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Fox / Faux and two mirrors

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — still pondering how much of “Trump” is chaff, intended to deflect attention from his serious intention ]


My source for the main thrust of this post:

Fox News hosts ramp up ‘deep state’ conspiracies
As the network escalates its attacks on the FBI, mainstream conservatives say it is endangering U.S. institutions.



There are mirrors all over the place, and smoke, too. Harvey Weinstein, Democrat and friend of Hillary; Steve Wynn, Republican finance chair and Vegas mogul: both were major fundraisers for their respective parties, both have been accused of sexual malfeasance.

If you’re a Republican and castigated Weinstein, demandung his cntributions be returned, are you now castigating Wynn, and demanding your own party returm the funds he raised? And if you’re a Democrat, and contrarywise in any way played doen the Weinstein affair, are you likewise playing down the Wynn matter?

Or is party politics making a difference?

The principle here should be, surely, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander..


Back to the deep state and its mirrors.

Hannity’s coverage was just part of a wider trend, observers say. For the past week, Fox News opinion hosts have seized on claims by some Republican lawmakers about a “secret society” at the FBI and “deep state actors” to fashion unproven narratives designed to protect Trump and delegitimize Mueller.

On Wednesday night, Hannity told viewers, “The constitutional violations are severe and historically unprecedented in this country. You have deep state actors using and abusing the powerful tools of intelligence we give them to protect this country.”


One mirror sees a parallel with sixties left radicals, the Weathermen

Stuart Stevens, the Republican who served as chief strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, had a similar view.

“In the 1960s, some rich white radicals attacked the justice system, ranted about government conspiracies and called for violent opposition,” he wrote in an email. “They called themselves Weathermen. Now the same is happening, and they call themselves conservative commentators. But it’s equally nutty.”

nota bene, the Weathermen used violence, while thus far, the Republican conspiracists have confined themselves to virulent rhetoric.


Jennifer Rubin holds another mirror up to Republican conspiracists — Russian propaganda:

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative columnist at The Washington Post, noted to POLITICO that the points being made on shows like “Hannity” and “Fox & Friends” echo those being reportedly pushed by Russian bots on social media.

“When they turn on a dime and begin adopting the same position as Russian bots and start attacking the FBI, we’ve gone to a whole new level of crazy,” she said.

“It’s almost like Fox has become the RT, the Russia Today, for the administration and the Kremlin,” she added.

Stevens finds a parallel in the American past, and a leftist group. Rubin finds a contemporary parallel in the activities of our principal foreign enemy.


Bill Kristol doesn’t offer a mirror, but his comments are worth noting:

In a Thursday interview on CNBC, Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor who was a Fox News analyst from 2002 to 2012, alleged that the channel has become increasingly conspiratorial over the past several years, saying, “Seventy-five percent of it seems to be birther-like coverage of different issues.”

Rubin said, though, that the most recent commentary is beyond anything that’s aired on the network in the past.

“The substance of what they’re saying and the conspiracy theories that are being floated are so much weirder and so much less credible than simply taking a suspicious view of the events leading up to Benghazi or questioning the motives of President Obama. There was once upon a time some factual basis for what they were looking at — some may have been drawing unreasonable conclusions and some may have been exaggerating, but here they appear to be making stuff up from whole cloth, so I do think it’s worse.”

If the Fox-faux folk heard these critiques from their Democratic rivals, they might well dismiss them out of hand. But they come from erstwhile highly respected people on their own “side” — fellow Republicans.


Humor on your way out the door:

Most intriguing game-theoretic comment of the year thus far

Friday, September 20th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — at the intersection of zero-sum and non-zero sum games ]

And the hands-down winner is — opening today’s Washington Post to the op-ed page — President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, who says:

The world has changed. International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities.

I think he’s right, though I’ll leave the question of whether he means it TBD — but if he does, that’s a.. that’s a.. that’s a Major Game Changer — and verra interesting in any case:

  • What’s the non-zero-sum strategy when there may be one or more zero-sum players in the game?
  • **

    For your further edification, here’s what a genuine game-changer, in both literal and metaphoric sense of the phrase, looks like:


    The court is a tennis court, the game in play is revolutionary politics, the event is the Tennis Court Oath, where the members of the National Assembly gathered to swear “not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established” — the drawing is by Jacques-Louis David.

    Should we Laugh or Cry?

    Friday, September 13th, 2013

    [by Mark Safranski a.k.a “zen“]

    Throughout the past half century or so, it became commonplace for high level officials to speak to reporters cloaked in anonymity as “sources in the White House” or who were “close to the Oval Office” in order to pass along slightly harder truths or acidic observations to the public without attribution. Generally, these comments, however troubling the format, were usually smarter and more honest than the ones that could be heard extolling the administration line at official briefings or press conferences.

    Well, the Obama administration is working hard to reverse that impression. In a little over a week, we have had these gems from senior officials regarding Syria and Russia:

    A second senior official, who has seen the most recent planning, offered this metaphor to describe such a strike: If Assad is eating Cheerios, we’re going to take away his spoon and give him a fork. Will that degrade his ability to eat Cheerios? Yes. Will it deter him? Maybe. But he’ll still be able to eat Cheerios.

    This is actually the less disturbing of the two examples. While inane as a choice of metaphor, it did at least correctly indicate the strategic insignificance of doing a “protest bombing” of Assad narrowly targeted to punish for chemical weapons use. That’s something.

    This next one is truly amazing:

    “Putin is now fully invested in Syria’s CW (chemical weapons) disarmament….

    He put this proposal forward and he’s now invested in it. That’s good. That’s the best possible reaction. He’s fully invested in Syria’s CW disarmament and that’s potentially better than a military strike – which would deter and degrade but wouldn’t get rid of all the chemical weapons. He now owns this. He has fully asserted ownership of it and he needs to deliver.”

    Yes, I’m certain Putin will put that right at the top of his to-do list now that he has finished submitting his ghost-written op-ed spiking the ball and doing a five minute celebratory dance in the White House end zone.

    Let’s hope that was cynical posturing and not an expression of the administration’s operative geopolitical power calculus because it sounds remarkably like a political consultant type trying to import the effects of domestic political spinmeistership into foreign policy making. It is at best an exercise in wishful thinking unhinged from the cold and cruel realities of international relations.

    If it represents the quality of thinking on foreign policy surrounding the President of the United States, then we may all be in big trouble.

    More on Strategy

    Friday, March 30th, 2012

    Two posts worth your attention:

    Gulliver at Inkspots continues the strategy convo between myself and Jason Fritz with a major post of extended commentary:

    Let’s just be up front with each other: this is a really long rant about strategy 

    ….I’m willing to concede that the line between civilian and military reponsibilities in strategy formation and the associated operational planning is a blurry and unstable one, and that what I’ve laid out as the normative standard isn’t always the way things play out in reality. You certainly shouldn’t take anything I’ve written above as an exculpatory argument for our elected officials. But more on this a bit later.

    As for our man Carl: Jason’s choice of Clausewitz quote is simultaneously interesting and surprising to me. Committed students of the sage will recognize it from perhaps the most remarked-upon pages of On War: Book Eight, Chapter 6B. (If it were an episode of “Friends,” they’d call it The One With the Politics By Other Means.) The language Jason excerpted is from the 19th-century Graham translation; just for the purpose of clarity, let’s look at the somewhat more fluent Paret/Howard version:

    In making use of war, policy evades all rigorous conclusions proceeding from the nature of war, bothers little about ultimate possibilities, and concerns itself only with immediate probabilities. Although this introduces a high degree of uncertainty into the whole business, turning it into a kind of game, each government is confident that it can outdo its opponent in skill and acumen. (606)This is a pretty difficult passage (especially as I present it here, mostly out of context) but I take it to mean that governments are little interested in ruminations on war’s escalatory momentum in the direction of its absolute form, but rather in how violence may be used to achieve concrete political goals. But the paradoxical reality is that addition of violence to politics – violence that is fueled in part by hatred and enmity, violence that is fundamental to war’s nature and sets it off as distinct from all other human activity – actually re-shapes the character of the political contest. War’s essential violence pressures the political contest to take on the character of a duel or a sporting event; without the harness of policy, war risks becoming a self-contained competition conducted according to its own rules, one where victory is not the mere accomplishment of political objectives but rather a revision of the relationship between the two competitors such that the victor is free to enact his preferences. 

    The “high degree of uncertainty” that Clausewitz concedes is introduced “into the whole business” is produced by divergence between the things we do in war and the things they are meant to achieve. In limited war, our actions are conceived as violent but discrete and purposive acts of policy, while as war moves toward its absolute form our actions are increasingly divorced from discrete political objectives short of the destruction of our enemy. To put it simply, shit gets crazy in war. [….] 

    In a different strategic venue, Matt Armstrong at MountainRunner analyzes  The President’s National Framework for Strategic Communication (and Public Diplomacy) for 2012 :

    It should be common knowledge that the “information consequences of policy ought always be taken into account, and the information man ought always to be consulted. This statement, from 1951, is reflected in Eisenhower’s dictum of the next year that “everything we say, everything we do, and everything we fail to say or do will have its impact in other lands.” It was understood then that words and deeds needed more than just synchronization: public opinion could be leveraged to support and further the execution of foreign policy.

    What was true then is more so in a modern communication environment of empowerment. The interconnected systems of Now Media, spanning offline and online mediums, democratizes influence, and undermines traditional models of identity and allegiance as demands on assimilation fade as “hyphens” become commas. What emerges is a new marketplace for loyalty that bypasses traditional barriers of time, geography, authority, hierarchy, culture, and language. Information flows much faster; at times it is instantaneous, decreasing the time allowed to digest and comprehend the information, let alone respond to it. Further, information is now persistent, allowing for time-shifted consumption and reuse, for ill or for good. People too can travel the globe with greater ease and increased speed.

    It is in this evolving environment that the President issued an updated “National Framework for Strategic Communication” for 2012 (3.8mb PDF, note: the PDF has been fixed and should be once again visible to all). This report updates the 2010 report issued last March that was little more than a narrative on how the Government was organized for strategic communication. The report is required under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009.

    Some highlights from the 2012 Framework: [….]

    Major General Fuller is Right

    Saturday, November 5th, 2011

    Major General Peter Fuller lost it yesterday and committed an unpardonable political sin – spontaneously telling the truth to reporters:

    US general fired from Afghan training job

    ….Referring to Karzai’s recent assertion that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan if Pakistan got into a war with the U.S., Fuller was quoted as calling the comments “erratic,” adding, “Why don’t you just poke me in the eye with a needle! You’ve got to be kidding me . I’m sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion and now you’re telling me, I don’t really care?”

    Fuller said the Afghans have at times made unreasonable requests for U.S. assistance.

    “You can teach a man how to fish, or you can give them a fish,” Fuller was quoted as saying. “We’re giving them fish while they’re learning, and they want more fish! (They say,) ‘I like swordfish, how come you’re giving me cod?’ Guess what? Cod’s on the menu today.”

    Fuller also said the Afghans don’t understand the extent to which the U.S. is in economic distress or the “sacrifices that America is making to provide for their security.” He said the Afghans are “isolated from reality.”

    Allen said the “unfortunate comments” don’t represent the solid U.S. relationship with the Afghan government….

     The relationship of the Karzai’s regime to the United States is a lot like that of a 32 year-old drug-addict living in his parent’s basement. The parents keep muddling through life, hoping their son will suddenly wake up one morning and decide to clean up his act, get a job, move out, get married and have 2.5 kids, a dog and a house with a white picket fence. The parents cling to that hope and cherish it but the reality is that the son staggers out of bed every day, sometime in the afternoon, only to go find their dealer, score some heroin and get high.

    Karzai’s egime has less chance of governing Afghanistan effectively than the average heroin addict does of kicking their habit. And the reason is a) far and away Hamid Karzai and, secondarily b) Most Afghans fear a strong central government. The US has managed to do two things at the strategic level that a nation should never do in fighting a counterinsurgency war – support a government  that will not take sensible measures even in the interest of it’s own survival and permit insurgents a sanctuary and third country sponsorship.

    General Fuller’s career is now effectively over. Too bad we cannot say the same for Mr. Karzai.

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