Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member


Metaphorical's Journal
Metaphorical's Journal
August 7, 2023

Barbie Tops $1B at the Box Office


Culture Warriors beware. This movie is the definition of Woke, and makes me suspect that the GQP has awakened a Juggernaut that's going to reshape the political landscape dramatically next November.
June 12, 2023

Kings, Constitutional Republics, Democracies

I'm seeing the Constitution Republic meme continue to gain traction. The arguments usually vary but generally come down to the notion that the US is not a Representative Democracy (one person - one vote) but is instead a Constitutional Republic. Technically, these are different but not exclusive:

Representative Democracy - All citizens have an equal vote in choosing representatives to represent their interests at the Federal level.
Constitutional Republic - A constitution or charter outlines the rights and responsibilities of the citizens of a country, rather than such rights being determined by a defacto absolute monarch or autocrat.

Roughly 95% of all countries fit into the formal definition of a constitutional republic, including China, Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Many modern monarchies (on the other hand) have figurehead rulers and a strong bicameral tradition. Other countries, such as North Korea, incorporate the Republic in their name, even if they happen to be autocratic states.

The purpose of this meme is simple but insidious - it argues that the US is not really a Democracy, because that's not what was in the constitution (which is also patently false). This effort is an effort to delegitimize democracies in general, because strong democracies typically are much harder to corrupt and have better checks and balances on power, not to mention weakening the "Democratic" brand.

May 16, 2023

Will America Split?

America has, from its inception, been an expanding country. It and Canada split from one another very early on, as most Canadians were American British colonists that did not want to separate from England (or French colonists that did not want to leave France), and I think it's important to realize how much American and Canadian history really is intertwined.

In the first eighty years, the opportunities for growth, wealth, and finding like-minded people let to the expansion of the country to the West Coast, but already the seeds of conflict, primarily over slavery, were planted. The more early industrialized north developed a mercantilist attitude very much at odds with the plantation-centric states in the South, which were borrowing an economic model that it really wasn't suited for. The worst excesses of slavery happened in the Caribbean, Central America and the northern parts of South America, and cotton, rum, and tobacco were very much secondary crops in the vast trade network triangle of the Atlantic. Most economists have concluded that slavery would have likely persisted only to about 1885, even if the civil war had not happened, because it was becoming less and less economically viable.

Similarly, the Civil War's conclusion was pretty much inevitable. The South had the better generals, but that was really their own advantage - the North had advanced technology, the ability to manufacture rifles of superior quality in far greater numbers, and the economic base sufficient to continue to do so long after the South's economy had been destroyed. The North urbanized the South, and in the process set the groundwork for what has come since.

By 1912, New Mexico and Arizona became the last contiguous states to join the union. Alaska and Hawaii would be the last two territorial states to become fully recognized states, in 1949. After World War II, the US gained much of the British Empire by proxy, having effectively replaced British garrisons globally with Americans, and it boosted the American economy to become the largest in the world. However, empires are expensive, especially when colonies no longer significantly contribute to the Imperial well-being. Yet America's Empire has become more a formality as country after country has nationalized their primary exports, and this erosion, which started in the late 1970s, has been reversing the tide of globalism and the increased standard of life for many, exposing islands of greater wealth while leaving more and more people facing decline.

Empires do not remain empires for long. The Ottoman Empire split in the late 19th century, the German empire expanded from multiple states to eventually expanding nearly to Moscow, the British Empire began to dissolve even before World War I, the Soviet Empire peaked in the 1970s, collapsed in the 1990s, and looks to be collapsing even more now. The Chinese Empire is now expanding, but it's a tenuous one - my guess is that it will likely expand primarily by absorbing the Russian oblasts in Siberia, but that's only a guess.

When Empires collapse, internal divisions within the Imperial host become more stressed. Oligarchs in the US have come to realize that retaining the whole country is no longer feasible - demographics are against them in the long run, and oil, which is what the current generation of oligarchy is built on directly or indirectly, is threatened by nuclear power, green energy, and within twenty years, fusion.

Their current strategy, funded by deep pockets, is to split the country along cultural lines. They are succeeding. I would argue that neither Trump norDeSantis would be able to become President today, let alone win the Trifecta as they did in 2016, if the US overall. Yet, lose the West Coast, the Northeast, and arguably most of the Canadian adjacent North, and they end up with a Red America that is half the size with perhaps 35% of the economic strength of the current United States, still making it (by a considerably margin) the 3rd largest economy on the planet, behind the Blue United States (China immediately vaults to 1st place, at least for a few decades).

Even if Blue America united with Canada, (unlikely but not completely out of the question) this really wouldn't change much. Red America would at least on paper be a country with a GDP of USD$8 Trillion, with roughly 1,000 nuclear weapons and one Fleet (4th Fleet (South Atlantic), out of Mayport, Florida. It may seem like a worthwhile gamble if you're an oligarch wanting to be even more powerful.

How likely is this? Currently, 19 states have passed legislation calling for a constitutional convention. However, an additional 15 currently have active legislation, and another 6 have had such legislation pass one chamber (this includes DC). 34 of 50 states would be required to call a constitutional convention, and 38 votes would be needed to pass. The latter is an almost unattainable goal (76% of all states). Still, I suspect it wouldn't matter - having called such a convention, the likelihood that a Red American coalition would form and then vote for succession from the convention would be sufficient as it is likely they would take a hard-line stance guaranteed to be at odds with the rest of the states.

Now, as to what would happen after, that's where things likely get interesting. Most states are more purple than red or blue. Central and Southeast Texas, home to military bases, universities, and research facilities, may very well be loathe to leave the union - and indeed, I suspect that most plebiscites (if they were allowed to be held) would put the kibosh on any secession plans. In other places where you have large minority populations relative to the apartheid governments, the areas may turn into a bloody civil war that did not go the way the apartheid government intended.

Over the long run, I suspect cooler voices will prevail, and the secession attempt will end with more comedy than tragedy. A second convention may very well be called (or the first simply resumed), the hard issue of resolving some very serious inequalities of representation should be rectified, the rights and responsibilities of corporate personhood need to be ironed out, the Equal Rights Amendment needs to be approved, and the direction of the country, as it moves into the twenty-first century, needs to be determined.

My personal belief? We have long had de-facto regional governments - the US district court of appeals, for instance, has 14 divisions + (Fed and DC). A system which placed more political power at this District level might better balance power than exists today, and can be done without threatening the integrity of the US as a country. Similarly, we can expand the number of Supreme Court judges to fifteen by assuming that each district has one justice appointment. The districts would also have a number of representatives proportional to their population, with the districts then being redrawn every census.

However, that's my own opinion. There are no doubt many others.

May 15, 2023

The GOP is in a race with the Mouse, and they are losing

2024 will be the first presidential election in which anti-abortion legislation will have been implemented in many states. It is also the first election in which DeSantis vs. the Mouse will be an issue. This may sound shallow, but the latter may be a much bigger factor in the election because for anyone under the age of 45, Disney is a much more powerful symbol than DeSantis' fascist makeover of Florida.

In 2019, Millennials exceeded Boomers for the first time.

In 2019, Millennials exceeded Boomers for the first time. In 2024, there will be seven million more Millennials than there will be Boomers. In 2028, Boomers will be eclipsed by GenXers (which is smaller, but generally politically more independent) in 2028, making it the third largest bloc. Also note that this information predates the Pandemic, which disproportionately hit Boomers, so it is likely that this may be underestimating the difference by as much as two million people today, and five million people by 2028.

October 21, 2022

But is the economy really all that bad?

Back when recession was being used as a euphemism for depression, there was.a running joke that went "When the other guy has lost his job, its a recession. When you lose your job its a depression."

I am not saying that the economy is great.

The unemployment rate is around 3.8% M6, where 4.0% is considered full employment. Companies are terrified of cutting jobs, because they may never find replacements. Prices are high because retailers have become greedy, and don't want to be the first to capitulate, but inventory is beginning to bust the doors off the warehouses .

I foresee discounts on most consumer goods by December, and a frenzy of discounting by February. It is also likely that this may be the first year where people weather a Covid uptick with comparatively mild effects, primarily because we are better prepared to treat Covid before it gets to the hospitalization stage. This means diminishing inflationary pressures.

So who is seeing recessions? Business owners and investors. Labor is getting more expensive, and businesses that exploit labor are failing. That labor is not as geofenced -they can choose from a larger potential pool of employers in many cases, and can increasingly do jobs that provide some financial support vs jobs that require irregular schedules, commute costs and the like for very little more. Employers hate Obamacare because people become less afraid of changing jobs, which only exacerbates flight from bad jobs.

Finally, we are getting perilously close to exposing the big lie that business owners create jobs. When an auto manufacturer gets a huge tax break for creating jobs in a state then fills that factory with state of the art automation running the latest AI rather than hiring people, people remember. The GOP has done a pretty good job of running the long con, but the cognitive fog machine is breaking down.

When you hear people bemoaning the state of the economy, ask them if they are still employed. Ask them if they are making more today than three years ago, and if they personally are really worse off. Chances are good that they will either admit that they are or will change the subject.

August 2, 2022

Open Primaries

I and my family just voted here in Issaquah, WA, and it hit home to me that we are an open primary state ... and it was dramatic the number of candidates on the ballot who aren't declaring themselves GOP but identifying as independent/local parties. I'm seeing that on signage as well - Dems generally display party affiliations, but Republicans are avoiding it, from the admittedly limited survey I've done. My suspicion is that the GOP brand may be getting toxic, even for extremist candidates, and it may be an indication of how things will go in the fall.

July 1, 2022

The Coming Uncivil War

Twenty five years ago, I predicted that the United States will have become two or more countries by 2040. Today, I'm convinced that it will happen sooner than that.

The Supreme Court is systematically dismantling the progressive agenda and making no excuses about it. Gerrymandering is next up in the queue, which will be followed by every red state locking in draconian maps. Civil rights of all sorts will soon follow. Should, by some miracle, the House and Senate stay in Democratic hands in 2022, you will see defeated Republicans refusing to accept the results of even seemingly clear elections. If Republicans do manage to take the House and Senate, you'll see kangaroo courts attempting to impeach and remove Biden and Harris within days of being sworn in. By 2024, it will not matter whether Trump is running or not - the coup will have been successful.

Most people in the US think about Civil War in the context of the American Civil War of 1861-1865, with states breaking away from the Union, creating a separate country, fielding armies with uniforms, guns, and cannons. What most people (especially those unfamiliar with history) do not understand is how anomalous that war really was, that it was a reflection of 19th century social and warfare conventions.

I believe that we are actually in an Uncivil War, denoted by coup attempts, increasing polarization, authoritarianism vs democratic structures, fundamentalism, and radicalism. It becomes feasible when one party no longer has any interest in following any rules but its own, and who actively subvert the rule of law in favor of the rule of might (in this case, financial, rather than physical, might). The problem that Democrats face ultimately is that almost by definition are the Party of Law - they have to follow the rules, even when those rules are being turned against them, or they lose any real authority that they may have.

My expectation is that, as the Republicans continue into overreach territory, their actions are going to be seen as unpalatable to a larger and larger cross-section of the electorate. There will be a counter-backlash, and when that happens, they will lack the numbers to keep hold of the government. At that point, I think at that point that you'll see a formal break and secession, more than likely starting with Texas.

I've heard (and made) a number of arguments about why individual secession is likely to fail. Secession is illegal, of course, but there's a paradox there - once you have seceded, you are no longer a part of the political structure. In places like Texas, there is a heavy US military presence, but the question comes down to whether the commanding officers for enough bases can be subverted - the right bribes to the right generals could very easily pay off handsomely. Texas is purple, but the Texas political structure is quite red. Yes, Texas would lose key companies and people if they chose to secede, but Texas would also take with it Louisianna, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Kansas, possibly Arkansas and Missouri, and perhaps even as far north as Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Iowa, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota. Collectively, these states account for about 42 percent of the population, but they also separate East from West.

Would a plebiscite of the people vote to secede in each state? Not likely. Would the far right, gerrymandered to hell legislatures? In a heartbeat. In some cases like Virginia, you might even see Northern Virginia break off from Virginia even as West Virginia gets reabsorbed. In this scenario, you end up with resistances, red and blue, forming in their respective states. This doesn't become North against South. It becomes fifty individual battle zones. It becomes clumps of states banding together because the federal authority has been deliberately compromised. and ultimately, it will end up devastating the rural zones even as control devolves from the states to cities along the various highway corridors. This is what "civil" war looks like today.

Such a war would be fought with both flying and tank-like drones, with "liberated" artillery, and with stealth attacks on civilian targets. It might look vaguely like what's happening in Ukraine, but the Russians and the Ukranians are battling with twenty year old technology. It might even go nuclear. In the end, the war won't end with a bang but with a whimper, as war weary states that haven't been bombed into the stone age establish a new, very raw peace.

I hope this nightmare scenarios doesn't happen, but I'm becoming increasingly pessimistic.

May 30, 2022

Ten Reasons for the Great Realignment

This was going to be a response to another thread, but I'm curious to see what people here believe about the Great Realignment, with my own thoughts about the primary reasons behind it.

1. People in the 55-65 age group went into semi-retirement during Covid, realized they don't miss the stress and have some opportunities that don't involve the 9-5 grind.
2. People of all ages that are not convinced (with reason) that Covid is over, and given a choice between going to work in a job with no health care and crappy wages vs. simply staying away from work and finding WFH equivalents, much prefer doing the latter.
3. Better wages and WFH is also reducing the available "full time" workers.
4. Gas prices are becoming too high. Most delivery and related service companies do not compensate for gas, which again makes working at too low a wage no longer viable.
5. Birth rate peaked in 2000 and started declining mildly until 2008, when it began a long, fairly steep decline that is still underway. People usually start working between 16 and 21. This means that we're now about 6 years into the first leg of the decline and its impact on people starting in the workforce. 2008 + 16 = 2024, which means that we enter the second, more significant, decline in two years. The 16-25 age group makes up the bulk of the unskilled service market. Companies that make their profits largely by exploiting these workers are going to find their business models collapsing within the next two years, especially as many of them are staying with their parents longer (into their late twenties) where there is comparatively little NEED to work for many of them.
6. The cost of housing and vehicles has risen so dramatically that getting married is no longer a real option until couples are into their early thirties. The flip side of this is that 20-somethings aren't buying cars, and as such are less mobile than they used to be. Take out the cost of house and vehicle and reduce or share the cost of food, and people can get by with remote work even if they pay less. You're also seeing much more communal living, with multiple people sharing a house or apartment,
7. Not all (or even the majority of) WFH gets reported to the IRS or gets picked up by the BLS.
8. WFH also makes side hustles feasible, where a single person might end up taking two or more jobs because they have better control over their time and revenue streams. This way they can make more collectively than they would make with a RTO near full time job, which often involves wage theft for hours not clocked for one reason or another. Given that, RTO jobs are simply no longer as attractive as they once were.
9. Women are leaving the workforce in greater numbers than men, and are also shifting to WFH in greater numbers. Since women have traditionally been paid about 70 cents on the dollar compared to men, this is showing up in expected wages being forced up in general.
10. Finally, there's just the corporate fatigue factor - people are recognizing that the game is stacked against them, especially if they are not wealthy to begin with - unfair wage imbalances, limited career paths, toxic bosses, abusive co-workers, lack of control over hours, arbitrary hiring/firing, etc - and they are simply refusing to play the game anymore. Ironically, I think that the digital economy helps with that - fewer people need fewer physical things, especially big-ticket items, and this manifests as a calculus where you realize that you can be productive and can survive doing what you prefer rather than simply making other people wealthy at your expense.

I'm including a poll with this. Please comment or clarify it you have additional information you want to add.

In the last two years, have you:
March 5, 2022

Putin, TFG, and a possible look into the future

The Ukrainians have done a masterful job of marshaling social media in their favor, and I think that the sanctions are likely to ultimately force Putin from office. Biden's numbers have been going up pretty dramatically as this plays out. I also think that the Jan 6 committee is unearthing more and more evidence of the involvement of the Russians at all levels with the GOP, and the wedge that's emerging between Trump praising Putin and Trump trashing Putin is confusing even to his base, even as the more moderate members of the GOP recoil from Trump's pro-Putin messages, which has the potential to hurt the GOP in the Fall.

Having said that, the situation at this point is very fluid, and things could go wrong very, very quickly. The first obvious thing is that Putin could push the nuclear button. Putin is not necessarily acting fully rationally at this stage. The closest analogy (and it's a damned close analogy), is the scenario of a hostage situation where the perpetrator has a bomb primed to go off if anyone gets too close. Stopping the perpetrator by any means necessary is important, but he could very easily end up killing all of the hostages if care is not exercised. The perpetrator does not care - he'd prefer to get out of the situation alive, but it's not necessarily a requirement for him.

The second question comes in dealing with the other consequences. A no-fly zone has been proposed, and I suspect it will become a reality, but it's a very complex process to make happen quickly. Ukraine is the size of Texas, meaning that it will be very difficult to respond to incursions quickly, and by setting it up, we end up with the scenario where the two world powers with the largest arsenals of nuclear weapons are directly shooting one another's aircraft out of the sky. Personally, I don't see any way to avoid it - Ukraine will fall otherwise, and once Ukraine falls, Putin will be in a far better position to attack NATO. Ukraine has been seen by both sides as a buffer zone for a reason, and the fact that Putin no longer believes that reason to be valid should give a good indication of his true intentions.

One point that I've not seen discussed. Ukraine has long been described as the Midwest of Russia. They supply about 60% of the grain and suet (fat processing) to Russia and also supply a significant percentage of countries from India and Pakistan to the EU. They grow wheat, rice, maize (corn), soybeans, barley, sugar beets, and rye there. They planted their winter wheat crop in October with the expectation that it would be harvested in early June. At this stage, it is very likely that, as the Russians advance, the Ukrainians will be torching their fields, and they WON'T be starting planting for their summer wheat crop at all. That means that by summer, there will be no bread in russia, no cereal, no vodka (made from Ukrainian rye). The Russians grow cattle and potatoes and that's about it, but there will be feedstock for the cattle, no processing of fats for shortening.

The sanctions are going to hit Russia hard. They have about three weeks of supply in their supply chains, but I expect that by now most stores are likely getting emptied as people start panicking. They have comparatively little access to funds even if there were goods available. Their aircraft are going to start running out of supplies for repairs, and fuel is going to be a big issue - already the supply chains to the Ukraine are effectively broken, and the Russian military there is having to live off the land.

By the end of March, there will be massive demonstrations in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere, and the army, which is already 90% consolidated in Ukraine, will have to be called back (by someone) to handle the riots at home. This is going to stretch the army to thin, and, unpaid, underfed, and increasingly fighting friends and family, the Russian army is going to fall apart. Remember that the average Russian soldier is just out of the equivalent of high school in Russia, was used to talking to friends on Instagram, and is now facing incredibly harsh pressures from their peers. They are not hardened soldiers.

I think it very likely that by early April, Putin will realize that the end is nigh, and will either try to escape by helicopter to a personal plane or will be assassinated outright. What he will leave behind is a power vacuum. I think there is a reasonable probability (25-30%) that the Easternmost provinces of Siberia, the ones on and near the Pacific, will leave Russia altogether, and likely will form a breakaway country. China will be delighted to help them, as it puts them into a position to make a claim on Arctic oil reserves, something they have deserved for a while. China might also try to coerce the southern territories such as Tuva and Alkay and Zabalkalsk that share a border with Mongolia into their orbit. By this time next year we might be talking about Russian China.

Longer term, Russia's going to be very unstable, even if Putin is gone, and that's going to play out globally. It pushes up the timetable for a US-Chinese War, it's going to destabilize NATO (ironically), and then there's the very real question of what to do with 6,500 nuclear weapons.

I'm not saying that this will happen, but I think that it's a fairly likely scenario given what's happened recently. I can't rule out that things will go nuclear, especially given Russia's willingness to hit a nuclear reactor.

Immediate implications for the US (beyond additional inflation): Trump's done. Between his devotion to Putin and what's being unearthed by the Jan 6 committee, Trump has no possibility of political redemption, particularly since i believe that his connection (blackmailing?) by Putin will ultimately come to light. The same may be true of Mitch McConnell, especially with the CEO of Rusal now on the lam and being sought by US and EU authorities. I expect that, as the sanctions continue, many GOP politicians who relied upon Russian money for campaign funds are going to find those funds drying up.

This will likely answer a question that I've been wondering for a while now. How is it that so many absurdly unqualified people have ended up getting elected on the GOP side? Where has the money come to run expensive campaigns for these people? How did people like MTG actually make it to Congress. I think we're going to discover, as those same supposedly deep pockets get away from the heat for awhile that they were laundering Russian money, and as that money fades away, so too will the destabilizing influences in Congress.

So what's your thoughts?

February 27, 2022

Gazprom financial security director found dead as an apparent suicide


This hasn't been picked up by Western sources yet so no guarantee on reliability. Translated below:

Gazprom Treasury Top Manager Found Dead in Monopoly Nest in Leninsky
22:46 25.02.2022

Photo: RF IC
The circumstances of the death of the Deputy General Director of the Unified Settlement Center of Gazprom for Corporate Security, whose body was found in the prestigious village of Leninskoye in the Vyborg District of the Leningrad Region, are being established. A note was found nearby, law enforcement officials told 47news. A month earlier, in the same village, the body of a top manager of another division from Gazprom's orbit was found. Both of the now deceased previously worked at Gazprom Transgaz.

As it became known to 47news, in the early morning of February 25, the police received a message about the death of a man on Rubinovaya Street in an elite cottage village in Leninsky.

The officers who arrived at the scene found the deceased in a noose in the annex garage, a note lay nearby. The deceased was identified as 61-year-old Alexander Tyulakov, Deputy General Director of the Unified Settlement Center (UCC) of Gazprom for corporate security. This division performs the functions of the treasury of the entire monopoly.

Prior to his appointment to the ERC, Alexander Tyuliakov, since March 2014, worked as Deputy General Director for Corporate Security and Human Resources at Gazprom Transgaz Saint Petersburg, a 100% subsidiary of Gazprom, which was engaged in the export and transportation of fuel to nine regions of Russia.

The circumstances of the incident are established by the Investigative Committee of the Leningrad Region.

Gazprom ERC at the time of publication could not comment on the incident.

Recall that a month earlier, a 60-year-old head of the transport service of Gazprom Invest, Leonid Shulman, was found dead in a mansion on Zhemchuzhnaya Street in the same village of Leninskoye . A retractable construction knife was found on the side of the bath. A note was also found. Shulman also previously worked for Gazprom Transgaz.

47news said that many of the top managers of the gas monopoly live in the village of Leninskoye. Because of the accumulation of famous names, it is called "Gazprom's nest" .

Profile Information

Name: Kurt Cagle
Gender: Male
Hometown: Cascadia
Member since: Sat Dec 3, 2016, 01:02 AM
Number of posts: 1,565

About Metaphorical

Contributing Writer, Forbes Magazine

Journal Entries

Latest Discussions»Metaphorical's Journal