Saturday, October 29, 2016

The FBI reopened the case because they had no other choice

Comey's letter to Congress that the email investigation is back on was a surprise to everyone. There have been a lot of theories as to what's going on. Let me lay those out for you, and then describe what seems to be actually happening.

Everything is square.

 The investigation in July was done well, and they've somehow come across emails that are potentially relevant to the case. This is the stance of pretty much all Hillary supporters (but they'll assert the emails are not incriminating).

This is not a valid theory. We know for sure the investigation was poorly executed, and the reports from inside the agency (always anonymous) point to Comey obstruction, and to a workplace angry to the point of mutiny.

The theory fails because the first investigation was a sham. The Democrats pleading that surely the emails are irrelevant is wishful thinking. No way Comey, who covered for Clinton already, would open this up just before the election if it wasn't something catastrophic.

Comey played long ball.

I wrote in my blog post on Comey's congressional testimony that it was possible Comey was nixing the email investigation, because the real scandal was the Clinton Foundation. I urged for restraint for people not to slander the FBI when this was still possibly the case. However I've backed off the theory as revelations showed just how incredibly fraudulent the investigation was. It was one thing to let the fish off the hook, it's another to chuck the rod & reel out entirely.

The agents revolted

There is lots of talk that the agents in the FBI are quite upset. Whether they want to risk their careers and pensions over it is the question. And I have been pushing the notion that, until we hear of them taking action, they whole organization must be treated as corrupt and/or incompetent, and the members of it should bear the shame of being associated with it. The theory then is that the agents threatened they would go public if he did not indict her.


Just two days prior, on Hillary's birthday, there was some buzz that her 33 thousand deleted emails would be released. These were fueled by Twitter posts from Megaupload found Kim .Com and alt-right persona Mike Cernovich. Kim ended up posting a lead where, supposedly, the emails could be accessed by authorized people from the NSA.

Two days later the case was reopened. At first it was readily apparent that it was the missing emails. The notion was that was outside entity had access, and was blackmailing the FBI that, if they didn't move forward, the emails would be dumped to the public.

However, reports are that the emails came from notorious sex freak Anthony Weiner, wife of Huma Abedin, Clinton's top aid.

What really happened

A couple of months ago US Attorney Preet Bharara took up an investigation of the Clinton Foundation. This got some attention on Reddit. I had never heard of him, but many people had and said he was notoriously effective prosecutor who had put many corrupt bigwigs behind bars. They said if anyone could crack this open, it was him. I don't recall if anyone realized he was also investigating Anthony Weiner's sexual misconduct. Everyone pretty much forgot about this. It has been information overload with the leaks, hidden-camera confessions, and all that going on.

But here is the rub. Likely what has happened is in the course of his investigation, Bharara uncovered, at the least, classified information on both Abedin and Weiner's devices. I say at the least, because this doesn't even touch all the other scandalous information that may have been found.

Comey can't contain it anymore. This is outside their control. The only options were to continue to cover for Hillary and have them totally T-boned by Bharara, or to get ahead of the story to save face. Clearly they went with the second. 

What will happen

We don't know why Comey covered Clinton in such a high-profile case. Since July there have been many connection tied between the Clintons and Comey, and to his deputy director that oversaw the case. Whether Comey was angling to stay in office under Clinton, or there was other nepotism in place, or that he was being blackmailed (far more likely than you'd think, given how dirty everyone seems to be), we don't know if he'll continue to cover. But that is an option; he does everything possible to contain damage, protect her from the most severe charges, and keep the investigative eyes from the Clinton Foundation, which will reveal crimes perhaprs up to the level of treason against the state.

Or, seeing the tides turn, he may have to turn as well. And if he turns, he will have to follow Sun Tsu's advice and destroy his new enemy entirely. For his own good, he will have to see the Clinton machine completely destroyed. 

Obvious I hope for the latter. And if so, we'll see if Trump ends up forgiving him for his dereliction of duty in July.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Prepare for deflation

I'm going to ramble on about the economy for a bit, but if you don't want to read all that then just scroll down to the advice near the bottom.

I'm not an economist, but I do sometimes stay up drinking whiskey and reading alternative sources for things like economics and politics. You get a very different signal when you move out of the mainstream. It can be hard to tell whether you're right and everyone else is wrong, or if in fact you are actually the one who is off course. But, what little investing I've done has paid off well. I bought precious metals around 2008 when they were going way up, and doubled my gold and tripled the silver (which turned into a down payment on my first house). After the crash, I knew I should buy a bunch of stock while it was low. And I bought several thousand dollars of a mutual fund right at the lowest point of the whole stock market crash. It was pretty sweet. I sold that during my time in grad school, probably for booze. So I could be crazy, but then this has worked before.

State of the economy
For those who don't really follow what's going on, our economy has been in recovery since the 2008 crash, which was caused by a collapse of the real estate bubble, for about 7 years. They say we're still in recovery, but at 1% GDP growth, that's becoming a very optimistic description. Mostly when people say that the economy is doing great, they will refer to the soaring highs in our stock market. (Go ahead, post on your facebook that Obama's economy sucks*. Watch as they come out of the wood work to lecture you on the market.)

After the crash, the Fed lowered the interest rate to stimulate the economy. For years now the Fed has kept the rate very low. When the Fed lowers the rate, the cost of borrowing becomes cheap, and thanks to fractional reserve lending, the amount of money in the economy goes higher. But more money doesn't mean more wealth. At the end of the day, the value of a dollar is the total value of the real economy divided by the number of dollars. So if there are more dollars out there (printed or imaginary debt dollars like those backing your mortgage**), the value of each will be less. This is inflation.

Does anything about this strike you as odd? There is more money being pumped into the economy, so what would we expect to happen, that we aren't seeing? That's right, inflation. While we can argue about how accurate the inflation numbers are, ultimately we are just not seeing very much. What you're probably asking is, how is this possible? The answer, I think, is that pretty much all the economic gains of the recovery have gone to the top of the pile. So those of us in our little-people economy aren't seeing more money. We're not getting big pay raises. It's all going to the top. Where are those people putting the money? Remember that interest rates are very low. So debt-based investments, like bonds, have almost no return. I think you see where I'm going with this.

The money is going in to the stock market. It has no where else to go. As money dumps in, the prices of shares go up. People who bought early enough saw positive returns, fueling them to put even more money in. The market has become less about the real value of the underlying assets, as it has become based on the trust that more money will keep coming in to raise raise the prices further. It's a pyramid scheme at this point. It is highly susceptible to a "run on the market".

What would trigger such a run? A number of things I'd guess, but the most obvious one is a rise in the Fed rate. For two reasons: (1) it will reduce the amount of new money, reducing confidence that the stock prices will increase, and (2) it will make other investments like bonds profitable again.

So the people who run our economy are in a bind. If they raise rates they could bring down the house of cards that is the stock market. If they don't, they leave no room to maneuver when the next economic downturn hits. The last one was resuscitated by lowering the rate, but the rate can't go lower. If the next downturn comes before rates have been able to return to their natural level, the whole economy may go in to freefall with no brakes left to apply***.

The advice
You don't want to be exposed to the stock market. If you have stocks, sell them. If you have a 401(k) or equivalent, reallocate them to bonds or securities. The rule of thumb for stock percentage in your investments is 100 minus your age. So if you are 40 years old, you should have 60% in stocks. I'd say subtract 20%, at least, at this point. Sell high. Sell high. Sell high. Once the market crashes you can buy the stocks back on the cheap. Bonds and securities are where you want to be. The bond rates should go up as people bail the market. Cash-backed securities will actually increase in value as deflation occurs. And we could be in store for some serious deflation. Only like 10% of US dollars are actually in circulation. The rest are sort of imaginary debt dollars. So even if the value of the real economy drops, the amount of currency could absolutely plummet. Brace for deflation.

Pay off all the debt you can. If you have $20,000 in stocks and $20,000 in mortgage you need to even that out. While you should take advantage of 401(k) matching at your company, don't put in any more than they match. Otherwise, if you have any debt, including mortgage, you should not be putting any money into retirement (some people will cringe to hear that advice) or the stock market or taking out new loans. Here's the thing about debt: it's set at a nominal value, a certain number of dollars. If the total number of dollars available becomes smaller, it will become much harder to get the same number of dollars to pay the debt. Your income will fall. It will be harder to make those payments. And if you have a floating interest rate you'll suffer a double whammy. Not where you want to be.

Good luck. Please keep in mind my advice is free and comes with a money-back guarantee.

* I don't actually like getting in the habit of blaming or crediting a president for economic ups and downs. This suggestion is for illustrative purposes only.

** By the way, if you are considering taking out a mortgage now if the time to do so. The rates are as low as they can possibly get, unless they take the extraordinary step of setting the target rate to below zero. Be warned though if you lose your job in the coming crash, you may lose your home no matter how low the rate is. Also, the price of real estate will surely fall in a deflationary event. So there's no right answer, but take advantage of the low rates if you can. Fixed-rate mortgages ONLY!

*** The apocalypse scenario. I wrote about that a while back, and I have a preppers guide I've been sitting on forever that I may finish this fall. But you can find lots information on that if you're in a hurry.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Analysis of the Four Debates

The infographic here breaks down all four debates (includes the Presidential Forum) into the number of times different issues were mentioned. I will only be looking at the rightmost column, which gives the total number of mentions.

Clearly favors Clinton

Even at a quick glance it should be apparent that just the topics at hand favored Clinton. Unfortunately the compiler of this list didn't include all of the personal controversies, but did highlight the highest for each in yellow. In at the number 4 most referenced issue was Trump's tax returns, at 80 mentions. Now there is no requirement for a presidential candidate to release his tax returns, but it has been the tradition for some time now. So for Trump to forego the release of his returns is a break with tradition, and it is fair game for coverage, but he has broken no rules or laws.

On the other hand, Clinton's most referenced controversy, at 30 mentions, includes apparent violations of several federal laws, including FOIA, the Espionage Act, federal regulations for the handling of classified information, the internal policies of the State Department for information technology, and, maybe most damning, a subpoena issued by Congress.

Trump's non-criminal controversy was given almost 3 times the attention of Clinton's controversy, which was at the least "extremely careless", and at the worst, extremely illegal. 

Also note that Campaign Finance was barely mentioned. Clinton has huge contributions from Wall Street, from foreign nations, and from big corporations, including the behemoths holding the media companies that supplied the debate moderators and aired the debates. Having the issue largely glossed over was 100% in her favor. The debates didn't convey the conviction that many of us have about Trump: he is single handedly fighting the corrupt government, media, and corporate oligarchy.

Most concerning of all this, to me, was that Libya was only mentioned 3 times. I have long long been saying, that Libya should be the single issue in regards to Hillary, or any candidate eminating from the Obama administration, back to February at least (according to my earliest post on the matter) but I believe I was saying that other places well before that, and before the primaries were even close to being decided.

Libya is Hillary's signature foreign policy venture. It was a stunning success, but only if you look at it thought the Neoconservative lens. As leaked emails from Sydney Blumenthal revealed, the purpose of the war about rebuking a challenge to western hegemony. If you are a neocon, Libya was great. I'm not entirely sure what the neocons think about the resulting downsides of the war: the power vacuum that allowed ISIS and other Islamists to operate with impunity, and the European refugee crisis. To the first, I think Washington always likes having a plausible enemy to fight. To the latter, I'm not sure, there's probably not uniformity. But to the rest of us looking on, Libya is a shocking horror. Not only for the sort of humanitarian reasons of removing the stable government of a relatively prosperous nation (for Africa), but also that it clearly demonstrated that the change candidate Obama was clearly continuing the Neocon policy, Bush Doctrine, of pre-emptive war under false pretenses.

Not only that, but we also violated trust. The Russians could have vetoed the action at the Security Council, but declined to do so under American assurances that the no-fly zone would not be used as a vehicle for regime change. What an utter deception. And the Russians learned not to trust us, which is why they opposed us in Syria, and why were are so near to war with them now. The US aggression in Libya is perhaps the most despicable thing our country has ever done. Most Americans have been shielded from the reality. And they barely talked about it. It was all about Trump's tax returns.

Russia, Russia, Russia!

You probably noticed that far and away the most discussed topic was Russia. And not in the context from above; that the foreign policy under Obama, largely lead by Clinton, has pushed us nearly to war with them. No, it was mostly about those wily Russians and there gosh darn hacking. The DNC "hacks" informed us that the DNC was not only unfairly siding with Clinton against Bernie, but actively colluding with the media to destroy his bid, to the point of obtaining the debate questions in advance but only providing them to Clinton. For those leaks, which were very likely to have been internally leaked by an appalled insider, they blamed Russia.

Now we have the ongoing Podesta "hacks", which again confirm what we've always alleged about Clinton (I'll refrain from getting into details, but there is incrimination all over the place). And again, whenever pushed on it, she pivots to blame Russia. Does anyone not realize how fucking insane this is?!? Here we have the woman who was responsible more than anyone else for our disastrous relations with Russia (save maybe Obama, who was stupid enough to give her control of the apparatus of state), and here she is blaming her egregious corruption, on that very same country. Is she actually intent on starting a war? Why blame Russia and not China? Or, I dunno, North Korean (a la Sony). It's like war with Russia is actually her goal. Despite her claim in the last debate that there was all this evidence that hacks were Russian, there's not. Even the White House has admitted as much. All that has been said is that it looks like what the Russians might be doing, given their past cyber activities. That is not enough for what she's claiming, and she is totally irresponsible for doing so.

Here we have a Secretary of State who was a monumental disaster, not content enough with her legacy in office of ruining relations with the only world power capable of completely destroying all major US cities and military facilities, but to keep driving it home during the debates. I'm truly... I don't know what to say. This is all like something out of a subpar Tom Clancy knockoff.

What's most alarming is our media has completely gone along with it. Why are they so intent on defending Clinton? The only answer can be they are so afraid of Trump. But what we know is this: the topics show that the debates were clearly orchestrated to the benefit of Clinton, and the major disqualifications of her as world leader were barely touched. We should be very concerned with the obvious failure of our political process.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Why Trump Shouldn't Win

I have been extremely supportive of the Trump campaign. I was defending Trump fairly early on in the election, during the primaries, when it was almost a social taboo to do so. Almost everyone who supported him was sort of in the closet about it. While I now see Trump sign and bumper stickers all over the place, back then I just never saw them. It was very rare and memorable to see a Trump yard sign. People were called racist, had their vehicles vandalized, even lost their jobs for openly supporting Trump.

So many probably think of me as someone who supported Trump fairly early and eagerly (although very early I was supporting Bernie Sanders). And people seem to interpret that as me claiming that a Trump presidency would be a great thing, or even the best thing. But if you dig through my history, you'll see that, I believe, I don't really make those claims. The bulk of my support has been defensive. Defending him against baseless claims of his personal hatred for other groups of people, or exaggerations, or the simple fact that most of the establishment media, political, corporate, and other forces are openly hostile towards him. Anything negative to Trump gets amplified ten times over, and anything positive to Trump is heavily downplayed, hedged against, or, most often, ignored entirely. So my attempt has always been to do my small part to bring some balance to the situation, to share things that people aren't seeing in the news, but should be. If the media did its job, there would be no need to say much at all. Whatever you might think of Alex Jones, he really hit the nail on the head when he called his website InfoWars. Because we are embroiled in some serious informational warfare, whether you like the fact or not.

So my stance has been in standing against a massive propaganda machine that is so threatened by Trump it has lost itself ability to conceal itself. I supported Bernie Sanders for the same reason. I actually disagreed with him on most issues (but strongly agreed on a few major issues). I am now of the conviction he is an absolute disgrace and failure. But Trump has not been. He is taking on the establishment, and he is winning. People have sort of taunted me that I will be quite miserable when he inevitably loses in November. But that's not true. For the following reasons.


People who assume that I will be very happy if "my team" wins, and very miserable if not, seem to have an internalized the team mentality themselves, and they are projecting it on to everybody else. These are the people who will be miserable if Trump wins, who go as far as saying they will leave the country. On the other hand, they will gloat as if in personal victory over Trump. I suspect a number of taunts in this case, which I will mostly find amusing.

The truth is my emotional state has very little dependency on the outcome of the election. I have always voted against the system. I've never voted for a major party candidate in the general election. Not once. I've never voted for any President ever. Not in the primary, not as US Senator from Illinois, nothing. Why do people think I will be upset when the establishment candidate I dislike gets elected? That's just the way it's always been for me. If it was terribly upsetting to me, I'd do what so many seem to do, and bet on the winning horse. 

I anticipate some comments to the tune of, "haha, I guess you were wrong about your boy Trump." As if every argument I've made is somehow invalidated by verdict of the mob. We can assume 3 things about anyone who makes such a remark (and those who think them, but are quite so brazen to say so): (1) They have adopted a team mentality to politics, (2) they are emotionally invested in the outcome of the election, and (3) they consider group consensus to be the ultimate measure of correctness, rather than epistemological approaches. 


A number of months ago, when it seemed Bernie was going to be endorsing Hillary, I wrote an appeal to Bernie supporters. In that post (which I believe I never promoted, given its low view count) I had to assure the reader that my suggestions, such as supporting Stein instead of Clinton if you were a liberal who couldn't bear Trump, were not ill-intended. I wasn't saying those things just to help get Trump elected. In fact, if I was going to let the non-virtuous side of me show, I would actually promote Hillary!

The reason is that I loathe our federal government. I think it's incompetent, corrupt, it lives way outside the scope of the US Constitution, and it doesn't represent the typical citizen. I'm something of a nihilist when it comes to our federal government. I see it as inherently evil, so anything bad that happens to it is a good thing. I like to think of it in terms of this great programming post: broken gets fixed, but crappy lasts forever. (Although in the case of societies, crappy eventually fails spectacularly). There's not really a whole lot Donald can do. Surely he can repair our foreign policy, but there's not much he can do about our economic issues. The most he can do is maybe buy us some more time on a sinking ship. (And as I've indicated, the longer it stays crappy, the worse it'll be when it breaks.)

I think Clinton will be a catastrophe as a president. Foreign wars, widespread and almost open corruption, rewarding of key positions based on bribes rather than merit. She will poke holes in the sinking ship, get the whole thing good and broke. For this reason alone, I almost want to see Hillary elected, but not quite. 

Self Interest

But pure self-interest is pushing me towards favoring a Hillary presidency. Let's assume I have something of a preferred agenda, which we all do. Let's assume that Trump generally reflects my agenda, or at least he's closer that could be reasonably expected. It seems pretty obvious that I would very much want Trump to win the presidency.

But this is no normal election. The entire establishment is hell-bent on destroying the frontrunner. Let's compare it to the election of Barrack Obama. He was generally hailed as a history-making candidate, he got enormous funding and support from Wall Street (which he paid back many times over), he was a media darling, and he got a huge benefit of the doubt from moderates who were not happy with the results of the Bush years, and America's appearance as something of an evil empire. And despite all that, he showed up to work, and got almost nothing done. The Republicans snubbed him where ever possible. He had vast establishment support, and still couldn't power through the normal petty partisanship in Washington.

By comparison, Trump is despised by the media almost entirely, he has no backing from Wall Street, the Democrats and media have managed to portray him as a bigot, as they colluded to, and he doesn't even have the full backing of his own party. The only thing he has is his own resources, and the backing of a plurality of the American people. But we know how much clout the American people carry in Washington D.C. (not a lot). So I know my agenda largely will not be carried out under Trump. The most we can hope for is logjam (usually the best we can hope for in Washington!). The exception to this is US foreign policy, over which the president has great control. And for that reason alone I would be all-in as a matter of self-interest, except....

The economy. The entire Obama presidency has been spent in a supposed economic recovery. They say we're still in recovery. But we're at 1% growth. That's no recovery. It's not even considered to be a good steady-state level of growth. During this time, spending has been out of control. National debt has doubled under Obama. That's after doubling under Bush. That is exponential debt growth! For those who fail at math, that is super very much bigly unsustainable debt growth. And there is no sort of corresponding economic growth. We have exponential debt growth, and anemic economic growth. It's like one of those word problems from school. "If Billy has zero wage growth and doubles debt every 8 years, how long until he ends up out on his ass?"

There are some rosy numbers coming from the government that are a bit questionable, such as unemployment and inflation. But what's really not being talked about is the Fed's interest rate of close to 0. We've had nearly free money for almost a decade. By the way, if someone ever tells you that the soaring stock market is proof of Obama's competent economic leadership, feel free to ignore that person, or call them an idiot. The stock market valuation is just a bubble blown up by the loose monetary policy. Think about it: the fed makes borrowing money artificially cheap, so there is lots of money. Where do people invest that money? In bonds or savings accounts with virtually no return? Of course not! They send it to the stock market.

It's become just a big casino, where everyone puts in their money because it's the only place to get a return, and assuming they can get out before they bubble pops (if they are even aware of the risks). When a typical investor buys stock, they aren't typically looking at the realistic valuation of that company (of course some do). They're just betting that other people will keep buying the stock too, and the nominal price of the shares will continue to increase. They aren't investing in a particular company so much as in public trust in the stock market as a place to grow money. Gee, does that sound like a certain real estate market prior to say, I dunno, maybe 2008? The market becomes more of a belief system than anything. A religion, almost. So when someone tells you that the high stock market prices are proof that Obama is a great president, just walk away from that person. Run if possible. They have not even a basic understanding of monetary economics, yet here they are pretending they do. What else do they pretend about? That there is no poison in that cup of wine? You can't trust these people.

The point of all this talk about economic indicators is this: I find it very likely we'll see a major economic correction during or maybe even before the next presidency. When this happens, not only will Trump's hands be tied to do a lot, but the establishment forces will do everything in their power to lay the blame directly on him, even if it has been a disaster long in the making. And they economy won't be all of it. We have an increasingly divided citizenry. I hold the opinion that we are one serious economic shock away from seeing something that looks like sectarian violence in this country (we already there to some extent).

So you almost look at this flaming dumpster fire of a country and have to ask yourself: why is anyone fighting to inherit this mess, which is all about to come crashing down? It seems something more like a hot potato that the two parties would be trying to pass off to the other. I'm becoming of the opinion that, as Trump engaged in his scorched-earth tactics, as he really lays fire to the establishment, and the Wikileaks cut all legitimacy from a Clinton presidency, maybe losing the election is the best long-term outcome.

If it weren't for the looming Supreme Court nominations, and the threat that the current path of the government is leading us to war with Russia, I would be fully convinced this is the correct outcome. As it is now, I'm a bit uncertain. But it very well may be the case that winning now opens the anti-establishment and alt-right conservative movement to a premature death. But if Trump all but destroys them, and they finish themselves off through exposure in another term in office (subject to the brunt of the economic failures and blowback from our disastrous foreign policy), I think that puts us in an excellent position for the pendulum to swing back very hard in the next few years.

UPDATE: this was meant somewhat as a devil's advocacy, and at his point I would back off the arguments almost entirely, save that the Trump will be blamed for economic failures under his watch. But that is the cost of winning, I suppose.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Trump outrage may be real, but it's not genuine

Right now the major news story is still Trump's lewd comments that were leaked out of a taped private conversation. The timing was suspiciously coincidental in obscuring the much more relevant wikileaks on Hillary Clinton. I suspect they've been holding on the tapes just waiting to use them. Unfortunately our media is so biased that they will happily cover Trump saying something offensive over Hillary committing federal crimes.

They also know Trump controversies generate views. They know people are just waiting to be offended by Trump. And that's why I don't buy any of this. The most recent false fiasco before this, about Trump's personal income tax deferrals, was the most ridiculous that I can recall off-hand. Here we had a full-out media assault alleging that Trump may have used legal provisions to significantly reduce his required personal income tax. Not just the media, but Tim Kaine made it his centerpiece argument in the vice presidential debate, and Anderson Cooper tried to grill him on it in the most recent debate.

Whenever I argue with someone attacking Trump for these things, the usual pattern is this:
  1. They say Trump is unethical for something.
  2. I make the case that the thing is not really unethical, and often can show their preferred candidate is as bad or worse in a similar fashion.
  3. The person responds, "Well Trump is evil for these other reasons."
They quickly move to the next Trump grievance very quickly. It's hard to get a Trump hater to stay on the topic at hand. Why? Because they're not genuinely outraged by the things they claim. They'll look for any excuse to rage against him. It doesn't really matter what it is.

That's why I don't trust this latest outrage at all. For the people who are genuinely outraged by his comments, as opposed to those who are just looking for anything to be outraged at (all will claim to be in the first group), their message is being lost in the noise. Because no one who isn't full of Trump hatred believes the outrage hype anymore. We see it all as desperate propaganda until proven otherwise. They no longer get the benefit of the doubt.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

2nd Debate Thoughts


The major takeaway of the 2nd debate was Trump's vastly improved performance. As a Trump supporter since around March, I've watched a fair number of his speeches (mostly sans telepromtper) and some of his other public speaking, and cringed through most of the first debate. But this was as good as I've seen him, I'd say. Very on point, surprisingly articulate, a fair amount of facts and policy; frankly it was far better than I expected it to be. (I'll be honest I didn't even want to watch it).

Certainly not perfect, but for most of the debate he more than held is own against Clinton, an extremely competent adversary. And it times he really dominated and outshined. This is the Trump we'd expect; the confident alpha male. He was hit pretty hard early and repeatedly on the leaked private lewd conversation. He handled it well, minus an awkward attempt to make it about ISIS. I think people could see what he was trying to say. That in a world where ISIS is having mass beheadings on the beach, the adversaries of America are likely amused that we're quibbling over a potential leader's dirty words. But, he didn't deliver well. Fortunately for him, the moderator's were really wanting to bash him for it, and brought it up again. He handled it better the second time. They inadvertently did him a favor (as they've been doing for months). 

I have a theory as to the difference of his demeanor between the two debates: he was using beta blockers to control anxiety. I have used them myself for public speaking and performances and can speak well to their effects. In the first debate Trump was flustered (of course he was debating two people), he was red in the face, and he just couldn't compose his statements well. It was painful to watch in a sort of subconscious way: it just raised my blood pressure. In this debate he was not only surprisingly restrained (for him) but really had his thoughts in order a lot, whereas he normally drifts around. I think he used beta blockers and that's why we saw him in command of his thoughts. It would also explain why he seemed to lose composure towards the end. (I turned it off after 1 hour 15 minutes). Either the stress of the event started to catch up with him, or the drug was losing efficacy. Now I don't view him using such drugs negatively. I am certain that Hillary is heavily medicated, with a drug schedule expertly timed to put her in the best shape for performance. (I also believe that is why she falls off the radar before debates: to go on a drug holiday to increase their efficacy when needed.) It was clear at the DNC that her husband Bill was heavily medicated. He was alert for his own speech, but couldn't even stay awake for hers!

Trump missed on a couple things. He was about to nail her on Russia, then went on a tangent about his own taxes. He missed dropping the hammer on her, and then brought up his own controversy! Very bad, this is when he went from really owning the debate to kind of struggling. He also missed a golden opportunity when asked by an audience member how he would serve all Americans as president. He should have talked about his business in New York, with a very diverse crowd of seemingly happy employees. He really could have painted a feel-good all-American story. Instead he went negative on Clinton. He went negative on her far too much. He should really focus on working to calm undecided voters nerves about him. Clinton followed up with an uplifting answer. He should take a cue. But, he's not an experienced debater. He clearly got some good advice from the people around him, and did a good job delivering those improvements. Hopefully he can bring a positive message to the third debate.

Oh, and one more thing. If you read my vice presidential debate analysis (not on this blog, it was on facebook), I posted I had serious reservations to Pence's stance on Syria. I said this was a far different version to what I had heard from Trump, and it sounded a lot like Clinton's policy on Syria. The moderators asked Trump about this discrepancy, which I thought was a fantastic question. And Trump, without hesitation, said he disagreed with Pence. That is some fantastic leadership, I felt reassured on the issue, and I bet it will be the most underrated response of the evening.

She didn't have the same advantage as she did in the first debate. Something was fishy with the first debate. But here she clearly showed unease at answering the second question. (In the first question both candidate basically answered with prepared monologues.) But it seemed right off the bat she didn't have the same advantage.

Hillary is good at what she does. She's still sharp, and she's smart. As much as her health has been a concern, and is still a valid concern, she really puts that to rest when she's on point for the debates. She fumbled a lot, many times more than Trump, and there was a very awkward moment when she tried to defer her question to Trump. And as always, she lied, or resorted to old tropes. For example, calling Trump a bad man for attacking the Khan guy who lost his son, etc. But that event has been entirely discredited for anyone paying attention. Not only does Khan personally make money off Muslim immigration, he was paid some $600,000 to give that speech by the DNC, where he savagely insulted Trump throughout. Trump was defending himself, yet Hillary keeps bring it up like mean Trump is attacking a sweet little immigrant just trying to get some American dream for himself. It's bullshit, and there were number of similar attacks from her. 

She also somewhat annoyingly said Trump never apologizes for anything, in response to his comment in which he apologized for his lewd comments! This is the kind of verbal switchbacking that Trump catches so much hell for. Well, she did it right there on the debate stage. You'd think someone as sharp as her would be more careful about those things.

UPDATE: I almost forgot. When pressed on email leaks that showed she talked about keeping a private and public stance on certain matters, she tried to invoke Abraham Lincoln. That's right, she lies because of Honest Abe. Incredible guile there.

The moderation was okay at best. They did ask some tough questions to both candidates. But both Anderson Cooper and the female commentator (I lost her name, I've never heard of her before) seemed to want to engage in some gotcha journalism. They really wanted to drill him on the lewd comments, which he mostly navigated out of. But where they really failed was when she was trying to beat him up on a specific question about humanitarian relief to Aleppo (practically the same question that I called out for being bad in my vice presidential debate analysis). When Trump answered the question on more general lines about Syria (a reasonable navigation, and one he handled with an unexpected level of insight) she because almost desperate to shoehorn him into the trap she was setting. These question have no place in presidential debates. Hard questions are good, gotcha questions are not.

The theme of this election has been the media's lack of impartiality. Often they manage to get their way: they make Trump look bad (or worse than he otherwise would, I should say), but lose credibility. But when they become desperate but fail to pin him down, they lose credibility for nothing, and he gets a double victory. To their credit, at least, they did ask some genuinely difficult questions to Hillary, some of which did make her look bad. So I wouldn't call it completely impartial.

I would tend to think Trump won the thing. He really missed a chance to go positive. He has a big chance to improve. Hillary is sort of the static candidate. If Trump shows the same amount of improvement in the next debate, he'll knock if out of the park. He is the dynamic candidate in this election.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Bear threatens to swat down US warplanes

Syria Update:

Haven't posted about this in some time. Things are getting tense so I thought I'd put out some info for people who aren't hearing about it on the news. Here's what's been going on.

-- The Syria peace agreement was broken when the US fired on Syrian national forces.
-- The Russians stated that the US government is fundamentally incapable of keeping agreements. The Saker believes that this is because President Obama does not firmly control the government. He believes the deal was intentionally sabotaged by people in the Defense Department. This is plausible. Remember it came out earlier this year or maybe late last year that the Intelligence side and the Military side of the executive branch were supporting different factions, that were ACTUALLY FIGHTING EACH OTHER. I believe I posted at the time that US foreign policy had hit peak insanity.
-- At a special meeting of the Security Council, Russians were accused of war crimes by US allies. The US ambassador walked out on the meeting, as well as the delegates from France and Britain.
-- The Russian Foreign Minister basically accused the US of supporting ISIS.
-- The Russians are now warning that they will shoot down any US aircraft that attack the Syrian army.

This is possibly the closest the US has ever been to war with Russia / Soviet Union. Here we have the Russians not just threatening military action (there is always an implicit threat of military action if certain boundaries are crossed) but threatening military action for what we are already doing. I'd be confident the Russians are not bluffing. They've established their boundaries, and will be probably behave as they've stated they will. That is, the won't push for a shooting war with the US, but at the same time I would have to believe they will stand by their promise to defend the Syrian army.

The question then is how will President Obama respond? He is in a bind. He won't want to appear weak. He's already been gravely embarrassed twice, maybe three times in Syria. First when he failed to enforce his famous Red Line (largely thanks to Russian diplomacy on the matter). Second, the US was seemingly caught unawares when the Russians showed up one day in Syria with a sizeable air contingent, thus depriving the US of air supremacy in the region, and removing their plans for a no-fly zone (as we saw used in Libya, which was use to overthrow their government). Third, once the Russian bombing campaign began, the Syrian army began making large gains against ISIS. This after a year of US bombardment! The obvious conclusion was that the US was either incapable, or unwilling, to execute an effective bombing campaign against ISIS.

Obama also can't appear strong. The Nobel Prize winner, who promised a more friendly American empire, and who apologizes for American strength where ever he goes, isn't going to stare down Putin. No chance he risks a real fight. But the bigger worry is that some faction of the US might ignore his orders. They may have already done so. He's in a bind where no one relevant respects him. The Russians certainly don't. If they did he could intimidate them to back off. The scarier question is how much the military and other government agencies respect him. Was the decision to break the Syrian peace deal a mistake? Or was it broken by people who believe it to be a bad decision? Or, most worryingly, is there a faction so fed up with Obama that they are starting to mutiny no matter what his orders are? That may sound like an extreme conclusion, but we've had one peace deal broken already. Do the Russians even trust us enough that we can negotiate another agreement? It might be that Obama is incapable of keeping us out of war no matter how much he tries.

Now I'm not beating the war drum here or warning of impending doom. But there is cause for concern. The Russians are clearly concerned. We can't trust this government to handle the situation well. Their incompetence has been shown consistently. They've all but lost any notion of legitimacy of the American empire. US foreign diplomacy consists mostly of issuing dictates and ultimatums, and then not enforcing those ultimatums. I believe nothing will happen. The Russians / Syrian Army have the upper hand. This will probably end up a loss for US neocolonialism (oh well), and might one day be considered the turning point of US hegemony. Although people probably said that about Vietnam. Very interesting how ever it turns out, and there is a decent margin for catastrophe in all this.