Wednesday assorted links


1. Hahaha .. If I had linked that Brian would be so all over me. (Brian, reassure me that today's Israel tweets are not incompetent, but in fact the best path to peace.)

Funny read on that. I assumed it was about the past 8 years.

You are the first all day to come up with that, which is to your credit, but should also tell you something.

Another datum:

Maybe Obama should read twitter, though it took the OPM breach, the White House hacking, and Hillary's email scandal to get him to realize we are not the only ones who hack their enemy.

# 1 The American regime has become a dysfunctional nightmare. The so-called American Dream has become sour and a desperate populace, facing the free fall of its living standards and its children's prospects, just don't know what else it can do. The Post-War structure is collapsing and the centre cannot hold anymore.

I agreed yesterday was that America, and the world, are doing well, but suffer a perverse pessimism. Many of Tyler's posts seek the why, but I don't think we've found it yet.

Perhaps too many people just refuse to enjoy a good taco.

(Did we give up on happiness research, as a connected branch to economics, too soon?)

I think it is clear the State of the Union is not good, the people can see the system is hopelessly corrupt.

"I agreed yesterday was that America, and the world, are doing well, but suffer a perverse pessimism."

I think the pessimism stems from a growing knowledge among many of just how fast things can fall apart as complexity rises and it is definitely rising, and I think many see a wall fast approaching. Entropy, not Ordiny, is the law of the universe. Systems creation and sustainment are truly massive undertakings that in some cases depend as much on luck as they do on genius. Furthermore, the "world doing well" is an entirely subjective point of view and I would argue simply taking an economic or subjective quality of life metric misses any number of other crucial factors in your average earth dweller's well being.

I have direct experience as a veteran and of travel to more than 30 countries of just how fast organized systems (including our supposedly advanced countries) can revert almost overnight to the mean. It takes constant vigilance and no small amount of luck to keep it afloat. The last 150 years of human experience and progress, due almost entirely to the innovations and killer apps of Western Civilization, are nonetheless a blip in human history's predominantly stagnant social and economic trajectory.

Photos of Afghanistan - Modernity Lost

There was a funny moment a while back when I linked to a "the data is good" article, and the response was that this was just current data, and did not disprove a pessimistic future.

I continue to find that strange.

You say "world doing well" is subjective, but there is data. On average it is good. But just as you can drown in a lake that averages one foot deep, there are local extremes.

(I disagree with the climate framing as in opposition to all the other "good" but leaving that aside for now.)

You find the concept of potential future disaster strange? This is a pretty delightfully ahistorical hot take. And for the record for a lot of groups in the USA the data isn't good. The fact Bangledeshis can afford six bowls of rice per week is rightfully low on your average working class Americans priority list.

I find it strange that pessimism, right on up the scale to doom fantasy ("prepping"), has such a hold in rich countries.

"I find it strange that pessimism, right on up the scale to doom fantasy (“prepping”), has such a hold in rich countries."

- Access to education provides a better understanding of history and its perilousness
- Because they have farther to fall
- It's worse having something and losing it than not having had it at all
- The people waiting for you to fall might be vindictive and vengeful when you fail
- The desire to have some means of wealth preservation
- Etc.

According to Pinker the number of our kin killed by violence has fallen dramatically in the last few generations.

You suggest that book learning, and of course cable news, fill the gap?

I suppose that is plausible, but for me unconvincing. The daily experience of most Americans is very safe. I can't see news as the primary lever moving them off life satisfaction.

Bad diet and lack of exercise, and then a need to project that onto a world going downhill, maybe. Something that starts close to home makes more sense to me.

Anon, there is a book out about some of the problems in work, that may explain some of the discontent. A lot of people have seen their wages fall, and their work has become more part time, less steady.

The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad for So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It Feb 17, 2014
by David Weil

Also, a great deal of the pessimism is just fake news and Trump news. A lot of uneducated Rust Belt guys will believe any outrageous thing that comes out of Trump's mouth.

See the Public Policy Polling web site for some of the ridiculous things that many Trump voters believe.

E.g. "67% of Trump voters say that unemployment increased during the Obama administration, to only 20% who say it decreased."

"Only 41% of Trump voters say that the stock market went up during the Obama
administration. 39% say it went down, and another 19% say they're not sure. "

"14% of Trump supporters think Hillary Clinton is connected to a child sex ring
run out of a Washington DC pizzeria. Another 32% aren't sure one way or
another, much as the North Carolinian who went to Washington to check it out
last weekend said was the case for him. Only 54% of Trump voters expressly say
they don't think #Pizzagate is real."

"73% of Trump voters think that George Soros is paying protesters against Trump
to only 6% who think that's not true, and 21% who aren't sure one way or the
other. "

The Dot Com Crash and then The Great Recession ruined a lot of moving averages.

I may be wrong, but I think we are back to median income showing long term growth, but the lower quintiles much less than the higher.

Some recent data:

While I think this is cause for concern, and better policy, I think it is important to note that isn't the same as Americans being worse off. This is not actually a downward trend. It is a severe recession and a recovery.

Things are better, but not as better as we'd like them to be?

I think people are bored and restless, lacking the feeling of some national purpose or mission.
The post-war consensus was that America was the leader of the Free World, but after the Cold War and especially post-Iraq, America doesn't seem to fulfill that role anymore. We've disqualified ourselves from the job of World Policeman, so what is there to do?

I propose a grand project such as a manned mission to Mars.

I propose good diet, physical exercise, and a productive hobby.

Tell me how any of those three work out for you once you adopt them.

The serious answer is that this is not just or about me, but is data backed.

Let me make it a little less subtle- you clearly don't have any hobbies- you post here 12 hours a day.

I will overcame my fear and hand cut some dovetails this week. It was grand. I have to cut more today to finish a step stool.

I suck at chiseling out waste.

The American people is not capable anymore of the kind of moral clarity and sacrifice that a great ideal demands. Some peoples can, some just can't.

We lack the vision and uplift of soccer and Carneval.

And the dulcent tones of favella gutter music. Brazil is Vegas without indoor plumbing.

It goes deeper than that, I think, Americans lack conviction, but the Brazilian people is full of passionate intensity and zeal. When we were fighting a cruel, heartless enemy, a Brazilian mother, being told the Empire was putting out feelers to seek peace with the enemy, said she would rather have all her sons (five or seven) buried in Paraguay rather than see them back without total victory. This is reminiscent of the Spartan mother, being told her son had died with honor in his place without breaking formation, replied: so let his brother take his place.

Americans never had to fight for the survival of their country, their way od life, they can't understnd what it is living surrounded by enemies.

Thiago, there are indeed some things that most Americans can't understand due to lack of experience with them.

There is a variety of types of people in the U.S. though. We do have some who are full of passionate intensity.

Thiago, this may seem abrupt, but I've given it some thought. Your posts are asinine. They feature exaggeration, BS, a bizarre obsession with Brazil, and aren't very interesting.

A society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water. John W. Gardner--This applies to you Thiago.

Dear commenters,
One might wish to consider the possibility that Thiago Ribeiro is not actually a "real" person, but something of a parody. Perhaps like a Brazilian inversion of a "patriotic" American. Just a thought.

All the Brazilians who have emigrated to Massachusetts in the past few decades understand that life in the US is far better than in Brazil.

Yeah, but Carrie Fisher helped destroy the Death Star, which killed billions.

Carrie Fisher is responsible for the death of trillions of potential humans.

Genesis 38:9

#3 The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory:

The theory that people are stupid and like things they shouldn't like and use systems which are more in line with actual human nature & custom because we (failed communist intellectuals and participants of an redistributive economic theory that has failed everywhere it's been tried) say so. Agrarianism was unfair, and mercantilism was unfair, and capitalism was unfair. We realized communism didn't work any better (or worse) so we decided that the real culprit is your culture...which we intend to eff up royally too in search of our perfect redistributive paradise. You'll like these new things we say you'll like, and think, and do...we promise this time...peons.

This is a very to the point summary of the Frankfort School. Brecht for all his odiousness correctly diagnosed this aspect from his dealings with the Frankforters. Dissolve the people and elect another should be the epitaph to modern leftism.

"Dissolve the people and elect another should be the epitaph to modern leftism." ...I am so going to use that moving forward:)

"And do voter suppression and other kinds of voting fraud, do gerrymandering, and circulate lots of fake news and lies so you can fool people into voting for you against their own best interests" is the motto of modern Rightism.

He's not crying it's just raining on his face.

"The theory that people are stupid"

This is not the theory - the theory of the "Frankfurt School" is that the people are brainwashed by mass culture, not naturally stupid (not much different of the right-wingers who complain about the liberal bias of the MSM, for example).

#4. This is a great idea, but not really much different than a tour guide. Sort of a specialized tour-guide, really.
You could do the same thing at every level from strolling around the street to hiking around in the wilderness. I bet you could find a lot of people who would like to get out hiking, but don't want to go alone for safety reasons and can't find a group that wants to go to some particular spot. Same thing for hiking the Appalacian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, where most people will have a hard time finding someone to do it with. An experienced trail hiker could rent themselves out as a companion/guide.

worth a read-I learned heaps about the Appalachians [& I went to university in Tennessee]

3. Is the Frankfurt School actually relevant?

I saw that article yesterday and was reminded of grad school discussion of Dialectic of Enlightenment: the Frankfurt School is vague enough to be applicable to almost anything, if the applier has the right frame of mind.

I also recall listening to a professor announce that the 2009 financial crisis had been predicted by Marx and that we were seeing the end of capitalism in action.

Perhaps I should've quit grad school sooner.

The "right frame of mind" for a cultural marxist is complete cultural and moral relativism and a dedication to an equalism so blind that they cannot acknowledge any system or solution that works if creates anything that could be perceived as unfair.

This results in systems and solutions that do not work. They cannot acknowledge that there are - objectively - things that are better because that would acknowledge the existence of the one thing that brings their economic and social system crashing down.


...and there is never enough of anything in this universe, or enough of it forever, that can satisfy everyone that wants it. Not life, not air, not water, not food, not love, not perfect health and not hair dryers. This is why they go so far down the rabbit hole of economic and cultural destruction looking for the fountain of prosperity that makes everyone equal, everything work, and give everyone what they want. They can't wrap their heads around the fact that it doesn't exist. And when they start to realize this they start to do what they've been doing in recent yours by saying it's your fault...that if only you radically changed the culture even further or work harder to get into peoples' heads or stop more doubleplusungood crimethink it will magically appear.

If you gave these people enough time I swear they'd siege heaven and tell God all the things he did wrong in making the universe. They can't be happy. Thus neither will you.

A thing the Frankfurt School were not: "relativist". They were total snobs.

This is exactly true. Yea there taste were highly refined but they literally argued that all "truth" is constructed via power narratives.

I was always under the impression that they advocated the use of cultural and artistic relativism as a weapon against the status quo, but more as a tool for gaining the allegiance of disenfranchised blocs in society as a means of pushing their agenda. No argument that they're snobs...

Interesting. And the Right Wing in the U.S. today uses cultural absolutism as a weapon to gain the allegiance of groups that feel as though they are disenfranchised when they are not.

"cultural marxism" is almost entirely a figment of the alt-right imagination, much like most of the rest of what comes out of those quarters.

Cultural Studies, the New American studies, Cultural Materialism, Post Colonial studies, most New Historicism movements, probably most Critical Legal Studies practitioners, the New Left Review groups, the Telos and of course Frankfurt school followers, and possibly Foucault inspired studies (unlike Bourdieu, eg, he was at pains to deny he was Marxist, but his analysis of power is thoroughly Marxist in structure). These are all groups and schools heavily indebted to Marx. It is hard to imagine anyone approving of Critical Theory (aka just "Theory") and not being a cultural Marxist. I have not named or listed all the groups or sub groups in newer fields like Gender or Urban studies. I don't know what line of work you are in Troll, but it's not College or University related, or you would not pronounce so ignorantly.

Outsiders like yourself, Troll, should read about the Sokal hoax to get s glimpse of the rot.

Wise man, in academics, first you define your terms.

You are trashing things without providing much more than the basic scope of "something or other Marixst-y maybe that annoys me for some reason", and haven't really honed in on anything particular whatsoever.

I understand the term to be quite popular among those on the alt-right who hold a tendency to develop extremely strong and emotional opinions about things without really even being able to define so much as the subject they are talking about.

That's interesting. Do you suppose that Mao Zedong's "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" was similarly a "figment of the alt-right imagination"? The one that - together with, yes, the Frankfurt School itself - was a _major_ inspiration for Western radical leftism from the late 1960s onwards? (It is no coincidence that "Marx, Mao, Marcuse" was quite a popular slogan in those circles.)

That is the contemporary dialectic of Marxism. Are events driven by the economic structure or the cultural superstructure? The inevitable failure of the first explanation leads to the second explanation and then back again. The Frankfurt School is Plato's cave with a bunch of Germanic mumbo jumbo added on.

#3 So curious that Alex Ross, author of “The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century,” brings up this "Frankfurt School" as pertinent to today's cultural climate. The 20th Century was a spectacular bloom of mostly African-American musical genius flowering while The Frankfurt School was busy complaining about the vacuity and crass Capitalist aspects of this brilliant mass phenomenon that they completely missed the boat on; it's upside down.

If you are referring to Jazz which is the only musical from that was mostly African-American then Alex Ross agrees with you by the way about the Frankfort School, or at least Adorno, failing to see a developing trend. But from my perspective how does failing to account for Jazz, about as ephemeral a music form imaginable that will be unknown in a century, compromise the quality of one's insight. To someone who adored Wagner jazz would rightly seem pretty inconsequential. And Adorno, whether to his credit or to his discredit, wasn't interested in a phenomenon simply because black people were spearheading it.

Sam, I don't agree with that: "If you are referring to Jazz which is the only musical from that was mostly African-American". The whole kit & caboodle was derived mostly from African American sources, Big Band era, Rock & Roll, Soul, R&B,, Broadway Show songs, with a heavy Jewish song writing, packaging, and marketing influence, built upon mostly the African American genesis.

On Wagner I'll refer to this link (*note, not familiar with the source/owner of the blog)

This is nonsense. Black contributions to Broadway are almost non-existent. Same with big band music- Glenn Miller wasn't black or Jewish. Of your list only
Soul and R&B are even remotely mostly black in their make up. The whites stole rock and roll music is up there with the Americans got the side of the border with all the good roads complaint. Certainly no black would accept the argument that blacks stole basketball from whites.

'Something, something, Duke Ellington...'


Behold the power of PC in which one name apparently constituted "most" of the big band era. Delusional.

Most people who adored Wagner in the late 19th/early 20th centuries adored it for the same reason people like Metal today - it is loud, bombastic, and epic. Much of the best Jazz is in many ways more sophisticated and musically interesting than Wagner.

Jazz covers a lot of territory, from Miles Davis and John Coltrane to some guy who sounds like he is tooting a horn while waiting for a bus. Much of it is inspirational while some of it is annoying and self-indulgent, as may be said about many art forms.

5. Professor Cowen has become a mixture of rhapsodic and inconsistent in the last several weeks. Like many (if not all) of us, he is still trying to figure out Trump. This post about 5,000 (only) re-tweets says it all. In the past, Professor Cowen has argued that, for example, athletes get paid what the market will pay them so, for example, professors, doctors, teachers, etc., should not begrudge them. Does this same thinking not extend to the subject of this retweet? You get retweeted what the retweet market thinks you are worth. Period.

Great points, but you are assuming economics is a science. It's not. It's mostly ideological bullshit masquerading as science.

5. It is very disappointing this is not widely known. RIP to a great man.

Im just disappointed that the collapse of the academic industrial complex isn't going to occur fast enough to take Cowen down with it. I would be excited to see him commit some of his boundless ingenuity to the new service economy.

Things will improve faster if those free to ask tough questions and follow through on their curiosity are silenced.

Stalin would approve.

Somehow the party line has shifted from the Frankfurt School being a right-wing conspiracy theory to the Frankfurt School being both real and virtuous.

#3a. No. Hell, here's how he gets the ball rolling: "I think the main contribution is their insistence on the power of culture as a political tool, and also the power of the mass media."

The mass media has shown itself to be pretty toothless of late, no? Mass culture was largely a 20th century phenomenon. Everybody used to tune in for Cronkite. Now, we have myriad Balkanized subcultures. On balance, I think it's a good thing. People whose impulse is to control from the center disagree.

And this is pretty unintentionally hilarious: "They recognized that ideological single-mindedness was the real danger." Hey, that sounds like Jonathan Haidt strolling around campus.

"I think the main contribution is their insistence on the power of culture as a political tool, and also the power of the mass media.”

Well, Trump used the power of the Rust Belt, Alt Right and other subcultures, plus the power of social media and mass media outlets like Fox and Breitbart, to get elected. So if you love Trump, or even if you don't like him but understand how he got elected, then you would agree with that statement, I would think.

And ideological single-mindedness isn't one of Trump's issues at all. He is totally inconsistent, having no principles whatsoever, except for "More power, glory, and money to Trump."

At least there are two things you can say about Trump - 1. unlike Clinton he has not voted against every single thing he claims to believe in, and 2. he is not dumb enough to use phrases like "pay-for-play" in his e-mails when talking about donors to his charity.

Which puts him up on Hillary by some considerable margin.

On point 1 - first, he's never been a politician so he plain and simply has not voted either way on any thing whatsoever, and second, despite his inability to have voted contrary to what he said, he has held both positions on most of the major issues of the day. (Not many people are really sure which of those opposites he might settle on as president.)

I spend about half my time thinking Trump is an out-of-control narcissist whose pathologies are, by great good luck, the perfect fit for the broken way US culture and media work right now. And the other half of the time, I think he's a genius who has perfectly understood US culture and media, and has come up with a devastating exploit that let him win the presidency. And it's not even clear that these are entirely mutually exclusive.

It's going to be a very interesting next four years.

What is interesting about the Frankfurt school is that Glenn Beck cut his teeth teaching it! Rush occasionally dives into it too. But Breitbart News was founded on it, and I quote, "Politics is downstream from culture." That came from a critique of Marcuse! And is the founding statement of Andrew Breitbart.
It is the right that has been reading this stuff in an attempt to figure out why the left still exists. What they realized is that Marcuse's theory/concept/propaganda that the masses are suffering from "FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS" is nearly universal on the left.

1. I am fascinated by the baked-assumption that HRC was obviously the competent candidate, Trump the incompetent. This seems belied by the election result: One knew how to get elected, the other did not. On the basis of the only currently available evidence, Trump is the more competent. The paper is not science; it assumes the result in constructing the study.

I think Clinton was a weak candidate in terms of appeal to voters and charisma, but a very strong candidate in terms of measurable stuff like campaign staff, contributions, organization, formal experience for the job, etc. And Trump was pretty-much the opposite--extremely charismatic and mediagenic, but with little relevant experience for the job and a ramshackle campaign organization.

Stuart Jeffires: "I used to be involved in the Communist Party." Yet somehow he seems not to realize that the prime exemplar of that which he fears, namely Capitalist totalitarianism, reigns in a communist country: China.

#3: Frankfurt School

Of course, all sorts of interesting cultural observation might follow if you proceed from the assumption that Trump is Hitler and fascism swept over the US in 2016.

The problem is that the premise is absurd, and only circulates among very sad people who did not vote for Trump and have fallen prey to Godwin's Law en masse.

So the Vox article is actually a deep insult to the Frankfurt School, many of whom personally fled from being placed in concentration camps.

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