three links towards a political philosophy

New ideas are clearly needed if your choices at the voting booth are Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. That pairing, considered inevitable by the pundit class at the outset of the 2016 primary season, resulted in the populist "FU" we are currently living through. That's not really an "idea," though, it's mostly been chaos.

What are some alternatives to neoliberalism-as-usual administered by bland technocrats? (The word neoliberalism is vague and overused but for now let's define it as the status quo of corporate faux-market-based ideas practiced by government, which has the practical effect of siphoning cash from the general public into the private sector.)

At one extreme is the right/libertarian idea of a pure government-by-market. This Ayn Randian vision is neatly dismantled in a satirical interview on the Naked Capitalism blog, "Journey into a Libertarian Future, Part I," originally posted in 2011 and reposted this week, which envisions law enforcement run along the market principles of Obamacare. Instead of government hiring cops, think insurance companies.

On the left we're seeing a raging battle between what Benjamin Studebaker, in a thoughtful post, calls "materialism" -- offering the voter actual tangible benefits such as medicare-for-all and free college -- and "idealism," which means changing voters' ideas about race and identity before any practical solutions are attempted. Studebaker makes a good case for the former, but one might wonder what his modern welfare state is going to look like. A government that relies on algorithms to administer benefits, as seen in Denmark and described in this Foreign Policy magazine article, could be hellish.

That welfare dystopia is precisely what the libertarian critique in the first link (shorn of its satire) is concerned about. But government-by-algorithm isn't really left-distributionist so much as a public-private partnership between government and Big Tech, with "algorithms" deciding whose benefits get cut off. The flaw in the Foreign Policy article is not asking who is selling this tech to Denmark. It seems unlikely that the bureaucrats have their own homegrown programmers; probably they'd be relying on Silicon Valley tech entrepeneurs, whose politics are actually neoliberal-masquerading-as-libertarian. So we're back to the Obamacare model, with algorithms rather then insurance supplied by the private sector. More information is clearly needed on how this would all work.

quick reality check

Jason Ditz at

The American public, however, seems to broadly support Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, and to bring some troops home from Afghanistan. The White House switchboard is laden with calls of support.

C. J. Hopkins on yellow vests

Have been enjoying C.J. Hopkins' writing, in particular, this essay ridiculing a Counterpunch-originated coinage, "Trumpenleft." (A variation on the insult that if you don't care for the Clintons and think the Russiagate narrative is a crock you must be "for" Trump.) Hopkins got his start at Counterpunch but was cold-shouldered a few months ago for not being a pure enough leftist, apparently. With Alexander Cockburn dead it's been disappointing to see Counterpunch becoming more doctrinaire, right up to embracing the Clintons' blame-Russia talking points. As Hopkins has noted, you can't be a "red" and also a fascist, but that's the notion the Democratic party is selling us.

Yesterday Hopkins described the process by established media of fitting France's yellow vest protests into the red-brown terror axis:

The English-language corporate media, after doing their best not to cover these protests (and, instead, to keep the American and British publics focused on imaginary Russians), have been forced to now begin the delicate process of delegitimizing the gilets jaunes without infuriating the the entire population of France and inciting the British and American proletariats to go out and start setting cars on fire. They got off to a bit of an awkward start.

For example, this piece by Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian‘s Paris Bureau Chief, and her Twitter feed from the protests last Saturday. Somehow (probably a cock-up at headquarters), The Guardian honchos allowed Chrisafis to do some actual propaganda-free reporting (and some interviews with actual protesters) before they caught themselves and replaced her with Kim Willsher, who resumed The Guardian‘s usual neoliberal establishment-friendly narrative, which, in this case, entailed dividing the protesters into “real” gilets jaunes and “fake” gilet jaunes, and referring to the latter fictional group as “thuggish, extremist political agitators.”

By Sunday, the corporate media were insinuating that diabolical Russian Facebook bots had brainwashed the French into running amok, because who else could possibly be responsible? Certainly not the French people themselves!

social media believer of the day

Online art zine Hyperallergic reports on a tragic figure: a "curator and art historian" who trusted Facebook! Here's the lead sentence:

Curator and art historian Ruben Cordova thought that Facebook was the perfect platform to archive the photographic materials equivalent to almost a decade’s worth of his research.

What was he thinking? After the inevitable happened -- Facebook censors shut him down for posting a nude sculpture image he downloaded from the Met -- he learned his lesson and moved all his research to his self-hosted site. Actually, no, he didn't do that. He wants to get back on Facebook really badly! Hence, his appeals to Hyperallergic, a long-time promoter of Facebook. Maybe they can help him to get reinstated by writing about this mishap! The article continues:

And if Facebook reverses its decision, will Cordova return to the platform? “Yes, I absolutely want to stay,” he tells Hyperallergic. “I want my account back, and I want to continue posting. I have made numerous excellent contacts through Facebook. Many people respond to Facebook messages, but not to emails! Right now, I am unable to contact most of the people I know personally because their phones or email addresses have changed.”

gritty teens and pepe teens

Blogger Carl Beijer wonders who's actually on twitter, or at least, how influential it is. Not sure what prompted this but it might have something to do with all the mainstream journalists who obsessively discuss "what twitter is thinking" or believe it's significant when "twitter erupts." How much thought leading is really going on over there? Says Beijer:

[N]ot everyone, it turns out, uses Twitter to talk about the news:

--One recent survey shows that only about 11% of the population ever gets their news from Twitter.

--Among respondents who ever use social media to get the news there is also significant variation in consumption: for instance, 30% of that group say that they "hardly ever" get their news from social media. If these trends holds for Twitter, then it is probably a significant source of news for something closer to 3-8% of US adults.

Beijer concludes with this paragraph:

This, I think, is a much more realistic assessment of Twitter's news reach: bring together all of the blue check journalists and unverified posters, the sinister operatives and the doe-eyed normies, the Pepe teens and the Gritty teens, the #TCOT grandpas and rose emojis - put them all together, and you are reaching a single-digit percentage of US adults, somewhere between 3-8%.

This hairball of newspeak might send a Twitter-unobsessed reader to the Urban Dictionary. A few people I asked didn't know what "Gritty teens" meant. Email if you have an idea.

edits after posting

Update: Thanks to Rubbercat for emailing a Gritty teens explanation: "'Gritty teens' refer[s] to an emerging contingent of meme-loving leftist kids. Its namesake is the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team's new mascot Gritty who, after a few initial weeks of universal revulsion, became jokingly recharacterized as this hip ultra-leftist antifa hero in photoshops and memes. There was a counterprotest recently and Gritty was on a lot of the signs."