I was Tortured and Killed for Wrong Think

Well, not really, but I survived a totalitarian regime

If you listen to only one Joe Rogan Experience episode, make it episode 1639, Dave Smith. It came out last Friday. It’s three hours long. I’ve listened to 2.5 hours (out of three hours).

Smith is a comic and a libertarian. He also has a podcast (that, for some reason, I can’t warm up to).

But I definitely warmed up to this episode with Rogan. They covered an array of matters, with Dave Smith channeling Murray Rothbard, Tom Woods Scott Horton, and other alternative thinkers.

The COVID discussion was really good. At minute 33:48, Smith pointed out something I hadn’t thought of: We lived under totalitarianism in 2020, at least those of us who live in a blue state.

Now, it may have been good totalitarianism. It may have been necessary totalitarianism. It was “soft” totalitarianism (no one was arrested, tortured, and killed).

But it was totalitarianism: suspension of the Bill of Rights; governors ruling by fiat, often with apparent whimsy; rulers playing by a different set of rules; heavy propaganda, groupthink, and censorship (by private corporations with ties to government). Everything you’d expect from totalitarianism, we had here in 2020.

This doesn’t mean it was bad, incidentally. It simply means many of us lived under totalitarianism. The choices were (supposedly): die of COVID or live under totalitarianism. Okay. Given those options, I choose totalitarianism. Many of us did. Just because it was totalitarian doesn’t mean it was wrong. It just means it was bad, but not necessarily as bad as the alternative (dying of COVID).

Of course, we now know those weren’t really the only options (“false dichotomy”) and the COVID risk was way overblown, but still, reasonable people can disagree (though increasingly I’m abandoning that position, as the vaccine … Read the rest

I Was There When Vegas Came Back

What I Saw in Sin City

I went to Las Vegas last week, spending four nights at the iconic Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas. I spent Tuesday evening walking from the Nugget to the Strat, where I surveyed Vegas from 100 stories high for two hours.

The next morning, I covered five miles of downtown Las Vegas on foot, covering huge swaths of area.

On Thursday, I walked the length of the Strip, clocking in over 32,000 steps.

I took a two-hour bus tour and talked with the guide. I talked with Uber drivers. I chatted with all sorts of workers, from a farmers market vendor a half-mile north of Fremont Street to bartenders who make those frozen concoctions along the Strip.

I made notes. I came home and surfed the web. I bounced observations off my traveling companion (wife).

I then put all this into a giant blender and poured out these observations.

Primary Observation: Vegas is Back

Vegas, economists say, got hit the hardest among major cities. Nevada casinos alone saw revenues drop $6 billion in 2020. Vegas’ lucrative convention business was shut down. The reverberation through everything—other tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants—has been devastating.

I could see it Tuesday evening when Marie and I walked 2.1 miles from the Golden Nugget to the Stratosphere. We marveled at the ghost town feeling. After we left the Fremont Street area (which had plenty of people, but not crowds), we didn’t come across a single pedestrian until we got a few blocks from the Strat. The uber-cool Art District was empty . . . I mean, zero people. (The Art District isn’t terribly popular, but to see no customers or tourists over the course of about 20 minutes of walking?)

Once we got to the Strat, there were … Read the rest

What I Saw at the NCAA Tournament Yesterday

Welcome to the first day of spring.

So I’m a bit whipped this morning. My last son, Max, is a huge college basketball fan. Over the years, he has gotten kind of screwed when it comes to sporting events. I always tell my kids, “Every stage of life brings its advantages and disadvantages, and so does the order in which you’re born.” In Max’s case, it means his parents had more money to provide him with things but less time to do things. I know that sounds kinda horrible, and perhaps it is, but I’ve always been comforted by the fact that his older siblings had plenty of time to do things with him.

But they couldn’t take him to sporting events.

So I made up for it a bit yesterday, and crossed-off an item on my bucket list: Go to the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

We got screwed by the NCAA right off the bat. In order to get tickets (which sold out in less than a minute), you just had to pick a location and slot. In our case, Max selected “Lucas Oil, First Game.” We then waited a week to see which of the 32 games we got for our $111 per seat.

We got Baylor v. Hartford. Hands-down the worst game of the 32.

And that’s not just my opinion. The free market agrees. Whereas most resale value of tickets hovered around $100, the Baylor game resale value was just $6.

I honestly can’t imagine why the NCAA needed to set up a system (a blind sale) that inherently screws a large number of fans, but it screwed me.

And we chose Lucas Oil, home of the Colts, so it meant we would be high up (turns out, were we very high up . … Read the rest

Satan Speaks

The Hoover Institution’s Scott Atlas recently spoke at the Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Phoenix, Arizona. Atlas worked for Trump and has been widely derided by the MSM for questioning things like, you know, killing our youth with COVID restrictions. His remarks are the basis for the current issue of Imprimis.

He starts out by pointing out something that Michael Malice said on Joe Rogan. Malice said COVID has given a lot of very bad people very valuable information about how much they can abuse their power. Scott Atlas’ angle:

First, I have been shocked at the unprecedented exertion of power by the government since last March—issuing unilateral decrees, ordering the closure of businesses, churches, and schools, restricting personal movement, mandating behavior, and suspending indefinitely basic freedoms. Second, I was and remain stunned—almost frightened—at the acquiescence of the American people to such destructive, arbitrary, and wholly unscientific rules, restrictions, and mandates.

The entire piece is well-worth reading, even if he spends much of it defending himself (which I “get,” given the level of abuse he has unjustifiable received from the MSM).

(Click title to read the rest.)… Read the rest

How to Take a Stance without Taking a Stance

In this age of uncertainty, you need beliefs and practices but not dogmas and preaching

“Let me tell you about COVID, the COVID vaccine, and Bitcoin.”

If any person starts telling me about those things, I write them off.

All three of those things are new and huge. As a result, they occupy a weird spot in the world of opinion: Everyone needs to have a stance on them and nobody’s stance is worth anything.

It’s difficult to reconcile such a paradox, but here’s one way: Take your stance, be prepared to shift it, and keep it to yourself.

Beliefs and practices, yes. Dogmas and preaching, no.

A wealthy client of mine recently asked a well-known financial guru for his stance on Bitcoin. I was a bit surprised the guru replied to the email, but I wasn’t surprised to see him take a strong stance: Bitcoin, he assured my client in all caps, is another Tulip Mania.

How can he know that? Bitcoin isn’t like the tulip in 17th-century Holland. It might be in a bubble like tulips were, but it’s not a known thing like tulips. Bitcoin is brand new. At best, we can analogize Bitcoin to tulips.

Analogy is a great thing. It allows us to see things that are similar. The problem is, it first requires that the things be different.

That’s why the Tulip Mania reference is so compelling yet not. Bitcoin is not an instance of “This time it will be different,” which is the mantra of every person riding an inflated stock market, only to crash when it comes down. Bitcoin is an instance of “This time is the first time.”

A reference to a crashing stock market doesn’t need analogy. We’ve seen it crash many times. Bitcoin needs analogy because we’ve … Read the rest

Do You Have a Totalitarian Impulse?

Drinking with friends and the Diocletian Test

Do you have a totalitarian impulse?

Ask yourself: “Do I think the government’s goals or aims should take priority over human nature?” Put another way: “Do I think the government’s noble end justifies a bad means?”

The Diocletian Test

In the fourth century, the Roman Emperor Diocletian faced a serious problem: lack of food. One of the reasons: farmers were abandoning agriculture and moving to the cities. The farmers were abandoning the farms because economic prospects in the city were far better and, in many cases, farming couldn’t sustain them and their families.

Diocletian’s solution? Serfdom. Require the farmers, and their kids, and their kids’ kids, and their kids’ kids’ kids, and so on for a millennium to stay on that specific parcel of land and farm it. If you abandon the farm for something better, you die.

The government had a goal (better food production) so it overrode a natural human trait (seeking economic improvement).

Diocletian’s solution, combined with a lot of other reforms, worked, incidentally. It saved the Empire at a time when contemporaries thought the whole thing was falling apart.

Do you applaud Diocletian’s establishment of the institution of serfdom (which, most people agree, was merely a better form of slavery, but still slavery)?

If so, then you can probably assume you have the totalitarian impulse. You, in other words, flunk the “Diocletian Test.”

The Diocletian Test Today

Shift to COVID.

Do you applaud the lockdowns?

If so, I’m afraid you flunk the Diocletian Test and might have the totalitarian impulse.

When it comes to lockdowns, the government has a goal (combat COVID . . . whatever “combat” might mean) so it overrides a natural human trait (to be social . . . we are “social animals,” even the introverts … Read the rest

Is COVID Using Your Negativity Bias to Destroy You Emotionally?

What demographic seems to be the most worried about COVID?

Among my acquaintances, liberal millennials and the last strands of the X-generation seem to be most concerned. Basically, liberals in the 30-48-year-old range.

There is, of course, no consistent rule, but hands down, people in my age bracket (I’m 54), especially those who tend to be conservative, are far less concerned about it. We also know that the kids (under age 30) seem hardly phased by concerns about the disease.

Negativity Bias

“We pay more attention to unpleasant feelings such as fear, anger, and sadness because they’re simply more powerful than the agreeable sort.” Winifred Gallagher, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life.

There has been nothing about this disease that is constant. The “experts” and governmental authorities have flip-flopped wildly and flailed away at the disease like they have any clue what it’s all about, only to have their policies and conclusions proven wrong months later.

But I think there is one constant about COVID: It’s negative.

Can we all—leftists, rightists, pro-mask-lockdowners, anti-mask-lockdowners—agree on that point?

COVID sucks.

Fair enough?

It follows that, if you’re thinking about COVID, you are thinking about something negative.

And if you’re thinking about something negative, you’re “in a bad place,” intellectually and emotionally.

And yet, we tend to dwell in that bad place.

That’s the wickedness of negativity bias. “The brains of humans and other animals contain a mechanism to give priority to bad news.” Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

COVID puts negativity bias on steroids. Everything is falling apart, everything sucks, there’s nothing to look forward, and I might die!

To make it worse, the news is relentless. The media has done everything to make the disease sound worse than it really is, in order to reinforce the government’s … Read the rest

Seven Days Make One Weak

The past 11 days made me weak.

You might recall that I had COVID the first week of November.

I didn’t. Or if I did, I caught it again on December 1st.

I got tested this time and it came back positive. Plus, I lost my sense of taste and smell and had the fully spectrum of problems (short of going to the hospital). It’s not fun. It’s the third sickest I’ve ever been.

The good news is, I have virtually no symptoms at this point and most of my strength back. I also now flaunt my bullet-proof immune system.

Well, maybe not “bullet-proo.” Jay Bhattacharya, professor of medicine at Stanford University who has been working both on the epidemiology of COVID-19, says I’m “almost-certainly immune.”

That’s close enough for me.

The link above goes to an episode of The Tom Woods Show. If you want a synopsis on how well lockdowns and other government responses have worked, I recommend it.

So, one of my favorite websites, Zero Hedge, announced “Zero Hedge Premium” yesterday.

The gist of ZH Premium: “Because Facebook and Google are censoring us, we need to have a premium webpage option that doesn’t rely on ads. The cost for subscribers: $1 a day.”

The Facebook and Google censorship is real enough. Even someone as amiable as Tom Woods started a MeWe fan site because Facebook had started to demand that he censor his fan comments. From that perspective, it’s believable Zero Hedge needs to have a self-funded site.

But $365 annually?

We’re at the beginning of a self-publishing gold rush. If you have a lot of publishing cred, you can demand a lot of money from fans. Mark Steyn charges $160 a year for his “Club.” Matt Taibbi has used Substack to create Read the rest