Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Moderate's are not the answer to religious reform

Irshad Manji's recent post in the WSJ brings to light an important distinction that needs to be made when discussing and hopefully resolving inter-faith relations in the Western world. (how ever nuanced one chooses to view "western" and "world").

Ms. Manji's website www.irshadmanji.com is an excellent source of information for reformist approaches to Islam.
Islam Needs Reformists, Not 'Moderates'

Bin Laden's followers represent a real interpretation of Islam. Why don't more Muslims challenge it?

[Muslim] Feisal Abdul Rauf, above, has quoted the Quran as saying, 'Whoever kills a human being...it is as if he has killed all humankind.'

President Barack Obama should be applauded for his risky—and lonely—decision to take out Osama bin Laden. But in announcing bin Laden's demise, the president fudged a vital fact. Echoing George W. Bush, he insisted that al Qaeda's icon "was not a Muslim leader."

But this is untrue. Bin Laden and his followers represent a real interpretation of Islam that begs to be challenged relentlessly and visibly. Why does this happen so rarely?

"Moderate" Muslims are part of the problem. As Martin Luther King Jr. taught many white Americans, in times of moral crisis, moderation cements the status quo. Today, what Islam needs is not more "moderates" but more self-conscious "reformists." It is reformists who will bring to my faith the debate, dissent and reinterpretation that have carried Judaism and Christianity into the modern world.

What is going on when people worry about being branded bigots for caring about human dignity? asks Irshad Manji. Manji discusses relativism versus pluralism to express what she calls the ultimate form of liberty. Video courtesy of Random House.

Sounding the call for reform is no way to win a popularity contest in the Muslim community. After the 2005 London transit bombings, I delivered a radio commentary disagreeing with Feisal Abdul Rauf, the moderate American imam who later fronted the campaign for an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero. He had issued a statement about the London terror strikes, assuring journalists that according to the Quran, "Whoever kills a human being…it is as if he has killed all humankind."

"Not quite," I explained with regret. "The full verse reads, 'Whoever kills a human being, except as punishment for murder or other villainy in the land, shall be regarded as having killed all humankind" (my emphasis). For the British jihadis, I went on, "villainy in the land" describes the boot prints of U.S. soldiers in Iraqi soil. This otherwise humane Quranic passage gives aspiring holy warriors a loophole to exploit.

I closed by suggesting that moderate Muslims join moderate Jews and Christians in admitting to the nasty side of all our scriptures. The following week, a Muslim acquaintance emailed me. Peeved that I would "go after moderate Muslims," she curtly counseled me to "wash laundry in the backyard"—that is, to discuss our internal affairs privately.

But what takes place among Muslims affects countless lives outside the fold, so our business is everyone's business. When it is "moderates," not extremists, who treat you as a traitor for advocating liberal democratic values, something has corrupted the moderates themselves.

That something is identity politics. Even in the seemingly tolerant Muslim communities of America, the politics of identity stands in the way of reinterpretation and reform. Akeel Bilgrami, a philosopher at Columbia University, makes an elegant distinction in this regard. Moderate Muslims, he observes, are so consumed with Western imperialism that they have distracted themselves from dealing with the imperialists inside Islam—Muslims who dominate, censor, injure and murder fellow Muslims.

Bin Laden and his disciples epitomize this crowd. But you do not have to be murderous to be an obstacle to reform. I will never forget the Muslim man in New Jersey who flaunted his moderate credentials by leading an interfaith dialogue group, yet who, behind closed doors, revealed a purist's insularity. On the letterhead of his interfaith initiative, he presented me with a list of phrases and paragraphs to be banned from my 2004 book, "The Trouble with Islam Today."

"You want my publishers to edit out these thoughts?" I asked, incredulously.

"Oh, yes," he confirmed. "Otherwise, you're like a fascist."

Prof. Bilgrami chalks up the defensiveness of moderate Muslims to their fear that openly criticizing other Muslims "would amount to a surrender," the ultimate abdication of group honor—and thus identity—to a contemptuous West. But, as Prof. Bilgrami astutely points out, the reverse holds true: The final triumph for colonizers is the Muslim habit of denying and deflecting our internal dysfunction. Avoidance strips Muslims of the ability to be introspective and, therefore, free. Moderate Muslims throttle the very moderation to which they claim to be devoted.

Of course, identity politics is not exclusive to Muslims. Many moderate Christians criticized Dr. King for causing "tension" in their ranks. Dr. King shot back that he and his followers "merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive." The same goes for Muslim reform in our own day.

It is time for those who love liberal democracy to join hands with Islam's reformists. Here is a clue to who's who: Moderate Muslims denounce violence committed in the name of Islam but insist that religion has nothing to do with it; reformist Muslims, by contrast, not only deplore Islamist violence but admit that our religion is used to incite it.

Notice that I say "used." Islam is being manipulated. That is why Muslims should acknowledge the awkward passages of our own holy book and reinterpret them—publicly. The Quran, I believe, encourages this: It contains three times as many verses promoting critical thought as opposed to blind submission.

How can we reinterpret the Quranic passage that allows Muslims to kill "as punishment for murder or other villainy in the land"? For starters, we must stress that more Muslims are being slaughtered by other Muslims than by anyone else. To fight "villainy in the land," then, we have to repel the violent ideology of some of our fellow Muslims.

Drawing attention to Muslim-on-Muslim violence is essential to deflating the grandstanding of bin Laden's sympathizers. This counternarrative deals in reality while doing justice to a loving God. Muslims need to share it with the young people in our communities. And other Americans, including U.S. presidents, should expect us to share it.

—From "Allah, Liberty and Love" by Irshad Manji, to be published June 14 by Free Press. Copyright © 2011 by Mosaic Media Inc. Printed by permission.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Citizen Kane


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Breakout for Gold mining stocks?

Is the GDX about to breakout like an angst-ridden teenager?

The chart below outlines my current consideration that the TA for the gold miners may be showing the infant stages of a break out. A 3 year weekly chart showing the ratio of GDX vs. Gold (GLD) gives a broad-based view. Note the gradual lessening of the 200 DMA, the flattening and soon-to-be rising 100 DMA, and today's close just above a flat-lined 50 DMA.

Included are 3 time series of the RSI (7, 14, 21), after a year long downward drift we see all 3 RSI's breaking out and moving just above the zero line.

Once in motion, barring a sudden market crash, this could signal the changing of the guard from bullion to the stocks. I have been bearish on the miners vs. gold for some time, and it would be panglossian of me to change that stance so quickly in this market environment, yet I cant fully discount the TA signals that have served me well the past 2 years when the metal was shown to be outperforming the stocks by a landslide.

I will be following this one closely week to week, there doesn't seem to be a rush as gold continues to behave well.

ps: recent update from Martin Armstrong, always worth the read, his insights are always thought-provoking


Thursday, August 12, 2010

the farce that is Kinross Gold

2 charts that tell you everything you need to know about Kinross Gold, down for over 1 and a half years in real terms and against Gold. The issues with Redback mining are at best a distraction from the real long term structural issues with most gold mining outfits. If mining gold proved so unprofitable and if obtaining more ounces in the ground only kept the stock loosing ground, why would the acquisition of more gold help this train-wreck?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Steve Saville, excellent macroeconomic analysis

a great piece by the always cogent and sober Steve Saville:

The depression outlook, revisited

Steve Saville
Aug 10, 2010

Below is an excerpt from a commentary originally posted atwww.speculative-investor.com on 1st August, 2010.

Towards the end of 2008 and during the first two months of 2009, we laid out our case for the second great depression of the past 100 years. In a nutshell, our thinking was that there are two fundamental prerequisites for a depression within a semi-free economy, these being a massive credit bubble and a concerted effort by the government to prevent the corrective process from running its natural course after the bubble bursts. As far as we could tell at the time, both of these prerequisites were very much in place. Before explaining how, or if, subsequent developments have affected our outlook it is worth recapping the depression case in a little more detail.

First, there is a bigger overall debt burden today than existed at the outset of the 1930s depression.

Second, although this cannot be proved it is reasonable to conclude that the faster growth in credit and money supply during the recent boom, as compared to the boom of the 1920s, resulted in more mal-investment (more money being ploughed into ill-conceived 'bubble activities') during the past 10 years than during the 10 years leading up to the depression of the 1930s.

Third, the governments of today are making the same critical mistakes that were made during the 1930s, but they are doing so more rapidly and on a grander scale. We are referring to the fact that governments are a) trying to prevent prices from falling to their natural levels, b) encouraging and propagating the further expansion of debt, c) propping up failed business ventures, d) increasing the burden that the government itself places on the economy, e) creating a more uncertain environment and thus reducing the incentive to invest for the long-term, and f) taking actions designed to reduce savings at a time when inadequate real savings is a big part of the problem. Similar efforts occurred throughout the 1930s, which, in our opinion, is primarily why a sharp recession evolved into a depression.

Now, history only happens once so we obviously can't go back in time and show what would have happened during the 1930s if governments had stayed out of the way. We can make a sound logical argument as to why increased government involvement made the situation much worse than it would otherwise have been, but the fact that we can't replay history leaves an opening for the supporters of government intervention to put the blame on external shocks to the economy. Fortunately (or unfortunately if you happen to live in Japan), Japan's post-bubble experience shows that government intervention designed to ease the short-term pain is capable of transforming a sharp post-bubble contraction into a multi-decade depression even during a long period of global peace and prosperity.

The above is essentially the argument we made 18-20 months ago. The argument is still valid today, although there are two interesting new developments that we will now deal with.

The first and most important is that while the US government continues to act based on the terribly misguided belief that the economy can be made stronger by more government spending and greater government control over production and consumption, in other parts of the world there is an emerging belief that "Keynesian" strategies have been taken too far. This emerging belief is manifesting itself in so-called "austerity" programs.

Although perhaps well intentioned, the shift towards "austerity" by some European governments is just as problematic as the US government's burgeoning profligacy. The reason is that these "austerity" programs are designed to help bondholders at the expense of the overall economy. In particular, they are designed to keep alive the illusion that government debt is a good investment by supporting the transfer of wealth from the broad economy to the owners of the debt.

Rather than cause further damage to the economy in an effort to help bondholders, governments should acknowledge the reality that their current debt burdens are so cumbersome that default is inevitable. The sooner they default, the less damage will be done. The longer they try to maintain the illusion of solvency, the more damage will be done. In general terms, a big part of the solution is for the government to drastically slow the rate at which it redistributes wealth, regardless of whether the direct beneficiaries of the redistribution happen to be bondholders, home builders, banks, auto manufacturers, the unemployed, or other special interest groups.

The second new development is the debate that has begun in the US about whether the "Bush tax cuts" should be allowed to expire at the end of this year. One side of the debate is that failure to maintain the tax cuts will push the US economy back into recession due to the negative economic "multiplier" related to tax increases, and the other side is that maintaining the tax cuts will do more harm than good because it will substantially add to the government's debt burden. Both sides of the debate are missing the point, which is that what really matters is the total amount of government spending; not how the spending is financed.

To understand what we mean, it helps to think of the government as a giant parasite that feeds on the economy. The parasite uses part of what it eats to foster its own growth, while the remainder passes through and is excreted back into the economy. The parasite's food is a mixture of direct taxation, indirect taxation (a.k.a. inflation) and borrowing, and provided that it is growing or maintaining its current size then a reduction in one food source MUST be offset by a corresponding increase in the other food sources. For example, if the parasite doesn't shrink then a reduction in direct taxation must be made up via an increase in inflation and/or borrowing.

The above is an over-simplification because the method by which the parasite gets its sustenance will have some influence on the economic outcome, but it hopefully explains why the "Bush tax cuts" are not a 'make or break' issue as far as the US economy's health is concerned. The crux of the matter is that as long as the rate of government spending is unchanged, less wealth being sucked out by direct taxation will result in more wealth being sucked out by another method. Consequently, the only genuine tax cut is the one that's accompanied by reduced government spending.

In summary, the most significant new development is that some governments have deviated from the "Keynesian" path to the "austerity" path, but because this particular version of austerity helps government debt-holders at the expense of the productive economy it does nothing to reduce the probability of a depression. In any case, it's a good bet that the commitment to "austerity" is weak, so after it becomes obvious that the post-crash rebound of 2009-2010 is over there will most likely be a return to the destructive spending/inflating path.

Unfortunately, then, we see no reason to change our view that another great depression is in its infancy.


Steve Saville
email: sas888_hk@yahoo.com
Hong Kong

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday monring musing

Ive been experimenting with some new approaches to eating, more specifically eating only 1-2 times a day and drinking my morning coffee with heavy creme. It seems to fill me up and keep me satisfied until dinner time.

I suspect the body prefers to run on fat rather than sugar once it makes the adjustment.

Keeping that in mind Ive returned to the dark recesses of blogging.

Looking forward to getting back into the game.