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Member since: 2001
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Hold Republican feet to the fire for Trump's behavior, not just Trump himself.

Trump thrives on word game fights. Formal legal or institutional attacks against Trump hurt him, but eloquent editorial blastings, fact checking, and so forth usually don't. For the most part, word game fights help Trump. They are oxygen to him. That's why he tries to start them with the pathetic tweets and rally rantings we see all the time now.

Even for formal, institutional fights such as legal system and lawsuit conflicts, Trump's strategy is not to fight them as legal system and lawsuit conflicts. Instead, he and his PR fixers (everyone who works for him plus the Republican Party and Fox News) turn these formal conflicts into word game fights too. That takes the proceedings out of the realm of the sober, rational, and just and gives Trump a chance to bend rules, pull strings and, above all, wail about unfair partisan treatment.

But what if we didn't always play Trump's word games directly with him? What if every time Trump spat on, say, the Constitution or adult norms of decency, we trained our political responses not on him but on someone else. Instead of taking up the argument with Trump, for example, we take it up with Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party or Fox News. We then treat Trump as if he were nothing more than an unaccountable, ill-behaved child, incapable of adult agency. "Trump's a nothing, people. He's a helpless child. Let's talk to the adults behind him."

Take this latest Robert E. Lee disgrace from Trump as an example. "Many generals... in the White House," per Trump, supposedly told him Lee was one of their favorite generals. It's just another nutso, crazy, lying thing to say (I hope and assume). Two possible approaches for our sane response are: 1) Ask Trump for proof that many generals in the White House told him that, or, 2) Point Trump to (or issue fact checks by) "history experts" who will educate everyone on how Lee was a bad general and a bad person.

Unfortunately, neither of those will work. The first, asking Trump for proof, won't work and never does. He's lying. Of course he's not going to furnish proof. He turns not furnishing proof into proof that those asking for proof are powerless.

The second, fact checking Trump and sneeringly pointing him to learned experts on how wrong he is, never works either. Again, he's lying, so he doesn't need to be educated; he needs to be shamed. We let that key fact slide when we try to educate or show he's ignorant. Also, there are no "experts" in Republican world. Trump's fixers (the Republican Party and Fox News) will simply point to some pseudo-history comic book and pretend that it refutes the anti-Lee experts. (And, adding intelligence insult to disappointment, much of the rest of the media will call the comic book a "refutation," not a "rebuttal," for no other reason than they don't know the difference between the two words.)

What if, in this case, we called on the Joint Chiefs of Staff to provide a list of generals willing to take responsibility for telling Trump what he says they told him? Go around Trump altogether. Treat the story not as "Trump says generals told him Lee is great" but as "U.S. generals tell Trump that Lee is their favorite general." Call Trump's bluff by calling the generals on the carpet. Don't ask Trump for a list of backers. Ask the people he says backed him why they backed him.

Likewise, whenever Trump says something stupid, lying, or crazy, why not immediately ask Mitch McConnell to explain it? Make Mitch McConnell Trump's keeper, whether he likes it or not. Just presume that McConnell and Senate Republicans are standing behind their illustrious leader every time that leader disgraces himself and ask them to account for him. Instead of saying, "Trump, we demand you prove U.S. generals told you Lee is their favorite general," we say, "Senator McConnell, why does the Republican Party stand behind Trump saying U.S. generals love Robert E. Lee?"

It might drive Trump crazy if he is casually and dismissively treated as unworthy to participate in adult conversation. It might drive Republicans crazy too, because they are used to Trump always being their lighting rod. Maybe we need to make them his lighting rod.

The minute we impeach is the minute we lose ownership of the narrative.

The Republican Senate would then take up the matter and turn it into the Mueller Report vs. the Steele Dossier, the FISA warrants, and the Strzok texts. The trial would be rushed and stage managed through the Senate by Senate Republicans and Republican Chief Justice John Roberts. It would be quickly decided in Trump's favor and would be Constitutionally over. We lose. Trump would be exonerated. The Republicans would make sure that the story ended on a high note for themselves and Trump. Any further investigation in the House would be cast as Dems not accepting a Constitutional verdict.

Time is on our side. The longer we hold the impeachment power, the more we can drag Trump and the Republicans through the dirt and build a stronger and stronger case. I definitely want to see more and more dirt on Trump, more and more cravenness from Republicans. We need to have the courage to fight for the Constitution against both Trump and the Republican Senate, using both our Constitutional powers and the democratic vote. That also means being brave enough to withstand our own impulses for instant gratification and the rationalizations that accompany them.

Trump's use of the word "collusion" is all bluff, and we should turn the tables on him.

Trump's been getting people to fixate on the word "collusion" for a very long time. I have to grudgingly admit that, to me, it shows true genius. It really does. No one says genius has to be "good," folks, and Trump's use of the word "collusion" is a case in point.

First, look where we are now. Trump and his Republicans are beating up our people and cowing the media with the word "collusion." They've got a rhetorical weapon in their hands. They are going on the offensive with it. All of their enemies "despicably" accused Trump of "collusion" and "treason." They should all resign. They should all go away. Go into isolation. Go into a shame spiral. The Mueller Report, as Trump and his Republicans would have it, proves that there was no "collusion."

We're afraid of the word. Some (many) think the Mueller Report does clear Trump of collusion. Some think the Mueller Report handed Trump a big win on collusion.

Nope. It's a bluff. It's all in our heads. And Trump and Barr put it there. We are being beaten with the very stick we should be using to beat Trump. That's genius on Trump's part. He's going strongly on the offense with a rhetorical weapon that is in reality among his greatest weaknesses.

Trump set this all up by hammering on the word "collusion" all this time. He has used it constantly for essentially the entire duration of the Mueller Investigation. "But...but my goodness," our mild mannered, thoughtful intellectual community told us, "doesn't Trump know that 'collusion' isn't a legal term. (Snort. Snort. What a dummy that Trump is!)"

But no. They were the dummies. The sneakiness gland in the middle of Trump's brain knew that "collusion" was a great term for sales purposes and for self defense. He was right.

In reality, Trump did collude. He is guilty as sin of what is very arguably "collusion" with Russia. Also, the Mueller Report probably makes that case exceptionally strongly. The slick Barr Report just says "[The Mueller] investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

They "did not establish?" That seems pretty damned weak, and it's coming from a Trump flack who was trying to make it as strong for Trump as he could. He could have said that the investigation "reached the conclusion." He didn't say that, because that's not what happened. Barr knows better than to lie.

More important is the use of "conspired or coordinated." Barr doesn't say that Mueller said Trump didn't collude. Essentially, Barr just spins out that the basis for a legal charge of conspiracy or coordination was not established. Collusion is left open. Barr can't say Mueller addressed "collusion" and dismissed it, although we can be sure Barr would say exactly that if he thought he could get away with it.

Instead, Trump and his Republicans are playing everyone and saying what neither Barr nor Mueller said, that Trump and his campaign were cleared of "collusion." Far worse, the media are saying it. This sneaky word switch, from "conspiracy" to "collusion" mentally links what the honorable, believable Mueller "did not establish" to what "poor, mistreated" Trump has been griping at us all along. Message: Trump was right and has a big win. The false link is made. The trick is complete.

And it is a trick. It's a rhetorical trick of the first order. It's brilliant hocum. Adam Schiff recently laid out our proper definition of "collusion" in his powerful "You might think it's Ok" speech. I only wish Schiff had used that opportunity to wrest the word "collusion" out of Trump's hands. As in, "You might think it's Ok. I don't. Frankly, it seems a lot like what most people would think of as 'collusion.' It really does."

Bottom line, when people hear the word "collusion," they should, in a just and rational world, think of it as a perfectly good word to describe what Trump and his campaign did. It's an apt word for what they did. In a just and rational world Trump should be afraid to the use the word "collusion" lest it remind just and rational people that Trump really did collude.

The Barr Report. Now we see why Trump needed Sessions out of the way.

Trump and his team knew the report was going to be damning but that Trump would not be indicted on a statutory crime. They knew the report would be released to the AG first, and that they could slow walk the actual release.

Therefore, Trump needed an AG who would do him a favor and release the "good" news that there was no indictment. Barr, dutifully, released the Barr Report. Concerning Trump, the Barr Report just says what no one should have found surprising, that Trump wasn't going to be indicted.

But then comes the big switcharoo. Trump, his Republican fixers, and the Fox "News" echo chamber then began doing their best to sell the Barr Report as the Mueller Report. Some are going to be gulled by it. Some are going to be afraid that a lot of people will be gulled by it.

I'm neither, nor should anyone else be. If the Barr Report is any indication, the Mueller Report looks really bad for Trump.

We need someone to "call the rumble."

Trump has called a rumble against us. He's lying his ass off and ridiculing us, and it's making his voters want to pound us at the polls. Trump and his Republicans want us crying the day after the election--so bad they can taste it.

We need to feel exactly that same feeling, only a hell of a lot stronger. Trump and his Republicans need to lose. Hard. We need to administer some punishment at the polls. If we do that, when the votes are all counted, it's their folks who will go home crying, not us. We will go home having whipped their asses and having set them straight about us. Think how great that would feel. Wouldn't it be great?

Tao Te Ching Chapter 18: When people are unsettled, loyal ministers arise.

When the great Way is abandoned,
Benevolence and righteousness arise.
When wisdom and knowledge appear,
Great pretense arises.
When family ties are disturbed,
Devoted children arise.
When people are unsettled,
Loyal ministers arise.


I think this applies very much to our current situation. Anyway, worth a read, imo. Any discussion welcomed.

Unity/altruism appeal ads that ask people to help us and others and vote for us.

One thing I really never see is messages in which well known leaders in the Dem party (particularly people like Obama, Clinton, Sanders, etc.) all speak together and simply ask people to help us by voting.

Anyway, it's a different communications world out there now, and we can actually define ourselves better by speaking up frequently from a unified, central source. That makes it harder for others to define us. Trump, of all people, is demonstrating this. Trump uses Twitter and televised rallies to lie and manipulate "directly from the horse's mouth." In today's communication environment, that is apparently exceptionally effective. It gives Trump huge rhetorical mindshare traction even against colossal (in terms of reliability and credibility) fact sources like NYT and WashPo.

We need to steal a page or two from that playbook—not the lying and manipulation, of course, the direct communication. We need to directly communicate (and frequently) that we are good people. Otherwise we are vulnerable to outside reputation manipulation against us. If Trump effectively disputes fact-oriented, rational sources like NYT and WashPo with help from Fox News and Russia, we can effectively dispute Fox News and Russia with the help of fact-oriented, rational sources like NYT and WashPo.

Finally, persuasion by logical and even impassioned rhetoric alone is very difficult when people don't know who to trust and are being messaged as if they are hearing only from "what's in it for me" and "who should I dislike" perspectives. If we address them only from those perspectives, that will strengthen only those perspectives. Here I am talking about ads that say, "women, you should be angry...sick and old people, you should be afraid because you're going to lose out." Those messages are both true (in my opinion) and important, of course.

But the other side of the coin is that people like to help other people whom they like and whose ideas they agree with, whether they, themselves, get personal benefit or not. A lot of people, particularly of our Dem/left leaning variety respond to true altruism in other words. Therefore, the message, "help us please," is important. Even if someone isn't a woman or old or sick, the message "you can vote and help women, the old, and the sick," is an important message.

We're good people. We're together. We want to do x, y, and z. We need your help. Please vote for us in November. Please visit xyz.com for the names of the candidates we are running on your local ballots or text "link" to 555555 for a link to be sent to your phone. We promise we won't pester you. I nominate Sarah Silverman to write and direct.

"He said, she said" and "I believe her" are both wrong.

Both sides are oversimplifying the situation. Just because a witness is uncorroborated and lacks physical evidence, it doesn't mean you can't act on their information. Of course you can. If you are hiring a babysitter and your friend tells you that their kid saw the sitter drinking booze on the job, you can refuse to hire the sitter. Not only that, you should refuse.

But isn't the sitter entitled to the presumption of innocence? If the kid's story can't be corroborated, doesn't that mean you are forced to hire the sitter in order to be fair? One person's word against the other means you have no actionable information?

Of course not. That's ridiculous. It seems ridiculous, because it is ridiculous.

So the people who mouth "he said, she said" when talking about uncorroborated accusations of sexual assault are wrong at best. Yet we hear that all the time, and that hugely wrong idea is often taken for granted as right, even common sense. People who think they are being neutral will say (incorrectly), "it's a he said, she said situation." But it's not neutral. It's a gross misstatement about our prerogative to actually think about the full context of the case and judge accordingly.

On the other hand, no, of course you don't have to "believe" the accuser. You get to take into account a whole bunch of things, including the accuser's character and past history. You get to take into account motive. There's no presumption of truth on the part of the accuser, but you can choose to believe or disbelieve them to whatever degree you feel the available evidence supports. And you can then act on that choice.

So Ford, having no motive to lie and charging Kavanaugh with something it was highly unlikely for her to have forgotten, was easily believable enough to keep Kavanaugh off the court. The only reason that argument fails is because it isn't used. Instead, one side says it's "he said, she said" hands down, while the other says "we believe her (and not him) completely no matter what." Both sides think the other is unreasonable, and both sides are right about that. That's one way the action taken ends up being a simple party line vote. Thinking failed.

Immigrants are just a scapegoat. Modernity is the "culture fabric" culprit.

This anti-immigrant feeling is a conceptual mistake. We're in a big argument about which rain god caused last week's flooding, but it was the clouds.

As a thought experiment, suppose all the world's cultures peacefully sorted themselves geographically. Suppose we fed the world's land area into a computer and had the computer "fairly" divide the area into zones, one zone per categorizable culture. All the people of each culture could then move to their designated zone. Each zone would have a homogenous "cultural fabric."

Let everything else about modern life stay the same though. Everyone gets to keep their mobile phones, their Internet access, their Amazon Prime. There is still tourism and free trade among "culture zones." People still go about their jobs, their education, etc., exactly as they do now. The only new rule in the newly organized world would be "no immigration of any kind." If you are in a given culture zone, then you stay there.

Who in their right mind thinks that the "culture fabrics" in the world would then stabilize?

They simply wouldn't. A thousand homogenous culture fabrics with mobile phones, the Internet, free trade, tourism, etc., would almost immediately turn into a thousand heterogeneous culture fabrics. The big changes we see in culture, some very good, some inarguably horrible, don't have much to do with immigration. They have everything to do with modernity.

On edit: And I'm not arguing against modernity by the way.

What would Fox News do if news orgs all had "fact checker" sections that included other news orgs?

On my wish list, what if all authentic news organizations had a fact checking department that checked other news organizations? The Washington Post and New York Times have fact checker sections, for example, but they have a huge gap. They leave out other news organizations.

Why? It makes no sense. I actually think the idea of news organizations fact checking one another would be healthy, enlightening, and entertaining. I would love to see Fox New's take on The Washington Post's journalism, and I would also love to see the Post's and the Times's take on Fox News's journalism parody.

It would put Fox News in an interesting position if news organizations had fact checking departments. Fox News would have to decide whether or not to add fact checking to its news parody. If Fox didn't have fact checking, all of the authentic news organizations could have, as the first line on their own fact checking pages, "Why doesn't Fox have a fact checking section?" If Fox did have a fact checking section, I'm sure it would be very entertaining.

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