First Thoughts on the CIA Finding — We Need A Roberts Commission and Beyond

While there is a long history of countries (including ours) finding ways to mess with their opponent’s political system, this is sui generis, and leads to a thousand thoughts on where this takes us and leaves us.

The Threat of Illegitimacy and a Response

This is, actually,most parallel to the Kennedy assassination, in which fears of external influence were deeply believed, and deeply destabilizing.  President Johnson prevailed upon Chief Justice Earl Warren to take leadership of the Commission he established because he believed that Warren’s institutional and personal credibility would resolve doubts.  While the effort was far from fully successful, at least it was sufficiently so as to maintain the stability o our political system.

We need an equivalent non-partisan, completely credible, and fully supported process.  If Chief Justice Roberts can not be trusted, then we need a new Chief Justice, although I suspect that he is sufficiently an institutionalist that he can be trusted.  Given the increasing fear developing in the “traditional” GOP about this whole issue, it may well be that they would go all in.  Trump of course, could not b part of it, nor his minions, rather however it is set up, it must be done so all the agencies cooperate, without intervention from the White House.  I suspect that this has to be set up and in place before the inauguration.  I suspect that this first Commission would focus only on getting the facts out.

Assuming that Election Impact is Found, There are Ways to Shape US-Internal Consequences

What the consequences for our government leadership are to be has to be depends on the facts.  The problem will be getting in place a system capable of responding to the findings of the Commission.  Assuming that the finding is that there was an effort to get Trump in, and that we can not be sure if this is a cause-in-fact of the result, we are in a terrible place, although one compromise might then be that the party result remains the same, but a new Republican has to be chosen, untainted by any whiff of involvement, encouragement, or lack of concern.  The problem in terms of getting rid of him may be that Trump will not have committed an impeachable offense.

If, on the other hand, the result is found to be caused by the intervention — not impossible given current statistical tools — then may we need an urgent constitutional one time re-write to permit a new election.  That would need a broad national consensus, but if all the prior presidents joined in support, maybe it it could happen.  (And, since we know that Reagan is immortal, his ghost could chime in.)

Of course, it is also not impossible that an “innocent” President Trump would none the less commit an impeachable offense in the attempt to cover up the illegitimacy of his presidency.  It is also possible, as discussed here, that the “unable” language of the 25th Amendment would apply, particularly if Trump’s tendency to be out of touch with reality were exacerbated by the investigation and deterioration of this political situation.

Really Weird Things Could be Found

Supposing, for example, that it turned out that the emails found on Weiner’s computer that led to the FBI intervention in the election had been placed there by the Russians.  Or that hacking had created conflicts between Republican Presidential candidates that had not been there before.  (To think of more ideas, just speculate about what Nixon’s gang would have done if they had had high level hacking capacity.)

The Long Term Threat Goes Far Beyond Elections

Anyone in the leadership elite should be terrified by this.  Think what it threatens to corporations, banks, universities, the media, etc.  They are subject to just the same kind of disruption and potential blackmail as the political players at issue.  They are already deeply fearful of Trump, and this might give them a bit more spine.

The US is Ultimately Less Vulnerable Than Authoritarian Countries

While the interrelated epidemic of false news has made it harder to know what to believe, countries are far more vulnerable to this kindof thing when people basically don’t believe anything they get from media — which is what happened when you have centrally controlled media.  While their elections are not so much subject to disruption than ours, simply because they do not have them in any real sense, the economy, the inner network of real decision makers, the academic and media worlds, are totally subject to interference.  Those countries are not controlled not by a publicly derived and legitimated consensus, but by complex signals in a highly uncertain world, which if properly penetrated, can be caused to collapse.

Protecting Ourselves in the Future

Largely ignored is the simple truth that the best defense again hacking is transparency.

P.S. I would particularly urge you to share this with your networks, particularly anyone you know in media.

Melania’s Diary #1: I did it, I had to do it, I am Proud

Private Eye , the British satire magazine, had long had feature called Mrs (PM) Diary, purporting to be the diary of the prime minister’s wife.  Now the Guardian is doing it.

So, Melania’s Diary seems to be an irresistible project.  We found this one in the trash at Cleveland airport.

No one must ever read this. 

It’s been getting harder and harder and scarier for me, to think about Donny as President.  I’d hate to think what my parents thought about how he talks about people outside the US.

So, I wanted to pay homage to Michelle, to write something that was non-racist.  So I did it.  I can not tell anybody.  But I am quietly proud.

 I wonder if anyone will figure out that that is why I made a big thing that I had written it.  If they do, I will deny it. 

How else could I live with myself.  I can not say anything, because of the non-disclosures in our pre-nup.

This blog wonders if we will find anything else in the trash.

Additional Note from the Editor: (July 20, 2016)

The following quote appears in the New York Times from Ms Trump’s speechwriter.  It is, in fact, fully consistent with the found diary entry,

“In working with Melania on her recent first lady speech, we discussed many people who inspired her and messages she wanted to share with the American people,” Ms. McIver wrote.

Document: Trump Aide’s Statement on Melania Trump’s Speech
“A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama,” she added.

“Over the phone,” Ms. Trump “read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant.”

I am Scheduled for Chemo The Week of the Republican Convention — Is This a Research Opportunity?

Monday through Friday of the week of the Republican Convention I am scheduled for my sixth cycle of chemotherapy.

The first question is whether having both of these “treatments” at the same time is contra-indicated.

The next is whether the side effects of the two treatments might tend to mitigate or intensify each other:

  • Does nausea get worse from the two?
  • Does drowsiness from chemo help protect against effects from the convention?
  • Does “chemo brain” mean you lose your judgement about what is going on?
  • Would Marinol reduce any exacerbation effect? (Other drugs also occur to one!)

Finally, could one develop a protocol to research this?  What would the consent document look like? Or is such research clearly unethical as subjecting subjects to needless harm?  What would be the standard for ending the experiment (by which I mean ending the convention early)?

Trump Should Learn from Monty Python, and Launch an “Other-Other Operation.”

I love this juxtaposition:

On Politico today,

With the convention less than a month away, POLITICO contacted more than 50 prominent governors, senators and House members to gauge their interest in speaking. Only a few said they were open to it, and everyone else said they weren’t planning on it, didn’t want to, or weren’t going to Cleveland at all — or simply didn’t respond.

While, also today, on the New York Times,

[The Trump campaign and the RNC] are employing hard-nosed tactics, warning delegates that attempting to undermine Donald J. Trump’s claim to the nomination violates party rules, and threatening to deny speaking slots to Republicans they deem disloyal for not backing him.

Can I suggest that Trump and the RNC should learn from Monty Python and announce that any delegates that undermine the campaign will have long videos of them shown at the convention, demonstrating their participation in the same party as Trump.

This could be  “the turning point” starting on this clip from the Monty Python Dinsdale sketch at 3:00, for about 45 secs.)


Trump Broke His Tax Return Promise Just After Breaking Through His Delegate Target for The Date — A Fair Way For Prevoiusly Selected Bound Delegates To Obtain Release

The overall attempt, now largely abandoned, to have the Republican Convention release delegates to vote their consciences, has always seemed somehow unfair, if only because it would change the rules in mid-stream, thereby apparently depriving those of voted for the delegates who would be released of those voters’ voice.

There is, however, one exception to that unfairness.  If those voters in making their decision, in fact relied on a promise by the candidate, since broken, then it may be the voters who are being deprived of their vote by the status quo.

For example, and it is surely an important one, there was a significant period during the primary process during which Trump had promised to release his tax returns before the election, and before he changed his mind.  It may be that there are voters who made their choice in part on that promise, and that therefore there are delegates now bound to a firt ballot, or more, choice based on voters the basis for whose choice has been undermined.

There might be passed a Convention Rule that allowed delegates to petition the appropriate Committee to release from their voting obligation any delegate given a vote at the convention as a result of a primary or caucus vote taken during the period of time between the promise to release tax returns, and the rescinding of that promise.  Such a rule would be highly liminted in application and would obviosly be removed from all force by the release of the returns before the ultimate convention itself.  It is hard to see it as unfair.

If the assumption behind the rule — that the broken promise led to unfairness was not true, then the delegates would be under no obligation to request or make use of the release.  Moreover, the passing by the Convention as a whole of the Rule could only happen if a very significant portion of the party felt the need to correct the situation.

It would appear that by May 12, it was clear that Trump was unlikely, at best, to release his returns before the election. As close to the voting as January 24, Trump certainty gave the impression that he would release the returns. “We’re working on that now. I have big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time,” the billionaire real estate developer and entertainer said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”  The Iowa Caucuses were on Feb 1, this year.  So all delegates selected before May 12 would appear to fall into this strange status.

By May 12 a total of about 1,078 Trump delegates had been selected.  (Interestingly, it was on May 10 that Trump broke through his FiveThirdyEight “target,” also getting to over two third of what he needed in total, and then cruised to the nomination.  Maybe he then felt free to back down on his promise).  I do know know how many of those delegates were legally bound, or whether freeing them would have any impact, but it might be worth thinking about.