“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Joumana Haddad - Dutch interview , in English, of an Arab Christian Feminist

"The macho culture is how religious leaders become terrorists, bosses become slave owners and 
husbands become obsessive”

"Marriages have an expiry date, like everything else in life," she says flatly. "It was a very amicable divorce. I just woke one night and thought: 'Why is this man in my bed?' We had nothing in common any more.”

Joumana Haddad: 'Arab women have been brainwashed'

Joumana Haddad is a voice rarely heard in the Middle East – an unapologetic feminist who wants to challenge the way both Arab men and women think. Tahira Yaqoob meets the Germaine Greer of Lebanon.

It begins as a tender love letter to the sons who have given her the "greatest, most enriching adventure of all"– motherhood. But, writes Joumana Haddad, there is something she needs to tell her two boys as they become adults.

She is tired. Tired of the never-ending battle of the sexes, of being made to feel guilty for working, of faking orgasms, of commitment-phobic partners, of worrying about her appearance, and of not initiating sex for fear of being labelled aggressive or pushy.

"We (women, most of us)," she writes in her new book, "are tired of you (men, most of you) seeing us as only your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your lovers, your wives, your properties, your accessories, your servants, your toys ... we are tired of you needing us to cover up with a black cloak, or to over-expose ourselves like cheap sex objects, in order for you to feel secure in your manhood.”

Haddad's polemic is the credo behind Superman is an Arab: On God, Marriage, Macho Men and Other Disastrous Inventions, the soon-to-be-published sequel to I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman (2008) in which she tackled Arab machismo, which she says makes men think they are as invincible as superheroes, and is responsible for many of the evils perpetrated in the region. And, if it unleashes another avalanche of opprobrium, Beirut-born Haddad is bracing herself; she has already spent most of her 41 years swimming against the tide.

As the writer of sexually explicit poetry, the publisher of an erotic magazine called Jasad, (meaning 'body'), and as the author of I Killed Scheherazade, in which she railed against religious bigotry and social oppression, Haddad has earnt the epithet of 'the most hated woman in Lebanon'. She's also been called the (arguably equally unflattering) 'Carrie Bradshaw of Beirut' by a British newspaper.

We meet amid the lofty colonnades and palm fronds of the Sofitel Santa Clara in historic Cartagena, Colombia, where the tiny, doll-like Haddad, in a sleeveless vest, tight jeans, skyscraper heels and a tangle of wild curls, is talking at a literary festival.

"The macho culture is how religious leaders become terrorists, bosses become slave owners and husbands become obsessive," she tells me. In her new book, due to be published in the UK in September, Haddad tackles the Arab world's macho culture, which she says is responsible for atrocities on both a global and personal scales, from the rise to power of Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak to the condescension shown by husbands to their wives.

Haddad is equally censorious towards Arab women. She was incensed when, at the height of the Arab Spring last year, she saw a BBC report which showed footage of a female Egyptian lawyer approaching a group of women gathered in Tahrir Square to tell them they had no right to participate in political demonstrations, and that their place was at home. Even educated women, she believes, are responsible for holding back women and preaching passivity.

At a talk she gave in Qatar on the role of women in the Arab revolution, Haddad was reproached by a female audience member for focusing on trivial matters. She put her accuser in her place.

"She told me she thought it was shameful I was talking about women's rights at such an important time when systems were changing and dictatorships were falling – as if women's rights were just irrelevant, a minor issue compared to the issue of revolution. I told her it was shameful she called herself a woman.

"It is not exaggerating to say it is a crime when a woman talks like that. We have all seen women participate in the demonstrations and be very active in the revolutions, so I would have expected them to be more assertive at the moment of the formation of the new structures. Instead, they just allowed themselves to be used as pawns.

"Women's rights are a human rights issue and cannot be perceived as a luxury; they are a necessity in any political system that claims to be a democracy.”

Haddad also blames Arab women who have become too reliant on men as both a financial and social crutch: "They have been brainwashed into thinking they just need to submit themselves to their destinies”.

It worries her that post-revolution, both Tunisia and Egypt have seen the rise of political parties whose roots lie firmly in Islamic fundamentalism, from the landslide victory of the Islamist Ennahda Movement after Zine el Abidine Ben Ali was ousted, to the Muslim Brotherhood and the hardline Al-Nour party in Egypt.

To Haddad, who was raised a Catholic but is now an atheist, the main monotheistic religions are equally to blame for creating a society where women are left without a voice. She writes: "What revolutions are they if they will only bring forth a new form of backwardness – that of religious extremism – to replace the one which has been toppled? I do not believe this is an Arab Spring but the last phase of an Arab winter.”

The new book will further inflame her critics, of which there are many. Her tirades against religious leaders and her frank writings on sex and erotica in Jasad – which also features reports on more serious topics like polygamy – have unleashed a torrent of hate mail from extremists, which she reads once and then files away in a separate folder on her computer.
Her first book is banned in most of the Arab world, despite being translated into Arabic. Academics like the Lebanese-American professor As'ad AbuKhalil, who blogs as Angry Arab, accuses her of feeding a Western Orientalist perception of Arab society and has branded the magazine "soft porn" for oil princes.

But nor does Haddad sit comfortably alongside traditional feminists, who censure her for refusing to support female politicians. "They don't understand it when I say if a woman is running for president..." she says, "I'm not going to vote for her just because she has a vagina.”

And she is tired. A lone voice, Haddad travels the planet to defend herself and her often-unpopular stance. Couple that with the multiple hats she wears – she also edits the cultural pages of the Lebanese daily newspaper, An-Nahar, teaches Italian at the Lebanese-American University in Beirut and is a consultant for the Arab Booker prize – and it is no wonder it's all taking its toll.

"Everything I've experienced, all the emotions, all the thoughts – it is like a weight that is always there with me," she says. "I wish I could find the button to turn my head off. It is like swimming against the current. Your arms get tired and you get weary.”

The setting for our interview, in Colombia, is an ironic one; the Santa Clara hotel is a former 17th-century convent and Haddad spent most of her younger years trying to escape the draconian regime imposed by nuns at the Notre Dame de la Paix Catholic school she attended in Beirut. Every Sunday, she was dragged to mass by her mother.

Born Joumana Salloum in Beirut in late 1970, she was four years old when civil war broke out. Her early years were shaped by violence and fear; walking to school one morning, she had to step over the dead body of a neighbour in the street.
"At home," she tells me, "there was a different kind of war going on in my traditional, conservative family.”

If anything in her past shaped her outspoken nature, it was these constraints and fear imbued in her from an early age.
"My life growing up was about fear – fear of dying, fear of going out, of saying or doing such a thing," she says. "I was reacting to not being free, whether it was freedom of thought, action or expression. I think it was this kind of rebellion inside me, nourished by my unconventional readings, that shaped me the most.”

Haddad says she was "saved" by books, often ones unsuitable for her age, and fished from the top shelf of her father's extensive library when he was out.

Aged 12, she devoured the Marquis de Sade's Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue – a novel which tells the story of a young girl's extreme sexual experiences, but also questions the traditional roles of the sexes – which Haddad now calls her "baptism by subversion”.

The young Haddad began writing poetry, but also began training to become a doctor, more to fulfil her parents' ambitions than her own.

Two years later, she dropped out and at 20, married her first husband, a student she had met on a family holiday in southern Lebanon when she was 17. It was, she laughs now, a Machiavellian decision: "I wanted to be my own boss and the only way for me to do that was to have my own family and get married”.

Her son Mounir, now 20, was born a year later and she taught Italian to fund her husband's studies, then took a job as a presenter on a Lebanese TV show.

At first, marriage suited them both, but as her ideology began to take shape and her ambitions to write strengthened with the publication of two anthologies of her poems, they grew apart.

"Marriages have an expiry date, like everything else in life," she says flatly. "It was a very amicable divorce. I just woke one night and thought: 'Why is this man in my bed?' We had nothing in common any more.”

Significantly, Haddad had pursued her own dreams to write by joining An-Nahar as a translator in 1997, a year before her divorce. After five years on the paper, she was promoted to the cultural section, where she interviewed authors including Paul Auster, Jose Saramago and Peter Handke before becoming the cultural editor in 2005.

She returned to university in 2000 but this time studied for a degree in French and English, followed by a masters on the subject of Lebanese poet Ounsi el-Hage and embarking on a yet-to-be-completed doctorate on the Marquis de Sade in 2007.

In the An-Nahar newsroom, she met her current husband, Akl Awit. A fellow journalist and poet, he was 20 years her senior and after marrying in 1999, they rejected convention when they agreed to live in separate houses, sharing the care of their 11-year-old son, Ounsi. Meanwhile, Haddad kept her first husband's surname as her nom-de-plume.

Of this arrangement she says now: "It is important to keep a certain space, both figuratively and literally, and this is what has saved our relationship to a large extent. Akl is very supportive and open-minded.

"I know he doesn't share my views; he always tells me he would never have done a project like Jasad. But he does respect my choices.”

Her magazine, though, has been put on hold for the past seven months. Without any advertisers coming forward in the three years since it launched, Haddad is struggling to find the $25,000 cost of bringing out each glossy issue.

"Although I live in a country where you wouldn't be able to see an advertisement for a TV set without a half-naked woman behind it, my potential clients say the magazine is too much," she admits.

Her forties, though, have brought a certain degree of serenity and seeing her sons, who had little in the way of the strict discipline their mother had faced, growing to have a respect for women fills her with hope and pride. 'Letter to my Sons', the last chapter in the book, was written for the "men I hope they will turn out to be and the men they would be proud to be”.

Joumana Haddad never set out to be a saviour of women or to change the world, she announces; she simply wants the right for herself and others like her to be able to express themselves freely without fear of condemnation. "It is about women's rights, the fight for secularism, freedom of expression and sexual freedom – they all form one block for me.
"I would just like to be living in a country where waking up does not feel like going to war every morning."
'Superman is an Arab: On God, Marriage, Macho Men and Other Disastrous Inventions' will be published by Saqi Books in September


  1. There is a smart and sexy woman.

  2. The key to reforming Islam and bringing it out of the Middle Ages are woman like these. That should be the primary focus of US involvement in the Middle East.

  3. I found this post about Joumana to be very interesting and it is true there can be no post-feminism without a post-patriarchy. I am looking forward to reading her book. It is no coincidence that Joumana, in her own words, comes from Beirut, the city Beirut, the queen of contradictions. Beirut the martyr and the whore.

    She continued..”“Belonging? Thanks but no thanks. I grew up in a country that hates me, and that expressed this hatred in so many ugly ways.
    In fact, since my early days with writing, I have always felt that my city is an anti-inspiration. And I still feel that everything I do, everything I say, everything I write, I am doing and saying and writing ‘against’ her will. Our relationship is polite, appropriate, and cordial at most, but there is a vast degree of alienation between us. Beirut the queen of contradictions. Beirut the martyr and the whore. The veiled and the emancipated. The ambiguous and the obvious. The treacherous and the loyal. The money lover and the artist. The Oriental and the Occidental. The seductress and the pilgrim …
    The city where living is similar to acting in a TV soap opera;
    where you can’t help but feel you are “sleeping with the enemy” every time you go to bed. And that this enemy is you;
    where anarchy is considered order, and the notion of honour is strictly linked to what’s between a girl’s thighs;
    where all politicians are continuously quarrelling over power as chicken quarrel over a few crumbs of bread, but almost none of whom is paying attention to our need for a civil, cultured and aware society;
    where religious authorities are still the ultimate decision makers on people’s private and public concerns;
    where women don’t even enjoy the right to pass their nationality to their children, were they married to a foreigner, among many other discriminative regulations, but do benefit from a special bank loan to get their boobs blown up and their noses sized down;
    where homosexuals have to hide as if they represent a deadly plague;
    where movies can be censored in the blink of an eye if they tackle ‘delicate’ issues (like sex and religion);
    where girls from ‘good families’ are still expected to be virgins on their wedding night;
    where guys are still looking for virgin girls from ‘good families’ to marry;
    where many bookshops are dying away, and several publishers are struggling to stay alive;
    I could go on forever about our faults, deficiencies and mishaps. I know that this might come as a surprise to many, since the reputation of Beirut is that of a ‘different’ Arab city. More open, more cosmopolitan, more egalitarian. And Beirut is indeed different. But exaggerating its particularities in the region would make us fall into the anti-cliché trap: the one that indulges itself by pretending that everything is going perfectly well in the best of all possible worlds. Well, it is not. Quite the contrary: many things are going dangerously wrong in our ‘brave old world’.

    1. is true there can be no post-feminism without a post-patriarchy.

      I submit there can be no post-patriarchy without a post-religious deconstruction.

      Don't go here.

      As Joumana et al liberate the ME cultures, USA digs in its heels.

  4. She is not unique in the middle east, there are MILLIONS of women that think the same way..... In Israel

    Of that doesnt count...

    1. Out of Israel, Lebanon or Iran, The Israeli woman are the most fortunate. In a beauty contest, that would be a horse race.

  5. Didn't read the article. Don't have time to think about "brave, middleeastern wimmin" right now. When you get beyond the definition "middle east as oil supply" I lose interest. I wish her the best, though.

  6. I have no interest in letting someone talk me into supporting another middleeastern war for the sake of a bunch of women that ran into the streets and ululated at the falling of the Twin Towers.

    We got problems. This isn't one of them.

  7. Joumana is good but the competition ...

    54. Gordon

    ”… You need a basically internalist, methodologically solipsistic, script-based understanding of intelligent agents. … ”

    You know, I’ve always thought that, too.
    June 4, 2012 - 9:35 am

  8. Politics, not race or sex or class, is the big divider in the US today, according to a Pew Research Center poll which finds the partisan gap wider than at any time in the 25 years it has been polling on the subject. In 1987, the gap between Democrats and Republicans who were asked a set of values-oriented questions was scored at 10 points—but it is 18 points today, according to the poll. Most of the increase happened over the last decade as Democrats moved left, Republicans moved right, and voters became more consistent in choosing one side over the other, researchers say.

    "We've been asking the same questions in the same way for 25 years," a poll director tells CBS. "The partisan divide is now by far the largest single gap among the public, and the parties are more polarized than they ever have been in that 25-year period." The poll also found that the percentage of Americans calling themselves independent has grown, although most of those heavily favored one party. Counting independents who lean strongly one way or another, the poll found that 48% of adults polled supported the Democrats and 40% the Republicans.

    Each Party needs to decide if the campaign should focus on the candidate or the ideology. Americans are notoriously vulnerable to the Cult of Personality, possibly a deficit in this campaign that pales only in comparison to the financial one.

  9. Romney's problem is that, in the core areas of Renewable Energy, and Healthcare, he's not really a Republican. Only when you enter the domain of tax policy does he start to sound like a scion of the Grand Old (Plantation) Party.

    In addition, he's a member of a cult that most "Christians" consider to be "not all that Christian."

    BUT, and this is a really big "but," he IS white.

  10. I've been preoccupied the last few days thinking about where Europe screwed up (aside from the nonsensical "Euro" idiocy, of course,) and trying to ascertain what we can learn from their debacle.

    I keep coming back to the fact that they simply took "Socialism" too far.

    Their perenially high unemployment rate is caused, primarily it seems, by the fact that employers are very slow to "hire," inasmuch as it's almost impossible to "fire."

    This led to a need for "social services" that could only be met by extremely high levels of taxation (which were mostly levied on the middle, and lower classes through excise taxes, and the devilish VAT - Value Added Tax.)

    This, also, tangentially, led to protectionist trade policies that seemed to work great for awhile, but eventually started biting them in the ass. A Huge Mistake was when they rebuffed Bill Clinton's initiative for a Euro/America Free Trade Pact.

  11. Replies
    1. I'm clueless, Max. Totally clueless.

    2. I probably Won't move to Canada, regardless of the outcome. :)

    3. The only way I would consider a move north would be Vancouver.

      But it seems that in the long run we're all destined to live in Detroit.

  12. My takeaway is that we muddled into a pretty good system. A constant competition between the Unionized Northern States, and the Non-Union Southern States.

    1. Agree for the most part. Trick now is how to "recreate" the "muddled" part (or help to recreate.)

      Like it or not, USA *is* exceptional.

      And like it or not, we are in danger of throwing it all away unless we repair a tattered public sector, a near impossible task in an anti-government environment like this one.

    2. It's definitely Not optimal, but we'll have to survive until after the election on "Monetary" Policy. Thankfully, we have the right Fed Chairman for that.

      Policies, after the election, regardless of "who wins" are going to look pretty similar (to the great chagrin of many of the "winning" party.)

  13. I've been thinking about it quite a bit as well Rufus. Definitely historic whatever happens or doesn't happen. I refer you to The Return of Moriarity thread @BC re Steyn vs Soros with some interesting commentary(some sloggish (see above!) with the usual war-driven Reset predictions.)

    The economic resolutions under consideration are just riveting - to me. I may post more later.

  14. Damn squirrels are becoming uppity, like these women. Don't sit politely anymore, silent, but demand. Can't get out the door without another demand. More seeds, more seeds, more freedom, more freedom. No end to it. Time to crack down, time for the whip.

    sarc off

    Deuce is right. Also, it might help a lot if western women would forget about their blessed birth control prices for a day, and their rights to selectively abort their fetuses, and get out there and have a march or two in support of their sisters like these. (women! a lot of us men would be in their marching along right behind you!) This woman reminds me of Pam Geller, another wonderful woman and a fighter.


    1. She's not my "sister." Some of the worst people I've known had vaginas. Her essential argument promotes a gender-free civic persona. My expectation is that you would be uncomfortable with that.

  15. "You need a basically internalist, methodologically solipsistic, script-based understanding of intelligent agents"

    Absolutely. After reading Maxine, I've come to the same conclusion myself, no matter I don't know what it means.


    I'd only add, monomythically understood, of course, in the context of the shift of the focus of our understanding from the stars (this is where Quirk and company make their mistake) to ourselves.


    1. I try to rise to the ambiguity of the occasion.

    2. .

      (this is where Quirk and company make their mistake)

      Right. Quirk and company eschews the populist pap being promulgated by the pedantic primitivist.

      (I told you the squirrels were laughing at you behind you back.)


    3. Well p p on you.


  16. So that should read then:

    ""You need a basically internalist, methodologically solipsistic, script-based and properly interpreted understanding of intelligent agents working in the overall context of the drift and shift of the focus of our understanding, monomythically understood, from the stars to ourselves."

    There, that has it, then.


  17. An odd, deceptively lucid, strangely beautiful piece of mumbo-jumbo, Bob.

    What'll you have, Rufus, I'm buying.

    Hamntrung by Hamsters

    1. After reading that? The closest thing they have to strychnine would be fine. :)

  18. BARKEEP! Two strychnine dobles for Rufus and Quirk, tootquik, with the frosted glass.

    And one for Ash, too.

    Gopher Gofer

  19. Another Another Day in the Neighborhood via JihadWatch -

    Graphic Video: Muslims Slaughter Convert to Christianity in Tunisia
    Jun 04, 2012 02:51 pm | Raymond

    Over at Gatestone Institute (via, I document and describe a recent video of a Muslim apostate -- a convert to Christianity in Tunisia, where the so-called "Arab spring" began -- who had his head hacked off for refusing to return to Islam, to the usual cries of "Allahu Akbar!"...
    read more
    Like Graphic Video: Muslims Slaughter Convert to Christianity in Tunisia on Facebook Google Plus One Button share on Twitter

    Hamas-linked CAIR's Dawud Walid: Jews have incurred Allah's wrath, Muhammad was "correct" to massacre Jews
    Jun 04, 2012 12:09 pm | Robert

    This is the group that the mainstream media persistently portrays as a neutral civil rights organization. It is unusual to see a representative of Hamas-linked CAIR being this open about his Islamic antisemitism -- probably Walid sees that his group can do no wrong in the media, so what...
    read more
    Like Hamas-linked CAIR's Dawud Walid: Jews have incurred Allah's wrath, Muhammad was "correct" to massacre Jews on Facebook Google Plus One Button share on Twitter

    "Moderate" "Palestinian" "Authority" honors jihad/martyrdom bombers who murdered civilians
    Jun 04, 2012 11:30 am | Robert

    These are the people Barack Obama is pressuring Israel to make ever more concessions to, in the chimerical confidence that those concessions will bring peace. In reality, both Hamas and Fatah are genocide-inclined jihadis who will never be content with anything but the total destruction of Israel and consequent mass...
    read more
    Like "Moderate" "Palestinian" "Authority" honors jihad/martyrdom bombers who murdered civilians on Facebook Google Plus One Button share on Twitter

    Dean of Qur'anic Studies at Islamic University of Gaza misunderstands Islam, says Muslims hope to conquer Spain and the Vatican
    Jun 04, 2012 11:16 am | Robert

    Behold the glorious complexity of Islam, the most difficult religion on earth to understand and practice properly: even those who have devoted their lives to studying the Qur'an and who teach it to others somehow get the crazy idea that it has something to do with war, conquest and...
    read more
    Like Dean of Qur'anic Studies at Islamic University of Gaza misunderstands Islam, says Muslims hope to conquer Spain and the Vatican on Facebook Google Plus One Button share on Twitter

    Kuwaiti gets 10 years in prison for insulting Muhammad on Twitter
    Jun 04, 2012 10:30 am | Robert

    These are the kinds of laws that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other Islamic supremacist groups want to compel free countries to adopt. "Kuwaiti sentenced to 10 years in jail for Twitter ‘blasphemy,"’ from Al Arabiya, June 4 (thanks to all who sent this in): A court sentenced a...
    read more
    Like Kuwaiti gets 10 years in prison for insulting Muhammad on Twitter on Facebook Google Plus One Button share on Twitter

    Indonesian city to require all Muslim women to wear veils
    Jun 04, 2012 10:22 am | Robert

    Barack Obama said he would defend the right of Muslim women in the U.S. to wear the veil (as if anyone were denying it to them). Who will speak up for Muslim women who choose not to wear the veil? Sharia Alert from modern, moderate Indonesia: "Tasikmalaya law to make...



  20. Meanwhile, as Europe tanks (or, because of it - see previous thoughts on this subject) our economy continues to schlump along (we were using that wonderfully descriptive term, "muddle," to death) with a 53.4, I think it was, in the ISM Manufacturing Index, and a 53.7 in the larger "services" non-manufacturing index.

    BTW, the White House needs an economically literate spokesperson; that jobs report, friday, wasn't nearly as bad as it was made out to be. There were about 640,000 people that Entered the Workforce last month, and about 420,000 of them found jobs (although quite a few of those jobs were "part-time."

    That caused the "labor-participation rate" to rise by 0.2, and the number of "Employed" to rise by 0.2, also.

    1. I just read recently that the US debt/deficit situation is quite a bit worse than the European situation yet the US is considered a safe haven (currently anyway). I guess getting paid with freshly minted coin is better than not getting paid to the current money manager...

  21. In a post-peak oil "exports" world, one should be reminded of the old joke about "I don't have to outrun the bear; I only have to outrun YOU!"

    Right now, it's obvious we're "outrunning" Europe. We're going to live to sin another day, it seems. :)

    1. Now, for the $64 Trillion question. Can we "outrun" China?

      It's "Peak Oil" Dogma that "We Can't."

      I'm not so sure.

  22. Paul Krugman from Nov 2011:

    So now that the euro project is on the rocks, what lessons should we draw?

    I’ve been hearing two claims, both false: that Europe’s woes reflect the failure of welfare states in general, and that Europe’s crisis makes the case for immediate fiscal austerity in the United States.

    RE the failure of the welfare state:

    It’s true that all European countries have more generous social benefits — including universal health care — and higher government spending than America does. But the nations now in crisis don’t have bigger welfare states than the nations doing well — if anything, the correlation runs the other way. Sweden, with its famously high benefits, is a star performer, one of the few countries whose G.D.P. is now higher than it was before the crisis. Meanwhile, before the crisis, “social expenditure” — spending on welfare-state programs — was lower, as a percentage of national income, in all of the nations now in trouble than in Germany, let alone Sweden.

    RE the argument for austerity:

    What has happened, it turns out, is that by going on the euro, Spain and Italy in effect reduced themselves to the status of third-world countries that have to borrow in someone else’s currency, with all the loss of flexibility that implies. In particular, since euro-area countries can’t print money even in an emergency, they’re subject to funding disruptions in a way that nations that kept their own currencies aren’t — and the result is what you see right now. America, which borrows in dollars, doesn’t have that problem.

    The other thing you need to know is that in the face of the current crisis, austerity has been a failure everywhere it has been tried: no country with significant debts has managed to slash its way back into the good graces of the financial markets. For example, Ireland is the good boy of Europe, having responded to its debt problems with savage austerity that has driven its unemployment rate to 14 percent. Yet the interest rate on Irish bonds is still above 8 percent — worse than Italy.

    1. The USA is not Sweden, or Germany, or Italy (or Greece), or Switzerland, or Canada.

      USA is unique. (Try not to faint "fareed.")

    2. What makes it unique? Having the dominant exchange currency is one thing but that can only take you so far and how far it'll take you is the million, errr, multi-trillion dollar question.

    3. "Austerity" was the Republican solution in 1930.

      What was that definition of "insanity," again?

    4. What makes it unique?

      Jeez, is that a serious question?

    5. If I'm "running money" there is always one little unspoken concern in the back of my mind, as regards Europe - When does the whining, and complaining stop, and the Shooting start?

    6. The real question is what makes Ash so oddly unique?

      Try to answer that.

    7. Seriously, aside from the exchange currency what sets the us apart from all the rest economically speaking? Surplus of natural resources? ManuFacturing powerhouse?

    8. Lord, Ash. Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been written on the "difference."

      But, let's do 3:

      1) Physical Security - Surrounded by Oceans, and the strongest, by far, military on earth.

      2) Natural Resources, and Climate

      3) And, a "Non-Parliamentary" Democracy with some of the loveliest "checks and balances" the world has ever seen.

    9. Seymour Lipset (1996):

      The notion of "American exceptionalism" became widely applied in the context of efforts to account for the weakness of working-class radicalism in the United States. The major question subsumed in the concept became why the United States is the only industrialized country which does not have a significant socialist movement or Labor party. That riddle has bedeviled socialist theorists since the late nineteenth century.

      Friedrich Engels tried to answer it in the last decade of his life. The German socialist and sociologist Werner Sombart dealt with it in a major book published in his native language in 1906, Why Is There No Socialism in the United States? As we have seen, H. G. Wells, then a Fabian, also addressed the issue that year in The Future in America. Both Lenin and Trotsky were deeply concerned because the logic of Marxism, the proposition expressed by Marx in Das Kapital that "the more developed country shows the less developed the image of their future," implied to Marxists prior to the Russian Revolution that the United States would be the first socialist country."

      Since some object to an attempt to explain a negative, a vacancy, the query may of course be reversed to ask why has America been the most classically liberal polity in the world from its founding to the present? Although the United States remains the wealthiest large industrialized nation, it devotes less of its income to welfare and the state is less involved in the economy than is true for other developed countries. It not only does not have a viable, class-conscious, radical political movement, but its trade unions, which have long been weaker than those of almost all other industrialized countries, have been steadily declining since the mid-1950s.

      ...An emphasis on American uniqueness raises the obvious question of the nature of the differences. There is a large literature dating back to at least the eighteenth century which attempts to specify the special character of the United States politically and socially. One of the most interesting, often overlooked, is Edmund Burke's speech to the House of Commons proposing reconciliation with the colonies, in which he sought to explain to his fellow members what the revolutionary Americans were like. He noted that they were different culturally, that they were not simply transplanted Englishmen. He particularly stressed the unique character of American religion.

      J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur, in his book Letters from an American Farmer, written in the late eighteenth century, explicitly raised the question, "What is an American?" He emphasized that Americans behaved differently in their social relations, were much more egalitarian than other nationalities, that their"dictionary" was "short in words of dignity, and names of honor," that is, in terms through which the lower strata expressed their subservience to the higher. Tocqueville, who observed egalitarianism in a similar fashion, also stressed individualism, as distinct from the emphasis on "group ties" which marked Europe.

      [paragraphs added]

    10. Ian Tyrrell (skeptic):

      The actual term “American exceptionalism” was originally coined by German Marxists who wished to explain why the US seemed to have by-passed the rise of socialism and Marxism. (Actually the US had much class conflict, some Marxist parties and theorists, and a lively socialist movement, though the latter was not on the scale of, say, France and Germany.) But exceptionalism is much more than about class conflict.

    11. It's currently intellectually chic to disrespect American Exceptionalism (this guy does a good job.)

      I find two things interesting, first being the origin of the phrase (tough old buzzards weren't they - stubbornly independent) and second being the need to reduce the concept to manageable levels as a mission critical milestone towards the evolution of a transnational State.

    12. One other point worth noting is that the defining elements of "American Exceptionalism" seem to have taken a turn for the worse in the modern era. What began as an inexplicable resistance to Marxism has transformed into some kind of smug pop virtuous superiority ala (from the previous link):

      God Is on Our Side.

      A crucial component of American exceptionalism is the belief that the United States has a divinely ordained mission to lead the rest of the world. Ronald Reagan told audiences that there was "some divine plan" that had placed America here, and once quoted Pope Pius XII saying, "Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind." Bush offered a similar view in 2004, saying, "We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom." The same idea was expressed, albeit less nobly, in Otto von Bismarck's alleged quip that "God has a special providence for fools, drunks, and the United States."

  23. Black Bear Attacks Man In Hot Tub From Behind

    Also on the weekend, a black bear in Kamloops, B.C., had to be euthanized after it ate the body of a man who died on a remote logging road. Investigators say the animal pulled the corpse out of the car and ate part of it, before burying the rest.

    Bears in USA have manners.


    1. Black Bear Steals Pizza From B.C. Restaurant -

      Uncouth bruins.

      O Canada!


  24. Mish Shedlock from February 2011:

    Housing Market Nonsense

    Note that Lachman also blames US banks for the housing bubble.

    "It was like the U.S. housing market." Both American and European banks went overboard in relaxing credit standards.

    That too is nonsense in that it does not place the blame where it belongs, on the Fed. The Fed held interest rates too low, too long. Money was too loose, banks lent.

    Blaming banks for lending when real interest rates are hugely negative is tantamount to placing a bottle of vodka in front of an alcoholic, telling the alcoholic it is the best vodka in the whole world, then blaming the alcoholic for what happens next.

    Fed is the Problem

    Not only did the Fed hold interest rates too low, too long, the Greenspan Fed endorsed derivatives, subprime loans, and adjustable rate mortgages. Meanwhile Bush was praising the "Ownership Society" and Barney Frank was in the back pocket of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    Ben Bernanke was totally clueless, in complete denial about the bubble, going so far as to say home prices were "based on fundamentals".

    None what has transpired has had remotely anything to do with the failure of the free markets. We have a failure of regulation, not a failure to regulate. Lachman, like Bernanke, really needs to get a clue.

    You cannot fix a problem until you understand what the problem is. Unfortunately, politicians and economists in both the US and Europe are still in denial. Statements by those blaming markets instead of politicians and the Fed, do not help.


    The biggest failure of regulation was the very creation of the the Fed. That should be be obvious but the sad state of affairs in regards to economic understanding says I need to spell it out.

    Those screaming about the free market need to answer this question: Could the free market possibly have done any worse the serial bubble-blowing moral-hazard policies of the Fed?


    All of which is ancillary to his discussion of the "EUtopia" problem, but He has a point with that last paragraph, which is, if I can accurately paraphrase, that a badly regulated market is worse than a free (totally unregulated) market, leaving unanswered the possibility that a well regulated market is better than both.

    Which has been my point in several previous posts - that fixing the regulatory regime is the crucial challenge of the modern government, unless we, as a people, are prepared to chuck it all for the wild west of economic markets.

    Where I disagree with his analysis is the so-called "OTC derivatives" market which remains largely unregulated. It was this market that magnified the 2008 losses, orders of magnitude more than the Fed-induced housing bubble. (The difference being the housing bubble was a nuclear reaction that remained within its designed containment structure. The "structured investment vehicles" designed by Wall St functioned as essentially free market products, nuclear reactions with no containment structure.)

    Some things to consider next time the "drunk and medieval obsession with free markets" enters the conversation, or the campaign rhetoric.

  25. Christians in middle east being gunned down everywhere - except in Israel, of course.

    If the Western democracies succeed in toppling Assad -- as they seem to intend -- what will be the fate of these Christians? Have any of our State Department policymakers given any thought to this question?

    Will these Christians sheltered under Assad's shaky regime be considered collaborators in his tortures and killings when he is toppled? Past experience suggests that this is exactly what will be their fate. The Copts in Egypt survived on the edge during thirty years of Mubarak's authoritarian rule. Today, their churches are burned, and they are shot down in the flames.

    Read more:


    1. Beat me, whip me, make me write bad checks.

      Nah, Mish is wrong. While it's true that the Fed was Imbecilic/complicit, etc, in putting the Vodka bottle on the table, NO One forced the idiot banks to write millions of loans that couldn't possibly be paid, and sell them to those with more money than sense (most of us) as AAA Paper.

    2. :):)

      If one is in the mood for entertaining irony, the huge irony of what was effectively a two-step waltz into financial hell was that the first step, mortgage origination and bundling, slipped right through the regulatory barriers like holding water through a sieve, and the second step, the secondary derivatives market, was effectively unregulated.

  26. In the interstices of a hectic day here, Clandestine Investigative Services LLC, a subsidiary of InvestigationsRUs, a subsidiary of SoulsRUs, of which I am majority stockholder, are trying to track down the particulars on one Jean-Pierre 'buttbplug'# Boespflug. Persons connected to Mr. Boespflug are suspected to be perhaps residing in our state. Mr Boespflug's whereabouts are currently unknown.

    We have found buttplug sr., as he is referred to in some cyberspace, has an American wife, believed to be estranged, living in somewhere in the state, and he seems to be on the lam from the law, accused of defrauding Bank of America, possibly the Idaho Land Board and sundry others of an est. app. 300 million american.

    Here (first few pics)

    and Here

    and Here

    "Bank of America's leasing division is paying Johnston, president of Highlander Ski Lift Services & Construction, to dismantle the lift after being stiffed by Jean-Pierre Boespflug, Tamarack's majority owner, when his money ran out in 2008."

    Clandestine Investigations LLC are of course wondering whether there might be a 'pot of gold' at the end of this sordid rainbow, in the form of a reward, or sale of info to concerned citizens or law enforcement, if a location can be found for this man.

    Idahoans don't like frenchies coming to Idaho and trying to fuck over the rubes.

    Quirk, you've been around a lot, and know stuff.

    We might be persuaded to pay you a modest sum for advice on how to proceed from this point.


    # - 'buttplug' is the handle used on some of the references to this Boespflug sr. on some of the blog references we have found.

    Indeed, a complimentary name.

    1. Buttplug On The Run Messageboard --


    2. Subject: RE: Buttplug on the run
      Date: 10-Jun-11

      Arrest warrent issued?

      Subject: RE: Buttplug on the run
      Date: 10-Jun-11

      BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho judge on Friday declared the French developer of a failed central Idaho ski resort in contempt of court for missing yet another hearing in the resort's ongoing foreclosure case. French native Jean-Pierre Boespflug was ordered to appear in state court after missing a hearing last month and a court-imposed deadline for turning over financial documents.

      The hearing started about 20 minutes late, giving him extra time to appear, but Boespflug was nowhere to be found. Fourth District Judge Michael McLaughlin sent his bailiff to call out Boespflug's name in the hallway - remarking "You have to be thorough" - before finding that he was "willfully, annoyingly and deliberately in contempt."

      Besides ordering Boespflug's arrest, McLaughlin started the clock on fines of $5,000 a day that will continue until he shows up in court and turns over the documents.

      Boespflug's whereabouts were unknown, and he did not have an attorney representing him in court. He did not return phone messages left at his last known cell phone number by The Associated Press.


    3. Subject: RE: Buttplug on the run
      Date: 13-May-11

      Jean Pierre buttsplug is an evil, slimy bastard, and you talk to ANYONE up in V county and they will tell you the same.


    4. The idiots in our state government evidently didn't even get a construction bond on the project from this guy.

      We almost deserve what we get.

      Off subject now....

      Breaking news will post


  27. As for "American Exceptionalism," I think it's really pretty simple. We are a young nation of of descendents of people that pretty much "self-selected" for adventurousness, greed, and risk-taking.

    1. The Idaho Land Board was Idaho Governor selected for idiocy.


    2. The Spanish Conquistadores and Spanish settlers were self selected for adventurousness, greed and risk-taking too, and look at Mexico and Central America today.

      There must be at least some other factor(s) as well.

      If one agrees with the thesis of exceptionalism, as I do when in a bumptious mood.


    3. The Conquitadors were hired soldiers; conquerors, and colonizers. The Americans were "Settlers." Big dif.

    4. Maybe that's it.

      aka the work ethic.


  28. To establish legal order and to quell increasing strife within the ranks, the settlers wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact after the ship dropped anchor at the tip of Cape Cod on November 11/21, in what is now Provincetown Harbor.[10]

    The settlers, upon initially setting anchor, explored the snow-covered area and discovered an empty Native American village. The curious settlers dug up some artificially made mounds, some of which stored corn, while others were burial sites. Nathaniel Philbrick claims that the settlers stole the corn and looted and desecrated the graves,[18] sparking friction with the locals.[19] Philbrick goes on to say that as they moved down the coast to what is now Eastham, they explored the area of Cape Cod for several weeks, looting and stealing native stores as they went.[20] He then writes about how they decided to relocate to Plymouth after a difficult encounter with the local native Americans, the Nausets, at First Encounter Beach, in December 1620.

    However, Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation records that they took "some" of the corn to show the others back at the boat, leaving the rest. Then, later they took what they needed from another store of grain, paying the locals back in six months, which they gladly received.

    Also there was found more of their corn and of their beans of various colors; the corn and beans they brought away, purposing to give them full satisfaction when they should meet with any of them as, about some six months afterward they did, to their good content.

  29. What Marx, et al, forgot was that the Americans tried "Communism" back in the early 1600's. And, damned near died out from starvation.

    It only took one winter for them to figure out that that wasn't going to work.

  30. Looks like the Roosians should be able to make it.

    80X bigger than the Bakken --

    Course you have to extract it, so of course Exxon/Mobile, that evil empire, is called upon for its expertise.


  31. The story about the German Marxists scratching their beards with frustration over the failure of the uncouth Americans to get with the program just charges my batteries. (I confess, it makes me smirk.)

    But some of these modern incarnations of the concept - superior virtue, "special genius", partnered with God, etc, are, realistically, a bit thuggish, and unworthy of a country, and a set of inflammatory ideals, and a seed population self-selected for personal flint (as per Rufus), that will hold a huge place in the history books (suck it up "fareed.")

    The ambiguity that clouds the discussion is this: the American arc of history *is* unique and it's success properly yields to the label of "exceptional," but that is not to imply that some form of absolute universal rights for all humans is a flawed concept.

    USA documents attempted to "spell it out" and they did a reasonable job. Not a bad place for other countries to start.

    Where the ambiguity gets a little thick is implementation - parliaments vs non-parliaments, negative vs positive rights, etc, etc, etc.

    USA is at an inflection point of history that demands attention to serious reforms, primarily in the public sector (private sector being a largely a function of human nature which doesn't "reform" easily.)

    Conservatives idealize "reform" as "less of the offending thing." Progressives view reform as "something we haven't tried." Policy is the compromise that glues together a workable coalition.

    1. Not a bad place for other countries to start.

      Not according to Justice Ginsburg, appointed by Clinton, the doddering old fool,(referring to Ginburg) who told the Egyptians, I think it was, not to take ideas from our Constitution.

      Contemplate Obama appointing another couple of Justices, and weep.


    2. Not to defend Ginsberg, which I don't in the main, but, point of clarification, she implied that the American effort was incomplete in its omission of positive rights, not that the so-defined "negative" rights were worthless.

      But I agree with you, Doug, and the rest, that formalizing "positive rights" as an express responsibility of the State is very dangerous.

      But, thresholds, my dear boy, thresholds. Even though the socialist movement was frustrated at lack of fertile soil among the American heathens, the movement was still quite animated. Just never sufficiently so to cross a threshold.

      Same thing with Ginsberg's positive rights.

      The truly exceptional thing about this country "used to be" the extraordinary institutional balance. Ginsberg was one of four dissenting justices in the Citizens United Court decision.

  32. Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. is considering offering discounted trading fees to the financial firms that lost money after the exchange botched their trades during the ill-fated debut of Facebook Inc. shares, people familiar with the matter said.

  33. Roger Simon has an interesting and amusing piece at Politico about Bill Clinton's recent shenanigans undercutting Barack Obama. Its only problem is its premise, captured in its title: “Bill Clinton out of control on 2012.”


    But that's not the case. It's in fact perfectly evident that Bill Clinton is very much in control with respect to 2012: He wants Barack Obama to lose, and is helping that cause.

  34. Mr Barroso said a banking union with more integrated financial supervision and deposit guarantees was a "necessary step" which would consolidate monetary union with economic union. Europeans must do "whatever is necessary to ensure the stability of our currency", he insisted.

    Germany was also reported yesterday to be drawing up a comprehensive European growth package. The Handelsblatt newspaper said the plan involved stocking up the capital reserves of the European Investment Bank with a cash injection of €10bn.

    Finance ministers from the G7 group of industrialised nations also held an emergency teleconference yesterday to discuss the eurozone crisis, but there was little outcome from the talks and no statement on a path ahead.

  35. I will just note that other research groups who have been monitoring the Earth’s temperature trends for decades have a different view. For example, University of Alabama in Huntsville climatologists who have been measuring the Earth’s atmospheric temperature for more than 30 years reported last year: “While Earth’s climate has warmed in the last 33 years, the climb has been irregular.

    There was little or no warming for the first 19 years of satellite data. Clear net warming did not occur until the El Niño Pacific Ocean 'warming event of the century' in late 1997.


    The upshot is that a close analysis of this aspect of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ A Climate of Corporate Control report reveals severe shortcomings that do not inspire much confidence in the overall accuracy of the lobbying group's claims. "Follow the money" may be one of the hoariest maxims in journalism, but it's only good advice when the money you're following actually amounts to something.

  36. At the behest of the new president, Franklin Roosevelt, and in an attempt to discourage hoarding and end bank runs, on this date in 1933, the United States went off the gold standard.

  37. .

    The Conquitadors were hired soldiers; conquerors, and colonizers. The Americans were "Settlers." Big dif.

    The colonization of N. and S. America started within a century of each other. Why has, over the centuries, N. America, primarily the U.S., expanded to it's pre-imminant position in the world while S. America has lagged. Some have offered a theory with which I tend to agree: it was the different social contracts that were drawn.

    In S. American, the Spanish conquerors object was not merely gold but property. But not land as property but people. When a Spanish land baron was given a grant giving him control over various areas of land, it was not the land he was given (the land still being held by the king) but people to work and do with what he wanted, basically all the indigenous people within a certain area. Even when Simon Bolivar, the 'George Washington of South America' was able to obtain independance from Spain for a good chunk of South America, it was not for 'democracy' as we know it but merely to continue the fuedal system that was in place but with the existing oligarchy replacing the Spanish king. Bolivar thought the American republican system was absurd.

    In contrast, in the U.S., the initial colonies were colonized to a large degree by indentured (one can only call them) slaves, people who voluntarily gave up their their freedoms for years in exchange for a promise, and the promise was for land, anywhere from fifty to hundreds of acres depending on the contract that was drawn. But the promise also had another even more important aspect, the eventually ownership of the land also granted the landowner the right to vote. The ownership of the land and the right to vote where what made America exceptional relative to many other countries and especially South America. It was America's unique social contract.

    [One point of irony, is that while slavery was intially accepted in both N. and S. America, in the U.S. racism continued even after the Civil War while in South America the Spanish, Portugese, etc. conquerors readliy integrated with the native populations.]