Monthly Archives: August 2013

Forced Exposure

This is very sad.  Groklaw, like Lavabit, is shutting down due to privacy concerns.  It’s worth reading PJ’s farewell – more heartfelt and poignant than the cynical stuff Jeremiah writes.  She is one of those private, cautious people who just can’t operate in a world of unlimited surveillance.  People like this will start to vanish from the internet.  Public discourse will be stifled, and the world will be a poorer place.

There is now no shield from forced exposure.  You don’t expect a stranger to read your private communications to a friend.  And once you know they can, what is there to say?

She describes the sense of violation she felt after a burglary, and this is how we should all feel about the government reading our email.  We shouldn’t tolerate it.  The supposed tradeoff between privacy and security is just a threadbare excuse for the NSA to violate us.

We expect President Obama to put an end to domestic surveillance, and soon.  Our spy agencies have never been authorized to spy on ordinary Americans without a warrant.  We want a real investigation, not the whitewash Obama has proposed.

A resource for protest events is here, and a voting list is here.  We must get rid of these fascists, every one, in next year’s election.

See also:  Activists stage second day of protest against NSA

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Aliens Invade in October

There is actually a blog site called lunatic outpost.  We sometimes wonder if the NSA runs these sites, just to keep tabs on the conspiracy theorists.  That would be the most fun job at the NSA, right up there with spying on your girlfriend.

A retired senator in South Dakota has rounded up some suspicious dates, suggesting the government is preparing for an undisclosed emergency in October.  The CDC has ordered a supply of antibiotics, and FEMA is stockpiling food and water.  That’s also the deadline for firearm qualifications at the DHS.  The most “straight” reference we could find is here.

Jeremiah is not buying into the alien invasion theory.  He is sticking with the crypto Muslim takeover theory.  Seriously, though – October 1 is the federal government’s fiscal year.  That’s going to be the deadline for any project at any agency.  Stockpiling food and water is … FEMA’s job.

Forced lockdown of a city. Militarized police riding tanks in the streets. Door-to-door armed searches without warrant. Families thrown out of their homes at gunpoint to be searched without probable cause. Businesses forced to close. Transport shut down.

The process, as we have written before, is to know your facts and to separate the grain from the chaff.  For instance, this guy should be taken seriously.  Jeremiah is not the only one who was alarmed by images of martial law in Boston.  The excerpt above does not describe an alien invasion.

Do we think the government is planning for martial law in October?  Of course not – we oppose this development on principle.  There should not be a federal army on American soil, period.  National Guard units, controlled by the states, should be sufficient for any legitimate public emergency.

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Bad Math Roundup

SowellDr. Thomas Sowell is cited here, debunking the “one percent” myth, and we have finally found a pop culture reference for the enduring class fallacy.  In the 1979 movie, Breaking Away, the townie played by Dennis Quaid laments that, while he is an aging loser – the college kids are forever young!

That’s right, the local college is populated by an enduring class of attractive, carefree kids, who are always aged 18 to 22.  It’s easy to see why he resents them.

Next up, we have this gloom and doom piece from the NBER.  The author lops 0.5% off American GDP growth because it accrues to – you guessed it – the one percent.  Said portion doesn’t count because it’s not going to real Americans.  Never mind the conventional socialist idea that GDP roams around loose, to be “captured” by the rich.  This is bad math because it voids his use of the historical figures.  The author must now back out tainted GDP from all his other calculations.

Finally, just to make three, we have Charles Hugh Smith’s excellent series on pooled risk in America.  In part two, he debunks the popular delusion that the state has an infinite capacity to mutualize risk – and by extension, debt.  No one should have such a delusion, though, because the population sharing the risk is the same population that is exposed.

The proper denomination for national risk, or national debt, is per capita.  America may be a large pool, but we have no more risk tolerance per capita than, say, Germany.  In any case, Jeremiah doubts that the spongers and enablers actually have this delusion.  They are just going to stuff their pockets until the dollar collapses.  Get it in yuan, boys.

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Stay Home

Wherever Jeremiah travels, people mock America for our obsession with firearms.  Certainly, we look trigger happy to Australia right now, following the random shooting of visiting student Christopher Lane.  This is to confuse cause and effect.

Americans carry guns because this is a dangerous place, not vice versa.  The kids will simply beat you to death, if there’s no gun handy.  The police are debating whether Lane’s death was a “hate crime,” or just a “thrill killing.”  We are like the Inuit, with their hundred different words for snow.

Students at Duncan’s public schools stayed away from classes on Wednesday …  while a local gun shop reported a surge in residents buying handguns

As Jeremiah has written before, this is an absurdly violent culture.  We also have no facilities for mental health, so maniacs walk free until they commit a crime.  Our only mental institutions are the (crowded) prison system.

In many cities, there is no chance the police will rescue you from a violent assault.  In Oregon, a 911 operator flatly told a caller – who was being assaulted in her home – that no police were available.  That’s why we carry guns.  Ruger stock is up 25% in the last year.

Only an anti-American bigot [would] maintain that Americans are four times more murderous than Britons

The public’s first reaction, after an incident like this, is to blame the guns.  Then, they go out and buy one.  Bill Stevens, pictured here, is in Newtown, site of last December’s mass shooting.  That’s a single action .45 on Bill’s hip.

WSJ Photo

It’s hard to answer someone from a civilized country, especially grieving Australian parents.  They will say, “you Americans and your guns,” and then Jeremiah will sigh, “it’s really not the guns.”

See also:  Why the NRA keeps talking about mental illness

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Common Sense Alert

RajanThis fellow, Raghuram Rajan, has just been appointed to run India’s central bank.  He is widely credited with having foreseen the global financial crisis.  You can read his latest thoughts on said crisis here, in a lecture he gave recently to the BIS.

The speech is well crafted, with references to its honoree, Sir Andrew Crockett, serving to motivate the topic.  Rajan presents his own analysis of the crisis, and contrasts it with the conventional one.   The prevailing policy, as he says, is this:

Surplus countries should trim surpluses, governments that can still borrow should run larger deficits, while thrifty households should be dissuaded from saving through rock bottom interest rates … budgetary recklessness is a virtue.

If you read the New York Times, you are familiar with Keynesian dogma.  Professor Rajan’s ideas are rather different, but they will be familiar to our readers.

Jeremiah’s favorite part is toward the end, an allusion to past crises in the developing world.  They were told simply to suck it up and implement reforms.  Now that the pain is in the West, suddenly central banks are willing to “innovate.”

Never in the field of economic policy has so much been spent, with so little evidence, by so few.

Why don’t we have common sense people like this, in America?  There are too many good quotes to reprint here.  You’ll have to read the speech.

See also:  Nigerian Vouchers

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Partly Bullish, Chance of Recession

The Economist has a fun chart showing when the “Fed model” broke down.  This was once a correlation between stock and bond yields, and it stopped working shortly after Chairman Greenspan referenced it in congressional testimony.

Jeremiah has previously mentioned the Phillips curve.  This was a correlation between inflation and employment, and it stopped working just as the Fed was using it to reduce unemployment.

Fed Model

These two cases illustrate something familiar to stock traders – and the reason macroeconomics will never be a hard science.  Once a correlation becomes well known, people trade it to death, and it stops working.  The Phillips correlation was strong ­only until workers realized inflation was screwing them.

Partly bullish, with rising employment and a 30% chance of recession.

Meteorology, like economics, relies on modeling complex systems.  Unlike meteorology, though, the moving parts of an economy are not just fluids responding to temperature.  They are not just people trying to maximize their wealth, either – rational or otherwise, since Kahneman.  The moving parts of an economy include economists, traders and strategists who are actively arbitraging the policy.

Meteorology has much in common with economics, but overall it is a stronger science.  Like meteorologists, economists can do good experiments in microcosm.  They make good use of game theory, and pricing theory is well developed.

At the macro level, weather modeling is more advanced – and meteorologists have the humility to qualify their results with confidence intervals.  Imagine Chairman Bernanke calling for “partly bullish, with rising employment and a 30% chance of recession.”  That would properly reflect the state of the art.

Is there a policy recommendation here?  Only that attempts to manage the economy should be strictly limited.  The Fed should confine itself to the most obvious supervision of banks and the money supply.  They should look out for bank reserves  and price stability – not the “dual mandate.”

The danger of interventionist monetary policy is not only inaccuracy, but arbitrage.  As with industrial policy, the Fed must be a referee – not a player.

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Ignorance is Strength

JeremiaSominBookh often wonders how Americans can stand by while their civil rights are annihilated, and a dictatorship is erected over them.  The first answer from a centrist blog is “partisanship,” of course – a manufactured conflict that keeps the spin doctors employed and the public divided.

Ilya Somin has a different answer.  Americans are just plain dumb.  It’s funny when Penn and Teller get people to sign a petition banning dihydrogen monoxide.  It’s not so funny when they elect and retain evildoers in public office.

Can we reasonably believe that American citizens are actually interested enough in politics to learn what they need in order to cast knowledgeable votes?

Especially disturbing is the impotence of “retrospective voting.”  If nothing else, we should at least have the wit to vote for or against incumbents based on their record.  That’s why Jeremiah often lists congressmen by name, as here.

Politics is not just biennial trips to the voting booth.  Politics is your newspaper, your associations, your watercooler debates.  Politics is sending money for a cause, marching in a protest, standing up in a town meeting.  Politics is a vital process that keeps you alert and protects your liberty.  Ignorance of politics is inexcusable.  It’s like not knowing CPR.

By the way, if you don’t recognize “ignorance is strength,” that means you haven’t read Orwell yet.  You will want to do that while it’s still fiction.

See also:  He Said, She Said

Update:  An alert reader has pointed out that water is structurally H-OH, and so “dihydrogen monoxide,” while calculated to sound scary, is less accurate than “hydrogen hydroxide.”  Kudos.

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