April 28, 2022

Solving the OH Senate Race Endorsement Puzzle

The Senate race is shaping up to be a really interesting exercise in line-drawing. 

Personally, I don’t see the appeal of Josh Mandel. He seems business as usual despite the rhetoric. He’s been in politics for 15 years and has profited. In 2020 he “earned” $400k serving on corporate boards. That’s the way politics works: serve your time then get rewarded (or, as in Joe Biden’s case, get rewarded all along the way).  I don’t find it particularly appealing. 

JD Vance comes along and he’s already rich so he has zero interest in that. Perhaps less than zero arguably since he’s burning every bridge to anything resembling a payday from corporate America. He’s gone the path of MTG and Josh Hawley, much to his credit. 

Vance and Mandel are outwardly very MAGA. Not a dime’s worth of difference in their rhetoric - or is there? The one “tell” was the Russia/Ukraine war in which Mandel has revealed himself as the typical reflexive war hawk.  Looks like he’s been in politics long enough to think NATO is the another name for the holy, Roman Empire. Sacred and inviolable. 

Why would a guy like David McIntosh of Club for Growth -  an ostensible fellow traveler like Vance in that he was against Trump in ’16 and then found his way to conversion (forced or not) -  be resistant to Vance as the candidate?  Rather, he’s declared jihad on him and Trump. My suspicion is that Mandel and McIntosh have similarly favorable views of our dysfunctional national security apparatus. Or that someone has something over on both of them, as alluded to by Tucker Carlson. 

But the endorsements reveal all. It comes down to warmongers, or the military industrial complex types. Of course: 

Vance: Trump, Peter Thiel, Charlie Kirk of “Turning Point”, Gaetz, MTG, OH Sec of State LaRose, Sen. Hawley

Mandel: Gen Flynn, Ted Cruz, Mark Levin

Gibbons: Sen Rand Paul

Mark Levin has apoplectic that we haven’t started bombing Moscow. He thinks Biden has not done nearly enough and says: “We have been incredibly passive in the face of what Putin is doing.”  I think Biden’s been over-the-top in working to get us as close to a nuclear war as he can.


Ted Cruz is likewise full cry of the war party, like his buddies Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham.  Birds of a feather...flock to Mandel.

April 20, 2022

The Big Lie about the Big Lie

Re: Trump and "the Big Lie". An analogy: mortgages were collateralized and leveraged by slicing all kinds of “good debt” and “bad debt” into financial instruments and sold widely as good and true and holy. Which led to the financial crisis. 

Similarly, we see how the media packages all kinds of truths and lies into one big statement (“the big lie”) that is sold and labeled as “the truth”. Which leads to further collapse of confidence in journalism.

So let’s all break out what is meant by the large leveraged statement of Trump's “big lie”:

Possible Trumpian lies:

1. "I won by a landslide”.  Judgement: Appears to be a lie or at best gross exaggeration. Even the good predictor Trafalagar poll done right before election showed only a narrow Trump electoral win. 

2. "The machines were rigged."Judgement: Could be true since machines can’t be audited except by Dominion and Dominion has shown itself unworthy of trust. Media likewise, so you have no check on them.

3. “The Election was rigged." Judgement: Yes, if by ‘rigged’ you mean takeover of key election counties by Zuckerberg. (This is the Hemingway distinction of “rigged” but not "stolen”.)

Basically by wrapping all 2020 election skeptisms into one “big lie” it effectively allows the media to sell a funhouse mirror version (if not overly successfully).  

One honest journalist (not conservative!), Christoper Leonard, funded by Schmidt Foundation through U of Missouri, had this to say on Brian Lamb’s podcast about the Hunter Biden laptop:

“I think the Hunter Biden story, to be honest, is a real black eye for my business. I’m not one to glibly second-guess print journalism editors who have such a hard job, but at the end of the day we have to own it as a big black eye. I’ll just go a little further, and maybe get myself in trouble here, but there’s a reporter named Peter Schweitzer, who is a conservative guy funded by conservative people. But he’s a heckuva reporter. And I’m looking at his book “Secret Empires” from 2018, which really unspooled in pretty solid detail a lot of Hunter Biden’s deeply problematic business relationships in China and Ukraine. And it was not picked up! The news is the news and the evidence is the evidence and we have to report things that make us uncomfortable or cut against our political preferences.” 

Imagine a dominant media who didn’t leave these topics to the amateurs: election vulnerabilities, the government’s role in Jan 6th vis-a-vis the Whitmer case, Hunter's laptop? (An exaggeration but funny line heard: "a nobody laptop repairman named Jon Paul Issac accomplished more than all journalism and intel community combined”.) 

But that is pie in sky. We’re back to where we were in 1800s with faction newspapers. I think it would be good to know how to navigate in this new environment, i.e. best practices for finding truth in an environment where every journalist is an activist, perhaps a scholarly look at 1800s journalism. (Did faction newspapers help lead to the Civil War?). 

One thing I’m hugely impressed by is the power of the media not so much in its ability to persuade as it is it’s potent ability to set the agenda, to decide what to suppress or talk about. All roads lead to journalism. I learned the hard way not to judge a news outfit by its (prestigious) cover or a college in the same way. Not too many go out of their way to seek out substacks and non-traditional places. In other words, you have to be your own journalist. 

April 19, 2022

Watching Rome Fall in Real-time

There are few things as fascinating as living during the fall of an empire. The long time questions: “how could Rome have possibly let it happen?” now are answered in real-time. 

In some ways it’s more explicable now simply because our leaders have a level of stupidity that the ancient Romans couldn't have had. Imagine one of their judges not to be able to answer the question, “how do you define a woman?”. And as bad as their military judgements were, our incomprehensibly bad pullout in Afghanistan has to be in the running. 

In the end the decline is likely as easy to understand as the quote I saw on Twitter: “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. Weak men create hard times.”  And so it goes, round and round and round. 

But I still have this insatiable desire to learn how to see this new completely foreign world we’re in.  Humans are meaning-seeking animals and I’d like to clue in to the big picture. 


Enter information warfare expert John Robb who has a rather unique view of things: 


“It was always kind of funny to see Trump and all these other folks during the 2020 election focus on election returns and saying they were manipulated, but the reality is the networks controlled the information flow and changed the outcome in 2020. What you saw with Trump - who had to have that direct contact with voters - was that he was heavily censored and muted and de-amplified. The outcome was largely determined by that. There was intervention on a grand scale, everyone was being controlled and the outcome achieved. 

What we’ve seen in the U.S. we see these big corporate networks have taken control of the stabilization of the U.S. Willingly the government has given them that authority and they are controlling the debate on the larger social issues, determining what is valid to talk about and what’s not, controlling election outcomes... Disconnecting the most powerful person in the world, President Trump, shows they were above everything. There’s the classic line where they say ‘the Constitution has been superseded by terms of service.’ Terms of service are now much more important to our future speech rights and everything else than our constitutional protections. And corporations can control whether we’re modern or not, or viable on a global scale or even personal scale.”

Why We Don't Make Things

Listened to podcast on a dog walk called “KunstlerCast” and a fellow named Tom Luongo lays it all out. 

“To continually grow global GDP we need to grow the supply of dollars in order to keep them both in reserve (in everybody’s central banks) and enough of them out there to flow to liquify global trade.  The dollar is three things: a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of value. Where I think we went wrong with dollar reserve system is say that the dollar needs to be all three of those things at the same time concurrently. This leads to the issuing country of the world’s reserve currency has to run a constant trade deficit to liquify the world with enough dollars to keep global trade from collapsing. That’s where we are. That keeps the currency of account stronger than it should be because we’re exporting the inflation we should be experiencing because the dollars are all going overseas and it distorts terribly our economy and gives us the false sense that we don’t have to produce anything, all we have to do is produce money and then we get goods. We don’t have to make the goods themselves. Eventually the dollar should collapse but I don’t see it happening soon or rapidly.” 

April 18, 2022

Finally Making Sense of the Ukraine Invasion

Heard very interesting interview with John Robb, author of a book on modern network warfare. He talked about how the decline of the effectiveness of the nation state has left a vacuum that "networks" like corporations and social media groups have exploited. It's why the Russia/Ukraine war, which should've been a local skirmish, has become a worldwide existential threat.

He says that networks reveal the decline of religion in that since everyone now has a different conception of the good or what's right. Networks can then only solidify, be effective and have a purpose in common is to be against a common target. This happened Mubarak in Egypt, Occupy Wallstreet, Tea Party, and the anti-Trump Resistance folks. Whether it be Trump or Putin or Wall Street, the key is to have a common enemy that unites a disparate group.  This swarm/"hive mind" takes over and ends up leading the leaders. Which is why the hive keeps pushing Biden to further escalate with respect to Ukraine. 

Here's a key part of interview provides a simple explanation for why Ukraine has been a figure of obsession (hint: and it's not because they're white unlike the Yemenis!): 

Doug Casey: "This Russia/Ukraine conflict is basically a border war, the type of thing that has been going on in that part of the world for a thousand years.. a border war between two shithole countries that really shouldn't affect anybody. And in recent history in Europe I would've compared it to the succession of Kosovo from Serbia because this was a secessionist movement of Donbass from Ukraine for reasons that seem to me just as good as those of Kosovo breaking away from Serbia. And of course with Serbia the U.S. comes in and bombs the hell out of Serbia and that's fine, but the Russians try to protect the Donbass people and that's not fine. Is this just that the U.S. controls the world media rather than the Russians?”

Robb: "Yeah you could see it as a Slavic civil war between two relatively corrupt countries. It should've been just a subregional war. We could've sent arms into Ukraine to make it more expensive for Russia. Keep Russia connected to the world but at the same time help Ukraine. And that's the way it started out for a few days but we're in this world of networks and we had a large network of people, the Resistance, the anti-Trumpers who had been working on Russiagate. They put Trump and Putin together as a kind of existential threat to the West, the rise of authoritarianism around the world, so for the past five years they'd been working on creating this vision of evil such that when Russia invaded Ukraine it triggered them. All those years of casting Russia as the reason Trump was in office, that he'd already pretty much declared war on the U.S. by intervening in the 2016 election -- though if you looked at the stuff and the numbers it's not even a rounding error in the kind of propaganda we self-propagate. This network took it and amplified the war." 

April 16, 2022

A Poem and a Quote

The sun gesticulates

Cast-glances from the western window

Just before seven on a Saturday holy

Why so rare these late-day glints? 

Like the stones of Newgrange at equinox

Let it be writ in Columbus April sixteenth

The sun crouches low at seven

To bend to the sunroom’s dimensions. 

**

On why I like my suburban backyard even if it's a non-tropical savannah equivalent. From James Kunstler's "Living in the Long Emergency": 

“The savanna biomes around the world are the home of the majority of the world’s mammals. There are fewer mammals in a forest than there are in a grassland. There are more animals in the savanna than either. ‘And the human being basically loves the savanna,’ he continued. ‘That’s our homeland. It’s the Garden of Eden. It’s where we came from, the Olduvai Gorge, if you’re into the whole out-of-Africa genesis thing. And if you want proof that the savanna form is appealing to human beings, look at the golf course, you know, the lawn with the trees. It’s open underneath. We’ve got grass. We can see any predators come. We can climb trees for safety if we have to. There’s food on all the trees and shrubs, bushes, and vines. And there’s animals around. If we eat animals or use animal products, it’s all there. It’s a complete habitat for humans.’”

April 05, 2022

Politics and Poetry

My liberal brother-in-law recently wanted to “talk politics” but warned me not to use Fox News or any conservative outlet as my source. It's like we're speaking different languages.  I ruled out his sources of course so there’s not a lot to say.  I could tell him that all news is propaganda nowadays so we’ll have to wait till there’s journalism again. 

The difference between now and say, 2015, is that back then I was willing to give some credence to CBS, NY Times, etc... I felt like his networks were more established and credible and mine were more amateur and fly-by-night. It’d be like comparing Prudential Insurance to a small, iffy insurance company that only recently started.  But I’ve been greatly disabused of that notion in the interim. Don't judge by appearances.  It’s freeing, for sure, to no longer need to give any more credence to his sources than he gives to mine. 

I’ve heard that we’re merely going back to the 19th century in our history when newspapers were either Democrat or Republican and there was no pretense of objectivity.  So apparently it’s been done before although it would be nice to see a scholarly article based on our 19th century history on effects (beyond  polarization) of the bifurcation of media. (Well, there was a Civil War...hmm..)

**

Reading a book on the history of England and the author Joseph Pearce makes the point that I often forget, and one that applies also to America and Ireland as well as England since all are secular shadows of their former selves.  We think of history as “what was”, but it is all one moment to God. There is no past or future with God; all is simultaneous.  We ascribe firm categories of what was and what will be but those are fake distinctions.  True America is as much her Founding Fathers now as true Ireland is her saints and martyrs.  George Washington is as present to God now as Joe Biden so America is still as much Washington as Biden. 

Joseph Pearce writes of England: 


"We know that true England can never die, not because it lingers like a fading coal in the memory of mortal men, but because it exists as a beautiful flower in the gardens of eternity....England is not dependent on the awareness of those walking around in the geographical location of England today who have no clue what real England is."

I was glad to see the author of the hymn “Faith of Our Fathers” mention my own basis for my longterm hope in America (short-term despair of course):


Faith of our fathers,

Mary’s prayers,

Shall win our country back to thee;

And through the truth that comes from God,

England shall then indeed be free. 

In another Pearce book he makes the case for "wasting" time with poetry:

It might be prudent in a preface to a book entitled Poems Every Catholic Should Know to address the question of whether Catholics should bother to know poetry at all. We all live busy lives and we might feel that we don’t have time for anything but the most important things. Can we really claim that poetry is all that important? Don’t we have better things to do with our time?

In essence, St. Thomas shows us that humility is the beginning of wisdom because it is the necessary prerequisite for our eyes being opened to reality. One who has humility will have a sense of gratitude for his own existence and for the existence of all that he sees. This gratitude enables him to see with the eyes of wonder. The eyes that see with wonder will be moved to contemplation on the goodness, truth and beauty of the reality they see. Such contemplation leads to the greatest fruit of perception, which is what St. Thomas calls dilatatio, the dilation of the mind. It is this dilation, this opening of the mind to the depths of reality, which enables a person to live in communion with the fullness of goodness, truth and beauty. 

Let’s summarize: Humility leads to gratitude which sees with wonder, prompting the contemplation that leads to the dilation of the mind. 

Our modern obsession with social media might be seen as an infernal inversion of this true order of perception. If humility opens our eyes to reality, pride shuts them, blinding and binding us with the arrogance of our own ignorance. Pride, or narcissism, sees only itself or, more correctly, it sees everything in the light or darkness of its own self-centredness. 

It is myopic. It cannot see beyond its own self-centre of gravity. It lacks gratitude. Such ingratitude leads to the cynicism which cannot experience wonder nor see the beauty inherent in reality. This lack of wonder makes contemplation on the goodness, truth and beauty of reality impossible and therefore makes dilatatio unattainable. 

Once again, let’s summarize: Pride leads to ingratitude which lacks wonder, preventing contemplation and therefore closing instead of opening the mind. 

Another way of saying the same thing is to say that humility takes time while pride merely wastes it. 

Truly humble souls, filled with gratitude and wonder, take the time to stop in the midst of a busy day to sit in the presence of beauty. They open their eyes to the glories of God’s Creation and to the reflected and refracted glories of man’s sub-creation in art and literature, or else they close their eyes from all distraction so that they can listen to the singing of birds or the singing of choirs. Such time taken is the most joyful part of the day, a time when the mind communes with the reality of which it is a part. 

Prideful souls, lacking both gratitude and wonder, waste their time with mindless distraction after mindless distraction, filling the vacuum that their mindlessness.

If we wish to have minds open to the presence of God we need to take time and not waste it. We need to take time in the silence of prayer or the silence of poetry. We need more time with trees and less time with trash and trivia. A tree, or a flower, or a sunset are priceless gifts for which a lack of gratitude is a sin of omission. We cannot ever be wasting time when we’re taking it in wonder-filled contemplation. To be or not to be. That is the question. To be alive to the goodness, truth and beauty which surrounds us, or not to be alive to it. To delight in the presence of Creation so that we might dilate into the presence of the Creator or to distract ourselves to death.