Streetwise Professor

March 4, 2023

Christopher Wray: Getting to High Ground Ahead of the Truth Tsunami

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Politics — cpirrong @ 11:49 am

This week, FBI Director Christopher Wray matter of factly stated: “the FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan.”

Now he tells us!

Wray’s remark did not unleash a frenzy of invective, in contrast to the Department of Energy’s earlier expression of the same conclusion. For example, the truly nasty piece of work Colbert screeched that the DoE needed to “stay in its lane.” (Colbert’s is apparently the I-get-to-tell-the-government-to-stay-in-its-lane lane). Colbert has not provided Wray similar instruction. Other media outlets that criticized the DoE have also been notably silent about Wray’s revelation.

Although the admission that this was the FBI’s view is what has been most commented on, what stands out to me is that it has been “for quite some time now.” How long, exactly? And why has the FBI hidden its lamp under a basket for so long?

And crucially: why is it lifting the basket now?

Is this part of a telling-the-truth-slowly strategy on the part of the administration? Is Wray trying to get out ahead of future revelations and keep the FBI’s skirts clean?

Suffice it to say that knowing him, his motivation for saying this now is political, and for purposes of self-preservation, not some commitment to the truth. After all, Wray is a past master at dummying up or evading questions (“sorry, Senator, I can’t answer because I have a plane to catch”).

Wray’s statement, and the DoE’s, is of course vindication to those who argued the possibility, and indeed the likelihood, of a Wuhan lab leak. Though some claimed this was a deliberate leak–part of a Chinese biowar strategy–I and most others who favored the lab leak hypothesis believed it was accidental, while not ruling out that the research itself was military in nature.

Of all of the media- and government-enforced narratives, the one that excoriated and anathematized anyone who advanced this hypothesis was always the most puzzling to me. Why did it matter SO much to the establishment where COVID originated?

Short of a needed (but unlikely to occur) lustration, the best we can do is reason from the clues that we have, starting with (a) who was clearly behind the campaign to discredit this hypothesis?, and (b) cui bono?

The answers to both questions are the same: the CDC, and in particular, Anthony Fauci. The release of Fauci’s emails last year revealed that he, others at CDC, and CDC adjacent scientists and NGOs almost immediately orchestrated a campaign to denigrate this hypothesis and those arguing for it, and advance the natural origins alternative. The Twitter files have subsequently revealed government efforts (including, I might add, the efforts of Wray’s FBI) to censor those even discussing lab leak origins as well as other transgressions of the COVID party line.

The media, of course, quickly snapped to attention, saluted, and relentlessly promoted Fauci’s/the CDC’s narrative.

And how did this benefit Fauci and the CDC? Well, the only razor I’ve shaved with in the last 44 years is Occam’s, and his razor says: because Fauci and the CDC were deeply implicated in the activities of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

In other words, Fauci et al doth protest too much, which implicates them as surely as Lady Macbeth. (Although the Lady at least had the decency to go mad out of remorse, which Fauci has not, suggesting that he is a sociopath, if not a psychopath.)

(I note that the Democratic Party is also a beneficiary, as it used the discrediting of the lab leak hypothesis as a way of discrediting Trump, who had asserted it.)

Every day that a natural host is not discovered is another strike against the natural origins hypothesis, and gives further weight in support of the leak alternative. Three years with no host identified despite an intense search–and the keen interest of the CCP in finding one–makes the natural origins hypothesis highly incredible.

Unlike Fauci, I am not invested in either hypothesis: I am invested in the truth. I am also heavily invested in antipathy to censorship, especially censorship at the behest of interested actors in government. The suppression of any discussion over the lab leak hypothesis, and the anathematizing of anyone who dared speak it, represents a very dark episode in American history.

And the hits keep on coming. Recent evidence (the Cochrane Report) demonstrating the inefficacy of masks. The accumulating evidence on the lack of efficacy of the mRNA “vaccines”–and the health risks they create. And perhaps most importantly, the accumulation of overwhelming evidence that the costs of lockdowns massively outweighed any benefits.

With regards to the latter, the release of WhatsApp messages from the execrable Matt Hancock, formerly the UK’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and more recently reality show contestant, demonstrates that despite all of the arrogant assertions that those in power were acting in the name of Science, they were actually acting in the name of power. Lockdowns were not a well-intentioned policy error, they were a malign policy forced on the public by loathsome figures like Matt Hancock (and Tony Fauci and Deborah Birx and dozens of others in virtually every country of the world, save Sweden).

I called bullshit on the failures of governments even to evaluate trade-offs with respect to lockdowns from the very time they were first mooted. And “whoops, my bad!” won’t make it all better–as if these disgusting creatures even have the decency to say that: they admit nothing.

What makes it all the more egregious and infuriating is that these same people who were the industrial scale producers of disinformation and misinformation also dared (and continue to dare) to scold us (and punish us) for promoting disinformation.

When in fact, there is a tsunami of evidence showing that those who questioned them from the first were right, and they were wrong.

In light of all this, I think that what Wray is doing is trying to get to high ground ahead of the tsunami hitting land in DC, London, etc. It’s cold comfort, in light of the havoc of the last three years. But revenge is a dish best served cold, and God willing the dish has cooled enough in these past years to make the time of reckoning nigh.

Though I seriously doubt there are enough lampposts.

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July 18, 2022

The Imperative of an American Lustration

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 5:56 pm

In the aftermath of the downfall of the Soviet empire, many of its former captive nations (like the Baltics, Poland, and the Czech Republic) implemented a policy of “lustration,” a process of identifying, exposing, and removing officials who were complicit in the oppressions and crimes of the Communist governments that they served. Reading the reviews of Deborah Birx’s book by Michael Senger and Jeffrey Tucker of the Brownstone Institute makes it clear that the post-Communist example is worthy of imitation in post-COVID (speaking optimistically) world.

In her appalling book, this appalling woman chronicles her myriad appalling deeds. In a nutshell, she lied and manipulated and manipulated and lied in order to impose her desired COVID strategy–severe lockdown, of indefinite duration. Moreover, her book makes clear that her beliefs and desires were not grounded in science or fact or a sober appraisal of trade-offs (something that did not enter her “thinking” in the least), but were instead purely the product of her monomania, righteous ignorance, and not a little CCP-philia.

And because largely of this, and her, 330 million Americans had their lives and livelihoods turned upside down.

Of course as egregious as she was, Birx did not work alone. Some of her co-conspirators (and yes, that is the right word) are known: Anthony Fauci, Francis Collins, Robert Redfield, Matthew Pottinger. But there were necessarily many other accessories with much lower public profiles, or indeed no public profilecs at all.

Given the massive harm inflicted on the country, and the lives and liberties of its citizens, the actors and their acts must be known. And not merely through the self-interested memoirs of confessed (indeed boastful) liars. This is necessary not just to punish the guilty (though any punishment will not come anywhere near the harm), but to shed a light on how government “works” in the hope it may not “work” this way in the future.

That’s the purpose of lustration.

The public health establishment should of course be a focus of this effort, to investigate its role in shaping the response to COVID and also its potential role in causing it. But not the only one. The actions of the FDA in approving vaccines and responding (or not, more accurately) to widespread reports of adverse side effects also demand examination. (Look at how the FDA responded to a report about contamination at the Abbot baby formula factory, and compare to how it is responding–or not–to report after report regarding “vaccine” side-effects.)

The military as well. Who is responsible for the vaccine mandates that have devastated morale, led to the separation, resignation, or failure to re-enlist of thousands of dedicated soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, and which are a major cause in the military’s current shocking recruiting shortfalls? Why did they make this decision? Why are they sticking to it so mulishly despite the obvious consequences?

And the need for cleansing extends beyond COVID. For example, did the execrable General Mark Milley usurp the Constitutional powers of the commander and chief?

I could go on.

You will note that my (very incomplete) list of potential subjects is limited to soi disant “civil servants,” i.e., bureaucrats, and is devoid of politicians. That is no accident. The most shocking fact about COVID policy is that it was almost entirely the creation of an American nomenklatura, with the supposed agents of self-government (including Donald Trump) playing at best a tertiary and certainly cowardly part.

Look at Birx. She arrogated to herself the powers to make momentous decisions, because. Because why? Well, because she could and no Constitutionally sanctioned individual stopped her. Indeed, they enabled her.

Restoration of true self-government requires Americans to know what a sham self-government has become.

If you think that lustration is unprecedented, well that’s not true. We have an example before our very eyes–the January Sixth Committee. Its purpose is clearly the lustration of Trump and Trump officials who allegedly attempted to undermine “our democracy.” So if the left shrieks in horror at the thought of Deborah Birx and Tony Fauci et al in the dock, well, sauce for the goose . . .

That said, the greatest service that the January Sixth Committee is performing is to show how NOT to proceed. It is transparently partisan. Worse, it lacks the procedural safeguards–specifically the ability to present evidence and witnesses, and cross-examine–that are necessary to ferret out the truth, uncover the lies, and protect the accused.

But we cannot allow those responsible for inflicting so much harm to escape unexamined and unscathed. If they are as righteous as they claim, they will emerge not merely unbowed, but elevated. If they are not, they deserve public obloquy. Or worse.

But it’s about more than exposing the culpable. It’s about showing how the system operates. How the unelected and unaccountable wield powers–awesome powers–not granted by the Constitution or laws. Until we know how the system operates, we cannot know what needs to be changed.

Bureaucratic usurpation is a fact of American life. COVID policy represents what is hopefully an extreme example of such usurpations, and hence can provide insights to the system that people will care about, and pay attention to. So it is not for the past–because sunk costs are sunk–but for the future the American people need to know what happened, who did it, and why.

So lustration. Sooner rather than later.

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May 28, 2022

A Timely Object Lesson on the Dangers of Tight Coupling in Financial Markets, and Hence the Lunacy of Fetishizing Algorithms

FTAlphaville had a fascinating piece this week in which it described a discussion at a CFTC roundtable debating the FTX proposal that is generating so much tumult in DerivativesWorld. In a nutshell, Chris Edmonds of ICE revealed that due to a “technical issue” during the market chaos of March 2020 (which I wrote about in a Journal of Applied Corporate Finance piece) a large market participant was arguably in default to the ICE clearinghouse, but ICE (after consulting with the CEO, i.e., Jeff Sprecher) did not pull the trigger and call a default. Instead, it gave some time for the incipient defaulter to resolve the issue.

This raises an issue that I have written about for going on 15 years–the “tight coupling” of the clearing mechanism, and the acute destabilizing potential thereof. Tightly coupled systems are subject to”normal accidents” (also known as systemic collapses–shitshows): in a tightly coupled system, everything must operate in a tight sequence, and the failure of one piece of the system can cause the collapse of the entire system.

If ICE had acted in a mechanical fashion, and declared a default, the default of a large member could have caused the failure of ICE clearing, which would have had serious consequences for the entire financial system, especially in its COVID-induced febrile state. But ICE had people in the loop, which loosened the coupling and prevented a “normal accident” (i.e., the failure of ICE clearing and perhaps the financial system).

I have a sneaking suspicion that the exact same thing happened with LME during the nickel cluster almost exactly two years after the ICE situation. It is evident that LME uncoupled the entire system–by shutting down trading altogether, apparently suspending some margin calls, and even tearing up trades.

Put differently, it’s a good thing that important elements of the financial system have ways of loosening the coupling when by-the-book (or by-the algorithm) operation would lead to its destruction.

The ICE event was apparently a “technical issue.” Well that’s exactly the point–failures of technology can lead to the collapse of tightly coupled systems. And these failures are ubiquitous: remember the failures of FedWire on 19 October, 1987, which caused huge problems. (Well, you’re probably not old enough to remember. That’s why you need me.)

This issue came up during the FTX roundtable precisely because FTX (and its fanboyz) tout its algorithmic, no-man-in-the-loop operation as its innovation, and its virtue. But that gets it exactly backwards: it is its greatest vulnerability, and its greatest threat to the financial markets more generally. We should be thankful ICE had adults, not algos, in charge.

As I pointed out in my post on FTX in March:

The mechanical means of addressing margin shortfalls on a real time frequency increases the tight coupling on the exchange, and is tailor made to create destabilizing positive feedback loops: prices move a lot leading to margin shortfalls in real time that trigger real time trades that accentuate the price movement. It is like seeding the market with huge numbers of stop orders, which are inherently destabilizing. Further, they can create incentives to manipulate. Anyone who can get some idea of where the stops are can “gun the stops” and trigger big price moves.

It’s particularly remarkable that FTX still is the subject of widespread adulation in light of Terra’s spiraling into the terra firma. As I said in my Luna post, it is lunatic to algorithmize positive feedback (i.e., doom) loops. (You might guess I don’t have a Luna tattoo. Not getting an FTX tattoo either!*)

FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried is backtracking somewhat:

In the face of the agricultural industry complaints, Bankman-Fried gave ground. While maintaining his position that automated liquidations could prevent bad situations from growing worse, he said the FTX approach was better suited to “digitally settled” contracts — such as those for crypto — than to trades where physical collateral such as wheat or corn is used

Sorry, Sam, but digital settlement vs. physical settlement matters fuck all. (And “physical collateral”? Wut?) And you are deluded if you believe that “automated liquidations” generally prevent bad situations from growing worse. If you think that, you don’t get it, and are a positive threat to the financial markets.

*FTX bought the naming rights for a stadium in Miami. I say only slightly in jest that this is another indication of the dangers posed by FTX and its messianic founder. FFS, you’d think after the 2000 tech meltdown people would recognize that buying naming rights is often a great short selling signal, and a harbinger of future collapse. To say that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it is too strong, but those who follow in the footsteps of failures that took place before their time betray an an arrogance (or an ignorance) that greatly raises the odds of repeating failure.

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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


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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