2011 is a prime number. The last year that was a prime number was 2003 and the next year that is prime is 2017. I have always been fascinated by prime numbers; anything of such a singular nature is worth the devotion of some wonder and awe.
The end of a year is a time when people traditionally take stock, review the past year, and make some predictions for the coming year. To that end, here are some predictions, in no particular order and based on nothing more than my sense of the moment; if any of these predictions (beyond the most obvious) come true I will be delighted; if any prove to be spectacularly wrong, I will forget them. Herewith, I offer 11 predictions in homage to the prime year that is upcoming:
1) There will be no nuclear device exploded in anger this year, as there have been no such cataclysms for some 65 years. Iran's nuclear program apparently remains in some disarray, thanks to a number of 0's and 1's (ie, the software program known as Stuxnet) and they lack the sophistication to resolve their infection anytime soon.
2) The ambivalence at the heart of our economy and politics will persist. The Washington elites and their allies will continue to attempt to micromanage the lives and businesses of more and more Americans; more and more Americans will simply refuse to comply and the result will continue to be a dearth of investment and a paucity of jobs. The President will alternate between making speeches proclaiming the need for bipartisanship and fostering a bureaucracy that promulgates more and more rules of finer and finer granularity. The end result will be that those grains clog the gears.
3) The world's press, the Europeans, and the Muslim world will continue demonizing Israel. The need for an object upon which to externalize all problems and deflect attention from the failures of the elites makes Israel the perfect container. The toxic mixture of envy and hatred that has always fueled anti-Semitism will only increase in the next year as Europe heads into a double dip (facilitated by the failure of their bail out of the PIIGS.) President Obama will double down on his misguided belief that all problems in the Middle East stem from Israeli settlements in land which has always been considered part of Israel proper.
4) China may, but probably will not, finally experience the recession that it has seemed to have been immune from, with incalculable results. It is unlikely that they will experience unrest intense enough to threaten their rulers but no economy expands forever, especially when their foreign markets can no longer absorb all of their goods.
5) Our luck will run out and a slightly less incompetent than usual group of Islamists will manage to kill a large number of innocents in a Western country. "A large number" will be determined to be any number large enough to provoke demands for investigations by the usual suspects.
6) Fox News will continue to outperform its rivals and its rivals will remain mystified by its relative success.
7) A drug will emerge from a lab which will substantially stop aging in part of a mammalian biology, most likely the mouse immune system; once this proof of concept result is discovered the venture capital that has been looking for a place to go will start to pour into Biotech; the early trickle in 2011 will become a flood by 2013. An alternative development will be the discovery of a drug which can metabolize beta amyloid, the constituent of amyloid plaques which are pathognomonic of Alzheimer's Disease. The drug will be found to work in the test tube and early experiments on mice will be look promising.
8) The President will continue to be ambivalent about the war in Afghanistan and its spread into Pakistan and will continue to use extrajudicial assassinations (ie, drone attacks) at an accelerating pace; these attacks would be considered the worst kind of illegality by a rogue state were a Republican President but under Obama will be barely mentioned in the MSM or by relevant NGO's.
9) The House will vote to repeal Obamacare; the Senate will demur and the struggle for the soul of America will be on; the Tea Party movement will not go away and will continue to be demonized by the MSM and political establishment.
10) Goldman-Sachs and its Wall Street brethren will have a stellar year; the regulations promulgated to control their excesses (many of which will have been written by Goldman alumni) will primarily serve to damage small banks and investment houses, many of whom would be rivals of the large banks were the rules less onerous.
11) 2011 will offer many surprises, including the possibility of finding an Earth like planet in the habitable zone around its sun; Sarah Palin will decide not to run for President, much to the chagrin of the MSM and the liberal establishment; Mike Pence will emerge as a dark horse possibility for the Republican Presidential nominee by the end of the year; President Obama will triangulate and our entitlement programs will begin to be addressed; Obama will also take umbrage at the continuing series of slaps from petty tyrants and will show some spine to America's enemies.
Mostly, in 2011, we will continue to muddle through as we have managed for most of our time on the planet.
May the New Year bring us all Peace, Happiness, and Good Health.
If you only have time for one long article today, you could do much worse than to read Matthew Continetti's piece in the Weekly Standard. He starts with one of those small stories that emphasizes how large a role providence plays in our affairs:
On December 13, 1931, there was a traffic accident in New York City. A man exited a cab on the Upper East Side and was crossing Fifth Avenue when he was hit by a car traveling around 35 miles an hour. The force of the impact threw the man to the pavement. He struck his head. Two of his ribs were cracked. A crowd formed around him; one of the witnesses hailed a taxi to take the man to the hospital. When he was admitted to Lenox Hill the doctors noted that he was bruised and battered but would make a full recovery. He had cheated death.
The patient remained in the doctors’ care for eight days. While he was there the driver who had struck him visited. The patient made it clear that the accident had been his own fault; the driver, an unemployed mechanic, had nothing to fear. The incident had occurred because the patient, an Englishman, had looked left as he crossed the street when he should have looked right. The grateful driver left the hospital carrying an autographed copy of the patient’s latest book. The New York Times wrote about the meeting the next day. The headline read, “Churchill Greets Driver Who Hit Him.”
Beyond the fact that a similar incident today would end up in the courts for years (lawsuits alleging that the municipality had been neglectful of safety for the distracted, a newly empowered disabled group; lawsuits for wrongful injury against the driver, and for PTSD against the injured pedestrian; only the limited imaginations of our tort bar provide any limits to the lawsuits engendered) the notion that perhaps the pivotal figure of the 20th century could have been removed from the scene before the drama even began, is chastening.
Are things so very different today? Iran’s megalomaniacal dictatorship marches toward nuclear weaponry. North Korea shells its neighbor with impunity. Jihadists execute terrorist attacks throughout the world. China expands its reach. We know who the troublemakers are and where the challenges to American primacy and global stability come from. But we have our own distractions. We have the fantasy of abolishing nuclear weapons, of “resetting” relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, of reconciling the irreconcilable in the Middle East, of achieving rapprochement with “the Muslim world.”
A few people in December 1931 recognized the growing danger. The patient at Lenox Hill Hospital was one. Another was the New Yorker correspondent Mary Heaton Vorse, who wrote from Germany, “No one knows what is going to happen. No one knows—but everyone knows that cataclysm is at hand.” Vorse was somehow able to divine the next 14 years of world history by sitting in a nightclub. “The next act will be starker,” she concluded. “It will be steel instead of rococo marble.”
The lesson of the 1930s is not only that aggression ought not to be appeased. It’s that aggressors keep pushing until they encounter resistance. And by the time that happens, it may be too late to prevent the deluge.
What unites our two eras, in the end, is their unpredictability. This, and the fact that people in one time had no better idea of what might happen than people in the other.
Picture Churchill as he lay stricken on Fifth Avenue. “Perhaps it is the end,” he recalled thinking. He did not have the luxury of knowing, as we do, what would happen next. He did not know how well he would recover—or if he would recover at all. He was ignorant of the challenges that awaited him. For people alive in the 1930s, each day brought a tangle of developments that were difficult to interpret and impossible to analyze from the detached perspective of historical study. There was no guide for the perplexed. There was no cheat sheet that told them what to do. There was no way of knowing when the crisis was “over” because there was no way of knowing what tomorrow would bring.
Our leaders don’t have to worry about mass unemployment on the scale of the 1930s. But they do have to worry about structural deficits of perilous magnitude, debt burdens, sovereign default, and currency wars. Our leaders don’t have to worry about Japanese expansion or the rise of Adolf Hitler. But they do have to worry about nuclear weaponry falling into the hands of apocalyptic theocrats, and a nuclear-armed Hermit Kingdom that may choose war over dissolution. The stakes during one era may have been greater than the other. Time will tell. But that doesn’t mean the challenges are dissimilar. To the contrary: A difference in degree is not a difference in kind.
Of course, we have one thing that Americans in the ’30s did not. We have their history. We have their words. We’d do well to heed them. “Nature is merciful and does not try her children, man or beast, beyond their compass,” Churchill wrote from his hospital bed in December 1931. “It is only where the cruelty of man intervenes that hellish torments appear. For the rest—live dangerously; take things as they come; dread naught, all will be well.”
It is de rigueur to minimize the danger from the radical Islam/Leftist alliance. People who raise the red flag are routinely dismissed as cranks, neocons, and conspiracy mongers, yet in 1931 the Nazis were a minor nuisance primarily affecting Germany. We are already allowing the Islamist/Left alliance to determine the limits of free speech in much of the West (see Phylis Chesler's A Showdown with Evil); we do not respond to repeated attacks and atrocities (because the victims are Jews/Israelis or limited in number, or merely other Muslims, or Hindus); and once Iran attains a bomb the possibility of countering their aggressive use of terror as an element of statecraft will become severely constrained. As a bonus, an arms race in the Middle East between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia and Egypt, all paragons of stability and rationality, will have incalculable results.
On the home front, our reticence to address our economic imbalances and an unsustainable entitlement state, means that the crunch, when it comes, will be far worse than if we had addressed the issues when we had the time and the reserves.
It is possible that 2010 will one day be seen as a turning point, when the world began to climb out of the abyss; it is perhaps more likely that it will be seen in retrospect to have been merely the first act of a drama which overturned our comfortable notions of how the world operates.
The number-crunchers on Wall Street are starting to crunch something else: the news.
Math-loving traders are using powerful computers to speed-read news reports, editorials, company Web sites, blog posts and even Twitter messages — and then letting the machines decide what it all means for the market.
Pretty soon all Wall Street firms will be using such software to accelerate the speed with which they collect, interpret and make decisions based on the tsunami of information which impacts the markets. Fortunes will be made lost in microseconds, all without any human intervention necessary or even possible.
Of course, this also means that when the inevitable glitch turns up, rather than a small squall disrupting the markets in manageable ways, the global economy will be hit with a Class 5 + hurricane.
By now you have probably heard about the New York Times wedding announcement featuring two people who met while married to others, left their respective spouses to be together, and in a long piece in the Times declared their love for each other, presented their story, and neglected to mention the names of the spurned spouses or to wonder about the effects of their behavior on the children involved.
A media exec is seething over the nightmare created when his TV-reporter ex-wife and her new "soul mate" aired the former couple's dirty laundry in the wedding pages of The New York Times.
Bob Ennis -- whose ex-wife, former WNBC/Channel 4 reporter Carol Anne Riddell, gushed to the Times about how she longed for her new husband while she was still married -- slammed the write-up as a "choreographed, self-serving piece of revisionist history" that will hurt both couples' children.
"You could easily try to brush this off as . . . a self-serving act by a couple of narcissistic people," Ennis fumed to a Forbes reporter "except for the fact that there are lots of children involved."
The whole tawdry mess could easily be dismissed as a pair of Narcissists converting their shameful behavior into affirmative pride, or yet another in the interminable series of examples of the amorality of post-modern, technological capitalism, or one more in a long chain of left wing assaults on conventional morality, but there is something going on here that deserves deeper reflection.
Our modern (a)morality repeatedly attempts to eradicate guilt and convert shame into pride. Conventional morality might have once depicted the abuse of woman as shameful. Ghetto rappers have turned such shameful behavior into a source of pride. Now, young, needy women can be sexually degraded and abused for pleasure and glory; it sells lots of mp3's (née records or cd's).
The Last Psychiatrist, with a wonderfully felicitous turn of phrase, describes the psychodynamics involved in the "wedding announcement" and the recent Columbia incest story:
But what you need to get out of these stories is how this generation and forwards will deal with guilt: externalizing it, converting it to shame, and then taking solace in the pockets of support that inevitably arise. Everyone is famous to 15 people, and that's just enough people to help you sleep at night.
It is, in effect, crowdsourcing the superego, and when that expression catches on remember where you first heard it. Then remember why you heard it. And then don't do it.
In the developmental hierarchy, guilt is a more mature and nuanced emotional response to a internalized failure than is shame. Shame is the feeling one experiences when one is publicly seen to have failed at adult behavior. It is a global feeling and refers to the self; in other words, when I am ashamed and humiliated, I feel that I am bad. In contrast, guilt is the feeling we have when we have failed to meet our own expectations; rather than feeling that I am bad, the feeling is that I have done something wrong. Both emotions are crucial for the support of civilized behavior but, broadly speaking, Judeo-Christian cultures rely on Guilt (an individual's internal motivational system) rather than Shame (a society based, external motivational system) to maintain moral and ethical behavior.
In The Morality of the Übermensch and especially in the comments, there was an excellent discussion of the place of the Judeo-Christian tradition, of which we are the heirs, in establishing our morality, even for those who have explicitly abandoned the concept of a Deity. Atheists who behave morally do so as the products of a moral system based on the Judeo-Christian tradition. The alternative, depending on reason alone to establish a moral system, crowdsourcing the superego, is inherently unstable. Richard Landes wrote about the immense moral lacuna at the core of Atheist morality:
Jeff Jacoby asks a particularly pertinent question in his latest op-ed, Created by God to be good,” on Atheist “humanism” (as embodied in the American Humanist Society) and its hostility to biblical (or quranic) morality.
It brings to mind the argument made by Kwame Appiah’s book, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen: that moral revolutions do not so much occur as a result of people who do the “right thing” for the “right reason” (practitioners of Kant’s categorical imperative), as they do because there’s a fundamental shift in the peer-group’s view of what’s moral: slavery, dueling, foot binding all go out when the dominant attitude disapproved of such behavior. If you duel to the death and win (as did Aaron Burr), and it’s a career-ender because your peers take you as a hot-headed fool, dueling will not last long.
Humanists are, in fact,free riders. They come along after centuries of hard work in prime divider societies where the zero-sumdominating imperative ruled social and political relations. In those long and painful years, some people, driven to by a sense of divine authority, systematically, and at great personal cost (sometimes one’s very life) pursued the generous impulses of positive-sum interactions. Now that we’re raised in a civil society, where we’re trained from childhood to cooperate, to eschew violence, to seek the positive-sum interaction, such behavior comes much more easily.
The Society can put up billboards reading: “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”
But in a world where it’s “rule or be ruled,” where the nice guy is a sucker who’ll predictably get the short end of the stick, where alpha males use violence with impunity to dominate others, “for goodness’ sake” doesn’t cut much ice. Indeed, it’s quite risible.
For in a world without God, there is no obvious difference between good and evil. There is no way to prove that even murder is wrong if there is no Creator who decrees “Thou shalt not murder.” It certainly cannot be proved wrong by reason alone.
Indeed, in a tribal honor-shame culture, you’re not a man until you’ve killed another man, and although the honorable thing to do is to kill him in a fair fight, there are some tribes where, short of killing another man from the neighboring (and therefore rival/enemy) tribe, killing one of their women is required. Spartans had a whole season where they killed helots (the serfs, former free Greeks of the Pelopponesian peninsula) wherever they met them.
In a world in which morality, the Superego writ large, is crowdsourced, and the elites who determine morality (for example, the New York Times style section) are increasingly out of touch or explicitly hostile to their heritage, morality becomes completely inverted.
When morality becomes whatever the crowd (whether of elites or your niche crowd in NAMBLA) decides it is. As long as Atheist Morality is grounded (even if in non-obvious ways) to an Absolute, a Moral society as we have come to understand such terms, can exist; when the connection to the Absolute is completely severed, no morality can long stand against our desires.
In the last two months, I have read more economic nonsense than I ever did before. Since 2000, the US has added 4.3 million total jobs with a core working population expansion of 22 million. And we have lost nearly 3 million full-time jobs.
Blogging will be light and sporadic between today and the new year. For the next two weeks there will be more time with family and a fair amount of time devoted to an archaic literary form consisting of letters permanently printed on actual paper. Apparently people used to carry these objects around with them and could read from them without having any source of power as long as there was sufficient light. I plan on exploring several of these "books" in the next two weeks and will report on my findings in January of 2011.
YouTube has a policy of closing the accounts of any groups or individuals that foment "hate speech." Apparently this does not include Jihadi videos expressing murderous hatred for America and Israel. Their terms of service apparently do include banning videos from groups which attempt to publicize Palestinian hate speech.
Palestinian Media Watch has been following PA TV and other official Palestinian Authority outlets for quite some time. To the surprise of those who only watch the MSM, Palestinian Media outlets (both from Fatah and from Hamas) are filled with the most virulent anti-Semitism and Jew hatred, with a soupçon of America hatred. PalWatch has done an exemplary job publicizing these ongoing outrages, but unfortunately Palwatch has now been banned from YouTube. The Elder has a summary of the current status:
Each of these YouTube posting consisted of videos posted by Palestinian Media (including official PA Television, which is funded by the EU!) celebrating the murder of Jews and the desire for the genocide of Jews. Hate speech has become an Orwellian term, devoid of any rational meaning and subverted as a weapon used primarily against liberal democrats. As has become a habit for the censors who profess to enforce respect for all by banning hate speech, the use of the actual words of Islamists is considered hate speech when reported by defenders of infidels and dhimmis. YouTube's censorship of dhimmis is the modern face of dhimmitude and can be understood as a rational response to current threats. Americans and Jews will not threaten to kill the people who run YouTube; Muslim radicals will. I suppose it is perfectly reasonable to weigh beheading versus an angry e-mail and consider the angry e-mail an acceptable cost of doing business.
Please go to Elder'ssite for contact information for YouTube and protest this travesty. We are surrendering by inches to the most illiberal, indeed totalitarian and fascistic, movement on the planet today.