Escape from Mordor

You all know the line about how one does not simply walk into Mordor. Well, today it’s flying out that’s not working. 

I did manage to get as far as Virginia, though that wasn’t easy either. The Metro train’s blue/orange/silver lines were down, cutting off both airports that way. The yellow line was still running to Reagan, but it was delayed inexplicably. I finally got to the airport, and even onto an earlier flight to try to dodge the storms, but it was delayed until it was too late. 

Ah, well. Getting home safe is the only thing that matters. If it takes a little longer, that’s not so bad. 

UPDATE: We made it to Charlotte. That was quite a ride. 

There was a tiny baby in arms on the row ahead of me, with her mother and father. She slept perfectly soundly through the roughest airplane ride I’ve ever had. Her mother said she expected the baby to go flying through the air at several points, but she slept quietly through all of it. 

UPDATE: Not going to make it tonight. We flew to Asheville but they turned us around due to fog once we got there. It’s just been a difficult day for travel. 

Back to Mordor

A short trip this time, but I’ll be back in DC until Friday evening. Light posting from the road. 

In what universe?

Not to dump on this single Gen Z-er, whose video went viral, because it seems that every generation finds the burdens of independent adult living a big splash of ice-cold water. But do you recall that it was difficult to find an entry-level job that paid enough to cover an apartment you didn't have to share with someone? Not only did I not manage to live alone for years after college, I never really did: I got by in a cheap shared commune-like house for many years, then moved out with my husband when we finally could swing a house mortgage together. That was in 1987, after I'd graduated from law school and had a solid paycheck, and he was going back to school to study engineering. We were 31 and 33 at that point.

Thinking back, I can barely recall even distant acquaintances who could afford to live alone immediately after college, unless their bills were being paid by wealthy parents. I knew a handful of married couples who pulled it off quite young.

I can't bring myself to be shocked that a single entry-level unskilled job won't support an independent household. I'm not even inclined to blame it on disastrous economic policies embraced by either party over the last 50 years. It's nothing but a juvenile pipedream for most people, and a strong hint that they need a better plan than to sign on at the nearest WalMart and sleepwalk through the working day.

I've got a teenager working for me now, walking my excessive dog population once a day for about an hour total. At first, he was predictably clueless about the concept of wages for hire. He showed a strong tendency not to show up for a variety of lame reasons. I had a heart-to-heart with him, though, and he's settled down nicely. He lives nearby and can bicycle here. He understands that the options for paid work are harshly limited for kids living in the middle of nowhere with no driver's license. He gets on well with my dogs, shows up 7 days a week on time, says "Yes, Ma'am" while making eye contact, and is losing that dreamy "why am I here?" affect. I have some hope he'll land a real job at some point and have the personal skills to keep it.

Related: Federal Involvement in the Infamous Riot

With the understanding that the journalist involved here has a vested interest in shocking stories, and the Congressman he's interviewing certainly must also have an angle, these claims are official given that they are being raised as a result of a Congressional investigation.
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), who has been investigating the Capitol riot, says that there were at least 200 undercover FBI assets embedded in the crowd, inside and outside of the Capitol Building..... 

FBI Director Wray has long refused to answer whether the FBI had assets dressed as Trump supporters at the Capitol that day.

One point that Higgins made was that it is highly improbable that civilians would know how to get around the Capitol without help from people who knew where they were going.

“There’s no way they can come in some random door that gets opened and then get their way directly to Statuary [Hall] or the House chamber or the Senate chamber. It’s just not possible,” Higgins told Carlson....

Higgins says the evidence points to FBI undercover agents who planted the seeds of a "radical occupation" of the Capitol online before Jan. 6.... the evidence suggests that the Capitol riot, which has been used as a pretext to incarcerate Trump supporters without trial and to even prevent Trump from being allowed on the ballot in various states, was a set-up.

“I’m following the evidence, and to my horror, it implicates our FBI at the highest level,” Higgins said.

The usual defense of entrapment as a tactic is that you couldn't entrap people who weren't at least somewhat open to committing the crime. If the crowd had been made up of people who would never consider rioting, committed to peaceful and lawful obedience at all times, even 200 instigators salted through the crowd would not be enough. To my mind police entrapment is always wrong, but that's their usual defense so it's fair to raise the point.

Likewise, Trump himself bears responsibility (link is to my post from that day) for having staged a rally so close to the counting action that was taking place. It doesn't require a brilliant mind to know that a riot was likely given that you concentrated so many of the aggrieved in one place, not that far away from where the votes were being counted. His poor judgment on that day is inexcusable even if the Feds were acting like complete scoundrels. 

That said, the most inexplicable thing about the whole event was the cascade failure of the security systems in place to prevent such things. From about a week after: 

One of the things I've been trying to piece together is how all the various security forces we have in place at the Capitol failed on 6 January. It's quite embarrassing, really: the Capitol Police alone have 2,000 men, the DC National Guard another thousand-plus battalion, and then there's the FBI, the Park Police, the Metro Police Department, the National Guard units from VA and MD that could be called with short notice, even the 3rd Infantry Regiment in Arlington (and the Marines not too far down the road in Quantico). 

We had plenty of guys who could have been there, and plenty of advance notice of a demonstration likely to spin out of control. Yet somehow, dudes with bison hats were wandering the halls of Congress. 

The simplicity of the explanation that the cascade failure was intended, and thus directed, is attractive compared to the nest of coincidences that would otherwise be required as explanators. It also explains why the FBI never found any suspects for the "pipe bombs" that were allegedly planted near party headquarters that day. I remember Jim Hanson -- former Green Beret -- and I looked over the photos and decided the 'bombs' pictured were probably mock-ups instead of real bombs anyway.

Now, the old saying that 'the simplest explanation is always best' -- which is itself a bastardization of Occam's Razor -- is not accurate. The true explanation is always best. Occam's Razor is a heuristic for gamblers, not a truth-identifying tool. The tangled-nest explanation of the cascade failure could be the true explanation: after all, we saw an even more complex cascade failure of our systems during the Afghanistan withdrawl the next year.

Still, a tool for gamblers does tend to identify high-probability bets. This one is worth looking into further, and keeping an open mind about, even if it is currently the fodder of hard right wing Congressmen and journalists. 

Fernandez on 2024's Election

Richard Fernandez (who long blogged under the handle "Wretchard") has been one of the military/political analysts I respect most for many years now. He writes on the mystery of why the Biden campaign has settled upon an attempt to outright delegitimize the election itself. As always his analysis is worth reading for itself, but I take two key points away:

1) A clean victory in an observably-fair 2024 election by the Establishment over Trump and his MAGA politics is the only thing that could actually do away with the challenge Trump and his supporters represent.

2) The pre-emptive attempt to destroy the only bridge to that outcome suggests that a final victory is not what is wanted. 

Fernandez then inquires into what they might be seeking instead.

I think the general consensus has been that the attempt to disquailfy Trump and his most loyal Congressional supporters from running, get him and them off the ballots in key states, and paint their supporters as 'the same exact [thing] as Nazis,' is just that Biden knows he can't win a fair contest. If (1) is already off the table, pursuing something else is the only thing to do. Margret Thatcher used to use the slogan TINA, standing for "There is No Alternative." 

Fernandez thinks it's not as simple as that. The Democratic machine might have pulled out a victory, even given the weights of Biden's evident age and an economy that is dragging, given that the media will reliably gaslight on their behalf. As the Washington Post reports today, the Republican hope to govern is afflicted by their infighting. There's no reason to believe that the Democrats can't win. 

Fernandez observes:
How does one explain the paradox of Biden destroying his one sure means of victory and opting for a course that will probably lead to prolonged and indecisive conflict? The obvious explanation is to observe that is what he always does. He seems to prefer stalemates and chaos over clearcut solution. Why does he frequently do this? The answer is simple. It creates opportunities that would not exist in a clear cut situation. Turning 2024 into neither and yet both a regular election and insurrection would knock a lot of power loose for the grabs and this is perhaps the point.... Recent political developments become less confusing when we relax the assumption that events are ultimately about America. Ambiguity is the enemy of constitutional democracy, but confusion is the friend of operators and dealers. Perhaps the correct paradigm is not to judge events through the prism of national interest but by the criteria of factional gain.
I take him to mean that, just as the Establishment prefers an eternal stalemate in Israel in pursuit of a 'two state solution' that never materializes, and preferreda eternal war in Afghanistan to either withdrawal or victory, and apparently an eternal war Ukraine to giving Ukraine what it would take to win, and eternal 'strategic ambiguity' on China and Taiwan to a resolution either way, here too they prefer the conflict. The point is not to vanquish the Trump/MAGA "insurgency" but to ensure it can never take power, especially because it makes sure it is formalized as the eternal opponent. 

As long as the structural levers can be wielded to be sure they stay in power -- whether changing the voting rules extra-Constitutionally by administrative actions or consent agreements with activist lawsuits, instituting unwatched mail-in "drop boxes," or a rejection of voter ID, or keeping opponents off the ballot by administrative or judicial magic -- it's better for them to have an opponent who is never beaten. They become the enemy in every Hollywood or Disney drama (as, one critic argues, they have been since the 1970s), every political speech, and every campaign. You can stop bothering with policies that help people, because the only thing you need to sell is keeping the dire evil enemy out of power forever. 

Fernandez suggests this is a "political bank-robbery already in progress." He is a keen observer and thinker, none of whom are right about everything but all of whom are worth considering.  Is he wrong?