Manafort And Context

The ability of many Americans to grasp context has been severely compromised and the media is primarily responsible for that.

The major media outlets require clicks and ratings and the clicks and ratings are generated by the most fantastic headline the news networks can create. Context around the facts that would actually inform the reader or viewer is not a relevant factor in generating clicks and ratings.

An excellent example of this loss of context was just this morning from CNN’s website with the story of the Manafort indictment – which made mention of Manafort (briefly) being employed by the Trump campaign at the top of the article, entirely omitted that Manafort was employed by Podesta (the Clinton campaign manager) at the time that the alleged crimes occurred and at the bottom of the article declared “The charges against Manafort and Gates are unrelated to the Trump campaign…”

The charges against the secondary characters appear to revolve around lying to the FBI and failing to file paperwork. These may be unsavory criminal acts but the assumption that these may be the evidence of Trump conspiring with Putin to commit treason is unfounded without considerably more evidence.

On the other side – the ‘Hillary sold uranium to Putin’ story also loses context. By all accounts the uranium in question is not weapons grade so the treason argument is specious. What we do not know about that transaction is if there was a quid pro quo in which Bill and Hillary profited from Hillary exercising her government authority in approving that transaction. There is reasonable evidence that Bill and Hillary received financial reward from wealthy Russians at the same time this transaction was being considered and ultimately approved by Hillary. It certainly has the distinctive odor of corruption but we do not know if a quid pro quo occurred.

In regard to the Steele dossier we also lose context – the Democrat media proclaims it is not a crime to commit opposition research on the opposing candidates. That is a true statement – but that is not where the alleged crime was committed. The potential crime here is if the Obama administration used that dossier as justification to obtain a FISA warrant in order to commit espionage against people who were an integral part of the Trump campaign. The obvious second question is if the information acquired via the FISA warrant targeting the Trump campaign staff ever made its’ way to the Clinton campaign, the DNC or any advocacy groups aligned with Clinton/Obama or was used in the campaign in any manner.

Manafort, Podesta, Flynn, Clinton – for all of these people there is more than justifiable suspicion that they are corrupt and willing to abuse power in order to benefit themselves. That should not shock anyone. I would submit that the ease with which we now toss around the word ‘treason’ in regard to the politicos that we do not like is because tossing around the term ‘corrupt’ is no longer effective – and it is no longer effective because we all understand that the corruption is so pervasive that calling someone ‘corrupt’ is no longer a distinguishing characteristic.

The context we have lost is that DC is a cesspool. Arguing over who has dived deeper into the cesspool is beyond foolish when we should be uniting to get rid of the cesspool and taking steps to eliminate the possibility that the cesspool can ever be recreated.

The argument has become who has the less corrupt politicians and functionaries rather than the unanimous rejection of all of the corruption.

One would think this would cause rational people to rethink this whole thing – but we would rather argue to the effect that your guy stinks more than my guy and if he doesn’t – I need to throw some stink on him to make it so.

We get the government that we deserve.

Buckle up!

Good News: Trump Making Stellar Judicial Nominations.

While detractors detract and defenders defend and a few intrepid souls try to call ‘em as they see ‘em, President Trump is keeping one campaign promise spectacularly: appointing highly qualified Constitutionalists to the federal bench. The libertarian publication Reason notes Trump’s nominees are getting excellent reviews from both conservative and libertarian scholars.
Case Western Reserve University’s Jonathon Adler, a noted libertarian law professor and active litigator for limited government, calls Trump’s early nominations “incredibly strong” and predicts they will have an intellectual impact on their respective appellate courts. Adler was quoted in a New York Times article that noted warily Trump was assembling his selections with the help of the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.
Paul Mirengoff of the influential Power Line Blog comments that on judicial nominations, Trump keeps winning. Mirengoff cites the appointments of Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, distinguished litigator James Ho, Kyle Duncan, and federal trial judge Kurt Engelhardt. Mirengoff pays particular notice to Engelhardt, who “wrote a scathing 129-page order denouncing the misconduct of lawyers at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the local New Orleans U.S. Attorney’s Office in a prosecution of New Orleans police officers. As Christian Adams says, Judge Engelhardt’s order ‘offers a look behind the curtain of some of the worst ideological misconduct that occurred at the Obama DOJ.’”
Here in Colorado, respected Supreme Court Justice and law professor Allison Eid received Trump’s nod for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. She cleared the judiciary committee last week, and advances to the full Senate. Eid faced united but mostly ineffectual opposition from Democrats on the committee.
Trump’s string of excellent appointments is good news for a few reasons. First and foremost, it will increase the critical mass of Constitutionalists who eschew leftist policy making from the bench, but also protect against the government trampling important rights and liberties that are clearly identified in the Constitution.
Moreover, there was nothing in Trump’s background to inspire confidence he’d select judges of this bent and caliber. Many believed he was making meaningless promises to mollify conservatives that would be forgotten as soon as he took office. The Gorsuch nomination to the high court suggested otherwise. The roster of strong lower court nominations give further indication Trump meant it. That is good news for believers in limited government and independent checks and balances.

“Trickle Down Economics”–It’s the New “Racism”

Apparently, in advance of Congress tackling tax reform, the 80s called and offered Democrats their class warfare vocabulary for the debate. “Trickle down economics” is the new go-to sneer, more valuable even than “racist.”
Lower, flatter tax rates are just trickle down economics, sniffs Salon. Tax cuts are about nothing but trickle down, huffs PBS. Esquire, for variety, accuses Republicans of voodoo economics, and reserves “trickle down” for the search tags. The American Prospect intones that reducing U.S. corporate tax rates (among the highest in the world) just perpetuates the trickle-down myth.
Tax reform is a sticky wicket, with near infinite details to facilitate the mud wrestling of interests, industries, and politicians. But, the tired smear “trickle down economics” has always been an incoherent mess. What does it mean? That if we don’t tax the rich snotless, maybe they’ll pour some spare pennies down on the heads of the poor? Nonsense. Beyond achieving a miserly-sounding sneer, the pairing is exactly wrong in at least three different ways.
First, in the ordinary course of things, the wealthy don’t actually trickle anything down on anyone. They pay for things they need and want, with whatever effects that produces in the economy. They don’t trickle their wealth generously, they spend it selfishly. Meanwhile, people and companies make money providing goods and services. That’s how the economy works. The real trickle-down is what progressives seem to prefer–a system to wring the rich like a wet towel and politically drizzle the money on the poor—what’s left anyway after government waters its favored causes and cronies.
That’s the approach of the shake-down state economies of the Euro-moribund zone and of the great Peron-Castro-Chavez banana tradition of strongmen. They gain power, neutralize competing power centers–like checks and balances and media—and seize economic control, thus chocando the fortunes and freedom of formerly rising Latin powers. (“Chocar” doesn’t mean “to choke” but close enough).
That turns out to be the real “trickle down”: extract lots of money from the rich, feed it through the digestive tract of government and its many corrupt parasites, then dribble what’s left on the heads of the grateful, dependent poor, thus securing their suicidal votes. Come to think, “trickle down economics” also reasonably describes the redistributive obsession and promises President Obama powerfully and empirically debunked in an exhaustive 8-year field study. Bravo, Mr. Ex-President!
Second, what liberals call “trickle down” is just good ole’ “supply side” or “free market” economics. It means human freedom in commercial activity. Get out of the way of people’s pursuit of happiness and gainful labor, so free exchange and economic growth can build prosperity. Investors, entrepreneurs, managers, and workers build enterprises that hire employees to market goods and services. Opportunity spreads out from there.
Third, interestingly, if any vertical-spatial metaphor makes sense here, it’s not “down,” but “up.” “Trickle up economics” describes free enterprise far better than “trickle down.” The way to build wealth in a free economy is to satisfy the market, meaning consumers. That is, to get rich you have to offer goods or services for which A) people are willing to pay you; B) a price higher than your cost of providing; and C) in sufficient quantity that profits proliferate. And your offer has to be more attractive than your competitors’.
If people get wealthy in a free economy, it’s because the wealth trickles up as a result of others’ free choices pursuing their own benefit. All the related suppliers, employees, contractors and others also gain from the same flowing currents of wealth generation. Apart from charitable giving–a different subject–the rich don’t pour or trickle anything down on less fortunate heads; rather the middle and working classes earn income in the streams that trickle up toward profit.
Ever since this silly insult first trickled harmlessly off Ronald Reagan’s Teflon, its logic has been amiss. But when you hear it, be charitable. The speaker probably suffers from a public education and is innocent of any exposure to economics.

Beware, Republicans; Niger is Exactly Like Benghazi

Republicans dismiss at their peril the obvious strong parallels between Niger and Benghazi. From the buildup to the brutal events of that night to the aftermath and cover up, this truly if Trump;s Benghazi. Consider the record.
Over the last year, there were hundreds of cables from AFRICOM to the Defense Department begging for better security installations for their one-night secret foray into a remote village in Niger. DoD denied every request. At the same time, it increased defense budget for grounds grooming at the Coast Guard Academy.
Islamist militants had launched escalating attacks on other nation’s troops in the area. They withdrew, leaving only America to try to train the locals to resist being overrun.
The ambush came after a meeting between US forces and village leaders. Troops were pinned down for 13 hours begging for help. While America’s security leaders watched grimly in the situation room, Trump and Tillerson withdrew to an undisclosed location to shoot pool. They were not seen until the next day. Trump made a brief statement and jetted off to a fundraiser at Mar a’Lago.
The weekend after the ambush, Trump dispatched National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to all the Sunday News shows to assure America and the world that the late night, well executed, heavily armed ambush was a spontaneous reaction to a really offensive, anti-African Facebook meme.
As the fallen warriors returned through Dover, Secretary of State Tillerson stared into the eyes of the stricken families and solemnly assured, “We’re gonna get that bastard, the guy who posted that meme!”
Not long after, white nationalist Jeffred J. Spoonwinder, the author and poster of the scurrilous meme, was arrested for being 11 months in arrears on child support. Federal agents and network cameras descended on the trailer of Mr. Spoonwinder, who was hustled out to waiting police vans wearing only a wife beater and confederate boxer shorts.
The administration had its man.
The similarities with Benghazi are massive and distressing. It is not possible that impeachment will be avoided. Any time a president is caught in such dereliction, obviously the media and the people will rise up in wrath and demand accountability.

Our Love Of False Narratives

As the country spins farther and farther into division, truth becomes more and more of a punching bag.

One might reasonably believe that truth would unite us to some degree – even if we disagreed on what to do about it. Yet the fictional narratives in service of ideologies and scams are never ending. It does not matter if it is the government, politicians, Hollywood, the media or your neighbor – spinning fictional narratives in order to gain personal advantage has become the cultural norm. Americans attempt to hide their absurdity in numbers – “the more people I can get to believe my narrative the less absurd it becomes” is the general line of thinking. Check in on Bernie Sanders as the classic example of that line of thinking.

It does not matter how many people believe your narrative – it is still absurd if it contains only selective truth used to bolster the overall falsehood.

Camille Paglia recently remarked, ““What has happened is these young people now getting to college have no sense of history – of any kind! No sense of history. No world geography. No sense of the violence and the barbarities of history. So, they think that the whole world has always been like this, a kind of nice, comfortable world where you can go to the store and get orange juice and milk, and you can turn on the water and the hot water comes out. They have no sense whatever of the destruction, of the great civilizations that rose and fell, and so on – and how arrogant people get when they’re in a comfortable civilization. They now have been taught to look around them to see defects in America – which is the freest country in the history of the world – and to feel that somehow America is the source of all evil in the universe, and it’s because they’ve never been exposed to the actual evil of the history of humanity. They know nothing!”

How true – but in the absence of actual knowledge the false narratives abound. None of the false narratives are as damaging as the complete lack of knowledge as to how we arrived at our current economic dilemma, which I explained here.

Ray Dalio shared a very important post on his Linked-In page this weekend, “Our Biggest Economic, Social, and Political Issue The Two Economies: The Top 40% and the Bottom 60%.”

The post is worth your time.

Dalio remarked, “To understand what’s going on in “the economy,” it is a serious mistake to look at average statistics. This is because the wealth and income skews are so great that average statistics no longer reflect the conditions of the average man. For example, as shown in the chart below, the wealth of the top one-tenth of 1% of the population is about equal to that of the bottom 90% of the population, which is the same sort of wealth gap that existed during the 1935-40 period….

There has been no growth in earned income, and income and wealth gaps have grown and are enormous. Since 1980, median household real incomes have been about flat, and the average household in the top 40% earns four times more than the average household in the bottom 60%. While they’ve experienced some growth recently, real incomes have been flat to down slightly for the average household in the bottom 60% since 1980 (while they have been up for the top 40%). Those in the top 40% now have on average 10 times as much wealth as those in the bottom 60%. That is up from six times as much in 1980.”

I have often remarked that on the apples to apples comparison, i.e. white men, real-wages have been static since 1968. Note: the reason why white men are the apples to apples comparison is because other races and women were to varying degree shut out of portions of the economy at that time. Dalio remarks that “Since 1980, median household real incomes have been about flat” – which is including the absorption of all races and women into the economy. Household real-income gains from 1968 to 1980 are mostly attributable to the cultural shift from one- to two-earner households that took place in that time frame.

In short – the income and wealth disparity is primarily due to the financialization of the economy, and the financialization of the economy is primarily due to the tremendous amount of debt and more specifically the policies put in place in order that the debt may continue to be serviced with out government at all levels having to make hard decisions that might lead to guillotines. These policies have distorted the markets in such a manner that those who can create credit or invest in credit gain immense wealth for nothing more than moving that credit about in the digital world. What is driving the tremendous, historically unprecedented debt and historically unprecedented policies in regard to the debt are never ending political promises for more comfort.

The progressive argument that the solution to this is more taxes is absurd – if you are giving people free money in unlimited amounts they do not care if you tax them at 20% or 40% or 60% – you are giving them free money by the trillions! This is the very definition of hitting an empty paper bag.

Why are the progressives so wedded to trillions of dollars in wealth transfers to the 1%? Because all of the social spending promises that they have made and yearn for are dependent on the never-ending increase of that debt and the never-ending increase of that debt is dependent on the policies that transfer trillions of dollars in wealth to the 1%.

The fictional narrative the progressives have adopted is that this is a fiscal issue, not a monetary issue. The progressives have truly made a deal with the devil – never ending free money to the 1% in exchange for social spending. Everything the progressives claim they are against they actually enable – but the fictional narrative is that this is not so. The narrative is that it is anyone else’s fault but theirs.

The Trump people are not exempt from fictional narratives. They have created their own false narratives where monetary policy is not driving the overwhelming majority into poverty while enriching the top tier. One of the more interesting exclusions from the Dalio post is the effect of government debt and obligations on net wealth – so if you include your share of government debt then deduct another two million dollars or so from your net wealth. That the GOP congress and Trump appear perfectly willing to continue that game of selective statistics and expanding debt just feeds the false narrative.

Selective statistics in order to convince the public that things are going more swimmingly than they actually are is the one thing our government is genuinely good at. Take unemployment, where the current U3 number is 4.2%. The Clinton administration switched to the U3 measurement in order to exclude people who had historically been defined as ‘unemployed.’ During the Reagan administration for example, U6 was the measurement. If we still measured unemployment using U6 as we did during the Reagan years and a couple of decades before that the current unemployment rate would be 8.9%. Not exactly something to brag about – in fact U6 never dipped below 9% for the entire Obama administration. But wait – it gets worse! The Kennedy administration adopted U6 in order to exclude others from being counted as ‘unemployed’ for political gain – if we measured unemployment in the same manner as we did in the Eisenhower years the unemployment rate would be 22% at the moment – Great Depression level. No one gets re-elected with a 22% unemployment rate – so they repeatedly change how that number is measured in order that they may get re-elected and brag about how effective they are.

Still think the Obama years were great with an apples-to-apples unemployment rate of 22%? Well, to the point Dalio made – they were great years for those at the top.

This government data manipulation goes on and on and on – if we measured inflation today by the same method we measured it in 1990 the current inflation rate would be about 6%, not sub-2%. If we still measured GDP by the same method we measured it until 1993 then the United States has not had a single year of positive economic growth since 2004. No one gets re-elected on those numbers either – so the measurements have to be changed for the politicians to have a re-election narrative.

All of the data manipulation by the government is fodder for the endless false narratives – and at the end of the day the false narratives inevitably are simply story telling to explain why policy is not really reducing your net wealth and increasing your debt load while enriching the few. As a people we no longer have any comprehension of what happened, how we got here and how we get hoodwinked daily and is to Paglia’s point – “They have no sense whatever of the destruction, of the great civilizations that rose and fell, and so on – and how arrogant people get when they’re in a comfortable civilization.”

Even more to the point was Thomas Sowell – “When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy.”

Our comfortable civilization is predicated on debt and wealth transfers to the 1% – we continue to demand the impossible and willingly accept the lies because they allow us to maintain our arrogance and comfort.

“We’re willing participants in our own demise” – Eric Peters

Future historians will speculate on how we collectively went insane.

Trump the Barking Guard Dog, Wilson the Ghoulish Clown, Kelly the Warrior–Remembering Sergeant La David Johnson

In the sadly contentious matter of remembering Sergeant La David Johnson, the villain turns out to be Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson, more of a ghoulish clown, really. President Trump plays the role of a loyal guard dog who doth bark too much, and General John Kelly comes off as a brave knight with a scratch in his armor.  The sudden frenzy already is old news and much picked over, but maybe insufficiently considered.

The flurry happened fast. President Trump called Myeshia Johnson, the widow of a soldier fallen in a raid in Niger to express his condolences. The next day, news reported that Congresswoman Wilson claimed Trump told the bereaved woman: “He knew what he signed up for.” Trump denied that was his message. The family said “Yeah, that’s about what he said.”  Suddenly, the national food fight commenced over the president remembering a fallen soldier. Partisans of different stripes variously condemned Trump’s crassness, defended  his intent and the fair meaning of the contested phrase, or, condemned Trump for bullying and debating a Gold Star family. Trump’s Chief of Staff, former Marine General John Kelly, a Gold Star parent himself, held a press conference and offered a magisterial and moving account of the way America treats its fallen soldiers, the debt we owe such men and women, and his own experience in the loss of a son.

He described his discussion with the president about how to speak to the families. He recalled the words of comfort his own best friend gave him: “He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war.”

As a relevant digression, the phrases are not unlike the tone and framing of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, in testimony before Congress, described the service of Ambassador Chris Stevens, killed in Libya:

“Chris Stevens understood that diplomats must operate in many places where our soldiers do not, where there are no other boots on the ground, and safety is far from guaranteed. In fact, he volunteered for just those assignments.

He also understood we will never prevent every act of terrorism or achieve perfect security, and that we inevitably must accept a level of risk to protect our country and advance our interests and values.

. . .

Nobody knew the dangers of Libya better — a weak government, extremist groups, rampant instability. But Chris chose to go to Benghazi because he understood America had to be represented there at that pivotal time.”

Apparently, admiring a person’s willing acceptance of the risk of service can be respectful, except when critics want to inject cheap politics into the moment.

At the press conference, General Kelly concluded his remarks by expressing regret bordering on lamentation that anyone like Congresswoman Wilson would degrade the solemnity of the president’s call by “listening in” and politicizing it. (Rep. Wilson later protested she “hadn’t listened in” at all. She was in a car and listened to the conversation on a speaker phone. Well. That clarifies things.)

Kelly described an earlier event, the dedication of a federal building in Florida, named for three fallen FBI agents. He said FBI Director James Comey had given a magnificent memorial, and then Wilson delivered a hyped political speech, bragging about how she secured the money to pay for the federal building. Kelly expressed his disappointment in the empty barrel making loud and inappropriate noise.

It was a bravura performance that brought tears to many eyes and a temporary halt to partisan sniping. But, in America today, all such halts are very temporary. Critics returned to the theme that Trump should not have contradicted a bereaved family. Shortly, video of the Congresswoman’s speech at the dedication surfaced. It turns out she had not bragged about bringing home the appropriations bacon, rather, she had bragged about pushing through the administrative process to name a federal building in record time.

This is a distinction without a difference. Wilson had given a political rah rah speech at a solemn occasion. But, the opportunity was there for partisan media to pounce on Kelly. “Video proves John Kelly lied about Rep. Wilson” brayed MSNBC. Other outlets piled on.

And so, not many days after the death of a brave man in a far away place the brawl continues over whether the president disrespected him in paying condolences. Another Gold Star widow, Natasha De Alencar, distraught by the politicization released the recording of the president’s respectful and “heartfelt” call to her after her husband was killed in Afghanistan.

It is worth summing up the roles of the major players here. President Trump wanted to comfort Myeshia Johnson on the loss of her husband. He sought counsel from his Chief of Staff, a man better positioned to give that counsel than anyone. He made the call.

Someone, it is a safe bet not the grieving widow, invited Fredericka Wilson to listen into the call and the next day, she was slamming the president to the media, politicizing a family’s tragedy. There is no benign explanation for Wilson listening in. If she was included because she was close to the family, she should have been there with them. Her participation was an obvious set up. She played her role and rained ugly controversy all over the suffering of Myeshia Johnson.

Trump took the bait, and escalated the rhetoric with a tweet that the Congresswoman had “fabricated” her account. More likely she had distorted and maligned his sincere respect. Truly he doth bark too much.

General Kelly did a masterful and gracious job putting things in context and directing the nation’s attention where it belongs, on the heroism and sacrifice of America’s fighting men and women. But, he botched an insignificant detail which invited the partisan jackals to keep barking.

And tonight, in far away places, thousands America’s finest young people stand guard, protecting the peace and security of a nation that may or may not deserve them.