Jul
15
2019

The Art Of Efing Up The Deal

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The almost dead Iran deal.

Earlier today I linked to the BBC article that pointed to leaked diplomatic correspondence suggesting President Trump’s motivation for breaking the agreement was simply “to spite Obama.” My conservative friends scoff at the idea, and say it was a bad deal to be in in the first place.

Let’s put into the record that the deal in question wasn’t “great.” There is more we would have liked to get. But Iran was not going to go any further than they did, so after two years of negotiations, the deal was made. The flaws were acceptable.

The key points here are long term. The deal stopped Iran in it’s tracks from continuing to upgrade their nuclear capabilities. That’s a huge win. Even more important, the deal, which Iran was complying with, opened the door to further diplomacy and we could have gotten more with patience and skilled negotiators working a new deal.

But, a minority of people in this country select a guy to be President who knows only one way to negotiate, be a wrecking ball. This administration didn’t even try to see if they could improve the deal or get a new one while this one was in place. They did the only thing this President knows how to do and destroyed it.

Before the US pulled out of the agreement here is what we had:

* Iran was fulfilling their pledge to stop enriching uranium.
* Iranian proxies were not attacking ships in the Persian Gulf.
* There was a real possibility of future deals that could thaw the cold war between Iran and the US, and even other countries.

After the US pulled out of the deal:

* Iran, a year after WE broke the agreement, is now starting to enrich uranium again.
* Iran is making shipping more difficult in the Persian Gulf.
* There is no new deal in the offing. And why would that country ever trust us again?
*
Iran is still doing the same things that the foes of the deal complained about in the first place. Pulling out of the deal did nothing but make things worse for the region and us.

Jul
1
2019

The Perils Of Bad Data And Bad Data Interpretation

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A friend on Facebook posted a write-up in the American Thinker about a report issued by the Texas Secretary of State earlier this year showing 58,000 illegals voted in Texas elections between 1996 and 2015. The entire thing was completely discredited in court due to bad methodologies. After the study was scrutinized, the number of non-citizens that were supposed to have been found voting in Texas elections went from 58,000 to about 80. My friend later posted a much better study on the topic. The better study provides talking points on both sides of the political divide, that some non-citizens do vote in US elections, but on the other hand, the amount that do is quite small. Here’s the conclusion of the study.

“””Our exploration of non-citizen voting in the 2008 presidential election found that most non-citizens did not register or vote in 2008, but some did. The proportion of noncitizens who voted was less than fifteen percent, but
significantly greater than zero. Similarly in 2010 we found
that more than three percent of non-citizens reported
voting.

These results speak to both sides of the debate concerning non-citizen enfranchisement. They support the
claims made by some anti-immigration organizations
that non-citizens participate in U.S. elections. In addition,
the analysis suggests that non-citizens’ votes have
changed significant election outcomes including the
assignment of North Carolina’s 2008 electoral votes, and
the pivotal Minnesota Senate victory of Democrat Al
Franken in 2008.

However, our results also support the arguments made
by voting and immigrant rights organizations that the
portion of non-citizen immigrants who participate in U.S.
elections is quite small. Indeed, given the extraordinary
efforts made by the Obama and McCain campaigns to
mobilize voters in 2008, the relatively small portion of noncitizens who voted in 2008 likely exceeded the portion of
non-citizens voting in other recent U.S. elections.”””

The study above relies heavily on data from two studies by Stephen Ansolabehere (2010, 2011). The author of that paper coauthored a paper pointing to severe flaws in the way Richman, Chattha, and Earnest used the data. The original studies and the data provided were not designed to be interpreted to look at this question (this is one example of “P-hackking” ) . As Ansolabehere states in a rebuttal:

“””Suppose a survey question is asked of 20,000 respondents, and that, of these persons, 19,500 have a given characteristic (e.g., are citizens) and 500 do not. Suppose that 99.9 percent of the time the survey question identifies correctly whether people have a given characteristic, and 0.1 percent of the time respondents who have a given characteristic incorrectly state that they do not have that characteristic. (That is, they check the wrong box by mistake.) That means, 99.9 percent of the time the question correctly classifies an individual as having a characteristic—such as being a citizen of the United States—and 0.1 percent of the time it classifies someone as not having a characteristic, when in fact they do. This rate of misclassification or measurement error is extremely low and would be tolerated by any survey researcher. It implies, however, that one expects 19 people out of 20,000 to be incorrectly classified as not having a given characteristic, when in fact they do.

Normally, this is not a problem. In the typical survey of 1,000 to 2,000 persons, such a low level of measurement error would have no detectable effect on the sample. Even in very large sample surveys, survey practitioners expect a very low level of measurement error would have effects that wash out between two categories. The non-citizen voting example highlights a potential pitfall with very large databases in the study of low frequency categories. Continuing with the example of citizenship and voting, the problem is that the citizen group is very large compared to the non-citizen group in the survey. So even if the classification is extremely reliable, a small classification error rate will cause the bigger category to influence analysis of the low frequency category is substantial ways. Misclassification of 0.1 percent of 19,500 respondents leads us to expect that 19 respondents who are citizens will be classified as non-citizens and 1 non-citizen will be classified as a citizen. (This is a statistical expectation—the actual numbers will vary slightly.) The one non-citizen classified as a citizen will have trivial effects on any analyses of the overall pool of people categorized as citizens, as that individual will be 1 of 19,481 respondents. However, the 19 citizens incorrectly classified as non-citizens can have significant effects on analyses, as they are 3.7 percent (19 of 519) of respondents who said they are non-citizens.

Such misclassifications can explain completely the observed low rate of a behavior, such as voting, among a relatively rare or low-frequency group, such as non-citizens. Suppose that 70 percent of those with a given characteristic (e.g., citizens) engage in a behavior (e.g., voting). Suppose, further, that none of the people without the characteristic (e.g., non-citizens) are allowed to engage in the behavior in question (e.g., vote in federal elections). Based on these suppositions, of the 19 misclassified people, we expect 13 (70%) to be incorrectly determined to be non-citizen voters while 0 correctly classified non-citizens would be voters. Hence, a 0.1 percent rate of misclassification—a very low level of measurement error—would lead researchers to expect to observe that 13 of 519 (2.8 percent) people classified as non-citizens voted in the election, when those results are due entirely to measurement error, and no non-citizens actually voted.

This example parallels the reliability and vote rates in the CCES 2010-2012 panel survey. From this we conclude that measurement error almost certainly explains the observed voting rate among self-identified non-citizens in the CCES—as reported by Richman and his colleagues. “””

When I was Conservative, I used to support the idea of voter ID to ensure illegals were not voting and stealing elections. I changed my mind because no one could ever produce evidence that that kind of voter fraud was happening at any rate that justified the possible disenfranchisement of legal voters. A recent study suggests that voter ID laws don’t seem to cause much disenfranchisement. And they also don’t do much to stop voter fraud either. Of course, Conservative press only reported the results they liked, that voter ID laws doesn’t seem to lead to detectable disenfranchisement. But they don’t mention that there doesn’t seem to be any detectable fraud either. Unfortunately this paper is behind a paywall, but I’ll provide a link in case anyone wants to fork out the dough to buy it. This is what the abstract reports:

U.S. states increasingly require identification to vote – an ostensive attempt to deter fraud that prompts complaints of selective disenfranchisement. Using a difference-in-differences design on a 1.3-billion-observations panel, we find the laws have no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation. These results hold through a large number of specifications and cannot be attributed to mobilization against the laws, measured by campaign contributions and self-reported political engagement. ID requirements have no effect on fraud either – actual or perceived. Overall, our results suggest that efforts to reform voter ID laws may not have much impact on elections.

So there seems to be two lessons here. First: when you post things to support your political position, try to make sure your supporting data is accurate and says what you want. Second: If you want to make an argument to support legislation to correct a problem, make sure there is a real problem to be solved. It still looks like voter ID is a solution waiting for a problem.

Jun
28
2019

The Cost Of Freedom

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Today several friends were upset that the Pride flag was flown at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in Rockville Maryland. Some didn’t read the article (I can’t deny I’m not guilty of that at times) and didn’t realize that it wasn’t the national flag that was replace, but another commemorating POW’s and MIA’s. Never the less, I can understand the discomfort. They replace the POW/MIA flag with the rainbow flag, and without further examination, it doesn’t make sense. By the next day they had both flags flying.

But there is good cause to fly the Rainbow, if just for a little while.

At the end of my high school career, I got more than a few phone calls from recruiters. That doesn’t make me special… Everyone did. When the calls came, I did not enlist in the military. I had no desire to. I never felt it was a direction I should got in my life. Never had that calling. Even if I wanted to, I was (am) short and my eyesight is crap, so I doubt I would have ever gotten in. And then there was the though of the harassing and hazing. I already had amazingly low self esteem and got picked on enough throughout my teens. Why would I want to volunteer for more of that? But that was not the main reason. I’m gay, and in the early 80’s, if I was found out, it would have led to a dishonorable discharge, and something like a McCarthy type interrogation along the way. Then the hostile world would know my secret and life would be ruined. That was my thinking, and from stories I’d hear later from those gay men I would come to know in San Diego who were either serving, or those who had left the service one way or the other, what could happen was worse than I thought. I had one friend who was gay and in the military in the early 90’s.

This brings me to the story of the day. Gays and lesbians who served in the military carried an extra burden. By policy, they were barred from doing so, but they did anyway. They put their lives on the line, and also put their personal lives in jeopardy. There were other bans of course, age being one. But we celebrate those that lied about their age to get in. We admire, and rightfully so, those Japanese soldiers who fought for our country even as others were placed in concentration camps in the country they were fighting for. But no one seems to recognize that closeted gay or lesbian soldiers have a history of serving, and at great potential cost due to unfair and unjustified prejudices and policies. But they chose to serve anyway.

And that’s the point. By serving, even if it was involuntary from the draft, they laid more on the line for their country than many realize. By raising the flag at that memorial, if even for just a little while, those soldier get a little long deserved recognition.

And this is a perfect reminder to get in touch with my cousin Eddy, a Viet Nam vet who came home in 1973 at the very end of the war. And yes, he was a gay soldier.



Jun
17
2019

Learning The Drums: Part 1

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I haven’t blogged consistently in a long long while. Facebook took the place of blogging some time ago. But I’m embarking on an adventure that needs to be archived, and my blog is just the thing! I’ve been meaning to blog again and this gives me the perfect reason to do so.

Mike’s new mission: Drums.

This is the start of my quest to be a good drummer. As a kid I never thought of learning drums because my younger brother had taken the drummer position in the Alexander sibling hierarchy. He was playing air drums to Neil Peart by the time he was ten. He did become a fine drummer. I started writing songs when I was 13. Started playing bass when I was about 22. The thought of learning drums didn’t cross my mind at all then, and wouldn’t for a long time. I eventually learned guitar and a few more things (spoons is a fave). I had a short career as a teacher, eight years worth. I taught history, but had my guitar with me a lot in the classroom. Sometimes if a lot of students did well on a test, I would play a song as a reward. If students asked me about starting to learn to play, and wasn’t sure what instrument to start on, I would ask them when they listened to music, what was the instrument they noticed most. If they really hear guitar. If it’s bass, do that. If keyboard, if drums, etc. At some point I realized that, for the longest time, even when I was learning bass, or maybe because I was learning that instrument, I was really focusing on the drums and percussion, and I absolutely LOVE what they do. Again, I never though about learning them, because well, my little brother and all. But the more I gave my advise to my students, the more my own words would echo in my head. So at some point, I decided I must learn to play the drums.

A few years ago, I did pick up a used electric drum kit from a musician friend for real cheap, but it never worked all that great. It was an old outdated thing I thought I could live with, but I was never interested in playing it. I finally went out and got a new electric kit, the Alesys Mesh Nitro electric drum kit. It’s perfect for my needs.

I thought it be fun to post an update at least once a month to document my progress on drums. Here is the first video. I can do “something”, but I have so far to go.

Jan
25
2019

The Government Shutdown… All For Nothing.

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Here’s where we are.

Government workers who are not getting paid are being demanded to continue working without pay. It’s not slavery because they could quit and find another job. But they will keep doing their job because they have a sense of duty to continue, would not find a job that pays as well, know another job is not around the corner and quitting would be worse, etc.

The government is shut down and people are not getting paid because the party in control of the Senate and executive branch hates government (See my John Stossell post from a few days ago). We’ve had shut downs before, but this one is different, more damning.

Why?

The person who now sits in the Oval Office shares those toxic views of his party. More importantly, he does not have, and has never had, any connection to a life where living from paycheck to paycheck is a real thing. He lives in a cocoon of wealth. When a business of his ran out of money, he could just go to a bank and get a loan. If that didn’t work, he’d just declare bankruptcy and move on, while those who depended on that paycheck never got a second thought.  Of course, because of those bankruptcies, when domestic banks would no longer issue loans he went to foreign banks that were more than willing to loan him money. The plight of the 800,000 government who are now in financial trouble due to this dumb standoff is inconsequential to him and his party.

And it’s not going to end soon.

Why?

Because one side is not negotiating in good faith, and the other  side can’t give in because of it. For those of us who paid attention before the election of 2016, we knew Donald Trump was not ever a very good negotiator. Negotiating, real negotiating, means giving up something substantial to get something substantial. As long as there was the dangling carrot of profit due to the allure of the Trump brand (a perception that is being revealed as a mirage) he never had to negotiate a really difficult deal. The Trump organization was good at selling the brand and the promise of profit, but that is not the same as a negotiation. That was how he managed to “negotiate” to purchase the land that became the Trump International Golf Links in Scotland. Despite concerns from local residents and the local government, the golf course was built on the promise of profit for everyone. In my hometown of  Fresno, we got to witness Trumps “negotiating” skills first hand. He had made plans to purchase the failed Running Horse golf course project started by a crooked developer during the heyday of the housing / property bubble in the 200’s. There were a few potential buyers, but nothing looked promising. Then the Trump organization rolled into town. They came in with an offer, but before the city could act on it, the Trump organization would change the bid to favor his side even more.  Before we knew it, the offer to buy the golf course would only happen on the contingent that thousands of acres of residential properties adjacent to the golf course would be acquired by the city through eminent domain and sold to Trump for pennies on the dollar. The enticement for Fresno would be that Trump “promised” to build a Hotel in the downtown area. To sell the public on this deal, Trump had his personal lawyer appear on the local Conservative radio talk show to hype the deal. That lawyer was of course Michael Cohen. Though the local radio host fawned over him, Cohen came off as churlish and rude. His presentation was less about trying to convince the people of the city that this would be a good deal, rather he attacked anyone who spoke up to oppose it. Sound familiar???

The city had already made a couple of bad decisions involving development deals, and  had the Trump organization done their homework, the would have realized this kind of deal was simply not going to be acceptable.  In the end Fresno dodged a bullet. Like Trump’s casinos, the golf course in Aberdeen and Turburry have done nothing but lose money.

So, Trump is doing what he’s always done… Offer a crappy deal where he gets everything and the other side gets next to nothing. The problem here is that he doesn’t have the ace up his sleeve that he always was able to pull; the allure of profit. The idea that one side would agree to something in exchange for something temporary is silly and insulting. And let’s not forget, DACA is in limbo because Trump himself took actions to make it so. And this offer does even restore it to what it was before he tried to cancel it.

For over a month I’ve been asking my Conservative friends why the administration waited two years before aggressively pursuing the funding for the border wall. The Conservatives had control of both the House and Senate, and yet they never pursued the funding for the wall. Now we have confirmation of the reason Conservatives would never admit… They could never pass it.  This failure is made worse when you consider the current configuration of the Senate contains MORE Republicans than they had for the last two years.

The Democrat sponsored bill, which contains no wall funding, got more votes than the Trump Republican bill did. This whole government shutdown was for nothing but a chance for Trump to fight Democrats…. And he lost.

Nov
11
2018

11-11-11-1918 The End Of World War One.

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Image result for armistice day

Today, November 11th, is the 100th anniversary of the end of fighting in World War One. The cease-fire agreement was signed on this day on the eleventh hour of the morning in the year 1918.

The “Great War”, and the treaty that formalized the end of the war, the Treaty of Versailles, are too often overlooked when discussing the impact of world events. It’s understandable as the horrors of the second world war would eclipse the carnage of the first. Still, the cost in human life was enormous. Over 8 million troops and 7 million civilians perished as a result of that war. The bloodshed of trench warfare alone, where hundreds of thousands of lives would be lost to gain a few feet of territory, was thought to be more than enough to stop man from ever going to war again. To put that in context, the last great war on the European continent, the Napoleonic Wars, which lasted some fifteen years versus four for The Great War, is estimated to have cost about 5 million lives of both troops fighting and civilian casualties. The death toll for the US Civil War, the conflict that has cost the most in US lives, is around 750,000 total. World War One was for a long time referred to as “the war to end all wars”, because after all the death and destruction, no one though any country or world leader would think to go to war again. That would be insane…

Enter Adolph Hitler. There is no need to go into too much detail about the terrors and carnage left in his wake. What many don’t realize is that the man that he became, the monster, was probably a result of the first world war. He was a soldier. In letters he wrote on the front, where letters from other soldiers fighting that war spelled out the horrors of the war and the wish for the war to stop,  Hitler wrote, he wrote mostly of the glory of war and it’s purpose:

“Those of us who have the fortune to see their homeland again will find it purer and cleansed of alien influence, that through the sacrifices and suffering that so many hundred thousand of us make daily, that through the stream of blood that flows here day for day against an international world of enemies, not only will Germany’s external enemies be smashed, but that our inner internationalism will also be broken. That would be worth more to me than all territorial gains.”

Hitler was in hospital recovering from wounds when the news broke of the armistice. He became enraged. He viewed the armistice as a betrayal by the German Government. In his mind, Germany could and would still win the war if they just continued to fight on. Many of the decisions he made during the second world war, his refusal to allow his commanders to pull back troops in losing efforts, to retreat and regroup to fight another day, can be traced to this line of thought. In the broader picture, one can argue that if there was no World War One as we know it, maybe Hitler would not have been so radicalized, become ambitious enough to strive for leadership, and lead the world into war.

Many of the countries in the Middle East that we have intervened in in the last 100 years, and also during the continuing global war on terror, were created by western powers as part of the Treaty of Versailles, with no regard to the wishes of the people and populations that lived there. Several borders were drawn up so populations would be divided and thus, the theory goes, no one group would be able to rise up and challenge the leaders installed by the western countries. The west was entering a period of transition from steam-based machines and vehicles to those powered by oil and petroleum, and friendly governments were supported and / or installed in part so the enormous oil wealth that was being found in the region would be sold to the west. If you wonder why there is no Kurdistan, and why there are populations of Kurds in Iraq, Iran, and Turkey, well, there is your answer. There is more information here.

Four years ago, I made note of the anniversary of the beginning of the great war. There are so many lessons to be learned from it and it’s aftermath. It is worrisome that throughout the world we are seeing a rise in the type of nationalism that fueled the leap into a world war. It seems the lessons from that past have unfortunately been forgotten. I find it even more worrisome that here in the US, we have forgotten those lessons as well. Hopefully we won’t have to repeat the events of the past in order to relearn those lessons.

Note: If you want to know more about the Treaty of Versailles, the book “Paris 1919 – Six Months That Changed The World” is a great read.

Oct
20
2018

Sensible Conservatism Is Dead. Part 3,510,700.

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Remember when Philando Castile was murdered by a cop, and the right spun it as Castile’s fault???
 
Well, here we go again. From Conservative intellectual leader Rush Limbaugh:
 
“””The Khashoggi situation continues to be… If you watched the Drive-By Media, the biggest news of the day continues to be the death of the so-called journalist (so-called journalist????), Jamal Khashoggi. I’ve been waiting for this. There’s a story out there at the Washington Post: “Conservatives Mount a Whisper Campaign Smearing Khashoggi in Defense of Trump,” and, of course, your host is mentioned prominently in this story.
 
There’s no whisper about this campaign. I’m not whispering anything about this when I’m speaking about this. I’m shouting it from the rooftops! There is no question what this is. I think anybody that pays any attention to the media knows: If the media is focusing on it, in the last 2-1/2 years, it’s because they think they can do great damage to Donald Trump with it. Pure and simple! Open and shut, front and back, that’s it! They don’t care about Khashoggi.
 
They want you to think they do because of the brotherhood and the brethren of journalists, but that’s not what this is. And, in the process, they’re not telling anybody who Khashoggi really was. We are. I’m attempting to tell you who he was and what he stood for. But this, in a nutshell, is an attempt to damage Donald Trump’s foreign policy by making him cave and renounce a close relationship with Saudi Arabia.
 
It is also about militant Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood of which Jamal Khashoggi was a practicing, active member. He went to school with Osama Bin Laden. They were buddies! But they diverged in terms of tactics. Bin Laden decided to go the terrorist route and Khashoggi went the Muslim Brotherhood route, which is… I mean, it’s pro-violent.”””
 
Sick.

Khashoggi had been at least at one point a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. And he was friends with Osama Bin Laden. That was when they were in high school (note that things that happen in high school don’t matter when you are a white American #Kavanaugh). The two men had connections up to the point where WE, the United States, considered Osama Bin Laden something of an ally in the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (btw, no evidence links him directly to the CIA). Khashoggi, like the US, parted ways with Bin Laden when he turned to extremism against the west.  But none of the history matters to the right. They simply see the term Muslim Brotherhood and salivate. They say Khashoggi mourned Bin Laden’s death. This is what he wrote on twitter upon learning of it:


Rush of course goes on to tie Democrats and Obama to… 
Something:
 
“””But their PR is that they attempt to achieve their objectives within the, quote-unquote, “democratic process,” the political process. They want a united Arab world, and the Saudis are the biggest problem to that because the Saudis are too close to the United States. The Saudis are the No. 1 buyers of American weapons. No. 1! They spend more money buying American arms than any other nation. That might surprise you, but it happens to be true.
 
The Saudis have also become recent allies with us and Israel against Iran. Now, don’t laugh at this. If you go back and look at Barack Hussein O, who the Drive-By Media loves? Well, Obama loved Iran, too. Obama paid Iran $1.8 billion in pallet-loaded cash. Obama signed a nuclear deal with Iran that was essentially a pathway for them to achieve nuclear weapons. Trump has since torn that up.
 
That ticked them off. That sets another rewind of an Obama policy. So if Obama loved Iran, or thought it was okay at least to have an allied relationship with them or less adversarial, then so does the Drive-By Media. But none of this about Khashoggi is designed… It’s not intended to say that he deserved to die. Don’t misunderstand. Folks, we’re between a rock and a hard place here.
 
Every day, we’re faced with a challenge. The media picks a story that is their No. 1 story, and its purpose is very clear: Damage, destroy whatever, as much as they can, Donald Trump. We have to defend him. At least I think this. This is my reaction to all of this. I don’t want ’em taking Trump out. I don’t want ’emm damaging Trump. I don’t want any of this to happen. This is all bogus! I want the trajectory this country is on to remain.”””
 
Of course he does!!!And as if all the Muslim dog-whistley stuff isn’t enough, Limbaugh also makes sure he calls President Obama “Barrack Hussein O”, and even injects the name of Valerie Jarrett as well.

Trump is the Rush Limbaugh Presidency by-proxy!!! I was a Rush listener for many years, and there is little difference of anything between them.  Trump is just about as close to a clone of Limbaugh’s political views as one could get. And both men know from long experience that they can cross just about any line they want, and there will be no consequence, because their fans ultimately treat them both as royalty.

Jan
7
2018

The Take-Down Of Michael Wolff… More Or Less Or A Lot Less

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As some of you may have heard, there’s a little book that just came out detailing the inner workings of the Trump administration in the White House. It’s creating quite a stir in the news cycle. And as expected, the right-wing press is going after Michael Wolff, the author of the book, in a big way. One such site is the Washington Times. They are working to discredit the book by discrediting the author. Before I go on, I must say right up front I’ve had many issues with the accuracy of the Washington Times on several occasions. But I’m putting that aside because accuracy must win the day, no matter which side it sits on.

“Michael Wolff’s spotty record raises questions about Trump tell-all” reads the headline.

The article introduces Wolff:

“A caustic gossip columnist more accustomed to taking down New York media moguls than Washington politicians [Mr. Trump is now a politician, good to know], Mr. Wolff trained his fire on President Trump and his inner circle in “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” an incendiary tell-all that has the president and his supporters fuming…

Mr. Wolff’s witty, provocative style has earned him accolades over the years — as well as criticism and controversy.

But his critics contend that he has a tendency to play fast and loose with the truth.”

Let’s look at the evidence, according to the WT that Wolff has a spotty record. First:

“When current and former members of the Trump administration came forward to dispute the version of events presented in the book — or even quotes attributed to them — Mr. Wolff said he has dozens of hours of audio recordings to back up his assertions.

The now-defunct website Brill’s Content reported in 1998 that more than a dozen people said Mr. Wolff embellished or outright invented quotes attributed to them in his 1998 book about Silicon Valley, “Burn Rate: How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet.””

To prove a case, one needs to present the evidence to support the claim. Does the WT do this? No. They only provide a link that links back to their own website without providing the necessary evidence supporting the claim.

Lucky for us, there is this magical thing called the “internetz” where you can find all sorts of information about stuff, including the topic at hand. Here is the issue in a nut shell. Michael Wolff started a dot-com in the mid 90’s called Wolff News Media. It failed after a few years, and Wolff wrote a book about it. I happened to find, thanks to the internetz, the actual article from Brill’s Content. Brill does lay out a convincing case that Mr. Wolff seemed to have taken liberties in his book. Wolff apparently took liberties in combining negative traits of three AOL execs into one person. The character was apparently a “composite.” Others say Wolff got quotes wrong or made them up. The Brill’s Content article further notes:

“Wolff, who founded and ran Wolff New Media, and is now a columnist for New York magazine and The Industry Standard, says, “In addition to being a book about my life, it is a very well-reported book.”

But seven of the main characters and six others portrayed in-or familiar with-events in the book, disagree. They say Wolff invented or changed quotes. And none of those quoted recalls Wolff taking notes or recording the discussions, some of which took place three years ago.

Six of the thirteen refused to speak for attribution. Three main characters-Thatcher; David Hayden, who appears as the CEO of the McKinley Group, a software firm (and who has since left), and Tom Feegel, former technical director of Wolff New Media-spoke to Brill’s Content on the record. A venture capitalist, who appears anonymously throughout the book, spoke to us but would not allow us to use his name. The minor characters who spoke on the record are Goff and journalist Gary Brickman. Another person, who says he is the unnamed Wolff New Media executive vice-president in the book, spoke to us but would not allow his name to be used. Jonathan Bellack, a former Wolff New Media employee, who also spoke to us, does not appear in the book but says he witnessed events the book describes.

Wolff says he has notes and e-mail that back him up, but refuses to release them. “I’m sure people are very surprised to see these meetings come back to life,” he says. “But that’s good writing. That may be great writing.”

In the Brill’s Content article, Wolff says “I’m sure people are very surprised to see these meetings come back to life … But that’s good writing. That may be great writing.” Though Wolff claims to have had notes of conversations in question, he indeed seems seems to have never released them. Wolf’s response to Brill’s accusations??? Why, attack Brill of course! Wolff evades the topic at hand.

Though remembering what specifically what one has said in specific meetings over the course of years my be impossible, and those who are misquoted may also be in error, the onus is for Wolff to provide the records to show how accurate his quotes were. He failed.

Seeing as much of the controversy surrounding new book about the Trump administration seems to concern quotes, accuracy here is important. Wolff claims he has dozens of hours of recordings. If he doesn’t produce them,he will have a problem.

The WT continues:

Several details in Mr. Wolff’s account already have been revealed to be highly unlikely, as Washington insiders have been quick to point out.

One “Washington insider” appears to be New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman. She notes in a CNN interview:

“I believe parts of it. And then there are other parts that are factually wrong. I mean the thing about Michael Wolff and his style, which apparently nobody in the White House appears to have done a cursory Google search on him and sort of what his M.O. is, but he believes in larger truths and narratives. So he creates a narrative that is notionally true, that’s conceptually true. The details are often wrong. And I can — I can see several places in the book that are wrong.”

When asked for details, she says:

“…he in accurately describes a report in “The New York Times.” He inaccurately characterizes a couple of incidents that took place early on in the administration. He gets basic details wrong.”

Those inaccuracies are listed as CNN reporting the substance of the Trump Dossier, which they didn’t, and misquotes Robert Murdoch.

So far, if you look at these inconsistencies, do you dismiss the whole of the book?

There are parts of the WT critique that don’t hold up. For instance:

“Writing in the pages of The New Republic in 2004, Michelle Cottle took Mr. Wolff to task for exploiting artistic license in his writing…

Mr. Wolff himself admitted to as much in the introduction to “Fire and Fury.”

“Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue,” he wrote. “Those conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book. Sometimes I have let the players offer their versions, in turn allowing the reader to judge them. In other instances I have, through a consistency in accounts and through sources I have come to trust, settled on a version of events I believe to be true.”

The WT is playing with words here. Wolff is not saying that he’s taken “artistic license”, he’s saying that different people within the administration themselves have differing accounts of events. One only needs to track many of the instances where the administration has produced three or four official statements before settling on the one that best suits the narrative. The firing of James Comey is a perfect example. That story has changed so much, I’m still not sure which version of events leading up to that is the “official” one.

“The author [Wolff] claims that Mr. Trump did not know who former House speaker John Boehner was when former Fox News honcho Roger Ailes suggested him as a potential chief of staff.”

But Trump himself has indeed said things like this many times. Remember he had no idea who David Duke was or anything about his views, even though there was an interview with Larry King from a couple of years prior that has Trump talking about Duke and his “theories.” And then there is the infamous “pussy-grabbing” video clip. First Trump embraces his words in the video as “locker room talk”, but the, a year later, he says the video is “fake”. Trump even claims not to have ever met Wolff. But Wolff interviewed Trump for the Hollywood Reporter during the campaign. And note that they seemed to get along well enough.

And don’t forget the speech Trump gave while visiting Florida and says that “Melania really wanted to be with us. It’s really touched her heart what’s gone on.”… And she’s standing right beside him.

So maybe it’s not out of the question that Trump forgot who Boehner is. Which is the problem with trying to criticize Wolff and his book, or the critique of it for that matter. When it comes to the Trump administration, there are so many oddities that it truly is difficult to find out what is true or not.

I will point out though that Wolff’s description of Trumps demeanor and complete disinterest in researching and reading, the incredibly short attention span, and the accusation that no one expected Trump would win are not new to the world. During the campaign in 2016, “Art Of The Deal” Tony Schwartz and former Trump strategist Stephanie Cegielski, in separate articles, are already on record saying the same things.

Meanwhile, news is breaking that the former counsel to the President Steve Bannon, who is featured throughout the new book, was about to issue a statement attacking Wolff’s book as a “left wing hatchet job.” But since the President attacked him, he’s letting this all play out.

Nov
16
2017

My New Car!!!

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As most of my friends know, I am a loyal Subaru guy. But have loved my Hondas and Toyotas, and once had the rare Datsun 810 coupe. Fun car, but it was getting eaten by rust.

I’m here now because I just acquired a cream dream machine!!!… A 1991 300ZX 2×2. I will never forget the first time I saw one of these out in the wild. I was driving north on the I-5 from San Diego to Pasadena, and this magnificent car passed me. I normally kept up with the goings-on in the industry, but somehow, I missed the relaunch of the Z at the time. I saw the car, a black one, and wondered “what the hell is THAT!!!!”. And now I have one!

I owned a pool business. One of my long-time customers has had this car mothballed for the last 9 years or so. It had some sort of transmission problem, and they decided to get another car. I think they intended to fix this one, but never got around to it. It has been in the garage, covered, ever since. At least three or four times a year I’d ask “Hey Cindy, when are you gonna get me that car?”. Well she finally decided to let it go, and I got it for a song!

Because they had originally bought the car out of state, the car has a “non-transferable” tag on the title. Also, they have no idea where the keys are, or where the pink slip is. They can’t find the keys, the battery is dead, the T-Top keys are also missing, I’m betting I’ll have a stuck injector or two….

These are all solvable problems. Still, I won’t be doing any serious wrenching until the pink slip is in my name. But, the car is now sitting pretty in my driveway! Possession is 9/10ths and all that! 🙂

I’m ecstatic to have this car, and look forward to a good drive to the coast when I get it up and running.

PS. Yes, that IS a Subaru BRAT back there… And, no, it doesn’t have the rear seats in the bed. (will be for sale soon)

 

Nov
11
2017

Rebuilding Credit, The Sonicfrog Way – Or – Why Can’t Things Ever Be Easy For Me???? UPDATE

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This is something I posted on facebook a couple of weeks ago and meant to post here.

Consider it posted.

I have worked hard to rebuild my credit in the aftermath of the Great Recession. But, being me, I have weird problems; nothing goes normal.Somehow, Experian had my credit at a 0 rating, and that cost me due to the high interest rate I ended up with when I bought my car a couple of years ago. I didn’t think that much about it and thought it was a blip, a failure on the part of the dealership I purchased the car from. I registered on Credit Karma, and there was no hint of a 0 credit score there, so I forgot about it. Meanwhile, I’ve been on a credit repair program with my bank,including a secured credit card, for a couple of years. By this summer, my credit score had gone a hundred points, and all looked good... Until...

In July, I went to the bank to upgrade my credit. I applied and found out the 0 score was not a blip, but a real score that kept me from getting the credit card upgrade. I contacted Experian and eventually got that problem resolved. They had no idea why my score was 0, but it got fixed. So, in late September, I went back to the bank, and this time everything looked good.My unsecured credit card was approved. They would close the secured account, and I would get the regular card in a couple of weeks.

A couple of weeks passed. No card in the mail. Another week, and then another week went by. I finally called the bank, and they don’t know what happened, but they don’t have record of the card getting issued. So now I have to reapply. 

But, SURPRISE!!!!!!!!! Now there is a problem. 

Because of all the inquiries to fix my 0 credit score, two inquiries to get the new card, and the closing of my secured card account, that caused my credit score to dip 20 points. And gee, that cause my score to go down 20points, which puts me below the threshold to get the new card.

Again... I never can do things like normal people do.

UPDATE: Since I originally wrote this two weeks ago, things have happened. I got a call from the bank yesterday letting me know that yes, the card has been approved and is on it’s way. Then I get home, and in the mail is a notice saying my application has been denied.

I can’t win.