On Anonymity

Perusing the usual suspects this morning, I came across a piece at Liberty’s Torch which bears some commentary. In it, Francis explains his view on the recent unpleasantness from CNN and anonymity in general:

 I do disapprove of what CNN did. There are Internet users with good reasons to keep their real names a secret. Certainly the maker of that video was within his rights to travel under an anonymizing moniker. However, allow me to say that:

 

  • I have much more respect for persons who don’t hide their identities when they express themselves;
  • Had this fellow traveled under his right name, CNN would have been unable to do him any harm.

 

I understand that in our time, a policy of openness about who you are and what you believe is double-edged. Those who find your thoughts persuasive will respect you more than otherwise. However, those who find your sentiments (or you personally) offensive or threatening will be able to target you. If you regard yourself, or persons you love, as too vulnerable for my policy, I understand your decision.

 

But remember the breadth of the Internet, and the tissue-thinness of the concealment an anonymizing moniker provides. What CNN did to that video maker, it can do to you. For that matter, it takes far less clout and far fewer resources than those possessed by CNN to do it.

 

Just a quick thought. Feel free to dismiss it as the blather of a man who probably has “nothing to lose.” Except that if you really knew how much I have to lose, and how often vicious persons have threatened me and it, you might sing a different tune.

Personally, I am very divided on this issue. As a result, I continue to operate under a sort of partial anonymity. I am immune to casual attempts to discover my identity. But I don’t operate under any sort of security, and, indeed, my photograph is in the upper right corner. It is also present on my Twitter feed. My Facebook friends are aware of my generally Right-wing leanings, now. I have spoken about family history, and it would not be difficult at all to discover my identity. Indeed, I’ve been doxed before.

At the same time, I don’t sign my name at the end of every piece for a very important reason: it could cost me money. Among my clients and business partners, I deliberately avoid political discussion. No doubt a good many of them are fully aware of my views anyway. But by avoiding discussion of such matters, we focus more readily on matters of business.

Fact is, I don’t expect most folks to understand my views or how I came to believe them. And if any are inclined toward Leftism, not only would they fail to understand my views, they would possibly come to see them as racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or whatever. It is likely I would lose business.

Now, one might say I am being dishonest with them. But that’s not true either. I explicitly avoid political discussion with them, and they grant me the same courtesy. There are no lies exchanged, only a shared understanding that political discussion can ruin otherwise good business relationships. Now, if CNN came and made a national news story out of something I said, the issue would be forced with them. Their compatriots would ask “why do you associate with him, he said (insert something they don’t like here)?” The relationship would thus be damaged, or destroyed.

On the other hand, I am not personally afraid to air my views. So I attach my photo. And to folks I trust aren’t out to cause me grief, I readily disclose my identity.

Nonetheless, if CNN made me the subject of one of their Maoist Struggle Sessions it would cost me a considerable amount of business. I could afford to suffer the loss, mind you. I generally live below my means and have significant savings and assets. Furthermore, while some of my clients are undoubtedly Left-leaning, many others are not and would probably stick by me even in such an event.

And this circles back to one of the strongest reasons to maintain some level of anonymity: your income. Character assassinations from the Left generally focus on your income. They want to get you fired from your job, or ruin your business, or render you unemployable. And they will twist and spin your words to do this, if necessary. They may even invent lies out of whole cloth, if they don’t find enough to incriminate you. They will take your words out of context, or interpret a joke seriously. If you’ve ever said anything hasty or angry on the Internet, they will unearth it and use that too.

Remember when that poor chef was tarred as a racist because she used the N-word once, decades ago, right after she was robbed?

If Leftists had respect for free speech, anonymity wouldn’t be necessary. And even today, as Francis says, putting your name to a thing shows a level of conviction that the anonymous often lack. But on the other hand, signing your name to a thing can carry a financial cost that one must be comfortable paying. It’s a trade off. Using your name grants authenticity, but can render you and yours more vulnerable.

Only you can decide if the risk is worth the reward. For myself, I have decided to split the middle. I go to no great effort to hide myself, but I maintain a sort of gentleman’s agreement to avoid too much political publicity for sake of my business relationships.

The fact of the matter is, it would be very unwise for CNN or any other entity to dox me and make me the focus of a struggle session, for then I would be freed to sign my name to all of this. The cost would have been forced on me anyway. They would get no apology from me, no grovelling. And I would only become more forceful about my opinions, not less.

Because at that point, what have you got to lose by just going with it? And that ties into another point. If the Left and the media keeps up with tactics like this, it could get very ugly. I have resources and alternate sources of income to carry me through such a time. What happens to folks who don’t have such resources to call upon? If you destroy their livelihood, you will have created an enemy with nothing to lose. You will have put their backs to the wall.

The Left ought to reflect very carefully on this. The anonymous denizens of the Internet could become a lot more dangerous if pressed into a corner. I wouldn’t recommend this course.

Financial Stupidity

This article just begged for a commentary: Scraping By On $500,000 A Year: Why It’s So Hard For High Income Earners To Escape The Rat Race.

Bask in the glorious title of this piece, and distill it down to its essentials: how to earn half a million a year and still be broke. Now, the author himself is not complaining about the situation, per se. Rather, he is merely documenting how it happens. But the collected financial ignorance in this piece is staggering to contemplate.

Look at the balance sheet:

FS-500K-Student-Loan

Let’s point out some obvious ones, shall we? If you make half a million a year, why do you have car payments to the tune of $10,000/year? If you’re complaining about not saving, not feeling “above average” why are you taking $18,000 worth of vacations every year? If your earnings are $500,000/year, what are you doing buying a $1.5 million home? $18,000 to the college alumni? What? And $32,000/yearly in student loan debt (this presumes near to $300k balance)? That’s nuts.

But let’s imagine someone is in this pickle. What do you do to get out of the rat race?

Easy. Sell the home, if you’ve some decent equity (the scenario above presumes $300k equity). Roll down to a cheaper place, rent for a while. Yes, if this is New York, that means Manhattan is off the table. Too bad. Roll the equity straight into the student loans. Now, no more student loans. $32k yearly savings. Stop taking the vacations for a couple years. $18k savings. Pay off the cars, or drive cheaper cars. $10k/savings. Kill donations to the alumni until you’re in a better situation. $18k/savings. That’s +$78k/year straight into the bank, plus whatever this family saved by dropping down a bit in their home (let’s give them 1/3 savings of $20k yearly). Take some smaller slices off of food spending and other smaller stuff, and this family is then easily banking over $100,000 per year.

Do that for around 10 years, and they have over $1 million in the bank, plus accumulated retirement savings. They can move to any less-expensive part of the country, buy a mansion in cash, continue to practice law (at, perhaps, a slightly lower pay scale) and live like kings.

This is one reason why I don’t trust a lot of these so-called experts, because they are so incredibly stupid in very basic life matters. What I posted above is not rocket science, it is not something beyond the reach of a man with pretty average intelligence and education.

Why, then, are so many highly-paid people so financially illiterate?

It boggles the mind. There was a time in my 20s when I was relatively stupid with money. I say relatively because, I think, even at my worst I was less stupid than most. But for a time, I had car payments, and occasionally carried modest credit card balances (never do this, by the way, but it was at least less than $1,500), and I got myself into a mortgage when I shouldn’t have, which ended rather badly due in part to Florida’s ongoing insurance nightmares.

Eventually, I realized all of this was stupid. I got rid of the bad house, sold the nice car and bought a shitbox for a while, paid off all credit card debt, partly by selling off some valuables, and then started working on the one remaining mortgage (the one that didn’t have a flood insurance nightmare chasing after it).

In the meantime, I took a daytime contracting job in addition to my consulting business and my DJ business. I effectively work 2 1/2 jobs these days. I’ve taken exactly one vacation in my entire adult life, and that was on the cheap. My wife’s family had accumulated a boatload of airline miles, and we cashed them in for a free trip to Germany, where my wife had a number of friends we were able to stay with for a little over a week. The whole thing, for both of us, cost less than $2,500.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live entirely spartan either. Eventually the shitbox I kept for a few years, while I was paying down debt, became rather unserviceable. That was okay. For a $4,000 crappy car, it gave me three years of life. And I still got $2,500 when I sold the thing. For $500/year, I could get to where I needed to go. Once in a better situation, I allowed myself the modest luxury of a newer Ford Mustang with the 5.0 V8 motor in it. Still an inexpensive vehicle compared to what most folks in my line of work are driving around. But fun.

Have fun and enjoy luxuries now and then. But don’t live beyond your means. I have the title to that Mustang. No payments. No interest. No loans.

In a few years, the last remaining mortgage will be paid off, if things hold true a little longer. And then I can probably relax a little, and go back to working two sources of income, instead of three.

I’m no special genius or anything. It’s not really hard to do. It’s very basic math, and a little bit of self control, nothing more. And it’s really disturbing that so many folks have neither.

Here is some wisdom:

This is the goal: a position of “fuck you.”

If you make half a million dollars a year, this position is absurdly easy to achieve. If you’re like the rest of us working stiffs, it’s not as easy, but with some self discipline and working some multiple streams of income, you can still make it happen. And believe me, every bit of debt that you shed feels better than anything you could buy with that money. Your nice new car? It doesn’t feel as good as not having the payments.

Trust me on that. I’ve been in both places.

Weaponizing Debt: How SJWs Control the Narrative

My own story about home ownership is instructive in how toxic debt can be, and how it can be used to control your decision-making. That the elites in America, and all over the Western world, use this to manage your behavior is something that is pretty well documented elsewhere. Zerohedge tells us today that the wealthy avoid mortgage debt like the plague, and generally put their money into business, or other income-producing assets.

The thing is, this wasn’t always the case. Conventional wisdom, before the 2008 meltdown, told us that buying was generally better than renting and pissing your money away. And there was a time when that was at least partially true. In the times following World War II, communities were still intact and if you bought a home, the probability that it would suddenly become worthless was low. So making payments and slowly reducing the debt-load may have still been dangerous, but it was less risky than today.

After the Civil Rights era, of course, real estate agents figured out that there was big money to be had in block-busting in the name of desegregation. The salesmen could pretend to be virtuous agents of racial equality while simultaneously earning big paychecks. If you didn’t cash out quickly enough, your home was effectively worthless. The legacy of this, of course, is entire swaths of major cities that are ethnic ghettos. I leave it to my readers to determine whether or not any of this helped the cause of racial integration.

Destroit (I kept this typo, I liked it) serves as a case in point:

Detroit-Hiroshima

Block-busting, decades of mismanagement, and racial tensions stoked to maximum resulted in something marginally worse than a nuclear weapon.

Keynesians would love to institute negative interest rates and force everyone onto a cashless economy today, because then there would be even more ways to force you into debt. If, for example, all money was held at a bank because it was electronic, and couldn’t be otherwise, they could institute a negative interest rate on your savings and, essentially, force you to spend your money or lose it. Without a cashless economy, people would just stuff the bills in their mattresses. At the same time, they would offer “0% APR” loans with increasing quantity, pocketing the difference against the negative savings rate. This, naturally, would incentivize spending. It’s been a wet dream of Big Government elitists for generations.

But there is something else that is less commonly understood, and that is the relationship between debt and political censorship. It is at the very center of what the elitists are trying to do. Their SJW patsies are, of course, the designated attack dogs.

Consider my own recent case. Yes, I apologize for harping on it excessively, but I do prefer to use practical examples where possible. So someone doxxes you and starts making threats to your livelihood. They will tell your clients, or employer, or friends, family, etc… that you are a big meanie poopy-head Republican, and you say things they don’t like. Whatever.

Point is, if you are debt free, your expenses will be low. You will have to eat, and pay the usual bills. But these can be managed. You can eat a little less, conserve electricity and water, etc… They are at least partially in your control. But what about a car payment? What about a mortgage? What about the credit card payments and installment loans?

That’s a very different kettle of fish. You might be able to juggle some things around for awhile by being creative. But soon you are facing a wall which cannot be moved. You will lose your home, car, possessions and ruin your credit such that you cannot get these things again for a long time. Your family could be ruined with comparative ease.

How quickly would the average person correct their wrongthink and toe the party line? Or, at the very least, self-moderate their own positions to stay within the increasingly-narrow Overton window of the Left? Indeed, this has consistently been one of the most powerful weapons in the SJW arsenal, because they naturally subvert institutions and HR departments to put their men (or transsexual otherkin) into these positions. So help will not be forthcoming from these avenues. You cannot appeal, because the Court of Public Opinion answers to no higher court. And defending yourself is proof of guilt. Kakfa-trapping has been the preferred weapon of statists since the dawn of civilization.

But let’s try the same situation when you are debt-free. You own a small piece of property with some dilapidated old house. You have a beater car, a modest lifestyle, and considerable savings. When the SJWs come for you, you will laugh in their face. You could flip burgers and still afford to pay the bills. You could live for years off your stored savings.

Consider those like Vox and Mike Cernovich who are antifragile in this respect. They gain money and notoriety from SJW attacks. I wouldn’t know of either of these guys were it not for the constant attacks on them. The Progressives themselves elevated these figures to high visibility, not me.

Either way, whether a hard target approach or an antifragile approach, the SJWs will be unable to control you if you are debt-free.

I’ve been working for years to correct my earlier mistakes in life and purge remaining debt. I have a mortgage, still, on my one remaining property. Almost all of my extra money has been going into either savings, or paying this mortgage down. When it is done, I will be invulnerable to SJW assault.

Even now, I have made sure to court multiple income streams. The SJW found my DJ business and attacked that, but my other income channels are unaffected. Some of them are invulnerable to ideological attack by their very nature.

But only when I have no debt will I be free. Roman slaves used to have to buy their own freedom. And I’m starting to think that historians will think likewise of us. Our debt-peonage can be lifelong, or it can be bought out. And purchasing your own freedom is worth so much more than a shiny new Mercedes-Benz, or a house in the ritzy neighborhoods.

Francis made a good point the other day:

Everything you say here is true, Dys. To me the message is clear:It’s time to go on the attack. There are ways to do this that vary with individual circumstances. The central thing is to attack rather than defend, to advance rather than retreat. It always takes a bully by surprise — and 99% of them fold when thus confronted.

Trust in God and fear no man.

Being debt free is like creating a good rear guard to cover you. We’re in a Culture War, and the enemy has wizened up and attacked our supply lines, quite literally if you think about it. Secure your lines, and then go on the offensive. Expunge your debt. Sell off what you don’t need. Pay off the rest.

And then the only weapon the SJWs ever had against you will be rendered useless.

Airplanes and Risk

I posted this little gem as a reply over at Bastion of Liberty, but it bears repeating.

Yesterday, heading back to work from lunch at a Tex-Mex chain, a friend of mine expressed incredulity at the notion that people still fly little single-engined Cessnas around. The things have a terrible safety record. Two of them crashed around here in the last few months.

I responded that the Wright Brothers took their leap into powered flight on a haphazardly constructed, untested airframe constructed from used bicycle parts.

Risk, today, has become a dirty word, a thing to be avoided at all cost. Nearly 50% of people in America are on some form of government assistance, because they cannot dream of standing on their own. They cannot imagine life without a safety net. It’s too risky. They might not make it on their own. The plane could crash down.

But all that dead weight is, itself, a risk. It is a much greater risk than that of mere individual failure.

If you haven’t already, give Nassiim Nicholas Taleb’s book, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, a try. I found it remarkably insightful about matters of risk.

%d bloggers like this: