Making sense of the news cycle

I am finding it increasingly difficult to consume information without being overwhelmed. There are so many articles, books, blog posts I want to read; so many podcasts to listen to; so many discussions to participate in, and so on.

Between 2017-2018 it seemed there was a dearth of stuff going on, except for perhaps North Korea (remember that?) and the Trump tariffs against China, but now there is a torrent of news, including but not limited to:

Stimulus spending and its efficacy or lack thereof, such as the $600 or $2000 checks and PPP loans; the debate over how much money should be allocated for whom and what.

The inauguration of Biden, and predictions and expectations of the Biden presidency: will it be better than expected, worse than expected; court packing, student loan debt forgiveness, etc.

Q-anon…even though none of its prophecies have come true, what does the significance of Q as a movement say about America and the people who follow it.

The rise of civil unrest, and is America’s increasingly divided and contentious political climate economically and societally destabilizing (I think not, but it will be interesting to see what happens).

Covid…such as vaccines, masks, and the efficacy or lack thereof of such measures; the debate over individual rights vs. public safety: should vaccines be mandatory or not such as for travel or required by employers.

The US economy…will worsening political division and increasing Covid cases lead to a recession (I predict not, but it is a subject of considerable debate online).

The Capitol Hill protests and its aftermath: what will happen to those who were arrested; will there be a repeat protest; is the ‘Green Zone’ indicative of rulers and elites’ increased distrust and resentment of the American people?

BLM and Antifa protests. Although these have died in down in recent months, it is still an ongoing issue.

The rise of tech censorship, such as Trump being suspended from Twitter, Parler having its hosting terminated by Amazon and its app blocked from the Apple App Store, Google Play, etc. On hacker News and elsewhere, even leftists are wondering if tech companies are going too far in suppressing certain content and views.

Similar to the 2014 rise of gamergate, which came out of nowhere and challenged and disrupted the post-2008 Obama left-wing online hegemony–and to some extent also led to the rise of the alt-right, the IDW, and the surprise victory of Trump–liberals are possibly concerned that such censorship will lead to a backlash or retaliation that is more than they could have bargained for, if they go too far. Although, at this point, as long as they [the left] control the platforms, the hosting companies, and the payment processors, the ability of ‘alt-tech’ to mount much of a resistance, is limited. It is not enough to just build alternative social networks, as Parler tried to do, but you also have to build the infrastructure itself such as hosting.

And finally, the postmortem of the Trump presidency. I predict, despite Obama and Bush serving two terms, Trump’s single term will lend itself to much more analysis and critique than either of the past two presidents. Online, people are writing ten-thousand word exegesis about Trump, which I never saw with Obama or Bush, in which for the former analysis tended to be much more terse along the lines of “a good president…something..something Obamacare, oh and drone strikes”; or in the case of Bush “a bad president, two pointless wars, financial crisis, 911…etc. etc.” BUt Trump was not just a president, nor was MAGA just political movement, but his significance runs so much deeper, permeating to the cultural foundations and bedrock of America, and breaking open century-long rifts about race and the integrity of the democratic process itself, that were long assumed to be closed. Trump accomplished what no other president in recent American history was able to do–that is, his legacy, for better or worse, calls into question and challenges many of the assumptions about modern America itself.

Unlike in 2017-2018, the stakes seem much higher and the consequences tangible or real: such as the destruction of property, the rise of political violence, economic recession, etc.. For all the hype and doom and gloom by the pundits in 2018 over the specter of a trade war with China, the tariffs were sorta a snoozer: China didn’t really retaliate in any meaningful way as feared, inflation did not budge, and there was no recession or bear market. Everything bad that was supposed to happen, didn’t.

Remember in Jan 2017 the Muslim ban, which some on the left actually likened to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust (which doesn’t even make sense as a comparison given Hitler did not offer a choice of leaving, which I’m sure if he did many would have taken him up on his offer, versus, say, the alternative of being cremated, whereas the ban implicitly forbid entry, so two are categorically different things), but I think a grand total of a dozen people were actually inconvenienced by the ban, which was easily circumvented anyway. Same for immigration, in which there were no ‘mass depurations’ as so many on the left had feared, but rather the debate centered around ‘family separations’ and ‘kids in cages’, with conservatives blaming Obama for being the ‘real’ family-separator and kid-cager. This is yet another example of the right ‘losing by winning’.

But then Covid came out of the blue, although from China, but unlike the much-hyped economic consequences of the tariffs, which everyone was certain would be bad but in retrospect was a a dud, the virus and its consequences were almost entirely unforeseen and worse than expected, at least initially. The initial, oft-quoted IFR was between 1-2%, which was pretty bad and comparable to something like Hodgkin’s lymphoma or prostate cancer–but airborne–but by April, coinciding with the bottom of the bear market of the S&P 500, was revised to around .05-.5% as more testing data came in. The recovery. interestingly , was also much stronger and vigorous–especially in the stock market, GDP, and in the tech sector–than expected. All of this goes to show the inherent difficulty of predicting this sort of stuff, and how the media either tends or overreact or underreact.