Friday, May 5, 2023


 We cannot prove by theoretical reasoning that there is a God; nor can we grasp the idea of God, except by a via negativa that forbids us to apply it.  Nevertheless, we have intimations of the transcendental.  In the sentiment of beauty we feel the purposiveness and intelligibility of everything that surrounds us, while in the sentiment of the sublime we seem to see beyond the world, to something overwhelming and inexpressible in which it is somehow grounded.  Neither sentiment can be translated into a reasoned argument—for such an argument would be natural theology, and natural theology is a thing of the past, believable only in an age of unquestioning faith.  All we know is that we can know nothing of the transcendental.  But that is not what we feel—and it is in our feeling for beauty that the content, and even the truth, of religious doctrine is strangely and untranslatably intimated to us.

-Roger Scruton, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture

Claude Monet     1896-97     Early Morning on the Seine 
oil on canvas


 Perhaps the most counterintuitive truth of the universe is that the more you give to others, the more you'll get.  Understanding this is the beginning of wisdom.

-Kevin Kelly, Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Earlier


 Those people who believe that money cannot buy happiness have not given enough away.

-Jon Hanson

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Highly recommended......................


our new norm...........................

 When the Cold War ended, the Americans had the opportunity to do nearly anything.  Instead, on both the Left and the Right, we started a lazy descent into narcissistic populism.  The presidential election record that brought us Clinton and W Bush and Obama and Trump and Biden isn't an aberration, but instead a pattern of active disinterest in the wider world.  It is our new norm.

     Nor is there leadership beyond America.  There is no new hegemon-in-waiting, nor countries that will rise to support a common vision.  There is no savior waiting in the wings.  Instead, the world's secondary powers have already fallen back into their old habits of mutual antagonism. . . .

    China and Russia have already fallen back on instinct, heedless of the lessons of their own long sagas.  In the post-Cold War era, the pair benefited the most by far from American engagement, as the Order prevented the powers that had impoverished, shattered, and conquered them through the centuries from fully exerting themselves, while simultaneously creating the circumstances for the greatest economic stability they have ever known.  Instead of seeking rapprochement with the Americans to preserve their magical moment, they instead worked diligently—almost pathologically—to disrupt what remained of global structure.  Future history will be as merciless to them as their dark and dangerous pasts.

-Peter Zeihan, The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization

the odd out-of-season avocado........

      The same network of sacrosanct interconnections that has brought us everything from quick mortgages to smartphones to on-demand electricity has not only filled 8 billion bellies, it has done so with the odd out-of-season avocado.  That's now largely behind us. The web is failing.  Just past the horizon looms a world of lower and less reliable agricultural yields, marred by less variety.  A world with less energy or fewer manufactured goods is the difference between wealth and security or poverty and conflict.  But a world with fewer foodstuffs is one with fewer people.

     More than war, more than disease, famine is the ultimate country killer.  And it is not something the human condition can adjust to quickly or easily.

-Peter Zeihan, The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization


 Communities depend upon the force which Burke called prejudice; they are essentially local, bound to a place, a history, a language and a common culture.  The Enlightened individualist, by forgoing such things, lives increasingly as a stranger among strangers, consumed by a helpless longing for an attachment which his own cold thinking has destroyed.

     These conflicts within Enlightenment culture are part of its legacy to us.  We too are individualists, believers in the sovereign right of human freedom, living as strangers in a society of strangers.  And we too are beset by those ancient and ineradicable yearnings for something else—for a homecoming to our true community.

-Roger Scruton, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture

Head's up Kurt................

      My world cannot function without coffee (7th by value) and I am . . . concerned.  Coffee is a lot like cocaine . . . in terms of where it can be grown.  It demands a very specific mix of elevations, temperature, and moisture conditions.  Too dry and the crop shrivels.  Too wet and it rots. Too hot and it is bitter.  Too cold and it won't flower.  Roughly 7,500 feet is the ideal elevation, putting it well above most lines of human habitation and making servicing and transport tricky.  Mass coffee culture is only possible in a globalized system in which the inputs can access such often-near-inaccessible areas.  The Arabica coffee you get at everything from McDonald's to your favorite espresso bar faces the greatest challenges, while the robusta coffee that goes into instant is far more heat and drought tolerant.  The combination of deglobalization and climate change suggests that most of the world is about to get a coffee downgrade.

-Peter Zeihan, The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization

Wednesday, May 3, 2023


 Modern energy in general and oil in specific is what separates our contemporary world from the preindustrial.  It separates what we define as "civilization" from what came before. . . .

     Without oil, the American-led global Order would have never had a chance.  Nor would have passenger cars. Or global food distribution.  Or global manufacturing. Or modern health care.  Or the shoes most of us are wearing.  Oil's power is such that in many ways, it has almost enabled us to ignore nothing less than geography itself. . . .

     Oil is different.  Because oil is central to everything from the shingles on your roof to the phone in your hand to the spatula in your kitchen to the pipes and hoses in your plumbing to the diapers on your kid to the paint on your walls to your daily commute to how products cross the ocean, a slight increase in demand for oil or a slight decrease in supply for oil results in wild price swings that are most assuredly not proportional. . . .

     The specifics will be as wild and unpredictable as the rest of the post-Order chaos, but a good starting point is to assume that 40 percent of global supplies fall into the Kashagan-style bucket:  too-dangerous export routes to survive globalization's end, too-expensive projects to maintain without outside financing, too difficult technically to operate without an army of out-of-region workers.  Such projects will go away and not come back for decades.  If ever.  And oil's absence for a few weeks, never mind a few decades, would be more than enough to crash modern civilization as we know it.

-Peter Zeihan, The End of the World Is Just the Beginning:  Mapping the Collapse of Globalization


      Greentech in its current form simply isn't mature enough or cheap enough to move the needle for most people in most locations.  It is largely limited to developed countries with rich capital supplies who just coincidentally happen to have large population centers fairly close to sunny or windy locations.  The southwest quarter of the United States looks great, as do the American Great Plains, Australia, and the coasts of the North Sea

     Nearly all other locations will remain dependent upon more traditional fuels for the vast majority of their energy needs.  This is far worse than it sounds from the point of view of greenhouse gas emissions because the vast majority of these locations will not be able to retain access to internationally traded oil and gas, either.  If they cannot source oil or natural gas and their geographies do not enable sufficient use of sun and wind, they will have a simple decision to make.  Option A is to do without the products that have enabled humanity to advance for the past two centuries, to suffer catastrophic reductions in product access and food productions, triggering massive downward revisions in standards of living and population. To go without electricity. To deindustrialize. To decivilize. 

     Or—Option B—to use one fuel source that nearly all countries have locally: coal.  Many particularly unlucky people will be stuck with something called lignite, a barely-qualifies-as-coal fuel that is typically one-fifth water by weight and is by far the least efficient and dirtiest fuel in use today.  Germany already today uses lignite as its primary power input fuel because Greentech is so woefully unapplicable to the German geography, and yet the Germans—for environmental reasons—have shut down most of their other power-generation options.

     As a planet, we are perfectly capable of suffering broad-scale economic collapse and vastly increasing our carbon emissions at the same time.

-Peter Zeihan, The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization.


 An annoying malady, to think yourself so wise that you persuade yourself that no one can believe the contrary!

-Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Works, Book One, Chapter 56

Opening paragraphs..............

      Feudalism is making a comeback, long after it was believed to have been deposited in the historical dustbin.  Of course it will look different this time around: we won't see Knights in shining armor, or vassals doing homage to their lords, or a powerful Catholic Church enforcing the reigning orthodoxy.  What we are seeing is a new form of aristocracy developing in the United States and beyond, as wealth in our postindustrial economy tends to be ever more concentrated in fewer hands.  Societies are becoming more stratified, with decreasing chances of upward mobility for most of the population.  A class of thought leaders and opinion makers, which I call the "clerisy" provide intellectual support for the emerging hierarchy.  As avenues for upward mobility are diminishing, the model of liberal capitalism is losing appeal around the globe, and new doctrines are arising in its place, including ones that lend support to a kind of neo-feudalism.

-Joel Kotkin, The Coming of Neo Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class

harmony here and discord there.....


There's always a lesson to be learned

whether in a hotel bar

or over tea in a teahouse,

no matter which way it goes, 

for you or against,

what you want to hear or what you don't.

Seeing Roland Kirk, for example,

with two then three saxophones

in his mouth at once

and a kazoo, no less,

hanging from his neck at the ready.

Even in my youth I saw this

not as a lesson in keeping busy

with one thing or another,

but as a joyous impossible lesson

in how to do it all at once,

pleasing and displeasing yourself

with harmony here and discord there.

But what else did I know

as the waitress lit a candle

on my round table in the dark?

What did I know about anything?

-Billy Collins, The Five Spot, 1964

On temper................

 Remember that when you're in the right you can afford to keep your temper, and that when you're in the wrong you can't afford to lose it.

-George Lorimer, Letters From A Self-Made Merchant To His Son


 The Enlightenment began with the rise of modern science, culminated in the French Revolution and then dwindled in wave after wave of yearning, hope and doubt.  It was characterized by a scepticism towards authority, a respect for reason, and an advocacy of individual freedom rather than divine command as the basis of moral and political order.  The Enlightenment expressed itself in many ways, according to national character and local conditions; but it owes its most celebrated definition to Kant who, in 1784, described it as 'the liberation of man from his self-imposed minority', adding that this minority lies 'not in lack of understanding, but in lack of determination and courage to use it without the assistance of another'.  By the time of Kant's words the Enlightenment was at its crisis.  Herder's advocacy of 'culture' against 'civilization' was in part a reaction to Kant's view of human nature, as formed from a single pattern and fulfilled in a single way—through reason, freedom and law. The 'universalism' advocated by Kant seemed to Herder to threaten all that is most precious in the human soul—namely, the local, the loyal and the rooted.

-Roger Scruton, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

If we are talking about..............

..................the best TV show theme songs, it would be 
difficult to ignore:  


    Hawaii 5-0 

    The Monkees 


a conscious effort.................

 Make a conscious effort this month…and every month after this one, to choose your attitude and focus on what you need to do each day. Then do just a little bit more.  Believe. Smile. Laugh. Engage. Commit. Show resilience. . . . I’ll be focused on building relationships, solving problems, and having fun.  What about you?

-Sean Carpenter, as culled from here

Life its ownself.........................

      The ethical vision of our nature gives sense to our lives.  But it is demanding.  It asks us to stand up to judgment.  We must be fully human, while breathing the air of angels; natural and supernatural at once.  A community that has survived its gods has three options.  It can find some secular path to the ethical life.  Or it can fake the higher emotions, while living without them.  Or it can give up pretending, and so collapse, as Burke put it, into the 'dust and powder of individuality'.  These are the stark choices that confront us, and the rest of this book defends the first of them—the way of high culture, which teaches us to live as if our lives mattered eternally.

-Roger Scruton, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture

Everything you wanted to know...........

 ...............but were afraid to ask about Pakistan.

Pakistan was originally imagined as a utopian project alongside other 20th century nationalisms created from the wreckage of European empires, in this case, the British Raj. In its early years, the country did benefit from an esprit de corps that allowed it to consolidate a relatively capable state from a fractious population consisting of refugees andeven managing to outperform India economically for many years. This relative economic success, or at least ability to keep pace, helped feed a brash and confident Pakistani nationalism that defined the country’s identity for decades and was symbolized byiconic institutions like its once-proud national airline and armed forces. . . .

At the root of Pakistan’s many crises is the issue of elite capture of the state and economy. A study in 2021 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) highlighted the level to which Pakistan’s economic system has been turned into a machine for extracting subsidies and other perks for the country’s elite at the expense of the vast majority of its citizens. Unlike many other developing countries, Pakistan is a consumption-based society that spends lavishly on elite consumer goods and pricey defense systems rather than investing its capital in productive industries necessary for future growth. Among the beneficiaries of Pakistan’s kleptocratic economic system are a small handful of corporate and political power brokers, the country’s class of large feudal landowners, and its sprawling military establishment – the latter which serves as the guarantor of Pakistan’s national security while also doubling as its largest corporate conglomerate and real estate developer.

Monday, May 1, 2023