Friday, June 09, 2017

My Impressions About Comey's Testimony

1. He certainly does come across as a very reasonable guy. I am inclined to believe him, though I did wonder whether some of his account may have been reverse-engineered...though he seemed very honest about what he didn't remember and where he made unconscious inferences. I'm not particularly insightful about such things, and there is allegedly evidence showing that we're typically not that good at detecting don't know. But it sure seems to me that he's an honest guy. It sucks that he may very well be scrupulously honest...but merely being put in this position means that people may always see him as a kind of superposition of states of Honest Comey and Dishonest Comey.
   I try pretty hard to be honest, and I tend to assume that other people are honest unless I'm given evidence to the contrary...consequently, I'm pretty sure whether my thoughts on this are of any value...

2. I dislike Trump about as much as I've ever disliked anyone in American politics. It's like somebody built a guy for me to maximally dislike. There's almost no way for me to be dispassionate about him. But we know that he's got little respect for the truth. So in any he-said-he-said situation, if I have to bet, my money's on Comey and it's not a close call.

3. However, my concerns about my own political bias and the bias of my cohort were exacerbated by Comey's comments on e.g. Lynch and the Clinton-Lynch tarmac incident. Comey's right. That was inexcusable. But all I did was excuse it. It should have sent me to DefCon 4ish. But I categorized it as a foolish but innocent error.
   This seems very significant to me. We're all sitting around asking How can those fools on the other side of the aisle not see/admit the obvious?!?  But, when the tables were at least approximately turned, I / we didn't see/admit it.

4. There seems to be little doubt that Trump was attempting to interfere with the Flynn investigation. Some on the right are trying to spin it, of course. Ooooh see? Trump never came right out and said "I command you to stop this investigation!" He's teh innocent!!!!11 Bullshit. Even Trump isn't that stupid. He sent everybody out of the room and so on. He seems to have made it clear that he wanted the investigation stopped. A different person might be given the benefit of the doubt. But given what we know about Trump, it would be foolish to give it to him. And I say this keeping 3 (above) in mind. Trump might be innocent--and there might not be enough evidence to convict in court. But there's little doubt in my mind about what he did.

5. I guess everybody in the world thought of the "meddlesome priest" line--but when I thought of it I thought it made the opposite point that everybody else seems to think it made. I haven't read Becket[t]  [oops--one 't', as it turns out] since high school...but isn't the point that Henry didn't really intend to order the murder? Wasn't it kind of an accident? As represented in the play, anyway?


Blogger Kerig said...

I admit, I've never read Beckett, nor seen the 1964 movie. But I don't like being ignorant of things around me so I did what most Americans did recently, I Googled it. Simple, right? Apparently not since the propagandists on Fox & Friends were sitting around this morning openly mocking the reference because they obviously didn't know its meaning and "learning" has become the enemy of the right.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, what kind of pointy-headed nerd reads plays anyway?

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

Or knows anything about history.

Winston, I think I've finally put my finger on why you're so accommodating -- honorably so -- to the 'it's the MSM that's the real villain here' crowd. You reflect on your utter contempt for Trump, and find yourself conceiving of it as primarily a source of bias in your appraisal of him. But why look at it that way? A much more natural picture would conceive your contempt as primarily an effect: the inevitable response of even a minimally sensitive ethical consciousness (ie one far below your own) to the nauseating spectacle of a noxious moral dwarf in charge of the US. Now, I can hear you saying 'Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?' but think about it. No merely cold, factual rehearsal of his actions since he first sought the nomination could possibly fail to convey an utterly mendacious, shallow, narcissistic, low-minded, ignorant, crude, cruel character. I mean, just take the lying alone. Not even the most viciously calumniating Republican could ever have dared to accuse Obama of telling blatant, self-defeating lies on a daily basis. Yet that accusation cannot only be made of Trump -- everyone knows it is true, and when Comey denounces Trump's 'lies, plain and simple', and casually alludes to an understandable fear that Trump might lie about his conversations with him, none of the Republican senators in the room even bat an eyelid -- they know there's just no mileage in raising even a token protest. This matters: there is simply no respect in which the guy is remotely trustworthy. In particular, he is entirely untrustworthy in the matter of running the country in the interests of the country, rather than of himself, or of the various members of his kleptocratic, murderous, global dictator-fraternity.

It's nothing to do with bias. It's just an honest appraisal.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

[No reason for anyone to read the following. Turned out to be a lot of early-morning rambling...and I mean *a lot*:]

I am so epistemically virtuous!

I agree that it's an honest appraisal.
What I doubt is that it has nothing to do with bias.

To be clear: I don't think that the MSM is the *real* problem. I think they're a *big* problem. Or, rather: I swim in a sea of liberal bias. I've been mostly a liberal most of my adult life, my news sources have liberal biases, I swim in the waters of the sea of academia... I'm beginning to see--or think I see--how deep a certain kind of indefensible bias runs in my world.

I basically agree with you about Trump. I think he's awful, and, of course, that means that I think it's true that he's awful. And I think I have good reasons for concluding that he's awful.

But I also think that it's likely that I'm biased about this, and that he's pretty likely to be less awful than I think he is.

And I think I have fairly good evidence for that. I thought George Bush was the devil. He was a terrible president in very important ways, but he, personally, was not nearly as bad as I thought. I swore I wouldn't demonize Mittens...but by election day, I kinda hated the guy. That was idiotic. I had an overly-high opinion of both Clintons, and, if not of Obama (still my #1 political man-crush) then of some of his actions and policies. I have plenty of evidence that I've got a tendency to err in such matters, and that it's non-random: I'm systematically biased in a Democratic direction.

I also think that there are matters of personal style that make it virtually impossible for me to sympathize with Trump. He makes me want to barf--on a purely personal level, I mean.

As I think you've said before, even controlling for all that stuff...even maxing out the degree of distortion that one might reasonably think is in play...there's still sufficient reason to think that Trump is awful. And I agree...but, then, of course I would, wouldn't I?

In the end, I'm not too far from you, I think, except insofar as I distrust my certainty. I think he's a goddamn liar and a goddamn idiot and that he's goddamn unworthy of the Presidency of the United States... But I also would bet money that it's not *quite* as bad as I think it is, and that I'm more likely to be wrong than I think I am.

I've just got too much shitty metacognition going on here.

But I'm also thrown into confusion by the fact that all this business has suddenly made me aware of how goddamn scary-dangerous the other side is, and how blind I've been to it all...they're just more like me...and they speak so much more reasonably! (They're "good talkers" as a colleague of mine--who is on their side--says.) Their errors piss me off less...I'm so willing to overlook them...

Eh. I don't even know what I think anymore.

But there's that alleged error again...what should that have to do with Trump? (Possible answer: the choice we actually face is comparative...)

Trump's freakout to Comey's testimony has made me more sure that I'm right about how awful the guy is, though. And the grotesque reaction on right-wing blogs has also made its impression.

I dunno. I certainly don't deny that the guy is just awful.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Kerig said...

Winston, I'm not sure why you're beating yourself up over whether Trump is as bad as you initially think he is? If the tables were turned do you think he would fire a single neuron giving you the benefit of doubt? You've already been labled his enemy simply by your involvement in academia.

As hard as I try, I cannot find one redeemable trait in this man. Not one! 😖

11:43 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

> If the tables were turned do you think he would fire a single neuron giving you the benefit of doubt?

No...but I'm not willing to set the bar that low...

> As hard as I try, I cannot find one redeemable trait in this man. Not one!

But see...that just *can't* be true...can it? Is it really true that such a person could be elected? Which is more likely, that you and I are blind in some way, or that half the electorate is *completely* blind?'s true that I'd have a helluva time coming up with something admirable about the guy...WHICH JUST GOES TO SHOW...

7:14 AM  
Blogger Kerig said...

I see what your getting at, but when the Trumpanzees say things like "I love him like a family member." (I heard this gem over the weekend) or "He is such a man of faith, honesty and integrity." I can only wonder how deep their own biases run to cloud their judgements! Maybe that's the difference, the Trump lovers have their biases skewed so accutely that it blinds them enough to make excuses for Trump at almost all costs? Why else would they support his policies that will most-likely hit them the hardest?

Then again, maybe it's​ not a bias after all when it comes to the unwavering Trump supporter. In the late 70's, 908 people had a seemingly​ unwavering bias towards Jim Jones, didn't they? How much does what Trump says and does influence his hard-core followers? Maybe they don't even realize why they support him so blindly?

But personally I'm NOT going to waste my time to try to find an ounce of good in the one man that I would bet has never, not once in his 70 years, ever taken a moment to reflect upon his flaws. He truly believes that he's perfect. I've come across people like this in my life and I avoid them by all means. Trump seems to embody the worst personality traits of all of them, with a few that I've never experienced or witnessed before. Maybe I'm just biased towards bullshit artists and con men in love with themselves almost as much as they are in love with money and fame? ;-)

8:23 AM  

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