Monday, November 19, 2018

MSNBC "Betrayal" Documentary

Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, MSNBC ran a program called, “Betrayal: The Plot that Won the White House" a documentary by Rachel Maddow.

Betrayal framed its story (subtitle, The Plot That Won The White House) with the idea that Trump’s campaign benefitted from Russian interference.

On that issue, I think the evidence so far is that, per Don Jr.’s email, Jared & Don, Jr. were way over their heads but others in or around the campaign were conversant with the Russian players.  Maybe Trump is beholden to the Russians and other foreign regimes.  But I think the Russian misinformation/Facebook campaign was more effective for Putin (we still do not know the extent of it nor does Congress or Facebook have the will to expose and control it).

What Nixon did was illegal.  His acts are blamed for the continuation of the war and the resultant deaths of more than 20,000 in the US military.  It is a political decision (or absence of decision) that leads to war and a political decision to end a war.  The War in Vietnam, the decision to go in, and the vacillating in getting out were shameful. Nixon’s acts influencing a foreign government with his promises were treason.

What Betrayal didn’t do was to compare Johnson’s restraint in going after Nixon on the eve of the election with Obama’s similar restraint.  What have we learned from history?  The analysis of Johnson’s not going public rests on (1) that he did not have a smoking gun tying Nixon to South Vietnam’s withdrawal from the peace talks and (2) not wanting to reveal that the FBI and NSA were used to spy on the South Vietnam ambassador and Mrs. Chennault (a US citizen). 

As Lawrence O’Donnell, in Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics, p. 404, said:

“Richard Nixon knew he had committed the worst crime in American political history . . . .  And he also knew it was the perfect crime.”

In Obama’s case, post Edward Snowden’s revelations, the fact that Clinton was expected to win was probably the most important factor in Obama’s not making more of a public effort to expose the Russian/Facebook interference.  Secondly, what exactly could Obama do, at the last minute, without appearing to be supporting Clinton?  It’s like the attorney at a trial who gets to tell the jury something that the judge then rules out of order and instructs the jury to disregard.  Finally, the full extent of Russian/Facebook interference was not known before the election and is still not known.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The government is not stupid and bad

Michael Lewis interviewed the pre-Trump Energy Department’s “chief risk officer” for The Fifth Risk.  That official identified the fifth risk as “project management.”

Lewis elaborates on the concept throughout the book as he tell the stories of other pre-Trump government managers, focusing on the department of energy and the weather bureaus of the department of commerce.  More than institutional knowledge, project management involves a passion to anticipate (imagine) service to the public.  Good project management needs people who are mission driven.  It encompasses the government’s providing services or solving problems that the government can provide or solve or that the government does in the absence of action by other institutions or business interests.

On the other hand, the Trump transition and the appointment of cabinet secretaries and agency managers, with few exceptions, reveal indifference, incompetency, lack of knowledge in general and an ignorance of science in particular and an arrogant pre-disposition that everything government does is “stupid and bad.”  The Trump Administration, as Lewis details with respect to the weather agencies, favors exploitation of public data for narrow commercial motives.  Just like Trump himself.

This is how Lewis characterized Rick Perry, the head of the department of energy.  “[Perry’s] sporadic public communications have had in them something of the shell-shocked grandmother trying to preside over a pleasant family Thanksgiving dinner while pretending that her blind-drunk husband isn’t standing naked on the dining-room table waving the carving knife over his head.”

The Fifth Risk also describes the other cited risks, three of which involve nuclear matters.  To borrow the title of an earlier Trump book by David Cay Johnston, It’s Even Worse Than You Think.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Where They Stand

Thank you Senators Heitkamp and Donnelly.

U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana voted with their party not to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia was the only Democrat in the Senate that voted to confirm.