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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Church and culture


From Opus Publicum, a Catholic blogger.
Having originated in West Michigan myself in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty, I can’t say that I ever witnessed directly the sort of ghetto Catholic existence which might have, for a time, kept alive the spirit of a European Catholic culture. The most my eyes ever caught were glimpses of what that culture looked like from my ageing relatives, their photo albums, and a handful of historical accounts captured in parish memorial books. But on the macro level there has never really been a series of American Catholic writers, artists, and intellectuals who have been able to craft something distinctively Catholic out of the largely Protestant clay they’ve been given to work with. (I can already hear people yelling out the names of Walker Percy and Flannery O’Connor, but at most they’re exceptions to the rule.) Of course Catholics have achieved much in the United States over the course of the last century, but it’s undeniable that many Catholics — including our priests and clergy — are assimilated Americans who just happen, in their free time, to “be Catholic.” Since the Second Vatican Council, American Catholics have gleefully banalized their liturgy, wrecked their churches, and adopted every manner of mainline low-church Protestant (if not Evangelical) “spirituality.” Is it any wonder, then, that there are more than a few Catholics who come across as hopeless romantics as they set their eyes on other lands and other times in order to find something — anything — which might nourish them holistically?
There is no authentically American Catholic culture because the larger society doesn’t agree on what an authentic American is. To the extent Catholic culture in America has been “authentic,” it’s been somebody else’s culture: Irish, Italian, Polish. The Croats in Toronto still work very hard at keeping their Catholic culture Croatian, much as the Maronites and Melkites in my neck of the woods remain determinedly Levantine.

The modern American ideal condemns ethnicity, which is the core of culture. To the extent there was ever an “authentic” American religious expression, it was the old, high church Anglicans/Episcopalians. This makes sense, because for decades the dominant American ethnicity was Anglo. Since then, the levellers made sure all those snooty WASPs were thoroughly exorcised and replaced with women and their homosexual friends, and the WASPs decided to stop reproducing themselves.

Of course, Mormons and low church Protestants have long considered themselves the real titleholders for authentic Anglo-American religious expression, and that’s who’s left at this point.

I’ve watched as a Catholic parish in my neighborhood went from a typically American mix to a Latino one. What used to be a generic parish bazaar is now a Mexican cultural festival, as the “white” members decamped to other parishes.

Good, bad or indifferent, it seems like a universal tendency for people to seek nationalist expression in their religious worship.

By the way, I've been critical of the Orthodox Church's Western Rite but I'm becoming more sympathetic as America's ethno-cultural seams become increasingly strained. I'm just not sure after Henry VIII, Martin Luther, the Enlightenent, French and American revolutions, two Vatican Councils and two world wars that we're able to fumble our way back to an orthodox, Orthodox Western Rite. So, like the Russians in 860 A.D., we go to the back of the line with the Byzantine (or Slavonic?) Rite that's been handed to us and see what develops in a few centuries.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Two inches of snow


Atlanta GA, January 28

I parked my car after eight hours creeping along seven miles of driving distance, then walked the final two miles home. The road was a sheet of ice. A co-worker had a ten-mile hike in 20 degree weather.

When two inches of snow are all it takes to paralyze a metropolitan area of over 5 million people, your society's not well structured.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dark Enlightenment bibliography


From Gates of Vienna.
Why I like the Neoreactionaries

Leave aside the occasional long-windedness, the sometimes plain silly or even outlandishly alarming, the Neoreactionaries appear marked by a curiosity and openness to humanity and its doings that does not stop at barriers erected arbitrarily for whatever reasons.

In short, Neoreactionaries appear to like humans and humanity. This is refreshing, encouraging, and ultimately liberating after experiencing the intense dislike for hominids so often displayed by those who have fixed ideas what and what should not be. I recommend that you linger in the Neoreactionary biotope, soak up its atmosphere, emerge refreshed for battles and wars to come.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

More on ROCOR and the EA


From Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy.
On January 15, 2014, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) clarified its vision for the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. This came in the form of an epistle from Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco, acting as the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops of the ROCOR to Archbishop Demetrios, chairman of the Assembly of Bishops. This letter was subsequently posted to the official ROCOR website. Before we analyze the contents of the letter, some background is necessary.

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops is an institution established out of the decision of the 4th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference, convoked in Chambésy, Switzerland in 2009. Among many tasks, the Assembly of Bishops is charged with “The preparation of a plan to organize the Orthodox of the Region on a canonical basis” (Rules of Operation of Episcopal Assemblies, Article 5). This plan was agreed to by all fourteen Autocephalous Churches, including Moscow, based on their desire for ”the swift healing of every canonical anomaly that has arisen from historical circumstances and pastoral requirements.” Pursuant to this goal, in the 2013 meeting of the Assembly of Bishops, the Committee for Regional Canonical Planning presented a Proposal for Canonical Restructuring of the Orthodox Church in the USA, followed by lengthy discussion with the bishops. The centerpiece of this proposal is the restructuring of the various Orthodox jurisdictions so that no bishop’s territory overlaps another’s, according to apostolic custom: one bishop in one city. Some of the details of this proposal were presented by Protodeacon Peter Danilchick in Cleveland in November of 2013.

In responding to this, admittedly ambitious, proposal, the epistle from ROCOR to the Episcopal Assembly makes a bold claim, namely:

"...we cannot and do not consider… that the present situation of multiple Sister Churches tending to the diverse needs of the flock in the unique cultural situation of North America is, of itself, a violation of canonical order."

Put simply, ROCOR does not believe that the overlapping dioceses are a violation of canonical order but rather that there are other violations of canons which must be the primary task of the Assembly, especially

"...the conducting of inter-faith marriages; the practices of reception into the Church; divergent approaches to fasting; issues of confession and preparation for Holy Communion; the release and reception of clergy; etc."

There is probably more going on here than meets the eye. The Antiochians' Metropolitan Phillip, for example, has always criticized the nascent Episcopal Assemblies, noting that an earlier, identical assembly, the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, has never been dissolved. The Episcopal Assemblies are purportedly mandated by a pan-Orthodox council of Orthodox hierarchs meeting in, of all places, Chambesy, Switzerland. (I perceive, but do not know that this council is mostly Greek. The current Antiochian Patriarch +John was one of its members.)

Having seen a number of comments from ROCOR members, I think this is less about ethnicity and more about avoiding domination by a Byzantine nationalist movement which exists way more outside of the former Byzantine territory than in it. (So I guess this really is about ethnicity.) In addition, the ROCOR clerics seem concerned about the relaxed praxis of their companion jurisdictions in the Americas. Bottom line, the Slavs and the Antiochians are not going to go gentle into that good, Hellenist night.

More fundamentally, this is a problem that cannot be resolved in the current framework because the Church's ecclesiology is based on the Roman Empire of Late Antiquity rather than extant reality. The traditional Pentarchy of Rome, Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria is nothing more than the regional and administrative centers of the Empire, and including Jerusalem because that's where the Church started and she has the Holy sites. Of course, Constantinople and Antioch no longer exist and Alexandria and Jerusalem are Greek outposts which are not, ahem, particularly representative of their flock.

The Church is simply not "built" for a world where the Empire disappeared a thousand years ago and people can pick up and move someplace else when the fighting starts or the jobs disappear. The Orthodox Church has handicapped herself over 200 years in America because she started diaspora parishes, not missionary parishes.

At the same time, propositional states like the US are not "built" for the Church. Propositional states require a highly centralized State uber alles to clamp down on all the wildly divergent peoples and cajole (or force) them into the dominant secular narrative. From the perspective of such a society, Orthodoxy is not "the Church" but just one of many odd little cults which the State may or may not choose to tolerate, similar to how the old Roman Imperium viewed Judaism and the early Christian Church.

Better minds than me will have to figure out how to resolve this.

What did I just see?

This really is the First Lady.


What's always kind of struck me is how "black" Michelle Obama is and how "white" Barack Obama is, which I truly have no problem with on a personal level. After all, if I were black, I'd be "black" and since I'm white, I'm "white."

Michelle Obama has a mostly black staff and seems somewhat chafed at being in a white man's world (the US Executive branch and its Western counterparts are still very white, masculine places). At the executive level, Barack Obama surrounds himself with white and Jewish men and appoints dowdy old women to important posts. He's also quite uncomfortable around his touchy-feely Vice President and apparently relishes his downtime smoking cigarettes and golfing or playing basketball with his younger, high-g black and white subordinates.

Of course, I'd probably be uncomfortable around the grabby Joe Biden and relish the time hanging with my crew of smart, fit men who are paid to be nice to me in our lavish surroundings as well. I'd also be a little conflicted in the broader sense, after being sired by a Kenyan father who promptly lit out back to Kenya and then dumped by my clueless hippy mother on her white, upper-Midwestern parents.

Overall though, Barack Obama seems to do fine in his elite club of plenipotentiaries, at ease with Kenyans, Indonesians, Danes, English. Michelle Obama on the other hand doesn't appear to be having nearly such a good time.



Friday, January 24, 2014

Gandhian progression


The Dark Enlightenment has reached stage 2.

The Dark Enlightenment a/k/a Neo-Reaction, the Red Pill, Manosphere, Game, etc., is beginning to attract negative attention.

A certain Jamie Bartlett, who is apparently the Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think tank Demos has noticed. (What does this guy actually "direct" and "analyze?")

As has The Institute For Ethics & Emerging Transsexuals Technologies. (Here's a critique from one of the IEET's less mentally ill members.)

Scientist and author David Brin, who writes books about ideal societies ruled by cognitive elites--like him--has condemned Neo-Reaction as fascist and anti-democratic.

Noah Millman at the bizarrely un-American, anti-conservative American Conservative has weighed in.

Now, fat hysterical Mark Shea has waddled into the fray.

From my perspective, the Dark Enlightenment is pissing off all the right sort of people. So its Luminaries (I didn't make the list, by the way) can be assured they're in a good place.

Heavyweights like Bryce LaLiberte and Mencius Moldbug are constructing a systematic intellectual framework. For lighter thinkers like me, the engaging RAMZPAUL has put together a Dark Enlightenment for Dummies.



The bullet points:

1. Not everything unleashed by the Enlightenment was good, hence the "Dark Enlightenment" as a reaction to same.
2. The Cathedral exists as an institutional alliance of Government, Academia and Business to further politically correct dogma and punish heretics. It is, in a real sense, religious and not just ideological.
3. Reality is not what the Cathedral tells us it is.
4. All men are not created equal; people are different in a variety of ways.
5. Democracy is a disaster. When Classical-era Greeks, Gilbert K. Chesterton and the American state's founders praise "democracy," what they are really praising is rule by property-owning men. The universal franchise is a farce and a slow-motion train wreck.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This is what I'm talking about

Libertarian obtuseness.
Both Rothbard and Hoppe discuss an “insurance” model for preventing crime and aggression, which makes sense from a market perspective. Rothbard posits that private police services likely would be provided by insurance companies which already insure lives and property, for the commonsense reason that “... it would be to their direct advantage to reduce the amount of crime as much as possible.”
Rothbard of course never worked in the insurance business. He was a tenured academic economist at UNLV.

Insurers are not risk managers; that's the customer's exposure. They tried this once with fleet managment services for their trucking company-insureds, and promptly got added to their own customers' lawsuits. Insurers compete for good risks, they don't rehabilitate bad risks.

"Peace officers" are for close-knit, homogenous societies with strong institutions. "Law enforcement" is for diversity. This is another libertarian blind spot.

Crime and punishment from top to bottom would be very different in a libertarian society. For starters, most crimes would be assuaged by restitution. Violent criminals would be executed or exiled, or sold into slavery to work off their blood debt. Nobody in a market-based society is going to pay to keep violent felons fed, housed and protected behind concrete walls and concertina wire from their victims' retribution.

A private police service that cannot provide executive enforcement of its subscribers' covenants to the exclusion of others does not have a marketable product. Commerce wants predictability. That's why businesses cartelize in forms like the Hanseatic League or Uniform Commercial Code.

Hoppe's idea of numerous "mini-states" is closer to reality. Future libertarian societies will not have the Non-Aggression Principle chiseled into stone tablets; they'll just be based on ownership, that is, private property. Somebody--a person, family or corporation--will own the territory and set the rules and you will pay rent to live there. These fees will negotiate sojourners' rights and compete with each other for human and financial capital. If you want to see how anarcho-capitalism plays out, don't bother with some academic's thought experiment on mises.org. Just read up on the Arab Emirates instead.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What do we do with such people?

Serious question.


Do they get the right to vote? The right to reproduce?

Are we obligated to provide them the life necessities which they are assuredly incapable of obtaining on their own? Won't they just use public and private charity to fund their savage, animalistic lifestyles? We actually let such creatures bring children into the living nightmare of their existence--how will they turn out?

We are enabling horrible, demonic things.

Libertarianism and liberalism

From Marginal Revolution.

Libertarianism, in my view, has gotten as hilariously backward-looking as liberalism.

The modern liberal narrative, for example, is of cruel WASP overlords brutalizing their servile, foot-shuffling Negro untermenschen. Modern liberals think Sarah Palin and her fans are stockpiling the Zyklon-B and readying their cattle prods to herd the Jews, homosexuals and Jewish homosexuals on to the cattle cars.

Similarly, the libertarian narrative is that any day now, FASCISM will cement its iron grip on America. The Border Patrol will roll out the barbed wire and poor Bill Gates and Larry Ellison will be shackled to their desks, forced to produce enterprise software for the FASCIST death camps. High-g Dravidians and Han Chinese will be halted at the border, fingers draped over the chain link fence, weeping for their shattered dream of funding transfer payments to US net tax consumers.

Never mind that fascism was a discrete, historical phenomenon of inter-War competition for State power with communism after the fall of the European monarchies. Does anybody really believe in the State uber alles, any more than people say they believe in the Nordic pantheon, or that the nation's people and resources can pass through monarchical succession? There are very few people around who could think in such terms, even assuming they wanted to.

Libertarians, such as the Mises Institute and LewRockwell.com, are actually engaged in deflection of the worst kind. Their articles are largely silent on what we know happens exactly when the central State scales up into unsustainable complexity:

1. The State's legitimacy evaporates;
2. The State's civil order breaks down along ethnic and cultural fault lines;
3. The new erstwhile sovereigns compete for State power.

This is an old, old script. We saw it with the fall of Rome, Weimar Germany, the collapse of the USSR, Iraq, Libya and post-Katrina New Orleans. When TSHTF, the least of anybody's problems are "police brutality" or bureaucratic overreach--the police and bureaucrats have all left their posts to protect their families.

The libertarians are doing backflips around these issues. They seriously think that when the State's ersatz bonds dissolve, nobody will have anything to fall back on.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Orthodoxy and the American nation

Oil and water.

ROCOR: a no to the Chambésy process
This is big news, people. If we had the idea that the Chambésy process of normalizing the "diaspora" into one-city-one-bishop canonical Orthodoxy was on the horizon, read the below...
(Pravmir) - From the Editors: On Tuesday, December 9, 2013, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, during a regular meeting, deliberated on the results of the previous September’s Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. During the discussion regarding the proposal to reorganize the Orthodox dioceses in North and Central America, the President of the Synod of Bishops stressed that the Russian Church Abroad is under the canonical authority of its dear and great Mother, the Russian Orthodox Church, and is obligated to minister to its multitude of devoted flock finding itself abroad and wishing to remain in her bosom. The members of the Synod of Bishops, agreeing with the opinion of their President, noted that Orthodoxy in America is not prepared for reorganization of Orthodox dioceses in America. In connection with this, the Synod of Bishops instructed its Secretary, His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, to send the following letter to the President of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America explaining the position held by the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in this matter.
From Byzantine, Texas.

I.

1. There really is no American nation. Propositional states are not real nations. A nation can have a proposition, but the proposition is not the nation. Orthodoxy, with its national Churches making up the global Body of Christ, does not really know what to make of mobile, modern propositional States. The Russians are sticking to their own, actual nation, as are the Jews and Amish and other groups who carry their nation with them wherever they go. (The Muslims share the Christians' universalism, but they carry the Ummah with them wherever they go, and they do it a lot better and a lot more ruthlessly than Christians.)

2. As thanks for welcoming immigrants like this, America will certainly never be a real nation. America--an English national offshoot--has become a pretend-nation. It's just a place like any other place where people can drop in, extract what rents and transfer payments they can, then move on to the next, more enticing proposition.

3. The Orthodox Patriarchates may, in fact, be choosing the wiser course in just waiting to see what nations emerge from the process of American devolution.

II.

America has less amity than the average shopping mall.

So far, we've been good about channeling Americans' tribal energies into athletic competitions. Now imagine all the money, resources, organization and energies that you see being exercised at college Bowl games instead being exercised over things that actually matter, like water and mineral rights or the society's bedrock religious beliefs.

Again, so far we've been pretty good at convincing people to get their tribal groove on at high school and college football games, and otherwise keeping the real fights confined to courtrooms and voting booths.

America is a powder keg. At some point, people figure out that instead of just counting the legal arguments or counting the votes, we're really just counting the rifles. The Syrian Sunna and Libyan tribesmen figured that out, and now Syrians and Libyans aren't bothering with things like athletic competitions or courtrooms or voting booths.

Maybe the stars align and we keep it all together. But it really is just a question of who lights the match and when.

III.

I hope the themes I'm attempting to draw are clear. The problem of global Orthodoxy in a world where the Empire is long gone and people can pick up and leave whenever they want, and the problem of ahistorical notions like the American state in a world where blood and soil are as real as they ever were strike me as parallel in a lot of ways.

The new sovereigns

Commenter Bert requested a post about the recent rash of federal judges striking down various States' gay marriage bans (that is, those States' legislative declarations that they will not recognize a homosexual union as a legal marriage).

I actually posted on this already.
... To wrap up, the American people who imagine themselves sovereign need to recognize that the government's "democratic" structures do not enable, empower or defend self-rule. As Mencius notes, "The right to rule is a function of the might to rule." And a very good example of this is the duo of "gay marriage" cases recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the first case, the Court struck down the federal Congress's Defense Of Marriage Act on equal protection grounds: the U.S. government cannot deny the privileges it extends to heterosexual couples to homosexual couples. To get to that conclusion, the Court had to recognize a classification meriting equal protection--homosexuality--never contemplated in the history of America or the world. Marriage, in fact, pre-dates the State. This was purely a policy choice by a majority of the Court's justices. For all the fancy language the decision comes down to this: the Justices recognized a protected status of homosexuality because 1) they could (being "sovereign" after all), and 2) therefore they think they ought.

Now, there is a very good argument that DOMA exceeds the scope of the U.S. government's enumerated powers and regulation of marriage is reserved to the several States. But the Court, having decided that gay marriage shall be, was not done. In the second case, the people of California expressed their policy choice and passed a statute reserving marriage for monogamous heterosexuals. But the people of California are not actually "sovereign," so a homosexual district court judge struck down the statute. The actual California sovereigns, the executive branch, declined to defend their legislature's statute and a citizen's group tried to carry the ball on appeal. They got tackled by the Supremes: no standing to appeal, citizens. The district court's judgment therefore remained intact, and California's actual, elected-at-large sovereigns gleefully grabbed their ankles to take one for the gay marriage team.

Recall the other Mencian axiom from my July 4 post: sovereignty can be divided and still "add up." In this case, a pushy, aggressive, strategically shrewd group--homosexual activists--have gotten a seat at the sovereign table, and orthodox Christians have been evicted.

And that is that.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pondering the imponderable


Ramzpaul and I have been pondering the same things lately.



As a Libertarian I believed that people should be able to do whatever they wanted as long as it did not harm another. While that is nice in theory, in reality when people act in an irresponsible manner (such as having hordes of bastard children) this creates a country that is crime infested and poor. Eventually the thugs and trash out breed the people that support civilization. And people who are raised to say "mutherfucker" and "suck my dick" as toddlers aren't likely to grow up as adults who value the quaint notions of Liberty and rule of law. They will simply demand loot from the few people who still produce. The end result is Zimbabwe style starvation.

Democracy, where people get to vote themselves their own transfer payments, is this process on steroids.

Libertarianism has an intractable problem: a substantial number of people lack the general intelligence and impulse control necessary for self-sufficient existence in a free society. In a libertarian society, you will have to get comfortable with the sight of the starving poor, because every scrap of bread and penny you give them as voluntary alms will go to the same stupid, wasteful ends in which the poor indulged under the welfare state.

Either the libertarians bring back slavery, or they carve out their own separate territories and exile dissenters and patrol the borders with machine guns. And thus ends the libertarian ideal.

Monday, January 13, 2014

They haven't invited me.


Not that this means there won't be a Great Council of the Orthodox Church in 2015.

Seriously, this apparently has some folks excited as, any day now, the current Patriarch of Istanbul Constantinople is going to whip global Orthodoxy into shape and then get +Francis on the phone, with whom he is this [holds forefinger and thumb a millimeter apart] close and Christendom will be one big happy family again.

As it turns out, the Ecumenical Patriarch is really the only one seriously discussing a pan-Orthodox council. Now that we've got the human and Divine natures of Christ worked out and the proper role of icons, there's not a lot left to talk about.

The only big issue worth flying to Istanbul over (assuming the Turks would allow it) is the Orthodox diaspora in Europe, Asia and the Americas, which Constantinople argues belong to her. I don't see the Patriarchs of Russia, Serbia, Romania, Georgia and Antioch agreeing to hand over their overseas Churches to the Greeks because for a lot of them (including the Greeks), those overseas Churches are the only thing keeping the lights on back home. They will frankly throw the EP out a window first, and conversely, I don't see +Bartholomew blindly proceeding with his own defenestration.

In sum, there is only one issue--the diaspora Churches--that is going to move anybody from their home See to a meeting with Constantinople, and you had better believe the people who engendered the very term 'byzantine' aren't going to budge until a lot of things have been worked out in advance. This should happen in, oh, say about a hundred years.

Any way, discussions about a forthcoming Great Council remind me of discussions about international law, as in very few people grasp how the rule of law involving sovereigns works. (Professor Hale does.) The Patriarchates are autocephalous, which means they govern themselves. +Bartholomew can talk about a Great Council all he wants. He can declare that the other Patriarchs are no longer in communion, but he can't make anybody march onto a plane and meet with him. He can rent the conference center, write up the agenda, and hire the caterers, but if nobody else shows up, it's not a Great Council. That's how conciliarity works.

Nations are sovereign as well. There's no higher temporal authority to make them knuckle under. There is an economy to this which the great English Catholic G.K. Chesterton recognized.
The internationalist and the imperialist are not only similar men, but even the same men. There is no country which the Imperialist may not claim to conquer in order to convert. There is no country which the Internationalist may not claim to convert in order to conquer. Whether it is called international law or imperial law, it is the very soul and essence of all lawlessness. Against all such amorphous anarchy stands that great and positive creation of Christendom, the nation, with its standards of liberty and loyalty, with its limits of reason and proportion.

States can condemn other states' autonomous decisions. They can drop bombs on each other, but there's no executive authority to 'arrest' a sovereign and execute a judgment. Sovereigns can be conquered in war, but in a juridical sense, they can't be made to do anything they don't actually agree to do. The moment they concede, they're no longer sovereign and somebody else is the actual sovereign. Obviously, sovereign status is something the State's agents take very seriously. So do Patriarchs.

The principle of sovereignty isn't limited to Christian Patriarchs and the world's States. Individuals can acquire sovereign power as well. If there's some natural or economic disaster and all the police leave and go home to protect their families, then anybody with enough firepower is a sovereign.

The idea that civil, theological and other orders are, practically speaking, just constructs we think up and defend against opposing viewpoints is really unsettling to people. They like to think this is all carved in stone somewhere and all those bad people who disagree with them will be made to toe the line some day. It's actually all very fluid and fragile, and we won't know until the great and final Judgment how it was all supposed to work out.

[I thought this was a suitable inaugural post for Alexandria.com, whom I don't know and have never met, but they don't require any money and honor my anonymity so we shall see how it goes. The real Alexandria is an Orthodox Patriarchal See of course, though it seems to be at least as concerned with being Greek as being Egyptian.]

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Do no harm


Rod Dreher has been pondering poverty in white Appalachia. To his credit, he acknowledges its inevitable persistence.
What do you do with people like that? Many of us — conservatives and liberals both — are outraged at the idea that there is nothing that can realistically be done to ease their estate, to deliver them from this kind of grinding suffering. But what if, for some people, it’s true? What if the reality of the situation defeats idealism? What do you do then? Can you do anything that matters? I’m not asking rhetorically; I mean it.

Then, in a subsequent post, gets hopelessly tangled pondering causation.
It’s not economics, it’s not race, and it’s not the frontier experience (“New England was once a frontier too,” says DHF); it’s culture.

Well, yes and no, it's actually all those things. More fundamentally, it's about people, because people generate culture. And it's also very much about economics because we have pursued deliberate fiscal and monetary policies to drive the jobs such people used to hold offshore and devalue their labor here. And it's about genetics, because that's a very large chunk of our organic intelligence and impulse control, and it's the resulting breeding patterns that direct the cultural folkways. That these unchanging facts of human existence make Rod "outraged" bespeaks his underlying porogressivism: if we could just change the Culture!

For all Rod's front-porch, crunchy-conservatism, his Christian Orthodoxy and intact family, he seems unable to ditch his cosmopolitan striving and belief in human malleability. He talks localism (he moved back to his rural, Louisiana hometown) but seems strangely immune to where this down-home attitude must inevitably lead: even a nation of immigrants becomes over time a nation of natives. (Rod never observes the numerous means by which this process is deliberately thwarted.)

But getting back to Rod's question above, Chris Roach has written an excellent post.
Most Americans find it beneath them to get something for nothing; they’d be embarrassed to envy or prevent their neighbor’s success. But they do rightly worry that the system seems rigged and that the big banks and Wall Street gamblers and welfare queens play by one set of rules, complete with welfare bailouts when they fail, while their own job-hunting and entrepreneurial endeavors are pretty much on them. This is demoralizing, but the problem is not “inequality,” and the solution is not wealth redistribution to “fight inequality.” It’s rather to create the rules and environment for wealth creation, to grow the pie, which will always be unequal. If it grows, that it grows more for you does not hurt me, of course. It’s what economists call “Pareto Optimal.”

Of course, those rules mostly involve benign inaction: lower taxes, lower spending, sound government finances, reduced regulatory burdens, and the like. That set of policies is not very sexy and does not accrue much power to the Barack Obamas and Bill De Blasios of the world. But it works. It worked for the first 200 years or so of our country’s history and, when coupled with lower immigration and an economy where smart people focused on making useful things, we saw a real significant rise in wealth during the post World War II era up through 1990 or so.
"Benign inaction." As our Lord said, the poor we have with us always. Even the pagan Greeks knew better: first, do no harm. Back when Republicans were clever, they were able to recall Friedman’s quip, “Don’t just do something, stand there!” As I've noted, the effect of public welfare is to enable the modern poor to commit the sins of the Biblical rich.

This is the sort of thing conservatives should be saying, but the only thing conservatives are conserving at this point is 20th century American progressivism.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Self-ownership, continued

To clarify my last post, a family had an awful tragedy inflicted on them: their daughter died. The hospital managed to get the girl's heart beating, but everything--brain stem on up--is gone. This is just a corpse with chemical and electrical stimulation to keep the heart beating. Since not even the brain stem is firing, the diaphragm will not operate so a ventilator has to induce positive air pressure to keep the lungs inflated. Ventilation violates the body's natural state, and bacteria migrate through the tube in the throat. The body has shut down. Toxins are not being flushed, body temperature is unregulated (hence, a grief-crazed mother keeps saying her daughter is "warm"), the organs are cooking and immune and numerous other functions have stopped. The body is, in a word, decomposing even as the ventilator and an intravenous chemical soup keep it in a simulacrum of life.

All of this on other people's dimes, by the way.

Now, decomposing bodies are not normally a problem--everybody ends up with one other than a few Blessed saints--we've evolved to deal with them. But this is something entirely different: a corpse that is oxygenated, nourished, kept above ambient temperature and the internal vacuum maintained. An ideal microbial environment. If you've had a family member in this state (and I have), hospitals don't bother telling you to wash your hands when you come in; your family member already has every bug known to man. They tell you to wash your hands when you leave.

In summary, a group of net-tax consuming litigants has managed to maintain a publicly funded biohazard for the past month thanks to an unprincipled lawyer and sympathetic and/or ignorant proceduralist who has judicial power.

These are all individuals with right of self-rule, according to the classical liberals, who naively write such protections into their government's founding documents. The result is paralysis: as the specter of a superbug epidemic looms, government can't even act in the common interest which is purportedly the only reason we keep it around.

Hopefully things do not get to the point of epidemic levels of contagion. I anticipate in the next few years hospitals will simply refuse to admit patients who don't execute a DNR. Antibiotic prescription will require a battery of tests and bureaucratic review.

Rule yourself or you will be ruled.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Beyond the limits of self-ownership


I had previously posted on Jahi McMath.

When I say "limits" I mean moral bounds, and when I say "beyond," I mean horribly, appallingly breached.

Of course, this story has gotten worse.
The nearly $50,000 in private donations the family has raised since taking the case public helped cover the carefully choreographed handoff to the critical care team and transportation to the new location, Sealey said. The facility, where Jahi is expected to remain for some time, is run by a charitable organization that so far hasn't sought payment, Dolan said.

Both men refused to name the facility or reveal where it was located, saying they wanted to prevent staff members and the families of other patients from being harassed.

While the move ends what had been a very public and tense fight with the hospital, it also brings new challenges: caring for a patient whom three doctors have said is legally dead because, unlike someone in a coma, there is no blood flow or electrical activity in either her cerebrum or the brain stem that controls breathing.

The bodies of brain dead patients kept on ventilators gradually deteriorate, eventually causing blood pressure to plummet and the heart to stop, said Dr. Paul Vespa, director of neurocritical care at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has no role in McMath's care. The process usually takes only days but can sometimes continue for months.

"The bodies are really in an artificial state. It requires a great deal of manipulation in order to keep the circulation going," Vespa said.

Dolan, the family's lawyer, said Jahi's condition suffered because the hospital refused to feed her once she was declared brain dead. The family plans to pursue a federal court lawsuit alleging that Children's Hospital violated their religious and privacy rights. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Tuesday.

"She's in very bad shape," he said. "You would be too, if you hadn't had nutrition in 26 days and were a sick little girl to begin with."

Indeed, counselor. The skin is breaking down, the organs have cooked into pudding and billions of microbes are happily incubating in the warm, wet protoplasm which once housed Jahi McMath. And the thought of a whole facility out there, unnamed, hidden, keeping an array of corpses pumping in an obscene simulacrum of life is absolutely sickening. And not in the metaphorical sense.

This is what comes of shepherds refusing to feed their lambs.

As I said, I don't know what the solution is but we either impose one or it will be imposed.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

FDA acts decisively to curb super-bug threat

By banning your hand soap.

Not a word about hospitals and the human-Petri-dishes-on-ventilators which Robert Klassen has been writing about since 2006. Nothing about AIDS patients with non-functional immune systems shambling along in a façade of health provided by anti-retroviral drug cocktails. No mention of sexual promiscuity and antibiotic-resistant STD's, even as 'chastity' has become a term of contempt. No discussion of the massive, massive over-prescription of antibiotics. (Antibiotics kill the good bacteria in your gut as well. I know a woman, a hypochondriac, who had to have a portion of her intestine removed after it shut down from antibiotic abuse). And of course, never a word about the fact that most countries on the globe lack the technology and know-how for functioning sewage systems and waste disposal, as the denizens of such places are enthusiastically welcomed here.

I guess every little bit helps, but this is like complaining about secondhand cigarette smoke in cities with more gasoline engines than people.

This discussion is also notably absent from the awful saga of Jahi McMath's corpse. Too bad there's no cause of action for judicial malpractice.

The Jahi McMath story is also why I no longer call myself a libertarian.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best news story of 2013


Global-warming activists trapped in disappearing sea ice.

I saw this via Ad Orientem and didn't give it much thought but yes, that's exactly what happened. Australian academic and professional carbon-alarmist Chris Turney got a bunch of pals together for a chartered boat ride to the site of Sir Douglas Mawson's 1912 Antarctic expedition. Professor Turney probably figured that, with more CO2 in the atmosphere, the littoral waters off Cape Denison would surely be open, as they were in Mawson's day.


The learned Professor of Climate Change (there apparently is such a thing) who generates exquisite computer models of the planet as a burned-out husk by next century apparently saw no need to look at satellite imagery just keystrokes away which would have shown him that the Antarctic ice shelf has apparently expanded. It is summer in the southern hemisphere, this ice-reinforced vessel is trapped in several years' worth of sea ice and two actual icebreakers have failed to get within 10 miles. Incidentally, the team did make it to Cape Denison, by portage over the ice.

What a surreal atmosphere must prevail on the MV Akademik Shokalskiy. These supposedly learned, serious people encountered an ice pack which their ideology and computer models told them could not be there, and continued into increasingly hazardous conditions. Irony of ironies, since they predict 'climate,' not mundane crap like weather, they had to reach out for help from actual meteorologists, including one AGW skeptic. Now they are trapped and somebody else will have to pay for their dangerous and expensive rescue.

By the way, my first OP of 2014, and I hope everyone had a blessed Nativity and happy New Year.