May 31, 2017

Re-branding alert: "The America-first case for globalist status quo"

Don't fall for their tricks all over again. There is now a major PR campaign to re-brand the globalist status quo as secretly good for the America-first crowd. See this editorial in the WSJ by Pentagon boarding party member and NSC Advisor H.R. McMaster, along with Chief Economic Advisor Gary "Wall Street" Cohen.

In it, they explain that nothing will change in America's policy around the world -- we will continue to attempt to militarily prop up our crumbling globalist empire, after so much success on that project in Iraq and Afghanistan, which now belong to Iran and the Taliban, respectively. However, we will officially drop the narrative rationalization that our goals are to spread democracy, free markets, human rights, and all-American values around the world for the benefit of other countries. We are officially only going to pursue our own interests with whoever aligns with us -- is that what you damned nationalists wanted to hear?

This shameless attempt to drop the disguise while maintaining the ugly substance underneath is meant to appeal to Americans whose main gripe is that they have to hear a bunch of altruistic multicultural BS about the need to spread American values and institutions overseas. Re-frame it as a naked pursuit of self-interest, and maybe they'll accept the same old policies that have flushed this country down the toilet.

And to be sure, there are plenty of Americans, even some Trump voters, who are mostly focused on the quality of political rhetoric and theatre. They just want to stop having to listen to all that airy-fairy crap about our duty toward other nations. They will accept Jeb Bush's policies, as long as they are packaged and performed in the persona and style a la Trump.

In fairness, if it does prove impossible to change the outcomes, we might as well enjoy a relief from the multicultural propaganda employed to justify the policies. Still, that's not what we voted for -- to continue the same practice, now with a less annoying theory to justify it.

In fact most Americans are turned off by political theatre altogether, and are only interested in "Is anything in the fundamentals going to change for the better?" Certainly the handful of swing voters across the Rust Belt states that decided the election did not decide to roll the dice on Trump in the hopes of getting to consume more palatable political entertainment. They voted on substance, not on presentation.

If anything, these Midwestern voters don't care at all for the brash no-BS New York persona. Giving them globalist policies they don't want, in a crudely self-interested presentation they abhor, will alienate them, not bring them closer to the GOP. They were hoping for Trump's policies with Kasich's presentation, not the other way around.

Conservatives especially ought to be wary, after so many arguments trying to sell the degenerate status quo as secretly conservative. "The conservative case for gay marriage" -- OK, so we'll stop pretending that gays care anything about monogamy, or raising children without molesting them or pimping them out to pedophiles and kiddie pornographers. We've gotten your feedback on that -- not buying it. OK, well hear us out on this new one -- unless we adopt gay marriage, we will lose elections, and that will prevent us from implementing the rest of our agenda. Isn't Paris worth a Mass?

In reality, these arguments have always turned out to be selling the audience a bill of goods. Adopting gay marriage was not about allowing Republicans to win elections in order to pass other, actually-conservative policies, which they never get around to. It was just Republicans caving in to liberal movements -- or already being supportive of those movements to begin with, and cynically branding themselves as conservative champions in order to get votes.

And in the case of trying to re-brand wide-ranging interventionism as self-interested and nationalist rather than altruistic and globalist, we've already been there once before -- under the Clinton administration, who were worried that in a still semi-conservative climate, they would be targeted as liberal internationalist do-gooders, and made the effort to brand themselves as calculating self-interested realists.

From an NYT article in 1993 ("U.S. Narrows Terms for Its Peacekeepers"):

Reflecting widespread anxiety within the Administration over open-ended peacekeeping missions in Somalia and Bosnia, the Administration is defining new limits for a future role in United Nations operations, senior Administration officials said today.

The evolving policy would require justifying involvement in terms of United States national interests and would limit situations in which American troops would serve under United Nations command, the officials added. ...

"It was not enough to say that the United States might be involved in future United Nations operations," said one senior Administration official. "We have to define what type of operation, and whether it would be something the United States has an interest in, or will only succeed if the United States leads." ...

Now the Administration seems intent on describing the limits of multilateralism rather than extolling its virtues.

[Sec State Warren] Christopher touched on the theme in a speech in New York on Monday, saying multilateralism "is warranted only when it serves the central purpose of American foreign policy, to protect American interests."

"This country will never subcontract its foreign policy to another power or another person," he said.

Less than two weeks after that article, the US fought the Battle of Mogadishu (Black Hawk Down) -- in that utmost of regions necessary for America to control, Somalia. Pure calculating national-interest at work. Then it was on to "blood for no oil" in the Iraq War (credit to Greg Cochran).

But now, thank God, we've finally started to get rational and self-interested. And what better way to promote our national interests than by marching toward Iran, who has never attacked us, as we provide hundreds of billions worth of weapons to Jihad University, sometimes referred to as Saudi Arabia. Hopefully this time, the jihadists won't wind up attacking their patrons in America like they did on September 11th.

No Trumpian executive orders since Establishment takeover, aside from trade

On the campaign trail, Trump said that he preferred to get things done by passing legislation through Congress, but that if they weren't up to the task of Making America Great Again, he would sign executive orders all day long -- both to undo or counter-sign those of Obama, as well as his own distinctive orders.

When he first took office, he did indeed sign one major executive order after another, complete with photo ops and Twitter updates. But it seems like it's been awhile since we've seen one of those. Sure enough, check out the list of executive actions so far.

Within the first 10 days, he ordered The Wall to be built, sanctuary cities to be defunded, and a travel ban placed on seven countries with jihadist problems. Then the ban on executive branch employees from becoming lobbyists (end the revolving door of corruption), looking at a new Glass-Steagall Act, the revised Muslim travel ban, and the last Trumpian order on March 13 -- a comprehensive plan to drain the swamp in the entire executive branch of government. Among others.

Since then, two and a half months ago, the only Trump-themed orders have dealt with America-first trade policies. That was a yuge part of his appeal during the primaries and general, particularly in Rust Belt states that he narrowly carried. This is the one issue where the Establishment has caved, since the GOP does actually want to control the executive branch at the national level, and that's not possible unless they give the Rust Belt voters something to turn out for. Even Establishment Republicans like Tom Cotton are speaking on behalf of "Buy American / Hire American".

And of course there have been other orders that will please Republican / Trump voters, such as ones favoring more lenient energy / oil policies and boilerplate about respecting religious freedom in health services, but those would have been implemented under any old Republican president. Jeb, Marco, Ted, all would have signed those if they'd ridden into the White House on the protectionist trade platform.

The same pattern holds in the presidential memoranda: immediately he issued memos on withdrawing from TPP, defeating ISIS, re-organizing the NSC to reduce the Pentagon and intel agencies' influence (later overturned), and the last Trumpian memo on March 6 -- extreme vetting of immigrants. At the end of April, several memos address trade imbalances.

Compared to the rapid-fire pace of major orders early on, the flatlining of the past two and a half months on everything except for trade, and the standard Republican fare (oil pipelines, deregulation), looks striking. Trump is a man of action who sleeps at most six hours each night, and came into office intent on not wasting a day when there's so much to do in so little time. At the very least he could spend part of each day counter-signing a bunch of Obama's orders (that list should have been researched and drawn up by Inauguration Day).

And when was the last time you remember those photo ops of Trump signing the order, with others watching nearby, him flashing the order to the cameras, and handing the pen to some lucky official? It's been since March for me. Those photo ops really established an image of experience for a man who came into office without ever working in government or the military, as well as emphasizing his own authority apart from that of Congress.

Indeed, rather than continue to pursue the MAGA agenda through executive orders, the White House has gotten bogged down in the boring and pointless legislative agenda of the do-nothing Congress. It got sucked into the healthcare quagmire beginning in March, and then various budget and tax code reform battles since then. That's all you hear about in the media -- healthcare, tax cuts -- and that's all there is from the White House's own team, because the White House has ceded the setting of the agenda to Congress (and to the Pentagon on war).

It's obvious that the GOP Congress plans to stall for time by pursuing issues that Trump did not win the primary or the general on, so that they'll never have to get around to the Trumpian issues, while he signs whatever BS they churn out on healthcare and taxes -- assuming they ever hammer out an agreement in Congress. They're going to keep sending bills back and forth on those two issues until Trump's term is over. That way, they don't outright defy the President by pursuing contrary policies, but they also don't have to get their cuckservative hands dirty with populist and nationalist outcomes either (aside from trade).

The timing of the shift from Trump the Order-Giver to Trump the Congress-Herder coincides with the general withdrawal of focus on Trumpian issues, other than trade. Most notably the total 180 on foreign policy, but also the non-results on immigration / deportations / refugees, draining the swamp, prosecuting leakers, the topic of illegal campaign surveillance, etc.

Sometime toward the end of March, he got The Talk from the Pentagon boarding party, letting him know that The Blob were through tolerating Trump being Trump, and either he get on board with the Establishment's agenda -- except for their one concession, trade -- or be marginalized, delegitimized, and perhaps even shoved out of office. The first key signal there was the Pentagon's strike on Syria in early April and insistence ever since on regime change, contradicting what the Secretary of State, UN Ambassador, Press Secretary, and of course the President himself had been saying less than a week before the strike.

The entire Establishment has let the anti-Russian witch hunt grow, fester, devour more and more of the news cycle, and threaten Trump's political capital in DC. If Trump goes back to the issues of his first two months, and all of the campaign season, they will ratchet up the intensity even more and begin impeachment proceedings. It's clear by now that they don't care about what the lowly voters want -- otherwise, they would be implementing the Trump agenda.

As the witch hunt only grows and grows, it is more necessary than ever for Trump to simply change the topic by signing one major executive order after another. If he cannot, for threat of impeachment, then just keep hammering on the trade theme over and over. Or counter-signing Obama's orders to gain favor with the GOP Establishment.

If he's feeling bold, take the sledgehammer to one of the Democrats' interest groups, so as to not upset the GOP Establishment. Order the Antitrust Division at DoJ to break up each of the five media monopoly companies into 10 apiece, of similar market share size. That ought to tie up the media from whining about Russia, and focus on their own very survival for once.

Anything to drive the news cycle away from the witch hunt -- and more importantly, to drive the actual goings-on in the government away from the witch hunt. Leave his enemies dealing with a stream of executive orders, rather than the constant defense against the witch hunt charge du jour.

Both Trump fans and Trump haters came into the new administration thinking he would be dictatorial, unrelenting, and a bull in a china shop. That lasted for about two months, before The Talk, and now it has become clear that if anything, the swamp will be dictating to him, as he has no leverage other than the size of his supporter base (useless in DC unless he wants to really mobilize us against the swamp, or until it's time for us to vote again). And he will have to wait as Congress and the courts drag their feet, while executive branch agencies including the Pentagon block his path with "leave this to the professionals".

Trump is not a powerful dictator, as he has stopped signing his style of decrees long ago, and many of them have been over-turned (travel ban, call for Glass-Steagall, anti-Pentagon structure for NSC, border wall). Instead, he is David trying to slay the totalitarian Goliath that is not only sidelining his agenda but actively trying to over-turn the election results and kick him out.

May 27, 2017

Intuition: If Kushner's out, good or bad?

On Facebook, Chuck Johnson from GotNews says, "Kushner looking at resigning over Russia probe". Johnson has proven to have reliable White House sources, e.g. on NeverTrumper Katie Walsh being a leaker (she got fired).

Kushner is not being investigated, let alone charged with anything or convicted. He tried to set up a diplomatic backchannel with Russia in order to deliver on Trump's campaign promise to "get along with Russia" rather than waste our political resources antagonizing them 25 years after the Cold War has died. He did not trust the standard channels for this task because they are all part of the Swamp that wants war with Russia.

The media themselves admit that he did nothing wrong and is not being charged with any crime -- it is simply part of the broader shape-shifting witch hunt against the Trump movement, especially the agenda item of "draining the Swamp".

In the comments to Johnson's Facebook post, many Trump fans are applauding in advance, saying "good riddance," etc. Similar comments are pouring in to Twitter posts that also mention a possible imminent departure by Kushner (e.g., replies to tweets by Jack Posobiec). Many on the Alt-Right have been crying for Kushner's head for months now.

So now that there may be some action taken on Kushner's status in the White House, test your intuition about whether that is a good thing or a bad thing for the Trump movement. Scroll down for the answer.


Kushner leaving the White House would be bad for the Trump movement because he is a loyalist to the besieged President, because the context of his departure would be "Trump/Russia" and would therefore further feed that narrative and pour more blood into the water for Trump's attackers, and because his replacement would be far worse (the forces that push out a Trump loyalist are unlikely to push in a more committed Trumpian).

The limited track record so far proves this. NSC Advisor Flynn was not perfect, being a lobbyist for Turkey for awhile during the campaign, though not after the election. But he was in favor of detente and cooperation with Russia, against radical Islam, and in favor of restructuring and draining the swamp within the intelligence agencies. Plus he was a loyalist to Trump all throughout the campaign and after.

Flynn was pushed out as part of the Deep State witch hunt, and his replacement McMaster was a Pentagon boarding party member who is pushing for escalation in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Korea, who deflects blame from radical Islam and Saudi Arabia, who went over Trump's head to bring in fellow loyalists of warmonger Petraeus, who publicly blocked Trump's demand that South Korea pay for the THAAD anti-missile defense, and who has been leaking to the media (including the Israeli intel on the ISIS laptop bomb plot). This comes from Mike Cernovich's provably reliable WH sources.

Attorney General Sessions recused himself from the Trump/Russia probe, rather than nipping the witch hunt in the bud. His replacement in the matter, Rosenstein, is a swamp creature who allowed the appointment of a Special Counsel, which will open up the witch hunt into endless directions forever, and ultimately try to bring down Trump's people and Trump himself on procedural technicalities rather than substantive wrongdoing which isn't there. This Special Counsel, Mueller, is a swamp creature as former head of the FBI. Whether Rosenstein is better than Obama appointee Sally Yates, and whether Mueller did a better job than Comey, is irrelevant -- both are turns for the worse, compared to who we started with in power over the Trump/Russia probe, the populist and nationalist Trump loyalist, Jeff Sessions.

Trump responded negatively to both of these scalps being claimed by the Establishment, rightly so if you "trust Trump," as they furthered the witch hunt.

If Kushner leaves, it will likely follow the same pattern. People who are paying no attention to the shifting balance of power among the interest groups may be dreaming that if Kushner's out, then Roger Stone or Pat Buchanan or Ann Coulter or Based Stick Man will take his place. Wrong: it would likely be another Gary Cohn, Dina Powell, Reince Priebus, or Mike Pence, who have never been targeted in the witch hunt, or indeed ever had any hit pieces written against them. They are pro-Establishment and pro-Swamp, so they are not only in no danger, they are guaranteed immunity by the media and Deep State.

Your intuition should be honed by this earlier post on power dynamics reflecting group-level strengths, where individuals are mere representatives of the groups in play. War is a collective affair, not every man for himself. The struggle for influence at the highest levels of political power takes the form of a war, and so there is no such thing as a free-for-all clash of individual personalities inside the White House or DC in general. It is not a soap opera or HBO serial drama.

Some of the main power groups -- the Pentagon, oil / energy industry, Wall Street, pharma, media, education sector, and so on and so forth. Individuals have influence only to the extent that they are representing one of these power groups, and drawing on the unique leverage that that group has to wield over the other groups. For example, the Pentagon's control of the armed forces, or Wall Street and the Fed's control over the macro economy, are a hell of a lot of leverage to use in order to get their way in policy outcomes.

In that post and extensively in the comments, I showed that Kushner has no influence in DC, as he represents none of the power groups and therefore has no leverage to push back against those who do. His only status derives from being the son-in-law (not even a blood relation) to the President, but Trump himself does not represent any of the power groups either -- quite the opposite. Trump's only leverage is his immense base of supporters among the citizenry who he could mobilize for or against some item of business in Washington. Kushner has no resonance with Trump's support base, so he does not even have that piece of leverage to use for influence.

But General Petraeus' PR firm (funded by a Saudi media budget) has, through McMaster, put out a bunch of anti-Kushner hit pieces, painting a false picture of a deep ideological rift between Kushner and Bannon, who are in fact closer to each other than they are apart. The goal was to target the Trump movement, and drive a wedge between them and one of the few Trump loyalists in the government, Kushner, who could then be set up by the witch hunt and forced out. So far, that Deep State operation is running according to plan, thanks to the deeply paranoid and overly emotional strain within the Right.

True, we'd rather not have Trump's senior advisor be a member of the family who's also a liberal Jew from the New York metro. But so far, people are angry at him for who he is, rather than anything that he has done. Maybe they're also jealous that he's the one sleeping with Ivanka, and not them. But if he's working for Trump, he's working for Trump. If he gets ousted over the anti-Russian witch hunt, it is unlikely that his replacement would be better than him on nationalism and "America first".

Overly emotional people need to stop fixating on an individual personality they don't like, and look one and two steps down the line to see where his departure would lead, based on the group power dynamics.

If the Trump movement refuses to do this cool-headed analysis, another scalp will be claimed by the incipient Deep State coup.

May 26, 2017

The Zucker-Borg vs. Trumpism: Hedonistic decline or communal revitalization?

While the clueless geezers of the Establishment continue to dismiss the Bernie and Trump phenomena as flukes that will pass once the emotional catharsis of election season is over, the younger leaders of globalism have already begun working in earnest to pacify and co-opt what they accurately understand as a long-term discontent among the general public toward their rulers.

Yet unlike the handful of responsible stewards within the elite, like Trump himself, the Zuckerbergs of the world are not trying to earnestly meet the needs of the people in order to prevent the festering anger from exploding into bloody revolution. They are not trying to protect the people from the savage beatings they've been taking -- they are instead trying to promise painkillers so that the victims at least will not have to suffer while getting abused, so that they will therefore not feel motivated to strike back, and so that they can get killed off in peace.

Recently Zuckerberg has floated the idea of a Universal Basic Income from the government, supposedly to provide enough to meet basic material needs so that people can be liberated to pursue higher goals on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs -- to experiment around with a diversity of values and experiences, and after a vision quest in the sweat lodge of the "gig economy," to ultimately discover their inner entrepreneurial badass.

Nobody, including Zuckerberg himself, takes this pitch seriously as a policy proposal, but it is the larger vision that he is really selling -- that the government's foremost responsibility to its citizens must now be to provide a comfy and stimulating little cocoon to numb your awareness of Medieval levels of material insecurity, and a manufactured persona of self-importance to make you not feel so pathetic while powerful groups seize control over every aspect of your life.

By now, everybody can see the writing on the wall, and they will not resonate with tone-deaf appeals to the failed promises of the past several decades -- "Just go to college, take your degree to the nearest employer, and begin collecting enough money to live independently." Absolutely nobody believes this bullshit any longer, except for the Boomers who will always be stuck back in the easy-breezy Seventies and the go-go Eighties.

Since the status-striving vision has proven unable to deliver the goods, a vacuum of values has been opened up. Now the only question is, What will take the place of the elitist message? Naturally it will be some form of populism, but that still leaves a wide array of variations on the theme.

The Zuckerberg pitch is defeatist populism -- just accept that the elites are only going to get ever more wealthy and powerful, the society ever more fragmented, the culture ever more artificial, the technology ever more intrusive, and the population ever more Babel-ized. But not to worry! -- here's enough free money to afford living in a little storage locker like some appliance that's been taken out of regular use. And here's enough free money for a smartphone and WiFi, and a latte from the coffee hive that you'll be lounging around in all day long, and back home again at night, a self-cleaning vibrator or rubber sock.

Against that vision of converting society into one great big languorous opium den, stands the movement to revitalize our decaying communities. The big picture: a roomy home in a small town, wife and husband raising children, stimulation from social contact with neighbors and extended families, and public spaces meant for walking around while being close to others (parks, trails, main streets, malls). And instead of the income needed for these things coming from hand-outs, a rich set of highly profitable industries, whereby higher profit margins mean more is passed on to the workers (even more so with the collective bargaining power of labor unions) -- manufacturing and trades rather than retail or food service.

The values it pursues are communalism over individualism, natalism over childlessness, satiety rather than addiction, organic rather than artificial culture, and honestly earning a living instead of being taken care of like someone's pet.

In strategy, what distinguishes this movement from its alternative of "managed decline" is collective confrontation against The Powers That Be, rather than individual resignation. And therefore, accepting somewhat higher risk but also a higher return -- and with that extra risk still being diminished per person thanks to safety in numbers, rather than bearing the brunt of a failure all by oneself. The collective strategy also distinguishes it from the therapeutic approach that tries to treat individuals one-by-one on an inner level -- straight edge, NoFap, paleo lifestyle, gorilla mindset, etc. Nothing wrong with those choices that can change the person, but they are not going to change the world.

Coming up I'll be going over some more concrete policy proposals, just big-picture stuff rather than quibbling over details. For the time being, the important thing is to recognize that there is now a concerted effort by the opposition to neuter the nascent populist uprising.

It is not stupid enough to try denying the reality we face -- only the sheltered and pampered Boomers in the Democrat party are responding to us with "America is already great!" and only the SJWs in the younger group are complaining that "America was never great". Normal people can sense how awful things are, contra the Boomers, and that contra the SJWs this is a dramatic change from the old days that we've seen on The Wonder Years, Mad Men, or online gurus of all things vintage.

This is not the first time that society depended on choosing the wholesome path out of an inegalitarian laissez-faire climate -- over the course of the Gilded Age, it became clear that business as usual was not going to make life any better. One choice was the atomized escapist hedonism of the brothels, saloons, cafes, and cabarets. But just as popular during the fin-de-siecle zeitgeist was the Temperance movement that worked alongside the labor union movement to bring society out of decadence and into the age of Progressivism (what we would call populism today).

If we've already managed once to transform our society from one great big Red Light District into a network of wholesome neighborhoods, there's no reason we can't do it again.

May 24, 2017

Iran deal shows Wall St vs. Pentagon split, and Dem vs. GOP parties they control

Now that there's a major push by the US-Gulf-Israel military coalition to antagonize Iran, who has never attacked us or spread jihadism in the region, we see why the two American political parties treat Iran the way they do.

Remember: the Democrats are the Wall Street party, and the GOP is the Pentagon party. Those are the primary interest groups that control each party, based on their enormous leverage to make things go from good to bad if they don't get what they want, one in a financial way and the other in a security way.

The Pentagon wants to weaken Iran because they are a historically powerful nation in the region, and threaten to upset the existing balance of power, whereby the US supports the jihadist states of the oil-rich Gulf, their terrorist proxies throughout the region, and bringing Israel along as a sidekick (no oil). Once the Iranian Revolution removed themselves from the list of client states of Uncle Sam (under the Shah), the Reagan and Bush administrations targeted them for weakening. That went somewhat dormant under Clinton, but reached another fever pitch under Bush Jr. (they were part of the "Axis of Evil" speech). That fell dormant again under Obama, and has picked up again under Trump's Pentagon-controlled foreign policy.

Recall that Trump himself has always preferred detente with Iran and wants to make deals with them. But between a total political neophyte with minimal political capital, and the institution that controls the armed forces, that view has lost out to the standard neocon BS.

Why were Clinton and Obama relatively less hostile toward Iran, including the major deal that the Obama team led to get them to reduce their nuclear program in exchange for removal of economic sanctions? The Democrats are controlled by Wall Street, who is not interested in playing the geopolitical chess game -- they just want to make shitloads of money from whoever they can, however they can. Iran is a nation of 80 million people, stable compared to other Middle Eastern countries, increasingly prosperous, and sitting on a ton of oil wealth that could be spent on consumption of foreign goods and services.

This early after the sanctions have been lifted, most of the foreign companies doing business in Iran are manufacturers, and not big banks -- but give it time. Here is a review from the WSJ a couple months ago:

After years shunning Iran, Western businesses are bursting through the country's doors -- but U.S. companies are noticeably absent.

Dozens of development projects and deals have been hammered out since Iran's nuclear accord with world powers in 2015 lifted a range of sanctions. Among them, France's Peugeot and Renault SA are building cars. The U.K.'s Vodafone Group PLC is teaming up with an Iranian firm to build up network infrastructure. Major oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell PLC have signed provisional agreements to develop energy resources. And infrastructure giants, including Germany's Siemens AG, have entered into agreements for large projects. ...

Government-approved foreign direct investment shot up to more than $11 billion last year, official figures show, from $1.26 billion in 2015. Pedram Soltani, the vice president of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, said more than 200 foreign business delegations have visited Iran since the nuclear deal took effect.

So far most of the foreign investors are from Europe or China, with the US still too anxious to get deeply involved. Probably because the European governments are not so heavily committed to antagonizing Iran in the geopolitical game, meaning less risk for those investing over there. The American companies must always be worried if the Pentagon party wins the White House and starts targeting them for doing business in the country that the Pentagon most wants to weaken and contain.

American manufacturers may not be able to participate so much, but the Wall Street money men are globalist in outlook, and just want to open up Iran to foreign direct investment already, and the Americans get to join whenever they get to join.

The half-baked view is that Obama sought the Iran deal because he's a Muslim-lover whose main goal was apologizing for past American imperialism. In reality, he was a figurehead whose entire Cabinet was hand-picked by Wall Street, and they just wanted access to a new market. In the half-baked view, Trump is Mr. Muslim Ban hell-bent on undoing the Iran deal -- in reality, his Pentagon overseers just gave hundreds of billions in arms to the custodians of the Two Holiest Cities, and only want to contain Iran for geopolitical reasons.

More and more policies start to make sense when we see the Democrats as the Wall Street party, and the Republicans as the Pentagon party. It also helps us make sense of Trump before he got boarded by the Pentagon, back when he was just a commentator or candidate. He was kind of a Republican but also kind of a Democrat -- wanting to open up Iran for American companies, though presumably with greater deals for manufacturers than banks, and with as much of that investment consisting of finished goods sent over there rather than locally manufactured, to help out American workers.

As long as the Pentagon is aligned with the dissolute and nearly bankrupt jihadist Gulf nations, though, American workers will never get their products sold into large, stable, and relatively prosperous Iran.

May 23, 2017

More Sunni Arab jihadism, not Shia Iranian, in Manchester suicide bombing

Although the Gulf Arabians, Israeli Zionists, and their Pentagon sponsors are currently railing against the Persians of Iran spreading their "Shia Crescent" throughout the Middle East, back on Planet Earth the jihadist in the Manchester suicide bombing was a Sunni Arab whose family fled Libya when Qaddafi was in charge.

That means his family was a bunch of Islamist fanatics who couldn't tolerate the secular nationalist government of the Qaddafi era; the fact that many of them returned to Libya after Qaddafi was toppled, and jihadists had filled in the power vacuum, shows that it was not only this one guy who was an Islamist extremist in the family.

These are the people we are taking into our borders when we prioritize "refugees" from a country run by a secular strongman. That strongman is using force to keep the Islamists from exploding the country into anarchic jihadism, so those most likely to be fleeing such a country are those very potential jihadists. The Manchester suicide bomber's family was fleeing Libya under Qaddafi in the '90s, while future suicide bombers are fleeing Syria under Assad right now, incubating within America's and Europe's borders and destined to explode in the not too distant future.

While in Britain, the family must have been further radicalized by the extremist mosques in the country, most of which are run by the Deobandi movement, whose most infamous followers are the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is similar to the Wahhabi / Salafi extremism promoted by the Saudi government in the Middle East, which has given the world al-Qaeda and ISIS. The Deobandi movement comes from the Sunni branch of Islam in South Asia, where they are a substantial minority of the population (around 20% of Muslims), but exert an outsized influence in the religious schools (where they are about 60%) and religious militant groups (where they are about the only gang in town).

The Muslims of Britain are mostly South Asians, so this pattern is reproduced in that country as well.

Of the four schools of Sunni Islam, some are more prone to extremism, such as the Hanbali school of jihadist ground zero, Saudi Arabia, but also the Shafi'i school of Somalia and the Saudi-sympathizing region of Yemen. Those are the schools that urge female genital mutilation.

The Hanafi school found in the Near East and South Asia is relatively more moderate, but they are still prone to radicalization. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Erdogan regime in Turkey, the al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria, Hamas in Palestine, and the Deobandi movement in South Asia, are all testament to how susceptible the Hanafi regions are to periodic radicalization, despite earlier periods of relative religious moderation.

Of course the schools that are naturally more extremist provide funding and other support to Hanafi regions in order to inflame the latent potential there, which has now stabilized into a Saudi-Pakistani axis of radical mosques.

Notably absent from the jihadist phenomenon is the Shia branch of Islam, and particularly Iran. Just go ahead and name for us all those Iranian suicide bombers in foreign nations, 9/11 hijackers, and invaders who convert others by the gun, and who destroy religious sites not favored by their narrow sect for being offenses against idolatry.

Hezbollah in the Levant is a national liberation militia, designed to expel unwanted foreigners by force. As long as unwanted foreign nations do not occupy their land, they don't care and don't attack them, let alone pro-actively invade to convert others to their sect, destroy monuments, and so on. They are defensive rather than invasive.

The same is true of the Iranian Revolution, which was designed to end its status as a client state of the US under the Shah. They did not forcibly convert or murder the non-Shia minorities, and during the 1980s they were at war with another Shia nation (Iraq), albeit one whose government was led by a Sunni. That was all about defending national sovereignty, not religious sectarian conquest.

There is something about Shia Islam that makes it less prone to intolerance toward other sects, proselytizing, revivals in the fundamentalist literalist puritanical direction, and attempts to radicalize members into jihadism. In outward behavior, it is more like the Catholic and Orthodox branches of Christianity, whereas the Protestant branch is more prone to periodic radicalization (even from members within the otherwise staid Mainline churches), with some Protestant churches being permanently radicalized.

That analogy is a topic for another post, but in the meantime have a look at a compare-and-contrast between Sunni and Shia Islam, topic by topic (you can ignore the third column). It's striking how Protestant the Sunni branch is, and how Catholic and Orthodox the Shia branch is, across a number of dimensions. I speculate that this stems from the Shia branch being deeply rooted around an early center of the religion, Baghdad, just as the Catholics are rooted in Rome, and the Orthodox in Antioch and Alexandria, the three early centers of Christianity.

The various Sunni schools are farther away from the eastern Fertile Crescent, and if they felt like "getting back to their roots," they would turn elsewhere back to the very beginning in Mecca and Medina. Similar to Protestants being rooted outside of the early Christian centers, and harking back to the Holy Land itself, and during Jesus' own time, for revival.

Going back to the very beginning unwinds all of the traditions that have developed in the meantime, so those groups without a root at the very beginning are less stabilized by tradition, and are more prone to radicalization.

Just a few initial thoughts, and something to explore at a later time.

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).