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.

Why Not Crazy Joe?

Supposedly, Joe Biden is now thinking about a run for President.

The super-PAC organized to encourage Vice President Biden to run for president released its first ad on Friday ahead of a “national day of action” to gather signatures for the push.
“Some people ask why Joe Biden,” a young man in the ad says. “I turn back and ask them why not Joe Biden? He’s been on of the most influential vice presidents that this country has seen. He’s right now a part of one of the most successful administrations in recent history, and he’s a big reason for that success.”

Supporters in the ad praise Biden for being on the forefront of the gay rights movement, for working to stop violence on college campuses and for generally appealing to “the younger generation’s beliefs.”

Way back in the dark years, you know, before iPhones, I was struck by just how insulated the political class was from normal life. A story I’m fond of telling is about how the flunkies to a congressman were all befuddled by a lawnmower. The congressman was holding a party at his house and the gardeners forgot to cut the grass behind the patio.

Someone got the bright idea to get the mower out of the garage and quickly cut the grass.  No one knew how the lawnmower worked so five adults stood around looking at it, trying to discover its strange secrets. I watched this go on for maybe fifteen minutes. It was not a lot different than the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Eventually I had my fill and showed them how to start the mower. It was then agreed that they would most likely harm themselves or others trying to use it so I cut the bit of grass and put the mower away. There was a certain pride amongst them in not knowing how the tools of the lower orders worked.

This culture gap is much broader now. That Biden ad is so intensely stupid most people would assume it is a gag. Maybe something Team Cankles dreamed up to embarrass Crazy Joe. But, they really think it is effective. They also think the kids are all worked up about the homos and campus violence, which is imaginary.

That said, I’d love to see Biden run. I’d probably blow a funny fuse laughing at a race between Cankles, Bernie and Crazy Joe. If Saturday Night Live was still funny, the skits would write themselves. Even so, the comedy would be endless. There’s also the possibility that the party would splinter with Bernie nailing down the crackpot vote and the less insane portion of the party splitting between Biden and Clinton.

Hillary Clinton remains the front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination, but recent polling shows Biden would have an impact on the contest if he were to run.
According to a Monmouth University survey released earlier this month, Clinton takes 51 percent support nationally, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at 17 percent and Biden at 13 percent.
But the poll found Biden’s entrance would shake up the race.
In addition to Biden’s 13 percent support, an additional 12 percent of Democratic voters said they’d be likely to support Biden if he took the plunge, and 31 percent said they’d be somewhat likely to support him.
Most of that additional support, 68 percent, would come from those who are currently Clinton supporters.
“Most people seem to be focusing on a Sanders surge among the liberal wing of the party,” said Monmouth polling director Patrick Murray. “But the bigger threat to Clinton may come from a Biden candidacy, where the two would be fighting for the same voters.”

The thing to watch in early states with open voting is how many unaffiliated voters will abandon the Democrats and vote in the GOP primary, where the action is this time. Those voters tend to be a little less crazy and most likely not Sanders voters. That makes Bernie more of a threat.

Message From Derb

John has left the island:

Yes, I have departed from Taki’s Magazine rather abruptly. The departure was *my* choice, the result of some deliberations about better managing my time and workload, with no ill feelings towards TakiMag. The abruptness was *their* choice: I would have preferred a more graceful leave-taking, with proper notice to subscribers, but they decided otherwise.

My weekly column at the magazine will *not* be resurfacing elsewhere; that is part of my workload reorganization.

Radio Derb, however, *will* be back on the air August 1st, hosted by VDARE.com http://www.vdare.com/posts (but I believe there’ll be a dedicated tab at the top of the VDARE page).

If we get all technical wrinkles worked out over these few days, the sound file will be available via iTunes and possibly also via YouTube, as well as on-site. As before, it will be archived, with a full transcript, at my own website http://www.johnderbyshire.com/Opinions/RadioDerb/page.html after a

two- or three-day interval.

Further information will be posted on my home page http://www.johnderbyshire.com/index.html as things get sorted out.

I apologize for the disruption. I hope you will continue to tune in to Radio Derb at the new host site. I hope too that you will continue to read Taki’s Magazine, for whose hospitality and support I am for ever grateful.

I gather that John is scaling back his work. He is 70 now and probably thinking about how to best use the time he has remaining. He is still physically able to do the things he enjoys but at 70 you can never be sure that will be the case much longer so it is wise to knock as much off the list as quickly as you can.

 

 

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.

Greek Drama

I often wonder what it was like to live in third century Italy, say a city like Milan. For the first half of the century or so, emperors were a dime a dozen. A general would win a battle, his men would proclaim him emperor and he would go kill the the current emperor. This went on for roughly half a century from the death of Severus Alexander. There were 22 emperors between him and Diocletian.

There were also endless wars, invasions and re-invasions during this period. Most people find this period of Roman history dull, but the fact that the Western Empire did not collapse in the third century is one of the great lessons of history. Human societies have great momentum that can carry even the most inept ruling elites along for generations before the energy of society is drained.

There’s also the fact that without a plausible alternative, people tend to bugger along as they have always done, despite their terrible rulers. This is true of the ruling elites as well. Rome stuck with the old ways long after those ways no longer made any sense. The cost of maintaining domination of Gaul and Germania far exceeded the benefits, but that’s all they knew so they exhausted themselves maintaining it.

That came to mind when reading this story about the latest act in the Greek drama. This thing is now in its sixth year and no one has the slightest clue as to how to resolve it. The Euros are stuck in a mode of thought that says the Greeks must be brought into alignment with the Frankish core of Europe, no matter the cost to the Greeks. The Euros will consider no other option, because they can imagine no other option.

The Greeks, to their credit, understand that this can never happen. But, they are locked into a mode of thought that says they must have their debts forgiven so they can start over, while maintaining their traditional social welfare state.  In other words, they will be Greek and there’s no other alternative they can imagine, much less consider.

This stand-off will eventually reach some sort of conclusion. The betting seems to be that the catalyst will be a default and then either the Greek people yield and submit to their European rulers or the Germans yield and let the Greeks walk away from some or all of their debts. Strangely, no one ever discusses a middle option between the two. The only alternative mentioned is catastrophe, however you wish to define it.

That’s the stuff in the news. On the street, Greeks go about their lives, arranging their affairs around the machinations of their rulers, real and de facto. That means moving money into foreign accounts, hiding it under beds and scheming around the tax system. In other words, Greeks go on being Greeks, regardless of what the people in charge have to say about it.

That, I suppose, was the way thing were in the third century, to circle back to where I started. The average guy in a town on in the fields was largely immune to what was going on in imperial politics. Young men joined the legions because that was what you did. It afforded a chance at a better life than as a peasant in the fields. Then as now, people choose from the options available to them and live their lives accordingly.

That’s not without consequences. Once people stop caring about the legitimacy of their rulers or even the identity of their rulers, there can be no law, just the strong ruling the weak. The Western Roman Empire collapsed when there was no one left to defend it. Once being a Roman went from being an asset to being a liability, the die was cast, so to speak.

Something similar seems to be happening in Greece. Being a citizen has no benefits. Being in the Euro, a citizen of Europe, still has value because the money has value, but how much longer that remains true is open to debate. Whether or not the Greeks have the will to riot, much less revolt is the big question.The evidence suggest they lack the will to govern themselves so revolt does seem unlikely.

That’s what brings me back to thinking what life was like in third century Italy. Did the average person suspect the end was near? Did they know their culture was in decline? Was there a pervading sense of foreboding that haunted the people? The evidence suggest not. Just as today, it appears the people just went about their business and the rulers did as they always did, trying to keep it all together.

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.