Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/17: The New Truthers

I have an early morning D.C. Bar program to do, and my goal of getting up at six after watching the second season of “Stranger Things” on Netflix (and waiting for someone to accuse Eleven  of sexual assault …this is how Netflix’s luck is running these days) until 1:30 am was missed spectacularly, to this is a quick ethics thought rather than a true warm-up.

The thought?

The “Russiagate” is this President’s “Birther” conspiracy, his “Truther” smear, and the 2016-17 model of “Bush stole the election.”

I realized this while reading one of our esteemed commenters who obviously believes Donald Trump made some nefarious deal with the Russians to sabotage Hillary. He really believes this. So does my sister, who I know a lot better, and has never before been prone to seeing Bigfoot under her bed or Nessie in her toilet.

This idiot also believes:

“We just have to, like the slogan says, stay woke; just stay woke, be careful, because I can see the wheels turning now…we’re marching toward impeachment, there’s no question about it. If that happens, are we prepared? Because it’s going to happen, So we have to make sure, Rev. Sharpton, that we are prepared when this happens so we don’t just wake up one day blindsided. I think it’s just going to get so tight and it’s going to close in and then everybody is going to be indicted around this president, and then he is going to realize he is probably next on the list. And I think he is going to come up with an excuse like ‘somebody is trying to kill Barron, and so I’m going to resign.’”

Who actually said this in public, so it could be recorded fr posterity? Why, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), that’s who, the objective member of the Congressional Black Caucus who the news media relied on to give an objective assessment of the tone of President Trump’s bereavement call to the widow of a serviceman killed by ISIS in Niger. Her characterization of Trump’s remarks as “insulting” and, by extension, racist, were sufficient to launch more than a week of attacks on the President’s competence and compassion.

I don’t doubt the good Congresswoman’s sincerity; I’m sure she believes this fantasy. I’m sure she believes those hats she wears aren’t ridiculous too. Nonetheless, there is no justification for her certitude, and only hate, confirmation bias and a refusal to abide by basic rules of logic cause her to believe what is now the fourth in a 17 year line of unethical partisans manufacturing a narrative to delegitimize an elected President.

Once again I am sorry that the Ethics Scoreboard is offline (I have to get around to fixing that), because in several posts there during the Bush administration I predicted where the Democratic strategy of claiming that Gore actually won Florida would lead: massive distrust, polarization, and a tit-for-tat payback cycle that would do massive harm to U.S. society. Many Democrats still claim that the 2000 election was stolen. Then the more hyper-partisan and conspiracy theory-prone of them moved on to Truther theories that Bush and Cheney somehow and for some reason engineered the 9-11 attacks.

I’ve talked to these people. I’ve read their websites. They are mad as hatters, but it all begins with the fact that they don’t trust Bush, Cheney and the Republicans because they stole the election. Actually, these crackpots have more substance to base their conviction on than the “Russiagate” theory contains. When Obama was elected, the same thing occurred: conservatives (and racists) could not accept that an inexperienced, far left ideologue like Barack Obama, with ties to America-haters like Bill Ayers and Reverent Wright, could be President. So they came up with, and many somehow believed— the Birther foolishness, easily the most absurd of the anti-President disinformation slanders yet.

Yes, I see the condign justice of sorts in President Trump, as a shameless purveyor of birtherism, being hounded by another bad faith conspiracy theory. However, the news media didn’t aid and abet that one, so it never went anywhere, and even the Republican Party refused to endorse it. Desperate and angry, and enabled by the fractured country Barack Obama left in his wake, Democrats arrived at the Russian collusion narrative after other Hail Mary attempts  to reverse the election—riots, hijacking the Electoral College, preemptive impeachment on various crackpot theories—had flopped.

This has to stop. It is democratic cannibalism and the equivalent of the Hatfields vs. the McCoys. Is every President going to have to endure a symbolic knee-capping of his credibility , until the Office of the American President confers no confidence or trust at all?

That seems to be where we are heading.

By the way, I’ll take Rep. Wilosn’s bet and give her 100-1 odds. Donald Trump will not resign, will not be impeached, and will not quit claiming that Barron’s life is in danger.

I’m a mad risk-taker that way.

93 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/17: The New Truthers

  1. Spot on Jack. Ghostly hanging chads were the beginning of the end of bridging the bias-ideological chasm. Biggest concern is the side the Congresswoman is on favors, likely unwittingly, the end of Constitutional protections making her public pronouncements possible. Worse than sad.

  2. Seriously? 100 to 1 odds? Can I get some side action on that bet? The Vegas odds on his finishing his term are currently 4:6 – that is, better than even against.

    I realize you’re being rhetorical and a bit over the top here, but I do worry a bit that scouring the bottom of the fringe left-wing ponds is driving you in the direction of the fringe right-wing ponds.

    Remember, they got Al Capone on income tax evasion.

    • Seriously? 100 to 1 odds? Can I get some side action on that bet? The Vegas odds on his finishing his term are currently 4:6 – that is, better than even against.

      Charles, do you know how Vegas odds work? It isn’t some magical number set by professional gamblers who have years of insight. It simply means that more people are betting on Trump’s not finishing than his getting through.

      Think about that, and it’s easy to see why these odds are stupid. All the betting energy about something like this is on the side of Trump opponents, especially the foreign bettors who don’t really understand the American political system. Trump’s supporters aren’t plunking their money down on this because a) they don’t care enough to do so or are unwilling to wager on anything and b) they rationally fear the unethical media assault on Trump might be enough to force him out.

      It won’t be, and Jack is right. I wouldn’t take Jack’s odds, but I’d plunk 300 bucks down at Vegas’ odds on the “don’t” if I were going out there this year. It’s about the best bet available in the town right now.

      • >> Trump’s supporters aren’t plunking their money down on this because a) they don’t care enough to do so or are unwilling to wager on anything and b) they rationally fear the unethical media assault on Trump might be enough to force him out.

        Don’t overlook rational and patriotic Americans who view the very idea on betting for or against the President of the United States to be obscene. “Vegas” betting completely overlooks what I still hope and believe is at least a silent majority.

        • “Trump’s supporters aren’t plunking their money down on this because…they rationally fear the unethical media assault on Trump might be enough to force him out.”

          Doesn’t that mean Trump supporters agree the odds are about right?

          • It means that they absorb some of the deluge of speculation and theories, like anyone else. A majority of Americans still think there was a second shooter. Anything is possible, and a stupid, unlikely plot—without supporting evidence—is more likely to have occurred when someone is suspected who 1) we don’t trust and 2) we don’t think is very bright. So I think the stupid kid down the street with a lot of rumors swirling around him is more likely to have committed a crime somewhere than the cute 13-year old girl next door. But probabilities aren’t evidence.

        • All the more reason for rational Americans who DON’T confuse small betting on political events with patriotism to intervene and perform the classic arbitrage function that creates (highly Anerican-values-congruent) efficient markets.

    • What is the source for these odds? Yes death, incapacity, resignation and forced removal are all possibilities that, taken together, make the possibility more than remote that he will not make it to 2021, but it is far better than 50/50 that he finishes his term.

      These odds sound like fake news in furtherance of the leftist echo chamber — I would not believe it unless I was actually able to place that bet.

        • He could shoot someone on 5’th avenue and the republican congress wouldn’t impeach him.

          On the other hand, I’m not sure shooting someone is impeachable. See Burr, AAron Jackson, Andrew and Cheney, Richard.

          • I don’t know. I think lots of Republicans would love a reason to get Trump out of there and elevate Pence.

            And how can non-presidents like Burr and Cheney be impeached?

            • Vice-presidents can be impeached, so can judges. Probably cabinet secretaries too. Not congresscritters though, they get expelled.

        • Impeachment and forced removal from office are two very different things. The former requires little more than the Democrats to take over the House. The latter is far-fetched, barring evidence of a serious crime.

          • Yes, this always bears repeating. The two thirds majority is a properly difficult bar that requires bi-partisan near consensus of a serious offense.

            I also have to believe that the Maxine Waters theory of impeachment would be rejected by enough Democrats to make impeachment in the House unlikely absent real substance. The intelligent Democrats have to comprehend that setting a precedent where impeachment is on the table any time the White House and the House are held by different parties would be chaotic. Clinton, after all, did lie under oath and did obstruct justice—that’s impeachable. It was only a partisan impeachment in the sense that Democrats abandoned their integrity.

      • “…far better than 50/50 that he finishes his term.

        “These odds sound like fake news in furtherance of the leftist echo chamber — I would not believe it unless I was actually able to place that bet.”

        You can place that bet. In a real market. With real money. And if you think, as you apparently do, that the odds are “far better than 50/50,” then you ought to mop up some easy money, because you’ll fine lots of people willing to take your money.

        Go sign up for Look for the White House Politics section of the site. Go place your bets on “Will Trump be President at Year-end 2018?” (Note that isn’t even finishing his term, that’s just end of next year).

        The current bidding is 67/33, that is, 67% are betting that he WILL be President on 12/31/2018, and 33% are betting he will not. Is that longer than 50/50? Yes, it’s 2:1 against him leaving office in the next 14 months.

        That’s far from “fake news in furtherance of the leftist echo chamber,” but that doesn’t matter – if you’re a cold-hearted gambler who just wants to collect the money, go put your money down. Those are the odds you’re being offered by other people willing to put their money where their mouth is.

        Now I’ll be the first to admit, that’s a poker-money website. There are rules in the US about gambling on political events, and sites like PredictIt skirt the rules by being about academic research. You could argue, fairly, that because the amounts being spent are small, it’s easy to indulge one’s political fantasies for cheap. Then again, I’m not averse to picking up a few thousand bucks betting where I think the odds lie; and I suggest they’re a lot closer to 50/50 than they are to 100:1.

        How about it, Glenn? You don’t have to go to Vegas to plunk down your $300, you can do it right this minute from the comfort of your own lounge chair. Is 2:1 easy money for you? I’ll take your bet. And we can both watch the prices evolve in real time as next year approaches.

        On a more theoretical note, to Glenn’s argument that these are just polling numbers, note there are four kinds of betting markets. Broadly speaking they are:
        – TV odds makers who are just spouting ideas for ratings
        – Pollsters masquerading as oddsmakers
        – Parimutuel betting (think race tracks)
        – True market makers, who have to quote odds to cover their spreads

        I think Glenn is confusing the second and third. A polling site that quotes “odds” is indeed, as he says, just putting out the people’s mass votes; you get the same kind of distortion when a Fox News does an online poll – results that are skewed by the audience who watches.

        The third type, if you can find one, is not skewed at al. If you watch the odds change at a race track before the start, you’ll see major shifts in the last 60 seconds, as the smart money comes in and cleans up on the stupid weekend/emotional money that has managed to get the ‘true’ odds quite wrong.

        I don’t know if there is such a site that fills the specs for political betting. The aforementioned PredictIt site ticks those boxes EXCEPT for it’s not large-scale. I don’t know how big the handle is on any given bet, but I suspect it’s closer to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars than it is to millions. This is important because the bigger the money, the more attracted the site will be for serious gamblers who really do know the odds and are willing to eat up all the suckers who are blinded by their political ideologies to the true reality.

        So: to the extent that PredictIt is a Big Market (and I don’t know that extent), it fills the bill of type three: a fair and efficient market that is self-balancing because of the self-interest and smarts of the objective bettors who arbitrage the hot-headed types on both sides.

        Meanwhile: for the $300 bettors like me and Glenn, there’s where we can have our side bet.

        (And if you just can’t stand a 14-month bet, there’s another on right now where you can bet on whether the next 538 Average of Polls, coming out on November 6, will be above or below his last week’s rating of 37.8. Right now the betting on that event is close to 50/50, and we’ll know by Monday. Those strike me also as fair odds, though I’d note that his 538 rating has been declining for nearly every three-week moving average since he got elected.

        • My entire career as a gambler was limited to one private bet of $20 on the Lakers losing the 2004 NBA Finals. I decided not to press my luck after that, and never gambled on anything ever again. I don’t believe in it on principle. If I did, I would absolutely take those odds.

          I know enough to know that public sentiment skews propositions like this, making it a golden opportunity for the coldly logical. Bettors put far too much confidence in Floyd Mayweather’s opponents, for example, not because there’s any reason to think he’ll lose…but simply because people REALLY want him to lose. Less than half of people around the world believe that Al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11. Something like 25% to one third of Democrats believe that George Bush was somehow involved. You can capitalize on that kind of derangement.

          • Isaac, I don’t understand your point.

            Are you saying that you are one of the “coldly logical” types and that is why you would “absolutely take those odds?” (I presume you mean you’d take the 2 in the 2:1?). Does that mean you think the real odds are more like 10:1? 50:1? 100:1?

            Given your other statement that “public sentiment skews propositions like this,” you are apparently implying that therefore the market is skewed.

            What’s your basis for saying that?

            Note that the site also has active markets for bets like Who Will be elected German Chancellor, and Will Scotland Move Toward Independence in 2017, and Will Netanyahu be Indicted in 2017?

            Is it your opinion that all those markets are likewise skewed because of partisan politics? Is it your opinion that a single bias skews all such bets, or that the market is made up of a disparate bunch of siloed ideologues? If the latter, what is your opinion of the particular bias in each of those bets?

            Let me suggest to you another hypothesis: that the site is made up of a bunch of political junkies whose primary focus is not on “left wing echo chambers” in US politics, but rather on a complex set of global dynamics and how they are playing out – including in the US.

            I certainly respect your principled refusal to engage in gambling of any sort, but at the same time that may result in a bias on your part about understanding what’s really going on here. (Insert joke about popes pontificating about sex).

            May I suggest that – if you haven’t already done so – you visit the site itself and get some real information before pontificating about it.

          • “My entire career as a gambler was limited to one private bet of $20 on the Lakers losing the 2004 NBA Finals.”

            I placed one $20 bet once with a bookie friend on a Monday Night Football game back in 1980, the spread was 4.

            The team I bet on was down 2 with time running out and 4th & 3 from chip shot field goal range.

            They could have kicked the FG and won, but went for it and got stuffed, turning it over on downs.

            It appears they sought to win and cover rather than just win.

            With greater forces at play than I could muster, I decided to devote my energies to something with better odds, like the commodities market…

    • Charles, what do you think are the odds that a President engaged in treason to win an election, absent any evidence whatsoever? Vegas odds reflect betting, and Vegas betters read headlines, not evidence, Here’s the kind of article that inflates odds:

      Pradoning Manfort and firing Meuller won’t help Trump…WHAT? The article assumes that he did something, and there is no evidence whatsoever. The whole tilt of the press coverage and the statements from Democarts is that this is a case of proving a crime that has occurred—how do they know it has occurred? Hillary lost, didn’t she?

      Insanity. 100-1 are fair odds, 1000 to 1 would be fairer.

        • I don’t bet against the United States of America, Presidents, loyalty, and common sense.

          The people pushing the Russia theory need to be labeled the bad guys, Charles—just like the Birthers and Truthers. It’s the same tactic exactly.

          • You are pushing this way out of bounds.

            I stated a probabilistic hypothesis—namely that the odds of Trump being out of office in 14 months is far closer to 30% than to 1%.

            Rational argument, loyalty to country, birtherism, left-Wing press – none of that has anything to do with a cold rational calculation of the odds.

            Whether you, or I, or anyone else thinks of themselves as left-wing, right wing, middle of the road – it should have nothing to do with a cold and sober assessment of the probabilities of that hypothesis.

            Whether you think he is being evil, or a victim of witchhunts—neither should have anything to do with an assessment of probabilities.

            It doesn’t take much to conclude that this president is in comparatively serious trouble. His popularity ratings are the lowest since Truman, for example.

            We can have many political arguments to be sure, or of right and wrong, but if the question is one of probabilities, that has nothing to do with it.

            I’ll take all the 1.000-to-1 bets you can throw down.

      • Charles, what do you think are the odds that a President engaged in treason to win an election, absent any evidence whatsoever?

        This president? With “treason” meaning “I’ll help you if you help me,” or alternately, “I’ll help you because you have dirt on me?”

        I’m not good at calculating odds, but I’d say the odds of this are non-zero.

      • 2 out of 45 Presidents have been impeached; that alone is nearly 4% odds, and this President faces more than average chances of bad endings. How you can figure between 1% and 0.1% in such circumstances just seems like clouded thinking.

      • Absurd?

        Someone quotes odds on an event. I offer differing odds and a rationale for those odds (in this case a live functioning market in exactly that event).

        How is that “absurd”?

        Jack, and everyone else on this blog deserves to be taken seriously, and that includes taking them at their word. Which I did. Without resorting to mere insults.

        • You’ve got to be freaking kidding me Charles; Rep. Frederica Wilson is out there fanning the flames of the resistance with utter bull shit and you choose to cherry pick 10 words out of Jack’s 825 word blog and drag the conversation down a friggin’ rat hole of absurdity with your baited deflection that ignores the core of the blog content and somehow I’m the one that’s being disrespectful?

          What the hell’s wrong with you Charles?

  3. ”Many Democrats still claim that the 2000 election was stolen.”

    Perhaps this latest watershed moment might give democrats pause to reflect on the undeniable fact that they’re heading in a discernible direction.

    As in “off a cliff.”

    “Hillary Clinton receives 2017 Democratic Woman of the Year Award”

    Yessirree! Bill Ayers’ “Guilty as sin, free as a bird — what a country, America” ring true yet again!

  4. I think that Representative Frederick Wilson has joined the Maxine Waters faction of the lunatic left and it is truly sad that more than a handful of Americans will believe her wacko conspiracy theories. Have you any shame Representative Wilson or a wit of common sense?

  5. Jack,

    You’ve compared the Russian collusion theory to birtherism and trutherism before, and the comparison just doesn’t work.

    What made birtherism and trutherism so stupid wasn’t just the lack of positive evidence for them, it was that they were fundamentally unbelievable, and many of their premises impossible. Both required the accused to be both evil masterminds behind complex plots and so dumb that they could be found out by your average InfoWars commenter. Birtherism required Obama to have forged not one, but two legal birth certificates, that were good enough to fool the Hawaiian authorities (who may have been in on it) but not good enough to fool ShariaH8ter69 from Gainesvillle, FLA. It required Obama to travel back in time to plant a birth announcement in a Hawaiian paper. Trutherism required that Bush be so evil as to kill 3,000 Americans and so clever as to frame Al Qaeda for it, while also being dumb as a rock. “It was a certification of live birth, not a birth certificate” wasn’t quite as dumb as “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams,” but it was close.

    “Bush stole the election” is probably your best comparison, and is a great deal softer than the other two; it doesn’t even require anything sinister on the part of Bush, from what I understand. Purveyors of this theory weren’t actually accusing Bush of wrongdoing, from what I understand, but believed that Gore was the rightful winner. This didn’t require elaborate conspiracies, just procedural ignorance. In a way, then, it’s even softer than the Russia theory, which does require a belief that Donald Trump did something sinister.

    But on that note…even if you are correct that the red flags that others have noticed don’t count as “evidence” (and in a legal sense, you may be right)…can you honestly tell me that the idea that Donald Trump made some kind of deal with Russia that he would give them favorable treatment in exchange for their help with the election is unbelievable?

    I’m not asking if there’s positive evidence for it. I already know your answer to that. But again, birtherism and trutherism weren’t so awful just because of the lack of evidence. They were so stupid that a rational person could dismiss them instantly as “That would never happen.” I don’t think you can compare the Trump Russia thing to that; you can’t say Trump wouldn’t do this. It doesn’t require him to be particularly smart, or even evil; just craven and selfish, which we already know he is. You can’t say it’s impossible, or that Trump or his people didn’t have the opportunity to do this. We know they had multiple opportunities, and that they lied about the existence and content of each one.

    I won’t go into the red flags that make my opinion tip from “plausible” to “likely” here; we’ve been over it. I’ll just point out that plenty of objective, right-leaning people are seeing what you’re not. Cathy Young sees it. Ken White sees it. Rod Dreher sees it. (Well, I hate to call him rational, given how he goes apoplectic any time he has to think about LGBT people, but still.) I’ll also point out that there was never any FBI investigation into whether Bush did 9/11, or Obama’s birth certificate, while there is an FBI investigation into Trump’s peoples inappropriate contacts with Russians.

    None of this proves guilt, but that has never been my argument. My argument here has always been that the Russia/Trump collusion story is plausible, and needs further investigation. Your argument is that it is objectively stupid and anyone who gives it any credence at all is a conspiracy theorist. That’s just wrong, Jack.

    • Very level-headed and thoughtful, Chris. I don’t see a counter-argument (and none posted here yet) against your claim that the Russia/Trump story is plausible, which distinguishes it from the other outright-Stupid stuff around “birtherism” and “trutherism.”

      It’s a distinction that seems to me quite self-evident. But tellingly, it apparently isn’t self-evident to Our President.

      • That’s just your own arbitrary line in the sand though. The Russia, Truther, and Birther conspiracies have exactly the same amount of hard evidence supporting them: zero. That’s what makes them comparable.

        If I didn’t like you and therefore pulled a conspiracy theory directly out of my posterior about you being a sexual harasser, and I made my story PLAUSIBLE, so that you couldn’t easily debunk it, but did not name the victim and provided no evidence whatsoever, would you shrug your shoulders if half the world believed it?

        It would appear that you’re leaping the chasm between “conceivable” and “believable.”

        • More seriously, the birther and truther conspiracies – as Chris pointed out – are on their face RIDICULOUS. Evidence is relevant to proof, but it is not necessary to suggest absurdity.

          Is it possible that Obama and his mother really pulled all those moves and contrived to plant a fake birth certificate all those years ago? To quote David Hume, when asked on his deathbed whether he was willing to recant his atheism and confess the existence of the Lord Jesus Christ, “It is not inconceivable.”

          Not being inconceivable is a far lower bar than absence of proof. And it’s about the most you can say about birtherism.

          • All four are either ridiculous or contrary to facts and logic, or both. You and I can see that Truthers are nuts, but talk to one. They have facts, they have “studies,” they completely think Bush and Cheney are so evil that that they would bomb their own country. Similarly, the “Rushers”—I’m looking for a good name—hate and distrust Trump so much, they think he’d commit treason. That’s nuts. Trump comes from no traditions or culture that would trigger such conduct. He’s as American as apple pie, and far less neurotic than, say, Nixon.

            A classmate of mine from high school, a brillaint man, a friend and doctor, inssited on this blog that the Birther theories were correct. He believes it. He’s not a racist and he’s not stupid by any means.

            In the end, when nothing is found showing any illegal “collusion”, lots of people will still be convinced it happened, just as so man Democrats swear the Supreme Court stole the 2000 election, just as others think Obama was born in Kenya, just as my friends who moved out of the US to Canada think I’m a dupe because I believe that terrorists flew the 9-11 planes.

            “Ridiculous” is subjective. “There is no evidence that this is true” is not.

            • . Trump comes from no traditions or culture that would trigger such conduct.

              I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. No culture tolerated treason against itself…by this logic, no American could be capable of treason.

              I also think you’re missing that the treasonous acts in question amount to either going along with blackmail, or a simple quid pro quo—“You help me, and I help you.” Isn’t the latter exactly what conservatives have been accused Hillary Clinton of doing with the Uranium deal? I don’t recall you calling this story a “conspiracy theory.” Is the argument that Hillary Clinton *was* raised in a tradition or culture which would trigger such conduct? Is it that since she was not elected president, she is thus more capable of working to help another country at the expense of her own for personal gain than Trump is, since he was elected president? Is is that she is more “monstrous” than Trump? None of these are credible.

    • It is not plausible. It is only plausible to those who think Trump is some kind of a monster. He is not a monster. He lacks a lot of things, but he’s probably less of a monster than several other Presidents. He is, however, an American who was a nominee for President, None of these yet has been a traitor. Nixon was close, when he sabotaged LBJ’s peace talks. Trump is an American through and through. He has never uttered a word or a sentiment that hints at a willingness to betray his nation. Chris–I’m surprised at you, Charlie—is hostage to that Nazi, racist, crazy super-villain Trump cartoon the “the resistance” has been selling since last November.

      • So your position actually is “Trump would never do that.”

        Well, then we will never agree. I absolutely find it plausible that Trump is selfish enough to give Russia what they want in exchange for their help, or as a result of being blackmailed. There is nothing about his character that indicates he would not do so. Your argument seems to be “He couldn’t have done this because he’s the president, and I can’t accept that any president would do this.”

        Well, Trump has done a lot of things that no president has ever done before. Why couldn’t he have done this?

  6. I said sometime in the last three years or so that the division between the political sides in this country was widening from line to crack to chasm to Biblical great gulf that no one could cross. Zoltar has a little more faith in human nature than I do, but the sad fact is that trust is like glass – easily shattered, very hard to piece back together again. This nation’s trust in its leadership mostly healed from Nixon’s betrayal of that trust, but it was never quite the same, even if a good number of us wanted it to be. There are still more than a few folks, mostly on the left, who lambaste Ford for pardoning Nixon to “close and seal this book,” and say Nixon should have been tried, and a lot of them were right there saying “see! see!” when Reagan’s presidency almost, but not quite, unraveled over the Iran-Contra scandal. Curiously, a lot of those voices said not a word when Clinton turned the White House into the Whore House, but a lot of other voices on the other side spoke and indeed shouted that he needed to be removed. You know the rest and it’s already been written above.

    The fact is that at this point a good number of the people in this nation put their allegiance first to their way of thinking, which usually mirrors whichever party they choose to join. They refuse to even listen to what the other side has to say, because they know they won’t agree with it, so what’s the point?

    Howard Dean was the symptom, not the cause, when he said that the role of the opposition was just to oppose everything the other party does (though he changed his tune last year when he was going to run for DNC chair). The side effect of that, though, is that then nothing gets done and you get very little except bruised egos and wounds that the wounded swear to avenge one day. The good of this country quickly moves very far down the list from whatever you can do to hurt the other side and interfere with their efforts. Conversely, when your priority becomes hurting the other side and interfering with their efforts, the value of behaving in an honorable manner goes way, waaaaaay down, since behaving honorably might hamper your primary priority.

    It’s sometimes effective, but not honorable, to attack the other side’s people personally or through their families in an attempt to bench or sideline them, or wound them so they will be less effective. It’s often effective, but not honorable, to hype half-truths or might-bes in an attempt to make them more damaging. It’s sometimes effective, but not honorable, to keep digging in an attempt to find something after it’s long become clear you aren’t going to find anything. It’s occasionally effective, but not honorable, to keep shopping a story around long after it’s played out to make the other side look bad(Valerie Plame, anyone?). It’s somewhat effective, but not honorable, to excuse the failure to turn anything up by saying someone must have gotten to someone or someone hid his tracks too well. However, if your #1 priority is hurting the other side, you’re going to see nothing wrong with any of this. If you get a little too much success, you may forget that one day when the political winds shift (and they always will eventually) you could be on the receiving end of these very same tactics, and really not have much of a leg to stand on when you cry foul (anyone remember Schumer bellyaching about McConnell refusing to grant Merrick a hearing when in fact he had advocated the same exact tactic with more time remaining in the GWB presidency?).

    Unfortunately I think we are stuck until the current generation of politicians dies out or gets voted out, because too many of them are too invested in revenge and hurting the other side rather than in doing good for the US or their constituents.

    • Hopefully recent experience (Clinton / Trump) will trigger increased appreciation of the need for consensus building. How could a mature political system produce a choice between 2 candidates both despised by such large proportions? It really isn’t sufficient in a democratic system (like chosing the next senior partner in a law firm) to get 51% to ‘love you’. You must also ensure you can win at least the grudging acceptance of the vast majority. Being irreconcilably despised and hated by more than 10% should make you unelectable into any leadership position, unless violent breakup is envisaged.

  7. Steve-O, I don’t often get the chance to say this, so I gratefully acknowledge the opportunity here.

    I think you are absolutely right about the nation’s biggest problem now being the partisanship, divisiveness, lack of civility, and investment in revenge and hurting each other that we see throughout the country, and very much so in our politicians.

    Very well said, too.

    I agree with you.

  8. I would not dismiss ‘Birthers’ quite so easily. Simply reading the Constitution and understanding some basic USA History tells us that Obama not being a Natural Born Citizen made him an illegitimate President.

    • Except that he was and is a natural born citizen. That birth announcement is pretty much slam dunk proof, unless you have an “Omen”-style theory. He was born in Hawaii. It’s a state.

      • And even if he was not born in the United States–which he was, and we’ve had legal proof since 2008–his mother’s citizenship would make him a natural born citizen, right?

            • When only one parent is a citizen, that parent must have lived in the US for at least 5 years after their 16th birthday. The law exists so someone who leaves and never comes back won’t create a bunch of citizen decendants.

              Obama’s mom was 19 and didn’t meet the criteria. Had he been born elsewhere, he would not be a citizen.

              • That’s helpful. I wondered about that. I never checked into the details of the President’s unusual family origins…since he was born here.

                One of the protesters signs greeting President Trump when he arrived in Hawaii said “Welcome to Kenya!”

                Pretty funny.

  9. Here’s the funny part, or maybe tragic is the right word. Obama was raised in a foreign culture and country…hence his books. That’s unique among Presidents…that’s at least something for the birthers to ahng their tiny hats on. Four airliners were hijacked and tuned into bombs—that never happened before. There was a massive crime. Nobody had everf seen a skyscraper come down like that. That’s something, at least. In 2000, we had hanging chads and butterfly ballots,and courts ignoring laws and a statistical dead heat that the public couldn’t comprehend, as well as the first popular vote electoral college split since the 19th Century.

    But what was the crime, the suspicious facts that caused the Russian smear against Trump? He beat a terrible candidate who was under investigation by the FBI, rigged her nomination, and who has the charisma of a horseshoe crab! That was the “crime,” or what was suspicious—a bad candidate running in the wake of a lousy President from the same party LOST, and Democrats had to find some other excuse than their own astounding incompetence.

    I’ve been on Truther blogs. They give me videos and “science.” The Birther blogs point to mispoken things Obama has said. The 2000 election freaks have the dissents in Bush v, Gore. But the commenters arguig for the legitimacy of Russiagate don’t have a crime, they don’t have facts, they have nothing—except they just believe—they want to believe—that Donald Trump conspired with the Russians to steal the election.

    In that regard, the Russia collusion theory is worse than the other four.

    • No, Jack. The crime was Russia meddling with the election. You know this happened, you just don’t think the meddling was effective enough to really matter. Regardless, the fact is that Russia preferred Trump, and there are plenty of suspicious facts that would point an objective, rational person—like Cathy Young—to suspect that Trump is giving Russia favorable treatment because of their meddling. As far as I know, there is currently no evidence that would hold up in a court of law. But there is plenty of reason to suspect.

      I don’t know what to call it, that you are purposefully ignoring all of those suspiciois facts in order to claim that the only suspicious fact is that “he beat Hillary,” except dishonesty. You are making a dishonest argument. You may not see the facts we have pointed out as suspicious, and in that, you are pretty much alone among more rational right-leaning bloggers. But to pretend these facts don’t exist is deeply unfair and insulting.

      • Russia could be counted on to meddle with any election in the age of social media. It didn’t need Trump, and it was facilitated by the Democrats, who had terrible cyber security, and Hillary, had her own e-mail problems, and Wikileaks, which has been looking for stuff to cause trouble for a long time. Unless you think Wikileaks was colluding too. Trump didn’t manufacture the DNC’s and the Clinton’s dirty laundry—he didn’t tell John Podesta ato use “password” for his “password”; he didn’t tell Debbie Wasserman Schultz not tell everyone that the DNC had been hacked for a month. He didn’t tell Facebook to sell silly ads to Russian Trollers. And there isn’t a whiff of proof that the Russian “interference” changed a single vote. There is no nexus between the Russian mischief—exactly the kind of thing the US does in other countries routinely, on its own, without inside provocation and Trump. It’s a non sequitur. “Reason to suspect” without evidence is, in fact, not reason at all. I don’t suspect. I know the facts, and the FACT that businessmen do business in Russia in not suspicious. The fact that Trump joked about Russia finding Hillary’s e-mails is not suspicious. The fact that Hillary lost is not suspicious, and he fact that Trump said nice things about Putin isn’t suspicious.

        It’s suspicious to people like you because you are invested in finding an excuse for Hillary, and invested in the idea that Trump is some kind of embodiment of evil. I documented exactly what Trump was, and accurately too. His conduct confirms my analysis, and does not and has not confirmed yours.

        You’re just thinking like a Birther. Like Donald Trump.

        • You are moving the goalposts. You used the fact that there was an actual crime committed on 9/11 to argue that trutherism was more understandable than the Trump Russia theories, despite the fact that there was even less connection between Bush and that crime then there is between Trump and Russia’s crime, which was, again, specifically designed to benefit Trump. You are just downplaying the crime, implementing a huge double standard, and smearing rational people on all sides of the aisle as delusional conspiracy theorists.

          Unless you think Wikileaks was colluding too

          You write this as if you think this is ridiculous. Wikileaks is blatantly pro-Trump and pro-Putin. Yes, they were trying to influence the election in Trump’s favor; a cursory glance at their actions and statements since early 2016 could tell you that that is beyond dispute. They were and are little more than a Russian propaganda outlet. Whether they colluded with Trump is still in question.

          . I know the facts, and the FACT that businessmen do business in Russia in not suspicious.

          Dishonesty. Trump Jr. meeting a Russian lawyer for the express purpose of getting dirt on Hillary is not “businessmen doing business in Russia,” nor were many of the other meetings you’re choosing to ignore. I don’t know if there are just so many of these suspicious contacts at this point that you can’t remember them, or if you’re purposefully choosing to ignore them to make your case. But you aren’t being reasonable and fair, you’re just being a contrarian.

          • David Corn has drawn conclusions about the collusion story that I find unsupported, but he points out some useful facts about the investigation and the Steele memo here:

            There is no indication that Steele’s memo triggered the FBI’s probe of the Trump-Russia connections. The available information shows that the bureau was already interested in the ties between Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Putin-friendly Ukrainians and that the FBI was keeping an eye on Carter Page, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who had in 2013 been a recruiting target of Russian intelligence. Steele did, on his own initiative, start to share his material with the FBI in July 2016—weeks after the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee became public—but it was not until early October that the bureau requested a briefing from him. The bottom line: There was plenty of reason for the FBI to investigate Trump-Russia ties without the Steele stuff.

            Still, the Steele memos should not be dismissed. Some of his material now tracks with what’s become publicly known. Steele’s first memo, written in June 2016, reported there had been secret exchanges of information between the Russian government and Trump and his team. This past July it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Manafort met with a Russian emissary in June 2016 in an effort to obtain dirt on Clinton as part of a secret Russian government scheme to help Trump. That initial Steele memo also reported that the Kremlin had for years been trying to cultivate Trump by offering him lucrative real estate deals in Russia. Though Trump’s efforts to score a big project in Russia has long been known, only recently was it disclosed that during the 2016 campaign, Trump—while he was making positive remarks about Putin—was secretly trying to land a deal to build a Trump tower in Moscow. Was that part of a Russian attempt to woo the developer-turned-candidate?


            • his past July it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Manafort met with a Russian emissary in June 2016 in an effort to obtain dirt on Clinton as part of a secret Russian government scheme to help Trump.

              And that, if proven, is a crime, no? Conspiracy to violate federal election finance law (by soliciting illegal donations). Foreigners and especially foreign governments are not allowed to make campaign contributions, in-kind contributions count, and we’ve shown exactly what kind of money goes into oppo.

              • It’s already been proven. The only question is whether Trump Jr. actually received any intel at the meeting. I would think simply arranging the meeting for the purpose of receiving intel would be illegal in and of itself, but given that nothing happened, I suppose I was wrong.

                • You need to understand the concept of “law.” There was nothing alleged or that occurred at that meeting that can be called unlawful. Meetings with foreigners are not unlawful. A for the crackpot theory behind this old story, I dealt with it in July, and more importantly, so did Constitutioanal law expert Eugene Volokh. I wrote:

                  Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh (who is also my favorite candidate for a Supreme Court post if one opens up) published what I consider to be a definitive refutation of the claim that receiving opposition research, as in “damaging information about Hillary Clinton,” is a crime under current law. He also makes a case that it couldn’t be criminalized under future law:

                  “It would raise obvious First Amendment problems: First, noncitizens, and likely even non-permanent-residents, in the United States have broad First Amendment rights. See Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135 (1945) (“freedom of speech and of press is accorded aliens residing in this country”); Underwager v. Channel 9 Australia, 69 F.3d 361 (9th Cir. 1995) (“We conclude that the speech protections of the First Amendment at a minimum apply to all persons legally within our borders,” including ones who are not permanent residents).

                  Second, Americans have the right to receive information even from speakers who are entirely abroad. See Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965). Can Americans — whether political candidates or anyone else — really be barred from asking questions of foreigners, just because the answers might be especially important to voters?”

                  The professor concludes not. I hadn’t even considered the First Amendment issue in determining that the election law prohibition against receiving “anything of value” benefiting a candidate from a foreign nation or individual was not intended to preclude mere information, but Volokh’s argument seems air tight. It doesn’t have to be air tight, though, to render the position that Donald Trump, Jr. attempted to violate the law weaker than Olive Oyl. If our best lawyers can’t agree what is banned and what isn’t, and the law has never been enforced against a campaign for receiving mere information, then the citizen involved in requesting or receiving opposition research under such circumstances could not reasonably have been expected to know that his actions were criminal. There goes mens rea. Ignorance of a clear law is not a defense; mistaken understanding of one that has never been defined (and that may be void anyway) is a very powerful defense. So why is the news media, and so many Democrats, and my Facebook Trump-haters, and many commenters here so certain that this is a scandal, a major story, and proof that the Trump campaign “colluded” with “the Russians” to allow them to illegally influence our election?

                  The answer is that they want this to be true so much that they are unable to examine the evidence and analysis with any objectivity at all. That’s an ethics failure: we have a duty to acknowledge our biases and take them out of the equation when we’re trying to understand something. Focusing accusations, criticism and personal attacks on anyone, yes, even a Trump, based on willfully biased conclusions is both incompetent and unfair, as well as a Golden Rule breach.

                  I wrote this in July.

                  • Ok.

                    Would it be illegal if Trump Jr. made promises about his father’s policies toward Russia in exchange for oppo research from a foreign government?

                    I am not saying this happened, as there’s no reason to believe it did. I’m trying to figure out where you draw the line. (I’m also pointing out that it’s important we find out what *did* happen at these secret meetings that Trump’s people lied about.)

                    • Sure, if the Logan Act isn’t a dead letter and unconstitutional, and it was a quid pro quo, AND if Trump Jr. had any authority to make such a promise, and if it wasn’t a lie.

                      Unless there is actual evidence suggesting that meetings with Russian were sinister and malign, then everything is a fishing expedition. I was in Russia. I met with Russian officials. How do you know that I wasn’t making a deal to be Russian agent? I adopted a healthy baby boy–after the Russians shut down adoptions! How did that happen? (It happened because it took three days for the new law to get passed around the bureaucracy, but I’d have a hell of a time proving it.) I’m undermining the US society by pointing out the unethical conduct of the government and both parties, and, if I do say so myself, with a bit more credibility than Bernie coloring books on Facebook. I guess that justifies a full bore federal investigation!

                    • Sure, if the Logan Act isn’t a dead letter and unconstitutional, and it was a quid pro quo, AND if Trump Jr. had any authority to make such a promise, and if it wasn’t a lie.

                      That’s an awful lot of “ifs” to attach onto the basic premise that a campaign promising favorable treatment towards a hostile government in exchange for dirt on their opponents is illegal.

              • No. It’s not a crime. Try to keep up. I explained this in July.

                I have never seen so many people willing to swallow wild theories just because they don’t like how an election turned out. I’m embarrassed for all of you, just as all of you are embarrassing the country.

  10. By ‘meddling’ do you mean fake articles on Facebook, or tampering with voting machines? Anyone with a scrap of intelligence could see right through many of the weird articles by their headlines alone, and realize the rest were false after reading the first paragraphs of most of them. Do you really think that enough people were brainwashed by social media to give Trump the election? Hillary got more votes! It wasn’t a great hack, by that measure. Hillary not campaigning in states that had been solidly blue for decades had nothing to do with her losing those three states….no, it was brainwashed social media users in just three key states..was something put in the water in three states to activate them to go out and vote for Trump? That’s as plausible as fractured-English memes brainwashing people to vote for him.

    If it’s Hillary’s emails off the DNC server, I’d like to see evidence that they were downloaded to a foreign entity, instead of a lot of talk. It’s time for the left (I do not mean you personally) to put up or shut up. Not one shred of evidence has been presented proving the Russians hacked the DNC. I doubt anyone would sit on that news! It would be all over CNN in a heartbeat were it found. The RNC server had the same volume of hacking attempts made on it during the campaign…did Trump ask for that, too? If it had been the RNC emails out there, would you be as angry?

    If you think they hacked voting machines, when and how?

    • Crella,

      No one has suggested hacked voting machines; that is only brought up by conservatives attempting to make those who accept the intelligence community’s findings on Russian meddling look ridiculous. I’ll thank you to avoid this dishonest tactic.

      The Associated Press has just published the results of their investigation into Russia’s hack of the DNC:

      Whether the fake news campaign by the Russians was effective is immaterial. I assume they wouldn’t have gone to such an effort if they didn’t think their propaganda would have an effect, but that is neither here nor there. The fact is that it happened, and the relevant question is whether Trump had anything to do with it. Since he publicly signaled his approval of Russian hacking, and since his son was willing to use what the Russians found to help his campaign, and since Trump then continued to parrot Russian propaganda by casting doubt on the hacks, I don’t think the idea that he or his team privately made such an agreement is a stretch. But we may never know whether such an agreement happened.

      • 1) He didn’t “signal” anything. He made a typical joke.
        2) Trump’s son’s meeting had no legal significance whatsoever. As I have explained more than once, as have others.

        3) There is no more “question” about whether Trump was in cahoots with the Russians than whether Hillary was, nor you, or Donald Duck. A “question” is not created by gratuitous and self-serving accusations.

        • 1) A rationalization, Jack. Along with Trump’s refusal to condemn or even acknowledge the Russian hacking, a rational person would read the joke, in context, as tacit approval.

          2) You don’t know that because you don’t know what happened at the meeting. A quid pro quo is possible, just like a quid pro quo was possible when Bill met Lynch on that tarmac.

          3) No, there are actually numerous red flags indicating that Trump could be in cahoots with Russia, you just refuse to see them.

      • ‘that is only brought up by conservatives attempting to make those who accept the intelligence community’s findings on Russian meddling look ridiculous.’

        When presented with a theory, I always go bare bones. You tell me that hundreds of pounds of explosives were placed in the World Trade Center Buildings, and that’s what brought those buildings down, I’m going to ask you ‘How?’…how did the number of workers over the time period that would require go unnoticed, or explained away? The sheer volume of explosives being brought in undetected? The wiring? Timers? If the bare bones questions couldn’t be answered, *poof* goes the theory. It’s not a bad approach to breaking things down (and of course that’s not my total deconstruction of 9/11 wack theory, but any more is beside the point here).

        For almost a year I’ve been seeing ‘Russia hacked the election’. I have seen, with my two eyes, progressives put forth theories on social media about voting machine hacking. It’s all, of course, under the same umbrella with the 25th amendment, impeachment, and emoluments arguments, desperate and ridiculous straws grasped at by desperate people looking for ANY way to get rid of Trump. I mention it because I’ve seen it (picks up her handy bullhorn) NOT because I am a conservative. There you go again, I hope you heard me this time.

        Bare bones, Chris, bare bones. If the Russians “hacked” the election, how?
        Did the directly affect the vote count?
        Did they pay people off or pay for influence?
        How? If people are going to claim for a year that the election was hacked they should at least be able to put forth HOW. I really don’t think it’s too much to ask.

        You say no one is talking about rigging voting machines, and that the Russian ad campaigns are ‘immaterial’…so, what exactly are you talking about, and how could Trump have participated.

        No qualms or outrage at Hillary funding that dossier?

        • No qualms or outrage at Hillary funding that dossier?

          Why on Earth would there be? Hiring an american company to do oppo for you is not illegal, unethical, unusual, or even noteworthy. She hired a company, the company hired a private investigator, the private investigator who had contacts from his previous line of work went to his sources and collected up information both rumor and factual and then packaged it together for the client. His own, presumably expert, option about the veracity, or lack, of each claim also had value.

          No legal issue there, no foreign policy issue there, no ethical issue there. So why do you even bring it up?

          • All the ‘we have no idea where that came from’ when it broke, despite the fact that it was Hillary’s money that funded it…that it was raw intelligence, unconfirmed…when her server problem and ugly DNC emails were being talked about, it was confirmed issues being addressed, not anonymously-sourced, uncorroborated info.

            Anything she does really will be forgiven, won’t it?

            • You’ll have to explain to me how those things tie together. You might as well have said no outrage over her ordering a pizza? blah blah emails.

              Ordering a pizza requires no forgiveness.
              Hiring an american company to do oppo requires no forgiveness.

              You won’t generally find me objecting to Hillary Clinton, not because I consider her perfect, but because I don’t think any of my objections would dovetail with any of yours so they’re hardly worth mentioning here. I mean, do you honestly care if I think she’s a little too hawkish or that she supported some IP provisions in TPP that I object to?

              • Valky’s response to your question suffices, crella.

                I’ll add that Clinton and her people shouldn’t have lied about funding the dossier. But there was nothing wrong with funding it in the first place.

                Your question about what I mean when I say Russia meddled in the election still strikes me as disengenuous. I’ve been very clear that I accept the intelligence community’s evaluation of Russia hacking the DNC and their fake news campaign. I also provided a link to an AP investigation which lays out the case thoroughly. I believe you when you say you’ve seen others speculate about vote machine hacking, but if you’ve followed the conversation here you’d know that no one on this site has resorted to such claims.

  11. Chris,
    Your the person that finds meaning and/or implications between the lines where it doesn’t exist but yet you cannot find meaning and/or implications where the words are right there in your face, that’s kinda what trolls do. I suppose it’s remotely possible that you’re an English teacher that can’t be fixed.

    • You tell me what it means, then. Why would someone have to come from a “tradition or culture” that would “trigger” treasonous conduct in order to commit such conduct? What are these cultures and traditions? Why can’t someone just be selfish enough to say “Hey, Russia, I’ll make sure to implement policies favorable to you if you help me win?” Why is it unbelievable that Trump is such a person?

      • Chris wrote, “You tell me what it means, then. Why would someone have to come from a “tradition or culture” that would “trigger” treasonous conduct in order to commit such conduct? What are these cultures and traditions?”

        You’re an English teacher, stop being obtuse.

        Chris wrote, “Why can’t someone just be selfish enough to say “Hey, Russia, I’ll make sure to implement policies favorable to you if you help me win?” Why is it unbelievable that Trump is such a person?”

        So now I see you’re next form of intellectual retort is to fabricate bull shit smears outta thin air; tell me Sir how that not acting like a troll.

        • I’m not being obtuse. You are not answering the questions because you cannot answer the questions.

          No one comes from a culture or tradition that tolerates treason, so to say that Trump would not have committed treason because he was not raised in any tradition or culture that would tolerate treason is ridiculous, and makes no sense.

          I fabricated nothing; I explained what would motivate Trump to commit treason if he has done so, in response to Jack floating and then striking down motivations which were ridiculous and made no sense.

          I’ve made my case for why Jack’s argument did not make sense; now make your argument for why it did or go away.

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