The Long View 2007-02-20: The Deluge; School Stories; Hyperinflation; Murtha Plan

Cardinal Pell

Cardinal Pell

This blog post from 2007 is kind of eerie in how it could almost be current:

  • Cardinal Pell

  • Harry Potter

  • The implosion of Venezula

Apparently nothing new ever happens.


The Deluge; School Stories; Hyperinflation; Murtha Plan

Disturbed by charges in the press of religious obscurantism in connection with global warming, George Cardinal Pell of Sydney had some cutting remarks of his own about the cult of climate change:

What we were seeing from the doomsayers was an induced dose of mild hysteria -- semi-religious if you like, but dangerously close to superstition...I'm deeply sceptical about man-made catastrophic global warming, but still open to further evidence...I would be surprised if industrial pollution and carbon emissions had no ill-effects at all...But enough is enough...We know that enormous climate changes have occurred in world history -- for example, the ice ages and Noah's flood, when human causation could only have been negligible.

Actually, Genesis says that it was precisely human misbehavior that occasioned the Flood, though the narrative suggests that the causation was final rather than efficient. However, is that so different from the rhetoric of the Climate Cult? (I am more convinced of global warming than the cardinal appears to be, but yes, the idea has spawned a cult with dynamics independent of the science.) Civilization is in danger, we are told, because the human race has been bad. The excessive production of CO2 is just one of the manifestations of the badness of capitalist industrialism, or something. The big difference is that the cultists propose to save God the trouble of promulgating a new Covenant by correcting the badness themselves.

* * *

Just how conservative of genre is the Harry Potter series? It is conservative to a high degree, if you believe Mark Steyn:

Contemplating the rise of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to the top of the hit parade six months ahead of publication, those of us toiling in the literary foothills can only marvel. Who would have thought an English boarding-school story would be the global hit of the 21st century? ...

Hogwarts is certainly a boarding school (a VoTech school, as more than one commentator has noted), but is it really like the boarding schools of juvenile fiction? I think it makes a difference that Hogwarts is co-ed, which was true of none of the classic stories. Stories and screenplays about traditional boarding schools are still written, of course, but they tend to be murder-mysteries.

On the other hand, Steyn suggests that the key element is the setting and not the demographics of the characters.

Rather, as J. K. Rowling is only the latest to demonstrate, boarding school is the perfect structure for almost any narrative: it enables you to create a self-contained world free of parents, with its own codes and conventions, yet constrained in both place (a world that ends at the school grounds) and time (a three-term year instantly divides your story into the perfect three-act play).

To be a really perfect setting, the school has to be snowed in.

* * *

Speaking of traditions, the implosion of Venezuela is following a scenario that has become venerable:

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez's plan to curb inflation by lopping three zeros from the currency may backfire because the move fails to address production bottlenecks that are pushing prices higher, economists said. ...The annual inflation rate rose to 18.4 percent last month, the highest in Latin America, from 10.4 percent in May...

Government officials blame private businesses and citizens who buy dollars outside government channels for accelerating inflation. Chavez said those found guilty of "hoarding" and "speculating" may receive prison terms of two-to-six years.

And a bit more:

Faced with an accelerating inflation rate and shortages of basic foods like beef, chicken and milk, President Hugo Chávez has threatened to jail grocery store owners and nationalize their businesses if they violate the country's expanding price controls....The economy grew by more than 10 percent last year...Entering a supermarket here is a bizarre experience. Shelves are fully stocked with Scotch whiskey, Argentine wines and imported cheeses like brie and Camembert, but basic staples like black beans and desirable cuts of beef like sirloin are often absent. Customers, even those in the government's own Mercal chain of subsidized grocery stores, are left with choices like pork neck bones, rabbit and unusual cuts of lamb.

20% inflation is annoying but manageable. However, when you get to 60%, it becomes difficult for private persons to plan because it is no longer clear what prices mean. However, when you get to the zero-lopping stage and begin to criminalize retail, the situation is usually terminal: you are on your way to hyperinflation.

The question is how the Venezuelan government has managed to make such a hash of the situation. Russia and Saudi Arabia are petrolist states, too, but at least they have reasonably sound currencies.

* * *

But what does Mark Steyn think of the recent antiwar resolutions in Congress? Not much, it would appear:

So "the Murtha plan" is to deny the president the possibility of victory while making sure Democrats don't have to share the blame for the defeat. But of course he's a great American! He's a patriot! He supports the troops! He doesn't support them in the mission, but he'd like them to continue failing at it for a couple more years. As John Kerry wondered during Vietnam, how do you ask a soldier to be the last man to die for a mistake? By nominally "fully funding" a war you don't believe in but "limiting his ability to use the money." Or as the endearingly honest anti-war group MoveCongress.org put it, in an e-mail preview of an exclusive interview with the wise old Murtha:

"Chairman Murtha will describe his strategy for not only limiting the deployment of troops to Iraq but undermining other aspects of the president's foreign and national security policy."

What struck me about the debates in both Houses of Congress was that the proponents of the resolutions did not seem to understand that they were not just handicapping the diplomacy of the United States; they were also putting themselves in physical danger. There was, for instance, a fairly direct connection between the precipitous American withdrawal from Somalia in 1993 and the attacks on US targets on September 11, 2001. However the matter appeared from the United States, the withdrawal was read in the Middle East as evidence that the United States was fairly easy to intimidate; it made sense to raise the stakes with an assault on the American mainland. The US Capitol building seems to have survived that attack by accident. If the Murtha Plan has its intended effect, it's not likely to survive the next one.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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