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David Schneider-Joseph
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988 followers
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‘If we pull back from a narrow focus on incomes and purchasing power, … we see something much more troubling than economic stagnation. Outside a well-educated and comfortable elite comprising 20-25 percent of Americans, we see unmistakable signs of social collapse. We see, more precisely, social disintegration — the progressive unraveling of the human connections that give life structure and meaning: declining attachment to work; declining participation in community life; declining rates of marriage and two-parent childrearing. … What we are witnessing is the human wreckage of a great historical turning point, a profound change in the social requirements of economic life. We have come to the end of the working class.

… This slow-motion catastrophe has been triggered by a fundamental change in how the capitalist division of labor is organized. … The U.S. economy still employs large numbers of less-skilled workers, of course. They exist in plentiful supply, and U.S. labor markets are functional enough to roughly match that supply with demand for it. But all of this is occurring in what are now the backwaters of economic life. The dynamic sectors that propel the whole system forward, and on which hinge hopes for continued improvement in material living conditions, don’t have much need today for callused hands and strong backs—and will have less need every year going forward.

Economists … contrast the current dynamics to the skill-neutral transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy. Then, workers displaced from farm jobs by mechanization could find factory work without first having to acquire any new specialized expertise. By contrast, former steel and autoworkers in the Rust Belt did not have the skills needed to take advantage of the new job opportunities created by the information technology revolution.

… The nightmare of the industrial age was that the dependence of technological civilization on brute labor was never-ending. … Those old nightmares are gone—and for that we owe a prayer of thanks. Never has there been a source of human conflict more incendiary than the reliance of mass progress on mass misery.

… But the old nightmare, alas, has been replaced with a new one. Before, the problem was the immense usefulness of dehumanizing work; now, it is feelings of uselessness that threaten to leach away people’s humanity. Anchored in their unquestioned usefulness, industrial workers could struggle personally to endure their lot for the sake of their families, and they could struggle collectively to better their lot. The working class’s struggle was the source of working-class identity and pride. For today’s post-working-class “precariat,” though, the anchor is gone, and people drift aimlessly from one dead-end job to the next. Being ill-used gave industrial workers the opportunity to find dignity in fighting back. But how does one fight back against being discarded and ignored? Where is the dignity in obsolescence?

The scale of the challenge facing us is immense. What valuable and respected contributions to society can ordinary people not flush with abstract analytical skills make? How can we mend fraying attachments to work, family, and community? There are volumes to write on these subjects, but there is at least one reason for hope. We can hope for something better because, for the first time in history, we are free to choose something better. The low productivity of traditional agriculture meant that mass oppression was unavoidable; the social surplus was so meager that the fruits of civilization were available only to a tiny elite, and the specter of Malthusian catastrophe was never far from view. Once the possibilities of a productivity revolution through energy-intensive mass production were glimpsed, the creation of urban proletariats in one country after another was likewise driven by historical necessity. The economic incentives for industrializing were obvious and powerful, but the political incentives were truly decisive. When military might hinged on industrial success, geopolitical competition ensured that mass mobilizations of working classes would ensue.

No equivalent dynamics operate today. There is no iron law of history impelling us to treat the majority of our fellow citizens as superfluous afterthoughts. A more humane economy, and a more inclusive prosperity, is possible. For example, new technologies hold out the possibility of a radical reduction in the average size of economic enterprises, creating the possibility of work that is more creative and collaborative at a scale convivial to family, community, and polis. All that hold us back are inertia and a failure of imagination—and perhaps a fear of what we have not yet experienced. There is a land of milk and honey beyond this wilderness, if we have the vision and resolve to reach it.’

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A month old, but jesus. This guy is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. You can see the NASA scientists trying desperately not to burst out laughing at his ignorance. We are so screwed.

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If Hegel were a GPS engineer.
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Many of you may have seen this already. Julius Krein was one of the leading (/only?) pro-Trump intellectuals, and founder of the new American Affairs journal.

The temptation to say "I told you so" must be strongly resisted. It takes courage to write a piece like this.

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‘Why does Trump resist condemning white supremacy? The most obvious answer is that he’s encouraging the racism of some of his supporters, after a campaign that derived initial energy from his racist birther conspiracy theories and in many ways was framed around the narrative that white identity and white America are under siege.

… I’d like to suggest an additional reason for Trump’s reticence that is intertwined with this one: Trump does not recognize that his service as president confers on him any obligations to the public of any kind.

… Trump’s resistance [to condemning white supremacy] appears rooted in part in an instinctual sense that so doing would constitute some form of capitulation. In his remarks, Trump repeated the phrase “on many sides” in a pointed tone, as if to signal that he will not be bullied by any objection to his false equivalence or any pressure to single out anti-black racism.

The message that Trump surely received — one he surely continues to believe — is that there is no reason for him to capitulate to politically correct demands that he explicitly condemn racism toward any minorities. But this raises a profound problem. It is likely that Trump views this whole affair as being all bout him — that is, as all about whether he will surrender to his foes. He seems incapable of grasping that amid such crises, his office carries with it certain very grave responsibilities to the American people.

… And this could have continuing consequences.  The Times reports that white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups are only emboldened by the weekend’s events …Trump’s refusal to call them out by name may well reflect an active desire to empower these groups and, more broadly, to realize their vision. At a minimum, Trump is tacitly empowering them to keep it up — with untold costs to the country that could worsen, perhaps substantially.

In this sense, there is a direct line that leads from this abdication to Trump’s serial degradation of the presidency and our institutions on many other fronts: the continuing refusal to release his tax returns and use of the presidency to enrich his family; the nonstop lies about illegal voting in 2016, which undermine faith in our democratic system solely to aggrandize him; the blithe admission that he fired his FBI director because of the Russia probe; the rage at his attorney general for failing to protect him from that investigation; and the constant claims that the Russia story is a hoax, even though it’s about actual sabotage of our democracy, in addition to his role in it. Even if Trump does say the right thing today, it will only come after intense pressure to do so — and will be born of an instinct toward self-preservation — because he has zero sense of any obligation to the public, of any kind.’

So, having now read the “Google memo”, I think I can say a few things:

It contains no novel ideas, isn’t particularly well-argued, and won’t persuade anyone who has thought deeply about any of these complicated topics of anything they didn’t already believe. It probably doesn’t help that he explicitly identifies the left with authoritarianism, affirmative action with discrimination, and his position with the right, so he’s actually activated team allegiances even though he says he’s trying to dismantle them. He seems perhaps somewhat naive about all this.

He seems to have a reasonable, non-bigoted perspective, although it’s not my own. He definitely isn’t saying the things he’s been accused of saying, and he definitely didn’t write a “screed” or “rant”.

It is well within the norms at Google to share opinions like this internally on controversial technical, social, or organizational issues. Google was put in an embarrassing situation and decided to pretend that what he did was against their rules even though it wasn’t. I have seen other organizations do this to people in the past, and it’s always horrifying.

This memo got way more readership and sympathy as a consequence of attempts to repress the author’s views, compared either to what it deserved, or to what it would have received otherwise.

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Seems like potentially a pretty big story. While Flynn's level of involvement is yet unclear, it seems noteworthy that the Trump campaign isn't actually denying his involvement, they're just saying that "it would have been in his capacity as a private individual", not his capacity as a senior Trump adviser, as if that's a sensible distinction to make in this context.

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'Before the 2016 presidential election, a longtime Republican opposition researcher mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers.

In conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him, the GOP operative, Peter W. Smith, implied he was working with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, at the time a senior adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump.

… What role, if any, Mr. Flynn may have played in Mr. Smith’s project is unclear.

… "A Trump campaign official said that Mr. Smith didn’t work for the campaign, and that if Mr. Flynn coordinated with him in any way, it would have been in his capacity as a private individual."

… The operation Mr. Smith described is consistent with information that has been examined by U.S. investigators probing Russian interference in the elections.

Those investigators have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the intelligence.'

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The collective madness may be finally receding from its peak, now that we’ve all had the chance to see just what a madman in power actually looks like:

‘The beneficiaries of the right-wing decline have variously been politicians on the left (such as Austria’s Van der Bellen), the center-left (such as France’s Emmanuel Macron) and the center-right (such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, whose Christian Democratic Union has rebounded in polls). But there’s been another pattern in who gains or loses support: The warmer a candidate’s relationship with Trump, the worse he or she has tended to do.

… While there’s no smoking gun to attribute this shift to Trump, there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence. The timing lines up well: European right-wing parties had generally been gaining ground in elections until late last year; now we suddenly have several examples of their position receding. Trump is highly unpopular in Europe, especially in some of the countries to have held elections so far. Several of the candidates who fared poorly had praised Trump — and vice versa. He’s explicitly become a subject of debate among the candidates in Germany and the U.K. To the extent the populist wave was partly an anti-establishment wave, Trump — the president of the most powerful country on earth — has now become a symbol of the establishment, at least to Europeans.

… Politics is often cyclical, an endless series of reactions and counterreactions. Sometimes, what seems like the surest sign of an emerging trend can turn out to be its peak instead. It’s usually hard to tell when you’re in the midst of it. Trump probably hasn’t set the nationalist cause back by decades, and the rise of authoritarianism continues to represent an existential threat to liberal democracy. But Trump may have set his cause back by years, especially in Western Europe. At the very least, it’s become harder to make the case that the nationalist tide is still on the rise.’

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