Author Archive: graham

Denying reality has a limited shelf-life

The most interesting project manager I interacted with in the UK was a guy with a team of around 8 people at Xerox Corporation.
He had a plaque prominently displayed on his desk bearing the inscription

If you don’t get the facts, the facts will get you

He had a love-hate relationship with his team. They loved his ability to speak truth to power and back them up all the way. They HATED his tendency to quiz the entire team and seemingly play Devil’s Advocate in meetings as he argued with team consensus.
I talked to him about that process. His comment to me was if you are going to tell your leadership the things that they need to hear, rather than what they want to hear, you had better be right, otherwise you will not be taken seriously once you are found out to be wrong once. In order to be right, you have to have the facts on your side. So his “Devils Advocate” style of interaction was deliberate, a tactic to ensure that his team was not simply making decisions based on expediency and groupthink. Confirmation bias can be very distorting in members of a team.
This article in Forbes explains very compellingly why the GOP, since they took total control of the Legislative and Executive branches, has been unable to make much progress on most of their legislative agenda. Quite simply, many of their legislative ideas conflict with reality and facts. That means that sooner or later the painful reality check appears on the scene. The mess over the ACA is but one example of this.


Stop making excuses for Sean Spicer

Now that Sean Spicer has left his job as Press Secretary to the POTUS, some folks are busy arguing on social media that he is really a “nice guy” that does not deserve all of the scorn that has been heaped on him in his recent role, that he is a basically a “decent man”.
As far as I can tell, nobody forced Sean Spicer to take the job of Press Secretary. He was not drafted to the role, there was no blackmail that anybody is alleging or admitting to in order to get him to take the job. He volunteered to take that role, and then proceeded to utter claims and assertions, almost on a daily basis, that made Baghdad Bob look like a gold-plated exemplar of truth-telling.
There is a well-known historical feature of acting in a mendacious, deceitful and evil way, known as the Nuremberg Defense, which was attempted by numerous German officials and military members when they were arrested after the end of World War II. The defense boiled down to “I was only obeying orders”. The courts trying those German officials swiftly shot down that attempted defense.
Not only that, but in the US military, the UCMJ specifically states that a military member is under no obligation to follow an order that is plainly illegal.
Sean Spicer took a job that he should have known would force him to bullshit, lie and deflect in public. He signed up to do that job voluntarily. Whether he really understood how much weapons-grade bullshit he would have to utter, I do not know, but if he did not realize the potential extent of it, he clearly was not paying attention to the historical behavior of his new boss.
He might, for all I know, be a fine fellow who donates generously to charity, helps old ladies across the road etc. etc. However, if every time the public sees a person, they are behaving like a deceitful horse’s ass, the public is likely to conclude that they actually are a deceitful horse’s ass.
So…Sean Spicer has to take accountability for being the attempted second coming of Baghdad Bob before he is likely to be taken seriously in any form of spokesperson advocacy role. It’s his own fault. He squandered his public credibility and his reputation over the last 7 months. It was his choice and actions. Those have consequences.


Kim Brown, lawyers fees and the ACLU

We all know the story…Kim Brown, County Clerk in Kentucky, which is an elected position, determined that she would not issue marriage licenses for gay people. The state ordered her to issue licenses, she refused, so other people in her office issued the licenses after the ACLU sued to force the marriage licenses to be issued.
The ACLU sued for recovery of lawyers fees in the court cases.
Now a judge has ruled that the State owes $224k in lawyers fees to the ACLU.

Kim Davis’ lawyers are spinning this as a victory since Davis herself is not personally liable.
There is a lot of comment expressing disappointment that the judge did not rule that Kin Davis herself was personally liable for the fees.
I am not sure that the disappointment was fully justified. The position of County Clerk in Rowan County is an elected position. Effectively the electors voted for Davis to run the County Clerk’s office. They presumably knew of her convictions that gay marriage should not be allowed before they elected her. (NOTE – Davis ran for office and was elected as a Democrat).
So, the taxpayers who elected a person should be accountable.
The unfortunate aspect of the judge’s ruling is that, because the State of Kentucky, anxious to backup Davis in her quixotic battle, became a defendant in the case brought by the ACLU, the state is the body that now has to pay the lawyer’s fees. Ideally, the judge would have ruled that Rowan County electors should pay the fees award. After all, they elected Kim Davis.


Methods of sabotaging investigations

At this point in time it is clear that Donald Trump is seriously trying to evade responsibility for any acts that he and his family may have committed in the past or since he became the President.
We can tell this because he is working on two tactics:
1. He has ordered staff to investigate Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, looking for issues that might give him (as he sees it) grounds to dismiss him
2. He has been asking legal advisors about the limits of his Presidential Pardon powers

Option (1) is what I term the “nuclear option”. Dismissing Mueller would send the signal that Trump intends to evade any and all external scrutiny of his actions. Remember that Richard Nixon’s position became untenable only after he fired Archibald Cox from his role of Special Prosecutor over the emerging Watergate scandal. That led to the erosion of support for Nixon inside the Republican Party to the point where he resigned rather than be convicted in a Senate impeachment trial. Firing Mueller, whose record is unimpeachably good, will put the GOP in a nasty dilemna. Accepting the dismissal will lead to them being seen as accomplices in a cover-up. Their alternative is to set up their own independent investigation into Trump’s behavior and actions, possibly with Mueller continuing in his role, but reporting to the House or the Senate without answering to the POTUS. They will be very reluctant to do that, but negative public reaction may force their hand. It’s all about the 2018 elections. If enough GOP elected representatives say “either we investigate or we will be slaughtered next year at the polls”, then the GOP may continue to investigate.
Option (2) is one I consider to be more likely. Trump does not want to resign as POTUS without protection of himself and his family from legal consequences. He therefore is likely to pre-emptively pardon his entire family and business associates for any and all illegal acts committed over the last umpteen years.
(NOTE – in 1974, in response to inquiries from the Nixon administration, legal counsel advised that a President cannot pardon himself).
If Trump were to resign as POTUS (which I consider to be unlikely, until he finds out that he will lose an impeachment trial in the Senate) he would likely demand that VP Mike Pence also pardon him as part of the resignation deal. The GOP would probably accept that sort of deal, simply to sweep the Trump era under the rug and be able to continue with their authoritarian legislative agenda.
Please note, however, my previous posting. Presidential Pardon power only extends to Federal crimes. Donald Trump could still be investigated for acts that potentially violate State laws. If he is found guilty at State level, he or his successors currently have no way to pardon him of those crimes.


The very real limit of Presidential pardons

This Tweet is highly significant:

The President has the power of pardon for Federal crimes only. For state-level crimes, pardon power rests with the Governor of the state where the defendant was indicted, prosecuted or convicted.
So, sure, the POTUS can probably pardon all of his family members, friends, business associates and other hangers-on if they are under suspicion, indicted or being prosecuted for Federal crimes. However, he has no power to pardon anybody charged or convicted of a crime under State law.
So..if the POTUS or his associates are indicted or charged under state law, he is powerless to issue any pardons.


Quick Notes – 20th July 2018

1. Tweet Of The Day

2. English drama series
These definitely reflect the reality of English town life – festering jealousies, resentments and hatreds, all concealed behind a veneer of polite, even-handed hospitable smiles and glad-handing.


Taking a moment out to be cynical…

What if the GOP planned all along to fail to pass a repeal bill for the ACA in both the House of Representatives and the Senate?
I can think of three very good reasons why they might want that to be the final outcome.
1. The ACA is growing steadily more popular
2. The POTUS made ACA repeal and replacement a centerpiece of his agenda, and the POTUS is unpopular
3. The POTUS promise of better insurance for less money is totally incompatible with giving rich folks a tax cut, if you try to trade the ACA off against tax policy

The GOP is, of course, hopelessly tangled up in a rhetorical cul-de-sac of its own making over the ACA. They have been promising to repeal the ACA since about the time that it was passed, and they have been bloviating and posturing to that end since 2010 (witness the number of votes scheduled in the House to repeal the ACA – up to over 60 the last time I looked).
The GOP cannot suddenly turn around and say “well, it seems that the ACA might not be all bad so let’s not repeal it”. The activist base of the party would be apoplectic with rage, and local pressure groups would immediately look for primary election targets in 2018, picking on representatives who they consider to be traitoriously disloyal. One of the reasons why so many GOP elected representatives make dingbat-crazy public pronouncements is that they are terrified of being primaried. When a representative like Renee Elmers, who was propelled into office by a Tea Party primary insurgency, can be dumped out of office by the same group of primary voters after being accused of being a RINO (a cardinal sin for any GOP political candidate), then nobody in the House from the GOP, no matter how batshit-crazy, is safe.
So, the GOP has been in rock-meet-hard-place territory. If they repeal the ACA, elected representatives fear a tidal wave of voter anger sweeping them out of office in 2018. If they abandon all attempts at a repeal, they fear primary challenges for being “insufficiently conservative” or (gasp) being named as a RINO.
So…what better option exists?
Allow the repeal bills to die due to (just failing) to get enough support.
This would be a classic tactic of virtue signalling, done all the time by politicians who want to appear tough and resolute. The world of politics is replete with examples of politicians proposing cockanamie legislation, having it shelved or voted into oblivion, and then going back to their supporters and saying “look, I tried to get it passed”.
So, the PR spin from Donald Trump that he got really close, is a classic rhetorical sleight of hand that papers over the reality that, in all probability, the majority of GOP senators and house members are glad that ACA repeal has died a death. They still have the option to slowly strangle the ACA by other means of course. That would be a cunning and slow dismantlement of the ACA without having to take ownership for publicly killing it. Think arsenic poisoning instead of shooting.



Although I am by no means a geek, I am usually regarded as one by most of my immediate family.
I think that is about to change. Now that Mary is in the middle of IT training, she is catching up fast. I may yet end up building our next home server under her tutelage.
I see a long trip to some distant wilderness area to get in touch with my inner Real Man in my future…(just as long as that does not involve hunting for my dinner with a bow and arrow…)