Kathleen Parker Crossing the Rubicon

On December 19th the Electoral College votes for President.  This is the real Presidential election, so believe it or not, it’s still not over. And until it is, we’re going to be subjected to #nevertrump antics to keep pulling out last ditch efforts to rewrite the election. To that end, electors are getting death threats and many more are being tracked down for intimidation efforts.  This seems to be rather unprecedented and I can’t recall electors being under quite this much pressure, even during 2000’s Bush-Gore slugfest.

Enter “conservative” columnist Kathleen Parker.  As a card carrying member of the establishment, her version of conservatism is s showing “growth” by rejecting bit by bit, conservatism.  However the rise of Trump and the establishment reaction of #nevertrump gives an opportunity to give a clean break.  Give it a few years and formerly conservative columnists will be cranking out columns indistinguishable from their leftist counterparts.  Did George Will write this or Eugene Robinson?  I can’t tell any longer.

But worse than the ideological evolution of #nevertrump is the frantic nature of it, as Parker demonstrates in her column, “The Electoral College Should be Unfaithful” in which Parker argues that faithless electors should overthrow the results of the election:

“Most important among the founders’ criteria for a president was that he (or now she) be qualified. Thus, the electoral college was created as a braking system that would, if necessary, save the country from an individual such as, frankly, Trump.”

That’s not why the founders added the Electoral College.  They actually remembered that the United States is a federation, not a unitary country.  But we’re talking hysteria here so never mind…

“It is worth noting that 50 former Republican national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter saying that Trump would be a “dangerous president.” Do we simply ignore them?”

Yes we do.  These are mostly Bushies who have been wounded by Trump’s rejection of their Iraqi Invasion.

“At least one Republican elector, Christopher Suprun, has decided to pay heed. In an op-ed in Tuesday’s New York Times, Suprun, a paramedic in Texas, outlined all his reasons for not rubber-stamping Trump, saying he owes a debt not to his party but to his children. He urged others to join him.”

Suprun may not be the greatest example of principled opposition.  In his Op Ed, he listed Trump’s attacking of Saturday Night Live as a sticking point with him.  Talk about a superfan!  But Suprun seems more like a ringer as his PR firm is the one founded by communist and former Obama administration green jobs czar Van Jones.  So maybe not the best example to use…?

“Electors are scheduled to meet Dec. 19 in their respective states to cast their final ballots. If there are 37 Republicans among them with the courage to perform their moral duty and protect the nation from a talented but dangerous president-elect, a new history of heroism will have to be written.  Please, be brave.”

So there you have it.   A call to overturn the elections, but I wonder, oh fair Kathleen, what will that “bravery” cost the country?

The odds of this are extremely low of course, but think what it would mean to have electors threatened, bribed, or intimidated into changing their votes so that it alters a Presidential election?  Whoever the electors anointed as President would have no legitimacy, and Trump supporters who always thought that the “establishment” would never let a real swamp draining reformer into office would be vindicated.  But the damage would exceed whatever happened over the next four years.

It would be a permanent scar on the body politic. Presidential elections would become meaningless since anyone who can get to the electors can anoint the next President.  When governments lose all political legitimacy, crazy things can happen. With the Soviet Union, and the Eastern Bloc nations, it was relatively peaceful.  For Yugoslavia, it was not.  But in any case, our government would lose legitimacy. To paraphrase Hemmingway, gradually, then suddenly.

So a warning to Parker and other shortsighted pundits, who on November 4th insisted that everything will be fine no matter who wins, and now want to overthrow the government, once you pull out that particular string, it will never go back in.

 

 

 

 

 

Anand Giridharadas in Fear

Our old buddy Anand Giridharadas was back on Morning Joe, and boy how the tables have turned. I wrote in October how New York Times writer Giridharadas, on a Morning Joe appearance, couldn’t wait for the post election score settling with his arch enemy, white men.

“I think the people who went that way and that Trump movement and perhaps supported things about women they don’t actually support or supported things about bashing Muslims that they don’t in their deepest of hearts support, need to think about the fact that globalization and all of that was hard on everybody. It wasn’t just hard on White guys. For some reason, women lost their jobs in globalization, Black and Brown people lost their jobs in globalization, and managed not to lash out. I think there needs to be a reckoning, frankly, with white manhood in this country.”

But now the tables have turned, and with a Trump victory, Giridharadas has gone from a Brownshirt inciting a Caucasian Kristallnacht to shivering in fear in a Dutch attic.  Enjoy:

When Joe Scarborough has to be the voice of reason, “Hitler is not coming back,” then you know that someone’s gone off the deep end. But however much I’m enjoying the schadenfreude of Giridharadas having a special snowflake breakdown on television, it serves as a reminder that however much he now fears internment camps, Muslim banning, and all the rest, he’s the type of person who either thinks that you have your hands on his throat, or he’s going to have his hands on your throat.  If the tables had been turned, and Hillary had won, he would have been the first one urging internment camps and whatever final solution he feels appropriate to handle that pesky white male problem.

Demography is destiny and eventually the Democrats will be back in power.  And when they are, there will be Anand Giridharadas and others like him urging on their own pogrom.

A Positive Trumpian Vision

On election night/morning, I was up way too late (or early) basking in the glory that was the Trumpening, when I was pinged on Facebook Messenger by a friend who was also up way too late (or early). We discussed our various states of happiness and satisfaction at seeing the smug wiped from liberal commentators’ faces live on TV.  It was a glorious evening, but my friend was also hopeful that this would change the direction of my posting.  In other words, my blog, in regard to political matters, had gotten way too depressing; decline, doom and gloom…it doesn’t make cheery reading sometimes, and I couldn’t argue with his point.  In fact, I had recognized that myself.  Although I’ve loved arguing and discussing politics, for the past two years I’ve mostly stopped bringing it up around company simply because I’ve recognized that I don’t have very much hopeful to say, and even I don’t want to hear the same doom and gloom.  Of course, if someone else brought up politics, then I had no problem contributing to the discussion figuring, “Eh, you asked for it.”  But I knew that there was no point in me bringing it up or discussing it when it did nothing but make me a buzz kill.  Besides, there were other things to talk about.

But if there was anything that should make me hopeful about the future, a Trump victory, against all odds, with a Republican House and Senate should do the trick. And although there are plenty of negative things I could write about what that might mean, I think I owe myself at least one positive post on what a Trump administration could mean for arresting American Decline.

My central thesis on Democratic politics over the past couple of decades, and what’s wrong with American politics, goes back to Identity Politics. More and more we’re voting by tribe, rather than on issues.  With the major defeat Democrats have suffered, some of them are being introspective and are trying to see where they went wrong.  In The New York Times, The End of Identity Liberalism, explores whether Democrats had gone too far in dividing, and then buying votes, by identity.

“…But how should this diversity shape our politics? The standard liberal answer for nearly a generation now has been that we should become aware of and “celebrate” our differences. Which is a splendid principle of moral pedagogy — but disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age. In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.

One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions…”

So I think it’s fair to say that the white working class did notice that they were excluded from Hillary Clinton’s America.  Not only did they not count, they were considered part of the problem. Some Democrats went even further and felt White Men were a problem to be dealt with.  If you are promising a Caucasian Kristallnacht, that’s not a way to win votes; at least white working class votes.  But this was no bug in the Clinton election machine; this was supposed to be a feature. The Obama 2012 re-election campaign explicitly excluded White Males as part of a re-election strategy.  Clinton planned to simply copy what worked with Obama; a coalition of the fringes implicitly against White Men. I don’t think the Democrats current soul searching on identity politics will last long.  Already they are considering Congressman Keith Ellison, 9/11 Truther, a far left ideologue and Muslim for DNC Chairman, Ellison is, as they might have said on 30 Rock, is a “two-for.” Whether that’s the right choice for a party rethinking its commitment to identity politics is obvious.

But that leaves an opening for a Trumpian alternative.  It’s not a new idea.  Paleo conservatism referred to it as Economic Nationalism, and Columnist Steve Sailer refers to it as Citizenism, or Civic Nationalism.  Basically, it’s a governing philosophy that prioritizes Americans and American national interests over more nebulous ideological goals.  This of course is much of what Trump stands for, and stands apart from much current Republican or Democratic platform planks.

Trade: Trade should serve the interests of American workers.  Opening markets is great, but labor cost shopping to set up American factories in other countries to dump the more expensive labor costs of the US, only to turn around and import those manufactured goods back to the US tariff free.

Immigration: The goals of US immigration policy should be to benefit American workers. It’s not to ease the unemployment problems of other countries (Mexico) or to provide coolie labor to American corporations (Indian coders) so they can fire more expensive American workers.

Foreign Policy: The goal of US foreign policy should be to advance US national interests, not to subordinate those interests to other nations or groups of nations, i.e. “the world.”  Although often the goals of the world and the United States may coincide, like the Gulf War.  Other times, they won’t, such as in Kosovo and Libya (and Syria could be added to the mix).

These are all policies that in theory should be attractive to the working and middle classes across all cultural, ethnic, or racial lines.  In a rational political culture, people would tend to vote their class interests.  However the US, in the throes of multi-cultural nonsense and identity politics people tend to vote their demographics.  Not in a perfect sense, and in the US in the 21st Century, your identity group isn’t simply “blood, soil, and gods.”  It can be your sexual orientation, your gender identity, or if you view yourself as “elite” or not.  But in modern America, your hyphen in most cases outweighs your identity as simply an American.

But still, this is mostly an ethnic/racial thing.  And most people who identify hyphen-American identify by their ethnic or racial group. After being told for decades by the overarching leftist oriented culture that is the most important defining thing about a person, good old fashioned assimilation has been stopped in its tracks. This of course spells doom to Republican or any version of Conservative politics, however writer John O’Sullivan wrote a brilliant piece in National Review called The Latino Voting Surge that Never Happened.  For me the surprise that a magazine that had defined itself in opposition to Donald Trump seems to have bended the knee and has for the most part accepted that Trump is the President elect.  In some ways, I imagine this acceptance was just as difficult for NR as it was for Hillary Clinton.  In any case, I encourage you to read the article, however these excerpts summarize the argument:

“That brings us to the second political conclusion: If Republicans campaign on the basis of the real ethnic nature of American society, they can win most elections most of the time. What is that real nature? Democrats and their allies like to present the electoral choice as one between a party of white America in retreat and one of minority America on the advance. As we have seen, however, their “white America” is a misnomer for a mainstream America that incorporates assimilated minorities so comfortably that they are generally unaware of having once belonged to a minority.” 

In other words, as I’ve said before, race may or may not be a social construct, but being white definitely is.

 “Pre-election commentary tended to suggest that, whether he intended it or not, Trump was the focus of a new politics of “white identity.” Some of Trump’s casual racial remarks certainly pointed in that direction. But his entire campaign, encapsulated in his slogan “Make America Great Again,” was directed to reviving a strong politics of national identity encompassing all Americans. Maybe the best way of accounting for the Latino vote, for instance, would be to say that Trump’s insulting remarks were ultimately outweighed by the fact that he presented a strong image of leadership that would put the interests of all Americans first. It is not hard to imagine that a Republican candidate who ran on a politics of cultivating and celebrating a generous American national identity but who also treated his opponents courteously and all citizens with respect would make his Majority-Minority coalition into a dominant electoral coalition in a less ravaged society.”

So everyone can be white!

Even within my demography is destiny worldview, I had left myself an out, as I wrote two years ago in Some Snags in the Inevitable Decline and Death of the GOP.  Every non white group isn’t African American, and is not going to give 90% of their vote to Democrats based on a paper bag skin tone test. And in the long run, every non white group isn’t even non white.  On some level, the Democrats recognize this and are fighting back:

”The White House is putting forward a proposal to add a new racial category for people from the Middle East and North Africa under what would be the biggest realignment of federal racial definitions in decades.

If approved, the new designation could appear on census forms in 2020 and could have far-reaching implications for racial identity, anti-discrimination laws and health research.

Under current law, people from the Middle East are considered white, the legacy of century-old court rulings in which Syrian Americans argued that they should not be considered Asian — because that designation would deny them citizenship under the1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. But scholars and community leaders say more and more people with their roots in the Middle East find themselves caught between white, black and Asian classifications that don’t fully reflect their identities.”

If the Democrats thought they could get away with it, they would create 100 different racial categories and end the non-Hispanic white majority right now.  So in the same way I noted a Trumpian political platform that should be attractive to a broad majority of Americans, there is a social agenda needed to unhinge the left’s Balkanization of the country:

The Census: Get rid of the Hispanic category.  It serves no useful purpose and serves a lot of dangerous ones.  It’s a pseudo racial category that’s an attempt to keep anyone from a country where Spanish is the dominate language in the same downtrodden group, from a classics professor from Barcelona to an illiterate Guatemalan peasant. Although these are ultimately political decisions, I would trade having a Mestizo category in order to get rid of the Hispanic category.  At least Mestizo’s can arguably claim to be sort of a racial category.  Obviously I would oppose adding a separate Middle Eastern category.

Promote the Mainstream:  I think O’Sullivan really hit on something when he suggested that white America is really mainstream America.  So maybe it should just be referred to that way, in words and speeches, the goal is bringing everyone into mainstream America.

Junk Affirmative Action:  Affirmative Action has been a very effective tool in splitting up the country.  “Diverse” vs White People.   This is the pivot that has created the current social situation where the Democratic Party is partly defined in opposition to white people.  Middle Easterners would be a lot less interested in defining themselves as non white if they were not able to take advantage of minority small business loans and other affirmative action programs.  Take away the giveaway advantages of being non white and people would be less interested in defining themselves that way.  At least for the near term, I would still keep affirmative action for African Americans and Native Americans.  At least those two groups can plausibly claim historic discrimination that’s damaged current prospects, something that other ethnic categories can’t plausibly claim.

A combination of these political and social planks could create a governing platform for a new governing majority in America, mainstream Americans.  Of course this hinges on how successful a Trump Presidency is.  Considering how improbable a Trump Presidency was in the first place, I’m going to bet on continued winning.

 

Getting it Wrong

Or…Revisiting my Prediction Model

It’s worth looking back to try to understand why I got my Presidential Prediction so wrong.  I take no comfort that virtually every Pundit and pollster got it wrong.  After all, they don’t care, are usually wrong anyway, and have no record to protect.  I do have a record, and it’s been a pretty good one until November 8th.  Not that I’m complaining mind you.  I’m (still) over the moon at The Trumpening.  Election night was like a dream, and as the kids say, a dream is a wish your heart makes.  By the way by “kids” I’m not referring to millennials, I mean actual little kids.

But I did make a prediction…that Donald Trump wouldn’t win.  Back in August, I said this:

“Trump is deliberately using language that can be construed in the worse possible way in order to generate publicity.  With decades of experience at being a celebrity, he has taken to heart the publicist adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  And in terms of generating publicity, he’s been an outstanding success if you count it by minutes of airtime or lines of copy in print.  Certainly there would have been zero media coverage discussing poor decisions by the Obama administration leading to the creation of ISIS without Trump.  Getting those issues out there and forcing a hostile media to talk about issues they don’t want to discuss is also a success.

However in politics, that isn’t reflected in the polls.  Kanye West is great at generating publicity for him, but at the cost of it being almost uniformly bad publicity.  This may be a great strategy for getting on Page 6, but it’s a terrible one if your goal is to win a general election.  So my reason for not making a prediction on the election earlier was because I thought that Trump could easily fix his problems; stop attacking other Republicans, stick to prepared speeches and stump speeches, ease off twitter, and his polling would go back up because after all, people really don’t like Hillary Clinton and would love for an excuse not to vote for her.  But Trump thinks that generating unfavorable publicity is the ticket to success, and as long as he both thinks and acts like it is, Hillary Clinton is the next President.”

But something happened in the final few weeks of the campaign.  Trump started taking my advice (well…delivered by Kellyanne Conway).  He did stop attacking other Republicans, he stuck to prepared speeches, and somehow, someone got hold of his phone and locked him out of twitter.  All things that started to allow Trump to start rising again in the polls.  For sure, there were outside factors that helped too.  FBI Director Comey reopening the email investigation for half a minute was too much for some wavering Clinton voters to handle.   The fact that he closed it again almost as soon as he reopened it didn’t fix the damage.  Even the Clinton campaign realized that.

So what made Trump change direction and start doing things he should have been doing ever since the Republican convention?  I can only imagine that he finally realized that he was close to becoming a loser, the worst thing imaginable in Trumpland, and Conway and other assorted advisors were giving him a pathway to avoid the hated L word.

And it worked.

Does this make me look again at my underlying factum regarding elections?  No, I think my “demography is destiny” thesis is still sound.  The white share of the electorate will probably be 68% in 2020, 2% less than 2016.  That makes it a much harder slog for Republicans then, regardless of any other underlying issues or current events of the campaign.  However as I’ve stated previously, Donald Trump, a totally unconventional candidate in almost every way, is a Black Swan Event.  And as a commenter stated, “Black Swans matter.”  But the election of Trump throws trends up in the air.  As Yoda might say: “Difficult to see.  Always in motion is the future.”

 

 

 

 

 

A few More Election Observations

Just a couple of observations:

The Return of the War on Women: It wasn’t really called that this year, but in the pearl clutching, fainting couch department, it was 2012 all over again.  Where Romney was portrayed as insensitive and clueless when it comes to women, Trump has been portrayed as a sexual predator.  The failure of the typical War-on-Women attacks in 2014 lead many Republican “thinkers” to believe that it was an expired tactic, but that’s really just a reflection of the difference in the electorate that shows up in Presidential year elections and non Presidential ones.  I predict that in 2018 Republicans will once again declare the War-on-Women tactics dead, and then be surprised when they work like a charm in 2020.

Power over Principles:  Ideology barely made a single campaign stop in probably one of the most ideology free Presidential campaigns in my lifetime.  The Democrats have long espoused a policy, modeled off of Samuel Gompers’s famous quote, of “more.”  The Democratic coalition has long been a “more” party, rather than an ideological party; as long as that “More” comes from the other guys. That’s been Democratic Policy for decades, but the shift of some #nevertrump holdouts as the election neared showed that no matter how you want to slice it ideologically, there are two broad coalitions in American politics, a generally left leaning extraction coalition, and a generally right leaning production coalition.  How else to explain that the same anti war crowd that voted for Obama based on his promise to leave Iraq now voted for the candidate that promised to confront Russia, militarily if necessary, to establish a no fly zone in Syria?

It’s the Identity stupid:  The economy barely showed up as an issue in the campaign.  In fact, it was probably less of a factor in any election in my lifetime, and that includes economic high points hit during the Reagan and Clinton administrations.  The Obama economy has been no high point, but, as I observed in 2012:

“Even if Romney had won, it would have been the last gasp of an archaic idea in US politics; political parties that are more or less based on policy decisions and ideas and to a lesser degree, ideology and the left/right continuum   Eventually, I suspect that we will be voting according to our ethnic, gender, and sexual preferences.  In other words, our politics will become more tribal.”

I’m quite the prophet!  So the economy and public policy proposals (except on the Trump side) were minor accessories to this year’s election, not the central focus as they had been in the past.  But we’re a different country now so tribe is more important than policy. Meanwhile, Trump won about 60% of the white vote although I think these numbers understate that.  Hopefully there will be better data in a few weeks and I’m betting it will show a much higher percentage of the white vote.  That’s the only way I can figure that Trump won such a large victory and won so many previously out of reach states when the percentage of the white vote dropped 2% from 72% in 2012 to 70% in 2016. Although Trump won a higher percentage of both the Black vote and Hispanic vote than Romney did, that just doesn’t give you the margin of victory that Trump managed.  As an aside, that 2% drop in the White electorate every four years seems like a good rule of thumb to calculate how much more of the white vote Republicans will need to win in the future to be competitive.  Some liberal wag on twitter made the comment last night that the white working class finally started voting like a minority.

Yep.

That’s the future, love it or hate it (I hate it personally, but I didn’t bake this cake).

Policy loses to Persuasion:  Dilbert writer Scott Adams has distinguished himself as the preeminent political prognosticator of this election.  Adams predicted a Trump landslide in 2015 and has been following up on the campaign at his blog, which has turned out to be the most accurate site on Trump for the duration of the campaign.  Adam’s experience in the techniques of persuasion gave invaluable insight into why stupid things that Trump said weren’t stupid at all, they were deliberate attempts to create an imagery and mood and how to feel about something.  Once he had tagged Jeb Bush as “low energy Jeb” you couldn’t help but analyze his speech and the way he physically handled himself to see if he was “low energy.”  Brilliant!   All of Jeb’s 100 million dollars couldn’t save him after that.

I’m sure I’ll have other observations about the election and I’ll post them as they come, but the Trump victory is really making me look forward to Thanksgiving Day dinner conversation.  I intend to make Thanksgiving great again!

 

Seizing the Cockpit of the Flight 93 Election

trump-victory

OK I was wrong.

Back in August I predicted that Trump would lose to Clinton, and even further back, in 2014, I predicted that Senate would go back to the Democrats. Instead, Trump smashed down the gates of the establishment, winning the Presidency with (as of this writing) 279 electoral votes.  I also predicted that Florida would go Democratic this year.  I was wrong about that too. Instead, this Black Swan Event totally disrupted the polls and the process. How sure was I that Hillary Clinton was going to win?  Last weekend I wrote a totally different draft version of this post, one that made the assumption that Clinton would win: one that would be ready to publish as soon as the networks called the election.  I didn’t even bother to prepare an alternate version.  After all, Clinton had been leading in the polls most of the year, and in that way it resembled 2012 or 1996.  The polls would have to have been totally wrong in order to get another result.

Well they were wrong.

This election truly was the Flight 93 election. While writing this I had thought for sure I had written about this article previously and apparently didn’t.  And for that, I apologize to my readers, since I regard it as the most important piece that’s come out this year in defining the stakes of this election for the right.  Well even though the election is over, it’s still worth reading in its entirety. But just a few excerpts to summarize the main thesis:

“2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.

To ordinary conservative ears, this sounds histrionic. The stakes can’t be that high because they are never that high—except perhaps in the pages of Gibbon. Conservative intellectuals will insist that there has been no “end of history” and that all human outcomes are still possible. They will even—as Charles Kesler does—admit that America is in “crisis.” But how great is the crisis? Can things really be so bad if eight years of Obama can be followed by eight more of Hillary, and yet Constitutionalist conservatives can still reasonably hope for a restoration of our cherished ideals?”

“Let’s be very blunt here: if you genuinely think things can go on with no fundamental change needed, then you have implicitly admitted that conservatism is wrong. Wrong philosophically, wrong on human nature, wrong on the nature of politics, and wrong in its policy prescriptions. Because, first, few of those prescriptions are in force today. Second, of the ones that are, the left is busy undoing them, often with conservative assistance. And, third, the whole trend of the West is ever-leftward, ever further away from what we all understand as conservatism.”

“One of the Journal of American Greatness’s deeper arguments was that only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could a Trump rise. It is therefore puzzling that those most horrified by Trump are the least willing to consider the possibility that the republic is dying. “

Basically, the country is declining, which is an argument I’ve been making for years. I don’t believe any other Republican candidate could have won this year.  The Republican brand is trashed and only a Republican who has an identity of something other than a Republican, like Trump, could have fought through that.  That eliminates almost any other “normal” candidate.  Normal has not been working for a while.

So the question has to be asked, does this mean my basic thesis, that our politics is becoming more tribal and based on identity politics wrong?  I think it actually confirms it. I’ll be curious to look at more hard data on the demographic breakdown as it’s released in the days ahead, but winning Ohio and especially Pennsylvania, which last went Republican in 1988, shows that Trump did exceptionally well with the white working class.  Trumps version of the Sailer Strategy, which is that Republicans should go after the white vote in the same way that Democrats go after the Black or Hispanic vote, appeared successful.  Although I don’t think that was an intentional racial appeal on Trump’s part, when your platform reflects the concerns of the white working class, the results will be similar. As Lee Kwan Yew, the late former President of Singapore noted, “In multiracial societies, you don’t vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with your race and religion.”  That’s been the trend in the US for a generation; everyone is bunching up according to their identity group.  The last people to recognize that was happening were the Republicans.  I think at this point, they’ll have to learn to accept and deal with that reality.

So it looks like the passengers were able to rush the cockpit and grab the controls, but it’s not clear yet if they can land it.

 

Shadow Brokers

 

nsa_meade

ABC News had an interesting story yesterday about a hacker group called “Shadow Brokers” releasing information related to the National Security Agency loss of some of it’s most closely guarded hacker tools.

OK maybe not that closely guarded. Per the article:

“A group calling itself “Shadow Brokers” says it has released another gem from its trove of high-level hacking tools stolen from the U.S.’s National Security Agency, potentially offering added insight into how America’s spies operate online.

The leak discloses NSA-style codenames — including “Jackladder” and “Dewdrop”— and carries internet protocol information about scores of organizations, many based in Japan, China and South Korea, according to several experts who have examined the data.”

It looks like yet another embarrassment for the NSA, which seems to have generated plenty over the past few years.  When hacker groups get to troll the NSA with their own hacking tools, it’s like getting a wedgie and being stuffed in a locker for that most secret of American spy agencies.  This caught my eye:

“The Intercept, an investigative publication with access to NSA material leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, later confirmed Shadow Brokers’ tools were really from the NSA by cross-referencing the leaked data with information held in a previously unpublished top secret manual.”

That seems to tell me that intimate knowledge of these hacker tools have been out there since Snowden defected.  Glenn Greenwald may not have published the details in The Guardian, but I’m sure whatever laptop he kept Snowden’s data on was a target of every intelligence agency in the world, so the entire worldwide intelligence community must have been aware of some of the specifics of these hacker tools for years.

And then, somehow, these tools got released.

At some point.

That gets kind of cloudy.  It was revealed publicly a few months ago that not only had the hacking tools been leaked, but that it may have been due to carelessness.

“Embarrassingly, an investigation into the matter has revealed that a NSA operative may have inadvertently left the hacking tools in question on a remote computer, effectively leaving it behind as a gift to whomever discovered it.”

At this point, maybe it’s time for the NSA to wear a dunce cap and sit in the corner?

But wait, there’s more:

“Interestingly enough, a U.S. operative is said to have left the hacking tools behind about three years ago.”

Now I wonder what else happened in the intelligence community three years ago?  That’s right, that’s when Snowden defected.  Now at seems a bit of a coincidence to me that at about the same time Edward Snowden began his ‘round the world defection tour that in a totally unrelated incident, some random NSA employee loses a laptop containing some of the most valuable hacking software in the world.

Now here is where I get confused.  Harold Martin III, an NSA contractor employed by Booz Allen Hamilton was arrested in August for pilfering an unbelievable amount of classified material that he had stolen from work and was keeping at home.  Per The New York Times:

 “Investigators pursuing what they believe to be the largest case of mishandling classified documents in United States history have found that the huge trove of stolen documents in the possession of a National Security Agency contractor included top-secret N.S.A. hacking tools that two months ago were offered for sale on the internet.

They have been hunting for electronic clues that could link those cybertools — computer code posted online for auction by an anonymous group calling itself the Shadow Brokers — to the home computers of the contractor, Harold T. Martin III, who was arrested in late August on charges of theft of government property and mishandling of classified information.”

So this is why I’m confused.  The FBI is trying to make a case that Martin sold or tried to sell NSA hacking tools to the Shadow Brokers hacking group; the same hacking tools that were inadvertently lost three years ago?

“But so far, the investigators have been frustrated in their attempt to prove that Mr. Martin deliberately leaked or sold the hacking tools to the Shadow Brokers or, alternatively, that someone hacked into his computer or otherwise took them without his knowledge.”

The tools were lost three years ago.  The FBI thinks that Martin sold them to the hacker group, and per the ABC article, everyone agrees that the hacker group Shadow Brokers does have the hacking tools right?

Somebody can’t keep their story straight.  Did the Shadow Brokers get the tools from the loss from three years ago or from Martin more recently?  And is Martin that good that if he did sell the tools, he left no tracks, including payment?  Since he’s sitting in jail, facing a lifetime of more of the same, it would seem that he would have an incentive to cut a deal.

Let me posit an alternative explanation.  I won’t even call it a theory since I have no evidence or no knowledge one way or the other.  But try this on for size:

When the after action on Snowden’s stolen material was reviewed, it becomes clear that a technical manual that has specific information about the NSA hacking tools was part of Snowden’s stolen intelligence material.  Greenwald never published it, no doubt because it was technical and he had no idea what it was, but just having it in his possession made the material vulnerable since Greenwald became a target for every intelligence agency in the world once it went public that Snowden gave him all of his ill gotten gains.

So the information on the hacking tools is out there, even if the tools themselves are not.  But there is no doubt enough technical data that would make it possible for a sophisticated intelligence service to perhaps identify and defend from those particular tools. So maybe, just maybe, the NSA wants to muddy the waters a bit by “losing” their tools, only to be found by a hacking group which then brags about having them and uses them to intrude into systems worldwide.

So…what if the tools were never lost, or stolen by Martin?  What if it’s an elaborate setup to create a black hat hacking group, that can be the fall guy for failed or identified computer systems intrusions?  Since the technical manual stolen by Snowden is out there, that means the useful shelf life of these hacking tools are limited, so an entirely new set of software has to be created, but that takes time.  In the meantime, there is a fall guy for failed or identified computer intrusion operations, the Shadow Brokers.  Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Shadow Brokers are nothing but a creation of the Shadow Factory?

Do I think this is likely?  Sadly no.  It’s more hope than anything else. Or it’s a good episode of The Blacklist or Scorpion.  But I would rather believe that as opposed to the alternative public explanation that not only did the NSA lose information on almost every major intelligence program to Snowden, but that it lost the US technical edge in cyber warfare to an accident.