Sledgehammer's Cycles

Sledgehammer's Cycles
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What you were never taught about fascism

Benito Mussolini was the founder of the fascist movement (not to be confused with the Fascist movement in Italy, which he also founded).  His is a much more interesting story than you've been told:
The youngest prime minister in Italian history, Mussolini was an adroit and indefatigable fixer, a formidable wheeler and dealer in a constitutional monarchy which did not become an outright and permanent dictatorship until December 1925, and even then retained elements of unstable pluralism requiring fancy footwork. He became world-renowned as a political miracle worker. Mussolini made the trains run on time, closed down the Mafia, drained the Pontine marshes, and solved the tricky Roman Question, finally settling the political status of the Pope.

...

Mussolini was showered with accolades from sundry quarters. Winston Churchill called him "the greatest living legislator." Cole Porter gave him a terrific plug in a hit song. Sigmund Freud sent him an autographed copy of one of his books, inscribed to "the Hero of Culture." The more taciturn Stalin supplied Mussolini with the plans of the May Day parades in Red Square, to help him polish up his Fascist pageants.
Cole Porter's original lyrics are deucedly hard to find in any recording: You're the top!  You're the great Houdini!  You're the top!  You are Mussolini!

Nowadays, that would earn you an ewwwww from your sweetheart.  So what happened?  How did the most famous man in the world end up as, well, what we think of when we think "Mussolini"?
In the 1930s, the perception of "fascism" in the English-speaking world morphed from an exotic, even chic, Italian novelty into an all-purpose symbol of evil. Under the influence of leftist writers, a view of fascism was disseminated which has remained dominant among intellectuals until today. It goes as follows:

Fascism is capitalism with the mask off. It's a tool of Big Business, which rules through democracy until it feels mortally threatened, then unleashes fascism. Mussolini and Hitler were put into power by Big Business, because Big Business was challenged by the revolutionary working class.  We naturally have to explain, then, how fascism can be a mass movement, and one that is neither led nor organized by Big Business. The explanation is that Fascism does it by fiendishly clever use of ritual and symbol. Fascism as an intellectual doctrine is empty of serious content, or alternatively, its content is an incoherent hodge-podge. Fascism's appeal is a matter of emotions rather than ideas. It relies on hymn-singing, flag-waving, and other mummery, which are nothing more than irrational devices employed by the Fascist leaders who have been paid by Big Business to manipulate the masses.

As Marxists used to say, fascism "appeals to the basest instincts," implying that leftists were at a disadvantage because they could appeal only to noble instincts like envy of the rich. Since it is irrational, fascism is sadistic, nationalist, and racist by nature. Leftist regimes are also invariably sadistic, nationalist, and racist, but that's because of regrettable mistakes or pressure of difficult circumstances. Leftists want what's best but keep meeting unexpected setbacks, whereas fascists have chosen to commit evil.
The actual situation is much more complex, and subtle, and interesting.  Lenin was a great admirer of Mussolini, who started out as a fierce Marxist.  But while we are continually told by the Ivy League types that nuance and shades of gray are the key to a true intellect, all this goes out the window when talk turns to fascism.
The consequence of 70 years of indoctrination with a particular leftist view of fascism is that Fascism is now a puzzle. We know how leftists in the 1920s and 1930s thought because we knew people in college whose thinking was almost identical, and because we have read such writers as Sartre, Hemingway, and Orwell.

But what were Fascists thinking?
This is a very, very interesting article, which includes the five critical facts about fascism.  The two most important (in my opinion) are fascism was a movement whose roots are in the left, and fascism was intellectually sophisticated.  Those two are enough to explain 90% of the hatred that socialists hold for it.  It's a hatred that you only see between brothers.  That and this:
Here we should note a difference between Marxism and Fascism. The leader of a Marxist political movement is always considered by his followers to be a master of theory and a theoretical innovator on the scale of Copernicus. Fascists were less prone to any such delusion. Mussolini was more widely-read than Lenin and a better writer, but Fascist intellectuals did not consider him a major contributor to the body of Fascist theory, more a leader of genius who could distil theory into action.
Fascists didn't need an intellectual "elite" as much as the socialists did.  Not hard to see which the intellectuals would prefer.  Useful Idiots, don't you know?

But the movement was no friend to classical liberalism, or the American ideal of Ordered Liberty:
The fascist moral ideal, upheld by writers from Sorel to Gentile, is something like an inversion of the caricature of a Benthamite liberal. The fascist ideal man is not cautious but brave, not calculating but resolute, not sentimental but ruthless, not preoccupied with personal advantage but fighting for ideals, not seeking comfort but experiencing life intensely. The early Fascists did not know how they would install the social order which would create this "new man," but they were convinced that they had to destroy the bourgeois liberal order which had created his opposite.
You've likely never heard almost any of this, except as rumors handed from blog to blog.  This traces you through the entire history of Marxism, and socialism, and fascism.  It's a long article, but this is quite simply the best thing I've ever read on the subject.  You'll want to bookmark this, not just because it will take more than one reading to digest, but also because you can use it to flog any Progressive idiot who ever uses the term "right wing fascist".

And it will help clarify our own two party fascist system on these shores.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cole Porter - You're the Top

This song foreshadows a post coming tomorrow. 

Why you will always have dead people on the Medicaid and welfare roles

Illinois has spent $12M on Medicaid for dead people:
A Freedom of Information Act request from the Associated Press uncovered a shocking memo from the Illinois state auditor. The AP found that the Land of Lincoln spent millions of dollars on medical services for the dead.
The Illinois Medicaid program paid an estimated $12 million for medical services for people listed as deceased in other state records, according to an internal state government memo.

...

“It’s disappointing and somewhat enraging for taxpayers, but it’s not surprising,” Righter said. “I wish this administration would spend more time trying to solve the problems rather than trying to convince taxpayers that they’ve already solved them.”
Never going to happen.  The reason is the incentive structure of the organizations.  Consider a private insurance company: there's a clear incentive to identify people not entitled to receive benefits, as this will directly increase the bottom line.  There's a scoring system in place that, while by no means perfect will cause the institution itself to police the roles of the eligible.

Now think about the government agency that is responsible to Medicaid.  What's their organizational incentive?  It's to maximize the number of people on Medicaid.  This isn't just job security, but it's the organizational mission and over time the bureau will staff itself with people who are enthusiastic about the mission.

And so, Dear Reader, why would anyone expect the government to police the Medicaid roles?  Who wants to do that?  Who gets ahead in their career by doing that?  The incentive structure ensures that money will be wasted in fabulously huge amounts.  In fact, the bureau will do everything in its power to ensure that this waste is not reduced:
Republicans have pressed for the state to use a private company to verify Medicaid eligibility. Maximus Health Services was hired to scrub state Medicaid rolls following 2012 Medicaid-reform legislation. Republicans have said the company was achieving a Medicaid eligibility-removal rate of 40 percent.

But the contract between the company and Gov. Pat Quinn ended last year, and the work was shifted to state employees, after the state’s largest public-employee union objected and an arbitrator ruled the contract should end.
It's so cute to listen to Progressives about how government is the only one who can be trusted to supply critical services.

Rebranding "Kill the Jews"

Wow:
Residents in the Spanish village of Castrillo* Matajudíos (Castrillo Kill the Jews) will vote on Saturday on whether it's time to change the name of their small hamlet in the province of Burgos to something a little less offensive.

According to the Diario de Burgos, mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez has called a meeting of the 60 inhabitants to put the case for adopting the village's original moniker - Castrillo Mota de Judíos (Castrillo Hill of the Jews) - after which locals will decide one way or the other.
Good grief.  I think it takes Mel Brooks to tell that story.



Other unfortunate European town names here.

The Secession all-you-can-eat buffet

Fondue is a strange thing - it's made from lots (at least three or four) different types of cheeses, along with various spices and other alchemical ingredients.  And yet is all melts into a smooth and entirely consistent dish, suitable for sharing in a crazy-hipster-1960s communal vibe.  It's essentially a socialist dish, from each according to his cooking ability to each according to his hunger.  Which is odd, because it's by definition a melting pot.

Recipes here
Salad is the opposite extreme, and not just because it's veggies instead of milk fat.  Each component keeps its own separate identity - carrots are not tomatoes.  It gets tossed together, but the sum is composed of the constituent parts which remain separate and essentially distrustful of each other.

Image source
The Res Publica Cafe used to feature a melting pot, where people from all sorts of backgrounds came here but blended with a common Americanness.  This worked for two centuries as the bonds that brought diverse people together were strengthened, and those who wanted to remain stand offish were shunned until they joined the common weal.  America was an idea: We hold these truths to be self-evident, whether you came from London or Bremen or Napoli or Dublin.

No longer.  For a generation the melting pot has been double-plus ungood crimethink.  The "Salad Bowl" is now what our moral and intellectual superiors favor.  Each group (never individuals, always groups) remain their own non-American identity as they are tossed together with other diverse groups.  And what we see from this is that the trust required to keep a single society functioning is breaking down.

The Democratic Party's coalition requires a set of victim groups to give it political power.  As a result, their favored policies have tried to inhibit the melting pot and reinforce group differences.  Minorities are penalized from diverging from accepted behavior for the group - "don't act so White", that sort of thing.

And so the feeling that we're all in this together that was so common in my youth is pretty much used up.  The question is, what comes next?

I think that this road that we are on leads to secession.  We've already seen a geographical divergence of governance, with Blue states increasingly pushing the Salad Bowl grievance identity politics (limited growth with government distributing the jobs) and with Red states pushing pro-business, pro-growth politics (i.e. melting pot with enough jobs to go around).  This will not continue forever: a middle class increasingly under financial pressure will flee the Blue states, increasing the fiscal strain that those governance models experience.  At some point the Blue states will demand to be bailed out en masse, and the Red states will refuse.

At this point the split will occur.  I expect it will happen within my lifetime.

We face a crisis of governance, a crisis of trust, and a crisis of philosophy.  Political groups have gotten ahead by fostering these crises: public sector unions with unsustainable pension benefits, race baiting politicians always pushing the "raciss" line, and a post modern university where racism can only come from whites (even, or perhaps especially, if they are poor).  These groups will not try to heal the split; indeed, they have every incentive to make it worse.  The "us vs. them" of the salad bowl will see to it that the greens up and leave to a different table, just because they're tired of hearing the carrots tell them what a bunch of bigots leafy vegetables are.

Notice that none of the typical "culture wars" issues will be the driver of this split, it's all the economics of bailout.  Where a bailout might have been possible in a higher trust melting pot environment, the bank of social capital will have been exhausted.  Long simmering resentments will flare in the strained fiscal environment and suddenly both sides will realize that a divorce will be a relief.

It a massive tragedy of the commons, as the Democratic party squanders the communal capital built up over 200 years.  In the span of 50 years it will all have been used up, and the polity will splinter.  The irony is that the parts left with the Democrats will look a lot like Europe, but not in the good way of fancy aristocratically commissioned architecture with great food and wine; rather, a society of General Strike, zero job growth, and capital flight.

Damn, I'm sure glad I got out of Massachusetts before they built a Wall.
The North has used the doctrines of Democracy to destroy self-government. The South applied the principle of conditional federation to cure the evils and to correct the errors of a false interpretation of Democracy...[and the inevitable result of an unfettered federal government will be] the initiative in administration; the function of universal guardian and paymaster; the resources of coercion, intimidation, and corruption; the habit of preferring the public interest of the moment to the established law; .............. a public creditor; a prodigious budget these things will remain to the future government of the Federal Union, and will make it approximate more closely to the imperial than to the republican type of democracy.
- Lord Acton, correspondence to Robert E. Lee

Monday, April 21, 2014

What's better than giving a punk a boot in the gut?

Giving him a knee in the groin.  I missed this from early in the year, as some college punk tried to photobomb a weatherman.  Hilarity ensues.



That's just beautiful, right there.

The dirty hippies finally find an army they can dig

It looks like the BLM killed 40 head of Bundy's cattle, and damaged a bunch of irrigation infrastructure.

But hey, he had it coming, breaking the law, didn't he?  Just like the kid  sent to prison for a small amount of weed right?  Or not registering for the draft in the 60s, right?

Strange that the Flower Children are now all hip to the Law and Order message.


We can build it better ... out of Lego

James emails to point to this which is not just fiendishly clever, but has exceedingly high production values.

Monday

Yup.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Satisfaction

Wolfgang has been to the dog park, the Easter ham* is prepped and ready.  The new hedge shears work as advertised; nice sharp blades make short work of the overgrown foliage (and at $29 rather than $329 for the gasoline powered job).  And the Spirit moved me for the annual Easter post.

All is well, for a moment.  You can almost feel the Grace hovering over Camp Borepatch.  It's quite an unusual - and nice - feeling.

* Take one picnic ham.  Dust with ground cloves, all spice, and nutmeg.  Coat liberally with mustard.  sprinkle with ground thyme and mustard seed, then with bread crumbs.  Let stand 90 minutes, then roast at 350° for 10-12 minutes per pound along with some cut up potatoes.  Serve with some sort of vegetation because Mom would want it that way.

Pure satisfaction.

Selfish

All my adult life I've been focused on family.  Raising kids has been a joy, one to be sure that is not unmingled with tears.  But whether this was a needed distraction or whether it was by instinct, it was natural to focus on them rather than myself.  While their birthdays are more fun than a barrel of monkeys, I actually don't like my birthday.  Not because of any fear of mortality, but because I'm uncomfortable with people making a fuss over me.  I'm uncomfortable being in the position of receiving, rather than giving, gifts.

And so to the greatest gift of all, Grace.  I find it's easy to forgive others their trespasses, and while it's my obligation to do so, it mostly comes without too much fuss.  But forgiving my own trespasses, aye - there's the rub.  Looking inward, not outward.  Shunning - at least for a moment - the active in favor of the reflective. That's not so easy.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds ...
- Theodore Roosevelt, the "Paris Speech"
It's hard to stop thinking like that, even for a moment.  Duty calls, and at least with me Duty is not lightly to be shirked.  Especially for family.  This makes it easy to focus outwards, and easy to not focus inwards.  Because that inward gaze is hard, and might lead to the realization that you need to give that gift of Grace to yourself.
Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy . . . What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter . . .
- Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

That's uncomfortable.  That's receiving, not giving the gift.  So much easier to turn towards Roosevelt's arena.
... who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 
 There is a pride to be taken in that, but alas we all know where that that pride can lead.  Men particularly are raised to be this way (or were when I was young).  Likely this is following their natural inclination: to be a man is to be alone.  Suck it up, cupcake, you gotta do what you gotta do.  And besides, looking inwards is uncomfortable.  Better to focus outwards.
But there is another truth, the sister of this one, and it is that every man is an island. It is a truth that often the tolling of a silence reveals even more than the tolling of a bell. We sit in silence with one another, each of us more or less reluctant to speak, for fear that if he does, he may sound like a fool. And beneath that there is of course the deeper fear, which is really a fear of the self rather than of the other, that maybe the truth of it is that indeed he is a fool. The fear that the self that he reveals by speaking may be a self that the others will reject just as in a way he has himself rejected it. So either we do not speak, or we speak not to reveal who we are but to conceal who we are, because words can be used either way of course. Instead of showing ourselves as we truly are, we show ourselves as we believe others want us to be. We wear masks, and with practice we do it better and better, and they serve us well –except that it gets very lonely inside the mask, because inside the mask that each of us wears there is a person who both longs to be known and fears to be known. In this sense every man is an island separated from every other man by fathoms of distrust and duplicity.
- Frederick Beuchner, The Hungering Dark

The greatest lies that we tell, we tell to ourselves.  This Easter day reminds us to stop being so damn selfish.  That Grace was give to everyone, including us.  It's all right to unclench the fists of the spirit and forgive even yourself.

Richard Wagner - Prelude to Parsifal

Nietzsche was Wagner's biggest fan, you you might expect, eating up all the proto Germanic ubermensch themes.  And then Wagner came out with this, his last and perhaps greatest opera.  Nietzsche about had a fit at the Christian themes, and wrote the whole thing off.

As with much from Nietzsche, he was throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Wagner's story is from what is perhaps the most interesting tale in all of Western Civilization: Gotfried von Strasbourg's 1210 A.D. story Parzifal.  Gotfried, like all writers of his age took common stories that dated far, far back.  Starting with something that would be familiar to listeners, the story teller would add depth and make the characters his own.

What Gotfried did was to create what was the first truly modern psychological view of Western Man (certainly this was Joseph Campbell's claim).  It was one that synthesized Classical Greco-Roman, Christian, and native European Celtic and Germanic themes into what is unmistakeably modern Western thought.

Nietzsche, of course, hated the Christian aspects of spiritual rebirth.  But the synthesis that comes from repeated failure leading ultimately - if we are lucky - to a breakthrough in our own realization of our lives, that is perhaps uniquely western.  And quite appropriate for Easter.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

I don't want you to go

Brigid has lost her brother.  Her sendoff is what you'd expect, and I expect that the Ferryboat Man will take that in lieu of the expected obol.  And make change.
I missed him. I remember walking in the woods with Dad's old Savage and seeing an elk crash into flight from a stand of small trees, the sound curving around the whole earth it seemed. I couldn't move, frozen by the sound. I simply stood, open mouthed, gun at my side, incredulous as to how big he really was close up and all the thoughts flowing through my head, turning to follow his now invisible running. For lack of any other response to his leaving, I picked up a rock and threw it hard and deep into the forest in which he ran, the stone, glinting like a knife, disappearing into the last copper ray of sun before it dipped behind the trees.


"I don't want you to go" was all I could say, as I stood there in the fading light, sounding very small and alone.
But while I never knew him nor him me, her words remind us of the common community in which we find ourselves.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee. 

- John Donne
Our community is diminished, because Brigid shares with us that which is precious.  The bell tolls for all of us.


Quote of the Day - Camels and needles edition

James figures out Michael Bloomberg's theology:
I have to tip my hat to Bloomberg.  That shriveled old runt sure does aim high.  Imagine how much clout and wealth it must take to bribe God.
Quote of the week, actually.  Holy Week.

Holy Weekend prayer request

If this is your thing, please add one for Brigid.
Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.
- Leo Tolstoy

Ralph Stanley - I Am The Man, Thomas

Ecce homo, behold the man.  Nothing sings that more clearly than Bluegrass, and nobody sings that more in the bluegrass style than Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys.  Not even the epic Bill Monroe who more or less founded bluegrass.



I Am The Man, Thomas (Songwriter: traditional?)
Oh, I am the Man, Thomas, I am the Man
Look at these nail scars here in my hands

They pierced me in the side, Thomas, I am the Man
They made me bear the cross, Thomas, I am the Man

They laid me in the tomb, Thomas, I am the Man
In three days I arose, Thomas, I am the Man

They pierced me in the Side, Thomas, I am the Man
They made me bear the cross, Thomas, I am the Man

Friday, April 18, 2014

He descended to the Dead

Good Friday is always a day for reflection - as it (and indeed all of Holy Week) is intended to be.  If we are strong of heart, we will do that uncomfortable grappling with our own psyche, to glean scraps of wisdom for our own spiritual enlightenment.

The Great Questions are worth study.  What is it to be fully human, as we would wish to be? What is it to live a good life?  What is it to leave that good life, as we all know will some day be our fate?

Hard questions.

The older I get, the more moving I find the story of Holy Week.  Psychologically, we all experience triumph.  Psychologically, we all experience betrayal.  Watching your spirit descend to the Dead is something that I personally have experienced, in the cold, dark, silent hours.  Knowing that a Grace beyond understanding is coming is something that I've experienced more than I've deserved these last years.  That knowing is a special gift, one that has kept me moving forward.

That wasn't there for Kang Min-gyu.  He was the vice principal of the South Korean High School who set up a class trip that ended when the ferry boat ripped it's hull apart on rocks.  Hundreds of his pupils are missing, many no doubt ending their short lives in the dark and cold waters.

He was overcome with grief for his charges, and doubtless no little guilt. And so yesterday, his spirit descended to the Dead.  And when that journey was complete, he hung himself from a tree outside the school.

Today is a Holy Day, not a holiday.  Today is about Mr. Kang's journey, and our journey, and His who this day is about.  What can we learn from others that can aid us on our own journey?  It's said that the longest journey a man will ever take is the eighteen inches between his head and his heart.  Some don't survive the trip.

This reflection is hard, as must be anything truly worth while.  I hope that you - and I - make good use of this pondering.

Pimpin' the minivan, yo



I built an awesome tree house for the kids, yo.

When border collies dream of electric sheep


Most awesomest picture you will see all day

T-Bolt rocks it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A third of a Century of "Climate Change is going to kill us!"

I'm totally cereal.  But this time it's actually going to happen!


Impressions of Spring

Seen in high places.


Seen in low places.


Of course, all this comes at a cost.


Yes, that's pollen collected in the cracks of the sidewalk.

Family is important

Even somewhat strange families.


Core memory, Old School style

And nobody does Old School stylin' like Tacitus.  Looks like that stuff is even magnetic.

Srlsy, what's the information density on that?  I mean, it's readable by the human eyeball ...