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Belmont Club

Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth

December 30th, 2012 - 11:42 am

“Why Is It That So Many Good Causes Get Hijacked By Bad People?” asked R.F. Wilson. “Take human rights. I’ve got nothing against human rights. In fact, I’m all for them. But why is it that so many disgusting people hijack the good cause of promoting and safeguarding human rights and start milking it for all it’s worth? And eventually it results in lowlifes and scumbags jumping on the human rights bandwagon and pushing out decent people whose liberties and freedoms are trampled and abused. It’s just ain’t right.”

The danger of corruption doesn’t stop with the human rights crowd. The anti-capitalist, anti-war, anti-pollution, anti-racism and even animal welfare organizations are all vulnerable. They sometimes mutate into horrible parodies of their original intent. Why does it happen?

That’s easy. It is because, as Willie Sutton once said, that is where the money is. And money attracts snake oil salesmen. Nowhere was that more dramatically illustrated than the recent American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals agreement to pay the Ringling Brothers $9.3 million to settle a fraudulent lawsuit they lodged against the circus using a paid witness. That’s not the half of it. It’s only the tip of a RICO case brought against the animal rights advocates and its lawyers.

The settlement covers only Feld Entertainment’s claims against ASPCA for attorneys’ fees and damages in the initial Endangered Species Act (ESA) case filed in 2000 by the animal rights activists and the resultant racketeering (RICO) case brought by Feld Entertainment in 2007. Discovery in the initial lawsuit uncovered over $190,000 that these animal activist groups and their lawyers paid to Tom Rider who lived off of the money while serving as the “injured plaintiff” in the lawsuit against the circus.


The Return of Class Struggle

December 29th, 2012 - 12:59 pm

Lord Mandelson, a pro-EU British politician, warned the European project could unravel if the poverty caused by the economic crisis spreads throughout the zone. “Now this goes to the heart of the EU’s political legitimacy because whether you are from an austerity member state or a bailout country, you are likely to be dissatisfied for a long time to come with the economic state of Europe and the price you are paying for Europe’s indebtedness and its relative failure to generate the wealth it needs to pay for its high standard of living.”

What unites the disparate classes and nationalities of the continent is money. The deal was ‘sign on to the EU and win a prize’.  But the prizes have been running short lately. That means the class struggle is back. And this time the divide can no longer be portrayed as exclusively running between the capitalists and the workers. Super-sized bureaucracies have created a new division: between the the guys who spend the budget and the great unwashed whose taxes pay the budget.

The new divide is contaminating everything even in America. After the massacre of school children in Connecticut was being used to illustrate the dangers of the Second Amendment, a curious thing happened. It began to morph, unbidden, into a class struggle issue.

It may have started when Piers Morgan mocked a guest on his talk show as “an unbelievably stupid man” for disagreeing with him on the subject of gun control.  However, his British accent worked its subliminally upper-class magic in American minds. Through this filter, Morgan didn’t come across as just another dude disagreeing on the subject of the Second Amendment on CNN but the high and mighty Lord Banastre Tarleton riding roughshod over some homesteaders in the New World. The thing about the Voice of Command is that you have to know when to use it. Morgan didn’t.

It led to a petition for his deportation which evoked a hilarious counterpetition from Britain saying that after spending so much effort getting rid of him they didn’t want him back.  Then David Gregory pulled his now infamous high capacity magazine stunt on national TV. He brandished a 30-round capacity magazine on his show to illustrate how illegal it was — after the DC cops told his producers he couldn’t do it. When asked how the cops could tolerate a direct challenge the sheepish answer was: it’s David Gregory and besides, he wasn’t actually going to shoot anybody.  He succeeded in reminding everyone, as Mark Steyn put it that “laws are for little people — and not for David Gregory”.


The Value of Stupidity

December 28th, 2012 - 12:41 pm

Nathan Harden writing in the American Interest argues that higher education as we know it is doomed. The short video clip below may provide an inkling why. “I want an education,” implores this lady student at a Chicago school in what passes for a class. Evidently, she doesn’t think she is getting it. Why is that?

YouTube Preview Image

In fifty years, if not much sooner, half of the roughly 4,500 colleges and universities now operating in the United States will have ceased to exist. The technology driving this change is already at work, and nothing can stop it. The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students.


The Man Who Forgot to Lose

December 27th, 2012 - 5:19 pm

When H. Norman Schwarzkopf drove Saddam Hussein’s force out of Kuwait, he not only won the Mother of All Battles, he also recaptured the standard from Giap’s trophy room. From 1975 until that February, 1991 the accepted narrative forged by the press in Vietnam was that America was bound to lose any clash of arms in the Third World. Schwarzkopf’s performance shattered that narrative so thoroughly that some regarded its effects as dangerously destabilizing.

And they all came home

He died today at 78.


A Peek into the Clouded Future

December 26th, 2012 - 10:24 pm

Let’s see what pundits see in their 2013 Seeing-Stones.

Nouriel Roubini ‏@Nouriel tweets a really upbeat message.  “Main 2013 global tails risks: US cliff, EZ crisis, China hard landing, war between Israel & Iran, Asia islands disputes causing conflict”.

What did he miss? Well Syria for one. But the New York Times has that covered.  “U.N. Seeks New Aid for Syria Crisis and Predicts 1 Million Refugees by Mid-2013″.

He missed Africa for another. “France sees military intervention in Mali in six months.” But they don’t see France doing it.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Monday expected a possible military intervention to quash Islamist terrorists in northern Mali during the first six months of 2013…. Le Drian reiterated Paris’ refusal to send French combat forces to the conflict-torn African country but it will provide technical support to African troops to retake northern Malian region from Islamist insurgents.


Final Performance

December 26th, 2012 - 3:39 pm

The dinosaurs are on short rations. But even the little mammals  are finding it hard to get enough food. This is the landscape of 2013 and while nobody knows yet how it will turn out the prospects are not encouraging.

First let’s examine the condition of the giant saurians. Real Clear Markets tracks Europe’s continued economic decline. The days when it expected to conquer the world from Brussels are over. “One has to hope that the markets are right in betting that Mrs. Merkel will be able to hold Europe together in 2013. However, policymakers in the United States would be ill-advised to base their policies on the assumption that all is going to be well in Europe next year. Since all the signs are pointing to a deepening economic recession and a further deterioration in Europe’s political environment that could lead to another intensification of the Euro crisis.”

In other words Europe may survive, but don’t bet on it. Nor on the flashy and glitzy world of the media which is already writing its own obituary. Everything is failing, according to Matt Haughey. Not only are the papers going bust, so are the blogs, Twitter and Facebook. “The disruptors are getting disrupted” he exults.

What I’m noticing now is the feeling that the disruptors are beginning to be disrupted themselves. Many of the companies labeled Web 2.0 in the mid-2000s are either no longer with us (Friendster, Bloglines, etc.) or were long ago sold off and subsumed into larger companies. The rise of blogs in the early 2000s seems to be following an opposite trajectory in the early 2010s. Social media/software is taking over not just blogging, but search, and events, and existing location-based startups. Even the giants of the social space aren’t showing signs of blockbuster success beyond their registered user numbers (Facebook is struggling with revenue and its stock price, Twitter is slapping ads on everything and hoping for the best).


When the Saints Go Marching In

December 24th, 2012 - 2:02 pm

Most of us will have doubtless heard of Timbuktu. Its fame since ancient times has rested on tales of a fabled city which few had seen. Founded by at the junction of trade routes from the interior and the coast (“where the canoe met the camel”) it was closed to the infidel.

In 1824, the Paris-based Société de Géographie offered a 10,000 franc prize to the first non-Muslim to reach the town and return with information about it. The Scotsman Gordon Laing arrived in August 1826 but was killed the following month by local Muslims who were fearful of European intervention. The Frenchman René Caillié arrived in 1828 travelling alone, disguised as a Muslim; he was able to safely return and claim the prize.

The less literate among may be unaware that Timbuktu is also the graveyard of the 333 venerated Muslim saints, whose tombs alas are not accorded much respect by al-Qaeda.  So it is to the infidel, ironically, that the Muslim world looks to save these mausoleums from demolition by the Islamists.


It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

December 24th, 2012 - 10:44 am

The date on the calendar may almost be 2013, but on history’s clock what time is it? Long ago and far away apparently. Robert Kaplan, writing in the Wall Street Journal says that the ‘universal values’ proclaimed by Western elites at the fall of the Berlin Wall are everywhere in retreat. Nationalist and ethnic rivalries are back.

In country after country, the Westerners identify like-minded, educated elites and mistake them for the population at large. They prefer not to see the regressive and exclusivist forces—such as nationalism and sectarianism—that are mightily reshaping the future.

It is the Moustache Petes who are winning. The metropolitan, hip crowd are on the defensive anyplace one looks. Whether in Tahrir Square, the battered towns of Syria, the disputed seas of Northeast Asia or the sensitive borders of Indian subcontinent, sectarianism and nationalism are resurgent, which is another way of saying that the post-war bipolar and unipolar worlds have collapsed. Welcome to the way things used to be.  The future as announced has been postponed.


Stayin’ Alive

December 22nd, 2012 - 11:38 am

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery the best gauge of what the Obama administration thinks best defends civilians against armed assailants has recently been  revealed.

Armed guards.

U.S. embassy security in the post-Benghazi era is shaping up to be a financial bonanza for security contractors … both the influential independent commission on the September attacks in Benghazi and a Senate hearing on Thursday pointed to flooding the State Department’s security corps with money …

At the State Department, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton asked Congress to reroute $1.3 billion in unspent Iraq reconstruction cash for enhancing embassy security. According to congressional sources who’ve seen the request, that cash takes a variety of forms: hiring 150 more Diplomatic Security agents for the State Department; funding an additional deployment of 225 Marines comprising 35 teams; and approximately $700 million to bolster the exterior defenses of its diplomatic buildings. A letter Clinton sent to her legislative oversight committees urged legislators give her “authority to streamline mandatory processes for faster results.”


Nibiru Missed

December 21st, 2012 - 1:02 pm

When I woke up this morning it was apparent that something was wrong.  The birds were singing in the trees and the sun was shining through the fleecy clouds just as before. Nibiru had missed. Nassim Haramein has the explanation.

This comet, which Nissim believes was Nibiru, should have disrupted our solar system due to its mass and gravitational pull. Mercury should have been pulled into the sun while earth should have experienced tidal waves all over the planet. The comet was on track to hit the sun, but a huge sun flare emission veered the comet off course, as it traveled past the sun and out of our solar system. …

Considering the mass and gravitational pull of these objects, “We shouldn’t be here. We were given a second chance. We’re floating in grace and ‘somebody’ is taking care of us.”

Those who would cynically dismiss this as new age nonsense should know that miracles do happen. Why, according to the Washington Post policymakers prevented a ‘cataclysm’ worse than the Great Depression from hitting us in 2009. In a speech given in 2010 Ben Bernake:

sought to give some historical perspective to efforts by the Fed and other policymakers to combat the 21st century economic downturn.

During the 1930s, policymakers’ responses to the financial collapse “ran the gamut from passivity to timidity,” standing by as banks failed by the hundreds. “They were insufficiently willing to challenge the orthodoxies of their day,” Bernanke said in an address after receiving an award from the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.

His historical argument was mounted as a defense of the forceful — and frequently controversial — actions that the Fed took under his leadership to combat the crisis. Bernanke said that had he and other economic policymakers not moved so aggressively, the downturn could have been even worse than the Depression, when unemployment was 25 percent.