Monthly Archives: September 2016

SEO is a Waste of Time and Money

My post about entrepreneurship being too difficult was a surprise hit, so I will follow up with a post about SEO, which is somewhat related, also being too difficult and a waste of time and money.

-Impossible to get good rankings for KEYWORDS PEOPLE SEARCH FOR (I added the caps because a lot of SEO folks brag about ranking for keywords but these words don’t actually bring more than 2 or 3 visits a month)

-Good backlinks are hard to buy, and almost all of all paid links are worthless spam sites with artificially boosted metrics to sell useless links upon unsuspecting buyers, too expensive and often don’t work, may get site penalized.

-Buying private blog links don’t work on good keywords (or else they would not sell the links. They would be using the links themselves, ya think), too expensive ($300-500 on a link package is money down the drain), waste of time, may get site penalized.

-Guest posting: too time consuming, very very hard to get good posts, takes too long, high rejection rate, links probably will not help much, tends to result in small amounts of junk (tire kicking) traffic anyway, may get site penalized.

-Good keywords are always dominated by major brands and content providers like Vox, CNN, Business Week, Bloomberg, Washington Post, The New Yorker, New York Times, Wall St. Journal, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Wikipedia, and so on. And then you have to also compete with .edu and .gov sites too. All search engines are dominated by 100 sites. In 2006, much of these brands were either very small or did not exist, but now they’re hundreds of them.

-Also, many people don’t even use search engines as much anymore. They use social media to get information.

-Success is few and far between. For every success at SEO, there are many failures. There are only 10 slots for each keyword, of which the top 5 are the most important. If 11 people are vying for a keyword and they all do perfect SEO, one must still fail. But most of the time companies spend a tons of money on SEO and see no results.

-It’s mostly random in many instances. Sometimes a site that has no apparent rankings factors will do very well.

-Google has devalued many sites that used to provide good rankings.

-Even long tail keyword may not work because they may be dominated by sites that have a lot of ‘domain authority’. No one optimizes for the keyword ‘student loan crisis’ but you have thousands of high-authority news site ranking for it, which makes it a very competitive keyword. Optimizing for long tails may also get your site penalized if it’s interpreted as ‘thin content’ or keyword stuffing.

-As to be expected in any imprecise science such as SEO, there are a lot of misconceptions. Hobo Web ( overestimates the importance of content. Content is NOT king, not by any stretch of the imagination. This site has two posts that total over 4k words each. Search engine traffic to them? Zero. User experience also does not matter that much. The best ranking pages are often .edu domains that have poor user experience.

-For the aforementioned reasons, a lot of SEO methods do not work. Maybe they worked between 2003-2007 but not anymore. SEO is one of those things where you can spend thousands of dollars and see zero results or even negative results if you get a penalty. It’s almost as bad as an overpriced liberal arts degree from a no-name college.

Google of 2016 is like talk ratio or TV: very expensive and saturated. It just flat out doesn’t work, unless I suppose you have a multi-million dollar budget, and even then it may not work. Too many people waste too much time and money on things that don’t work. Instead of SEO, better methods of wealth creation include the stock market or real estate.

The Problem With User Contributed Content

Awhile back I discussed how ‘user contributed content’ (UCC) is clogging Google, but I wanted to address the issue again, because it’s a bigger problem than many think, and Google’s response to the problem of content farms may still be inadequate. UCC is like the ‘new spam’…one that is very stealthy but also so commonplace you may not even recognize it, with perhaps the only sign being reading an article from a purportedly reputable publication but feeling miffed or annoyed afterwards because the article was so vague or generic as to not justify the commitment of time to read it, or perhaps the content didn’t live up to its headline.

UCC is not just limited to blatant, barely ineligible spam, but also includes vague, nonspecific, low-quality articles intended for the sole purpose of having the reader click through to the author’s website, in the hope of getting the reader to sign up for a newsletter or other service. Because Google is a lot less adapt than a person at identifying ‘vague, nonspecific content’, UCC that isn’t overt spam or duplicate content is often able evade Google’s automated anti-spam controls.

Not all UCC is of poor quality – some sites have very high standards – but many sites don’t, and by my estimate 90% or more of UCC is crud – marketing disguised as content. Salon and Slate are examples of sites that have UCC but also high standards (although such sites have a left-wing bias, the articles themselves tend to be substantive). Social Matter allows submissions but also has high standards of quality.

UCC is win for both marketers and the content farm. The content farm gets an endless stream of content at no cost, as there is no shortage of marketers churning articles (all with the all-important link to their website at the bottom or embedded within the article, for without the link the article has no reason to exist), and due to the high domain authority of the content farm, such articles rank well, generating ad revenue for the content farm. Marketers benefit by getting traffic to their own websites and services by exploiting the large readership and search engine traffic of the content farm. UCC fills Google’s search results with generic, low-quality content, and readers who click through are the losers, who find the content of mediocre quality and their time wasted.

Here is a screenshot of UCC on the popular investing commentary site Seeking Alpha:

There are pages upon pages of this, with dozens or maybe even hundreds of articles produced each day, with new articles piled atop older ones in a landfill that is only limited in size by the MYSQL database that holds them.

As stocks overbought? Will gold go up or down? It doesn’t matter (nor does the author have any way of knowing) – as long as reader clicks through to the author’s website and signs up for some crappy advisory service, mission accomplished.

UCC thrives because most readers for many niches can’t distinguish between ‘good’ content, versus regurgitated content or content disguised as marketing. The Wall St. Journal and The New Yorker have readers with more discriminating tastes and could not get away with UCC without losing and angering a lot of their readers, as well possibly damaging their brands (instead, they have professional columnists on payroll).

Media Mistakingly Attributing Stock Market Rally to Hillary Win

The media (and not just the liberal media) may be wrongly attributing the strong move in the stock market to Trump’s narrow defeat in the first debate. On 9/27/2016, the day following the first presidential debate in which Hillary presumably ‘won’, the S&P 500 gains 14 points. The DJIA gained 133 points. Not huge amounts but still noteworthy.

From MarketWatch Dow closes up more than 100 points after Clinton-Trump debate, consumer confidence:

The advance in stocks suggests that U.S. equity markets are betting that Clinton benefited the most from Monday’s presidential debate. Stocks are rising on the prospect of a Clinton presidency because the Democrat is viewed as a known quantity while some view Trump as being more unpredictable—a bad thing for stock investors.

And also, there seems to be a consensus that Trump did well in the first thirty or so minutes of the debate, when he described his economic plans and attacked Hillary on NAFTA and TPP, but faltered in the second half, as the debate transitioned to foreign policy, Trump’s ‘birtherism’, and ‘sexism’, and Trump found himself on loose footing.

Here again: 20 minutes into the debate Donald Trump was winning. What the heck happened?

Hmmm…if Trump excelled in the first half and bombed in the second, we would expect stock futures to rise during the second half and not the first, but the actual live trading data as the debate unfolded shows that stock futures surged during the first half of the debate, specifically only 12 minutes into the debate (which began at 18:00 and and ended an hour and forty minutes later):

In the span of just seven minutes beginning at 18:12, the S&P 500 futures gained seven points. So what happened around 18:12 to make the market rise?

At 18:10, Trump pledges to reduces taxes significantly:

TRUMP: We cannot let it happen. Under my plan, I’ll be reducing taxes tremendously, from 35 percent to 15 percent for companies, small and big businesses. That’s going to be a job creator like we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan. It’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch.

Two minutes later, the futures begin to surge. The market knows that regardless of the outcome of the debate, there is a non-trivial likelihood Trump will become president, and they are worried that Trump’s populism will hurt profits and earnings, but Trump’s huge tax pledge allayed some of those concerns. That’s why stocks surged, because Trump promised pro-growth policy (which was the main concern), not because Hillary did anything special.

Debate Scorecard

Points for trump:

Mention of NATO (some countries not contributing enough)
Attacked Hillary on NAFTA, trade deals
Articulated his economic plans well
Attacked Hillary’s use of a private email server
Attacked Hillary on Iran deal
Hillary’s failure on ISIS

Points for Hillary:

Donald Trump’s taxes
Birth certificate and Trump’s comments on women (only because the moderator brought it up)
Trump possible flip-flopping on Iraq War support/denial (again, thanks to the moderator intervening on behalf of Clinton)

The rest of the issues such as stop and frisk and cyber security seemed insignificant and didn’t move the needle and will be forgotten quickly.

The moderator, Lester Holt, was unfailingly biased, pressing Trump on the birth certificate issue, taxes, and supposed sexism, but failing to press Hillary on Benghazi or the email server. Trump is justified to complain on Twitter about the lack of impartiality shown by the moderator.

Here are some examples of Holt’s bias, asking loaded questions (in which Trump’s guilt is presumed):

HOLT: Mr. Trump, we’re talking about the burden that Americans have to pay, yet you have not released your tax returns. And the reason nominees have released their returns for decades is so that voters will know if their potential president owes money to — who he owes it to and any business conflicts. Don’t Americans have a right to know if there are any conflicts of interest?

HOLT: Mr. Trump, this year Secretary Clinton became the first woman nominated for president by a major party. Earlier this month, you said she doesn’t have, quote, “a presidential look.” She’s standing here right now. What did you mean by that?

HOLT: Mr. Trump, for five years, you perpetuated a false claim that the nation’s first black president was not a natural-born citizen. You questioned his legitimacy. In the last couple of weeks, you acknowledged what most Americans have accepted for years: The president was born in the United States. Can you tell us what took you so long?

And about Trump’s purported support of the Iraq War:

HOLT: Mr. Trump, a lot of these are judgment questions. You had supported the war in Iraq before the invasion. What makes your…

TRUMP: I did not support the war in Iraq.

HOLT: In 2002…

TRUMP: That is a mainstream media nonsense put out by her, because she — frankly, I think the best person in her campaign is mainstream media.

HOLT: My question is, since you supported it…

TRUMP: Just — would you like to hear…

HOLT: … why is your — why is your judgment…

TRUMP: Wait a minute. I was against the war in Iraq. Just so you put it out.

Note how Hillary is absent here. It’s like a tag team match and Hillary is outside of the ring, having tapped Holt, who is fighting on her behalf.


Overall, Trump scored more points, but it was closer than I expected, probably because it was a 2 on 1 debate (with help from the moderator). When Obama first debated Romney, it was so obvious Obama lost that even the liberal media said so unanimously, but it wasn’t nearly as obvious who won this debate. Despite concerns over Hillary’s health, she seemed healthy enough.

These debates aren’t as important as the media hype would suggest, and outcomes don’t change many minds. Despite Romney trouncing Obama in the first debate (and all the media coverage that followed), Romney still lost by a large margin. By my estimate, 85-95% of people have probably already decided who they are going to vote for.

Maybe we can apply the ‘Drake Equation’ to the debate viewership:

What percent of viewers care enough about the issues to be influenced by the debate; of those, how many live in a swing state; and of those, how many are still undecided.

Out of seventy million viewers, maybe that’s only a few tens of thousands of people, at most.

Trump v. Clinton Debate Prediction

With less than an hour until the first presidential debate, here’s how I predict it will unfold:

Despite never holding public office and his possible naivete on certain issues, Trump surpasses expectations and puts on a very strong performance, and I’m saying this not because I support him but because he will use his charisma and ‘street smarts’ to outmaneuver the more cerebral, methodical Hillary. Hillary is an easier opponent than Cruz, and Trump held his own in the GOP debates. The same was observed in 2008 when Sarah Palin debated the more experienced, smarter Joe Biden and still did very well. Hillary will try to steer the debate to specific issues, but Trump will counter by focusing on the ‘big picture’ (‘making America great’, ‘restoring jobs’, ‘bringing jobs home’ etc.) and less on minutia, to much approval of the audience. Trump has to avoid the potential pitfall of foreign policy, particularly as it pertains to the Middle East, which is his main weak spot, and instead try to focus the debate on economics and ‘bread and butter’ issues. If he hesitates or equivocates too much, it will be perceived as weakness. Trump is really good at working a crowd, and that’s what he will try to do. Hillary’s attempts to win over the audience will not be as successful, and audience reaction is an important metric for how pundits gauge the winner or loser. But Trump will defer to facts and figures when necessary. The stock market, however, will not approve, as Wall St. perceives Trump as the American version of Brexit.

Solving the Student Loan/Debt Crisis: A Plan That Can Work

On sites like Reddit, 4chan, and College Confidential, stories of college graduates saddled with piles of debt and poor job prospects, are becoming commonplace:

Many on the ‘left’ (and I say ‘left’ because it’s mainly democrats who raise this issue) complain about student loan debt being too high, as well as poor job prospects for new graduates, who are either unable to find a job, or if they get a job, the job isn’t commensurate with their credentials (for example, anthropology majors waiting tables).

But what if there were a way to break the student loan debt cycle, or at least put a dent in it.

As I said before, the higher education system is broken, due to ‘good intentions’ gone wrong, and many entities shoulder the blame: students, politicians, guidance counselors, culture and society, and parents.

In the case of high school graduates, they have one of three options:

- skip college and enter the workforce
- go to college and major in a liberal arts subject
- major in STEM

The first choice results in no debt but also the worst job prospects of all. The second may result in a lot of debt and mediocre job prospects. The third choice may also result in debt but also has the best job prospects. As a caveat, those who graduate from elite colleges can typically major in anything and still have decent job prospects, but they are of the minority. Most students are aware that STEM pays more and has better job opportunities, but they choose the liberal arts anyway. That’s their choice, but they should not be surprised if they are unable to find good job afterwards – they were warned.

Most graduates (such as the example from Reddit above) are reasonably intelligent. According to research by Charles Murray, the typical college graduate has an IQ of around 115, which is one standard deviation above average. Thus to some extent a college degree (even for non-STEM majors) signals above-average intelligence, which could explain why many employers, particularly for higher-paying jobs, require a college degree, or ceteris paribus will choose a candidate who has a degree over one who doesn’t. Studies have shown that IQ and job performance are correlated, probably because smarter employees learn faster and are better able to anticipate the needs of customers and their employers.

Another issue is debt. Working as a barista for Starbucks may suck, but it’s even worse if you have a lot of debt. There’s no reason why anyone should have to spend tens of thousands of dollars (or even hundreds of thousands), and four to seven years of their life, to get a piece of paper that signals ‘merely above-average intelligence’. Worse yet, most jobs are completely unrelated to the degree. Very few literature, anthropology, and history majors actually get jobs pertaining to literature, anthropology, or history.

Grade inflation and credentalism are related. Because of grade inflation, increasingly advanced degrees are required signal competence and ‘stand out’:

This means more debt and more years of college to acquire these advanced degrees, including but not limited to PHDs and Masters Degrees – money and time that could otherwise be spent on ‘life’, not education. High school degrees don’t get much mileage as they did decades ago, because if everyone is getting a 4.0 GPA and ‘honors’ due to dumbed-down courses, what good is it. Another cause of credentalism is that the labor pool has swelled, which is not just limited to the United States but also includes many emerging economies. The problem is the skills that are taught in collage and high school have become commoditized and are no longer ‘special’. Employers can easily outsource workers, filling jobs that decades ago would have gone to high school or even college graduates, because basic skills (like reading and writing) have become so common. And then there is also technology, which may result in low-skill jobs being automated. Either the courses are dumbed-down or too many people are completing school – it’s probably both.

Although some students go to college for the ‘experience’ and the ‘pursuit of knowledge’, many attend in the hope of landing a good-paying job when they graduate. If making money is goal, and for most students it is, there is an alternative to the current dysfunctional system. Because in the eyes of employers a college degree signals above-average intellect and competence, the obvious solution is to give employers carte blanche to screen prospective employees for intelligence using cheap, easy-to-administer IQ-type tests. This would help both employers and students. It helps employers because IQ tests (as well as related tests like the SAT and the Wonderlic) may provide a cheaper, more reliable means of assessing the intelligence and competence of potential employees than college degrees, which have been devalued by grade inflation. For students and job seekers the benefits are even more obvious: no more debt and years spent acquiring increasingly advanced degrees in the hope merely of being qualified, let alone getting a job. Even if high-scoring students are unable to find good-paying jobs (due to the economy and other factors), not accumulating a bunch of debt for that same crummy job would be a success for the program.

For this solution to be implemented, disparate impact laws (Griggs v. Duke Power) would need to be overturned. Although some large companies (like Proctor and Gamble) use these tests, they also have the financial resources and case study data to fend off litigation, which small business cannot. Not to make this too political, if the ‘left’ cared about students a much as Sanders or Hillary say they do, they would make a push to overturn disparate impact laws.

In the unlikely event Griggs is annulled, private (or maybe publicly run) mass testing centers can be established, independent from employers. Anyone can register to have their intelligence tested on one of multiple tests, in order of increasing complexity and administrative costs: Wonderlic, SAT, or Wais. The Wonderlic is a 50-question multiple choice test of general competence (basic numeracy, vocab, etc.), and takes 12 minutes to complete. The SAT is more comprehensive and takes much longer to administer, and like the Wonderlic only tests mostly math and verbal skills. The Wais the most comprehensive of all, and tests a wide range of abilities, such as spatial intelligence, which the other two tests don’t. Upon registering an account (req. govt. ID) and obtaining scores on one or multiple tests, this information can be provided who employers, who will have the ability to enter a code to verify the score on an online database.

Some may be surprised to learn that anyone who wants to enlist in the US military must score in the 33rd percentile or better on the AFQT, a test administered to all enlistees that measures ‘general skills, which is related to IQ (although in times when cannon fodder is needed the bar may be lowered), so why can’t such a testing system be adopted for the general public, for use by employers?

A common criticism is that the less intelligent would be discriminated by such a system, but the unintelligent often drop out of college (the result being debt and no degree) at a very high rate, so by not going to college and instead being tested, they would save money, which is especially helpful considering the lifetime incomes of the less intelligent isn’t very high, so they are hurt the most by having student loan debt. It’s not like the unintelligent are being deprived of their opportunity to work for NASA by being tested. Second, the likely economic tailwind from reducing student loan debt, getting young people into the workforce earlier, and boosting employer productivity would create more total jobs, benefiting job seekers of all intelligence levels.

Introverts Rule the World

In 2012 Susan Cain, formerly a Wall Street attorney, published Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. The book was a smash success, selling millions of copies and getting thousands of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, eventually leading to a TED talk that was also equally successful and critically acclaimed, which has since been viewed almost 15 million times, making it one of the most popular TED talks ever.

Quiet topped many best-seller lists:

No. 1 on the NPR Bestseller List
No. 3 on the Los Angeles Times Best Seller list
No. 3 on The Washington Post Book World bestsellers list
No. 4 on The New York Times Best Seller list being on the list (top 15) for sixteen weeks,
No. 12 best selling book (across all categories) on (March 3, 2012, not necessarily a peak ranking),
No. 2 on The New York Times Best Seller list (paperback nonfiction) by mid-June 2016 having been on the list for 138 weeks, and
No. 1 bestselling original non-fiction book of 2012 as listed by the Toronto Star.

The success of Quiet and the TED talk propelled Cain from just another corporate nobody to a major pubic figure and even media celebrity. Most books and TED talks are quickly forgotten, but this was monumental and indelible, only to be eclipsed by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In (and associated TED talk) a few years later. But the success of Quiet paved the way for Lean In and similar semi-autobiographical accounts that don’t just just tell a personal story but also convey a message that society should heed, too.

Since 2008 or so, there has been a steady increase of interest in introverts:

Ironically, despite not seeking attention, introverts are getting more attention than ever, as well as more success in post-2008 society (in terms of good paying jobs, web 2.0, real estate, stocks, etc., in addition to success online, self-publishing, speaking gigs, etc.).

In her TED talk, Cain describes going to summer camp, and while all the other girls were gregarious, she had a suitcase full of books and wanted to be alone. Fast-forward decades later and now the ‘most popular girl’ in her camp is probably a nobody today, while Cain has become something of a media sensation. It’s a complete 180 reversal that likely wouldn’t have been possible in any earlier time in history, but thanks to post-2008 society, which rewards individualism and success over the collective, introverts are now calling the shots and getting more attention than they ever imagined or want.

Part of this is due to the internet, which allows people who don’t like physically being with other people to express themselves to potentially limitless audience. Pretty much everyone who has a lot of followers on Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, or Twitter – or anyone who is hugely popular online – is probably an introvert in real life and was one of the ‘uncool kids’ in school – only to become the center of attention, as well as having a lot of power and status, online and as an adult. Others are coders making a solid six-figures, or making tons of money in the stock market and or other high-IQ endeavors. Meanwhile the ‘popular kids’ in school are likely stuck in low-status, low-paying jobs that don’t keep up with inflation.

But also the hyper-competitive, super-efficient nature of America’s post-2008 economy, where quantifiable results are more important than ‘small talk’ or ‘office politics’, also plays a role. Introverts, through typically having a high IQ and being industrious, are especially wired for success in today’s results-orientated, show-me economy. When the economy nearly imploded in 2008, bosses fired the least productive, the dead weight. The smartest (who are generally introverts and mostly in STEM) rose to the top, seeing their inflation-adjusted wages rise as everyone else’s wages stayed flat or declined. They (high-IQ introverts) are also making money through asset inflation (thanks to QE and forever low interest rates), such as real estate (especially in the Bay Area), web 2.0 valuations (Snapchat, Uber, Airbnb, etc.), and stocks (Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc.). And America’s most successful, respected business and technology leaders (Musk, Zuckerberg, Travis Kalanick, Thiel, Andreessen, Paul Graham, etc.) almost uniformly exhibit introvert tendencies, and are famous for their creations that are revolutionizing the world, not for being ‘people pleasers’ or talkative.

There has never been a better time in the history of the world to be an introvert than now, especially in America. Fifty years ago the ‘jocks’ ruled. There was no ‘information age’, no internet, and society was less productive and efficient. There was no ZIRP, POMO, and QE. There was an abundance of overpaying jobs for all levels intellect, whereas nowadays the less intelligent may find that they are not smart enough to succeed.

Now it’s the ‘tyranny of the bookish‘, a ‘revenge of the nerds’ society in overdrive:

Whether it’s mathematicians, theoretical physicists, coders, writers, quants, economists, or bibliophiles, the viral image above is more evidence that in America, especially, intellectualism is more important than ever, with MIT and Caltech the ‘meccas’. Reddit users know that the booksish, socially awkward, and introverted will rule the world, if they haven’t already. The financial problem of 2008 kicked the legs of the flimsy folding table that was the old economy, knocking it over and crushing those intellectually unfit.

And to quote Bill Gates, ‘Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.’

In December 2012, Cracked published what would become their most popular article ever 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person, which has been read and shared millions of times. Like Quiet, also published in 2012, it was very prescient in forecasting these post-2013 social and economic trends, which could explain why the article was so viral, and is an example of the ‘contrarian mainstream’ style of journalism has become really popular since 2013 (articles that douse cold water on beliefs many hold dear, which is related to ‘advice culture’).

This passage stood out:

If you want to know why society seems to shun you, or why you seem to get no respect, it’s because society is full of people who need things. They need houses built, they need food to eat, they need entertainment, they need fulfilling sexual relationships. You arrived at the scene of that emergency, holding your pocket knife, by virtue of your birth — the moment you came into the world, you became part of a system designed purely to see to people’s needs.

In the past, the Woody Allen dictum “Eighty percent of success is showing up” rang true; but, as the Cracked article shows, now it’s “Eighty percent of success is creating economic value.” Introverts, who prefer diligence than keeping up with the latest office politics and ‘small talk’, are especially well-adapted for this. Even though I lean ‘right’ on many issues, the pro-life right is wrong: being born, existence isn’t a virtue in and of itself; results are.

Now Susan Cain’s story has become commonplace, not aberrant, of 20 and 30-somethings on Instagram and elsewhere posting memes about how socializing is overrated compared to making money (hustle culture) and being alone or being ‘boring’. Nightclub attendance is plunging. Young people are getting married later, if at all, while living with their parents longer. In a sense, she was a trendsetter, but also a poster child of today’s individualistic, results-oriented economy and society.

Flight 93 Election (analysis)

A couple weeks ago, when I first came across the now famous ‘Flight 93‘ article, I skimmed the first few paragraphs without giving it much further consideration…the crux of the article is that America is doomed if Hillary becomes president, but with Trump there is at least a fighting chance, even if the odds are long. We can either ‘charge the cockpit’ to have a shot at living (or in the case of America, saving the country), or do nothing and certainly die.

But people kept talking about it, so I decided to investigate further, reading the article thoroughly, as well as its follow-up. Judging by the conversational tone, verbosity, attention to detail, sesquipedalian sentences, and rich punctuation, the the article sounded similar to a very popular reactionary blogger who recently went on hiatus, and my hunch was confirmed in the follow-up, in which he writes: Everything I said in “The Flight 93 Election” was derivative of things I had already said, with (I thought) more vim and vigor, in a now-defunct blog.

The first thing that struck me is how much faith he has in the system….possibly even more than I do, and some say I’m ‘too optimistic’. When I began bogging about NRx, I took a different approach, advocating incrementalism (rolling back democratic values and institutions) and possible minarchism, in contrast to monarchy or secession, and the last paragraph of Restatement, as well as overall both essays, seems to echo this theme, focusing on policy (like welfare, taxes and other policy reform) within the current constitutional republic framework, versus more far-fetched or drastic measures such as eschatology, deracination, ‘exit’, or monarchy:

One can point to a few enduring successes: Tax rates haven’t approached their former stratosphere highs. On the other hand, the Left is busy undoing welfare and policing reform. Beyond that, we’ve not been able to implement our agenda even when we win elections—which we do less and less. Conservatism had a project for national renewal that it failed to implement, while the Left made—and still makes—gain after gain after gain. Consider conservatism’s aims: “civic renewal,” “federalism,” “originalism,” “morality and family values,” “small government,” “limited government,” “Judeo-Christian values,” “strong national defense,” “respect among nations,” “economic freedom,” “an expanding pie,” “the American dream.” I support all of that. And all of it has been in retreat for 30 years. At least. But conservatism cannot admit as much, not even to itself, in the middle of the night with the door closed, the lights out and no one listening.

However, many reactionaries believe the ‘system’ is irreparable, advocating ‘accelerationism’, in which America’s decline is deliberately hastened so it collapses and from the ruins can be ‘restored’. Others advocate pacifism, because fighting democracy with democracy is, ultimately, only a win for democracy. And that Trump, despite his best efforts and good intentions, is merely a cog of a broken machinery. This is probably why there was some push-back in response to Flight 93.

But still…I’m surprised by what seems like somewhat of an about-face on his part. ‘American dream’? It sounds cheesy, and few who are alive still believe it. The ‘American dream’ is more a construct, really (the phrase was originally a marketing slogan by Federal National Mortgage Association). Also the ‘small government’ stuff reads too similar to libertarianism, which the author repudiated on many occasions. But I agree that I would rather have the government focus less on the lives of individuals, and instead pay more attention to not wasting public resources on ineffective programs and or entitlement spending.

From Flight 93:

Ever-higher taxes and ever-deteriorating services and infrastructure. Inability to win wars against tribal, sub-Third-World foes. A disastrously awful educational system that churns out kids who don’t know anything and, at the primary and secondary levels, can’t (or won’t) discipline disruptive punks, and at the higher levels saddles students with six figure debts for the privilege. And so on and drearily on. Like that portion of the mass where the priest asks for your private intentions, fill in any dismal fact about American decline that you want and I’ll stipulate it.

Yeah all of this is true. Part of the reason why America is unable to ‘win’ any wars it because it’s not allowed to win in the traditional sense of total annihilation of the enemy (which if pressed America is capable of doing). Instead, America has to engage in ‘nation building’ , which is much harder. The higher educational system need reform to a large extent, as millions of millennials are graduating with debt and no good job prospects to show for it.

In the followup, I was also surprised he considers Churchill an example of ‘good leadership’, considering Churchill [1] seems antithetical to a lot of what NRx stands for. Although his essay was intended to be an endorsement for Trump, and any obvious allusions to NRx were avoided, a better example could have been chosen. Of course, I could be wrong, and a Google search for NRx writings on Churchill didn’t yield much.

But overall, the author raises a valid point about how mainstream conservatives (akin to the Washington Generals) ‘always lose’ and how Trump departs from this trend. It’s not really a new message, and it didn’t need 3,000 words to convey, but interesting nonetheless.

[1] got his butt handed to him in the battle of Gallipoli, pulled Britain int multiple wars, and acted on personal vendettas at great loss of civilian life (bombing of Dresden), all of which contributed to the decline and demise of the British Empire and the softening of the already weak monarch

Amazon, Google, and Facebook: Bigger is Better

Why giants thrive
The power of technology, globalisation and regulation

This is why a simple investing strategy that goes ‘long’ equal weight the three biggest, fastest growing, and most successful tech companies (AMZN FB and GOOG) has done so well. Is past performance indicative of future results? No, but as far as strategies go, it’s hard to beat.

If someone says an investment strategy is ‘fail safe’ usually that’s an indication that it’s time to run to the exits, but Facebook, Amazon, and Google are exceptions, just by virtue of their immensely strong fundamentals and the fact that after a decade or longer no one has been able to come up with viable alternatives to compete with them. I remember in 2004 during the Google IPO, pundits said that anyone could come up with a ‘Google alternative’…lol 12 years later and we’re still waiting. Or in 2008-2012, predictions of a ‘Facebook alternative’, which of course has yet to happen and likely never will.

In capitalism 2.0, Bigger is better.

Just because Myspace lost to Facebook doesn’t mean Facebook will suffer a similar fate.

Airbnb, Uber, and Snapchat…all more valuable than ever, with no viable competitors on the horizon, and their valuations and market growth just keep rising, year after year, to no end, despite endless predictions by pundits of a bubble.

Contrary to popular belief, predictions of collapse are actually as common, if not more so, than predictions of a continuation of a trend. During the 80′s – 2000′s housing boom, predictions of a housing bubble were commonplace. Predicting the 2006 housing crash does not make one a contrarian, because such bearish predictions were actually as common as predictions of the housing market rising. If that seems backward, it’s because the media as of 2008 has given more attention those those who predicted a bubble. For example, Michael Lewis’ bestseller The Big Short, about how some canny traders made a fortune betting against the mortgage market. But the media also ignores all the forecasters were wrong all the way up, only to be right purely by chance in 2008. Likewise, during the 90′s dotcom bubble the media gave more attention to those who were predicting higher prices, but there were still roughly the same number of people who were predicting lower prices, but it’s just that they were mostly ignored, creating a false consensus that everyone was euphoric.

From a market perspective, the number of sellers (pessimists) has to roughly equal the number of buyers (optimists). For prices to keep rising, you need people to sell to the buyers.

These huge tech companies companies don’t need to innovate that much, rather they have market dominance and effortlessly print money through their ad platforms and other services. As the Economist article mentions, they tend to be very well insulated from global economic events (unlike the energy sector or financial sector), and these huge tech companies are also especially well suited to take advantage of global markets. Google, Facebook, and Amazon derive a significant chunk of their revenue overseas. And they can use foreign markets, loopholes, and other accounting schemes to dodge regulations and taxes that are unavoidable for smaller companies.

Up until the late 2000′s, major tech companies seem to have a about a decade of solid growth and stock price appreciation, before tapering and contracting or even collapsing (Cisco, Oracle, Sega, Sony, Atari, 3com, Research in Motion, etc.), but nowadays, as of 2004 or so, major tech companies seem to do a much better job at retaining their growth, market share, and share price appreciation.

Also, the stock market has done a much better job of quickly punishing losers (gopro, fitbit, etc.) but also rewarding winners. The investing landscape is much more choosy and selective, which could explain why active management is having such a hard time in an otherwise very strong bull market. It’s not like the late 90′s when all tech stocks were indiscriminately bid higher. You have the pick the cream of the crop or you will fail. You have all these experts who manage millions or even billions of dollars and they are just as clueless as average investors.