Hobby Lobby: Another Victory for Closely Held Corporations

In the middle of a victory for conscience, this:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that certain “closely held” for-profit businesses can cite religious objections in order to opt out of a requirement in ObamaCare to provide free contraceptive coverage for their employees. 

The whole business of closely held corporations has been lost in the predictable food fight (that’s about as accurate a description of any American political debate these days, even though the stakes are high) following SCOTUS’ decision.  The fact is that, had Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties been publicly traded corporations, the ruling wouldn’t have gone the way it did.

But they aren’t.  They were closely held corporations, i.e., those which are controlled by a relatively small group of stockholders, usually family.  Although that’s a substantial part of the corporate world, with larger corporations it’s been rare for them to stay either closely-held or privately traded as they get larger.  (It’s an interesting speculation whether privately held corporations which are owned by investor groups would be covered by this ruling, but I digress…)

Generally speaking, as corporations become large, they’ve traditionally gone public to give themselves access to the broad source of equity funding that public ownership has allowed.  In this country, however, a series of “reforms” starting with Sarbanes-Oxley and careening to Dodd-Frank and other types of legislation have made going public through an initial public offering (IPO) increasingly unattractive.  This ruling is simply another step in that process.

For all the wonder of a closely-held corporation, public trading of securities enables broad ownership of wealth-creating entities that would otherwise be unavailable to many.  In an era when people decry the stratification of wealth in our society, turning around and making public ownership unattractive for corporations to pursue isn’t a good idea.  And how do all of these Boomers plan to get pension checks or IRA drawdowns when publicly traded securities become scarcer?

I doubt that this ruling is going to influence many corporations to either go private or skip going public.  But it’s another push in the direction of making our corporate system more private than ever.  And that’s going to have some unintended consequences very few want to see.

Note on ObamaCare itself: SCOTUS’ ruling also hung on many of the options and opt-outs in the ACA.  That could have been avoided if the left had gone for single-payer first, either directly or from a “bottom-up” approach such as nationalising Medicaid.  Instead they passed an expensive kludge that, in the end, no one will really want except for those who can get someone else to pay the premium.

Iraq’s Unity Government, and Ours

The left tries to have a little fun with this issue:

In a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of forming a unity government in Iraq but refused to commit to a timetable for creating one in the United States.

Taking this in, al-Maliki agreed that it was an excellent idea and politely asked Secretary Kerry if the United States had ever considered forming such a government…

“Let’s just get one formed in Iraq,” he said. “If it works out for them, maybe someday we’ll give it a try.”

What the Iraqis will probably end up with is partition.  One reason this will happen is because al-Maliki’s government has tilted the table in favour of the majority Shi’ites to the detriment of the Sunnis and the Kurds.  The former have turned to ISIS while the latter are headed for the exits, which they’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Wonder how funny the left would think it be if we started moving towards that result here…

Comments on the Agenda for the 2014 Church of God General Assembly

It’s that time of the biennium again: Lord willing, the Church of God will gather in Orlando towards the end of next month to consider the business of the church.  One think that makes this Assembly different is that there are no Executive Committee members to be elected, although the state Administrative Bishops will go through their usual “musical chairs” rotation.

Nevertheless there are some interesting items on the agenda, along with stuff that’s best described as “housekeeping”.  (And, yes, we have an item of same-sex relationships, for my Anglican fans). You can download the agenda here and more information on the General Assembly is here.  (Note: it’s described as the “General Council Agenda” because that body of our ordained bishops must deliberate and pass on the items before they get to the General Assembly of the church).  The following comments are mostly listed by agenda item:

NAME OF CHURCH (p.15)

This reflects an interesting trend in our churches.  In the past, Church of God were designated by their geographical location and the denomination name.  Today people are supposed to be allergic to denominations (even when they have no idea of what the Church of God is) so we have inventive names such as “Cathedral of Praise” and “Ministry Centre”.  I also suspect that the geographical name gave too much away the part of town we were in, but I’ll bet they’d have thought twice about changing the name of a “Worth Avenue Church of God” had it been organised.

CHURCH AND STATE (p. 17)

This isn’t the usual stuff on this subject, but a deletion of our preference for a democratic form of secular government.  This may seem odd, but I suspect we’re taking it out for the benefit of our bretheren in countries where it makes the government angry.  It can also be interpreted as a backhanded acknowledgement of the fact that, for all the money and time we throw at our electoral process, our status as a functioning representative government is deficient to say the least.

INTERNSHIP REQUIREMENTS (p. 47)

In the process of credentialing ministers, this would allow them to get their experience requirements as a chaplain in addition to ministry in a local church.  This is long overdue; chaplaincy is too important to leave those called to it “outside the gates” of ordination.

GENERAL REQUIREMENTS OF APPLICANTS FOR MINISTRY (p. 49)

This requires that our ministers, in the process of their credentialing, actually “agree with and adhere to the Teachings and Doctrines as set forth by the International General Assembly of the Church of God” rather than just “inform themselves in the Teachings and Doctrines…”  Refugees from the Episcopal Church and other Main Line churches will get a chuckle out of this.  The revisionists who took over these institutions certainly informed themselves of the teachings of their churches, they just didn’t believe them!

MARRIAGE AND SAME-GENDER RELATIONSHIPS (p. 67)

Here’s where the fun part starts.

  1. This prohibits our ministers from performing either same-sex civil marriages or same-sex blessings, with loss of credentials following if they do.  Evidently the hard lessons of our Main Line counterparts aren’t lost on our leadership.  It’s interesting to note, however, that there is no explicit prohibition on opposite-sex blessings such as Bishop Leo Frade did for South Florida Episcopalians.
  2. This doesn’t address the issue of ministers being forced to perform same-sex civil marriages because they are agents of the state.  The church needs to get out of the civil marriage business whether the state does or not.  That reality is more apparent in places such as the UK, where the Sikhs already are de-registering their churches from performing civil marriages.  Our church in the UK (which is considerable) should follow suit immediately on that.
  3. I’m not convinced that part (C) will prevent an attack based on the “public accommodation” argument re use of facilities.  A stronger stance would include the requirement that Church of God ministers would only perform marriages if and only if at least one of the couple be a member of the Church of God.
  4. The Church of God needs to begin advocating for the abolition of civil marriage.  I’ve discussed this elsewhere.

In short, this resolution is good as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough to defend the integrity of the church.

INTERNATIONAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY (p. 83)

We need to step up to the plate and go to a full quadrennial (four-year) cycle of elections, appointments and General Assemblies.  Having cut the mandatory allocation to the State and International Offices by a third, and given the cost of the General Assembly, we’re doing the fiscally irresponsible by continuing the biennium.  Moreover, having worked at the International Offices, I can assure you that the biennial cycle guarantees that half of our time is either spent recovering/reorganising from the previous General Assembly or preparing for the next one.  Having a quadrennium would make for more productive time at the State and International levels.

I’m sure we could come up with meetings that would fill the void without having to mandate them in the Minutes.

THE MISSING ITEM FROM THE AGENDA

The one item that I would like to see on the agenda–and many others I’ve talked to agree with this–is the reduction in the number of members of the Executive Committee from five to three.  Grandfathering current members is fine.  The reduction in cost would go a long way to offset the reductions in the tithe on tithe that has caused such dislocation of late.

Where Two or Three Gather Together, There Will be Politics

Sarah Hey’s piece on @standfirm on the necessity of ACNA’s people getting involved in their church’s politics reminds me of something that took place when I started to work for Church of God Lay Ministries and Paul L. Walker was our Presiding Bishop.  Walker was a successful pastor in Atlanta before he moved onto the Executive Committee so he didn’t get there through the usual cursus honorum that characterises many people in the leadership of the Church of God.  Nevertheless he was wise in the ways of the church; he stated at a gathering of International Office employees that “where two or three gather together, there will be politics”.

He was preaching to the choir; we were all too aware of that fact, as was anyone who worked in the church.  That’s especially true in a centralised/episcopal type of church government, which ours is and which is also true of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA, although the last has dispensed with centralised ownership of the property).

For me, one of the largest legacies of being in the Church of God has been an opportunity to see just how denominational and church politics work from the inside, an opportunity that probably wouldn’t have happened if I had stayed either Episcopalian or Roman Catholic.  Turning to the ACNA, Hey is right: just because we don’t think politics have any place in the church doesn’t mean that they won’t happen or that the course of the church won’t be affected by the results.

I have to admit that I was amused by this line:

Far more parishes in my diocese alone lost that core of 30-40 parishioners and now can only afford part-time clergy.  Along with those consequences comes a lot of heightened rhetoric—now—about the glories of multi-career clergy and “yoked” parishes and “lay-focused ministry” and all sorts of other self-serving theological babble mostly designed to paper over the fact that there are fewer full-time jobs for clergy because there are fewer parishes that are able to afford full-time clergy because, in a phrase, there are now far far far fewer parishioners to pledge.

Having worked in a lay ministry department of a church with many bi-vocational pastors, I got a chuckle out of this.  The issue isn’t the idea but the timing: when your church is going downhill fast, it’s a little late to discover the laity and their ministry potential unless you’re really ready to empower them within the church itself.

Centralised/episcopal churches have a bad habit of investing their clergy with powers and position the New Testament doesn’t, ranging from the keys to the kingdom (Roman Catholicism) to the concentrated anointing concept (Pentecostal,) where only the pastor and perhaps a few others in the church really hold the power of God to dispense same to others.  The result is that the lay people tend to become passive participants in the life of the church, leaving the driving to someone else.

That, of course, is what got the Episcopal Church in trouble.  The run downhill began in the seminaries, where the academics who resided there cast doubt on the veracity of just about every Christian tenet (and the source of those tenets) they could find.  They then sent a clergy with more education but far lower compensation than their parishioners, which in addition to the corrosive effects of their education gave them a sense of both isolation and deprivation.  So they used a “social justice” movement to shame their congregations about their superior state.  And of course they worked the system, making sure that like-minded people moved up in the church.

Lay people, finding church politics both unfamiliar and uncongenial (and sometimes lacking standing in the process), let these people have their way.  The results in TEC–both in terms of those who ended up controlling the church and those who left–speak for themselves.

Now ACNA is about to choose a new Archbishop.  It’s true that political changes such as the ones that transformed TEC aren’t solely effected by leadership choices.  We as Americans have become obsessed with leadership to the point where we are blind to the “behind of scenes” things that make leadership changes the end of the process and not the  start.

But my message to the laity of ACNA is simple: don’t just sit there.  Become informed and make that knowledge known in the process.  Don’t let self-important clergy lead you around by the nose.  And don’t let them tell you that the role of the laity is to just go outside of the church and do laity type ministry: it’s not an either/or situation.  A laity with an active role inside of the church is more likely to want to reach outward with enthusiasm and bring people in to a place where they like to be.

The purpose of ACNA is to remedy the disaster of TEC.  Don’t let it become part of the problem.  As I said in my piece on Tory Baucum:

What was the point of secession, of the cost of litigation and for most of the losers relocation, when you’re just going to throw in the towel?  And, to get back to the key issue, what’s the purpose of a church whose beliefs are little different from the world around it?

The Old WASP Church Loots Its Trusts

In this case, the Soper Trust:

For the past forty years, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington has been the beneficiary of the Ruth Gregory Soper Trust fund. Constructed as a trust handled by Riggs Bank and then its successor PNC Bank, the diocese received interest from the body of her money.  Under PNC’s careful investments, the trust had developed from about $7 million into over $27.4 million dollars. 

In 2010 in a bold attempt to get control of the money, the administration of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington initiated legal action against the Ruth Gregory Soper Trust and its trustee PNC bank. This bank waged a valiant battle against these Diocese of Washington officials, yet ultimately failed. Secret maneuvers and agreements sealed the fate of the Soper trust.

Even though PNC bank persistently asserted that the Diocese of Washington’s plans violated the expressed intentions of Ruth Gregory Soper, on April 11, 2013 a judge from the circuit court of Montgomery County, Maryland, signed a court order terminating the Soper Trust.

Two years ago I wrote a piece entitled The Church of the Palm Crosses Becomes the Church of the Double-Cross.  In that piece (which concerned the Diocese of Virginia, just across the Potomac from this episode) about property disputes I wrote the following:

I’ve said many nasty things about Episcopalians and their church, but I’d never have believed that I would come to that conclusion about this church.  The Episcopal Church was supposed to be the place where this kind of thing didn’t happen, but happened it did.  In the past Episcopalians, lay and cleric alike, could comfort themselves in the conceit that, while rude “Bible-thumpers” went on television to enrich themselves at the expense of the impecunious, the Episcopal church was basically above such tasteless social climbing.  One can only conclude that the church is currently held captive by a bunch of left-wing arrivistes who, while attempting to maintain the appearances of the past, are at best no better than those they ridicule.

And it happened again; the cash-strapped Diocese of Washington had the Soper trust broken so that they could “make expenses” because their congregations are so shrunken and devoid of stewardship consciousness that the Diocese, including the National Cathedral, can’t keep up the day with the regular income.

It’s conventional wisdom that trusts are basically inviolable.  That’s not always the case.  My guess is that PNG, with no help from the MD AG and probably none from Mrs. Soper’s family, decided to throw the towel in before the legal expenses drained them and trust alike.

But it’s bad policy for any non-profit to use its trust money (or proceeds from real estate for that matter) to cover its operating costs.  It’s a sign of desperation, usually caused by a lack of income combined with poor management of expenses.  At one time there were enough people with business sense in the Episcopal Church to head this off, but they’re gone.

Some would say that the Episcopal Church was the place for people with more money than brains.  There’s some truth to that, but now they look like the church for those with neither.

FWIW, I took interest in this because my grandfather was a member of the Board of Directors of Riggs National Bank, where this trust was set up to start with, and because I went to Episcopal prep school with a Soper.

Don’t Level the Playing Field, Just Tilt the Table

I was surprised that the groups referenced even had to ask Eric Holder to do this:

This week, 90 religious, educational, civil rights, labor, LGBT, women’s, and health groups signed a joint letter (full text) to Attorney General Eric Holder asking that the Office of Legal Counsel withdraw the Bush Administration’s June 29,  2007 memo allowing faith-based organization that receive federal grant funds to give a preference to co-religionists in hiring. 

But then again, Eric Holder may be thinking ahead.

If he can rewrite the rules vetting religious organisations to exclude those which, for one reason or another, the government finds distasteful, and include those which it doesn’t, then the preference they give to their co-religionists will be in line with their public policy idea.  Given the current idea of the Occpuant and his people, that would be an acceptable result to the petitioners, although they haven’t figured that out quite yet.

The real end game in this country isn’t to level the playing field but to tilt the tale in another way from where it was before.  The sooner everyone recognises this, the better.

The Children of Paradise Lost: Reflections on Being a South Floridian

Everyone has milestones in their life they stop and either celebrate or reflect on.  In my case, it is something that looks superficial but made a profound difference.  Fifty years ago this month, my parents, brother and I packed up my mother’s car and pulled out of the place I live now to move to Palm Beach.

It’s easy to minimise the effects of moving, especially in the United States.  Europe likes to pride itself on the cultural differences of each region and town it has, as opposed to the supposed homogeneity of these United States.  But this country is diverse as well, a diversity that has been papered over in various ways.  In my case, it’s not an understatement to say that moving from an area that is a mixture of Appalachia and the Old South to the place “where the animals are tame and the people run wild” (which I shamelessly cribbed from Monkey Jungle) might as well have been a move abroad.

American Boomers largely grew up in a “core” culture was based on a country whose centre was the Northeast and Midwest.  We think of four seasons (my Arkansas mother thought Chicago had only two, Winter and August) with white Christmases, leaves dropping in the Fall and new Easter dresses in the Spring.  That whole scenario is frankly ridiculous in the context of South Florida.  We had but two seasons: rainy and dry, the former punctuated by hurricanes (we had two in Palm Beach the year we moved there).  Who needs to fool with multiple wardrobes in a place like this?  How can Santa Claus crawl down chimneys in a place where most houses don’t have them?  People who grow up in such a place develop nonchalant habits about the weather that are hard to break when they move elsewhere.

The natural beauty around us is something we, unfortunately, took for granted.  One year we travelled to California, driving down from Oregon.  Stopping at the fruit inspection station at the state line, the inspectors marvelled that we would even think of leaving such a paradise to come and see the place (which we found to be an awesome break from what we were used to).  My first elementary school, a Spanish style building with a central courtyard, had bananas growing in it.  One of my mother’s fairway shots at the Breakers was ruined when a palm frond fell to the ground in the middle of her back-swing.  And, of course, there were the orange trees in the back yard, next to the pool.

We spent a great deal of time on the water, in keeping with our long nautical history.   Our house was half an island width from the ocean, not too far from the Kennedy complex.  When we wanted quintessentially American burgers and fries from the drive-in, West Palm Beach’s premier car hop place, The Hut, was right across Flagler Drive from Lake Worth.  One could sit in the car and see the shimmering lake and Palm Beach across it.  We also, being at the edge of the country in every sense of the word, went to the Bahamas, where we continued our sub-tropical life on our boat, although sometimes things got eventful with things like this and this.

It’s hard to encapsulate the place in a short piece.  Facebook dwellers can take in more than they have time to absorb on the page I Grew Up in South Florida in the 60s 70s and 80s, which has literally thousands of photographs and reminiscences of the place.   But many who stop and comment lament the changes that have taken place.  It’s inevitable that it would change, but it’s hard to imagine a region that filled up and remade itself in such a short time, and usually not for the better.   Between the end of any kind of open space and the environmental destruction that such rapid development in a fragile place incurs, there’s a strong tug of regret at what’s happened to the place, and that tug transcends differences in politics and outlook.

And what did we replace it with?  That’s the hard part.  In many ways, to grow up in South Florida in that era was to grow up in the country’s future, a future that, like the effect on the environment, isn’t an improvement.

The first futuristic part of living there was the demographics. Today we’re regaled with stories about our aging demographics, but for South Floridians this is old news: we grew up in a place with a very grey population.  The focus on the elderly, as opposed to the dominance of the young that was the hallmark of early Boomer times, fell hard to some extent on those growing up.  Yes, a youth culture was certainly out there (thanks in part to things like WQAM) but we knew we weren’t the stars of the show.  We weren’t shy about expressing our feelings about it either: making fun of the old people was a favourite sport, but now the shoe is on the other foot.  Today we are the old people we used to make fun of.

The second part of this was the lack of community of the place.  South Florida is a transient region, certainly for the retirees but for everyone else too.  People came from various races and cultures, but they didn’t get along very well.  In this millennium Tom Wolfe was surprised that South Florida’s original “cracker” settlers had been displaced, but that happened a long time ago, much to glee of Miami Herald Liberals who took their places in the driver’s seat of society.  Although there are exceptions, in a place where the regional bird is the middle finger, the multicultural dream of a diverse region living in unity is just that–a dream.

Without any community to resist, the Sixties went through the place like Hurricane Betsy.  This is my extended reflection on that reality, so I won’t spend much time on that here.

Finally South Florida proved a tough social system where just about everyone played for keeps.  For me a lot of that came from living in Palm Beach, although I discovered that getting away from there to other parts of the region wasn’t the cure-all either.  There’s an upside to that, though: had, for example, the conservatives had at the helm a few South Floridians instead of people who were busy trying to reconstruct their idealised past, the right wouldn’t be in the tight place it is today.  (OTOH, if the left hadn’t doped its way through the 1970’s, another good South Florida habit, they might have finished the job sooner, too).

But such are speculations.  The reality is that anyone who is raised in such a place is detached, to a greater or lesser degree, from the country it’s supposed to be a part of.  That leaves an indelible impression, one that isn’t effaced by going elsewhere.  For us who experienced the place, it’s impossible to shake the memory–and the effects–of the region where the animals are tame and the people run wild.

Tea Party Ivy-Leaguer Beats Eric Cantor

In the moderate panic (are people who are really moderates supposed to panic?  isn’t that for emotionalist extremists? ) this is easy to overlook about Dave Brat, the Roman Catholic economic professor who upset Eric Cantor in the Republican primary for his U.S. House seat:

Brat, who is Catholic, got his masters from Princeton Theological Seminary, an institution that, according to its mission statement, “prepares women and men to serve Jesus Christ in ministries marked by faith, integrity, scholarship, competence, compassion, and joy, equipping them for leadership worldwide in congregations and the larger church, in classrooms and the academy, and in the public arena.”

First, I hope that my more liberal seminary academic friends note his Princeton pedigree.

Second, it’s getting to the point where the only way the Tea Party can really get ahead is to do it the same way everyone else does in politics: put up Ivy Leaguers.  The most famous Ivy Leaguer in the Tea Party is of course Ted Cruz, who (by virtue of his educational background) is probably the only Republican candidate with a shot at the White House in 2016.

That’s just the way it is in American politics.

A Clarification on My Position on Civil Marriage

Those of you who follow my Twitter feed noted an link to a CNBC article about why my contemporaries are cohabiting in their dotage.  I sensed a little pushback on Facebook on this, so I think that, in my advocacy for the abolition of civil marriage, some clarification is in order.

I do not think that it is “meet and right” (or “dignum et iustum” for you BCP and Latin fans) for people to have conjugal relations outside of Holy Matrimony, to say nothing of cohabitation.  The key there is “holy matrimony”; neither do I think that civil marriage and holy matrimony are one in the same.  The institution of marriage took place long before the formation of the state.  Since God made this institution, it makes sense that, in the current covenant, Christian people who are married in the sight of God should do so in the context of the church.  (That gets into the whole church authority issue; I’ve put it as broadly as I know how).

I think it is a serious mistake of Christian leaders to lose sight of that simple fact.  They have fought the battle for “traditional marriage” under the assumption that the state has the right to legitimise marriage (as have their opponents).  They have not understood that to have the power to legitimise marriage is the power to redefine it.  We have seen this in the changes in divorce, and learned nothing from that experience.  Now we are attempting to fend off same-sex civil marriage when we gave away the fundamental principle up front.

To make matters worse, the fear is out there that the government will force our ministers to officiate same-sex marriages.  That fear is well founded, because each time a minister officiates a marriage, they do so as agents of the state.  If the state says that same-sex marriages are OK, then failure to do so will be discriminatory.  (Ministers in countries with “two marriages” where they do not officiate on behalf of the state are relieved of that problem).

What churches need to do is to begin organising themselves to recognise Christian matrimony independent of the state.  Some churches and religious organisations, such as the RCC, are well positioned to do this.   How Evangelicals carry this out with their desultory organisation is hard to know, but given the stakes they’d better find out in a hurry.

Getting back to the subject of the CNBC article, much of what drives people’s decision on entering in to civil marriage depends upon their legal, estate and tax status and not on their doing it before God.  Doing the separation proposed above would end this kind of game.  One figure on the religious left has slammed the door on this: Episcopal Bishop of Southeast Florida Leo Frade is happy to officiate same-sex blessings, but refuses to do so for opposite sex couples, who face many of the issues described in the CNBC piece.

Hopefully this will put some of my friends at ease on this subject.  Others will find this objectionable, but after years of experience dealing with the legal system in this country, I refuse to revert to a more naïve view of same, a view that drives much of the insanity of our political discussion.

The Russians Look for a Fistful of Yuan

And they may find it, too:

Russian companies are preparing to switch contracts to renminbi and other Asian currencies amid fears that western sanctions may freeze them out of the US dollar market, according to two top bankers.

“Over the last few weeks there has been a significant interest in the market from large Russian corporations to start using various products in renminbi and other Asian currencies and to set up accounts in Asian locations,” Pavel Teplukhin, head of Deutsche Bank in Russia, told the Financial Times.

Both Russia and China have come a long way from the days when both had state controlled “soft” currencies, as described here and here.  But one thing hasn’t changed: the U.S. Dollar was then and is now the world’s reserve currency.  That in turn has created the condition of “dollar hegemony”, which has insulated the United States from the consequences of its fiscal profligacy.  Put another way, the only way we have been able to run up the public (and to some extent private) debt we have is because of dollar hegemony; if same is lost or faded, we’ve got a mess on our hands.

With the shrinking American share of the world’s economy, the likelihood that dollar hegemony to be seriously challenged increases.  That shrinkage isn’t due solely to our own anemic/nonexistent recovery from the Great Recession, although that doesn’t help.  It’s because the rest of the world is growing and finding its way out of poverty.

The U.S. has a strong interest in keeping dollar hegemony intact.  The two keys to that are the strength and size of our own economy and the free convertibility of same currency.  One way to screw the latter up is to apply sanctions and restrictions on capital flow, and that’s what has the Russians concerned these days.

Up to now the U.S. has not pushed sanctions very hard, probably because people who know what’s going on a) realise that sanctions are a blunt instrument that can backfire in the current situation and b) have some input to the Occupant’s decision-making process, such as it is.  If someone decides to overplay the U.S.’ hand in the situation–and with the self-confidence level at an all time high here, that’s a distinct possibility–the targets of such a policy will look for a “Plan B”, and either having one or responding to those of others aren’t American strong suits either.

Many Americans are looking for an apocalyptic “dollar collapse” but a more likely scenario is a chipping away at dollar hegemony which leads to a tipping point.  Currently our government, deep in public debt, is putting ongoing pressure on the Fed to keep interest rates in the tank and so keep the debt service manageable.  I can’t help but think that, sooner or later, they will lose control of the situation, and a recession of dollar hegemony would only make that more likely.