David Blankenhorn was among the chroniclers of the wages of, as the title of a book of his called it, fatherless America. His concern for the future of the family led him to oppose same-sex marriage. He testified for the defense in the trial of Californians’ right to codify the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In the New York Times, Blankenhorn announced that while he does not recant his views, he is quitting the fight. He cited the need for comity, the dignity of gay people, and the “emerging consensus” of “national elites” and “most younger Americans” as reasons for his “accepting” the redefinition of marriage. He expresses the hope, although he does not place a bet on it, that his withdrawal will enable him more effectively to make the case that people should marry before having children. None of these arguments really stand up. The triumph of same-sex marriage would lead not to comity, for example, but to new assaults on the rights of dissenters. We certainly share his hopes about illegitimacy, and wish they did not rest on the theory that young people can best be persuaded by elders who lack both a coherent argument and the courage of their convictions.
Bankers continue to be collectively committed to proving Willi Schlamm’s axiom that the problem with capitalism is capitalists, with the latest being Barclays’ attempts to manipulate interest rates to pad its book and bolster its position. Other banks also are under investigation. At issue is the abuse of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), an index interest rate calculated from banks’ estimates of what it would cost them to borrow from another bank on any particular day. The LIBOR scandal is in fact two scandals: First, Barclays appears to have submitted false reports, and pressured others to do so, in order to improve its derivatives-trading profits from day to day. Second, Barclays appears to have lowballed its borrowing-cost estimates in order to appear to be in a stronger credit position than it was. Communication between Barclays and its regulators suggests that the latter knew the bank was up to shenanigans; when a Barclays representative told a regulator, “We’re clean, but we’re dirty-clean, rather than clean-clean,” the regulator’s response was: “No one’s clean-clean.” As indeed it seems nobody is: Derivatives trading is a zero-sum game, and Barclays does not appear to have been alone in trying to manipulate the LIBOR for the benefit of its book. Regulators have known for years that banks were understating their borrowing costs in LIBOR estimates: During the crisis, banks on the verge of collapse were reporting lower rates than those that were flush with liquidity. Naughty bankers, feckless regulators: Little has changed since the financial crisis.
The power struggle currently in progress between the Egyptian army and the Muslim Brothers pits secular and Islamist values against one another with the Middle East at stake. The moves and countermoves are as carefully calculated as in chess. Mohammed Morsi is one of the more guarded Muslim Brothers, and recent elections gave him the presidency and a parliament with an Islamist majority. In self-protection, the army thereupon found fault with the election and closed the parliament. Morsi has summoned it to meet all the same. Both sides claim constitutional rights and are making plays to have the judiciary decide in their favor and then lay hands on the legislature and the executive. One or another of them will be checkmated. For reasons that are not clear, the United States is supporting the Muslim Brothers, representing Islamism as part of the transition to democracy. In this spirit of self-delusion, President Obama has invited President Morsi to visit in the fall — if by then the army has not hobbled him and a lot more Muslim Brothers, which right now seems the likely course.