Blog Archive

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NY Times: The Fed’s Actions in 2008: What the Transcripts Reveal

Business Day

On Friday, the Federal Reserve released the transcripts of the 2008 meetings of its Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy. The transcripts provide a detailed account of some of the Fed's key decisions during that crisis year. Here is a look at the fuller picture that the documents have provided.  Related Article »

January – February
The Gathering Storm
Federal Reserve officials are unaware in January 2008 that the economy has already entered a recession. But the Fed's chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, and his closest advisers are feeling nervous. They worry that the Fed's actions at the end of 2007 have been insufficient, and that tumbling stock prices represent the start of a broader pullback in investment.
Jan. 9
emergency meeting Fed officials conclude in a 5 p.m. conference call that “substantial additional policy easing in the near term might well be necessary.”
Jan. 11
Bank of America announces it will buy the nation's largest mortgage lender, Countrywide Financial, for just $4 billion.  Bank of America’s Chief Makes Big Bet »
Jan. 21
emergency meeting At 6 p.m. on Martin Luther King's Birthday, Fed officials decide they can't wait any longer to cut interest rates. The next day the Fed announces the biggest interest rate reduction in more than two decades, temporarily halting the stock market's slide. The benchmark rate is cut 75 basis points, to 3.5 percent.
Early in 2008, as signs of crisis are building, Janet L. Yellen scolds the other members of the Open Market Committee, seeking to get them to recognize that they have not done enough.
Ms. Yellen: “The risk of a severe recession and credit crisis is unacceptably high, and it is being clearly priced now into not only domestic but also global markets.”  View Transcript »
Ms. Yellen says Mr. Bernanke’s proposal of a 75 basis-point cut in the Fed’s benchmark rate is a good step toward recognizing the central bank’s slowness.
Ms Yellen: “An inter-meeting move will be a surprise, but I think it will show that we get it and we recognize we have been behind the curve.”  View Transcript »
Jan. 30
scheduled meeting The Federal Open Market Committee, or F.O.M.C., cuts its benchmark rate by another 50 basis points to 3 percent, saying “financial markets remain under considerable stress, and credit has tightened further for some businesses and households.”
Feb. 14
Mr. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. acknowledge before Congress that the outlook for the economy has worsened, as both are accused of being overtaken by events. Mr. Bernanke testifies that problems in housing and mortgage-related markets have spread more widely and proved more intractable than he expected three months earlier. Both officials, however, continue to predict the economy will avoid recession.  Top Officials See Bleaker Outlook for the Economy »
March – April
A Liquidity Crisis
Companies in the mortgage business began to collapse, unable to find financing as investors lose faith in the judgment of the rating agencies that the companies' offerings are low-risk, AAA-rated investments. The Fed, determined to offset the lack of private funding, rapidly expands its lending to troubled financial firms, and agrees to help finance JPMorgan Chase's salvage of the largest casualty, Bear Stearns.
March 5
Two big housing finance companies, Thornburg Mortgage and Carlyle Capital, move to the brink of collapse.  Aversion to Risk Deepens Credit Woes »
March 7
The Fed offers up to $200 billion in loans for Wall Street firms, expanding a safety net once restricted to commercial banks.  Federal Reserve Board Press Release »
March 10
emergency meeting Mr. Bernanke convenes another conference call, telling the committee, “We live in a very special time.” The Fed doubles Wall Street's safety net to $400 billlion and also begins to expand its efforts to pump dollars into foreign markets through “swap” agreements with the European and Swiss central banks.
March 14
The Fed begins to engineer the rescue of Bear Stearns. Two days later, JPMorgan agrees to buy the crippled investment bank, less $30 billion in troubled assets that it leaves with the Fed.  Fed Chief Shifts Path, Inventing Policy in Crisis »
March 16
The Fed effectively removes any limits on the amounts it is willing to lend Wall Street with the announcement of yet another emergency program, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility. “The Federal Reserve, in close consultation with the Treasury, is working to promote liquid, well-functioning financial markets, which are essential for economic growth,” Mr. Bernanke says.  Federal Reserve Board Press Release »
March 18
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. reduces short-term interest rates for the sixth time in six months. It lowers its federal funds rate by 75 basis points, to 2.25 percent, and makes clear that it's not done yet.
At the March 18 meeting, two days after the Fed rescued Bear Stearns, Timothy F. Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, says he wants the Fed to act as traditional lender of last resort, but he doesn’t want to bail out all of Wall Street.
Mr. Geithner: "The hardest thing in this balance now is to try to do something that doesn’t increase the incentives so that we become the counterparty to everybody.”

“We’re trying to make sure that it’s a backstop, but not a backstop that’s so attractive that they come, and that’s going to be a very hard line to walk.”  View Transcript »
William Dudley, the official overseeing markets at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, gives his view of the demise of Bear Stearns at the same meeting.
Mr. Dudley: “In my view, an old-fashioned bank run is what really led to Bear Stearns’s demise.”  View Transcript »
There is humor, of sorts, at the meeting:
Mr. Plosser:Like everyone else, I am very concerned about the developments in the financial markets. I’ve been supportive of the steps we’ve taken to enhance liquidity in the markets through the TAF, the TSLF, the PDCF or whatever.” 
Mr. Bernanke: “AEIOU.” 
Tim Geithner: “Don’t say IOU.” [Laughter] 
And Richard Fisher of the Dallas Fed cites his drinking habits in comments about inflation:
Mr. Fisher: “Most distressing to me was Anheuser-Busch, since I am a beer lover. The cost of input of hops and barley has gone up three and a half percent.” 
April 30
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. cuts rates by another 25 basis points to 2 percent, but this time it indicates that it's done for now. Officials think they've done enough to arrest the crisis and stave off recession. They predict modest growth during 2008 and faster growth in 2009.
In early 2008, Ms. Yellen is known as one of the most pessimistic members of the Fed’s policy making committee, but even she is way off in her estimates of the magnitude of what is coming. At the Fed’s two-day meeting in late April, she shows her concern.
Ms. Yellen: "The Fed’s internal projections represent “one of the most pessimistic economic forecasts; yet I find its recessionary projection quite plausible and see downside risks that could take the economy well below that forecast.”  View Transcript »
At the same time, though, Ms. Yellen was not envisioning a long recession. She said that while the first half of 2008 would likely see no economic growth, in the second half she was expecting growth of 1.5 percent. That view that ended up being far too rosy, as was her assessment, at the time, that “the likelihood of a severe financial panic has diminished." Part of the reason for her note of optimism, was her faith in the power of government stimulus.
Ms. Yellen: “Of course, there is considerable uncertainty about assessing the potential size of these effects. But over the next few months as the checks go out and the retail sales reports come in, we should get a pretty quick preliminary read on how things are shaping up.”  View Transcript »
May – August
A Summer Lull
For a time it seems the worst of the crisis is over. The Fed stops cutting interest rates and starts worrying about inflation. But the housing finance system continues to break down, forcing the government to create a rescue plan for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and demand for the Fed's emergency loans continues to rise as the ripples spread inexorably.
June 25
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. lets interest rates stand.
July 11
The Office of Thrift Supervision closes IndyMac Bank, the first large bank failure of the financial crisis.  Regulators Seize Mortgage Lender »
July 13
The Fed extends its safety net to include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, authorizing the housing finance companies to borrow money if necessary. The same day, the Treasury Department announces a temporary increase in its support for the companies. Officials emphasize that no rescue will be necessary.  Treasury Acts to Save Mortgage Giants »
July 24
emergency meeting With the strain on financial markets mounting once again, Mr. Bernanke convenes the Fed's first emergency meeting since March. The Fed moves to expand both its domestic and international lending programs.
While the summer months seem like a lull in retrospect, strains in the financial system are building and Mr. Bernanke is pushing for new action by the Fed to relieve the pressure. There are qualms among policy makers about how far to go cushion big banks and other financial institutions, but Mr. Bernanke argues that the Fed's actions are absolutely necessary.
Mr. Bernanke: "I think that, in the absence of our facilities, the risks of systemic problems would be much higher. I think it is useful for us to give a time frame, to provide some sense of assurance to market participants that, if conditions remain stressed, there will be these backups."  View Transcript »
July 30
President Bush signs into law the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which authorizes the Treasury to purchase government-sponsored enterprise obligations and puts the regulatory supervision of the G.S.E.s (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) under a new Federal Housing Finance Agency.  Bush Signs Sweeping Housing Bill »
Aug. 5
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. holds interest rates steady. It frets that inflationary pressures are building. Three of the regional reserve banks want to raise interest rates.
September – October
Past the Tipping Point
How did the financial system break down? Slowly, and then all at once. The Fed, in conjunction with Treasury Department officials, does not prevent the failure of Lehman Brothers, then decides at the last moment to bail out the giant insurer American International Group. While making these ad hoc decisions, it continues to rapidly expand its role as the new source of funding for domestic and international lenders. Mr. Bernanke will say later that during these months, the economy was on the brink of a second Great Depression.
Sept. 7
The Federal Housing Finance Agency places Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in government conservatorship.  In Rescue to Stabilize Lending, U.S. Takes Over Mortgage Finance Titans »
Sept. 15
Lehman Brothers files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection; Bank of America buys Merrill Lynch.  Lehman Files for Bankruptcy; Merrill Is Sold »
Sept. 16
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. continues to hold steady on rates. Most Fed officials say they still believe the economy is growing, still predict it will grow in the final months of 2008 and grow more quickly in 2009. And they still fret that inflation is rising.
Within hours of Lehman’s collapse, the debate begins over whether the decision to let it fail has been the right one. It’s a debate that rages to this day, on Wall Street, in Washington and in academia. Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Fed, raises it one day after Lehman's bankruptcy filing.
Mr. Rosengren: “I think it’s too soon to know whether what we did with Lehman is right. But we took a calculated bet.”  View Transcript »
Worries are mounting that the crisis is spreading overseas quickly. Strains are already evident in Northern Europe, as Norway moves to protect its banking system, and Iceland’s highly levered banking system approaches collapse. The Bank of England, Switzerland’s central bank, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan all need help. Just a minute or so into the meeting, Mr. Bernanke issues a warning.
Mr. Bernanke: "There are very significant problems with dollar funding in other jurisdictions — in Europe and elsewhere."  View Transcript »
The answer is to create so-called swap lines, enabling foreign banks to quickly obtain dollar funding from the Fed. But Mr. Bernanke wants to know how much. The answer, according to Mr. Dudley, is a lot.
Mr. Dudley: “The numbers have to be very, very large, or it should be open-ended. I would suggest that open-ended is better because then you really do provide a backstop for the entire market.”  View Transcript »
But not every Fed policy maker is so eager to rush to aid overseas central banks, especially in Europe. Jeffrey M. Lacker, president of the Richmond Fed, wonders whether foreign institutions couldn’t use their own dollar reserves, rather than immediately benefit from the Fed’s largess.
Mr. Lacker: “Broadly, I’m uncomfortable with our playing that role."  View Transcript »
Ms. Yellen has developed a reputation for forecasting the recession in 2008, when she gave a cheeky indication of the sort of evidence she was looking at in her posting at the Fed’s San Francisco regional bank. She said she was noticing “widespread” cutbacks in spending on discretionary items popular in California. She expands on these remarks at the Sept. 16 meeting.
Ms. Yellen: "East Bay plastic surgeons and dentists note that patients are deferring elective procedures.” (Laughter) "Reservations are no longer necessary at many high-end restaurants. And the Silicon Valley Country Club, with a $250,000 entrance fee and seven- to eight-year waiting list, has seen the number of would-be new members shrink to a mere 13.” (Laughter)  View Transcript »
Sept. 16
Immediately after the policy meeting, a smaller group of Fed officials convenes and determines to rescue the American International Group, an insurance company that has become a central player in the housing finance system. The initial investment is $85 billion.  Fed’s $85 Billion Loan Rescues Insurer »
Sept. 18
The Fed announces a big expansion of its swap lines with the European Central Bank as well as the central banks of Switzerland, Japan, Canada and England, at 3 a.m., timed to beat the opening of European markets. Later in the day, Mr. Bernanke goes to Capitol Hill to back the administration's plan to bail out the domestic financial industry. He warns that the economy is on the verge of collapsing into a second Great Depression.  Vast Bailout by U.S. Proposed in Bid to Stem Financial Crisis »
Sept. 21
The Federal Reserve Board authorizes the two surviving major investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, to become bank holding companies, ending an era in American finance.  Shift for Goldman and Morgan Marks the End of an Era »
Sept. 24
The Fed establishes new swap lines with the Reserve Bank of Australia as well as with the central banks of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.  Federal Reserve Board Press Release »
Sept. 25
The Office of Thrift Supervision closes Washington Mutual Bank. JPMorgan Chase acquires the banking operations of Washington Mutual.  Government Seizes WaMu and Sells Some Assets »
Sept. 29
emergency meeting The Fed approves a further expansion of its swaps with foreign central banks, and extends the program through April 2009. Later that day, Congress rejects the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, sending markets into a tailspin.
Two weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the international shock waves are still building. Although swap lines to help central banks overseas cope with the crisis were discussed at the Sept. 16 meeting and are in place, participants in a conference call on Sept. 29 realize much more money is needed to calm the market. Some officials, like Charles L. Evans, president of the Chicago Fed, wonder about the risks.
Mr. Evans: "Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’d just like to review by asking a question. The swap lines are very large now. Could we review what could go wrong for our balance sheet in a not-so-pleasant scenario?"  View Transcript »
Oct. 3
Upon reflection, Congress passes and President Bush signs into law the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which establishes the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Wells Fargo announces that it will buy Wachovia, the largest bank to disappear during the crisis.  Bailout Plan Wins Approval; Democrats Vow Tighter Rules »
Oct. 7
Once again widening its safety net, the Fed announces it will ensure that non-financial companies can continue to find financing by creating the Commercial Paper Funding Facility.  Fed Announces Plan to Buy Short-Term Debt »
Oct. 7
emergency meeting On another evening conference call, the F.O.M.C. cuts rates by 50 basis points to 1.5 percent in an action coordinated with other central banks, citing the deterioration of financial markets. The moves are announced the next morning at 7 a.m.
Despite the best efforts of the Fed since the collapse of Lehman in mid-September, financial markets remain in free fall in October, and bank stocks are especially weak. Credit is tightening for even the biggest banks, and lenders are getting nervous about providing funds for one another. In other words, the glue of the financial system is coming undone, but Fed officials struggle to figure out why.
Mr. Dudley: "The markets didn’t take as much solace as I would have hoped, given the degree of escalation of those provisions." 
Mr. Lacker: "So what would it have looked like for them to have taken much solace? I mean, what prices and quantities would change?"  View Transcript »
Oct. 11
The Fed removes the size limits on its swap lines with the European Central Bank, as well as with the central banks of Switzerland, Japan and the Britain.  Federal Reserve Board Press Release »
Oct. 13
The government summons the chief executives of nine large banks to Washington, where they are told that they will be bailed out. With the talk of a bank rescue package in the United States, and central banks around the world finally moving more aggressively and in concert, Wall Street begins to rally. The Dow Jones industrial averages jumps 936 points, or 11 percent, the largest one-day gain since the 1930s. Overseas markets also surged.  U.S. Investing $250 Billion in Banks »
Oct. 29
By late October, the worldwide depth and impact of the crisis has become apparent to all, and the decision to let Lehman fail is drawing intense criticism in Europe in particular. 
Oct. 29
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. cuts rates by another 50 basis points to 1 percent. “The pace of economic activity appears to have slowed markedly," it says. The committee also authorizes a new round of swap lines with New Zealand, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico and Singapore.
Within the privacy of the F.O.M.C. meeting, Mr. Geithner places some blame on Congress for making matters worse. He is presumably referring to the House’s vote against the Troubled Asset Relief Program at the end of September. Congress approved the program a few days later. But Mr. Geithner says the initial vote hurt.
Mr. Geithner: “Look particularly at the damage to confidence created by the Congress’s actions in the weeks after the legislation was first proposed.”  View Transcript »
Ms. Yellen also offers her views on the government bailouts. While she says she strongly supports the efforts to prop up the banking system, she adds that it is not nearly enough. In tune with many critics of the government bailouts, Ms.Yellen says ordinary Americans also need help.
Ms. Yellen: “We are fighting an uphill battle against falling home prices, an economy in recession and collapsing confidence. It is not clear whether these steps will reopen credit flows to households and businesses, especially those with less than sterling credit.”  View Transcript »
At a time when many at the Fed are wary of stimulus packages, Ms. Yellen’s concerns lead her to argue for more:
Ms. Yellen: “Given the seriousness of the situation, I believe that we should put as much stimulus into the system as we can as soon as we can.”  View Transcript »
November – December
Start of a New Era
With the financial system on life support — although not yet stabilized — the Fed begins to turn its attention to the longer-term project of reviving the economy. It inaugurates the two strategies that remain at the core of that effort more than five years later, reducing short-term interest rates nearly to zero and starting to pile up mortgage bonds and Treasuries.
Nov. 18
Executives of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler testify before Congress, requesting access to TARP for federal loans.  Detroit Chiefs Plead for Aid »
Nov. 23
The Treasury Department, Federal Reserve Board and F.D.I.C. announce an agreement with Citigroup to provide a package of guarantees, liquidity access and capital.  Citigroup to Halt Dividend and Curb Pay »
Nov. 25
The Fed announces it will buy up to $100 billion in debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and up to $500 billion in securities issued by the two companies, as it seeks to halt the collapse of the housing finance system.  Federal Reserve Board Press Release »
Dec. 10
The Fed's loans to foreign central banks peak at $580 billion. 
Dec. 11
The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research announces that the economy has been in a recession since December 2007.  National Bureau of Economic Research »
Dec. 16
scheduled meeting The F.O.M.C. announces that it will reduce its benchmark interest rate to zero for the first time since the Great Depression. The move exhausts the Fed's primary means of stimulating the economy, and it immediately begins to experiment with a new approach, declaring its intent to keep rates near zero "for some time."
With the real economy buckling and signs of free-fall in evidence, policy-makers, at the final meeting of the year, begin to contemplate cutting short-term interest rates to what they term the “zero bound.” Mr. Bernanke acknowledges the usual policies that worked in the past aren’t working – in fact, this time is so different that a new approach is needed.
Mr. Bernanke: “As you know, we are at a historic juncture — both for the U.S. economy and for the Federal Reserve. The financial and economic crisis is severe despite extraordinary efforts not only by the Federal Reserve but also by other policy makers here and around the world. With respect to monetary policy, we are at this point moving away from the standard interest rate targeting approach and, of necessity, moving toward new approaches.”  View Transcript »
While the macroeconomic outlook remains “gloomy,” there is still room for humor as policy makers discuss the impact of the crisis on high-yield bonds, and whether experts can look to the Great Depression as a guide. Cue a reference to Michael Milken, widely cited for popularizing so-called junk bonds on Wall Street in the 1980s, but ultimately jailed for securities violations.
Mr. Bullard: "Do we know? Was there something like a junk market in the Great Depression that we can compare this with?" 
Mr. Dudley: "Well, there were certain leveraged utility companies that you could argue were pretty junky." 
Mr. Fisher: "Corporate grade became junk in the Great Depression." 
Mr. Bernanke: "Michael Milken hadn’t been born yet." [Laughter]  View Transcript »

Friday, September 26, 2014

Salton Sea VII

Atlantic: Masters of Love by Emily Esfahani Smith

More in Health Next Article
Masters of Love
Emily Esfahani Smith Jun 12 2014, 11:00 AM ET
| Join the Conversation  "Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. 'My bounty is as boundless as the sea,' says Shakespeare’s Juliet.  'My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.'"

Every day in June, the most popular wedding month of the year, about 13,000 American couples will say “I do,” committing to a lifelong relationship that will be full of friendship, joy, and love that will carry them forward to their final days on this earth.

Except, of course, it doesn’t work out that way for most people. The majority of marriages fail, either ending in divorce and separation or devolving into bitterness and dysfunction. Of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in healthy, happy marriages, as psychologist Ty Tashiro points out in his book The Science of Happily Ever After, which was published earlier this year.

Social scientists first started studying marriages by observing them in action in the 1970s in response to a crisis: Married couples were divorcing at unprecedented rates. Worried about the impact these divorces would have on the children of the broken marriages, psychologists decided to cast their scientific net on couples, bringing them into the lab to observe them and determine what the ingredients of a healthy, lasting relationship were. Was each unhappy family unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy claimed, or did the miserable marriages all share something toxic in common?

Psychologist John Gottman was one of those researchers. For the past four decades, he has studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. I recently had the chance to interview Gottman and his wife Julie, also a psychologist, in New York City. Together, the renowned experts on marital stability run The Gottman Institute, which is devoted to helping couples build and maintain loving, healthy relationships based on scientific studies.

John Gottman began gathering his most critical findings in 1986, when he set up “The Love Lab” with his colleague Robert Levenson at the University of Washington. Gottman and Levenson brought newlyweds into the lab and watched them interact with each other. With a team of researchers, they hooked the couples up to electrodes and asked the couples to speak about their relationship, like how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and a positive memory they had. As they spoke, the electrodes measured the subjects' blood flow, heart rates, and how much they sweat they produced. Then the researchers sent the couples home and followed up with them six years later to see if they were still together.

From the data they gathered, Gottman separated the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages. When the researchers analyzed the data they gathered on the couples, they saw clear differences between the masters and disasters. The disasters looked calm during the interviews, but their physiology, measured by the electrodes, told a different story. Their heart rates were quick, their sweat glands were active, and their blood flow was fast. Following thousands of couples longitudinally, Gottman found that the more physiologically active the couples were in the lab, the quicker their relationships deteriorated over time.

But what does physiology have to do with anything? The problem was that the disasters showed all the signs of arousal—of being in fight-or-flight mode—in their relationships. Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger. Even when they were talking about pleasant or mundane facets of their relationships, they were prepared to attack and be attacked. This sent their heart rates soaring and made them more aggressive toward each other. For example, each member of a couple could be talking about how their days had gone, and a highly aroused husband might say to his wife, “Why don’t you start talking about your day. It won’t take you very long.”

The masters, by contrast, showed low physiological arousal. They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It’s not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

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Stressful Relationships vs. Isolation: The Battle for Our Lives

Gottman wanted to know more about how the masters created that culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it. In a follow-up study in 1990, he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat. He invited 130 newlywed couples to spend the day at this retreat and watched them as they did what couples normally do on vacation: cook, clean, listen to music, eat, chat, and hang out. And Gottman made a critical discovery in this study—one that gets at the heart of why some relationships thrive while others languish.

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.
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People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t—those who turned away—would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”

These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.

* * *

By observing these types of interactions, Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples—straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not—will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there. People who give their partner the cold shoulder—deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally—damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner's ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.

Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.” That’s how kindness works too: there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.
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There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.

“If your partner expresses a need,” explained Julie Gottman, “and you are tired, stressed, or distracted, then the generous spirit comes in when a partner makes a bid, and you still turn toward your partner.”

In that moment, the easy response may be to turn away from your partner and focus on your iPad or your book or the television, to mumble “Uh huh” and move on with your life, but neglecting small moments of emotional connection will slowly wear away at your relationship. Neglect creates distance between partners and breeds resentment in the one who is being ignored.

The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.

“Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger,” Julie Gottman explained, “but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.”

John Gottman elaborated on those spears: “Disasters will say things differently in a fight. Disasters will say ‘You’re late. What’s wrong with you? You’re just like your mom.’ Masters will say ‘I feel bad for picking on you about your lateness, and I know it’s not your fault, but it’s really annoying that you’re late again.’”

* * *

For the hundreds of thousands of couples getting married this month—and for the millions of couples currently together, married or not—the lesson from the research is clear: If you want to have a stable, healthy relationship, exercise kindness early and often.

When people think about practicing kindness, they often think about small acts of generosity, like buying each other little gifts or giving one another back rubs every now and then. While those are great examples of generosity, kindness can also be built into the very backbone of a relationship through the way partners interact with each other on a day-to-day basis, whether or not there are back rubs and chocolates involved.

One way to practice kindness is by being generous about your partner’s intentions. From the research of the Gottmans, we know that disasters see negativity in their relationship even when it is not there. An angry wife may assume, for example, that when her husband left the toilet seat up, he was deliberately trying to annoy her. But he may have just absent-mindedly forgotten to put the seat down.
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Or say a wife is running late to dinner (again), and the husband assumes that she doesn’t value him enough to show up to their date on time after he took the trouble to make a reservation and leave work early so that they could spend a romantic evening together. But it turns out that the wife was running late because she stopped by a store to pick him up a gift for their special night out. Imagine her joining him for dinner, excited to deliver her gift, only to realize that he’s in a sour mood because he misinterpreted what was motivating her behavior. The ability to interpret your partner’s actions and intentions charitably can soften the sharp edge of conflict.

“Even in relationships where people are frustrated, it’s almost always the case that there are positive things going on and people trying to do the right thing,” psychologist Ty Tashiro told me. “A lot of times, a partner is trying to do the right thing even if it’s executed poorly. So appreciate the intent.”

Another powerful kindness strategy revolves around shared joy. One of the telltale signs of the disaster couples Gottman studied was their inability to connect over each other’s good news. When one person in the relationship shared the good news of, say, a promotion at work with excitement, the other would respond with wooden disinterest by checking his watch or shutting the conversation down with a comment like, “That’s nice.”

We’ve all heard that partners should be there for each other when the going gets rough. But research shows that being there for each other when things go right is actually more important for relationship quality. How someone responds to a partner’s good news can have dramatic consequences for the relationship.

In one study from 2006, psychological researcher Shelly Gable and her colleagues brought young adult couples into the lab to discuss recent positive events from their lives. They psychologists wanted to know how partners would respond to each other’s good news. They found that, in general, couples responded to each other’s good news in four different ways that they called: passive destructive, active destructive, passive constructive, and active constructive.

Let’s say that one partner had recently received the excellent news that she got into medical school. She would say something like “I got into my top choice med school!”

If her partner responded in a passive destructive manner, he would ignore the event. For example, he might say something like: “You wouldn’t believe the great news I got yesterday! I won a free t-shirt!”

If her partner responded in a passive constructive way, he would acknowledge the good news, but in a half-hearted, understated way. A typical passive constructive response is saying “That’s great, babe” as he texts his buddy on his phone.

In the third kind of response, active destructive, the partner would diminish the good news his partner just got: “Are you sure you can handle all the studying? And what about the cost? Med school is so expensive!”
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Finally, there’s active constructive responding. If her partner responded in this way, he stopped what he was doing and engaged wholeheartedly with her: “That’s great! Congratulations! When did you find out? Did they call you? What classes will you take first semester?”

Among the four response styles, active constructive responding is the kindest. While the other response styles are joy-killers, active constructive responding allows the partner to savor her joy and gives the couple an opportunity to bond over the good news. In the parlance of the Gottmans, active constructive responding is a way of “turning toward” your partners bid (sharing the good news) rather than “turning away” from it.

Active constructive responding is critical for healthy relationships. In the 2006 study, Gable and her colleagues followed up with the couples two months later to see if they were still together. The psychologists found that the only difference between the couples who were together and those who broke up was active constructive responding. Those who showed genuine interest in their partner’s joys were more likely to be together. In an earlier study, Gable found that active constructive responding was also associated with higher relationship quality and more intimacy between partners.

There are many reasons why relationships fail, but if you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it’s often a breakdown of kindness. As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward.
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Emily Esfahani Smith is a writer based in New Haven, Connecticut. She is the Manners and Morals columnist at The New Criterion, managing editor of the Hoover Institution's Defining Ideas, and editor of Acculturated.
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Thursday, September 25, 2014

omG: U.S. Marines chant: 'There's no God like Jehovah!' - Allen West: 'Singing is going to drive the secular humanists INSANE' by Chelsea Schilling

A video of U.S. Marines singing, dancing and worshiping God at Camp Pendleton in California is going viral on Facebook, prompting retired Lt. Col. Allen West to revel in the display he says will “drive the secular humanists INSANE.”
In the video a crowd of Marines sings “Days of Elijah,” a Christian worship song, while raising their hands in the air and shouting, “Oorah!” The troops were attending a Christian worship service at the military base in San Diego County, California.
Some of the lyrics include:
These are the days of Elijah
Declaring the word of the Lord, yeah
And these are the days of Your servant, Moses
Righteousness being restored
These are the days of great trials
Of famine and darkness and sword
Still we are the voice in the desert crying
Prepare ye the way of the Lord!
Today’s WND Poll: OORAH! Sound off on Marines singing ‘There’s no God like Jehovah!’
On Sept. 15, a woman named Merrie Pardee Baldwin posted the video on Facebook, where it had been shared nearly 400,000 times at the time of this report. Baldwin wrote, “Participatory worship. I love how excited the men get to sing this song &; the camaraderie.”
Inspired by the video, West tweeted, “Oohrah! This video of Marines singing is going to drive the secular humanists INSANE.”
Baldwin posted a second video of the Marines singing to the popular Christian song, “Oceans.”
On his website,, West wrote, “Oh boy, this here video is surely going to send the head chucklehead of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Mikey Weinstein, into a apoplectic state of frothing hysteria. And you can imagine that the leadership of the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation is running about gnashing their teeth and tearing at their clothes.”
WND managing editor and “How Evil Works” author David Kupelian also commented: “It’s been said that it takes a religion to fight a religion. With the butchers of ISIS daily proclaiming that they are inspired, motivated and directed by their insane religion, it’s great to see members of the U.S. military proclaiming their faithfulness to the one true God.”