May 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 26, 2018

Hula hoops and dance prop crazes during manic phase of pop music energy cycle

In the post on the restless warm-up phase of the pop music energy cycle, we saw how common it is for people to take part in tightly rule-governed dance fads. The idea is that they are coming out of their refractory state during the previous mellow, vulnerable phase of the cycle, and they need some warm-up exercises to do before they reach the manic phase.

Dance fads that are simplified and where everyone is doing the exact same motions, are easy to get into for people who are just waking up from a deep sleep -- they don't require that much coordination, and they don't expose an individual to awkwardness since everyone is doing the same moves.

What happens to dance styles once people shift into the manic phase? These are like the real sports or activities that people do after warm-up exercises in gym class. They still have constraints or rules, and they still have a basic tool kit that they employ, but it's more improvisational and whole-body. They're no longer socially awkward, and can "dance like no one's watching" (although they are), and they have sufficiently warmed up with the simplified fads of the previous phase that they can execute more complex and spontaneous sequences of motions.

It's hard to provide examples of this different style since, unlike the easily name-able fads, they aren't so uniform and identical across individuals that you can give it a single name that everyone recognizes. But looking over dance crazes from the manic phase, I did notice one thing that distinguishes them -- the use of dance props like hula hoops, jump ropes, glow sticks, and objects that are usually manipulated by jugglers.

Dancing with props is like rhythmic gymnastics, which is subjective and free-form, and where each performer has their own unique routine or style within a larger hazy yet identifiable genre. It's more difficult for judges to give grades, unlike a highly regulated and uniform kind of dance.

"Rhythm" is the key word here -- the objects aren't just being moved around any old way, or just standing idly by for decoration, but in repetitive sequences that keep time with the beat of the music. During the warm-up phase, people need simple and explicit instructions to move rhythmically: "To the right, to the right, to the left, to the left, now kick, now kick, now walk it by yourself, now walk it by yourself."

During a manic phase, when they're already warmed up, they seek high levels of rhythmic activity, like moving the whole body as well as manipulating one or more objects in time with the music. And doing so in a more free-form way instead of following the simple instructions of the singer / dance-leader. While spiking in energy levels, they're chasing a high -- and they can't achieve that with training wheels on. On the spectators' part, they get more of a rush seeing not just a body moving rhythmically, but a body with objects moving together rhythmically.

Because they require more skill or more extraversion to perform, only a minority of dancers will take them up even during the manic phase. But they will be common enough to identify the time period, unlike other periods in which they were marginal or invisible.

We'll start the survey with the most recent manic phase that is still familiar, the early 2010s. First, there was hula hoop mania. Here is the US search traffic for "hula hoop," which does not settle into a regular annual rise-and-fall pattern until 2010, peaking in 2013, and falling off afterwards:

Search YouTube for hula hoop, or "hooping" as the performers called it, and you'll find most results from the first half of the 2010s. Girls have been uploading videos of themselves dancing since YouTube began in the mid-2000s, and still are -- but the hula hoop videos are concentrated in the manic phase only. They're not only doing simple repetitious round-and-round body movements, but manipulating the hoop with their hands, arms, feet, neck, etc., and not just making it spin around a body part, but tossing and catching it, jumping through it, etc., again more like rhythmic gymnastics.

Then there was the "poi" craze with the Burning Man types -- using each hand to swing a tether with a weight on the end. It was common across all types of props to use high-key brightness against darkness in order to enhance the spectacle -- fire, LED lights, glow sticks, or bright paint. Related to poi was "fire spinning" using other props, like a staff with fire at both ends.

And while not as widespread, there was clearly something in-the-air about jump ropes -- why not? -- that Katy Perry's tour featured them during the dance routine for her biggest hit of the time, "Roar":

These trends extended across a wide range of people, not confined to just a narrow sub-culture. You don't get any more mainstream than Katy Perry's audience. There were performance art types into the fire poi. And every group of girls was into hooping -- country, pop, rock, electronic, you name it. Normies, nerdies, hippies, gothies -- the entire culture was in the mood.

During the previous manic phase of the late '90s, there were the ravers moving glow sticks and glow ropes around with hand and arm motions, along with ropes or ribbons akin to the poi of the next manic phase. The stoner crew were into devil sticks, or moving around a baton using two handheld sticks, which would be revived during the next manic phase. While closer to juggling than dance, the diabolo performances were still set to music. Cirque du Soleil featured the diabolo in three shows from the late '90s, and revived it in 2009 and 2012.

And although hula hoops themselves were not central to the period, the ravers did have long loops anchored at hip level that moved similarly to hoops if they moved their body around. They also wore assorted jingly-janglies around their wrist and neck, which while not manipulated still added rhythmic props.

Going back to the early '80s manic phase, the dance prop craze was not as pronounced, probably because people were less competitive and attention-seeking during the Great Compression, which was just wrapping up, compared to the more competitive people of the status-seeking and widening-inequality period since then, including the late '90s and early 2010s.

The main example was jumping rope, especially in a gymnastic or acrobatic way like Double Dutch, although the aerobicizing trend incorporated jumping rope to music too. Before, during the '70s, improvisational and musical jump rope routines were limited to a sub-culture of urban African-Americans, whereas it hit the mainstream during the first half of the '80s (as seen in this retrospective from the Denver Post, fittingly written in 2013).

Although not a widespread trend, here is the no less iconic forerunner of the glow-in-the-dark stick used as a dance prop for electronic music, Taco's neon dancing cane from the video for "Puttin' on the Ritz":

The original manic phase of the late '60s was in fact where the hula hoop craze began. The toy may have been introduced in the late '50s, but it only lasted less than a year, and was not part of a wider music-and-dance craze. See this historical account from the Washington Post. It only really caught on when it was re-released in 1967, when it was also modified to have BBs inside of it, so that it made a rattling sound when moved around (the "shoop-shoop hula hoop"). That made it into a rhythmic musical instrument of its own, much better suited to a period of free-form and free-spirited dancing to upbeat bouncy music. They also dyed the plastic with brighter colors than the original -- LEDs were not an affordable option yet.

This video is from no later than 1972, just after the spike in hula hoop interest during the manic phase of the late '60s, but still shows it being used as a rhythmic dance prop rather than just a toy to kill some time with.

Although the dance prop craze is behind us at this point, there's only a few more years left in the mellow refractory phase, to be followed by about five years in the warm-up phase of color-by-numbers dance fads. So we're still only about eight years away from another rise in interest in improvisational prop dancing, with a peak lying about ten years away. High schoolers who are currently bored out of their minds during this mellow, emo phase will find themselves hula-hooping and fire-twirling by the time they're 25.

May 24, 2018

Korean peace requires re-alignment in US under Bernie, after successful re-alignments in SK and NK

The failure of the Trump admin regarding North Korea has been predictable for awhile now -- the continued militarist rhetoric even as NK became a nuclear armed state capable of nuking anywhere in America, the ridiculous delusion that they would immediately surrender that capability right after achieving it, and that all it would take to bring that surrender about would be empty promises of protection and economic development, right after breaking such an agreement with Iran over the same nuclear weapons issue. And the threat of regime change, anarchy, and killing off the ruler by referring to the Libya model.

You can blame the cosplay president, his shit-for-brains national security adviser, his scarcely less retarded secretary of state, or his Reagan LARP-ing vice president. But it all boils down to GOP business as usual under the Reagan era -- and in fact, the status quo under the New Deal era, whose dominant party was just as militarist, launching the failed Korean War that was only scrapped by the more isolationist opposition party (Eisenhower, with Nixon then removing tens of thousands of US troops from SK).

And so, nothing will change until there is another major re-alignment in this country, as the Reagan period gives way to the Bernie period, where Tulsi Gabbard will be the chief diplomat, not Mike Pompeo or Madeleine Albright. Presumably the South will not be part of that electoral coalition -- unlike the dominant party of either the New Deal or the Reaganite period -- demoting militarism from the list of priorities. That region has the highest concentration of military bases, and their elites are the most likely of any region to come from a military aristocratic lineage (back to the Cavaliers who first settled the Lowland South).

That also means that the new Bernie era will not be staffed by Democrat militarists who merely fault Trump and the GOP for not doing imperialism the right way. The American empire peaked during WWII and has been in steep decline ever since. Current opposition members who want to preserve the old paradigm will not make it through the adaptation process during political climate change.

We don't have to wait for such re-alignments in either NK or SK, as they have already happened, although exploring those transitions in depth is the topic for another post.

For now, it is enough to note the end of the conservative militarist period in SK, which began with the 1961 coup that made Park Chung-hee the leader and ended with the election of Kim Dae-jung in 1997, whose liberal-moderate coalition favors rapprochement and integration with NK. The current president, Moon Jae-in, belongs to this dominant party. The militarist faction in SK has become so weak during the current period that its most recent president, Park Geun-hye, was removed from office -- despite being the daughter of the founder of the previous period.

And in NK, Kim Jong-un is clearly blazing a new trail where his father had allowed affairs to languish -- successfully becoming a nuclear armed power capable of striking anywhere on the US mainland, and leveraging that nuclear status into greater relations with SK and China, and even with the US -- bringing the Americans to the negotiating table after getting our attention that we can get nuked if we keep militaristically antagonizing them. Now that he has a re-aligned government to work with in SK -- not the hostile Park regime -- his own government can undertake sincere moves toward integration.

His father, Kim Jong-il, oversaw more of a disjunctive period -- getting no real help from anyone, ruling during a famine, not reaching nuclear status, and being more of a decadent, flamboyant persona than an effectual leader. That phase ended the period begun by his own father, Kim Il-sung, who founded modern NK in 1948.

Xi Jinping in China is not a re-aligner, but part of the Deng Xioapeng period begun in 1978. However, that paradigm in Chinese politics is favorable toward NK in general, and toward reconciliation and integration between NK and SK -- since that would displace the US military from the Korean peninsula, a welcome change for China.

Shinzo Abe in Japan is also not a re-aligner, but part of a long period of militaristic leaders vis-a-vis NK. However, they don't have their own military, and rely on their occupier Uncle Sam to provide the saber-rattling. Once the US re-aligns under Bernie, military support of Japan will drop off, and they will take care of themselves. Whether that means they blaze a new trail toward nuclear status, or take a dovish turn during re-alignment, does not matter for the normalization of relations between NK and SK.

Unless, that is, Japan plans on directly intervening with its hypothetical new autonomous military -- but then, that would only unify the two Koreas all the more strongly, as Japanese expansion was the catalyst behind the unification of the Korean peninsula during the 500-year Joseon kingdom.

So the only missing piece is the Bernie revolution. Once that happens, bye-bye to our occupation of SK and Japan, bye-bye to them getting military services far below cost from Uncle Sam, bye-bye to them re-allocating the government spending that ought to go to national security into subsidies for manufacturing and industry, and bye-bye to the continued hollowing out of those sectors in America.

Military occupation abroad and de-industrialization back home have been two sides of the same imperialist coin during the Reagan period. Admitting that the empire is in steep decline and cutting our losses, with the Bernie re-alignment, will not only make life better for the countries we leave -- it will be better for the common people here in America. The only losers will be the elites who have gotten wealthy and powerful by failing for decades, getting forever bailed out by the taxpayers to keep at their never-successful attempts to prop up the crumbling borders of the American empire.

May 22, 2018

Saudi Arabia's period of height, before its 40-year decline

Yesterday's post looked at the long-term rise of Saudi Arabia as the only expanding state in the Middle East over the past couple hundred years, which means it is going to start contracting since no empire's expansion lasts beyond 200-250 years.

Before covering the medium-term decline of the past 40 years, we must first look at the preceding 50-year height of the Saudi empire, otherwise the current phase of decline will not stand out in contrast.

I'm not sure how broadly Stephen Skowronek's model of regime dynamics has been applied, but we can adapt it even to non-democratic, tribal polities like Saudi Arabia. In democracies, there are "periods" or "eras" of 30-50 years -- likewise within a dynasty. In democracies, there are "parties" who collectively contest for power against each other -- akin to factions in pre-democratic societies. In democracies, parties are united around a "platform" -- akin to whatever causes and interests unite the individuals within a faction.

In tribal societies, where kinship ties are fundamental, the dynasties and factions will be based on blood and marriage relations. Each clan is like its own party. These clans form coalitions just like parties do in democracies.

In both polities, periods have rulers of four types: trailblazing founders, extenders of that framework, opposition reformers, and "disjunctive" ineffectuals during a gear-shifting final phase before the next trailblazer founds a whole new framework. Disjunctive rulers belong to the dominant coalition, not the opposition.

Following Ibn Khaldun's model of generations of rulers, we can discern two clear periods since the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932 -- an Early period whose kings played a role in the conquests that created the Kingdom, and a Later period whose kings grew up once it had already been solidified. The Early kings were more familiar with nomadic life -- including the practice of raiding, by which they conquered others -- while the Later kings were more accustomed to sedentary lifestyles. Whereas the Early kings knew material hardship and saw the appeal of thrift, the Later kings knew only affluence and dismissed thrift in favor of indulgence.

All kings of Saudi Arabia have been either the founder himself, Ibn Saud, or his sons by various wives. Throughout Saudi history, the political-military clan of Al Saud has intermarried with religious-cultural clans. In a tribal, kin-based society, joining these two extended families is the way to form political coalitions. The religious clans descend from the founders of Wahhabism, the puritanical fundamentalist version of Hanbali Sunni Islam that guides Saudi culture.

This post will survey the Early kings period, when the Saudis were at their height, and the next will cover the Later kings period when they entered terminal decline.

The founding trailblazer of the Early kings was Ibn Saud, who was followed by the opposition king Saud, whose displacement gave rise to the extender king Faisal, whose peak preceded the reign of the disjunctive king Khalid. This period began in 1932, peaked during 1964-'75, and ended in 1982, lasting 50 years. It paralleled the New Deal period in the US, and the Labor Party period in Israel.

The main themes of the framework during this period were the end of military conquest, having consolidated as much of the peninsula as they could, and a focus on developing the consolidated kingdom economically, bringing their commoners into a more modern way of life (like settling the nomads). The oil fields would be nationalized away from American companies during the peak of this period.

Foreign policy was guided by a gradual shift toward the American pole of the Cold War world, using financial means to thwart the attempted expansion of Israel, and offering a Pan-Islamic rather than a Pan-Arab ideology for international alliances. At the same time, the rulers kept in check the clerics who were extreme even by Saudi standards.

In the greatest blow against Israel and its Western allies, Faisal withdrew Saudi oil from the world market to punish the non-Arab side of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War (Yom Kippur). That drove the price of oil through the roof, set off a crippling energy crisis, and set the stage for far higher oil revenues soon after, with prices still sky-high.

The three kings of the dominant coalition had mothers whose families were powerful religious clans from the origin of Saudi Arabia, the Najd region in the central part of the country, where the capital Riyadh is located. Ibn Saud had a mother from the Sudairi clan, and Khalid's mother had a (diluted) link to the clan as well. Faisal's mother was from the Al ash-Sheikh clan, who are the descendants of the founder of Wahhabism.

The opposition king, Saud, had a mother who was not from a religious elite clan, nor from the Najd region -- rather, from the southern region of the peninsula (a Qahtan clan), closer to the Yemeni clans. Unlike the other three of his period, he was less favorable toward the US and wanted a non-aligned position like that of Nehru, he was relatively less religiously inclined, and he didn't see his role so much as a prudent steward over a foundling nation but as a profligate dispenser of loot won by recent conquest.

He was forced to abdicate (akin to removal from elected office) by Faisal's faction, which had the backing of the ulama, or religious council -- including the grand mufti, the highest religious authority, who hailed from the same clan as Faisal's mother. That's why it matters what clan your mother comes from, as Saud had no similar clerical elite background on his mother's side to draw allies from. Faisal had also married into a separate religious elite clan, the Sudairis, and received their backing as well.

Faisal's reign saw the culmination of the period's main themes. In economic modernization, he ended slavery, set up the first five-year plans, introduced television, began the welfare system, and tightened finances in order to keep the nation from going broke before it had had the chance to develop. As during the concurrent New Deal era in the US, "tightening finances" simply meant refraining from the practice of raiding the national treasury (oil) to lavishly spend on indulgences -- it did not mean driving his people into austerity a la the future neoliberal model. He began nationalizing the oil fields that had been owned by the American oil companies, acquiring a 60% majority in Aramco by 1974, with the remainder to follow two years later under his successor.

He blocked the (relatively) extremist clerics from rising too high, and fired one (Shaykh bin Baz) who had radicalized a future leader of the extremist group that would violently take over the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979.

It's notable that Faisal, and even Saud just before him, used the weapon of an oil embargo in foreign affairs. It's a short-term self-inflicted wound -- foregoing all that oil revenue -- in order to achieve a more important longer-term goal -- bringing your geopolitical enemies to heel. It is a radical violation of free-market globalist trade ideology -- trade schmade, we have to punish the Zionists for trying to expand! Willingness to sacrifice characterizes the elites of a state at its height.

For unclear reasons, Faisal was assassinated in 1975. Powerful rulers can crush a coup d'etat -- as he did earlier -- but they cannot escape getting targeted by assassins. In the US as well, it is typically the trailblazers of a period, or their extenders, that are targeted by assassins, who feel so shut-out of power that they take to killing off the leader instead. Opposition rulers are not long for the political world, based on their structural weakness, and don't need to be bumped off pre-emptively -- forced to abdicate, or removed from elected office, perhaps, but not killed off. Disjunctive rulers are ineffectual and pose no dire threat to anyone.

This period's disjunctive ruler was Khalid, whose economic development program was to coast on the successes of his predecessor (prudent finances and jacked-up oil prices). The weak leader could not stop the Islamic radicals from gaining more control in society, including their two-week-long seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Indeed, rather than punish the radical clerics, he promoted them to higher positions to appease them (although he did execute the foot soldiers involved in the seizure).

He founded the Gulf Cooperation Council in 1981, the first decisive move away from the Pan-Arab alliance around the Middle East that had flourished after they kicked the Ottomans out of the region, and emphasizing just the Gulf Wahhabi monarchies as a bloc. Yet he also supported the secular Arab nationalist government of Iraq against Iran during their war, which would lead to the pivot toward Iran and away from Israel as the main geopolitical contest.

He both promoted and tried to keep in check the faction that would become dominant during the Later kings period, who all shared a mother from the Sudairi clan. Pulled toward both the old way and the new way, he was undone by these contradictions, and replaced by a whole new coalition who would lead the country into decline, continuing through today.

May 21, 2018

"Deportation bus" should be "Traitor bus" or "Exploiter bus" rounding up employers and slumlords who sustain immigrant colonization

In the GOP primary for governor of Georgia, a Trump-supporting candidate is driving around a "Deportation bus" as a publicity stunt to cater to voters who want illegal immigrants gone.

It's not a bad meme, but as usual for conservatives, it's focused on symptoms rather than causes. It's the employers of cheap labor who bring the immigrants into our country, along with their slumlord partners who enjoy higher housing prices with the higher demand that immigrants represent.

So it should be these greedy employers and slumlords who get targeted by political publicity stunts. Re-brand it as the "Traitor bus" that will arrest those who are illegally employing the illegals, and who are illegally housing the illegals -- to the detriment of Americans, who see their wages driven down, and housing prices jacked up as a result.

In more liberal or moderate areas of the not-so-red state, re-brand it as the "Exploiter bus" going after those who bring in hordes of third-world peasants to work in slave-like conditions for bum pay.

That is what a new generation of re-aligned populist-nationalist Republicans would do -- so of course they won't do any of this. But just as a lesson to any aspiring Gen Z GOP-ers, who will be working within the populist boundaries established by the upcoming Bernie revolution.

We know Williams has no intention to deport illegals because he shills for cheap immigrant labor for latter-day plantation owners right on his website. Naturally during this climate of failed re-alignment, there are no populist platform items, but there is one on agriculture: "Work with the Trump administration to reduce federal regulations that are burdening our farmers." Nudge nudge, wink wink. How many more millions of immigrants do these plantation owners need to widen their corporate profit margins, instead of hiring Americans at higher wages?

Williams is also a Mormon, the most globalist of religions in America these days.

Overall, a halfway decent attempt to gin up enthusiasm on the immigration issue before the mid-terms, but the voters need to hear promises of populism, not the stale old Reaganite framework that they rejected in the 2016 primary.

Giving America back to the Americans was always meant as a way to improve the American people's lot in life overall, by attacking America's own elite class. They're the ones who hauled in tens of millions of illegals, not to mention the legal immigrants, and they're the ones who have melted down the once prosperous economy-for-everybody -- both actions in order to enrich themselves and make the common people pay the costs.

It's not the '80s or '90s anymore -- give us populism or give us death.

Related: Use ICE to target employers and slumlords who cater to illegals, not the illegals themselves, to efficiently dry up the pool of immigrants.

Saudi Arabia's trajectory, at the end of its 200-year expansion

Having looked at the trajectory of Israel based on its coming to the end of the Likud era, along with its major sponsors -- US, UK, France -- also coming to the end of their own neoliberal eras, we turn now to the other actors in the Middle East. What stage of their own regime cycle are they in, how do these interact, and what does that portend for the short-to-medium term? We'll start with key player Saudi Arabia, and move onto others like Iran in future posts.

Saudi Arabia requires two posts, one covering its long-term rise and fall over centuries, and another covering a short-term rise and fall over decades. We won't do this kind of long-term survey for the other nations of the Middle East since none of them is in an expansion lasting centuries.

All of contemporary Middle Eastern history begins with the downfall of an old empire that ruled much of the region -- the Ottomans from Anatolia -- and their replacement as the expanding power by the Saudis of Arabia. No other group of people in the region has expanded their territory and influence over the past several hundred years, except for the Arabians.

That struggle began in the mid-1700s, when the Ottomans had nearly encircled the tribes of the Arabian Desert, controlling the Fertile Crescent to their north, parts of the Persian Gulf coast to their east, and the Red Sea coast to their west (the Hejaz). Getting encircled by an expanding empire of utter foreigners has a way of forcing fragmented people to unite for survival. Here's the Ottoman Empire in 1680:

From its founding circa 1750, beginning with just a small patch of land near Riyadh, the first Saudi state began pushing back so successfully against the Ottomans that by the early 1800s they had expanded to control most of the territory of modern Saudi Arabia. After further rounds of failure and success during a second Saudi state, the Arabians ultimately proved decisive in defeating the Ottomans in WWI, ending the empire for good. All that was left was a little more expansion and consolidation, and by 1932, the current Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded. From Wikipedia:

Expansionist states do not last longer than 200-250 years, and the Saudis began expanding during the second half of the 1700s. They reached their territorial peak in 1932, although at least they haven't lost any of it yet. As for their power and influence, however, that peaked under the reign of King Faisal, 1964-1975. That's a solid 200 years of tighter cohesion among the elites, further territorial expansion, and rising power and influence vis-a-vis others in the region and the world.

Since the late 1970s they have entered into a decline that will not reverse, as the original motive for their cohesion -- getting encircled by an expanding empire -- is a problem that has already been solved. With no reason to stay strongly united, they have devolved into competitiveness among themselves, which ultimately leads to state collapse. In that weak situation, they will get picked apart by the long-term power centers of the region -- Persia, Anatolia, and Egypt -- in a manner yet to be seen, though likely with Iran the main winner.

The Arabians have rarely been an expansionary power throughout history -- the last time was during the spread of Islam by Arabian armies, after they'd been encircled especially by the Persians (Sassanians) but also by the Anatolians (Byzantines). As they return to their historical baseline, that means fragmenting back into tribal confederations in the central part of today's territory (the Nejd). They will lose the Hejaz, where key cities are located (Mecca, Medina, Jeddah), as they almost never have controlled it over history. Likewise they will lose the Persian Gulf coast region that is rich in oil, predominantly Shia, and historically controlled more by Persia than by Arabia.

The US partnering with the Saudis during the Mid-20th Century was buying into their bubble at its peak, and we are being dragged down with them as that bubble has burst. For empires in decline, misery loves company. But that will fundamentally change during the next once-every-50-years paradigm shifts within the West, as Bernie in the US, Corbyn in the UK, and Melenchon in France want nothing to do with the moribund jihadist Gulf states. The sooner we cut our losses, the better.

Plame affair reboot disappointingly predictable, with libs enraged by doxxing of intel asset

An earlier post laid out the parallels between the Mueller probe and the Valerie Plame affair. Not necessarily in the facts, charges, or themes, but in the power dynamics.

The dumb liberal airheads think that the parallel is to Watergate or Lewinskygate, but those were both opposition presidents during their respective eras -- a Republican during the New Deal, and a Democrat during Reaganism. Congress -- the people who actually do the impeaching and removing -- was controlled in both houses by the dominant party for their era, and the balance on the Supreme Court favored the dominant party of the era (liberal during the New Deal, conservative during Reaganism).

Translation: Trump and his circle are in no danger. Instead, this is like the W. Bush admin during the Plame affair -- their era's dominant party controlling the White House, both chambers of Congress, and the balance of the Supreme Court. It was only a bit player in the dramatis personae who got indicted, not even on an underlying crime, and his prison sentence got commuted by the president anyway. The exact same will happen this time around.

But now the writers of this Plame affair reboot are just getting lazy -- not only making it similar in the power dynamics, but recycling the same old plotline from the original. Back then, it was the leaking of the identity of an undercover CIA agent (Plame), by a mainstream columnist for a corporate media outlet (Novak for WaPo), supposedly to retaliate against her husband's criticism of the admin's foreign policy (throwing cold water on the "Saddam is seeking uranium for WMDs" that rationalized the Iraq War).

The dumb liberal airheads got all up in arms about defending the sanctity of the intel agencies, who were under assault by the rogue Bush White House. They sought refuge in the arms of the Feds, who would bring down the rogue White House via their Special Counsel investigation. All of these false saviors were Republicans -- Comey, Fitzgerald, etc. -- but that didn't stop partisan Democrats from clinging to them, in the deluded view that the GOP Feds were "putting country above party," rather than it being a big gay slap-fight within the party.

Now the Mueller probe is taking a turn in this direction. A formerly anonymous spook who spied on the Trump campaign is about to be outed. Stefan Halper has already been described back in March by Ross at the Daily Caller, although not singling him out as a "Deep State spy within the Trump campaign". There were nameless descriptions of him in the NYT and WaPo over the weekend. All that's left is for a mainstream journalist for the corporate media to link the two overtly and publicly, and say what everyone already knows. That person will be the Novak of this Plame affair reboot.

The dumb liberal airhead media is already poised to denounce that journalist, and by extension the whole conservative media (corporate or fringe), as a reckless leaker of sensitive info regarding an undercover intel agent, with Halper being the Plame of this reboot. Halper, like all of the other major anti-Trump characters in this story, is a 100% Republican -- part of the big gay Establishment slap-fight, not a partisan witch hunt. The spying action he took, for which he will be doxxed, was to counteract the foreign policy of the admin -- getting along with Russia, something he was bitterly opposed to, just like Plame being against some version of invading Iraq (or a particular rationalization of it, anyway).

With there being absolutely nothing to the bogus Russian collusion angle of the Mueller probe, and the obstruction angle going down in flames, perhaps they will move onto this angle next -- the Trump admin has gone rogue in leaking the quasi-undercover nature of some spook, or at least retaliates against one of our sacred spooks! He's endangering the very safety and functioning of our intel agencies! Send in the over-zealous Feds to take him out before he does more damage!

This reboot could not get any more predictable and therefore boring. If you had not done so already, it's time to just change the channel. Nothing is going to happen, just like in the original.

At the same time, you also need to change the channel on the mirror-image hysterical narrative about the Deep State plot to take out Trump. That may have been plausible back when it was still up in the air whether or not Trump would do the unorthodox policies that got him elected. But after surrendering to the corporate globalist Establishment on every one of those distinctive promises, and only helping to implement the same old Reaganite bullshit that the GOP has been pushing for decades, Trump is no threat to the Deep State in any way at all.

Especially now that they've seen how much he just issues empty threats -- he only delivers on threats that align with the GOP orthodoxy, like exiting the Paris Climate Accords or the Iran deal, not on those threats that are at cross-purposes with the GOP orthodoxy, like exiting NAFTA or Afghanistan.

That doesn't mean he is not the target of a gay slap-fight within the Republican Establishment, targeted by Never Trumpers. But they have no power -- just an impotent Special Counsel who faces over-powering opposition from the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court, if push came to shove.

The best thing to do is just troll the Never Trumper faction of the GOP, and the dumb liberal airheads who are placing such Titanic quantities of false hope in the Republican spooks and Feds who are hounding Trump. Consciously refer to the Mueller probe as just another Valerie Plame affair that will come up just as empty-handed, and leave the wishful thinkers just as blue-balled, as the original. Remind them that the president will simply commute or pardon any serious sentences for mickey-mouse charges brought upon the bit players who plead guilty in order to avoid crushing legal fees for continuing to fight.

By taking the opposite approach -- taking the investigation intensely seriously, as though it were a mortal threat to our democracy's very survival, or at least portraying it that way to the public -- the Trump side only makes itself sound just as unhinged and retarded as the conspiracy theorists on the anti-Trump side. It will resonate with Fox News addicts and kneejerk GOP partisans -- but not with normal people. And since anything that Trump says will resonate with the partisans, his side needs to ignore what plays with them, and focus on what plays with those who are uncertain and discriminating.

Normies will go as far as agreeing that the whole probe is bogus, pointless, and time to move on, and that there is a Never Trump faction within the GOP that still wants to hound Trump. But not because he's anti-Establishment or unorthodox, and not that they're going to sink our democracy for it.

They'll agree that the Feds are not saints, including Comey et al. But the hysteria over DEMOCRAT CORRUPTION AT THE DOJ to bring down the anti-Establishment president, is such laughable BS by this point. First, they're all Republicans. Second, they're just an impotent faction within the GOP -- the bulk of the GOP politicians and politicos absolutely have Trump's back, after he surrendered to their Reaganite orthodoxy. He's obviously in no danger, 99% of his party's powerful figures will protect him, and the remaining 1% have no power to do outsized damage.

Only if he pulls out of NAFTA, removes the US from Syria, or deports millions of immigrants who the mega-farm landowners depend on for cheap labor, will the GOP no longer have Trump's back. Since he's not doing those things, he's in the clear. It's just going to be an annoying and boring narrative driven entirely by the dumb airhead liberal media -- not by any real power that the Special Counsel has.

So just ignore, or better yet, troll the shit out of them for how little power they have, and how empty-handed they came up last time the power dynamics were like this. Explicitly name the Valerie Plame affair. Pardoning Scooter Libby, on my advice from the first post, was a great first step, especially when Kellyanne Conway connected the dots for the clueless reporters. ("Many people think he was the victim of an over-zealous Special Counsel investigation.")

Otherwise, they'll alienate the normies who they want on their side of this mock battle, with their unhinged ranting about a Deep State trying to take out an entirely Establishment-enabling president.

May 18, 2018

The restless warm-up phase of pop music's 15-year energy cycle

The level of excitation produced by pop music, and felt by the audience, changes over a 15-year cycle, with three distinct phases. An earlier post looked at the manic phase, when excitation levels are spiking. Another post looked at the vulnerable phase, when the levels crash into a refractory period, where no spike is even possible.

This post will look at the final phase, which comes after the refractory period is over, and people can start to get excited again. Whether they do or do not, it's at least possible now. And those who are getting excited are not in a full-blown manic phase -- it's more of a warm-up to shift you out of your ordinary state, before you take on truly high-energy activity.

Dividing decades into an earlier and later half, the restless warm-up phase belongs to the early '60s, the late '70s, the early '90s, and the late 2000s. The survey here, as in the earlier posts, draws from the Billboard Year-end Hot 100 charts, to make sure they're representative of what was popular, and not cherry-picking.

If the manic phase is like a hard night of partying, and the vulnerable phase is crashing in bed until 2pm the next afternoon, this warm-up phase is after you've been shaken awake by someone else, or are starting to stir awake yourself, and you're still kind of groggy, but force yourself to go through the motions to make your body accept that it's no longer deep-sleep time, and is time to get ready for another high-energy night out later on.

The most distinctive feature of this phase is, not surprisingly, dance crazes. I don't mean music that is highly danceable -- but music with accompanying dances that are so simple, repetitive, and color-by-numbers, that even someone who's barely emerging from a refractory period can get into them. Even those who are just getting out of their emo mindset from the vulnerable phase can get social enough to do these dances.

These dances are so rule-defined that they have their own names, and a list of them shows that they do in fact occur mostly during the third phase of the cycle.

The early '60s had the Mashed Potato, the Twist, the Watusi, and scores of others -- in fact, there was a meta-song about this dance craze called "Land of a Thousand Dances," which first charted in '63 (although a more memorable cover charted in '66). The late '70s was the disco era, with the Bump, the Hustle, and the nameless yet still identifiable moves from Saturday Night Fever (from-the-hip, toward-the-sky pointing). The early '90s had the Running Man, the Cabbage Patch, the Tootsee Roll, and Jump Around. There were country line dance crazes like the Achy Breaky and Boot Scootin' Boogie. The Electric Slide went from fringe to mainstream. Although hitting the US a few years later, the Macarena was first released in '93. And the late 2000s had the Stanky Legg, Walk It Out, and perhaps the most elaborate pop dance routine ever, Crank That.

Some of these are all-purpose dances, while others are unique to the songs that created them -- the Loco-Motion of the early '60s, the YMCA of the late '70s, the Vogue ("strike a pose") from the early '90s, and the Cupid Shuffle of the late 2000s.

How do these novelty dances fit into the rest of the cycle? Well, when you're in a manic state, you can go on autopilot and just cut loose. When you're in a crashed state, you can't force yourself to dance even if you wanted to. In between, you've got to do warm-ups -- just like in gym class, these are highly simplified routines with a small discrete number of steps or motions, repeated over and over, to prepare you for some real coordination later on (an actual sport like football, tennis, or whatever). They serve to shift the body out of its languid state, to prepare for full-body spontaneous coordination later on when it really matters -- when everyone is all excited and feels like really letting loose.

Apart from waking up the individual's body, these routine-style dances get people out of their social awkwardness and sullen mood from the previous vulnerable refractory phase. If they're so simple, then everyone can do them. And if the steps are ritualistic, then everyone is going through the same motions, rather than doing their own thing, standing out from the group, and potentially being embarrassed. Only when folks are in a manic mindset can they "dance like nobody's watching" -- when you're just waking up from an emo period, you can't dance like that right away. You need to blend in with the crowd and keep the motions simple.

Beyond dance crazes, this restless warm-up period features lots of songs about dancing -- again, serving to wake people up and get them thinking about dancing, get them familiar and comfortable with it, and let them know it's OK, it's what everybody's doing now. When you're in the fully excited phase, you don't need a meta-song about dancing to direct your attention to that activity -- you're naturally going to go there.

Just to name a few examples, although most of those from the early '60s were named after specific dances, there was "Save the Last Dance for Me," "Let the Little Girl Dance," and "Dancing in the Street". From the late '70s, there was "You Should Be Dancing," "Dancing Queen," "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing," "Shadow Dancing," "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)," etc etc etc. From the early '90s, "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)," "Pump Up the Jam," "Groove Is in the Heart," "Whoomp! (There It Is)," "Rhythm Is a Dancer," and the ironic counter-hit "I Can't Dance". From the late 2000s, most refer to specific moves, but there was also "Disco Inferno," "Dance, Dance," and "Just Dance".

These periods are also when songs refer to specific body parts involved in dancing -- partly to provoke the audience into a more excited state, but also to normalize a corporeal mindset (as it were), so that the recently-sullen don't feel so awkward when they go out to shake their booty.

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

Contrary to this main trend of leading a series of warm-up exercises, this third phase also has a distinct trend of tortured and angsty rock music. It's not like the sullen, languishing, numb rock from the refractory period just before -- it's stirring awake, but not wanting to get up yet, and acting all cranky because everyone else is trying to drag you out of bed. Unlike the vulnerable phase where everyone's energy levels are drained, now these people actually could get more active and take part in warm-up exercises for the next manic spike, but they are inveterate downers and are choosing not to. They're consciously trying to hold onto the previous emo period. This gives their tortured downer-ness a deliberate, affected quality.

That would be the more self-conscious and angsty kind of rock from the late 2000s like Fall Out Boy's album Infinity on High, or My Chemical Romance's album The Black Parade. During the early '90s, that would be most grunge and alternative. From the late '70s, "Ballroom Blitz," "Barracuda," "Hotel California," "Because the Night" (covered and charted again in the next restless phase, 1993, by 10,000 Maniacs), and "Bohemian Rhapsody" (re-released to chart again in the next restless phase, 1992). Punk didn't chart in the US, but also from that period. From the early '60s, "Runaround Sue" (covered and charted in the next restless phase, 1978), "In Dreams," "Ring of Fire," "The House of the Rising Sun," and "Needles and Pins".

On a related note, this phase also has the highest concentration of sappy music coming from the singer-songwriter types. They're no longer in the woe-is-me mindset of the previous vulnerable refractory phase, but they're also not yet in a manic phase. Forcing themselves to get out of bed, and "going through the motions," for them means writing self-consciously positive songs. Warm-up exercises for singer-songwriters are going to be a little too on-the-nose in their sentimentality, and sound forced.

From the late 2000s, this includes Taylor Swift's early country crossover songs, "Hey There Delilah," "How to Save a Life," "Bubbly," and the insufferably twee "I'm Yours". From the early '90s, "Save the Best for Last," "To Be With You," "Again," "A Whole New World," "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)," and "Fields of Gold". From the schmaltzy late '70s, anything other than disco or rock -- "Dream Weaver," "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," "Nobody Does It Better," "Three Times a Lady," etc. Lots of early '60s sappiness, too -- "Take Good Care of My Baby," "Johnny Angel," "Duke of Earl," "Hey Paula," "It's My Party," and others.

This phase is the hardest to simply characterize because the excitable system is in a neutral state, meaning it could stay relatively unexcited, it could get a little excited but then quickly return to the baseline, or it could get so excited that it takes off into a manic spike. Several different outcomes are possible, and they all show up in the outcomes, giving the period an all-over-the-map feeling.

Once the manic spike begins, there's no room for sullen music; likewise when it's in a refractory period, upbeat cheerful music is not possible. Those two phases are more constrained in what they allow, and are easier to characterize.

Ultimately, though, what stands out the most is the trend toward waking up, warming up, and beginning the routine exercises, to prepare for the next spike.

To end with, here are a few examples of how varied the sounds during this phase can get, and how central dance music is. There's disco-punk from the late '70s, alterna-disco from the early '90s, and disco-(post-)grunge from the late 2000s (relevant lyrics from the chorus: "I want to make you move, because you're standing still").

May 14, 2018

Israel's trajectory, as 40-year era comes to end in multiple nations at once

Nothing says "end-of-an-era barrenness" like opening a cosplay embassy in Jerusalem. But it is not only the US that finds itself in the final stage of a long-lasting political period. Just like the Reaganites here, the Likudniks in Israel have reached the end of their cycle, which traces back to the same time as ours. Likewise the Thatcherites in Britain, the Mitterrandistes in France, and other regimes cut from the same neoliberal / neoconservative cloth.

This first post will look at the coming major changes within these four countries to evaluate the trajectory of Israel with respect to its main sponsors. A second post will look at the end-of-an-era sweeping changes that will play out among Israel's regional neighbors like Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.

* * *

Drawing on Stephen Skowronek's theory of political regime cycles, we can identify the last trailblazing administrations as those that kicked off the neoliberal revolution circa 1980, shifting out of the social democracy era that went back to the 1930s. Despite the minor push-back by the opposition during the occasional electoral upsets, the dominant factions have maintained the same paradigm for decades.

However, they are clearly entering their "disjunctive" stage where the dominant faction is trying to make major changes to the status quo that they themselves created, to adapt to new needs and desires. But they are so ossified from decades of easy victories that they only manage a schizophrenic, stop-and-start process of change.

Failing to deliver major change when it is so badly demanded, they will get thrown out and replaced by the old opposition, who will go on to become the new dominant party, delivering on the promises of change that the disjunctive leader tried to implement but could not, and enjoying a reign of many decades as the new agenda-setters.

Of these four nations, Israel was the first to begin the most recent cycle, stemming from the 1977 elections that ended the Labor Party's multi-decade reign and ushered in the Likud era. Britain followed shortly after in 1979 with Thatcher, then America in 1980 with Reagan, and finally France in 1981 with Mitterrand.

We see roughly the same sequence of nations going through their disjunctive stages, where major changes to the party's own status quo are promised but not really delivered upon.

First was Israel's election of 2015, where the Likud barely formed a coalition government by partnering with the Kulanu party. This new populist splinter party from the Likud is focused on reducing inequality, working-class welfare, cost-of-living increases, anti-monopoly, state influence into the economy, and other issues that would normally be verboten under a neoliberal government.

Next was the Brexit referendum of 2016, May barely forming a coalition government, and the corporate globalist Conservatives still dragging their feet on giving the populist-nationalist Brits the Brexit that they voted for.

Then of course Trump's historic upset victory, thanks to the candidate's promises to end globalist free trade deals, de-scale our military footprint, and expand the social safety net regarding healthcare rather than impose austerity measures -- none of which are happening.

Finally, the 2017 French election whereby the compromise candidate Macron had to cater somewhat to both the populist Left and populist Right, given the pressure of the Melenchon and Le Pen campaigns.

When these disjunctive governments fail to radically alter the status quo of the past 40 years, they will be removed from office, and the entire old way of running society will go out the window.

That means we are about to embark upon a period of profound disruption across the world, as these changing of regimes will rock the major countries all more or less at the same time -- just as profound as the changes of circa 1980.

* * *

As a client state, Israel must be worried about the seismic shake-ups under way in the major Western powers who are the guarantors of its prosperous and peaceful existence, such as it is. It must ignore the words and deeds from the late-stage leaders of the moribund neoliberal cycle in those countries -- Trump, May, Macron -- and focus on what the wave of the near-future bodes for Israel.

Here are some hints from the reactions to today's attacks on Palestinian protesters at the same time as the cosplay embassy was opening in Jerusalem, each of these figures representing the trailblazing new cycle that is going to sweep their nations in the next 5-10 years, and which will last for the next 50:

Translation: "France must condemn the massacres at #Gaza. The Israeli ambassador to Paris must be summoned to the Elysee to explain himself. Peace dies under the blows of #Netanyahu."

Bernie's response is important not only because his views will be shaping the next multi-decade cycle of a global nuclear superpower, but because he himself is Jewish. And yet he was the only one of the four major presidential candidates in 2016 to blow off the AIPAC conference, issuing instead a statement that blamed the Likud policies of expanding Israeli settlements into the Occupied Territories, while also blaming Hamas for violence. A totally different response from the genuflections before the Israel lobby delivered by Clinton, Trump, and Cruz.

Somehow I don't see the US, the UK, and France giving Israel such a free hand in the Middle East, propped up by billions of dollars in support every year, when the Reagan-Thatcher-Mitterrand era soon gives way to the Bernie-Corbyn-Melenchon era.

Bernie used to be an enthusiastic supporter of Israel -- back during its pre-Likud era, when he lived on a socialist kibbutz in the 1960s. Like Chomsky, he is most critical of Israel in its Likud-era incarnation, akin to America's Reaganite incarnation. For another multi-decade cycle before the Likud era, Israel -- like the rest of Europe and its off-shoots -- was governed by a paradigm of social democracy. Like the New Deal Democrats who ruled over that period in the US, the Labor Party ruled over Israel, before both were dethroned during the current neoliberal era that we are at the very end of.

* * *

The US and Israel were not allies during that New Deal / Labor Zionist period. During the First Arab-Israeli War of 1948, the US drove the Israelis out of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. During the Second Arab-Israeli War of 1956 (the Suez Crisis), the US sided with the Arab nationalist government of Egypt against Israel, whom the Americans drove out of its occupation of Egypt by financially threatening Israel's British enabler. During the Third Arab-Israeli War of 1967 (the Six-Day War), Israel blew up an American naval intel ship, the USS Liberty, just outside of Egyptian territorial waters. Finally, during the Arab-Israeli War of 1973 (the Yom Kippur War), the US remained largely on the sidelines, and gave limited military supplies to Israel, not wanting continued destabilization.

If we were not allies of Israel during the New Deal era, why would we be when the Bernie revolution moves us back into that kind of climate? It doesn't follow at all, especially given that the major priorities for both nations are going to see large-scale changes very soon, and those may diverge once again.

Certainly the Bernie crowd (not just the man himself) are cold toward giving Israel free rein. And the supporters of Corbyn and Melenchon feel the same way.

Part of this is due to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, which has been Israel's focus since the beginning of the Likud era. Before then, the Labor-era leaders were focused on fighting against and defending themselves from the entire Arab world -- hence the broadly named "Arab-Israeli" conflict. After the relative stalemate in the 1973 war, Israel learned that it could not stay in that paradigm indefinitely -- they needed to radically alter their foreign policy of the past many decades, and make peace with their Arab neighbor states, and focus instead on their immediate vicinity. Palestine, southern Lebanon, the Golan Heights in Syria -- and that's it.

The Western powers don't care if Israel mistreats Palestinians because that's not going to affect the price of gas. Indeed, the Palestinians have no leverage to strike back at all against the West, whether economically or militarily. If Israel fights against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, who cares? Even if Hezbollah wins -- who cares? It doesn't affect the Western nations economically or militarily -- unless Hezbollah expands throughout the region. But at first, nobody cared. Same thing with the Golan Heights -- nothing changes in the West whether Israel or Syria controls that area.

The West's main goal was to prevent Israel from destabilizing the region, when it was antagonizing the entire Arab world militarily. Once Jimmy Carter bribed Egypt and Israel into making peace with each other, followed by Bill Clinton bribing Jordan to make peace with Israel, everything was OK. Israel became our ally by no longer antagonizing the major Arab countries, so we didn't care if it caused trouble in its immediate vicinity where there are no consequences for us.

* * *

Of course, during the Reaganite / Likud era, the US and its allies intervened all over the Middle East -- but obviously they were fine with themselves destabilizing the region. It's only bad for the West if a non-Western country destabilizes a region, because that might turn out bad for us. If we are the destabilizers, won't we do so in a way that benefits us? That was the hope, at any rate.

But the reality is turning out the opposite -- our military interventions have created far more problems than the Reaganites and their allies ever imagined. Trump promised a major change on that front -- no more pointless wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Iraq War was a catastrophe that I was against, George W. Bush did not keep us safe on 9/11 anyway, and we've wasted over seven trillion dollars there with absolutely nothing to show for it.

And yet, his administration is doubling down on support for jihadist nations like Saudi Arabia, and doing their most to harm the anti-jihadist nations like Syria and Iran. Where he fails to deliver, the Bernie revolution will finally get us out of all these pointless and ruinous wars in the Middle East, and make peace with Syria and Iran.

During the Reaganite era, the Likud party has come to an alliance with the jihadists of Saudi Arabia, not to mention helping the jihadist opposition in Syria, which means the Likud will be on the wrong side of Western foreign policy when we undergo our next major regime shift with Bernie, Corbyn, and Melenchon.

If Israel continues to agitate for war against Iran, they will become even more opposed to the new priorities of the Bernie / Corbyn / Melenchon administrations.

That may be more likely than it seems right now. During the Likud era, Israel has not been much of a player in regional wars -- not like during the Labor era -- and has been harassing only its immediate neighbors. What if their shift out of the Likud era, and into an economically populist era, returns them to a more aggressive foreign policy? The new consensus might be that we Israelis need to make peace with the Palestinians by incorporating them into a one-state nation (albeit as second-class citizens), so that we can devote all of our energy to fighting against Iran.

If that's how their re-alignment turns out, they will really be on the wrong side of the US, UK, and France. The only thing that angers the Democrats more than Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians is their agitation for war against Iran. Since Obama's admin scored the Iran deal, even mainstream Democrats, not just the Bernie crowd, have come to see avoiding war with Iran as one of our most important goals. And when they become the new dominant party in the next few years, all bets are off for Israel continuing to be a top client state of ours -- and by extension, of the UK or France.

Those are the contours of the changes just on the side of Israel and its allies -- the next post will look at the other countries of the Middle East, and how their upcoming "new eras" will affect Israel's trajectory.

To clear out illegals, make ICE the enforcers of $25 minimum wage, targeting employers

Anti-immigration populists should be able to endorse the litmus test issue of "abolishing ICE," as demanded by the gang at Chapo Trap House, provided that the organization that replaces it becomes an armed enforcer of a $25 minimum wage, primarily targeting employers rather than workers. How could the Bernie crowd be against that?

We saw in an earlier post that ICE raids are ineffective at substantially shrinking the size of the illegal immigrant population because they create an untenable tension between major blocs of the GOP -- law enforcement and the labor-intensive sectors of the economy, whose greedy employers seek to cut costs and maximize profits by hiring cheap labor, meaning immigrants.

ICE will never be able to do their job to such an extent that it severely cuts into the profit margins of these labor-intensive sectors like agriculture and most small businesses (like a restaurant). They will be limited to occasional high-profile cosmetic raids to placate conservative voters, while leaving the illegal population basically unchanged.

And their raids only target the supply of cheap labor -- the immigrants -- rather than the demand for it -- the employers. That's backwards, since the endless demand for cheap labor is what continues to attract hordes of immigrants who supply that demand. Cut off the demand, and the suppliers of cheap labor -- immigrants -- will find no one to hire them. Unemployed, they will return home, or at worst go to some other country that does not police greedy employers like we are bound to do in a populist climate.

The surest and fastest way to clear out the illegal population, and to restrict legal immigration going forward, is to jack up the minimum wage, in effect outlawing cheap labor -- and thereby ending large-scale immigration de facto. If employers have to pay $25 an hour, they'll hire Americans rather than immigrants, to get more bang for the buck.

Likewise if we give any illegals amnesty, like the DACA people, all of the costs ought to be paid by the 1% -- cheap housing in elite zip codes, a jacked-up minimum wage paid for by employers in those zip codes, and so on.

Whoever brought the illegals here in the first place ought to be the only ones paying for their continued presence -- not the working class whose wages are being undercut, and whose housing prices are being bid through the roof, due to massive immigration.

Now of course the GOP won't go anywhere near those solutions, not only because they want mass immigration to continue supplying cheap labor, but because it would shift the paradigm away from "what's best for employers" to "what's best for workers".

Luckily, we're entering a period of gear-shifting out of the Reaganite paradigm, and into a Bernie paradigm. So the re-aligned Democrats can push these pro-working-class policies and not only attract populist voters per se, but also anti-immigration voters who understand the indirect yet no less massive effect they would have on immigration levels.

This has the benefit of making immigration, in the sphere of public debate, into an economic issue rather than a racial, ethnic, or national-origin issue -- much more palatable and politically unassailable. Whoever opposes it can easily be pilloried as just a shill for greedy employers who demand endless cheap labor, largely in the form of poor hordes of immigrants who they ruthlessly exploit by paying sub-minimum wages.

To further the re-alignment on immigration, ICE ought to be disbanded or re-branded, and given a whole new mission -- to threaten or actually use collective force in order to uphold the new jacked-up minimum wage laws. No good legislating them if employers are free to flout them. Arrest any employer who breaks the law, and seize their assets. If those assets suck, liquidate them for whatever you can, otherwise continue running the business but keep the profits for the government, with the proceeds going to pay down the debt, pay for the funerals of Americans killed by illegals, or whatever other pro-social purpose.

The new ICE could spend some small level of resources going after the immigrants themselves, since we also can't allow scabs to cross the minimum wage picket line. But that should be a far lesser role of theirs. Targeting the demand for cheap labor ought to always come before targeting the supply.

And unlike in a paradigm where the GOP is the dominant agenda-framing party, the new ICE could actually carry out these tasks in a paradigm where the populist Bernie Democrats are the agenda-framers. Their party is not controlled by the labor-intensive material sectors like agriculture, retail, and assorted crappy small businesses that fill up today's strip malls.

The new ICE would never have a reason to target employers in the sectors that control the Democrats -- Wall Street banks don't hire illegals, Silicon Valley doesn't depend on hordes of $5-an-hour immigrants, and neither does the corporate media cartel or Hollywood. These are all informational sectors, which are not labor-intensive and therefore not sensitive to the price of labor. They don't hire many people at all, since they scale up their operations without similarly scaling up their workforce or man-hours, and they pay handsome salaries to the lucky few.

The situation has gotten so out of control for so long, that somebody in the elite stratum is going to have to pay massive costs when we finally straighten things out. That will necessarily be those whose profits depend on cheap labor, meaning the material sectors who control the GOP. Fortunately, the coming turning of the multi-decade regime cycle is going to put into power the Democrats, whose elite sectors will not suffer massive losses when the minimum wage is jacked up by law, and enforced by teams of men with guns.

Democrat elites can breath a sigh of relief knowing that it will be their political and economic rivals who will go under when populism and de facto anti-immigration becomes the new normal, as Reaganism gives way to Bernie-ism.

And old school Trump supporters can rest easily, knowing that the immigrant population is going to come way down, however odd they may feel about the mechanism of change. Sorry, no epic raids with brown people dragged away in handcuffs, which may make for good right-wing theatrics, but which doesn't put a dent in the problem.

Instead it'll be live-streams of fat-faced cuckservative employers thrown into vans, while screaming that they didn't know -- I swear! -- that those Tagalog-only speakers were working at his place for less than $25 an hour. But right-wingers can always embellish on those images for their own meme warfare purposes. "Guess you should've hired Americans, then, bitch!"

May 13, 2018

Songs about physical exhaustion during the vulnerable phase of the 15-year pop music energy cycle

Earlier posts have outlined the traits of the manic, invincible phase of pop music's 15-year cycle in energy levels, followed by the mellow, vulnerable phase, and ending with a restless phase (post to come, but see comments in the second post). The restlessness leads to another spike in energy, and the cycle repeats. That spike cannot happen during the vulnerable phase, which is like a refractory period in an excitable system.

For example, when you're actively lifting weights, you're in an excited state. After some time, your muscles start to fatigue, and it's no longer possible to continue lifting even if you wanted to. They go into a recovery or refractory period. After awhile, they leave the recovery period, and it's more back to normal, even getting restless like they want to feel another work-out already. That leads to the next active work-out, beginning the cycle all over again.

With that basic model in mind -- an excitable system -- I've been keeping an ear out for symptoms of the current phase being mellow and vulnerable, unable to get as maniacally excited as the mood was about five years ago.

Ariana Grande has a new song on the radio called "No Tears Left to Cry," whose figure of speech struck me as a good example of being in a kind of refractory period. You couldn't cry again even if the stimulus were there that would normally cause you to cry -- you've simply run out of that physiological process. At some point, maybe she'll exit this refractory phase, and become capable of crying again, and after that, maybe go into a spike in crying activity, to be followed by another phase where she can't anymore, and the cycle repeats.

So I went over the Billboard Year-end Hot 100 charts, to see if that kind of figure of speech popped up more in the vulnerable phase -- and it did. Dividing decades into halves, the vulnerable phases were during the late '50s, the early '70s, the late '80s, the early 2000s, and the late 2010s. Here's what I found:

1958 - "Endless Sleep" by Jody Reynolds

1972 - "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" by 5th Dimension

1986 - "All Cried Out" by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam
1987 - "(I Just) Died in Your Arms" by Cutting Crew
1989 - "Close My Eyes Forever" by Lita Ford & Ozzy Osbourne

2002 - "One Last Breath" by Creed
2003 - "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence
2004 - "Numb" by Linkin Park
2004 - "Wake Me Up When September Ends" by Green Day

2018 - "No Tears Left to Cry" by Ariana Grande

The common theme is being in a physiological state where you cannot be stimulated back into excitation. Your energy level has already collapsed, or is about to collapse, into a refractory period where just shaking you is not going to wake you up. Drained, worn out, spent, exhausted.

I left out figures of speech that don't imply a collapse, like just getting "weak" or feeling "breathless" around somebody. It had to suggest a terminal state, where only something extraordinary could wake them back up, if at all. Also, getting weak or breathless doesn't imply that you were on some kind of high before, and have plummeted into weakness or breathlessness. "Death" is another common trope that I ignored unless there was something specifically about collapsing suddenly in energy levels, rather than any other ways of dying.

So these images come to people naturally during a society-wide refractory period, but do they also pop up during the manic or restless phases? Not really.

"All Cried Out" did re-appear on the charts in 1997, during a manic phase, but that was a cover version rather than the original.

In 1980, between the restless late '70s and the manic early '80s, there was a song called "Enough Is Enough (No More Tears)". But the lyrics are not about having cried so much or so long that you're no longer capable of doing so anymore -- rather, about making the conscious deliberate choice to cut off the tears by choosing to get out of a bad relationship. Not really a refractory period.

And in 1993, a restless phase, there was a similar song named "One Last Cry" -- it, too, is more about choosing not to cry anymore by putting a break-up behind you after one last crying episode, rather than being all cried out and incapable of crying anymore.

Bonus example from the emo late '80s: although songs of this type may evoke sleep or even death, there's one that took a black humor approach to the "teen tragedy" genre of exactly two 15-year cycles earlier, during the emo late '50s, and made it about someone who has fallen into a vegetative state. While not a hit here in the US, it did chart in its native Britain.