American Consequences - August 2019

Grandkids Growing Horns?

The Crypto Dark Age

How Twitter Destroyed Politics

AMERICAN CONSEQUENCES

I D E A S T H A T M A T T E R

E D I T E D B Y P . J . O ’ R O U R K E

CLOUDYWITH A CHANCE OF A $#!%STORM

AUGUST 2 0 1 9

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CONTENTS

AUGUST 2019 : ISSUE 27

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73 34

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60 44

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4 Inside This Issue

50 Smarty Pants and Other Smart Devices BY P.J. O'ROURKE

AMERICAN CONSEQUENCES

BY STEVEN LONGENECKER

6 Letter From the Editor BY P.J. O'ROURKE

54 America Rides Again BY JOHN PODHORETZ

Editor in Chief: P.J. O’Rourke Executive Editor: Buck Sexton Editorial Director: Carli Flippen Publisher: Steven Longenecker Assistant Managing Editors: Chris Gaarde, Laura Greaver Creative Director: Erica Wood Contributing Editors:

12 What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

60 You Can Leave Home Without It BY CHRIS IGOU

14 From Our Inbox

18 How Twitter Destroyed Politics BY ANDREW FERGUSON

64 The Crypto Dark Age BY ERIC WADE

24 Amazon' and The Deep State BY DAN DENNING

70 The U.S. Economy’s Strange Decade BY LARRY HATHEWAY

28 Is Facebook Today’s Compuserve? BY MARC-DAVID L. SEIDEL

Roberto Chang, Dan Denning, Dr. David Eifrig, Andrew Ferguson, Larry Hatheway, Chris Igou, Alice Lloyd, Christian Olsen, John Podhoretz, Marc-David L. Seidel, Andres Velasco, Eric Wade Cartoon Director: Frank Stansberry General Manager: Jamison Miller Advertising: Ricky D'Andrea, Jill Peterson Editorial feedback: feedback@ americanconsequences.com

73 Will Facebook's Libra Turn Into a Cancer BY ANDRES VELASCO AND ROBERTO CHANG

34 Finding the Impossible BY CHRISTIAN OLSEN

76 Read This

40 Grandkids Growing Horns? BY DR. DAVID EIFRIG

COMPILED BY P.J. O’ROURKE AND LAURA GREAVER

44 Digital Natives May Have Destroyed Drinking BY ALICE LLOYD

78 The Final Word

BY BUCK SEXTON

American Consequences

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INSIDE THIS ISSUE

F rom smartphones to smart homes, the last decade has been an explosion of innovation and technology... But is it really for the better? Do we really need an app for everything ? This month we’re addressing those questions and more... Editor in Chief P.J. O’Rourke explains how social media has made us dumber (and louder) and tells us why the “Internet of Things” is a few “things” too many. Contributing Editor Alice Lloyd reports on a “strange brew” social media cocktail trend... and how millennials are ruining drinking. Writer Andrew Ferguson makes the case that Twitter has changed politics for the (if you can imagine) worse. Crypto analyst Eric Wade warns us of the potential perils – and profit possibilities – in the coming cryptocurrency “Dark Age.” Financial publisher Dan Denning explains why he thinks Amazon is “the most dangerous company in American history.” Economists Andrés Velasco and Roberto Chang see a red flag in Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency... one that signaled an $82 billion default the last time around.

Tech analyst Christian Olsen highlights the innovations (both alluring and scary) that are driving investments in “Big Data” and artificial intelligence. Chris Igou foresees the death of paying for things with cash and credit cards. Finance and health analyst Dr. David Eifrig brings a note of cheer, punching holes in the hysteria over cellphones and our kids growing “horns.” While film critic John Podhoretz expands on last month’s “America Is Great” theme with a look at Hollywood’s take on American “greatness”... from Forrest Gump to Florida Man. And executive editor Buck Sexton chats with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We’ve uploaded a PDF suitable for printing to our archive page. And tell us what you think at feedback@ americanconsequences.com. Regards, Steven Longenecker Publisher, American Consequences

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August 2019

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Dear Reader, You feel it, deep in your gut. This is not the America it used to be . Anger on both sides is rising as we head into the 2020 presidential election. And in the words of socialist and potential Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders: “What seems radical today could become mainstream tomorrow.” For the first time in American history, a divided populace could put a socialist President in the White House in the 2020 election. How will this national nightmare turn out? If you feel like you’re never really getting the full story from the mainstream media, we agree. We filmed a brand new documentary called American Consequences 2020 to show the real story of how we got to where we are today... where we’re heading next... and how to protect yourself when we get there. This film goes deep with interviews with Dr. Ron Paul , Congressman Thomas Massie , economic journalist P.J. O’Rourke , Stansberry Research founder Porter Stansberry , and many more... Fed insider Danielle DiMartino Booth ,

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There’s so much more you’ll learn too including... • The one financial asset you must have to survive the next crisis. There’s no telling how bad social unrest may be. This strategy was taught to me by one of the richest and most successful men I know when we were in the middle of a crisis in South America. This secret costs almost nothing but could save your life. (page 82) • The incredible way the U.S. government took nearly 69% of Americans hard-earned savings, practically overnight, during a previous Jubilee. (page 7) • Why the debts Americans owe today on college, autos, and credit cards are actually much more dangerous than the money owed during the mortgage crisis of 2008. (page 27) To start watching this new documentary, simply visit the website below. You don’t want to miss this! SocialistElectionAMC.com

issue facing you and your money today. This book explains the history of financial Jubilees in America and elsewhere around the world.

what that anger will lead to. We examine what’s coming – and why it will be a national nightmare... we explain how this crisis has come about... and

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And most importantly, it explains everything you need to know and what to do to prepare for the first Jubilee in our country in nearly 50 years . Will you survive the 2020 election? In The American Jubilee , you’ll learn not only what happened in the 1930s... but also what happened during two of America’s other Jubilees, in the 1840s and 1960s. And you’ll learn how other countries have implemented Jubilees of their own...

From Editor in Chief P.J. O’Rourke SHUT THE Whose Bright Idea Was It To Make Sure That Every Idiot In the World Was in Touch With Every Other Idiot? F K

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August 2019

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

And it polarizes our politics by allowing us all – no matter how wrong we are about a political issue – to find a large, enthusiastic group of people who are even wronger. But those are the small problems with social media. There’s a bigger problem. Consider just the top-six, Internet social networks... • Facebook has 2.3 billion users. • YouTube has 1.9 billion users. • WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users. • Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion. • WeChat has 1 billion. • Instagram has another billion. Plus, there are at least 16 other social networks with more than 100 million users each. Do the math. No, don’t. Stop the math! Quit adding. With the top six, we’ve already reached a tally of 9 billion social media accounts... And there are only 7.5 billion people on the planet earth... We’ve run out of things to talk about... 1.5 billion social media posts ago. The first widely functional social media network, SixDegrees, wasn’t introduced until 1997. At the height of its popularity, it had 3.5 million subscribers. But, in the brief two decades since, we’ve created a world where we can hear what everybody has got to say. Nobody’s got that much to say. Social media is CB radio: “Breaker, breaker,

UP It makes our kids into victims or perpetrators of bullying, depending on whether our kids are dorks or jerks... and in my experience every kid is both. Social media comes in for a lot of criticism... The big corporations who operate social media platforms have the ethics of an opioid- addicted Oxycontin pharmaceutical sales rep. User privacy equates to getting a prostate exam in the middle of Times Square on New Year’s Eve while dropping trou’ between Christina Aguilera and Ryan Seacrest. Social media makes us easy victims of fraud and financial manipulation. (Darn it! Of all the Nigerian government officials, I spam- blocked the one who actually had $100 million to wire to my bank account.) Social media is giving young people a bad case of “phone face” with a big, permanent Samsung Galaxy Note 9 pimple between their eyes.

CLICK HERE TO READ THEWEB VERSION

American Consequences

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

you copy? I’m wall-to-wall and treetop tall... What’s your handle, Good Buddy?” Except it lacks the intellectual depth. “...And that’s a big 10-4.” We’re just blithering. The brilliant media theory philosopher Marshall McLuhan said in 1964, “The medium is the message.” (Or, as my mom put it long before I’d heard of Marshall McLuhan, “It’s not what you say – it’s how you say it.”) If the medium is blather-by-the-billions , the message is a load of crap. Crap and vicious crap. Crap thrown with intent. McLuhan foresaw the World Wide Web almost 30 years before the fact. He was not sanguine about its “yackety-yackety-yak.” In his 1962 book, The Gutenberg Galaxy , McLuhan wrote: piece of science fiction... And as our senses have gone outside us... we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence... Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time. McLuhan predicted that advances in electronic media would create a “Global Village.” At the time, a lot of us thought that was a swell idea... McLuhan didn’t. The world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile

In a 1977 program on Ontario TV, McLuhan was interviewed by Canadian journalist Mike McManus. McManus: But it seems, Dr. McLuhan, that this tribal world is not friendly. McLuhan: The closer you get together the more you like each other? There is no evidence of that in any situation we’ve ever heard of. When people get close together, they get more and more savage and impatient with each other. In the middle of the last century, there was a quaint idea that what the world needed was “communication.” If only parents and children could communicate , the Generation Gap would be bridged with a hug. If only white folks and black folks could communicate , the struggle for civil rights and integration would end in handshakes and backslapping. If only we had “cultural exchange” so that the ordinary people of the United States and the Soviet Union could communicate ... Therefore, an exceedingly dull publication called Soviet Life showed up in American public libraries. And a sort of bowdlerized version of Life magazine, Amerika , published by the U.S. State Department, showed up – or didn’t – somewhere – or not – in the U.S.S.R. (The Cold War was not noticeably defrosted.) All of which was nicely satirized in the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke when prison warden Strother Martin beats the (decent and freedom-loving) crap out of Paul Newman

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driving his 12-year-old protagonist mad, as an “ever present cascade of ‘Noise.’” It’s also the premise of a 2000 rom-com starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, What Women Want , which is scary in the sense of being a frighteningly bad movie. Mel Gibson gets a shock from his electric hairdryer. (He has a hairstyle from the year 2000.) This causes him to be able to hear what women think. They aren’t thinking good things about him. Being that it’s a romantic comedy – as opposed to something closer

and says, “What we’ve got here is... failure to communicate.” Or, more succinctly, by Joan Rivers: “Can we talk?” The hazards of talking too much are proverbial. The Oxford Dictionary of American Proverbs has 52 entries on the subject of “talk” and “talking” – all of them admonishments:

Big talk will not boil the pot. Idle talk burns the porridge. Talk is easy, work is hard. Big talker, little doer. Who talks the most knows the least. People who wouldn’t

“ If the medium is

think of talking with their mouths full often speak with their heads empty. in two years, but it takes him sixty years to learn to keep his mouth shut.

to real life such as a terrifying YA novel – this makes Mel Gibson (after much predictable plot) a better person. Although not in real

blather-by-the-billions, the message is a load of crap.

A child learns to talk

Crap and vicious crap. Crap thrown with intent.

Money talks, but all it ever says is goodbye. Or, as my mom also said, “Not everything that runs through your mind has to pour out your mouth.” With social media, we’ve done something worse than create a world where we can hear what everybody says. We’ve created a world where we can hear what everybody thinks . And that’s a scary thought. Scary enough that it’s the premise of a terrifying 2008 young-adult novel by Patrick Ness called The Knife of Never Letting Go . Ness describes the phenomenon, which is

life. In 2006, Gibson got in a lot of trouble for an anti-Semitic outburst at a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who’d pulled Mel over for suspected DUI. After we got to hear what Mel was thinking, he had to enter a substance abuse recovery program... which should remind us that we’ve always had a way to hear what everybody thinks. (It’s called booze.) Sure puts my mouth in gear. Meanwhile what social media should be drinking is a big cup of shut up.

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF HOW COMMUNICATION DEVOLVED When the fountain pen was invented, we got Henry James. When the typewriter came along, we got Jack Kerouac. And with the advent of the smartphone keypad we get... Donald Trump on Twitter. It's not just the written word that exhibits "degradation of the species." The quality of what's communicated seems to decline steadily with every advance in the ease of communicating. And the decline started right from the get-go. Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1844. The first words he sent down the wire had gravitas, were thought- provoking, and possessed a literary pedigree (King James Bible, Numbers 23:23)... "What hath God wrought." But by 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, messaging

If there be e-volution, there surely is de-volution, a degradation of the species. – H.S. Carpenter, 1882

THE COMPUTER IS A HANDY DEVICE. It's terrific for looking up who played Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver . But the computer is essentially meaningless to wisdom, learning, and sense.

They tell us that We lost our tails Evolving up From little snails I say it's all Just wind in sails – Devo, 1977

My laptop may be a great technological improvement on my old IBM Selectric. (Wally was played Tony Dow – I just Googled it.) But there is no historical indication that technological improvements in the way we inscribe our ideas lead to improvement in the wisdom, learning, and sense of the ideas themselves. The opposite case can be made. When words had to be carved in stone, we got the Ten Commandments. When we needed to make our own ink and chase a goose around the yard to obtain a quill, we got William Shakespeare.

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had already turned prosaic. The first words spoken into a phone were... "Mr. Watson – come here – I want to see you." And Thomas Watson was all the way over yonder... in the next room. He could probably hear Bell just fine through the doorway – in case you thought your kid texting you in the kitchen from the breakfast nook was something new. (Poor Tom, never remembered as anything but Alex's butt boy, when in fact he took his phone company profits and founded one of the largest shipyards in America.) In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi made the first long-distance radio transmission. What did he have to say? S That's it. Or, to put it literally (since Macroni was using the Morse Code developed by Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail): ... And Marconi was a real chatterbox compared to Philo T. Farnsworth (really, that was his name), who invented television in 1927. We can't analyze the content of the first TV broadcast because it didn't have any. What showed up on Farnsworth's cathode ray tube was: _________

A straight line. Which is, I suppose, some kind of "intellectual level," so to speak. But Farnsworth soon brought the intellectual level of television further down to where it has remained ever since. The second thing he broadcast was: $ He put a dollar sign in front of his primitive camera because – according to what I read on the Internet – an investor asked, "When are we going to see some dollars in this thing, Farnsworth?" Which brings us to that Internet, which tells me – with no apparent embarrassment – that the first word to ever appear on itself was: lo In 1969 a UCLA student named Charley Kline tried to transmit the command "login" to a Stanford Research Institute computer on ARPANET. This caused the system to crash, and all that came through was "lo." About an hour later (if you think the people in Tech Support are bad now, imagine how bad they were when they didn't exist) the "gin" arrived. And I – shaken but not stirred – am still waiting for the olive and the vermouth.

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WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Financial follies and disaster in the making

that indicates a future change in the markets or economy. Going all the way back to 1956, an inverted yield curve has preceded every U.S. recession. It’s an indicator with a frighteningly consistent track record, and one that few economists dispute or outright dismiss. It also makes little to no economic sense. Long-term bond investments should offer greater yields over short-term bond investments. That’s the incentive for tying up your money longer. If you can make more in the short term, you could theoretically make a killing compared with the long term (assuming the inversion holds). After all, what’s more appealing? Would you rather have a 10-year investment that yields 1.5%, or five consecutive 2-year investments that yield more? The latter is an unlikely scenario, but it highlights why inversions are problematic. If bond buyers and lenders make more money in the short term, long-term investments and projects will take a hit. Growth will slow.

Hurricane season...

Last month, we warned you about some economic “red flags” we saw on the horizon. At the time, we were certain that the Fed would cut interest rates at the end of July (we were right), and we saw signs of a potential yield inversion. Here’s what we wrote: The 10-year U.S. Treasury bond is the global paper-currency financial system’s “barometer”... When the 10-year real yield is steady or rising, you’ll see “clear skies” ahead. But when the barometer turns sharply lower, and especially when it breaks through key thresholds, a hurricane is coming... This week, it happened. On August 14, the 10-year yield fell below the 2-year Treasury yield before reverting back around midday. It’s too soon to tell if this inversion was an anomaly, but here’s why it matters... Inverted yield curves are what’s known as a “leading indicator,” an economic factor or event

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lose their jobs, they spend less. When unemployment rises rapidly and a lot of people lose their jobs, the economy feels the pain... just like it did in 2009. In fact, using a formula called the “Sahm Recession Indicator,” rising unemployment has predicted the last seven recessions. And it’s a formula you can easily calculate and verify on your own. If unemployment is at least 0.50 percentage points above its most recent 12-month low, then the economy is already in a recession. So, where are we now? Using the most recent employment data from July 2019, the current Sahm Indicator is 0.03 percentage points... Well below the 0.50 threshold. And the high-yield (or “junk”) bond market isn’t signaling trouble either. While both junk-bond yields and spreads have been moving higher, they remain historically low... well below levels that have indicated serious problems in the past. Even if we accept the yield curve’s historical accuracy (and ignore the accuracy of the Sahm Indicator) we still have a good year or more before we slide into a recession. That doesn’t mean we can’t see further market weakness in the near term... We could easily experience another sharp correction like the one last fall, even after all the volatility we saw this week. Either way, don't panic. The market will correct itself. And although the case for holding cash and gold is stronger than ever, we don't expect a recession any time soon.

And if we assume this inversion isn’t an anomaly, here’s what to expect... Within the next year or so, the S&P 500 will peak and then plummet. About six months after that... recession. It’s not a detailed timeline, but if we see a bear market in the next 10-12 months, a recession is almost inevitable. As interest rates fall, investors tend to move away from assets denominated in U.S. dollars – like U.S. Treasury bonds – and seek out safe-haven assets like gold. Case in point: After stubbornly trading sideways for three years, gold went on a tear and finally topped $1,400 per ounce for the first time in six years. After a surge like that, it’s not surprising that gold took a breather... even in the best of times, precious metals are volatile. They don’t rise in a straight line forever. It turns out, that breather was short-lived. As we go to press, gold is more than $1,500 per ounce. Now that we’ve left you clutching your portfolio prospectus, here’s some good news... One of the strongest leading indicators of a future recession is something we haven’t seen in about a decade... rising unemployment. Since 2009, we’ve seen unemployment fall from over 10% to hovering around 3.6% this month. While some analysts argue that a “false positive” yield curve is possible, you can’t fake unemployment. When people Shelter from the storm... A silver lining...

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FROM OUR INBOX

50 years in his ridiculous Baltimore-themed movies, “What we lack in sense, we make up for in nonsense.”) It saddens me to see Baltimore portrayed as nothing but a failure. It has its successes where more successful cities have failed. (Try getting a decent crab cake in Silicon Valley or a parking spot in Manhattan or a better ballpark anywhere in the world.) In fact most of Baltimore is a triumph of ordinary people making the best of devastating political policies outside their control – bad economic policies, bad urban renewal policies, bad social service policies, bad drug and criminal justice policies, and the inevitable huge corruption that comes from having a One Party political system. We first met Mr. O’Rourke when our foundation brought him to Indianapolis to speak some 30 years ago. He has put together a great magazine. – Craig L., Indiana Policy Review P.J. O’Rourke comment: Thank you, Craig. I remember that visit to Indy. It must have been about the time when the Indiana Policy Review was founded in 1989. I had a great time. And you do great work. In case readers don’t know what IPR is, let me quote a line from your Wikipedia entry: “The institute supports policy positions rooted in individual liberty, personal responsibility, private property rights, free-market principles, and limited government. It explicitly does not

Re: Our Newest Readers Weigh In

Glad to have your [AMC Daily] letter back in circulation. We need to stay abreast of the various situations that are bringing us to the edge of the cliffwith those pre-engineered economic moves designed to crash us into the back woods with no room for gardening, etc... I remember being in Baltimore back in the 1950s when my Coast Guard cutter was in the shipyard for repairs to replace some bent hull plates. Baltimore looked like its original colonial self in the original streets. It is a shame that the city has been neglected and dumped into the trash can with all those rats. Does one have to be a jackass to play footsie with “them thar” rats? – Peter C. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Peter, first let me compliment you on your lead paragraph. You have taken the “mixed metaphor” and raised it to a high art form! Secondly, concerning Baltimore... I’m not sure if a jackass would be up to the job. Considering the size of some of those rats, one might have to be a tiger or a lion. But I still love Baltimore, just like you did back in the ‘50s. I lived there for a few years, 1969- 1971. And to this day I consider myself to be at least an honorary “Baltimoron.” (And we’re not called “Charm City” for nothing. As John Waters has been pointing out for more than

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Re: American Consequences 2020 Remember public schools and roads? That’s socialism going all the way back to our beginnings in the 1600s. – Betty C. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Betty, let us open up our big, fat Webster’s Third International Dictionary ... “ Socialism : Any of various theories or social and political movements advocating or aiming at collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and control of the distribution of goods.” That’s a bit more than public schools and roads. That’s getting right down to the collectively owned pair of shoes and government-issued socks that you wear to walk down the road to get to the school. Socialism is for lazy, good for nothing people! It doesn’t work and never did, if it was a good system, the people wouldn’t run to capitalist countries! – Maria M. P.J. O’Rourke comment: You put it bluntly, Maria. But you’re in good company. I consult The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics edited by David R. Henderson and find the article on “Socialism.” It was written by the late Robert Heilbroner, a self-described “left centrist” who was for many years a professor of economics at the very liberal New School for Social Research. Prof. Heilbroner begins by saying, “Socialism – defined as a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production – was the

address social issues often identified with modern conservatism.” IPR is as level-headed as the level land of the Midwest where it’s from. I was born and raised in the Midwest, and (honorary Baltimoron aside) I remain a Midwesterner. I’ve often had Coastal Elites ask me, “Why’s the Midwest so flat ?” I say, “So we can see you coming.” Re: PatriotismVersus Nationalism The “nice” distinction that is real is entirely lost on the wahoos now in control everywhere. It is quite clear the “patriotism” is, for these dummies, white nationalism. “Send her back” is their rally cry – though all of those included in his tweets are Americans. – Phil S. P.J. O’Rourke comment: They sure are, Phil! I may disagree with Ilhan Omar, but I detest white nationalism. And of course Ms. Omar is an American. She got to the United States when she was 10. George Washington didn’t get to the United States until he was 44, in 1776. (Before that he was in Great Britain.) All sorts of people poured into this nation from all over the world, starting with Paleolithic hunter-gatherers from Siberia at least 19,000 years ago. Everybody’s an immigrant. Some are of various tones and hues. Some are white. Or, in the case of the Irish, due to unaccustomed sunshine, bright pink. Note that nobody advocates “Painful, Blistered, Peeling Nationalism.”

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FROM OUR INBOX

something else Id like to take, which is issue with that business about “10 of the happiest countries on the planet. Is it “‘bad’ economic ideas” that make them so happy? In the 1960s, when Sweden – one of those happy countries – was even more committed to socialism than it is now, there was a famous exchange between a Swedish economist and the great advocate for free markets, Milton Friedman. Swedish Economist : You know, in Sweden we have no poverty. Milton Friedman: That’s interesting, because in America, among Swedes, we have no poverty either. I Googled life in socialist countries and read articles concerning Europe, Korea, Australia and other countries. The conclusion for all of these countries is learning to do with less while paying more. The average citizen tax is 20%, gas $7-$10 a gallon. Housing, water and utilities are heavily taxed as much as 200% greater than the U.S., little to no free speech, free doctor visits can take a long time before an appointment is granted, and even owning a car can cost thousands of dollars in government taxes. Every aspect of life is government- controlled with little to no freedoms while combined taxes can reach 50% of your income. These socialist countries punish success and reward failure causing individuals to be dependent upon the state through handouts. The information is out there for anyone who wants to find out the

tragic failure of the 20th century. Born of a commitment to remedy the economic and moral defects of capitalism, it has far surpassed capitalism both in economic malfunction and moral cruelty.” Those “bad” economic ideas are successful in 10 of the happiest countries on the planet. “Socialism” has become a buzzword for “anything the Republican party is against”. Socialism is government ownership of all the means of production and transportation of goods. Nobody is suggesting anything like that. Karl Marx was the father of trickle-down economics. That is what does not work. What we have now is “socialism” for the very rich and Darwinist capitalism for the rest. Social Democrats/Democratic Socialists simplywant to use our tax money to benefit the poor and middle class, where it benefits the economy the most, rather than to continue to throw money at the very rich, who don’t need to be any richer. The wealthy aren’t creating jobs (job growth was faster under Obama by over a million jobs) they are hoarding cash in offshore accounts. Large corporations have record amounts of cash reserves. It’s time to stop throwing money at billionaires and invest in the true wealth of this country, which is its middle class! It’s time to do what is working in the rest of the civilized world! – David S. P.J. O’Rourke comment: David, I take your point. In the response to Maria M. above, I quote Prof. Heilbroner who makes no bones about capitalism having “economic and moral defects.” But, while I take your point there’s

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August 2019

Send us a message, question, or criticism at feedback@americanconsequences.com. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Henry, as I always ask my teens, “If all the cool kids jumped off a bridge would you jump too?” Being teens, their answer is, “Of course I would!” So – with the help of the great Buck Sexton – we’re working on an American Consequences podcast idea. Keep your ears perked! words. And thank you for the tip on Requiem for a Wren . It’s a brilliant book, and it also shows why the Greatest Generation had – besides the innovation and adventure – a certain sense of sadness and loss. A couple of other Nevil Shute books worth mentioning (although they’re all good): The Chequer Board – A deep and deeply decent story about race relations written in 1947 when that subject had barely been addressed by best-selling authors. Pied Piper – Adventures of an accidental hero tasked with protecting a group of helpless kids during the Nazi invasion of France. Round the Bend – The spiritual side of Shute (though he doesn’t overdo the spirituality), which does a great job of answering the seemingly absurd question, “What if, instead of being a carpenter, Jesus had been an airplane mechanic?” Re: Innovations That Get No Respect Hey American Consequences, tell your editor in chief P.J. O’Rourke about the innovation called podcasting, so I can listen to his voice as I wait in traffic or travel down the road. All the cool kids are doing it. – Henry P.

truth. Don’t take my word for it, read for yourselves. – Theresa K. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Theresa, now that Prof. Heilbroner is dead, I’m recommending that you be the person who writes the article on Socialism in the next edition of The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics . Re: Nevil Shute I was gratified to see the Book Grump recognize one of my favorite authors. Shute wrote about life in the 1940s and 1950s, for the most part. I had read On The Beach as a teenager when dystopian novels were rare, and I was into that. I got reacquainted with Shute as an adult when Trustee From The Toolroom was recommended by a machinist, though the story is much broader. It is one of my favorite books, taking me to my parent’s post-war world of travel, South Sea islands, and limitless can-do optimism. As good or better is Requiem for a Wren, an epic story of a woman’s experience in WW2 and the physical and mental aftermath of the survivors. Shute explains why the Greatest Generation was compelled to such innovation and adventure after the war. No other period novel has taken me into that world so vividly. Which reminds me, I have a couple of Shute books I have not read, and I need to read Requiem yet again. Thanks! – Rex B. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Speaking for The Book Grump (who shall remain – ahem – anonymous), thank you, Rex, for the kind

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August 2019 DESTROYED HOW TWITTER POLITICS

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copy of Middlemarch . And as for anything more demanding than an op-ed – like those thumb-suckers in the New Republic or the Weekly Standard – forget about it. Utterly hopeless. You might as well ask the reader to wade through the Tale of Genji ... in ancient Japanese. And so, with the bottomless maw of the World Wide Web yawning before us, the blog was born. Blogs encouraged interactivity, constituting the first, rudimentary form of social media to invade politics. Bloggers and their yammering audiences specialized in “hot takes” – blunt, incendiary, often fact- free expressions of opinions scrubbed of all nuance and qualification and dropped onto

First, American politics was overtaken by the blogs. I didn’t like them much, either. Until the first couple years of this century, the bulk of serious political discourse resided in print-on-paper (and primitively digital) newspapers and magazines, where a chin-pulling opinionator might feel free to spout off for 750 words – an average op-ed length – or compose a roomy feature in an “intellectual magazine” running on (and on) for half a dozen pages or more. But by 2002, thanks to the depredations of video games and 50 years of ubiquitous television-watching, the national attention span had shrunk to the point that an op- ed seemed as intimidating as an unopened

By Andrew Ferguson

TWITTER HAS TAKEN THE CENTER AND PUSHED IT TO THE MARGINS, WHILE THE EXTREMISTS ROLL IN TO OCCUPY THE EMPTY SPACE

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HOW TWITTER DESTROYED POLITICS

know how terrible service is at the post office right this minute. A Twitter landmark that set the tone for much of what was to follow occurred in 2010, when a reporter for the website Mediaite “live-tweeted” his own heart attack. “I gotta be me,” he actually tweeted, mid-infarction. “Livetweeting my own heart attack. Beat that!” No one has beaten that, as far as I know. Back in the Blog Age, the lag time between the moment a blogger put his passing thought into words and its appearance on everyone else’s screen could last several minutes. As we entered the Twitter Age, such a delay was deemed simply intolerable. Twitter was On the one hand, Twitter tempts them to express every thought that passes through what’s left of their minds. more or less instantaneous. What remained of the filter between composition (I use the term loosely) and publication vanished altogether... Self-censorship – what used to be called discretion and tact – seemed to run contrary to the animating spirit of Twitter. The technology bred a contagion among political commentators that resembles a kind of epidemic of Tourette’s Syndrome. But it’s complicated... On the one hand, Twitter tempts them to express every thought that passes through what’s left of their minds. On the other hand, the constraints of the technology and its immediacy ensure that no thought can be fully ventilated, placed in a larger context, and supported with argument and evidence. It’s lose-lose!

the Internet with all the evident authority of a papal bull, if papal bulls ran to a maximum of three paragraphs. Not for the blogger was the rehearsal of a chain of logic, the marshaling of facts, the adducing of argument and counterargument and rebuttal that you were once led to expect (and, it’s true, often failed to find) in political polemics. A blog post was pure assertion. Even better, anybody could earn the title of “blogger” without having to be screened by, prove talent to, or gain credentials from employers, editors, fact- checkers, or even readers. As it happened, the age of the blog was almost as short-lived as a blog post. After a few years of reading blogs, the national attention span (and I’m thinking in particular of the attention span of people who follow politics for a living or as a serious hobby) had shrunk to such an extent that Twitter became possible – indeed, necessary, and eventually indispensable. By contrast, blogs seemed so gabby – yap, yap, yap. When it went online in 2006, Twitter wouldn’t allow a post longer than 140 characters... not words, characters . The tweet limit was doubled to 280 characters several years later, and many Twitter users objected to the move. Expanding the permissible length of tweets struck them as an insult – a stumbling block to the steady, uninterrupted advance of the cause of human stupidity. (It didn’t make much difference one way or the other.) Twitter had a particular appeal to the oversharers among us, people who think they can add to the sum total of human happiness by showing strangers photos of their half- eaten bowls of pad thai or letting everyone

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August 2019

And the list of losers stretches as far as the eye can see – far longer than even 280 characters. I don’t really regret the loss of many of the careers whose abrupt termination Twitter has made possible, thanks to the oversharing of the Twits themselves. Roseanne Barr, we can hope, is well and truly finished after releasing a tweet that even some of her fans (yes! she had fans!) delicately called “racial.” A hitherto obscure – only 170 Twitter followers – public relations executive named Justine Sacco became internationally famous for posting a “jokey” tweet about AIDS as she embarked on a trip to South Africa. Sacco posted the tweet as her flight took off from London, and by On the other hand, the constraints of the technology and its immediacy ensure that no thought can be fully ventilated, placed in a larger context, and supported with argument and evidence. It’s lose-lose! the time she landed in Cape Town 12 hours later, she and her tasteless tweet stood as the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter worldwide. She had plenty of time to enjoy Cape Town as her (former) employer acceded to the tens of thousands of Twits demanding her firing. And no roll call of Twitter perps and victims would be complete without the name of Anthony Weiner, who tweeted pictures of his... I’m not even going to type the word. (It begins with a “w.”) As punishment, he lost his chance to become mayor of New York. That seems too

kind a fate for him. The 15 months he served in jail are a little more like it. But of course, we are all in one sense victims of Twitter. We can readily see this through the career of one of Twitter’s “winners,” Donald Trump, who arguably owes his victorious presidential campaign in 2016 to the attention-grabbing effects of Twitter and other social media. There are sound reasons why Trump likes Twitter and relies on it so heavily. He’s correct when he says it offers him a direct line of communication with his followers and the general public without having to run the gauntlet of a news media that is obsessively hostile to him. But surely another reason Trump likes Twitter is the same reason why all the other Twits do: It allows instant gratification. By some accounts, including his own, Twitter constitutes the principal form of presidential entertainment not named Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson. He is particularly fond of the counter on the screen that shows him how many people are discussing his tweets... Like the rest of Twitter, the counter runs in real-time. “I used to watch it like a rocket ship when I put out a beauty,” Trump told a White House gathering of his social media allies. “Remember when I said somebody was spying on me? [He was referring to his accusation that President Obama had ordered a wiretap on his phone.] That was like a rocket.” Rocket-like though it may have been, the tweet wasn’t true, and this points up another... uh... weakness of the world that Twitter is creating. Its power to move misinformation is prodigious, far outstripping its power to inform or enlighten. To the untutored and

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HOW TWITTER DESTROYED POLITICS

Here’s the biggest problem, though... As Twitter continues its descent into pointless hysteria and turns the Internet into one big fever swamp, a sufficient number of people in authority continue in the delusion that what happens there tells us something about politics in the real – which is to say, non-Twitter – world. The delusion carries the danger of being actualized and self-fulfilling. Consider the case of the field of Democratic presidential candidates. Most of them – or their operatives – act as though the enthusiasms and half-baked prejudices they see expressed on Twitter somehow reflect the views of normal Democrats. Polls show that this simply isn’t true – Democratic voters, even in primaries, are more mainstream than their counterparts on Twitter. Abolishing ICE, prosecuting Trump, opening borders, eliminating private health insurance: Democratic candidates take these as popular and winning policy positions because, at least in part, they saw ‘em on Twitter. Such is the distorting power of social media. Politics has always been subject to misfires and misreadings of the popular mood... That’s why some candidates win and others lose. But Twitter has done something new. It has taken the center and pushed it to the margins, while the extremists roll in to fill the empty space and seize the nation’s attention. Most of us find politics revolting as a result. I suppose it’s possible that politics was like this all along, and it took a new technology to expose the plain truth. If that’s the case, watch for the Luddite party to make a long-overdue comeback.

gullible, simply by virtue of being published, a tweet can look as authoritative as a story on the front page of the New York Times (which has its own troubles spreading misinformation). This is a problem for social media generally, of course, from Pinterest to Instagram to the Russian intelligence agencies’ favorite outlet, Facebook. What techno-utopians once touted as the great revolutionary advance of social media – that it would flatten every barrier to entry in the worldwide marketplace of communication and ideas – may also prove to be its undoing, as Fake News, by fits and starts, slowly pushes out the real thing, in a perverse expression of Gresham’s law. Given the tone of bitterness and rancor it encourages, and its ongoing failure to distinguish real news from bogus propaganda, Twitter, along with other social media, is increasingly the sandbox of cranks, hysterics, and preening exhibitionists. Sure, Twitter has the potential to place before a user a much wider variety of views than we might otherwise see. And yet, as a pair of sociologists who have taken on the sad duty of cataloguing the evolution of online controversies put it, “Twitter is exposing people to multiple diverse points of view but ... the medium is insufficient for reasoned discourse and debate, instead privileging haste and emotion.” (I first heard about this study in The Smallest Minority , an actual book with, like, pages and everything, by the writer and reformed Twitter user Kevin Williamson.)

Andrew Ferguson is the author of Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course on Getting His Kid Into College . He is a former speechwriter for President George H. W. Bush and was one of the founding editors of The Weekly Standard.

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August 2019

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IN TOO DEEP AMAZON'S COLLABORATIONWITH THE DEEP STATE CONTINUES

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August 2019

Amazon has suddenly become the single most dangerous company in American history. It's on the verge of becoming the digital secret- keeper of the Deep State – the modern equivalent of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, with personal files and dirty secrets on thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, or perhaps even ALL Americans.

By Dan Denning

But this time, it’s controlled by a corporation. And not only has it become powerful and influential in American politics (donating millions to political campaigns), it’s become a power unto itself, mostly thanks to the critical data storage services it provides to America’s defense and intelligence agencies. If all that sounds too depressing and dystopian for you, well... too bad. The Orwellian future is here now. It’s a brave new world already, and it’s far worse than we imagined. You may not want to believe that, but let’s look at the evidence... FROM STOCK MARKET FAVORITE TO DEEP STATE CRONY Amazon is trying to make itself an indispensable cog in the surveillance machinery of the Deep State. Billionaire media titan John Malone, formerly of AT&T, recently described Amazon as a “Death Star” for every industry it touches.

Once it installs itself in Washington as the digital secret-keeper for the U.S. government, Amazon will become the most powerful – and most dangerous – company in American history. Amazon’s growing clout in providing cloud-based storage for the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency is a dangerous development. The military- industrial complex has always cooperated closely with the Pentagon to provide weapons for America’s military. But Amazon’s collaboration with the Deep State to provide surveillance tools is on another level altogether. Silicon Valley is collaborating with elements of the Deep State to create a permanent surveillance society in the United States. And Amazon is part of that techno-coup. If you value liberty, the Bill of Rights, and your freedom, then you have a limited amount of time to do something about it. It’s not only your money that’s at stake... It’s your rights and freedom as an American, too.

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Again, this is the whole point of ubiquitous surveillance in a police state: the suppression of independent critical thinking, speech, and action. Maybe you disagree. Fair enough. But think about the future... If your data are being warehoused for all time, who’s to say that you won’t be found guilty of a new crime 10 years from now? Maybe it’ll be a thought crime. Or maybe it’ll be some pattern detected in your data that shows you’re on the path to some radical action. You’ll be guilty of “pre-crime,” like in Philip K. Dick’s short story, The Minority Report . Am I exaggerating? No. In fact, get a load of this... Have you heard of Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART)? It’s Homeland Security’s creepy new database that will look to match up your face... your DNA... as well as people’s “non-obvious social relationships” (think of the people you may be friends with on Facebook, for example). Well... despite opposition from Congress, it’s going full steam ahead... and, of course, Homeland Security uses the Amazon cloud. GO DARK, WALK AWAY, SPREAD THE WORD You need to walk away from social media completely... and with haste.

AS ABROAD, SO AT HOME None of this might bother you if you are secure in the belief that the tools made by the tech companies for the Deep State are only used to detect and destroy America’s enemies. They’re only doing their job, right? And Amazon is only doing its patriotic duty, right? After all, the Deep State began to grow in earnest in the years immediately following World War II to combat the growing threat of the Soviet Union. America couldn’t have won the Cold War without the help of GE, Boeing, and IBM. The companies and the enemies are different today... But isn’t the issue basically the same? And if you’re skeptical about my claim, please read this very carefully: The very same model the Deep State uses to run counterinsurgencies against governments overseas is being used now against Americans in America. This is dangerous. And it’s wrong. Why? America was founded on the idea of limited government, with individual liberty as its core value. The State has no business watching us all the time – at least, not in what’s supposed to be a “free country.” But there’s more to it. You can’t really be free if you’re looking over your shoulder all the time. When you know that you’re being watched, you start watching what you say. If you’re watching what you say, it means you’re watching what you think. And if you’re watching what you think, you stop thinking.

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