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Friday, December 8, 2017

Flat-Earth Politics


Flat-Earthers are real. They aren't (at least largely) just trolls "having you on." They aren't--at the core of them--celebrities who got hoodwinked by the Internet. Flat-Earthers are, it may (or may not) surprise you to know, increasing in volume and popularity.

Flat-Earthers are not crazy. They're also not stupid.

How can The Omnivore say this? Well, by being, you know, right about it: Flat-Earthers come from multiple walks of life and, by and large, hold regular jobs and relationships. About 15% identify as "scientists."

This is not to say that they are "okay." Flat-Earthers are people caught in the grip of a delusion so firmly rooted in non-logical foundations that they are psychologically captured by it. They are unable to use reasoning or argumentation to break out of it. Every piece of evidence against them is a conspiracy. Every piece of evidence "in their favor" is absolute truth (what evidence you ask? An astronaut describing a space-station briefly as a 'big airplane' becomes a SLIP-THAT-ADMITS-THE-TRUTH).

These are people who, for whatever reason (problems with authority, need to feel special, etc.) have wandered into a blind alley of emotionally-driven reasoning and have become trapped. While the necessary "suffering" element for actual insanity may not be present for them (which is why they are not crazy in what we would call the technical sense) they are severely socially limited by this belief (there is only so far you can go in society being a Flat-Earther).

The fact that this condition exists at all should scare you. Being a Flat-Earther is, effectively, a "drug" that you, if you are pre-disposed to it, get exposed to--and then addicted to. Withdrawal from conspiracy-theory is agonizing. Even worse: you are certain that you are not susceptible to it--after all, statistically, if you are reading this, you are not a flat-earther.

So you're kinda smug.

But: there are other similar memetic "drugs" out there--and their prevalence and social relevance is growing--rapidly. In fact, chances are: you know someone who is addicted to one.

Now The Omnivore Gonna Insult Some People

You voted for Trump--and, hey--shocker, you're not a racist. Right?

(If you didn't know The Omnivore was going here you haven't been paying attention)

Here is an exercise you won't do--but you should--if you are going to heap scorn or disregard The Omnivore for (maybe? probably? at least somewhat) calling you racist, you may want to at least try an experiment.

You'll learn something. Which is why you won't do it.

Here is the test: Go find a flat earther and talk them out of it.

This should be easy, right? Offer to have a discussion. Open a chat channel (or use the form) and then have-at-it. You have facts. You've got science. This should be easy. Right?

Oh--and one other thing: yes, yes, you know that you won't actually talk them out of it. The Omnivore knows it too. That's not the point of the exercise.

No--your learning here is for you to throw your best arguments at them and watch them have no answer to them. How can they? The earth--it is not flat.

That's where you're gonna get schooled.

They do have an answer--for everything you've got. They don't just "stone-wall you." They answer back. You have questions, they have answers. Even worse: they're pretty good answers if you are (a) willing to listen and (b) not well schooled in the flat-earth mythology / the right kind of scientist.

Worse: they're gonna ask you some questions you can't answer (again, unless you really know your stuff--but chances are, percentage wise, reading this, you do not).

In other words: you're gonna get schooled.

Now: you won't (The Omnivore hopes) be convinced--the evidence that the world is round(ish) is, absent a huge, super-weird conspiracy theory, not just overwhelming but whatever comes after overwhelming. Absolute?

But you'll discover that the, ahem, circular-logic of the flat-earther is pretty damn tight.

Your education in doing this will come painfully when you realize that their "basis" for their belief--that is, once you ignore everything the government and science says because they are biased--is, well, after that . . . the horizon looks pretty flat, doesn't it?

Psychological Capture

Here is a conversation, paraphrased, that The Omnivore had with a 9/11 Truther and Trump-Supporter. It is accurate (to the point where the guy will be more or less forced to agree this is what happened--The Omnivore has receipts).

Omnivore: I ask the experts about 9/11. They say it was airplanes.

Truther: Here is an ENGINEER on YouTube talking about the "dustification" of the buildings (the buildings turning to dust in a way that airplanes would not cause). "She is an ENGINEER. So, see? An expert!"

Omnivore: :: watches specific part of video Truther links to ::

Omnivore: :: notices something is 'off'' about the conference the ENGINEER is speaking at. ::

Omnivore: :: Googles ::

Omnivore: "Your ENGINEER believes the buildings were destroyed by orbital energy weapons."

Truther: "What??"

Truther: :: looks ::

Truther: "I don't hold with that. But look at her video--clear dustification."

Omnivore: :: Googles for the specific part of collapse in her video ::

Omnivore: "Here is another angle of the same part of the collapse. It's clearly just falling down."

Truther: "Nope. Don't see it. Dustification. From, uhm, bombs or something--NOT space-based weaponry."

Let's pay very close attention to the way the argument evolves here:

  1. Presents the ENGINEER as a counter-expert.
  2. When the ENGINEER turns out to be too crazy for him, he falls back on the specific video.
  3. When the video, shown from another angle, doesn't prove what he says it proves, he just doesn't see it. But in his first video, oh-boy-does he see it.
Remember: the ENGINEER was, originally, presented as an EXPERT to counter what The Omnivore was saying. By the time we are finished, we are done with EXPERTS--and are on to super-amateur video analysis of 9/11 shaky-cam.

This is how logical capture works: Once you have established a TRUTH (9/11 was not done by airplanes) then everything else has to wrap around that truth--or else, it is part of the lie.

Flat-Earth Politics & Trump

Now we get to Trump.

To be on Team Trump you need a few specific Truths depending on which version you conform to. For example:
  1. The media is SO BIASED against Trump that his negative ratings are (if not the result of fake polling) generated by media lies by lying/super-biased reporters. PROOF of this is in the tons and tons of stories they get wrong! This is a 4th-Estate assault on the Executive!
  2. The allegations against Roy Moore are a clever mix of truth (he didn't do anything illegal or even really bad) and lies (for the 14 year old or the girl he beat up in the parking lot trying to put the moves on her). If you listen to Roy Moore's spokeswoman this is probably a team-up of the homosexuals, the GOP Establishment, and the Democrats.
These--among many, many other examples--are two clear pieces of flat-earth politics. How do you have a discussion with people who have conformed their vision of reality around a Truth to produce the above results?

The answer is: you can't.

The Media Is SO Biased

In this formulation there are plenty--plenty--of journalistic mistakes to help support the theory. This is absolutely true. It is also true that the reporters are biased--they are, largely, Democrats. They do, largely, dislike Trump. So what's the problem here?

Well the problem here is that the idea that Trump's problems--whatever they are--are the result of Media-Lies instead of the result of his own bumbling is the discussion that should be had. It can't be--because if the Trump-Supporter has to talk about Trump's own mistakes and their likely effects on his popularity or effectiveness, the conversation stops there.

The King, chosen by God, cannot be bad--so it has to be others that are making him bad/ineffective/etc. (This was Medieval Truth, by the way. Seeing it play out here with the non-ironic Jesus holding Trump's hands as he signs orders should be pinging your irony meters).

So how would you know? Well, it's easy--The Omnivore already did it: Go through all the 'fake-news' stories from major outlets and see what they said vs. what turned out to be true vs. what happened.

Compare this to the number of accurate stories published about Trump in the same time period. You will discover that the real news is hugely correct. That the fake-news-lies are often not even about Trump--and that when the media gets something really wrong, there are often consequences.

This is not the discussion the Trump-supporter wants to have so, of course, you'll have hysterical discussions about specifics.

Aside: The Omnivore was told "I've NEVER SEEN it so bad before." The speaker was wrong--she had. She just didn't realize it. In the aftermath of a disaster, take Sandy Hook, you do see tons of bad reporting as everyone struggles to get stories out first.

The fact that Trump's administration is, from the perspective of trying to write about it, a rolling disaster should be inarguable:

  1. Even the Trumper would have to agree that "palace intrigue" is at an all-time-high with the admin. This makes the media's job harder.
  2. Even the Trumper would have to agree that there have been more-leaks from the government (both the White House and other branches) than ever before. This makes the media's job harder.
  3. The Trumper would certainly agree that Trump ran as a disruptor--and is, in fact, disrupting. He makes decisions that are often surprising--if not shocking--to his staff (removal of Transgendered troops from military service, for example) and he often tweets what sounds like policy.
  4. Even the Triumper would have to agree that the Trump / GOP administration constantly makes fumbles and has to re-group (hiring and firing Flynn, firing Comey and telling different stories, failing to repeal Obamacare in several high-profile dramatic showdowns, etc.)
Even if everything he was doing was good--and working--and it is not--the conditions for solid reporting simply do not exist here. You don't need bad-actor bias to explain Trump's bad press and media screw-ups. In fact, if the media was doing what the Trumper believes they are (either making up stories or just doing things so badly that they will publish anything to "get him") the ratio or solid stories to fake ones would be far worse.

The Lies About Roy Moore


The Omnivore has an uncle who lives in Alabama and is voting for Roy Moore. He believes he has carefully examined the evidence and managed to--surprisingly--discount the stuff that he thinks would be a deal-breaker. The remaining evidence is true--but not quite bad enough to have him vote for the Democrat.

Amazing how that works?

When told he was buying into a conspiracy theory, of course he balked. The Omnivore just "wanted to call him a conspiracy theorist." Well, yeah. The Omnivore points to the tweet above: Moore's on spokeswoman is claiming an allegiance of the homos and the GOP Establishment to block Moore. Right?

Like the 9/11 Truther whose ENGINEER turned out to be an orbital-laser nut-case, The Omni-Uncle will simply discount his preferred candidate's own, damning, spin--in favor of small scraps of analysis (never mind the tons of people saying Moore was banned from a mall) that support his case.

The Truth These Hide
In the case of flat-earth people there isn't logic behind their absurd belief in the great earth-sphere. There's an emotional need and argumentation. The emotional-need is the glue. The argumentation takes the place of actual logic.

In the case of Trump-support, what is it? It's the need to "win" the Culture War. Being a culture-warrior at the expense of your country is painful. Being a culture warrior on the same side as the literal Nazis is awful--especially when you realize that, at the bottom of things, you and they are fighting for a lot of the same culture. So you dress it up as economics.

You dress it up as media lies. If the media was telling the truth, after all, you'd be voting for some pretty evil stuff along with your corporate-rate tax-cut and repeal of the estate tax that you really, really wanted.

In the case of Roy Moore, it's even clearer. Moore the "anti-liberal." Specifically, The Omnivore thinks, anti-gay marriage. The Omni-Uncle told The Omnivore he would vote for "a gay Republican." The Omnivore, sorry, calls bullshit--Omni-Uncle's definition of a "gay Republican" is probably less likely to appear in politics than a unicorn.

No--Omni-Uncle is going to vote for someone who feels a kinship with Putin:
And thinks the last time America was great was when we had slavery--and will go on believing he's a Reagan Republican (check the original Republican charter for added irony) and that these reports are, well, they're like those "round Earth pictures." They're out of context. Don't tell the whole story--or they're unimportant.

Arguing that Moore obviously believes and said those things? Well, that's what earned him his vote.

You just can't go and say that.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Perfectly Spherical Democrat

The guy who tweeted this--"Educated Hillbilly"--is pretty invested in, at this point, both the Dems / Republicans--or the left and the right--or the liberals and the conservatives--or whatever--both being bad. This is because, for a lot of people, the other side was the bad one--and now, in the age of 2017, it's kinda hard to argue that your own side isn't bad.

Well, it is if you're Republican.

Huh?

The both-sides argument--today--and about the morality of the "parties" relies on the performance of a rhetorical magic trick that, if done skillfully, can fool the viewer into believing an equivalence exists where one does not. What is that "magic trick"?

The Myth of the Perfectly Spherical Democratic Party

When we look at a Tweet like Rob Province's up there, we can, if we know what to look for, see two things right way. Firstly there's "one side" and then there's "better than the other." What does this mean? By what standard? Are there only two sides?

The obvious answer is: DON'T LOOK BEHIND THE (rhetorical) CURTAIN

The magic trick done here is a model of what physics teachers do when they want to simplify a problem: "Imagine a perfectly spherical cow."

Attacking hard problems by making some incorrect--but greatly simplifying--assumptions is a good way to teach introductory math. It's also, if you elide your precepts, a good way to stage false-equivalence rhetorical arguments. To wit:
Rob Province In Front Of A Black Board: "First you assume a perfectly spherical homogeneous Democrat Party. It is also know as 'The Left.' With this assumption, any given piece of it--like this guy on Twitter here--can be said to accurately represent the whole. Of course for me, I'll make it clear I don't belong to any party so you can't pull this shit on me--but hey--I'm solving a hard problem for you here.
That's what it'd sound like if we were being honest.

Both Side! Just As Bad!!

In practice, the both-sides-ism and just-as-bad-ism is being used to equate Al Franken to Roy Moore (you can morph this--hocus-ca-pocus to go to other people like Bill Clinton or JFK--but this Tweet in question is definitely in the here-and-now). So is one-side just like the other? Given our two test cases,  let's go to the tape.

1. Franken, So Far As We Know, Engaged In Loutish, Offensive, Sexist Behavior And Had A Picture Taken of Sexual Assault

This is plenty bad--and Franken could--or maybe should--be sued / prosecuted for it (it's out of the statute of limitations--but let's pretend it's not). In this case the operative ingredient is that as we have a picture we can be pretty sure the entire story is true (about him forcing a kiss--which is definitely sexual assault).

So what should be done?  Well, what Franken did is definitely some kind of illegal sexual abuse / assault. However, as far as categories go:
  1. It did not involve a weapon, threat of deadly force, nor was it done in the commission of another crime.
  2. It was not directed against a minor.
  3. There was an aggravating factor of the victim being sleeping when she was groped (whether Franken specifically touched her or not would likely be of interest to some hypothetical jury-defense--but is not to The Omnivore)
  4. But there is, thus far, no aggravating factor of a recurrent behavior.

Secondly, Franklin apologized, the apology was accepted by the victim, and there is/may be an ethics inquiry.

If you want to know what 'signaling' looks like--it's "don't care about what the victim has to say."

Finally: There has been round condemnation--both from Democrats and the mass media. Oh, sure, plenty of people are both defending and "defending" Al Franken. From a WaPo post that says he is still important to the feminist cause to people on twitter claiming they can see a shadow between his hands and her breasts, this is all happening.

However, there is, at least verbal censure of Franken and some specific real-life ramifications (he is being asked not to co-sponser a sex-abuse bill, for example). These do, in fact, stop short of resignation or unseating him--but they are more than "nothing."

TAKE-AWAY: Rather than being unimportant partisan defense, these issues are extremely important to the case that Rob is making. There is, in fact a scale of badness for sexual assault. There is, in fact a victim here who is speaking out--very capably. There, in fact, has been condemnation of both the event and the perpetrator.

These are not what partisans want--but they are, in reality, facts.

2. Roy Moore Has a Set Of Credible Allegations Of Sexual Assault Against Minors Against Him--But Denies Having Done Anything And There Is No Proof

In this case the wiggle-room is that these people might be lying. On the other hand, if they are not lying the situation is thus:

Firstly: It is one of the most aggravated types of sexual abuse crimes that does not involve completed rape or murder. By the story:
  1. He used force. He used alcohol.
  2. Some of the victims were under 16 (a specific category of increase badness)
  3. He had care of some of the victims (an aggravating factor in the statute)
  4. He has a history of recurrent behavior.
This makes it one of the worst possible crimes according to federal statues.

Secondly, he denies having done it. There is no apology to the victims and no (substantial) defense. Now: if you think he didn't do it--or maybe didn't do it--this would make sense--but, in fact, that isn't how people who are defending Roy Moore are defending him. They're suggesting he did do it and it's okay. Without going into conspiracy theory (a faked year book, WaPo pay-outs, a bunch of people lying and talking about it for no good reason) the only reasonable assumption is that Moore did it and is just trying to get away with it.

That is worse than what Franken did. There is a scale, there are victims.

Finally: Moore has been subject to strong censure. He has been told to quit by McConnell--there is nothing more GOP-Establishment than that--unless you count the AL-GOP which is standing by him. He has been told to drop out by McCain and many others--in a lot of cases ignoring the "if true" dodge. This is a strong, comprehensive voice of support from the GOP--unless you count The President--the actual head of the party refusing to weigh in.

In that case, no, the censure from the GOP seems to be missing some key components.

TAKE-AWAY: Unless you think it's pretty obvious Moore is the subject of a conspiracy hit-job, what he did was objectively way worse, his reaction to it has been objectively worse, and the party's reaction to it has been worse.

This is not what "both sides" people want to hear--but the above points are, nonetheless, facts.

Wrapping Up

We should not leave without noting that Al Franken is a Democrat fund-raising machine and Roy Moore is a loose cannon that the establishment doesn't want seated in the Senate anyway (they endorsed the corrupt-looking Strange, recall?). In other words, even verbal censure against Franken has potential downsides that censure of Moore doesn't.

The real point here, however is that if you are not fiercely wearing your partisan blinders, you see that that the legal system and most of humanity:
  1. Acknowledge a "scale of badness" where, in this instance, one party is much further down it than the other.
  2. Acknowledge that there is a "how did they react" question where one side took responsibility for what we are told happened and the other didn't. One was forgiven by his victim and the other wasn't forgiven by his victims.
  3. Both parties have condemned the specific people involved to some degree--but within this context there are some big missing pieces of important people not saying the right things--and it's mostly POTUS and the AL-GOP.
So are both sides just as bad? No. And you know it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The High-Score Killers

The recent Netflix-series Mind Hunters takes us back to the 1960's or 1970's where these FBI guys are discovering something "new"--killers without normal motivations who kill repeatedly. We know, from the previews, and real life, they are going to name these guys "serial killers."

Today we just had another mass shooting--this one was random as well (from what we know so far, anyway--just take it as directional as news continues to break)--we are seeing 'parallel killers' who kill in large numbers with no clear motive.

Vegas is the poster-event for this: the killer's motive is still unknown. He issued no manifesto and seemed not to  "leak" (tell someone--in parlance of mass-shooter jargon). This is unusual. Most mass-killers do leak. Even Dylan Roof told people what he was going to do (they thought he was talking out his ass).

But today? Today we're seeing the full form, it appears, of something different. I'm calling them "High-Score Killers." Why?

  • Their behavior is carefully planned, like other mass shooters --but--
  • Unlike most historical mass shootings there is no manifesto and, even more surprising, minimal or no social media footprint.
  • It seems to be geared towards maximizing causalities in a way others were not
The first guy that The Omnivore can plainly think of to fit this mold is Adam Lanza of Sandy Hook. In this case the targets were chosen for maximal vulnerability. His lack of any social-media footprint was assisted by his complete destruction of his computers. It isn't that easy to destroy a hard-drive to the point where forensic analysis won't bring data back.

He managed it.

Likewise, the Vegas shooter utilized location, firing angle, and technology to maximize his impact. He didn't have any apparent hate-on for country music fans. He was reportedly a Trump-Supporter who was happy with the stock-market's performance (Note: In case it needs to be said, while The Omnivore blames Trump for ALL KINDS of things, this isn't one of them).

The word is that the guy even had an escape plan of sorts. So what the hell did he want? 

The High-Score.

What If The Omnivore Is Wrong?
 It is entirely possible that, in fact, we are not really seeing something "new." Firstly social media hasn't been around that long and a lot of killings have had no clear motivation. So okay. Right?

What If The Omnivore Is Right?
We're fucked. If the goal of a killer is to top-the-last-guy (or, at least, leave a "heck've a mark") then we are going to be facing a problem which virtually cannot be predicted or prepared for. Even if people are commonly carrying-concealed a high-score killer won't be deterred: they may simply adapt (as in Vegas--no one's concealed gun would help them when ambushed by a long-range rifle from above).

Friday, November 10, 2017

Trump vs. Obama -- Who Got Treated More Unfairly?

It's an article of faith for the Trump-supporters that The Donald has been treated way, way worse than anyone else--especially Obama. The corollary to this in This-Is-How-You-Get-Trump country is that Romney (and maybe McCain) were so demonized by the liberal press that the media's scorched-earth attack on them (Romney gave someone cancer! BINDERS OF WOMEN!) meant that the only reasonable alternative was, of course Trump.

In other words: attack an honorable man like Romney, you'll be responsible when voters elect a dishonorable guy like Trump.

The Omnivore is here to tell you this is all bullshit. Of course you won't believe The Omnivore--and you won't read the argument carefully enough to make a cogent rebuttal--but you get to look at it anyway. The Omnivore is generous like that.


Who Got It Worse--And How Would We Tell?

This is a harder question than it might first appear. There are a number of different dimensions on how presidents are treated and we need to consider them. The Omnivore avers that these are (more or less):

  1. News Reporting - Is the media's news about the president generally good or bad?
  2. Entertainment Response - How does the American entertainment system view the president?
  3. Partisan Media - What does partisan media say about the president? How far off the "center" do they push the narrative?
  4. Populace Hatred / Violence / Vitriol - What do non-media voices and actions think about the president?

1. News Reporting


We are 1 year into Trump's tenure and it is certain that his news reporting has been worse than Obama's. Of course he's also had a far worse first year than Obama did.  For example: despite controlling every branch of government (if you include a majority of conservatives on SCOTUS) the Trump administration has been:
  • Unable to repeal Obamacare
  • Unable to start the wall and make Mexico pay for it
There's, of course, a lot more to the story--but suffice it to say that Trump's problems with the Republican Agenda are not the media's fault. They're not even the Democrat's fault. If you think that Obama's first year should have been factually reported as negatively as Trump's, you're crazy.

Loser: Trump - He did get reported worse, but he worked hard to earn it.

Let's look a little deeper: What about false stories? A major contention of Trump-supporters is that the MSM, out to get Trump, makes up stories and reports falsehoods. They can list them--greedily--ticking them off: The FISH FEEDING STORY!! The LEAKS THAT TURNED OUT TO BE FAKE! THE TRUTH ABOUT PHOENIX SPEECH TURN-OUT, CNN HAD TO FIRE PEOPLE, and so on.

It is true that: (a) The media, composed of educated liberals is demographically definitely opposed to Trump and (b) that some of the reporting has been false. It is true that there is a "rush to get Trump" that didn't exist for Obama.

So Trump gets it worse there. Is that the whole story? Not . . . exactly.

First things first: major media outlets do not as a matter of operational accord just make up stories. They don't "make up" anonymous sources. Malfeasance can happen anywhere--but by and large the (multitude) of stories appearing daily in the MSM are based on sound journalistic practice.

So what's going on with Trump beyond the fact that they don't like him? Well, Trump contributes to chaos in news around him in a way that Obama did not. Huh? The Omnivore is just being partisan again? Okay--tell The Omnivore which of these you disagree with:
  1. Trump's "palace intrigue" levels are off the charts. Obama had some major staff fluctuations but was comparatively super-sedate. This creates leaks from Trump's people--which are going to contribute to false stories or, at least, some awful-sounding but hard to verify ones.
  2. Trump and Obama both sparred with the press--but Trump outright lies to them (or has his press secretary lie to them)--in over-the-top, trivial / petty ways that Obama did not. This is going to create more tension than Obama did. This doesn't excuse bad behavior or bad reporting--but it can take a chaotic situation and make it worse.
  3. Trump is a bigger news generator than Obama. Plainly. More news, more mistakes.
  4. Trump, perhaps, has the Intelligence Community against him. Obama did not. This may well be Trump's own doing (to hear ex-IC people tell it, anyway).
  5. Trump, being a political novice in a way Obama wasn't, has come into the White House in a whirl of scandal (Flynn resignation, firing Comey and Sessions rescuing himself), and so on. This, again, doesn't excuse false stories--but it is going to create chaos in reporting in a way that is, again, self-inflicted.
So let's look at some of the blown stories:
  • Rosenstein Threatened To Quit: WaPo reports someone said he did. He denies it. Assessment: probably not fake reporting, might be wrong though. This isn't specifically about Trump. NOT #fakenews.
  • Comey Resource Request: NYT reported that Comey had asked the DoJ for more resources. When Comey's deputy got to congress he denied they were needed. Observers noted that the FBI had to wait a long time for a DAG to be confirmed to help oversee the probe from the DoJ. Not specifically about Trump. POSSIBLY #fakenews.
  • CNN Claims Trump Is Under Investigation: Jeff Toobin claimed that Trump was under investigation. He wasn't--not specifically. BUT: this was not a reported news story. It was a talking head legal analyst who got his facts wrong. NOT #fakenews.
  • CNN Connected Grand Jury Subpoenas to Comey's Firing: Subpoenas were issued to Flynn about business records in the Russia case. CNN said 'they learned of the subpoenas hours before Trump fired Comey'--this makes it sound like it's connected. They weren't. This is a gray-zone (the reporting is correct--and is a scoop--but it casts the president in a bad light). We'll call this a case of bias-in-the-news but it is NOT #fakenews.
  • CNN Reports Scarmucci Linked to Russian Bank Under Senate Investigation: The story went live but there was a breakdown in procedures. Three people were fired. YES - #fakenews.
  • Trump-Blows-A-Kiss-To-Comey: This was tweeted and then some media outlets picked it up. In fact, it seems unlikely (by the audio-exchange) that Trump was "blowing a kiss" to Comey. Much has been made over the tweeting of the story rather than the news outlets reporting on the event--but we'll call this YES - #fakenews.
  • Neil Gorsuch's Fascism Forever Club: Gorsuch listed the club as a joke in his high school year book. Some outlets like Vice, The Nation, and US News and World Report reported on it. There was some tweeting. YES - #fakenews (but, uh, it maybe wasn't that much of a joke).
  • Trump Considered a Proposal To Mobilize The National Guard To Secure Mexico: AP reported it--but it was mostly bogus (there was a pre-release draft. It didn't say what critics said it did, like, mostly at all). YES - #fakenews.
  • NPR and Reuters Reported that Kuwait's Ambassador Held a 60k event at Trump Hotel when Trump was There. Pay-to-Play? No. They got their dates mixed up, issued retractions. NOT #fakenews.
  • Sessions 'Filth' Scandal: Prepared remarks by Sessions described international criminal organizations that rape and kill innocent civilians as filth. He left out the 'filth' in spoken remarks. People tweeted that he called illegal immigrants filth. 1. This was tweeted, not reported (there was an article in the Daily Kos). 2. He wasn't talking about illegal immigrants--as a whole. So that wasn't fair. It also wasn't about Trump, the line about filth was in the printed remarks. This wasn't a MSM report so, despite being defamatory and wrong it's NOT #fakenews.
  • Laughing at Sessions: A woman laughed at Sessions, got escorted out, got prosecuted for disorderly conduct. It was reported as her being convicted "for laughing." Not true the way the stories reported it. Not about Trump--but, YES - #fakenews.
  • Fake Beer Story: Tweets postulated that there was a big beer bash after passing house healthcare reform. There wasn't. However, this was mostly tweeted (Joe Scarborough called the news about it deplorable--but it wasn't a news report). Therefore: NOT #fakenews.
  • Rape Is A Pre-Existing Condition: The ACA reform allowed a hypothetical insurance company to see that you had taken medication proscribed after a rape and use that as an existing pre-condition by which to raise your rates. Yes - that could happen. No, that was not in the bill. It made waves though. We'll call it YES - #fakenews.
  • The Ivanka Fund That Wasn't: A report said that Ivanka had a fund. The Saudis were paying into it. She didn't (the fund was "inspired by her."). This was reported as potential corruption. It wasn't. So; YES - #fakenews.
  • Phoenix Crowd Sizes: Trump gave a speech in Phoenix. A person there reported a crowd size that was small. An examination of the venue by the local Phoenix paper indicates that that number was just for the main chamber. Trump's number (reported as a lie) includes all the chambers (fair) and people turned away (estimated--but at least reasonable). This means that Trump was more or less right--but the reporting wasn't malicious--it was just using a security person's sound bite report. That is NOT #fakenews.
Scoring:
6 Fake
6 Not Fake
1 Unkown

Stories About Trump Specifically (Counting Ivanka as "about Trump"): 6 out of 13.

What Does This Tell Us?
There may be more "fake news" candidates than this--but going by Google, it would appear that out of literally thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of stories printed about Trump, there were 13 major candidates for "fake-news reporting" and most of them were not about Trump and half of them were not fake enough to qualify as real, malicious, made-up news.


What Does This Mean For Trump vs. Obama?
There were numerous, numerous made-up stories about Obama from Fox (such as Ebola getting more resources than ISIS thrown at it from Britt Hume, or Lou Dobs claiming that Obama manipulated deportation numbers to make them seen higher). Since Fox was the #1 network at the time it does not count as "partisan media" (which we'll do later). 

On the fake-news about Trump count, The Omnivore considers that the charge that Trump is getting it worse than Obama is overblown to start with--but, worse, Trump has far more aggravating factors in play than Obama did.

WORSE FOR: TIE


2. Entertainment Wing Response

Trump gets it worse for sure here. Firstly, the right doesn't have an "entertainment wing" the same way that the left does. Hollywood is almost entirely leftwing. Rightwing Talk Radio and Fox 'entertainment' talking heads only claim they're entertainment when the chips are down. Otherwise they're really partisan media. All the comedy-news shows are left. Except Carlson Tucker--but his audience thinks he's news too.

On the other hand, what has the Entertainment Wing done to Trump? Well, let's see . . . We really only have to look at one.

Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live has been brutal to the Trump administration. No questions asked. They weren't to Obama. It is important to note that some of the targets (Sean Spicer, notably) are making themselves targets by, essentially, lying their asses off to the press. That wasn't imaginary--the press secretaries that Trump has sent out have had to do an impossible and highly mockable job. 

They didn't acquit themselves well. This is self-inflicted. On the other hand, having Alec Baldwin do a devastatingly funny Trump impersonation isn't. They didn't have this for Obama.

WORSE FOR: TRUMP

3. Partisan Media

Yes, yes--The Omnivore knows: The Mainstream Media is partisan. Here's the deal, skippy - first off, news is either adhering to standardized journalistic practices (major networks) or not (partisan networks). Secondly, the subset of outlets that interface with politics and do not do standardized best-practices journalism encompasses things like The Daily Kos or Salon and Pajamas Media or Breitbart.

Fox is both--its nightly news is, in fact, news. Oh, sure, it has bias--but they all do. The talking heads? Those guys are partisan media (Bill O'Riley, Hannity, etc.). This also includes, on the right, Limbaugh, the talk radio guys (Levin) and so on. 

So how'd they do?

What Partisan Media Says About Trump
What is the left's story on Trump? Well, let's see:
  1. He's racist. He called for the Central Park 5 to be executed and has still never backed off (even though they were exonerated). He got sued in one of the biggest civil rights discrimination cases ever and settled. Etc. They say he's racist.
  2. He's sexist. Locker room talk, eh?
  3. He's crazy / suffering literal dementia / is a certifiable narcissist. Yep. They say that.
  4. He's incompetent or just stupid. The first is less partisan media than a kind of meta-narrative about his overall effectiveness--but claims that Trump is stupid are within the partisan zone for sure.
  5. He's small-mined and mean. He's a bully.
  6. He's a white supremacist. This is different than being a racist, subtly. In this charge he's promoting the Klan/Nazis. In the first, he's personally acting racist.
What'd they say about Obama?
  1. He's racist. That he either hated white people or wanted to stoke racial animosity.
  2. He's a narcissist. This was literally said. 
  3. He's incompetent and stupid. His book was ghost-wrote. He can't speak without a teleprompter.
  4. He wasn't born in the US / has a secret evil history. Our current president said this.
  5. He's a crypto-Muslim. Yep, this was said / believed. A lot of people think he's an out-and-proud Muslim.
  6. He's secretly gay. Yep. It's a story.
Now--you ask what the weighting of all this is? Right--does the MSM overwhelm the partisan media? Is biased / #fakenews reporting in the NYT so much more impactful than Breitbart? Of course you do. You have to. But let's be honest here.

Culturally, yes--the Washington Post and New York Times have far more cachet. However: 
  • Partisan Media, including the talking heads on Fox reaches 50% of the voting population with far more trust and efficiency than the mainstream media reaches "the left."
  • Partisan media played a massive role in both the Republican primary and the election of Trump in the general election. If you don't agree with that, you're being an idiot.
  • The right has tuned out the mainstream media to a nearly complete extent.
As such, yes, Pajamas Media is pretty crappy as a traditional news source--but the right-wing spectrum is as politically powerful as the left.

Having said that, let's also acknowledge that while some of what is said by partisan media about Trump is bullshit (he probably isn't actually crazy and doesn't fit a narcissist diagnosis done at range by telepathy) let's also not pretend that more of Trump's partisan attacks are aided by self-inflicted wounds. 
  1. He fumbled the White Nationalist thing. Badly.
  2. He did say all those things on the pussy-tape.
  3. He sure looked like he mocked a reporter.
  4. Threatening to lock up Hillary looked autocratic and petty.
  5. He really was sued for discrimination. 
The Omnivore will go so far as to grant that partisan media--by definition of being partisan--is making overblown or overly broad claims about Trump--but if you argue that Trump is not aiding and abetting those charges, you are simply in denial.

There's one more thing: the right wing media is more conspiracy obsessed than the left-wing partisan media. What? You don't agree. Okay, folks: I give you Alex Jones being promoted by POTUS. Sit down now. I can keep going--trust me. But I don't need to: YOU BEEN TRUMPED.
CONCLUSION: It would be a tie until you get to the Birther In Chief being president and otherwise rational people on the right believing wild conspiracies because of degenerate right-wing media. Obama got it worse from partisan media. 

WHO GOT IT WORSE? OBAMA.

3. The Populace
What about the great span of humanity that isn't The Media? Do they HATE Trump more than they HATE Obama? How would we even measure that? Well, we have a few markers.
  1. What do the protest signs say? Which are more hateful?
  2. Helooo--Inauguration Day Riots, anyone?
  3. Who has the most hateful memes?
  4. Who has the most hateful conspiracy theories?
  5. What about hanging in effigy / artistic "decapitations"?
Protest Signs
Let's ask Google Images for the first picture under: "Obama / Trump protest signs" and . . . RATE THE HATE!


MOST HATEFUL TO: OBAMA

Okay, okay--let's take the first ROW of signs. How about that? (Click the image to be able to read it)


Is that better? The first row of signs is pretty respectable for anti-Trump and racist as hell for anti-Obama.

MOST HATEFUL TO: OBAMA

Inauguration Day Riots
There was a riot on the day of Trump's inauguration. Lots of property damage was done. A limo was torched. Six police officers were injured. One guy was sentenced to four months in jail for assaulting them. Here's a few things to note:
  1. Every presidential inauguration has had protests since, at least, Nixon.
  2. The vast majority of the protesters on Inauguration day were peaceful. There weren't any arrests at the so-called "women's riot" the next day.
  3. While 200 people were arrested in DC on inauguration day, many of them were swept up in mass-arrests and the charges were dropped.
In other words: this wasn't apocalyptic. You'll disagree, Trump-voter--but you've gotta show your work on this. Still, Trump wins this one.

MOST HATEFUL TO: TRUMP

Anti-Trump / Obama Memes - Emails
The top-left Google Image for Anti-Trump/Obama memes returns this:



Okay, that didn't work. Let's look at the first page and find the "two most hateful"?



An analysis of the anti-X memes suggests that the worst of the anti-Obama memes--in fact, many of the anti-Obama memes--just went to hard-core racism. The Omnivore had a hard time finding much directed at Trump beyond either calling him stupid/a joke or trashing his character in broad terms.

MOST HATEFUL TO: OBAMA

The Conspiracy Theories?
One of the ways that hatred projects itself is in conspiracy theories: this is the fin-cresting the water of "I really hate the guy--but I don't have a good reason--so, hey, maybe he's an alien!" What conspiracy theories are spread about each man? In this case we will go beyond what the "partisan media said" and go straight to the cray-cray.

Again, we are going with google searches on Obama / Trump conspiracy theory.

Obama: Man, where to start. There was the Jade Helm was gonna take over America thing. The Omnivore finds that on the first page. There's the secret plot to bring 100-million Muslims into America (apparently to create the caliphate). The Omnivore is aware that Alex Jones claimed that Hillary and Obama were demon possessed and surrounded by flies.

During Obama's campaign there were not one but three anti-Obama movies. One is Dinesh D'Souza's--and it's lame but isn't a conspiracy theory exactly. But two of them questioned Obama's birth. One claims to have naked pictures of his mother (shown on screen--they aren't--but man is it tawdry). These were mailed out to random Republicans.

There is: "He thanked Satan in his acceptance speech." (No, really).  He threatened to kill Chelsea Clinton (no, really). He married his male college roommate (no, really). He purged generals who would stop his takeover of America (seriously, this was a theory). He has killed a whole lot of people. And--he teleported to Mars. Seriously.

These are silly--but make no mistake: people believed them. People believed he was Muslim and swore in on a Koran. People were told these things (maybe not the Mars one) by people they trusted in the conservative media sphere. These ridiculous stories are cited as reasons by people who don't like him.

These things have real impact.

Trump: Searching for conspiracy theories on Trump turns up the silly Melania Body-Double theory. There is a story that Trump sent the head of the CIA to meet with a Seth-Rich Truther conspiracy theorist. Oh, wait--that's real.

There's the story that Trump likes Alex Jones--hold on, that's real too. There's the theory that Trump colluded with the Russians. Uh . . . that's being investigated.

There is a theory that 3 million illegals voted but no one can prove it. That's--wait, that's his.

Louise Mench has numerous conspiracy theories about Trump--that he's been impeached already or some shit. There is a conspiracy theory that Trump is being targeted by the Deep State. That one might be real depending on how you define "targeted" and "deep state."

In other words? Trump's "conspiracy theories" are mostly either (a) real theories, (b) the actual truth, or (c) coming from him. The remainder is the Louise Mench theory which is stupid--but does not allege that he is the anti-Christ or, in fact, that he's worse than most people think. It just alleges that the rest of the government has already done something.

The Deep State theory is less a conspiracy theory and more a "conspiracy observation." The idea that it's Obama saboteurs who are doing the leaking is (a) overshadowed by Trump's own White House staff which is definitely doing a lot of the leaking and (b) the fact that the theory, if true, means that Trump's calling the CIA Nazis (or whatevs) got personal.

It's not saying that there's a praetorian guard that's going to remove him--just that there are crypto-Democrats trying to smear him by releasing (presumably real) intel. 

MOST HATEFUL TO: OBAMA

Effigies And Visual Threats
Trump had the beheading thing. She apologized and lost her job. Trump has been made into a pinata which, is "kind of hanging" but more getting hit with a stick.Trump has been hung in effigy. There are pictures. There aren't that many. Obama had a gigantic portfolio of lynching signs and effigies.

You can say that hanging is hanging and it's all the same. The last black guy was lynched by the Klan in 1980's which, you know, you were alive for. You knew that right? What this comes down to is that there's a massive racial overtone here that you don't want to acknowledge. That's okay: The Omnivore (and you) know why it is.

It's Just a Hanging. Right?
WORSE FOR: OBAMA

Conclusions

The final score is:
  1. News Reporting: TIE
  2. Entertainment Wing: TRUMP
  3. Partisan Media: OBAMA
  4. General Populace: OBAMA
In other words, who got it unfairly worse--worse press, worse hate? It's Obama. 

The reason you think Trump got it worse is because (a) you don't acknowledge Trump's obvious--and unarguable self-inflicted wounds in the calculation, (b) because you either didn't pay attention to what was said about Obama or just figured he "deserved it" (The Omnivore knows--YES, The Omnivore is arguing that "Trump deserves it." If you wanna argue that's not reasonable, give The Omnivore a real, actual breakdown of the allegations vs. Trump's own actions and see what it looks like for yourself).

There's also (c) you you minimize things you don't like. So if Breitbart runs a racist story or two, you think "Eh. That's an outlier." When emails come out showing that Milo was working with White Supremacists and was doing this stuff under Bannon's aegis, you go "Eh. Bannon isn't racist so ipso hocus-pocus I should ignore this stuff." When Fox News runs 8 years of relentless anti-Obama talking-head conspiracy garbage designed to scare old people into buying gold you go "Eh. It was maybe a good investment. Whatever."

And then you claim whatever you want because you've convinced yourself that your arguments are so common-sense that you just don't need to--indeed can't--back them up with jack shit.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Dempire Strikes Back

Last night was the special-election equivalent of a wave-election. Democrats won seats in Georgia. A transgender heavy metal singer defeated a Virginia incumbent who launched a bathroom-bill similar to North Carolina's.

The VA governor race was polled as tight--but turned into a 9pt Democrat blow-out. The turnout percentages in VA matched those in last years presidential election. This isn't even a mid-term.

What Does It Mean?

You f'ing know what it means.


What Happened?

Yesterday The Omnivore's brother's pastor sent The Omnivore this link. The title of the piece is "The Price We've Paid." The article is about the current explosion of Hollywood sexual abuse and the lack of moral authority on the part of evangelicals to witness it (in the spiritual sense--not the visual sense). This lack of moral authority is, of course, due to throwing in their lot with Trump.

Erick Erickson, on NPR, explains it like this: (paraphrase) Over the Obama years Christians became convinced that they were going to be persecuted to a degree that would destroy them. They were looking at a culture getting away from them and, they thought, being driven by a liberal elite in Academia, Hollywood, and, of course, from the White House.

They threw in with Trump not because he exemplified any of their values--but because they thought he would hurt their enemies. In Erickson's view, this was, ehhh kinda justified. That's because Erick Erickson has largely cast himself in the role of a culture warrior--and when you are a warrior . . . you want to win.

What CPhilips notes in the article The Omnivore was sent, was that in doing so--in choosing as a warrior someone who is the antithesis of your values you put "winning" in the physical realm over behaving properly in the spiritual realm. When someone trades their soul for a billion dollars in a story, we can all see the towering stupidity of that.

When confronted with the political equivalent in real life, Jerry Falwell Jr. was signing that contract in blood as fast as he could get the vein open.

Who knew?

What The Heck Does That Have To Do With The Election??

The Omnivore will tell you--but as The Omnivore pointed out--you already knew. You just don't want to admit it (if you voted for Trump). Just as evangelicals are coming to realize that Trump, in no way, represents their spiritual values, America is realizing that Trump doesn't represent American values. America has never been a "me-first, the rest of the world can go pound sand" nation. Oh, sure, we've flirted with it--but our best-selves? We're that shining city on the hill.

Our job isn't to be the long suffering, exhausted, complaining 'World Police Man.' Our job is to be the fucking good guys--the cavalry--fucking GI-fucking-Joe. Trump's "America First" nationalism reeks of the Nazi's American-First Nationalism because it's from the same source (Bannon) and because it has the same adherents (literal Nazis).

Trump isn't just an incompetent president--Trump is recognizably un-American. He's remaking the GOP in his image--and in doing so, ceding patriotism to the Democrats. How does The Omnivore know?

Simple: Papa John's just had to tell literal Nazis not to buy their pizza*. This is after Trump got involved in the NFL kneeling debate and, by virtue of his appeal to white nationalism (you can debate whether he wants it or not--but you can't debate he has that appeal), polarized it so that Papa John's got a literal endorsement from the Daily Stormer.

Even if people don't see the (obvious) connections there, they sure as hell feel it.

The same way that evangelicals gave up their spiritual power to win a material-world culture war (one that they weren't even legitimately fighting--but that's a different article), the butt-hurt angry GOP-Trump base gave up American Values in order to "win" a cultural battle that (again) they were fundamentally misunderstanding.

We know that if you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks in to you--but what about when you choose the abyss as your champion? What then?


* Look for Trump to tell White Nationalists not to vote for him--right? Papa John's just showed how easy that is, eh?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Assessing the Dossier Part 1.

By request, The Omnivore takes a second look at the Trump dossier. How much is true? How much is verified?

What follows is a summary / paraphrase of each point of intelligence and The Omnivore's assessment of its veracity.

Charge 1: Kremlin Had Interest In Promoting Trump Campaign

1. Russian authorities have been cultivating TRUMP for at least 5 years with the aim, by Putin to "sow discord and disunity" in the US.

Assessment: TRUE ELEMENTS
Notes: We don't know what exactly "cultivates" means--but it seems likely that Trump was on Russia's radar for quite a while. We have pretty good evidence from the recent FB revelations that disunity and chaos was the goal

2. Kremlin has been feeding TRUMP intel on Clinton for "several years." Also used business deals that haven't panned out (2018 World Cup).

Assessment: FALSE* (but Don Jr's. Meeting plays this out)
Notes: While it appears that there were at least attempted exchanges of intel, that does not seem to have been going on for "several years." However, we know that the Kremlin was interested in feeding Don Jr. Clinton Intel.

3. The Pee Tape.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: Eww.

4. More Embarrassing Kompromat. TRUMP stayed at the Moscow Ritz Carlton in 2013.
Assessment: TRUE ELEMENTS- He was at the Ritz Carlton in 2013.
Notes: The rest is unverified (i.e. the compromising material).

5. Clinton Kompromat is mostly intercepted phone conversations.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: While not exactly verified, there is simply no reason to think this is false.

6. Clinton Dossier is controlled by Dmitry PESKOV, chief Kremlin spokesman. 
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: There is no reason to believe this is false.

Overall Assessment of Charge 1

TRUE. We know from Don Jr.'s emails that it was accepted in the Trump campaign that Russia was interested in helping the Trump campaign. We know from the FB ads that chaos was the ultimate goal. We are pretty sure they claimed to (and likely did) have dirt on Clinton.

Charge 2: Russian State sponsored Cyber-Crime Operations

Russia has an active cyber-crime organization that targets the west and western business men.

1. Russians target banks, governments, and the elite in other countries.
Assessment: TRUE
Notes: Pretty much common knowledge.

2. Russians had limited success against "1st Tier" targets (G7, NATO, Central Banks) and were focusing on greater success in secondary targets (western banks, business men, anyone with ethnic ties to Russia).
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: Frankly, it looks like they were pretty successful against the NSA, tbh.

3. Russians targeted people of Russian (Jewish) origin and got them to install Russian software with trojans ("IT games").
Assessment: PROBABLY TRUE
Notes: No reason to believe this is false.

4. One FSB operation was invested and had made a backdoor to important western institutions.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: Could well be true.

5. Telegram system compromised.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED.

6. Russia having increasing problems with Cyber-Crime from inside Russia.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Note: Russia's security services are, apparently, absolutely brutal to Russians going after Russian assets--but turn a blind eye to those attacking outside of Russia. If this is true, it's pretty ballsy.

Overall Assessment of Charge 2

This section is largely immaterial to the US politics. 

Charge 3: Russia/US Election Ties Between Trump & Kremlin

1. MANAFORT using Carter PAGE coordinated a conspiracy of co-operation between Trump and Russia.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: This is not yet verified--but it certainly seems like it could well be the case.

2. Russian regime was behind DNC-Leak to Wikileaks. In return the TRUMP team agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and raise US/NATO defense commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe as a way to deflect attention away from Ukraine.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: The quid-pro-quo here seems to have played out. We don't know if the agreement was the cause or not.

3. Kremlin work vs. CLINTON Used Agents Within Democratic Party, Russian Cyber Offensive Inside US, and State Cyber working from Russia.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: Remember that Pakistani guy who tried to flee the country from the DNC? Hmmm . ..

4. TRUMP provided data on activities of Russian business oligarchs in the US.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED.
Notes: Could Trump provide this?

5. Media Focus on TRUMP-RUSSIA distracted from dealings in CHINA which involved huge kick-backs.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: Trump backed off his hardline stance against China. Maybe they could air dirty laundry?

6. TRUMP wanted business ventures in St. Petersburg--but settled for prostitutes.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: Eh.

Overall Assessment of Charge 3

This seems "within the realm" of what we know--Russia had hooks into Manafort (likely) and used him. Wikileaks, The Omnivore believes, is Russian backed. Trump definitely was Russian-Friendly on Ukraine. While unverified, this paints the picture that Mueller's investigation seems to be drawing.

Charge 4: Russian Meetings with Carter Page

1. Russian people met in secret with Carter Page in July 2016.
Assessment: TRUE ELEMENTS.
Notes: Page went to Russia in July 2016 with approval of Trump campaign.

2. Offered Energy Cooperation to lift Ukraine sanctions. Page was "positive" but did not commit.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: Trump is definitely sanction-hostile when it comes to Russia.

3.  Offered release of 'kompromat' on CLINTON.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Note: Page traveled in early July (7th). DNC Emails leaked July 22.

4. Russia indicated had kompromat on TRUMP.
Assessment: TRUE
Note: If nothing else, they had Don Jr's. Trump-Tower meeting which was, yes, potentially compromising.

Overall Assessment of Charge 4

The players seem to be in the right places at the right times. The material discussed is inline with what we know happened.

Charge 5: DNC Hacking Might Be Out Of Control

1. Russians were concerned that DNC Hack Fall-Out was raising too many questions.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: This would be in "late July" which means that Russia was being "fingered" by the media, etc. This would likely be a 'legitimate concern.'

2. Kremlin wanted plausible deniability and so would lay off pro-Trump / Anti-Clinton for the time being.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes:Who knows.

3. TRUMP had provided intel on Russian Oligarch's activities in US for 8 years.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: Who knows.

4. Kremlin says they had more stuff on CLINTON--but wasn't sure if they would release. Assured TRUMP they would not release kompromat on TRUMP thanks to helpfulness.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: Well, we still don't have the "pee-tape."

Overall Assessment of Charge 5

This indicates that there was a solid chain of communication between Team Trump and the Russians. If true then communication wasn't entirely through cut-outs or a single channel that Trump wouldn't know about (i.e. Russia didn't just talk to Manafort and Trump had no idea Russia was talking to Manafort). This should be the kind of thing Mueller finds or doesn't.

Charge 6: More Backlash On DNC Hacking

1. Internal Russians Thought Maybe Russia 'Went Too Far.' In Helping Trump.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: There is some evidence that this may functionally turn out to be the case. Other countries are horrified. There has been anti-Russia backlash, etc.

2. People were worried about being scapegoated by PUTIN.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: The Omnivore would be worried about being scapegoated by Putin--for sure.

3. MEDVEDEV wants to have good relations with the US, whoever is there.
Assessment: TRUE
Notes: The idea of getting totally caught for this is, likely, a cost that the Kremlin would not want to pay. Trump winning may have been "too good" in that respect.

4. Talk of forcing TRUMP to withdraw--his psychological state is "unsuitable for high office."
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: If they felt that Trump's temperament was unsuited to high office, The Omnivore agrees with that.

Overall Assessment of Charge 6

This seems reasonable given the Trump-Russia conspiracy scenario. Trump as a spoiler is a great chaos-agent. Trump as president is wildly unstable.

Charge 7: Evolving Tactics In Pro-Trump / Anti-Clinton Operation

1. Russians hold off on more leaks because they got fingered for Wikileaks.
Assessment: TRUE ELEMENTS
Notes: There weren't any more leaks and, yes, Russia did get totally blamed.

2. Targeting would be the American Youth who could be persuaded to vote Trump in PROTEST against CLINTON.
Assessment: TRUE ELEMENTS
Notes: We have pretty solid evidence that the #BernieOrBust effort was enhanced by the Russians.

3. PUTIN Satisfied with anti-Clinton operations to date.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: He oughta have been.

4. Three-Fronts: Asking sympathetic US actors how Moscow could help, gather relevant intel, create and disseminating compromising info. Worked with LAROUCHE and JILL STEIN and Carter PAGE and Michael FLYNN.
Assessment: TRUE ELEMENTS
Notes: Certainly Stein seemed to be ultra friendly with Russia. We know Flynn had meetings he concealed.

Overall Assessment of Charge 7

This seems to be what happened--especially with the shifting focus to the protest-vote (Bernie / Stein).

Charge 8: Reaction in Trump Camp To Recent Negative Publicity About Russian Help

1. DNC Leak was supposed to move BERNIE voters to TRUMP. Carter PAGE had been advised.
Assessment: TRUE ELEMENTS
Notes: This was certainly the effect. 

2. Strategy revision was to counter CLINTON exploiting PUTIN as a "boogyman" to tarnish TRUMP.
Assessment: TRUE ELEMENTS
Notes: This is, again, how things played out. Cause vs. effect is unknown, of course.

3. Anger in Republican candidate's team at weakening of American democracy.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Notes: If anyone on Team Trump had these concerns, where are they?

Overall Assessment of Charge 8

Again, Trump is undeniably a chaos-agent and it seems likely that Russia could reasonably fear blow-back. Then again, who knows?

Charge 9: Trump-Lawyer Cohen's Secret Russian Meetings

1. Cohen met with Russians in August 2016 in Prague.
Assessment: FALSE
Note: We don't know if Cohen met with Russians or not--but we know his passport doesn't show him in Prague.

2. COHEN was being used as a sort of cut-out, meeting with someone else for plausible deniability.
Assessment: TRUE ELEMENTS
Note: We know Cohen was trying to get a deal going during the campaign with Russia and other emails that have come to light suggest a cash-motive between COHEN and others to get Trump elected.

3. Additional plausible deniability on the Russian side.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Note: Who knows.

Overall Assessment of Charge 9

Cohen wasn't in Europe during the dossier time-frames. On the other hand, he issued absolute blanket denials of talking with Russia--and he was trying to. Also: if there was extreme care to protect Cohen from suspicion, could the email have been a coded message? WHO KNOWS!?


Charge 10: Trump's Campaign Manager Manafort

1. Manafort got paid in kick-backs for which there was "no clear evidence.'
Assessment: TRUE ELEMENTS
Note: Manafort sure does seem to have received illegal payments from Russia for various activities relating to Ukraine.

2. Russia was still concerned about MANAFORT'S activities coming to light.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED
Note: They certainly should have been.

3. In addition to scandal, LEWANDOWSKI also wanted MANAFORT gone.
Assessment: TRUE
Note: Pretty sure this is a matter of record.

Overall Assessment of Charge 10

This all squares with what Mueller seems to think happened.

Charge 11: Fallout From Media Exposure of Russia

1. Putin ordered SILENCE on all matters of Russian interference.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED.
Note: Seems prudent, if he did.

2. There was dissension in the Russian ranks on how-to-handle the scandal.
Assessment: UNVERIFIED.
Note: Seems likely if, indeed, anything happened at all.

3. There was more kompromat on CLINTON--but they felt they could make her look "weak and stupid" without it!
Assessment: TRUE ELEMENTS
Note: They didn't seem to need any more revelations.

4. The goal was to push American policy towards Russian interests regardless of who won (i.e. dismantle Obama policies and pull out of TPP).
Assessment: TRUE ELEMENTS
Note: The fact that Russia doesn't like Obama's policies or the TPP should be a clue to y'all.

NOTE: This is as far as The Omnivore can go today. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Game Change

Mark Halperin--co-author of the book Game Change--is now being accused by five women of sexual harassment. The Omnivore doesn't know too much about the guy but he's a pretty big name in political reporting.

Forget about that: According to this, George H.W. Bush declared his favorite magician to be "David Cop-a-Feel" and groped a woman's bottom.

The Omnivore says: What the fuck?

It is not--or, at least, should not be shocking that this sort of thing happens--but that an 80+ year old ex-president is using what might be the world's least classy "pick up line" to grope from his wheel-chair is a level of ridiculousness that exceeds The Omnivore's expectations.

Please know that The Omnivore's expectations go pretty high. It takes a lot to shock him--but David-Cop-A-Feel clears the bar easily. That's before you throw in the wheelchair.

What's Going On?

It appears that the age of being quiet about sexual harassment by powerful men is over--Cosby escaped--but he might be the last one. Clearly there is sufficient momentum right now to air these accusations--and women are more willing to back each other up. It's also noteworthy that while Bill O'Rilely blamed God for the "lies", George H.W. Bush apologized for his actions.

In other words: it doesn't all seem to be made up. In fact, given that Bill-O shelled out 32 million bucks, it doesn't really look like any of it is made up.

Essentially, if we look at the headlines over the past year or so, it looks like we've crossed an inflection point of silence to talkin'.

The Ramifications?

The obvious ramification is that some people are gonna get their careers hit--pretty hard, it looks like--maybe fatally. The public's view of this looks akin to the change on drunk driving when it went from something you did because you were a cool dude who could handle his liquor to something you didn't do because you weren't an asshole.

Are there any other ramifications? Maybe.


  1. The Omnivore considers that in some organizations--for some women--there was, in fact, an "exchange of value." Now, it was non-consensual--coerced by the men in power exploiting their victims--but in terms of the net-net, is it possible that landing a lead role in a movie was "worth it"? Did anyone think like that? Was there a channel of ambition that this behavior created that some people exploited? Maybe.
  2. The Omnivore does not think that these claims are false--not now--not yet--but in the future could this be weaponized? Sure it could. Get five women with a decent spread of interaction--work up a story. Have them all tell it. Or threaten to tell it--and extract money. This sort of thing violates the rules of keeping secrets (one, two, by three people it's no longer a secret). It also would require a good roll-out and some decent acting. Remember--there has to be no visible collusion before the allegations. The blackmail has to be done without any traces (unrecorded voice conversations). There has to be interactions without other people present. The Omnivore thinks this is unlikely to be put together--but are we going to reach the age of VP Pence's "never dine alone with a non-wife-woman"? Maybe.
  3. How deep will the initial blow go? The Omnivore didn't see Halprin or Bush coming. The Omnivore, on the other hand, wasn't terribly surprised by Weinstein (the "casting couch" was coined to describe exactly this, after all). However, if this is more rampant than we think it is, could we see a deluge of people being credibly accused? How does this impact politicians? Entertainers? Professionals? Could we see a kind of "extinction event" in some sectors (Hollywood!)?
  4. Does this make women leadership more valuable? Women seem to be less likely to sexually harass than men--or, if it happens, at least it has a different cultural valence to it. If you are trying to protect your company do you prize women at higher levels because they are less likely to abuse their power in this case?

Some Parting Thoughts

There is a case to be made that Social Justice-style cultural changes are coming fast--maybe "too fast." (don't read too much into that--the 'too' just kind of refers to the elasticity of the culture's ability to absorb shifts--if changes happen "too fast" we have more chaos and disruption than if they happen slowly). If this isn't just a blip and is more of a cultural change it'll be a sign that something really has shifted--and that's noteworthy because we don't see that all that often.