State of the Union

National Review Goes Unpatriotic?

The current issue of the magazine lately known for such cover stories as “Unpatriotic Conservatives” and “We’re Winning” includes an essay by Justin Logan and Christopher Preble on “what’s wrong with nation-building,” as well as one by Bing West urging “We must quickly prepare the Kabul government to win its own war.” And instead of glorifying a Republican or demonizing a Democrat, they’ve put Ayn Rand on the cover. Inside, Ron Radosh even has kind words for Saul Alinsky (more than Radosh could muster for Stan Evans). What gives?

I’m tempted to recite an old Stephen Tonsor quip, but I’ll refrain. What is significant here is that NR is providing what its readers want, and that evidently no longer includes celebrations of democracy as America’s greatest export. Whether any of the editors have come around is another question, but it’s worth considering that even the most devout apparatchik eventually had to face up to the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Posted in . 10 comments

Down on the Upside, and a Note on Lasch

Today’s spotlighted article at TAC is Brendan O’Neill’s review of Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves.

Also, author Eric Miller comments (scroll down) on David Brown’s review of Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch.

Posted in , . One comment

C.S. Lewis vs. the Religious Left (and Right)

The Independent Institute‘s David Theroux has a thought-provoking piece here discussing the Christian novelist’s sharply critical view of state power — particularly when employed in the service of therapeutic humanitarianism. Theroux’s essay is part of a series on the future of evangelicalism; I hope it finds a receptive audience.

Posted in , . 2 comments

Child care’s debtors prison

How many real “Deadbeat Dads” are there? Is it the same number of those divorced fathers who have been put into a debtor’s prison that has been created in order to supposedly catch the deadbeats?

Let’s say for example that you are a fellow who is divorced and you paid your child care. But you lost your job during the Great Recession and you have fallen behind on your payments. Does that make you a deadbeat? And let’s also say for example that your ex-wife works at a decent job where she doesn’t need the extra income to take care of the kids. Should she be able to get a bonus off the sweat of your brow? Or better yet, let’s say she gets remarried to a fellow who has a decent job as well.  Do they need to squeeze more money out of the “deadbeat” when they don’t need it?

The changes in the economy have created more and more situations like the aforementioned—and more and more such divorced fathers who are anchored in debt because of either job loss, prison time (where you can be put if you don’t make your payments), or the fact that pay scale for unskilled labor has been dramatically shrunk over the years by immigration and globalization.  Even if the fellow does work, his wages are often garnished to the point where he can barely make ends meet on his own part. Or states can do nasty tricks like suspend driver’s licenses for non-payment, which also continues the cycle.  And if the fellow remarried to a woman with children, there’s a family that’s going to have a hard time making it, given all the previous debt on top of what families typically owe for homes, cars and credit cards.

The stereotype of the impoverished single mother and the divorced dad driving around town in a sports car with the new girlfriend who doesn’t see his kids is still a powerful one, enough to basically keep the debtor’s prison of the child care system in place without anyone challenging it. But the question of fairness, justice and the fact that there are and will eventually be lots of males in this predicament, makes this situation a sleeper political issue.  It’s there waiting to be picked up by an enterprising politician who could ride a reform wave a long, long way.

Posted in . 15 comments

Snapshot of the U.S. Economy

Business Week has released its popularity issue, taking note of the most popular products and other things in the U.S. (and in some cases, the world). Guess what the most “popular” job is? BW‘s Peter Coy has the answer:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is brutally honest describing the job of retail salesperson in its 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Advancement opportunities are limited,” workers “often stand for long periods,” and many “work evenings and weekends, particularly during peak retail periods.” Then there’s the pay: a 2009 annual median of $20,260, 61 percent of that for all jobs. Still, it’s the most popular job in America, based on the 4.2 million people who were being paid to do it in May 2009, when the BLS conducted its survey. Next are cashiers (3.4 million), general office clerks (2.8 million), food preparation and serving workers (2.7 million), and registered nurses (2.6 million)…

Posted in . Post a comment

The Hindenburg Hoax

I interrupt this political commentary for some brief finance blogging.

Over the weekend, the media seized on something called the Hindenburg Omen: a syzygy of financial statistics that supposedly portends stock market collapse.  The list of indicators that have to align just so to produce the Omen is so long I can’t even follow it myself. Here is how CNBC puts it:

The omen is triggered when more than 2.2 percent of the NYSE Composite Index’s stocks are finding new highs while another 2.2 percent or more of the issues are creating new lows. The lesser of the two numbers has to be larger than or equal to 69. The NYSE 10 also has to be rising and the McClellan Oscillator — a measure of market breadth based on advancing and declining stocks — has to be negative on that day.

If all of those criteria are met then the warning bell sounds.

Got that?  Me neither.  Nor do I plan to waste my time figuring it out, for I can already tell that the Hindenburg Omen — like other examples of “technical analysis” — is buncombe.

Take any random data set, and one is bound to find some striking coincidence or other.  The larger the dataset, the more inevitable yet individually improbable those coincidences will be.  The stock market provides endless examples.  You’ve probably heard them before: “The stock market always goes up the day after NFC linebackers intercept more passes than AFC safeties,” or “A lunar eclipse on the West coast means that the market will go down.”  The technical name for this is data snooping.  Keep testing a set of random data, and eventually you will find a rule that fits.

Sometimes we are savvy enough to realize that these past correlations do not predict future moves in the market.  But, for some reason, when the correlations involve purely financial stats like trading volume or stock price movements, we are more easily suckered.  The academic literature has confirmed what theory would predict: take any “technical indicator” such as the Hindenburg Omen, and it turns out that, even though it may seem to account for stock market outcomes during a given backward-looking sample period, it does no better average in subsequent periods. (The Hindenburg Omen isn’t even a very good piece of data snooping — even with past data, it only “works” about 25% of the time.)  Nevertheless, to this day, many people on Wall Street make their living as “technical analysts,” even though their methods have no more merit than homeopathy or astrology.

None of this means that the market won’t crash in September.  Still, if your broker calls you to make sure you’ve read the reports about the Hindenburg Omen, you should fire him.  He makes money by convincing you to make as many (unnecessary) trades as possible.  “Technical analysis” is just another way for him to egg you on.

Posted in . 12 comments

James Kilpatrick -RIP – the Conservative Literary Path Not Taken…

As Dan’s post mentioned, James J. Kilpatrick passed away yesterday at the age of 89.

In his prime, and in his top writing, he was one of the best conservative stylists of the late 20th century. He gracefully combined earthiness and erudition to connect with Americans far and wide.  When William F. Buckley passed away two years ago, pundits and obituary writers gushed over Buckley’s exquisite style. Kilpatrick’s style was far more potent and probably far more effective.

Kilpatrick’s The Writer’s Art was a fount of excellent ideas on style, and his The Foxes Union is one of the most vivid portrayals of the good life in rural Virginia.

There were plenty of issues on which I vigorously disagreed with him, and I will make no excuse or defense for his championing of “Massive Resistance” in Virginia in the late 1950s. (A  Washington Post obituary notes that he began his journalism career at the Richmond News Leader, where he championed the cause of a black shoeshine boy wrongfully convicted of shooting a policeman.  Kilpatrick’s efforts led to a pardon.)

But there were some issues on which he stunned me.   When I was doing the research for Lost Rights in the early 1990s, Kilpatrick was one of the few conservatives who understood and treasured the Fourth Amendment.  He vigorously opposed permitting government to conduct unreasonable, warrantless searches and he recognized how this profoundly changed the relation of State & Citizen. (I think that is a fair characterization of his position –  my memory is dusty here.)   There were other issues on which Kilpatrick avoided the cravenness that too often characterized Washington pundits, both left and right, in recent decades.

Posted in . 4 comments

Culture Jihad

Have we ever had a president so disconnected from the heart of America?

On Friday night, at a White House iftar, the breaking of the Ramadan fast, Obama strode directly into the blazing controversy over whether a mosque should be built two blocks from Ground Zero.

Speaking as though this were simply an open-and-shut case of constitutional law, Professor Obama declared that Muslims “have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country,” including “the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan.”

Hailed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also sees this as an issue of tolerance and religious freedom, Obama had poured gasoline on a fire that had him in headlong retreat Saturday morning.

“I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That is what our country is about.”

Professor Obama finally seemed to grasp the point.

This is not a question of “Can they build a mosque near Ground Zero?”

It is an question of “Should they build a mosque in the shadow of the twin towers, where 3,000 Americans were suffocated, crushed or burned to death by Islamic fanatics whose Muslim faith was integral to their mission of mass murder and to their identify?”

Unless one is without kidney, spleen, heart, or common sense, the answer would be “No!” Read More…

Posted in . 66 comments

Kilpo RIP

The great, old-school conservative commentator James Jackson Kilpatrick has passed away.

Posted in , . Post a comment

Boomers Losing their Religion, a Hipster Remnant

An interesting new study in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion has hit the news wires. Philip Schwadel of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has looked into the reporting on religious affiliation and found that Boomers are the most likely age-cohort to disaffiliate from their religion. Overall numbers of people reporting no religious affiliation have shot up “from 6 to 8 percent in the 1970s and 1980s to almost 16 percent in 2006.” The dramatic rise is due to older generations dying off that those raised by Boomers without a religious affiliation are unlikely to acquire one.

Younger believers are more likely to retain some religious affiliation than their Boomer parents. Although Schhwadel speculates that much of the change can be explained by liberal Boomers exiling themselves from conservative-dominated religious groups, the other way is just as likely. The decline of Mainline Protestantism seems to track with the exodus of Boomers, and the rise of Evangelicalism tracks with the growth of their children.

All this was in mind as I read a recent article in Details suggesting that the hottest “pickup spot” in Los Angelas is a new, young, theologically Calvinist Church, Reality LA. Like Mars Hill in Seattle, Reality LA bills itself as a Church for those who never took to Church. Tattooed pastors, modern worship, traditional theology, and a heavy emphasis on Biblical exegesis.

It seems intuitive that as the elite becomes more secular, educated believers will identify even more strongly with their faiths and have a deeper intellectual commitment to them. Only a living thing can swim against the tide.

Posted in . 2 comments
← Older posts Newer posts →