The issue that is — unfortunately — uniting Americans on the left and the right

Some of the tenured class that sets the intellectual tone of the left concluded long ago that America was built by oppression, is sustained by white privilege and requires the cleansing purity of social revolution (however that is defined). In this story, capitalism accumulates inequities that will eventually lead the rich to eat the poor. The American Dream is an exploitative myth. Change will come only through a coalition of the aggrieved. And those who are not permanently enraged are not paying proper attention.

.. It is unrecognizable to people — mostly white people — who regard mid-20th-century America as a social and economic ideal. The country has been fundamentally altered by multiculturalism and political correctness. It has been ruined by secularism and moral relativism. America, says the Rev. Franklin Graham, is “on the verge of total moral and spiritual collapse.” And those who are not permanently offended are not paying proper attention.
.. a poll taken last year found that 72 percent of Donald Trump supporters believe American society and its way of life have changed for the worse since the 1950s. And the most pessimistic and discontented lot of all was white evangelical Protestants. Almost three-quarters believed the past 70 years to be a period of social decline.

Those of us who remember politics in the Reagan era have a mental habit of regarding conservatism as more optimistic about the American experiment and liberalism as more discontented.
.. They are united in their belief that the United States is dominated by corrupt, self-serving elites. They are united in their call for radical rather than incremental change. While disagreeing deeply about the cause, they see America as careening off course.
.. What group believes that American society has gotten better since the 1950s? About 60 percent of African Americans and Hispanics.
.. Many conservatives have failed to appreciate the mixed legacy of modernity. In recent decades, the United States has seen declining community and family cohesion, and what former U.S. surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy calls “a loneliness epidemic.” “We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization,” he says, “yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s.”
.. elevate and praise American ideals while courageously applying them to our social inconsistencies and hypocrisies.
.. And this might be matched with a spirit of gratitude — for a country capable of shame and change, and better than its grievances.

Is It So Bad if the World Gets a Little Hotter? Uh, Yeah.

If humanity burns through all its fossil fuel reserves, there is the potential to warm the planet by perhaps more than 10 degrees Celsius and raise sea levels by hundreds of feet.

This is a warming spike comparable in magnitude to that so far measured for the End-Permian mass extinction.

.. The last time it was 4 degrees warmer there was no ice at either pole and sea level was hundreds of feet higher than it is today.

.. in the coming centuries it’s not impossible that we might be headed back to the Eocene climate of 50 million years ago, when there were Alaskan palm trees and alligators splashed in the Arctic Circle.

.. “Lizards will be fine, birds will be fine,”

.. Huber says that, mass extinction or not, it’s our tenuous reliance on an aging and inadequate infrastructure—perhaps, most ominously, on power grids—coupled with the limits of human physiology that may well bring down our world.

.. “The problem is that humans can’t even handle a hot week today without the power grid failing on a regular basis,” he said, noting that the aging patchwork power grid in the United States is built with components that are allowed to languish for more than a century before being replaced.

.. By the year 2050, according to a 2014 MIT study, there will also be 5 billion people living in water-stressed areas.

.. “Thirty to fifty years from now, more or less, the water wars are going to start,” Huber said

.. “None of the economists are modeling what happens to a country’s GDP if 10 percent of the population is refugees sitting in refugee camps.

.. If people don’t have economic hope and they’re displaced, they tend to get mad and blow things up. It’s the kind of world in which the major institutions, including nations as a whole, have their existence threatened by mass migration.

.. Huber calculated their temperature thresholds using the so-called wet-bulb temperature, which basically measures how much you can cool off at a given temperature. If humidity is high, for instance, things like sweat and wind are less effective at cooling you down, and the wet-bulb temperature accounts for this.

.. Wet-bulb temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius or higher are lethal to humanity.

.. Above this limit, it is impossible for humans to dissipate the heat they generate indefinitely and they die of overheating in a matter of hours, no matter how hard they try to cool off.

.. 7 degrees Celsius of warming would begin to render large parts of the globe lethally hot to mammals.

.. truly huge swaths of the planet currently inhabited by humans would exceed 35 degrees Celsius wet-bulb temperatures and would have to be abandoned.

.. “In the near term—2050 or 2070—the Midwest United States is going to be one of the hardest hit,” said Huber. “There’s a plume of warm, moist air that heads up through the central interior of the US during just the right season, and man, is it hot and sticky. You just add a couple of degrees and it gets really hot and sticky.

.. the Hajj, which brings 2 million religious pilgrims to Mecca each year, will be a physically impossible religious obligation to fulfill due to the limits of heat stress in the region in just a few decades.

.. “You want to know how societies collapse?” Huber said.

“That’s how.”

What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like

President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.

.. There are no longer moral arbiters in Congress like Howard Baker and Sam Ervin to lead a resignation or impeachment process. There is no longer a single media establishment that shapes how the country sees the president. This is no longer a country in which everybody experiences the same reality.

.. We’re going to have an administration that has morally and politically collapsed, without actually going away.

.. Trump doesn’t mesh with that machinery. He is personality-based while it is rule-based.

.. The intelligence community has only just begun to undermine this president.

.. Usually when administrations stumble, they fire a few people and bring in the grown-ups — the James Baker or the David Gergen types. But Trump is anti-grown-up, so it’s hard to imagine Chief of Staff Haley Barbour. Instead, the circle of trust seems to be shrinking to his daughter, her husband and Stephen Bannon.

.. It’s interesting how many of Bannon’s rivals have woken up with knives in their backs. Michael Flynn is gone. Reince Priebus has been unmanned by a thousand White House leaks. Rex Tillerson had the potential to be an effective secretary of state, but Bannon neutered him last week by denying him the ability to even select his own deputy.

.. With each passing day, Trump talks more like Bannon without the background reading.

.. intelligence agencies are drafting memos with advice on how to play Donald Trump.

.. The key currency is not power, it’s flattery.

.. Give the boy a lollipop and he won’t notice if you steal his lunch. The Japanese gave Trump a new jobs announcement he could take to the Midwest, and in return they got presidential attention and coddling that other governments would have died for.

.. If you want to roll the Trump administration, you’ve got to get in line. The Israelis got a possible one-state solution. The Chinese got Trump to flip-flop on the “One China” policy. The Europeans got him to do a 180 on undoing the Iran nuclear deal.

.. We’re about to enter a moment in which U.S. economic and military might is strong but U.S. political might is weak.

.. The human imagination is vast, but it is not nearly vast enough to encompass the infinitely multitudinous ways Donald Trump can find to get himself disgraced.

The Coming Christian Collapse

There was a minor nationalist panic during the Bush presidency, with conspiracies floating around that North American governments would create a common currency, the Amero, in imitation of the European Union. Pictures of the currency still float around the internet today. They came with the theory that America would stave off bankruptcy by uniting itself with Canada’s natural resources and Mexico’s underpaid labor. With that done, an enormous new transportation network would spread across the map like a squid, the NAFTA superhighway system. The rumors were fueled by quixotic lobbying dreams. But the opposition was real and fierce, and it eventually took down the very real Trans-Texas Corridor project with it.

.. Millennials, even those who identify as Christian, are shockingly illiterate, both in terms of what the Bible says and more generally regarding what Christianity teaches. I trust you don’t need me to repeat again Christian Smith’s findings showing that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism — a bland, undemanding, non-specific religion parasitic on Christianity — has taken over US religious institutions and has displaced authentic Christianity, especially among the young.

.. The book shows that the goal of the majority of emerging adults is to achieve material affluence; they are not critically aware of the problems of consumerism and materialism. Alcohol consumption and binge drinking are continuously increasing. Sexual liberation is greater than in previous generations, and many emerging adults are not aware of a world of hurt, regret and other negative emotions beneath the veneer of happiness.

.. For various reasons, churchgoing in America is primarily something that educated middle and upper class Americans do. Charles Murray, among others, has highlighted research showing that the working class has largely abandoned church. If Christianity is to survive in the US, it cannot afford to lose middle class Americans.

.. Ironically, the billions of dollars we’ve spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it.

.. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile.

.. Spencer predicted that Catholicism and Orthodoxy would benefit from this collapse. Maybe so, but he must have had no idea how unprepared Catholicism and Orthodoxy are to react to these developments among Evangelicals. We can hardly keep our own young people, much less offer a safe, strong position for refugees from the Evangelical collapse to land. In theory, we have it. But we either don’t really believe what our own traditions teach about themselves, or we don’t care enough about it to teach it effectively to our own young.