Economic History · Federal Government · investing · Uncategorized

Break Their Fall

The older I get, the less enjoyable or exciting any “black pill” realization becomes. It might speak to the sad state of affairs currently showcased, but in reality a cosmic manifestation of elitist gall is the culprit. Rather than hiding their malevolence, the dominant players of our time have settled into an open, unapologetic method of communicating intent. Thus we as observers are left to endorse rather blasé attitudes in the face of searing rain, at once feeling the discomfort but taking solace in the fact that its arrival could be predicted from a long ways off.

A perfect example of this lies in the wondrous implications of the Dodd-Frank legislation signed by President Obama in 2013. The landmark legislation was celebrated for supposedly raining in the excesses of Wall Street (a highly dubious claim), and is regularly cited by leftists to show the successes of 44. At the same time, the mammoth bill put forward some rather interesting features that drop hints about what is to come.

In reaction to the controversy over government-funded bailouts of banks, the legislation permits such institutions to maintain solvency by pursuing a strategy of “bail-ins,” an option which involves seizure of a large percentage of customer assets to keep the firm afloat. Due to protections bolstering derivatives on the totem pole of importance, users with regular checking and savings accounts might well be subjected to the experience of people in Cyprus, who lost tremendously after a financial crisis on the island.

What’s really lamentable about the whole matter concerns how little attention it has received. The stock market continues to return stimulus-induced profits, Congress is just barely approaching a COVID deal after months of haggling, and an incompetent geriatric is poised to become president in January. But this bit of legal scribbling, which stands to produce disastrous effects in the very real future, is remanded to the likes of The Epoch Times, an alleged “fake news” paper.

I suppose the natural response is to dive deeper into Bitcoin, yet even on that front the waters are becoming murkier. Mnuchin the Moocher has taken first blood, and I would not expect Yellen to be much different. The steady swill of power and corporate greed seems to overtake everyone, no matter the designs of their sacred oaths and professed beliefs.

Perhaps we should buy land.

Economic History · Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

The XRP Smackdown

There has been much gnashing and simping over the announcement of an SEC lawsuit against Ripple, one of the more controversial cryptocurrencies on the market. For some, the move is confirmation of their fears that XRP is a scam, and carries with it an advisement to purchase Bitcoin. Others are holding the line, suggesting the storm will work itself out and leave Ripple stronger than before.  

I tend to be in the latter category, perhaps driven in part by my long-time holding of the currency, but also because the lawsuit itself seems rather like a rather flimsy last-ditch attempt at relevance by Jay Clayton, the outdoing SEC chairman and historical big bank shill. Take a look at the government’s statement:

“We allege that Ripple, Larsen, and Garlinghouse failed to register their ongoing offer and sale of billions of XRP to retail investors, which deprived potential purchasers of adequate disclosures about XRP and Ripple’s business and other important long-standing protections that are fundamental to our robust public market system.”

The SEC’s argument hinges around the idea that Ripple should have been registered as a security (like a stock) rather than a currency, and thus their practices are problematic under federal law. They claim that the coin’s coming into existence with an existing trove of units rather than gradual mining of new ones pushes it outside the cryptocurrency category, as buyers were purchasing coins from the company itself.

Much as this might seem devastating to XRP’s future, it runs up against an obvious issue: the government previously granted Ripple the status of a currency, and thus will have to go against its prior declarations. While the SEC has won lawsuits against other altcoins in the past, this was following the release of a 2017 directive on their part, a rule which post-dated the ICO of Ripple. Thus Jay Clayton and Co. will need to prove XRP was running afoul of existing rules despite the relatively uncharted waters of cryptocurrencies in federal code.

Another obstacle for the federales surrounds the openness of the global community. Although Uncle Sam might well crackdown on firms like Ripple, other jurisdictions could opt for looser restrictions, or perhaps adopt XRP for themselves. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that smaller countries begin to use Ripple, and geopolitical opponents may well do the same. In any case, the nature of crypto makes it difficult for a single bureaucratic move to put the kibosh on all hope.  

Of course this could just as easily be investment white-knighting on my own part, but at least the cheap price of Ripple makes any future collapse largely nonthreatening.

Culturalism · Economic History · Federal Government

Is AOC Actually Wrong?

Ever since her victory in the 2018 Democratic primary over incumbent corporate Dem Joe Crowley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been the prevailing fodder of Conservatism Inc. They love yukking it up over her air-headed takes on the issues, and lamenting the seemingly-delusional slide of her millennial supporters towards socialism. As irrelevant as she happens to be in the grand scheme of things, they simply can’t let go of the entertainment factor.

The latest iteration of their guffawing comes in the form of the following tweet, in which she gets angry at people dismissing her as a do-nothing social media icon:

Of course we have the obligatory Cernovich reply below, which, coming from the biggest Twitter prostitute of all, drips of smug hypocrisy:

Much as we might like to dismiss AOC’s complaint, it feels rather legitimate in the context of modern politics. Sure, she mostly makes big statements and tweets, but then again, what politician doesn’t do the same? Trump certainly is guilty of this, and for that reason alone he may have lost considerable support. Take a look at these examples:

So he’s “closely monitoring” a situation as the country tears itself apart, just like he promised an executive order on birthright citizenship, and the classification of AntiFa as a terrorist organization. Then we have Jim Jordan screeching about Big Tech, all while planning to do nothing, These are supposedly “strong” indications of action, but in the end they manifest as nothing more than empty words, just like AOC’s public proclamations. The deceptive smoke blows both ways.

If we examine democracy from a broader perspective, this is not exactly new. Politicians have always made large declarations about their intentions or ideas to do something, for the simple fact that election or reelection depends upon visibility and assumed competence. A leader who chooses to play it safe and focus on the policy wonk aspects is liable to be smothered, as the media will not report anything beyond the headline, apart from C-SPAN at least. Thus these short messages are strategic, even if they amount to little in the end.

The relative “problem” caused by AOC is not so much “only tweeting,” but rather the manner in which she has somewhat dislodged the established “conservative” alternative media from its fine pedestal. Prior to her rise, the leftist burn-bringers online were largely made up of the Young Turks or ripped segments from cable news. While useful, these sources lack the power of an indignant and uncompromising opposition. AOC on the other hand injects a certain vitality into the narrative which they cannot control, especially in regards to the role of government versus corporations. That is the main issue.

Tweet on, and do nothing.   

Certificates · Culturalism · Federal Government

The Illusion of Resistance

Much clucking and chirping is afoot in the GOP Twittersphere over surprisingly good House election outcomes for the 2020 election. Republicans won a handful of seats, and may end up forcing the Dems as low as 220 representatives, a weak majority over next year’s Congress. Though this might seem exciting to politicos and their ilk, the result simply outlines yet again the haplessness of belief in resistance-style politics championed by both the Right and Left.

If we cycle back to 2010, the conservative party used Tea Party anger against Obamacare and “wasteful spending” to power its 63-seat swing against Democrats, leading to a majority of 242. They fell short in the Senate, but nevertheless gained seats. Now, did America see historic cuts or entitlement reform? Absolutely not, because GOP resistance amounted to simply opposing tax increases on the wealthy, whilst blocking serious spending reductions at every turn. Such bumbling proceeded on to the 2012 presidential election, which rewarded the dedicated TP activists with a campaign platform sworn to protect Mitt Romney from tax penalties and back a budget plan with net cuts of only $155 billion. Why? Because the Tea Party quickly became a subsidiary of Koch Brothers interests, not the average American.

In late 2011, Occupy Wall Street protests exploded across the country, determined to draw attention to corporate greed. Despite their fierce tenacity, and the relative pro-corporate leanings of Barack Obama, the protestors ultimately ended up serving as a political and financial cow to help Democrats retain the presidency. The people insistent on getting money out of politics helped return a figure who raised more from Wall Street corporations than his “pro-business” Republican opponent.  Once more, an allegedly populist movement got co-opted by the financial mainstream, and with scarcely a cry issued.

More recently, the Black Lives Matter riots have shown a similar nature. Although presuming to oppose a tyrannical police state praying on minorities, the street advocates and their “La Resistance” friends have no conflict with blindly obeying the dictums of CDC officials to “mask up,” or translating their movement into a train of endorsement for Biden, perhaps the vilest plutocrat to attain office in short memory. The very idea that committed protestors happily obey the medical industry complex as they pretend to stand for justice, or submissively quiet down to help a Democrat attain power; said actions demonstrate a brilliant lack of autonomy and agency which undercut the primary themes. Nothing is really being disrupted, only the comfort of political opponents.

So it’s all well and good that Republicans are excited about their prospects, but these remain meaningless without action. Until legislation is on the desk—signed—their fist-waving and proclamations about being “loyal opposition”  will stay as mere words. For opposition is futile, and resistance an illusion.

Federal Government · investing

Can Bitcoin Be Regulated?

One of the great cultural nuances of the internet is how everyone can be right. Providing you are convincing, or at least look the part, most effective dissent will get chucked out the window, along with any need for respect. In point, we have the prototypical messaging of the Bitcoin-promoting community, which often argues that digital currency is beyond government regulation or control due to algorithms and encryption. They have some credibility, but as with all things deemed to “beat the system,” there are major exceptions which must be considered.

To start, the idea that crypto transactions can simply fly under the radar is muddled by known IRS actions. The federal government has already issued warnings to thousands of people about failure to report crypto gains to the IRS, and significant penalties lurk for those who flaunt such warnings. We also have the recent indictment of John McAfee for allegedly hiding cryptocurrency assets. Thus from a reactive standpoint the State is already gearing up for the long haul fight.

Perhaps more immediately, reports suggest the government seized around $1 billion worth of Bitcoin connected to the controversial Silk Road marketplace, whose founder Ross Ulbricht was given a life sentence for numerous alleged crimes. That’s a small but noticeable chunk of the overall coin value, and it’s not the first time Uncle Sam has held a stake. Other governments such as Bulgaria have snapped up digital currency in the past, with the leaders in Sofia holding 200,000 bitcoins at one stage.

Ruling out these sorts of criminal situations, what of the more obvious methods for centralized regulation? Governments could begin requiring trading firms like Coinbase to meet specific standards of licensure and tax reporting, much as investment companies are required to do. They might also go after crypto miners, placing restrictions or taxes on their Morian mainframes These are hardly out of the question when we examine the history of the State, and its insatiable desire for money.

By this I don’t mean to suggest crypto is a bad idea; in fact, I own a great deal and will continue adding. Just avoid becoming too drunk on the swill of lolbertarianism. As Ronny boy might say, “The government wants what it wants.”

Culturalism · Federal Government

How Conservatives Protest

Last week at the MAGA rally, Sebastian Gorka spoke by the Supreme Court, loudly demanding to the Plural Left, “Where’s all the looting and burning?” Much applause followed, and conservatives proudly reminded themselves how much better they were than their liberal opponents. After further marching and cheering, they all went home.

Gorka’s comment and the behavior it refers to are important because they help encapsulate the very heart of conservative attitudes towards resistance or civil disobedience. Over the summer, the Right continued spinning narratives about how they supported “law and order” versus the historically butthurt and rich leftist protestors who milled about, smashing businesses and looting stores. The idea was that the “good guys” would defend small businesses and “Back the Blue,” while their enemies ran amuck to cause destruction.

Such a storyline works well so long as you maintain power, because it projects the Boomer idea of communities under assault by the wild and communistic. Once elections go the other way, however, the message is a completely dull edge. Peacefully protesting election officials or courts while maintaining support for the establishment (laws, police, military), effectively implies acquiescence to whatever outcome they are sworn to protect. “Law and Order” now means accepting a Bidenesque presidency, even if the tagline is that fraud has been perpetrated across the country.

Herein rests the heart of conservative struggles with any form of a civil standoff. Much as they might enjoy parading around with their gun collections and body armor wardrobes, the fact remains that any sort of outright defiance requires them to break their own political talking points on defense of public order. Doing battle with police or the military makes them “traitors,” or “unpatriotic,” so instead the approach involves softly declaring opposition and then disappearing off into a SuperBowl Sunday watch session.

For all those reasons, it is hard to imagine any significant conservative action to overturn balloting results. The courts so far have been rather timid, and individuals themselves remain caught in the same conflict of belief. Do the people defending tradition and “the way it has always been” take a risk and break their own vows?

Probably not.

Culturalism · Federal Government

Why Revolutions Fail

Ever since I knew enough to remember, there has been talk of revolutions around the world. Tea Party folks declared one would occur if Obama violated their freedoms, leftists did the same under Trump, Arabs bathed in the blanketed feel of their springs, and Hong Kong residents attempted to defeat their colonial government. Whether successful or not, these movements become a romanticized conception of life, a cause that for some seems worth more than all the cost.

Yet they seldom succeed. This isn’t to say political revolutions don’t occur; after all, there is only so much time corruption can stand before the pieces crumble. Instead, the preliminary forces which make such actions possible tend to fizzle out by the time people have gotten a taste of power – and the wealth accompanying it. The average activist doesn’t want to spend their entire life protesting or undermining the system because doing so might cause them to miss out on the niceties of each day. Much like intensely religious people often lapse into the vices of an enjoyable existence rather than remaining pious and stoic forever. The risk of missing out appears too great to ignore.

A book which outlines this dynamic brilliantly is Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky. Besides offering a syrupy account of court intrigue under the Germano-Russian dynasties, Radzinsky dedicates much of the text to documenting the various revolutionary attempts and assassinations that brought down various tsars and their supporters. At the start, he quotes one of the first terrorist revolutionaries:

“Our work is destruction, a terrible, total universal and ruthless destruction. The revolutionary is a doomed man. He has not interests, no work, no feelings, no ties, no property, not even a name. Everything is consumed by the single, exclusive interest, the sole thought, the sole passion: revolution. Poison, dagger, and noose—the Revolution sanctifies everything.”

The level of intensity and faith required to observe such convictions for a time –let alone years—is uncommon in any human society. It demands a level of selflessness, along with humble individualism, to be anywhere near triumphant. That might seem contradictory, but in a sense the person must remain individualistic to the extreme that separation from others based on hiding or imprisonment will not drive him mad or create a backbone for misery. A stoic, minimalistic worldview is demanded, at least once the campaign is in motion.

On a different angle, the anarchist Bakunin tried to explain the revolutionary ethos as being a prime objective of life:

“Engulfing Russia, the fire will spread to the while world. Everything will be destroyed that is deemed holy from the heights of modern European civilization, because it is the source of inequality, the source of all of man’s misery. Bringing into motion a destructive force is the only goal worth of a rational man.”

His view is even harder to square with typical human behavior. It was none other than Fyodor Dostoevsky who began as a revolutionary only to turn against the concept after spending years languishing in one of the tsarist concentration camps. After being released he began producing work with a cynical view of revolutionary figures and the disorder which they bring.

Dostoevsky’s ideological shift is something which the radical Nechaev believed could only be avoided by effectively maintaining the revolutionary spirit and ensuring no one had the liberty to slink back towards bourgeoisie ways. He would go so far as to allow correspondence to be intercepted that landed a number of young radicals in prison. The logic is described here:

“In the first two years, students rebel gleefully and enthusiastically. Then they get caught up in their studies, and by the fourth or fifth year, you see that yesterday’s rebel is house-trained, and upon graduation from university or academy, yesterday’s fighters for the people are turned into completely reliable physicians, teachers, and other officials. They become paterfamilias. And looking at one of them, it is hard to believe that he is the same person who just three or four years ago had spoken with such fire about the suffering of the people, who thirsted for exploits and seemed ready to die for the people! Instead of a revolutionary fighter we see spineless scum. Very soon many of them turn unto prosecutors, judges, investigators and together with the government they start to stifle the very people for whom they intended to give their lives. What should be done? Here I have only one hope, but a very strong one, in the government. Do you know what I expect from it? That it put away more people, that students be kicked out of universities forever, sent into exile, knocked out of their usual rut, stunned by persecution, cruelty, injustice, and stupidity. Only that will forge their hatred for the vile government and the society that looks on indifferently at the brutality of the regime.”

In other words, the situation must become so horrendous that the inconvenience and suffering affects everyone, and thus they have no choice but to unite against authority with absolute fervor. Of course in modern terms this is more complicated than radicals want to believe. Until the printing press runs dry (or inflation takes it all), there will be enough monetary security to safeguard the football watchers, comic book fans, and Netflix aficionados. Enough fancy cars and lifted trucks to addle the brain’s aspirations, or Tinder swipes to keep hope alive. Life will go on in general peace.

Perhaps then Francis Fukuyama was correct, albeit not as he intended. Consumer capitalism and liberal democracy are hardly causing Muslim fundamentalists to abandon their viewpoints and surrender to the modern outlet mall. Rather, the happy slush of processed food and streaming entertainment allows us to feel maximum pleasure, and thus no inclination towards revolution.

Culturalism · Federal Government

Signs of Escalation

Years ago I had a brief gig working security on an overnight basis. The company in question required forty hours of training paid at minimum wage, an upgrade from the unpaid scam they had attempted to run earlier. Perhaps the most memorable part of the experience was the absolutely dogmatic obsession of instructors with telling students to escalate if things got complicated. Not simply for emergency situations, but also minor interactions with non-security employees in the vicinity. Failing to comply meant serious repercussions, which in the security business includes termination or transfer to another spot.

While a dead-end job may not appear to reflect much about the social state, this concept of escalation outlines broader problems in modern culture. The simplest way to explain it would be using the “CYA” moniker, itself a cynical display of the prevailing issue. People in Western realms are expected to always find someone else who will take responsibility in order to protect their own plot. In other words, don’t make a decision, refuse all ownership, and let the “chain of command” find a solution. If you happen to be in the uniformed services, the latter idea is especially crucial. Neglecting to ask permission before making a minor decision as an enlisted feller during peacetime can easily lead to NJP territory, if not something worse.

As matters “escalate,” the process creates spheres of feckless actors more than willing to support what is in their interests – while evading all accountability for the outcome. We see this manifested brilliantly in calls for “universal” healthcare. Republicans advocate “free market” healthcare, pretending it will attain the same outcomes as government-run alternatives. Democrats shill instead for the state-run option, whilst dodging questions about who will pay. In the case of Vermont, the lovingly-labeled “Green Mountain Care” program folded once questions of tax funding came to the fore, leaving moralized arguments behind.

The obvious next step for the Plural Left (and conservatives on other issues), is to appeal for federal promulgation of what the state or municipality has failed to achieve. Why? Because the federal government is a faraway money monolith which can make decisions with impunity, print extra dollars as needed, and enforce laws by the barrel of a gun. Localites and Staties are thus able to wash their hands and plead powerlessness by softly proclaiming, “It’s beyond my control.”

Therein rests the price of CYA and escalation culture: the launching of accountability so high and out of reach to where no one must face the trumpets, or shell out money for what they so tenaciously demand. Obviously such a system requires excessive bureaucracy, and the steadily-encroaching tendrils of top-down power into the lives of everyday souls. You may not wish to take ownership, so instead they will simply take ownership of you.     

Culturalism · Federal Government · Relations and Dating

The Predictable Illness

I admit to spending at least a small share of time browsing the Hufflepuff website. My logic holds that doing so provides an idea of the culture — or mental bearing — of those who think differently, making discourse with them more enjoyable. The alternative often devolves into mindless yammering over talking points selected from the political on high, and little eventual headway. At the same time, the process can reveal saddening truths about the roots of their ideas, and the addictions which fuel them. In the case of leftists, there seems to be a correlation between those perspectives and the swirling domination that drugs create.

Our journey of exposition will focus on Laura Cathcart Robbins, a prominent “Black Voices” columnist who has unleashed the following array of suspect. To start, we have the obligatory “I felt out of place” piece:

Seems to be a wholesome leftist wife:

With a healthy sense of intimacy:

Definitely not hung up at all about her choice of a dating partner:

She’s very comfortable with her decisions:

Not a shred of animosity towards the racial group she prefers:

And the final whammy:

Yes indeed, the empowered writer who layers her work with racist undertones is an admitted recovering alcohol and pills addict. I do not write this to salivate or rejoice over her struggles, but it reveals some difficult truths nonetheless. One would imagine the liberal mind with all of its opulence is capable of bypassing the trivial problems affecting the poor and downtrodden, yet in many cases there is no difference. This majestic “WOC” is brought to her knees by sheer dependency on the most basic of drugs.

On a broader level, Robbins’ story is disconcerting because of the already-established faithlessness of the Plural Left. Imagine if the California Comrade takes office in January, bringing like-minded throngs to the halls of power…will we be ruled by souls enslaved to the bottle, meds, or grass?

Time to drink on it.

Culturalism · Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

Is Economic Decentralization Actually Good?

Among libertarian circles in the United States, there is a stalwart love for the concept of the gig economy model. The late politician Harry Browne openly advocated that employers should sack their workers and rehire everyone as independent contractors, while Gary Johnson was arguing for the Uberization of everything just a few years back. Their logic holds that getting outside government restrictions allows individuals to earn more, and companies to spend less. It sounds almost like a win-win scenario across the board.

Of course things are far more complicated in the applied economic sphere. As much as 1099’s and “zero hours contracts” are streamlined to begin with, the State has not cooperated with matters going forward. Contractors are thus left having to put aside money throughout the year in anticipation of a tax charge that would otherwise be taken out from the regular employee paycheck.  The result is people (especially the more youthful) getting shafted when they forget or fail to accumulate enough in savings to meet the annual tax bill. In theory the model is more efficient, but also dangerous to the average person’s financial picture.

Being off the hook for standard deductions can also increase the chances of having to purchase health insurance directly as a consumer, without any employer subsidies. Again, the model sounds great, though participants need to be careful about the type they buy. Cheaper health insurance plans and health sharing programs can elect for special rules to delimit their liability for conditions otherwise insured by federal mandate. An example of the shortcoming centers on the story of a diagnosed cancer tumor being deemed a preexisting condition, allowing the Medi-Share plan to deny financial support for medical services. The patient managed to successfully appeal, but at the cost of stress from a five-figure treatment bill.

High personal costs are often accompanied by unimpressive pay for gig workers. Although a top-performing delivery or rideshare driver can theoretically bring in over $1,000 per week, this is liable to demand long hours and no off days due to the nature of the market. Of course none of the money totals are guaranteed like a regular worker’s paycheck, so the pressure level can be astronomically higher, leading to mental health issues. Tie everything to the need to maintain one’s own car, and the picture becomes solidly grimmer.

The other issue with gig mania is the propensity for the leading firms to suppress individual freedoms. While Uber and Lyft have long been heralded as a way for the market to beat back the corrupt taxi union cartels and their big government supporters, they also permit a few silicone nerds to control service access. Uber itself recently admitted to banning 1,250 riders from the app for not observing corona mask restrictions. That’s over a thousand people who can no longer use the taxi service because their name and info has been blacklisted, and doesn’t include the political figures banned from their cars as well. A traditional cab would allow you to pay in cash, hence even those marked for derision would have the option to ride.  

So yes, decentralization has granted us enhanced freedoms, but in a twisted, cynical way. No longer must we tangle with the machinations of payroll; instead, one can simply stress and struggle to conserve money before STILL filing taxes amidst those April flowers. Hours are flexible, but so is the ability to even make a living. The greasy, unkempt medallion taxis have been replaced by loyal contract vehicles, but watch what you think, or they’ll pass on by.  

Ahh, the taste of liberty!