What’s not to like?

What’s not to like? Federalism vindicated and subsidiarity as national policy. Pretty soon, we might have a full-blown modus vivendi.

(Moi, hier)

The morning wasn’t over before I was thinking about what’s not to like: corporate power possibly becoming even more efficacious.

It is now routine for cities and states to bid against each other to attract corporate headquarters. It is becoming routine for hypocritical corporations and politicians to boycott states that exhibit some residue of sanity in their laws — you know, hypocrites like Apple (most of its manufacturing in China, which makes North Carolina look like the beatific vision), Paypal (business in countries where sodomy is a felony and the law is enforced) and Andrew Cuomo (boycotts North Carolina, visits Cuba).

I fear such corporate grandstanders, bullies and thieves might be even further emboldened by localist devolution, but then I’m not seeing the feds doing anything to stop them anyway.

On balance, it still seems like a good idea, but there is something on the other side of the balance beam.

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Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.

(David Foster Wallace via Jason Segedy, Why I’m Leaving Twitter Behind.)

By modernity, I mean the project to create social orders that would make it possible for each person living in such orders “to have no story except the story they choose when they have no story.”

Stanley Hauerwas, Wilderness Wanderings

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

The most radical guy in the race

I’m going to take the liberty (you can’t stop me) of pulling some quotes from David Brooks but re-arranging them.

  • Only 18 percent of Americans say the federal government does the right thing most or nearly all of the time. In July 2016, as Ronald Brownstein has pointed out, only 29 percent of Trump supporters and 23 percent of Clinton supporters thought that electing their candidate would actually lead to progress.
  • According to a 2015 Heartland Monitor poll, 66 percent of Americans believe that their local area is moving in the right direction.
  • To have a chance, [a] third-party candidate would have to emerge as the most radical person in the race. That person would have to argue that the Republicans and Democrats are just two sides of a Washington-centric power structure that has ground to a halt. That person would have to promise to radically redistribute power across American society.
  • All recent presidential candidates have run against Washington, but on the premise that they could change Washington. Today, a third-party candidate would have to run on creating different kinds of power structures at different levels.

David Brooks, who may have written a great column because of having read a great book (which I haven’t read yet).

When I look at the great New York Times 2016 electoral map, and ponder the eventuality of the populous cities being thwarted in Presidential elections by millions of square miles of geography in the heartland, lowering the stakes by making Washington, DC just one power structure among many, limited to things like national defense, is very attractive.

Caveat: Washington cannot directly devolve power to, say, Tippecanoe County, but it can devolve power to Indiana (sorry, Illinois, Connecticut and other states that have been mis-governed), and can jawbone for further devolution.

What’s not to like? Federalism vindicated and subsidiarity as national policy. Pretty soon, we might have a full-blown modus vivendi.

* * * * *

Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.

(David Foster Wallace via Jason Segedy, Why I’m Leaving Twitter Behind.)

By modernity, I mean the project to create social orders that would make it possible for each person living in such orders “to have no story except the story they choose when they have no story.”

Stanley Hauerwas, Wilderness Wanderings

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

Why I’m not calling for Revolution

I cannot forgive or forget Trump’s praise for the most hideously totalitarian regime on the planet, for a bloodthirsty scion who conducts regular public hangings, keeps his subjects in a state of mind-control, holds hundreds of thousands in concentration camps, and threatens the world with nuclear destruction. To watch an American president give his tacit blessing to all of that, to laud Kim for being “rough” on his people, right on the heels of attacking every democratic ally, is an obscenity.

And this was the response of the secretary of State, when asked, inevitably, how the U.S. could in any way verify North Korea’s promised denuclearization: “I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous.” It’s ludicrous, he explained, because the president said there will be verification of denuclearization. And so there will be. Get that? Just lean into the delusion, and everything will be well. Trump’s various mouthpieces have resorted to exactly that formula, when asked difficult or obvious questions that assume a reality different from Trump’s. The empirical questions — those that reference the real world — are “ludicrous,” “inappropriate,” or “ridiculous.” But then when the Trump peons can’t answer the question, because it would reveal Trump as a fantasist, what else are they supposed to do? Show a propaganda video made by the National Security Council?

[Vaclav] Havel had a phrase: “Living in the truth.” In a totalitarian society, living in the truth can be close to impossible, and yet it was possible for someone, as Havel analogized, as lowly as a greengrocer to refuse to “live in a lie”:

The original and most important sphere of activity, one that predetermines all the others, is simply an attempt to create and support the independent life of society as an articulated expression of living within the truth. In other words, serving truth consistently, purposefully, and articulately, and organizing this service. This is only natural, after all: if living within the truth is an elementary starting point for every attempt made by people to oppose the alienating pressure of the system, if it is the only meaningful basis of any independent act of political import, and if, ultimately, it is also the most intrinsic existential source of the “dissident” attitude, then it is difficult to imagine that even manifest “dissent” could have any other basis than the service of truth, the truthful life, and the attempt to make room for the genuine aims of life.

No, that’s not Rod Dreher. It’s Andrew Sullivan, Trump Is Making Us All Live in His Delusional Reality Show.

We are not (yet) living in a totalitarian society, and a series of Tweets from POTUS falls short of actual (versus aspirational) authoritarianism.

But we are governed by a man who has a severe personality disorder and is, if not delusional, perhaps even scarier for that. As just one microcosm (called to my attention by my brother in a Facebook exchange), our President, self-proclaimed master deal-maker, apparently knows nothing of win-win; our adversaries and even our allies must lose for him to feel that he has won bragging rights.

Be resolute. Do not surrender to the lie. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

But on the other hand …

Although I may have overdone “Trump versus Clinton has God’s judgment written all over it” in the run-up to the election, it was because I discounted God’s graciousness and patience (scripture citations omitted), of which discounting I’m repenting.

But the “Resistance” party is scary — very scary — in its statist impulse to cut down every structure of civil society that doesn’t conform to the latest progressive pieties. Only the space inside the “four corners” of our homes is spared, and that only for now.

Consider Catholic Charities, driven from adoption licensure in several states because it won’t place children with same-sex couples (who have alternate agencies for adoption, be it noted), or Trinity Western University in Canada, a Christian University which cannot start a law school, and presumably will soon lose its other accreditations, unless it declares open season for fornication and sodomy among its students.

If it’s just me (or me plus some feckless institutions that won a government Seal of Docility) versus the government, then I’m as powerless as Roper when the laws of England were mowed down so he could pursue the devil. This conviction was germinating in me fifty years ago and has grown stronger as I gained vocabulary, added contexts, and watched the mowing down proceeding in ways I never thought I’d live to see.

God’s judgment or just the denoument of liberalism, we really are in a pickle. That’s why I’m trying to remain vigilant but not calling for revolution, the results of which are highly, highly likely to be, hard though it be to imagine, as bad or worse than the status quo.

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I also blog short items at Micro.blog.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Squashing civil society & culture

Once again, I’m attending the Eighth Day Symposium, this year on the topic of “Cultivating Friendship in a Fractured Age.”

One plenary speaker is Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio Journal. Today from him, one insight, starting with a greeting from “blessed souls depicted by Dante” (presumably Paradiso):

“Here comes one who will augment our loves.” Friendship is an analog of the heavenly community in which the multitude of the Blessed, and I think this is Dante’s term, “increases the fruition each has of God.”

Friendship is an analog of the Church ordered by love and gifted to one another by what Augustine calls a kind of divine lottery. All true human communities are imperfect, incomplete but nonetheless real anticipations of the Church’s life in its fulfillment.

One reason such a claim may sound implausible is that modern politics has undermined the centrality of sharing of common objects of love to define a community by insisting that the point of government is to protect the rights of individuals within the society to love what they want to love. All efforts within communities that attempt to nurture well-ordered loves for what ought to be loved are squashed in modern societies in the name of individual freedom.

So modern states end up enforcing what Pope Benedict call “the dictatorship of relativism.”

(Bold added; underlining emphasized in the original speech pattern.)

So when asked to identify our common objects of love, phrased as “What Unites Us?“, we come up with idiocy like “diversity” unites us!

I would go further than Ken Myers to suggest that by government squashing “efforts within communities that attempt to nurture well-ordered loves for what ought to be loved,” government is squashing community itself, civil society, culture and mediating structures, with the effect (which I suspect is “a feature, not a bug”) that the dictatorship of relativism is manifested in an anti-culture wherein those de jure “free” individuals stand naked and de facto powerless before the state.

UPDATE: I revised the final paragraph, which began with one or two too many snarky asides to be readable.

* * * * *

“While saints are engaged in introspection, burly sinners run the world.” (John Dewey) Be a saint anyway. (Tipsy)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Friday Evening 11/4/16

  1. Dwelling in a material world
  2. 3 Churches per day for 28 years
  3. Conservatives on “why” they’re so voting
  4. Forfeiting prolife credibility
  5. The new media landscape
  6. Conservatives for Bernie
  7. Hacksaw Ridge and HHS

Continue reading “Friday Evening 11/4/16”

Sabbatical

I’m not a misogynist. I don’t judge women on their looks. You can trust me that I didn’t sexually assault any of these women because they’re all ugly. (Donald Trump)

Thanks for clearing that up, man.

Of course, I made up that exact quote. You can tell because it strings together three complete sentences, even though they’re internally inconsistent. There’s no “word salad.” There’s so self-aggrandizing asides.

Trump couldn’t read it if it was put in front of him on a teleprompter.

Hillary’s not as easy to mock because she does not manifest (n.) manifest (adj.) concurrent severe personality disorders.

The best diagnosis of Hillary I’ve heard is that sometime between the mid-70s and now, someone flipped off the idealism switch and flipped on the corruption and self-enrichment switch.

* * * * *

Face it, Republican Trump supporters (i.e., excluding newcomers supporting Trump’s independent campaign under the Republican umbrella) and rueful Hillary supporters: if 2016 isn’t enough to get you looking at third parties, you never will. You’re a slave. You’ll continue, in saecula saeculorum, eating whichever party’s Shit Sandwich looks less shitty, and it’s relatively easy because you’ve limited the choice to two.

A Facebook friend couldn’t believe I won’t support Trump, because (when you stripped away all my friend’s bombast) unlike Hillary, Trump truly does not care about people like us beyond securing our votes (and therefore won’t persecute us).

I agree with that. I will be a direct target for Clinton, collateral damage for Trump.

However, Trump is so unstable and so eerily demagogic that for the sake of the world, I’ll risk a direct Hillary hit over a Trump holocaust by voting #NeverTrump, #NeverClinton.

I’m moving beyond 2016 toward a more realistic, human-scaled vision of America’s future than either party is pushing or willing to push.

* * * * *

The debasing tone and meager substance of this campaign, aside, I’m rejecting both parties because on a very important issue, they’re both (or all) out of touch with reality.

  • The Democrats and establishment Republicans are selling substantially the same economic Ponzi Scheme.
  • Trump and his followers, insofar as they have a coherent economic message instead of a bundle of understandable grievances, are dealing in nostalgia for post-war America (the beginning of the Ponzi scheme).

None of that is going to work any more. The fuel of the ever-growing economy is literally fuel: petroleum. We’ve used up the economically viable petroleum sources. Only a zero-interest, hyper-financialized economy, funding unprofitable shale-oil shell games, has let us ignore that reality thus far. The alternate energy sources are not yet in place and when they come along (if they do), they will not allow our present physical configurations, dependent on carefree automobile trips, to survive.

Contrary to the American religion of endless progress, the techno-industrial age is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and we are closer to the end of that chapter in human history than to the middle of it. By the 1970s, the USA began to feel the bite of competition from other parts of the world that had rebuilt their industrial capacity following the debacle of World War II. Our factories, which had not been bombed during the war, were old and worn out. Environmental consciousness produced stringent new regulation of dirty industries. Third World nations with rising populations offered ultra-cheap labor and lax regulation. So, we “off-shored” US industry, which for a century had been the major source of our economic wealth.

Industrial production was replaced mainly by two activities. First, after being constrained by the oil crises of 1973 and 1979, the suburban sprawl build-out resumed with vengeance in the 1980s. Secondly, and connected with sprawl via the mortgage racket, was the expansion of the financial sector of the economy from five percent to over 40 percent. The suburban sprawl part was easy to understand. It was the preferred template for property development, an emergent process over the decades. The local zoning and building codes had evolved to mandate that outcome by law. The separation of uses became more extreme: housing tracts here, office parks there, shopping somewhere else, connected solely by cars. You couldn’t build a popsicle stand anywhere in the USA without supplying fifteen parking spaces. The new laws for handicapped access had the unintended consequence of heavily discouraging buildings over one story. The tragic part was that suburban sprawl was a living arrangement with no future. The oil crises of the 70s had portended that, but both the zoning codes and the cultural conditioning over-rode that warning. Anyway, Americans simply couldn’t conceive of living any other way.

Back when finance was a mere five percent of the economy, banking was boring and didn’t even pay so well. It was based on the 3-6-3 formula: borrow money at 3 percent, lend it out at 6 percent, and be on the golf course at 3 o’clock. In the 1960s, bank presidents and stock brokers might have a color TV instead of a black-and-white, and they might drive a Cadillac instead of a Chevrolet, but they didn’t live on another planet of ultra-wealth. The role of banking in the economy was straightforward: to manage society’s accumulated wealth (capital), and re-deploy it for productive purposes that would produce yet more wealth.

The computer revolution of the 1990s helped take finance to a whole other level of hyper-complexity with astonishing speed and, because the diminishing returns of technology always bite, this venture produced some ferocious blowback — namely, that many of the new “innovative” financial instruments created by computer magic enabled swindling and fraud on a scale never seen before. This was especially true in the securitization of mortgage debt into fantastically complex mutant bonds, many of which were notoriously designed to blow up and reward their issuers with bond “insurance” payouts. That bit of mischief led to the crash of 2008. The systemic damage of that event was never resolved but simply papered over by taxpayer bailouts and massive Federal Reserve “interventions” that continue to the present.

(James Howard Kunstler, The Future of the City) Even Mark Levinson’s Weekend Essay in the Wall Street Journal admits that “the economy doesn’t roar any more.”

The U.S. presidential candidates have made the usual pile of promises, none more predictable than their pledge to make the U.S. economy grow faster. With the economy struggling to expand at 2% a year, they would have us believe that 3%, 4% or even 5% growth is within reach.

But of all the promises uttered by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton over the course of this disheartening campaign, none will be tougher to keep. Whoever sits in the Oval Office next year will swiftly find that faster productivity growth—the key to faster economic growth—isn’t something a president can decree. It might be wiser to accept the truth: The U.S. economy isn’t behaving badly. It is just being ordinary.

Historically, boom times are the exception, not the norm ….

It’s no fun to think about that. The era of happy motoring, our half-acre mini-estates (on formerly-tilled land), and the dream of endless progress are much funner.

We Boomers were much closer to the truth when we were all reading E.F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful — but then our switches flipped like Hillary’s did. She was just better at ferreting out the possibilities of personal enrichment by racketeering.

It’s no accident that the Clintonistas were trash-talking thus according to last week’s Wikileak:

They can throw around ‘Thomistic’ thought and ‘subsidiarity’ and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.”

Subsidiarity is soooo “Small is Beautiful.”

The day is coming when we’ll have a choice between (a) the war of all against all over the bits of real wealth that remain or (b) cooperation on far more localized and pedestrian (literally and metaphorically) scale. Kunstler’s declinist essay and most of his corpus for several decades now go into greater detail.

It’s heartening, though I too rarely pay heed to it, to note that people are starting to vote with their feet, motivated by market forces if not conscious conviction. It’s too little, too slowly, I fear, but I could be wrong about how long the combined efforts of our plutocrats can keep the bubble from bursting.

I’ve aligned with a party  that believes in things the Democrats despise, as do the Republicans, though their emails haven’t been leaked, and though they’ll despise some parts the Democrats like (and vice-versa). But I’m aware that we’ll lose this year, that our candidate has the thinnest of political credentials and that there are limits to politics fixing all ills.

* * * * *

With that, I begin a brief (at least) blogging sabbatical. I’m going after dinner to a place where I fully expect to be off-grid for a while.

Prayer and worship and maybe some (offline) reading will be my likely routine, though I’ll be happy if I meet someone in a black robe who credibly says “I think I know how to cure what ails you” and takes me some different direction.

Yes, I’ve been ailing (dare I suggest we all are?), even if the ailment is only frenzy over how few people sense the truly perilous position we’re in. In fact, it’s probably much worse than that, and if I’m going only to “pray away the gay frenzy,”  I’m unlikely to accomplish even that. They don’t really know how to do partial soul-cures, after all.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.