June 28, 2018

Fight SCOTUS pick on populist grounds, ignore abortion; and SCOTUS picks of disjunctive presidents

Liberal commentators are already working themselves into a hysteria at the Supreme Court vacancy that they fear will go to someone who will overturn Roe v. Wade -- as if anyone really gives a shit at this point.

It doesn't animate conservatives that much anymore, since it's been around forever and they assume that even with more conservatives on the Court, abortion will remain legal, albeit with greater or lesser regulations depending on the state. Liberal voters mostly assume the same thing, after so many false panics during the Reagan era, every time a Republican got to nominate a new justice.

By this point, the culture war is tiresome and irrelevant -- we're moving into a new era defined by populism and anti-globalization, not airy-fairy crap in the social-cultural domain.

Therefore, any fighting against the next Heritage Foundation pick should focus on the nominee's position on populist issues. That was Trump's secret recipe for winning as a Republican at the end of the Reaganite era, when too many voters had grown weary of corporate elitism. If he's not going to deliver much on populism through the executive branch, he should at least do something on that score in judiciary appointments.

If he nominates justices who attack populism, that represents a betrayal of his crucial swing voters from 2016. If he is held to account, then we get a populist-friendly justice, and all's well. If he breaks with populism in his nomination, then it will be out there undeniably for all those Rust Belt voters to see -- both when judging him and the whole GOP in the mid-terms and the 2020 presidential election.

Already in Trump's term, the Court has dealt strong blows to labor unions -- not exactly the best way to keep working-class Obama voters happy for switching their vote to you so that you wouldn't go down in flames like McCain and Romney.

These are the issues that should be dissected when the nomination is made -- not because the Court is going to immediately revisit their decisions thus far into Trump's term, but because the next appointment could last for decades down the line.

They are all the more pressing since the already-weak bubble economy for most people is going to go POP even for the 1% before Trump's term is up. In that deep recessionary context, it will be all the more crucial for the bottom 99% to be able to rely on the new justice to have their back.

* * *

The upcoming SCOTUS confirmation battles will be primarily defined by Trump's status as a disjunctive president, serving in the dominant party of his era at the internally dysfunctional end of that era (GOP during the Reagan era).

The disjunctive phase almost always has the dominant party controlling both the White House and Congress, so that any conflict cannot stem from a partisan mismatch between executive and legislative branches.

Conflict will only be due to the fracturing of the dominant coalition at the end of its lifespan, typically due to the president trying to transform the dominant party's vision, which the legislature wants no part of, as they've spent their entire careers building and enhancing that vision. We see that every time Trump threatens to impose tariffs that never get implemented, or threatens to withdraw troops from some pointless occupation that ends up with only more troops.

With both the White House and Congress being held by the same dominant party, shouldn't the appointments go off without a hitch? Not necessarily.

Unfortunately, Jimmy Carter never had a SCOTUS opening, so we'll never know exactly what would've happened. But given what a clusterfuck his term was, we can guess that it wouldn't have gone well. He campaigned against the New Deal and Great Society that his party founded, and as an evangelical conservative. So maybe he appoints a pro-life justice only five years after Roe v. Wade, and it gets scuttled by the liberal wing of his own party in Congress, forcing him to nominate a pro-choice justice instead. The many lapses in government funding ("shutdowns") during his term centered around public funding for abortion (via Medicaid), so it was certainly bound to come up during any SCOTUS confirmation hearings.

In 1930, at the end of the Progressive Republican era, Hoover did get one of his nominees rejected by his own party that controlled Congress, albeit by just one vote. John Parker was protested by labor groups for favoring "yellow dog contracts," whereby a worker had to agree not to join a union as part of his hiring contract. That stance would've cut clearly against the Progressive GOP's promise to favor both labor and business, rather than business over labor -- an especially damning stance during the Great Depression. Hoover had to nominate a more populist justice, and chose an attorney who had worked on the investigation of the Teapot Dome scandal, Owen Roberts, who sailed through -- as did Hoover's other two nominations.

In 1860-'61, at the end of the Jacksonian era and just before the Civil War, Buchanan failed to confirm a nominee for a vacancy that opened up in June of 1860, the year Lincoln would be elected. He nominated Jeremiah Black during the lame duck session of 1861, but the Senate agreed -- by one vote -- to take no action. The spot got filled by Lincoln instead. Buchanan had chosen a wishy-washy northern Democrat like himself, which even his own party controlling the Senate did not feel comfortable accepting. Lincoln's successful appointment was an outright abolitionist. Earlier in his term, Buchanan did successfully appoint a justice, although narrowly.

In 1828, at the end of the Jeffersonian era, John Quincy Adams saw his first (and only successful) appointment die after two years in office -- and only slightly more than a month ahead of the presidential election, where he lost to Jackson. During the lame duck session, he tried to appoint a replacement for his own previous pick, yet his own party who controlled Congress decided to postpone action, and it got filled by Jackson instead. That reflected the fragmentation of the Democratic-Republican party at the end of the era: the Jacksonian faction blocked John Crittenden, who was a proto-Whig and anti-Jacksonian, so that president-elect Jackson could have a pick of his own. That choice, John McLean, began as pro-Jackson but evolved away toward the Whig party anyway.

In 1800, at the end of the early Federalist era, John Adams faced the resignation of the chief justice after having just lost his bid for re-election to Jefferson. During the lame duck session, Adams decided to nominate the first chief justice, John Jay. The Senate, controlled by his party, did agree to that choice -- but Jay declined, choosing to retire from politics altogether. Adams did successfully nominate his Secretary of State John Marshall to that vacancy during the lame duck session, and Marshall did choose to serve, not wanting the president-elect Jefferson to fill it with an anti-Federalist. (Adams had earlier appointed two justices successfully.)

Adams is thus the only disjunctive president whose failed appointment was not due to his own party in Congress blocking him, but to the nominee himself declining, and the only disjunctive president whose successful follow-up nomination after the failure was not bending to the shifting political winds. Quite the opposite, Marshall was a thorn in the side of the Jeffersonians for their entire era of dominance.

I attribute Adams' unusual status in this regard to the fact that there was not a strong party system during his time (the First Party System began with Jefferson), so he's not the best example of a disjunctive president. The founder of his era, George Washington, was a Federalist but ran and served as a non-partisan figure in order to calm tensions during the infancy of the nation.

At any rate, we see that Trump, like other disjunctive presidents, will face some kind of difficulty in nominating at least one of his would-be justices. He could pick someone a little too old-school for this phase of trying to transform the system, and have to go with someone who is more palatable to the evolving populist re-alignment.

It's the job of the Democrats and any not-so-corporate Republicans to make sure the populist principles he campaigned on are respected in his nominations to the Court. With previous disjunctive presidents, it was often only by one vote that the dominant party in the Senate decided not to go with someone so wedded to the old vision. There's no reason that can't happen again, especially comparing Trump to Hoover -- it could be over the same issue of labor unions for a supposedly progressive Republican, as an overly long economic expansion comes crashing down on the working class.

June 27, 2018

In populist re-alignment of Dems, would-be Speaker & Boomer Reaganite dethroned by Millennial Bernie babe

Joe Crowley lost the Democrat primary by double digits to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York's 14th Congressional district, a shocking defeat for the neoliberal Establishment of the party. The 20-year incumbent, head of the local political machine, chair of the House Democratic Caucus in Washington, and supposedly the next Speaker of the House if they took back that chamber in November, got a decisive heave-ho from voters.

Taking his place is a 28 year-old who had never even competed for office before, and who ran her ragtag operation on small donations. She triumphed by offering a populist / socialist platform that, in the Bernie era, is beginning to sweep away the neoliberalism-lite option that had been the opposition party's only path to victory during the Reagan era, already in its twilight phase under Trump.

On a personal level, she comes across as a normal, wholesome, authentic human being, rather than the typical politician who is a manufactured brown-nosing degenerate. She is warm, nurturing, soothing, and feminine -- as though she is only reluctantly wading into cut-throat politics out of last-resort maternal instinct, like a mama bear who sees her cubs being threatened. Totally unlike the over-weening ambition of the typical "woman in politics" during the neoliberal era, who are self-absorbed strivers without a nurturing bone in their sociopathic bodies -- Hillary Clinton, Nikki Haley, etc.

Thus, the Bernie movement is not winning elections by running caricatures of their old hardcore base -- who has bluest hair, who has the craziest eyes, who has the most bitter cat-lady voice, the most wine-mommy set of "interests". They're appealing to normal people who don't binge-watch MSNBC, as they have more urgent material concerns than "The Pentagon should nuke North Korea to prevent Trump from normalizing Kim Jong-un," or whatever Rachel Maddow, and her panel packed with spooks and Feds, is psychotically ranting about this week to her freak-faced audience of Clinton cultists.

The upset victory for Ocasio-Cortez marks the further erosion of power held by the Me Generation -- the Silents and the Boomers -- as Gen X-ers and Millennials reject individualism for collectivism, and reject laissez-faire for regulating chaos. The upwards-failing Boomers have seized too much of society's resources for themselves, while the downwardly mobile Millennials have never had anything of their own to begin with.

The Boomers represented the initial stage of the over-production of elites, where a handful of aspiring elites could be the first in their family to get credentialed at college, and through sheer hyper-competitiveness, push out the socially harmonious Greatest Generation above them. By this late stage, aspiring elites are so over-produced that not even a fraction of them will actually attain elite status, no matter how hyper-competitive they have acted for their whole lives.

Unlike Boomer aspiring elites who faced the Greatest Generation incumbents, Millennial aspiring elites are trying to push out an incumbent generation that has always been hostile, defensive, and status-striving. The longer that the Boomers continue to clog the arteries of basic social mobility over the lifespan, the more that the Millennials will figure that it's too late for minor measures like statins, but time for radical open-heart surgery to clear out the plaque directly.

That means Ocasio-Cortez is not like David Brat, the neophyte Republican who primaried a senior-ranking Congressman, Eric Cantor, in 2014. Brat was not a re-aligner, but a standard libertarian of the Reaganite era, just like Cantor, but who promised a harder line on immigration, which is a common promise among GOP Congressmen.

Ocasio-Cortez ran on an anti-Reaganite platform, unlike the vast majority of Democrats who have enjoyed incumbency during the Reagan era. And extending Medicare to cover everybody, along with the other Bernie-style policies, is not a widespread view at the moment among elected Democrats. She is a re-aligner within her party (and in fact she belongs to the Democratic Socialists of America).

If anything, the comparison would be to Trump, who also ran and won on an orthodoxy-shifting platform. But Trump is completely alone among his party, who, as the founders of the Reaganite system, have the most invested in keeping it humming along. There is no broader shift within the GOP toward economic protectionism, anti-interventionism, and leaving the social safety net in place. They do not exist at even the candidate level, let alone primary winner or elected official.

In contrast, tonight's winning Bernie candidate joins many others thus far into the 2018 primaries, and many more in the coming years -- not to mention a handful of currently serving Democrats. As in New York, Pennsylvania saw several Bernie-approved or outright socialist candidates win their primaries in safe Democrat districts. There are scores more who will at least compete in races, whether or not they win.

So unlike Trump, who is utterly isolated in his party regarding his unorthodox policies, the Bernie people all have each other, and their numbers keep growing. Trump will not be a re-aligning figure, lacking anyone else to join his coalition, whereas Bernie or someone like that will have no trouble steering the society in a new direction, as they will have a great big support network of fellow travelers -- including some incumbents who choose to re-align themselves rather than get driven out of office.

"Great Men" do not shape history except to the extent that they are leading a broad and cohesive group. Trump, in his anti-Reaganite stances, is leading absolutely no one else within the GOP, and will not shape history. That role will belong to whoever becomes the leader of the upcoming Bernie revolution.

June 24, 2018

Dehumanizing obits for school shooting victims read like striver college applications that never got to be sent

Sorry you got mass-murdered at school, but on the plus-side, I'll make sure everybody knows that you would've gotten into to an awesome college and scored a kickass career after graduation.

In a comment on the post below, I addressed the infrequent and narrow range of cases when the elites actually do highlight the problems that American children are facing, as opposed to their non-stop hand-wringing about the 10 billion immigrants they want to overwhelm our country with.

The reason why they rarely feel sympathy for American kids is that they are treated less like real human beings and more like robots to be programmed for maximum status-striving potential in the hyper-competitive globalized labor market. The elites see the outcome of that childrearing practice, and it is not easily recognizably human, hence their difficulty feeling sympathy for such children.

Sympathy anchors on authentic human beings -- or at least sentient creatures, not inanimate devices whose behavioral output has been fine-tuned by clinical engineers and programmers.

So, the elites only want to protect American kids in the school setting -- the main site of feeding them through the striver grinder, with surrogate parent-engineers taking over for the micro-programming while Mom and Dad are busy striving for pay. The elites can only conceive of "harm to children" to the extent that something disrupts the day-in and day-out micro-programming of their robo-kids. They couldn't care less what's affecting them outside of the cram school context.

To truly appreciate how dehumanizing the elites' treatment of American children is, just look at how the victims of mass school shootings are memorialized in the media. Consider this list of Parkland obituaries from CNN as representative of national media coverage. In fairness, local coverage is more humanizing and personal, but I'm talking about the big-picture bullet points from a major outlet like CNN that frames the national impression and conversation. It's not just that longer articles in the local press can go into greater depth -- the national press does not summarize that portrait into a thumbnail sketch, but focuses on a different set of traits.

Very little in CNN's descriptions has to do with who they are as people, whether as individuals or as members of a larger group that exists outside the striver school setting. They are not portraits of human beings. Rather, they are business reports about how far along this particular item was in the striver production process. The intended sense of tragic loss is only conveyed by detailing how much work had gone into its programming so far, and what future assembly lines it was destined for in order to receive the final bells and whistles before being brought to market -- at last -- before potential buyers.

The "senseless act of violence" comes across not so much as snuffing out a real-life human being, or robbing a social group of one of its crucial members -- but as an act of industrial sabotage in the striver factory. All those products that had come so far along in the manufacturing process -- some almost ready to roll right off the end of the assembly line -- damaged beyond the engineers' ability to salvage them and fulfill their clients' orders after all.

Normal obituaries of adults may mention their career accomplishments, although they also include sections on the person's early life and upbringing, as well as their social relationships, in a holistic portrait. The victims of mass school shootings are only teenagers, who do not have a career to speak of -- or do they? Their striver parents and handlers all treat them as though they had training-wheel careers of their own, with status and accomplishments to boast of just as much as any adult.

They don't understand how dehumanizing it strikes a normal person to treat a child as merely a yuppie-in-training, while ignoring anything about their personality, their interests, their hobbies, their social relations, and so on. Or perhaps those humanizing aspects are being prevented from developing in the first place, lest they get in the way of the proto-yuppie production process. Either way, it makes these obituaries awkward to read.

In fact, the only people quoted who do not refer to the slain victims as just promising cogs in a status-striving machine are their fellow age-mates -- other students, siblings or cousins, and neighborhood friends.

This contrast between the profane programmers and the respectful peers is starkest in the entry for Carmen Schentrup:

Carmen was a National Merit Scholar semifinalist.

"Marjory Stoneman Douglas had 10 students qualify as semifinalists for 2018, which is the second year in a row 10 students have qualified," the Eagle Eye student blog said.

Carmen was mourned in the community and on social media.

"Rest In Peace Carmen Schentrup," one tweet said. "You family is forever in my thoughts and prayers. I'm so sorry."

Anticipating fierce competition, this obit opens immediately with a knockout punch -- National Merit semifinalist, think you can compete with that? I'm surprised these obits didn't list "GPA" and "SAT score" along with their name and age in the headers.

In an even more disgusting profanation, it quotes a student blog post that brags about how well the school does in the National Merit competition. In this context, it comes across as crass and tone-deaf; however, it is actually a post from last fall, not one written in response to the mass murder. But the writers here just couldn't help it -- not even something sacred like an obituary could stop them from quoting standard PR bragging from today's hyper-competitive education system.

The connotation is that the victim was only worth something in this world to the extent that she helped rack up a high score for her striver factory in the industry-wide awards for striver production -- without her, there is now one fewer National Merit semifinalist for the school to boast about in its marketing copy. That bastard with the AR-15 ought to be sued into replacing her with another National Merit semifinalist, it's the only way true justice can be served.

Nicholas Dworet's obit ups the ante by declaring that he's already been accepted to college, which it name-drops, and announcing that he was in fact recruited for the swim team, unlike the less competitive applicants who have to beg colleges for admission.

The sole person quoted is from that university -- which he didn't even get to attend, and who therefore knows nothing about him and has no connection to him whatsoever. It's purely to vouch for the student's promising college prospects, to clarify that he wasn't a loser in the striver competition. Oh, and it's the university president, not some low-ranking staffer, who writes this posthumous letter of recommendation to future employers from The Beyond.

For the striver adults commemorating him, nothing else mattered. Not even joking, here it is in its entirety:

Nicholas, a 17-year-old senior, was killed in the shooting, the University of Indianapolis confirmed. He was recruited for the university swim team and would have been an incoming freshman this fall.

"Nick's death is a reminder that we are connected to the larger world, and when tragedy hits in places around the world, it oftentimes affects us at home," said Robert L. Manuel, University of Indianapolis president.

"Today, and in the coming days, I hope you will hold Nick, his family, all of the victims, as well as the Parkland community and first responders in your prayers."

Meadow Pollack's obit also opens with the declaration that she had gotten into a named college, but only a spokeswoman rather than the president vouches for her. (That's why they shouldn't be contacting these institutions to begin with, since it creates needless competition.) As in the first case, this college spokeswoman knows absolutely nothing about the dead teenager who never attended the institution that she works for, but doesn't let that get in the way of vouching for her, using HR boilerplate ("join our community," one rung above "join our team"):

Meadow, 18, had been accepted at Lynn University in Boca Raton, spokeswoman Jamie D'Aria said.

"Meadow was a lovely young woman, who was full of energy. We were very much looking forward to having her join our community in the fall," D'Aria said.

For the adult programmers and engineers, what matters most is maximizing the status of their sabotaged products, and that means getting an endorsement from as high-ranking of a source as possible, not from someone who actually knew the victim as a person. Her friends, and friends of the family, are at least allowed to chime in after the university spokeswoman is done vouching for the deceased's status credentials, and they sound like real people who knew another real person and are struck by grief.

Jaime Guttenberg was only 14, so her obit couldn't reassure us that she had gotten into a good school just yet. But not to worry -- the writer makes sure to include remarks from her father's alma mater, only half-hinting that she could have gotten her degree there, if it weren't for that bastard with the AR:

Skidmore College, where Fred Guttenberg attended, released a statement saying their hearts go out to Jaime's parents and others affected by the tragedy.

"There really are no words to lessen the suffering that the families of victims are feeling at this moment, but perhaps knowing that we stand with them can provide some small measure of solace," the college said.

This quote comes abruptly after several sentences of the father's grieving. It's not clear whether he put his alma mater up to this, or whether the writers investigated where the dead teenager might have enjoyed legacy status in the admissions competition later on. At any rate, in juxtaposition, the father's grieving reads more as a set-up for the college's remarks -- he is the connection, so if the writers had not introduced the grieving father first, the remarks from his alma mater would have sounded a little too out-of-the-blue.

Only in a pathologically striver-stricken culture would obituary writers subordinate paternal grief to the reassurance that the mass-murdered daughter was likely bound for a college with a median SAT of 1320.

Alyssa Alhadeff's obit emphasizes her extracurriculars -- Parkland Travel Soccer, Camp Coleman ("Section 5: Please describe how you've spent your last three summers"). Not what role she played in these groups -- was she the jokester or the straight-faced one, a leader or a helper ("Hmmm, if she wasn't the leader, that won't look good on the application"), who else she connected with, how they shaped her, or anything human about belonging to a group. It's simply a list of extracurriculars to pad her file for ultimate judgment by that great big admissions panel up in the sky.

Sadly, even her own mother offers little description of who her daughter was, beyond what any mother would say while pleading her case in front of the admissions board: "Alyssa was a beautiful, smart, talented, successful, awesome, amazing soccer player." Look, I made sure she's going to crush it in her career choices, what else do you expect me to know about my daughter?

Cara Loughran's obit begins with her extracurricular: she "danced at the Drake School of Irish Dance in South Florida." It doesn't describe what she was like at the studio, what her favorite kinds of dances were, or any other portrait-like details. It just lists her membership in an institution whose WASP-y name, "the Drake School," is designed to sound like an exclusive private school.

Even when her adult neighbor is quoted, the remarks are abstract rather than concrete, and generic rather than personal -- "fly with the angels," "celebrate your beautiful life". It sounds more like someone who signed your yearbook without knowing you -- "Have a fun trip 2 Heaven, C U next lifetime."

Gina Montalto's obit starts off with her extracurricular -- winter guard on the marching band -- and follows with a condolence from the Winter Guard International, who did not know her, but whose high-ranking status will hopefully make their letter of rec more status-boosting to the dead teenager. She does get a more personal portrayal from her middle school coach, though. Her aunt tries to tell us that she was into art and design, but cannot help turning it into a grievance about the striver career that the young girl never got to kick ass at: "I know somewhere in the heavens she's designing the latest and greatest trends," she says awkwardly, falling back on PR buzzwords toward the end.

Alaina Petty's obit focuses more on the "service" section of the college application -- volunteering after Hurricane Irma, Helping Hands program with the Mormon church, member of junior ROTC, which the writers emphasize is "a leadership program" taught by retired Army personnel. Her family seem to have her career prospects mainly in mind: "Alaina loved to serve," and the family "will not have the opportunity to watch her grow up and become the amazing woman we know she would become". In context, "amazing" means kicking ass in the status competition.

Alex Schachter's obit is entirely about his extracurriculars of marching band and orchestra. The band director's letter of recommendation -- "I felt he really had a bright future on the trombone" -- emphasizes the student's appeal to college admissions boards, or perhaps as a career choice if he were really good at it. In either case, it is about status prospects that will not be realized. There is no description of his personality or social relations, other than noting that he had a family when mentioning who it is that has set up a music scholarship in his memory.

Luke Hoyer's obit is one of the few that does not dryly run through a checklist of academics, extracurriculars, and service activities. In addition to some personality traits, it is about the state of shock that his grandparents are in. They are described as a "close-knit family," although the grandparents live 10 hours drive away from Fort Lauderdale, in Appalachian South Carolina. Recall that these mass school shootings only happen in rootless striver colonies, such as anywhere in Florida. If the parents had remained close to the grandparents, it would have been an even more close-knit family, and not exposed to the risk of mass school shootings.

At any rate, his obit goes to show that, unlike the overall pattern in America, people from Appalachian background are unlikely to treat their kids solely as robots to be programmed into status-strivers, and view them more as holistic human beings, especially by being plugged into extended kinship networks.

Other than his, the only obits that present a more personal sketch instead of a college application belong to the students who are of recent immigrant background. That reinforces the point that our elites feel sympathy for immigrant children because they do not perceive them to be robotic proto-yuppies whose humanity has been crushed out of them after getting cranked through the striver grinder by programmer-engineer parents.

Helena Ramsay's obit centers around her personality and kin relations, with both people quoted being family members. The fact that she would've started college next year is mentioned in passing, not drawn out (no name of the college). In her personality description, there is one reference to the cram school context -- "she had a relentless motivation towards her academic studies" -- but again is mentioned more in passing. She was of recent Afro-Caribbean background.

Peter Wang's obit does mention that he was in junior ROTC, but it's not so much of an item in an extracurricular checklist, as it is a set-up for the description of the brave way in which he died -- holding open the door so other kids could escape. Most of the description is personal, from a close friend and classmate who describes how he made her smile and laugh, and how excited he was to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year. He was of recent Chinese background.

The obit for Martin Duque Anguiano, born in Mexico, focuses on his personality and his place in the family structure. They specify that he's the baby brother, with the roles that implies, rather than just being a fungible member of Team Duque. And it's written by his older brother instead of a programmer parent.

Finally the obit for Joaquin Oliver, also an immigrant:

Joaquin was born in Venezuela, moved to the United States when he was 3 and became a naturalized citizen in January 2017, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

"Among friends at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, he was known as 'Guac,' a moniker that appeared on his Instagram account. His interests: football, basketball, the Venezuelan national soccer team, urban graffiti and hip-hop," the paper said.

An Instagram post dated December 31 was his final social media post -- a message to his girlfriend, the paper said.

"Thank you lord for putting a greater blessing than I could ever imagine into my life this past year," he said. "I love you with all my heart."

Nothing about academics, extracurriculars, or service activities. It lists football and basketball under interests rather than participation on school teams. He actually has interests of his own, not only activities that he is fed into by programmer parents. He actually has friends. They've even given him a nickname -- a unique personal detail, whose informal and familiar tone brings the reader into their social circle.

And unlike the apparently sexless American robo-kids, the writers emphasize that this guy actually has a girlfriend -- might actually get married, might actually raise a family. It's that never-realized marriage and family that is the tragic loss in his entry. The robo-kids are presumed to advance to the procreation stage once their amazing careers have reached the kickass level -- before then, it would only get in the way of foundational striver development.

What are the range of interests of the other students? Who are their friends? What are their nicknames? Who are their girlfriends or boyfriends? What are their plans for marriage, for raising families one day? According to their adult programmers and the national media -- who cares? Don't you really want to know instead what would make them an amazing candidate for a "fast, early acceptance into an Ivy League school (and please let it be Harvard)"?

With this conception of American children, it's no surprise that the elites have such difficulty feeling sympathy for them, and turn to immigrant children instead, who they see as more authentically human than robotic.

June 21, 2018

Elites feel for 3rd world children, who seem more authentically human than their own robotic striver spawn

The absolute hysteria that the elites have shown over the past week about the Central American immigrant "kids in cages" is not the response they would show if those kids were from the first world. The profound disconnect between their response toward the children of their own nation and those of less developed nations is a sign of a broken moral compass, and none of the usual explanations for the outta-whack state of affairs seem to be correct.

A healthy moral sense devotes more attention to domains where the person or some group they belong to can make a difference. That's how we recognize the shameful deflection when the liberal elites ask why Trump is meeting with a human rights abuser like Kim Jong-un, when they do not ask why Trump met with an even worse offender like Mohammad bin Salman. Kim is not our ally, and won't change his behavior just because we pressure him to. Bin Salman is our #1 ally, and would respond to our pressure, lest he lose the material and intangible goodies we provide him with. Worrying about Trump legitimizing Kim is morally pointless, worrying about Trump legitimizing bin Salman is morally worthwhile.

Maybe you could worry about both of Trump's meetings with those leaders, but you could not worry more about the Kim meeting than about the bin Salman meeting.

Now, if the elites are so concerned over children who are in a pitiful state, why not start right here at home? It's not as though everyone's kids in this country are doing A-OK. The elites might respond that they worry more about the immigrant children because they're poor, whereas their own kids are rich, and even those of the middle-class are wealthier than the immigrant kids. But then they ignore the large swaths of American children who are not wealthier than the immigrant kids. There are plenty of places right here where rural whites and urban blacks are not exactly living in what you would call first-world comfort.

Oh sure, there's the once-a-year feature story on the lead-polluted water of Flint, Michigan, or the heat system getting shut off during winter in Baltimore public schools. Then it's right back to obsessing over immigrants for the rest of the year, which is a far more recurring topic of theirs, and one they report on with much greater emotional investment. The chronic plight of urban blacks has been totally sidelined in favor of attention to immigrants.

When they do mention Flint or Baltimore, it's more of an empty ritual -- something they know they're supposed to do, and they go through the motions, but their heart is not in it, and it's not part of a larger and longer-term vision of theirs for a better society. Their moral vision for improving the lot of the non-white people of the world is to open our borders to 10 billion foreigners, and hope that there's still enough wealth to go around for all of them. They can't have an impact at that level, so why bother? Whereas focusing on blacks in America is something they can have a huge impact on -- and yet, just half-hearted ritualistic expressions of concern.

Of course, the elites care even less about white American children who are in a pitiful state, but it is not about race. They scarcely care more about African-American children than about Euro-American children, since almost all of their effort goes to immigrant and foreign children. And some major cases are not even very non-white -- look at how apoplectic the elites go after seeing dead children in Syria, during each chemical hoax du jour. Syrians are pretty white, especially compared to African-Americans -- and yet, we don't see the elites foaming at the mouth to start another war on behalf of dead black children in America, like they do about children in Syria.

So what's going on with the outta-whack moral sense of today's elites, whether liberal or conservative?

A cynical response is that the elites are just crying crocodile tears in order to advance their globalist agenda -- whether the goal is to import hordes of cheap labor to boost corporate profits, to culturally replace what they feel is an embarrassing American culture, or whatever else.

We can reject that, as with most lazy cynical answers, since it only captures a tiny slice of the elites. A big chunk truly feel morally invested in the fate of poor Guatemalan children, while feeling almost nothing similar for poor African-American children, or poor white-American children.

And the phenomenon is broader than just trying to incorporate the Guatemalans into the American nation -- the elites feel more deeply for Guatemalan children even when they're understood to be living in Guatemala itself for the rest of their lives. And again, that's true for elites on both the left and the right, albeit with different rationalizations for their similar behavior of ignoring poor Americans in favor of poor foreigners -- alleviating global poverty for the left, saving all of God's children for the right.

Another cynical response is "virtue signaling," meaning the elites don't bother sympathizing with American children because that's easy or cheap to do, whereas sympathizing with third-world children is somehow harder or more costly to do, so that their moral posing is really a kind of status contest amongst themselves. Who can out-do the others in obsessing over the children of unfamiliar and alien cultures?

But if that were true, we would see the "most obscure band / film / author" phenomenon -- the elites would resort to ever more exotic cultures to sympathize with the plight of pitiful children, just as they do in fact for the cuisine of other cultures. It's amateur to signal your knowledge and appreciation of Mexican food -- but make it Salvadorean food, and you've upped the ante.

In this framework, only a beginning poser would try to score points by sympathizing with Central American immigrants -- too geographically close to us, too familiar from their immense numbers in our country, and therefore too over-exposed in our public mind as stereotypical immigrants. But make it those Rohingya people who the media have been trying to turn into a storyline, and you'd rack up a higher score. ("Oh... you've never heard of the Rohingya...?")

And yet the elites continue to pay little attention to the Rohingya, the Tibetans, and other truly more exotic cultures than the Guatemalans or the Syrians. The "costly signaling" model does not work here.

These and other lazy cynical answers all presume that this elite behavior is part of a well-functioning machine -- that their moral obsession over third-world immigrants is somehow serving a more fundamental goal of theirs, whatever we may think about that goal. This is the fallacy of thinking that all traits are optimal for the individuals possessing them, presumably because they would otherwise be weeded out by some form of competition. On such a brief time scale as we are observing our elites, how do we know that these traits are not in fact mal-adaptive to their own goals?

Consider their slowly and hazily dawning awareness that by pushing so forcefully for open borders, they have triggered a backlash that will end up not only closing the borders, but deporting a large chunk of illegals who thought they were already in the clear. Too much immigration leads to zero immigration.

And before too long, they'll start to understand how 10 billion people living in America would wreck our welfare state worse than any Tea Party scheme. Liberals go to pains to preserve the welfare state in political contexts that do not touch on immigration.

As I said at the outset, this elite behavior is clearly a sign of their being broken, outta-whack, misaligned. It is not 3-D chess for globalists. But what precisely is the nature of this broken moral compass?

Quite simply, I think our elites don't view American children as authentic human beings, as a result of our children being micro-programmed, as though they were cutting-edge robots, in our hyper-competitive and status-striving climate. Program them to eat the right kind of organic breakfast foods, program them to play the right sports in pre-school, program them to ace the pre-pre-pre-school admissions exam, program them to play the right instruments when they get home from pre-pre-pre-school, and on and on and on.

Striver parents are terrified that their kids won't grow up to be strivers like them, so they leave nothing to chance or free will. Just program the hell out of the kids, and that's their best shot at making it in adulthood. The children's eventual social status depends entirely on the parents properly nano-tuning their programming during childhood.

If that's your conception of the parent-child relationship, then of course you won't conceive of the child as a real human being. They're not even sentient, like a pet. Sidenote: people train their children as though they were pets, and resort to owning pets to fill the void left by raising robo-kids. Their pets are treated as though they were the real children -- left alone from programming, and behaving all natural.

When these elites think of third-world cultures, they sense that there are no elites there like there are here -- sure, there are elites, but attaining that status does not come from a war of all against all, a Darwinian survival of the fittest, AKA meritocracy. They sense the elites inherit large tracts of productive land, or political office, or whatever it is. In our elites' mind, the third-world parents don't turn childrearing into micro-programming, since there is no hyper-competitive admissions process for pre-schools, colleges, internships, and professional firms.

The children from such a culture will appear to be more authentic as human beings, making them suitable targets for sympathy -- unlike the robo-kids of our society, who don't even register as sentient.

Our elites view all children from the third world this way -- naturally the children of poor foreigners, who don't go to college, but even those from relatively better-off families, who don't have to go through the dehumanizing process of striver programming. That shows that our elite's sympathy is not just about being materially poor -- you can be relatively well-off, as long as your parents didn't turn you into a robot in order to attain that comfortable status.

And our elites project their own kids' robo-traits onto those of American children writ large. After all, such a large share of kids in America go to college, and an even larger share are put through regimens to prepare them for college, even if they decide not to. The elites may assume that our education system treats every child as college material, so they must all get cranked through the striver grinder, just like the elite kids.

Whether that's true or not, doesn't matter. It's the elite's perception that matters. And they talk in such broadbrush terms about "our society" and "our children" that they wouldn't see exceptions even if they were there among urban blacks or rural whites, who may not robotize their children like the strivers in the elite zip codes do. Out of sight, out of mind for the elites.

American children as synthetic, third-world children as natural -- that's what's behind this whole warped morality phenomenon. And it's a sign of something wrong, namely the degree to which today's parents treat childrearing as though it were engineering a machine to optimally compete in Battle Bots, as all of society tunes in to watch their performance -- the machine's performance, and by extension the engineer's.

This likely applies more broadly than just children, too. Even adults in America are perceived by our elites to not really be human, given the dehumanizing system they are all a part of in our hyper-competitive climate. But adults from poor third-world cultures? Our elites doubt that their way of life is as dehumanizing as ours, so they must be more wholly human than American adults, and hence more suitable as targets for sympathy.

It's not really a Noble Savage worldview, since the poor immigrants are not hunter-gatherers. They come from cultures with a government, sedentary residence, agricultural economies perhaps with some of our off-shored manufacturing plants, permanent elites, religious hierarchies, and other elements of complex societies.

It's more about our hyper-competitive, credentialist, groping for a post-industrial utopia whose outcome feels increasingly uncertain. The third-world cultures certainly don't have that going on.

What is the solution? It is to channel our awareness of the broken moral compass into changing the underlying problem. First, by drawing the elite's attention to their outta-whack priorities -- they should be more concerned with struggling Americans than struggling Guatemalans, since we control America but do not control Guatemala. Then, by pointing out the root cause of the elite's misaligned priorities -- seeing their fellow Americans as not really human, due to being cogs in a dehumanizing machine, which they assume does not apply in Guatemala.

Finally, to make that the central task -- to dial down the psychotic levels of competitiveness in our society. If it keeps going any further, it will blow up the society in a civil war. And even if that were to be avoided, it is still producing more dehumanized people on the other side of the striver grinder, and that in turn makes it easier for our elites to treat them callously rather than charitably.

We have to unseat the reigning ethos of anti-social ambition, and replace it with pro-social restraint. And we must replace the warped focus on fixing the whole world with fixing America -- where we can actually succeed.

June 20, 2018

DC blacks pass higher min wage: Employers of immigrants hardest hit

Voters in DC have approved Initiative 77, which will gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers to be the same as it is for non-tipped workers. It's currently only $3.33, compared to $12.50 for non-tipped workers. If the workers' tips plus the barebones wage falls short of the general minimum wage, the employer is supposed to make up the difference. But in practice, greedy employers stiff their workers for that difference, and the Labor Department has little power to investigate, charge, and collect the unpaid wages from the employers. That leaves the workers making well below the general minimum wage.

You can read more about the issues in this explainer from Vox, but what really matters is that this will move the DC economy one step closer toward abolishing cheap labor, and thereby drying up the demand for immigration. Whether they realize it or not -- mostly they do not -- the progressive Democrats are helping to send immigrants back to their home countries, once they can no longer get jobs here. And they will not be getting hired as commonly if the minimum wage shoots up.

The whole purpose of immigrants being here is to serve as a vast pool of cheap labor for greedy and lazy employers who want to enjoy higher profit margins without actually having to improve their business model or product -- just by firing their well-paid American employees and replacing them with cheap foreigners instead. Wow, what a brilliant insight, what a singular innovation! The employers' greed, laziness, sociopathy, and treason ought to be punished, not rewarded.

All the Democrats need to do now is to play up the fact that those workers who will get fired when the minimum wage goes up will be illegal immigrants, and that primarily African-American citizens will be taking those jobs instead. By framing immigration in class terms, and by attacking employers rather than the immigrant workers themselves, the Democrats can steal the immigration issue from the GOP. And, solve the problem more efficiently -- punishing one small business owner vs. tracking down the dozen immigrants he employs.

And since the Democrats are not controlled by the material sectors, like those relating to food, they can credibly threaten to keep raising the minimum wage, which will not affect the sectors that do control their party -- informational sectors like finance, tech, and the media, which are not dependent on armies of cheap foreigners, either here or abroad.

With Initiative 77 passed, some businesses will stay open, only with fewer immigrants and more (African-)Americans on their payroll. Other businesses will have to close down, because their business model is so pathetically defective that it fails just from having to pay their workers the minimum wage. That is all for the better -- we want good businesses to stay open, not shitty ones that can only be propped up by the government looking the other way while the employers pay their workers $4 an hour and stiff them for the rest that they owe to meet the full minimum wage.

As that happens more broadly, it will affect entire sectors, driving out the bad and replacing them with the good. When a crappy restaurant or hair salon closes down because they can't turn a profit if forced to pay their workers the minimum wage, the source of their financing will have to find another destination.

Remember, nobody puts up their own money to operate any business -- they're all getting loans from banks, selling equity through a stock market, issuing bonds, or whatever else. Once those funds can no longer go to the crappy businesses, they will necessarily be routed to those that are profitable under the higher minimum wage -- such as a manufacturing plant instead of a third-tier restaurant. Food-related jobs will dwindle, while manufacturing jobs will rise, shifting workers from low-paid jobs into high-paid jobs, not just improving their lives but narrowing inequality between them and the rich.

A higher minimum wage will be a crucial component of the new Bernie-era industrial policy to revolutionize our economy out of the dead-end shitty service model that our elites have driven us into during the Reagan era, and back to one with robust manufacturing and industry.

Which group of voters deserves credit for this big first step? The blacks of DC, not the yuppie whites (he means high-end neighborhoods in the NW):

Black people in DC are not looking ahead to the effects of a higher minimum wage on the employment prospects for immigrants -- but even if you pointed it out to them, they would not give an utter shit about a bunch of poor weepy Mexicans who won't get hired at all if they can no longer serve as dirt-cheap replacements for (African-)American workers. "I got mine, BITCH -- now go on and get yours, BACK IN MEXICO."

Obviously none of those blacks will ever vote for Trump or the GOP, and that's perfectly fine. We aren't trying to drive them to the GOP -- who would instantly lower the minimum wage and bring back the cheap-labor foreigners anyway. The goal is to have both major parties acting to restrict immigration -- by fomenting a loud and angry pro-American worker movement within the re-aligning Democrat base itself, albeit on class terms and attacking greedy employers rather than the immigrant workers. But if blacks use the occasion to air some of their grievances against immigrants, so much the better.

Immigrants don't vote, especially if they're illegal, and they lower the material standard of living for everyone, except their corporate bosses who enjoy higher profits from cheaper labor, which widens inequality at both ends of the spectrum. They are the last thing the Democrats need to win elections. The path toward recovery for the Dems is to amp up their African-American base -- and they don't care about pointless identity politics anymore, except for a few dead-end Boomers. They want more cash in their pocket, simple as that. Jack up the minimum wage to $20 an hour, and there go all the illegal immigrants back to wherever they came from, with black people giving zero fucks when that happens.

That will also help to drive a wedge between the black base and the neoliberal elites within the party, who not only want to keep the minimum wage down (see the NW section of the map), but who want to transform their base to include all non-whites -- even if most of those other non-whites don't vote, and lower the standard of living for blacks. African-Americans are the only reliable non-white bloc of voters for the Democrats, they can't stand the other unreliable non-white groups, and unlike the other non-white groups who live in either deep red or deep blue states, blacks live in swingy states where they could actually make a difference, especially in the Rust Belt.

Neoliberal yuppie whites will never understand that, but they don't need to -- they just need to be shouted down by their angry black base who demand a $20 minimum wage, regardless if that means Mexicans returning to Mexico when they can no longer work for pennies on the American dollar. Hopefully that winds up purging the neoliberals from the party leadership, and leading to their replacement by blacks and whites who are just looking out for the American worker, and not the cheap labor legions of literally the entire world.

Let this be a lesson to any remaining populists and nationalists on the GOP side -- there's nothing worth voting for on the Republican side's primaries. It's more effective to channel your votes, donations, and efforts into making the Democrat party an alternative to corporate-globalist Republicanism.

June 19, 2018

Is Jared Ivanka's gay BFF? And elite degeneracy in marriage generally

Although the 2016 election has spurred widespread interest in the anthropology of the working class in Flyover Country, that's only one half of the story -- the immiseration of the lower 90% of the population. The other half of where we are, and why we're here, is the over-production of elites (or at least aspiring elites) in the power centers of the nation, and their striving, hyper-competitiveness, decadence, and degeneracy.

Where are all the longform field studies of that group of people? Nowhere, since that would hurt the same elite that controls and produces content for the media sector. You would never even see that in a lowbrow Fox News feature, given that the conservative GOP elites are just as degenerate as the liberal Democrat elites.

Reality shows like the Real Housewives series give a little glimpse of elite decadence, but you can tell they leave out the really good stuff. In particular, they don't focus on the transactional nature of all their relationships, and how that poisons both the material and social domains of life. We only occasionally see their domestic staff, who are entirely foreigners being exploited as cheap labor, and never see the Americans who are left out of work by greedy elites. And they avoid the multiple lies that these people are living to pursue greater wealth and status.

One of those lies is the sham marriage, debasing one of the most sacred relationships into an utterly transactional one -- whoever can most optimally enhance my current and future wealth and status. This is the now ubiquitous "power couple" phenomenon whose initial explosion accompanied the neoliberal transition of the 1980s.

OK, so few of these people care for each other, and are sticking together purely to pool their resources and rise a few orders of magnitude in status, which they could not reach on their own. Big deal. But there are sham marriages, and then there are sham marriages. After a point, it becomes insulting and sacrilegious toward marriage and the family.

One of the most common, yet least discussed, forms of the power couple sham marriage is the closeted homosexual whose overweening ambition prevents him (or sometimes her) from coming out, lest it damage the value of his brand even slightly, and the beard-wife he chooses to publicly disguise his deviant sexual nature.

The beard is happy to go along with this because she is more driven by material ambition than by maternal or wifely goals -- and if some high-status guy is going to pool his resources with hers, to level up their joint wealth, then who cares if he never wants sex. In fact, maybe that's a selling point! A hypothetical hour of physical intimacy would be one less hour devoted to social climbing, wealth accumulation, and conspicuous consumption. No potential for intimacy means no checks on her ambition -- or his.

If one of the two does happen to have a sex drive, then they will satisfy it outside of their marriage, again making relationships transactional. Their paramour would just serve to get them off, since their chosen spouse cannot, in principle.

The media did no investigation into whether Obama was gay, as he seemed and as he later semi-admitted when he left office. The conservatives didn't go there either, not just the liberal part of the media. Conservatives were more interested in whether he was born in America, touching on the theme of nationalism. But we are not being infiltrated by devious foreigners against the will of our own elites -- the main source of societal rot these days is elite callousness and degeneracy, from within our own nation.

It would not be the homosexual behavior per se that marked Obama's elite degeneracy, but the corruption of timeless and crucial institutions like marriage and the family, in the service of overweening ambition. It would be hard enough to get elected president while half-black -- imagine if he were also known to be on the down-low. Welp, gotta get a wifey then.

If it were just to blend in with normal people, that would be one thing. But the elite homo-beard power couple is a case of the elites cynically co-opting institutions for their own crass material benefit, not to restrain their own deviance and deliver that social benefit to others.

Now, though, that there's a Republican-controlled White House, wouldn't the liberal media be interested in pursuing similar storylines, without having to worry about damaging their own party? Not about Trump, of course -- while he and Melania obviously have no real relationship, he's not living a second lie on top of that by being homosexual.

Rather, the question is why the media have never asked about Jared Kushner and Ivanka? I first thought something was off about him when they were photographed on vacation in Hawaii in December 2016, and he either shaves his body or has no natural body hair. Plus the babyface, and the fact that he weighs 100 lbs, signaled pedomorphy, or resembling a pre-adolescent child, which is the defining trait of ewww-girls-are-yucky syndrome (see my posts from 2012 and '13). Then when he spoke on camera, I really thought something was up -- he has the voice of a 9 year-old boy. Talk about pedomorphy, yikes.

But I've been laying off that topic until something more substantial came out from all the leakers and sources -- yet, nothing so far. That is, until this post at Blind Gossip, which has a solid track record with inside sources in the entertainment sector. In it, someone who went to college with both Kushner and Natalie Portman (both unnamed but easily inferred by the commenters), floats the idea that Jared is gay to explain why he never showed any interest in Portman, who had a big crush on him when they were friends, at a time when every guy wanted her:

It is very disconcerting to hear her going after him like that [calling him a "supervillain"] because when we were in college, she totally had a crush on him! He never really reciprocated, which I thought was weird because every guy in school wanted to date her. I thought he might be gay because she had dated a gay guy before and seemed to be attracted to that type, but that is not something that I would just come out and ask him.

Even if he didn't want to date her, at least he should have wanted to bang her -- every other guy did back then, especially if she was more or less offering herself. What early 2000s college dude would have turned that down? And did he not date or bang any other girls in college? This source says she's uncertain whether or not he's gay, which sounds like she can't point to exculpatory evidence like the other girls he was with, or who he even expressed a desire for.

Sidenote: it may run in the family. Some of the BG commenters say they've always thought Jared was gay, and add that his brother Joshua must be gay as well, as suggested by his own sham relationship with beard Karlie Kloss. Why did that raise their suspicions? Because according to a history of not-so-blind items at BG -- most recently this post -- Karlie Kloss and Taylor Swift have been a secret couple for several years. Kloss would then be using Joshua Kushner as a beard just as much as he would be using her as a beard. Taylor Swift has her own long list of closeted homosexual celebrities with whom she has had mutual bearding relationships, such as Harry Styles of One Direction.

If Ivanka is in fact Jared's beard, I can totally see Trump being not just OK with it, but breathing a sigh of relief. He has spontaneously and repeatedly expressed sexual jealousy over Ivanka since at least the 2000s. And he told Stormy Daniels "you look like my daughter" before banging her. This fits into a broader pattern with Trump, as reviewed in the third section of this post, that he is sexually attracted to people he is supposed to be forbidden from having, based on their social relationship to him. That includes prostitutes, other men's wives, workplace subordinates, and yes even his own flesh and blood daughter.

Who could she possibly bring home to that kind of daddy without sending him into a fit of jealous rage over some other guy getting to bang his daughter? The only solution would be a homosexual -- no potential trespass on what Trump sees as his own sexual property. Since his own marriage is transactional, he would see no problem if his daughter's were as well -- beyond the standard power couple, to the point of being a beard.

Hell, maybe Trump even suggested or demanded it of her in the first place! "No daughter of mine is gonna have sex with some guy who isn't her father." Or maybe it was more roundabout and what's-in-it-for-you, about how she could not just avoid her father's constant interference, but how it would free up more of her time for career and social ambitions, not to mention being a more progressive and modern way to do the whole marriage thingie. She's not a staunch traditionalist, so she would have gone for that appeal.

Who knows for sure what the deal is with their particular relationship. But it's striking how there's zero interest from the media. And not because they have some kind of code against outing homosexuals, or raising the possibility -- they would do that in a heartbeat if it hit a sub-elite figure like a regionally popular Christian pastor. But they circle the wagons around fellow members of the elite class, whether left or right, if knowledge of widespread elite degeneracy would break out from an honest investigation and portrayal of how our elites live these days.

June 15, 2018

Vamps get vulnerable, as portraits come back into vogue

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

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

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

NB: there are two NSFW nudes at the end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next, Kim Kardashian in 2016 (Wonderland):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's Emily Ratajkowski in 2017 (LOVE):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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