30 October 2008

Ascendancy of the "Half-blood Prince"

A story of O

If you remain curious about this still opaque individual who seems imminently to become the leader of the free world, you might want to go to the link below (Hat tip: Eric Falkenstein) to peruse and ponder a detailed third party account of his personality and proclivities.

PDF Format

It is a free 240 page self published online PDF written by a conservative US journalist named Steve Sailer .

My initial browsing of it for about an hour found it a sympathetic if unfiltered telling of Obama the man, based mostly on O’s first autobiography: “Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance”. It seems refreshingly non PC and direct on racial issues.

I am linking to this interesting tract now ahead of next week’s election because there seems to be some unfulfilled appetite for real attempts at discovering the character of this emerging potentate. It at least gives us an opportunity to focus on something other than the deluge of bilge from US news anchors and ecstatic or rancorous media commentators, who will bombard us in coming days (when we are not watching the Bledisloe, Derby or Melbourne Cup). You can thereby try to distance yourself from seeing this momentous event solely through the prism of the current mono-focused partisan agenda of the world’s media.

Otherwise just enjoy the incomparable week of drama that now lies in store.

17 October 2008

In. The. Tank.

Get Palin. Get the Plumber. Just get Obama the Presidency.

An understanding of what constitutes fair play had, within tolerable limits, quite wide common ground in the communities I grew up in. That includes the books, newspapers, magazines, television programs and radio broadcasts that have shaped my perceptions, as well as my homes, schools, teams and workplaces. I'm certainly not the first to say this, as a parent of teenagers or as an ageing adult, but I am still genuinely surprised I have to say it. This is no longer the case. "Fairness" has been captured by post-modernism to such an extent that it has become a casualty of the culture conflicts of contemporary society, the same way that "truth" has.

Just look at the media reporting of the Obama and Palin phenomena. Reporters and commentators (they are now the same thing) no longer feel the need to even be seen dealing fairly with the subjects of their news reports about unfolding political processes.

Check out this from a report in the Sydney Morning Herald on the last Presidential candidacy debate the other night from Fairfax correspondent, Anne Davis in Washington:
"McCain slips up on road to Whitehouse

....Senator Obama tried to rise above the fray, refusing to criticise the Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's experience and even praising Senator McCain's stance on torture. But where Senator Obama was devastating was in repeatedly tying Senator McCain to Mr Bush's policies..."

Senator Obama may have refused to criticise Governor Palin's experience, but Anne Davis wasn't going to let the opportunity slip. But where Corespondent Davis is devastating is in repeatedly tying her commentary to the prevailing overarching media narrative: the Republican is unfair and partisan, the Democrat is fair and above politics.

This is unfair reporting for an Australian without a stake in their game in the US, but the journalistic standard in play here seems to be:

"Hey, truth is relative after all, so who's to say that the perspective of my story is unfair. I'm just reporting it as I see it, and what I see is that one candidate was noble and has got what it takes and the other is negative and unworthy, so that's how I'll report it."

Who are these folk kidding? It has become so obvious, even from this distance, that the media in this presidential campaign have abandoned all pretence of impartiality and fairness, that I am not the only one who thinks that this could create a major backlash electorally. This could be the best "get out the vote" incentive the Republicans could have conceived. Except that it will be an entirely inadvertent outcome of the media's overt push to install their favoured candidate in the Whitehouse. Ah the law of unintended consequences again. It will be a marvel to behold the media's incredulity if McCain does manage to sneak home under their very noses in November. And the latest tracking polls from Gallup suggest this remains a real possibility: Obama 49%, McCain 43% (and look at the traditional "likely voter" poll: it's within the error margin).

And this obsessive outbreak of media victimization of an Ohio plumber who dared to ask Senator Obama a question about tax, that the media itself couldn't ask, is more icing on this huge unpalatable pudding being cooked up by the media for our forced consumption, with the Governor of Alaska already baked inside. The cherry will come later with their retching it all back up if their amateurish concoction of bile bombs when finally consumed.

But so much more can happen in a week in politics online (see Mickey Kaus's "Feiler-faster thesis") that this could all still turn on a top in a trice.

Maybe truth and fairness have meaning and consequences after all. Ah, the joy of it all.

15 October 2008

All experts stuff up.

And I am an expert at criticism ...

Eric Falkenstein has again given us some gristle to chew on:

"The sad fact is that experts are often more wrong on facts in their field than the average person. They are able to create a highly scientific rationale for their belief, and deflect criticism from 'conventional wisdom' because most people with mere common sense do not follow the academic protocol of the field that sets the standard for accepted expert opinion."

After what we have all been through recently; with economists and market analysts being made fools of by financial markets and with scientists and environmentalists looking sillier by the year when the planet openly defies their decrees to heat up; this is a very appealing observation. The items of evidence that Falkenstein offers for this proposition are illuminating ...
And I will store them up here, for my own future reference:

Anthropologist, Elizabeth Thomas, acclaimed author on prehistoric cultures ("Harmless People" 1959) , getting it completely wrong, expertly declaring that, notwithstanding our ignorant prejudices against the natives, hunter gatherers lived lives of peace and co-operation, without war. More recent experts like Lawrence Keeley suggest that homicide rates per capita for pre-lapsarian primitives were much higher than those in civilized societies. Who are we to believe?

Sex experts telling us in the 70s that we are all to a large degree bi-sexual, when our own intuition and experience suggested that most us have pretty pronounced gender preferences regarding sex. Well who was right about this, we rubes or the experts? (I fancied the inference that these sex experts had secumbed to wishful thinking; there's a bit of that about in sex.)

Dietitians with many degrees and multiple publications in peer reviewed journals, fatuously formenting a fatwa against fat as a first order factor in fatness. But now the much derided populist Atkin's hypothesis that carbs are the main enemy of weight loss, looks like it is closer to the truth than the academicians' pronoucements.

Doctors and the American Medical Association declaring that steroids had no effect on athletic performance. Pure Gold.

Psychologists suggesting that delinquency was caused by a lack of self esteem. It seems now that it is an excess of self worth that is our major worry from these folk.

I will try to remember to add to this list from time to time. It could be fun. I'll start though with another recent event: Paul Krugman, the intemperate economic opinion writer and Democrat Party shill at the New York Times, has just been awarded the Nobel prize for "economic science". What is it with these Scandinavian scolds in recent times?

First the Norwegians give the 2007 Peace prize to Albert Gore junior and the IPCC for their raising of awareness about climate change(Peace is such an inconvenient title).

Then the head guy at the Swedish Nobel literature institute comes out in September this year and tells us all that Americans are too insular to write sophisticated enough fiction for a Nobel prize. These people are really trying hard to reposition the objectivity credentials of the Nobel brand with this kind of manipulation of their mandate and PR spin.

And now they give an economic Nobel to an openly partisan liberal media commentator, weeks out from a US Presidential election!

I guess it's just a sophisticated post modern resignation to the inevitable: "what's the use of having a reputation for objective impartiality unless you can use that reputation to influence events towards your desired objectives"? Ruling elites always culturally skew towards self perpetuation anyway, so why be coy about it?

No wonder respect for expertise is no longer quite what it used to be. These dynamite endowed melancholics from the hydrocarbon rich Arctic's edge, again demonstrate by their selection, all the passion and sense of entitlement of oil rich sheiks choosing new wives for their harem.

08 October 2008

The Earth has become poorer and colder

The economic modellers and the climate modellers were wrong.

We were told by Glenn Stevens, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), in August 2007 (during a Federal election campaign):

"...developments to date do not appear to have changed significantly the broader global outlook. Even with the US slowing down, forecasts of global growth have recently been revised upward. "

We were told by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Summary for Policy Makers in 2007 that:

"[Most] of the observed increase in global temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likley due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concertrations."

So how have these statements of such august and responsible public institutions in economics and climate respectively, stood up in the light of the implacable gaze of history?

The RBA's Glenn Stevens told us yesterday that:

"The recent deterioration in prospects for global growth, together with much more difficult market conditions even for creditworthy borrowers, now present the risk that demand and output could be significantly weaker than earlier expected."

And, according to UBS, the US is currently in the middle of two quarters of negative growth. The just completed September quarter has seen a contraction in US GDP of 1% and the current December quarter is expected to contract by 1.5%. Two quarters of negative growth is the text book definition of a recession. The US is in the middle of a recession right now.

The IPCC's assertive certainty about the contribution of GHGs to global temperature increases are also now looking pretty silly. We have been told often enough by a strident media that there has been a massive acceleration in atmospheric CO2 concerntrations in the last decade, and yet, over the same period, global temperatures have fallen. David H.Douglas of the Department of Physics at the University of Richester and John R. Christy of the Department of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama, published a paper in Energy and Environment in August 2008 showing that the contribution of greenhouse gasses to temperature increases in the second half of the 20 century have been at best marginal. Will we get an apology or a retraction from the IPCC?
So we shouldn't trust anyone, no matter who they are, who predicts for us tomorrow's weather or next year's climate or tomorrow's stockmarket or the next quarter's economic outlook.

But where does that leave people who pontificate about the future using economic models of climate models? (or is that climate models of economic models?) Belief in such predictions would surely require a leap of faith of religious dimensions. But these are scientific processes, so they must be right. Right? There's no religion to be seen here. Move along.

01 October 2008

The darkest hours

We wait on feckless populists & reckless opportunists in Congress

Now that the Democrat controlled US House of Representatives has voted down Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's "$700 billion bailout package", there is a palpable sense of fear in world securities and credit markets. The US Senate reconvenes on Wednesday to try to pass an amended package, which is to be resubmitted to the House on Thursday in the US.

In the meantime the world just watches and waits, paralysed.

If the new package is voted down again, then the market could crap out again and, worse, credit could dry up to business. This is as bleak as it gets. If the axe falls then we know we are in the abyss and can adjust our expectations. If we get a reprieve then, we muddle through as before. But at present there is only the powerlessness of waiting on others to determine our fate.

Some plan Bs and plan Cs are emerging as the world faces the unthinkable, financial meltdown. The US Federal Deposits Insurance Commission can apparently be empowered by the Administration to inject comparable levels of liquidity into the US banking sector without Congressional approval. The SEC can and has eased the requirement that corporations mark their securities to market where there is no real market for those securities. This might allow some vulnerable institutions to keep compromised debt portfolios on their books at higher levels than would otherwise be the case.

So there still seems to be the semblance of a muddle through available, even if Paulson's package is rejected, but it still looks bleak. The erosion of confidence and trust in credit markets does not seem likely to heal quickly.

There are many curious and interesting features of this crisis. Not the least of which is the attitude of the media. Because it is occurring in the white heat of a US Presidential election campaign, the morons in the media don't seem to be able to segregate the substantive issues at stake here from the political appearances. The posturing of the candidates and the congressional leadership has been fascinatingly shallow and reckless.

Another feature has been the clear disjunction between the populist view and the political leadership view of this "bailout". It has highlighted a real dilemma and potential weakness in open democratic societies. It seems that a significant proportion of the Representatives of both parties who voted down this legislation, were those who anticipate close congressional races to get re-elected in November. This suggests that where a legislator has real cause to be sensitive to and feels answerable to their electorate, then they do not want to be seen by voters to endorse legislation granting vast sums of taxpayer funds to prop up insolvent financial institutions. On the other hand, legislators with a safe margin who feel comfortable about re-election, seem to feel free to substitute their personal "leadership" judgement over the objections of their electorate. Democracy in action can be a cruel, fascinating and irrational thing at times. Just who is leading whom here?

I also harbour a deep fear that command economy control freaks, who neither understand nor trust markets, will further exacerbate and perpetuate this unholy mess. The cry has already gone up from Sarkosy, Pelosi, Obama, Biden and McCain and the Moron Surfing Media (MSM), that this crisis is a creature of market failure. They cannot see it for what it is: the market's delayed, but inevitable, judgement on a profound failure of earlier passionate government intervention in disspassionate process. These reflexive control freaks who can't bear a situation that they do not have command over, will not recognise that government intervention was the cause of this problem. It was Government who pushed Freddie and Fannie to lend to poor credit risk home buyers, who the market would never have lent to. The lesson that should be learned here is that when government tells business who to do business with, there will eventually be hell to pay. We are paying for decisons made in the 1990s now. But I fear that the easy, superficial, and partisan response: that we need more control over markets, will prevail. We are therefore likely to have to pay a lot more for a long time to come.