He Said That? 3/29/17

From William Shirer (1904–1993), American journalist and war correspondent:

We could see in our own country as late as the 1960’s and 1970’s how good Christian and Jewish men, the pillars of our society, when they acceded to political and military power, could sit calmly and cooly in their air-conditioned offices in Washington and cold-bloodedly, without a qualm or a moral quiver, plan and order the massacre of hundred of thousands of men, women and children and the destruction of their homes, farms, churches, schools and hospitals in a faraway Asian land of poor peasants who had never threatened us in the slightest, who were incapable of it. Almost as savage was the acceptance by most of us citizens of such barbarism, until, toward the end, our slumbering – or should one say, cowardly? – consciences were aroused.

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Monasteries of the Mind, by Victor Davis Hanson

A lot of people are checking out, mentally, dismayed at the real-life present. From Victor Davis Hanson at victorhanson.com:

When everything is politicized, people retreat into mental mountaintops — dreams of the past and fantasies of the future.

So long, it’s been good to know ya,
So long, it’s been good to know ya,
So long, it’s been good to know ya.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin’ my home,
And I got to be driftin’ along.
—Woodie Guthrie

The rapper Snoop Dogg released a video shooting a mock-up of the president. Rapper Bow Wow wants to “pimp” the first lady. What a difference a few months make. Not long ago rapper Kendrick Lamar issued an album whose cover showed young rappers on the White House lawn celebrating the death of a white judge. He received an invitation to the White House (a cut from his To Pimp a Butterfly album was Barack Obama’s favorite song of the year). When Trump has lost the rapper vote, has he lost America?

There is now something called the “Resistance,” which by its nomenclature poses that its opposition to Trump is reminiscent of European partisan resistance to Hitler: Affluent progressives are now on the barricades to stop another Holocaust? Cities now nullify federal law in the spirit of the Old Confederacy. A federal judge doesn’t enforce federal law because he says he does not like what the president and his associates said in the past, during the campaign. Op-ed writers overseas wait eagerly for the president’s assassination. At CNN, Fareed Zakaria, wrist-slapped for past plagiarism, melts down while screaming of Trump’s “bullsh**.” Madonna says she has “thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.” All the insanity reminds one of the old Kingston Trio ballad:

They’re rioting in Africa, they’re starving in Spain.
There’s hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don’t like anybody very much!

Bad filibusters are now good ones. Vowing to kill, hurt, or remove the president and first family is hip, when it used to be felonious. States’ rights and nullification are now Confederate-cool. Free speech is hate speech. Censorship is a mere trigger warning. Assimilation is cultural appropriation. The nasal voiced thirtysomethings on the news, in their retro outfits of high-water pants and horn-rimmed glasses, impart worldly wisdom as our new Eric Sevareids.

To continue reading: Monasteries of the Mind

 

How Many Jobs Do Robots Destroy? Answers Emerge, by Wolf Richter

Robotics may not be a replay of the Industrial Revolution, during which technology created more jobs than it destroyed. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

But this isn’t the Industrial Revolution.

How many jobs do robots – whether mechanical robots or software – destroy? Do these destroyed jobs get replaced by the Great American Economy with better jobs? That’s the big discussion these days.

The answers have been soothing. Economists cite the Industrial Revolution. At the time, most humans replaced by machines found better paid, more productive, less back-breaking jobs. Productivity soared, and society overall, after some big dislocations, came out ahead. The same principle applies today, the soothsayers coo.

But this isn’t the Industrial Revolution. These days, robots and algorithms are everywhere, replacing not just manufacturing jobs but all kinds jobs in air-conditioned offices that paid big salaries and fat bonuses.

Just today, BlackRock announced a plan to consolidate $30 billion of their actively managed mutual fund activities with funds that are managed by algorithms and quantitative models. As these software robots take over, “53 stock pickers are expected to step down from their funds. Dozens more are expected to leave the firm,” as the New York Times put it.

“We have to change the ecosystem – that means relying more on big data, artificial intelligence, factors and models within quant and traditional investment strategies,” BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink told The Times.

In a similar vein, “robo-advisors” are becoming a cheap and hot alternative for many customers at major brokerage houses, replacing human financial advisors. A lot of the grunt work that used to be done during all-nighters by highly paid law school grads in big law offices is now done by computers.

So job destruction due to automation is not a blue-collar thing anymore. It’s everywhere. But soothsayers have been steadfastly claiming that for each destroyed job, the Great American Economy will generate more and better jobs, because, well, that’s how it worked during, you guessed it, the Industrial Revolution.

To continue reading: How Many Jobs Do Robots Destroy? Answers Emerge

 

When the “Solutions” Become the Problems, by Charles Hugh Smith

You can only paper over problems for so long. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Those benefiting from these destructive “solutions” may think the system can go on forever, but it cannot go on when every “solution” becomes a self-reinforcing problem that amplifies all the other systemic problems.

We are living in an interesting but by no means unique dynamic in which the solutions to problems such as slow growth and inequality have become the problems. This is a dynamic I have often discussed in various contexts. In essence, a solution that was optimized for an earlier era and situation is repeatedly applied to the present–but the present is unlike the past, and the old solution is no longer optimized to current conditions.

The old solution isn’t just a less-than-optimal solution; it actively makes the problem worse.

As a result, the old solution becomes a new problem that only exacerbates the current difficulties. The status quo strategy is not to question the efficacy of the old solution–it is to apply the old solution in heavier and heavier doses, on the theory that if only we increase the dose, it will finally resolve the problem.

Take borrowing from the future, i.e. debt, as a prime example of this dynamic.Back when credit was scarce and expensive, unleashing a tsunami of cheap, abundant credit supercharged growth by enabling millions of people who previously had limited access to credit to suddenly borrow and spend enormous sums of cash.

This tsunami of new spending supercharged growth such that servicing the debt was easy, as incomes and wealth both expanded far beyond the cost of the new debt.

Fast-forward to today, and adding 50% of the nation’s GDP in new federal debt ($9 trillion) and trillions more in corporate and houshold debt in the past 8 years has yielded subpar growth–roughly 2% a year.

This poor response to massive floods of credit, borrowing and spending has flummoxed conventional economists, who incorrectly assumed old solutions would always work as they had in the past.

To continue reading: When the “Solutions” Become the Problems

 

How The Left Learned To Love States’ Rights, by Andrew Syrios

During the 1960s, any mention of states’ rights was held by the Left to be code for segregation and racism. Now the Left is using states’ rights arguments and strategies to defend their own positions. Times have changed. From Andrew Syrios at mises.org:

Over the course of approximately six hours, the Left in the United States made a spectacular, 180 degree turn on federalism and states’ rights without even recognizing it. Although this lack of self-awareness shouldn’t be particularly surprising coming from the modern Left, which seems to have missed the irony when it goes about shutting down debates on free speech.

I’m old enough to remember when the Tea Party was making hay about nullifying Obamacare and Rick Perry even floated the idea about Texas seceding from the union. Not surprisingly, the Left was rather opposed to such antiquated ideas.

Rachel Maddow referred to talk of nullification as “confederates in the attic,” Chris Matthews described it as the “terms of Jim Crow” and Princeton professor Sean Wilentz referred to the doctrine of nullification as “the essence of anarchy” and “neo-Confederate dogma.” I’m sure nullification and states’ rights are also sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and Islamophobic, but these are short segments so they had to be concise.

Apparently, we were told, the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution stated not just that “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land,” but also “that this includes any law, no matter how blatantly unconstitutional passed by Congress or executive order issued by the president or signing statement or edict from an unconstitutional bureaucracy made of unelected administrators as long as it’s part of the federal government.”

Then all of a sudden, on November 8th, 2016, Donald Trump beat out all the predictions and won the presidency. Suddenly, states’ rights became rather appealing to the Left (and lost their allure to much of the Right).

To continue reading: How The Left Learned To Love States’ Rights

Why Socialism is Here to Stay, by Jeff Thomas

Socialism persists and does its deleterious work because it promises, although never delivers, so much for so many at the expense of the few. From Jeff Thomas at internationalman.com: 

“[T]he government has to take resources from someone before it can dole them out to others. This act of taking destroys an economy. The more you take from the productive members of society, the less productive they become. That’s the primary lesson of the history of socialism.”

The above quote is from Porter Stansberry – from his book, America 2020: The Survival Blueprint. It states a concept I’ve described for years, but Porter states it more succinctly than I ever have. In particular, it negates the argument by many “progressives” that, even if they don’t recommend full-on socialism, they believe in getting “just the right mix” of socialism and capitalism to create the ideal system.

Unfortunately, as viable as this concept may sound, even moderate socialistic national policies result in moderate deterioration of the system. It’s not unlike being “just a little” addicted to heroin.

It may be argued that, “That’s different. With heroin, the addict will always end up wanting more and he’ll become even more dependent.” Exactly so – and that’s unquestionably true for socialism as well. Once the concept of “free stuff” is part of a nation’s governing system, the desire for more free stuff will inexorably rise.

And, of course, historically, we have seen that governments always step up to the plate whenever the demand for more free stuff is suggested. But why should this be so? Wouldn’t a more conservative government be less likely to proffer entitlements than a more liberal government?

Actually, no. To believe this is to misunderstand the very nature of governance. Those who are governed like to believe that their government exists to serve them, and all political leaders are quick to encourage this perception. However, amongst themselves, political leaders fully understand that they exist primarily to feed off of and dominate the electorate. Of course, they can’t actually admit this, but, regardless of party affiliation, that is their very raison d’tre.

To continue reading: Why Socialism is Here to Stay

Congress Poised to Obliterate Broadband Privacy Rules, by Lauren McCauley

A user’s data collected by broadband companies should be the user’s property, to be sold or kept private as the user sees fit. That is how current FCC rules treat user data, but they may be about to change. From Lauren McCauley at theantimedia.org:

Privacy advocates on Monday are urging Americans to call their elected officials, warning that there are only 24 hours left to “save online privacy rules” before the U.S. House of Representatives votes on a measure that would allow major telecom companies to collect user data and auction it off to the “highest bidder.”

Wasting no time, the House is expected to begin debate late Monday on S.J. Res. 34, a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) privacy provision, implemented under former President Barack Obama, which requires that providers such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon get a user’s permission before collecting or selling sensitive data.

As Common Dreams reported, 50 Republican senators voted to advance the resolution last week.

“We are one vote away from a world where your [Internet Service Providers or ISP] can track your every move online and sell that information to the highest bidder,” Kate Tummarello, policy analyst for the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), said Monday.

Explaining how the FCC’s “commonsense” rules would have prevented ISPs from doing a “host of creepy things,” Tummarello wrote: “Those rules were a huge victory for consumers. Of course, the ISPs that stand to make money off of violating your privacy have been lobbying Congress to repeal those rules. Unfortunately, their anti-consumer push has been working.”

Meanwhile, the opposition is responding with a campaign of its own to pressure lawmakers—said to be in the pocket of the telecom industry—to protect #broadbandprivacy.

On Monday, the grassroots advocacy Fight for the Future announced that it will unleash billboards in Washington, D.C. and other select districts exposing any Congress member who votes to gut internet privacy rules.

To continue reading: Congress Poised to Obliterate Broadband Privacy Rules