Sunday, December 29, 2013

Business 101 vs. Econ 101

From iSteve.
By the way, Wicked has taken in $793,000,000 on Broadway alone from 2003-2013, higher than the domestic totals of even either of James Cameron's last two movies. That's a lot of money. And that's not the most, either. The Lion King has now surpassed one billion dollars just playing at one theater on Broadway.

As you would expect, various parties have staked their claims to a slice of the pie. After all, you can't outsource Broadway, and it's resistant to insourcing.

Here's a good article on Local 1, the stage hands union in New York that works Broadway and other top tier live events in Manhattan. Their work rules guarantee that they'll put in huge amounts of overtime, for which they are lavishly compensated. A few at the Met opera get over half a million per year in wages and benefits. (The NYT doesn't have access to compensation stats for profit Broadway theaters, but presumably they pay in the same ballpark.)

Not surprisingly, the demographics of stage hands are similar to those of film crews in Hollywood, only more so:

Jobs are often passed from father to son, and some members are now the fifth generation of their families to hold Local 1 cards. [Union boss] Mr. Claffey, whose total compensation in 2011 as Local 1’s chief was $277,000, is one of six Claffey brothers in the union.

(It is most definitely a band of brothers. The union is still overwhelmingly white and male. Two years ago, it convened a meeting of its Sisters Committee for the first time, drawing 28 women, which the union’s newsletter said was nearly 20 percent of all the women in the local, suggesting that there are around 140 [out of 2,600].)
That's Econ 101, as rendered in Business Strategy 101: find yourself a defensible piece of monopoly power, and defend it.

The NYT article is a very interesting (and astounding) read. The Locak 1 stagehands have parlayed their occupations into substantial six-figure salaries, a cost happily borne by Broadway's many customers.

From one of Local 1's newsletters: “We are a proud, unified, hard-working, family-oriented bunch of people with only the welfare of our families, the future of our children and the pride of being the best stagehands in the world deeply embedded in our hearts.”

This is the sort of area where economists get tripped up over their own premises. If nice, cozy guilds and trade monopolies are advantageous, then they're an economic good and people are going to pursue them. So maybe the policy path of least resistance is toward policies that let people find their own, cozy little levels* instead of brutal, all-against-all cage matches where the referees are constantly adding more contestants. After all, George Mason University doesn't just throw up a few classrooms and charge rent to whoever shows up and can draw the most paying students. Instead, they set up a cozy little Bubble from which George Mason's Econ department can lecture the rest of us about churn, creative destruction, barriers to entry, price elasticity, etc.

Which reminds me, a lot of the most dogmatic anarcho-capitalists are academics at public universities. Recognizing that we all have to earn a living and compromise to some extent, wouldn't they have more influence in the federal bureaucracy? Or raising a private army to take over Honduras? (On second thought, maybe that's not a good idea.)

Anyway, back to the quote from Local 1. That is powerful, primal stuff: "the welfare of our families," "the future of our children," pride of place and work. Isn't that also the terminology we use when we talk about nationhood?

I'm coming around to Vox Popoli's view on free trade, namely that 'free trade'--the economists' dream of perfect competition--is not really 'free.' It depends on a lot of externalities in the form of powerful militaries, government immigration policy, currency manipulation. Go back to hard currency, and trade imbalances (and a lot of other things) take care of themselves. In the meantime, any nation whose people want to preserve themselves as a sovereign folk with their unique culture and geographic redoubt had better follow the Local 1 Path and protect their comparative advantage. This means you pay more for Broadway shows, and Broadway producers don't take as big a cut to pay for their second, third and fourth homes, but you've provided a nice living for a larger number of people.

We have already arrived at the appalling outcome where the only outlets for our lower-g citizens are name tag-jobs in fast food, and what can't be off-shored is going to be automated in the near future. That's why there's all this temporarily fashionable uproar about living wages in the fast food industry--that's all these people have left before they bottom out on welfare. These jobs were never meant for people trying to raise families; they were for teenagers, housewives earning grocery money and semi-retired seniors.

In other words, we either spread more wealth around at the cash register, or we pay people welfare for not even trying to work, and the consequences of the latter strike me as far more problematic than the former.

* - What I've previously called small pond strategy.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Orthodox ecclesiology

Position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the problem of primacy in the Universal Church

An excellent summary from the Moscow Patriarchate, via Ad Orientem.

It struck me the other day that Rome, trying to hang on to everybody ended up losing many: Britain, Germany, Scandinavia. In fact, Rome may lose all of Europe, with the Vatican left as a rump Christian presence surrounded by atheists and Muslims, dependent on remittances from the Global South.

That seems to be an archetype of human history: the harder you try to hang on to people, the more they chafe and try to get away. Maybe if those Italian popes had recognized that British, German and Scandinavian Churches had different, non-Latin cultures and different temporal outlooks and told them okay, you can have your own Church, then maybe the Protestant Reformation wouldn't have happened. The Catholic Church seems most virile where she acts more like the Church Local: Hungary, France, Croatia, Poland.

Rome seems unable to come to terms with a post-Imperial, multi-polar world, so they're jumping on the universal democracy bandwagon, anticipating a seat at the table of the global democratic empire. They'll get completely cozy with this about the time whole countries start rejecting democracy and the UN becomes an utterly irrelevant joke.

Of course, we have our own obtuseness on this side of the Bosphorous. As John/Ad Orientem notes, this memorandum may be more directed to the Ecumenical Patriarch, who also seems to have no idea what to do in the absence of Empire. Constantinople has been trying to hang on to everything for a long time as well, and now "Constantinople" is a tiny, Greek Christian ghetto surrounded by Muslim Turks, dependent on remittances from North America.

And of course, Moscow, Antioch and all the rest seem just baffled by the modern reality that people can pick up and leave when the jobs disappear or the bullets start flying. So, again, they do what hierarchical organizations always do: try to hang on to the way things were, imagining that their out-married, English-speaking, Americanized flock is still just in diaspora.

r-selected, low-trust

Teens' thievery turns tragic for Honduran cop
Edwin Mejia didn't want to go out and steal that morning.

The $75 he and his buddy had made the day before from the stolen motorcycle felt like a fortune compared to the $5 a day he earned selling his mother's tortillas. The 15-year-old lay in bed inside the wooden one-room house he shared with his 10 brothers and sisters and told his partner, Eduardo Aguilera, that he wasn't in the mood.

"Hey, man, we have to go!" insisted Eduardo, also 15.

From yesterday's take, their first job, Edwin could buy a cellphone. If they did the same today, maybe Edwin could buy himself some sneakers. White Nikes were a favorite with the 18th Street gang members...

Emphasis added.

As the US obligingly imports the rest of the world's excess peasantry, this is the society toward which we are headed. Sam Francis called it anarcho-tyranny.

By the time things run their course, I bet all the libertarians out there won't be screeching about fascism any more.

And speaking of fascism, I'll take a society run by these guys over a society that produces Edwin Mejia and Eduardo Aguilera any day:

Though as I've said, fascism requires a traditional nation-state and more specifically, probably a European nation-state. I'm not sure Anglos could be fascists even if we wanted to be.

I'm going to edge out a little further on this limb and state that only groups with a sufficiently high median IQ (such as, but not exclusively or necessarily, Anglos and Europeans) can build a K-selected, high-trust society.

And when we're gone, it's gone.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Second Mohammedan Conquest

As documented by Notes on Arab Orthodoxy
"At the beginning of the acts of violence in Syria, Christians distanced themselves," says the observer, "except that with the increasing frequency of incidents and the increase of Wahhabi takfiri voices penetrating into Syria, Christians became a target for expulsion, murder, theft, and kidnapping. Their factories and homes were robbed (as happened in Aleppo), they were deprived of their sources of livelihood, and their monuments were looted and plundered."

The source gives examples of this, "Christian monuments in the region of Jebel Siman have mostly been looted and some reports coming from there state that looted antiquities have been transported outside Syria via Turkey, where they were sold on the black market."

For his part, the abbot of the Monastery of Saint Peter in Marmarita, Father Walid Iskandafi, who is also the general episcopal vicar for the Greek Catholic diocese of Lattakia and Tartus, stresses that "the ongoing war in Syria has shown that it not only targets humans and humanity. It also destroys history, civilization, and heritage." He continues in his discussion with as-Safir, "There is no doubt that the first and last party to benefit from what is happening is Israel."

I called this the second Mohammedan conquest from the beginning.

Carol Saba gets it somewhat right here, but really, all she's calling for is a revival of that old-time Ba'athist religion.
What is needed today is a bold vision that frees Christians from the sectarian, minoritarian approach and the shackles of the Ottoman millet system, that takes them off the path of sectarianism and places them on the path of citizenship. What is needed today is talk from Christians about national and pan-Arab challenges and what they require more than talk about Christian challenges and what they require.

What is actually needed are property rights and the rule of law, which is what engenders a self-sufficient, stabilizing middle class (Marx's hated bourgeoisie). No middle class, no stability.

Property rights and lex rex are a distinctly Anglo-European outlook. Most nationalities don't think in such terms; most nationalities think in terms of a benevolent tribal Big Man divvying up the nation's bounty. That is generally how Arab nations are run.

The idea of self ownership and thus property ownership is Aristotelian, and the Arabs are engaged in the continuing purge of all things Greek from the Middle East, including Byzantine Christianity.

The tiny Byzantine Christian minority is still trying to demonstrate their pan-Arabic solidarity, as per Fr. Walid's swipe at the Israelis above. This is a shortsighted strategy. The Arabs do not want multiculturalism; they want the region's Christians either out of their Middle East or completely married into the monoculture of the dar al Islam.

It's about blood and soil, and always has been.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

K-selection and r-selection

Gyan asks:
As the West is undergoing a great social shake-up, is it possible that the children of K-selected individuals display r-selected traits?
The answer is, no. K-selected parents raise hothouse flowers. They build high-trust societies so their children can flourish. When their society is breached, they withdraw. When they can't withdraw, they shut down. They will not engage in an r-selected race to the bottom with their enemies.

There is an alternative to withdrawal, but it's not considered polite to talk about it.

This keeps playing out over and over and nobody ever seems to retain any lessons from it: Byzantine extinction in the Middle East, Third World brain drain, white flight to the suburbs.

That seems to be the progressivist, Modernist mindset at work: experience can teach us nothing because this time, it's different! This time things will all work out somehow.

Simultaneously, there's this incongruent, backwards-looking strain in Progressivism. Activists seem genuinely worried that the poor will die of starvation instead of Type 2 diabetes and cardio-pulmonary disease; that blacks everywhere live in fear of white vigilantes mowing them down on the way home from the convenience store; that without legal, late-term abortion, Bible-thumping patriarchs will barter for wives and impregnate them with ten kids each.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Our actual future

I've previously remarked on how the libertarians are in an orgy of fear about our looming fascist future.

As an antidote to Lew Rockwell's delusions of good looking teen-aged gladiators and patriarchal Donald Sutherland inveighing from an Art Deco pulpit (NB: white/old-fashioned/Gilded Age = bad), here's what our internationalist overlords really have planned for us:

Transforming Foreign Aid

Speaker: Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
Presider: Nicholas D. Kristof, Columnist, The New York Times
March 7, 2012
Council on Foreign Relations

Mr. Shah sets the tone early on.

You know, tomorrow's International Women's Day, and on -- and it's a particularly important moment for us to recognize that there's just so much that we can do with our foreign assistance and with our development efforts around the world.

And it's easy for those days to come and go without adequate recognition, but I am so excited to be here, in part because when we -- when I joined USAID, it became very clear to me very quickly for President Obama and for Secretary Clinton and for this administration -- and, I would now argue, frankly, in a bipartisan way in Washington -- there is a tremendous amount of support for taking development far more seriously as the third leg of how America presents itself around the world. Diplomacy, defense and development together are capable now of presenting our values, our capabilities, our ability to avoid conflict and shape a more peaceful and more interconnected world, and our ability to reach out and touch some of the world's most vulnerable populations and do it with great American technology, spirit, willingness to serve and deliver outcomes that at the end of the day make us better and make us stronger.
This slide is a picture of protesters, of course in Tunisia, and you would note there was a reason the protesters in Tunisia were chanting "dignity before bread." It was because they recognized and they felt that they needed to have more open space to communicate, more right (towards ?) self-determination, and that if we defined development aspirations too narrowly, as just economic improvement or health improvement or whether people had access to an education, it somehow didn't capture the very basic and fundamental underlying human rights that they sought to fight for.

We've been excited to have the opportunity in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya, and in many other countries through the Middle East and North Africa to work aggressively with partners and to make sure that we reach local society -- local change agents. We support civil society organizations -- some you've read about, of course -- that work to expand access to democratic processes.

The president made a very strong commitment that we would stay firm in better aligning our long-term strategic interests in the region with our core and fundamental beliefs in self-determination and respect for basic freedoms, human rights and human dignity. And USAID is honored really to have the chance to be on the forefront of implementing that approach in very difficult and very important environments.

Human rights! Dignity! I mean, who could possibly oppose such things but a bunch of old, white, hateriarchal fascists?

And one of the major challenges that we have had in development, that we're trying to adapt and change as we enter this new era, is how we work with institutions and companies in the private sector. You know, many in our community still have a -- if not bad taste, at least a little bit of discomfort from early corporate activity that did cause significant harm to poorer populations in poor countries. Sweatshops, infant formula, Bhopal -- those are all words that conjure up images of corporations as predators, taking advantage of circumstances and a lack of controls.

But today, many of the best corporations have a much more enlightened understanding. They see that the fastest growing markets around the world are often very early emerging markets. They note that in sub-Saharan Africa there are 15 countries that have grown at 5 to 7 percent annually for about eight years in a consistent way. They see tremendous fortunes being made as people create products and services that can be sold on cell phones to even the most remote parts of the world and they see the outcomes that relate from that.

Just one example that I'd like to offer that I think is emblematic of our new way of working in this space is a partnership we were able to launch with Pepsi in Ethiopia. Pepsi will invest significant resources to reach 30,000 chickpea farmers -- and (I know ?) you say, well, why are you talking about chickpea farmers? -- and they'll reach 30,000 chickpea farmers as part of building out a business to produce both hummus for their commercial markets and to produce a high-nutrition, ready-to-use, high-protein paste that can be delivered to kids in -- at risk of chronic and severe malnutrition in and around the Horn of Africa.

It's those types of partnerships, brokering those types of deals -- in that case between Pepsi and the world's largest food aid provider, the World Food Programme, with USAID in an intermediate role -- that, I think, increasingly will define whether -- our ability to do that will define whether or not we'll be successful going forward.

Libertarians, we didn't forget you: markets! Pepsi!

Ethiopia's TFR is 4+ but they don't produce enough to feed their own children. Solution: K-selected taxes --> r-selected consumption of high-pro Pepsi-paste.

I'm sure there were some more gems in Mr. Shah's talk but that's as far as I'm bothering to read.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The high point of the 21st Century

God forgive me, but this is just too good.

Man who provided sign language interpretation on stage for Nelson Mandela's memorial service, attended by scores of heads of state, was simply "making childish hand gestures" for hours

(Via Vox Popoli)

Here's the interpreter, who shall henceforth be known as King Troll and given a beachfront condo in the location of his choosing and $250,000 annual stipend for the rest of his life, at another august occasion (also from Vox):

Wait, there's more:

In all seriousness, Mandela apparently kept the lid on things when South Africa could have become Zimbabwe, not that that's a very high bar. We'll see how things turn out.

Apocalypse chips

I love snacking on this stuff, even though it's probably bad for me. Mangan's a sober guy, so it's interesting to see his interest piqued on this topic: How could the West collapse?

Random comments from the linked thread:
The basic law of entropy is that all organized structures ultimately decay, but one interesting difference between Asia and the West is that Asian cultures may become stagnant but rarely disappear entirely while cultures that arose West of, say, India seem to follow a very different pattern where each culture achieves a peak and then gets utterly wiped out.

Greece, Rome, Babylon, Persia, Byzantine, etc, they are utterly wiped out. They didn't just become moribund but simply ceased to exist on a cultural or ethnic level. This doesn't seem to happen to Asian cultures. They simply become senile - and perhaps even that's too strong a word. Moribund is better. The only culture and ethnic group of the "Western" region that seems to have resisted this basic trend are the Jews, and they did so without holding on to physical territory, which either makes it more remarkable or more understandable depending on how you look at it.

There won't be a collapse. The Millennials are over 50% in favor of recalling Obama. That's historic.

With proper reactionary guidance from those of us in the X generation, this Fourth Turning might undo 100 years of big-government progressivism. I didn't believe it, but I see it now.

Won't be long now. The dollar is @ 60% of international transactions, down from 90% a few years ago. When it drops below 50%, the panic will begin. The Keepers of the Ponzi know this. That's why they're after the guns. Won't get 'em tho. I'd say Martial Law and incipient Civil War along various dimensions - racial, urban-rural, etc. - well before the 2016 Dog-and-Pony show.

Have been waiting for the collapse since 2008. Was a subscriber to ShadowStats since then but gave it up last year. I simply do not understand how we get to collapse...

No one sufficiently explains the process...they always begin by saying that China will give up on the dollar. Why would they?

On the other hand, in my day to day actives, I can see the slow collapse all around me, and can imagine it lasting far into the future. A planned, almost acidic disintegration of all we once thought was stable, comfortable, and of any decent value.
Every day our world gets a little more black and brown, and our masters more distant and cold. Every day the cops get a little less White, and a little more corrupt, till we’re nothing but old men watching reruns of the Andy Griffith show in cockroach infested nursing homes and amazed by the alien feeling of that simple, kind sheriff in old America. The same old cloned, suburban box stores and fast-food restaurants litter our landscape, but each year get only crappier and service and quality. The weird combinations of the modern world all reach their peak: access to clean water plummets, but smartphone use is near universal.

Why do exporters export? The US can import their products, but can it pay for them? More specifically, for how long will payment in its own debased scrip be accepted in exchange?

China will cease its torrent of plastic toys precisely at the moment it perceives the cost of their inputs exceed the value of American paper festooned with eagles and zeros. They may not do this soon or ever, but there is a metric.

My two cents is that we are on the train tracks and the train is coming. We don't know if we can see the train or hear the train or if those are vibrations from the train transmitted through the rails. But, no question, we are on the tracks and I know this because:

1. No social order has ever lasted for all of history. Many societies have disappeared entirely and we are doing many things wrong.
2. No society has ever been able to print money and buy its own debt with it forever. Eventually, the debentures on the balance sheets of the Federal Reserve and other central banks will be cancelled. Trillions of dollars in paper wealth will vanish like it did in 2008, only the next time will be even bigger.
3. All multicultural empires devolve into their constituent nations. Rome, Byzantium, the Ottomans, Austro-Hungarians, British and European colonial powers, the USSR, all of them, without exception.

Technological progress masks societal entropy. Debt cannot be rolled over forever; people with wildly different time preferences, preferences for organizational complexity and religious creeds do not stay married, particularly once it's clear the government pie is finite and getting smaller. So it's not if but when, and there are going to be several nations where the current one is located. Cum grano salis, I'm 50 years old, and older people like to delude themselves with the idea that it all ends with them. But I doubt the US in its current form sticks around for more than another century.

On that last note, I remember watching the Berlin Wall being torn down in November 1989. I remarked to my roommate that the Soviet Union had five more years. He said ten. It was over in two, so history has a way of accelerating in unexpected bursts. For the youngsters out there, it would be like waking up one morning and finding out Kim Jong Un had been put under house arrest, the two Koreas were uniting, and Manchuria, Tibet and Uyghur had declared their independence.

People will hang on to the familiar for the longest time. Up to the very end, the Byzantines called their doomed city and its few pathetic islands an empire. Their bureaucrats got up and went to work at their pointlessly complex jobs every day until the end. They probably figured they had no choice. I am personally acquainted with a number of Syrians. The Alawites and Christians thought they'd earn their living (nobody ever paid taxes) and enjoy their relaxed, affable way of life forever. Then one day everybody realized the Sunni rabble outnumbered them five to one. Syria as a coherent nation is done unless the ruling class rallies and starts killing a lot of people. That probably won't happen, and my Syrian acquaintances still can't believe this happened. My point, again, is that events have a way of accelerating even as everybody assures themselves that things will continue as they always have.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Our chilling future

Jim Quinn is terrified.

So terrified, he deleted my comment. So it's expanded upon here:

Hunger Games: Catching Fire is out, and Lew Rockwell and others are giddy over it, like they were over V in 2005.

I'm not sure how these silly, overwrought movies turn middle-aged libertarians (who doubtless consider themselves critical, skeptical thinkers) into teen-aged groupies. 'V' was the typical Atwoodian fever dream about the Christian theocracy the Left is convinced lurks everywhere just one election cycle away, ready to outlaw sex and turn women into brood mares. When the future rolls out and large swathes of liberal, feminist Britain are under the control of patriarchal Muslim imams, 'V' will be remembered as low comedy.

'The Hunger Games', where a decadent central government devotes huge amounts of resources to training teenagers to kill each other in elaborate settings, would make a good after-school TV special for alienated teens feeling their oats. It's a compelling tale for imaginative 14-year olds: paternalistic government (Dad!) lives off the fat of the land while good looking teenagers out in the sticks are taken from their barely-fed parents, who toil night and day in the mines. Having the kind of brain I do, the questions started right there. What are they mining? Coal? Metals? Dirt? Doesn't that require refineries and transportation infrastructure? And don't you need a well-paid workforce that goes to engineering and business schools to run those operations? And doesn't all that have to be paid for? How much wealth could the government extract before people decided it wasn't worth it to work so hard at the government's steel refinery? Didn't we get to see exactly how this sort of thing played out from 1945 to 1991 across much of Eurasia?

In the real world, resource extraction supports a lot of blue collar and middle class prosperity, and any society wealthy enough and technologically advanced enough to host such fantastic, rococco pageants would just automate the mines and pay their lower-skilled citizens not to work. (This should be sounding familiar already, and you'll note our teenagers aren't being drafted into unisex gladiator contests. In fact, they're given gladiator video games and everybody's fat and happy instead of skinny and resentful.)

Libertarians lap up this flapdoodle like sweet cream, donning their sackcloth and warning us that Fascism Is Here. Where do they come up with this stuff--Mother Jones? Even I know fascism was a political creature of inter-war Europe and a reaction to Soviet-sponsored, internationalist Marxism. I'm not sure Americans could be fascist if they wanted to be.

I've mentioned Rockwell's constant drumbeat about the evil autocratic State (which admittedly can be all of that) before, and it's getting tiresome because out here in reality some very ugly conflicts are shaping up. Lew's sites go on about State Oppression so much, and do backflips around so many other obvious issues, I'm wondering if it's deliberate.

In particular, libertarians never mention that vast, r-selected proletarian tide which is literally waxing fat off transfer payments from K-selected producers. What happens when that multi-billion dollar system of payments goes down? In all their "collapse" scenarioes, libertarians never seem to have thought about places where the civil order really did break down, like in Yugoslavia, or New Orleans after Katrina, or Syria this very minute.

When the system collapses due to a plundered tax base, there isn't any “police brutality” or “TSA thuggery” because the government can't make payroll and all the police and TSA employees have gone home to protect their families. And if there's a systemic breakdown of the civil order here, we are going to deeply regret all that r-selected, Third World vibrancy the libertarians screamed simply had to be let in.

The organic fault lines are not really between governors and governed, because once the money runs out that no longer matters. The real fault lines are between K-selected groups and r-selected groups, tracking mostly but by no means exclusively along racial and ethnic lines. But libertarians never seem to recognize any form of social organization other than the State or the Market. They will tell you that the State exists and that Corporations exist, but somehow Nations, Faiths, Tribes and Clans do not.

This is more of that backward-looking perspective I've been on about: clerics wringing their hands over London chimneysweeps; modern liberals shrieking about brutal WASP overseers horsewhipping their servile African workforce. And libertarians, who seem to think only in terms of the State and this large, featureless Peasant blob, and they're out there on the ramparts with them, in the streets of Paris, in 1789.

When the big shift from managerial democracy to anarcho-capitalism happens (and it's going to look a lot like Dubai and Singapore if you're lucky, and if you're unlucky, Mogadishu), I think the people least prepared for it will be a lot of nominal anarcho-capitalists. When it’s back to blood, which has been the cycle for all of human history, they’ll weep like orphans.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Visualizing God the Father

An essay on the visual heresy of artistic depictions of God the Father, from Orthodox Arts Journal (which Ad Orientem recently added to his blogroll).

Here is a synopsis on the icon of the Holy Trinity (a/k/a, Abraham's Hospitality), an icon originally written by the sainted iconographer Andrei Rublev.

Poor Orthodox that I am, may God grant me the wisdom to comprehend fully why this icon isn't just about Abraham's hospitality.

Speaking of obscure depictions, and also via OAJ, here is Visualising Late Antiquity, an attempt to depict everyday life from a period which is bafflingly opaque.

It is really impossible for moderns to comprehend the mindset of Late Antiquity, where the visual arts were almost entirely devoted to religious iconography and life revolved around the Church cycles of feasts and fasts. The best show in town was +John Chrysostom's homilies, which included his vigorous denunciations of effeminate pop culture.

Was the society really so centered around religious worship, or were there competing secular expressions which are simply lost to history? If the former, then this modern age of diversions, global capitalism and managerial democracy is going to be very hard on the Church, which seems unable to find her way ever since the end of monarchy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Tyler Cowen travels to a strange and mysterious land

A wondrous place, where ethnicity is an allowed basis for discrimination and the government actually defends the nation's cultural and territorial integrity.

A special snowflake of a country where economists worry about the middle class instead of whether their billionaire patrons have a cheap enough workforce, where housing can be priced “inefficiently high,” and where policymakers prioritize national survival over trade across borders.

For that matter, "borders" are a legitimate topic for discussion, and won't get you fired or laughed out of the room as a racist-xenophobic-troglodyte-Neanderthal relic.

A land of milk and honey, where the government pays militant nationalists to do nothing but steep themselves in the national legenda and breed more little nationalists to follow the same career path.

This country is so important and powerful that its citizens can form private militias and call for military protection, even when they voluntarily plop themselves down in the territory of a neighboring state. And not even Barack Hussein Obama will accuse them of clinging to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Truly, a magical place.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Evangelii Gaudium

I've read the part on economics, and it does not seem so revolutionary: people should be content with less; the wealthy should share from their abundance; greed is not good; the State should protect the weak and ignorant from fraud and privation.

Beyond that (and I don't think Evangelii Gaudium goes beyond that), the hierarchs can preach all the social democracy they want. They still can’t re-write economic law.

I don't see where +Francis has condemned central banking and government-sponsored enterprises as appalling moral hazards, nor called out monetary inflation as inter-generational theft and a disincentive to thrift. Is anybody in the Church even thinking along these lines?

Economics, properly understood, is descriptive. We can no more rewrite the laws of economics to assure nobody ever lacks for chemotherapy than we can rewrite the laws of physics to assure nobody ever gets hurt. I thought that was the whole point of Adam's curse.

The poor in the West actually share the sins of the Biblical rich: they are obese, addicted and live debauched lifestyles. Elsewhere, Western foreign aid enables the Third World literally to breed itself into a Malthusian apocalypse.

Steve Sailer likes to point out how the handwringing over "racism" is about 100 years backward-looking, with cruel WASP overlords brutalizing their servile African workforce. Nobody thinks too hard about anything more current, like the fact that Mexicans evict black Americans from their neighborhoods (and their labor pools), or that Sunnis and Shias want to rip each others' heads off. Similarly, a lot of churchmen seem to be worrying over Victorian-era chimney sweeps or Medieval European serfs, instead of the entitled, TV-watching, bling-wearing, resentful reality.

What's way closer to the truth is that the Rich and the Poor are both parasitic. The middle class is the one that needs protecting.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Celebrity gossip!

Kim Kardashian takes North West out for a stroll.

Here's a picture of Kim, in the glow of motherhood:

What got me on this tangent was a post on the baby's father, Kanye West, by Just Not Said. (From Bob Wallace's blogroll.)

The persons involved have made their lives very public, and I like to observe the passing scene and open my big, irrelevant mouth about it. Otherwise, these people have nothing to add. They live off the surplus of technologically advanced society. In simpler times, they would be as unremarked as you and me.

I don't know what's going on with these people, but that is a photograph of a deeply unhappy woman.

Folks, there is no child in that stroller.