88 Comments
Feb 7Liked by Noah Smith

In other union-related news, I saw an item on Bloomberg (paywalled) that the UAW says a majority of workers in Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga, TN, have signed cards for recognition. If 70% of workers sign, the UAW will pursue recognition.

This comes on the heels of the contracts signed with the Detroit carmakers.

Volkswagen is also one of the few EV makers that still is eligible for the full $7,500 tax credit for the ID.4, which is built in Tennessee.

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Nicholas’ meme is clever, but I would caution against simply laughing off the radical dreams as foolish. Just as the printing press profoundly altered the realities of the world, the changes in communication technology over the past decades have once again altered the landscape. Here's how it looks to me:

1. Always: People with strong beliefs must perceive some possibility of victory to work within the system.

2. Thus, the smaller the group, the less favorable that group will be towards majoritarian/"democratic" government.

3. Meanwhile, communications technology has strengthened the power of fringe groups, in that they are more able to communicate, organize, and garner attention out of proportion to their actual numbers.

4. However, current communications technology has also undermined an old strategy of these fringe groups; if their leaders cooperate with less extreme groups to accomplish some goals within the democratic system, they will be turned upon as traitors -- their members are now better able to communicate, organize, etc. and turn on leaders who deviate from the fringe belief in the slightest.

5. Thus, an important safety valve has been removed. Within these fringe groups, now the winning leaders are going to be the ones who say the system ought to be blown up, not the ones who with a clever plan to attach something to a larger bill, persuade the public, etc. Basically, if we have only 5% of the population, and we are not willing to give an inch, then something big has to happen to remove the 95% from the equation.

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"Funny how when there’s a giant pile of money involved, management and unions can learn to get along."

Why on earth are you saying that like it's a good thing? At a time we are still fighting off inflation and record government interest payments, the blob of government is teaming up with industry and unions to burn cash on overspending on labor as well as industry! Yay?

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I'm from Taiwan. In Taiwan, everyone think TSMC Arizona investment is a big mistake. It is a courtesy of Taiwan government to US to magnify the democracy union. However, the delay of plant really bothers TSMC. This might be the cause of early retirement of chairman Mark Liu, because he is responsible for the Arizona project.

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Taylor Swift hasn't been formally a country singer for a good 10 years because IMVHO the songs she was recording would clearly have been pop smashes if only they had not gone to country radio first. "Country-trained songwriter" is, however, fair.

As far as I remember about that WaPo piece the argument was not "Luke Combs has no right to record this song" but "Luke Combs can have an utterly massive hit with this song while Black women can't get played on country radio at all even with belligerently commercial things like Mickey Guyton's "Rose"". That's still true.

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.....was "The Blaze" not joking with that Catturd tweet? I assumed it must have been a self-aware joke, and it's much funnier now that I realize it probably wasn't.

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The Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs performance is a reminder why I’m glad I’m not on twitter anymore. I can just enjoy a fun performance without having to listen to people pitting performers against each other. As if musicians performing together are in competition and everybody has to choose sides. Twitter made life so much less enjoyable. I can’t wait for the day when Elon kills it off for good 😂

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People in general don't have a clear idea about political ideology, not just voters under 30. There's a very long line of research in political science to the effect that nearly everyone is ambivalent and cross-pressured about nearly everything -- people will change opinions, often without really realizing it, based on what's salient lately.

The small minority with carefully considered, more or less internally consistent, stable ideological opinions are just that, a small minority.

If you want to read more:

* This line of work started with Philip Converse, "The nature of belief systems in mass publics," 1964: https://doi.org/10/d5pwvk

* Maybe best expressed by John Zaller, "The nature and origins of mass opinion," 1992: https://doi.org/10/dgwr

* Though also maybe it's more complicated than I've let on: also Zaller, "What Nature and Origins Leaves Out," 2012, https://doi.org/10/ghjcsh

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This last point is interesting. Why are House republicans willing to pass a tax bill that could help Biden but Senate Rs are not…while at the same time being unwilling to pass an immigration bill because it will help Biden…but an immigration bill favored by Senate Rs? I assume it’s partly because Trump didn’t bother weighing in on the tax bill ???

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"Obviously, this kind of thinking is poison for any democracy."

I understand your point, but I disagree, at least from a practical perspective. As long as we have elections, politicians are going to try to game things so that they win elections. The only way to change this is to change human nature (good luck) or get rid of elections. Political gamesmanship is a necessary evil of democracy. By all means, point out that it's evil. But don't forget that it goes hand-in-hand with democracy.

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Regarding society adjusting to troll behavior on social media with Community Notes-type responses, I have no real opinion as to whether that will work, or whether that mechanism too will quickly become co-opted.

However, I think the troll problem (and the so-called fake news problem) may be diverting attention from what seems to me an extremely important problem we struggle to adjust to now that communications technology is what it is.

The trouble, I think, is that people always seek like-minded communities, push conformity within those communities, and, if necessary, commit atrocities against those who would seriously threaten that arrangement.

First, over many decades, modern communications technology has beamed a practically irresistible set of messages from central sources frustrating many communities. To a large extent, these sources were people with things to sell, whether physical or entertainment. But millions and millions of people, particularly parents and traditional folk and the strictly religious, have muttered or seethed. (And those same sources responded with pop culture mocking them for their resentment.)

But now, the newest communications technology has created the possibility of re-creating a new kind of community where conformity can again be achieved and enforced. Don't like that community either? Well, it's easy to secede from it, too and form your own smaller group. Rinse and repeat in all directions.

We trivialize this problem when we call this a news bubble or consumption of fake news or call our opponents ignorant. It's not really that. Rather, it's that while a person might live in a physical neighborhood that is 60% blue and 40% red, they are living a more important informational neighborhood that is 100% red or blue. Actually no, very likely 100% committed Leftist or 100% Christian Nationalist or whatever (although they undoubtedly reject any such label, because surrounded by like minds, they are to themselves just normal Americans.

And, maybe most concerning to me, they hold only the most ridiculous caricature of what any of their opponents actually think and why. (And extremely little practice or habit at explaining their their own views in any terms other than victimhood or outrage.)

How does a republic function under these circumstances?

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Re: TSMC and unions and safety regulators, do they not have unions and safety regulators in Taiwan? If the unions there want different things, or are more cooperative with TSMC generally, why? And if the mandated safety standards there are so much laxer, is there evidence that that translates into systematically worse outcomes for workers' health?

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As a historian I see little difference in today's politics than those of the past. In 1836 two Arkansas state legislators got in a knife fight over wolf pelts on the floor of the statehouse & one gutted the other. Pres. Monroe dealt with an irate senator who threatened to shoot him and was so aggressive Madison grabbed the fireplace poker. Politics remained thoroughly corrupt well into the 1930s, with records of FDR bribing numerous states. And so on. Just because you hate Trump---I don't, and see him as the only possible savior of this country---it shouldn't color your political analysis. Certainly not when it involves history.

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I developed this perspective about conservative philosophy. A number of years back, and increasingly it appears on point. Unfortunately as "old, now discarded" conservative values like personal responsibility, integrity, courage, making one's own way while supporting those who need a hand up, like well funded public education". These are no longer the core of conservatism:

"The Conservative Philosophy is sunsetting, devoid of any enduring or endearing value." - me

Intrinsically, conservative philosophy is resistance to change at time when the climate will drive humanity changes incomprehensiblely

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Come on...Palestine activism is a "fringe concern" of the left but the Taylor Swift/NFL meme is some mainstream component of the right?

One is the _biggest_ concern of 5% of the polled group about the president, has had activists interrupt multiple recent speaking events by Biden (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/31/biden-pro-palestine-protest-israel), and is becoming a movement in a swing state -- how big is obviously difficult to tell for now (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2024-election/michigan-activists-launch-campaign-urging-democrats-vote-biden-rcna137460).

The other is basically a meme that a number of outlets have latched onto for clicks and to, rightfully, make fun of.

Come Monday, only one of these will be in the rearview.

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1) the Palestine issue will grow over time as gen z ages. Particularly if the ICJ confirms the interim findings against Israel. The ideology of the “rules based order” will take a bit of a hammering as well.

2) tucker is interviewing a foreign leader. That’s journalism - if anything the paranoia about pro Putin supporters in the US is the conspiracy here. More of less a form of McCarthyism. And no I don’t like Putin.

3) I’m admittedly not online really, outside Substack, but while I’ve seen a lot of people talking about the American right hating Taylor Swift I’ve seen no significant examples of it.

In fact she used to be, as late as last year, a bit suspect with regard to being a bit of a racist herself.

https://www.salon.com/2023/06/03/taylor-swift-matty-healy-ice-spice-feminism/

(Although maybe that’s just something true of all whites).

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