Friday, December 2, 2016

Not Great, not Holy, not Conciliar, not Orthodox

The Bulgarian Patriarchate didn't use the term "ludicrous," but they might as well have.

As a refresher, I previously posted on the proposed pan-Orthodox Synod, a conciliar, authoritative meeting of all the Church's Patriarchs, here and here. With characteristic prescience, I observed that the only issue that actually mattered--the status of the so-called "diaspora" Churches"--was all but absent from the Council's agenda, and there was no consensus on this and other ecclesiological disputes. Theologically, the Faith was declared at the culmination of the Seventh Council, so there is nothing left to talk about there. Hence, the Council's work product was simply a collection of aspirational statements on matters outside the Tradition, which a number of hierarchs refused to endorse. The Council made no attempt to address Antioch's concerns over Greek incursions into its territories, the Orthodox Church in America was shamefully ignored, and zero progress was made on the status of the Churches in the New World. Four venerable, autocephalous jurisdictions refused to participate, which should have shut down the Council ab initio.

What are the broader lessons, for people not concerned with Orthodox Christian minutiae?

1. Sovereignty: Don't let your reach exceed your grasp. The Greek Patriarch, the (post-Schism) First Among Equals, commanded his brothers to listen and attend. Four of his brothers told him to go pound sand, which means he is no longer the First Among Equals. I do not envy the Greek Patriarch.

Everybody wants to be the He Who Answers To Nobody. There are a lucky few in that category, but the instant they have to reiterate that they are the sovereign, Sovereignty starts slipping from their fingers. +Bartholomew declared his sovereignty; four brothers said no. That's it; he's not sovereign. Hillary ranted and raved; she couldn't de-legitimize the process that gives the Electoral College to Trump. She's no more Sovereign than the rejected job applicant.

2. Substance: Focus on what matters. Everybody wants peace, harmony and good will, but human affairs return endlessly to the question of Who gets to live Where, and run the Institutions. A few vestigial Greeks run Alexandria and Jerusalem, but the actual Egyptians became Copts, and the Jerusalemites are increasingly restive Arabophones. Everybody says, "There is neither Jew (ha!) nor Greek," but nobody acts like it. Canonically, a single hierarch should be presiding over the territory of the United States. The facts on the ground are the OCA, the Antiochians, and the Greeks have staked out their respective territories and remittances, and nobody but nobody is going to change that. Why is this? Why do people return always to a Liturgy with which they feel culturally compatible? There may be a non-prescriptive solution.

I tried to come up with an elegant trinity of points but really, this is all there is.

Friday, November 25, 2016


The modern world tells us, always and everywhere, that bigger is better: GDP must continually grow; cities must perforce become higher density, and literally higher; globalism good/nationalism bad. Greater efficiencies can only result from growth.

Huh. I haven't heard about that last one so much.

Over 5.7 million people live in Atlanta and its metropolitan area. We are in the middle of a building boom. More people, more jobs, and more luxury cars than I can ever remember seeing in my lifetime. Atlanta also has a sales tax of eight cents on the dollar. On November 8, voters approved an increase to 8.9 cents on the dollar.

For MARTA, Atlanta Beltline, a TSPLOST-boosted future is looking bright--Officials promise that $2.8 billion is coming for a more livable, functional Atlanta

I voted against the sales tax increase because I figure with an 8% sales tax and thousands of people moving in, you can find the money for infrastructure somewhere. If you're interested, you can get a copy of the City of Atlanta budget for FY 2017 here. I'll summarize: the City is rolling in dough. And like just about any other enterprise, personnel is the biggest expenditure. Most of this projected $2.8 billion will go not toward actual infrastructure, but to the human resource and logistical tail for infrastructure.

So it seems that even with more people moving in and paying property and sales taxes, the City must still raise rates because it has to pay more people and build more infrastructure to manage its growth. Unit costs are going up, not down. Diseconomy of scale.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Graphic content

Friend of the blog Porter posted some reflections on the spectacle of African migrants mistaking a Tunisian fishing vessel for a European "coast guard," that being those ships deployed off the African coast to guard against foreign invaders not getting to sufficient depth for rescue for subsidized, purposeless existence in Europe.

Apparently, the migrant's method is to steer these inflatable, ludicrously over-sized dinghies with an outboard smaller than a bass boat's a few miles off the coast, get in sight of one of these ironically named coast guards, then scuttle the boat to guilt Europeans into rescuing your sorry ass. In the following video, things go horribly awry when African migrants mistake a Tunisian commercial fishing vessel and its crew for people who actually give a shit.

The end result is Africans bobbing lifelessly in the Mediterranean like lemmings in a flood, unmourned, uncelebrated, unburied.

Now, contrast sympathy for these drowning Africans with the bemused insouciance of the Tunisian chronicler, recording the carnage from the spotless, uncrowded deck of his employer's boat. The narrator films the dinghy's approach, its deliberate gutting, and raises his voice tepidly at the migrants trying to scramble up the hull. He then wanders below, presumably to alert his utterly indifferent countrymen to this unfolding tragedy, then strolls back up, across the impeccable decks, under the unlowered lifeboat, the better to point out bodies in their death throes. Insh'allah my friends, life is a bitch and then you die.

There is plenty of journalistic firepower being deployed on the Refugee Crisis but one aspect I don't hear much about is what happens on dry land at the actual borders of, say, Tunisia. I suspect it involves weapons and terse commands as opposed to cell phones and languid gestures, and Europe's future neurosurgeons either flee from a gauntlet of rifles and billy clubs or, if they have sufficient baksheesh, are cynically spirited to the coast to go be someone else's problem.

Actually, we do know some details of this human tidal wave from the New York Times' own Tom Friedman, back in April 2016:

(Apologies for the .jpeg format. The NYT doesn't like its content copied.)

Friedman blames, what else, "climate change" even as he observes but does not perceive the high time-preference, the fatalism, and the polygamy that generate these waves upon waves of surplus men. He even acknowledges--one gets the sense, grudgingly--the solution staring everybody in the face: improve local conditions. Of course, Friedman again observes but does not perceive the cycle of Africa's doom loop: modern crop yields and Western medicine enable large families; large families mean more slash-and-burn; more slash-and-burn erodes away or de-nutrifies through lack of stewardship; the resulting scarcity drives migration. Lather, rinse, repeat.

On this day, I'm thankful to be the product of K-selection, and pray to God we have the good sense to keep r-selection away, behind walls and across oceans, where it can work itself out in its own fashion.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Everybody always ends up agreeing with me

Georgetown political science professor Joshua Mitchell, via Marginal Revolution:
There is another reason why the Republican Party could not contain Trump, a perhaps deeper reason. Michael Oakeshott, an under-read political thinker in the mid-20th century, remarked in his exquisite essay, “Rationalism in Politics,” that one of the more pathological notions of our age is that political life can be understood in terms of “principles” that must be applied to circumstances. Politics-as-engineering, if you will. Republicans themselves succumbed to this notion, and members of the rank and file have noticed. Republicans stood for “the principles of the constitution,” for “the principles of the free market,” etc. The problem with standing for principles is that it allows you to remain unsullied by the political fray, to stand back and wait until yet another presidential election cycle when “our principles” can perhaps be applied. And if we lose, it’s OK, because we still have “our principles.” What Trump has been able to seize upon is growing dissatisfaction with this endless deferral, the sociological arrangement for which looks like comfortable Inside-the-Beltway Republicans defending “principles” and rank-and-file Republicans far from Washington-Babylon watching in horror and disgust.
And, I'd add, that pointing and spluttering in horror and disgust explicitly adopts the terminology and moral framework of the Left. Operationally, "conservatism" is not actually conservative.

Since at least the Great Society Democrats have been telling their constituents, “Here’s what liberalism can do for you.” Republicans seem to endlessly ask their constituents what can they do for conservatism (“Donate to my think tank!” “Buy my magazine!” “Vote for me!” “Sign up for this war!”). Their (overwhelmingly white) base duly votes for the Republican’s limited government-fiscal prudence-meritocracy platform, then watches as government, budget deficits, and political correctness all increase. Nothing the base voted for is actually accomplished, and the perception is these platitudes are being mouthed solely to get comfortable sinecures.

Immigration exposed this cozy scam. Immigration is extremely problematic for proletarian and petit bourgeois communities. But the same people who left the Democratic party to vote for Reagan have to listen as people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham call them bigots for not wanting their voting power and economic clout diluted and their children made strangers in their own country. When the battle lines started getting drawn, the Republican leadership proudly linked arms with the Democrats and did the bidding of their donor class. Donald Trump spotted that disconnect-–an electoral $100 bill lying on the floor–-and like the ruthless Scots-Irish businessman he is, grabbed it in both fists. He made his campaign all about, “Here’s what I’m going to do for you,” and rode it to ultimate victory.

Any of the other Republican candidates could have done that, but they didn’t. This was vindication of the Sailer Strategy: if you want conservative electoral victory, you need to support conservatively-inclined people. Affordable Family Formation: keep the land cheap and the wages high, because that’s what gets families started and married people with children tend to incline conservative. This may require abandonment on occasion of precious, precious principle but like the Democrats realize, this isn’t about principle, it’s about winning. That’s how they captured the institutions.

In a diverse society, it’s not what your candidate supports; it’s whether they support you.

I called it, here, and here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"It was fun while it lasted"

From the Z Man:
I’ll head off to vote for the last time in my life tomorrow and I will vote for Trump, even though he has no chance to win my state. It will be the last time we have a chance to vote for someone that is not a nut or a grifter. If Clinton wins, she will amnesty 50 million foreign peasants, creating something close to a one party nation as a result. America will rocket along toward becoming Brazil, if we’re lucky. The crazy bitch could very well start a war with Russia or the Chinese and that could finish us all off.

It was fun while it lasted.
I actually hadn't voted since 1991 when contemplating the choice between old fossil Bob Dole (and his repugnant wife, Nurse Ratched) and Slick Willie, who actually ended up governing as a centrist thanks to a hostile, activist Republican Congress. But in the current year, I registered to vote, and voted for Trump in the Republican primary for reasons I've previously expounded. Trump is the last stand: political and cultural breathing space for America's founding stock, who are the only people who give a shit about things like limited government and property rights.

I started this blog in May 2009 after converting to Orthodox Christianity, and ever since I have been fascinated by the parallels between Orthodoxy and the American State: vibrant institutions with stellar credentials, now struggling to interpret their own founding charters and define themselves in the present milieu. America: a Proposition country, now filling up with Tribal peoples, unable to concede that in fact all men are not created equal. Orthodoxy: awkwardly backflipping around its clearly nationalistic tendencies, even as its growth is concentrated in the Anglosphere's secular democratic States.

Most Americans, like most Orthodox, seem unable to comprehend that the world has changed and the analytical tools they used to understand the world no longer apply. America is no longer a cozy redoubt of English settlers steeped in Blackstone, Locke, and Hume with limitless frontier to the West. Orthodoxy is no longer the binding creed of multicultural Empire, presided over by a despotic Emperor endowed with the Mandate of Heaven.

We are all in uncharted territory. Happily, over the past few months, I am in contact with more people--young, male--who perceive the same problem: things are no longer as they were, and where do we go from here.

John Coffman
Dean Abbot
Mark Citadel

That unprecedented episode in human rule popularly titled the Age Of Reason is drawing to a close, and something is going to replace it, and it could be better for you or worse for you depending on your identity. And all the copies of the Constitution and Federalist Papers won't stop it, not that, again, anybody outside a few aging white people cares about them or reads them.

The Age of Ideology is over.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

We are reaching levels of awesomeness we didn't previously think possible.

The next great Recession looms. Queen Hill may win, and promptly enact a dry-foot/dry-foot immigration policy for all the new Democrats from the Third World. Exotic strains of tuberculosis, pneumococcus may yet ravage us. But at this time and this place, in the Capitol of Capital, Nassim Taleb and Mark Rippetoe are going out for lunch, and we have a glimpse of the world when adults are in charge.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Hard Hat Riot

At 7:30 am on May 8, [1970], several hundred anti-war protesters (most of them high school and college students) began holding a memorial at Broad and Wall Streets for the four dead students at Kent State. By late morning, the protesters—now numbering more than a thousand—had moved to the steps of Federal Hall, gathering in front of the statue of George Washington which tops the steps. The protesters demanded an end to the war in Vietnam and Cambodia, the release of political prisoners in the United States, and an end to military-related research on all university campuses.

At five minutes to noon, about 200 construction workers converged on the student rally at Federal Hall from four directions. Nearly all the construction workers carried American flags and signs that read "All the way, USA" and "America, Love it or Leave it". Their numbers may have been doubled by others who had joined them as they marched toward Federal Hall. A thin and inadequate line of police, who were largely sympathetic to the hardhats' position, formed to separate the construction workers from the anti-war protesters. At first, the construction workers only pushed but did not break through the police line. After two minutes, however, the hardhats broke through the police line and began chasing students through the streets. The workers chose those with the longest hair and beat them with their hard hats and other weapons, including clubs and steel-toe boots. Onlookers reported that the police stood by and did nothing.

Some of the construction workers and counter-protesters moved across City Hall Park toward City Hall. They mounted the steps, planted their flags at the top of the steps, then attempted to gain entrance. Police on duty at City Hall initially barred them, but soon the mob pushed past. A few workers entered the building. A postal worker rushed onto the roof of City Hall and raised the American flag there to full mast. When city workers lowered the flag back down to half-mast, a large number of construction workers stormed past the police. Deputy Mayor Richard Aurelio, fearing the building would be overrun by the mob, ordered city workers to raise the flag back to full mast.

Rioting construction workers also attacked buildings near City Hall; most were of Irish Catholic extraction and some ripped the Red Cross and Episcopal Church flags down from a flagpole at nearby Trinity Church. One group invaded two nearby Pace University buildings, smashing lobby windows with clubs and crowbars and beating up students. More than 70 people were injured, including four policemen. Most of the injured required hospital treatment. Six people were arrested.
Via Wikipedia.

The Hard Hat Riot represented the fundamental break in the Democratic party from class politics to identity politics, currently epitomized by Hillary Clinton's statement:
"Not everything is about an economic theory, right?” Clinton said, kicking off a long, interactive riff with the crowd at a union hall this afternoon.

“If we broke up the big banks tomorrow—and I will if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will—would that end racism?”

“No!” the audience yelled back.

Clinton continued to list scenarios, asking: “Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”
(via AlterNet).

The white working class, which is well represented in the ranks of combat infantry, has a strong patriotic and masculine streak, so when the Democratic Party decided to focus on identity and social justice instead of economic class and labor dynamics, they naturally had to distance themselves from those uncouth Hard Hats. The white working class subsequently elected Ronald Reagan by large electoral majorities.

Forty-six years later, a similar realignment occurs on the Republican side, as prominent conservatives urge their fellows not to vote for Donald Trump.

By way of contrast, here is a typical image from Googling "Trump voters". I doubt they contribute to the American Enterprise Institute or read the Weekly Standard.

The conservatives accuse Trump and his base of "racism," "sexism," "xenophobia," and even "fascism" (an incoherent use of the term). Trump's voters enthusiastically cheer his "America first" foreign policy, a Wall on the southern border, and a ban on Muslim hijrah. As the primary results demonstrated, more of the Republican base agreed with Trump than with any other approved McCandidate. Tax rates and Original Intent don't seem to figure much in their hierarchy of wants.

The opposition to this populist revolt is like nothing I have seen in my life. All of media, government, business, academe, and the think tank archipelago have declared war on Trump. He is attacked without respite, with the Republican establishment and its donors in the vanguard.

This is the second, seismic political re-alignment in my lifetime. As it turns out, people care less about marginal tax rates and whatever it is the 14th Amendment does not empower government to protect, and more about things like the national character, and the endless wars they are tasked with fighting and financing. They don't want a carried interest exemption; they want a country to call their own, and a strongman who'll keep out their enemies. Any of the Establishment's pre-vetted candidates could have promised that, but they didn't. Trump did, and that's why he's the one running for President.

And this brings up another eye-opening phenomenon: the ideological conservatives' effortless adoption of the tactics, terminology, and moral framework of the Left to attack Trump and his voters. And if conservatives adopt the tactics, terminology, and moral framework of the Left, then aren't they really the Left, with the same Progressivist, universalist worldview as their Trotskyite brothers-in-arms?

Conservatism is about conserving a people or it is about nothing, pure and simple.