The Bear Makes Its Move

America’s ruling elite is divided into two camps when it comes to foreign policy. One side, the neocons, sees the world as a collection of American provinces. Maybe administrative districts is a better term. They really thought they could turn Iraq into a fully functioning representative democracy. Not only that, they thought it could be a model for the rest of the Arab world district.

The other camp is composed of people who think the other camp is dangerously wrong, but have no earthly idea why and they have no sensible alternative to offer. It is why Obama pulled the plug on the Bush deal in Iraq and went tromping off to Afghanistan. He and his flunkies had no idea what they were trying to accomplish. They just knew the old Bush hands hated it so that was enough.

The rest of the world is not willing to wait around for America’s elites to figure out what their doing. Russia, in particular, is taking advantage of the Obama administration’s petrified paralysis. Last year they made Obama look foolish by outflanking him in Syria. Putin followed that up with a stunning success in Ukraine. Now they are taking advantage of Washington’s bungling to return Iraq as an ally in the Persian Gulf.

The first delivery of Russian Sukhoi fighter jets arrived in Iraq on Saturday, the country’s Defense Ministry said. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is hoping the jets will make a key difference in the fight against ISIS.

The Iraqi Ministry of Defense on Sunday confirmed receiving five Su-25 fighter jets in accordance with the deal with Moscow. The jets were delivered by a Russian An-124 transport plane in a dismantled state, and are expected to be set up and become operational within 3-4 days.

Until Bush the Lesser dethroned Saddam, Iraq was a Russian client state. Their military was equipped by the Russians and trained in Russian tactics. It is why they were good at running a secret police, but clownishly awful at large set piece combat. The Russians were never good at this type of warfare, which is why the Germans drove them to the gates of Moscow. They are much better at operating a police state.

Now, the Russians have Syria, Iran and Iraq on board and that means they can build their pipelines without too much interference from the West. Running gas from the Persian Gulf through Iran to the Caspian Sea was never ideal and would allow the GCC-Saudi deal to compete on economic grounds. Running a pipeline over Iraq into Syria puts them in the Mediterranean. The only thing they must now do is get rid of ISIL, which is probably backed by Israel and the CIA.

The other bonus for Russia is they get to work on their modernization efforts. The Russians have been revamping their military and their tactics to face the threats of this century. They know they will not be fighting a tank war in Europe. Instead they will be fighting insurgents from their southeast. They saw how the Americans adapted and they are doing the same. Iraq is good practice.

“The Sukhoi Su-25 is an air-ground support and anti-terrorism mission aircraft. In these difficult times, we are in great need of such aircraft. With God’s help, we will be able to deploy them to support our ground forces on a mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant militants within the next 3-4 days,” Iraqi Army Lieutenant General Anwar Hamad Amen Ahmed told RT’s Ruptly news agency at an airport receiving the jets.

The modern battlefield is four dimensional. Air assets attack ground elements with the help of specialized ground forces. That means choppers and jet aircraft that can be coordinated with those ground forces to bring timely and potent firepower on small targets. It takes practice to hone these skills and this provides the Russians with a chance to gets some saddle time.

There’s also the fact the Russians will increasingly rely on mercenaries. Demographics are reducing the number of Russian males available for military service. The Russian military is close to being majority Muslim at this point. The solution to this is to create a military with a Russian elite and a Muslim militia. I doubt that works, but Iraq provides a training ground for how they intend to adjust to the demographic realities they face.

More Chav Ball

After my ride I stopped for a burger at the local pub. They had one of the World Cup games on the big screen. For some reason the place was empty so I could hear the play-by-play of the game. Greece was playing Costa Rica. I was pulling for Greece for no reason other than they looked like old men compared to the Costa Ricans. They just looked like guys you would see smoking outside a club or arguing with one another at an outdoor café. The announcer made some reference to the star player celebrating their last win with a quiet cigarette. I think his name was Socrates.

It occurred to me that one of the reasons Americans tend to make fun of soccer is the behavior of the announcers. Every four years ESPN imports an English guy (I think he is English) to call the games. They pair him with an American, who functions as a color commentator. I did not catch the names of the two announcers and I really don’t care enough to look it up. It sounds like the same guy every four years, but maybe they have a rotation of British announcers. it is not all that important.

In America, we expect the play-by-play guy to be level headed and dry. In an exciting moment, he can show emotion, but otherwise he is supposed to be neutral and avoid making a spectacle of himself. The color guy is always a former jock who explains the action after the call. Making sport of bad announcer and goofy sidekicks is as popular as the sports themselves. Chris Berman is considered the worst play-by-play guy in America because of his antics, while Dan Dierdorff was the gold standard for the dumb jock turned television personality.

In soccer, this arrangement is exactly backward. The play-by-play guy is an overly emotional clown. The British guy they drag over to do US broadcasts of soccer is like a parody of the ban announcer. The over the top language and ridiculous comments about heroism and courage are topped off with overly dramatic comments during the few exciting points in the game. The color guy sounds like he is on drugs he is so mellow. He does not say anything you need to know. Instead, he works as a straight man to the weird announcer screaming about the heroism of a pass.

The only other place I’ve listened to soccer announcers is in South America and the announcers are famous for being emotional wrecks. But, they report the weather as if the fate of the world rests on their next utterance. That’s just how Latins roll. Brits are supposed to be stoic so there’s a reason for the deranged announcers that I’m not understanding. I’m sure Brits are perfectly fine with it, but the chav-ball fans in America do themselves no good insisting on using the this announcer model.

Thinking about it, maybe the melodramatics from the booth are necessary. Eating my burger, there were long periods when nothing was happening in the game. Unlike American sports, soccer suffers a crucial defect. That’s the lack of statistics. In baseball, the dead time is filled with talk of the numbers. Football is a stat driven sport these days so that fills a big part of the broadcast. Maybe that’s why the soccer announcers have to carry on as they do. They have nothing to talk about for long periods.

That’s the other thing that does not work for Americans. Pre-game and post-game sports broadcasts are heavy on stats and heavy on strategy. In football, breaking down film is pretty much all the studio shows do these days. That and interviews with players and coaches. The half time show for the soccer game was three guys talking about how hard the players were trying. No replays. No strategy discussion. Just pointless statements about passion and effort.

The Greeks lost on coin flips.

Civilizational Suicide

Today is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. At least it is considered the anniversary. This is the day Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie in the city of Sarajevo. The Austrians blamed the Serbs and in July delivered an ultimatum they surely knew would be rejected. The point was to provoke war with the Serbs, which it did. In a month the great powers of Europe were aligned against one another in what would be a massively brutal war.  Close to 40 million men were killed, wounded or went missing in 51 months of war.

To put that in some perspective, the population of the United States at the start of the war was roughly 99 million. Every hour of every day of the war over 1,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or went missing. Put another way, one day’s fighting in The Great War had more military casualties than the entire Iraq War. It is why, as John Derbyshire points out in his latest transmission, that Europeans called it a suicide attempt.

The Great War has got slighted in the history books, but that may be changing. Outside the Left, more people are taking a fresh look at this war. Watching the American ruling class feverishly try to flood the country with third world peasants in an attempt to break the back of the middle-class, one cannot help but think things are headed to a dramatic denouement. One hundred years ago the ruling elites of the civilized world tried to commit suicide. They seem to be at it again.

The question that naturally arises when looking at the prelude to the Great War is how did these people not see what was coming? As John points out, all of the principles were highly civilized and highly cultivated. These were not savage people led by glory seeking leaders. The rulers of Europe were often related and certainly familiar with one another through social connections. They were highly educated men leading a class of men with much to lose and little to gain from war. Yet, the actions of a lone madman set the civilized world on fire.

Similarly, no one outside the Left can figure out why our current rulers want to destroy their countries. Pat Buchanan famously noted that we may be the first civilization in history in which the ruling elite despises that which holds them up as elites. The drive to bring in exotic peasants to destroy the America is an act of suicide. The sorts of leaders these peasants favor tend to murder the types of leaders we have in place.

Today as 100 years ago, the causes and explanation are complicated. You really can’t point to one thing to place the blame. Part of our trouble today is due to the strange ideology that dominates American politics. It is a toxic blend of Utopian lunacy and rage against the limits of nature. The collapse of Christianity as an active part of people’s lives means there is no transcendent alternative to the Utopian scheming. What fills the void is the sterile conservatism we see in the pages of National Review.

The years leading to the Great War had a similar feel. Europe had abandoned Christianity following the 30 Years War. What came to fill the void was a strange nationalism that was loosely based on blood and soil. Contemporaneous accounts give one the sense that imperialism had run its course. The Great War was the way to find out what came next.

Perhaps it is just a natural process. Marx described capitalism as the organized destruction of productive forces. What he saw was a natural process where competition commoditized labor and capital. Perhaps at the civilization level, material success destroys the will to thrive. When there are no more hills to conquer, the leaders lose focus and this devolves into petty, selfish behavior leading to no good end. I don’t know, but today sure has the vibe of Europe’s last summer. Maybe one day Jean-Claude Juncker will be remembered like Gavrilo Princip.

Fake Indian Update

I’ve been arguing for a while now that Fake Indian will run and win the Democrat nomination in 2016. I’m not even sure Clinton runs again. She is old, fat and sick and the Left generally hates old people. The only way they back Her is if they think the Republican candidate is going to win. Given the state of the GOP, they will not be nominating a sure thing in 2016. Instead it will be some bland establishment guy who does not scare the establishment. It looks like Jonah Goldberg agrees. 

In 2007, Democrats were delirious with rage about the Iraq war. Hillary Clinton, the “inevitable” presidential front-runner, had voted for the war and refused to apologize for it. Other leading candidates, including Joe Biden, John Edwards, and Chris Dodd, voted for it too. This left a huge opening for a credible antiwar candidate. Barack Obama, inexperienced and underqualified, nonetheless jumped into the vacuum. The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, the issue that obsesses the base of the Democratic party is income inequality. I think that’s foolish. The underlying causes of inequality — miserable economic growth, stagnating wages, poverty, etc. — are vastly more worthy challenges. Though, in fairness, many people actually have those problems in mind when they talk about inequality.

There’s another, more important reason. In the 1990’s, the Left radicalized and, like Africanized honey bees, became very aggressive. They were convinced Clinton was too timid and let the “extreme right” push him around. Loyalty to the cause kept them from revolting against the Clintons, but the resentment turned into rage by 2000. Just as fundamentalist Muslims went violently crazy after the end of the Cold War, the American Left went bonkers when the Clintons left town.

In 2008, the most anti-Bush candidate was Obama. In 2016, the Left will embrace the most aggressively liberal candidate in the field. The Left largely feels Obama has not been aggressive enough, particularly with the Wall Street crowd. That’s what makes Fake Indian’s faux populism so appealing. it not authentic, but is makes the Left feel like they are something other than toadies to corporate America. Warren would serve the narrative, which is what matters.

There’s another component to the inequality obsession: populism. People increasingly feel that economic and political elites are enriching themselves, not by making great products or selling valuable services, but by cutting backroom deals and selling influence. This rage is remarkably bipartisan. It is the one theme that loosely unites tea partiers and Wall Street occupiers alike.

Goldberg, like most of the neocons, instinctively rejects anything that smacks of populism. That’s why they tend to get it wrong as we see here. Warren’s faux populism is the sort you see in the faculty lounge or the coffee shop at Whole Foods. It’s overly credentialed cosmopolitan provincials complaining about the rich guys who sign their paycheck and keep them in the lifestyle they deserve. They may have it good, but someone with fewer diplomas has it better and that’s just unfair.

It’s why Warren sounds so weird to working class types. If you are a part-time teacher at your kid’s Montessori school, hearing a rich white woman complain about inequality sounds inspiring.  If you’re working two jobs so your kid can go to the local state college one day, hearing an old rich woman talk like that sounds ridiculous. The Democrat party, however, is the party of Montessori school parents, not plumbers with two jobs.

Obscure economics professor David Brat toppled House majority leader Eric Cantor in a Virginia primary largely by tapping into that populism, particularly on such issues as immigration and Wall Street bailouts.

Senator Warren owes her left-wing hero status to the Democratic version of this kind of populism. She’s been talking for years about how the well-connected “rig the system” for their own benefit. Now, I find many of Warren’s proposed solutions — more regulation, more taxes, more government, etc. — abhorrent. But, believe it or not, I am not a Democratic-primary voter. Those who are love what Warren is selling.

I’ve been pointing this out for years. It used to be that the parties were easy to define by their marketing. The Democrats were mostly the party of the working class and rich people claiming to be for the working class. The Republicans were the party of the shop owner and other rich people. Both parties tried to fashion a majority around policy and both parties could compete in all regions of the country, based on a message aimed at the middle-class white voter.

That’s not the case today nor has it been for a long time. Here’s a quote from a 15-year old Sam Francis colums:

Today, the main political line of division in the United States is not between the regions of North and South (insofar as such regions can still be said to exist) but between elite and nonelite. As I have tried to make plain … for the last 15 years, the elite, based in Washington, New York, and a few large metropolises, allies with the underclass against Middle Americans, who pay the taxes, do the work, fight the wars, suffer the crime, and endure their own political and cultura1 dispossession at the hands of the elite and its underclass vanguard.

Warren’s faux populism is an attempt to tap into this, but she is a product of the managerial class and her message is aimed at members of that class. Clinton crying poor mouth is a similar attempt. Brat is different and comparing his appeal to that of Warren is a category error. Of course, Goldberg knows this and is trying to prevent conservatives from embracing the Sam Francis style populism by demonizing all forms of populism as left-wing. It’s classic neocon subversion.

The question is whether any of it really matters at this point. Warren is no populist and she would be a slave to the bankers and corporate elites. She is an old rich white woman willing to lie for money. While I think her shtick will work for her in 2016, nothing much will change in the Democrat party. It is and will remain the party of deluded upper middle class whites. They can’t bring themselves to align with middle and working class whites, so they stick with the party of plutocrats.

Where’s This President’s Howard Baker?

The news brings word that Howard Baker has died. He is probably best remembered for posing the most famous question in American politics. That was, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” It clarified the Watergate scandal for the public, but it also drew a line in the sand among Republicans. He was willing to fink on Nixon in order to make sure the GOP remained respectable in the eyes of the Left.

Repeated over and again in the senator’s mild Tennessee drawl, those words guided Americans through the tangle of Watergate characters and charges playing daily on TV to focus squarely on Richard Nixon and his role in the cover-up.

Baker’s famous question has been dusted off for potential White House scandals big and small ever since.

Baker, who later became Senate majority leader, chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan and one of the GOP’s elder statesmen, died Thursday at his Tennessee home of complications from a stroke suffered days earlier, according to an email distributed at the law firm where Baker was senior counsel. He was 88.

Baker emerged as an unlikely star of the Watergate hearings in the summer of 1973.

When chosen as vice chairman — and therefore leading Republican — of the Senate special committee, he was a Nixon ally who thought the allegations couldn’t possibly be true. Democrats feared he would serve as the White House’s “mole” in the investigation of the break-in at Democratic headquarters and other crimes perpetrated in service to Nixon’s re-election.

“I believed that it was a political ploy of the Democrats, that it would come to nothing,” Baker told The Associated Press in 1992. “But a few weeks into that, it began to dawn on me that there was more to it than I thought, and more to it than I liked.”

He said Watergate became “the greatest disillusionment” of his political career.

Baker’s intense but restrained style of interrogating former White House aides played well on camera. A youthful-looking, side-burned 47-year-old, his brainy charm inspired a raft of love notes sent to his Senate office; a women’s magazine proclaimed him “studly.” He was mentioned frequently as presidential material.

By the time Nixon resigned in 1974, Baker was a household name with a reputation for fairness and smarts that stuck throughout a long political career.

In the 1970’s, Republicans were faced with a choice. They could go to war with the Left, including the major media, or turn on their own man. They chose the latter. In the 1980’s, they faced a similar challenge, even though Reagan was never implicated in Iran-Contra, which was largely a non-scandal. Still, there were Republicans and Conservatives that went after guys like Oliver North.

The Democratic Party will never turn on their guy. They defended Clinton and they are defending Obama, despite abuses of power that make Nixon look like piker. They will defend the thing to the last man, no matter what evidence comes to light. They will never produce a Howard baker, who reasons that it is better to be respected by the enemy than loyal to the party. It’s also why the Left always wins.

The Parasite Economy

I read a lot of econ stuff, mostly for entertainment purposes. That habit started back in the go-go 90’s when the new economy was belching forth one new dot-com firm after another. Most of these new companies made nothing, fixed nothing and provided no service anyone would want. The dot-com boom was, in many respects, a big waste of time and money. But, I got a lot of laughs listening to lectures about how things were different in the new economy.

After the crash and the dust settled, we were left with a parasite economy. By that I mean the only people making money were doing so by leeching off of someone doing real work. Google is a case in point. A search engine is not much use without the infrastructure of the Internet and the billions of content providers. Google provides nothing, other than a convenient way to find some of the sites. Mostly what they do is operate as a protection racket.

It used to be that if you built a better mouse trap, the world would beat a path to your door. Today, building a better mouse trap means a whole bunch of freeloaders and highwaymen litter that path to your door, robbing all those folks trying get your better mousetrap. Television is a good example of this. It used to come over the air free. Now, you pay the cable guy and then you pay the tax man for the abatement the cable company needs. You have to rent a special box and maybe sign up for other services like telephone and Internet to get television.

Maybe it has always been thus and I’m just catching on now that I’m in my old age, but that’s what came to mind with the news the court was busting up Aereo. Conceptually, I love the idea of local channels over the Internet. I’ve moved around a lot and getting the home town news, for example, would be worth a  few bucks a month. Getting the local football games or hockey games, even though you’re not local, would be great. The technology to do it is in place and mature, but the local broadcasters don’t do it. That’s where Aereo thought they could make some money.

That’s also where the problem starts. They don’t own the internet and they don’t own the content. They were borrowing it and renting it out to their customers without getting permission from the owner. That’s generally called theft, but in the new new new economy, it is called “disruptive.” The court called it illegal and our nine robbed masters are the final say in the matter.

That may or may not be the right answer, but there’s no doubt that Aereo is (was) a parasite company trying to make money from other parasite companies. The local broadcasters get special rights not available to everyone. They strike deals with the cable companies who have struck special deals with state and local government. Between you and the guy making your favorite show is a long line of rentiers. I spend more in a month on telecom than my father spent in his lifetime.

Now, that’s not to say no one is doing real work. It’s just that the big money seems to be in coming up with a way to transfer your cost of doing business onto others and charging rents for access to the work of others. Facebook is a great example. They don’t pay a dime to the ISP’s and telcos. You pay for the mobile access and you pay for the Internet. They harvest your personal data and sell it to others. Their big contribution is to provide a crude interface for you to see pictures of the grandkids.

It’s all perfectly legal and maybe even moral. I don’t know. I do know you can’t have an economy based on it. Someone has to be making stuff and fixing stuff. Someone has to actually be making better mousetraps. Instead we have our best minds working on new ways to charge you for television. At some point, the system has to be overloaded with middle-men, rentiers and scammers.

Summer of LeeBong 2.0

The news brings word that LeeBong James has opted out his contract with the Miami Heat, a professional flea circus in Florida. This means LeeBong will spend the height of the summer getting wined and dined by rich Jewish guys promising him the world, while the sporting media gushes over his wonderfulness. ESPN will then have a special broadcast to announce where LeeBong will play next year.

James indicated that he welcomed the opportunity to become a free agent and have the same level of flexibility he was afforded in 2010, when he signed with Miami after spending his first seven years in Cleveland.

“Being able to have flexibility as a professional, anyone, that’s what we all would like,” James said last week. “That’s in any sport, for a football player, a baseball player, a basketball player, to have flexibility and be able to control your future or your present. I have a position to be able to do that. … There’s a lot of times that you’re not in control of your future as a professional.”

In his four seasons in Miami, the Heat have gone to the NBA Finals four times, winning two championships. James could join Shaquille O’Neal as the only players in league history to lead the NBA Finals in total points scored and then play for a different team to start the following season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. O’Neal played for the 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers, who lost to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals, and was traded to the Heat in the offseason.

If James departs, he would be leaving a historic opportunity on the table. Only one team in NBA history has appeared in at least five consecutive NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics, who reached 10 straight from 1957 to 1966.

With James and Carmelo Anthony officially opting out of their contracts, multiple teams — including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks and Lakers — have begun the process of exploring roster moves that would create sufficient salary-cap space to sign 2014’s marquee free agents in tandem, sources close to the situation told

The NBA is the worst run sports league on earth. In every other sport, good owners willing to pay competent managers can build solid, profitable franchises. In the NBA, you either hit the “lottery” and get a great young player or you get picked as the next stop on the traveling caravan of stars. Owning an NBA team is not about winning, but about money laundering and pointless entertainment.

That said, James is a good star for the millennials. Their’s is a transactional existence where the past has no grip on the present. Loyalty to the hometown in the case of Cleveland or loyalty to the men who put together the Miami deal means nothing to LeeBong James. All that matters is what he can get next because all that matters to LeeBong is his happiness. That’s a quality you see with the millennials. They are so self-absorbed they barely notice there are other human beings around them.

If James was just chasing the money, it would be understandable. These guys have a short time to make millions. Most of them are morons who blow their money on flunkies and baby-mommas, so getting as much as they can makes sense. It is harder to blow through $100 million than $80 million. But, that’s not what it’s about for the superstars like James. He’s just a megalomaniac seeking the next pat on the head.

Imagine a generation of these with absolutely no loyalty to anything, rushing about looking for the next pat on the head. Think of that when you hear how the millennials want “self-actualizing careers” rather than just making money. It’s what the Clinton kid meant when she honked out this nonsense the other day. Most people think she is lying and James is really just chasing money, just a different way. Maybe. They certainly seem to believe their bullshit though.

The Religious Divide

Way back in the olden thymes, “spiritual” people eschewed traditional religion, in favor of pseudo-paganism and Eastern mysticism. Along with it came sub-cults like saving the whales or saving the environment. Concern for people and things over the horizon is the hallmark of new age religion. Most of these people were miserable to their families and friends, but they had nothing but love for mother earth, nature and oppressed people living far away.

All of that nonsense from the 60’s and 70’s was just religion for people who liked the benefits of public piety, but were not into any of the sacrifices. They had special outfits to wear in public, signaling their goodness. They ate strange foods and got into meditation and yoga. Bumper stickers were a big thing. it was a way for them to impose their values on you without taking an risk. That’s the thing with the self-righteous and publicly pious. It grace without sacrifice for them.

Still, they were a minor nuisance, for the most part. Cleaning up rivers and protecting wildlife is the sort of stuff rich societies can do without causing too much trouble. It is what economist call public goods. Despite the fact the people behind these efforts were mostly monomaniacal weirdos, like Ralph Nader, the goals appealed to people’s Christian sense of duty.  It’s the same way the social-welfare laws tag along on the people’s sense of Christian charity.

This arrangement started to change in the 1990’s. Bill Clinton felt it necessary to be open about his Christian faith. It was, in part, to make inroads into the South, but also appealed to northern Catholics. By 2000 Al Gore was dismissive of religion entirely while Bush was the Evangelical. That’s the source of the great divide that has roiled the nation ever since. People who worship the old gods versus those who worship the new gods and have zero tolerance for the old gods.

Obama comes along in 2008 and is clearly non-Christian. Maybe he is a Muslim or maybe he is simply not religious. His membership in the crazy black church hardly qualifies as religious. The clear message was that unlike the people who put Bush in office, Obama was not a Christian. The last election featured a man who never attends services and a man who belongs to a weird cult that is alien to the Judeo-Christian traditions of America.

The point of all of this is to underscore just how far Christianity has fallen in public estimation. In 1980, Reagan seeded his talks with references to the Bible, on the assumption everyone would know what he meant. His opponent was a deeply religious man who felt comfortable discussing his relationship to God on television. Today, it would seem strange to see a presidential candidate discussing his relationship with God or his duties to his church as a Christian man.

One thing you learn when reading about population genetics is religion is near universal. We have evidence of religious practice going back as far as we have evidence of modern human activity. Science thinks religion evolved as one of the first human traits. If you take a step back and look at religion as a subgroup of mass movements, then it is even more obvious that faith and belief are necessary human traits that are integral to our understanding of the world.

Religion was most likely the first solution to the free rider problem. Not only does guilt and moral suasion push the free loader to pull his weight, it justifies taking harsh action against those who take more than they give. Belief in the common gods and common morality would have obvious reproductive advantages. A natural bias toward religiosity would, over many generations, bake belief into the human animal. Like all traits, it would manifest itself more prominently in some and less so in others.

That brings me back to the collapse of Christianity in America. Take a look at church attendance by state. Where are you more likely to find, for example, global warming fanatics? Vermont or Mississippi? If you look at the bottom ten states, there you find the most deeply committed liberals and the most deeply committed warmists. Gaia worship, manifested as climate concern, is the religion filling the void left my Christianity for the people least connected to Christian faith and heritage.

Whether you want to call AGW the master cult, encompassing the lesser cults of environmentalism, or you lump all of it into the same bucket with the other progressive fads, there’s no escaping the religious overtones to all of it. Here’s an interesting bit from a hard core believer site called Think Progress. These are the sort of folks who invest a lot of time counting heretics. Their map is revealing. It is not just party preference dividing the nation. It is religion.

The question is whether it was the vacuum left by the collapse of Christianity in these areas that allowed this pagan faith to spread or do the causal arrows point in the other direction? The American Left has been hostile to Christianity since the end of World War II, mostly in order to include Jews in their cause. Perhaps as the people of these areas became more liberal, church attendance dropped and these weird fads spread or maybe as Christianity died, the people went crazier.


There seems to be two great currents in human history that are now colliding with one another. On the one hand, there is a definite long term trend toward larger organizational units. The first human settlements were tiny camps that become villages and then grew into towns. These towns were the administrative centers for the surrounding farm and pasture lands. Those towns grew into cities and eventually city-states. The Bronze Age was peak city-state.

The city state gave way to the regional power that was a collection of city-states speaking the same language and having a shared history. Eventually, after a lot of war and conquest, we got nations, mostly composed of people with a shared genealogy and culture. There are exceptions, but the nations of Europe mostly track the ethnic grouping of the continent. The 20th century gave us world government, in bits and pieces. The European Union is all about creating a super-state.

Now, the other great current is disaggregation. This is where large complex social organizational units break up into smaller units. The Czechs split from the Slovaks. The Walloons and Flemings are close the breaking up Belgium. Scotland may be ready to bolt the UK. Quebec is once again making noises about leaving Canada. The Catalans want to leave Spain and the Venetians want to leave Italy. Of course, Iraq is about to break into pieces.

In the US, we have states making noises about breaking into smaller states. This is not exactly new, but it is usually confined to cranks. On the other hand, people fond of federalism really are advocating the reintroduction of autonomous zones based in the natural divisions int he country. It’s not a big leap from there to having a big state lead a walkout of the union.  California is moving closer than many realize to having it on the ballot in two years.

Advocates for Six Californias, a plan to split the Golden State into a half dozen separate states, are holding a petition drive this weekend to get their plan on the ballot in 2016.

Tom Knorr, holds a State of Jefferson flag in Corning, Calif. The idea of forming their own state has been a topic among local secession dreamers for more than a century in the state. (Terry Chea / Associated Press)

The idea is the brainchild of Timothy Draper, a venture capitalist from Menlo Park – or as he hopes to some day call it, the state of Silicon Valley. Draper has sunk $2 million into signature gathering for the proposal. He maintains it will break bureaucratic deadlock in Sacramento (proposed state of North California) and attract more business.

“California has become the worst managed state in the country,” he told The Times this spring. “It just is too big and too ungovernable.”

Anna Morris, spokeswoman for Six Californias, said in an e-mail that  the group has collected “a significant amount of signatures and are hoping to get the remaining signatures we need this weekend.”“For people who put our chances at zero, we say that we are dedicated to challenging the status quo and are hopeful that Six Californias will be the much needed refresh for state government,” she said.

Joe Rodota, the co-chair of OneCalifornia, an opposition group, downplayed the significance of getting signatures on a petition.

“This is just a process that pretty much any well-funded interest can pursue,” said Rodota, former cabinet secretary for Gov. Pete Wilson. The real challenge, he said, is ballot approval and “it’s just very difficult to get a yes vote historically.”

Times political columnist George Skelton called Six Californias “crazy” and “really crackpot,” but he noted that attempts to break up the state have been around since its inception and can be highly diverting if never successful.

“Go ahead and put this thing on the ballot,” he wrote in April. “We could use some fun.”

There’s a strong argument for breaking up California. It’s too big to operate as a state, but not competent enough to be a country. A better argument is for state government to get much smaller and let local government take on more responsibility. You could keep the state intact if county and city government were left to their own devises for providing services. The great mistake of centralization is the belief that spreading the misery makes it go away. The opposite actually happens.

There’s no record of the centralizers ceding control back to the locals, at least not without a bloodbath, so it is unlikely to happen. That’s the problem we see everywhere in America. Things like education policy, food charity, housing charity and health care arrangements have been handed to the Federal government and there’s little chance they hand them back to the states. Even staggering, outlandish incompetence is not enough to get the pols thinking about devolution.

The same thing is happening in states like California. State government took over the schools, the police and the collection of taxes. Cities, counties and towns are just administrative arms of the state, often working at cross purposes with state agencies that allegedly run things. The result is anarcho-tyranny.  The locals have no real power, so they harass local business and citizens, who just try to play by the rules. The state government is to big to do the job, so we get anarchy.

The two trends I described at the start of the post are in conflict. Logic says one force must prevail, but look at Iraq. Logic says it should be broken up or it should have one sect dominate the rest. Yet, it staggers on as a weirdly inefficient and incomprehensible version of Switzerland. It is a federation of people who have no business being in the same country, but have no will or interest in being their own country. That seems to be the problem with California and America as a whole.

Ramblings on Hyphen Conservatism

Great nouns need no adjectives and good philosophies need no hyphens. In the former case, the word itself conjures all the imagery needed to convey meaning. That’s not to say adjectives are useless. Quite the contrary. The point here is that nouns like lion or lunatic easily stand on their own. Lesser nouns need helpers to get their meaning across to the recipient. If a noun needs help packing a punch or getting the point across, then maybe that speaks to the concept behind the noun.

In the case hyphenated ideas, the hyphen tells you that the old cause is no longer working and this new thing is an attempt to replace it. Neo-Conservatism, for example, was a cosmopolitan revolt against the traditional bourgeois conservatism of the previous era. More precisely and practically, it was an attempt to fuse the worldly liberalism the urbanite with the traditional social conservatism of the ruralite.

It was a complete failure.

I’ve thought for a long time now that the Left will have a free hand until the Right comes to terms with the Bush years. A similar dynamic was in place in the 1970’s after Nixon, but the emerging conservative movement was ready to take the stage, even before Nixon imploded. The overthrow of Nixon was the Old Left’s last gasp, aided by the young Turks from the New Left. In a way, they did Conservatives a favor by discrediting the northern conservatism for a generation.

I think there are a lot of parallels between Bush the Lesser and Nixon. I’m not talking about character or their conduct in office. I strictly mean as far as their impact on the political landscape. Nixon was an inflexion point for the political class. Both parties were different after Watergate and the nation was different. In the Bush years the Left radicalized and seized control of the Democratic party, making it an ideological party, so now it is the GOP’s turn to change itself.

That’s the problem. After Nixon, it was easy for the Conservative movement to sweep in and take over the GOP. Nixon resigned in disgrace and that wing of the GOP was in no position to challenge the highly popular Reagan and his sizable coalition. Bush served out both terms and many on the Right still defend the guy. What’s going on now is a battle over whether this makes any sense, given that most conservative white voters think Bush was a complete failure as president.

Libertarians have been let out of their box and represent one strain of the reformist/reconciliation effort. They have been allowed to mix with the main stream Right lately, only because they keep it interesting. Of course, Rand Paul is carrying the banner of that branch of libertarians that supported his old man. How much influence they have is debatable. It still looks like a fringe groups of weirdos to most people, but they are making inroads into the establishment.

The newest entrants are from within the Establishment Right. Ramesh Ponnuru is pushing something called Reform Conservatism. His old lady is drawing a paycheck from it so you can guess where that is heading. They have a book out which is mostly a bunch of policy proposals that have been kicking around for years. These guys are the folks who learned nothing from the Bush years, but think they can form a new coalition to challenge the Left.

Then we have Post-Modern Conservatism, which seems a bit muddle to me. I get the sense the adherents spent some time reading Mencius Moldbug. It has that vibe.

Postmodern conservatism appeals neither to the foundations of modern rationalism (a technological view of nature) nor to those of classical rationalism (the autonomy and superiority of the pure philosophic life). So in this sense it is skeptical of foundationalisms, which justifies the somewhat playful and retro name “postmodern.” At the same time, it recognizes the responsibility of reason and so cannot concede the adequacy of appeals to History, including Tradition. In this sense postmodern conservatism is neither Absolutist (dogmatic) nor relativist-historicist (skeptical); let us say it has a certain confidence in reason, or, in particular, in politics as reasoning together, but it does not claim to appeal beyond such reasoning to some finished system of reason, either modern or classical.

Starting fresh always sounds good, but you cannot escape the past. In this case, anyone not on the Left needs to reconcile themselves with that version of neo-con rule, particularly in the Bush years. The period from 1994 to 2008, with a heavy emphasis on the Bush years was, allegedly, the time when the people in charge subscribed to all the main themes of the modern Right. The result was a disaster.

If you think that sounds harsh, take a look around at the post-Bush world. Foreign policy is a train wreck. Relations with the world are at a nadir. The Right’s claim to fiscal prudence was forfeited with the Bush spending spree. Any claims to good stewardship were also forfeited when the Bush clan sold out to Wall Street. Before Bush, no one wanted to be called a liberal. After Bush, no one wants to be called a conservative, so there is no way to defend Bush and the neocons.

The old ideologies are spent, but there’s nothing ready to replace them. American Progressivism is a collection of nonsense fads, bolted onto tribalism. It is the faith of one group of whites forever at war with the other group of whites. Despite its Utopian posing, it has no end and no purpose. In that regard, it is purely reactionary. It has been bankrupt intellectually for so long no one even remembers the intellectual history of the American Left. They exist because they have always existed.

For an alternative to form from the wreckage of the American Right, they first must come to terms with the Bush years. I think we’re seeing that in fist and starts. The pending disintegration of Iraq and the general failure of the War on Terror has forced some tough discussion on members of the Right. The growth of the police state is giving libertarians room to land some punches on the Bush legacy.

As far as practical politics, the the party will resist any change, as every comma ion the party platform represents a snout at the trough. That rules out internal options for reform, so it will require an external force. Populism and a rowdy disregard for convention is probably what is needed. Perhaps some one runs for president on a Pat Buchanan type of platform, but with enough money to make it work. Something will happen, as the current state is unsustainable.