“Hostess Twinkie Market” – no nutritional value

A very important but taciturn investor (that explains why I hadn’t heard of him) speaks to the Wall Street Journal, and his prognosis ain’t pretty:

  • He compared the financial markets to a Hostess Twinkie. “There is no nutritional value,” he said. “There is nothing natural in the markets. Everything is being manipulated by the government.”
  • “The government is now in the business of giving bad advice … By holding interest rates at zero, the government is basically tricking the population into going long on just about every kind of security except cash, at the price of almost certainly not getting an adequate return for the risks they are running. People can’t stand earning 0% on their money, so the government is forcing everyone in the investing public to speculate….”
  • “[I]t was in some ways helpful to carry a Depression mentality throughout their later lives, because it meant they were thrifty with their money and prudent in their investment decisions … All we got out of this crisis was a Really Bad Couple of Weeks mentality.”
  • He is buying “way out-of-the-money puts on bonds”—options that have no value unless Treasury bonds plummet. “It’s cheap disaster insurance for five years out,” he said.
  • “All the obvious hedges”—commodities and foreign currencies, for example—”are already extremely expensive,” he warned.

I’d tell you how I’m hedging, but since I have an audience of dozens, some with money in the bank, I don’t want to risk driving up the price before I’m more fully invested. 😉

HT: Patrick Deneen at Front Porch Republic.

Meanwhile, Ross Douthat says the demographic crunch every sentient creature knew was coming has arrived way early – now instead of the late 2010s: a “lost decade.” I’m not sure he’s right blaming Bush (he at least is clear that he’s talking hindsight) except that Bush had what tort lawyers call the “last clear chance” to avert catastrophe.

Is abortion the seed or the flower of Culture Wars?

The buzz about the new book Red Families, Blue Families continues with a conservative columnist I greatly respect, Maggie Gallagher.

Maggie, author of The Abolition of Marriage and a tireless advocate of traditional western marriage, thinks the culture wars start with different views about abortion and those different views ramify in earlier marriage versus later, out-of-wedlock birth rates, etc., rather than the latter ending in controversy over abortion (the quintessential Culture War issue).

It would be interesting in this regard to test how much the “red state, blue state” differences were shaping up before Roe v. Wade, and (if reliable data is available – very unlikely), how the blue states and red states stacked up on abortion rates, legal and illegal, before the Supreme Court basically gave us one, utterly permissive national abortion law.

Sexual miscellany

Whiling away the hours until the Paschal Vigil tonight, I’ve caught up on a little reading. I mention sex (1) to drive traffic and (2) because there’s a sexual component to two of my three notables. (The third will get a separate posting.)

First, in the spin battles over Obamacare, we have Kate Michelman, abortion activist, lamenting that the Democrats so quickly abandoned insistence on covering “all the medical services women need and deserve.” From her perspective, the Democrats aren’t reliable friends, and “the pro-choice movement must have a powerful political presence independent of the Democratic Party.” She blames the Democrat strategic decision to recruit moderates after the 2004 election, which in fact led to election of several relatively moderate Democrats starting in 2006.

Indeed, it’s got to be a tough time to be a pro-abortion Democrat. There’s got to be – what? one? two? – dissonant voices in the Festive Friends of Feticide chorus that used to do unison soooo much better. Of course, the Republicans can count on Olympia Snow (sadly, Orthodox) and Lincoln Chafee peeling off from the GOP abortion platform at the drop of a hat. And there’s others whose pro-life song is delivered up so tone-deaf that I don’t really trust them to hold if the wind shifts a little. Maybe “tone deaf” is the wrong metaphor, but they don’t sound authentic. They sound like they’re dropping memorized sound bites.

So I feel your pain, Kate – enough so that I won’t call myself Republican today. I’m now roughly 30 years into dreaming of the day when abortion won’t be a partisan issue, but as the parties try to achieve their optimally big tents, that day bodes to be a while coming.

Ironically echoing her distrust of Democrats is Kathleen Parker, a generally conservative columnist at the Washington Post, lamenting Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak’s vote-switch for 30 pieces of silver a rather meaningless Executive Order. The unreliability runs both ways. Someone else dissed Stupak by saying you can’t count on pro-life Democrats. Indeed, party discipline can be pretty compelling. Stupak defends himself against Parker here.

Looking well past the next election – and the next, and the next – is Kasper Melville’s Battle of the Babies in the UK’s New Humanist magazine. The story should be a familiar one for both the triumphalist secularists and the tongue-clucking “hell in a handbasket” religious folks: the devoutly religious are outbreeding secularists by a large enough margin to spell the doom of secularism as any dominant force.

The latest iteration of this “prognostication comes courtesy of political scientist Eric Kaufmann, a reader in politics at London’s Birkbeck College, and the author of the new book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, out in March from Profile Books.” Kaufmann is facially neutral, while Melville is a secularist himself. They’re both not too alarmed by the prolific breeders in Anabaptist Amish and Hutterite enclaves, but the Quiverfull “movement” has Melville’s knickers in a knot:

However the success-through-fertility of [Amish and Hutterites] has served as a powerful model for newer variants of fundamentalism with a far more sinister agenda. One such is the Quiverfull movement (The name derives from Psalm 127: “Children are a heritage from the Lord/ Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them”). Kaufmann describes Quiverfull as “backward engineered religion”, an attempt to replicate the successful growth of these historic sects, combined with an ambitious agenda for political power. Under the leadership of the infamous religious conservative Doug Phillips, son of Howard, who was instrumental in the early stirrings of the Religious Right, Quiverfull, a coalition of neo-fundamentalist protestant denominations and communities, dedicated to biblical literalism, deeply patriarchal and morally conservative and separatist in mindset, has a 200-year plan, a “self-conscious strategy for victory through fertility”, as Kaufmann calls it. “They look around and see the low birth rate amongst the secular population, and the success of the sects, and they say, ‘Hey, we can take over here and quickly.’ They think that God should be the family planner. For them contraception is one step toward abortion. There are stories of Quiverfull women who can only have three or four children breaking down and feeling that God has not blessed them.”

Not to worry, Casper: Evangelicals (your “fundamentalists”) cannot maintain anything for 200 years. Someone will get a ThD from Fuller for reinterpreting “happy is the man who has his quiver full.” Nobody gets a doctorate for preserving and transmitting Evangelicalism unaltered. There may still be something called “Evangelicalism” in 200 years, but it’s doubtful that it will look anything like today’s version.

Remember, you heard it here first: Quiverfull is just one of Evangelicalism’s fleeting manias. They remind me of the T-Shirt I heard about: “They say I have Attention Deficit Disorder, but they just don’t underst… Hey! Look! A Chicken!”

Now Muslims are a different matter, though I’ve long been mulling over to the extent to which Islam, too, are inherently incoherent inasmuch as their religion, too, is based on a book susceptible of private interpretation. (They do differ from one another, you know.)

Rod Dreher, looking at Melville’s article (after I’d noted it but before I blogged) passes over the Quiverfull folks and focuses on a common a trait noted by Kauffman:

“I call them ‘endogenous growth sects’. The defining features are that they have strong boundaries to the outside, they try to live segregated from the rest of society, they practice ‘in’ marriage, they have high fertility rates and high retention of members – it’s grow-your-own-fundamentalism. The irony is that in terms of growth this is the most successful model for religion in Western secular societies. This is not true for the developing world, or for the Muslim world, but it is for the West.” The reason why Kaufmann covers both older forms of fundamentalism like the Amish and Hutterites, sects that are not likely to put the fear of God into secularists because they seem so passive, so withdrawn and uninterested in imposing their worldview on the rest of us, alongside more aggressive and self-consciously power-hungry forms of evangelical Christianity and Islamism is because, in his argument, the older sects provide the model of success that is now being followed by the newer ones. To understand them, Kaufmann argues, we need to look at the older forms they are self-consciously aping.

This is what Dreher calls the “Benedict Option” – semi-monastic, consciously counter-cultural. I’ve been wondering, as has Dreher, whether conscious separation, which surely will get us labelled “fundamentalist,” is the only real option in a very seductive society.