Friday, February 16, 2018

The DACA Debacle

One of the strangest beliefs of Trump-Voters is that Trump's actions represent actual plans and manipulations. For example, the idea that DACA needed to actually be passed as a bill by Congress--and NOT an Executive Order as the lame Obama made it--so Trump threw DACA to Congress, so we'll finally get it done right--is simply crazy.

The reason Obama did DACA by EO was that Congress can't find its collective ass with both hands, a flashlight, and a compass--much less pass a decent DACA bill.

Rather than Trump making a savvy play to "do things right" he just fucked over DACA and then tossed the hot-potato to congress.

Now he's saying the Democrats are filbiustering bills that don't get 50, much less 60 votes (i.e. are not getting REPUBLICAN votes, much less being filibustered by Democrats). He's saying this, probably, because his base will believe it--and he hopes some DACA recepients might believe it to (?).

Maybe he just thinks his base is that stupid.

NARRATOR'S VOICE: "Trump was right, his base DID believe it."

Of course the reason that Congress can't pass a DACA bill is because they have all the wrong incentives to. In the house, deep red districts want sympathetic DACA kids gone--thrown out. So there are a handful of reps who couldn't vote for a solid DACA solution even if they wanted to.

Then there are people who want to trade DACA-for-a-wall. That could actually happen (the Democrats would take the hit--but they've offered to)--BUT--it comes with Stephen Milller's wish to flat-line legal immigration from brown countries.

That has some, erm, racist overtones, so it has problems with certain REPUBLICANS who don't agree with that.

Then there's the president's base--who want DACA out-out-out. Trump may have a judo-grip on his base--but a big part of that is because of how he, um, interacts, with, um, brown people. It might be a bridge too far for him to let DACA people stay--and eventually vote.

The Omnivore suspects he's aware of that.

So what now?

Well, what now is that Congress still can't get its act together--but the smart money says Donald doesn't start deporting DACA dudes on March 5th. That's because there was no plan--there was just chaos.

Of course it'll be seen as a brilliant move by his base.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

There Is Nothing We Can Do?

The Omnivore doesn't need to tell you what happened.

Here's what you need to know:

  1. Gun advocates, as a whole, have decided that dead kids are the price of their freedom and that it's a fair trade.
  2. They'll point out that dead babies are the price of legal abortion--but most of America doesn't consider a 1st or 2nd trimester pregnancy a baby
    • Having a gun advocate tell you "well, they're wrong" means you've argued them into a corner. It's a judgment call that people legitimately get to make. No one advocates killing babies.
    • It's worth noting that the NRA is against legislation banning non-firing REPLICA weapons. In other words, not only is a fetus a baby but a non-firing replica gun is also a gun.
    • This is stupid.
What We Can Do

It has become fashionable to say there is no valid solution being offered by the "gun control guys" and that "none of the offered solutions would stop the school shootings. This is never said by the "gun control guys"--it's said by the gun advocates.

So let's put an end to this. Here are solutions that can, and would, have an impact without banning a single gun.
  1. National Firearms Database - This would link serial numbers of guns to purchasers. When a gun is recovered today it is exceedingly difficult to find out who it was sold to. The database would do 2 things. (a) It would help law-enforcement trace the origin of guns. (b) It would prevent sketchy parking lot gun sales: if I know the gun is in my name I am not going to sell it to sketchy-bob unless he performs the legal transfer of the ID-ownership.
  2. Better Gun Stats - The gun advocacy group has stopped the government from collecting good gun stats on the theory that it'll be used against them. Time to end this. Set up as non-partisan a group as you can and aggressively collect stats on shooting.
  3. Harden School Doors - If this sounds like "giving up" consider that it worked after 9/11. It could mitigate loss of life. Build them so that SWAT teams have an entry key.
  4. Let Gun Sellers Flag Customers - If a customer "doesn't seem right" have a method to flag them. This will involve a notifcation to Law Enforcement, a background check, and a social media scan (done with the help of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). If flags show up, Law Enforcement can check them out.
  5. Ban Military Profile Weapons - It is noteworthy that while hunting style guns exist with the exact same capabilities as the "Assault Weapons" (rifles with pistol grips) these have never been used in modern shootings. There is a reason for that--the psychological profile of the shooter is that he is a soldier. He wants a soldier-style weapon.
  6. Require Military Profile Weapons to be Painted PINK - Same theory. If this enrages a gun adovcate you know, well, that's how you know it'd be (somewhat) effective. 
  7. Have a State Voluntarily Participate In A 1-Decade Test Of Gun Licensing - Make it a test case, expires in 10 years (or 5, whatever). Buying a gun requires: A background check, a mental health exam, a social media scan, and a weapon competency test. See if that helps.
  8. Limit Magazine Size to 5 Rounds - Although millions of 30-Round magazines have been sold, most of them have not been sold to highschool shooters. If newly available magazines are limited to 5 rounds this will severely impact a rampage. Yes, an experienced shooter can swap them out or carry more guns--but, uh, if you are an experienced shooter and you think a 5 round limit wouldn't dampen your rampage you're fucking lying.
Don't let anyone tell you there's "nothing we can do"--there's a bunch of stuff.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Damage: Trump On Russia

This is an on-going set of posts on the damage that Trump and his administration is doing to America (by request from a Trump-Voter).

The Russia Denial

A key part of conspiracy theory is that, in order to defend it, you must have "something to hang your hat on." This means that the c-theorist needs any fact, any crack in the official story, which their opposition can't explain. After that, for the conspiratorialist, the entire conspiracy becomes true. When Trump provides those facts, he increases the conspiracy-mindset of his followers and drags America further and further into the rabbit hole of paranoia, logical deficency, and moral absence.

Even as our intelligence community says that Russia is gearing up for another assault on our election (in this case the midterms) Trump expresses doubts about whether they did anything in 2016 at all. The evidence, of course, is overwhelming that they did--the whole IC + Facebook + Twitter + data we can see (like the URL shortner used to hack Podesta and the Russian hacker who says he gave the data to Wikileaks, plus the Dutch intelligence release, and the leaked internal NSA memo)--all points in the same direction.

But for Trump-supporters it's all part of a bigger conspiracy. Or maybe we deserved it for doing the same thing? Or maybe it's really Obama's fault for not doing something stronger?

This, of course avoids the big question: With the chief beneficiary of the meddling being in the White House, and not just refusing to take a strong stance against it--but doing the opposite--engaging in a conspiracy-theory lie that the Russians didn't do anything--why wouldn't they keep going after us?

To say this is a deriliction of duty is an understatement.

How / Why The Russia Denial Works

The denial of Russian meddling is very important to Trump-Supporters because it provides a possibility that Trump's win was illigitimate. If you can prove that, for example, Russia got voter targeting data from the Trump campaign and used their propaganda as a surgical strike in swing states (note: there is no clear evidence of this and some that it's going in the other direction) then you could attribute Trump's super-narrow margin of victory (by around 100k votes across 3 states) to a hostile power.

The Omnivore doesn't think that'll come out--but the fact remains that Trump-Supporters are very upset by the idea of it. If Russia illegally funded campaign efforts through the NRA, if Russia operated specifically to release Clinton dirt at the most damaging times (even without coordination with the Trump campaign)--whatever the case--then the worst nightmare could be true: Trump might not have won without Russia.

Whether or not this is the case, the idea of there even being any directional evidence towards that is unthinkable.

So they don't think it.

Instead, what happens is you get the shape-shifting conspiracy theory that turns into whatever you need it to. What's that? Well, consider:

  1. Phase 1: There was no meddling but Team Hillary made it up after her loss to explain it (refuted by the Republicans themselves)
  2. Phase 2: Russia may have done something--but the real problem was that Obama and his traitorous DoJ illegally spied on Trump, wiretapping his tower (that didn't pan out)
  3. Phase 3: Okay, they didn't illegally wiretap Trump's tower but they illegally unmasked all kinds of Trump people because Obama is a super-partisan evil guy (Nope: turns out the unmasking was okay and done within routine parameters)
  4. Alright, maybe it was technically legal surveilance but this was still based on a completely forged FISA document designed to fool a judge (Nope: Nunes, the most partisan guy in the room, says the investigation started before Page--and then was forced to admit that they did disclose the general source of the information--just not, apparently, using the term 'Crooked Hillary Clinton.' They also did this after Carter Page left the campaign).
  5. Really, FISA warrants are too powerful--too easy to get--and this one was probably misused because THERE ARE QUESTIONS (why isn't Carter Page being charged?? Huh?? Huh??). Of course they just renewed the power without any additional controls so if the admin really did have it in for FISA that would be odd.
People on Team Trump believe one of these depending on how closely they follow the news or when they punch out of the information cycle. This goes hand in hand with things like believing that "The Nunes memo totally clears Trump and invalidates Mueller"--which Trump basically said and a lot of his followers believe.

Once you believe that, it must follow that huge portions of the entire US government are corrupt and anti-Trump (blatantly disregarding the law). If you think that . . . what do you think of America herself?

Does This Mean Nothing Wrong Was Done?

Of course The Omnivore calling bullshit on the polymorphic conspiracy theory doesn't mean that some new informaiton might come out that, indeed, proves that the Obama admin or the Hillary campaign behaved badly or misued a FISA warrant or something. That's certainly not impossible--but remember that right now, this theory allows all kinds of other conspiracies to flourish such as:

  1. Since the Russians, maybe, didn't do much / anything, it's clearly Hillary who had Seth Rich assassinated (see trusted Fox personality Sean Hannity for help that along).
  2. The Don Jr. meeting was a set-up sting operation by Fusion GPS (who was also hired by Republicans for oppo-research)--this renders his wish for Russian dirt something-something-something-something.
  3. The FBI is run by traitors. So too, the CIA. Probably the NSA. Basically everyone but Jeff Sessions and we're not too sure about him.
These theories, swimming around out there, being helped along by Fox & Friends (wiretapping Trump Tower) and Sean Hannity (Seth Rich) and the myraid of others is like an acid eating away at our cohesion as a country.

Russia is preparing to dump more acid on us--and Team Trump, with Trump's muddying of the waters, is really all for more of that.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Finding Memo

The #ReleaseTheMemo effort--a combination of MAGA-Hats and Russian bots (but The Omnivore repeats himself!)--got their way and, in what is becoming a pattern, may come to wish they hadn't. Breaking with the InfoWars playbook of claiming to have block-buster data--but never quite revealing it--Nunes released the kraken memo and it landed with a thud.

What we learned:

  • A little bit about how FISA courts work
  • That Papadoc had been being followed before the Cart Page stuff started
  • That, it turns out, Page had bragged about his Kremlin contacts (we learned this the day after from the TIME).
  • That the dossier was used in getting the warrant (but that each 90 days they had to keep the warrant open so some other info must have come out).
If you were Nunes, whose opponents are now using the memo to fundraise against him, why would you want to bring this on yourself?

A Specifc Play To The Base

The memo makes a specific play--a specific message to Trump's base. This is it: they have been convinced of several lies--to wit:
  • By virtue of not being verified the Steele dossier has been fully discredited. This is not true. Lack of verification of what happened inside the Kremlin is in no way the same as not having evidence that what Steele reports could well be true. The fact is: we don't know yet--but it's not insane to believe that significant portions of the Steele dossier are accurate.
  • That after many, many months of looking for evidence of "collusion," nothing has been found and therefore what remains is just a witch-hunt. This is not true. Firstly, the Don Jr. emails are evidence of what appears to be at least attempted collusion. The firing of Comey with an official story of "Hillary's Emails" and a real-reason of "Russia" plus lying about Don Jr.'s emails sure looks like a cover-up. There are allegations that Trump pressured people doing the GOP platform on Ukraine--and so on. A bunch of stuff "has been found" but we aren't doing  the investigation--the investigation has yet to conclude.
  • The Trump Jr. meeting was a GPS-Democrat set up/sting operation. In this lie, the lawyer's association with GPS is proof that the whole thing was a sting-op to trap Team Trump into . . . something (?). What, of course isn't clear. The fact that the Free Beacon (conservative) also hired GPS is easily forgotten by these people. Basically, there a pretty big issue with with theTrump Tower meeting and the base has have a reason to dispute it.
So what this memo does is try to tie the dossier--which the base believes is a work-of-fiction hit-job (which has been debunked) to the unlawful surveilance of Trump (yes, Carter Page--but remember, the base still thinks the FBI illegally wiretaped Trump--this is directionally important)--which means that the FBI--and therefore Mueller are trying to create false evidence with which to convict Trump.

The memo is just another talking point in this (stupid) line of reasoning--but it will help those who are having a hard time with cognitive dissonance sleep better.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Who Wins The Shutdown?

The Omnivore was asked who he thought would win the Government Shutdown--it's a hard call.

Some Of The Facts

Here are some relevant facts:

  1. The president was presented with a bipartisan agreement which he seemed initially very fond of. Later he wasn't. This (in theory) could have solved the whole problem right there. The Omnivore thinks the theory that immigration hardliners got to Trump and turned him around on it seems credible. Responsible Party: Republican Immigration Hard-Liners.
  2. On the other hand, the House passed a bill that offers a CR + CHIP. Now, the President tweeted he didn't want CHIP in a short-term deal--but whatevs. This is a clean bill that everyone, in theory, agrees on. The Democrats won't pass it beacause DACA. Responsible Party: Democrat High Command (some squishes might defect)
  3. HOWEVER: Both parties, in theory, want to do something about the Dreamers. There were promises made both by Trump and to Jeff Flake and others that there'd be a vote. Secondly, enough Republicans either are okay with the Dreamers or don't want to throw themselves on the "third rail" that there is likely a pretty decent compromise for the DACA recipients. If both sides say they want it then putting it in shouldn't be hard. But the R's won't because they want to use DACA for leverage. When you are using something you want for leverage, that's hostage-taking behavior. Responsible Party: Republican Establishment.
The Battlefield

This isn't all taking place in a vacumm--if it were the Republicans might have an edge on the Clean Bill + CHIP--aside from Democrats quoting the president saying "no," it's the kind of thing voters generally like (clean bills without stuff--especially immigration stuff--crammed in).

But it's not a fresh start. The Republicans have two headwins. The first is that they're the party of shutdowns--it's their brand. They speak fondly of the last one after which they won a bunch of seats in Congress (there's no cause & effect here--but it didn't sink them either).

Still--it's their brand.

The second problem is the media. If the media tells exactly the (true) story that the Republicans want to tell then the Democrats are choosing illegal immigrants over kids. If the media expands the (true) story to say things like "The Republicans let CHIP lapse because they were focused on tax cuts" then things get worse.

If the media tells the (true) Democrat version of the story that the Republicans are forcing a Sophie's choice between "DACA kids" (who are not kids--but were when they came) and "healthy kids" then it gets even worse. It's a super-villain move.

So which story will the mainstream media tell? The Omnivore expects one of the last two and some outlets leaning heavily on the last one. That isn't good for R's.

The Other Thing

The other sore point for the Republicans is that they do control Congress and the White House. Yes--not with a super-majority--but they suffer defections in their own ranks on this bill and internal criticisms and some unseemly power-plays. For casual observers it may look just like a mess and everyone loses--but the R's need to win this in order for it to be worthwhile (that is either get some good concessions like a "Wall For DACA" or have Dem-favs go down while R's go up or at least stay steady).

Betting on this to happen based on the cold facts of the matter seems risky to The Omnivore.


Will there be a shutdown? The Omnivore puts the odds at, what? 80% now? Assuming they have 3 hours left to make a deal--The Omnivore bets against it.

Who wins? That's a lot tougher to say. But The Omnivore goes 60-40 D's because of the media bias (no joke here--there are multiple factually true stories and the media will determine which one they like best).

Update: Last night it happened--the government shut down. It might last until Monday--it could last longer. Some of the press (AP and NYT) blamed the Democrats in their headline--so that's good for Republicans but The Omnivore thinks this still has a few twists and turns to go.

McConnell baldly pitting CHIP against DACA may backfire as unseemly (it makes the choice "too obvious" and too clearly engineered). Also there were 5 Democrats voting in favor of the Senate bill and 4 Republicans voting against it.

If the Democrats had been forced to filbuster it would be easier to pin on them--but they weren't: McConnell couldn't get his entire caucus in line.

So we're still out at sea here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Is Trump Cray?

The spectacle of Trump giving a 55 minute press conference to try to refute the charges that he's lost it is humiliating on a national level in and of itself--but The Omnivore has been charged with thinking / assuming the president is mentally incapacitated and, you know, has this blog-thing wherein he can actually say what he thinks.

So he will.

Here you go . . .

The Definition of an Alcoholic

The first thing about diagnosing mental illness is that part of the definition is suffering. That is: being an alcoholic is defined by having persistent and significant problems in your life due to drinking. If you are drinking a bottle of vodka every day for lunch and doing fine? You're not an alcoholic.

Same for narcissism or pathological lying: if you lie all the time and people are good with it--you don't fit the disease. Indeed, why would you stop?? Trump certainly thinks highly of himself--but he is wealthy and is president--so why shouldn't he.

Trump certainly says things that aren't true all the time. Is this part of marketing and branding? Or can he not help himself? No one can say.

These are not pathologies in the technical sense (although they may fall under the "being a jerk" category if you wish to place them there).

So, no--as it stands, The Omnivore doesn't think you can diagnose the president with an actual psychological illness?

What About Dementia?

The Wolff book and several other observers have claimed that either (a) Trump is showing signs of dementia (slurred speech, less use of language facility, whatever-whatever-whatever) or (b) in private is repeating the same stories over and over, not recognizing friends, etc. These are charges--are they true?

The Omnivore likes the recent David Brooks column where he notes that people who meet 1:1 with the president usually come away pleasantly surprised. The Omnivore can't confirm that this is the case (not knowing anyone who has recently met with the president) but thinks there is strong reason to believe it is likely true: if random people were meeting with the president and he was drooling on the presidential desk, we'd know.

So what gives?

Well, here's what The Omnivore does think:

  1. Trump is in way over his head and can't recognize that. At the prove-I'm-lucid meeting, Trump indicated that he has very little idea how immigration policy works and his response to being asked for a "clean bill" was not lucid. That means he doesn't have a grip on policy vision. It doesn't mean his mind is going.
  2. Trump was there for 55 minutes. He did a good job for 55 minutes--but we don't know how his temperament would hold up for, say, the 11 hours Hillary spent under questioning. Issues of mental facility aside, The Omnivore isn't sure he'd bet on the president making it through that without a temper-tantrum. 
  3. There are reports that his attention span and willingness to take in information is limited (that the daily briefing is simplified, that there is a folder-of-praise created for him, that flattery is required to hold his interest). Certainly other countries believe this is the case, wining and dining him like no other president The Omnivore can remember. The president's published videos of sycophantic praise are cringe-inducing. So there are at least several publicly available data points in this direction.
So what have we got?

What HAVE We Got?

He's probably about average for a 71 year old guy--meaning he's likely slowed down from where he was a few decades ago. He definitely doesn't seem to be a big thinker about policy--he didn't seem conversant with health care or his tax bill. He has more or less said he'll sign anything they'll put in front of him. He understands some issues with immigration but agreed verbally to a "clean DACA bill" which is both at odds with his party's position and was redacted from the published transcript.

So this isn't a genius we're talking about here. This is a guy whose priority is to "rack up wins" and doesn't care how he gets them. Statesmanship this ain't.

This is also someone who may very well not pay a lot of attention to things that are outside his expertise. He seems to think highly of himself as an expert in all things--but when put to the test (design a health care plan that helps his base and is better than Obamacare) fails and blames others. 

So crazy? No. Demented? Probably not. Slower than he'd like us to think? Yeah--probably. Emotionally volatile? Definitely. Priority on wins over any specific policy vision or outcome? Looks that way.

But not crazy. 

On "President Oprah"

At this point it should go without saying that it could happen. If Oprah decided to run she would (a) enjoy an edge over other celebrity aspirants and (b) offer the Democrats a way out of their own internal civil war that would not involve the hard work of picking a platform and running on it.

People laughing at the idea of an Oprah-administration should not underestimate how powerful those two things are: the will to win is a powerful thing and Oprah, arguably, would provide that. We should understand that a huge--if hard to quantify--part of the presidency is the wielding of charisma. The taller candidate has an edge. The more handsome candidate usually has an edge. The ability to look good and connect on TV is a significant driver--policy is for the wonks.

The have-a-beer-with test is a real thing.

Women across the spectrum would love to have a mimosa with Oprah, avers The Omnivore. The Omnivore feels pretty safe in that analysis too.

The Shoulder Angel

Trump won the GOP nomination and then--barely--the presidency. He did this, however, despite representing the most troublesome part of the GOP. He represented the inchoate insurgency against the imaginary swamp (notably: no one who hates the swamp can figure out what to replace it with, save for grand culture-war gestures of vanishingly little merit. Attempts to replace it with 'real conservatives' give us people like Roy Moore).

He appealed strongly to the racists--and to the ethno-nationalists for whom making America great again hearkened back to a time when the military didn't allow transgendered troops and gays couldn't marry--and it was okay to say "nigger."

Worse, for party unity, Trump held no deep conservative vision. He felt that women should be punished for seeking abortions--a view that while reasonably logical was at odds with decades of careful positioning for the Pro-Life community. He claimed religiosity--while clearly understanding none of it. He had "secret plans" to defeat ISIS and would end Obamacare and replace it with something great.

And so on--and so on. For deep conservative thinkers he was the parody of what Democrats said conservatives were: shallow, racist, and mean.

Oprah, on the other hand, probably has a similar depth of policy ideas (The Omnivore shudders to think of what her foreign policy would consist of) but in terms of appeal she is the "shoulder angel" to Trump's shoulder-devil.

She isn't mean. She would enjoy bi-partisan and cross-racial support. She is hawkish enough not to alienate moderates on both sides of the aisle (she apparently had reasonable support for the Iraq war). She has great oration skills and empathy. In short, she presents a caricature of the centrist idea of a candidate (albeit one with no governance experience).

So she provides a medium-cooked-steak to Trump's bloody, raw one.

This is exactly the kind of get-out-of-jail-free card the Democrats would love to have--and presently don't. There is no ideal candidate in their roster. There are some young guns who are too young (and hated by the Bernie-base). There are a bunch of old hands who are way too old. 

There's Bernie Sanders.

The Omnivore would probably vote Oprah over Sanders if it somehow came to it.

:: shudder ::

One more thing . . .

Oprah Upsets All The "Right People"

Don't, erm, misunderestimate the power of political office as a tool for cultural vengeance--that was arguably Trump's biggest appeal. Oprah would be the converse: the serious misogynists would certainly hate her. The racists would hate her--but she isn't a hairy-arm-pitted lesbian feminist burning her bra while shouting "HASHTAG-YES-ALL-MENZ!!"

She isn't a Black-Lives-Matter rioter.

Sanders voters would hate her because she isn't Bernie and isn't a self-professed socialist.

Part of Oprah's appeal to the center also means she would be an anathema to the fringes--that is just "how these things work" but it's also a point of appeal to the people who would be considering her nomination. The fact that she would strongly appeal to voters "in the center" (meaning the vast hordes of voters who have muddy ideas about policy and are making choices based on limited intellectual contact with the political process) would, The Omnivore thinks, mean she strongly antagonizes the outer edges.

That's a selling point right there if you're the right (or, uhm, wrong) kind of person.

So Will She Do It?

Good question--but as much as The Omnivore hates making predictions, there is little reason to ask a question on a blog no one reads without coming down somewhere. So The Omnivore comes down here:

  1. She Runs - She is one of the most accomplished people in the world. You don't get there without ambition and drive. She doesn't seem old and dried up and bored. The American presidency is a great mountain to climb. The Omnivore holds she tries to climb it.
  2. She Has A Good Chance of Winning The Nomination - She will be running against people like Corey Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, and so on. Do you know all those names well? No? Well then--that's part of the test right there.
  3. In The General She Has as Good A Chance As Anyone - Let's be real, folks--the press would love her. Like, "Obama-who??" levels of love. Assuming that it's Oprah v Trump (which is likely--Trump could be primaried or indicted--but these are marginal chances) then it's a real showdown--with the exception that Trump polls in the 30's right now and it seems unlikely that Hillary voters would cross over to Trump instead of Winfrey.  She might even get Obama to campaign for her.
  4. President Oprah - IT HAS COME TO THIS
Will this happen? Man, The Omnivore hopes not--but the above scenario is not the path of "greatest resistance."