29 September 2013


I think a lot about an interview I once saw with Jim Henson.

Of course, Kermit the Frog was sitting on Henson's knee.

As the interviewer spoke to Henson, Kermit would occasionally comment. And I became fascinated by how throughout the interview, even when Henson was clearly thinking intently or fully engaged in speaking, Kermit looked back and forth between Henson and the interviewer, his face changing expression as he reacted to what he was hearing. This is impressive enough a demonstration of Henson's practiced hand at performing Kermit ... but then something astonishing happened. Kermit interrupted Henson and Henson was obviously surprised by what Kermit had said. They had a little discussion between the two of them — as I recall, they disagreed with each other — then they returned to replying to the interviewer.

I wish I could find a clip of this half-remembered interview. It stands out in my mind because that exchange between Henson and Kermit was unmistakably, uncannily real, not merely a performance for our benefit.

(I have another example of Kermit inspiring existential terror, though this one is more intentional.)

This comes to mind because I just read a little story about Mel Blanc which is very Relevant To My Interests.

Back in 1988, I was lying in bed listening to Mel Blanc (you know, the voice of just about every well-known cartoon character, famously Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Barney Rubble ... I could go on) being interviewed by the local station as part of his book tour, his autobiography That's NOT All, Folks!. He told Robin and Maynard a tale I was too young to hear as a lad, the story of his car wreck in early 1961 that left him very near death in a coma.

Here's the weird. Mel told the story that his doctor came by every day and ask, “Mr. Blanc, how are you?” to see if he could elicit a response. Every day, nothing. Finally, Mel said, the doctor tried a different tack; he asked, “How's he doing in there, Bugs?” To the shock of both the doctor and Blanc's son, also in the room, Bug's voice came out, saying weakly, “Ah, he'll be alright, Doc.”

I always loved that story. Even when I found out it was wrong, since it was wrong in a way that said so much about the nature of our brains and how we perceive the world and us within it.

You see, Blanc's Doc Louis Conway didn't ask Bugs Bunny how Mel was doing. As both he and Mel's son Noel Blanc witnessed, the doctor asked Bugs how he was doing, as in “Bugs Bunny, how are you doing today?” And rather than attest to Mel's well-being, Blanc said in Bugs’ voice, “Nyeah, What's up Doc?”

Doctor Conway then went down a list, asking for Porky, Tweety, Foghorn ... and each answered in their respective voice. Finally, after a string of six or so characters emerging, Blanc himself came out of the coma, asking about what happened and where he was.

And that's weird; not that Blanc answered in the characters he so ably brought to life, but decades later that he would mis-remember this story on his Seattle radio interview (and, one would assume, others as well), placing these personas deep within him as guardian angels, not as shattered fragments, distinct individuals buried deep within his conscious but yet whole, sometimes whole enough to take over his body and communicate when he himself was too broken to answer.

Son Noel gives credence to this idea of the characters being a part of Blanc, noting that watching his dad, he sometimes turned down the volume from the recording studio, but could still tell which character his dad was voicing just by the posture, the demeanor Blanc assumed. “So, I think they were part of him, basically,” Noel notes in the Radiolab piece. He even evaded the question of why his father responded first to Bugs’ summons, not to dad, or father, or Mel.

The fact that Blanc did not recall what Bugs had said reminded me of a more profound manifestation of how we appear to be built to do this kind of thing. There's a good description of it in Michael Ventura's essay Hear That Long Snake Moan about (among other things) Voodoo, which I happen to have handy:

Spurred by the holy drums, deep in the meditation of the dance, one is literally entered by a god or a goddess. Goddesses may enter men, and gods may enter women. Westerners call this “possession.” That’s too crude a concept for this, though good writers describing the phenomenon have been forced to use it; we have no other word or concept that comes close. But instead of possession, it seems more accurate to think of “a flowing through.” The one flows through the other. They flow through each other. As Maya Deren put it in her study of Haitian Voodoo, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti: “The loa [spirit], then, partakes of the head that bears it. The principle is modified by the person.” (Deren's italics.) The body, literally, becomes the crossroads. Human and divine are united within it — and it can happen to anyone.

What a frightening, utterly terrifying concept to our Western minds. Far from inflating the ego, the experience demolishes it while the state lasts. People who’ve been in this state commonly can’t remember what they’ve said or done, and part of the function of the ceremony is to have witnesses who will later tell them what the god said through them. In the West we are so frightened of such states that we assume, when we see them in isolated cases, that they are symptoms of psychosis, if we are charitable; if we are not, we assume — as the first Westerners to see such things assumed — that this is possession by the Devil, and that anything, anything at all, is justified in blotting it out. It is no wonder we tend not to “go south” for our philosophy.


The god is seen as the rider, the person is seen as the horse, and they come together in the dance. When the god speaks through the person about that person, almost every sentence is prefaced with the phrase, “Tell my horse ... ” — because the “horse” will have no memory of the “ride” when it is over, and will have to learn of it from others. The morality implicit in this is stated best in Maya Deren’s favorite Haitian proverb: great gods cannot ride little horses.

“There’s a whole language of possession,” Thompson says, “a different expression and stance for each god.” All the accounts are clear that a god is instantly recognizable by its movements, and the movements are different for each. So if the ceremony is to honor Ghede, their equivalent of Hermes, perhaps Erzulie, their Aphrodite, shows up uninvited. But she is recognizable whether she rides a man or a woman because of her distinctive movements and behavior. This suggests a psychic suppleness that has to be staggering to any Westerner. Staggering, and frightening, if we are honest with ourselves. We may speak of a new model of the psyche, we may even be learning to experience life in a way that is more true to the way our many-faced psyches are structured — which is to say, the way they were created to live — but here are people who can dance it!

Here are people who can, to use Jungian terminology, embody an archetype — any single Voodoo worshiper may embody many during a lifetime of ceremonies. They will dance it, speak it, make love through it, manifest it in every possible way, entering and leaving the experience without psychosis, without “mind-expanding” drugs, and while having the support and help of their community, for all of this is integral with their daily lives.

I don't mean to diminish possessory work by reducing it to sock puppetry; on the contrary, I want to ennoble what Henson and Blanc did by saying that their creativity is a manifestation of the same capacity that permits us contact with the gods so intimate that they can live within us as processes independent of what we ordinarily think of as our “self”. Here's Alan Moore in an interview describing his relationship with a god who is very literally a sock puppet.

Do I believe I can raise the dead and talk to them? Yes, I do. Not in any physical sense because that would smell. I don’t see any point in that. You don’t want a maggot bag walking around your living room. But could I re-animate the idea of a person in the useful sense and be able to communicate with that person – or, at least, to believe that I was communicating with that person to such an extent that the information I received was as good as if that person was talking to me? Yes, I do. Most of the effects described in classical magical tradition I believe I can duplicate with art, possibly drugs – or some other means of integrating myself more deeply with that sort of reality, that sort of consciousness – I believe I could do most of the things that are described in traditional magic. This opens up wider possibilities. It also enables me to understand myself on a deeper level. By accepting the idea of endless pantheons of gods, I somehow accept these creatures as being distinct and separate from me, and not as being, to some degree, higher functions of me. Iain Sinclair was asking me about this: he asked me ‘do you think they are inside you, or outside you?’ The only answer I could come up with was, the more I think about it the inside is the outside. That the objective world and the non-objective world are the same thing, to some degree. Ideaspace and this space are the same space. Just different ends of the scale. That’s not a very good explanation, but the best I can come up with so far. All of these things are exploratory, they are exploring me, exploring the world of ideas, attempting to contact what I believe may be potent forms of energy. Like for example, I might do a work to put me in contact with the god Mercury. If the information I get from that is valuable to me, and new enough, it doesn’t really matter whether the god Mercury is there at all, does it? There is a channel that I have called the god Mercury, some sort of information source I have named.

I can understand that on an abstract level. If the information provided is useful, why question the actual existence of whatever is providing that information. But on a personal level, if you were receiving information that you couldn’t immediately attribute to as coming from yourself, wouldn’t you feel absolute terror?

In my own experience – and this is where we get into the complete madness here – I have only met about four gods, a couple of other classes of entity as well. I’m quite prepared to admit this might have been a hallucination. On most of the instances I was on hallucinogenic drugs. That’s the logical explanation – that it was purely an hallucinatory experience. I can only talk about my subjective experience however, and the fact that having had some experience of hallucinations over the last twenty-five years or so, I’d have to say that it seemed to me to be a different class of hallucination. It seemed to me to be outside of me. It seemed to be real. It is a terrifying experience, and a wonderful one, all at once – it is everything you’d imagine it to be. As a result of this, there is one particular entity that I feel a particular affinity with. There is late Roman snake god, called Glycon, he was an invention of the False Prophet Alexander. Which is a lousy name to go into business under. He had an image problem. He could have done with a spin doctor there.

Anyway, the False Prophet Alexander is a Moon and Serpent hero, a saint if you like. He was running what seemed to be a travelling Seleni medicine show, he would do a performance of the mysteries of the goddess Soi. The only reference to him is in the works of Lucien, who calls him a complete charlatan and fraud. At some point, Alexander the False Prophet said he was going to preside over the second coming of the god Aeschepylus, the serpent god of medicine. He said this is going to happen at noon tomorrow, in the marketplace. So everyone said ‘sounds good’ and they all went down there. After a little while, they said “come on, False Prophet Alexander, where is the second coming of Aeschepylus?” At which point, The False Prophet Alexander bent down, reached into a puddle at his feet, pulled up an egg, split it with his thumbnail, and there was a tiny snake inside, and said “Behold, the new Aeschepylus”, took it home with him, where over a week it apparently grew to a prodigious size until it was taller than a man, and had the head and features of a man. It had long blonde hair, ears, eyelids, a nose. At this point he started to exhibit it in his temple, providing religious meeting with this incarnate god. At which point Lucian said, it was obvious, I could have done that. Lucian is another James Randi, you know, I could have done that, he got the snake’s head under his arm, speaking tube over his shoulder, child’s play. And he’s probably right, that’s probably how he did it. If I’m going to adopt a god, I’d rather know starting out that it was a glove puppet. To me it’s a real god, there’s nothing that precludes a glove puppet from being a real god. How else would you explain the cult of Sooty? But a god is the idea of a god. The idea of a god is a god. The idea of Glycon is Glycon, if I can enhance that idea with an anaconda and a speaking tube, fair enough. I am unlikely to start believing that this glove puppet created the universe. It’s a fiction, all gods are fiction. It’s just that I happen to think that fiction’s real. Or that it has its own reality, that is just as valid as ours. I happen to believe that most of the important things in the material world start out as fiction. That everything around us was once fiction – before there was the table there was the idea of a table, and the idea of a table before tables was fiction. This is the most important world, the world of fictional things. That’s the world where all this starts. So I had an experience which seems to be an experience of this made-up, Basil-Brush type entity. It was devastating.

This was the pivotal experience. You were forty when you had this occult Road to Damascus.

Yes. On the day I was forty, I decided I was going to become a magician. That was on November 18th. On January 7th the following year, that was when all of a sudden the lightning bolt hit. It all got a bit strange. For a couple of months after that, I was – looking back – probably in some borderline schizophrenic state. I was very spaced out – godstruck, you babble for a while. It’s a natural response. Babble like an idiot. I’m surprised that – when I look back at what I was saying – that so much of it at least makes a fragment of sense because I was in some divine haze. “I see it all now”, you know, I must have been unbearable for two or three months. I’ve integrated that now into the rest of my life. Now I can deal with functionality on a practical level. And I still have this relationship with this imaginary snake. My imaginary pal. If I’m going to be dealing in totally imaginary territory, it struck me that it would be useful to have a native as a guide. So I can have my imaginary conversations with my imaginary snake, and maybe it gives me information I already knew in part of myself, and maybe I just needed to make up an imaginary snake to tell me it.

Do you have a ritual during which these various conversations take place?

Increasingly, with that particular god, it becomes more casual. It will be talking to the giant imaginary snake god much in the same way you talked to God when you were six, in the quiet silence of bed. If I wanted a full-scale manifestation, one that was apparent to other people, then I would do a ritual. I have displayed the snake god to other people. Or I have consciously hypnotised them into accepting my psychotic belief system, given them drugs, and made them think they are having the experience I have. Whatever you want. I’m not fussed.

The human brain is a palace with chambers set aside where the gods may dwell.

23 September 2013


A simple example on how to make your graphs less terrible from MKite on Reddit:

Conservative projection

Doug Muder's blog The Weekly Sift is my favorite lefty news roundup. This week he offered a particularly clarifying piece about conservative projection, a phenomenon much noted by lefty commentators, providing a crisp description of the psychology.

People of all religions and philosophies find it hard to “see ourselves as others see us”, but most of us at least pay lip service to the idea that we should. On the Religious Right, though, it’s not just hard to look at your faith from the outside, it’s wrong. (Something similar happens on the political Right with “American exceptionalism”; it’s not just difficult for Americans to see the United States as a nation among other nations, it’s a mistake that should be rejected out of hand.)

This dogmatic quirk has a predictable result: Religious Right speakers and authors have a profound lack of self-awareness.


People who lack self-awareness are prone to what psychologists call projection — their repressed self-criticism doesn’t just evaporate, it comes out as criticism of others. Projection is why liars don’t trust anybody and gossips believe everyone is talking about them. Projection is why puritans imagine that everyone else is obsessed with sex, and ideologues see themselves beset by everyone else’s ideology.

Of course, savvy conservatives accuse liberals of projection ... a kind of meta-projection ....

20 September 2013

Economic policy

Ganked entire from Brad DeLong's website: The Seven Cardinal Virtues of Equitable Growth

  1. Manage the macroeconomy to match aggregate demand to potential supply. Take the dual mandate seriously: maintaining full employment is as important a central bank goal as low and stable inflation--and much more important than preserving healthy margins for the banking sector. Run large deficits--run up the national debt--in times of war, depression, or other national emergency calling for government action. Pay down the debt in other times.
  2. Invest. Invest in ideas, in equipment capital, in structures capital, in education: we need more of all forms of investment. Boost public and private investment: we need both kinds.
  3. Over the past generation, America has shifted enormous resources into value-substracting industries: health-care administration, prisons, finance, carbon energy. We need to reverse those shifts, and focus the American economy on the value-creating sectors rather than the value-subtracting ones.
  4. We ought to have had a carbon tax 20 years ago. We still need one.
  5. We need more immigration. It is much easier, worldwide, to move the people to where the institutions are already good than to make good institutions where the people are. More immigration produces a richer country for those already here. More immigration is a mitzvah for immigrants. More immigration is, to a a lesser degree, a mitzvah for those in poor countries outside who see less population pressure on resources. And a U.S. in 2070 that has 600 million people is more of an international superpower than a U.S. in 2070 that has only 400 million people.
  6. We need more equality. If we want to have equality of opportunity 50 years from now, we need substantial equality of result right now.
  7. We are going to need a bigger and better government. The private unregulated market does not do well at health-care finance, at pensions, or at education finance. The private unregulated market does not do well at research and early-stage development. The private unregulated market does not do well with commodities that are non-rival. We are moving into a twenty-first century in which these sectors will all be larger slices of what we do, and so a well-functioning economy will need a larger government relative to the private economy than the twentieth century did.

I'm still on the lookout for radical, soixante-huitard alternatives to growth and capitalism (do let me know if you have a solution to that which isn't stupid) but in the meantime, this will do nicely as an agenda.

11 September 2013


Webcomic Shortpacked offers a comment on objectification of women in comic books which is incisive even if you don't care about comics at all. That last panel is so very, very good.

10 September 2013


I vividly remember during the First Web Boom, when San Francisco had an influx of ’99ers, that I resisted grumbling about the folks coming to San Francisco to seek their fortunes.

I moved to the Bay Area in 1992. I met plenty of people who had a kind of chauvinism about the Bay Area, who would talk about how the real San Franciscans were only the people who had moved to SF before they did, the day they did, or the day after, and everyone else was just a newcomer and not the real thing. It's a thing you hear in any place, organization, and subculture — you should have been here in the old days — and I didn't want to be one of those folks.

So I held my tongue for a good long time, thinking that resentment of the influx of people from the Boom was more of the same. The tone of the City changed, but hey, things change. I tried to appreciate the weird excitement it brought.

Still, it bothered me, and I tried to resist letting it get under my skin ... until I figured out why.

I was doing some consulting for a doomed startup with a nonsense business plan to IPO as quickly as possible so everyone could cash out. The founder told me about his first drive down 101 to talk to the venture capital firms on Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto; he described how he felt he was “treading on hallowed ground”. I felt a surge of disgust: there was nothing holy about this guy's business plan.

The San Francisco I loved was raffish and queer and weird, and it attracted people like me who didn't quite fit anywhere else. But ’99ers weren't moving to San Francisco because it was San Francisco. They were moving here to get rich. And they resented that San Francisco was weird; they wanted it to be like anyplace else and they did their level best to make it that way.

The First Boom crashed out after just a few years. In that brief time, it seriously damaged the San Francisco ecosystem but didn't quite kill it.

And now we have a Second Boom. And for a while it wasn't so bad; the young hipsters drawn by the Boom weren't exactly San Francisco weird but a lot of them had an appreciation for it, and more than a few joined the ranks of Freak Nation after living here for a while. But this boom has lasted longer ... which also means that the phase of assholes drawn to SF wanting to get rich is lasting longer. The tone of the City is changing more, and with the double shock of two booms in a row it seems to be changing more fundamentally and permanently.

Yeah, I know that I'm middle aged now, which is a risk factor for irrational nostalgia for the the world as it was when I was young. I don't think it's only that.

There are plenty of places for assholes who want to get rich. We only have the one San Francisco. And it's getting to the point where I'm tempted to say we only had the one San Francisco.

Update: Heather Gold comments wisely on Twitter. Chris Tacy says something very similar to my own thoughts, even more harshly.

07 September 2013

Glenn Beck on hunting down progressives

Glenn Beck interviewed by the New York Times:

Can we stop dividing ourselves? Do racists exist? Yes. Do bigots exist? Yes. But most of us are not. Most Americans just want to get along. Why can’t we do that? What has happened to us?

But you said you were going to hunt down progressives like an Israeli Nazi hunter.

Oh, I will. I think these guys are the biggest danger in the world. It’s the people like Mao, people that believe that big government is the answer, it always leads to millions dead — always.

Sometimes when you give a speech, you hold up a napkin stained with Hitler’s blood. Why?

It could be Hitler’s, I don’t know. It was from somebody present during the July assassination attempt. The point of it is: pay attention when the trouble is small. If you don’t pay attention to people who want to regulate every aspect of your life, it spirals out of control.

How does he reconcile the contradiction between All Americans Getting Along and hunting down progressives? It's simple: he doesn't recognize progressives as “Americans”. Only the conservative tribe are real Americans. The left are all evil, and must be fought ruthlessly to save the real America.

This is called “eliminationism”, and David Neiwert explains it in detail.

The mind has a hard time accepting that folks like Beck really mean what they say. But they do. We should believe them when they say what they will do with power.

So I agree with him on one thing: pay attention when the trouble is small.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Over on the Facebooks a friend posted a link to Roberto Orci saying that critics of Star Trek: Into Darkness don't appreciate what an awesome screenwriter he is. So I spat out this rant.

Y'know, I enjoyed JJ's first Star Trek movie.

It had almost none of the Spirit Of Star Trek. It was thoroughly nonsensical. But it was fun and it was full of little winks to Trek fans and I felt like we could use a space opera franchise and since Trek was kind of lounging around not doing anything, so why not use it for this?

But Into Darkness was gawdawful, not just as Trek but as a movie, period. The blame belongs entirely to Orci's cheap, dishonest screenwriting. I know I don't have the chops to be a professional screenwriter, but I could scribble out something better than Darkness in an afternoon while fighting a head cold.

What really offends me, that few commentators have noted, is there's a moment in the second act where it seems like we're going to get a smart movie full of intrigue. What's Harrison's plan? How are the Klingons involved? What's with the torpedoes? What's Carol Marcus' angle? What isn't Admiral Robocop telling us? Who sabotaged the warp drive, and why?

Kirk hates mysteries, they give him a bellyache; he must have had a beauty right about then. But I love ’em.

But that was all bullshit meant to make the movie seem smart. None of that stuff was gonna pay off. Harrison eventually demonstrates that he doesn't really have a coherent plan. The Klingons aren't involved; there was no reason to go to the Klingon homeworld. The torpedos do have a secret; it's just one that makes no sense. Carol Marcus is just there to have cool hair and strip down to her skivvies for a moment. Admiral Robocop does have a secret, but it doesn't make sense either. And I'm still not quite sure who sabotaged the warp drive, or why.

By the end of the movie, we're in Lost territory: anything can happen, so nothing matters.

Yes, when Spock died in Wrath he eventually got better. But there were consequences. It took an entire movie full of sacrifice to get him back, and no one emerged unscathed.

Into Darkness made me feel dirty and it made me feel angry. That it toyed with my love of Trek is part of my rage at it, but not even close to being the biggest part.

That Orci is smug about being a good writer having produced that monstrosity is disgusting.


The New York Times reports that Rochus Misch, Hitler's bodyguard and the last surviving eyewitness of the bunker where Hitler spent his last days, has died. Through that, I discover an interview with Salon done back in 2005.

At one point, he proposes that there should be a monument to Goebbels’ children, who died in the bunker at their parents’ hands. This becomes an opening to talk about the Nazi movement, and we see his profound denial.

Um, the murder of the children was terrible, but for every one of them, 1 million Jews were killed with less reason, to say nothing of the many, many others who died at the hands of the Nazis.

That may be. But I ask you, if Hitler really did all the terrible things people now say he did, how could he have been our Führer? How is it possible?

The million-dollar question. But I do think you’ll admit that if there were a memorial to the Goebbels children, it would become a magnet for neo-Nazis.

Ach, “neo-Nazi.” No such thing. What does “neo-Nazi” mean? New Nazi, right? There aren’t any. That’s just a buzzword. What you have are nationally conscious people, people who say, “my fatherland, right or wrong.” My fatherland, nothing more, am I right? You British say it, the Swiss say it, the Israelis say it — “My country,” they say. And I’ll fight for it. The Israelis are nationalistic people, they defend their region, they defend their people. They have as much right as anyone.

The whole Iraq war isn’t about Saddam Hussein, it’s about Israel. Israel can’t exist on avocados and oranges! A nation lives from business. They have to have money. And the Americans always pay in. This is just my opinion, but why did they occupy Iraq? Supposedly because of atomic bombs? [Laughs.] In my opinion, Iraq is a wealthy oil region, and with this money they can support Israel. They can’t keep pumping their own money in forever.

Nationalism, Jewish conspiracies, and a denial of Hitler's crimes.

Still a Nazi.

02 September 2013

Cobb's Slice

Michael David Cobb Bowen is an old friend. He is an idiosyncratic Black conservative; I am an idiosyncratic White progressive. We disagree about damned near everything, but I often find that I profit more from thinking about my disagreements with him than from many people with whom I nominally disagree.

He and I both belong to what I sometimes call the technocratic class, which in his “Peasant Theory” he calls The Slice. (He summarizes his Peasant Theory particularly well in the last section of his post Three Types Of Class.)

His short description of The Slice is

the talented segment of society who, by their work, keep actual rich people rich

If that's a little chilling, well, it should be.

I find this longer meditation on The Slice intriguing:

My Middle Class is one that I think will emerge on a moral and ethical front. Mine is the lower upper middle class of America. We are the people who use a combination of meritocratic systems and social powers to establish and maintain our status and affluence. We know things that matter and we know how to do things that matter. We are a working class, and this is somewhat unique to an America that provides a great deal more to the common man than England did in the 1930s. For what we have in America is not only automobiles but several manufacturers of automobiles, and in this and other industries, products and services are provided in such a way as to make a larger permanent set of competencies. If England faced socialism because the permanent unemployment of coal miners (due to a small monoculture of capitalist investors), America would not because of it larger, more diverse class of capitalist investors. This, in turn establishes a social momentum that keeps a larger literate class — the upper middle class, and among them, the most capable segement I call The Slice.

I think of The Slice, however as the only substantial meritocracy, and I think of it in feudal terms. They are the people who work directly for the Powers That Be. Yet the upper middle class, which is (I estimate) 3 or 4 times larger than The Slice itself, knows exactly what The Slice should be doing, and is always vying for those positions. It is this large and competent upper middle class that define American culture and society, as everyone in the middle class and below aspire to their affluence and freedom, and the small numbers of the Ruling Class make them ineffective at controlling their creativity. In America, my wild guess is that the upper middle class numbers between 20-35 million, which is about 6-12 percent of our population. More accurately, in 2011, about 38 million households had income of 75-200k per year. The substantial point is that I see this as the proof of the establishment of a class system far beyond the conceptualizations of the early socialists such as Orwell.

America has more than a million millionaires, and that is a divergent enough class of capitalists to establish a continuity of capital that can be robust, even anti-fragile against the sorts of stagnated, narrow investments and under-investments that created permanent unemployment. The interests of the moneyed class and the talents of the upper middle class are both now so substantial that they can support much greater numbers of the needs and desires of the common man. Furthermore, the universiality of this global upper class, is the fascinating phenomenon that is transforming the world. This is the new jet set and we know what time it is UTC.

This American upper middle class is accustomed to and aware of the way it works for global capital. It lives in international cities like Los Angeles. It eats a variety of cuisines. It speaks a variety of languages. It has a style and a substance that is evidence of civilization. Where you see its garbage of empty Starbucks cups, and Perrier water bottles, you know that you are in a high rent neighborhood. What I want to suggest re-establishes the thesis — the loyalties of this class is a bit more diverse than that of The Slice. The Slice works directly for the Powers that Be, the upper middle stands in reserve and sometimes creates its own Alternative Slice in anticipation of a future seduction of new Rulers to new rules. The man who is not working for Intel today but finds a way to design tommorows computer chips in a superior way seeks to improve on the current regime. This is a ‘bottom up’ solution searching for the right investors, and the investor class is well aware of such upstarts. But what of nationalism?

I want to assert in brief that America has maintained liberty through the production of domestic products and services aimed towards the fulfillment of desires of choice above and beyond desires of need for the common man. These are, in many ways, the fundamental interests of the US — to protect the supply lines and trade arrangements that keep global capital invested here. The provide the infrastructure that keeps our international cities attractive to The Slice and to provide such a home for investors who would keep our economy fluid and strong. To provide for the broad open society that encourages the advancement of individuals and families into upward social mobility for the common man, and to maintain the infrastucture of domestic tranquility. This is constrained into nationalism out of tradition and law, but in matters of war and peace the preponderant interests of the upper middle class is unclear. There is too little of the nation's economy, unlike in the days preceding the World Wars, that stands to benefit from war production.

However, the interests of the upper middle class, are very much like the interests of the Western ruling class in that it cannot afford to operate in pre-industrial conditions. And those who threaten the infrastructure of the West are thus intolerable. That is not necessarily a national interest, but neither is it something dictated or constrained by international law, per se. It is not international law that makes Singapore attractive to the upper middle class. It is not nationalism that motivates traitors like Edward Snowden. It is the fundamental usefulness their talents provide to the Ruling Class and the high rewards that make their social standing — not only in one country, but universally.

My class is the global upper middle class. We may be nationalists only of convenience. We will not be seduced by socialism because our existence is as permanent as the global supply chain of oil, steel and data. The common man still looks up to us — as we are the common man, improved. Our native land is civil liberty.

I am a lot less sanguine than he is about the resiliency of the the economy that the aristocratic class is creating. And I am a touch more sanguine about technocrats favoring “socialism” than he is; I know a great many technocrats who favor social democracy, and I suspect that the kind of education necessary to produce effective technocrats also produces the capacity for critique of the social order. But he hints elsewhere in that essay that China proves me wrong, and I fear he is right, because the “feudal” conception of society which he regards as realistic strikes me as nightmarish.