Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Coming Left-Wing Crack Up

What's going to happen when Sanders guys figure out that Democrats still don't really want Bernie? For, well, decades, The Left has run on the theory that when things got bad enough they'd be the clear and obvious answer. That was the theory behind opposing Obama. That was the theory behind hating Clinton's triangulation.

Now it's happened--the right has gotten "everything they want" (virtually full control of government, Good SCOTUS picks, a solid political-correctness back-lash) and it's a disaster. Trump can't pass his agenda--heck, we don't even know what "Trump's agenda" really is.

If everyone projected their hopes-and-dreams onto the empty slate of Obama, it's 10x worse with Trump: Coal Miners with Black Lung are about to see their health care funding run out years before they can get Medicare while, at the same time, the companies they work for got some tax-breaks they're going to use to build solar farms or some shit.

Russia is buzzing us with nuke-capable bombers for some damn reason and Trump seems to have lost a carrier group during his Show of Strength.

Forget about Tax Reform--we might not keep the government open.



Wrong. Bernie Won't Be The 2020 Choice

Sanders Supporters (Bernie Bros?) think that since he polls decently well (55% favorable, 32% unfavorable)--better than almost every other active politician in the presidential arena--that he's the Choice of the New Generation.

Well, he is--the kids like him--but the grown-ups aren't going to pick someone who, essentially, ran as an insurgent and cost them the election. Sorry guys: Sanders didn't acquit himself nearly well enough to be an honorary Democrat.

In fact, it's possible, they won't even let him run as a Democrat again (The Omnivore is unclear on how, precisely, he would be stopped in all cases--but is pretty sure it could be done). Sander's unique popularity isn't entirely unfounded on his persona--which reasonably authentic--or his positions--which appeal to kids who want free college and angered 99%'ers--but it is very importantly a factor of:

  1. Republicans loving him because they think they could beat him more easily than Hillary. If you're laughing about this, you don't know much about politics.
  2. No one actually "running against him." Hillary went easy on him. R's propped him up.
  3. Sanders not being Hillary. Hillary is not, in fact, "likable enough." Vast swaths of the country--GOP and Dem, hate her. Much of this is due to partisanship. A lot is due to believing decades of heavily investigated lies that have relentlessly been proven unfounded. Some of it is due to sexism. Some of it is due to Hillary herself. How much is in each category is up for discussion--but she was not (and is not) a popular or charismatic candidate. Being !Hillary in that area is a huge bonus (also being !Trump, which Sanders had the advantage of also being).
The end-game here is Sanders-Supporters who will never accept anything but that it's proven he would have won coming face-to-face with the fact that Sanders has a large number of negatives. One of the key negatives is that he was a spoiler in 2016.

And he gave us Trump.

How'd that work out for Ralph Nader's career--The Omnivore doesn't remember . . . 


The Omnivore can hear you now--red faced and angry--claiming you're laughing. Trust The Omnivore: it's all true. That's why it makes you angry. But let's break it down just a little:

In case anyone isn't aware, let's keep in mind that last night there was a special election and some rando Dem and Independent candidates got 1% of the vote. That wouldn't quite have been enough to win for Ossoff--but it would have put him within 1% of outright victory. If you are wondering if Democrats are auditioning for the title of "The Stupid Party," well, there you go.

What Happens When This Comes To A Head?

Immediately? Probably very little. This will come to "a head" in 2018 and then 2020 (Sanders is not going to run for every House Seat and he probably won't run for president)--but the fallout will remain: Bernie Bros will still feel not only entitled to the Democratic party apparatus but also vindicated by Trump (rather than "responsible for")--and Democrats will, wisely, view them with distrust (if not outright scorn). So there will be a reckoning. The only question is if it's big or little.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Second Tech-Peace-Dividend

The Omnivore has written about what some people call the Smart-Phone-Peace-Dividend. The idea is that the billions of dollars spent on RnD in the Hobbsean war of all-vs-all in pursuit of the next great smart-phone innovation created a swath of modern technology that would never have existed if we'd just gone with minor increments (alright, not never--but you get what The Omnivore is saying).

Basically the tech developed for Smart Phones (cheap touch-screens, better connectivity, better batteries, low-power super-chips, super-good cameras, way-improved storage, etc.) has all resulted in various spin-off technologies.

The conditions for a "world war" of RnD are pretty specific: a new technical frontier, billions of consumer dollars at stake which makes investing billions more in the tech, and multiple players vying for an edge. We got drones out of phones--what comes next?

Self-Driving Cars

The Omnivore sees this happening in the coming self-driving cars product. These sorta-kinda exist today for some of us (Tesla drivers, mostly)--but everyone is working on them. Google, Apple, Uber, and others are pouring billions into this. The key elements of these, computer vision, robotics, and, perhaps most importantly, decision-making capability in 3d space, are all very tough problems that are getting the Smart Phone treatment.

This is very, very likely to produce self-driving cars which drive as well or better than humans sooner rather than later. The Omnivore's question is: "What else will it produce"?

The Robopocalypse

The robopocalypse is the event where robots can replace low-skilled workers at a cost cheaper than the workers and service that is sufficiently good to get rid of them. Replacing truck, taxi, and Uber drivers is an economic MOAB. Replacing the staff of a Wallmart is a thermo-nuke.

The Omnivore had written that when a domestic robot could properly fold a fitted sheet (something The Omnivore does not even attempt) they would have reached the dexterity necessary to replace most challenging domestic chores. The remaining issues, though, mostly around figuring things out, would be left unresolved.

There are generally two ways to approach a hard problem with tech. The first is to make the tech strong enough to actually work the way humans "expect" it to. For example, Google now does a decent job of letting you ask questions of the global infosphere and can figure out what you mean and what to show you by way of results.

The second way is to simplify the problem so tech can address it. An example of this thinking is: "Let's put sensors on all the roads so robotic cars can navigate."

As you may have noticed, this has not happened very often and isn't about to happen.

The real solution is #1 and it's always been #1. Since people have realized this, they are now building cars that can figure out if a person walking near the edge of the sidewalk might step out into the street and then reduce their speed until they can pass them.

Let's look at a different problem of putting away the kid's toys in your house. Maybe you have one of those houses where every toy has its place and you can just put the big legos in the big lego bin and the little legos in the little lego bin and it's all good.

Alternatively you live in the real world and putting the toys away involves things like knowing that the toys go either "in the toy area" or, maybe, "in the kid's room," or, maybe, "in the kid's closet--if it's on it's way out." Possibly: "In the donate-box in the garage if it's really on the way out" or even "in the garbage if it's worn out and broke."

Mom can make all of those decisions. A human cleaner can make almost all of them. A robot? Would you trust it not to throw out your daughter's favorite doll no matter how chewed up it is?

Right. This is a hard problem.

But what if the tech-peace dividend provides robotic vision good enough to sweep up a bunch of toys, pick out the hot-wheels cars from the legos from the random bits, sort them into reasonable bins (the toy cars can all be grouped, as can the legos--the random bits can either go with the toys they came with--or into a random-bin). What if it can figure out when the toy-area is too big and take large items to the kid's rooms (and know the pink ones go to her room and the blue ones go to his--except if they don't).

What if it can identify a broken toy from a whole one?

This sounds absurd from a technical perspective but it isn't. Self-driving cars make very, very different decisions but they don't make fundamentally harder ones. Certainly the stakes for the cleaning robot are lower.

If we can build self-driving cars, we aren't that far from the cleaning robot. If we can build the cleaning robot, we can automate the fuck out of just about everyone who draws minimum wage or anything close to it. Most jobs are much, much easier than cleaning up the kid's toys. Stocking shelves is child's play (yes, The Omnivore meant to)  compared to that.

So if we get those robo-cars in 5 real years (instead of the Fusion-Power 5-years) then how long before the robo-car peace-dividend provides us with domestic robots?

Keep in mind that the robopocalypse is maybe "25 years" away before some experts think we'll have to be providing everyone with a Universal Basic Income since they won't be able to work for the most part. What if that comes  . . . in 10. What if it comes in 6?

Remember that the peace-dividend effect isn't that the market for whatever it is isn't out there--it's that the massive, massive costs in RnD aren't justified to meet it. In the tech-war scenario, the RnD costs pay for themselves because something else that's closely related is worth the costs.

Automating a Walmart (well, let's be real, Amazon gonna get them before robo-workers do--but you know what The Omnivore means) is totally, totally worth it if you can get the RnD for free.

We're getting the RnD for free right now.

The Other Direction: VR

The Omnivore has a VR head-set. It's very, very cool. The Omnivore considers that there's another avenue to the "robopocalypse" which doesn't require Artificial Intelligence: Remote workers. If a worker can drive a robot like they're there, then you have options for pizza delivery guys from Antigua (or any other location where they are cheap to hire--sure, flying drones will deliver pizzas before guys from a Caribbean Island drive pizza-bots in VR, but you know what The Omnivore means).

In this model the cost is for the robot--which has to be close enough to human dexterity to, say, fold a fitted sheet--but after that, having a human drive it can be globalized. Lawn-care? Auto-detailing? Whatever--forget about your local talent--go wherever the (cheap) headsets are.

You also get a video-log of everything that happened so you can audit everything: If that's worth paying extra for, the barrier-to-entry just came down.

When will this happen? Who knows--but VR is gettin' the Smart Phone treatment (with, in fact, Smart Phones as well as other devices) so those pay-offs should be seen in other areas soon (the second wave of high-end VR should start next year and go through a complete upgrade cycle in about 2-3 years, The Omnivore thinks).

The Rate of Change

The point here is that there are accelerants towards some end-games that don't depend on how far the end-game is from the current technology. Just as no one in 2006 predicted the iPhone would give us super-drones, The Omnivore doubts that Google's self-driving car in 2009 is seen to presage whatever the spin-off technologies will be from the billions that are now being spent to put Uber out of business.

The robopocalypse is just the outcome that looms largest to The Omnivore--it's likely that the real innovations in computer vision, robotics, and high-stakes AI decision making will pay off in some entirely unrecognized and highly disruptive technology.

Keep Watching The Skies.

The Freedom Caucus, North Korea, and Trump

The Omnivore goes on vacation for a week and this? You people can't keep it together for 7 days!! United Airlines beats a guy who won't randomly give up his seat--and then a scorpion falls from a luggage rack onto another United passenger ("Why?" asks the passenger, gasping, as the scorpion stings him. "You knew this was a United flight when you boarded," says the scorpion). Congress goes on sabbatical with no budget, no health care, no nothing--what is this? 2009?

And, of course, Kim-Jong-Fatman-Teh-Little-Boy [sic] is threatening to blow us all up.

Okay, that could be Tuesday.

The MAD Scenarios

Nuclear war scenarios generally have either one of two patterns: escalation or miscalculation/mistake. Neither seems likely in the case of North Korea. Any battle will take place over about 3 hours--that's precious little time for "escalation" and there seems to be no chance that Kim thinks he can actually win. Secondly, the whole situation is so centrally controlled that it's unlikely that Kim would "think he is under attack" unless he is under a MOAB. 

Sure, he might get twitchy--or paranoid--but so far Kim and Trump have been the most rational of actors.



Trump just wants a win. A little win. A big win--any kind of win. If Kim mailed us a nuke and said (a) it was their only one and (b) he promises not to make any more because he's so scared of strong-man Trump, the Carl Venision would be steaming out of there so fast it would make your head spin.

Kim, on the other hand, is acting smart too. He knows that holding Seoul hostage is what has gotten him this far. If he could, say, hold Tokyo hostage too--or even Los Angeles--he'd be set. Set for his fat-little-life. He's not wrong about that. 

All he needs is a possibly airborne nuke and he's good. 

The problem here is that he needs a "win" too. By now Kim should know that General Matthis will not allow a real test of an ICBM with nuclear capacity--so he's not going to get that (even with his "but I'd never use it, guys" appeal). So what does he have?

After executing the guys who failed to launch his (and The Omnivore shits you not) No Dong missile this weekend. And the guys who named it "No Dong" for good measure, what does he do? What's his win? He needs one to stay comfortably on top of the regime.

A guy who executes his couch-potato big-brother doesn't seem all that comfortable up there to The Omnivore. 

Trump, similarly, just got pasted on Health Care. Tax Reform isn't looking easy (who knew??), and the government operating budget is coming up like 4 days after congress gets back into town.

These days Congress can't find its dick with both hands down its pants.

So what does Trump do? Well, if dropping a MOAB makes him presidential, having Kim-Jong-Un drop a metaphorical "load" might make him Lincoln.

So he wants a fucking win.

So what we've got is a game of chicken--both sides keep escalating their rhetoric and plumage ruffling hoping the other other backs down by a public fraction so they can pack up and go home. In the mean-time, each of these displays of strength has a tiny--but non-zero--chance that the other side will determine that they're goin' for it.

So we've got escalation and miscalculation in one package!

Enter The Freedom Caucus

Trump thinks "If I could just get the FC to roll over on health care--just a little--I could pass tax reform which every republican would love!" So he's tryin'--he's tryin' to get those tax-cuts-for-the-rich done in health care so he doesn't have to put them in Tax Reform where they'll stick out.

But the FC ain't buying it. See: they need a win to take back to their confused constituents. Their little gerrymandered slices of paradise are all like "What the fuck, guys? Why didn't we repeal that shit? (Obamacare)" And there's no good answer. It turns out that the real answer is: "No one wants to throw millions of Trump-voters off health care," but they can't say that.

So they tell everyone the same story they've been telling and figure the eventual end-game gets pushed further and further out.

The problem is that what the FC needs for a win is something substantial--defunding Planned Parenthood (or Obamacare), legislating a stick in the eye for all liberals, outlawing gays, something like that. They want blood and they think they can get it--or at least get something

So what win do they get? That's the problem--anything that gets added to a "clean budget extension" that helps the FC gives the Senate Democrats an excuse to kill it--and they will: they know that the FC will get the blame. The White House is theoretically in a leadership position here--but they're epicly hapless.

So both sides come to the table expecting the other to blink--to just give up something--and--blam? Government Shutdown?

The timing couldn't be worse. A White House that reportedly has trouble pulling off an Easter Egg Roll is going to have to battle North Korea, the Kushner-Bannon Clash of the Titans, and congress coming back into town with 4 days to head off a government shutdown that may not be disastrous but will definitely be dramatic.

This Is A Lot Of Chicken

The "everybody just needs a win" should make things easier. Just find something each side can go home with to their bases and call it a day. The fact that this is proving so difficult when, at least in theory, everyone's goals more or less align should be cause for real concern. Basically it means that everyone is so close to their margins that the space for a mutually beneficial outcome is almost non-existent. The Omnivore worries about the unknown-unknowns: what we don't know that we don't know.

For example:
  • Does North Korea have something it thinks is a clever trick up its sleeve? It's not called "the Hermit Kingdom" for nothing. We have great satellites but what if we're missing something in the details?
  • Does the Freedom Caucus have reason to believe they can get Paul Ryan's scalp as a win? The Right-Wing media runs on demonizing enemies. Right now we're in a liminal state where the major players are unsure who to demonize (The Omnivore means, Obama, of course, but that's less tasty than it could be). If the FC think their "win" is to wreck Ryan and use his metaphorical head on a spike as "what they got" when they didn't get any policy, could that send things into a Crash-und-Burn scenario? 
  • What Is Trump watching besides Fox News? 
  • How much of Russia's butt-hurt over Assad was real? The Omnivore thinks "almost none"--they were warned, we didn't actually hit anything, etc. But the fake-news machine revved up like it really counted. If there was a time Putin could have checked out and made Trump feel better, that was it. Why didn't he?
Geeze. The Omnivore can't leave you guys alone for a second.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

War In Syria? Why Not!

The Federalist, which is working hard to become a parody of itself, asks 14 questions YOU should answer before going to war in Syria! Let's do this.

1) What national security interest, rather than pure humanitarian interest, is served by the use of American military power to depose Assad’s regime?

First, humanitarian interest is legitimate. Sorry guys--but the second is that it is within the United State's security interest to come down like a fucking hammer on people who deploy WMD. We'll see this later--but The Federalist breaks out the stupid on question one.

2) How will deposing Assad make America safer?

The writer doesn't realize that any answer to question 1 answers question two. This is because he can't imagine an answer to question one.

3) What does final political victory in Syria look like (be specific), and how long will it take for that political victory to be achieved? Do you consider victory to be destabilization of Assad, the removal of Assad, the creation of a stable government that can protect itself and its people without additional assistance from the United States, etc.?

Ahh--the "Be Specific" question. This is handy to ensure no answer is every good enough. The end-game is (a) the slaughter of civilians stopped (b) Russian power decreased in the area and (c) the rule of an entity that is not as abominable as Assad. Basically anyone better than ISIS in charge.

4) What military resources (e.g., ground troops), diplomatic resources, and financial resources will be required to achieve this political victory?

30k Ground Troops, full-court diplomatic press (meaning our anemic State Department isn't up to it--but that's Davis' fault--he backed the current leader. Yes, yes he did.) and it'll cost about 100bn. Show The Omnivore's work? Prove The Omnivore wrong, dick-head.

5) How long will it take to achieve political victory?

"Political Victory"? Military victory. 18 months. Prove The Omnivore wrong, dickhead. NOTE: For those playing the home-game, these are questions that have almost no basis for answering so Davis thinks that if you can't answer, you shouldn't play. This isn't how the world works. The questions are around strategic directions.

6) What costs, in terms of lives (both military and civilian), dollars, and forgone options elsewhere as a result of resource deployment in Syria, will be required to achieve political victory?

The opportunity cost of invading Syria will make a military assault on North Korea less likely. It will weaken us in potential war with China for this year and part of next year. Both of these are wars we can choose not to fight at the current time.

7) What other countries will join the United States in deposing Assad, in terms of military, monetary, or diplomatic resources?

We could get NATO to help out if our CIC wasn't actively dissing them. The Federalist backs Trump so that's on them, of course.

8) Should explicit congressional authorization for the use of military force in Syria be required, or should the president take action without congressional approval?

Either way is good, tbh. No matter which way is chosen, someone will be upset (See Obama who did both and made no one happy).

9) What is the risk of wider conflict with Russia, given that nation’s presence and stake in Syria, if the United States chooses to invade and depose Assad, a key Russian ally in the Middle East?

The risk is real. Remember how Romney said Russia was our #1 Geo-Political Foe, Obama said "Nope" and now the Right mocks Obama for it? Yeah--well, part of having a geo-political foe is that you get to--have to--"foe" with them. Sorry Davis. You know better than this stupid shit--you just hope we don't. Yes, it's real. No that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.

10) If U.S. intervention in Syria does spark a larger war with Russia, what does political victory in that scenario look like, and what costs will it entail?

One of the more frightening scenarios is an accidental clash where individual forces (such as fighter planes) exchange fire without it being a planned meeting engagement. This is the kind of risk that could be de-escalated if both sides plan for it (i.e. whoever fires first has to back down substantially--so be careful with that shit). In the event of actual, you know, war? It looks like Russia losing more material than we do--but it looks like a nightmare.

Oh--you don't want a geo-political foe? Right. That's why you didn't vote for Romney. Got it.

11) Given that Assad has already demonstrated a willingness to use chemical weapons, how should the United States respond if the Assad regime deploys chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons against the United States?

The Omnivore told you he'd get back to it. You respond to WMD with WMD--the same as anyone else. This is why you take the action--so that people know that using WMD is a bad fucking idea. 

12) Assuming the Assad regime is successfully removed from power, what type of government structure will be used to replace Assad, who will select that government, and how will that government establish and maintain stability going forward?

A repressive theocratic regime will likely be installed. Same as everywhere there. But most of those regimes--in fact, almost fucking all of them--are way, way, WAY better than Assad.

13) Given that a change in political power in the United States radically altered the American position in Iraq in 2009, how will you mitigate or address the risk of a similar political dynamic upending your preferred strategy in Syria, either in 2018, 2020, or beyond?

Good lord. The same way The Omnivore always does it: by sticking to principles and rolling with the punches.

14) What lessons did you learn from America’s failure to achieve and maintain political victory following the removal of governments in Iraq and Libya, and how will you apply those lessons to a potential war in Syria?

That people will blame you no matter what you do. That's the key one. The US had full regional cooperation in going after Kaddafi. Kaddafi was a monster. Reagan tried to kill him back in the day. But when we actually do it? Boo-hoo-hoo. What The Omnivore learned from Iraq is that if you say there are WMD there had better fucking be WMD. If there's not, you eat it hard. If we'd gone in and found a massive chemical weapon assembly line, we wouldn't have these stupid 14 questions.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Cure For Our Division

An Important Press Release from the Trump White House
Reed Galin writes a piece on Medium suggesting that the deep divides in our country need to be addressed--and how? By finding any common points of understanding and agreement. He suggests that there are two strands of agreement: better health care and more taxation of corporations.

  1. He notes that both sides of the aisle disagreed with the AHCA. 
  2. He notes that both sides of the aisle probably think it's okay to have more corporations pay taxes despite what Congress wants.
His suggestion is that people on both sides of the aisle reach out and understand the other side--maybe not agree--but at least understand their view-point. He goes into detail how folks in "fly over country" have, indeed, been left behind--that's while people in wealthy, vibrant Brooklyn are living it up watching HBO Go on their tablets.

While small-town folks are stockpiling anti-overdose drugs for saving loved ones taking to much Oxycontin, the yuppies in New York are enjoying high-grade marijuana. Yes: this is a big difference. Yes: one sucks worse than the other.

Despite writing a fairly coherent article he, uh, does not see the problem.

The problem is that Trump voters voted for points 1 and 2 and everyone else voted against those. Trump voters voted to kill ACA subsidies to help addicts of Oxy. Hillary voters wanted to preserve them. Trump voters voted to lower corporate taxes. Hillary would not have raised them by as much as Sanders voters wanted--but she wouldn't have made her first policy move a giant 1% tax-cut either.

The Omnivore has talked to Trump-Voters. The Omnivore, and you will have to trust him on this, understands what's going on here. It isn't what Reed thinks.

What's Going On

There's A Method To The Madness
Trump voters were and are essentially mad at liberals. They think that gay marriage is probably a bad idea, that refugees--despite going through years of vetting--are probably going to harbor terrorists. They think that black people are naturally lazier than white people. This is all pretty well established numerical data. It may not apply to any specific Trump-voter--but it certainly applies to his margin of victory.

The Trump-Doctrine, so much as there actually is one, is not big-government wrapped in Republican clothing. No. It's "Whatever pisses off the most liberals is what we do."

Is this empty, smug snark on the part of The Omnivore? No--no it isn't. 

Trump was elected--and Reed understands this even if he doesn't articulate it--as a massive "Fuck You" to liberals. His actions--the Keystone XL Pipeline, the removal of transgender bathroom protections--are not about any kind of coherent Make America Great Again policy. They are about striking blows in the culture war.

Failure to understand this is why the liberals keep getting Trump and Trump-supporters wrong. Liberals see Trump repealing Obamacare protections and go "But . . . but . . . people who voted for Trump rely on those--a lot of them anyway. Don't they . . . don't they see they got duped?"

The answer, is no. Sure--people who are directly fucked will be mad. That's the human condition--and some--about, maybe, 3%, have realized "they got duped."

But most people who are not directly fucked--they're still getting what they want: liberal pain. They can give him an "A" rating as he blunders about on Musim bans, opens hotels with prostitutes in China, lies about his election-size and his inauguration crowds, and all of that--because when he does it, he "wins." One of the Trump-voters The Omnivore knows stated his issues with Hillary: "She lies." The fact that Trump lies more and more transparently was, of course, immaterial to him. He wasn't concerned that Hillary lied--he just didn't want her to win. He'd have voted for a rock before voting for Clinton.

Trump wins by striking blows against liberals who, let's face it, have been winning for a long time. They've won in entertainment media. They've won in the popular press. They've had a 24 year winning streak in the White House when you realize that Bush was seen as not-a-winner by the right.

Trump is the last gasp to try and put some points on the board. The fact that may have destroyed "the party of Reagan," has (and is continuing to) humiliate America, and is trying hard to pass legislation that will hurt directly hurt a lot of his voters is immaterial to his constituency. 

Evangelicals ejected their morals because Trump would represent a culture-war victory they desperately wanted. Former fiscal conservatives are going to approve wasted billions on a wall if they can manage to get it past Democrats. Arm chair national-security hawks are suddenly okay with a clearly unconstitutional Muslim ban, Trump blundering around with China and North Korea, and having no clear policy on Russia or Syria.

So the question is: when you reach out to understand what Trump voters are going through--and you come to realize that Trump was a political brick thrown through the window of your SUV . . . what then?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Post-Apocalypse Senate

The Senate is about to go to "nuclear war." The Democrats have, it seems, enough votes to filibuster Gorsuch so McConnell will invoke, or at least attempt to invoke, the 'Nuclear Option' allowing the senate to confirm Supreme Court nominees with a bare majority. This was done in 2013 by Democrats after the Senate blocked all of Obama's lower-court nominations.


While people are discussing the short and long-term impacts of this (short term: Trump confirms Judge Judy, long term, President Booker confirms Barack Obama) The Omnivore wants to look at the "Narrative Gap."

The Narrative Gap

Simply put, the 'Narrative Gap' is the distance between the story the GOP (or the Democrats) want to be told vs. the narrative that the press generally is going to tell. For an example of this, hark back to the government shutdown where the GOP refused to pass a bill funding the government unless it also repealed Obamacare. They wanted the story to be that Obama/The Democrats, refusing to sign a bill that rescinded his signature legislation, was holding the government hostage--rather than the story (which was the one the media told) that the GOP was holding the government hostage by putting in a "poison pill" which was not otherwise necessary to conducting business-as-usual.

In this case, the gap was stark: the GOP wanted to be seen as the neutral party. The press cast them as the hostage takes.

NB: They were the hostage takers.

The Gorsuch Filibuster

In this case the Republican position is that (a) it was a presidential election year so of course they didn't hold a vote and (b) it's been like 80 years since a justice was filibustered so that's really extreme behavior. Also (c) no one can claim Gorsuch isn't qualified. He definitely is--and he has the consent of the Senate--so there's just no excuse not to confirm him. It's dirty pool for the Democrats not to.

The Democratic position is that Merrick Garland was blocked, unfairly, with a procedural maneuver and so they are blocking Gorsuch with a procedural maneuver. The GOP started it.

The GOP counters that the Democrats started it with going nuclear on lower court judges. The Democrats point out that the GOP was being historically obstructionist with those judges--so, hey.

Who Is Right?

The Democrats, it turns out.

What? Huh? Just Like That?

Well, yes. The reason that Garland was not given a hearing was because he (a) was very qualified and (b) was a really good moderate pick. If they'd met with him, given him a hearing, etc. it would have exposed the GOP as being obstructionist. Remember: they could always give him a hearing and then vote no--for any reason. The rationale not to give him a hearing is fear that some members of the GOP, needing to appear rational, would cave in and vote for him since there was no good reason not to.

Given that obvious underlying rationale, it's clear that the hearing refusal was, in fact, a procedural equivalent of the filibuster (just one that the majority party would prefer to use rather than the minority party) and, being applied to a supreme court judge, was, in fact new (or at least extreme) behavior.

It was not on par with lower-court appointments (and the Democrats weren't wrong about historic levels of obstructionism, either).

NB: Revocation of the filibuster for legislation would also be a step beyond even SCOTUS judges. The slope is probably actually slippery here--but the distance for each of these is still fairly stark.

What This Means

The reason the Narrative Gap is interesting and important is that it shines the light on the GOP's issue with "fake news." The GOP--far more so than the Democrats--is in a position of wanting the media to tell a story that is far more partisan than they are going to get from a closer-to-neutral source.

If that sounds like liberal bullshit to you, consider healthcare.

We just discovered that half the GOP wants to take people who are getting health insurance and kick them off. The other half wants to keep them on. Definitely promises were made that everyone would be covered--that's easy to find--but the most recent plans are to effectively roll back the Pre-Existing-Condition protections which are one of the most popular features of the ACA.

Essentially, the GOP knows it cannot afford to be honest about any of this (see attacking the CBO for both being too bad and not bad-enough) so they need a tightly controlled narrative story that will sell their ideas to different people at different times.

Is this like how the mainstream media lied about Obamacare being either affordable or You-Can-Keep-Your-Doctor?

No. Okay, kinda. The MSM was, in fact, way, way more inclined to believe Obama than the GOP--but even so, O-Care was a gamble in ways that the GOP healthcare bill or the filibuster story, or the government shutdown are not. If the GOP hadn't tried to kill it. If more states had set up their own exchanges, if more young people had signed up--and so on--things would be different.

The GOP is not wrong that the MSM is more friendly to Democrats. What is distinct is the rhetorical distance that the GOP needs to cover because of their position.

Basically it takes an ultra-partisan Fox News to make Gorsuch look like an extreme case while Garland looks like standard behavior.

This distance created the need / appetite for super-partisan media which, in turn, created the need / space for fake news. By positioning themselves with the message that non-right-bias stories were essentially liberal-media-lies, they weakened the GOP-voter's intellectual immune systems to the point where fake news could come flooding in, unopposed.

This behavior? It continues.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Trump Trajectory

Here are some things about Trump's Trajectory The Omnivore thinks you should know.

Nixon Was At 24% Fav When He Left

Right now the president has about a 40% aggregate favorability rating. Yes, it is bad--but it is not bad enough to evict him on the merits alone (yes, Gallup has him at like 35% today--but it's not the only tracker out there). Trump's floor is going to be something like 30% no. matter. what

Today The Omnivore tweeted with a Trump-Supporter who (a) doesn't think the Russians hacked Podesta and (b) fell back on "The US isn't all that innocent anyway." The Omnivore directs her to Counterpunch where she can hang with the lefties who want to talk about how the US interferes in other countries elections.

PSA: The president will be impeached by a GOP Congress at the point where you wish he would not be (because he's doing so much damage). If you are still hoping for impeachment--we're not there yet.

Flynn's Immunity Request Doesn't Mean Anything

If they offer you immunity for your testimony that usually (a) comes after a vetting where they agree what you'll give them for it and (b) is done in the context of them going after a bigger fish. You saying you'll testify if given immunity is totally different. It may even mean you don't have anything but want to ensure there's no downside. Consider that charges against Flynn aren't evident right now and doing what he's doing is the opposite of lawyering up.

There's A Different Reason Trump Might Be In Trouble Though

Trump's value to the GOP is directly proportional to his ability to sign legislation they like. They're afraid of his base--but they're afraid of the Freedom Caucus too--and if they could get rid of them, they would. Right now Trump is not looking likely to sign too much big-time conservative legislation. This isn't directly his fault--it's because a lot of conservative legislation has been developed in a context where it had better never be signed. 

Look at defunding Planned Parrenthood--yes, most conservatives hate the organization--but if they do manage to defund it, it'll hurt them bigly next election. Same with overturning Roe vs. Wade. It's a great campaign promise but if you do it, it's like prohibition: the net effects will not be popular.

Of course repealing Obamacare is the big one here--but massive tax-cuts for the rich? Well, people are watching right now. Without the secret tax-break that repealing Obamacare would give--and with Trump's build the military plus a pricey wall agenda, Trump will blow a hole in the National Debt. That isn't something movement conservatives want.

Of course Trump's problem here is not that he's causing these issues--it's that he's not a capable leader. He has no native vision, is purely transactional, and wants "a win." None of these are a surefire "win" so he's out to sea.

This can bring us to a place where the House decides president Pence will be just as capable of signing legislation (should they ever decide on any) but without the chaos. They'll have to do something about Trump's base, of course--but that's always been true.

What Does This Mean?

What all of this means is that Trump isn't "about to be out the door." Sure: there could be actual criminal charges. Could happen. No reason to think it will yet. Sure: he could resign--or have a breakdown--or totally blow his meeting with China and start a war or something. None of this is likely though. What's likely is that Trump will continue to do damage to America's reputation and institutions but will not collapse his administration or the country. 

Additionally, congressional Republicans won't have the balls to make any bold moves. Do those guys look like they have the balls to make any bold moves? No--no they do not.