Belmont Club

"It's the Real Thing"

What do you mean, dead?

A study by the Director of National Intelligence argues that Osama Bin Laden is alive and well where it matters: in the imaginations of his followers, living in virtual space.

“Imagine that jihadist supporters create a detailed avatar of Usama bin Ladin and use his many voice recordings to animate the avatar for up-close virtual reality experiences that could be used to preach, convert, recruit, and propagate dogma to the media,” the study states, using the spelling “Usama” widely used within the intelligence community. The report noted that those conclusions did not represent an endorsement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the federal intelligence community.

“The Bin Ladin avatar could preach and issue new fatwas for hundreds of years to come, as the fidelity of his likeness would be entirely believable and animated in new ways to keep him current and fresh.”

To many people, the virtual is real. Take money for example. It is for the most part only a database entry. Or take enrollees in Obamacare for another. How do we know they are real? They are real because they can execute a telephonic signature. You don’t have to put your name on the dotted any more. Say and it’s good enough. As Enroll America explains, you can now send a variety of government services to a voice on the phone.

A telephonic signature is a type of electronic signature that uses an individual’s recorded verbal assent in place of an ink signature, and it is considered legally enforceable in both the private and public sectors under certain conditions. In addition to significant use of telephonic signatures in the private sector, the federal government has been testing various ways to implement telephonic signatures since the 2008 Farm Bill, which allowed state agencies to accept “spoken signatures” for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program).5 The goal of this rule change was to develop a more efficient and cost-effective application process for individuals and government agencies by allowing SNAP applicants to avoid the lengthy and often unreliable mail exchange to submit ink signatures. A review of various approaches to implementing telephonic signatures approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides useful insight into the kinds of technology that work best for consumers.

It is the modern equivalent of the “X” mark made by “illiterate, incompetent, or disabled people”. The fact that Obamacare must rely upon such methods in a 21st century America is indicator of something; probably of the level of instruction of our modern and fine public schools.

Billions of dollars are sent to these voices. And maybe they vote too.  Why recently New York City’s Department of Investigations found that non-existent voters were allowed to vote 97% of the time.

DOI undercover agents showed up at 63 polling places last fall and pretended to be voters who should have been turned away by election officials; the agents assumed the names of individuals who had died or moved out of town, or who were sitting in jail. In 61 instances, or 97 percent of the time, the testers were allowed to vote. Those who did vote cast only a write-in vote for a “John Test” so as to not affect the outcome of any contest. DOI published its findings two weeks ago in a searing 70-page report accusing the city’s Board of Elections of incompetence, waste, nepotism, and lax procedures.

I once got a Skype message from someone who was dead. It turned out to be a relative cleaning out the computer of the deceased. But the electoral system goes that one better. It receives votes from people who are actually dead and the administration still assures us there is no problem with the validity of the message.

Take another thing that is not a problem. Was the President’s War Strategy ever real? Michael Crowley, writing in Time, hearkens back to memory lane. It seemed real enough then.

On Sept. 12, 2007, Barack Obama gave one of the most important speeches of his first presidential campaign. Then still an underdog challenger to Hillary Clinton, Obama — speaking, perhaps impishly, in the town of Clinton, Iowa — laid out his plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. The plan was good politics, but Obama also carefully cast his position as responsible — not a hasty, politically-motivated retreat that could jeopardize American security. To that end, he assured that the U.S. would retain the capability to continue striking against terrorists within Iraq even after our combat forces were gone….

Six years later, even with al-Qaeda showing alarming strength in Iraq — and across the border in Syria — nobody thinks Obama will “go back into Iraq” anytime soon. As Secretary of State John Kerry put it Sunday: “This is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis.”

“We are, in the worst-case scenario, months away from even starting to think about direct U.S. action,” says Douglas Ollivant, a senior fellow with the New America Foundation and former national security council director for Iraq in the Bush and Obama White Houses.

Now it’s a distant dream. Don’t even bring it up. We’ve moved on, remember?

Did it ever exist? Maybe, as Robert Gates explained in his new memoir, President Obama’s war strategy was only virtually real. He apparently never intended Afghanistan as a “war of necessity” to be won or Iraq as an interest that was going to be defended against al-Qaeda. It was all for show, as real as press release, as genuine as a three dollar bill.

“President Obama simply wanted to end the ‘bad’ war in Iraq and limit the U.S. role in the ‘good’ war in Afghanistan,” Gates writes. “His fundamental problem in Afghanistan was that his political and philosophical preferences for winding down the U.S. role conflicted with his own pro-war public rhetoric (especially during the 2008 campaign), the nearly unanimous recommendations of his senior civilian and military advisers at the Departments of State and Defense, and the realities on the ground.”

So he lied. Maybe the word is misspoke. Because we live in a world without lies we necessarily live in a world without truth. Real must be relative.  Take insurance. Recently the Daily Mail described the experience of those who attempted to claim treatment under their Obamacare in northern Virginia.

‘They had no idea if my insurance was active or not!’ a coughing Maria Galvez told MailOnline outside the Inova Healthplex facility in the town of Springfield.

She was leaving the building without getting a needed chest x-ray.

‘The people in there told me that since I didn’t have an insurance card, I would be billed for the whole cost of the x-ray,’ Galvez said, her young daughter in tow. ‘It’s not fair – you know, I signed up last week like I was supposed to.’

The x-ray’s cost, she was told, would likely be more than $500. … It’s unlikely that a valid insurance card would have changed Galvez’ fortunes, however.

Her Carefirst plan, identified on the Obamacare website as BlueChoice Plus Bronze, carries a $5,500 per-person deductible for 2014 – an amount she would have to pay out-of-pocket before her coverage would apply to medical expenses.

Virtual things can appear and disappear. These patients are still covered, except they’re not. CNN recently ran an article “Help! I can’t use my Obamacare benefits”. It described the experience of Jeanne Patterson who always had insurance in the past and now finds the number given for her to call is wrong;  her ID card doesn’t work and who after being treated at an emergency room made an appointment with her doctor only to discover she couldn’t see him. She had not designated him as a “primary care provider”. “I can’t get a person no matter what I do,” said Patterson, who is unemployed and lives with her husband in Drexel Hill, Penn.

But she does have Affordable Health Care.

There’s no contradiction, Obamacare is as real as the administration wants it to appear to be. Healthcare means a health card. As to getting better, why bring that up? In such an atmosphere, how far behind can an avatar be? Would a virtual Osama bin-Laden be real? The avatar would be as real as its ability to order those who believed in it to kill. And it can do that. Spirits have long spoken through the mouths of men. Why should they not speak through a computer avatar?

By that standard, it will be real enough. At least to generations of Jihadis to whom the avatar is as authentic as anything in their world ever was.

The Left has always said that “you can’t kill an idea”.  Or as Tom Joad once put it, “Then I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be ever’where—wherever you look.”  That’s Osama’s promise too: to be everywhere and be able to kill you. He might do just that.

But to promise everything and be nothing, well that’s the White Houses’ shtick. And by that standard Osama bin Laden may prove to be more real in the long run than Barack Hussein Obama.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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