March 14, 2018

Electoral death as admin becomes more Republican, less Trumpian

In case it's not clear yet to Trump supporters, let the Pennsylvania special election be a further reminder in a series of reminders since these elections have begun -- there are no other Republicans who will run on, let alone put into effect, the major issues that scored the president an upset victory.

That means: economic nationalism and re-industrialization, a non-interventionist military, restricting immigration, and leaving the social safety net in place -- if anything, adding single-payer healthcare into the mix.

The Republicans are only going to run on the zombie-Reagan agenda that ruined our nation in less than a generation, and that voters are sick to death of -- especially the post-Boomer generations who did not get in on the ground floor of the looting of our country. These Reaganites include Bill Clinton types who simply presented a mild pushback against the overall agenda, while inflaming voters with anti-American multiculturalism in the social domain.

There is no such thing as "the Paul Ryan GOP" or "the RINOs in the GOP" or "the GOP Establishment" -- that is the entirety of the party. Trump is totally sui generis, and that's why they savaged him so brutally during the primaries of 2016, and why they continue to obstruct his anti-GOP agenda on tariffs, trade, war, and so on.

The GOP is not "going to learn" from the lessons where "Trump taught them how to win". They are an ossified party at the terminal stage of hegemony. How long can they be given to learn how to win? Trump destroyed their vision back in 2016. If they're still ignoring his winning platform, they will not be pursuing it anytime soon. "Give them another year, two years, three years" is not going to convince a normal person. More realistic is 15-20 years, when they will be the mild pushback party under a new Bernie-style paradigm that will last for several generations.

Indeed, the only party showing signs of learning from bruising losses is the Democrats. Bernie has 16 co-sponsors for a single-payer healthcare bill, most of whom endorsed Hillary and painted him as too pie-in-the-sky just a couple years ago. They flipped deep red seats (Alabama Senate, PA-18) by running white guys who talked about social obligations to the bottom 80% of the class pyramid, rather than SJWs. And the only elected officials who are openly in favor of Trump's tariffs and trade war have been Dems.

The Republican party's vision for the future has been utterly rejected by voters as too bleak, too anti-American, and too Social Darwinist. Voters want radical change, now, and they threw their weight behind Trump in order to thoroughly transform the party from within. Since dominant parties at this late desperate stage are too ossified to reform themselves, next time the voters will go for more of a firebrand from the opposition party (Bernie or someone like him).

The alienation of the voters from the GOP will only accelerate in the next years of the Trump administration, as the personnel continue to shift in a more neocon direction.

Some populists and nationalists were hopeful when the Bannonites were in the government -- they got mostly purged last year, with only a few trade hawks remaining (and they aren't promoted to the top, or allowed to see their policies become implemented without dilution).

Some moderates were hopeful when the Manhattan Democrats in the Javanka faction looked like they could influence policy. They are getting purged and demoted as we speak.

That removes any source of heterodox, unconventional, breath of fresh air politics coming from a GOP administration, which will only get more and more typically Republican as General Kelly consolidates his influence on behalf of typical Republican power groups like the Pentagon.

Nobody who took part in a "change election" wanted to see the outcome be George W. Bush: The Resurrection, but that is largely where things are going. Remember: even W got steel tariffs. And remember: the Iraq War didn't kick off until his third year.

As bad as people like Tillerson and Cohn have been, just wait until it's Pompeo and Kudlow. If you hated McMaster, wait till you get John Bolton. It's a final desperate attempt to shock the corpse of Reaganism back to life -- supply-side economics, Cold War interventionism and proxy wars, and austerity on social spending at home (unless you work for a defense contractor or Wall Street bank).

Most of this is beyond Trump's control, as he's only one guy with minimal political capital. Whenever Trump does some firing, the GOP does the hiring. But as time goes on and he goes along with their agenda rather than fight for his own agenda, against his own party, he too will lose some of his luster in the eyes of formerly hopeful voters. We wanted someone who would fight the Republican Establishment, not become their enabler and rubber-stamper.

But regardless of how much voters blame Trump personally, they will give up on the hopeless GOP.

All the action is taking place on the Democrats' side, and since the shake-up and re-alignment is just getting started, Trump supporters can get in at the outset and make a real difference. Unlike the hardened fossil of the GOP, which cannot be reshaped, the Democrats are more like a pile of wet clay that has not been shaped, let alone baked, just yet.

If one of your pet issues is not represented there, it's because you're wasting your time on Republican business fags. The only major Trumpian issue not being championed, yet, by the Dems is restricting immigration -- but then, neither is that being delivered by the Republicans, who control the entire government. Unlike the locked doors of the inward-looking GOP, the gates of the Democrat party have been left open and unattended -- so just invade their territory and dig yourself in as the immigration restriction camp of the Dems.

Like it or not, you're going to have to modulate your anti-immigration message if you want to reach a national audience. Make it less about the threat of violent crime, which is a typical losing Republican theme. Would it matter if we're demographically replaced by hordes of docile Chinese drones rather than gang members from El Salvador? Make it more about cheap labor, and sheer numbers -- the country is full, with too many Americans already struggling to make ends meet. Much more in line with Democrat themes than failed Republican themes about violence, crime, and death.

March 13, 2018

If Lamb loses, blame Hillary outburst and her media amplifiers

After the Democrat candidate in Pennsylvania's special election has gone so far out of his way to distance himself from Nancy Pelosi, in order to win in a Trump district, Crooked Hillary Clinton rears her ugly head.

To share what brilliant insight with the rest of the world? That she won in the places that account for so much of the nation's imaginary stock market bubble wealth, and that everybody who voted against her wants to see black people back in chains.

Just when you thought she could not out-do herself in self-parodying a neoliberal corporate shill who clumsily tries to distract the angry masses with identity politics -- there she goes again.

Since the latest poll shows a slight advantage for the re-aligning Democrat, who is pro-gun and pro-union, if victory slips out of his hands at the last minute -- blame Crooked Hillary's latest deluge of toxic waste upon an electorate that wants nothing more than to see her shut up for good.

Even more importantly, blame the corporate liberal media for funneling her waste through their propaganda pipelines into everyday Americans' households. The journalists are so short-sighted, and so emotionally retarded, craving any fix they can get that says, "You're the best and brightest, and your enemies are scum."

They can't see five seconds into the future, where blasting that message is going to anger voters into lining up against the likes of Crooked Hillary, even if it means holding their nose and voting for another corporate globalist Republican.

The liberal media's job, if they want to help their party take back control of the government, is not to provide the Hillary Clintons of the world with a megaphone -- but to muffle her face with a pillow whenever she opens her big fat toxic wordhole.

March 10, 2018

GOP will sabotage Trump-Kim summit and trade war, as with all other unorthodox proposals; Real change only after Bernie revolution

Regardless of their approval or disapproval of the announced summit between Trump and Kim Jung Un, most observers are still lost in their fairyland view of politics being a war of contesting individuals, rather than of institutions. Ditto for their takes on the recent announcement of tariffs on steel and aluminum. See, for example, this take about his staff shake-up, and this take about Trump playing by his own rules.

In both cases, Trump the individual has "gone rogue" against most of the White House staff, especially those whose role is to preserve the status quo from the would-be re-aligner. But more important than irking the individuals who occupy these status-quo-preserving roles, Trump is threatening the material interests of the institutions on whose behalf these individuals are acting.

With the GOP in control of the government, that means the material sectors of society that are labor-intensive -- the military, manufacturers (not their workers), energy, and agriculture. The senior member of this GOP coalition is the military, whose distinct leverage in the struggle among elite factions is their control of the use of force -- directing where it goes, in what amount, and toward what ends.

Lacking any institutional support from his own party -- indeed, drawing their ire -- has made Trump largely unable to carry out the major reforms he was elected to do. This is unlike the proposals that are more of the same for the Reaganite party -- such as corporate tax cuts and putting conservative judges in the courts -- for which he suddenly receives overflowing support from his party.

Let's look at the prospects for the two recent unorthodox announcements on tariffs and North Korea, while remembering the track record the GOP institutions have had whenever Trump attempted a major change to the status quo (pulling out of Syria and Afghanistan, forcing NATO to pay 2% GDP, making South Korea pay for THAAD, leaving the social safety net alone, talking up single-payer healthcare, immediately restricting immigration, building a border wall, and so on and so forth).

Trump has been able to refrain from joining new entanglements that we were not already involved in, such as leaving the TPP and the Paris Climate Accords before we actually signed the papers. But not getting into further messes is not the same as pulling out of those that we are already in. And the two recent announcements involve messes we have already been in for decades -- de-industrializing our economy, and occupying the Korean peninsula.

First was the announcement of stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum, which were watered down in less than a week. Now there are exemptions for Mexico and Canada, who are among the largest exporters of steel into our country, and there will be two weeks for the other major exporters to get exemptions, on the basis of being friendly allies who don't pose a major threat to us.

That makes it likely that exemptions will be won for the EU, based on Germany and Italy being NATO allies with major US military bases, even though those two are also among the top exporters of steel. Likewise exemptions for major steel exporters Japan and South Korea, the latter having already asked for theirs after setting up the Trump-Kim summit.

Perhaps there will be tariffs on the metals coming directly from China, but not much comes from them that way -- they "transship" their steel to other countries, who then import it into the US. While every little bit helps, watering down Trump's initial announcement of "no exceptions" will largely preserve the status quo on de-industrialization of our economy.

Trump was able to make the announcement because one of the main globalist saboteurs had recently been fired (Staff Secretary Rob Porter), and because Trump was hopping mad and looking to lash out after Hope Hicks had gotten fired. The trade hawks Ross and Navarro struck while the iron was hot. They did succeed in getting an announcement made of a major trade action, but within a week, the lawyers and other institutional actors clawed back most of the substance, leaving it largely symbolic.

Even symbolic concessions are unacceptable to the GOP, though, as they have all come out vehemently against the watered-down version. They see it as the first trip down a slippery slope, at least rhetorically but also substantively.

The only institutional support Trump has received has been from labor unions and Democrat politicians -- from the rival party, in other words. Producers of the industrial commodities are happy, of course, but they are not squarely within one party's coalition or the other. They get screwed by the manufacturers of the GOP coalition, who insist on cheap materials for the things they make (leading them to seek cheap foreign steel), and they are not an informational sector that naturally fits into the Democrat coalition.

But since the informational sectors that make up the Democrat coalition are not directly threatened by higher material costs -- as most of them don't make anything -- they would be more welcoming of the industrial metal producers, if they could help pack an extra electoral wallop. With the Rust Belt looking iffy for the Democrats, the informational sectors will be required to recruit the industrial commodities producers to win back Ohio, Pennsylvania, and perhaps Indiana (the #1 steel state).

Reflecting the de-fanged nature of the tariffs scarcely one week after their announcement, the stock market has continued to shoot upwards. They sense there is no coming trade war. Even within steel stocks, although they rose several percentage points on the initial announcement, they tumbled by several points on Friday when it became clear that we would be granting one exemption after another to the major exporters.

They'll probably be somewhat up for the year, with at least some tariffs going into effect, but it is not the re-birth of the steel industry as it initially appeared -- and that is all thanks to sabotage from the GOP. Only by throwing in with the Democrat coalition that is insensitive to the cost of metals, will steel be re-born during the Bernie revolution.

The military link to the gutting of the steel industry cannot be overstated. The major steel exporters have so much money sloshing around to invest in their steel and manufacturing industries because Uncle Sam provides so much of those nations' military needs, operating at a giant loss to our nation (aside from the military itself, for whom perpetual global occupation is an endless massive gravy train).

This again points to the Democrats being the future saviors of industry, as the senior sector of the GOP coalition will never permit the withdrawal of forces from major steel producers Germany, Italy, South Korea, and Japan. That is the only way to suck money out of their industries (as they must pay for their own militaries), and re-allocate American money into industry (as we transfer it out of the military budget after exiting those countries). Democrats are not beholden to the military-industrial complex, so they're the only ones who can make withdrawal happen.

Now as for the proposed summit between Trump and Kim, we see the same disconnect between the president's individual announcement and the actual implementation by institutional forces in the aftermath. Media figures obsess too much over the theatrical part of government, and Lord knows Trump is the master at that stuff.

But the Pentagon is not just going to sit idly by while Trump agrees to meet Kim without pre-conditions. Indeed, not even 24 hours later, Press Secretary Sanders repeatedly said that the summit would only take place once there were concrete and verifiable steps taken by NK toward de-nuclearization. No country would take those steps before talks even began, so this is the Pentagon's veto of the whole summit.

As with the watered-down tariffs, maybe there will be some minor symbolic action (not a face-to-face meeting with Trump and Kim), but the military-industrial complex will not permit talks or negotiations to proceed without pre-conditions about denuclearizing. Their goal is to wipe out the North Korean government just like they did with Saddam Hussein or Qaddafi, despite promising not to destroy them if they just gave up their weapons of mass destruction. If Kim agrees to unilateral surrender, of course the Pentagon is not going to pass up that opportunity. But that is not happening, so the Pentagon remains dug-in.

To the extent that any progress is made toward peace on the peninsula, it will be led by the dove faction in South Korea, who now have control over the presidency. That has allowed rapprochement to take place between the North and the South, but there must be a similar dove faction in control of the American government for the whole process to succeed. That means a Democrat government during the upcoming Bernie revolution, perhaps guided by Tulsi Gabbard as Secretary of State or Defense. It may also require a dove faction in control of Japan, which they do not have right now.

By "dove" faction, all this means is one whose material interests do not benefit massively from US occupation of the Korean peninsula. The American producers of industrial commodities fit the bill -- their interests have become decimated by our military occupying SK, which has freed up SK's government to spend money on their steel industry and manufacturing without having to spend money on their own national defense. Without these subsidies, South Korean steel would be much more costly and less competitive against American steel.

It doesn't matter if steel executives and manufacturing workers don't drive to work singing, "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair." They will support withdrawal of our military from Asia purely in pursuit of their own material interests. Leaving our military over there provides a gigantic subsidy to foreign steel.

So, regardless of how Trump the individual feels -- or how Bernie Sanders, the individual, feels -- it is these institutional forces that will continue to shape our policies at home and abroad. We will not expect a major change regarding North Korea until a Bernie-style revolution takes over, probably during the next electoral cycle, bringing with it a mandate to make good on the promises of populism and de-globalization that sent Trump into office -- only this time, with the institutional support, or at least the absence of obstruction, for the governing coalition to deliver the goods.

March 7, 2018

Would you self-defend me? I'd self-defend me: The crypto-tranny appeal of gun-nut girl propaganda

One of the major changes that the NRA has made in their propaganda over the past few years is to feature women rather than men as the empowered subjects. They've also made some of them black women, but the change is strictly on gender rather than race, as they have not featured black or Hispanic men wielding guns -- probably not the image the NRA wants to associate itself with.

At first I wrote these ads off as typical cuckservative appropriation of liberal frameworks -- true female empowerment, true women's liberation requires owning guns, or else you're easy prey for the predatory men always roving around out there.

But in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, and the deluge of gun nut messaging that kicked in to prevent any talk about gun control, I've noticed that their "girl with a gun" message is something different. It is not aimed at women, but at men.

First, the typical spokeswoman is attractive and portrayed in a highly sexualized and almost fetishistic way -- not a pretty girl in common everyday clothing, or a Plain Jane. The eroticized portrayal clearly appeals to men rather than women.

Second, the guns are typically large rather than the supposed handgun that a woman might realistically carry on her for protection. That appeals to men, who get off on bigger guns.

Third, women rarely indulge in elaborate revenge fantasies about those who have harmed them -- or self-defense fantasies, which are a sub-class of revenge fantasies, where the person fantasizes about preventing the harm that the offender was trying to do to them.

And to the extent that women do think about these scenarios, it does not involve guns, let alone assault-style guns featured in the gun nut propaganda -- maybe poisoning, character assassination, or hiring a hitman if guns must be used. Women do not get that psychically invested in direct violent confrontation. That's men, especially those who get picked on or are easily intimidated.

Fourth, men are overwhelmingly the customers for guns, and therefore also for gun-related propaganda. They are more likely to live in a household where there's a gun (37% vs. 29% for women, during the 2010s), and are more likely to own the gun in households where there is one (84% vs. 34% for women). Data are from the General Social Survey.

The number of guns owned is a heavily skewed distribution, where a very heavily armed 3% of the population owns 50% of the guns, and most of the remainder of gun owners only have a few. We can be sure the heavily armed are men. So, manufacturers will be targeting men (a certain kind of heavily armed man) when they seek to sell the most products, and club operators will be targeting men when they seek to recruit heavily armed enthusiasts.

Thus, ad campaigns that feature eroticized attractive women carrying AR-15s who are fantasizing about getting revenge or preventing the bully from beating them up, belong not to the genre of "We can do it!" feminism, but to the genre of "butt-kicking babe" masturbation material, where the guy fantasizes about being an erotic girl who gets off on violence in a male-typical fashion.

I call this type of sexual deviance "latent transgender" or "crypto-tranny," and detailed the profile at length here and here. They are similar to the autogynephile types of trannies, who are heterosexual but who don't want to get physically involved with women -- either from awkwardness or total narcissism -- and who therefore view themselves as the object of their own lust, requiring them to take on both male and female sexual attributes. Unlike overt trannies who cross-dress, wear make-up, and otherwise try to "pass" as women, these crypto-trannies do not, even in secret.

The explosion of the crypto-tranny phenomenon has not been appreciated or discussed much at all. If its symptoms are noticed, the observer tends to write it off as a woman who the guy fantasizes about fucking, rather than a woman who the guy fantasizes about being -- and perhaps also fucking, in that autogynephile way of thinking. They aren't just looking for a tomboy who can hang with the guys, and who happens to be sexy -- they are looking to be that sexy tomboy themselves, and play with themselves.

These are the kinds of guys who unironically confess to fantasizing about "If I were a girl, I'd stay at home all day and play with my boobs in front of a mirror," while feeling aroused in their male sex organ. In their fantasy, they have both huge tits and a hard dick.

Here is a typical example of gun-nut girl propaganda, with NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch:

The eroticized rather than a no-nonsense portrayal of the woman speaks for itself, and the large gun gives her a masculine persona. But more than that, they clearly portray the gun as a dick -- it could not look more phallic in the upright position with the base at hip level, nor could the eroticized way that she's holding it.

"Hands off my gun" would be a sexual double-entendre for a man, not for a woman: "This is my rifle, this is my gun; this is for shooting, and this is for fun." It does not represent some kind of sex toy that she would use on herself, since she would be using the gun on someone else. Getting a thrill from spraying bullets out of the tip is clearly more like an ejaculating dick than a toy that women might use on themselves.

What could make better bait for crypto-trannies? How about being a woman who had not just one but two big dicks to stroke while staring at her large breasts in the mirror as she fantasized about violent revenge against bullies?

Or the favored fantasy of crypto-trannies that involves someone other than themselves -- girl-on-girl, where the guy does not project himself into the place of a stand-in male, but into one of two or more babes:

Earlier posts here and here examined the rise of female bloodsports and butt-kicking babe roles in movies as a kind of pornography for the crypto-trannies. Now we can add "gun nut girl" propaganda.

A recent post showed that gun nuts are libertarians rather than conservatives, so it's not surprising to see that they are more likely than the average person to have sexually deviant fantasies -- certainly more so than the average conservative. Libertarianism implies tolerance of all forms of deviance, as part of the larger laissez-faire prohibition on prohibitions.

Like, as long as no one else gets harmed or defrauded by it, then go on ahead and fantasize about being a long, dark-haired babe with big boobs, rocking a red dress and stiletto heels, fondling your big black gun as you anticipate the cathartic thrill of spraying a stream of bullets from its tip. Especially if it's to get back at those bullies who keep messing with you.

Gun nuts never fantasize about vigilantism in the service of a conservative cause in the sexual domain, like shutting down a pornography studio, a brothel, a strip club, a dirty magazine / movie vendor, a sex toy shop, or a gay nightclub. That would fit into their overall fantasy of filling the void left by an ineffectual law enforcement system, only standing in for the police's role as vice squad enforcers. But then libertarians do not recognize the legitimacy of vice laws, so what is there to stand in for, in their minds?

The last popular persona of a gun nut who became a vigilante for a conservative cause was Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, who shut down a brothel and freed an underage prostitute. He was disgusted by cross-dressers and other deviants he saw every night -- he did not share their fantasies about being a woman or anything weird like that. He just wanted to be the nice protector-and-provider male for the alluring girl-next-door Betsy.

That was right as the gun nut culture was emerging, though, in the later part of the 1970s, when the libertarian approach to politics (deregulation of laws, including gun laws) and morality (consenting adults) began to take over.

We will know that the zeitgeist is returning to the conservative morality of the Midcentury when NRA ads return to themes of being a responsible provider-and-protector male, with scenes of hunting, confronting burglars, and patrolling the neighborhood with a posse when bad guys are on the loose.

Degeneracy will still prevail as long as the ads convey themes of solipsistic masturbation as you imagine yourself to be a babe staring at her own boobs in the mirror while fondling your dick-gun.

GSS variables: owngun, rowngun, sex, year

March 6, 2018

Make them pay for their own militaries, and repudiate debt, if they escalate trade war (NATO, Japan, South Korea)

If the entire GOP-Koch apparatus is going to come out of the woodwork to subvert Trump's would-be trade war, then his only power is rhetorical. But that can still do a lot of good toward shifting us out of the Reaganite regime and into the Bernie regime.

Since he's already covered how much our working and middle classes are impoverished by free trade, which only benefits the very top of the class pyramid, the next major issue he should thrust into the national discussion is how our military is complicit in the de-industrialization program.

Wealthy countries like Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan, and South Korea do so much manufacturing and heavy industry, making themselves net exporters rather than importers. Their governments have so much money to invest in their own domestic industries because they do not have to spend the tons of money it takes to operate a national military.

Why not? Because the empire-seekers among the Pentagon brass are only too happy to provide the military power for these nations, operating at a gigantic monetary loss for America, in exchange for getting to brag about how many squares they occupy on the global chess board.

Ordinary Americans do not benefit from the Pentagon occupying more rather than fewer chess board squares -- otherwise we would've seen those benefits a long time ago. It's not like the Pentagon just started providing the military for Germany and Japan yesterday. That goes all the way back to the aftermath of WWII.

Partly this was to prevent the Axis powers from re-militarizing, and partly it was to push back against the Soviets via NATO. Both reasons have evaporated in the meantime, so we ought to pull out entirely.

The Pentagon does not use its occupation of these chess board squares in order to send valuable stuff back to America, like the old system of using force to raid the resources of other countries. They don't even charge rent to the host nations!

The Pentagon provides us with absolutely nothing in return for our funding their global occupation to the tune of trillions of dollars, which will eventually bankrupt the nation as all endless wars have done.

Thus, our fruitless globalist military occupation worsens not only our fiscal deficit -- spending so much on the Pentagon's overseas operations and getting no return on our investment -- but also our trade deficit, allowing those nations for whom we provide the military to re-allocate what should be their military budget into domestic industries, and then importing from them all the things that we forgo manufacturing ourselves. After wasting so much on military occupations, we have nothing left to invest in our industries.

This presents us with two powerful trump cards in dealing with these nations during a trade war.

First, when they retaliate against our initial tariffs, we will pull out our military, and they will have to shift tons of money from subsidizing their industries into providing their own military for a change. That will instantly shrink our trade deficit with them -- they will be manufacturing and exporting less, and we will be manufacturing and exporting more, after we re-allocate that part of our military budget into industrial investment.

And second, we can repudiate the massive debt that we owe them. It is no surprise that these nations are also among the largest holders of our national debt (along with China). They convert their trade surplus with us into buy orders for US treasury bonds, which are a form of a loan that we agree to pay back with interest in the future.

Because our national debt has grown to such unsustainable levels, at first due to military imperialism but now also due to bailing out the financial system for the past 10 years, we will not be able to pay back all of it to every nation that we owe money to.

The natural targets for not paying back the debt we owe are those countries who have benefited so much and for so long from our provision of their military needs. The only reason they could invest so much in manufacturing, sell those goods to us at such high surpluses, and then convert that into US treasuries -- owning so much of our debt -- is that we gave them a free military.

Repudiating the debt we owe them is simply collecting on the unpaid debt that they have been running up with us for decades, by enjoying the benefits of the US military providing their national defense, while not having to pay what it costs. It is a settling of debts owed between two parties, rather than unilateral default.

We will do that also for the massive debt we owe to OPEC nations, as the Gulf jihadist monarchies have enjoyed the use of our endless military spending, without having to pay for it.

The only large holder of our debt who we cannot economically destroy by withdrawing our military, as we do not provide their military, is China. That will be more of a straight-up economic war, although we are still left with plenty of reasons to consider repudiating (at least a big chunk of) the debt we owe them to be settling a debt that they actually owe us -- such as their ripping off of our intellectual property, counterfeiting, adulterating substances they send us (like infant formula), and so on and so forth.

Trump came back to these themes over and over during the campaign, but nothing has happened on them since he took office. As with tariffs, the reason is that he would be directly attacking the material interests of the elites in those sectors of society that control the GOP -- manufacturing owners, energy companies, mega-farm landowners, and the globalist branches of the military.

The GOP is not going to let one guy weaken the party's own elite sectors, just to benefit the working and middle classes in America. Why would they? Just because he won an election? What a quaint idea!

As with tariffs, Trump may be able to pull off some small change here or there -- maybe getting the NATO countries to pony up the 2% of their GDP that they promised to compensate Uncle Sam for providing most of the military budget. That is still not happening for the main beneficiaries like Germany.

Maybe instead of polite dialog to beg Germany to pay 2% of GDP toward NATO, Trump simply holds a press conference or roundtable discussion where he "announces his intention" to pull our military out of Germany, saving us an absolute fortune while not affecting our own national security one bit. Then pointing out how we will re-allocate that military spending toward industrial spending, while Germany must do the opposite -- then let's see what happens to those trade deficits!

Whether or not that goes through (unlikely with the GOP in full control of the government), it at least shifts the Overton window in the anti-imperial, pro-industrial direction. That will tee up the full shift in policy for the upcoming Bernie regime, whose party is not beholden to manufacturing owners seeking to cut the cost of materials and labor, oil companies looking to do business in the Middle East, or the Pentagon looking to preserve its pointless global footprint just cuz.

The Democrats are beholden to the finance sector, tech companies, and media, but these do not have such vested material interests in running massive endless trade deficits through free trade. They won't get harmed by high tariffs on materials since they don't manufacture anything, and they have no need to provide the military for wealthy nations.

At worst, Facebook, Hollywood, and Goldman Sachs do not get unrestrained access to China's market -- but most of that is already bound to happen anyway. And those sectors will still make boatloads of money purely from the American market.

In the larger project to de-globalize American society, we cannot lose sight of the crucial role that our military brass play in entangling us within the great big over-extended global system.

March 2, 2018

Trumpism's enemy is still GOP mainstream, not Never Trump fringe; Way forward is alliance with Bernie

As the partisan reactions to Trump's potential trade war reveal, it is not the Never Trump fringe but the mainstream Republican party that is still the most formidable obstacle to carrying out the agenda that he campaigned on.

The Never Trumpers feel the same way as the mainstream GOP on policy, they just refused to flatter and court Trump the man, or endorse Trump the persona, in order to get out of him what they all want on a policy level -- tax cuts, deregulation, and the rest of the zombie-Reagan agenda.

When it comes to policy that cuts directly against the Reaganite agenda, suddenly we find out that the GOP has not "become Trump's party" as we continuously hear -- not one iota. They all immediately came out to slam the proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, defending global elite investment and profiteering from cheap off-shored production rather than sticking up for the American working class.

We saw the same thing when Trump had his cabinet officials go out and say "We're not in the business of intervention anymore, so Assad's fate will be left up to the Syrian people". Just a few days later, the Pentagon vetoed that decision and plunged us into an indefinite occupation of yet another country in the Middle East, where we now have thousands of Americans, are amassing a private Kurdish army along the border of Turkey (a powerful nation and NATO ally who we may go to war against because of muh Kurdish freedom fighters), and provide air cover and propaganda for the jihadist militias that we were supposed to get out of bed with. Ditto for trying to get out at long last from Afghanistan.

And we saw the same pattern when the hardliners on immigration tried to use the GOP's unique opportunity to get through a real pro-American program to wind down legal immigration, deport illegals, all while throwing a major bone to the amnesty crowd by legalizing millions of DACA people. The GOP mainstream blocked even this weak solution -- you can imagine how outraged they would have been if the deal had been a moratorium on legal immigration, and amnesty for DACA people tied to deportations of non-DACA illegals.

These observations should temper the dismissive and triumphalist tone toward the Never Trump fringe, as in this column by Scott Greer at Daily Caller. Sure, the Never Trumpers per se have no mass support -- but then neither do most of the mainstream GOP-ers, and yet they're in power, controlling all three elected bodies of government, and running constant interference on the populist-nationalist agenda that won Trump the White House. The donors are the same way -- funding only the failed Reaganite policies that they've been funding for decades.

A party consists entirely in its politicians, its lobbyists, its party apparatus, its donors, and its sectors of society that use it as a vehicle to advance their material interests. Pundits and so-called influencers play little role, and since the Never Trumpers all come from this category, they are indeed ineffectual and irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

But the fact that the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce are still major institutional players, sending armies of lobbyists, who will manipulate legions of GOP puppets in government -- that's why the GOP is never going to give up its war on Trump's tariffs, or on his preferred non-interventionist military policy.

As such, there are zero candidates being fielded by the party who support steep tariffs and trade wars, de-scaling our wasteful and failing global military footprint, and sealing the borders and deporting illegals. There will be zero in 2020 as well, other than perhaps Trump himself. There is no way for Trumpian Republican voters to vote for more of what they wanted in his 2016 campaign.

Maybe the party structure will be successful in ending these tariffs early, or killing them before they're even signed (remember, yesterday was only an "announcement" of the president's intentions). Or maybe they'll last through the 2020 election, at which point the GOP as a party will see no more use for Trump and his fellow travelers -- they'll be grateful that they extracted a massive corporate tax cut out of him in 2017, but that's not worth what they would perceive to be an endless trade war that would erode the profit margins of the material sectors of the economy that control the party.

That's when an old-guard giant of the party like Romney -- or, in a pinch, Kasich -- comes along to dethrone Trump during the 2020 primaries. "While we applaud his approach to taxes, sadly these gains will be dashed to pieces by the wrecking ball of a trade war, and no party can allow such a self-inflicted act of destruction." This attempt may be unsuccessful, as it was for Ted Kennedy when he tried to unseat Carter in 1980, but it will be enough to severely wound the incumbent president during his re-election.

This is what happens at the end of a political regime (the disjunctive phase, in Skowronek's model). The would-be reformer from within the party is frustrated by so much institutional inertia, as Carter was in his attempt to undo the New Deal that his Democrat party initiated and had coasted on for decades. True reform will come from the opposition party, a la Reagan taking a sledgehammer to the New Deal for real (the reconstructive phase). The formerly dominant party will now only be able to push back marginally from within the new framework set by the newly dominant party (the preemptive phase, a la Bill Clinton being a slightly less Reaganite follower of Reaganism).

In the present, that means there will be so much institutional obstruction from Trump's own party that he will be largely unsuccessful at carrying out his agenda. Like Carter, who deregulated the transportation sector but not much else, he'll be able to get something done here or there on trade and re-industrialization -- but nothing widespread. And yet even this small amount of decisive breaking with the received wisdom will prove too offensive to the old guard that they will want him ousted. See again all the GOP reactions to just one set of tariffs, from every section of the GOP spectrum (aside from voters, of course, but they do not govern).

Rather, it is the Democrats who are the most happy and supportive of the potential trade war, whether politicians or organizations who belong to the party's coalition (like labor unions). This sets up the Democrats as the successor to the Trump agenda on trade and re-industrialization, obviously under the reconstruction of a Bernie Sanders type leader, not a multicultural Reaganite like Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi (one of the few Dems to vote in favor of NAFTA -- not even Wall Street puppet Chuck Schumer voted for that free trade deal).

The same goes for Trump's plan to disentangle the American military from so many of our occupations all over the world. That gets only minimal GOP support, from libertarians like Rand Paul or Mike Lee, and is much more aligned with the Democrats.

All that remains is taking an entirely class-based approach to restricting immigration and deporting illegals, and the Bernie reconstruction will take over every major element of the Trump campaign. And single-payer healthcare, which Trump has favored for a long time on both moral and cost-efficiency grounds.

Trump supporters who came from a populist-nationalist background should reconcile themselves to these historical patterns of regime change. It will be Bernie-style Democrats who carry out most of the Trump agenda for real. The Republican party will get another chance within those new boundaries as a "slight pushback" party, akin to Eisenhower and Nixon during the New Deal era of Democrat dominance. The Republicans in a Bernie era would be just like him on economics and politics writ large, but differing in some minor way that would let them win a victory in between Bernie and his same-party successors.

It is only on that far longer time-scale that the Republicans will win back power over the government, and rule in a populist-nationalist fashion. First the Bernie-style reconstruction will get three or more terms (as all reconstructive phases get), and then the descendants of Trump will fill in for a few terms.

That's 15-20 years down the road, though. In the meantime, the most important job is to break up the current moribund GOP coalition, and to strengthen the Bernie takeover of the Democrat party. Vote in the Democrats' primaries for populist candidates (there being none on the GOP side), and then in the general election as well.

Trumpian Republicans will never be able to govern on their own terms when the institutional structure forces them to be perpetrators of Reaganism, but only when they are the "slight pushback" party in a regime dominated by Bernie-style Democrats.

February 26, 2018

Trump calls for massive cheap-labor immigration; How Bernie can steal issue without making it about ethnicity

Last month Trump openly stated in an interview with the WSJ that only immigrants would be hired at the manufacturing plants that are "coming back" to America. An earlier post covered this announcement in the context of the Foxconn plant to be opened in Wisconsin, and a follow-up post discussed the case of Apple as well. These would be at least tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of jobs going to immigrants, and that's just getting started.

Foxconn already operates plants in the US, and they hire only a handful of Americans -- the vast majority are immigrants, whether those who are brought in legally on guest-worker visas by the company, or illegals who make themselves scare during the repeated raids on the plant by ICE. Apple is one of the largest exploiters of the H-1B visa system.

Trump defended the replacement of American workers with foreigners by siding with big business, saying "I don’t want to make it so tough that [companies] can’t come back in." What exactly would "make it so tough" for companies to come back in? Hiring Americans at American wages, rather than bringing in boatloads of immigrants who will undercut our wages and lower our standard of living.

This is the same BS appeal we always hear from GOP politicians and the manufacturing companies who control them -- our profits would go down if we had to raise wages and incomes for workers. That's absolutely true, as the two sides are locked in a class war, with owners trying to impoverish workers in order to enrich themselves. If Americans won't lower themselves to working for $5 an hour, then those ungrateful scum will just have to be replaced with foreigners from poor countries who will be only too eager to snatch up that $5 an hour job.

In case you thought that was a fluke statement during a single interview, Trump made the pro-cheap-labor immigration case even more forcefully during his remarks at CPAC last weekend. After describing the violent carnage that Muslim immigration leads to, he contrasts that to his ideal system, where relatively more peaceful immigrants take our jobs without also blowing us up:

We’ve got to change our way.  Merit system.  I want merit system.  Because you know what’s happening?  All of these companies are coming into our country.  They’re all coming into our country.  And when they come in, we need people that are going to work.  I’m telling you, we need workers now.  We need workers.  (Applause.)

He keeps saying that "we need people" at these new plants, and that those people absolutely cannot be Americans. It's not as though the labor force participation rate has been plummeting for years, continuing downward under Trump, with estimates that a large chunk of these displaced workers may never re-enter the labor force.

That's especially been true for those in the mid-skill level that used to make up the large middle class, who have seen the greatest hollowing-out thanks to corporate executives and managers giving these jobs to cheap foreigners, whether through off-shoring the plant or by giving them to immigrants in this country.

With record highs of prime working-age men out of the labor force, that ought to be the first place companies turn to when they're building new plants in this country. But those men won't work for $5 an hour, so the greedy corporations refuse to offer them the job, and give it to cheap immigrants instead.

The no-longer-populist president continues:

We have to have great people come into our — I want people to come into our country.  And I want people that are going to help us.  And I don’t want people that are going to come in and be accepting all of the gifts of our country for the next 50 years and contribute nothing.  I don’t want that, and you don’t want that.

I want people that are going to help and people that are going to work for Chrysler, who is now moving from Mexico into Michigan, and so many other — and Apple, by the way.  (Applause.)  And Foxconn up in Wisconsin.  They’re going to need 25,000 workers.  I want people that can come in, and get to work and work hard.  Even if it means a learning period — that’s fine.

But I want people that are going to come in and work.  And I want people that love us and look at security.  And they want you to be safe, and they want to be safe.  I want great people coming into this country.  I don’t want people coming in the way they do now, because I want people that contribute.

It's quite a rhetorical feat to get a Republican audience to applaud their own demographic replacement simply by rephrasing the hot-button term "immigrants" with the sterilized circumlocution "people that are going to come in".

And now we can add Chrysler to the list of companies guaranteed to shut out Americans and only hire cheap immigrants when they "come back," along with the already known cases of Foxconn and Apple.

That line about "a learning period" suggests that these immigrants may not even be already trained for the job, and must be trained here. That's one excuse the greedy managers use to not hire Americans who've been out of the labor force for awhile -- they don't have the necessary skills. So then train them, and do paid training. But if the point is profits over people, they would rather train unskilled workers who will end up costing them less in wages because they're cheap foreigners.

Trump has not only swallowed, but is now endlessly regurgitating the Chamber of Commerce talking point about cheap immigrants "contributing to our economy" by displacing American workers through undercutting their wages. Some contribution. But if the only goal is to prop up the concentrated wealth and power of corporations, then this is indeed just the contribution they've been looking for from immigration.

The only quibble Trump adds is that these hordes of immigrants should not be the type who will blow us up during our morning commute. Other than that, the borders are wide open, folks, and come on in to replace the American population by working for pennies on the dollar.

That means Trump plans to continue demographically replacing and impoverishing Americans with Chinese, Indians, and Mexicans, rather than the more violent types from El Salvador, Pakistan, and Uganda. That's all that's different in the "merit-based" systems of Australia and Canada.

It's bad enough that he's cucking for big business over the working class, but to also make it so pro-globalist and anti-American is even worse. He was elected to be a populist and nationalist, not a corporate globalist. (None of the recent GOP proposals would have reduced immigration until 10 years -- i.e., never, given all that would happen in the meantime.)

Those appeals may have drawn applause from the CPAC crowd, who are GOP partisans and members of Trump's personality cult, but they will fall on deaf ears in the white working-class Rust Belt households that flipped the election in his favor. He can kiss Michigan good-bye after saying that Chrysler is coming back, but oh by the way, only Mexican immigrants will be working there -- and living there, and sending their kids to school there!

Off-shoring may hollow out middle-class incomes, but the silver lining compared to cheap-labor immigration is that it keeps the foreign job thieves out of our country. Ramping up the guest-worker programs by orders of magnitude will not only continue the trend of falling real wages, it will jack up housing prices in America (unlike if the foreigners steal our jobs in their own country), and it will disrupt local schools and neighborhoods. Social trust will plummet even further with rising diversity (the Putnam Effect), and before long it will no longer be possible to Make America Great Again.

Conservative media is unsurprisingly failing to cover these developments in the labor-and-immigration nexus that was so central to Trump's upset victory. They don't care about the working class, and like phony culture warriors Ted Cruz and Mick Mulvaney, are happy to wave in hordes of immigrants on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and its demands for endless cheap foreign workers.

So far, aside from me, the only people starting to notice are the hardliners who won't stand for propping up the failed status quo for yet another GOP administration. Here's Mickey Kaus from the Left, which got re-tweeted by Ann Coulter from the Right:

Can the Bernie-style populists steal this issue from Trump? They're in a bind because they want to improve American workers' wages, but they also don't want to come off as "anti-immigration" in the cultural domain.

Their base is the white working class who only care about economic issues, not the identity politics of immigrants. And African-Americans don't care about foreigners either. Closing the borders would not affect African-Americans, the other base of the Democrat party, but rather the illegal Hispanics and Asians, who don't bother voting, and would-be immigrants who are not even in our country yet, let alone voting for Democrats.

The corporate Democrats can stuff as many Mexican and Chinese immigrants as they want to in the deep-blue immigrant havens of California and New Jersey -- and that wouldn't have changed a thing in the last election. There are no immigrants in the Rust Belt, since the job environment has been declining rather than rising. The Democrats need to win back the white working class and the disaffected African-Americans in the Midwest who don't want to see Democrats favoring foreigners over Americans.

Aside from the electoral base, the elite sectors of the economy that control the party do not rely on cheap labor like the sectors that control the GOP do. The Democrat sectors are informational and scale up easily without a similar rise in the size of their workforce. Republican sectors are material, and must pay for more man-hours in order to expand their operations, making them highly sensitive to the cost of labor.

Wall Street banks, Silicon Valley tech firms, and mass media monopolies will not suffer at all if the cost of labor goes up -- they hardly employ anyone as it is. They are already flirting with the idea of "universal basic income" in order to pacify the growingly discontent masses. But we don't want $500 a month -- we want $5,000 a month.

Rather than pay for that themselves, these Democrat sectors can force their rival sectors (manufacturing especially) to pay for it through wages going to Americans, once those good-paying manufacturing jobs are brought back to this country. The informational sectors can do this by using their Democrat party as the vehicle for raising tariffs and tightening labor markets via sealing off the immigration release valve.

Some bunch of elites are going to have to pay the costs of pacifying the populist rebellion -- the Democrats might as well get out in front of it, and throw all the costs onto the Republican sectors of the economy. Not only do they avoid becoming the target, they get praised by the mob as heroes and rescuers.

So in addition to raising tariffs, the solution for the Bernie reformers and revolutionaries is to call for a radical up-ending of the status quo on immigration, by demanding a moratorium -- but framing it entirely as a class and economics issue. They can avoid discussing the quality of immigrants, and the ethnic connotations that will raise, by treating it entirely as a matter of quantity, whereby this country is already overly stuffed in its labor and housing markets, to Dickensian levels of squalor.

"We wish no harm toward the would-be immigrants, but this country is already fuckin' full, and we already have so many Americans struggling just to make ends meet." That's the only way to square the circle on immigration without raising the topic of race and ethnicity. Give citizenship to the DACA people, but make the remaining illegals who came here willingly up for deportation.

In addition to not offending the identity politics voters, it will resonate with the labor and environmental voters, who have been tuning out the do-nothing Democrats for some time now. Both groups want to see the population stabilize or even shrink somewhat, in order to raise the standard of living for workers, and to alleviate the over-burdening of natural resources and ecosystems by today's mammoth population size.

As a concrete first step, the Bernie crowd should be demanding that any new plants that open in America should be staffed at least 95% by Americans, not guest workers. For companies that violate this pro-American stance, call for their tax breaks to be rescinded, for fines to be paid for perpetrating a fraud on the American public, and for all manner of tactics to gum up the works at the plant site -- protests, sit-ins, blocking traffic on the company road, and so on.

Lord knows the unorganized MAGA people won't be disrupting an immigrant-only workplace, especially if like Foxconn it has the official blessing of their leader. That would require organization, like a labor union picketing the site.

It would be the perfect way to get the message out that, "you thought the Republican party under Trump was going to 'bring back good jobs to America,' but they're still at it, giving them to cheap immigrant workers instead." It would accelerate the break-up of the GOP coalition in its zombie-Reagan form, and send large numbers of non-partisan Trump voters over to the Bernie side -- not temporarily, but permanently, given how futile the "re-alignment" of the GOP has proven to be.

Just as voters could not rely on a Democrat like Carter to undo his party's New Deal paradigm as promised, neither can voters rely on a Republican like Trump to undo his party's corporate globalist paradigm as promised. When it comes time for fundamental change, first the weary voters give one last chance to the party that started the whole mess, hoping for major change from within -- then when that inevitably fails from institutional inertia, they throw their weight behind the rival party, where the true transformation of a party takes place.

February 24, 2018

Curling, the egalitarian sport from hunter-gatherers of Northern Europe

Usually I find the Winter (and Summer) Olympics boring like most other sports, but over the past week curling has caught my attention. It seems more grounded in and derived from real-life activities, rather than sports whose goals are made up for their own sake (like baseball), while also being more complex and strategic than other naturalistic sports (like running and jumping).

It's like a team of hunters trying to take down a large prey. They're launching a projectile toward a stationary target, planning it out, acting slowly and from afar at first to get the element of surprise, then working more frantically and calling to each other to coordinate the hit when they're closer to the target. Sometimes they've got a clear open shot, other times there are environmental obstacles in the way that they have to either remove or go around.

After landing enough direct hits, they've brought down the target -- or they fail to land enough hits, have no more arrows left in their quiver, and feel disappointed at having to let such a large target escape.

It's not like other games where someone sends a projectile toward a target, since those tend to be individual efforts (like archery), or team efforts that involve a hierarchy, division of labor, and a central leader (like football). Those clearly derive from warfare -- especially when there are antagonistic teams facing off -- rather than a smaller-scale activity like a hunting party tracking and pursuing a large game animal.

The egalitarian nature of hunting is reflected in the other behaviors and conduct of the participants. Hunter-gatherers tend to be self-effacing rather than braggadocious, plain-looking rather than gaudy, and sacrificing for the team rather than self-centered. These traits are also found in large-scale agriculturalists, but farm hands tend to be more isolated despite being in close proximity to the other hands, more like an insect hive. Hunter-gatherers work directly and intimately with their teammates while up against a large animal, and have a more happy-go-lucky social attitude than the joyless drone attitude of farm hands.

So, too, in curling do we see the emphasis on good sportsmanship, not bragging or showing off, not pouting or raging when you mess up, congratulating the rival hunting party when they win, and conceding when there's no point in continuing (as though the prey had already gotten away, and you don't want to waste any more arrows shooting at nothing). The gold medalists from Team USA could not look and act any more like drab dads than the gaudy cads we see in other sports.

There's also a strong sense of honesty and not making the game so zero-sum against the other team. In warfare, it's either kill or be killed, and war-derived sports could not suffer any more from the lack of honesty and fair play. That's why the referees must always be present. And even then, there's still the incentive to cheat -- anything to keep from being the side that gets killed -- as with the endless fake injuries in soccer, or fake fouls in basketball.

In hunter-gatherer societies, the only other rival hunting party you might run into would still be from the local area, and would not be in such direct competition with you -- at least for very large game. When a party takes down an elephant, there is simply too much meat for only a few people to eat -- it feeds the entire band for awhile.

If it were a neighboring band who took down the mastodon, they would have more than enough left over to feed your own band as well. And vice versa if your band took down the mastodon, and the neighboring band looked hungry. Sharing when you've enjoyed good luck is risk management for hunter-gatherers, assuming other bands will reciprocate. Another reason for the teams to treat each other graciously as fellows rather than as hostile enemies.

The roots of curling in hunting also explain which groups of people do the best at it. In most of the world, hunter-gatherers were driven extinct by large-scale farmers, small-scale gardeners, or livestock herders -- all of which activities support a far larger population size than hunting and gathering, allowing them to overwhelm the hunters in number and take over the desirable land. That's why most of the world has no interest in the sport, let alone the knack to excel at it after practicing long enough.

One of the few places where there's still a good chunk of hunter-gatherer DNA is the northernmost latitudes of Europe, especially in Scandinavia but also around the North Sea like Scotland. The British Isles have a strong imprint of pastoralist culture and genes, too, because of the Celtic invaders from the mainland of Europe thousands of years ago.

But if you're looking for genetic signatures of the aboriginal hunter-gatherers of Europe, before the early farmers from the Near East began colonizing it, it's in the remote northern areas like Scotland and Sweden. You don't find it much among Slavs, who are a quite recent expansion from Southeastern Europe.

An earlier post touched on some aspects of these hunter-gatherer Europeans having a more egalitarian and trusting culture, which can get taken advantage of by groups who are not descended from hunter-gatherers and have a more zero-sum mindset and behavior toward out-groups.

Sure enough, curling was born in rural Scotland (where Great Britain's Olympic teams are from). From there it spread to Canada and America with settlers from northern Britain. And it's spread to the Scandinavians who also instantly click with egalitarian team sports. No surprise to find out that the winning American men's team is from northern Minnesota, with one teammate hailing from neighboring Wisconsin. Their surnames all point to Germanic or British roots.

Oddly for a cold-weather sport, Slavs are nowhere to be found, either within Europe or among Canadians and Americans. But that follows from them not being descended much from the ancestral hunter-gatherers of Europe (they began as roving pastoralists in SE Europe, then either settled into large-scale farming in the fertile Great European Plain, or remained pastoralists in the hardy climate of the Balkan Mountains). Russia might do better if they searched Siberia for descendants of NE Asian hunters.

Also oddly for such a northern population, on the medal podium for men's curling, hardly any of the athletes had blond hair. No one from Switzerland, no one from the Upper Midwestern US, and just two of the five Swedes. Only one blond on Team Denmark. The women's teams have plenty of blondes, though, so who knows what to make of it. For what it's worth, the ancestral hunter-gatherers were darker colored than the later blond-haired and light-skinned invaders of the north.

There's suddenly a bunch of speculation that the gold medal for America is going to cause the sport's popularity to explode here, but I doubt it'll get far outside of people descended from the North Sea lands. Even our Scots tend to be the more rambunctious and attention-seeking pastoralist type (like Trump), and not so much the severe self-effacing Calvinists who stayed back in Scotland.

Still, it'll at least garner more of an audience, since our founding stock does have a good chunk of that hunter-gatherer DNA, and we would be happy to finally discover sports that offer something other than ritualized warfare. There's still some form of aggression, and throwing projectiles to strike targets. But it feels like there's more of a practical point to it, aside from group A trying to exterminate group B.

February 23, 2018

Gun nuts are libertarian and embody liberal, not conservative, morality (harm prevention + fairness)

With its roots in the second half of the 1970s, and scoring one win after another beginning with the Reagan era, the gun nut movement does not fit with the timeline of socially and culturally conservative values -- that would be the Midcentury, whether under FDR or Eisenhower -- but rather with the timeline of libertarianism, whether under Reagan or Clinton.

The NRA did not begin its hardline lobbying efforts until the mid-'70s, which also saw the birth of the Gun Owners of America, an even more hardline group. For both organizations, the main goal is deregulation of gun laws, placing it squarely within the broader laissez-faire trend of the past 40 years.

Such groups are kindred spirits with other deregulatory organizations that represent business interests (here, firearms manufacturers), like the Chamber of Commerce, who have been mainstays of the Reaganite era that we are still in, and that have actually scored big under the regime. They are no more of an "activist" group than the CoC, and we gain nothing from emulating their model if we are not also a deregulatory lobby group.

Social-cultural conservatives have seen jack squat in results from Reagan's two terms, Bush Sr., two terms of Bush Jr., and now Trump. Take any top issue for the Moral Majority types that libertarians don't care about -- pornography, homosexuality, divorce and broken homes, drugs and alcohol, gambling, religion in public places -- and all they've received is lip service.

And it's not for lack of electoral commitment to the GOP -- they just don't fit in with the laissez-faire impulse behind the Reaganite revolution. In fact, conservative morality is defined by placing all sorts of regulations on individual and collective behavior in order to obtain a more harmonious state of being at a collective level, such as the community (a difference explored in this post).

The gun groups won't even dignify the candidates of conservatives with an endorsement. Indeed, the more hardline the gun group, the more libertarian they prefer their Republican candidates to be -- in the 2008 primaries, the GOA endorsed Ron Paul, not the social-cultural conservative Mike Huckabee.

To explore what moral themes the gun nut movement resonates with, we'll rely on Jonathan Haidt's model of five: harm prevention / provision of care, fairness / justice, deference to authority, in-group loyalty, and purity / taboo.

Liberals tend to resonate primarily with the themes of harm and fairness, and less so with the other three. Conservatives resonate with all of them, and are most distinct from liberals in resonating with the theme of purity / taboo. Libertarians, as it turns out, are even more liberal than liberals in their moral themes. It is not primarily about harm and fairness, but entirely about these two themes. Liberals are at least somewhat in agreement that certain things are immoral, despite being legal and practiced by consenting adults, like disgusting forms of pornography or buying and selling human organs on a market.

So what are the gun nuts' main concerns?

First, bearing arms in order to practice self-defense from harm and destruction, whether of one's body or property. Preventing the harm of others also enters into the mindset, although theirs is mostly an individual-level focus -- showing down mano-a-mano with a bad guy who would do the gun-owner harm in a situation where the gun-owner is alone, or at least with no companions to have his back.

And second, doing so in order to re-balance the cosmic scales of justice, which have been thrown outta-whack by the bad guy. The gun nuts don't imagine drawing their weapon on someone who doesn't deserve it, but on someone who has already violated the law. They are also quick to emphasize that guns are the great equalizers, leveling the playing field between a skinny introvert like Bernie Goetz and a pack of beasts who try to prey on him on the subway.

This shows that their concerns are urban and suburban forms of violent crime, not the kind that rural residents face where there literally is no government nearby to protect them.

There's no relation to the theme of preserving purity from corruption, or upholding taboos, which makes it feel not distinctly conservative.

They do try to relate it to the sacred by linking it to the Second Amendment, and viewing the Constitution as a sacred text. But carrying and wielding a firearm is not done in service of preserving something sacred from being defiled -- as though they drew their weapon to stop a bad guy who was defecating on a copy of the Constitution or burning the American flag (the secular sacred), let alone to defend something that is religiously sacred like the Christian cross.

It's conceivable that the gun nuts could mobilize to defend Us against Them (in-group loyalty), but they do not behave that way, and do not have that in mind. Look at the hordes of immigrants pouring in -- no call to arms from the NRA, whether to collectively defend against invaders generally or, say, radical Muslims specifically.

At best, the Minutemen might organize to defend the border against illegal immigrants, but again that only has to do with fairness and justice -- mass immigration is permissible, as long as it's done legally. If mass immigration is to be challenged, they think it should be done by peacefully lobbying Congress rather than taking up arms in collective defense.

And the gun nut movement flies in the face of the theme of respecting and deferring to authority. It is explicitly about assuming an authority unto oneself, rather than delegating it to the usual authorities. If the authority figure insisted on its prerogative to use force to defend against harm and destruction, at the expense of the individual gun-owner doing so, the gun nut would escalate this into a turf war over who has the say-so, rather than deferring.

Indeed, the gun nut has a low view of authority figures, who are either too inept, too ignorant, or too callous to properly protect people from harm and property from destruction. In the nut's view, the authorities have too many protocols and regulations (imposed by that hidebound District Attorney), and too rigid of a chain-of-command structure (imposed by that out-of-touch desk jockey Chief of Police). The nut imagines liberating himself from these constraints by carrying a weapon himself, and following intuitive guidelines instead.

No one should overlook how anti-Establishment and anti-authoritarian the tough-on-crime movies of the 1970s and '80s were felt to be by contemporary audiences, whether the protagonist was an insider railing against the system like Dirty Harry or an outright vigilante as in Death Wish. The governmental authority structure was too unreliable for whatever combination of causes, and had to be substituted by a private citizen's use of force to prevent harm. Nor were they group-oriented -- it was not an organization of fellow citizens banding together as a para-police force, but a lone wolf defending himself or opening fire on behalf of others.

These movies reflected rather than shaped popular opinion of the time, but they're useful to study since they're so well preserved, unlike the opinions of real-life ordinary people.

It is this kind of vigilante fantasy that all Boomers share as a reference point for how to prevent crime, including the president (all the more so in his case, being so immersed in the media/entertainment world).

Even the Boomers who are against vigilantism assume that that's the only real option being discussed (it is), and spend their time arguing against vigilantism and by extension the whole gun nut movement associated with it, including arguing against gun rights broadly (Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC). It's not that the anti-gun Boomers are as deferential toward authority as conservatives are, they're just more confident in the government than are their libertarian peers. Thus with no conservatives among them, the Boomers argue between liberals and libertarians -- on this and all other issues.

We really need to hear a sober, reflective, cogent view on the role of guns in society from a social-cultural conservative who has communitarian rather than libertarian leanings. Look to Gen X for these voices.

In the meantime, here are three earlier posts with variations on the general theme of this one:

First, the myth of "Christian terrorism," which suggests a link to social-cultural conservatives, when right-wing violence actually comes from libertarian types who reveal a secular liberal morality, lack of church attendance or other religious practice, and a suspicion and antipathy toward authority and government.

That includes some school shooters, who are described as conservative despite abundant evidence of being libertarian and hostile to conservative values. Perhaps this is why the gun nuts get all the more defensive after a school shooting -- the killer's beliefs are more akin to their own, only acting out of a vindictive sense of justice (settling scores) rather than in self-defense.

Second, the pro-life movement as just another form of victimhood feminism (mother = victim, abortion doctor = criminal). It focuses on the liberal morality of preventing harm -- i.e., advancing the argument that abortion is murder. Ironically, this turns the debate away from morality, as everyone agrees that murder is wrong, and makes it a scientific debate about when "life" begins. A conservative view would focus on the warping of a natural process -- terminating a pregnancy -- and resonate with the theme of preserving what is natural over what is artificial (purity).

Third, prepping for cataclysms and neglecting ordinary emergencies. The gun nuts focus more on zombie apocalypse scenarios, causing them to neglect the kinds of problems that the typical conservadad has to show stewardship over at the home, office, and neighborhood.

As we shift out of the Reagan regime, first under the attempted but failed re-alignment of the GOP under Trump, and then by the Bernie sympathizers, we will adopt a new morality that focuses on the re-regulation of social life -- whether that's the economy or personal behavior. Remember, the Progressive Era was coincident with the Temperance movement.

Bernie is not a degenerate libertine like Bill Clinton, or Hillary for that matter, and his Millennial supporters want to be free of crushing student loan debt so that they can get married and start a family like normal people -- not so they can waste their newfound income on strippers and skipping out on child support payments like the Boomers. And Tulsi Gabbard could not be a more wholesome role model unless we saw her knitting slouchy beanies in between catching waves.

The late Gen X-ers and Millennials have lived through just about enough chaos and anarchy, from their vulnerable formative years up to the present, and they wouldn't mind a return to regulated life, to finally enjoy the normalcy like the ungrateful Boomers grew up under during the Wonder Years.

February 21, 2018

Mass murder and anti-social norms in rootless places

A striking fact about the deadliest mass shootings is their geographic distribution, lying mostly in areas that are heavily colonized by transplants, rather than in places with deep historical roots and communities.

This tends to be a fractal phenomenon -- at the regional level, they're most likely in the Sun Belt, but even within such states, they're from newly founded suburban enclaves (ironically intended to be "safe" unlike the dangerous old towns and cities nearby), and often the killer's family and perhaps the killer himself are transplants (including immigrants or sons of immigrants).

They are unlikely to happen in deeply rooted places like upstate New York (unless it's an immigrant like the Binghamton shooter), or Ohio. If there's a spree shooter from northeastern Ohio or western Pennsylvania, he'll end up killing people in a transplant area like the San Ysidro McDonald's shooter. For that matter, cult leader and mass murderer Jim Jones was from Indiana but picked up the most followers once he moved out to San Francisco, and then really lost it when he moved them all down to Guyana.

Rootless places attract people guided by a laissez-faire approach to behavior, who don't mind throwing away the constraints of living in a place where traditions are strong, family ties are extensive, and even strangers know each other. Perhaps that's the exact reason they're fleeing a rooted place -- so they can just live their own lives without being bound to others.

As a place comes to be colonized more and more by such people, normlessness becomes the norm. Do whatever, say whatever, think whatever. Fuck the haters. If it feels good, do it. If you got it, flaunt it.

The residents may think this low-lying level of anti-sociality is no big deal. They're being true to their individual selves, and at worst it produces bratty and entitled children. Nothing devastating, certainly not worth going back to the rooted environment with all of its constraints on individual behavior.

But it's precisely this code of "do whatever" that allows the small handful of truly warped individuals to carry out their warped fantasies. Typically these are revenge fantasies (rape or murder), as the social reject killer has no other ties to sustain him, and seeks to lash out at those who have rejected him. He has no extended family, no neighbors, no other communal links that would keep him calmed down despite being a loner at school.

Once he stews in those revenge fantasies long enough, what constraints are there to hold him back from carrying them out? He lives in a world of his own, with no palpable policing presence.

Although such cases may be rare, their impact is catastrophic when they do hit -- there could be dozens of innocent people brutally murdered for no reason in a public spectacle. In addition to the immediate loss of life, there's the permanent scar left on the area. It is exactly these rare-yet-catastrophic cases that social norms are supposed to protect against. They may feel annoying sometimes when you want to do your own thing, but they're there for the greater good of preserving the community, like a form of insurance.

These kinds of spree murders have become more common as more people have dislocated themselves and their families in pursuit of higher career prospects. It's generally not dirt-poor people reluctantly moving to the nearest city after the good jobs vanished in rural areas. It's middle class people moving from Nowheresville to an up-and-coming "it" place. This is what makes the shootings so counter-intuitive to most observers -- they happen in middle-class enclaves with good schools and promising children.

The status-striving trend began with the Me Generation of the 1970s, and has only gotten worse since then. So has the concomitant moral code of laissez-faire, which most middle-class people probably assume is written into the Constitution or the Bible at this point.

Only when we reverse this trend by staying put where our roots are, and accepting the duties and constraints that this places on our behavior, will these kinds of warped revenge fantasies no longer be thought of, let alone acted upon. The moral code will change from "do whatever" to "rein it in for the greater good".

That will mean denying yourself the attempt to climb the status ladder by moving around all over the place -- but by now that's mostly a fool's game anyway, all of the good spots having been taken and held onto for awhile. If a handful of people do this, it may not wreck society, but if enough people uproot themselves, then the entire society gets destabilized -- behaviorally and morally.

To put it bluntly, we do not have the right to "do whatever" as long as it doesn't immediately harm others. Acting as though we did have that right leads to patterns of behavior that, after a sufficient percolating delay, cause far more destruction to ourselves and others than we imagined was possible.

There's a contradiction in the liberal approach to these problems, where they hold the role of the government to be regulating the society to be safe for libertinism -- to allow law-abiding individuals to indulge in as much atomized laissez-faire behavior as they feel like. Allowing AR-15s to be sold to teenagers conflicts with the safety of the do-whatever enclave, who may become targets and have to watch their back rather than go about their do-whatever-ism. So they want that practice regulated out of existence.

But you can't push for tough regulations on other people's behavior without accepting more regulations on your own personal behavior. Pointing to potential "harm" done by the other person is no good, since your own laissez-faire behavior is corroding and destroying others, just not in as concentrated of a way. It's long-term and diffuse, but no less offensive to social norms.

And of course the ultimate form of regulation comes from feeling social pressure, whether from extended family, neighbors, peers you've known your whole lives, and so on. Accepting tougher regulations on your own behavior means accepting the plan to stay put where your roots are, rather than wander toward anonymous crowd-places like some Gypsy thief.

February 20, 2018

New major party would replace Dems and shut out zombie GOP, if last time is guide

In looking forward to the final years of a viable Republican party, after the failure of the would-be re-aligner Trump to transform a hated globalist elitist party into a populist nationalist party, we can clearly see the Bernie style candidates sweeping into office in order to do populism for real, and likely doing a lot on the anti-globalist front as well (at least, getting out of de-industrializing trade deals, and winding down so much of our fruitless global military occupation).*

But would this mean a rehabilitation of the Democrats as a party, or perhaps the birth of a new major party that displaces one of the old ones? Bernie has been an Independent, albeit one who caucuses with the Dems, and whose initial core of voters would be more sympathetic to the Dems than the GOP.

Two major changes coming up suggest it might actually become a new major party that displaces one of the existing major parties.

The first is generational turnover. Those born after the 1970s (roughly, the Millennials) have the highest rates of affiliating as Independents rather than Democrats or Republicans, and have the highest desire for a new party to emerge. This is a true generational cohort effect, as it remains true no matter how old they are when you poll them -- the same holds for the Boomers being the most stridently partisan, which holds no matter at what age you poll them. (Data from the General Social Survey.)

Do they want a permanent third party of roughly equal influence to the other two existing ones? Or do they have in mind a new party to replace one of the existing ones altogether? If that's what they're thinking, then it would be the Democrats that they'd be targeting. They are more frustrated Democrats than frustrated Republicans, so they're looking for something that's definitely anti-Republican, but that doesn't suck so pathetically as the Democrat party does.

The second is that we're in an era of partisan polarization that has only been this high during the lead-up to the Civil War (see Peter Turchin's Ages of Discord). Separately, there are 50-year cycles in collective violence (such as riots), with a peak coming circa 2020. That certainly sets the stage for something similar to the Civil War, rather than any old changing of regimes. The transition out of Reaganism and into Bernie-ism will be far more disruptive and violent than the transition out of the New Deal and into Reaganism.

With that intense level of regime change, it could result in a whole new party that triumphs over the old dominant party, in the same way that the Republican party was born during the Civil War era, taking the place of the earlier Whig party as the opposition to the Jacksonian Democrats.

If the historical analogy holds up this time -- and admittedly we only have one previous time period to examine -- the old dominant party will be the Reaganite Republicans, who will continue to formally exist but who will get shut out of power for several decades as the triumphant post-Civil War 2.0 party lays a whole new foundation. The new dominant party will come out of the old opposition to the Reaganites, namely the Democrats, and will replace them as a new second party. Call it the Populist party.

It's not that hard to imagine, given that Bernie or someone like him is the only viable candidate in the next elections to oppose the Reaganites. Since he's not really a partisan Democrat, that would replace the Dems at the presidential level. And Lord knows the Dems have already shut themselves out at the state and local level during Obama's two terms.

That would only leave the Congressional Dems to re-affiliate with the new Populist party -- and if they want to win back Congressional seats that they've lost, they might as well re-brand as an entirely new party, to make sure the stink of Pelosi and Schumer never gets stuck to them in the first place. If they want to pick up more seats in the South, or the Rust Belt, a Populist party would stand a far greater chance at unseating Republicans than the Democrats would.

It still could happen that the regime change will be a re-alignment and triumph of the Democrats, but I think the context being something akin to the Civil War will make people feel more like a revolution -- a word Bernie and his followers are fond of in their branding. Making a decisive break with the polarized past -- not just the old dominant party, but the milquetoast opposition that squandered its chance to rein in that dominant party.

Sometimes the can that the weak opposition kicked down the road is something banal like marginal tax rates or cultural values, and they can be forgiven for punting. But when they punted on something that can shred the societal fabric to the point of civil war, like corporate elitism and globalization, the old opposition will look so irresponsible that they cannot be trusted to lead the way out of the carnage.

Here's to hoping that I get to keep Democrat blood off of my hands and only cast presidential votes for Nader '00, Trump '16, and an Independent / Populist Bernie ticket in 2020.

* Contra libertarian-leaning folks like Peter Schiff, who also see this happening, I think the Bernie politicians would make major cuts to federal government spending -- like not inflating multi-trillion-dollar finance bubbles to benefit Wall Street and Silicon Valley or military bubbles to benefit the Pentagon and the CIA. The Bernie people's forerunners were the New Deal Democrats, and they did not balloon the debt, let alone term after term. They were not permanently at war, there were no too-big-to-fail banks to bail out, and taxes were a lot higher.

February 16, 2018

Deal: assault weapon ban for closed borders? Or other paired deals?

With yet another round of nauseating sanctimony about gun control following another spree shooting, it's time to make liberals put up or shut up on what they claim is the most pressing issue of our time.

They know there will never be a standalone gun control law because the climate is too polarized, with zealous extremists on each side who either want to ban all guns or deregulate the gun market entirely, and that the deregulatory side is more zealous than the ban-it-all side. So the gun-favoring status quo remains.

We just saw the same failure to pass "commonsense bipartisan" deals on immigration, as the open borders extreme is more well funded and zealous, including most Republican politicians, compared to the side that wants to deport illegals and close the borders. So the immigrant-favoring status quo remains.

Well then, what if the side that wants to up-end the Reaganite status quo on each of these issues cut a deal with each other? It would not be a grand compromise on a single issue -- that's impossible in a hyper-polarized climate -- but a compromise on a pair of issues, with each side of the polarized spectrum gaining something big while giving up something big in exchange.

If it's really the most dear-to-your-heart policy to ban assault weapons, then you ought to be prepared to give up something that is just as dear-to-your-heart that the other side wants dearly.

This process could get hairy if too many issues were included in a single bill, as each side would squabble about how much each component was worth. There is nothing objectively quantitative to argue about -- it's either a subjectively big issue or it isn't, and something big is worth trading for something big.

So if the point were to include as many issues as possible, they should be split up into a series of bills. Too many issues in a single bill gives partisans too many distinct reasons to hate it, and it's all or nothing, so the outcome would probably be nothing.

If gun control advocates aren't prepared to give up anything of real value to the other side, then they reveal themselves to just be full of shit, pretending that it's the most serious and tearjerking cause of our time while being unwilling to pay a red cent to solve it.

Ditto for those who think America is already over-crowded in its labor and housing markets, and wants more or less zero immigration. If it's that important, they should be willing to give up something important too.

You'd think they'd get their way after electing the most hardline immigration candidate to the presidency we've seen in a long while, but evidently that's not how it works, and some kind of compromise ought to be struck -- but on a separate issue, not a watered-down immigration bill, which wouldn't pass even in weak form due to Democrat partisans not getting enough.

The immigration restriction side is more than rational and willing enough to compromise, as shown by this wheel-and-deal proposal from Ann Coulter way back at the early stage of Trump's campaign:

One side is dead serious about getting its way, and holds very little sacred in relationship to it. Abortion on demand? Ban assault weapons? Cover Reagan's official White House portrait in the gay rainbow flag? Conditional on deporting the illegals (maybe excepting the DACA enrollees) and closing the borders -- you've got yourself a deal. If a future government opens the borders and refuses to deport illegals, then abortion becomes illegal, assault weapons become available at CVS, and Obama's official WH portrait gets a giant red MAGA hat painted onto it.

The liberal side had better cut deals while it still has control over the Democrat party, since disillusionment with the GOP among Trumpian populists is about to send a whole shitload of moderates and conservatives over to the Bernie party and begin influencing that party for a change, making it far less beholden to liberal causes.

At that point it'll be the Democrats who start feeling as much heat from their angry new voters that those voters used to direct at gun-squishy Republicans.

I think the Democrats still believe that pursuing a "fifty state strategy" to recover the more than 1,000 offices they've lost since Obama, means they're going to impose their liberal extremist views on their newfound voters -- rather than having to cut deals with immigration restrictionist Alabamians after a Democrat wins a Senate seat there, for example.

But again, I don't see that taking the form of presenting middle-of-the-road positions on every issue, a la the failed neoliberal approach to win over red and purple states. They'll have to do what Trump and Bernie did -- give them a big unequivocal win on X, while asking for an unequivocal concession on Y. The middle-way pragmatic approach leaves everybody unsatisfied across all issues, while the trade-and-barter pragmatic approach leaves everybody satisfied on at least half the issues.

Ending back on the topic of gun control, I only trust Bernie type Democrats to pull this off. See his positions on the issue. He's at least trying to find a compromise with both sides on the issue, rather than doing the neoliberal culture war schtick of inflaming the emotionally retarded cable news junkies with phony heroism in order to distract them from the reality that they're just shilling for Wall Street banks and Silicon Valley digital slave plantations.

Certainly Stephen Miller should be willing to strike a bargain like that. If we got enough conservative media figures like Ann Coulter or Lou Dobbs to sign onto it, it would satisfy both the immigration restriction side as well as the gun-grabbing side. That would be a real sacrifice on their part in order to get something that their side really wants. And likewise for Bernie and others who want to make the Democrats more competitive around the country again.

Lord knows Trump would eat up the opportunity to sign a grand bargain that solved two of the major issues of our time, in the eyes of otherwise polarized camps of people.

The Democrats have never faced a Republican electorate and a Republican president who held so few things sacred from the Reaganite orthodoxy. They'd better strike while the iron is hot, or they'll get nothing once we storm their party's primaries in the wake of disillusionment with the GOP, and become a dug-in zealous voting bloc of closed-border Democrats.