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Metaphorical

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Name: Kurt Cagle
Gender: Male
Hometown: Cascadia
Member since: Sat Dec 3, 2016, 02:02 AM
Number of posts: 1,420

About Me

Contributing Writer, Forbes Magazine

Journal Archives

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.
Posted by Metaphorical | Tue Aug 2, 2022, 10:40 AM (4 replies)

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.





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:

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?
Posted by Metaphorical | Fri Mar 4, 2022, 11:35 PM (4 replies)

Gazprom financial security director found dead as an apparent suicide

https://m.47news.ru/articles/208119/

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" .

Why the GOP will lose badly this fall

I don't think that the invasion is going to end quickly. I think it is likely to drag on for months, even as NATO troops begin to get involved (40,000 troops have just been activated for the first time in decades).

However, it will have three significant effects here domestically.

1. Biden is now officially a war-time president in a battle against a clear tyrant on a likeable country, with every aspect of it broadcast on the Internet in real-time. His ratings are already climbing and may likely end up being higher than Bush's did after 9/11. This means that many of the more critical press outlets are now in the awkward position of appearing unpatriotic if they unload too heavily on Biden, and as so much of the criticism was largely manufactured, this is going to make it much harder for others to define him.

2. Trump's name is now mud. It's ironic that it was Putin that did that, but the reality has been that Trump has defined himself vis-a-vis his relationship with Putin. This is likely to mean that his influence, already waning, has just evaporated altogether. It also means that his most fervent followers are going to find themselves as pariahs, ignored by even local media, and seen as apologists for a tyrannical regime. I expect that the primaries are going to be a bloodbath for the Magats.

3. It takes money to create movements. My suspicion is that if you look at many of the deep pockets that have been supplying the MAGAt movement, you'll find laundered Russian money: highly lucrative contracts for very little actual work, significant overpayment on goods, purchases of properties at 3-4 times notional value, overnight bitcoin billionaires through hacked blockchains, and so forth. That money is all about to disappear, and with it the ability to create blind PACs, to donate in-kind expenses such as Stadium rentals, and even fund stations like OAN, Clear Channel, and Breitbart. It also means that even those people that haven't been getting Russian money are going to be far more circumspect about how they spend their own money, for fear of drawing attention to themselves. I also wouldn't be surprised if it hits organizations such as ALEC, which always seemed to have such an outsized influence given what it is.

I may be wrong on this, but I don't think so. By the time November rolls around, I think the GOP is going to be in complete disarray.

The Russian Civil War

People who expect the Ukraine-Russia conflict to end quickly are likely not thinking about this from the perspective of the Russians. To Putin, Ukraine was a break-away republic, albeit one that broke away thirty-four years ago. More recently, they threw out the previous government, led by pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, considered a puppet of Putin's, with Volodymyr Zelenskyy taking over and forming a new pre-European government.

Putin sees this as civil war, with Ukraine the "Russian South". I wondered back in 2015 why Putin was so intent on destabilizing the United Kingdom (which he successfully did via Brexit) and the United States (which he nearly did and arguably is still doing via Trump) but in hindsight, reclamation of Ukraine no doubt was a big part of the picture. I suspect in his analysis, he realized that Biden was being more successful at stopping Russian-backed operations than he'd hoped, and realized that his window to reunify the former Soviet Union was closing quickly.

Ultimately, I think there may be a number of factors for why he moved now. One may be his own physical and mental health, which has been rumored to be inconsistent. He is also facing political pressures at home to relinquish power: he is popular among the conservative base, but he no longer has universal support and is finding it difficult to maintain control over the Far East, including the Kamchatka peninsula. He also may have recognized that his US and UK assets are being uncovered in recent Congressional investigations.

For all that, this is now shaping up to be a civil war, where Russian soldiers are expected to shoot at Ukraine soldiers who may be former friends or family members, and for most Russians and Ukranians alike, Ukraine was seen as independent. Ultimately, the danger here for Russia is that this could spread outside of the Ukraine and affect both Moskva and St. Petersberg, tearing the country even more apart than its been with the fall of the Soviets.

Unconventional Wisdom - Why Democrats may increase their control over the House And Senate

The conventional wisdom has long been that an incoming president will always lose Congress in the first mid-terms, though historically it's not as clear cut.

I'm going to make a prediction. In November, the Democrats will gain ground in both the House and the Senate. It won't be a blow-out- maybe 2 to 3 seats in the Senate, and another 8-10 in the House - but it will give Biden some maneuvering room that he doesn't have today. The reasons I believe this includes the following:

1. The Pandemic is reaching a stage of being manageable. This doesn't mean that it's over. I think Covid-19 and its many, many variants are here to stay. However, we are reaching a stage where the disease is manageable, and where the understanding of how to treat it is sufficient that future variants will be fought largely by booster shots and oral pharmaceuticals, which wasn't true under Trump. This means that areas are now going off mandates, but it also means that Biden is effectively telling the states that it is now up to them to manage their health initiatives, with the Federal government acting as a coordinator and backstop. It means that we're now stuck with a permanent pockets of virus incubation, but frankly I think that the states most guilty there are simply going to fade away in importance as their economies get hit with an Antivaxxer tax.

2. The Pandemic, the supply-chain issues, inflation, the Great Resignation are all interrelated. As the pandemic's political import fades, so too will the supply-chain issues, the great resignation is a realignment of workers with opportunities that is showing signs of weakening, while inflation is now cresting, meaning that it's not going to get any worse and should start getting better. This is happening globally. The Fed will almost certainly start applying the brakes with interest rate rises, the economy should cool somewhat (though not dramatically) and a few high profile committees looking into price gouging should start curbing the opportunistic companies that are raising prices under cover of inflation.

3. When the Soviet Union fell in 1989, Republicans proclaimed the victory of capitalism over communism and seemingly overnight, Western businessmen were flying in droves to figure out how best to fleece the newly "enfranchised" workers. Democrats were more wary, because the Federal Russian Republic was still fundamentally Russian - a cold, geographically large, resource-rich country with a history of authoritarian leaders going back to the Tsardom of Russia in 1541. Russian interests, in general, have been butting heads with American ones going back to not much long after the American Revolution. Putin's latest on-again, off-again invasion has suddenly reminded a lot of older Americans especially that Russia still has more nuclear weapons (6,400) than the US does (5,500).

4. This means that the Republican party is about to be cloven down the middle between those who see Russia as an ally (mostly those who want to see the US crash and burn so they can institute their own theocracy, libertarian paradise, confederate stronghold or survivalist playground in its place) and those who remember nuclear preparedness drills in grade school, when we were all supposed to duck under our tiny, flimsy school desks when the flash lit up the windows indicated that the end of the world was nigh. This could not have come at a worse time, for the GOP. It means that Biden, a *bleeping* Democrat, is now standing up to Putin surprisingly well as a potential wartime president, with what is clearly a manufactured pretext by an historical antagonist. His ratings are climbing pretty quickly even despite the deluge of bad press. If Putin backs down, then it is this moment of Bidens that people will remember in November. If he doesn't, I fully expect that the US will be funneling drones, equipment, intelligence, and perhaps eventually, troops into the Ukraine within the next few weeks, though I expect troops on the ground are going to be the last piece of the puzzle, only if everything else fails.

5. Meanwhile, in Trumpland, there are a lot of very conflicted MAGAts. Trump was clearly buddies with Putin, even if Putin is no longer taking his calls. The GOP wants to woo these same MAGAts back to the fold, but the most ardent MAGAts increasingly see the GOP as the enemy, much preferring their Lord and Messiah, Trump. This is likely going to translate into a fairly brutal set of primaries, and if "establishment" candidates win positions, I expect that the MAGATs are likely to sit on their hands in the general election and vice versa. If anything, the "disarray" that I'm seeing on the Democratic side has less to do with the Hillary vs Bernie battles of 2016 and more the typical bickering about which things to fund first. Manchin and Sinema are both still somewhat problematic, but I don't necessarily see the continued grandstanding playing out past April. In comparison, the GOP is tearing itself apart.

6. The electoral maps, which a lot of Democratic pundits in particular have expressed concern about before they were completed, are turning into something of a wash - courts are calling out egregious gerrymandering in places where it could make a difference, state initiatives are forcing independent re-draws of gerrymandered maps, and Democratic lawyers are winning lawsuits where Republicans have tried to disenfranchise voters. There might be even a slight tilt to the Democrats at this point, though it would be very small. This is good - an electoral map should be balanced, not clearly partisan either way.

7. Investigations. Trump is facing severe legal jeopardy on multiple fronts at this point. The investigations are moving slowly, but it's worth acknowledging that, unlike when Trump was in office, the Justice Department is not going to quash the investigations. I expect indictments to start flying in the May-June timeframe: the Jan 6 investigation, SDNY, multiple civil lawsuits, electoral fraud, RICO, and more, and several Republicans will likely be facing jail time. Will Trump? I doubt it, though I wouldn't be at all surprised if one or more Trump children aren't wearing orange jumpsuits by the election (Kuschner would be my guess). The point is that while I do not see the investigations changing many Republican minds, it will influence a lot of independents, and it will leave a lot of chaos in its wake politically.

8. Right now, replacing DeJoy is stalled in the Senate, but I'm not sure they'll be able to stonewall much longer. Ironically, if the Ukraine conflict kicks off, Biden may be able to call on the War Powers act to ensure improved communications, which includes making sure that mail can arrive in a timely fashion. Biden is not going to call on these powers unless there is a clear and present danger, but it gives him leeway. I expect that state lawsuits against DeJoy may also finally start making their way through the courts. One way or another, I think it will be hard to stop vote-by-mail in 2022, which is clearly an objective of the Republicans.

9. Overreach. The more extremist elements of the GOP are hitting a point of diminishing returns. Red states are enacting increasingly draconian laws in any number of areas, from abortion to voting restrictions to worker constraints and rolling back civil rights laws, you're seeing plans for whole fleets of Freedom Convoys clogging up the cities and highways. What's worth noting is that the Freedom Convoy in Canada was condemned by most of the country, including by truckers who might otherwise have been sympathetic. This to me is a sign of overreach - the reactionary forces are now beginning to engender a reaction of their own as people get fed up with the bad behavior, the lack of civility, the petty meanness, and the attempts at gaslighting.

Now, we're still nine months from the election and the situation could change quickly, but I think the Conventional Wisdom that the Dems are going to lose ground in the Fall is mainly propaganda.

Thoughts?
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