June 15, 2018

Vamps get vulnerable, as portraits come back into vogue

As the cultural climate has mellowed out into its vulnerable refractory phase, after the manic phase of the early 2010s, I've noticed a return of the vulnerable persona in portraits that I mostly associate with the ads and music videos of the late '80s (another refractory phase, after the early '80s manic phase).

Surveying these changes over multiple full cycles will wait for another post. The basic impression is that the manic phase is more likely to produce portraits of women who are smiling, laughing, and assertive, while the following refractory phase shows women who are more insecure, nervous, wounded, etc.

For now, we'll study some of the defining traits of the new style, or revived style, that began around 2015. It's most striking when these traits are shown by figures whose usual persona is a vamp trading on her sex appeal, as appearing fragile, self-doubting, or pensive would contradict their normal presentation of being composed, self-assured, and carefree. Instead of staging an act to provoke an intended reaction from others, they are going more natural and studying the audience's response to their more low-key intimate persona, uncertain of how they'll be received.

NB: there are two NSFW nudes at the end.

First, a totally unrecognizable Taylor Swift at the end of 2014 (Wonderland):



Her usual vampy look is raised upper eyelids and eyebrows, to indicate that she's noticing you, but also raised lower eyelids, in a kind of protective squint. Usually her lips are pouty to telegraph kissy-kissy, or closed in a subtle smirk. Her hair usually acts as a mask to cover her forehead, ears, and vertical part of her jawline, and is usually highly stylized.

In the portraits above, her eyebrows rest at a normal level, the upper and lower eyelids are both lowered, and the lips are parted, giving her a more mellow and open expression than her usual stiff, hamming-it-up expression. Her body language is engaging you in a back-and-forth conversation, instead of delivering a one-way rehearsed performance to the audience.

Her tresses being pulled away from the face is like taking off her hair-mask, and their wet-and-tousled state gives them an intimate just-out-of-the-shower look, rather than the meticulously sculpted look of a professional stage performer.

Adding to the natural impression are darker and furrier eyebrows, darker hair, and varied skin tone (just bronzer around the periphery), as opposed to her usual mask-like look of nano-sculpted eybrows, lightened hair, and uniform heavy make-up.

The shoulders leaning slightly off-kilter and forward, with the head tilted to the side, make her look uncertain and questioning about how you're going to respond to her, in contrast to her usual posture of shoulders drawn back and head balanced, certain and confident that her audience is receiving her performance well.

Next, the not-so-wild child Charli XCX in 2015 (Miss Vogue):



During the last manic phase, her expressions were highly animated, although by now she has sunken into a more strung-out, almost combative poker-faced look. Here we catch a glimpse of her being more natural and casual, open without being exhibitionistic, and still vulnerable without being defensive.

We see again the importance of the tilted head (perhaps even resting on something for support) to indicate uncertainty or insecurity, and lips that are parted enough to not look silent, but not agape to the point of looking like a vampy put-on.

Portraits shot from farther back can make use of the arms and hands in a way that close-ups cannot. One or both arms held in front of the torso is a defensive posture -- more so if the legs too are raised in front of the torso, suggesting the fetal position. And yet as long as the head is not turned away, and as long as the gaze is not averted or stereotyped, we don't get the impression of her being aloof or anti-social. The juxtaposition of body language cues that are both open and closed conveys more a sense of uncertainty and insecurity -- revealing herself, but also nervous about how you're going to respond.

That tension is enhanced by the subtle use of hands that are clasped, fingers curled inward, or seeming to be in the middle of fidgeting with a prop in order to channel and alleviate her anxiety.

Rounding out the songbirds is Camila Cabello in 2015 (Teen Vogue):


Her usual persona is sultry, with heavily drooping eyelids and yawning-open lips. That drowsy combination suggests someone whose consciousness and internal self-monitor has shut off, and is on an animal-like autopilot, sleepwalking through her activities. But here we see her eyes opened more than usual (though still semi-narrowed), with eyebrows slightly raised as well, giving us a half-inquisitive look. The lips are closed more than usual, though still parted enough to convey openness to a conversation.

Although her hands are not directly in view, simply including the upper part of her arms and shoulders shows that they are held close to the torso, and there's a hint that they are bent at the elbow, crossing over in front, perhaps clasped over her lap. At any rate, they're not held apart from her sides or up in the air, as she usually does to convey confidence and strength.

Here she looks more protective with her arms and hands, while still being open in her facial expression -- seeking validation but also nervous, as though she were awaiting an uncertain verdict.

Next, Kim Kardashian in 2016 (Wonderland):


She used to make over-the-top selfie faces during the early 2010s, before settling into the wide-eyed and stone-faced expression she wears these days. But merely lacking expression does not signal vulnerability. In this portrait, she still has that same basic stone face, although her eyes are narrowed a bit instead of open wide as usual -- concentrating on something -- and downcast as well. She looks lost in thought and wistful.

The rest of her body language makes up for what is close to her usual face. Her neck is bent over, head tilted to the side, hand slowly fidgeting with her hair or trying to massage her scalp, all giving an impression of weariness and wanting to alleviate tension.

The use of reverse perspective works well here, since if we saw her from her front, it would look like she was turning her face away from us, as though to say don't bother me, I just want to brood by myself right now. But shot from behind, she's actually turning her head in order to reveal her face, which would otherwise be obscured by the back of her head. The resulting contrast between open and closed signals conveys insecurity and vulnerability.

Her sister Kylie Jenner, also in 2016 (also Wonderland):


Like her sister, she is usually stone-faced these days, or vamping it up with overly narrowed eyes and pouty lips. Here, the tilted head gives an inquisitive look, enhanced by the peak of the eyebrow appearing to be even more raised when it's the top of a slope rather than one end of a horizontal line. Her arms are crossed over in front, as her hands fidget with her hairbrush. Her body is turned in 3/4 perspective, although her face is looking at us straight-on. And she's resting against the sink rather than standing upright.

These combined open and awkward signals create an impression of someone who is insecure about her looks or worth, who is opening up enough so that the viewer can evaluate, but who is also nervous enough about the uncertain verdict that she's preparing to close herself off just in case.

There's another portrait from the same shoot where her whole body is facing the viewer straight-on, while standing upright, head balanced, arms hanging off to either side, and where the hairbrush is just dangling in one hand rather than being fidgeted with. It gives off such a different vibe -- a more direct posture, mixed with narrowed eyes and pouty lips, to look like a vamp.

Finally, while most media portraits these days are of singers, actresses, and reality TV stars, there are still a handful of models out there, who just do the modeling thing.

Here's Emily Ratajkowski in 2017 (LOVE):


Unlike her performance in the "Blurred Lines" video during the manic phase, where she's merrily bouncing around the set, including at times moving right toward the camera, she looks more closed-off and anxious in this portrait. She is open to the extent of being stark naked and looking at the viewer, but her body is turned perpendicular to us -- almost as retreating as if she had her back to us. Her body looks fragile, with the back and shoulders hunched over, and resting against a set piece rather than standing up straight.

Her arms are not crossed over in front of her torso, but they have a similar effect by being placed squarely between her body and the viewer, given the profile perspective. Their harsh angle, locked elbow, and jutting toward the viewer all make them feel like defensive obstructions, lest anyone get too close. Her hands are nervously occupied holding onto the set piece.

She's not vamping up her facial expression as usual, although she does not have enough emotional range to strike the precise note she's looking for. But it's in the direction of "fear," a subdued deer-in-headlights look. A fearful facial expression combined with a stark naked body that is turned away from us looks more than just vulnerable. It's disquieting, and looks more like she fears getting molested by the viewer (as though the viewer-director just asked her to cross the line in filming what she was promised would be a "tasteful" scene), or that someone who is facing her (out of frame) has given her the creeps in a professional setting and she's turning her face toward us with an expression asking "WTF just happened?" and is imploring us for help.

As a recent post pointed out, feminism goes through phases in tandem with the cultural excitement cycle. During the manic phase of the early 2010s, it was "exhibitionism as feminism," if you got it flaunt it, don't body-shame me, etc. As of the late 2010s, during the vulnerable phase, it's shifted to a defensive and protective posture, as fear of male predators begins to spread. This contrast could not be any more stark than in Ratajkowski's performances between the "Blurred Lines" video in 2013 and the portrait above in 2017.

The photographer, Patrick Demarchelier, is one of the masters of portraits using it-girl models. This one reminds me of another, also during a vulnerable phase of the cultural excitement cycle, back in 1986 with Christy Turlington:


She doesn't have the same fearful eyes and agape lips that Ratajkowski does, but there's still a seemingly contradictory mix of signals -- a topless upper body though semi-covered by her locks, with the lower body appearing to have been hastily covered up with whatever was within reach, body turned somewhat away in 3/4 perspective, crossing her arms defiantly, and looking at us with an accusatory gaze, although leavened with levity by her raised eyebrow, as though she's saying tsk-tsk to a naughty man-child who she doesn't mind humoring, rather than being paralyzed by shock before a downright predator.

Manic phases may produce better examples of culture that is brief in duration, like song and dance, but for things that are supposed to be frozen or permanent, like naturalistic portraits, the post-manic phases do it better. Intense energy does not work well in a portrait, since it breaks our suspension of disbelief that we're watching the subject continuing to pose, in a kind of not-so-exciting movie. Fleeting manic energy reminds us that the portrait was just a snapshot of one moment, and that there's no point in paying attention longer than the initial instant.

June 12, 2018

Good first step in Korea, real change awaits Bernie re-alignment, media to become Know-Nothing rump of defunct Democrat party

Although no major changes were made to the situation in the Korean peninsula, that was not expected for a summit called on such short notice. Indeed, no major changes can ever happen so long as the militarist institutions control the dominant frame-setting party of an era.

A recent post reviewed the status of where the three main nations are in their re-alignments. South Korea is the furthest along, beginning with Kim Dae-jung's election in 1997, and which the current president Moon Jae-in is also a part of. The old militarist coalition is so weak that their most recent president got impeached and removed from office. North Korea is beginning its re-alignment under Kim Jong-un, seeking peace and re-unification with the South, and achieving nuclear weapons status in order to protect that process from American militarist interference.

Sadly, though, the re-alignment has not yet begun here. Trump is a disjunctive, end-of-an-era president, who mixes up the old way and the new way, ultimately constrained by the sclerotic Establishment of his long-dominant party.

In true disjunctive fashion, he reiterated at the press conference (going back to campaign trail speeches) that he wants the US armed forces out of Korea altogether -- something no one else from our Reaganite era would have said, whether they were dominant Republicans or opposition Democrats. Winding down our presence there will have to wait for a new era when the militarist institutions are not in control of the dominant party, meaning the Bernie re-alignment.

At least for now, though, we do appear to be getting a little hint of what's to come, again in true disjunctive fashion. If it's true, according to Trump, that we will be freezing the US-SK wargames right on the NK border, that will be a first step toward real change. The Pentagon and other parts of the Deep State can easily sabotage this promise, and are already undoubtedly hard at work to undo it before it really goes into effect. But if they are unsuccessful, the freezing of the wargames will be one crucial step that Trump takes to pave the way for the post-Reaganite re-aligners of the upcoming Bernie era.

Even if the Deep State is successful at sabotaging the freezing of wargames, at least Trump called them out as "provocative," which they certainly are. Gee, why are you guys developing nuclear weapons when we keep simulating invasions and nuclear attacks right along your border, year after year like clockwork? He also called them a huge waste of money, which they certainly are. Hopefully at least one of those phrases manages to shift the consensus here on these pointless provocations.

Lastly, the media are trying their hardest to shut themselves out from the re-alignment. You don't see the finance sector -- the senior partner of the Democrat coalition -- trying to stir up nuclear war with North Korea. Not really the tech sector either. But all of these ignorant morons in the press, closely partnering with the intel faction within the Deep State, keep trying to out-hawk the Republican president on North Korea.

First of all, nobody will ever buy the idea that a liberal Democrat coalition will out-hawk a conservative Republican coalition. So why bother? It's futile. If voters, donors, or elite institutions wanted hawkish policies on North Korea, guess who they're going to support -- not the liberals or even moderates, and not the Democrats.

More importantly, they still fail to recognize that the opposition's job during a disjunctive phase is to out-do the would-be re-aligner from the dominant party, on the issues that make him an unorthodox end-of-an-era figure. That would be populism, industrial protectionism, and anti-interventionism for Trump. When the opposition tries to oppose the disjunctive leader by countering his unorthodox qualities, they fail to imitate the successful, and secure their irrelevance.

Nobody wants elitism, free trade deals, or global military occupation by Uncle Sam -- if we did, we would have voted for literally anyone other than Trump in the 2016 primary, and we would have voted for neoliberalism incarnate in the general election. Cycles only run in one direction, so if that is what the opposition is offering to counter the dominant-party leader, then they are done for. We can't re-wind the cycle back before all of these unorthodox ideas won a primary and general election against all odds.

Rather, the job is to steal these unorthodox positions from the would-be re-aligner, who again has very little ability to deliver the goods on them, being constrained so tightly by the dominant party that he belongs to, and which built the entire system he is trying to alter against their vested interests.

In this case, it means the opposition will be a Democrat like Tulsi Gabbard, who is even more eager and willing than Trump to pull America's military presence out of the Korean peninsula. And not belonging to a party that is controlled by the military or the weapons manufacturers, she could actually deliver the goods on that issue.

The losers on the Democrat side will be those who want to manage the status quo, only with a more liberal or diplomatic approach. But it's not the '90s anymore, and no one wants the West Wing version of the opposition. All these dumbass wonks who want to oppose Trump by drawing out our military exit from Korea for as long as possible, will have no future in the upcoming re-alignment period. Their places will be taken instead by those who compete over how fast and unconditionally we can just get the fuck out of Korea already, after 70 years of pointless and wasteful occupation.

During re-alignment, the name of the game is cutting the Gordian Knot. In Korea, it means simply pulling out, and letting the North and South work things out under their already serving re-aligning figures.

The more that the Democrats adhere to countering the highly favored unorthodox positions of the disjunctive president, the more that they will end their party as it currently exists. That would make them like the Whigs in the end of the Jacksonian era, right before the Civil War. They would be replaced by Bernie's populist party, akin to Lincoln's Republican party.

Each major episode we see of Democrats trying to out-do Trump on adherence to Reaganite orthodoxy, we increase the odds that they do end up committing suicide as a party, just like the Whigs, and even running their own third-party candidate in 2020, akin to the Know-Nothing Fillmore candidacy of 1856, which prolonged the disjunctive end of the Jacksonian era, and made the Civil War far worse for having pressure-cooked an additional four years.

And now we have a better sense of which factions among the opposition that obstruction would come from. It's not the banks or broader finance sector, at least on the militarist issues -- a great relief, given their senior rank in the Democrat coalition. The tech sector is more squishy, eager to partner with the intel agencies and Pentagon, and folding like crazy under the pressure to keep Russia and other figments of our imagination from hacking the election. But that seems to be more a cover-your-ass reaction by the tech sector, in the face of such hysteria from other sectors in their coalition.

No, the main source of obstruction is the media and their partners in the intel agencies. They are defined by shaping the consensus on some issue, so they are the most naturally inclined toward resisting a re-alignment away from the old way and toward the new way. The finance sector can adapt, as long as they know what the new rules are. Same with tech. They're more opportunistic, working with what they've got. The consensus-shapers in the propaganda sector -- at the nexus between the media and the intel agencies -- cannot just go along with a paradigm shift, since it would mean someone else had been re-shaping the consensus, not them.

When it comes to Bernie vs. Pence in 2020, watch out for Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper launching a vote-splitting ticket for the Neutral Consensus Respecter party.

June 11, 2018

Trump inverts trade theme from campaign, letting wrong-doers skate while punishing non-factors

By now the president has found out that he can't single-handedly take on the combined de-industrializing institutions that control the GOP -- the Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, agribusiness, etc. These are the labor-intensive sectors of the economy responsible for passing NAFTA, sending jobs and factories out of our country and into cheap labor colonies like Mexico, China, India, Vietnam, and elsewhere.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump identified the American operators of these businesses as the enemy -- frequently holding up Carrier, an A/C manufacturer, as a vivid example. Also Ford Motors, Nabisco, and others. They were moving their plants to Mexico? Well, how about a big fat 35% tariff on everything they make there and try to bring back into the US market? That would totally counter-act the greedy American executives' attempt to generate higher profits simply by slashing labor costs, sending the work to Mexico instead of Michigan.

As a rule, executives should only be rewarded for improving their company's products -- providing a higher quality and quantity for a lower price. Or inventing entirely new products. They must be punished for cutting labor costs, since that is not an invention or product improvement. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that you can boost profits by slashing labor costs, it only takes a sociopath. By rewarding their cheap-labor programs, we are breeding the executive class to be dull-witted, lazy, and predatory, rather than ingenious, industrious, and pro-social.

Since taking office and getting immediately cock-blocked by the de-industrial lobbies, as well as every politician in his own dominant party, the president has given up on taking the fight to the anti-American executives who have destroyed the economy that once used to support a large prosperous middle and working class. He no longer harangues flagrant violators of his former campaign slogan to "Hire American," like when Harley Davidson just shut down their plant in Kansas City, in order to move production over to Thailand.

He also doesn't put any pressure on the cheap labor colonies themselves. Quite the contrary -- he just helped save a telecom cartel in China, complaining about US policies that were costing too many Chinese jobs. And he's not only capitulated to Mexico on NAFTA, but on the never-to-be-built wall as well. Really, how hard would it be just for symbolic theatrical value to keep demanding that Mexico will pay for The Wall? He doesn't even bother with the empty symbolism anymore.

He's never attacked Vietnam, despite their soaring trade surplus against the US. He used to mention them on the campaign trail as one we've got to watch out for, how Vietnam is the next China, etc. But he's surrendered on that front too -- even rhetorically, let alone substantively.

The leaders of these cheap labor colonies are the recipients of stolen goods -- our manufacturing sector -- rather than the thieves themselves (the American executives). However, Trump doesn't go after either group involved.

The only party he's interested in picking fights with are Canada, Japan, Germany, and by extension the EU.

Contra the liberal airheads, no one cares if these are "historic allies" since the motive for that alliance is long gone -- WWII and the Cold War. No one cares about preserving zombie alliances as some kind of diplomatic cargo cult. Maintaining that alliance costs the US an absolute fortune, for which we get nothing in return, aside from the imperial operators at the top level of the Pentagon and State Dept.

Nevertheless, these are not cheap labor colonies, and they therefore have little to do with the de-industrialization of our economy. When Carrier, Ford, and Nabisco close down a plant in Indiana, Wisconsin, or Michigan, they are not sending the work to be done in Canada, Germany, or Japan. Wages are too high there, and the whole point is to slash labor costs.

Some of them do benefit from our providing their military needs more or less for free -- South Korea, Japan, Germany, Italy -- which frees up a lot of their government's funds to invest in their domestic industries, making them much more competitive internationally. But even if we ended that practice, and their manufactured goods became more expensive, that would not return factories back here.

Our tool-makers did not get wiped out because the German tool-makers were heavily subsidized due to their government not having to pay for national defense (taken care of by Uncle Sam) -- but because our greedy executives and stockholders shut down the American factory and sent production to China, Mexico, or India, and sold the product back into our market with shameless American branding, despite being made in the third world.

The only one of the countries whose national defense we provide that is still something of a cheap labor colony is South Korea, although less and less so recently as their standard of living improves and their workers expect higher wages, similar to Japan's trajectory. And who's the one country that Trump never bitch-slaps about how heavily our provision of military needs only serves to subsidize their industries, which wipes out our own industries back home? Why, South Korea.

It's not because he's trying to make nice with them during negotiations about North Korea, since he keeps his hands off of every cheap labor colony, not just the one we're involved in high-stakes geopolitical negotiations with.

In fact, Trump's sense of defeat has become so ingrained that he doesn't even try to argue for our re-industrialization anymore -- bringing factories and jobs back. Instead it's about how to export more and more agricultural products -- one of the few things we still produce, as candidate-Trump used to mock on the campaign trail. ("Japan is sending us cars by the ship-load, and what do we send them? Beef. And wheat. And corn.")

Agriculture has never created a prosperous middle class anywhere on Earth in its 10,000-year history. It does create an elite class, unlike the hunter-gatherer economies that preceded it. But they don't pass their wealth on down the pyramid, since their underlings are not very value-adding. Slaving away in the fields doesn't add much value, since most people can sow and harvest their own crops -- why pay such a huge premium for someone else to do it for you? Mostly what you're paying for is the fact that some giant landowner has the productive land, and you don't, so doing your own agriculture isn't feasible.

Making your own steel, your own television, your own clothing, however -- not so easy to do, and worth a much higher premium. Especially when mass production gets invented, then the owners of a manufacturing plant can really start churning out these highly profitable items -- if only they can hire enough workers to operate it day-in and day-out. That leads them to pay much higher wages to unskilled or semi-skilled laborers. While the elite class gets richer with industrialization, the working class gets even richer, narrowing the inequality gap for the first and only time in human history.

There's no other way than industrialization, which is why backwards economies are so desperate to industrialize in a single generation -- so much so that they propel violent revolutionary movements to take over the government and economy. As we become more de-industrialized ourselves, I worry that we too will go in that direction when we re-industrialize. You'd hope that the elites would see that, and re-industrialize peacefully and pro-actively in order to avoid ending up like the Romanovs -- but they show all the signs of still being blind to the destruction they have caused by de-industrialization, so why bother getting out in front of a non-existent problem?

Trump got elected to try to peacefully negotiate the re-industrialization of our economy -- not to push even more agricultural products on foreign countries. Today's plantation owners already get subsidized out the ass by our government, they already make a killing in globalist free trade deals -- the cheap labor colonies get the factories, as long as our plantations get to wipe out their farms -- and none of them "Hire American". The former populist now openly brags about getting cheap-labor immigrants to work on the "farms" so that their greedy plantation owners do not have to pay decent wages to American citizens, or to invent or adopt new technology that would replace farm labor regardless of whether it was foreign or American.

The idea of him hounding Canada, who is nowhere near the top of economic threats to us, into buying more food products, when that sector has never been doing better, and is a key group behind our de-industrialization, is utterly ridiculous.

He only looks slightly less clueless or impotent when he tries to lower barriers to American cars in Asia or Europe. That's one industrially manufactured good that we still do make here, but we aren't going to re-industrialize the economy simply by making more cars for export. Maybe by punishing Ford for moving plants to Mexico, and forcing them back to Michigan. But not by trying to open up Japan or Germany to American cars -- which their citizens want absolutely nothing to do with.

Hey, big gas-guzzling American cars, and our more nationally distinctive pickup trucks, are not everyone's cup of tea. Lowering tariffs or raising quotas won't do anything to kick our car production into high gear, since the Big Three car-makers are nowhere near hitting their quotas already. If the re-industrialization of our economy depends on getting Europeans to buy Rams instead of Renaults, we're doomed.

Our peer nations are not the cause of our impoverishment, since we all enjoyed the Golden Age of Capitalism together during the mid-20th century. France was making cars, Germany was making cars, and America was making cars -- competition among this tier of nations did not matter. Germany made tools, and America made tools. Japan made televisions, and America made televisions. France made kitchen appliances, and America made kitchen appliances. Big deal!

(We were also supplying Japan's and Germany's national defense for that period as well, pointing again to the secondary rather than primary nature of that problem, vis-a-vis our de-industrialization.)

The real change that happened -- around 1980 -- was not competition from a foreign peer nation, but an internal betrayal by the executives of our own companies that made trucks, tools, televisions, and toasters. Our shuttered factories did not move to peer nations, where the wages were comparable to our own, but to cheap labor colonies in the third world.

Trump knows all of this, given his speeches from 2016 and before, but he seems to have begun rationalizing his GOP-obstructed plan to re-industrialize. Now he's no longer going to attack the "shithole countries" that all of our factories have been relocated to by the beneficiaries of the massive corporate tax cut -- he's going to stand up to a "worthy fuckin' adversary" like Canada or Germany. A fellow real, first-world country, not one of those fake wannabe up-and-comer countries. He can fold it in with his other rationalizations about going big or going home, dealing with winners rather than losers, and so on.

That bodes very poorly for the remainder of his disjunctive presidency, which was lame-duck from the get-go. He'll be picking fights with people who don't matter, while giving a pass to, or downright genuflecting to the real problems we face -- Saudi Arabia as the source of radical Islamic ideology and collective violence, China et al as the cheap labor colonies that receive our stolen manufacturing sector, and Mexico that keeps waving on hordes of immigrants across their border with us.

Again, the real fight to pick is with the American leaders who have made junior partners with these foreigners, especially the military brass and the executives of the material sectors in the economy. But if you did confront foreigners, it would be the Saudis, the Chinese, and the Mexicans -- not the Germans, the Japanese, or the Canadians (what a joke!).

The president has little time left to steer the Overton Window back in the direction of his historic 2016 campaign. All signs point to it shifting even further in its current wrong-headed direction. That will allow re-aligners on the Democrats' side like Bernie Sanders to easily steal back the trade issue in 2020, depriving the GOP of its tepid support from the Rust Belt, and ending their Reaganite reign for good.

June 8, 2018

Sexual song titles peak in warm-up phase of cultural excitement cycle

One of the most notable changes in pop music recently is the absence of sexually provocative song titles, or song lyrics. There's still innuendo, of course, but I mean words that offer no plausible deniability -- truly on-the-nose titles like "Get Off," "I Wanna Sex You Up," or "Smack That".

Instead, hit songs of the past few years are more likely to refer to physical exhaustion, fitting the mellow, vulnerable phase of the cultural excitement cycle that we've entered, which is like a refractory period after the previous manic phase of the cycle during the first half of the decade.

But we still have memories of pop music being really salacious -- when was that, exactly? Not during the manic phase, as it turns out, but during the restless, warm-up phase just before it. That is when people are no longer in the refractory stage of being incapable of stimulation, and are again able to get excited -- but they're just getting warmed up and doing exercises, not really taking off into the next spike of the manic phase just yet.

Overt sexual references are part of the effort to shock people into activity as they're emerging from the vulnerable refractory phase. We noted in that overview post on the warm-up phase that dance crazes take over, as people want to get their bodies moving again, but are still getting used to not being mellow and emo. So they need color-by-numbers dance motions that everybody can learn easily, and all take part collectively in without standing out as an awkward individual. The Twist, the Hustle, the Running Man, the Cupid Shuffle, and so on.

Something similar is going on with these provocative references -- they're more like a pep rally well in advance of the actual game, to get people in the right mood. Innuendo would not really shock people awake -- they need unambiguous, highly charged slogans to take them out of their ordinary mindset, and put them into a more pumped-up mindset, in preparation for the upcoming manic phase. The cheerleaders at the pep rally don't say, "We're better than we were last time," but "We're number one!" They don't say, "Let's play our best," but "Fight fight fight, kill kill kill!"

One last observation before getting to the history: these overtly sexual songs are generally not what you would put on a "doing it" mix tape or playlist. Since they're mostly from the warm-up phase of the cycle, there's a mismatch between the highly charged lyrics and the just-waking-up vibe that the song gives off. It's understandable given the role they play in the cycle -- trying to shock people awake after they're coming out of a slumber. Still, when you go back and listen to them again, and you're not in that warm-up phase yourself, they sound more cheesy and goofy than they did at the time -- like, what was all the scandal about? Wait until you're in the warm-up phase again, and then they'll resonate more.

In looking over the history of the Billboard Year-end Hot 100 charts, I noted the titles that had a clear reference to sexual activity. It didn't have to refer to full-on intercourse, just physical intimacy -- and something beyond ordinary kissing. That excludes innuendo like using "loving" or "love" to refer to physical activity, since it has a plausible main reading of "feeling love toward someone". I included titles with pronouns whose meaning is unambiguous, like "Touch It". And I included figurative language if there was no ambiguity or double-entendre -- "Ring My Bell" is obviously not about a literal bell that she wants you to ring. But "I Was Made for Lovin' You," for example, allows plausible deniability, and was excluded.

The cultural excitement cycle lasts 15 years, with three phases of five years each, and those five-year chunks match up well with the first half and second half of the decades. The warm-up phases are the early '60s, late '70s, early '90s, and late '00s. Following them are the manic phases of the late '60s, early '80s, late '90s, and early '10s. Then the vulnerable refractory phases of the early '70s, late '80s, early '00s, and late '10s.

Here are the on-the-nose sexual song titles for each five-year period, listed by the first year of the period. The chart conveys the rise-and-fall pattern over time, with the titles legible if you click the image. An appendix at the end of this post lists them all in an easier-to-read text format, if you're curious what all the examples are. Two entries in the chart have "..." to keep the columns from getting too wide; see the Appendix for the full titles.


The first warm-up phase was the early '60s, but did not have any examples because before the '70s, overtly sexual pop culture was largely absent. That was the Great Compression norm of "reining it in" rather than the laissez-faire norm that replaced it in the '70s. If the performers themselves did not refrain from overt references, the censors would have stepped in -- they censored movies, comic books, and TV, why not also music?

Even when the Midcentury censorship began to give way in the late '60s, there still aren't many overt song titles -- only "Hanky Panky" -- because they were already in the mood by that time, being in the manic phase, and didn't need to get whacked over the head to wake up from their slumber.

Then after the refractory phase of the early '70s, overt titles hit a local peak in the late '70s. It was not only disco songs like "Ring My Bell" but soft rock songs like "Kiss You All Over". The '80s had few overtly sexual titles. We understand why not in the emo late '80s, but during the early '80s manic phase, they didn't need provocative lyrics to get them excited -- they already were "So Excited".

Coming out of the late '80s slump, the early '90s had the most sexual song titles of all. But then just as fast as everyone began complaining about these scandalous songs these days, salacious titles fell off a cliff during the late '90s and hit a nadir during the emo early '00s. During the next manic phase of the late '90s, everyone was already in a bouncy mood and didn't need waking up like they did in the early '90s.

There was another "Sexual Eruption" during the "Promiscuous" warm-up phase of the late '00s, the most recent of these peaks. The Britney Spears song "If U Seek Amy" is spoken as "F-U-C-K Me". It's not a clever double-entendre, since the context only allows one reading: "All the boys and all the girls want to If U Seek Amy". During the next manic phase of the early '10s, we see again the lack of need to wake people up -- they already are at that point -- and the continued absence during today's refractory phase. There are still two years left in this period, but we won't see a surge by then. Starting around 2020, though, these on-the-nose references will ramp up again.

Aside from the 15-year excitement cycle, we also see the 30-some year cycle of outgoing vs. cocooning social behavior, which closely tracks the rising vs. falling-crime cycle. So the peaks get higher from the late '70s to the early '90s, and then a lower peak in the late '00s. Generally the outgoing and rising-crime climate is more intense and sexualized than the cocooning and falling-crime climate. The crime rate is bound to start its long rise again circa 2020, but it will only be beginning. So I don't think the next peak will be as big as the one from the early '90s, or perhaps even from the late '00s.

Related phenomenon from the original post on the warm-up phase, dance song titles with salacious body part references:

Before the laissez-faire era of "if it feels good, do it" that began in the 1970s, the dance craze period of the early '60s didn't have salacious body part references, but there was "Finger Poppin' Time," "Snap Your Fingers," and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (not specifically about dancing, but that's the most likely context). By late '70s, there were more direct references: "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty," "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)," and "Shake Your Groove Thing". From the early '90s, "Baby Got Back" and "Rump Shaker". And from the late 2000s, "My Humps," "Hips Don't Lie," and "Ms. New Booty".

Appendix

1965

Hanky Panky

1970

Feel Like Makin' Love
Let's Get It On

1975

Ring My Bell
Get Off
Kiss You All Over
Do You Wanna Make Love
Feel Like Makin' Love

1980

Making Love Out of Nothing at All
Making Love
Sexual Healing

1985

Touch Me (I Want Your Body)
Like a Virgin
I Want Your Sex

1990

I'll Make Love to You
Your Body's Callin'
Stroke You Up
Bump n' Grind
Knockin' da Boots
Freak Me
Humpin' Around
I Touch Myself
Touch Me (All Night Long)
Humpty Dance
Rub You the Right Way
All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You
Do Me!
I Wanna Sex You Up

1995

Touch It
Touch Me, Tease Me
Doin' It
Freek'n You
Sex and Candy

2000

I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)
Get It On Tonite

2005

If U Seek Amy
Bust It Baby
Touch My Body
Get It Shawty
I Wanna Fuck You
Touch It
Smack That
Promiscuous
Grind with Me
Birthday Sex
Sexual Eruption
Sexy Love

2010

Bang Bang
Get Lucky
S&M

2015

Love Me Harder

June 7, 2018

Higher min wage replaces crappy jobs with good jobs, as banks shift funding from unprofitable to profitable businesses

As we near the end of the Reaganite neoliberal period, and enter into a Bernie-led populist period, it's crucial to wake everybody up to the orthodox myths of the past several decades -- some of which have become so ingrained that we don't even question them, even those on the opposition left.

At the highest level, there will be a shift in values, principles, and priorities -- away from the Reaganite priority of "profits over people". That priority has led to all sorts of policies that have crushed wages while sending profits through the roof: making workers compete against each other to enrich their employers, deregulating corporations so that they can form anti-competitive cartels that fleece their workers and consumers, off-shoring manufacturing to cheap labor colonies or hauling in millions of immigrants to be exploited as cheap labor, and so on and so forth.

As we move toward the principle of "people over profits," the policies that stem from the new priority will run up against all kinds of naysaying from the beneficiaries of the old order. That is not important, since they will never be converted. The group that we do need to concern ourselves with is people who sense that something has gone wrong, but they aren't sure whether the new way is going to be better than the old way. We do need good convincing arguments for them.

That's equally true for grassroots voters as for politicians -- as Gen X and Millennials become more represented in government, displacing the Me Generation of Silents and Boomers, politicians will become more open to arguments for a whole new way of running our society, after it has fallen into such undeniable disrepair.

One such policy I've written about before is tariffs -- we will enact them far more broadly than the ones that Trump has placed on steel from certain countries, which is not a whole lot different from what George W. Bush did back in 2002-'03. The main worry is that tariffs will raise prices to consumers of goods that use steel in their production process, as the producers "pass along" their higher cost of materials to their consumers.

That will not happen in a sector that has competition among firms, since one firm that tried to jack up its prices to pass along their higher costs, would price themselves out of the market, as their competitors who did not jack up their prices would steal market share from the greedy firms. Hence, tariffs lead to lower profit margins, as materials costs increase while prices to the consumer stay roughly the same.

If the sector is not competitive, that is a reflection of the Reaganite model where we have deregulated society so much that corporations can get bigger and bigger, swallow up all their competitors, and merge vertically so that they control all steps of the production chain. That monopolistic status allows a small group of wealthy and powerful people to dictate terms to everybody else. Obviously in the new order, they will be broken up in order to restore competition -- among businesses, to benefit their workers and consumers, as their own profits fall from their currently inflated values.

This point about "higher costs" being "passed along" generalizes.

Nowhere do we see Reaganite hysteria about higher costs on such open display as with raising the minimum wage. Neoliberals claim, just as they do about higher costs of materials, that higher costs of labor to the employers will result in higher prices to consumers, in order to pass along those costs. But for the same reason as before, they are dead wrong: higher wages mean lower profit margins, not higher prices for consumers, due to competition among businesses on the dimension of price.

They make a related claim on phony humanitarian grounds, that raising the price of labor will result in less of it being purchased -- in other words, the affected workers would be employed for fewer hours, or maybe fired altogether, apparently bungling the attempt by the wage-hikers to make their status better. This argument does not appear for materials because that stuff is not human, and there are no heartstrings to tug about under-utilized quantities of steel if its costs were to rise.

Some well-meaning proponents of raising the minimum wage say that the quality of labor will improve if it is paid a higher price. I get the reasoning, and it may be true, but we have to make stronger arguments than this one. First, employers do not care about higher quality labor at a higher price -- if they did, they would still be employing Americans rather than sending the work to be done by cheap slaves in Indonesia, or bringing Indonesian immigrants here. And second, we are not going to accept the framing of "what's in it for the employer?" -- that has been the prevailing value system for the past 40 years, and we see where it's gotten us. We're going to assume that the quality of labor is no better or worse when it is paid more.

The naive supply-side view is a non-starter since "buying less labor" would mean the employers are now short-staffed -- if they reduce the man-hours of their workforce, in order to keep payroll expenses the same in the face of a higher minimum wage, then their output takes a nosedive. That would slash their revenues, and total profits. They could not squeeze more productivity out of their workers since they're getting paid the higher minimum wage unconditionally -- the government doesn't require them to work 50% harder in order for the minimum wage to go up by 50%.

So, the best-case scenario for employers is that they keep the number of man-hours the same as before -- to avoid plummeting output and total profits -- and eat the higher labor costs in the form of lower profit margins. But they still stay in business, turn a profit, and enjoy high social status as employers and managers and stockholders, rather than as workers.

However, it's possible that their profit margins could fall so much that they would no longer be profitable at all, no matter how they tried to re-jigger the man-hours in their workforce. This is the dreaded effect of a rise in the minimum wage causing the disappearance of an individual worker, or their workplace, or their workplace's entire parent company, or even that entire sector of the economy.

Unlike the scare tactics about "higher prices to consumers," which appeals to selfish individualism, this portrayal actually hits people where it hurts -- thinking about the effects on other people. What if we tried to help those poor people by raising the minimum wage, and it only resulted in their getting fired, their business shut down, and that whole sector of the economy going up in a puff of smoke?

I've never heard any well-meaning leftist, or even revolutionary, make the obvious counter-argument (and I was part of the anti-globalization movement circa 2000, so I came into plenty of contact with people and writers who should have figured it out).

Although some businesses will have to shut down when we raise the minimum wage, they will be replaced by new businesses -- or expansions of existing businesses -- that can survive and thrive in an economy where the minimum wage has been raised to $15. The minimum wage god does not close a door without opening a window.

It's actually a far less than divine agent who will come to the rescue -- it will be the banks and other actors in the finance sector. Not, of course, out of generosity, but out of self-preservation. No business starts up with the founder's own money -- they raise money from investors of various types (individuals, banks, etc.), and through a variety of arrangements (taking out a loan, issuing bonds, selling equity shares, etc.). And no business, once it is up and running, continues its ongoing existence with its own money -- it keeps its relationship with the finance sector, however that relationship may change.

The investors in the business do not want to do any work themselves -- they have a lot of money, and want that money to make money itself, rather than sit around losing value due to inflation. They want a return on their investment, and look for opportunities that seem more promising than the available alternatives.

If we raise the minimum wage to $15, that is like a changing selection pressure in evolution. It forces the individuals and groups to either adapt to it, or die out. Those that can meet the challenge will out-perform those that cannot, until the "unfit" are weeded out altogether, and only the "fittest" have survived. And we really shouldn't use scare-quotes around "unfit" -- if your business model sucks so bad that you can't turn a profit by paying your workers a decent wage, you deserve to go out of business. The government does not exist to protect the shitty businesses and shitty businessmen of the world, who can only make it in life if we let them hire slaves.

What is the currency of fitness? The ability to get financing from investors, which again is the lifeblood of the economy. If the minimum wage goes to $15, a whole lot of crappy foodie businesses are going to get shuttered -- those that absolutely require wages below $5 for food prep, wait staff, and the like. Why? Because they will be unable to turn a profit while still following the law, so investors will stop supplying them with loans, buying their stock, or however they're financing them.

And yet all that withdrawn investment will still be in search of some project to invest in -- they don't want it just sitting around idle, not earning a return, and losing value due to inflation. So they either put out a casting call, or maybe they get a knock on their door, to find new projects to invest in. Can you turn a profit in this new climate of a $15 minimum wage? If so, we'll invest in you! Please God, just send us the businesses that can thrive in this new environment, and we'll fund them!

So they find out that some manufacturing plant has been paying its workers at least $15 an hour, before during and after the change to the minimum wage law. Clearly they're able to survive in the new climate, so now they're going to get more funding than they've already got -- maybe they hire more workers at their plant, or open up new plants, perhaps in new parts of America that they weren't even in before.

And that manufacturing expansion will not only create more blue-collar jobs that pay a higher wage than food prep -- those blue-collar workers will need supervisors, plant managers, and all sorts of other white-collar and professional-managerial staff to run the expanded operation. Some may be hired in-house, but others may form their own firms that contract with the plants -- and that opens up a whole new series of projects to invest in, the support services for an expanding manufacturing sector. Now the finance sector is worrying less and less about their money not finding targets.

Unlike informational sectors of the economy, the professional support for a material sector, like manufacturing, grows in proportion to the output of the sector. If you want to produce 10 times as many cars, you're going to have to hire 10 times as many assembly workers, and 10 times as many professionals and managers to oversee that expanded workforce. Whereas if you want 10 times as much digital ad revenue for your search engine, you don't need to hire any more workers or more of their supervisors. You use your existing workers to figure out how to draw more users to your search engine, or how to co-opt or buy out your competitors. They're not producing content, so output is not a labor-intensive process requiring more man-hours to solve a larger-scale problem.

So, unlike the phony info-tech bubble of today's economy, where there are so few targets to invest in, but where each one gets a giant amount of investment -- in one with an expanding manufacturing sector, there will be ever more white-collar, possibly tech-related businesses ancillary to manufacturing that will provide plenty of targets for investment. That will make it less volatile as well -- you won't have all your eggs invested in FAANG's basket.

That's what the economy was like before Reagan -- a gigantic middle class that was plugged in, somehow, to manufacturing, and financed ultimately by the New York banks who were central to the New Deal coalition of FDR (a patrician from New York). Here is a reminder of the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage, which stayed near $10 (in today's terms) for most of the 1960s and '70s, only plummeting during the Reaganite era since then, losing around 30% of its value by now:


Once we start laying out this grand yet straightforward vision of how things will be after Reaganism, it will convince most normal people and keep them from worrying about the arguments made by neoliberal fear-mongers.

It will also get some buy-in from at least one of the major elite sectors of society -- finance. There will be no re-alignment without at least some degree of elite support. That doesn't mean giving the banks everything they want -- they've already been getting that. But just because they're a central sector of the dominant coalition doesn't mean they will get to dictate terms. They were central to the New Deal coalition, yet they still had Glass-Steagall and other regulations reining in their behavior. They accepted that, relative to the alternative where they were not a central member of the coalition -- where they would face even worse treatment.

After Reaganism, the elites of the material sectors will be the losers, as their profit margins get crushed. Some, like food service, will mostly vanish from the economy altogether, just like in the good old days. The workers in these sectors, however, will thrive for the first time in most people's living memory. The natural enemies of the material sectors are the informational sectors, and we can already see an opening to include them so that they get a central seat in society's planning, unlike today where they are part of the opposition coalition (Democrats under Reaganism).

They will face more regulations than they have recently, but other sectors will be regulated even more heavily -- steep tariffs that force manufacturers to bring plants back to this country instead of cheap labor colonies, jacked-up minimum wages (which will not affect the finance sector since they don't hire armies of low-paid slaves), and the like. Material sectors control the dominant party of the Reagan era, informational sectors are in the opposition.

As the populist mob begins to really howl for blood -- a trend that will absolutely explode during the next killer recession, due before November 2020 -- the elite sectors that control the opposition party had better get out in front of things, and provide an off-ramp for a decent chunk of the elites before they wind up in the guillotines.

The FDR New Deal model is exemplary, not the neoliberal Obama model where trillions of central bank liquidity has been given to the 1% to play around and gamble with, rather than financing the expansion of manufacturing or other sectors that pay high wages to the bottom 50% of the class pyramid.

If the Democrats refuse to follow history's orders, the elite sectors that control it should withdraw their support and start up a new party with most of the old Democrats carrying over, plus large swaths of former Trump voters jumping on the populist bandwagon. Call it the Populist Party.

Hopefully it doesn't come to the death of a major party that refuses to re-align itself, which would parallel the lead-up to the Civil War. In the meantime, the finance sector should be leaning as hard as they can on the Democrats to re-align in a New Deal direction, where although no sector got away with murder like they did during the bygone Gilded Age, the finance sector elites did better than the manufacturing sector elites, who had to put up with rising wages, labor unions, and de-globalized supply chains.

Related post: Raise the minimum wage to $20 to defeat the GOP and steal the immigration topic from them. This is just a special case of rising wages, whatever the cause -- say, if we directly outlawed employers from hiring foreigners, who are only hired now to undercut American wages.

There should still be some kind of laws against hiring cheap foreigners -- they can only be employed if they are paid 50% more than an American, say, like a tariff on foreign labor. But most of the problem is on the low-wage end, where simply raising the minimum wage would have the exact same effect as outlawing the hiring of foreigners -- but crucially, without turning the issue into one about race or ethnicity, and only referring to class and economics.

In today's world, making it primarily about race or ethnicity would make it too toxic. And indeed most of the liberals and Democrats used to support bans on hiring cheap foreigners, but only when it was framed as a class issue. Once the conservative culture warriors took it into an issue about ethnicity, they alienated the other side, and the issue lost its bipartisan consensus. We can only restore that bipartisan support if the issue has no ethnic connotations, and is only about raising the standard of living for working and middle-class Americans.

June 4, 2018

Phases of feminism across the 15-year cultural excitement cycle

So far I've been detailing a 15-year cycle in the excitability of pop music, which progresses in three phases of five years each -- an easily identifiable bouncy manic phase where energy levels are spiking, followed by a mellow vulnerable phase when those levels crash into a refractory period, and winding back toward normal with a restless warm-up phase where people are able to be stimulated again but have not yet taken off into the next manic spike.

Although the pattern is clear for pop music, the question arises how much more broadly it applies to other cultural domains. A recent post showed that it affects the kind of kinesthetic hobbies that people take up, such as people in the manic phase turning to dance props that are normally used in rhythmic gymnastics -- hula hoops, ropes, tethers, sticks, and so on. That is a kinesthetic activity, not necessarily a musical one, though they interact well together.

Thinking over some other cultural phenomena that distinguished the manic phase of the early 2010s, the whole Social Justice Warrior movement stood out. It's died off in the past few years, just as the manic phase of pop music ended, and it has nothing to do with Trump since it wasn't there for most of Obama's first term either.

The strain of SJWs that really shouted "manic" was the revival of pro-slut feminism -- most notably the marches called, unabashedly, "Slutwalk". The point was to declare, "We're in such a manic state that we're going to strut around in public while dressed like sluts, and act provocatively -- but that doesn't mean we want anyone hitting on us, let alone touching us. We're just in a really exhibitionistic mood -- and don't confuse that with sluttiness (not that there's anything wrong with sluttiness)."

Aside from Slutwalk, girls exhibited themselves at the then-popular gay pride parades, took pole dance fitness classes (and uploaded videos on YouTube to show everyone else), minced around in their underwear on No Pants Subway Ride day, turned toplessness into activism -- #FreeTheNipple -- and wore painted-on yoga pants no matter where they went. The overall message was "Don't body-shame me" and "don't slut-shame me," the rallying cry of exhibitionists.

Belle Knox, a porn girl who was attending Duke at the time, made the case that doing porn was empowering because she was choosing to get sexually abused -- wielding agency -- rather than being the unwilling victim of sexual abuse (as she obviously had been while growing up). She also rationalized the act by saying it blew up stereotypes about porn girls only being dumb druggies, now even upper-middle class girls at Good Schools can get molested on camera for posterity.

And typical of feminists during the manic phase, Anita Sarkeesian made a brand for herself by complaining about female characters in video games being portrayed as cloistered damsels in distress, when they ought to be strutting around doing their own in-your-face thang, like the girls in the Slutwalk marches.

Five years later, it's hard to believe any of that happened, let alone that it was the defining cause of feminism at the time. But then feminism has had little coherence or consistency across time, other than "What women are asserting themselves about today".

The issues they feel like asserting themselves about change in a regular rhythm that alternates between the three phases of the cultural excitement cycle -- exhibitionism and demands for more agency during the manic phase, followed by withdrawal and demands for more protection from male predators during the refractory phase, ending with a resting phase where they are neither one nor the other, capable of being excited back into exhibitionism yet still open to discussion about how dangerous it is to put yourself out there.

Rather than conduct an in-depth tour of the history of feminism since the 1950s, I'll just list the distinguishing feminist phenomena of each five-year period, and you can look them up if they don't ring a bell. These topics came up as I read over the various Wikipedia articles on different waves and sub-waves of feminism, from the 1950s to today. They are not things that I had to think of on my own, subject to cherry-picking.

I'll group them by phase of the excitement cycle, to show how similar the periods were despite being 15 years apart each time, owing to their identical placement in the cycle. For the entries in the refractory phase, I'll remark what they were in reaction to during the previous manic phase, to give a sense of the dynamics.

And I'll only look at the manic and refractory phases, since my survey turned up little that was unique to the restless warm-up phase. It tends to have issues from the refractory phase carrying over, as well as sowing the seeds for the next manic phase. That's typical of the resting state of an excitable system -- it's a fairly neutral, nondescript state where it can actually take some stimulation, unlike the refractory phase, but has not taken off into the characteristic spike yet.

The "women's issues" here are from the domains that are relevant to changing levels of excitement, namely sexuality and physical appearance. I did not notice any strong pattern about kinship relations, like motherhood or husband-wife roles, but maybe someone who knows the history better will be able to tell. There was no clear pattern either for how women's issues related to economic issues or racial / ethnic issues -- and it's hard to see how they would relate to the dynamics of cultural excitement, rather than changes in the economy or in community relations. But who knows? This is the purely social-cultural kind of feminism.

Manic phase mood: invincible exhibitionism

When people are in a manic phase, they feel invincible, hence eager to take greater risks, which in turn leads to a greater sense of agency. In the domain of sexuality and appearance, what is dangerous for women is to just put themselves all out there, since some of the spectators may interpret it as an invitation to approach, touch, or molest. Thus, the major themes are sexual agency and exhibitionism.

Early '50s - Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Playboy founded.

Late '60s - Masters & Johnson's Human Sexual Response, the Summer of Love, free love, "Make love, not war," and the Sexual Revolution generally.

Early '80s - Sex-positive feminist victory during the feminist sex wars (in favor of porn, S&M, prostitution, promiscuity).

Late '90s - Girl Power in many media, lipstick feminism, The Vagina Monologues, re-claiming slurs (slut, bitch, etc.).

Early '10s - Slutwalk, gay pride parade, #FreeTheNipple, Belle Knox, GamerGate, pole dance fitness craze, No Pants Day / Subway Ride, anti-body-shaming, anti-slut-shaming, anti-yoga-pants-shaming.

Refractory phase mood: vulnerable withdrawal

After excitement levels have spiked for awhile, they not only come down, but plunge into a refractory phase where no stimulation is possible. Before they felt invincible, now they feel incredibly vulnerable. Before they took greater risks, now they are more averse to risks. Before they put themselves all out there, now they want to withdraw from public view. Before they felt a strong sense of agency, now they feel more like victims who can only react to male predators and oppressors, seeking protection.

Early '70s - Consciousness raising and "The personal is political," brooding over how pervasive and victorious male domination is throughout society. A reaction to being passed around during the Summer of Love manic phase. During the restless phase of the late '70s, this will also be a reaction against "porno chic" and the swinging craze, which delighted men but alienated women.

Late '80s - Date rape panic spurred by Koss et al 1987 research article, McMartin Preschool trial (hallucinatory claims of child sexual abuse). Violent crime rates were rising, so it made some sense, but they were also rising five years earlier during the sex-positive victory in the feminist sex wars, and during the late '60s Sexual Revolution. So, more of a reaction to the previous manic phase of feminism, than to trends in rape rates per se. Being too sex-positive made you too naive about the dangers. This topic would carry over into the resting phase of the early '90s, when it also gave attention to sexual harassment.

Early '00s - Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and its imitators. Perverted Justice, the group that spawned To Catch a Predator. Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal, where 80% of victims were male but still 20% were female. Reaction against the cultural over-validation of female freedom during Girl Power, which had delivered its message to young girls in addition to grown women (Spice Girls). Apart from emphasizing victimhood, feminist culture had to highlight young girls in particular as targets. Carrying over also into the late '00s, ubiquitous emo girls adopted a persona of a fallen or wounded angel in their online avatars, self-portraits, Halloween costumes, and dance club outfits.

Late '10s - Mattress Girl, campaign against manspreading, hysteria over "Trump's treatment of women," Women's Marches, #MeToo and Time's Up, Pedo-gate, trad-wives. Reaction against the licentious culture of Slutwalk and No Pants Subway Ride, reminding women they're not invincible near predators, no matter how much they naively believed so in an earlier manic phase. Presumably these themes will carry over into the next resting phase beginning in 2020, until they are quickly jettisoned during the next manic phase around 2025.

As these cycles show, the cultural domain may be only loosely related, if at all, to the kinship domain. It's not as though dangerous behavior by males cycles on the order of five or so years -- rape rates rise and fall steadily over a period of decades. Manspreading has been common for decades, so why only in the late 2010s react against it? It's more like the cultural excitement cycle puts people in a certain mindset during one phase, and that mindset either allows them or prevents them from seeing certain things at that time.

Likewise, slutty vs. prudish behavior does not cycle on the order of years, but on the order of decades -- rising sexual behavior during the rising-crime period, and falling during the falling-crime period. That became clear during the late '90s and the early '10s, when girls were in a manic phase and acted like exhibitionists in public, but the trend in sexual behavior had been falling since roughly 1990, so they weren't actually slutty in their private lives. As exhibitionistic as they were in their public cultural personas, the Spice Girls and Kesha made it clear that they weren't horny just because they were full of energy and wanted to dance, and at most you can look but don't touch.

The worldviews that women articulate about their situation in the domain of sexuality and appearance is more of a rationalization of their gut-level intuition. It's the gut-level sense that says ramp up energy during a manic phase, or keep stimulation away during a refractory phase. After too much cultural stimulation, the moment has passed, and it's time to dial the level down. After the level has been dialed down for awhile, then it's time to dial it back up again. Narratives, worldviews, etc., are conjured up to attempt to explain why they feel the way they feel, why they're behaving the way they're behaving.

So for five whole years, the view is free love and enjoying all the cat-calls from men at the Summer of Love, and then suddenly the view is that all men are rapists and pigs who just chew you up and spit you out. They try to rationalize this as the lessons learned from the previous phase, but it's not like it takes five years to figure that out -- and the lessons should then stay learned, rather than fade away in a few years, opening the door to another round of repeating the same mistakes all over again.

With the social-cultural kind of feminism, the entire "world of ideas" is just whatever rationalization is needed at the time for their fluctuating gut-level moods. That doesn't mean that those rationalizations are accurate or inaccurate views of what women's problems are and how they should be solved. Maybe they have to be in the right gut-level mood to hit on the correct view. But it does show why feminism's "world of ideas" fluctuates as much as it does, giving it little coherence over time.

The same would be true for anti-feminist, or men's rights movements as well. Those gut-level moods fluctuate just as much, and with the same timing, as women's moods during the cultural excitement cycle. There's nothing really to cover in-depth there -- it's an instant reaction against whatever the feminists are advocating at the moment.

At any rate, it's important to keep in mind these various cycles -- cultural excitement, outgoing / rising-crime, status-striving / inequality -- when looking at the history of ideas, especially the more they relate to human beings rather than planets or atoms.

June 1, 2018

Italy's new "Historic Compromise" in long-term context

Now that it looks like Italy is going to have a government ruled by a coalition between populists of the left (Five Star Movement) and populists of the right (the League) -- as though Bernie Sanders and Steve Bannon had formed a government -- we need to evaluate its prospects in the long-term party dynamics.

Just like the US and other countries, Italy has a political cycle that lasts roughly 40 years, during which one party is dominant and the other is opposition. At the beginning of the cycle comes a trailblazing founder who keeps the coalition in power for a relatively long time (e.g., three or more consecutive terms for an American president), followed by the occasional win for the opposition, then extenders of the original dominant vision, and ending with a disjunctive phase where the coalition is torn between the old way and the new way. After this disjunctive phase, the old dominant party gets dethroned by the old opposition, who go on to rule during their own 40-year cycle. Stephen Skowronek developed this model for the US, but it applies broadly.

Before we get too ecstatic about the new Italian coalition -- or too horrified, if they're not in favor -- we need to see if we're in the trailblazing phase, when all sorts of bold new projects are completed in record time. That would imply a changing of the parties, where the old dominant party has been dethroned and the old opposition party has risen to take its place as the agenda-setter for the next several decades.

As it turns out, this does not look like a whole new world. Five Star got 33% of the vote, far ahead of any other single party. The League was part of a larger coalition with the center-right, whose senior member has been Berlusconi's Forza Italia -- and that entire coalition got 37%, putting the League itself below Five Star. And the Prime Minister, Conte, is aligned with Five Star rather than the League.

Five Star hails from the left side of the spectrum, as revealed by its behavior early after the 2018 election results showed that a coalition government would be necessary. They refused to enter a coalition government with the center-right coalition that the League is a part of, and they attempted to get the center-left Democratic Party to join them instead. Prime Minister Conte is from the left. Their overall platform focuses on improving the material welfare of ordinary people, a left program.

Unlike the US, Italy's dominant coalition for the past 35 years has been left rather than right. See this list of prime ministers of Italy. (This is also true for France, Spain, Portugal, and Greece -- unlike the UK and Germany, where the dominant coalitions have been from the right, like the Americans.)

Beginning in 1983, a prime minister from the left, Craxi, took office for the first time since the founding of the Second Republic in 1946. He lasted four years in office -- and an Italian ruler who lasts four years is like an American who lasts fourteen, making Craxi the trailblazing founder of this current cycle. Despite interruptions by the opposition right (mainly Berlusconi), the left has remained the dominant coalition right up through the previous prime minister, Gentiloni -- and now continuing that trend with Conte.

So if anything, this is likely to be a disjunctive period -- as the dominant left tries to re-invent itself, but ultimately does not get very far with the new vision because it has so much inertia and sclerosis from having been the dominant force for so many decades.

Typical for disjunctive periods, the dominant group has reached out to the other side in a way that looks totally unorthodox, and the gesture is accepted. That is like Trump winning long-time blue states in the de-industrialized region of America, or Jimmy Carter winning over the Deep South after it had been drifting away from the New Deal Democrats for awhile, or Hoover winning Texas when it had traditionally belonged to the Solid South for the Democrats.

In Italy, it means Five Star forming a coalition with populists from the right. It's not a standard "grand coalition" where the orthodoxy of the right and the orthodoxy of the left join to form the most generic program possible. It feels like both sides are shaking things up, and don't mind shaking things up with each other -- it's a carnivalesque, topsy-turvy phase in between two coherent periods. There's the moribund neoliberal Eurocentric period, and the upcoming populist Euroskeptic period -- right now is the twilight phase in between them, rather than the start of the next period, which will be driven by the old opposition side.

But it's not just the old opposition running on its old vision -- it will be a re-alignment, to make a solid break with the past represented by the old dominant coalition. This is like the Bernie group who will take the US out of the Reaganite period. In Italy, it will be groups like the League who are on the right, but with a whole new vision for society -- populism rather than neoliberalism, and Euroskepticism rather than Eurocentrism.

That suggests that the way forward lies more with groups like the League, rather than groups like Five Star. Both will play a role in Italy's future, but since the left has been dominant for the past cycle, it will go into the opposition role in the next cycle, as the right takes over the dominant role. The next cycle will still be populist and Euroskeptic, no matter which coalition is in power at the moment -- just like the past cycle has been neoliberal and Eurocentric, no matter which coalition was in power at the moment.

The most recent parallel to this phase of Italian politics was the Historic Compromise during the second half of the 1970s, between the Christian Democrats (center/left) and the Communists (more-left). Also called the terza fase, or third phase -- and indeed a disjunctive phase is the third and final one of a beginning / middle / end cycle.

In the Postwar era, from 1946 through the '70s, the center/left was the dominant coalition -- including every prime minister of this period -- while the more-left was the opposition. Despite being relatively more on the right, the dominant Christian Democrats delivered the same kind of policies that we got here under the New Deal, whose dominant coalition was relatively more on the left. The zeitgeist matters more than left vs. right.

By the mid-'70s, the Communists had turned away from the Soviet Union as a beacon, and re-aligned themselves under the banner of Eurocommunism -- less emphasis on class struggle, revolution, and internationalism, and more emphasis on peaceful democratic control of government, social issues in addition to class, and adapting the model to the West rather than the East ("Euro" rather than "Soviet"). This re-alignment made the opposition more-left palatable to the dominant center/left, and both agreed to a kind of coalition. The center/left would rule, but with the external support of the Communists, who would get something in return.

Ultimately, the opposition did not get enough, and the compromise fell apart in 1979. But that did not mean the return of Christian Democrat dominance -- they continued to rule for only a few years longer, until they were dethroned completely in 1983. The Socialist Party that the trailblazing Craxi belonged to, grew out of the Eurocommunist re-alignment of the old opposition. It was not focused on working class struggle, or revolution, or the Soviet Union -- in fact, it would carry out the neoliberal revolution, Eurozone integration, and rely electorally more on professionals and managers.

By analogy, today's Five Star party is like the Christian Democrats of the mid-'70s -- not in their policies, but in their dominant status, and in their late placement in the cycle. The League is like the Eurocommunist re-alignment -- not in their policies, of course, but in their opposition status, and late placement in the cycle, as they seek to re-invent what the opposition stands for.

They have already formed a new Historic Compromise, although if history is any guide, the League won't get as much in return as they had been hoping, and the already tenuous coalition will fall apart within a few years. Remember that the two groups were opposed to a coalition when the election results were fresh, and the dominant side (Five Star) wanted to join the other dominant left group (Democratic Party), refusing to join the opposition right (including Forza Italia). Perhaps the left will last for a few years after that break-up.

Before long, though -- 5 to 10 years -- the old dominant party will have failed to deliver the goods on their own re-alignment. The asymmetry is that the dominant party has so much invested in maintaining the status quo of the past several decades -- they were the principal architects of that work -- whereas the opposition party has less to lose by going all-in on a total re-invention of themselves. By that point, the left will fade into opposition status, and the right will rise to take their place, under a re-aligned vision of populism and Euroskepticism.

The League has already begun this re-alignment by radically altering their own program. They used to be a separatist group for the wealthier northern region. Now they have focused on being a part of all of Italy -- as a contrast to belonging to the even larger entity of Europe. And in exchange, they must do what's best for the poorer regions of Italy, rather than try to break apart the wealthy North from the poor South.

By analogy, today's leader of the League, Salvini, may not be the trailblazer when things really start to change. Salvini might be more like Berlinguer from the Communists of the late '70s, who took the first major steps toward changing his party. Someone else might become the trailblazer, just as it was Craxi rather than Berlinguer who became the first Prime Minister of the left.

No matter which individual it is, the future appears to lie with the right rather than the left in Italy -- as presumably it does in the other countries where the left has been dominant for the past 35 years, like France, Spain, Portugal, and Greece. And yet, they will still resemble the overall vision of the US and UK, who will come under the influence of the left, as the long reign of the right comes to an end.

It is not so much about left or right, but about the overall vision -- neoliberalism has been implemented by dominant parties from the left (in the Mediterranean) as well as the right (Anglo countries, Germany, Japan). As the cycle completes a full turning, populism and globoskepticism will be implemented by new dominant parties from the left (in the Anglo countries) as well as the right (in the Mediterranean).

So don't get overly excited just yet -- no more excited than we should be about the disappointing Trump administration that we all thought was going to re-write the playbook. At the same time, look at it as the final countdown -- this kind of disjunctive, topsy-turvy phase does not last long, and it means we are finally getting close to the end.

May 28, 2018

Civil War parallels: GOP wins 2020, Democrat party DEFUNCT, most Dems re-group as Populist party to win 2024 and become dominant for 40 years

While it is clear that the Reaganite period of US history has entered its moribund disjunctive phase, and that the period succeeding it will be populist and led by the Bernie crowd, I'm starting to worry about whether the transition will occur in 2020 or 2024.

Usually there's only one disjunctive term at the end of an era -- Carter at the end of the New Deal, Hoover at the end of the Progressive Republican era, John Quincy Adams at the end of the Jeffersonian era, and John Adams at the end of the quasi-reign of the Federalists.

But there was one time when there were in fact two disjunctive terms back-to-back before a transition to a whole new era. And in true ineffectual fashion, they were served by two separate one-termers, neither of whom would be re-nominated by their party despite being the incumbent president. That would be the lead-up to the Civil War, as the Jacksonian period wound down. Before the pivotal year of 1860, both Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan served as end-of-an-era, do-nothing, can-kicking presidents for their period's dominant party (Democrats).

Why bother starting the analogy? Because of the strong parallels between then and now -- mainly the partisan polarization that clearly portends some degree of Civil War 2.0 (see Peter Turchin, Ages of Discord). Americans have never spoken this openly of civil war and secession, whether as earnest zealots or as gallows-humor observers, since the original Civil War.

By analogy, the Republicans of the Reaganite period are like the Democrats of the Jacksonian period. Ignore how similar or different they are in substance, although there is a lot of overlap on policy -- expansionist militarism, low tariffs, agriculture over manufacturing, cheap labor uber alles, etc. We're only analyzing the dynamics of political coalitions as they go through different phases of a cycle, and where one is dominant and the other is opposition, regardless of what they stand for.

That makes today's Democrats like the Whigs of the Jacksonian period -- again, ignoring similarities of substance, and only looking at them as the opposition.

After Pierce's election in 1852, that should have been the final term for the Jacksonian period -- once a coalition goes disjunctive, it only lasts one term, right? Well, yes for every other time except the pre-Civil War period. That's what most knowledgeable or intuitive people would think about today -- Trump's term is the final phase of Reaganism, before the GOP gets dethroned and replaced with a whole different paradigm.

But in this nightmare scenario, Trump is akin to Pierce, not Buchanan -- there might be another do-nothing, can-kicking Reaganite Republican after Trump's single term! Trump not seeking or receiving the nomination next time is the least controversial piece of the analogy -- "I've already accomplished so very much in such record time, folks -- more than any other leader in world history -- that I wouldn't have anything left to do in another term! Still might play king-maker at the convention, though -- be careful!"

For the sake of argument, assume it's a Marco Rubio ticket that wins in 2020, since he's trying to position himself as both a faithful devotee of Saint Ronald while also saying maybe we need something other than "tax cuts to fuel corporate stock buybacks" as a path toward widespread prosperity. He's also criticizing Trump's weakness on the Chinese economic danger, like the president's trade hawk advisers rather than his Establishment free trade advisers.

Then it's 2024 when the Bernie revolution takes over -- with or without Bernie as the nominee, since there are a growing number moving over to his side, or coming in as freshmen already on his side. Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard -- whoever -- call it the Populist party. The Reaganite Republican coalition finally gets dethroned, they fade into impotence like the Democrats of the Civil War / Reconstruction period, and are generally shut out from re-shaping society during and after Civil War 2.0. We enjoy a full cycle of populist government -- roughly 40 years.

And yet, who says the party that dethrones the Reaganite GOP will be the Democrat party? Under the Civil War analogy, today's opposition party -- the Democrats -- will go entirely defunct, just like the Whigs. The individual Democrats would not vanish from the political scene, of course. Perhaps 80% of the Democrats will carry over into the new Populists, along with a large swath of former GOP supporters who want populism and are alienated from the Reaganite system. Just like how most of the Whigs still existed as politicians and activists, but re-grouped and re-branded as the Republican Party, bringing over a lot of former supporters of their era's dominant party, the Jacksonian Democrats, who had become alienated over the slavery issue.

That would still mean 20% of Democrats get banned from joining the new Populists, or just want nothing to do with it -- akin to the left-overs of the Whigs who did not make it into the Republicans. These left-overs are those most similar to the old dominant party, who do not want a whole new way of doing things -- either on a policy level, or as a political party. And they especially do not want anything to do with a massive cross-over of folks from "the other party" to transform their own party from the opposition into the dominant party.

For the Whigs, these left-overs were the Know-Nothings, who while technically neutral on slavery were in favor of the status quo, meaning pro-slavery -- making them like their era's dominant party (Jacksonian Democrats). The left-overs of today's Democrat party would be those most similar to their era's dominant party (Reaganite Republicans), namely the corporate globalists or neoliberals, such as Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, etc. The Know-Nothings could not stand the abolitionist defectors from the Democrats who were crossing over into the Republican re-branding of the Whigs, and the neoliberals could not stand Trump-voting populists crossing over into the Populist re-branding of the Democrats. They'd rather die than share power with a bunch of "deplorables".

How sick could they get? Well, by the 1856 election -- after the first disjunctive Jacksonian, Pierce -- the opposition party, the Whigs, were basically defunct. The Republican party had replaced them as the second major party. But the left-overs from the Whigs, the Know-Nothings, ran a third-party candidate who got over 20% of the popular vote, and won an important state! That was Millard Fillmore, a former president from the Whigs, who won the slave state of Maryland.

By analogy, in 2020, after the Reaganites' first disjunctive term under Trump, the old opposition party has fractured so badly that it doesn't really run its own candidate. A new Populist party runs Bernie, Tulsi, or whoever, as the second major party, while the left-overs of the opposition Democrats run a third-party candidate who emphasizes their similarity to the dominant party, as the sensible pragmatic choice to hold together the competing sides before a civil war breaks out. Both former opposition presidents are term-limited this time around, but let's just say Hillary Clinton runs again, channeling Bill, only on a separate Neoliberal party ticket -- and gets 20% of the popular vote, as well as winning the neoliberal ground zero of Maryland, just like Fillmore.

That fracturing of the opposition is the defining feature of their failure to limit the disjunctive phase to just one term before dethroning the old dominant party and taking their place as the new dominant party. It's not so much that people wanted a second helping of a do-nothing, can-kicking party whose coalition and power was in disarray.

Usually, a substantial third-party run (say, over 10% of the popular vote) is a splinter from the dominant party, not from the opposition. Think of Perot peeling off mainly Republicans during the Reagan era in 1992, or Wallace peeling of Democrats during the New Deal era in 1968, or "Bull Moose" Roosevelt and La Follette peeling off Republicans during the Progressive GOP era in 1912 and 1924, or "Free Soil" Van Buren peeling off Democrats during the Jacksonian era in 1848. And in 1860, at the end of the Jacksonian era, one of the two Democrats must be considered a third party -- Breckinridge, judging by the popular vote, or Douglas, judging by the Electoral College vote.

Dominant party coalitions can tolerate the occasional splinter group, which will cause it a short-term loss, because they are still cohesive and powerful enough to patch things up and re-gain control before long. An opposition coalition cannot tolerate splintering -- they are already so weak and loosely held together, that a big split would be terminal, rather than a brief set-back before re-gaining control.

Indeed, there was only one period where a substantial third-party campaign was a splinter from their era's opposition party rather than the dominant party -- right before the Civil War, in 1856 and again in 1860, when the pro-slavery Know-Nothings (Fillmore and Bell) split off from the abolitionist Republicans (Fremont and Lincoln). The first time, it sunk the opposition's chances, leading to a second disjunctive term for the dominant party (Buchanan). The second time, the re-branded opposition won despite its splinter group, because so many from the old dominant party crossed over: discontent with the status quo had risen so much greater after an unbearable second disjunctive administration.

Who says that can't happen again, now that we're leading up to another civil war? There's so much talk, and even action, about the splintering of the Democrat party. Only, contrary to the clueless elites, it would be the Neoliberals like Hillary and Cuomo who would be the third party in 2020, and Bernie Populists as the second major party. There is no electoral coalition for Hillary or Cuomo, in a race between Bernie and some Trump-era Republican. It's populism or death, as the corporate elitist Reagan era comes to an end. Like third-party Fillmore in 1856, maybe she gets 20% of the popular vote, even wins the most anti-populist of the blue states, Swamp Central in Maryland. Then Cuomo runs third-party in 2024, like third-party Bell in 1860, gets even less of the popular vote, wins a few unimportant states -- and then that's the end of them.

The Know-Nothings did not keep at their attempts to splinter the old Whig party after the Jacksonian period ended, and the Republican party became dominant in the Lincoln era. With abolition, there was nothing left for them to concern-troll about. Likewise, the Neoliberals will stop bothering with their splinter attempts within the old Democrat party, after the Reagan period ends, and the Populist party becomes dominant in the Bernie era. With major populist policies enacted, they won't have anything left to concern-troll about.

Like the Know-Nothings, the Neoliberal third party of Hillary and Cuomo would be remembered in utter disgust by the future -- for splintering the opposition at a pivotal end-of-an-era moment, prolonging the disjunctive phase of the dominant party and causing pre-civil war tensions to pressure-cook even more, and doing so just to preserve the absolute worst elements of overlap between the splinter group and the dominant party! Slavery for the Know-Nothings, yuppie corporatism for the Neoliberals.

It's bad enough to be on the wrong side of an upcoming civil war, but to choose to do so rather than just dragging along that way through inertia is even worse. Nobody made the Know-Nothings splinter the opposition to the dominant Jacksonians, and nobody is making the Neoliberals splinter the opposition to the dominant Reaganites. The Jacksonians and Reaganites, we understand to be on the wrong side of an upcoming civil war because they've been dominant for so long and their sclerosis prevents them from adapting.

I hope this proves to be "just an analogy," and that the Neoliberals let the populist revolution take over the Democrat party, which dethrones Trump and the entire Reagan era in 2020, restricting the disjunctive phase to merely one term, and a relatively painless civil conflict to follow.

But given the other observable parallels between now and the lead-up to the first Civil War -- especially partisan polarization, and the moralizing of party affiliation -- this analogy must be taken very seriously. I give it at least a 1-in-10 chance of how things unfold.

The more that near-term events resemble a splintering of the Democrat party, rather than ordinary coalitional difficulties within a single party, the more we may be headed for a second disjunctive term, the end of the Democrat party, its re-grouping as a Populist party, a splinter Neoliberal party (which at least gives up once the Bernie revolution wins the White House), and a far more vicious civil war since there will have been four additional years of pressure-cooking before the opposition overthrows the dominant party.

Today's dominant party should not want that outcome either -- for while it may delay the end of their era by another term, and let them troll the libs for another four years, it will mean even more decisive crushing once their era ends and the new era begins. When the Lincoln-led Republicans swept into office, ending the Jacksonian era, the old dominant party Democrats did not just fade into the background as the new opposition -- they got brutally crushed in a civil war, their local political leaders were replaced by generals from their rivals' occupying army, and they were shut out of the White House, Congress, and Supreme Court for most of the next 70 years.

And to all the mouth-breathers dreaming of secession during a civil war -- remember that this means even more decisive policies against your interests, now that you will have zero representation in the real nation's government. So much got passed and enacted by the Lincoln administration because there were no opposition members in the Congress to obstruct things -- they left the nation altogether! OK then, don't mind us while we get things done at a record pace without you here to stop us! Even assassinating Lincoln didn't slow things down -- Johnson, from the opposition party who ran on a unity ticket with Lincoln, had most of his vetoes over-ridden by a Democrat-deprived Congress, who impeached and nearly removed him from office.

I do favor regional break-up eventually for our over-extended empire, but peacefully rather than concurrent with a civil war. But, worst comes to worst, Civil War 2.0 leads to a permanent secession, and then the Bernie coalition still gets to pass and enact all its wonderful plans without obstruction from the recently dethroned Reaganites. I just hope, in that scenario, that the core nation contains the Midwest and the Northeast -- the South and Plains can form their own country, and the West Coast a third one still.