Belated Open Thread (Monday Instead of Last Thursday)


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  1. All forms of life eventually die, successful forms of life reproduce before doing it.

    I think the West, as we knew it, is now dying. Musk is leading the charge to reproduce first. He says he wants to build a life-boat for humanity on Mars, but I think it's really a life-boat for Western civilization.

    Will he win the race? Will he be permitted to win it?

    1. I think you're right about the West "dying", in the sense that all bureaucracies expand until stopped by external forces (other people's money, mainly, as in customers, taxpayers, foreign aid, etc) and governments, being coercive monopolies to boot, can redefine their limits without the market competition of businesses.

      But it won't take Mars to restore liberty. The EU seemed to be a pretty solid bloc which had no exit, but Britain showed exit is possible, and memory sez the last treaty expansion was pushed through without full referendums because the first couple of referendums showed the people were not willing to approve further expansion; I gather even now there are a couple of countries which might push for exit if the people get just a little more fed up.

      There are way too many different peoples in way too many different countries and regions to support any kind of world government. As long as these differences exist, markets will allow liberty to re-appear elsewhere as it slowly fades in the US and the EU.

      I'm a short term pessimist and long term optimist. The trend has always been decentralization since the printing press 500+ years ago, and I see no reason for that to stop.

      1. My concern is that the technological basis for tyranny is completely different these days. Big Brother might have had an eye in every home, but he didn't remotely have the manpower to have somebody looking out of that telescreen 24/7.

        With computers, you can couple panopticon surveillance with 100% analysis of that surveillance.

        It might be that, with modern technology, a comprehensive police state becomes a black hole you can't subsequently escape from. Or, if you can, only after generations have made the people running it lazy.

        1. Computers and the net cut both ways. For instance, who has more to lose from 24x7 cameras tracking your every move? -- The rich and powerful. Imagine you could tune into cameras world wide and snoop on anybody you wanted, who would that be? Most people would be mostly interested in celebrities; but aside from them, it would be Bloomberg, Trump, Bezos, Gates, all the rich and powerful. Remember that kerfuffle a few years back about who had attended the White House energy summit? No longer a problem -- just track the cars and people.

          I also believe distributed mesh networks with peer to peer encryption will allow the dark web to bloom beyond government's capacity to control, and once enough people use enough crypto currency, there will be a shadow economy to beat them all, and government will be cut off from vast new revenue sources. I believe that by 2100, government will be a much smaller enterprise, hobbled by lack of revenue. They will still control meatspace. You will still have to pay property taxes. Roads will still be necessary, although more and more deliveries will be by air, and fewer and fewer people will need physical work offices or take physical vacations. But if solar power and batteries are advanced enough, and if septic systems can recycle waste and provide enough water, people will be a lot less dependent on government "services".

          1. 3D printers will make it almost impossible for government to regulate physical products. Those aerial deliveries will be almost entirely the feedstock for 3D printers. You will be able to literally build a house anywhere within a few days or weeks; start with air delivery of a small 3D printer, which builds bigger ones. Eventually build a house, solar panels, batteries, the entire system. Maybe it will me Mr Fusion power instead of solar, but whatever it is will be independent of any utility grid.

            Automated medical devices in every home will be ubiquitous, sampling your blood with non-invasive infrared lasers, sampling your toilet waste, and detecting most diseases so soon that it can create custom medicines on the spot. Cancer and heart disease will be as common as typhoid or TB today.

            Your food can be recycled waste, leavened with home gardens using advanced hydroponics.

            IOW, just as people have gotten to depend on farms a lot less than 100 or 200 years ago, so I believe people in 100 years will depend a lot less on the things that make such easy revenue sources for government. So much of our activity will be beyond government's ken that government would take a far smaller portion of our money to provide the same services it does now, and it will be providing fewer services anyway.

            1. "3D printers will make it almost impossible for government to regulate physical products."

              -What you'll see is regulation and taxation of key elemental material streams. 3D printers still require raw materials. You're not going to "print" the gold, palladium, or lithium you need.

              1. Of course not, but you'll still be able to buy them. Regulating ordinary chemicals, especially harmless ones, will be a lot harder than regulating LSD or gasoline.

                Besides, when everything people make involves those same chemicals, such as a toaster, microwave, or bathroom MediKit™, the government won't know what you want to make on your 3D printer.

                1. I think you'll be surprised.

                  You see this in the chemical industry. Precursors to key drugs are pretty tightly regulated. Even relatively common chemicals and solvents are regulated and tracked.

                  Assuming you're correct, and 3D printers of amazing capabilities become widely available, the obvious place to put the regulations and tracking is on elemental materials. Gold, Platinum, Palladium, Lithium, Iodine (already tracked), Zirconium, Manganese, and more.

                  And if there is something of "particular" use that can be used "off-label", the feds will require the component be pre-built, sealed, and shipped to your location (via your drones) rather than allowing you access to the raw feedstock.

                  And that's before you get to the energy tracking. All these materials require energy to manufacture. "Unusual" energy use will be tracked and monitored.

                  1. Once true 3D printers are available, which can print hard metals, electronics, and everything else needed for a microwave oven, there is no way to limit what they build. It's all data at that point. The government won't be able to limit the raw materials any more than they can limit the sale of toasters.

                    Your drug precursors won't be necessary in the future. These home systems will make them from true raw materials -- carbon and hydrogen and oxygen from the air if need be.

                    Anyone can build guns today with a home machinist setup. Not cheap, but not prohibitively expensive either. 3D printers will make that machinist setup look like a kid's toy. At that point, you may as well try to control fax machines, which was such a success story for the USSR.

                    1. The government can, in fact, limit the sale of toasters.

                      And the government, can, in fact, limit the sale of certain critical metals. And has in the past.

                    2. The government cannot, in practice, limit the sale of toasters and all other home appliances. And if they can't limit those, they can't limit the materials which make them, and those materials have many other uses.

                    3. Anyone can build guns today with a home machinist setup. Not cheap, but not prohibitively expensive either. 3D printers will make that machinist setup look like a kid’s toy.

                      Anyone who decides to fire an explosive charge through a device they're holding that has been 3D printed--now or decades from now--will soundly deserve their fate IMHO.

                      Or is this one of those "assume a spherical cow" exercises, where material/fusing imperfections and registration tolerances cease to exist?

                    4. You may or may not be familiar with Executive Order 6102, passed by FDR...if you're curious about the US government heavily regulating possession of precious metals.


                    5. @Life of Brian

                      I was discussing future developments -- 100 years form now, 2100, etc. Please respond to what was written.

                    6. @Armchair Lawyer
                      Makes no difference. If those chemicals are used for common every day uses, by the vast majority of society, no government can restrict them. Prohibition, the War on Drugs, gun bans -- all this should make it clear.

                      I have tried to be really clear about this and have obviously not succeeded. I am talking about a society 100 years from now which uses 3D printers for almost everything. You want a new toaster? You download the data file and print it. You want better speakers, the latest model phone? Download and print.

                      The government trying to ban those bog-boring-ordinary raw stocks for the 3D printer would be like the government banning flour because of the danger of flour dust explosions, or gasoline for its really obvious danger. People store gasoline in basements and garages and there's not a damned thing the government can realistically do about it.

                  2. And the government won't be able to track energy when every home is off the grid. This alone ought to be a clue how incompetent government is -- the greens are pushing all this rooftop solar which will make it impossible for the government to control energy usage.

                    Government can sure make a mess of things, but it is always years late and many many dollars short, always fighting the last battle.

                    1. Á àß äẞç ãþÇđ âÞ¢Đæ ǎB€Ðëf ảhf, the future you envision posits unlimited energy, and essentially free labor, albeit supplied by machinery (running on essentially free energy). In that economic regime everything on the earth and in the oceans would become an ore. The result would be a dystopia which leaves the earth a smoking ruin everywhere—nothing but a universal strip mine, developed ever more intensively, for diminishing (but always profitable!) returns.

                    2. "In that economic regime everything on the earth and in the oceans would become an ore."

                      Including landfills and junk yards. You have to remember that once you reach that tech level, your own trash tends to be the most convenient source of building material, containing conveniently concentrated useful elements.

                    3. No, Stephen, that does not assume unlimited energy or free labor or anything out of the ordinary. All the material that factories use now would simply be used differently, and in fact, because 3D printers only use as much material as is actually needed in the final product, they would use less material. No need for huge factories, stamping machines, forges, etc. The world will be a lot better off with 3D printing.

          2. That was my thought. If it can't be contained, and it can't, because apps and goggle cams with AI environmental overlays will be a thing eventually (contacts exist in labs already), all feeding into face recognition, and eventually, tracking software and current "live location tracking" databases, well, what's good for the goose is good for the powerful.

            In short, the way to stop the panopticon abuse by the powerful is to pull them under it too, for tracking by the people themselves.

            It's a suboptimal solution, but the cat is getting out of the bag, and only the government having this inside their billion dollar NSA buildings is far subber.

      2. The EU is a lesson on creating a new level of government, because all levels are populated with folk who want more power, and more corruption (carefully hidden.) So all levels always try to grow their power. All industry becomes more efficient as technology progresses and there is competition. Governments always become more and more bloated as we move into the future, since their goal is the distribution of money to get elected, to then block industry until political and other donations occur.

        So who needs a whole new layer of that on top of everything else? Also, splits (like Scottland, or Quebec) should be seen in the same eye -- a whole gaggle of politicians at the lower level will suddenly see a massive increase in power.

        It's impossible these pushes are severed from that massive drive by the power hungry.

    2. I agree the west is dying but for a very different reason. No empire lasts forever. Cultures are born, they mature, they pass along some of their genetic material, and then they die, only to be replaced by something else.

      As a product of Western civilization naturally I’m sorry to see the aging process proceed. I’m curious as to what the next great empire will be, though at my age it’s unlikely I’ll live to see it. But to everything there is a time, and ours is on the way out.

      1. In general terms I'd attribute the fall of the West to thermodynamics. The laws of thermodynamics have been characterized as,

        1) You can't win.
        2) You can't break even.
        3) You can't get out of the game.

        In the strictest sense, thermodynamics doesn't actually demand that complex systems fall prey to decay, so long as there's an available source and sink for entropy. And there certainly is here on Earth.

        But maintenance of complex systems requires work, fighting against the tendency towards decay, and entropy is both relentless and cunning. There's always something you'd rather do than the boring maintenance.

        Conservatives say, "Those who can, do, those who can't, teach." And so they ended up ceding the education of the next generation to their enemies, because teaching wasn't fun, and their enemies did recognize its importance.

        And now the right is in no position to recapture any of those institutions it ceded to the left, it will have to construct an entire parallel society from scratch, while under attack from the high ground. (And the low, too; The barbarians have been inside the gates for a LONG time.) Not theoretically impossible, but not likely.

        The best bet is actually to plant a seed of civilization someplace where life is hard, because mortal difficulty exposes BS. The airlock either leaks or it doesn't, you might say. That's why I have hope for Musk's Mars colony: They'll be conservative in the best sense, because to be otherwise would be to die.

        1. The issue is, the socio-cultural system known as "the west" doesn't exist in a vacuum. It exists in competition with other systems, via a socio-economic evolutionary struggle.

          Let's say you're correct and this alternate system has gained control of the educational apparatus. Does this alternate system actually WORK? Or is it inferior to the socio-economic system known as western culture? If put in direct competition, which system produces more, is more desirable, over the long term?

          1. The thing is, an alternate system doesn't have to actually work, to beat a working system, if it can kill off the working system. Like a parasite killing its host.

            1. That's the Communism example though. Communism failed, and was replaced. Unless the parasite takes over EVERYWHERE and crushes the host, the host will come back.

        2. "There’s always something you’d rather do than the boring maintenance."

          From a libertarian perspective, this could be somewhat of a good thing. Any government will try to grow and expand it's power. It's inherent to the nature of government and the natures of the kinds of people who want to run the government.

          Therefore, the best option for long term maintenance of libertarinanish small government is built in failure, periodic reboots, at regular intervals burn the existing government to the ground and start over from scratch.

        3. "The best bet is actually to plant a seed of civilization someplace where life is hard, because mortal difficulty exposes BS."

          Machiavelli wrote that all great societies evolved in a temperate climate where people had to plan for winter. Those in tropical climates had no need to do so, and hence never evolved -- and those in arctic climates never had an opportunity to advance.

    3. "I think the West, as we know it, is now dying"

      I would disagree with that. I'd say the "West" is still the predominant culture on the planet. Are there challenges to it? Sure. For example, the Chinese system. But there have always been challenges. The last one was the Soviet system, and that petered out.

      The Chinese system has a fatal flaw baked in, and that is the expected population growth rate in China. The Chinese population is estimated to drop by 48% by 2100. (The US is expected to expand another 3%).

      So, I'm not overly worried.

      1. if population were key, China and India would have ruled the world for the past millennium instead of Britain winning the opium wars and colonizing India.

        The worrisome thing about China is the sheer ruthlessness with which it is willing to mow down anyone who gets in the way of its strategic plans. Plus it’s tech savvy ability to control events previous empires could only dream of.

        1. Population is a critical part of it. But really more than just population are the population growth metrics.

          When you have a drastically dropping population, it's difficult to DO anything productively forward to cultural growth and expansion. You have a rapidly aging population dragging around your neck. Your working age population is dropping even further. Young people who are looking to excel with new ideas are stymied by the large number of older managers holding on with political games and struggles.

          The lack of population growth and population decline is part of why Russia is in such a poor geopolitical position now, as compared to 40 years ago.

      2. China's bigger problem is the lack of young women.

    4. I think the West, as we knew it, is now dying.

      That's a pretty vague statement.

      Care to define what you mean by "the West" and "dying?"

      1. What I mean is that we're,

        1) Failing to reproduce, and compensating by importing people born elsewhere in different cultures from our own.
        2) The cultural institutions and values that created our society are being destroyed. Partly due to #1, (You are what you eat, culturally, too.) and partly due to subversion by people who disapprove of those values.

        It seems likely that, 50, maybe even 100, years from now, there will still be something called "the United States of America", but it won't be the thing we today call that, except maybe geographically.

        1. What cultural institutions and values that created our society are being destroyed?

          1. I think, rather, it would be better to turn this around and ask you which ones are strong and functioning as intended.

            1. "I can't make my case, so you make the counter to the case I can't make!'

              1. Maybe, because it's obvious that it is a stupid rhetorical trick?

                1. I would say that we first need more specificity as to what is meant by “created our society” as that thoroughly loaded term is wide open to interpretation. Our society was built just as much on bad stuff, like slavery and genocide, as it was. Y good stuff. Kalak, do not assume everyone shares your presuppositions.

                  1. Ah, slavery. Whenever someone brings that up when speaking about Western Civ, I know that they are being silly. EVERY civilization had slavery and genocide in the office. Only the West not only freed their slaves, but imposed freedom from slavery on the rest of the world, and actively fights against genocide (provide we don't have to go to war with China that is).

                    1. What aboutism.

                      And yes, we eventually freed our slaves but not before we benefited tremendously from their labor. You don’t get a free pass for bad behavior because you’ve stopped doing it.

                  2. One thing that helped create our society is immigration.

                    1. Tell it to the Native Americans!

        2. importing people born elsewhere in different cultures from our own.

          Many of the "cultural institutions and values" we have were created by "people born elsewhere in different cultures from our own."

          The cultural institutions and values that created our society are being destroyed.

          I echo Josh R's question.

          Specifics, please? What institutions, what values? To my mind a fair number of "traditional values" merit destruction.

          1. I would rather, like in my response to Josh, ask you to be specific and let us know what purposeful, working, and hardy institutions are working as intended.

            1. I'm not making a claim about whether institutions are or are not working.

              1. Yes, but the simple counter argument is that if you are saying they are, why do you hesitate to say which ones and how well?

                1. if you are saying they are

                  I'm not saying they are (or are not), so your premise is wrong.

                  1. That's pettifogging by denying the validity of the question itself. It doesn't become an honest debate.

                    Choose an "institution" like media, academia, the military, police, the IRS, New York City, the plastics industry, the NFL, etc. Some are doing better than others. Which ones are doing well, and which ones are not. We don't need a inclusive list, but surely you can say one that is doing fine and one that isn't. I will start. One that is "okay", the military. One that is failing, "the police". One that is "good", the plastics industry.

                    Certain institutions define the West, like Christianity, impartial(ish) Courts, and mega-corporations, and nation-states. I'm sure you could add a few. How are they?

                    1. To say that some institutions are doing well, and others badly, does not make any kind of a case that the West is in decline. It's always been that way.

                    2. Benard, there is a natural ebb and flow, of course. Always has been, always will be. But I noted that specific institutions define the West. I even spelled out a few. I'm not the first, for example, to define the West as consisting of nation-states with specific languages. I'm sure you can add more.

                      How do you think those specific institutions are doing. If *you* think that they are going a-okay, then say so.

                    3. The NFL does not define the West. Neither does the plastics industry.

                      Is Christianlty in decline? Maybe, but so what? It's perfectly possible to have a free, productive, democratic society that is not Christian. Japan, anyone? India (with reservations)? Israel? History has also had a number of, shall we say unattractive, societies that were predominantly Christian.

                      "nation-states with specific languages." You mean like Russia? All I can gather is that you think the increase of the Spanish-speaking population is some how a threat to "the West." I don't. We've always had immigrant communities that used their own languages, and those languages have enriched English.

                      I suppose when I ask for definition of terms, or whatinstitutions are in decline, and why those matter, I'm saying I don't get the point.

                      What is it you and Brett don't like?

                    4. You ought to look closely about why Japan is so free, productive, might not like the answer you find.

                      Don't take my definition of what has classically defined the West as it's predominant institution, a nation-state with a defined language, and turn that into carping out Telemundo, then in a barrage of goofiness, implying that linguistic borrowing is such a wonderful thing that it makes up for any downsides to increased Hispanic immigration. That's projection.

                      Also, there has long, long, long, been a debate about whether Russia is part of "the West" or not, seeing as they are neither fully European nor fully Asia (culturally as well as geographically). Most scholars say Russia is not. Did you chose a gray area on purpose? Are you going to bring up Turkey next? Are that West or East?

                      So, you think institutionally, things are okay, sure. And if not, you don't care about those specific institutions, sure. Now, it's hard to argue with the demography. The West is literally dying out, by self selection at that.

                    5. m_k,

                      You still haven't made your complaint clear.

                      Is it just about immigration, or about gays getting rights, or what?

                      Because you seem to be complaining mostly about immigration, and cloaking your complaints in a fog of vague rhetoric.

                    6. I'm not a fan of Christianity. I like an independent judiciary. I have mixed feelings about mega-corporations and nation-states (noting, that I'm not sure if the latter defines the West).

                      I'm not sure how they are doing. Brett is the one who said our culture and values are degrading because of immigration and subversion. I'm not seeing how that is the case.

                    7. Benard, I couldn't be more clear, as it appears Brett is by his responses. Your willingness to engage in an honest respectful debate is clearly in doubt by your unwillingness to engage with what our definitions of "is" and never mind your utter lack of a response to the demography (very specific mind you) of declining populations.

                      What you're waiting for is an opportunity to point and say "racist, sexist, homophobic" at something, and it's appears to be bothering you that you're not really getting the chance. You're being about as transparent here as stretched out pantyhose at what you're intending.

                    8. Actually, it's now clear to me.

                      You want to maintain a society dominated by white Christians. Any change in that is "decline."

                      That's what all the talk about cultural foundations is.

                2. No. Because I don't even know what Brett means by our “cultural institutions and values."

                  He sees some failures. He's the one making the argument. "The West is declining because our “cultural institutions and values" are failing.

                  I'm not convinced about the decline, so I ask what these failures are. If he can't answer that then he's just pissing and moaning about how much worse things are than they used to be, which is pretty unconvincing.

                  It's not reasonable to say, "Everything is going to hell," and then, instead of pointing out specifics, demand that others identify things that aren't going to hell.

                  1. Sounding a lot like white replacement to me...

                    1. White replacement is happening, has happened, and will continue to happen. Even the NYT has admitted that it is. Denying the Great Replacement is last year's narrative Sarc. Time to update your software mon ami.

                      You're problem is that someone pointing it out is presumed to be a racist unless they think it's a good thing.

                    2. The Great Replacement idea - that demographic shift is an intentional plot - is white supremacist paranoid garbage.

                      And if it was a real thing, what color Americans are won't change what America is.

                    3. You’re problem is that someone pointing it out is presumed to be a racist unless they think it’s a good thing.

                      Whatever. But if you can't explain why demographic shifts are a bad thing then you are being racist. No?

                      I mean, the US underwent a massive demographic shift around the turn of the 20th Century - much larger than anything we see today. Between 1880 and 1920 about 20 million immigrants arrived, in a country that had a population of 50 million in 1880. It all worked out fine.

                      And don't start with the business of how they were just like Americans so it was fine. They came mostly from southern and eastern Europe, spoke a variety of languages, weren't particularly well-educated, etc.

                    4. Ah, Sarc. Again, you need to update your software. It's no longer a conspiracy that the Great Replacement is happening, nor is it a conspiracy on WHY it's happening. You have to get with the new narrative, that we have to celebrate that whites won't be a demographic majority in just a few years. Even president-elect by the media Hindenburg, ahem, I mean Biden, says the country is doomed unless blacks get along better with Hispanics.

                      Link to Biden's comments: Comments are at 1:14:25

                      You're kinda a living embodiment of a Boomer meme, who thinks that if it wasn't in the papers, that it didn't happen, but hasn't read a paper in years.

                    5. Yeah, you keep saying I'm behind the...liberal curve, I guess? I'm going to keep going with the evidence I see.

                      Your Biden quote looks more like a call for embracing diversity than anything about the Great Replacement or the death of the west.

                    6. Ah, Sarc. Again, you need to update your software. It’s no longer a conspiracy that the Great Replacement is happening, nor is it a conspiracy on WHY it’s happening. You have to get with the new narrative, that we have to celebrate that whites won’t be a demographic majority in just a few years.

                      No need to celebrate anything, and no need to condemn it either.

                      Even president-elect by the media Hindenburg, ahem, I mean Biden,

                      Talk about non-serious. That alone suggests you are not to be taken seriously.

                    7. We've finally gotten around to m_k's point.

                      All those scary non-white people running around.

                  2. So, one of the points that could be made is that "Western Culture" is about defending certain cultural values we hold important. This includes things like "Democracy" "Freedom of Expression" "Freedom of Religion" "Pluralism" and so on.

                    And recent events have diminished these concepts. "Freedom of Expression" isn't just from a state standpoint, but also from the large private sector. Once upon a time, a corporation could employ people who followed two different political parties or two different sets of ideas. An organization would sell to both of these parties equally. These days, that equality....doesn't quite exist.

                    Once upon a time, religious freedom was celebrated. These days...certain people think "your religion is less important than saving lives" so you don't have the right to it.

                    And we have to ask, where to go from here? Let's say we throw out religion freedom to "save lives". Can we throw out democracy next? Elections are dangerous. Not having them would "save lives" Wouldn't it be better just to have the experts in charge?

                    This is some of what is beginning to occur.

                    1. I'm not sure if freedom of expression is degrading because perhaps you have romanticized the past. I strongly believe freedom of religion is not being degraded (I like Smith). Finally, I'm not seeing how either is being degraded by immigration.

                    2. Once upon a time, religious freedom was celebrated. These days…certain people think “your religion is less important than saving lives” so you don’t have the right to it.

                      Once upon a time it was celebrated if you were a Protestant. Freedom of religion is greater today than in the past for others, including Jews, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, etc.

                      And stop bitching about "“your religion is less important than saving lives." First, it actually is less important. The complaint is that not that it isn't, but that the restrictions were unnecessarily strict. Second, they were in response to an emergency situation, not permanent.

                      And spare me the tears over "pluralism." Our society is much more pluralistic now than it ever was, no thanks to conservatives.

                    3. Bernard,

                      ""your religion is less important than saving lives.” First, it actually is less important.""

                      You didn't answer the rest of the question...

                      "And we have to ask, where to go from here? Let’s say we throw out religion freedom to “save lives”. Can we throw out democracy next? Elections are dangerous. Not having them would “save lives” Wouldn’t it be better just to have the experts in charge?"

                      So are you prepared to give up Democracy to "save lives"? Maybe just for the length of the emergency? Can we give up other amendments for the length of the Emergency to "save lives"?

                      Just curious.

                    4. Let’s say we throw out religion freedom to “save lives”. Can we throw out democracy next? Elections are dangerous. Not having them would “save lives” Wouldn’t it be better just to have the experts in charge?”

                      Not "save lives," but save lives.

                      No. Elections aren't dangerous. Even in a pandemic you can vote by mail.

                      And nobody is throwing out religious freedom to save lives.

                    5. So you've abandoned the rest of your argument?

                      Very sensible.

                    6. You miss the point Bernard,

                      Normally no one would say that having 30 people in a 1000 person church would be dangerous either. And yet, that's been banned.

                      People can easily claim "elections are dangerous"...and have in the past. A "State of Emergency" has commonly been declared to suspend rights and elections.

                      So, if you're prepared to sacrifice freedom of religion to a "State of Emergency" to save lives, what other freedoms are you prepared to sacrifice to save lives? For how long?

                    7. Normally no one would say that having 30 people in a 1000 person church would be dangerous either. And yet, that’s been banned.

                      Well, no. There have been some efforts to ban it, rejected by the courts.

                      People can easily claim “elections are dangerous”…and have in the past. A “State of Emergency” has commonly been declared to suspend rights and elections.

                      Don't talk to me about abuses of declarations of emergency. I'm seriously uninterested in the concerns of Trumpists on this matter.

                    8. Bernard,

                      It was banned for months in many places...until FINALLY the court cases and the sheer audacity of the abuse came around. Simply because the courts finally overturned it, doesn't mean it wasn't banned.

                      The "liberal" abuses of declarations of emergencies have DWARFED anything Trump has done, especially at the state level.
                      Trump has frankly been amazing in his restraint during this outbreak. It may have been the best thing about his presidency. If we had Obama as president, we might be looking at a virtual federal dictatorship, given his views on "federal power"

                  3. Probably the clearest example of failure is the significantly sub-replacement reproduction rate. We're currently at levels normally only seen in the middle of war zones or plagues. The whole West is, and until recently, we were the notable exception, but now we've joined them.

                    You might say, "No biggie, we can import people from the third world!" But, is a civilization working if it's not generalizable, if it would cause extinction if the whole world were part of it? Can you really say the West is working, if the only reason we don't die out is that a large part of the world isn't part of the West?

                    There's something about our current civilization which is not compatible with long term human survival. That's about as basic as failure gets, isn't it?

                    Then there are the clearly unsustainable and ever mounting deficits. Our national debt is now over 100% of our annual GDP, and debt service is on track to become the largest budget item in a time of historically low interest rates. We've literally reached the point where historically normal interest rates would make debt service over 100% of the budget! So keeping interest rates at effectively zero has become an existential priority of government, eclipsing all other considerations.

                    Enormous and rising levels of single motherhood. (23% in the US!) All research shows that if you're raised in a single parent home you're basically screwed, unless your single parent happens to be unreasonably wealthy or a near miracle worker. This does NOT bode well for the next generation.

                    I could go on by mentioning things like proposing to defund the police in response to riots, but I think I've made my point.

                    1. Probably the clearest example of failure is the significantly sub-replacement reproduction rate. We’re currently at levels normally only seen in the middle of war zones or plagues. The whole West is, and until recently, we were the notable exception, but now we’ve joined them.

                      This is actually a legitimate point. What do you propose?

                    2. Simplest answer is banning abortion.

                    3. We’ve literally reached the point where historically normal interest rates would make debt service over 100% of the budget!

                      No we haven't. The debt is $26.5T, including intragovernmental holdings. The budget is a bit under $5T. You would need interest rates approaching 20% for your statement to be true.

                      Why do you post falsehoods? It's very hard to have a discussion with someone whose every factual statement has to be checked. It's also hard to credit such a person with good faith.

                      So keeping interest rates at effectively zero has become an existential priority of government, eclipsing all other considerations.

                      You realize that the rates on all but short-term rates are determined by the market? You realize that the US is able to borrow at about a zero real interest rate?

                      As to the birth rate, a good part of the drop is explained by women entering the work force, which has various effects. Do you think that that should be discouraged somehow? Not very libertarian of you.

        3. As one of the globalists wrote for Time Magazine in 2001:

          "I'll bet that within the next hundred years .. nationhood as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single, global authority.. national sovereignty wasn't such a great idea after all."

          That was our deputy Secretary of State under Clinton. Brookings, CFR, etc.

    5. The West, is dying, demographically, because its members cease to reproduce in replacement level numbers. Then some leaders decide to import non-western people/taxpayers into the West (except Israel), thinking that will help. The cultural foundations have been so undermined at this point, that it didn't matter much anyway. But at least Europe would have remained European it that hadn't happened.

      Perhaps Western culture will be replaced with consumerist culture?

      1. Like Brett, you just sound sort of vaguely curmudgeonly.

        I'd like you both to be more concrete.

        1. It's not vaguely curmudgeony, it's specifically bigoted. The idea is that the West is somehow Universally Special yet it's of course undermined by the participation of 'Non-Westerners' who, of course, wink wink, can't do the Western thing.

          1. Bah, nobody said the West was special, or unique. That's you're projection. However, the industrial revolution and rights revolution and everything that has made our standards of living what they are today (sure, at the risk of environmental harm) are a product of the West. Would the Chinese, Aborigines, or Africa have done it? We will never know.

            Now, when non-western people with non-western values move into the West, either the acclimate to western values (including ones you like like tolerance for gay marriage) or the the West is changed to not be what it once was. Either way, the West is in decline.

            1. Either way, the West is in decline.

              That's nonsensical.

              1. Well, that's not an argument benard. The biggest premise that you have to overcome to make it nonsensical, is that birthrates are in free fall in "Western" countries, and that populations are only going up, if at all, due to immigration from non-Western countries, or the 3rd world.

                Moreover, the values of the Western countries are shifting due to the importation.

                Look, this isn't conspiracy talk, nor is it unprecedented. Mexican controlled Texas was overwhelmed with Anglo settlers, and Mexican officials were warning that they were going to lose Texas if it continued. They were right. Maryland was set up as a way to have Catholics have a place of tolerance in the New World, but waves of Protestant immigration left it with the most anti-Catholic laws in the colonial America. Why should Europe in the late 20th and early 21st century be different from any other time in world history?

                1. It is an argument.

                  Because you haven't defined "decline."

                  You haven't said what "values" are shifting, and why those shifts are undesirable.

                  You're grumbling, and afraid to say what's behind the grumbling.

                  Is it just the rise of Hispanic immigration?

                  1. That's actually a much broader question. Perhaps wiki page will help at the bottom of the page will help. But broadly speaking...

                    "The West" is the heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, artifacts and technologies of the Western World that originated in or are associated with Europe. This includes concepts like "Democracy," "plurality," "Freedom of expression" and many more.


                    1. “The West” is the heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, artifacts and technologies of the Western World that originated in or are associated with Europe. This includes concepts like “Democracy,” “plurality,” “Freedom of expression” and many more.

                      OK. But what is the nature of this "decline" we are discussing?

                      Freedom of religion is certainly not in decline. Technology is not in decline. Democracy is, I think, in decline in the US because of the structure of our government. The anti-immigrant sentiment is damaging to pluralism. But these things can be fixed.

                  2. Saying something is something it's not, doesn't make that something it's not suddenly become what you say it is. Again, that's not an argument, it's complaining on your part that someone could conceivably hold different opinions that your own. That's pretty scary stuff that you have trouble admitting it.

                    To get to specifics, since you are ascribing all sorts of bad-think to me that I've not expressed, I actually think Hispanic immigration is less disruptive than the "refugees" from the Middle East and Africa. Even Australia, and look into this, said they had enough.

                    So then, you define the term "decline."

                    1. I don't need to define it. You do. You're the one claiming the West is in decline, so tell us what you mean.

                      If I said, "the West is suffering from kalakitis" you would have every reason to ask me what I mean by kalakitis. It wouldn't make any sense for me to ask you for a definition.

                    2. you are ascribing all sorts of bad-think to me that I’ve not expressed,

                      What I'm trying to do is to get something specific out of you. why are the police "in decline," for example?

                    3. Huh, then the pair of us are like that Spider Man meme where we are all pointing at each other. Decline has already been defined numerous times, both as population decreases (demographically) also as "failing institutions", specifically ones that define the West, such as nation-states. What failing means on it's face, for an institution, is that it doesn't do what it was designed to do, such as the French military in WWII. So when Brett and I get specific, you're turtles all the way down by asking for what we mean by "institution" and what we mean by "failing". Then I try to turn it back on you, by asking what *you* mean when the definition is plain, you go all meta. Sheesh.

                      As for police failing, it's fairly simple. They are the one civil, civilian institution with the legitimate capacity to use physical force to compel compliance. Therefore, for a society to at least appear legitimate, that institution must have the consent of the governed, which, in large part, they don't have. Moreover, other societal failures, such as lack of support for the mentally ill, or homelessness, or even stray dogs, are pushed to the police to deal with, and in large part without adequate resources, or even a clear mandate.

                    4. Decline has already been defined numerous times, both as population decreases (demographically) also as “failing institutions”, specifically ones that define the West, such as nation-states. What failing means on it’s face, for an institution, is that it doesn’t do what it was designed to do, such as the French military in WWII.

                      So how is the nation-state not doing "what it was designed to do?" What was it designed to do?

                      As for police failing, it’s fairly simple. They are the one civil, civilian institution with the legitimate capacity to use physical force to compel compliance. Therefore, for a society to at least appear legitimate, that institution must have the consent of the governed, which, in large part, they don’t have.

                      Well, they do have the support of lots of people. Is it possible that the lack of support is from people who don't think they are doing their job properly? Argue about it all you want, but certainly it's open to discussion. And I'd argue that for some segments of society they never did their job properly. So the criticism they are getting now may well reflect greater freedom of expression, rather than any real loss of support.

                      You really need to think about the perspective you view all this from. Isn't it just possible that if Blacks consistently say the police treat them unfairly that there is truth to that? Are they lying because you and your friends have no trouble with the police?

                      Moreover, other societal failures, such as lack of support for the mentally ill, or homelessness, or even stray dogs, are pushed to the police to deal with, and in large part without adequate resources, or even a clear mandate.

                      This is hardly new. We've been doing that a long time. I'd say a society that recognizes that this is unwise is a society that is advancing, not declining.

                    5. A nation state, if nothing else, needs to protect its populace from external threats. You think that is being successfully done in the West, well, then you're like a passenger on the Titanic who thinks it's unsinkable.

                      Let me trot out to you "trust in institutions" polling. It's just one measure, but it shows people do not trust our institutions.

                      You'll find similar declines in polls done by Pew, etc. of trust in institutions. You will see large declines across all institutions, bigger, or smaller at time, depending on how the question is asked by what pollster and what institution. But declines are ubiquitous and large over the past few decades.

                      Tell me, if these institutions were doing what the populace thought they were supposed to be doing, would levels of trust be so low and continuing to decline over time? Perceptions matter, and that matters for the police. Regardless if they are doing their job or not, public support is an important condition for the one organization that uses force to compel compliance.

                    6. A nation state, if nothing else, needs to protect its populace from external threats. You think that is being successfully done in the West, well, then you’re like a passenger on the Titanic who thinks it’s unsinkable.

                      What external threats?

                      Much as you deny it you seem to think that unless we maintain a white Christian society we are doomed. I disagree.

                      I'd say that marks you as a white supremacist. I hear the Proud Boys are looking for members. Go sign up.

                    7. So then, you define the term “decline.”

                      Having thought about it, I'd say the best evidence of the decline of the US is that fact that we elected Donald Trump, an incompetent, dishonest, utterly corrupt buffoon, as President, and that after seeing him in operation for four years, 74 million voters thought he should be reelected.

                      That's what frightens me about the future of the country. That, and the fact that a large majority of that 74 million are sufficiently devoted cultists to believe, without a shred of evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen from their god.

                      You want decline. You want ominous signs. There they are.

            2. Well, China had free public education a thousand years before Europe did.

              1. (nothing is free)


                1. And that’s a pretty good indication of the answer to your earlier question.

                  1. I'm losing your point in a tangled comment thread.

          2. No -- who fail to hold the values of the Western Christian Liberal Enlightenment -- notably Locke's individual right of Life, Liberty, & Property.

            1. What about equality, free healthcare, and a prohibition on micro-aggressions?

          3. We've potty trained a lot of Indian H1B visa holders but they don't seem to support the Second Amendment as much as the native born, rural retards. Will these new Americans support an individual right to bear arms or will they try to curtail that right? Could new generations of Americans also re-interpret the First Amendment or any other Amendment in a way that reduces liberty?

          4. It's obviously possible, and wonderful, for people of alien lands and cultures to immigrate and then adopt and assimilate into a new culture. I've witnessed that firsthand. I've also witnessed this drastically failing to happen.

            Two thoughts come to mind.

            1. You can't expect immigrants to assimilate into a culture that Americans themselves are failing to keep. The number of children being born out of wedlock has skyrocketed. (For some reason the numbers are constantly reported by race, so here they are: in 1965, 3.1% of white children were born out of wedlock; by 2010 that number climbed to 29%. For black Americans it went from 24% to a staggering 73%.)

            The significance of this monumental shift cannot be overstated. With the breakdown of the family unit comes systemic societal breakdown, since the family unit is the fundamental building block. As we have seen, daddy government then steps in to fill the role of provider and (health)caretaker - an incalculable degradation of individual morality and virtue, as well as an unsustainable pipedream based on mortgaging posterity's futures. Religion, and ideas of morality and virtue, are likewise supplanted by fanciful new political/governmental religions and moralities, complete with their own creeds, mythologies, heresy trials, etc.

            Of course, over the same time that out of wedlock births have skyrocketed, America also adopted the practice of mass murdering unborn babies for the sake of convenience. The body count is around 60 million now in less than 50 years. No society that does this can be called moral and virtuous.

            2. More of a minor point, but a basic and obvious one that certain racism-mongers continually ignore: the issue of assimilation is partly a question of numbers and time. Set aside that assimilation requires sustained intentional effort of the type a degrading culture can't mount. Also set aside that it requires screening and selection on the front end that we don't have. Part of the consideration comes down to sheer numbers and time.

            1. The cultural "melting pot" is racist because it demands that people of color assimilate to white colonist "culture". The new progressive immigration model is a multicultural, mosaic where people maintain their individual cultures while working together in a common marketplace. Unity through diversity! White people, including Ashkenazim Jews, are still guilty of white privilege though.

      2. You guys seem to have gotten confused by a few decades where the US was growing mostly through baby-making and not through immigration, but that's hardly the norm through history.


        The current foreign-born portion of the population is almost exactly the same as it was prior to the Great Depression (those charts only go back to 1900, but the fraction of the US population that was foreign-born never dropped below 13.2% from 1860 up until 1930). The anomaly is the period from the 30s through the 70s, not the last couple of decades.

      3. The cultural foundations have been so undermined at this point,

        "Cultural foundations."

    6. This is silly talk. The 'West' is in great shape, indeed it's greatest threat is from within from those who are convinced the West is in plight and they should take drastic steps to 'save' it.

    7. I don't think Musk's goal is to save Western Civilization.

      1. But he’s so *freaking epic* on Twitter! Surely he must be really committed to doing the good things, definitely not just PR for his car company.

    8. Not all forms of life die. Single cell organisms that reproduce by cell division are effectively immortal, each "new" organism resulting from division is effectively indistinguishable for the original cell and as long as that process continues the original organism is still lives.

    9. Every premise here is wrong. The West is not dying. Musk is not leading the charge to prevent that non-expiration. He will not win any race. And it won't be because he was not permitted to win. It's far more likely that in 5-10 years he's in prison.

    10. The idea that Elon Musk is out to save society with his science-genius is basically just astrology for white dudes. Amazing how many suckers buy it though.

  2. Everyone holding up ok?

    I recently accepted an interview in big data analysis using PySpark despite knowing nothing about PySpark or Hadoop or any of this cluster based data analysis thing. The joys of finding employment when your main area of expertise (petroleum) isn't doing so hot. Hopefully I can learn things quickly.

  3. Personally, I'm looking at retirement in a few years. I'd actually be glad enough to keep working, but my chemo brain never completely went away, and while I'm still sharper than the average person, I can tell I'm not so gradually losing that edge as I age. It's kind of a race between reaching full SS, and when I won't be able to do the job anymore.

    I try to be philosophical about it: The chemo saved my life, it just didn't save all of it. I think my wife is in a bit of denial about what's going on, though.

    1. Good luck to you too.

    2. Good luck

      Do the SS arithmetic carefully.

      Even if you keep working past age 62, there is something to be said for starting to take SS immediately. If you just sock it away for a few years - takes discipline - and start drawing the saved amount down when you hit full benefits age you may come out ahead.

      I'm not sure what the numbers are for you, but if you get 75% of the full benefit by retiring four years early you have 300% in the bank when you retire, which will be enough to get you to 100% for twelve years when you hit full retirement. That doesn't count anything you earn on your saved early benefit, which will roughly offset the amount you lose from getting COLA increases on only 75%.

      1. Good advice, I really need to talk to a retirement specialist.

        1. Yeah, and make sure you get specifics.

          Some of these guys just talk in generalities about early vs. late, etc. Look at the actual calculations.

        2. Probably = I really need to talk to a retirement specialist

          Do fee only advisors, not AUM. If you are not passively invested in just a few funds, your portfolio is probably too complicated. Unless you have assets more than 5.34MM, or a child with special needs, estate planning is a secondary concern. It is more likely your assets are in tax deferred accounts and a home, both of which probably have your spouse as primary beneficiary already (avoids probate). is a PITA to unwind positions, so do that early. Retirement planning is not difficult, if you do it early.

          For you Brett, healthcare seems to be the wild card.

          The other wild card is you've already spotted your own cognitive decline. What about your spouse? If that is a concern, you need a written plan.

          1. Do fee only advisors, not AUM. If you are not passively invested in just a few funds, your portfolio is probably too complicated.

            Definitely agree with XY here, though I wouldn't dismiss estate planning. You should certainly have a will, and there may be something to be said for putting assets into a revocable trust. The advantages and details of this are best discussed with a lawyer.

            Stay far away from "free" investment advice from financial institutions. I've seen some of the proposals they've made to friends of mine, and they are shocking.

          2. Fee advisors are rarely worth it. Returns after fees are usually close to if not less than those passive funds.

            The hard thing to get is the right mix of investments (high yield, higher risk vs. lower risk, lower yields) depending on when you (realistically) expect to retire. That is where having an adviser can be worthwhile and usually only a few hundred bucks a year to either have them rebalance your funds or advise you to do it when market conditions dictate or a retirement milestone his hit.

            1. "Returns after fees are usually close to if not less than those passive funds."

              Returns after fees are almost always below those of passive funds. There's tons of research on this. On average, they return worse before fees and then the fees mean that even the set that do better on the investment part almost never achieve better returns to the investor. Of course, there's always exceptions at any given point of time, but it's impossible to predict which these will be. If you want to gamble a little with your money, buy the occasional lottery ticket because then you're at least being explicit about what you're doing instead of tricking yourself into thinking you're being smart.

              1. As a general rule paid advisers vs. passive funds, paid advisers return worse or similar results. As an exception though there are paid advisors that are worth the money and I suspect many here fall into that exception.

                If you just have a 401K though and savings chances are your selection of passive funds will be just as good as going through an advisor. If your portfolio is more complicated well then a paid adviser might be worth exploring.

                1. As an exception though there are paid advisors that are worth the money and I suspect many here fall into that exception.

                  What is "here?" There are paid advisors who would have been worth the money in hindsight, but precious few of them are consistently worth it. There's lots of advisors. In any given year, or five-year period, some are going to beat the market, by chance.

                  The few who are actually able to to do so consistently aren't going to be working for retail customers like Brett and me and, I'll guess, the vast majority of the commenters here.

                  The research is pretty plain.

                  1. I'm not sure why you keep on hammering away at the point I agreed with that is a general rule paid advisors are not worth the money.

                    Depending on your portfolio and how you have your money invested, for a small percentage of society, paid advisors are not only recommended but can save your tail. That said, don't pay the advisor a flat percentage of your investments which makes for lazy management. Pay them hourly or by transaction.

                    Keeping an advisor on retainer has saved me from losing a significant percentage on more than one occasion. Getting a call a few months before a market event has permitted me to restructure investments accordingly. I don't think my advisor is some sage. He just follows the trends and knows when something is going to happen in a larger market.

                    The cost for keeping said advisor is probably less than $1,000 a year. From my estimates he has saved me around $50,000 to $70,000 in loses over the last five years.

                    But, your mileage may vary....

        3. Financial advisors come if four flavors:

          1) Commission-based, who earn their pay by taking a percentage of what you invest. Run, do not walk, away from these people. Their incentives are at odds with yours - it's in their interest to steer you into whatever instrument has the highest commission.

          2) The "free" advisors at your 401k custodian or credit union. My experience with my credit union was an advisor in category 1. My experience with Fidelity was that the advice was sound but vague - I could never get anything out of them regarding which specific funds to invest in.

          3) Fee-for-service advisors. These folks are usually fiduciaries, meaning they are legally bound to act in your best interest. They get paid by extracting a percentage of your total portfolio each year, usually about 1%. Since they are fiduciaries, and their interests align with yours, they're a reasonable choice. My take is that 1% of my net worth would be my biggest expense by an order of magnitude, so I don't use one of these, but I think they may be a good idea for some.

          4) Pay by the hour advisors. These are not easy to find, but they exist. Usually fiduciaries (be sure to ask). They don't take control of your money or sell you anything. They do their analysis, make recommendations and send you a bill for ~$200/hr. If your situation is fairly simple, it shouldn't take them more than a few hours a year, so it's much much less expensive than category 3 above. This is what I use.

          Bottom line - make sure you understand how your advisor gets paid, and make sure they are a fiduciary.

          As for whether to invest in passive index funds vs actively managed funds, the evidence shows that few active managers can beat the market by enough to outweigh their fee, and almost none can do it consistently.

          1. BTW, my pay-by-the-hour advisor strongly recommended passively managed index funds.

            Every category 3 advisor I've spoken to hates index funds, for the same reason drummers hate drum machines.

            1. The category 3 guys are the ones to look out for.

              Not only are they going to charge you 1%, or more, of your portfolio, they are going to get you to invest in their proprietary funds, with excessive fees.

              They are thieves.

              1. I meant to add, the 1% business sounds small, but it isn't. Figure out what it is as a share of your returns, rather than as a share of your portfolio, and you'll see what I mean.

                1. 1% of my portfolio does not sound "small". The way I look at it is if I'm living on drawing down 4% per year, and I spend 1% on management fees, I'm left with 3%, so that 1% is fully one third of my income.

                  No, it's not small. Not at all.

                  That said, for some folks it makes some sense. I don't have it in front of me right now, but Vanguard (the leader of the index fund movement) did a study a few years ago that indicated that the 1% management fee could pay for itself for many investors. Not for me, and probably not for you, but for some. Mostly from preventing the really dumb mistakes that so many people make.

              2. You may be right, but that's not my understanding. They make their money by creaming off a percent or so of your total portfolio, so they don't need to make money from commissions too. The ones I spoke to were pretty adamant that they never take any commission from any investment.

                That said, they may invest in instruments that have their own management fee, so you're being hit twice. When I asked about this I never got a direct answer, but I don't think "kickbacks" are involved. If discovered, they'd lose their fiduciary status.

                1. Yes the advisor I was talking about and what I use is paid per hour (or sometimes transaction but that is a flat rate based upon hours to do something mostly).

                  In my experience, he charges for about 5 hours of work a year at around $200/hour. Mostly just emails saying "hey you are concentrated more in X and the market seems to be taking a correction in that area soon, l recommend A, B, and/or C" and then I just tell him what to do.

                  It is hard to track the "what if" scenarios as in terms of potential loses, but just doing some reasonable estimates, he usually gets me out of an area before it takes a major downturn which would have significantly reduced my portfolio invested there. Definitely worth the $1,000 check I write him every January.

                  Again though your mileage may vary....

    3. Good luck, Brett. I have a co-worker that went through chemo, and "chemo-brain" is real.

      I wish you the best. And happy New Year.

  4. The idiocy of a policy of temporry eviction prohibitions will become evident in early 2021. This insane policy was unique in that it hurt everyone involved.

    First of all is the question of governmental authority to stop evictions, which are the result of a breach of contract between two private parties. But even if it is legal, it is a terrible policy.

    What the eviction ban means is that landlords must make interest free loans of monthly rent (or mortgage payments by lenders in the case of owner occupied homes). This results in tenants incurring an ever increasing level of debt which they cannot pay when the eviction ban ends, thus ensuring their eviction. For landlords the financial pain will limit most in expanding housing, and for many it ill be a financial castrophe.

    Bottom lines, tenants are homeless, lenders and landlords are permanently damaged and no one is better off in the long run. Massive, just massive stupidity.

    What should have been done is something like a program where rents were reduced with government pitching in some money and landlords taking a tolerable haircut on rent. But that would have been too logical.

    1. Yep. Who wants to buy an apartment building filled with non-paying tenants who you can't evict? Who doesn't think that after a long period of no rent, distress sales of apartment buildings will spike, driving down prices? Who wants to build new apartment buildings knowing that prices will be dropping and government interference will push construction costs up? Maybe Blackrock, or equivalent, will buy a million of these, securitize them, and bet on their being worth something someday -- how's that for a best-case scenario?

      1. I do wonder, when feeling more cynical than usual, which is usually, if there aren't plenty of well to doos hoping for bankruptcy of this or that otherwise successful business, so they can snap up the location and re-open a clone after it is over, the business model location having been helpfully proven successful.

        Pay attention to politicians and their buddies who may do this.

      2. I think you misunderstand the real estate development game. The Developers borrow money then pay themselves first - in the form of "Development Fees". When the project is finished they sell it to another entity (which may be the same people) that borrows the money in the form of a mortgage and pay both the purchaser and seller transaction fees. If anyone gets stuck it's the lender. The lenders generally look only at the cash flow estimate and maybe a market study that there is a market for whatever, but 10 lenders will likely finance based on the same market study, resulting in oversupply and price adjustments. The developer is long gone by then.

    2. From what I've read tenants must make use of available government rent relief before they can invoke eviction protections.

    3. The policy did not hurt tenants - it prevented a massive spike in homelessness at the same time that millions were losing their jobs. And homeless people, of course, have no way to "shelter in place", and are obviously at an elevated risk of contracting and spreading covid. The idea is that once the moratoria end, people will have returned to work and the pandemic will be over, so the effects of eviction will not be as severe.

      The only people the policies hurt were landlords - and at that, only landlords unscrupulous enough as to try to evict people in the middle of a pandemic.

      1. "The only people the policies hurt were landlords"

        And all landlords are just money-grubbing Trump wannabees, right?

          1. That seems really uncharitable. Sure; there are unethical landlords. But, also, tons of ethical ones. And let's face it . . . there are lots of unethical tenants as well. Ones that are totally taking advantage of innocent landlords during Covid.

            I've been lucky that my tenants were pretty decent. Got the rent checks on time. But one family refused to allow me to enter the house, or my real estate agents to enter, to take photos for listing purposes. Things for me could have been far worse. But, as it was; it was far from ideal.

            Can we agree that there are/were villains on both sides?

    4. The thing with evictions is whom do you plan to rent the apartment to? Someone who was evicted from somewhere else for the same reason you wish to evict your current tenant?

      Likewise with foreclosure -- you foreclose and then sell -- to whom?

      1. fair questions.
        But it is for the landlord/owner to decide the economics for their own situation.
        Floating 'loans' to some tenants will make sense, if you know that they are likely to make good in whole or in part, and are better to keep around for want of zero tenant. Cash flow is a critical question which can only be made whole with cash.

      2. In my part of the country (ie, southern California); if you foreclose, you then can sell that house to any of a dozen eager buyers who are desperately trying to take advantage of the low mortgage interest rates and find a house to buy.

        I have no doubt that there are parts of the country where your point is accurate. But not all areas. (Or even most areas??)

    5. There is a big difference between say a few months eviction ban and ticking more toward a year.

      I unloaded the rental property when the area became "gentrified" and sale value was about 3 times what I paid for it. Glad I did.

      Friends who have rentals are really feeling the pain. Those who own outright are doing OK, but the utilities and maintenance still need to be paid. That isn't bad for a few months but going on 10-11 is really driving into their savings.

      And those who have mortgages are really hurting. The banks were forgiving at first, but since about July none are giving out deferrals. Sure you could consider those payments to be "shuffling around the balance sheet" if you have funds to think making those payments without rental income. But, even though state and federal authorities are stating "your rent is still all due" the realism is landlords are going to only collect a small percentage of that rent. Everyone knows this.

      The real tragedy is going to be the state of rentals. Maintenance is being deferred and renovations even needed ones are not going to happen. Disrepair in the rental areas of town is readily apparent. It doesn't take more then a season of not caring to really make something go from "nice" to "run down" and it is only going to get worse.

      And, sure, the renter is going to make out in the short term with some form of de facto rent forgiveness. But it is going to be the renter that takes it in the long term. Landlords are going to have to make up that loss somehow so expect rents to go up once the markets recover. Also good luck trying to rent something without having to put down the maximum security deposit allowed by law. Or what current landlords are being advised to do is "rent acceleration" where you charge the yearly rent over 10 months then give the last 2 months "free".

      The fun times are only just beginning....

      1. I imagine that there will be a lot of fires...

        The other thing that will get interesting is in states such as Massachusetts where code violations are a defense against eviction -- and I can see things getting run down enough in other states for courts or legislatures to adopt a "warranty of hability" after a few staircases collapse or children go through windows.

        I also can see municipalities not wanting to take tax title as they then become liable for maintaining a building full of non-paying tenants, and I can see a lot of the true slumlords (who were already highly leveraged) simply walking away.

        I know of places BC (Before Coronavirus) where a court has seized a building and appointed a receiver, but a building has to have income for that to work. The rent is paid to the receiver, who then spends it to maintain the building -- I'm not sure how this ends.

        But if you have no rent being paid -- to anyone -- then what???

        1. Logical conclusion when those corporate landlords go into bankruptcy is they become "public housing" or worse...

          It would also be one thing if eviction bans were keeping renters who would end up on the streets in their housing, but it appears, through anecdotal evidence but I imagine studies will support this conclusion eventually, that renters are do not have such a need. Most can pay their rent, even if it means their disposable income is otherwise tight. Instead that large percentage of their monthly budget has just gone into discretionary spending.

          One property manager has a rather popular social media feed of the new cars that are appearing in their residential parking lots. Another has taken to documenting the number of TV boxes by the dumpster with a special Christmas addition showing garbage from all the new "toys" renters who haven't been paying their rent managed to afford this December. If one wanted to engage in confirmation bias a drive through the rental section of town the day after Christmas would have been enough for you to say well I don't think these renters are in any real danger of eviction...

      2. "“rent acceleration” where you charge the yearly rent over 10 months then give the last 2 months “free”."

        Which then allows you to base your security deposit on the accelerated rent....

        1. Residential rent acceleration is not permitted in every jurisdiction, but yes ramping up the security deposit is a "bonus" that is being advised.

          Most renters don't have a months worth of expenses in savings, living paycheck to paycheck. I can't imagine the added financial commitment of needing an extra few thousand dollars to get into a rental is going to help with society mobility. Then again, maybe it will. For a single person in their 20's who has a comfortable private room in their parent's house, there is little reason for them to incur 30-40% (or around me upwards of 50%) of a rent expense every month. So increasing the entry cost might have desirable long term effects (at least financially).

  5. One of the interesting debates around the Coronavirus has been who should get the vaccine first. Beyond frontline medical workers (Those actively treating COVID patients and those in Nursing homes), there's largely been two schools of thought.

    1. Treat the elderly first
    2. Treat the "essential" workers first. (Essential is a broad category).

    If you're just interested in saving lives, the math has come down on treating the elderly first. But if you're interested in more "racially equitable" concepts, treating essential workers first has come to be more important.

    So, what is more important, and who should be treated first?

    1. I'd argue that we shouldn't be saving "lives", we should be saving "man years". Covid deaths have disproportionately been among people who were quite elderly and sick, with little time left to live. They represent a lot of the "death" toll, but a relatively small proportion of the man years lost.

      The last thing we should do is any "racially equitable" allocation of the vaccine. There's no evidence that this virus is especially hard on any racial or ethnic group, once you account for comorbidity.

      Lacking any medical basis for such racially biased distribution, it would be just straight up racism.

      What has really disappointed me about our response to this pandemic is the extent to which we've totally blown off easy measures that could have been, and should have been, implemented many months ago. Once we found that the BCG vaccine had a protective effect, we could have rolled out its use very rapidly. Similarly, we could have created a moderately effective live vaccine out of the several coronavirus "common colds", which have also been demonstrated to give resistance to the virus. In effect the safety testing has already been done by nature for those viruses!

      The only thing they've really had any interest in innovating in, was civil liberties violations.

      1. " Covid deaths have disproportionately been among people who were quite elderly and sick, with little time left to live. They represent a lot of the “death” toll, but a relatively small proportion of the man years lost."

        I'd be a little careful on assessments like that. A COVID case in a 75 year old who would've lived another 10 years is still 10 years of life. Not necessarily "a little time left to live". Now, you could use QALYs....but that's a whole different ball of wax.

        One way to look at the data, is the % of deaths in a given age range that have COVID as a cause. So, the below chart shows that (including COVID-influenza, age ranges are 85+, then 75-85, then 65-75 and so on). You'll note the peak percentage actually isn't the highest bracket. And, it stays pretty high, until you get to under 45

        85+ 10.8%
        75+ 11.5%
        65+ 10.9%
        55+ 9.4%
        45+ 8.7%
        35+ 5.9%
        25+ 3.2%
        15+ 1.5%
        5+ 1.1%
        1+ 0.6%
        Under 1: 0.2%

        1. This is deceptive, though.

          The reason Covid causes 8.7% of deaths in the 45-54 age range is that mortality from other causes is pretty low there.

          What you want is the Covid mortality rate, not the percentage of deaths from Covid.

          1. It's higher than you would think.

            There are 161,000 deaths (all causes) in the 45-54 year group from February to December in 2020. By comparison the 65-74 group has 567,000 deaths (all causes). So, it's lower for sure in the 45-54 group. But not MUCH MUCH lower.

          2. Here's your data.

            Not that, between 45 and 55, your chances of dying of Covid more than double, but, so do your chances of dying, period. If you're no more than middle aged, this pandemic is a real nothingburger, relatively speaking. And, as you can see, the teachers might have a motive for shutting down the schools, but it's absolutely not being done "for the children"; If you're in your 30's or younger this pandemic might as well not exist so far as you're concerned.

            1. A real nothingburger.

              Brett, compare what the death rate was, for instance, for people in their 30s, pre-Covid, and post-Covid. Maybe younger people are more at risk, because they have more at stake. Which age group has seen the largest increase in its chance of facing death?

              It's not a rhetorical question. I haven't tried to figure it out. I'm curious, and trying to get someone else to do the work.

              1. I've done the work. The case fatality rate, now that medical workers know what to do, ranges from .0% to !.5% with some outliers being between 0.11% and 0.5%.
                An epidemiological study of the 100 countries with the most cases of covid (5.5 Billion people) shows only weak correlation with any comorbidities except for chronic kidney disease and advance age. And even in the latter case the correlation is at most 30% for those over 80.

              2. Yeah, a real nothingburger, by which I mean, no more dangerous than other things you pay no attention to.

      2. "the extent to which we’ve totally blown off easy measures that could have been, and should have been, implemented many months ago."

        One example: there is some reasonably good evidence that good furnace filters (in the furnace, or in front of a box fan) might do a pretty good job of filtering viral particles out of the air.

        We don't have grandkids, but I can understand grandparents being willing to take risks to see the grandkids. I wonder if it would have been more effective if the messaging was 'try to limit things, but if you must gather for God's sake get a good filter and leave the fan running', as opposed to 'don't do Xmas'.

        1. Those filters can...but not fast enough (and potentially not well enough, but really not fast enough).

          The basic problem is one of airflow. Your furnace filter doesn't filter the air in the house fast enough. There's a LOT of air in the house. Realistically, you'd need to be filtering the entire volume of air in the house every 15 minutes to have a reasonable efficacy (And honestly, to be safe, faster than that).

          1. Here is a test in a class room sized room (several hundred square feet, bigger than most dining or living rooms). Is it as good as HEPA? No. Is it better to do nothing? That seems unlikely.

            We have used them in bad wildfire smoke periods, and they absolutely do work.

            (yes, wildfire smoke isn't covid ... but the professors discussing these think that wildfire smoke particle sizes are similar to covid aerosol particle sizes)

            1. Gack ... muffed the html. Let's try again

            2. While refinding that one I came across this:

              "High-efficiency residential HVAC filters were found
              to be effective at capturing airborne virus particles."

              The best ones (MERV 14) had single pass removal rates in the 97% range.

              1. What you're talking about are air purifiers. They're pretty common.
                IE, something like this:


                What you need to pay attention to is the room size, and the number of times they can filter the air in a room. Many of these are rated for about 500 square feet. What's important to understand is how fast they "clean" the given room. They usually aim for about 15 minutes for 1 room air volume, on their highest setting

                But COVID has transmission as fast as 5 minutes. So, you're looking at setting at least 3 of these puppies up, in every 500 square feet, all going full blast. That may help. Then you need to replace the HEPA filters (~$80 to $100 a pop)....probably every month if you're going full blast.

                So, if you've got a 2000 square foot home, call it $3000 for 12 of these guys, plus another $1200 every month in new filters, plus electricity....

                1. No. They are talking about furnace filters. Either in the furnace or set on the intake of a box fan. We change it every few months. When the smoke was bad, we changed it after a month or so. I just checked amazon, and 20x20x1 MERV 13 filters are going for $6 to $20 a pop. So running one during Thanksgiving dinner is going to cost less than a six pack of decent beer.

                  "But COVID has transmission as fast as 5 minutes."

                  At the risk of questioning your expertise, the folks who do this for a living think that, say, an order of magnitude reduction in the concentration of viral aerosols over the course of Thanksgiving dinner might actually make a difference in the likelihood and/or severity of covid infections.

                  Anecdatum alert: before we discovered these a few years ago, when one of us caught a cold, the likelihood of the other catching it was maybe 80%, despite rigorous handwashing etc. Since we changed to these that has dropped to maybe 30%. That's not even running the furnace fan full time, just the normal cycling to heat. YMMV.

                  1. It just doesn't clean the air fast enough if you're on a furnace filter and fan alone. You're cleaning the air in the house what, once every hour? If you're lucky? Maybe? Perhaps it'll help a little, but still.

                    Meanwhile South Korea did a nice little study here, how indoor dining for 5 minutes, from 20 feet away got someone infected.


                    1. "It just doesn’t clean the air fast enough if you’re on a furnace filter and fan alone."

                      People who have hooked up P2.5 meters and watched it in real time disagree, FWIW.

                    2. Absaroka,

                      This issue has been studied at length and experimentally at MIT before opening the campus this fall. The rate of changing the air in the room is too small. The filters you cite will not filter o.5 µm particles and a 500 sq ft room is is small for more than 3 people if people are there for an extended period (such as 1 hour).

      3. I think, in this case you could probably save the most man years by vaccinating

        1) Younger people who are vulnerable due to pre-existing conditions.
        2) The elderly
        3) Health care workers and other likely to interact with COVID-19 sufferers.

        For most, healthy people under 55 (and especially those under 45) the average man years saved by vaccination will be near zero.

    2. If you’re just interested in saving lives, the math has come down on treating the elderly first. But if you’re interested in more “racially equitable” concepts, treating essential workers first has come to be more important.

      No, No, No. Your comment reflects the trimuph of the woke, and your reaction to it.

      Why are healthcare workers at the front of the line according to everyone? Because their job entails exposure to greater risk. So as between a 30 year old nurse and an 85 year old retiree, the nurse goes first, even though the nurse's immune system is likely stronger.
      Same thing applies, to a lesser extent, to "essential" workers. The term is not well defined, but I would generally define it as those whose jobs require repeat exposure, and hence repeat risk of contracting Covid. Police, firefighters, EMTs, and maybe some others.
      The nature of their job means they cannot isolate, which the elderly can to reduce their risk. Which the elderly have been doing now for about 9 months.
      So as between the 30 year old cop who is being asked to deal with large numbers of the public, including arresting criminals whose exposure to COVID is unknown, and the 85 year old retiree, I'd give it to the cop first.
      I wish all of these "ethical boards" did not indulge in these racial/social nonsense theories. There is a perfectly valid and rational reason to prefer essential workers over the elderly. The appeal to race only detracts from their credibility, and invites knee-jerk reaction from the other side.

      1. By this standard the first people to get the vaccine should be the people running grocery store checkouts.

        1. More broadly, lots of workers in the food supply chain. Much of what happened in meat processing plants was unconscionable.

        2. I don't know if the first. Health care workers are first because, by definition, they deal with sick people.

          But yes, those whose jobs require repeated exposure to the possibility of infection should get priority.

          And the use of the term "essential" should be ditched. "High exposure professions" or some such is a better term, IMO.

          1. "Frontline workers" is the term I've seen being used, which seems fine.

      2. You're only considering one variable: Risk of exposure/infection

        You're not considering the other variable. Risk of severe illness/death AFTER exposure.

        The two need to be considered in conjunction, and the math run.

        Why the front-line health care workers/nursing home staff first? Two reasons
        1. MUCH greater risk of exposure.
        2. Greater risk of transmission to vulnerable populations.

        1. Fair enough, but the math has to include the ability or non-ability to isolate. An elderly person can do that, a cop cannot.

          1. That math is accounted for in the risk of exposure/infection.

            It's nice to argue that an elderly person can isolate. Except, that's largely happened in the nursing homes. And they've still suffered from very large death rates.

            Is their risk of exposure lower than a cop? Yes. Is it zero? No. Is there any way to actually make it zero? No.

            1. Nursing home residents and workers are at the front of the line, so that is already accounted for.

              But merely being elderly, no matter where you live, is not. My parents are 85 and 75, they live in a house in a retirement village, and have isolated for the most part. They have less risk than a cop.

              1. They have less risk, yes. But not zero risk. True isolation is impossible (which was the point of the nursing home example).

                Let's see if we can quantify this for the sake of argument. Let's say your cop is 20 times more likely to be infected with COVID, due to his or her higher risk environment. But let's say your elderly population is 20 times more likely to die from COVID if they get it.

                They both have the same risk of drying from COVID.

            2. "Except, that’s largely happened in the nursing homes. And they’ve still suffered from very large death rates."

              Mostly in a half dozen states, for reasons we all know of, which are no longer applicable.

      3. According to the ACIP presentation here, they recommended vaccinating essential workers (broadly defined) even though that would result in more deaths than vaccinating the elderly. And part of the reason was that the elderly where less racially diverse. This is in addition to any multiplier effects or other collateral consequences. See page 31 of the pdf.

        IIUC the CDC rejected this recommendation.

      4. The focus on saving lives and "equality metric" misses to point of the first aim of vaccination should be to stop or dramatically slow transmission. That means to vaccinate front line medical workers including active dentists, and those who have extensive contact with the public. Not all "essential workers" do.

  6. "If you’re just interested in saving lives, the math has come down on treating the elderly first."

    I've seen those, but my sense is that quality years of life lost is a better metric than lives lost. Has anyone seen the math on that?

    As an aside, the better half and I would qualify pretty soon if age is the criteria, but we have been able to drive our risk very low. We're retired and live on a couple of acres, can go to the store only every couple of weeks, and order most everything else. I'm not sure it's fair for us to be vaccinated before the 30 something grocery checker, UPS driver, or the guy who fetches stuff out to the hardware store parking lot for us. Or for that matter a friend who works for the power company. We only get to live our minimal risk life because they are out there every day. Sure, because of their age, they are at less risk if they catch it, but they are also out there taking that smaller risk everyday so we don't have to.

    1. QALYs are an interesting topic, and then that gets into a whole nother ball of wax, especially if you consider "What is a quality year of life?"

      Let's assume that a year of life in perfect health is a 1.0
      But what about a year of life where you are imprisoned in a quarantine-like setting? Is that also a 1.0? Or is that not a quality year of life? Does that get a 0.9?

      1. I'm sure the "quality of life" argument for medicine has never been used to justify ending care for a person. Who would want to live a life unworthy of life? Children with Down's Syndrome? Elderly with dementia? Young adults with schizophrenia?

          1. I have a deep distrust of bio-ethicists and their views on medical care. Eugenics was the fact-based policy with overwhelming scientific consensus pioneered in the United States and followed in Nazi Germany. The fact that the first group of people systematically murdered by the Nazis were the mentally disabled in the Aktion T4 program should give everyone pause when thinking about how the government crafts public health policy. The phrase "life unworthy of life" sounds reminiscent of the new argument about quality of life and letting less physically fit, elderly citizens choke on their own phlegm instead of burdening the healthcare system and their own bodies with future life.

    2. "I’ve seen those, but my sense is that quality years of life lost is a better metric than lives lost. Has anyone seen the math on that?"

      Never mind those considerations that are best left to bull sessions in college dorms.
      Ask what vaccines is reduce the spread to Ro <1 the fastest. And cut the equity bullshit.

  7. These open threads are little better than twitter. *clapping emoji*

      1. I dunno why he has it, to be honest. At least in a thread on a topic, people generally stick to the topic, which makes the debate reasonable(ish). These open threads are supposed to be where people discuss what they are reading or what TV shows are worthwhile, but they degenerate into fringe lunacy in short order.

        Before long, it's the politics equivalent of Holocaust deniers, flat earthers, back helicopters, and 9/11 truthers.

        1. >2 airplanes
          >3 towers
          Can't explain that!

          1. I can -- kinetic energy of falling debris becoming thermal energy after an inelastic collision, igniting fires in a building that had large tanks of Diesel fuel for emergency generators. The damage from the kinetic energy to the structural steel, further softened (not melted) by the heat from thousands of gallons of burning Diesel fuel, being sufficient to fatally compromise the structural integrity of the building.

            1. It was a joke! Everyone knows the NYC 9/11 attack was terrorism and the Pentagon attack was a cruise missile launched from a Navy ship in the Chesapeake Bay.

        2. Back helicopters...that is a new one...

          1. Alex Jones is right about the gay frogs. Plastic xenoestrogens in the water supply is one of the main reasons why there are so many faggots on Twitter now.

          2. Ungh, deal with a simple typo. Don't be silly.

    1. I'd argue the comentariat here is still a cut above twitter.

      But the momentum is not good.

      1. The constant gaslighting and intentionally misstating the clear positions of other does not help...

        1. Back up your accusation, Jimmy. Or else you're just calling names because you're not good at dealing with disagreement, which makes you part of the problem.

          1. Jimmy mentions no names. Um..

            1. Jimmy is not a hard one to read, Bob.

              1. Gaslightro knows that is him because he knows he is guilty and guilty.

                1. Yes, you've caught me.

                  1. You are the one that took extreme offense when I didn't mention your name. The guilty usually know and act like they are guilty though when caught...

  8. Hey all - I read this blog a ton but rarely comment. I’m probably more liberal than the median commentator but consider myself more centrist than anything else. My wife and I left Atlanta three days ago to drive to colorado and then Montana for a month-long get away / ski vacation (I’m a lawyer and got approval to work remotely from Montana in January). Yesterday I learned my mother in law has coronavirus, and today I woke up in Durango colorado with a fever, chills, headache, etc. My wife is still a symptomatic and we are getting tested in a few hours.

    I guess my only point in commenting is to say that I know response to the coronavirus, like everything else, is somewhat politicized. I never took it super seriously, but usually masked, avoided indoor gatherings, etc. Now I’m starting symptoms a 26 hour drive from home knowing it will probably be quite mild (I’m 32) but may not be. And I’m worried about my wife. So I guess I would just say once you have it (or think you do) you feel like a real dumbass for not taking it that seriously in the past. It’s kind of a scary situation to be in, and I would give anything to have been more strict leading up to this trip. So maybe take my stupid situation into account if possible - we are so close to this shitty virus being a thing of the past.

    1. Statistically, you're more in danger on the long car trip from the driving. Drive carefully.

      80% of people are asymptomatic who get the virus. The survival rate is 99.96 to 99.98%. Most deaths happen to those who have comorbidities (diabetes, kidney problems, etc.). Point is, you can't live your life in fear. Think of it how we repeat in a mantra, after a terror attack, that the terrorist win if you live in fear. Same thing.

      Lastly, everything gets politicized, why would a pandemic response be any different?

      1. Not an NRA fan, huh Mad Kalak? And it's not like the guy is doing some crazy risky thing like voting for a guy who is 78 versus one whi is 74, I mean the odds are the first guy is totally retarded, amirite?

        1. Huh, I must live rent free in your brain that I totally demolished you with your idiot argumentations earlier that aging doesn't affect you more the older you get and that 74 isn't different from 78. You want to take every opportunity to re-litigate. For heaven's sake, at least do it coherently and not say I said things I didn't say.

      2. Survival rate for a woman of childbearing age (99.98%) is same as survival rate for childbirth (99.98%).

      3. Survival rate for a woman of childbearing age (99.98%) is same as survival rate for childbirth (99.98%)....

    2. Ironically, or perhaps not, it seems all my friends to the left of me have thrown all caution to the wind and all my friends to the right of me are being super cautious. I don't know what it is exactly. It might be that politics aside, perhaps conservatives are generally more reserved than liberals? Idk.

      Hopefully the vaccine is distributed soon and we can all get back to our lives.

      1. I don't think we will ever get back to pre-covid normal. These black swan events create a one way ratchet, until something else happens to undo them that is.

        1. I don't think the government intends that we get back to normal. It's like the huge advance of the police state after the 9-11 attack: The government grabs power eagerly, taking it away is like pulling teeth.

          Pulling teeth from an unsedated wolverine, I mean.

          1. Yes, we never went back to a FDR level of gov't control of the economy, and never went back to a pre-LBJ welfare state, and never went to a pre-G.W. Bush security state, and we won't go back to a pre-covid level of freedom.

            Trump and Reagan were speedbumps.

            1. We have to go forward to go back! Accelerate!
              More social programs!
              More foreign wars!
              More regulation and taxation!
              Ridin' with Biden!

        2. What's going to stick around? The masks? The restaurants/school/gyms being closed down? Limits on public gatherings?

          Even assuming the government wants those things (which...why?) None of that has a sustainable story once the vaccine is adopted.

  9. The Earth feels solid to us bacteria living on it, but on the scale of the planet itself, it's far sloshier than a drop of water.

    1. Someone took a course in civil engineering!

  10. The kids are not alright.

    They're kicking kids about of school for having used unfashionable words in an non-racist context several years earlier.

    1. Do you think there should be a social norm against use of the n word?

      1. Against the non-racist use? No. And even if there's a social norm, it shouldn't be enforced by refusal of admission to a public university, which here probably violated both the first amendment and equal protection.

        1. So, no social norm against the n word? I mean, I grant you it's not so totally hideous like not standing for the national anthem, I mean, that should of course get you fired amirite?

          1. " I grant you it’s not so totally hideous like not standing for the national anthem, I mean, that should of course get you fired amirite?"

            Seems like this issue is really forcing you to scrape the bottom of the barrel, argument wise.

            I haven't watched much football recently, or non-politics related reasons, but my understanding is that not standing for the national anthem is quite common, and will not get you fired. And of course, the guy who's career was affected was being paid to take part in an entertainment event that didn't involve politics.

            Other than that, great comment.

          2. Should there be a social norm against reading Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail?" Because that is what you are advocating for.

            1. Facts are pesky things, aren't they?

              1. Not if you simply ignore those that are inconsistent with your preconceived notions.

            2. Social norms: known for being bright lines without any exceptions.


              1. Sheesh? A professor's career was threatened recently for doing just that.

                1. Switching from norm to anecdote should tell you that you're pushing a narrative, not an argument.

                  1. "Switching from norm to anecdote should tell you that you’re pushing a narrative, not an argument."

                    It should? Why?

                    1. Because an anecdote is just a lame outrage factory you're trying to blow up into a general proof.

                    2. "Because an anecdote is just a lame outrage factory you’re trying to blow up into a general proof."

                      I don't think that sentence means anything, Sarcastro.

      2. Well, when "social norms" are enforced by virtual lynch mobs, intent on ruining a teenager's life for behavior that was tolerated or even applauded when demonstrated by other classmates of hers, perhaps not? When did "social norms" turn into "permission to form on-line mobs and seek and destroy for years without end"?

        1. As someone pointed out on another thread, the "racism" at issue here was that a 15 year old girl was trying to imitate Black people because she thought they were cool.

          If we aren't careful, we're going to expand the concept of racism to the point were the next generation will read about racism during the Jim Crow era and think it was about White Southerners trying to act Black.

          1. I'm not convinced that this generation of young people don't think that.

      3. "Do you think there should be a social norm against use of the n word?"

        Absolutely, including rap/hip hop songs.

        1. I'm prepared to burn all copies of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" if it prevents micro-aggressions against Black persons of color. Who's with me!?

      4. If you're talking about the UT case, then Ithink:

        1. There should be a social norm.
        2. The university over-reacted badly.

        I think an ounce of education would have been worth a pound of punishment. There is more involved here than Groves' admission. Revoking it, besides being unduly harsh, is likely to just stir up resentment among others at her school.

        The lesson is not, "This is a terrible thing to call someone," but, "Be careful and don't offend the watchers."

        1. As long as the standard is applied to wypipo. We can't reinforce white supremacy by using institutional power to critique Black culture when it expressed by Black youths.

      5. I'm fine with having a list of language that should be universally shunned in polite society as long as putting language on that list is inclusive. I just suspect once that exercise is complete the people who are "pro" putting stuff on the list won't like it so much when language that disparages Christians and white people is included. It is no fun to have language you use every day and think is funny as hell to be suddenly not allowed.

        1. How else will we fight structural racism? We need to give Black people a pass for minor transgressions while throwing the book at wypipo when they step out of line.

        2. It's not even that, Jimmy.

          Back in the 1990s, UMass Amherst actually tried to compile a list of banned words -- words that would be banned on campus, with students uttering them being punished for doing so.

          The problem was that they could never finish the list -- every time they thought they were done, someone would want to add a few more words...

          And 1st Amendment notwithstanding, my point was "you are going to take a list of words, many of which *I* have never seen before, and hand it to 5000 drunken freshmen and not expect to have it read to you?" "Your telling these kids that someone will be upset if they say each of these words -- you aren't expected to hear them screamed out of dorm windows at 2 AM?"

          The left truly does not understand young people....

          1. I remember when I cared more about things like this and I read the discovery material in Doe v. Michigan. There U of Mich actually had an enforceable speech code for around 10 months and the results were the victims of the speech code were those it was supposed to protect. Of course, these first attempts were actually designed to promote universal civil speech and not just creating a list of politically acceptable language.

            Apparently those who use salty, bigoted language think they would like to still be able to speak their mind while only applying civility standards to those they do not like.

    2. Years ago, this type of thing might have happened if someone had a video that showed that you were attracted to someone of the same sex. We're not becoming more tolerant, just intolerant of different things.

    3. I’d be interested in Prof. Volokh’s comments on whether it is permissible for a public university to punish admitted students on the basis of something they said. Is it a legal problem to treat a white student who was recorded while singing along with a song with objectionable lyrics differently from a black student singing those same lyrics? How much leeway does a public university have in discriminating against applicants on the basis of constitutionally protected behavior (say declining gun owners, environmentalists, or white kids who sing hiphop songs with the n-word).

      1. I'm pretty sure the university's student code of conduct overrules an ancient document written by slave-owning white men who don't properly represent the racial and gender diversity of contemporary America.

        1. Sadly, it does. "Academic judgement" supersedes civil rights.

    4. Except the words actually were and are fashionable.

      As the teenager whose admission was revoked noted, ALL of the very popular studio-produced music she listened to included the same words with the same kind of usage.

      1. According to "kids these days" they don't associate the same negative connotations with the n-word that older people do (or parrot a universal disgust of for a myriad of reasons). This would not be the first time in history that there is a disconnect in language used by youth and those a generation older.

  11. I just finished Mr. Robot Season 4 on Prime. Amazing show.

    1. Really good show; if you loved it, I would recommend watching Legion.

  12. I wish everyone a great New Year.

    And I hope that, if not now, then soon, we can remember that we are all in this together. While we might have different views as to what the best thing to do is, we should try and remember that most people want the best. They are not communists, or fascists, or whatever label is being used to demonize them today, and they are not the enemy; they are just Americans.

    The world is full of dangers. We really should stop trying to create more out of each other.

    1. Sorry to rain on your parade, but that's just hot air.

      We are not all in this together when one group of people's values are antithetical to the others, and each seeks to impose them on the other (and there is no existential external threat).

      1. Prepare for four years of liberal platitudes about unity, common ideals, and perseverance under these COVID lockdowns. Sure, Obama/Biden spied on the American people and bombed civilians in neutral countries with their drone program. But Obama/Biden were cool, hip guys and People magazine loves how Michelle Obama dresses. Now is the time for Biden to Build Back Better with the same group of intellectual bureaucrats who ruled so effectively under Obama.

        1. Remember, the alt-right is just Zionism for the goyim, but we can't say that out loud.

          1. I hope you find happiness in your personal life in the New Year, mad kalak.

            1. God bless you and your family. I'm a citizen of two kingdoms, if you recognize the reference, so I'm fine with whatever happens.

              Now, that peace and contentment you feel, that the world is set aright because of Biden...not everyone shares it, and moreover, about 1/2 the country fears the policies that go along with your contentment, and moreover, they think that the election was fraudulent, making the country more ungovernable than before. Remember, that's why Nixon didn't context the fraudulent 1960 election, he didn't want to govern a fractured country.

              Now, did you sit back and tell everyone to have an Eagles "Take it Easy" song kinda life in 2016? Did the left in general? No, of course not. They, and you, fought like hell because your values were at stake. Why would you expect anyone from the other side to act any different?

              1. No. You misunderstand the impulse.

                If anything, I have observed that those on the "left" are, if anything, angrier than ever. This election hasn't changed it. People on the right ranting about the election being stolen, and people on the left ranting about the know-nothings on the right destroying the country.

                It's getting old. None of this? Your 1960 election ... any of this? It doesn't matter.

                The sun will rise, the sun will set, and I will have lunch today.

                Have a great year!

                1. So, in the long run, we are all dead. Gotcha.

                  1. No, that's not it either.

                    Look, you put up a message wishing people a great New Year and hoping some of the vitriol goes down, and what's the first thing that happens? You and RHW (ahem) storm in and say, NOT SO FAST! HOW DARE YOU!

                    I mean ... okay! Where does this end? My spouse, who up until the last couple of years has been remarkably apolitical, is now hopping mad all the time. But from the exact opposite from everything you are angry about. It's tiring.

                    At the end of the day, we all live together. We go to work. We root for the good teams, and against the Yankees ... together. What unites is more than what divides us.

                    If you feel the need to carry on and demonize the other, knock yourself out. If you find that, at the end of the day, you are a happier person, a better spouse, a more giving member of your community because of that anger and because you've somehow proven that other Americans are less than, well, it's working better for you than for me.

                    But while I have genuine grievances with some things that are going on, I've realized that my anger and resentment toward other people hasn't helped, and just made me more miserable. So ...

                    Happy New Year!

                    1. Evidence shows that anger may be addictive:

                      " turns out that your brain on grievance looks a lot like your brain on drugs. In fact, brain imaging studies show that harboring a grievance (a perceived wrong or injustice, real or imagined) activates the same neural reward circuitry as narcotics."


                    2. That is sadly unsurprising.

                      You have to break the cycle at some point.

                    3. Whatever. You're optimistic. I get it. The sun will still rise in the east and set in the west. C'est la vie. To that, I agree.

                      But it comes down to power...some people have it and intend to use it against other people who think that they should have it, to use it other the other people instead. If you think we can all take a chill pill, think again.

                      And please, don't conflate things. A clear eyed realization that polarization around the levers of power is inevitable means that anyone, let alone me, holds anger in their heart.
                      Be happy that the majority of your ideological opponents are thoroughly inculcated with slave morality. You're kinda like Trump supporters in 2016.

                    4. I’m sorry that you are so bitter and angry, and hope you find it within yourself to be a better person.

                      Take care

                    5. I sometimes play the game of who is different online versus offline.

                      I've got no time to argue politics offline.

                      Not looking too good for m_k, though - he's internalized some stuff that doesn't seem healthy in the offline world.

                    6. It's just weird that someone would react so strongly to being wished a Happy New Year and the idea that all this anger and resentment is probably not very helpful.

                      I don't know about anyone else, but I live and work with people that ... vote differently than I do. And some of them are lovely people, despite having different views.

                      In general, I have to assume that most people are much more pleasant offline. 🙂

              2. "because your values were at stake"

                Bigotry, ignorance, disdain for science and modernity, and superstition do not constitute values. They're just shabby attributes of some substandard people.

  13. "The RV also broadcast Petula Clark's 1964 hit "Downtown," a song about how the bustle of downtown can cure a lonely person's troubles."

    I'm wondering if the Nashville bombing was the first serious indication of the mental health crisis that 10 months of lockdowns has caused. I doubt that song was picked at random, it had a meaning to the perp.

    1. I'm not familiar with the details but I know Trump is to blame.

  14. Biden: Doomsayer-in-Chief

    President-elect Biden reminded Americans in his Thanksgiving address that they are at war against COVID-19. So if we are at war, one would expect the incoming Commander-in-Chief to motivate the troops and inspire the nation. I imagine something similar to Winston Churchill on May 13, 1940: “We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalog of human crime.”

    Instead, Biden gave Americans doom and despair three days before Christmas: “[T]hings are going to get worse before they get better, notwithstanding the fact we have the vaccine.” “[W]e’re going to lose tens of thousands of more lives in the months to come.” “[P]eople are still going to be getting sick and dying from COVID.” “Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us.”

    Given COVID-19’s global devastation, I compare these times to the Second World War. During that conflict, Americans could tune in to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's powerful voice, offering strength. Biden’s speech has some parallels to Roosevelt’s “Date Which Will Live in Infamy” address on Dec. 8, 1941. There, President Roosevelt recounted the lives lost from the Dec. 7 attack against Hawaii, Malaya, Hong Kong, Guam, Philippine Islands, Wake, and Midway.

    But the more appropriate speech one year into the COVID-19 pandemic should have mirrored Roosevelt’s Feb. 23, 1942 fireside. In that broadcast, the president downplayed the 1941 surprise attack: “The consequences of the attack on Pearl Harbor–serious as they were–have been wildly exaggerated in other ways. And these exaggerations come originally from Axis propagandists; but they have been repeated, I regret to say, by Americans in and out of public life.”

    Roosevelt admits the country had taken losses. Yet he immediately follows that statement with hope: “We have most certainly suffered losses–from Hitler's U-Boats in the Atlantic as well as from the Japanese in the Pacific–and we shall suffer more of them before the turn of the tide. But, speaking for the United States of America, let me say once and for all to the people of the world: We Americans have been compelled to yield ground, but we will regain it . . . We are daily increasing our strength. Soon, we and not our enemies, will have the offensive; we, not they, will win the final battles; and we, not they, will make the final peace.”

    Comparing President Roosevelt’s fireside to Biden’s address, one sees that Biden also gives the plain truth but fails to deliver on hope. Biden offers tepid optimism even with a viable vaccine. Imagine if Roosevelt had said in 1942, “Even after building more ships, tanks, and planes than Germany and Japan, we are still going to lose battles to the Nazis and Fascists.”

    I can’t imagine it, and I fervently hope that all Americans reject Biden’s doomsaying. A year into the war is the time to take the offensive, as America did in 1942. And we can do that with the vaccine just like we did with the fruits of our industrial might. We do not need a Doomsayer-in-Chief. We need a Commander-in-Chief.

    1. We need a federal law mandating the wearing of facial masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (aka the "Trump virus") but federal officers should be trained to not police BIPOC since police encounters with minorities often end in violence due to a mixture of poor police training and institutional white supremacy in the police departments of America.

    2. Don't worry, as soon as Biden is inaugurated the tone will change to a victory celebration, based on his great accomplishments.

      He might even win the Nobel Peace Prize.

      1. Vaccinating black people ahead of the elderly (and typically white) is a great step toward racial equality and certainly a reason for a Nobel Peace Prize nomination, in the same strain as Nelson "Dubul' ibhunu" Mandela.

    3. "And, it provides an important downpayment on the investment we need in vaccine procurement and distribution, helping deliver these incredible vaccines around the country and offer the American people protection and peace of mind that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

      But this action in the lame duck session is just the beginning. Our work is far from over.

      On day one, my administration will be ready to undertake additional steps to get the virus under control and build our economy back better than it was before this crisis. In our first 100 days, we’ll be asking all Americans to mask up for 100 days; we’ll have a plan to administer 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days and to get most schools open in the first 100 days. These are bold, but doable steps to contain the virus and get back to our lives. But we will need to act quickly. We need to scale up vaccine production and distribution and acquire tens of millions more doses. We need to undertake an ambitious plan to educate the American people in the efficacy and safety of these vaccines so that we can all reap the benefits of their protection. We need to do more to protect the most vulnerable among us who even now, in the midst of this holiday season, are desperate for real cause for hope.

      As we do, we need to move immediately to create jobs and build back better than before. We cannot do this alone. Immediately, starting in the new year, Congress will need to get to work on support for our COVID-19 plan, for support to struggling families, and investments in jobs and economic recovery. There will be no time to waste.

      But I am optimistic that we can meet this moment, together. My message to everyone out there struggling right now, help is on the way."

      -- official statement published by President-Elect Joseph Biden, December 20, 2020

  15. A lot of this is just crankiness. American politics have been too long in the hands of one generation, the baby boomers. In 2024 there will be a generational reset, and a near-clean-slate for the national political agenda. Lots of insiders who suppose they are just now on the verge of taking over—to continue to leverage the old agenda this way or that—will instead discover they have been passed over, permanently, along with the old agenda itself.

    New issues better suited to adjusting politics to the needs of younger Americans will take over the agenda, under the guidance of new political leaders—whose names right now remain entirely below the political radar, or nearly so. I think it is quite likely that the person elected president in 2024 will be someone who is not now a familiar political name nationally, and likely will be a person almost no one commenting on politics now has yet taken note of.

    After a watershed change in politics, the way will be open for at least a couple of decades to act with improved political unity, to achieve better-agreed-upon goals. Those will mostly not be goals that command attention priority among the leaders of either of today's major political parties.

    Today's era of political strife will pass into history looking just about as muddled and unresolved as it does presently. It will not be forgotten, but it will never again be salient. As the historical views grows longer, current political leaders will look increasingly inept, out-of-touch, and mediocre. The future will be glad to be rid of us, even before we are gone.

    1. We need a final solution to the Boomer question in America!

      1. Don't trust again over 30 the Boomers said....when they were in their 20s. Now do the rest of us say don't trust anyone over 60?

  16. What kind of an extradition treaty does the US have with Israel?

    Trump is wildly popular there -- Trump is known for making bold moves that attract headlines -- imagine if he were to move to Israel and renounce his US Citizenship in protest of the "witch hunt" criminal prosecutions.

    Jared & Ivanka are already Jewish and Israel has some "right of return" provision in its constitution -- along with, I suspect, protections for those who do. And a former POTUS seeking refuge in Israel would help Bibi N in arguing that he, too, is being politically prosecuted.

    It'd be interesting, wouldn't it -- and it would play well in Peoria...

    1. "What kind of an extradition treaty does the US have with Israel?"

      Does Israel wish to continue to exist . . . or does it want to learn how it would manage with America's political, economic, and military skirts to operate behind?

      1. Does the nuclear armed state of Israel need help from the United States defending itself against a few sand people? I don't think so. Anyway, most of those sand people are now trying to align with Israel against regional Iranian aggression. As for a long term foreign policy goal, I think most Israelis know that they can't depend on an America run by anti-Semitic Democrats who think that a Jewish homeland is some sort of apartheid state.

        1. Caroline Glick essentially said the same thing when Obama was elected -- that Israel really was better off building its own defense industry than in relying on the US for this very reason.

          Starting with the Saudis a couple of decades ago, most of the countries in that region are starting to realize that while they may not like Israel, that's not the country that poses a mortal threat to them.

          1. That's generally been my advice to all our allies: We're not trustworthy, be able to defend yourself, we'll abandon you in the pinch every time.

            1. Hands up, asshole!
              You are in violation of the Logan Act (1 Stat. 613, 18 U.S.C. § 953).

        2. "Does the nuclear armed state of Israel need help from the United States defending itself against a few sand people? I don’t think so."

          If Israel does not need the American skirts its hides behind -- provided at enormous and varied cost of American taxpayers -- why should we provide them? Most Americans -- especially reasoning, modern, accomplished Americans -- do not support right-wing belligerent at home. Why would they wish to subside it, at great cost, anywhere else, especially in a context involving a jackass like Netanyahu.

          I understand why selfish, deluded American evangelicals are on board with Netanyahu -- Jews are imagined to perform a role in some superstitious fantasy (until the moment at which they are no longer useful, and shall be cast to eternal damnation and hellfire). But why anyone who genuinely cares about Israel would permit support of immoral Israeli right-wingery to become a left-right divider in American politics is inexplicable. The self-preservation instinct alone should have prevented Israelis from siding with the losers of America's culture war.

          But it is not for me to choose Israel's course. It's their funeral.

          1. A shekel given is a shekel earned. Why not take money from Goyim?

  17. The art of Trump's "deal"
    is just bluster followed by

    Trump: What clingers think
    a successful, wealthy, strong
    person must be like

    1. You need to work on your haiku structure.

      1. Are you offering pointers?

        Or just reflexively lashing out against the people stomping your side in the culture war?

    2. Ah, poetry! The refuge of pretentiousness when the poet lacks artistic skill in other endeavors.

      1. If you had offered that comment in response to one of Prof. A. Volokh's weekly poems, mad_kalak, it might be a candidate to be something other than the paltry partisan sniping of a disaffected bigot.

        Is this genuinely how you propose to use the time you have remaining before replacement?

        1. Ah, Rev. Such a fake. Try reading next time. I said you were being pretentious to offer us poetry, the refuge of those who lack other artistic skills. You're no Tennyson, let me tell you that. Note how EV shares *classic* material. Yours is "purple lake of desolation" level quality.

          Is this how you genuinely propose to use your time, violating the Geneva Convention prohibition on ungodly cringe before you're lined up against the wall and shot as the revolution inevitably eats its own?

          1. Figuratively speaking, from a political perspective, I will be wiping my shoes on your tongue until the moment a better person takes your place in our electorate as the natural order of American progress continues.

  18. Anyone here a serious pool player? Or billiards, or snooker?

    1. I've been known to schmooze like the shiksas at the public pool.

    2. I played snooker with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. Serious enough?

  19. The Americans (products of Judeo - Christian Western civilization) created the most powerful, prosperous, and free nation in world history. Progressive educators and their tens of millions of clueless victims (indoctrinated over the past sixty years) have won the future without firing a shot. Our decent into weakness, decadence and disarray is not reversible. Those who have any doubt ought to take a look at TV, or postings here by those who attended “elite” institutions.

    1. There's some really good TV being made these days. Even better than Bonanza or Leave It To Beaver, I'd say!

      1. That is a weird thing to say!

        I think that it is generally acknowledged that we are in a golden age of television. That's certainly not evidence of decline, unless you think that an overabundance of quality material is decline.

  20. Here's an interesting article.
    Why are some Americans losing faith in the United State's cultural, political, medical, education, etc. institutions while another section of the American public remains faithful in the capabilities of these institutions?

  21. Oy vey! The "Rubino" crime family? Taibbi is an unflinching anti-Semite and needs to be cancelled. Someone call the ADL!

  22. Facebook has censored an ad drawing attention to Democrat senate candidate Raphael Warnock’s praise for far-left hate-preacher Jeremiah Wright, known for his infamous line “God damn America.”

    The ad was bought by American Crossroads, a nonprofit linked to Karl Rove. It highlights Warnock’s praise for Wright, but was taken down by Facebook after it was “fact-checked” by Lead Stories, one of Facebook’s approved third-party fact-checkers.

    Lead Stories claims the ad “leaves out context,” because it implies he was “communicating the same sentiment” as Wright. But Lead Stories also admits that Warnock referred to Wright as a “preacher and a prophet.” ....

    Facebook’s “fact-checkers” include USA Today and the Washington Post, both competitors of conservative media.

    When a post is fact-checked on Facebook, its distribution is reduced. This empowers the mainstream, corporate media to punish their competitors and force them to adhere to their worldview.

    For example, in June, USA Today allowed an intern to “fact check” a Breitbart News story because they disagreed with Breitbart’s use of the term “amnesty.”

    In other words, Facebook’s system forces Breitbart News to follow the mainstream media’s definition of “amnesty,” or else be potentially subject to reduced distribution.

    Facebook is already in the spotlight for election interference after founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent hundreds of millions of dollars in key swing districts that contributed to Joe Biden’s winning vote margin.

    Now it faces allegations of interfering in the Georgia runoff as well.

    1. Boo Hoo. Breitbart can run the ad on their site if they like it so much. Facebook can choose which ads it wants to run on its site, and OAN or Reason or Mother Jones or whoever else can choose what ads to run on their sites.

      By the way, referring to someone as a "preacher and a prophet" has nothing to do with agreeing with their message. For example, I think it would be reasonable to call Mohammed or Chaitanya Mahaprabhu preachers and prophets; that does not mean that I am either a Muslim or a Hare Krishna, much less both.

      1. It's about section 230. Facebook is no longer a public forum, it becomes a publisher when it edits content. This kind of censorship via so-called fact checking is publishing.

        1. Web sites choosing to run ads or not has absolutely nothing to do with Section 230. The fact that you think it does shows that you don't have even the vaguest understanding of what Section 230 actually does.

      2. First, Facebook is engaging in extremely biased political censorship. Even to the extent they are within their legal rights to do so, it's a big story when a large company acts in a way that is antithetical to American values of free speech, particularly when it involves censorship of political speech. But when the company has uniquely unprecedented control over the flow of information and communications, it's bigger than a big story.

        Second, Facebook is deceiving and misleading its users with respect to the above. Aside from being a story in itself, Facebook may have engaged in unfair/deceptive trade practices. They even lie to Congress about it.

        They are much like Google/YouTube, whose director of censorship giggled about the posturing from Congress, saying it won't affect what they do and that Elizabeth Warren's proposal to break up Google is misguided and won't happen, because only a large company with such monopoly power over information can "prevent the next Trump situation" and they are very focused on "how do we prevent it from happening again." (The video about Google was later censored . . . by Google, as has happened with many stories about Google.)

        Third, the overtly politically motivated censorship and other manipulation of communications and information flow is worth more than all political spending by both parties combined. Their activities are like in-kind political contributions, and should be recognized for what they are, namely the most potent form of election interference anywhere.

        Fourth, tech companies including Facebook are facing serious antitrust charges in at least 46 states for monopolization. It's only their monopoly power (e.g. network effects) that allows them to pull off political censorship and still retain the users that they censor. That is part of what the harm of monopolization looks like in this case.

        Fifth, I don't care strongly about Section 230 one way or the other, but there's obviously an issue of where to draw the line between a publisher and a mere provider of publishing technology. That's not new and the same issue existed in the time of the printing press. What's new is that Congress hastily enacted an ill-advised statute to preempt the field for a certain industry sector, instead of letting the law develop in courts and states. This was far more defensible at the time when it was a fledgling innovating industry, compared to now when it's dominated by a few of the largest companies in the world.

        1. So M L, how about joining me in urging Congress to repeal Section 230 outright? I propose that again and again on these threads. I have been doing it for years. For the problems you complain about, repeal is the only solution which has yet surfaced which does not invoke government censorship.

          For some reason, I don't get any groundswell of support from the commenters. I think it is because more of them would prefer to get in on the publishing monopoly than would like to see it go away. So they support Section 230, and the baleful, monopolistic business model it enables, because they hope to make use of the monopoly—maybe by leveraging government force to make it happen.

          I don't understand why anyone would suppose that is a wise way to support press freedom. It seems to me like the opposite.

          1. Once again: Section 230 has absolutely nothing to do with advertising. M L is at least making some reasonable arguments about market power and network effects that make the case that Facebook can get away with censoring ads that they wouldn't be able to otherwise. If you're going to bring up 230, at least try to do it in a context where it is relevant.

            By the way, if there were no Section 230, there would be no Volokh comment section. Small publishers are for sure not going to allow user generated content on their sites if they're potentially liable for every word of it.

            1. All nonsense, jb.

              Section 230 doesn't say anything about advertising, but it transformed the market for advertising perforce—privileging online publishers, and penalizing traditional ink-on-paper publishers. That wasn't thought of in congress, apparently, or intended, but it was instantly apparent to people with publishing experience what would happen. By 2005–2008, as online network effects became more obvious, that difference between privilege and penalty spelled monopoly, and anyone could see it coming.

              That's why you saw prestigious newspapers with storied histories suddenly giving it all away for free online. They panicked, and made dreadful mistakes in the process, but they knew what they were up against, and hoped to get lucky as they sank. Very few of them still publish at all, let alone in anything like their previous thriving condition. The nation, and especially the public life of the nation, is poorer for that.

              When Section 230 passed in 1996, I don't recall hearing about it. It was probably a year or two later that I became aware—and then it riveted my attention, because I was so flabbergasted at the magnitude of the folly. It took me about an afternoon to work out the logical implications. I confess the picture seemed so bleak that at first I didn't say much about to anyone, lest I be branded a Chicken Little. But for the most part, it has come to pass as I imagined, with only the very worst of it unrealized—unrealized mainly because that part seems still to come.

              As for the Volokh comments section, repeal Section 230 and I will volunteer to work without pay—for no more than a fair share of the profits and a small equity stake—to show EV how to bank millions publishing a blog featuring as one of its principal attractions a privately edited comments section. One of the perverse pleasures of following the VC is imagining what a gold mine it could turn into if it were handled a bit differently.

              1. The reasons newspapers went away is obvious: their principal source of revenue went away. You don't need Section 230 to make or LinkedIn job search; you don't need Section 230 to make Zillow or Online services were going to replace classified ads regardless of whether Section 230 existed or not. Shipping dead trees around for classified advertising was inefficient and easily replaced by online services that do not need Section 230 to be successful.

                Section 230 also isn't responsible for any of the effects that allowed tech companies to achieve market power. As evidence of this, I offer you two points: First, a bunch of smart people from across the political spectrum recently announced antitrust cases against both Facebook and Google, and none of them feature Section 230 as a principal feature of the argument. Second, Amazon, which doesn't rely on Section 230 at all, has become just as successful and disruptive to offline businesses (likely more so).

                By the way, if you want to make a website with a manually curated content section, nothing is stopping you from doing that today. If you think people like Reason/Eugene are missing a marvelous opportunity, maybe you should do something about it instead of making poorly reasoned comments on a legal blog.

                1. jb, if you think classified ads were ever (at least during the last 100 years) the principal source of most newspapers' revenue, you couldn't be more mistaken. Some newspapers in the 1970s were making money giving away classifieds for free. I founded one in 1972 that did that. It's still thriving today. I have no idea what they do about classifieds now, if they even publish them. And today of course it's both hot off the presses and online.

                  Do you think Google and Facebook were built on classified ad revenue? Don't be ridiculous. Where do you suppose the money that does power those national monopoly-trending publishers did come from? Who got that money before they existed? What do Google and Facebook spend that money doing? What did the news media which used to receive that money spend it on?

                  It's not surprising that you misunderstand the monopoly issues with online publishing. Almost everyone does, because they mistakenly think the folks on their phones and at their keyboards are the customers. They are not. They are the commodity for sale to the real customers—who are the ones buying the ads and the personal data.

                  Until you understand in detail how that is done, and who the real customers actually are, you are not going to have much insight into the business dynamics of online monopoly—or understand much of anything about ongoing trends in the publishing industry.

                  What I am curious about is why you have strong opinions about the publishing industry at all, given no apparent first-hand involvement. What makes you think it's worth bothering, trying to refute what I say, using stuff you believe for no better reason than it sounds plausible to you?

                  I think your mistaken comments about curated comments suggest the likely explanation. Maybe you think like a lot of folks that it's great that Joe Keyboard can be a world-wide publisher for free, with no editor looking over his shoulder to check whether he lies, defames, defrauds, or deceives.

                  Maybe you think a radically populist, say-anything publishing regime is an achievable utopia. It isn't. Utopias are never achievable.

                  You can see that by looking around. Everywhere you look folks are cropping up insisting that government censor publishing this way, or censor it that way, but always to suit the personal demands of the would-be censor. I wouldn't be surprised if you were one of those censorship advocates yourself.

                  Do you think Facebook needs to be reined in? Should it have standards imposed on it? Should it honor some implied content contract with its readers? Is it unfair to the political right? If so, you're a would-be censor. Do you think online publishers need to be restrained by a new version of the, "fairness doctrine?" More censorship.

                  As for this:

                  By the way, if you want to make a website with a manually curated content section, nothing is stopping you from doing that today.

                  Wrong. Section 230 is stopping me from doing it. If I do it now, I suffer editing expenses for my content which my competitors need not pay. That not only makes the competitive dynamics unmanageable, it also lets the competitors—but not me—expand without limit, without proportionately scaling up their costs.

                  A shorthand way to explain that to you is that the cost of unedited content is unlimited published swill, plus publishing monopoly, plus reduced editorial diversity among publishers, plus a huge hit to news gathering, plus eventually-irresistible demands for government censorship.

                  I leave aside whatever extraneous social costs are associated with surveillance marketing. That last is the only piece of the equation I failed to anticipate during that dismal afternoon I spent thinking about the eventual implications of Section 230. They are all coming true.

        2. You don't know what censorship is, you're not equipped to see bias in any kind of objective fashion, and the antitrust action has nothing to do with this.

    2. Facebook is already in the spotlight for election interference after founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent hundreds of millions of dollars in key swing districts that contributed to Joe Biden’s winning vote margin.

      This is a baldfaced lie.

      Stop lying, M.L.

      1. Bernard, you are the one spreading misinformation here. ML said Zuckerberg was spending hundreds of millions to influence the election, which he has: $400M or so, most to the left-leaning Center for Tech and Civic Life, who are donating funds in key cities. There are lawsuits over this now.

        1. "There are lawsuits over this now."

          You don't say! If there's lawsuits over this regarding the election, it's a done deal, right?

          ....oh, wait. Maybe not?

      2. Bernard

        No, it is not a lie. It's fascinating actually that you don't know anything. That's revealing of the information bubbles that people live in these days, when they don't get information from a broad range of media sources on the political spectrum.

        Zuckerberg donated 419.5 million dollars to election to actually fund, influence, and exercise control over election systems and process. $350 million was through the “Safe Elections” Project of the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) and another $69.5 million to the Center for Election Innovation and Research.

        They made grants to fund election systems and processes in certain areas. With those grants came some novel, unique and creative contracts directing election processes in a politically favorable way, and sometimes in contravention to law. You can read more about it here; the full report is linked at the bottom:

        Naturally, the grants were focused on major metro Democrat strongholds in swing states with long histories of election rigging and fraud issues.

        1. Zuckerberg donated 419.5 million dollars to election to actually fund, influence, and exercise control over election systems and process

          Funding != control, of course.

          And also you have very new goal posts compared to 'contributed to Joe Biden’s winning vote margin.'

        2. That’s revealing of the information bubbles that people live in these days, when they don’t get information from a broad range of media sources on the political spectrum.

          M L, any suggestions? I'm continuously in the market for responsible right-tending media, which I'm sure is what you have in mind. It's damned hard to find. Except for the Wall Street Journal, and this here VC, almost everything I look at disappoints. Most of it is shockingly bad.

          What I am looking for is news gathering professionals who don't toe the liberal line. I already know where to look for news gathering professionals who do toe the liberal line. They are easy—out there in abundance—but along with most of the useful news published in this nation, they deliver distinctive disappointments. Plus, there are plenty of stories they ought to be covering, but don't. I get that. My wife is damned tired of listening to me mutter about it.

          But I should tell you what I am not looking for. I am not looking for not-news-gathering, not-professionals, with vivid imaginations. Still less do I want the ones with no sense of restraint, and a willingness to lie. On the rightward part of the media sources political spectrum, that is what I see, and almost everything I see.

          Do you think I ought to be following Fox? Limbaugh? Breitbart? What? Should it be some rando pumping out the inside scoop from the comfort of his home keyboard?

          I'm not in the market for stories posited on nothing better than plausibility, from "reporters," who question so little that they have no notion what might be plausible—if that were even a standard, instead of a news-gathering delusion. Where, please, is this, "broad range of media sources?" Can you be specific? Can you even tell me—without reference to politics—what you think a media source ought to look like?

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