Friday, October 21, 2016

Perpetual War

So first the Army Chief of Staff warning our enemies (read Russia and China and countless others really) that the United States is ready for more war will destroy any enemy and now the Air Force chief "foresees decades more of US wars". Peace.  What a quaint word that is today.  Every neocon I have ever posed this question to, can fail to answer it sufficiently: "Let's say for a moment that I agree the U.S. should be doing everything it does militarily speaking.  What's the end game? When is it over?"  The most common and testosterone-laden answer is the embarrassingly nationalistic "when we say it's over!"  No one has an answer, yet all think my "come home" and "let's try peace" is the "pussy" answer. 

President Hillary Clinton

Here's what you get, Hillary's 'War Drums' Confirm Putin's Fears Of A World "Rushing Irreversibly" Towards Nuclear Showdown.  Trump would be no better, yet HRC has a record and it demonstrates she has never met a conflict she hasn't supported. 

FDR: America's Second Socialist President

I believe I mentioned this before, yet allow me to do so again.  My father had a strong distaste for FDR, while my maternal grandfather held him in the highest esteem, perpetuating in fact the myth that "he got us out of the Great Depression".  My father used to tell me that the history we learned in school is propaganda and distortion and, wrong.  As a young child, I can recall arguments in which my grandfather would act as though my father committed blasphemy when challenging his view on FDR.  Over the last dozen years or so, I finally learned real history and sorry Grandpop: you were wrong.  Simply put, after Wilson, FDR was this nation's second socialist president, and also, his policies (many of which were simply implementations of Hoover's policies), not only extended the Great Depression, but made it worse.  Anyway, I'm sure I've posted several other pieces on FDR which can be found using the label below.  Here's another worthy read, this one from Gary North, Franklin Roosevelt's Big Bank Bailout: March 6, 1933

U.S. Foreign Policy

The foreign policy of the United States can be summed up in one word: destruction.  Politicians speak of "American Exceptionalism", which is true in just one characteristic: it excels at creating enemies.  This single characteristic makes the permanent warfare state in which we live, self-perpetuating.  A worthy, yet disturbing read - The United States: A “Destroyer Of Nations”

Just About Covers It: Politics and Politicians

One of these two people will "lead" us.  As one blogger noted on the color of HRC's plane: "is that United Nations blue?"  How anyone, regardless of political affiliation can truthfully believe that either one of these tyrants can "represent" them are simply delusional.

Note: the picture as taken at Las Vegas in October, 2016.

Next up,  Hillary Campaign Apologizes After Her Bus Is Caught Dumping Human Waste On Side Of Street.  Granted, HRC likely had nothing to do with this personally, however, it is symbolic of what politicians and their lap dogs and operatives believe they can do: anything. 

The Only Vote That DOES Matter ...

... is the one that you do with your feet!  Unfortunately, it's one that is difficult to cast because it takes courage, and of course, the means (money and credentials e.g.) to do so.  I can argue that many of today's labor laws as well as the continued control interference of the government in the health insurance/car market, are designed to limit mobility and thereby limit mobility for most people, especially for minorities and the poor.  Read Ilya Somin's to learn of these and other factors that make voting with your feet more difficult than ever!  Moving Vans More Powerful Than Ballot Boxes: [emphasis mine]
Americans will soon get a chance to vote at the ballot box. But too little attention has been paid to their declining opportunities to vote with their feet. If we want to expand freedom and opportunity for the poorest among us, we must get moving on making it easier for them to move. Sadly, the issue has been almost completely ignored by both major parties.

Historically, interstate migration has been a major boon for Americans, especially the poor and oppressed. In the 19th century, many moved to the West, which offered greater freedom and opportunity to immigrants, women and religious minorities, such as the Mormons. In the 20th century, millions of African Americans greatly improved their lot by moving north, where there were more job opportunities and less severe racial discrimination than in the Jim Crow era of the South.

Sadly, however, mobility has become more difficult for many of those most in need of it. Studies have found declining rates of residential mobility since about 1980 among African Americans, low-income workers and those with low levels of education. A major recent paper by Scott Winship of the Manhattan Institute is one of a number of analyses concluding that this trend has greatly impeded these groups’ ability to pursue job opportunities and increase their income.

Several factors account for declining mobility among the poor and disadvantaged. A major one is the growth of exclusionary zoning in many major cities, which makes it difficult or impossible to build housing in response to demand. Harvard economist Edward Glaeser and University of Pennsylvania economist Joseph Gyourko estimate that this increases housing price listings by as much as 50% in urban markets over a decade. This often prices out the poor and lower-middle class, shutting them out from job opportunities.

Another major factor inhibiting mobility for the poor is restrictive occupational licensing. A recent Brookings Institution analysis estimates that 29% of American workers are required to have a license from a state government in order to do their jobs—up from 5% in the 1950s. Licensing is not limited to doctors and lawyers but extends to such unlikely professions as florists, casket makers, interior decorators and tour guides.

Getting a license for these professions is often extremely onerous, requiring thousands of dollars in expenses and years of classes. In a large percentage of cases, the requirements do far more to protect incumbent businesses from competition than serve the public. In many cases, lower-income workers cannot move to practice their professions in a new state because of the need to meet burdensome licensing requirements. Interest groups lobby to ensure that state licensing regimes make it difficult for competitors to come in from other states.

The need to reform zoning and licensing in order to promote mobility is widely agreed upon among experts across the political spectrum. Free-market advocates have been critical of both for decades. In recent years, many left-of-center scholars have reached similar conclusions, including in important recent works by Brookings (on licensing), Yale Law School professor David Schleicher and President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers (on both licensing and zoning). On few important policy issues is there so much cross-ideological consensus among experts.

In addition to expanding economic opportunity, mobility is also a crucial component of political freedom - perhaps even more so than the right to vote. Most people think of voting as the essence of political choice. But individual voters actually have only miniscule influence over government policy. The chance that any one vote will change the outcome of an election is infinitesimally small - perhaps 1 in 60 million in a presidential election, for example. For most people, their best chance to exercise meaningful control over the government policies they live under is by voting with their feet. In that way, they can make a decisive choice to move to a jurisdiction with policies they prefer, whether the policy be taxes, health care, education or something else.

The opportunity to make a genuinely decisive choice also gives foot voters stronger incentives to make well-informed decisions than ballot box voters have. Survey data have shown widespread political ignorance. An October 2015 poll found that only 34% of the public can even name the three branches of government. Public ignorance plays a major role in elections, including this year’s, often leading voters to support dubious candidates and policies. Because there is so little chance that any one vote will make a difference, most people have little motivation to follow politics closely.

By contrast, foot voters know that their decisions matter and therefore work harder to seek out relevant information. Historically, even poorly educated and disadvantaged people have done a good job of identifying which jurisdictions offer the best opportunities and public services. If the essence of political freedom is making informed choices that make a real difference, foot voting fits the bill

Unfortunately, impaired mobility makes foot voting needlessly difficult for those who need it the most. If we want to expand freedom and opportunity, that needs to change.

A History of Fractional Reserve Banking

Worthy reads indeed:

A history of Fractional Reserve Banking – or why interest rates are the most important influence on stock market valuations? Part 1

New:  A history of Fractional Reserve Banking – or why interest rates are the most important influence on stock market valuations? Part 2

"No Skin In The Game" Headlines

Clinton Insists Syria No-Fly Zone Would Save Lives, ‘Hasten’ End of Conflict 

Of course she does! It's not her ass in the cockpit nor in the boots on the ground.   When a politician states that "lives will be saved" you can bet many will in fact, die.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Power, of Power

Surprised in some ways that it took this long to silence Julian Assange.  All it takes is a few phone calls to Ecuador, you know, threaten to stop sending money, all the usual tools in the US-hegemonic tool box.  This should (and yes, I'll use the word "should") both frighten and anger people the world over.

Ecuador Admits Censoring Assange Over "U.S. Election"; Denies "Yielding To Pressure From Other States".  The denial is laughable.

New: Assange's Fate by Justin Raimondo.  Straight to the point as always.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Socialism: Yeah, It Works ...

New:  From 'Socialist Utopia' To 'Silence Of The Lambs' - Venezuela's Overcrowded Prisons Devolve Into Cannibalism

Venezuela's "Death Spiral"

Venezuela's Latest Response to Food Shortages: Ban Lines Outside Bakeries

Forced Labor Camps Are the Fruit of Venezuelan Socialism

Venezuela’s Road to Literal SerfdomHow anyone can still believe that socialism works is beyond me, really.  I suppose the dream of "free stuff" and "freedom from want" will always live within the clueless.

Venezuelan Apocalypse II: More updates on the epic failure of socialism in oil-rich Venezuela.   Many more links after the jump.  

"It's Pure Chaos Now; There Is No Way Back" - Venezuela Hits Rock Bottom As Its Morgues Overflow.  It continues to amaze me that people still think socialism works.  Then again, after reading Thomas Sowell's Intellectuals and Society, I understand why: when either socialism or communism fails, there's always another set of intellectuals who believe the failure came about as a result of poor leadership and that they can, and will, do better when they're in charge.

More from that utopian paradise known as Venezuela: Venezuela Calls for Patriotism as It Plans to Ration Electricity.  'Cause you know, socialism works!  People, just remember, when politicians call for patriotism, hold onto your wallet and for those of military age, hold onto your life.

Of course, things are so great in the socialist paradise of Venezuela that now has five day weekends for public workers!

"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others!" Rule of Law Collapses in Venezuela As Maduro Continues to Push Socialist Agenda.  Of course he can push it: he's protected from the devastation he's causing.  But that will change .... and soon ...

Well, they're all equal and it is a utopia, so, let's make 'em work .. From Socialist Utopia To Slave-Nation - Venezuela Unveils Shocking "Forced Labor" Law

Simple: To Admire His Work

Why Did Vote-Rigging Robert Creamer Visit The White House Over 200 Times During The Obama Admin

A Reason Not To Use Touch-ID On Your Phone

Slowing reaching the sublime, seriously: DOJ Uses Vague Court Request to Try to Demand People Unlock Any Fingerprint-Locked Phones:

Fun fact about fingerprint lock "Touch ID" system on iPhones or iPads: If its owner hasn't unlocked his or her device in the past 48 hours, it reverts back to a passcode system. This means if a phone gets, for example, seized by authorities of some sort and locked away, there's a window through which they can physically make its owner unlock it before they have to get a numerical passcode.
That may explain why, in a federal warrant uncovered by Forbes' Thomas Fox-Brewster, the Department of Justice attempted to get a judge's permission to attempt to force people to unlock any Touch ID-locked phones at the scene of the search itself.
This was a search of a home in Lancaster, California, last May, and while Fox-Brewster wasn't able to get his hands on the warrant itself, he was able to track down a very particular and concerning request. The Department of Justice wanted:
"authorization to depress the fingerprints and thumbprints of every person who is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES during the execution of the search and who is reasonably believed by law enforcement to be the user of a fingerprint sensor-enabled device that is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES and falls within the scope of the warrant."

To simplify, the Department of Justice wanted to force anybody on scene with a fingerprint-locked phone or tablet to open it then and right there so they could review the contents.
There's two issues here: One, can authorities force somebody to provide a thumbprint to unlock a phone; two, even if they can, can the authorities just demand access to every device connected to a search scene without any proof it's connected to any crime?
For the first question, so far judges have been inclined to allow authorities to provide a thumbprint and do not believe this violates Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination. At least that's how things stand so far.
As for the second question, based on the vagueness of the memo, legal scholars were not impressed:
"They want the ability to get a warrant on the assumption that they will learn more after they have a warrant," said Marina Medvin of Medvin Law. "Essentially, they are seeking to have the ability to convince people to comply by providing their fingerprints to law enforcement under the color of law – because of the fact that they already have a warrant. They want to leverage this warrant to induce compliance by people they decide are suspects later on. This would be an unbelievably audacious abuse of power if it were permitted."
Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), added: "It's not enough for a government to just say we have a warrant to search this house and therefore this person should unlock their phone. The government needs to say specifically what information they expect to find on the phone, how that relates to criminal activity and I would argue they need to set up a way to access only the information that is relevant to the investigation.
But we don't know exactly what was in the warrant so we don't know how specific the request was. Forbes tracked down the recipients of the warrant to determine that it was indeed served, but they wouldn't say much other than to say that nobody there had been accused of involvement in a crime.
Assuming they're telling the truth, the Justice Department's behavior is even more of a concern, because they used the vaguest possible justifications to try to access private data on devices that may have had absolutely no connection with any sort of crime. And we don't know how many times the Department of Justice (or another law enforcement agency) has attempted this method. Or even whether they succeeded. But it does make it clear that the federal government is going to quietly do whatever they can to get around private data security unless they're told otherwise by judges.
Read the memo over at Forbes here.

Always Suspected This, But Damn It's Truly Scary Sh*t

Facial recognition.  Long have I pondered the government's capabilities post-Snowden, with all the cameras, with all the pictures on social media, as well as all the photos required for driver's licenses and so on with respect to the technology of facial recognition.  It required no great stretch of the imagination to suspect government already had significant capabilities in this arena.  Facebook alone is a veritable treasure trove of data.  Add Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Dropbox to the mix and there are likely very few people whose face isn't stored digitally.  For more on this topic, read Memo to the DOJ: Facial Recognition’s Threat to Privacy is Worse Than Anyone Thought.  I usually end my contemplations on such topics of privacy and surveillance with this: terrorism has won.

"Welcome To America! What's Your Twitter Account Name?

Get this:
Having for years enforced a constitutionally offensive border search regime at physical borders and U.S. international airports, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently proposed to expand its violations in troubling new ways by prompting travelers from countries on the State Department’s Visa Waiver Program list to provide their “social media identifier.” Mounting criticism recently prompted the agency to commit to some useful limits, but the proposal remains flawed.
Seriously, where does it stop?  For the rest of story, continue reading U.N. Joins Critique of Proposed CBP Social Media Questions.

This Guy Is Good

Love this guy .... yes, a politician, yet one who wants to be put out of a job, and with Brexit, he has received his wish ...

Quote of the Day

"Society is a partnership of the dead, the living and the unborn." - Edmund Burke

Politicians: The Same The World Over

Disgusting on every level possible and imaginable  Philippine President Defends Killing of Children in Drug War—Says They’re ‘Collateral Damage’

This 'Taint Good

As I repeatedly say when it comes to economic indicators: I have but two, and they are the Baltic Dry Index and Caterpillar.  Nothing's wrong with the global economy, no way!  The stock market is so hot, right? Hmmm  Caterpillar Retail Orders Suffer Second Biggest Plunge Since Financial Crisis.  If they ain't building, we ain't growing and by 'we' I mean 'the global economy'.

New: "Down goes Frazier!!!!"  Caterpillar CEO To Retire After 45 Months Without An Uptick In Global Sales

Monday, October 17, 2016

On the Path to War with Russia

While my fellow Americans are so "enchanted" by what passes for a "presidential" election, the winds of war continue to blow and yet so few are aware and fewer yet care - but we, and I use the pronoun "we" in this case, soon will.   Please, read Do We Really Want A War With Russia?  Of course, the answer is an emphatic "no", but onward does this nation march, towards oblivion.  These are truly frightening times, and not solely because of the prospect of either HRC or DT occupying the White House.

US Considering Air Strikes On Assad Regime After Top General Warns It Could Lead To War With Russia. It continues to amaze me, really, that so many of my fellow Americans see nothing wrong with the path upon which our supposed "representatives" are "leading" them.  Sad.  Only when the blood of their children starts to be spilled will they wake up, and by then, it's much too late.

This can't result in anything good at all:  Royal Air Force Pilots Ordered To Shoot Down "Hostile" Russian Jets Over Syria.  Does anyone else but me have their jaw drop at this headline?  Think about it: there are three countries mentioned with one being caught in the middle as their sovereignty is simply ignored!  There's the UK and Russia with Syria in the middle.  Yes, I know that Assad is a dirt bag at best, however, there is no justification especially for the UK to be involved (same for the US).  Syria is in Russia's back yard, so while I object to their encroachment of Syrian sovereignty, theirs is at least debatable.  Bottom line is this: this is how wars start, and secondly, people (more, much more) will die. Lastly, let's not forget that the UK is no match for Russia, which means 1) NATO which means 2) the USA. 

A very scary read, but a necessary one - US Lights Fuse in Syria to World War III Countdown

 "A Pretext Is Needed": A False Flag May Be Imminent To Drag U.S. Into War.  The opportunities are all there: proposed "no fly zone" in Syria; accusations of Russia meddling with the U.S. election; published reports ordering CIA to prepare options for a cyberwar with Russia; central banks with no options left; neocons supporting HRC (note: not that I want them supporting DT, no, I don't want them at all)

New:  Who Brought the World to the Brink of World War III?  Still so hard to fathom war at all and to think it is so easy just to say "no" to war: simply don't go.  But politicians do not accept "simple". Their pride gets injured and since they truly have no skin in the game, i.e., they send other people's children to die for them.  A pox on the whole lot of them, a non-fatal one of course, yet one that itches like hell.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Don't Vote Until You See This

RIGGED 2016 Trailer

Pension Accounting 101 (The Hard Way)

There's real accounting, and there's fake (allowed only by government). Read this if you can - Pension Benefits In Tiny California Town To Be Slashed As "Ponzi Scheme" Is Exposed:
For the tiny little town of Loyalton, California, with a population of only 700, a failure of city council members to understand the difference between the calculation a regular everyday pension liability and a "termination liability" has left 4 residents at risk of losing their pensions from Calpers. According to the New York Times, the town of Loyalton decided to drop out of Calpers back in 2012 in order to save some money but what they got instead was a $1.6mm bill which was more than their annual budget.

For those who aren't familiar with pension accounting, we can shed some light on the issue faced by Loyalton. There are two different ways to calculate the present value of pension liabilities. One methodology applies to "solvent", fully-functioning pension funds (we call this the "Ponzi Methodology") and the other applies to pensions that are being terminated (we call this one "Reality").

Under the "Ponzi Methodology," pension funds, like Calpers, discount their future liabilities at 7.5% in order to keep the present value of their liabilities artificially low. That way, pension funds can maintain the illusion that they're solvent and the Ponzi scheme can continue on so long as there are enough assets to cover annual benefit payments.

Now, the managers of the pension funds aren't actually dumb enough to believe that the "Ponzi Methodology" accurately reflects the true present value of future liabilities because they know that, particularly in light of current Central Banking policies around the world, their actual long-term returns will be much lower than 7.5%. Therefore, they have a completely separate, special calculation that applies when towns, like Loyalton, want to exit their plan. This "termination liability", or what we refer to as "Reality", uses a discount rate closer to or even below risk-free rates which means the present value of the future liabilities is much higher.

As a quick example, lets just assume that Loyalton's 4 pensioners draw $225,000 per year, in aggregate pension benefits, and enjoy a 2% annual inflation adjustment. Assuming a 7.5% discount rate, the present value of that liability stream is about $2.9mm. However, if the discount rate drops to 2%, the present value of those liabilities surges to $4.5mm...hence the $1.6mm bill sent to the Loyalton City Council.

Of course the 4 residents of Loyalton currently drawing a pension were outraged by the discovery that their monthly benefits may be slashed.
“I worked all those years, and they did this to me,” said Patsy Jardin, 71, who kept the town’s books for 29 years, then retired in 2004 on an annual pension of about $48,000. Now, because of Loyalton’s troubles, Calpers could cut it to about $19,000.

In Loyalton, Mr. Cussins, the retiree and City Council member, said he was so frustrated about being barred from the council’s pension discussions that he and another former town worker drove to Sacramento to attend Calpers’s last board meeting.

The trustees were cordial, he said, but they held out little hope.
“We had a bunch of them come and shake our hands,” he said. “I said, ‘We need some guidance.’ They told us the city could apply to get back into Calpers next spring. But they made it very clear that they will not allow the city to get back into Calpers until that $1.6 million is paid.”
As Calpers’s chief of public affairs points out "the State of California is not responsible for a public agency’s unfunded liabilities.” And since Calpers knows that the "Ponzi Methodology" is not an accurate reflection of their true liabilities, towns like Loyalton must pay the difference between the "Ponzi Methodology" and "Reality" when they choose to withdraw.
Public pensions are supposed to be bulletproof, because cities — unlike companies — seldom go bankrupt, and states never do. Of all the states, experts say, California has the most protective pension laws and legal precedents. Once public workers join Calpers, state courts have ruled, their employers must fund their pensions for the rest of their careers, even if the cost was severely underestimated at the outset — something that has happened in California and elsewhere.

Across the country, many benefits were granted at the height of the 1990s bull market on the faulty assumption that investments would keep climbing and cover most of the cost. And that flawed premise is now hitting home in places like Loyalton.

"The State of California is not responsible for a public agency’s unfunded liabilities,” said Wayne Davis, Calpers’s chief of public affairs. Nor is Calpers willing to play Robin Hood, taking a little more from wealthy communities like Palo Alto or Malibu to help luckless Loyalton. And if it gave a break to one, other struggling communities would surely ask for the same thing, setting up a domino effect.
Mr. Davis, the Calpers spokesman, said that since 2011, Calpers had been giving its member municipalities a “hypothetical termination liability” in their annual actuarial reports, so there was little excuse for not knowing that a payment would be due upon exit. But the former Mayor of Loyalton said the paperwork was simply too confusing.
Ms. Whitley disagreed. “It’s just too confusing,” she said. “I looked at what’s been happening with all the other entities, and I saw that eventually it’s got to collapse. It’s almost like a Ponzi scheme.”
While Whitley was right that her town was trapped in a "Ponzi Scheme," she failed to recognize the critical fact that only willing participants get to participate in the Ponzi...for everyone else, we have to continue living in "Reality."

Just In From the Department WTF!!!

US Joins Yemen Conflict With Cruise Missile Strikes On Anti-Saudi Targets.  Yemen: really? Yes, I know this is the very definition of a proxy war, and yes, I know that missiles were recently launched at a US naval ship, but the United States should be embarrassed by this event.  First off, this stinks of a 'false flag' operation, eerily like the infamous Gulf of Tonkin event back in the '60s.  Why does America launch missiles at Yemen?  Simple: because it can and can do so with very little likelihood of any retaliation.  One of the poorest fu*king countries in the world and America launches missiles at it!  The is the world coming to? Well, that's simple: WWIII.

Quote of the Day (and a "Just About Covers It" Too)

"Skepticism is always a conspiracy or a hoax" - Charles Hugh Smith

Yes, I Believe So

USA 2017-2020: An Ungovernable Nation? by Charles Hugh Smith:

The only way to govern successfully is to actually solve the underlying systemic problems, but doing that requires overthrowing a corrupt, self-serving elite.
Regardless of who wins the presidency, a much larger question looms: will the U.S. be ungovernable 2017-2020? There are multiple sources of the question.
One is of course the remarkable unpopularity of the two candidates for the presidency. For all the reasons that are tiresomely familiar, whomever wins the presidency will remain deeply unpopular with roughly 40% of the adult populace.
Though we can't say "never," let's say it's "extremely unlikely" that fans of Hillary Clinton will cotton to Donald Trump, or vice versa: both candidates have been public figures for decades, and it is highly unlikely that the usual "I will serve all the people" speech given by the new president will change many minds.
It's not too difficult to foresee not just gridlock, but angry gridlock. Neither candidate can count on even the slightest shreds of goodwill from the other party, and with bi-partisanship already dead on arrival, precisely how much governance can any deeply reviled president offer the nation?
Whether pundits like it or not, one issue that will not go away after the election is the dominance of the nation's financial and political elite: the top .01%. As many of us in the alternative media, and to a lesser but still significant degree, in the mainstream media have been noting, the dominance of the elite class of financiers and politicos has increased in the 21st century.
I have described this in a number of ways: the state-cartel model, neofeudalism (with the bottom 95% being either debt-serfs or dependents on state bread and circuses), or the neocolonialial-financialization model: The E.U., Neofeudalism and the Neocolonial-Financialization Model (May 24, 2012).
"The finance industry has effectively captured our government--a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time."
Regardless of who they vote for, an increasing number of Americans are coming to understand that their oppressors are not foreign "terrorists" but homegrown elites who have become wealthier and thus more powerful in the past seven years of "prosperity."
As I have shown many times, the top 5% of households have done very very well in the past few decades, and the bottom 95% have at best clung on and at worst seen the purchasing power of their earnings plummet.
You can't fix this without overthrowing the status quo. Policy tweaks such as "more job training," more social benefits, tax cuts for the middle class--none of those simulacra reforms will change the dynamic or the power structure of the U.S.
And since nobody in power is going to change the status quo that so richly benefits them, the resentment of the power elites will only grow in the next four years. The other unspoken issue is that the bottom 95% are starting to see through the Ministry of Propaganda's unrelenting spew of fake factoids and "happy talk good news":
All the "red button" issues boil down to this: the top .01% make all the important decisions to serve their own interests; the top 5% of technocrats and professionals who have done very well for themselves in the past seven years will support the elites, and the bottom 95% are effectively powerless-- not just politically, but financially.
I would argue that Simon Johnson's financial coup is 50 years behind the governance coup in which the Deep State decided the "people" must be stripped of power lest they mess up "what's best for them," which is of course decided for them by the elitist organs of the Deep State, which I have sketched out here:
You see the dilemma for the elites running the nation: if they keep exploiting the nation for their own benefit, they risk a social revolution that threatens their cozy state-cartel arrangement.
But if they return some power to the people--well, the people might actually renounce the Imperial Project, endless war, saber-rattling, and elite dominance of the nation.
Regardless of who wins the election, the U.S. will be ungovernable in a period of self-reinforcing crises. All the flim-flam financial gambits that created the illusion of prosperity are falling apart, and the Imperial Project is losing its grip on the narratives and on the ground.
The only way to govern successfully is to actually solve the underlying systemic problems, but doing that requires overthrowing a corrupt, self-serving elite, the same elite that will never relinquish its power or its wealth.

Yes, I Recommend You Care ... (Truly Scary Sh*t)

Law criminalizes anything done in preparation for attack—including behavior that is normally legal.

The terrible, authoritarian antiencryption legislation put together by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) died without getting anywhere at all, but they're apparently workshopping new versions of the legislation that are perhaps less awful and less about simply ordering tech companies to assist the feds in destroying their own data security.

We'll have to see what comes out of this work, but everybody should be paying attention to a terrorism case coming out of England. Samata Ullah, 33, of Cardiff, has been charged with several terrorism-related offenses for supporting the Islamic State (ISIS).

Ullah is not charged with actually carrying out violent acts. He is suspected of planning some. But the big deal here is that he being charged with using technology in a way to conceal what he was planning. That's where things get a little dicey. He is charged with using encryption and possessing information that could be used for creating weapons for terrorist attack, even though it's not inherently illegal in England to encrypt one's data or to possess information that can be used for weapons.

Here's how the charges are described via Ars Technica:
The charge sheet includes one count of preparation of terrorism "by researching an encryption programme, developing an encrypted version of his blog site, and publishing the instructions around the use of [the] programme on his blog site."

Ullah is also accused of knowingly providing "instruction or training in the use of encryption programmes" in relation to "the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism or for assisting the commission or preparation by others of such acts."

He has additionally been charged with being in possession of a "Universal Serial Bus (USB) cufflink that had an operating system loaded on to it for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation, or instigation of terrorism."
In one way, it's easy to see a certain type of logic behind such a law. It should be very clear by now that a law attempting to block the use of encryption or to make possession of information itself criminal is not just a dangerous and abuse-promoting violation of the right to security and privacy; it is utterly untenable in the borderless world of the Internet. So instead they're attempting to criminalize when these tools are used to support terrorism.

There's still the obvious problem, though, that the government is criminalizing the tools instead of what is actually done and the potential for abuse in the hands of prosecutors. Silicon Republic noted:
This section of the terrorism law has been cited in a number of incidents over the past year, ranging from individuals being charged over suspected terror incidents in Syria, to teenagers being accused of trying to build a bomb based on plans from the internet.

In 2014, London solicitor Tayab Ali spoke with Vice about how section five was very problematic, as it allows for prosecution of acts that would otherwise be deemed legal by the state.

"Section 5 can criminalise acts that, on their own, would be completely legal – if prosecutors can show that the end purpose of those acts might be terrorism," Ali said at the time.
The law referenced was passed in 2006. The law very literally criminalizes any action or conduct in preparation for a terror attack or assisting anybody else in preparing a terror attack. Blame it on a political "do something" mentality in fighting terrorism. There's no reason why people plotting terrorist attacks cannot be charged for what they're actually attempting to do. Criminalizing information or tools based on their context is just another way to add more charges.

Giving the government the authority to decide when information itself or the use of particular tools are contributing to the commission of a crime is a recipe for prosecutorial abuse. We can pretty much guarantee that laws like this will ultimately, eventually be used to punish people beyond actual suspected terrorists.

A Worthy Yet Politically Incorrect Piece on the Pope

I still believe that all religions should lead by example, and as I've said before in this blog, all churches, mosques, etc. that are vacant most of the time, should (yes, I'm using the word "should") house, feed and clothe the needy, especially the homeless.  In the US, churches are granted certain tax exemptions including property tax, and in my opinion, they should earn this exemption.  The pope, like most other politicians, do not practice what they preach, as they tell those on the other side of their protective walls and fences, patrolled by armed guards 24x7 with never having the worry of where their next meal will come from, exactly how they should live and act.  Here's an interesting piece on the current pope, and what I find most interesting is this notion that some theologians believe he's not the "real" pope!  “Pope Francis:” Traitor to Western Civilization

 Note: I was born, raised and educated as a Catholic.

Voting? By All Means, Read This First

Thinking About Voting? Read This First.  I believe the author strays a bit in the middle, however, his thesis that the State is a cult, akin to religion, is spot on.  Please, if you're casting a vote only on the pretext of choosing the lesser of two evils just remember this: you are choosing some degree of evil.  Here's the piece: 
(ANTIMEDIA Op-Ed) Colin Kaepernick has been abstaining from standing for the national anthem. Self-styled patriots have been losing their minds over it. That is because they are true believers in a cult. The cult is the State.

All states are cults: religions. And like all religions, states have sacraments, including holy rituals. The national anthem is one of the holy ritual sacraments of the cult of the American State. Those fully initiated and indoctrinated in that cult have been programmed to go into attack mode when divergent cult members (heretics) fail to observe such sacraments, like the national anthem or the pledge of allegiance to the holy pole cloth. Such peer pressure is how cults maintain their numbers.

Voting is another one of those sacramental rituals. As with the national anthem and pledge of allegiance, true believers are aghast when you advocate abstention from voting. School, which is our chief initiation into the State cult, thoroughly and universally indoctrinates its initiates into the sacrament of voting and democracy. We’ve all been brainwashed from the time we were tiny children into the holy myth of democracy: that democracy is what makes us special, what makes America exceptional; that patriots suffered and died for democracy, from the Suffragettes to the Civil Rights movement, from the Revolution to the Civil War to World War II to the War on Terror; that through voting we are empowered to fight for what’s right, to make our country, our very lives, better. You can see how important this sacrament is to the State cult from all of the voting propaganda pushed by the government and the establishment media.

But here’s the thing. Like all mystic rituals, the ritual of voting is based on superstition. Like an incantation or a rain dance, it is based on the superstition that great good can come of a mere gesture. Just as the rain dancer thinks he can summon rain that will save his crops, the voter thinks he can summon reform that will save his country.

But again, it’s a superstition. The individual act of voting is futile. Elections are virtually never decided by a single vote. You’re more likely to die on the way to the polling place than affect the outcome of an election. You know it’s futile. You know that in previous elections the outcome wouldn’t have been any different had you not voted. You know the same will be true for future elections.

Yes, in aggregate voting makes a difference. But that’s a different question. When you’re deciding whether to vote, you’re making an individual decision, not an aggregate one.

Perhaps you think that by voting at least you’re doing your small part, making your small contribution. But contributing toward what?

Imagine a giant siege engine that takes millions of people to push. Imagine if millions of people together purposefully pushed the engine to run over a group of innocent people tied up on the ground. Did those people die accidentally or were they murdered? If they were murdered, they were murdered by somebody. So by whom? The millions who pushed, of course. Even though any given individual’s decision whether to push or not didn’t make a difference one way or the other, every individual who pushed bears as much guilt as anybody else who pushed. Such an action is non-decisive, yet culpable at the same time.

Now imagine if there were two groups of tied-up victims. Millions are pushing the siege engine to the left, trying to steer it away from Group A and toward Group B. Millions of others are pushing to the right, away from Group B and toward Group A. One side prevails, and Group B is crushed to death. These helpless victims were murdered, just as much as the victims in the previous scenario were. By whom? By the millions who pushed the engine in their direction. This is true, even if their primary goal for pushing in that direction was to save the lives of Group A.

That’s effectively what you’re doing when you throw your weight behind a candidate or behind most forms of legislation. Candidates are package deals. Any candidate will violate the rights of some, even if they respect or defend the rights of others.

Objectors say it’s about going in the general right direction, making choices out of which the good outweighs the bad, that do a net amount of good, that is good “on balance.” But that is collectivist speak. There is no “good on balance” for the people whose lives are run over by the candidate you empowered: for the child who is bombed by Hillary’s foreign policy, for the man who shot is by Trump’s police state, or the people Gary Johnson and Bill Weld kept in cages when they were governors.

Objectors call it self-defense. But anti-war people should know better than anybody that collateral damage is never justified by self-defense. Objectors also say they are not responsible for the crimes committed by the office holders they voted for. But you can’t have it both ways. Either your vote doesn’t matter and it’s futile, or your vote matters and you’re culpable. (Although, again, I argue that you’re also culpable even though your vote is futile.)

Don’t fall for the lie that you’re limited to choosing the lesser of multiple evils. You’re not limited to pushing the engine in the direction of one group of victims or another, or even toward a third smaller group of victims. You can abstain from pushing at all. You can refuse to lend your weight to the State. It’s true that a single act of abstention alone won’t make a difference as to whether people get run over, or regarding who gets run over. But neither will pushing in one direction or another: neither will voting. So you may as well choose the option that doesn’t even negligibly contribute to injustice.

Not only do you have the option of merely abstaining from pushing, you can actually work to obstruct the siege engine, or to even dismantle it. Even the mere act of abstaining from voting contributes to the grand project of obstructing and dismantling the State. That is because voting is not just a ritual. It’s a power ritual.

In a sense, all cult rituals are power rituals. They are about building and maintaining the power of the cult’s leadership, or the religion’s priesthood, over the lives of the cult’s rank and file members. Rituals do this by solidifying the adherents’ faith in the cult’s god. The cult’s priesthood poses as representatives and agents for this god. In the case of modern, secular political religions, the cult god is the State itself, which is an incoherent notion of the “general will” made manifest: a mythical abstraction that somehow acts for the good of the people. The government poses as the priesthood of this deity.

Sacraments like the anthem, the pledge, and voting are so important to the government because they are what continually reinforce our faith in the State. Voting is particularly similar to holy communion. Voters line up at the polling booth to partake of divinity, believing that by participating in their own rule, they become one with the saving State they so adore.

This participation is a form of buy-in. It causes the voter to identify with the government — the captives to identify with their captors. The State is the Stockholm Syndrome institutionalized. And the higher the turnout, the greater the perceived legitimacy granted to the government priesthood.

Objectors say they are voting merely out of pragmatism and don’t intend to convey legitimacy to the government. But your intention is not the issue. The issue is the actual effect. It’s a simple fact that the government is able to use high turnout to convince its subjects that it represents the popular will — even to the subjects who voted for a losing candidate. It doesn’t matter that only individuals have wills, and so “the popular will” is an incoherent concept. What matters is that many people believe in it, and believe that high turnout signifies that the voice of the popular will has spoken.

Just think: how convincing would be a democratic government’s claim to legitimacy with a 1% turnout vs. a 99% turnout, even if that 99% turnout was split down the middle? And what’s true of the extremes is also true of the gradations.

Again, by voting you lend your weight to the State. You lend your weight to directing it toward certain victims. You also lend your weight to its sheer power and mass. By abstaining from voting, you dwindle the plausibility of the government’s claim to legitimacy and thus dwindle its power.

Obstructing and dismantling such a huge thing as the State is also an effort that takes millions. So your contribution toward even that is negligible in the grand scheme of things. But at least you would be making a negligible contribution, to a noble effort, a moral project, and not to an immoral, pernicious system.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Quote of the Day

"1984 called, it wants its state surveillance scheme back."

Source: ACLU Exposes "1984-Style" Police Surveillance On Twitter, Facebook

Just About Covers It (About American Exceptionalism)

Source (and a good read): The US Surrendered Its Right to Accuse Russia of War Crimes a Long Time Ago

George Will Says It Best About Trump and the GOP

“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”
— “Me and Bobby McGee”
What did Donald Trump have left to lose Sunday night? His dignity? Please. His campaign’s theme? His Cleveland convention was a mini-Nuremberg rally for Republicans whose three-word recipe for making America great again was the shriek “Lock her up!” This presaged his banana-republican vow to imprison his opponent.

The St. Louis festival of snarls was preceded by the release of a tape that merely provided redundant evidence of what Trump is like when he is being his boisterous self. Nevertheless, the tape sent various Republicans, who until then had discovered nothing to disqualify Trump from the presidency, into paroxysms of theatrical, tactical and synthetic dismay.

Again, the tape revealed nothing about this arrested-development adolescent that today’s righteously recoiling Republicans either did not already know or had no excuse for not knowing. Before the tape reminded the pathologically forgetful of Trump’s feral appetites and deranged sense of entitlement, the staid Economist magazine, holding the subject of Trump at arm’s length like a soiled sock, reminded readers of this: “When Mr. Trump divorced the first of his three wives, Ivana, he let the New York tabloids know that one reason for the separation was that her breast implants felt all wrong.”

His sexual loutishness is a sufficient reason for defeating him, but it is far down a long list of sufficient reasons. But if it — rather than, say, his enthusiasm for torture even “if it doesn’t work,” or his ignorance of the nuclear triad — is required to prompt some Republicans to have second thoughts about him, so be it.

For example, Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolinian seeking a third term, represents a kind of Republican judiciousness regarding Trump. Having heard the tape and seen Trump’s “apology” (Trump said, essentially: My naughty locker-room banter is better than Bill Clinton’s behavior), Burr solemnly said: “I am going to watch his level of contrition over the next few days to determine my level of support.” North Carolinians will watch with bated breath as Burr, measuring with a moral micrometer, carefully calibrates how to adjust his support to Trump’s unfolding repentance. Burr, who is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not received this nugget of intelligence: Contrition is not in Trump’s repertoire. Why should it be? His appetites, like his factoids, are self-legitimizing.

For example, Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolinian seeking a third term, represents a kind of Republican judiciousness regarding Trump. Having heard the tape and seen Trump’s “apology” (Trump said, essentially: My naughty locker-room banter is better than Bill Clinton’s behavior), Burr solemnly said: “I am going to watch his level of contrition over the next few days to determine my level of support.” North Carolinians will watch with bated breath as Burr, measuring with a moral micrometer, carefully calibrates how to adjust his support to Trump’s unfolding repentance. Burr, who is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not received this nugget of intelligence: Contrition is not in Trump’s repertoire. Why should it be? His appetites, like his factoids, are self-legitimizing.

Still, some journalists, who seem to have no interests beyond their obsession with presidential politics and who illustrate Kipling’s principle (“What should they know of England who only England know?”), are so eager to get started on 2020 that they are anointing Pence the GOP’s front-runner. Perhaps Republicans will indeed embrace a man who embraced a presidential candidate whose supposed “locker-room banter” merely echoed sexual boasts he published in a book.

Today, however, Trump should stay atop the ticket, for four reasons. First, he will give the nation the pleasure of seeing him join the one cohort, of the many cohorts he disdains, that he most despises — “losers.” Second, by continuing to campaign in the spirit of St. Louis, he can remind the nation of the useful axiom that there is no such thing as rock bottom. Third, by persevering through Nov. 8 he can simplify the GOP’s quadrennial exercise of writing its post-campaign autopsy, which this year can be published Nov. 9 in one sentence: “Perhaps it is imprudent to nominate a venomous charlatan.” Fourth, Trump is the GOP’s chemotherapy, a nauseating but, if carried through to completion, perhaps a curative experience.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

NSA / USG Stooges

Interesting read: Say 'Hi' to the NSA in Your Next Email

Americans: Not So Good At Preparing for Their Financial Futures

Poor America: 7 in 10 Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.  Throughout this blog, I have similar statistics on generally horrible condition of most American's savings and hence, their ability to weather even a modest short term crisis.  One day, when I have the time, I'll add them all to the same label.

As if the news isn't bad enough, there's this: 1 in 3 Americans Has Saved $0 for Retirement, and from this piece we learn that 56% of Americans Have Less Than $10,000 Saved for Retirement.  Please read the entire piece, as it contains excellent charts and graphs, but allow me to post just one below:

Another Headline From the Department of WTF!!

You really can't make this shit up! Obama Econ Advisor Blames Back Pain And Video Games For Bad Labor Market

Just In From the Department of WTF!!

The Pentagon Accounts for More Than Half of the Federal Government’s $1 Billion PR Budget


Just let that headline sink in for a moment ...

Quote of the Day

"Isn’t it funny when you walk into an investment firm and you see all of the financial advisers watching CNBC. That gives me the same feeling of confidence I would have if I walked into the Mayo clinic or Sloan Kettering and all the medical staff were watching General Hospital.” -  A senior portfolio manager.

Source: Turn Those Machines Back Off

The IoT (Internet of Things)

Interesting post from Bruce Schneier, Security Economics of the Internet of Things:

Brian Krebs is a popular reporter on the cybersecurity beat. He regularly exposes cybercriminals and their tactics, and consequently is regularly a target of their ire. Last month, he wrote about an online attack-for-hire service that resulted in the arrest of the two proprietors. In the aftermath, his site was taken down by a massive DDoS attack.

In many ways, this is nothing new. Distributed denial-of-service attacks are a family of attacks that cause websites and other Internet-connected systems to crash by overloading them with traffic. The "distributed" part means that other insecure computers on the Internet -- sometimes in the millions­ -- are recruited to a botnet to unwittingly participate in the attack. The tactics are decades old; DDoS attacks are perpetrated by lone hackers trying to be annoying, criminals trying to extort money, and governments testing their tactics. There are defenses, and there are companies that offer DDoS mitigation services for hire.

Basically, it's a size vs. size game. If the attackers can cobble together a fire hose of data bigger than the defender's capability to cope with, they win. If the defenders can increase their capability in the face of attack, they win.

What was new about the Krebs attack was both the massive scale and the particular devices the attackers recruited. Instead of using traditional computers for their botnet, they used CCTV cameras, digital video recorders, home routers, and other embedded computers attached to the Internet as part of the Internet of Things.

Much has been written about how the IoT is wildly insecure. In fact, the software used to attack Krebs was simple and amateurish. What this attack demonstrates is that the economics of the IoT mean that it will remain insecure unless government steps in to fix the problem. This is a market failure that can't get fixed on its own.

Our computers and smartphones are as secure as they are because there are teams of security engineers working on the problem. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google spend a lot of time testing their code before it's released, and quickly patch vulnerabilities when they're discovered. Those companies can support such teams because those companies make a huge amount of money, either directly or indirectly, from their software­ -- and, in part, compete on its security. This isn't true of embedded systems like digital video recorders or home routers. Those systems are sold at a much lower margin, and are often built by offshore third parties. The companies involved simply don't have the expertise to make them secure.

Even worse, most of these devices don't have any way to be patched. Even though the source code to the botnet that attacked Krebs has been made public, we can't update the affected devices. Microsoft delivers security patches to your computer once a month. Apple does it just as regularly, but not on a fixed schedule. But the only way for you to update the firmware in your home router is to throw it away and buy a new one.

The security of our computers and phones also comes from the fact that we replace them regularly. We buy new laptops every few years. We get new phones even more frequently. This isn't true for all of the embedded IoT systems. They last for years, even decades. We might buy a new DVR every five or ten years. We replace our refrigerator every 25 years. We replace our thermostat approximately never. Already the banking industry is dealing with the security problems of Windows 95 embedded in ATMs. This same problem is going to occur all over the Internet of Things.

The market can't fix this because neither the buyer nor the seller cares. Think of all the CCTV cameras and DVRs used in the attack against Brian Krebs. The owners of those devices don't care. Their devices were cheap to buy, they still work, and they don't even know Brian. The sellers of those devices don't care: they're now selling newer and better models, and the original buyers only cared about price and features. There is no market solution because the insecurity is what economists call an externality: it's an effect of the purchasing decision that affects other people. Think of it kind of like invisible pollution.

What this all means is that the IoT will remain insecure unless government steps in and fixes the problem. When we have market failures, government is the only solution. The government could impose security regulations on IoT manufacturers, forcing them to make their devices secure even though their customers don't care. They could impose liabilities on manufacturers, allowing people like Brian Krebs to sue them. Any of these would raise the cost of insecurity and give companies incentives to spend money making their devices secure.

Of course, this would only be a domestic solution to an international problem. The Internet is global, and attackers can just as easily build a botnet out of IoT devices from Asia as from the United States. Long term, we need to build an Internet that is resilient against attacks like this. But that's a long time coming. In the meantime, you can expect more attacks that leverage insecure IoT devices.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Only Type of Vote That Actually Works: With Your Feet

I'll Take a Truly Free Market Over ANYTHING Even Remotely Connected to Government

After the Storm: In Florida and Beyond, a Lesson in Cooperative Capitalism by Kevin Williamson:
With Hurricane Matthew threatening to tear things up pretty good in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, the immediate concern is flooding and roofs caving in on people. But all those high winds and overturned trees produce a second, often more serious, and often more enduring problem: the loss of electrical power.

To prevent that, a small army of linemen, tree-trimmers, and crisis personnel were dispatched to the storm zone from Texas, Mississippi, and even farther away. This was not organized by FEMA or by any government agency, but by the private, voluntary efforts of investor-owned utility companies around the country.

This is standard operating procedure for the electrical-transmission industry. When Superstorm Sandy flooded a good part of the eastern United States in 2012, tens of thousands of utility workers were dispatched — from practically every U.S. state and from Canada — to reconnect the 10 million or so customers who had lost power. More than 80 different utility companies — many of them competitors — were involved in the coordinated relief effort.

Utility companies are funny beasts. Most of them are monopolies or near-monopolies, partly for historical reasons and partly owing to the nature of the physical infrastructure involved in the generation and transmission of power. Some of them are quasi-public, some of them are organized as co-ops, and some of them are ordinary profit-seeking ventures. Conservative investors love utility companies for the same reason that consumers often hate them: They are one of the last vestiges of mid-century-style high-industrial capitalism, heavily regulated, with very high barriers to market entry and largely captive consumers. (Some years ago, I met a utility executive at a party, and he explained to me that he was involved in long-term strategic planning for his company; I asked whether his long-term strategic plan was to continue being a monopoly, and he did not seem to find this amusing at all.) The margins are not large, but the dividends are reliable.

A good utility company is like a good government agency: You don’t ever have to think about it very much. Electric companies’ No. 1 concern is seamlessness and effective invisibility: You flip the switch and the lights come on, no questions asked. Their worst nightmare is having customers start thinking about them too much. No good can come of that, is the general consensus inside utility-company boardrooms.

For that reason, they have for several decades organized mutual-aid agreements through their trade associations, the most significant of which is the Edison Electric Institute, which represents all investor-owned electric utilities in the United States, providing power to some 220 million Americans. It represents 70 overseas firms as well and a great many subsidiary concerns, such as suppliers of electrical equipment and providers of related engineering services. It has been operating since Franklin Roosevelt was in his first term.

In theory, this kind of cooperation should not exist. If every utility executive were in fact a rational specimen of Homo economicus, he would gleefully greet hurricanes that put his competitors at a disadvantage and imposed large losses on them. (Utilities may not often compete directly with one another for customers, but they do compete for capital.) The difference of a few tenths of a percentage point in the dividend could be the difference between a large institutional investor putting its money into Jones Power instead of Smith Power, with billions of dollars potentially at stake. And, yet, Jones Power does not revel in Smith Power’s troubles — instead, it sends its own workers into Smith’s market to help out Smith’s customers.

No doubt you could construct a plausible economic narrative in which this can all be explained in terms of each firm seeking to secure its own self-interest very broadly defined — utilities maximizing utility.

But that misses the point.

For both its admirers and its detractors, the critical feature of capitalism is its competitiveness. For the admirers of capitalism, that is what makes it efficient, ensuring that the interests of large and powerful firms must in the end be roughly aligned with the interests of ordinary consumers, who in the aggregate have much, much more power than any individual company. Thus the economic might of Nike and Walmart and the innovative genius of Apple are bent in the interest of ordinary people, even poor people, who in spite of their limited means have the ability to choose Reebok or Target or Samsung instead. For the critics of capitalism — people who, not coincidentally, helped make monopoly the default model for utility companies — that competition encourages waste (Bernie Sanders bemoaning the many choices of deodorant underutilized by his followers, Barack Obama et al. treating the marketing expenses and profits of health-insurance firms as net deductions from the public good, etc.) and incentivizes bad behavior.

Properly understood, competition within markets is only a mechanism by which the actual preferences of consumers and investors are revealed. Revealing preferences, as opposed to simply asking consumers about them, is critical, in no small part because consumers never tell the truth about their preferences when asked. (As a newspaper editor, I was a party to endless readership surveys in which our subscribers told us that what they wanted was more in-depth reporting, foreign news, and high-minded book reviews, when what they actually read were sports scores, obituaries, and letters to the editor.) When consumers and investors have their own money on the line, we discover what it is that they actually value. We can, in fact, see the gradations in comparative valuations in some detail.

What is truly remarkable about 21st-century capitalism is not the competition — creatures that aren’t even quite sentient, like catfish, snails, and members of Congress, compete over scarce resources, too — but its cooperation. Every time you buy a T-shirt or a fast-food hamburger, you tap into a vast network of productive resources involving everything from agriculture to information science to logistics, millions of people who do not know one other — who, if they did, might even hate each other — cooperating in relationships of literally incalculable complexity, in the service of ordinary schmucks like us.

And there is one remarkable aspect of all that to keep in mind: No one is in charge of it.

Sometimes, as with the utility companies’ mutual-aid pacts, the cooperative nature of capitalism is explicit, and its simultaneously self-interested and altruistic effects are obvious. But more often, that cooperation happens in a way that is effectively invisible to the consumer.

“But who will build the roads?” That is a standing punch line for those of us who believe that free people acting through free markets and other voluntary institutions can do much (and perhaps most, and maybe even all) of what we normally think of as the work of the public sector. (For the record, this nation’s first intercity paved road was privately built.) Our attitudes toward permissionless innovation are partly informed by aesthetics, partly by differences in our appetite for risk, and partly by generally unexamined political attitudes, generally acquired early in life. Some people look at the emergence of the “Chinatown” bus industry and see an unregulated mess, a dog’s breakfast of actual and potential problems that could be avoided if only we would expand and adequately fund Amtrak. Others see a solution to the problem of Amtrak’s inadequacies, and inadequacies associated with the rest of the transportation market. The people who are more risk-averse — and who therefore prefer higher levels of regulation and more public-sector involvement in the economy — are not wrong to be more risk-averse. But it may be that they are using the wrong math to calculate the risk.

Who do you think would do a better job reconnecting utility customers’ power in the wake of a hurricane? FEMA? The great minds behind Obamacare? The sort of people who run your local DMV? The Pentagon? Or a voluntary mutual-aid cooperative representing people who have a great deal of capital at stake — and who happen to be the people who know the most about how electricity generation and transmission actually work?

When it comes to important social concerns such as health care, affordable housing, and education, the progressives say: “This is too important to leave to the unpredictability of the free market.” Others say: “This is too important not to leave to the unpredictability of the free market.”

One of those propositions is, in reality, more defensible than the other.