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Thursday, September 6, 2018

The NYT Anon-OpEd: Bombshell or Dud?


Yesterday the failing New York Times published an anonymous Op-Ed by a "senior administration official" that has blown up the Internet. The statement is that Donald Trump is being undermined by members of his administration--people in his senior circle are intentionally working against him to stop him from wrecking the country.

What do we think?

Certainly Publishing This Will Make It Harder To Herd The President

The consistently and amusingly earnst Erick Erickson tweeted this:
This is almost certainly true--now anyone trying to coddle the POTUS into not running the Ship of State into an iceberg will be scrutinized for editorial writing. The Omnivore says "FUCK YOU" to the dear-friend who loves the guy: You're on the bridge with Admiral Stupid. The rest of us are stuck in steerage.

Should We Be Doing A25 Instead?

David Frum makes the case that the people doing the undermining are actually the people being "unconstitutional"--the 25th Amendment is a method for senior advisers to remove the president from office. As that's what it's for--if things are that bad, shouldn't they be doing this instead of writing "How I Saved The Republic On My Summer Vacation"?

The answer is "no." The 25th Amendment is basically designed for if the president is unconscious. The idea of trying to get a 25th-coup group together almost certainly fails at the "we ask the 3rd dude on the list and he blows the whistle" stage. This is not a situation where it works. Basically the president is too conscious and the admin, as whole, is too spineless to pull this off.

Same with impeachment: if the Republicans weren't spineless we'd have President Pence who, no matter his other flaws, is not ragingly incompetent and may be less in-bed with the Russians.

These ships--they have sailed. We're stuck with Trump.

Is It Even True?

Of course it is. When everyone who has written a book about the White House basically says the same thing and Bob Woodward's book, yet-to-be-released confirms some of it? We can be sure it's directionally true.This doesn't mean it's not overblown or whatever--but at this point? What Does It Matter??--Hillary Clinton

The worst part is: It's not even surprising.

If you voted for Trump this is what you could be pretty sure you were getting.

Is It A Ploy To Keep Republican Votes?

One of the more mystifying theories is that the piece is designed to make Republicans think they are in "good hands" with the mystery cabal. The Omnivore doubts that anyone who reads that piece will come away thinking "Wow--it's much better than I feared and there's no way the President will stop being fooled by these geniuses."

Isn't This Guy Kind of an Asshole?

It looks like he's happy to let Trump rampage as he will--with his blessing--so long as he doesn't abandon South Korea or something. Yes: the guy is pretty much an asshole. It's not that keeping the toddler from hitting the TV with a baseball bat isn't generally good for the household it's that having him pee on the couch because you really hate the color of it (rainbow stripes)--and making sure he keeps the bat so he can hit other things you, personally, care about less isn't being a responsible adult.

This doesn't make the OpEd writer look good.

Also: while it seems unlikely to The Omnivore that this guy wrote the OpEd in response to the Washington Post publishing excerpts from Woodward's The Fear--which, as noted, basically says the same thing (because the timelines likely do not mesh. The OpEd started with an intermediary reaching out to the NYT editorial office and then moved to contact with the official. This probably started before the Washington Post came out with their excerpts from The Fear--although the Sr. Official might have known he'd be represented in the book)--it is definitely a conscious move to avoid the fallout that everyone must know is coming.

Between a slew or lawsuits, the Mueller investigation, Trump's general behavior, and the various tell-all books (plus, like, the Omarosa tapes?) it seems likely that the people in a White House that is already a resume stain are looking for ways to improve their personal aftermath.

Can We Call Him 'Lodestar'?

Sr.-Admin-Hunters have fixed on the somewhat unusual term "Lodestar" used in the OpEd as an attempt to determine who the fuck even says that? It turns out Pence has used the word. Did we get him?

No. Firstly, apparently lawyers use the word fairly often. The White House is full of 'em. Secondly when writing an OpEd for the world's largest newspaper it is probable that the author will use a thesaurus to try to make it sound as good as they can. In any event, The Omnivore is happy to call the dude Lodestar.

What Now?

The Omnivore thinks a few things are likely: Trump will purge. Kim Jong Un either comforted or tweaked the president with this statement:

This, you know, in contrast to all of Trump's close aides who have said their Commander in Chief is a moron. Trump feels plagued and betrayed by his associates (apparently he is saying he can only trust his children--wait until Jared knifes him!). Trump will tighten the grip.

Trump will do something Bigly Stupid--there is no better way to show that You Ain't The Boss of Me than to do something your aides would prevent and stick to it--and make sure it really happens. The Omnivore isn't certain of this--but it sure does seem in character.

Other people will talk. This doesn't end here--now that someone has taken the first move (and going to The New York Times instead of, say, The Wall Street Journal) other people are going to need to position themselves. This means getting their versions of the story out and, possibly, "outing" rivals in the Game Of Thrones administration.

This may not be pulling the plug on the ship--but it is certainly at least a small avalanche.

Interesting times.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Crisis of Conservatism

It is no exaggeration to say that conservatism is in a crisis. With the GOP now representing the Party of Trump and the Democrats having taken over some of muscular foreign policy, exactly what is left of the GOP's original philosophy is hard to define. It is definitely pro-life--and strong 2A--but what else?

The problem is that Trumpian populism isn't all that conservative. American leadership in the world? No--it's America First, which is defitionally inward looking if not adversarial to both allies and enemies. Fiscal responsibility? Well, that ship sailed. Entitlement reform? No. The GOP position on health care? No idea. Immigration? Hostile, sure--but how hostile and how effective? We don't know. Free trade? We've got more tariffs now than ever before.

Also--look at the leading lights: Dinesh D'Souza has thankfully fallen far--but he's still on the NRO masthead and has a movie out the Trumpians are praising. Ben Shapiro has made more than a cottage industry of provoking "the libs"--but does he have any new ideas outside of zingers? No.

Guys like Bannon and Milo fire off Nazi symbols like flares while creating a kind of showmanship which is essentially just recruitment for a culture-war. The solid thinkers in the not-so-distant Age of Romney are almost entirely dispossessed.

Worse--the Never Trump conservatives have a problem they are only recently recognizing the magnitude of: Conservatism, as it stood, is not just unpopular. It is actually dead.

How Can The Omnivore Say / Know This?

Math.

Conservatism worked when:
  • We had an ideological enemy. Communism vs. Capitalism was a great back-stop for Conservative ideas. Democracy vs. Fascism too. Today? It's Capitalism vs. Really, Really Corrupt Capitalism. That isn't much of a distinction.
  • Wages were linked to productivity. The industrial revolution (and, erm, unions) gave us the ability to link wages and personal prosperity to employment and productivity. Today--not the case: productivity goes up. Wages are flat, employment is down (in the productive sectors--underemployment is raging--but right now people are manning check-out lanes).
  • The Financial Industry didn't exist in its current form. A great deal of economic inequality can be linked directly to the rise of the FI. The industry existed before today--but it has grown in both size and reach over the past two decades and fuels massive distributions of wealth upwards. It's not going away--but it has never really been acknowledged as the great engine of inequality that it is.
  • Globalism was not a given. When everything you can do without a college degree can be done cheaper in the third world and shipped to America for less than you could do it? You have a problem. Personal responsibility--to have a well paying job--becomes a Sisyphean task. If you just demand a living wage, they can replace you with a robot.
  • Religious values were still, you know, values. Say what you want--back "in the day" the GOP was backed by a respected institution of The Church. Today? Erm . . . no (yes: it is still backed by the church--but more and more this is looking like the corrupt backing the corrupt).
  • Getting sick without healthcare wasn't a Conservative Virtue. Whatever happened to healthcare since the golden age of the GOP, today the "conservative" position on healthcare is "fuck you." That's a good message to people who have it and don't care about others. For everyone else . . .
  • Racism was deniable. The GOP has, since the 60's, had a problem with racism. It relies on a certain strain of person for voting clout--but had to pretend that there was not racial animus--that it was all, erm, trumped-up by liberals and the Democrats. Today? That's a really hard sell and even a revived GOP would need to come to terms with it.

So What Does The Conservative Do?

If you are worried about America's slide into socialism, you are right to be: there are forces (like Chapo Trap House) that preach a "socialist revolution" without any real plan or ideological underpinning. Yes: corruption is bad. Sure, healthcare is good--but the kind of tectonic changes necessary for a full "Nordic Makeover" are simply not possible under the current state. If Bernie got elected, you wouldn't get "Bernietopia"--you'd get a giant log-jam of government that gets you a bridge like 1/5th of the way to "Bernietopia" and then collapses and dumps you in the Atlantic.

And that's assuming Bernietopia would be "as advertised." It, just as with the Libertarian Dream World of AynnLandia would most likely not be what it was sold as.

So what do you do? If you don't like liberalism (pro-choice, anything goes culturally), don't like socialism (universal health care, high taxes on the rich), and want to own a bundle of AR-15s no matter how many kids get shot, what are your options?

They are (a) sign up with the populists--who have embraced the racism and the xenophobia and the foreign policy you hate--not ot mention the buffoonery, (b) try to "reason" with the liberals--which is a lost cause because you already set fire to your cred a while back (or because They Are Unreasonable--which, sure--but you also torched your credibility. Don't forget that), or (c) Try to Do Your Own Thing.

Obviously (c) is the best answer. From a conservative perspective it is the right thing to do. From a liberal perspective it is the best shot at stopping the racist-populists. The question is: how do you do it? The orignal ideas--free trade, immigration friendly, low corporate taxes, American leadership, religious friendliness, and so on--these are losers.

We've seen that with the hostile takeover of the GOP. And the problem is that right now, even if you had more than say 15% of the vote with them, they simply don't address the big questions.

What are they?

The Big Questions For Post-Trump Conservatism

If you call yourself a conservative (fine) you need to, today, have some answers for real questions people are going to ask if you are going to sell them on your policy positions. They do not have to be the most popular answers--but they need to be both sound--and they need to address what honest brokers will see as real and serious questions. Let's look.

Post-Trump Healthcare

How do you give people healthcare that is both decent and affordable? If the answer is "you do not--use the emergency room" that is an answer that is going to alienate a lot of people. If you lie and say "we will make the markets work for you" that will result in the selling of junk insurance or not protecting pre-existing conditions (which everybody hates). You need an answer you can be honest about--what is it--who gets left behind?

Living Wages

Full employment doesn't help if the wages are too low to survive on. Households where both parents work many, many hours are not raising kids in the way that will strengthen our nation. Paying everyone 15-bucks-an-hour may not work either--but we must recognize that automation, artificial intelligence, and globalism have done a lot to reduce jobs that either paid enough historically or were available to people in the bottom 80% of the skill zones.

This problem is only going to get worse: when order-taking systems for McDonalds cost less than 5.00/hr McDonalds is going to get rid of the high school kids (well, 80% of them). It won't be "punishment" for asking for too much money--the job losses will be done for obvious reasons: if McDonalds doesn't do it, BurgerTerminator will eat their lunch.

So what is your answer here? What do you tell people who are driving Ubers and struggling to make a living?

Future War

The GOP used to be the American Leadership nation. We would kick bad-guy ass. We were considered a moral counterbalance to Russia, China, or other nations. Not perfect, of course--but preferable to autocracies or navel-gazing European states. The Marshall Plan turned foes into friends and the Cold War made it clear that we were for high standards of living and freedom--as opposed to the other guys.

Now we find ourselves mired in weird asymmetric wars where our populace barely knows we are fighting. Worse: when we attack today--and shortly, tomorrow--a lot of the fighting will be done by robots. This "bloodless" form of war--where troops do bleed and die--but we thank them for their service and watch some more Netflix has eroded the difference between Democrats--who were limp-wristed Doves in the Carter era--and Republicans--who used to be scowling-faced hawks. With Obama droning the fuck out of the Middle East, what does the Post Trump conservative have to tell their potential party members?

Is there an opinion on American moral leadership? Are we a moral force? Do we take stands based on genocides, war crimes, and so on? Or do we give up on that as even an excuse. There has always been an element of realpolitik in American geopolitics--but there was also a recognized morality. We went in places that were not advantageous to us. Is that just over with? Or do we have a policy position about boots on the ground or drones in the air?

Guns and Babies

It is a given that a modernized GOP would be Pro-2A and Pro-Life. The question is going to be "how do you sell this" to a younger generation that is increasingly "un-churched" and sees guns as hobby items that sometimes kill a bunch of kids? Do you stick to the pro-life religious underpinnings? Or do you recognize that most people don't see a 1st or 2nd term pregnancy as "a baby" and try to prevent 3rd term abortions of convenience (of which there are almost none)?

Are AR-15s the hill to die on? Or is there a distinct remaining philosophical position on the Right to Bear Arms that might not include these? The Omnivore doesn't particularly know--but the GOP had better figure this out--and fast.

The Grim Future

Today, if you are a conservative, the future is closer than it appears in the mirror. The new generation isn't happy with their job prospects and doesn't see the economy the way you do. Your allies-in-name are more interested in winning online-debate-points than adopting your policy positions--and the positions of Reagan are problematic in a world where the availability of good work may dry up and the voices of the marginalized are now louder than ever before.

Conservatism still has a role--a necessary one--with the end of Trump--which will happen sooner or later no matter what--it is unclear if Trumpism will still have a heart-beat. Conservatism needs to be rested and ready--but it also needs to recognize that it has to answer some questions before it can get back to where it was.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Politics of: The Jacksonville Shooting

On August 26, 2018 in Jacksonville FL, David Katz, a 24 year old "professional Madden player" from Maryland was eliminated from the qualifying rounds for a a contest with a 125k grand prize (he had won 10k in a finals round before). Madden is an electronic-sports title (American football) and notably does not involve shooting as part of the game.

Before his loss, people covering the event noted he was reluctant to speak at all--taciturn--but said he would 'speak through his skills.' After speaking through his skills said 'I-am-Loser' he went to his car, got a legally purchased handgun with an aftermarket laser sight, re-entered the building, and killed two people, wounding 11 more, and then taking his own life.

The Political Aftermath

There was a predictable scramble in some quarters to determine:

  • The shooter's race (white, which gave the people asking the question 'a sad')
  • The shooter's politics
On the second count Internet-Sleuths identified a different guy with a similar handle who said some anti-Trump stuff online. Since the Royal Internet Mounted Police always Get-Their-Man, the trusted-by-conservative news sites like the Gateway Pundit, The True Pundit, and Rush Limbaugh all ran with the story that the murderer was a lefty.

Some of them cleared it up. Some haven't.

Oh well: the hope (probably) is that few people would notice the retraction anyway--for guys like The Gateway Pundit, spreading the word of lefty-violence is more important than getting any story right. For guys like The True Pundit, it's all about those clicks, baby.

Gun Control Again

Yet again, a disaffected young guy manages to kill or wound a bunch of people because of the force-amplifier of a firearm. Katz had a history of mental illness but was not deemed legally incompetent. He purchased a firearm, passing the background check. The NRA has come out against, you guessed it, violence in video games--but Madden is about as violent as chess (imagine the pawn as a peasant being trampled by the mighty knight's horse, yeah?).

At this point the answer is clear: only gun-control laws people have not floated would have stopped this (don't sell to anyone with a police record? Don't sell to anyone with a history of taking anti-psychotic drugs? Pass some kind of screening?).

In any event, everyone knows there are people like Katz who should not have handguns--but the gun lobby knows (correctly) that the steps taken to prevent that would infringe on a portion of their rights. They are willing to put up with dead young people for that.

Tree of liberty. Blood of (other) people. All that.

Exit Question: If Katz had a relatively low body count with a handgun, what if he'd had an AR-15 firing into densely packed crowds with a 30 round magazine?

The Omnivore thinks you know the answer.

The Politics of Violence and the Coming Election

Trump spoke to evangelical leaders on Monday and said that if the Democrats win the election they "will overturn everything that we've done and will do it quickly and violently." He called out antifa, specifically, as proof of Democrat violence.

He encouraged them to go and get out the vote from their pulpits stating, incorrectly, he had overturned the law preventing the mixing of politics and religions.

If a bunch of churches lose their tax-exempt status due to believing President Liar-Face? Well, thoughts & prayers, guys. Thoughts and prayers.

That said, the scramble to pin the violence on a leftie is not a single event: It has been ongoing and has taken hold. People on the right believe Antifa to be a massively violent mob-agency. The narrative on the right is that the Democrats endorsed riots in Ferguson and Baltimore--encouraged burning and looting.

This is, of course, nonsense--but they believe it.

Will anything come of this?

The Omnivore is dubious--but with the president going and saying it outloud, we should be careful. The threat of violence is, of course, met with violence--and if people believe that there will be a vengeful, violent reign of Democrats after the midterms (however ludicrous that is--even assuming they win back the house)--they could react to it.

This is messaging we don't need.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Politics Of: The Border Wall

The murder of Mollie Tibbetts has become one of the playing pieces in the center of the chessboard over the immigration debate because she was killed by an illegal immigrant (or, well, maybe?). The reaffirmed calls for The Wall are based on the idea that her murder was preventable: if we had a gigantic border-wall, the photogenic Tibbetts would still be alive!

The Omnivore, of course, knows better--so he asked his Twitter Trump-Voters / Trump Voters to explain their feelings about immigration, Tibbetts, and The Wall.

  • She: She doesn't care for a wall, specifically--but she wants strong borders. She feels that the killing was worse than otherwise because "the killer didn't belong here." 
  • He: He wants a giant wall--and, for some reason, believes one is being built (he also wants sensors, tunnel prevention, etc.). When pressed, he was unable to prioritize between moves that would save more lives for the estimated 20bn price tag (such as spending that money combating opioid addiction, a bi-partisan initiative that would pass in a heartbeat if not for the price-tag) and The Wall--which he wants. He decided, after little consideration, that "we could just do both!" . . . it's only 40Bn. We've got the money.
Uh-huh.

What The Wall Means

The reason The Wall has such currency in the minds of the Trump Voters is that it is a massive, powerful symbolic gesture telling Them (the Mexicans, the Latinos) to stay on their side and reaffirming to "Us"--the white Trump-voting-base that this is our country! This is why it gets top billing in the stadium chants along with "Lock Her Up" (the result of various liberal victories as a narcissistic wound [ do not '@ me' as the kids say ] to the Trump base ].

People who have studied illegal immigration know that:
  1. Most illegal immigrants come over legally and then overstay their visas (meaning a wall is pointless)
  2. The Wall itself is a massive waste of resources which will involve the government essentially seizing land from Americans in many cases using Imminent Domain. 
  3. Will involve a bunch of unpalatable decisions (in very rough terrain do we go for the super-expensive 'follow-the-shoreline' approach? Illegally seize land from Mexico by building a straighter-wall south of the border? Defacto give up American soil building a more-or-less straight-wall north of the border? What?).
  4. Democrats approved and Obama delivered over 700 miles of improved border fencing--many times what Trump's attempts, to-date have managed.
  5. Illegal immigrants--by the best stats we've got--are less likely to commit violent crimes than the general populace. Sure, some do--but in terms of an anti-death or anti-violence problem, illegal immigration doesn't rate.
Good People / Bad People

Trump was derided as racist for his campaign-launching speech where the said that Mexico was not sending us "their best"--they were sending criminals, rapists, and so on--some were maybe good people. Trump-defenders argued that the racist charge was incorrect: Trump wasn't talking about all Mexicans--those who stay on their side were omitted from his description!

If that defense makes sense to you, The Omnivore has some bad news: you're wrong.

Trump was tapping into a very real, very present position by what would become his base that these immigrants (illegal, yes--but Miller would expand that greatly to legal immigrants from the shithole countries) are just bad people (mostly). You can couch this in economic terms. You can talk about cultural differences (as though the American "Quiverfull" culture was any better for being American than some of the other word cultures in these shithole nations)--but eventually it all comes down to the same thing: it's a kind of blanket bigotry that has an emotional grip but doesn't stand up to rational examination.

You have seen this before: "Jew-bashing isn't racist--the Arabs are also semitic!" You know it is bullshit when a Nazi says it. It's also bullshit here.

How Do We Know?

How does The Omnivore (remember Always Right (TM)) know this? Simple. There's a test: you ask the Trump Voter what s/he thinks the problem with Illegal Immigration is. If it's "Because they killed Mollie Tibbetts" you point out that, yes, that was bad--but spending 20bn on a wall would save the lives of far fewer Americans than spending it on, say, more policing, addiction recovery, and so on.

When confronted with the evidence it turns out they don't really care about how many people we save--just saving the right ones: the few Americans killed by the bad people.

But The Omnivore got an even weirder answer from another Trump Voter: The problem with Illegal Immigration is that it is illegal.

The Trump Voter in question said "These people just don't belong here." (Emphasis by The Omnivore)--and then proceeded to try to get The Omnivore to admit that "crossing the border was illegal so it was . . . illegal."

Argument by tautology is a sign your position sucks.

The woman, even when asked clearly, repeatedly, and directly why border crossing was illegal couldn't get her head around the question. She couldn't name the harm done by it (to her credit, she acknowledged that the murder-rate wasn't the key issue here)--but beyond that? Who is the victim of this crime? What are the damages?

A big one: Why is first-time illegal border crossing just a misdemeanor? Consider that the other Trump-voter (He) wanted to make 3x re-entry a capital offence--he wants to potentially execute people who come back too often.

When pressed on that, he repeatedly said that these people would be committing horrible crimes (to which The Omnivore pointed out, in vain, that they could already be executed for--you don't need a new death-penalty crime for crossing). He didn't get it.

No--the problem here is that in the Trump-voter's mind, illegal crossing, numbers, facts, and evidence aside--is inextricably bound up with a concept that "These are the wrong people--the bad ones--who do not belong"--and therefore any crime they commit, kind of like a hate crime--is somehow worse.

Why Do We Have Borders?

This logical knot Trump Voters have gotten into is easily severed by answering the question: why do we have borders in the first place? The answer goes back to way, way before Mexicans with cantaloupe sized calves were crossing the American dusty desert.

It has to do with sovereignty--control over national boundaries--and the ownership of land. The people crossing back and forth are, historically, not the problem. To be sure: you want control and knowledge over who is coming and going. You want the capability to bar the door.

A literally Open Border would be a massive risk for terrorist or enemy attack--but a somewhat porous border? A terror cell that can get to Mexico can also get to America and will not add the operational risk--today--of a difficult border crossing by foot (especially as Jihadis would stand out among the Latinos who would probably not want them going along the path).

In other words, the crime of illegal crossing doesn't have a victim: that's why it's a misdemeanor. The presence of illegal immigrants can have positive or negative effects--but these are debatable. The act of illegal entry  is about as close to victimless as crimes get.

Conclusions

For the Trump Voters the issue seems very bizarre: people who are not buying the "I'm not racist--I'm just against illegal immigration with passion" seem (to the Trump Voter) to be advocating for open borders (to be sure, some people out there are--these people are stupid and there don't seem to be very many of them). 

When the Trump Voter is upset about the for-real tragic killing of Mollie Tibbetts, the non-Trumper seems to want to cover for her assailant. That looks . . . horrifying . . . to the Trumper. 

And the worst of all is that most people, when they react to the bigoted (racist) subtext of the immigration debate don't consciously clarify what they are seeing. Most people don't say "The statement isn't explicitly racist--but the intent behind it clearly is--and here's why . . ." So the Trump Voter feels they are being called racist as a reflexive put-down when they are (self) righteous.

The Omnivore's suggestion here is to engage enough to see if you can identify the underlying emotional center of their position (one of the Trump-Voters was upset that illegal immigrants could vote in local school board elections--as their kids attend schools, the community wanted all the parents to have a voice--but he felt that this was just wrong. On behalf of the community he doesn't live in, of course--with respect to parents with kids he doesn't have, of course).

Once you identify it . . . well, The Omnivore hears Hillary has a basket somewhere . . .

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Twist You Missed

The twist of the knife, that is.

Yesterday you were probably consumed with the split-screen at 4:00 PM of Cohen pleading guilty to some anonymous presidential candidate telling him to break the law (The Omnivore's guess: Jill Stein--never trusted her) and the Manafort Jury taking a stab at nullification but unable to fully Trumpaloo it and coming back with 40 years worth charges.

You thought: "Man--both things on the same day--at the same hour? The 2018 writers have gotten lazy af."

Yes, dear reader, yes they have. The Writers have gotten lazy as fuck.

But that was just the smooth, creamy ice cream and non-dairy whipped topping of injury to the Trumpaloo. The insulting cherry on top was the Awan verdict.

The What??

A Trump-supporter The Omnivore knows has been following--with interest--the great saga of the Awan brothers--Pakistani maybe-spies--who maybe-raided the House computer banks--and maybe blackmailed Debbie Wasserman Schultz--with maybe information about who maybe-assassinated Seth Rich and (maybe) sent Donna Brazille to the Seth Rich hospital to finish the job with a poison needle while whistling Twisted Nerve.

If you are now totally fucking confused, The Omnivore envies you: The Omnivore wishes he could read the above and be totally fucking confused. But, alas, now you have to suffer too.

"We all got it commin'"
--Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven


Here's the capsule report: Imir Awan, a Pakistani IT guy for congress woman and DNC head in 2016 Debbie "Downer" Wasserman-Schultz was investigated for what looked like maybe unusual use of the IT systems he and his brothers oversaw. While we don't (seem to) have the full Inspector General's report, he was definitely ordering some iPads and shit to his house (and maybe his brother's) and falsified a loan application to a bank.

He was grabbed while leaving the country to Pakistan, tried, given 90-days time-served--for lying on a loan application--and, yesterday, that was that.

Huh?

Well, for the Trumpaloo conspiracy theorist the DEEP STATE managed to cover up a massive spy-ring conspiracy that [ something something, something something ]. For the educated nose-holding Trump-supporting engineer The Omnivore knows (whose nose-holding is for show only, he knows America is in a battle with the brownies so you need a guy like Trump) it was A-STORY-SUPPRESSED--WHICH SCOOBY-DOO-LIKE MEANS THERE'S SOMETHING THERE.

For a lot of people this was hope that the hated DWS--that is, disliked by most Republicans--but hated by Bernie-voters who are totes sure she stole the election from him despite a glaring lack of evidence that she did anything that could cost him actual votes--much less several million of them.

In any event, the Omnivore was amused to see yesterday that the #QAnons were upset about Cohen and Manafort--but just offended by Awan.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Because You Gotta Have Faith-faith-f a i t h

The Omnivore has noted that the faith in Donald Trump, among his believers, seems like something of a religious artifact. Do they like him because of things in evidence? Or do they like him because he represents something that, while not real in the tangible sense, gives them hope?

A Trump-Supporter claimed he was praising the good--and more or less not too concerned about the bad in Trump's presidency. This is also the guy who thinks Candace Owens represents something good for race relationships--but leaving that aside, at least for now, The Omnivore asked for 3 examples of each--the good--and the bad--on which this guy had founded his faith.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The Good:

1) Recalibrating trade towards free trade on almost every continent particularly w/ China. https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-china-plot-road-map-to-resolve-trade-dispute-by-november-1534528756 … 

2) Successful funding (in pieces) and current building of border wall (campaign promise) https://nyti.ms/2GoGriT

3) Renewed disdain for the practices of the Middle East generally. https://www.cfr.org/project/us-interests-greater-middle-east …. and https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39602782 …
The Bad:

1) He's playing a close to the chest game with Russia. It could backfire, particularly with his domestic support. https://nyti.ms/2MCSyLz

2) People think he is a bigot generally (pick a news company besides Fox) 

3) His approach to climate change

What do we make of these? Are the good ones real reasons for faith that Trump will MAGA? Are the bad ones really digs at Trump--or what? What does this mix tell us?

The Good Place

For the good ones, The Omnivore wants to know: (a) what do these things tell us about Trump? and (b) what do these things tell us about the Trump-Voter?

The Global Trade War

The global trade war is a bold move on Trump's part and it does, in fact, have some potential for success. Firstly, China (and Iran) have a very specific kind of dictatorship in place: one that promises fewer rights in return for economic success. If you damage the economic success, which tariffs (and sanctions) can certainly do, you can impact the regime in ways that carry less of a kinetic risk than military force.

Trump, however, isn't just targeting enemy dictatorships--he is targeting everyone and all at once. This is almost defitionally a bad strategy: we are the world's largest economy--but the outcome the Trump-voter wants (massive trade improvements) are hardly guaranteed and the less we focus, the less powerful our weaponized economy becomes.

So: Does this Trump-supporter like the global trade way because he approves of a bold move which only Trump could take (imagine if Obama had tanked a year of soybean yields) and which shows potential success (reason based)? Or is he counting chickens that have not yet hatched (faith based)?

Analysis: Faith Based

He gigged Trump for playing risky with Russia--but here, Trump is a success? Not just for China--but for the whole world?

No. This guy has already clocked in a win for Trump--a win that, right now, is in no way certain--and a win he hasn't earned.

The Border Wall

This guy liking the border-wall seems a little incongruous: does he believe the Fox-News fantasy that immigrants are destroying our nation? Does he not realize that an arena full of white people chanting "Build The Wall" (and then "Lock Her Up") is Trump playing to our worst natures? The answers are "kinda-yes"--and "no"--as The Omnivore has seen his other (non Omnivore-directed) tweets.

No, he lauds Trump for "promises kept"--a safe (cop-out?) way to avoid the ugliness surrounding the wall as a concept while still cheering it.

So--is Trump actually keeping his campaign promise? Uh . . . no. Is The Omnivore taken-in by fake news? Just going with the MSM's negative-spin? Or what?
  • The Campaign Promise was that Mexico would pay for the wall (he was going to seize remittances--money flowing from immigrants working in the US to relatives in Mexico and use it for funding). That proved impossible. He gave up on it. Also, if he was gonna keep campaign promises what about the fanciful but-actually-good promise of replacing the ACA with something better?
  • Trump's "Start-Of-The-Wall" only covers replacement fencing and minimal new construction. It doesn't build anything like his concrete examples. Obama fulfilled more of this "promise" than Trump has. Does the Trump supporter understand this? Probably at some level--but, of course, he lauds Trump not for the literal non-achievement--but for the symbolic one: a bold statement that Americans in big arenas don't really like Mexicans.
  • Is Trump Gonna Build That Wall? There's no sign of it. He was a-gonna shut down the gubbmint to force Democrats to allocate funding. We'll see how that goes.
Analysis: Faith Based

The idea that Trump will succeed in his Wall-Quest is anything but certain given that key Republicans (that is Republicans in border states) don't want it. That he has given up on the promise to Make Mexico Pay For It.

That the success that the Trump voter cites isn't anything like the actual promise (of a big beautiful wall).

Trump Being Aggressive In The Middle East

This one is boggling. The Trump-Voter's examples were bombing Assad--something accomplished little, had no follow-up, and was designed to make a statement without costing any real damage. Okay--Trump proved he doesn't like pictures of kids suffering chemical weapons strikes. He also praises Trump pulling out of the Iran deal in favor of more aggressive actions.

Firstly, none of this "comes together." Trump is doing things to increase tensions in the middle east (moving the embassy) that have little value other than symbolic value. He is great friends with Saudi Arabia who is responsible for a lot of "practices" (that we should disdain) in the middle east. He is doing his best to hand Syria over to Assad and give Russia what it wants there.

Is this something we should praise? Is this something Trump has actually "done good on?"

Analysis: Incoherent

The Omnivore approves of the air strikes and would like to see more. A no-fly zone over Syria would be good (or would have been if he'd done it when elected). But no--he didn't deliver any kind of blow to the regime. Trump's Iran strategy might work--but it also might not and we don't have any reason to think one way or the other yet. 

In other words, this guy likes Trump's hodgepodge of actions for either symbolic reasons or because he believes, faithfully, that Trump will win--but he hasn't yet.

The Badness

What about the bad things?

Risky Russians

Here is an image of weak-on-Russia headlines:


There are more--but you've gotta stop somewhere. The fact that our Trump-Voter's position on this is that it's a "risky game" ignores the possibility that Trump is just plain weak on Russia--and the not-non-existent possibility that Trump is actually somehow criminally in bed with Russia.

Analysis: Faith Based

He is right to worry about it--but he needs to consider that his faith that Trump is trying to do the right things has no real evidence behind it.

Trump's Racism / Bigotry

Yes, it is a bit unfortunate that a lot of people think Trump is a racist or bigot. It's strange how that just randomly happens, isn't it? The fact that the high command of the armed forces felt the need to put out a statement that the military doesn't accept racism right after Trump's Charlotte "fumble" is clearly because . . . :: checks notes :: some white supremacists were found in the service and had nothing to do at all with Trump leaving everyone aghast at his speech.

So is Trump achieving his racist reputation or, is it being thrust upon him by an adversarial media? 

Analysis: Faith Based

Well, consider that the barrier to determining this basically lies in whether you think Trump deserves the benefit of the doubt for a whole lot of shit. If you believe in your heart that he's not, no-way, no-how a racist then everything he does is either in need of very careful parsing or just clumsy--or just a slam-job.

If you are unsure as to whether / how racist he is then at very least it is obvious he cannot / will not 
clean his act up and tell the neo-nazis he doesn't want their votes and to stop wearing his goddamn gear or shouting his name at black / latino kids. 

Environmental Policy

 If you are upset that the guy who called climate change a Chinese hoax, stripped all climate data from government web sites, and hired an incredibly corrupt EPA head to undo all climate stuff--including the symbolic gesture of pulling out of the Paris Accord . . . 

Uh . . . what the fuck is wrong with you?

Analysis: WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU??

Conclusions

The Omnivore is, obviously, pretty sure that Trump hasn't made any big good moves yet--and is certainly unsure that he will. As to the "could his stuff turn out okay"? Well, considering that there is a combination of potentially actually good things (reining in the Chinese, maybe pushing Iran to a significant change) and a bunch of bad things (looking like a Russian stooge, having a Global Trade War instead of a targeted one), and being unable to take a clear stand on racism for . . . some reason (mysterious!!) this obviously seems pretty faith based.

The Omnivore, though, wants to end on a note that didn't come up: North Korea.

The True Believer thought that:
  1. Trump was a Great Man for having the summit
  2. Trump made a Big Play at the summit
  3. Trump had lined up a Bunch of Good Stuff to come
  4. Trump had a Big Triumph with The Bodies and The Hostage return
Now we can see that:
  • Trump's meeting was not really a Great Man moment. It was pageantry that benefitted Kim and didn't do much else.
  • There was no Big Play--the outcome was us halting readiness exercises (renamed War Games--Russia and Nork's preferred terms) and . . . nothing.
  • North Korea has basically said "we're not giving up nukes" since the meeting. Trump has just kind of accepted it.
  • Getting bodies back and hostages is something every other administration has done. The Norks have cheated on bodies before. They may have this time. It's a symbolic gesture--not a meaningful one.
In other words, if we are to have the Faith Based view of Trump on North Korea from before the summit we can now see that it was not founded

This is in the FACE of Trump declaring that everything was good and we could sleep at night now. If Trump is bullshitting you on this, the Trump Supporter should, really ask themselves:
  • Did they believe the 1-4 above? Even for a bit?
  • Did Trump basically lie about 2-4? Even if "just for the cameras"?
  • Is this a point of evidence that Trump's 'optimism' should be taken with a big grain of salt--or is it totes diff from his promises of global free trade and getting a better Iran deal because of [ reasons you are scrambling to make up ]?
Of course we know the answers to the bullet points--but why don't Trump Supporters?

Monday, August 20, 2018

PGP: Preferred Gender Pronouns

The Omnivore was asked if he'd written anything about the use of preferred gendered pronouns after a reader reviewed his take on Jordan Peterson. The Omnivore is treating this as a request.

If You Think This Is A Lot Of New Pronouns, This Is Only SOME Of Them.
In case  you didn't know, a person's Preferred Gender Pronouns are the way they want to be referred to when not being called by name. The new ones, like "THEY" are said to be 'gender neutral' meaning you are not referring to the person's gender when using them.

What's The Problem Here?

The problem here has three basic dimensions:

  1. Vulnerable people wanting to not be forcibly associated with a gender they do not identify with.
  2. Assholes or special snowflakes language policing you--sometimes with the force of the law or academic faculty behind them.
  3. A CRISIS OF REALITY BROUGHT ON BY LANGUAGE!! ZOMG.
Let's look.

1. Vulnerable People

While modern "mythology" has given us the image of the transgendered person or the person with a non-conforming gender identity as the empowered social justice warrior who terrorizes you and gets you fired / expelled for kicks, The Omnivore is here to tell you it is NOT TRUE.

The vast majority of people for whom the mainline culture does not work are mostly painfully marginalized, discriminated against, and feel an unusual degree of fear or harassment just riding on the subway. Think applying for a new job is stressful? A Trump-voter proudly told The Omnivore of a transgender person who applied for a job at their firm and they were able to come to grips with the whole weird thing.

That's acceptance, right? The Omnivore had to explain to this guy that the transgendered person's apparent liking for Trump (as well!) was more likely a survival strategy than their honest opinion--as their entire employment was a barely successful "working out" of their offensive oddity and weakness.

The Trump-voter bravely allowed it might be true.

The Omnivore will tell you a true thing: EVEN THIS WEAK LEVEL OF INTROSPECTION IS ABNORMAL.

2. The SJW Language Police

If the vast majority of the people who might want a "preferred gender pronoun" are, in fact, the people who society regularly beats up and bullies, that doesn't mean there aren't also some SJW assholes out there too (social justice warrior--The Omnivore defines as a person more interested in fighting and using "social justice concepts" as a weapon, than in making anything really better--which they, themselves, could do just by shutting up)

Firstly, yeah: you can run afoul of campus codes of conduct in a brand new way. And you can maybe get fired if you work for a pretty progressive company or you, uhm, constantly harass a person who doesn't want the pronoun you want to use on them to describe them in California (The Omnivore is not sure this is true--and cannot be arsed to google it).

In any event, YES--there is some bullshit in the dialog. 

Until you can literally get beaten within an inch of your life on Tumblr, though, The Omnivore calls this a pretty small problem.

3. THE REALITY BREAKING HORROR

If there's an even smaller problem, though, it's the "thinking man's" opposition to using PGPs. Let's go to . . . The Federalist:

We use he/him/his for a male, she/her/hers for a female, and they/them/theirs to refer to more than one person. This is a simple, well-established, and entirely uncontroversial system, because sex is the only viable candidate for what to attach personal pronouns to: it represents the whole of a person’s body, it cannot change, and it exists independent of our mind. In other words, it is the only anchor by which we can secure the relationship between language and people.
And . . . 

You don’t need to be a psychology professor to realize than an attempt to transplant pronouns from the body to the mind is an attempt to destroy our ability to communicate. Consider: John can choose from infinite gender identities, with no fixed link between any one gender identity and any one set of pronouns.
And . . .
Nothing illustrates this nihilism better than the push to convert “they” into a singular pronoun. (A note to any nit-pickers: here, we are not debating the validity of using “they” when a person’s sex is unknown. Rather, we are concerned with an emerging trend wherein a person insists on being referred to as “they” rather than by his or her correct pronouns.)
This is, of course, top-drawer raving nonsense. If The Omnivore were a 19th century doctor, and the author's gender was unknown, The Omnivore would recommend removing xir uterus because they are definitely overcome by hysteria.

However, it is not the 19th century and The Omnivore can say with a certainty that The Federalist has gotten its well deserved reputation as a nazi-friendly publication because of shit like this.

HOWEVER: rather than just dismissing this and moving along, keep this bullshit in mind. We're gonna come back to it.

What Does The Omnivore Think?

As The Omnivore is always right(TM) The Omnivore is going to tell you what you should think about all of this . . . and why.

1. Unless You Are Trying To Be Rude, Use Their Damn Pronouns

It is said that a gentleman is a person never insults someone unintentionally. That doesn't mean a gentleman is always polite--far from it. It just means they're never crass or thoughtless. We can expand this to Xentlebeings and it still applies: UNLESS YOU ARE TRYING TO INSULT SOMEONE USE THEIR DAMN PRONOUNS.

Today you are not required to ask (it may be overly polite--which is fine--but as of TODAY, The Omnivore tells you it is not required.)--but once you are told, if you are not in a social war with the person, just use the pronouns. It will not hurt you--The Omnivore promises.

[ NOTE: Claiming it will hurt you--because it is a lie or whatever--is bullshit and is proof you are the asshole--not anyone else. Yes: The Omnivore sees you coming. ]

2. Language Complaints Need To Be Made By Linguists

Concern about what is/isn't a real word or whether Xir is made-up bullshit or not is not your lane unless you study how language evolves. We lost thee, thy, and thou--did it kill us? No. Is "They" just for two or more people . . . or only in cases where gender is not known? Ask an expert--no, you're not an expert.

They say it's okay (they do)--then it's okay. Grab your genitals and give up on your vacuous moral superiority kick. If you can't be a bigger person than that, maybe you should run for congress on the GOP ticket or something--they seem to want spineless racists these days.

Also: YOU have a preferred pronoun. Or is it okay if I call you she? (yeah, yeah--the one or two women who read this think they have a clever comeback--they don't). Is "He" really gender-neutral for "all mankind?" -- Tell that to Mr. Federalist--that kind of thing is DESTROYING US!! Plus, back when that was established, The Omnivore is pretty sure all the genders that "counted" were, uhm, 'he's.

Is gender really a key part of our language with regards to pronouns. Well, yes--in a lexical sense--but that's because we speak fucking English. If you speak Spanish then computers are female. Put that in your Federalist and smoke it.

So, no--if you have a linguistic argument to make, make it at the next big Grammar-Con or whatever they fucking have for those guys. Don't make it in normal society where it's just an attempt to self-aggrandize.

How does The Omnivore get away with it? What part of Always Right(TM) do you not understand??

3. The Real Problem - Trump

If you are going "Haw Haw Haw!! Of Course He Brought It To Trump--How Predictable!" the idiot here is really you for reading this. But nevertheless, The Omnivore is going to explain ximself xnyway. XOR something.

Trump represents the right-wing culture warriors getting EVERYTHING THEY WANTED. The government, culture--the phantom of "respect" that comes from not respecting anyone else one little bit but still winning an election.

They got bigotry in the electorate, racists in the White House, and brown kids in cages. They get to think they're saving America while attacking our allies and sucking our enemies dicks. They get a president who gets to bad-mouth the FBI and they'll go along with it--because until something changes in government, this is Asshole Fantasy Land.

It turns out that this is kind of a package deal when it comes to stuff like transgendered people serving in the military or using people's preferred pronouns as a courtesy to them trying to fit into everyday life.

In other words: We now see what all of this looks like, packaged and ready for prime-time--and it's abysmal.

Right now: if you are fighting the culture wars, you are forwarding the Trump-social agenda. There's no way around it--and if you are doing that, well, The Omnivore hopes a star you don't like grabs you by the pussy . . . because you might just learn a little lesson there. Right?