Monday, December 4, 2017

Bert gets his own post

Not this Bert:

This Bert:

Bert is a longtime fan. I can't tell much about him from his terse, grumpy comments but I appreciate his reading and participation in my tiny corner of the Internet. Reminder: if you comment, even if to grouse that I should post more and what about the Flynn indictment and what's this Orthodoxy crap, expect it to be published when I get around to reviewing it. I went to moderated comments--much against my grain--to handle a few people (perhaps the same one) posting fatuous, half-baked comments that warp the discussion as everybody chases down all the strawmen and question-begging. Not. Productive. Ideas matter but people matter more, and the Enlightenment is over so try to keep up.

Any way, to repeat my comment from the previous post, there seem to be four fundamental spheres in which people, including me, construct their worldview:

1. Spirituality/being (ontology, morality, purpose)
2. Nationhood/community (group identity and society)
3. Economics (hierarchy of needs)
4. Inter-personal relations (love, family, community, group dynamics)

I think that runs the gamut of human existence, and there's lots of overlap so the material is finite and the other limitation is my personal creativity and time. I'm more deductive than inductive so I don't post unless a particular event strikes a chord with me. If I did this for a living, you'd get more posts. Also, as commenter patrick kelly observes, truth is a broken record (for those of us who remember "records").

I am flattered and grateful to hear that my rants switch on some light bulbs. We are indeed in interesting times. Vox Popoli and Stefan Molyneux are big, concrete examples of the paradigm shift if you review their posts from way back to the present. Steve Sailer seems to be getting angrier as well. All the intellectual ferment is with the Alt-Right. You won't see it from public figures with mainstream gigs because they are paid not to offend.

I've gotten some interesting e-mails over the years so I'll set that up again. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Ghost dancing

The Ghost Dance (Caddo: Nanissáanah, also called the Ghost Dance of 1890) was a new religious movement incorporated into numerous American Indian belief systems. According to the teachings of the Northern Paiute spiritual leader Wovoka (renamed Jack Wilson), proper practice of the dance would reunite the living with spirits of the dead, bring the spirits of the dead to fight on their behalf, make the white colonists leave, and bring peace, prosperity, and unity to Indian peoples throughout the region.

The basis for the Ghost Dance, the circle dance, is a traditional form that has been used by many Indian peoples since prehistoric times, but this new ceremony was first practiced among the Nevada Paiute in 1889. The practice swept throughout much of the Western United States, quickly reaching areas of California and Oklahoma. As the Ghost Dance spread from its original source, Indian tribes synthesized selective aspects of the ritual with their own beliefs.

The Ghost Dance was associated with Wilson's (Wovoka's) prophecy of an end to white expansion while preaching goals of clean living, an honest life, and cross-cultural cooperation by Indians. Practice of the Ghost Dance movement was believed to have contributed to Lakota resistance to assimilation under the Dawes Act. In the Wounded Knee Massacre in December 1890, United States Army forces killed at least 153 Miniconjou and Hunkpapa from the Lakota people. The Lakota variation on the Ghost Dance tended towards millenarianism, an innovation that distinguished the Lakota interpretation from Jack Wilson's original teachings.
There is a lot of ghost-dancing going on these days.

Conservatives chant the old mantras of limited government, low taxes, and THE CONSTITUTION (their ghost-shirt) to resurrect Ronald Reagan and drive the godless heathens into the sea. Liberals screech about “Nazism” and “fascism” (neither of which survived World War 2) and pine for a newer, darker Franklin Roosevelt to confiscate all the guns and turn us into a Scandinavian social democracy. Both are hilariously backward-looking and inapt. A government with over 300 million people to tax is not going to be limited, and I don't care what you write into its charter. Low taxes mean nothing when the government just prints all the money it needs. Social democracy only works, assuming it ever works, so long as you have more net producers than net consumers and everyone puts their shoulder to the wheel. We no longer have the demographics, the mean IQ, or the cultural consensus for either ideal.

The world has changed but the hunter-gatherers don’t have a lot of attractive options when the farmers show up. So in the face of irrevocable change the conventional thinkers double down on their invocations and dance frantically to exorcise the demons polluting the land. The fly-over people, God bless them, saw that things had changed and voted for a coarse 70-year old billionaire who's never held public office.

Conservatives are an easier target for this critique since "conservatism" is, one might say, backward-looking by definition. But above all else one must be a realist; to be realist is to embrace truth. The Old Calendarists are an example of extreme conservatism, dutifully following a calendar which no longer reflects the actual movements of the God-created celestial bodies. Or Orthodox following an ecclesiology based on the administrative structure of an extinct Empire. But I digress.

It is noteworthy too how in the current political debates the liberals rely less on their traditional Year Zero rhetoric and more on a rehash of 1965, or 1933, or 1860, or even 1789, retconning Alexander Hamilton as America's First Black President. Of all things, it is now the nominal conservatives arguing for Year Zero, in the firm conviction that history has ended.

This is a titanic shift, and only myself and a few others are remarking on it. Here's the always excellent Z-man's contribution. (You'll have to click through, because he's disabled copy-pasta.)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Our strangely demotic elite

A comment on Marginal Revolution got me thinking about this. The OP talks about nurturing entrepeneurship, and the linked comment chimes in on government funding:
Of course, government funding–such as NSF grants– as a source of innovation are not popular to the more libertarian minded who focus on the “gov’ment “rgulation” as the impediment.

But, if we continue to cut back on government funded research and develop, and then later get surprised that innovation and entrepreneurial activity using this work declines, well, we get what we didn’t pay for and what we deserve.
I have a lot of issues with this. Public funding is like the quantum observer: its very existence distorts the market. Would cancer research end if the public funds dried up? I suppose quantum physics would take a hit, but is it socially just to tax people so a few geniuses can pursue such arcane areas? Silicon Valley and Wall Street have enormous amounts of wealth piled up by brilliant people. Let the quantum physicists make their pitch to them. And governments, like oligopolistic corporations, have their own agendas. The public sector is not going to fund research that reveals there's very little that government can do about a certain problem, just like a corporation is not going to fund research that shows its product is literally killing people.

On the other hand, there’s an odd demotic trend among modern merchant class-elites (who are THE elites at this point) that undercuts my thesis. Formerly, aristocrats derived prestige from subsidizing intellectuals and high culture. The current elites don’t seem to think along those lines. Museums and orchestras are perennially broke, even as the people you would think care about such things are accruing enormous wealth. But they can't even get the more broad-based, populist things right either. Facebook is devoting lots of money to getting Africans more access to Facebook, which would increase the company’s eyeball-count and its founders’ already obscene wealth, but doesn’t address more basic (and life-changing) advances, like potable water and functioning sewers.

There really is a lot of low-hanging fruit still to pick in development economics. But things like municipal water systems and sewage treatment don't seem to attract nearly the enthusiasm as making sure the Third World can post on social media and learn how to emigrate from the Third World. I've written before about the billions of dollars and thousands of NGO employees lavished on Haitians, who still can't seem to get a functioning sewage treatment plant.

There are a lot of "think tanks" out there funded by wealthy people, but their resident scholars seem content drafting papers to wave around at Congressional hearings and penning an essay in their flagship publication that nobody reads. The conservative think tanks don't seem to do much other than occasionally send a scholar to go trigger protests at lefty campuses and agitate for democracy in low-trust countries. They are unmotivated and appallingly ineffective on the cultural and demographic fronts back home.

The wealthy don't seem to know what to do with their already obscene levels of wealth other than use it to generate more wealth, like lobbying for Open Borders and "free trade" and buying their own media outlets to get the word out. Per my title, the modern elite seem to have a strangely pedestrian vision.

My semi-serious suggestion is that once you notch a billion dollars we just give you a region of the country for life, and after your death to your heirs for life. Then you and yours have to figure out how to nurture the Louis Pasteurs and Michelangelos and Leonardo Da Vincis instead of bribing State actors and rigging the democratic process.

Friday, November 3, 2017

An episcopal Church

The spirit of Vatican II marches on, with +Francis now calling for a re-examination of priestly celibacy. The doctrine is not of itself the real controversy. After all, the Orthodox allow priests to marry with some important qualifications: a priest cannot marry after ordination, and bishops must be celibate. A good illustration of the twin dignity of both sacraments is the person of Antiochian bishop +John.

A priest married for 33 years, he was elevated to bishop after the repose of his wife. He now carries the Church in his person and cannot remarry.

The problem is, again, not the new doctrine being explored but the fact of the exploration. This has come up before, on the issue of lay divorce and remarriage, and was previously commented upon by Catholic writer John Zmirak:
It's essential to understand the stakes:
No Marriage, No Infallibility, No Papacy, No Catholic Church
- If no subject is "taboo", the authority of Bishops is not taboo either

No, don't expect any insane theory, or a "heretical pope" argument, to salvage this. If the Pope endorses polygamy, including in its spread-out format as any kind of legitimacy of the "remarriage" of "divorced" individuals, with the redefinition of the dogmatic theology of one of the seven Sacraments, then Trent, Vatican I, and the entire edifice of Catholic claims of authority fall with it. Catholic claims on the absolutely indissoluble Sacrament of Matrimony (1), from which spring forth the children who are Baptized (2), Confirmed (3), Ordained (4), hear confessions (5), celebrate Mass (6), confer Extreme Unction (7), and marry new couples (1 once again) are dogmatically strong and at the same time systematically fragile. They fall down, and the Papacy as it has always been understood falls with it. [From Rorate Caeli.]
So, if the Catholic understanding concerning the sacraments of priesthood and marriage becomes malleable once enough bishops disagree with it, then Synods aren't discerning eternal Truth guided by the Holy Spirit. They're just secular policy-making bodies with no more theological and thus ecclesial authority than a parish book club. Or, in another context, no more authority than the Parish Life Conference recently attended by several Orthodox Patriarchs. Or than me.

In other words, the Catholic Church is becoming not so much hierarchical as episcopal, which means it will become Episcopal. The geography is important as well: Rome is becoming a Global South Church. Catholics like Ross Douthat banking on the Global South to save the institution are going to be disappointed. And as with The Episcopal Church, the crack-up (which I should add I consider probable, and not certain) will be bitter indeed. Our good friend Porter is even less optimistic.

Prayers for all of Christ's Church.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The end of conservatism as we know it

I've staked my ground on the thesis that ideology is no longer the primary driver of US politics, and here's somebody who agrees with me:
Is ‘Classical Liberalism’ Conservative?

Trump didn’t divide the right. Centuries-old philosophical divisions have re-emerged.
American conservatism is having something of an identity crisis. Most conservatives supported Donald Trump last November. But many prominent conservative intellectuals—journalists, academics and think-tank personalities—have entrenched themselves in bitter opposition. Some have left the Republican Party, while others are waging guerrilla warfare against a Republican administration. Longtime friendships have been ended and resignations tendered. Talk of establishing a new political party alternates with declarations that Mr. Trump will be denied the GOP nomination in 2020.

Those in the “Never Trump” camp say the cause of the split is the president—that he’s mentally unstable, morally unspeakable, a leftist populist, a rightist authoritarian, a danger to the republic. One prominent Republican told me he is praying for Mr. Trump to have a brain aneurysm so the nightmare can end.

But the conservative unity that Never Trumpers seek won’t be coming back, even if the president leaves office prematurely. An apparently unbridgeable ideological chasm is opening between two camps that were once closely allied. Mr. Trump’s rise is the effect, not the cause, of this rift.
As I put it, conservatism now finds itself polarized between the End-Of-History camp and the Clash-Of-Civilizations camp. Yoram Hazony distinguishes between the Enlightenment-era classical liberalism that came to suffuse so much of modern conservative thought, and WASP-American pragmatism.
In his “Second Treatise on Government” (1689), Locke asserts that universal reason teaches the same political truths to all human beings; that all individuals are by nature “perfectly free” and “perfectly equal”; and that obligation to political institutions arises only from the consent of the individual. From these assumptions, Locke deduces a political doctrine that he supposes must hold good in all times and places.

The term “classical liberal” came into use in 20th-century America to distinguish the supporters of old-school laissez-faire from the welfare-state liberalism of figures such as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Modern classical liberals, inheriting the rationalism of Hobbes and Locke, believe they can speak authoritatively to the political needs of every human society, everywhere. In his seminal work, “Liberalism” (1927), the great classical-liberal economist Ludwig von Mises thus advocates a “world super-state really deserving of the name,” which will arise if we “succeed in creating throughout the world . . . nothing less than unqualified, unconditional acceptance of liberalism. Liberal thinking must permeate all nations, liberal principles must pervade all political institutions.”

Friedrich Hayek, the leading classical-liberal theorist of the 20th century, likewise argued, in a 1939 essay, for replacing independent nations with a world-wide federation: “The abrogation of national sovereignties and the creation of an effective international order of law is a necessary complement and the logical consummation of the liberal program.”
Classical liberalism thus offers ground for imposing a single doctrine on all nations for their own good. It provides an ideological basis for an American universal dominion.

By contrast, Anglo-American conservatism historically has had little interest in putatively self-evident political axioms. Conservatives want to learn from experience what actually holds societies together, benefits them and destroys them. That empiricism has persuaded most Anglo-American conservative thinkers of the importance of traditional Protestant institutions such as the independent national state, biblical religion and the family.

As an English Protestant, Locke could have endorsed these institutions as well. But his rationalist theory provides little basis for understanding their role in political life. Even today liberals are plagued by this failing: The rigidly Lockean assumptions of classical-liberal writers such as Hayek, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand place the nation, the family and religion outside the scope of what is essential to know about politics and government. Students who grow up reading these brilliant writers develop an excellent grasp of how an economy works. But they are often marvelously ignorant about much else, having no clue why a flourishing state requires a cohesive nation, or how such bonds are established through family and religious ties.

Hazony points out that modern conservative unity was, in retrospect, a product of the times, specifically the great and defining Cold War. Then the Cold War ended (we won) and a certain class of thinker waited expectantly for the rest of the world to join us at the Eschaton. Thus imagine the shock, the anger when, as it turned out, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Muslims remained stubbornly parochial. For the true-believing classical liberal, it was the equivalent of continued heresy in the face of the physically incarnate Christ. This same aggrieved shock and anger manifests in the reactions to Trump, who casually tore up the ideological rule book and beat a whole bench of well-funded political pros at their own game.

As I've mentioned before, it's useless to talk about fiscal prudence in a country where half the people are net tax-consumers and the government prints all the money it wants. It's dishonest to lecture people about the free market when the central bank will backstop Goldman Sachs' and AIG's bad investments. And if Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, India, Greek Cyprus, the Vatican, and lots of other places can have border fences well, why can't we? Principled Conservatism doesn't really have a response. The Left, of course, is completely honest about its aims: white people are systemically, irredeemably racist, sexist, and just all-around awful and their social and economic clout must be reduced via immigration. Whites outside coastal socio-economic bubbles quite naturally voted for the billionaire who tells them he won't let that happen. Why wouldn't they?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Las Vegas

You have to be quick in the ranting game. Here I was strolling to the weekend collecting my thoughts while an astute troika already summed it up.

Pat Buchanan points out Stephen Paddock had no soul.

Steve Sailer suggests the ex-Christians no longer fear Hell.

Vox Day observes we can no longer answer sentient Man's oldest question, "Why not?"

Healthy society has three fundamental elements: hierarchy, aesthetics, and transcendence. We are distorting and deconstructing all three: everybody is equal, the aesthetics suck, and secular progressivism has replaced religious faith as the moral center.

The big mystery is the shooter's motive. He was not completely delusional and actually quite functional. He planned the massacre rigorously over a period of months. Recall anti-hero Anders Breivik transformed himself into a successful small farmer to get the licensing he needed to nearly take out Norway's governing class. By contrast, nobody knows (or nobody will yet reveal) Stephen Paddock's manifesto but that's beside the point. It could have been anything: holy war, bolshevism, environmentalism. Lots of people have agendas; I have an agenda. Most people have outlets that keep them from going into full berserker mode. Something is removing those outlets but I imagine the questions will peter out before we get too far down that path.

I love a good conspiracy theory but operationally I think we're going to be disappointed. Paddock may have had knowing assistance but that just gets us back where we started--his enablers were as broken as he was. Paddock had a hypotenuse of around 300 meters. The effective range of a decent AR-15 is 500 meters, and Paddock had a big, fat target of around 40,000 feet by area. Lots of people can do it. A middling Muslim couple could do it. Sixty-four year old white guy real estate investors can do it. For around $3,000 a rig (rifle, bump stock, bipod, scope, magazine, ammo--all commonly available), Stephen Paddock was able to project the killing force of an infantry fire team. Combine atomized society and normalcy bias with a not-uncommon amount of income and you too can go full berserker mode, and this gets me to my final point.

In the old days when somebody went off the rails all they had was a sword or muzzleloader. Capitalism and The Industrial Revolution have not only democratized luxury goods but the tools and technology of war, and delivered them to an atomized people. In the inevitable gun control debate to follow, Second Amendment advocates will ignore the technology, and liberals will ignore the atomization.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Why Capt. Villanueva had to apologize

I've bestirred myself to write on the current NFL mess.

Out of all this, an NFL player and Army veteran named Alejandro Villanueva is the only one who's had to apologize for his behavior. Here's the Wiki entry on his military career:
After graduating from the United States Military Academy Villanueva was commissioned into the United States Army on May 22, 2010 as a second lieutenant in the Infantry.[5] Directly after being commissioned he attended various military schools, including the Infantry, Airborne and Ranger Schools; all located at Fort Benning, Georgia. After completing the three courses he was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York. It was with the 10th Mountain Division he deployed for the first time for 12 months to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan as a rifle platoon leader.[5] As a result of his actions during this deployment he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal with "V" device for rescuing wounded soldiers while under enemy fire.[5] When he returned from his deployment, he was reassigned as a company executive officer.[5]

Villanueva volunteered for the 75th Ranger Regiment's Ranger Orientation Program in 2013.[5] He was assigned to the 1st Ranger Battalion. His roles within the Battalion have included plans officer, platoon leader, and company executive officer.[5]

He has deployed two more times to Afghanistan for a total of eight months between both deployments.[5]
Solid, right? Here he is apologizing for leaving the locker room and standing respectfully with his hand over his heart as the US anthem was played:

Remember the Martin-Incognito dust-up I wrote about four years ago? Goggle-eyed sports fans were shocked, shocked! at Incognito's effrontery toward a teammate. But that’s just life among platoons of big, violent men. Whitey-white-white Peyton Manning and the not-terribly athletic Irish Catholic Brian Finneran negotiated the culture successfully. You hang with the bros, or you really will hang.

Football players have to depend on each other for, among other things, deterring an opponent's potentially career-ending cheap shot by threat of violent retaliation from your comrades. So when the majorities in the locker rooms voted for BLM, the owners ignored their own operations manual and pivoted to the locker rooms, and so did the white quarterbacks and linemen. Majority rule, and enlightened self-interest.

And that’s why Capt. Villanueva apologized.

This is actually a pretty big deal. As Steve Sailer explains, the hidden theme in American football's unscripted drama is defense and capture of territory, and we passionately support the physical exploits of "our" young men against "their" young men. Americans love these pageants because they demonstrate national solidarity despite deep-rooted racial and cultural differences--we fight for you, because you fight for us! Not surprisingly, the US military enthusiastically joins in the pageantry, with color guards and fly-overs and lavish recruiting ads.

Athletic events channel powerful tribal instincts into non-destructive outlets, but this gets kind of awkward when you have different tribes.