Truth, Noise, and Politics

October 28, 2015

Truth is a tough nut, both fruit and seed. Few people want to shuck their own nuts or work hard enough to discover truth. As with nuts, we usually like someone else to do the work, the shelling. Thus truth, for most, is received wisdom. We are inclined to believe what we hear (hat tip to Goebbels) or believe what we hear most. Truth as a rule is what we believe, correct or incorrect. True or false beliefs are equally difficult to undo or overcome. Belief is a virtual hermaphrodite too; it often serves both sides of an argument.

The received wisdom conundrum is aggravated by the signals/noise enigma. Signal truth is often buried under layers of noise: emotions, passions, bias, frequency, and volume. Between received wisdom and ambient noise, facts often fail to be consumed no less germinate. Political truth, especially before an election, is similar to the leaf litter under an oak tree. Almost all acorns are infested by insects, purloined by rodents, or simply rot in the shell. Few nuts ever become trees.

Alas, signals and noise are endemic in all modern societies.  Nevertheless, signals missed still have grave consequences.

Roberta Wohlstetter’s prophetic analysis of the warning failure at Pearl Harbor is an example of how the message, or truth, gets lost in ambient noise.  Ms. Wohlstetter’s excellent volume was confirmed again by General Mike Hayden, the National Security Agency, and the Bush White House on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

The Saudi/Arab surprise attack on America was the worst Intelligence disaster since Pearl Harbor. Adding insult to injury, Saudi elites were spirited out of the US after the attack and NSA director General Mike Hayden, USAF, was promoted.

The 9/11 disaster confirms Hegel’s aphorism too, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”

Political truth is the most elusive. The ambient noise of a political campaign is tsunamic. Modern media might be the biggest noise makers in history, businesses driven by the internet, buzz, trends, likes, polls, profit, controversy, hidden agendas, prurience, voyeurism, partisanship, and often just common venality or banality. “If it bleeds, it leads” is both a literal and figurative truth for American journalists in print, on the net, or on the airways.  Titillation and musterbation are the true north and true south of modern communications arts.

Given a choice between information and entertainment, both media and their marks usually take the low road.

Small wonder then that journalists, politicians, and Muslim clerics are the biggest stake holders in the global trust default. Among the three, over ninety percent of readers and viewers do not trust journalists. A trust score in the single digits is a little like a charity flush in a public toilet – another noise that changes nothing.

It is no accident that Islamic jihadists take special delight in gory public executions of journalists.

The ambient noise around the two leading candidates in the 2016 US presidential race provide illustrations of how difficult it is to separate signal from noise, separate true belief from spin.

Hillary is less of a cipher because no one expects either of the Clintons to tell the truth; not their party, not the Congress, nor the courts, nor their supporters. Like a Santa Claus wife, Hillary’s mendacity is impervious to judgement, an amnesty probably underwritten by partisanship and consistent Christmas tree politics. Mrs. Clinton, like her husband, is an icon for women, urban cliff dwellers, minorities, a host of dependents, and other special pleaders.

Few care what Hillary believes either. After four decades in the public eye, all truth might be inconvenient, irrelevant, and unnecessary in a Clinton household – or administration. Hillary’s candidacy says more about contemporary American values than most sensible folks would like to admit.

Donald Trump on the other hand is a study in contrast. Where Hillary is evasive, Trump’s candor is brutal. Beliefs are often used like a cudgel.  Indeed, Trump is often characterized as loud, insensitive, transitory, boorish, rude, and offensive. These are some of the nicer things said about the Republican frontrunner.

Indeed, with the media, what Trump says is often lost in how or to whom it is said. The conventional wisdom among the political establishment, right and left, is that a chap like Trump is “temperamentally” unsuited for the presidency. He says what he thinks and that will not do in a culture where appearance is lodestar.

Hillary might be taken at face value, but the Trump signal is buried under noise, all the hysterical histrionics necessary to obscure his message. Two examples from the Trump repertoire tell the story; the George Bush kerfuffle and the immigration imbroglio.

Truth and the Bush dynasty

As a general proposition, the truth about the Bush dynasty is threefold. George Bush senior made Clinton possible, Junior made Obama possible, and Jeb Bush might make Hillary possible.

And yes, a sitting president, like a ship’s captain, is responsible for what happens on his watch. Bush junior owns 9/11 – and the all pandering precedents set in concrete after the Arab attack. Examine Bush era verbiage and policy that sought to excuse Arabs, Islamism, or Islamo-fascism, now manifest in the Islamic State! There’s not much difference between Bush era Muslim policy and ongoing Brennan/Obama appeasement cant.

In eight years, George Bush failed to get Osama bin Laden and he did not make the world a safer place either;  not from Islamism – or for very long.

The truth about Intelligence remedies under Bush is worse still. Like his predecessors, he simply threw money at the warning problem and hoped for the best. Spray, pay, and pray is what cynics inside the Beltway call it.

The truth about NSA, as an example of failure, is that it is, simultaneously, too big to fail and too big to succeed; in short, a mismanagement of talent and national treasure at a time when both are in short supply.

The Intelligence problem was never data collection, NSA’s charter, in any case. The problem was, and is, honest analysis, telling politicians the truth, things they don’t want to hear, and truths especially about phenomena like Islamism and jihad.

Indeed, Edward Snowden is walking, talking testimony to NSA’s inability to deal with institutional and external national security threats.  Ironically, the Intelligence business, like public education, is one of those many federal sinecures that reward failure. With federal programs, failure is likely to precipitate promotions and a funding windfall. Reform is usually an orphan.

Trump says you pay to play in politics. Indeed! Once elected, you also get to pay back with other people’s money.

Truth about immigration

Trump is brutally correct about immigration also. Migrants are both criminal and national security problems today. A fourth of the American prison population originates south of the border. And those numbers do not include Mexican born felons still at large midst millions of illegals.

A state without borders or controls is just another place, not a country.

The migrant problem in Europe is illustrative, more cultural than humanitarian crisis. There is little in contemporary European experience with refugees that merits imitation in America. Unfortunately, Europe and America have ceded their sovereignty to NGOs and the United Nations on the migrant issue.

After fifty years of Muslim wars, battlefield commanders are still unable to distinguish friend from foe, “moderate” from terrorist or jihadist. The US State Department, NGOs, and the United Nations have little inclination and virtually no capability to vet large numbers of Muslim migrants.

Racist motives attributed to Trump have no basis in fact. In the interests of sanity, security, civility, and national sovereignty, migrants must get in line, use the front door, or be gone. The alternative is for America to become a multicultural basket case like the European Union.

If the Peace of Westphalia is to be washed away by open borders, that sea change should come from consent not a tidal wave of Muslim migrants.

One final truth

All politicians make promises. Trump wants to “make America great again.” Hyperbole aside, there’s more than a kernel of truth in such sloganeering.

Since the 1960’s, America has undergone a cultural revolution, values like sweat equity, independence, and achievement have been forsaken in favor of excuses, tolerance, and dependency. Indeed, success is demonized. Donald Trump is a living example.

“Children” are now subsidized by government until 30 years of age.

Cultural erosion is not limited to social dependencies or criminal subcultures. Cabinet level satraps, federal department heads, and Pentagon generals all thrive on a performance model where success or victory is rare and failure is an acceptable norm.

Personal and departmental failure has become another beneficiary of intemperate tolerance. Indeed, failure is subsidized in programs like defense, veteran’s affairs, Intelligence, and public education, just to name a few. Incompetence is the only perennial bipartisan issue inside the Beltway.

Most of the rap against Trump is ad hominem at best, political penis envy at its worst. He is successful, rich, much married, and he has the courage to go where few politicians dare venture. With Trump’s critics, the hard nut of truth is indigestible.

If Trump’s message, his signal, is that the Oval Office should stop rewarding personal and institutional failure, he will have disinterred the ghost of Abraham Lincoln.

“You’re fired” is a message not heard in Washington since the Korean War.

Lincoln understood the value and virtue of performance. The first Republican president did not tolerate incompetent subordinates who could not deliver success or victory. In his time, Abraham Lincoln was an outsider. He made America great again. He made the industrial revolution that followed possible too.



This essay appeared in the American Thinker and the New English Review.

It’s a DINO

October 16, 2015

The first Democrat Party debate was everything we hoped it would not be, a boring coronation. Alas, Mrs. Clinton literally shouted the competition off the stage. She bitch- slapped the boys with the usual Clintonista talking points: gun control, health care, feminism, piñata politics, and Trump bashing.  The selling of baby parts did not come up. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders flew in formation suggesting that they would finance new initiatives by taxing the rich. No news here.

Calling the Clinton/Sanders appearance a “face-off” gives hyperbole a bad name. The NY Times predictably tried to put lipstick on a pig by categorizing the Tuesday séance as a “sharp debate.”

Sanders said nothing that would challenge Hillary on any significant issue. Indeed, Bernie actually came to Hillary’s defense on the private server/email fiasco. By evening’s end Hillary was probably asking herself: “Why am I on the same stage with these clowns.”

Mrs. Clinton’s performance is probably a polished preview of her impending congressional testimony, a real confrontation that, alas, is likely to have similar consequence. The only men likely to be more fey than professional CNN journalists are the faint hearted professional politicians on Capitol Hill.

There were no hard ball questions on foreign policy either, Benghazi or the blatant mendacity that has followed. There were no tough questions about domestic policy or husband Bill, what role he would play in Clinton III. The Media might get personal with Trump, but they dare not with Hillary

Anderson Cooper proved to be a more than adequate ally as a CNN southpaw, throwing soft balls from the left at the Left all evening. Indeed, when asked how she would be different from Obama, Mrs. Clinton actually admitted that she wouldn’t be different. She promised more of the same – only farther to the left. Indeed, Jim Webb, the only voice of reason on the stage, looked out of place, an oddball, a single digit turd in the usual cocktail of liberal promises.

The most telling moments of the evening were when Hillary mentioned gender, several times in fact. When asked about dynasty, or being a certified insider, she retreated to her sex. Asked how she would be different, she chortled: “Who could be more of an outsider than a woman?” With that rallying cry, Mrs. Clinton ran up the genital and victim Jolly Rogers on the same Democrat halyard.

It’s official now. Just as Obama played the melanin card, Hillary is running on her vagina. A “first” is a terrible thing to waste.

The opening democrat debate was not novel, informative, revealing, controversial, confrontational, noteworthy, or even entertaining.

Call it a DINO, a debate in name only.

Trump’s Trump

October 2, 2015

Donald Trump is a piece of work even by New York standards: tall, white, loud, brash, entrepreneurial, successful, rich, ruthlessly candid, well-dressed, and fond of heterosexual women. He has married at least three delicious ladies in fact. Trump has five children and seven grandchildren. Indeed, his progeny are well above average too, smartly groomed, photogenic, and successful to boot.

As far as we know, Donald does not have any tattoos, piercings, unpaid taxes, or under-aged bimbo interns. He is not a drunk or a junkie either. Trump projects and enterprises probably employ more folks than the NYC school system – or the United Nations.

You could say that Trump is living the life, not the life of Riley, but more like big Daddy Warbucks with a comb over. “The Donald,” as one ex-wife calls him, is not just living the American dream. Trump is the dream – and proud of it.

You could do worse than think of Trump as upwardly mobile blue collar. He is the grandson of immigrants and the product of Long island, a Queens household, and a Bronx education. The Donald survived the Jesuits of Fordham University for two years before migrating to finish his baccalaureate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

When readers of the New York Times, The New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books speak of “the city”, they are not talking about the Queens or the Bronx.  Growing and schooling in the blue collar boroughs gives Trump a curb level perspective, something seldom found in Manhattan. Or as any “D” Train alumnus might put it, Trump has “a pretty good Bravo Sierra detector.”

So what’s not to like about Donald Trump? He doesn’t just stay in four star hotels. He builds them. He doesn’t just own luxury condominiums. He makes them. He doesn’t just own historic buildings. He restores them. He doesn’t just eat at the best restaurants. He creates them. He just doesn’t belong to the best country clubs, he builds those too.

And Donald Trump, unlike the Manhattan/Washington fantasy Press and every Beltway political pimp, doesn’t just pay lip service to a bigger and better economy, he creates micro-economies every day.

The only thing we don’t know about Donald Trump is why he would like to immigrate to the District of Columbia.

In any case, the merits of entrepreneurs like Trump might best be defined by the character or motives of his critics. Trump detractors are for the most part “B” list politicians, ambulance chasers, and a left-leaning Press corps that lionizes the likes of Nina Totenberg, Dan Rather, Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell, and Brian Williams.

If the truth were told, most of Trump’s critics are jealous, envious of his wealth – and they loath his candor.  Donald might also be hated for what he is not. Trump is not a lawyer, nor is he a career politician who lives on the taxpayer dime. Trump is paying for his own campaign. Bernie, Barack, McCain, and Kerry could take enterprise lessons from a chap like Trump.

Unlike most government barnacles, Trump can walk and chew gum at the same time. He knows how to close a deal and build something. He is a net creator, not consumer, of a kind of wealth that provides “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for Americans – real jobs not feather merchants.

Today, Trump has nothing left to prove. Yet, success has allowed him the rarest of public privileges, an electoral pulpit and the courage to speak his mind. Alas, truth is not necessarily a political asset in a socialized democracy.

Indeed, the erstwhile presidential candidate stepped on his crank recently by suggesting that Mexico, already exporting dangerous drugs, cheap tomatoes, and even cheaper labor, was also exporting violent felons to the US.

Truth hurts! Trump’s rude candor is underwritten by nearly half a million illegal felons in American jails. Coincidently, events have conspired to support Trump’s take on Mexican dystopia with the El Chapo Guzman jailbreak and the murder of Kathryn Steinle by Francisco Sanchez.

Senor Sanchez sported a lengthy criminal record and had been deported on four previous occasions. San Francisco, a “sanctuary” city, failed to honor existing warrants and released Sanchez from jail just before he blew Kathy Steinle away.

As serendipity would have it, Trump then went to Phoenix on 12 July and gave a stem winder to a sell-out crowd on the subject of illegal immigration. Senator John McCain was not pleased to have Donald on Arizona’s front lawn and intemperately called Trump supporters “crazies.” Trump returned fire saying that McCain was no hero.

Here again Trump cut to the quick, pointing out that no one qualifies as a hero because he was shot down or captured. Indeed, being a hostage in North Vietnam is not necessarily heroic either. McCain is thought by some to be a heroic because he refused to accept an early release.

In fact, the Hanoi parole offer was a ruse, a Hobson’s choice, designed to embarrass McCain and his father at CINCPAC.

If McCain took the parole and abandoned his fellow POWs, he would have shamed his father and been ostracized by shipmates. Indeed, had John McCain not been the son and grandson of famous, and victorious, Pacific Command flag officers, no one would have noticed him then or now.

Few of the demagogues who have come to John McCain’s defense could name any of the 600 Vietnam-era POWs other than McCain. McCain is famous today because he, like John Kerry, has parlayed a very average Vietnam military service into a three decade political sinecure.

We know of 50,000 Vietnam veterans that might be more deserving than John McCain. Unfortunately, they died in a war that generals couldn’t win and politicians couldn’t abide. A body bag seldom gets to play the “hero.”

McCain is no political hero either.

He is famously ambiguous on domestic issues like immigration. He is also a Johnny-come-lately to Veterans Administration rot which has metastasized as long as McCain has been in office. On foreign policy, McCain is a Victoria Nuland era crackpot, supporting East European coups, playing cold warrior, and posturing with neo-Nazis in Kiev. McCain pecks at Putin too because the Senate, like the Obama crew, hasn’t a clue about genuine threats like the ISIS jihad or the latest Islam bomb.

To date, Trump has run a clever campaign. He is chumming, throwing red meat and blood into campaign waters and all the usual suspects are in a feeding frenzy. McCain, the Press, the Left, and the Republican establishment all have something to say about “the Donald.” It is truly amazing how cleverly Trump manages to manipulate the establishment.

If you are trying to sell an idea or a candidacy, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Who knows where the Trump campaign goes? For the moment, he has scored direct hits on Mexico and McCain. With El Capo on the loose again, every time a toilet flushes in Sinaloa, Mexican garbage is likely spill out in Los Angeles, Hollywood, San Francisco, Portland, or Seattle. Indeed, it’s hard to believe that the Left Coast could survive without cheap labor, pistileros, meth, coke, heroin, or weed. Necrotic immigration and its byproducts are ready made targets for a gunslinger like Trump.

Trump is no bigot. He probably employs more Latinos and Blacks than Enrique Peña Nieto or Barack Obama. In his own way, Donald Trump is both immigrant and POW, a refugee from Queens and still a prisoner of Wharton. “The Donald” is the dude, the guy with babes and a role of Benjamins that would choke a shark. He is the wildly successful capitalist that some of us love to hate.

Before democratic socialism, success and effectiveness were measures of merit. It doesn’t take much insight to compare Trump’s various enterprises with federal programs. Public education, banking oversight, public housing slums, poverty doles, veteran’s fiascos, internal revenue hijinks, and even some Defense Department procurement programs are consensus failures. The F-35 “Lightning” fighter is an illustration, arguably the most expensive single DOD boondoggle in history. Pentagon progressives seldom win a cat fight these days, but they still spend like sailors.

If and when Trump fails, he is out of business.

In Trump’s world, failure has consequences.  In contrast, Washington rewards failure with better funding. Indeed, generational program failure is now a kind of perverse incentive for Beltway politicians and apparatchiks to throw good money at failed programs.

The difference between Trump and McCain should be obvious to any fair observer; Trump has done something with his talents. McCain, in contrast, is coasting on a military myth and resting on the laurels of Senatorial tenure.

Any way you look at it, Donald Trump is good for national politics, good for democracy, good for America, and especially good for candor. If nothing else, “the Donald” may help Republicans to pull their heads out of that place where the sun seldom shines.


The author had two tours in Vietnam as a junior officer and subsequently served as command Intelligence briefer in Hawaii where he updated CINCPAC, John McCain’s father, on POW matters.