Culturalism · Economic History

How Tech Forces Consumerism

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, or perhaps impoverished, which in the United States sounds worse, I like older things. The simplicity and manual nature may not delight eyes trained for dazzling inputs, but they suit me just fine by allowing for closeness with the device. This becomes more difficult to achieve when everything – and I mean everything – is handled by central logic pieces .

But Big Tech doesn’t allow that, or at least less and less than before. I first noticed the issue after trying to downgrade from Windows 10 (which I don’t like) to Windows 7. Despite having a perfectly good OS copy on hand, I was henceforth peppered with warnings about security violations and lack of authenticity. No matter how many times I regard the messages and try to shut them down, sooner or later they come back, often with a loud notification sound to disrupt tranquility.

Difficulties became worse when I spent the past summer attempting to restore an old Optiplex 745 desktop. Because Microsoft dropped support for Windows XP, the machine was similarly awkward to use, and would not maintain security or time settings. Consequently, even the most mundane websites would spit out multiple alerts and attempt to block access. This includes the likes of YouTube and Google, to be clear.

When I recently purchased an old Nook Color to replace my failing Nook HD, the issues were also prevalent from the start. Apparently Barnes and Noble dropped support for older models in 2018, putting in place security policies that render the device quasi-useless. Many websites deny access, it is virtually impossible to access the Google Play app, and attempts to download browsers are greeted with claims of incompatibility. Ironically, the same messages usually urge users to download Google Play as an alternative.

Although I finally got it working enough through an email backdoor to use the reader functionality, the Nook saga emphasizes a very cynical goal of Big Tech: by making older devices clunky and obsolete through security updates, users are gently shoved towards making fresh purchases. Phone companies in particular are renowned for doing this, with the expectation that you will rush out to grab a new model every 2 or so years, keeping the money churn going. Never mind if a particular product works great and could last 10 years; the fiat must be expended.

What’s sad relates to the realization that older device models are probably not being recycled consistently, but rather tossed out with the trash. Thus all those valuable parts and metals will not make it into new phones, instead sitting in a miserable landfill, forcing humankind to strip more resources and generate fresh pollution in the creation of the flashy digital screen.

But who cares? Just swipe.

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 · investing · Personal Finance

What Value Money Really Has

One of the most annoying aspects of reading historical texts involves being exposed to concepts which are simultaneously exciting and depressing, on the latter point because you realize the information will likely never have widespread acknowledgement. Such truths remain distant and untouched, at best exposed on occasion by the lone examiner to his motley crew, who may not actually be interested. But still he must do so, because otherwise the wisdom will be lost to a larger portion of the population.

I admit to feeling this way following my run through several political works by Feder. Although somewhat dogmatic at times, he manages to break down the question of currency and usury in a manner which countless lolbertarians and Marxists fail to do, despite their public acceptability. What’s more, the discourse doesn’t demand an excessively unmerciful slog through the miseries of Das Kapital, or any “free market” equivalent.

At the heart of Feder’s advocacy is the notion that debt-financed capitalism (which he calls Mammonism) creates slaves out of people and destroys nations. Folks are tethered to their debtors and spend long swaths of life attempting to serve the objectives of the banker class, in many cases falling into utter destitution during the process. Even traditional socialism is blamed for this, insofar as Marxists make deals with private corporations to issue interest-paying loans for state projects.  Thus the outcome remains subservience and poverty on the leftist front as well.

In contrast, Feder demands the eradication of all interest on loans, replacing such private measures with offerings by the State, with only the principle to be repaid. The implications of such policy are substantial, even in the context of our modern age. If the government cannot borrow on interest, it seems probably that our debt would be much lower, as U.S. interest on liabilities alone was $404 billion last year. Furthermore, interest-free loans by the government would have certainly softened the 2008 crisis, when many people lost their homes due to the machinations of the Adjustable Rate Mortgage.

On money itself, he describes paper currency as essentially a voucher representing – but not holding within – the value of what labor has been performed. So in effect a person who pays for their car to be washed is actually purchasing the value innate in the service, which can then be exchanged by the washer for other goods or services. The result is more of a barter system than the “money is money” arguments we see strewn across popular discourse. From here we get to the nationalist concept of a currency being backed by labor or productivity, as opposed to gold or merely the printing press.

Towards the end of his tract, Feder endorses a wealth tax, and makes an interesting argument about inheritances. He dismisses the concerns of those who might not be able to pass on wealth by suggesting what they should care about is raising their children well enough to live successfully in the world. Taken in the context of the “Affluenza ” case some years back, his logic is quite interesting.

Because the info is unique, I may find a way of including it in the possibly upcoming book on Rightist socialism. Time will tell.

Culturalism

Casting Spells

I have never read much into the idea of magic, at least beyond skimming the Harry Potter novels, or at one point trying to conjure away my final exam in middle school. Nevertheless, as someone with a wide variety of interests, I was happy to get a chance to explore the concept of words, and their capacity to control the mind in a magical sense. This experience came in the form of reading the book Spellcaster by Sidney Prince, a text which presented the English language in a way I had never considered.

Central to the book’s premise is the notion that certain words and phrases in the English language are designed to have power over or cast a spell on the unthinking user. Early in the tome Prince presents the following section related to a standard phrase of greeting:

When a person says“Good Morning”, they mistakenly cast a spell of mourning on that person. The unspoken reality is that the person casting this spell is saying “Good Morning” with the insinuation that they themselves are feeling good to mourn.[…] The spelling of “Good Morning” tells you exactly what is actually happening. You are spelling your own mourning while reconditioning yourself to think that it is good, proper, or worst of all, normal.

This may seem like over-analysis to some, but it gets more interesting. He proceeds to break down the use of the term “wake” in the context of rising from bed. Prince suggests this is a reference towards the funerary term wake, again attaching negative connotations to a relatively mundane act of life. Similarly, he posits that the word “job” is taken from Hebrew origins referring to persecution, thus people will verbally celebrate their oppression as a duty in order to make a living.

Towards the end of the text, Sidney outlines how sentences can be constructed to “break the spell” placed upon people by their unknowing use of language. These methods permit the user to conquer their previous mental and spiritual subordination, but require a clear grasp of linguistic origins for specific words. In point, he incorporates a section detailing the meaning of terms in different languages.

As something entirely new to me conceptually, I found the book really fascinating. Would recommend checking it out, or viewing his YouTube channel here.

Culturalism · Self-Improvement

Out of Time

When we are young, viewpoints tend to be informed but whatever structure or experience is immediately surrounding us. This might include features such as religion, class level, familial structure, or household setting. Over time we (hopefully) get the chance to expand our sphere of understanding through education and the pursuit of association with a wide variety of experiences which can serve to dislodge or strengthen prior opinions, depending on the impact. Ideally, the typical person will evolve gradually into a well-rounded individual with personal drive for learning and the humility to continue growing throughout life.

That is, ideally. In the torrid reality of our existence, few people bother venturing past the “Drop Off,” where  they might actually face challenges to long-held opinions. Instead, what has been known and accepted for years is simply reinforced, not forcibly through validating scenarios, but a general inability to scrap together the time needed for such change to occur. Busyness, or the impression thereof, simply lays the foundation of contended indifference towards the unknown frontier.

As noted before, this severe shortage of hours (or lack of access) can prove radically dehabilitating to the anxious mind. Millennials are the first generation to have steady means of getting on the Internet dot com, yet even there the pockets of time available for superficial research – let alone critical reading—are minor between work and digital socialization routines.   One almost has to demand the blocked out portion of a given day or weekend to ensure it occurs, and even in that case the guarantee falls less than confidently.

Now, should the research get started in earnest, the relative speed of accrual can still present a bedeviling reality for curious learners. Books take time to finish if they are going to be covered concretely, and certainly note-taking can extend this process. Then there is the question of which others to read, and the specific order of tackling, plus the overall reliability of the authors. Things can swiftly become a minefield of careful assessment and budgeting to determine precisely what writers are worthy of attention, or the most generic respect.

Perhaps more crucially, the aforementioned debate over order could serve to delay access of an important source. Taking the example of dieting books, if a person avoids reading a particular title for one or two years due to time constraints, they are likely to have gone that entire period potentially eating foods that are unhelpful to bodily prosperity. There is no basis to indict their ignorance, as it remains unwilling, yet the long-term consequences stay grim. Thus we are all victims of what we do not  yet know, and may never until it is too late.  

Is there any more saddening realization?

Culturalism · Personal Finance · Uncategorized

Monuments To Nothing

As a teenager I rode the local commuter bus to college in the days before I could afford a car. It was an interesting experience, particularly due to all the interesting characters I would come across, from government-paid drivers ranting about the dangers of socialism, to the historically butthurt claiming fares were racist. On an especially rainy day, when the bus was emptier than usual, a guy about my age struck up conversation about philosophy and life. “Mark,” as he called himself, was concerned over the decay of society, a matter being expressed in various forms, but especially so with the bland nature of architecture, which he saw as communicating nothingness and unoriginality. We ended the discourse at my stop with a handshake, and ventured off into that somber world.

I only saw Mark once after that day, this time in passing, but his message has struck me as immeasurably profound with each passing year. Even a cursory look at new developments tells the undoubting tale: the objective is functionality, not art or community. Take a glance over here, for instance:

Pretentious vinyl siding rushes about the landscape’s face, displacing any alternatives, such as wood, stone, or brick. The colors are drab stains of white or gray, cut through only by the random placement of windows giving no evidence of skilled impression apart from the tablet-fed blueprints of Toll Brothers and their associated clan. The double back doors are imprisoned by cheap-looking baby gates drilled into the siding – a final insult for those unwilling to pay for the full wooden deck model. Those so fortunate to spend the additional $20,000 can relish their descent into a yard of astro-turf grass, green and cordoned as expected.

What prevails in these models is a stark sense of disinterest in creating the classical vignette of a close-knit neighborhood. The homes (or townhomes) stand there to serve as miserable and costly testaments to the need for proximity to a commuter route, and thus Wonder Bread on the table. Anything else is beneath slight importance. After all, with “smart” devices and the surveillance witch machine, why should anyone care about their fellow residents?

The basic necessities approach pales utterly in contrast to traditional German-American visions in the Midwest, which were driven by a sense that neighborhoods and buildings ought to forge ties between those within, and reflect the dynamism of community. While house models might have been similar to start with, the final touches insisted on showcasing the unit as representative of that family. The neighborhood as a whole was meant to inspire common pride and unity, as opposed to mainline consumerist isolationism.

In many respects, modern architecture highlights our civic and cultural slouching towards mediocrity. To have something unique, one must become a collector, or maybe restore the ancient structures yet remaining. Trying to select a custom model in new residential areas is next to impossible, because everyone is expected to be the same, and observe rules issued by the tyranny of a HOA. Conformity now holds paramount importance, with the vestiges of uniqueness best expressed by a new set of wheels—themselves paid for by overextended credit and bitter squalor. Defiance only comes on the heels of financial turmoil.  So we distance ourselves, obey post-liberal rules, and settle behind the big screen for the brain-melting ganache of Netflix.

Perhaps Mark was righter than he knew. I’d like to tell him so, but that would require a world build upon  community.

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.   

Culturalism

Napoleon’s Wolves

As part of my research into an upcoming book project, I stumbled upon the Principles of Syndicalism by Tom Brown. Though written from an admittedly leftist perspective, it contains a number of interesting observations on the post-war labor economy, especially in the UK. Brown also dedicates a considerable amount of time outlining the specifics of a proposed syndicalist revolution, down to the merits of a standing police force used to detain counterrevolutionaries. It is here that matters become quite interesting, because he unleashes Napoleon’s wolves:

“Let us recall the story of Napoleon’s wolves. It is said that while Napoleon was Emperor the number of wolves increased in France, so Napoleon offered a large reward for each wolf’s head brought to the local authority. Wolf hunting became a lucrative profession until the wolves began to disappear. Fortunately for the hunters the decline in the wolf population was mysteriously checked and their numbers began to increase. Upon investigation the authorities discovered that, rather than lose their jobs, the hunters were breeding wolves and even shepherds had turned from their flocks for the more remunerative work of wolf breeding and hunting”

Brown employs the story to illustrate the problem of organized police attempting to protect their jobs after the revolution by generating culprits to pursue, but his approach is applicable to most institutions. How many times do we see government agencies (or their corporate cousins), actively generating self-justifying missions and spotlight vignettes in order to remain relevant? The most obvious federal example would be the FBI, as Glenn Greenwald notes:

 “The known facts from this latest case seem to fit well within a now-familiar FBI pattern whereby the agency does not disrupt planned domestic terror attacks but rather creates them, then publicly praises itself for stopping its own plots.
Once they finally get the target to agree, the FBI swoops in at the last minute, arrests the target, issues a press release praising themselves for disrupting a dangerous attack (which it conceived of, funded, and recruited the operatives for), and the DOJ and federal judges send their target to prison for years or even decades (where they are kept in special GITMO-like units). Subservient U.S. courts uphold the charges by applying such a broad and permissive interpretation of “entrapment” that it could almost never be successfully invoked.”

The strategy is terribly convenient. People want to feel like the government is doing something, so the feds gladly oblige, even if the cost is someone who might well be innocent. It would seem logical for such agencies to direct folks towards appropriate care or attempt to talk them down, not actively encourage terrorism for the cameras. Skepticism has gotten so bad on the matter that even radical leftists are calling the government out.

But doing so, and nipping any hostile activity in the bud, is poor content for the television cameras. They would not be able to agitate for more funding using the moralistic line of “inadequate resources,” while appealing to all the children who might be harmed otherwise. Even worse, their jobs might feel pointless, and in the loving culture of the State, that’s bad news.

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.