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.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The News Business

Hurricane Harvey, and now Irma, remind us that the news media is not a public service: it is a for-profit business. The Business sells ratings to advertisers, not actually useful information or analysis. Thus, the hurricane is the story, not the fact that cities like New Orleans and Houston are sitting at sea level with nowhere for the water to go or that the building codes of the Florida coast bear no relation to its geography. Cities are also behavioral and economic sinks, filled with people with no means to weather a natural disaster--which, of course, is the only reason a natural phenomenon becomes a "disaster." Cities are, in a word, fragile.

The Business is also an oligopoly, thanks to IP laws and founder effects, in the economic and cultural sense. Like all oligopolies, the Business is concerned primarily with maintenance of its oligopoly status.

The State, special interests, and others use this oligopoly to great effect. The interests of the State and its patrons coincide very nicely with the interests of the Business. They create Panic where there is no need for panic and Complacency where there is need for Urgency. Thus, in Atlanta today, hysterical people shut down a city over wind and rain; meanwhile, population density increases and giant poplars and oaks tower over power lines.

Apply this analysis to any crisis out there: hunger in Africa, not explosive r-selected reproductive practices; HIV/AIDS, not self-destructive behavior; poverty, not poor life-choices.

None of this is to deny the tragic and often capricious nature of human suffering nor to suggest that we should not seek to alleviate suffering. Poverty can result from illness or economic displacement. Unforeseen natural disasters and social catastrophes do occur. But there is a stubborn resistance to thinking critically about root causes and perverse incentives. And the Business, of all the institutions, is fundamentally and structurally not motivated even to ask the right questions.

Saturday, September 9, 2017


Chaos Manor's Jerry Pournelle has passed away. This is his Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

Such clear thinking is now rare.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

You must see this

Wealthy, influential Anglo-Europeans develop plan to rule foreign countries. From Marginal Revolution.

Comments are just getting cranked up as of 8:30 a.m. Hilarity ensuing.

The Anti-Gnostic August 13, 2017 at 8:16 am
“The first thing that you are missing (probably because you never lived in poor and dangerous countries) is that walls matter, this is why rich people tend to live in closed communities. Crime hits the poor much more than the rich. I move around with an armoured car and two bodyguards: not being a narco, I am afraid only of police, not assault by usual criminals.” [Emphasis added].

Wait, what?! I am repeatedly assured by many wealthy, intelligent people that walls don’t work!

I can see where this whole “wall” thing might catch on. Like-minded people, many of whom aren’t individually wealthy enough to afford a gated community, two bodyguards, and an armored car, could pool their resources and pay some agency to build a wall, say, a “Border” and hire some guys, say, a “Border Patrol” to keep out all the people who can out-thug, out-breed and out-vote them and take their stuff.

It’s like, you either have a single public wall for your community of culturally-similar people who trust each other, or you have hundreds of private walls reserved for those wealthy enough to afford them. Intriguing.