July 22, 2015

The Trump phenomenon

Finally, a populist candidate speaking truth to power. His campaign has only started to take off, so there will be plenty of interesting developments ahead. Here are a few observations so far.

There's always a worry with populist candidates that they'll back down or water things down once they're in office. Not with Trump, who is not a career politician. Being a winner to a politician means getting elected to the highest possible office for the longest possible time. Whether you do a terrible job or not doesn't matter.

Trump has little room left to climb on the status pyramid — why not shoot for leader of the free world? Well, what kind of status boost would it be to rule over an increasingly third-world shithole of a country? It would be an embarrassment. Trump's ego works in our favor, since he couldn't stand being known as the leader of a loser country, which is what we're going to wind up as if current trends continue. His megalomania wouldn't be satisfied until he made the nation something worth bragging about again.

Even if he ends up not winning the Presidency, his assault on PC bullshit of all types will have tremendous immediate results. It's like those classic experiments on conformity that Solomon Asch ran. You're asked which of two lines is longer, and one is very obviously longer than the other. However, before you get to answer, about a dozen other people give the wrong answer. Faced with the pressure of sticking out, a good portion of people (by no means all) will quietly go along with the wrong answer.

But when there's just one other person who speaks the truth before it's your turn, it completely shatters the conformity effect. You are guaranteed to give the right answer, ignoring all the other wrong answers and latching onto the single right answer. "Phew, so I'm not the only one who thinks everyone else here is nuts!"

Sure, there are a handful of people who will straight-talk like Trump in real life, but they don't have much of a megaphone and are not very numerous. They can shatter the conformity effect for a good deal of folks who they come into contact with, but not the entire society. And in case you haven't been paying attention, it's been a good 20 years (the culture wars of the '90s) since any major public figure made a point of declaring that the Emperor wasn't wearing any clothes.

The media and political establishment have no clue how to react, since Trump is pointing out a very clear and very public error that they've all made — all said that the shorter line was longer, and based policies off of that. They're used to everyone having drunk the kool-aid, and only arguing about, say, how much longer the actually-short line is.

Trump is not nitpicking within the range of the received error, he's pointing out that at the basic level, they've all got it backwards — that's the shorter line, dummy, not the longer one! What kinda moron can't see that? The establishment is either stupid, incompetent, blind, deceitful, lying, or something — how else can they explain failing such an easy question like illegal immigration or free trade deals?

What the whining classes take to be mudslinging and name-calling is just the opposite: it's revealing that the Emperor is wearing no clothes. They're used to a charge of "incompetent" meaning that the person bungled the job of flooding more immigrants into the country, or bungled the job of securing more power for corporations than for nations. The elites all have the same goals, and only name-call one another for not living up to their shared ideal.

Trump is interrupting the conversation to ask, point-blank, what the hell kinda ideal is that? — Mexican criminals pouring over the border, and manufacturing sent to China so we can buy a bunch of cheap junk? He isn't targeting a particular individual for failing to live up to an ideal that he shares with them. He's targeting the whole lot of them for sharing such a warped and twisted ideal in the first place!

Shifting the direction that society is headed in — what ideals it will pursue — is far more worrisome to the establishment than mere character assassination. Of course, they don't want to open up a whole debate about whether their ideals are worth holding or not, since hardly any ordinary citizens would take their side. They are left only with mud-slinging (something they do out of habit anyway), which only helps Trump out.

"Do you see? They know I'm right on the issues about where the country is headed, so they ignore that and try to attack my character instead. Cowards!"

Lastly, one common view is that the WASP-y founding stock here has grown too timid, bored, or brainwashed into liberalism that it will take someone on the periphery of white America to deliver us from the plague, a la Giuliani in New York during the '90s. No self-respecting Italian is gonna let some buncha darkie bums get in his way of cleaning up The City.

And yet ethnic / peripheral whites vote liberal. The Celto-Germanic mass of the population may be in a slumber, but they have a keen sense of how much has been lost from recent demographic changes. Italians, Poles, etc., may (or may not) be outraged at the influx of corrosive Mexicans, but that's more of a turf war over who makes a better group of immigrants. They aren't from the founding stock.

Trump is Scottish on his mother's side and Bavarian on his father's. His personality is certainly more on the Celtic side, and he's Presbyterian rather than Catholic. Hard to find a more mainline American candidate than that.

He's also born and raised in New York, where he has stayed into adulthood. That's way more than you can say for the rootedness of the likes of George W. Bush, a New England preppy who LARPs as a Texan, or John McCain, a DC-area native who took up his Wild West cosplay act in middle age. Yosemite Sam also chose his running-mate for cosplay points ("Alaska: The Final Frontier"), and all it did was prove to voters how flakey and shallow people are out West. Romney was born and raised in Michigan, but his heritage is Mormon — more weird Westerners.

I haven't voted since Nader in 2000 (volunteered during the campaign on campus, too), but now there's a far more likely populist candidate to get behind. I honestly never thought I'd be voting again until old age. Voting Trump in 2016 could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to kick the Establishment right in the balls, and end their chances of reproducing.

66 comments:

  1. Trump was popular in the 80s and the early 2000s, with his show, so maybe his rise to popularity again is a sign that the cocooning trend is also ending, in addition to the inequality trend.

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  2. Trump pretends to run for President every four years. If the country depends on him, it's doomed.

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  3. I am wary of him, but if, as Agnostic says, his ego will work in our favor because he will try to do a good job to make the nation look good(and himself look good). This blog has been right about too many other things that I was at first skeptical about.

    Still, will a status-striver really make the nation less status-striving? At the least, maybe he will end the accursed cocooning; since his personality seems to have flourished during the periods of rising crime, he will drive the country towards that direction(he even saw a resurgence in the early 2000s, with his TV show).

    "Voting Trump in 2016 could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to kick the Establishment right in the balls, and end their chances of reproducing."

    It would be great if we could somehow end the cocooning trend once and for all. I know you wrote that it was cyclical, but it seems that it makes rising generations too dysfunctional to be a cyclical part of humanity. If just knocks the shit out of the population, leaving everybody in this totally degenerated state. Even Turchin says that inequality can be ended, and inequality isn't nearly as bad as cocooning - people are still basically normal.



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  4. "You're asked which of two lines is longer, and one is very obviously longer than the other. However, before you get to answer, about a dozen other people give the wrong answer."

    this is, I think, a product of most people being abstract-oriented, "conceptual", in Jon Niednagel's terms. not sure what the reality is, but having to intellectualize it. Niednagel, working as a consultant, claims that the number of "empiricals"(corporeals) are a minority of the population.

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  5. Re: "pretending" to run, you're too young to remember, but he's never stuck his neck out and taken so much personal and collective heat. Also never shattered the mainstream narrative, up-ended the GOP establishment ideals, and stirred up the conservative base like this.

    All of this is not something he can just backpedal on later and say, "Hey, I was only kidding -- you guys know I only pretend to run for President." He's passed the point of no return.

    You're also confused about what happens when you cast a vote -- it doesn't just help the candidate get into office, it sends a loud and clear message to The Powers That Be.

    On trade policy, Clinton would have went full-on Bush II if the huge turn-out for Perot had not let the Establishment know just how angry they were with the prospect of NAFTA.

    Also kept him in line on all other issues that are correlated with not wanting to be economically crippled by foreign trade deals -- abortion, gays in the military, affirmative action, housing policy, education, and the whole rest.

    As perverse as it looks in retrospect, the Clinton administration wasn't nearly as corrosive to our society as the Bush II era. Not because Clinton the man was better than W. the man, but because the general public had made it clear at the outset that he would be on a short leash, compared to the defeated and apathetic tone of circa 2000 and after.

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  6. "Still, will a status-striver really make the nation less status-striving?"

    Yes, through immigration and trade policy. Immigration is one of the most powerful causes of widening inequality, as a sky-rocketing supply of labor competes over a barely growing pool of jobs, making incomes stagnant or shrinking for working and lower-middle class people.

    The really catastrophic status-striving takes place at the top -- corporate boards wanting to get rich at any cost to society, thereby destroying society. Mexicans will work for a fraction of what white and blacks will? Welp, guess you're going to have to enjoy living in a Tower of Babel (not us, though, we've insulated ourselves by buying homes in expensive zip codes).

    Whatever can restrain the anti-social status-climbing of the elites is all for the better of the society. A Trump administration could accomplish a hell of a lot by choking back immigration and erecting a tariff wall to prevent a trans-national race to the bottom.

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  7. How is Trump a status striver? The man was born with all the status and money he needed. He strikes me more as a man with the European Faustian drive who loves to do the impossible.

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  8. so what we're looking at is that equality will begin rising in 2017 if Trump is elected, maybe even cocooning will result itself, if it hasn't already begun to do so.

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  9. very interesting post.
    one error:
    trump´s german side is from Kallstadt, this is not bavaria,
    but Rheinland-Pfalz.

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  10. "so what we're looking at is that equality will begin rising in 2017 if Trump is elected, maybe even cocooning will result itself, if it hasn't already begun to do so."

    We see attempts at reform, bit by bit, that might take a while to pay off. Trump might reverse some of the dumber excesses of the last 20-45 years himself, or at least inspire a few other elites to listen to the rabble and attain genuine popularity rather than continuing to suck up to elites while repeating bland platitudes to a listless and dwindling audience.

    I have no idea what the time table is for when reforms will be even be attempted, let alone fully and effectively implemented. There is a sort of infectious, spontaneous quality to this stuff. It comes and goes rapidly. I mean, when trust and (according to TV Tropes) big hair peaked in '87, who would've thought that by '97 all trendy women would have flat/straight hair covering up their face?

    Good call on the ancestry. As inequality has heightened, the ranks from which the biggest elites our drawn have narrowed. Total posers and shameless climbers rather than authentic ass kickers. JFK vetoed CIA tests involving dropping chemicals on US cities. The guy wasn't perfect but things were more conscientious back then.

    "As perverse as it looks in retrospect, the Clinton administration wasn't nearly as corrosive to our society as the Bush II era. Not because Clinton the man was better than W. the man, but because the general public had made it clear at the outset that he would be on a short leash, compared to the defeated and apathetic tone of circa 2000 and after."

    9/11 definitely enabled the worst excesses of the ambitious/careerist contemp. elites and busy bodies. Check out the ghastly legislation (the Patriot Act, etc.) that was rammed thru afterwards. I agree that apathy has set in by now, but it was pretty common in the 2000's to attack US critics/dissidents as "unpatriotic" or "anti-troops" if they questioned the elite's response to 9/11. It didn't seem like apathy as much as intense(ly pitiful) group think in terms of who bought the whole goddam story about the background of 9/11, who did it, and how we should respond. There was a feature on the mid 2000's dvd release of "The Running Man" regarding the movie's relevance which annoyed some American viewers who felt that the feature was not sufficiently reverential towards America. God forbid you suggest that society is (or soon will be) a police state in which the credulous masses our manipulated by a corrupt elite.

    A lot of post 9/11 policy was a wet dream for the globalist/zionist/America as #1 set. Prior to 9/11, we usually said "slow down" to these people. Things were getting ugly in the 90's but who knew just how abhorrent it would get after 9/11 made dissent completely unacceptable? I suppose some did point out the more outrageous blunders, but the tone of the dissent was pretty mild compared to the open hostility that people had for blundering leaders in the 60's-90's. Daily Show snarking doesn't really cut it; was John Leibotvitz I mean Stewart stridently demanding that the buffoons in charge be dragged from office?

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  11. once it begins changing, it will change very quickly. the culture did a 180 between '92 and '93, completely changing. same thing happened in the 60s. i'd expect rising equality works the same way - there will be noticeably more opportunity in one or two years time.

    "9/11 definitely enabled the worst excesses of the ambitious/careerist contemp. elites and busy bodies. "

    the bad changes predated 9/11, though. I remember getting a much different, negative vibe starting around 1999-2000 - I just chalked it up to going into high school at the time, but now I realize the zeitgeist was changing. not sure what caused it, but we know that Internet use exploded around the same time(I remember that happening as well) - that may have been an effect of some other thing, though.

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  12. "trump´s german side is from Kallstadt, this is not bavaria, but Rheinland-Pfalz."

    Thanks for catching that. I remember looking it up and seeing that he was from the Catholic Western / Southern part of Germany, and misremembered him as Bavarian.

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  13. You may be the only person on the planet who is going directly from Nader to Trump. Cocooning, isn't that the Hillary campaign strategy? Why do young people, the folks in their twenties seem intent on sending another baby boomer to the White House? Anyway, Trump is kind of fun so I am happy that he is in the pool. Donald, don't drown before the debates! I do think he actually might have created a discussion(stopped clock is right twice a day) about what people want in their communities and surprise, surprise sanctuary for criminals isn't high on the list. Glad your happy, because I think even your life matters. Great blog, Agnostic.

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  14. "Thanks for catching that."
    no worries.
    as you will probably agree, a simple unimportant mistake can foul up an otherwise
    on-point message.
    indeed, trump is the guy in my book, although there is a LOT wrong with him.

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  15. "once it begins changing, it will change very quickly. the culture did a 180 between '92 and '93, completely changing. same thing happened in the 60s. i'd expect rising equality works the same way - there will be noticeably more opportunity in one or two years time."

    Yeah, things can change fast but I think you see it affect different people at different rates. If you look at sequels made in '89/'90 (Predator 2, Christmas Vacation, Back to the Future 1&2, Die Hard 2, Nightmare on Elm Street 5 etc.) they are all vastly inferior to their early-mid 80's predecessors. The music is worse, the photography is less attractive, the editing is sloppier, the acting is less convincing, and the general tone is more smug/obvious/self aware in nature rather than being sincere and tantalizing "would you believe?" type storytelling. It's harder to get into a story when the movie is yelling at you, especially if it's telling you "hey, were in a movie!". Even when Ferris Bueller looked into the camera in '86, it was still easier to buy things in that movie than it is to buy what's going on in a movie made in '89 or later. And obviously, the sudden flood of sequels made it obvious that Hollywood was retreating from imaginative "what-if" stories. When we already know the characters, some of the luster wears off.

    Hollywood is full of egomaniacal blowhards trying to one up each other and who think middle America is full of rubes. It seems like goofy posturing really blew up in '89. To think how much better Nicholson would've played the Joker had Batman been made just a few years earlier...

    On the other hand, the general public was slower to react to the changing tastes. You did see signs (like baggier pants) of change as early as '89/'90, but yeah, it wasn't undeniable 'til we were well into '93. In fact, if you look at the rock charts, quite a few "hair" bands were still doing fairly well as late as late '93/early '94. The alt rock nerds also conveniently ignore the fact that Pearl Jam were as popular as Nirvana in the 90's. Pearl Jam were a lot more fun to listen to than Nirvana. It wasn't until the spring of '96 that the rock charts were totally stacked with dull, lethargic, gray songs with little melody or fun syncopation. Music artists certainly held onto good taste and high spirits a lot longer than movie makers who seemed so eager to torch the good will of the golden '75-'87 period.

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  16. To prove the difference between music artists and Hollywood, just look at facial hair. Many directors grew facial hair (some full beards) by the mid 70's; most kept it into the 80's/90's in spite of facial hair (esp. beards) being out fashion. On the other hand, most rock/pop artists were clean shaven in the 80's although some went on to have goatees in the 90's. Even when beards became more common in the 70's, quite a few artists resisted the trend.

    Basically, pop artists have to appeal to the average person while movie making is very dependent on maneuvering, connections, and braggadocio. When Cameron, Lucas, or Spielberg is brandishing a beard he's telling you to "get the hell outta the way 'cuz I've made it". But what would be the point of a guy in AC/DC having a fuzzy face? It's not gonna make him play better, write better, get a long better with a bandmate, or connect him to the audience. So clean shaven it is.

    Not surprising that Hollywood so quickly glurged on crass BS. Even in the 70's/80's glory days, I wouldn't want to swim in those shark filled waters.

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  17. By the way, I have a hunch that if wasn't for the advent of photography, we would be dealing with elites (including politicians) sporting heavy facial hair. But since we've got so many photos of chest thumping swaggering Civil War era idiots brandishing all sorts of sideburns, staches, and beards, I think it's safe to say that those who wish to gain popular appeal we'll never allow themselves to resemble a Civil War general (or a communist hero). The opportunity for mockery would be too large.

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  18. "a simple unimportant mistake"

    I checked Wikipedia's article on Trump, and I didn't misremember what I'd read after all -- they incorrectly state that his German ancestors married in "Kallstadt, Bavaria". I had no reason to doubt whether that city was in Bavaria, so just assumed they had their facts right (good ol' Wikipedia).

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  19. "You may be the only person on the planet who is going directly from Nader to Trump."

    He was a populist of the Left, so it isn't as big of a leap as it sounds. Populist vs. elitist is a deeper divide than liberal vs. conservative. And I was only 19 years old, when most people are liberal. It's just growing from a 19 year-old populist to a 34 year-old populist.

    For fun, I looked up Nader's views on immigration back then, and he sounds about where Donald Trump is now. From an ancient article on Alternet:

    http://www.alternet.org/story/9980/nader_on_immigration%3A_friend_or_foe

    * * * * *

    "We cannot have open borders, that's obviously a totally absurd proposition," he said. "It would depress wages here enormously. Tens of millions of people at all levels, including scientists and workers, would be poring into this country. So we have to have some sort of limit."

    "We obviously have to pour more resources into the border with Mexico," he said. "There's too much corruption, too much smuggling, too much infectious diseases and too much pollution since NAFTA went into effect. And Clinton (and) Gore promised [that] after NAFTA was passed, that they were going to pour in a lot of resources to clean up that border, public health, transportation ... and they haven't done that. It's one of their major broken promises."

    "I don't think Silicon Valley should be allowed to bring in 250-300,000 computer specialists, scientists and engineers, who are desperately needed in third-world countries," Nader said, charging that Internet companies just "underpay them compared to Americans who are ready to be retrained in the new computer languages."

    * * * * *

    He also slams the globalization trade agreements, which were only getting started back in 2000. He really didn't sound too different from Pat Buchanan, and both of them said warm things about the other, refused to sling mud, etc.

    And of course as a populist of the Left, he had overly optimistic hopes for what the third-world societies would look like if they had no dictatorships (BIG IF), and if their best and brightest had stayed there rather than be brain-drained over to the first world.

    But the basic point is correct: they wouldn't be nearly the basket-cases they are now.

    Nader had zero to say about any major culture war issues -- gay rights, affirmative action, etc. -- so I can proudly remain untainted by who I voted for as a college sophomore. His platform was entirely based on populist economic and political matters.

    He could've played the race/culture card if he wanted, being Lebanese-American and from an exotic (to us) branch of Christianity (Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch). But he never brought it up, wouldn't indulge the Leftoids who prompted / baited him to go all Al Sharpton about race, and was generally very self-effacing -- unlike The Donald, hence sadly not as win-able in a Super Bowl style election.

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  20. Kudos to Nader for mentioning infectious diseases as a major danger created by open-door immigration policy. Not even Trump is going there, talking about the filthy germs that foreigners are bringing into our relatively healthy country. Not just introducing exotic species, but creating larger effective population sizes where epidemics can break out more easily.

    Trump is already pressing key conservative buttons, he should totally go after the role that globalized population movement has had in making Americans sicker and more plagued by once-gone parasites like bedbugs.

    Even in a liberal bastion like New York City, everyone knows the score about where they have returned from, and would feel a visceral desire to clamp down on immigration. Of course, being good liberals, they'd try to consciously suppress that impulse, but if we can get New York libs to feel a gut reflex to lock out foreigners to make those disgusting bedbugs go away, we'll have made major progress.

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  21. It turns out that the source of new flu viruses each year is Southeast Asia, so that'd make a great opening for the wishy-washy topic of Asian immigration.

    "But they have higher IQs than Africans!" Gee, real hard -- give them a medal. BTW they're also introducing wave after wave of new flu viruses, since we -- and all other countries -- refuse to quarantine the Asians to Asia.

    Trump may need to wait for a real SARS-on-steroids kind of pandemic for it to resonate with the public, though. He could review the epidemiological research, but it wouldn't hit home.

    Maybe work the ASPCA angle and broadcast commercials showing all those sad doggies with canine flu that came to our shores from, where else?, Asia. "For the sake of America's puppies, we must regrettably (*not really) quarantine the Asians to Asia."

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  22. One point about Trump, the Des Moines Register editorializes that he should drop out of the race. The paper that I use to deliver has to remember that Iowa is hosting this NATIONAL event and no one gives a damn what the fiftieth largest paper in America thinks. Let the people vote and send whatever message they are going to send to Trump, The Register probably isn't going to endorse the Republican nominee.anyway. The Register is elites at their worst.

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  23. "Kudos to Nader for mentioning infectious diseases as a major danger created by open-door immigration policy."

    Funny, I just bought some stuff related to the 1st Alien movie. Remember Ripley insisting on quarantining Kane?

    I think we've developed such an aversion on thinking about things from a "natural" standpoint that a lot of people (esp. younger ones) get creeped out about judging things on the basis of "how does this affect our ability to function on a basic level"? When you look at the cold physical reality of how we function as organisms, it clashes with gushing Jewy sentiment about not having "prejudice" (common sense) towards foreigners and buggering gays. It also clashes with non-stop devil may care individualism. You can't defend flippant and hedonistic attitudes towards behavior and roots when you're reckoning with the fact that rootless and hedonistic people are literally poisoning everyone.

    Nader mentioning disease certainly proves that he's a very rare bird for a modern elite. A guy whose mind is serious enough and whose conscience is intact enough for him to grasp how dangerous our decadent era is. Who is brave enough to admit the problem in public.

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  24. Notably, that stupid Prometheus movie had the "scientist" characters (vacant and often too young looking) being so blatantly ignorant of normal heath protocol that even today's addled viewers called out the movie. It's like the Hollywood airheads are so flippant to basic realities that they'd rather not remind themselves or viewers about very simple and reasonable standards of conduct and values.

    Geriatric director Ridley Scott really needs to throw in the towel, his movies try to be more and more even as he's lost whatever grip he had on how to tell a story. Truth be told, virtually all of Alien's best ideas were developed by the writers, Dan O'bannon and Ron Sushet, production designer Ron Cobb, Effects designers HR Giger and Carlo Rambaldi, as well as a lot of other talented people. Alien is the only movie he ever did that really resonated. Some people defend Blade Runner, but that movie just leaves me cold. Scott never really helped the perception that the 80's were more style than substance. Compare him to John Carpenter, who told a lot of stylish but engaging stories with colorful heroes and menacing antagonists.

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  25. Back in 2011, I made a bet with Morgan Warstler over whether Rick Perry would get the GOP nomination. Nobody here has made the argument that he will win, rather than that it would be good if he did, but I'll bet against Trump getting it and am open to odds slanted against me.

    I've generally thought of Pearl Jam as being more boring than Nirvana. Nirvana didn't do a lot of songs like Yellow Ledbetter or Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town. They are less abrasive though, closer to stadium rock, and descend from the relatively glam Mother Love Bone.

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  26. theo the kraut7/23/15, 7:00 AM

    > "Kallstadt, Bavaria" ... (good ol' Wikipedia)

    that's corrected now, took some seconds, sheesh...

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  27. theo the kraut7/23/15, 7:03 AM

    ...seems like you yanks need filthy foreigners for everything :-)

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  28. "Yeah, things can change fast but I think you see it affect different people at different rates. "

    Yeah, the 1920s, when equality started rising, saw rapid changes. '20s culture was quite distinct from what had come before. So hopefully, we will see immediate improvement staring in 2017 or before.

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  29. theo the kraut7/23/15, 5:23 PM

    re Kallstad, Bavaria

    turns out Wikipedia was correct, but misleading; the "Bavaria" above was pointing to "Kingdom of Bavaria" which ceased to exist in 1918--since 30 August 1946 Kallstad belongs the present State of Rhineland-Palatinate

    cf the edit at:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Donald_Trump&diff=672798779&oldid=672798206

    should be final, hopefully

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  30. Trump has now threatened to run as a third-party candidate if the Republican establishment tries to exclude. That might be a good idea regardless, though, since as Agnostic said, he was originally a Leftist populist, and running as a third-party will help get more liberal voters who are dissatisfied with inequality. He will become more of an anti-establishment candidate.

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  31. what's the alternative? stock market crash, or even worse, elite status-striving war like World War I? this time around, maybe there will be reform without a violent revolution.

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  32. We already had an economic crash in 2008. It did lead to less immigration, because there were fewer low-skill jobs pulling them in. I don't expect significant political change on the issue.

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  33. I wonder if the people in charge will come up with some excuse to suspend the democratic process if it looks like Trump is going to win, or if the revolution will really be that easy.

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  34. Power is always up for grabs. No regime lasts forever. As long as our current elites remain ensconced in their ivory towers, totally clueless about current events, any ambitious populist can take power and threaten the status quo and maybe the regime itself. Populists are usually part of the elite but with different economic interests from the rest. Trump may be too old to bring about a revolution. It usually takes a joint upstart, like Julius Caesar.

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  35. Young not joint.

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  36. Even in the unlikely event that Trump got the nomination, and in the unlikelier event he won the Presidency, he would still need Congressional support to accomplish much other than getting in the way (which I think would be the best thing a President can do). That's part of the reason many people don't take him seriously: being President is not like being a CEO, and you can't get the gears of government turning by sheer force of personality. There was lots of disappointment over Mr. Hope & Change's lack of accomplishment, and he had plenty of allies among the People Who Matter that run the government. Our system of government is practically designed to prevent major changes or the status quo, and considering how much worse things can and have gotten, we should be thankful.

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  37. "Populists are usually part of the elite but with different economic interests from the rest."

    Yes, but in this case, he's not motivated by economic interest but by status - which means he'll do a good job, because he wants to go down in history as the man who fixed America.

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  38. . "Our system of government is practically designed to prevent major changes or the status quo, and considering how much worse things can and have gotten, we should be thankful."

    Yet such upheavals happened in the past - during the 60s, then again in the late 70s, and then in the mid 90s. In each of these cases, our entire culture and way of life was changed. And it happened rapidly in each instance, within one year.

    "Trump may be too old to bring about a revolution. It usually takes a joint upstart, like Julius Caesar"

    don't discount anti-aging medication. new, meaningful technology will happen rapidly if cocooning ends.

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  39. "Our system of government is practically designed to prevent major changes or the status quo"

    Nice excuse for defeatism, but not true.

    Where did the FDA come from, or the New Deal? Medicare? Opening the floodgates of immigration? Closing them shut? Laissez-faire, then trust-busting, then deregulation.

    At the time, such sweeping changes were unthinkable just a generation or two earlier. Yet there they were.

    With Trump running strong up till Election Day, it'll make a lot of voters feel safe in voting for other Congressional candidates like him.

    Obama's inability to make major changes is not the right comparison. He wasn't a radical, just a self-serving affirmative action candidate with more brains than a clown like Al Sharpton. He wasn't shattering any of the Establishment's narratives, but rather intensifying them. It's no surprise that others in Congress have only solidified their conformity with the status quo.

    Trump's effect on conformity with The Narrative is the opposite, and will lead to more open dissent among politicians (less likely) and their electorate (more likely).

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  40. Curtis, changes in culture and changes in politics are not the same thing. The 90s weren't that interesting a time, politically speaking. We had divided government, an impeachment over some rather petty stuff, and that covers the major points. The culture could shift, but it's not going to be because of Trump.

    FDR became President during some very unusual circumstances. The Republicans ended a long period of dominance into becoming practically an irrelevancy. The worst the economy had even gotten, political upheaval and world war abroad. The government was also much smaller then, he made it into much of what it is today. LBJ had a smaller version of that with a large congressional majority after the Republicans tanked. On trust busting, I recommend reading Gabriel Kolko (who will also tell you that it was industry which advocated for and basically wrote the law establishing the FDA). A single policy like immigration law might change. I don't expect it to in the near term, and at any rate many on the pro-immigration side still seem hopeful that policy will be shifted in their direction.

    Yes, Obama had more modest ambitions, and he's had difficulty accomplishing even those. I don't think having more radical ambitions would have led to more getting done. Look what's happening in Greece with Syriza: wishful political thinking and radicalism only gets you so far in the face of the system in which you're embedded.

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  41. OK, so now you agree that the status quo is up for grabs in American politics, for better or worse. You try to wave away every example as the result of unusual circumstances, but every set of circumstances is unusual and gives rise to change. Like, say, tens of millions of foreigners flooding into the country.

    It's also irrelevant that the wealthy and powerful always have a shaping role in the changes that are for the better. The defeatist take on this is that they are neutering populist goals, or even co-opting them for their own interests.

    But what's in the interests of the wealthy and powerful is not static -- it's dynamic, and responds to the myriad pressures they are currently up against from the rest of society. Sure, if ordinary people are too apathetic, then it's not in the elite's interest to do anything nice for them.

    If, however, they are so angry and organized that they're on strike, taking a hatchet to saloons, and rallying in the town square, suddenly it's in the interests of the elite to do all sorts of nice things for them, lest the anger and disruption of "business as usual" escalate toward violent revolution. That is, they are forced to make concessions -- major ones like the 40-hour week, no employing of scab labor, no shipping in hordes of foreigners willing to under-bid native wages, shuttering of the money-making red light districts, quality and safety regulations, and so on and so forth.

    The claim that the Progressive Era was just a co-optation of populist ferment by the corporate elite is silly and tone-deaf. Notice: does not resonate with blue-collar and lower-middle class people. You know when you've been betrayed and sold out -- hence the anger over immigration. But there's no popular lingering anger over the Progressive Era, as there is with the Civil War, Reconstruction, desegregation, and so on. Conclusion: the Progressive Era was truly better for ordinary people, and advanced their interests more than it did the elite's, narrowing the inequality gap substantially and making society far more stable.

    There are only two groups who crow about corporate co-opting of Progressive policies, and both are insulated in ivory towers, think tanks, etc.:

    1. Far-Leftoids who are bitter that the massive concessions by the elites prevented the popular rebellion from reaching revolutionary status, which is the end-goal of the far Left.

    2. Libertarians who want to stave off contemporary attempts at Progressive-style regulations by arguing that such a movement will be co-opted by corporate interests, just as it did back in the first Progressive Era. So don't even bother.

    Meanwhile 80% of the country is thankful that we have the FDA, direct election of Senators, Medicare, etc., and would kill to only work 40 hours a week.

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  42. I make a distinction between a singular policy like immigration, which can change more easily, and sweeping changes across the board which I think less likely. President Trump is not going to attempt any court-packing to overturns any pro-gay SCOTUS decsisions or whatever.

    I do not claim the Progressive Era (which I'd say extends only to Wilson, not the 1920s immigration cutoff) was a co-opting of populist pressure: I claim the business elite were behind it from the start. It advanced goals they'd been aiming to achieve for decades. It has simply been mythologized afterward. And "tone deaf"? Am I trying to play to a p.c crowd?

    Your point about far-leftoids is actually somewhat correct when it comes to Gabriel Kolko. He thinks the business elite were correct in thinking that competition was NOT leading to concentration of industry and the result would have been disastrous, but his demands are far out enough a plausible outcome of American politics would be unlikely to satisfy him.

    Inequality narrows with depressions and wars. But the U.S only briefly mobilized for WW2, so it was FDR's era when inequality dropped. Inequality peaked before him, the same era when immigration was cut off.

    The Civil War & reconstruction were regional things. Those have more staying power. There was some resentment of Wilson's treatment of Germans for a long time, but German ethnic identity hasn't persisted as well as southern identity.

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  43. That should say "mobilized for WW1" above.

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  44. You aren't making an argument by saying that single issues are more subject to change than multiple issues in conjunction. That's what the nerds call a tautology.

    Trump was plenty pissed by the Obamacare decision, and singled out Roberts as an awful Bush plant who is now fucking things up. He would certainly look to the Supreme Court to fix whatever he sees as a problem.

    The business elite were not behind the Progressive movement from the start. It was the nascent labor movement in the economic domain -- funny how the business elite hired paramilitary Pinkerton guards to mow down striking workers with gatling guns, when those labor unions were working toward the same goal as the bosses.

    But you never learned about the Homestead Strike in high school, or were too busy leveling up your Pokemon during class, so why am I debating this?

    And in the social-cultural domain, the twin of Progressivist reform and regulation was the Temperance movement, the Social Gospel, the Third Great Awakening, and so on. All grassroots populist movements, strongest in those churches that are historically populist like the Methodists.

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  45. No, I learned about that strike in school and wasn't into Pokemon. I think it was middle school though.

    Do you think Trump will try to pack the court or have the Congressional support necessary to do so? Even FDR only succeeded in scaring them, and Trump isn't FDR or coming in with the Great Depression.

    The Progressives began with reform of government. They were the heirs of the mugwumps/"goo goos". Temperance did become part of it, as the cause was linked with women's suffrage (and if it targeted the drunken, heavily immigrant working class, all the better). Labor's biggest victories came after the Progressive era. Wilson even tried to recruit the very anti-union Henry Ford to run for senate.

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  46. I've generally thought of Pearl Jam as being more boring than Nirvana.

    Hear, hear. I thought they were the least listenable band of the bunch at the time, far less interesting than most of the "grunge" bands.

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  47. "But you never learned about the Homestead Strike in high school, or were too busy leveling up your Pokemon during class, so why am I debating this?"

    Is there data to validate how people seem to get progressively nerdier the further they were born past about 1970? Like
    -RPG stuff (particularly video game RPGs)
    - Video games played at an older age
    - Interest in Asia (especially Japan)
    - Disinterest in physical activities
    - Childish nostalgia (e.g. for the really kiddie stuff like Muppets, Sesame Street, Harry Potter etc. rather than nostalgia for say, Jem or G.I. Joe)
    - For guys, interest in distasteful gender and sex stuff like butt kicking babes
    - SJW-ing in general

    I never "got" the really silly 90's kid's crap (well, it was supposed to be for kids before the 2000's) like Pokemon. The art style of the Harry Potter covers turned me off since I'd spent the early 90's gazing at the awesome illustrations that were used for VHS covers and video game box art in the 80's/early 90's. I had a Genesis back then which had games dating back to late 1988. So a lot of Genesis games had great art, unlike the SNES which didn't have any box art commissioned until '91. And the SNES didn't have many games released until the fall/winter of '92, so most SNES box art sucks.

    Always liked the grey grid on black design of the early Genesis boxes.

    Echo the Dolphin (Boris Vallejo '92) - http://img.gamefaqs.net/box/3/4/7/21347_front.jpg

    Streets of Rage ('91) - http://www.vizzed.com/videogames/gen/thumbs/Streets%20of%20Rage-full.jpg

    Shadow of the Beast ('90, I think Roger Dean painted it) - http://www.theoldcomputer.com/game-box-art-covers/Sega/Megadrive-Genesis/S/Shadow%20of%20the%20Beast.jpg

    Forgotten Worlds ('89) - http://www.videogameobsession.com/videogame/Genesis/GEN-ForgottenWorlds-vgo.jpg

    Mystic Defender ('89) - http://i.ytimg.com/vi/vxpxVWnmX-0/maxresdefault.jpg
    Love the title fonts on the boxes, too.

    Considering that we haven't even done exciting artwork for posters, video games boxes, albums, and books (regardless of the quality of the actual media) since about 1992 is it a shock that people born in the late 80's and beyond have such abysmal taste in art? I think a lot of them aren't even interested in art per se, but can you blame them when post '92 art is either so bland or so gaudy that it is alienating? I hope I'm not the only early Millennial (born in early '85) to sense how shitty post '92 culture is, but then again, a decent amount of Gen X-ers don't even seem to realize how bad things are from a strictly aesthetic standpoint.

    Hell, even low culture like video games had exciting art back in the pre nihilism days.
    What happened to TV themes, by the way?

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  48. "- Disinterest in physical activities"

    Millenials are obsessed with the gym, and there's been huge interest in outdoor activities by SWPLs and enrollment of children in sports camps and activities. Part of the status-striving.

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  49. "Millenials are obsessed with the gym, and there's been huge interest in outdoor activities by SWPLs and enrollment of children in sports camps and activities. Part of the status-striving."

    Gratuitious working out, especially with fancy equipment and at spiffy gyms (great place to see and be seen) has been getting more and more commons since the 80's. It's not a Millennial thing. Yeah, it is a joyless striving thing. Things were more relaxed in the 70's and even 80's though, since people were more outgoing and less neurotic.

    Also, I was talking about preferences rather than just begrudgingly doing something because you're supposed to. It seems like Boomers are the most gung-ho about getting off their duff and experiencing something besides looking at a screen. Early Gen X-ers aren't much different, but as you get to later X-ers and Millennials there is greater reluctance to say, play pick-up basketball rather than binge watch TV.

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  50. "Early Gen X-ers aren't much different, but as you get to later X-ers and Millennials there is greater reluctance to say, play pick-up basketball rather than binge watch TV."

    I guess you are right about that, but even if they wanted to they'd have problems finding age-mates to do stuff with.

    off-topic, but:

    "It would be more reassuring if somebody first apologized for cutting imprisonment in the 1960s and unleashing a huge crime wave that went on for a generation.

    Perhaps somebody could point out what they have learned from their last epochal mistake so we have some reason to assume they aren’t just going to do it all over again"

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/

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  51. "It would be more reassuring if somebody first apologized for cutting imprisonment in the 1960s and unleashing a huge crime wave that went on for a generation.

    Perhaps somebody could point out what they have learned from their last epochal mistake so we have some reason to assume they aren’t just going to do it all over again"

    Oh, please. Crime shot up in the 60's 'cuz people were becoming more bold, experimental, and spontaneous. It was gonna happen no matter what. I'm sure that being lenient on some hardcore types didn't help but other than locking every single person up there was no way to stave off the growing wildness.

    We started putting more and more people behind bars in the 80's but crime didn't really begin to decline until about 1995. Are we to believe that this was totally because we were pre-emptively locking up people Minority Report style?

    Face it, there is nothing the system can do to stop rowdy kids (16 yr olds don't care about how the system will punish them). I'll accept the likelihood that locking up dangerous offenders well into middle age probably did reduce crime by older people, but this has nothing to do with kids causing trouble.

    I think Steve (and many others) have bought into this idea that very specific social policies can explain widespread shifts in mood and behavior. I dunno; for example, if the social mood is more outgoing and I end up going to bars more often, there's a greater likelihood that my car will be messed with or that I'll get into a fight. What does any of this have to do criminal punishment? When tempers flare (as they do more often in a wilder period) people aren't always considering the full consequences of their actions.

    Also, people getting out more often and people being more willing to let their guard down in front of strangers leads to bad guys sensing that they have more opportunities. Again, you can't legislate away reckless behavior by victims to be.

    In the 60's, we saw all kinds of attempts to explain growing wildness. Drugs, weakening standards and guidance, "radical" brainwashing, bad laws, dumb leaders, whatever. The most common thing was to claim that Boomers were some unique juggernaut leading the charge. Well, young people in general are more excitable. But Silents actually account for much of the craziness as well. There just weren't that many Silents and being more taciturn and older, they were let off the hook.

    Interestingly, in rising crime eras we see a lot of TV and movies dealing with delinquent kids.

    On the other hand, as crime has fallen since the mid 90's there's been greater and greater fascination with middle aged criminal masterminds while being indifferent towards youth.

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  52. "But Silents actually account for much of the craziness as well. "

    how do you mean?

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  53. The Silent Gen. produced a lot of agitators. L.H. Oswald was born in '39. George Carlin was born in '37. Dennis Hopper was born in '36. Many feminist heavy hitters were born in the late 20's and 30's.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterculture_of_the_1960s#Key_figures
    Many of these are Silent Gen.

    A lot of criminals were born in the later 20's and 30's. Check out this list - http://www.ranker.com/list/famous-american-serial-killers/web-infoguy?page=2

    I once did some serial killer birth date compiling using this website: http://maamodt.asp.radford.edu/Psyc%20405/serial_killer_timelines.htm

    They only list names rather than give tables on offender traits like date of birth. I haven't been able to find any website that does that. So I clicked on each name and looked at DOB. I got about halfway thru before I stopped. By that point it was clear that the majority of white killers were born from about 1930-1960, with a fair amount born in the later 20's and earlier 60's. But there are very few Greatest Gen or Gen X white killers. Makes sense; phlegmatic generations are disinclined to attack others for some personal gain or gratification. While choleric me-1st generations can justify everything up to and including murder to get your jollies off.

    It seems like being white, growing up in relative prosperity, and having permissive parents were not good for cultivating empathy in kids from choleric generations. We'll see how Homeland Gen. kids do; maybe growing up in a shitty period will teach them to be more considerate.

    It's not as though the 60's changes were totally negative or totally a Boomer thing. But it's not surprising that the new found freedom and experimentation would be abused by some more than others. Some things of the 40's and 50's were stale and not necessary (like OCD hygeine and an autistic disregard for what matters spiritually and aesthetically) but the Me Gen often went way too far in rejecting the past and being glib about defying any sense of restraint. These excesses would be pared down by the late 70's/early 80's. But the early Me Gen always bitches that the good times died by then. Yeah, right. People were best adjusted in the late 70's and 80's.

    I wonder if the 1st half of an outgoing period tends to be rocky and divisive. After about 15 years, people have fully entered a more trusting and less neurotic outlook while also being more cautious about avoiding the earlier excesses and narcissism.

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  54. "The Koch brothers are freezing out Donald Trump from their influential political operation — denying him access to their state-of-the-art data and refusing to let him speak to their gatherings of grass-roots activists or major donors.

    Despite a long and cordial relationship between the real estate showman and David Koch, as well as a raft of former Koch operatives who are now running Trump’s presidential campaign, the Koch political operation appears to have concluded that Trump is the wrong standard-bearer for the GOP. And the network of Koch-backed policy and political outfits is using behind-the-scenes influence to challenge Trump more forcefully than the Republican Party establishment — by limiting his access to the support and data that would help him translate his lead in the polls into a sustainable White House campaign."

    http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/kochs-freeze-out-trump-120752.html#ixzz3hLOQVUfJ

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  55. as to the nature of the Boomers, I believe it was stated it was the result of being small children during a cocooning period, but adolescents and young adults during rising-crime. the result was that they became more narcissistic and selfish(not all of them), but also mature and capable.

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  56. "These excesses would be pared down by the late 70's/early 80's. But the early Me Gen always bitches that the good times died by then. Yeah, right. People were best adjusted in the late 70's and 80's."

    That's interesting, what the final culture will look like if people are allowed to be outgoing long enough. The late 70s and 80s seemed better than the 60s/early 70s. I don't know why the latter was so different.

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  57. I think people get sorta battered into submission by all the "heavy" (60's hippie slang) stuff that hits us in the beginning of an outgoing phase. In fact, the outbreak of cults, murders, robberies, and protests makes it hard for many (esp. older people) to appreciate the fact that cocooning has it's own faults which people tire of after several decades. Eventually people find being engaged with other people to be rewarding enough that we just learn to deal with the greater likelihood of some horror happening. Also, being in the face of so much evil and instability can strengthen the will to do better and the desire to stay on people's good side.

    As for the main thing that makes people "better", I think it's learning to shoulder all the stuff going on. People freaked out about the 60's, acting as though it was the 1st decade that "allowed" a lot of crazy stuff to happen. By the mid 70's, people relaxed and were also rather humbled.

    In the wiki article about the counter-culture, one guy said that the 60's stereotype is better applied to the 70's. He's right in terms of how long it took the culture to absorb the 60's shockwave. The 1st decade of outgoingness is going to be a battleground. The second one is a truce. The 3rd decade is a party. Ever notice how many 80's movies have parties and dances? Music was the most colorful and danceable in the 80's too. Nearly all 80's movies have at least some humor, and it was usually the good natured kind. That's a big reason cocooners lash out at the 80's; they can't relate to people who are so unpretentious and fun. You see increasing signs of conviviality in the 2nd decade, so the later 70's in many ways a preview of the 80's. Certainly, the culture of '78 and especially '79 would be intensified in the early 80's.

    There's a reason the culture was so earnest in the 80's. By '93 people were beginning to tire of the demands of greater activity and socializing, and we started to see snarking become more and more common. Especially towards "cheesy" (i.e. sincere and energetic) 80's culture. When people started wearing shirts with shoulder seams down near the elbows and clown baggy pants in the 90's, they were basically waving the white flag. Ugghh, who want's to keep squeezing into tighter clothes, nobody needs to see my body. Besides, what kind of weirdo want's to see it anyway?

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  58. I'd like to think that what we started to get during the 80s was the way people are supposed to live, and that next time around we can continue it into the future, forever, instead of reverting back to cocooning.

    No way that cocooning is part of the natural cycle.

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  59. "In the 60's, we saw all kinds of attempts to explain growing wildness. Drugs, weakening standards and guidance, "radical" brainwashing, bad laws, dumb leaders, whatever."

    "Interestingly, in rising crime eras we see a lot of TV and movies dealing with delinquent kids."

    The stuff with delinquet kids didn't seem to start until the mid-70s, when inequality began rising. The 60s seem to be a misunderstood decade, partially because people misinterpreted it based on identity politics in the 90s. Most of the media of the time was positive and family-oriented. Popular TV shows were optimistic and hokey like "The Brady Bunch", "I Dream of Jeannie", "Gilligan's Island", "Star Trek", "The Flinstones".

    Media, at least, didn't seem to get edgier and darker until the mid-70s, when inequality began rising.

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  60. equality continued throughout the 60s and early 70s, so most people were still living a family-oriented, value-driven lifestyle similar to the 50s, except more social, optimistic, lighthearted, and sexier. Just based on what TV shows and movies were popular, you see a happy-go-lucky attitude. Even the hippie movement has been misinterpreted by modern norms.

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  61. "Media, at least, didn't seem to get edgier and darker until the mid-70s, when inequality began rising."

    There's a pronounced tendency for visual media to correlate with economic cycles. When the economy began fading in the late 60's, there was a spate of popular 'dark' movies. In genres like:
    Urban crime (Dirty Harry ('72), The Godfather ('74), The Warriors ('79) etc.)
    Biker (Easy Rider ('69), Mad Max ('79)
    Gritty Horror (Exorcist ('73) , Texas Chainsaw Massacre ('74), Friday the 13th ('80)

    Simply put, mid century optimism is a much tougher sell when it's hard to pay the bills. People act like Nixon ruined everyone's confidence; really, it just comes down to the cost and ease of living. People are that selfish.

    When the economy is flying high for the average person (as it was from circa 1945-1965, circa 1984-1990, and circa 1994-2000), there is much greater emphasis on comedy and sometimes campy goofiness. The 60's were extremely whimsical and campy because of the combination of growing experimentation, dull Silent gen tastes, and high equality (which makes it easier to let your guard down).

    Post 2000, everyone has felt miserable in terms of living standards. Hence, most movies have almost no humor. In fact, post 2000 audiences tend to snicker at the 80's and 60's as naive and immature because art from those periods is very upbeat and loquacious. Rather than being cynical and sober.

    The main reason I don't consider 1980-1983 (maybe even '84 to some extent) to be the "real" 80's is because if you watch movies from then, there's still a lingering uncertainty from the 70's. It's also notable, that all classic post 1934 horror movies were made from about 1968-1984. Night of the Living Dead, Halloween, The Shining, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc. 80's horror is often derided as goofy cheese, but these elements virtually do not exist in the '80-'83 movies. Most '84 movies don't have them either. The first 3 Friday the 13th's pre-date '84 and are earnest. It isn't until part 5 ('85) that annoying camp shows up.

    I do think that art quality overall is tied to being outgoing. That being said, it seems like the tone of movies (earnest/subdued vs. whimsical/energetic) has a lot to do with the economy.

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  62. Trump has said he plans to leave a "big opening" for legal immigrants.

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  63. Is Trump really charismatic enough to be elected President? maybe somebody like Bill Clinton or a more mainstream figure will see the writing on the wall and be the one to enforce rising equality.

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  64. Have you been paying any attention?

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  65. He didn't come across well in the last debate and his poll numbers are going down. Most of his support seems to be coming from older people.

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  66. Wrong on all three. Voluntary polls all put him at #1 in debate, random poll put him at #2 behind Fiorina (who won for being inoffensive, not charismatic). Poll numbers are steady / rising -- read the NBC and Zogby polls that just came out. His support is evenly distributed by age (polls).

    And yes, he will enforce greater equality by kicking out the reserve army of the unemployed, AKA immigrants who add to the supply of labor and thereby lower its price (wages). Secondary egalitarian effects: middle-class folks not mortgaging their future just to live away from immigrants, send their kids to low-immigrant schools, etc.

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