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Monday, August 25, 2014

The Article Vs. The Comments Section



Red State author Erick Erickson is becoming increasingly unhappy with the populist Conservative discourse:
Were I to recreate this site, I think it would have no comments section. Disqus is just horrible. I do not recommend it to anyone. And it just helps further what I see on so much social media these days. As much as the internet can bring people together of like mind, it also can help shrill minorities of people think their views are more mainstream than they are. That then emboldens them further. 
... 
The last is the present situation in Ferguson, MO. The rush to win a fight and lay blame instead of mourning a loss and praying for a situation just leaves me perplexed. The rush to “change the narrative” with bad facts to replace bad facts by some folks who keep the ichthys on their car unsettles me.
David Frum observes that the Republican party has cornered itself by being the party of the old, the wealthy and radicalized donor class, and a Us vs. Them attitude that turns off people who would otherwise agree with its principles:
It wasn’t their personalities that kept McCain and Romney from winning the vote of the female partner in an accounting firm, the Indian American hotel owner, the Japanese American architect, or the gay retired military officer. McCain and Romney were fine candidates. The problem was that they were forced to contort themselves and embrace messages that must-win constituencies found deeply obnoxious.
A Question of Jeb Bush
At a gathering this weekend The Omnivore spoke with a friend who seemed certain that Hillary Clinton would lose in 2016. To whom? Either Jeb Bush or, you know, maybe Chris Christie. Bank on it. The Omnivore isn't sure exactly what his reasoning was--but it's not irrational. Consider:



So in a nut-shell, Jeb or Christie would be a reasonable candidate with wide-spread appeal and Hillary is a weak, unpopular choice.

The Omnivore isn't sure if his realizes this or not but that was exactly the We-Can't-Lose formula that gave us presidents McCain and Romney.  Now, the friend in question doesn't frequent conservative blogs and FOX News on cable doesn't have a comments section (it does on the web--when they are not being shut down) so he can't see what people are saying. He doesn't quite realize what he's up against: Democrats can generally find something to like in Hillary--and the fact that she clearly has a decent chance of winning is the whipped cream and cherry on top.

For the Republican base, the fact that Jeb or Christie could win is seen as a powerful negative: the term 'electable' drips with contempt in conservative parlance. Additionally, the argument that Romney was 'forced' to say things that made him unpopular is only partially true (the immigration comments in the debate certainly qualify): the missing white-male voters in 2012 weren't evangelicals--they were blue-collar white men (more like Hillary or Perot voters). 

In other words, it isn't just a matter of cleaning up the debates / primary schedule--it was probably Romney's 1% rich-guy persona that left a vital block of voters cold. The 47% gaffe wasn't the result of a rightward head-wind that blew him off course--that was Mitt Romney at his most honest. The problem with the Jeb-Rides-In-And-Wins scenario is that the high-turn-out ideological base doesn't want their most viable best-fit candidate but rather the most ideologically pure one. 

Let's say that again: the Democrats don't have to be one whit more 'enlightened' than the Republicans on this. They also don't have to sell out their convictions (some will say they do--but someone will always say that). They simply have to recognize that Hillary is the best candidate that will pretty reliably get them some of what they want and rationally decide that a vote for her maximizes their individual voice. This basic game-theory approach is broken for the GOP base.

The fact that Romney and McCain eventually consolidated their parties isn't the point here--the fact that right now the guy with the front-running polling is Rand Paul at a minuscule 16% tells you everything you need to (Hillary at last check has a pretty unprecedented 60+% support for her candidacy). The GOP doesn't need to pick a candidate two years out--no--but when The Omnivore's friend's "obvious choices" are both high on name-recognition and polling in the basement, it should be clear that the party base doesn't think about this the same way he does.

They're serious about it too--from the high-turn-out early states to the heavy-hitting money guys. The party's election machine should have catapulted Romney into the candidacy when, instead, it created a painful, expensive path to nomination that hurt everyone. This is usually cast as the split between the GOP-Establishment and the Conservative Base--but it is most clearly seen in its pure form in mainstream conservative blogs: the difference between the bloggers (who generally get that position by being chosen for writing skills, perspective, and knowledge) and the comments sections.

The Schism: The Article And The Comments Section

The Upshot, the New York Times data-blog, looked at Google searches and correlated them between the hardest and easiest places to live in America. These are what people in those areas were searching on most often that most strongly correlated to the miserableness-index of that area. You should read the article--but it looks like this:
You'll have to guess which side was the haves and which was the have-nots--but The Omnivore bets you can. People on the nice side of town probably aren't Googling 'severe itching' a whole lot. You can compare the Hardest Places To Live (and Easiest) with a by-county voting map from 2012 to see if you think there's a line up (note too the breakdown by population density: the nicest places to live are often sparsely populated).

The Omnivore thinks that if Erick Erickson lives over on the green side of the graphic, a lot of his readership probably comes from the orange. The bridge between the two worlds for guys like Erickson is a nuanced understanding of the situation where Brown could be both a criminal and a victim or youngsters crossing the border could be both illegal aliens and traumatized children. 

Erickson clearly understands that both things can be true at the same time--why don't people in his circles? Well, he probably ought to look at ads on mainstream conservative sites. The ones telling people to buy gold or watch a video warning them about FEMA and telling them what item to horde (yes, using the term 'horde'). Erickson knows that a lot the visitors to these sites expect if not the biblical apocalypse, the economic Obamalypse to come soon and need things like expensive dubious quality freeze-dried meals to be prepared for it. 

What he's refusing to look at is the fact that these ads are symptomatic (as well as part driver of) a feedback loop that is created when you relentlessly call people illegals or give a bunch of air time ideologically to 'the knock-out game.' When things are framed that way, is it any wonder that people don't want to give illegals aid and comfort or that they have already made up their minds about Ferguson? 

It shouldn't be.

It most certainly shouldn't be to Erick Erickson.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Happens When They Acquit Officer Wilson?

THEY AM THE LAW!!
Yishai Schwartz thinks it's going to be almost impossible to convict Darren Wilson in a court of law:
The power to indict rests with local prosecutors and pliant grand juries, and as Jonathan Cohn has pointed out, a prosecutor will usually refrain from indicting altogether if the accused faces a low likelihood of conviction. In this case, a combination of entrenched racial and occupational biases, and most importantly the details of Missouri law, all but ensures that a conviction is off the table.
As things are approaching a period of nominal calm, The Omnivore wonders: what happens when, a few months from now (maybe), they don't convict him--what if they don't even charge him? The obvious answer is riots (and maybe not just in Ferguson). Anything else?

Well, ISIS thinks it can use Ferguson to recruit black Americans. Can they? Erm ... maybe?
But probably not all that successfully--ISIS's brand is killing children, beheadings of journalists, and religious mass executions. That's not going to sell as well as they might hope in the USA. Still, the fact that they think they might be able to make inroads with Ferguson is troubling.

Is This A Race / Class War?
No--and for the most part, people have been reluctant to call it one. Firstly, it's not a war--despite the militarized appearance and some hardware, it isn't a war if there isn't actual for-real combat. Despite what you have seen on TV, what is happening in Ferguson does not count as actual combat. Secondly, we know what a race or class war would look like (assuming that it's race-class meaning people of a given race and class are fighting against the majority): IEDs and asymmetrical forces.

Given that we already have a model of what an actual class/race war would look like (insurgency with irregular militants) we can be pretty certain this is not it.

Could It Be?
So that's the question: what would it take to ignite one? Could Wilson being acquitted (or not even charged) do it? Well, we will likely see charges--that seems almost a given (even if the attorney would lose, failing to charge Wilson at this point would, The Omnivore thinks, make them lose harder). But actually convicting him? If Schwartz is right, it seems that any even remotely credible defense would allow him to walk.

Could that spark a race war?

The Omnivore thinks: probably not. This is based on the following:

  1. The lack of video. If we had video of Brown being gunned down, that would be tangible and visceral. The story is not. This is the difference between Rodney King and Treyvon Martin. A lot of people think video from Vietnam is what brought that war to a close by putting it in our living-rooms. Martin's killing was 'on radio.'
  2. The larger expression of solidarity with black / poor people in Ferguson. Granted, a lot of people do have support for Wilson (the GoFundMe raised 225k thus far and had its comments section closed down) but the mass media has, after being arrested and tear-gassed*, decided to side with the people of Ferguson. This gives people a voice that didn't exist so much in the Treyvon Martin case (yes, Zimmerman was tried in the media--that is true--but the expose of militarized police in Ferguson has been, to the Omnivore's mind, unprecidented). This raises the question of who, exactly, you would race war against.
Conclusions
There are a lot of different theories floating around concerning the events. A story holds that Darren had his orbital socket broken by Mike Brown before Brown ran off. Current reporting says this is not true:
On the other hand, things are still in flux and the eventual story could well change (right now, to The Omnivore's read, a shot was fired from inside the police car and Brown ran off after that--this leads to the 'Brown turned and charged' story or the 'Brown turned and gave up' story--the idea that Brown, after being shot at, decided to come back seems far less likely to The Omnivore--but you never know).

In any event: while this may not lead to nation-wide fighting, this may get worse before it gets better.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Michael Brown The Martyr

Images Taken From Michael Brown's (apparent) Robbery of a Cigar Store (Earlier the day he was shot)
As Ferguson boils (the National Guard was called in and (BREAKING) Obama didn't know about it) the political discourse has shattered over continuing revelations and events. For example:
  1. Brown was shot six times
  2. He was not shot in the back (so says the autopsy)
  3. Mike Brown had marijuana in his system when he died
  4. He'd committed a robbery earlier that day--but the officer in question (the one who shot him) didn't suspect him of it when they encountered him (Brown was accosted for walking in the middle of the street)
  5. There has been continued violence during the protests. Some (peaceful) protesters have tried to prevent looting by, well, looters
  6. Now the officially militarized national guard has been called in to maintain order
  7. Texas Governor Rick Perry was (in a grossly partisan manner) charged with crimes seemingly having to do with playing political hardball (okay, that has nothing to with Ferguson--but it can't be helping things, can it?)
This thing is not shaping up well.

Competing Narratives
When something happens (any major event) there is always a rush to build a partisan narrative around it. Sometimes that narrative more or less holds up. Sometimes it doesn't. Usually, as facts trickle out, people become distanced from it and new information misses them. As such, it's key to understand what these narratives are in their Ur state (their beginning format) and less about what happened.

It's also important to understand what the specific talking points are--what are the lessons that the observer is supposed to take away from the story? All of this--far moreso than the facts--is what the meaning or impact of the event is in the national consciousness.

On the Right
Right now the Republicans are a bit split on how they're reacting to Ferguson. Actually, there are two splits.

Republican Narrative One: Law and Order
In this narrative (which could also be titled Michael Brown got what he deserved) the story is that HERO COP accosted a thug who, thinking the jig was up (that he was caught for his latest strong arm robbery) first ran--but then charged the police officer who then fired in self-defense.

The Aesop (the moral): Times have changed and now we need militarized police. Brave New World.

Republican Narrative 2: Police State Rising
In this narrative the police-state whose fin crested the water at the Bundy Ranch is now starting to rear its head. The masses of bullets bought by Homeland Security are part of a new wave of warrior-cops who will eventually be turned on us (white people) to maybe take our guns. This is, of course, the left's doing.

The Aesop (the moral): Liberals will always show their true (fascist) colors.

On The Left
The left is having a more-or-less easier time of it since to the left this breaks down to a simple racial narrative: white cops shot an unarmed black teenager and then tear-gassed police. This, without any nuance, at least, has the benefit of all being factually (to the degree we have undisputed facts) correct.

The basic idea is that (a) The police are acting as thugs and (b) the killing was utterly unjustified. In this formulation it's a white governance group who is ruthlessly (and lethally) oppressing a minority.

The left is largely silent on what should be done to restore order (in unrelated--but maybe symbolically similar news, Gawker maybe thinks letting children just rob you is better than running them down and apprehending them).

The Aesop (the moral): White privilege is oppressive and destroys society.

The Middle Ground
Let's get one thing really clear: all these summations are necessarily stark and are taken from a huge variety of sources (and The Omnivore's interpretation). Reality is complicated. It's also true that there's a very easily found middle ground that, in fact, many people actually hold:
  1. Let's wait until the investigation clears before passing too much judgment
  2. The police doing things like tear-gassing news crews and pointing weapons directly at peaceful protesters was bad policy (so was releasing the Brown robbing video--it's political positioning and it makes the police look like spin-doctors, something that you should really never want).
  3. Brown certainly didn't deserve to die for anything we know he did (uncontested elements such as smoking pot, robbing a shopkeeper, walking in the middle of the street) but we may never know what went down with the cop. The original story held, to The Omnivore's read, that he was shot in the back--something the independent autopsy falsified. On the other hand, if killed a good distance from the vehicle, Brown was clearly not right on top of the officer either.
This isn't hard. In this case we need reasonable force for the riots (the National Guard may well provide that) and regular cops for the protesters (during the day, etc.). We need to recognize that Brown's shooting was a personal tragedy for his family and has taken on larger meaning in the community.

The question then is this: is that larger meaning legitimate?

The Legitimacy of Brown As Martyr
Although unspoken, the above world-views orbit an epicenter questioning whether or not it is legitimate for the community to see the killing of Michael Brown as a symbolic part of a larger picture. Attempts to try to derive that (in order: NO, MAYBE, YES) all fall against an objective realization: it has already happened.

Indeed, The Omnivore thinks you (for group values of 'you') do, in fact, get to choose your martyrs. In other words: if the community sees Brown's death as meaningful beyond the bare facts of the case? That is legitimate

To argue otherwise is to need to (a) set up a standard by which the legitimacy is to be judged and then (b) persecute that case against either those who disagree (the left attacking the right) or those who have adopted him (the people of Ferguson). Both of these have a specific problem in that it assumes the rights on the part of the standard-holder that are, simply, not in evidence. The Omnivore knows of no one who he feels has the authority to say the people of Ferguson are wrong to protest what was done--indeed, if anything, the police's actions seem to have confirmed their worst fears whatever Brown actually did (remember: the police don't know either).

That's the real moral of the story: you don't get to objectively judge the people who are peacefully, if angrily, protesting his killing.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The #Ferguson Social Media Disaster

No one who is reading this blog should be unaware of what is happening in Ferguson Mo right now--but let's recap anyway (more detailed timeline):
  • Sat Aug 9: 18 year old Michael Brown was shot to death by a (yet unnamed) police officer. He was unarmed.
  • Aug 10th: Protests begins. The protesters were met by police officers but there was no violence. The police's story is that there was a struggle over the officer's weapon. Rioting with looting (20 busiensses) and a burnt gas station take place. 32 People arrested.
  • Aug 11th: More looting (Shoe Carnival 10 miles SE of Ferguson). Riot squats use tear gas.
  • Aug 12: Non-violent protesters demand name of officer in question. Request is denied. FAA creates a no-flight zone.
  • Aug 13: Reporters for Washington Post and Huffington Post arrested. Detained without charges and then released.
The above comic was from 10 years ago in Fallujah.

Here is Vox:
Washington Post reporters have been arrested in two cities this year: Ferguson and Tehran
Over the past few months, Washington Post reporters, hundreds of whom work across the globe, have been arrested in exactly two cities: Tehran, Iran, and Ferguson, Missouri, United States of America. That should tell you something about the ongoing crisis in Ferguson.
On Wednesday, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery was reportedly arrested along with Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post for failing to exit a McDonalds. According to Lowery's Twitter account, the two were "assaulted and arrested" because "officers decided we weren't leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn't have been taping them." No charges were filed.
Brand Damage

The Federal government got the Cliven Bundy ranch 100% right. Whoever made the call to stand-down on the confrontation knew that (A) a ton of dead civilians, with AR-15's or not would do nothing good for the situation, the Bureau of Land Management, or the rule of law. There was no reason to use assault (SWAT) troops when it was quite possible to wait and let the legal system work more slowly.

Here the police department seems committed to doing the exact opposite.
How To Win Friends and Influence People
What we are seeing here is 20th century police-state tactics running up against 21st century social media. The protesters have several hashtags that have made national news. Reporters on the scene are operating in real time with Twitter updates that are widely read and wide-spread. Camera phones are able to record just about everything and startling pictures have come out of the area despite it being a cordoned off no-fly zone.

There seems to be no way that the police come out of this intact. Even leaving off the law-and-order questions (or what people who had their businesses looted or torched think of this), the use of militarized police against a populace that has, by and large, stood with its hands up taking pictures is an inverse of power: it is a losing strategy.

A process that took Gandhi years is now digitally accelerated. We get real-time tweets of the arrested reporters and have to wait for their release--still well within the 24 hour news cycle. This creates riveting drama. We can talk to people directly within Furgeson via the Internet (one of the reporters was holding Twitter Q&A). This creates connection. We see ourselves under the barrel of that rifle up there.

This is a Public Relations crisis and it is going to do damage to the MO Police department and, probably, to an extent militarized police across the United States. The fact that the PD has no competing voice in this dialog--that they appear only in pictures and quotes dressed as storm-troopers is an indication of their inability to grasp what is happening here--how public they really are--and how eventually they (each of them, the real people) will be exposed.

This is a disaster for the police and The Omnivore finds they have only brought it on themselves.


Here is a post from the conservative National Review Online:
Here’s a microcosm of the relationship between state and citizen: We know the names of the nine people charged with felonies in the Ferguson looting, but not the name of the police officer at the center of the case.

The government is all discretion when it comes to one of its own. True, there have been threats against the police officer in question — but if any municipal institution is positioned to defend its members, it is the police. And are there no threats against private individuals who are arrested or investigated? Are there no threats against people in prisons? Police departments and prosecutors regularly release discretionary information that has serious consequences for the lives of private individuals, including those who have not been charged with or convicted of any crime.

Monday, August 11, 2014

ISIS vs. The Next Leading Brand

Is This Bad? It Looks Kinda Bad ...
Iraq, as a sovereign power, is on the verge of collapse. With al-Malaki refusing to step down, ISIS having managed to over-run several Kurd troops, and their seizure of the Mosul Dam (which, if it collapses (and it will if they simply don't maintain it) will destroy Mosul and maybe even Baghdad, it seems likely that even the US getting back in the game isn't going to change things.

The Omnivore sees Obama's limited response as a clear sign to Malaki that Obama's not going to save the former PM's political career from ISIS--but there doesn't seem to be any other real ideas on the the table. The Iraqi army is worthless against ISIS, apparently having lost the mental-game:
Simply put they attack using simple combined arms but they hold two force multipliers – suicide bombers and a psychological force multiplier called TSV – Terror Shock Value. TSV is the projected belief (or reality) that the terror force that you are opposing will do anything to defeat you and once defeated will do the same to your family, friends and countrymen. TSV for ISIL is the belief that they will blow themselves up, they will capture and decapitate you and desecrate your body because they are invincible with what the Pakistanis call Jusbah E Jihad “Blood Lust for Jihad”. I have worked the Iraq mission since 1987 and lived in and out of Iraq since 2003. TSV was Saddam’s most effective tool and there is some innate characteristic of the Iraqis that immobilizes them when faced with a vicious, assuredly deadly foe who will do exactly as they have done to others – and they will unsuccessfully try to bargain their way out of death by capitulating.
Great.

The ISIS Brand

ISIS was, originally, fighting for the 'rights' to be called Al Qaeda in Iraq. That was what they wanted coming out of Syria and that's, basically, who they still are, operationally. However, something happened about the time they shortened the ISIS name (they'll always be ISIS to me, though), to IS: the Islamic State.

What happened was that they no longer cared about being Al Qaeda (in Iraq or anywhere else): their brand value exceeded that of AQI's. After that, they stopped caring. They're "winning" the brand-war because they've managed (or lucked into) both a string of wins (everyone loves a winner) and a social-media presence that, while most likely 'augmented' by western people who are not really ISIS members in the conventional sense, are joining up and amplifying their message.

ISIS stands for extreme televised brutality, fundamentalist Islam, and, most of all, victory. They have an Internet presence that is, to The Omnivore's read, unparalleled. Here are some samples:
Reader Dave provides two other links of interest:

And:
In English!
 ISIS Jihadi T-shirts!! Dave notes that if, in fact, this is ISIS, it's a quantum step up for Jihadis to be able to put together a funny western insult (as opposed to the traditional pig-dog).

Of course it's most likely that the shirts (and the tweets) have nothing to do with ISIS proper and are just unaffiliated fan-boys--but even that is worrisome: 2005 Al Qaeda didn't have t-shirts and a, uh, funny ... MySpace page (Osama should've totally had a live-journal--like Kim Jong Il's).

Someone motivated to go take a phone-selfi at the White House might be incentivized to do more if the right people could get their hands on him. The point isn't that ISIS are marketing wizards exactly--it's that they are presently making all the right moves to take advantage of the social media space they wish to inhabit.

They are:

  • Global. Despite a bunch of name changes (they'll always be ISIS to me) they are well known, well recognized. Expect and improved, western friendly logo within a couple of months.
  • Up-Trending. Their brand is hot. If you are a jihadi? Today, you want to be ISIS
  • English Language Savvy. The reason we killed Al Alwaki was because he was a valuable and dangerous propagandist. He understood English and the west and was able to reach out to westerners in a way Al Qaeda generally could not. Not so ISIS. While their high command may well not be well versed in the ways of the west, their recruits are. They seem to be using that.
  • News Savvy. Atrocity videos are not new--but ISIS is working them. They are remaining in the news cycle and doing things that will keep them--and their supporters--visible. Such as? Embedded journalists.
This combination makes them, to The Omnivore's read, a truly global terror force. Al Qaeda was able to launch an over-seas attack by using tons of money and carefully selected volunteers. ISIS may be capable of the nightmare scenario: recruiting abroad purely over the Internet. They have announced plans to attack the White House.

We shouldn't make too much of ISIS the desert army. They're still highly limited in their capabilities. But we shouldn't ignore their brand which, if they manage to survive air-strikes (and they will, we're not trying to destroy them) will grow even stronger. Eventually it'll grow strong enough to operationalize people here at home.

Fifteen Numbers About ISIS.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A REAL Third Choice?

Steve Baldwin, a Republican (?) lawmaker (meaning: not congressional member) has a suggestion for a new Third Party: it's a roster of signatures (e-signatures) that represent a pledge to vote for the new GOP-ish party when it gets enough names / funding to launch.

The new party, when it matures, will burst from inside the GOP like an alien chest-burster and devour the votes with it's dual sets of teeth.

This is actually not a bad idea: the concept is solid game-theory. You can add your name and but it doesn't cost anything (he concludes that people wouldn't go through a sign-up process just to troll--something he is deeply wrong about) so you still get to vote GOP (i.e. you don't lose any of your voting power) until the new party is ready to fly.

He has a couple of suggestions:

The Platform
Here's his unity-platform:
[I] believe we can find a consensus on dozens of constitutional principles such as downsizing the federal government, balancing the budget, reforming entitlements, cutting taxes across the board, defense of the 2nd amendment, the elimination of earmarks and crony capitalism, the development of our natural resources for our energy needs and so forth.
Even on the social issues, I believe a coalition between social and fiscal conservatives could be formed around the issue of eliminating all federal abortion funding, reversing Roe vs. Wade (let the states fight it out), and prohibiting the Federal government from granting special rights to people based upon sexual behavior (laws that almost always infringe on our religious, property, and freedom of association rights). I believe such a platform would unite all factions of conservatives and libertarians.
His Candidate
He's got a candidate in mind!
The new party will do to the GOP what the GOP did to the Whig Party 150 years ago: it will replace the GOP as the main party contesting the Democrat Party. We would also need a stable of respected national conservative leaders such as Sarah Palin and others to lead the charge on such an effort.
It's unfortunate she's just now starting her online pay-TV channel. She might not be available but how about Herman Cain? Surely he's ready to--oh, wait ...

But Snark Aside ...
The obvious issue with Baldwin's platform is that it's already the GOP's position. All that's missing is maybe something about immigration (what do you tell the Chamber of Commerce?) or, maybe, foreign policy (what does Third-Party want to do about ISIS?). Beyond that it's boiler-plate. There's no one in Republican office who wouldn't agree to every one of those points.

So why do we need a Third Party? If the above is more or less the glue that's holding the GOP together to begin with, what is missing?

What's missing is the victory. Here's his opening argument:
When one speaks with fellow Republicans about the future of the GOP, it is common to receive some negative feedback. This is because many conservative/libertarian Republicans feel the party has simply not done enough to challenge the Obama agenda. There is a widespread feeling among the rank and file that the country is hurtling toward socialism while Republican leaders sit on the sidelines and either do nothing or propose ways to manage socialism more effectively.
And the corruption and illegality of the Obama regime has been breathtaking, making LBJ and Nixon look like rank amateurs. How many people have been indicted for Fast and Furious? Zero. If Bush had used the IRS to harass his political opponents, there is little doubt impeachment motions would have been introduced. But no such impeachment motions have been forthcoming. The Federal budget is completely out of control but all the Republicans do is submit their own series of “earmarks.” We don’t want the GOP to pursue a “socialism-lite” agenda. We want them to go on the warpath and do whatever it takes to stop the destruction of our constitutional Republic.
This list of charges is interesting as a basis for building a new party:
  1. It's hard to think of something that Congress has just allowed Obama to do without substantial resistance (is he thinking about raising the debt ceiling?). Reid had to get rid of the filibuster in the Senate for confirmations due to strong resistance from the minority (Republican) party.
  2. He omits Benghazi from his list of charges going back to Fast and Furious. That's an interesting decision
  3. He seems to think Obama has been linked to the IRS scandal. That hasn't happened yet (and does not appear likely).
  4. The Federal Deficit is shrinking. There are no more earmarks (it's not clear what he means by 'earmarks'--possibly Federal loans?).

Wait, The GOP is Going To Win In November, INNIT?
Only 'kind of.' Firstly, if by 'win' you mean 'take control of the Senate' then the odds are just a little better than 50% as it now stands. That's entirely possible. But to win, to use a sports analogy, you have to "beat the spread" (that is, win by more than the basic odds favor you by).
Additionally, while 2016 is a long way away, the current players aren't looking great (Romney leads when included--otherwise Rand Paul 'leads' at around 16%. The betting money says it'll be Jeb Bush).

In other words, it's not that Baldwin wants to change the current state of the party--it's that he doesn't and he just wants to win more with the way it is.

Winning With The Status Quo
Now, yes: there is room for a less 'transigent' party to be in power: we've seen several Tea Party candidates lose primaries (although not all--ask Eric Cantor) this cycle. It's certainly possible to "dial up" the ideological purity ... just not by all that much. We're already pretty far into diminishing returns.

The ceiling for things like cutting government spending hits around the Big Three (Social Security, Medicare, and The Military). If you can't cut those and keep your job (and you can't) then you can't really cut government spending appreciably without getting into small-ball things like axing Sesame Street.

You could shut down the government or default on the debt--yes--but these are playing with fire and are not the moves of a calculated political operator ("Let's break everything and then capitalize on the ensuing chaos!" is the cry of the anarchist).

Is that what Baldwin wants? Maybe: his party would shut down the government and keep it shut down--they would probably not default on the national debt--and this calculation might pay off (so thinks Erick Erickson who is many things but not terminally stupid). On the other hand, it's hard to see a go-for-broke, damn-the-torpedoes strategy being a real winner.

The All-Or-Nothing play works once in a while but it doesn't work consistently and it seems unlikely that even at Baldwin's level of sophistication, he would find that a preferable strategy.

But that's not the point--this isn't a well thought out strategy: there's nothing to get us from 'here' (where the GOP is composed of mere mortals who are unable to exercise supernatural powers of governance when holding only the lower chamber) to 'there' (where an ideological party is capable capturing the entirety of the three branches by the power of purity alone) unless your 'there' is the mythical state Hillary-Clinton Military Stand-Down Order for #Benghazi (and once that comes out, the liberal gig is up!). This is just a way to try to evict GOP Establishment party members to increase the concentration of TruConservativism. It is an article of faith that this will succeed--that conservatism wins every time it's been tried. It isn't true--but people do believe it.

So, no: despite having an interesting plan and a framework that (besides Sarah Palin) looks almost legitimate, Baldwin doesn't actually have a winning idea. On the other hand, just having the loyalty pledge to the Third Choice would probably be a way of increasing the paranoia of elected officials even further. That might be the real value.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Illuminoimia Ch 25: The Nicest Man In The World Part 2

In 1975 Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson published The Illuminatus! Trilogy. It remains a seminal work of conspiracy fiction. Today, The Omnivore continues a serial-fiction experiment: Illuminoimia. 

Everything You're Afraid Of Is True.

Rex and Theo reach the seat of power and run into a guy who works for the Secret Masters of the World ... in a New York ad agency.
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Previously On Illuminoimia
Ch 12: The Heart Vault  
Ch 13: Last Flight Out 
Ch 14: The World Trade Organization 
Ch 15: Postmortem Interrogation 

Chapter 25: The Nicest Man In The World Part 2
New York City, New York. Christmas Eve
Snow flurries whirled around us as Rex and I exited the vehicle. He’d asked me what happened in the back of the dark SUV in the private parking garage and I’d told him I didn’t remember. He wasn’t surprised.

“That was a Hierophant,” he’d said--he looked as shaken as I could imagine him looking--which wasn’t very--but was disturbing anyway.

“A … high priest?” I clawed at my memory to place the exact definition of the term. If only I had my smart phone …

“Sort of. One who brings people into the presence of the holy.” He said. We were outside a massive skyscraper with warm glowing lights of Christmas shopping at the ground floor and a single, nondescript set of security-glass revolving doors with thick, shaded polycarbonate thermoplastic armored glass and biometric sensors to let us in to the artery of elevators that would take us to the top floors.

“I told you we had recorded encounters with an ‘Elohim,’” he said, not looking back, “The Hierophants facilitated that. You can’t do it without being … prepared. Something--” he paused. “We don’t really know. That stuff is either lost or they’re keeping it under wraps. In any event it’s no longer relevant--but they know things.”

“That guy was like--a priest!?” He’d gone through the shadowed doors and then triggered something inside so that it let me in. The revolving glass was more than an inch thick but slid effortlessly.

He walked down the hall, removing his gloves and jacket as he went. The floor was marble and there were small engraved metal boxes along the way with key holes in them--like mail boxes or safety deposit boxes. There was a security station at the end of the hall, surrounded by bullet-proof glass--but it was dark and empty. I saw a flicker of something in his face as he looked at it. Concern?

“No--not a priest. He doesn’t--probably doesn’t--worship the holy. They’re like us--kind of. But they aren’t us. They don’t rule. Think of them as our ‘Research and Development’ department.”

He looked back at me. “They observe but don’t interfere. We ask them for guidance when we’re trying to do something tricky.”

“If he wanted to talk to me?” I asked. “Then what? What does that mean? Does that mean They know what we’re doing?”

He’d summoned the elevator. The door was gilded with gold plate. It showed some kind of design--a pyramid reaching up to a sun--with human figures holding dishes of food aloft towards the sky.

“Yes,” said Rex, stepping in. “It means We know.” He didn’t turn. “Or at least he knows--but he’s supposed to tell if we’re a threat.”

I felt a different kind of cold than the chill outside. How fucked were we? I didn’t want to ask as the elevator, at a frighteningly high rate of speed, ascended. Inside it was old-world: wood panels and brass. There was a lit arch of lights at the top with an arrow that swung smoothly between them. The elevator served about 12 floors--all at the top. There was a padded leather bench with polished rivets in case we wanted to sit.

The elevator stopped and I followed Rex out, looking around.

The landing, on Christmas eve, was deserted. There was carpeting and wood--a large window that showed us the spires of the snow-covered city. The lights were soft and warm. There was a reception desk that was curved and marble topped with framed pictures behind it. Antique chairs and benches sat around tables of expertly worked tables. There were no magazines. Set into the walls were flat-screen TVs showing silent news channels of the celebrations. I could see the White House, all lit up, with scrolling banners about the upcoming ball. In the air there were the faint notes of chamber music. I felt my stomach turn: They were playing the Goldberg Variations.

There was a grand hall and at the end double doors--open. I could see an office, if you could call it that. The desk was massive--but more modern than some of the outer trappings and held two huge monitors off to one side. I followed Rex, who now wore the dark blue power-suit he’d had on under the winter gear as he strode to the door. He looked crisp and perfect even after days of riding the train. His hair was perfect.

Behind the desk was an older man--balding. I could see right away this guy was not one of Them. But when he looked up, I knew he knew Them. It registered in his eyes: a bright knowing hate, a cagey sense of alarm, and a very very slight primal cringe of submission. If he saw me at all, I didn’t register.

“Hal,” Rex said, “I want you to meet my friend and interpreter, Theodore Odell.” He gestured to me. I discovered that I really, really didn’t want him using my real name here, even if that was logically ridiculous.

“Your father is here, sir,” said the man, rising--but with a subtle posture--a lowering of the head. He wasn’t rising in challenge--but rather in deference. “He is going to kill you, I think--or worse. Perhaps for all of us.”

The man’s voice was clear and solid--factual--but there was a hiss underneath it--a dark sense of despair and helpless anger. It was the sound of a man who was coming apart. I looked around the office--his office--clearly, I could see the framed photographs kids (married, grandkids, golden retriever dogs). The wife (second wife? Not young enough--but still beautiful). There was even a framed picture of a classic sports car.

“I know--I recognized protocol on the way in,” Rex said. He stood in the center of the office, hands easily behind his back, looking through the man at the picture-window behind him. I could see us all in ghostly reflection. I felt the bottom of everything dropping out around me. Rex shot a look over his shoulder at me. “No normal security downstairs,” he said. “That usually means one of us is ‘in-residence.’” He winked.

The plan, in rough outline, was this: the office we were in was one of the “strings” by which the True Kings of the World controlled everything. This was where ‘EVENTS’ were planned and executed. It was a stint in the arterial pipeline of the world-mind--the media control point through which messages and commandments were injected into the populace. There were other methods, of course--direct access to power, puppet politicians, and so on--but the global consciousness was one of their most valuable and powerful assets.

Just as kings, Rex had said, could be toppled by banks--so could regimes be toppled by consensus. The Kings of the World understood this and guarded their techniques closely. The language of their domination was an ancient one of symbols and signs that had powerful if subtle resonances. This place was one of the repositories--the secret vault--containing contingency plans and other greater mysteries.

We were going to do something that had never been successfully attempted--and never even envisioned on such a mass scale: we were going to Unwind the Pyramid. This was Rex-Speak for creating, in the public consciousness, a concrete understanding of Them--and, at the same time releasing an order to STOP. HALT.

The basic components, he said, had always existed: the True Kings of the World had methods in place to redact certain plans that were failing. Indeed, he’d said, they often failed in their attempts--they just relentlessly kept trying and adapting. That was one of the reasons They were Them. Unwinding Pyramid would mean things like exposing Their secret locations--the villages with rings of security where they raised their young in womb-like happiness until they could be harrowed. It would mean exposing the frameworks behind pop-culture--and telling the lies--but doing so in a way that wasn’t an expose--it would not be done in a way that “revealed” what was happening but in a way that implied everyone had always known it.

Unwinding the Pyramid would be done in the language of the illuminati. Once done, he said--once the commands were out there--across a spectrum that was too broad to call it back to and too wide to fully comprehend at a glance--the damage … would be severe.

“I’d sell all your stock,” he’d said on the train. “Get your money out of banks and into gold. And I’d plan to live off the land for a few months at least. Cities will burn--Our cities. Our citadels. Once this is out there--once the Secrets are out in the open? There will be campaigns of terror.”

He estimated hundreds of thousands would die in the immediate apocalypse. That millions might die in the collapse of logistical supply lines.

But mostly? They would die. Identities and locations were part of his payload. Strongholds, safe-houses, and back-up plans were to be included as well. He was going to push specific buttons and release information that had been secret when mankind was worshiping snowman-like collections of rounded stones meant to resemble a pregnant woman. He was going to tell tales that were whispered on fear of execution when King Nebuchadnezzar the first invaded Elam on the banks of river Ulaya under a darkening sky.

He was going to reveal things caesars had suppressed and facts presidents had obfuscated. He was going to talk about the inverted pyramids, made of the gold taken illegally from Fort Knox, buried upside down on the moon. These Truths would be naked, he’d said--not wrapped as they had ever been in layers of anagrams and allegories. He didn’t know everything--but he knew enough. He was going to Speak Truth to Power and the world, he told me, was going to burn.

With a mega-storm off the coast, Europe and Latin America in a catastrophic economic collapse, rumblings of war with China it wasn’t hard to think this might happen anyway. It was monstrous and apocalyptic and bringing down the house didn’t seem like a worse option than letting it all go the way it was headed anyway. Rex assured me that Sarah would be safe--that the collapse scenario would leave the West Coast in, more or less, one piece. He’d also said that if things went right he’d be able to pull some strings before the collapse actually hit. We’d ride it out in style.

The idea that Rex might’ve totally lied to me--or that at very, very least nothing was going even close to right was beginning to hit home in me like a numbing poison spreading out from my gut.

“No one,” Rex said, “is going to kill you--or me--or Theo.” He fixed Hal with a look--and a grin--that gave me chills. “I’m,” he said with a grim humor, “taking over this operation. Take us to the vault.”

Hal didn’t move. He stood there, waiting--clearly … terrified wasn’t the right word … but it wasn’t far from it. “I need to hear it from your father,” he said.

“You don’t want to do that,” Rex told him. “Oh, sure--he might kill me--and then take some awful vengeance on Theo … and then get to you. Sure--but do you know what he’d do to you and yours for refusing a direct order from one of us no matter how fucked up it was?”

He waited.

“He’d make an example out of you.”

Rex’s voice had totally changed when he said it. The words fell flat and hard like a stone tablet dropped from a height. Hal visibly withered.

“The mistake,” Rex said to me, not taking his eyes off of Hal, “that you people make is assuming they will be rewarded for loyal service. Americans, at any rate, make that mistake. Europeans and Asians usually know better. The assumption is that if they do everything right and stand up for their masters they will be taken care of--like loyal dogs. They assume their fidelity is valued. It isn’t. You don’t value someone giving you what is already yours. We don’t tip waiters--not that we have real waiters or anything like that--but if we did we wouldn’t tip the good ones. We’d flay the skin off the bad ones, leave the best ones generally alone … but once in a while? Once in a while we’d flay a good one--maybe even a great one who felt secure that they were so good they were valued. We’d do it to show the others that they weren’t indispensable--that they weren’t safe.”

He looked at Hal. Hal was pale--ghostly pale.

“Take. Us. To. The. Vault.”

Hal began to move--a bow? But then he froze. I heard the clapping from behind. Measured beats. Clap. Clap. Clap.

It was like ice water down my back and a clamminess crawling across my skin. Behind us, visible in the mirror-window was a beautiful man with piercing frigid eyes. He was looking at the boy who had to be his son.

They had arrived.