2020 Election Current events US US Politics

Barr called Trump’s election fraud claims “Bullshit”

According to Jonathan D. Karl, in an article for the Atlantic, Trump’s attorney general William Barr told him that the DoJ performed an informal investigation into the election fraud claims made by Trump and his allies, and concluded that they were “bullshit.”

My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr told me. “If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit.

2020 Election Current events US US Politics

Michigan Senate GOP: No 2020 election fraud after all

Like a several other GOP-controlled legislatures, Michigan’s Senate (specifically the Oversight Committee) held hearings and investigated the claims that the 2020 election was fraudulently manipulated in favor of Biden. Months later, it has released its final report. What did it find? While acknowledging some failings and vulnerabilities in the system, GOP Sen. Ed McBroom and his committee found that there was no evidence of fraud or widespread failure, and that Michigan’s 2020 election results can be trusted. The report itself addresses and debunks the specific claims in detail. Sen. McBroom also notes that there is evidence of fraud on the part of those pushing these theories, and encouraged law enforcement to investigate further. Law enforcement appears to be obliging.

China Current events International relations US

When will China invade Taiwan? How about January 18, 2021?

A former US admiral 1 and a former acting CIA director 2 have just presented an imaginary scenario in which Mainland China retakes Taiwan in the early days of 2021.

Short version? Under pressure at home due to the trade war with the US and Covid-19 and sensing that the US is maximally distracted by its own domestic troubles, Chinese leader Xi Jin Ping plans and executes an invasion of Taiwan on January 18, 2021, the day of the next US presidential inauguration. The US and the rest of the world are caught off guard, and by the time they are in a position to respond militarily, Taiwan has already capitulated.

You can read a summary in “China Can Capture Taiwan in Three Days, Say Former US Officials,” printed in Forbes, or you can read the essay itself, “The War That Never Was,” in Proceedings magazine of the US Naval Institute.

  1. Admiral James A. Winnefeld, U.S. Navy (Retired)
  2. Michael J. Morell


Historic Denver Maps

This is so cool. Bird’s-eye drawings of Denver from around the turn of the 20th Century.

Denver in 1889:

Denver in 1908:

Current events Law US Politics

My take on impeachment

The Constitution is pretty vague about the criteria and process for impeachment. Most scholars (I think) consider “high crimes and misdemeanors” to be an 18th Century legal “term of art” (ie., a phrase that has a specific meaning in the in a particular context) that includes abuses of power by high officials.

On the abuse of power question, Congress (House and Senate) needs to draw the line somewhere. There probably ought to have been more laws, and more impeachments, over the years, to draw those lines. All presidents use their powers to improve their reelection chances. They all make policy choices based on what they think will please the voters and they spin, leak and lie to make themselves look better. But it’s a bridge too far when a president (or any official) uses his/her power to intentionally harm a political opponent, particularly when it impedes legitimate policy goals or undermines US national interests.

Between the official White House summary of the phone call, Trump’s subsequent statements to the press, and the government witnesses who testified, there’s more than enough evidence to conclude that Trump attempted to use US aid to Ukraine as leverage to get Ukraine to open an investigation against Biden’s son, that this was done to create suspicion about his political rival rather than some legitimate US policy goal, and that he did so in a way that undermined US interests.

The idea that the President was legitimately concerned about corruption with Joe and Hunter Biden is transparent BS. If it had been legitimate, the concern would have originated with and been pursued by the Justice or State departments, not just by Trump and his personal lawyer.

Congress doesn’t have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Trump did this, either. That would be the evidentiary standard from criminal law. Under civil law, on the other hand, the standard is “a preponderance of the evidence” (ie., it’s more likely than not). Impeachment is not a civil or criminal legal proceeding, so it is up to Congress to select (or not) a particular standard. But given the near impossibility of getting 50% of the House and 60% of the Senate to vote to impeach and remove – it’s never happened, after all – why would they make it even harder by borrowing the standard of evidence from criminal law?

The second charge is on shakier ground, but a wise move. Presidents have been expanding and increasing their powers at the expense of Congress for a long time, and Congress has largely rolled over and let it happen. Congress is supposed to make the big policy choices (ie., laws) and then make sure (through oversight) that those laws are faithfully enacted by the executive branch. They can’t really do that if they don’t have the power to compel testimony from executive branch officials.

The Supreme Court may disagree, ultimately. But it was important for Congress to assert this power. After all, the idea that the Supreme Court has the power to decide whether laws are constitutional isn’t explicitly in the Constitution, either: the Court asserted that it had this power by implication, and eventually the other two branches went along with it.

The House Democrats did the right thing. (On purely ethical grounds, they probably should have impeached Trump already for the content of the Mueller report.) It’s probably not good for most of them, politically, and there may be some negative consequences for the country in the short term, such as increased partisanship or economic uncertainty. But it’s good for the system itself, in the long term.

Current events US Politics

Dissent within the Right-wing

Conservatives questioning/leaving the Republican Party, the “Right Wing”, or Conservativism. Or Fox News.

Max Boot, formerly of WSJ, author of The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right

Charlie Sykes, of The Weekly Standard, author of How the Right Lost Its Mind

(Podcast episode where Sykes interviews Boot)

George Will, of Newsweek, The Washington Post

Steve Schmidt

Tom Nichols

Bill Kristol, of The Weekly Standard, of Fox News

Current events US Politics

Criticism of Trump

Architect of Bin Laden Raid Adm McRaven supports Brennan, calls Trump McCarthy-esque

George Will – Trump put Russia before US

David Frum – Worst Security Risk in U.S.


Ralph Peters (ret. LtCln), former Fox News analyst, former Intel analyst on Russia

_ Trump is thrall to Putin

_ Fox is destructive

Current events Tech The Media US Politics

On the Clinton Email investigation

A thought: a lot of people talk about the Clinton email scandal and the Trump-Russia scandal as though they are alternatives, which is probably due both to the human tendencies toward both tribalism and binary thinking fallacy. 

Report alleges that Washington FBI office gave only a cursory look at Clinton emails on Weiner laptop in rush to end that investigation.

Opinion piece argues that HRC was never going to be charged and that blame for that doesn’t lie with the FBI.

Current events The Media US Politics

On the Russia Investigation

Former Republican Senate leader Bill Frist on Robert Mueller and his investigation:

Former FBI and CIA director in support of Mueller:

Comparison of Mueller’s staffing to that of Ken Starr, who investigated Clinton:

A summary of the investigation so far:

The memos Comey released after leaving FBI did not contain classified information:

The investigation began because a Trump campaign staffer blabbed about hearing from the Russians that they had possession of HRC’s emails.

On the makeup of Mueller’s team

  • Lawyers tend to be dems, agents tend to be republicans, and we only know about some of the lawyers
  • Law/policy prevented Mueller from considering political leanings

Alberto Gonzales (attorney general under GW Bush) in support of Mueller and the investigation

Politifact article debunking key Garrett assertions

Snopes articles on Steele Dossier:

National Review / Andrew McCarthy on the FISA application and the Steele Dossier

– Steele dossier not verified before use in FISA app

Brennan Center against McCarthy opinion, above

– Steele dossier met probable cause standard for FISA app

– Steele did not know he was working for DNC/Clinton

– Russia investigation already underway and Carter Page no longer with Trump campaign when FISA application first submitted

Vanity Fair article from early 2017 with the backstory of the Steele dossier.

– The FBI got the dossier from Steele, not DNC/Clinton

Wikipedia entry on the Steele dossier; seems to be thorough and well-sourced.

Current events Motivated reasoning Self improvement US Politics

Motivated Reasoning

Article: “How politics makes us stupid,” By Ezra Klein, for Vox


  • About the research of Dan Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale, and the Cultural Cognition Project.
  • Kahan’s theory is called Identity-Protective Cognition: our brains subconsciously work to justify and protect the beliefs that matter to our relationships, group membership, and identity.

Podcast episode: “How our unchecked tribal psychology pollutes politics, science, and just about everything else”, By David McRaney



  • A podcast episode in which McRaney interviews Lilliana Mason and Dan Kahan about motivated reasoning.
  • Basic point: Once an issue becomes politicized, our brains work subconsciously to maintain the beliefs that will preserve our relationships, group belonging, and identity.
  • Related: McRaney’s series on “The Backfire Effect”, episodes 93, 94, 95, and 120.

My personal take: 

  • As noted by both Kahan and Klein, because motivated reasoning occurs outside of our conscious awareness and control, it is difficult to know when one is impacted by it. There is a natural tendency to try to make a special case for the objectivity of oneself or one’s own domain. McRaney, even as he’s describing the phenomenon, demonstrates this behavior when he writes, “In a professional domain like medicine, science, academia, or journalism, people are trained to pursue accuracy, to operate within a framework that helps them overcome other motivations.” He’s right that these domains include a framework that helps achieve greater objectivity, but I don’t believe he adequately acknowledges the degree to which even these “professional” domains can be impacted by motivated reasoning. (At least, not in that specific spot; he may, elsewhere.)
  • McRaney’s “You Are Not So Smart” podcast provides a great education the many ways our brains work against objectivity and reason.

Dan Kahan’s website:

McRaney’s website: