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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.

 

What Do I Mean By “Narrative”

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“I don’t agree.”

Some folks disagreed with my instant assessment of the Syrian strike. My assessment: Trump’s surprise military attack will shift four narratives in Trump’s favor:

  • Trump is Hitler: dead
  • Trump is a Russian agent: dead
  • Trump is incompetent: dying
  • Trump is a lightweight among world leaders: dead

In other words, it took 59 cruise missiles to blow up the left’s anti-Trump narratives.

But my friends disagree. That’s okay. I don’t hang around with “yes” people.

Still, I figured I should at least explain what I mean by “narrative.”

Narrative, in this context, is the story we tell ourselves. It’s not the stories we are told. And the narratives develop from information that reaches the brain, often without awareness. (See the video below to learn just open you are to suggestion.)

Check this out first.

Right now, I am sitting in a cafe. One end of this cafe is huge atrium with glass on three sides and above your head. Looking out through the glass I see blooming trees. Those budding leaves are laboring to blot out the bright blue sky beyond. Those leaves want all that sunlight to themselves.

That’s the narrative in my head about what I see outside. Thirty or so other people can see the same world beyond that atrium. But I am pretty confident no one else sees the leaves conspiring to block my view of the sky (what color is the sky?). Each person has a slightly different narrative about those leaves.

If I were to stand up and announce my narrative, some people would adopt it as-is.

But most of those people would, instead, become aware of the view beyond the atrium. Their minds would conjure up a story about that they see. Their stories would be influenced by my bizarre outburst. They would not simply adopt my narrative. They would form their own narratives under my influence. And their narratives would influence everything they see through the atrium’s glass.

Until something else happens—some new influence—alters that narrative.

Now, back to the Syrian air strike.

Here you are reading my blog. You pay more attention to politics than most people do. You are more informed than many people, don’t you agree?

So think about the people who pay only slight attention to politics and world events. How do they fill their days? How do their brains craft narratives about the world?

Those people’s narratives form just like the people in the cafe looking out the atrium. Their brains pick up bits and pieces of someone else’s narrative to form their own.

CNN is on everywhere. In airports, restaurants, doctors offices, and even in this cafe where I’m writing. For months, those people have picked up narratives about “Hitler,” “Russia,” “clown,” and “isolationist.” Even without people knowing it, they’d formed a narrative in their own minds about President Trump. However they voted, if they voted at all, those narratives were influenced by CNN’s words. That’s simply how the brain works.

And those narratives got stronger and stronger every day. Until something caused people to re-evaluate their won private narratives. Something big enough, emotional enough, to make people pay attention for a moment.

Dying babies—babies!—gets their attention. Now, they’re listening.

And this is what they’re hearing:

“No child of God should ever suffer such horrors.”

“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies — babies! — little babies, … that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line, many, many lines.”

“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike . . . “

These are the words of President Trump. Trump’s biggest enemies—the people who have helped shape those scary narratives—repeat these words. They repeat Trump’s humanitarian, decisive words again and again. That’s high information density combined with high emotional intensity. The recipe for narrative change.

Imagine sitting in this atrium with your narrative about the trees. You’re not aware of that narrative. It’s deep inside your brain. You only recall it when you need it for some reason. As you sip your coffee, you don’t need your narrative. Then . . .

CRASH! A tree branch the length of a telephone pole crashes through the atrium.

The danger alerts your attention. Your brain pulls that old narrative out of cold storage. Then your brain updates that narrative. The shattering glass is new information. Whatever your old narrative might have been, it’s different now, guaranteed. It’s a different narrative now.

When President Trump crashed Assad’s slaughter party with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, he shattered a lot of atriums. Today, people are writing new narratives. And most of those new narratives involve a bold and decisive leader who can’t stand seeing babies slaughtered.

Everything has changed.

Now for that video I promised.

 

Trump Launched 59 Cruise Missiles at Leftist Narratives

Reading Time: 2 minutes

No child of God should ever suffer such horror.

—President Donald J. Trump

The most powerful weapon in the world is narrative.

The most powerful weapon in the world is narrative.

That’s another way of saying the pen is mightier than the sword.

The most powerful weapon in the world is narrative.

Tonight, President Trump blew up four narratives of the left. And he made America great again in the world.

First, the Hitler narrative is dead as a doornail. A few people really believed Trump was the reincarnation of Hitler. By launching a Navy cruise missile strike on Syria, Trump used US weapons to protect and defend and avenge Muslim babies. Hitler didn’t do that. Humanitarians do what Trump did. Humanitarians. Trump just moved from Hitler to Mother Teresa. Narrative destroyed.

Second, the Russia narrative is dead as a doornail. Dead. Over. You will never hear about Russian complicity again. Trump attacked a Russian ally in living color. He punched Putin in the nose. The Russian narrative is done. Forever.

Third, the incompetent narrative is dead as a doornail. Incompetent people telegraph their moves. Trump shocked the entire world by bombing the hell out of a Syrian air base seemingly without warning. He knows what he’s doing, and that “incompetent” narrative is now dead.

Fourth, the “Trump is a lightweight” narrative is dead as a doornail. Don’t forget that commie Chinese dictator Xi is in Mar-a-Lago. Today, Xi was the senior statesman. Tomorrow, Trump will be the big bull in the room. Xi knows it. Trump just took the lead on the world’s stage.

I’m not going to debate the details of Trump’s action. Because details don’t matter. Ever. Narratives matter, because narratives are the most powerful weapons in the world.

Trump just made America great again. He made us the big kids on the block, where the block is the world.

Geopolitics is back. Realpolitik is in. America is in charge. And 18 months of leftist, anti-Trump narrative is dead as a doornail. Dead as doornail.

What is North Korea thinking now? What is Iran thinking now?

Tired of winning yet?

P.S. Two of my children are in harm’s way in the US Navy. My thanks to them for their dedication and professionalism.

UPDATE: This image and message will sink deeply into the American psyche>

New York Times emphasizes the same Trump pull quote as I did:

Our military leaders are no Pattons

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Yesterday, Lee Presser made a great point in this guest post, The Only Rule of Engagement Will Be Victory. As one commenter noted:

This is the best analysis of the war on terror that I have read. If we do not fight to win, we shouldn’t be in the fight. Winning the war on terror starts with 1) admitting there is a war on terror, 2) being willing to confront the enemy with force, 3) fighting to win the war rather than appease the enemy, and 4) do whatever it takes to protect Americans and their homeland.

Lee is a former Navy officer, so he knows a bit about rules of engagement and warfare. Judging by news out of Washington, Lee knows far more about warfare than the people running our anti-ISIS operations at the Pentagon and White House.

You may have heard that we’ve blown up a couple hundred ISIS oil tanker-trucks recently. You probably didn’t hear that we give ISIS a 45-minute warning before we blow up the trucks. The warning is to allow the drivers to get out of the way so they don’t get hurt.

I shit you not. Straight from the colonel’s mouth:

In Al-Bukamal, we destroyed 116 tanker trucks, which we believe will reduce ISIL’s ability to transport its stolen oil products.

This is our first strike against tanker trucks, and to minimize risks to civilians, we conducted a leaflet drop prior to the strike. We did a show of force, by — we had aircraft essentially buzz the trucks at low altitude.

So, I do have copy of the leaflet, and I have got some videos, so why don’t you pull the leaflet up. Let me take a look at it so I can talk about it.

As you can see, it’s a fairly simple leaflet, it says, “Get out of your trucks now, and run away from them.” A very simple message.

And then, also, “Warning: airstrikes are coming. Oil trucks will be destroyed. Get away from your oil trucks immediately. Do not risk your life.”

And so, these are the leaflets that we dropped — about 45 minutes before the airstrikes actually began. Again, we combine these leaflet drops with very low altitude passes of some of our attack aviation, which sends a very powerful message.

Apparently we’re worried that the people driving trucks for ISIS are just local good-ol’-boys never meanin’ no harm, as opposed to card-carrying ISIS members. We wouldn’t want to accidentally kill a Teamster-in-Syria who’s simply trying to earn a living wage.

So instead of killing the enemy, we send “a very powerful message.” A stern talking-to. “Why, if ISIS doesn’t stop slaughtering civilians by the scores, I’m going to give them a piece of my mind!”

As General Patton told the men of the 3rd Army:

We’re not holding anything! Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding on to anything except the enemy. We’re going to hold on to him by the nose and we’re going to kick him in the ass; we’re going to kick the hell out of him all the time and we’re going to go through him like crap through a goose

Which brings me to my long-ago analysis of the second Iraq war. From 2004:

While we may have fought until there was no “official” Iraqi government to surrender, we did not fight until the enemy was broken. Obviously. Instead, we paused to allow him to regroup, rearm, rebuild communications infrastructure, and kill Americans by the score.

In modern warfare, we get a small window in which to destroy the enemy. Not just the enemy’s war-making capacity, but his will to fight. That window on ISIS open right now, but it won’t be open for long.

To be judged successful by future generations, the victor in war must implant a mortal fear of war in the vanquished–a fear of war that spans generations. For four generations, Japan and Germany avoided anything that looked like war. They also respected the Allies who vanquished them in World War II.

In Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria, the US and its allies stopped short of winning. We settled for breaking stuff and pissing people off, and that strategy is like making an appointment to fight again.

If you want to beat the fight out of an enemy, you don’t warn him 45 minutes in advance of your attack.

Our leaders are the problem.

I Had a Nightmare

Reading Time: 1 minutes

A Scenario:

  1. The USA bombs Syria
  2. Syria bombs Israel
  3. The USA and Israel bomb Syria
  4. Russia gives USA ultimatum
  5. USA ignores Russia
  6. Syria and Iran bomb Israel and Turkey
  7. Turkey bombs Syria and Iran
  8. Russia lands troops in Syria
  9. USA lands troops in Lebanon
  10. . Cold sweat

Have You Noticed How Political Lines Are Blurring?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Over the years I’ve said and written nasty things about liberals. Liberals, progressives, lefties, whatever the name.

And I’ve defended conservatives—blindly at times. I’ve publicly defended policies I privately considered stupid.

All in the name of advancing my agenda. I believed—and still believe—the liberty agenda is the best one. The only one for people live out the full potential of their lives, to own their own lives, and to leave the world better than they found it.

Times They Are a Changin’

As central planners in Washington (and other places) suck up  more control over our lives, I have a harder time shouting “filthy rotten leftie” at liberals. Some of my very best friends are liberals, and they’re wonderful human beings.

But personal allegiances aren’t the only reasons I ‘m uncomfortable fighting the generic left.

More and more, it seems, the left and the right have a common enemy and a common cause. Look at a few recent examples:

A Common Enemy

People of every political stripe are waking up to the reality of a common enemy: the political elite.

elitism

The political elite know no party or ideology. It exists to maintain and increase its control and power over everyone  and everything. Washington wants to control the economy, right down to the clothes you wear and the fluids you drink.

Political elitists are usually good people seduced by the siren song of political clout. The seduction envelopes and corrupts them. The song fills their heads with reasonable sounding arguments for transferring more power and privilege from the many to the anointed few.

The elitists work our minds like stage magicians, offering the illusion of control with distraction and fantastic stories that suck us in.

Morning in America

But now more and more of us—the plebes—are waking up. We’re seeing that the enemy isn’t the liberal on the left or the conservative on the right or even the “independent” who can’t make up his mind.

Our enemy is that political elite. Not the individual elitists, really, but the critical mass of that elite. Isolate them, and they rediscover their basic humanity.

And that’s what Morning in America will look like. An awakening. The terrifying understanding that power corrupts and accumulates. Then the comfort of realizing that there are more of us plebes than there are of those elites.

Finally, we’re stirred—compelled—to act. For our own humanity.

History shows that these awakenings suck to live through. But without them, life isn’t worth living at all.

 

P.S. If you don’t buy the Elite – Plebe dichotomy, Matt Drudge has an alternative in this tweet:

Either way, the battle lines are being redrawn.

Here’s my position on war in Syria.

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