September 7, 2018

Economic collapse, a catalyst for realignment that forges a new dominant coalition

To continue the series on parallels between now and just before the First Civil War, it's worth looking at the role played by the state of the economy in the transition from one political era to another.

Recall that the only time when there have been two -- rather than only one -- disjunctive, end-of-an-era terms before realignment was right before the Civil War. Pierce and Buchanan hailed from the dominant Jacksonian Democrats, before the Lincoln Republicans ushered in a whole new political era in 1861. Usually these frustrating, impotent, do-nothing phases of the cycle last only one term -- how much stagnation can the people, or more relevantly the elites, tolerate before a new dominant coalition is formed to shut down the crumbling old way and inaugurate a new way?

My hunch is that these realignments take twice as long to work out when the climate is so polarized on partisan lines, since realignment requires the old opposition party to steal away a large chunk of the old dominant party's electoral base, and more relevantly elite power sectors. If it's only temporarily winning them over, it's just a win for the opposition party -- not a realignment that makes them the ones who set the framework and dictate terms. It has to be a medium-to-long-term shift in allegiances.

That process is far more difficult on both sides when they are so polarized -- the chunk of the old dominant coalition that wants to break away hesitates because they'd be joining those scum from the other party, and the old opposition party cringes at accepting so large a chunk of those scum from the other party, giving them something big that they want, and sticking by them for the next several decades. Icky, disgusting defilement of our party's purity!

However, we have to be somewhat cautious since we only have one other period of intense polarization that we're comparing to the present. There could have been some other reason that the pre-Civil War disjunctive phase lasted two terms rather than just one, and that this cause will not happen in the current disjunctive phase, meaning the Reagan coalition will get kicked out for good in 2020 instead of 2024.

Since political coalitions form in order to advance the material interests of the sectors of society that use the party as their vehicle, we have to make economic factors central in the model of the rise and fall of political regimes. A widespread and severe economic collapse would shock the various elite sectors into re-evaluating their choice of coalition members, and the broad goals pushed by their parties.

Recessions and downturns happen more frequently than realignments of political coalitions, so they are not sufficient. Otherwise, we'd see major shake-ups every decade, when they only happen every 30 to 50 years. But looking over the history of economic collapses in America, it is a necessary condition for there to be a major economic panic, depression, or crisis to serve as a catalyst for realignment of coalitions.

I'm not going to go in-depth on the nature of each of these collapses, how they reflected and revealed the weaknesses of the dominant coalition's major goals, and how the elites (and people) felt as though only a major realignment of coalitions could end the crisis and usher in a whole new era of stability and prosperity. Right now I'm just going to list them, to establish their central role in breaking down the dominant coalition and inviting a new coalition to become dominant, before returning to the parallels between the First Civil War and today.

At the end of the Federalist era, there was the Panic of 1796-97 under Washington and Adams. In 1800, the Jeffersonian coalition took their place as the dominant party.

At the end of the Jeffersonian era, there was the Panic of 1825 under John Quincy Adams. In 1828, the Jacksonian coalition took their place.

At the end of the Jacksonian era, there was the Panic of 1857 under Buchanan. In 1860, the Lincoln coalition took their place.

At the end of the Lincoln era, there was the Panic of 1893 under Cleveland. He was an opposition Democrat president, so he didn't discredit the dominant Republican coalition, but it did discredit the laissez-faire framework of the Lincoln era, and forced the Republicans to realign under McKinley in 1896 toward the Progressive era.

At the end of the McKinley era, there was the Great Depression under Hoover. In 1932, the FDR coalition took their place.

At the end of the FDR era, there was the 1979 oil crisis and Early 1980s recession under Carter, as well as stagflation left over from the 1973 oil crisis and 1973-75 recession. In 1980, the Reagan coalition took their place.

So, perhaps the reason that the disjunctive phase of the Jacksonian era lasted two terms instead of one was because the first term, under Pierce, was not subjected to a major economic collapse that catalyzed a new coalition to replace Jacksonianism.

Economic downturns happen about once a decade, but not necessarily once every four years -- so Pierce dodged a bullet, and although the people and the elites were getting really fed up with the Jacksonians' extension of slavery (the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act), they didn't feel enough acute pain to get them angry enough to form a revolutionary coalition. The inevitable struck Buchanan, though, limiting him to be the last of the Jacksonians. If it had struck Pierce's term first, maybe the anti-slavery Republicans would have assumed dominant party status in 1856 instead of 1860.

We will soon be able to tell which of these two factors is more important, since there is a major collapse coming under Trump's term. It will not be a minor downturn that receives party-neutral blame -- during this end of the Reagan era, it will be seen as the culmination of their fundamental framework.

To wit: deregulation mania has allowed speculative bubbles to form time after time, "greed is good" has led to off-shoring our manufacturing sector to cheap labor colonies and left us with precious little productive capacity back home (and fewer taxes to collect from it), slashing taxes across the board has deprived the government of a way to pay for its programs, and the soaring military budget on behalf of permanent global occupation has sent the cost of those programs into the stratosphere.

We are not just facing the end of yet another speculative bubble (Tech Bubble 2.0), but a sovereign debt crisis. That's going to leave so ugly of a stain on the Reagan coalition that the power sectors of society will shake up their alliances, and suddenly a Bernie-style coalition will take the place of the Reaganites.

Perhaps agriculture will desert the GOP over tariffs / trade war, not to mention the colossal waste on the military occupation of the whole world that works wonders for the military and energy sectors of the Reagan coalition but leaves agribusiness out in the cold. (The farm-state Kochs are fairly anti-war, for being such powerful Reaganite players, and are also not in lockstep over the law-and-order authoritarianism that benefits the armed force sector of their coalition.)

Regardless of how it unfolds, we'll get to see how strong the role of economic collapse is, relative to hyper-polarization. If economic collapse is stronger, then the realignment will sweep in the Bernie revolution in 2020, after the widespread and severe recession coming under Trump. If it's secondary to the obstinacy of realignment per se, during a climate of intense partisan polarization, then not even a major economic collapse will shake up the coalitions by 2020, and it'll have to wait until 2024.

I wish we had more cases to examine, so we could resolve the ambiguity and make a clear prediction for the current era -- will the disjunctive phase last the usual one or the unusual two terms? Unfortunately, we are going to be the guinea pigs in this historical experiment.

September 2, 2018

Bernie band babe interviewed Ocasio-Cortez before it was cool

Intrigued by a recent Chapo Trap House interview with a member of indie rock group Parquet Courts, I decided to check up on what alternative music sounds like for the first time in awhile. One group that resonated with me is Sunflower Bean, and when I looked them up on Wikipedia, there's a picture of the lead singer interviewing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez "way back" in December 2017, before anyone in the corporate media even knew her name.

Here's a clip from Ocasio-Cortez's Twitter account, back before it got so popular:

Here is the full video. I detect a lot of near-footsie tension in that interview, after half-way through. Perhaps the title of this post could score an extra alliteration point with "bi-curious" Bernie band babe.

At any rate, below are two music videos by the band that came out around the time of the Ocasio-Cortez interview. Compared to their first album from a few years ago, this one is more normie-friendly, and broke into the top 40 on the UK albums chart.

Regarding one of the topics in the Chapo Trap House discussion, I appreciate the first song's blend of mainstream musical sensibilities and an overt Bernie-style political message. Re-alignment requires normalization of supposedly fringe positions -- only it turns out, they're not so fringe when people talk about them and discover how widely held they are.

I'd like to see bands like this play at Bernie rallies, especially if, like Sunflower Bean, they can draw in the Boomers as well as the Millennials, by sounding familiar to people raised on glam rock and Fleetwood Mac. Bernie's best campaign ad featured a timeless Simon and Garfunkel song, not some obscure dubstep song from 2009.

August 27, 2018

Bernie era will continue Reaganite Gilded Age, as Lincoln era continued inequality of Jackson era

As if the upcoming Second Civil War were not enough to deal with, at least we can breathe a sigh of relief after it's over, and go back to the New Deal days under a realigned Bernie-style party, right? That's certainly what people want, but not necessarily what the elites will do.

The closest parallel to the Bernie era is the Lincoln era that came after the Jacksonian era, which was like our current Reaganite era. The Lincoln Republicans made a lot of improvements over the Jacksonian Democrats, like ending slavery, tipping the balance toward manufacturing rather than agriculture, investing in infrastructure, and dialing down militarist expansion. Those kinds of changes seem entirely possible under the new era led by the Bernie followers' agenda.

At the same time, the Lincoln era saw the continuation of several negative trends that had begun under the Jacksonian era -- rising immigration, falling standard of living for ordinary people, rich getting richer (thus, widening inequality), partisan polarization, minimal civic organization, a laissez-faire approach to business, and the absence of a national or central bank to regulate the banks away from excessive risk-taking, which caused wave after wave of panics and depressions.

Those negative trends only began to reverse in the 1910s, well into the Progressive Era, and the reversal lasted throughout the New Deal / Great Society era. Here are two charts from Peter Turchin's work here and here on political dynamics, the first showing inequality and well-being (things like real wages, health, and marriage), and the second showing political stress and well-being:

Just because Bernie himself and his followers want the New Deal as their model for when America was ever great before, does not mean that's what they'll be able to deliver when they start re-shaping society. Whatever constrained the Lincoln era to continue some of the corrosive aspects of the Jacksonian era, will probably constrain the Bernie era to continue these same corrosive aspects of the Reaganite era.

I don't see the Bernie people closing the floodgates of immigration that the Reaganites opened, the two parties acting on a largely bipartisan basis, the rise of civic organizations like we saw during the Progressive and New Deal eras -- since there is barely the seed of such groups right now, on the cusp of the Bernie era -- the imposition of all sorts of controls over business, a strong central bank that will keep the finance sector from inflating and then popping one bubble after another, or narrowing inequality between the rich and poor.

Why? Because the underlying causes of these problems were not addressed by the Lincoln realignment -- it was primarily a shift in power from one group of hyper-competitive elites to another. That did undoubtedly bring about good things, since the elites in the former dominant party were the worst -- dependent on slave labor for their plantations, mindless expansion for military elites, and low tariffs and no infrastructure.

Shifting power to a different bloc of hyper-competitive elites -- like the manufacturing magnates -- meant the dominant coalition now had no material interest in slavery, low tariffs, minimal infrastructure, or militarist expansion. But that simply meant that the trend in inequality would continue widening, only replacing the plantation owners of the South with the manufacturing Robber Barons of the North. These Robber Barons didn't mind hordes of cheap labor immigrants flooding our shores, which meant the factory owners didn't have to pay as much in wages. And why would the Robber Barons make bipartisan peace with the plantation owners, after all the hell they had caused just yesterday?

What are the underlying causes that must be addressed? Turchin has another good summary of the structural-demographic model of societal instability, where three major factors cause instability to rise (and their reverse, to fall):

1. Over-supply of labor below the elite level, whether by soaring numbers of aspiring workers or vanishing jobs to meet that supply.

2. Over-production of elites (including aspiring elites), and their rising competitiveness with one another.

3. Deteriorating health of the state, especially its fiscal health.

Read his summary for how these all interact with each other, and how they combine to influence societal instability.

Here, the main point to make is that most of the people today who would be re-shaping society under a Bernie realignment are not working to do much about these factors. Indeed, if you brought them up explicitly, the Bernie leaders would probably say what's the big deal? That strongly suggests that these negative trends will continue even under an era whose dominant coalition is a Bernie style group.

(I'm distinguishing Bernie leaders from Bernie voters, who are more likely to support reversing these negative trends, but who won't have much power to re-shape society.)

First, they say little about the role of immigration in causing a drastic spike in the supply of labor overnight at the sub-elite level of workers. That could not happen through endogenous demographic forces, such as a baby boom in fertility among natives. They insist on never reducing immigration, when asked directly about it.

On the other side of the standard-of-living equation, they say little about "bringing good jobs back" to this country. Little of the vanishing jobs story has to do with automation -- maybe at some point in the future, but the immiseration of working people during the Reagan era has mainly been caused by off-shoring decent jobs to cheap labor colonies like China, Mexico, and India. The Bernie people say very little about industrial policy, other than they don't want further good jobs to leave through additional free trade deals.

Are they proposing draconian punishments on greedy anti-American corporations, unless they de-industrialize the cheap labor colonies and re-industrialize America? Not really, so good jobs will probably not come back even under the Bernie era.

So there will be little progress on fighting cheap labor policies -- hence their far more prevalent emphasis on a more generous welfare state, to ameliorate the pain dealt by the greedy corporate bosses, rather than to force them to provide workers with deservedly high-paying jobs in the first place.

Second, if anything the Bernie people are ratcheting up the over-production of elites by calling for debt-free college tuition, since going to college is the primary channel by which aspiring elite members try to gain access to the upper stratum.

That will send the higher ed bubble into overdrive, turn everyone into an aspiring elite member with an entitled attitude and lifestyle, and place even more of the population on the "not working-class" side of the class war. Bubble degree mills don't provide anything of value in skills or training, so again their focus is on providing a more generous welfare state to soften the landing of people who just figured out that getting a degree per se doesn't get you into the elite stratum.

To her credit, Ocasio-Cortez does make sure to qualify her endorsement of the "debt-free college" talking point by adding, "or trade school" -- something actually worth a damn, not part of the higher ed bubble, and not an intensification of status-striving elite wannabes. That would actually be a recognition that we have to stop goading everyone into striving to join the elites, and take up something useful and humble instead -- and as an added benefit, something that will lead to an actual job paying actual money!

Reversing the over-production of elites requires popping the higher ed bubble once and for all, letting 10-15% go to college (cheaply by nature, with a dramatic drop-off in the demand for college admissions), and everyone else getting cheap or free training through vocational classes in high school, trade school, apprenticeships, etc.

Apart from the career angle to elite status, most of the Bernie people don't seem interested in reversing the trend toward urban residence in only the most rarefied of metro areas. They are embarrassed about living in Milwaukee or Detroit -- major metros, but not major enough -- and must transplant themselves to Seattle or New York. This falls under lifestyle striving and persona striving -- you're just too cool to have the stink of Milwaukee rubbing off on you, and can only be cleansed as your awesomeness deserves to be in Brooklyn. Courtier living is no different just because it comes in a hipster flavor.

To reverse hyper-competitiveness, people need to stay where their roots are, or re-populate small towns rather than feed the Moloch of major metros.

And third, the Bernie people seem openly dismissive of the national debt being a problem -- $20 trillion, $100 trillion, who cares? That's just how things are paid for -- we're simply going to re-direct that debt-fueled flow of goodies away from the Reaganite welfare addicts like the military, and toward Bernie patronage recipients like grad students working at Starbucks who can't afford to live in Williamsburg without some kind of help.

I'm a little more hopeful on this one, since the Bernie coalition will still have the finance sector as its senior member, just like today's Democrats, and they are heavily interested in keeping the debt down. If it explodes, then their financial assets, mostly denominated in US dollars, become worthless (either through inflation, or debt default destroying trust in the dollar). And their elite schemes are not as costly as the military, and actually have some chance rather than no chance of providing a return on the investment (all our foreign military adventures are pure wastes of money, with no loot, booty, or spoils to bring back).

And I'm not talking about how Medicare for All would require debt to finance it -- it's still cheaper than the way we do it now. I mean their overall attitude that worrying about the debt is one of those corporate Republican attitudes -- when it obviously is not, as proven by the Reaganites exploding the debt through the roof for 40 years, reversing the period of stable debt under the New Deal Democrats (done at the behest of the banks who controlled that coalition).

I don't see this as a gloom and doom outlook on the Bernie era that will follow the upcoming civil breakdown. It's just a realistic assessment of how political and economic dynamics work, as shown throughout history, including our own. We are not at the phase that immediately precedes a New Deal kind of phase, so it's going to take us longer to get there than people are hoping for -- but it doesn't mean we'll never get there, that our nation is done for, etc.

It just means buckle up for a longer haul than you were expecting from the thought of reversing history one era backward, when cycles only move forward. If you've fallen from a recent peak, you just have to push through the upcoming nadir to start rising up the next summit as fast and as painlessly as possible.

August 22, 2018

GOP will keep House, similar to midterms before first Civil War

An earlier post looked at the history of midterms during disjunctive, end-of-an-era administrations. Unlike the standard pattern of midterms swinging control against the incumbent party of the White House, these midterms almost always began and ended with the White House party in control of Congress as well.

A couple clarifications are in order, though. First, we can ignore the results of Cleveland's midterms, as his admin was more of an interregnum between the Lincoln and McKinley eras, both of which saw the Republicans as the dominant party.

I put Cleveland as an end-of-an-era president because he was the last of the pure laissez-faire presidents before McKinley became a trailblazer against that orthodoxy. But Cleveland was from the opposition of his era -- the Democrats -- and so does not really qualify as a disjunctive president, who must be from the dominant party, representing the disintegration of the dominant coalition of the era. The fact that Cleveland's final midterm saw his party lose control of Congress is more likely due it its status as the opposition party of its era, hence always vulnerable to getting demoted back to second place.

More importantly, I only looked at the disjunctive midterm under Buchanan at the end of the Jacksonian era, when I should have included Pierce's as well. He was the first of the disintegration presidents before the Civil War: the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act under his watch in 1854 was a clear signal of the breakdown of the dominant coalition and the coming end of its rule. It broke the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (before the Jacksonian era, during the Era of Good Feelings), which limited the expansion of slavery in the new territories out West. By allowing slavery in the new territories, all bets were off on the pro and anti-slavery states maintaining their uneasy truce.

Going into the midterms, the disjunctive Democrats controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress. You might think that the catastrophe of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which was signed on May 30, would have dealt the dominant party a severe blow by midterm time. And while the Democrats did lose seats in both chambers, they still held the Senate outright, and held the largest number of seats in the House, albeit a plurality rather than a majority, as the non-Democrats fractured into a number of opposition parties.

Among these, two basic groups cohered -- a realignment coalition that wanted to check or abolish slavery, lead by the Republicans, and a pro-status quo coalition that wanted to emphatically ignore the slavery question, lead by the Know Nothings AKA the American Party. With such divergent goals on the major issue of their time, as the nation was building up to civil war, it was truly as though three factions were vying for control -- the anti-slavery Republicans, the increasingly unhinged Democrats who were now allowing slavery anywhere, and the status quo American Party that wanted to avoid the issue altogether.

In two earlier posts, here and here, I showed how the Russiagaters today are like the American Party (Know Nothings) of the final terms of the Jacksonian era. Their obsession with blaming an external leader -- Putin or the Pope -- for their own electoral failures, was just a rationalization. Their real issue was maintaining the status quo instead of going along with a long overdue realignment, rejecting the extremists of "both sides". The American Party saw both the abolitionists and the secessionists as extremes to be avoided, just as the Russiagaters view the Bernie and Trump camps as extremes to be avoided.

Another parallel is that the American Party initially drew lots of Democrats, who were the dominant and incumbent party, rather than being a pure splinter group from the opposition Whig party. Today, that's like the Russiagaters having a good number of Republicans on their side -- not so much among voters, but among politicians and officials, who are the ones who ultimately allow or delay a realignment. Their shared fixation on Russia is superficial -- they really join forces to prevent Trump from delivering on his populist campaign promises, and to prevent Bernie from doing much the same thing if he were to take over.

And yet, with all those defectors from both the dominant and opposition party who poured into the American Party in the 1854 midterms, they still couldn't crack a majority. In 2018, that may not take the form of separate parties, but there will be a surge in anti-realignment politicians hailing from both the dominant and opposition parties -- Russiagaters from Democrats, and Never Trumpers and anti-tariff Republicans.

Just as in 1854, that won't knock the dominant party into a minority in either house of Congress. Back then, they only had a plurality in the House (but majority in the Senate) because the defections were at the party level, whereas this time around when the parties have stabilized more, it will be more at the sub-party level. That means the GOP will keep both the House and Senate, even though they will lose members in the House and do about even in the Senate.

Why? Just look back at 1854, which is where we're at now in the cycle. There was a disastrous act passed that opened the door to civil war over slavery, and yet the American Party's main campaign theme was to ignore it and try to preserve the status quo? During these kinds of crises that only explode during a disjunctive phase, the opposition must offer radical change to realign the system. But they are too hidebound to offer that much change, at least during a midterm season without a national presidential candidate to spearhead a major realignment movement.

So, while voters remove support from the dominant party, it's not enough to remove them from power because the alternative is not offering major change to a major crisis.

If that seems unlikely, remember that during the disjunctive Hoover admin, the GOP began with full control of government after the 1928 election, and despite the Great Depression exploding during late 1929, they still held onto full control of the White House and both houses of Congress after the 1930 midterms. After the Great Depression! The opposition Democrats were not offering the New Deal programs just yet, so what good were they going to be in saving the country from the collapsing economy? The GOP lost plenty of seats, but not enough to lose majority status.

This year's opposition Democrats are not offering enough of a radical change to counter the escalation of militarism, the record widening trade deficits and de-industrialization, soaring numbers of cheap labor immigrants, falling real wages and deteriorating standard of living, and last-ditch inflation of the bubble economy by cutting taxes without paying for them, leading to yet another record year for our national debt. So while voters will not be pleased with the GOP's performance so far, they will not transfer power to the Democrats.

The big story is the rise of the Bernie candidates, just as 1854 saw the first-ever explosion of the realigning Republicans. They began with no one in the Senate before 1854, and picked up 3 (out of 62). And they began with only 4 in the House and ended with 37 (out of 118). Whether they're affiliated with Our Revolution, Justice Democrats, the Democratic Socialists of America, or are their own economic populist and anti-imperialist, these candidates are the clear wave of the future.

The bad news is that it's looking more and more like we're headed for the Civil War parallels, where there will be two disjunctive terms instead of only one. Just as there were Pierce and Buchanan, we're going to have to suffer through both the Trump and the Pence/Haley admins before populist realignment. The opposition Democrats are just as fragmented as the Whigs during the 1850s, and it is the psychotic centrists who will spoil the election of 2020 just as they did in 1856, by running a former big wig of the opposition whose sole campaign theme will be preserving the status quo and ignoring the big issues that are coming to an explosive head.

In 1856, the "ignore the big problems" campaign was led by a former president of the opposition party, Fillmore, but technically he was only elected to the vice presidency, and ascended to the presidency on the death of his senior running mate, Taylor. If history repeats itself, that leaves the last guy who got elected vice president for the opposition -- Joe Biden, whose sole campaign theme will be "Why can't we just go back to 2012?"

In a three-way battle between Bernie, Biden, and whoever the Republican is, the GOP will win by an even wider margin than in 2016, owing to the vote-splitting effect among the opposition, just as the disjunctive Democrat Buchanan won by an even wider margin in 1856 than his predecessor did in 1852, again due to the psychotic centrist splitting the vote among the opposition.

For now I'm keeping the chances of this "two disjunctive terms" scenario below 50%, but when the Democrats fail to pick up either house of Congress in the midterms, I will raise it above 50% if the psychotic centrists double down on ignoring the major issues and offering only the status quo, at a time when it is rapidly disintegrating. When the status quo was strong, during the '90s, it was feasible to offer their take on the status quo and win. But by now, Reaganism is dead, and they must offer a wholly different system -- at least as radically different as the system that Trump campaigned on in 2016.

This is not a general feature of disjunctive phases -- every other time there was a shift of regimes, the disjunctive phases lasted only one term. But at a time of soaring partisan polarization, as we last saw during the 1850s, the stubbornness and hyper-competitiveness applies even within the party, not just between them. Not only is bipartisanship dead, partisanship itself is coming undone -- now political solidarity and collective action only scale up to the level of a faction or wing within a party.

August 18, 2018

Bannon's firing, one year on: "I Put a Ban on Their Visas" (Tropical House Remix)

On the anniversary of Steve Bannon's expulsion from the Trump administration, I present a song about the tragic rise and fall of the would-be master strategist for transforming the GOP into a populist and anti-globalist vehicle, when the party has become too sclerotic to reform and redeem itself.

To the tune of "I Took a Pill in Ibiza" by Mike Posner (Seeb Remix):

* * *

I put a ban on their visas
To show 'em Trump and I could rule
And the Pentagon's order
Let Saudis through the border
But fuck it, it was making the news

I'm working outta DC
To see that NAFTA gets removed
I protect blue collars
Make the wealthy pay more dollars
And we'll spend it on bridges and schools

But you don't wanna war-cry like me
Never gonna say die like me
You don't ever wanna step out that Oval Office
And be all alone

You don't wanna self-combust like this
Never using antitrust like this
You don't wanna be cucked on global trade, singing
Cucked on global trade, singing

All I know are swan songs, swan songs
Darling, all I know are swan songs, swan songs

I'm just a thinker
Who's already an afterthought
I disgust fine diners
Gotta find a realigner
'Cause the party keeps losing the plot

And I can't swing the Dem vote
'Cause as soon as the platform's up:
"In Iran, a million troops
And tax cuts for groups
That the bankers gave trillions of bucks"

But you don't wanna war-cry like me
Never gonna say die like me
You don't ever wanna step out that Oval Office
And be all alone

You don't wanna self-combust like this
Never using antitrust like this
You don't wanna be cucked on global trade, singing
Cucked on global trade, singing

All I know are swan songs, swan songs
Darling, all I know are swan songs, swan songs

August 15, 2018

Populists and anti-globalists still rising among Dems, GOP doubles down on elitism and globalism

Another series of primary elections, another outcome of zero Republicans running -- let alone winning -- on Trump's 2016 campaign themes of populism and anti-globalism. In case there was still any doubt, the GOP is not realigning one millimeter. At best you'll get a few candidates who promise to crack down on immigration -- same ol', same ol'.

With absolutely no progress on The Wall -- no construction, no plan, no funding, no support, despite total GOP control over government -- immigration has now taken the place of abortion for Republicans. Some candidates will promise to do something about it, single-issue voters will turn out on their behalf, nothing whatsoever gets done in office, if anything it gets even worse, and the voters alleviate their cognitive dissonance by saying "next time" forever. They'll start building the wall right after they overturn Roe v. Wade.

On the opposition side, there are now going to be not one but two members of the Democratic Socialists of America in Congress, after Rashida Tlaib won her safe Dem district in Detroit. Like her fellow DSA Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she will be taking the place of a supposedly safe Democrat Establishment icon -- John Conyers, the longest continuously serving member of the House before he got booted by Me Too last December. Younger would-be members of his dynasty were shut out from taking over his seat.

Ilhan Omar, from another safe Dem seat in Minneapolis, will not be a net gain since she's replacing Keith Ellison, one of only 10 Congressmen who endorsed Bernie back in the 2016 primary. But it still shows that the Bernie wing is not losing members from government, and is only adding to them.

She's described as Somali, but is half, and also half-Yemeni -- and not from one of the jihadist factions there, given her opposition to the Saudis' war in Yemen and our military's role in it. Identity-obsessed hacks on both sides will underscore her being Somali, refugee, Muslim, etc., but it's clear that Minnesotans voted for her based on populism and anti-globalism.

See this list of her positions on foreign policy and trade policy, and tell me how different it is from what Trump ran on -- and periodically reiterates, even if no one else in the GOP government will deliver what he wants. Trump nearly won Minnesota by convincing people that he was not a real Republican, and would pursue policies that their Representatives like Keith Ellison or Ilhan Omar could totally get on board with. But after allowing himself to be captured by the GOP Establishment, he's lost most of the unorthodox appeal he used to have.

With Paul Ryan retiring, a realigning GOP would vote for anyone other than Paul Ryan's aide as his replacement. But since realignments are never carried out by the dominant party of a historical period, it falls to the Dems to put someone more populist in Ryan's place. Randy Bryce won the Dem primary on a platform of Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, and other Bernie-style policies. This district is not a safe blue one, but is at least up for grabs with the incumbent Ryan retiring, and leaving his butt boy to fill his empty suit.

So far, it looks like the Bernie revolution is going to do best in the Snow Belt and worse in the Sun Belt, as they had little to show in California, Hawaii (Tulsi Gabbard remains, but Kaniela Ing lost big), Missouri (right-to-work rejected by referendum, but Cori Bush lost her primary), and Kansas (James Thompson won his primary, but the district is deep red and he offered no way for Republicans to switch sides).

It's not racial differences, since Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Omar are all women of color who ran in districts with large minority populations. It looked that way during the 2016 primary, where Bernie won big with whites but got destroyed by blacks and Hispanics at the individual level, and from there to the state level. Now it looks more like a split between the left-behind Snow Belt and the boomtown Sun Belt -- mirroring Trump's appeal to "the forgotten man and forgotten woman".

Even Ocasio-Cortez's district, seemingly in a prosperous metro like New York, is filled with downwardly mobile transplants who thought they were going to get a nice job and live in Manhattan, then revised their expectations down to Williamsburg, then to Astoria, then to wherever else next. Not to mention the victims of gentrification in this district. No one there feels higher and higher expectations over time, whether they're would-be elites or would-be working class kings.

As we head into our Second Civil War, the old battle line between North and South is rearing its ugly head again. Disturbingly, that may apply all the way out West this time, with California resisting both the Bernie realignment and the GOP at the same time, struggling in vain to stay neutral before an obvious civil conflict, while the Pacific Northwest goes along with changing climate. But that's a historical analogy that'll have to wait for another post to explore.

July 29, 2018

Ocasio-Cortez's threat: Revolutionary normies and cuties, not counter-cultural freaks

It's stunning how fixated the neoliberals of both parties have been on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after her upset win over Establishment bigwig Joe Crowley. That includes just about everyone in the GOP, whether conservatives or libertarians, as well as a big chunk of the Democrat party, who are desperately trying to reassure folks that she only won for neoliberal-friendly reasons -- being a woman, being non-white, etc.

Both sides know she won for her Bernie-like focus on inequality, class, trade, anti-militarism, and so on. That wouldn't be so threatening if she were a fringe candidate, since then they could admit why she won but write it off as something that doesn't appeal to normal people.

What worries them the most is that an open democratic socialist who dethroned a 20-year incumbent, and head of the local political machine, is not a bitter misfit with pink hair and a nose ring, facial tics, a condescending tone of voice, a "loves humanity but hates people" attitude, a strict diet of soyburgers and obscure indie bands, and an obsession with social and cultural issues like letting trannies invade the girls' bathroom.

She's someone from the pretty-and-popular crowd of your high school, not one of the self-important ones, but a people-person who genuinely likes interacting with her fellow students from across a broad range of cafeteria cliques.

The kicker: she came to her views organically, became an organizer for the Bernie campaign, and ran for office in order to see them implemented, not because some political machine wanted a wolf in sheep's clothing to trick the voters.

In a normal world, a warm, wholesome, maternal woman under 30 is not supposed to be agitating for fundamental political change. But that only reveals how fucked-up our world has become. It's no longer the misfits, miscreants, and misanthropes who are angry at their place in the social order -- over the course of the Reagan revolution, the economy has become so rigged in favor of the 1%, even "the girl next door" is willing to burn it down so we can recover the system that we enjoyed before.

When the system has lost the trust of those who usually favor conformity and the status quo, the regime's legitimacy is over. Sooner rather than later, it's going to get brought down.

July 27, 2018

Russiagaters swell cable news safe space, destroy triggering social media sector

Another day, another social media giant crushed by declining user growth, which will only accelerate next quarter, particularly in the US where it matters. Twitter's stock tanked by over 20%, joining Facebook in the bursting of the Tech Bubble 2.0.

Although growth has been plateau-ing for the past several years, it's really the post-2016 election climate that has driven so many users off of the sites, especially liberal women, who are the most sensitive to political messages they disagree with (most likely of all demographics to block, unfollow, unfriend, etc.).

It's more than just the content of the messages themselves, though: merely seeing someone's avatar and name reminds you of who the person supported in 2016, even if the content of their post is totally apolitical and mundane. "Another great day for grillin'! -- Margaritaville1957" "Yeah, and we ought to throw your ass on the grill for putting Putin's puppet in the White House -- Nursety Woman [blue wave emoji]".

And then there are the indelible associations that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram have with the most devious psy-op in world history, having been the sites via which the Kremlin tricked all those white working-class Obama voters in the Rust Belt to vote for the anti-NAFTA candidate. Indeed, who knows if those psy-ops ever ended? If the Russians are hell-bent on our destruction -- AND THEY ARE -- then they're only going to intensify their hijacking of America's favorite social media sites.

On social media, you just never know if you're interacting with a Russian-programmed bot, a real-life Kremlin apologist, or one of Putin's unwitting dupes -- who is nevertheless spreading enough desinformatziya to bring down the global order.

What's the only solution, then? Log off of social media altogether.

For, social media are defined by the activity of individuals voicing their views to a broad audience, and sharing the views of others. This makes it impossible for someone who doesn't want to come into contact with triggering views to simply avoid them. There are too many sources of triggering views, and too many channels through which they could reach a user -- sharing, re-tweeting, signal-boosting by liking, and so on and so forth.

But the Russiagaters cannot simply abandon political discussion entirely. They want to find refuge, not wander alone through the wilderness. They want a trusted specialist to make their shell-shocked brain feel better, not rely on their own personal rationalizations. And most of all, they want to make sure that the space is fortified against any brain-hurters from outside. They don't seek an open forum, but a closed therapist's office. They don't want a dispassionate debate moderator, but an "I'm there for you" advocate-doctor with a good bedside manner.

So, while Russiagate has emptied out social media, it has only swollen attendance at the digital therapy wards of liberal cable news shows, all housed in the hospital of MSNBC. According to the latest ratings, it is the only cable news channel to show growth in viewers year-over-year, while their competitors are declining, across all time slots. The doctors at CNN are too clinical and matter-of-fact in their bedside manner, turning off liberal patients, and would-be viewers of Fox no longer need their own nursing since their party has returned to power.

Unlike social media, no outside voices will ever reach the viewers on a cable news show. Producers may occasionally excerpt what their ideological enemies are saying, just to rile up the viewers for a brief moment before dropping the hammer on them. But by and large, content is strictly controlled by a handful of censors at the top level. And if an anchor ever tried to include outside voices, their show would get slammed in the ratings as viewers felt their brains hurt, disciplining the anchor back into the approved narrative framework.

Complementing the maternal care-home is the paternal justice-enforcer. Liberals want not only someone to nurse their wounds that have already been inflicted -- they want a big bad dude to protect them from the other big bad dudes who might harm them all over again in the future. Thus, Russiagaters are now the most staunch defenders of the FBI, CIA, and NSA, and they want these feds and spooks to appear every day on their cable news panels to reassure them that the men with guns are looking out for them.

The rise of the propaganda nexus -- the intel agencies interfacing with the news media -- is partly a supply-side phenomenon, as the manufacturers and the distributors of current affairs narratives have integrated their informational supply chains. But it is just as much a reflection of recent changes on the demand-side, as liberals with PTSD from the 2016 election have fled the relatively open forums of social media, and sought refuge in the closed-off hospital wards of cable news, where their only visitors are government agents who provide further emotional comfort with updates on the progress of hunting down their assailants.

The social media sector will collapse for good if it tries to imitate the business model of the propaganda nexus, or allows itself to be acquired outright by them. There already exists a mature industry of providing ideological safe spaces for politically triggered groups, and social media's interactivity from all users cuts directly against the goal of safe spaces.

No amount of shadowbanning from Twitter, blocking from Facebook and YouTube, or de-ranking from Google will ever match the total command-and-control insulation provided by the producers at centralized news outlets (whether TV, print, or online). The producers of news media -- whose content is not user-generated by a mass audience -- just prevent outsiders from having a voice at the outset, whereas social media has to allow everyone a voice, and then hire 10,000 censors to monitor and flag ideologically problematic posters, or rely on faulty algorithms for censorship.

There is no surviving that battle, so social media had better just count the shell-shocked liberals as a lost cause, and preserve an enjoyable forum-of-users experience for the vast majority who don't need Mommy Maddow and Daddy Mueller to comfort them every night before bedtime.

July 25, 2018

Russiagaters burst Tech Bubble 2.0: Facebook bombs as galled progs log off

After an all-around disappointing earnings call, Facebook's stock has collapsed, wiping out all of its gains for the year:

Well that escalated quickly: FB is now down over 20% from its closing highs, losing over $130 billion in market value and erasing all of post-Q1 earnings gains, making Mark Zuckerberg $16 billion poorer, and officially entering a bear market.

Facebook's earnings rarely miss estimates, and their calls have never sent the stock tanking like this. What gives? Their user growth has been crawling to a halt, their revenue growth rates are plateau-ing, and they've had to hire 10,000 more employees (50% rise). Thus, they expect total expense growth to exceed revenue growth in 2019.

The catalyst for Facebook's demise is Russiagate, which exposed how much their business model depends on selling information that they collect on users (who did not appreciate how much they were being spied on), required them to hire an army of content police in order to placate the Russiagaters' paranoia (which can never be satisfied, given how seething and moralistic it is), and drove so many liberal users off the site (as they forever associate the site with Russia hacking the election, and as their mental stability succumbs to all the political arguing on the site).

Conservatives mostly do not care about Facebook's crackdown on their side -- only once you get to the Alex Jones crowd do they resent Facebook enough to angrily post about it, or even delete their account. The liberal rage against Facebook is far more widespread and mainstream. Here's a representative tweet from MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes:

Read the replies, too, and hover over their avatar to see how mainstream their bios are. That tweet and its replies came from earlier today, before its stock plummeted. Now search Twitter for "Facebook," and see how many perfectly mainstream liberals are piggy-backing on the news of its stock price collapse with comments like, "Good -- they deserve it for spreading Russian propaganda and letting Alex Jones stay on the site".

Once worshiped by the cult of info-techno-philic liberals, Zuckerberg now finds himself blasphemed as a false god by his disillusioned followers. Every cause behind the recent collapse will only get worse over time -- the Russiagaters, both in the government and in the general population, simply cannot forgive Facebook for its sins and pretend to go back to the way things were before the Trumpocalypse of November 8th, 2016.

The Silicon Valley priests were supposed to protect us from the Anti-Christ, and yet they welcomed him right into the temple. "Helluva temple you got here, folks -- I'm gonna build it bigger and stronger than ever before, but the phony Pharisees probably won't give me any credit, that's okay." Such an abdication of their sacred duties to the community can never be forgiven, and they can never be allowed to have such power, influence, and wealth ever again.

This crippling effect of Russiagate applies also to Google, for failing to satisfy their paranoia about exorcising the Russian / Trumpian demons from their search results and news feeds, but more importantly from YouTube. So far, Google has managed to avoid the Inquisition and its howling mob, but don't count on that lasting forever, as Russiagate only grows more hysterical, and after they've already claimed their Facebook scalp. With the taste of victory in their mouths, they will only feel emboldened to bring down another false techno god that allowed the apocalypse to happen.

Amazon, a retailer, and Apple, a device manufacturer, seem safer from the original Russiagate accusations. So does Netflix, whose content is entirely fictional and apolitical or liberal. But that doesn't mean that the Russiagaters won't end up accusing them of a second-order failure -- to swoop in when the first-order techno gods had failed. We'll have to see how paranoid they get in their blame-casting.

Returning to the matter of which elite sectors can unite to stop Russiagate before it destroys the nation and the world, now we can add Facebook and likely Google into the anti-war column. One has had its material interests obliterated by Russiagate, making it now hostile to the Russiagaters' agenda.

This also reinforces the hostility of the finance sector toward Russiagate, since so many hedge funds and stock market indexes have Facebook's stock as one of their top holdings. The Russiagate mob has just wiped out another big chunk of the investor class's wealth, on top of blocking the investment banks from doing business with any entity connected in any way to any Russian oligarch or to Russia itself.

This should only give the finance and tech sectors all the more motive to expel the propaganda nexus -- the intel agencies and the news media -- from their political coalition of the Democrat party, and to de-financialize them and trust-bust them so that they're less effective at spreading paranoia. Those two propaganda sectors are directly responsible for Russiagate's creation and continued epidemic explosion. If it keeps spreading, the tech companies will become mere arms of the CIA and NSA, and get financially wiped out as no one uses them any longer.

July 24, 2018

Why Russiagate is not McCarthyism but Know Nothing-ism

Continuing a series on Russiagaters as Know Nothings...

I get the rhetorical strategy of comparing Russiagate to McCarthyism -- to accuse liberals of participating in the kind of witch hunt that they would be decrying in its original context. Or it's just the only example that comes to mind. But analytically, to see what's going on and where things are going, it's the wrong analogy.

McCarthyism, despite its namesake, was a Democrat program when they were the dominant party (New Deal), beginning with the first of the "Un-American Activities Committees" in the House -- the McCormack-Dickstein Committee in 1934. There were only two years during "McCarthyism" when the opposition GOP controlled the WH and Congress (1953-'54).

Know Nothing-ism was not just from the opposition party, but when it was out of power in the WH and Congress. It was powerless, not dominant. Russiagate comes from the opposition party when it's shut out of the WH and Congress, also powerless rather than dominant.

McCarthyism did not split the coalition of its practitioners -- New Deal Dems held together. Know Nothing-ism split the opposition to the Jacksonian Dems. Russiagate is splitting the opposition to the Reaganite GOP.

McCarthyism came from a period of falling partisan polarization and strengthening national unity. Policing the boundaries of the bipartisan, all-American system was a sign of national cohesion -- everyone pitching in to defend Us from Them.

Know Nothing-ism came from a period of soaring polarization and national fragmentation, and so does Russiagate. Both conspiracy theories are not trying to defend a strong cohesive nation, but to cast blame for what is very obviously a weakening and fragmenting nation. Right now, as in the 1850s, there is no unified cohesive "Us" to defend -- we're on the brink of civil war, secession, etc.

McCarthyism came before the disjunctive end-of-an-era phase of its period (pre-Carter, by a longshot). Anti-communism was one of the main goals of the dominant coalition -- to preempt a socialist revolution in America by giving workers more control over their workplaces, with labor unions, and a higher standard of living so they had nothing to complain about or be envious of.

Know Nothing-ism came during the disjunctive phase of its period (Pierce), and so does Russiagate (Trump). They do not represent achieving the goals set out by the dominant coalition, but desperate last-ditch efforts by (a faction of) the opposition. This compounds with the splitting of the opposition, to prolong the disjunctive phase, delay realignment, and lead to a bigger blow-up when the regimes finally change.

The disjunctive angle also explains the witch hunt nature of Know Nothing-ism and Russiagate, a quality that McCarthyism lacks (notwithstanding that play about it). The anthropology literature on witchcraft is clear: it is invoked to explain damaging events that appear to have no rational explanation. Simplifying: it's a way to blame "bad luck" on a more concrete and identifiable enemy.

Primitive people may know that a mosquito mechanistically causes human beings to fall ill after biting them. But why did this particular person, at this particular time, get bitten and fall ill? There must be a witch somewhere who had a grudge against the victim at the time, and those bad vibes drove the mosquito to bite the victim and make them sick. This witch is a specific individual, not a vague boogeyman, and it is the job of the witch doctor to figure out precisely which individual is to blame, and to cure them of their bad vibes, so the witch does not cause further harm to the victim (or others).

For McCarthyists, there was no catastrophe that had so shocked their brains, that they pointed to a witch to blame for their bad luck. The New Deal Dems had already defeated the fascists, one of the original enemies of the Un-American Activities Committees. And since the end of WWII, there were no incursions by the Soviets into a NATO sphere of influence. The Soviets didn't invade Hungary until 1956, and by that time McCarthyism was already dying. The near nuclear war of the Cuban Missile Crisis came in 1962, after McCarthyism was collapsing. The invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 did not resuscitate McCarthyism, nor did the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

And of course, as a movement by the dominant party throughout a period when they almost always held power in the WH and Congress, McCarthyism was not trying to rationalize the practitioners' fall from political power, temporary or otherwise.

Rather than a witch hunt, McCarthyism was more of an over-zealous prosecution of a truly existing threat -- Soviet spies really were infiltrating the government and other institutions, including sensitive sectors where they could betray the nation. Harry Dexter White was a senior official at the Treasury Dept, and the Rosenbergs et al were sending nuclear and other military secrets from Los Alamos. Over-zealous prosecutions can only be carried out for decades by strong coalitions, rather than weak and ineffectual coalitions.

Know Nothing-ism, however, was not a decades-long prosecution by a strong coalition, but a fleeting moral panic by a weak coalition. And it came in response to catastrophic bad luck -- the 1852 election of the disjunctive Pierce saw the opposition party wiped out of all but a few states, and the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 gave them seemingly no hope for easing sectional tensions over slavery. The Whig party utterly collapsed.

Some of its former members felt such a shock that extraordinary forces must have been at work -- it had to have been the ultra-powerful Pope and his Vatican cabal, who were brainwashing the hordes of Catholic immigrants in the US. How else do you explain how the Jacksonian Democrats keep winning outside the Deep South, where their long-term victory is rational, owing to plantation agriculture and military expansionism?

They can't keep winning Pennsylvania and the Midwest -- and in 1852, the whole Mid-Atlantic and parts of New England -- where there's no slavery. Unless, that is, some beyond-rational force is at work, possessing the minds of voters in those places. It must be the Pope mind-controlling the Catholic immigrants!

The exact same catastrophic defeat accounts for Russiagate. How long can Americans keep voting for the fucking Reagan party already? And worst of all, in 2016 Trump won over a wide swath of supposedly safe "blue wall" states in the Rust Belt -- INCONCEIVABLE. Or rather -- THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

Every time the Resistards heard about how some state or some county "hasn't voted Republican since 1972," they did not explain that rationally by Trump's massive shift on the campaign trail from the Reaganite orthodoxy. Rather, that freakishly large of a historical deviation only proved the need to appeal to beyond-rational forces.

It must have been Putin and the Kremlin "hacking the election," or sowing dissent by boosting anti-status quo figures like Trump and Bernie with their Twitter bots, to damage Hillary. How else could the Rust Belt have fallen? Just like in 1852, the shell-shocked opposition could totally understand how the dominant party won the Deep South -- but the Great Lakes? Too unbelievable -- some powerful external force must have caused that to happen.

Let's see, most of those blue states that Trump flipped had voted for Bernie in the primary (except Pennsylvania), so clearly Bernie is to blame. But he's too bumbling and powerless to cause so large of a NOT-NORMAL deviation by himself. Aha, he was the unwitting dupe or witting agent of Putin, who was keen to promote extremist figures who damaged the status quo Democrats, bla bla bla.

Bernie's blame is only partial, and he can atone for his sins by rebuking Putin when commanded by the Democrat priesthood, as he has since the hysteria began. He was only possessed by the Devil, and can regain our trust by submitting to an exorcism. The full blame lies with the Devil himself -- Putin. It is Moscow, not Burlington, that we must douse in holy napalm water in order for Saint Hillary to claim her rightful place on the throne.

This level of deep, shattered psychosis among what is supposed to be the responsible elite of the opposition party, portends further shipwrecks ahead. Just like the Know Nothings, who were the elite of the opposition party (their third party spoiler candidate in 1856 was a former president), yet who devolved into desperate paranoia to rationalize their stunning defeat. That is not the faction among the opposition party who will successfully realign the party and lead it to victory, not just as the odd stint that the opposition enjoys in the WH, but becoming the new dominant party that sets the big-picture agenda for the next 40 years.

Just like the sane faction of the opposition in the 1850s -- the abolitionist Republicans -- today's sane opposition to the Reaganites must pursue highly popular extremism rather than the widely rejected status quo-ism of the crazy opposition faction.

July 23, 2018

Russiagaters as Know Nothings: Foreign conspiracy theories that cause political violence, split the opposition, delay realignment, make civil war worse

The intensification of the Russia hysteria after the Helsinki summit, primarily among the propaganda nexus of the intel agencies and the news media, has convinced me 95% of the following parallels to the 1850s:

1. This end-of-an-era (or "disjunctive") phase of the Reagan period will last two terms instead of the usual one.

2. We are headed toward some degree of civil war.

3. The civil war will be made worse by the greater pressure built up during this prolonged disjunctive phase.

4. The prolonging of the disjunctive phase is due to a fragmenting opposition party.

Rather than rehash the arguments from that earlier post, let's examine more key parallels between the Democrat establishment of today and the Know Nothings of the 1850s. As a reminder, the Know Nothings were a splinter group from the opposition Whig party, and favored the dominant Democrat party on the main issue of the day, being pro-slavery rather than abolitionist. They viewed both the abolitionists and secessionists as extremes that needed to be avoided, lest they plunge the nation into civil war.

They campaigned on maintaining the status quo during a polarized period where two hostile sides were headed toward an impasse after an uneasy truce had been broken by the dominant party. The Democrats under Pierce passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, over-turning the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and leading to small-scale civil war during "Bleeding Kansas" that followed.

The other faction of the opposition Whigs were the Republicans, who leaned toward abolition of slavery. They did not want to pursue a phony neutrality, but to dethrone the dominant party and take their place, carrying out a whole new vision for the country -- not just winning another brief term nominally in control of government while still serving the big-picture agenda set by the dominant party.

Today, the dominant party is the GOP, whose neoliberal and militarist agenda began with Reagan in 1980. The opposition Democrats are splintered into two factions -- one promising to maintain the status quo, the other to re-shape society away from business as usual of the past 40 years. The Clintonites see both the GOP and their Bernie rivals within the opposition as extremes that must be avoided, lest they plunge the nation into civil war. And they're pretending neutrality is possible when the neoliberal and militarist agenda is advancing to levels thought impossible during the New Deal / Great Society era.

And yet, the status quo proponents still need an enemy to explain why things are so tense and why our stability is unraveling. Their whole message is "putting country above party," so the enemy can't be either party, or any of their factions, per se. Their view holds our own country to be indivisible as an agent, meaning some external power must be the malevolent source of our domestic tensions. For the Clintonites, it is Russia, the Kremlin, and Putin. For the Know Nothings, it was Catholicism, the Vatican, and the Pope.

A widespread misunderstanding of the Know Nothings is that they were nativist or anti-immigration. But they were just fine with Scotch-Irish immigrants, who were Protestant rather than Catholic like their fellow Celtic neighbors from Ireland. And they were fine with German Lutheran immigrants, who were Protestant rather than Catholic like their fellow Germanic neighbors from Germany. They were specifically worried about the Pope as an external puppet master -- Catholic immigrants were just his unwitting dupes or his willing foot soldiers, whereas true blame lay with the puppet master himself.

Likewise the Clintonites are not worried about all foreign leaders -- only those that sit like a dictator atop a rigidly hierarchical society, allowing them to play a puppet master role, akin to the Pope over the Catholic population (in their cartoon view). If such dictators align with American neoliberal and militarist interests -- like the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia -- well that's no problem for the Clintonites. But if that dictator went against our interests, like Putin, then he might be able to influence our domestic climate against the sacrosanct status quo. The tentacles of the Kremlin reach deep into the American population, in the Russiagaters' view, whether the Americans are unwitting dupes (Trump voters) or willing foot soldiers (Carter Page etc.).

The Know Nothings were even tolerant of Catholic immigrants, provided that we deprogrammed them from their Papal brainwashing by making them read Protestant versions of the Bible and so on. And the Clintonites do not want to strip the Trump voters or Bernie supporters of their voting rights -- they can keep them, provided they get deprogrammed of their Kremlin brainwashing by binge-watching the panels full of spooks and feds on Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper.

Despite their branding as upholding norms of civility, and avoiding extremes that might destabilize our nation into civil war, the Know Nothings were paranoid fanatics whose witch hunt hysteria provoked collective political violence within our own country. Their feverish followers started election day riots in Louisville, KY and Baltimore, MD, going after the witting or unwitting agents of the external puppet master (Catholic neighborhoods). Those states were strongholds for the Whigs throughout the Jacksonian era, and for their Know Nothing faction as the era came to a close.

That was in the mid-1850s, almost where we are in the cycle -- after the mid-terms of the first term of a disjunctive presidency. Who thinks it's impossible that a mob of grassroots Russiagaters will patrol polling stations and even start riots in GOP precincts -- to ensure Putin's dupes can't get away with influencing our elections? Antifa and related groups have already done that at Trump rallies during the 2016 campaign season. And like the Know Nothing riots, these were in states that were strongholds for the opposition party, and for its Russiagater faction in particular -- like California (home of Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, Maxine Waters, etc.).

In 2020, you might have to watch your back at the polls in California not only if you're voting Republican in the general, but perhaps if you give off a Bernie vibe during the primary election day. The Russiagaters won't stand for Putin duping Democrat primary voters into selecting the less electable, extremist candidate -- and if the Russiagaters can't stop your brainwashing, they'll have to stop your voting.

The far greater violence that the Know Nothings caused was the more intense Civil War that resulted from a delay in realignment, which they caused by splitting the opposition. That built up the pressure for another disjunctive four years under Buchanan. His term saw the Dred Scott decision from the Supreme Court, which not only upheld slavery but said African slaves here were not citizens. A civil war was inevitable, but by delaying its onset, the Know Nothings allowed the problems to fester more, leading to a more hostile climate when war eventually did break out.

Likewise, the Russiagaters are going to split the opposition today, and prolong the inevitable. The Know Nothings were a flash-in-the-pan minority faction, just as the Russiagaters are today. But they're a big enough minority to delay the Bernie faction in realigning out of the Reagan era, just as the Republican faction realigned out of the Jacksonian era after getting delayed by the Know Nothings.

How exactly that delay takes shape remains to be seen -- the Russiagaters could use their minority status to run a spoiler third party, as the Know Nothings did in 1856, or they could alter the rules for the next Democrat nominating convention to screw over the Bernie faction. Either way, it's looking more and more likely that the Russiagaters will cause the dominant GOP to plod through a second disjunctive term after 2020, during which time things will get so bad that the Russiagaters won't have any support in 2024, and the Bernie faction will take over for good as the new dominant party (whether by taking over the Dems or replacing them with a new party).

In the meantime, the Democrat elite sectors that are not obsessed with Russia had better start kicking out those that are, or lay the groundwork for a replacement party to be led by the Bernie faction. That means removing the influence of the propaganda nexus -- the intel agencies and news media -- while keeping the finance sector, and some of the tech sector, perhaps also peeling off the agriculture sector from the GOP.

July 18, 2018

Which elite sectors could unite to stop nuclear WWIII?

Just when you thought the fever pitch of suicidal militarism could not get any worse after the Kim Jong-un summit, the psychos have gotten even more delirious after the Putin summit. It's no exaggeration to say that every aspect of American society is now at grave risk.

The question is: who can stop it?

Certainly not "the people," who never approve of these ruinous wars that we've had after WWII (the last we won). They are too unorganized at present anyway -- utterly fragmented -- and so have little leverage to wield.

That leaves the elite sectors of society, who act collectively in their sector's material interests. We must then identify which ones stand the least to gain from WWIII, and therefore the most to lose, since the downside is infinite for all sectors (nuclear annihilation of the US).

In the anti-war coalition: finance, entertainment, agriculture. Out: military, manufacturing, intel agencies, news media. Maybe: tech, energy.

* * *

We'll begin examining the Republican sectors, which are material: military, manufacturing, agriculture, and energy. They are mostly pro-war, but there's a chance to peel off agriculture.

The military is out for obvious reasons, and so is manufacturing, since so much of what's left in the US manufacturing sector is war-oriented, and the remainder would be commandeered for such purposes in wartime, being handsomely compensated for their troubles.

There is one Republican sector that is squarely against war, and that is agriculture. Whatever rise in production they would get from feeding a surge in troops would not be a drop in the bucket of their overall business. And that's assuming we had a massive number of boots on the ground -- if fighting were done by drone operators in America, there wouldn't be an increase in food procurement at all.

It would also destroy a potential export market for our crops, not that we send that much to Russia at present, but probably more than we would be sending to US troops deployed over there. Net loss.

And although disrupting Russian society would impair their agricultural output, if they hit us on our own land -- unlike the regional, not global, superpowers we have fought before -- our own agricultural output would get disrupted.

Even assuming their farms suffered while ours did not, our farms would not benefit for long from the boost to prices caused by the drop in global supply. That happened after WWI, when Europe's farms were ravaged while ours were not. US agribusiness went on a leveraged buy-out binge of farmland, assuming that prices would stay elevated because Europe would take so long to recover their farmlands. Unfortunately it only took a few years, and the ag sector back here was devastated for most of the 1920s, crippled by the debt it took on to fuel its M&A, and with no way to pay it off after prices fell back to normal upon Europe's recovery.

Back during the Progressive and New Deal eras, the GOP did not have the South, where the military sector is concentrated, but they did have the Plains states, where agriculture is concentrated (today they have both). In those two eras, the GOP was the isolationist party, and the Dems the interventionists. During the 1976 vice presidential debate, Bob Dole, a Republican from farm state Kansas, griped: "I figured up the other day, if we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century, it'd be about one point six million Americans - enough to fill the city of Detroit."

Today, the lone proponents of anti-interventionism among the GOP elites are the much maligned Koch brothers network. They're the ones who anti-war libertarians like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Justin Amash, and Thomas Massie are working on behalf of in Washington. And they are in the agriculture and energy sectors.

Energy also has little to gain from WWIII against Russia, for the same reasons as agriculture (both do natural resource extraction and sell non-industrial commodities, which would not get sucked into wartime production). Look at how long we've been militarily occupying Japan, South Korea, Germany, Italy, and Afghanistan -- where there's no oil, where we are not wiping out local energy supplies in order to create an artificial market for our own coal, etc. The same would hold for Russia -- nothing to gain, certainly beyond a horizon of a few years.

However, the oil sector is far more likely than other commodity producers to want to wage war against its sectoral rivals overseas (Iran, Iraq), if it cannot co-opt them as client states (Saudi Arabia). And Russia is a major oil and natural gas producer, so they certainly would be in our energy sector's cross-hairs. I put energy into the "maybe" column.

* * *

Now we'll move onto the Democrat sectors, which are informational: finance, tech, media / entertainment, and intel. These are mostly anti-war, with intel and the news sub-sector of the media being exceptions.

The intel agencies are out for obvious reasons, and so are their news media partners. At this point, the two are so intertwined as to form a single propaganda nexus, with a typical panel on MSNBC being at least 50% spooks. Whereas the military and arms manufacturers have the material side of warmongering covered, the intel and news media have the informational side of warmongering covered.

The entertainment industry has nothing to gain from war, and only foreign box office revenues to lose. They are not surprisingly the most outspoken anti-war sector of the elites.

The parts of the tech industry that are like entertainment are equally uninvolved in promoting war. Netflix is entertainment mediated by the internet, and does not rely on news programming in its content. Plus it operates Netflix in Russia, along with most of the world, and would only stand to lose that revenue stream if war broke out.

Amazon is a retailer and service provider mediated by the internet, which could not help out in a war effort. If anything, their international business from Russia would be harmed.

Ditto for Google, who make money from digital ads and monetizing user information -- including users from Russia, who view ads placed in Russia.

Recently both Amazon and Google folded to Russia's demands that they end cloud services for the Telegram app, created by two Russians, which Russia's intel agency FSB was trying to get access to, for monitoring terrorists (and whatever other intel purposes). They do too much business there to take an ideological stand against their host government.

Apple is an electronics manufacturer, so they could get commandeered into the war effort, though it seems unlikely since so much of their stuff is made in China. And the company would not want to jeopardize such a large market for the iPhone, when sales are already saturating for new models.

Facebook makes its money like Google does, but unlike Google for internet searches, it is not the dominant firm in Russian social network sites (that would be VKontakte). Facebook wouldn't gain anything, but they wouldn't lose anything either. And given the pressure they come under here for their role in Russiagate, they are more likely to bend to the warmongering side, albeit on the informational side, joining the propaganda nexus. They're already doing that, genuflecting before Congress about a handful of ads from Russian troll farms that nobody saw before the 2016 election.

That leaves the senior sector of the Democrat side -- finance. War disrupts commerce, financially ruins the home nation from the massive debt it takes on to pay for the war effort (with no spoils won to pay it off, in our war-losing era after WWII), and financially ruins the foreign country, whom our own finance sector may be making loans to or investing in, which they will no longer recoup let alone make a profit on. Our soaring debt, if not rapidly paid off, will lead to either a default or rampant inflation to pay it off -- both scenarios blowing up the assets of the financial institutions.

And they have plenty to lose: JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs were the #2 and #3 investment banks operating in Russia as of April last year. This April, after harsh sanctions imposed by the GOP government on firms doing business with Russia or its oligarchs, global banks have been exiting the Russian financial services market, and any market tied to an oligarch. Goldman Sachs and Citigroup had been advising on the IPO of an Italian company, Octo, whose controlling shareholder is a Russian oligarch targeted by the sanctions (Vekselberg). Whatever fees and commission they were planning on collecting -- poof, up in a puff of smoke because of the anti-Russia hysteria.

In reaction to these sanctions, Russia has liquidated its holdings of US treasuries, from roughly $100 billion to $15 billion, sending the yields skyrocketing on our government bonds for two months straight. As the current decade-long stock market bubble stands ready to pop before election 2020, the last thing the finance sector wants is for the bond market bubble to get popped first -- that is supposed to be a relative safe haven, for investors to pour into when the riskier stocks get blown up. If the safe haven gets destroyed first, it'll wipe out the riskier market by transitivity.

For similar reasons, it was the party of finance who crafted the Iran nuclear deal, so they could earn returns on investment in a large and fairly prosperous nation, which had been closed off to investment by militaristic sanctions for decades. With the finance party out of power, that deal has been scrapped by the return of the militarist party.

* * *

This analysis suggests that the Democrats would be the ideal party to house the anti-war coalition. However, it would have to muzzle or more likely kick out some of its current key members -- the intel agencies and the news media, although not the entertainment media, and perhaps Facebook. These are junior partners to the senior partner of Wall Street banks, so it's do-able. They would have to take in agriculture from the other party to fill the void, perhaps with energy too.

It's also possible that in the lead-up to our Second Civil War, the parallels will be the Democrats going defunct just like the Whigs did (opposition party), to be replaced by a whole new major party (Republicans then, something else now).

When the opposition Whigs morphed into the ascendant Republicans to dethrone the formerly dominant Jacksonian Democrats, they kept most of their old members, but they kicked out those who were too sympathetic to the rival party on the major issue of the day -- slavery, for which the Know-Nothing faction of Whigs felt too much sympathy.

Today, that would take the form of the opposition Democrats morphing into an ascendant anti-war party to dethrone the militarist Reaganite GOP -- but having to kick out its faction that sympathizes too much with ever-rising military spending and interventionism, namely the propaganda nexus of the intel agencies and news media. Let the Republicans have them, and let the anti-war agribusinesses join the Democrats or their successor party.

July 16, 2018

Kavanaugh ruled in favor of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino to bust union of card dealers

Top priority for those seeking to derail, or at least damage, the Kavanaugh confirmation process. You can get the word out without citing this tip-off post -- just say you were investigating any connection that Trump had with Kavanaugh, and discovered what was public record.

This case allows a way to attack the nominee for his record of union-busting, and specifically favoring a Trump company in doing so. Since nobody cares about social-cultural issues in this climate of populist re-alignment, the opposition to Chamber of Commerce puppet Kavanaugh must be populist, not socially liberalist.

While searching for Kavanaugh's opinions on immigration for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, I stumbled upon a case that turned out to have nothing to do with immigration, despite containing the search term "immigrants", but which is noteworthy for who one of the parties was -- Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, one of Trump's two Atlantic City fiascos.

Citation: Trump Plaza Associates v. NLRB, 679 F.3d 822 (D.C. Cir. 2012).

Full text here.

Although his colleague Henderson wrote up the opinion, Kavanaugh joined the rest of the three-person panel in deciding in favor of Trump Plaza Associates, who were petitioning to void a highly successful union election among the card dealers in 2007, which the National Labor Relations Board had upheld.

The Circuit Court did tell the NLRB to re-consider their legal reasoning for their approval of the election, rather than say flat-out that it was so obvious to the Circuit Court that the election process was compromised, that the NLRB shouldn't even bother trying to re-approve the election with a different argument.

Still, the Circuit Court could have simply said they concur with the NLRB's approval of the election, though not with their argument for the approval, so let it be known that the higher court's narrower or more precedent-focused reasoning for approving the union election will be the standard.

But the Circuit Court did not really approve of the election, and wanted some rationalization for shooting it down, despite the complaints from the company being totally specious. Typical of courts in the post-New Deal era, they defer way more toward management than to the NLRB.

Vacating the NLRB's approval of the election set the process back by years, and that would be all that was necessary to kill the union drive for good, since Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino closed in 2014, just two years after the Circuit Court's decision. Even by 2013, Trump Plaza Associates announced they wanted to sell the property to another casino company, jeopardizing the union drive while the property's future ownership was up in the air.

This case presents not only the usual opportunities for pro-labor politicians to hammer a conservative judge for granting the most flimsy legal appeal by corporations trying to block a union drive, as long as it serves the larger agenda to further dismantle the New Deal and weaken labor regulations.

This time, though, there's a unique opportunity to muddy the waters with a "conflict of interest" narrative. Kavanaugh helped a Trump company refuse to negotiate a contract with an elected labor union, scoring a legal and financial victory for the billionaire. Now that this billionaire occupies the White House and is able to elevate judges, he picks for the Supreme Court the very one who helped him out big-league just six years earlier.

It's obviously not a quid pro quo, since nobody including Trump thought he'd be president back in 2012. But it still looks corrupt, to pick -- of all the judges out there -- the one who's recently done great legal and financial things for you personally.

Best case, Kavanaugh gets blocked, and the assault on anti-union judges means his replacement has to be at least moderate on labor issues, rather than a full Koch Brothers shill for big business.

Worst case, Kavanaugh gets his seat on the highest court, but he gets tainted, and so does Trump, for the process appearing so personally motivated rather than merely politically motivated. It makes the selection of justices appear even seedier than already believed, after the GOP cockblocked Obama from getting to nominate Scalia's replacement.

That level of blocking only happened in the lead-up to the Civil War, and when the shoe was on the other foot after the Lincoln coalition dethroned the Jackson coalition, the new dominant party packed the court -- increasing or decreasing the number of justices depending on which party would be doing the nominating, and adjusting the boundaries of the circuits to minimize the regions controlled by their rival party.

The more appalling the selection process during this peak of partisan polarization, the more the new dominant coalition under Bernie will be able to adjust the make-up of the Supreme Court in order to get their programs through, against old-guard Reaganite obstruction.

July 12, 2018

Trade war doesn't exist, theatrics only, Trumpers & neolibs will lose narrative battle to Sandernistas

From a post by Zero Hedge, a handy reminder by Goldman Sachs, who are interested in the reality rather than just the theatrics behind trade policy announcements, that so far the trade war does not exist. Compare the proposed tariffs (in gray) vs. implemented tariffs (in red) from their chart:

That was as of mid-June, and on July 6, the tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports at a 25% rate did go into effect. That means the spot with red slashes is now fully colored in, at the bottom-right corner of the chart.

Within the total level of proposed tariffs, about 10% is reality and 90% is BS (roughly $800 billion proposed vs. roughly $80 implemented). And that composition has shifted far more toward BS since late March / April, when the reality was more like 20-30% of the total (eye-balling their chart).

So the whole narrative about the "trade war" is fake news. Yet both the Trumpers and anti-Trumpers are pretending it is real. Why?

Trumpers want to claim that he is fulfilling campaign promises, looking out for the American worker instead of only the rich, and in general taking on the Establishment orthodoxy.

Anti-Trumpers want to claim that he is destabilizing the status quo, which had been glorious until he got elected, so that his unorthodox policies will harm rather than help the American worker and American industry.

Since the trade war doesn't exist, there is no tangible benefit to American workers who might have seen their factories return as a result of a real trade war. That real war would target American corporations who have closed down their American factories and sent them to cheap labor colonies instead, for lazy employers to earn higher profits for free. That is what Trump promised over and over again -- a big fat 35% tariff on "every car, truck, and part" that came across the US-Mexican border, to change Ford's behavior of closing down plants in America and moving them to Mexico.

Without any tangible benefits or harms so far, what is the upside vs. downside for both sides in the narrative battle? That depends on the near-term performance of the US and/or global economy. If things were only going to get better, Trumpers would attribute that success in part to waging the trade war, while if things only go downhill from here during Trump's term, the anti-Trumpers will blame the downturn in part on the trade war.

We are at the top of the longest expansion we've seen, more or less ever. The Tech Bubble 2.0 is going to pop during Trump's term, and it will not matter whether that's at the end of this year, early 2019, mid-2019, late 2019, or early 2020. The whole house of cards is going to come crashing down, as central banks raise interest rates and debt becomes too expensive to service, triggering defaults and bankruptcies; and as central banks start to shed rather than take on more assets like government bonds, so that they will no longer be the asset price-supporter of last resort.

Worse than the usual recession, we are seeing stagnant growth with rising inflation -- stagflation -- indicating not just the end of a single business cycle, but of an entire cycle of cycles, or cohesive period in economic history. The stagflation of the late '70s signaled the end of the New Deal period (in all countries, not just the US, and in communist as well as capitalist economies). With today's stagflation, we are now nearing the end of the neoliberal period.

That's going to be one hell of a collapse. And with it, the anti-Trumpers will cry "I told ya so" about the non-existent trade war. They want to preserve the cultural sanctity of free market fundamentalism -- as well as its material reality for the elites. So in their telling, it will not be neoliberalism that killed neoliberalism, but rather the most wonderful economy in world history, which Reagan began and which Obama was the last to preside faithfully and respectfully over, was brought crashing down by Trump's disrespect for the global order and his desecration of free trade.

And that's where the anti-Trumpers' reach will exceed their grasp. Their narrative will rely on the economy before Trump's non-existent trade war having been the greatest we've ever known, the pinnacle of human civilization, tracing a long glorious path back to Reagan. But by now, the populist genie has been let out of the bottle, and most Americans not only don't believe that story, they believe the opposite is true, and they're mad as hell that no one among the elites seems to be doing anything to steer us back toward our golden age of the mid-20th century.

Of course, the kneejerk Trumpers will have no leg to stand on either. They claimed the trade war was real -- well, if it had been truly going on, and the result was a total collapse, then trade wars are bad, and the person and the whole movement that supported them are discredited, and they are disqualified from leading the way out of the collapse.

That's the opening for the Bernie revolution -- like the Trumpers, they've been saying how rotten the system has been for a long time, particularly on trade and de-industrialization. But unlike the Trumpers, they didn't just jump on some bandwagon and ride it wherever it went -- even if it meant hyping up a non-existent trade war, to protect Dear Leader's reputation and to score theatrical-only points rather than deliver tangible benefits. The Sandernistas will not be the target of blame, since they had no part in either waging the non-existent trade war itself, or in hyping it up through the media.

Their message will be that they are not merely using populist rhetoric to defend American corporate interests -- the only real goal of the Trump admin's trade policies (e.g., protecting intellectual property, in which the working class has no stake, but white-collar IT professionals and stockholders do). They are not beholden to the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, so they will make good on Trump's 2016 campaign rhetoric that failed to materialize, since the GOP is controlled by the very interests that Trump sought to upset. The Bernie people will target Ford, Carrier, Nabisco, and the rest of them, rather than just lashing out at China or Mexico, who are only the recipients of stolen goods rather than the American corporate thieves themselves.

The Bernie revolution will focus on punishing American corporations for their anti-labor policies back to Reagan, including the off-shoring of manufacturing plants, and re-regulating them until those plants come back here, including real, not proposed, tariffs that hurt the off-shorers. That will provide a genuine economic recovery, since manufacturing is real productive activity, not just some speculative bubble funded by central banks so that rich people can jerk each other off with free money, "investing" in each other's airhead vanity projects instead of hiring the bottom 90% to do real work at prosperous wages (indirectly stimulating demand).

There is thus no future in either defending neoliberalism or Trump's reliance on theatrics (after getting cockblocked by his party's economic sectors). The only thing to figure out for populists is where you're going to fit into the emerging Bernie bloc of politics, and how you can negotiate with its other members. In the meantime, call out how phony the dead-enders are on both sides, and why there needs to be a complete overhaul rather than just serving as cheerleaders for either faction of dead-enders.