Streetwise Professor

May 13, 2022

Congresspeople, Being Idiots, As Always: Gasoline Price Edition

Filed under: Commodities,CoronaCrisis,Economics,Energy,Russia — cpirrong @ 6:28 pm

Mark Twain never grows old:

“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

This came to mind when reading about the proposal of Rep. Katie Porter to impose some sort of price control on gasoline:

Since the beginning of recorded history–and that is not hyperbole–the stock government response to high prices is price controls. The Pharaohs. Hammurabi. Diocletian. And many other examples. And it continues through the ages to more recent history, e.g., rent control in NY starting in WWII, Nixon in 1973.

And the result is always the same: economic disaster. It is price controls result in real shortages: people standing in lines, empty shelves, etc.

Always. If price doesn’t clear the market, waste (e.g., time spent standing in line) will.

But politicians never learn.

Nancy Pelosi (who is old enough to remember gas lines–hell, she’s probably old enough to remember the Code of Diocletian, if not that of Hammurabi) is of course fully on board. Which is an illustration that the adage “those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it” is wrong: many who can remember the past repeat its errors nonetheless.

Elizabeth Warren hasn’t weighed in on this yet, but you know she will, because she’s the main spokes-shrieker for The Gouger Theory of Prices.

The Gouger Theory is stupid on its face. Did oil companies wake up one morning and realize: “Whoa! We coulda jacked up prices and gouged the suckers! What were we thinking?” Did they have some sort of epileptic fit in 2020, when prices crashed? What were they thinking?

No. This isn’t gouging. This is-as it almost always is-fundamentals.

Oil prices are high. But in this week’s edition of “Find the Bottleneck,” that’s only one of the drivers (no pun intended) behind high gasoline and diesel prices. The bottleneck is in refining.

How do we know? Let’s look at the diesel crack:

It’s gone from around $22/bbl to as high as $70/bbl. (And the $22 is high compared to what it was a year ago). (Gasoline crack somewhat similar though not as bad–though it is likely to get so when the peak demand season kicks in.)

A high refining margin means that refinery capacity is constrained. And yes, it is constrained: it’s not as if refiners are exercising market power (i.e., gouging) by withholding output. Here is the capacity utilization in the US over time:

It’s running at pre-Pandemic levels.

And here’s another thing: post-Pandemic capacity is well below pre-Pandemic capacity:

That drop from pre-Pandemic levels is around 5 percent. That’s a lot.

So refineries are running flat out, and refinery capacity is down. What do you get?: big refining margins and high prices at the pump. Yes, it’s good to be a refiner now (though not so much two years ago). But it’s not good because you get to exercise market power. It’s because even under competition it’s highly profitable because of supply-demand fundamentals.

A variety of factors have contributed to this. The loss of a good chunk of Russian oil output is keeping the price of oil up, but the loss of Russian diesel supplies to Europe is probably a bigger factor. The US is to a large extent filling the gap, to the extent it can, by exporting.

But no matter how you break it down, it is clear that this is fundamentals driven. It is not gouging. And capping prices on the delusional belief that it is gouging will wreak economic havoc.

Which has never stopped the Democrats before, I know. (And Republicans too, e.g., Nixon).

One thing here does deserve emphasis. The decline in capacity is directly attributable to the Pandemic. Correction: it is directly attributable to the horrible policy choices that politicians and bureaucrats forced on us in the name of the Pandemic. The lockdowns in particular.

Like many, many things going on in commodity world right now, the current spike in product prices overall, and relative to crude, is yet another baleful consequence of completely mental decisions to shut down economies and crater the economics of producing and processing commodities.

In other news of economic-related political hysteria, there is also a lot of finger pointing going on about baby formula. I don’t have the information at hand to analyze in the same way as I can refined petroleum prices, but I can say what it isn’t. It isn’t “oligopoly.”

But again, those educated in politics (did I really use “educated” and “politics” in the same sentence?) and not economics immediately seize on this as an explanation.

Er, the baby formula business was an oligopoly a year ago. And a year before that. And a year before that. So . . . why all of a sudden did they supposedly decide to create a shortage? And pray tell–how do you make money if you aren’t selling stuff?

So whenever Congresspeople, or people who buzz around them like insects (yeah, I’m looking at you, journalists) come up with some economic brainstorm, remember Twain. They’re idiots. Dangerous idiots.

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May 1, 2022

The Ministry of Truth Will Outsource Censorship, Just as Happened With COVID

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:00 pm

The awful head of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkos, set off a firestorm last week when he revealed that the DHS was setting up a “Disinformation Governance Board,” tasked with fighting disinformation. It has also been announced that a real head case, and a hyper-partisan one to boot, Nina Jankowicz will head the Board.

Left unanswered was how this new entity will combat disinformation. Here is my surmise. It will identify certain stories as disinformation, giving official imprimatur to this designation: it will not take any direct action against anyone disseminating this information. Instead, social media companies will then censor or suppress these stories, claiming that they have been identified as disinformation by the government–and who can argue with that, right? They always have our best interest at heart, right? Mommy is just protecting us from bad things!

This is the way that social media shut down COVID stories it didn’t like. If something contradicted CDC or WHO, Facebook and Twitter would label it disinformation and take efforts to suppress it.

In essence, with COVID, social media companies became the enforcers of bans on speech the government didn’t like. In an effort to circumvent First Amendment issues, the government essentially outsourced censorship to private entities. The private entities were happy to go along, because they were on board with the agenda.

The model worked so well that the government is now looking to expand this privatized censorship model to embrace all speech.

This transparent end run around the First Amendment cannot be allowed to stand. The first time Twitter or Facebook or anyone uses the Ministry of Truth’s guidance to remove or throttle or prevent the posting of content, there should be a 1A lawsuit.

Hell, there should have been such suits already over social media COVID censorship.

The real possibility that an Elon Musk-owned Twitter will not play this game is precisely why there has been such a hysterical reaction to his purchase.

This is the biggest threat to our 1A rights in our lifetime, and possibly ever. It cannot stand. It must be fought, and the battle must be won.

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April 9, 2022

When People Talk About Zero This or Net Zero That, Zero Is a Good Approximation of Their IQ

Filed under: China,Climate Change,CoronaCrisis,Economics,Politics — cpirrong @ 11:34 am

The optimal amount of any “bad” (e.g., crime, cancer) is very, very seldom zero.* This is because the marginal cost of reducing a harm increases (typically at an increasing, and often rapidly increasing, rate): eventually the cost of reducing the harm further exceeds the benefit, usually well before the harm is eliminated.

Unfortunately, a good fraction of the world is in the thrall of those with Zero obsessions who ignore this fundamental reality. COVID and climate are the two most telling examples.

Countries pursuing “zero COVID” strategies have subjected their citizens to draconian measures that have deprived them of the blessings of normal human interaction, and freedom of thought and movement. Children especially have been brutalized, losing two years of schooling, socialization, and even the ability to speak and understand and interpret the non-verbal due to absurd masking requirements.

This brutality has unsurprisingly reached its zenith (or nadir, if you prefer) in China, a nation of 1.3 billion governed by a despotic regime that has gone all in on Zero COVID. The outbreak of COVID in Shanghai after years of restrictions proves the futility of the objective. The CCP’s response to the proof of the futility shows its insanity.

In response to the outbreak, the regime has locked down a city of over 26 million people. And this ain’t your Aussie or Kiwi or American or Brit or Continental lockdown, boys and girls: this is a hardcore lockdown. Mandatory daily testing, with those testing positive sent right to hospital, symptomatic or no–despite the fact that this has overwhelmed the medical system and is depriving truly sick people of vital care. Children separated from parents. People locked in their abodes, often without adequate food. Pets slain.

It is draconian–and dystopian.

The other prominent example is “Net Zero” carbon emissions. This has become the idol which all the right thinking bow down before, especially in the West. Governments, financial institutions, and other businesses (especially in the energy industry) are judged based on a single criteria: do their actions contribute to achieving “net zero” emissions of greenhouse gases? And woe to those who do not pass this judgment.

It is absurd. And it is absurd because the monomaniacal focus on a single measure immediately banishes all considerations of trade-offs, of costs and benefits. The implicit belief is that the cost of carbon is infinite, and hence it is worth incurring any finite cost–no matter how huge–to achieve it.

And the costs are immense, have no doubt. In particular, the environmental costs–the production of battery metals involves massive environmental costs, for example–are huge. Yet they are ignored by people who preen over how green they are. Because to them, Only One Thing Matters.

This is beyond stupid. Those who will impose any cost, and force others to bear any burden, in order to achieve some Zero reveal that that number is a good approximation of their IQ.

Upon reflection, I believe that the worship of Zero is a mutation of the worship of central planning with dominated the pre-WWII era, and which was supposedly discredited by experience (e.g., the USSR) and intellectual argument (e.g., Hayek, von Mises). Central planning involved the determination by an elite of an objective to be achieved by a society, and the use of coercion–at whatever level necessary–to achieve that objective. Actually, compared to the Rule of the Zeroes, central planning was quite nuanced: it usually did involve some acknowledgement of trade-offs, whereas the Rule of the Zeros does not, with everything–literally everything–being subordinated to the One Zero.

But ultimately, central planning foundered on the reef of its internal contradictions. Attempting to impose a singular objective on a complex, emergent system consisting of myriad individuals pursuing their own idiosyncratic goals was doomed to failure. And it did. But only after inflicting tremendous costs in terms of human lives and human freedom, not to mention human prosperity.

The fundamental inconsistency between emergent and imposed orders meant that central planning required the application of massive coercion. The same is true in the Rule of Zeroes. This has been particularly evident in the case of COVID: what is going on in Shanghai proves this beyond cavil. But the same is inevitable for Net Zero. To impose a centrally dictated objective, and a unidimensional one to boot, on complex societies comprised of billions of individuals with extremely diverse preferences and capabilities is to wage war on human nature, and humanity. Sustaining it necessarily requires the application of massive, and massively increasing, coercion. Because it requires people to “choose” what they would not choose of their own volition.

The populism so scorned by the elite is a natural reaction to this fundamental inconsistency. Whether Le Pen prevails in France or no, the mere fact that it is a possibility reveals the seething discontent of large numbers of folks at the presumptions of their betters. And this is just the latest example of the disconnect between the Zeroes who presume rule, and those whom they presume to rule.

It is a disconnect born of a fundamental misunderstanding of the basic social reality that life involves trade-offs, and that different people value trade-offs differently. That supposedly Smart People have Zero understanding of this reality is a shocking commentary on our “progressive” age.

*Note that I do not say “is never zero.” That would be a paradox, no?

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February 13, 2022

The Tyranny of the Median–Especially When the Median Is Manipulated

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Politics,Russia — cpirrong @ 4:09 pm

The past days (weeks in the case of Canada) have seen a surge of protests in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France. The regimes have acted aggressively in France and Canada in particular. Protestors in Paris–and truth be told, innocent diners at cafes–were tear gassed and many were arrested (and some brutalized). Canadian authorities have taken escalating steps against truckers in Ottawa and on the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, OT.

The Canadian action followed a particularly egregious statement by the appalling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Adopting the wearied, condescending, and supercilious tone of an aggravated parent lecturing a 6 year old, Petit Justin said he had heard the truckers–but was blowing them off. And they had to go to their rooms like good little boys and girls or he would have to get out the whippin’ stick.

Trudeau’s words and actions (and those of bloated Ontario Premier Doug Ford) were welcomed with squeals of delight from the ruling class and its numerous pilot fish, such as the Harvard lecturer (who falsely advertises herself as a professor) who advocated slashing truck tires and siphoning their fuel, and who intimated that even more draconian measures to deliver “hurt” were justified. Similarly, the French crackdown won accolades from the usual suspects.

It is difficult to distinguish the government responses to civil disobedience in Canada, France, and other locations (e.g., the Netherlands, Germany) where anti-mandate/anti-NPI protests have occurred from how Russia responds to such agitation. The main difference being how the western ruling and chattering classes respond–cheering the former and damning the latter.

A common cause of mass civil disobedience in democratic societies–especially when it involves ordinary working people as is the case in Canada, etc.–is the well-known fact that democratic institutions such as voting and representative government are relatively unresponsive to the intensity of preferences. They are driven, roughly speaking, by the preferences of the median citizen. When there is a sizable group in the minority whose preferences diverge substantially and intensely from the median, governments will be at least unresponsive to and often virulently opposed to that minority: the incentives inherent in the democratic political institutions drive that response. Despairing recourse through normal political means, those with these intense but divergent preferences see civil disobedience as the only option available to them.

When such people are by-and-large ordinary, law abiding working people, the protests will be orderly and even carnival-like, as has been observed in Ottawa. But that matters not to the rulers. Such challenges to their authority enrage them. Moreover, in the scenario I am considering, in which protests are driven by a large divergence between minority and median preferences the government will often have considerable political support even if it acts quite aggressively.

I think that is what we are seeing throughout the world right now. In many countries COVID-rationalized restrictions garner considerable support, and arguably the median citizen supports them. Governments are heavily invested in these measures. But large numbers of people are intensely opposed. As a result we see large protests and obdurate governments which apparently believe that compromise is not politically advantageous. Hence the outbreaks of large protests that governments feel empowered to crush.

The US is an interesting case due to the fact that some vestiges of federalism remain. The median preference varies across states, and most police powers inhering in the states, individual states have adopted different policies. Compare say Texas and Florida with California and New York. This reduces the likelihood of a large minority holding intense preferences that differ substantially from the median in the polities that exercise police powers.

There is one important question to consider when evaluating this distribution-of-preferences-based story: what drives preferences?

In the case of COVID and the policy responses thereto, it is abundantly clear that government information operations, often facilitated by private corporations, have played a decisive role in shaping those preferences. The fomenting of fear, bordering on panic. The concerted efforts to quash any dissenting views–to the point now where in the US the Department of Homeland Security proclaims that opinions–and indeed, facts–contrary to official government pronouncements are “misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information” (including regarding COVID in particular) are tantamount to terrorism. Twitter and Facebook in particular have been enthusiastic handmaidens of government efforts to control the narrative. Efforts that are first and foremost directed at shaping preferences and combatting the formation of dissenting preferences and beliefs.

The DHS announcement also claims that what it asserts to be misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information–but which is increasingly clear is truth and fact–is dangerous because it “undermine[s] public trust in government institutions.” This betrays a sacralization of the state–which, perversely ironically, is also a primary objective of Putin’s policies, including his concerted efforts to control public discourse in Russia.

During the Cold War it was sometimes observed that the USSR and the west came to resemble one another in many ways. I think it is fair to say that is much more true today, with respect not just to Russia but China as well. 

Some people are more amenable to government propaganda than others. So one impact of domestic information warfare is to exacerbate divides between the median and large minorities. Further, those who are less vulnerable to information warfare and coercion, but recognize that they happening, are often outraged by it. This intensifies their preferences and makes them more militant.

I think the above is an accurate model of the trajectory of western societies in the past two years. The median has been manipulated by relentless government information warfare that played on fear. This has made it politically possible for ostensibly representative governments to impose draconian measures. But these measures have elicited intense opposition from those who have been resistant to–or repelled by–the measures themselves, and the propaganda used to promote them. The result is protests, and crackdowns thereon.

The one thing that will change this current equilibrium is an evident divide between government-driven panic narratives and the empirical reality that people experience: this would tend to move the median. That seems to be occurring now. In the US, some states are relaxing restrictions and changing their messaging when the latest scariant turned out to be largely benign–clear indications that the median is in fact moving.

We have experienced two years of the tyranny of a manipulated median. One big issue is whether there will be a widespread recognition of this fact, and whether this will engender a backlash. One thing is likely: governments fear this, and for this reason, they will continue and indeed amplify their manipulative information operations. And ironically, although the government believes that waging war on what it characterizes as misinformation etc. is necessary to maintain trust in government institutions, in the end nothing is more corrosive of trust than those very measures. The government has met the enemy, and it is them.

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February 5, 2022

The Canadian Regime Confronts a Truck-o-lution

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Politics — cpirrong @ 12:39 pm

The Canadian regime’s response to the truck-o-lution continues to amaze and disgust. And yesterday its fundamentally fascist–in the strict, not rhetorical sense–nature was revealed.

Yesterday Ottawa Police announced that it was going full China social credit system to investigate the truckers:

You should really read the entire thread. The “intelligence operations” involve collecting “financial, digital, vehicle registration, driver identification, insurance status, and other related evidence that will be used in criminal prosecutions.”

Thoroughgoing domestic surveillance, in other words. One example of the literal fascism.

And no doubt the “authorities” (read “authoritarians”) have infiltrated the truckers. (Maybe carrying suspect flags. Just sayin’!) But governments never infiltrate and manipulate protest movements, right? Who would even suggest such a thing!

And the media–not just Canadian, but US and world media–have reliably functioned as an echo chamber and amplifier of Canadian government propaganda that labels the protestors as fascists, Nazis, white supremacists, racists, misogynists and every other kind of baddie you could name.

Based on what evidence exactly? They oppose the government, and its COVID-related policies in particular. QED! After all, only fascists, Nazis, white supremacists, racists, misogynists and every other kind of baddie you could name would hold such retrograde anti-social(ist) opinions.

The other “evidence” is the few flags and the supposed desecration of a war memorial. About the flags: who was carrying them? Putting aside the obvious logical problem with extrapolating the views of 10s of thousands of individuals from those whom Three Finger Brown could have counted on one hand (with a finger left over), how can anyone be sure that those carrying the flags were part of the protest at all? And numbers matter: Canadian flags outnumber dodgy ones by orders of magnitude. About the memorial: First, interesting, isn’t it, that leftists are suddenly so solicitous of the sanctity of monuments, especially to white war heroes? Second, it was hardly defaced, in the way that say statues of Grant, Lincoln, or others like Hans Heg were defaced–destroyed, actually. It was festooned with a hat and a sign. Oh! The humanity!

In sum, the “evidence” is non-existent. Instead, the Canadian regime and its media lackeys are engaged in mass ad hominem attack and guilt by assertion and association (where the association isn’t even proved!)

Lockstep media repetition of regime propaganda–check another fascism box.

The third box is the fusion of state and corporate power. Yesterday, GoFundMe (GoFuckMe would be more accurate) not only terminated the truckers’ fund raising through GFM, it seized the nearly $10 million already raised, and said it would redistribute the money to other charities. The basis for this action? “Evidence” allegedly supplied by Ottawa Police showing that the protests weren’t protests dontcha know, but were an illegal occupation. So, the cops make an allegation, and GFM acts as judge and jury, and basically implements civil asset forfeiture. AKA state sanctioned theft.

So far, the iron triangle of regime, media, and corporations has not broken the will of the protestors. Indeed, the Prairies are also on fire (in freezing temperatures), and the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan have announced termination of COVID mandates. Truckers are also gathering in Quebec and moving on Quebec City. Farmers are joining in.

This will no doubt spur the regime into taking more active–and violent–measures. It is crucial that the protestors not take the bait and thereby validate the government narrative. Civil disobedience. If the authorities want a Selma in the snow, turn the other cheek.

It is ironic that the Canadian regime is so vocal in its support for Ukraine, but is freaking out over its own Maidan. And who knows, maybe it could turn into Bucharest circa December, 1989. But that would require the little Castroite (and maybe Castro!) to make a public speech to the crowd. And L’il Justin is still in hiding so that ain’t happening.

What is going on in Canada is the most visible symptom of the conflict between the ruling class and those they presume to rule. Why it is occurring in Canada is an interesting sociological question which I hope to explore in future posts. But the divide revealed in Canada is present throughout the world, so I doubt this will be the last such confrontation. And the sooner the better.

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January 31, 2022

Convoy!

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Politics — cpirrong @ 7:28 pm

Back in the 1970s, truckers were the avatars of freedom and the personification of popular resistance against petty, unreasoning, power-mad authority. The spirit was expressed in the film Convoy:

and the song of the same title.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, we are having another 70s flashback. An immense, well, convoy of truckers from across Canada has swarmed the country’s capital of Ottawa. The immediate cause of their protest is the government’s mandating of vaccines for all truckers entering Canada. But really the trucks are carrying the accumulated discontents of many with all policies COVID, which are especially onerous in Canada. (Recall my Anglosphere post of some months back: Canada has been competing with Australia and New Zealand for the Commonwealth COVID Fascism Cup, the UK having recently dropped out of the competition.)

The Canadian government, and its obnoxious premier Justin Trudeau in particular, are absolutely losing their shit over this. Trudeau has repeatedly slandered the protesters in a way that he never would have dreamed with, say, BLM protesters even though the latter did commit violence and destruction on Canadian streets and the truckers have been firm but peaceful and polite.

Some Trudeau tweets:

Trudeau has also said that the protesters are a “small fringe minority” with “unacceptable views” and that “what we are hearing from some people associated with this convoy is completely unacceptable.”

Hey, boy–and I do mean boy–if it’s such a small fringe, how come you are so scared of it? So scared that you were whisked to an “undisclosed location.” (Hey, I thought that was Dick Cheney’s job!) So scared that you claimed that you had to go into isolation because you’d been exposed to COVID, therefore conveniently preventing you from addressing the protests publicly (where, no doubt, you would be booed heartily).

That’s why it’s more than hilariously ironic that you call on people to “be courageous,” pantywaist that you are. Yeltsin on a tank, you ain’t. You are a complete and utter wuss who is apparently so lacking in confidence in your ability to persuade and so devoid of testicular fortitude that you run away and slander.

Those truckers are dynamite!

And the irony of your injunction to “speak out” is also too much. Yeah, be brave, people! Speak out! Except about any government policy that one doesn’t like, such as vaccine mandates. Then, if you do speak out, you are expressing “unacceptable views” and you must shut up or be repressed.

So Trudeau’s Canada again imitates Holy Grail:

“Will you shut up!?!?” Justin couldn’t have said it better himself.

Also note the typical statist MO here. Trudeau and his creatures in the government and media (including the US media) are focusing obsessively on extremely isolated incidents of allegedly hateful statements and symbols (e.g., a Confederate flag) said or displayed by the truckers, and using this to tar the entire movement. This is a typical, and typically dishonest tactic. Also, given the prominence given to these episodes in government propaganda, do not discount–at all–the possibility that some of them are government created. Literal false flags, as it were.

Justin Trudeau is a loathsome little twat who wet himself with excitement about COVID presenting an opportunity to “reset” the entire world economy and society:

The only thing the Davos crowd probably found objectionable to Trudeau’s remarks is that he said them so openly, lest they bring unwanted attention to their grand scheme.

Trudeau is of a type and there are many like him in power around the world. He particularly reminds me of California governor Gavin Newsom. In this I am not alone. A friend said that Trudeau and Newsom were created in the same lab. To which I added: “Yes. By Klaus Schwab.”

There is talk of a similar convoy in the United States. I hope so. To put our not-so-fearless “leaders” on the spot. To force them to make plain their utter hypocrisy: the will no doubt scream “extremists” and “coup” even though the protests will be peaceful, in stark contrast to their endorsement of violent and destructive protests in 2020.

And to force them to be accountable for two years of disastrous COVID policies. Vaccine mandates are the straw that broke the camel’s back, but the grievances go far deeper than that, and stretch back for two whole years.

There are some who believe that the official COVID narrative, and the policies that narrative justified, are crumbling. Some countries, notably Denmark, have thrown in the towel and abandoned almost all restrictions, and have effectively stated that vaccines are ineffective. The UK has gone almost as far.

I am not so sanguine that this will spread. Too many governments are too invested in the narrative, and too intoxicated by the power that they have seized under the guise of public health to give it up willingly. Note that Trudeau has doubled down despite being confronted with the most robust protests in the world. France and Germany and other countries have been equally truculent in dealing with their disgruntled citizens.

But although pressure like the convoy in Canada may not be sufficient to end the tyranny, it is necessary. So by all means, let the example spread, to the US to the world. And do your part. Take L’il Justin’s advice! Speak out. Oppose the repression. Engage in peaceful civil disobedience when you can. Support those who are subject to attack for speaking out. By doing so, we might, just might, restore freedom and civil society, and topple tyrants.

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January 16, 2022

Dispatches From Dystopia

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Economics,Politics — cpirrong @ 7:17 pm

The shade of James Buchanan rests easy now, secure in the knowledge that he is no longer the worst president in US history.

Although the eclipse of Buck’s dubious claim to fame has been evident for some months, his successor to the sobriquet sealed the deal with a truly loathsome (even by his standards) speech on “voting rights” in Georgia last week. Unsurprisingly demonstrating no shame, or self-knowledge, the one-time buddy of full-on segregationists (e.g., Eastland, Talmadge, Byrd) and man who bragged that (a) Delaware had sided with the South in the Civil War, and (b) that George Wallace praised him, claimed that anyone who opposed the federalization of US elections was in a confederacy with Bull Connor, selfsame George Wallace and . . . Jefferson Davis.

Buchanan was a disaster because he fiddled while the country spun into disunion and civil war. But although he failed to stop it, he didn’t actively stoke division and hatred. Which is what exactly Biden did in his speech.

A sharp contrast to Biden’s previous claims (e.g., in his inaugural address) that he would be a unifier.

As if that was ever credible.

Biden’s speech was so repulsive that even his pom-pom squad (e.g., Peggy Noonan, Chuck Todd, DICK Durbin, Al Sharpton, CNN, MSNBC, etc.) recoiled in horror. Not even they would drink this KoolAid.

But to anyone who is shocked: seriously? Where have you been during Biden’s entire public life? He has ALWAYS been a mean, nasty, dishonest, repulsive schmuck. Did I mention dishonest? His hair plugs are the most honest thing about him. Anyone who fell for the avuncular Joe shtick was an idiot or self-deluded.

In sum, it was only a matter of time before Brandon elbowed Buchanan to the side, and assumed the mantle of worst president in American history. Worst in personality (which is saying something, given the likes of LBJ), the most intellectually limited (by a mile, even before his senescence), and the most inept.

An illustration of Mencken’s adage: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”


Well, we’re getting it good and hard now, ain’t we?

And as for democracy, and in particular, “our democracy”, Biden’s mantra is that state control of elections is tantamount to Jim Crow. Well, state control of elections has been a staple of “our democracy” (sic–the US is a republic) since the first federal election in 1788. But now it’s not, apparently. Indeed, its an anathema to it.

So spare me any blather about “our democracy” (sic). What we are witnessing is not reverence for, and an effort to protect, our political traditions: it is a concerted attempt to overthrow them.

Switching gears somewhat in my tour-de-dystopia–to COVID. (Not a complete shift, because Biden’s idiocy appears here too).

Here there is too much ground to cover–the entire globe, in fact. So much malignity to choose from. But much of it focuses on vaccine mandates.

Even this is a target rich environment. Macron saying that those refusing vaccination were not citizens and that he would piss on them. Quebec fining the unvaccinated and Canada barring unvaccinated truckers from entering the country (thereby exacerbating an already acute supply chain situation). Germany. Austria. (Germans gonna German!) Biden’s attempts to foist them on the US via OSHA or HHS (the former foiled the latter alas not).

But Australia presents the most egregious example. Australia has been in an intense competition with Canada and New Zealand for the Commonwealth Fascist Cup, but had eased into a comfortable lead with its concentration camps and truncheoning protesters (including old ladies). It has decided to cement its lead with its actions in a very high profile case.

Unvaccinated tennis great Novak Djokovic was just deported, thereby preventing him from playing in the Australian Open (with the very good chance of setting the record for Grand Slam victories). Was he deported because he violated visa requirements? No, even the Australian government recognized that he had a recognized and legitimate exemption–a previous COVID infection which made him less of a threat to the health of Australians than his vaccinated competitors. No. They deported him because he may “foster anti-vaccination sentiment.”

That is, he might galvanize opposition to government propaganda. Or, put differently, he would potentially undermine Mass Formation Psychosis.

Can’t have that!

Note well that governments’ insistence on vaccination has been almost perfectly negatively correlated with evidence regarding vaccine efficacy and perfectly positively correlated with evidence regarding its risks, especially for the non-aged.

To learn more about evidence of the always weak and now declining efficacy of the vaccines, read Substacks by el gato malo, Steve Kirsch, or Alex Berenson. The evidence is too strong to ignore–but governments are doubling down on ignoring it.

Hell, don’t believe them? How ’bout Bill Gates?: “The vaccines we have prevent severe disease and death very well but they are missing two key things. First they still allow infections (‘breakthrough’) and the duration appears to be limited. We need vaccines that prevent re-infection and have many years of duration.” So they don’t work long and they don’t stop the spread. Other than that, they’re great!

Don’t believe Bill? How about the Pfizer CEO, Albert Bourla?:

“The two doses, they’re not enough for omicron,” Bourla said. “The third dose of the current vaccine is providing quite good protection against deaths, and decent protection against hospitalizations.”

And believe me, these are the mildest characterizations of mRNA “vaccine” efficacy.

And as for the health risks, the anecdotal evidence (e.g., athletes collapsing or withdrawing from competition due to heart issues) is pretty startling.

Well, you might say, it’s only anecdotal evidence. But I guarantee that for any other medication, this anecdotal evidence would catalyze public outrage and spur aggressive government investigations, and indeed, pre-emptive pauses on further vaccination pending a thorough inquiry.

But here we see the exact opposite from governments. They do not even deign to acknowledge the issue, but double down on their demonization of the unvaccinated, their dismissal of doubts, and their demand for obedience.

Why? For the worst of reasons.

First, governments are loath to admit their myriad errors regarding the panicdemic, most notably their errors in wildly exaggerating the miracles that mRNA technology would shower upon a beleaguered world. Two shots didn’t work??? Then THREE! Three don’t work? FOUR! (The Dutch are planning six!)

Insanity: doing the same thing over, and expecting different results.

And this does not even get into the possibilities mooted by some even before mRNA treatments were widely employed that they could have unintended consequences, such as stimulating mutation or damaging immune systems.

Second, and even more disturbingly, as with most of the COVID policies we have endured the last two years, it’s not really about public health. It’s about public control. The Djokovic situation demonstrates that clearly: he was a threat not because he jeopardized public health (which the government acknowledged he did not), but because he jeopardized the government’s control over an ovine public. The sheep might get ideas!

(Never forget that 40 percent of Australians descend from prison guards conditioned to exact obedience. I shudder to think at the proportion among those in government. And many of the rest descend from prisoners conditioned to obey.)

Take any government policy adopted over the last two years that seems completely insane from a public health perspective. Then evaluate it from the perspective of whether it advances government control–or elite control (e.g., the Bill Gateses of the world).

You’ll find that the public health insanity is the epitome of government control rationality. Every. Damned. Time.

The Djokovic deportation is unique only because it is a disarmingly honest recognition of that fact.

There are stirrings of discontent around the world. But stirrings are not enough. The time for full-blown civil disobedience has arrived. No disobedience now, dystopia forever.

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December 4, 2021

Fuck (Normal, Politicized, Faucist) “Science®”

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Economics,Politics,Regulation — cpirrong @ 2:44 pm

One of the most disgusting tropes in the ongoing (and ongoing and ongoing and ongoing) controversy over COVID policy is the resort to ritual incantations of “science.” This is epitomized by Fauci’s recent declaration that “le science c’est moi.” If you disagree with him, you are anti-science, because he represents science.

This is a logical fallacy (appeal to authority) squared: you can’t challenge Fauci’s authority because he is cloaked in the authority of science. Fauci rivals Louis XIV in his grandiosity.

The science fetishists should read about the sociology of science, and in particular Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It is a dense work that makes many penetrating observations, but the crucial concept he identifies is “normal science.” That is, he emphasizes the institutional context of science, and the incentives facing those who identify as scientists, and are widely recognized as such.

The basic idea is that in the aftermath of scientific revolutions, a “paradigm” emerges that represents the conventional wisdom, and that most scientists are working within that paradigm. Moreover, they are heavily invested in it and would suffer a massive loss in their human capital if that paradigm were to be displaced. Thus, even as contradictory evidence accumulates, the science community resists. It does not act as the scientific methodology dictates, that is, by rejecting or revising theories that fail empirical test. Instead, the community attacks the apostates and repeatedly appeals to its authority to thwart attacks on the ruling paradigm even as contrary evidence accumulates. It doubles down on the paradigm whenever contrary evidence emerges.

This is why most scientific revolutions come from rank outsiders. People who are not invested in, and protected by the existing system. People who have little to lose by pointing out that emperor has no clothes.

My favorite example of this is ulcers. An obscure Australian doctor hypothesized that a common bacteria caused ulcers. The response of the scientific community–and the pharmaceutical industry that profited greatly from ulcer medications–was furious. He was ridiculed and marginalized. But eventually, in a triumph of true science, his hypothesis was confirmed by the data, and the normal science hypothesis was displaced.

Thus, rather than genuflecting to the scientific community (which arrogantly identifies itself with Science), one should always treat it with skepticism. Indeed, the more strident the insistence that someone or some group represents Science the more skeptical you should be. Their stridence reveals that they are afraid, very afraid, that their paradigm is under credible assault.

True scientists are open minded. Normal scientists are close minded. Arrogant defensiveness is symptomatic of normal science under credible threat. A reasonable inference to be drawn from haughty invocations of Science in response to questions is that the science is indeed questionable.

The Kuhnian institutional/sociological forces that warp scientific inquiry are made far, far worse when a scientific issue intersects politics. This is especially true given the gargantuan role of government funding of science: the guardians of the paradigm control who gets the grants. And this is especially especially true when there are strong commercial incentives for supporting the paradigm–such as medications that are justified by the paradigm.

All of these factors are at work in COVID. The illness has been hijacked by governments and shadow governments to justify imposition of measures that deprive billions of people basic liberties and to extend the power of those governments far beyond what would have been imaginable even two years ago:

Sadly, it has come to the point where invocations of Science are the hallmark of charlatans and governments and shadow governments that want to control you. This is especially true with respect to COVID “vaccines.” (I use quotation marks because what are being touted as vaccines are very different from traditional vaccines, a fact that is itself suggestive of propaganda and bait-and-switch tactics.).

As I have noted before, the externality argument for these medications is rejected even by government authorities that advocate widespread, and indeed mandatory, vaccination. Even putting that aside, I dare you to name any other medical treatment in the FDA era that would be approved, let alone allowed to remain on the market, in the face of such dubious evidence of efficacy and such widespread indications of serious–and fatal–side effects. (The best proof of the lack of efficacy is the recent official insistence on “boosters.”).

There is no evidence that trade-offs are being evaluated rigorously–scientifically. Indeed, any suggestion that this be done is furiously attacked by government “scientists” and their government funded apparatchiks. This is most glaringly obvious in the case of children. The vast bulk of scientific evidence shows that children and young adults are at little risk of serious illness from COVID, and are not major vectors of spread. So the benefit of vaccinating them is approximately zero. There are plausibly risks of vaccinating them–this is especially true of young adults.

But governments around the world are currently proceeding to force giving children and young adults these shots.

And if you object, on scientific grounds, you are assailed as being an anti-science know nothing.

Science has been perverted in the name of fighting COVID. Sadly, the outcome of this will not be to improve the reputation of science, or to discredit “normal” politicized science: it will be to undermine the authority of true science. Those who proclaim most arrogantly in the name of science–Anthony Fauci most notable among them–are in fact science’s greatest enemies.

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October 19, 2021

Chicken!

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Economics,Politics — cpirrong @ 12:21 pm

The United States is currently in the midst of a colossal game of chicken. The administration, state and local governments, and their CEO pilot fish at major corporations and hospitals are insisting on vaccinating all employees. Large numbers of nurses, pilots, flight attendants, ground crew, police, firemen, and other working stiffs are resisting. Notably, many in the military are resisting–including most notably special operators.

Who will blink? If neither side blinks, the crack up will be epic. There will be a severe loss of public protection services, and crime will spike. Ironically, given that the supposed justification for all of the various anti-COVID measures has been to protect the health care system, the loss of nurses will lead to a substantial overload on these systems: some hospitals are already cutting down on care, including emergency care. The already strained transportation will crack. Perhaps most ominously, the United States military will be seriously degraded, as the personnel loss is likely to be concentrated among the most highly trained, and disproportionately impact combat units.

Southwest Airlines was red pilled by what transpired over the Columbus Day weekend, and has relented on mandates. Alas, it is the exception, not the rule. (Delta is another exception. American and United are adamantly not.) Virtually all other mandate maniacs have their foot pushed to the floor.

It is beyond doubting that those resisting mandates are in the right, and those insisting are them are in the wrong.

I repeat: beyond doubt.

Even the administration’s politicized scientists at the CDC have acknowledged that vaccines do nothing–nothing–to prevent transmission. There is therefore no externality that can rationalize coercion. (And as I’ve noted before, even if such an externality existed, it does not necessarily support mandates: it is a necessary but not sufficient condition for them.)

Further, the efficacy of the vaccines is becoming more dubious by the day. The clinical trial results represent an extreme upper bound on efficacy, and real world experience is proving them far less robust than promised.

Moreover, although there is much controversy about this issue, the vaccines may have severe negative externalities: that is, they may supercharge the mutation process and lead to the the accelerated evolution of more virulent strains resistant to the existing vaccines. (Cynics will say that from the perspective of the vaccine makers, this is a feature, not a bug.) Here the science is not settled, but that in itself is reason not to proceed full speed with mandates.

Therefore, like virtually all government policy (and not just in the US), coercive vaccination is all pain, no gain.

Yet governments and their CEO collaborators proceed apace, undeterred by reality.

The administration blames everything–everything–currently ailing the country on the unvaccinated. They are the epitome of evil and the scapegoats for everything currently ailing America (the economy especially).

Example: Supply chain problems? THE UNVACCINATED!!! BLAME THEM!!!

And vaccinating everyone will fix everything, according to the “authorities.”

This is pure, 100 percent, unadulturated horseshit. Patent medicine barkers in the 19th century would be embarrassed at the abject dishonesty here.

So why are we here? Why are we in a situation in which government at all levels–with a mendacious administration in the lead–persisting hell bent on such a destructive and apparently irrational course?

Because from their perspective it is not irrational. Yes, it is irrational from a perspective of public health, economic health, and personal liberty. It is not irrational if your true objective is oppression for oppression’s sake. Then it makes perfect sense.

All of the non-pharmaceutical and pharmaceutical interventions make perfect sense if the objective is to compel submission to government authority. All of the unremitting attacks on therapeutic mitigation of COVID make sense if the objective is compulsion.

It’s about control, not health. Then the question arises what is the purpose of exerting such control?, but that’s the subject of future posts.

And governments are so obsessed with control that they appear dead set on steamrolling anyone who resists or objects, even though by doing so they will wreak great havoc on lives, and on the economy (which, of course, also impacts lives).

Many of those resisting mandates appear to be quite strong in their convictions. (When a football coach chooses to forego a $3 million payday rather than submit, he is definitely putting money where his mouth is. So are all the others who are jeopardizing careers and pensions with their refusal.) Governments and companies appear similarly committed. Given that neither appears to be likely to swerve or jump, the outcome is therefore likely to be ugly indeed.

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September 10, 2021

If You Believe “The Worse, the Better” Joe Biden Is the President You’ve Been Waiting For

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Economics,Politics,Regulation — cpirrong @ 6:35 pm

In my next-to-last post I said Joe Biden gave the worse speech by any president in my lifetime. In his relentless pursuit of perfection, Biden excelled himself and gave an even worse speech yesterday.

Afghanistan last week, COVID yesterday.

As with the Afghanistan speech, the COVID speech was wretched both in terms of atmospherics and substance. The speech dripped with condescension and disdain for large numbers of Americans, notably those who are not vaccinated. (Implicit in most attacks on the unvaccinated is that they are white MAGA Neanderthals: in fact, Biden’s and the Democrats’ most important constituency, low income blacks, are disproportionately represented: why aren’t Biden and his party tarred as racists?)

One line in particular was disgusting: “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.” Our patience? Our patience? Who are you? Just who the fuck are you that your patience matters fuck all?

And who is this we/our? You royalty now Joe? Or are you speaking on behalf of those actually pulling the strings.

Biden made two main arguments: it’s hard to decide which is more idiotic and insulting.

The first is that the unvaccinated pose a threat to the vaccinated: “We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers.”

Well, it looks like Dumb and Dumber have a new partner–Dumbest:

Image

The externality argument for mandated vaccinations has always been extremely weak. (Not surprisingly, alas, many economists have pushed this lazy argument because too many economists thinking about externalities is lazy in general.) As Coase pointed out long ago, it takes at least two to have an externality, and it is neither obvious nor relevant who “causes” it. The optimal assignment of a property right (and in the case of vaccination policy, what is involved is property rights in one’s person) depends on who is the least cost avoider.

With vaccines, if you are at high risk of COVID, and/or petrified of it, and/or think that the risk of vaccine is low, you can avoid COVID by becoming vaccinated yourself at lower cost than requiring someone who, for example, perceives the vaccine risk to be higher or incurs some other cost to take it (e.g., a religious objection) to be vaccinated. You can protect yourself at low cost: why force someone else to protect you at high cost?

So vaccinate yourself, and don’t force anyone else to do it–or demand the government force anyone else to do it.

But that argument is really moot now. Biden’s mandate is driven by the Delta variant, and Biden’s own CDC–you know, the experts whom we are supposed to defer to–says that vaccination doesn’t reduce the risk of transmission (though it does reduce the risk of serious illness–supposedly, although experience in Israel and elsewhere is casting doubt on that).

(One aside. This speech and the policies expressed were cast specifically as being a response to Delta. If you follow the data, you will see Delta has crested and is declining rapidly: even the NYT admits as such. As well as representing an unwarranted and unjust exercise of power, this policy is cynical: the administration will take credit for the decline in Delta even though it will have nothing to do with it.)

Further, there is the issue which has been raised by very esteemed (or at least once-esteemed) scientists (e.g., Nobel winner Luc Montagnier, but not just him) that the vaccines have spillover effects. Namely, it is hypothesized, and there is some evidence to support, that the vaccines accelerate mutation and in particular mutations that evade the vaccines. Meaning that there could be negative externality not from avoiding vaccination, but from being vaccinated.

As for the other costs that Biden mentions, namely the higher risk of serious illness and death among the unvaccinated, well that’s internalized: people willingly run the risk, and pay the consequences.

Biden’s other argument was “keeping our children safe and our schools open.” “For the children” is the last refuge of the modern (leftist) scoundrel. There is massive evidence–far more definitive than just about anything related to COVID–that children are at extremely low risk of either contracting or communicating COVID.

So hey, teacher, leave those kids alone.

It is particularly disgusting to see children used as Trojan horses for oppressive government policies given the massive harm that has been inflicted on them by governments at every level, most notably by denying them more than a year of education, as well as isolating them socially.

Not only are vaccine mandates a policy monstrosity, the means by which Biden is attempting to implement them are constitutionally monstrous. He has issued an executive order instructing OSHA to issue an emergency rule requiring all those firms employing more than 100 to make employment conditional on vaccination. As an emergency rule, this will be rushed through without the normal procedural safeguards the can sometimes prevent the promulgation of misguided and destructive policies. Moreover, doing this at the federal level by executive–something Biden said during the campaign he would not do and which his execrable flack Psaki said he could not do as recently as 23 July–runs roughshod over the Constitution and federalism.

But that was then. This is now. The even more execrable White House Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, called the OSHA gambit “the ultimate work-around.” Funny I remember the oath of office being about protecting and defending the Constitution, not “working around” it.

Why do we even have a Congress? That’s a serious question. Why do we have states? Another serious question.

Many parts of the country are strongly opposed to his. Many governors in states in those parts of the country have vowed to fight. To which Biden said: “If they will not help, if those governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way.”

What powers would those be? Just how, pray tell, can the president get governors “out of the way”? A drone strike? (You know, like the one that killed an Afghan who had helped Americans and his children?)

I’ve said before, and I will say it again: we are hurtling towards a constitutional crisis. Vaccine mandates are bad on the merits, and even worse when rammed down our throats while throwing constitutional and federal principles to the winds.

Not only has Biden given the worst presidential speeches of my lifetime, he has cemented his place as the worst, most destructive president of my lifetime, supplanting–by a mile–the loathsome LBJ. Alas, LBJ’s deficiencies became acute when he was entering the last year of his first full term (and his fifth year in office). Biden’s are manifest mere months after his inauguration. And his abject failings, and stubborn, disdainful refusal to brook any objection, are fanning the flames of civil conflict that could make the Vietnam protests look tame by comparison.

I have considered whether we have reached a stage where “the worse, the better” is a reasonable position. If one does indeed believe that, these are the times for you, and Joe Biden is the president for you.

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