Streetwise Professor

June 30, 2020

Hide the Decline! Coronavirus Edition

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Politics — cpirrong @ 11:03 am

Reported Covid-19 daily deaths (likely exaggerated for reasons I posted on months ago) have been declining inexorably since their peak, and are now about 10 percent of the maximum. Even that is overstated because of backdating in states like Delaware and New Jersey that resulted in large single day death reports that summed deaths that had occurred over periods of weeks or months.

We can’t have that, can we? How are we going to sustain the panic, as politically useful as it is, if we report good news?

No problem–just switch the metric! Whereas for weeks we were told the Grim Death Toll narrative, that has disappeared down the Memory Hole, to be replaced by the Skyrocketing Cases narrative, especially in Red States such as Texas, Florida, and Arizona.

I have been calling bullshit on the case numbers as a meaningful metric since March. It’s even more bullshit now.

A major reason case numbers (i.e., the number of positive tests) are BS is that testing is not a random process, but is endogenous. Moreover–and this is crucial now–the process driving who is tested is changing. Whereas before tests were focused on the symptomatic or the particularly vulnerable, testing is now more widespread. Some companies are requiring employees to be tested in order to return to work, or to remain at work if they have the sniffles.

As a result, more people are testing positive. Moreover, the average age of those testing positive has declined dramatically (because they were censored from the test population before). Most of those people are symptomatic, and those who are experience mild symptoms. Those under 60 exhibit little risk of death, or serious illness (especially if they do not have other serious health conditions). Those who are sick enough to require hospitalization are less likely to require ICU care, and those who do tend to recover at high rates (without ventilation), and have relatively short stays.

As a result, there has been a striking divergence between rising case numbers, and deaths.

But that doesn’t fit certain political needs. So we hear virtually nothing about deaths, but only shrieking about case numbers. This exploits the earlier misconception–misinformation, actually–that the death rate from the virus is high. Indeed, as positive tests accumulate, and serological studies accumulate, it is clear that the infection death rate is in the range of .1-.25 percent, far smaller than the earlier estimates that remain embedded in the memories of most.

The shrieking is particularly intense in–and at–Texas. Yes, Houston has seen a large increase in positive cases. But the deaths in Texas (and Houston) have never been large (up until now 2020 has seen fewer pneumonia-related deaths than in the typical year), and are not trending up . Not that you’d know from reading the media.

So there has been a reprise of the overwhelming the health care system narrative.

The worst sinner at this is my local POS newspaper, the Chronical. This article in particular, which insinuated that Governor Abbott (and no, I’m not a fan) had coerced Houston hospitals into covering up impending doom.

The article starts out with a lie, claiming that Houston ICU utilization had hit 100 percent. Actual data show this did not happen, and that Houston ICU utilization has been fairly constant over since April. Even throwing around scare numbers about 90 plus percent utilization is misleading. Of course hospital facilities are sized so that they do not have persistent unutilized capacity. That is wasteful, and inflates costs. As the data in the link show, moreover, hospitals–rationally–have the ability to expand capacity.

As I said in a very early post, capacity is not a destiny–it is a choice.

Yes, there as an increasing number of Covid patients in ICU. But this is clearly another manifestation of changing testing protocols, and most importantly, of the same problem that makes even the death data meaningless: lumping people in the hospital with Covid together with those who are hospitalized because of Covid. If the increased Covid numbers were there because of Covid, you would see ICU usage go up overall. You don’t. It’s oscillating around normal levels.

It should also be noted that there are reasons to believe that people who should have gone to ICUs, or to hospitals, did not because of Covid. This suppressed numbers and makes it dubious to attribute any increase in utilization to Covid.

As for the supposed coverup, the hospital systems did not stop reporting hospitalization/ICU data, but the projections of future usage.

The outrage! Yeah, because Covid-related predictions have always been spot on, right?

In fact, the only competition between projections is which is the most absurd.

The POS Chronical’s political agenda and utter hypocrisy is on full display:

Then, after reporting numerous charts and graphs almost daily for three months, the organization posted no updates until around 9 p.m. Saturday, sowing confusion about the hospitals’ ability to withstand a massive spike in cases that has followed Gov. Greg Abbott’s May decisions to lift restrictions intended to slow the virus.

Gee. What else happened around the same time. Let me think? Protests ring a bell?

But of course, the protests (and the massive George Floyd funeral) are sacrosanct, and out of respect the virus took a holiday and didn’t exploit the conditions (large crowds) that are supposedly the main source of contagion. (EG., MLB will be restarting–but without fans, because otherwise Minute Maid and other parks would be Covid Central.

The hysteria over case numbers reminds me of a phrase from the Climategate emails: “Hide the decline!” Just as in Climategate, there was a divergence between a number that mattered (actual temperature) and a bogus number (proxy data-based temperatures): actual temps were flat/declining when the proxy number was going up inexorably.

So the battlecry became: Hide the decline!

We are seeing the same thing now. Hide the decline in deaths by hyping irrelevant case numbers, misinterpreting those numbers, and making dire forecasts at odds with the actual data.

If you will recall, the entire justification for lockdowns was to “flatten the curve” to protect the healthcare system. The underlying rationale was that the virus’s spread was inevitable, but we need to control the rate. That is, suppression/elimination was an impossibility until herd immunity was achieved.

Based on that rationale, the surge in cases with low and arguably declining numbers of deaths and no data demonstrating an overwhelmed healthcare system is actually a good thing. It measures progress to herd immunity. Moreover, it’s better to have the spread now, in the summer, rather than when the flu season kicks in, and creates its inevitable increase in demand for healthcare resources–including ICU beds.

But the media and many politicians are completely invested in panic, for malign and dishonest reasons. So it is essential to hide the decline, and hype the spike.

June 27, 2020

Narcissistic Presentist Bigotry Plus Radical Marxism–What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:52 pm

The most recent monument to face desecration and destruction is The Emancipation Memorial in Washington, DC. This was the site of a confrontation between raving lunatics dressed in black and a group of elderly black gentlemen who had assembled to protect the monument:

The ostensible objection to the Memorial is that portrays a black man in a demeaning, submissive pose at Abraham Lincoln’s feet. This was indeed true of the original design, but due to the objections of African Americans who had seen the design, it was changed to portray the subject rising, with head raised.

If you were a consistent leftist (I crack myself up sometimes) you would actually endorse this portrayal–after all, the incessant drumbeat we hear about slavery as the nation’s original sin and the root of all current evils is based on the very premise that blacks were beaten down, humiliated, and suppressed. In bondage, they were on their knees–literally and figuratively: and the statue portrays that. Emancipation–and remember, this is a monument to Emancipation–gave them the opportunity to rise up and stand like full human beings. But it was just the beginning. That is, the statue conveys powerfully that slavery subjugated black people, and that Emancipation was only the first step in a painful process of rising up to the status of full citizen and full person.

What about that does anyone–including a leftist–believe is untrue?

The monument was paid for by African Americans grateful to Abraham Lincoln, without whom, they realized, they would still be in bondage, and whom they recognized was martyred for his role in freeing them. The model for the rising black man was a former slave–is the modern left insinuating that he was an ignorant Uncle Tom for collaborating in a demeaning portrayal? The oration at the Memorial’s dedication was delivered by Frederick Douglas, who movingly and realistically described Lincoln’s not-John-Brown-like racial views, but who in the end celebrated Lincoln’s greatness, and expressed his gratitude–and impliedly the gratitude of other African Americans–for what Lincoln achieved despite his imperfections (which were largely the inheritance of his time and place). Was Frederick Douglas also a fool advancing the cause of white supremacy?

Note in the video in the tweet that one of the gentlemen that this mentally imbalanced woman is haranguing is clearly doing an historical impression of Frederick Douglas. I am sure that harridan has no clue.

Let’s be clear. This baying mob is not fit even to grovel at the feet of a moral and intellectual giant like Frederick Douglas, let alone assault those doing him homage, or attempting to destroy a monument to which Douglas paid homage on that very spot.

These attacks on the monument are, at best, narcissistic presentism run amok. And presentism is a malign form of bigotry, and in this case ironically deprives mid-19th century African Americans of agency and dignity.

But let’s cut the bullshit. The attack on the Emancipation Memorial has fuck all to do with aesthetics, symbolism, or iconography. Those are just the rhetorical camouflage.

To reprise the theme of several past posts, tearing down this monument is just another act of a movement to tear down the entire nation, extirpate its history root and branch, and replace it with a Marxist paradise.

But don’t take my word for it. Take the word of the person who targeted the monument for destruction, one Glenn Foster:

Apropos my earlier post on our Schumpeter Moment, note that Foster attended Harvard. That’s what they “learn” there.

There are other examples–too many–of the fundamental nature of the movement. Here’s one:

Law enforcement officials had to respond to a large group of Black Lives Matters activists late on Friday night that stormed a Beverly Hills residential neighborhood chanting “Eat the rich!” and “Abolish capitalism now!”

I could go on. And on. And on.

At root, this is not about racial injustice, really. That issue is merely a wedge. Or better, an opiate being given to the masses to cloud their faculties and dull the pain of the radical surgery that these radicals have planned for them.

Our Schumpeter Moment

Filed under: Economics,Politics — cpirrong @ 12:54 pm

One of the first economics books I read, in high school, was Joseph A. Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. Truth be told, I only had a dim understanding of what Schumpeter was saying. I came in at the end of the conversation as it were. Not having any exposure to Marx, for example, rendered me rather incapable of comprehending Schumpeter’s critique of Marxism. This also made me fail to appreciate that what Schumpeter was advancing was an alternative dialectic that ended in the same place: the demise of capitalism.

As I accreted knowledge over the years, I have returned to Schumpter from time to time, and gained new insights from CS&D. Witnessing the current tumult in the United States, and the West more generally, makes me appreciate the book and its insights all the more. We are experiencing a Schumpeter moment. The factors that he identified as the sappers that would undermine capitalism (and liberal democracy, as distinct from social democracy) are in clearly in operation today: large scale corporate enterprise and intellectuals.

Schumpeter wrote CS&D in 1943, in the immediate aftermath of the Great Depression, and when the viability of capitalism after the World War was much in doubt. The Depression was considered a crisis of capitalism, and the most renowned predictor of such a crisis, Karl Marx, was all the rage. The starting point of CS&D is therefore Marx.

Schumpeter examined Marx and Marxism sympathetically and seriously, but ultimately rejected the Marxian theory of capitalist self-destruction. The causal mechanism in Marx was the “declining rate of profit”, an implication of the classical economics in which Marx was steeped. This declining rate of profit would lead to pressure to cut wages, resulting in the immiseration of the proletariat, which would eventually spark a communist revolution.

Schumpeter rejected this prediction on theoretical and empirical grounds. In essence, Schumpeter rejected the classical (and neoclassical) frameworks which did not recognize technological advance and innovation. Schumpeter argued that waves of technological innovation–“creative destruction”–would result in new enterprises and industries supplanting old ones. The temporary monopoly power of the innovators would generate profits. But profits would not disappear, as would happen due to entry in a technologically stagnant classical world. Instead, the incumbent monopolists would be supplanted–destroyed–by the creators of new ideas and technologies.

So Schumpeter concluded that capitalism would not die a Marxist death. But he did conclude that it would die nonetheless, although by a different dialectic.

Schumpeter identified two major dynamics. The first was the destruction of the entrepreneurial function and the entrepreneur, and the dominance of the bureaucratic corporation. The second was the rise of an intellectual class, a rise that could only occur due to the massive wealth created by capitalism.

Marx said that capitalism would fall due to its internal contradictions. Schumpeter said the same, but identified totally different internal contradictions.

With respect to the elimination of the middling, independent entrepreneur, Schumpeter summarized thus:

To sum up this part of our argument: if capitalist evolution—“progress”— either ceases or becomes completely automatic, the economic basis of the industrial bourgeoisie will be reduced eventually to wages such as are paid for current administrative work excepting remnants of quasi-rents and monopoloid gains that may be expected to linger on for some time. Since capitalist enterprise, by its very achievements, tends to automatize progress, we conclude that it tends to make itself superfluous—to break to pieces under the pressure of its own success. The perfectly bureaucratized giant industrial unit not only ousts the small or medium-sized firm and “expropriates” its owners, but in the end it also ousts the entrepreneur and expropriates the bourgeoisie as a class which in the process stands to lose not only its income but also what is infinitely more important, its function. The true pacemakers of socialism were not the intellectuals or agitators who preached it but the Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Rockefellers. This result may not in every respect be to the taste of Marxian socialists, still less to the taste of socialists of a more popular (Marx would have said, vulgar) description. But so far as prognosis goes, it does not differ from theirs.

Instead of “bureaucratized giant industrial unit,” today I would say the “bureaucratized giant tech firm.” And instead of Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Rockefellers, Bezoses, Gateses, Zuckerbergs, and Pages. And maybe Waltons and their ilk as well.

The rate of entrepreneurial dynamism has definitely declined in the US (as indicated by the decline in the rate of new business formation even prior to Covid-19). Via a variety of mechanisms political and economic (note the ordering), the most recent victors of creative destruction are destroying the entrepreneurial class that Schumpeter identified as the social and political bulwark of capitalism.

Schumpeter’s most piquant critiques focus on intellectuals. He has something of a difficulty in defining exactly what they are. In the end, he comes to something like Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography: you know them when you see them.

Schumpeter argues that intellectuals are hostile to capitalism because under it they do not receive the economic rewards–and crucially, the status–that they believe that their (allegedly) superior intellectual attainments deserve. But the massive wealth that capitalism creates permits the extension of higher education, and the support of a group of individuals (Schumpeter does not believe they truly represent a “class”) who are inveterately hostile to the system that allows them to exist in the first place. Schumpeter notes:

But in the case of capitalist society there is a further fact to be noted: unlike any other type of society, capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest. . . .

Broadly speaking, conditions favorable to general hostility to a social system or specific attack upon it will in any case tend to call forth groups that will exploit them. But in the case of capitalist society there is a further fact to be noted: unlike any other type of society, capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest.

Schumpeter trenchantly notes that a salient characteristic of intellectuals is the

absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs. This touch in general accounts for another—the absence of that first-hand knowledge of them which only actual experience can give. The critical attitude, arising no less from the intellectual’s situation as an onlooker—in most cases also as an outsider—than from the fact that his main chance of asserting himself lies in his actual or potential nuisance value

Which brings to mind Orwells aphorism: there are some ideas so stupid only an intellectual can believe them. Because they are not tested by empirical/practical experience.

Schumpeter also has a quasi-Leninist take on intellectuals. They can be a vanguard of revolution. The masses are incapable of acting independently and autonomously. Intellectuals provide the leadership and coherence to inchoate dissatisfaction.

Schumpeter points to another internal contradiction of capitalism. The insistence of the entrepreneurial capitalist class on freedom (which is what allowed it to escape from the thrall of feudal governments) makes it incapable of cracking down on its mortal enemies.

Looking at Schumpeter through the lens of 2020 America, I am astounded at his prescience. Of course, almost 80 years on the exact dynamics of today are different than Schumpeter prognosticated. But as Twain said, it rhymes.

For what do we see today? A (tech) corporate oligarchy that is hostile to the middle class, and to entrepreneurs, and which largely supports–often enthusiastically–the current attacks on middle America. An oligarchy that uses its economic power to exercise political and social power. A declining entrepreneurial class. And most notably, a seething host of discontented intellectuals–notably in academia–who are inveterately hostile to capitalism and liberal democracy, and who are at the vanguard of opposition to it. Yet further, a large group of Americans of traditional values who are largely paralyzed in the face of these attacks on their beliefs, institutions, and livelihoods, in large part because their bourgeois values prevent them from responding forcefully to the mortal threat that the oligarchs and intellectuals present.

Tragically, the insane lockdowns adopted in response to Covid-19 are accelerating this process. They have perversely benefited the Amazons and Facebooks and Walmarts (there are no coincidences, comrade!) and devastated the small businesses of America. They have created seething discontent due to unemployment and social isolation that is fertile ground for intellectuals to exploit. Throw in George Floyd, and you have a perfect storm.

It is interesting to note that in the prematurely triumphalist 1990s, in the aftermath of the fall of the USSR, Schumpeter’s arguments were dismissed as having been disproved by events. Most notably, the man who has my vote as The Most Wrong Person Ever, Francis Fukuyama sneeringly wrote:

Schumpeter’s work stands as one of the most brilliantly wrong-headed books of the century in its central prediction that socialism would ultimately replace capitalism because of the latter’s insuperable cultural contradictions. Writing in 1943, Schumpeter argued that there was no inherent reason why central planning should work less well than free markets in the production of technological innovation, a point not as glaringly off the mark then as now. The central problem with capitalism, however, was not economic but cultural: it would produce a privileged class of people who would reject the sources of their own wealth and seek a socialist order. In this he seemed quite right for many years as intellectuals and artists in the West struggled against the very system that made their discourse possible. Things began to look rather different after the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions in the 1980s and the subsequent collapse of communism. Schumpeter’s book contains what is probably the most realistic, albeit minimalist, definition of democracy as a competition among elites for the allegiance of the people.

“Brilliantly wrong-headed”? That’s what Freud called “projection,” Mr. Fukuyama. (Though with respect to him, the adjective “brilliantly” can safely be omitted.)

In light of current events, Schumpeter appears much more prescient than Fukuyama. The confluence of corporatism and a coddled, cosseted intellectual class–both the products of capitalism and liberal democracy–is on the verge of killing capitalism and liberal democracy. Which is exactly what Schumpeter foresaw in 1943.

June 24, 2020

What Were the Crimes of US Grant & Hans Heg? They Were Americans–and Fighting Against Slavery Does Not Expiate the Guilt

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 11:00 am

You’ve probably heard of Ulysses S. Grant. He arguably did more for African Americans than anyone in American history. It is highly doubtful that the United States of America would have prevailed against the Confederate States of America without Grant. His brilliant victories in the Western Theater (most notably Vicksburg and Chattanooga) knocked the props from under the Confederacy, and his relentless, grinding campaign in Virginia in 1864 and 1865 (and his orchestration of the overall Union effort in those years) accomplished what previous generals had failed to: smashing the Confederacy’s ability to resist.

As president, he pushed a vigorous Reconstruction policy, and was largely personally responsible for crushing the first incarnation of the KKK.

Grant has long been ranked among the worst presidents. Why? Because the history profession from the 1880s-1930s was dominated by Southerners who detested his Reconstruction policies. What better endorsement could one have?

You probably haven’t heard of Hans Heg. Heg was a Norwegian immigrant to Wisconsin. He was a fierce abolitionist, and early member of the Free Soil Party and then the Republican Party. He commanded the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and was mortally wounded with a gut shot in the woody abattoir at Chickamauga on 19 September, 1863. His brigade suffered almost 50 percent casualties in fighting Bushrod Johnson’s Tennessee brigade and James Robertson’s Texas Brigade.

I have walked the ground where Heg fought and died at least a dozen times. I have also read his moving letters.

Now Grant and Heg have something in common besides fighting to end slavery in the United States. Their statues (Grant’s in San Francisco, Heg’s in Madison, WI) have been toppled in the ongoing (and indeed intensifying) frenzied assault on public historical memorials, ostensibly to remove from our sight the glorification of slavery. Poor Colonel Heg’s bronze head was separated from his body and he was tossed into Lake Monona (which is where Otis Redding perished in a plane crash in 1967, by the way).

One’s first reaction might be to condemn the utter ignorance of those who assault the memorials of those who actually fought–and in Heg’s case, died horribly–to end slavery and bring freedom and justice to African Americans.

But I think that reaction is wrong. The indiscriminate nature of the assaults on memory are not the product of ignorance: they demonstrate with incredible clarity the true motivation and impetus behind this iconoclastic moment, and the beliefs of those who carry out these deeds. They believe that America is evil, that its history is a litany of sin, and its memory must be ripped up, root and branch. The message is: these figures are evil, regardless of what they did, or what side they fought on, because they are Americans who were revered by earlier generations of sinful Americans.

It is pointless to argue facts about the acts of Grant or Heg with these people. Those facts pale into insignificance in the face of the irredeemable sin of the United States of America.

Destroying the statues of Grant or Heg (or the threatened destruction of the Emancipation Monument) make this point far more forcefully than removing the statue of a Nathan Bedford Forrest. These acts show that these people believe that nothing you have done can redeem you. Your crime is that you were an American. Your good acts are not sufficient to expiate that guilt. Thus, I expect that monuments to such individuals will become a special target for future destruction.

To argue against these people is as futile as a lifelong Bolshevik pleading his devotion to the cause when facing one of Stalin’s NKVD executioners.

This is an irreconcilable conflict of visions, and an existential one. And if people of good will, normal Americans, don’t figure that out quickly, the consequences will be catastrophic. The time to fight back is now. And hopefully now is not too late.

June 18, 2020

When Judging History, Remember Matthew, Not Marx

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:22 pm

A little less than 3 years ago, during the last spasm of nihilistic iconoclasm that wracked the United States, I wrote:

It is because of this loss of historical memory that I am averse to iconoclasm. I am also quite conscious that iconoclasm is itself almost always an assertion of political power, and as such can be as divisive as the erection of the icons was. A cycle of symbolism can sow discord, and generate much more heat than light. In a deeply divided country, we should be looking for ways to improve understanding and to provide fora for reconciliation, rather than to inflame divisions. Building the monuments was a way of showing who is on top: taking them down is a way of doing the same. But assertion of power relations exacerbates conflict and detracts from the advancement of true equality.

The Confederate monument controversy has also catalyzed tribalism, perhaps intentionally so, as this has definite political uses, most notably making it possible for the left to claim that the fringe mouth breathers who rallied to defend the monument are representative of all its political adversaries. It is also the last thing the increasingly tribal US needs at present.

Today is like that. Only on steroids and meth.

Especially the part about iconoclasm being an assertion of political power. For that is the real driving force behind the current orgy of destruction–which is no longer limited to the US, but has spread around the world.

In the US, the hard left is hell-bent on imposing a Howard Zinn version of history on the entire country. A version in which the nation’s history is a litany of crimes, with no redeeming features or redeeming figures. For a nation such as that must be uprooted, destroyed, and then remade. The past must be erased–no, extirpated–in order to clear the way for a glorious utopian future.

Hence everything–everything–has to go. No historical figure is safe. The monument to the (black) 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in Boston. The statue of abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier in the town in California that bears his name. No one is pure enough to meet the standards of today’s Jacobins and Red Guardists.

The most commonly cited justification for this is “but slavery!” Where once upon a time people played Six Degrees From Kevin Bacon, we now play–or are forced to witness and assent to–Six Degrees From Slavery, in which lines are drawn from various figures or places to slavery. (Although not consistently–Kente cloth being an notable exception). If there is a connection within six degrees–into the furnace! And such connections inevitably exist in any nation or culture with a history of slavery. Which, as it happens, is every nation and culture. Meaning everything is at risk.

This has reached its most ludicrous (but not necessarily the ultimate in ludicrousness–there’s still time!) in campaigns against Penny Lane in Liverpool (allegedly, but not proved, to be named for a Mr. Penny who was involved in the slave trade in the distant past) and the University of Virginia logo, upon which the depictions of handles of crossed swords included a wavy pattern evocative of the Serpentine Walls at UVA–walls which, we are now told, “former President Thomas Jefferson designed . . . to muffle the sounds of slaves and hide them from public view.”

Color me skeptical. (Can I say that?) This is attributed to “historians.” I have looked fairly extensively to see which historians, and the basis for this conclusion, but to no avail. If someone can provide the documentation, I would be glad to evaluate it.

Building walls around universities is hardly a novelty. Creating cloistered spaces at universities or other scholastic institutions to isolate them from the intrusions of the outside world dates back to medieval times–visit a college at Oxford sometime. Or most monasteries.

But never mind, whatever the origins of the walls, they have long been recognized as architecturally distinctive (though they harken to English precedents). So the interest in and aesthetic value of the walls has existed and exists independent of whatever thought gave impetus to Jefferson to create them.

No, this seems like a classic Alinskyite effort intended to dragoon a public institution, and its craven administrators (don’t dare call them “leaders”) into genuflecting before the power of the radicals. They pick a target–the wall–freeze it, personalize it, polarize it.

And then they move on to the next target, because there is no limiting principle here. Again, the imposition of the Howard Zinn view of American history recognizes no limits: everyone and everything that preceded Year Zero is evil, and must be destroyed.

If an abstract representation of the Serpentine Wall is today considered an affront and offensive, how can the walls themselves be any less so? If you must eliminate the image, how can you possibly tolerate the real thing? In other words: how long before there is a call for the walls to be torn down, or a mob takes the job into its own hands?

The radicals will march from surrender to surrender. Given that they will never compromise, the line has to be drawn at no iconoclasm, period. Monuments are a testament to their time and place. Let them stand as such, and let our interpretation of those things change with the times and knowledge.

Quite interestingly, French President Emmanuel Macron, agrees, and forcefully so:

Would that there would be someone equally articulate taking such a strong stand here, or in the UK, or elsewhere in the Anglosphere. Bravo, M. le President.

This is about history, but it’s not only about history. It’s not even mainly about history. Orwell: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” The delegitimization of the American past (and the British past and the Western past (“decolonize your bookshelf”)) is just one part of a concerted campaign to delegitimize our institutions and our cultures, in order to replace them with those imagined in the radicals’ fevered brains.

The Jacobins brook no opposition and in fact demand complete subservience. It is not sufficient to say, reasonably enough, that black lives matter. No, it is necessary to endorse (or at the very least, not dare to criticize) Black Lives Matter, thereby giving your asset to its entire radical, Marxist, crypto-Marxist, divisive, and race-charged agenda. In this way, the radicals opportunistically use empathy and goodwill and shock at shocking events as a Trojan Horse to smuggle their extreme agenda inside America’s (metaphorical) walls–and inside your heads. And we know what happened to the Trojans when they accepted the Greek gift.

So call me Cassandra: beware of radicals bearing “gifts.”

Particularly narcissistic radicals, like those who dominate today. They cast judgment on everyone else, and everyone who went before. All fail to live up to their lofty standards. But they apparently assume that they are perfect, and no future people, radical or otherwise, will judge them.

They would be wise to heed Matthew 7:1-3:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you

They should. But they won’t. Because the history that they so haughtily disdain shows they never do. So they must be fought. Hammer and tong.

June 16, 2020

Igor Sechin Is An Idiot. But You Knew That.

Filed under: Commodities,CoronaCrisis,Economics,Energy,Russia — cpirrong @ 1:06 pm

The very informative RBN Energy blog notes “Look What You Made Me Do – Permian Crude Producers Waste No Time In Ramping Up Production“:

Crude oil supply news comes in from all angles these days, bombarding the market daily with fresh information on producers’ efforts to ramp their volumes back up now that the global economic recovery is cautiously under way. Crude demand is rising, storage hasn’t burst at the seams yet, and prices have come a long, long way in just a few weeks. Permian exploration and production companies, having avoided a fleeting, longshot chance that the state of Texas might regulate West Texas oil production, are responding to higher crude oil prices as free-market participants should. The taps are quickly being turned back on, unleashing pent-up crude and associated gas volumes that, you could say, were under a sort of quarantine of their own for a while. Today, we provide an update on the status of curtailments in the Permian Basin.

The story mentions “the taps.” US shale regions, Permian in particular, are as close to something that can be turned on and off like a tap as anything in the history of the oil business.

You will recall that Igor Sechin’s brain flash in responding to the Covid-caused demand crash was to spurn Saudi importuning to extend output cuts, which spurred the steamed Saudis to increase output, thereby turning a hard fall in prices into a bona fide crash. A crash that hurt Russian producers generally, and Rosneft specifically, extremely hard.

The reasoning for Sechin’s strategy was that US shale producers had been the main beneficiary of previous output cuts, and he wanted to drive them out of business. Predatory pricing, in other words.

But as the RBN post indicates, this strategy, like most predatory pricing strategies, doesn’t work if the target can rope-a-dope and recover when you attempt to raise prices. That’s exactly what’s happening.

Yes, some companies have gone bankrupt–but bankruptcy is different than destruction. (Igor might not know this. Seriously.) And yes, the industry is facing more stringent financing conditions–but if prices rise these will ease too, and drilling activity will resume.

In other words, Sechin failed to realize that not only is predatory pricing almost always a futile strategy, it is particularly futile when unconventional US oil production is concerned. The Saudis found this out in 2014-2015, but Igor either wasn’t paying attention, or didn’t learn the lesson.

Predation doesn’t pay. This is hardly a new insight, or one not demonstrated by repeated experiences–including experience involving Igor’s intended prey.

Sechin’s predatory endeavors work when they involve exploiting the Russian legal system. In the marketplace, not so much. But we all knew that Igor is basically a thug, and not all that bright.

June 11, 2020

Will Miracles Never Cease? A Voice of Sanity–From Berkeley

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 5:54 pm

Here is a powerful “UC Berkeley History Professor’s Open Letter Against BLM, Police Brutality and Cultural Orthodoxy.” Let that sink in–a letter from a Berkeley history prof against “BLM . . . and Cultural Orthodoxy.”

Powerful, but understandably–and sadly–anonymous. How many times have you been told we have to have a “conversation about race.” That’s a lie. Anybody saying that doesn’t want a conversation. They want to deliver a lecture. A monologue. And for you to listen, nodding in assent, preferably on your knees.

Here is a person who makes a sincere effort at having a thoughtful conversation, but knows that s/he cannot do so openly except at professional and personal peril.

You should read the entire thing, but I will highlight the most important point:

The claim that the difficulties that the black community faces are entirely causally explained by exogenous factors in the form of white systemic racism, white supremacy, and other forms of white discrimination remains a problematic hypothesis that should be vigorously challenged by historians. Instead, it is being treated as an axiomatic and actionable truth without serious consideration of its profound flaws, or its worrying implication of total black impotence. This hypothesis is transforming our institution and our culture, without any space for dissent outside of a tightly policed, narrow discourse.

Exactly right.

I will go further. The theory of systemic racism is quintessential pseudo-science, an unfalsifiable hypothesis, analogous to Marxism (“scientific socialism”). To which it can trace its roots, via the Frankfurt School in particular.

It has all the hallmarks of pseudo-science that Karl Popper identified decades ago. It purports to be a theory of everything. Those who propound this theory invoke it as an explanation of virtually every aspect of society and social relations. Moreover, those who dispute it are not joined factually or logically. Instead, their disagreement is taken as evidence of proof of the theory (“if you dispute the theory it proves how pervasive racism is and that you are a racist”) just as Marxism dismissed opponents as merely representing prevailing production relationships in society, or false class consciousness, or other such drivel. Opponents are guilty of Wrongthink, to be shouted down, ostracized, and marginalized–if they are lucky.

The last thing that its proponents want is that it “should be vigorously challenged by historians.” Or anybody else for that matter. Those who challenge the revealed truth are heretics, and must be treated accordingly.

Of course it is the current fashion in academia, and among the intelligentsia. But, as Orwell trenchantly said, “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.”  My modification: “Some ideas are so malign that only intellectuals believe them.”

This has become a new secular religion, like Marxism. And like traditional religions, it has saints and heretics, and especially hell.

Because the theory is unfalsifiable, it is a fool’s errand to argue against it, factually or logically, at least to the people who propound it or claim to believe it. I know many people–smart people–who make gallant efforts to do so. Factually and logically they are persuasive. But attempting to falsify factually and logically an unfalsifiable and logically defective theory is futile, and only brings the furies down on your head. As the Berkeley history prof (an assistant prof, I’m guessing) clearly understands.

Further, note that when it comes to concrete policy choices and decisions, the game is rigged. If you buy into “systemic racism”, no mere reform of a police department or voting procedures or what have you is adequate. The frenzy unleashed on hapless Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey shows that. If you are not with the Jacobins 100 percent, you are an enemy.

Which means that the only prescription acceptable to those who actually believe this theory (or are smart enough to not believe it, but find it politically useful) is a complete revolution in our social relations, our economy, our government, and every institution public or private. No half measures are acceptable. No 99.9 percent measures are acceptable.

This in part explains the appeal of this theory to intellectuals and academics. They like all encompassing, gnostic theories and explanations. (See Thomas Sowell’s indispensable A Conflict of Visions for a trenchant analysis.) Intellectuals also fantasize about being in power, and deeply resent not having it.

The honest advocates of this theory will have no dispute with that: they forthrightly advocate a complete destruction and then reconstruction of society, from top to bottom. Because they think it is “systemically” rotten.

Because such attempts have always worked out great, right?

The iconoclasm and vandalism we are seeing is testament to the totalitarian, millenarian vision. Every monument has been desecrated (including a monument to black soldiers who fought in the Civil War) or is at risk of desecration, because it is the product of an evil past that lives on in an evil present. Year Zero calls!

The more than passing resemblance between the way that “conversations” are carried out today, and they were under the Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution, is further evidence. You must recant every wrongthought and embrace Newthink, or you will be destroyed.

The perversity of all this is too much. The consequences are utterly foreseeable, and dire. Most importantly, realization of only a trivial portion of this vision would hurt most the people whom are the supposed beneficiaries.

Case in point. The Chicago Police basically abandoned most neighborhoods in Chicago during the last weekend in May in the aftermath of the riots that wracked the city. Aldermen from minority wards were apoplectic. Even a hardcore leftist like Michael Pfleger were appalled:

“On Saturday and particularly Sunday, I heard people saying all over, ‘Hey, there’s no police anywhere, police ain’t doing nothing,’” Pfleger said.

“I sat and watched a store looted for over an hour,” he added. “No police came. I got in my car and drove around to some other places getting looted [and] didn’t see police anywhere.”

And on that weekend had the largest number of murders in Chicago’s recorded history. Given that history, that is a truly appalling statement.

Hopefully this episode is like the Ghost of Christmas Future, that will awaken people to where this is headed so that it can be stopped in its tracks. But hope is not a plan. This has to be fought, and the most important strategic move is to not fight this battle on the ground that the opponents choose–the pseudoscientific theory of systemic racism.

June 9, 2020

Pay More or Cry More

Filed under: Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 12:46 pm

Well, that didn’t last long, did it? Mere weeks after I said nice things about Angela Merkel, I am compelled to revert to “we didn’t bomb them enough” mode.

Why? That shrieking you hear emanating from between the Rhine and the Elbe (and on the Potomac too, alas) was caused by Trump’s decision to remove 9,500 US military personnel from Germany. An attack on the established order! An affront to Nato! Baaaaaad Orange Man done it again! Ach die lieber!

What Trump did was follow through on a warning he had made repeatedly: unless Germany lives up to its commitment to Nato to meet the 2 percent of GDP military spending target, he would withdraw US troops from Germany. Don’t say you weren’t warned. Over and over and over again.

I know it is truly shocking that a president would actually follow through on a warning, but there you have it. And if the Germans haven’t figured out that Trump carries through on his threats with high probability, they just confirm their reputation as the dumbest smart people in the world.

It is reported that at least some of these troops (about half) will redeploy to Poland. Truth be told, stationing troops along the Vistula provides a lot more security vs. the Russians than they would along the Rhine. So it is utter bullshit to say that this is some anti-Nato move that benefits the Russians.

But that utter bullshit is repeated over-and-over again, on the Potomac too.

The whole episode demonstrates that this has fuck all to do with Nato or the Russians. It’s all about money. German money. The money they don’t want to spend on their own defense, and the money they want from Americans–both to defend them, and to spend in Germany. With regards to the latter, American dollars spent in Poland to defend against the Russians benefits the Germans indirectly (Uncle Sugar is still paying for the freeloaders’ defense), but those dollars aren’t finding their way into German pockets. So when you get down to it, the real reason for the outrage is that the United States is no longer providing as succulent a host for parasitic Germans.

I note in passing that in their typical at your throat/at your feet way, a lot of Germans really dislike and resent the presence of large numbers of American military personnel in their country. But they like the money that the Americans spend. The frenzied reaction demonstrates which is more important.

So I say to the Germans: pay more, or cry more. Pay more on your own defense. If you don’t, and don’t like the consequences, cry as much as you want. I for one will frolic in your salty tears.

Indeed, Trump did not go far enough. Withdraw them all, and let Germany stew in its own juices. Or its own tears, if you will.

June 3, 2020

Yet Another Thing Consigned to the Flames of the Riots: The Reputation of James Mattis

Filed under: Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:47 pm

I used to be a great admirer of General James Mattis. I have written many glowing posts over the year. I thought he was the best choice in Trump’s original cabinet. I even said kind things about him upon his resignation as SecDef, even though I disagreed with the reason for his departure: a disagreement with Trump’s Syria policy.

That admiration and respect has now evaporated. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that they have gone up in flames, consumed in the infernos raging across US cities. Today Mattis released a tendentious and inflammatory letter bashing Trump. The gravamen of his criticism is that Trump is using the military to trample the rights of Americans. In particular, Mattis blasts Trump’s “bizarre photo op” at St. Paul’s church, which allegedly was possible only after tear gassing of peaceful protestors between the church and the White House. Mattis does not say that specifically, but it can be inferred as there is no other possible violations of civil rights involved in that episode.

That claim is based on a lie. It is now known there was no tear gas. There was no use of flash grenades. Those in the area were not uniformly peaceful: some were lobbing dangerous objects.

It is despicable that Mattis would base his allegation on a lie. Particularly given that the facts were known at the time he released the statement.

But then again, given that he was on the board of Theranos, perhaps the general can be a credulous fool who believes what he wants to believe. He is therefore responsible for the lie.

As for the photo op. A national treasure had been the target of arsonists. The White House had been besieged. Numerous building in the nation’s capital had been looted and burned. Great monuments–such as the Lincoln Memorial–had been defaced. American cities are in flames. Looters are rampaging from sea to shining sea.

Presidents always–always–make public appearances to such scenes: when they don’t, they are savaged in the press (e.g., Bush’s belated visit to New Orleans). In Trump’s case, it is important to demonstrate that the nation will not surrender to vandals and thugs, and that precious national symbols will be defended and preserved.

Mattis accuses Trump of overreacting to the situation. But Mattis’ words appear delusional to anyone who has been sentient over the past days. (Joe Biden is therefore excused):

We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.

A “small number of lawbreakers”? To speak in language that Mattis understands–and uses: are you fucking kidding me?

Boy, that “small number” is pretty efficient, given that they’ve wrecked not only swaths of DC, but Manhattan, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and many other cities. This minimization of the scale of the destruction and lawlessness, and confabulation of peaceful protestors with a rampaging mob, is appalling.

Mattis says that keeping order is the job of governors and mayors. Agreed! But when governors and mayors utterly fail in that job–yeah, I’m looking at you Bill diBolshevik, but not just you–what is the president supposed to do? Say, “oh well, not my job!”?

Mattis’ lies and delusions don’t end there. He barfs up the standard Democratic/leftist propaganda:

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.

Yeah, I guess I missed the part where everyone in the US was holding hands and singing Kumbaya prior to 8 November, 2016. Maybe I’m Rumplestiltskin or something, and fell asleep prior to Hillary’s un-coronation.

And as for Trump being the “first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people.” Again: are you fucking kidding me, general? Obama was extraordinarily divisive–and deliberately so. Remember “bitter clingers”? His invocation of The Untouchables?: “If they bring knives, we will use guns.” It was in all the papers. The man was an Alinsky acolyte–and Bill Ayers acolyte–for crissakes. He was all about division. Indeed, his divisiveness made Trump possible.

So maybe it was Mattis who was Rumplestiltskin from 2009-2016. Even though he was serving in the military at that time–until defenestrated by Mr. Uniter.

I also note that Mattis was alive when LBJ and Nixon were president. Nah, they weren’t divisive at all.

As for our sacred Constitutional rights, perhaps General Mattis has not been paying attention to the cascade of revelations about Obama’s trampling of the rights of people like, oh, I don’t know, Mattis’ former confrere, General Michael Flynn.

Further, what is Mattis doing other than promoting division? He is feeding it. Throwing gasoline on an already raging fire.

All in all, an utterly despicable performance by a man whom I once considered honorable, and whom I honored. Today he made a tendentious political statement built on a foundation of lies. Not a single lie. Multiple lies.

As a substantive matter, if Mattis has reservations about invoking the Insurrection Act, I do as well. But conditions of insurrection indisputably exist around the country. If governors and mayors fail to deal with insurrection, what is to be done? Instead of saying what you won’t do, General, why don’t you tell us what you would do. Rather than engaging in throwing red meat to the Blue State mob, why don’t you make a principled case for alternative measures. And preferably do so in private.

Oh, but I guess that would require an honest acknowledgement of the reality of the situation, which we’ve already seen you are incapable or unwilling of doing.

Mattis’ letter is filled with mawkish language about his sacred duty as a soldier. Well, General, political backshooting is hardly the duty of any American service member, and especially not of a Marine.

Does “Science” Mean Results That Are Too Good to Check?

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Politics — cpirrong @ 5:45 pm

You’d think that in the face of a feared pandemic that was thought to put the lives of millions at risk, the prospect of a cheap, proven, and widely available treatment would be a godsend. In a sane world, you’d be right. In our twisted, increasingly dystopian one, you are dead wrong.

Hydroxychloroquine is a decades-old anti-malarial drug that has exhibited antiviral properties. It is off-patent, and cheap. It has been used billions of times.

Some anecdotal evidence suggested that hydroxychloroquine could reduce mortality in Covid-19 patients, especially if used in a timely fashion and in conjunction with zinc and/or antibiotics. Some also suggested it might have prophylactic uses.

Great, right? WRONG! The drug has been the subject of unrelenting attack for months now.

Why? The cause is overdetermined.

Probably the biggest reason is that Trump said positive things about it. And if Trump supports something, it must not just be opposed: IT MUST BE DESTROYED.

But that doesn’t explain all the opposition. Being off-patent and cheap, its’ not in the interest of the pharmaceutical industry to promote or even defend it. In fact, it is against the interest of those developing new anti-Covid drugs. Moreover, it is definitely an anathema to the vaccine evangelists (or the vaccine cult, if you prefer), most notably the malign and creepy Bill Gates. The elites have no vested interest in this everyman’s drug, and some have an extremeoy strong interest against it.

Hence the war on hydroxychloroquine.

The anti-hydroxychloroquine forces thought they had scored a decisive victory with a publication in the (don’t ask me why, given some of its past escapades) esteemed medical journal The Lancet which purported to show that not only was the drug inefficacious in treading Covid-19, it was positively dangerous, leading to substantially increased risk of fatal heart conditions.

So hydroxychloroquine quickly became the New Thalidomide. Almost immediately upon the article’s publication, other clinical trials of the drug were stopped. France banned its use in the country.

But the article quickly received scrutiny, and its findings proved unsupported at best, and perhaps utterly fraudulent. The results were certainly not reproducible. The data were assembled by a small firm nobody had ever heard of, which allegedly trawled electronic health records to compile a huge sample. But the results give indications that the data were made up out of the whole cloth:

Other researchers were befuddled by the data themselves. Though 66% of the patients were reportedly treated in North America, the reported doses tended to be higher than the guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, White notes. The authors claim to have included 4402 patients in Africa, 561 of whom died, but it seems unlikely that African hospitals would have detailed electronic health records for so many patients, White says.

The study also reported more deaths in Australian hospitals than the country’s official COVID-19 death statistics, The Guardian reported. On 29 May, The Lancet issued a correction updating a supplemental table and saying that a hospital assigned to the study’s “Australasia” group should have been assigned to Asia. “There have been no changes to the findings of the paper,” the correction notice said.

Similar problems have been identified in other articles on Covid-19 using data produced by the same firm.

There were also serious methodological problems. (See the linked Science article for details.)

The Lancet, for its part, said it had “concerns.” Really? What was your first clue?

The haste with which this article was published, and the greater haste with which our supposed betters acted upon it, is grotesque. It gives all the appearance of rushing out results that advance a certain agenda or agendas, and since they do, being too good to check.

We are constantly lectured and hectored about Science! Don’t question The Science! If you dispute The Science!, you are knuckle-dragging flat earther fundamentalist!

In fact, the first virtue of true science is skepticism: question everything. And it is precisely events like this Lancet study which suggest that the thing we should be most skeptical about is professional science, particularly as related to subjects where strong political or economic interests are involved.

That is indeed a tragedy.

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