Friday, March 30, 2018

Why Pope Francis is Wrecking Catholicism

Here we are on Good Friday, and the big story is Pope Francis telling an atheist journalist that he is not  that into Hell. Writes George Neumayr,
In an interview with the Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, Pope Francis declared that the unrepentant don’t suffer in hell but simply “disappear.”
Of course, nobody really has a right to be scandalized by this. The Catholic Church operates as a "magisterium" which means more or less that what the pope says goes. So if the pope says that you don't get to burn in Hell for your sins but instead disappear into oblivion, hey, that's the plan.

However, in my judgement, what the pope is doing  is destroying the Catholic Church as an institution where people go to get an answer to the "meaning of life, the universe, and everything" in the felicitous phrase of Douglas Adams.

Ever since the Axial Age, humans have approached this problem through the cultural notion of a God that cares about good and evil.

(Did you know that before the Axial Age gods did not care too much about good and evil? A good place to start is Homer's Iliad. Those gods were playing politics, using humans as their chess pieces on the chess-board of the plains of Ilium).

The reason that gods suddenly became interested in good and evil in about 600 BC was that the "informal social control" of the village was breaking down as humans started moving into larger, and more impersonal communities. That's from sociologist of religion Rodney Stark.

But Rodney Stark has also analyzed the workings of what we might call the religious marketplace. What do believers want, and what do religious entrepreneurs offer them?

The answer is that people want a religion that enacts the drama of good and evil, but they want it tailored to their specific needs. Some people want a very strict and demanding religion; others want a medium strict religion (and this is the sweet spot where most people live); some people want a very liberal religion. In times of trouble, people tend to want more strict religion. That is why, for instance, western New York State during the chaos of building the Erie Canal was called the "burned over district" and birthed a lot of religious movements including the Church of Latter Day Saints.

There is a tendency for religious entrepreneurs -- the Wesley brothers, Joseph Smith & Co -- to start fairly strict religions. There is also a tendency for religious bureaucrats to gradually ease up on the strictness of the church they direct. This is because, like all bureaucrats, religious bureaucrats tend, over time, to focus on the emoluments and perquisites of office rather than the actual mission of the church.

So it makes complete sense that during our lives the Catholic Church has de-emphasized the strictness of good vs. evil. But there is a problem, according to Rodney Stark. When ecclesiastics liberalize their churches and soften their doctrine the believers tend not to like it, and the ecclesiastics pretty soon start preaching to empty churches. On Rodney Stark's view this is exactly what happened to the Catholic  Church after Vatican II. Used to be that both clergy and laity were enthused by the specialness of their faith: the priests and nuns in their distinctive uniforms and status, the laity in their strict requirements for fidelity and observance.

Now, if you believe in the ideas of Rodney Stark you would think that, if the Christian churches are relaxing their religious discipline, then something would be likely to come along and fill in the gap left by the churches that were reducing the level of enthusiasm for the drama of good and evil. And of course this is exactly what has happened. The Gospel has been replaced by the Social Gospel. The moral drama of personal good and evil has been replaced, especially for educated people, by the moral drama of social good and evil, the plight of the poor, inequality, and the blight of capitalism.

There are many people that assert that the secular movements of the last two centuries are not religions, but I am not one of them. All these movements -- from the Jacobins of the French Revolution to the Communists of early to mid 20th century to the postmodernist SJWs of today -- are all running religions, that are intensely concerned with the moral drama of good vs. evil.

For instance, you may be concerned with the violence of Good Friday, the sacrifice of the Son of God in expiation of our Sins, and the almost melodramatic resolution of the Passion of Christ on Easter Sunday when Christ rises again from the dead. But surely the secular-religious passion of AntiFa, the anti-gun movement, and the campus SJWs show that ideological passion is alive and well, and that all over the world, people are motivated by the passion to fight for good against evil.

You might think, for example, that martyrdom is a dead-end. But in fact people are highly motivated to become martyrs. We see that in the Islamic movement -- and we see it with the mass shooters. Hey, the easiest way to go down in history is to get your 15 minutes of fame with a semi-automatic assault rifle.

And the proof of this is the reverse of it. During the Great Purges of the Stalinist Soviet Union, according to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, one of the most effective ways of breaking down non-believers was to tell them, in the isolation of the interrogation room, that they would disappear without a trace so they might as well give in and confess. This tactic did not work for religious believers, who already knew that they would go to Heaven.

For me, the current moral drama of the left and the SJWs is a dead end, for the simple reason that it has not confronted the "indirect social control" culture of the market economy. In my view, the true religion of today must blend the good vs. evil culture of the monotheisms with the "service is perfect freedom" culture of the market. For this is the basic proposition of the market economy. Think of some service, some product that other people want, and deliver it. Deliver it not just to your tribe, your clan, but to all the people, all over the world. What a concept!

So my idea is that the Religion of the Future must blend the women's culture that is best adapted to the culture of informal social control with the men's culture that is best for running the culture of formal social control with the impersonal culture of indirect social control that comes with the market and its prices.

Hey, it should be no problem. We will wake up on some Sunday soon and find that we have all risen as if from the dead and that all the world is new again.

But I wish that Pope Francis were a sadder and wiser man.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

"Informal Social Control" and "Formal Social Control" and the Left

I  was reading a piece today by ZMan about "Puritans and Progressives" and how similar they are.
[Just like the Puritans] [t]he modern Left is consumed with defining who is inside and who is outside their thing. The people inside are the righteous, while the people outside are all evil.
And it happens that today David French is reporting on the liberal rage at the idea -- the idea! -- of hiring National Review writer Kevin D. Williamson to write for The Atlantic. And then there is John Derbyshire writing about the travails of Amy Wax, a law professor who is getting in trouble for suggesting that “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely in the top half” at the law school at the University of Pennsylvania.

What is going on here? I think that the way to understand it is to use Rodney Stark's concepts of "informal social control" and "formal social control" from his book Why God?

Stark argues that the appearance of monotheistic religions in the Axial Age occurred because people were starting to live in communities that were too big to be regulated by the face-to-face informal social control of the village. In the village everyone knows everyone else and the community of women determine who is naughty or nice, as in my immortal catchphrase: "I can't believe she said/did that."

But when the world gets too big you need the impersonal authority of formal social control with governments for the external control of people's acts and monotheistic gods that can  peer into your soul to control your mental acts.

But the thing is that we are all programmed for the intimate world of the village and informal social control. So we are outraged, outraged that there are people out there actually allowed to write stuff that we know is evil and opposed to everything we believe. The nerve! And so we get the Puritan witch hunts of Salem, Massachusetts, of which everyone has heard tell. And we get the Reign of Terror witch hunts of the French Revolution, of which everyone has also heard tell, but with which some of our lefty friends fail to make the connection. Oh and the Great Purge of 1930s Soviet Union, and the McCarthy witch-hunts of the 1950s, and the Maoist Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.

Today we are having a similar experience with the postmodernists and "political correctness." And this witch-hunt was specifically recommended by left Herbert Marcuse in his 1965 essay on "Repressive Tolerance."

Our Big Problem, I think, is that there is another social control concept that has taken hold in the last 200 years. It is what we might call the "indirect social control" of the market economy. The market economy does not directly say: "Thou Shalt" and "Thou Shalt Not." It only gives you a nudge.

In my view there is a problem with the indirect social control of the market. It does not have enough valence, enough moral drama of good against evil. People want to live in the moral drama of the battle of good against evil, and they think something is missing in their lives if the moral drama is missing.

Against this appetite for moral drama is the opinion of Crane Brinton in The Anatomy of Revolution. In his view humans cannot handle the heightened drama of a witch-hunt or a Reign of Terror for too long. And so there is always a return to normalcy, what the left calls "Thermidorean Reaction" because the French Reign of Terror ended in the revolutionary month of Thermidor.

There is also a theory that witch-hunts stop when the hunters start coming for respectable women that are wives of local notables. It is one thing to sweep up witches on the margins of society, but quite another when high-born women are involved, darling. So does Prof. Amy Wax count as a high-born notable? Does the reign of microaggressions stop with her?

We shall see.

But I think that the key to the whole matter is to understand the interplay of the cultures of "informal social control," "formal social control," and "indirect social control."

And remember what Harry Hotspur said about the claim of Henry IV to be the King of England.
[The king]
Broke oath on oath, committed wrong on wrong;
And, in conclusion, drove us to seek out
This head of safety; and withal to pry
Into his title, the which now we find
Too indirect for long continuance.
Yeah! You give 'em hell Harry.

Because that is what the left has been doing in respect  of the market  economy for a century and a half: prying out the title of capitalism, which  they find too indirect, too lacking in moral drama, for long continuance.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Omnibus Bills and Us

My American Thinker piece this week made fun of the girlish horror at President Trump signing the bulging omnibus bill: "I Can't Believe He Signed That Omnibus Bill." But some people took me seriously; they thought I was tearing my hair out at the folly of Trump signing such a bill.

Actually, it was a joke, son. My notion is that whenever two women are gathered together, a lot of their conversation is about other women not present, as in: "I can't believe she said/did that." This ganging up on other women is probably why we humans still survive. It is, as Jordan B. Peterson writes,  "informal social control" by the community of women in a face-to-face community. As opposed to the "formal social control" of governments and men with guns.

But the Bigger Point is the point of the cartoon character Pogo: we have seen the enemy and he is us.

The reason for omnibus bills is the same as the reason for big government, and liberals wanting to take our guns "for the children" and the government taking 35 percent of our income every year and the Trump administration advertising special exemptions to its tariff proposals. We are all of us inclined to resort to force when our own interests are involved.

I was talking to a political candidate the other day and he complained lightly that too many people  in  politics are in it for the power. We agreed that power is an empty shell. This guy is a very personable man, who has been able to bring people together to do impossible things.

Very nice. But government, all government, is force. And once it gets beyond the simple acts of "formal social control" of repelling invaders and cracking the heads of thieves and robbers, then it is frankly serving the agenda of people that want something for nothing. Which is all of us.

Walter Williams had a characteristic piece today about this. Said he:
Suppose you are a 22-year-old healthy person. Rather than be forced to spend $3,000 a year for health insurance and have $7,000 deducted from your salary for Social Security, you'd prefer investing that money to buy equipment to start a landscaping business.
Well? What would be the best use of the money? The answer is obvious. The young man should use the $10,000 a year to start a landscaping business. The idea of surrendering the money to insurance  companies and politicians is utter folly. It is, in the biblical phrase, surrendering your birthright for a mess of pottage.

But what if you get ill and need expensive cancer surgery? Yes. It's a problem. Of course there are options. You could protect yourself with a true catastrophic insurance policy. Or you could hope to pile it all on your credit card. Or mortgage your business or your house.

And what if you ended up at 65 without any savings? Well, you might. But you would probably not have been so foolish. Instead, like the overwhelming number of people you would have saved for the rainy day. Plus, if you had any sense, you would have children.

And there is another reason. It is the secret of capitalism. Money given to the government is dead money, the same as the value of capital assets owned by the government in a dam or a municipal electric system. But private assets are the basis of credit, the means by which ordinary people lubricate each other's economic lives. They are what makes the world go round. Young people are usually on the receiving end of credit, to start businesses and pay for schooling. Older people are on the giving end of credit: advancing money and/or equity to young people to get a leg up on life. There is a word for this: generational justice. And the point is that there is no compulsion, only trust and reciprocity, and hard feelings if the deal goes wrong.

But when people engage with government, then we are talking about force. Of course, we do not talk about force in this context, oh no. We talk about the children, the workers, the disabled, the elderly. So we do. But conveniently forget that there are two ways to help people: with force and without force.

There is, of course,a certain frisson that comes from getting your share of the government loot. If you are Chuck Schumer, it says something about you and your power that you can get $30 billion for a tunnel across the Hudson River. The same goes for the chap that wants a new Air Force fighter jet, or the liberal that wants more money for "choice." But then there is also the frisson that comes from sailing up the rivers of Britain in the year 1000 and grabbing all the grain, killing all the men, and selling all the women and children into slavery. What is the difference.

And we are all players in this game, from the grandpa that paid into Social Security all those years, and the daughter that needs Medicare for her end-of-life mother, to the liberal all proud about the grant they just got for their activism.

And what exactly are we deplorables all upset about with the omnibus bill? Are we upset that it didn't slay enough liberal cows? That it didn't end Obamacare as we know it? The real money in the federal budget is the troika of Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and Defense.  That is $3 trillion a year. The entire rest of the budget, including interest on the national debt, is $1 trillion. Here:
Federal Government Spending
Fiscal Year 2018
Federal Pensions$1.0 trillion
Federal Health Care$1.2 trillion
Federal Education$0.1 trillion
National Defense$0.9 trillion
Federal Welfare$0.4 trillion
All Other Spending$0.6 trillion

So what's your problem, pal?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Ancient Myth and My Three Peoples Theory

My reductive Three Peoples theory, as I am sure you know, proposes three kinds of humans: There are the People of the Subordinate Self, workers and peasants that experience life as if they were feudal peasants. There are the People of the Responsible Self, responsible individuals that follow the rules, go to work, and obey the law. You need to be a Person of the Responsible Self in order to function competently in the modern market economy of the city. Then there are People of the Creative Self, artists and writers.

I think this theory brilliantly illuminates the modern world and its political and cultural wars. But now I am reading Jordan B. Peterson, with his distillation of scholarship on myth and post-Jungian psychology. And I have a problem.

The problem is that, in the mythological framework, you have the Great Mother, the Great Father, and the Son as Hero.

The Great Mother represents the axis of creation /<-> destruction. She is mystery, with unknown and unfathomable things happening within her mysterious body. She is the source of life, and yet also the author of destruction. Frankly this is shocking to me, carefully taught to think of women as lovers and helpless carers and helpless victims of the patriarchy, and not to think about Mean Girls, and goddesses like the furious Kali, not at all. But we deplorables can understand the affinity between creation and destruction in the famous concept of Joseph Schumpeter, that capitalism is "creative destruction."

The Great Father represents the axis of order / <->tyranny. This is easy to swallow, because it isn't that different from our patriarchal states that protect us from enemies, foreign and domestic. But there is always the danger that too much protection and government can slide from the beneficial establishment of order into the cruel and unjust imposition of tyranny. We know all about that, we sons of the 20th century.

The Son is the Hero that stands at the border between order and chaos. It is his job to explore the chaos of the time, to understand and tame it, and lead the people into the Promised Land where the dangerous and unknown chaos can be brought into the light and understood and mastered. Yes: Marduk, Horus, Jesus Christ: those chaps. And actually, I think that the liberal idea of the "activist" partakes of this notion.

I tell you what bothers me. It is the notion that creation/destruction is a feminine trait of the Great Mother. Because I think that the Great Enrichment of the last two centuries, when real per capita income has grown by 30 times, is mostly a male thing of creative destruction. So where does that connect with the Great Mother theme of creation and destruction? It's a problem!

Now here is one way to think about it. We can say that in the modern world the roles of Great Mother, Great Father, and Hero Son have become blurred and blended. If men are no longer needed to guarantee order by standing on the border and keeping the barbarians out then that reduces the role of Great Father protectors. So maybe the solution is for men to get into the creation business, not by gestating babies, but by gestating start-up businesses. Needless to say, the business startup game also partakes of the Hero myth, for every businessman that starts a new business is going down into hell, confronting the great unknown, and trying to explore a new technology or business idea and make it habitable and productive for his fellow humans. He clearly sacrifices himself for the potential good of all.

So also for women. If women are not longer needed to devote their entire lives to the creation of babies, maybe they can partake of the Father role of maintaining order and become politicians. I think we can say that Margaret Thatcher did that successfully, and Hillary Clinton did not. Hey, maybe women can even harden themselves and become Heroes, going down into hell and bringing back a great boon to mankind.

But you know what? I think that the road for women to partake of Great Father and Hero roles is much harder than the road for men to partake of feminine creativeness. Anyone that has looked at the life of Margaret Thatcher understands that. It took her ten years to find a constituency and get into Parliament; yet she never whined about the Tory patriarchy that would not have her for a candidate. And I think that we are seeing this difficulty right now with the whole cultural froo-fra from women in STEM to "hate speech" in social media and the feminization of education with the drugging of boys and the attack of the open-outcry culture of debate with the concerns about microaggressions and safe spaces.

The point is that if you want to be the guarantor of order, then you can't be demanding that someone else protects you from the brickbats of the public square. If you want to go down into the underworld where there be dragons you can't be worrying about the pinpricks of microaggressions. Ain't no safe spaces down in the underworld, old girl.

So that's why I think that, when the votes are finally counted, women will choose to return to the domestic sphere, the family and the neighborhood, which indeed badly needs their care and attention. Men may be able to soften themselves from warrior-warriors into road-warriors, but they ain't gonna be no good raising babies and interacting with the ladies of the neighborhood, not nohow.

In Media Res: Peterson and Stark

I'm in the middle of Jordan B. Peterson's Maps of Meaning, but also reading Rodney Stark's Why God. Oh, and my book right now to read at the gym is a compendium of Nietzsche's writings.

It's all very exciting because they are all talking about the same thing, only with different sound systems. Strictly speaking, I should not write about them while in the middle of reading them, in media res, just like the great classic myths, like the Iliad and the Odyssey, that all start "in the middle." But hey, if the great story-tellers can start in the middle, why not me?

For instance, this morning in "The Gay Science" Nietzsche was talking about both "heroes" and "chaos." That, of course, is exactly what Jordan Peterson is talking about.

Peterson's premise is that to understand myth and humans you have to understand that non-scientific people have to live in a world of the known and the unknown. At any moment, you may have to deal with an irruption of the unknown into your life, otherwise known as chaos.

Now in our world we think the known world extends all the way out to space, to the solar system, to the galaxy, to other galaxies. We have theories that explain the whole thing. We have a bit of a problem with the Big Bang and dark matter and dark energy and multiverses, but hey, the priests, er, scientists at the temples of knowledge will soon figure out the whole procedure.

Actually, I maintain that, despite all our modern knowledge we still don't have a clue what it is all about, the "meaning of life, the universe, and everything" as Douglas Adams repeats again and again in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

In fact, even though we don't like to admit it, the whole stuff about the Big Bang, dark matter and dark energy and so forth play pretty close to a creation myth. "In the beginning" there was the big bang, then inflation, then atoms started to form, then stars then galaxies. But here's  a funny thing. They say that galaxies do about one revolution in a billion years. So that means that, given the current scientifically determined age of the universe, the galaxies have only made about 13 revolutions since the Dawn of Time.

Know what? I don't think so. I think that in time there will be another theory that replaces the Big Bang. The Big Bang will be consigned to the lumber room as an ancient myth of those superstitious 21st century loonies, and we will find out that the galaxies have made a lot more than 13 revolutions in their lifetimes.

But back to Peterson. His line is that our basic human problem is dealing with the unexpected, the irruption of the terrifying Unknown, potential chaos, into our ordered world. And it is the job of the hero to venture into the unknown, explore it, understand it, and bring it into the predictable known world. You can see that this narrative does not end with the birth of science. Science is always butting into unexpected results that disturb our current understanding. Indeed, good scientists are aching for such a situation, because that creates the possibility to become an Einstein, a Heisenberg, or a Richard Feynman: a hero.

And yes, that hero, that Son, in venturing to solve mankind's problems, is also sacrificing himself so that others may live. Mother, the creator of life, Father, the guarantee of order, and the Son the sacrificial hero. It's right there in all myth and religion. It's even in left-wing activism. What do you think the brave young activist going against the evil status quo and bending the arc of history towards justice is all about?

But I am also getting some clarity about modern monotheism from Rodney Stark. He makes me adjust my ideas about the Axial Age when cities and monotheism got started.

(By the way, Stark points out that all the monotheisms got there by demoting the auxiliary gods, making them into angels and Satans saints and whatnot).

Stark's line about the Axial Age, which he puts definitively at the 6th Century BC, rather than the 800 BC to 300 BC at La Wik, is the social crisis of the transition from village to city.

Quoting Karl Jaspers, who coined Achsenzeit, Stark states that the Axial Age marks the beginning of ethical religion, religion concerned with morality. The old gods, you see, were not moral.
[F]rom infancy, humans are raised to believe that the norms of their group are the "right" way to behave and are trained to conform. In addition, all groups exert informal methods of social control -- pressures to conform imposed by those in our immediate  environment... But as societies become larger, and many people are unknown to one another, informal social control breaks down.
That's when you need "formal social control," i.e., the state, to execute on "deterring and punishing moral violations, usually involving specialists in detection and punishment." But, as Nicholas Wade points out in his The Faith Instinct, there is a problem. People don't like the enforcers from another family enforcing on their family. There is a danger of social strife between people in the community. Plus, no human enforcement specialist is going to bring every malcontent to justice. Enter the monotheistic God. Stark: "Being all-knowing and all-seeing, God is the ideal enforcer of morality." Wade:
A system of supernatural punishment carries enormous advantages for a primitive society. No one has to assume the thankless task of meting out punishment and risk being killed by the offender or his relatives; the gods perform this chore willingly and vigilantly.
Now, as a racist sexist homophobe, I am drawn to the idea that the informal social control of the village was (and is) performed by women. That is what the women's culture of complaint is all about: "I can't believe she said/did that." But it is clear that formal social control is a guy thing. That's why the monotheistic gods are male. When the cracking of skulls is needed, you need a man for the job.

Oh, and by the way, I'd say that the modern godless administrative state, especially in its extreme instantiations of Communist and Fascist regimes, relies way too much on actual mortal, human formal social control without the help of the immortal gods. I'd say that a little bit of faith in a God who knows all and sees all can fill in for a whole bunch of policemen, who are, after all, nothing but time servers counting the day till they get their pensions.

Oh and by the way, how about the market economy that rewards trust and fair dealing and pretty soon cuts out the untrustworthy and cheater, and given its head, can increase human income by 30 times in 200 years? You could call it a rebirth of informal social control. It ain't perfect, of course, but everybody benefits from reciprocal trust. And you know why? Because it is cheaper: it reduces transaction costs and that goes straight to the bottom line.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Down in the Swamp with the Brennans and the McCabes

As Vox Day reminds us, the job of Donald Trump is to Build the Wall and Drain the Swamp. And so it is a problem that the monster omnibus spending bill for the next six months (!) builds Chuck Schumer's tunnel under the Hudson but doesn't Build the Wall.

We deplorables ain't happy about that.

This omnibus bill is a problem, everyone seems to say, if Republicans want to win the midterms. Because if Republicans can't figure out that their job is to build the wall and stop Chuck's tunnel, they have, as the Brits say, lost the plot.

But enough of Build the Wall. What about the Dreaded Swamp?

I am coming to think that the Swamp is in Deep Doodoo over their corrupt effort to mess up Donald Trump during the election and drive him from office after the election.

And my feeling, from reading a piece about "John Brennan, Obama's Head of the Innuendo Community," and a piece about "The Real Andrew McCabe," both in the American Spectator, is that there's a little problem out there in Swampland. And that is that swamp creatures like Brennan and McCabe are not that good at what they do.

Hey, you expect that, what with Versailles and silken courtiers and mature and corrupt dynasties in general. Their functionaries really are not as smart and tough as the revolutionaries they oppose. Because they are soft. And they are stupid.

What courtiers do is sit around in the king's court and stab each other in the back. And they get chatting to their pals in the foreign king's intelligence service, and use the completely unbiased information from their pals in the foreign king's intelligence service to play their own little power games in their own king's court.
A member of the intelligence community tells TAS that he was approached by FBI investigators inquiring about Brennan’s improprieties at the CIA. He was startled to hear them venting aloud about Brennan’s practice of using British intelligence officials to spy on the Trump campaign.
As the saying goes: "what could go wrong?" Because, you see, getting info from British intelligence on the Trump campaign would be an act of "collusion" if Trump's people did it. Every MSM journalist knows that.

Rule 1: Republicans and conservatives know that they have to play by the rules otherwise the Swamp will eat them for breakfast, vide Watergate.

Rule 2: Even though Democrats and liberals expect to get away with everything, there are "little people" down in the bureaucracy, deplorables, if you like, that hate them for it. Particularly in the FBI.

We see this with the fired Andrew McCabe. Apparently he had it in for Special Agent Robyn Gritz. She'd had a great career at the FBI in the years after 9/11, working with the CIA and under Michael Flynn at the Defense Intelligence Agency. But then she went to work for Andrew McCabe.

All of a sudden she started getting bad work reviews, and in the end had to resign from the FBI. Not surprisingly straight arrow Gen. Flynn went to bat for her.
In 2015, Flynn publicly supported Gritz in an NPR broadcast in which he questioned why Gritz had been driven out of the FBI. Citing her years of valuable national security experience, he praised her as one of the “bright lights and shining stars” in the intelligence community.
Golly! Can you connect the dots here? You think that maybe Andrew McCabe was pissed off with Flynn for backing Gritz? You think that maybe the Flynn indictment was a setup by McCabe to teach Flynn a lesson?

You may think that; I couldn't possibly comment.

But the thing is that these senior Swamp Creatures aren't all that good at what they do. And I blame the Fake Media.

You see, if the Fake Media did its job, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable instead of toadying to liberal power, then the Brennans of the world would think twice before dancing the tango with Brit intelligence guys as a way to launder Russian Kompromat (компромат, I expect, but you  never know with Russian). He would think, wow, I better keep my hands clean, just in case.

You see, if the Fake Media did its job, then weenies like AndrewMcCabe wouldn't try underhanded stuff on employees they didn't like, because the weenies would be afraid it would all come out in the wash, and then what about the weenies' pensions?

You see, if the Fake Media did its job and rooted out government and political malfeasance wherever it was found, then these Brennans and McCabes would do their jobs and stop playing courtier politics and stabbing decent people in the back.

OK, but who cares? It looks to me, what with all the firings of the McCabes and the demotions of the Strzoks and Pages and Ohrs, that things are not going all that well in the Swamp right now.

They say that the Trump Surveillance is worse than Watergate, but they don't know what they are talking about. There could be 20,000 Swamp Creatures fired, demoted or reassigned over the monstrous and unjust surveillance and calumnification of the Trump campaign by the "intelligence community," but it will all just disappear into the ether. There will be no bringing up of "Brennanism" comparable to McCarthyism for the next 60 years, no bringing up of  "FISA-Gate" comparable to Watergate for the next 40 years. Because our noble journalistic crusaders jihadists in the media just don't think that what good old Brennan and McCabe do is in the same league as the vile actions of the tail-gunner anti-Communists and the hated red-baiting Nixon. Yeah! Jerry Voorhis and Helen Gahagan Douglas!

And that's a shame, because if there is one thing our rulers need to understand, it is that their glorious century-long Whig ascendancy of the liberally educated and the progressively evolved is coming to an end in the way that all things come to an end, in flaccidity and corruption and injustice.

Because, as I keep saying, every government official should have on their desk not "the buck stops here," but "there is no such thing as justice, only injustice."

My point is that when you have the power of government, which is force, then you should assume that your every action has the potential for injustice, and that knowledge should keep you awake at night.

Or, as Jordan B. Peterson writes, the male principle operates on an axis of Order <-> Tyranny. But how do you tell the difference?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Real Facebook Game

I know we are all supposed to be outraged about the way that Cambridge Analytica harvested tons of Facebook data for the Trump campaign. But maybe it's the usual conventional wisdom, sound and fury signifying nothing.

I went to a Republican fundraiser yesterday -- in the heart of liberal Seattle -- and met a young man that reckons he knows how to run political campaigns using Facebook.

Forget the ruinously expensive TV campaigns that reach 20-30 percent of voters. Facebook reaches 60 percent of voters. Forget a commercial with a talking politician. Just paint a few slogans on the screen and put it on Facebook advertising.

Here is how Facebook advertising works. Suppose you have a quote from some local pillar of the community. Using Facebook's ad tools you draw a circle around the location of that notable's house and set up an ad for everyone within a mile, that's a homeowner, that meets other available criteria. You craft the ad so that it tells a quick story and you make it work without sound, because most people have the sound off.

The guys says that Mitt Romney, in 2012, should have run a Facebook ad during the Olympics. He should have said Go USA, and added that the most meaningful thing in his life was the opportunity to manage the Salt Lake Winter Olympics and turn it around and make it into a success. In other words, the idea is not to pump himself up, or beat up the opposition. The idea is just to give a little nudge, tell a little story, and leave the Facebook viewer with a warm fuzzy feeling.

OK. Is this a brilliant idea? Or a kid with a crazy obsession. Who knows? The point is that all new things in this world start out seeming improbable and unlikely. And if and when they take off it all seems inevitable.

This, for me, is an interesting story in the week where all the right people are outraged about Cambridge Analytica getting access to Facebook data -- the same sort of people that thought it was cool when the Obama guys got access to Facebook data in 2012. Really, who cares? You can just do straight Facebook ads, and it is way cheaper, and probably more effective, than regular TV ads.

Apparently, in 2016, Clinton spent $10 million on Facebook ads, and Trump spent $70 million on Facebook ads. Is that the difference between the win and the loss? Who knows? Maybe they do know, but they aren't telling.

Meanwhile, the current campaigns still seem to think that the key is the final-week artillery barrage and Big Push on TV. Are they still right? Or is the better tactic a special forces infiltration on social media? In another decade we will know for sure, and everyone will agree that the old way was for losers.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Midterm Madness

The question is: will the 2018 midterm election be a rout for Republicans, as nearly everyone seems to think, especially after the Democratic victory in the PA-18 special election that elected ex-Marine and pro-gun and anti-abortion Democrat Conor Lamb to Congress? Or not?

Well, yeah. I dare say that if Democrats run clones of Conor Lamb all over the place they will clean up.  But I thought that the Democrats were against a moderate chap like Conor Lamb. Because white privilege.

But would all those clean-cut moderate ex-Marine Democrat Conor Lamb clones all vote to impeach President Trump? I suppose they would, just like the moderate Democrats that Chuck Schumer recruited in 2006 that all loyally cut their throats and voted for Obamacare in 2010.

But I would say that the only thing that matters for the mid-terms is how the pending report of Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz's report on the handling of the Hillary Clinton email affair plays out.

See, I suspect that in the next month or two we will find out that the DOJ and the FBI were doing bad and illegal things with respect to Hillary Clinton and her email server, and that they illegally spied on the Trump campaign, and that it goes to the very top of the Obama administration. We have already seen several demotions and reassignments of the principals in this affair, culminating in the recent firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. I believe this is what they call "smoke" in respect of "no smoke without fire."

I dare say that from now until the mid-terms in November we are going to see a parade of revelations on the subvention of the Department of Justice and the FBI to the political needs of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, and it ain't gonna be pretty.

So the question will be: do the voters care? Honestly, I don't know, but I would guess that the fabled #Resistance will get somewhat demoralized. That's the way politics works. You want your own partisans to be motivated, the other side's partisans to be demoralized, and the independents in the middle to be pleasantly surprised by your side and disgusted with the other side.

Now I  expect that what the Trump people want for the mid-terms (and who knows what the official Republicans want) is to cry Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, trumpeting Trump's brilliant economic leadership, to demand we Build The Wall on immigration, and to demand that we Drain the Swamp on all the DOJ and FBI shenanigans.

What's not to like?

Meanwhile, I suspect, the Democratic cry on Russia Collusion is going to be getting a bit old in the tooth. Oh, and I wonder what happens if there is headline news on the Clinton Foundation and the Uranium One issue. Did you know that there is an ongoing investigation into this? Apparently, "FBI agents are interviewing people." Who knew?

Tonight I'm going to a Republican fundraiser for Dino Rossi who's running for WA-08 in November. I wonder if I'll learn anything about what the smart people think is going down this Fall? The Cook Political Report rates WA-08 as "Republican Toss-up." 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Humans Demand Good vs. Evil

Today in the American Spectator there's a piece by Christopher deGroot critiquing Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. The problem with chaps like Pinker is his naive faith in reason as the basis of society.
If your car breaks down, there’s a mechanic who can fix it, and so too, if only men and women would follow the way of reason and our Enlightenment heritage, we could count on amelioration like death and taxes.
 The missing link is that reason and science and not enough, and that humans, and I suspect all living things, are creatures of affect. We are what we feel.
For we are essentially passionate animals. The loss of a loved one, like the prospect of our own demise, would not matter to us if life did not already have an inherently affective value, which we feel long before we can have any idea of death.
And if reason and science were all there were, why haven't we solved all the world's problems by now? And why, after the triumph of Enlightenment reason, did the 20th century feature so many death cults, from Leninism and Hitlerism to Maoism? No, deGroot will not admit Pinker's line that Nietzsche was to blame for the "romantic militarism" of World War I. (Of course another lefty I have read, Michael Mann, blames World War I on the militarism of the old regimes, the pre-Enlightenment feudal regimes, of Russia, Germany, and Austria).

Now I happen to be in the middle of reading a couple of books on all this: Jordan B. Peterson's Maps of Meaning and Rodney Stark's Why God? They both emphasize the primary importance of "affect" in understanding humans. The point is that, while reason and science are super-duper, they only provide answers for what is already known.

Peterson goes on at great length to unearth the world that "primitive man" experienced and relates that world to religion and myth.

His basic notion is that man in life is suspended between the known and the unknown. Imagine a man walking in the lands close by his encampment, knowing and understanding all the plants and animals and humans around him. Suddenly he spies an animal he has never seen before. Now he is in the realm of the unknown, and the immediate feeling is Fear, and everything has changed. Now this man must stop everything, figure out what this strange animal is all about and also protect himself in case the animal is dangerous. In other words, the normal even life of the known is suspended by a period of exploration to bring the unknown animal into the realm of the known. The point Peterson makes is that emotion, feeling, or affect is a signal for us to stop everything and pay attention to an irruption of the unknown, the unexpected, into the known world.

But the rational world view leaves this out, on the assumption that we already know everything we need to know and therefore can proceed and live as though life was completely known and mapped out. No it ain't.

And Steven Pinker should know better. What, after all, is the reality of the Left, but that the world is in a complete mess, because injustice, and we must do something right now to bring it back to peace and justice. The left is insisting of the primacy of affect, the intolerable experience of misery of poverty, injustice, oppression. Here is Jordan B. Peterson arguing with a lefty that insists that kids should go straight out and solve all the world's problems with activism.

I am also reading Rodney Stark, about why people believe in gods, and why the rise of monotheism. The reason, as I understand it, is that people need to believe in the promise that good will win out in the end, and they will participate in the triumph of good. But why monotheism?

Two things, according to Stark. First of all, in the Axial Age, starting about 600 BC, humans started to live in larger communities, and the old informal social control methods of the village started to break down, requiring the substitution of expensive force to keep the malefactors under control. But gods could also help by dealing with the malefactors themselves, and, according to Stark, the more powerful the god, the more effective the god. Thus, he says, where gods get involved in good and evil there tends to be a move to monotheism.

According to Peterson, then, the basic trajectory of human life is that it is inevitably punctured by unforeseen events that require a non-rational response. And according to Stark, people are programmed to want a world in which good is rewarded and evil is punished.

You can see that the best-of-all-possible-world of Pinker does not compute with this approach to the human condition.

And indeed, if we just look around we see that everyone is all worked up about good and evil all the time, no matter that we have just raised per capita income by 30 times in 200 years. The left is concerned about the horrors all around us, from the under-representation of women in tech to the over-disciplining of minority youth in schools to the gun-violence problem to immigration and Muslims, oh and The Planet! Conservatives are worried about the evils of abortion, the decline of marriage, and the Muslim threat.

Hey, everything may be copacetic, as per Steven Pinker, but nobody seems to be listening.

And anyway, as deGroot writes, "civilizations are organic, rising and falling in endless cycles of progression and regression." So what do we do about that, Professor Pinker?

The answer is, of course, that each civilization is based upon some grand assumptions about how the world works, and, what with stupidity and corruption, the day comes when the civilization is suddenly confronted, like the primitive man above, with something completely unknown for which the current knowledge base does not have an answer. Typically, the civilization fails to adjust to the new reality, and so gets flushed down the toilet, maybe because it was ruled by a bunch of Steven Pinkers that know that they already had all the answers.

Actually, The Climate is the best illustration of all this. All of a sudden, various people in the Pinker educated elite have decided, on the basis of limited data (and data is always limited), that we are in the dangerous unknown, that the planet is heating up uncontrollably, and Something Must Be Done before The Climate eats us all for breakfast. The reality is that there really isn't much science and reason out there, just a few theories, a few climate computer models, and a lot of Fear and Emotion. The Pinkers say we should pay them a lot of money to study the problem and pay for their expensive answers requiring more center-left government. Other people say that there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

What's a mother to do?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Even Though Wealth is Knowledge, You Still Need to Build a Wall

In recent months I have been advancing the idea that the fundamental fact of human life up to now, that land is life, has been invalidated by the industrial revolution.

My argument is that in the agricultural age the essence of wealth and survival was to possess land that could grow the food that kept you and yours alive and to defend that border to the death. But today the possession of food-growing land is a footnote. What matters is the knowledge to make things and the means to trade those things across the world. Or just download stuff from the Internet.

In the terms of a World Bank paper on capital that you should read, learn, and inwardly digest, this question is the difference between physical capital and intangible capital. For instance, compare the US and Russian Federation, then the oil state of Iran, then two traditional enemies, Greece and Turkey.

Wealth Estimates by Country, 2000, $ per Capita
United States14,75279,851418,009$512,612
Russian Federation27,21715,5935,900$38,709

With these numbers, you can see that it makes no sense to  invade another country, kill all the men and rape all the women, and loot and plunder it. Because the real wealth of the country is in the intangible capital that exists between peoples' ears.

First of all, do you see how the big story for the US is "intangible capital?" It's about 82 percent of the total wealth of half a million dollars per person. Hey, how about Russia where it is about 15 percent of $39,000? Or the oil state of Iran, where it is 26 percent of $24,000?

Now, I put in Greece and Turkey because I met with my Greek friend last week and he pointed out to me that for Greece, land is very important, because the Turks are always turning up with some government boat harassing some Greek island. In particular, the Turks are interested in the hydrocarbons beneath the Mediterranean Sea. The only policy for the Greeks is to stop the Turks  in their tracks, wherever those tracks appear.

You can see that for the Greeks, intangible capital is 85 percent of total wealth whereas for the Turks it is 75 percent of a much smaller number. Is it surprising that the Turks, with a very low intangible capital number, are still interested in territory and the natural capital of oil resources?

So I would adjust my argument about land vs. knowledge. The fact is that tons of people in this world are still obsessed with physical capital: land and oil wealth and factories. And until they are up in the stratosphere with the US in the intangible capital game they are still going to be living in the old world, where, in the words of fictional Gerald O'Hara, plantation owner, "land is the only thing that lasts."

But Gerald O'Hara was wrong, and his world was going away even as he spoke. It is knowledge and its application in human innovation that is the thing that lasts. The question is: what do we do while the world is still full of people that believe that land (or physical resources like oil and gas) is the only thing that lasts?

The answer is the one that my Greek friend gave me. It is all very well for us advanced types that have moved on from the old ways to say that land doesn't matter any more. That doesn't cut any ice when you are dealing with people that are still living in the past. You gotta stop the land fetishists dead in their tracks. You gotta defend your land while there are still people in the world that think that the answer to their problem is to acquire someone else's physical resources.

Of course, the great demonstration of the futility in the modern era of land conquest in search of wealth was the Hitler invasion of Russia, in search of Lebensraum in the east. No, Adolf, you idiot. Germany in the 1930s was one of the most advanced countries in the world, having just invented relativity and quantum mechanics. And hey, the Otto cycle for spark-ignition cars and the Diesel cycle for compression-ignition cars have German names: I wonder why? Germany had no need of Russian wheat-growing areas, nor yet of Caucasian oil fields. In fact Germany, by 2000, had more per-capita intangible capital per capita than the United States. Russia, to this day, is way behind. Its intangible capital is a pathetic $6,000 per person.

Of course, it certainly helped Germany that in the Cold War it had the United States defending its border and asserting that the Soviets better not put a foot into Western Germany, and forget trying to force that Fulda Gap, comrade.

So, even though land doesn't matter much any more, you still need to  garrison the border to keep the barbarians out.

Maybe build a wall.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Liberals and the Bill of Rights: They Just Don't Get It

Well, maybe liberals do get it, since they have the sense to run an ex-Marine and pro-lifer in Conor Lamb for PA-18. They get that intersectional non-binary whack-jobs ain't gonna cut in in Trumpland.

But what liberals really believe in is "activism" and, we might say, "activism now, activism tomorrow, and activism forever."

It is my argument that politics, whatever it was in the old days, is a very blunt instrument for ordering the affairs of communities and nations in the industrial age. Why? Because things are much too complicated to be conducted out of the feudal lord's manor, the absolute monarch's court, or the administrative state's bureaucracy.

Liberals don't get that, and so with every setback they think of one more Big Push, the bankrupt strategy of Britain and France on the Western Front.

You can see the bankruptcy in real time in the liberal retreat from the Bill of Rights.

Let's leave out the 9th and 10th Amendments. Who cares about maintaining state powers when all the world's a stage for liberals?

How about the 8th Amendment, on excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishments? Don't our modern prosecutors deliberately try to bury their targets in the bottomless expense of endless process?

How about the 7th Amendment and trial by jury, with the modern administrative courts where the administrative state is judge, jury, and executioner?

How about the 6th Amendment with the right to a speedy trial?

How about the 5th Amendment with Special Prosecutors all over the place and the idea that no "private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Good luck with that, pal, when liberals want your land to save the planet.

Hey, how about that 4th Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure, when liberals in Wisconsin were searching and seizing information from their political opponents in John Doe investigations?

The 3rd Amendment, about quartering soldiers seems pretty secure right now, although I dare say that liberals think that they should be able to force people to AirBnB their activists when they are gathering for a peaceful protest.

Well, we all know that liberals hate the 2nd Amendment, because who needs a semi-automatic assault rifle with a 30-round magazine that is fit only for gunning down kids in a public high school?

And now liberals are in the middle of abolishing the 1st Amendment, because hate speech.

Hey liberals! I guess you chaps really aren't that much into rights, and I get it. What are rights when it is time to bend the arc of history towards justice?

Today I happened to see write-by-the-numbers John Hawkins, with "7 Techniques Liberals Use to Silence Conservatives." Wanna know what they are?

  1. Libsplaining. Yeah, it makes "mansplaining" look like a walk in the park.
  2. Violence. Yeah, call ANTIFA's riots "mostly peaceful protest" why dontcha?
  3. De-platforming. Because hate speech.
  4. Political Correctness / Safe Spaces / Microaggressions. I'd say this is mostly a lefty Mean Girls thing. But you may disagree.
  5. Liberal Fakes. Hawkins means the "David Brooks, David Frum, Brett Stephens, Max Boot, Michael Gerson, Jennifer Rubin, Kathleen Parker" folks that are represented as conservative in the mainstream media.
  6. False Labeling. Shut up, you "white supremacist, Nazi, Fascist or racist."
  7. The Ventriloquist Dummy. You know, the spontaneously activist Parkland kids that you are not allowed to criticize.

All of Hawkins seven by-the-numbers are ways in which liberals betray the First Amendment that they were all in favor of when it meant sticking up for the Hollywood Ten in the Fifties and lefty students back in the Sixties.

See, I think the real story here is that liberals have lost the plot. They are hanging on, trying to keep their Administrative State dynasty going, and trying to stave off the evil day when the whole thing collapses.

That's why liberals have completely abandoned the Bill of Rights. For them, power comes before rights, because their religion is politics and "activism."

Why don't you liberals just go quietly? Your hour upon the stage is over, and it is time for you to stop strutting and fretting. Go and watch "Russian Ark," the single shot movie about the end of Old Russia, which the camera ends up going out the side door of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg after a ball in 1913 and into an icy wilderness.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Three Health Cost Drivers: What Could It Mean

There's a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association that fingers the three main reasons that US health care costs are higher than other first world countries, according to a piece in the American Spectator.

First, drug costs. "We expend almost double on pharmaceuticals than the mean for the peer group [of "ten other wealthy countries"). A lot of that is from drug prices being much higher in the US.

Second, "We pay healthcare professionals much greater salaries than every other nation examined." That includes generalist doctors, specialist doctors, and nurses.

Third, “Administrative costs of care (activities relating to planning, regulating, and managing health systems and services) accounted for 8% in the US vs a range of 1% to 3% in the other countries.”

The JAMA authors also write that usual explanations for high US costs,
such as underinvestment in social programs, the low primary care/specialist mix, the fee-for-service system encouraging high volumes of care, or defensive medicine leading to overutilization, did not appear to be major drivers of the substantially higher US health care spending compared with other high-income countries.
Another cost driver is that "Out-of-pocket spending was also surprisingly low in the United States" compared to other countries.

Well. The first thing to recognize is that, per Jason Riley in Rising Life Expectancy, "bio-medicine" is only one of several factors that contribute to modern life expectancy. Among the others are women's education, wealth, better food, better sanitation, and better disease control. So it really doesn't make much difference how much you spend.

But really, it doesn't seem a mystery to me why the US spends so much and gets so little. In the first place, countries like Britain and France have a two-tier system. The poor get a lousy government system that is "free at the point of delivery" while the middle class with jobs buy private insurance. Actually the same is true in the US, where the poor get a lousy Medicaid system for free while the rich pay a bit more and get a lot more.

But the obvious problem is the cartelization of health care. It takes a ton of time for doctors and nurses to get credentialed, and the doctors get to define what hoops medical students have to go through to get qualified, and what medical schools get chartered. So of course their salaries are inflated. That is what you get with a regulated industry, as in "regulator capture."

And drug prices? Well, most of the drug research is done in the US by US companies whereas other countries set low drug prices on the notion that the rich and greedy US can pay for all the research.

Administrative costs? Well of course, when you have third parties paying for most medical care then people are going to be scamming the system and you have to have bureaucrats in place to pretend to be doing something about it.

So what is to be done? I'm afraid I'm a complete whacko on health care, as on most things.

First, I believe that routine health care should be conducted on the WalMart model. You want basic health care? Go to WalMart. You want to be fussed over and get charged three times as much? Go to Neiman Marcus. No, really! Why not?

Second, let each person decide how much they want to get extraordinary care. Let there we bronze, silver, and gold plans that specify how much money you are prepared to spend on heroic life-saving measures. The point is that once your kids are grown then you are no longer a mission-critical human. Your continued life is a luxury, and I for one, as a fiendish Medicare recipient, don't think that young people in the middle of raising families should be paying big bucks for my health care. (Actually the majority of Medicare revenue comes from the federal income tax, meaning rich people. I would rather the rich people spend money investing their ill-gotten gains in new jobs for young people rather than health care for grandpa).

Third, de-cartelize health care. How much education is needed to become a physician? I don't know but I bet that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos could drive a bulldozer through the current system without impacting health outcomes. And let hospitals and doctors compete for business; let a hundred flowers bloom.

But really nothing will change because government is all over health care like a cheap suit. Nothing will get done; nothing will improve, because government rewards its supporters and its supporters include everyone from "our" doctors and nurses to individual men and women that want free if they can possibly get it. And government cannot cut its entitlement programs, not even if the whole country is going down the toilet.

Plus women. Liberated or not, women live by caring, and one of the things that women are always talking to their friend about is health care. And women understand that society just has to provide what women want. Whether it is health care or schools, women want and expect the necessary resources to be available for them as they raise their children or care for their ageing parents; it's in the DNA. When it comes to saving the life of their child or easing the pain of their parents women instinctively feel that the sky is the limit.

And that is the real reason why health care in the US is so expensive. It's what women want. For some reason women in the other countries haven't yet figured out how to get what they want. But they will.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

PA-18 Moderate vs. Clinton Loser

In the late special election for PA-18 the apparent winner is a moderate Democrat that sounds like he wants to appeal to the more mild-mannered Trump voters. Shades of 2006 when Chuck Schumer recruited a whole slate of moderate Democrats to run for Congress and won the House and the Senate with his moderate candidates.

They say that's how you win elections, by appealing to the mushy middle.

But Hillary Clinton is another matter. She who found a "vast right-wing conspiracy" against her husband back in the 1990s and wrote off half the country as deplorables in 2016 is still going strong. In India last week she declared that she won the coasts of America while the Republicans won the heartland.
But what the map doesn't show you is that I won the places that represent two-thirds of America's gross domestic product. So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward.
Then she went in for the kill.
Then she turned to Trump's voters: “And his whole campaign — 'Make America Great Again' — was looking backward. You know, you didn't like black people getting rights; you don't like women, you know, getting jobs; you don't want to, you know, see that Indian American succeeding more than you are." 
 In a way this is comical. Used to be that Democrats railed at Republicans for telling everyone to get with the program and board the capitalist train. Because what about the people left behind, particularly "the workers?" Not any more.

Clinton is telling us what Democrats and liberals say to each other when no-one else is listening. They still think it is 1965 and blacks and women lack basic civil rights. And why not? The years 1964-1965 were the miracle years for Democrats, and things have never been the same since.

Civil rights for blacks? But 50 years later, with liberals cheer-leading every step of the way, blacks are still woefully lagging.

Jobs for women? But those meany-jellybeany tech firms won't hire enough women for STEM jobs.

Indian Americans? You know what? I doubt if Indian tech guys really exist for your average Trump voter in a Rust Belt state.

The point is that politics is always about the grievances of the left-behind. That's because the left-behind experience the head-winds of life, and very often they attribute their lack of progress to "the rich," "injustice," not to mention the black guy that got a Fire Department job because inclusion and diversity.

That's why my basic line is that there is no such thing as justice, only injustice. Of course, it may be that there really is justice in a more perfect world, but in the real world the ruling class or the ruling majority writes laws and regulations to benefit itself and its supporters and they call it justice. Anyone that objects is guilty of "hate speech."

Such a situation is the history of the world, and the result can go one of two ways. One way is for the folks on the receiving end give up, and either die out or merge into the majority population. The other way is for the folks on the receiving end to get angry, form a head of rebellion, and determine to end the rule of injustice that the ruling class has lowered over their heads.

In this sense Hillary Clinton magnificently represents the existing ruling class. For this ruling class the whole history of the last century has been one of bending the arc of history towards justice by political means. First the liberal heroes gave the workers the vote, then they gave them wage and hour laws and unions, then they gave blacks and women the vote and now they are allowing gays and transgenders to emerge after an eternal marginalization.

But there is always a counter-narrative, even if the ruling class manages to shut it down. Maybe, the workers would have done better if they hadn't had labor union power to loot the great industrial corporations like steel and auto, for maybe they would still have their jobs. Maybe blacks would have thrived better if they just got civil rights in 1964 and then had to work their way up by picking up the mantle of middle-class culture. Maybe women would be happier now if the sexual revolution and abortion hadn't stripped them of the right to say No, and maybe the whole idea of women getting jobs is a conceit of educated women who want to differentiate themselves from "mere housewives."

Maybe. Or maybe not. But one thing is for sure. Ageing dinosaurs of the ruling class like Hillary Clinton are usually the last to know.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

GOP Russian Collusion: Just an Incompetent Deep State Job

Yesterday the House Intelligence Committee reported "nothing to see here" on the Russian collusion theory, and today there's a long tic-toc piece on NRO Online that provides the narrative of "why." Why have the Democrats been pushing their Russian collusion narrative?

In the NRO piece by Michael Doran the whole thing just grew, in a Deep State, Creatures of the Swamp way, as the 2016 election year developed. In Doran's telling, first there was Hillary's emails, then there was the DNC emails showing that the DNC and Hillary's campaign had conspired to keep old Bernie down. Then there was Trump saying: "hey, why dontcha ask Putin about those emails." Then you had the developing Steele dossier gambit that needed Russia connections for the Trump campaign and the only two remotely available were Manafort and Page. Then there are the talking points that appeared on Hillary's campaign website:
1. What’s behind Trump’s fascination with Vladimir Putin?

2. Why does Trump surround himself with advisers with links to the Kremlin?

3. Why do Trump’s foreign policy ideas read like a Putin wish list?

4. Do Trump’s still-secret tax returns show ties to Russian oligarchs?

5. Why is Trump encouraging Russia to interfere in our election?
Yeah! Go get 'im! How dare Trump insult our intrepid intelligence agencies by suggesting Putin might lend a hand! See how this might encourage the duller dogs in the Swamp to interpret this as the famous line of Henry II: "who will rid me of this troublesome priest."

Also, do you think that, in a clumsy Hillary Clinton way, the Clinton people wanted to deflect the huge scandal of Hillary's emails and Hillary/DNC deep-sixing Bernie with a cry that cut across the whole thing: what about those Russians!

In my "they are all idiots" theory, the whole Russia collusion narrative is nothing more than idiots making a complete mess of things: in the campaign, in the intelligence agencies. And then you have dear President Obama putting his oar into the Hillary email issue by declaring in April 2016, well before the completion of the FBI investigation, that Hillary merely displayed a "carelessness in terms of managing emails."

Earth to ordinary US military and government employees: Do not try this! Carelessness in terms of managing classified emails will land you in jail!

They say that the boss of an organization sets the tone for everyone. You can certainly say that President Obama set the tone that anything was permissible in the service of bending the arc of history towards justice. And the point is that, when the boss shows a rather cavalier attitude towards the rules this translates, for the operatives down in the organization, to you'd better bend the rules for the boss, or else.

The question is what happens next. When the Republican House Intelligence Committee, perhaps soon followed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, followed by the conservative commentariat are all saying "nothing to see here" it puts pressure on Special Counsel Mueller to put up or shut up, a challenge that I am sure Tweeter-in-Chief Trump is up to.

And, of course, the longer that the Mueller train keeps on going, the more justification arises to ask questions about Hillary Clinton and her emails, and the curious case of Uranium One and the Russians way back in the Obama administration.

Here's how the world should have been, starting November 8, 2016. First, Hillary Clinton appears at her campaign headquarters on election night and concedes the election. Congratulations to Donald Trump, and we are not just Democrats and Republicans, but we are all Americans, first and last. Then the Obama guys assist the Trumpists in their transition, and the whole Hillary email issue quietly disappears beneath the waves.

But when you don't concede the election and you raise the Russia Collusion issue then you allow all the issues around the election to be raised and investigated: hello emails. If you have half a head on your shoulders you realize that, and so you concede the election, pronto.

But if you are an idiot, in accordance with my "they are all idiots theory," then you don't see this, because you are an idiot and you can't see the strategic issues that are staring you right in the face.

I think that Hillary Clinton is an idiot. She just doesn't have the strategic chops to be in high politics. And that is why her record in high politics is one long trail of mistakes and blunders. And that goes for her recent remarks in India about the Republican red states being all losers.

By the way. President Trump is not an idiot. He just plays one on TV.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Political Response to "Change"

I'm reading a biography of the second Lord Melbourne, who was Queen Victoria's Prime Minister and her "Lord M" in the early years of her reign. One can argue that it was his care and feeding of the 18-year-old monarch that kept Britain from revolution in the mid 19th century.

In The Young Melbourne & Lord M David Cecil also attempts to tell the story of the rise of the middle class and the working class to political recognition in the first half of the 19th century.

The point is that in 1800 Britain was entirely run by its landed aristocracy, either directly in the House of Lords and the main offices of national government, or through their elder sons sitting in the House of Commons. By 1850, after the Great Reform Bill of 1832 and the Chartist movement of the 1840s there was no doubt that Britain would be ruled with the contribution of the middle and the working classes -- even though the working class didn't yet have the vote.

But I would say, reading David Cecil, that while the ruling class in Britain pretty early on realized that things were changing and would never be the same again, they were always divided on what to do about it, in every way possible. We often hear about the "Tory ultras" that were opposed to all change. But the Whigs, who get the credit for pushing Reform in the critical years leading up to 1832, had their own ultras.

Not only that, but the middle class also had a voice, even before the electoral reform. In the late 1820s and early 1830s there was a lot of unrest in the countryside, with mobs and rick-burnings, so the middle class became very pro-law-and-order. So even though the middle class didn't have the vote, the middle class support for law and order influenced the government when it was wondering what to do about the unrest.

Naturally, I am trying to use the past as a lens into our current political divisions. You see, my main feeling is that our liberal friends just do not have the slightest inkling that the world has changed, that their governing philosophy is in deep trouble, and things will never be the same again.

Maybe the difference is that the "change," whatever it is, is just in its early stages, and the folks on the commanding heights of liberal opinion have not really grasped the situation. Maybe it is because in 1800 the ruling class was really a very small world where everybody knew everybody and intelligence about what was going on was widely shared. Today, in a more ideological age, our ruling class is kept informed by ideological media. Most members of the ruling class are not in high politics -- or in contact with someone who is -- but in patronage jobs in education and NGOs and culture where ideological rectitude is a condition of employment and intelligence about what the leaders are really thinking is not available.

The big thing, I think, is that the modern economy and culture is very good for the ruling class, those that I call the People of the Creative Self. But living in what we call the "liberal bubble" these folks really do not have a clue about how life feels in the rest of the country.

For instance, I would say that, outside the highly educated, average Americans are utterly confused by the "gay turn" and the rise of "non gender binary" culture. This culture, in my judgement,  is only possible for People of the Creative Self getting creative about sex. Average people can't get beyond the accepted cultural practices of courting, marriage, and household formation, and the consequences thereof. I don't think that my liberal friends have a clue about how confusing and frightening their imposition of LGBT culture appears to ordinary Americans.

It was telling to me that when the Tea Party emerged in 2009-10 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi muttered about AstroTurf. She assumed that any protesters and protest groups were organized and funded from above. Because that's the way it's handled in the liberal world. All the left-inspired protests you see do not represent the authentic voice of the people, but political action ginned by the the ruling class made to look as though it were authentic. The assumption here is that "we liberals" have everything under control and nothing moves without we give the OK. In fact, of course, the Republican establishment was taken completely by surprise by the Tea Party, and "change" is not a game played by lefty activists but real response by real people to real economic and social change impacting their lives.

The first thing America needs, according to me, is for the liberal ruling class, the People of the Creative Self, the Prius drivers, the gentrifiers, the MSNBC watchers to get to the realization that they and their political culture and their governance agenda have a problem, that the current liberal world-view is the only thing that counts, and anything else is racism, sexism, or homophobia.

They haven't got there yet and that is a problem.

Put it this way. Here in the United States we had a civil war in the 1860s because the two sides were determined to teach the other guys a lesson. But in Britain the rise of the middle class and the working class was managed without a civil war.

What does it take to get "change" without a civil war? And what will it take this time?

Friday, March 9, 2018

350 Million Years of Hierarchy: Get Used to It

If you have been going through the Jordan B. Peterson videos you will probably come across his assertion that hierarchy has been around for 350 million years: get used to it.

His point is, of course, that hierarchy is everywhere in nature, so if you believe in Evolution, darling, then you must believe in hierarchy. The only question is: what is the point of hierarchy?

The answer is obvious: hierarchy, like love, makes the world go round.

The question is important because of the modern rage for equality. Why, you might ask, is equality so important to so many people?

The short answer, I suspect, is that for anyone concerned about equality the wrong people are in charge. And that has to change!

I am seeing this in David Cecil's The Young Melbourne & Lord M. The Lord Melbourne that became Queen Victoria's "Lord M" was in 1810 a young Whig aristocrat in the great era of Whig aristocracy. But it was a moment when "equality" was rearing its head, as the rising bourgeoisie of trade and industry wanted a piece of the action. Apart from any resentment, the rising middle class wanted the rules to be changed to accommodate the new industrial economy that was starting to replace the old agricultural economy. The Whig aristocracy was fully aware of this; the question was what to do about it, and what would happen to the Whig aristocracy as a result.

I think that tells us all about "equality." Anyone flying the flag of "equality" is not happy with their place in the hierarchy; they want it changed. The big question is the response of the existing top dogs to the challenging young dogs.

Usually, people do not want the whole society upset: they just want more respect, for themselves and people like them. You can see that in the Chartists of mid-19th century Britain, and the working class that wanted the franchise, and the women that wanted the vote, and the African Americans that wanted civil rights.

But, I would argue, gradually the authentic movements-of-the-people became polluted by upper-class wannabes that wanted a movement to lead, so that now your average social justice warrior is an upper-class high-status person that wants their fifteen minutes of fame leading the victims along the arc of history to justice.

In his piece today, Christopher DeGroot interprets the "Sham of Equality" as a rage for status.
That one person has something that another hasn’t, or more of something than another, is certainly sufficient to inspire resentment, the most poisonous of feelings. And having resolved to conceal his motivation, perhaps including from himself, the envious soul now proceeds to wax indignant about inequality.
But it is really about status, that I don't have enough of it. We are talking about "rank and titles," now called "handles" in Britain, and we can't get enough of them -- for ourselves, of course.

But here is another aspect of this, that people flock around artists and celebrities. In this case they are abasing themselves before the demi-god, but for what? To shine in the reflection of the demi-god's light?
Human beings are powerfully attracted to anyone or anything that seems greater than themselves. There is in human psychology a deep animal instinct of veneration and idolatry; into this has gone all our history, all our terrible struggle to survive and endure. 
So goes the game of hierarchy. We are resentful of people that have more than we have; yet we fawn and truckle at the feet of the powerful. What is going on here?

How about 350 million years of hierarchy?

So the question is not how to rail against hierarchy, but how to understand it. One of the ways that Jordan B. Peterson understands it is by differentiating between "power hierarchy" and "competence hierarchy." And the way I interpret this is by noting the difference between a feudal baron or a political magnate and a successful business entrepreneur.

Your feudal baron or political magnate sits atop a power hierarchy, and I suppose your Whig aristocrat like dear Lord M sits atop an inherited power hierarchy. Good for them.

But your John D. Rockefeller, your Henry Ford, your Bill Gates, your Steve Jobs, your Elon Musk, your Jeff Bezos sits atop a competence hierarchy. Like the Pope, these folks are not rated by their number of divisions, but their ability to deliver something else to humanity.

Meanwhile we have the scions of our society, the kids that went to all the right schools and got the right rank and title, and they want in on the action. But they cannot win at the competence game because the stakes are too high, the odds too long for the average liberal SJW to shine like a supernova.

So the only option for them is to stir the pot of equality and play the power hierarchy game.

I think that this is the world's Big Problem. We are in a period of transition from the old world, where power was more important than competence, to the new world where competence is all the rage. President Trump acknowledged this recently when he spoke about rich men and rockets. You could tell that he really would have loved to be the guy that brought those two Falcon Heavy boosters down to land at Cape Canaveral side by side. Hey! So would I!

Meanwhile, for us Normals, the important thing is to make sure that we understand hierarchy backwards and forwards. Because the thing about our liberal friends is that they know nothing, and you can always beat nothing with something.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Sorry, Socialism Had Its Try, Ms. Bruenig

In theWashington Post on March 6, WaPo opinion writer Elizabeth Bruenig wrote "It's time to give socialism a try." She is concerned that capitalism does not always turn out right, that it is not true that "if we only have the right attitude, everything will set itself aright."

So I am writing her a personal letter, via snail mail, in the hope that this unusual method of communication will actually get through to her.

Dear Ms. Bruenig:

I was disturbed by your recent article that "it's time to give socialism a try," and so I am writing to try to convince you to change your mind.

In the first place, I think that in 2018 it is up to the advocates of socialism to show, with irrefutable science and logic, that it is a good idea to get off the capitalist train and trying something else.

I recommend to you Deirdre McCloskey, a transgender economist, whose "Bourgeois Era" books are a celebration of the culture that gave us the market economy. Her main argument is this. The last 200 years represents a Great Enrichment in which any country that allowed capitalism has increased real per-capita income from about $1-3 per day in 1800 to over $100 per day in 2018. That is a 3,000 percent increase in 200 years, or 30 times. As McCloskey writes, there has never been anything like it, ever.

Inspired by McCloskey, I have put up "Great Enrichment" pages on my government spending websites, and I enclose copies of the charts of real per-capita income over time. Your challenge is to produce the science that can prove that democratic socialism can do any better.

I wonder why you propose the "decommodification of labor." Marx proposed this notion in the period just before the apparent contradiction of "use value" and "exchange value" had been exploded by the marginal revolution of 1870. Really, wage labor (or salary labor for you and me) is rather liberating. It lets you know how much other humans value your contribution to society, and it detaches you somewhat from the risks faced by the businessman that has hired you.

Sincerely, etc.

Well that's all I wrote to Elizabeth Bruenig. But here are the charts:

First US Great Enrichment.

The interesting thing to me is that it doesn't really show much response from the changes in government policy. It seems like a S-curve with a slow acceleration in the 19th century and a slow deceleration since 2000.

Hey. only one big glitch, in the Great Depression. Even the Great Recession wasn't so bad.

Now look at China. I only have a couple of data points before 1960.

Yes. Oy. China started the same as the US in 1800, at $4 per person per day. It was down below $3 per day by 1900. The reason the chart plunges below the x-axis is that per-capita income in China was below $1 per day for perhaps 40 years. It was $0.53 when the St. Louis Fed data starts in 1960, and went down to $0.36 by 1962. That was what the Chinese got from half a century of revolution, civil war, socialism, Great Leap Forward, and Cultural Revolution. God save us from the experience of China. $0.36.

I only wanted to write a one-page letter to Elizabeth Bruenig, but of course there is a whole world of reasons why democratic socialism is a bad idea.

First, there are the "classical liberal" writers have assembled a devastating critique of socialism in all its forms.
  • Economic calculation argument. In 1918 Ludwig von Mises argued that socialism could not work because it could not compute prices.
  • Bureaucrat vs. producer/consumer argument. After World War II, F.A. Hayek argued that it was impossible for a few thousand bureaucrats in the administrative state to outperform the millions of producers and consumers in the market economy.
  • Regulatory capture argument. George Stigler argued that whenever government regulates an industry, the regulators end up being "captured" by the industry.
My own contribution is what I call the "government can't cut" argument. It is that governments find it almost impossible to cut spending programs, even when they are looking right into the face of disaster. Think Germany after World War I. Think Greece during its Euro crisis. Think Venezuela right now. The reason that governments, even authoritarian governments, can't cut is that they are afraid to. They know that the beneficiaries of any program they might try to cut will want to have their guts for garters, and may very well succeed. Indeed, any legislative reform, like Obamacare, can't get passed unless it bribes the opponents to silence their opposition. So once a government starts a program it finds it almost impossible to reform it or cut it. And as for actually ending it, well, good like with that. It is perfectly understood by my catchphrase that government is an armed minority occupying territory and taxing the inhabitants to reward its supporters. Yeah. Those supporters. They are mean and nasty.

Really, Ben Rhodes is the go-to guy on this. He was the Obama media guy that said that:
The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.
Only someone that "literally knows nothing" would write a piece suggesting that we give socialism a try. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Grand Narrative of the Postmodernists

The grand narrative of the post-modernists is that they don't believe in grand narratives. I was reminded of this as I watched a Jordan B. Peterson speech on YouTube titled "Identity Politics and the Lie of White Privilege."

Peterson correctly told his audience that the post-modernists sail under the flag of "no grand narratives." He provided a slide with a definition of post-modernism (at 32:01):
Postmodernism: an attitude of skepticism: irony toward/rejection of grand narratives, ideologies and universalism, including objective notions of reason, human nature, social progress, absolute truth, and objective reality.
Then he lays out the findings of the post-modernists (at 44:30):
  • The Enlightenment's objective of an objective and reasoned basis for knowledge, merit, truth, justice, and the like is an impossibility...
  • The Enlightenment itself merely replaced one socially constructed view of reality with another, mistaking power for knowledge
  • There is naught but power
Hey post-modernist kids! I call that a grand narrative! To say that that the Enlightenment's grand narrative is wrong is the first step to a new grand narrative. And then to say there is naught but power is to construct a new grand narratives on the ruins of the old grand narrative. Then the post-modernists unveil their program, which is to fight power, such as patriarchy and white privilege, with power. Hey kids! That's a grand narrative to beat all grand narratives!

So here is my grand narrative.
  • The post-modernists' notion of a world without grand narratives is an impossibility. Of course, there is no such thing as objective knowledge, but there is knowledge, usually understood by humankind in the form of grand narratives, that is really useful for wiving and thriving in the world.
  • The post-modernists have merely replaced one socially constructed view of reality with another, completely missing the point that traditional concept of "power" in our modern age is in radical decline.
  • Not power but competence.
OK, I got the "competence" bit from Peterson.

Peterson makes a very powerful point. He says that hierarchy in this world is about 350 million years old, and the point of hierarchy is to reduce the need for power. In other words, any social animals in a group need to arrange themselves in a hierarchy so they are not constantly fighting among themselves. When the post-modernists rail against hierarchy and power they are missing the point.

Hey kids. Do you realize that anyone who wants to fight hierarchy is actually saying that they want a world with more conflicts over power?

But the post-modernists miss an even bigger point, and that is that the modern world since the industrial revolution has needed much less power. That's because in the old days the only thing that mattered was to defend your food-growing territory from others. For that you needed power. But today territory is nothing; the whole world is a market and you can buy anything, anywhere, for a price.

Today, real power is the power of knowledge, what the World Bank calls "intangible capital," the knowledge inside men's minds that manifests itself encoded in everything from smart-phones to LED lights. It is the power, the Great Enrichment, that has raised per-capita real income from $1-3 per day in 1800 to over $100 per day right now.

What does political power, what does ideological power, what does territorial power mean when you can buy a smart-phone for $100 and access all the knowledge in the world?

Now, our post-modernist friends have got one thing right. It is perfectly true that there is no such thing as objective knowledge. The warrant for knowledge is not that it comes from God or that it is self-evident, or that it is objective. The modern revolution in knowledge that starts, if you like, with Descartes, and certainly with Kant, is that we don't know what the really real is. Instead, we have knowledge that works. Special relativity must be valid knowledge because we use it in GPS technology. Quantum mechanics must be valid knowledge because we assume it is true when we make LED lights.

One fine day, I dare say, relativity and quantum mechanics will be superseded by new and deeper knowledge about the structure of the universe. But meanwhile both theories are highly serviceable. Notice that relativity and quantum mechanics reveal themselves to the world through the competencies of physicists and engineers and the folks that make stuff. Without that competence they would be merely airy-fairy theories about how many quanta fit on the head of a pin that people would argue about in coffee houses.

There is another form of knowledge that has transformed the world. It is the market and its prices. At its basic level it solves the problem of getting access to physical resources. Time was that the only way you could get access to resources was by invading another guy's territory and taking it. But with the price system you can say: wow, our tribe really needs more grain. How about we buy some from you? And the answer is: oh yeah? How much are you willing to pay, pal?

But hey, getting access to physical resources is just the beginning.

The point is that the modern world, by dethroning the "power" of hierarchy as the be-all and end-all of everything, has unleashed the unimaginable power of competence, of knowing how to make things and do things and distributing those things all across the world.

The interesting question now is: what is their problem? How can these post-modernists not see what is right in front of their eyes, that "power" in our modern era has been utterly transformed, and that the guys with a real raging "grand narrative" fever are the folks that imagine they have conquered "grand narratives."