Saturday, January 04, 2014

Predictions for 2014

I'm not a pundit, and I haven't run any numbers on these things. These predictions are simply based on pessimism or optimism. So I guess that makes me a pundit. These are not very bold predictions, either. I just want to write these down and see what happens later.

  1. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) will win again. D will gain maybe 5-ish in the House, R will gain maybe 3 in the Senate, but both majorities will remain intact.
  2. The Cubs will win 70 or fewer games.
  3. There will be at least one more Rand Paul or Ted Cruz filibuster.
  4. At least two more states will have court rulings in favor of homosexual marriage. NOTE: this is written after Utah. EDIT: I predict that Utah's rulings will stand and there will be no 'stay' before the final ruling, either.
  5. The rest of Sherlock will be awesome.
  6. Bitcoin will "stabilize" by the end of the year in that week-over-week fluctuations in value will be less than, say, 10% for a few weeks in a row. This is still an absurd level of volatility for a "currency". Also, the IRS will announce treating it as a foreign currency for tax purposes, which would make things a lot easier to deal with in some ways. Bitcoin will still be a rather impractical idea, much like a lot of other techno-libertarian nonsense.
Things I hope happen:
  1. Somehow Steve King loses or doesn't run. Any Republican in the state could replace him and I'd be fine with their election if he somehow does not run.
  2. More states take up the Medicaid expansion.
  3. Extension of unemployment benefits.
  4. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz get their comeuppance. Perhaps some GOP guy says something against the libertarian wing of the party and it sticks.
  5. Either party starts to take action on global warming seriously. Hopefully both do. We have a party of stupid and a party of inaction at the moment.
  6. The Cubs win 75 games. HA.

EDIT: more predictions.

David Brooks will continue to earn my ire as the worst of all possible editorialists. At least ideological hacks are ideological hacks - they're understandable. I'd rather read Steve King (R-IA) editorializing - I would understand my enemy. But, Brooks: nothing of the sort. There are "useful idiots" in politics, but he is merely a "useless idiot". If I wanted to understand his opinion, I would just put on my University of Chicago sweatshirt and think my most WASPy, status-quo-loving thoughts ("I'm a big four-eyed lame-o, and I wear the same stupid sweater every day and --"). Aha! Marijuana should be illegal because only losers smoke it. Who wants to be a loser?

Okay, I'm not exactly stepping out on a limb there, I'm just editorializing about how David Brooks pisses me off.

Actual prediction: the individual mandate ends up doing a lot of good where allowed to actually work. GOP bitches about it all year.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Libertarianism, Fascism, fellow travelers.

EDIT: the original post asked if libertarianism is practically speaking a species of fascism. I have defended here whether they are fellow travelers. The further elaboration will continue, but the main thrust will be that the effect, if they are successful, would be to create a form of stateless fascism, but their real effect is to be abused by their status as fellow travelers. This elaboration, of course, is more tendentious than noting the overlaps in the groups.

I made a post the other day noting a thought that libertarians are often "fellow travelers" with fascism in America, and that prompted some discussion, so I will explain more discursively what I mean by this. Now, of course, the question of what fascism really is is a common one. Orwell notes that it essentially got turned into a word meaning "anybody I don't really like" for a while in English political discourse. In one sense, there was only ever one fascist party: the Italian one. Since discussions of fascism are often really just one step away from argumentum ad hitlerum (cf Godwin), it is probably important to have some reasonably clear meaning in mind that seems reasonable when accusing groups of either being fascist or enabling fascist goals.

I should also clarify what I mean by "fellow traveler". What I mean by this is that they often work alongside those organizations and either use their supporters for their ends or their supporters are used by those other organizations for their own ends.

Anyway, so when discussing fascism, I don't find it useful to use expansive and pejorative definitions such as Jonah Goldberg's, which really really wants to call Bill Clinton a fascist but just cannot. Rather, I'd prefer to limit it to organizations that draw their inspiration from "real fascism", so this would be movements like the BNP (later the National Front) in England or the French National Front in France or Svoboda in Ukraine. Generally, very nationalist, somewhat racist, aligned with corporate interests and private property against the workers, and most especially antidemocratic (perhaps claiming to be meritocratic).

What prompts me to label Libertarianism as "fellow travelers" with these movements is their occasional association with violent far-right movements - tolerating their racism and sexism, not objecting to their anti-democratic nature because libertarianism itself is anti-democratic - as long as they are willing to uphold the pro-business, low tax, lack of regulation end of the bargain. This is a weighty accusation, the association is well-documented. Neo-Confederates pass in and out of leadership positions in libertarian groups, some even working as staffers for high profile libertarian-leaning politicians. Though the SPLC does not have a "neo-fascist" category, a few of the categories could qualify and several identified groups have substantial presence in the movement. Have you ever read anything written by Murray Rothbard or Lew Rockwell? Or the old Ron Paul newsletters? MR, LR, and RP are sometimes "defended" as having written this kind of crap as a modern extension of the "Southern Strategy": write this racist crap to appeal to extant racists and convert them to your cause, as the other side isn't going to stoop to that. That's what some of their defenders say they were doing! Reason Magazine, the flagship publication of the movement, devoted an entire issue in the '70s to Holocaust denialism. I am not saying that every libertarian today should feel bad about what some people who are popular in their movement wrote 20 or 40 years ago. But some of these people are still active today and doing the same sort of thing. And there are these major figures in a movement that they are a part of, and perhaps they support them, and those major figures at times are willing to work with whatever group will uphold the anti-democratic, low tax, no regulation end of the bargain, even if it involves actively courting racists are even neo-fascists.

Okay, sure, this sounds like guilt by association, but this is somewhat relevant if you are a fringe group in politics. Especially when the vision of the end goal sounds a lot like a form of stateless fascism, anyway.

EDIT: If you do want argumentum ad hitlerum, here is why you want pro-business groups to be careful about who they get in bed with:
On Monday, 20 February 1933, at 6.00 p.m., a group of about twenty five businessmen were summoned to attend a private meeting in the villa of Hermann Goering, now acting as president of the Reichstag, at which Hitler, the Reich Chancellor, was to 'explain his policies'. The guests were an oddly assorted bunch. The invitees included leaders of German industry, men such as Georg von Schnitzler, second in command at IG Farben, Krupp von Bohlen, who was both head-by-marriage of the Krupp empire and the current chairman of the Reich industrial association, and Dr Albert Voegler the CEO of the Vereinigte Stahlwerke, the world's second largest steel firm...

Hitler... launched into a general survey of the political situation... the experience of the last fourteen years had shown that 'private enterprise cannot be maintained in the age of democracy'. Business was founded above all on the principles of personality and individual leadership. Democracy and liberalism led inevitably to Social Democracy and Communism...[the NSDAP] would show no mercy towards [its] enemies on the left. It was time 'to crush the other side completely'... [Hitler] planned to crush the German left and in the process he was more than willing to use physical force. At least according to the surviving record, the conflict between left and right was the central theme of the speeches by both Hitler and Goering on 20 February... Since German business had a major stake in the struggle against the left, it should make an appropriate financial contribution. 'The sacrifice[s]', Goering pointed out, 'would be so much bear if it [industry] realized that the election of 5 March will surely be the last one for the next ten years, probably even for the next hundred years.'

Over the following three weeks [the NSDAP] received contributions from seventeen different business groups. The largest individual donations came from IG Farben (400,000 Reichsmarks) and the Deutsche Bank (200,000 Reichsmarks). The association of the mining industry also made a generous deposit of 400,000 Reichsmarks. Other large donors included the organizers of the Berlin Automobile Exhibition (100,000 Reichsmarks) and a cluster of electrical engineering corporations including Telefunken, AEG and the Accumulatoren was the donations in February and March 1933 that really made the difference. They provided a large cash injection at a moment when the party was severely short of funds and faced, as Goering had predicted, the last competitive election in its history.
The Wages of Destruction: the Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy, by Adam Tooze, Cambridge University Press

But a rising tide lifts all boats, right? Right?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Reviews of other parishes

I will make a more discursive post about how modern libertarians are fellow travelers with fascist movements in the near future.

So I was at a couple different parishes in college towns recently. Both of them are less than 20 years old and both have only had buildings since some point in the 2000s, so I think, given my current position - infancy stage of a mission in a college town that just got a priest - I would make some notes similar to my previous reviews.

Some nearby parish
I've been here several times. They have a nice building they purchased from some other group. The layout has no pews, only a small number of chairs and then benches along the sides. The choir takes up pretty much one entire side of the sanctuary along the wall. We were there for Christmas. The vesperal liturgy on the eve was somewhat sparsely attended, as is the case in many places. The choir sang some fiddly stuff that didn't work too well with sparse attendance, but they are generally good. The liturgy on the day itself was very well-attended, which I found somewhat surprising (in a good way). Doubly so because it is a college town. It looked like there were a lot of immigrants, perhaps, so perhaps they had not lost the habit of attending church on Christmas or not yet become like the American converts that never had that habit. The increased attendance made the choir work better. I really like how there are no pews, though the back of the church is much more densely packed as a result (people don't seem to migrate forward). The only things that annoy me are the sometimes-glacial pace and not having other musical selections to fall back on when the choir is more minimal, but, whatever, I'm searching for things not to like.

Some other more distant parish
We were here on a Sunday. They built their own building. It is wider than it is long in the sanctuary, which is somewhat interesting. They, too, have no pews, only a small number of chairs toward the back and seating on benches around the edges. Instead of a choir, they have a kliros for the chanters (not present for liturgy), one person at a music stand on the opposite side waving directions for the congregation, and fully congregational singing. The pace of the singing was brisk and they "clip" the ends of phrases. eg, instead of a melismatic drawn out "Lord have mercyyyyy", that last note is almost only an eighth note instead of a half. It's surprising they manage to do that with an entire congregation. They seem to have a deep bench of knowledgeable chanters in the Byzantine tradition, which is very good if doing anything Byzantine.

Notes about both:

They both used the "Georgian wedding hymn" for the cherubic hymn. Not really a fan of it being used there. They both have the sort of more "open" iconostas that has been seemingly popular among Antiochians lately and which I'm not a very big fan of. Except that the icons are quite good, so that makes up for any "sins". Namely, I like actual doors rather than having people enter or exit the side and am not terribly fond of the "see-through" thing. But this is, again, looking for things to find fault with. They still earn an "A" if they are graded.

This definitely reminded me of how much I prefer a minimal seating style to pews or rows of chairs that take up the bulk of the space. Both of those parishes have adequate seating arrangements for their attendance, but appear mostly empty and allow plenty of open space for children and families to space themselves appropriately. If trying to emulate an ideal choral situation, I think the "choir with people following" is preferable to "one person directing the entire congregation" paradigm, at least, unless there is a large number of singers among the people. But I don't really get a vote in any of this, so, whatever.

Is libertarianism a species of fascism?

Practically speaking, probably.

And this is bad.