Labels

Thursday, May 5, 2016

#BernieOrBust vs. #NeverTrump


And then there was 1: John Kasich has dropped out--apparently having a moment of clarity as his plane was about to take off. This leaves Trump as the "presumptive" nominee. Basically, as the nominee. Unless something happens (an FBI indictment, a bolt of lightning, etc.) it will be Hillary vs. Donald. Clinton vs. Trump.

This has certain implications.

#NeverTrump

The #NeverTrump movement spent 75 million dollars trying to stop Trump--and failed.  Now there are lists of people saying they'll never vote for Trump, burning their Voter Registration cards, and so on. While a decent number of high profile bloggers are in either the #NeverEverTrump category or maybe the #WellOkayIfHeTOTALLYChangesOrSomething group, some of the bigger names (Limbaugh) are in Trump's camp.

The question is: (a) How big is this movement really and (b) will this philosophy hold to November.


#BernieOrBust

There's also #NeverHillary. As Sanders asymptotically approaches losing the nomination (but vows to stay in and fundraising continues) his supporters make it more and more clear they'll never come around. They might vote Green. They might vote Trump. Whatever the case, though, they Won't Vote Hillary. They might also be lending their names to The Revolt Against Plutocracy.

The question is: (a) How big is this movement really and (b) will this philosophy hold to November.

It's actually a picture of a communist May Day demonstration in Cuba.


Some Fundamental Differences

The Omnivore firstly sees two fundamental differences between #NeverTrump and #BernieOrBust. Both of them have to do with money.

  1. Real Politicians are #NeverTrump. Yes, a lot of guys like Rubio have rolled over for Trump--but not everyone. People who currently hold elected office, are standing members of the Republican party--or, in the case of the surviving Bushes, ex-presidents, are firmly against Trump. While Elizabeth Warren has not endorsed Hillary, she probably will when the primary is over. This is a substantial difference.
  2. #BernieOrBust got #DropOutHillary trending. #NeverTrump, raised and spent 75 million dollars. This is a massive distinction. It's kinda the same split that the Tea Party had vs. Occupy Wall Street. Tea Party people got candidates elected. Occupy just froze in the park.
There's also the issue of sample size:
Comparing the total voting of Clinton-to-Sanders-to-Trump, it is clear that if, as the poll says, 1/4th of current Sanders voters will NEVER vote for Hillary that's not all that significant in the general election.

If you compare that to 1/3rd of Republican primary voters who say they won't vote for Trump (or Clinton)--and map that across all the red, that's a larger group. If we use the RCP Total vote count and take the 40% of 9MM Sanders voters who will never vote for Clinton vs. the 30% of Republican voters who will never vote for Trump, the actual difference in numbers would be:
  • 3,719,643 #BernieOrBust 
  • 4,344,162 #NeverTrump 
Now, this assumes that (a) the exit polls are right, (b) that those percentages hold, (c) that the sample value is applicable in some way to the general campaign, etc. But the point is that compared to the general election no one has voted yet and anti-Trumps still outpace anti-Clintons by a margin.

There's also the issue of, well, timing. #BernieOrBust is still in a state of denial that Sanders could be elected. As such,. there is potentially more ROI for them to adopt a hardened stance. For #NeverTrump, though, while the group launched during the campaign, they are still active after Trump is the nominee. That's ... different.

Well, I guess it’s all over. I held the line for as long as I could, but now it looks like Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee. It’s never fun to admit that defiance is futile, but it’s time for me to make amends. It’s time to build bridges. It’s time to reach out to all my Trump-supporting brothers and sisters. Here’s why I’m going back on my word and voting for Donald Trump in November, and why you should too:
He plays Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up and then continues with:
Nope!
Get this through your thick skulls, Trumpkins: #NeverTrump doesn’t mean #MaybeTrump. It doesn’t mean #NeverTrumpUnlessCruzDropsOut. It means just what it says. #NeverTrump.
These are not the words of someone who thinks they still have a chance to influence things.

Of course a lot of the #BernieOrBust people are using the same rhetoric--or at least similar--but there is a difference in clarity. NeverTrump knows they have lost. The party they want may no longer exist. They are no longer entertaining anyone causing a contested convention.

The #BernieOrBust people still are. The Omnivore thinks that's where the difference comes in.


The Main Difference

The real operational difference here is that #NeverTrump is clear about where they stand. They've invested millions of dollars (but Bernie has raised millions too, right? Wrong. Not the same.). #NeverTrump has people endangering their jobs (the RNC has told staffers who aren't behind Trump to quit by the end of the week). But isn't that happening to #BernieOrBust too? Kinda--there may be some stress over not voting Hillary--but honestly? It's not the same.

Basically #NeverTrump is laying it on the line right now. #BernieOrBust has a lot less skin in the game. The Omnivore assesses that #BernieOrBust will go the way of the PUMAS--going down in fury over a burst bubble of belief that they could win if they just believed hard enough. Green Party voters won't vote for Hillary--sure--but they were never going to. On the other hand, Democratic voters who don't like Hillary at all will start to come around when Sanders campaigns for her.

That will not happen with #NeverTrump. It seems unlikely that Cruz will campaign for Trump (although prove The Omnivore wrong!). It seems unlikely that major conservative mouth-pieces (the NRO) will fall in line. What they have is their ideological clarity. They're not going to jettison it for Trump.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

DefeaTED


The War On Women Is A Myth, I Tell You!! A Leftist-Created Myth! A Lie
(the Trump Bumper Sticker says "Trump That Bitch")
The drama was over at 7:01 with minimal fuss Donald Trump had won Indiana and almost unquestionably the Republican nomination. The #NeverTrump faction had failed. What everyone had assumed could not happen . . . has happened.

We don't have the final numbers now--but it appears that his win will be substantial. What happens next has some defined contours.


1. Does Ted Cruz Stay In?

There is still a remote chance that a Trump-collapse could lead to an open/contested convention. The problem here is that Cruz has shown himself to be an inadequate vessel for the party's voters. If he loses in a land-slide to Trump, why pick him at the convention?

Also: Does Cruz still represent anything? Is he the last-conservative standing? Or a self-serving politician who hugged the him when he should have been talking seriously about qualifications.

2. Does The Party Unite?

The #NeverTrump faction will be hard-pressed to unite behind The Donald--but what about Republican moderates? Do they hate Hillary badly enough to prefer . . . anyone? Do they think Trump is all that bad a candidate in the first place?


3. What About Kasich?

Okay, he's not much of a factor--but he's likely to pull double digits in Indiana leading to speculation that he might've been a spoiler for Cruz. This doesn't appear to be the case (the problem is that Kasich voters were also #NeverCruz, which is why the strategic voting thing was doomed). Still, if there appears to be no chance of a contested convention does Kasich bother?

4. What About The Media?

It is an article of faith that The Mainstream Media will turn on Trump once he is nominated. The reality is that they've been "turned on him" since day one. It's just that all his negatives in the moderate world are strengths in the GOP voter-base. Trump has been given questions and, in many cases, held to them (as much as he can be).

He has gotten a lot of exposure--because he is a ratings machine and a spectacle--but to think that The Media has been easy on him is not so. The problem, anyway, hasn't been the liberal media--it has been the conservative media which has given him pass after pass.

5. How Long Will The Soul Searching Last?

Donald Trump represents an existential threat to the Republican coalition and (potentially) one to the country. Will conservatives, out in the wilderness right now, come back to the fold as the election nears? Will we see days, hours, or even weeks of self-examination? Probably not--but for now . .


Items To Read

I've Lied To Myself For Years RedState writer and TeaParty guy Ben Howe comes to grips with the fact that he gave a "pass" to people who said crazy things because they were allies to his cause. Now he sees where that led--too late.

The Thing I've Most Gotten Wrong In My Career TheResurgent. Erick Erickson concludes that the press created Trump by letting him call in, giving him softball questions, and tons of air-time (like his jet landing). He concludes that anyone could be a front runner with that. Well, he's wrong--you need to be a ratings machine and own a jet, for starters. Bloomberg? Yes--maybe. Joe The Plumber? No.

Trump Just Burnt Down Conservatism. The Time To Rebuild Is Now. The Daily Wire. Ben Shapiro, former Brietbart editor, is on the #NeverTrump team and has realized, just now, that the party base isn't, actually, conservative. They just want someone who will "burn it down." Of course, Shapiro takes the current leadership to task for capitulating to Obama--which was the logic that got everyone into the Trump-mess. But never mind.



Sunday, May 1, 2016

Is Correct The Record Trolling The Hell Out Of Bernie Sanders Supporters?


Correct The Record is a semi-SuperPAC "strategic research and rapid response team" designed to "protect Hillary Clinton from baseless attacks." It is run by David Brock, a former conservative operative, who became liberal and then signed up with Hillary Clinton. The Correct the Record team has been described as an army of "Nerd Virgins" whom Brock keeps locked away in a sunless back-room, relentlessly doing Internet-messaging and, according to lots of people, trolling Bernie Sanders reddits and posting attacks on any Internet story showing Sanders in a good light.

Is that actually what's happening? Let's look.

What Does Correct The Record Ostensibly Do?

Correct the Record is ostensibly a messaging hub where journalists can go to get pro-Hillary quotes/facts/etc. for a story. A look at their Twitter and Facebook  pages shows a plethora of pro-Hillary and anti-Trump stories with little (presently) being said about Sanders. The sub-group Barrier Breakers is 1MM dollars funded and dedicated to learning from online encounters with 'Bernie Bros' (quotes in the original) to apply the lessons to the general election.

Here's a The Young Turks video which has them as spending a million dollars to harass Bernie Sanders supporters. Are they? Is this what they're doing with the money?

A Smoking Gun?

A post from 2015 that's getting a lot of attention now is this one: Confessions of a Hillary Shill. The post is a confession of someone who claims they were hired to troll the Internet and mess with Bernie Sanders supporters. According to the guy, he worked nights or weekends and made around 100/month. Apparently it was also dirty.

You can read the post but:
  1. The Reddit mods asked for any proof at all that the guy worked for Hillary. He could not provide it so they removed the post.
  2. Apparently the guy has a long history of confessing to be a paid shill for different people.
This trips The Omnivore's bullshit detector for a couple of other reasons (The Omnivore has read these kinds of anonymous 'confessions' before). Firstly: there is never ANY proof of payment or communication. This job would involve emails, messages, etc. Some of that collateral would be available. Secondly, and worse, the job description always works exactly how you'd think it would work--it fits perfectly into the paid-troll narrative we all have. Guys who are reasonably normal dudes are given part-time work to sow dissension in forums. They get marching orders and go out and, well, troll.

In real situations where organized Internet trolling happens (Russia's PR offensive) the results are iffy and the job is anything but work-from-home. To make matters worse, the risks involved in crowd-sourcing this work would be astronomical: if a paid Troll did go public with sufficient evidence to be persuasive the damage would be intense.

Having people making arguments is one thing. Sowing discord, trying to destroy operational communities, and foment despair are another. While The Omnivore could see ways to run a crypto-enabled shell-company run, fully anonymous whispering campaign without much by way of fingerprints, the chances of it being infiltrated by someone talking are near 100%.

Now--there are ways. Companies make tools for managing multiple online personalities (we are using them in the War on Terror) and if you had a small cadre of true-believers, you could probably keep operational security while having some impact . . .

But in that event, it would not look anything like what the paid-shill-confessors describe. Instead what they're describing is the "holy grail" of Internet-comments-spam of work-from-home-and-make-bank-for-doing-nothing. That's why this is so compelling. That and it gives you a way to dismiss posters you don't want to hear.

But if that post isn't real, does that mean it's not happening?

What Actually IS Happening?

When The Omnivore goes to the Bernie Sanders reddit (or other Bernie Sanders web-sites) the allegations are pretty similar:
  1. Down-voting. Someone is down-voting pro-Sanders confidence builders.
  2. Creation of paranoia. One allegation is that the attempt is to cause true-believers to distrust each other the same way that Counter Insurgency techniques infiltrate subversive groups and make them self-destruct.
  3. The Big One: Concern Trolling.
Let's take these one at a time.

Down Voting

This is the practice of giving a story or post a "dislike" on sites that allow it. It annoys or even hurts the feelings of whoever posted it. It makes some stories disappear (depending on the venue). Down-voting would be an effective use of a troll army. Firstly, it's impersonal: it could be done by a machine (even if human-guided--they click to down-vote and then over a few hours, the software streams in down-votes from hundreds of spoofed IP Addresses).

Secondly, it's measurable and impactful. If you could isolate posts you thought were valuable to the opposing teams in these areas and down-vote them, you could remove good ones, maybe promote bad ones, and so on.

Is This Happening?
The Omnivore doubts it. The reason: The Omnivore doubts that posts that are getting (somewhat) down-voted are really that valuable. The Omnivore finds it very unlikely that several down-votes will have enough impact to assign people to pursue it.

The other reason this isn't happening on, like, the Bernie Sanders subreddit is because down-voting as a strategic resource only makes sense when enough down-votes hide a post that the down-voters don't want you to see. The "front pages" of Reddit or Digg (is that even still around?) can work this way. The Sanders subreddit doesn't. Posts aren't being hidden.

The other value would be if there were an actual debate going on--like in the comments section of an international news site where people have differing opinions. On Bernie Sanders sites, there isn't real debate. There are just varying degrees of The Bern. As such, down-voting isn't going to convince people that an opinion is unpopular and therefore should be ignored.

Creation of Paranoia

If down-voting is at least feasible, this one is precious. The reason subversive groups are paranoid about infiltrators is that they are breaking the law. Subversive groups that really do things--as opposed to chatting on message boards or maybe Phone Banking--require high-trust because they are doing things that are illegal. dangerous, and have real consequences and impact. In that dynamic you have to trust the person next to you and everyone has a motive to turn: they got caught and flipped.

Conversely, Bernie Sanders supporters who accuses others of being trolls because they sense some fakeness in the former-friend's post are just whiners.

Is This Happening?
No. No one is creating identities, giving them modest histories as supporters, and then having them "go bad" in order to create a sense of paranoia.

Concern Trolling

This brings us to the big Kahuna of paid shills--the "Concern Troll." The theory is this: when something bad happens--either a candidate adopts an untenable position or suffers a set-back--or has a glaring weakness--someone comes in and says "I'm a true believer--and I LOVE candidate-X . . . but I'm concerned that when people go to RateTheTaxPlans.com they'll see that Candidate-X's plan will BANKRUPT EVERYONE. What can we do about this guys? Guyz??"

The agony of Concern Trolling is that it hits where it hurts--when supporters are having doubts or a candidate exposes a weakness--a full frontal assault will result in closing ranks and rebuking the attacker. Either with a related talking point or just a shouting down. Either way, there's some balm for the beleaguered. With a Concern Troll, you're talking to "a friend."

It requires a real response and often . . . there isn't one.

The problem with Concern Trolling is that while it's great at causing despair, it can only seriously work when someone is already pretty badly fucked. Concern Trolling Hillary, for example: "She's gonna go TO JAIL" provokes laughter.

Concern Trolling Sanders: "HE CAN'T WIN--HE'D NEED LIKE 90% OF CALIFORNIA!!" doesn't provoke laughter--it has math behind it.

This is also why it isn't happening: by the time Concern Trolling is available and effective, the war is already over. When the war is over, no one is going to pay money to rub people's noses in it.

Is This Happening?
No. But this bears repeating: Whatever Correct The Record is doing, it is NOT Concern Trolling reddit. This is because (a) the anti-Sanders points are essentially just factual and there is good cause to be demoralized. There is no ROI for the Clinton Campaign to go in and do dirty tricks--and it might actually backfire.

Also (b) Sanders is cooked without any Internet shenanigans. He lost in the Market Place of ideas and every story about ballot fraud and Facebook-Page-Takedowns and everything else are just stories that people who are losing tell themselves in an attempt to not feel like losers. Remember Romney poll-unskewing? Did you live through the PUMA McCain-Landslide?

According to Internet Lore, dirty-tricks are never more prevalent than when they are no longer needed. It's also part of the lore that the million-dollar campaign is targeting the lease valuable operators: people behind their computers.

If you want to make a real difference to a campaign? Don't bother phone-banking. Get out there and door-knock. What's that? The action is now in another state and you've got finals? Yeah, The Omnivore knew that. Everyone knew that. National Campaigns are tough.

So What ARE They Doing?

The Omnivore's guess is: What it sounds like. They are (1) paying attention to what is being said online so they know what is going on in the Internet trenches. (2) They are publishing counter-talking points for people on the Hillary-side (but NOT paid operatives) to be able to throw back at allegations. (3) They are looking at patterns of abuse ("Bernie Bros") to see what the learning is--they know that Team Trump will utilize many of the same attacks in the fall.

Are they attacking Bernie Supporters? If they are, be very glad: that is money horribly spent and totally wasted. 

The bad news is that if Correct The Record can get away with wasting money like that and Hillary is still winning by a mile? Then things are even worse than you imagined. Sorry--is that Concern Trolling?

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Party's Over


David Frum has an article in The Atlantic titled How to Save the Republican Party. His answer is to somehow rebuild the conservative message--dispense with the out-of-date parts. Build an attractive alternative that can reach out to under-represented people the way Trump did. One wonders if he might start by addressing the issue that a lot of young people feel that conservatives are kinda mean.

Maybe a new "compassionate conservatism" would be a way forward?

Over in The American Conservative, Rod Dreher writes Did Trump Kill Reaganism? He isn't 100% sure but thinks that while Trump is pretty much the anti-Reagan, it may be that Reaganism has died a natural death of old age rather than being murdered by Trump. Maybe.


Trump Is The Presumptuous* Nominee

Whether Trump killed the ideological core of the Republican party or it died of natural causes and Trump stepped in to fill the void, the facts on the ground  are these:
  1. Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee. Princeton Election Consortium predicts that he is 99% likely to reach Cleveland with more than the required 1237 candidates. Even if Trump loses Indiana--the #NeverTrump firewall, the math (apparently) shows that he'll cross the threshold regardless. It looks likely he'll win Indiana.
  2. The GOP high command is resigned to Trump. They have no taste for a blood-letting contested convention. They don't like Ted Cruz. The #NeverTrump faction has essentially tried to beat something (Trump) with nothing (Cruz or Kasich) and it's a recipe for failure. They are falling in line behind Trump.
  3. Donald Trump--as a candidate--is an unprecedented perfect storm of bad qualifications. From not being actually conservative (and faking it worse than Romney) to having no governing experience, to having foreign policy advisers who might be in bed with Vladimir Putin, he lacks what could be called the basics in every dimension. Plus, while we've seen a committed segregationist in the form of George Wallace, Trump is a champion to the Alt-Right and wins evangelical voters. He's anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and his more radical ideas (the wall, a no-entry rule) garner 60% or higher among the GOP primary electorate across the board. In other words, if there was anything that could shake the GOP-voter's faith in him, it would have to be spectacular.

What Now?

Just as Bernie Sanders voters hold out for a Die Hard Miracle (Hans Gruber: "You asked for miracles, Theo, I give you the F.B.I.") and dream of delegate counts without super-delegates, a portion of the #NeverTrump faction will claim it isn't over until it's over.

It's over.

What now?

There are a few things movement conservatives will need to do in order to prepare for a Trump nomination. These are:

  • Recognize that conservative icons aren't who you thought they were. There was a sense of camaraderie around the conservative messaging machine. Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity were all seen as being on the right side of the movement. They were seen as leaders with integrity. Now they're backing Trump, backing away, or backed Trump (Levin) early on when maybe something could have been done. Some of the loudest, most provocative voices (Ann Coulter) were tolerated in the party and now they've done what an outside observer could easily have predicted: voted their wallets.
  • Recognize that you (most likely) didn't stand up when you should have. If you think the GOP congress has done nothing, wait until Hillary has a friendly Senate and . . . maybe . . . The House. See what she passes then. The Omnivore watched outlets like Hot Air (and during Noah Rothman's tenure) roll their eyes at the next GOP-Senate capitulation. On the Debt Ceiling. On Planned Parenthood. On Immigration. Where were consistent conservatives in defending the process and congress then? Where were the voices telling voters that without the presidency they were limited in what they could pass--and what they could stop? Neo-Neocon (a conservative blogger with less to lose than some of the big-boys) did it. Where was everyone else? Oh, right--being afraid of being RINO'd.
  • Recognize that when it was clear--terribly, terribly clear--that Sarah Palin was a disaster, the conservative press still mostly backed her. I don't mean the partisan Republican press. I mean people who consider themselves strong ideological conservatives. Where was the unified rejection of her as presidential material? Or . . . did she have a personality shift between then and now (when no one thinks she is presidential material? What caused it?).
  • Recognize that Fox News as a profit driven outlet was always a dangerous partner for conservatives. It was making money off the cause and was one of the most trusted voices--but it was a free-market enterprise. Fox News is not a person (even though it has pretty conservative people at the top). Fox News is a business--when conservatives lost sight of that, they failed to "defend themselves in the ring at all times." Fox News has sucker-punched them and now they don't have a working messaging system. The Fox Alternatives are all even further right and often conspiracy driven (or just bought off by Trump). When you call everything moderate Leftists, you limit your degrees of freedom to a critically low level.
  • Go read John Hawkins Explaining Liberal Thinking In A Single Column. In it, Hawkins explains how liberals think. They oppose or support policies based on how those policies make them feel about themselves (like making America Great Again with a trade war?). They don't really care if policies work or not (like a giant wall?). All they really care about is getting more Liberals elected--not about the character of the candidates. That's why they'll support a racist like Robert Byrd (who vocally and forcefully rejected the Klan and got an A rating from the NAACP). They are hostile to successful people who don't happen to be celebrities (like a reality TV star vs. the big bankers?). Go read that and be honest with yourself if you would have accepted it as a truth when it was written. If so, what does it say to you now?

So, About That Party

The Omnivore has a theory that the #NeverTrump crowd ran into an invisible elephant in the room and never figured out how to navigate it. The problem breaks down like this:
  1. Trump is not just a bad candidate, he is a historically unqualified one--a dangerous one--and one that, whatever damage he does, will be done under the seal of the Republican Party. Therefore real, thoughtful conservatives not only can't vote for him--but must stop him from being elected in their name.
  2. If they were going to get out of the Republican party for being not-conservative the time was before Trump started dominating. As they didn't, even if unhappy with the eventuality, their names are on the ledger of the group that will give him a shot at the White House. He may have a very limited one--but by definition, in a two-person national race, he has a shot. 
  3. As your name is on the RNC ledger and you've given it support over the years even as this problem grew, not-voting in the general isn't sufficient. You need to try to take strong affirmative action to stop him.
  4. It is now clear that Cruz and Kasich can't do it. What do you do?
  5. Launching a 3rd Party is fine--but it likely will not happen. If it doesn't? What then.
The answer is: "Vote for Hillary Clinton."

The Omnivore understands how that sounds--but if you're about to make the case that Trump would be better than Hillary you're still part of the problem (and Hillary could well be a disaster--but she would not be a murder weapon with the GOP's fingerprints on her).

That's the final part of the equation most #NeverTrump hasn't been able to get to. That's why they're only half in.

The fact of the matter is that the GOP has either been transformed--or more-likely shown to be--something that its most ideological members had felt certain it was not. At this point, if you are an ideological, educated conservative who has not already separated from the party, Hillary Clinton may be your only moral voting choice in November.

Yes: It's that bad.


* Yes, The Omnivore knows. This is what happens when you name yourself the presumptive nominee.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trump Tromps, Cruz Crumbles, Hillary Holds

Meet Your Next President
The Omnivore didn't write a whole lot about the New York primary because there wasn't a whole lot to say. Yes, Trump won big--but it was his home state and Cruz had gone out of his way to insult New York. Yes, Hillary won--but it was her home state and it was proportional anyway.

Now, having come off the Acela Primary, things are coming into sharper focus. Let's look!


The Democrats: Nothing Has Changed

 Sanders was always a long-shot to win the nomination. As time went on, he got longer and longer. Now he'd have to win 60+% of the delegates when he's currently polling at around 45%-50%. He'd have to do it in every remaining race. It isn't going to happen.

The interesting question, though, is (a) what Sanders will do to wrap his campaign up and (b) what Sander's supporters will do in the general election. The narrative is that Sanders will stay in but be more of a team-player (less vicious attacks, more talking about his platform) and use his cooperation as leverage for his planks and possibly a place in a Hillary administration (up to and including the Vice Presidency).

The narrative from his supporters is #BernieOrBust. Basically their position is that the election was stolen due to fraud, the rules with Super Delegates and closed primaries were never fair anyway, and since they were never "Democrats" if Bernie isn't the nominee they're either writing him in, voting Green Party, or, maybe, voting Trump.

Analysis

The Omnivore assesses:
  1. Sanders will not be the Vice President.
  2. The #BernieOrBust movement will go the way of the PUMAs (basically going down in a thrashing of conspiracy theory and humiliation).
Why? Well, Sanders doesn't bring a whole lot to the table as a VP--yes, he brings (maybe) his supporters--but the Democrats have many more unifying-drivers than a VP slot. The Omnivore has seen it said that Democrats pick VP slots to appeal to a segment of their constituency and Republicans pick their VPs to assert their commitment to conservatism. That seems reasonably on-point (Sarah Palin for McCain, Paul Ryan for Romney, and Biden for Obama).

Sanders would reach out to Bernie voters--which is not inconsiderable--but a pick of a woman or minority candidate would potentially boost turn-out in key demographics. It's also the case that Sanders would not especially "balance" the ticket--it would make it appear more radical which Hillary might not want.

In any event, the VP slot is definitely a consolation prize. If Sanders is really interested in pursuing his platform, a cabinet position might be better.

The #BernieOrBust crowd is another matter. The hard-core online supporters most definitely won't come around to Hillary and will, as time goes by, likely gravitate towards the Green Party--or even Trump (the PUMAS went for McCain to try to punish the Democrats). Of course if you take most of them at their word, these were never Democratic votes to begin with anyway so Hillary isn't losing votes due to them--and it's the height of hypocrisy to vote for Trump (yes: he's not "the system"--but neither is Kim Kardashian and they wouldn't all just write her in either). Basically: the vocal I'd-Never group appears larger on-line than it is as a real force.


The Republicans: Something Has Changed

Trump didn't just have big wins last night, he dominated all five states. He won with every GOP demographic and he exceeded his prior performance in each of them. Basically, he is unifying the party--at least around 50% of it. This is new. He has also rejected a "more presidential" demeanor and seems entirely committed to his brand.

The narrative right now is (a) The Trump Train is unstoppable due to his smashing victories but (b) the #NeverTrump will rally and try to hold the line in Indiana and California. Basically: they're saying that his victories were baked into the fight and they won't let up.

Analysis

While Trump is not mathematically unstoppable, there is good reason to think that he will reach the convention with 1237 delegates. Why? Well, right now polls (what exists) in Indiana and California show Trump with either a small lead or a large one. While this could change in the coming days, there is reason to think it might change in the pro-Trump direction. That's because:
  • Exit polling shows that the majority of voters approve of his No Muslims In The US stance. This is a reasonably radical point and to find substantial agreement in the North East suggests that it's broadly persuasive everywhere.
  • Ted Cruz didn't do well at all--Kasich was always going to get pounded but Cruz's miserable showing means that as a potential second-ballot choice, he looks weak. Trying to persuade voters to go tactically for him is going to be a hard sell.
  • Exit polling shows that most voters think the person with the most votes should be the GOP nominee. If Cruz was really close behind Trump, that'd be one thing--but if he's far distant in delegates (even if Trump's pledged delegates back him) and millions of votes behind, this is going to be a hard sell to a party that really can't win at all without some kind of unity.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said that last night "#NeverTrump left with its pants around its ankles" and that seems pretty much right. It's true that in the numbers game, #NeverTrump was always planning a fire-wall action in Indiana and a last stand in California--but the strategy and the optics are two different things. Getting humiliated in a big battle doesn't strengthen the movement. It also doesn't help sell an alternate candidate--of which no clear choice exists.


Conclusions

The Omnivore thinks that we are looking at a Hillary-Trump race which will, likely, be a complete blood-bath in terms of negative messaging and mud-slinging. It may also result in a severe schism of the GOP. While the drivers are against the GOP actually breaking apart (those voters have nowhere to go--for either side) it seems likely that without the possibility of a non-Trump winning by 1st-ballot Delegate Count, no unifying argument can emerge.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How DID The Left Get The Drop On Us?


Over at the conservative blog PowerLine, Steven Hayward has a post titled How Did The Left Get The Drop on Us? His theory is that post 1996 liberalism was in retreat, entitlements were coming down (Clinton--the Bill half--he says was open to the idea of more reforms but that was derailed by the impeachment), and communism had fallen. Apparently, then, movement conservatism got boring.

It became overly technocratic and forgot about the need to sell itself to the populace. Thus, when there were a series of free-market disasters (the dot-com crash, Enron, World Com, and then 2008) conservatism had some 'splaining to do and wasn't up to it.

Is that right? Is that what allowed the sneaky, long-term thinking left to slither back in to American politics?

Maaaaaaybe. But maybe not. Let's look at the first comment posted under the (linked) article itself (a previous article titled The Cold War Never Ended):
If we tell today's young people that Canada is Marxist or that Norway is inevitably going to look like the Soviet Union or even like Chavez's Venezuela, we are going to look like morons. 
One of the big reasons why conservatives are losing the fight for today's young people is that, frankly, these conservatives don't know what they're talking about.
This is devastatingly right. It isn't the whole story--but it's a big part of it. Of course the issue isn't that
 "these conservatives don't know what they're talking about"--the thought-leaders do. It doesn't take a political science major to realize that Canada isn't a soviet gulag. Saying it is does make you look, well, stupid . . .

So why does the meme show up from otherwise reasonably smart people on Facebook today? That's getting us closer to the real answer. We'll come back to that in a moment.

The First Part of the Insidious Left's Plan: Weaken Conservatism From Within 

In January Rush Limbaugh, seeing the rise of Donald Trump and the movement-conservative backlash made the observation that conservatives had overestimated the importance of conservatism in the Republican party:
The problem here, he said, is “the degree of conservatism in the Republican Party has been overestimated.” 
Limbaugh argued, “It’s not just conservative principles that hold people who are conservative together. There are many different things, and the full-blown conservatives are a little bothered by this because it makes ’em think maybe they’re not that important. It could be bothersome.”
What was that uniting glue?
He said the overriding force behind the rise of both Trump and Ted Cruz is not conservatism, it is a strong desire to take down the Democrats no matter what.
Yeah--that's part of it. Of course with Trump and Cruz getting clobbered by Hillary in every head-to-head poll we have (they can't all be wrong, can they?) if what you wanted to do was 'Take Down The Democrats' why would you pick those two--and not, like, Kasich, who wins those head-to-head polls?

We'll come back to that too.

The Second Part Of The Left's Sneak Attack: Doomsday

After The Left had stolen the conservative base's philosophy and replaced it, Folgers Crystals-Like, with nationalism and populism, what was left was to inject a bitter pervasive anger into the Republican base. This was done by structuring the United States government such that even majorities in the House of Representatives could not override the president--and by creating a form of government wherein causing a literal shutdown (or default on the debt-ceiling) in order to try to get specific platforms past Obama's veto--would be seen as holding the nation hostage (since the nation, itself, would suffer).

Faced with either choosing funding for Planned Parenthood or shutting down the government and throwing the nation into chaos, the Republicans cravenly capitulated to keeping the office of state running on their watch. This was, of course, in Star Wars terms, characterized as capitulating to The Dark Side.

 Even as the unemployment rate fell, the Republican view of the world was pushed into grimmer and grimmer territory. Republican support for the Confederate Flag was decried as racist, arguments about birthright citizenship and immigration consumed the debates, and ISIS was seen as an immediate and existential threat for which there was no solution beyond precision carpet bombing.

The Left's victory was nearly complete--Republicans believed the country had fallen completely apart and only a person with zero political experience could put it back together again (possibly someone who theorized the pyramids were built to store grain).

The Final Assault: Alt-Right Nationalism

The Left's final point in their sneak attack was to run a candidate who said racist things, played up alt-right white nationalism (without embracing it too obviously--but still pretty obviously) and was basically a caricature of what The Left always said Republicans were. This plan was guaranteed to work because having secretly replaced true-conservative values with nationalism and populism--and a burning desire to beat the democrats, the loyal non-racist republicans would have no choice but to support the toxic candidate.

This sudden groundswell of  support from the most horrifying quarters showed just how far The Left had infiltrated the GOP: fully 38% of the GOP's base-voters (the most likely to turn out in a primary) were now coming out in support of a candidate who could convincingly be said to be racist. The damage was done.

What Really Happened

In case it isn't clear, what really happened was that The Left did not 'get the drop' on 'The Right.' The Right came out of the 1990's with a problem they did not diagnose: The Democrats had successfully triangulated and the GOP had not similarly evolved. Clinton pursued a reasonably muscular foreign policy, was tough-on-crime, and projected little to none of the scolding persona that The Left was known for.

On the other side, the Right's doctrine of one-drop-of-socialism-is-communism was just one part of a battery of rhetorical talking points that was no longer convincing to the world at large--but played to an increasingly angry base. When Obama won in 2008, the Right missed that that their now-rejected "compassionate conservatism" was, in fact, a very real solution to a very real branding problem.

The plan, however, despite the 2012 loss and the GOP 'Autopsy' report was to continue turning up the anger in order to secure more and more of the white vote. The victory in the 2014 midterms seemed to validate this strategy and so, of course, the GOP effectively doubled down. They envisioned someone like a Scott Walker bearing the standard of both conservatism and being a lighting rod for voter anger (white voter anger) as a potential counter to Hillary Clinton.

That was fine until (a) a lot of these super-candidates sucked and (b) an uncontrollable, "uncut" candidate in the form of Donald Trump emerged. He ran without any of the dog-whistle deniability that conventional politicians would have relied on and his basic approach was that he was going to attack the Democrats like they had never been attacked before.

For a base that was not really all that doctrinaire conservative, was really unified in wanting to beat the Democrats, and had been stoked to rage by conservative media and appeals to white-identity, he was a natural choice.

In other words, The Left didn't get the drop on anyone. The GOP ran a dead-ender play and then fumbled the ball. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Disruption: The HTC Vive

The Omnivore got his hands on the 3d Virtual Reality head-set, the HTC Vive. Created as a competitor to the Oculus Rift and designed to work explicitly with the Steam platform, the Vive is next-generation of home-VR.

The Omnivore is here to tell you something: This is new.

On Disruption

The term "disruption" or "disruptive" is thrown around a lot in technology without sufficient justification. Partially that's because there's no clear definition (The Omnivore's rule is that you know something is disruptive when they legislate against it) and partially because the term (like "momentum" in politics) generally just means "I am excited to be writing about this"). Well, the Vive (or Oculus) certainly isn't being legislated against and it is starting to generate a certain amount of excitement.

So is the new 3d VR disruptive? Does it portend a sea-change in video games--or even human experience? Or will it go the way of 3D TV?

The Omnivore has had about 48 hours with a Vive and thinks: it's disruptive. It's going to change things.


The Vive Itself

The HTC Vive comes in a pretty big box and is more complicated than The Omnivore imagined. There's the head-set, sure. And there are these two "hand control" things. Okay, fine. What The Omnivore wasn't expecting were the "light-house" units. These are two wall-mounted laser-stations that have to be able to (a) see each other (unbroken line of sight) and (b) see the area where you are going to play 3d games,

Part of this is just the sitting down area--but the Vive also offers "Room Scale VR" which is where you stand in your play area (a couple meters on a side, ideally) and you can actually take actions in the 3D games. This can involve "swinging virtual swords," painting in the air with light, shooting guns, ducking, dodging, or even diving behind cover, and so on.

Once The Omnivore got these devices wall-mounted, he had to train the unit to define the play area (The Omnivore thinks of it as "The Cage" since it appears in high-lit blue lights in the 3d world when the game wants to tell you that you're getting near an edge  / wall).

The headset is comfortable (a lot of work went into that). The Omnivore opted for his blue-tooth headset for sound (the Vive comes with a head-set jack if you want to use that).


The Next Echelon Up

A while back, The Omnivore asked "Is there a video game we see today that people might still be playing in 50 or 100 years?" That question touches on issues of "Can video games be art?" and "Is there a 'Mozart' of video games out there right now?" (The Omnivore thinks: Tetris will be fun for a very, very long time).

That said, during the research, The Omnivore noted that about every decade, reliably, a new genre of video games emerges or publishes a foundational title. We're due for one. Having played the Vive, The Omnivore suspects the 3D VR "genre" is it--the next addition to the types-of-games catalog.

The 3D VR Genre

When The Omnivore read about VR titles, his impression was sort of like that for 3D movies. Historically, 3D Movies' major selling point was startling you with something exploding "out of the screen at your face." Later on, with improvements in 3D, the experience was of paying an extra $5 for a ticket to see an illusion of greater depth of field.

3D Movies were loved by some, headache inducing in others, but fundamentally did not provide a substantially different experience and certainly not a narratively different experience from regular movie going. While The Omnivore was not around for Black & White vs. Color TV, he expects that the move from 2D to 3D movies was less impactful than B&W to Color. Maybe more like the move from VHS to DVD?

A potential improvement (YMMV) certainly--but not something new.

The 3D VR Genre is new.

The Sitting Simulator

It may not be the best example, but The Omnivore purchased the "game" The Visitor (the link is a YouTube of "3 Cowards play The Visitor"). The Visitor is a 10 minute 'film.' There's no interaction--you can't even move around. You can look around--and you need to, in order to see what's going to happen.

The premise is dirt simple: you're sitting up in bed, in a bed-room, with a bit of a storm outside . . . and someone or something . . . comes to visit. It's scary in a way that nothing else The Omnivore has played has been. It isn't absolutely terrifying--but the intensity of the experience is utterly disproportional to the work that went into it. It's a tech-demo that can scare the heck out of you (or, at least, creep you out).

This shows the potential power of VR.


Tech Demos As Games

If The Visitor is explicitly a bit of a demo, even the top-line games seem to qualify as that as well. For example, the freebie from Valve, The Lab, is one of the most polished experiences available. You are in an Aperture Science style lab and there are different "worlds" (games) you can go to. You can also look around the Lab Itself, which is pretty interesting.

One of the worlds is a "tower defense" game where you stand on a castle tower and are attacked by cartoonish hordes. You shoot at them with a bow and arrow. When hit, they explode into fragments and balloons come out--you can shoot the balloons for extra points.

The game uses the two hand controls with a bit of force feedback to give you a sense of pulling the bow and arrow. It's scary-accurate, feels dead-on, and is, well, it's really, really fun. Even without the 3D VR experience it'd be a decent basic-game idea. With it, it's pretty much a compelling (if short) experience.

This experiential element is what convinces The Omnivore that we're seeing a new mode of game. Where we might once have seen great graphics or some new visual tech (Voxels?) as a potential interest generator (that would be hit-or-miss for a lot of people), a decent idea with the 3D VR experience becomes something worth checking out on its own.

The Emergent Language of VR Games

The Omnivore got two of the "big titles" to try out: Vanishing Realms (a dungeon crawl RGP) and The Star Seed (a sort of Myst-Like exploration game). Both have the same basic concept: you are standing in this virtual world and you need to move around.

You can't just walk around (too much) because you'll run into walls and such. So when you want to move "outside the cage" you need to use the controller to direct yourself to a new location and then teleport there. Okay, fine--but they both do it different ways. Starseed has you trigger the movement and then uses head-tracking to determine where you want to go. Vanishing Realms has you use the hand-set to fire a "movement beam" and when it's where you want to to go, you release and there you are.

These are different (The Omnivore prefers the Vanishing Realms version) and it is likely that people will be experimenting with this--and other options--for quite some time before nailing it.

The Vive and Oculus are 1.0

Despite being years in the making and VR head-sets having been around forever, the Vive and Oculus are really the first market-product that delivers this kind of experience with this kind of support and this smoothly. They are not cheap and they require a muscular machine to run. The Room Scale VR experience also requires an empty space that is large enough to move around in (The Omnivore was lucky to have one in his office--but that was luck).

In short, these are the emergent versions that will, in 5 years, be far surpassed. The Omnivore expects:
  • On-board graphics chips. A headset that helps with the rendering might offset the need for a super-machine (or enhance the experience if you have one).
  • Improved sensory location: The Vive uses lasers. Perhaps paring that with a Kinect-Like camera system and learning code could give the experience greater views of your body?
  • VR-Mouse and Keyboard. The Vive shows you photo-realistic views of the hand-set controllers in virtual space. It would be nice to see other input devices (mouse, keyboard, etc.) Perhaps even views of objects in the real room--if they could show you views of desks, real walls, etc.
  • VR Gloves? Everything old is new again--a lot of these games use hands that grasp when you pull the triggers on the controls. What if you could wear gloves that let you grasp, hold, etc.? That can't be far off.
The cost will also come down, perhaps dramatically, in five years. The Omnivore expects more telepresence, greater use of the "virtual movie screens" (you can use the Vive to visit a virtual theater where you watch shows or 2d games on a "huge screen") and so on.

Conclusions

The Omnivore can't say for sure if the Vive is "worth the cost"--but it is certainly "worth something." It is an experience that is pretty much impossible to replicate elsewhere and has great potential. It also has solid backing--while these devices might fail--or fall back to niche players, The Omnivore bets against that. These things are the beginning of the future.