Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Listen: they won't make it up in volume.

There's an old story about a guy in retail.

He's having a great day in his store, moving a lot of product, feeling very successful -- when his accountant comes up to him.  The accountant is sweaty and panicked, and he grabs the guy's arm and says, "Listen, we're in real trouble!  I just ran the numbers and you're going broke!  Something's gotta change!"

The guy looks around the room and sees a ton of salesmen and a ton of customers.  His merchandise is flying off of the shelves.  He turns back to his accountant and laughs, saying, "Are you kidding?  Look at this place!"

"See," says the accountant, "that's just the problem!  I looked at the purchase orders, and you're selling product for less than you paid for it... everything you sell is actually costing you money.  It would be better for your bottom line if you kicked everyone out and didn't sell a thing!"

The guy just chuckles, shaking his head wisely.  He claps the accountant on the back and winks.  "Don't worry," he says.  "We'll make it up in volume."

This is the Trump approach to the presidency.  Or rather, the Bannon approach, because he has articulated it the most clearly.  Discussing the struggle to get things done under the darkening pall of the Russia investigation. Bannon recently told the Washington Post that their strategy was simple:  “This is not astrophysics.  You solidify your base and you grow your base by getting things done. That’s what people want to see.”

In other words, Trump's team believes that he can win success in the White House the same way he won the office itself: by doubling down on their core supporters, over and over.  They are applying this tactic across the board when it comes to both optics and legislation.  Trump and his core team crafts messages meant for their base and delivers policies designed to please their base.  As long as that core of ~35% of voters remains energetic and pleased, they're betting that they can be used to scare businesses and politicians into doing as the White House wishes, which will in turn allow Trump to scratch out even more policy victories.

Unfortunately for him, they've had to rely a lot on optics.  As it turns out, divisive and fact-free bloviating is not conducive to real statesmanship.  Trump hasn't had any problems when it comes to leaving deals -- Paris accords, TPP, etc -- but actually crafting new ones... well, this stuff is hard.  Trump has been president for 158 days and hasn't had any significant legislative or diplomatic achievements, for example.  That will probably change, eventually -- there are 496 days left before midterm elections, after all, and that's a lot of time to get something significant passed -- but he is performing poorly by most measures.  When asked about his accomplishments, it's hard to find anything significant beyond his nomination of Neil Gorsuch... and that should rightly be called the work of Mitch McConnell, not Donald J. Trump.  There's no wall, there's a crippled Muslim ban, there's no infrastructure or jobs bill, and so on.

But if you're wondering how to explain White House behavior, this is often the explanation.  Why do they do so many things that seem broadly unpopular, foolish, or otherwise contrary to their own best interests?  Well, they're trying to appeal to their base.

Most presidents try to do this, of course, but they don't take this approach exclusively.  In recent memory, every president has taken seriously the idea that they are the president of the entire country, and worked to unite the nation.  This has always been mitigated by their desire to achieve their own agendas, but at a bare minimum each previous president has always given lip service to an ideal of bipartisan unity.

Donald Trump is engaged in a bold and unusual experiment, devoting himself to policies, ideas, and rhetoric that are broadly unpopular in an attempt to govern with an impassioned minority.  In many countries, this would be reason to fear, since a minority can only solidify its hold on power by attacking the institutions that express the will of the majority.  But Trump has tried that, and they have been found unyielding.

So he's trying to do other things.  Antagonizing the press.  Flouting conventions of civility and ethics.  Brazenly discarding inconvenient realities.  Attacking allies and encouraging autocrats.  All brash and all dangerous, and all accompanied by a stream of state media that attempt to gaslight the public and redefine norms.

And if it's all unpopular among the public, and if even his base is shrinking at the reality of what they've wrought?  If every reckless action and feckless word sinks him deeper into the fever-heat embrace of his most fervent supporters?

It's okay.  They'll make it up in volume.


Sure you will, Mr. President.

Sure you will.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Listen: be proud of America -- it's passing the test.

(An expansion and confirmation of my thoughts from February along these lines.)

The institutions of America are holding strong.  We should be very proud.

The founders of America spent a lot of time thinking about despotism.  This makes sense, since they'd just spent years fighting a war to resist taxation without representation and foreign rule.  They were so worried about the prospect of a future despot, in fact, that the first government they devised was a failure because it was too weak.  The Articles of Confederation provided only for a Congress with strictly limited powers, and had no mechanism for allowing any individual to significantly accumulate influence.  The states were treated as sovereign and independent countries joined together only for what seemed to be expediency's sake, despite the fact that everyone -- foreign and domestic -- now thought of America as a single country united by their shared conflict and common interests.

But even with the difficulties such a weak constitution was causing, such as the impossibility of making binding treaties (since such treaties needed to individually ratified by the states), there was still great trepidation in forming a more powerful central government.  After the drafting of the Constitution, for example, when the states were considering whether to ratify it, one Anti-Federalist complained in The Independent Gazetteer:
Is it probable, that the President of the United States, limited as he is in power, and dependent on the will of the senate, in appointments to office, will either have the firmness or inclination to exercise his prerogative of a conditional control upon the proceedings of that body, however injurious they may be to the public welfare? It will be his interest to coincide with the views of the senate, and thus become the head of the aristocratic junto.
Accordingly, the designers of the finer points of the new Constitution took many steps to provide for checks on the power of the executive, and to further balance that power against the power of other branches of government.  There was little risk of this new office of the presidency being seized by a despot and turning into another monarch like the oppressive King George III, advocates argued.  Hamilton made the argument in Federalist 69:
The President of the United States would be an officer elected by the people for four years; the king of Great Britain is a perpetual and hereditary prince. The one would be amenable to personal punishment and disgrace; the person of the other is sacred and inviolable. The one would have a qualified negative upon the acts of the legislative body; the other has an absolute negative. The one would have a right to command the military and naval forces of the nation; the other, in addition to this right, possesses that of declaring war, and of raising and regulating fleets and armies by his own authority. The one would have a concurrent power with a branch of the legislature in the formation of treaties; the other is the sole possessor of the power of making treaties.
The Federalist Papers spend some time on these sorts of matters because they were all keenly aware of the novelty of the great American experiment in democracy, as well as its vulnerability.  The Revolution had been fought first in the name of American rights as British citizens, and then in the name of their natural rights as human beings.  Even with the acknowledged problems with the Articles of Confederation, Americans feared a tyrant.

Today, we have good reason to be grateful to the founders of our country for their foresight.  Our country has come under grave threat, but it is holding fast.  Our institutions are winning.

There was the potential for real danger.  Indeed, if we looked at the situation with our new president with naive eyes, we might have seen a despot in the making.  A man with a known reputation for dishonesty and cruelty, flush with the support of unquestioning millions, bolstered by a craven and acquiescent Congress, hungry for power and prestige, untroubled by norms of decency, and ignorant of history?  Who couldn't concoct visions of a grim future where he began to restrict press freedom, pushed through laws to punish dissent, and declared federally-administer martial law in the "disaster areas" of liberal cities?  It was a crazy and far-fetched scenario, but was it any more crazy than the fact that this man had won the presidency in the first place?

I never thought anything like that was going to happen -- hence the name of this blog -- but I always understood it.  When it seems like there aren't any rules anymore, then even our darkest fears seem possible.

But our country has stood strong, and we should be so proud of it.

Much of our legislative branch, under the control of the Republicans, has used every tool and genius it could find to try to jam through as many clawbacks of progressive success as possible, as quickly as possible -- and has found poor success.  Beyond several dozen deregulations from the last year of Obama's term, they have accomplished little.  The signature policy item they have pushed for seven years, repeal of Obamacare, is now so incredibly unpopular in every single state that they're trying to sneak it through the Senate before anyone can read it -- and should they actually manage to pass it, they will be surprised to find that the dismal cannons of that single battlefield victory sound particularly desultory in the grim aftermath of a war they permanently lost seven years ago.  And even though we're only in the fifth month of single-party rule, the president is under serious investigation in both houses of Congress for misdeeds.  It can't be overstated how remarkable this is.  Republicans will do a lot in the name of tax cuts, but not anything.

The judicial branch has repeatedly slapped down offensively unconstitutional executive orders, writing opinions at times with visible contempt.  Indeed, so far the Trump administration has barely won a single round in the long process of litigating the Muslim ban, losing in three districts at then three appeals courts.  It's already heading to the Supreme Court, which will be deciding relatively soon whether or not to reverse the injunctions blocking the ban.  But even if the Muslim ban is put in place in full, or the mere power to enact it is affirmed -- and that's completely unknown and probably less likely than a partial upholding of lower court findings -- the precedent has been firmly and concretely established that the executive branch's exercise of its powers is still subject to judicial review.  Everyone still agrees on that.

Even the executive branch, of which the president is the head, has pushed back on their own leader.  There are numerous individuals serving in the Trump administration who are honorable and want to serve their country.  I'd even say that describes the vast majority of them, actually.  They will only go so far.  Famously, former FBI Director James Comey resisted pressure from the president to shut down the investigation into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, of course.  But many people might have missed, amidst the flood of news, the fact that Trump also asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo to intervene with Comey in March.  Both men refused the president, and also refused to publicly state that he wasn't under investigation.  These sorts of people will overlook a lot, but there's a limit.

And adding to our government institutions, we have the private ones.  Enough cannot be said about the press, which has proven itself vital.  While their natural incentives of viewership and false equity led them to some dark places during the 2016 race, the press has been doing amazing work in its aftermath.  There are almost daily revelations in the pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post, thanks to a relentless set of reporters that smell blood and Pulitzers in the water (plus an executive branch more focused on infighting than effectiveness).

And last of all, we have:


If Republican members of Congress weren't acutely aware that their constituents were paying close attention and were passionately interested in how they handled a rampaging and impulsive president, then they would not bother to do more than mouth a few empty platitudes of concern before returning to their agenda (although to be fair, that does describe a certain fraction).  They'd spend no time at all on oversight or investigation.  And if Democrats were acutely aware of their constituencies' feelings about the president or his plans, they wouldn't resist with quite so much diligence or doggedness.

If the judicial branch didn't have the protection of the people on which to rely -- the knowledge that Americans ultimately simply would not stand for a president who tried to defy the law -- they could not handle the legal issues with a free hand.  The courts don't need to fear men with guns because they know that for every soldier at the president's command, there are ten more who will stand up in defense of the rule of the principle that we are a nation of laws, not of men.

If the executive branch was not aware that they are acting for posterity, both for their own in later years and that of future generations, they might not be so able to stand up to their own boss when they've needed to do so.  These are men and women who want to be respected, admired, and honored for their contributions... and for most of them, that means far more than a bit more money or power.  In the White House, there's one Steve Bannon, one Donald Trump, one Mike Pence.  But there are a thousand Rod Rosensteins.  A thousand Robert Muellers.  A thousand James Comeys.

Millions marched throughout America on the day after Inauguration Day.  The Women's March was the largest protest in American history -- in fact, estimates have it as at least three times larger than the largest previous protest movements!  More than one out of every hundred people in the country marched for a single cause on a single day!  And millions more supported them, cheered them, drove them, or watched children for them.

I don't know how you felt on November 12th: sad, shocked, hurt, scared?

But I know how you should feel today: proud.  Because our institutions have been put to the test, and so far they are passing.

I am so proud to be an American in 2017, and you should be, too.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Listen: the stories Trump supporters tell.

The music from the telescreen stopped and a voice took over. Winston raised his head to listen. No bulletins from the front, however. It was merely a brief announcement from the Ministry of Plenty. In the preceding quarter, it appeared, the Tenth Three-Year Plan's quota for bootlaces had been over-fulfilled by 98 per cent.
He examined the chess problem and set out the pieces. It was a tricky ending, involving a couple of knights. 'White to play and mate in two moves.' Winston looked up at the portrait of Big Brother. White always mates, he thought with a sort of cloudy mysticism. Always, without exception, it is so arranged. In no chess problem since the beginning of the world has black ever won. Did it not symbolize the eternal, unvarying triumph of Good over Evil? The huge face gazed back at him, full of calm power. White always mates.
The following is a post by user SkillUpYTfrom The Donald, the forum for Trump supporters.  I have not edited it.  It had many thousands of votes of approval from supporters and had been pinned to the top of the forum -- this isn't something I cherrypicked.  As a longtime reader of that forum, I can also offer my own assurances that these sorts of fever dreams are posted constantly.  They rely on an absolute and unwavering faith in the brilliance of Donald Trump, as well as fairly impressive research skills -- but an utter lack of all serious in-depth knowledge about finance, government, or law enforcement.  In this telling, there are enemies everywhere, and only the brilliant maneuvers and tweets of the president are going to save everyone.

You want to know how people can support him or think he knows what he is doing?  Here's how one person explains the Comey firing, the tweets, and everything.

Post begins:

I thought this was a pretty good write up and summary of Comey and his history + some interesting perdictions so I decided to source it and repost. This was originally linked here by /u/shortadamlewis  and sourced to Anon. I found another (much earlier) post about this here on a blog that credits a Facebook post.
All I did was dig up some sources and sprinkled on some formatting. Comey is a snake.


There are very few crime/mystery novels that approach this true story for compelling drama, intrigue and brinkmanship (with the nation in the balance).
Don’t believe the fake-media story that Trump made a mistake or huge gaffe by firing Comey.
Don’t believe the media narrative from the left that it was an attempt to silence Comey from some investigation into Trump.
Don’t believe the lie that Trump’s “tweets” are not professional and have no strategic purpose. His tweets are 'weaponized' and deadly.
James Comey is a poisonous snake of the highest order… a deep-water Swamp Denizen who has been highly paid to deliberately provide cover for high-level corruption by the Clintons and Obama. He is has been central to trying to destroy the Trump campaign and then the Trump administration from the start. He is as dirty as they come in DC. He had highest-level cover (the FBI no less) and was deep into an effort to eliminate Trump. Trump had to move hard, fast, and at exactly the right time to cut the head off the snake without getting bitten by the snake or being finished by the other swamp denizens.
Begin by noticing how the President fired Comey when Comey was 3,000 miles away from his office, that Comey had no inkling he was being cut, that all his files, computers, and everything in his office were seized by his boss Sessions and the justice department.
This was not a violation of protocol, it was tactical. Notice how Prez Trump compartmentalized the strike and did not inform any of his White House “staff” to prevent leaks. Notice how he emasculated Comey and the swamp denizens by letting them know in a tweet that the Attorney General got information (surveillance “tapes” from the seizure of Comey’s office) to let Comey and his handlers know that Trump’s DOJ has the goods on them. This was a brilliant, strategic and totally imperative move at exactly the right time against horrible, evil and corrupt powers infesting our government. The swamp is on notice that the President is on to them, they are sweating bullets because their criminal games of corruption are being pursued and they know it. They are screaming and ranting because they are desperate denizens of the swamp who are beginning to realize they are roadkill.

THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE COMEY SCAM. Taken from credible public sources (readily available if you want to look or want me to sent them to you), with a few reasonable “fill in the blank” conclusions of my own.

The Highlights:
Comey was a minor assistant US attorney in the late 90’s. He only gained power and money by being the DOJ official who “investigated” and cleared Bill Clinton of any wrong-doing in Clinton’s totally corrupt pardon (for huge payoffs) of criminal financier Marc Rich as Clinton was leaving the Presidency. This is how Comey began his career as a creature of the “swamp” years ago, as a servant of the Clintons.
Comey provided “cover” for the Clintons in their gaining incredible power and wealth after leaving office through pardoning a billionaire money-launderer, arms dealer and criminal. Comey was a key piece in how the Clintons upped their corruption game and gained incredible wealth through their foundation after leaving the White House.
A huge part of the scheme was giving Marc Rich a free pass when he should have spent life in prison, and that is what Comey covered-up for the Clintons. This set up Comey to be part of the corruption machine, making him powerful and wealthy.
Immediately after doing the Clinton’s dirty work as a DOJ official, Comey resigned from the DOJ and took a position as the head attorney (Counsel) of the Lockheed Martin company, a huge military contractor. While he was in that position Lockheed became a major contributor (millions) to the Clinton Foundation and its fake charity spin-offs. In return for these payment to Clinton Inc., Lockheed received huge contracts with Hillary’s state department. Comey was the chief legal officer of Lockheed throughout this period of contributions to Clinton Inc. in return for State Dept. contracts.
In late 2012, after overseeing Lockheed’s successful relationship with the Hillary State Department and the resulting profits, Comey stepped down from Lockheed and received a $6 million dollar payout for his services.
HSBC’s criminality was pervasive and deliberate by the Bank and its officials. HSBC was a huge Clinton Foundation contributor (many millions) throughout the “investigation” and Bill Clinton was being paid large personal fees for speaking at HSBC events (while Hillary was Sec of State). Eric Holder and the Obama Justice Department did what they were paid to do, and let HSBC off of the hook for a paltry 1.2 Billion dollar fine (paid by its stockholders), and not one Director, officer or management member at HSBC was fired or charged with any criminal.
Exactly when everyone involved with HSBC Bank (including the Clintons and all of their “donors”) were being let off without penalty, and cover had to be provided to HSBC, Comey was appointed as a Director and Member of the Board of HSBC (in the middle of the fallout from the scandal). He was part of the effort to cover up the scandal and make HSBC “respectable” again.
After about a year as HSBC director, despite his lack of any law enforcement experience, no DOJ leadership experience, and no qualifications for the job, Comey was appointed FBI director by Obama.
The only qualification Comey had was that the Clinton’s and their cronies knew Comey was in bed with them, was compromised and was willing to do their dirty work. Comey was appointed to the FBI right when Hillary was leaving the State Department, and was vulnerable to the FBI because she had been using a private-server, mis-handling classified information, selling access to favors/contracts from the State Department to Clinton Foundation Donors (including Comey’s Lockheed Martin), and much more.
Remember that this was about the time the Inspector General of the State Department found over 2 billion “missing” from the State Department finances during Hillary’s tenure.
The obvious conclusion is that Comey was appointed to the FBI (along with other reliable Clinton-Obama cronies) to run interference for the Clinton’s and Obama’s at the nation’s federal law enforcement agency (in conjunction with a corrupt Department of Justice). Comey was and is owned by the Clintons. He owed all of his power and wealth to being part of their machine and providing them with cover.
In late 2015 and early 2016, information began to come out about the Clinton Foundation and its use by the Clinton’s as a multi-billion dollar slush fund for corruption and political favors (even Chelsea’s wedding had been paid for by the “charity.)
This was right as Hillary was beginning her campaign for President. It was revealed that the Foundation had never completed required reports or had an audit. Supposedly the FBI, under Comey, began an “investigation” of the Clinton Funds. A “professional” accounting firm was brought in by the Clintons to do a review, file some reports, make recommendations to the Clinton Foundation Board, and provide a veneer of legitimacy to the Clinton Fund operations. Predictably, one of the partners in the firm that was chosen (and paid lots of money) is the brother of James Comey (FBI Director).
This brother owes James Comey $700,000 for a loan James gave him to buy a house, and presumably some of the money from the Clinton Fund was used to make payments to James on the loan. Over 2 years later and nothing has happened as a result of the FBI “investigating” the Clinton Funds under Comey.
No one in congress or federal law enforcement was intending to actually pursue the Clintons, but Judicial Watch and other independent sources obtained information proving that Hillary had been running her own server, sending out classified information, etc. This information began to come out right in the middle of her campaign to be coronated as President. A “show” investigation had to be performed to appear to look into it and clear her. Who to use?…the reliable shill James Comey.
As head of the FBI, Comey (and his lackeys in key positions) deliberately screwed up the investigation into Hillary’s use of a private server and her plain violation of national security law on classified information. The investigation was deliberately mis-handled in every aspect.
(My note: around the time / after this OP was made - it was revealed a Grand Jury and subpoenas were used but I have no idea in what manner as I haven't researched fully - we've know some people were issued subpoenas but I don't know the extent and who was and wasn't served. Grand jury info just came out April/May 2017. )
Everything that could be done to ruin the FBI investigation and to cover for Hillary was done. A “slam-dunk” case became a mess. Immunity was given every witness even though they provided no help.
Maybe more importantly, by focusing the FBI on the email scandal, attention was drawn away from the much bigger scandal of the Clinton Foundation that could bring down a huge number of corrupt politicians, lobbyists, and even governments.
Originally, Comey’s job was simply to totally botch the Hillary investigation and ruin the case against her and her minions within the FBI regarding he emails. At the same time Comey also started work on a parallel assignment to illegally “wiretap” and surveil Donald Trump and every other person involved in the Republican campaign. He was tasked with digging up any dirt or fact that could be used to hurt the Trump campaign later.
This included using a fake “dossier” paid for by the Clinton campaign to obtain authorization for the surveillance and to try to associate Trump’s campaign with the Russians. Under Comey’s direction the Trump/republican campaign was monitored and surveilled and all information was provided to the Obama Whitehouse and the Clinton camp all during the campaign.
Lorretta Lynch was supposed to complete the cover-up for Hillary as Attorney General by issuing a finding that the deliberately botched FBI “investigation” did not justify prosecution of Hillary. But someone screwed up and Bill Clinton was video’d meeting with Loretta Lynch in Arizona shortly before she was supposed to make her decision on Hillary (interference with a federal investigation), and Lynch could no longer credibly squash the Hillary scandal.
The solution, give the job to James. The Clinton’s owned him and he would have to do whatever is necessary to provide cover. Comey goes on national TV and violates every rule of the FBI, the Justice Department and American law enforcement by revealing some of the FBI’s “evidence” of what Hillary did (enough to make it look like the FBI and Comey did some investigation), then declaring that there was no “intent” and clearing Hillary. He did what he was ordered to do. The Justice Department and Obama backed Comey’s coverup and it looked like Hillary had survived the scandal.
Then, right before the election, the NYPD obtained pervert Anthony Wiener’s laptop and found classified emails from Hillary on the laptop. The NYPD began leaking details to new-media outlets, and the story was about to explode. Comey once again stepped in to cover Hillary. He short-circuited the NYPD leaks by publicly acknowledging the laptop and the emails, but then claimed just days later that hundreds of thousands of emails had all been reviewed and “nothing new” was on the laptop. Once again, he had done his job. Providing cover and FBI “protection” for Hillary on the newest scandal when it broke.
The surveillance of the Trump campaign is continued after he is elected, all participants are “unmasked” illegally, and the transcripts are leaked throughout the government and to the media.
When General Flynn appropriately calls Russian officials on behalf of Trump, they brush off the old fake “dossier” and all of the surveillance of the campaign, and Comey creates the “Russian Conspiracy” investigation.
With help by RINO swamp kingpin and warmonger sell-out McCain, the fake “Russian pee dossier” is leaked to the press. There is no actual evidence of any collusion or connection between Trump or his campaign with Russia, but that does not prevent Comey from initiating an “investigation” at the FBI. This provides Comey with protection from Trump firing him immediately.
Comey (or his minions) constantly leak news of the “Russia Investigation” to the media, and the media does its scripted part by screaming constantly about “Russia.” The Democrats fill their role and constantly scream about “Russia.” McCain and the RINO establishment do their part by promising to “investigate” how the Russians influenced the campaign.
Immediately after Trump is sworn in, the DOJ Hillary/Obama operatives and Comey start the direct attack. This is before Sessions has been appointed to the Department of Justice and the DOJ is still controlled by Obama operatives.
DOJ Obama appointee Sally Yates approaches the Whitehouse with news that General Flynn had been in contact with Russia and alleges that he might be compromised. She reveals that there is an FBI “investigation” into the Russia ties (which they are constantly leaking to the media themselves). The White House Counsel (who Yates talks to, not Trump) asks for some more information.
This is a two-pronged attack. It protects Comey and DOJ democrat holdovers from being terminated by the new administration because they are involved in an “ongoing investigation” that they control the timetable on (albeit one with absolutely no evidence).
If Trump fires Comey then he is “interfering with the investigation” which is itself a federal crime that the FBI could then “investigate.” Alternatively, if they can get Trump to question Comey about Flynn or try to get him to back off of Flynn or the “Russia” investigation, then they again have him “interfering.”
Trump knows it is a set up by Comey and that he is probably being recorded (tips from FBI or DOJ who are not part of the corruption?) Maybe because his phone calls in the Whitehouse as President have already been bugged and released to the media. (FBI is in the best position to do this.) Maybe because he was used to the Mafia in NY trying to shake him down every time he built a hotel.
Comey tells Trump that Trump is not under investigation regarding Russia, but that others involved with the campaign are being investigated. Trump does not take the bait and attempt to intervene about Flynn or the Russia scam. Later, Flynn is cut loose because he is being used by Comey and the Obama-holdover Justice to try to damage Trump. He did nothing wrong, but if he stayed the charge of “interfering with an investigation” might seem to have teeth. Comey verbally tells Trump on two more occasions that he is not being investigated, but refuses to state this fact publicly or when testifying in Congress.
Trump knows everything I have gone through above about Comey. But he has to move carefully. He has to get his Attorney General and Deputy AG in place, get enough leverage on the Russia narrative, and ideally get rid of Comey in a way that allows him to obtain all the information that Comey has been accumulating (if he is taping Trump he is taping others.)
Comey, and others testify in Congress. Under oath, both Sally Yates and Intelligence officials from the Obama administration state that there has been no actual evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. More importantly, Comey, while refusing to say that Trump is not under investigation, testifies that he has informed the Senate Intelligence Committee heads who exactly is under investigation regarding Russia.
Trump tells almost no one at the White House that he is moving against Comey (so no leaks… no listening in on his conversations.) Trump somehow contacts Sen. Grassley (the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee) and confirms that Comey told the Senator that Trump was not under investigation personally. Trump gets both the Attorney General and the new Deputy Attorney General to legitimately review Comey’s unprofessional actions at the FBI and to recommend in writing that Trump terminate Comey. Somehow Comey goes to California (at the request of AG Sessions or already scheduled and someone at FBI telling Trump?)
Trump seizes the moment and acts. While Comey is in California, 3000 miles away and 7 hours from his office, Trump prepares a letter firing him (with Sessions and the Deputy AG recommendations attached). In the letter Trump states that he had been told 3 times by Comey that he (Trump) was not under investigation.
The letter is hand-delivered to the FBI headquarters by DOJ officials to lock-down and seize everything in Comey’s office, including all surveillance files (“tapes”) of Trump and others. All of Comey’s files, docs, computers and “tapes” are taken to Sessions at DOJ. They are not taken to the Whitehouse or Trump, but to Sessions, who has every right to have them. Sessions can tell Trump that Comey had surveillance tapes of Trump that contradict what Comey has been telling Trump, and perhaps tapes of conversations with other swamp “conspirators.” But Trump does not have them personally or at the Whitehouse.
Comey learns he has been fired when the media broadcasts it in California. He had no idea it was coming and he is ticked. On cue, the Democrat politicians and media begin screaming about Trump’s “interference with the Russia investigation” in accordance with the plan to set up Trump for that charge.
The Swamp wants to blow up the Russia narrative using Comey, and Comey is set to testify before Congress to try to hurt Trump by saying he was interfering with the FBI investigation. Comey intends to follow through with the plan to take down Trump. But because of his brilliant timing on this, Trump has Comey’s files, documents and information safely with Sessions at DOJ. Trump sends out a “crazy” tweet that says: “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.”
The media and the politicians go crazy about the “inappropriateness” of this tweet. They accuse Trump of “taping” everyone at the White House (forgetting that the Presidents phone calls with foreign leaders have been “taped” without his knowledge.)
Notice that Trump did not say he taped anyone, or that he has any tapes at the White House. It seem apparent that Trump is telling Comey that the DOJ (who has every legal right to possess it) has the surveillance information and files from Comey’s office, the “tapes” obtained and kept by Comey.
Comey and all the Swamp Creatures understand the clear message… their plan has failed and Trump’s DOJ is now holding all the cards.
The whole Russia interference scheme crashes and burns. While the mouthpiece media, Hollywood and the insane fringe continue to scream about Russia and Comey being fired, the politicians who will soon be in the crosshairs of a legitimate (and ticked) FBI and DOJ are starting to fall strangely silent. Comey realizes all the leverage is with Trump and that he will be lucky if he is not added to the Clinton Death List because of his knowledge (better not take any baths near an electrical outlet or get on any airplanes).
AG Sessions and his Deputy AG use the Comey trove of information to determine who has been part of the Comey Syndicate at the FBI. They will be appointing an “interim” Director of the FBI shortly who has not been compromised by Comey, Clinton or Obama.
That “interim” Director does not have to be approved by Congress or anyone, and can immediately begin cleaning house at the FBI of all Comey/Clinton/Obama minions, initiating investigations of the Clintons, Clinton Fund, violations of intelligence confidentiality laws by Susan Rice and Obama, human trafficking in DC, political corruption… draining the Swamp.
Using the Comey files they can be fairly certain they are not getting another Comey as an “interim”, and they do not have to wait for the circus of appointing a new permanent “Director” through Congressional approval. Most of the heavy lifting on rooting out FBI corruption and starting investigations into the swamp will be done by the “interim” before a new director is appointed. I suspect the Trump administration hopes the approval FBI Director process will be slow and tedious, so there is no political interference with the housecleaning that is starting.
In one masterstroke, Trump has eliminated a truly toxic and dangerous enemy to his administration and our country, dealt a horrendous blow to the Clinton/Obama and deep state machines, begun the restoration of the integrity of the FBI and the DOJ, and gained incredible ammunition to begin hunting the foul creatures in the swamp.

GIVE /u/jeremybryce  SOME LOVE (he helped compile all of this data and he is an ULTRA BASED PEDE).

Friday, June 9, 2017

Listen: Trump's unpopular, but when will that start to matter?

Below I have included a screenshot of the current state of President Donald J. Trump's approval and disapproval ratings among all voters, as aggregated and weighted by FiveThirtyEight.  Notice that he began with about 44% approval (after a noisy few initial days that were all over the place), and that he has now dropped to 38% approval.  That's a loss of a point per month.

Other polling trackers generally agree: RealClearPolitics, HuffPo.  Trump is losing support -- and those people that still support him are increasingly less enthusiastic about it, which is also important.  Intensity of support is significant, and he has about half as many "strongly supports" as he once did.

Is this likely to change?  Could the trend reverse itself?

Well, sure... but not spontaneously.  He needs visible and real success: some major legislation that people like (they despise the AHCA), a big foreign policy victory, etc.  Or he needs to dramatically change how he is conducting himself as president.  Neither of those eventualities appears even remotely likely at this point, and the slow decline of Trump's numbers might make them even less likely.

There is precedent for recovery.  Clinton had terrible early numbers, and he ended up firing a bunch of people and doing a big reset.  And Reagan went from 51% to 67% approval early in his term.  But they learned and changed.  Bitter and besieged septuagenarians who can't tolerate disagreement aren't ideally placed for personal growth.

Plus, let's not forget that everything is pretty okay right now.  We're in the middle of the longest economic recovery in American history, the number of uninsured is at record lows, there haven't been any major foreign policy disasters.  Eventually something is going to go wrong!

So while the future is an undiscovered country, I don't see Trump's numbers getting much better.

But here's the thing... by and large, Republican legislators are sticking by him!  With a few marginal excepts from people in unsafe seats, they excuse horrific misbehavior from the president, defend his crazy words, and agree to most things he wants.  When is his unpopularity going to start to matter?

To begin with, it's worth noting that it matters a lot already.  The Republican-run House and Republican-run Senate are both engaged in active and intense investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, even if they've adopted the fig leaf of also purportedly investigating "improper unmasking" and other sops to the right.  These investigations are being treated so seriously that the chair of House Intel, Devin Nunes, actually was forced to publicly step back from leading that inquiry once he began to appear too partisan.  That's right: the Republican head of a committee had to publicly commit to giving up control of an investigation because it looked like he was too eager to help the Republican president.  And we're only 134 days into the Trump presidency!  He hasn't made it one half of one year yet!

But okay, I know what you mean.  Why do they keep defending the indefensible?

The answer is very short: they want to get re-elected.  It's not even "party over country," it's "myself over country."  And it's kind of hard to even criticize them for that attitude.

Yes, I know that we should demand and expect our legislators to act in their country's best interest above all.  But in the view of many ideological Republicans, it's in the best interest of America for them to pass their legislative agenda.  Tax cuts, slashing banking and environmental regulation, conservative Supreme Court justices, and reducing American international engagement are things that they think the country desperately needs, and so any damage that Trump does while they're passing those things... well, it's just worth it.

Plus the more realpolitik commentator might point out that our constitutional system was designed for legislators to act selfishly for their own advancement.  We should hope for better and fight for better, but not be surprised when we don't get it.  As Madison said: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

So when will they really start to break with Trump?  Well, they'll probably turn on him when his antics threaten their agenda and/or their re-election.  Right now, it's only marginal Republicans at risk: folks in seats that aren't solidly red.  If Trump's numbers (which have a direct and large effect on generic Republican numbers) get down to 32%, then he's going to pose a threat to safe Republican seats.  Then... well, they might need to recalibrate.

Other possibilities might include Trump deciding to triangulate to the left, like Clinton did to the right, and threatening the GOP agenda.  But that seems unlikely, if only because he doesn't seem to know or understand anything about policy -- so how could he make changes to it?  And of course, I honestly do believe that most Republican legislators are patriots who care about America: if it comes down to it -- treason or something they cannot explain away -- many of them will indeed put their country above the interests of their party and themselves.  Craven defenses of Trump notwithstanding, people like Kevin McCarthy or Paul Ryan do have their limits.

Reversion to the partisan mean ensures that we're likely to see that Trump's numbers begin to slow in their decline.  Can we guess when he might hit the Republican danger zone of 32%?

Nothing major and headline-grabbing goes wrong in the country, Trump avoids big scandals, and he manages to get some decent things done.  He shuts up a little bit more, maybe because Melania's presence calms him.  So he loses approval at half the current rate: half a point per month.

When does he hit 32%?

One year from now, in June of 2018.  In plenty of time for midterm elections.

Oh, and then... well, if Democrats were able to get control of the House, they'd get subpoena power.  They could subpoena internal memos, instructions to subordinates, the draft documents of the Muslim ban... Everything that lackluster Republican oversight is ignoring and the administration is hiding, the Democrats could demand and make public.

There are five hundred and fourteen days left before midterm elections.  Let's keep making them count, and keep dragging Trump's numbers down.  The sails are set and the course is laid out... keep the helm steady and keep working.





Resist and persist.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Listen: Bayes' Theorem and collusion with Russia.

I'm on record as a skeptic about the possibility that Trump colluded with Russia during the campaign.  I wrote that it just doesn't make any sense for Russia to collude with Trump at any high level, given Trump's instability and poor odds of success, and so "at absolute best, the Russia investigation will reveal an infiltration throughout the Trump campaign of Russophiles, plus an eager willingness on behalf of the campaign to capitalize on Russian hacking efforts."

However, it has become clear that the administration is engaging in a frantic and insane cover-up that has involved a lot of unethical and probably some illegal behavior.  The question then becomes: how much should this change our beliefs about the likelihood that the Trump campaign actually colluded with Russia?  Shouldn't this just change my mind?

No.  I try to think in terms of probability, since very few things are ever 100% or 0% certain.  Let's be Bayesian.  We'll make an estimate of likelihood, then update it with new evidence.

This post gets a little complicated about how it works, but I keep it as simple and clear as I can.  You can skip to the end if you want to just see my conclusions without reading about the process.

To start with, prior to recent revelations, where might we put the odds of direct collusion? Looking at the initial evidence, I would ordinarily say it was unlikely that any direct collusion took place, particularly with Trump's awareness.  They certainly intervened to try to influence events by hacking both campaigns and selectively releasing Democratic secrets and emails in a deliberately damaging manner, and the Trump campaign delightedly embraced the help, but there was no evidence of collusion.

There's a lot of circumstantial evidence, of course, such as the Trump administration's bizarre desire to assist Russia with things like sanctions and the president's unalloyed praise for the murderous autocrat that runs the place.  But the Russian government mostly seems pretty competent, including people like Ambassador Kislyak, and they seem unlikely to take such a risk of exposure without a good chance of success.  They're a petrostate, and sanctions have seriously hurt them; they will very much want to avoid more sanctions.

The alternative explanation seems prima facie more likely and requires fewer additional assumptions, which is a virtue in terms of Occam's Razor: Trump, who has been publicly pro-Putin and pro-Russia for years, was simply more willing and open to accept personnel who were pro-Putin and pro-Russia.  And in the same way, inexperienced Trump was also not quite up to the task of governing his subordinates in terms of appropriate contact, and lacked the experienced staff to make up the deficit.

If you don't buy it, remember to think in terms of probabilities.  For example, consider someone acting suspiciously and weird: if someone is loitering around a bank and acting really weird, it's possible that they're casing the joint and is planning a robbery.  But most of the time, they're just hanging around for some other reason and acting weird about it.

So considering the risky gamble for Russia that collusion for Trump would have been, and the more natural and intuitive alternative explanation (pro-Putin prejudice and incompetence), I would put the likelihood that Trump colluded with Russia at perhaps 5%.  That is very unlikely indeed, but any estimate of a president colluding with a foreign power to win an election that arrives at one-in-twenty odds is still remarkable!

Our two hypotheses to explain these events, plus our estimated probabilities are:
A = Trump and his administration are biased towards Putin and Russia, unscrupulous, and incompetent.  95%
B = Trump directly colluded with Russia.  5%

Now we need to update our prior estimates with new evidence.

In brief, the Trump campaign has revealed itself to have had numerous improper and undisclosed contacts with Russian officials, and Trump himself has repeatedly intervened to try to quash the investigation, even firing FBI Director Comey over the matter.  (We might also be tempted to count things such as Devin Nunes' attempts to interfere with the investigation as evidence, but it's not discriminatory -- reflexive partisanship explains such behavior exactly as well as a collusive coverup.)

Now, we might be tempted to just say, "Wow, that looks incredibly guilty, and anyone who does that probably did something wrong."  But that's the wrong approach.  When you get new evidence, it doesn't mean you discard everything you already knew or thought!  You add this evidence, incorporating it into your whole view of the world.  This is a big topic, but you can find a pretty good explanation of why this is important here and here.  And Bayes' theorem is a great and simple tool for telling us how much new evidence should change our views.

So if we had a group of people who are under suspicion for collusion, and who despite that kept meeting in secret with the people who they were accused of colluding with, and then also omitted that fact from mandatory disclosure forms, and then their leader repeatedly asked multiple officials (CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, FBI Director James Comey) if they would please stop investigating, and then fired the guy who didn't seem inclined to obey... what is the likelihood that this group of people colluded with the foreign power?

A = They're panicking and covering up their very real collusion.  75%
B = They're doing things that look exactly like a cover-up, but out of spite and poor judgment.  15%

Again, this isn't the only information we have... this latest behavior is just the new information.  So we shouldn't now say that we're 75% sure that Trump colluded with Russia.  Let's use math to combine the new probability with our old probability.

The equation for Bayes' theorem looks like this:

P(A\mid B)={\frac {P(B\mid A)\,P(A)}{P(B)}}\cdot \,

"P" stands for probability of the thing in parentheses.  If your eyes are glazing over, that's okay.  Here's how it works when we plug things in:

Probability of (collusion | given the appearance of cover-up) = [ Probability of (the appearance of cover-up | given collusion) plus the Probability of (collusion) ] all divided by the Probability of (the appearance of a cover-up).

Put in all the numbers, and the math turns out like this:
A = Trump and his administration are biased towards Putin and Russia, unscrupulous, and incompetent.  79.2%
B = Trump directly colluded with Russia.  20.8%

That fits pretty well with common sense.  This suspicious behavior is really suspicious -- so suspicious it's quadrupled the odds of collusion! -- but it still seems pretty unlikely that the Trump campaign and Russia colluded on any high level.  A 20% chance of that seems like a good assessment of where I think the evidence should put us.

Now, do I sit down and actually do the math every time I think about stuff like this?  No, not usually.  I just try to adhere to a basic approach of adjusting my prior beliefs based on new evidence, and I try to keep perspective on any new evidence.  Generally speaking, this helps me make better predictions and judgments -- not only because it's more honest about my level of certainty and knowledge on any particular topic, but also because it helps reduce my biases.  If you "make up your mind" about something, deciding that it's "true" or "false" in a sweeping sense (100% or 0% likely to be true), then it's a lot harder to adapt to new information.  Human beings tend to get "stuck" once they decide something, since it's hard to keep an open mind once you've reached a conclusion.

So that's where I stand now, and that's what I think after this steady drip, drip of new revelations.  I still think it's much more likely that all of this cover-up activity and incredibly suspicious behavior can be attributed to an inexperience and incompetent Russophile stocking his administration with like-minded people and little ethical oversight.  But there's a decent chance -- one in five, in my best estimate -- that the current president's campaign worked to pervert the democratic process in concert with a foreign power.

In the end, it's funny... it almost doesn't even matter.  Right now, it's not the potential collusion that's brought President Trump to his lowest approval rating on record... it's the indisputable fact of a clumsy cover-up, even if it's motivated by poor judgment and panic.

Ain't that always the way?