False Flag or Not

Reading Time: 8 minutes

The contemporary term false flag describes covert operations that are designed to deceive in such a way that activities appear as though they are being carried out by entities, groups, or nations other than those who actually planned and executed them. [Wikipedia]

Think of a time when you acted on false information. You knew it might be false, but you acted as if it was true. Why did you do that?

As absurd as it seems, people do this all the time. People behave as if something were true even though it might not be true.

Think about runaway stocks. Remember the Iomega Zip Drive stock surge of the 1990s?

A lot of people thought Iomega would become bigger than Apple or Microsoft. I know of a man who sold all of his investments in 1995 to buy Iomega and only Iomega. He said at the time, “this will be the most valuable company of all time.”

Was he right?

From a technology standpoint, no. I was a techie back then, and I knew that Iomega Zip Drives would have a short life expectancy. Maybe two or three years tops. Rewritable CD-ROMs and massive online storage would soon make the Zip Drive a clunky burden. The Zip Drive would die fast.

But in 1995, everybody knew Iomega was the king. In fact, the Zip Drive remains to this day the number one selling computer peripheral of all time.

Because the mid-90s were the peak of nerd-worship, anyone in the tech business learned what everyone thought about technology. At family gatherings, everybody wanted to talk to me about computers. People wanted to know more, and they saw me as an expert. They also wanted to share with me their knowledge. So I learned what people were thinking.

That’s how I learned that a senior vice president at a very large corporation, a man with an MBA from a school you’ve heard of, took his life savings and bought Iomega.

Well, Motley Fool also bought a lot of IOM in 1995. And the value of their Iomega stock rose 1,500% in the next 13 months.

I ask again, did my acquaintance make the right move on IOM?

To answer the question, you need more information. You also need an understanding of the game theory concept of “common knowledge.” For that, I’ll let genius Ben Hunt of Salient Partners explain:

Your feelings about a stock, as opposed to your feelings about a company, should be completely determined by your beliefs about other investors and their feelings about the stock. In the lingo … your preference functions for stocks qua stocks are entirely exogenously derived and epiphenomenal. There is no rational internally-developed preference for one stock versus another stock, any more than I prefer a $5 chip from Harrah’s to a $5 chip from Caesar’s Palace. The only thing I care about is whether other investors, for whatever reason, will value the Harrah’s chip at $6 tomorrow.

Common knowledge is something everyone knows and everyone knows everyone knows. It’s information on which you can expect other people to act a certain way.

For example, imagine that on a Thursday NOAA and the local weather fearmongers bombard St. Louis with news of the “winter storm of the millennium” scheduled to begin the following Tuesday. You can bet store shelves will be devoid of bread, milk, eggs, and rock salt by midday next Monday. It doesn’t matter whether the prediction is right. What matters is that most people will behave as if it’s right. If you need bread or milk, you better get it on Sunday.

Except . . . other people will also think ahead, so you better beat them by shopping on Saturday. But what if a lot of people also think about shopping on Saturday? So you decide to shop on Friday.

Until . . . you think of all the other people who might be reasoning backward like you are. So, you stop at Schnuck’s on your way home from work Thursday and find bread, milk, and salt already running low. You buy three gallons of milk, three loaves of bread, and 100 pounds of rock salt. The perishables will go bad before you finish them, but that doesn’t matter. You beat both the storms and the common knowledge game. And if worse comes to worst, you can always sell your excess milk and bread to desperate, short-sighted neighbors at a high price.

That’s common knowledge. Again, it doesn’t matter whether the forecast is right. What matters is what everyone else will do in response to the forecast.

Now, back to Dr. Hunt and the old newspaper beauty queen contests:

[The 1930s was] the heyday of the Miss America contest and “bathing beauty” pageants everywhere), less so to us. Here’s how it works.

A newspaper would run a page of photographs of pretty girls, and readers were invited to mail in a ballot with their choice of the prettiest. If you picked the girl who got the most votes, you were entered into a drawing for some sort of prize. Voting for the girl you think is the prettiest is what Keynes would call the first degree of decision-making.

Now it doesn’t take a lot of thought before you realize that choosing the girl who you truly believe is the prettiest is probably not a winning strategy. To win, you need to choose the girl who gets the most votes as the prettiest, and your personal preferences aren’t nearly as useful in that task as figuring out who everyone else is going to vote for as the prettiest. Voting for the girl you anticipate more people will consider to be the prettiest is what Keynes would call the second degree of decision-making.

But there’s a big problem with the second degree. It assumes that everyone else is making a first degree decision, that everyone else is making a choice “on the merits” of the photographs and you’re the only one smart enough to think about the average preference of the group. As a result, you quickly realize that everyone will be thinking exactly like you are, so you need to make a third-degree decision – who will get the most votes when all the voters are basing their votes on who they think will get the most votes? This is the Sentiment game!

Note that this third-level decision probably has nothing to do with the relative or objective prettiness of the girls. If “everyone knows” that the brunette with the biggest smile tends to win, then that’s where you should place your vote regardless of your personal preference or your knowledge of everyone else’s personal preferences. It’s the “everyone knows” component of the contest – regardless of what the contest is fundamentally supposed to be about – that determines voting behavior and contest winners. To get beyond the third degree of decision-making requires a superior identification of whatever it is that “everyone knows”. As Keynes wrote, “We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practice the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.”

Just like shopping for staples before the snow storm, winning these beauty pageant contests required knowing what everyone else knows and anticipating their behavior.

My friend with all the Iomega stock was smart to buy when he did. If he sold near the peak, he was brilliant. If not, he might have lost a lot. Either way, though, he bought Iomega for the wrong reason. He bought Iomega because he loved the company, not because he expected everyone else to buy the stock. He wasn’t playing the common knowledge game. He was playing the corporate strategy game. My guess is he held onto the stock all the way to bottom. Unless he learned about game theory before the crash.

When you’re in a game like stocks, shopping for stables, or geopolitics (and geopolitics is a formal game), common knowledge must determine your moves. And common knowledge means you must behave as if everyone else will behave as if the key information were true even if it’s not.

Which brings us to Michael Savage and the Syrian sarin gas attack.

Dr. Savage has determined that the sarin gas attack was a false flag. Dr. Savage is not alone.

Now, let’s pretend Dr. Savage is right. Let’s just pretend that the sarin gas attack was a false flag. In other words, let’s pretend the Russians were right and there was no gas attack. Instead, anti-Assad forces staged the whole thing.

Remember, this is just make-believe, so don’t assume I’m a false-flagger. And don’t believe I’m not, either. Instead, ask yourself this: should the US response be different if Savage is right?

Your immediate answer will probably be, “Yes, of course.” You will probably tell yourself that, if the sarin attack was a false flag perpetrated by the rebels, then we should punish the rebels instead of Assad. That’s the logical and moral answer.

But is that the game theory answer?

Well, how many people besides Michael Savage and a few others believe the sarin attack was a false flag? Of those people who believe in the false-flag theory, what is their role in the game of geopolitics? Are they heads of state or of government? Do they have armies? Are they in the mass media, broadcasting into billions of brains 24/7?

Dr. Hunt reminds us what’s most important in the common knowledge game:

But the more precise answer is that the role of the Missionary is served by any signal that is propagated widely enough and publicly enough so that everyone thinks that everyone has heard the signal. The important thing is NOT that lots of people actually hear the signal. The important thing is that lots of people believe that lots of people heard the signal. The power source of Common Knowledge is not the crowd seeing an announcement or a press conference. The power source of Common Knowledge is the crowd seeing the crowd seeing an announcement or a press conference. This is why sitcom laugh tracks exist. This is why American Idol is filmed in front of an audience. This is why the Chinese government still bans any media mention of the Tiananmen Square protests more than 20 years after they occurred. The power of a crowd seeing a crowd is one of the most awesome forces in human society. It topples governments. It launches Crusades. It builds cathedrals. And it darn sure moves markets.

Geopolitics is a different game than national or local politics. But it’s still a game like stock markets. Geopolitics influences local politics, and vice versa. But it’s not a direct influence. And it’s imbalanced. Geopolitics has an immediate and ubiquitous effect on local politics, while local politics has a very slow, very gradual, and muted effect on geopolitics. Until those local events reach a tipping point.

WWII was a geopolitical event that affected the local politics of just about every country in the world. But WWII resulted from local political developments over the previous 30 years. It took a long time for local events in Germany and Japan to hit the world stage. And those local events in two countries had little influence on local politics in the USA. Until December 7, 1941, of course. Then everything changed.

Just as we stipulated that Savage was right about the false flag, let’s stipulate that all of the players in the geopolitical game will behave as if Savage was wrong. They might all know he’s right, but they also know that all the other players will behave as if he’s wrong. Like the beauty contest players, picking the prettiest girl isn’t the game. Picking the girl who will get the most votes is the game.

In Syria, the crowd saw the crowd seeing Bashar al-Assad gas babies, little babies. And that’s all that matters.

The US response, then, must be appropriate to a game in which all the other players will behave as if Assad gassed his own people. Who actually did it, if it was done at all, matters morally but not strategically.

If this story leaves you feeling dissatisfied. I’ll give you a thought experiment. What would happen if Trump had acted as if the Savage was right? How might that game unfold?

You may have your say in the comments below.

P.S. Even if you’re not interested in stocks, markets, and investments, Ben Hunt’s Epsilon Theory is a must-read site for anyone who likes to learn and think.

 

Trump’s Next Move: Infrastructure

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’ve changed my mind on priority.

Instead of going to tax reform next, President Trump should work on that big-league infrastructure bill. Now. Fast.

President Trump needs a big win because power is in perception. He also needs to put Democrats in a bind. Plus, he needs to prove he can pass big legislation without all GOP factions on board.

The solution is infrastructure.

During the campaign, Trump spoke of a massive building project to rejuvenate our roads, modernize our airports, and more. Trump’s dream sounds more like a traditional Democrat plan than a Republican idea. (Unless you count Eisenhower and Reagan as Republicans.) Shifting to infrastructure now could more than overcome Trump’s defeat on health care.

Infrastructure Can Pass

Trump’s best known for building his way to billionaire status. That makes Trump seem like an expert on the subject. No one considered Trump an expert on government health care. And no one can deny that he’s an expert on building big, huge, beautiful things and running them great.

Byron York, one of my favorite columnists, makes a great point today in a column called “14 Lessons from the GOP Obamacare Debacle“:

Had Trump and the House GOP tackled, say, an infrastructure bill first, the story from Capitol Hill would have been a president and Congress giving things to the American people — surely a more popular legislative start to an already controversial presidency.

Even though infrastructure will have enemies in the GOP, Congressmen and Senators from Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania know that jobs matter. Democrat governors are openly salivating for the projects. So are a lot of Republican state legislatures, though less publicly.

Infrastructure projects promise both immediate, short-term jobs and longer term boosts to productivity and growth. Even some Freedom Caucus members from the rust belt will feel obliged to get on board this train.

But that’s not the best part.

Democrats Will Cross Over for Infrastructure

Trump’s relationships with labor unions are already high for a Republican president. Now, he needs to deliver something to that small but well-funded and activist constituency. He needs to deliver jobs.

Democrats know they can’t fight Trump on a bill that puts a lot of union members to work. Infrastructure will attract enough Democrat votes to neutralize the Freedom Caucus, which will probably oppose the legislation.

And that last point is perhaps the most important.

Courting Democrats Builds Leverage With Republicans

President Trump and Reince Priebus both said they are more willing to work with Democrats now than before the health care debacle. That’s smart negotiating. It’s leverage.

If you remember back to 2015, a lot of Republicans were complaining that many of Trump’s ideas sounded more like a Democrat. That means Trump would be completely consistent with himself if he sought more support from the other party.

Plus, in 2020, Trump won’t be judged by how happy he made 40 members of the Freedom Caucus. He’ll be judged by whether or not he made America great again in the eyes of voters. That’s just the way it is.

And the GOP’s majorities in Congress are so slim that Trump really needs some Democrats down the road. He could have used a dozen in the House on Friday. He will definitely some in the Senate for just about everything.

Again, hat tip to Byron York for reminding us:

Find more votes. Unless there is exceptional unity on an issue, the GOP doesn’t have enough votes to ignore Democrats and pass big legislation entirely on its own. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid (barely) passed Obamacare with 253 Democrats in the House and 60 in the Senate. Paul Ryan has 237 Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has 52. The GOP has virtually no room for error.

If every major bill relies on every Republican faction, Trump will accomplish nothing and Democrats will take the House in 2018. Believe me, Democrats will take the House in 2018 if Trump and the Republicans don’t get big things done. (I’m not alone on this. Ted Cruz agrees with me.)

As we saw last week, even after Mark Meadows and David Brat reach an agreement with House leadership and the White House, Meadows and Brat might not deliver the Freedom Caucus. There’s a chance that group will oppose all major legislation, including tax reform if it’s not to their liking. So Trump needs to attract some Democrats now, and infrastructure is the low-hanging fruit.

And timing is important on getting those Democrat cross-overs.

Commitment and Consistency

The sooner some Democrats hold their noses and vote for a Trump initiative, the more Trump can rely on those Democrats in the future. You know this because of the persuasion principle called “commitment and consistency.” The longer Democrats vote “no” on everything the president proposes, the harder it will be for them to get behind the president later.

Researchers find in numerous studies that getting people to take an easy, painless step now makes it more likely that they’ll take a harder, more painful step in the future. That’s because the brain is wired to display consistency with past commitments.

With the right messaging, those Democrats who support the bill will make a statement of commitment to jobs, growth, and making America great again. When it comes time to vote on tax reform, Trump just needs to wrap that legislation in the same commitment language.

A strong move on infrastructure would make a lot of people happy. Happy people see more positives than unhappy people. That makes it easier for people find positives in future, tougher legislation like tax reform.

If Trump makes a strong move on infrastructure in the next two weeks, his larger vision will pick up steam after the summer recess. And the warring factions in the GOP will have to consider this: are their interests better off if they negotiate with Trump or if the Democrats negotiate with Trimp?

Voters will judge Republicans on what they get done between now and the 2018 elections. So far, they’re putting up goose eggs. A big win on infrastructure will make a lot of people happy and forge new alliances that can make America great again.

Without Power, Principles Are Platitudes

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Without power, principles are platitudes.

Consider this a favor to the Freedom Caucusers. Those folks can’t see past the end of their own principles.

Knowing the Freedom Caucus people pretty well, I know they’re very happy with Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. I know they’d be very miserable if Gorsuch were rejected and Trump had to nominate someone who could win a few Democrat votes.

It’s all about power.

Why Gorsuch’s Chances Just Dropped

And, thanks to Speaker Ryan and the Freedom Caucus, Neil Gorsuch’s chances of confirmation just dropped below 50-50. That’s because the Senate’s two squishiest Republicans just saw there’s no consequence to bucking the President. And those Republicans who considered the nuclear option just learned there’s no benefit in sticking your neck out for the President.

Add it all up, and Paul Ryan and the Freedom Caucus have, for the time being, made Trump a one-term President and made this Congress a lame duck. All in less than 80 days. Good work, boys.

Expect to hear Mitch McConnell tamp down talk of the nuclear option. And don’t be surprised if you hear Susan Collins (and one or two others) equivocate on their support for Gorsuch. It’ll probably happen during the Sunday talk shows. Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer has a new, heavy bludgeon to keep Democrat Senators from voting “aye” on Gorsuch. Expect 48 Democrats to vote “no.”

Power shifted on Friday. Big league.

The GOP Is Dangerously Weak

Right now, Donald Trump is very weak. Paul Ryan is even weaker. But the Freedom Caucus is also weak. The Freedom Caucus remains an obstructive faction composed of people who show little or no understanding of power. (If you want to learn about power, read Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power. It’s a masterpiece.)

To get his power back, Trump needs to isolate, personalize, and destroy a member of the Freedom Caucus. This takedown needs to be obvious, transparent, and ruthless. Trump needs to show Republican Senators that bucking the White House on major issues is a career ender. And he needs to act with blinding speed.

Trump can borrow a tactic from the Tea Party. It was a tactic we borrowed from Saul Alinsky:

Rule 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

Once Trump’s team has destroyed a Freedom Caucuser, a House faction needs to do the same to Paul Ryan. Trump should not attack Ryan directly, though. The chances of taking down a Speaker are slim. If the President tries and fails to take down Ryan, his presidency is over. Besides, in retrospect, people will credit Trump with the takedown if it’s successful. People are conditioned to think it’s the kind of thing Trump would do.

Within the House of Representatives, it doesn’t matter who goes after Ryan. Just about any faction of the House Republican caucus has good cause to take down Ryan. Once they see the Alinsky method used successfully against one of their own, they’ll know what to do.

And once those Republican Senators see Trump carve up both a Freedom Caucus member and the establishment Speaker, they will fall in line.

People follow power.

America’s Survival Hangs in the Balance

Look, if you read my blog, you know I helped, in tiny ways, the Freedom Caucus to come about. Almost every member of the Freedom Caucus got to Congress thanks to the Tea Party.

My complicity in creating the Freedom Caucus doesn’t mean I support their actions blindly. It means I accept accountability for the Freedom Caucus’s actions. The way some Freedom Caucus members handled the healthcare bill was embarrassingly childish. As J. Marsolo writes on American Thinker:

But it came down to about fifteen Republicans, mostly from the conservative Freedom Caucus, who refused to vote for the Ryan plan, as modified by Trump.  It is difficult to understand why the Republicans could not compromise with the fifteen Freedom Caucus members to pass the bill.  It is also difficult to understand why these fifteen did not compromise and refused to vote.

The key is to repeal Obamacare.  Now they have their principles, and we have Obamacare.

Right now, I firmly believe the Freedom Caucus and Paul Ryan have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Their stupidity and childishness have damaged their President, possibly beyond repair. They have made a Republican Congress useless. Absent a dramatic move, Democrats will take control of the House of Representives and possibly the Senate on January 3, 2019. And Corey Booker will become the 46th President on January 20, 2021.

If that’s what the Freedom Caucus wants, I’m out.

Only Trump can save Republicans from themselves. Saving the Republican Party requires culling the herd. It’s time to put the fear of Trump back into Republican hearts.

Without power, principles are platitudes.

And there’s hope. This morning, President Trump tweeted this:

Great minds think alike.

Donald Trump’s Crazy Ivan

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cold War submarine lore. I can’t go into all of it here, but I can tell you about one bit of that lore: the Crazy Ivan.

Modern submarines have incredible passive sonar arrays. They can hear everything in the ocean for hundreds of miles around. Everything.

Everything except something directly behind them. Behind a submarine is a big propeller or “screw.” It turns. It pushes water abaft. The noise and the motion combine to prevent sound waves from reaching the sensors. That shaded zone is the baffle area.

 

Photobucket. Uploaded by: cbleyte

To check for enemy submarines that might be following directly behind you, you have to turn the ship to a new course. And you have to do it fast. If you turn too slowly, the enemy can respond with his own change in course and speed to stay inside your baffle zone. But if you’re traveling too fast and you turn too hard, you risk colliding with your enemy. That’s bad for both boats.

Old submariners had a story. Russian submarine captains traveling at high speed were under orders to clear baffles with a hard rudder. Dangerous as hell. No time to evade. American submarines called this risky maneuver “the Crazy Ivan.”

The phrase “Crazy Ivan” hadn’t crossed my mind since 1994. That’s when I left the submarine service. December 1994. But “Crazy Ivan” was the first thing I thought of when I read this story on The Gateway Pundit today:

Trump is clearing his baffles.

The Russian hacker story broke when, do you remember?

October. The media, in collusion with Obama’s FBI, CIA, DOJ, and Homeland Security leaked stories of a massive Russian conspiracy to throw the election to Trump. It was a topic in the last debate between Trump and Clinton you’ll recall.

The Russian story was a cover for Comey’s letter to Congress. The letter stating he’d reopened his investigation of Hillary’s illegal servers. Hillary needed cover. The Deep State provided.

If the story had worked, if Clinton had won, you’d have never heard another word about Russian hackers. The “evidence” would have been swept into the dustbin of history.

But the narrative failed. Trump won. And people who believed the Russian hacker story kept it alive. People who weren’t privy the story’s trumped-up origins. The stories in October were probably bullshit. But the geniuses at the CIA covered the bullshit with just enough molasses to hide the smell. The media bit. And the stories only grew.

On January 19, Michael Schmidt of the New York Times wrote a story about US government wiretaps. Those wiretaps, he claimed, implicated Trump lieutenants in the (phony) Russian hacker fiction. The story was timed to embarrass and discredit our new president.

Look for yourself. Here’s the change history of that article. In every version of the headline, the word “wiretap” appears.

Now, Michael Schmidt seems to claim he never wrote that story, that the New York Times never published it. The New York Times wants you to believe the headline you just read never happened.

Michael Schmidt would tell such an obvious lie for only one reason: panic.

Schmidt’s panicking. He’s panicking because Trump pulled a Crazy Ivan on his ass. Schmidt wasn’t ready for that. Politicians don’t pull Crazy Ivans. Politicians make safe turns to clear baffles. But Trump ain’t no politician.

When Trump tweeted about Obama wiretapping Trump Tower, he really just fed the media’s lies right back to them. Molasses and all. The media can’t deny Trump’s allegations without denying their own reporting on the Russian hack. Reporting they’ve done every day since mid-October. Breitbart has more evidence that the media created the Obama wiretap narrative.

That headline, “Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides,” was most assuredly not a right-wing production, and it’s not even slightly ambiguous about the existence of wiretapping. Jeff Dunetz at The Lid couldn’t help noticing that the exact same reporter who wrote that New York Times piece in January is now claiming, right in his headlines, that Trump has “no evidence” of the very same wiretaps he reported as established fact just two months ago.

If Trump’s wrong, then there is no evidence of collaboration with Russia. None. Nowhere. Never was. The media is exposed as a bunch of horrible liars.

But if Trump is right, Obama is going to prison.

As Scott Adams points out, Trump often gives himself two ways to win and no way to lose.

Two Ways to Win: We often see Trump choose strategies that have two ways to win and no way to lose. That’s the best risk management of all. For example, when Trump warned that Iran should release American prisoners before he gets elected, he created two ways to win and no way to lose. If the prisoners were released (and they were), Trump could claim his threat was effective. (He did.) If Iran kept the prisoners, Trump could say the United States needs a bad-ass President like him to deal with Iran.

He’s done it again.

Pass the popcorn. Then watch our friend Ed Martin dig into this subject on Fox Business News.

I know it was you, Fredo

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Fredo Corleone: I’m your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over!
Michael Corleone: That’s the way Pop wanted it.
Fredo Corleone: It ain’t the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!

—The Godfather: Part II

I’m sure John Brunner never saw himself as Fredo Corleone.

A Burning Question

Did you ever ask yourself why John Brunner would release a surreptitious recording of a phone call with an opponent? Especially one that lacks a smoking gun that would seriously wound the opponent?

Think about it: by releasing that tape to the media, John Brunner told the world, “I cannot be trusted.” He showed himself as the sort of cowardly, weak politician who tries to bait his opponents into secret traps. And he comes off as foolish enough, inept enough, to think people will forget that he uses Nixonian tactics.

“Is this being recorded?” will cross the minds of every person who talks to John Brunner for the rest of his life.

It Doesn’t Add Up

I ask again, why would Brunner willingly destroy his own reputation? It doesn’t make sense.

Mr. Brunner successfully operated his company’s business for years. He should know that executives—or executive candidates—don’t secretly record private conversations to gain a tactical advantage. Legal or not, releasing a secretly recorded phone conversation without the other party’s consent is sleazy, and no one seriously disputes that.

According to mafia legend, if you kill a don, you can’t become a don. Brunner’s complicity in the secret recording and leak means his political career peaked the day he announced his candidacy for governor. The man who tried to lecture a decorated Navy SEAL on manhood did so while violating the first rule of manliness.

As Jane Dueker said on the Reardon Round Table November 27:

That was weaselly. Your taping conversations—and I don’t believe the story that he felt threatened . . . no, no, no, no, I don’t like that. And just man-up. You did a weaselly thing, you need to own up to it.

With all that downside and no upside, why would Brunner release the recording?

Who Released the Tape?

We learned from his 2012 race for US Senate that Brunner is easily manipulated by Republican consultants. Those of us who wanted to support Brunner in 2012 for his ideological consistency had to walk away because of his weakness in debates and his failure to be his own man. Brunner ran as a caricature painted by John Hancock.

So someone must have convinced Brunner to record his calls with Eric Greitens. Or someone released the recording behind Bruner’s back.

I know, I know, “But, Bill, if John Brunner knew it was wrong, he shouldn’t have done it.” I get it, and I agree. But Brunner, as I say, is easily manipulated. And ambitious. He wants to win an election, and he trusts the people he’s hired to make that happen.

And trusting Republican players is the dumbest thing a person can do. It’s like when Fredo trusted Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II.

So I realize that Brunner knowingly and with malice recorded a private conversation with Eric Greitens. I am less sure that Brunner was involved in the recording’s release.

Brunner had everything to lose by that recording going public. He lost his reputation, his credibility, and trustworthiness. Why would Brunner out himself as a rat?

I’m not going to  speculate here about who did it, but I will explore why.

Eric Greitens Is a Threat to the Establishment

Republican insiders agree that Eric Greitens is the biggest threat to Chris Koster in the GOP field.

The same Republican insiders agree that Eric Greitens is the biggest threat to the Republican establishment. And we know from our Center for Self-Governance training that the purpose of political parties is to maintain their power. Everything else is ancillary.

Party insiders will go to extraordinary lengths when their power comes under attack. As Richard Nixon demonstrated, no law or ethic will stand in the way of a political animal who feels threatened or cornered.

And Eric Greitens presents both parties with a huge threat to their power.

Some will say, “but Bill, John Brunner is an outsider, too.” True. He is. But Brunner has shown himself to turn to putty in the hands of establishment seducers. Plus, the insiders believe Koster would wipe the floor with Brunner in the general election.

Because he’s easily manipulated and because he’s a poor candidate, Republican insiders do not see Brunner as a serious threat. By the same token, because he’s not easily manipulated and because he could beat Chris Koster, Eric Greitens is a huge threat the GOP establishment.

The GOP’s Hyman Roth

When Hyman Roth wanted to consolidate his power by taking down the Corleone family, he manipulated Michael Corleone’s brother Fredo. Fredo set up Michael.

When the Missouri GOP establishment wanted to eliminate a potential threat to its power, one of its agents manipulated John Brunner to set up Eric Greitens. At least that’s what I’m thinking.

It’s a plot so diabolical and underhanded that the schemers deserve a certain amount of respect. Until you see the plot play out.

What’s most brilliant about the plot is that Brunner is spending his own money to try to whack Greitens politically, not realizing that the GOP’s Hyman Roth is using Brunner’s money to pay the contract on Brunner. As the establishment sees it, with Greitens and Brunner out of the way, either Kinder or Hanaway is a shoe-in for the nomination. And if one of those two loses to Koster? Well, as one Republican insider told me a couple years ago, “we can work with Koster.”

Politics Is More Corrupt Than It Knows

No one involved in this scheme would consider himself corrupt. The political elites want us to believe that bribery is the only form of political corruption. Anything short of bribery, to the political animal, is just hardball politics.

To you and me, corruption is broader. What’s more corrupt than manipulating a man like John Brunner?

Corrupting the morals of a man like Brunner—or turning Fredo Corleone against his brother—is corruption. And it’s a more serious corruption than mere bribery. The establishment has corrupted John Brunner’s soul and wrecked his good name. And ended his political career.

And the establishment is proud of its wicked work. Or it would be if the scheme had worked.

No Smoking Gun

For the GOP scheme to succeed, it needed a knock-out blow. But Eric Greitens gave them nothing. As I said on KMOX, Brunner’s secret recording was not Greitens’s fines moment, but for a man whose life is a long string of fine moments, this was nothing.

The bold scheme to take out Brunner and Greitens took out only Brunner, the dupe. Greitens was wounded but only slightly. When you take a shot at a Navy SEAL, you better kill him. The GOP’s bullet missed its mark.

Now, the GOP finds itself in an uncomfortable place. Its stooge has lost all credibility. Eric Greitens learned a hard lesson that will make him only tougher and more determined to pitch corrupt lobbyists and politicians down the steps of the capitol.

Greitens Is the Only Innocent

The GOP’s Hyman Roth wanted to help one of two established politicians in the race. Unless one of those candidates admits complicity, it will be hard to trust them. Though I don’t believe Brunner would voluntarily act as a foil to Greitens, by agreeing to secretly record a call, Brunner’s credibility is shot.

For voters who want an outsider with integrity, one who played no role in this episode of ugly election manipulation, Greitens is the only trustworthy Republican still standing.

So, nice try, establishment.

The Burning Question

Now that we have a plausible explanation for why John Brunner was manipulated to secretly record a private call with his opponent, one open question is: who dunnit?

Who told Brunner to make the recording? And who released it to the press?

When we know the answer to that question, we’ll know which remaining Republican gubernatorial candidate absolutely cannot be trusted. For the record, I think the story that Brunner felt threatened by Greitens is pure BS. And if Brunner is that easily intimidated, he shouldn’t be running for office.

The one man who can answer is the candidate whose reputation just got flushed down the toilet. Ironic, isn’t? Whoever turned Brunner into a rat put themselves in Brunner’s crosshairs. And John Brunner has nothing to lose by outing his corrupter.

Fredo tried to regain Michael’s favor by outing Hyman Roth. It didn’t work for Fredo, of course, but Fredo had to try.

At some point, Brunner will realize his best hope for redemption begins with exposing the person or persons who corrupted him.

So the burning question is: will John Brunner sing?

I was an immigrant

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Maybe I’m remembering this wrong. Maybe not.

I met my best high school friends at the lunch table. Scott Oppelt, John Clancy, Christian Saller, Tom Newport, and . . . and dude with curly blond hair who was in Scott Oppelt’s band. John. John Martin.

I met them early in my junior year. We had just one thing in common: we were all transferees. We were not native DuBourgers. We transferred. We were traitors to our former schools. We shouldn’t be trusted. And we shouldn’t mingle with the natives.

Again, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure we were “encouraged” to sit together with other transferees. We’d be more comfortable with our own kind.

Being Irish, I figured this was all for the best. The Irish seemed to do much better when we all lived in the Irish ghettos. Once we moved to the burbs and joined golf clubs, we sort of lost our Irishness and all the benefits and forgiveness that went with it.

I think I was a pretty good DuBourger, for a transplant. I spent some time on the board of education in 2004 and 2005. And I’ve done a couple of summer alumni plays to help the school. So I wasn’t like a complete traitor.

Even though I was “encouraged” to sit with my fellow transferees (traitors), DuBourg was good to me. I had to sit out a year of sports, but that gave me time to get into theatre, which earned a college scholarship. And a really awesome group of friends, including the best girlfriend any high school guy could hope for.

To this day, I am a DuBourger, and I always will be. I love the place.

But there’s still that “go sit with your kind” thing that sticks with me. I wasn’t totally welcomed at DuBourg. I was accepted. They got used to me. But I was never a native.

The conservative world is a lot like DuBourg High School. Some of us are thrilled to death that Eric Grietens and Ben Carson have crossed the Rubicon to join our side. They remind me of past converts like John Dos Passos, Whittikar Chambers, and James Burnham. And Ronald Wilson Reagan. (Reagan, by the way, never repudiated or apologized for his four votes for FDR.)

But a lot of Missouri conservatives seems irritated that we’re attracting converts. Matt Hay, Bev Ehlen, and Ike Skelton are people I admire and respect, but they seem angry that these men have declared themselves conservatives. And when the recent converts get something wrong, they make the fundamental attribution error, ascribing the converts’ missteps to unfixable character flaws and not to situations that change. Situations, but for God’s grace, we might all face. Worse, they want to punish Eric Greitens for statements he made eight years ago when he was a Democrat. Did they punish Reagan for his votes for FDR and Truman? Did they demand he repudiate his former positions?

As an immigrant, I can tell you immigrants make a lot of mistakes. We don’t know all the history and the nuances of the new culture. But we chose to be here. We chose this group. That should give the prior members pride, not frustration.

If the conservative movement has too many members, if we want no more conversion, someone please say so. And show me the 49-state wins as evidence.

Until then, let’s welcome the converts warmly and guide them in their conversion and formation. They need our guidance and wisdom, not our doubt and scorn.