below shows that a minority of Irish people are indeed 'suffering' at the moment, though not as many as are suffering in... Germany. Or the UK or France for that matter:

Indeed, just over half the population in Ireland are thriving, albeit down from 72% in 2008. Back then we had the third highest percentage of people thriving in Europe, but since we've fallen all the way down to... seventh highest.

We're a long way from the levels of misery in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. For now.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Give Peace A Chance

Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.
Gaius Cornelius Tacitus
So the EU has won the Nobel Peace Prize. Should we be worried? As Yves Smith notes, the Nobel Peace Prize is becoming something of a 'contra-indicator', given the experience of a previous winner:
Awarding Obama the prize before he’d done much of anything as President lead to a raft of jokes, such as a Saturday Night Live skit on how Obama had won the prize for not being Bush. 
That award turned out to be not merely a joke but a deep embarrassment as Obama failed to close Gitmo swiftly as promised, expanded the war in Afghanistan, instituted drone attacks in Pakistan, greatly increased the use of covert warfare, and has declared himself to be above the law, with the right to kill any US citizen designated a “suspected terrorist” without due process.
The peace we have known in most of Europe these past few generations has been a glorious (and exceptional) thing. But with the EU stress-testing our continent's peace to possible destruction in the coming years, Yves may well be proved right. So even might Tacitus. I sincerely hope not.

But in keeping with the spirit of the Nobel Prize Committee's new standard for evaluating contributions to peace I'd like to submit a candidate for 2013: marijuana - after all, it's been spreading peace for over 2,700 years...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back On The Road

... to serfdom, that is. Detlev Schlichter has seen the future:
So here is the future as I see it: central banks are now committed to printing unlimited amounts of fiat money to artificially prop up various asset prices forever and maintain illusions of stability. Governments will use their legislative and regulatory power to make sure that your bank, your insurance company and your pension fund keep funding the state, and will make it difficult for you to disengage from these institutions. Taxes will rise on trend, and it will be more and more difficult to keep your savings in cash or move them abroad. 
Now you may not consider yourself to be rich. You may not own or live in a house that Nick Clegg would consider a ‘mansion’. You may not want to ever bank in Switzerland or hold assets abroad. You may only have a small pension fund and not care much how many government bonds it holds. You may even be one those people who regularly stand in front of me in the line at Starbucks and pay for their semi-skinned, decaf latte with their credit or debit card, so you may not care about restrictions on using cash. But if you care about living in a free society you should be concerned. And I sure believe you should care about living in a functioning market economy. 
This will end badly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Keep Taking the Blue Pill

"You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes". Morpheus
For fans of The Matrix (I'm one), this from Christopher Cole:
If financial markets are the mirror reflecting a vision of our economy third dimension markets measure the distortion in the reflection. If you are familiar with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave volatility is best understood as our collective trust in the shadows on the wall. In the 1985 work “Simulacra and Simulation” French philosopher Jean Baudrillard recalls the Borges fable about the cartographers of a great Empire who drew a map of its territories so detailed it was as vast as the Empire itself. According to Baudrillard as the actual Empire collapses the inhabitants begin to live their lives within the abstraction believing the map to be real (his work inspired the classic film "The Matrix" and the book is prominently displayed in one scene). The map is accepted as truth and people ignorantly live within a mechanism of their own design and the reality of the Empire is forgotten. This fable is a fitting allegory for our modern financial markets. 
...In the postmodern financial system markets are a self-fulfilling projection unto themselves while trending toward inevitable disequilibrium. While it may be natural to conclude that the real economy is slave to the shadow banking system this is not a correct interpretation of the Baudrillard philosophy. The higher concept is that our economy is the shadow banking system… the Empire is gone and we are living ignorantly within the abstraction. The Fed must support the shadow banking oligarchy because without it the abstraction would fail.
Or as FT Alphaville put it:
To get all Matrix on this, it’s like saying the market has a clear-cut choice to make. It can either continue to take the blue pill and fool itself into thinking everything is as it always was — despite the glitch in the Matrix that was 2008 — or dare to see the economic reality for what it is by taking the red pill. 
Naturally, the risk associated with taking the red pill is impossible to quantify — it could, after all, compromise our very understanding of economic reality. 
It’s understandable, in that context, that dishing out the blue pill seems so much more palatable to so many. 
As for Ireland - by opting out of the European financial transaction tax yesterday did we simply decide to pop another blue pill?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When Ponzis Collapse

Quote of the day from Jeremy Warner commenting on Fabio Pammolli's research:
As is only too apparent, much of Europe is incapable of supporting its present pensions and healthcare promise. Herb Stein, one time economic adviser to President Nixon, famously remarked that if something cannot go on for ever, it will stop. 
In Europe, stopping is going to make the present outbreak of economic, social and political instability over deficit reduction look like a stroll in the park. We are only in the very early stages of Europe’s wider fiscal crisis. There is still much worse to come, regardless of whether the euro survives or not. 
It might be said in defence of the single currency that it has at least forced countries to make a start on the sort of structural reform that one way or another is bound to come. 
...Europe is set on a five to 10-year period of nil growth, falling living standards and brutally disappointed expectations. All that Europeans can look forward to once the present phase of austerity comes to an end is yet more austerity.
Puts the 'debate' about primary care centres in perspective.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Two for One

I'm still trying to figure out what happened in the 1960s - and how it continues to affect us.

Here's two quotes from two separate posts that shed some light:

From Patrick Deneen on Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind:
Bloom made an altogether different argument: American youth were increasingly raised to believe that nothing was True, that every belief was merely the expression of an opinion or preference. Americans were raised to be “cultural relativists,” with a default attitude of non-judgmentalism. Not only all other traditions but even one’s own (whatever that might be) were simply views that happened to be held by some people and could not be judged inferior or superior to any other. He bemoaned particularly the decline of household and community religious upbringing in which the worldviews of children were shaped by a comprehensive vision of the good and the true. 
...In retrospect, however, we can discern that opponents to Bloom’s book were not the first generation of “souls without longing,” but the last generation raised within households, traditions, and communities of the sort that Bloom described, and the last who were educated in the older belief that a curriculum guided the course of a human life.  
...Today we live in a different age, one that so worried Bloom—an age of indifference. Institutions of higher learning have almost completely abandoned even a residual belief that there are some books and authors that an educated person should encounter. A rousing defense of a curriculum in which female, African-American, Latino, and other authors should be represented has given way to a nearly thoroughgoing indifference to the content of our students’ curricula. Academia is committed to teaching “critical thinking” and willing to allow nearly any avenue in the training of that amorphous activity, but eschews any belief that the content of what is taught will or ought to influence how a person lives. 
Thus, not only is academia indifferent to whether our students become virtuous human beings (to use a word seldom to be found on today’s campuses), but it holds itself to be unconnected to their vices—thus there remains no self-examination over higher education’s role in producing the kinds of graduates who helped turn Wall Street into a high-stakes casino and our nation’s budget into a giant credit card. Today, in the name of choice, non-judgmentalism, and toleration, institutions prefer to offer the greatest possible expanse of options, in the implicit belief that every 18- to 22-year-old can responsibly fashion his or her own character unaided.
And this from James Kalb on how the elites born of the 1960s have abandoned values for expertise:
In the long run, pure expertise can’t even maintain itself as expertise. It requires good sense to function and develop intelligently, but good sense has a personal element that can’t be made entirely clear and explicit. As a result, an overemphasis on neutral expertise eventually leads to a kind of mindlessness. As the expertise industry grows, becomes more competitive and specialized, and absorbs more and more of our intellectual life, the productive middle ground of educated good sense disappears, and is replaced by minute details and tendentious theories. For that reason post-‘60s intellectuals are notably inferior to their predecessors. 
Ireland's academy - and our nation's elite - are, obviously, similarly affected.

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