Trump and Russia: my best guess

There are conflicting narratives in the political world. This has likely always been true, but the separation of the narratives feels more palpable than any other time in my life. Sure, we’ve had conflicting narratives before: Reagan painted a picture of a world where the poor were living large on the handouts of the rich, and the counter-narrative was that nobody is “living large” and that people need help. There has been the belief that deregulation is good for us because regulations provide a costly burden, and this is countered by the cost is worth the protection that regulations provide. But these were issues of perspective, not issues of mutually exclusive views of the world. That feels quite different from what we have now, especially when it comes to Trump and Russia.

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The benefit of the doubt bites me in the ass, again

I try. I really try. I try to see things in a less frenzied hyperbolic way. I try to give the benefit of the doubt. I’m often wrong, and the benefit of the doubt isn’t deserved, but I still feel better as a human being. Others might feel worse to be wrong, but I don’t mind being wrong, and would rather be wrong while reasonable than right while frenzied. That’s just me. But twice in the last few days, I’ve tried to be that way, and it seems that I’ve been too kind. Of course, the title of the post is a bit hyperbolic and frenzied in itself, because nothing actually bit me in the ass. In fact, I’m not sure any of this affects me personally at all, but here’s where giving the benefit of the doubt seems to have failed me, and the bite in the ass (which isn’t a big deal), was my wife saying “I told you so.”

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The memo that caused a howl turns out to be a peep

I read the memo, which the FBI has called misleading, and these are my thoughts:

In general, some takeaways:

Like most congressional democrats, and unlike most congressional republicans, I am concerned about the use of surveillance of Americans. I am happy that this is now a concern of republicans, most of whom voted to authorize this kind of surveillance of Americans. Welcome to the club. Maybe start caring about stuff before it affects things you like or care about next time, and care about things that affect others before it comes to haunt you.

I don’t really know what is news here. I’ve been following the story for a while, and all of  these claims have been made already. Maybe not in any official capacity, but it’s been argued in the news that the Steele dossier was the critical evidence for the FISA warrant, and others have said that it was only a piece. It’s hard for me to imagine that seasoned folks at the FBI wouldn’t think carefully about stuff before going for a warrant, but I could be wrong about that.

The whole thing reads like a motion to dismiss filed by a defense team for Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. I’m not sure how that will play out, but it’s noteworthy that it never asserts their innocence, but seeks a means by which their cases should be dismissed on technicalities.

Here are my thoughts to the specific points, in order:

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The slow march to boredom, calculated in words per minute

It should be clear to anybody that I like following politics. Parts of politics that others find boring, I find interesting. I recognize that boring is a subjective term. That said, I was bored by last night’s State of the Union address. It felt like it went on and on, and without much said. Being somebody who likes to take a fact/data-based approach to things, I spent a little time this morning checking my emotional response, in the way that I’ve always wanted to maintain at Hitting Bregma (see here). Here’s what I found.

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We are a nation of immigrants who don’t like immigrants

Germans-emigrate-1874Immigration is a hot topic today. The blending with racism and nationalism is hard for me to ignore, and it’s interesting to watch the rationalization that people use to avoid confronting their own racist views and implicit xenophobia. This kind of thing takes several forms, each revealing. On the whole, I’m pleased that people struggle to rationalize this, because it shows me that they see racism/xenophobia as a bad thing, and don’t want to think of themselves that way. I wrote about this earlier; the relevant quote was “I know that most people don’t want to be racist. I know that most people get angry when somebody calls them a racist. That’s good. It tells me that they and I share the belief that racism is bad. That makes me happy, and I’m glad we agree that being a racist is not a good thing to be.” But that doesn’t make it go away. We need more. We need to see it out in the open, so we can end it in ourselves if we truly do not want to be racist. Immigration and our views on this is a good place for this exercise, so let’s spend some time looking at a couple of issues, and what people have said about immigration policy that may reveal some not-so-kind, but correctable, views.

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The problem with bluster

The President of the United States is a pretty strange dude. He’s certainly not the only person in the world with the same kind of strangeness, but he seems to be almost completely devoid of humility and modesty. This may be what attracts some people to him, because it could be seen as strength to them, but to me it just makes him look like a really insecure person who is in constant need of validation to counteract his self-loathing. I can’t stand too strongly by that assumption, because I don’t know him. I’ve never talked to him in real life, and even if I had, I don’t have the ability to read his mind and know what he really sees when he looks in the mirror. So in the end, this is much like the missed opportunities that I’ve pondered before (here and here), but it’s amazing to me how much more mileage it seems the president could get by just being accurate, without the exaggeration and bluster.

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“Shithole countries”

Trump said an awful thing. Although he denies it, several sources have confirmed that, in a closed-door meeting about immigration policy, he asked, “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” People went nuts, with good reason, but I think the focus has been wrong. This is cross-posted from my FaceBook, word for word (except this paragraph of introduction).

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