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.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Cathedral notices Neo-Reaction

And predictably, does not like what it sees.

Tech Crunch noticed (via Ad Orientem). One of the High Priests, David Brin, has been moved to repeat the canon for the faithful.

Mencius Moldbug has contributed in his inimitable fashion. I follow with my own standard-deviation-lower effort.

From the comments at TechCrunch and from David Brin, you see the straw men getting deployed early on. Without democracy, Kim Jong Un, nay, Hitler! Never mind that the Kim family is exactly the product of the socialist Revolution, and Hitler was a perfectly legitimate democrat. In any event, the democrats can probably put away the smelling salts. Monarchy (which, as we've all been drilled from birth, is the most horrible form of government ever devised) will probably not be coming back. Only a tremendous reset along the lines of nuclear war or plague, cataclysms large enough to eliminate all public claims to territory, would clear the decks sufficiently for a monarch to emerge. Not impossible, but not at all probable.

One thing can be predicted with certainty, and that is democracy will end. Democracy may shamble on in some pretentious form. Legislators will vote on 1,000 page laws they don't read which are drafted entirely by lobbyists; the People will participate in multi-billion dollar electoral beauty pageants and irrelevant referenda while the real sovereigns exercise power. (Is this sounding familiar yet?) The democratic show may sputter on for quite some time, but democratic rule will end.

The democrats, Progressivists like David Brin, are in that part of the cycle known as Hubris. They literally believe such things like A can economically spend B's money on C, and that this process can go on forever. They have lots of reasons to think this way, being products of a K-selected society with vast amounts of capital built up over generations. This immense surplus has been deployed for the past half-century to democratic ends, including the subsidy of r-selected population groups. The lofty ideals of K-selected individuals are about to run up hard against the reality of r-selected majorities.

I don't think the elite will allow things to get that far. Unlike the lifestyles for which they demand tolerance by you, the elites generally do what's necessary to remain elite: be connected, get married, have kids and stay married to other elites. They have future time orientation even if their customers don't. And if there's one thing upper crust parents know how to do, it's do whatever's legal to assure as best they can that their children maintain the same living standards. I don't think Idiocracy will be allowed to happen.

The future will not be the democratic Arab Spring, currently playing out in Iraq, Libya and Syria but fortunately crushed under tank treads in Egypt. Christians will not be gunned down inside their burning churches for now. Future trends are all pointing in the other direction, toward authoritarian, mercantilist rule, as in places like Dubai and Singapore. Representative democracies like Australia, Norway and Switzerland are already seeing the writing on the wall and pulling up the ladders ahead of the mass, r-selected immigrant flood. By contrast, consumptive societies that no longer believe in themselves are doubling down on democracy, even as their elites withdraw to their own tastefully preserved, downright traditional enclaves. Educated schleps like me will aspire to jobs there.

As democracy runs its course to socialism and chaos, commercial enterprises will evolve to purchase sovereign powers from desperate, bankrupt governments, or they will be given them by desperate, impoverished citizens. Over time, these enterprises will acquire a hereditary character.

The Neo-reactionaries are ahead of the curve. The democrats are still stuck in Year Zero.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Three things wrong with this picture

Supreme Court to rule on birth control mandate (Via Ad Orientem)
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has agreed to referee another dispute over President Barack Obama’s health care law, whether businesses can use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees.

The justices said Tuesday they will take up an issue that has divided the lower courts in the face of roughly 40 lawsuits from for-profit companies asking to be spared from having to cover some or all forms of contraception.
1. Insurance is the pooling of risk of unanticipated casualties. Outside the rare event of rape, coitus is entirely voluntary. Thus, there is no way to "insure" birth control. The mandate is equivalent to requiring your homeowner's insurer to cover your gambling losses in Vegas. The only way to avoid moral hazard would be to charge you for the entire amount of your own money you're prepared to risk. So, premiums must rise to cover the cost of these purely voluntary outlays, er, expenses.

2. Sexual intercourse between two adults is not generally a public matter as would not be, likewise, a person's choice to use or not use birth control. The idea of a legislature passing laws on matters of personal choice which do not otherwise intrude on the preferences of others is absurd. Incidentally, if we're going to socialize the cost of birth control, thereby deeming sex a public good, then it's an easy argument from there that receipt of net benefits from government should be conditioned on sterilization.

Irony of ironies, we had positive fertility rates back when people had to pay the full freight for their own babymaking.

3. Related to 2, if the judiciary is having to pass constitutional muster on such narrow, arcane items, then rational public policy debate is not happening, and the people are effectively conceding their incapacity for self-governance.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Young, beautiful, auburn-haired engineers with green eyes and nice smiles

Via iSteve.

Sailer posts on the extremely attractive Debbie Sterling, CEO of GoldieBlox, which the NY Times says sells toys to encourage your little princess to become a mechanical engineer.

Of course, as a commenter notes, GoldieBlox is ultimately far more concerned with selling toys to make money. As Steve observes,
Have you ever noticed that basically everything you are supposed to believe in these days -- feminism, diversity, etc. -- turns out in practice to just be another way for hot babes, rich guys, super salesmen, cunning financiers, telegenic self-promoters, and charismatic politicians to get even more money and power?
That's a good macro observation, and I submit something is operating on the micro level as well. So many things high-profile women do strike me as just elaborate personal ads. Debbie Sterling is spending a Standford engineering education and some high-end fashion dollars demonstrating what a hot wife and fantastic mother she is. (She is apparently married, by the way.) Not that there's anything wrong with that. Practically all civilization is the result of men advertising what good provider-protectors they are.

Isn't the bottom line effect of feminism just to push women into the same zero-sum-oriented competitions that send men to earlier graves? Most girls won't grow up to be Debbie Sterling, just like most boys won't grow up to be Frank Lloyd Wright. In fact, most men would do great just settling for an ironworker's job on a Frank Lloyd Wright project. How many women are clamoring for that?

Feminism is really only oriented to women in the upper tiers of intelligence and attractiveness. Feminists don't mention, for example, that the realistic job option for most women is customer service for Team Sterling, or stuffing mail order boxes for Team Sterling. (Women hate working for women, by the way.) In another setting, what has feminism done for women's athletics? Now we've got rhythmic gymnastics, an entire "sport" for women to advertise their potential for elaborate lovemaking to Russian oligarchs.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Post-racial America sure is racial

Via Byzantine, Texas.
Albanian Diocese launches Hispanic outreach in NJ
I'm reposting this article after it was brought to my attention that this effort is one sponsored by the Albanian Diocese and not by the Greek Archdiocese. My sincere hope is that the currently somewhat patchwork-heavy effort in Spanish-language resources divided amongst the OCA, Antiochians, and now the Albanians will grow increasingly well coordinated and comprehensive. Apologies to Father Rafael Melendez on the diocesan misattribution.
First, I didn't realize there was an "Albanian archdiocese" in the US. But of course there is.

I guess the next step is the Spanish Diocese of the Albanian Archdiocese of the OCA Metropolitanate.

Serious question, at what point does this 'nation of immigrants' become a nation of natives whose people have a motherland in their own right? I thought this significant national question was settled a long time ago.

My advice to SCOBA at this point is to put American Orthodox unity on hold until we see which nations are left standing after the current one dissolves.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fat old lesbian worries she might have to live in North America

Wendy McElroy, via Conservative Blog for Peace.
Whether you want to leave or to enter America, gridlock and technicalities will not preserve those options forever. Senator Jack Reed, a co-sponsor of Ex-PATRIOT, has asserted, "American citizenship is a privilege.” It is a privilege that he and his ilk want to grant at their discretion. It is one of the surest indications of a police state: the inability to cross a border.
There's an invisible line around this purely artificial construct known as "my property" that it's a privilege to cross as well. And porn-obsessed freaks like Wendy might not be welcome. Sorry, Wendy.

Has this woman ever been in a Walmart? How does she think all those cheap first order goods got there? A million people cross the US border a year--am I supposed to be upset it's not more? Foreign capital pours into the US in the trillions of dollars for UST's and private securities. Where's Wendy's money headed--Mexico? Does she know why Microsoft has "offices" in Puerto Rico?

Like I say, libertarians are putting themselves on the margins of a lot of important debates.

UPDATE: I commented on Wendy's ignorance of the transnational movement of capital and labor at the OP but my comment got deleted. Apparently the Dollar Vigilante site doesn't extend the concept of "open borders" to the exchange of ideas.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Endless Afghanistan

Via Ad Orientem.
The 25-page “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” is a sweeping document, vague in places, highly specific in others, defining everything from the types of future missions U.S. troops would be allowed to conduct in Afghanistan, to the use of radios and the taxation of American soldiers and contractors...
Afghan officials tell NBC NEWS the agreement is critical to Afghanistan’s future stability. Without ongoing military assistance, training and funding, those officials say the government could collapse and Afghanistan would enter a civil war. If the agreement passes, the draft says Washington would commit to a long -term, indefinite military involvement in this land-locked Asian nation.
Pardon my Anglo-Saxon but, what the f***ing f***.

Further to my comment on the Phillipines, why are we propping up this pseudo-country? Why isn't Afghanistan a US colony governed by an American Raj and selling us opium and goat meat at a discount in exchange for their improving mortality rates. Why isn't the place opened up to American settlers who can go native or not as they damn well please? If the Afghans can't exercise sovereignty over their own territory, they are fair game for those who can.

Otherwise, leave and tell the Afghans the survival of their State is not the concern of the American taxpayer. And by the way, any extra-territorial trouble from them and we turn the place into a glass sheet.

I am really getting tired of this s***.

Karen De Coster is looking for an intern

Some basic data entry for a non-profit based in Detroit.

I mention this because Karen's also a big cheerleader for Detroit, and how this wonderful blank canvas of a city is just ripe for the lifegiving rain of anarcho-capitalism. I commented on her blog once that Detroit's problem is the people who live there, and that problem will be solved once different people live there, but my comment didn't make it through moderation.

Detroit has a reported unemployment rate of almost 20%, so I assume you could just stick your head outside your office and offer the 1 out of 5 Detroiters you meet a leg up on this "nice resume-building material" and "great references and networking opportunities."

I still link to Lew Rockwell and and read them every day, but their authors do a lot of backflips around some very important issues. Here, for example, is a Mises scholar trying to explain what causes crime.

The obsessive focus on State bureaucracy by these sites is really getting problematic. They are going to end up on the margins of a lot of debates. The State is scaling up into unsustainable complexity. Really, the State is more a clumsy, stupid giant where libertarians imagine a coordinated group of evil geniuses. All the ultra vires bureaucracies and their awful abuses are certainly noteworthy, but there's a far bigger conflict brewing which is the one between K-selected producers and r-selected consumers. (The democratic State favors the latter, by the way.) When the State loses control, there is no more bureaucratic overreach or police brutality. They all leave to protect their families.

Libertarians can travel to Libya and Syria to observe for themselves how the central State ultimately becomes the least of everybody's problems. Or they can go to the Saudi peninsula and see anarcho-capitalism immanentized: the society and its geographic redoubt as the literal property of the elite leadership. Same with Singapore, which still prescribes corporal punishment. Or Bhutan and Brunei.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Darwin's Fly

Fred Reed has some questions about evolution.

One of them:
The Bot fly is a squat, ugly, hairy fly that catches a mosquito, lays its eggs on said mosquito after positioning it correctly, and attaches them with a kind of glue. It releases the mosquito. When the little feathery syringe lands on, say, a human, the eggs drop off, hatch, and burrow into the host. These make nasty raised lumps with something wiggling inside them. Later they exit, fall to the ground, and pupate.

How did this evolve? Did a grab-a-mosquito gene occur as a random mutation (assuming that a single mutation could cause such complex behavior)? It would have to be a grab-a-mosquito-but-don´t-cripple-it gene. That is an awful lot of precise behavior for one mutation. At this point the bot fly would have a mosquito but no idea what to do with it. It would need simultaneously to have a stick-eggs-on-mosquito mutation. This would seem to require another rather ambitious gene.

Catching the mosquito without laying the eggs, or squashing the mosquito in the process, or laying eggs in mid air without having caught the mosquito, would seem a losing proposition. Yet further, the glue mechanism for making the eggs drop off onto the host instead of before or not at all, would also have to be present, caused by yet another complex simultaneous mutation. None of these awfully-lucky mutations would be of use without the others. How do you evolve this elaborate dance by gradual steps?

My preferred example along these lines is Darwin's orchid, a flower with a spur that measures 10 to 15 inches in depth. It generates a pungent perfume, but only at night, and exudes a nectar which fills the bottom quarter of the spur. Well, Mr. Charles Darwin surmised, the orchid must be pollinated by a moth with a proboscosis around 12 inches long, and so it is. How would this happen? Why would this happen? Like Fred says, it's beyond dispute that evolution occurs, but Something Else is definitely going on. Nobody knows what else, and that's where the handwaving starts.

I've come across these same questions from agnostic and atheist individuals (like Fred) who've contemplated Fermi's paradox. Why is sentient life such a rare phenomenon in the observed universe? Interstellar travel must be extremely problematic, or the parameters for the spontaneous generation (and maintenance) of sentient life have to be very, very narrow, but that just begs more questions. Interstellar travel is that problematic even for evolving civilizations? The universe is that hostile to sentient life? WTF--we're all alone on this speck of iron ore? The storyline for a thousand potential Hollywood screenplays and sci-fi novels now untenable. How? Why?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Perspective on the Phillipines

David Yeagley comments on the disaster of the Phillipines (and that typhoon).
Many nations are sending mega-tons of supplies to the ravaged people, nations like the United States, Israel, and this does not include the military aid sent by Britain, Australia, the U.S. and others, to control the uncontrolled “human” disasters on the islands (including those caused by Muslims there). Chaos rules now, indeed. One wonders how a nations of over 105 million people could remain so weak, disorganized, chaotic, divided, and completely dependent for so long? It seems a permanent condition.

Ask any servicemen (particularly in the U.S. Navy) about the culture. Ask anyone who has been to the Philippines, lived there, and knows anything about the society. It is quite tribal, for starters. It also tends to be without morals, and without the most basic concepts of family discipline. The children are not “raised,” but raise themselves. They are often abandoned, as “street children.” (But the style of child care in an actual “family” is often similar to abandonment. There is little or no discipline practiced. It’s simply not in the culture.) It’s all about gangs. Hordes of child gangs, youth gangs, child trafficking sex gangs, and more recently jihadist gangs, all seek order and power. There is no real central command. Never has been. (Much of the gang activity has spread to the U.S., of course.) A godless dictator shows up now and then, like Ferdinand Marcos, or his wife, but even they have never succeeded in unifying the Philippine people, or establishing any reliable order...

Assessing the Philippine society, one has to wander how much different the aftermath of Haiyan is from the normal life on innumerable hordes of homeless who live off city garbage dumps anyway. This is an outrage. The Philippines is an outrage. Pouring in multimillion dollar aid packages has to be some sort of staged act, some kind of world theatrics. Who is trying to impress whom? and why? None of this has any effect on the nature and condition of Philippine society. We should start with building codes, perhaps. Mass destruction and loss of life usually happen to areas of highly concentrated population in profoundly substandard living conditions. Yet no one seems to learn any lessons, no matter how many times repeated in the world.
Mr. Yeagley raises a most inconvenient truth. There are a number of these post-Colonial, pseudo-nations out there that are perennially in the thrall of some disaster, requiring endless public and private aid. Why do we keep shoveling aid into these countries for absolutely no positive effect? Why should they even have independent governments? It's frankly criminal to tax such impoverished people to support whatever group of bandits call themselves their government at a given time. Anybody with enough intelligence and foresight that we'd actually want in charge is doubtless spending his time and energies trying to get the hell out.

Haiti, the Phillipines, numerous other countries are all r-selected social and cultural disasters that are barely capable of self-governance and unable to sustain a decent life for their citizens. They should frankly be re-colonized, and they probably will be.

One place bucking this awful trend appears to be Rwanda, under the intelligent, forward-thinking and occasionally ruthless hand of Paul Kagame.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Democratic politicians

James Miller at Taki's wishes more politicians were like fat, gluttonous Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
The world would simply be better off with more openly drugged-up politicians. I don’t want the heads of the state to appear as squeaky-clean genteel men of good taste and adept intellect. They should look on the outside as they are on the inside: morally rotten. Most of the time, the alleged night watchmen of society are high off of their own narcissism and self-worth anyway. Might as well have them doing a few lines in between writing laws that put cash in the pockets of their buddies while leaving the rest of us high and dry. That way, there is no question of the ethical tomfoolery afoot. The pigsty remains a pigsty.
On the other hand, isn't it natural to expect my betters to be, well, better? Wouldn't we expect a general to be an exemplar of discipline and courage to his troops? Isn't a husband and father expected to be the oak tree who does not waver in a crisis and safeguards the family's honor? Isn't the head of a company a reliable producer, charismatic and hardworking? Why do democratic politicians get a pass?

If we are to have government, then I want my governors to be smart, disciplined men with a moral center. That's how things are supposed to work in the real world, after all.

Rob Ford better be careful. He's liable to be raped and gutted like a pig if he keeps hanging around with Somalian gang members.

By the way, if we are not going to have government, then we will have patriarchy. That's the default condition of Stateless society. The men who rise to the top in patriarchy aren't going to be fat slobs with no judgment like Rob Ford. When libertarians make jokes about wanting their leaders to be debauched, reckless individuals, it indicates to me they haven't really thought through the implications of Stateless society.

In case you were still wondering

"Open borders" really only benefit the immigrants and their patrons. The overwhelming effects are to aggrandize the State, drive up the costs for a middle-class lifestyle, erode trust and social capital, burden the infrastructure, reduce wages, and crowd out greenspace.

Any naive fools still out there yammering about freedom and trillion dollar bills on the sidewalk, you didn't get the memo from Tom Friedman and Tyler Cowen. (Via iSteve.)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's not often the national media vindicates me

So I am sure as hell going to post on it.

The Martin/Incognito affair has officially jumped the Narrative:
First, Martin was a victim and Incognito was a bully. Now, teammates say they were best friends. Incognito is a respected teammate and Martin is portrayed as a head case and an outcast who's turned on his team.

At the onset, Incognito was an insensitive racist. But not only are teammates now denying that description, they're saying Incognito is more black than Martin, according to The Miami Herald.

In fact, he's apparently considered an honorary black man in the locker room.

"Richie is honorary," one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told the Herald's Armando Salguero. "I don't expect you to understand because you're not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It's about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you've experienced. A lot of things."

Martin, who's biracial, attended Stanford and is the son of two lawyers. FOX Sports' Coy Wire, who also played at Stanford, wrote this week of the challenges "smart guys" can face in the NFL culture.

“There is a culture in the NFL that is hard to break into. If you don’t fit into the mold, and the culture in the locker room, you won’t last," another former NFL player who went to Stanford told Wire. "You do get a lot of respect [being from Stanford] because of your perceived intelligence, but you have to overcome a stigma that you may not be tough enough. Sometimes, in a gladiator sport like football, intelligence can be perceived as being soft.”

Fox Sports

Yet again, we see how political correctness makes people stupid. Incognito is the established NFL vet, on the team's leadership council, warrior "sleeves", well-paid and respected by his peers in a very physical and "black" environment. Martin is a rookie, upper-middle class, from Stanford, no tats, cherubic face--wait a minute, you mean I'm not describing a white guy?

What do sportswriters think goes on with these teams--Incognito was up there in the owner's suite, secretly being instructed by Da Man to keep a smart brutha down?

They could have just asked me, or they could have just watched Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Post-election day special: In which I briefly consider the 2016 Presidential race

Cum grano salis, because I haven't voted since 1991.

Via New Rebellion University

We’ve been here before: Hillary Rodham Clinton lands in a major U.S. city for a speech. Her team bars the media from the speech. Local media documents the firm stiff-arm from Clinton Inc.

Happened in Miami. Happened in Atlanta. Now the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci reports it’s about to happen in San Francisco.

The former secretary of state will be speaking at a mammoth Saturday event for the National Association of Realtors at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. And later that day, she’s scheduled to appear at a “Millennial Network” event to benefit the Clinton foundation, at San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom, Marinucci reports.

Both events will be closed to the press. [Washington Post]

There has been a minor drumbeat for some time about Hillary Clinton running for President in 2016, when she will be 69. I think there's probably a pragmatic explanation for keeping her speeches closed to the press. At age 66 and having probably had at least one mini-stroke, I’m guessing her verbal acuity is compromised. I remember her statements after Benghazi and thinking she sounded like a daft old woman. A fortiori, they don’t want any difficult questions about the numerous foreign policy debacles during her tenure shouted at her while she's just trying to earn an honest speaking fee.

Her value as a speaker stays up if it’s still an open question whether she’ll run for President.

Hillary Clinton is no Ronald Reagan, and there are plenty of people who will tell you Reagan showed signs of geriatric cognitive impairment from day one. It would take an awful lot of Botox and B12 shots to get her through a Democratic primary and Presidential campaign. Same for Kerry or Biden. I would be astonished if she runs for President in 2016. If she does, pass the popcorn.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Shocked, appalled

Large, aggressive man calls teammate "half-n****r," threatens to "s***" in his mouth.

So there.

That's apparently the worst that Miami Dolphins' rookie tackle Jonathan Martin got told by veteran guard Richie Incognito, along with other indignities.

Welcome to the NFL, home to an active roster of 1,440 of the biggest, strongest, most physically aggressive men on the planet. Sports talk-radio in my town was reeling over this story today, but the listeners who called in seemed a little more relaxed about it.

This is Jonathan Martin, number 71:

Martin's a big, strong guy who could kill me barehanded if he was so inclined, but I live in a comfortable, white-collar world and he lives in the NFL. Martin has a soft visage for a man who lives among predators. Martin went to Stanford as well. Logical-mathematical intelligence is not necessary for success in professional athletics. It's actually a handicap.

Up there next to Martin is Richie Incognito, number 68. Here's Richie, handling things:

Richie is no outlier. He's a solid member of the Dolphins football squad. He's on the team's leadership council, an alpha of the alphas. Martin, by contrast, is a geek; a big, strong geek but still a geek. The rest of the offensive line didn't think Martin fit in the fraternity either. The final straw for Martin was when the offensive line all got up and walked away when he tried to join them for lunch.

That's the big, tough world among big, tough men. Geeks in that world, like the Manning brothers, learn to sublimate their geekiness and get all their big, tough teammates to focus their aggression on blocking for them. Warriors, like Richie Incognito and Harvey Dahl, learn to sublimate (barely) their berserker tendencies to make plays happen.

Speaking of Harvey Dahl, he was cut by the Atlanta Falcons because urbane, dilettantish men like Thomas Dimitroff and Arthur Blank make the personnel decisions for the team. Consequently, the Atlanta Falcons will never control the line of scrimmage.

The culture that a cloistered group of high-T, physical men are going to generate is going to be frankly uncivil. Of course, they live in the middle of civilization so they have to keep their uncivil rituals to themselves. Incognito's transgression was not calling a teammate a half-n****r and threatening to s*** in his mouth, Incognito's transgression was breaching his fraternity's omerta, allowing the hazing ritual to be seen. I can assure you all that and worse gets said among members of the Special Forces, national rugby sides, Korean riot police locker rooms and any other physical, all-male environment. NFL culture is gladiator culture a/k/a prison culture, and in more ways than people like to think about.

Aaron Hernandez is a warrior, and he really does belong in prison. He definitely has a predatory look. I'm surprised he wasn't a linebacker instead of a tight end.

Here's Hernandez's girlfriend. She looks even more predatory than he does.

Violence is innate to humans. Fight-or-flight is still in the basal brain, where it's managed by our big cerebrums which allow us empathy and foresight. Sociopaths lack empathy and foresight. They function on instincts like fight-or-flight. Sociopaths don't respond to reason. The fight-or-flight instinct doesn't understand reason, it only understands threats.

Feminized society, which is gnostic society, is horrified by such biological realities so when something like this little tiff between Martin and Incognito comes up, they cluck and scold and demand rules to legislate reality out of existence. When something really serious happens, like when a 14-year old being raised in a nice neighborhood going to a nice school slashes his teacher's throat and dumps her body in the woods, feminized society can't deal with it at all. National media doesn't report it, people don't talk about it. Feminized society's pop culture doesn't even like to depict real villians any more; they're all space aliens or zombies.

That's how I know feminized society is eventually going to end. It gets all worked up over things like Martin and Incognito, but has no way to deal with actual, existential threats. When a genuine threat arises (and it always does), like an epidemic or foreign conquest or domestic warfare, feminized society will get rubbed out or pushed aside.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Whither Christendom

Who needs it, asks Dennis Mangan.

The question arises in response to Catholic Marxist Mark Shea's hissy fit over the "white supremacist filth" he sees lurking in conservatism. (I suppose I should thank God I'm not a conservative.) Mangan's question, coming as it does from one of the more trenchant thinkers in the Reaction, is a good one. If Mark Shea represents the weight of Catholic thought, then the Cathedral really is becoming "the Cathedral."

ObviouslyI don't agree with Mangan's reactionary secularism. Religious ceremony provides the last remaining link to the metaphysical in modernity. Secular ceremony can never muster the gravitas of the religious because everybody knows it's only temporal. This is why secular remembrances so often include the honoree's tales of woe as a single mom, sexual deviant, poor-body-image-sufferer, chemo patient, etc. Emotion and sentiment substitute for spirituality. The removal of the Eternal from the world leaves an awfully arid husk. Nobody outside the purely decadent and a few genius/near-genius individuals really wants to live in such a world. Most atheists, to my observation, end up embracing some neo-pagan or animist ritual. As a practical matter, religious ceremony is vital if not a sine qua non for sustainable society.

Reactionary Christians are advised to heed Mangan's objections. The traditional (and traditionally Catholic) conceptions of nationhood, the civil order and private and public morality which have enabled the West's level of knowledge and living standards are under severe attack. The Christian sects, from the Catholics themselves to the Evangelicals, are in the enthusiastic vanguard. If Christians are no longer interested in defending Christendom, then Western champions like Mangan will look beyond Christianity.

In all fairness though, Mangan fails to mention the numerous Catholic writers out there who take their inspiration from Charles the Hammer rather than +Francis of Lampedusa.

On the other hand, I think traditionalist Catholics may be in for a very rough ride.

Back when Europe ruled all the world worth ruling, Catholic universalism meant Western Civilization, and Rome was the West’s premier institution. This cannot be stressed enough: Rome was in all and above all. Over time though, Britain, Germany, and the Nordic nations went into schism, Europe embraced secularism, exhausted herself in two world wars and now faces severe, possibly irreversible demographic decline. You don’t become the Catholic Church by siding with the losers and Europe, and other bequests of the ancien regime, is losing badly. Rome appears quite pleased with her transition to champion of secular democracy and the Global South and its r-selected societies. Western society is highly K-selected and perforce, Rome will be not just pro-Third World, but positively and militantly anti-Western. (K-selected and r-selected societies are immiscible; the former must wall itself off from the latter, or the latter swamps the former.)

There are lots more properties and peoples and histories involved, so this will be way uglier than the Episcopal shipwreck.

Mangan actually appears to have considered Orthodox Christian and High Church submissions and still finds them wanting:
Writers who call for a return to Christianity always seem to mean some sort of specific, minor, and eccentric form of the religion that very few people actually adhere to. I'd say that the above writer is actually in the mainstream, and organized Christianity is actively promoting the downfall of the West.
He is probably right.

Friday, November 1, 2013

No Country For Old Men

This novel says a lot beyond its immediate theme of growing old in an increasingly pathological society.
It's a odd thing when you come to think about it. The opportunities for abuse are just about everywhere. There's no requirements in the Texas State Constitution for bein a sheriff. Not a one. There is no such thing as a county law. You think about a job where you have pretty much the same authority as God and there is no requirements put upon you and you are charged with preserving nonexistent laws and you tell me if that's peculiar or not. Because I say that it is. Does it work? Yes. Ninety percent of the time. It takes very little to govern good people. Very little. And bad people can't be governed at all. Or if they could I never heard of it.

-- Sheriff Bell, No Country For Old Men (Cormac McCarthy).
Joel and Ethan Coen made this novel into a film which is faithful to the book, for a change. (Another favorite novel of mine, The Paperboy, was apparently slaughtered for film by its own author, Pete Dexter). I remember when No Country came out in 2007 and several reviewers were horrified, because Cormac McCarthy's work says some very uncomfortable things. There was a similar reaction to Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. Reviewers couldn't deny the history of the Mayan empire and the realities of hunter-gatherer existence, so they attacked Gibson personally. Basically, it's the adult equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and screaming the Pledge Of Allegiance. Here, for example, is Christian cultural Marxist Mark Shea putting his fingers in his ears and screaming the Pledge Of Allegiance. (Via Occam's Razor.)

People really do not like being reminded about what's left once we get outside the protective and entirely artificial cocoon of civilization and technology. The four million Syrians capable of civilized existence are finding this out. McCarthy apparently thinks we'll find this out too.

No Country was published in 2005 about events in Texas in the early 1980's. The cartels haven't taken over any local governments yet, but apparently a lot of national parks are turning into marijuana farms, there are fairly routine kidnappings in Phoenix and renegade Mexican military occasionally fire shots across the border. So far though, no heads are being dumped in town squares nor bodies being hung over highway overpasses like in Mexico so this can all work out, right?

I wonder if McCarthy thinks about his novel as just anecdotal or if he really does think it's prophetic. If he said in public appearances what his protagonists say in his novels, the Left would go absolutely crazy. I'm surprised a film like No Country even got made.

A lot of the country used to be like rural Texas,, so people trying to understand America should read McCarthy's novels. For much of America's existence, government was pretty remote and people had to figure out how to manage for themselves. Big, complicated schemes like Obamacare, No Child Left Behind, the Ownership Society, the Great Society, really do not fit the American psyche. George W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson were from Texas, so they should have known better when they were hatching all their crazy schemes. Barack Obama (How the eff could we ever have a President by that name?) is a rootless, urban dilettante, so I can understand why he fancies the US as a European social democracy. Of course, this makes the fact that the Obamas are provincial buffoons even funnier.

Another theme from No Country is how Mammon makes people do stupid things, leaving them vulnerable to monsters like Anton Chigurh, who aren't motivated by money.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Libertarianism vs. conservatism, again

This comment over at Nick Steves' Reactivity Place got me thinking again about the conservative-libertarian debate. The linked entry is actually concerned with the far more prominent conservative-progressive debate. But on our side of the conflict, there is a lot of internal division between 'conservatives' and 'libertarians.' Neither side really understands each other, and there is also a lot of argument over definitions. I don't consider neo- and, for lack of a better term, "mainstream" conservatives conservative at all, for example. And I think libertarians are mostly mental 12-year olds who don't want anybody telling them what to do.

I’m not a ‘conservative’ because frankly I don’t see much deserving or capable of being conserved in the public sphere or in the institutions, so ‘reactionary’ seems appropriate. Paleo-conservatives, traditionalists or however they label themselves should get familiar with libertarianism or more properly anarcho-capitalism, because that is where we are headed. There is no reforming the State at this point; this thing will just have to play itself out. So the better way forward to me seems to be in rolling back the 20th century Progressivist State which consolidated its power after World War Two.

In light of current conditions, I don’t really understand the hate for libertarianism, properly understood. Think about life under a government (or warlord) that does not much more than coordinate mutual defense and maintain property rights in exchange for the fees it extracts:
1. No immigrants, only owners, tenants and trespassers, who are shot by ranchers or die in the high desert.

2. No commie city councils issuing Pride parade permits. Deviants are driven out of town, not lionized and given police escorts.

3. Individuals, not taxpayers, pay for their own due process. Sociopaths live short, unhappy lives under bridges or in wilderness areas, assuming they manage to avoid being shot or lynched in flagrante delicto.

4. The welfare state ends, and with it the multi-billion dollar flow of transfer payments from the K-selected to the r-selected. Bums work or starve. Women select for husbandry and fatherhood instead of glibness and peacocking. Families stay intact and develop patronage networks.

5. Children are freed from the State’s public indoctrination system. Schooling ends at 16, if not 14, or 12. Teenaged men really do “man up,” and the disturbing neoteny exhibited by males often into their early 20′s begins to reverse.
I can generate a much longer list of toxic phenomena which would not exist but for the State. There is a current of thought, especially prominent among Catholic intellectuals, that if we can just get access to the levers of power we can right the ship. The Catholic hierarchy in particular are doubling down on ingratiating themselves with the modernist, democratic-managerial State, stuck in their dream of the Church back in its old role as advisor and counselor to the State.

Nobody seems to be thinking too hard about the apparently unthinkable, where the centralized State loses much of its funding and has to cede territory to competitors, and we all have to start things over from scratch.* An example on my mind a lot these days is the former nation-state of Syria, where 4 million Shia and Christians in the professional-entrepreneur classes thought things would just rock along forever with 20 million Sunni peasants. The Alawites and Christians, like the establishment-conservatives in the US, banked (are banking) on the central State always being there. The Kurds in Syria hedged their bets with their ethnic nation-state. Now that Syria's central State has collapsed, the Kurds have a national structure to fall back on. The Alawites and Christians do not, and now some Christians are so desperate they are trying to get Russian citizenship, in the apparent hope that the Russian army will intervene on their behalf.

* - Conservatives seem to think the Progressivist tsunami is really just a tide, and will recede naturally leaving the structures intact. Lifestyle-libertarians and other Marxists hope for Year Zero, in order to install a permanent, perpetually-leveling revolutionary regime.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Not a pagan day, says Mystagogy.
If we were to trace the origins of Halloween to one specific event in history, it would be when Pope Gregory III (731-741) dedicated an oratory in the original Saint Peter's Basilica of Rome in honor of all the Saints on November 1st, which initiated a local Roman custom to celebrate the feast of All Saints on November 1st. Before this time the feast of All Saints, also known as All Hallows, was celebrated throughout the Christian world since the 4th century to mainly commemorate all the Martyrs either in April or May, including Ireland. The Franks then the English were the first to follow Rome in celebrating the feast of All Saints on November 1st, and this became official under Pope Gregory VII in the early ninth century. The word Halloween merely refers to October 31st being the day of All Hallows Eve, and later November 2nd also became part of the Triduum with the commemoration of All Souls Day on which prayers and philanthropic acts were done on behalf of the dead, which was also part of established Christian tradition since the early centuries.

This may come as a shock to some who believe the myth that Halloween has its origins or is associated with paganism or satanism. The truth is that Halloween never was and never has been associated with paganism or satanism, though some pagans and satanists may embrace it as part of the melting pot we call America. Instead what we find is that the Church established Hallowmas as original holy days, not to sanctify an old pagan celebration among the Celts as has been popularly believed, but to celebrate an already well-established feast dedicated to all the Saints.

Up until the 19th century, Halloween in Western Europe and America was a firmly Roman Catholic feast day that acquired and developed various cultural traditions, as all major holidays did at the time and still do. The mythology that Halloween had pagan origins prior to Christian times arose for the first time in the 19th century among Celtic scholars, who had their own personal agendas in falsifying history. They came up with the idea that October 31-November 2 were days when pagan Celtic peoples celebrated a feast of the dead known as Samhain, even though there is no historical record of such a feast among the ancient Celts. How did they come up with this? It was believed at the time that Christian feast days, such as Christmas and Easter, had pagan origins, and that the Church merely Christianized established pagan celebrations to win over converts. The way the Celtic scholars explained the origins for the feast of All Saints, which was popular among the Irish of the 19th century, was by tracing it back to the ancient Celts, without historical precedence. Though these false ideas are still popularly believed today, any honest historian can easily spot the agenda in these falsifications of history, and they have been firmly discredited.
Mystagogy (John Sanidopolous) really warms to the theme of Halloween monsters in their classical sense of monstrum, warnings or portents, which Bob Wallace likes to reference as well.
What about the macabre element of Halloween today? The macabre element of Halloween, like many apparently disagreeable and dark elements of all holidays, is really just a matter of perspective and attitude. First of all, the macabre is a natural element of the autumn season. Not only are the nights getting longer, but the weather is getting colder and the trees are stripped bare of their leaves. The colors and fragrances of death surround the atmosphere, and all we tend to see are cloudy days with lots of oranges, browns and blacks. Secondly, Gothic fiction arose in the 18th and 19th century based on the stories surrounding medieval architecture and art, as well as old superstitions and tales. Horror stories from that time on have always had an atmospheric element that appeals to one's artistic sensibilities combined with imaginative fears. For people who enjoy horror stories and movies, this artistic and atmospheric element is realized tangibly at Halloween time not only through costumes, but in popular culture and especially the ever-popular haunted houses. These things are not created primarily to scare people, but are more like museums of the macabre imagination based on old tales and fears. If these things are only created to scare without the artistic element, then they usually fail their purpose. Modern Halloween is basically defined by these two natural and fictional elements.

St. Photios the Great, in his Myriobiblion, reviews a fiction story he read, in which he concludes the following regarding fiction stories: "In the story, particularly, as in fabulous fictions of the same kind, there are two considerations most useful to notice. The first is that they show that evildoers, even if they seem to escape a thousand times, always get their punishment; the second, that they show many innocents placed in great danger often saved against all hope." The fictional stories told around Halloween, the great majority of the time, contain these same elements St. Photios praises in his review. This is most especially evident in old Gothic tales, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Bram Stoker's Dracula and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and even found quite often in modern horror fiction and movies...

The famous horror director Guillermo del Toro says: "Monsters are living, breathing metaphors." Horror stories, like most fiction, are usually metaphors for something deeper that teaches us about ourselves, our environment or our situations of either the past, present or future. Noted horror author Stephen King has famously written: "Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote to a friend something similar about his story that is full of metaphors: "Jekyll is a dreadful thing, I own, but the only thing I feel dreadful about is this damned old business of the war in the members. This time it came out; I hope it will stay in, in future." George Romero, the director of the highly metaphorical Night of the Living Dead and the creator of the modern Zombie phenomenon, has commented: "I also have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters." The great silent horror actor Lon Chaney once said of the roles he played: "I wanted to remind people that the lowest types of humanity may have within them the capacity for supreme self-sacrifice. The dwarfed, misshapen beggar of the streets may have the noblest ideals. Most of my roles since The Hunchback of Notre Dame, such as The Phantom of the Opera, He Who Gets Slapped, The Unholy Three, etc., have carried the theme of self-sacrifice or renunciation. These are the stories which I wish to do." Tragedy often gives birth to horror, but it cannot be denied that the most horrible elements are what we carry within ourselves. As Oscar Wilde wrote in his tale The Picture of Dorian Gray: "The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
When my daughter was very young, I told her that the witches, ghosts, goblins and other evil characters of Halloween have no more power in the world, according to our saviour Jesus Christ:
17And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. 18And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. 19Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

21In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. 22All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.

23And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: 24For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
(Luke 10)
In strict theological terms I don't think my interpretation is accurate, but that's how this Gospel passage has always struck me, and I like to think about it this way. And my daughter has never been afraid of ghosts or goblins or witches since.