Archive for the 'General' Category

One element of the current Civil War

Monday, August 19th, 2019

Up until the 1969 school year, anti Vietnam War students could pull the ripcord and get out of military service simply by going to grad school. So of course many did, since they didn’t want to be among the 549,000 Americans stuck in South Vietnam back then. Then the new MA’s and PhD’s went on to teach after milking their deferments for all they were worth. No doubt those deferred moved their teaching departments to the left, and even more so in the 20-30 years after the PhD, when they became influential senior faculty members. Over two generations ruined or nearly so. Oh, you want proof? Take a look at the college grads the New York Times has been hiring (here and here). The company is evidently not hiring many people with IQ’s above 70, or maybe it’s just the appalling “teaching” they’re getting.

Tiny funny point re CNN (yawn)

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

CNN (of course) via AT:

One of the last times the United States bought land from a foreign country was in 1867, when Seward orchestrated the purchase of Alaska from the Russians for $7.2 million. It didn’t work out so well — and has gone down as ‘Seward’s Folly’ in the history books.

The US paid less than 2 cents an acre for Alaska, and the state might have 16 billion barrels of oil, most of it owned by the US government. At current prices, that’s almost $1 trillion. Seward’s Folly indeed.

Bizarro World USA

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

NYT quotes via Examiner:

The goal of The 1619 Project is to reframe American history. If you want to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation. The sugar that saturates the American diet has a barbaric history as the ‘white gold’ that fueled slavery. Why doesn’t the United States have universal healthcare? The answer begins with policies enacted after the Civil War. America holds onto an undemocratic assumption from its founding: that some people deserve more power than others. What does a traffic jam in Atlanta have to do with segregation? Quite a lot. Here you will find reading guides, activities, and other resources to bring The 1619 Project into your classroom. We will be sending some of our writers on multi-city tours to talk to students and we will be sending copies of the magazine to high schools and colleges. Because to us, this project really takes wing when young people are able to read this and understand the way that slavery has shaped their country’s history.

We were going to make some clever and snarky comments, but we’ll pass on that, only noting that these fools and the faculty lounges that taught them really believe this rubbish.

Brief insane NYT update: your lawn is evil too.

Mostly fun miscellany

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

(1) A discussion of Darwin that includes Dumb and Dumber as well as the Simpsons – huh? (2) Wind times Solar equals Dumber squared; (3) Hilarity: “Tlaib wrote a letter to Israeli officials desperately wanting to visit her grandmother. Permission was quickly granted, whereupon Tlaib obnoxiously turned the approval down, a complete setup. The only real winner here is Tlaib’s grandmother. She doesn’t have to see her now”; (4) The only downer is that NYT meeting the other day: imagine sitting on top of the manifold great achievements of others, and somehow thinking that you are morally superior – ugh.

A 75 minute NYT meeting, and other matters

Friday, August 16th, 2019

First, HT to PL. Now a little sample from NYT senior management and reporters of the company during a grueling 75 minute group meeting:

Management: I think it’s useful sometimes to show the journey a little bit of how we reach these decisions. Because otherwise it can feel a little bit like this is a single case in which we’re deciding whether something is or is not racist. The conversation that I heard was really a conversation about labels and about whether we’re going to use labels as shorthand for something that we can convey through words and actions and with greater color and detail. And the moment that, for me, really hammered home the risk of some of these labels was actually when someone passed along to me a headline that we had run six months before the “Trump Makes Comments Condemned as Racist” headline. And the headline we had used six months before was, “Omar Makes Comments Condemned as Anti-Semitic.” And the amount of pushback that that I and others received in that moment from leaders in the Jewish community was really considerable. People wanted us to call this phrase, “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” an anti-Semitic phrase. They pointed out that this is actually an historically anti-Semitic trope. Though that it was an anti-Semitic trope was actually referred to in the body of the story, which I pointed out. But we’re really cautious with labels, because labels tend to slip. They tend to stick to each other. And I think that the conversation I heard Dean and other members of the leadership have was about whether or not those types of shortcuts actually end up doing the exact thing that we don’t want, which is keep people from reading, would keep people from actually understanding, by giving folks who are inclined to be skeptical that that label is fairly applied—whether it’s anti-Semitic or racist or anything else—to keep those people from having an easy out not to look at what actually just occurred, and what happened, and what the implications are, and what the effects are on the community. And I think this is a really tricky moment right now. You know, someone did a study of Twitter shares that showed that 70 percent of all stories shared on Twitter were never opened. And to me, that’s just a reminder that so much of the world is judging before they’re actually engaging. And I don’t think any of us would defend the headline from last week. Not only would you not defend it, we changed it.

Reporter: I have another question about racism. I’m wondering to what extent you think that the fact of racism and white supremacy being sort of the foundation of this country should play into our reporting. Just because it feels to me like it should be a starting point, you know? Like these conversations about what is racist, what isn’t racist. I just feel like racism is in everything. It should be considered in our science reporting, in our culture reporting, in our national reporting. And so, to me, it’s less about the individual instances of racism, and sort of how we’re thinking about racism and white supremacy as the foundation of all of the systems in the country.

Now you know what life is like on Jupiter and Mars, or maybe in an entirely different universe (or maybe just at Harvard and Yale and CNN). Changing the subject, but only slightly, you may recall that in the Shawshank Redemption, the really bad guy was Warden Samuel Norton, who had people tortured and murdered. Fast forward to Epstein, where a couple of senior managers of MCC were swiftly moved out (e.g., Lamine N’Diaye and Shirley Skipper-Scott), but we know almost nothing about them from the NYT. Surprised?

The revolution will not be televised

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

BBC:

Television advertisements from US food giant Mondelez and German carmaker Volkswagen are the first to be banned under new UK gender stereotyping rules. A ban on ads featuring “harmful gender stereotypes” or those which are likely to cause “serious or widespread offence” came into force in June. The first banned ad, for Philadelphia cheese, showed two fathers leaving a baby on a restaurant conveyor belt.

Some 128 people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the Mondelez advert for its Philadelphia cheese which featured two dads leaving a baby on a restaurant buffet conveyor belt as they were distracted by the food. Complainants said the advertisement perpetuated a harmful stereotype by suggesting that men were incapable of caring for children and were so incompetent they would place youngsters at risk.

Meanwhile, 3 people complained about an ad for the Volkswagen eGolf car. It showed a sleeping woman and a man in a tent on a sheer cliff face, two male astronauts floating in a space ship and a male para-athlete doing the long jump, before cutting to the final scene showing a woman sitting on a bench next to a pram. Complainants said that the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes

Welcome to the humorless future. Meanwhile, as for the remaining bit of humor, someone tweeted: “If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem. I have no doubt!”

As for our title, it’s so 1970.

Everybody is learning the numbers

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

RCP, of all places:

China has some issues eerily similar to what other Asian countries had just prior to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. That event two decades ago has been analyzed in great detail. It was triggered by a debt default of two companies: Somprasong Land (a major Thai property developer) and Finance One (one of Thailand’s largest finance companies).

Currency traders began to short the Thai currency, and eventually it broke its peg to the U.S. dollar, resulting in a 40% collapse in value. This steep drop made paying back dollar-denominated loans impossible. Currency weakness spread to South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. All their currencies declined dramatically –between 34% and 83% against the dollar. Equity markets around the world, including the U.S., experienced significant declines.

While the trigger was a debt default as financial conditions shifted, the underlying factors had long been in place – these were export-driven economies that had close government co-operation with preferred manufacturers, subsidies, favorable financial deals, massive debt-financed growth and a currency pegged to the U.S dollar. Sound familiar?

Almost all financial crises have the same underlying problem — too much debt. China has a massive debt load. The domestic credit to the private sector banks is 161% of GDP. The 1997 crisis started in Thailand when its level was 166% of GDP. China’s total debt, which includes corporate, household, and government debt, has doubled since 2008 and is now 303% of GDP or over $40 trillion.

Another worrisome change in the Chinese financial system is its current account balance. The balance has dropped dramatically over the past 10 years and is on the verge of going negative. If it becomes a deficit, China would have to borrow foreign funds for future growth. As recently as 2007, it had a current account surplus of $420 billion, an amount equal to 10% of GDP.

The South China Morning Post reported in November 2018 that Chinese property developers face “surging refinancing demands,” as $51 billion matures in 2019. China now has $3 trillion in U.S. denominated debt. The market has started buying credit default insurance against Chinese debt, as default risk spiked this past week to its highest level in six years.

The People’s Bank of China seized the failed Baoshang Bank early this year. This was the first bank seizure in 20 years. In July, the Bank of Jinzhou had to be bailed out by three state-owned entities. And if bank failures were not causing enough pressure, in June a federal court in Washington, D.C., held Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and two other Chinese banks in contempt. The banks refuse to comply with a U.S. subpoena for bank records of a Hong Kong company linked to North Korea sanctions violations. The contempt order enables the U.S. Treasury secretary to terminate the banks’ U.S. correspondent accounts, which effectively shuts them down on the world economy.

All of this is happening as China’s economy slows to the lowest growth rate in almost 30 years and the U.S. is imposing tariffs on its exports. There is unrest in Hong Kong as protesters are marching in the streets and the wealthy are quietly moving assets and fleeing to the West.

Good to see everybody catching up. Soon this should be conventional wisdom.

Everything is out of control right now

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

“Everything is out of control right now,” said Jamie, a 21-year-old protester, as paramedics were struggling through the crowd. “This movement doesn’t have a leader; everyone does what they want.” Oh, you thought they were talking about this guy and this guy. Who’s smart BTW? Fredo? No, Pavlov, woof. As for the first quote, the dangerous Hong Kong situation continues.

Numbers, and with gusto

Monday, August 12th, 2019

WSJ:

President Trump’s tariffs and other sanctions are hitting China at a vulnerable moment. The Chinese National Bureau of Statistics reported July 15 that gross domestic product grew by 6.2% in the second quarter, China’s slowest growth since 1992. The actual picture is much cloudier. Beijing has for years cooked the books to make the regime’s performance look better, and they are undoubtedly doing the same now.

No one outside the Chinese government knows exactly what is happening in China. But even the latest report concedes that “economic conditions are still severe both at home and abroad” and that “the unbalanced and inadequate development at home is still acute.” If that’s the official line, the real story is certainly far worse.

Even 6% growth would fall short of the Chinese Communist Party’s ambitions. While China has grown richer, it is still a relatively poor country. Per capita GDP is $10,000, below Romania’s. Even at 6% growth, it would take decades for China to catch up with its capitalist neighbors Taiwan ($26,000), South Korea ($32,000), Japan ($41,000) and Hong Kong ($49,000), let alone the U.S. ($62,000).

With declining growth, Beijing is reaping what it has sown. For two decades after the death of Mao Zedong, the party injected a degree of freedom into China’s moribund economy. But there is a limit to how much control the socialist regime is willing to sacrifice. It refused to create a private banking system or an independent legal system. It won’t privatize the vast state-owned enterprises that account for about 30% of China’s economy, serve the regime’s goals and enrich political elites.

Instead, for the past 20 years — and especially since the financial panic of 2008 — the party has generated growth through debt-financed investment and, increasingly, aggressive exploitation of the global trading system that amounts to stealing from other economies. Mr. Trump wasn’t far off when he called it “the greatest theft in the history of the world.”

The Chinese Communist Party’s policies created tremendous economic imbalances, saddled China with debt, and bred suspicion and disillusionment among trading partners. Even before 2016, many observers believed China was headed toward stagnation.

It’s against this context that the Trump trade policy has put such pressure on Beijing. The first wave of U.S. trade actions was announced in March 2018, and included strategic tariffs on Chinese products, restrictions on investment in several key industries, and a World Trade Organization case challenging Beijing’s institutionalized theft of technology and intellectual property.

When Beijing refused to meet U.S. demands, the White House increased the countertariffs, dealing another major blow to the Chinese economy. While trade talks will continue, Mr. Trump has now announced that the U.S. will impose a 10% tariff on an additional $300 billion in Chinese goods beginning Sept. 1.

The tariffs are working. Big tech companies are taking their manufacturing out of China; retailers are pulling out as well. The Chinese National Bureau of Statistics reports that in July Chinese factory activity declined for the third month in a row. That means fewer jobs. The South China Morning Post recently reported that economists at China International Capital Corp. , an investment bank, say China’s industrial sector has lost five million jobs in the past year, nearly two million of them because of the trade war with the U.S.

Exports so far this year have increased only 0.6% while imports, an indicator of domestic economic strength, fell at a 5.6% annual rate in July, according to China’s General Administration of Customs office. The U.S. Census Bureau reported last week that China dropped from being the top U.S. trading partner to third behind Mexico and Canada for the first half of 2019.

To weather the economic storm, Beijing resorted to devaluing its own currency — a policy that has helped keep the price of Chinese exports to the U.S. from rising due to the tariffs. But a cheaper currency probably won’t reverse China’s economic slump or encourage businesses to invest in the country.

Comprehensive reform from the Chinese Communist Party is unlikely in the near term. But the Trump administration has at least succeeded in substantially increasing the costs to the regime of its authoritarian and exploitative policies. For the first time in a long time, the pressure is really on Beijing, and the initiative in the national competition between China and the U.S. finally belongs to Washington.

BTW, this is an opinion piece by a CEO, hence the plain language about cooked books, etc. And things are nice in Hong Kong too.

Miscellany

Sunday, August 11th, 2019

1) Running for president. 2) Not color blind. 3) Wretchard. 4) The charming Shirley Skipper-Scott, remember that name. 5) Beyond bizarre. Ugh. That’s it for now.

32 years, that’s quite something

Sunday, August 11th, 2019

CB:

The post-Reagan bipartisan consensus of soft-left passivity and decline, as the Bushes and Clintons passed the great offices back and forth, is over. (For 32 years, 1981-2013, a Bush or Clinton was president, vice-president, or secretary of state.) The United States is now in a political contest between the Democratic atomizers who inflame and pander to every conceivable group of aggrieved people, and the Trump movement that rallies everyone to the flag through full employment, reducing the taxes of 83 per cent of taxpayers, ending illegal immigration, being cautious over unproved claims about climate change while protecting the environment, reviving the promotion of nuclear non-proliferation, where predecessors and allies had surrendered to Iran and North Korea, and in finally standing up to China, where even the Democrats and all China’s neighbours except Russia and North Korea support Trump. Why doesn’t anyone in the media of this country, except in the National Post, get it?

Because he’s a Capital T, don’t you understand? Meh.

You got it wrong

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

It wasn’t suicide watch. It was suicide: watch. For the record, Virgil Sollozzo has been ruled out, but Captain McCluskey has not.

Update: wait, no, it was Russia!

Update: an entertaining twitter feed or two

Shriek or Yawn?

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

NYT:

Barring action on a sweeping scale, the report said, climate change will accelerate the danger of severe food shortages.

It’s obvious, see. CO2 is what plants eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And if there’s a little more of it – oh wait a second…

The worst Austin Powers movie (or the best?)

Friday, August 9th, 2019

As we’ve detailed, Plan A was Russia! to prevent Dr. Evil from becoming president and then taking him out. $30MM and 2 years of Plan A and nothing. Quickly Plan B emerged. Plan B is that Dr. Evil is a Nazi Racist! and that’s too unbelievably silly for words. Plan A wasn’t stupid – hey if you as a Deep Stater can go from earning $170K to $6MM in one year, that’s pretty good – you don’t want a guy screwing that up.

After Mueller (and the facts) took down Plan A, Plan B was quickly deployed: Nazi Racist. It was necessary, despite its obvious silliness to anyone actually paying attention. So MSNBC and CNN call out Dr. Evil 1100 times in ten minutes or so every day.

Plan B is about the 2020 elections in this sense: we think Barr and Durham are going to indict higher ups in the Comey, Clapper, Brennan circle for their obvious crimes. Then the media can and will insist that this is all part of the plot of Dr. Evil to destroy the United States and rename it the States of Fascist Racist Putin’s America.

Hey Betsy, get your new flag ready before you’re killed by Dr. Evil. To the rest of you: get your popcorn ready!

UPDATE: Proving our point: Nadler nonsense – wow, these indictments are going to target big names.

Sanity

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

How rare is this?

Super Freak

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

Newsweek:

Conservative host Tucker Carlson’s nightly Fox News series, Tucker Carlson Tonight — described by the network as an “hour of spirited debate and powerful reporting” — has focused on threatening stories about immigrants and outrage over political correctness since it debuted in November 2016.

In the wake of two mass shootings in America over the weekend that left dozens dead, Carlson called Americans’ growing concerns about the rise of white supremacy and white nationalism a “hoax” during his opening monologue on Tuesday. It’s a “conspiracy theory used to divide the country,” the host said, lashing out at the media for criticizing President Donald Trump’s response to the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

“The whole [white supremacy issue] is a lie,” he added. “It’s actually not a real problem in America.”

Following the host’s remarks, #FireTuckerCarlson began trending on Wednesday, with thousands of Americans calling on Fox News to dismiss the host from his job.

The movement was not the first time citizens have banded together in an attempt to get Carlson off the air. Numerous boycotts — starting in December 2018 over Carlson’s constant espousal of comments deemed by some as inflammatory, racist and homophobic — have lost the show a large number of its advertisers. At least 35 companies have pulled their advertising on the show this year over controversial statements made by the host, including bedding company Sheex and drugmaker Astra Zeneca.

The show lost its first round of advertisers in December, when Carlson made racist remarks about immigrants. One month later, the next round of boycotts began after the host declared that societies worsen when women earn more money than men. Tucker Carlson Tonight continued to lose more advertising in the following months after Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog, shared a compilation of the host’s radio appearances between 2006 and 2011, which showed him making offensive remarks about child rape and women. The group later released another clip of Carlson claiming that Iraq is populated with “semi-illiterate monkeys.”

Despite near-constant boycotts and calls for his firing, Fox News defended Carlson and his program in December and March. “We cannot and will not allow voices like Tucker Carlson to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts from the likes of Moveon.org, Media Matters and Sleeping Giants,” the company said in a statement earlier this year.

In March, The Hollywood Reporter noted that the average number of ads on the show had halved in the first quarter of 2019, dropping from roughly 36 to 18 per show. A few months later, Bayer, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, reportedly stopped advertising on Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Ingraham Angle.

Following Carlson’s show on Wednesday, critics of the host continued to share ongoing petitions on Twitter calling for advertisers to boycott Carlson and Fox News host Laura Ingraham.

“I just took action with Color of Change in the face of the El Paso, Texas tragedy to demand advertisers to drop The Ingraham Angle show and Tucker Carlson Tonight. Will you join me to stop the spread of white supremacist media?” Twitter user @BrianKSutton wrote, alongside a link to a petition titled: “Fox News advertisers must stop supporting white nationalist talking points NOW!” Dozens of other Americans joined Sutton in sharing the same statement and link.

Despite the primetime show currently being the second most-watched cable news program in America, Tucker Carlson Tonight appears to be filling commercial breaks with an increasing number of in-house Fox News ads and lesser known brands.

Here is Newsweek’s list of some companies that advertised with Carlson on Wednesday’s show:

My Pillow USA — a pillow manufacturing company, founded in 2004 and based in Minnesota.

WeatherTech — a company that produces products that provide automotive interior carpet protection.

Hello Fresh — an international publicly traded meal-kit company, founded in 2011 and based in Berlin, Germany.

Sandals Resorts — an operator of resorts for couples in the Caribbean, founded in 1981 and is part of parent company Sandals Resorts International.

Zona Health — a company that sells medical devices for the treatment of hypertension, founded in 2004 and based in Boise, Idaho.

Wesley Financial Group, LLC — a consumer rights group that specialists in complete timeshare cancellations and timeshare debt eliminations.

Instaflex — a company that produces a dietary supplement, manufactured to relieve joint discomfort.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America — a national, for-profit network of cancer care and research centers and patient care centers throughout the U.S., with its headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida.

A more complete list of Tucker Carlson Tonight’s leading advertisers can be found on Media Matters.

Newsweek reached out to Fox News for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

No, Tucker Carlson is not the Super Freak, Christina Zhao is. She’s the kind of girl you read about in Newsweek Magazine.

Wow

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

Regarding the crazy times we’re living through, we’ll just take Spengler’s thoughts directly from his piece at PJ. Wow:

“Writing in the left-wing Forward website today, Cathy Young warns the Left to take its own violence seriously:

…It has been a staple of conventional wisdom that the real danger comes almost entirely from the far right….But is that still true today? We don’t know if Connor Betts, the 24-year-old Ohio man who killed nine people (including his own sister) and wounded 27 more when he opened fire on a crowded street in Dayton on Sunday, had any involvement with Antifa. But Betts’s Twitter trail makes it clear that he was a hardcore leftist who embraced some fairly extreme ideas—and, in some cases, advocated violence toward political enemies in Antifa-style language.

Good for Ms. Young, who declines to join the chorus blaming President Trump for the last two atrocities. Never mind that the five worst mass shooting incidents took place outside the United States, or that more mass shootings occurred during the Obama presidency than under Trump. But that leaves us with the question: Why are there mass shootings?

Mass shootings are a special form of suicide. The shooter never expects to survive. But the shooter combines self-hatred with group hatred. Hate becomes so melded with the shooter’s identity that he determines to take as many people as he can with him. They are of the same order as the pilot who crashed a Germanwings airliner into the Alps in 2015.

Emil Durkheim’s 1897 diagnosis of “anomic suicide” describes the Columbine perpetrators as well as the 2016 San Bernardino attack by Muslim fanatics, the “right-wing” shooter in El Paso and the “left-wing” shooter in Dayton. They are individuals cut off from society, destabilized by change and despairing of their own place in the world. Such monsters always have been among us. But now we are cultivating such monsters by destroying the ties that bind us to each other, to our past and to our future.

Everyone used to matter. No-one matters anymore, not at least in the postmodern dystopia of invented identity. In the good old days we mattered because each of us was radically unique. We were unique as members of a congregation standing before the God who made us, and unique as parents watching over the children we had brought into the world. We knew that each of us had a singular purpose, first because God does nothing in vain. We hoped to make the previous generation proud of us, and the next generation worthy of its predecessors. Each of us had a mission that no-one else could carry out for us, and that mission was to raise children who were uniquely ours, and with whom we had a unique rapport through bonds of intimacy that no master’s degree in psychology could replace.

Everyone used to know who they were. We did not shop for an identity in the alphabet soup of postmodern sexuality, but bore the identity we inherited. We honored the aged and raised the young. Life was tragic but triumphant. We might grow frail and die but our children, our community, and above all our country carried something of our mortal existence into an indefinite future. Our brief time on earth had purpose. We could expect a modicum of joy among all the tears.

No more. The liberal consensus now tells us that we are free to invent our own identities–not only free to do so, but required to do so on pain of public shaming, because the entirety of the past is polluted by racism, colonialism, misogyny, Islamophobia, and so forth. Our past supposedly is a Black Museum of abuses by the white patriarchy, and no stone may be left atop another in our fervor to raze it. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Left seeks to destroy every recollection of the past, not because our ancestors were so wicked, but rather because it wants to clear the ground for its Frankstein-like experiments in the creation of a New Man. That is what Mao did in the 1960s during China’s horrible Cultural Revolution. A Chinese acquaintance comments, “Now America is having its own Cultural Revolution.”

Yet we also are told that we are irrelevant specks of carbon circling one star among billions in our galaxy, which is one galaxy among billions in a universe which cares nothing about the brief flickering of our existence. Our brain is a machine whose functions soon will be mimicked by artificial intelligence. The brain scientists and evolutionary biologists tell us that our freedom is an illusion. Our lives don’t matter, because there is nothing we possibly might do that could matter. We have nothing but the illusion of freedom, directed towards arbitrary whims.

The ruling liberal dogma tells us that the past was an unrelieved pageant of oppression against people of color, women, and other victims. We are the first “woke” generation, and everything that preceded us is to be abominated. If we abominate our ancestors, why should we bear children who will invent their own identities by abominating us? Nothing will be left of our mortal existence when we die, but there is worse: Long before that we will grow old and irrelevant, with nothing to do in the absolute loneliness of old age except to wait for death. We fear the waiting as much as we fear death itself. No wonder that tech billionaires are obsessed with preventing aging and even death, as Tad Friend reported in a creepy 2017 New Yorker essay. They aren’t fooling anyone, least of all themselves.

We peruse the alphabet soup of sexuality and wonder which app to swipe to find a moment’s respite from abysmal, aching loneliness. We look in the mirror with contempt for our own illusions. We know that we aren’t fooling anyone, and we know that everyone who sees us laughs behind our back at our pretensions. The harder we try to construct an identity, the greater our fear of being found out for a fraud. That is why we require identity politics. That is why we require identity politics. What we cannot possibly achieve as individuals we hope to do as a collective, by censoring any utterance that might call into question our counterfeit identity. This censorship goes to extremes of absurdity, for example, the case of Access Hollywood host Mario Lopez who was fired for advising parents not to make a determination of preferred gender for their children at the age of three. Identity politics on the right, for example “white nationalism,” work exactly the same way that identity politics do on the left.

If our identity is an arbitrary choice, life has no meaning. A randomly chosen “meaning” is no meaning at all. “Meaning” implies a unique meaning. If we can pick a letter, any letter on the LGBTTTQQIAAPAGPGB spectrum (not my invention), or any intersection of gender and ethnic combinations, our life has no meaning in particular, and we are condemned to a wraith-like existence in a perpetual present with neither past nor future. That is a formula not just for misery but for despair, not “woke” so much as a waking nightmare. Our lives don’t matter, and neither do those of anyone else. It’s no surprise that the occasional lunatic fed on the identity politics of left or right decides to put himself out of his misery and take other meaningless lives with him.

High suicide rates in failed cultures are common. Neolithic peoples that encounter the modern world suffer from extreme anomie. Members of Brazil’s Guarani tribe have a suicide rate 34 times the national average, the highest in the world. The crisis of Muslim cultures has produced a fearfully large number of individuals willing to kill themselves in order to kill civilians of another Muslim sect, not to mention Americans or Israelis. Our Cultural Revolution has the same effect: We have hollowed out the sense of purpose in life that formerly sustained us and reduced large parts of our population to atomized lost souls. It’s not surprising that individuals with severe psychological problems lose all restraint and turn into killers.

I find it especially loathsome that the liberal ideologues who have done everything in their power to undermine family allegiance, congregational devotion and patriotic loyalty now blame the problem on guns.”

’nuff said.

More on these unsettled times

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

1) The APA says this: “Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. we are facing a public health crisis of gun violence fueled by racism, bigotry and hatred. The combination of easy access to assault weapons and hateful rhetoric is toxic.” The Secret Service says that at least two thirds are nuts. You decide.

2) Archbishop: Trump’s “invasion” rhetoric against Hispanics, language echoed in a manifesto police believe was posted by the alleged El Paso gunman, helped create a climate that led to the tragedy. The 62-year-old archbishop said on Twitter this week that Trump — a very weak and “poor man” — had caused “Too much damage already” and that the president’s rhetoric had “destroyed” people’s lives. “President stop hate and racism, starting with yourself,” he said. Glad we didn’t join the Benedictine monastery.

3) NBC News: Frank Figluizzi, an NBC News national security contributor, said during an appearance on MSNBC Tuesday night that President Trump erred in ordering flags to be flown at half mast because of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, because of the importance of Aug. 8 to white supremacists. Figluizzi, a former FBI assistant director of counterintelligence, said Trump’s move would result in flags being raised again at dusk on Aug. 8. “It’s the little things and the language and messaging that matters,” Figluizzi told anchor MSNBC’s Brian Williams on “The 11th Hour.” “The president said that we will fly our flags at half-mast until Aug. 8. That’s 8/8.” “The numbers 88 are very significant in neo-Nazi and white supremacy movement. Why? Because the letter ‘H’ is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and to them the numbers 88 together stand for ‘Heil Hitler.’

4) History: Classic civil wars, from Thucydides’ account of the Corcyrean revolution of 431 B.C. to the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, tend to be far more bitterly murderous than anything that has yet happened in America. These wars ignite when public power abets—or is perceived as having abetted—violence in longstanding social struggles, when authorities treat opponents as outside the protection of the laws, or when they criminalize political differences outright. The authorities also bear most of the responsibility for piling up and drying the partisan fuel that they then ignite. Thucydides tells us that the Corcyrean parties’ adherence to the Peloponnesian War’s opposing sides simply sharpened their long simmering conflict. It mattered little which of the two first refused to accept losing a vote in the city assembly and accused the winners of improprieties. Reciprocally, they heated their cold civil war until one side shed blood. The spiral of violence then accelerated, and the city essentially depopulated itself.

If you think this can end well, let us know.

Simultaneously funny and sad

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

The state of the media today.

Interesting day for numbers

Monday, August 5th, 2019

CNBC:

Stocks fell sharply Monday as a trade war between the world’s largest economies intensified with China retaliating against President Donald Trump’s latest move.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 850 points, while the S&P 500 dropped nearly 3.3%. The Nasdaq Composite lagged, dropping 3.9%. The Nasdaq was on track to fall for a sixth straight session, which would be its longest losing streak since late 2016. The S&P 500 also headed for a six-day losing streak. The Dow was set to fall for a fifth straight day.

The major indexes were headed for their worst day of 2019 and have also fallen more than 5% from their record highs set last month.

Trade bellwethers Caterpillar and Boeing dropped 3.6% and 3%, respectively. Semiconductor stocks like Micron Technology, Skyworks Solutions and Advanced Micro Devices fell at least 4.7%.

Apple shares slid 5.4%. Nike dropped 3.1%. Retail stocks like Etsy, Abercrombie & Fitch and Stitch Fix all fell at least 6.9%. Office Depot slid 7.8%. Party City fell 5.6%. Macy’s and Best Buy pulled back 5% and 4.8%, respectively. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) traded 3.2% lower. FedEx dropped 5.2%.

“Now we have a trade situation that is going off the rails as the side effects multiply due to the ramping up of the use of tariffs and we are only further apart from any resolution with the Chinese,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “The policy of using tariffs as a tool to address our legitimate beefs with the Chinese has failed miserably.”

China, which has historically controlled its currency, the yuan, allowed it to fall to its lowest level against the dollar in more than a decade. The onshore yuan broke above 7 per U.S. dollar and traded at 7.05.

Trump later accused China of manipulating its currency, saying in a tweet: “This is a major violation which will greatly weaken China over time.”

China “appears to have decided that, given the increasingly dim prospects of a trade deal with the US, the boost to China’s export sector from currency depreciation is worth attracting the ire of the Trump,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note. “The fact that they have now stopped defending 7.00 against the dollar suggests that they have all but abandoned hopes for a trade deal with the US.”

Multiple news outlets also reported China has asked state-owned companies to suspend U.S. agricultural imports, despite an agreement in June with Trump to resume purchases of U.S. farm products.

These moves come after Trump announced last week the U.S. would impose a 10% tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports. The tariff will take effect on Sept. 1. Trump’s announcement came after Chinese and U.S. officials discussed trade earlier last week as the two countries tried to restart talks.

That tariff would target retail, along with other consumer goods from companies like Apple. The tech giant told U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in a June letter that tariffs on this tranche of goods would hit “all of Apple’s major products,” hindering the company’s contributing to the economy.

The news pushed the S&P 500 to its worst weekly performance of the year. The S&P 500 dropped 3.1% last week. The Dow had its second-biggest weekly drop of 2019 last week, sliding 2.6%.

Investors rushed to traditional safe havens like Treasurys and gold on Monday amid the uncertainty. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield fell to 1.74% and reached its lowest level since November 2016. Gold futures for December delivery gained 1.3% to settle at $1,476.50 per ounce.

The Cboe Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered to be the best fear gauge in the market, jumped 31.8% to 23.21.

Other than this minor thing, what’s happening?

Brief update on this silliness: (a) a 10% tariff on $300 billion is $30 billion, rounding error whether you’re talking about a $20 trillion economy or a measly $12 trillion; (b) agricultural commodities are commodities, so if one country stops buying, in many cases another will pick up the slack.