The Fed Takes Its Lumps from Donald Trump

He hits hard:

Ms Yellen last Wednesday dismissed as emphatically wrong Donald Trump’s claims that she and her institution were keeping short-term interest rates low at the behest of the Obama administration. “Partisan politics play no role in our decisions,” she declared.

Mr Trump is throwing punches at a time when the US central bank is under assault from both sides of the partisan divide, and at a time when polling suggests public confidence in its leadership has declined during a subpar economic recovery.

There’s no question that the Fed is keeping interest rates low at Barack Obama’s request.  There’s also no question that the “zero” interest rate regime we’ve had for a long time has created distortions.  To characterise the Fed’s policies as “partisan,” however, is a stretch.

Why?  Barack Obama knows that, if rates start going up, it won’t be long before the twenty trillion-dollar debt (a figure kicked around last night) will become difficult if not impossible to service.  Not only will that put the feds in the hurts, the consequences to the financial system of stressing out the Federal government will be enormous.  Thus the Fed keeps interest rates in the cellar.

Barack Obama has the nerve to bully the Federal Reserve, just like he uses the power of the government to bully other institutions and people.  The serious questions are these: will either Trump or Clinton do the same when it’s their turn to cut the checks?  And how long can the Fed keep this interest rate regime up before something else blows up?

The Iranian Version of the Vaudeville Cane Yank

What were looking at here:

Iran’s supreme leader has told former hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not to stand again in next year’s elections, state media reported on Monday, effectively eliminating a major challenger to pragmatist incumbent Hassan Rouhani.

Ahmadinejad had not announced any plans to run in the vote scheduled for May, but has made several speeches in recent months, prompting speculation of a political comeback.

A simple explanation of this is that Khamenei didn’t want Ahmadinejad to make Iran look stupid once again, as he did when he was president.  In days of isolation, it didn’t make much difference; now that the country is opening up to the world, the image-conscious Iranians–the most fashionable and sophisticated people in the Middle East, their current regime notwithstanding–don’t need the kind of publicity that Ahmadinejad brings.

The linked article also mentions this:

Ahmadinejad was first elected president in 2005. His disputed win in the 2009 election prompted the Islamic Republic’s biggest protests and a security crackdown in which several people were killed and hundreds were arrested.

He’s a polarising figure, even at home.  It’s also worth mentioning that, to put down the “Green Revolution,” the Iranian government brought in Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and Syria to help put down the uprising.  That’s because the government worried that their own troops wouldn’t shoot at their own people, and Hezbollah’s fighters didn’t care.

What Really Happens When a Christian Watches a Muslim Movie?

Jeffrey Overstreet is making the “big moral statement” here:

Christians can choose to dwell on — and invest in — movies that show us what we already like, tell us what we already know, assure us of our own salvation, and make us feel happily entertained. That isn’t wrong. But might we make better use of our time? Might we exercise courage and conscience, step outside of our comfort zones, attend to our neighbors, and learn from their experiences?

He should have been with me on that nice summer day forty years ago when I went to see The Message in London:

And “we” were quite a group. As the moviegoers filed into the theatre for the showing, that sudden realisation came over me: “I’m the only white guy in this place.” The rest of the viewers were obviously immigrants, probably mostly Pakistani. Once everything went dark and the film started, it was pretty interesting. So was the crowd; they cheered when the Muslims won a full battle or killed an infidel. I thought that they might get fired up to start “jihad” in the theatre and I would be their first victim. But they didn’t, the film ended peacefully, and the happy Muslims filed out.

I know, the film he reviewed (Timbuktu) isn’t the same as The Message, which was about the life of Mohammed.  But I’ll bet that his idea to “step outside of our comfort zones” (a phrase that gets overused in Christian parlance) didn’t include what I experienced on the Fulham Road.

Worried About the Chinese Taking Over Hollywood? It's all Propaganda Now!

We have a new “red scare” in Hollywood:

The latest salvo came in a letter from 16 members of Congress last week, which called for closer scrutiny of Chinese investment in the U.S. entertainment and media sectors. The letter cited the Dalian Wanda Group’s acquisitions of Legendary Entertainment, AMC and Carmike Cinemas, and warned of “growing concerns” of Chinese efforts to exert “propaganda controls on American media.”

I hate to break the news to my fellow Republicans, but Hollywood has done “anti-right propaganda” for a long time, and we’ve just sat there and taken it.  Ever wonder why the supposedly “irrefutable” conservative principles that should have “taken over” American politics are going nowhere?  Even our own party pitched all the movement conservatives for Donald Trump.  Much of our problem stems from the propaganda–one based on their own idea–that Hollywood has spewed out for years.

Now you’re worried about the Chinese taking over the place.  Give me a break–we’ve borrowed from them for years to pay for these imports, the dollars have to come back in one way or another.  Acquisitions are the logical way, we saw this with the Japanese thirty years ago.

From a Christian perspective, what we have is two governments–or more precisely two ruling elites–that don’t have any use for us.  The difference is that the Chinese are having second thoughts, and in the meanwhile their churches are growing.  Not electing Hillary Clinton will help, but not as much as some people are saying.  What we’re up against is a ruling élite with a very narrow life agenda and we’re in the way.

Today we have many people running around looking for the next war or enemy to keep us on top.  We need to spend more time addressing our internal weaknesses and not on fighting a group of people who might want to change Hollywood’s propaganda from one form to another.

"Garbage In Garbage Out" Works for the Soul, Too

From Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, IV, 8:

To correct the abuse and distraction of our wandering and dissipated imagination, it is necessary to fill it with holy images. When our memory fills up, it will only take us to those religious ideas. The water wheel pushed by the flow of a river always goes, but it only matters that water crosses its path. If the waters are pure, it will carry nothing but pure water; but if they are impure, the contrary happens. Thus, if our memory is filled with pure ideas, the turning, so to speak, of our restless imagination will not draw from this well and will only take us to holy thoughts. The wheel of a mill will always turn, but it will grind the grain that is there: if it is barley, we will have ground barley; if it is wheat and pure grain, we will have flour. Let us put in our memory all holy and pure images, and whatever is the agitation of our imagination, it will only return to us, at least generally, in the spirit, as the fine and pure substance of items with which we will be filled.

Let us be filled in Jesus Christ, in his actions, his suffering, his words. To give more than one object to our senses, let us be filled with the holy ideas of Abraham sacrificing his son; of a Jacob pulling from God by a holy battle the blessing he hoped for: from a Joseph leaving His coat in the hands of an immodest person to rescue his chaste body; of a Moses who dared approach the burning bush which the fire does not consume, and take off his shoes out of respect; of an Isaiah, who trembles before God until His lips Were purified; of a Jeremiah, who stutters so humbly before God and dares to announce His word; of the three young men for whom the flame of a burning furnace respects the faith; of a Daniel also saved by faith from the teeth of hungry lions: of a John the Baptist preaching repentance under poverty and the hair shirt; of Saul, who was beaten down by the powerful word of Jesus whom he persecuted; and all the other beautiful images of prophets and apostles. Your memory and imagination, consecrated as a holy temple by these holy images, should not bring you anything that is not worthy of God.

Catholic preachers and authors have long been made fun of the “pure thoughts” business.  But with the images coming across our computer screens these days, I think they have the better part of the argument.  It’s the spiritual version of the “garbage in-garbage out” mantra coding people have used for years.

It’s also interesting that all the images the Bishop of Meaux uses are from the Scriptures, contrary to the #straightouttairondale approach in fashion these days.  He doesn’t even include the Mother of God in the list!

The Fast Way to Escape "Intellectual Yet Idiot"

And a fast escape is needed too:

The Intellectual Yet Idiot is a production of modernity hence has been accelerating since the mid twentieth century, to reach its local supremum today, along with the broad category of people without skin-in-the-game who have been invading many walks of life.

There are many ways I don’t meet the criteria for this designation, although I have commenters here and on Facebook who would nominate me in a heartbeat.  For them, I’ve got the trump card (sorry!):

…he has never read Frederic Dard, Libanius Antiochus, Michael Oakeshot, John Gray, Amianus Marcellinus, Ibn Battuta, Saadiah Gaon, or Joseph De Maistre…

I have read Ammianus Marcellinus (Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s spelling needs a little upgrade.)  It was on my “want to read” list for many years, but only got the chance earlier this year.  The timing was good: Marcellinus spent a lot of time in Rome’s war with the Persians, and I had just spent five years with some of their descendants.  That made the work all the more vivid, and coupled with my interest in Late Roman history, it was a fabulous read.

Some of my posts based on reading his work include the following:

I highly recommend his work; you can find it here.

Hillary's Health Problems? Should Have Done Some Due Diligence First

Now it’s not just the “nutcases:”

A health condition initially described by Clinton’s campaign as a brief episode of overheating during the outdoor event – a situation downplayed by a stronger-looking candidate in the afternoon – was identified later as pneumonia when the campaign released a four-sentence statement from Clinton’s physician. The campaign did not disclose detailed medical records or test results, nor did it make the doctor available for questioning.

As has been the case since Bill was in the Oval Office, Hillary’s operatives have tried to paint adverse questions about her as a “conspiracy theory,” and the health questions have been no exception.  Now her own fall during the 9/11 remembrance has done what her critics on the right could not: give cred to all of this.

Questions about her health have been floating around since she was Secretary of State.  Those in the “inside” doubtless know the truth.  So the question is, with the Democrats’ legacy on the line and the job nearly finished, why did they push so hard to get her through the nomination, even with her weak support from millennials and the progressive wing of the party?

I think there are two answers to this.

The first is the power of the Clinton machine, the strongest “redneck mafia” I have seen in my lifetime.  (And I’ve seen a bunch of them.)  They had their hatchet girl, the Ugliest Woman in South Florida, manipulate the process to get her through.

The second is their weak bench, which comes from their best people seeking upward movement in the bureaucracy and the NGO’s and not the electoral process.  If the Republicans had come back with another RINO, this would have made sense.  But they came back with someone who is neither a RINO nor a movement conservative, and now things are different.

In spite of these two factors, had the Democrat establishment pulled together and faced her health issue honestly, they wouldn’t be in the pickle they’re in today.  Personally, I don’t think Hillary Clinton is Barack Obama’s first choice.  But when you have people who, through alternative strong-arm tactics and manipulation, dominate a political party’s life, stuff that doesn’t do the party much good gets done anyway.

The Thing Elizabeth Warren Missed About the Apple-Ireland Decision

She’s made quite a statement in the wake of the multi-billion euro judgment:

The Apple ruling is big, but it is only the latest international effort to end the deals that American multinationals have used to pay near-zero tax rates. The European Commission is investigating Luxembourg’s tax arrangements for Amazon and McDonald’s, and last year the European Court of Justice struck down tax advantages to companies and their subsidiaries selling e-books throughout Europe. Also last year, Britain enacted a new tax to target profits siphoned off by international companies — nicknamed, without much subtlety, the “Google tax.”

There are many things she says that, honestly, have merit.  Getting those done may not be the bed of roses she thinks it will be.  Harmonizing corporate taxes, for example, may require some countries to raise their rates while others lower them to “level the playing field,” and one of those who needs to lower them is us.

The big thing she’s missed, however, is that a great deal of the progressive agenda–especially on social issues–is driven these days by large tech corporations like Apple and Google.  These and others (like Facebook) have pushed a liberal social agenda while doing their shell games with the tax authorities.  (Think about the states of Indiana and North Carolina.)  Is she prepared to besmirch these organizations–and damage the agenda–in the name of economic fairness?

If she is, she’s going to find a lot of push-back, not only from the corporations themselves, but also from the progressive client groups who have benefited from these corporations’ funding and support.  In a sense, these corporations have used their social and environmental “goodness” to cover their tax avoidance methods, which should tell us something about all of this “goodness” they have.

Warren, the “faux Indian” business put aside, is really trying to follow in the Scots-Irish tradition of politicians such as Wright Patman and Carter Glass from the lofty heights of Old Ivy.  But those lofty heights include rubbing shoulders with hipsters from places like Apple and Google.  I guess we’ll find out whether she’s a good juggler or just falls into the net.

Old News, New News: The St. Andrew's School Sex Scandal

I said a couple of weeks ago that I was shifting away from commenting on things Anglican, but my past has caught up with me again.  As I have mentioned more than once, I am an alumnus of the St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, FL, and same school is now caught up in a sex scandal.  I hadn’t been paying much attention, but a friend brought up some things and I decided to do a little research.

I found that the best “executive summary” of the business can be found at the Episcopal Café.  That’s one of the most prominent blogs on the left side of the Anglican blogosphere.  I don’t pretend to be in the same rank on the other side, but it brings me to my first point: St. Andrew’s was and is a very liberal institution, one that didn’t commend left-wing Anglicanism to me in a very convincing way.

Although things really broke in the Spring–and Headmaster Peter Benedict resigned at the time–it’s still an ongoing business, as Interim Head of School Jim Byer discussed in an email to the alumni:

At the same time, the start of this school year has been a difficult time for all of us at Saint Andrew’s, and I appreciate your interest and concern for what has happened here. Many of you are aware of the results of two independent investigations related to violations of faculty/student boundaries and inadequate policies and procedures to protect students, as well as the stories that have been reported in the local media.

Please know that our school is committed to student safety, and I fully expect our community will be stronger and safer as the result of improvements in this regard. We have instituted mandatory child abuse annual training for all faculty and staff in accordance with Florida Department of Education training curriculum, we will hold accountable all who interact and engage with students on a daily basis, and we have engaged qualified, trained professionals to thoroughly examine and closely supervise the residential life program. I am also engaging an expert to oversee the restructuring of all aspects of risk in the school, to further safeguard the welfare of each and every student here.

That said, let me make some comments on the situation:

  1. The fact that the school decided to “lawyer up” tells me that something bad has really happened.  Colleges and universities have gone “whole hog” on this subject due to the “Dear Colleague” letter that the Department of Education sent out, but this is the result, IMHO, of things that happened at the school.  Bringing the attorneys in shield the investigation using attorney-client privilege, and coupled with the raft of confidentiality requirements in education, it’s pretty simple to put the “quietus” (a good TN expression) on something like this.
  2. Contrary to what some of the commenters on the Café said, St. Andrew’s was not started in response to the integration of public schools in Palm Beach County.  It was started as a boarding school to replicate the prep schools in New England and the Northeast.  Social trends and the explosive growth of South Florida have converted it primarily into a day school, where it addressed another issue: the lacklustre quality of Florida’s public schools.
  3. One thing that St. Andrew’s has always been sensitive to a fault about is its community reputation.  Although any institution needs to pay attention to that, in St. Andrew’s case there’s a very relevant issue: the school wasn’t properly endowed when it was set up, the seed money largely going to physical plant.  Its early survival was a difficult proposition and it’s not as ready as some of its older, prep school counterparts to take the hit that a scandal such as this brings.
  4. Unless the years I was there were an anomaly, I don’t think that St. Andrew’s has an innate culture which encourages sexual harassment of the students by the faculty.  That may be relevant in considering the role of the Rev. George Andrews, Headmaster from 1989 to 2008.  He is involved in the sex abuse scandals at St. George’s School in Middletown, RI, one of the New England boarding schools involved in their own imbroglio.  In spite of the founders’ intentions, St. Andrew’s had a dynamic that was different from its Northern counterparts, something faculty who had taught at both noted.

As is always the case in situations like this, it will be a long time before the truth comes out, if it ever does completely.  But South Florida in general and St. Andrew’s in particular was a hard schoolmaster on many issues of a sexual nature, albeit for reasons other than the ones in this scandal.  I explored many of these issues about a decade ago in my book The Ten Weeks.

What I am about to say will probably make some people blow their stack.   That isn’t hard to do these days.  But I think this is the time to say it.  We live in a society with two polar opposite ideas on this subject, and they cannot stay conjoined indefinitely.

I’ve consistently defended the Christian sexual ethic on this blog.  One important corollary to that is that everyone is inviolate in their person with regard to sexual activity, i.e., it’s entirely voluntary.  I want to make it clear that I support that corollary.  That’s the underlying assumption to things such as the prohibition against rape, molestation, and sexual harassment.  The persistence of these is part of our post-Christian condition.

On the other hand, we have the pervasive ethic these days that sexual activity is a necessity for life (not in a procreative sense,) and that one is defined by same.  A corollary to that is that people who refrain, temporarily or permanently, are a) not really human and b) need to be brought into line, most usually these days by peer pressure, or now the internet.

Given the realities of the human condition, I believe that sooner or later society will realise that, as my father would say, we “have a no-fit going here.”  Our educational system, which is expected in inculcate all kinds of values it was not designed to do, will be brought to bear on making sex education not only a “how-to” project but to make sure the lesson is carried out.

When that happens, the scandal such as is unfolding at St. Andrew’s will no longer be about doing something wrong as it will be about doing something outside of proper channels.  In other words, after all the years of such scandals rocking the Catholic Church, boarding schools, etc., they will no longer be scandals, and the victims who have not “kept up” with the times will be left in the lurch.

Whether our civilisation, such as it is, will survive to that point is another matter altogether.  But the business of same-sex civil marriage shows that public opinion, led by élite opinion, can turn around very quickly under the right conditions.  As always, I doubt most people are ready to face a societal flip of that kind, but just because we’re not ready to face it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

If You Want to Support Press Freedom, Start At Home

Things in China got off to a rough start:

President Barack Obama downplayed dust-ups involving the U.S. delegation and Chinese security officials during the opening hours of his trip to Hangzhou for the G-20 summit, but said Sunday the U.S. would not apologize for its efforts to expand media access in the country.

“We don’t leave our values and ideals behind when we take these trips,” Obama said after a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, when asked about the incidents. “It can cause some friction. It’s not the first time it’s happened.”

I find it highly duplicitous that the President, whose administration is paranoid about leaks, and who has used social media aggressively to bypass his own media, should be lecturing the Chinese on this subject.  I’m not saying that the Chinese are paragons of virtue on press freedom.  But Americans–especially the neocons–spend a lot of time wondering how we’re going to respond to the “Chinese threat.”  The best way to do that is for us to get our own house in order, and be a strong, free country, and not just a toy of our elites with a large military budget.  That’s what bothers me about Hillary Clinton: she combines a neocon’s instincts for intervention with liberal’s dislike of a strong military and economy, and the result of a major “pushback” on her part would probably be a disaster.

It’s also amazing that our own media, sycophantic as they are, should be held up an example of a functioning free press.  Barack Obama has had as favourable a media as one could want, and yet he still bypasses it every chance he gets.  And they’re selective, too.  An example, Christians: last week, when a would-be jihadi tried to blow himself and a church up in Sumatra, guess where this first surfaced on my Twitter account?  CCTV!  And I have a few news sources there.  Our own media could care less if jihadis blow up churches, they’re scared that publicising it it would encourage “Islamophobia.”

Media note: I’d urge my readers to keep in front of them a variety of media, domestic and foreign.   I’ve enjoyed picking up CCTV and other Chinese outlets; it’s been informative.