Petra’s view and commentary on social, political and economic issues.
It’s been three days and three nights now that London has been burning, and there is no end in sight. An orgy of violence, destruction and looting has been raging across the capital; gangs of mostly black youths continue to smash up and plunder shops, vandalize and torch properties and set cars ablaze.
Yet politicians and much of the media (including the BBC, the bastion of political correctness) persist in ignoring the facts while dishing out fashionable propaganda. And so gang members and criminals become poor, misunderstood and ‘socially deprived’ young people, and looting and violence are justified as alleged consequence of government spending cuts, poverty and inequality. Not surprisingly, the fact that vast majority of these savages (sorry, disadvantaged youths) belong to certain protected minorities has barely been noted by our PC, diversity-worshipping media and politicians.
Let’s put things straight. Spending cuts (which are in any case more imaginary than real – public spending will continue to increase each year for the next four years, according to the government budget) and inequity have nothing to do with what’s been taking place in London (and now other UK cities as well). The criminal gangs of looters and arsonists are not victims of the economy or society; they are worthless, feral thugs who never had any interest in honest work, choosing instead to live off welfare and proceeds of crime.
That they – and many millions more – have been allowed to make such life choices, paid for by one of the world’s highest tax rates imposed on the hard working and productive Britons, is a consequence of the suicidal policies the UK has adopted in recent decades. Britain has bred (and imported) a vast underclass of savages and degenerates lacking any moral values, oblivious to ideas of hard work and social obligation, ingrained with a sense of entitlement with zero responsibility, and indulged in instant gratification.
Such people should have no place in a civilized society. But then, the UK can no longer claim to be one. It is a crumbling nation that has slowly but surely been descending into utter madness, with its celebration of moral inversion, non-judgmentalism, tolerance for the intolerable, support and protection of all that is evil, criminal, ugly and destructive. What we’re seeing in London is the product of a self-indulged, decaying society lacking any moral codes and sanctions or penalties for unacceptable behavior.
Unsurprisingly, even staring reality in the face (in the form of torched buildings, burnt out cars, wrecked buses, Molotov cocktails, and looting gangs) is apparently not enough to wake people from their carefully constructed delusions. The escalating violence has – predictably – brought out a growing army of apologists reveling in an orgy of excuse-making for the widespread lawlessness and violence.
There are also those who blame the feral violence and mass thuggery on alleged police brutality and – what else? – ‘racism’. The police certainly have plenty to answer for. They could start by explaining why they have been standing aside, allowing wholesale looting and violence in broad daylight. Their lack of intervention led to a complete breakdown of order, sending out a message that gangsters can act with brazen impunity. From there it was only a matter of time for the attacks to spread across the capital (and now other UK cities).
The British police, courts and justice system have long been a joke, going out of their way to protect and appease law-breakers, while denying both support and any right to self-defense to the victimized, law-abiding citizens whom they unleash the criminals on. It is the soft policing approach coupled with laughable sentencing (no incarceration even for serial violent offenders) and focus on the ‘human rights’ of the perpetrator that are partly responsible for the plight of all those who were made homeless, had their businesses destroyed and their lives ruined over the last three days (and counting).
Then there is the pervasive culture of political correctness that has, over the years, fatally wounded all British institutions, police force including. That the police made little attempt to restore order in the streets or intervene as looters were lining up to plunder stores and torch buildings has much to do with the ‘sensitivities’ of the minority population. For years police have been trained to be oversensitive to issues of race and to gently ‘engage’ and ‘reach out’ to those who use imaginary discrimination and grievances as excuse for criminal behavior. Police, much as everyone else in the UK, are paralyzed by fear of being called racist. It’s safer for their career to stand aside when it comes to minorities’ crime.
The Hate Crime guide published by the Association of Chief Police Officers in 2002, and periodically updated, dismissed the strict impartiality principle on the basis that impartial justice was unfair; “colour blind” policing – described as “policing that purports to treat everyone in the same way” was deemed flawed and unjust because it “fails to take account of the fact that different people have different reactions and different needs. Failure to recognise and understand these means failure to deliver services appropriate to needs and an inability to protect people irrespective of their background.” Officers who practiced such policing were to expect disciplinary action.)
Years of ‘sensitivity training’, health & safety focus and false priorities (such as being non-threatening, non-confrontational, and non-provocative instead of effective in crime fighting) have also created a new breed of police officers who are simply too cowardly and unable to do what their job requires.
Hence the appalling scenes of police standing by watching violent mobs destroy vast swathes of the capital. Despite the 16,000 officers on the streets, London has descended into chaos, anarchy and brutality, and law-abiding, tax-paying citizens are getting zero protection as their lives and property are being threatened and ruined. The cops, although fully armed and armored, are not reacting (unless one considers retreat an appropriate response) even as teams of young men are throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at them.
Today, after three days of mayhem, Home Secretary Theresa May ruled out the use of more appropriate tactics: “The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon. The way we police in Britain is through consent of communities.“ Not that this comes as a surprise; the elites have long proven to be completely out of touch with the reality of ordinary Britons. After all, Ms May et al don’t have to suffer the consequences of their delusional and evil policies and decisions.
The black community, unwilling to control its youths and happy to tolerate the criminal activities of its members, rarely accepts any responsibility, yet is always eager to voice indignation against the police. The death of Mark Duggan, a North London gang leader allegedly involved in drug dealing and gun crime (but of course praised by some as a leader of his community) was no exception. His killing on August 4, in an apparent shoot-out with officers from Operation Trident (a unit that deals with gun crime in the Afro-Caribbean communities) sparked a protest rally that soon escalated into demands for vengeance and the mass violence that has now spread across London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham and Manchester.
If Britain was a civilized country with its priorities right, the police would have stepped in immediately and with full force, arresting every looter, arsonist and gang member. Were the police unable to do so, the army should have been sent in to wipe out the scum.
But of course this being a ‘caring’ and ‘compassionate’ nation (instead of say zero tolerance, low crime Singapore or Japan), David Cameron et al will instead continue to spout their touchy-feely “hug a hoodie” garbage and throw billions more on ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘disenfranchised’ special groups. Meanwhile, the country will keep spiraling down into the depths of moral and spiritual poverty and degeneracy.
And if London’s burning now, just wait to see what happens in the coming years, once the economy collapses and the welfare checks stop coming. If you happen to live in the UK and haven’t left yet (as I thankfully did earlier this year), better start preparing for war.Continue Reading »
I’m not known for overt sentimentality, but watching the TV coverage of the last Space Shuttle returning to earth last Thursday morning was one of the saddest moments I can recall. Once Atlantis touched down it was all over; there would never be another Shuttle.
I’ve always had a penchant for all things space related. As a child I dreamt of space ships, aliens and far flung galaxies, religiously followed every NASA mission, and was glued to the TV screen each time a Shuttle rocketed into the sky or landed. I’d often wished to have been born some years earlier, to have witnessed the thrill of watching Neil Armstrong step onto the moon. (Undoubtedly influenced by my dad’s recollection of that incredible event as one of the most memorable of his lifetime). It didn’t matter that we were in the then Eastern Bloc; we watched the various US advances into space with awe and pride, just as millions of Americans did. It was yet another milestone for Western civilization and human achievement. The greatest of human adventures.
I was convinced some years later we’d get to Mars and beyond. Alas, it was not to be. I suppose it’s fitting that all this is over now. The US (and the West) have given up. The end of manned space flight is just one more symptom of the cultural, moral and economic decline.
The space program was an expression of the energetic, vigorous, optimistic, united America of the late 1950s. It symbolized the country’s ambitions, aspirations and hopes for a better future, its belief that Americans can achieve great things and do them better than anyone else. All that is history now. Today’s America lacks a sense of identity and vision, its confidence is on the wane, exceptionalism has become a nasty word, unity has been replaced by tribal rancor, idealism and pioneer spirit are long gone, substituted by all-pervasive bureaucracy and political correctness.
Is it surprising that instead of reaching out to the stars manned space flight is returning to where it started – science fiction?
The landing of Atlantis ended the 30-year Space Shuttle program. The entire US space age lasted just five decades: it was May 5, 1961 when Alan Shepard’s 15 minute sub-orbital flight made him the first American in space. Just eight years later Apollo 11 blasted off for the Moon.
The Space Shuttle fleet began setting records with Columbia’s launch on April 12, 1981 and continued with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor. The Shuttle has, during its 135 missions, carried people into orbit, launched and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station. One of its key successes was the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope (launched into space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990); the Shuttle and its astronauts were also crucial for each repair and servicing Hubble needed over the years. (Hubble, aside of giving us hundreds of thousands of awesome images, has revolutionized our knowledge of astronomy.)
Countless technological innovations we take for granted today are also result of the US space program and Shuttle research. The Space Shuttle program alone has generated more than 120 technology spinoffs, including miniaturized heart pumps that save lives, thermal protection system materials, bioreactors (help chemists design new drugs and antibodies), compact laboratory instruments, sensitive hand-held infrared cameras, light-emitting diodes for treatment of cancerous tumors, lighter and stronger prosthetic limbs, an extrication tool to remove accident victims from wrecked vehicles, and many more. (NASA has an entire website dedicated to spinoff technology.)
Now the Shuttle is gone and there is nothing to take its place. The US no longer has the ability to put astronauts into orbit. NASA will have to rely on the Russians to hitch a ride to the International Space Station – on the old-fashioned Soyuz spacecraft, at some $50 million per ride.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. A few years ago George W. Bush announced the return to manned space exploration with the Constellation program. Missions to the Moon (by 2020) were to be followed by a manned flight to Mars and beyond. Then came Barack Obama who, believing in social programs and wealth redistribution rather than science and exploration, promptly cancelled Constellation, the country’s only chance at continuing with human space flight.
In any case the space program no longer seems appropriate for today’s America. Space exploration was a symbol and inspiration for Americans who believed in excellence, courage, self-reliance, achievement, science (hard science, not the politically correct pseudo-science of today). That country no longer exists; its spirit has been broken. The “virtues” America, and the West, worship today – equality, diversity, feminism – are a fast-track to a third world status, not to the stars.
As much as we may want to convince ourselves otherwise, it seems clear we no longer have the ability to achieve great things, space flight or otherwise. I suspect Bruce Charlton is onto something when he writes that “human capability reached its peak or plateau around 1965-75 – at the time of the Apollo moon landings – and has been declining ever since”.
“This may sound bizarre or just plain false, but the argument is simple. That landing of men on the moon and bringing them back alive was the supreme achievement of human capability, the most difficult problem ever solved by humans. 40 years ago we could do it – repeatedly – but since then we have *not* been to the moon, and I suggest the real reason we have not been to the moon since 1972 is that we cannot any longer do it. Humans have lost the capability. “
The US space program started on its downward trajectory in the early 70s, slowly drifting away from further development of deep space missions and new technologies. (The Shuttle itself is 1970s technology and should have been replaced by a new generation of spaceships years ago.) NASA has been gradually taken over by technologically and managerially inept bureaucrats lacking any vision and imagination. Instead of attracting the brightest engineers, scientists and innovators, the agency has cared more about politics and displaying its commitment to ‘diversity’. Well, at least now that manned space flight is no longer, NASA can work on its preferred mission – Muslim outreach.
Those who claim the US could no longer afford its space program would be well advised to look at the actual NASA budget. While during most of the 1960s NASA spending came to between 2-5% of the annual federal budget, since mid 70s it’s been less than 1% and in the last few years only about 0.50% of the federal budget ($17-18 billion p.a.).
So you can’t afford to spend a minuscule share of the annual fed budget – one half of one percent! – on space exploration, but consider it a good use of money to waste a couple of trillions on entitlements and welfare programs and $700 billion on stifling bureaucracies (i.e. various executive departments and agencies, most of which would serve the nation best by being abolished)? Not to forget the estimated $3 trillion cost of ObamaCare.
And what about the supposedly too expensive Space Shuttle program itself? The total cost of the Shuttle program over its entire four decade lifespan (including 10 years of R&D) was just under $200 billion. Expensive? Well, the US federal government, at present rate, spends $200 billion every three weeks!
I don’t see anything that has brought taxpayers a comparable return in industrial and technological advancement, increased understanding of our world and universe, as well as prestige, pride and inspiration as the manned space program.
But this isn’t about money or savings… it’s about a nation’s priorities. An America that spends trillions of dollars a year on welfare, entitlements and bureaucracy is an America that lacks any purpose, identity or belief in future; a space program is something such a nation has no use for.
Mankind has always felt the call to explore and push back the boundaries of human capability. I have no doubt there were people in Columbus’s day who wanted to find a ‘better’ use for the money that was to finance his voyages. Thankfully King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain had more vision and sense than Barack Obama.
We can only hope that a more enlightened people, perhaps the Chinese or Russians or Indians, are going to take over space exploration and become a beacon of hope and inspiration to those in the rest of the world, as America once used to be.
Thank you, Space Shuttle, for all the memories.
Atlantis – final landing (video)Continue Reading »
The erosion of people’s rights by the government continues at breakneck speed, and virtually unopposed. A ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court from last week should have been a grave cause for concern to any Americans who still value their remaining liberties. But of course very few noticed, or bothered to pay attention.
In Barnes v. State of Indiana, the Supreme Court held that, quoting Justice Steven David, “there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers”.
In a 3-2 decision the SC basically ruled that police can forcefully enter a Hoosier’s (resident of Indiana) home without a warrant, without probable cause, and that a person confronted with such an illegal police assault has no right to resist.
“A right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest.” (Justice David for the majority.)
So the Indiana SC, blaming “escalation of violence” on citizens who defend themselves from unlawful activity, completely disregarded people’s Fourth Amendment rights in order to prevent harm being done to illegal intruders (in this case government thugs).
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
— 4th Amendment to the US Constitution
Well, apparently, the “modern Fourth Amendment” does not apply when it comes to police acting unlawfully.
Justice Robert Rucker and Justice Brent Dickson dissented from the ruling stating it ran afoul of the Fourth Amendment:
“The common law rule supporting a citizen‘s right to resist unlawful entry into her home rests on a very different ground, namely, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Indeed, the physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed… In my view it is breathtaking that the majority deems it appropriate or even necessary to erode this constitutional protection based on a rationale addressing much different policy considerations. There is simply no reason to abrogate the common law right of a citizen to resist the unlawful police entry into his or her home.”
“In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally – that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances. And that their sole remedy is to seek refuge in the civil arena. I disagree and therefore respectfully dissent”, said Rucker.
The Indiana case involved an argument between a husband and wife outside their home. Upon arrival of the police the couple went inside and shut the door on the officer who tried to follow. When the officer forced his way inside, the husband shoved him against a wall in defense of his property. He was shocked with a stun gun, arrested and charged with resisting law enforcement and battery on a police officer.
In court the defense intended to argue that a citizen had the right to resist unlawful entry into his home. The judge refused to let the defendant make that argument to the jury, denying him his defense, and the man was convicted. The case was appealed all the way up to the Indiana Supreme Court.
That’s when things took a bizarre turn…
The SC deemed that the police officers entered the Barnes home illegally. The Justices also agreed that one’s right to resist illegal entry had existed since the Magna Carta (1215). And yet, in what amounts to eliminating this ancient legal right, the Court stated that when a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, the homeowner is not allowed to do anything to block such entry.
The Indiana SC essentially gave the police free reign to do whatever they like, including breaking the law. Willful and illegal police action now trumps citizens’ rights.
But not to worry; as Justice David noted, a person arrested following an unlawful entry by the police could still be released on bail and would have plenty of opportunities to protest the illegal entry through the court system.
Now, isn’t that comforting? After the harm has been done, all you can do is try to argue in court that your rights were violated. And hope & pray for an enlightened judge to vindicate your rights against the police or other government agents (not to mention dismiss any unrelated incriminating evidence that such unlawful entry might have produced). Good luck with that, judging by the Indiana ruling.
Of course there are plenty of other problems with this concept. Criminals have sometimes impersonated police officers during home invasions. The SC has now taken away any legitimate right to self-defense in such situations.
All this may be an indication of what’s yet to come.
First it’s the police and agents of the government who get to invade your home for any reason or no reason at all. Next your right to self-defense of person and property will be stripped away entirely (look at the UK and much of Europe, where the law now firmly stands on the side of the criminal and self-defense is punished with a jail sentence).
Although the Barnes case has the most worrying implications, it’s not the first ruling against once sacred citizens’ rights.
Just a few days ago the US Supreme Court, reversing a Kentucky SC decision, ruled 8-1 that police can forcefully enter a home without a warrant if they believe to smell marijuana, knock, and then hear (what they think is) evidence being destroyed.
Justice Ruth Ginsburg dissented, saying: “The court today arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases. In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant.”
She asked, “How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?”
In another case this month (Lacey v. State of Indiana) Indiana SC Justices ruled that police serving a warrant can enter a home without knocking. (Before police serving a warrant had to obtain a judge’s permission to enter without knocking.)
Much like the UK and a few other so-called “free” countries, the US is getting ever closer to becoming a totalitarian state. The government and its agents have full authority to violate a person’s privacy and seize their property; the victim having little recourse to a fair and impartial court.
The Fourth Amendment and the right to remain free from illegal search and seizure of person and property have long been deemed irrelevant and inconvenient. Americans have been stripped of any rights at airports, border checkpoints, and increasingly at train stations, bus terminals and so on. (And now also in their own homes.)
The abuses of government power continue to grow, gradually training the masses to accept a police state. You are subjected to wholesale searches at airports, including naked scanners and intrusive pat downs of men, women and children that would be considered a criminal act if committed by anyone but government officials. Try to resist the molestation and you’ll be fined and thrown in jail. (A new bill is to give TSA similar sweeping powers over “surface transportation” including train stations and bus terminals. Undoubtedly shopping malls and other places will soon follow.)
Not only can government agents search you virtually any time and under any excuse (and use whatever they may find against you), they are also allowed to spy on your communication and keep track of everything you do.
How long before other basic rights such as freedom of speech (or whatever still remains of it), assembly, possession of guns, are abolished too? (Of course always for the greater good and your own security and protection!)
The Constitution no longer has any force of law. Politicians, government officials and judges interpret the laws as to fit their desired outcomes. Brave men have, over centuries, died for these ideals and freedoms. Today everyone happily endures even the most grotesque overstepping of government. We are on a fast track back to tyranny and, unlike our ancestors, don’t even seem to notice, or care.
Americans, just as Europeans before them (and similarly citizens of any totalitarian states of the past) have surrendered their liberty and freedom without batting an eyelid, buying the government’s excuse of having to give up their rights in exchange for safety. We don’t need any terrorists to destroy our freedom and way of life; we have relinquished them voluntarily.
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
There has scarcely been a time when Benjamin Franklin’s words rang truer than today.Continue Reading »
The Royal wedding and accompanying media frenzy are finally over. The masses got to celebrate an opulent, fancy show and can now go back to their reality TV.
The Royal family has presented a fresh, modern face to the world, proving it keeps with the times… with a nice, politically correct wedding. Let’s wish the couple a long and successful marriage and hope the very modern, progressive wedding vows will not prove to have been a bad omen for their union.
Now, this may seem a silly little issue to pick on, but, would it have been too intolerably oppressive for Kate Middleton to have kept to the traditional vows including promising to ‘obey’ her husband? Yes, I know such a thing is not just hopelessly out of fashion but considered almost a crime against their human rights by feminists and millions of brainwashed modern women. But if the Royals won’t preserve the last remnants of tradition, who will? And what’s the point of Monarchy if not tradition?
Of course Kate Middleton wasn’t the first to break with royal tradition. No, she had a great role model at that; Princess Diana refused to promise to obey Charles in her wedding vows thirty years ago. And we know just how well suited she proved to be for her role and responsibilities. Some example to follow…
While Diana’s break of protocol caused a scandal at the time, Middleton was praised for her decision to ditch the promise to obey. We’ve become so much more enlightened and ‘progressive’ since then, after all. What modern woman could possibly accept such an offensive, oppressive, sexist, paternalistic monstrosity?
Undoubtedly the decision to modernize the vows was taken to show the Monarchy being in step with contemporary culture and to present the new Duchess of Cambridge as a thoroughly modern woman and role model for millions of young women throughout Britain. And that’s the biggest tragedy of it all… The country doesn’t need any more progressive ‘role models’ infected with feminist ideology. What we do need, if this society is ever to reverse the present degeneration, are those who stand up for traditional values and mores.
Of course vows don’t mean much these days anyway, and barely anyone entering into marriage really takes them seriously. But even the symbolic value is enough to offend feminist sensibilities and so vows must be ‘fixed’ and politically corrected. Am I alone in thinking that a bride’s revolt to say traditional vows (as well as, for instance, the increasingly widespread refusal to take the husband’s surname) is a bad sign for the health and longevity of a marriage?
Marriage today is, to many women, just an extravagant social occasion and party, their very own ‘princess’ fantasy. It doesn’t seem to include any consideration on what marriage really means, much less on how to be a good wife. Undoubtedly the mere concept of a ‘good wife’ would be deemed oppressive these days. (Are you saying women should have responsibilities and not just rights?!) After all, millions of women feel entitled to ditch their marriages and perfectly decent husbands for no better reason than feeling bored or ‘unfulfilled’. The princesses deserve to be happy – and if they harm their husbands and children in their insatiable quest for fulfillment, so be it!
To see to what extent our decaying society has succumbed to feminist ideas (and cultural Marxism/political correctness in general)… even the church has become completely infested with the misguided, morally bankrupt dogmas. Granted, if any church has eagerly embraced liberalism and political correctness it’s the Church of England; so one should hardly be too surprised to hear Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s views on the vow of obedience.
(In 2006 guidelines) he stated that a wife promising to ‘obey’ her husband was an outdated concept that could even justify domestic violence (!). Not surprising, I suppose, coming from a church leader who supports women- and gay clergy and gay marriages, in clear breach of Christian principles. It seems only a hopeless optimist could expect the (Anglican) church to promote traditional marriage and sound morality instead of trying to redefine Christian values to fit the moral inversion of our era. (And anyway, why should we, as the enlightened, progressive people we are, want to promote such an antiquated, oppressive institution as marriage?)
But why are modern women so scared of traditional marriage vows?
Apparently, ditching them is proof of being a strong, independent woman demanding ‘equality’ in marriage. Of course! What else? Our ever-present equality delusion! Gender is, after all, just a social construct (or so we are told) and no real differences between men and women exist; ergo, all traditional gender roles must be evil, sexist and discriminatory. Has there ever been a civilization suffering from as complete a denial of reality as we do?
Of course promising to ‘obey’ one’s husband has nothing to do with being oppressed, a second class citizen with no power or say in a relationship, or a servant to a man. It’s a statement of trust and respect, acknowledging the authority of the man as head of family, responsible for and dedicated to his wife’s and their children’s welfare. Despite us wanting to pretend otherwise, a woman’s natural role is to be loving, nurturing and supportive in a relationship. When women usurp the masculine role (power and leadership) and emasculate men it doesn’t bode well for marriage.
Women are deluded in thinking they have been ‘liberated’ from some imaginary shackles, when in fact they’ve only sabotaged themselves and contributed a great deal to the rotten state of our society. The anti-male bias is ever present in the West today; we are ‘empowering’ females at the expense of males and conditioning women to disparage men.
The self-absorption and sense of entitlement of today’s women make it nearly impossible to form healthy, sustainable marriages and relationships. The results can be seen all around us; disintegration of family, sky-high divorce rates (over 70% of divorces are initiated by women, and nearly 90% among college-educated couples), rampant single motherhood, culture of welfare dependence, damaged children growing up without a father figure, sexual depravity (especially exhibited by young women), drug abuse, and a general lack of values and mores. It is well documented that children brought up by married parents fare considerably better in all aspects of life than those raised by single or co-habiting parents. But who cares about children? As long as women are ‘empowered’ and feel good…
Of course I don’t expect the progressive women of today to agree with any of this. After all, if they did, they would have given up one of their favorite excuses to scream ‘discrimination!’ Imagine the catastrophic consequences of admitting women have long been enjoying – and often abusing – a privileged and protected status (as the ‘oppressed sex’): less ability to blame men for any and all problems and bad outcomes, less affirmative action benefiting the undeserving, fewer rewards for ‘discrimination’ claims.
The truth is that a woman can be intelligent, independent and strong and yet find it perfectly natural and satisfying to let her husband lead and be the head of the family. You may think that traditional marriage is an oppressive, antiquated institution that should be rooted out. But if you don’t, here’s an idea: Let your man be a man, show him the respect he deserves… it will do miracles for your marriage. And, if replicated enough, it might just save our fallen society.
Isn’t it ironic that so many self-proclaimed ‘strong’ women consider themselves entitled to special treatment and privileges yet are unwilling to accept any corresponding responsibility? And what about pride of being ‘independent’ from any one specific man while demanding support (in a myriad different ways) by the state apparatus (paid for by many men – taxpayers)? How about intelligence? Would an intelligent person pursue their short term gratification at the cost of destruction of family, morality, social fabric (while dooming their own offspring to suffer the consequences)? So much for the myth of the strong, independent and intelligent modern female.
What’s truly sad is that women don’t realize they have been serving as an instrument of cultural Marxism and, having swallowed its propaganda, allowed themselves to be manipulated and used to destroy society.
Gramsci and other Marxist disciples realized that the Christian culture in the West was an obstacle standing in the way of a communist conquest, and in order to succeed Marxism had to make a “long march through the culture”, discrediting and undermining all foundations and values. The culture and institutions had to be radically transformed and the social and cultural order turned upside down (Gramsci envisioned a ‘new proletariat’ of women, racial and sexual minorities and even criminals placed in power).
And indeed today our schools, colleges, academia, media, entertainment industry, civic organizations and government have been fully converted to cultural Marxism and are almost universally hostile to family, traditional sex roles, Christianity and traditional morality.
People can’t be taken over by Marxist ideas while they have refuge in their religion, families, culture and convictions; once they lose those traditional supports they only have the government to go to, and the path to socialism and communism is cleared. Family is the building block of a nation’s middle class; by destroying (family and hence) the middle class one can ruin the economic engine and capitalism itself.
Marxists clearly identified family and religion (as well as nation, property) as targets for destruction. The chief tactics – invalidating traditional gender roles and promoting dysfunctional social structures as normal (including single motherhood, same-sex marriage etc), endlessly portraying marriage and family as oppressive, painting fathers as restrictive and controlling and men as exploiters, propagating sexual revolution and ‘free love’, legalizing abortion and making it acceptable and accessible, attacking Christian institutions and values, encouraging youth and women to reject Christian morality, monogamy, parental and church authority, etc. Divorce, promoted as understandable and always justified, was made ridiculously easy (no-fault) and wives have been incentivized to leave their husbands (taking their money and children with them).
The bored baby-boomers were the first generation to really have swallowed the cultural Marxist propaganda whole. Hundreds of millions have since been indoctrinated with the new morally inverted ‘values’. Today cultural Marxism has completely overtaken Western society.
Women, who eagerly jumped on the ‘empowerment’ and ‘liberation’ bandwagon (just as Marx and his disciples foresaw), have been instrumental in the dissolution of family and traditional values. Worst of all, not only are they unaware of what’s taken place, they are seemingly proud of the hubris they helped create.
Before I sign off, here are just a few of the countless recent examples of the absurdity and intolerance of the sickening brand of feminism that has taken over life in Britain.
Glencore chairman attacked over “sexist and primitive” views (i.e. for stating perfectly obvious truths)
Sky Sports football pundit sacked over “sexist tirades” (off-air comments about female referee)
Outrage over David Cameron’s “hideously sexist and patronizing remark” (‘calm down, dear’)Continue Reading »
Today people in the US, UK and many other countries celebrate Veterans Day (or Remembrance Day), recognizing the sacrifices of the soldiers who served in the various wars since WWI.
Please take a moment to honor those who have served their country, who have fought and often died to protect your freedoms. And if you see a veteran, take the opportunity to express appreciation and thank him or her for their service.
Freedom doesn’t come free.
To all veterans and soldiers (and military families):
Thank you for your service and your sacrifice. It shall never be forgotten. God bless.
(And in case you happen to be one of those disgraceful people who feel the need to disrespect soldiers – because you disagree with a war, or because deep down you know that every one of our soldiers is a better man or woman than you -express your dissatisfaction at the ballot box when electing your political leaders instead of bashing those who put their lives in danger and often make the ultimate sacrifice so that all of us can carry on with our lives and sleep in peace at night.)Continue Reading »
The UK government has unleashed its latest weapon ready to destroy any still surviving business – as well as whatever remains of our individual freedoms. The vicious new Equality Act came into force earlier this month.
The progressive Con-LibDem coalition decided to implement the draconian equality laws proposed by Labour’s Harriet Harman and championed by current Home Secretary and minister for women and equality Theresa May. (Note: Safest way to recognize a nation is doomed? Look for things like ministries for ‘women and equality’.) Undoubtedly David Cameron, our faux-conservative leader and champion of political correctness, is feeling all warm and fuzzy for having imposed on Britain the most radical-PC law to date.
The Equality Act introduces a myriad of ‘rights’ which will allow staff to sue for any perceived offense imaginable.
It also creates the concept of ‘third party harassment’, meaning an employee can overhear a joke which was not even directed at them, perceive it to be offensive and then sue the employer. Workers can sue if they feel any comments ‘violate their dignity’, create an ‘intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’, etc. A one-off incident is enough – the ‘victim’ doesn’t need to have warned the ‘offender’ that their comments were unwelcome.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the legislation extends to everyone in the workplace; hence staff can sue their employer even if they were offended by something said by a vendor, customer or contractor.
Basically, the law aims to prevent anyone being offended by anything and any person, and allows workers to sue if their fragile feelings do get hurt. And as the years of rampant political correctness have already created a nation ready to take offense at even the most trivial remark, the lawyers and employment tribunals will undoubtedly soon find themselves very busy.
But wait, there’s more. Questions about a prospective employee’s health are now banned; it is for example illegal to ask how much time off work a person has taken. ‘Discrimination’ of any sort based on health is also illegal – for instance, staff who take a large number of sick days or periodically miss work because they are looking after an elderly or disabled relative will find it easy to sue for discrimination if they feel they have been treated unfairly.
Employees will be able to claim they were discriminated against because of a disability of any nature. Worse still, they no longer have to prove they were treated less favorably than non-disabled colleagues – the employer is guilty until proven innocent! (For instance, dyslexic workers who have been barred from carrying out certain tasks because of their tendency to make spelling mistakes can sue under the legislation.)
Another new category introduced by the law is ‘discrimination by association’, which allows workers to sue if they feel they have been disadvantaged because of an employer’s perceived prejudice against a relative (e.g. a gay brother). Combined discrimination has also been introduced – workers can claim they were treated unfavorably because of a combination of factors, for instance age and gender… to make sure some will stick, in case one allegation fails.
Shocking enough? Well, we aren’t finished yet! It is also illegal to discriminate against someone for the ‘perception’ that they are one of the ‘protected’ groups (for instance gay) – even if they are not. As you can see, anyone can sue for discrimination on any ground, whether plausible or not, and the burden of proof is not on them but on the employer (who clearly has no way to prove his or her innocence in such cases.)
On top of that, employment tribunals will have power to ‘recommend’ changes to a company’s business practices, such as imposing diversity and equality standards, rather than just dealing with the case of the individual who brings a claim.
A small part of the Equality Act is yet to be implemented (but undoubtedly will soon be) – the requirements for larger companies to publish the differences in pay between male and female employees and take action to remove them; and affirmative action to recruit more female and ethnic minority staff (regardless of their suitability for the position).
Who will benefit from all this lunacy? Lawyers of course, and a (likely significant) number of people keen to extort money from their employers or exact revenge on their co-workers and bosses for perceived wrongs. One thing is certain – discrimination claims will skyrocket and the burden of red tape will increase exponentially. And if businesses – already struggling to recover from the recession – end up facing ruin, so be it. Who needs those evil, greedy capitalists anyway? (According to the British Chambers of Commerce the employment law ‘reforms’ will burden business with £11.3 billion in extra costs.)
The UK has already been one of the worst places to run a business (at least based on my experience from a handful of countries worldwide): the burden of an ever-growing stream of new rules and regulations, massive bureaucracy and red tape strangling companies of all sizes, constant changes (and rarely for the better) to the law including tax laws (which have already been among the most complex); not to mention the ever increasing tax burden (especially when one includes individual taxes).
Yet all that has not been enough for our progressive governments. And the madness will undoubtedly not end with the Equality Act either. Why would anyone in their right mind invest their money, time and hard work to build a business in such an insane anti-business environment?
One might have thought there would be some resistance to such disastrous ‘progressive’ experiments, especially at a time when we could use all the jobs and entrepreneurial activity we can get.
But, alas, it appears much of the country has been successfully infected with the equality/diversity/fairness disease and as such sees nothing wrong with the so-called Conservative party wholeheartedly embracing this highest of all ideals. Sadly, in a country that has long ago rejected and destroyed any traditional and moral values – along with last remnants of common sense – equality/diversity/fairness (i.e. the chief tenets of political correctness or, if you prefer, Cultural Marxism) have become the new, true religion.
In a culture where nobody takes any responsibility for their own actions and everyone is a victim, taking offense has become a national sport. People’s lives and livelihoods are routinely destroyed for falling foul of any of the myriad new laws, rules and regulations aimed at enforcing PC; freedom of speech and individual liberties have been stripped away.
Supposedly, this is all for our benefit – for we will create a fair and equal society and everyone will be happy in our new Utopia.
As a wise man once said: Marxism didn’t fail with the fall of the Soviet Union; it has instead been fully implemented in the West.
Having grown up in a formerly communist country, it seems the UK (and much of Western) population is far more brainwashed with political correctness than we ever were with communism. Worst of all, they don’t even realize it. Perhaps that’s what inevitably happens with complacent, comfortable, distracted peoples who have thrown away the values that once made them great. (Of course the mere concept of objective and true values is now rejected; everything, morality included, is relative. That which makes people feel good about themselves is good, everything else is judgmental and hence evil.)
I can see why imposing equality of outcome has proven so popular with the very many who benefit from it. And when it comes to those who are forced to pay dearly for such ‘progress’? That’s where indoctrination and coercion come into play. After all, who could ever object to the pursuit of “social justice” (code for forced equity), right?
Collectively as a society we are in complete denial of reality, having happily embraced our pretty illusion that we are all special, all equal, equally important, equally smart, equally valid.
Therefore, if some people earn more than others and wealth is not equally distributed, it is a clear sign we live in an ‘unfair’ society and some people are oppressed or discriminated against. Such injustice must therefore be rectified by government intervention. If women earn on average less than men it can only mean gender discrimination (you didn’t think the fact women take months or years off work to bear children, work far shorter hours, and tend to choose professions that are financially less lucrative could have anything to do with this, did you?). If certain groups of pupils do worse at schools than others, it must be racial discrimination, or class discrimination (how dare you think intellectual faculties, hard work or dedication could be the true reasons).
And so we have, step-by-step, legislated a perverted, delusional and coercive version of equality and increasingly made it a crime to treat (and pay) people according to their abilities, efforts and achievements.
Many consider this a good, ‘fair’ thing. As C. S. Lewis recognized, “The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept. And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation.”
Self-interest aside, for anyone who does believe such preposterous fairy-tales – it may be time to wake up from your Marxist dream. People are self-evidently unequal. Some are more virtuous, intelligent, attractive, fit, moral than others. Some are more apt for certain tasks and professions than others. Some work hard and others less so. There is nothing ‘unfair’ about them being employed and rewarded accordingly.
Everyone who wants to can be a valued member of society, in whatever role fits their God given and acquired abilities. But one can not force others to consider him or her a better man or woman than they are – it’s not something that can be legislated; it has to be earned.
When people are free, outcomes are naturally unequal. Whether you like it or not, human liberty results in economic and social inequality. You can have either equality or liberty, but not both.
And so it is of no surprise that these great ideals we like to worship are never reached by protecting individual freedoms. Quite the opposite; they are always achieved by removing rights and liberties. Equal outcome requires tyranny, forced suppression of the rights of some in order to enhance the rights of others, be it through progressive taxation and redistribution, affirmative action and special rights for certain protected groups, or rules and laws which restrict freedom of some for the benefit of others. Wherever you look, we’re enforcing equal outcomes rather than equal standards for all. (Of course this near absolute control over all aspects of life and business goes hand in hand with the creation of an ever-growing and all-powerful bureaucracy.)
And yet all that is apparently a price most people are more than willing to pay. For what were once (granted, a rather long time ago) proud, self-reliant and free people, decades of welfare state and ever expanding and intrusive government have transformed into mere slaves, dependent on the state for handouts and guidance. Indeed the only freedom many wish for now is freedom from any responsibility.
As Ben Franklin wisely said, “Those who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety, and will lose both.”
I shall leave you with the timeless words of C. S. Lewis…
“Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose… You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal… You remember how one of the Greek Dictators (they called them “tyrants” then) sent an envoy to another Dictator to ask his advice about the principles of government. The second Dictator led the envoy into a field of grain, and there he snicked off with his cane the top of every stalk that rose an inch or so above the general level. The moral was plain. Allow no preeminence among your subjects. Let no man live who is wiser or better or more famous or even handsomer than the mass. Cut them all down to a level: all slaves, all ciphers, all nobodies. All equals. Thus Tyrants could practise, in a sense, “democracy.” But now “democracy” can do the same work without any tyranny other than her own. No one need now go through the field with a cane. The little stalks will now of themselves bite the tops off the big ones. The big ones are beginning to bite off their own in their desire to Be Like Stalks.” (C. S. Lewis; Screwtape Proposes a Toast)Continue Reading »
If you’ve ever wondered how we’ve come to see America’s economic, social and moral decline, Angelo Codevilla’s insightful essay, published in the American Spectator a few days ago, illustrates how the pieces fit together. It’s rather lengthy, but well worth the time to read!
A brief summary is below… do make sure to read the full article: America’s Ruling Class – And the Perils of Revolution.
In the past the upper crust was diverse, drawing its wealth and status from various sources (industrialists, financiers, landowners, oilmen, etc).
“Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.
Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters – speaking the “in” language – serves as a badge of identity.”
No matter what their profession or income, today’s ruling elite (progressive Democrats and Republicans alike) climbed up via government channels and public money. As the author explains, professional position, money or academic achievement do not secure a membership in the ruling class – what is essential is an absolute commitment to the progressive doctrines and willingness to fit in.
The ruling class believes in its own intellectual and moral superiority and considers the rest of Americans “retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained”. As the more enlightened human beings, the elite see it as their task to improve the lesser mortals, which is where social engineering comes in.
Mr. Codevilla traces the beginnings of the progressive era to Woodrow Wilson, “the first American statesman to argue that the Founders had done badly by depriving the U.S. government of the power to reshape American society.” The progressives, while looking down on the American people, were sympathetic to Soviet Russia as well as, in many cases, to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.
And the elite have demonstrated contempt for ordinary Americans ever since (see Obama’s remark of ‘clinging to God and guns’ as typical of their inferiority), and have ruled based on the presumption that they, the enlightened ones, know best what the people need.
“Americans think it justice to spend the money they earn to satisfy their private desires even though the ruling class knows that justice lies in improving the community and the planet.”
And so the political elite, via taxation and intrusive regulations, strive to ‘improve’ the American people, and redirect them to tasks more worthy than those they choose for themselves.
Naturally their solution to all matters is a larger and more powerful government, allowing them to reward political support with jobs, contracts, handouts. Hence we see the continuous drive to redistribution, regulation of every aspect of life and business, opaque laws that benefit some and ruin others (in accordance to their political support), patent disregard for the Constitution, and discretionary powers of officeholders. The ruling class has become the arbiter or wealth and poverty.
“But it surely increases the number of people dependent on the ruling class, and teaches Americans that satisfying that class is a surer way of making a living than producing goods and services that people want to buy.”
Not content with control over people’s economic lives, the elite use further lessons out of the Marxist handbook: indoctrination in schools and colleges, attack on religion and values, destruction of traditional family and marriage. All to fulfill their god-like mandate to ‘improve’ those who are beneath them.
“The ruling class is keener to reform the American people’s family and spiritual lives than their economic and civic ones. In no other areas is the ruling class’s self-definition so definite, its contempt for opposition so patent, its Kulturkampf so open. It believes that the Christian family (and the Orthodox Jewish one too) is rooted in and perpetuates the ignorance commonly called religion, divisive social prejudices, and repressive gender roles, that it is the greatest barrier to human progress because it looks to its very particular interest – often defined as mere coherence against outsiders who most often know better. Thus the family prevents its members from playing their proper roles in social reform. Worst of all, it reproduces itself.”
The war waged against marriage by the government, academia and media has produced the desired results: decline of the traditional family (and its replacement with the state), new ‘progressive’ family models, single motherhood – creating millions of faithful liberal voters largely dependent on government services.
Schools, aside from weapons of social engineering, serve as indoctrination institutes set to undermine the authority of parents and instill children with progressive ideals and statist worldview. (See also link at the bottom of this post.)
“Consensus among the right people is the only standard of truth. Facts and logic matter only insofar as proper authority acknowledges them.”
The ruling class’s main characteristic is its dislike for (the rest of) America, its condescending, patronizing attitude and dismissal of the American people’s moral, spiritual and intellectual values.
“Seldom does a Democratic official or member of the ruling class speak on public affairs without reiterating the litany of his class’s claim to authority, contrasting it with opponents who are either uninformed, stupid, racist, shills for business, violent, fundamentalist, or all of the above.”
Mr. Codevilla then goes on to describe what he, for the lack of a better word, calls the country class. They come from all walks of life, but are united in their core values and their desire to rule themselves rather than be ruled by others.
“The ruling class wears on its sleeve the view that the rest of Americans are racist, greedy, and above all stupid. The country class is ever more convinced that our rulers are corrupt, malevolent, and inept. The rulers want the ruled to shut up and obey. The ruled want self-governance.”
The clash, Mr. Codevilla recognizes, is certain to come. But what might be the outcome of this new revolution? See the full text of this must-read essay here.
And speaking of education being misused for social engineering purposes, here are the details of a shocking recent study.Continue Reading »
Here we are again, back to the disturbing – but entirely unsurprising – war on the ‘free market’ (or whatever is left of it after decades of government interventionism).
The pattern of governments creating a mess and promptly laying the blame at the feet of the private sector is not at all new, so EU’s and Washington’s attacks on the markets and George Papandreou’s continuing threats against ‘evil speculators’ should not have caught anyone by surprise. In much the same manner, the coming (politically motivated) clampdowns and regulations of various market activities are being designed with the sole purpose of shifting blame – for excessive borrowing, overspending, harmful interventions and defective regulation – away from the policy makers.
Of course diversion of blame and responsibility is not a behavior exclusive to governments. It has come to characterize much of today’s society, and is largely responsible for the economic, social and moral decline we’re at present witnessing all around us. (More on that in an upcoming post.)
Let’s start with Greece. Prime Minister Papandreou has stepped up his rhetoric about his country being victimized and having problems servicing its debt, not as a result of irresponsible and fraudulent behavior over many years, but because of speculators’ bets to bring it down.
“Despite the deep reforms we are making, traders and speculators have forced interest rates on Greek bonds to record highs. Many believe there have been malicious rumors, endlessly repeated and tactically amplified, that have been used to manipulate normal market terms for our bonds.” He went on to say that as a result Greece was forced to borrow at rates almost twice as high as Germany, and that such ‘prohibitive’ interest rates would swallow all gains from the planned austerity measures.
Manipulate ‘normal’ market terms? ‘Prohibitive’ rates? Someone please show Mr. Papandreou the spread between Greek and German bonds pre-Maastricht Treaty – at multiples of what it is today! See for yourself in this astonishing chart: Club Med spreads (1992-2010).
Let’s not forget that the Greeks (and other fiscally shaky Southern European states) have only enjoyed – undeservedly – low rates thanks to the EMU. And, had Greece not lied about its finances, it would never have been admitted into the monetary union in the first place (it has never complied with the required fiscal discipline, preferring to falsify data). The current rates on Greek borrowing are more than appropriate (in fact, quite benevolent) for a country that carelessly jeopardized its own future by decades-long irresponsibility.
For a decade the markets have ignored the vast differences in fiscal policies between eurozone members; risk premiums on sovereign bonds were barely discernible. After the financial crisis investors started awakening to sovereign risk and spreads became far more aligned with reality. The bond markets are once again reflecting fiscal policies, as they should. Far from ‘market manipulation’, it’s simply a return of country risk.
Indeed the financial markets are now doing the job that politicians have failed at so miserably – forcing the countries to take measures that will lead to a return to fiscal sanity (or else face the consequences). It should also be obvious that any country’s funding costs will now increasingly reflect its own fundamentals, rather than those of say Germany, as investors are unlikely to be blinded by any implicit EMU guarantees again, at least for the foreseeable future.
The Greeks, who have over decades borrowed and squandered too much money, won’t admit that their 12.7% budget deficit (that being the official figure; the true deficit is estimated at 16%), 120% debt/GDP (135% estimate for 2011), out of control government spending (at over 50% of GDP), rampant tax evasion, among other problems, are the root-cause of their troubles and consequent risk pricing by the markets. (For an analysis of the Greek situation and possible solutions see recent article here.)
Given that Greece has defaulted on its debt 108 times in the last 200 years, showing no sign that it has learned fiscal responsibility, it is rather astonishing that the Greeks should be surprised at rising interest costs. Would any responsible lender extend credit to an over-leveraged borrower on the verge of bankruptcy, at extremely low rates?
Yet the Greeks appear to believe that threats and regulation will force the capital markets to supply them with unreasonably cheap credit. During a recent Washington visit to win President Obama’s support for the war against evil speculators, Mr. Papandreou said: “Europe and America must say ‘enough is enough’ to those speculators who only place value on immediate returns, with utter disregard for the consequences on the larger economic system not to mention the human consequences of lost jobs, foreclosed homes and decimated pensions.”
Therefore, investors should lend to Greece at ultra low rates, ignoring any default risk, in order to allow the Greek government and population to carry on with a spending binge, delaying the day of reckoning indefinitely. (Much like banks had been coerced by the US government into lending to unworthy borrowers with no deposits and insufficient income; and we know how that ended. But more on that later.)
The Greeks’ sense of entitlement to other people’s wealth, their perceived ‘right’ to borrow at low rates, is indeed quite disturbing. Though rather than being solely a Greek issue it appears to be a sign of our times.
But why the widespread hatred of market participants, be it speculators, traders or investors?
After all, it wasn’t speculators who had run up massive debts and a 13% deficit, but the Greek politicians (and population). Investors and traders have merely exposed the truth the Greeks, as well as EU authorities, would have preferred to keep hidden. It should be obvious that Greece only has itself to blame for not being able to borrow at the same rates as fiscally prudent Germany.
The much vilified short sellers, as well as CDS (credit default swap) buyers, perform a vital function by pointing to problems and deficiencies (whether in companies, industries or countries) and backing their opinion with their money. When they believe an entity may go bust, shouldn’t they be allowed to protect themselves and/or profit accordingly? When it comes to sovereign debt, if it wasn’t for the markets, politicians would never take the necessary action to put their house in order.
Papandreou’s argument that “unprincipled speculators are making billions every day by betting on a Greek default” misses the point entirely. If Greece’s fundamentals were less disastrous, anyone betting on a default would be losing billions. No speculators can bring down a healthy company, currency or country. In any case, there are always two sides to each trade. For everyone shorting Greek debt there is also someone on the long side.
As for the fallacy of speculators destabilizing the Greek bond market via CDS use: Germany’s financial regulator (BaFin) has found no evidence that CDS were used for large scale speculation against Greek government bonds, reporting (earlier this month) that the net volume of outstanding CDS contracts has barely changed since the beginning of the year. Some of the most active CDS traders are German and French banks, who happen to hold significant amount of Greek debt. If there were no CDS (essentially, insurance against default), who would take on the risk of financing Greek debt?
Ironically, it has just been uncovered that the biggest CDS speculator, holding 15% ($1.2 billion) of the total $8 billion of Greek CDS, has been the Greek state-owned Hellenic Post Bank! (Article here.)
And yet, despite his obvious delusion, Mr. Papandreou has been finding an attentive audience in other European leaders as well as President Obama. After all, Greece’s is not the only government that views the markets as a welcome scapegoat for their own mismanagement and incompetency.
Given bureaucrats’ readiness never to waste an opportunity to further restrict economic freedom, it isn’t particularly surprising that the European Commission is discussing regulation of the sovereign CDS market, and the US Justice Department has reportedly been looking into hedge funds’ short positions against the euro, to determine whether they colluded to drive down the value of the single currency.
European politicians, who have a long tradition of anti free market beliefs, have blamed speculators for the recent decline of the euro in the wake of the Greek crisis. They, much like the Greeks, feel entitled to low borrowing costs for EMU members and a stable euro, irrespective of the fiscal and economic mess of the EU.
Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, went as far as suggesting the use of anti-terrorism methods against financial speculators in order to protect the euro. He said the government might “set up surveillance of who is getting together with whom for which kinds of speculative processes, and where.”
What’s next? Will they start arresting traders for threatening ‘economic stability’ if they happen to dislike the fundamentals of a certain country or currency and vote against it with their money?
It would seem there is no better sign that an entity is in severe trouble than authorities starting to crack down on short bets against it. The truth is, if the euro was fundamentally sound, it would not have been ‘attacked’. (Not to mention that those who believe speculators have caused the euro to drop to unfairly low levels can always back their opinion by taking action in the forex market.)
What Greece and other nations need to learn is that one cannot go on indefinitely increasing government spending and borrowing without consequences. There comes a point when markets lose confidence in the country’s ability to pay and refuse to lend the money (at acceptable rates). That moment appears to be fast approaching for a number of countries.
Of course when it comes to short term political gain, shifting the blame onto the private sector is an entirely valid strategy. We have seen its success in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis; the people have, without much questioning, accepted the official line: the crisis was caused by insufficient state intervention and regulation of the ‘free market’. Therefore, we have been told, a massive increase in government bureaucracy and regulation was necessary.
The threats against speculators in (Greek) sovereign debt are reminiscent of the attacks on banks, hedge funds and financial markets in general, over the last two years. Of course there was much that went wrong in the financial sector, but the blame game has been indicative of the failure of governments to admit their own mistakes.
Notice that any economic boom is always a result of ‘wise government policies’. When the inevitable collapse comes, a culprit must be found, fast, before anyone starts looking at possible policy makers’ faults. And so all crises are quickly declared to be a problem of the ‘free market’.
Such denunciations look particularly misplaced given the disastrous track record of public management, including the crucial role of the Fed and US policy makers in creating the recent crisis. It was the Fed’s loose monetary policy that had encouraged speculation and inflated a massive housing bubble, aided by vote grabbing policy makers’ interventions in the housing market (incl. coercing financial institutions into lending to unqualified, low income borrowers under such monstrosities as the Community Reinvestment Act).
And of course the government sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were by far the worst offenders, likely to end up costing the US taxpayer some $400 billion. (They remain an ‘off-balance sheet’ – or so the politically convenient fiction goes – dumping ground for the debris of the housing crisis.) But don’t hold your breath waiting for Obama et al. to acknowledge any of this; they’re too busy pounding on the banks.
Bizarrely, our political elites appear to fully ignore the fact that highly expansionary monetary policies – and resulting unprecedented indebtedness – have been largely responsible for the current mess. It’s nothing new; interventions into (what was once) the free market have always brought unintended negative consequences. And yet the link between low interest rates, excessive credit growth and asset bubbles appears to evade policy makers’ understanding.
The slashing of interest rates in 2001, and keeping them at record low levels for several years, has led to the credit and housing bubble. Spiraling debt contributed, in a large part, to the apparent prosperity of the last 15-20 years (much as it had in the 1920s, ending, equally disastrously, in the Great Depression). Greenspan and Bernanke acted as cheerleaders of debt, while policy makers were busy identifying new targets for lending, in the name of democratization of access to credit.
And let’s not forget the essential role of greedy housing market participants, millions of whom have knowingly taken on mortgages and loans they couldn’t afford to pay back, in order to satisfy their irresponsible craving for a lifestyle beyond their means. (In the past 25 years the amount owed by US families has risen more than sevenfold, from less than $2 trillion in 1984 to nearly $14 trillion, according to the Fed.) Inevitably, cheap credit has also created huge imbalances and fueled speculation in the financial sector.
And yet, shockingly, no lessons seem to have been learned. Central banks and governments – in particular in the US and UK, considering a painful period of readjustment (perhaps a short depression) to be politically unacceptable, have embarked on massive quantitative easing (in other words money printing) and huge stimuli to restore economic growth. In the process they have loaded their countries with an unprecedented mountain of debt.
Indeed, blind to the fact that easy credit and excessive debt created the crisis in the first place, the Fed and the Obama administration are happily running up higher and higher debts. In an unprecedented printing press exercise the Fed has purchased over $1.2 trillion of toxic agency (Fannie, Freddie, Ginnie Mae) mortgage backed securities (MBS), creating a floor for housing prices and so delaying necessary corrections. Hence the massive burden of toxic assets now weighs down not only the private financial markets but also the Fed itself.
Numerous other government support measures have been masking the fundamental sickness of the housing market, including tax breaks for home buyers and government-mandated loan modifications (the majority of which end up in default again within six months). The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), with its aim to make homes more affordable, has underwritten hundreds of billions of dollars of mortgages in the last two years alone. Its support for the housing market is expected to double again – growing to $1.5 trillion – over the next five years. FHA foolishly continues to require down payments as low as 3.5%, when it should be obvious that a 15-20% deposit would allow home owners to better withstand any future crisis. (Unsurprisingly, a record number of FHA-insured loans are delinquent.)
Speaking of loose monetary policy… rates have been fixed at near zero. The resulting boost to the price of securities held by banks, as well as what are, in effect, zero interest loans from depositors, have translated into strong revenues for the sector, allowing banks to ignore the bad loans still on their books. It is clear that the irrational monetary policy with artificially low interest rates, plus monetization of debt, will continue for quite some time. A certain recipe for the next bubble and crisis.
And of course the government has also embarked on an unprecedented fiscal stimulus, a consequence of which is a massive increase in public sector debt. (The US national debt now stands at over $12 trillion. But add the ‘off-balance sheet’ unfunded liabilities and the total public debt comes to an estimated $60 trillion – an amount that can clearly never be paid off. We’ve discussed the impact of extreme debt levels in a recent post here.)
Despite the shocking debt and deficit we’re unlikely to see any serious attempt at spending cuts any time soon; quite the opposite, there seems to be a new US spending bill proposed almost every week. Crucially, at a time when existing entitlement programs are bankrupt, the Obama administration saw it fit to create a monstrous new $2 trillion health care entitlement.
In spite of the alleged temporary nature of the public spending boom, the expansion of government will likely be permanent. The price to pay is obvious – high deficit, high taxes, slower economic growth and less wealth. Unless, that is, you agree with Mr. Obama and the ‘leading’ economists that government spending creates wealth.
The belief we can cure a debt crisis with even more debt would also be rather comical, if the situation, and consequences, weren’t so tragic.
So what then is the solution?
Instead of the government attempting to micromanage the financial markets (and any other private industries) via further interventions, regulation, punitive taxation, bans and growing bureaucracy, we should simply allow the free market to work. The finance industry as well as borrowers should be let to suffer the consequences of their actions (be it bad lending or irresponsible borrowing). They also need to be allowed to make commercial decisions without coercion or interference from policy makers. In the absence of government intervention – that only creates distortions and moral hazard – the markets would curb bad behavior via defaults and bankruptcies, resulting in suitable risk adjustment by other participants.
US home owners should also be liable for any outstanding mortgage balances (as is common in virtually every other country), instead of simply being allowed to walk away from underwater mortgages. Naturally such policies would mean fewer home buyers taking on mortgages they can’t afford to repay, and that goes against the government’s idea of home ownership being a near universal ‘right’ – a notion which, bizarrely, still appears to be alive and well in Washington. But until people return to a suitably affordable lifestyle (whether that be renting instead of home ownership, or a more modest home) we are only kicking the problems down the road for a little longer.
It is natural that in a crisis, recession or period of high unemployment people are angry; they need to externalize the enemy. The markets, speculators, or Wall Street are a highly convenient (and sometimes justified) target when it comes to diverting blame away from policy makers, central banks and general population. They also provide a welcome opportunity for governments to expand and to regulate more, tax more and interfere more in private sector activities.
However, if any lessons are to be learned at all, we must acknowledge that it was the culture of living on (cheap) credit and spending beyond our means – spurred by disastrous monetary policies and interventions - that led to record indebtedness, housing bubble and collapse, and resulting financial and economic hardship. Only then will we be able to recognize that the current policies are simply setting the stage for a much larger crisis a few years from now.Continue Reading »
The government’s plan to buy stolen data on Swiss bank accounts of alleged tax evaders generated a heated debate in Germany this week. A CD with some 1,500 names of German citizens with accounts at the bank (according to some reports HSBC’s private bank) was offered to the German authorities for the price of €2.5 million, by an alleged employee of the bank.
Germany’s main political parties have been divided on the question of legality and morality of the purchase. The opposition parties SPD (Social Democratic Party), Greens and the Left Party are in favour of the transaction; Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the business friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) are split on the issue.
However, Chancellor Merkel has been very vocal on her intent to go ahead with the acquisition and Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) confirmed that the decision has, in principle, been made.
There is a precedent for such action – Bundesnachrichtendienst (Germany’s foreign intelligence service) paid €4.6 million to a thief two years ago, in exchange for confidential files on account holders at his former employer, LGT Group in Liechtenstein. That action netted the state approx €200 million in back taxes and penalties; then-CEO of Deutsche Post Klaus Zumwinkel was the most prominent German caught in the operation.
The majority of Germans approve the (possibly illegal) transaction – 57% want the government to pay for the stolen data, according to a poll by Stern.
The question is whether the state can and should buy stolen goods in order to catch potential tax evaders. To the government it appears to be a no-brainer. Not only will it play well with the populist sentiment of the moment, but the tax authorities may retrieve over €100 million in undeclared taxes.
Can a government break its own laws? According to prominent German legal experts – who have voiced concerns about the legality of the transaction – the government is running into a judicial minefield.
Purchase of stolen goods is a criminal offence in Germany and punishable with up to five years in prison. The question then is, must the state abide by its own laws, or is it exempt from such constraints, for some fictional ‘greater good’?
The notion that the authorities should be free to break the country’s laws ought to be inacceptable. Not only would it mean the state can commit a crime (or participate in one) with impunity, it would also encourage further data theft. It will not be long before another enterprising bank employee decides to quickly make a few millions by stealing confidential client information. The government’s action opens all doors to such criminal activity.
Germany is undoubtedly threading on dangerous terrain and the price to pay could be high. Put into question is the integrity of the German state and the rule of law.
Volker Kauder (Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag) declared that the state should not collaborate with thieves. Constitutional law expert Prof. Dr. Helmut Siekmann said the possible multi-million euro revenue does not justify a purchase of illegally obtained data. In his view, the state, as the citizens, is obliged to abide by the laws. Data protection expert and Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information Peter Schaar expressed great doubts about the legality of the transaction, considering it inacceptable.
Should any of the involved take the matter to court, the likelihood of the illegally obtained evidence being accepted as valid is low. The government will of course count on any tax offenders paying up quietly rather than taking on a lengthy legal battle against the state.
The question about the (im)morality of the proposed action seems easier still to answer. Then again, we should be under no illusion of our rulers being overly concerned with such matters.
When a government takes the liberty to ignore its own laws and willingly purchases stolen data in order to catch tax evaders and gain money for its coffers, what are the citizens supposed to think? If the authorities can break the law to satisfy their own pursuits, what example does it set for the people who until then had respect for law and order? Should the state not be bound by the laws of the land, even more so than its citizens?
Unsurprisingly, the relationship between Germany and Switzerland has suffered further damage. Swiss politicians of all parties have strongly condemned Germany’s intent to reward, rather than prosecute, the thief. The Conservatives compared Angela Merkel to a bank robber and the Swiss population seems to support that view.
“I consider it rather insidious that a state operating under the rule of law would make use of illegal data,” said Swiss President Doris Leuthard.
The Swiss see the German (and international) assault on their banking system and bank secrecy as a personal affront. Tax evasion, unlike tax fraud, is not considered a crime in Switzerland, and bank clients’ privacy is an utmost priority. The bank secrecy has started to crack recently, in particular thanks to US pressure on UBS and the bank’s resulting cooperation with US authorities. The country has a lot to lose; the financial sector is one of the most important for the Swiss economy.
But as shown above, there is far more at stake. No matter how keen the majority of the German population may be on prosecuting (supposedly rich) tax evaders, the ends must not justify the means. The government’s action should cause grave concern to everyone – not just those who dodge their taxes.
The rule of law requires that all individuals in a society are subject to the same laws, including – and especially – those who govern us. Our rulers cannot be exempt from it, regardless of any potential ‘good’ that might come from breaking the law. Indeed, what other protection from arbitrary government action and abuse do citizens have, if not the laws?
Clearly, IF we had the rule of law, a government wouldn’t be permitted to become accomplice in theft. But this episode is not the first indication that rule of law has died a quiet death some time ago. And I doubt it will be the last.
It’s not a specifically German issue either. Whether we look at the US, UK or any other of our cherished democracies, the state has increasingly been above the law, even though citizens may not yet have fully woken up to the fact. (As one recent example among many, consider the Chrysler bankruptcy and the mockery the Obama administration made of the bankruptcy laws and the rights of the secured creditors, in order to pay off a political debt to the unions.)
Be under no illusion, this is our new reality – and it’s here to stay – governments who don’t lose any time on legal niceties in a ruthless pursuit of their own goals.Continue Reading »
Two stories have dominated the news over the last few days. The attempt to blow flight 253 out of the sky has caused headlines around the world. The other news, creating as much – if not more – uproar here in the UK was the execution of drug trafficker Akmal Shaikh, a British citizen caught with 4kg of heroin in China. (4kg are apparently enough to kill 27,000 people.)
After an overdose of incessant outrage by all the bleeding heart liberals I simply had to share my thoughts on the matter.
Shockingly, Mr. Shaikh had found fervid defenders in Gordon Brown and other members of the UK government and our liberal elites. According to official sources the government raised the case on 27 occasions, including Gordon Brown’s direct interventions with Chinese president Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Their repeated calls for clemency were (thankfully) unsuccessful. As a result, our Prime Minister attacked and strongly condemned China this week, while the entire official campaign grew increasingly hysterical.
At a time when the UK is on the verge of bankruptcy thanks to a record deficit and general mismanagement of public finances and the economy, when British soldiers are killed in Afghanistan thanks to a lack of equipment and missing support from the government, Gordon Brown had seemingly nothing better to do than try to save the neck of a rightly convicted criminal.
As has been only too common with British criminals, Mr. Shaikh claimed to be suffering from a mental disease and hence not being responsible for his crimes. The illness he saw as a convenient coup-out was bipolar disorder.
To be fair, I have no way to know if Mr. Shaikh was bipolar or not. (It is interesting, however, that there have reportedly been no medical records of his ‘illness’.) The point is, he was clearly fit enough to conduct his criminal business, travel the world and traffic drugs. He absolutely knew he was committing a crime for which death penalty is the punishment in China and much of the Far East. As far as I know, nobody has forced him to go to China and break their laws.
Anyone who is (mentally, physically) fit to commit a crime is fit to stand trial and be punished. There are millions of people suffering from bipolar disorder, and they would happily attest that it doesn’t make them go out killing, robbing, or selling drugs. Blaming bipolar for a criminal career is an insult to all the law-abiding people who suffer from a mental illness.
I am glad China has not allowed itself to be bullied into reversing the sentence handed out by its courts. I cannot think of any country that has less of a right to criticize China when it comes to criminal justice than the UK.
We all know that our liberal elites view drugs as a fashionable habit and matter of personal choice rather than a serious criminal offence. Drug dealers are free to ply their trade in this country, celebrities openly hooked on drugs are revered as role models, even prisoners have easy access to drugs any time they wish to.
Worse still, drug users are rewarded by our welfare system. An estimated 267,000 drug addicts live off state benefits – addiction is seen as ‘disability’, entitling them to generous welfare payments. As usual, the (shrinking numbers of) hard working taxpayers are condemned to support the useless and destructive lives of criminals and drug users.
The Chinese Government should be applauded, not condemned, for acting to defend its people and society from the drug trade. I have little hope we will ever see our own government do the right thing and act vigorously against crime.
Meanwhile, we witness the workings of UK justice (laughable to even call it such) on a daily basis. The vast majority of criminals – including burglars, robbers, violent attackers, serial criminals with dozens of offences, and at times even rapists and pedophiles -continually escape custody. In fact, hundreds of thousands of crimes that carry a lengthy jail sentence in other countries don’t even make it to UK courts anymore – criminals are instead given on the spot fines and cautions.
Murderers are unlikely to spend more than a handful of years behind bars either. Only yesterday we saw a man who killed his wife – stabbing her 96 times (while their children where playing nearby) – released after just 5 years. (That means serving less than three weeks for each mortal wound.) As unbelievable as it seems, his was still one of the longer prison stays compared to many other murderers.
Offenders, no matter how shocking their crimes, are seen as victims. Victims of their upbringing, social class, environment, society, alcohol or drug use… anything is good enough an excuse. As such, they don’t deserve to be punished, for it would be ‘inhuman’. They must be supported and protected instead. A pity that the true victims seem to warrant no such humanity.
Our rotten justice system, inept government and the liberal intelligentsia with their destructive, ‘progressive’ ideas should learn from China, instead of lecturing and condemning it.
If they did, we might still have a chance of reversing the rampant drug and crime problem and complete social and moral breakdown we have been witnessing here. The reason why we have seen violent crime rates soar is the lack of any punishment, derisory sentencing and shockingly relaxed prison regime.
A society that rewards criminals and punishes the victims (whenever they try to protect themselves amidst a lack of protection from the police or law), while law-abiding citizens are increasingly afraid to walk the streets, is inevitably heading for self-destruction.
If anyone needs a proof that the Chinese justice system works, I can only encourage you to spend some time in Chinese cities. They are safe, with low crime, no anti-social behaviour, no vandalism. Then compare to the mayhem back home. Unlike the UK, China seems to understand that the state has a responsibility to protect the lives of vulnerable and innocent citizens. In failing to do so our government endangers all our lives and is co-responsible for millions of future victims.
Needless to say, I don’t support political imprisonment. However, when it comes to actual crime, China is right.
And for those who have cried out in support of the convicted drug trafficker: Save your sympathy for the victims instead.
And yet more appeasement…
The second story of the week has also much to do with appeasement. For Labour is well versed in that – whether it comes to criminals or, as in this case, radical Islam.
As we now know, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 on Christmas day as it approached Detroit, was educated in Britain. It is here he was reportedly radicalized and turned to terrorism, before leaving to train with Al-Qaida in Yemen.
That should have come as no surprise. Although the majority of British Muslims oppose violence, there are many thousands who support the use of terror in the name of the Islamic cause. A number of them travel to places like Yemen to be trained and prepared for suicide missions, just as Nigerian born Abdulmutallab did after ending his studies at the University College London in 2008.
It’s not just British born extremists either. The UK has been a magnet for foreign radicals thanks to the generous welfare state, easy-entry immigration policies and extreme tolerance to expressions of radical Islamist views. The vast number of British connections of known terrorists and dozens of terror plots hatched and uncovered here are evidence the UK has become one of world’s main hubs of radical Islam and terrorism.
British intelligence has long known that many universities across the country have been infiltrated by militant jihadists. It is also no secret that extremists preach hate at many mosques and madrassas and use them as recruitment centres.
The sheer size of the problem is shocking. A 2008 poll by the Centre for Social Cohesion showed that nearly 30% of Muslim students in the UK thought killing in the name of Islam to be justified.
You’d think something was being done about this. Well, you’d be wrong.
British universities, including the University College London where Abdulmutallab was president of the Islamic Society, have been inviting radical preachers to give lectures. These are known extremists who spread anti-Western propaganda, incite killing of gays and violence against infidels. It is astonishing and criminal that this radicalization of students is allowed to go on in this country. No surprise then that a large number of known terrorists have studied at British universities.
And it’s not just universities. Radicals are allowed to openly preach hate and murder in UK mosques and at times even in mainstream media, and extremist Islamic networks can operate freely.
The government, although well aware of the threat, prefers to do nothing. All in the name of diversity, multiculturalism, human rights and other ‘progressive’ ideals.
While most countries arrest, jail, extradite or deport those who are linked to terrorism and incite murder, the UK seems to welcome them with open arms.
What is no less disturbing is that while radical Islamists are allowed to express their criminal views openly, those who come out in criticism of anything that has to do with Islam are rarely treated with such courtesy. For in the best case they are accused of islamophobia and racism and, in the worst, charged with some spectacularly misapplied criminal offence.
Our leaders insist that extremism and terrorism are simply matters of violence and have nothing to do with Islam. They have chosen a path of appeasement, frightened of offending Muslims or making them feel targeted in any way.
Even the concepts of patriotism and national identity have become an inconvenience and increasingly provoke embarrassment or outright derision. Apparently they are unfit for a modern, multicultural society. I have lived in many countries over the last fifteen years. Britain is the only one where patriotism is a dirty word.
But it gets worse still. Not only does our government not fight this widespread radicalization, it often indirectly supports it. Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money are poured into promoting the ‘real’ (peaceful) Islam, much of it diverted straight to radical groups. Some of the organizations the government supports are known to harbour extremist views. A number of extremists are even on the government payroll as advisors on radical Islam.
Am I the only one who thinks all this is insanity?
It’s important not to demonize those Muslims who oppose violence and extremism. They are just as entitled to live here in peace as any other religious minorities. But isn’t it time to take steps against those who preach hate and violence and openly admit to want to destroy the British society and Western way of life?
That includes prosecuting and jailing those who incite murder, deporting and extraditing the many who are wanted abroad for terror-related crimes, outlawing the extremist networks and tightening up immigration controls. I’d like to think it will happen at some point. Time is running out though, and our ruling class is not exactly known for common sense policies…
Chances are, we’ll get an extra large dose of diversity, multiculturalism and other politically correct ideas instead. And more hassling of old ladies at airports, so that certain groups don’t feel offended for being singled out. After all, profiling those who are most likely to present a threat is terribly un-PC today, and making life more onerous for everyone is so much more ‘fair’.Continue Reading »