Episode 105: Immigrant Kids, OIG Report, Being Friends With Chairman Kim


  • Separating parents from children…bad, yes, everyone agrees
    • What’s your alternative?
    • Why aren’t critics offering an alternative they would prefer?
  • OIG report, clear example of two movies on one screen
    • 500 page report guarantees everyone can see what they want to see
    • My prediction that Comey was being “a patriot” with his Clinton email actions
    • Alan Dershowitz opinion on Comey’s actions contains an element of mind reading
    • Should Lynch have made the decision (proper protocol) rather than Comey?
    • Would there have been worse repercussions if Comey had followed proper protocols?
    • OIG report exonerates Comey, although he broke the rules
  • President Trump’s impromptu meeting with reporters outside White House this morning
    • “Biscuit on nose” analogy for the MSM
  • POTUS handling of the kneelers
  • Trump Foundation investigation
  • Crimea…reasonable questions
    • Why do we care if Russia has Crimea?
    • What do the Crimean people want?
    • If we don’t know…shouldn’t we ask?
  • California split-up,  should they?


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The Comey Fog

    Ex-FBI Director Comey released a statement ahead of his appearance before Congress, and it has heads spinning. I’ll tell you how things look through what I call the Persuasion Filter.

    There are several related stories swirling around the news that involve Russia, Trump, Trump’s campaign staff, and Comey. All together, the stories are beyond the capacity of the human brain to hold the details and keep them from automatically conflating in our minds and becoming more soup than individual ingredients. When you have this level of complexity, humans reflexively default to using bias over reason. Our capacity for reason isn’t up to the job in this case because all the Russia-Comey-Trump stuff has started to run together in our minds. We would happily use our limited powers of reason in this situation if we could, but the complexity of it all makes that a dream beyond our grasp.

    Could a trained lawyer sort out this complexity and at least tell you whether or not a law has been broken? Apparently not. Otherwise the lawyers on both sides would agree. They don’t.

    So what we are seeing is a super-clean example of what I call two movies on one screen. The anti-Trump media and citizens are peering into the Comey fog and seeing some serious Trump-related wrongdoing that is impeachable at the very least, and treasonous at worst. Meanwhile, Trump supporters are looking at the SAME FACTS and seeing nothing illegal except for some leaking by anti-Trumpers.

    Now add to the Comey fog the recent news of how President Trump worded his conversations. The nation will be word-thinking like crazy today, trying to figure out whether “honest” and “hope” mean something. That’s just enough ambiguity to create confirmation bias in literally every observer. (Including me, of course.) We’re all seeing what we want to see at this point.

    I’m not a lawyer, and I’m as biased as the rest of you on this topic. But for what it’s worth, I’ll tell you what I’m seeing through my filter.

    “Honest Loyalty”

    Comey reports that Trump asked him during a private meeting for “loyalty.” Comey promised “honesty” instead. When Trump pressed the point a second time, Comey said he would give “honest loyalty.” Trump agreed that “honest loyalty” is what he wanted. The way you interpret this conversation depends on whether you think Trump or his associates are guilty of anything. If you think Trump is guilty of a crime, the conversation sounds like a Mafia-style threat. But if you believe Trump and his associates are innocent of any crimes, you probably see honesty and loyalty as the same thing in this situation. Innocent people want law enforcement to be honest. For the FBI to act otherwise would be disloyal to both the Constitution and any citizens involved in the investigation. In the context of an investigation of an innocent citizen, honesty and loyalty from law enforcement are the same thing.

    “Hope you can let it go”

    Regarding the FBI investigation of Flynn, if you think there was wrongdoing by Flynn, Trump’s expression of hope that the FBI can “let it go” sounds like a gangster sending a threat. But if you believe Flynn was innocent of everything but lying to Pence (for which he was fired) then you see it as entirely reasonable that Flynn’s friend (Trump) would “hope” Comey could “let it go.” The alternative would be hoping that Flynn was harmed for no reason, and the government continued to be distracted over nonsense. Does anyone hope for that outcome?

    I won’t defend what President Trump said or did on this issue. Clearly it was problematic because we’re discussing it instead of something more useful. But I don’t see a broken law.

    Persuading Comey

    Was President Trump trying to persuade Comey in any of their private conversations? Of course he was. In a political context, all conversations are about persuasion. Comey was trying to persuade Trump that Comey was a competent and capable player with no bias. Trump was expressing his preferences from a power position, which is persuasive by its nature. 

    Persuasion isn’t inherently good or bad. Persuasion is a tool. It’s goodness or badness depends on the context of its use. If you believe Trump knows he and his associates were innocent of any wrongdoing, and you observe that the investigations are making the government less effective, it feels entirely legitimate for the President to persuade in a direction that is a benefit for all citizens. No one wants to waste time, money, or energy on a useless investigation. But if you think there is some wrongdoing yet uncovered, presidential persuasion would be wildly inappropriate in this case, even if technically legal.

    I haven’t seen evidence of any crimes on the Trump side, so my filter sees a president trying to remove some obstacles that are not serving him or the American public. That kind of persuasion doesn’t feel wrong to me. 

    If new information emerges, I’m happy to update my opinion.

    You might enjoy reading my book because I it is chock-full of honest loyalty. 

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The Comey Firing

    What do Bernie Sanders’ hair and CNN have in common today? They are both saying, “Comey” every time you look at them.

    The news coverage of Comey’s firing has become excellent entertainment. This is the biggest cognitive dissonance cluster bomb we’ve seen since election night. This one has everything.

    For starters, the topic is too complicated for the public, and even the pundits. That creates a situation in which we’ll all invent our own version of the movie in our heads. Where there is confusion, complexity, and emotion there is usually lots of cognitive dissonance. We got all of that.

    My cursory understanding of the topic is that Trump’s critics say he fired Comey to put a chill on the FBI’s investigation of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. This theory sort-of-almost makes sense, in a hypothetical and indirect way. I could see how taking out the top dog would make the underdogs at the FBI worry about going hard at the President. On the other hand, the people doing the actual investigation are professionals, and there would be too many witnesses if they did a bad job. So that doesn’t pass my sniff test. But I can’t rule it out, either.

    President Trump’s official reason for the Comey firing has to do with a loss of confidence over his handling of the Clinton email investigation. The beauty of that official explanation (true or not) is that it is making heads explode with Democrats and the Opposition Media. How dare President Trump fire the person we publicly demanded he fire!

    Now we have a bizarre situation in which both sides (Demcrats and Republicans) wanted Comey fired, but they had different reasons for wanting it. Democrats were upset that he might have torpedoed Hillary Clinton’s campaign by talking about the Weiner laptop discovery of additional Clinton emails close to Election Day. And Republicans hated Comey for not pursuing a criminal case against Clinton for her email server misdeeds. That’s the perfect set-up for cognitive dissonance. I’ll explain:

    Democrats and the Opposition Media reflexively oppose almost everything President Trump does. This time he gave them something they wanted, badly, but not for the reason they wanted. That’s a trigger. It forces anti-Trumpers to act angry in public that he did the thing they wanted him to do. And they are.

    Trump cleverly addressed the FBI’s Russian collusion investigation by putting the following line in the Comey firing letter: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

    That one odd sentence caused every media outlet to display the quote and talk about it, over and over. And when you focus on something, no matter the reason, it rises in importance in your mind. President Trump, the Master Persuader, made all of us think about the “not under investigation” part over, and over, and over.

    The trick here is that members of Trump’s campaign might be the ones under investigation, not Trump himself. But that’s where the complexity of this topic is useful to the Master Persuader. The viewing public won’t make that distinction. All they will hear – over and over – is the “not under investigation” part.

    I’ve taught you in this blog that the right amount of “wrong” is what captures our attention and creates a memory. Trump’s odd inclusion of the “not under investigation” line is just wrong enough that we can’t move past it. It is persuasion-perfect.

    The best explanation I have heard for the timing of Comey’s firing is that it comes soon after the Assistant Attorney General was confirmed, and he is Comey’s official boss. You need a proper boss for a proper firing. And it came right after Comey embarrassed himself by getting some facts about the Clinton email situation wrong in front of Congress. There is no perfect time to fire a person, but this was close to perfect. 

    My favorite part of this firing – from a persuasion perspective – is that it is such a strong move. The pure dominance of the play is what will stick in our minds. This was some ballsy Presidenting. That’s the lasting takeaway. You’ll remember the boldness long after you forget the timing and the details.

    I’m also fascinated by how quickly the media turned on Comey after he was out of office. Apparently lots of people were afraid of him. No one mentioned that fear BEFORE he was fired, so I assume they really were afraid of him. Now people on both sides can’t stop yammering about how scary he was. Clearly it was a good firing for the country, regardless of the timing and the details.

    My opinion of Comey’s handling of the Clinton email issue remains the same. I believe he sacrificed his career and reputation to avoid taking from the American voters their option of having the leader of their choice. If Comey had pushed for Clinton’s indictment, the country would have ended up with a President Trump without a “fair” election. That was the worst-case scenario for the country and the world. Comey prevented that disaster while still making it clear to the American public that Clinton was not guilt-free with her email server. He let the voters decide how much weight to assign all of that. In my opinion, Comey handled the Clinton email situation like a patriot. The media is spinning the situation as “making it all about himself.” That’s true in the same sense that a Medal of Honor winner who jumped on a grenade to save his buddies is “making it all about himself.” I don’t disagree with the characterization that Comey was trying to be the “hero” because that’s how it looks to me too. 

    I once heard a story about a guy who pulled a woman out of a car that was on fire. He got burns on his arms doing it. He saved her life, but I don’t like him because he was trying to be a hero. That guy made it all about himself.

    I’m sure Comey had his flaws. But I don’t think his handling of the Clinton emails was among them. I assume historians will think otherwise.

    My Video Lessons on Writing

    I made a short video of my writing tips. I hope you will find it useful. You can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDwm-UPILuw

    You might enjoy reading my book because Bernie Sanders doesn’t Comey his hair.

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