The reason why the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is doomed can be summed up in a paragraph. The Arab populations left in political limbo when Israel recaptured in 1967 the territory that it had lost to Egypt and Jordan in 1948 exist only as a strategic weapon of disruption. They have been shaped into a population that is defined only by terrorism because that is the purpose that their sponsors put them to. There can be no constructive outcome of the conflict because you cannot negotiate with a weapon.The only comment I would make is that it will end because those national sponsors of terrorism are doomed demographically and economically. The Middle-East, as a whole, may be a few decades behind the birth dearth in Europe and China, but their populations will eventually crash. At about the same time (or perhaps even before) their oil reserves (with its revenue) will dry up.
The trouble is not that Israel is unable to reach a settlement with the Palestinians; but that the Muslim countries funding and operating the terrorist groups that constitute the Palestinian political factions are unwilling to give up their weapon. Negotiating with the Palestinian Authority or Hamas is like trying to negotiate with a gun or bargain with an attack dog. There is nothing to be gained from such a futile task. The conflict will end only when those countries that are behind it will decide that it should end. And they have no reason to want it to end.
Palestinian terrorism is a strategic weapon of disruption that confines and unbalances Israel. At a cost of millions, the sponsors of that terror have inflicted billions in economic damage. And there is no reason for them to stop. Watching Israel and America try to reason with their attack dogs amuses them and allows them to expand their own influence by offering to act as mediators.
For that same reason, Islamic terrorism in general is also not going anywhere. What the Palestinians are to Israel, Muslim terrorists are to the West and the rest of the world. They are strategic weapons which are allowed to exist because they serve the purposes of their sponsors. Like most living weapons, they occasionally turn in the hands of their sponsors, but that only makes the task of directing them at the proper targets more urgent.
Terrorism can never be defeated by fighting terrorists. Combine massive wealth in some parts of the Middle East with staggering poverty in other parts and the supply of mercenaries is nearly endless. Syrian Jihadists are being paid $150 a month by Qatar; a good salary for an unskilled laborer in a region where life is cheap and every family has plenty of surplus sons and mouths to feed. A barrel of oil can buy the services of a killer for a month and Qatar pumps out millions of barrels a day.
Terrorism is cheap for the sponsors, profitable for the participants and hideously expensive for the targets. A soldier in a First World nation can cost six figures. For that same amount, a backward oil tyranny can field a hundred men. When those hundred men kill a soldier, then his nation will be heartbroken and question the costs of war. When those hundred men die, their mothers will ceremonially wail and cry out for more martyrs to avenge them. And the terror will go on.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
A story from the Daily Mail about a Florida survivalist group/school. I'm sure that the story is meant to shock its intended audience--showing pictures of children handling firearms, after all--but is actually pretty tame, if condescending in tone. Although the report emphasizes that participants are taught how to shoot AKs, most of the close-up photos of the weapons are actually of an SKS with a TAPCO stock and magazine. There only appears to be one person with an AK.
The group's leader says that "the group is open to everyone except ‘socialists, marxists, nazis or progressives’," but he repeats himself.
The group's leader says that "the group is open to everyone except ‘socialists, marxists, nazis or progressives’," but he repeats himself.
Walter Russell Mead notes that California's investment in "green" energy is leading to the entirely predictable result of possible blackouts. (H/t Instapundit). He writes:
When I read this, I thought of something I read some time ago (but unfortunately can't find) that suggested that one of the reasons we see fewer riots now than in the 1960's and 70's is the spread of air conditioning. In any event, there is a correlation between higher temperatures and crime--that is, crime rates such as assaults increase as it gets warmer until temperatures reach 85 or 90 degrees Fahrenheit. (See here, here, and here). So, blackouts in California could lead to people not having air conditioning, not being able to stay inside during hot weather, and a resulting increase in crime.
No matter how you cut it, when you wind up with something less--whether less reliable, less efficient, less inexpensive--it is a decline. The focus on wind and solar power represents a decline in our civilization, not an advance.
The epidemic of power outages and “rolling blackouts” which nearly shut down California in the early 2000s may be returning. Back then, the culprits were unscrupulous energy providers like Enron and a poorly-thought out process of deregulation. This time, renewable energy would be to blame, as the state has pushed to increase the use of solar and wind energy without ensuring that there is enough traditional power generation to keep the grid stable on cloudy, windless days.Although Mead notes problems with solar and wind energy in other states, it has also been a problem in the U.K. and Germany. (See also here and here).
When I read this, I thought of something I read some time ago (but unfortunately can't find) that suggested that one of the reasons we see fewer riots now than in the 1960's and 70's is the spread of air conditioning. In any event, there is a correlation between higher temperatures and crime--that is, crime rates such as assaults increase as it gets warmer until temperatures reach 85 or 90 degrees Fahrenheit. (See here, here, and here). So, blackouts in California could lead to people not having air conditioning, not being able to stay inside during hot weather, and a resulting increase in crime.
No matter how you cut it, when you wind up with something less--whether less reliable, less efficient, less inexpensive--it is a decline. The focus on wind and solar power represents a decline in our civilization, not an advance.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
From No Tech Magazine:
"According to Iroquois legend, corn, beans, and squash are three inseparable sisters who only grow and thrive together. This tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mounds, widespread among Native American farming societies, is a sophisticated, sustainable system that provided long-term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations."
"Corn provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb. Beans fix nitrogen on their roots, improving the overall fertility of the plot by providing nitrogen to the following years corn. Bean vines also help stabilize the corn plants, making them less vulnerable to blowing over in the wind. Shallow-rooted squash vines become a living mulch, shading emerging weeds and preventing soil moisture from evaporating, thereby improving the overall crops chances of survival in dry years. Spiny squash plants also help discourage predators from approaching the corn and beans. The large amount of crop residue from this planting combination can be incorporated back into the soil at the end of the season, to build up the organic matter and improve its structure." Read more: 1 / 2 / 3.
Up until now, the concern (at least publicly) is Iran enriching uranium in order to build nuclear weapons. The Telegraph now reports that there is evidence that Iran is also working on producing plutonium which could be used to build a nuclear device. From the article:
The Telegraph can disclose details of activity at a heavily-guarded Iranian facility from which international inspectors have been barred for 18 months.
The images, taken earlier this month, show that Iran has activated the Arak heavy-water production plant.
Heavy water is needed to operate a nuclear reactor that can produce plutonium, which could then be used to make a bomb.
The images show signs of activity at the Arak plant, including a cloud of steam that indicates heavy-water production.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have been unable to visit the facility since August 2011 and Iran has refused repeated requests for information about the site, which is 150 miles south-west of the capital, Tehran.
Western governments and the IAEA have held information about activity at Arak for some time.
But today’s exclusive images [procured by the Telegraph from commercial satellite images] are the first to put evidence of that activity into the public domain.
... The striking image of steam over the Arak heavy-water complex is a vivid demonstration that the regime has more than one pathway to a potential nuclear weapon.
... the new images of Arak highlight the progress Iran has made on facilities that could allow it to produce plutonium, potentially giving the country a second option in developing a nuclear weapon.
... Other images of the area around Arak show that numerous anti-aircraft missile and artillery sites protect the plant, more than are deployed around any other known nuclear site in the country.
The missile defences are most heavily concentrated to the west of the plant, which would be the most direct line of approach for any aircraft delivering a long-range strike from Israel.
The Arak complex has two parts: the heavy-water plant and a nuclear reactor.
Unlike the heavy-water plant, the reactor has been opened to examination by inspectors from the IAEA. During a visit earlier this month, the inspectors noted that cooling and “moderator circuit” pipes at the reactor were “almost complete”.
Iran has told the IAEA that it will begin operating the reactor at Arak in the first three months of 2014.
The country still lacks the technology to reprocess plutonium and use it for a weapon.
But North Korea has successfully developed that technology, and some analysts speculate that Iran could do the same.
Mark Fitzpatrick, a former US State Department official at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, suggested that Arak could be part of a process that might trigger Western strikes on Iran.
One option for the Iranian regime would be to acquire the necessary reprocessing technology from North Korea, he said.
“By then, the option of a military strike on an operating reactor would present enormous complications because of the radiation that would be spread,” he explained.
“Some think Israel’s red line for military action is before Arak comes online.”
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Before It Is News discusses what to do if we are ever faced with martial law (okay, the article approaches it as a given that we will be facing some sort of nationally imposed martial law, whereas I think that such a scenario is unlikely in the near future--rather, we are most likely to face "martial law" or something very similar in the aftermath of a major local or regional disaster, such as happened after Hurricane Katrina). Most of the suggestions are various means of practicing op-sec, but it does make a good point that op-sec is not just keeping your mouth shut, but also staying away from people that want to rat you out.
Perhaps I'm beating a dead horse, but the root of the demographics problem is the war on the family, which itself is part of the larger cultural war. Daniel Greenfield succinctly explains the issue at Front Page Magazine:
For most of human history the family was the basic social unit of the species. It was a retirement plan that you paid into by keeping your children alive long enough for them to grow up and support you. It allowed the individual to pass on his ideas to people who would care about them because they were part of their heritage. Family was a collective endeavor, small enough to reflect the individual. It was a practical and philosophical aim that made life beautiful and meaningful.
But who really needs it anymore?
Governments have come to serve as undying guardians of human society, ushering new life into the world and ushering old life out of it. New parents are as likely to turn to the government for help as they are to their extended family. When their child is old enough to look around for a career, it is the government that they expect to provide the education and the jobs. And when they grow old, the child can keep on working at his government job and paying off his student loans knowing that the government will be there to make all the difficult and expensive decisions about their care.
With all that taken care of, who needs parents or children anyway?
People once had children to pass on wealth, genes and beliefs. But wealth is now thought to be the collective property of society, which is taxed to death or often just given away on some quixotic quest to stamp out disease in Africa or illiteracy in Antarctica. The thought of passing on genes carries with it a tinge of racism for the European and European-descended populations whose birth rates are dropping, but raises no such concerns for minority groups with high birth rates. That only leaves beliefs, which are also thought to be the collective property of the society and the state. Public education, mandatory in some countries, means that the best way to reproduce your beliefs is not to have children, but to get a job as a teacher.
... nowhere has the pyramid scheme of the social state schemer proven more disastrous than in the collapse of the family. The state has usurped the family, but it depends on the family to crank out industrious little taxpayers, small men and women who will work the shops and factories, toiling night and day, paying their fines and fees dutifully while raising the next generation of taxpayers. Without the family, the pyramid scheme of the state faces a demographic collapse.
... The state replaced the family. It told men and women that they no longer needed to make permanent commitments to each or to their parents and children. So long as they paid their taxes, the state would bear the burden of their commitments. And so men and women gave up on each other, parents gave up on their children and children gave up on their parents, the family fell apart and now the state that took its place is also falling apart.
When a civilization destroys its families, then it destroys itself. A society cannot destroy its own capacity for life and regeneration, and continue on blithely occupying itself with the wars on obesity, poverty, racism, cough syrup and gendered pronouns. The state may seem impressive, but it is only a scheme by which people pay officials to make life better for them. When the number of people begins to decline while the number of officials increases; then the state dies.
American cities and states have built up a vast social infrastructure of schools and hospitals that there will not be enough children to use. From Detroit to California, the future is four teachers to an empty classroom and eight nurses to an empty hospital. The state that is too big to fail has grown bigger than its people. Like Saturn, the progressive revolution has devoured its own children leaving behind only the empty hallways and empty treasuries of the state.There are so many fronts on the war against families that I cannot even begin to describe them all. Part of the war is the war on men. Whether society wants to recognize it or not, fathers are the core of the family. Households led by a single mother produce the highest failures of among children--highest divorce rates, highest crime rates, highest drug use, and most likely to grow up poor.
At the risk of angry comments, I am going to state that the current obsession on "gay marriage" is yet another attack on the family. There is something unique about heterosexual marriage. (See also here). "Gay marriage" denies this uniqueness; it sullies and demeans the institution of marriage and the family. In doing so, it threatens to further undermine marriage and, thus, undermine the very fabric of our society. It also threatens our religious freedom. As I've noted before, according to modern prophecy, the United States is all but fated to disintegrate. Not because of natural disaster or external warfare, but because of internal, societal disunity and moral bankruptcy.
Those supporting "gay marriage" often resort to dishonest arguments. The Wall Street Journal "Best of the Web" column discusses this today:
If you're a reporter at the Washington Post and you aspire to write unsigned editorials, just send an email to the ombudsman.
That's a lesson one might draw from yesterday's extraordinary column by Patrick Pexton, the veteran journalist who, according to the Post's website, "represents readers who have concerns or complaints" about "accuracy, fairness, ethics and the newsgathering process." One such reader wrote to both Pexton and a Post reporter to complain that the paper's coverage of same-sex marriage gives "short shrift" to "the conservative, pro-family side of the argument."
Pexton, who withholds the names of both the reader and the reporter "at their requests," quotes the reporter's response at length: "The reason that legitimate media outlets routinely cover gays is because it is the civil rights issue of our time. Journalism, at its core, is about justice and fairness, and that's the 'view of the world' that we espouse; therefore, journalists are going to cover the segment of society that is still not treated equally under the law."
The reader wrote back: "The mission of journalism is not justice. Defining justice is a political matter, not journalistic. Journalism should be about accuracy and fairness."
Whereupon the reporter dug in: "Should the media make room for racists, i.e. those people who believe that black people shouldn't marry white people? Any story on African-Americans wouldn't be wholly accurate without the opinion of a racist, right? Of course I have a bias. I have a bias toward fairness. The true conservative would have the same bias. The true conservative would want the government out of people's bedrooms, and religion out of government."
In addressing the disagreement, Pexton acknowledges his own bias on the subject and his incomprehension of opposing arguments:Many Americans feel that allowing gay men and lesbians to marry diminishes the value of their heterosexual marriages. I don't understand this. The lesbian couple down the street raising two kids or the two men across the hall in your condominium--how do those unions take anything away from the sanctity, fidelity or joy you take in your heterosexual marriage? Isn't your marriage, at root, based on the love and commitment you have for your spouse, not what you think about the neighbors?
That's a straw man. We've been following this debate for years, and we've never heard opponents claim that same-sex marriage would diminish or endanger their own marriages. Their arguments are based on morality, tradition, and worries about the effects on the institution of marriage, on society as a whole, and on the rights of individuals and institutions that adhere to the traditional view of marriage. The merits of those concerns are of course debatable, but Pexton is either obtuse or disingenuous in reducing them to a nonsensical appeal to self-interest.Another argument that I've heard and read (most recently from a relative in a Facebook post) is that a "compassionate" God would never reject the love between a couple, even of the same sex. The implication, whether explicitly made or not, is that someone opposed to "gay marriage" is not compassionate and not truly in tune with the will of God. One could, of course, present plenty of events and passages from the Bible where God took harsh measures against those considered to be wicked. But to do so, at least as a starting point, actually buys into the twisted definition of "compassion."
The argument misconstrues the meaning of "compassion." "Compassion" does not require us to condone others' actions or choices, or abandon our values. The best example of this is John 8:1-11. John relates how the Pharisees brought a woman, described in the scriptures as "taken in adultery." The common assumption is that she is a prostitute, but that is not expressly stated in the story. In any event, the Pharisees want to trap Jesus into either condemning her to being stoned to death, or condoning her sin. Jesus bypasses this by telling the Pharisees "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Her accusers leave. However, while showing mercy, Jesus does not condone the woman's actions. The Lord's compassion does not result in his lessening his standards or giving her license to continue committing adultery Rather, Christ tells the woman: "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."
It was interesting to me that in what most people would view as an important election, the turnout was actually lower than elections in 2008. For instance, the AFP (via Google News) reported:
Italy on Monday was winding up landmark elections watched warily by eurozone neighbours fearful that no clear winner will emerge, while a lacklustre turnout reflected widespread frustration among voters fed up with austerity cuts and a grinding recession.
Sunday, the first of a two-day vote, saw a sharp drop in turnout of seven percentage points compared with the last elections in 2008, standing at 55 percent going into Monday's polling.
"Italy turns its back on politics, deserts the ballot boxes, and this is how it registers its protest," wrote the left-wing daily Il Fatto Quotidiano.
Leading daily Corriere della Sera said the low turnout reflected an "acute disorientation" in the electorate, fed up with biting austerity measures and facing a "crisis with no end in sight".(See also this DW report and this story from Euro News). Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any information on which portion of the population turned out in lower numbers. So, was it "acute disorientation," voter "protest," or simply that, as in the United States, a large bloc of voters no longer feel that there are any parties that represent them?
In any event, the primary focus in the media has been on what the election portends. The Washington Post reports:
Italian voters delivered a stinging rebuke to the nation’s political class and to the painful economic austerity measures meant to bring down the crushing debt in the euro zone’s third-largest economy. With no single political force winning a clear path to a majority in both of Parliament’s chambers, politicians in Rome began arduous talks to form a government. Most scenarios were viewed as leading to a weak coalition vulnerable to a quick fall.
... Concern was fueled by the likelihood of a political vacuum in Italy for some time to come. The Five Star Movement of comedian turned politician Beppe Grillo, who has called for a referendum on Italy’s membership in the euro zone and a renegotiation of its debt, bested all predictions by landing 25.55 percent of the vote. The center-left party of Pier Luigi Bersani polled substantially lower than expected, securing enough votes for a majority in the lower house but failing to gain a majority in the Senate.
Meanwhile, the center-right coalition of former playboy prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — under whom Italy became entangled in a deep financial crisis — did far better than expected. Voters apparently were responding to his promise to roll back harsh austerity measures, which have been seen as restoring investor faith in the country at the price of sending it into a recession with no end in sight.
The last-minute coalition put together by Mario Monti, the former interim prime minister and architect of the Italian austerity program, came in a distant fourth.The Guardian similarly noted:
Three years of German-led austerity and budget cuts aimed at saving the euro and retooling the European economy was left facing one of its biggest challenges as Italian voters' rejection of spending cuts and tax rises opened up a stark new fissure in European politics.Businessweek, likewise:
The governing stalemate in Rome and the vote in the general election – by a factor of three to two – against the austerity policies pursued by Italy's humiliated caretaker prime minister, Mario Monti, meant that the spending cuts and tax rises dictated by the eurozone would grind to a halt, risking a re-eruption of the euro crisis after six months of relative stability.
For three years, euro-zone governments have managed to dodge the blows of political opponents trying to derail their efforts to maintain fiscal austerity.In other words, the Euro crises continues.
Their foes have finally landed a solid punch. Voting in parliamentary elections on Feb. 24 and 25, recession-fatigued Italians threw their government into disarray by rallying behind politicians who promised to reverse the austerity program of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti. The top-polling party, led by former comedian Beppe Grillo, promised not only to roll back Monti’s efforts but also to hold a referendum on Italy’s membership in the euro currency bloc. The vote left Parliament effectively deadlocked, which may lead to new elections.
The vote “is not just a kick in the teeth for Mr. Monti,” says Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London. “It’s also one for Berlin, Brussels, and Frankfurt.” The euro zone’s crisis-fighting effort has been spearheaded by the German government, the European Union, and the European Central Bank.
The financial markets didn't react too well to the news. The Washington Post article cited above explained:
The vote, held Sunday and Monday, underscored the still-volatile nature of Europe’s debt crisis. Economists said the chaotic political outlook in Italy raised the prospect that deeper economic turmoil would again take root.The Businessweek article reported:
“We believe the likelihood of Italy entering a financial assistance program has increased as a result of the electoral outcome,” Citibank’s London research arm said Tuesday in an investment note.
The key index in Milan fell by 4.4 percent in midday trading Tuesday, with bank stocks particularly feeling the pain. Italian borrowing costs jumped to three-month highs, and those of other troubled European economies, including Spain and Portugal, also spiked.
Across the continent, market sentiment turned negative. London’s FTSE 100 fell 1.28 percent, the Paris CAC 40 dropped more than 2 percent, and the key index in Frankfurt was off by more than 1.8 percent. The declines followed drops overnight in Tokyo and Hong Kong. At the same time, investors drove up the price of safe-haven gold and pushed down oil prices on fears of lower economic growth.
Investors are clearly uneasy. As markets opened today, credit-default swaps on Italian bonds jumped to their highest level since 2011. Spanish and Portuguese bonds also slumped, reflecting fears that political turmoil could spread to other sickly economies. By most measures Spain is a lot worse off than Italy, with unemployment at 26 percent and the economy mired in recession.The Guardian article noted:
Fears that the deadlock will lengthen Italy's near two-year recession and spill over into the rest of the eurozone hit markets across Europe. The Italian banking sector fell 7% in value, dragging the main MIB stock market index 4% lower.Reuters also reported:
The market turmoil in Milan spread to Germany, France and the UK, with domestic banks among the biggest fallers. Deutsche Bank saw almost 5% knocked off its value, while Barclays suffered a 4% decline. The FTSE 100 fell 1.4%. The German Dax slumped more than 2% and the Paris Cac was down 2.75%.
The focus will now be on an Italian treasury bill auction on Tuesday when borrowing costs could rise given the uncertainty over the election result, he said.In other words, Italians are tired of paying the piper, and want Germany to pick up the bill. This is going to create additional tension within the EU. I don't expect Italy to voluntarily leave the Euro if Germany is going to continue funding bailouts. So, the result will be that Germany will have to take steps to force Italy to continue with an austerity program, disentangle itself, or choose to subsidize Italy.
The euro was trading at $1.3058, hovering near a more than six-week low against the dollar of $1.3047 touched on Monday on jitters about political gridlock in Italy hampering the country's efforts to reform and slash its debts.
The yen at one point on Monday soared over 3 percent against the euro and 2 percent against the dollar. The yen's recent steep losses on bets of aggressive reflationary monetary policy in Japan have made it vulnerable to sharp reversals.
On Monday the yen rose to a three-week high of 90.85 yen from its intraday low of 94.77 touched earlier in the day, its lowest since May 2010. The yen also surged to 118.74 against the euro from its day's low of 125.36.
The yen was trading at 92.13 early on Tuesday against the dollar and at 120.32 against the euro.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Both European and U.S. politicians suggest that we've weathered the worst of the financial crises. However, articles from the Wall Street Journal and Telegraph suggest that all that has been done is to kick the can a little farther down the road.
First, as to Europe, the Wall Street Journal discusses "Why the Euro Crises Isn't Over." The relevant portion:
The European political class, he says, believes that the crisis "hit its high point" last summer, "because that was when there was an imminent danger, from their point of view, that their wonderful dream would disappear." But from the perspective "of real live people, and families and firms and economies," he says, the situation "is just getting worse and worse." Last week, the EU reported that the euro-zone economy shrank by 0.9% in the fourth quarter of 2012. For the full year, gross domestic product fell 0.5% in the euro zone.I don't think that Germany can or will want to afford to carry most of Europe for an indefinite period. Which means that the whole European Union is still at risk of flying apart.
Two immediate solutions present themselves, Mr. Connolly says, neither appetizing. Either Germany pays "something like 10% of German GDP a year, every year, forever" to the crisis-hit countries to keep them in the euro. Or the economy gets so bad in Greece or Spain or elsewhere that voters finally say, " 'Well, we'll chuck the whole lot of you out.' Now, that's not a very pleasant prospect." He's thinking specifically, in the chuck-'em-out scenario, about the rise of neo-fascists like the Golden Dawn faction in Greece.
... Superficially, there is some basis for the official view that the worst of the crisis is over: Interest-rate spreads, current-account deficits and budget deficits are down. Greece's departure from the single currency no longer seems imminent.
Yet unemployment is close to 27% in Spain and Greece. The euro-zone economy shrank ever-faster throughout 2012. And—most important in Mr. Connolly's view—the economic fundamentals in France are getting worse. This week France announced it would miss its deficit-reduction target for the year because of dimming growth prospects.
It's one thing to bail out Greece or Ireland, Mr. Connolly says, but "if the Germans at some point think, 'We're going to have to bail out France, and on an ongoing, perpetual basis,' will they do it? I don't know. But that's the question that has to be answered."
The official view is that the bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal—and maybe soon Spain—are aberrations, and that once those countries get their budgets on track, their economies will follow and the bad patch will be a memory. Mr. Connolly calls this "propaganda."
And here we get to the heart of Mr. Connolly's rotten-heart argument against the single currency: The cause of the crisis, according to the "propaganda," he says, was "fiscal indiscipline in countries like Greece and financial-sector indiscipline in countries like Ireland." As a consequence, "the response is focused on budgetary rules, budgetary bailouts and rules for the financial sector, with the prospect, perhaps, of financial bailouts through the banking union, although that remains unclear."
But even if the Greeks were undisciplined, he says, "both the sovereign-debt crisis and the banking crisis are symptoms, not causes. And the underlying problem has been that there was a massive bubble generated in the world as a whole by monetary policy—but particularly in the euro zone" by European Central Bank policy.
The bubble formed like this: When countries such as Ireland, Greece and Spain joined the euro, their interest rates immediately dropped to near-German levels, in some cases from double-digit territory. "The optimism created by these countries' suddenly finding that they could have low interest rates without their currencies collapsing, which had been their previous experience, led people to think that there was a genuine rate-of-return revolution going on," he says.
There had been an increase in the rates of return in Ireland "and to some extent in Spain" in the run-up to euro membership, thanks to structural reforms in those countries in the pre-euro period. But by the time the euro rolled around, money was flowing into these countries out of all proportion to the opportunities available.
"And what kept the stuff flowing in," Mr. Connolly says, "was essentially the belief, 'Well, yes, there is a high rate of return in construction.' " That in turn depended on "ongoing expectations" about house appreciation "that were in some ways not dissimilar to what was happening to the United States in the middle of the last decade. But it was much bigger."
How much bigger? "If you scale housing starts by population, then the housing boom in Spain and Ireland was something like three or four times as intense as the peak of the boom in the U.S. That's mind boggling."
That torrent of money drove up wages far faster than productivity improved, while cheap borrowing led to major deficit spending. After the 2008 financial panic, the bubble inevitably burst.
So what's needed now is not simply a fiscal retrenchment, or even a retrenchment along with banking reform. Wages and prices have to adjust to something like their pre-bubble trends, Mr. Connolly says, to make these economies competitive again. One way to accomplish that would be a massive depreciation of the euro—"really massive."
If that's not feasible, he says, Europe can try to "recreate the bubble" by bringing back the conditions that allowed Spain to borrow so cheaply. That is "essentially what [Mario] Draghi"—the European Central Bank president—"appears to be trying to do: to recreate a bubble." Mr. Draghi, by threatening to intervene in the sovereign debt markets, has driven interest rates in Spain down substantially. But because the banking system is distressed, and because house prices continue to fall, even these lower rates are not driving investment into the country the way they did before. And even if Mr. Draghi were to succeed, Mr. Connolly says, the ECB president would merely be "recreating exactly the dangerous, unsustainable situation that we had in the middle of the last decade."
Which leaves Europe with the last option: Germany pays. As Mr. Connolly puts its: "You can say to a country like Spain: 'No need to adjust your competitiveness, you don't need to have full-employment trade balance. You can still have full-employment current-account balance because we will give you transfers instead.' And by definition, if the point of that is to avoid adjustment, you have to do it this year, the next year, the year after, and every year, forever."
Turning to the U.S., Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes about "Trade protectionism looms next as central banks exhaust QE." From his piece:
A new paper for the US Monetary Policy Forum and published by the Fed warns that the institution's capital base could be wiped out "several times" once borrowing costs start to rise in earnest.
A mere whiff of inflation or more likely stagflation would cause a bond market rout, leaving the Fed nursing escalating losses on its $2.9 trillion holdings. This portfolio is rising by $85bn each month under QE3. The longer it goes on, the greater the risk. Exit will become much harder by 2014.
Such losses would lead to a political storm on Capitol Hill and risk a crisis of confidence. The paper -- "Crunch Time: Fiscal Crises and the Role of Monetary Policy" -- is co-written by former Fed governor Frederic Mishkin, Ben Bernanke's former right-hand man.
It argues the Fed is acutely vulnerable because it has stretched the average maturity of its bond holdings to 11 years, and the longer the date, the bigger the losses when yields rise. The Bank of Japan has kept below three years.
Trouble could start by mid-decade and then compound at an alarming pace, with yields spiking up to double-digit rates by the late 2020s. By then Fed will be forced to finance spending to avert the greater evil of default."Sovereign risk remains alive and well in the U.S, and could intensify. Feedback effects of higher rates can lead to a more dramatic deterioration in long-run debt sustainability in the US than is captured in official estimates," it said.
... In America, the Fed would face huge pressure to hold onto its bonds rather than crystalize losses as yields rise -- in other words, to recoil from unwinding QE at the proper moment. The authors argue that it would be tantamount to throwing in the towel on inflation, the start of debt monetisation, or "fiscal dominance". Markets would be merciless. Bond vigilantes would soon price in a very different world.
Investors have of course been fretting about this for some time. Scott Minerd from Guggenheim Partners thinks the Fed is already trapped and may have to talk up gold to $10,000 an ounce to ensure that its own bullion reserves cover mounting liabilities.
What is new is that these worries are surfacing openly in Fed circles. The Mishkin paper almost certainly reflects a strand of thinking at Constitution Avenue, so there may be more than meets the eye in last week's Fed minutes, which rattled bourses across the world with hints of early exit from QE.
Mr Bernanke is not going to snatch the punch bowl away just as the US embarks on fiscal tightening this year of 2pc of GDP, one of the most draconian budget squeezes in the last century. But he may have concluded that the Fed is sailing too close to the wind, and must take defensive action soon.
Monetarists say this is a specious debate -- arguing that the losses on the Fed balance sheet are an accounting irrelevancy -- but Bernanke is not a monetarist. What matters is what he thinks.
If this is where the Fed is heading, the world is at a critical juncture. The US economy has not yet reached "escape velocity", and in fact shrank in the 4th quarter of 2012. Brussels has slashed its eurozone forecast, expecting a second year of outright contraction in 2013.
The triple "puts" of the last eight months -- Bernanke's QE3, Mario Draghi's Club Med bond rescue, and Beijing's credit blitz -- have done wonders for asset markets but have not yet ignited a healthy cycle of world growth. Nor can they easily do do since the East-West trade imbalances that caused the 2008-2009 crisis remain in place.
We know from a body of scholarship that fiscal belt-tightening in countries with a debt above 80pc to 90pc of GDP is painful and typically self-defeating unless offset by loose money. The evidence is before our eyes in Greece, Portugal, and Spain. Tight money has led to self-feeding downward spirals. If bondyields are higher thannominal GDP growth, the compound effects are deadly.
America may soon get a first taste of this, carrying out the epic fiscal squeeze needed to bring its debt trajectory back under control with less and less Fed help. Gross public debt will hit 107pc of GDP by next year, and higher if the recovery falters as pessimists fear.
With the fiscal and monetary shock absorbers exhausted -- or deemed to be -- the only recourse left is to claw back stimulus from foreigners, and that may be the next chapter of the global crisis as the Long Slump drags on.
Professor Michael Pettis from Beijing University argues in a new book -- "The Great Rebalancing: Trade, Conflict, and the Perillous Road Ahead" - that the global trauma of the last five years is a trade conflict masquerading as a debt crisis.
There is too much industrial plant in the world, and too little demand to soak up supply, like the 1930s. China is distorting the global system by running investment near 50pc of GDP, and compressing consumption to 35pc. Nothing like this has been seen before in modern times.
... In the Noughties the $10 trillion reserve accumulation by Asian exporters and petro-powers flooded the global bond market. At the same time, the West offset the deflationary effects of the cheap imports by running negative real interest rates.
The twin policy regimes in East and West stoked the credit bubble, and this in turn disguised what has happening to trade flows. These flows were disguised yet further after 2008 by QE and fiscal buffers, but the hard reality beneath may soon be exposed as these are props are knocked away.
"In a world of deficient demand and excess savings, every country will try to acquire a greater share of global demand by exporting savings," he writes. The "winners" in this will be the deficit states. The "losers" will be the surplus states who cannot retaliate. The lesson of the 1930s is that the creditors are powerless. Prof Pettis argues that China and Germany risk a nasty surprise.
America's shale revolution and manufacturing revival may be enough to head off a US-China clash just in time. But Europe has no recovery strategy beyond demand compression. It is a formula for youth job wastage, a demented policy when youth a scarce resource. The region is doomed to decline until the boil of monetary union is lanced.
Some will take the Mishkin paper as an admission that QE was a misguided venture. That would be a false conclusion. The West faced a 1931 moment in late 2008. The first round of QE forestalled financial collapse. The second and third rounds of QE have had a diminishing potency, while the risks have risen. It is a shifting calculus.
The four years of QE have given us a contained depression and prevented the global strategic order from unravelling. That is not a bad outcome, but the time gained has largely been wasted because few wish to face the awful truth that globalisation itself -- in its current deformed structure -- is the root cause of the whole disaster.
It will be harder from now on if central banks conclude that their arsenal is spent. We can only pray that their help will not be needed.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
I had previously written about the possibility of the Mississippi River changing course. This is to follow up on this issue.
The Old River Control Complex (ORCC) that maintains the flow of water between the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya River is, in many ways, the Achilles Heel of the United States.
More than 600 years ago, the Red River in Louisiana and the Mississippi River ran on parallel courses. Sometime in the 15th Century, the course of the Mississippi changed, throwing a loop (Turnbull's Bend) that intersected with the Red River. The result was that water from the Red River began flowing into the Mississippi, but some water still flowed into the lower Red River (now called the Atchafalaya River) which became a distributary of the Mississippi. In the late 18th Century, the entrance to the Atchafalaya River was occluded by a log jam. In 1831, a canal was dug to bypass Turnbull's Bend. The northern part of the bend filled with sediment, but the lower part of the bend (now called the Old River) remained open, connecting the three rivers.
In 1973, heaving flooding along the Mississippi threatened to undermine part of the Low Sill Structure. As this New Yorker article describes:
After the Corps dammed Old River, in 1963, the engineers could not just walk away, like roofers who had fixed a leak. In the early planning stages, they had considered doing that, but there were certain effects they could not overlook. The Atchafalaya, after all, was a distributary of the Mississippi—the major one, and, as it happened, the only one worth mentioning that the Corps had not already plugged. In time of thundering flood, the Atchafalaya was used as a safety valve, to relieve a good deal of pressure and help keep New Orleans from ending up in Yucatán. The Atchafalaya was also the source of the water in the swamps and bayous of the Cajun world. It was the water supply of small cities and countless towns. Its upper reaches were surrounded by farms. The Corps was not in a political or moral position to kill the Atchafalaya. It had to feed it water. By the principles of nature, the more the Atchafalaya was given, the more it would want to take, because it was the steeper stream. The more it was given, the deeper it would make its bed. The difference in level between the Atchafalaya and the Mississippi would continue to increase, magnifying the conditions for capture. The Corps would have to deal with that. The Corps would have to build something that could give the Atchafalaya a portion of the Mississippi and at the same time prevent it from taking all. In effect, the Corps would have to build a Fort Laramie: a place where the natives could buy flour and firearms but where the gates could be closed if they attacked.
Ten miles upriver from the navigation lock, where the collective sediments were thought to be more firm, they dug into a piece of dry ground and built what appeared for a time to be an incongruous, waterless bridge. Five hundred and sixty-six feet long, it stood parallel to the Mississippi and about a thousand yards back from the water. Between its abutments were ten piers, framing eleven gates that could be lifted or dropped, opened or shut, like windows. To this structure, and through it, there soon came a new Old River—an excavated channel leading in from the Mississippi and out seven miles to the Red-Atchafalaya. The Corps was not intending to accommodate nature. Its engineers were intending to control it in space and arrest it in time. In 1950, shortly before the project began, the Atchafalaya was taking thirty per cent of the water that came down from the north to Old River. This water was known as the latitude flow, and it consisted of a little in the Red, a lot in the Mississippi. The United States Congress, in its deliberations, decided that “the distribution of flow and sediment in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers is now in desirable proportions and should be so maintained.” The Corps was thereby ordered to preserve 1950. In perpetuity, at Old River, thirty per cent of the latitude flow was to pass to the Atchafalaya.
The device that resembled a ten-pier bridge was technically a sill, or weir, and it was put on line in 1963, in an orchestrated sequence of events that flourished the art of civil engineering. The old Old River was closed. The new Old River was opened. The water, as it crossed the sill from the Mississippi’s level to the Atchafalaya’s, tore to white shreds in the deafening turbulence of a great new falls, from lip to basin the construction of the Corps. More or less simultaneously, the navigation lock opened its chamber. Now everything had changed and nothing had changed. Boats could still drop away from the river. The ratio of waters continued as before—this for the American Ruhr, that for the ecosystems of the Cajun swamps. Withal, there was a change of command, as the Army replaced nature.
* * *
After going on line, in 1963, the control structures at Old River had to wait ten years to prove what they could do. The nineteen-fifties and nineteen-sixties were secure in the Mississippi Valley. In human terms, a generation passed with no disastrous floods. The Mississippi River and Tributaries Project—the Corps’ total repertory of defenses from Cairo, Illinois, southward—seemed to have met its design purpose: to confine and conduct the run of the river, to see it safely into the Gulf. The Corps looked upon this accomplishment with understandable pride and, without intended diminution of respect for its enemy, issued a statement of victory: “We harnessed it, straightened it, regularized it, shackled it.”
Then, in the fall of 1972, the winter of 1973, river stages were higher than normal, reducing the system’s tolerance for what might come in spring. In the upper valley, snows were unusually heavy. In the South came a season of exceptional rains. During the uneventful era that was about to end, the Mississippi’s main channel, in its relative lethargy, had given up a lot of volume to accumulations of sediment. High water, therefore, would flow that much higher. As the spring runoff came down the tributaries, collected, and approached, computers gave warning that the mainline levees were not sufficient to contain it. Eight hundred miles of frantically filled sandbags were added to the levees. Bulldozers added potato ridges—barriers of uncompacted dirt. While this was going on, more rain was falling. In the southern part of the valley, twenty inches fell in a day and a half.
At Old River Control on an ordinary day, when the stilling basin sounds like Victoria Falls but otherwise the country is calm and dry—when sandy spaces and stands of trees fill up the view between the structure and the Mississippi—an almost academic effort is required to visualize a slab of water six stories high, spread to the ends of perspective. That is how it was in 1973. During the sustained spring high water—week after week after week—the gathered drainage of Middle America came to Old River in units exceeding two million cubic feet a second. Twenty-five per cent of that left the Mississippi channel and went to the Atchafalaya. In aerial view, trees and fields were no longer visible, and the gated stronghold of the Corps seemed vulnerable in the extreme—a narrow causeway, a thin fragile line across a brown sea.
The Corps had built Old River Control to control just about as much as was passing through it. In mid-March, when the volume began to approach that amount, curiosity got the best of Raphael G. Kazmann, author of a book called “Modern Hydrology” and professor of civil engineering at Louisiana State University. Kazmann got into his car, crossed the Mississippi on the high bridge at Baton Rouge, and made his way north to Old River. He parked, got out, and began to walk the structure. An extremely low percentage of its five hundred and sixty-six feet eradicated his curiosity. “That whole miserable structure was vibrating,” he recalled in 1986, adding that he had felt as if he were standing on a platform at a small rural train station when “a fully loaded freight goes through.” Kazmann opted not to wait for the caboose. “I thought, This thing weighs two hundred thousand tons. When two hundred thousand tons vibrates like this, this is no place for R. G. Kazmann. I got into my car, turned around, and got the hell out of there. I was just a professor—and, thank God, not responsible.”
... The water was plenty high as it was, and continuously raged through the structure. Nowhere in the Mississippi Valley were velocities greater than in this one place, where the waters made their hydraulic jump, plunging over what Kazmann describes as “concrete falls” into the regime of the Atchafalaya. The structure and its stilling basin had been configured to dissipate energy—but not nearly so much energy. The excess force was attacking the environment of the structure. A large eddy had formed. Unbeknownst to anyone, its swirling power was excavating sediments by the inflow apron of the structure. Even larger holes had formed under the apron itself. Unfortunately, the main force of the Mississippi was crashing against the south side of the inflow channel, producing unplanned turbulence. The control structure had been set up near the outside of a bend of the river, and closer to the Mississippi than many engineers thought wise.
On the outflow side—where the water fell to the level of the Atchafalaya—a hole had developed that was larger and deeper than a football stadium, and with much the same shape. It was hidden, of course, far beneath the chop of wild water. The Corps had long since been compelled to leave all eleven gates wide open, in order to reduce to the greatest extent possible the force that was shaking the structure, and so there was no alternative to aggravating the effects on the bed of the channel. In addition to the structure’s weight, what was holding it in place was a millipede of stilts—steel H-beams that reached down at various angles, as pilings, ninety feet through sands and silts, through clayey peats and organic mucks. There never was a question of anchoring such a fortress in rock. The shallowest rock was seven thousand feet straight down. In three places below the structure, sheet steel went into the substrate like fins; but the integrity of the structure depended essentially on the H-beams, and vehicular traffic continued to cross it en route to San Luis Rey.
Then, as now, LeRoy Dugas was the person whose hand controlled Old River Control—a thought that makes him smile. “We couldn’t afford to close any of the gates,” he remarked to me one day at Old River. “Too much water was passing through the structure. Water picked up riprap off the bottom in front, and rammed it through to the tail bed.” The riprap included derrick stones, and each stone weighed seven tons. On the level of the road deck, the vibrations increased. The operator of a moving crane let the crane move without him and waited for it at the end of the structure. Dugie continued, “You could get on the structure with your automobile and open the door and it would close the door.” The crisis recalled the magnitude of “the ’27 high water,” when Dugie was a baby. Up the valley somewhere, during the ’27 high water, was a railroad bridge with a train sitting on it loaded with coal. The train had been put there because its weight might help keep the bridge in place, but the bridge, vibrating in the floodwater, produced so much friction that the coal in the gondolas caught fire. Soon the bridge, the train, and the glowing coal fell into the water.
One April evening in 1973—at the height of the flood—a fisherman walked onto the structure. There is, after all, order in the universe, and some things take precedence over impending disasters. On the inflow side, facing the Mississippi, the structure was bracketed by a pair of guide walls that reached out like curving arms to bring in the water. Close by the guide wall at the south end was the swirling eddy, which by now had become a whirlpool. There was other motion as well—or so it seemed. The fisherman went to find Dugas, in his command post at the north end of the structure, and told him the guide wall had moved. Dugie told the fisherman he was seeing things. The fisherman nodded affirmatively.
When Dugie himself went to look at the guide wall, he looked at it for the last time. “It was slipping into the river, into the inflow channel.” Slowly it dipped, sank, broke. Its foundations were gone. There was nothing below it but water. Professor Kazmann likes to say that this was when the Corps became “scared green.” Whatever the engineers may have felt, as soon as the water began to recede they set about learning the dimensions of the damage. The structure was obviously undermined, but how much so, and where? What was solid, what was not? What was directly below the gates and the roadway? With a diamond drill, in a central position, they bored the first of many holes in the structure. When they had penetrated to basal levels, they lowered a television camera into the hole. They saw fish.
So, what would have been the impact if the structure had failed?
Well, prior to the construction of the structure, the concern was a natural change in course would leave New Orleans high and dry and destroy the valuable petro-industry in the area. Again, from the New Yorker article cited earlier:
The consequences of the Atchafalaya’s conquest of the Mississippi would include but not be limited to the demise of Baton Rouge and the virtual destruction of New Orleans. With its fresh water gone, its harbor a silt bar, its economy disconnected from inland commerce, New Orleans would turn into New Gomorrah. Moreover, there were so many big industries between the two cities that at night they made the river glow like a worm. As a result of settlement patterns, this reach of the Mississippi had long been known as “the German coast,” and now, with B. F. Goodrich, E. I. du Pont, Union Carbide, Reynolds Metals, Shell, Mobil, Texaco, Exxon, Monsanto, Uniroyal, Georgia-Pacific, Hydrocarbon Industries, Vulcan Materials, Nalco Chemical, Freeport Chemical, Dow Chemical, Allied Chemical, Stauffer Chemical, Hooker Chemicals, Rubicon Chemicals, American Petrofina—with an infrastructural concentration equalled in few other places—it was often called “the American Ruhr.” The industries were there because of the river. They had come for its navigational convenience and its fresh water.This 2011 article from Forbes states:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is forcing the river down a path it no longer wants to travel. Had the river gotten the best of the engineers in 1973 the Mississippi would not be the same river today–it would have forced a new path down the Atchafalaya basin, a course that is some 20 feet lower than the river’s current main stem, and which offers a 150-mile shorter path to the Gulf of Mexico. Its course has changed dozens of times over the millenia, “sweeping back and forth like a garden hose,” and will change again. You can see a beautiful map of the river’s countless meanders here, and download a full set of historical maps here.
McPhee spent months trying to understand the centuries of engineering prowess that have gone into trying to control the Mississippi, especially the creation of structures much in the news today, like Old River Control and theMorganza Floodway, which was opened over the weekend to allow floodwaters to course down through the Atchafalaya basin.
The corps has had a generation to strengthen its defenses since then, but there remains today more than a theoretical chance that 2011 could be the flood where the Mississippi finally decides to go the way it wants to go rather than stays within the bounds that man has chosen for it. Once freed, all the sandbags and bulldozers in the world would be insufficient to put it back where it is. The effect on the U.S. economy of a shift in the Mississippi’s path would be significant. On the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans sit dozens of industrial sites, processing agricultural products, making chemicals, refining 13% of the nation’s gasoline (see an excellent map of refineries here). Of these, Alon’s Krotz Springs refinery in the Atchafalaya basin is at greatest risk of inundation, while ExxonMobil has closed two pipelines and scaled backproduction at its refinery, the biggest in the region. Upstream in Memphis, Exxon closed a riverside terminal that has “become part of the river.”Americas Wetlands quotes the following from a scholarly journal:
In the aftermath of the huge floods that would cause the main flow of the river to jump to the Atchafalaya River, aside from the cost, anxiety, tragedy, and aggravation of dealing with massive amounts of water being in the wrong place, there would be lingering issues that would change the way of life on the lower Mississippi. Instead of 70% flow down the lower Mississippi and 30% flow down the Atchafalaya, the percentages would probably reverse. The Atchafalaya would be a rushing, raging river, even during the fall for a period of time until it scoured the channel and filled in the lower reaches so that the flow would diminish. Morgan City would have to be relocated, as would other communities and many businesses, possibly including the massive infrastructure of the offshore oil and gas industry. Fisheries would be altered measurably all across the delta. Oyster reefs would be immediately destroyed, and would take several years to reestablish and become productive (no erysters!). It would probably take two decades to adapt to the new environment around present day Morgan City. Additionally, pipelines, bridges, and the like that cross the Atchafalaya would be destroyed or rendered unsafe. The ruptured natural gas pipelines would place stress on fuel supplies for energy companies, but they would quickly change to more costly fuel sources and have little or no interruption of service. Imagine the traffic jams when and if bridges on I-10, U.S. 90, and U.S. 190 collapse (what about the railroads)? All trans-state traffic would have to be rerouted to I-20 via I-55 through Jackson, Mississippi, adding up to 615 miles to the trip (not to mention time delays from the traffic jams). The protective levees of the Atchafalaya Basin would have to be upgraded to handle the new pressure from Spring flows. And, oh my gosh, think of the negative impact on the crawfish supply!
The lower Mississippi would still have a copious amount of water, but it would be slack compared to today. Shipping could continue to be an important industry, but it would be interrupted for a time. The slack water would allow (cause) the thalweg to fill in and stop deep-draft shipping. However, after intensive dredging efforts it may be found that a 50 ft channel can be easily maintained because of the tremendous decrease in sediment. New Orleans, possibly Baton Rouge, and all other cities and towns along the lower Mississippi would no longer be able to get their drinking water from the river. It would become too salty, since the lower fresh water flow would not offset the tidal movement of the Gulf. Can you imagine the cost of piping or trucking enough drinking (and flushing, etc.) water from north of Lake Pontchartrain to supply the needs of Greater New Orleans? Can you imagine Greater New Orleans without water for drinking and sanitation? Even when the water was just barely increasing in salinity, there would be severe damage to water heaters, fire sprinklers, fire truck pumping systems, and more. The quality of our coffee! As mentioned above, the fisheries (especially those associated with the fresh water river) would suddenly change. And what about the massive petrochemical industry corridor? Aside from the impact on shipping, which they could weather over time, industry could no longer use fresh river water for thermo-electric cooling. The saltier water would corrode all the pipes and related instrumentation. Of course, industry would change to salt-tolerant materials, but that would be costly and time consuming. Also, the sugarcane industry would have problems without sufficient fresh water.
All of this adjustment, and we have not delved into the intensity of impact on people=s lives during the crisis and the adjustment period. All normal routines would stop. Businesses would be closed, as would schools, normal government, etc., etc. Virtually the entire population would spend months and months just coping - just putting their and others= lives back together. Imagine the emotional strain to the population - people losing a lifetime of accomplishment. This would be a tragedy of monumental proportions. It would interrupt life much like World War II.
One can also imagine the impact on the nation. Massive use of Federal dollars to protect and restore Louisiana's infrastructure. Loss of natural gas (there would be brown-outs throughout the eastern seaboard). Commerce would be interrupted by restriction of travel and Louisiana's inability to focus on supplying items traditionally demanded from her natural resources by the nation. Prices of all Louisiana products (from the natural resources [fisheries, oil, gas] to industrial products [poly vinyl chloride, polyethelene, etc.]) would soar. The interruption of the pogie fisheries would be very negative for such food industries as chicken, catfish, and hogs (see the last section of the notes). New Orleans is one of the most important ports in the nation, and it would suddenly cease to function; all shipping and related industries on the Mississippi River would stop. International trade would be further imbalanced. The massive fertilizer business would shut down and the agriculture industry would falter.
And what about the economy of south Louisiana? For a period of time, all the revenue would dry up and tourism would collapse. Even Mardi Gras would possibly come to a halt!!! Only the mosquitoes would do well! And probably the cockroaches and Formosan termites.
Long term, we would adapt. Once the drinking and sanitation water issues were resolved, tourism would return. Coastal erosion could be reversed on the west side of the present-day Mississippi River. Shrimp, oysters, and other fisheries would probably flourish after a number of years due to new marshes being produced and nutrient rich sediments being redistributed.
This would obviously place a lot of stress on at least two generations of residents. We would survive, but it would be a new Louisiana and Mississippi River delta.(See also here and here from The Daily Impact).
Flooding is not the only danger to the structure. Two years ago, the Christian Science Monitor reported on the risk of an earthquake to the Mississippi delta region. From that article:
In 1811 and 1812, the New Madrid fault zone that zig zags through five states shook so violently that it shifted furniture in Washington, D.C., and rang church bells in Boston. The series of temblors changed the course of the Mississippi River near Memphis, and historical accounts claim the river even flowed backward briefly.Geologists consider the New Madrid fault line a major seismic zone and predict that an earthquake roughly the magnitude of the Haiti earthquake (7.0 on the Richter scale) could occur in the area during the next 50 years.
That forecast is of particular concern because the New Madrid zone sits beneath one of the country’s most economically distressed areas – the Delta. In many counties in the Mississippi Delta, the poverty level is triple the national average.Moreover, the area is comparatively less prepared to deal with a huge earthquake than are other seismically active areas in the US, says Mark Ghilarducci, vice president of James Lee Witt Associates, a crisis and emergency management consulting company in Washington.
“There have not been enough resources applied for retrofitting that there could be,” Mr. Ghilarducci says. “I would like to see far more retrofit programs, strengthening of buildings, especially masonry buildings, tying down bridges. That builds resiliency in a community.”
... The New Madrid fault zone crosses five state lines and the Mississippi River in at least three places. It extends from northeast Arkansas through southeast Missouri and into western Tennessee, western Kentucky, and southern Illinois.
In the 1800s, few people lived in the region. Today, it is densely populated and includes Memphis and St. Louis.“All the faults are active,” says Haydar Al-Shukri, director of Arkansas Earthquake Center. “We would see an earthquake 10 times larger than the Haitian earthquake or even those in California because of the amount of distance the seismic waves of the earthquake would travel.”
In many areas, people still live in shanties. Healthcare is sparse. Even clean water is scarce in some places. Often, public and private buildings, are decades-old and fragile. They have yet to be retrofitted or strengthened. Hundreds of towns could see severe structural damage, and large segments of the population displaced, Dr. Al-Shukri says.
“You still have a lot of places with cinderblock structures,” he adds. “That is the worst kind of structure you can build in a place with earthquakes. These concrete blocks are very stiff, and they do not have flexibility, so they can’t yield to seismic vibrations.”
The challenges are particularly daunting in rural areas. Given that federal dollars most often target metropolitan areas, people could be cut off from supplies for days. To help mitigate this threat, Memphis Light, Gas & Water was given a grant of $2.6 million to reduce the risk to its electrical grid from earthquakes.“Disasters aren’t entirely a government issue,” Ghilarducci says. “If people live further out, they need to have something to be self-sufficient for a couple of days until help can reach them.”
Joe Biden, the American aristocrat who is has 24/7 security by the Secret Service, thinks that all you need for self-defense is a double-barrel shotgun. The State of New York has decreed that no one needs more than 7 rounds to defend themselves. How persuasive is that?
In following up on a news item from what appears to be an Austin, Texas, TV station which was mentioned at the Ol' Remus' "Woodpile Report", about a home invasion by men dressed as SWAT. Searching under "home invasion" gave me a handful of stories from just the last month about home invasions by large groups of men.
First, the original story I was following, dated February 10, 2013:
Ten armed men stormed into a home early Sunday morning demanding money and drugs.A double barrel shotgun or seven-round magazine wouldn't have worked in that situation.
The home invasion happened at a home in Edinburg around 1:30 a.m.
According to Edinburg Police, the gunmen demanded money and drugs.
An eyewitness told Action 4 News that the suspects were dressed in black shirts that said “S.W.A.T.” on the front.
They were also wearing white ski masks and one man had on a clown mask.
A man living at the home was hit in the head with an RK gun.
Authorities said another woman was hit in the face with another gun.
The suspects took televisions, cell phones, car keys and wallets from the home.
Second, this story from February 20, 2013:
Police are searching for three armed suspects after a home invasion in a San Juan neighborhood.A double-barrel shotgun? Natch! 7-round magazine? Not if you missed a couple times or had to shoot a couple of the suspects multiple times. (Remember the recent story of the woman who unloaded a revolver into a burglar, and he still was ambulatory).
On Tuesday around 9 p.m., authorities responded to a home on 207 Washingtonian St., after a group of men stormed a home demanding money.
Sgt. Rolando Garza with the San Juan Police Dept. says, after ransacking the home, the suspects fled the scene before police could arrive.
"One of the victims had a bump on his cheek where he was pistol whipped," said Sgt. Garza. "We're looking for at least three males, all armed with weapons from a shotgun to pistols."
The getaway vehicle is described as a silver or gray Nissan Altima or Sentra, between the model years of 2004-2006.
The suspects are considered armed and dangerous.
Third, this story from February 7, 2013:
Authorities are asking for help in finding a group of armed men wanted for a home invasion that took place in the city's westside.A January 22, 2013 report:
It all happened at a home off the 1600 block of West Ventura Avenue around 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Pharr police told Action 4 News that five to six armed men stormed the hoem demanding cash.
Investigators said the men all had masks on their faces as they displayed weapons during the whole incident.
The suspects then left in a grey or silver Lincoln Navigator in an unknown direction.
A total of 7 people arrested.These are all from one news station in one metropolitan area over just a few weeks.
Francisco Ibarra, Auner Hernandez, Ignacio Berrones, Daniel Flores, Merari Hernandez, Jackie Rocha and Pedro Martinez, all linked to one crime--aggravated robbery.
“In one instance they shot the door and kicked it down, in another instance two of the home occupants were injured by gunfire..so these folks mean business but maybe the publicity and hear about these arrest, maybe they’ll put up their guns, nonetheless we are not going to stop,” Hidalgo County Sherriff Lupe Trevino said.
The men are equipped with high caliber weapons disguising themselves with hockey masks.
They are not just targeting businesses they’re also targeting homes.
Sherriff Trevino said usually its bad guys on bad guys but in recent cases he’s noticed that there is no connection between the victim and the suspects.
The increase in aggravated robberies, has Sheriff Trevino pulling 12 to 15 lawmen from the Gang unit, SWAT unit, and the regular Patrol unit.
All have been chosen to a part of an armed robbery task force.
Trevino said they are the best of the best.
Results have been positive but they didn't meet all of their objectives
“The part that we didn’t accomplish is that we have yet to link these 7 people to the 2 home invasion...we actually think they are two separate groups driving a similar vehicle,” he said.
He said the armed robbery unit is still intact and says they will continue to do their job to bring crime down.
The 7 men caught in the aggravated robberies are linked to the Firebird Icehouse drive-thru in Donna and JR's Mini Mart in Weslaco.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
You may have seen news stories from a few days ago reporting on the discovery, in Mali, of an Al Qaeda list of tips for thwarting drone attacks. Whether they are efficacious or not is questionable, but here they are (via the Telegraph):
1. It is possible to know the intention and the mission of the drone by using the Russianmade “sky grabber” device to infiltrate the drone’s waves and the frequencies. The device is available in the market for $2,595 and the one who operates it should be a computer know-how.
2. Using devices that broadcast frequencies or pack of frequencies to disconnect the contacts and confuse the frequencies used to control the drone. The Mujahideen have had successful experiments using the Russian-made “Racal.”
3. Spreading the reflective pieces of glass on a car or on the roof of the building.
4. Placing a group of skilled snipers to hunt the drone, especially the reconnaissance ones because they fly low, about six kilometres or less.
5. Jamming of and confusing of electronic communication using the ordinary water-lifting dynamo fitted with a 30-metre copper pole.
6. Jamming of and confusing of electronic communication using old equipment and keeping them 24-hour running because of their strong frequencies and it is possible using simple ideas of deception of equipment to attract the electronic waves devices similar to that used by the Yugoslav army when they used the microwave (oven) in attracting and confusing the Nato missiles fitted with electromagnetic searching devices.
7. Using general confusion methods and not to use permanent headquarters.
8. Discovering the presence of a drone through well-placed reconnaissance networks and to warn all the formations to halt any movement in the area.
9. To hide from being directly or indirectly spotted, especially at night.
10. To hide under thick trees because they are the best cover against the planes.
11. To stay in places unlit by the sun such as the shadows of the buildings or the trees.
12. Maintain complete silence of all wireless contacts.
13. Disembark of vehicles and keep away from them especially when being chased or during combat.
14. To deceive the drone by entering places of multiple entrances and exits.
15. Using underground shelters because the missiles fired by these planes are usually of the fragmented anti-personnel and not anti-buildings type.
16. To avoid gathering in open areas and in urgent cases, use building of multiple doors or exits.
17. Forming anti-spies groups to look for spies and agents.
18. Formation of fake gatherings such as using dolls and statutes to be placed outside false ditches to mislead the enemy.
19. When discovering that a drone is after a car, leave the car immediately and everyone should go in different direction because the planes are unable to get after everyone.
20. Using natural barricades like forests and caves when there is an urgent need for training or gathering.
21. In frequently targeted areas, use smoke as cover by burning tires.
22. As for the leaders or those sought after, they should not use communications equipment because the enemy usually keeps a voice tag through which they can identify the speaking person and then locate him.
While the Syrian civil war is generally described in the media as a popular revolt against President Assad, it has increasingly become a sectarian war between Shiites and Sunnis, mirroring increased violence between the groups throughout the Middle-East. One concern with the Syrian conflict was that it might spread across the border into Lebanon, further destabilizing the region. That appears to be what is beginning to happen. From the Washington Free Beacon (Feb. 21, 2013):
Syrian rebels have reportedly bombed two compounds operated by the Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah, the main Syrian opposition group announced Thursday.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) claims its forces bombed Hezbollah facilities in Lebanon and Syria, a cross-border raid that indicates the rebels’ desire to increase their attacks on allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The development may mark a critical turn in Syria’s two-year war, bearing out fears that the increasingly sectarian conflict would spill over across Syria’s borders,” according to the Israel Project (TIP), which first reported on the operation.
Hezbollah reportedly has been preparing for an attack and had placed its forces on “high alert” in recent weeks according to TIP, a pro-Israel media group that spoke to FSA sources who confirmed the attack.
Syrian rebels have increased their rhetoric against Hezbollah, which has backed Assad’s regime.
The FSA claimed in recent days that Hezbollah had fired at its troops and then threatened to shell the terror group’s strongholds in retaliation, according to regional reports.
The FSA’s apparent willingness to strike Hezbollah indicates that a larger proxy war is playing out between the rebels and Assad’s backers, including Iran.
President Barack Obama has refused to intervene in the conflict in any significant military manner.
Middle East experts say Hezbollah is supporting Assad at the behest of its main sponsor Iran.
“For a group [Hezbollah] that has always portrayed itself as standing up for the dispossessed in the face of injustice, downplaying its sectarian and pro-Iranian identities, supporting a brutal Alawite-dominated regime against the predominantly Sunni Syrian, opposition risked shattering a long-cultivated image,” said Matthew Levitt, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
“In the end, the strategic necessity of preventing the collapse of the Assad regime—which, if replaced by a regime representing the country’s Sunni majority, would be far less friendly to Hezbollah and possibly outright opposed to it—took precedence over the need to maintain the party’s image,” said Levitt.
I've noted before that the modern prophets have repeatedly foretold that the United States will suffer a second, more devastating civil war, economic calamities, as well as other disasters. (See also here). Right now, however, I want to focus on the possibility of a second civil war.
In his book, Prophecy--Key to the Future, Duane S. Crowther cites various early LDS Church leaders concerning a second civil war. For instance, Orson Pratt, speaking in 1879, described this second civil war:
[I]t will be very different from the war between the North and the South. Do you wish me to describe it? I will do so. It will be a war of neighborhood against neighborhood, city against city, town against town, county against county, state against state, and they will go forth, destroying and being destroyed and manufacturing will, in a great measure, cease, for a time among the American nation. Why? Because in these terrible wars, they will not be privileged to manufacture, there will be too much bloodshed, too much mobocracy, too much going forth in bands and destroying and pillaging the land to suffer people to pursue any local vocation with any degree of safety. What will become of millions of the farmers upon that land? They will leave their farms and they will remain uncultivated, and they will flee before the ravaging armies from place to place; and thus will they go forth burning and pillaging the whole country; and that great and powerful nation, now consisting of some forty millions of people, will be wasted away, unless they repent.(Crowther p. 50). Brigham Young reported Joseph Smith as describing:
I heard Joseph Smith say, nearly thirty years ago, "They shall have mobbing to hearts content, if they do not redress the wrongs of the Latter-day Saints. Mobs will not decrease, but will increase until the whole government becomes a mob, and eventually it will be State against State, city against city, neigborhood against neighborhood." ... it will be Christian against Christian, and man against man, and those who will not take up the sword against their neighbors, must flee to Zion.(Crowther 51). Joseph Smith is also quoted as saying:
A terrible revolution will take place in the land of America, such as has never been seen before; for the land will be literally left without a supreme government, and every species of wickedness will run rampant. Father will be against son, and son against father, mother against daughter, and daughter against mother. The most terrible scenes of murder and bloodshed and rapine that have ever been looked upon will take place.(Crowther 53). Crowther goes on to describe other prophecies and statements from early Church leaders that the Saints will, perforce, establish their own government to maintain the Constitution; and that the breakdown in the United States will cause, or allow, wars to spread to Europe and other regions of the world. That, I take, suggests that with the Pax Americana out of the way, other nations will be at each other's throats.From this Crowther suggests that:
The conflict in the United States seems to begin the wars of complete destruction. During the struggle in which this nation collapses a political kingdom will be established by the Saints and they will then return to build the New Jerusalem. The power of opposing nations will diminish as they succumb to the ravages of various wars and natural destruction which will begin while the United States is falling. The Kingdom of God will increase in dominion.(Crowther 55-56).
My interest has been in trying to figure out what social trends will cause a civil war that literally starts and spreads from the most basic fabric of society--the family. Obviously, it will be a culmination of years of the people of the United States culturally splitting, but I have also wondered about a trigger point. For instance, the tensions between the Colonies and Great Britain had been building for years, but it was the tea tax that seemed to have finally pushed matters to a head, from the perspective of Britain, and the British attempt to seize arms in Lexington that finally sparked the American Revolution. Similarly, looking at the so-called "Arab Spring," it was the self-immolation of a street vendor in Tunisia that finally brought years of tension and complaints to a breaking point.
We are getting plenty of clues. First, as many have discussed over the past several years, there has arising in the United States a distinct ruling class with its own rules, mores, social outlook, and thought processes, that are completely alien to the citizenry at large. I had previously noted an article by Angelo Codevilla discussing the attributes of our new ruling elite.Codevilla has published a new article at Forbes that expands on the themes and discussion of his prior article. He writes, in part:
On January 1, 2013 one third of Republican congressmen, following their leaders, joined with nearly all Democrats to legislate higher taxes and more subsidies for Democratic constituencies. Two thirds voted no, following the people who had elected them. For generations, the Republican Party had presented itself as the political vehicle for Americans whose opposition to ever-bigger government financed by ever-higher taxes makes them a “country class.” Yet modern Republican leaders, with the exception of the Reagan Administration, have been partners in the expansion of government, indeed in the growth of a government-based “ruling class.” They have relished that role despite their voters. Thus these leaders gradually solidified their choice to no longer represent what had been their constituency, but to openly adopt the identity of junior partners in that ruling class. By repeatedly passing bills that contradict the identity of Republican voters and of the majority of Republican elected representatives, the Republican leadership has made political orphans of millions of Americans. In short, at the outset of 2013 a substantial portion of America finds itself un-represented, while Republican leaders increasingly represent only themselves.
By the law of supply and demand, millions of Americans, (arguably a majority) cannot remain without representation. Increasingly the top people in government, corporations, and the media collude and demand submission as did the royal courts of old. This marks these political orphans as a “country class.” In 1776 America’s country class responded to lack of representation by uniting under the concept: “all men are created equal.” In our time, its disparate sectors’ common sentiment is more like: “who the hell do they think they are?”
The ever-growing U.S. government has an edgy social, ethical, and political character. It is distasteful to a majority of persons who vote Republican and to independent voters, as well as to perhaps one fifth of those who vote Democrat. The Republican leadership’s kinship with the socio-political class that runs modern government is deep. Country class Americans have but to glance at the Media to hear themselves insulted from on high as greedy, racist, violent, ignorant extremists. Yet far has it been from the Republican leadership to defend them. Whenever possible, the Republican Establishment has chosen candidates for office – especially the Presidency – who have ignored, soft-pedaled or given mere lip service to their voters’ identities and concerns.
* * *In short, he describes an elite that is self-selective and trained to think, act, and speak similarly through attendance at elite universities. However, the elite universities aren't "elite" in the sense of producing the best educated and visionary, but because they have been selected to be elite. They produce people that think they are smarter than everyone else, but actually aren't. The problem is, both the Democratic and Republican elites move in the same circles. Conservatives are unrepresented in the upper echelons of government, big business, and education. (Rush Limbough's lament that for the first time he is ashamed of his country is a result of lock-step thinking of both parties in Congress).
Political partisanship became a more important feature of American life over the past half-century largely because the Democratic Party, which has been paramount within the U.S. government since 1932, entrenched itself as America’s ruler, and its leaders became a ruling class. This caused a Newtonian “opposite reaction,” which continues to gather force.In our time, the Democratic Party gave up the diversity that had characterized it since Jeffersonian times. Giving up the South, which had been its main bastion since the Civil War as well as the working classes that had been the heart of its big city machines from Boston to San Diego, it came to consist almost exclusively of constituencies that make up government itself or benefit from government. Big business, increasingly dependent on government contracts and regulation, became a virtual adjunct of the contracting agents and regulators. Democrats’ traditional labor union auxiliaries shifted from private employees to public. Administrators of government programs of all kinds, notably public assistance, recruited their clientele of dependents into the Party’s base. Democrats, formerly the party of slavery and segregation, secured the allegiance of racial minorities by unrelenting assertions that the rest of American society is racist. Administrators and teachers at all levels of education taught two generations that they are brighter and better educated than the rest of Americans, whose objections to the schools’ (and the Party’s) prescriptions need not be taken seriously.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of American education’s centralization, intellectual homogenization and partisanship in the formation of the ruling class’ leadership. Many have noted the increasing stratification of American society and that, unlike in decades past, entry into its top levels now depends largely on graduation from elite universities. As Charles Murray has noted, their graduates tend to marry one another, perpetuating what they like to call a “meritocracy.” But this is rule not by the meritorious, rather by the merely credentialed – because the credentials are suspect. As Ron Unz has shown, nowadays entry into the ivied gateways to power is by co-option, not merit. Moreover, the amount of study required at these universities leaves their products with more pretense than knowledge or skill. The results of their management– debt, decreased household net worth, increased social strife – show that America has been practicing negative selection of elites.
* * *Republican leaders neither parry the insults nor vilify their Democratic counterparts in comparable terms because they do not want to beat the ruling class, but to join it in solving the nation’s problems. How did they come to cut such pathetic figures?
The Republican Party never fully adapted itself to the fact that modern big government is an interest group in and of itself, inherently at odds with the rest of society, that it creates a demand for representation by those it alienates, and hence that politicians must choose whether to represent the rulers or the ruled. The Republican Party had been the party of government between the Civil War and 1932. But government then was smaller in size, scope, and pretense. The Rockefellers of New York and Lodges of Massachusetts – much less the Tafts of Ohio – did not aspire to shape the lives of the ruled, as does modern government. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal largely shut these Republicans out of the patronage and power of modern government.
By the late 1930s, being out of power had begun to make the Republicans the default refuge of voters who did not like what the new, big government was doing. Some Republican leaders – the Taft wing of the Party – adopted this role. The Rockefeller wing did not. Though the latter were never entirely comfortable with the emerging Democratic ruling class, their big business constituency pressed them to be their advocate to it. A few such Republicans (e.g. Kevin Philips The Emerging Republican Majority) even dreamed during the Nixon-Ford Administration of the 1970s that they might replace Democrats at the head of the ruling class. But the die had been cast long since: Corporations, finance, and the entitled high and low – America’s “ins” – gravitated to the Democrats’ permanent power, while the “outs” fled into the Republican fold. Thus after WWII the Republican Party came to consist of office holders most of who yearned to be “ins,” and of voters who were mostly “outs.”
This internal contradiction was unsustainable. The Republican leadership, regarding its natural constituency as embarrassing to its pursuit of a larger role in government, limited its appeal to it. Thus it gradually cut itself off from the only root of the power by which it might gain that role. Thus the Republicans proved to be “the stupid party.”
In 1960 Barry Goldwater began the revolt of the Republican Party’s constituent “outsider” or “country class,” by calling for a grass-roots takeover of the Party. This led to Goldwater’s nomination for President in 1964. The Republican Establishment maligned him more vigorously than did the Democrats. But the Goldwater movement switched to Ronald Reagan, who overcame the Republican Establishment and the ruling class to win the Presidency by two landslide elections. Yet the question: “who or what does the Republican Party represent” continued to sharpen because the Reagan interlude was brief, because it never transformed the Party, and hence because the Bush (pere et fils) dynasty plus Congressional leadership (Newt Gingrich was a rebel against it and treated a such) behaved increasingly indistinguishably from Democrats. Government grew more rapidly under these Republican Administrations than under Democratic ones.
In sum, the closer one gets to the Republican Party’s voters, the more the Party looks like Goldwater and Reagan. The closer one gets to its top, the more it looks like the ghost of Rockefeller. Consider 2012: the party chose for President someone preferred by only one fourth of its voters – Mitt Romney, whose first youthful venture in politics had been to take part in the political blackballing of Barry Goldwater.
One reason for the Republican Party’s bipolarity is the centripetal attraction of the ruling class: In the absence of forces to the contrary, smaller bodies tend to become satellites of larger ones. Modern America’s homogenizing educational Establishment and the ruling class’ near monopoly on credentials, advancement, publicity, and money draws ambitious Republicans into the Democrats’ orbit. That is why for example a majority of the Republican Establishment, including The Wall Street Journal and the post-W.F. Buckley National Review supported the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and its premise that big, well-connected enterprises are “too big to fail” - which three fourths of the American people opposed vociferously. For these Republican cognoscenti vox populi is not vox dei, but the voice of idiots. Accordingly, after the 2010 elections produced a large contingent of Senators and Congressmen pledged to oppose measures such as the TARP, former Senate Republican majority leader Trent Lott expressed confidence that Washington would soon break the new members to its ways, that pledges to voters would count for little against the approval or disapproval of prestigious personages, against the profit to be made by going along with the ruling class and the trouble that comes from opposing it.
That trouble is daunting. Whoever chooses to represent the country class might have right and reason on their side. Nevertheless they can be certain that the ruling class media will not engage those reasons but vilify the persons who voice them as ignorant, irresponsible, etc. Asserting moral-intellectual superiority, chastising and intimidating rather than persuading opponents is by no means the least of the ruling class’ powers. “It’s the contempt, stupid!” But the Republican leadership has proved stupid enough to deal with the contempt as the Pharisee in the Temple dealt with sin: “I thank thee Lord that I am not like other Republicans…”
* * *
Today the majority of Republican congressmen plus a minority of senators – dissidents from the Party but solid with their voters – are the natural core of a new party. The name it might bear is irrelevant. Very relevant are sectors of America’s population increasingly represented by groups that sprang up to represent them when the Republican leadership did not.
This representation is happening by default. It is aided by the internet, which makes it possible to spread ideas to which the educational Establishment gives short shrift and which the ruling class media shun. In short, the internet helps undermine the ruling class’ near-homogenization of American intellectual life, its closing of the American mind. Not by reason but by bureaucratic force majeure had America’s educational Establishment isolated persons who deviate from it, cutting access to a sustaining flow of ideas that legitimize their way of life. But the internet allows marginalized dissenters to reason with audiences of millions. Ideas have consequences. No surprise then that more and more of Republican elected officials seem to think less like their leaders and more like their voters.
The internet also spread the power to organize. Already in the 1970s Richard Viguerie had begun to upset the political parties’ monopoly on organization by soliciting money from the general public for causes and candidates through direct mail. The internet amplified this technique’s effectiveness by orders of magnitude, making it possible to transmit ideas and political signals while drawing financial support from millions of likeminded people throughout the country. Thus informed with facts and opinion, sectors of the country class have felt represented and empowered vis a vis the ruling class. Those on the electronic distribution list of the “Club for Growth,” for example, are at least as well informed on economic matters as any credentialed policy maker. The several pro-life organizations have spread enough knowledge of embryology and moral logic to make Roe v. Wade, which the ruling class regards as its greatest victory, a shrinking island in American jurisprudence and society. The countless Tea Parties that have sprung up all over have added their countless attendees to networks of information and organization despite the ruling class’ effort to demonize them. The same goes for evangelicals, gun owners, etc. Though such groups represent the country class fragmentarily, country class people identify with them rather than with the Republican Party because the groups actually stand for something, and represent their adherents against the ruling class’ charges, insults, etc.
Codevilla is not alone in his thinking on this. For instance, Megan McCardle wrote earlier this week about America's New Mandarins:
But I think that we are looking at something even deeper than that: the Mandarinization of America.
The Chinese imperial bureaucracy was immensely powerful. Entrance was theoretically open to anyone, from any walk of society—as long as they could pass a very tough examination. The number of passes was tightly restricted to keep the bureaucracy at optimal size.
Passing the tests and becoming a “scholar official” was a ticket to a very good, very secure life. And there is something to like about a system like this ... especially if you happen to be good at exams. Of course, once you gave the imperial bureaucracy a lot of power, and made entrance into said bureaucracy conditional on passing a tough exam, what you have is ... a country run by people who think that being good at exams is the most important thing on earth. Sound familiar?
The people who pass these sorts of admissions tests are very clever. But they're also, as time goes on, increasingly narrow. The way to pass a series of highly competitive exams is to focus every fiber of your being on learning what the authorities want, and giving it to them. To the extent that the "Tiger Mom" phenomenon is actually real, it's arguably the cultural legacy of the Mandarin system
That system produced many benefits, but some of those benefits were also costs. A single elite taking a single exam means a single way of thinking:
The examination system also served to maintain cultural unity and consensus on basic values. The uniformity of the content of the examinations meant that the local elite and ambitious would-be elite all across China were being indoctrinated with the same values.
All elites are good at rationalizing their eliteness, whether it's meritocracy or “the divine right of kings.” The problem is the mandarin elite has some good arguments. They really are very bright and hardworking. It’s just that they’re also prone to be conformist, risk averse, obedient, and good at echoing the opinions of authority, because that is what this sort of examination system selects for.
The even greater danger is that they become more and more removed from the people they are supposed to serve. ...
... many of the mandarins have never worked for a business at all, except for a think tank, the government, a media organization, or a school—places that more or less deliberately shield their content producers from the money side of things. There is nothing wrong with any of these places, but culturally and operationally they're very different from pretty much any other sort of institution. I don't myself claim to understand how most businesses work, but having switched from business to media, I'm aware of how different they can be.
In fact, I think that to some extent, the current political wars are a culture war not between social liberals and social conservatives, but between the values of the mandarin system and the values of those who compete in the very different culture of ordinary businesses--ones outside glamour industries like tech or design.
... The road to a job as a public intellectual now increasingly runs through a few elite schools, often followed by a series of very-low-paid internships that have to be subsidized by well-heeled parents, or at least a free bedroom in a major city. The fact that I have a somewhat meandering work and school history, and didn't become a journalist until I was 30, gives me some insight (she said, modestly) that is hard to get if you’re on a laser-focused track that shoots you out of third grade and straight toward a career where you write and think for a living. Almost none of the kids I meet in Washington these days even had boring menial high-school jobs working in a drugstore or waiting tables; they were doing “enriching” internships or academic programs. And thus the separation of the mandarin class grows ever more complete.
I’m hinting at the final problem, which is that this ostensibly meritocratic system increasingly selects from those with enough wealth and connections to first, understand the system, and second, prepare the right credentials to enter it—as I believe it also did in Imperial China.
And like all elites, they believe that they not only rule because they can, but because they should. Even many quite left-wing folks do not fundamentally question the idea that the world should be run by highly verbal people who test well and turn their work in on time. They may think that machine operators should have more power and money in the workplace, and salesmen and accountants should have less. But if they think there's anything wrong with the balance of power in the system we all live under, it is that clever mandarins do not have enough power to bend that system to their will. For the good of everyone else, of course. Not that they spend much time with everyone else, but they have excellent imaginations.
As I say, the mandarins are in many senses deserving: they work very hard, and they are very smart. But there is one important thing they do not know, which is what it is like to be anyone except a mandarin. ...
But the people entering journalism, or finance, or consulting, or any other "elite" profession, are increasingly the children of the children of those who rocketed to prosperity through the postwar education system. A window that opened is closing. The mandarins are pulling away from the rest of America.There are several implications from this. Most significantly, as Glenn Reynolds has written about, and Codevilla discusses in this earlier article on the Perils of Revolution, this produces what Reynolds calls the "moocher" class, those people (both poor, middle-class, and wealthy) who make their living from government largess, and the creative/working class that actually produce wealth (otherwise known as the "suckers"). However, because the elite rely on the "moochers" (and vice versa), and as Codevilla's notes in his article cited above, it leaves the rest of America without any representation or say in government.
The question is who will step up to the plate. As Codevilla discusses, because the "country class" are unrepresented, they must turn to other groups to represent them. However, these groups are fragmented. Some groups don't particularly like one another. For instance, libertarians, who often support gay marriage, abortion, and drug legalization, are at odds with conservative Christians, although they may otherwise see eye-to-eye on government spending and overreach.
One viable unifying voice was the Tea Party. (Rush Limbough may be trying to help strengthen the Tea Party). This is why I believe that the elite were so vocal in their attacks (including the crude references to "tea bagging") against the Tea Party.
However, the ruling elite have identified another second unifying voice--cutting across the divides of many conservatives--and are now attacking it. That is gun rights. Passage of the 1994 Assault Weapons bill was devastating to the elite. For the first time ever, a Speaker of the House lost reelection. It was, in fact, responsible for sweeping Republicans into power in Congress. And it resonates among many voters. After the earlier Assault Weapons bill sunset, George W. Bush indicated that he was willing to pass a new ban if Congress put it before him. I know that a lot of gun owners that thought it was just empty rhetoric, but I believe he was serious. However, at that time, the proposal was dead in the water (although Federal regulations based on the AWB seemed to live on).
I think the success of the Tea Party in these last two elections has scared the elite (both Democratic and Republican). So, not only must they crush the Tea Party, but they must also crush the "gun lobby," as these are increasingly becoming the only real challenge to their homogeneity. This, I believe, is why the President and his ilk are pushing gun control so strongly now.
There is a significant difference between the Tea Part and gun rights, groups, however. Notwithstanding the comments of the journalist elites, the Tea Part has never posed a physical threat. The attack on gun rights, however, has the very real potential of generating armed resistance. Perhaps this is what the elite want; perhaps they are so confident of their position that they don't think it will ever happen. But if the gun rights issues were to someone start bringing together a coalition of the unrepresented "country class," the elites will predictably overreact and overreach in trying to stomp it down.
Last Tuesday I wrote about the developing crisis around the Chinese real estate development and investment firm, Evergrande , and the risk i...