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Archive for July, 2020

Here are Two of the Best Parody Music Videos Ever Made, Period

July 29, 2020 3 comments

As long-time readers might remember, over the years, I have have often posted linked to iconic music videos.. especially ones that I happen to like. This post is a somewhat different, because it showcases two of the best parody music videos ever made- by a long shot. And yes, both are by Al Yankovic are are from the 1990s aka the last good decade in american history.

The first one, ‘Smells Like Nirvana‘ is a spoof of ‘Smells like Teen Spirit‘ by Nirvana. Released in 1992, a year after the original hit song and music video- it is notable for using the same location and many extras from the original.

The second one, ‘Amish Paradise‘ is a surreal take on ‘Gangstas Paradise‘ by Coolio. Released in 1996, a year after the song and video it parodied, it is today more famous than the original.

Enjoy! Comments?

On the Many Potential Real-Life Problems with Any COVID-19 Vaccine

July 23, 2020 26 comments

Most of you might have recently heard something about progress in the development of one (or more) of the many vaccines being developed for COVID-19. While I don’t want into a lot of detail about the types of vaccines being developed, two are getting most of the attention. One is the ‘RNA-based’ one such as those from (Moderna, Pfizer etc. The other type is adenovirus-based ones such as that Oxford-AZ and CanSino vaccine. Even with the initial results of these, and many more, vaccines- I predict that even the most successful vaccine will have to overcome tons of real-life problems. And I am not the only one to hold that opinion. Here is why..

1] RNA-based vaccines of the type developed by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are problematic for more than one reason. Firstly, no RNA-based vaccine has yet been approved for human or animal use. Sure.. this is partly due to the reason that the technology, injecting encapsulated mRNA to make you own cells produce the antigen you want to stimulate an immune response against is fairly new technology. But there is a second reason- specifically, mRNA based vaccines are notorious for causing grade 3 and higher reactions in a small percentage of individuals. Though Moderna is trying its best to obscure the data, more than a few people in their relatively small phase I trial developed reactions serious enough to require prompt medical attention.

Why does this matter? Well.. let us consider how things will play out if they have a 5% incidence of such reactions during a mass vaccination drive against COVID-19. Imagine you vaccinate a million people and 5% of them develop such reactions. Even if they are can be easily treated in the hospital or a clinic, you have 50,000 fairly ill people who wouldn’t be there if they had not taken this vaccine. Also, if there are 50,000 people ill enough to require medical attention, you can bet a few of them will end up becoming much more ill or even dying. Let me remind you that the mortality due to COID-19 in people under 50 is less than 1 in 1,000. What are the chances that the vaccine kills and hospitalizes as many people as the infection in younger age groups?

This is not to say that vaccines with such high rates of side-effects are useless. The vaccine for smallpox and older versions of the rabies vaccine also had rather high rates of side effects. But there is the thing.. smallpox, when it existed, was a very contagious illness with 30% mortality rate. Rabies has a mortality of almost 100% once the infection has reached the central nervous system. Most people will be fine with a vaccine for smallpox or rabies that kills one in a few thousand people, because of the high fatality rates of those infections. The same cannot be said about COVID-19. To make matters more interesting, we don’t know if mRNA based vaccines are more likely to induce auto-immune diseases than other, more conventional, vaccines.

2] The other main type of COVID-19 vaccines use fairly harmless adenoviral vectors that express some proteins from the virus in question. In contrast to mRNA based vaccines, we have a decent amount of experience with such vaccines in both animals and humans trials. Also vaccines that use a similar strategy- where one fairly harmless virus expresses proteins of a far more harmful virus to induce immunity to later have been used to develop a few vaccines used in animals and at least one for humans (Ebola vaccine). We can, therefore, be a bit more certain that the safety of vaccines in this category is not as unknown as those mRNA-based vaccines. Also, the rate of complications for such viral-vector based vaccines is noticeably lower than mRNA vaccines.

The initial data from the Oxford-AZ vaccine trials also suggest that they do a much better job at stimulating immunity to the virus among CD4 and CD8 T-lymphocytes. It is known that immunity to Coronaviruses in animals is more cell-based than antibody based. In other words, the Oxford-AZ vaccine is likely to produce better immunity under real-life conditions with noticeably fewer side-effects than mRNA based vaccines. The CanSino vaccine, which uses a human adenoviral vector, seems to be a bit less effective than the Oxford-AZ vaccine which uses a chimpanzee adenoviral vector- perhaps, because of pre-existing immunity to human adenoviruses. Between mRNA and adenoviral-vector based vaccines, I would put my money on the later.

3] The next issue concerning COVID-19 vaccination comes down to the logistics of producing, distributing and actually giving the vaccine. Having the best vaccine means shit all if you cannot produce it on a large scale without breakdowns in quality control. Once again, the adenoviral-vector based vaccines are a bit better than mRNA-based ones in that regard, especially with existing infrastructure. Distributing the vaccine, even if effective will however pose quite a few problems. For starters, who do you vaccinate first- the groups most likely to die from infection or those most likely to transmit it? How do you vaccinate hundreds of millions in a very short time without a huge number of people ending up in hospitals due to side-effects, even if temporary.

And what are you going to do about all the people who would rather wait and see what happens to initial bunch of vaccine recipients? What if there is a large wave of hospitalizations from first widespread use of whichever COVID-19 vaccine ends up being approved. Remember even a 2% incidence of severe reactions is a large number once you are talking about millions of recipients. How will you convince people to keep getting vaccinated if initial use of COVID-19 vaccine causes tens of thousands of hospitalizations? This is especially likely for mRNA-based vaccine such as those being developed by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech. Then there are issues of efficacy. What if the approved vaccines prove to be only 80-90% effective. While this is a perfectly acceptable for many existing vaccines- dumbfuck “ivy-league experts” have promised the sky to masses.

I can think of many other issues, but we are already past a thousand words. Might write more in a future post on this topic, depending on responses to this one.

What do you think? Comments?

Funny YT Spoof about Similarities between ‘Woke’ Leftists and Racists

July 20, 2020 14 comments

So.. famous journalist, Matt Taibbi, has been writing and speaking out about how ridiculous and dangerous “woke” culture has become. Here is his recent and epic dissection of Robin DiAngelo’s bullshit aka “White Fragility”. Also have a look at this posts on how the left has become the very thing they allegedly despised, as late as 2010. In that vein, here is a YT spoof about the disturbing similarities between the beliefs of the “woke” left and plain old racists like Richard Spencer. I am sure some of you might it especially funny.

What do you think? Comments?

Thoughts on Trends in New Automobile Sales and Neoliberalism in USA

July 19, 2020 10 comments

While trying to write the next part of my series, about the necessity of being a multi-millionaire under late capitalism, I had an interesting insight which didn’t fit in that series but was, still, very important. In some ways, this is a much belated sequel to one of my older posts about how the increased cost of cars is about late capitalism in action. In that post, I made the observation that the much diminished interest of Millennials, Gen Y etc in car ownership has a lot to do with the deleterious effects of late capitalism aka neoliberalism (specifically its american variant) on their lives. Also, I am not hopeful about late capitalism disappearing without causing far more damage and misery to almost everybody. Things are going to get far worse.. I mean.. interesting.

The first time I considered writing this post was about three years ago when we started hearing about how american automobile manufacturers were going to end the manufacture of everything other than pickup trucks, crossovers and a few high-margin car brands. At that time, the most common explanation floated for this shift centered around how american consumers had fallen out of love with cars and gone for pickup trucks and crossovers. Even at that time, I though this explanation sounded highly dubious- but was just not interested in following it, as this occurred at around same time as election of Trump. But I seldom stop thinking about an idea or topic, even if it is on the backburner.

A few days ago, a number of random occurrences made me seriously revisit this topic. It started with a seemingly random search about the number of automobiles sold in USA by year from 1978 and 2019. It yielded this graph, which displayed some rather interesting information. Note that 16 million vehicles were sold in 1986, when the population of USA was 240 million. Interestingly, 2019 saw the sale of only 16.9 million vehicles at a time when population is 328 million. Do you see the problem? Let me explain.. having an automobile is necessary if you live in almost any part of USA except perhaps NYC, Boston, parts of the Bay Area and a few other cities with OK public transit. Therefore, the ratio of vehicles to population should remain relatively constant.

But it hasn’t! Now somebody like MikeCA might say this has something to do with automobiles lasting much longer nowadays as compared to the mid 1980s. Well.. the increased quality and longevity of cars (especially Asian ones) definitely plays into the lower demand for new cars- but it, as best, can only explain part of the current situation. So what are the other factors I am alluding to? Well.. for starters, truck-chassis based SUVs and pickups increasingly became the main revenue generators for automobile manufacturers- especially american ones after the early 1990s. Then something odd happened after 2009.. old-style SUVs were very quickly supplanted by crossovers, pickup sales remained about constant and car sales after recovering for a few years between 2010-2015, entered a steep decline after 2016.

But what happened in rest of the world. Let us start by talking about countries in the European Union. Long story short, nothing similar occurred in the same time span. Sure.. sales were kinda low in the very early 2000s and between 2008-2012, and there has been a slight overall trend toward decline- but one that is linked to much larger demographic trends. But whichever way you look at it, the overall sales numbers were in same ball-park as USA (12-16 million/year) but there was no equivalent change in the types of vehicles sold. In other words, Europeans kept buying the type of cars they have been buying for decades. The same held for markets such as Japan, South Korea and other Asian countries except China.

China is an interesting case in that it has become the largest market for automobiles for the past decade. Yet, even in this still unsettled market, cars and a small to medium sized crossovers dominate the market. My point is that people in every large market for automobiles, other than USA (and Canada) are buying the same categories of the automobiles they have been buying for decades. So what is so different about USA that it is the only large market to have experienced an actual shift in the type of vehicles sold over past two decades? And what any of this have to do with late capitalism aka neoliberalism?

To understand what I am getting at, we have go back a couple of decades. See.. when I first came here a bit over two decades, I noticed many patterns. The one most relevant to this post concerns who bough new vehicles, which types and at what stage in their life. The brief version is as follows: buying a new car (frequently something from a compact hatchback to medium sedan) was almost like a ritual for most adults after they had got their first decent and somewhat stable job. so, while most people started with hand-me-downs or used cars, they would start buying new cars once they hit one of the supposed markers of “real” adulthood aka a decent job. I never saw anyone buying a new pickup unless their job required it.

While SUVs were a thing in the late 1990s, they were almost always bought by well-off people with kids who lived in McMansions and/or in certain expensive suburbs or exurbs. Almost nobody bought a new SUV as their first new automobile. It also helped that new compact to medium sized cars could be purchased for somewhere between 10-20k, and Japanese ones offered very good value for money. Even a few american ones were perfectly OK, as long you sold them off by the 6th year. My point is that new entry- to mid- level cars of decent to good quality were quite affordable- even for the median incomes of that era. According to most inflation calculators, 1k $ in 1999 is supposedly equal to about 1.5k $ in 2019. You will see why this matters soon.

Today the median car in those categories costs somewhere between 15k-30k, which sorta tracks inflation- but is a bit more than what it would have been in a perfect world. But what about incomes? Well.. as it turns out median and mean incomes adjusted for inflation have not really changed between 1999 and 2019- which is a fancy way of saying that a job that paid 30k/year in 1999 would pay 45k today. But there are two problems with this simplistic assumption. Firstly, many of the job which were available to a person in 1999 do not exist today. To make matters worse, people who had a decent stable job in 1999 no longer have a stable job that pays the same, even if they managed to stay in that field. The situation is even worse for new entrants who are stuck in an endless series of low-paying and unstable jobs unlike previous generations.

And it gets even worse. The real cost of living during the intervening two decades has increased far more than the 50% claimed by governmental agencies. Take rents for example. Rents today are somewhere between 2-3 times what they were in 1999, even if the apartment building has been standing there since the mid 1970s. The same is true for house prices. Note that the situation is far more dire in certain coastal metropolitan areas. Then there is the issue of rising costs in higher education. The student loan load of a person graduating from university in 1999 was a fraction of what it is 2019- and those have to be paid. We also cannot forget the insanely high costs of health insurance and high copays of most “healthcare” plans- once gain much higher than in 1999. Long story short, most people between 20-40 are broke or close to it.

And this is why the demand for new average-priced cars aka one of the signifiers of adulthood in USA have dropped so sharply. But what about the continued demand for new pickups and crossovers? Well.. guess who is buying them. Yes, it is almost exclusively Boomers and older Gen-Xers. These are the only two major groups who still have the financial capacity to buy new automobiles and like older people tend to, they buy large and bulky vehicles. Also, part of pickup truck demand is driven by people who have to actually use them for work in flyover country.

In summary the drop in demand for new (average) cars is driven by the same factors responsible for younger generation not having kids, marrying late or never, not buying houses, not eating out in expensive restaurants, not going on expensive vacations etc. They are fucking broke, overstretched, overworked and have no job security. The reason we do not see similar trends if change in automobile type preferences in Europe is that costs of living (housing etc) approximate income much better + healthcare is inexpensive and universal + higher education is inexpensive. The same is true of East-Asian countries such as Japan, South, Korea etc and yes, even China. But murican exceptionalism feels good, on the hole, doesn’t it..

What do you think? Comments?

Why Forcing People to Wear Face Masks is an Incredibly Stupid Idea

July 16, 2020 44 comments

As readers know, I often take positions that are contrarian and unpopular but eventually turn out to be right. Consider this article to be another one in that line. You might have heard or read that many politicians in this country and a few others are trying to force people to wear face masks in public for the alleged purpose of reducing or eliminating COVID-19 transmission. My thoughts on this turn of events is best summarized in the title of post, and ya.. I think it is an incredibly stupid idea. The longer version is however more nuanced than the title might suggest, and people who want to comment should first read the entire post completely. You will see there are a number of converging reasons, many of them not obvious, for my contrarian position.

So let us begin by talking about the three categories of face masks and what they are, and aren’t, capable of. The type of ersatz facemasks you see on people all over the country are.. well.. not good at preventing infection by respiratory pathogens. There.. I said it! Masks made of normal fabric (natural or synthetic) are too porous to stop anything smaller than clumps of bacteria or viruses in droplets of saliva or mucus. The only thing they are somewhat good at is reducing the amount of aerosols generated by a person suffering from a viral or bacterial infection. In other words, they have some efficacy at preventing an already infected people from spreading it, but are close to useless for preventing it in an uninfected person.

The second category include the so-called medical/surgical masks worn by medical professionals under certain situations. While somewhat better than ersatz masks, they are also most efficacious at stopping the wearer from infecting others which is very important when performing a surgical procedure or interacting with very sick or immuno-compromised patients. Do they have some efficacy in preventing the wearer from catching a respiratory infection? Perhaps.. if they are interacting with many people within a short time. However their effects on prevention infection of wearer appear to be mostly related to reducing the inoculum of the infectious agent- which is a fancy way of saying that getting infected with a smaller dose of the bug in question will cause a much milder disease than with a large dose. Moving on the the third category..

Masks that are rated N95 or N100, in contrast to the previous two categories are capable of preventing infection of wearer by a number of respiratory pathogens. This is possible because the masks form a tight seal around the nose and mouth while running all exhalations and inhalations through filters capable of retaining particles down to 0.2 micrometer or 1/5,000th of 1 mm. To make a long story short, only masks in the third category are actually capable of preventing the wearer from getting infected. The other two reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of already infected people from transmitting their infection. As you will soon see, this distinction matters far more than most people realize and is very relevant to this discussion.

Now let us talk about who benefits, and who doesn’t, from using all three mask categories. But before we go there, let us quickly revisit something I had mentioned in previous posts- namely, that mortality in people under 50 is less than 1 in 1,000 and hospitalization (not ICU) rates are less than 1%. It also happens to be the case that most people who get infected by COVID-19 are from this age-group. To put it bluntly, only people with chronic disease conditions and serious obesity in the under-50 age group benefit from using masks, specifically N95s as N100s are too bulky. Masks from other two categories give very little protection against infection, with surgical grade ones being marginally better than the ersatz ones.

One could certainly make the argument that providing surgical grade masks to people in certain occupations such as store clerks and cashiers, USPS and other delivery-people, airline stewards, people working in crowded environments and those working with older people would be helpful in reducing spread of infection to vulnerable populations. Other than that, the benefit of otherwise health people under 50 using ersatz or surgical-grade face masks is minuscule. But what about people between 50 and 70. Well.. once again, the risk of death for those between 50-60 is less than 1 in 500 and about 1 in 300 for those between 60-70. For such people, wearing surgical-grade masks could potentially reduce the size of inoculum would potentially reduce mortality. However their maximal effectiveness would still be restricted to crowded environments, rather than.. say.. walking your dog or getting a coffee from Starbucks..

The high risk groups aka people with multiple chronic diseases or in their 80s and beyond, are the only category who would benefit from using N95 type masks in most social situations. Note that these people will benefit very little from wearing ersatz or surgical-type masks. I say.. we should just give them a free supply of such masks and hand sanitizer until the COVID-19 epidemic is over. It would also be a good idea to provide such masks to people who take care of them, in institutions or otherwise. And this brings me to why so many politicians are pushing these stupid mask laws. It is.. you see.. about giving the appearance of action aka public theater. Demanding people wear masks outdoors is the 2020 version of TSA employees searching and scanning grandmothers and children for bombs and weapons after 9/11.

Which brings us to the next set of issues concerning mask laws. Who pays for masks, especially since a lot of people in this country are struggling to feed their families after losing their income due to the COVID-19 shutdown. More importantly, how do you enforce such laws? Haven’t we seen enough of how laws are disproportionately enforced against minorities and poor people? Do we want to see more video clips of black people being shot and strangled by cops for not wearing masks? Given the abysmally low trust of people in institutions and credentialed “experts”, why do you think people will obey such laws- especially since these same “experts” were claiming marks to be useless as late as early May of this year.

But wait.. it gets worse. Did you notice how voters behaved in 2016 when they were lectured by the so-called “elites” that Trump was not fit to be president. That is right.. they voted him in office. The same occurred with Brexit and the rise of many right-wing parties in western Europe due to public backlash against the refugee flood of 2014-2015. Most people hate busybodies, especially of the self-righteous variety, doubly so if there are members of the so-called “elite”. That dynamic combined with degree of political polarization in this country is going to cause some pretty ugly reactions and.. well.. situations. This is especially relevant since the same busybodies pushing for forced masks are the same ones who want to keep schools and universities closed indefinitely + cause millions of small businesses to go bankrupt.

And there is the other big question.. what happens if COVID-19 does not disappear in spite of forced mask laws and shutdowns? The so-called “elites” have tried to sell these measures as a guaranteed pathway to eliminate the disease, but have they even considered how most people will react if the promised end to new infections does not occur, in spite of these measures. Who are they going to blame? More importantly, will the already desperate and impoverished public care about their latest round of excuses? Sustained real unemployment rates about 20% seldom lead to a nice and orderly outcome, to put it mildly.

Finally, there is the issue of symbolism. Will retail and service sector business (employing numerical majority of population) go back to normal if everyone is wearing face masks a few months from now? Aren’t they a very visible reminder that things are not normal? Do you think that shops and malls are going to previous levels of commercial activity? What about restaurants and bars? Let me remind you that hotels, restaurants and bars + allied business in NYC or SF employ more people than the largest financial institutions in NYC or the biggest silly-valley corporation in the Bay area.

What about other small businesses or even larger business that depend on smaller ones? Do you have any idea about the magnitude of social disruption such a situation will cause? Do you have any clue about the amount of permanent job losses this will cause? Have you done some basic math about how this will crater tax revenue in cities and states all over this country? Well.. you should, because a situation where 1/3rd of people cannot make their rent or mortgage payment for month of July is far more scary than the consequences of people not wearing some stupid ersatz face mask of dubious efficacy.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting YT Lecture about Formation of West Coast of North America

July 14, 2020 2 comments

Here is an interesting lecture by Nick Zentner of CWU (Central Washington University) about how the modern west coast states of USA (WA, OR and CA) and Canada (BC) were formed over past 100 million years. Long story short, they are Exotic Terranes which is a fancy way of saying that they were formed elsewhere, in most cases under oceans. The thing is.. most of the land which makes up these modern day states was formed under the ocean or as islands near the equator in the pacific. They then drifted towards the old coast of North America because of continental drift (specifically oceanic plate subduction) which fused these islands onto its western edge.

It is interesting to note that, based on current geological studies, more than a few waves of such oceanic islands ended up aggregating to the continent. He also touches on how land formed off the coast of present day mexico ended up moving to BC and WA (from ~90-55 mya) due to repeated earthquakes over about 35 million years along a now disappeared lateral-slip fault not unlike modern San Andreas fault. This is known as the Baja-BC hypothesis and while it was once seen as highly unlikely- it is now basically geological canon. There is also some mention of other contributors of this exotic terrane such as Siletzia and others.

What do you think? Comments?

Non-Woke Left Leaders are as Delusional as their ‘Woke’ Counterparts

July 12, 2020 10 comments

As regular readers know, I have a strong distaste and contempt for all ideologies- both traditional and secular. It is my opinion that every ideology, at its core, is a simplistic incomplete worldview which only serves to enrich its own priestly classes and maintain the status quo. Having said that, some ideologies are worse and more dangerous than others. For example, every single religious ideology which pretends to worship the “one true god” has caused far more unnecessary death and suffering than others which don’t pretend to care about such bullshit. Similarly, innocuous sounding ideologies such as LIEbralism are behind an incredible amount of evil- from genocide, race based slavery, colonialism, eugenics etc. And yes.. I can show that LIEbralism has caused many times more deaths than all forms of communism combined.

I have also made it quite clear that I detest all forms of CONservatism and LIEbralism, especially as they exist in western countries. With than in mind, let us talk about the contemporary “left”, specifically its two main branches- the “woke” left and non-woke left. It is, again, no secret that I have never had a great opinion about the “left”- for a number of reasons, ranging from their true motivations and biases, their political impotence, their addiction to virtue display and tendency to repeatedly adopt policies without carefully thinking through their consequences. It is therefore not surprising that center-left parties have lost power and their share of votes in many countries during past 20 years even though the population of those countries detest the right-wing parties currently in power. That is why, for example, Republicans are dominant political party in USA even though most people don’t care their ideology. But try telling that to MikeCA.

Anyway, for a long-time it was possible to believe that a significant part of the left’s failure in this and other western countries was due to contemporary LIEbralism aka “woke” left. And yes, again, there is no real difference between modern LIEbralism and “woke” left. It has however become apparent over the past few years that the non-woke left is as delusional, impotent and protective of status quo as the “woke” left. If this division of the left into “woke” and “non-woke” confuses you, here is a quick explanation. The “woke” left is almost entirely made up of people who pay lip service to a few leftist ideas such as reduction of inequality, worker rights, anti-racism etc but have no interest in changing the status quo. For them, racial equality is achieved when a black transgender “woman” murders a child in Afghanistan instead of some white “cis” man. Similarly sexual equality is reached when a woman CEO screws her employees as badly as her male version. You get what I am saying.. right?

For these scammers, it is all about identity politics on steroids combined with throwing some crumbs to collaborating oppressed minorities and organizing useless symbolic protests such as “pussy hat” marches- along with supporting causes such as “gun control, “environmentalism” etc. They have zero interest in changing the system and would be very unhappy if the problems they rail about (racism, inequality, poverty etc) were actually solved. If you think that this describes the democratic party in this country and center-left in most other western countries- you would be correct. But, some of you might ask.. why do these people persist at playing such a sad and pathetic game if they are not winning power? Well, there are two reasons. Firstly, people in this group are almost exclusively the product of social bubbles and a few educational institutions which demand ideological conformity for its own sake.

The second reason is more interesting and goes something like this.. in most western countries, members of a losing but main-stream party still retain most of the goodies of being in power. Therefore, most of them do not have to worry about trivial stuff as winning or losing elections. Let me remind me you that people like Diane Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer or Darrell Issa, Kelly Loeffler, Greg Gianforte will always keep becoming richer (in the current status quo) irrespective of whether they win or lose future elections. And ya.. people such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren are duplicitous grifters just like their established counterparts. With that out of the way, let us talk about the non-woke left. Who are these people and are they even a thing? And where can you find members of this mythical tribe?

The non-woke left is best defined by what they allegedly focus on. For example, the non-woke left cares far more about issues such as reducing income and wealth inequality, universal healthcare, inexpensive higher education, worker’s rights, corporate monopolies and oligopolies rather than stuff like “trans” rights, “cultural appropriation” and “cancellation”. While they may pay lip-service to fashionable “progressive” causes such “tans” rights etc, it is very superficial. A good way to separate the non-woke left from the woke left is to ask whether racial inequality in this country is a race issue or a class issue. Those who say it almost all racism are of the “woke” variety while those who claim it is a class + race issue are of the non-woke left persuasion.

Another favorite question to separate them is as follows: does Immigration depress wages and benefit corporations at expense of workers? If they answer in the affirmative, they are non-woke. Some of might say.. but this does not appear so bad. In fact, these non-woke leftists seem to be fairly reasonable people. A lot of what they want seems very similar to what occurred in this country after FDR pushed the New Deal and similar programs. And you are right, the non-woke left is actually far more reasonable and realistic than phony “woke” left. So why am I saying that they are as delusional as their “woke” counterparts? Well.. it comes down how the non-woke left (more specifically, its leadership) has evolved over past ten years.

Some of you might remember a time when Bernie Sanders (who is currently busy licking the DNC’s soles) stood for policies such as restrictive immigration, opposition to “gun control” etc along with ideas such as higher minimum wages, socialized housing for the poor, singe-payer healthcare, drug decriminalization, corporate monopoly busting etc. So what happened to him and others like him? To make a long story short, leaders of the non-woke left found if far more profitable to be adjunct members of the “woke” left than strike out on their own- regardless of the consequences. The election of Trump in 2016 further sped up the process of non-woke left leaders pretending to be “woke”. But why does any of this matter in 2020 or after that?

A pretty significant minority of voters in this country have positions of the non-woke leftist type. They are often described as socially conservative but economically liberal voters or the opposite of coastal baby-boomers. In most elections, these people will either abstain or vote for democrats. However it has been clear to this group (which is also demographically younger than most) that voting for democrats is not a winning strategy for them. This is why Obama in 2012 (and HRC in 2016) could not get as many votes as he did in 20008. To make matters worse, the democratic party has embraced more and more “woke” positions and performative politics rather than actually delivering even a fraction of what they promise during campaign season.

And here is why it matters.. many younger people (irrespective of race) are not enthusiastic for voting for parties who have no interest in making their lives better. But they will vote for anybody who poses a credible threat to the grim status quo. That is why Trump won all those mid-western states in 2016. To make matters more interesting, recent polls show that even a grade A moron such as Trump has higher popularity among Black and Hispanic people than he had in 2016. It does not take a genius to figure out that this will translate into votes for Trump or, more likely, those people not voting for democratic candidate. Between this, economic fallout from COVID-19 and the fact that Joe Biden has dementia, we might see a far different result on Nov 4, 2020 than what many media pundits are pretending. But it gets worse..

A few republicans such as Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio and Tucker Carlson have already figured out that promising a notionally right-wing but welfare state is an excellent strategy to win future elections. Sure.. it might be just as racially discriminatory as USA during 1940s-1970s, but clearly there is a large audience for that sort of thing. The thing is.. people want to keep their big cars, plastic drinking straws and guns but are also very OK with single-payer healthcare, corporate monopoly busting, inexpensive university education etc. I would not be surprised to see such politicians pushing such policies get the support of a pretty large percentage of the traditional non-voters and disgruntled democrats- and win national elections.

See.. most people want universal healthcare, good jobs and careers, affordable housing and universities, limits on corporate power etc. They do not care about “trans” rights and other fashionable issues, environmentalism which hurts their lifestyle, people pushing new labels like ‘latinX’, cancel culture wars etc. They are tired of performative politics that delivers nothing concrete. Any politician or party faction which appeals to this silent majority (even a little) will win future elections in this country. Based on what I am seeing, it won’t be the democrats, but leaders of the non-woke left are too busy licking the soles of democratic party to figure that out or even care. I am sure that MikeCA has a convoluted rationalization for why it will be different.

What do you think? Comments?

Funny Music Video from 2014: Literally I Can’t (Shut The Fuck Up)

July 9, 2020 13 comments

A few days ago, while going down another YouTube hole late at night, I came across a catchy and funny music video which attracted the ire of SJWs and “feminists” when released in 2014. Yes, we are talking about “Literally I Can’t” by Play-N-Skillz, featuring Redfoo, Lil Jon, and Enertia McFly. I am guessing that at a few of you might remember the manufactured controversy surrounding its release. If you don’t, watch it and tell me what you think about it.

Enjoy! Comments?

Categories: LOL, Music Video, YouTube

On the Necessity of Being a Multi-Millionaire under Late Capitalism: 1

July 5, 2020 37 comments

A few years ago, I wrote about how the Simpsons show was a marker for demise of middle-class in USA. The point I made in that post was that the Simpson family’s lifestyle, as depicted in that show, was not only possible, but considered normal as late as the early 1990s- when that show debuted. However, today the idea of a guy who barely completed high school having a stable job which pays enough to support a wife and three kids, own a modest house along with a couple of second-hand cars would be considered fantasy. So what happened between the early 1990s and today? How did we go from a point where a stable middle-class existence was the unquestioned norm in western countries to one where most people are heavily indebted precariats with zero chance of a better life in less than three decades- but especially in the anglosphere.

To better understand what I am talking about, let me tell you a little story. See.. there are two reasons why I took the educational trajectory which I ended up taking. Firstly, I liked my area of study and was very good at it. However, there was a second reason- employment in that area provided a guaranteed stable upper-middle class lifestyle for many decades (starting from end of WW2 to the mid-2000s). Even academics in that area could expect a very nice and stable upper-middle class, albeit a bit less well compensated than those in industry. For example, one of my academic mentors (born in 1945 or 1946) became a tenured professor by 30, got married, had three kids, was able to buy a nice house and expand it, buy a second vacation home, decent cars etc, take long vacations, a few sabbaticals, got a steady stream of OK grants and ultimately retired with a decent guaranteed pension.

The important thing is that he was able to all of that with an income equivalent to somewhere between 70-120k/yr adjusted for current levels of purchasing power. Sure, his wife worked too for some years, but she made probably 40% of what he made even in the best years. In other words, it was possible to enjoy a very nice and stable upper-middle class lifestyle for somewhere between 100-150k/yr even if you had three children who had to be put through university. Sure, it helped that the city in question was not coastal California or NYC level expensive. But still.. my point stands, and he was not the only one. As late as end of 1990s and early 2000s, this lifestyle was considered normal for someone in academia- at least in the parts where I lived. Industry paid better, and starting salaries of 80-90k after a PhD were fairly common even in late 1990s. A good number of them ended up making the equivalent of somewhere between 120-150k for most of their careers. Did I mention that the jobs were far more stable then?

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is as follows: it was perfectly possible for a couple making about 200k/year with one or both in pharma or allied sectors to live a very comfortable and nice lifestyle in certain places in NE USA (MA, NJ, non-NYC NY) or west coast (Bay Area, San Diego, Seattle). Also, these jobs came with excellent healthcare packages and defined-benefit pensions. Of course, this has not been the case since 2009- but that is another story. Now ask yourself a simple question, how was the pharma sector capable of providing such nice working conditions for many decades and why did this start coming to an end by middle of early 2000s? It is not as if pharma suddenly became a far less profitable industry, did it? So why did that sector change its business model after decades of it working nicely, starting in the 1990s. Yes.. the rot began a decade or so before things went to shit.

To understand what went wrong in that sector and many others all over the west, you have to begin by asking a simple question- who are corporations run for and by whom. Well.. as it turns out, for many decades after end of WW2, corporations in the west were run to achieve two ends- personal profit for owners of capital AND well-compensated stable employment for the rest. The idea was that a high standard of living would keep people from getting interested in more ‘radical’ ideologies such as socialism and even full-blown communism. But once state communism fell in Eastern Europe by 1989, the west (especially anglosphere) had no reason to balance the interests of capital AND employees. It is therefore not surprising that neoliberalism, which started in the late 1970s, did not really take off until 1991. Yes.. that is why a lot of the deregulation of western economies started after 1991. But what is neoliberalism anyway?

Well.. if I had to define neoliberalism, here is how I would do it. Neoliberalism is an ideology that pretends to profess belief in “free markets”, “free trade” and other totems of classical liberalism such as individualism while transferring power and money from elected government to unelected corporations using excuses based in the bullshit lies of pliant economists and other so-called “social scientists”. For examples, government deficits and ‘printing money’ are very bad if they are used to fund the needs of average people but very smart and correct if they are used to make corporations and a few people very rich. Here is another example- according to this ideology, allowing monopolies and oligopolies to exist is a great idea as long as you can pretend to show that they don’t overcharge customers. Here are a few more examples..

Pretending to care about black lives and diversity is the right thing to do, even if you are actively involved in trying to suppress wages, steal wages and otherwise screw your employees- many of who might be black and non-white. There is a reason why corporations are so enthusiastic about supporting “woke” activism. It is all about maintaining a fake image that nobody but their own inner circle believe in- not unlike Nazis pretending that they were committing ethnic genocide to make the world ‘a better place’ or Zionists pretending that they are on a civilizing mission in the Middle-East. Same crap, different bottle- rinse and repeat. As I have said many times, the difference between LIEbralism and CONservatism is that the former are more vain about their public image, while the later are clueless.

Anyway.. let us get back to the topic at hand, specifically the part about how it is necessary to be a multi-millionaire to enjoy living under late capitalism aka financialism aka Neoliberalism. A few months ago, I decided to calculate the amount of income and wealth necessary for somebody in 2020 to live like an OK paid professor in 2000- in the same city. After some calculations I arrived at an interesting range of numbers. See.. to do everything he did and live with same margin of comfort, a person would require around 300k. But wait.. some of you might say, haven’t you accounted for inflation. Yes, I have and that is why I listed his pay range as 70-120k/yr (over career) adjusted to current levels of purchasing power. And you know something else, that is very close to the current pay range for positions he occupied in that university over his career.

To make another long story short, he simply could not have enjoyed the lifestyle he did had he joined the same university 25 years after he did (so, in the late 1990s) or today. And this is true not just for him and other academics but for most people in pharma, biotech, law and even programming. While Google and FB reputedly pay 200-250k for some of new hires in the Bay Area, I would like to ask you to have a look at living costs in said area. Try finding a modest but decent house within a 30 minute drive of workplace that is less than a million. Have a look at the costs of houses in areas with “good school districts” (an insanity most peculiar to USA). Calculate the costs of sending kids to university even if you get a few scholarships.

And we are not even getting into issues such as age discrimination, poor job AND career security, risk of divorce leading to financial ruin etc. It is so bad that only types of professions currently make enough money to live a secure upper-middle class lifestyle as it existed twenty years ago- medical practitioners and established lawyers. I am sure that some silly valley fuckwit will jump in now and say something about “learning to code” or some other inane bullshit about getting the right credentials. But it doesn’t matter anymore. We have already reached a stage where entire professions from academia, scientists, engineers, accountants, mid-level managers and many many more have gone down from solidly upper-middle class vocations to working class.

And they are the “lucky” ones since professions that once used to solidly middle-class such as assembly line workers, retail staff, construction workers etc have gone from middle and working class to precariat, while those that were working class such as delivery drivers, truckers, hotel and restaurant workers etc have become the working poor. It is no wonder that more than half the people are a couple of paychecks away from irreversible financial ruin. In the next part, I will go further into how financialism aka neoliberalism destroyed affordable housing, healthcare, education and a whole lot more while boomers were cheering for deregulation in 1990s. You will also see more examples of how being a multi-millionaire is a necessity under late capitalism.

What do you think? Comments?

Case Fatality Rates for COVID-19 are Now Decreasing Across the World

July 3, 2020 10 comments

Since I am feeling a bit lazy today, here is a quick post that is nonetheless quite interesting and topical. Many of you have might have heard about the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases in USA- especially on the lying corporate media. Well.. I noticed a trend too, and not just in USA. Have a look at the first figure and see if you can spot an interesting change in the trends for positive cases vs ICU admissions vs deaths due to COVID-19 in Sweden during past month. In case you can’t see the obvious, let me spell it out..

While Sweden has experienced a large increase in number of people testing positive for COVID-19, this increase has not translated into an increase in people admitted to ICU with COVID-19 or people dying from it. In fact the number of people dying from COVID-19 has gone down a lot in the past month despite a large increase in number of diagnosed cases, to say nothing about undiagnosed cases. This is even more obvious when you compare those trends and figures to what was happening 2-3 months ago.

Clearly, something big has changed. Perhaps we are testing for it more widely, the median age of cases is lower, maybe our symptomatic treatment regimes have gotten better or the virus have mutated into a less lethal version. It could also be a combination. But whichever way you look at it, the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) for COVID-19 has dropped considerably over past month in that country. And yes.. I did factor in the 1-2 week lag between diagnosis and adverse outcomes.

Moving on to this country, we see a similar trend. While there has been a huge spike in number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 over past few weeks, number of people admitted to hospital (most are not in ICUs) has increased very modestly while number of deaths keep on declining. Once again, a number of things might have changed- lower median age of cases, better medical management, newer virus strains being less lethal etc. But once again, it is hard to ignore that the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) has COVID-19 has gone down considerably in past few months.

Of course, it always possible that the real Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) for COVID-19 was always much lower than what discredited institutions such as CDC and FDA were pretending.

BTW, Case Fatality Rate (CFR) = percentage of people who die due to diagnosed cases of an infection while Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) = percentage who die in all people with that infection- both clinical and subclinical. IFR rates are often calculated after CFR rates as they are based on retrospective analysis of samples and data.

What do you think? Comments?