Future Needs For Federal Agency Outstations

Yesterday, we talked about the Secret Service’s lesser urgency for a close-in outpost in Trump Tower.

Today, much less humorously, it is beginning to look like the DOJ crackdown on the media will mean that Federal Bureau of Prisons will need outstations at the New York Times and the Washington Post.

If history is any guide, that need will decline quickly.  Rather there will soon be need for a huge Bureau of Prisons outstation at Trump Tower.  While the space vacated by the Secret Service will presumably be available, I doubt it will be large enough.

 

Climate Change Headline: “Trump to Planet: Drop Dead”

Let hope it does not come to that, but at 3 PM today, this may be the tragically perfect headline:

“Trump to Planet: Drop Dead”

That, basically, was the NY Daily News headline  (Ford to NYC: Drop Dead) in 1975 when then President Ford came out against loan guarantees for the bankrupt New York City.  Ford the narrowly lost New York, and so the 1976 election.

Today may be the planetary tipping point.

Update: Lets hope that this does Trump’s Presidency in.  Later on June 1, the Huffington used the same language to headline their coverage on their main page, apparently as of 3:36 PM that day (posting time of actual article.)

The Right Wing Press Loses Its Credibility if They Do Noting to Pressure Trump on Press Access

Fox, the Wall Street Journal and friends, now face a critical pass-fail test.  As the Times put it:

Reporters from The Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, the BBC and The Huffington Post were among those shut out of the briefing. Aides to Mr. Spicer admitted only reporters from a group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed.

Those organizations included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Fox News also attended.

Reporters from The Associated Press and Time magazine, who were set to be allowed in, chose not to attend the briefing in protest of the White House’s actions. The Washington Post did not send a reporter to the session.

Is the response of the right wing press, to paraphrase Martin Miemoeller:

First they came for the mainstream press, and we did not speak out, because we are not mainstream press.   .    .   .

And here the immediate needed action, shown by AP and Time, is simple.  If you want to talk to us, you have to talk to everyone.

If those who attended the gaggle, fail this test again, they will have shown that political loyalty and short term economic interest trump freedom of the press.  So, they have lost all intellectual credibility, and so have any who continue to work for them.

This is a pivotal moment of choice.  History will hold them accountable, whatever else happens.

Trump’s “Finely Tuned Machine” Sounds More Like a Nixon Tape Transcript

I was reading through the transcript of Trump’s press conference, and started to feel in my gut that I had been here before.

Then I realized what it was.  It was just like reading an old Nixon tape transcript.  Look at this from today:

It’s very important to me and especially in this position. It’s very important. I don’t mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it’s true and, you know, over a course of time, I’ll make mistakes and you’ll write badly and I’m OK with that. But I’m not OK when it is fake. I mean, I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred.

I don’t watch it any more because it’s very good — he’s saying no. It’s OK, Jim (ph). It’s OK, Jim (ph), you’ll have your chance. But I watch others too. You’re not the only one so don’t feel badly. But I think it should be straight. I think it should be — I think it would be frankly more interesting. I know how good everybody’s ratings are right now but I think that actually — I think that’d actually be better.

And

No, that’s how I won. I won with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn’t win by people listening to you people. That’s for sure. But I’m having a good time.

Tomorrow, they will say, “Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.” I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But — but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.

But tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, “Donald Trump rants and raves.” I’m not ranting and raving.

For those of us who remember Nixon with a certain distorted nostalgia, it is all there.  The resentment, particularly at the press, the belief that he can handle thing that others can not.  His claim not to care about it.  His insults.  His repetition when a point has been made.  Above all it is the constant sense of being aggrieved and a victim, and that he is the only straight shooter in the room.

There is only one problem.  Nixon was speaking in private.  Trump is speaking in public.

I wonder what on earth is he like in private?  Oh, actually, we do know. He is focused on privates.

 

Resurrecting the Online Trump Team Lie Detector

The idea of a TV Trump lie detector system, proposed here, really did not get much initial traction.

Thus the TASS (Trump Assertion Scoring System).  I trust that those old enough to remember the Soviet news Agency and its endlessly repeated and utterly predictable falsehoods will appreciate the joy of thinking of this name .  .  .

TASS would be deployed on one or more news source networks, in the form of maybe a visual Pinocchio, or other graphic, maybe in the bottom left of the screen, showing the accuracy or not of the current assertion. One could also use an icon system to note the percentage of lies in the speech. Indeed, the Washington Post Fact Checker already uses a Four Pinocchio scoring system.  But it is not in real time. Polifact does some livechecking, but it seems to be text driven, and in any event not on the major network news feeds.

But now, with the media finally getting that they have to do something about the obviously intentional lying of the Trump administration, it is the time to get this going.

The great thing is that the Trump team has now degenerated so much that so much of what they say is immediately recognizable as a lie.  So it would not take much staff to do it.

It would be easy to pilot with the press briefings.

The Globalization of Politcs May Be the Most Important Long Term Impact of Trumpism

For a long time a sacred (and therefore honored in the breach) principle of international relations was that of non-interference in other countries internal affairs.

Indeed, when NATO intervened in the Balkans, many, including progressives, were deeply worried about the violation of this principle, and the precedent it might set for the future.

Of course, these days, we understand that as a practical matter there are multiple ongoing ways of engaging with and interfering with other countries political system, yet no real coherent intellectual structure for describing, let alone regulating it.  What we do know that the last election has gotten us to the point where we realize the extent of the threat to democracy and democratic principles in the way this game in evolving.  In the package of such techniques are stealing data, publicizing true or false data, undermining confidence in communications, creating confusion, and falsifying communications in such a way that the parties do not even know it.

That countries are interfering in each others’ processes more and more is just a reflection of how deeply and continuously their interests intersect, and of how much more that is case that ever before.

Rather than just panic, I would urge that we should see the globalization of politics implicit in this interventionist paradigm as an opportunity both to advance democracy, and the integration of our world.

The core imbalance is between transparent engagement and non-transparent interventions.  Examples of transparent engagement are public information campaigns, people from other countries urging policy choices, explanations of the other countries points and view, needs, and alignment with the interests of the country sought to being influenced.  Remember that to suppress information about such things means that the overall process of global vision integration is held back.

Such transparent engagements actually provide more information for those who make the decisions about how to vote and how to lead.  Such transparent engagements only work if they are seen to be advocating for policies that are in the real interests of those with the actual voting and decision-making power.  Otherwise, they have the opposite effect of moving people in the opposite effect (as may already at least be happening with Putin’s US adventures.)

In contrast, non-transparent interventions, as we will continue to see in the US, undermine stability in “target” countries, at least in the short term, tend to destabilize the international system, and are likely to result in escalations of interference that may spill over into other realms of force.

Now, therefore, somehow non-transparent interventions have to be banned and actually so strongly de-incentivized that they they do not occur.  Interestingly, most countries probably have in place rules that prohibit all such interventions.  So the prohibitions need  to be generally narrowed to apply only to non-transparent interventions.

This would also require specifying the requirements and conditions of transparency.  Such conditions would include full disclosure of financing, means, scope, intent, and engagement with groups in the country targeted.  Moreover, systems of monitoring would be needed to ensure that non-transparent influencing attempts, and purportedly transparent ones that are in violation of the requirements,  would be identified and publicized.  Of course, the model for this exists (although far too weakly) in current rules governing in-country regulation of improper attempts at persuasion.  Finally enforcement mechanisms would include shaming, sanctions, and ongoing additional monitoring — in other words reflecting the monitoring and enforcement mechanisms for other violations of international norms, such as the development of nuclear capacity in violation of treaties.

Given that the most insecure countries are the most fearful of such non-transparent interference, they might be willing ultimately to accept an international regulatory structure.  Countries like the US would have to abandon frequently use non-transparent techniques (except those justifiable in self-defense terms) in order to persuade the more  insecure countries to accept such a structure.

Just not this year, I suspect.  If it happens, however, it will be because a consensus develops in the US and beyond that the risks of the current escalation are too great.  If so, we will be able to thank Putin and Trump, and this may be their greatest legacy.

 

 

 

 

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.