April 18, 2019

Resilience songs help audiences spring back after vulnerable phase of cultural excitement cycle

As people transition from the vulnerable phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, when their energy levels have collapsed into a refractory state, and into the restless, warm-up phase, when those levels are restored to a baseline state, they need some motivation to pull themselves out of their emo funk and get back into the swing of things. Before they can transition into the next manic phase, they must first get over their sense that social stimulation is too painful to bear.

When pop culture responds to this transition of phases, it does not have to comment on it directly. Music simply becomes less emo, without drawing attention to that change on a meta-level. But there are a handful of songs that hit more directly on the themes of overcoming adversity, toughing out a painful situation until you feel better, and not letting antagonistic forces keep you down. They're not going to let you wallow any longer -- it's time to start feeling normal again.

Reinforcing these lyrical themes, the music itself is uplifting and moving, although not uniformly so, as it might be during the manic phase. It also has a melancholy passage or overall tinge to it, as a reminder of what a downer their recent emotional state has been. But it isn't uniformly moody either -- it tends to contrast a vulnerable verse with a more confident, even defiant chorus.

The following survey is from songs that made the year-end Billboard Hot 100 charts.

The first warm-up phase of the modern era, the first half of the 1960s, does not have too many explicit examples. Back then, almost all songs were strictly about dating, romance, marriage, etc. They did not comment on more general themes. Still, within this domain of romantic songs, there were some about looking forward to finally finding someone after a spell of loneliness ("Blue Moon" and "Where the Boys Are"), lovers persisting through a temporary separation ("Sealed with a Kiss"), and toughing out whatever adversity comes their way ("Stand by Me").

These songs counteract the emo tendencies of the late '50s.

"Blue Moon" has an interesting history, since its first recording was in the early '30s, then again in the late '40s, and the one we know best from the early '60s. These five-year periods are all 15 years apart, suggesting that they were in fact the same phase of the cycle.

At any rate, here is the exception from this period, a hit song that addressed the general theme of persisting through tough or painful situations, because somehow (here, by God) they'll get better. Pop songs were allowed to not be about romance, as long as they were narrative or allusions to history, religion, etc.

"Wings of a Dove" by Ferlin Husky (1961):

The next warm-up phase, during the late '70s, was counteracting the emo state of the early '70s. "Stayin' Alive" is not a relevant example here, since it's about getting through everyday obstacles, rather than transitioning from one enduring phase into another. "Good Times" is more to the point, emphasizing that emotional states are changing from the recent past.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" is probably the greatest example from the period, although the themes are addressed somewhat more indirectly than in Queen's other major entry in this genre. And sure enough, during the next warm-up phase of the early '90s, "Bohemian Rhapsody" was revived on the charts thanks to being included in the soundtrack for Wayne's World. If the late '70s had not matched the early '90s in its emotional state, these songs would not have resonated so powerfully. It was released again in 2018 for the movie of the same name, but it did not do well enough to land on the year-end Hot 100 at all (only on the rock chart), since general audiences today are in the vulnerable phase and want to wallow there, not be shaken out of it and act defiantly.

Here are the most direct examples from the late '70s.

"We Are the Champions" by Queen (1977):

"Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" by McFadden & Whitehead (1979):

During the next warm-up phase of the early '90s, they had listened to one too many soft rock and power ballad songs from the emo late '80s. "Something to Believe In" by Poison dwells a little too heavily on the downer side of things, but it is still looking for a way to be pulled up out of that state. "Tears in Heaven" is also a real downer, but rather than wallow, it emphasizes needing to be strong enough to get through a terrible event.

Of the entire Billboard history, the song that most directly tackles these themes is "Hold On," which I can easily see coming back into style in the next few years, now that Me Too is winding down and women will want to hear music that grabs them by the shoulders and tells them to just snap out of it already. "Under the Bridge" is the most personal and intimate of those surveyed here. A lot of wild, heavy shit had happened during the outgoing, rising-crime period of the early '60s through the early '90s, and there was a lot to reflect on from one's own life, not just historical or literary figures.

"Hold On" by Wilson Phillips (1990):

"Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991):

The most recent warm-up phase was the late 2000s, counteracting the emo phase of the early 2000s. Perhaps the most annoying song ever written, and shockingly the #1 song for the entire year of 2005, is "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter. There's a throwaway line about singing a sad song "just to turn it around," but overall the tone is wallowing in how crappy your day has been, not springing back from it. And anyway, how would singing a sad song turn it around -- shouldn't you be trying to sing something more uplifting? Just another aspect of how terrible that song is. As it turns out, though, it was written and recorded in the emo early 2000s, and its hit status in 2005 was part of the continuation of the emo mood into the late 2000s.

Remember, during the warm-up phase, there's a mix of the two sentiments, a downer and an upper, since energy levels are just at a normal baseline. They can be low-energy or high-energy, but not uniformly one or the other, as in a refractory collapse or manic spike.

The three major examples are all from artists who had contributed to the mellow, emo mood of the early 2000s, and their songs from the late 2000s represent the broader shift in themes and tone. After moping about absent boyfriends, Avril Lavigne released a more uplifting "Keep Holding on".

The John Mayer song followed the winding down of the various political moral panics from the first half of the 2000s, and shows that these songs don't have to be about definitively having reached a better state yet, but at least trusting that they will improve sooner rather than later, and no longer dwelling constantly on how screwed up the world is.

I expect that to find a new life in the early 2020s, after the Republican likely wins again in 2020. Just like how the activism of the early 2000s died off in the later half, all this bullshit about "Trump = Nazi / Putin," "This Is Not Normal," etc. is going to melt away. Not for political reasons of things improving -- the GOP won again in 2004, and likely will in 2020 -- but for emotional reasons. You can only stay in the vulnerable emo phase for around five years, and this is the last of those years for the current phase.

The My Chemical Romance song could not be more of a shift from their earlier downer material, which like the rest of early 2000s emo, was mopey or impotently aggro. The mood in this one is more uplifting, confident, and determined to persist. If "Under the Bridge" was the "Bohemian Rhapsody" of the early '90s, in the late 2000s it was "Welcome to the Black Parade". I expect one of the current downer bands to shift tone in the same way during the early 2020s, but have no idea who it will be -- just as no one predicted such a major change coming from the most stereotypically emo band of the early 2000s.

"Waiting on the World to Change" by John Mayer (2006):

"Welcome to the Black Parade" by My Chemical Romance (2006):

April 11, 2019

All emo'd out: MeToo winds down, setting up anything-goes revival for 2020

A recent spate of attacks on Joe Biden for being a handsy creeper has failed to derail his presidential bid even slightly. Lest you think that's only due to his Establishment credentials, earlier in the year when Bernie announced his bid, they tried these attacks against him as well, referring to the work climate of his campaign in 2016 -- but they accomplished nothing, and are already forgotten.

No doubt these attacks will continue throughout the year, showing that there's still a bit more life left in the #MeToo movement, but not much. Contrast with the figures large and small, Establishment and otherwise, who were taken down over the last several years -- Trump (pussygate), Hollywood mega-mogul Harvey Weinstein, SNL alum and senator Al Franken, "Civil Rights icon" Congressman John Conyers, and so on and so forth. On the Right, Bill O'Reilly got canned, while Tucker has survived the 2019 attacks.

The stalling out of MeToo reflects the ending of the vulnerable phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, as people are pretty close to getting back to baseline energy levels, after suffering in the refractory period since 2015. Each of the phases lasts 5 years, so we're on the last one for this phase.

In an earlier post, I detailed the history of feminism over the course of multiple excitement cycles, showing how the concerns and attitudes regularly repeat during each of the phases. During the manic, invincible phase, feminism is exhibitionistic, sex-positive, and agency-granting toward women. When excitement levels collapse during the vulnerable phase, feminism focuses on victimhood, feels like all sexuality is rape-y, and denies women agency. Finally when their levels restore to baseline during the restless, warm-up phase, they're in between -- done with victimhood, but not yet so exhibitionistic, more like coming out of their shell, getting flirty and feisty, and getting to know the opposite sex all over again.

During the Kavanaugh hearings, I noted how the Slutwalk-era feminists were ignoring the MeToo hysteria over the supposed rapist-nominee, since the "you go girl" feminists of the early 2010s wanted no part of a narrative about how powerless women were, how they need rescuing from the big scary men, and the overall tone of sex as dangerous rather than liberating. But during that height of MeToo, they were in the distinct minority, a shrinking holdover from the ever-receding world of Slutwalk and the No Pants Subway Ride.

The Kavanaugh hearings were so over-the-top hysterical, that they forced people's vulnerable feelings to hit rock bottom. After that, they can only drift upwards toward a normal baseline, and we're in the process of that already.

We've seen similar rock-bottom moments for other moral panics of this vulnerable period, which seems to give rise to them in all sorts of domains, not just dating-and-mating. The peaks of moral panics striking during the vulnerable phase of the cycle is a topic for another more detailed historical post, though.

The whole Alt-Right / white supremacy / everyone's a Nazi panic began during the 2015-16 election season, and hit rock bottom with the media hoax against the Covington high school kids. Whining about everyone and everything being racist is only going to get more tiresome during the remainder of this year, and although that may not keep some from beating a dead horse in 2020, it will not result in the hysterical panics that we've had to suffer through since 2015.

Then there was the whole "Russia's working to undo America" hysteria, and that hit rock bottom when the Mueller report's findings were announced. More accurately, it "is hitting" rock bottom, since it'll take some time for the "full report" to come out, etc etc etc., but it's basically done. Again, some fools may run with it in 2020, but it will not resonate like it has since 2016.

As people stop feeling so vulnerable -- so sensitive to external stimulation that everyone else is somehow victimizing them just by existing -- they won't be so susceptible to these hysterical panics anymore, or at least for the next 10 years (two phases of the cycle, until the next vulnerable phase hits around 2030).

In the meantime, we can look forward to a new restless warm-up phase beginning around next year. The last time we were in that phase was 2005-09, after the early 2000s vulnerable phase of Law & Order: SVU, emo music, the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, 9/11, the Valerie Plame affair, and "everyone who voted for Bushitler is a Nazi".

In contrast to the first half of the 2000s, the second half was way more do-whatever, anything goes, hold nothing sacred or taboo, experiment, play around, and don't give a fuck. Raunchy anarchic Family Guy humor came into the mainstream after being an obscure cult hit during the early 2000s, the Game / Pickup Artist phenomenon showed that people didn't feel sex was icky or dangerous, American Apparel ads, pop music got more flirtatious instead of distancing, young people began packing dance clubs as a neo-disco atmosphere took over, and the Left stopped taking itself so seriously and moralistically, as shown by the viral hit site Stuff White People Like (which ended, fittingly enough, in 2010, as the manic phase replaced the warm-up phase).

It may not feel like it right now, but before you know it, there will be no more "Girls Like You" and "Happier" songs on the radio, but flippant and decadent indie hits just like the last time around:

April 4, 2019

Brooklyn transplants have crappier furniture than flyovers, and greater inequality

To understand the material motivations behind much of the contemporary liberal and leftist agendas, let's take a look at a disparity between a coastal metropolis and one from flyover country, in a simple yet revealing domain of material culture -- furniture.

Some furniture is of higher quality than other furniture, and we can measure the average level of quality among a group of people, as well as the variance or inequality among them. A good society will produce a high average and a low level of inequality, while a bad society will produce a low average and a high level of inequality.

I first got the impression of how bad life is in liberal / leftist hives like Brooklyn from listening to the Red Scare podcast, which unlike others of the socialist-y type, provides honest commentary on daily life in Brooklyn, where all of these people live. Everyone else either hypes up or humblebrags about how awesome it is, or at worst keeps quiet about it. The ladies from Red Scare are about the only ones who paint a warts-and-all picture of the place, like their refrain that guys in Brooklyn can't keep it up.

One aspect they've commented on several times, that really jumped out at me, was how little stuff they have, and hinting at how crappy what they do have is. They were not complaining about lacking a shitload of pointless junk, they were saying how much of the necessities they did not have, and how unsuitable what did have was. Furniture, kitchen appliances and utensils, (quality) clothing, and so on. They may have expensive internet-related devices, but that is only a portal into the virtual world, while back in the material world they live amidst sparse piles of cheap crud.

"Why don't they just buy decent stuff from a Goodwill?" I thought. Here in flyover country, you can walk into any thrift store and find hardwood furniture, Corning Ware cooking dishes, and 100% wool coats in winter (one of their complaints during the cold snap earlier this year). Then it occurred to me that they must not have such a great selection where they live.

On a hunch, I browsed the furniture section of the Brooklyn Craigslist, and it was indeed littered with crappy trendoid stuff -- made from fiberboard, poorly constructed in a slave labor colony (or you assemble it yourself), but given a bland minimal-modern styling to distract from how crappy it is materially, and allow you to rationalize paying so much for so little.

To find a good comparison in flyover country, I looked for cities that had all four of the recurring brands from the Brooklyn Craigslist. Otherwise, their greater numbers in Brooklyn may simply reflect their greater local availability, compared to a city without a physical store nearby. Chicago matched, but I decided to go with the only other Midwestern / Rust Belt city that matched -- Minneapolis. It is held in greater contempt by the coastal elites, and it lies in a state that more-or-less voted for Trump in 2016 (he was only held off by a 3rd-party conservative spoiler, McMullin).

I searched the "furniture" section in "for sale," exploring several related themes: brands that are overpriced yuppie crap, brands that are made to higher quality, materials that are of higher quality, and construction techniques that indicate higher quality.

Here are the number of listings for each of the search terms, where all are out of a total of 3000 listings. The search was done on the night of April 3, and these will fluctuate somewhat, but the differences are stark enough.

Search term Brooklyn Minneapolis

IKEA 698 577
West Elm 275 116
CB2 195 79
Design Within Reach 150 18

Ethan Allen 61 167
Drexel 55 83
Thomasville 6 93
Henredon 17 64

Solid wood 328 1047
Leather 383 1170
Brass 208 281
Wool 86 161
Copper 12 39

Dovetail(ed) 73 160
Carved 82 158
Stained glass 4 25
Quarter()sawn 4 28

All of the crappy yuppie brands are more common in Brooklyn than Minneapolis. IKEA makes up nearly one-fourth of all listings in Brooklyn!

If anything, this comparison understates the difference because Minneapolis is way more IKEA-friendly than other Rust Belt cities that have had an IKEA nearby for 10 years or more (enough time for their stuff to find its way into the second-hand market). Cincinnati has only 152 listings, and Detroit has only 177. Perhaps this is due to the high concentration of Scandinavians in Minneapolis, showing ethnic pride for a Swedish company (misplaced pride, since the actual manufacturing is done in slave labor colonies).

Is this just a greater fixation on brands in Brooklyn, regardless of what kind of stuff they make? No: they have fewer listings for brands that are made in a first-world country, using hardwood instead of fiberboard, assembled by trained workers rather than your own dumb ass, and owned as staples of the golden age of the middle class, before it was hollowed out by neoliberalism.

This does not reflect young trendoids living in Brooklyn, and traditional old farts living in Minneapolis. The median age in Brooklyn is actually slightly older -- 33 vs. 32 for Minneapolis. Young people in the Midwest just have greater immunity to becoming fashion victims -- and those who do succumb are likely to transplant themselves to poser magnets like Brooklyn anyway. (Felix, Matt, and Amber: move back here.)

Aside from specific brands, how about materials that are superior to others? You might not know (or care) who made it, but you can still tell what it's made of. Solid wood, leather, wool, copper and its alloy brass are all much more common in Minneapolis. The cheap yuppie crap that predominates in Brooklyn is more likely to be made of fiberboard, "vegan leather" / synthetic ultra-"suede," synthetic rug fibers, and stainless steel.

As for the techniques used to turn these raw materials into usable parts and whole items, some are more labor-intensive, require greater skill, look more attractive, and make the item more stable and resistant to wear-and-tear. These skilled techniques are all more common in the furniture of Minneapolis.

We can tell the lack of skilled techniques is not just due to the minimalist styling of striver Brooklynite furniture, because dovetailed joints are not visible from the outside and are not florid ornaments even when the drawers are open. Quarter-sawing the lumber happens before any rough shaping, joinery, carving, or other styling takes place, and is totally compatible with minimal styling (as in the Arts & Crafts and Mission styles that heavily used it). The rudimentary nature of the construction of trendoid crap is just another symptom of its poorly made quality.

So, furniture in Minneapolis is higher-quality, on average. What about the inequality? We've already seen that there's a lot more low-quality stuff in Brooklyn than in Minneapolis, but is there also more really high-quality stuff? This is harder to measure, because at the very top, the sample size is expected to be small (and it is). But my overall impression from browsing both sites is that the most desirable stuff is more common in Brooklyn -- although still rare there. As just one example, "Heywood Wakefield" has 11 listings in Minneapolis, but nearly twice as many in Brooklyn (19). Further investigation could look into Old World antiques and the like.

Brooklyn is both more top-heavy and bottom-heavy than Minneapolis, with less of a stable middle. This means a bit more upward mobility but far more downward mobility, constant precariousness, and status anxiety.

And this is not only a reflection of the inequality in wealth or income, which is greater in Brooklyn. If it were, the low end of Brooklyn would have the same kind of stuff that the low end of Minneapolis did -- there would just be more people in that low end in Brooklyn.

But it gets worse than that, since Brooklyn is also more subject to never-ending waves of transplants, turning it into a rootless striver colony, whereas Minneapolis has a greater social and cultural rootedness. Sure, it attracts newcomers from elsewhere in the state, or perhaps from the Midwest, but not from all over -- and they tend to stay put once they get there.

That's why Brooklyn not only suffers from a surfeit of cheap crap -- it's cheap crap that was only made within the past 10-20 years, since that's the deepest that anyone's roots go there. With greater rootedness in Midwestern cities, it's common to find stuff from far earlier, which was better made. And that generalizes to all of material culture (housewares, clothing, tools, cars, etc.).

Rootlessness is another aspect of status-striving, which also produces inequality. When more and more people are competing to be at the top, it not only produces greater inequality, as high-risk / high-reward means some win big but most lose big. It also attracts more and more outsiders to join in the competition where all the action is, leading to rootlessness.

Anyone who had Ethan Allen furniture in Brooklyn -- a holdover from the egalitarian Midcentury -- got gentrified out of the area by neoliberal striver transplants years ago. Today, each wave of transplants only has crappy IKEA stuff to pass on to the next wave.

So, if it seems like the would-be vanguard of the political party realignment are desperate, deprived, and rootless -- it's because they are. They cannot be allowed to be in the driver's seat, as the end of the Reagan era gives way to a new era where the Democrats are the dominant party.

As proven in 2016, the coastal elites need the large population states in the Rust Belt in order to win, and these folks are more normal than their counterparts on the coasts. Most importantly, they are more opposed to turning all of life into a hyper-competitive status contest, which produces a few more big winners but a lot more big losers. As more people warm up to the label of "socialism," the Midwesterners will have to insist on that resulting in egalitarianism a la the New Deal, rather than just providing a soft landing for the downwardly mobile super-strivers on the coasts.

Nobody made them move to Brooklyn, and they deserve no special padded landing when they fail to make it into the big leagues there. All they deserve is moving back to wherever they actually come from, where they'll enjoy a higher standard-of-living on average, and with less inequality among their community. Then we can work on collective action and solidarity. But first, we have to eradicate the impulse toward status-striving, which is individualist and antithetical to solidarity.

Pointing out how much better their material lives will be back in their home towns, delivered in a disarming ironic tone, could be the first step toward winding down the status-striving arms race.

On a policy level, if we ever get something like universal basic income or a raise in the minimum wage, it should absolutely not take into account the local cost-of-living -- these over-priced, over-populated coastal shitholes need to be depopulated, and see their excess population redistributed back to less-competitive and less-populous places. Just as there is no right for foreigners to live in America, there is no right for co-national outsiders to live within a city as transplants. Egalitarianism requires less mobility and churning, not more.

March 30, 2019

Heterosexuality still declining among young women

That's the title of a post I've been writing on and off over the past decade, because the trend keeps getting worse. Here is the last one on the topic, and a follow-up showing that it held even among "conservatives" (meaning libertarians, not regular church-going types).

Since then, there have been two more waves of data from the General Social Survey, and sure enough, there's no stopping the bi-curiosity of young women (here, ages 18-29).

Among whites, about 20% have "had sex" with at least one girl since they turned 18. That's up from 10-15% in the earlier part of the decade. And far above the less than 5% circa the 1990s, when the data begin.

Among blacks, just over 25% have experimented with other girls, way up from the 10-15% earlier in the decade.

There's no clear pattern for Asians or Hispanics, due to smaller sample sizes. For "other" races overall, though, bi-experimentation is holding steady at 5-10%.

Without repeating all the details of the earlier posts, suffice it to say that the main source of this rise in bi-curiosity is among the younger ages of this group, and the rise doesn't show up so much when you ask about their regular partners, e.g. who they've had sex with in the past year rather than anyone since turning 18. So, this trend reflects occasional experimenting during the college years, rather than a lifelong predilection for pussy.

But to contract HPV and get oral cancer, you only have to munch one rug. And now guys have to worry not only about getting it from going down on a girl, but perhaps just making out with her, if she's gone down on a girl who had it. Dangerous, on top of gross, on top of boring.

(And no, there is still no trend toward greater gayness or bi-curiosity among men. You're either gay or straight, and that settles in at an early age.)

The laissez-faire morality that has accompanied neoliberal economic changes has delivered what even the old-school Marxists recognized as bourgeois decadence. But we are only getting started, since the Reagan era is a parallel of the Jacksonian (early Victorian) era -- the opening act for the Gilded Age and Fin de Siecle that prevailed during the later part of the 19th century.

That will echo this time around, where the Reagan era just got the ball rolling by ending the New Deal-era practice of vice squads raiding gay bars, deregulating bath-houses and creating the ecosystem for AIDS etc. to arise, striking down sodomy laws, upholding gay marriage, and whatever else the Reaganites are going to achieve during their final years.

Just wait until it's the Democrats who are the dominant party in the next era. They'll allow even greater deregulation of sexuality, and bring on even greater levels of epidemics, atomization, and joyless addiction treadmills.

GSS variables: numwomen, year, sex, age, race

March 28, 2019

In 2016, Ellis Islanders defected to Trump, founding stock voted less for GOP

The data from the 2018 General Social Survey are now available, and they include questions on voting in the 2016 election. The GSS is the gold standard for social science research, especially in getting a representative view of the population.

These gold-standard data bear out the impressions and the fuzzier data from exit polls regarding Trump's unique appeal in 2016 -- i.e., compared to Romney -- with the white working class, no matter how it's measured (education, income, self-described class label), with urban voters (except for the biggest shithole cities), with liberals and moderates, and with Democrats and Independents.

I won't rehash those findings here, since they are already well known. The flipping of urban areas is not so well known, but I already wrote the definitive post on that topic (with maps) back in 2016. His flipping of the Rust Belt states and the one district in Maine is still commonly attributed to the rural vote -- but nobody lives there, certainly not in heavily populated industrial states, so even if rural people did vote more for Trump than Romney, that would not have been enough to make a difference.

It was Trump's surge in urban areas -- where a whole lot more people live -- that flipped those states. These were second or third-tier cities (the forgotten man and the forgotten woman) rather than the shiny, smug, affluent first-tier cities, who voted even less for Trump than Romney. Bunch of striver-tards.

The major political group division today is rural vs. urban, so this dimension will show the most cognitive dissonance. Voters may cross other political lines, but not urban vs. rural. People can believe that white working-class people voted Republican -- smearing them as working-class bigots, or bla bla bla. But they can absolutely not fathom that legions of urban dwellers defected to a Republican after voting for Obama twice.

There's also the class difference: yuppies are happy to smear working-class whites for voting Trump, because that does not implicate themselves. But if they had to blame urban dwellers, that would indict their own in-group, the one that they identify the most forcefully with (supposedly cosmopolitan urbanites).

Well, here's another major finding that explodes the clueless punditry on the hot-button issue of immigration and economic nationalism. The GSS shows that the surging white vote for Trump came from Ellis Island ethnic groups, not from the founding stock. That had to have been true, given which states, which counties, and which party members Trump managed to flip. There's not a lot of founding stock in Staten Island, Wilkes-Barre PA, the Detroit or Cleveland metro areas, and all those other Rust Belt towns that drew the Ellis Island immigrants during their industrial revolution heyday.

Among whites, those whose ancestry is from England & Wales voted 55% for Romney, and 53% for Trump -- if anything, a slight decline percentage-wise, and given how large their total numbers are in the population, that amounts to a fairly big loss in total voters. He must have made up for it with other ethnic groups.

He did somewhat better with smaller founding stock groups like the French (French and French Canadians), going from 37% for Romney to 43% for Trump -- but still losing to Clinton.

The one partially founding stock group who surged for Trump were the Scots, who voted 53% for Romney and 64% for Trump. However, the Scotch-Irish form a decent chunk of those who claim Scottish descent in the US, and although they were present in large numbers from before the Revolution and into the closed-borders Jeffersonian period, they also joined the Ellis Islanders during the open-borders era of the Jackson, Lincoln, and most of the McKinley periods.

Turning to clear Ellis Island groups, we see a surge for Trump, particularly among the largest groups:

The Irish voted 45% for Romney, 57% for Trump.

Italians voted 40% for Romney, 55% for Trump.

The Germans voted 50% for Romney, 55% for Trump.

Scandinavians* voted 45% for Romney (who lost them), 49% for Trump (beating Clinton's 39%).

The Slavs** voted 41% for Romney, 45% for Trump (tying with Clinton).

All these decades and centuries later, there is still a big East vs. West European split, including immigrants to the US who have supposedly been assimilated into the melting pot. Slavs have assimilated less, and among Ellis Island descendants they are the most in favor of immigration. They are also the one group of Europeans who we continue to import, since they're still poor and can be exploited as cheap labor by the employer class.

The one exception among Ellis Islanders were the Jews (those raised Jewish), who voted 24% for Romney, and just 16% for Trump. That change is likely a product of their higher class status and residence in the largest cities, compared to working-class dwellers of 3rd-tier cities in the other Ellis Island groups. It makes it all the more hilarious that Trump and the GOP are shilling so hard for Israeli interests, and trying to paint the Democrats as the real anti-Semites. That's obviously for the wealthy AIPAC-connected donors, and not Jewish voters themselves.

To this wave of defection by Ellis Islanders to the candidate who took a hard line against immigration and promoted economic nationalism, the clueless libs and leftoids wag their finger, scolding them about remembering when "y'all were the poor immigrants in this country," and how others should be able to enjoy that today.

"Ey-oh, oh-ey -- that was then, and this is now. America barely had anybody in it when our guy, Christopher Columbus, discovered it. Now? -- this country is fuckin' FULL. Sorry, lots of luck to ya, but the rest of the world AIN'T OUR PROBLEM."

That's what the dumb liberal airheads don't get about importing cheap labor (the only form of immigration) -- the initial immigrants strike it rich, compared to where they're from, but after wave after wave after wave of immigrants, the initial ones have their supposedly higher standard of living eroded by all the others desperately trying to cash in on the bubble while it's still inflating.

But no boom avoids ending in a bust. At some point, new immigrants will see no improvement to their standard of living by moving countries -- because that niche has already been filled up by waves of earlier immigrants -- and they decide against immigrating.

During the inflation of a cheap labor bubble, it's in the material interests of each wave of immigrants to want the borders slammed shut right after they themselves have gotten in. Why face even more competition in the labor market than already exists? (That's true for native workers, too, of course.) But as poorly rooted immigrants, they lack the collective organizing power to make that happen.

However, after these immigrants have been assimilated into the mainstream, it is still in their interests to want the borders kept shut, only now they have greater civic engagement and organization. Now they can do something collectively to make that happen. It starts with voting, and we just saw the Ellis Islanders make a decisive shift against open borders and cheap labor -- their people have been there, done that, and don't want to live in clapboard tenements while slaving away for pennies a day like their ancestors.

But it could escalate far more from there. With wave after wave of newer immigrants during the Reagan era, the old Ellis Island immigrants have an interest in distinguishing themselves -- they're the good, old, assimilated immigrants, not these bad, new, unassimilated immigrants. What do they think about the new ones assimilating just like their ancestors did?

"Ey-oh, oh-ey, these ain't exactly Irish and Italians who are coming into the country these days, y'know what I mean? Just take a look. Plain as day."

The Italians swung more than the other groups probably because their enclave in the Mid-Atlantic has been so swamped by Muslims, which will make Italian-American ethnogenesis far more hardened than for other Ellis Island groups who find themselves living next to Mexicans, for instance. At least the Mexicans are some kind of Christians. Religious divides make for incredibly heightened "Us vs. Them" contests over resources. In the Mid-Atlantic Italian-American mind, they're the policemen and firefighters who gave their lives during an Islamic attack on 9/11, and many smaller-scale ones since then.

So far, you haven't seen the events necessary to create that level of between-group hostility among Somalis and Swedes in Minnesota, or Irish and Indians in Chicago. But that's only a matter of degree, since the Swedes and Irish shifted substantially toward Trump's 2016 platform, just not quite so much as the Italians did.

What are the Bernie people and other would-be realigners going to do to reassure these Ellis Island defectors and bring them into a mass-politics coalition that can move on from Reaganism into something different?

First, any negative reference to "white people" will blow up in their faces. The clueless libs think they're dunking only on the rural hillbillies and genteel WASPs in red states when they drone on and on about "white people". But a large chunk of assimilated Ellis Islanders in blue-state cities take offense to that, too, not just the founding stock. And far from brushing it off as meaningless banter, they take the threat of open borders very seriously. They've already taken one election hostage to get their legitimate grievances across to the callous elites -- who says they can't do so again?

Economic populists on the Left must prioritize class and economics over race and other boutique identity issues, and in a way that intersects with the immigration issue. Their policy can be that while they welcome people of all backgrounds, we first and foremost have to protect our own workers, so there will be no immigration that serves as a cheap labor pipeline to the rich employer class. Most people recognize that just about all immigrants are poorer than natives, so they can connect the dots on their own that such an economics-only policy will in fact reduce immigration by over 90%. Anxiety alleviated!

But given how poorly the entire Left has understood the 2016 election, I don't expect them to learn any lessons here either, not now anyway. They are still committed to the cognitive dissonance-reducing view that an army of Anglo rednecks rose up out of rural areas to swing cities, counties, and states that haven't voted Republican in decades.

They can't admit how much they've lost from their urban coalition, since "urbanite" is their primary identity badge, nor will they be able to admit how much they've lost from their Ellis Islander coalition, for the same reason (many on the Left are Ellis Islanders).

I think it will take another devastating loss in 2020 to wake up the opposition to just how bitterly hated their platform is. Nobody wants Reaganism anymore, so the real issue is what replaces it -- and the answer is not, "Reaganism, but woke" or even worse, "Reaganism, but woke and enforced by commissars".

Leave it to the neolibs and the radlibs to alienate even the Ellis Islanders. The opposition has to radically change its tune by shutting up about identity, and focus only on mass economics, or it will deliver another term of moribund Reaganism.

* Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish combined to boost sample size

** Czechoslovakians, Hungarians, Poles, Russians, Lithuanians, Yugoslavians, Romanians, and Other Europeans, who did not identify Jewish as the religion they were raised in

GSS variables: pres16, pres12, race, ethnic, relig16

March 26, 2019

Russiagate was Know-Nothing-ism: Status quo opposition delayed realignment by blaming foreign influence for dominant party's stunning victory

With the utter collapse of the Russiagate narrative, you'll be seeing lots of postmortem attempts to figure out what went wrong (or right), and they will be using historical comparisons. McCarthyism, Watergate, Valerie Plame, Saddam had WMDs, etc.

The only one of those that remotely resembles Russiagate is the Valerie Plame affair, as I detailed earlier here and here. From that, it was easy to predict that nobody from the president's inner circle would be indicted, and that he himself would not be impeached. Fact check: true.

But after I started looking deeper into the parallels between today and the lead-up to the Civil War, I figured out the true historical echo for Russiagate -- the Know-Nothing phenomenon / party. See this post that outlines their structural similarities in extensive detail, and this follow-up that showed why McCarthyism is the wrong comparison.

Without going again into the specifics, the Know-Nothings were from the opposition coalition, favored the status quo rather than realignment, resorted to conspiracy theories about "authoritarian foreign influence" (the Pope) over their domestic electoral defeat that defied all odds, and used this rationalization as an excuse not to name and take on the true Powers That Be within our own country, delaying realignment for another full election cycle, and thereby making the explosion all the more catastrophic when it inevitably blew up.

In all these ways, they are identical to the status quo faction of the Democrats at the disjunctive end of the Reagan era, who pushed the Russiagate conspiracy theory to rationalize why the dominant party had just won against all odds.

The status quo Dems of today have invested so much in Russiagate not because they wanted to bring down the Republicans -- there are many ways to go about doing that, but they have done so in a way that has blocked their intra-party rivals from gaining momentum toward realignment. The true way to bring down Trump and the Reaganite GOP is to hammer them on the major issues of our crisis stage, and point to the groups responsible for our troubles -- e.g., the de-industrialization that has hollowed out the middle and working classes, which has been orchestrated by the manufacturing elites, who have gotten fantastically richer for free, widening inequality.

But that strategy would benefit the Bernie realignment camp of the opposition, who are busy building a coalition to deliver populist outcomes. The status quo faction wants to both attack the dominant party, while preventing their intra-party rivals from playing a central role in the attack.

This is the same as the Know-Nothings wanting to attack the Jacksonian Democrats, but only in a way that avoided the major issues of the day -- such as slavery -- and avoided blaming or challenging the groups in society who were causing the trouble, i.e. the Southern plantation owners. Instead of addressing the real problems at home, they conjured up a problem from outside -- the Pope's sway over Catholic immigrants caused them to vote Democrat.

So, the foreign conspiracy theories functioned to excuse the opposition for having run status quo candidates, rather than those who wanted realignment. The Whigs did not run an abolitionist in 1852, and the Democrats did not run a populist in 2016. This allowed the dominant party to run on issues of widespread appeal -- Pierce could convince voters he didn't want to expand the number of slave states, and Trump could convince voters he wanted to re-industrialize our economy.

This is the angle that most left/liberal critics have missed about the 2016 election, and Russiagate. The Bernie people will admit what a terrible candidate Clinton was, for running as an elitist during a populist climate. In their words, "she lost the most easily winnable election in US history, that's how bad of a candidate she was."

But it was not an easily winnable election -- the Dems were not running against a de-industrializing, warmongering, open-borders orthodox Republican, like McCain or Romney. They were running against a guy who said he wanted to reverse 90% of the Reagan revolution that had cemented the GOP's grip on power -- only siding with them on providing a tax cut, and putting conservatives in the courts.

Massive tariffs against US companies who have off-shored their production, risking counter-tariffs on US agriculture, exiting NATO and the rest of our global occupations, and shutting off the supply of cheap labor for employers (immigration) -- that was far more radical than what Bernie was proposing. (Trump has also been in favor of single-payer healthcare since the 1990s).

The Russiagate narrative thus also distracted from the strengths of the Trump campaign. If they were to admit these strengths, that would naturally lead the opposition to focus on how to steal those issues away from Trump -- imitate the successful, or go extinct. If it's protectionism and isolationism that Republicans -- and general voters -- want, then the Democrats will have to tack in that direction if they want to win a single election, let alone dethrone the GOP as the dominant party.

During the terms of Pierce and Trump, though, they failed to deliver the goods -- Pierce allowed Kansas to choose to become a slave state, and Trump has only driven up the trade deficit in goods to record highs, expanded our military footprint, and overseen the greatest skyrocketing of illegal immigration perhaps ever. The opposition ought to seize on those failures, and promise to deliver what the dominant party has failed to deliver for so many decades. The realignment factions of the opposition were happy to do that -- the nascent GOP to move toward abolition of slavery, and the Bernie Democrats toward economic populism and demilitarizing our foreign policy.

And yet the status quo faction of the opposition would lose if the dominant party were challenged in that way, since their whole raison d'etre is providing more of what has been going on, not something radically different, even if it's what voters now want. The conspiracy theories about the Pope and about Putin have allowed the status quo opposition to keep from being displaced by the realignment opposition, by distracting attention away from the real and major failures of the dominant party's administrations.

It's too early to tell, but I don't sense much change from the status quo Democrats even after the Mueller report ought to have shut them up about Russiagate. They may speak less about Russia specifically, but will move on to some other irrelevant line of attack on the Trump White House or the GOP -- rather than trying to out-Trump Trump on populism and anti-interventionism.

They show no signs of allowing only Bernie Sanders to compete against the Republican in 2020 -- either they will block his nomination for the Democrat ticket, or they will grudgingly let that go through but then run Biden or someone else as a spoiler. That goes for grassroots voters as well, not just party bosses -- the status quo Democrat voters show little sign of giving up on their delusions of the past several years, and enough of them will vote for the status quo Republican (or the Biden-esque spoiler) to defeat Bernie in 2020.

The solution is to use the collapse of Russiagate to point out why Clinton was a weak candidate, why Trump was a strong candidate, and how the realigner Democrat can steal Trump's decisive issues away from him and the GOP, rather than go on another wild goose chase with the status quo Dems. That will likely only bear fruit in 2024, but if the work does not begin now, it may wait until even later.

March 21, 2019

Dream-like pop goes mainstream during vulnerable phase of cultural excitement cycle

An earlier post looked into the repeated appearance of dream pop music during the mellow, vulnerable phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle. I was pointing to less mainstream groups because it is most common among the indie types, but it did enjoy some crossover appeal with mainstream pop audiences as well. We'll look at some of those in this post.

The features of dream pop are a slow tempo, and multiple layers of repetitive drone-like "voices," whether human or instrumental. Harmonies (relaxing) over melodies (stimulating). The singing has an ethereal timbre. These features give it the subjective quality of being lulled into a meditative trance, and floating through an other-worldly space, where the multiple voices provide a rich array of distinct "textures" to the place, making the exotic dream-world feel palpable and relatable, akin to a lucid dream.

Anything with too much of a danceable or body-moving beat is excluded. The feel here is a passive rather than an active trance.

This sort of experience naturally appeals to audiences and artists who have crashed into the refractory period of the vulnerable phase of the excitement cycle. They are no longer on the surging invincible high of the previous manic phase, and their energy levels are drained out. They feel like sleeping late in bed, and floating alone down a lazy river, where they won't be over-stimulated by contact with crowds. The following restless, warm-up phase is like when their energy levels have recovered back to the baseline, and they finally get out of bed, do some morning exercises, and get ready for the day's activities ahead.

Working backwards from the current vulnerable phase of the late 2010s, I'm leaving aside those that only have a rich layering in the chorus but not the verse ("Water Under the Bridge" by Adele, "Starboy" by the Weeknd, "Delicate" by Taylor Swift).

To hear the full richness of all these layers, listen on a proper pair of headphones or speaker system, not earbuds or a pinhole on your laptop / phone. Close your eyes to make it easier to drift away (although it's hard to take your eyes off of some of them).

"Love Me Like You Do" by Ellie Goulding (2015):

"Never Be the Same" by Camila Cabello (2018):

From the previous vulnerable phase of the early 2000s, one that shows the strong New Age influences of this genre (who had another New Age ethereal hit during the last vulnerable phase, "Orinoco Flow" in 1988), and another that was the most commercially successful of the indie-driven dream pop / shoegaze scene. If rap had not secured a foothold in pop music by this point, I think more of the indie groups would have found totally mainstream support. As it happened, the dream pop groups of the early 2000s did fall more into the indie world.

"Only Time" by Enya (2000):

"Maps" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003):

The late '80s saw the peak of this genre, coming from the most creative of the excitement cycles (whose beginning warm-up phase was the late '70s, climax manic phase the early '80s, and final refractory phase the late '80s). Artistic creativity peaks during periods of rising-crime and outgoing social moods, and the late '70s through the '80s were the height of the violent and property crime rates, as well as the outgoing vs. cocooning social mood. The height of the synthesizer craze only added to the other-worldly feel of '80s pop culture.

"Silent Running" by Mike + the Mechanics (1985):

"A Trick of the Night" by Bananarama (1986):

"Take My Breath Away" by Berlin (1986):

"Heart and Soul" by T'Pau (1987):

From the previous vulnerable phase of the early '70s, the earlier post already pointed out examples from the introspective side of glam rock (T. Rex) and krautrock ("cosmic" music). Here are some more mainstream examples. I'm leaving out Lou Reed's hits because they don't have rich enough layering ("Walk on the Wild Side"), or they're just not executed well ("Satellite of Love"). Lou Reed is like the Bob Dylan of glam -- it's a shame he didn't have his own Byrds to do better performances of the songs he wrote. I'm including "Space Oddity" because it charted several years after its initial release in late 1969. "Rocket Man" is another example from Elton John, but "Tiny Dancer" has tons more layering once it gets going.

"Tiny Dancer" by Elton John (1971):

"Space Oddity" by David Bowie (1973):

And from the first vulnerable phase of the Billboard charts era, the late '50s are filled with doo-wop songs that sound eerily similar to dream pop, only with fewer instrumental voices and a larger human choir that supplies the humming and oooh-ing and awww-ing drone lines. Some doo-wop was up-tempo, danceable, and cheerful, but that came after, during the restless warm-up phase of the early '60s, when energy levels were back to baseline. When they were still down in the refractory period of the late '50s, doo-wop was more moody, down-tempo, and ethereal. Outer space is a common theme with dream pop, but here we find an example of floating through a different unusual space -- below, rather than above, under the sea.

This period shows again how corrosive the introduction of rap has been on the evolution of pop music. During the current and the early 2000s vulnerable phases, black music that is moody, introspective, etc., just gets expressed as emo-rap, devoid of singing or instrumentation. Before rap, black music that was down-tempo and moody found a far richer expression in doo-wop.

"I Only Have Eyes for You" by the Flamingos (1959):

"Sea of Love" by Phil Phillips (1959):

March 15, 2019

Materialist vs. idealist views on the roots of group-group violence

In the wake of the massacre at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, just about everyone on both the Right and the Left are condemning bigotry, Islamophobia, hatred, evil, white nationalism, etc. These labels refer to a mixture of beliefs and feelings, which make up the motive for the attack.

Devoting their energy into condemning the thoughts and feelings of the attacker presumes that they are the main cause of the attack -- and so, if you can eliminate bigotry, Islamophobia, white nationalist thoughts and feelings, then you can put an end to these kinds of massacres.

These condemners of beliefs-and-feelings show that they think these things are fundamental when they try to explain how such a toxic ideology came to possess the killer's mind in the first place. He got the beliefs from others with those beliefs via the internet, and he had his feelings stoked into a rage by others with similar feelings on the internet. They view the particular forum he used, 8chan, as an incubator for these thoughts and feelings.

Thus, the main conduit for his radicalization is held to be informational -- the internet easily transmits the thoughts and feelings from one mind to another. To treat the problem of radicalization and potential violence, then, these observers are tempted to clamp down on internet activity, only differing in the degree of clamp-down they believe necessary to nip the problem of radicalized violence in the bud.

This is the idealist approach to diagnosing and treating the disease of ideologically motivated violence, and it is wrong. It fails to explain where the beliefs and feelings ultimately come from, why the ideology targets specific groups rather than others, and why they either succeed or fail to resonate with the individuals who become radicalized. After failing to properly diagnose the problem, they are impotent to prescribe any helpful treatments.

The idealist is only left with "primordial, fundamental racism" as their explanation of where hatred comes from. But then it should target all out-groups, not just certain ones. Why is there no widespread ideology that radicalizes white Americans against the Eskimo, or the Pygmies, or the Mongols, or the Ainu? Each of these groups has been the target of denigrating ideologies, but not coming from white Americans -- rather, from other groups who interact with them, such as the Japanese looking down on the Ainu, the Bantu Africans looking down on the Pygmy or Bushmen hunter-gatherers, the Han Chinese looking down on the Mongols, and so on.

These interactions form a struggle over material resources in one way or another -- pastoralist Mongols and agrarian Han compete over land that is suitable for both grazing livestock and planting crops. (In land that is suitable to only one form of material subsistence, neither one is envious of the land of the other.)

During the Age of Exploration, Europeans struggled against non-Europeans for control and possession of natural resources in the newly explored lands, as well as seizing some of the natives as chattel slaves.

During the Ellis Island period, and during our neo-Ellis Island period of laissez-faire deregulated borders, immigrants are brought into their adoptive nation by employers of labor-intensive economic activity, who are exploiting them as cheap labor -- and therefore pitting them against domestic laborers.

That is why nativist Americans during the Ellis Island period had such antagonistic thoughts and feelings against the Irish and Italians -- rather than Turks and Mongols -- sometimes escalating to the level of group-group violence. And that is why nativist Americans, Australians, French, and whoever else, are antagonistic toward today's waves of immigrants, who are Muslim, Central American, etc., rather than Irish or Italian.

The ideology is merely a rationalization for the natives' material reasons for struggling against the immigrants. They don't want to see their standard-of-living decline in the face of a massive surge in the supply of labor and the demand for housing. It sounds too crass, mundane, and self-serving to point to their own personal material motives, so they resort to elevating the quotidian material struggle into a grand battle of ideologies, in which they are serving as an altruistic soldier ready to be martyred for a greater cause -- such as Western civ vs. radical Islam.

In addition to the individual-level material factors, there are also collective or group-level material struggles. It is not only individual Muslim immigrants who are competing against individual natives in the labor and housing markets -- they form a Muslim immigrant collective, and act collectively. They form ethnic enclaves by residence, which gives them a collective swath of territory that they effectively control, and into which the physical presence of outsiders will be treated -- by both sides -- as a kind of trespassing. That creates a turf struggle.

Then they try to elect members of their own group to local (and even national) offices, where they will act as patrons for clients within their own group rather than the entire population. This ethnic spoils system pits one group against another for the control over the flow of government funding, regulation, and so on. It is not that the immigrant group is explicitly trying to harm the native group -- they may be only trying to serve their own group. But in the zero-sum competition for fixed resources, such as political influence, wealth, and power, trying to help one's own group rather than the entire population amounts to demoting the other group, who loses the contest.

For high-stakes contests, individuals cannot act alone. They will want as much strength on their side as possible, which leads them to organize and act collectively. For low-stakes contests like getting hired for some single low-wage service job, or getting to rent a single crappy apartment, no collective action is necessary. But to have influence over the local school board, or the city council, or a caucus within the national legislature -- where far higher rewards can be won by the victors, and where far greater losses suffered by the losers -- individuals will form collective entities to pursue their individual interests.

Again, this is a materialist explanation, attributing collective behavior to the high-stakes nature of a contest over material resources, rather than to a "collectivist mindset" or an "ethnocentric nature" of the members of the group in question.

Other high-stakes activities are large-scale violence, where casualties per event may enter the hundreds or thousands. To win a war, individuals cannot go it alone -- they form collectives like gangs, militias, and armies. Collective violence may be waged within the nation subject to radicalization, or on the other side of the world. Either way, there is a material live-or-die contest between two collective entities, over control of territory, resources, etc.

For example, Central American gangs such as MS-13 or the radical Islamist hijackers of 9/11, whose collective violence against the American people has served to radicalize Americans against the larger groups that the violent teams came from. Likewise, collective violence or interference by the Pentagon in the domestic affairs of Central America or Saudi Arabia has radicalized those populations against the larger population that the Pentagon generals come from.

It is these collective material struggles which are most powerful in radicalizing individuals into developing antagonistic thoughts and feelings toward entire groups, and to take violent action against that group collectively (that is, without regard to who the individuals are, and just killing "Muslims" in general). The low-stakes material struggles in the labor and housing markets contribute to the animus, but low stakes do not motivate someone to take extreme action. Getting displaced in a low-wage job, or a crappy apartment, is not something worth committing mass violence over -- but if you thought your entire neighborhood, school district, or nation were under threat, then you just might decide to take extreme measures, or at least to feel seething hatred.

Under the materialist approach, the only solution to group-group hatred and violence is to keep members of different groups from competing against each other for material resources, territory / turf, and the institutions that govern access and use of such things. That means non-intervention in the material affairs of foreign nations, as well as minimization of immigration from those nations into our own.

As for which political coalition can accomplish those goals, we can exclude the military, whose material interests are in favor of invading and interfering with other nations, and labor-intensive sectors domestically, who are driven toward pursuing cheap labor in order to boost profits -- that includes agriculture, manufacturing, and unskilled small-business services (construction contractor, fast food owner, etc.). That excludes the Republican party in the US, and points toward the Democrats as the only possible political vehicle for the material separation of nations.

Democrats are controlled by informational sectors like finance, info-tech, and media/entertainment. They profit from global integration, but only in an informational rather than material fashion -- Google dominating the search engine traffic of Latin America, Goldman Sachs earning consulting fees for mergers involving foreign corporations, Hollywood studios beaming their movies into foreign theaters, Netflix streaming entertainment into foreign phones and laptop screens.

They do not rely on a massive physical presence in those foreign nations like the Pentagon or the oil companies do, if they want to control the local resources. And they do not require millions upon millions of immigrants into the US in order to boost their profits -- hardly anyone works in a sector that is not labor-intensive, and those jobs are highly skilled and selective. They may bring in hundreds or even thousands of educated professional foreigners, but not millions and tens of millions of unskilled foreigners.

Anyone on the Left or Right who wants to see a de-escalation of the collective violence that has steadily risen during the neoliberal era must pursue a return to New Deal-era policies, which had mostly closed borders, and whose senior member of the governing coalition -- big finance Democrats -- was not labor-intensive. As each round of these crises further destabilizes the social order, somebody is going to have to step in and set things straight. It will not be the Reaganite GOP, governed by the military, agriculture, and small-biz employers of unskilled laborers. It will be the realigned Democrat party, governed by the big banks and central bank, along with the IT cartel.

At an individual level, members of the GOP are more bigoted toward Muslims, Mexicans, etc., than are the members of the Democrat party. But that only underscores how irrelevant the thoughts and feelings are -- and how over-powering the material motives are. Illegal immigration has soared since Reagan took office, and takes off like a rocket each time a Republican is president -- including Trump, despite all the bluster -- and is less awful when a Democrat is president.

Republicans are not hauling in immigrants because they love them -- they look down their nose at them -- but because their particular forms of economic activity are labor-intensive, and they need that cheap labor. And Democrats are not better at keeping out the immigrants because they hate them -- they are multicultural utopians -- but because their informational sectors don't need the cheap labor, and their electoral base of labor unions and African-Americans will be devastated by waves of cheap-labor scabs.

Idealism is for retards with no skin in the game; materialism is for those who stand to win or lose by a lot. Focus on the material, and the beliefs and feelings will take care of themselves.

March 13, 2019

Yang's proposals could only be delivered by Bernie, who has political coalitional capital

Andrew Yang is a dark horse candidate for the Democrat nomination, who just qualified for the primary debates by getting 65,000 individuals to donate to his campaign. He did this by appearing on Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan, which sparked enough interest to ignite a grassroots social media effort.

His distinguishing pitch is a form of Universal Basic Income -- $1,000 a month for every American over 18 -- although he supports other populist proposals like Medicare for All, winding down the over-extended military occupation of the whole world, etc.

A fair amount of his current supporters are disaffected Trump voters, who chose Trump because he was running against the status quo of the past 40 years (neoliberalism) in the areas of trade / industrial policy, foreign policy, and immigration. With all of those areas having gotten catastrophically worse under Trump's actual presidency, they're done supporting him and the GOP in general.

That defection is a welcome sign of party realignment -- not because a handful of meme warriors have the ability to re-shape the party system, but because they're a reflection of a broader discontent with the system among the masses of normies who voted for Trump (a decent share of whom also voted for Obama). Indeed, the normies who voted for Trump's heterodox platform soured on him awhile ago -- witness his cratering approval ratings in the industrial Midwest. If anything, the meme warriors are better-late-than-never arrivals to the "dump Trump" party. Self-styled vanguards are typically bandwagon jumper-on-ers.

And most of the populists and anti-globalization voters who were sympathetic to candidate-Trump, and have defected to the Democrats, have chosen his natural counter-part -- Bernie Sanders. Even as they hear Yang's message during the debates, and assuming they warm up to it, they will still stick with Bernie, who they know has a real chance of becoming president and enacting his agenda, unlike the outsider Yang.

The former Trump supporters should know better than others in the Yang Gang that getting an outsider into the White House will only result in him getting instantly swamped by the institutional forces that want to keep the status quo going. Trump entered DC with zero political capital, aside from his grassroots support, which he failed to ever draw on. Even if he had activated his base, they would have been ultimately over-ruled by literally every other politician and interest group that had taken control of the White House (the Pentagon, agribusiness, the oil cartels, the Koch Brothers, etc.).

Yang as president would be in a similar position -- he would have no stock of political capital, no favors owed to him, no roots or networks to draw on in Washington. As a venture capital guy from Silicon Valley, he may be able to get some support from that interest group, which controls the Democrats, but unless he were at the level of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, it's doubtful he could single-handedly get anything done as an outsider, unless it was already palatable to the status quo preservers.

Bernie has been in national politics for decades, including at the high rank of senator, was nearly the party's nominee last time, has a 20-something percent floor of support this time around, has built a broad and loyal coalition over the past four years, both inside and outside the political world, is the most popular national politician, including with social moderates and conservatives and flyover country normies, and has delivered the goods on a wide range of topics -- getting the Senate to withdraw support for the Pentagon's ally Jihadi Arabia in their war against Yemen, bullying Jeff Bezos into raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour for Amazon's workers, and voicing disapproval for the current neo-con regime change effort against Venezuela. What tangible results can other candidates point to in order to sell the voters on their ability to deliver the goods?

It's not as though Bernie was predestined to be the one who accumulated all this political capital by the 2020 election, but he took a chance in 2015, and it has paid off for four years. Other Democrats, even those who share his proposals, simply do not have all of that political capital and coalitional support to enact their would-be realigning agenda. You can't spend political capital that you don't have, and that rules out everyone but Bernie from being able to enact a bold post-Reaganite agenda.

Yang himself seems to be mainly interested in running an issues campaign to influence the eventual nominee, which will not be him. That's fine, and there's no reason Bernie could not incorporate a form of UBI into his platform, along with Tulsi Gabbard's signature issues about non-intervention in foreign policy. But Yang and Gabbard cannot win the nomination, nor the general election, nor compel the institutional forces in DC to yield even one inch were they to occupy the White House.

To realign the party system, everyone opposed to the status quo must focus on the main enemies -- the entire Republican party, which created the current paradigm under Reagan and continues to benefit the most from it, and the Reaganite appeasers on the Democrat side -- Biden, Warren, and the rest.

Among realigners, the Bernie camp is in a league of its own, measured by political capital and coalitional cohesion. So they should welcome the Tulsi and Yang supporters, especially if they are former Trump voters -- you will never realign the system without a major defection from the existing dominant coalition. If Tulsi and Yang are lifeboats that people are jumping into as the GOP ship sinks at the end of the Reagan era, let them get away from that mess first. Then steer toward them and offer to hoist them up onto battleship Bernie, and whoever joins, joins.

Likewise, the Tulsi and Yang supporters should recognize that the Bernie coalition is the only game in town when it comes to delivering the goods on Medicare for All, non-interventionist foreign policy, UBI, etc. Trying to attack the Bernie coalition will backfire because they're far more committed, and for a longer time, than supporters of either Tulsi or Yang. They will simply reply as I have: that Tulsi and Yang cannot win, and even if they were magically placed inside the White House by meme-Jesus, would wield so little leverage over the institutional players who want to preserve the status quo, that they would just wind up as ineffective as the incumbent outsider president.

February 28, 2019

Dance music turns dissonant, spastic during refractory phase of cultural excitement cycle

During the current mellow, vulnerable phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, you might think that dance music would die off, as it belongs more fittingly to the previous manic, invincible phase when everyone is in a bouncy mood, or the upcoming restless, warm-up phase when dance fads will catch on to snap everyone out of their withdrawn emo mood.

People now are in that refractory period, recovering their collapsed energy levels, after so much excitation during the first half of the 2010s. How could they be in the mood to dance? How could they summon the energy to get their bodies moving even if they felt like it?

Although most people are not in any mood to dance, there's still a minority that is. It's as though the distribution for "feeling like dancing" and other high-energy activities has shifted in the direction of preferring low-energy stuff. The part of the distribution that is farthest toward the "wants to dance" direction has itself lost a lot of energy from the previous manic phase, but they're still clearing a threshold that puts them in the mood for dancing. The rest of the population has even lower energy levels, and doesn't even feel like it to begin with.

For the minority who are still looking for something to dance to, they will have to adapt to their currently lower energy levels, and more withdrawn and emo moods. The main response this causes is for their dance music to almost uniformly take on a minor key tonality, and to use rhythms that are spastic, herky-jerky, or stop-and-start.

That way, they don't have to be constantly possessed by the dancing spirit, which would exhaust their bodies during a refractory phase. If they're only breaking out and getting funky for a little bit at a time, and then there's a sharp drop-off, or a lull, or a simplistic toe-tapping rhythm, it keeps them from getting over-stimulated. Lulls punctuated by minor spasms, instead of a sustained engagement with a bouncy rhythm.

The over-the-top character of the rhythms during such periods may also be a self-conscious reaction to how low they sense everyone's energy levels are, as though they're over-doing it in order to shock people awake who are otherwise sleepy. During the manic phase, when people are more bouncy, they don't need such on-the-nose, overly complicated rhythms to entice them out onto the dance floor. It gives the dance music of manic phases a more natural, effortless feel, and those of the vulnerable phase a somewhat more contrived vibe.

To survey the dance music patterns across multiple instances of the vulnerable phase, we have to start with the second half of the 1980s. The vulnerable phase before that was the first half of the '70s, and there wasn't really dance club music to speak of -- Billboard's chart for that genre begins in 1975, when disco brought people into the warm-up phase.

The trend in the separate social mood cycle -- outgoing vs. cocooning -- had been rising in the outgoing direction since roughly the '60s, and would not turn around and go in the cocooning direction until roughly 1990, a trend that continues to today. These phases last for several decades, unlike the phases of the excitement cycle which last around 5 years.

Outgoing phases have higher energy levels, and cocooning phases more subdued levels -- regardless of what's going on in the separate cycle of cultural excitement. So, the manic phase of the early '80s was higher energy than that of the late '90s or the early 2010s. Likewise, the late '80s were higher energy than the early 2000s or the late 2010s, even though the late '80s were a refractory phase of the excitement cycle.

After the new wave and synth-pop music of the manic phase during the first half of the '80s, dance music in the late '80s was Hi-NRG and freestyle. The minor key was standard, and the spastic rhythms come off as frenetic because the overall energy level was at its peak due to its location in an outgoing phase of the social mood cycle.

"You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" by Dead or Alive (1985):

"Two of Hearts" by Stacey Q (1986):

"Point of No Return" by Expose (1985, 1987):

"Fascinated" by Company B (1987):

After the techno, rave, and Eurodance genres of the manic phase of the late '90s, the vulnerable phase of the early 2000s saw the rise of electroclash and other more emo forms of dance music. Again, the minor key is standard. And now that we're in the cocooning phase of the social mood cycle, overall energy levels are coming down.

So the spastic rhythms feature much more pronounced lulls, where it's nearly silent except for the simplest toe-tapping beat. Then it quickly gets worked up, explodes for a moment, and then right as you're ready to settle into a manic beat, it goes right back into a lull. I can't convey how frustrating it is to try dancing to these songs in a club, where you're just waiting around for what seems like a full minute, before the rhythm picks up again, and then only for a brief moment.

With lower energy levels overall, some of these dance songs don't even have an explosive moment -- it feels like they're going to, and it just fizzles out, like the latter two below.

"Sandstorm" by Darude (2000):

"Emerge" by Fischerspooner (2002):

"Seventeen" by Ladytron (2002):

"Strict Machine" by Goldfrapp (2003):

After the manic phase of the early 2010s, with its bouncy electropop and funk revival dance songs, those of the current vulnerable phase are far more lowkey. The minor key has returned as the standard. And being even further into the cocooning phase of the social mood cycle, energy levels are lower than the previous vulnerable phase of the early 2000s.

So, the spastic rhythms are not frenetic, they're more lumbering and herky-jerky, twisting randomly here and winding randomly there. At any rate, still a rhythm that you can't get sucked into for the entire song, but only in fits and starts. For what it's worth, this era's dance songs have a more tropical (or sometimes Middle Eastern) rhythm, echo-ing the Caribbean / Latin freestyle of the late '80s vulnerable phase.

"Lean On" by Major Lazer & DJ Snake (2015):

"Rockabye" by Clean Bandit (2016):

"New Rules" by Dua Lipa (2017):

"Say My Name" by David Guetta, Bebe Rexha, J Balvin (2018):

February 24, 2019

Right-wingers against the Venezuela coup, and coalitions based on feelings vs. outcomes

After the election of a Republican president who campaigned heavily on shrinking our military's global footprint -- including ending NATO, and leaving Japan and South Korea -- the anti-militarist Left has split into two camps.

One is relieved to see so many on the Right now calling for an end to imperial over-reach, and seek to ally with them across partisan lines toward a shared outcome -- less military adventurism by the Pentagon. This camp is represented by US Rep Ro Khanna, who responded favorably to an anti-imperial article by Tucker Carlson.

The other is panicked that anti-war sentiment no longer belongs exclusively to the Left. They may be nervous that a new group will give them competition for their material livelihood -- if they eke out a living on Patreon donations, and suddenly there's an interesting Right movement against imperialism, maybe Independents will drift toward that side with their donations.

But most folks on the Left don't make a living off of it. They are more worried about dirty outsiders corrupting the purity of their incestuous in-group. Because these people are not organized politically, it is more of a cultural lifestyle that they share with the other members. And so, they are defending their lifestyle turf from would-be invaders who would contaminate it with a different cultural lifestyle. It's akin to a small group of high schoolers who are fans of non-mainstream bands, who fear that their idols may make a hit song that would attract all sorts of normies, and try to police the borders of the fandom.

This camp is represented by the hosts of the Media Roots Radio podcast, Abby and Robbie Martin, who are desperate to prove that the anti-imperial Right does not really exist, perhaps outside a small band of libertarians. I draw attention to them because they're popular enough to get over 10,000 plays for a typical episode. They do good work covering current events per se, but veer way off course whenever it comes to their commonalities with the Right -- "Ewww, gross, no we're not, they have cooties, not like us!"

Tucker is their main target because he's by far the most outspoken on the need to realign the party system, particularly on war and empire, and has the largest platform and audience -- primetime Fox anchor with millions of viewers, not to mention scores of others who are a tier or so below in their following, who attach themselves to his brand ("I'm on the Tucker Right, not the neo-cons or Hannity bootlickers").

There's no dodge in that video -- he brings on a US Army colonel who explicitly says we should not intervene in Venezuela, regime change does not work, it'll just waste lots of our money, and the refugee flood will overwhelm our non-existent border. What other mainstream show has had a chyron that read, "America should not intervene militarily in Venezuela," quoting their guest?

Tucker does not push back, does not accuse the colonel of coddling dictators, does not fear-monger about the need to stop socialism / spread democracy, etc. Instead, the opening chyron is a dog-whistle against the neo-cons -- "Are we going to nation build in Venezuela?"

It's clear that Tucker is under orders from his Fox superiors, probably coordinating with the neo-con-hijacked White House, not to personally argue against the coup. But bringing on MacGregor, who he has hosted repeatedly in the context of not doing regime change or occupation, amounts to the same thing. He gives a primetime platform to the anti-interventionist colonel, and sets up softball questions about why the Fox audience should not want to see our military intervene in Venezuela.

This is obvious, and shows that Robbie Martin is lying by omission, in a desperate attempt to make it seem like Tucker is playing a long-game for the neo-cons.

Well, then, why doesn't Tucker just come out and say he's in favor of toppling Maduro? That would be the easiest thing in the world right now -- literally every other cable news host is doing so, along with just about every politician, and a good chunk of his viewers. He can say he's against interventions as a general rule, but an exception must be made in this case (because it's about socialism, it's too close to home, or whatever). He would enjoy immense signal-boosting from literally the entire political and media world, for allowing them to say, "Even the anti-interventionist Tucker Carlson supports overthrowing Maduro."

The fact that he has not done so, proves that he does not believe in that, and is not going to advocate for that. If he doesn't come out overtly against intervention, it shows that someone is keeping him from saying so overtly -- his superiors, and/or the Executive branch itself. So he broadcasts the case against intervention in Venezuela through his frequent guest, MacGregor -- BFD. That is just as personal of a decision, with the same effect on getting the message out there, as if he stared into the camera and said so himself.

Martin and his sister twisted themselves into knots on this topic during the most recent episode of Media Roots Radio, going so far as to call Tucker "pro-coup" despite him never advocating in favor of the coup.

Tucker may be under immense career pressure to not speak out against it from a first-person perspective, but the rest of the anti-regime change Right is not. I'll limit this survey to just Twitter people with at least 10,000 followers, to show that the same people who freaked out over Trump sending thousands of Americans to occupy Syria are staying consistent now that the focus is Venezuela. There may be others who are selective, saying stay out of Syria but do intervene against socialism in our backyard. But that is not representative of Right-wingers who are against our regime change wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

These people may be paleocons, generic dissident Rightists, Alt-Right, Alt-Lite, all the way up to white nationalists. But across this broad array, they would all affiliate with Tucker over any other cable news figures, would have already spoken out against our intervention in Syria, and do not consider themselves Leftists.

One of the earliest and most forceful opponents has been Jack Posobiec, someone who leftoids would dismiss as a MAGA grifter, and who gets called out repeatedly on Media Roots Radio as someone not to be worked with on anti-war issues. Search his tweets for Venezuela, and he was opposed early on, drew parallels to our failures in arming proxies in the Middle East, the failure to oust Qaddafi and put anything better in his place, highlighting Elliot Abrams' role in Iran-Contra, calling the effort "neo-conning," slamming Rubio over and over by name, and upbraiding a fellow Alt-Lite guy for wanting to invade Venezuela without volunteering for the army himself.

That's just what I found poking around various corners of the Right, and not dwelling too long. If I lowered the threshold to people with at least 1,000 followers, there would be tons more.

So, contra the desperate turf-defending claim about how the so-called anti-war Right is MIA during the Venezuela coup, they are just as visible and vocal as they were during our invasion of Syria, and in talking about the failures of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

But, they don't use the same motives or rationales as the Leftists in order to arrive at the same policy decisions. And in our depoliticized climate of hyper-competitive moralism, that is what truly matters.

The likes of Abby and Robbie Martin do not want to cooperate with those who share real-world outcomes like staying out of a coup, withdrawing forces from some country, shrinking the military budget, etc. Rather, they want to cooperate with those who share an emotional moral impetus -- to save the world, to help Third Worlders, to tear down anyone who could have been a jock in high school and shoved them into a locker (the troops), and so on.

In their view, it's bad enough if your motives for the same goal are different from theirs -- but truly untenable if your motives are evil, i.e. racist, bigoted, xenophobic, etc. So if you "don't give a rat's ass" what's happening to the Venezuelan people, one way or another, and that's the basis of your objection to regime change -- sorry, can't work with you. Your moral motives are tainted, and any policy you reach would reflect that poisonous origin.

But then how could that outcome be bad, just because it came from what you consider evil origins? Isn't it the same outcome you're seeking, albeit for motives that you consider just? How can the exact same outcome be both morally tainted and morally pure, stemming from two separate motives? It's a contradiction, and that causes cognitive dissonance -- either the people you thought were evil are actually good, or you thought you were good but you're actually evil.

To resolve this cognitive dissonance, they deny that the evil side is in fact pursuing the same outcome as they are -- that means the two sides do not share goals, and therefore the two sets of motives are leading to two separate outcomes, and my motives and outcome remains pure, while their motives and outcome remains tainted, just as I was hoping.

Facts don't care about your feelings, though. It's time to grow up and accept that people can arrive at the same desired outcome by coming from distinct motivations.

Assuming the larger goal is to achieve a certain real-world outcome, then the practical thing to do is form a political coalition with those who share that outcome, no matter their reasons, in order to wield enough power to change the world. That's why they say politics makes strange bedfellows. That is what one camp of the Left is doing -- Ro Khanna, Zaid Jilani, Angela Nagle, Michael Tracey, Anna Khachiyan, and others.

The other camp takes the opposite step -- to refuse any coalition that could actually win (i.e., needing both sides of the aisle), and to distance themselves from their own fellow Leftists of the coalition-building camp. That choice proves that their larger goal is not to achieve a certain real-world outcome like the end of a war, reduction in deployments, redirecting military dollars to healthcare, or whatever. It is something else: building emotional support groups based on shared moralistic motivations, and signaling these values to one another (and against the values of out-groups). In-group cohesion is formed around their feelings, not their goals for changing the world.

The anti-imperial Right understands this distinction, and does not mind mixing it up with people from different motivations, as long as the goal is the same. They will re-tweet Left-wingers, even those like Abby Martin who don't want anything to do with them.

The Right is not a place that people drift to in order to find emotional support -- not that there's no element of that in Right-wing circles, but it's not the main reason. They principally get involved in order to achieve certain outcomes, and they don't care who they have to work with to do that. The Left attracts those who have been so damaged that they seek out emotional support groups, and then they try to edify this as though it were building a political movement capable of changing the world, which it never has been nor will ever be.

In the near-term, the pragmatic Right and the non-hysterical Left will continue to put out feelers over shared outcomes, and will keep building the newborn coalition to wind down America's over-stretched and crumbling empire.