May 22, 2017

The tone of Twin Peaks, original and return

From the reviews I've read so far of the Twin Peaks return, and not having seen the episodes myself, it sounds like its emotional tone is more in the vein of Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive than Blue Velvet or the original Twin Peaks. Closer to uniformly dark, whereas the original was a distinctive blend of light and dark, innocent and scarred, wholesome and seedy, cheerful and somber, comedic and tragic, normal and paranormal.

Whether or not the return ends up striking the same tone, is what will determine how closely the new series feels to the original. The fanboy types boil the success of the original down to its characters, stylized cinematography, and motifs like black coffee, cherry pie, and fir trees. But all of those persisted into the film adaptation of that world, Fire Walk With Me, and it felt almost nothing like the TV series, for better or worse.

Meanwhile Blue Velvet did not share any of the characters, plot points, or pop culture references with Twin Peaks (except as different examples of the same archetype), yet they felt like two stories from the same world, owing to the shared tone.

Tone is more like a texture that things in the world are made of. We can imagine a world where everything feels softer, and another where everything feels harder. Two settings with different landscapes and objects would feel of the same world if the elements in them were both soft (or both hard), whereas identical landscapes and arrays of objects would feel of different worlds if one was soft and the other hard. Or more to the point here, if one setting was uniformly hard (or soft), while another was a blend of soft and hard.

Of all aspects of a cultural work, emotional tone is most strongly affected by the social mood or atmosphere in which it is performed. That's why cover songs or tribute songs from two different social climates, e.g. one more optimistic and one more pessimistic, do not sound the same.

The outgoing social climate during the filming of Blue Velvet and the original Twin Peaks shaped and was shaped by the rising crime rate, which began around 1960. Over the course of the '90s, people shifted to a cocooning behavior and the crime rate plummeted, both trends continuing through today.

So I'd expect the return of Twin Peaks to have a more uniformly noir-ish tone, like there was during the cocooning Midcentury (Kiss Me Deadly, Nighthawks at the Diner, and so on). Classic film noir does not have the same hopefulness and tenderness that the "neo-noir" genre would acquire during the '80s.

That's been the case so far with all these re-makes, reboots, sequels, prequels, and spin-offs from originals made during the outgoing and rising-crime social climate of the 1960s through the early '90s. We can't get the feel of the original back because the social climate of that period is so alien to today's climate of cocooning and falling crime. By the same token, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks were able to channel the early-mid 1960s since both fell within the same social climate period.

These phases go in cycles, so give it a few decades, and it will be possible to perform a more faithful revival of those cultural works.

Related posts on tone that discussed Twin Peaks as an example, and going on at greater length about the links to the social climate and crime rate:

First, Torture porn and lack of empathy (TP as the opposite)

Second, Forgiving vs. belittling satires (TP as forgiving satire)

Third, Can camp be played straight (TP as a rare success)

May 18, 2017

Cracks in the Zionist-Saudi jihadist alliance: Israel-1st culture warriors vs. Arabist Pentagon

Over the decades, Israel has gradually joined the Sunni nations of the Middle East based on their common rival of Iran, which is neither Jewish nor Sunni, but Persian and Shia. That is despite the initial tension between the Jewish state and the Arab Muslim states in the region, who were often at war over Israel's very presence. But anti-Iranian politics makes strange bedfellows.

Iran will always serve as a force that other nearby nations will think about balancing against, because it has tended to absorb others within its sphere of influence rather than the other way around, since around 500 BC (Achaemenid Empire). The last time it was under foreign control for any length of time was in the 1400s under the Mongolian / Turkic rule of the Timurid Empire. Unlike the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, it fought off Ottoman imperialism (the Persians -- very tough negotiators, folks).

But now it seems that the Sunni players in the anti-Iran coalition may feel strong enough to start getting rid of Israel, who never really fit into their club of Arab Muslims. At least, if the Sunni extremist nations led by Saudi Arabia can get a quantum leap in their military power from Uncle Sam, who is also going to try to help put together a NATO-like alliance for the Sunni Arab nations.

When President Trump arrives in Riyadh this week, he will lay out his vision for a new regional security architecture White House officials call an “Arab NATO,” to guide the fight against terrorism and push back against Iran. As a cornerstone of the plan, Trump will also announce one of the largest arms-sales deals in history. ...

One main objective is to put forth a framework and basic principles for a unified Sunni coalition of countries, which would set the stage for a more formal NATO-like organizational structure down the line. [source]

So far, the potential members of Arab NATO are Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, and Egypt. If the purpose were simply anti-Iran, they could have made a "non-Persian NATO" that included Israel. Whether or not they eventually let in Israel, they certainly seem uneasy or unwilling to do so at the start.

The largest arms deal perhaps in history is also going to make Israel nervous because they might lose their edge in the region:

Finally — and this is the most speculative of everything I've mentioned — it's possible you'll see an announcement of the U.S. and Saudis working together on identifying Saudi defense needs over a 10-year period and talking about what the U.S. is prepared to sell the Saudis over that period. This part will be complicated because the U.S. must coordinate with the Israelis to maintain their "Qualitative Military Edge," the formal name for the U.S. policy of ensuring that Israel maintains military superiority over its neighbors. [source]

The cracks in the anti-Iran coalition over there are also starting to appear in the anti-Iran coalition back here.

On the one hand are the evangelical Judaizers who never quote the New Testament and worship Israel as their homeland. This is a grassroots phenomenon, which percolates up to the Congressional level, where conservative Republicans have to pledge to defend Israel in order to get elected. Democrats must do so as well because Jews are one of the key ethnic groups in their coalition based on minority identity politics. The media relies on a grassroots audience, so it too portrays Iran negatively vis-a-vis Israel, which the news consumers culturally identify more with than Saudi Arabia.

So, the Cultural Left and Cultural Right in Congress, along with the media, have a mostly Zionist angle on hating Iran.

On the other hand are the military brass who style themselves as the administrators of a global empire including the Middle East, where the primary commodity is oil (this attracts the energy industry alongside the Pentagon). Saudi Arabia has the #1 oil reserves, but it was also not under control of a European imperial rival of the US that could have blocked the Americans from taking it on as a client. (After WWI, Britain and France inherited the remnants of the dead Ottoman Empire outside of Turkey, and the Ottomans never got the Arabian Desert where the Saudi clan hailed from.)

This has caused the US military to become deeply committed to the main source of jihadism in the M-E and around the world, and that's why you rarely hear the brass use terms like jihad, Islamic terrorism, etc. That would implicate their ally Saudi Arabia, so they go with the vague "terrorism" phrase, which you can accuse any nation of supporting, and obscures the Islamic connection.

So, the Pentagon and the energy industry have a mostly Saudi angle on hating Iran.

This creates a tension between the power groups that oppose Iran for cultural reasons and favor Israel first (Cultural Right and Left, the media) and those that oppose it for geopolitical and economic reasons and favor Saudi Arabia first (Pentagon, Big Oil).

Here, for example, is some world-class kvetching from a Jew complaining about the Secretary of Defense saying that Israel's capital is not Jerusalem, that the Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are a sticking point in the M-E peace process, and that if that continues Israel will become an apartheid state:

Mattis’s ignorance is understandable because he hails from the US Military’s Central Command. The Pentagon’s area command responsible for the Middle East has one debilitating problem. It is a problem that guarantees that Centcom officers will fail to understand the Middle East and fail to win America’s wars in the region.

Centcom’s problem is that it deliberately does not include Israel.

As far as Centcom is concerned, Israel is not part of the Middle East. Israel is in Europe.

Centcom officers speak only to Arabs. And their Arab counterparts insist that Israel is the problem.

Rather than critically analyze this claim, Centcom officers internalize it. [source]

And bringing it back to the Arab NATO trip, here are some complaints that a Christian conservative Ted Cruz supporter has about the Pentagon's more Arab-friendly stance toward Israel:

NSC Advisor McMaster at a press briefing declined to say that Jerusalem belonged to Israel, and has been undermining the US relationship with Israel ahead of the Arab NATO trip, according to reporting by Mike Cernovich (whose sources have proven correct at least back to the tip-off about the airstrike on Syria, not to mention the scoop he had on Susan Rice being the unmasker of Trump officials' names in surveillance).

In fact (listen to Cernovich's report here), the alleged leak of classified information during Trump's recent meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister did not take place, since Trump just brought up a topic that had been in public media reports for months -- that ISIS was trying to find ways to get a bomb on a plane inside of a laptop battery. Instead, the real leak of classified info was to the Washington Post, from their source, who knew far more granular detail than the President (who does not get every little detail of every little report, unless it's "need to know").

That info could compromise an Israeli spy who is embedded with ISIS, who first found out about the laptop battery bomb plot. So the leak of all the specific details to WaPo from a White House source with extensive knowledge, is being treated as a major national security breach, that could also severely damage our relationship with Israel, who must now be wondering if the US can be trusted to keep a basic secret provided to them by Israeli intelligence agencies.

According to Cernovich's sources, McMaster is the only one who knew all of the pieces presented to WaPo, although his deputy Dina Powell could have known also, but they are really just two members from the same Pentagon / Deep State team.

The Pentagon faction of the anti-Iran coalition in America has made a decisive pre-emptive strike against their supposed anti-Iran partners from the cultural politics faction. The armed forces and oil industries will prevail over the cultural domains of the media, organized Jewry, and evangelical Christianity because US governmental support for nations in the Middle East is based on geopolitics and economics, not cultural affiliation.

Many on the Left and the Right portray Israel as having special powers over US policy, but we're already seeing how it's the jihadist nations that truly drive our policy. Israel used to be allied with them for a little while, so you could have said either one was the driver. But now it's clear.

Actually, it was clear before then -- we sided with Egypt over Israel in the Suez Crisis in 1956, and only brought on Israel as a source of local muscle when we saw them whip everyone's ass in the 1970s. And yet, the Arabians still have all that oil, and a much longer history of being our ally -- and when was the last time Israel whipped everyone's ass anyway? Ten years ago, they got driven out of Lebanon by a ragtag local militia (Hezbollah).

After its explosive birth, Israel looked to be a latter-day David slaying Goliath, perhaps bound to expand throughout the region after they took the Sinai peninsula, southern Lebanon, and the Golan Heights of Syria. But now they're turning out to be just another statelet in the Levant, a place that has never spawned a (land-based) empire that included key other places around the region. As demographic trends make a small minority out of the Ashkenazi Jews who are not parasitic Haredim, the brief South African style attempt at European colonialism will become a Middle Eastern country again (Palestinians and Mizrahi / Sephardi Jews).

If history is any guide, they will ultimately fall under the sphere of influence of long-term regional powers Egypt or Turkey. If Iran continues its influence in Syria, that would presumably block Turkey from becoming Israel's patron state to the north, and it would turn south toward Egypt for partnership. Egypt is also less prone to Islamic extremism than Turkey, especially now with Erdogan leading Turkey and el-Sisi leading Egypt. And Egypt would be the member of Arab NATO most likely to split off as a strong power of its own, not wanting to be made an equal to Saudi Arabia.

If the Zionists want to return to their ancient roots, what better way than by seeking refuge under Egypt's wings?

But we should not be so excited to become less burdened by Israel if it means we intensify our alliance with the jihadists in Saudi Arabia. We've already had one September 11th too many to trust those backstabbing Bedouin, and now their radical mosques are infecting Muslims right here in America who commit jihadist violence without even having to get through our borders.

Unfortunately, it will probably take some catastrophe to convince our military brass to finally GTFO of the Middle Eastern black hole. Russia and Iran vs. America and Saudi Arabia -- we've had so much success there, why not up the ante to include a nuclear rival?

The Pentagon has been going on one great long psychotic fugue for the better part of 30 years in the Middle East, and if it means allying with Israel and the pro-Israeli culture warriors in America in the short term, it would be worth it to out-maneuver the Pentagon from marching us into nuclear Armageddon.

May 17, 2017

To prevent coup by brass, Trump must rally rank-and-file troops and agents

It's clear now that the Deep State will never stop its coup attempts against the People's President, whether they are soft or hard, and whether they come monthly or yearly.

The factions here are not only the three-letter intelligence agencies whose leverage is ability to leak damaging information, but also the Pentagon whose leverage is control over the armed forces.

Trump arrived in Washington with minimal political leverage, at least in the currency that the local swamp creatures trade in -- favors, connections, blackmail, campaign war chests, and the like. He was catapaulted over the White House gates by his voters, not by party elites, donors, media hacks, etc.

Rather, Trump's only leverage is the size of his support base that he can call into action -- to display signs, to attend rallies, to make phone calls, to spread info online, and to cast a ballot on Election Day.

That is the bargaining chip that Trump has at the negotiating table, but which the Establishment does not -- and which the Establishment would like Trump to call off and put away, lest the people march on their state capitol buildings, hold protests at the Pentagon, and so on and so forth, disrupting business as usual for the swamp.

This appeal to the forgotten people at the bottom of the hierarchy must also be leveraged within each of the major Deep State groups that threaten to push him out of office. There is no way that Trump commands the loyalty of the Pentagon brass, else they would not have sent their own boarding party into the Cabinet early on (Mattis, Kelly, McMaster).

The Trump movement's vision for foreign and military policy is at odds with the Pentagon consensus in too many ways, and at too severe of a magnitude, for them to just tolerate his planned re-orientation of their agency. They are still hell-bent on making Russia their #1 enemy, and antagonizing any of the nations that refused to fall under the US sphere of influence during the Cold War (Iraq, Libya, Syria, North Korea, and Iran). Trump says let's focus on combating jihadism, with Saudi Arabia being the main enabler of Islamic terrorism, including the terrorists who blew us up on September 11th.

Likewise the three-letter intel agency brass are dead set on aggrandizing their own power to manipulate domestic and foreign affairs, rather than assess threats and respond to them in the interests of the American nation as a whole, instead of in the interests of the Deep State and power establishment itself. Trump says drain the swamp, prosecute damaging leaks, and restore fairness to the justice system.

A collision course is unavoidable between Trump and the Deep State leaders. Trump has little to defend himself with at the elite level -- not only would those intel and military brass undermine him, so would "his own" party's leaders in Congress, who are part of the Establishment. Nor does he have much weaponry to go on the offense with at the elite level. At best he could try to play one elite faction off against another, but they appear to be forming enough of a united front to avoid that obvious of a play.

So Trump must resort to what his only strength has been all along -- his popular appeal to the lowly and middle layers of society's pyramids. His populist and nationalist message speaks most to their concerns, and his no-BS charisma and tone resonate the most with them.

The rank-and-file troops just want to protect the homeland from serious foreign threats, not to police far-off zones of a crumbling global empire. And the rank-and-file intel agents just want to figure out who's up to bad things and prevent them from carrying through, not to weaponize information in order to destroy political figures who the boss has a vendetta against.

Trump must do this deliberately, frequently, and energetically -- as though he were once again in "rally the troops" mode leading up to an election where it would be his army of voters vs. the other candidate's army of voters. Hold small gatherings, large rallies, and anything in between that will build the emotional energy between him and them. That will keep the rank-and-file in the Deep State agencies engaged, sympathetic, and even enthusiastic to support their leader.

In any coup attempt, it would be these rank-and-file who would be pressed into service as foot soldiers against the President by their agency's brass. If the rank-and-file are unwilling to commit the high crime of sedition, their elites will have no way of pulling off a coup.

That does not mean Trump has to openly bring up the topic of Deep State coups, nor that he needs to openly encourage mutiny. It simply means that if he wins over their hearts and minds -- their active rather than passive loyalty -- the brass' efforts to take him out will be shooting with blanks.

May 16, 2017

What leverage does Trump hold in DC? We are his only hope

Having set up the importance of focusing on interest groups rather than individual personalities when analyzing the balance of forces that will shape political outcomes, let's turn to the most important individual -- President Trump. What group is he a representative of, what are its goals, and what kind of leverage do they have to wield to advance those goals?

Quite simply, he belongs to none of the interest groups. He is a total outsider beholden to none of the special interests. He doesn't represent Wall Street, the Pentagon, big oil, big pharma, the education system, the media, the Democrat Establishment, or the GOP Establishment. Instead he represents "the people," meaning average American citizens who have no organized lobby or set of institutions that advance their interests using whatever leverage they've got. A voice for the voiceless -- or as Trump put it, "The forgotten man and woman will be forgotten no longer".

What leverage did the people have to send their representative into government? It was not massive sums of donor money, connections with power players, paid operatives in the media, favors owed that were called in, blackmail material, or any of the other tools of the trade in Washington. They could only signal their allegiance to the Trump agenda -- following him on social media, tuning into his debates, attending his rallies, displaying his signs and hats and bumper stickers, choosing him when pollsters called, and ultimately casting a ballot for him on Election Day. Thankfully, it's only the ballot box results that matter as far as who ends up in the White House.

But now election season is long over, and the task is no longer getting Trump elected despite not representing any interest group. It is to actually implement the agenda for which the people flocked to him during election season. Build the wall, deport the illegals, kill the TPP and gut NAFTA, re-industrialize the economy, re-orient foreign policy away from the dead Cold War and toward fighting radical Islamic terrorism, use the military more for defense of the homeland than offense in the Middle Eastern sand pit, and drain the swamp.

So, is Trump going to give orders and the swamp will carry them out, just because he won an election? Get realistic: they will do everything they can to obstruct or reverse those orders. Just about everyone in the government other than Trump is representing one of those powerful interest groups, and the Trump agenda cuts directly against most of those group's goals.

So like hell they're going to just do what he says -- otherwise, he will... do what, exactly? Getting burned on Twitter is not going to end their careers.

It is time to acknowledge that Trump is no longer in his element like he was in the real estate industry, or the media world, where he had plenty of capital, built up over the decades, to bring to bear in negotiations and battles. He has no history of connections within the government that he can draw on -- at least, these connections are weaker than they are for the interests groups connected to the same people.

For example, Trump is connected to Rudy Giuliani, but if he tapped him to run Homeland Security in order to make serious efforts to protect the homeland against radical Islamic terrorism, he's going to find out that the GOP Establishment is connected to Giuliani also, and so are other major interest groups, given the size of Giuliani's role when he was in office. Trump's connection to Giuliani is as a real estate developer and media star in New York, where Giuliani was the Mayor, as well as being native New Yorkers. That's not enough to outweigh all the pressure that would come down on Giuliani from the established interest groups -- especially if Giuliani were to actually go about implementing the Trump agenda, rather than serve as a figurehead but otherwise do the GOP Establishment's bidding.

Who in the government, within any branch, owes Trump favors? Nobody, because he just got started in politics.

Who is he on the same team with? Certainly not the Republicans, whose party he destroyed during the primaries -- their candidates, their party leadership, their donors, their think tank policy crafters, their media outlets, and their history of results over the past generation.

That's not to deny that there are a handful of like-minded politicians who are willing to throw in with Trump, but so far it seems like it amounts to only one exception -- Jeff Sessions. Mike Flynn fit this profile as well, but we see what the Pentagon / Deep State was able to do to his role in the new government. The other members of the small Trumpian circle are also outsiders with not much political capital to bring to bear -- Steve Bannon (who at least has conservative media capital), Steven Miller (whose capital reduces to that of his former boss, Jeff Sessions), and maybe the odd Representative among 435 and who has no powerful committee appointments.

Having a say in the crucial policy battles within the federal government, let alone international relations, is a very high-stakes game that requires an ante that only the truly high rollers can afford. Lacking the degree of DC capital stored up by the likes of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, or General Mattis, Trump is unable to even enter into the big negotiations as a truly independent player representing the people.

And the outcomes so far confirm how outgunned Trump is in the great big DC battles. That is not his fault -- he wants to pursue the agenda he was elected on, but what leverage does he have to advance it, against the maneuvers of the interest groups who want the exact opposite?

The least important topics for Trump were revamping healthcare and re-writing the entire tax code. He did say "repeal and replace Obamacare" without saying anything specific, except for negotiating the price of prescription drugs, since the government is the largest single payer for those drugs (Medicare Part D) and ought to be enjoying a yuge bulk discount. He threw out a tax proposal that he talked about for a week, but never dwelled on, other than a general commitment to a middle income tax cut.

Re-shaping the entire healthcare system and surveying the entire tax code for revision -- those are clearly the GOP Establishment's primary agenda items, meant to benefit their interest groups, and are so complicated that they will surely bog down the Congress for the better part of its two-year term. And we saw what a hosing the Trump movement took in the recent spending bill -- I would not expect a whole lot better in the fall either, unless we luck into a windfall of political capital in the coming months.

If Trump had enough political leverage to get the GOP-controlled Congress to pursue his agenda, they would be spending those two years focusing on immigration / citizenship (no birthright), trade / industrialization, a latter-day Glass-Steagall Act to cut Wall Street down to size, shifting military alliances, humbling the over-reaching judiciary branch, term limits for Congressmen, and so on and so forth.

Within the executive branch, the Pentagon and Deep State have blocked his planned re-orientation of foreign policy and military affairs, have slow-walked or sabotaged building the wall (DHS solicited non-wall bids in addition to wall bids), and have not exercised Executive privilege to enforce the laws regarding foreigners coming in from terrorist-prone nations (even if it was the judiciary branch that was the main saboteur on the Muslim travel ban, DHS or DoD could send teams of armed men to enforce the ban).

So far, the only item that they are conceding to him is trade, probably because he can threaten them about losing the Rust Belt states if he doesn't have any progress to show on that issue by the next election. The GOP Establishment isn't entirely suicidal, and know that if they want to keep the White House, they need to keep those Rust Belt voters who took a chance on Trump and will immediately revert to blue states if it's business as usual on trade, manufacturing, and industry.

That is one key piece of leverage that he does have -- ability to deliver Rust Belt voters to put a Republican in the White House -- and wherever that leverage can be utilized, we can expect good work to get done, despite the interest groups being against it. Over time, this will create a new powerful interest group -- manufacturers, who haven't been a factor in government since the 1950s and '60s -- whom Trump and his successors will represent. But for now, he's getting progress done on trade and the economy without any interest group backing him, and only using his Rust Belt voters as leverage.

We were hoping that we would just elect Trump, and he would go about savaging the DC Establishment on our behalf like he was doing to them during the election season. But he has little leverage to take any of the big issues on, let alone all the ones that he promised progress on during the campaign. What leverage he does have is the support of the people. Going forward, if the Trump movement wants to accomplish anything, it is going to have to organize the Trump supporters out here in ordinary America, and send them off to battle.

First, by screening and then electing candidates for Congress who are for the Trump agenda, and not just the same old interest group puppets.

Then, by putting pressure on the other politicians. Making phone calls, spreading links over social media, holding rallies, surrounding the state capitol building, marching on the Pentagon, and the like.

The government actually is potentially responsive to the people in a democracy, if the people act like an interest group -- organizing collectively, identifying key items to be pursued, and then using their distinct leverage or political capital to advance those goals against their rival interest groups.

But the first step toward the American people taking control over the government is to acknowledge that the President is not omnipotent simply because he won an election. If he doesn't have much leverage at the bargaining table, it doesn't matter how skilled of a negotiator he is, how sharp his instincts are, how knowledgeable he is, or how selfless his motives are. In order for America to regenerate, the Establishment writ large must be cut off at the knees, and one man cannot do that by himself, especially when he arrives in Washington with a brittle-bladed sword and no armor but his own thick skin.

He must be willing to rally the troops, call in the cavalry, and march his army toward the battle lines if he wants to win. It is not enough for his supporters to catapault him over the castle walls -- he must now open the gates and lower the drawbridge from inside, and call on his men to storm the palace!

Trump movement needs institutional analysis, not focus on individuals

Now that the American people have actually gotten their candidate into the White House, he is no longer in a battle against various individuals and personalities like he was during the electoral season -- Trump vs. Cruz, Trump vs. Clinton, Trump vs. Jorge Ramos, etc.

He is up against very powerful groups that persist over time despite the comings and goings of particular individuals within their membership. The goals of these groups, and the leverage they wield in order to get their way, likewise persist over time regardless of internal composition at any given time.

Even during the electoral season, it was not as though the battles against Cruz, Rubio, Romney, McCain, et al were separate battles -- they were interchangeable representatives from the GOP Establishment. Taking on Clinton, Obama, Biden, et al -- taking on the Democrat Establishment. And not Jorge Ramos, Anderson Cooper, Joe Scarborough et al -- taking on the media.

And now, the nature of the battles is not winning the appeal to average American citizens, who choose the winning side -- as determined by relative success at gaining social media followers, driving ratings for a debate, topping opinion polls, and ultimately prevailing at the ballot box. Trump blew his competitors out of the water when the battle was for popular appeal.

In office, he is fighting an entirely different sort of battle -- to pass legislation, to get nominees into their positions, to re-negotiate trade deals, to build the wall, and so on. He's already won the popular argument on these topics -- now he has to try to get them done, against the actions of opposing groups wielding leverage that they did not have before when trying to persuade the public (e.g., holding up a nomination in a Senate committee).

Now it is war, and war is a collective affair. There are no individuals, and no personalities -- everyone is a representative of a group (or multiple groups), trying to advance the goals of that group, using the leverage that that group has to wield. In trying to figure out what is going on, it won't do to point to some individual and their personal motives -- if that's all there is, it's just petty personal BS that is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Instead, we must identify what group that person represents, what that group's goals are, and what leverage that group has to get its way.

For example, an earlier post looked at how the Democrats have become the party of Wall Street (and the media), with Republicans becoming the party of the Pentagon (and resource extraction industries).

Perhaps the most devastating psy-op that the Deep State has run against the Alt-Right was to implant the idea that Jared Kushner had begun to sabotage the President's agenda, against a more loyal individual like Steve Bannon (in reality, the two are Trumpists). This hysteria culminated in a #FireKushner hashtag trending on Twitter for an entire evening. Whoever was in charge of that psy-op was rewarded very handsomely for identifying the paranoid tendency within a subset of the Right, and figuring out who was obsessed with individuals rather than interest groups. Only such an audience would buy such a story.

In their imagination, Kushner has special power on account of being the President's son-in-law, and through his allegedly highly influential daughter Ivanka, who also enjoys power via nepotism (another successful piece of Deep State psy-ops). Steve Bannon, in this story, only enjoyed the level of power that an ideological fellow traveler would receive -- far below what a kinsman would receive. So, nepotism won out, and given the liberal New Yorker nature of Jared and Ivanka, plus perhaps some sprinkling in of "Jared is (half-)Jewish," that's why things were going wrong.

Back on Planet Earth, Jared and Ivanka wield no power whatsoever because they do not represent any interest group -- something that might carry the adjective "Big," like Big banks, Big agriculture, Big military, and so on. They are therefore advancing no group's agenda, and they are not wielding any leverage over the President that derives from membership in that group.

It is pure fantasy to think that Ivanka was the one who convinced her father to bomb Syria just because some false flag propaganda tugged at her womanish heart-strings. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is an established institution that seeks to administer a global empire by force (or threat), and is determined to punish those nations that reject becoming its clients, such as Iraq, Libya, Syria, and North Korea. Its leverage consists in its control over the armed forces. Having the military brass lined up against you is just slightly more persuasive than having to listen to your tearful daughter complain about a mean old man.

Moreover, Ivanka only asked for the bombing (in the story -- probably she was coerced by the Pentagon into putting up a sad tweet to advance their cause). She did not ask for the reversal of policy from anti-regime change to pro-regime change. That was the real outcome, with the bombing only serving as a spectacle to announce that the military was veto-ing Trump and his team's message from just a week ago ("Assad's fate will be left up to the Syrian people").

Michael Flynn was not just some individual who withheld information from the VP, for which he was fired. He represented an interest group within the military -- evidently not a very powerful faction -- that wants to turn away from dead Cold War obsessions and re-orient toward fighting radical Islam. For challenging the Pentagon's Cold Warrior-ism consensus, he was kicked out when the Pentagon leveraged its connections with Deep State to fabricate a scandal about Trump/Russia. A representative of the Pentagon consensus, H.R. McMaster, was put into his place -- and if McMaster ever leaves, that does not mean anything if his replacement is yet another representative of the Pentagon consensus.

Mike Pence did not get the running mate slot because he personally was going to help win the election, since elections never hinge on the running mate (let alone on personalities rather than issues). Rather, he was a representative of the GOP Establishment and was sent to advance that group's goal of not letting Trump have free rein over personnel. Likewise, Reince Priebus was not personally the best person for the job of Chief of Staff -- he is part of the GOP Establishment, sent to advance its interests within the White House.

What leverage does the RNC have? Well, remember back when Priebus was regularly threatening to stage a contested convention, even though it was obvious Trump was going to win more than enough delegates? That's a very real threat that they, as the leaders of the Party whose nomination Trump was seeking, could follow through on. Somehow that plan never materialized. However, they clearly had enough leverage to get several key personnel picks in return for not staging a contested convention -- the running mate, and conditional on Trump's winning the election, a few Cabinet picks (whether left open or specified to be Chief of Staff, Press Secretary, etc.).

As with any potential successor to Pentagon boarding party member McMaster, any shake-up in the White House that ousts Priebus and Spicer will not change things if their replacements are other representatives of the GOP Establishment. That remains a possibility, with the leverage being that the RNC will coordinate with GOP Congressmen to really sabotage Trump regarding legislation, appointments, not attacking Dems who call for impeachment, and so on.

I think the Right is going to have a hard time shifting frame because they tend to be more socially oriented and grounded in reality, whereas interest groups are a more abstracted from concrete individuals and lack personality and juicy drama. Brain scan studies show that liberals and Leftists are more analytical, and conservatives and Rightists more emotional.

I'd look more to Trump supporters who identify as Independents for good analysis, as well as Leftists who focus on economics and politics rather than SJW social-cultural BS. The (Old) Left will call Trump names, assume uncharitable things about his personality, etc., but that can be stripped away from their group-level analysis of the balance of forces among various interest groups, which one has which type of leverage, and so on.

Of course, the cognitive dissonance stemming from their unexpected loss has made the Democrat mainstream devolve into its own individual-level conspiracy theorizing, e.g. painting Bannon as a Svengali rather than a representative from the populist-nationalist faction within the conservative media group. If Bannon were out, and the balance of forces remained, someone else representing the same interests (build wall, re-industrialize economy) would take his place, wielding the same leverage (inflame electoral base via conservatives in media).

Not to mention the retarded conspiracy theories about Putin and Trump. The mainstream Left has nothing to offer anybody.

But we ourselves need to keep our eyes on group-level dynamics, lest we turn into mirror-images of the loony Left. That applies to our electoral goals as well, but that's a topic for another post.

Briefly, though, Trump supporters or Tea Party people are obsessed with primarying their arch-nemesis McCain, specifically, even though he's an incumbent since forever who represents very powerful groups and lobbies (like the Saudis). If the goal is to stack the Senate with more Trump-friendly Republicans, why take on a difficult enemy when the same investment could replace four or five Establishment Republicans who are freshman Senators with little brand recognition and no loyal following? Those people should have tried to primary Rob Portman from Ohio instead, but he sailed through untargeted while all the attention was on McCain's primary.

In short, don't obsess over the interpersonal drama among individual personalities. For the Trump movement, politics is not just some theatrical performance that we want a more entertaining version of, after the boring or depressing versions we've seen so far. We want real-world outcomes to change. For that, we need to identify which groups are on our side, and how to use their distinctive leverage to our advantage, and which groups oppose us, and how to adapt to their leverage. And then, how to grow our side, knowing which groups support us, and how to shrink or neuter the other side, knowing which groups support them.

May 14, 2017

Press briefings are moralistic tribunal against Trump movement, end them

Trump should 100% go with his musing about canceling the daily press briefings.

They never yield anything newsworthy, but then again that's not the point of them. Everyone in that room understands that they aren't going to tease out an answer that the White House does not wish to already give, which can be done through talking points or read-outs.

The actual role of these "briefings" is what comes after the briefing -- the tribunal held by the assembled inquisitors sent by the media monopoly, forming a sort of shadow judiciary. The "reporters" act as lawyer-judges demanding to know the answers to a line of questioning -- not just disconnected questions, but a line or thread of questions that is "going somewhere" across the episode.

The over-arching theme of questioning is, "Has the defendant broken a norm of some kind?" Of course the norms under question are those upheld by the liberal elites from the corporate globalist Establishment. Not what ordinary Americans give a damn about.

They don't have to be violations of the US criminal code. Often the question is simply "Does it concern the White House that...?" -- meaning, we are concerned that you did something wrong, and are charging you here and now for that. But do you yourselves see that you have done something wrong, and are you sorry for committing that offense? It could help us toward administering a softer punishment during sentencing.

The defense attorney -- the Press Secretary -- is allowed some rights to refuse on certain limited grounds, but generally they will be held in contempt or otherwise punished if they do not give answers satisfactory to the inquisitors. The defendant (the President / White House / other government body) is never seen or heard from, angering the tribunal for having to always go through the defendant's lawyer, but enhancing their perceived authority for being able to try the defendant in absentia.

After the defense's case is given, the inquisitors write up their findings and deliver their decisions via their media channels to the audience seated on the other side of the bar, in the gallery. The end consumers of the news are not a jury because they don't get to provide their input to the process and affect the outcome. They're just spectators.

When the White House was on the same wavelength with the norms upheld by the globalist elite media, the inquisitors got along well with the defense attorney. They found few or no violations, and mostly sat in rapt attention to hear how wonderfully the defendant was adhering to the norms of the globalist elite. This circle-jerk is mind-numbingly boring to normal Americans, so it was relegated to C-SPAN.

Now that the President's goals are running mostly contrary to the globalist elite's norms, the inquisitors have turned the spectacle into a daily witch hunt, which gets much better ratings. Normal Americans hate the press' values and will gladly tune in to see the Press Secretary stand up to, ridicule, and humiliate these self-styled arbiters of all that is just and moral.

For that, though, Trump would need more of an attack dog than Sean Spicer, who usually comes off as a substitute teacher who bluffs about discipline but is openly more concerned with being accepted by the students, who he relates to as his own peers, and then gets eaten alive day after day because the students reject him as one of their own.

This kangaroo court atmosphere leads to the briefings being carried on the major networks, not just C-SPAN, but that means the media monopoly makes a fortune from orchestrating a daily witch hunt against the Trump movement.

The President, his administration, and his supporters are under no obligation to comply with the ridiculous demands of the media tribunal. They have no jurisdiction, and are just wannabe judges. It's time to cancel them altogether and prove that the Fourth Estate has no real power.

What are they going to do in retaliation -- give us bad press?! They've been doing that round the clock for two years now, and haven't put a dent in the movement. If bad press had any influence, it would have derailed us when we were weak and vulnerable -- before or during the primaries. And yet, we won one election after another. And now that we da White House now, they are even weaker in comparison, and hold even less leverage.

Tell them to go screw off, starve them of access, and only hand out bullet points and read-outs. They aren't the arbiters of jack shit, and we will let them know what's up on our own terms.

May 12, 2017

Iran would win from US plan to partition Syria, by absorbing Kurdish region

It looks like the Pentagon geniuses who brought us the Iraq War are planning to partition Syria so that the northeastern region, where Kurds are a plurality, gets split off as a US client state in order to form a buffer between Iran and Israel. If the Pentagon cannot get regime change against a non-client state (Syria), they might as well try to check the spread of our regional enemy (Iran) toward our regional client (Israel). And they would get at least a pocket of the region under the US sphere of influence.

See this review of the plan, and below for a map of who controls which regions now. ISIS (gray) is confined to the desert in the southeast, the Kurdish militias (yellow) control the northeast, the Syrian government (red) now controls most of the heavily populated Levant, although with pockets of al-Qaeda forces (green) still in control of regions there as well.

I'm not going to go over the details of what may happen when in the short term, between the various players. The longer-term goal of ours is to carve out a pocket in the northern Fertile Crescent that would be under our sphere of influence. Let's assess the viability of that goal itself, even assuming we could win our short-term battles.

In short, the only plausible outcome is Iran, our geopolitical rival, absorbing Kurdistan, whether as a client or through territorial union. A simple look over the history of empires in the Middle East, from the start to the present, shows that Iran would take the northern Fertile Crescent, not the US or any of its regional allies (Turkey, Saudi, Israel, etc.).

The Pentagon just got through trying to carve out a pocket of US influence in the Fertile Crescent -- Iraq -- and it has only ended up handing that country over to Iran's sphere of influence. Not to mention, no material spoils for us -- "blood for no oil," as Greg Cochran put it.

It's not so much that Iraq and Iran are both majority Shia rather than Sunni, although that certainly helps most Iraqis want to huddle under the Iranian aegis rather than some other group in the region, let alone the US that has been starving it and demolishing it back into the Stone Age for 25 years.

Rather, the reason is that the eastern Fertile Crescent has fallen under the Persian sphere of influence, off and on, since 500 BC (the Achaemenid Empire), and for hundreds of years at a stretch. It was most recently under control of the Ottoman Empire, based in the Anatolian peninsula, although that's the only empire indigenous to Anatolia that has ever ruled Iraq. And of course there was a one-off period where the nomadic desert Arabs fanned out and conquered the whole Middle East.

But as of around 500 BC, the eastern Fertile Crescent has been unable to originate its own empires (like the Akkadians), and has generally been absorbed by the Persian civilization that arose just to its east.

Before we began to bomb, starve, invade, and occupy Iraq, it was an independent nation that was somewhat aligned with the Soviets but not a mere client, it was at war with Iran, and was not under the sway of the Salafi state of Saudi Arabia (Saddam Hussein was a secular nationalist). Once we obliterated their society, it was too weak to remain independent -- and would therefore go to the strongest regional ally with whom they had the closest affinity, namely Iran.

It was clear we would not absorb it ourselves because that has never been the way we won over client states in the Middle East -- we didn't bomb Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia into oblivion.

An identical outcome will result if we try the same old failed plan, this time in Syria. It's an independent secular nationalist country, aligned with Russia and Iran though not a mere client, and not under other regional control.

This time the plan would not be to bomb, invade, and occupy the whole country, topple the leader, etc., like we did in Iraq -- thank God that Russia has already beaten us to the punch, and we won't risk nuclear war over Syria. (Or so a sane military would conclude -- don't count on them as they flail for a victory somewhere, anywhere.) But it would replicate that strategy on a smaller scale, to carve out the northeastern region for a Kurdish client buffer state.

Now we ask the same question: would a client state that we imposed by force hold up? No: look at when we tried to impose the Shah on Iran -- that lasted all of 25 years, and triggered a violent revolution that made us their enemies for the indefinite future. When we tried to turn Saddam into our puppet, he rebelled and got too big for his britches, which the nomadic pastoralist Kurds would be certain to do before too long. Then we would invade, occupy, and destroy our Kurdish client state, hoping that someone more compliant would come along. In reality, a severely weakened client that we just obliterated would turn to someone else in the region.

So, which regional power would absorb this Kurdish state, given that we would not control it outright for more than a generation? Again we turn to the history of imperial spheres of influence in the Middle East.

Here's a map of where Kurdish people were concentrated in 1986, to give you an idea of the fullest extent of any potential Kurdish state that would be our client. It is roughly the northern Fertile Crescent:

Indigenous empires used to form in this region, including the Indo-European Hittites and Mitanni during the 2nd millennium BC, and the Semitic (or Semiticized) Assyrians, whose last great empire died before 500 BC. So a Kurdish state would most definitely not grow into anything broader.

An empire headed in the Anatolian peninsula has done the trick twice -- the Byzantines and the Ottomans. But those were separated by 1000 years, and may have been bookends to a single period where Anatolia could conquer the Fertile Crescent. That rules out Turkey as the absorber of Kurdistan -- we see how much trouble they have even subduing those within their current borders.

The nomadic desert Arabs only had their one heyday with the spread of Islam throughout the Fertile Crescent, and are a clear non-factor today. They are decadent, fractured within their elite royal family, and have no encircling foreign empire to hold them together (like the Sassanian and then the Ottoman empires did to them).

Turkic or Mongol nomads are not about to sweep through from the East again, so they're out.

The Levant to the west has never spawned a regional empire, at least a land-based one (the Phoenicians were sea-based around the Mediterranean coastline). And being as riven by civil war as Syria already is, it is in no position to absorb Kurdistan.

Egyptian-based empires have never reached up into the northern and eastern parts of the Fertile Crescent, although they have occasionally conquered the Levant.

That leaves only the Persian sphere of influence. And sure enough, go through any map of a Persian-based empire from the Achaemenids circa 500 BC to the Safavids circa 1600 AD (including the Parthians and Sassanians in between), and it usually includes the eastern and northern Fertile Crescent. Here's the Safavid map showing not only Kurdistan but also Iraq under Persian control:

That shared political history is in addition to the greater ethnic similarity that the Kurds have with the Persians than they do with any other major ethnic group in the region. They're an Iranian people who speak an Iranian language, and who have a pre-Islamic Iranian substrate under their form of Islam. They already form 10% of the population of Iran, and have largely given up on ethnic separatism, unlike in Turkey.

The only plausible outcome of the US partition plan for Syria ends in the Kurdish region getting absorbed into Iran, whether as a client or through outright annexation / unification, and whether sooner or later. The clueless geniuses running the Pentagon have learned nothing from the Iraq War, and are hell-bent on handing over another part of the Middle East to our geopolitical rival of Iran, after impotently trying to impose its will on another unruly client state.

I don't buy the geopolitical BS about the US having to counter Iran's every move. Let them take over the northern and eastern Fertile Crescent -- it'll mean far fewer rampaging jihadists using the area as "the Harvard of terrorism" as Trump described post-Saddam Iraq. Our only goal should be countering radical Islam, and although Iran is a theocracy, it does not spread its religion violently or instigate religious war elsewhere. No more September 11ths (that was the Saudis, not the Persians).

I look at the geopolitical angle only to show that, even by their own standards, our military brass has absolutely no clue what the hell they're doing, what long-term historical forces there are in the region, and which of those forces is most likely to pull Kurdistan into its orbit. They're simply tunnel-visioned into punishing the Middle Eastern nations that resisted our sphere of influence from the Cold War era. If we don't get the hell out of there, that will be our own figurative Afghanistan (on top of our literal Afghanistan).

May 10, 2017

Trump rollercoaster still going: It's going to be a bumpy eight years

A year ago, I noticed Trump's campaign going through a fairly regular cycle, roughly one month going up, then another month going down. Each peak or valley was in the first half of a calendar month. That continued throughout the electoral season and beyond, so it wasn't just something about campaigning.

The last update I wrote was in December (with links to earlier posts), providing a basic model of what was going on. Read that post for more detail, but the gist is that the collective emotional energy level is like a neuron being stimulated and firing. It goes through its excited stage, then a refractory phase, then a resting yet excitable phase, before firing again.

From that model, I predicted that this rollercoaster would continue if the level of energy being injected by the stimulating source -- namely, Trump himself -- remained high. A low level of stimulation only excites the neuron a little bit, and it goes quickly back to the resting state, without sending it through a soaring high and crashing low trajectory.

Trump has kept the energy level high, and sure enough the rollercoaster has continued.

Since the last report, there was a relative peak in January, when people were looking forward to Inauguration and ready to "give him a chance". After Inauguration Day, late January and into the first half of February, there were constant negative leaks, the failure of the travel ban (plus the protests against it), and the Deep State kicking out NSC Advisor Flynn.

Late February and the first part of March saw his Joint Address to Congress, the bombshell revelation that Obama had Trump surveiled, the start toward repealing-and-replacing Obamacare, and the ultimate punking of Rachel Maddow with "Trump's tax returns".

Late March and the first part of April saw the collapse of the Obamacare repeal effort, the interventionist take-over of foreign policy beginning with the airstrike on Syria, and the evaporation of the investigations into Trump being surveiled by the government.

Late April and so far into May, the hawkish foreign policy stuff has cooled for the moment, Trump managed to cajole the House into passing a healthcare bill, and now FBI Director Comey has finally been axed, clearing the way for long-overdue swamp draining.

Notice that since the cycle is an even number length, it's the same up months and down months as last year. First half of March were all his victories, early April was the Wisconsin primary and abortion punishment controversy, early May was winning Indiana and effectively sealing up the nomination, etc.

That means prepare for the rollercoaster ride to continue. Like last year, there will be a nadir coming up sometime in the first half of June (last time: the La Raza judge controversy, rioters mobbing Trump rally attendees in San Jose). Maybe it will be the Senate delivering a fail on the healthcare bill, or another thwarted attempt at the Muslim travel ban, or the Pentagon dragging us into more pointless interventions.

Going forward, we should take into account where we are in the rollercoaster cycle, to write off some of the blackpilling if it's during an expected depressive phase, but also to temper ambitions during an expected manic phase.

For example, we've moved into an excited phase, and with Comey unceremoniously fired, both Trump supporters and Trump fearers alike are thinking that Crooked Hillary, Bill, Huma, Pizza Podesta, and the rest of the gang are going to be led away in chains. Something will happen to some of them, but the last time around should give us pause.

In early March, during a manic phase, we heard that Obama had Trump's "wires tapped," and the investigations turned up more and more, then they hit a plateau, and although Susan Rice herself was outed as a participant, that whole storyline went up in a puff of smoke after the airstrike on Syria and subsequent Cold War revival.

It's going to take a little bit for a replacement to be found at FBI, let alone to draw up formal indictments. By the time things actually get going, we could already be in the next depressive phase, and it's going to either go nowhere or get put on the back burner, leaving us feeling cheated and defeated.

So rather than the short-term cycles up and down, we should focus on where the longer-term trends are pointing. The foreign policy area has been heading the wrong way ever since Flynn was kicked out. The economic re-development and trade area has been trending the right way ever since the TPP was killed. "Draining the swamp" is a lot more mixed, with the Pentagon and military side of Deep State being much harder to clear out, whereas domestic domains have been easier (DoJ, FBI, etc.).

Buckle up, folks: it's going to be a very bumpy eight years -- that's nearly 50 total months of depressive blackpilling, intercut with 50 months of manic invincibility. If only Trump weren't injecting so much energy into the excitable system after the election had been won... but given how much radical change needs to happen, he's without much of a choice. The fake media will raise the volume so loud anyway and make him respond with his own intense response. Nobody said Making America Great Again was going to feel soothing and peaceful.

May 8, 2017

Radical Islam no longer a concern, with renewed focus on Cold War / Axis of Evil

Since the Pentagon's boarding party landed in the White House, the focus of foreign affairs has shifted away from what Trump and the Trump movement held to be the greatest national security threat -- "radical, Islamic, terrorism" -- and right back to the out-of-date Cold War obsession with countering Russia and anyone who eluded our sphere of influence back then.

The brass at the Pentagon and Deep State broadly intends to continue the failed policies of the "Axis of Evil" framework, which sought to update the Cold War geopolitical positioning for an era where there was no more Soviet Union and Communism was in steep decline worldwide. For the new millennium, the anti-Communist rhetoric was dropped and now the narrative was all about evil dictators who are trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction that they might use on their own people, and after that, on ours. Therefore, we must intervene and do regime change and/or building democracy afterward, to bring to power other leaders who are not evil dictators intent on getting WMD to use at their whim.

This vision would be laughable if it had not led to the utter disaster of the Iraq War, not to mention our toppling of Qaddafi in Libya. Neither of those countries has come under the US sphere of influence, and none of the material wealth there (oil) is flowing into our hands either. And now that the dictators are gone, the Islamic terrorists who they'd been keeping in check are now free to terrorize their own neck of the world, and the West as well.

Trump tried to emphasize this craziness during the campaign, by pointing out how these dictators may have been "bad guys" but at least they were keeping radical Islamic terrorists from running amok. Left with only those two options, the choice is obvious, yet our military Establishment has repeatedly chosen to topple dictators despite the outcome of spreading jihadism.

Take a look at the nations targeted by the Cold War, Axis of Evil, War on Terror framework -- Cuba, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Five of those six were ruled by explicitly secular or even atheist governments, excepting Iran.* Their crime for which they are to be punished is not agreeing to fall under the US sphere of influence, it's as simple as that. With the waning of Castro influence in Cuba, maybe the neo-Cold Warriors will focus on Venezuela instead.

The Bush administration went to pains to make clear that they had no beef with Islam, and that the al-Qaeda types were hijacking an otherwise peaceful religion, etc. Bush apologized for describing the War on Terror as a "crusade," i.e. for introducing a religious tone. The Bush people never railed against Islam, Islamism, Islamists, Islamic terrorism, radical Islam, radical Islamic terrorism, or any conceivable way of referring to jihad and jihadists.

And why would they? Aside from Iran, their enemies were secular or atheist rulers who were actively suppressing radical Islam. And our key allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Pakistan, are either favorable toward or are enthusiastic participants in radical Islam -- and in spreading it far and wide. Our NATO allies, especially Turkey but including Western Europe, are letting jihadism incubate within their borders, and support jihadism via support for the Saudis. But they're opposed to Russia, so NATO is just A-OK with the Pentagon.

That is why the military Deep State will only focus on a particular jihadist ally that goes out of control, or that draws too much negative publicity to itself, such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. As long as the jihadists re-brand themselves, and agree to be allies of the US, the Pentagon prefers them to the secular governments that do not want to be client states of the US.

The last time Trump used some variation of "radical Islamic terrorism" on Twitter was February 6, roughly one week before his NSC Advisor Michael Flynn was forced out of the White House by the Pentagon boarding party. It's not as though there haven't been major incidents of Islamic terrorism since then -- the French police officer who was assassinated on April 20, buses full of child evacuees being blown up in Syria, and on and on. Yet nobody in the administration is railing against "radical Islamic terrorism," even to promote a general policy rather than respond to a particular incident.

Trump made such a big stink about Obama, "He won't even use the term, 'radical Islamic terrorism'". He has used that phrase for years and years, and suddenly he stops using it when there's a broader shake-up in his Cabinet that expels one of the few Generals who is skeptical about re-igniting the Cold War, who doesn't think Syria is the enemy (and who actually left open the possibility that the 2013 chemical attack in Syria was a false flag by the jihadists), and who views radical Islam as the #1 threat facing us today.

See here for a review of Flynn's views on radical Islam. Even if you think he's exaggerating somewhat about how deeply ingrained jihadism is to Islam per se (rather than, say, certain groups of Muslims like the Arabians, or certain schools like the Hanbali Sunni), the point remains that he's focused on an actual serious threat rather than a boogeyman like Russia, and that his views would lead him to be more wary of blindly supporting Saudi Arabia, and less wary of partnering with Syria, in solving the problem. That puts him at odds with the military Establishment, but right on the same wavelength as Trump and his supporters, who want to re-align our foreign policy away from the dead Cold War and toward the pressing concerns of radical Islam -- and Muslim mass migration.

Sebastian Gorka is another White House figure who nearly got shoved out by the Establishment for focusing on jihadism rather than secular strongmen who resist US control. Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller fall into this camp as well, although their positions seem safer for now.

Secretary of Defense Mattis is squarely within the "don't criticize Islam" camp, lest it antagonize our loyal Saudi allies who blew us up on September 11th (including the very Pentagon building itself -- some gratitude with those Bedouin). So is Flynn's replacement, McMaster (Mike Cernovich says he's being promoted out, but if his replacement is also part of the Pentagon boarding party, nothing will substantially change).

And Secretary of Homeland Security Kelly said during his confirmation hearings that general surveillance of mosques here should play no role in preventing terrorist attacks -- despite that being common practice in the NYC area after 9/11, helping to foil several plots. Trump ally Rudy Giuliani defended that practice many times during 2016, so why isn't he or someone like him the Secretary? The Pentagon brass would veto such a move, as it would contradict their policy of being as Muslim-friendly as possible, up to letting Salafi clerics radicalize people right here within our borders who will blow us up on our own soil.

Going forward, we will discover how much Trump can push back against the Pentagon Party that sees a Republican in the White House as its carte blanche. Regardless of personnel changes, if their views stay roughly constant, it will show the institutional strength of the Pentagon and the relative weakness of the President and his inner circle -- who, in all fairness, came into Washington with essentially no connections or leverage, other than the electoral victory itself. Trump and his fellow travelers would have to mobilize us in order to flex any muscle against the Pentagon -- whether calling in to our representatives, spreading a social media campaign, holding protests, or what have you.

If foreign policy moves away from Cold War / Axis of Evil obsessions, and back toward the focus on radical Islam from the campaign trail, it will show that the Trump movement is not so beholden to the military faction of Deep State.

After Flynn was sidelined, the Pentagon has had the upper hand, but it is still a fluid situation for now. If it's a year or two years of this crap, then we will have found out that the Pentagon is too powerful to counteract from within the government, and that only a truly catastrophic failure of their own (e.g. provoking Russia into a nuclear war) will discredit their vision, albeit a little too late.

* To the extent that Iran has supported armed rebellions elsewhere (mainly via Hezbollah), it has been for national liberation or anti-imperial purposes, such as getting the Israeli and American militaries out of Lebanon, rather than to convert others to Shia Islam at the barrel of a gun, to genocide non-Shia groups, to destroy buildings and shrines that their sect does not honor, or to otherwise engage in religiously motivated mayhem.

May 7, 2017

Fragmented French electoral process sets up another bloody revolution

As I explained two weeks ago (in comments), Le Pen had no chance of winning in an electoral system that holds an anarchic free-for-all primary election, and then just two weeks later a general election.

There was not enough time to heal wounds and build a coalition between the Le Pen and the cuckservative factions. I'm guessing a lot of the low turnout this time was due to these comfortable retired cucks, who cannot settle into a fundamentally new mindset (nationalism) after just two weeks of attempted persuasion.

These are the people who would have cost Trump the election if it had been held two weeks after Super Tuesday of primary season. He needed months to get them on board. That Le Pen was able to get 40% after two weeks of coalition building is pretty good -- does anyone think Trump would have done better if the election had been held in early April, around the time of the disastrous Wisconsin primary?

An earlier post from a year ago detailed the superiority of the American system of holding primaries far in advance of the general, which results in the two-party system instead of the free-for-all system that the Europeans have. Not only does it allow plenty of time for healing and coalition-building after a bitterly fought primary, it also allows the winning party to hit the ground running after the election. They do not have to waste months in putting together a coalition after already taking office, since that coalition was formed before the general election was even held.

Between a sorely needed overhaul of their electoral process, shameless de-Gaul-ification by the EU, rampant third-world immigration, and Islamic terrorism, France is headed toward another one of its bloody revolutions. Europe and its off-shoots is due for its once-a-century major war, and their rhythmic tendency is to occur during the first half of the century.

The Pentagon brass would absolutely support the violent imposition of Islam and mass migration on all European peoples, if those peoples went to war to try to expel the foreigners. Hopefully our rank-and-file troops would see the absurdity of pointing guns at Englishmen and Frenchmen in order to grease the skids for Islamic mass migration, and would either half-ass it or actively disobey.

This further delay in solving the immigration problem will only increase the pressure-cooker atmosphere in Europe, and raises rather than lowers the probability that Europeans will ultimately turn toward pogroms or a Reconquista against their invaders, if the democratic process offers them no peaceful civic remedy. It is in the nature of laissez-faire zeitgeists for short-term buck-passing to take the place of long-term stewardship, but eventually everybody has to pay the piper.

May 3, 2017

Dems = Wall St. Party, GOP = Pentagon Party

After evaluating which areas Trump has made the most progress in, and which areas he has been hijacked and directed 180 degrees away from his campaign views, we can surmise which interest groups are sacrosanct within GOP partisan politics and which are expendable. Likewise when we look back at Obama's campaign promises vs. his actual outcomes in office, we can tell who is "in" and who is "out" within Democrat politics.

Of all the various factions within the Establishment or Deep State, two have the ability to really grind society to a halt that allows them to play primary roles in directing policy. The first is the financial faction, including both Wall Street and the Fed, who can bring the economy to a halt. The second is the military, based in the Pentagon, who can bring physical security to a halt at a national level.

Other factions of the Establishment appear to cluster around either of these two poles rather than serve as third or fourth poles of equal strength (e.g., the less powerful media joining the more powerful Wall Street pole, and the less powerful oil joining the more powerful military pole).

Trump's military policy has clearly been taken over by a boarding party from the Pentagon, resurrecting the Axis of Evil framework of 2002, continuing the Cold War framework from even longer ago. No fewer than three Generals in good Pentagon standing are in his Cabinet (Mattis, Kelly, McMaster). In the recent Congressional funding bill, Republicans scored no major victories except for Defense pork getting a $20 billion boost.

On the other hand, Trump immediately withdrew the US from the TPP, has begun to gut NAFTA as we know it, speculated about breaking up the "big banks" and enacting a new Glass-Steagall Act that would prevent investment banks from running as wild as they have been, and he wants reciprocal taxes vis-a-vis other nations who put tariffs on our exports.

In short, Trump has had free rein to beat up Wall Street and the financial elites, but cannot do more than cosmetic touches to the Pentagon and its military elites.

For Obama, it was just the opposite: he did not let the Pentagon get what they wanted, even if he was more hawkish than you would have expected from the campaign trail. They didn't invade or even strike Syria, didn't surround North Korea, or pick on Cuba. They did get the consolation prize of getting to invade Libya and topple Qaddafi, but they also had to pull most of our troops out of Iraq and diminish our presence in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile the first thing he did was bail out Wall Street, pass the Wall Street lobby's Dodd-Frank Act, then rolled out multiple rounds of "quantitative easing" stimulus packages that propped up the economic elites, and ordered the Fed to keep interest rates at 0. For Obama it was Wall Street who hand-selected his Cabinet, and where he has returned to receive "speaking fees" (pay-offs) after leaving the White House. That was all contradictory to candidate Obama's quasi-populist fulmination against the big banks, Wall Street running amok, and those evil corporate Republicans always trying to provide corporate welfare to the super-rich.

So, Obama could obstruct the Pentagon to a fair degree, whereas anything that Wall Street wanted, Wall Street received.

You see the same with Bush II, who didn't focus nearly so much on juicing up Wall Street, and was focused more instead on driving up the debt by funding the Pentagon's multiple wet dreams (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.).

Most people forget it was Clinton who repealed Glass-Steagall, re-opening the laissez-faire floodgates in the banking industry. That same year saw a Newsweek cover that made superheroes out of Clinton's Treasury Secretaries and Fed Chairman ("the Three Marketeers" making up the "committee to save the world"). Clinton passed NAFTA and defended it against Bob Dole's challenges during the 1996 re-election campaign, and against Ross Perot's populist campaigns in both elections. Clinton was endorsed in '92 by The Economist, which has endorsed Democrats in every election since then excepting Dole in '96 and Bush in 2000.

At the same time, Clinton didn't let the Pentagon invade Iraq like they had done under the preceding and succeeding administrations. Bomb a little here, bomb a little there, but he did not let the Pentagon get their way.

I won't keep going back through all previous Presidents, but suffice it to say that this pattern goes back through Carter. Before him, it was the Democrats who were the party of hawkish interventionists and labor unionists, while the Republicans were the party of free marketeers and isolationists wary of the military-industrial complex.

Why has the military latched onto the GOP so much in recent decades, and Wall Street so much onto the Democrats? As the parties have become increasingly aligned with liberals or conservatives, it has driven the more conservative military to the GOP and the more liberal financiers to the Democrats.

The voter bases reflect this split as well, with conservatives identifying more with the military, and liberals more with business professionals. This boils down to liberals being more abstract and cerebral, and conservatives being more concrete and physical in orientation (nerds vs. jocks, Jews vs. Celts).

The cognitive vs. corporeal divide also leads the secondary interest groups to either major party. The Democrats are not only the party of Wall Street but of the media, while the Republicans attract not only the military but resource extraction industries (oil, coal, corn -- sugar, bananas, and diamonds in another time or place). It was Clinton who passed the Telecommunications Act in '96, and Obama who practiced laissez-faire toward the internet giants like Amazon and Google. It's Trump who approved two oil pipelines upon assuming office.

The finance and media sectors are both centered in New York City, while the military and resource extraction sectors are more spread out through the red states, especially in the Greater South. That relates back to voting bases via the Electoral College -- the finance party will do well along the ACELA corridor, while the military party will do well in the South.

That's why Obama could give the Pentagon something of the cold shoulder -- they did not get him elected, so what did he owe them? Ditto for Trump -- Wall Street did not get him elected, so what does he owe them?

By now there is a clear tacit understanding between the two major factions of the elites that when a Democrat wins the White House, the financial elites will get their way more than the military elites, and vice versa if a Republican wins the White House.

That's why the Pentagon was so outraged over Trump's attempted reversal of the military elite's goal of continuing the Cold War -- with the Republican Party now holding the magical White House lamp in its hands, it's the Pentagon's turn to have the Presidential genie grant them their three wishes. And that's why the financial elites were quick to send their boarding party into the Obama administration, just in case he got any funny ideas about fulfilling his campaign rhetoric of being both anti-war and anti-Wall Street. After the Republicans feeding at the debt trough during the Iraq War, it was now time for the Democrats to feed at the trough during the bailout marathon.

Curiously, then, Trump's main accomplishments may wind up being Bernie Sanders-style economic populism, instead of the Pat Buchanan-style shake-up in military policy that everybody thought would come more easily to a Republican administration. In the shift away from globalism, we are getting economic nationalism but are still stuck with military globalism, given which party controls the White House.

My initial expectation was that we'd have an easier time with nationalism than populism, but I was naive about how much the Pentagon would go along with Trump's proposed re-orientation away from the Cold War, "re-jiggering NATO", and so on. I figured they had learned some lessons from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and were not pushing as hard under Obama as they had under Bush. Now it seems more likely that they would have loved to continue Iraq and Afghanistan under McCain, but a Democrat President is not beholden to the military for electoral victory, and the Pentagon would not get their wish.

The warmongers were just biding their time until another Republican won the White House, and they have not wasted any time trying to check off all of the remaining Cold War boxes, just in case Trump is a fluke Republican President and they don't get another turn to rub the White House lamp. I'm afraid that means that military policy during the Trump administration will be characterized by the Pentagon going for broke, and we will have to plan accordingly.

May 1, 2017

Ethnic separatism and national weakness in wartime

Some comments to an earlier post talk about who would win in a war between various Middle Eastern countries. There's a lot to be said for economic and military technological analysis, but looking over the broad sweep of history shows that strongly united people conquer those who are internally fragmented.

The Mongols are the best known example -- economically and technologically primitive compared to the many large-scale agrarian civilizations that they crushed with little effort. But after awhile they, too, got crushed by some of those civilizations, showing that it was not just some magical "X factor" that the Mongols had discovered.

They were under pressure from all sorts of sedentary empires, which forced them over the long term to band together. As they conquered the civilizations, the Mongols lost the original motivation to stay strongly united -- they were now the ones resting on their laurels. At that point, they lost the glue of solidarity, and were easily conquered by other groups who had grown strongly united against the Mongol menace.

Peter Turchin discusses this view of ethnogenesis, or how an ethnic group is born (and dies), in the pop audience book War and Peace and War. The process is more intense when the enemy closing in around you is foreign in a number of crucial ways, rather than similar to you. For example, they speak a language from an entirely different family, worship different gods, follow different food taboos, practice a different subsistence mode (nomadic pastoralist vs. sedentary farmer), and so on.

That basic framework can be applied to the contemporary Middle East to assess who is relatively more unified and who is relatively more fragmented. That will make big predictions for who would win in a war. So let's have a look at ethnic frictions within a country, especially if they rise to the degree of ethnic separatism.

By far the strongest nations on that score are Iran and Egypt.

While Egypt does have a strong internal conflict between rural and urban, traditional and modern, like any country, both sides in those conflicts still see themselves as "Egyptian" rather than some non-Egyptian group. Even the Coptic Christian minority does not have breakaway grievances, despite occasionally getting blown up by jihadists as they were last Easter.

Iran is far more diverse, so its absence of separatism is an even stronger testament to its national unity. Only 60% are ethnic Persians, who are Shia Muslims. Another 15% are Azerbaijani, who are also Shia, but who speak a non-Indo-European language unlike the Persians. It's unclear from my cursory look at the genetic findings whether these Azerbaijanis are genetically similar to the Persians and have adopted a foreign group's language, or whether that foreign language correlates with a foreign genepool. In any case, they are a distinct group, whether they feel the basis to be genetic or cultural.

The Kurds, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, make up another 10%, and they are closer to the Persians in genes and language, being more like sisters or cousins, although they tend to be more nomadic than the sedentary Persians, and that's no small difference. At 5%, the Lurs are similar to the Kurds -- a nomadic group speaking a similar language to the Persians -- but like the Persians, they are generally Shia Muslims.

That leaves fully 10% who are still not like any of these other groups -- Turkic groups like the Turkmens, Caucasian groups like the Armenians, (Middle Eastern) Jews, and others.

The Azerbaijanis are more or less completely assimilated into the Iranian nation, and indeed founded a dynasty (the Qajars) that ruled Persia from 1785 to 1925. The Grand Ayatollah Khamenei (head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces), is also of Azeri background.

The smaller ethnic groups are even alloted a quota of seats in the Parliament: 2 for Armenians (Caucasian, Christian), 1 for Assyrians (Semitic, Christian), 1 for Jews (Semitic, Jewish), and 1 for Zoroastrians (Persian/Iranian, pre-Islamic religion).

That leaves the Kurds as the main risk. Unlike elsewhere, they have mostly given up on separating from their nation of residence. The last major Kurdish rebellion was during the infancy of the Iranian Revolution in the late '70s and early '80s, when the new nation was inchoate and vulnerable. They are not as brutally suppressed as they are in Turkey.

Since Kurdish separatism in Iran has sharply declined over the decades, the trend in Iran is toward stronger national unity.

So where does that leave the other countries? Here are the ethnic divisions in major countries that risk fragmenting national unity during the crucial event of war:

Saudi Arabia has a 15% Shia population under Salafi rule, or Sunni extremists (the same who spread jihadism through radical mosques and paramilitaries like al-Qaeda and ISIS). Worse, this minority is at high concentrations in the oil-rich areas along the Persian Gulf, which over the millennia has fallen more under the cultural and ethnic influence of Eastern Mesopotamia and Persia rather than the Arabian Desert where the current regime is based (Riyadh). There's also a decent cluster of Shia in the Hejaz region along the Red Sea coast, also outside of the Desert's cultural sphere, including the area of Medina (2nd holiest city in Islam).

Even worse for Saudi Arabia is that 1/3 of its population is foreigners, amounting to some 10 million people, mostly from South Asian or Southeast Asian countries with large Muslim populations. They are treated like second-class citizens at best. Imagine one-third of the population being immediately ruled out when it comes to being motivated enough to sacrifice one's life for the greater good of the nation -- it's not even their nation!

Israel of course has to worry about the Palestinians, who make up roughly 50% of the population under Israeli control (Israel and the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza), and 20% of Israel proper. It's hard to fight both an internal and an external war because "When the cat's away, the mice will play." There are also less substantial ethnic fault-lines among the Jews themselves, between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi / Sephardi, although those do not reach the level of separatism.

Turkey has about 30% of its population in minority ethnic groups, with 15% being Kurds. Conflict between Kurds and the Turkish government has been armed and increasing over time, continuing right through the Syrian War, even when the Kurds are in another country. Kurdish separatism will be a major obstacle for Turkey to overcome in a war against a separate peer country like, e.g., Iran. Plus the Kurdish part of the country lies in the Southeast, forming a barrier between Istanbul or Ankara and most of the Middle East.

Syria is not a regional power, but it's worth considering just to show how ethnic diversity can weaken a nation. It too has a decent Kurdish population, although they are not as bitterly separatist as in Turkey and are not suppressed as brutally. Still, it's something they are organizing for, and something that antagonizes the non-Kurdish Syrians. The main foreign presence is Sunni extremists, and their jihadism is aimed at anyone who isn't Sunni -- of which Syria offers many targets, from Shia to Druze to Alawite to Christian. If these Gulf-derived jihadists radicalize the local Syrian Sunnis -- to make them view religious sect rather than national origin as primary -- then they can seriously weaken the state, as we've seen during the Syrian Civil War.

If the jihadist presence continued over the long-term, and especially if it were associated with foreign nationals rather than local Syrian Sunnis, that would strengthen the Syrian national identity, as the diverse groups band together against the jihadists. As it stands, though, Russia has intervened to save them from prolonged exposure to the jihadists. That will probably leave the Syrians breathing a sigh of relief, and going back to their not-so-intense level of national solidarity, rather than becoming so intensely nationalistic that they invade the Arabian Desert and wipe out their nemesis.

That still leaves the superpowers who are in the region.

Russia has come more together as a nation after Putin came to power (or his election was the initial expression of rising national solidarity). That was after the Chechen wars of the 1990s, not to mention the numerous non-European nations breaking away from the Soviet Union. That removed a lot of the ethnic diversity problem. On the other hand, they have added a big chunk of ethnic Russians from the historical land of the Russian Empire, namely Crimea.

The United States, as we know, could not be more ethnically fragmented unless the Devil himself intervened. It has not reached armed separatism like the Chechens did in the 1990s against Russia, but the various Hispanic groups who do not consider themselves American and want to break away in some way, while still getting the goodies from the American government, is a big stumbling block. (Solution: deport illegals, anchor babies, and their families.) And now that Obama is no longer President, blacks don't feel as American as they used to.

The Muslim population is the most openly revolting, by refusing to assimilate to even a small degree, and by being so over-represented among spectacle-style terrorism against the American nation. White mass murder is infinitely less common per capita, and is not so strictly focused at the American government, people, or culture as a whole (Oklahoma City bombings are the exception, whereas most are "going postal" incidents with a more local focus).

There are deep divisions within the white population, but those are not at the level of ethnic conflict or separatism. They are the blue state vs. red state, liberal vs. conservative, urban vs. rural, modern vs. traditional divide that we see in many countries without ethnic separatism. Still, it has become more common for whites to identify as hyphenated Americans rather than just Americans, and in some cases they don't even use the hyphen -- many Irish-"Americans" refer to themselves as simply "the Irish" just like "the Jews" do to themselves.

Relatively speaking, then, Russia is the more nationally unified superpower.

Looking at the major alliances in the Middle East, we can predict that the Russia-Iran side has the advantage over the Saudi-Israeli-Turkish side, when it comes to acting with a collective unity of purpose.

The big wild card is Egypt, which used to be squarely on the Saudi-Israeli-Turkish side but has begun to seek rapprochement with Iran. The litmus test right now is whether you favor regime change in Syria or not, and al-Sisi is decidedly in the "no" camp, along with Iran and Russia. Russia is also going to be building a nuclear power reactor in Egypt, no small favor. Egypt has ordered 50 MiG-29 fighters, although I don't know enough to say whether they would switch over to relying on Russian rather than American suppliers for their military.

At the very least, al-Sisi may try to revive Nasser's stance of relying equally on the US and Russia. That means in any given battle or war, Egypt may be fighting on the Russian-Iranian side. If it did, that would really re-arrange the map, with peripheral nations penning in the core nations -- Russia coming in from the North, Iran from the East, and Egypt from the South and West. That lies well into the near-to-medium term, though, but it does seem to be moving in that direction rather than staunchly on the American-Saudi side.