Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on January 31, 2021

Another open thread, where you can comment on any topic. Moderation and standard rules still apply. Lengthy side discussions on other posts will be diverted here. Enjoy!

{ 90 comments }

1

Brett 01.31.21 at 7:56 pm

If they ever figure out fusion enough to do a commercial power plant, it’d be interesting to see how its upfront costs would compare to a fission power plant given that they generate power the same way (heat/boil water to drive a turbine). On the one hand, the fusion reactor will have a much more complex and probably expensive core. On the other hand, a fusion reactor can’t really melt down or spread much radioactive waste if destroyed, so it might not need all the concrete construction meant to prohibit that (like a containment building that can resist a direct airplane strike).

One interesting point about electric cars came up recently, which is that a lot of people park their cars on the street in cities and thus can’t really rely on the “overnight charging” thing (and a full charge at a charger takes 30-40 minutes). I wonder if that will be resolved either with street chargers, or someone doing faster charging batteries.

2

nastywoman 01.31.21 at 9:17 pm

so isn’t it time to comment on ”gamestonk” or has everything already been said?

3

Orange Watch 01.31.21 at 9:25 pm

Tm@A prior thread that was already pretty thoroughly derailed:

If you think that LGM blog titles are „unironic“ when the often masterful irony is one of the main reasons why people read and enjoy that blog, well there’s probably nothing I can do to help you.

It’s possible (albeit very unlikely, based on your posting history, as well as the tone, structure, and comment section of LGM) that you could be saying this in cloistered naivete, so I’ll take up this claim in good faith for the sake of argument.

There is a rhetorical device, most commonly seen in the wild these days among alt-right trolls in the early stages of invading a forum but not limited to that, commonly referred to as “ironic racism”. The idea is simple: you make jokes about racism, you make them constantly, and you make them obvious and over the top. No one can take them seriously, and anyone who protests them is humorless or too stupid to realize they’re ironic jokes. And you keep making the jokes. And people who would never joke about that before join in. And soon those jokes are normal, and no one bats an eye at them – and those that do, or newcomers who don’t appreciate the forum’s unique wit, are shouted down or leave. And the jokes lead to tropes being slipped into conversations, and soon the conversations are casually racist, but that’s fine because it’s ironic. And now the ironic racism is the everyday speech, and the ironic jokes are eliminationist rhetoric or crude shock humor. But it’s still ironic. Everyone gradually acts more and more like open racists, but they don’t mean it, they’re mocking racism! They’re too sophisticated to be racists, and their humor is too cutting to be limited by boorish conventions! Outsiders who come in and think everyone is racist because they sound and act racist are out of touch! It’s ironic! …and in the background, the alt-right trolls cackle at the now-boiling pot of frog soup, skim off former non-racists as their behavior internalizes, and cast their eyes outward for new pots to slow-boil.

“It’s a joke bro!” has always been a key means of maintaining deniability and deflecting criticism while normalizing ideas and shifting the Overton Window. The idea that only other groups -bad groups! – do it is peak un-selfawareness. Which follows naturally to…

A beautiful expression of the Universal Murc’s Law: it is only the left liberals that have driven history and “have led us to where we are today”.

Murc’s Law is a unifying mantra on LGM, but it’s not a good one, and it’s certainly not a universal truth. If you want to make it a useful (albeit banal) universal observation, you can with a tiny tweak, though: in political commentary, only the speaker’s enemies have agency for negative outcomes. Like so much else on LGM, Murc’s Law (Only Democrats have agency!!1!) has been stated in a breathtakingly un-selfaware manner. When centrist, liberals, the PMC, the DNC, etc. participate in good political outcomes, they’ve done them. When they participate in bad outcomes, why, those bad things are done to them. It’s precisely what Murc’s Law is used to decry when the GOP, DFHs, etc. criticize Democrats. But there is a smug self-assurance that deflecting blame is something that “we” are too smart, honest, and sophisticated to do rather than an extremely human behavior. And so, when anyone criticizes a group that “we” identify with, Murc’s Law is sneeringly invoked as a thought-terminating cliché to shut down conversation and reflection among the wise, knowing in-group. It’s entirely of a piece with the “It’s just a joke, bro” defense of consistent, frequent “ironic” classism and regionalism both from the frontpagers and even moreso commentariat on that site (as well as the lower-key and less prevalent “ironic” sexism tolerated in their comments… but give that time!).

4

oldster 01.31.21 at 9:56 pm

An open thread over on Balloon Juice invited blog regulars to reminisce about how they had first stumbled on John Cole’s place. This produced many recollections of the golden age of blogging, and many comments on how few of those blogs survive from that era (let’s say, 2000-2009?)

I’m glad that CT has survived. Balloon Juice certainly owes its longevity in part to its having adopted the group-blog format that CT uses. It spreads the load, I should think, and lessens burn-out.

In any case — I’m glad you’re still here.

5

Jonathan Burns 01.31.21 at 10:48 pm

A question for you economically informed ones, because I just don’t know. What would happen if the USA were to put down the burden of issuing the world Reserve Currency? Second to that, could they do it? What would they need to re-negotiate? What would happen if they even announced they were thinking about it? In just what does “the full faith and credit” of the US government reside?

Because, it’s the surety in the R.C. which removes the option simply to print money and employ people, or print money and so inflate the currency that China’s advantage (and India’s, and Indonesia’s and Nigeria’s …) in low-wage labour is reduced, and US jobs can revive, I think. Also see MMT.

6

john burke 02.01.21 at 4:35 am

I don’t think there’s any satisfactory resolution to the San Francisco controversy over the names of public schools. One thoughtful parent was quoted in the Chronicle to the effect that the controversy only arises insofar as whiteness is at the center of people’s consciousness; if she’s right, and on the whole I think she is, what are we to do? What we can’t usefully do is to go in search of innocent figures from history, because no such figures can be found. Is that to say naming a school after Lincoln is the same as naming one after Jefferson Davis? (Let’s leave Hitler out of this.) No, I don’t think so–I’m not arguing for a completely unanchored relativism. But whatever name anyone comes up with will turn out to have some moral stain on it, because we are all of us fallen creatures. What to do? One answer is to name schools after features of the natural world. Eucalyptus? (I know, not California natives.) Sierra? There’s already a Tamalpais High in Marin County–been there for decades. Great Horned Owl? But stay away from Great Men, or Great Women for that matter, because otherwise you are absolutely certain to piss somerone off, and why do that, when so many of us are pissed off already?

7

bad Jim 02.01.21 at 5:55 am

A Californian wonders how ships on the east coast can sail off into the sunset. Do they merely return to port or randomly run aground?

8

J-D 02.01.21 at 10:01 am

What’s wrong with naming schools after their locations, like Westport Public School, Villawood East Public School, Ultimo Public School, and Tweed Heads Public School?

9

Tm 02.01.21 at 10:17 am

OW 3: I think we have understood by now that you don’t like LGM.

As an eplanation for innocent bypassers, this subthread started with OW accusing me of bad things because I have on occasion linked to LGM. I’m happy to discuss my own comments (in a respectful manner), including the content of links that I have directly and approvingly referenced, but I’m not here to discuss accusations against authors other than myself, least of all if the accusations come in the form of unsubstantiated rants. No further comment on this.

10

notGoodenough 02.01.21 at 1:29 pm

Brett @ 1

“One interesting point about electric cars came up recently, which is that a lot of people park their cars on the street in cities and thus can’t really rely on the “overnight charging” thing (and a full charge at a charger takes 30-40 minutes). I wonder if that will be resolved either with street chargers, or someone doing faster charging batteries.”

This sort of question is interesting – the answer is complicated, but I can offer a very brief “nutshell” if you like.

To give one example, recent work on the long-lifetime Li-battery (potentially to be introduced into Tesla vehicles) shows some interesting results [1]. If you look at figure 10, you´ll see the capacity and cyclability for cycling at 1C (essentially a 1 hr charge time) for various electrolytes. The capacity values are pretty good with not too much drop-off compared to low rates (certainly even at 1C they are applicable for EVs), and the cyclability of 4000 would represent ca. 10 years (this is a bit of an oversimplification, but good enough for back-of-envelope estimation), assuming you charge your battery once per day.

There is currently some intensive work going into extra-fast charging (XFC). For a quick overview you might find this a useful starting point [2]. In short, ongoing optimisation of the electrolyte and the surface-electrolyte interphase is producing some significant improvements – work has to continue, and transfer to industry has to occur, but the field has made some advances.

Hope this is of interest.

[1] DOI: 10.1149/2.0981913jes
[2] DOI: 10.1016/j.trechm.2020.01.011

11

notGoodenough 02.01.21 at 1:31 pm

bad Jim @ 7

Couldn´t they just sail south – after all, the sun sets over Hollywood, doesn´t it?

:-)

12

Bob 02.01.21 at 1:31 pm

Although he doesn’t address the issue of monuments and street names specifically, in a paper called “Honest Mistakes” Richard Rorty has some things to say that are helpful in tackling these questions like the naming of schools in San Francisco.

Rorty starts with the claim that we shouldn’t think of who we are morally—what we believe in, what regulates our conduct—as “self-sufficient and unconditioned.” Instead, our “moral identity” is just “one more creature of time and chance.” As a result, what posterity might call “virtue” in a figure of the past, Rorty calls, bluntly, “sheer dumb luck.” The same goes for “evil.”

From Rorty’s perspective, the problem with a figure like Robert E. Lee is not that he was dishonourable or lacked courage—as he notes, it’s unlikely that even the abolitionists would have accused Lee of that. Rorty reminds us that awful crimes can be committed by people acting honourably and in accordance with sincerely held beliefs. Honour (not behaving out of base motives; being true to your beliefs), intelligence and courage, he tells us, rarely have anything to do with “the judgement of history,” which is “written from the point of view of how things have come to look to us now.”

Nor, in Rorty’s view, should we be concerned about the fact that the case against slavery was clear in Lee’s day and that he should, therefore, have known better. Rorty argues that it’s futile to try to pick an exact moment in the past when today’s standards should apply. For Rorty, a figure like Lee is simply guilty of an “honest mistake.”
Rorty does see value in singling individuals out for admiration. But his reason is not to reward someone who, through some fluke, checked all the boxes with respect to whatever we believe is right today. In fact, we are unlikely to ever find such a paragon. Rather, Rorty’s goal is to foster moral progress. “Where there is no worship of heroes and heroines,” he says, “there will be little moral idealism, and therefore little moral progress.” I would only add that I think that Rorty’s argument works both ways: if it’s a good idea to honour people who contributed to moral progress, then there is also a case for denying recognition to people who are notable for opposing moral progress.

Rorty’s ideas are useful to the discussion around monuments and street names for several reasons. By emphasising luck over good and evil, Rorty recognizes that we are all people of our time. So yes, it is “presentism” to judge figures of the past by today’s standards. Rorty would cheerfully concede this, I think. Certainly, I do. But, following Rorty, I would argue that presentism is really beside the point when it comes to deciding whose monument should stand and whose shouldn’t. Rorty’s focus on “moral progress” suggests that monuments are less about the past than they are about our future and how we can use our past to make our future better. Fostering moral progress, then, does not have to mean tearing down monuments to anyone who failed to live up to all of our standards today. Rather it is simply about encouraging more of what we want, and less of what we don’t want.

With Rorty’s idea of “moral progress” in mind, I’d like to suggest the following rough, two-part test in deciding whom to celebrate and whom not: (i) the person in question should, through thought or action, have contributed to moral progress as we understand it today in some important way; and (ii) they should not have been the cause of, or contributed to, resistance to moral progress in some important way. We should take special care to single out for recognition those whose progressivism came at some significant personal risk or cost, or who went against the grain—especially the grain of their own selves—to support a moral position that we value today.

What might this look like in practice?

Clearly, Robert E. Lee does not pass my test. Lee is notable, almost solely, for having led the opposition to moral progress in an area that was vitally important, the abolition of slavery. In the specific case of Lee, there is the further issue that many monuments in his honour were erected relatively recently, as a form of resistance to the civil rights movement. So it is not just Lee himself, but also the way in which his memory was instrumentalised, long after his death, that makes his monuments problematic.
Some members of Canada’s “Famous Five,” in addition to advancing women’s rights, opposed non-white immigration and campaigned, successfully, for eugenics programs that led to the sterilization of people deemed physically or mentally unfit. Now, this might make them more like Lee than not. We might decide that they fail part (ii) of my test, even while passing part (i) with flying colours.

But part (ii) is important. We wouldn’t erect monuments to Mussolini just because he made the trains run on time (surely a good thing, for what it’s worth!) and ignore everything else. At the same time, I don’t think that we should, of necessity, tear down monuments to people who have progressive achievements to their credit, but who also held some other opinions, or acted in ways, that are odious to us today. I think it all depends on how effective they were, and what kind of role they played, in obstructing progress, relative to what they accomplished as progress.

Talk of “contributing to moral progress in some important way” is vague. And my test offers no obvious means of gauging at what point the “contribution” to moral progress outweighs the “resistance.” Here again, Rorty is helpful—not in pointing the way to a simple solution, but in warning us off the idea that one exists. In the same paper Rorty refers approvingly to the philosopher John Dewey, who, he tells us, believed that we should view “moral principles not as self-evident truths but as rough summaries of past practices” and who “saw decisions about what to believe and what to do as episodes in an endless process of reweaving our networks of beliefs and desires.” Rorty adds that “this process is rarely a matter of applying antecedent criteria.”

For Rorty, then, social decisions on issues of right and wrong, such as whose statue should come down and whose should remain, are never the outcome of applying logic to truths that are self-evident to any reasonable person. Such an approach is a great way to certify large numbers of our fellow citizens as either dishonourable (they know better but deliberately deny the truth), or irrational (they’re too stupid to figure it out), but achieves little else. Few people are going to be persuaded by our arguments if doing so means conceding that, prior to seeing the light, they were dishonourable or stupid. Besides, such concessions are un-necessary. It’s good enough for our purposes if we convince them to change their minds.

Instead of claiming self-evident truth and logic for our side in moral disputes, Rorty says, we must stay as much as we can “at the level of the concrete and complex.” Staying at this level means favouring “intelligence” over “reason,” which, in a lovely image, Rorty calls the difference between “the thought processes of the skilled carpenter and those of the Euclidean geometer.” In short, as Rorty has argued elsewhere, what is needed is a conversation.

13

NomadUK 02.01.21 at 2:28 pm

I don’t think there’s any satisfactory resolution to the San Francisco controversy over the names of public schools.

PS1, PS2, PS3, PS4, … PSn. Works fine.

14

Tm 02.01.21 at 3:05 pm

Interesting conversation about the latent pathologies in American politics and fascism, with philosopher Jason Stanley:

“Fascism is often regarded as an ideology or a regime type. Stanley says it’s a way of doing politics, a way of seizing power that feeds on a very particular style of propaganda. … For Stanley, if we only think of fascism as a type of government or a coherent set of beliefs, then we’re likely to recognize it [only] after it has already transformed our political system. The goal, he says, is to catch fascism “before it becomes a regime.””

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2021/1/29/22250294/trump-american-fascism-jason-stanley

15

Trader Joe 02.01.21 at 4:28 pm

@12 and the ‘Naming and monuments’ discussion

Some interesting nuggets to think on…the notion of ‘presentism’ is something I’ve thought of many times, which is to say monuments/buildings if they are doing their job should be inspirational to a person of the present. Does the honesty of Lincoln or the foresight of Washington still motivate people today or would a more current worthy be better? I’d that whatever one might think of either (and both had their flaws) they don’t seem at all ‘fresh’ as idols or worthy of emulation and that’s probably been true for more than 50 years.

My view is that for any public monument or public building (schools, airports, highways etc.) that there be a standard period of time for which that name is valid – say 25 years with maybe one extension, say another 10 years after which the monument is removed and replaced with something new….or the building renamed, as appropriate.

The US and many countries by dint of size alone produce many individuals worthy of recognition and this would allow that glory to be constantly refreshed and spread.

If you don’t want the problem of having to rename after say 35 years, don’t pick the name of a person. Its really that simple.

16

Orange Watch 02.01.21 at 5:32 pm

Tm@9:
As an eplanation for innocent bypassers, this subthread started with OW accusing me of bad things because I have on occasion linked to LGM.

No, this subthread started because you adopted a high-handed, sneering tone with several commentors in that prior thread, indignantly accused me of being “sneering”, and then in a very un-selfaware fashion responded to my citations of your own tone with among other comments the paragraph quoted in #3. If you’re sincerely trying to refute claims of being scornfully condescending, it might not be the best idea to dismiss your accuser as being hopelessly incapable of understanding the masterful wit you’d cited.

Even moreso when you then proceed to misrepresent what you’d linked. It was not “obviously exposing the narrative that Trumpism only exists among low income rural rubes” (which in and of itself is a startling sentence to read in your vehement disavowale of having a sneering tone). It was obviously invoking a favorite LGM trope, the so-called “Cletus safari” wherein journalists have the unremitting gall to interview common, unexceptional representatives of groups whose politics differ from LGM’s – talking to them rather than only talking about them. “Cletus”, of course, is a masterfully ironic invocation of the Simpsons character, “Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel”. Hence, a post titled “Cletus on the Upper Eastside” is referring quite obviously to anyone familiar with LGM (as you profess to be) to a “Cletus safari” article featuring a well-off, out-of-touch NYC QAnon follower… which you used as a rhetorical cudgel to equate with random people like me who disagreed with you, but only after opining that even if its sample size was N=1, it was still useful to present as representative of what QAnon followers look like demographically. This was particularly damning given that my comment that your were responding to freely admitted that most Trump voters were petit bourgeois and PMC – i.e., “upper middle class” – and rather took issue with your N=1 assertions about QAnon demographics.

This is all I’ll have to say on this here, as you’ve proven yet again to be a bad-faith interlocuter whose primary interest is talking down to people you disagree with, and who seemingly cannot constitutionally refrain from misrepresenting them and attacking their character.

17

Bartleby 02.01.21 at 7:05 pm

NomadUK: As a proud graduate of P.S. 187 and J.H.S. 67, I heartily concur. (Then I went to Benjamin Cardozo High School: not sure what San Francisco would make of him.)

18

john burke 02.01.21 at 8:41 pm

Sure, numbers, or toponyms (Tweed Heads? really? OK). But Trader Joe states my point more succinctly than I did: no naming after people. The Rorty argument keeps the discussion on the terrain of morality, which I don’t think can be fruitfully discussed at a crowded school board meeting. Beyond question, let’s honor John Coltrane. Miles Davis? Let’s have a long conversation. But in someone’s living room, not a session of the school board.

19

J-D 02.01.21 at 11:02 pm

Sure, numbers, or toponyms (Tweed Heads? really? OK).

There’s something strange about the toponyms I cited?
https://westport-p.schools.nsw.gov.au/
https://villawoode-p.schools.nsw.gov.au/
https://ultimo-p.schools.nsw.gov.au/
https://tweedheads-p.schools.nsw.gov.au/

But Trader Joe states my point more succinctly than I did: no naming after people.

I have no problem with that. Here’s me half a year ago:

No matter which individual is selected for a commemorative statue, there’s no way to be sure that individual was not guilty of some cruelty, treachery, or other horror (unless, I suppose, we have statues only of infants …). If we’re going to have statues of human figures at all, I think I’d prefer them to represent generic figures (for example, ‘The Liberated Slave’ or ‘The Loyal Companion’) or personified abstractions (for example, ‘Compassion’ or ‘Friendship’). Now that I think of it, all these would be better represented by figure groups than by individuals, which I think is probably all to the good.

20

RobinM 02.01.21 at 11:10 pm

Perhaps John Burke (@ 6) or any of the others commenting on the San Francisco school name controversy, can tell me why Robert Lewis Stevenson–for I read that he along with Lincoln, Washington, et al. stands condemned–has incurred the wrath of the reformers? I’m pretty sure it’s not because he is portrayed as indolently smoking a cigarette on his memorial plaque in St Giles cathedral in Edinburgh.

As to numbers rather than names, to follow on from an old idea of Bertrand Russell’s (I think), that people can divide against each other for the most absurd reasons, it surely wouldn’t take too long for the ‘Evenites’ to demand the elimination of the ‘Oddites’.

21

Kiwanda 02.01.21 at 11:57 pm

I don’t think using the names of historical figures is so important, since it’s unlikely that attending Lincoln school leads most anyone to know or care much about Lincoln. And I tend to think of the honoring of historical figures as being as much about honoring the movements or moments they were part of, as the figures themselves.

But removing the problematic does have its issues: Seattle, Washington is doubly problematic, a city named for a slave-holder, in a state named for a slave-holder. Should it be “City 10 of State 37” instead, following the idea of simply using numbers? Boston, Massachusetts both centers whiteness (city was named for a town in Lincolnshire) and appropriates indigenous culture (state name derives from the name of an indigenous group), and is thereby also doubly problematic. I understand that Francis of Assisi was a white man; how long will the San Francisco school board (to say nothing of the city government) go on centering whiteness by using the name, I wonder?

22

CHETAN R MURTHY 02.02.21 at 12:03 am

Orange Watch is so tiring with his “you centrist neolibs, you know NOTHING” schtick. He hides behind a pseudonym and hence we are unable to tell whether he’s a dog, or maybe even Donald Trump.

As opposed to the many named academics at LG&M, who put their names and reputations behind their words, and their judgments. Frankly, I’ll take Farley, Lemieux, Loomis, and Campos, over “some rando on the Internet” when it comes to the utility of Murc’s Law in predicting and analyzing politics.

Oh, and looky here, the GrOPers with their “not even the license fee” so-called compromise with Biden’s Covid plan, just shows us the truth of Murc’s Law again.

OW, really, you need to try harder than just sneering, honey.

23

CHETAN R MURTHY 02.02.21 at 12:10 am

Re: the “removing names from SF schools”

When I learned that Lincoln’s name was slated for removal, I scratched my head. Then I was informed that he wasn’t exactly well-regarded among many Native Americans, most notably for the massacre by Union troops that followed the Sioux Uprising. And that that wound was live today.

Who am I to judge whether that name gives great offense? I would guess that a nice statue of Churchill in Bengal (site of the Bengal Famine of 1943), say in Kolkata (?) might not be favorably-received. Upon learning of the history of Junipero Serra, it’s a wonder that his statues and name on various streets wasn’t removed long ago. And I’m not Hispanic.

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past (as a famous writer once said).

24

Andrew 02.02.21 at 12:43 am

@JB : 3 I don’t think the US has any particular obligation WRT reserve currency. The dollar has this status because others want to hold the dollar, not because of any particular agreement or legislation. I think more recently the Euro and Renminbi have been held as “reserve” as well as the dollar. The advantage that the US has by having its currency desired by others is that it can obtain hard goods for dollars and run a huge trade deficit.

I believe MMT thinking wouldn’t call low-wage labor an advantage as it means that people in other countries get to work producing things for American consumers, who can stay at home and click “Buy” on Amazon.com. The dollar hasn’t fallen off a cliff vs. other currencies of late, so it doesn’t seem that there is any imminent risk of change in status.

25

Bob 02.02.21 at 12:48 am

Rorty’s idea of promoting moral progress seems like a good one. Leaving aside naming of schools, are there to be no more monuments or memorials to anyone anywhere? And what do we do about all of the existing monuments? It would be a shame to give up on promoting moral progress because it’s too controversial.

26

bad Jim 02.02.21 at 4:50 am

27

Hidari 02.02.21 at 6:21 am

St Francis of Assisi supported the crusades.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/25740877?seq=1

@20 The inclusion of Robert Louis Stevenson in the ‘hit list’ does seem extremely weird. According to the Daily Mail (not the most reliable of sources) the research for this was done by quickly skimming through Wikipedia.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9204835/Historians-slam-chairmans-decision-rename-44-San-Francisco-schools.html

28

Jonathan Burns 02.02.21 at 6:27 am

Thanks, Andrew. I’m reading around — might bring up the topic again later.

29

nastywoman 02.02.21 at 7:24 am

@26
”Fun anonymous article at The New Republic”:

AND
what Jacob Silverman wrote:

”It makes for fun conversation, but trying to parse some latent revolutionary intent is almost beside the point when the farcical nature of the whole affair is so clear. If the GME fiasco is heightening any contradictions, it’s calling attention to the blatant absurdities of casino capitalism. How is the Redditors’ collaboration much different from hedge funds and institutional investors deciding to short GameStop almost as a collective? Why is market manipulation and activist investment acceptable when a billionaire does it but not when an anarchic group of quarantined day traders does? Why is it OK to bet on a company’s failure? Pull at these threads long enough, and you might unravel the ideological underpinnings of the financial industry. It’s not just money Wall Street fears losing in this imbroglio; it’s its legitimacy, too”.

30

bad Jim 02.02.21 at 9:01 am

I have a note to myself which I’d prefer not to have sticking to my monitor stand, so I’ll post it here instead. It’s in consideration of the recent actions of Twitter, Facebook and Google to mitigate the threat they pose to civil society.

It contends that they will evolve toward European norms of free speech, which is to say that participants have strong privacy rights and that certain forms of political speech are out of bounds. While Americans are generally inclined to consider threats to shoot politicians as good clean fun, other nations are not so easily amused and may be more inclined to regulate such speech. My supposition is that the policies of the social media giants will eventually converge across their markets.

31

Orange Watch 02.02.21 at 5:01 pm

CM@22:
He hides behind a pseudonym and hence we are unable to tell whether he’s a dog, or maybe even Donald Trump.

You’re unable to tell anything about me, except my gender apparently, because… why, exactly? Oh, yeah, the “centrist neolib” narrative about who the only people who disagree with you are.

I suppose it’s fitting that in a thread where people are discussing the Golden Age of Blogs we circle back to the question of online anonymity. Not all of us are in a privileged position to be able to paint a bullseye on ourselves online, let alone offline. Your inability to see your own privilege is an old argument between you and me (and also frustratingly cliche for “centrist neolibs”), but setting that aside: a tenured academic has a lot more safety in posting without pseudonym than “some rando on the Internet”, especially when the academic’s already a published author who regularly attaches their personal identitifying information to their (politically orthodox) positions. That you feel safe in posting under your putatively real name does not mean the rest of us do. Because, again, privilege is not universal. It is telling that you’re decrying my anonymity but not that of Tm… or forex Murc… because this is a tired old argument that we all heard over and over on blogs these past decades that falls between ad hominim and appeal to authority. Your problem with my handle isn’t that I’m pseudonomonymous, but that I disagree with you. Pseudonomynous posting is a problem if you’re a fan of hierarchy, and you need to be able to tally up the relative status of a comment based on the author’s credentials or claimed identity-based lived experience, but it’s not actually a problem unless we’re engaged in very narrowly focused discussion – it’s just a lever you can selectively manipulate to discredit people who disagree with you.

tl;dr: I don’t post under my real name, or expose all that much about my personal identity, because I don’t feel safe doing so, and that you have sufficient privilege to do so doesn’t say anything about me except that my anonymity cost-benefit calculations have a different sum than yours.

32

CHETAN R MURTHY 02.02.21 at 6:29 pm

IANAE(conomist), but I’ve read a number of economists who note that in addition to reducing the US’ ability to borrow unlimited amounts of wealth from the rest of the world (via our trade deficit), another effect of losing the dollar’s reserve currency status, is that US exporters/importers will have to start putting foreign exchange operations into their businesses. That is to say, whereas before almost any foreign counterparty would be happy to pay/be paid in dollars, in this future where the dollar has been disestablished, such counterparties might prefer to pay/be paid in Euros, or Renminbi — whatever becomes the new reserve standard. And that will have friction effects for all US overseas trade.

There was that example a while back of the Iranian government having an account in some Arab oil country (an Emirate?) denominated in the local currency, and wanting to get it converted to Iranian rial: the problem was that all the offers for doing this, involved going thru dollars, and that meant going thru the US banking system, which was … problematic b/c of sanctions. Point being, that’s what non-reserve currency holders have to do to go from currency A to currency B. When one of those two is a reserve currency, markets are deep and liquid.

Oh, another issue: the US has a real control-point on the world, thru the fact that basically all dollars are eventually linked to accounts at the Fed and moved around via SWIFT. This allows the US to promulgate and enforce its preferred set of rules for the world financial system. And that is a pretty powerful tool for enforcing US foreign policy. Lose the reserve currency status, lose the centrality of the Fed and SWIFT, and suddenly your tool is a lot less effective. I’m not sure that that’d be a bad thing for the world. Not saying it’d be a good thing: just not sure it’d be bad. It might not even be bad for the US. Again, not sure.

33

CHETAN R MURTHY 02.02.21 at 10:20 pm

OW @ 31: I wasn’t talking about the fact that I post with my real name. I was talking about the fact that the FPers you diss at LG&M post with their real names, as degreed academics with publication histories and reputations. I have no such reputation in any of the social sciences, so I’m no different from you. But when you diss the LG&M front-pagers, you’re like me, and nobody knows that we’re not, y’know, dogs.

34

CHETAN R MURTHY 02.03.21 at 12:28 am

Fundamentally, Hidari and OW both believe that the Dems are neolibs, and just don’t go far enough. And that that’s on purpose. They reach back to Clinton’s time, and adduce examples of his perfidy, as proof that Dems are not to be trusted, and that we need a revolution to sweep the Dems from power. Yadda yadda. Recently, over at LG&M, a commenter (Ben) shared this link to a Bob Dole advert from the 1996 Presidential campaign. Take a look: look at what sort of stuff the GrOPers were using in Presidential campaigns back then. Steel yourself first, b/c it’s pretty ugly.

http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1996/classroom

This idea that somehow the Dems were neolib traitors, instead of, y’know, trying to cling to power any way they could (b/c they understood what would happen, who would be hurt, if they lost) is bunk.

35

J-D 02.03.21 at 5:21 am

Rorty’s idea of promoting moral progress seems like a good one. Leaving aside naming of schools, are there to be no more monuments or memorials to anyone anywhere? And what do we do about all of the existing monuments? It would be a shame to give up on promoting moral progress because it’s too controversial.

How are named memorials indispensable to the promotion of moral progress? That’s not obvious.

36

J-D 02.03.21 at 5:25 am

They reach back to Clinton’s time, and adduce examples of his perfidy, as proof that Dems are not to be trusted, and that we need a revolution to sweep the Dems from power.

To me it seems worth pointing out the important difference between ‘A revolution could make things better’ and ‘Nothing but a revolution can make things any better’.

37

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.03.21 at 9:48 am

@Bob: “It would be a shame to give up on promoting moral progress because it’s too controversial.”

I’m agnostic on the question of monuments, although I see no reason why communities shouldn’t be able to build monuments to whomever they want.

But “moral progress”? “Promoting moral progress”?

Morality is a function of economics. Differences in moral intuitions are based on current and historic differences in regional and/or class-status economic conditions. “Promoting moral progress” amounts to the upper-class of a post-industrial society imposing their worldview on the rest of the world. Nay, scratch that. What they are imposing is not really their worldview, but rather what they fancy it should be, in a virtuous state of mind.

38

Hidari 02.03.21 at 11:28 am

@36
Has it ever occurred to you that all the great revolutionaries of history, regardless of whether they succeeded or not, regardless of the ultimate viewpoint of History, are all still remembered?

In other words, Spartacus, Boudicca, Wat Tyler, George Washington, Toussaint Louverture, José Martí, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela etc are still discussed and those who talked of ‘moderate progress within the boundaries of the law’ and ‘compromise with the oppressor’ and ‘the third way’ are mostly forgotten?

39

Anarcissie 02.03.21 at 6:04 pm

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.03.21 at 9:48 am @ 37:
‘Morality is a function of economics. Differences in moral intuitions are based on current and historic differences in regional and/or class-status economic conditions. …’

What, an isolated, atomized, unorganized individual can’t have moral ideas? So now what’s my excuse for not kicking the dog?

40

CHETAN R MURTHY 02.03.21 at 6:53 pm

[Very much worth pointing out, J-D. Very much.]
J-D @ 36: “To me it seems worth pointing out the important difference between ‘A revolution could make things better’ and ‘Nothing but a revolution can make things any better’.”

Seems clear that they believe the latter, and not the former; for if you believed the former, then the (a) difficulties of convincing enough people to go along with a revolution, and (b) the many imponderables of same, ought to argue strongly in favor of first getting what you can without a revolution. So the argument that “the Dems are such neolib sellouts” is really code for “we can’t get what the people need from the Dems”.

Of course, what they forget, is that it’s rare that a revolution actually fixes things; too often, it installs new tyrants in place of the old, and the old system of exploitation continues. But hey, I guess if you’re running the Sakhalin Island gulag, it’s a sweet gig. That’s part of the conceit of these people: they imagine themselves on top in whatever New World Order, whereas the vast mass of progressive[1] voters just want life to be a little better, and know that their children need to eat, and that isn’t so easy to arrange in the midst of a revolution.

[1] it’s always so confusing: am I leftist? [I want confiscatory steeply progressive taxation] am I a progressive? Am I a liberal? What’s the order? which is most leftist? which is least? it’s all so confusing. Ahhhh …. I remember now: I’m a neoliberal sellout. All good.

41

CHETAN R MURTHY 02.03.21 at 6:58 pm

GP @ 37:

I’m agnostic on the question of monuments, although I see no reason why communities shouldn’t be able to build monuments to whomever they want.

But “moral progress”? “Promoting moral progress”?

Morality is a function of economics. Differences in moral intuitions are based on current and historic differences in regional and/or class-status economic conditions.

(1) The many monuments to the Lost Cause were built with the enthusiastic approval of the White community, and the (obviously) disapproval of the Black community (and those who thought that Black people were, y’know, people). I guess what I’m saying is, it comes down to who is “the community”, who is included, and who is excluded.

(2) “morality is a function of economics”. Uh …. I think you’d find a lot of women, gay people, and also people of color, who would disagree vehemently. Since the beginning of culture, I think morality has been about marking who is in the in-group, who is not. So we can know whom we should help, and whom we should kill. Who is a righteous woman, who is a slut. Etc.

42

Orange Watch 02.03.21 at 7:18 pm

CM@33&34:

If you weren’t talking about how you putatively post with your real name, you would not have phrased your accusation as “hides behind a pseudonym”. You’ve certainly made enough appeals to personal experience over the years that this is a rather unconvincing retcon. But if you were merely making a bald appeal to authority, go look at another Golden Age news aggragotor blog whose lawyerly and academic authors don’t “hide behind pseudonyms”: Powerline. Is their blogging unreproachable as a result? Of course not; even setting aside political differences, there is a great deal to criticize strictly in terms of rhetorical tactics, etc. And this is why your appeal to authority falls short: the problems with LGM or Powerline is not what the credentialed authors know, or what they think, but how they communicate and present ideas, and the commentariats they cultivate.

Look at the article Tm linked brought LGM into the conversation. A clickbait/ragebait title, a link, extensive quotation of “the juicy bits”, analysis of the same quality you and I can offer and which Professor Campos’s credentials are irrelevant to, and the part that Tm subsequently made clear was the real reason they linked LGM for the article instead of NYT: a paragraph framing the article within the blogs meta-narrative without actually demonstrating it was representative of what it was presented as representing. This is the standard LGM post format for everyone but Farley (link-dumps) and Loomis (essays), and to circle back to oldster@4, it’s how LGM has avoided burnout and abandonment all these years: they act as aggragotor and framer rather than analyst. Many short low-effort (and I mean that in a value-neutral manner) posts linking framed articles to start conversations, and an insular comment section with light-touch moderation. It’s a good site to take the pulse of PMC liberals and progressives, but the majority of its contents would be no better or worse if posted by dogs b/c most of the time it’s hot takes on links rather than informed comment. That was and is the difference between long-form and short-form blogs. There’s nothing wrong with mere aggragotion, but there’s definitely something wrong with using the aggragotor’s credentials to add unearned and often unrelated credibility to what boil down to opinions that are no better (or worse) than pseudonomonymous blog comments.

They reach back to Clinton’s time, and adduce examples of his perfidy, as proof that Dems are not to be trusted…

Sadly, no. I for one reach back to when the triangulation began as an organized project: when the centrists cut off the top of McGovern’s ticket. And to be clear, I’m a registered Democrat and have been my entire adult life. The idea that the 3rd Way movement within the party IS the party is precisely why your claim that “Dems were just doing what they had to do” is so transparently disingenuous: you’ve conflated one wing of the party – the one that has dominated since McGovern – with the entire party, treat criticism of that branch of the party as criticism of the entire party, and present failures of that faction’s candidates as failures of the party as a whole – but you don’t extend the same consideration to other subgroups. When progressive candidates fail in elections, it’s proof that they fundementally can’t win because the electorate wants something more market-and-LE-and-DoD-friendly – but when centrists run on those platforms and lose, it’s only indicative of that one moment in time, and if anything is proof that we need to double down to bring in swing voters… while also being the fault of the treacherous DFHs who need to sit down, shut up, and vote for centrists w/o demanding concessions that will scare off “moderates”.

Which brings us back to Murc’s Law (awell-regarded hot take from a pseudonomonymous commenter with no special credentials or expertise) and the fact that it’s treated as a thought-terminating cliché. It’s not that “only Democrats have agency”, it’s that contemporary American political analysis typically applies agency strategically rather than consistently – and Murc’s Law is an example of precisely the sort of behavior it purports to call out.

43

Bartholomew 02.03.21 at 8:03 pm

12: “We wouldn’t erect monuments to Mussolini just because he made the trains run on time (surely a good thing, for what it’s worth!)”

Not necessarily a good thing, for what it’s worth. I don’t know how it is now, since trains are partly privatised, and I don’t know how it was before Mussolini, but back when I lived in Italy, the train timetables were organised hierarchically and with the user in mind. A mainline train would be met in the larger stations by secondary trains, which were met in turn in smaller stations by tertiary trains. So the Rome Milan train arrived in Bologna at 4 o’clock; 20 minutes later the Bologna-Rimini train, a shorter trip with more stations, would leave. If the mainline train was late, the secondary train would wait for it. Similarly, any more local train that was meeting the Bologna-Rimini train would in turn wait for that. So if the mainline train was 15 minutes late, then a number of lesser trains would be late by the same amount. Yes the trains were all late, but, provided you were stepping down a grade, you knew that your connecting train would wait for you. Much more civilised than a clock fetish.

By contrast, in that same period (1980s) my brother frequently took the ferry from France to Ireland and vice versa. (This was well before cheap flights.) There were trains at both ends to meet the boats, but they wouldn’t wait for them. So if the ferry arrived in Rosslare (a tiny port on the SE tip of Ireland) 30 or 40 minutes late, which in winter wasn’t unusual, just before you left the ship you would see the train leaving. Empty, of course.

So no statue to Mussolini, not even in Milan central station, which is supposedly one of the glories of Fascist architecture.

44

John Quiggin 02.04.21 at 2:22 am

I’m calling a halt to the slanging match above. Everyone has had their say about each other. The thread remains open for anyone who wants to talk about other things.

45

J-D 02.04.21 at 2:47 am

[Very much worth pointing out, J-D. Very much.]
J-D @ 36: “To me it seems worth pointing out the important difference between ‘A revolution could make things better’ and ‘Nothing but a revolution can make things any better’.”

Thank you for the compliment. It seems appropriate to follow up with the following further comments.

So the argument that “the Dems are such neolib sellouts” is really code for “we can’t get what the people need from the Dems”.

There is an important difference between ‘the Democrats will not provide everything that people need’ (practically certain to be true) and ‘the Democrats will not provide anything that people need’ (not so certain).

Of course, what they forget, is that it’s rare that a revolution actually fixes things …

There is an important difference between ‘revolutions produce only benefits’ (highly dubious) and ‘revolutions produce benefits’ (about which there is much less justification for doubt).

… too often, it installs new tyrants in place of the old, and the old system of exploitation continues.

There is an important difference between saying that a revolution has produced effects like that and saying that’s all it has done.

46

J-D 02.04.21 at 2:59 am

Just because they say Mussolini made the trains run on time doesn’t mean it’s true that he made the trains run on time. What would the source for that information be? The Fascists themselves? You wouldn’t want to have to take their word to the bank.

47

nastywoman 02.04.21 at 5:27 am

”The thread remains open for anyone who wants to talk about other things”.

Yeah!

So let’s talk about ”HEAVEN”
as there is this Non-Profit in the Middle of Europe who prepares an exhibition about –

”HEAVEN”
(after the lockdowns are ended – AND not necessarily in a ”religious” sense)

So does anybody here want to help?!
As
”HEAVEN” could really need some help.

48

J-D 02.04.21 at 8:18 am

Aggragotor, aggregator? Aggregator, aggragotor?

49

bad Jim 02.04.21 at 9:10 am

My brother, two years younger than I, got his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and the family is piling on me to do the same, although my sister, three years older than I, is not eligible in Northern California. I maintain a principled patience, contending that I have limited exposure, and by the same token hardly threaten anyone else, so I was immensely gratified to see Steven Thrasher, lately of the Guardian, write this in Scientific American: If You’ve Been Working from Home, Please Wait for Your Vaccine.

50

Hidari 02.04.21 at 9:29 pm

Since we’re not allowed to talk about the fun stuff, why don’t we talk about the objective superiority of the Chinese system of government over the American ”system’ of ‘government’ as has been demonstrated quantitatively by the death tolls from Covid?

Surely this is the only sane inference one can draw from this catastrophe, which is why the corporate media and Northern (I mean in terms of the Global North) intellectual class have been assiduous in not drawing this conclusion?

(to be fair, one might go further and say that the Global South, including, rather surprisingly, NZ and Australia, have demonstrated their inherent superiority over the Global North, at least as far as public health is concerned).

51

J-D 02.04.21 at 10:28 pm

Sadly, no. I for one reach back to when the triangulation began as an organized project: when the centrists cut off the top of McGovern’s ticket.

This is a puzzling reference. One of the most notorious features of the 1972 election was the dropping of Thomas Eagleton from the bottom of the ticket and his replacement by Sargent Shriver. What could be meant by the cutting off of the top of the ticket?

52

KT2 02.05.21 at 12:44 am

Read this just before… Hidari said: “the objective superiority of the Chinese system of government over the American ”system’ of ‘government’”?

What a question. Objecticity will be skewed by this, the ‘bait-iest’ question I’ve seen for a while at CT. Your first para needs a rewrite by those more knowledgeable than I, to contrast to your, imo, provicative frame.

Is degrading of democracy a consequence of the pandemic? Or a powerful light, revealing an historical trend? Is the USA an Anocracy? Will these scores change under Biden? Is Chinese, US, Aust, NZ ‘better’.
(Worth a ref in TECOTP?)

“NOTE: The USA has dropped below the “democracy threshold” (+6) on the POLITY scale in 2020 and
and is now considered an anocracy (+5). It has also lost its designation as the world’s oldest, continuous democracy;
that designation now belongs to Switzerland (171 years), followed by New Zealand (142) and the United Kingdom (139).
Further degradation of democratic authority in the USA will trigger an Adverse Regime Change event.”
https://www.systemicpeace.org/

Info re Polity Scale above:
“A new format has been developed for the Polity 5 data series that provides a chronological, detailed explanation of all changes in a country’s Polity scores from 1946 (or its date of independence ) to the present. This new report format will increase the transparency of the data series and enhance understanding of both the particular application of  the Polity coding scheme to a country’s “historical record” and the unique regime characteristics  and political dynamics of that country at any point in time during the contemporary Globalization Era.
 https://www.systemicpeace.org/p4creports.html

For those who haven’t used the word – ever – ala me…
“Anocracy or semi-democracy[1] is a form of government that is loosely defined as partdemocracy and part dictatorship,[2][3] or as a “regime that mixes democratic with autocratic features.”[3] Another definition classifies anocracy as “a regime that permits some means of participation through opposition group behavior but that has incomplete development of mechanisms to redress grievances.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anocracy

53

Peter T 02.05.21 at 7:00 am

Fro what it’s worth, I recall reading the summary of a PhD thesis which came to the conclusion, after a study of the Italian railways of the period, that Mussolini did NOT make the railways run on time.

54

Tm 02.05.21 at 7:27 am

J-D 46: Don’t you know Hitler built the Autobahns all by himself. It wasn’t all bad no no.

55

Tm 02.05.21 at 7:41 am

KT2: “It has also lost its designation as the world’s oldest, continuous democracy;
that designation now belongs to Switzerland (171 years), followed by New Zealand (142) and the United Kingdom (139)”

That brings to mind an important anniversary: Congratulations to 50 years of women’s suffrage in Switzerland, the world’s oldest continuous democracy! (February 7, 1971) Hey, what’s the matter with those oldest democracies?

https://www.parlament.ch/en/über-das-parlament/political-women/conquest-of-equal-rights/women-suffrage
https://www.bern.com/en/women-suffrage

“Further degradation of democratic authority in the USA will trigger an Adverse Regime Change event.”
That will teach them authoritarians a lesson!

56

nastywoman 02.05.21 at 8:36 am

@52
”What a question. Objecticity will be skewed by this, the ‘bait-iest’ question I’ve seen for a while at CT”.

that’s why I was afraid to answer it –
as in my answer which would be about365 comments I would have ti blame… dudes like Trump and…
Uuuuuh –
I’m sooooo sorry to say…
CT commenters like Hidari – for turning my homeland into an ”Anocracy”.

57

Hidari 02.05.21 at 8:49 am

@52

‘China and the EU have become the major trading partners of most countries in the world. The United States is still a regional economic power, but even in South America, most countries now trade more with China. American militarism has accelerated these trends by squandering the nation’s resources on weapons and wars, while China and the EU have invested in peaceful economic development and 21st-century infrastructure.

For example, China has built the largest high-speed rail network in the world in just 10 years (between 2008 and 2018), and Europe has been building and expanding its high-speed network since the 1990s, but high-speed rail is still only on the drawing board in America.

China has lifted 800 million people out of poverty, while America’s poverty rate has barely budged in 50 years and child poverty has increased. America still has the weakest social safety net of any developed country and no universal health care system, and the inequalities of wealth and power caused by extreme neoliberalism have left half the U.S. population with little or no savings to live on in retirement or to weather any disruption in their lives.

Our leaders’ insistence on siphoning off 66% of U.S. federal discretionary spending to preserve and expand a war machine that has long outlived any useful role in America’s declining economic empire is a debilitating waste of resources that jeopardizes our future. ‘

As I have tirelessly argued on CT (not that anyone cares, and to be fair, why should they) American’s Empire, which once enriched it, is now rotting it away from within, economically, politically and, dare I say it, morally. As long as Americans aspire to being the world’s dominant imperial power (and it has to be said that, amongst the intellectual class, most of them still do) there will be no solutions to America’s problems.

China is also an imperial power, but on a much smaller scale, and it entirely lacks the ‘Amerika uber alles’ attitude of the Americans. So in the long run it’s likely to do a lot better (this is also why war between the Americans and the Chinese is absolutely inevitable: the Americans will never tolerate a serious threat to their global domination).

https://www.salon.com/2021/02/04/the-decline-and-fall-of-the-american-empire-joe-bidens-biggest-challenge/

58

Orange Watch 02.05.21 at 9:58 am

[Please delete prior mangled HTML version]

J-D@5:
What could be meant by the cutting off of the top of the ticket?

It refers to members and power brokers (such as union bosses) within the centrist establishment Democrats partially or fully refusing to support his candidacy after he won the nomination, but continuing to support the rest of the Democratic ticket. See forex this, which was written pre-convention but still reflected the attitudes and behaviors of the involved parties going into the general.

59

James Houston 02.05.21 at 3:01 pm

on the pivotal branch on the tree of history…the emergence of casino capitalism in the consciousness/lexicon of legitimate capitalism. The junk bond king Michael Milken as folk hero then the extreme leveraged positions and the intertwining of betting vehicles with the real economy that followed. All of this was now moving in to mainstream conversation as legitimate. The great minds and problem solvers all flocked to the “new markets” the derived markets and made fortunes. Ever wonder why so many of our doctors and researchers in the US are first generation ???

60

J-D 02.06.21 at 5:30 am

[Please delete prior mangled HTML version]

J-D@5:
What could be meant by the cutting off of the top of the ticket?

It refers to members and power brokers (such as union bosses) within the centrist establishment Democrats partially or fully refusing to support his candidacy after he won the nomination, but continuing to support the rest of the Democratic ticket. See forex this, which was written pre-convention but still reflected the attitudes and behaviors of the involved parties going into the general.

Oh, right, yes, I’ve read about ‘Democrats for Nixon’ before. Sorry if it was my density rather than your abstruseness which stopped me picking up on your point. Anyway, I’ve got it now.

But doesn’t that kind of thing go back even further? Weren’t there ‘Democrats for Eisenhower’?

61

bad Jim 02.06.21 at 7:47 am

Picking up my usual order from a side street eatery (chile verde cada viernes) I had to say yes, I want the tortillas. My appetite has returned with a new president, my stomach is no longer always clenched. That got a belly laugh.

62

Tm 02.06.21 at 8:33 am

The Decline of the American Empire (French: Le Déclin de l’empire Américain) is a 1986 Canadian sex comedy-drama film directed by Denys Arcand and starring Rémy Girard, Pierre Curzi and Dorothée Berryman.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Decline_of_the_American_Empire

63

Tm 02.06.21 at 8:42 am

I should have mentioned that it’s a trilogy, followed by Les invasions barbares (2003) and La chute de l’empire américain (2018). It’s over, folks! Funny how Anglos are the last to notice because they watch the wrong movies.

Oh also this:
https://www.newsweek.com/progressives-cheer-end-us-support-yemen-war-after-more-230000-deaths-1566950

64

nastywoman 02.06.21 at 8:50 am

”(this is also why war between the Americans and the Chinese is absolutely inevitable: the Americans will never tolerate a serious threat to their global domination)”

FIRST – We HAVE to win The War On The Invisible Enemy –
AND after that –
we need about 20 years to restore tourism -(and the International Restaurant Scene) –
to it’s former… ”glory” –
and by THEN ALL the people who still think that wars are in any way…
relevant –
will be…

DEAD!

65

John Quiggin 02.06.21 at 9:36 am

@Peter T I’ve read somewhere that the claim dates back to the March on Rome that brought Mussolini to power. He didn’t march, but took the train and ordered the driver to make sure he got there on time. IIRC, that train was on time, but it was the exception not the rule.

66

notGoodenough 02.06.21 at 9:57 am

John Quiggin @ 65

Actually, Mussolini was a big proponent of biofuels – he made the trains run on thyme.

…I’ll see myself out.

67

nastywoman 02.06.21 at 10:33 am

@61
”I had to say yes, I want the tortillas. My appetite has returned with a new president, my stomach is no longer always clenched. That got a belly laugh”.

and thank you very much for this –
THAT made my day!

68

nastywoman 02.06.21 at 10:46 am

and @
”Funny how Anglos are the last to notice because they watch the wrong movies”.

How true – as already in 2018 – I watched:
”La chute de l’empire américain” –
”The Fall of the American Empire” and the last of the series –
and it is:
A Canadian crime thriller[2] film written and directed by Denys Arcand and starring Alexandre Landry, Maxim Roy, Yan England and Rémy Girard. It is about a man (Landry) who, after an armed robbery in Montreal, discovers two bags of money and is unsure what to do with them.

He is
”unsure what to do with them” –
and if that wasn’t truly the end of the American Empire….?

69

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.06.21 at 3:06 pm

@57:
“China has lifted 800 million people out of poverty, while America’s poverty rate has barely budged in 50 years and child poverty has increased.”

Salon.com, 02/04, eh? Sounds like the author had read Vladim-Vladimich’ 01/27 Davos speech.

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/64938
“So, if we take an income level of $5.50 per person per day (in terms of PPP) then, according to the World Bank, in China, for example, the number of people with lower incomes went from 1.1 billion in 1990 down to less than 300 million in recent years.
[…]
According to the World Bank, 3.6 million people subsisted on incomes of under $5.50 per day in the United States in 2000, but in 2016 this number grew to 5.6 million people. This figure is going up and, hence, social tension is on the rise.”

70

steven t johnson 02.06.21 at 3:39 pm

Hidari@57 claims the Amerian empire enriched “America,” which implies that home ownership spread so widely from the Fifties on due to the exploitation of certain other countries. Or that government employees, like teachers, owe their middle-classness to the same exploitation. Indeed, the social welfare net, such as it is, is composed of people exploiting the people of the neocolonial world. My judgment is that this is a dubious proposition, that the anti-Communist crusade and its successor have always been a net drain on the society at large, primarily benefiting what used to be called, “vested interest.” The thesis that the US military was not needed after Communism was defeated is a commonplace, but I think that just means to say, the billions spent and the lives taken in the great anti-Communist crusade were a loss born by the nation but one well worth it in non-monetary terms. The idea that it somehow paid off for the people is hard to justify.

Hidari also declares China is an imperial power, on now grounds whatsoever. At a guess, Hidari is thinking Tibetan lama and Uighur Islamists. I’m not sure why anyone endorses Uighur Islamists ruling over the other Uighurs, much less Turkmen, Mongols, stray Tadjiks and Kirghiz, the Hui or wishes for the ethnic cleasing of the Han. I’m not even convinced returning the Dalai Lama to ruling god-king is a good thing either. But if the principle is that every language must have its own flag (=army,) then it’s not clear why most countries aren’t also “imperial.”

A note on Democrats moving right? The nomination of Harry Truman and the furious redbaiting of the Henry Wallace campaign (Progressive Party) was the decisive shift to the right. Even with the capitulations to the Dixiecrat wing by the New Deal, there has never been a Democratic Party faction that far to the left again. Popular Front politics, which was what the New Deal embodied, have never been acceptable since.

In that sense, despite Corey Robin’s indignation, all acceptable politics since has been “McCarthyite” politics, a situation created by extra-legal means like the Red Scare. The self-flattery in thinking that New Deal politics have come back is a historical misunderstanding, presentism. A politics that has a place for Communists simply is not in any shape, form or fashion tolerable, even today. People who think it’s possible to be an anti-Communist and a leftist are simply wrong. It’s the “left” equivalent of right-wingers imagining that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton were conservatives in today’s sense, when they were active revolutionaries. Presentism is a potent drug, even, or maybe especially, in the thinking of people who will use the word…to condemn others.

71

afeman 02.06.21 at 3:55 pm

I find it less interesting that relatively wealthy island countries (and I’d guess S. Korea could count as an island) control the impact of COVID than the extent to which places like Vietnam, Mongolia, and India have.

72

MisterMr 02.06.21 at 5:19 pm

Re: trains and Mussolini

According to Wikipedia (italian version) during fascism Mussolini invested heavily on railwais, including creating some high speed routes, and trains were a symbol of modernity for fascism so this modernisation was highly publicised (hence the idea that Mussolini made trains run on time), but contemporaneously during the period the government fired a lot of railway workers and the other ones had longer shifts, that caused trains NOT to run on time.

https://it.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storia_delle_ferrovie_in_Italia

73

Orange Watch 02.07.21 at 6:32 am

J-D@60:

My pegging it to McGovern rather than decades earlier is for a couple of reasons. Post-McGovern we were dealing with the modern Democratic Party – the southern strategy had borne fruit and the decades of re-alignment were mostly done. As a result, the more-conservative/more-institutional Democrats had their power threatened in a way they hadn’t previously (before even considering broader general institutional fear and loathing of “the politics of ’68” in the US and elsewhere). Further, McGovern’s primary was the first using new primary-heavy delegate rules that gave the hoi polloi an active role in decisionmaking, and elite backlash to it was where we got e.g. the super-delegate system. Last but not least, McGovern is still living memory for a generation of voters – I’m related to people who strongly endorsed Sanders’ policies in the prior two electoral cycles but cited McGovern by name when explaining why they wouldn’t be voting for him. So again, McGovern seems to have been when triangulation became an organized project rather than ad hoc reactions within a big-tent party.

74

JimV 02.07.21 at 2:18 pm

When I ask myself who was the best candidate (as a person) whom I ever had the pleasure of voting for, I usually pick Carter–because I had forgotten McGovern. One can never be sure, but I think it was McGovern. I forget the details, but a WWII historian cited him for heroism–something about landing a damaged bomber rather than bailing out and letting it crash into a small Italian town. (Not that the WWII bombing campaigns were anything to be proud of, but the crews were courageous.)

My fellow country-people picked Nixon over him in a landslide. History sure does rhyme.

75

Hidari 02.07.21 at 4:24 pm

@ 74

Nixon’s victory in ’68 was illegitimate because Nixon committed treason.

https://allthatsinteresting.com/nixon-treason

If there was any law in the US (there’s not, there never has been, and there never will be) Nixon and his Mosca, Kissinger, would have both hanged for that.

Likewise Nixon’s ‘victory’ in 1972 was illegitimate because it was facilitated by the rampant illegality of Watergate. McGovern was the ‘true’ victor in 1972 and it follows from this that all the inferences drawn from Nixon’s ‘victory’ (i.e. by centrist Democrats) are wrong.

76

nastywoman 02.07.21 at 5:42 pm

AND come on guys?

”The End of the American Empire is a guy – who, after an armed robbery discovers two bags of money and is unsure what to do with them”.

Isn’t that… that? – teh utmost ”crooked timber” y’all EVER found on CT?

77

KT2 02.08.21 at 1:02 am

War – what IS it good for? It is always fear. It is “absolutely inevitable(lt)” due to fear.
[gramatical error “absolutely inevitable”???]

Hidari says “… this is also why war between the Americans and the Chinese is absolutely inevitable: the Americans will never tolerate a serious threat to their global domination).”

NEVER say never.

“… world war. Our research finds that 12 of these rivalries ended in war and four did not — not a comforting ratio for the 21st-century’s most important geopolitical contest.”

“War Between China and the United States Isn’t Inevitable, But It’s Likely: An Excerpt From Graham Allison’s “Destined for War”
Author: Graham Allison
Mar. 05, 2018

“Will Presidents Trump and Xi, or their successors, follow in the tragic footsteps of the leaders of Athens and Sparta or Britain and Germany? In his new Gelber Prize-nominated book, Allison says the omens are not good

“The catastrophic outcome of their competition necessitated a new category of violent conflict: world war. Our research finds that 12 of these rivalries ended in war and four did not — not a comforting ratio for the 21st-century’s most important geopolitical contest.
….
“We can be certain, however, that the dynamic Thucydides identified will intensify in the years ahead.

“Denying Thucydides’s Trap does not make it less real. Recognizing it does not mean just accepting whatever happens. We owe it to future generations to face one of history’s most brutal tendencies head on and then do everything we can to defy the odds.”
https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/war-between-china-and-united-states-isnt-inevitable-its-likely-excerpt-graham-allisons

And so you may “absolutely inevitable(ly) return empowered to prove war is “absolutely inevitable” Hidari, go for these refs:
…”Both Allison’s conception of Thucydides’s Trap and its applicability to U.S.-Chinese relations have encountered heavy scholarly criticism.[13][14][15] In March 2019, the Journal of Chinese Political Science dedicated a special issue to the topic,[16] suggesting power transition narratives do appear to matter with regard to domestic perception.[17]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Allison

Odds on -“12 of these rivalries ended in war and four did not” I’ll admit is not such goods odds, and with the US sailing the Taiwan straights,  and Chine looking to stare down Australia,  (see below), we are going to need diplomats who, unlike you Hidari, believe war MAY be inevitable,  UNLESS we [insert favourite peace and or not war suggestions here].

Here’s – China – looking at you kid – Australia;

1) Good ‘ol US ‘military’ news? makes it sound like financial colonialism – read ‘good’ capitalism’, the stratospheric blue sky projecy [PNG hasn’t even acknowledged project – lobbying by media] will “exceed PNG’s GDP by about $5 billion”;

“The project would be built in the town of Daru and would be known as the “New Daru City,” encompassing a 100 square km area. The project is aimed at PNG’s impoverished Western Province. Another Chinese company is looking to build a $200 million fisheries industrial park in the area and New Daru City would include fisheries, agricultural processing facilities, and ­provision for “intensive manufacturing.” New Daru City’s proposed project value would exceed PNG’s GDP by about $5 billion.”
https://americanmilitarynews.com/2021/02/china-trying-to-build-39b-megacity-100-miles-off-australias-coast/

2) Chinese company’s multi-billion-dollar plan to build a city on Papua New Guinean island near Australian border
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-05/chinese-company-plans-to-build-city-on-png-island-near-australia/13123698

3) “The CCP is a truly generous benefactor. Especially when its only real goal is to bully and subdue anybody that gets in its way, such as Australia.”
https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2021/02/china-proposes-huge-png-port-to-stand-over-australia/

Know war, know peace.

78

Bob 02.08.21 at 1:26 am

Since I’m the one who started this “Mussolini/trains” sub-thread, ‘way up there at #12, I feel I should step in and say that that was the least important part of my comment. Pick any minor, but undisputably good, accomplishment of an otherwise deplorable tyrant. My point is that that “good” thing, however good in its own little self, should not offset the enormity of the bad, such that we still erect monuments to the glory of said tyrant. That’s all. If I’m wrong on the facts with Mussolini, I apologise. It shouldn’t be hard for anyone to think of another example.

I invite everybody to read #12 again. There’s some good, thoughtful stuff there folks, presented in clear prose. It’s timely too, because the vigilantes are now tearing down monuments to Cervantes, and Robert Gould Shaw (of “For the Union Dead” fame) is also under scrutiny. Someone needs to step in with some principles. Lee, no. But Cervantes? Shaw?

79

oldster 02.08.21 at 2:44 am

Dear Bob @12 and 78,

I liked your post, and agreed with it. It was written with exemplary clarity, and marshaled arguments in support of its overarching thesis. I’m not a Rorty guy in general, but on this topic I think he speaks sense. I also agree about the general heuristics for who gets celebrated in statuary and who does not.

What you wrote was also noteworthy — esp. on this thread — for being sane, and not flecked by spittle. CT seems to be attracting more and more unhinged posters of late.

There was a CT commenter — he may still be around — who used to diagnose psychopathologies in every right-wing commenter or political figure, to the extent that the CT referees eventually yellow-carded him on that play. But I have to say, irrespective of political orientation, that there is some evidence of mental instability in some of the posters up above. It’s unfortunate for the health of the blogosphere, or what remains of it.

80

J-D 02.08.21 at 4:56 am

Since I’m the one who started this “Mussolini/trains” sub-thread, ‘way up there at #12, I feel I should step in and say that that was the least important part of my comment. Pick any minor, but undisputably good, accomplishment of an otherwise deplorable tyrant. My point is that that “good” thing, however good in its own little self, should not offset the enormity of the bad, such that we still erect monuments to the glory of said tyrant. That’s all. If I’m wrong on the facts with Mussolini, I apologise. It shouldn’t be hard for anyone to think of another example.

I invite everybody to read #12 again. There’s some good, thoughtful stuff there folks, presented in clear prose. It’s timely too, because the vigilantes are now tearing down monuments to Cervantes, and Robert Gould Shaw (of “For the Union Dead” fame) is also under scrutiny. Someone needs to step in with some principles. Lee, no. But Cervantes? Shaw?

Did you see my comment at #35?

81

nastywoman 02.08.21 at 7:32 am

@
”NEVER say never”.

and about:
”know peace, know war” –
let’s say: there are (STILL) far too many very rich and influential Chinese who own houses and apartments in my homeland – and who send their children to American ”Universities of Spoiled Children” – for them NOT to have such ”investments” destroyed by any type of ”war”- even if a lot of Chinese – who invested in NYC HUUUGEST Real Estate Adventure – Hudson Yard want their money back –
BUT that’s NOT a good enough reason to go to war – until ”the War an the Invisible Enemy” will NOT be won – by a United World.

And that War -(and all it’s consequences) will be go on for such a long time –
AN the War against the Climate Crisis will follow – right away –
that –
as already mentioned –
there won’t be any money – energy – or mood for ANY so called ”conventional” war.

82

Bob 02.08.21 at 1:17 pm

J-D @80, sorry, not sure how, but I missed your comment.

I think “essential” might be too strong a word. But Rorty’s idea, which I think makes sense, is that it is helpful, in human terms, if we have heroes of social progress that we can focus on as models.

83

Orange Watch 02.08.21 at 4:25 pm

steven t johnson@70:
People who think it’s possible to be an anti-Communist and a leftist are simply wrong. […] Presentism is a potent drug, even, or maybe especially, in the thinking of people who will use the word…to condemn others.

It would appear to be presentism to revise history so as to erase the internecine struggles on the left between Communists, socialists, and anarchists – all of whom were clearly left and often “active revolutionaries”. There was – and is – good cause for leftists to be anti-Communist, and it is in no way inherently contradictory.

84

JimV 02.08.21 at 4:34 pm

“McGovern was the ‘true’ victor in 1972 and it follows from this that all the inferences drawn from Nixon’s ‘victory’ (i.e. by centrist Democrats) are wrong.”-Hidari @75

I like the spirit but not the logic. It seemed to me that anyone who saw the evil glint in Nixon’s eyes as he made speeches could tell he was a used-car salesman at best and the kind of person who would place his political future over human lives at worst (anyway, that was my impression); but history recorded that most people in the USA liked the messages in those speeches well enough to ignore the messenger. (I didn’t know many functioning adults who actually liked Nixon.) So from a centrist Democrat point of view, what they needed to do was send similar messages with better messengers. The fact as I saw it that Nixon was a bad person only amplified that line of reasoning.

Of course, I also thought the Kansas City Chiefs had a good chance to win their game yesterday in a shoot-out, so while I can only reason from what I see, I need to bear in mind there is probably a lot that I don’t know which could play a big role in outcomes.

85

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86

J-D 02.08.21 at 11:11 pm

Rorty’s idea, which I think makes sense, is that it is helpful, in human terms, if we have heroes of social progress that we can focus on as models.

Surely some work should be done to establish this conclusion? It’s not obvious that it’s correct.

87

Tm 02.08.21 at 11:13 pm

„People who think it’s possible to be an anti-Communist and a leftist are simply wrong.“

Perhaps the only way to be a good leftist then is to be communism-agnostic? I don’t like the pathologies of anti-communism. But also I am unable to take anyone seriously as a leftist who defends for example the Moscow Trials. And make no mistake, almost all communists in the time when Communism still mattered defended the Moscow Trials.

Our friend stj recently accused social democrats of murdering communists, to which I pointed out that far more communists were murdered by fellow communists than by social democrats.

88

Tm 02.08.21 at 11:22 pm

An alternative take on the question of great power competition:

“ Sometimes the best way to compete is… not to bother.”

(Trigger warning: some readers are allergic to the blog site linked below)
https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/02/avoiding-an-expensive-and-counter-productivegreat-power-competition-trap

89

steven t johnson 02.09.21 at 2:21 am

Orange Watch@83 has an amusing variation on the straw man, where the straw man is expected to knock down the opposing argument. In particular, the notion that anarchists are clearly part of the left, much less engage in social revolutions, is notably preposterous. Anarchism is to revolution as libertarianism is to freedom. The basic equivocation is on what is “clearly left.” Votes for women can be construed as “clearly left.” Socialist politics, social democracy stands for class collaboration with capitalism, which means despite all fantasies to the contrary that ultimately socialist parties, social democracy, stands for the rule of the minority over the majority. This is not left.

The idea that socialists are clearly part of the left ignores that all socialist parties, historically, have supported “their” nation’s wars, or split. I say that supporting imperialist wars is never “left.” When communist parties do it, they are capitulating to the right. But the splits in, for example, the US Socialist Party, were not struggles within the left, but against the left. Historically only (some) splits from Socialist Parties are movement to the left. Equally, historically almost all splits from Communist Parties are movement to the right.

It is easier to see in regards to foreign policy, but there is no genuine demarcation between domestic and foreign policy goals. A right-wing foreign policy is indicative of a right-wing domestic policy. There are plenty of examples of Communist Parties turning right, to pursue socialist policies of reformism and compromise with reaction. But they are not example of struggles within the left, but of unity between socialists and communists. They are examples of turning to the right. (See the history of the Spanish Civil War or the Guo Min Dang for case studies.)

The notion that the “left” of decades ago can be usefully defined by the notions of “left” today is wrong. Internet things are often not really things, but the present idea of “left” that informs OW’s comment can be thought of as, viewing the past through today’s Overton Window.

90

J-D 02.09.21 at 4:57 am

“McGovern was the ‘true’ victor in 1972 and it follows from this that all the inferences drawn from Nixon’s ‘victory’ (i.e. by centrist Democrats) are wrong.”-Hidari @75

I like the spirit but not the logic.

The wanton use of scare quotes is a strong indicator that no statement meriting attention has been made, even in the absence of the evidence of Hidari’s track record.

It seemed to me that anyone who saw the evil glint in Nixon’s eyes as he made speeches could tell he was a used-car salesman at best and the kind of person who would place his political future over human lives at worst (anyway, that was my impression); but history recorded that most people in the USA liked the messages in those speeches well enough to ignore the messenger. (I didn’t know many functioning adults who actually liked Nixon.)

A personal circle of acquaintance (yours, mine, anybody’s) is a grossly unrepresentative sample. ‘I love Nixon’ merchandise is still being sold, even now. The overwhelming likelihood is that many people voted for Nixon despite having negative feelings for as a person while many people voted for him and did have positive feelings for a person, because that’s the way it usually is for major-party candidates.

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