Server Upgrade/Open Thread

Yesterday and last night, the server was upgraded to hopefully put an end to the problems I have been having of late. Performance should be better. There is still work to be done to finish the setup, so if the site goes dark today, it is just maintenance. If you experience anything weird that is related to the site, I’m not interested in your fight with the mime at the dog park, post it up here so I can investigate. Otherwise, things should settle down today.

The Hive

The late great Joe Sobran argued that modern American liberalism embraced abnormality as a replacement for the allegiance to international communism. The Soviet Empire was a murderous and nullifying creation, but the American Left simply ignored its reality and instead pretended it was the path to some glorious future. When reality made that impossible. The Hive was left without a queen and found a variety of causes like gay rights around which to organize.

Sobran was mostly right in his description of the post-Soviet Progressives, but I don’t think he truly appreciated the nature of the American Left. As he wrote in one of his columns, for him the Left was an odor, something he could sense, but not fully describe. He was not alone. The Right was just as warped as the Left by the defeat of Nazism and the subsequent Cold War. It was the lens through which everything was viewed for half a century.

The big mistake, I think, is to assume the American Left is just a traveling partner of the European Left. The Right has turned “socialist” into an epithet that has no meaning. Calling Obama a socialist or his health care scheme socialism is just a way to lodge a protest. The Right and the Left have embraced the basics of socialism for close to a century now. The debate is over how far to go with it. The last serious politician to advocate the end of Social Security, for example, was Barry Goldwater.

When Christianity failed as a unifying force for Europe, nationalism filled the void. “If all of us can’t be God’s people, well, maybe some of us can be God’s people” was what bound the people to each other and their rulers. When nationalism failed, various forms of socialism filled the void. Fascism, socialism and communism are European heresies, with communism as the first serious effort to unify Europe under a single religion since the Thirty Years War.

In America, what emerged after the Civil War was Public Protestantism mainly in New England and Private Protestantism in the rest of the country. The old Puritans had always believed that each person’s salvation was predetermined. What mattered was carrying out God’s work on earth. Put another way, you signaled your salvation status through public piety and working toward the perfection of society. That’s why New England has always been the hotbed of utopian lunacy.

Private Protestantism is the mirror opposite, starting with the status of one’s soul. Your garden variety Evangelical thinks the point of your life is to get right with Jesus in order to gain salvation. Since heaven on earth is not just an impossibility, but against the will of God, efforts to perfect society are pointless and possible evil. It’s why populism, individualism and a fetish for individual rights is dominant in the South, Appalachia and the Southwest.

Now, it is certainly true that Jews and European immigrants of the 19th and 20th century brought socialism, fascism and communism with them. These ideas found a home in the Yankee culture of Public Protestantism. The philosophy of Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, for example, turns up in the Social Gospel movement of the early 20th century. Similarly, Reform Judaism of Abraham Geiger folded neatly into the American Progressive Movement, which has always been the technocratic arm of Public Protestantism.

The central defect the Puritans faced, the one they were never able to resolve, was that the human condition is immutable. They could kill as many Indians as they liked, but the nature of man was not going to change. Worse yet, Christianity was often at odds with utopian efforts to fix the world. In the 19th century Christianity, began to take a back seat to saving the world, but that created a new problem. If the purpose of God’s anointed is to save the world, what’s the point if there is no longer a God to do the anointing?

In the 20th century, Progressivism became Public Protestantism with a void at the core where God used to exist. Into that void first rushed an imaginary interpretation of Soviet Bolshevism that needed constant tending to avoid exposing the humanity crushing reality of it. Once that became impossible, what has rushed into the void is a series of vulgarities that serve no purpose other than to offend common sense. The God of the Left is now just the outrage of the decent.

It’s why the Left appears to be racing to the abyss. Today they clamor for what was unimaginable twenty years ago. That means twenty years from now they will be clamoring for what commonsense today says is beyond absurd. In 1995 gay marriage was a joke and today it is required. Today pedophilia is a monstrous taboo, but already the Left is clamoring to normalize it. The debate amongst Progressives is never about limits. It is about how far beyond the limits they can go.

The race to pile on society every imaginable indignity has its limits. Pop music performers, for example, tried to replace talent with outrageous behavior. Finally, there was no one left to outrage. The logic of the Progressive faith will follow the same path, but the end is the obliteration of society. Open borders fanaticism, for example, is just passing out the Kool-Aid at a national scale. One can’t help but wonder if Obama’s urge to give Iran the bomb does not include the hope that they use it.

It will not end well.

Jerks Ruin Everything

I’m fond of pointing out that jerks and a-holes will ruin the best of plans. No matter how carefully you work out the details, some jerk will come a long and throw  a wrench in your plans. It’s just the nature of things in the modern world. Everyone is walking around with a sense of entitlement and no one wants to be the heavy so the jerks run wild.

It’s a variation of the tragedy of the commons. In the standard model, individuals will figure out that it is to their individual advantage to take more than they contribute. This sets off a cascading effect leading to everyone taking and no one contributing.The most common examples are grazing lands or fisheries. Without regulation and policing, you get over grazing and over fishing.

The jerk variation is when jerks decide they have a right to do some activity simply because there is no explicit prohibition against it. Everyone will understand, for example, you should not let your dog poop on the bike path, at least without policing it. The jerk walks their dog on the bike path and let’s the chips fall where they may, as it were. When confronted, they respond by saying there’s no rule against it.

Another example of jerks make life hard for the rest of is right here on this site. Blogs and news stories invite comments. Jerks come along and fill the comments with work at home scams and penis pill ads. That means we have to have spam filters and police the comments sections. A good chunk of the code in a WordPress site is to fend off jerks trying to mess up a blog for no other reason than they are an asshole.

Anyway, the jerks are ruining the interwebs in a different way and that’s with ads. There are some sites I don’t bother to visit because they are so bogged down with popups, scripts and the worst thing of all, auto-playing videos. The guy who came up with that idea should be burned at the stake. There’s nothing worse than having some nonsense come blaring through your PC speakers as you feverishly look for the source.

Like most everyone, I have ad-blockers, script blockers, flash blockers, pop-up blockers, you name it, on my daily browser. I use Chrome as my video browser so if I wished to see something on youtube I open it in Chrome. My Mozilla-based browser has a flash blocker. It’s a bit ridiculous, but it is necessary to have a decent internet experience.

That is not without its consequences.

In coming weeks, a large analytic firm will release disturbing figures on the state of the ad blocking scene. According to someone who has advanced knowledge of the data, on desktop computers and on critical segments of the digital audience, the use of ad blocking keeps rising exponentially.

Along with The Netherlands, the German market is by far the most affected one by the ad blocking phenomenon. There, ad block use approaches 40% of the internet population. The reasons for the epidemic are unclear, but two elements are likely to play a role. First, AdBlock Plus (ABP), the most popular ad blocking software, has its roots in Cologne. Second, a cultural factor: German opposition to online advertising that manifests itself in the government’s obsessive anti-Google stance pushed by large media conglomerates such as Axel Springer SE.

In France too, ad blocking use is on the rise: about 30% of Gallic internet users are said to have installed extensions that remove banners and other modules; and the Millennials segment (born in 1980-2000) is twice more likely to use an ad blocker. The worst hit are Gaming sites with 80% to 90% of their views deprived of ads. More broadly, the more technophile an audience is, the more likely it is to resort to an ad blocking product.

The US market seems the less affected with 15%-17% of the internet population, again on average, using an ad blocking extension. Among the Millennials, the share is said to be twice the average. The UK is said to experience the same pattern.

Altogether, 300m people in the world have downloaded an ad blocking extension and about half have actually installed it.

This may not seem like a big deal, but ads are based on site views and site views assume the embedded ads are being seen.

For publishers, ad blockers are the elephant in the room: Everybody sees them, no one talks about it. The common understanding is that the first to speak up will be dead as it will acknowledge that the volume of ads actually delivered can in fact be 30% to 50% smaller than claimed — and invoiced. Publishers fear retaliation from media buying agencies — even though the ad community is quick to forget that it dug its own grave by flooding the web with intolerable amounts of promotional formats.

One of the comments gets it right:

There are sites that I don’t block ads at. They usually ask me not to block ads. They also treat me with respect. No pop-ups. Not autoplaying video or sound. Good privacy policies.

Sites that respect me, earn my respect in return. All other sites earn blocks instead.

If this drives them out of business, I’m good with that. What would be better is if they learned to treat their readers with respect.

And that would be a win win too. Not only would they not be blocked, but since blockers like adblock often slow the browser down, I would see ads and have a faster browsing experience.

I don’t solicit Breitbart because it is infested with ads created by the nation’s dickhead community. Loads of viruses are spread through embedded ads as well. If a site has no choice but to go the jerk route with their ads, then they should go out of business. The world has plenty of jerks. We’re full.

The Obama War on the Middle Class

Today the leader of the GOP took to the airwaves to deride Obama’s war on the middle class. Using data from a just released study done by liberal think tank the Russell Sage Foundation, Reince Prebis pointed to figures showing that 75% of Americans are now poorer that they were under Bush. In 2003, median household net worth was $25,000 dollars higher than it is today. Pounding his fist upon the podium for emphasis, he said, “Under this administration the middle class has been hammered.”

OK, that’s not true. It would be nice if it were true, but that’s just a fantasy. The study is true, but the response from the Republicans is made up. The men running the GOP are too timid and stupid to play on the middle-class fears that their way of life is under assault from their own government. Plus, who names their child Reince? What kind of name is that? Putting that aside, the soft men of the Republican Party are incapable to addressing the concerns of their own voters.

Instead, they will allow a plutocrat like Elizabeth Warren get away with class warfare rhetoric and paint the GOP as the party of billionaires. If Lee Atwater were alive, he’d have a press conference every day bashing the Democrats for their war on the middle, forcing the press to do their damn job even if they hated it. He was probably the last Republican to show anything like a spine.

Here’s the summary:

In fairness, housing prices have not recovered, despite the trillions pumped in from the Federal Reserve. On the other hand, the hidden inflation due to that pump should have lifted all boats. Anyone who buys things like food, utilities, gas and clothing knows that things are much more expensive now than a decade ago. Still, no matter how you want to put your finger on the scale, the facts are as presented. The middle and lower class have taken in the pooper under this president.