Selling Tires over the Internet? Really?

This strikes me as a strange niche for an online business. They are admittedly trying to address the main problem with ordering tires online: how to install them. But how well that will end up working strikes me as uncertain.

It still compels consumers to have to deal with two businesses to get a new set of tires. Ever since selling tires for automobiles became a business proposition, retailers in that industry have bundled installation and sales. I suspect that’s probably for a good reason.

Selling tires over the Internet sounds like it might be a better proposition for a business-to-business venture to me: focus on selling tires and help marketing tires at a competitive price to garages.

It all makes me wonder if this isn’t simply a sign of yet another dot.com bubble hitting its peak.

Wall Street Is Not Private Enterprise

This story begs some questions: If Wall Street needs to be recurringly propped up by the Federal government, is it even honest to portray Wall Street as private enterprise? Wouldn’t seeing it as a quasi-state enterprise be more accurate? If that’s the case, isn’t there also a strong case for a much greater degree of public input into and control of these institutions than is presently the case?

What we presently have isn’t really private enterprise: it’s socialism for the rich.

Mystery Solved

Up until the details broke today, some pieces of the puzzle that was the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh simply didn’t fit.

Namely, why was the story broken only recently, and by Sen. Feinstein of all people? Ms. Feinstein is not an über-liberal partisan; quite the contrary, she numbers amongst the centrists that constitute the right wing of the Democratic Party. She is simply not the sort of person to deliberately sit on a story, then release an incomplete version of it as a calculated liberal political maneuver. The claims of many conservatives and Trumpists that it was the latter just didn’t make sense.

Now we know: Feinstein only released the story under duress, after it had been leaked by The Medium. And Feinstein’s claim about the source of the allegation was indeed correct: Christine Ford did not want the publicity of having her name exposed in that way, and Feinstein was honoring her preference.

Sites that “Forget” Passwords

It happened again: a business I deal with that regularly bills me for an ongoing service asked me to update my billing information, because the credit card number I had furnished them expires this month. Fair enough, but when I tried to log onto their site, it rejected my password. I know I was using the correct password, because I use a password manager to keep track of such things.

As I began, this is hardly the first time this has happened. It’s inevitably for a site I don’t visit very often. My guess is that there is some sort of logic bomb coded into many sites, which proclaims a password stale if it is not used regularly enough. This is the case despite there being no password expiration policy (I never got any such email, and as usual the system simply let me “reset” the password using the same old one I’ve been using).

It’s strange behavior. If a password is old enough not to trust, wouldn’t you want to simply expire it, and demand a new one? And if you’re going to expire someone’s password, wouldn’t you want to send a warning email before it expires?

B.S. from Blair

Really, why would anyone take Tony Blair seriously? Absent any serious, honest process of re-evaluation and self-criticism on Blair’s part, that is (and there has been none).

First, Blair’s arguments are unhinged and all over the place. He asserts that for those of us in the USA: “You have a resiliency in your institutions that will pull you through.” Other than a generic mention of “checks and balances,” no specific examples of those resiliencies are offered. Instead, Blair changes the subject to the economy. Well, sorry, the economy isn’t really a political institution, and just because it’s doing well today doesn’t mean it always will (remember the crash of 2008). In fact, the public debt is exploding in the USA, and the very limited measures passed in the wake of the last crash are being undone. The road to another crash has been well-paved, and when it happens the government won’t have the fiscal breathing space to deal with it.

Then Blair starts wringing his hands about populism. When elites are puzzled by the appeal of populism, they need to take a good long look in the mirror. Despite all his lies on particular issues, in a very important meta-narrative Trump was more honest than any other 2016 candidate save Bernie Sanders. The system is rigged against the many, and has been for a long time. Ever since the 1970’s, inequality has increased. People are not nuts for perceiving they are being left behind. That goes particularly for those who have been the big losers in international trade deals, because the pain has been disproportionately doled out to them.

It goes beyond mere economics, too. Blair’s signing onto the Iraq War is a textbook example of that: being a moderate, he assumed that the right just had to be correct about things a certain proportion of the time, and one of those times was Iraq. If Cliff Mass claims 2 + 2 = 4.5, then Tony Blair was claiming that in the case of Iraq 2 + 2 = 5, because he had asserted the answer was uncomfortably close to 4 enough times in the past that it was time to up his running average.

Trump’s fascist faux-populism (it’s not really in the interests of the masses, nor does it even have majority popular support) is definitely not the answer. Thomas Frank is correct: the problem is not populism, but elitism. The nominally “left” parties in most democracies have been badly infested with it (and Blarite politics is an instance of this). Populism, an honest left-wing populism based on factual criticisms of power, privilege, inequality, and injustice, is not the disease: it is the cure.

How Wrong Can a Liberal Be?

This article is a textbook example of just how wrong a liberal can be.

The Economist is not a leftist publication. It’s politically centrist to libertarian in outlook. That anyone could just lump that publication in with actual leftist fora and publications underscores how uninformed Zakaria’s attempt at criticism actually is. What is being claimed about The Economist is not a critique; it is a baseless tantrum, nothing more.

Bannon is not a conservative. He’s a fascist. Fascism is not conservatism, even though (to conservatism’s lasting discredit) conservatives have time and time again made the error of thinking they can enter into mutually beneficial alliances with fascists. Some conservatives know better; is, say, Rick Wilson now a “leftist” because he cheers when Bannon and his ilk get deplatformed?

Fascists don’t really want to debate. They say that’s what they want, but Rule No. 1 about fascists is that they lie… a lot. Fascists want to project strength and growing numbers, and to intimidate. The best way to battle someone who wants to look strong is to make them look weak. Mock them, marginalize them, harass them, deny them platforms, make them run whining to the state and the cops begging for protection like the pathetic weaklings they can be made into.

It is possible to believe both in deplatforming fascists and in allowing conservatives to freely debate. Of course it is, because conservatives are not fascists. See the previous paragraph. Unlike fascists, conservatives generally do want to engage in debate in an open society. I, for one, think it’s a huge mistake to drive the likes of Condoleezza Rice off campuses. Let her debate, then rip her ghoulish and dishonest premises to shreds in the Q&A session afterwards.

It all comes down to the paradox of tolerance. This is something that Hannah Arendt, a Jew and a Holocaust refugee, came up with as a result of bitter experience with Fascism v1.0. In order for a tolerant, open society to persist long-term, it must paradoxically be intolerant of intolerance itself. And Arendt was hardly a fan of left-wing authoritarianism: she was a political centrist who fiercely opposed Stalinism.

How wrong can a liberal be? When begging that fascists be given respect: very, very wrong indeed.

Yet More Evidence Apple Sucks Now

As I wrote recently, their laptops now mostly suck. Now their smartphones are starting to suck. Make that their smartphones are starting to suck more, because smartphones have always sucked. And their iPads now suck too, now that they’re programmed to deliberately brick themselves when you travel.

There’s definitely a trend going here, and it’s not a good one.

A Tale of Two Atrocities

Seventeen years ago this morning, the BBC hadn’t completely abandoned shortwave for Internet audio streaming. I had a newly-purchased Lowe HF-150 (still in my possession) struggling against the interference to receive the BBC World Service on 12095 kHz, as I usually did in mornings, to listen to their hourly world news broadcast.

But something was different that day. For some reason, the BBC was airing a drama rehashing the terrorist attacks, using truck bombs in the parking garage, against the World Trade Center in 1993. Or so I first thought, until I heard them start talking about airplanes. It was then that I realized that a new and far worse attack was underway. Shortly thereafter I heard the voice announcing through the radio noise that one of the towers has just collapsed.

It felt like I had been teleported into the plot of some sort of tacky Hollywood disaster movie, just too surreal. I headed in to work. When I got there, the conference room TV had been hooked up to a rabbit ears antenna and tuned to one of the local broadcast stations, which was replaying scenes of the attack and building collapses (plural by then).

Most in the First World, particularly most Americans, can tell similar stories of where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the news.

But what about most Iraqis? Do they remember when their nation was first attacked? Or do they remember date of the first attacks on their cities and villages more? Or maybe the dates when their friends and relatives perished in the resulting orgy of violence sticks more in their minds?

Iraq was attacked by the USA in “retaliation” for the 9/11 attacks despite that nation clearly having absolutely nothing to do with those attacks.

The Wikipedia article on the toll of that war has a variety of estimates, ranging as low as 110,600 to as high as 1.2 million. Let’s throw out the highest numbers as outliers and use 200,000 as a very conservative weighted estimate. That’s still two orders of magnitude worse than the toll of roughly 3,000 for 9/11 in the USA, and that difference has not been adjusted relative to the populations of the two countries.

Do that arithmetic, and if what Al Qaeda did to the USA was as bad as what the USA did to Iraq, over 2.3 million Americans would have perished on 9/11/2001. Maybe we should ponder that a bit more, instead of simply dwelling in our “they hit us once, oh boo hoo hoo, we’re so picked on” rhetoric.

First-world superpowers ultimately can’t do much to choose, manage, and control the means used by the desperate (and badly misled and infected by retrograde beliefs) individuals that oppose them. They can much better influence the means they inflict on other peoples (and the retrograde beliefs within their own borders that enable such means).