In the modest and unassuming manner natural to this column, I advance a small proposal for the emendation of such tatters of the Constitution as can be found:
For voting in federal elections, we should employ a literacy test to disenfranchise the majority of the population, to the infinite betterment of the country. This wise move should be accompanied by an increase in the voting age to twenty-five.
The necessity cannot be denied. Consider the following:
Forty-three percent of Americans think Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11.
Sixty-four percent cannot name the three branches of the federal government.
Fourteen percent are illiterate.
Twenty-six percent think the sun goes around the earth.
These numbers may be understood in various ways. To a curmudgeon, who obtains a sour satisfaction from the endless repetition of human folly, they provide the satisfactions of confirmation. We all enjoy being right. In practical terms, they mean that democracy, or our mild approximation thereto, is a sham, a fraud, an impossibility, and a bad idea. No one so blankly ignorant, so mentally without furniture, so muddle-headed, limited, and barren, should be allowed within hailing range of a voting booth.
Such people cannot possibly know anything of national questions. Those who live in a featureless tundra of the mind usually do so from stupidity. It is unreasonable to blame them for a genetic condition over which they have no control, but it is equally unreasonable to allow them to vote. As for the fairly intelligent who through intellectual shiftlessness learn nothing, I have no patience with them. What possible cause is there for thinking the willfully dull, the deliberately ignorant, or the dull and ignorant, are ompetent to influence policy on matters that they cannot spell? Given that everyone today has access to virtually every book ever written and to the internet, there is little excuse for living in Oprah fog and Eminem darkness.
If fourteen percent are illiterate, a larger number must be nearly so. People who can barely read don´t. People so little engaged as to think Iraq attacked New York –forty-six percent!—vote almost at random, or in the direction in which they are shooed by cunning electoral mechanics and fixers.
The educated and thoughtful may have no idea of the night in which the rest live. We tend to associate with people like ourselves. Consequently if you know where Iran is, you probably don’t know anyone who doesn’t. But—a pre-Copernican quarter of the population believes that the sun moves around the earth? As we said in the Sixties, that’s a whole nuther head-space.
Thus a test of literacy, or more correctly of competence to vote. It might involve reading a paragraph of prose at the level of college, or of what used to be the level of college, and answering questions about it. There might be questions such as how many Congressmen are there, name a country bordering of Iraq, list three rights guaranteed (ha!) by the First Amendment, and when did World War Two take place.
This laudable proposal would transform politics. The basalt principle of current American governance is that you can fool enough of the people enough of the time. The smart can safely be ignored. People with capacious and well-stocked mental larders are statistically insignificant. Thus candidates campaign by grinning and smirking, hiding whatever intelligence they may have, and professing sympathy for orphans and the downtrodden. In France, a candidate with the mind of a lawn chair would be held in contempt, but in America he is thought to be of the people, and authentic. Unfortunately, he is.
The current fourth-grade posturing of politicians would last microseconds with an electorate well on the right side of the bell curve. We would have far fewer dolts and poltroons. I'm sure you can think of several of these.
I suspect people would be surprised to learn how little the members of the House of Representatives know. A Congressman of my acquaintance told me of going with a colleague on a junket to Thailand. His fellow legislator repeatedly referred to the country as “Taiwan.” Thus are we ruled. Allowing the foolish to vote makes likely the election of the equally fatuous, or of a wily confidence man.
Objectors to my splendid idea will assert that a government and electorate of the highly intelligent will exploit the rest. The franchise is said to protect the majority from the unscrupulous. But it does not. IQs on Wall Street are said to begin at 145. Has the franchise protected anyone from them? Allowing the dim and untutored to vote simply provides the bright and unscrupulous with gullible vote-fodder. It does not prevent but makes possible the exploitation.
A voting age of twenty-five would ensure some degree of maturity, or might, even in an age of mall rats. It is ludicrous to think that teenagers can vote sensibly. They haven’t lived long enough. Like so much of American life, the adolescent vote sprang from the unrealistic idea that we are all equal in everything. Girls can be SEALs, everyone should go to college, that sort of thing. During Vietnam, the argument was that if the young were old enough to die in Asia, they were old enough to vote. And if six-year-olds are old enough to die in car accidents, they are old enough to drive.
While we are at it, we might as a minimum require candidates for federal office to have scored in the ninetieth percentile on the GREs. Again, It is curious that while in France intelligence and cultivation are regarded as good things, in America the use of words of more than one syllable is regarded as evidence of elitism, both being mortal sins. The only offense worse than being superior is knowing that you are.
But why not do yet better? If I may soar even higher into wild and uncontrolled supposition, suppose that candidates for high national office–Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Presidency–were required to have an IQ of 145 or better. This is the beginning of real intelligence, perhaps aproaching the entry level for Silicon Valley (though intelligence at the level of a valley may not be the image I am looking for). Such men—at this level, almost all are—can keep in mind the various pipelines proposed for Caspian hydrocarbons, the effects of shifting exchange rates, and so on. They are precious hard to con. When they travel, they usually know where they are. Intelligent government: What a concept.
So much for ineffable wisdom and preternatural insight. The implementation of my splendid system is left to the student as an exercise.
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While Prime Minister Netanyahu points to the threat of Iran’s non-existant nuclear weapons program, amply documented Israel has developed an advanced nuclear arsenal, in defiance of international law.
The following documents released by the National Security were first published by…
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Speaking last week in Pretoria, former UK Environment Minister Owen Paterson described critics of GMOs as comprising part of a privileged class that increasingly fetishizes food and seeks to turn their personal preferences into policy proscriptions for the rest of…
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Despite a 7% rise in actual tourist arrivals to Macau from China during this Lunar New Year's holiday, 'The Year of The Goat' is off to an extremely inauspicious start. As Bloomberg reports, even with expectations of a 40% drop, Macau casino revenues is now projected to crash a stunning 53.5% from last year. While a decline in VIP gambling was expected (due to, among other things, Xi's extreme crackdown on corruption – and the Macau money laundering schemes), JPMorgan notes, this was still "shockingly bad," as "even premium mass demand remained very muted," and marks the ninth straight month of decline, the longest losing streak since monthly records started in 2005.
The semiautonomous Chinese territory had a bad 2014, as total gambling revenue fell 2.6%, its first decline on record. Beijing’s corruption crackdown and the slowing Chinese economy together mean there are fewer wealthy Chinese willing to lose money at casino tables. As The Wall Street Journal reports,
The Lunar New Year holiday, a weeklong break for mainland Chinese, is typically a high season for Macau. But average gambling table revenue last week, which covered most of the holiday, fell a massive 55% from a year earlier, according to data cited by multiple analysts Wednesday. This puts the territory on track for a revenue decline of 50% or more for all of February.
The weak gambling numbers are especially disappointing because actual tourist arrivals to Macau from China rose 7% over the holiday, according to Barclays. The new visitors are apparently small-time bettors, or perhaps even non-gambling tourists, who can’t begin to make up for the loss of high rollers.
As Bloomberg reports, this year’s downturn comes despite a record high of more than 800,000 Chinese tourists flooded Macau in the first seven days of the Year of the Goat…
“Perhaps the Year of Goat isn’t a lucky year for casinos,” said UOB-Kay Hian Holdings Ltd analyst Victor Yip in an interview, adding that the VIP gambling business still accounts for at least 60 percent of Macau’s gambling revenue. “It won’t work if you only got retail customers but very few VIP gamblers as they fail to boost the gross revenue.”
Of course, it's not just gamboing revenues that are down…
The recent wave of mainland Chinese visitors also spend less than before, a further blow to the fine-dining eateries, luxury retail malls, and high-end hotels that casinos have set up next to their gambling halls. Excluding gambling, per-capita shopping expenses by Chinese tourists dipped 32.8 percent to 1,079 patacas in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to data from the Macau government.
Average occupancy at 3-star to 5-star hotels for the so-called Golden Week period of Chinese holiday, which ran from Feb. 18 to 24, fell 6.9 percentage points to 87.5 percent, while average room rates declined 15.4 percent, the Macau Government Tourist Office announced on Feb. 26.
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While casinos and hotels may be lamenting Xi's crackdown, having snared more than 100,000 “flies and tigers,” or low- and high-level officials, according to official data; 'the people' appear pleased, as one tourist noted:
“I’m proud of President Xi because he’s doing something significant and difficult,” Xu said. “Who knows whose money those guys in casinos are spending; if they’re officials, they could be spending mine.”
As far as trading this collapse…
After falling 40% in 2014, the six operators’ stocks are down an average 7% so far this year.
But they still trade at a not-so-cheap 16.4 times forward earnings, only slightly below their five-year average of 17.2 times.
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“In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social…
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In an unprecedented move, 200 veterans of the Israeli security services accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday of being a “danger” to Israel.
The new group, called Commanders for Israel’s Security, warned that Netanyahu was doing irreparable harm to…
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Washington’s drive for world domination has used and combined many forms of warfare, including military invasions, occupations; proxy mercenary armies, military coups, the financing political parties, NGO’s and street mobs to overthrow duly constituted governments.
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Last week we noted that with the start of Q€ just around the corner, the ECB finds itself in a rather absurd situation. In what we called the ultimate easy money paradox (or, alternatively, the ultimate Keynesian boondoggle), Mario Draghi and crew are doomed to trip over their own policies as they (literally) attempt to monetize twice the net supply of eurozone fixed income this year.
The problem is two-fold: 1) the central bank’s adventures in NIRP-dom mean anyone willing to sell their EGBs would face the truly silly prospect of sending the proceeds right back where they came from, except at a cost of 20 bps (negative deposit facility rate), and 2) because the central bank’s easy money policies have compressed credit spreads, sellers who wanted to reinvest the cash they would theoretically receive for their EGBs would have to do so at ridiculously low rates, a scenario that would compound QE’s already negative effect on NIM for banks and would be absolutely untenable for insurers. So what we have “is one deflation-fighting policy stymying another [and] the central bank’s previous efforts to drive down rates thwarting its current plans to … drive down rates.”
Now, courtesy of Citi’s Matt King, it’s our distinct pleasure to present yet another wonderfully ridiculous paradox inadvertently created by central banks who apparently aren’t capable of understanding when they’re just pushing on a string: manufactured deflation or, more poignantly, just what the doctor did not order. Here’s Citi:
It’s that linkage between investment (or the lack of it) and all the stimulus which we find so disturbing. If the first $5tn of global QE, which saw corporate bond yields in both $ and € fall to all-time lows, didn’t prompt a wave of investment, what do we think a sixth trillion is going to do?
Another client put it more strongly still. “By lowering the cost of borrowing, QE has lowered the risk of default. This has led to overcapacity (see highly leveraged shale companies). Overcapacity leads to deflation. With QE, are central banks manufacturing what they are trying to defeat?”
Ultimately, the question is whether the ceaseless printing of money is actually creating any demand, and for King, the answer is pretty clearly “no”:
QE, and stimulus generally, is supposed to create new demand, improving capacity utilization, not reducing it. But … it feels ever more as though central bank easing is just shifting demand from one place to another, not augmenting it.
This point is nicely illustrated by Citi in the following two charts (from a previous note) showing the evolution of inflation expectations over the last several years:
And so, stuck as we are in what looks like a chronic condition of oversupply and as it increasingly appears, in King’s words, that “the decoupling between EM GDP growth and global trade growth over the past decade [now looks] less like a benign shift away from exports to domestic consumption, and more like a world where GDP was temporarily boosted by a surge in credit, where suppliers ramped up capacity in anticipation of 10% nominal EM/Chinese demand growth continuing indefinitely, but where the limits of such credit-fuelled demand are suddenly being exposed,” more QE simply won’t move inflation expectations and certainly can’t do much to further stimulate aggregate demand (assuming it’s done anything in that regard thus far).
In other words, we’ve reached the limit of what can be accomplished and with NIRP creating new market perversions on an almost daily basis, the unintended consequences of continuing to delve deeper into the new paranormal are making the game ever more dangerous as we now have central banks accidentally creating deflation while simultaneously embedding enormous amounts of risk in fixed income markets by sapping every last vestige of liquidity.
Soon enough, expect the rest of the world’s central banks to one by one meet their own Waterloos just as the SNB did in January. In fact, the ECB is on its way there now as it appears everyone is coming to realize that Q€ simply cannot work as designed. On that note, we’ll give the last (rather depressing) word to King:
By definition, races to the bottom are not very positive affairs. And as the sell-off in commodities shows, at some point they can lead to casualties. But the lower yields go, the longer even previously unsustainable debt burdens can be sustained – just look at Japan. Competitive easing may do little to improve long-term growth prospects, but it should make the hunt for yield more powerful still. Even if QE does prove deflationary, until we start running into actual defaults, it is hard to see what stops this.
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As you all know, we live in an age of abundance when it comes to corrupt human garbage sitting in highly visible positions of public trust. I constantly lampoon as many as possible, but it is an unending task and there is a great deal of negativity that goes along with it.
That is why I feel it is imperative for me to pay tribute to a well known public figure who lived his life as a decent human being. One to point to without reservation when your children ask who are the people I should consider emulating.
Mr Spock, also known as Leonard Nemoy, was one such person. As an artist, he was serious, entertaining, successful, loved by many yet willing to poke fun at himself.
I grew up with the first season of Star Trek and like everyone who did the same, loved watching Mr. Spock’s antics vis-a-vis Captain Kirk and the rest of the Star Trek crew/cast. What is unusual about that show is I was able carry many simple lessons learned into adulthood.
Try replicating that in today’s morass of reality TV and primetime nonsense.
One such lesson was to endeavor to be open minded and not to resist cultural difference.
But Mr Spock’s constant struggle to reach a state of oneness betwixt his human (emotional) and Vulcan (logical) selves is something that for me will prove to be timeless.
Wherever you are Mr Spock, live long and prosper…
The secret of a long, healthy career in the arts is the successful walk on the razor’s edge.–Leonard Nemoy
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