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Thursday, June 22, 2017

What Should Democrats DO?


Tuesday night the Democrats failed to flip GA-06 by 4pts. It's a +20 Republican district--but nevertheless, Democrats are crying into their lattes because (a) they spent 28 million bucks (to the Republican's 25mm), (b) they thought they had a chance--Ossoff came within 2pts of winning the seat outright during the runoff election, and (c) HOW THE HELL COULD ANYONE VOTE FOR A REPUBLICAN WITH TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE!?? HOW??

Here's how:
A Cato institute study identified five basic kinds of Trump Voters.

  1. Free Marketeers - Think Republican wall-street guys
  2. Anti-Elites - think guys who hate the system but don't markedly hate immigrants or blacks
  3. American Preservationists - They hate brown and black people and want to Make America White Again
  4. Staunch Conservatives - Think Rince Priebus
  5. The Disengaged - Mostly young, largely women, either don't know (or won't say) about most big issues (like whether global warming is caused by human activity)
This, it turns out, is actually a winning collation when you add in the Bannon Wing at about 20% of Trump's electorate.

Furthermore, when  Trump loses some from one, he can gain some from another (Preservationists may not like bombing Syria--but Staunch Conservatives could).

See also: He's enabling racists--but hey, TAX CUTS!


One Point On A Line

This is a Reddit Post where the poster says (claims) her boyfriend is a left-type bro who uses the fucked-up-itude of the system to avoid responsibility for doing anything. We know from the popularity of the podcast Chapo Trap House that there are enough of these guys to be a populist force. Chapo Trap House, in case you don't know, is a podcast that describes its listeners as "The Dirtbag Left."
“Chapo Trap House” has embraced this mission. “If you sleep on a mattress on the floor and fuck in a sleeping bag, then you just might be the dirtbag left!” Menaker told Paste. “If you’re the only dude at a function not wearing a pocket square in a linen blazer and adulting like a boss, then you’re in the dirtbag left!” People who belong to the Dirtbag Left, Christman said, aren’t afraid “to offend the sensibilities of ‘leftist’ language police whose only goal is sabotaging social solidarity in order to maintain their brands as arbiters of good taste and acceptable speech.”
The Dirtbag Left is what could also be called Bernie Bros--but, really, the idea that these people are uncultured, "not afraid to be racist or misogynist" (which is what 'unafraid to offend the sensibilities of leftist language police' generally means), and looking for change that doesn't really involve much heavy-lifting seems to be a real thing.

At least on Twitter.

They are also, a lot of people seem to think, the future of the Democratic party. This is to say that a lot of people seem to think that the Democrats should go hard-left and ditch the centrist candidates, scorch Republican outreach, and adopt universal health care as the entry point for running for office.

Oh, and they should go full open-primary so that people who aren't registered as Democrats should be allowed to vote for their candidates. It's only fair.

A Second Point On The Same Line

In GA-06, Ossoff ran as a moderate centrist. He didn't talk much about Trump. He didn't hammer Trump on Health Care. He talked about lowering taxes and smaller government. Some of the attack ads against him featured the Kathy Griffin severed Trump-Head and . . . Nancy Pelosi with her "San Francisco Values." One ad even featured the Alexandria shooting.

Basically he was attacked as a Democratic gay barbarian and linked to Pelosi for no really good reason and Griffin because of one tweet she made supporting him.

So, in the words of our President, "a lot of people are saying" that the Democrats should ditch Pelosi and reconfigure themselves to have "a message" (other than good governance) like . . . universal health care.

Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, who tried to unseat Ms. Pelosi as House minority leader late last fall, said she remained a political millstone for Democrats. But Mr. Ryan said the Democratic brand had also become “toxic” in much of the country because voters saw Democrats as “not being able to connect with the issues they care about.”
Our brand is worse than Trump,” he said.
Uh-huh.


Where That Line Is Pointing

When a party is out of power there are no shortage of voices saying that its salvation is based on it acquiring the politics of the speaker. In the case of Ossoff, Sanders supporters were actively hoping for him to lose--and cheered when he did--because they felt it would increase their power.

So should the Democrats fire Pelosi? Should they embrace Medicare For All?

The answer to both questions is: "Not without a really good reason." The loss in GA-06--and even the loss of Hillary to Trump is not a really good reason.

There is a lie that people will tell you about political choices. That lie sometimes sounds like some of these:

  1. "I voted for Trump--but if Biden had run, I'd have voted for him." This is a lie.
  2. "I voted Republican--but that's because the Democrats have become ultra-leftist under Obama and Hillary would have continued that." This is a lie.
  3. "I'm an Independent and I wish I could vote Democrat--but they've given themselves over to diversity and immigration so I have to vote Republican to try to keep America like it used to be for my children." This is a lie.
The lie is, in all cases, that if the other-team just did this or that they could possibly win "your vote." It's never true. It's an excuse for a raw partisanship the speaker knows is bad but can't break themselves of. 

Firing Nancy Pelosi because GA-06 Republican voters didn't like her wouldn't win one of them back. They'd move on to the next Democrat in line and dislike them.

In other words, the future of the Democratic party isn't--cannot be--the "Dirt Bag Left" or a revision of the Democrat's identity around some "crystal clear" (meaning radical) message of economic empowerment. That won't win you voters. If they put Sanders on the ticket they'll lose older voters who find Sander's message of empty revolution a non-starter.

Like with Trump's coalition: if you increase one circle you will decrease another. The slice of the pie--determined mostly by identity politics and candidate-charisma--stays mostly the same.

(a hint: The minority vote would have plunged under a Sanders candidacy)


So What Should They Do?

This is analysis of the Cook Political Report showing how the Democrats have (over)performed in the last 4 special elections--now, remember--they won none of them: These are all areas that would, in any normal election, be non-starters.


Basically, the Democrats are over-performing by like 8% across the board. If they can win GOP +7 or better districts they don't need to change a thing for 2018.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Left Vs. Right: Calls For Violence

Left Wing Calls for Violence vs. Right Wing Calls For Violence


With the baseball-shooter in the news some people are thrilled to finally have a decidedly left-wing shooter who is white and not (trivially identifiable as) crazy. Conservatives are asking if the left is engaging in some self reflection over its calls for violence now. Are they? Should they be?

It's pretty clear that "the left" isn't exactly taking this all on themselves. Rachel Maddow has not called on Bernie Sanders to calm his hateful rhetoric. Democrats have not decided to vote for the AHCA out of shame for the shooting. In fact, some of them have said Trump's responsible for the tone today!

Imagine that! So it falls to us to see what the left vs. the right looks like in calls-for-violence. Let's do it.


Right Wing Violence vs. Left Wing Violence

There is left-wing and right-wing violence and threats of violence. Antifa idiots in masks have led actual riots on the Berkeley campus. One of them famously cold-cocked Richard Spencer on camera. There have been numerous anti-WTO demonstrations--for years--that involve property damage, thrown bricks, etc. BlackLivesMatter protests have, in numerous cases led to arson and looting. In cases where things were not totally out of control, there have been kill-police chants and free-way shutdowns (as planned). In one of these, an anti-police sniper shot and killed several cops.

In every one of these cases--including the cop-shooting--you can find people on Twitter who are happy to defend it.

On the right, there too, is violence. Dylan Roof drank his vile-fill of online hate-group propaganda. Recent white nationalist stabbings have made the news. At the Bundy Ranch, armed "peace keepers" descended on the ranch (and took over a Food and Wildlife outpost) to protect against the federal government.

Spencer led a torch-bearing march through his town of, basically, Nazis.

It is not an objectively answerable question as to how much of this does The Left and The Right each own, respectively, unfortunately.

However, we can look at what each side won't say as a way of determining where each part refuses to own its "negative space." This is, it turns out, a pretty good analysis.

On The Left: What They Won't Say

There Are Killing Advocates On "The Left"

Nobody owns Micah Johnson--the Dallas police shooter. Not only did leaders associated with #BLM condemn him--but it turns out even the  Black Panthers kicked him out (and, indeed, . Not everyone would though--there are groups that advocate killing police officers. And while they disowned him, members of the new Black Panther Party have advocated for killing officers earlier.


The "Left" Does Have Endorsements and Defenses of Violence

Kathy Griffin's beheaded Trump was both grotesque and an endorsement--despite what people might say. Griffin is (apparently) a popular comedian and having her "do it" cannot be read as a caution against it (and, notably, no one is making that defense). Town Hall has rounded up several non-Twitter-Randos calling for violence against Republicans.

While some of these are anemic, some are detailed and, well very, very angry. Obama used a quote from The Untouchables to suggest that if there was violence he expected his supporters to want to be fully engaged.

NOTE HOWEVER: Kathy Griffin lost her career over her call for violence. It had almost no support on the left or right.


Conclusions

The Left does not have a clean record when it comes to violence-laced trash-talking. If our standard is that even allegorical endorsements of violence can lead to violence then the Left / Liberals certainly have blood on their hands.


On The Right: What They Won't Say

The Right, As A Party, Talks A Whole Lot About Political Gun Violence

The idea of restricting the 2nd Amendment in any way is that it's pretty obvious to most people that while some civilians probably shouldn't have guns, almost no civilian should have grenades and rocket launchers. The purpose of the 2A, however is to use guns to kill politicians. When you are defending any limits to access to weapons on the 2A basis, you are establishing a right--in fact, a duty--to kill politicians involved in tyranny.

Now, who is involved in tyranny? Left wing Democrats--notably Obama. Almost everyone in the right-wing media sphere has accused Obama of orchestrating a coup/coup attempt.




The Right Has A Problem With Its Endorsement of Racial Violence

One of the websites that heavily influenced church-shooter Dylan Roof is the Council of Conservative Citizens (get it? They're the CCC!). This is a group that is not exactly mainstream right-wing ... but ...

That's not nothing either. Nikki Haley's name is up there. So these guys are not precisely shunned. In fact, the lack of shunning for racial instigation goes kind of far and wide, hitting Miller, Bannon, and Gorka. In fact, this is kinda an embrace of this wing.

NOTE HOWEVER: Note however, nothing. The racist-Nazi support for Trump and the Right's closeness to it in general should be enough to give everyone pause. These people represent political violence.

There, Of Course Have Been Political, Racist Attacks Other Than The Church Shooting

You can go back to Tim McVey who wanted to start a race-war--but you don't have to. Weeks ago two different white supremacists stabbed and killed people (in one case defenders after he was verbally attacking Muslims). To suggest that these people were not acting on a political basis is denial: Racial violence like that is political--the same with the Dallas shooter.

The problem comes when you look for a link between their statements and the Republican Party. The problem is that it's there. There is no denying that the white national groups see their rise as tied to Trump. There is, similarly, no great effort on Trump's part to distance himself from them. That Trump does not spout racist remarks directed at blacks is not in and of itself meaningful.

Trump and his strategists know that a substantial part of their success centers on racial animus--either to Mexicans, Muslims, or, yes, Blacks. We can't know what's in their hearts--but we can see their actions.

The Right Has Called For 2nd Amendment Solutions For Real And NOT Disowned The Speakers

If you found Sarah Palin's flyer pretty anodyne (it was) and Trump's discourse about "2nd Amendment people" and Hillary kind of vague (it was), you still have to deal with guys like Ted Nugent calling for Hillary to "suck on a machine gun" and getting invited to the oval office. Kathy Griffin is not getting an invite to the next Democratic Oval Office--well, most likely--and would not have been welcomed to the Obama White House.

The fact is that discussing a "2nd Amendment Solution" as 'valid' is not an automatic disqualifier for a GOP candidate.

NOTE HOWEVER: Where Kathy Griffin was excoriated and fired, some people on the right still associate with Ted Nugent. A story in three acts:



Trump, Himself, Has Said Some Weird Things About Violence

Trump cited two guys who beat up a Hispanic man in his name "passionate." He advised supporters to, well, see for yourself:


The "I will pay for the legal fees" takes this out of the "quoting a movie" zone and in to an endorsement of real physical violence. Trump's "Maybe 2nd Amendment People could do something" about Hillary was conceivably a statement that "well, if you elect her--you'll have to assassinate her." The use of 2nd Amendment rather than some other group is, of course, telling there.

Conclusions: The right certainly uses more graphic language and has less backlash to its violence calls. It also endorses violent groups to a larger degree and at a higher level.

Over All

The Omnivore thinks it's pretty clear that if anyone should be doing soul searching after this shooting . . . it's the violent video game makers.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Will Trump Fire Mueller?

Tweeted AFTER This Article Was Written!
There are some big questions looming as to how the Oval Office will respond to a special counselor that (a) has assembled what everyone who knows describes as a "dream team" and (b) seems to be targeting Trump himself (for obstruction of justice?). Trump had, allegedly, talked about firing Mueller--but was backed off by his staff. After all, what could look worse?

The answer is: Getting hit with a case of Obstruction of Justice. That could look worse.

Now, let's make a best-case assumption:

  1. The Omnivore is willing to grant--either for sake of argument--or because of a dearth of existing evidence--that not only did Trump not collude with Russia ... but also his team had no coherent Russia-based plan. Let's assume that: it's the best case for Trump and it's feasible. If, say, Flynn was doing some dicey stuff there's still no evidence that he told Trump about it or did it under Trump's direction. Flynn is, if nothing else, a loose cannon. Maybe he was firing on his own?
  2. Let's also assume that while there is some questionable stuff with Trump's finances, Jared's family-business dealings, and so on, nothing is out there that will put them in jail. Embarrass, yes--but not sink. That, again, is the best-case scenario here.
  3. Finally, let's assume that Trump's enemies include Comey. Trump-Supporters believe that Comey had an irrational dislike for the president and therefore wrote his memos and held discussions designed from the start to discredit Trump. It's not impossible, right? Let's assume it.
Under the best-case scenario, does Trump fire/try to fire Mueller?


Well, Does He?

Yep. The Omnivore's assessment here is that Trump (a) has, apparently, zero self-control, (b) appears to like firing people (it's "what he does"), and (c) has one mode--hard-ball. Basically, as bad press mounts from the drips and drabs of the investigation leaking out, Trump's game-plan will be to first defame Mueller--which will have the result of making it personal. He will then try to build support in the Trump-o-sphere for canning Mueller.

Once his supporters are on-board, especially if Team Mueller does anything that looks like taking the bait (rising to the defamation), Trump will pull the trigger.

This is, of course, the most absolutely disastrous thing Trump could do--but that, thus far, has been Trump's game-plan.

"I  hope you're not grasping at the 'he's' a child" straw du jour."?

An Omni-Friend speculated that Trump revealed code-word level Iraqi intel because he was negotiating with Russia (as opposed to stupidly bragging). I was astonished that someone (some smart, anyway) could think that Trump had a real plan in dealing with Russia and releasing intel. Everything we know about Trump suggests that he Does Not Do The Reading.

In other words, he wouldn't have a good grasp on what was super-confidential or not. He might well let something slip for other than strategic purposes.

The Omni-friend wanted to know how credulous The Omnivore was! Could The Omnivore really believe that Trump was a kid?

Weeelll ... yes. Yes, The Omnivore can. This is, of course, a matter of definition, but at this point it is hard to come to any other conclusion (NOTE: The Omnivore did NOT believe that Bush Jr. was a moron or anything like that). 
  1. Trump gets spun around easily. He changes positions often and not strategically. Some of this is just being very ambiguous--but some of it seems to be whoever got to him last.
  2. Trump can't stop tweeting. There is no doubt that Trump's tweets are hurting him. As his favorable ratings decline his Tweets are the one thing everyone can agree he should cut back on. He won't/can't. This isn't some grand plan. This is lack of control.
  3. Word from insiders is that he's a mess. If we assume 25% of it is true--even that little--he seems to have the willpower of a 7 year old.
  4. He's not just making newbie mistakes--he's making tons of unforced errors. This might be bad strategy or it might be deep strategy--but honestly, it looks like "neither." His inability to get the "wins" he wants is partially due to GOP in-fighting--true--but a lot of it is due to him not being able to get his pants on straight either.
Over-all, the picture is, yeah, someone with zero impulse control.

So Where Does This Leave Us?

The Omnivore is shit for predictions, really, and this one may not be any better--but The Omnivore doesn't see how Trump's survival instinct kicks in now and has him leave Mueller alone. As soon as Fox & Friends questions why he's keeping the guy on when he's obviously biased against Trump, Trump will do what he really wants to: Try to fire the guy.

Now--there is one thing that might stop him: that he kinda can't. The rules are complicated and best explained here--but the net-net is that he has to order someone to do it. Sessions clearly would--but has semi-recused himself. Rosenstein has said he "won't" without good reason--and there's unlikely to be a really good reason. Further down the food-chain are career bureaucrats who don't like Trump. 

So it could fail / backfire spectacularly.

So we'll see--but The Omnivore's money is on the firing because it is unthinkably stupid. ALSO NOTE: that's in the best-case scenario. I the mid-case scenario Trump knows there is something "his people did" that was possibly treasonous and he knows they know he knows about it. Maybe his only act was not stopping them--but Trump knows that under pressure they'll point the finger.

In this (or worse) Trump knows the dream team might really get him. That makes it worse.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Left-Wing Twitter Conspiracy Theorists

The New Republic has a darn good deep-dive into the left-wing Conspiracy Theory voices sprouting on Twitter. It nicely sums up the various actors, their pet theories, and gives some insight into how they came to prominence in the Era of Trump.

This is the takeaway:
Conventional wisdom has long held that there would never be a left-wing rival to Glenn Beck or Alex Jones, because liberals are just too damn smart to fall for that kind of stuff.We believe in subtlety,” Mario Cuomo once explained. “We believe in telling the whole truth. We don’t want to exaggerate. Look, they write their message with crayons. We use fine-point quills.”
As it turns out, though, the left wasn’t smarter than the right; it simply wasn’t terrified enough. Waking up to a country run by a man who openly boasts of sexual assault, who has systematically targeted immigrants and Muslims for deportation, whose every utterance seems to bespeak some form of mental instability, liberals suddenly find themselves adrift in a world they never imagined possible. In a landscape this dystopian, conspiracy offers a salve. It promises an order behind the madness, some sort of rational explanation for the seeming chaos. It validates your paranoia, which paradoxically confirms you’re not paranoid. And most dangerous of all, it affirms your sense that things are hopeless, while absolving you from having to do anything about it. Conspiracy theories may temporarily allay our fear, but they ultimately exacerbate the very conditions that created that fear in the first place.
This is all very, very important. To wit:

  1. Conspiracy theories never solve anything--they are just ever-louder calls for a real investigation by a truly neutral party (no matter what is done, this never materializes--any evidence to the contrary is, of course, faked)
  2. Conspiracy theories are "for losers." Research shows that parties that have lost are the ones caught up in conspiracy theory.
  3. Conspiracy theories prey on human-weakness. Intelligence is not a defense. Methodologies are not a defense: the calls are coming from inside the house (your brain).

So Are Liberals As Sucked In To Conspiracy As Conservatives?

There's some (current) good news. The main part is that there still isn't a Glenn Beck or Alex Jones of the Left. Lousie Mensch doesn't count. Neither does Eric Garland or anyone else on that list. Why not? Well, it's simple: Beck at his height reached millions of elderly viewers every night. These guys have like 100k followers who likely miss most of their tweets.

Secondly, Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, etc. all grossly monetized their gigs. Beck and Hannity sold dodgy gold to old people with conspiracy theories that got them into legal trouble (Hannity at least). They were immensely profitable for their platforms (Fox) and for themselves--based on selling a never materializing economic apocalypse.

If, say, Rachel Maddow starts hawking gold-certificates,  you can start to worry.

Secondly, the root of their conspiracy theories is either hopeful (FISA has issued an arrest warrant for Trump or whatever) or, more compassionately, Trump / his controllers have a grand plan. The good news is that neither of these are designed to provoke the same kind of behavior in their believers.

Right-wing conspiracies were apocalypse porn: government camps, economic and oil collapse, even foreign invasion (The UN coming through Canada and tunnels under Walmart), etc. They had specific boogeymen: Islamists (who were working, of course with Obama), black-terrorists (funded, of course, by George Soros), and so on. 

Right now liberals do not believe that there is either a hillbilly army or the regular one ready to put Democrats in camps. They may believe that Trump is totally, completely in cahoots with Putin--but they're not preparing for a Red Dawn scenario.

There, right now, isn't a liberal equivalent of the Jade Helm scenario where military training is a sneak-takeover of Texas.

Finally, there is a lack of traction of these conspiracy theories among the Democratic electorate. We don't (yet) see too many candidates running on the theories (although there have been some that were repeated). 

This is mostly because they don't have to: Trump's health care plan is legitimately less popular than Obamacare--but it hasn't passed yet. Trump has sunk Dodd-Frank, which thrills the 1% (Trust the Omnivore)--but most people don't even know what that is.

If a congressman alludes to Trump's collusion with Russia? Well, that's an exaggeration--sure--but if they talk about the Trump Campaign's collusion with Russia? That's currently under like three different very serious investigations. In other words, the root concerns about Trump--that he is a blundering, lying authoritarian--that he is way, way too friendly with Russia, that he would like to silence his enemies in inappropriate ways (such as firing Comey or trying to arrest journalists) are all well established.

Trump is doing enough out in the open that for the broad strokes, the conspiracy is no longer a theory.

What Does This Mean?

A few things.
  1. Never believe anything you read on Twitter. Even from someone solid, wait for the journalistic process to work.
  2. If you hate Trump, The Omnivore is sorry to tell you this: you're going to have to be patient. If you want him impeached, control the House and Senate in 2018 and then give it a go. Before then? Noop. Not gonna happen.
  3. If you think that the mainstream media is suppressing stories about Trump (such as a sealed warrant) or that 'someone' [ Mensch ] 'has been proven right about a lot of stuff in the past' you need to re-calibrate your sensors. (A) it's not actually true and (B) if you spew a bunch of bullshit, eventually you can spin some of it to say you were right. Don't be credulous.
A final thought here is that the GOP, despite utterly destroying its moral core (and it did--oh boy did it--it doubled down on what the lefty-critics were saying and proved them all agonizingly right in the nomination and then election of Trump)--did pretty well politically. They managed to block Obama on a lot of things and they control pretty much the whole government right now. 

Conspiracy theory is a disease. It has bilked a lot of GOP voters out of a lot of money (every penny sent to Ben Carson, for example). It has inflamed the worst instincts in millions of people--largely older, white people. It has elected a disastrous president and a congress that cannot agree productively on anything and may yet result in something both avoidable and really bad such as blowing the Debt Ceiling--but it did win elections.

A lot of them.

So, you know, maybe just sit back with the popcorn and wait for the lights to go out.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Comey, Comey, Testimony!

Well, it was Comey-Day. What happened?

1. The Takeaway: Trump Fired Comey After He Couldn't Secure Comey's Loyalty On The Russia Investigation

Trump had said as much both to NBC and Russia--but hearing it from Comey gave it more power. The money-shot was Comey saying over and over that Trump's "suggestion" that Comey drop the Flynn investigation felt like a "directive" to drop it. Not a joke. Not an ephemeral hope--a directive from his boss.

There is good reason to think this is the case--as Comey himself said:

  1. Trump told everyone else to leave the room. He noted that as a prosecutor that would raise huge flags.
  2. Trump repeatedly told Comey he needed loyalty. He reminded Comey "we had a thing"--the idea that Trump had done 'good things' for Comey by keeping him onboard?
  3. Comey stated, several times, that he did not believe the official excuse for his firing--but rather what Trump himself had said. Again, we knew this--but hearing it directly from Comey gave it extra weight.

2. Trump's Not Under Investigation

Trump himself and his supporters were thrilled to hear that yes, Comey had told Trump he was not a target of the investigation on three occasions. They are also happy that: (a) Comey admitted to leaking the news about the memo to news agencies--a leak which created the special counselor appointment as it was, apparently intended to (that is: Comey is good at political chess). (b) News that Hillary wanted the FBI's criminal investigation referred to as a "matter"--the kind of word-spinning we've learned to expect from Hillary-world (and, it turns out, Trump-world's surrogates).

This was all good news for Trump, right?

Kinda. Apparently it mollified him and his team felt it gave them ammunition to hit back with in the news-cycle but the truth is that none of this means what the Trump-narrative thinks it means:
  • Trump is not a direct target of the investigation--just many members of his team. This is like saying Nixon wasn't a target of the Watergate investigation--just the guys who did the break-in. If it's established that Flynn, Manafort, or, especially, Jared was doing something dodgy with the Russians that will lead to the familiar sounding "What did the president know--and when did he know it question." In other words, Trump doesn't have to be a target of the investigation now--if there was dirty dealing, it'll get there.
  • Comey leaking the memo isn't the same kind of leaking that Team Trump is upset about. The memo was specifically constructed to be leakable. It wasn't classified (Comey testified that directly during the questioning). In other words, it's another political chess-move that paid off.
  • Hillary made it all the way through her investigations without charges being raised. If Trump makes it to the same outcome, then he'll have cause to celebrate--but he and his organization will likely be remembered in the same fashion.

A Final Note

An Omni-Friend who is a student of media bias assures The Omnivore that when the mainstream liberal press wants to hide an element of the story--but still report it for plausible deniability reasons--they nefariously stick it in the second to last paragraph since nobody looks there. In the spirit of this belief, The Omnivore will both raise a glass of imaginary beer and quote the second to last paragraph of the paragon of the lugenpresse, the New York Times:
“I can’t believe they are worried about public opinion on a day like this, when Comey set so many perjury traps for them,” said Jennifer Palmieri, a veteran Democratic operative who served as Mrs. Clinton’s communications director during the 2016 campaign.
And the last paragraph:
Communications and news cycles don’t matter — they don’t know what is going to hit them,” added Ms. Palmieri, who served in the White House during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment. “They are still telling the president what he wants to hear, and that’s extraordinarily dangerous.”

Friday, June 2, 2017

How You Should Think About The Latest Trump-News

There is no shortage of breathlessly breaking Trump-News. There is also no shortage of hot (even molten) takes. So what should you think? The Omnivore lays it out.


The Paris Climate Deal

Trump pulled out after a showy lead-up of 'deliberation.' Anyone who was paying any attention at all knew he was going to do this. Why? Right now Trump's major value proposition--arguably his primary value-prop all along--was Making Liberals Mad. That's what he does best. It's arguably all he does. Repealing Obama-Regulations? Very little benefit for "his base" economically. Major benefit symbolically--it enrages liberals.

Banning Muslims (or whatever you want to call it--that's what he called it). Very little real change for most people. Great symbolic value. The wall? Symbolic value up to the moon!

This is the same with the Paris Climate deal. The brokering of the deal--and the near universal sign-on--was a moment of American power and leadership. The deal itself is squishy, symbolic (Trump could have released new targets rather than pulling out--and despite what he said, it doesn't allow other countries to dictate what we do).

So the deal itself was to a large degree symbolic (which, if you believe in global climate change that's human driven could still have been useful as symbols can certainly impact behavior)--but pulling out was moreso.

TAKE-AWAY: YOU ARE HERE


Trump-Russia-Collusion

There is a GREAT deal of noise about whether or not Trump has colluded with Russia. Trump-supporters claim (a) there's NO EVIDENCE! It's ALL CONSPIRACY THEORY and (b) That if Trump TALKED to Russia, back-channel or no, that's okay.

This, in fact, is true--as far as it goes. Right now no one can show evidence of Trump meeting with a Russian saying "fix the election for me, Vladdy, and I'll be your guy." Not only isn't there evidence, there's real solid reason to believe that never happened.

For one thing, there would be no need for it to happen. Nixon, after all, did not break into Watergate himself.

Secondly, it's fine for incoming administrations to meet with foreign nations--even Russia--and while the leak that the Russian diplomat said Kushner wanted to use Russian encrypted communications is probably legit, that chain of communication itself is questionable. So, sure. All clear, right?

Well, no.

This line of discussion is explicitly designed to try to exonerate Team Trump from any bad dealing. It ignores tons of red flags that are still flying. Which ones?

  1. Flynn got fired for lying about Russian meetings. Why'd he lie? If it was all good, why lie to Pence? (Note: maybe he didn't--maybe Pence lied--but that's not what the admin tells us).
  2. If Russia wanted something from Trump (its spy-house back, relaxing sanctions, whatever) all it would have to do is tell one of Trump's guys it's quid for quo. Trump's guys include Flynn, Page, and Manafort--all of which could be trusted to take the message and give it to Trump. There's no evidence that happened either--but that's where all the smoke is.
  3. Trump may in fact believe he did nothing wrong and the FBI investigation is just a partisan attempt to nail him. Could be--but his ridiculously ill-advised firing of Comey at the height of the Russian investigation, combined with saying "I fired him because Russia"--both to the Russians and ... to NBC ... freaking insures that there will be a special counselor investigator.

These special three investigations (House--minimal, Senate--more serious, Mueller--deadly serious) are a big deal for the White House: they prevent normal functioning, suck up all media oxygen, encourage his own party to distance themselves from him, and so on.

Anyone who wanted "a non-politician business man" in the Oval Office because he'd shake things up should realize that while Trump has certainly "shaken things up" what he has mostly shook are the pillars holding up his own roof. His ineptitude--if not his corrupt nature (we don't know yet)--has brought this all down on his head.

TAKE-AWAY: If Team Trump isn't malignant they are so incompetent that it may wind up being the same thing.

How To Trust News!


The Omnivore's parents got back from the great state of Alabama where The Omnivore's relatives live on a for-real farm(!). The discussion there is not--and cannot--be political for what The Omnivore will describe as "obvious reasons." However, a dispatch from The Omnivore's beloved and Trump-Voting Alabama relatives suggested at at least someone up there felt that none of the news could be watched because "it was all biased."

The Omnivore is, it turns out, an Internationally Recognized Expert in #FakeNews*, and therefore wants to perform a service here: Telling you how / how much to trust the news you watch.

So here's how to understand news-media.


1. Bias Doesn't Mean Lying

Yes, all human beings are biased. Yes, that sometimes covertly or overtly creeps into (or is put directly into) news (or "news"). However, just because you can detect bias in a story does not in any way mean the story is a lie.

One of the greatest and most toxic successes of the right over the past decade was to convince its viewers that the "liberal media" was lying and that you knew that because of detectable "bias." Over the past decade media has become more partisanly biased--partially because the populace has--partially driving that phenomena.

Watchers have also become hyper-attuned to bias, detecting it in trace-amounts and then using that to dismiss articles they don't like. In this mode, bias-detection becomes a kind of psychological defense mechanism: I don't like the story . . . let me see . . . A-HA! Bias! I can ignore the lying media!

However, so long as the outlet you are watching employs real journalistic practices, bias is okay. This means you can question the story's conclusions and purported importance--but should not consider the whole thing made up / fabricated.

PRO-TIP: Turn down your bias-detector. Bias isn't what's important in "believing the news."

2. What Are Journalistic Practices?

Journalism at its most basic means:

  • A reporter answers the basic Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why questions about a given story or event.
  • The article is fact-checked by actual, fact-checkers. These are people who go through the article before publication and try to determine if anything stated as a fact is real or not.
  • The article is reviewed by an editor. The editor's job isn't just to correct spelling--it's also to protect the reputation of the outlet. This stops wild-claims, nonsense, and conspiracy theory from being published.
  • The outlet itself has a reputation they want to protect. The outlet stands to lose from publishing conspiracy theory (note: if your outlet is the National Enquirer, this obviously doesn't apply--hence, they are not doing actual journalism--see how that works?)
Places that employ real journalism are places like Fox News, ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, The Atlantic, and so on.

In other words, the "Mainstream Media."

Places that do not are things like "Fox and Friends" or "The Daily Show." These may or may not have the above structures in place--but they are not doing what we would describe as normal journalism. As such, you should consider those interesting or even informative--but not "news."

PRO-TIP: Get your news from two mainstream media sources. Try Fox and CNN. Get it from the actual news show and not the talky-bits.

3. Mistakes / Errors / Even Lies Don't Destroy A Reporting Outlet

It is common practice to point to a story that is either contradicted elsewhere, shown to be wrong, or, in rare cases, shown to be fabricated. This is used to "discredit" the outlet in the eyes of the watcher. This is a mistake. If you are referring to a major media outlet that does, literally, 100's of stories a day on a global scale, there are going to be mistakes, "mistakes," and (although it better be rare) obvious, intentional malfeasance. The bar for the last is high. A report that contradicts one on another media isn't evidence of lying. 

You must always assume that there is an error rate in the media you watch and plan accordingly. In the case of a massive tragedy or major event (such as the Sandy Hook shooting), don't trust frantic reporting for the first 48 hours. Wait for the real journalistic practices to kick in before drawing strong conclusions.

PRO-TIP: Stop believing "the mainstream media lies" because of story X-Y-or-Z.  If you are going to hold that opinion about an outlet, be ready to back it up with sourcing from people who actually know and do journalism. This will not go well for you.

4. Anonymous Sources Are Legitimate

When dealing with a mainstream outlet, Anonymous Sources are not made-up news. Sorry. In every case: 1. The source is known to the journalist and usually their editor. These are actual people in the proper positions with reputations to protect (between them and the journalists). They may spin the story--but if they outright lie they'll never be quoted again. They don't want that. 2. The story is corroborated with other sources that don't know each other. Just because senior staffer Bob tells you something, that's usually not enough. You go to other senior staffers and see if they'll back the story. If no one will? You don't publish it.

PRO-TIP: If Anonymous Sources are saying things you don't like, consider that the most likely reason is that things are actually happening that they don't like either (usually the same thing YOU don't like) and they are reporting on them as an attempt to fix it.

5. Not All Sources Are Equally Reliable

The more biased an outlet is, the (generally) less reliable. This isn't because they are lying about their stories. It's because how they structure, choose to report / not-report, or focus the story will be driven by that bias. Some outlets, like Breitbart.com, have a literal, printed mission statement about making their readers angry. That's a red-flag.

It doesn't mean they're lying -- Breitbart does actual reporting -- it just means they are so biased that if the article doesn't "make you angry" it doesn't make it into the reporting. That should be viewed with great skepticism (unless your goal is to get politically angry and you are otherwise having a hard time with that). 

How you view base and reliability is going to be a source of much debate. However, please consider this as a starting place:

If you read a bunch of blogs, consider this:

NOTE: The Omnivore finds it easy to disagree with many individual ratings here--but you should be aiming for at least the center.

If you are watching the Talk-Show News, the Omnivore finds this rating at least moderately sensible looking:


PRO-TIP: Triangulate. Have a few go-to sources and see if they are saying the same things. If they are saying different things, that is worth looking into.

6. Finally, Stop Falling For #FakeNews

You need to stop falling for conspiracy theory, anything you see on social media that is a "bombshell" or "blockbuster." You need to stop believing that stories are breaking constantly which will "change everything." It's not that these never happen, it's that unless you are a very savvy media consumer, it is difficult to tell what's real and what's not.

For example: Jim Comey, the former FBI director is going to address Congress next week. According to mainstream sources, he will say that Trump told him to back off the Trump-Russia investigation. This is all legitimate reporting. It's all probably true.

In fact, it--or something so close to it as to be indistinguishable--most likely happened.

Does this mean Trump is definitely a criminal? No. It does not. Does it mean he broke the law with "obstruction of justice"--no, not (necessarily, The Omnivore is not a lawyer) in the technical legal sense. Does it mean Trump is going to be impeached? Definitely not.

However, the idea that Trump didn't tell Comey to see if he could find his way to dialing down the investigation, that Comey felt pressured by the leader of the free world telling him that--in private--is lying to yourself.

Also, for what it's worth--while the story as presented doesn't mean Trump is a Russian spy (or even colluding with Russia) it definitely isn't good and isn't normal. If you don't believe that, you're also lying to yourself.

Conclusions

The basic conclusion here is that (a) you should be watching the mainstream media--the actual news programs. You should be going to ABC, NBC, and, like Yahoo News or something like that. It is fine to watch Fox News so long as you watch the real news programs and also watch, like CNN.

You should also not "dismiss news" that makes you uncomfortable or unhappy. That is something that has been trained into a divided populace and has made everyone more susceptible to #fakenews.

A Final Note: The Omnivore has heard that he is "hard to understand." He is, as always, available for questions and would love to clarify anything that is unclear.



* This isn't actually a lie--or an exaggeration. The Omnivore has gotten asked for thoughts on the media, reporting, journalism, and fake news from multiple US and outside-the-US countries and media. A Japanese report / author flew into town with his assistant to interview The Omnivore for his book as recently as yesterday. Yes, this is all patently absurd--but yes, it's also real. Trust The Omnivore.