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Jason Vines
I know where my towel is.
I know where my towel is.

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Josh Barro believes that Trump has set a high bar for himself.


Trump has set a fairly low bar. Aside from promising to add 25 million jobs, about which more in a second, Trump's inaugural address painted a bleak world which doesn't exist. Because the US is not actually besieged by terrorists, experiencing high-crime, faced with urban decay, or being flooded with illegal immigrants, "solving" these problems is easy. Creating all those jobs is a trickier but not exactly herculean task.

To reach the promised 25 million jobs over ten years we have two options: job growth and slick hucksterism. One of these is definitely easy but neither are particularly hard. See, the thing to know about the first is that our current "sluggish" economy created about 10 million jobs, on net, in Obama's second term or about 2.5 million jobs per year. For those keeping score at home, that means 25 million jobs over a decade may be a cake walk.

Now, the other option is to make the cake a lie. We do this by subtly moving the goalposts. Normally, the numbers talked about are net jobs; all the jobs created minus all the jobs destroyed. One plant opens with 1200 positions, another closes with 1000; that's reported as "200 jobs created". But that's not strictly true: it's 1200 jobs created and 1000 lost. By reporting only the jobs created, you make the 25 million number trivial. Getting away with that would require finesse but it isn't impossible. Remember, people have been insisting that, say, the real unemployment rate is forty or fifty percent for years.

So, Trump's goals: totally doable because they're already done.

Well that was the most terrifying speech I've heard from an American politician. Donald Trump has already failed to protect American jobs, because apparently the wraith of Hugo Chavez is now president.

One of the most egregious instances of "fake news" in contemporary American history was the casus belli of the Vietnam War, a supposed unprovoked attack by North Vietnamese against American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. That was a lie. The CIA had been running commando missions against North Vietnam, and the Navy had deployed ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, in Vietnamese territorial waters, to capture signals intelligence during those missions, to be analyzed by the NSA.

After one such mission on August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese sent patrol boats to confront one of the destroyers in their waters. The destroyer opened fire without warning, sending the boats packing, after they inflicted one bullet hole on the Navy ship.

A couple nights later, after more commando missions, that same destroyer and another one thought the same boats had come back for more, unleashing torpedoes. The destroyers in turn let loose their arsenals in an apparently intense battle. But the North Vietnamese boats and torpedoes were never there; the American destroyers had engaged in valiant combat with sonar ghosts. As Lyndon Johnson said four years after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, "Those damn stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish."

But LBJ had been prepared to launch a more overt war against North Vietnam for months. Even though one of the destroyer captains, in his dispatches during the phantom attack, had cautioned Washington not to jump to conclusions about what was happening, preparations for retaliatory airstrikes on North Vietnam began anyway, and continued even after significant doubts had been raised in the capital that the Gulf of Tonkin attack had even happened.

Naval planes bombed North Vietnam, and LBJ justified the airstrikes as retaliation for "unprovoked" attacks for which there was "unequivocal" evidence. The president and the national security apparatus knew this was a lie, but they said it anyway, to Congress and the American people.

Further investigation provided yet more evidence against the Gulf of Tonkin attack, but this was covered up by the intelligence community in support of the false narrative the president had sold the public and their representatives. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution went on to pass with overwhelming support on August 7, 1964.

This was hardly the first time the American national security establishment had deceived the public it ostensibly serves, and it was far from the last time. But it certainly was one of the most destructive.

Sources: Chapter 1 of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg, and Chapter 22 of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Timothy Weiner.

We need a comprehensive non-partisan investigation of interference in the election, along the lines of the 9/11 commission. Resistance to such, no matter from whom, should be interpreted as indicative of malignant intent. If Donald Trump himself resists such an investigation, that should be grounds for impeachment and removal.

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The American government lied to its own people about the cause and resolution of the Cuban missile crisis. The Kennedy administration risked Armageddon to save their own political backsides, and then
conspired with the Soviets to deceive Americans about what really happened.

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I'm no friend of Trump's. His elevation to the Presidency is America's darkest hour in the last 75 years, and a big step toward the end of American republic and the beginning of autocracy. But there's no need for the Democrats to push that process along.
Indeed, this leak could fatally damage any attempt to investigate Trump's very real wrongdoings in the future. Faced with accusations against Trump, his allies in the future will need to simply smile and say, "Oh, yeah? Is this like the time Trump supposedly paid hookers to pee on the Obamas' bed?"
Remember that Bill Clinton was quite popular even as impeachment proceedings were under way -- and Clinton really did do the things he was being impeached for doing.
Glenn Greenwald:
> ... Democrats, still reeling from their unexpected and traumatic election loss as well as a systemic collapse of their party, seemingly divorced further and further from reason with each passing day, are willing — eager — to embrace any claim, cheer any tactic, align with any villain, regardless of how unsupported, tawdry and damaging those behaviors might be.
> The serious dangers posed by a Trump presidency are numerous and manifest. There are a wide array of legitimate and effective tactics for combatting those threats: from bipartisan congressional coalitions and constitutional legal challenges to citizen uprisings and sustained and aggressive civil disobedience. All of those strategies have periodically proven themselves effective in times of political crisis or authoritarian overreach.
> But cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive. Empowering the very entities that have produced the most shameful atrocities and systemic deceit over the last six decades is desperation of the worst kind....
> Beyond all that, there is no bigger favor that Trump opponents can do for him than attacking him with such lowly, shabby, obvious shams, recruiting large media outlets to lead the way. When it comes time to expose actual Trump corruption and criminality, who is going to believe the people and institutions who have demonstrated they are willing to endorse any assertions no matter how factually baseless, who deploy any journalistic tactic no matter how unreliable and removed from basic means of ensuring accuracy?
Greenwald also makes a strong case why the documents should not be believed. For starters, they were compiled by someone who was being paid by Trump's enemies.

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This was kind of eye-opening. I'm not sure I believe all the fact claims, but it's good for understanding what Donald Trump thinks he's doing and why his opponents have consistently misunderestimated him.

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My point on all the email controversies:

(1) Nothing corrupt or even appearing corrupt was found in any of the emails leaked from Podesta or the DNC. Nor was anything corrupt found among emails released by Congress.

(2) Numerous emails in these releases were pointed to as evidence of corruption. None of them showed any. While many showed that the DNC was hostile to Sanders, they don't show that anything was actually done about it. The worst scandal from the Podesta emails was Donna Brazile leaking a question to the campaign. However, that's on Brazile.

(3) Another batch of emails was journalists having their stories "approved" by members of the campaign. However, if you actually read the email, it's obvious that the reporter is asking for a response or giving the subject a chance to object. That's where "Podesta disputes this version of events", for instance, comes from.

(4) The impact on the general election was mostly about the media and how the public reacts to all secrecy. Media outlets spent vast time and attention on the emails. Because so many were so sure they'd find corruption, they crafted misleading headlines about "raising questions". In fact, reading the articles revealed they'd admittedly turned up nothing. However, all of this increased the public's belief that there was major corruption at work, even if no one could find any evidence within a vast corpus of private communication.

(5) Russian involvement in the election is a concern because it violates the narrative. Our Democratic narrative is that elections are endogenous expressions of popular will. If some well-sourced nothingburger can sway an election, much of our assumptions collapses.

(6) It's also worrying because it leads to speculations about Russia's objectives. Most likely, the hacking had nothing to do with Trump. In December 2011, Russia almost had a "color revolution" and Hillary maneuvered the State Department to back the protesters in Moscow. Putin took a rather dim view of it. Their hacking is almost certainly about that stupid maneuver. However, the counter-color revolution narrative is powerful; with Trump making so many authoritarian statements, the idea that Russia wants to install a government more like its own sounds plausible.

(7) The hacking issue is ripe for conflation because of Trump's ties to Russia. His son has admitted to lots of Russian financial backing for the Trump Organization. But, more worryingly, his early campaign manager was Paul Manafort, who worked with Yanukovych in Ukraine. Trump himself has made no secret of his love for Putin, either. Given that Putin is deeply unpopular in the US, this has all become deeply questionable. Moreover, many in the Republican Party have found their operatives' desire to work for Russia, among other undemocratic foreign regimes, worrying. It risks casting the party in a sharply negative light.

(8) Republicans and Democrats are freaking out for different reasons. Democrats are searching for succor after losing an election. Republicans are more complicated because they benefited, their major concerns are intraparty. The scandal threatens to widen the cracks in their coalition even as Democrats are becoming unified through grief, shifting the party towards a more cohesively urbanist one. The issue has mostly been weak tea attacks on Democrats backed by a lot of boundary policing by Trump supporters.
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