December 30, 2010

Cantate Domino

It’s almost certain that, in the Catholic world, December 30, 2010 will be remembered as the day Benedict XVI issued an executive order, called “Motu proprio,” committing the Vatican to the fight against illegal activities in the financial and monetary sector.

Yet this was not the only significant event of the day. In fact, this was also the day 5 thousand “little singers,” namely the boys and girls of the International Pueri Cantores Federation, lifted spirits in the Vatican with the pure notes of Christmas carols, delighting Pope Benedict XVI who in turn greeted them in eight languages in the Paul VI audience hall. And the brief speech was actually very significant in many respects, including the role of music in the Catholic liturgy—an issue that I am very interested in, as both a staunch advocate of Gregorian chant and one who firmly believes that real beauty—in music and in the arts in general—draws us back to the Creator, who is the very source and essence of beauty, back to the deep core of things. Here is what Pope Benedict said:

Dear young members of the Pueri Cantores Federation,
Dear Friends,
I am pleased to welcome you today as you celebrate your thirty-sixth International Congress here in Rome and I thank you for the commitment you have shown to the apostolate of choral singing in the liturgy. In Saint Augustine’s words: “singing is an expression of joy and … love” (Sermo 34:1). As you use your talents and your faith to sing God’s praises, you give voice to the natural desire of every human being to glorify him, with songs of love. It is hard to find words to convey the sheer joy of the soul’s loving encounter with God, indeed the great mystics could only remain silent before the mystery. Yet beautiful music is able to express something of the mystery of God’s love for us and ours for him, as we are reminded by the theme chosen for your Congress, Deus Caritas Est.
Always remember that your singing is a service. Firstly, it is a service to God, a way of giving him the praise that is due. It is also a service to your fellow worshippers, helping them to raise their hearts and minds to the Lord in prayer. And it is a service to the whole Church, offering a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy that is the goal of all true worship, when the choirs of angels and saints unite in one unending song of love and praise.
I greet especially the groups present today from the United States, Sweden, Ireland, Latvia and South Korea. I encourage you to persevere in your good work, I assure you of my prayers, and I gladly invoke upon you God’s abundant blessings.

The Heritage Foundation's Top Tens

Time to take stock of the year! I guess all of you know The Heritage Foundation, a think tank whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Well, here are three lists you might be interested in. From The Heritage Foundation’s blog The Foundry:

  1. Top Ten Morning Bells of 2010
  2. Top Ten Heritage Charts of 2010
  3. Top Ten Heritage Papers of 2010

“Keynesian Government Spending Multipliers and Spillovers in the Euro Area”

Proponents of discretionary fiscal stimulus—most prominent among them Paul Krugman of Princeton University and The New York Times—emphasize the Keynesian multiplier effect that implies that additional government spending would induce an increase in private spending and therefore a greater than one-for-one effect on aggregate GDP. Yet, as shown in a recent ECB (European Central Bank) working paper by Tobias Cwik of Goethe University, Frankfurt, and Volker Wieland of the Centre for Economic Policy Research, London, this theory is, to say the least, not as good as its supporters claim. In fact, after investigating whether the spending package announced by Euro area governments for 2009 and 2010 is likely to have such a multiplicative effect on euro area GDP, Tobias Cwik and Volker Wieland came to a conclusion that … Read the full paper here (pdf).
Thanks: www.chicago-blog (in Italian).

December 28, 2010

Whether Literature Is A Waste of Time

Anna Karenina (Everyman's Library classics)“Suppose someone says that from reading Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, he or she learned something useful which they then applied to their own marriage(s), […] whereas someone else professes to have had no help at all from reading assorted novels by Anne Tyler, George Eliot, William Maxwell and Anita Brookner […]. Supposing all this, or some variant of it—are we then to say that the second someone’s reading has been a total waste of time?”

See here how Norman Geras—in response to this piece by Alain de Botton in The Wall Street Journal—answers the question.

December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Just about two years ago I referred to the wonderful story of Silent Night in a short post, which in the meanwhile has become one of the most visited on this blog—this makes me very, very happy... you have no idea how much i love that song! So this year same song, different singer and video (they are both wonderful), but above all, Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2010

In Memoriam: Enzo Bearzot

Enzo Bearzot, the legendary coach who led the Italian soccer team to its third World Cup victory in 1982, died yesterday at 83. I guess you don’t need to be a soccer fanatic or even a fan to mourn him, being a normal Italian, or otherwise a non-Italian who loves soccer, would do just fine. He has certainly been one of the most beloved Italians of his time, and this, at least in my eyes, not just because of his success as a coach, but also, if not above all, because of his human qualities: his sobriety, fortitude, integrity, and courage.

In his essay “Courage,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that there are three qualities which “conspicuously attract the wonder and reverence of mankind”–disinterestedness, “as shown in indifference to the ordinary bribes and influences of conduct—a purpose so sincere and generous that it cannot be tempted aside by any prospects of wealth or other private advantage,” practical power, “one who, seeing the wishes of men, knows how to come at their end; whispers to this friend, argues down that adversary, moulds society to his purpose, and looks at all men as wax for his hands; takes command of them (…) as the man that knows more does of the man that knows less, and leads them in glad surprise to the very point where they would be,” and courage, “the perfect will, which no terrors can shake, which is attracted by frowns or threats or hostile armies, nay, needs these to awake and fan its reserved energies into a pure flame, and is never quite itself until the hazard is extreme; then it is serene and fertile, and all its powers play well.”

That’s just how I’d describe Enzo Bearzot’s character. And that’s also how those who had the privilege of knowing him well are actually describing him in these sad hours of mourning (see here, here, here, and here).

The following recollection is only one of a number of examples of his philosophy of life:

Bearzot will be remembered for the undying belief he showed in his players and his tactics, qualities he admirably demonstrated in Spain.
Bearzot took tremendous flack for selecting out-of-form forward Paolo Rossi at the start of the 1982 tournament. The criticisms only grew louder as a lethargic Italy stumbled to draws against Poland, Peru and Cameroon in the first round, and only managed to qualify for the knockout stages by the skin of its teeth.
Rossi had failed to score in all three matches, and when he was substituted in Italy's next game against Argentina, again without scoring, Italian journalists were calling for the manager's head.
But Bearzot had faith in Rossi and he was duly rewarded. Rossi recorded a marvelous hat trick against Brazil in Italy's next match scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Poland in semifinals and netted the opener in a 3-1 win over West Germany in the final. With six goals, Rossi finished as the tournament’s top scorer and was named the competition's MVP.

“Enzo Bearzot was one of Italy’s greatest figures in the 20th century,” Paolo Rossi told the Italian news agency ANSA. “He was like a father to me and without him I would never have achieved what I did.”

As Jeff Powell, sports columnist who covered Bearzot during the ‘82 World Cup, writes in today’s Daily Mail,

The morning after that triumph Bearzot walked into the press conference, poured champagne for all the journalists who had vilified him and invited them to join him in a toast: Forza Italia.
This product of the Italian FA coaching regime had inspired a new mentality which generated a subsequent World Cup victory in Germany 2006 and which injected ambition, energy and adventure into Serie A.
My friend Enzo - who died on Tuesday aged 83 - was pure class.

Rest in peace, dear old man, we will always miss you.

December 18, 2010


Fra Angelico, Nativity, Convento di San Marco, Florence

It’s really true that, as Pablo Picasso once said, with age, art and life become one and the same. I mean, as you grow older you learn to understand life a little better, but since art and life are inseparable, then if you understand one you understand the other, and therefore you become aware of how much of your life is … art! Ars vivendi, of course, and not only this, but also art per se, that is an endless search for beauty.

But what is beauty? Well, it’s not an easy question to answer, so let’s start more modestly with the meaning of the word itself. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term beauty indicates “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” But, apart from the effects of beauty (“gives pleasure,” etc.), what is beauty in itself? This is clearly a philosophical question, and a very wide one, indeed. A bit too wide for a blog post! So, let’s just simplify and say that Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates were the first at attempting to define beauty. They thought of objects or nature as being inherently beautiful: beauty is inside us and all around us. In their attempt to define characteristics of a beautiful thing they focused on “simplicity” and “symmetry.” Their concrete and simple concept of beauty was enlarged by Plotinus, according to which beauty cannot be described as just symmetry, but rather as a quality that “irradiates” and moves us. Let’s also say that, in general, according to the traditional Western thought, beauty is a supreme value and a constitutive element of the cosmos, associated with order, harmony, truth, goodness, love, being, and the divine. Modern philosophy, in turn, shifted the study of beauty from ontology to the sphere of human faculties. Hence the “emancipation” of art from traditional religious and social bonds, namely from the constraints and the burden of demonstrating a moral truth or of bearing a moral message, as it was used in the Middle Ages, until just before the Renaissance. And finally the arts themselves were separated from the traditional concept of beauty (but in the Twentieth Century metaphysical discussions of beauty were revived by German philosophers Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer).

Yet, with all due respect for philosophy (and Aesthetics, which is the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty), for us believers one thing is certain: there is no real beauty but that which God has bestowed around us and upon our lives. As it is written, “He hath made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccles. 3:11). That’s why beauty draws us back to the Creator, who is the very source and essence of beauty, back to the deep core of things. This beauty emanates from the self-giving love of God, love that pours out of the heart of God into ordinary, everyday people and relationships and circumstances.

Unfortunately, in our time beauty has become reduced, both at the popular level and among elites, to being fit or young or rich and glamorous—not to mention other and far worse perversions and aberrations. Thus, beauty leads to lifestyles that are, in the best cases, vain, self-centered, wasteful, and personally destructive in the worst. Thus, art has sometimes become synonymous with corruption and artist with “decadent”—morbidity is a characteristic of the so-called Decadent movement... That’s not the kind of art I was talking about at the beginning of this post. So, what is art for me? Well, art is for me one of the most straightforward and effective ways of worshipping God, showing our gratitude for His gifts, and at the same time of experiencing His presence.

That’s why I have a predilection for the kind of art of which the following video is a precious example. This is also my way of reminding you that the Fourth Sunday of Advent is quickly approaching…

~ First written for The Metaphysical Peregrine ~

December 15, 2010

Fewer Than Half of American Children Growing Up In Intact Families

The Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) defines an intact family as “a biological mother and father who remain legally married to one another from the time of their child’s birth.” Well, according to a survey—the first annual Index of Belonging and Rejection—produced by the above mentioned institute and advocacy group, only 45 percent of American children have spent their childhood in an intact family. This means a majority of American teenagers’ parents have rejected each other, either through divorce, separation or choosing not to marry.

Now, considering that providing children with intact families holds immeasurable benefits—including financial, educational, legislative, legal and judicial gains—for children, adults and society in general, we may conclude, along with Pat Fagan, director of the Marriage & Religion Research Institute, that “American society is dysfunctional, characterized by a faulty understanding of the male-female relationship,” and that its culture “needs a compass correction, learning again how to belong to each other when we have begotten children together.”

I must confess I’d be tempted to add that I feel sorry for America, but unfortunately I don’t think Europe is in any better shape. [Via]

Not The Worst Nightmare

So yesterday Berlusconi narrowly won a confidence vote in the lower house of Parliament—his government received only three votes more than its opponents—soon after rather easily winning the vote in the Senate. To me (and many others) it was no great surprise, though. Of course, it’s true that there was much uncertainty about the outcome of the vote in the Chamber of Deputies, unlike that in the Senate: everybody knew it would be a photo-finish. But in the end common sense prevailed, 314-311.

The no-confidence motion was put forward by opponents who argued that Berlusconi’s scandal-ridden private life, his alleged attempts to head off investigations into his business dealings and the lackluster state of the economy made his continued tenure as prime minister impossible. And all of this is true to a degree, but this is only half of the truth, one of the two sides of the coin, the other of which is the nature itself of the opposition, made up of a jumble of left-wing, centrist and center-right political parties, without a clear leader and with little common ground other than the will to get rid of Berlusconi—enough to seriously undermine the government’s ability to work effectively, too little to present themselves as a reliable, alternative government. And that’s perhaps the real trouble with Italy, or, depending on your point of view, the greatest luck: with such an opposition, Berlusconi’s only opponents are the formidable problems of the country. But the ideal would be a decent government and a decent opposition—and, if I don’t expect too much, less severe problems for the country …

Be it as it may, the worst was avoided: a crisis without any foreseeable solutions. And now? Speaking at the presentation of a book in Rome, soon after winning the vote of confidence, Berlusconi said it was possible he might expand his parliamentary majority. He also said Italy did not need to have elections now but that he was sure his party would win them if they were held. And this is not an unlikely scenario, nor the worst nightmare. Yeah, there’s always something worse, and in life, you need to know how to make do with what you have. After all, aren’t we in the age of Kali Yuga?

December 13, 2010

It's the Political Correctness, Stupid!

Heidi Harris’ version of the “12 Days of Christmas” (outstanding!) from The Heidi Harris Show, Las Vegas :

[Thanks: Rich Hilts]

December 12, 2010

Italy And The Euro Crisis

Giulio Tremonti and Mario Draghi
Olli Rehn, EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner, speaking at a press conference in Rome alongside Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti: Italy is “coping well” with the eurozone crisis and its financial position has deteriorated less than others thanks to its prudent fiscal policy and despite high levels of public sector debt. So sorry for the many international and (above all) domestic cassandras writing off the country’s economy—but, if you want to see the glass half empty, it’s also true that, as Rome-based national statistics agency Istat said last Friday, Italy’s industrial production fell 0.1 percent in October after a 2.1 percent drop in September...

Italy’s Central Bank governor, Mario Draghi, in an interview with the Financial Times (article and video): The euro is not in question, and “Europe is moving in the right direction of creating the rules and institutions to address future crisis in a systemic and comprehensive way.” But the large-scale purchases of government bonds could threaten the ECB’s freedom to act without political interference and break European Union rules.

December 7, 2010

The Murderers of Christianity

In Baghdad and in other places in Iraq the killing of Christians continues: the last two, a married couple attacked in their home on the night of Sunday, December 5. What is worse—as the October 31 massacre in the Syriac Catholic cathedral in Baghdad demonstrates (the terrorists opened fire and threw grenades shouting, “You will all go to hell, but we to paradise. Allah is most great” …)—is that the attacks denote a hatred that is ever more distinctly religious, Islamist.

As a result, the exodus of Christians from Baghdad and Mosul to the safer Kurdistan, in the extreme north of the country, continues.

The situation in Egypt—where a few weeks ago two Coptic Christians were killed by the police and 50 were wounded during a demonstration calling for the construction of a church in the city of Giza—is not much better. Hence the Pope’s call for the respect of human rights in Iraq and Egypt, as the video below shows. Meanwhile the international community continues to turn a blind eye to what is going on.

December 6, 2010

Ron Paul: “What We Need Is More WikiLeaks On The Federal Reserve”

One may not agree with Ron Paul on certain points (or many). Likewise, one may not disagree more with Julian Assange and what he stands for. But this is worth mentioning …

[Via Tea Party -- One Lump or Two?]

December 4, 2010

Please Help Free Liu Xiaob

Not that, to be honest, I am overly confident that this Call to Action will be crowned by success (and this for at least two quite obvious reasons I won’t mention here), but I can’t help doing my own little part to help support Tibetan and Chinese political prisoners in China, including Chinese literary critic, writer, professor, and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, who has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China,” and is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.” That’s why I accept the call to action launched by the International Campaign for Tibet:

Liu Xiaobo, Chinese literary critic, writer, professor, activist and supporter of the Tibetan people, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." Currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for "inciting subversion of state power," Liu Xiaobo is the first Chinese person to be awarded a Nobel Prize of any kind while residing in China.

Thousands of prisoners - Tibetan as well as Chinese - continue to be held behind bars, serving long sentences for speaking out and voicing their opinions. They include Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan film-maker; Migmar Dhondup, a Tibetan tour guide and writer ; Runggye Adak, a Tibetan nomad; and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a Tibetan religious and community leader.
The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, which the Chinese government is not allowing Liu or his family to attend, will be held on December 10, which is International Human Rights Day.

Please add your voice before December 10, 2010 by sending a message to President Obama to urge him to stand up to press China for the release of all political prisoners detained for exercising their right to free expression, and to implement the political and human rights reforms that multitudes of Chinese and Tibetan advocates risk their lives to promote.
Take action and send your message now!

December 3, 2010

A Couple of Questions About WikiLeaks and The New York Times

Is Wikileaks motivated by stopping deciet, lies, fraud and abuse of the power, or just the United States? Why did the New York Times ignore other things against the left?

When a newspaper allows its personal beliefs and agenda to color not only the news, but what it selects as the news, it becomes no better than the newsstand rag used to attract the illiterate and stupid at the supermarket checkout to look at the same blurred out alien baby picture for the 600th time.


WikiLeaks has shown a chink in its armor. WikiLeaks is simply concentrating on one “evil”. This does not match up with its founders’ “purpose” of defending everyone against abusers of power everywhere.

It is understandable if someone wants to reveal something as dastardly as the Abu Gharab situation or the incident with the helicopter, shooting what definitely appeared to be innocent people. But to release millions of documents because of a few abuses, the white knights of the world become the abusers and not the defenders of the abused.

Read the rest.

December 1, 2010

Let’s Be Inspired By Beauty!

The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child, by Sandro Botticelli, Edinburgh National Gallery of Scotland 

Tired of bleak political news? Here is a more optimistic view of the world, made up of beauty and true joy of life : just put together Sandro Botticelli and J.S. Bach—The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude And Fugue No. 1 In C Major, BWV 846—and you’re done… [Thanks: Riflessi d'acqua]

This is also meant to remind you (and me) that last Sunday was the First Advent in the Christian calendar—because Beauty and true Joy, a joy that is certainly different from the illusory feelings advertised through publicity…, both come from God’s love, and “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). The Lord is coming—that’s what Advent means! So, let’s wait for Him in Joy and Hope, and let’s be inspired by the Beauty He has surrounded us with!

November 30, 2010

“Serious Questions about the Obama Administration's Incompetence in the Wikileaks Fiasco”

From Sarah Palin’s Facebook page:

We all applaud the successful thwarting of the Christmas-Tree Bomber and hope our government continues to do all it can to keep us safe. However, the latest round of publications of leaked classified U.S. documents through the shady organization called Wikileaks raises serious questions about the Obama administration’s incompetent handling of this whole fiasco.

First and foremost, what steps were taken to stop Wikileaks director Julian Assange from distributing this highly sensitive classified material especially after he had already published material not once but twice in the previous months? Assange is not a “journalist,” any more than the “editor” of al Qaeda’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a “journalist.” He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?

What if any diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on NATO, EU, and other allies to disrupt Wikileaks’ technical infrastructure? Did we use all the cyber tools at our disposal to permanently dismantle Wikileaks? Were individuals working for Wikileaks on these document leaks investigated? Shouldn’t they at least have had their financial assets frozen just as we do to individuals who provide material support for terrorist organizations?

Most importantly, serious questions must also be asked of the U.S. intelligence system. How was it possible that a 22-year-old Private First Class could get unrestricted access to so much highly sensitive information? And how was it possible that he could copy and distribute these files without anyone noticing that security was compromised?

The White House has now issued orders to federal departments and agencies asking them to take immediate steps to ensure that no more leaks like this happen again. It’s of course important that we do all we can to prevent similar massive document leaks in the future. But why did the White House not publish these orders after the first leak back in July? What explains this strange lack of urgency on their part?

We are at war. American soldiers are in Afghanistan fighting to protect our freedoms. They are serious about keeping America safe. It would be great if they could count on their government being equally serious about that vital task.

- Sarah Palin


November 25, 2010

The True Source of Our Thanksgiving Holiday

~ “LETTERS FROM AMERICA” - by The Metaphysical Peregrine ~

Each year, on the forth Thursday of November, we celebrate and give thanks for all the good things we have. It’s a truly pure holiday in that it's an expression of its original intent. No costumes to dress up in, no gifts to give, no Easter egg hunts and all the rest. Family and friends get together for one reason only, to participate in a feast to express love and gratitude for each other and the bounty provided to us in our country, and for some of us to thank God for his blessings and grace. 

The story of the first Thanksgiving has been distilled and over simplified, the true story not told by revisionists. Like many things, what we're taught in school just ain't so. Thanksgiving is more of a celebration of an economic miracle and thanking God for abundance. The original charter for the colony in the early 1600’s stated everyone should share all the fruits of their labor. No private property, no division of labor. The result of this economic structure was that half of the settlers died or went back to England. Disease killed many more because the low production of crops led to malnutrition and lowered immune systems. Some of the settlers were calling in sick, slacking in their work, and others stole food. Why put in the extra effort, if the results of that effort provided no more than what it got the low producer? After three years of starvation and illness, Governor Bradford decided to violate the charter and implement the principles they had set out in the Mayflower Compact and the principles for living set forth in the Bible.

Governor Bradford:

"'The experience that we had in this common course and condition tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God."

By giving each family a parcel of land and to produce as much of whatever they wanted:

"'This had very good success,' for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been." 

 That bounty allowed for profits, and their debts to the charter companies were paid off. The families had savings and began to create personal wealth. Those things did not happen using socialist principles of the commune. Though the Indians did teach them how to grow corn and other vegetables and showed them how to fish, the success of the colony didn’t result from that, but from rejecting socialist, communal principles. Bradford wrote the new system "…had very good success for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. By this time harvest was come…the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many."  

What’s identified as the first Thanksgiving was to rejoice in their success, that they wouldn’t face starvation again. They applied the story of Joseph of reduced taxes and putting a percentage of crops produced away from the productive years to keep the people fed during lean years. What they did was thank God with a feast.

Governor Bradford’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation:

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.
Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty
God for all His blessings.
--William Bradford
Ye Governor of Ye Colony

It was not the Indians and Communalism that saved the Pilgrims, it was capitalism and the Bible that did. For these we are grateful and thankful, and we praise God and thank Him for these things, on this day. The original proclamation for our national holiday was made by George Washington, October 3, 1789. Part which reads:

"Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to"recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

November 21, 2010

“The Plumber is Clearly Smarter Than The Ben Bernank” (Quantitative Easing Explained)

“So has the Fed ever been right about anything?”

“Let me see if I can think of anything....(long pause), nothing.”

“Who runs the Fed?”

“The Fed is run by the Ben Bernank.”

“Does the Ben Bernank have a lot of business experience?”

“No. The Ben Bernank has no business experience.”

“Does the Ben Bernank have a lot of policy experience?”

“No. The Ben Bernank has no policy experience.”

“Has the Ben Bernank ever run in an election?”

“No. The Ben Bernank has never run in an election.”

“So what qualifies him to run the Fed?”

“I don't know. Maybe the fact that he has a nice beard.”

“But my plumber also has a nice beard and I would not trust him to play god with the economy.”

“No, although when you call the plumber to fix something that is broken they usually fix it, not break it more.”

“This is true, the plumber is clearly smarter than the Ben Bernank.”

“Well, that is why he became a plumber and not an economist.” [...]

More than two million views on YouTube in just a week! Is this the best explanation of Fed monetary policy (easy money policy of artificially low interest rates, etc.), as TMP thinks? Well, see if you can disagree with the flawless logic of this cartoon video... (there’s a partial transcript here)

November 19, 2010

Has the Fed Been a Failure?

In a working paper from the Cato Institute three American scholars assess whether the U.S. experiment with the Federal Reserve has been a success or a failure. In the light of a wide range of recent empirical research they found that

  1. The Fed's full history (1914 to present) has been characterized by more rather than fewer symptoms of monetary and macroeconomic instability than the decades leading to the Fed's establishment.
  2. While the Fed's performance has undoubtedly improved since World War II, even its postwar performance has not clearly surpassed that of its undoubtedly flawed predecessor, the National Banking system, before World War I.
  3. Some proposed alternative arrangements might plausibly do better than the Fed as presently constituted. We conclude that the need for a systematic exploration of alternatives to the established monetary system is as pressing today as it was a century ago.

The scholars are George A. Selgin, professor at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, William D. Lastrapes, professor at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, and Lawrence H. White, professor at the Department of Economics at George Mason University.
Here is the full text of the working paper:

Has the Fed Been a Failure?, Cato Working Paper No. 2

November 17, 2010

Kali Yuga

And when the end of the Yuga comes, the right hand will deceive the left; and the left, the right. And men with false reputation of learning will contract Truth and the old will betray the senselessness of the young, and the young will betray the dotage of the old. And cowards will have the reputation of bravery and the brave will be cheerless like cowards. (…) And the inhabited regions of the earth will be afflicted with dearth and famine, and the highways will be filled with lustful men and women of evil repute.
~ The Mahabharata, “Vana Parva,” Section CLXXXIX, translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli.

Don’t be deceived by the title, nor by the above quotation—this is just a political post about Italy…

But first of all, let’s say that Kali Yuga (literally “Age of Darkness”) is the last of the four stages of development (Yugas) that the world goes through as part of the cycle of eras, as described in Hindu scriptures. This age is characterized by degeneration, violence, ignorance, sorrow, materialism, waning religion, chaos and evil.

What has that to do with Italy? Well, apart from the fact that most interpreters believe that, unfortunately, earth—not just Italy—is currently in Kali Yuga, I think it may actually have more than something to do with today’s Italian politics, if not with Italy tout court. And believe me, I’m not kidding at all, rather I sometimes suspect that someone else does—e.g., Italian politicians (most of them, at least). But then again, what’s going on down here, seen from the inside, is more a nightmare, though a burlesque one, than anything else—please, see here, here, here, and here to learn more about the whole thing, I ask to be relieved from the task of reminding you (and me!) the not-so-uplifting series of events and situations that led to the current political crisis.

Gianfranco Fini
And there is no doubt that this is a very serious crisis. “This is an important moment, […] there’s a sense that Berlusconi’s reign is ending,” said Giuliano Ferrara, editor of the conservative and pro-Berlusconi newspaper Il Foglio. Nor is there any doubt that, as Ferrara again put it, Berlusconi himself is the source of practically all of his troubles. But notwithstanding this, his fiercest rival Gianfranco Fini, the co-founder (with Berlusconi) of the center-right People of Liberty  party (PDL), who in July split with the prime minister accusing him of running an anti-democratic party, is no less to blame. In fact, if Berlusconi made a terrible mistake when he expelled Fini from the party, his opponent, in turn, made an even worse mistake when he withdrew four members from the cabinet on Monday, deepening a political crisis that is expected to bring down the government in a matter of weeks and likely lead to early elections. This—apart from any consideration about Fini’s concept of loyalty, honor and coherence (well, I must confess that I harbor few illusions on these matters, given the times—or the Yuga—we live in…)—is the most irresponsible action anyone could take in this period of economic and financial crisis. And nothing and nobody will ever convince me that he acted on behalf of the Country and without consideration of personal political ambitions.

That being said, however, Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party  has proved to be a huge failure and perhaps Fini isn’t entirely wrong when he criticizes it for being “anti-democratic.” As columnist Ernesto Galli della Loggia wrote in the Corriere della Sera newspaper,

the PDL, like Forza Italia before it, may or may not be made of plastic but it is not a real party. At best, it is a bunch of sightless, voiceless followers chosen irrevocably by the boss and at worst, it is a court of jesters, dwarfs, deal-makers, dancers and holders of miscellaneous offices. Of course, the PDL is also a party for which many highly respectable Italians voted, but we all know that those votes were actually for Silvio Berlusconi, not the PDL.

If that’s the way things stand, he continues,

it means that the Berlusconi’s epoch-making operation of legitimizing the Right within the Italian political system – it is epoch-making and the Left would do well to acknowledge the fact in deference to objectivity – is only half complete, and it is his fault. Mr Berlusconi has re-established the Right electorally and in government, but has failed to restore its social or cultural legitimacy. He has failed in the only way this is ever accomplished, by creating and establishing at grass roots a real party, organized and structured as such, a vehicle for demands, a hub for relations with various circles and people, a formulator of proposals and a collector of ideas. Above all, to some extent, an effective centre for decisions that are binding for all, even its leaders.
Mr Berlusconi has failed because of course he didn’t want such a party. And he didn’t want it for three reasons: fear that it would diminish his power; the knee-jerk reaction of a man who for decades ran a company, where “if I’m paying (and getting the votes), I call the shots”; and finally because of a lack, monumental in his case, of any genuine political culture.

But it is also to be said that nearly all of the issues that seem to be at stake here, if we credit what Berlusconi’s fiercest opponents—led by his former ally Gianfranco Fini—claim, or pretend to claim, are not what is actually at stake. In fact, as another Corriere della Sera columnist, Piero Ostellino, wrote yesterday,

[a] social issue burns beneath the ashes. When the South discovers that under fiscal federalism, it will have to get by on its own, and then can’t, it could become for Italy what Algeria was for France’s Fourth Republic: the spark that lit the flame of crisis. If the North realizes that the federal solidarity equalization fund is merely the continuation of welfarism for the South, it will regress into secessionism, which will be compounded by the crisis-igniting spark of the South.

Needless to say Fini’s new Future and Liberty party, as well as Pier Ferdinando Casini’s Christian Democrat UDC party, has its electoral basis in the South. This explains almost everything you need to know about the real issue at stake. The rest is propaganda: particular interests masked as universal interests, national unity, public ethics, and “morality.” That’s politics, of course. Or, better still, that’s politics in the present (Italian) Kali Yuga phase.


UPDATE: November 17, 2010, 9:00 am

“(Reuters) - Italy's parliament will decide the future of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's struggling center-right government on December 14 in two confidence votes that may trigger early elections, a political source said Tuesday.” Read the rest.

November 12, 2010

A New Era For Franco-British Military Relations

Yeah, once upon a time such a title might have been astonishing. Right now, it's just a way (among others) to describe what happened in London a few days ago...

Read the article in the Financial Times online.

Aung San Suu Kyi Set For Release

Breaking News  Reports are coming out of Burma saying the military authorities—after the election farce—have signed an order authorizing the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. But the Nobel laureate pro-democracy leader is not expected to accept a conditional release if it excludes her from political activity. (BBC)

November 10, 2010

Bjørn Lomborg's Movie. Alternative Ways To Protecting The Environment

Bjørn Lomborg
Before becoming the “Skeptical Environmentalist” by antonomasia, Danish author Bjørn Lomborg was a pro-environmentalist and a Greenpeace supporter who began his research as an attempt to counter some of the most common anti-ecological arguments. But he was bound to change his mind very soon after starting to analyze the data. And that’s how The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World came to be.

In his influential and controversial book—first published in Danish in 1998 and translated into English in 2001—Lomborg argues that claims on overpopulation, declining energy resources, deforestation, species loss, water shortages, certain aspects of global warming, and a variety of other global environmental issues are unsupported by analysis of the relevant data.

Now Lomborg’s most recent book, Cool It (2007), has become a film-documentary. Directed by filmmaker Ondi Timoner, Cool It follows Lomborg on his mission to bring the smartest solutions to climate change, environmental pollution, and other major problems in the world. “Global warming is real, but it’s not the scary, end-of-all-things that it's been made out to be in Al Gore’s film,” Lomborg told in an interview. “And in some way that’s crucial, because that scare diminishes life quality. I mean, we talk to kids who think they’re going to die because of global warming right now.”

Here is the trailer of the movie:

Lomborg is the founder and director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a globally respected think tank that brings together the world’s leading economists to prioritize major global problems—among them malaria, the lack of potable water and HIV/AIDS—based upon a cost/benefit analysis of available solutions.

November 8, 2010

The Aftermath of the Electoral Tsunami and Why It Happened

~ “LETTERS FROM AMERICA” - by The Metaphysical Peregrine ~

The elections last week reflected where US citizens are socio-politically, more than expressing any great sea change. Before and after the election, polls showed 22% of Americans consider themselves liberal, 34% consider themselves conservative, and 44% consider themselves moderate. That 44%, the “swing vote”, when the internals are looked at, moderates measure themselves leaning more conservative.

Since Obama and the Democrats assumed power of the Executive and Legislative branches of government, the national debt has tripled and unemployment has doubled. They are seen as anti-business, as reflected in their recent attack on the US Chamber of Commerce, the most powerful business lobby in the US. They are also adamant about raising taxes on business.  

In exit polls election day, 4 of 10 voters said they supported or were members of the TEA Party movement. Obama, the Democrats, other Leftists, and the lap dog media called all those people racists and stupid. It’s gone on for about two years. That started a culture war beyond politics when elected officials began name calling and personally insulting their political opposition.

Addressing the racist issue, which the Statists throw out whenever they can because it’s the only response they can come up with, here’s some interesting information. Fourteen Blacks ran as Republicans and were supported by the TEA Party. Only two of them won. The “racist” Tea Party supported all the way to victory, not only those two black Republicans to congress, but a female Hispanic Governor (first in our history), a Native American Governor (who is also a Sikh), a black Lt. Governor, and a Cuban-America Senator.  Look for the Dems and Jurassic Press point out the small number of Republican Blacks in Congress in the coming weeks and months, supporting their contention that Republicans are racists. What they won’t report is how many non-whites and women Republicans at all levels of government were elected. What they don’t and won’t report is the Congressional Black Caucus refuses to let Republican Blacks join. This will be challenged by newly elected African American Allen West of Florida.  The National Association of Colored People (NAACP) refused to endorse any Black Republican, also not noted in the Jurassic Press.  

Then there’s Obama’s statement on a Hispanic radio station just before the election, referring to his political opposition, as “enemies that must be punished”, once again attacking citizens of the US. He’s also attacks citizens of the US, bringing in several foreign countries to help out, to sue the state of Arizona for passing legislation that enforces already exiting federal border and immigration law. Anyone that supports that law is of course, a racist, both for opposing the Justice Department lead by a racist black man Eric Holder, black man Obama, and for being anti-Hispanic. One only needs to read Obama’s ego building self aggrandizing books to understand he’s a racist too. The things he says about white people alone should have kept him out of the White House, but those statements were not reported by the Jurassic Press.

Beyond that, citizens don’t like it when the Justice Department refuses to prosecute African Americans for crimes yet investigates white people. They don’t like it when illegal immigrants vote and the Justice Department doesn’t investigate. There was massive voter fraud by Democrats, unions and racist and illegal Hispanics reported this past election, and the Justice Department refuses to investigate. All that creates the perception this Administration and the Democrat Party is not interested in the rule of law. Americans are serious about law enforcement. Relating to Justice, the Judicial Branch frequently throws out legislation or propositions voted on by the public. The biggest recent example is a gay California Superior Court judge that tossed out a voter approved amendment to the California Constitution stating that marriage is defined by the union of a man and a woman. It passed by 7 million votes. One judge trumps 7 million votes. The citizens don’t like that kind of thing, and it happens a lot all over the US.  

Senior citizens also came out against Obama and the Democrats. The primary reason is that when the new health care legislation is peeled back, a lot of medical care for seasoned citizens is reduced or eliminated. In the last election, seniors (over 65 years old) pretty much split evenly. This election Republicans got a shift, and increase of 20% over Democrats. More seniors came to the polls too, up from 19% to 23%, and voted against the Democrats. A primary concern for them is the newly passed health care bill that cuts $500 billion from Medicare programs. A standard tactic of the Democrats is the charge Republicans are going to end Social Security. Seasoned citizens didn’t buy it this time. They understand Republicans want only to give younger voters an opt out, or at least take a portion of their social security deductions and invest it in retirement funds. The Democrat scare tactic is being reinterpreted by seniors as insulting their intelligence, and demeans them. We’re glad our seasoned citizens are catching on.

The young too are finally realizing Democrats and Obama don’t have their best interests at heart. The health care bill requires all citizens to buy health insurance under penalty of imprisonment, fine, or both. That is coupled with three to four generations of debt that will have to be paid off, which means higher taxes and reduced income for them and their kids.

In the aftermath of all this, the Democrats and Obama are still blaming George Bush and the Republicans for all these economic woes. This is viewed as a lack of leadership. The budget of the US is created by Congress, controlled by the Democrats the past four years. Obama ran for office saying he would assume responsibility and do a better job. It hasn’t happened and things are worse. There has’t been such a huge political turnover since 1947, and no one on the Statist side will own up to it. Many of them are saying they didn’t push their extreme Leftist agenda far enough, and that’s why they lost. That could only make sense to a Liberal, ‘we didn’t pass enough Leftist legislation, so the citizens voted massively for racist right wing extremist Republicans’. Say what?

Ultimately voters saw a failed TARP, failed stimulus packages, bailouts of companies that should have been allowed to restructure after bankruptcies, payoffs to fat cats on Wall Street with taxpayer dollars, failure to enforce immigration law and protect the borders, failure to protect citizens, the Federal government suing its own citizens for policy disagreements, name calling and charges of racism. The promise Obama made was that he would create a “post partisan, post racial society”. The opposite has occurred. We are divided more than any time, at least my lifetime (over half a century). They see more economic bad news coming down the pike with more money being printed to make it appear the deficit is being reduced. They see businesses not hiring or growing their businesses because the health care costs and taxes for doing so are unknown. The Democrat congress did not pass, as required by law, a budget this year, nor did they say if tax cuts passed early in the Bush administration were going to be extended, left to expire, or increased. They heard the president tell his political opposition to ‘get in back and shut up’ and they are enemies to be punished. The American people don’t want to hear their president talking like that.

The next election in two years sees even more Democrat seats up for reelection. The results will be even more devastating to them. The people that are raising their kids, going to work, paying taxes and minding their own business have had enough of more government, more taxes, more regulation, more everything that violates their sensibilities of personal liberty, free markets and free minds.   

Why China May Not Matter Quite As Much As You Think

Ok, it’s true that in China growth of 9.6%—recorded in the year to the third quarter—represents a slowdown and that, according to the IMF, China will account for almost a fifth of world growth this year (just over a quarter at purchasing-power parity).

Yet, when the Bank Credit Analyst, an independent research firm, asked what would happen if China suffered a “hard landing,” its answer was far less apocalyptic than one would expect. In fact, as it pointed out, at the start of the 1990s Japan accounted for a bigger share of GDP than China does today, and notwithstanding this, when in the first half of the 1990s its growth slowed from about 5% to 1% it all happened without any discernible effect on global trends.

It is hard to exaggerate the Chinese economy’s far-reaching impact on the world, but not impossible, after all... Read this October 28th Economist article to convince yourself (if you can).

Thanks: Nicola

November 7, 2010

The Sagrada Família. A Powerful Lesson For Today's World

While celebrating the Mass for the first time there, Benedict XVI consecrated a few hours ago in Barcelona the basilica of the Sagrada Família, the stunning masterpiece—that has been under construction since 1882 and is not expected to be complete until at least 2026—of Christian art designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. As Vaticanist Sandro Magister puts it,

It is impossible not to see a message in this act of the pope. The Sagrada Família is an exceptionally powerful lesson for the sacred art of today: the exact opposite of so many modern tendencies toward bare and empty geometry in which the Christian mystery is lost, instead of making itself seen and lived.

The Sagrada Família is a work so rich in symbols as to have generated an additional art, the one of its own interpretation, in which an Italian-Spanish Jesuit excels: Jean-Paul Hernández. He is the author of Antoni Gaudí. La parola nella pietra, the most beautiful book yet published on the symbols and spirit of the Sagrada Família, issued in 2007.

Some suggestions from the book—concerning the towers, the façade, the “portal of the passion,” and the columns—are recalled on Magister’s website. “They are small fragments of an immensely more vast account,” Magister says, “between the divine and the human, destined to remain always open like the construction site that the visitors discover in Barcelona.” Definitely worth reading and pondering.

On the occasion, since the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) is a monument to family, Benedict launched an attack on abortion and a defense of the love of a “man and a woman.” Watch the video below for an overview of the event.

November 4, 2010

The Day After

Some insightful (and common sense) comments.

1) The real loser

The real loser is Keynesianism: the idea that when businesses and individuals stop spending, government must. That idea will not rebound; it's over for this period in economic history. First Britain, and now the United States, are responding to the worst economic contraction in 75 years by contracting government, despite the fact that the world's best economists are screaming that it's exactly the wrong thing to do. (here)

2) Obama Post Election Press Conference

a) So far Obama's major nod to getting whooped last night is to speak slower and with a tinge of sorrow in his voice. Beyond that? Nope, not really.Big Takeaway...Obama rejects notion that his policies were rejected by voters last night. Says his policies are not moving the nation backwards, rejects notion that was message of last night. He's not going the Clinton way. It would have been much shorter and much more honest if he just said what he really wants to say, "Let me be clear, I'm still awesome. If you aren't smart enough to get that, it's on you not me." (here)

b) Less than 24 hours after he lost the golden mantle, President Obama went before an expectant nation with a White House press conference. He and his party had received an historic slap-down. The people had spoken directly and plainly.For the first two-thirds of the presser, the president spoke in Washington-speak. It was nuanced and hit notes that his aides would nod at approvingly. He was humbled and willing to reach out to the other side. If you were a Washington insider and you had a decoder ring, you could nod appreciatively that you understood the message.But as a political acknowledgement to an angry public, it has to be chalked up as another loss. In the language of the American people, it was not straight talk. It was babble, presented in cold language that only Professor Obama could deliver. (here)

November 3, 2010

What, If Not A Tsunami?

If not a tsunami, then what metaphor should we use to describe it? A hurricane? Yes, but a “meaningful” one.

October 31, 2010

What The Catholic Church Has Brought To The World

Here is a video which shows and explains the beautiful, historical and miraculous aspects of the Catholic Church. From Catholics Come Home, an independent, non-profit Catholic apostolate that creates effective and compassionate media messages and broadcasts them nationally and internationally, in order to inspire, educate and evangelize inactive Catholics and others, and invite them to live a deeper faith in Jesus Christ, in accord with the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

Thanks: The Metaphysical Peregrine

October 30, 2010

A Tsunami Of An Election

~ “LETTERS FROM AMERICA” - by The Metaphysical Peregrine ~

Three things stand out in our Election coming up this Tuesday; Democrat voter fraud, possibly the largest turnover of politicians in US history, and the leadership of women in the Conservative movement.

In my own state of Nevada, early voters reported that some voting machines already had incumbent Senator Harry Reid selected. It turns out the voting machine technicians are members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU). SEIU has given 95% of their political donations to Democrats. A Nevada caller to a radio talk show called in saying he had voted that day, and while he was there a bus pulled up with filled with casino union workers wearing their union shirts with their booklet of union approved candidates. Campaigning at polling places is against Federal law, and this wasn’t technically illegal, but the effect was the same.  Reid’s campaign also had voting parties where food and gift cards were passed out in violation of Federal voting laws. There will be no prosecution of course, since the current US Justice Department only prosecutes Christians, Conservatives and white people.

The evidence of this is the New Black Panther Party, a violent Black racist group of thugs that stood outside a polling place in paramilitary uniforms carrying nightsticks during the election of two years ago. This is in violation of Federal election law, but we have a racist Justice Department, and as the months go by, more stories are coming to light of laws being selectively enforced based on race, political, and religious views. Two assistant attorneys general have quit the department in protest. The Black Panthers said they will be out in force again this election doing the same.

I could make this whole post about Democrat voter fraud at the level any third world dictatorship would be proud of. Of course the Jurassic Press never sees it, and if it does doesn’t’ report it. One of our Circuit Courts has just ruled that proving citizenship to vote is unconstitutional. All Courts have ruled that showing an ID at the polling place is an unconstitutional requirement. It’s so bad there’s now a smart phone app to report voting place fraud.

The most disgusting and galling are three Democrat controlled states that have not sent absentee ballots to servicemen overseas, in violation of Federal election law. They are not being prosecuted by the Justice Department either. Traditionally military personnel vote Republican.  

The turnover of political parties will be larger than even the historic 1994 election despite massive Democrat voter fraud. Then there was a 54 seat pick up by Republicans, and an 8 seat pick up in the Senate. Republicans need 39 seats to win control the House of Representatives, and 10 seats to win the Senate. Political strategists of both political parties predict Republicans will pick up 54 seats in the House and 5 for certain in the Senate. There are still 6 Senate seats in addition to the 5 that are too close to call, so it’s possible the Republicans can control the Senate too.

Conservative women are the engine driving this political tsunami. The Left has been reduced to calling them whores and bitches. The National Organization of Women, a small Leftist group with no influence, but the darling of the Jurassic Press and Democrats, endorses this language. They even say dumb stuff like Conservative women aren’t really women. This is of a piece with Black Democrats saying the conservative Blacks aren’t really Black. The attack on these conservative women has been vicious, all of it personal, none of it on the issues.

A brief example is the attack on Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachman. She was recently attacked by Joy Behar (she’s on the show “The View” and has her own CNN program) who said that Bachman is “against children”. This is linked to Bachman opposing ObamaCare and lots of other legislation that mandates how parents raise their kids. Bachman is the mother of 5 and the foster parent of 23 kids. She's against children? Pages could be written about the lies, slander, slurs and meanness visited upon Sarah Palin. Leftists only support women that are Leftists. Independent women that have fulfilled the feminist ideal of success based on merit are the enemy. When we look at Sharron Angle (challenging Senator Harry Reid in Nevada), Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell (running for Senate in Delaware), Meg Whitman (running for Governor in California), and Carly Fiorina (running for Senate in California), we see women successful in their own right. Fiorina was CEO of Hewlett Packard, Meg Whitman was cofounder and CEO of EBay, Sarah Palin was a Governor.  

Leftist political women? Hillary Clinton got where she is on the coat tails of her husband Bill, Nancy Pelosi got where she is using her husband’s wealth and power, as did California Senator Barbara Boxer, and of course Michelle Obama who’s accomplished nothing of merit and has labeled herself “mom in chief”, tells us to eat our fruits and veggies while she goes out and eats mushy beef burgers, fries and ice cream.

At play too are several governorships and state assemblies. Even local elections will see a big turnover. Everything is in play from national to local. 

This triad is a turnover of historic proportions. Strong independent women for leaders, Conservatives not only challenging entrenched Democrats but kicking out RINO’s (Republican in Name Only), and Democrat Party fraud that has not been reported by the Jurassic Press in the past now being exposed by the New Media.

This is a perfect storm that will roll back, and rock, the Statist agenda. I’ll be up late Tuesday night watching Liberty rise and Democrats cry.