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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Trump Tower Conspiracy


The Trump voter I follow online believes that Trump Jr. was set up by Fusion GPS in the meeting. She is not as conspiratorially minded as the trump supporters I usually see online so it bears mention that she believes this--one of the more boggling conspiracies--when she doesn't, for example, think Hillary killed Seth Rich (at least I hope so--she was a bit overly generous to Hannity about his horrible little foray into Rich-Murder conspiracy land--but anyway)

In any event, let us look at this conspiracy theory:
  1. Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who was to provide the Clinton dirt, has worked with Fusion GPS--in fact, she met with the head of Fusion GPS both the morning of and after the Trump Tower meeting.
  2. She was barred from entry in the US--but got around it with a suspicious visa-issue from . . . The Obama administration (maybe? It turns out this isn't, as always happens, what this sounds like).
  3. SHE USED DATA FROM FUSION GPS TO DANGLE IN FRONT OF JR. This is clearly a set up.
Now, to be fair to the conspiracy theorists, if you believe the dossier is entirely invented--instead of researched--and if you believe that Fusion GPS--a firm hired by the Conservative Free Beacon to start the dossier work is irretrievably in the tank for Clinton then perhaps you can believe that Veselnitskaya is a Fusion GPS operative and was therefore a torpedo aimed at Trump's campaign.

Before we get to the end-game, let's look at 1-3.

The Evidence of Foul Play

Veselnitskaya wasn't in NYC to meet with Trump Jr. She was there for a case she was involved with that was (as far as we know) unrelated. In order to get into the country, she needed a visa. She got turned down for one by none other than Preet Bhara (alleged deep-stater!). She tried through the DOJ and then went through the state department and got it.

During the meeting she dangled, not Clinton's emails (at least from what parties have said) but some research done in 2014 from a Russian money-laundering case that potentially implicated two Clinton campaign staff--that research was done by . . . Fusion GPS.

In 2014.

So-- (a) She's not in town on shadowy business but (b) she did meet with the Fusion GPS head (and dissembled about it to the Senate Congressional probe)--but she had a long standing relationship with the Fusion GPS guys because the DC law-firm she uses worked with them on her visas and such. And (c) she used Fusion GPS data to try to lure Trump Jr. into paying for further follow-up research on those guys.

Could that be a set-up? Well . . . maybe.

Let's look at how the set-up plan plays out in reality.

Operation "Avarice Actual"

In a windowless room in Fusion GPS's basement--a room that is swept for listening devices daily--shadowy figures around a table discuss the next phase of their plan to wreck Trump. In this case the Operation is code-named Avarice Actual and it is an attempt to Make It Look Like Trump Was Colluding With Russia.

Why? Well, Team Hillary has already determined that if they lose they will try to pin the blame on Russia and impeach Trump (this is crazy--but it's what we're asked to believe). At this time, ironically, Russia IS waging a cyber-war against us to interfere in the election--but nobody knows the full extent of it yet--and, apparently, can't just say it.

So the plan is to plant a meeting that, eventually (somehow), will provide credulous people with the appearance of collusion by Jr.

So what do they do?

PART 1: THE SET UP

They need to rope Jr. in. He needs to know he's 'colluding,' that he's going to be given material of value from Russia--because they want him to win. Now, that's illegal if he accepts it--but the goal here isn't to actually get Trump doing something illegal (why not? That would be a far more powerful weapon). It's to plant a shadowy hint of doubt that can be exploited later.

So they get his good friend Rob Goldstone to promote the meeting (how?) with incriminating statements in the emails (why? Are the incriminating emails really the sum total of this plan?).

PART 2: THE PLAY
In the actual meeting, Operative Veselnitskaya  (Op-V) will deploy the real and potentially damaging information hoping that Trump will . . . pay her for more oppo-research? This isn't illegal (so far as The Omnivore knows). You can't take bribes from foreign countries but if someone suggests you do opposition research based on stuff an American firm uncovered, that doesn't sound illegal to The Omnivore.

But anyway, Jr. will hopefully fall for it--and then . . .

PART 3: THE STING

After they lose the election, Hillary or someone will leak the emails--which will make the public think that TRUMP COLLUDED WITH RUSSIA. This'll be great. Instant Impeachment. Right? (Well, no--no impeachment--but this is fantasy land).


What's Wrong With All This?

What's "right" with it is that it's exactly what happened--except for the most important thing that happened (one sec). This creates a huge bias in people who want to believe something was intended--"see? It all worked out like this." But the problem is the goal: to make the media think Trump colluded with Russia.

The "plan," what we can imagine about it anyway, is built to fail--and if it succeeds produces nothing useful anyway.

Imagine these outcomes:
  1. The emails Jr. gets say he's going to get dirt from Russia and Russia wants them to win. If Trump Jr. talks to a lawyer and doesn't go to the meeting because of the suspicious nature of the emails, the plan fails.
  2. At the meeting itself there is no "payload." Nothing illegal or even all that interesting happens. If Trump Jr. or anyone else who was there just tells the truth about what happened, the plan, successfully executed, goes nowhere.
  3. During the late days of the campaign--when Hillary knows she is a favorite--but also knows she is in trouble (the FBI re-opening the case) they have run this whole operation but, apparently, have nothing to show from it by design. No one brought a recorder. There is no "person on the inside to talk" (except Operator-V--who can't do so effectively).
Of all of these, 3 is the worst--if you had a scenario that looked like collusion, why not use it before the campaign is over? No--the emails get leaked months later--by someone who was on the email chain originally.

Now--we get to the part of this that the conspiracy theory elides: The thing that made this look "like collusion" wasn't Goldstone's emails--it was Trump Jr.'s. The thing that made this look like guilt and cover-up wasn't the presence of a Kremlin-linked lawyer (and she is, it's one reason why she was denied entry into the US)--it was Trump lying his ass off to cover it up.

These two, massive, unforced errors are what makes it clear that:
  • Team Trump would definitely be open to help from the Russians
  • Team Trump took it at face value that Russia wanted Trump to win and would help
  • Trump Sr. knew something was bad there (and, hence, the lie)
None of these could be part of the original plan because they all rely on unexpected self-inflicted wounds. This means The Sting (the putative product of the meeting) is, as described in the conspiracy theory, a bust. 

It's people plotting for something that has no real pay-off (suckering Don Jr. into a meeting to talk about adoption sanctions and see if he wants to buy some oppo-research) and produces no evidence that isn't in Don Jr's email inbox.

If The Plan Is So Bad, Why Do People Believe It Was A Plan?

There are a few dimensions to this answer--none of them good. The first is that Trump-people, almost by definition, have to be somewhat accepting of conspiracy theories. The FBI has to be corrupt--so too the CIA, the NSA, and DHS (they all said Russia interfered in the election). Mueller has to be either out to get Trump illegally (when they are crowing about various judges running their mouths off) or else planning to clear Trump completely (when trying to come to terms with Mueller's solid record).

The second is that the Don Jr. meeting is the single most damning piece of public evidence because it came from Trump Jr.'s mouth (well, emails) and Trump Sr. lied about it. Now, it is The Omnivore's observation that Trump Sr.'s instincts are to lie about everything--and that does work for him more or less--but it doesn't help make them look any more innocent. The GPS conspiracy is necessary to "disqualify" this piece of evidence which basically can't be spun by anything other than Jr. is stupid and Sr. is a liar.

Having an evil actor to blame for this helps . . . somewhat.

But the real reason is that the chain of logic above isn't something that most people do. Most people look at the outcome (Trump looks like he's covering up Russian meddling on their behalf--but there isn't hard proof) and they conclude that must have been the intended outcome of what whatever went down. The idea laying this out as an operational plan is alien to them: THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED--IT MUST BE THE PLAN!!

The idea of looking at the proposed sting operation as a plan shows that it's an absurd plan. It doesn't accomplish anything in its native form--there's no collateral from the meeting. There's (if you take people there at their word) nothing illegal or even all that interesting that happened: it's a setup to CREATE a nothing-burger. In other words, it's the worst conspiracy to entrap Team Trump imaginable--but they stumbled into it by sheer bad luck and foolishness.

Really??

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Bloggingheads on Kanye: Parts Were Good. Parts were Stupid



The above is a video of two black conservatives (or libertarians? The Omnivore doesn't know their histories) discussing the blow-back to Kanye West's embrace of Trump. As one might expect from the right, they are not especially kind to Ta Nehasi Coat's article on it comparing it to is feelings when Michael Jackson seemed to be doing everything within his power to abandon his blackness and become white.

They also really didn't like Coat's belief (or at least rhetoric) that America is an irredeemable cesspool of racism and whites are The Enemy (this is a paraphrase of their paraphrases--but in any event, The Omnivore is pretty sure that Coats would agree he's not exactly doing outreach.)

What Did The Omnivore Expect?

The Omnivore saw one of the many conservative Twitter accounts he follows talking about these two smart, educated guys taking this on--and how good a job they did--and expected a pretty solid conservative take on it. That was, in fact, what they delivered. Although they flirted with some more standard takes, the points they made that The Omnivore thought was good were:

  • Kanye (probably) likes Trump because Trump is a rapper. Not in the musical sense--but in presentation, showmanship, etc. Kanye may not be too aware of Trump's policy.
  • Trump, himself, definitely isn't help the racial thing (this is from one person who really likes Trump and one who doesn't especially like him--but sure doesn't hate him). They both saw the appointing of Ben Carson as a missed opportunity to actually appoint a qualified black guy to something important to a lot of black people (HUD).
  • They were right that things have, in a lot of ways, racially speaking improved over 50 years ago. Of course 50 years ago was 1968 which was, erm, not modern in almost any respect.
And then there was, yes, some stupidity.

The Stupidity

The stupidity, for lack of a better word--because The Omnivore is not interested in mincing words--is interesting because these are black guys--they are fully black--they live in modern day America--they are walking the walk. Where they say something that The Omnivore thinks is stupid that has to be an assessment made on their own internal logic of the claim--in other words, The Omnivore isn't in a position to tell them they're wrong. They have to be "telling themselves they're wrong."

So what were these logical blind spots?

The Starbucks Event

If you haven't heard, that dark thing over your head is the rock you've been under, but just in case: a few weeks ago, two (black) guys came into Starbucks and didn't order--they were waiting for their buddy. The guy behind the counter called the cops on them for being suspicious. They got arrested.

In Black Professor Land this is, yes, racist--but it is isolated: this was just one dude--the Starbucks person. It doesn't indict all of society. Also, they averred (or, at least, one did) that with all the black bad behavior, the Starbucks guy might be justified--sorta. See, he might be thinking of that hypothetical time a few weeks ago when three back teenagers came in, making trouble. That is true--but only if you leave off the end of the story: These Two Black Professionals Got Arrested.

Not only was the Starbucks guy apparently a little bit racist--but . . . er . . . the cops were too? Or do these two smart commentators think that if you're white and you get the cops called on you you're getting arrested for hanging out in a Starbucks? Sorry, guys. No.

So maybe the cops are justified in the arrest (it's legal) because of their experience with all the black criminals? Okay, sure: so in this case because of the black-crime stats it's fine for professionals to judge you by their prejudices--to, essentially, not do the job professionally? In other words: Hey, Black Guys--You Do NOT Have The Right To Be Treated Like Everyone Else. 

Uh-huh.

Finally, these guys apparently aren't aware of the recent spate of coverage of law abiding black people getting the cops called on them by white people with nothing but a bad feeling and the black people getting arrested for, among other things, not waving back when waved at by a white lady.

Do they think liberals are just making these stories up? That it's a hella coincidence? That it's okay because of all the white people and all the cop's "real life experiences"?

If that is true, across America, then how is that different from "racism being okay"?

Rating: A - Turbo-Stupid

The Micro-Aggressions

The Omnivore was then treated to their stories about how Micro-Aggressions don't hurt. This had two parts:
  1.  One of the professors (the one who doesn't love Trump) tells of a story of going into a building in a sports coat and slacks to teach a class and being mistaken by the person in the lobby for the elevator repair guy. He was offended that someone might think this racial microaggression would interfere with his performance. He brushed it off his shoulder like Jay-Z and drove on. Why can't everyone do that?
  2. They said that everyone gets microaggressed and a "very religious" pro-life person on a college campus would get WAY more hate at them than a black person on a college campus ever would.
The first is only somewhat stupid. These people have been black their whole life and, presumably microaggressed a long time before that example. The stupidity is in (a) assuming that everyone can put up with it the same way they did--or in the same context. The Omnivore is not going to suggest they were born with silver spoons in their mouths (The Omnivore has no idea--but probably not)--however it is not a good look for the people who "made it" to look back on everyone who didn't and declare them weak.

The second part is a lot stupider. The "very religious person" is presumably the "urban youth" of "incredibly outspoken and overbearing" because, uh, if this person isn't constantly running their mouth about their views how will anyone know? If they are constantly running their mouths about it their issue isn't that they're "very religious" but that they "want to get in a fight about it."

For these guys to conflate a behavior with their skin color is stupid.

It's not just stupid on the detection dimension--it's stupid on the consequences dimension. Yes, the really outspoken religious girl may get snubbed to hell and back. She's not going to be hanged (or beat up). She knows it--everyone else knows it.

Rating: B - Dumb and In Bad Taste

We Don't Need To Teach People Slavery Was Bad

The final stupid was them deciding that what Kanye meant about slavery being "a choice" was that Kanye had heard about "the slave mentality" and just kind of took it too far / badly expressed. That part isn't stupid--Kanye, whatever he may think, likely does not believe the slaves shackled themselves and then said "stuff me on the slave ship, my dudes."

HOWEVER, they then both decide that there is no reason to, today, teach that slavery was bad. After all, they thought, there's been ROOTS.

These guys have not been keeping up with current events. In 2014 (4 years ago) a guy at CPAC got up and told a black speaker that black people had it good under slavery. Maybe that's what Kanye was thinking about? Or did something really change in 4 years?

One incident? Oh--well, all one has to do is go over and look at the alt right, the alt-light, or parts of the NRX--any of the white nationalist websites, and so on to see that there are people who are doing outreach and education that slavery wasn't (a) the cause of the civil war and (b) wasn't all that bad for the slaves. In the past decade students have been asked if they'd rather be a northern factory worker--unsure if they'll get fired and lose their next meal--or if they'd rather be a slave in the comfy care of a master who'll look after them.

The past decade.

The two professors are learned enough that they probably know that that exact perspective was used by pro-slavery writers back during and immediately after the civil war to justify the institution. For them not to know it didn't go away is badly ignorant. For them to think that modern media is doing their job of education is ridiculous.

It's simply intellectual malpractice. The Omnivore doesn't expect these guys to lead the charge--but to say that "that's all done with" is incredible bullshit.

Conclusions

It is perfectly fine not to like Coat's view of the world--but to suggest that he's not making his case is ignorant. His "Case for Reparations" is solidly argued and if you're going to claim (as these guys did) that the institution of slavery and racism doesn't have any relevance today, instead of admitting they didn't read Coats, they better have a counter argument. Same for the other stupidity--these are things that are self-contradictory--that lead to conclusions that they, themselves, would likely not approve of (such as having a personal religious belief that people may find unpopular is the same as having black skin which can get you killed in some areas).

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Collusion Collision

In case you missed it, Stormy Daniel's lawyer tweeted a document that links Cohen to Russian pay-offs through his shell company. We know at least some of this--and probably all of it--is true (AT&T fessed up). This is a pretty good explainer with picture.
Even more interestingly, this treasure trove of possibly incriminating data may have come from Suspicious Activity Reports filed by banks! If true this is a go-to-jail leak--but the observation that the structuring of the document (beginning with KYC--Know Your Customer--data and then gets to specific dollar amounts seems incredibly on-target).

This looks like a good idea to the examine the "Mueller Found Nothing" explanations that underlie the "WITCH HUNT" theory of the investigation (or just the "Mueller obviously found nothing so he's winding it down" theory which is more charitable--but equally questionable). Let's take a look.

The Rationales For Saying Mueller "Found Nothing"

Both Trumpaloos (those irrationally committed to Trump) and actual experts (former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy of the NRO have submitted theories about why Mueller "obviously" hasn't found anything and is either (a) viciously expanding his mandate to search for unpaid parking tickets and the like or (b) is going to resort to an "Obstruction of Justice Charge for which no crime exists" or (c) is going to return a Not-Guilty verdict and disappear back into private life. In order of expertise the ones The Omnivore is aware of are:

  • Mueller's Charging Flynn, et. all with lying to the FBI. This was McCarthy's note: when you try to nail someone on conspiracy you don't start by charging them with lying--you start by charging them with the crime. If you start with the lying the jury is gonna say "well, I don't see a crime and anyway, this guy is already obviously a liar" (when your guy impunes the crime boss).
  • If there was evidence, it would have leaked. Mueller is a leaker (?) and, anyway, the Intelligence Community would've leaked it.
  • It's been A YEAR and nothing has surfaced. Clearly there's nothing there.
  • Why hasn't Mueller interviewed Ivanka, Jared, Don Jr., etc.?? If he was serious about making a case, he'd have talked to them already, no? (We can throw in the stupid conspiracy Julian Assange--who knows who leaked the DNC stuff if we want to go into wild conspiracy theory)
  • If there was kompromat, Russia would have dropped it! Trump has harmed Russia!!
  • The Omnivore's own question: Mueller will release two reports. The first is about Obstruction. The second will be about Collusion. Doesn't that seem reversed? If Mueller comes out and says "Definitely Obstruction" wouldn't the obvious question be "Of what?" If he did it the other way--or even the same time--wouldn't that make more sense?
Charges and Liars (and Interviews)

McCarthy's observation is undoubtedly correct for a normal conspiracy case--but this isn't a normal conspiracy case along any axis. If Team Trump (especially his kids) did "collude" (yes, collusion isn't a crime--The Omnivore knows--go soak your head) then the 'Crime Boss' in this case can issue pardons. POTUS can wield enormous legal power. If he is guilty then you don't give him warning.

Mueller's indictments, to date, have been carefully structured so that they don't give anything away while still pressuring potential witnesses to turn over. This, The Omnivore thinks, makes it slightly more likely that Mueller has a target at the top in mind. If he was just going to sweep up the garbage and leave, he could be freer with charges.

The same goes for interviews: if Mueller sits down with Don Jr.every word of the conversation will go directly to Trump and Trump's lawyers. If Mueller is getting "too close" that triggers Trump-a-geddon (a flurry of pardons, calling out the national guard, firing the entire DoJ, whatever).

Thus, Mueller can't run this like a normal case if POTUS is guilty--so he's not. Now, he'd probably do that from the start whether POTUS was guilty or not--but the fact that this practice has continued is . . . interesting.

The Information WOULD HAVE LEAKED

This excuse is more in the category of "stories we tell ourselves so we can sleep." Mueller is running a super-pro all-star operation out of a small building with a dream team. No: they are not leaking. There is zero evidence they are leaking--and lots of reason to think they are not (such as not releasing the Rodenstein memos when it would have helped shut down the Over-Stating-Their-Mandate charge).

Additionally, the IC wouldn't "release the data" because they can't. Raw intelligence is not usable as a leak, generally speaking. Either you expose "sources and methods" (the crown jewels of intel agency) or you provide "facts" without context. If you release "Someone said Trump Did It On A Phone Call To The Kremlin" that won't convince anyone. If you release transcripts of "Boris Badguy" on an encrypted sat-phone to Putin on August 19th at 10:30 PM Eastern or something then Russia knows exactly how to plug the leak and no one will believe it anyway.

So--no. This isn't a given at all. If you are claiming it is, you might be a trumpaloo.

It's BEEN A YEAR--NOTHING WAS FOUND!!


 Considering that we just got the Cohen drop last fucking night this should be enough to shut everyone up--but you can't shut up a trumpaloo. The fact is that all of this stuff takes years. Watergate took years. Despite what Law and Order has taught you, these investigations have not somehow gotten faster. So--no, the timeline isn't out of joint yet.

The Pee Tape Would Have Dropped!

In this theory--also advanced by McCarthy at one point--Russia, if they had blackmail data, would obviously have used it. He expelled 60 diplomats. He imposed sanctions. He sent WEAPONS to Ukraine. HE BOMBED SYRIA!! He's tougher on Russia than Obama EVER WASS!!

While, in fact, the last part might be true of the administration (Obama should've, clearly, been tougher on Russia) the first parts don't hold up. Why? Because POTUS did everything he could to avoid doing them (he vetoed the sanctions--then slow-walked their implementation, he was lied to by staff about how many diplomats he was gonna expel and then threw a fit when it turned out it was more than our "allies," he bombed Syria where Putin told him he could, he pretty much had to send weapons to Ukraine, etc.)

There is no one friendlier to Russia than Trump with the possible exception of Dana Robacher or, maybe Devin Nunes. Neither are in line to be president.

No--Russia still has, by far, the best they can get. Look at how Russian bots line up with the presidential agenda.

Reverse Psychology--Why Do Obstruction First?

The Omnivore hasn't seen this one in the wild--but it occurred to him when the release was done. Why would Mueller do the Obstruction report before the actual crime report? The Omnivore has a theory. An obvious thought would be that it's easier to prove obstruction (we have lies, cover ups, firings with shifting rationales, a secret meeting in Trump Tower with a lawyer who now says she's a Putin informant--sorry GPS Fusion Sting Theorists) so Mueller gets that out the door first.

Maybe. But The Omnivore has another theory.

The "playbook" says that Mueller doesn't charge POTUS directly. He produces a report with recommendations, gives it to the DoJ and then the DoJ waits for Congress to impeach. What happens if Congress doesn't impeach? Well, POTUS stays on, presumably.

If Mueller (correctly) judges that Republicans will never impeach POTUS no matter what he is accused of then Mueller has another option: spark a Constitutional Crisis by charging POTUS directly. This will, at least, go to SCOTUS and will throw everything in to chaos.

In this scenario, Mueller drops a recommendation to try/impeach over Obstruction (what did Nixon in) and then, if Congress decides not to act, he breaks the glass and accuses POTUS of the crime of Conspiracy.

In that event? Duck and cover--the dogs of war are unleashed everywhere.

So What's It Gonna Be?

The Omnivore really sucks at predictions and is not "a betting man" (if The Omnivore offers to bet you money, be assured that The Omnivore knows he will win). So, no real prediction--BUT--The Omnivore thinks that it is becoming more and more likely that there was sufficient bad behavior that someone Not-A-POTUS would be in real trouble--and it is appearing more and more likely that POTUS or, at least, his people, would be aware of Russian help and efforts which would make them complicit.

This doesn't mean Trump will be accused of anything. It doesn't mean he will be impeached--and he probably, under any event, cannot be removed--but the rationales people are using to say the current state bears this out don't hold up.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

On Evangelicals and Trump



A recent data point shows that white Evangelicals still support Trump--according to a recent South Carolina poll, they find him "honest and capable, just not moral." Great! This cohort voted overwhelmingly for Trump and still largely supports him!

What is going on here? How can this be??

The Omnivore explains.

1. First Things First: WHITE Evangelicals

Black Evangelicals did not vote for Trump--and, in the Alabama special election (Moore vs. Jones) with Trump "on the ballot" they voted 95% against Moore in favor of the pro-choice Democrat (Black non-Evangelicals were about 3pts higher in favor of Jones). White Evangelicals went strongly for Moore--but he lost white non-Evangelicals by around 30pts.

What does this mean? It means that in this (admittedly limited) context:

  1. Moore's pro-choice position--a big deal for Evangelicals--only peeled off 3% of Black Evangelicals.
  2. Non-Evangelical Whites and Evangelical Blacks were both frankly disgusted by Moore--meaning that whatever his appeal on "the issues" it was far more about his character and / or Trump's racism than how Moore would vote in the Senate.
  3. White Evangelicals overlooked everything--they wanted Moore. They wanted Trump--probably for the same reasons.
This means: Something about Trump is overriding position issues and, instead, boiling it down to--uhm--race?

2. Not EXACTLY Race

What's going on in Evangelical land isn't precisely race. To be sure, in order to support Trump you have to be okay with his racial politics (meaning that the cheering sections in the Klan and Nazi demographics have to be explained away by you--they love his nationalism. Yeah, keep telling yourself that, sparky.)--but it isn't the only thing he brings to the table.

He also brings in your culture-war grievance politics.

Right now Rod Dreher (not a White Evangelical--a converted Catholic) is promoting his book The Benedict Option. This is a treatise on how religion may have to "go out into the wilderness" and disconnect from The World in order to survive the coming Liberal Culture Wave (The Omnivore's term, not his). 

His basic point is: the war happened, we (religious people) lost, now we need to do what Benedict did after the fall of the Roman empire: hunker down and wait out the dark ages.

The Omnivore actually has a soft spot for Rod (those soulful eyes?) and his thesis (yes, he periodically says racist things and such--but (a) he's tryin' so hard and (b) his plan is, actually, not insulting or pissy--it's a real, legitimate, emotionally honest and mature response).

White Evangelicals, by the definition of evangelizing cannot, probably, take off for the hinterlands, but they share a common perspective with Dreher: we're losing the culture war. Their decision is to fight back. Trump is their fighter--so they have jettisoned everything--everything--in order to (finally) have someone who fights.

The baby, he is laying outside in a puddle of bathwater wondering what the hell happened. Inside mom and dad are still yelling at the TeeVee.

This feeling has been artfully fed by people like Erick Erickson (You Will Be Made To Care--how Godless Liberals Won't Be Happy Until You Are Forced To Bake A Gay Wedding Cake) and plenty of other social signals about the evil men do--especially those awful Transgender people--of whom, you know, there are a lot (they hide among us--dressed like women--waiting until we go into the bathrooms to strike).

To be fair to them, a lot of what they believe codes as racist and bigoted to the rest of America. It is legitimate to feel that participating in the sacrament of marriage with gay people is not what Jesus intended. This is a logical position that isn't inherently bigoted: however similar arguments were made against mixed-race marriage--and those, we now can see, were pretty racist.

This poses the question: is the problem on the side of society? Or is it on the side of the Evangelicals who usually don't acknowledge that the bible was used to justify racism (and before that, slavery) until outside societal pressures made that stop?

Trump is a pretty good litmus test for that: after decade (forever) of demanding that the head of state in America be a moral Christian, they, when given a chance, decided none of that was important so long as he Triggered the Libs.

The Omnivore feels pretty sure that wasn't what Jesus would do.

But, while racism is mixed in with all of this, the driving factor is that they feel they are Under Siege and Donald Trump will be their Steven Segal, fighting for their right to say "Merry Christmas" again.

3. So What Now?

Clearly these guys need to get their heads out of their collective asses and tell their flocks that while society will always be pretty Godless in a fundamental sense and, yea, there are forces of progressivism out there looking to strike a blow against mom-and-pop pizza parlors who would not, even if asked, cater a gay wedding, this is an incredibly narrow form of oppression. Indeed, Jews get more actual oppression and hate-speech / crime directed at them and, while they take steps against it, they haven't decided that it's okay to give up their fundamental beliefs in morality to do so.

Evangelicals also need to take a hard look at driving black people out of their mega-churches. If the Benedict Compound is Whites Only, history will not look kindly on them.

Basically it's about getting some actual perspective. Yes, "Happy Holidays" is annoying if you are an Evangelical--but, you know, turn the other cheek or something. Today, wishing any normal person a "Merry Christmas" just makes you look a little out of step--not like an asshole.

And, as a final note, the legacy of Trump isn't going to be "Religious freedom laws" from coast to coast--it's going to be going down in history as a bunch of hypocrites who put worldly matters way, way, way ahead of their professed religious beliefs. White Evangelicals should take a hard look at that before they decide they're where they want to be.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

On Rightwing Media

It is an article of faith among the right that left wing media is not just dominant in America--but virtually all important. After all, the New York Times is the "paper of record" and the Washington Post is one of the most respected publications in the world. If you count CNN, MSNBC, and the three main networks as having not just a "liberal bias"--but actually being "liberal outlets" the same way that Fox News is a "conservative outlet" then the left outnumbers the right greatly in terms of production of news and, to a degree eyeballs.

If you look at the covers of Newsweek, Time, and other print publications, you can certainly see a difference between Obama and Trump:
It isn't just one "cover" either--pretty much the press loved Obama and, with the exception of right-wing media, really doesn't like Trump.

This is, to The Omnivore's mind, inarguable. If our basis is the covers of print publications and the internal (self-reported, even) biases of journalists alone, there can be no question: Trump is clearly disliked more than Obama.

If we assume both presidents were, objectively, fundamentally, the same, this would, indeed, be proof that the media (and, perhaps, the media alone) is fanning the flames against Trump.

Left-Wing Conspiracy Theory

Research shows that Conspiracy Theories Are for Losers--that is, the group that is out of power is more likely to believe and propagate conspiracy theories than the group in power. Research also shows that the more conspiracy theories you believe, the more you are likely to believe: Conspiracy Theory is a mindset more than just a reaction to "a set of facts" (where one set of facts is judged independently from another).

NOTE: There is one reader out there (at least) who will counsel The Omnivore not to make too much of these studies--as, of course, studies and statistics are often suspect. Yes, Daivd--The Omnivore isn't relying on these so much as saying (a) they certainly fit The Omnivore's experience and (b) they aren't the only studies that show this phenomena, if you don't like them as bolstering The Omnivore's thesis, show your own studies.

As such, we would expect that, having lost the 2016 election, liberals would descend into conspiracy theory thinking as the out-group. Indeed, The Omnivore was pointed to a Twitter Thread that marvels at exactly that:

Hah! This person thinks--see THAT, Omnivore?

Indeed, the phenomena that the Twitter guy describes is certainly plausible. After all, we don't know for a fact that Trump asked about the pee-tape, do we? We just have Lyin' Comey's word for that (one wonders what Ted Cruz thinks about his nickname being taken away and given to the FBI dude).

So--is this what we're seeing? Is the left just as conspiracy mired as the right? Are these conspiracy theories and belief in #fakenews what is pulling down the Trump presidency?

Nope.

Some Context For You

This is an analysis of traffic to conservative websites for December 2017.

There are a few takeaways here that we should note:

  1. Brietbart and The Daily Caller aren't #fakenews. Breitbart is heavily, heavily biased and has engaged in some bad behavior (a black-crime tag so their readers can be kept up to date on those crimes the negros are doin'--a very important thing in Conserva-land, apparently) nad The Washington Examiner, The Blaze, the Washington Times, Townhall, and National Review are all pretty straight up right-wing news.
  2. On the other hand, Infowars, Newsmax, and WND are all--uh--raw frothing conspiracy theory. The Federalist (down at 16--but still quite relevant) revived the Black-Crime-Tag (until caught--but apparently it's good for SEO, if you know what The Omnivore means--and he thinks you do!). These are not just bad news--they are fake-news.
  3. While these are explicitly "conservative news web sites" it should be noted that when you do the same for liberal news websites you get things that look like this: CNN, NYT, ABC, Slate, Politico, Time, and WaPo. In other words, "liberal news sites" are just "news." Conservative non-fake websites give you bias at the rate of Brietbart (after Fox) and then the Conservative Tribune--and then Infowars.
If you believe that, say, ABC is as biased as Brietbart, The Omnivore has some crypto-currency to sell you ("BUT Omni--they are as biased--or worse--YOU JUST CAN'T SEE IT!").

Yes, The Omnivore can. In fact--The Omnivore wants to look at that right now.

What People Are Being Told

It is important to review two things here:
  1. For the most part, the people visit news sources they trust. The Omnivore doesn't have trust data from Pew past 2014--but does not think it's a stretch to say that those outlets that are the most visited are generally trusted (there may be a rubber-necking element with InfoWars--The Omnivore certainly hopes so--but at #5, that's still a really ominous amount of traffic).
  2. The examples of Left Wing Conspiracy Theory that the Twitter Guy up there listed were (a) Quoting Comey as Trump "talking about the pee tape" and (b) referencing post on random blogs saying "wow, if true."--hold these in your mind for a second.
The  spectrum of Conspiracy Theory on the left and right looks something like this.
  • Real: Trump's campaign was favored by Russia. Russia may have made some moves to influence the campaign directly or indirectly. Trump Jr., at some point, certainly thought they were and was highly interested in help. Trump issued a statement lying about this. There is an investigation into what happened / how much the Trump campaign was intentionally involved. Also: Trump-Lawyer / Fixer may have done some shady or even illegal stuff that may or may not have been directly part of the campaign. It's also being investigated.
  • Liberal Spin: Jr. certainly tried to collude. Trump sure as hell "acts guilty" by firing Comey and giving different stories about why he did. Boy, it sure seems likely that Trump did something, doesn't it??
  • Conservative Spin: Trump wanted, desperately, to put the whole Russia thing behind him and Comey was definitely an ideological enemy. Trump did the obvious thing by firing him--but his whole newbie political deal blew up in his face. Same with Don Jr--it was just some bad decisions by a newbie politico. Nothing came of it. The investigation will turn up nothing on the collusion front and, if it goes beyond issues of Russia and the Campaign, it is Mueller over-stepping. Also: Russia hated Hillary more than they "liked Trump."
  • Liberal Conspiracy Spin: Trump was obsessed with the Pee-Tape (b/c IT'S REAL!) and Trump gave Cambridge Analytica voter targeting info to Russia to help them swing the campaign. MAYBE THEY DID! In office Trump is clearly a Russian puppet--resisting sanctions, talking up Putin, revealing state secrets! HE'S A PUPPET!!
  • Conservative Conspiracy Spin: A small group of insiders at the top of the Intelligence Community worked together as Trump Haters to Take Him Down. This started with the Dossier as an insurance program, should they lose (a small group realized they could/would) and was used to put the investigation "in motion," bamboozling FISA judges. This cabal extended to Rosenstein who pounced when Trump made a misstep and hired Comey's friend Mueller to do the dirty work. Now Mueller, who has clearly found nothing thus far is doing what he can to wreck the presidency through other means, such as the illegal Cohen Raid.
  • Liberal Bat-Shit Theory: Trump has already been deposed--so has Pence! Orin Hatch is running the country (or some shit, Trust The Omnivore, it's out there). Alternatively: Trump so caught up in Russia Gate that basically Putin is running the country.
  • Conservative Bat-Shit Theory: The Deep State is covering up a massive satanic pedophile ring that Trump is working tirelessly to bust (maybe with Mueller?). Clinton is going DOWN!! Obama is GOING DOWN!! Unless they can get him first. Alternatively: this is a slow-motion coup by #TheResistance, the IC, the FBI, the Media, and, ultimately, Obama/Clinton who are orchestrating a consolidated attack on our country.
Hopefully you'll read that wall-of-text and realize that while it doesn't cover everything (how could it??), it is The Omnivore avers, pretty fair to both sides.

Here's the problem: If we assume (and this is, in fact, the case) that media consumers are getting either the Liberal or Liberal Conspiracy spin on the Left or the Conservative / Conservative Conspiracy Spin on the right, there's a big difference. 

Do you see it?

The problem is that the Conservative Conspiracy Spin--that Mueller is a hostile agent working with a small cabal of people to take down Trump based on a network of carefully laid lies and political maneuvers who is doing clearly illegal things--is the Right-Hand side. On the Left-Hand Side, the theory is that Mueller will reveal conspiracy! And when he does, we can all watch the Pee Tape.

These two things are not symmetric--why so? Firstly: the Left-Wing theory doesn't hold Mueller as doing illegal things in pursuit Trump. If Mueller completely exonerates Trump, doubtless #TheResistance will be dumbstruck and hugely (YUGELY) disappointed--but it will take an extremely heavy lift for the news media involved to declare Mueller corrupt.

Read that again: We are talking about numerous people--across lots of media--who would need to reverse-course and declare that Mueller was corrupt all along. That could happen--but there is no evidence it will.

On the other hand, on the right, people are being told that Mueller is already corrupt

This is far-reaching and pervasive--it isn't bat-shit crazy--but it is deeply conspiratorial. Mark Levin has told his readers Mueller is corrupt. Trump has told his believers he's corrupt. Your average person going to those top 20 sites is going to get a steady diet of the theory that Mueller is exceeding his grasp with the Cohen investigation because he has turned up nothing in the regular one.

How does the conspiracy theory know this? Because they feel certain it would have leaked. In other words, lack of evidence is proof.

If you don't believe The Omnivore, go to some of those sites that have comments and look at them. There are two kinds of comments--anti-Trump trolls . . . and people who believe Mueller is corrupt. And let's keep in mind here that there is ZERO separation between the SDNY investigation of Cohen and Mueller's investigation of Trump.

This is despite having followed all the rules to the letter on the part of Mueller and even going to the federal agency (headed by an R--who recused himself) rather than the state agency (headed by a D). In other words, despite hewing to the rule-of-law, these readers are already decided: it's a corrupt fraud and a hack-job.

If Mueller does find collusion--or someone goes after Trump for dirty dealings with Cohen--these people will believe it was all an illegitimate set up--and that will have been strongly reinforced by their news media.

The Liberal Conspiracy Theory--that Trump was obsessed with the Pee Tape--or that Cohen lied about Prague and it's proven--is comparatively benign. The Twitter Guy up there doesn't say what websites are being re-tweeted with "Woah, if true"--but the amount of Liberal Conspiracy theory out there is strongly weighted in terms of "he's guilty and he's going down"--not "there is a large conspiracy working in the shadows, etc. etc."

To the extent that in the Liberal World a large conspiracy exists, it is a dark-money web (that, er, really does exist in all of politics) and a decision by Republicans to protect a president they know is corrupt (which is overstating the case, Kevin McCarthy's jokes aside).

These simply aren't comparable. One is setting up for disappointment. The other is refusing to acknowledge the rule of law and preparing for civil war.

Will #TheResistance take up guns when / if Trump is cleared? Maybe. But it doesn't seem likely to The Omnivore (someone, of course, may do something--but if The Omnivore had to bet, it is a much more likely thing that someone on the right will do something if Trump is accused / removed from office). 

These are all maybes--but right now? They aren't remotely comparable.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

On The Cohen Raid

Yesterday Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, was raided by the FBI. The blame (from Trump) goes to Mueller--however, it appears this is misguided:

  • While it originated with Mueller and Stormy, apparently Mueller decided (as with Trump-worlders) that this was outside his remit--and (likely) presented it to Rod Rosenstein. At this point they turned it over to New York.
  • They had a choice of the state attorney general or federal attorney for the Southern District of NY. The state AG is Democrat. The SDNY guy is a Republican, a Trump donor / supporter, and (The Omnivore understands) appointed by Trump. The FBI chose the Republican (even though Trump can pardon federal crimes). So whatever evidence was shown was, apparently, sufficient to convince a Trump-supporter that it was justified.
  • Articles are saying that, from what was seized, any evidence of any crime is fair game (this surprises The Omnivore--who would have thought that only evidence related to the search warrant was admissible).
  • Claims of attorney-client privilege being ignored appeared at 6 AM on Fox & Friends and POTUS tweeted that "ATTORNEY CLIENT PRIVILEGE IS DESTROYED" at 7. In fact, it turns out, that if you suspect the attorney and client in commission of a crime, it doesn't apply.
Today, The Federalist decided it was time for an American Divorce (before "things get dangerous"). He's suggesting this:
This is, of course, weapons-grade stupid. While not unexpected from The Federalist, who knows their readership will respond well to it, this is the Trumpian-base view of politics and not those of the rest of the country.

The Omnivore was asked, yesterday, if he would support the removal of Trump (actually he was asked about the impeachment of Trump) for campaign finance violations. This is his thinking:

1. Would You Remove Trump For The Stormy Daniels Pay-Off?

The first thing to recognize is that this isn't on the table. If all that comes out of the Mueller investigation is that Trump / Cohen violated campaign finance laws, not only would the Senate never convict, but attempting a House Impeachment over it would be a strategic mistake for the Democrats. If that's the worst Trump has done, he is better as a blue-wave generator in the White House than being martyred, ineffectively, for breaking the rules.

What if a hypothetical super-majority of Democrats could remove him--and then Pence, presumably--from the White House installing Speaker Pelosi as president? Would The Omnivore be in favor of it then?

The answer to that question is another questions: "How did you, question asker, feel about Mitch McConnell withholding even a vote on Merrick Garland--a bi-partisan choice for SCOTUS--for a record number of days in order to help Trump win the presidency?"

If your answer is: "It was legit by the rules." Then so is a Dem-Hostile-Takeover. If your answer was "it was bullshit"--but you voted for Trump because SCOTUS, then you don't have much to complain about either.

Of course removing Trump due to Stormy would be kind of like removing Bill Clinton for lying about an affair--kinda bullshit--however, we live in an era where anything that is in the rules seems like fair game (removing Blue-Slips) so, eh.

For the record: This hypothetical is not the way to get rid of Trump--if the Republicans have ceded responsible behavior, it is incumbent on the Democrats to uphold it. Somebody has to. But The Omnivore isn't all that hopeful. And worse, failure to take advantage of the rules wouldn't be seen as nobel by the Right. It would just be seen as "their due."

Eh.

2. How 'Bout That Divorce?

For the Trump-supporters, it certainly must look like a Deep State or Over-Zealous Prosecutor, or [ Whatever ] is OUT-TO-GET-TRUMP. This is because to a Trump-Supporter The Great Man can do no wrong (or, at least, very, very little wrong) and so these slings and arrows must be motivated by base-desires just like Trump's insults are.

However, this is, obviously, not the case.
  1. Everyone involved at the FBI is a Republican. This is all R-on-R violence. The idea that these people are all RINOS just means you define "real Republican" as "someone who supports Trump no matter what." Well, okay--but that's a tautology meaning it isn't useful for any analysis.
  2. Senate Republicans are finding their mid-term chances seem to be pretty closely related to their vocal support for Trump (the question of do-you-support-him is key on voter's minds) which means that the Republican Party is in the grips of a "hostile take-over" by Trump / Trump-Voters.
  3. So this means that the GOP's position is, really, Trump Could Shoot A Guy on 5th Avenue and If His Base Doesn't Desert, It's Cool.
This, frankly, would be grounds for a divorce and you really don't want to live in Trump-Country with this as its political philosophy. 

However, if one thing is clear, it's that what Trump is actually doing in this regard isn't popular. Forget about the polling that shows that even R's want Mueller to complete his investigation--much less the country as a whole--forget about special election successes (the Democrats are still only valued at "over 50% to take the House--definitely not a sure-thing). The fact that Rachel Maddow surpassed Hannity in viewership numbers is exactly the kind of leading indicator that Trump is losing credibility.

Also, the polling shows that older, college educated white people are moving away from Trump. This is, of course, due to his loutish behavior and not, specifically, his policies (his policies were baked in when they voted for him in the first place). As Trump is unable to change his personality, he doesn't seem to have the capability to "pivot."

Finally, the Trumpian Takeover looks to The Omnivore like it has a singular leader (Trump) and no heir. If the GOP sells their souls for Trump, even if they get two terms, it isn't clear who could take over that voter base after. Certainly not Pence.

So this may be an electoral dead-end.

Conclusions

At the end of the day, what probably gets Trump, if anything gets Trump, is the 2020 elections--however, the raid doesn't help things--and will likely expose some of the secrets the Trump campaign would rather keep. It may also, in the post Hope Hicks era, lead to some very bad decisions on the part of POTUS. He has, at any rate, always been his own worst enemy.

Friday, April 6, 2018

On The Williamson Firing

Kevin Williamson--conservative pundit--was hired by The Atlantic and then, before he even started--fired. Why?

Because he has said, and stoody by, his position that women who have an abortion are murders and should be hanged (also the doctors, nurses, etc.). This, if you just restrict this to women who have had abortions--never mind all the nurses and doctors and whatever--that's like 20% of the female population or something.

Now--let's be clear: Williamson doesn't want to go and kill these people now. No--what they did was morally worthy of wholesale execution--but thanks to it being legal at the time he doesn't think they should all die now.

So--uh--okay?

No--not okay.

According to what was said publicly, the hiring manager, J. Goldberg believed that Williamson had been somewhat misunderstood, and was worth a second chance anyway. However, as they baying of the mob increased, he checked back in with Williamson and discovered that Williamson wasn't backing down from his position (and had reiterated it in a podcast not so long ago) and would stick to it.

So he fired him.

The conservative pundits freaked out: this was proof of silencing conservative voices. One person told me they had inside information from Goldberg that the firing was, really, because of the mob and not, as the public statement said, because Williamson was going to say the same incendiary stuff again--this time under The Atlantic's masthead.

So--is it?

1. The Logical Position Problem

The problem that pro-life people have is that if abortion is murder then hiring a doctor to perform an abortion is hiring a hitman to kill your baby. If a woman really did want to get rid of her infant, couldn't bear to do it herself, and hired a literal hitman to kill the child? Yes--we would give her the death penalty. You bet we would.

And how.

So pro-life people have a problem: either their proposed solutions (make abortion illegal--go after the doctors alone) are inconsistent or they do not quite believe what they are saying they believe.

In fact, the problem is that a lot of Americans (most?) do not consider a 1st trimester fetus to quite be "a baby." This is an emotional line--medically, the fetus is certainly going to turn into a baby--but, still, if you hang women who have 1st or 2nd trimester abortions, you're going to be looked at as a monster.

In a secular democracy you don't want to look like a monster--so they have adopted a position that the woman is the victim of the evil abortion industry and she has been duped into making a horrible mistake. She's not culpable--the doctor is.

The other thing they do is focus hard on the incredibly rare 3rd term abortions which, in fact, do register as "killing a baby" with enough people to make an impact.

But Williamson didn't go for that dodge--no. He followed the stated logic through to its logical conclusion: abortion is murder, all these people need to be hanged for murder.

It's a solution--but it's not (a) the standard pro-life position (at all) or (b) a position that polite society considers reasonable.

So: on the face of it, Kevin Williamson is rhetorical bomb-thrower. He knows it--he embraces it. Whatever was going through The Atlantic's head when they hired him, it was probably some version of the "he was misunderstood" defenses we are seeing now.

He was not misunderstood*.

* Well, he was misunderstood by people who say he wants to have a mass, lethal purge of women--but his actual position--that those women are just morally worthy of execution isn't, in fact, any better.

2. The Baying Of The Mob

So was it the baying of the mob that got him fired? Well, according to "inside info" Goldberg said ti wasn't fair--but, hey, mob justice. The Omnivore can't compete with "inside info"--but let's make sure we're clear about a couple of things here despite that:

  1. You could always get fired for saying shit. In the history of work, there has always been some social position that you could get fired for holding. White supremacists Paul Nelhen just got BANNED from Gab--the Nazi-home that bans no one--for outing "Ricky Vaughn." (a topic of another Omnivore, to be sure!). So--yeah: despite what you may want to think, there is always a line.
  2. The Atlantic is not a fire-breathing publication. It's intellectual. It's thoughtful. It's not given to extremism. Williamson is not--in his entire oeuvre--an incendiary bomb-thrower--but he has staked out a position that is, in fact, very socially offensive--and defended it--and made it clear to Goldberg he would continue to defend it.
  3. This Is Clearly Over The Line. If we are to have a party of personal responsibility then we must acknowledge that holding a position that is out of step with the entire fucking pro-life movement--one that got President Trump chastised (in horror) by the pro-life movement--for suggesting punishment far less than execution by hanging--then that is going to risk being over the line.
Ergo: People who want Williamson to not-be-fired want him to cross the line and still keep his job. That's nice--but it's not the conservative position, is it?

3. What's Really Going On

What's really going on is that conservatism has had a history of saying things that were popular--but offensive (that gays were sub-human in some ways, for example, or that women, being emotional, should not be able to vote). Things have changed for various reasons and now these sorts of things have a social backlash.

That upsets a lot of people for far baser reasons than "the silencing of conservative voices."

Today what constitutes a conservative voice is Milo Yiannopoulos trying his best to start a riot or Ben Shapiro finding college kids to argue with. A lot of the problem here is that "conservative dialog" has been degraded over the past 8 years thanks to the necessity of mixing in a culture war that, to be blunt, had to encompass Trump-voters--without acknowledging that they are not, really, compatible with conservative ideology. 

Today it is hard to separate this--and it has degraded everything. Williamson, to be a rising star, has to be both conservative and provocative. He has chosen a position that would get you fired in an august publication . . . and, well, it did.