Interest Rate Trap

This was on Drudge the other day. For it seems like forever, I have been reading stories about how the central banks are holding rates at near zero, but may be ready to raise rates at some point, but not now. I suspect most people have stopped paying attention because it just seems like the same story recycled once a quarter.

The Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates near zero and is waiting for further improvement in the labor market and inflation measures before allowing any increases, according to the latest Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) statement.

The Committee says it will evaluate the progress of the economy, focusing on its twin goals of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation, in determining how long to maintain the current low target range for the federal funds rate.

The Committee says it will raise rates when it is “reasonably confident” that these two criteria have been met.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen signaled that the Fed may raise rates later this year when she discussed the Fed’s semiannual report to Congress on July 15.

“If the economy evolves as we expect, economic conditions likely would make it appropriate at some point this year to raise the federal funds rate target, thereby beginning to normalize the stance of monetary policy,” said Yellen in her testimony. “Indeed, most participants in June projected that an increase in the federal funds target range would likely become appropriate before year-end.”

The Fed has held the federal funds rate near zero since December 2008.

Let that sink in for a second. We are going on seven years since the Fed lowered rates to what people thought was the floor of the possible. Now, we know central banks can and will lower rates below zero, but the US has yet to go down that road. Still, near zero for the better part of a decade is not without its consequences.

Tim Kane, an economist at the Hoover Institution, is one of these critics.

“The Fed funds rate has not been raised in nine years, and interest rates this low create an illusion that the escalating national debt is (and will remain) easy to bear,” states Kane. “With interest rates kept too low for too long, the Federal Reserve can turn a boom into a bubble.”

That’s not the half of it. Corporate and sovereign debt is now fully structured around near zero rates. Most of this debt is rolled over when it matures so a rising interest rate environment means suddenly rising interest payments. That’s what happened to Greece. Rates jumped and the operating deficit increased. That was met with more borrowing, which drove rates higher. Eventually, they could no longer borrow at rates they could pay.

In America, pension funds, which used to rely on the steady returns of bonds to remain solvent are now invested in all sorts of synthetic instruments based on equities, housing and speculation. Those pension funds are wildly underfunded and the returns are below market on their current investments. Rising rates will drive down the value of equities putting pension funds in deeper trouble. The word “catastrophe” gets throw around a lot in the pension world for a reason.

Rates will return to their natural level eventually. The question is whether it will be an orderly recession that comes with raising rates or whether it will be a chaotic depression as central banks lose control of monetary policy. Those are not great choices and they are political choices. The Fed is a political institution, which is why they keep delaying the pain. In politics, tomorrow is the best time to take the pain and tomorrow never comes.

This is a pretty good example of something Joseph Tainter described in The Collapse of Complex Societies. When the Fed first started cutting rates, they got a big return, in terms of the impact on the economy. As they kept lowering rates, the return got smaller, thus forcing them to chase the desired results by lowering rates further. As rates approached zero, returns reached zero. It appears to be a classic example of diminishing marginal returns.

At first blush it sounds like a simple thing to let rates return to normal, but that is not a cost free endeavor. At the same time, maintaining artificially low rates also has a cost. The spiraling sovereign debt is a pretty good example of the cost that comes from distorted debt markets. Some economist argue that the ultra low rates are actually hindering economic growth as evidenced by the anemic recovery.

The Fed understands this, but it is a political entity and the choices are all politically difficult. Slowly raise rates and you risk recession, which brings the political class down on the Fed. Leaving rates low means the cost of unwinding the low-rate regime keeps climbing. Worse yet, some new crisis will have to be addressed with cutting rates further, exacerbating the long term problems that come from ultra low rates.

The Romans never figured out how to make an orderly retreat from empire. They exhausted themselves financially and culturally trying to keep the empire together, eventually leading to collapse. America is not about to be invaded by Visigoths. Collapse is unlikely, but a very painful and disruptive reordering is on the horizon. The question is how painful and orderly.

Hash Tag You Suck

If you are on twitter, you no doubt have seen the twitter meme #cuckservative popping up on or against right-wing (allegedly right-wing) twitter feeds. Or is it twitterers?  If you put the term into a Google machine you get a decent array of stories discussing it. This summary from VDare does a good job describing its origins. Here’s a bite-sized story on the origins of the “social media fire storm” otherwise known as a tempest in a tea kettle.

A year or so ago I was made aware of the cuckold fetish by the usual way we stumble onto strange things these days. I put the word into Google, which I often use for spell check or to research the etymology of a word. I had no idea there was such a “thing” as a cuckold fetish, so I was more than a little surprised at what came back from my search. I admit to being a bit of prude so maybe all the cool kids are into this and I’m the weirdo.

It’s that prudishness that causes me to turn my nose up at this trend and the phrase itself. The word itself, cuckservative, just sounds disgusting. Some words are naturally pleasing to the ear, even when they describe disgusting things, while other words sound harsh and crude. The term for this effect is synesthesia.  In this case, cuckservative sounds crude because it is crude.

That said, big-foot journalists are noticing it and feel the need to comment upon it. The people rallying to the cause tend to make for colorful stories in the liberal media about the need to crack down on racism so my guess is this turns into a fiasco for the people championing it. The media will find a couple of colorful nutters ranting about the “Negroes” and make them representative of the racist bogeymen the left swears are lurking around every corner.

That’s the media circus. The real story, I think, is that ultra-fringy types have been able to get the attention of the for-hire conservatives that have come to dominate Conservative Inc. The reaction seen on twitter suggests to me that these people have been caught entirely unaware of the deep resentment toward them amongst many on the Right. Erick Erickson, for example, has been going around thinking he is a man of the people only to learn that the people are laughing at him.

I’m picking on Erick Erickson here only because I saw his twitter spat the other night. For all I know he could be a rock-ribbed conservative with impeccable credentials. I don’t read his site very often. I just look at foaming at the mouth rants like this one he posted and I suspect he’s a guy who likes speaking down to people like me. If I’m wrong I will be grateful for the correction.

What’s striking about this to me is we saw something similar in Europe where utra-fringy groups, branded as off-limits to decent people, gained support mocking the ruling elite over issues like immigration. They had their share of cranks and wack-jobs dressing up as Hitler, but they also had snarky amused types who made sport of the very serious people  warning about the comedic threats on social media. Before long a lot of normal people started joining in on the fun.

The best example of this phenomenon is Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement. It’s best weapon has been mockery. It’s very hard to demonize someone who is laughing and having a good time. This was something the American Right said they learned from Reagan. They were running around calling each other happy warriors throughout the 90’s, but that was mostly to hide the surrendering. Now, the Right is nothing but dry technocrats.

Donald Trump is where he is right now because he is good at mocking the very serious people in the GOP and in the media. Ted Cruz is probably even more critical of his party and the media establishment, but he is about as funny as cancer.I saw him on television the other day and I was reminded of Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, except Cruz is not as self-deprecating.

The ground is shifting under the feet of the ruling classes. They can sense it, which explains the hysterics over Trump and to a lesser degree Sanders. Kevin Williamson, the very serious person at National Review, has written dress-over-the-head rants about both Trump and Sanders this month. In fact, he has written two rants about Sanders and two about Trump, all of them implying they are Nazis and their supporters insane.

Not being a seer, I have no idea what will come of this #cuckservative thing. My inclination is to say it will flame out and go away. Similarly, the people in charge will figure out how to deal with the growing tide of popular discontent. No matter how revolting the leaders, the people will not revolt. It’s no longer in the fiber of the people. But, maybe I’m wrong.

The Tao of Z

I’m often surprised by what gets people to respond to my posts. I’ll post something that I suspect will result in an angry mob chasing me down the street and I get crickets. This is not the sort of blog to generate a lot of comments, but I can see the traffic. I’ve had posts get thousands of hits in a day and just a few comments. On the other hand, off-the-cuff posts that don’t generate much traffic will sometimes get a bunch of feedback, none of it good.

Anyway, the lion murderer post seems to have got under some skin so I thought it might be good time to touch on some of the basic rules of life that shape my opinions. It seems to me that more than a few of you people have some misconceptions about where I’m coming from philosophically. Plus, I’ve always wanted to title a post “The Tao of Z.”

Let’s start close in and work out from there. I think a man has a duty to protect the innocent. That’s a duty, not an option. If you stand around and let harm come to a child, for example, you may be male, but you not a man. Even a coward will overcome his fears to save a child or a woman from harm. If you can’t be bothered or you think that is debatable, I have nothing but contempt for you.

This duty is not narrow, limited only to protecting children or old women. I’m just using some shorthand to keep it pithy. The reason a man has a duty to protect the innocent is the male of our species has an obligation to protect his world and all the things in it. We are the the apex species, the top of the food chain, the keeper of the world. As part of a man’s duty to guard his kind comes the duty to guard his kind’s environment.

That should not be interpreted to mean I worship nature like some sort of German hippie. Deer hunters, for example, provide a vital service by keeping deer populations down. Bambi is cute as hell, but the bigger picture means Elmer Fudd gets to blast her from his tree stand. On the other hand, Elmer has a duty to be a responsible hunter. Otherwise, he just an asshole getting his rocks off killing things.

That’s what offended me about the lion murderer. There’s no social duty being met by hunting exotic animals. In fact, it mocks the very idea of there being a social responsibility to hunting. It’s wasteful and pointless. Even if it is legal and somehow pumps money into the local economy, it’s morally null. Child prostitution pumps money into the local Indonesian economy, but that does not make it right.

Now, Elmer Fudd can be a responsible hunter, but he does not get to blast your schnauzer in the backyard. We have other ways to manage the schnauzer population and our culture has taboos against hunting neighborhood pets. In America, like most of the west, our women insist we protect the cute animals above all else. It may sound stupid, but we would not have domesticated animals if not for the female attraction cute fluffy animals.

In America, exotic African animals like lions have a special place in the collective psyche of the people. As I type this a commercial is running telling me for just a few dollars I can save a tiger. The lion murderer certainly knows this, but he takes pleasure in offending this sensibility. It’s vitally important to him that he scandalize the rest of us with his behavior.

That brings me to another one of my core beliefs. We have a duty to respect and maintain social norms. Letting weirdos and freaks dictate to the rest of us is how we ended up with Obama in the White House. Men who deliberately flaunt social norms are mocking more than just those social norms. They are mocking the rest of us. When I see some jagoff with ear gauges, I’m thinking the Middle Ages were probably not so bad.

Some of you people incorrectly compare public revulsion toward the lion murderer with the social justice warriors. There’s a whiff of libertarian crackpottery to that line of reasoning. Bitter weirdos assaulting normal people is the exact opposite of normal people rising up to defend the commonly held morality against the behavior of a deviant.

I flippantly said that sometimes you need to burn a witch, even if there are no witches because its clever and true. A confident society comes down hard every once in a while on a deviant to keep public morality from atrophying. Otherwise, the weirdos and lunatics begin to think they can flex their muscles. You can be sure that the other great white hunters out there are watching what’s happening to lion murderer and thinking it it is not a good idea to piss off the public.

I’m not starting my own religion so I will cut this short, but if I change my mind maybe I’ll write a longer more detailed post about my moral philosophy. I’ll just leave it with this. If the public was as choked up over the Christian bakers or the Little Sisters of the Poor as they are over the lion murderer, our world would be a vastly better place.

Opposite Land

If you Google the phrase “opposite rule of liberalism” you will arrive upon the world bestriding post from my favorite blogger. The rule described is not really a rule, more like a general observation, like Moore’s Law or the Peter Principle. These are useful guides to understanding some phenomenon, but are not iron laws of nature, like the speed of light.

The simple version of the “opposite rule of liberalism” is to take whatever Progressives are saying about a subject, conjure the opposite and you are at a good starting point for understanding the topic at hand. It’s not always simple as many things don’t have an obvious opposite, but it gets you at a good starting point. It is also a good way to clear the mind of the Progressive cant that defines our age.

A good example of what I mean by “clearing the mind” is in the Iran deal Obama is pushing through Congress. Everyone has been conditioned to think that “conservatives” are motivated by money and “liberals” are motivated by idealism. Bush invades Iraq and it is about oil. Obama makes a deal with Iran and it is about foolishly trusting the mullahs. The debate then ensues within what is an entirely backward framework.

The Bush people did not invade Iraq for oil. They talked endlessly about their Freedom Agenda and how Iraq could be a model for other Arab countries. The plan was to topple Saddam, install a representative democracy and watch an Athenian democracy take root and bloom in the birth place of civilization. The people pushing the invasion of Iraq were not in it for money; they were true believers.

Yet from about 2002 through the end of the Bush years, fanatics were in the streets chanting “no blood for oil.” If you took the opposite of that and assumed the invasion was not for cynical reasons and instead went looking for ideological motivations, you would have quickly discovered that neo-cons had been championing democracy as a palliative to Arab fanaticism since the first Gulf War.

Similarly, that’s what’s happening with Iran. This deal has nothing to do with idealism or naivete. It is a money grab. Iran has massive untapped energy reserves. It also has other natural resources in high demand on world markets. It’s location is also valuable as it can be a stable transport link between the massive oil and gas fields in the south and the European markets to the north.

For over a year, US energy companies have been negotiating with Iran over development deals. I have friends in the region and they have been watching CEO’s from US energy and logistics firms come through Dubai, where negotiations take place. The initial batch of deals is estimated to be $185 billion and that’s just the starting point. The revenues from oil and gas will be pumped into infrastructure and military projects, on contracts to Western firms.

It’s not just oil and gas. Firms like Halliburton will get contracts to build roads, dams, electric plants, you name it. They will, of course, hire people who have the diplomatic connections to help smooth the way to making these deals happen. This is going to be the greatest jobs program for the political class since the fall of the Berlin Wall. That’s not even counting the armaments deals that will follow on in the coming decades.

In opposite land, no one bothers to make this argument. Instead the GOP field carps about how this deal is bad for Israel or terrorism. The Democrats and the media celebrate it as “diplomacy over war.” Executives from ExxonMobile could be walking out of the White House with bags of cash and no one would notice. Everyone is trapped in the opposite land narrative.

It’s tempting to think it is deliberate, but it’s just a byproduct of being ruled by a religious minority. Progressives have been in charge of America for as long as anyone has been alive, so their narrative transcends all public debate. They frame all pubic discussion and define all the terms. Their version of reality is everyone’s version of reality, whether they like it or not.

That’s why we live in opposite land. Progressives, unlike Christians or Jews, have no self-awareness. Instead, they focus entirely on their enemies, real or imagined, as that’s how the Progressive defines himself. They project onto the undifferentiated other all of the things they hate about themselves. After all, one does not join a mass movement or cult to be self-absorbed and independent.

That means extreme right-wing extremists of the most extreme kind are greedy, selfish and callous, even though Progressives are the least charitable people on earth, according to people who track these things. It means normal people are intolerant bigots that must be sued into penury for not following party orders with regards to homosexuals, all in the name of tolerance.

That Clicking Sound

When I was a kid, I was often puzzled by the reaction of adults to things that seemed normal to me. The reason for that is you come into the world taking it for granted. It’s just the way it is and always has been as far as you know. Old people, on the other hand, usually exit a world that is vastly different from the one they entered. It’s not always so, but that has been the norm now since the industrial age.

When I came into the world, the idea of the state rounding people up because they had bad thoughts or showed signs of having bad thoughts was the basis of Cold War. The Ruskies did that sort of thing. Free countries did not do those things. That’s why we fought Hitler and Tojo, so people couple be free of that sort of tyranny. It looks like I will exit a world, however, where crime think is as normal a sunshine.

A three-year-old child from London is one of hundreds of young people in the capital who have been tipped as potential future radicals and extremists.

As reported by the Evening Standard, 1,069 people have been put in the government’s anti-extremism ‘Channel’ process, the de-radicalisation programme at the heart of the Government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy.

The three-year-old in the programme is from the borough of Tower Hamlets, and was a member of a family group that had been showing suspect behaviour.Many of the government’s counter-extremism measures typically relate to older children and adults – buy very young children can be referred if authorities are concerned about the effect of their families on them.

In the past, police have gone through the family courts to bring care proceedings in cases involving these children, and measures have included taking away the children’s passports, to make it harder for them to be taken overseas.

With figures obtained from the London Assembly, the Standard found out that London accounted for around a quarter of all ‘Channel’ referrals nationwide since the start of 2012.

Since September 2014, 400 under 18s, including teenagers and children, have been referred to the scheme.

It’s a funny thing about this world. There are no results that don’t lead to the demand for more state control. The government imports millions of Muslims, resulting in domestic terrorism and the default solution is even more state power. Reversing course and rolling back a policy is never an option. In fact, you can be thrown in prison for suggesting that Britain stops importing Muslims.

The startling thing to me is that no one finds any of this strange. The reporting is not quite enthusiastic, but you get the sense that the reporter thinks this is a good thing. How is it possible to reach adulthood and not see the connection between this sort of thought policing and just about every dystopian science fiction movie every made?

It goes back to what I wrote at the start. You come into the world accepting it as it is, because it is all you know. Young people don’t pay much attention until they get into the world. That means most of the reporters these days think the custodial state is just the way the world works. Giving a little more power to the game wardens so they can police the populace probably does not strike them as a big sacrifice.

It’s the one thing I think Orwell got right. People will put up with an enormous amount of abuse from their rulers. It’s not just the threat of violence either. People adapt and they adjust. Before long it is just what passes for normal. The ratchet clicks and people adjust. A new generation comes along full of optimism, the ratchet clicks again and they adjust. It’s only on your way out can you appreciate how many times you’ve heard the ratchet click, but then it is too late.

Social Science

The other day, John Derbyshire had a column up that sparked a few somewhat unrelated thoughts about the general topic of social science. I read a fair amount of sites that would fall into the broad category of social science. I’m also a history buff and I have an obsession with religion and mass movements. Throw in an unrestrained enthusiasm for biological realism and I get a lot of exposure to the culture of social science.

John offers up a line that reminds me of something you see a lot in social science.

Putnam is, in short, a bigfoot scholar who can dress, cook, and serve a fine table of research in the human sciences … which he then, for reasons ideological, finds himself unable to digest. For a guy prominent in a field that has the word “science” in its title, he has a weirdly blithe approach to matters of cause and effect.

The word “why” comes a lot, especially in the comment sections of articles. That would, at first blush, seem logical. Understanding why something happens or why people act in certain ways is the sort of inquiry you would expect from science, even the soft sciences. Simply knowing that men prefer blondes is fine for marketing, but science should want to know why this is so.

That’s almost never what you encounter in the soft sciences. Instead, the word “why” always precedes a threat or warning in the social sciences. “Why blacks score lower on tests is most likely a legacy of racism” is letting you know that there can be but one answer and you’re wise to avoid the topic entirely. It’s not an angle of inquiry, it’s a flashing red light signaling danger.

The alternative is to assume a cause and then ask, “Why slavery continues to cast a shadow over black achievement led to a study of why….”  This is not a search for truth. It is a Jesuitical tactic intended, at best, to illustrate some pages of the Progressive catechism. The author is hoping to more fully explain some article of faith with a new take on the data. Education is riddled with this sort of language.

The allergy to knowing the answer to all of these questions shows up in the use of statistics. There are three aspects to inquiry. There’s observation, speculation and data. The overuse of statistics has relegated observation to a minor role and made speculation a heresy.Ooffering up a possible explanation for observable phenomenon is met with a rash of demands for “data to back it up!!”

When reading a paper, the author’s need to offer data to support even the casual use of semicolons results in text that is more footnote than text. I’ve read legislation amending the regulatory code that is easier to read than the typical social science paper. The fear of not providing data makes these papers unreadable, which is why so few are actually read. In fact, 90% are never cited by anyone, suggesting they are never read by anyone.

Maybe related, but I don’t know, is the fact that popular social science is never questioned. Malcolm Gladwell got rich publishing bullshit. Like a lot of people, I got a lot of yuks from his 10,000 hour rule, but he sold a lot of books and many of the beautiful people still site him. John makes a similar point about Robert Putnam, which is all of his proposed solutions have been tried dozens of times and no one ever points it out.

I also suspect there’s some outright bullshit in the popular stuff. This from John’s column brought that to mind:

Goffman, a young white woman, spent six years living among black proles in a Philadelphia slum for which she invented the cover name “6th Street.” Again, the main part of her book—pages 9 to 194—is simply descriptive. It is in fact really just journalism, with very few numbers and not a single table, graph, or chart.

I should add that On the Run is rather good journalism, quite gripping to read. The chaotic lives of black proles are vividly described. The young men dodge police, plan for their next drug test, and engage in concurrent sexual relationships. The young women raise kids, hold minimum-wage jobs, and fight over the men.

John was probably unaware that a lot of sensible people think her book is bullshit. I’ve lived around black ghettos for a long time and cute little white girls don’t last long in the ghetto unless they are from a state agency or the police. How much of Goffman’s book is real is unknowable, but that’s true of a lot of what passes for social science. Goffman’s book is rare in that someone read it and the Internet forced a debate on its veracity.

Probably the biggest defect in social science is the fact that they never seem to get anything right. Chemistry has added immensely to human happiness. Physics and math have pushed material prosperity for centuries. Social science, in contrast, has nothing but a long list of goofy fads to show for itself. Worse yet, much harm has been done to humanity by following the ideas coming out of social science.

The Unicorn Hunters

It appears that the Islamophobia monster is still loose. Thankfully, the nutters from the Cult of Modern Liberalism have found some new Islamophobe hunters.

Comedy has always had the unique ability to cut to the core of a cultural divide and lay it bare for a laugh.

Comedians like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin long ago solidified the standup stage as an unlikely venue for confronting social issues and challenging public perception.

Now the co-founders of the Muslim Funny Fest, Dean Obeidallah and Maysoon Zayid, want to use it to change the conversation about Muslims in America. They sat down with Yahoo global news anchor Katie Couric at the Comic Strip Live comedy club in New York City.

“I really feel like it’s a great equalizer,” says Zayid. “Because if you can get people laughing, they stop thinking of you as an ‘other.’ And I think that’s where the power in comedy is. It’s to take things that otherwise make people uncomfortable and instead make them laugh.”

I have a friend who is convinced he is a libertarian, but he is a standard issue moonbat from Massachusetts. Immediately after 9/11 and I mean hours after it, he posted on his website a long plea to avoid rounding up Muslims and putting them into camps. His #1 concern was not the smoking hole in the middle of New York City. No, he was more afraid of his fellow citizens, his neighbors.

Despite decades of Muslim terrorism all over the world, there’s been no backlash against Muslims anywhere. That does not stop the Cult from pretending so they just pretend that Muslims are being oppressed by Americans. They are forever vigilant, looking for any signs that Islamophobia is about to break out.

One of the great debates on the fringe (and even on the conventional right) is about whether Progressives really believe the things they say in public. It’s probably best to frame it as a long running debate dating back generations, maybe all the way back to 1642. I’ve been reading a lot about the English Civil War and it is tempting for me to date a lot of this stuff to that period.

I wish I had a nickel for every time some popular man of the Cult gave a speech making claims that were obviously false. Even allowing for personal bias and perspective, Progressives often say things that are completely insane. Obama’s nomination speech is an obvious example:

Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth.

When hearing that, normal people wondered how he and his audience did not burst out laughing. Political hyperbole is to be expected, particularly after a big election, but that’s the sort of thing that used to get people committed. Did he really believe his election would alter the earth’s climate? Found a new nation in place of the current one? Is it possible for one man to be full of so much shit?

The thing that was clear with my moonbat friend was that he really believed Americans were pulling out their torches and boiled rope after 9/11. It’s what normal people have always got wrong about Progressives. It’s not an act. These people are the truest of true believers. Katie Couric really does worry that the great backlash is upon us.

The No Trust State

Way back in the olden thymes, I was one of those weirdos who liked tinkering with early computers. Off and on throughout my life I have fiddled with computers, usually being a bleeding edge adopter. For instance, I built a PC running OS/2 when most people thought it strange and exotic to even own a computer. I was on-line when it meant knowing how to program a modem so you could dial into a BBS.

The point is that I’m OG when it comes to the interwebs and the communication revolution. I’ve seen it all. One part of that “all” is the fact that a big part of what has driven the business is theft. Using technology to get around artificial barriers, designed to preserve capital, is what fueled the internet in the early days. That meant spoofing the phone company to avoid paying phone line charges. The phone company called it theft. The hackers called it “disruption.”

Napster was driven by the desire to get around the artificial barriers created by the music business. The music company wanted you to buy the whole CD to listen to one song. Technology made it possible to unbundle the CD and distribute the song free to whoever wanted it. The record companies called it theft, hackers called it disruption. I’ll just note that the hackers won.

That’s the positive spin. The truth is a lot of what is passed off as innovation is just the clever use of technology to transfer costs to unsuspecting third parties. Uber is a cost shifting operation. Facebook and NetFlix are cost shifting operations. In other cases, it is just outright fraud, as in the case of advertizing.

There may be much more advertising in apps than it seems. Thousands of mobile applications are secretly running ads that can’t be seen by users, defrauding marketers and slowing down smartphones, according to a new report by Forensiq, a firm that tracks fraud in online advertising.

Over the course of the 10-day study, one percent of all devices observed in the U.S. ran at least one app committing this kind of fraud; in Europe and Asia, two to three percent of devices encountered fake ads. Forensiq identified over 5,000 apps that display unseen ads on both Apple and Android devices. Advertisers are paying about $850 million for these ads each year, according to the report, and the apps with the highest rate of ad fraud can burn through 2 gigabytes of data per day on a single device.

The sheer amount of activity generated by apps with fake ads was what initially exposed the scam. Forensiq noticed that some apps were calling up ads at such a high frequency that the intended audience couldn’t possibly be actual humans. The apps, says Forensiq, were hitting these numbers by showing as many as five ads in the background for every ad visible to users. Some apps continued to scroll through ads even after the app had been closed.

This is simple fraud, of course, but the sort that is hard to detect. The app maker can make claims against the advertiser that cannot be disputed easily. Facebook has been accused of doing something similar, by using click farms. Since we no longer enforce the laws on rich people and their corporate faces, these crimes go on at a wholesale level.

The worst part of it is the phone user is having his minutes consumed by ads he does not want. This happens right out in the open, but people don’t notice it. Open a YouTube video on your phone and you pay to watch ads at the front end through your monthly minute allocation. The kind of fraud in this story means your minutes are being used while your phone is idle.

This is only going to get worse. Theft of medical records, bank records and security records is already a problem. The source of this problem is the general failure of the people in charge to take responsibility for running society. There’s no longer any sense of obligation on the part of elites. They look ta the Ground People with contempt and say things like “they should be more careful.”

In the case of these apps, the people in charge should round up the app makers and put them in a place like Angola state prison. These are small dollar crimes, but they erode social trust. It’s why counterfeiting carries such harsh penalties. But, the people in charge no longer care about social trust. They don’t think it matters. They’re probably right.

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, 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.

The Cloud People’s Trump Problem

Mathew Continetti has a piece up in The Washington Free Beacon that is interesting for a number of reasons. One is that it is a direct rip-off of Sam Francis without ever mentioning Sam Francis. VDare picked up on that aspect, but they assume it is because Francis was purged back in the early 90’s. Many of the old guys on the Dissident Right still nurse a grudge over it.

My interest here is to point out that Continetti is 34 years old and so the 1990’s were like a long time ago. When Francis was purged, Continetti was 14 and probably more concerned with his new Sega Genesis. In our solipsistic age, there’s what we experienced and then there is the long long time ago, which no one has time to remember. Continetti relies on Newsweek as his source because that’s what he found on-line.

That sounds mean, but it is a strange aspect of our age. The past is mostly imaginary, where emotionally charged events loom large and feel like they happened yesterday. Other events are swept away into the distant past or simply airbrushed out of existence. Still others are invented to confirm current mythologies. The latter habit has become increasingly popular.

The other interesting thing about the piece is it gives some insight into how the establishment is noodling through their Trump problem. Placing him into the line of past failed efforts to topple the accommodationist wing of the political class is probably more comforting than correct.There’s a dismissive tone there suggesting wishful thinking more than hard headed analysis.

To my eyes, Trump is more like an indictment of the political class as a whole, while Perot and Buchanan were mostly about the corruption of the Bush clan. Perot really hated Bush and Buchanan hated what Bush represented. Trump, as far as I can tell, has avoided making it about the GOP establishment or about any of the candidates. He’s just taping into the general unhappiness in the public with the ruling elite.

This incredibly long sentence is also interesting to me:

What Republicans are trying to figure out is not so much how to handle Trump as how to handle his supporters. Ignore or confront? Mock or treat seriously? Insult or persuade? The men and women in the uppermost ranks of the party, who have stood by Trump in the past as he gave them his endorsements and cash, are inclined to condescend to a large portion of the Republican base, to treat base voters’ concerns as unserious, nativist, racist, sexist, anachronistic, or nuts, to apologize for the “crazies” who fail to understand why America can build small cities in Iraq and Afghanistan but not a wall along the southern border, who do not have the education or skills or means to cope when factories move south or abroad, who stare incomprehensibly at the television screen when the media fail to see a “motive” for the Chattanooga shooting, who voted for Perot in ’92 and Buchanan in ’96 and Sarah Palin in ’08 and joined the Tea Party to fight death panels in ’09.

This is incredibly condescending and says more about the writer than his subject. My read is people are cheering Trump because it is a good show and the people moaning are mostly barnacles and parasites. John McCain would be living under a bridge if not for government checks. Most of the people in Conservative Inc. have no marketable skills, beyond the sort of ball washing you see in the political press.

In other words, the Trump surge has nothing to do with Trump and everything to do with the people he upsets. Mathew Continetti can be forgiven for not accepting this reality. He and his coevals in the chattering classes like to think they are tribunes of the people, helping educate the hoi polloi, speaking truth to power and other delusional nonsense. In reality most people detest the media with the intensity of a thousand suns.

The other interesting thing about this is that the commoners are finding out that their masters hate their guts. You see it in the comment section at NRO, which reprinted the article. The glory years of America after WW2 gave Americans a sense that ours is a uniquely egalitarian meritocracy. Finding out that it is no longer that way is tough to swallow so people are understandably ticked off about it.

Since the founding of the country there has always been a tension between egalitarian democracy and aristocratic republicanism. Founders like Jefferson, Adams and Madison talked about liberty, but they certainly did not mean democracy or even social equality. But, the new country needed the support of the Scots-Irish rabble, as well as the Yankee commoners, the result being a republic.

When the balance gets out of whack we see political instability. The growing divide between the ruling elite and the people is throwing off this balance. Charles Murray and Robert Putnam have written about this growing divide. I refer to it as the Cloud People versus the Ground People. Murray and Putnam think all that’s needed is a little tinkering, but history seems to say otherwise. We’ll see.