Author Topic: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces  (Read 656241 times)


ccp

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Kunstler
« Reply #1853 on: December 08, 2019, 11:07:54 AM »
"I’ve said often that I remain a registered Democrat despite the fact that I’m at odds with the current disposition of the party. But the political Left has always been kind of a vehicle for the thinking classes in America and yet the thinking classes appear to have lost their minds – and done so worse than any other group in America."

Very interesting to read

As probably most I only know Kunstler as a liberal defense lawyer
so his thought discussions are quit surprising to me .
Unfortunately he remains a Democrat despite agreeing the party is totally nuts .
I didn't read all of the posts but I would ask him , why not Republican - he noted the Republican Party is so hollow a clown like Trump could take it over .  Ok, so what would give the Republican Party some beef so to speak that would attract him to it?

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
« Reply #1854 on: December 08, 2019, 02:27:06 PM »
If I am not mistaken, that was a different Kuntstler.

DougMacG

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Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
« Reply #1855 on: December 08, 2019, 07:39:13 PM »
Different Kuntstler.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kunstler

I saw Wm. Kuntsler speak one time about the Wounded Knee trial.

ccp

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James much more savvy then William
« Reply #1856 on: December 09, 2019, 05:04:51 AM »
*different* Kunstler

Thanks for clarifying that .  I made the mistake of assuming.

The other Kunstler (William), the one I remember , has got to be die heart Democrat to the death.
He is more the SPLC type.



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Nick Freitas
« Reply #1857 on: December 09, 2019, 11:09:10 AM »

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Noonan: The Post Heroic Presidency
« Reply #1862 on: December 27, 2019, 12:47:10 PM »
There's quite a bit that Peggy does not get about Trump IMHO, but there is substance here as well.

The Century of the Postheroic Presidency
Bill Clinton started the trend. By 2016 voters had given up on high standards in the White House.

By Peggy Noonan
Dec. 26, 2019 6:56 pm ET


When we think about current history we tend to be expecting or predicting something as opposed to experiencing something. But what we need to understand now is that the 21st century isn’t new. It still feels new, but it isn’t. We are entering its third decade. We have been waiting for the century to take its shape and fully become itself, but it’s already doing that.

The 20th century was shaped by the events of 1914-19, the Great War and Versailles. The past two decades have been shaping the 21st.

If we limit ourselves to domestic politics it’s been a time of big change with big implications.

Both parties have been overthrowing the elites and establishments that reigned for at least half a century. In doing so, both parties are changing their essential natures. In both cases the rebellion is driven largely by a bottom-line bitterness: You didn’t care about us, and now you will be gone.

Among Democrats it is the rising left, the progressives, kicking away from the old Clintonian moderates, from old party ways and identifications. They hate Clintonism almost more than they hate conservatism. And they are hated back. In a recent conversation with a politician who was a high official in the Clinton administration, I asked: When you go talk to progressives about your differences, how does that conversation go? “I don’t speak to them,” he shot back. The new New Left—we have to find a better name—is closer to socialism or proudly socialistic. What they feel for the old party establishment: “Thanks for standing up for the little guy while your trade deals made you and your friends rich.” “Thanks for creating a tax system in which you guys become billionaires while everyone else sank.”

The left-wing millennials will rise because the young always do. It’s tempting to compare the rise of the left in the party now with the 1970s and the rise of the old New Left. Boomer leftists then were mad at America over the war, and some of them had read Marx for the first time. But they loved America, and they went on to show that love as the workhorses they were—the first to put the lights on in the office or the institution in the morning, the last to put them off at night.

The rising millennial left seems to love high abstractions—economic justice, global movements for change. But they weren’t raised in a patriotic age, they weren’t taught what in America is admirable, even noble. Do they love America? Do they love this thing we have and are part of in the same, moist-eyed way Americans have in the past? It’s unclear. But if they don’t, when they triumph we’re in trouble.

On the Republican side the rise of Donald Trump revealed the new party to itself. It is a big-government, antiwar, populist party that is conservative-leaning in its social policy. Any card-carrying Trump supporter will immediately say, after lauding the economy, that he has delivered on the courts and has aligned his administration, for all his personal New Yorkiness and indifference to social issues, with those who think conservatively.

Republicans in 2016 were to the right of party leaders, elders and professionals on essential issues—immigration, political correctness, the LGBTQ regime and the arguments it spurred in the town council about bathroom policies, and in schools over such questions as, “Are we still allowed in sports to have a girls team composed of biological girls and a boy’s team composed of biological boys? Will we be sued?”

They knew that on these questions and others the party’s establishments didn’t really care about their views or share them.

When Republicans rebel against the status quo, it’s a powerful thing. They produced in their 2016 rebellion something new: They changed the nature of the presidency itself. The pushing back against elites entailed a pushing against standards. It’s always possible a coming presidential election will look like a snap-back to the old days, a senator versus a governor, one experienced political professional against another. But we will never really go back to the old days. Anyone can become president now, anyone big and colorful and in line with prevailing public sentiment.

We have entered the age of the postheroic presidency. Certain low ways are forgiven, certain rough ways now established. Americans once asked a lot of their presidents. They had to be people not only of high competence and solid, sober backgrounds, but high character. In modern presidencies you can trace a line from, say, Harry S. Truman, who had it in abundance, to Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, who also did.

But the heroic conception of the presidency is over. Bill Clinton and his embarrassments damaged it. Two unwon wars and the great recession killed it. “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” buried it. When you deliberately lie like that, you are declaring you have no respect for the people. And the people noticed.

They would like to have someone admirable in the job, someone whose virtues move them, but they’ve decided it’s not necessary. They think: Just keep the economy growing, don’t start any new wars, and push back against the social-issues maximalists if you can.

In the last cycle we spoke of shy Trump voters—those who didn’t want to get in an argument over supporting him. I suspect this cycle we’ll call them closeted Trump voters—those who don’t want to be associated with the postheroic moment, who disapprove of it, but see no realistic alternative.

In time we’ll see you lose something when you go postheroic. Colorful characters will make things more divided, not less. They’ll entertain but not ennoble. And the world will think less of us—America has become a clownish, unserious country with clownish, unserious leaders—which will have an impact on our ability to influence events.

I close with another entity of American life that should be worried about seeming like it doesn’t care about its own country. It is what used to be called big business.

America has always been in love with the idea of success. It’s rewarded the creation of wealth, made household saints of the richest men in the world. We were proud they lived here.

But big business, especially big tech executives and bankers, should be thinking: In this century they’re coming at you left and right.

The left used to say, “You didn’t build that,” while the right said, “You did.” But now there’s a convergence, with both sides starting to think: This country made you. It made the roads you traveled; it made the expensive peace in which your imagination flourished; it created the whole world of arrangements that let you become rich.

You owe us something for that. You owe us your loyalty. And if you allow us to discern—and in this century you have been busy allowing us!—that you do not really care about America, that your first loyalty isn’t to us but to “the world” or “global markets,” then we will come down on you hard.

It isn’t only parties that can be broken up in this century, the one that isn’t coming but is here.

G M

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Re: Noonan: The Post Heroic Presidency
« Reply #1863 on: December 27, 2019, 05:32:09 PM »
The America we were born in is dead.

Now it's just a matter of salvaging what we can from what is left.



There's quite a bit that Peggy does not get about Trump IMHO, but there is substance here as well.

The Century of the Postheroic Presidency
Bill Clinton started the trend. By 2016 voters had given up on high standards in the White House.

By Peggy Noonan
Dec. 26, 2019 6:56 pm ET


When we think about current history we tend to be expecting or predicting something as opposed to experiencing something. But what we need to understand now is that the 21st century isn’t new. It still feels new, but it isn’t. We are entering its third decade. We have been waiting for the century to take its shape and fully become itself, but it’s already doing that.

The 20th century was shaped by the events of 1914-19, the Great War and Versailles. The past two decades have been shaping the 21st.

If we limit ourselves to domestic politics it’s been a time of big change with big implications.

Both parties have been overthrowing the elites and establishments that reigned for at least half a century. In doing so, both parties are changing their essential natures. In both cases the rebellion is driven largely by a bottom-line bitterness: You didn’t care about us, and now you will be gone.

Among Democrats it is the rising left, the progressives, kicking away from the old Clintonian moderates, from old party ways and identifications. They hate Clintonism almost more than they hate conservatism. And they are hated back. In a recent conversation with a politician who was a high official in the Clinton administration, I asked: When you go talk to progressives about your differences, how does that conversation go? “I don’t speak to them,” he shot back. The new New Left—we have to find a better name—is closer to socialism or proudly socialistic. What they feel for the old party establishment: “Thanks for standing up for the little guy while your trade deals made you and your friends rich.” “Thanks for creating a tax system in which you guys become billionaires while everyone else sank.”

The left-wing millennials will rise because the young always do. It’s tempting to compare the rise of the left in the party now with the 1970s and the rise of the old New Left. Boomer leftists then were mad at America over the war, and some of them had read Marx for the first time. But they loved America, and they went on to show that love as the workhorses they were—the first to put the lights on in the office or the institution in the morning, the last to put them off at night.

The rising millennial left seems to love high abstractions—economic justice, global movements for change. But they weren’t raised in a patriotic age, they weren’t taught what in America is admirable, even noble. Do they love America? Do they love this thing we have and are part of in the same, moist-eyed way Americans have in the past? It’s unclear. But if they don’t, when they triumph we’re in trouble.

On the Republican side the rise of Donald Trump revealed the new party to itself. It is a big-government, antiwar, populist party that is conservative-leaning in its social policy. Any card-carrying Trump supporter will immediately say, after lauding the economy, that he has delivered on the courts and has aligned his administration, for all his personal New Yorkiness and indifference to social issues, with those who think conservatively.

Republicans in 2016 were to the right of party leaders, elders and professionals on essential issues—immigration, political correctness, the LGBTQ regime and the arguments it spurred in the town council about bathroom policies, and in schools over such questions as, “Are we still allowed in sports to have a girls team composed of biological girls and a boy’s team composed of biological boys? Will we be sued?”

They knew that on these questions and others the party’s establishments didn’t really care about their views or share them.

When Republicans rebel against the status quo, it’s a powerful thing. They produced in their 2016 rebellion something new: They changed the nature of the presidency itself. The pushing back against elites entailed a pushing against standards. It’s always possible a coming presidential election will look like a snap-back to the old days, a senator versus a governor, one experienced political professional against another. But we will never really go back to the old days. Anyone can become president now, anyone big and colorful and in line with prevailing public sentiment.

We have entered the age of the postheroic presidency. Certain low ways are forgiven, certain rough ways now established. Americans once asked a lot of their presidents. They had to be people not only of high competence and solid, sober backgrounds, but high character. In modern presidencies you can trace a line from, say, Harry S. Truman, who had it in abundance, to Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, who also did.

But the heroic conception of the presidency is over. Bill Clinton and his embarrassments damaged it. Two unwon wars and the great recession killed it. “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” buried it. When you deliberately lie like that, you are declaring you have no respect for the people. And the people noticed.

They would like to have someone admirable in the job, someone whose virtues move them, but they’ve decided it’s not necessary. They think: Just keep the economy growing, don’t start any new wars, and push back against the social-issues maximalists if you can.

In the last cycle we spoke of shy Trump voters—those who didn’t want to get in an argument over supporting him. I suspect this cycle we’ll call them closeted Trump voters—those who don’t want to be associated with the postheroic moment, who disapprove of it, but see no realistic alternative.

In time we’ll see you lose something when you go postheroic. Colorful characters will make things more divided, not less. They’ll entertain but not ennoble. And the world will think less of us—America has become a clownish, unserious country with clownish, unserious leaders—which will have an impact on our ability to influence events.

I close with another entity of American life that should be worried about seeming like it doesn’t care about its own country. It is what used to be called big business.

America has always been in love with the idea of success. It’s rewarded the creation of wealth, made household saints of the richest men in the world. We were proud they lived here.

But big business, especially big tech executives and bankers, should be thinking: In this century they’re coming at you left and right.

The left used to say, “You didn’t build that,” while the right said, “You did.” But now there’s a convergence, with both sides starting to think: This country made you. It made the roads you traveled; it made the expensive peace in which your imagination flourished; it created the whole world of arrangements that let you become rich.

You owe us something for that. You owe us your loyalty. And if you allow us to discern—and in this century you have been busy allowing us!—that you do not really care about America, that your first loyalty isn’t to us but to “the world” or “global markets,” then we will come down on you hard.

It isn’t only parties that can be broken up in this century, the one that isn’t coming but is here.

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ccp

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Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
« Reply #1866 on: January 29, 2020, 02:25:02 PM »
Funny how NSA holds up release
of book but NYSlimes seems to get an inside scoop that of course is negative to Trump and just in time to shove it is the nation's face at this time

Amazing how the NYT can seem to get information on just about anything they need in order to advance the Dem Party cause.

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Ross Douhat: The Age of Decadence
« Reply #1867 on: February 09, 2020, 12:23:33 PM »


The Age of Decadence
Cut the drama. The real story of the West in the 21st century is one of stalemate and stagnation.
By Ross Douthat
An Opinion columnist and the author of the forthcoming book “The Decadent Society,” from which this essay is adapted.

Feb. 7, 2020

1225
Everyone knows that we live in a time of constant acceleration, of vertiginous change, of transformation or looming disaster everywhere you look. Partisans are girding for civil war, robots are coming for our jobs, and the news feels like a multicar pileup every time you fire up Twitter. Our pessimists see crises everywhere; our optimists insist that we’re just anxious because the world is changing faster than our primitive ape-brains can process.

But what if the feeling of acceleration is an illusion, conjured by our expectations of perpetual progress and exaggerated by the distorting filter of the internet? What if we — or at least we in the developed world, in America and Europe and the Pacific Rim — really inhabit an era in which repetition is more the norm than invention; in which stalemate rather than revolution stamps our politics; in which sclerosis afflicts public institutions and private life alike; in which new developments in science, new exploratory projects, consistently underdeliver? What if the meltdown at the Iowa caucuses, an antique system undone by pseudo-innovation and incompetence, was much more emblematic of our age than any great catastrophe or breakthrough?

The truth of the first decades of the 21st century, a truth that helped give us the Trump presidency but will still be an important truth when he is gone, is that we probably aren’t entering a 1930-style crisis for Western liberalism or hurtling forward toward transhumanism or extinction. Instead, we are aging, comfortable and stuck, cut off from the past and no longer optimistic about the future, spurning both memory and ambition while we await some saving innovation or revelation, growing old unhappily together in the light of tiny screens.

The farther you get from that iPhone glow, the clearer it becomes: Our civilization has entered into decadence.

The word “decadence” is used promiscuously but rarely precisely. In political debates, it’s associated with a lack of resolution in the face of threats — with Neville Chamberlain and W.B. Yeats’s line about the best lacking all conviction. In the popular imagination, it’s associated with sex and gluttony, with pornographic romances and chocolate strawberries. Aesthetically and intellectually it hints at exhaustion, finality — “the feeling, at once oppressive and exalting, of being the last in a series,” in the words of the Russian poet Vyacheslav Ivanov.

But it’s possible to distill a useful definition from all these associations. Following in the footsteps of the great cultural critic Jacques Barzun, we can say that decadence refers to economic stagnation, institutional decay and cultural and intellectual exhaustion at a high level of material prosperity and technological development. Under decadence, Barzun wrote, “The forms of art as of life seem exhausted, the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result.” He added, “When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.” And crucially, the stagnation is often a consequence of previous development: The decadent society is, by definition, a victim of its own success.

Note that this definition does not imply a definitive moral or aesthetic judgment. (“The term is not a slur,” Barzun wrote. “It is a technical label.”) A society that generates a lot of bad movies need not be decadent; a society that makes the same movies over and over again might be. A society run by the cruel and arrogant might not be decadent; a society where even the wise and good can’t legislate might be. A crime-ridden society isn’t necessarily decadent; a peaceable, aging, childless society beset by flares of nihilistic violence looks closer to our definition.

Nor does this definition imply that decadence is necessarily an overture to a catastrophe, in which Visigoths torch Manhattan or the coronavirus has dominion over all. History isn’t always a morality play, and decadence is a comfortable disease: The Chinese and Ottoman empires persisted for centuries under decadent conditions, and it was more than 400 years from Caligula to the actual fall of Rome.

“What fascinates and terrifies us about the Roman Empire is not that it finally went smash,” wrote W.H. Auden of that endless autumn, but rather that “it managed to last for four centuries without creativity, warmth, or hope.”

Whether we are waiting for Christians or barbarians, a renaissance or the Singularity, the dilemma that Auden described is now not Rome’s but ours.


II.
“Do people on your coast think all this is real?”

The tech executive sounded curious, proud, a little insecure. We were talking in the San Francisco office of a venture capital firm, a vaulted space washed in Californian sun. He was referring to the whole gilded world around the Bay, the entire internet economy.

That was in 2015. Here are three stories from the five years since.

A young man comes to New York City. He’s a striver, a hustler, working the borderlands between entrepreneurship and con artistry. His first effort, a credit card for affluent millennials, yanks him into the celebrity economy, where he meets an ambitious rapper-businessman. Together they plan a kind of internet brokerage where celebrities can sell their mere presence to the highest bidder. As a brand-enhancing advertisement for the company, they decide to host a major music festival — an exclusive affair on a Caribbean island for influencers, festival obsessives and the youthful rich.

The festival’s online rollout is a great success. There is a viral video of supermodels and Instagram celebrities frolicking on a deserted beach, a sleek website for customers and the curious, and in the end, more than 5,000 people buy tickets, at an average cost of $2,500 to $4,000 — the superfluity of a rich society, yours for the right sales pitch.

But the festival as pitched does not exist. Instead, our entrepreneur’s plans collapse one by one. The private island’s owners back out of the deal. The local government doesn’t cooperate. Even after all the ticket sales, the money isn’t there, and he has to keep selling new amenities to ticket buyers to pay for the ones they’ve already purchased. He does have a team working around the clock to ready … something for the paying customers, but what they offer in the end is a sea of FEMA tents vaguely near a beach, a catering concern that supplies slimy sandwiches, and a lot of cheap tequila.

Amazingly, the people actually come — bright young things whose Instagram streams become a hilarious chronicle of dashed expectations, while the failed entrepreneur tries to keep order with a bullhorn before absconding to New York, where he finds disgrace, arrest and the inevitable Netflix documentary.

That’s the story of Billy McFarland and the Fyre Festival. It’s a small-time story; the next one is bigger.

A girl grows up in Texas, she gets accepted to Stanford, she wants to be Steve Jobs. She has an idea that will change an industry that hasn’t changed in years: the boring but essential world of blood testing. She envisions a machine, dubbed the Edison, that will test for diseases using just a single drop of blood. And like Jobs she quits college to figure out how to build it.

Ten years later, she is the internet era’s leading female billionaire, with a stream of venture capital, a sprawling campus, a $10 billion valuation for her company, and a lucrative deal with Walgreens to use her machines in every store. Her story is a counterpoint to every criticism you hear about Silicon Valley — that it’s a callow boys’ club, that its virtual realities don’t make the world of flesh and blood a better place, that it solves problems of convenience but doesn’t cure the sick. And she is the toast of an elite, in tech and politics alike, that wants to believe the Edisonian spirit lives on.

But the Edison box — despite endless effort and the best tech team that all that venture capital can buy — doesn’t work. And over time, as the company keeps expanding, it ceases even trying to innovate and becomes instead a fraud, using all its money and big-time backers to discredit whistle-blowers. Which succeeds until it doesn’t, at which point the company and all its billions evaporate — leaving behind a fraud prosecution, a best-selling exposé and the inevitable podcast and HBO documentary to sustain its founder’s fame.

That’s the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. It’s a big story. But our third story is bigger still, and it isn’t finished yet.

An internet company decides to revolutionize an industry — the taxi and limousine market — that defines old-school business-government cooperation, with all the attendant bureaucracy and unsatisfying service. It promises investors that it can buy its way to market dominance and use cutting-edge tech to find unglimpsed efficiencies. On the basis of that promise, it raises billions of dollars across its 10-year rise, during which time it becomes a byword for internet-era success, the model for how to disrupt an industry. By the time it goes public in 2019, it has over $11 billion in annual revenue — real money, exchanged for real services, nothing fraudulent about it.

Yet this amazing success story isn’t actually making any profit, even at such scale; instead, it’s losing billions, including $5 billion in one particularly costly quarter. After 10 years of growth, it has smashed the old business model of its industry, weakened legacy competitors and created value for consumers — but it has done all this using the awesome power of free money, building a company that would collapse into bankruptcy if that money were withdrawn. And it has solved none of the problems keeping it from profitability: The technology it uses isn’t proprietary or complex; its rival in disruption controls 30 percent of the market; the legacy players are still very much alive; and all of its paths to reduce its losses — charging higher prices, paying its workers less — would destroy the advantages that it has built.

So it sits there, a unicorn unlike any other, with a plan to become profitable that involves vague promises to somehow monetize all its user data and a specific promise that its investment in a different new technology — the self-driving car, much ballyhooed but as yet not exactly real — will make the math add up.

That’s the story of Uber — so far. It isn’t an Instagram fantasy or a naked fraud; it managed to go public and maintain its outsize valuation, unlike its fellow unicorn WeWork, whose recent attempt at an I.P.O. hurled it into crisis. But it is, for now, an example of a major 21st-century company invented entirely out of surplus, and floated by the hope that with enough money and market share, you can will a profitable company into existence. Which makes it another case study in what happens when an extraordinarily rich society can’t find enough new ideas that justify investing all its stockpiled wealth. We inflate bubbles and then pop them, invest in Theranos and then repent, and the supposed cutting edge of capitalism is increasingly defined by technologies that have almost arrived, business models that are on their way to profitability, by runways that go on and on without the plane achieving takeoff.

Do people on your coast think all this is real? When the tech executive asked me that, I told him that we did — that the promise of Silicon Valley was as much an article of faith for those of us watching from the outside as for its insiders; that we both envied the world of digital and believed in it, as the one place where American innovation was clearly still alive. And I would probably say the same thing now because, despite the stories I’ve just told, the internet economy is still as real as 21st-century growth and innovation gets.

But what this tells us, unfortunately, is that 21st-century growth and innovation are not at all that we were promised they would be.

III.
The decadent economy is not an impoverished one. The United States is an extraordinarily wealthy country, its middle class prosperous beyond the dreams of centuries past, its welfare state effective at easing the pain of recessions, and the last decade of growth has (slowly) raised our living standard to a new high after the losses from the Great Recession.

But slowly compounding growth is not the same as dynamism. American entrepreneurship has been declining since the 1970s: Early in the Jimmy Carter presidency, 17 percent of all United States businesses had been founded in the previous year; by the start of Barack Obama’s second term, that rate was about 10 percent. In the late 1980s, almost half of United States companies were “young,” meaning less than five years old; by the Great Recession, that share was down to only 39 percent, and the share of “old” firms (founded more than 15 years ago) rose from 22 percent to 34 percent over a similar period. And those companies increasingly sit on cash or pass it back to shareholders rather than investing in new enterprises. From World War II through the 1980s, according to a recent report from Senator Marco Rubio’s office, private domestic investment often approached 10 percent of G.D.P.; in 2019, despite a corporate tax cut intended to get money off the sidelines, the investment-to-G.D.P. ratio was less than half of that.


This suggests that the people with the most experience starting businesses look around at their investment opportunities and see many more start-ups that resemble Theranos than resemble Amazon, let alone the behemoths of the old economy. And the dearth of corporate investment also means that the steady climb of the stock market has boosted the wealth of a rentier class — basically, already-rich investors getting richer off dividends — rather than reflecting surging prosperity in general.

Behind this deceleration lurks the specter of technological stagnation. Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign notwithstanding, leaping advances in robotics aren’t about to throw everybody out of work. Productivity growth, the best measure of technology’s effect on the economy, has been weak in the United States and weaker in Europe ever since the first dot-com bust.

In 2017 a group of economists published a paper asking, “Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?” The answer was a clear yes: “We present a wide range of evidence from various industries, products, and firms showing that research effort is rising substantially while research productivity is declining sharply.” In his 2011 book “The Great Stagnation,” Tyler Cowen cited an analysis from the Pentagon physicist Jonathan Huebner, who modeled an innovations-to-population ratio for the last 600 years: It shows a slowly ascending arc through the late 19th century, when major inventions were rather easy to conceive and adopt, and a steepening decline ever since, as rich countries spend more and more on research to diminishing returns.

These trends don’t mean progress has ceased. Fewer blockbuster drugs are being approved, but last month still brought news of a steady generational fall in cancer deaths, and a possible breakthrough in cystic fibrosis treatment. Scientific research has a replication crisis, but it’s still easy to discern areas of clear advancement — from the frontiers of Crispr to the study of ancient DNA.

But the trends reveal a slowdown, a mounting difficulty in achieving breakthroughs — a bottleneck if you’re optimistic, a ceiling if you aren’t. And the relative exception, the internet and all its wonders, highlights the general pattern.


The Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon, one of the most persuasive theorists of stagnation, points out that the period from 1840 to 1970 featured dramatic growth and innovation across multiple arenas — energy and transportation and medicine and agriculture and communication and the built environment. Whereas in the last two generations, progress has become increasingly monodimensional — all tech and nothing else. Even within the Silicon Valley landscape, the clear success stories are often the purest computer-and-internet enterprises — social media companies, device manufacturers, software companies — while the frauds and failures and possible catastrophes involve efforts to use tech to transform some other industry, from music festivals to office-space rentals to blood tests.

The Silicon Valley tycoon Peter Thiel, another prominent stagnationist, likes to snark that “we wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” And even the people who will explain to you, in high seriousness, that nobody would really want a flying car can’t get around the basic points that Thiel, Gordon, and others have been making. Take a single one of the great breakthroughs of the industrial age — planes and trains and automobiles, antibiotics and indoor plumbing — and it still looms larger in our everyday existence than all of the contributions of the tech revolution combined.

We used to travel faster, build bigger, live longer; now we communicate faster, chatter more, snap more selfies. We used to go to the moon; now we make movies about space — amazing movies with completely convincing special effects that make it seem as if we’ve left earth behind. And we hype the revolutionary character of our communications devices in order to convince ourselves that our earlier expectations were just fantasies, “Jetsons stuff” — that this progress is the only progress we could reasonably expect.

IV.
With this stagnation comes social torpor. America is a more peaceable country than it was in 1970 or 1990, with lower crime rates and safer streets and better-behaved kids. But it’s also a country where that supposedly most American of qualities, wanderlust, has markedly declined: Americans no longer “go west” (or east or north or south) in search of opportunity the way they did 50 years ago; the rate at which people move between states has fallen from 3.5 percent in the early 1970s to 1.4 percent in 2010. Nor do Americans change jobs as often as they once did. For all the boosterish talk about retraining and self-employment, all the fears of a precarious job market, Americans are less likely to switch employers than they were a generation ago.

Meanwhile, those well-behaved young people are more depressed than prior cohorts, less likely to drive drunk or get pregnant but more tempted toward self-harm. They are also the most medicated generation in history, from the drugs prescribed for A.D.H.D. to the antidepressants offered to anxious teens, and most of the medications are designed to be calming, offering a smoothed-out experience rather than a spiky high. For adults, the increasingly legal drug of choice is marijuana, whose prototypical user is a relaxed and harmless figure — comfortably numb, experiencing stagnation as a chill good time.

And then there is the opioid epidemic, whose spread across the unhappiest parts of white America passed almost unnoticed in elite circles for a while because the drug itself quiets rather than inflames, supplying a gentle euphoria that lets its users simply slip away, day by day and bit by bit, without causing anyone any trouble. The best book on the epidemic, by the journalist Sam Quinones, is called “Dreamland” for a reason.

In the land of the lotus eaters, people are also less likely to invest in the future in the most literal of ways. The United States birthrate was once an outlier among developed countries, but since the Great Recession, it has descended rapidly, converging with the wealthy world’s general below-replacement norm. This demographic decline worsens economic stagnation; economists reckoning with its impact keep finding stark effects. A 2016 analysis found that a 10 percent increase in the fraction of the population over 60 decreased the growth rate of states’ per capita G.D.P. by 5.5 percent. A 2018 paper found that companies in younger labor markets are more innovative; another found that the aging of society helped explain the growth of monopolies and the declining rate of start-ups.

This feedback loop — in which sterility feeds stagnation, which further discourages childbearing, which sinks society ever-deeper into old age — makes demographic decline a clear example of how decadence overtakes a civilization. For much of Western history, declining birthrates reflected straightforward gains to human welfare: victories over infant mortality, over backbreaking agrarian economies, over confining expectations for young women. But once we crossed over into permanent below-replacement territory, the birth dearth began undercutting the very forces (youth, risk -taking, dynamism) necessary for continued growth, meaning that any further gains to individual welfare are coming at the future’s expense.

V.
Now the reader will probably have an obvious objection to this portrait of senescence and stagnation: What about politics? Would a decadent society really reproduce the 1969 Days of Rage on social media, with online mobs swarming and the old extremes back in action? Would it produce a populist surge and a socialist revival, a domestic civil war so polarizing that Americans could mistake the work of Russian hackers for the sincere convictions of their fellow citizens? Would it elect Donald Trump as president?

Strangely, the answer might be “yes.” Both populism and socialism, Trump and Bernie Sanders, represent expressions of discontent with decadence, rebellions against the technocratic management of stagnation that defined the Obama era. “Make America Great Again” is the slogan of a reactionary futurism, a howl against a future that wasn’t what was promised, and the Sanders Revolution promises that what the left lost somewhere in the Reagan era can be regained, and the climb to utopia begun anew.

But the desire for a different future only goes so far, and in practical terms the populist era has mostly delivered a new and deeper stalemate. From Trump’s Washington to the capitals of Europe, Western politics is now polarized between anti-establishment forces that are unprepared to competently govern and an establishment that’s too disliked to effectively rule.


The structures of the Western system, the United States Constitution and administrative state, the half-built federalism of the European Union, are everywhere creaking and everywhere critiqued. But our stalemates make them impervious to substantial reform, let alone to revolution. The most strident European nationalists don’t even want to leave the European Union, and Trump’s first term has actually been much like Obama’s second, with failed legislation and contested executive orders, and policy made mostly by negotiation between the bureaucracy and the courts.

There is a virtual Trump presidency whose depredations terrify liberals, one that airs on Fox in which Trump goes from strength to strength. But the real thing is closer to the genre the president knows best, reality television, than to the actual return of history. (Trump’s recent State of the Union, with its theatrics and premature declaration of victory over decadence, was a particularly striking case in point.)

Likewise in the wider political culture. The madness of online crowds, the way the internet has allowed the return of certain forms of political extremism and the proliferation of conspiracy theories — yes, if our decadence is to end in the return of grand ideological combat and street-brawl politics, this might be how that ending starts.

But our battles mostly still reflect what Barzun called “the deadlocks of our time” — the Kavanaugh Affair replaying the Clarence Thomas hearings, the debates over political correctness cycling us backward to fights that were fresh and new in the 1970s and ’80s. The hysteria with which we’re experiencing them may represent nothing more than the way that a decadent society manages its political passions, by encouraging people to playact extremism, to re-enact the 1930s or 1968 on social media, to approach radical politics as a sport, a hobby, a kick to the body chemistry, that doesn’t put anything in their relatively comfortable late-modern lives at risk.

Close Twitter, log off Facebook, turn off cable television, and what do you see in the Trump-era United States? Campuses in tumult? No: The small wave of campus protests, most of them focused around parochial controversies, crested before Trump’s election and have diminished since. Urban riots? No: The post-Ferguson flare of urban protest has died down. A wave of political violence? A small spike, maybe, but one that’s more analogous to school shootings than to the political clashes of the 1930s or ’60s, in the sense that it involves disturbed people appointing themselves knights-errant and going forth to slaughter, rather than organized movements with any kind of concrete goal.

Internet-era political derangement is partially responsible for white supremacists goading one another into shooting sprees, or the Sanders supporter who tried to massacre Republicans at a congressional baseball game in 2017. But these episodes are terrible and also exceptional; they have not yet established a pattern that looks anything like the early 1970s, when there were more than 2,500 bombings across the continental United States in one 18-month period.

Maybe today’s outliers are the forerunners of something worse. But our terrorists don’t feel like prophets or precursors; they often feel more like marks.



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Big news
« Reply #1870 on: March 08, 2020, 02:58:05 PM »
Katherine just got me a MAGA coffee mug.  :-D

but it came with a tiny chip in it.   :-o

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The Commie China Virus and the Rural Urban Divide
« Reply #1872 on: March 25, 2020, 03:03:07 PM »
March 25, 2020   View On Website
The Coronavirus and the Rural-Urban Divide
By: Antonia Colibasanu

The coronavirus crisis is a source of common concern across the globe and a shared invisible enemy. But as it develops, the crisis will push toward a global reset. The distribution of power around the world had become more diffuse before the coronavirus outbreak, with countries like China and Russia increasing their role at the global level and nationalism growing at the expense of the authority of multilateral institutions. But with the coronavirus pandemic, the deepening differences between classes and between rural and urban societies are not only becoming more visible worldwide – they are restructuring societies and thus reshaping national strategies.

In the last chapter of my book "Redrawing the World Map: Contemporary Geopolitics and Geoeconomics" (to come out later this year in Romanian and then in English), I write about how the social changes brought on by digitization, while they differ from place to place, will eventually restructure all nation-states and the global system. Social changes also reshape how we see the world, geopolitically. My argument referred to the way that resources – including human resources – change and evolve over time depending on the ecosystem they are part of, and depending on that system’s geography and social patterns.

I argue that globalization and access to digitization made it possible for people living in very different locations to consider themselves peers. In the process, people working from laptops in their offices, or independently from home or some coffee shop, have been uniting the urban zones of the world. I also argue that while “urban” areas begin to share common characteristics all over the world, rural areas will not only remain distinct from one country to the next, but as a whole will grow increasingly different from urban centers within each nation. The social geography of rural areas, depending on the specific structure of each nation-state, will have a great impact on nation-states’ strategies. The characteristics of a state’s rural reality – and its interconnections, similarities and tensions with rural counterparts elsewhere – will determine to what extent that state cooperates with or opposes other states. The urban setting is where they come to talk; it is a setting for mutual understanding.
 
(click to enlarge)

What this means is that society, and the settings in which it acts, will become more important to the state’s strategic imperatives – not less, no matter the promises of technology. Demographics matter because they are the very core of society and because they are ever-changing, at distinct paces, within each society. Communities, through their levels of education and specialization as well as their living environments, determine the country’s economic development and, with that, its imperatives. I wrote the introduction of my book too early to consider the effects of the novel coronavirus on demographics and society overall – even if I acknowledged its potential to drive significant changes.

Now I am beginning to see what may come. As of this writing, the coronavirus has already brought Europe to a close. Extraordinary things are happening. Italy is in complete lockdown; Paris is quiet for the first time in history. Borders have been resurrected: The checkpoints are back in use. Goods are allowed to move through them, while only citizens returning to their home countries may pass. Nation-states have banned exports of essential medical equipment to fight the virus. In this crisis, EU member states are visibly national first and foremost. They seek solutions in the nationalization of businesses, and the national military is called in to help.

There are several dimensions to discuss when talking about EU resilience to the coronavirus crisis. First, coordination among member states is what makes the EU relevant – the states administer borders and essential trade traffic. Second, they coordinate on a bilateral level, sending in timely resources and medical aid. Health is a prerogative of the nation-state. However, the way each country reacts to the needs of the other will determine intra-EU relations. Third, how EU institutions coordinate national actions following the crisis will determine the future of the EU. The public perceives the EU through what Brussels does to help. So, we will know how the EU evolves based on how it acts in front of its public.

Ultimately, the future of the EU, and that of the world, depends on how society is shaped by the coronavirus pandemic. We are all subject to “social distancing” policies imposed by nation-states in fighting contagion. Much has been said and written about how social distancing will affect supply chains and the economy – because people may choose to work or not to work, because they may revolt against the policy considering the need to support themselves. The financial costs are high. Much has also been said and written about how labor will change – telecommuting, for those who can work remotely, will potentially set new standards. The opportunities may also be high. All writings I have read also point to inevitable yet uncertain changes approaching, including the potential for a depression.

However, social distancing, in practice, doesn’t affect only working habits. It relates to personal feelings, of which the most important is fear. You fear the virus, therefore you keep your distance. You don’t do that because someone told you to; you do it because you feel you should, for your own sake. It is personal, even if it is imposed. Fear of getting sick with something that is not necessarily deadly depends on the trust you have in the health system. Fear of getting sick along with many others depends on the trust in your country’s ability to cope with a situation where a lot of people get sick and many others are economically inactive. The two are very distinct matters, distinct fears.

Anthropologists teach us how humans and humanity have evolved and have been shaped by their fears. It is fears and the actions taken to deal with fears that create social changes. The geography people live in sets them to fear differently and therefore respond differently to challenges. Geopolitics takes into consideration the behavior of the mountain people, which is different from that of other people, because they fear different things. Similarly, in the coronavirus pandemic, the urban population, while more connected through digitization, in a much more enclosed environment, behaves differently from those living in villages.

The people living in urban environments have better access to medical services than those living in villages. It matters greatly for urban areas whether the health care system is under pressure; for most rural areas, the health care system is meager or nonexistent. True, differences exist between countries – the rural setting in Germany is different from that of France, with people having more access to medical facilities in Germany than in France. But overall, medical care for the urban population is a lot more accessible than it is for the rural population. Similarly, the role of the state and its economic power are perceived differently in rural versus urban areas, which are not created equal.

In the coronavirus crisis, considering the potential for the medical system to be overloaded and the closeness imposed by urban settings, the fear of living in an apartment is intense. Acknowledging that you don’t have access to services you used to have access to means acknowledging some of your needs will not be met. And when social distancing includes state-mandated isolation (as is the case in Italy, Spain and France right now), having to stay indoors for longer than a few days and fill out forms to show the local police authority just to walk your dog certainly has some effects on your lifestyle and psychological state. Fighting the negative effects of the quarantine may include singing on the balcony, as we saw in Italy, but this means only that there are negative effects to fight.

In the process of social distancing, we are testing the links between social groups. The well-off will behave differently from the poor, the young differently from the old. In a town, all groups have access to the same services – in an unequal manner. Observing the food bought in the rush hours for the quarantine is a lesson in how different in both lifestyle and ultimately in income urban people are. Their tolerance, their acceptance for the other doesn’t relate to their willingness to help. For all the physical closeness there is between urban people, there is just as much distance. Living in an apartment doesn’t mean you talk to your neighbors outside of saying “hello.” Not talking disengages – you are too busy, but also you need not know. If you don’t know that a neighbor needs help, then you have no responsibility to help. The urban social network is that of class, and once in a class, in a group, relations with the other groups are minimal.

For the rural, things are different. There are groups in the villages, as there are influencers. But the network rules are different. It is family ties that matter, before economic classes. Links between people are well established, and the same from one generation to another. When you are living in the countryside, you are generally more aware of geography and closeness than you would be in the city. You know a lot about your neighbors because you need to deal with them on a more or less daily basis. The plots of land around the villagers’ houses don’t impose human distance, as good neighborliness includes helping out one another. The state is largely not present – but God is. Religion and family are key concepts for what forms the basis for trust in rural areas.

During the pandemic, fear in rural areas is dependent on their connection and their dependency on the cities. In this sense, the more distant they are, the less affected they get. However, considering contagion rules, once someone gets infected, the rural setting facilitates infection. Imposing social distancing in such communities is difficult – considering their poor access to public health services, rural people consider themselves doomed from the very beginning. They live not in fear, but in the hope that God will help them again. Because no one else really helped before. They need not learn that medical services are available, because it is in distant hospitals that they can get access to such services – in theory. Digitization, when available, is only for communication with and learning about the rest of the world. They rely mostly on religious services and their own.

The coronavirus crisis creates different fears for different geographies. While digitization gives all people access to information, fears of the unknown – which include not only the virus but also the way that it is and could be dealt with at all levels – deepen differences between the urban and the rural. While it's unclear how the EU will come out of this new crisis, and while it's urgent that nation-states act and show they can fight the coronavirus, it is clear that the outbreak will also affect the distance between the urban and the rural and that between the social classes. In effect, the crisis is accelerating a process that was already happening, as fears create social changes affecting the structure of society, everywhere around the globe. Urban reactions are similar, their problems too. They may bring the world together. But rural reactions are not similar – and we don’t know them yet.   





Crafty_Dog

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George Friedman: Thinking about this moment
« Reply #1873 on: April 02, 2020, 08:57:16 AM »
April 2, 2020 View On Website
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George Friedman's Thoughts: Thinking About This Moment
By: George Friedman
Geopolitical Futures

My job is to write, and my goal in writing is to put things in perspective. The world has been to me an endlessly shifting kaleidoscope of nations, all moving in different directions that can be predicted by understanding the forces that shape their actions. I take pleasure in seeing the order behind the chaos. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but I have lived in a world of many colors, shapes and tempos.

For the past month, a vast fog has made that world difficult to see. The coronavirus pandemic has rendered normal global events irrelevant. Something deadly is stalking the world, and it respects neither power nor money. Governments are obsessed with protecting us, or at least with appearing to protect us, but there is no protection except for what we provide ourselves. An infection cannot be destroyed yet. It will run whatever course it runs. Our bodies may or may not rally to overcome it. Our will has nothing to do with what happens.

Therefore, the only action we can take is to not allow the virus to enter our bodies, and the way it can enter our bodies is not through the air, or through food, or even through dirt. The disease invades our bodies from the bodies of other human beings. So we avoid contact with others. Governments have adopted a policy of building barriers between nations and sometimes barriers within their nations. The choice of families is to build barriers between themselves and their neighbors. Our politics and our lives are focused on this at the moment, and the distance we put between ourselves and the rest of the world.

The other consequences of doing social distancing are not at the moment of prime importance. There is something unseen out there that will sicken us and even kill us, and we cling to whatever safety there is by being alone. But we are social animals. We do not live alone. Love of one’s own is not simply love of those in our household but of those with whom we share language, faith and history. If we see our neighbors, our countrymen and the world as being potentially infected with a hidden pestilence, if the barriers of borders and doors supplant all of these other things, then how do we remain human?

I have been at home for nearly a month, my wife making heroic forays to pick up pre-ordered food at the supermarket, commanding me not to share her risks for I must not get ill so I can think and write and earn money. I am the man, and I am supposed to risk my life at the supermarket, yet she insists I must not get ill. The oddity of all of this is not only that this reduces my sense of manhood, but that a trip to the supermarket has become an act of quiet heroism.

What is most frightening in all of this madness is that it is not madness. It is all we can do, and we are for the most part doing it. We are not doing it because of threats from the government; we are doing it because it is all we can do. I used to think about the Russia-Turkey confrontation in Libya, about Brexit, and about the development of hypersonic missiles. All that is still there, but for now none of it matters. There are slight glimpses of U.S.-China tensions or a Belarusian leader saying that the cure to all this is vodka. In some ways he makes more sense. Doctors tell us to wait. The president of Belarus tells us to get drunk. That won’t save us, but at least we won’t be afraid.

This is an extraordinary moment in human history. Our world has contracted. And this is true not in one country but in virtually all countries. In some countries, of course, life goes on unchanged along with all too common disease and death. In most countries, those violating the new laws and customs are seen as social deviants. But even in wartime, perhaps especially in wartime, I have not seen social responsibility being defined as refusing to enter into social life.

I am a fan of science fiction, and I love post-apocalypse novels. This is not playing out as it’s supposed to. We have our disease, but it will not wipe out everyone but a lone woman, as happened in “Extinction Point.” In novels like these, the virus would be delivered by aliens even now colonizing the planet, and the woman making contact with a crippled man in Alaska plans survival and resistance. Reality is even more stunning. We do not face the annihilation of the species – or so it seems – but we do, almost seamlessly, face the danger and transform our lives. We face combat not with aliens but at most with our own boredom.

What is perhaps most different in our apocalypse novel is that we have not seen a surge of banditry roving over the landscape. For me, one of the most remarkable things – and from what I can see, this is true globally – is that our retreat into our homes and ourselves has been remarkably orderly. But that I suppose is because heroes are still at work in our warehouses and trucks and stores, and food is still ample. That may continue indefinitely, but in a world we can’t recognize, nothing is certain.
That this cannot become the new model of human existence is obviously true. It can be done only if we accept a level of poverty and loneliness until the day medicine finds a solution. And since the experts speak in terms of years, maintaining our current stance will be difficult. Our position now is that preventing deaths from the virus takes precedence over all other things. Whether this posture can be maintained in the face of massive social and economic failure, where the trip to the supermarket is pointless, is unknown. But for the moment that is not the question. For the near future this will go on, and my world will contract, and my kaleidoscope will see grey, not the vivid colors I have lived with. And I do take walks, seeing occasionally other neighbors out walking, and we pass on opposite sides of the street each wondering whether the other is in the grip of the invisible plague.

We can do this. For a while longer.