Sunday, April 22, 2018

Democrats Go All In

There was some bit of sadness after the election in 2016. That election was serious business. Absolutely. But also, it was FUN. No greater entertainment has ever existed. The inane billionaire superhero fighting a corrupt establishment, the good vs evil battle against an ideology of hatred and lies, and then Hillary, wonderfully playing the part of the arch villain, surrounded by all sorts of contemptible cronies. The entertainment value cannot be understated. The conservatives won the social media wars because their memes were funny. (Can you imagine uttering such a sentence even a few years ago?) On November 9th we were like the hobbits returning to the Shire. Evil had been defeated, but the great adventure was over. It was time to return to mundane normalcy.

Fortunately (in some sense) that hasn't happened. The entertainment value remains off the charts. If you aren't following along with Sundance at The Conservative Treehouse, you're really missing out. It's like the greatest criminal investigation show of all time, and every day there is a new episode. Not to be outdone, the Democrats have decided to show us a good time by going all in on the Russian collusion conspiracy theory and suing....almost everyone. {link to lawsuit}

Here are the defendants named.
  1. The Russian Federation
  2. General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation ("GRU")
  3. GRU operative using the pseudonym Guccifer 2.0
  4. Aras Iskenerovich Agalarov
  5. Emin Araz Agalarov
  6. Joseph Mifsud
  7. Wikileaks
  8. Julian Assange
  9. Donald J Trump for President, Inc
  10. Donald Trump Jr
  11. Paul Manafort
  12. Roger Stone
  13. Jared Kushner
  14. George Papadopoulos
  15. Richard Gates
  16. John Does 1-10
Twenty-five defendants in all. The first defendant named is all of Russia. Wonderful. Very bold move. Followed by the generals of the Russian military. They'd probably sue God for creating the soil on which Russia sits if they didn't pander so hard to Christian-hating heathens. Other major defendants are Wikileaks, the Trump campaign (and a number of associated individuals), and some unspecified defendants. Wikileaks is the only defendant to which there is a plausible case based on publicly available evidence. After all, they did publicize Democrat documents that had been stolen in one way or another. But that is the entirety of what Wikileaks does, and they've never lost a court case. Wikileaks aren't being sued for document publication, but on the assertion that they collaborated with the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officers.

However the lawsuit goes - it may just get thrown out - the mere filing marks a significant political development. The Democratic platform seems to survive on two requirements: it's control of propaganda & indoctrination institutions (the media and academia), and maintaining plausible deniability. Because it is an ideology often at odds with reality, they must distance themselves with the inevitable contradictions that arise. Take, as a prime example, Trump's tax returns. We know that the Democrats were absolutely obsessed with them for a number of months. The mantra of the left was, "What about his tax returns?" Every political debate on social would soon settle on the pervasive theme. They were certain that the returns would show the Trump didn't pay his fair share and would prove financial crimes, particularly improper dealings with Russia. The likely reason Trump didn't show his returns was because of carried losses, which the media would pounce on as a scandal of Trump enriching himself with unfair tax code skewed to favor the wealthy, without explaining the reasoning behind such practices, and certainly without mentioning that his Democratic opponent had done the same. Eventually, they did manage to obtain a copy of Trump's taxes returns. In one of the most bizarre events of the whole election (perhaps second to Comey's exoneration press conference), Rachel Maddow hyped the unveiling on what would become the most highly watched episode in her show's history, and then proceeded - with all the usual smugness - to broadcast to the entire world that Trump had paid a tax rate far higher than the prominent Democratic politicians crying foul. Perhaps the returns were selectively chosen and leaked by Trump himself, amounting to the greatest trolling of the liberal media ever seen. The tax return mania was savagely routed.

While there were some clingers to the tax obsession for a spell, it has been entirely forgotten. Today, what happens if you try to remind a liberal about that whole fiasco? Suddenly the tax returns were never that big a deal, it was just a few pundits making noise but in now way a reflection of most Democrats, etc. They carry on as if you're just creating a tax-return obsession that didn't really exist, and they believe it.

The presumption with the Russia obsession has been the same. Once the Democrats are defeated in that endeavor, they will just carry on as if it never happened, playing down the fiasco as belonging to a marginal segment of the party. But that can no longer be the case. Thanks to the lawsuit, the Russian collusion conspiracy theory is now the official legal opinion of the Democratic National Committee. They've backed themselves into a corner where the only exit is a reality in which Trump and Wikileaks truly did collaborate with Russia to steal documents and steer the election. Previously, I would have said no chance that happened, but the lawsuit is so specific - and so incredibly brazen - that it would be fair to allow a 10% chance that there was collusion. I'll even give 20%, since my information comes mostly from right-leaning sources. It's still possible, of course. The heavy cause for doubt is not a blind faith in Mr Trump's unwavering integrity (I wouldn't put it past him), but can be deduced from the behaviors of the Democrats and federal investigators, and the evidence that is publicly available. The Democrats are throwing all their chips in on the bet that the collusion occurred. The upside is enormous, but so is the downside, for a few reasons.

First, the Democratic Party is formally staking its reputation on this. Now, maybe that doesn't matter as much as it should. Reputation doesn't seem to matter to their voters that much. After all, Rachel Maddow is still on the air, with strong ratings. Second, the lawsuit opens both sides open to a discovery phase. That means the defendants (all dozens of them) may be empowered to subpoena documents from the DNC, the federal investigators, Fusion GPS, and government officials who authorized the activities - which appears to go all the way up to Obama himself. (Thank you Susan Rice for that last-minute exculpatory email to self.) The lawsuit gives the defendants subpoena power, but also the plaintiff, which is okay. If you love the truth, you'll love this lawsuit. One side must be guilty of wrongdoing: either Trump for abetting a crime, or the Democrats for seditious conspiracy. We want to know which. Third, this has the potential to really blow up on them in time for the midterms. Isn't the timing a little interesting? It does seem strange for them to file suit before the criminal process has concluded. I'm no legal expert, but a web search turns up information like this:
If the state decides to prosecute a defendant for [a crime], the defendant cannot be sued in civil court for the same [crime] until the criminal case has concluded. If a civil case is already under way when a criminal case starts, the civil case is typically “stayed” (i.e. put on pause) until the criminal case has concluded.
So the convention is that the civil suit must follow the criminal case. In this case, the civil suit has been filed before the criminal case has begun. If a prosecution develops, the civil suit will be stayed. What happens if the two-year federal investigation returns no evidence of collusion? There goes your preponderance of evidence. My take is that the Democrats sense that the Mueller probe is drawing to a conclusion, and are probably terrified of the OIG report due in May. They really really really need this whole thing to stretch into the midterm elections so they can take Congress and shut down all the ongoing investigations. It's do or die, at this point. This is the hail mary play. The lawsuit is to try to draw things out, to give something to keep their people roped in. Yeah, the federal investigation was a sham by the Republican Mueller, but the proof will come out in the civil suit that we control. The Democrats are going to be under serious scrutiny if the Mueller probe returns nothing but Manafort's failing to properly register during previous dealings with the Podesta Group, and the OIG shows that the Trump investigation was a veritable witch hunt. They don't want to file a reactionary suit in that kind of environment. They want to file now and get ahead of it. It seems like a bad idea to file for civil injuries before a criminal case has even been opened...unless it's your only option.

The lawsuit finally gives what has been missing from the whole fiasco: a theory of a crime. Before, all my interactions with liberals have gone something like this:

Liberal: We need to investigate Trump for his crimes.
Me: What crime was committed?
Liberal: We need to investigate to find out.

Roughly that. They'd say collusion with Russia to rig an election, but never could elucidate what is being accused. It's like a murder investigation where no one is missing and there is no body. Finally, there is a theory of a crime, thoroughly sourced and documented, which is why I'm now willing to give more than negligible odds of their validity. A crime theory has been produced, with the DNC's name stamped directly on it. Grab some popcorn and get ready. I suspect Act IV of the dramatic performance of the Trump Collusion Mystery is about to commence, and it is going to be very captivating.

ACT I - The Shadow Government Conspires
ACT II - Hillary Accuses
ACT III - Mueller Draws Up for Battle
ACT IV - On Their Heels
ACT V - ?? Heads On Pikes ??

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Bad Judgment Jim

After a protracted bureaucratic battle with the DOJ, Oversight Chairmen Nunes, Grassley, and Goodlatte have finally managed to obtain some of Comey's infamous memos documenting his interactions with Trump. It is alleged by many that the Comey memos contributed to Rod Rosenstein's decision to appoint a special counsel. (Comey himself states that as his intention.) That's not verified, but Nunes et al have recently gained access to the two-page "Electronic Communication" that launched the probe, so we'll likely know soon enough. My suspicion is that the memos were not used to justify the probe, because there is nothing legally incriminating in them. If they were the justification, then it is likely an improper and scandalous venture.

We can't say much now except that what's released does not provide justification to investigate the sitting president or his associates. The memos do provide value though and give insight for the historical record. They supposedly provide a candid record of the interactions between two of the key men in what is sure to become an extraordinary event in American history. My take on the memos is that they are honestly written. In The House Oversight's Panel with James Comey, I wrote that Comey came off as genuine and that we should lay off attacking him following his unilateral decision to exonerate Hillary Clinton. As more evidence and rumors emerged surrounding that event, I began to consider that advice to be the single worst conclusion ever made on this blog. All indications are Comey intentionally squashed the investigation, which remains true to this day. And yet, I still get a sense of sincerity out of Comey. Is this just making the same mistake a second time - the hallmark of the fool?

Comey portrays an obsession with integrity, which seems like it's genuine. He is either dedicated to the principle, or he's an extraordinary actor. I lean towards the former. Comey is genuine within his particular mindset. He pens these memos and strives to write them as objectively as possible, and has a guilt-free conscience that he acted with integrity. But, as the oversight chairmen note in their summary of the memos, Comey didn't seem to consider what it means that he wrote the memos in the first place. For example, he testified that he had strong concerns about AG Lynch's ability to handle the Clinton email case after her clandestine meeting with the accused's spouse. And yet, he did not document his interactions with her. There seem to be no other similar memos written, except those regarding Trump.

They read like they were written as described: quick & hurried recollections jotted down before the memories of the specifics could fade away. They are simple with little eloquence, almost in the way you can imagine a teenager recounting an interaction. I said this and he said that and then I said this and he said that... What editorialization exists is mostly to provide clarity more than persuasion. He describes Trump as (in my words) domineering in conversation, brusk and impetuous, drifting through various topics that came to mind but circling around to hit the same ideas numerous times. Is that a defamatory depiction? Well, no. It's the same way Trump came off in his campaign speeches, which were maddening enough to watch even after I was an avowed Trump supporter. Imagine how disorienting this may have been to the Comey, the excruciatingly methodical prosecutor. If Comey was writing with bias, then why would his descriptions ring so true with other observations, and why wouldn't they actually contain incriminating allegations?

The memos underscore a huge gulf in personality styles between the two men, which we first discussed in Comey: Square Peg in a Round Hole, which was written last year in response to the initial media reports on the leaked memos. (Nunes has repeatedly expressed frustration that he couldn't get access to memos that the New York Times has had forever). Comey is a square. He's technical, methodical, analytical, precise. He's not an android...much more like Spock. Dedicated to logical process, but still half human. He is liable to trap himself into bubbles where the logic computes, but doesn't necessarily reflect the larger picture. Spock had Kirk to bail him out with applied human intuition, but Comey was the captain of his ship. He's slippery, but in a technical sense, and he's quick on his feet and genuine because he's already justified his actions to himself. Trump is round, playing the games of politics and leverage.

Let's dig into the memos a bit. (Linked in their entirety above.)
At the conclusion of our session, the COS [Priebus] asked whether there is anything we haven't mentioned that they should know of that might come out. I said there was something the Clapper wanted me to speak to the PE [Trump] about alone or in a very small group. COS asked whether the groups of COS, VPE, and PE was okay or I wanted to be alone. I told him it was up to the PE, who quickly said he and I would meet alone. 
Comey reports about the allegations in the peepee dossier to Trump, and then:
I said I wasn't saying this was true, only that I wanted him to know both that it had been reported and that the reports were in many hands. I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook. I said it was important that we not give them the excuse to write that the FBI was the material or [redacted] and that we were keeping it very close-hold. He said he couldn't believe they hadn't gone with it. I said it was inflammatory stuff that they would get killed for reporting straight up from the source reports.
There is so much here that, combined with other testimony given by Comey, makes it apparent that Comey's meeting with Trump was instigated by Clapper. Comey says he believed the president had a right to know about the intel against him, but apparently he did not have the right to know it came from Democrat-funded opposition research. Why? Comey never explains. Why should the president know a bit of it? Why not all, or, since Trump's campaign was under investigation, none? How did Comey know that CNN had the dossier? From Clapper, of course. Sara Carter reported last month that Clapper leaked the dossier to CNN. Comey's memo ties it together. Consider this story run shortly after the affair, an ask yourself who "a senior US official" might be. Clapper leaked the memo to CNN, then duped Comey into briefing Trump to lend the story credibility, then leaked the meeting to the press. FBI briefs Trump on damaging foreign intel dossier is a little easier to sell than Democrats write damaging paper about Trump.

In the next memo, in a conversation which Comey termed as chaotic, they hit on numerous subjects, often repeatedly.
He touched on my future at various point. The first time he asked "so what do you want to do," explaining that lots of people wanted my job ("about 20 people"), that he thought vey highly of me and had heard great things, that the people of the FBI really liked me, but he would understand if I wanted to walk away given all I had been through, although he thought that would be bad for me personally because it would look like I had done something wrong, that he of course can make a change at the FBI if he wants, but he wants to know what I think. There was no acknowledgement by him (or me) that we had already talked about this twice.
He replied that he needed loyalty and expected loyalty. I did not reply, or even nod or change my facial expression, which he noted because we came back to it later.
These are the kinds of statements Trump's opponents will jump on as proof of obstruction. Trump demanded loyalty, Comey didn't promise it, and was eventually fired. They interpret that as Trump demanding investigations against him ceased, and firing Comey for not complying. But the rest of the text does not support that notion. Comey never indicates he got that impression. In fact, he recounts that Trump floated the notion that Comey should investigate Trump to clear his name. Repeatedly, Trump badgered Comey to say in public what he was saying in private - that Trump was not under investigation. He asks Comey to clear his name either by investigating him, or letting it be known that Trump was not under investigation. He was suffering political by a dark cloud where much of the public mistakenly assumed Trump was under FBI investigation. It's certainly a fair request.
[...] he asked again about "your guy McCabe" and whether he was "going to be okay." I again affirmed Andy's ability and professionalism and said the President and said the President would come to see and benefit from both.
Trump is worried that his campaign attacks on the Deputy Director have made an enemy out of him. Trump need not worry, as we now know from the Page-Strzok texts that McCabe was already working against Trump. Comey always affirms Andy's integrity. But we know from the recent OIG report that McCabe lied to Comey about leaking the existence of the Clinton Foundation investigation to the Wall Street Journal. Already in this memo we see that Comey has been duped twice by those around him. Trump would end making McCabe the acting director when he fired Comey.

Also, note here, but also generally in the memos, that Trump is frequently interested in personal dynamics more than technical assessments. The memos show that he really is a politician.
He then went on to explain that he has serious reservations about Mike Flynn's judgment and illustrated with a story from that day in which the President apparently discovered during his toast to Teresa May that [redacted] had called four days ago. Apparently, as the President was toasting PM May, he was explaining that she had been the first to call him after his inauguration and Flynn interrupted to say that [redacted] had called (first, apparently). It was then that the President learned of [redacted]'s call and he confronted Flynn about it (not clear whether that was in the moment or after the lunch with PM May). Flynn said the return call was scheduled for Saturday, which prompted a heated reply from the President that six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call from the [leader] of a country like [that]. This isn't [some shithole] we're talking about"). He said that if he called [some example country] and didn't get a return call for six days he would be very upset. In telling the story, the President pointed his fingers at his head and said "the guy has serious judgment issues." I did not comment at any point during this topic and there was no mention or acknowledgement of any FBI interest in or contact with General Flynn.
This memo was written after the Flynn transcripts had already been leaked and Flynn interrogated by the FBI. (Presumably Trump would know about this?) Whatever your thoughts on Comey, let's be very grateful for his memos. They are enlightening. Consider Trump's statement "if someone did that to me I'd be very upset." That is called empathy. The left doesn't understand Trump at all, and assume he has none of that trait. But he is a skilled politician and negotiator. He deeply considers the position of the other party, which he then uses to try to figure out how to gain leverage.

Interestingly, it turns out Trump has already lost faith in Flynn for matters unrelated to the Russian phone call scandal, which wasn't really a scandal at all. Perhaps that was all just a convenient excuse to dump an NSA he'd determined to have "serious judgement issues." Flynn noticed a comment Trump made wasn't factually correct, and made the effort to offer a correction. (Remember what we said about Comey being subject to little logic bubbles.) Indeed, Flynn was technically correct, and was attempting to increase the honest understanding of some event. But in the bigger picture, he:
  1. Interrupted a toast between the leaders of two of the most powerful nations on Earth.
  2. Contradicted the President in front of his counterpart, in an early diplomatic event.
  3. Informed the PM she wasn't, in fact, the first to call. Trump certainly would have rather seen the error slide at that point, and probably May too.
  4. Revealed that he bungled the handling of the president's first victory congratulation from a foreign head of state.
  5. Was annoyingly aspy in a diplomatic setting. Sir, that is not technically correct...*pushes up glasses*. The president-elect was hard at work on the social dynamics with America's primary ally, using empathy to find her viewpoint and figure out how he could leverage her to favor America's policy goals. And this numbskull is interjecting about technicalities.
In a single sentence Flynn made five serious blunders. After that, Trump was disturbed at having promoted a man with such poor judgement, and cut him loose at the first chance. The memo shows that Trump is primarily oriented on political and social dynamics, and doesn't tolerate his modus operandi being derailed. 
He then pivoted to the Russians wanting an apology from Bill O'Reilly. I said I had seen that and O'Reilly's reply, which was to "call him in 2023." The President the said that O'Reilly's question about whether he respected Putin had been a hard one. [sentence redacted]. He said he does respect the leader of a major country and thought that was the best answer. He then said, "You think my answer was good, right?" I said the answer was fine, except the part about the killers, because we aren't the kind of killers that Putin is. When I said this, the President paused noticeably. I don't know what to make of it, but he clearly noticed I had directly criticized him.
If he doesn't know what to make of it, then he should re-read his own memo from the week before, when he recounted the story of Flynn losing the president's confidence. Comey: Square Peg in a Round Hole suggested that Comey's discomfort in talking with Trump was that Trump speaks power talk, but Comey does not. That post provides a link to Vinkatesh Rao's brilliant pop-pyschology blog series on the matter, but the essence of power talk is that simple innocuous statements convey multiple layers of meaning.

The context for this discussion was Trump's interview with Bill O'Reilly, where Trump said he respected Putin as the leader of a major nation. When O'Reilly countered that they were killers, Trump responded, "There are lots of killers. You think our country is so innocent?"

It's a controversial statement. The prevailing orthodoxy in this country is that America is, in fact, innocent, and only kills for the most noble of reasons, like to liberate oppressed people or to stop the advance of global communism. In reality, America tends to go to war for her own interests and sells it to the American people wrapped in cloaks of virtue. I agree with Trump's take, but it is a hazardous political statement. Particularly it has the risk of alienating the kinds people he tries to appeal to: military, police, and red-blooded middle America. He respects Comey (based on the number of compliments in their interactions) and see him as a representative of those people. He wants to hear approval, of course, but also he's bothered that his statement may have been damaging and wants feedback.

If Comey applied empathy he would have understood the president's situation and worked to steer him in the most effective manner. It is evident that Comey didn't think highly of the response. Well, does he have some insight into what the rank-and-file in the FBI would think about it? That's what Trump's really after. A political answer to convey that would be something in the form of I'm on your side, but some people who will misunderstand it as.... This shows an understanding of the predicament, a desire to provide assistance, and gives gentle criticism indirectly through a hypothetical other. But Square Comey is far too literal for all this, and tells the president just exactly what he personally thinks. The part about the killers was not fine. He's just flat out rejected the president. We are not the kinds of killers the Russians are. It just dismisses Trump's point that foreign affairs are a dirty business no matter who plays, even us. Remember how Flynn was able to jam numerous blunders into a single statement? Well Comey did too, by engaging in moral grandstanding to contradict his boss's boss's boss in his own office, completely missing the point of the question, and bungling an opportunity to exert influence on the most powerful man in the world. Oops.

He notices Trump pause, and assumes it's because his ego had been slighted. Likely that's true, and would be true for most people. Trump has ample capacity for pettiness, to be sure. But Comey was a political appointee in one of the most powerful posts in the world. If he wasn't prepared for Trump's disposition and ready to maneuver around it, he's failed at his job. Comey puts himself into a bubble where as long as he's logically correct, he's okay. And if Trump can't see that, then he is a dangerous lunatic. It's quite likely Trump's pause was him thinking wait, this guy really is a moron after all. FBI Director Comey was suddenly Bad Judgement Jim.

The memos show only one additional one-on-one meeting between the two, in which Trump hardly lets Comey talk, lobbies him to lay off Flynn, and suggests stopping leaks by going after reporters. After that all communication is through phone. Comey is then fired at the first opportunity, when it is recommended by Rod Rosenstein. His fate was sealed not because of how he handled Clinton's case, and not because of ongoing investigations, and maybe not even because he refused to respond to the president's requests (a stretch). He was fired because the president wants to be surrounded by shrewd political operators, not pedantic technical dweebs.

Comey has gone on to more blunders in his media appearances and Twitter activity. He had no capacity to work with the unorthodox president. He seems to have been duped by people both above and below him. We can only guess how much of that went on. I have to wonder if his scandalous handling of the Clinton & Trump investigations resulted more from him being a tool than being evil. I still find my self kind of liking him, to the degree you can like a slippery lawyer who oversaw an attempted coup against the president you voted for. His sins are ambition - he propelled himself to a high-status political position when he should have maintained a technical role - and a religious belief in his own integrity. He thought that as long as he did the rituals he was virtuous, but that closed him off into his bubble and lead to his demise. Smart guy, bad judgement.

To conclude the saga of the Comey memos is my favorite snippet:
I explained that he could count on me to always tell him the truth. I said I don't do sneaky things. I don't leak. I don't do weasel moves.
He actually leaked the memo where he claims he is honest and doesn't leak. Incredible. CNN is claiming it wasn't technically a leak, and I'm sure Comey believes the same thing. He's forever cursed by the bubble of technicalities.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Mueller Probe is the Vietnam of Political Witch Hunts

I tend to like Noam Chomsky's take on the Vietnam War. It's controversial, and, yes, he's a lefty who often says politically disagreeable things, but this still rings true to me. He says that Vietnam was actually a strategic success. The overall goal of the US at the time was to increase it's reach of global hegemony while reducing that of our Russian adversaries. The preferred outcome of the US was, of course, the installation of a puppet government that would cater to US geopolitical objectives. That was not the outcome of the Vietnam war, which many regard as a rare and embarrassing defeat for the US military. Still, Chomsky argues that the war was a strategic success because it demonstrated the punishment the US might inflict on countries that don't fall in line. While our boys paid a heavy price over there, the devastation inflicted on the Vietnamese (and others in Indochina as the war spilled out) was far worse. Vietnam was meant to send a message to anyone who might dare resist. There is also some aspect of scorched-earth warfare. Okay commies, you win, you get the smoldering wastelands. Watch out for land mines. Perhaps the primary objective was missed, but overall the operation was a strategic success for one superpower battling it out with another.

Fox News reports today that Rosenstein informed Trump that he is not a target of the Cohen "investigation." (I put investigation in quotes, because a police action that raids the home of a citizen and almost immediately starts leaking seized information to the press can hardly be considered a professional operation.) This follows on reports earlier this month that Mueller informed Trump that he is not a criminal target in that investigation. And of course, all of this follows the assurances that former FBI Director Comey made to Trump that he was not a target of that investigation.

No, Trump isn't a target of any investigation. But anyone who joins his team is subject to investigation and perjury traps (Flynn). Anyone who campaigned with him may be prosecuted for any crime committed present or past (Manafort). Anyone who provides legal counsel may have their homes raided based on the word of the media's favorite prostitute (literally) of the week (Cohen). Trump isn't a target of these police actions, but everyone around him just so happens to be.

The goal is simple: to destroy Trump. They really want to get him on a criminal prosecution, without doubt. That is the preferred outcome. After a year and a half, it's fairly obvious that there is no legal case to be made. However, that doesn't mean they can't work towards their overall goal just as well. Call it scorched-earth politics. If they can smash his team into a thousand pieces, cow anyone competent from ever wanting to join, and dig up every dirty secret of gossip bit and blast it out through full-spectrum propaganda ops, then Trump can have the presidency. If he is never charged with a crime, but his presidency becomes isolated and powerless, well that is strategic victory enough.

But even more than that, this all sends a message. Vietnam didn't fall in line to the prevailing order, and were punished. Trump doesn't fall in line to the prevailing order, and the deep state are eager to show us what happens. Trump is strong and can take the fight. (He probably enjoys it.) But he's unusual. Most men cannot bear such an onslaught. Good men know their lives will become hell if they reject the political hegemony, so they either surrender to the demands made upon them, or they don't even attempt to gain power at all. The dynamics of Vietnam and Trump are the same. He who gets out of line must be destroyed, or the rest will follow. The Domino Theory turns out to be was just misrepresented.

It has been clear since the release of the Nunes memo that these criminal investigations are a sham. They are sold to the public as criminal investigations against Trump. Not literally, but that is the implied message. It is just cover to permit them to grab whatever information they want. The US boasts the most expansive intel capabilities the world has ever seen, and they're engaged in petty opposition research. The Nunes memo makes this clear. The FISA warrants were so shoddily constructed that it's doubtful the collected data could be used in a court of law. I really think that's worth repeating. The FISA warrants were so shoddily constructed that it's doubtful the collected data could be used in a court of law. I had arguments with some liberals about this. As a Trump hater, you should be very concerned that the whole criminal case is based on legally inadmissable evidence. But that's the whole thing. The goal of the data collection wasn't for a solid prosecution. The data collection was the goal itself.

Other examples offer support. It is unlikely that anything obtained in the Cohen raid could be used against Trump. Even if there is serious evidence against him for an actual crime, it's all at risk of being thrown out in court for violating attorney-client privilege. Look at the Flynn case. Charges, plea deal...but no sentencing. Delayed at Mueller's request. We don't know why, but have to suspect that the evidence for the case is now suspicious enough that the conviction could be overturned. We also must consider that Trump's team was being spied on before the approval of the Carter Page warrant. None of that is likely to be admissible either. Hence the laundering of the intel through a hired research firm.

Legally, the witch hunt has not turned up anything of substance. The real damage then should have been the selective leaking of gathered intel. But even that has been of limited effect. Despite their federally funded opposition research and media leaks, Trump's approval stands at 51%, by their own polls. The biggest leak was of Trump's private conversations with foreign leaders (an incredible act of treason for which the perpetrators should be hanged). They must have thought they really had him when he was hostile to the Australian Prime Minister! Except Trump supporters and moderate Americans weren't too concerned. He can tell the Australian Prime Minister to fuck off for all we care. We sent him in to wage war, not to sip tea. All they've done is demonstrate that the president is legally clean and pretty well does what he says he will do. Come 2020, he will be the most highly vetted political candidate in world history.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

3 Laws of Light Bulb Thermodynamics

I'm starting to come around on the newfangled lightbulbs. It's been an annoying transition. It used to be so easy to buy bulbs. There were a few different shapes, with a few different wattages. You picked the one that matched your burned-out bulb.

Now there is a slew of additional technological options. First were the CFL bulbs (the spirally tubes). I hate those. They don't look like normal light bulbs. Many of them light up slowly and are noisy. Worst of all, the light they emit is not very pleasant, and they burn out much more frequently than advertised.

Now we have the LED bulbs. They were expensive and emitted harsh light, but that has improved. Bulb prices have dropped significantly in just a couple years, and the soft white bulbs are hard to distinguish from incandescents. The great draw is they produce the same light as regular bulbs using only a fraction of the electricity. When you look at your bulb that only consumes 8 watts, you might think, "wow, I am being frugal which will free up money for other things." That's the right way to think about it. But another common reaction would be, "wow, I'm saving energy, which is good for the environment." That attitude has much more feels-good-man value, but is technically incorrect. Having thought about the effect of these bulbs a bit, I present the 3 Laws of Light Bulb Thermodynamics.

1 Energy cannot be saved, only re-allocated.

The simplistic view of energy efficiency is that increasing efficiency will lead to less energy use, thus reducing human impact on the environment, dependency on foreign energy, etc. In actuality, energy markets are complex and the available energy tends to be used one way or another. Efficiency gains can actually cause an increase in consumption. (the Jevons paradox)

Say you make an investment to improve your personal energy efficiency by buying a car with high fuel economy, or by insulating your home. You save $1000 a year in energy costs. What happens to that extra money? Likely, you'll spend it. You could buy a new TV, remodel your kitchen, or take that vacation to Europe. Whatever the money is spent on, it involves energy consumption that would not have been made without the investment in energy savings. Energy was never saved, it is merely used on something else. Being concerned with the environment, you might determine not to spend your savings at all. So you work less, letting your income fall by $1000 a year. What you've done is to lower energy demand overall. Great, but you've just freed up energy supply for someone else to use. The price of energy will drop, ever so slightly, and the other consumers will respond to the lower cost of energy by buying more of it.

2 Excess energy converts to complexity, which increases energy requirements

Complexity naturally increases whenever there is excess energy, which may occur by acquiring extra energy inputs, or by increasing efficiency. The LED bulbs are more complex than incandescent bulbs. They are more expensive and require high-tech manufacturing and rare-earth metals. Energy had to be allocated to develop and produce the bulbs. The overall energy savings they provide will allow for investment in other energy-saving domains.

While the light-bulb industry may be saving us energy overall, their own complexity increased as a result, and their own energy usage. It takes more energy to make an LED bulb. That's why they cost more. A complex system may be more energy-efficient than a primitive one, but its overall energy demands are higher and must be satisfied to stave off dangerous collapse spirals. If energy shortages make it impossible to continue producing LED bulbs, it is not a simple matter of reverting to incandescent bulbs. Factories and infrastructure would have to be retooled, and that takes energy - difficult to procure in a shortage. The example isn't perfect, but you can imagine your own scenario of reverting to old technology. Imagine having to revert to landline telephones (I've ripped most of the lines out in my house) or to horse transportation if gasoline became unavailable through some calamity. The hallmark of the collapse is that society can't even afford the energy costs of reverting to states of lower complexity.

3 Complexity that doesn't increase efficiency will generate entropy, which decreases efficiency

In physical systems, entropy (or disorder) tends to increase. The milk spills onto the floor, but never spontaneously organizes itself back into the cup. A boulder on top of a mountain has more potential energy than one at the bottom. There are many paths the boulder could take, but it seeks the path of lowest energy. Similarly, systems seek states of higher efficiency to obtain excess energy for investment in additional complexity. In a low-entropy environment there is a clear, compelling path towards those goals. One can observe the environment, note causal patterns, and move appropriately towards desired goals. In a high-entropy environment, the guiding forces are absent. The actor either cannot make proper assessments of the environment to determine proper action, or can but is prohibited from doing so.

Applying this to social systems, we'd take low-entropy to mean a system with high-trust, free-flow of accurate information, and liberty to act with minimal interference. A high-entropy environment would be the opposite. False information flows reduce the ability to assess the world, arbitrary results from corruption make pattern-finding moot, and imposed restrictions inhibit the introduction of optimal actions.

Consider the firm that creates light bulbs. They invest energy towards efficiency, which hopefully results in even more self-investment. As they start to really generate profitable returns, something else starts to happen. The firm begins to make investments that do not improve efficiency. Bureaucracies grow and productive ventures get wrapped up in red tape. Complexity - something introduced to solve problems - starts to be applied to problems that aren't really the company's problems. Suddenly there are HR initiatives to police morality, a director of diversity, and charitable ventures that don't really help anyone. The company has invested in solving society's problems (real or imagined). These are investments that can only be made if there are excess resources. Profits can be a double-edge sword. The complexity bought with profits can drive efficiency, or can derail the company entirely. Silicon Valley provides many examples of former tech companies that now seem more like political action alliances. (Their soon decline is all but assured.)  The same goes for government. Rather than providing an environment of stability and security, government is now a platform for enacting social agendas, which the various factions fight mightily to control. This is only possible because the government is so fattened from taxation and borrowing.

This useless complexity still demands additional energy inputs, but offers no efficiency improvements to justify it. From our perspective, mal-invested profits are not the second-best case (after productively invested profits). It would actually be preferable to not even generate enough profits for self-investment than to have windfall profits that are transformed into entropy-generating complexity. Running lean isn't just frugality; it protects the enterprise from internal decay.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Few Updates

Some minor updates were made to the FISA scandal timeline. These were in response to recents news stories: the raid of Michael Cohen's home and office, and the OIG report on Andy McCabe. The OIG report is more interesting for the circumstantial information it contains than the conclusions it made against McCabe. We aren't really all that concerned that McCabe lied to Comey and investigators, or that he improperly leaked to the media out of self interest. We're more concerned with the coup against the sitting president he helped orchestrate, of which there is no mention in the report. It's not clear to me why the McCabe report was issued early, but IG Horowitz is now giving May as a likely timeframe for the release of the general report.

The raid against Cohen is relevant to the FISA Scandal Timeline because Cohen was specifically mentioned in the infamous dossier, but mistakenly. It was reported that Cohen had traveled to Prague during the election to meet with Russian officials for dubious reasons. In reality, another man traveled to Prague, who just so happened to be named Michael Cohen. In January of this year the Trump-aligned Michael Cohen filed suit against both Buzzfeed and FusionGPS. This is a very interesting lawsuit because it may legally require FusionGPS to disclose the source of their shoddy information. We suspect that the information came from improper FISA-702 searches made by contractors at the FBI-NSD (before the FBI had their Carter Page FISA-1 warrant), which was then channeled to FusionGPS, which was packaged as intelligence collected by Christopher Steele, and then funneled back to the FBI as legitimate independent research. In effect, this was intel laundering. The Cohen mistake & lawsuit risks blowing up the whole operation. In this context, the raid on Cohen's office & home is quite significant. Even more fantastic, they justified it with allegations made by a porn star that turned into a fiasco by the shamelessly depraved mainstream media. This timeline is so entertaining that I really don't know why anyone would watch TV these days.

Second, a comment on last month's post: Real News, Fake News...Either Way It's Russia. In that post I ridiculed the left for their reaction to rumors that Trump's national security advisor would soon be fired. As it turns out, he was shortly fired. Egg on my face? Well, I had nearly included in that post a disclaimer that it might, in fact, be the case that he would be fired, as outlets like Fox News were reporting the same. I didn't though, because the point of the article was that the left can find a Russian thread in any news story, real or fake, whichever way it goes. In this case, we know why McCaster was fired. He was a liberal who resisted the Trump agenda and never should have been hired in the first place. But it wasn't, as the liberal story went, to protect dear Russia.

As a final update, in Trump's Syria Moment, I predicted that Trump's actions in Syria would likely please the neocons more than his base. Fortunately, it seems to have gone more the other way. Many of his alt-right supporters really are irate. Alex Jones has been raging over it, as well as Paul Joseph Watson and Mike Cernovich. So I hear, at least. I don't know what Michael Savage is saying, who turned sharply against Trump the last time he lobbed bombs at Assad.

On the other hand, John McCain is hopping mad about it because it doesn't actually move towards regime change. As a rule of thumb: if you've angered John McCain, you've done something right. While I'd prefer to see no action against Syria, sometimes the preferred solution and the pragmatic solution are not the same thing. (Plus, as mentioned in that post, there might actually be good reasons for countering Assad. But they certainly aren't the ones being portrayed to the American public.) Right now I'm thinking Trump played this perfectly. He showed strength, he promptly defended the infamous Red Line that his predecessor established but could not enforce, he did not push for destabilizing regime change in Syria, he acted in a way that did not trigger a larger conflict with Russia, and, most importantly, he neutered the deep state covert ops. I believe the chemical attacks were false flag attacks. Maybe they weren't, so let's say it's an 80-20 split. In the 20% scenario, where Assad is really is a moron who can't stop gassing women and children and causing himself PR nightmares, then he has been punished for his misdeeds, with care taken not to further destabilize the region. In the 80% scenario, where this is all propaganda bullshit meant to further certain geopolitical ambitions, then Trump has responded to the ostensible storyline, without giving the actual instigators the geopolitical outcomes they desire. He has maintained plausible deniability that his actions were not strategic actions against the deep state, because he operated within the false narrative that they constructed. The long-term advantage is that it may frustrate them to stop wasting time on these false-flag attacks.

There are costs associated, of course. One is that the Assad regime has still been attacked. There was still risk of getting into it with Russia. There was the strong "Animal Assad" language, and appearance of a hot-headed leader. (Not necessarily a bad thing.) And, finally, there was the strong display of American imperialism, that the US president can lob bombs at whoever displeases him, without even the pretense of due process. Still, given the details of the event, I struggle to find a better solution to the problem at hand. The political situation made it impossible for Trump to do nothing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Feminarchy

Today, the Zman discusses the qualities of our elites, particularly our technology leaders whose positions resulted largely from luck.
What’s interesting to me though is that Zuckerberg is a wimp. Look at the pics of him coming into the event and sitting for the show, and he looks nothing like what one would expect from a captain of industry. The joke on social media is that he is actually a lizard or maybe a robot, bit in reality he is just a middle-aged teenager, more worried he will get a zit on his nose than about conquering mankind. He’s not an exception. Look around at the oligarchy and you don’t find many tough guys. We are ruled by girly-men.
Indeed, it is delightfully cringey watching Zuckerberg appear before the Senate. He actually has presidential ambitions! He is quite out of his league, and seems to know it but tries to pretend he doesn't. That is, he tries to behave as if his fortunes were built off his personal attributes, not that he was a moderately competent kid who got lucky when his app took off. It is apparent to everyone watching that he has no leadership qualities. If he does run for president (please please please!) he'll be like Hillary, in that the more people are exposed to him, the less they'll like him. Just watch.

Listening to him feels more like listening to a woman speak than a man. You get the impression that he prepped heavily for his Senate appearance, but was prepped by women. Or that, generally, he tends to copy the speech patterns of women more than men. This likely isn't his natural speaking pattern. Not that he's dripping with testosterone when he's casually hanging out at the house, but it's interesting that the way he thinks he should be speaking skews highly feminine.

When feminists offer evidence of the patriarchy, the always talk about gender proportions of executives, especially in the tech sector. Zuckerberg is a premiere example, but does this really seem like male dominance? This evil male patriarch is a woman trapped in a boy's body, who is led around by his female lieutenants like Sheryl Sandburg. Facebook is a matriarchy with a vaguely male figurehead.

Here is Twitter's Founder & CEO, Jack Dorsey.

It seems his body is perfectly calibrated to hold up a phone, a light jacket, his gargantuan cranium, and little else. Maybe that's all you need these days, but he certainly doesn't portray much masculinity. Again, this is your patriarchy. A dainty fellow whose company spends most of its energy trying to ensure that no one gets their feelings hurt on the internet. It's a very maternal operation.

We're also told there is no further proof of patriarchy than the fact that all US presidents have thus far been men. (No one here denies a patriarchal past). But, in the present era, you have to account for this guy.

Like Zuckerberg, there's something quite feminine about him. Not in his speech, at least. Obama was a skilled orator who adopted a proper tone. But his demeanor gives him right away. And, like Zuckerberg, he was a weakling who surrounded himself with women. His tight inner circle included Susan Rice, Valerie Jarret, Samantha Power, and a few men. Other high-level officials and Cabinet members reportedly groaned that they had very little access to the president. The power was consolidated in his female-dominated clique. This proof of patriarchy was, in reality, America's first feminine administration. His major achievements included world apology tours for America having ever hurt someone's feelings, socialized health care, and a directionless and disastrous foreign policy legacy.

The modern patriarchy.

The patriarchy is a myth. The current power structure is neither a patriarchy nor a matriarchy, but a feminarchy. Feminine values reign supreme, even when enforced by rich men in suits. This blog frequently cites the cause of the vicious reaction against Trump as a reaction of the deep state against his outsider populist politics. And it's certainly true, but it doesn't explain the sheer and widespread hatred projected against him. After all, Obama's campaign rhetoric was even more dominated by anti-imperial foreign policy rhetoric. Trump is the masculine figure; a real patriarch. The mainstream feminist orthodoxy has reacted from a much deeper, more visceral level than mere policy agendas. If our society was a patriarchy, it would embrace Trump. Instead they hate him with all the hatred they can muster. He is a reminder of just how effeminate our rulers have become.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Trump's Syria Moment

While Mueller is goading the president into making a political mistake by taking the egregious act of raiding his personal lawyer, the neocons are turning the thumbscrews on Trump to do their bidding in the Middle East. It's not just that the Syrian chemical attacks were predictable, it's that they were predicted. 11 days ago Trump signaled an imminent withdrawal from Syria. There was significant commentary in conservative forums to the effect of, "brace for a chemical attack any day now." Five days later there was a chemical attack. Isn't it strange how Assad always commits a chemical assault on innocent civilians right when the neocons need him to? Either he is extraordinarily bad at presidenting with a statistically improbable sense of timing, or he's being framed. Nine days after Trump announced his plan to shortly withdraw, we see headlines like this, from Republican Senator Susan Collins. (The same liberal Senator who voted to keep Obamacare.)

Boy, that turned around quick. That, after three rounds of this, people are still falling for the ruse, is incredible. The big question is how Trump will respond. Judging by his statements, he plans to take swift action against Assad, and possibly even Russia, as the neocons hope he will.

The last time this happened, Trump obliged with a limited strike against Syrian military assets. They're hoping he'll go further this time. He faces a difficult decision here. But of course he does. That was always part of the gig. He campaigned to end the deep state's ineffective imperial foreign policy. A showdown was inevitable. Obama encountered the same predicament. He campaigned on scaling back US imperialism. When he encountered resistance from the deep state he folded entirely. He was rewarded for doing so, by not being constantly demonized by the media or having his lawyer's office ransacked by rogue intelligence agencies. It's good to be king, as long as you do what you're told.

There is a deep-state or neoconservative or imperialist agenda (call it what you will) at play here, and that agenda has some degree of merit. The great fear of American foreign policy planners has been the rise of a Shiite superstate. It just so happens that most of the places with energy reserves happen to sit under lands populated by Shia. Even the richest fields of Saudi Arabia lie under the Shia-majority segment of that country. With the fracking and shale oil booms in North America, this is of diminishing importance to America the nation, but America the empire is still gravely concerned with securing energy supplies for Europe (and reducing Russia's leverage over them), controlling oil exports to opponents like China, and, most importantly, maintaining the dollar's status as the global reserve currency for energy trades. A recent article by Time - in which they managed to restrain themselves and not call Trump a racist or criminal throughout the entirety of the piece - summarized Trump's newest Arabian friend and apparent ally, the future Saudi king,
Iran, through proxy militias and regional allies, will establish a overland supply route that leads from Beirut through Syria and Iraq to Tehran, Bin Salman said. The so-called “Shiite Crescent” would give Iran a greater foothold in a tumultuous region through a string of allies.
There it is. In two sentences. The Saudi monarch is a more reliable source of sober geo-political analysis than most of what comes from the American press. It is absolutely true. Attacking Assad boosts our Arabian allies (who under Obama were terrible allies, but perhaps that has changed with new leadership on both sides) and hurts our Persian opponents. Allowing a Shia-controlled overland supply route works against our energy aspirations. But doing so comes with a cost. The last administration weakened the Assad government and gave breathing room (and breathing money) that resulted in ISIS - a brutal Jihadi state that exported terrorism globally - and a destabilizing refugee crisis in Europe. Those results set the new standard for foreign policy blunders. It surely must be the greatest foreign policy failure in history, at least since the appeasement of Hitler. And they're wanting more of the same. More destabilizing of Assad, more aid to radical Islamists. It is almost certain that attacking Assad will condemn the Syrians to further decades of strife and poverty. And, if our recent history is any lesson, the results will probably end up being worse than what we started with. (We'd never have had this encroaching Shiite threat to begin with if Bush had kept his ass out of Iraq.)

If he doesn't act against Syria, then the Shia superstate threat still looms. Also, Russia keeps her naval station on this side of the Dardanelles, which isn't greatly troubling unless you're a rabidly Russophobic liberal/neocon. If Trump takes out Assad, he walks back on the most significant aspects of his foreign-policy campaign rhetoric and risks sinking himself into another great American quagmire. Even more troubling is that Putin is making very stern statements regarding US military action against Syria. Some bloggers, such as The Saker, report that Russians are increasingly coming to the conclusion that war with the US is inevitable. Putin may be a lot of things (like a corrupt dictator), but a liar and a bluffer? When it comes to official pronouncements, he is very careful with his words. Dire warnings should not be casually disregarded. US intervention in Syria carries the very real risk of a hot war between the world's nuclear superpowers.

More personally, if Trump takes on Assad he's going to infuriate his base. His last bombardment of Syria was met with great outrage and defections from noted supporters such as Paul Joseph Watson and Michael Savage. Conversely, if he does not take action against Syria he risks infuriating...the people who already hate him, pretty much. On the face of it, taking action against Syria amounts to political suicide. His base can punish him by pulling their support. His opponents can punish him by...what? They are already punishing him at greater than 100% capacity. That is, they are punishing him so much that they are damaging themselves faster than Trump. The media has now discredited itself according to the majority of the American public, whereas Trump has an approval rating over 50%. The deep state is engaging in openly illegal operations against Trump, which will likely backfire and erode American faith in those institutions.

They can't punish him more; they can only promise to punish him less. That's the deal with the Devil that Trump may make. He executes their foreign policy, they lay off the constant hate rhetoric in the media, and call off Mueller's Special Coup. The snake can't be trusted, either to act in good faith, or even to have the ability to restrain the Trump Hate Machine they've created. But, from Trump's position, it sure must be tempting.

What should he do? The position of this blog has always been that Assad is the rightful ruler of Syria and should remain so. There is no practical proposal that I'm aware of that replaces him with anything remotely stable. Respecting his rule seems to be both the proper and the most pragmatic option. Preventing a Shia superstate is a worthy goal, but that doesn't give us license to engage in more foreign disasters. However, given Trump's statements on the matter, his past actions against Syria, and his recent appointment of John Bolton as his NSA, I suspect his actions will be more pleasing to the neocons than his supporters. Hopefully I am proven wrong.