Posted by Curt on 18 July, 2019 at 5:12 pm. 1 comment.


We all know the scene. James Bond is losing a hopeless fight against a man-mountain in the baggage compartment of a train. Things look grim for Her Majesty’s Secret Agent until he coils a rope linked to a heavy object around his opponent’s neck and kicks it off the train. The villain is yanked into the night and James Bond wins again.

Trump’s strategy is to fight the Washington establishment with this outlandish plot device. By engaging in a bare-knuckle public row with four Democratic left-wing congresswomen, he’s creating a rope he plans to loop round the more careful centrists who, with any luck, will be dragged into the darkness by AOC.

Nothing like this has happened before because for years political arguments took place at the stately pace dictated by the news cycle in terms calculated to preserve decorum. The pattern was predictable. Leaks set up the story and talk shows filled in the blanks and the nation had its narrative for the week. But by resorting to Twitter the president can engage any part of the Democratic lineup, bypassing the party front office. With rapid-fire Tweets calling the four congresswomen un-American and they, in turn, calling him a racist, Trump has cut the Democratic center out of a public stage that is now an arena of spontaneous, fiery exchanges.

This provoked spontaneity keeps the Democratic Party from presenting a unified front and communicating through carefully prepared spokesmen in controlled venues, a system that served them so well in the past. It also keeps them from getting their story straight. As Time Magazine notes “lying can be cognitively demanding. You must suppress the truth and construct a falsehood that is plausible on its face and does not contradict anything known by the listener, nor likely to be known. You must tell it in a convincing way and you must remember the story. This usually takes time and concentration, both of which may give off secondary cues and reduce performance on simultaneous tasks.”

Lying is hard work. In a rapid exchange, people can accidentally tell the truth. It was telling the truth that doomed Dr. Leana Wen’s presidency at Planned Parenthood.

Unlike Richards, Wen didn’t have a knack for balancing Planned Parenthood’s self-contradictory talking points. The group’s executives ritually parrot the false statistic that abortion is a mere 3 percent of its services. Its latest PR campaign revolved around the slogan “This is health care,” clearly an effort to redirect away from discussion of abortion and recast it as a health-care procedure. With her attempt to backtrack from what appeared to be insufficient dedication to abortion rights, Wen accidentally revealed that Planned Parenthood sees itself, first and foremost, as an abortion provider.

By forcing the pace, Trump obviously hopes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her companions will blurt out their unvarnished reactions in velocity veritas and it seems to be working. Despite the unpleasantness, the result has been clarity: Washington has laid all the ugly cards on the table, for once the capital is free of artifice and every seething emotion is on display. The choices are stark even if they are not very edifying.

What a scene it presents. On the one hand is a group of people who think America is the source of all evil that should spend the rest of its historical existence atoning for the mischief it has loosed in the world. On the other hand is a group who believe that for all its faults it is the greatest country in the world and that those who want to destroy it should go back to Somalia. Whichever point of view you subscribe to (or neither) it’s hard to deny that these factions have existed for some time and are only now coming to grips in the open.

But this clarity has been bought at the cost of increased political risk. Robert Lundgren, in his analysis of the Kirishima’s sinking at the hands of the battleship USS Washington, concluded that it capsized due to thousands of tons of water sloshing around on its big empty middle decks. Great masses moving inside a void can throw even a battlecruiser from side to side a phenomenon called the free surface effect. “If a moving mass inside the vessel moves in the direction of the roll, this counters the righting effect by moving the center of gravity towards the lowered side.”

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