Bookworm Beat 3/6/17 — the Obama wiretap edition and open thread

There are lots of theories about the verity of Trump’s wiretap accusations. This round-up offers what may be the most credible one. Check it out.

Obama wiretapWhen it comes to Trump’s explosive charge that Obama put a wiretap on Trump’s phone, most of me is waiting for evidence. Mark Levin’s indictment is great, but it’s still based on hearsay. Having said that, my instinct is to trust that Trump is crazy like a fox, as opposed to just plain crazy. He made his accusations because he knows something. Indeed, Dan Bongino, a former secret service agent who presumably has contacts, says that the other shoe will drop imminently.

I know, and you know, that Obama has two habits: First, except in 2008 when he was elected based upon the historic aspects of his candidacy, Obama has always cheated to win, whether it’s getting someone’s sealed divorce records released or lying about Benghazi. Second, Obama bugs people, and I don’t mean that he merely irritates them. He’s bugged the media, he’s bugged foreign leaders, and he’s bugged Congress, and that’s just the bugs we know about. Past behavior can be a predictor of future conduct.

The only thing that might militate against Obama having acted against Trump in June and October is that everyone thought Hillary would win. Why would Obama do this? Perhaps it was a belts and suspenders thing — or, perhaps, J.E. Dyer at Liberty Unyielding has the answer. With that opening, let me get to my round-up.

Did Obama issue orders allowing his minions to destroy Trump using previously gathered information? Before I get to J.E. Dyer’s inspired theory, let me give a little background. Three-and-a-half years ago, Mary Theroux, the brilliant founder of the important Independent Institute, gave a luncheon talk that I attended. I wrote about it afterwards, so I’ll quote myself here:

The government gets so much data, it’s useless for the stated purpose of crime and terrorism prevention. As it comes in, it’s simply so much white noise. It certainly didn’t stop 9/11 or the Boston bombing. In this regard, think of England, which has more CCTVs per capita than any other country in the 1st world, and maybe in any world. Nevertheless, these cameras do nothing to prevent crime. As the number of cameras has increased, so has the crime rate. The data is useful only after the fact, to help (sometimes) apprehend the criminal.

Well, one can argue that ex post facto apprehension is a good thing — but it’s a good thing only if there’s been a clear violation of a pretty well known law (e.g., don’t beat people to death or don’t rob a jewelry store). We’re looking at something much more sinister here. Think of the volume of law in America and, worse, think of the staggering volumes of rules interpreting those laws.

As Theroux noted, Stalin’s chief of police famously said (and I’m paraphrasing) give me the man and I can find the crime. We Americans have a government that’s sitting on data that can be used to criminalize us after the fact the current government (Republican or Democrat or Third Party) doesn’t like us. It’s like a landmine under every American.

With that information in mind, it’s time to think about the equally brilliant J.E. Dyer’s understanding of what probably happened. First, she describes the same process that Mary warned about, which is the government’s ability to collect everything without discrimination and then to store it until it needs or wants it:

But there’s another possibility, and in my view, it’s a more likely one.  It fits all the facts, just for starters.  It’s this:  NSA doesn’t need a FISA warrant to target the Russian banks – or any other foreign entity connected with those banks, or doing business in Trump Tower.

In fact, NSA is, as we know, sucking in trons from billions of online transactions worldwide every day.  NSA can look at quite a bit in the Russian bank’s email or commercial server communications without getting a warrant.  NSA can also review and make available the metadata for the related communications of U.S. persons without a warrant.

There are bases for recording voice communications as well, for which the rules govern what NSA stores and makes available to other agencies on similar principles, although the specific requirements are not the same as for textual communications.  If the focus is narrowly on “phone calls,” as alluded to in Trump’s tweets, the analysis here would still apply.

The trove of IT data is stored for five years, out at that now-infamous complex in Utah, and available for retrieval.  It’s only if the FBI, DEA, etc. – some entity with a lawful purpose for retrieving the data – wants to look at the message content of data relating to U.S. persons that a FISA warrant is supposed to be obtained.

We’re in a new world now, in which wanting to look at the content of a U.S. person’s communications is more likely to come up after the fact than before the comms occur.  We’re in the world of Big Data.

Which means that, in the course of business as it is now done, NSA was certainly busy collecting at least some communications that ran through Trump Tower, throughout 2016.

The purpose was not to target Trump, his campaign, or “Trump Tower.”  So James Clapper probably told the exact truth on Sunday.  But if someone, naming no names, wanted to dig into the gigantic data trove in Utah to see what comms there were to pull up on Trump, his campaign, or “Trump Tower” – well, the data was there.  It didn’t have to be specially collected.  It just had to be retrieved.

Thus, every bit of data about Trump’s communications was already in the government vaults when he unexpectedly won. That is the point, says Dyer, at which Obama, in Stalin-esque fashion, may really have sprung into action:

Something very significant, and very related to NSA comms data retrieval, happened in the weeks just before the big 11 January rollout of purported intelligence disclosures about snooping on Trump, Flynn, and the Trump campaign.  I wrote about it back on 23 February.  It was a quiet – even sneaky – loosening of the rules governing how the intelligence agencies gain access to NSA’s trove of identifying (“unminimized”) communications data on U.S. persons.

The move was sneaky because the rules change was made to a longstanding presidential executive order – E.O. 12333 – in a document signed by James Clapper and Loretta Lynch.  Previous changes to 12333, one of the best-known executive orders, were made by new executive orders: follow-ons signed by the president himself, containing administrative modifications to previous wording.  Having Clapper and Lynch sign something, and implement it without fanfare, was an unusually stealthy and non-transparent method.  Doing it in the last month of the Obama administration could have no defensible purpose.

The document went live with Lynch’s signature on 3 January.  Clapper had signed it on 15 December.  On 11 January, the flood of supposed “intelligence disclosures” to media figures was launched.

Obama’s minions — whom it would be difficult to imagine acting without his imprimatur — gave themselves permission to go back to stored data, to search it, and to disseminate it. That’s the back door.

You should also understand that this can happen to every single one of you. The US government is engaged non-stop in capturing and storing data. That’s why even those people who believe, as I do, that Snowden sold out the US to the Russians and the Chinese, releasing sensitive information that irreparably harmed America, nevertheless also (intentionally or not) performed a useful service by making us aware that, in true 1984-fashion, your government is watching you and that it can always spring the trap if it wants.

It depends what the meaning of “is” is. Showing that the Obama administration can parse things just as well as Bill Clinton himself, William A. Jacobson catches Obama’s minions making some very careful denials. It’s always significant when your staunchest supporters can’t just come out and say “Poppycock! He didn’t do it and nobody did it for him.” And that’s most certainly not what Obama’s staunchest supporters are saying.

Incidentally, if you haven’t been reading Andrew McCarthy’s analyses about what’s going on with Obamagate (Watertap? Wiregate?), you’re missing important things, including the fact that the whole “Russia” thing is dead in the water.

No, of course the Russians aren’t coming. It was always a media lie. But even lies have power. WOW! Magazine has an astute forum examining what those lies mean for Obama’s presidency. (Disclosure: Yours truly is part of the forum, but you can skip mine for the good stuff.)

That last point touches upon my “Trump is crazy like a fox” theory. By making this blow up, Trump is going to force one of two things (or perhaps both of two things): Either that there is no Russia collusion or that Obama tapped into the incoming president’s phone lines. Naughty, naughty.

One more thing: Those Obama people? They lie. They lie a lot, or maybe they’re just really ignorant. So it was that Ben Rhodes falsely assured everyone that, as a matter of law, Obama couldn’t do what he’s accused of doing. Except that he can and maybe did.

The crazy post-Obama presidency. There are two posts I think everyone should read. The first is Matt Lewis’s post explaining how deviant Obama’s post-presidential behavior is. We already knew that, but Lewis makes the case really well. I also enjoyed using the words “deviant” and “Obama” in the same sentence.

The second is Ace’s masterful explanation for the complete mental and emotional collapse you’re seeing on the Left — and his warning that it won’t end well or go away any time soon:

Remember how shellshocked and benumbed liberals were after 9/11? Oh we all were, don’t get me wrong. But they were shellshocked and benumbed because it wasn’t just 3000 Americans that were slaughtered that day, it was all their sacred religious pieties and all their smug certainties about how the world really worked.

Americans experienced the shock of sudden almost-inconceivable horror on 9/11, but progressives experienced something even worse: The feeling that they’d been wrong their whole lives.

We lost two towers and 3000 people that day; they lost their comfortable fictions and pretenses.

They had it worse, actually.


But the Trump Terrorist Event — the fact of Trump’s victory — hit them much more deeply than 9/11 did. They didn’t just lose two towers and 3000 people on Election Day.

On Election Day, most knew Trump had won, but still held out hope that Hilary wouldn’t concede or that Detroit would suddenly “find” 100,000 uncounted votes.

November 9, 2016 was when the actual SMOD — reality — hit.

They lost their feeling of control and power over America. And believe me, after 8 years of Obama, and with the social and cultural winds at their back, able to gin up social media hate-mobs against anyone who even said something they didn’t like, and able to sic the IRS on conservative groups and get away with it scot-free — they felt like they were in total control.

And they were right to feel that way: They were in total control.

And now that’s gone.

November 9, 2016 — the day they realized it was not a nightmare, but a reality akin to a nightmare — was the progressives’ 9/11. Just as real Americans felt the loss of security and control over their own fates that day, so did progressives feel that on 11/9.

Read the whole thing. It’s that good.

Uh-oh! Can Trump still be a good thing? More and more people are echoing my argument that Trump’s habit of destabilizing systems is a good thing. For one thing, America’s systems are broken or, if not broken, they are so stultified and gummed up that they are (a) dysfunctional or (b) counter productive or (c) calcified or (d) whatever other negative adjective you’d like to throw in. The systems need to be shaken up, cleaned up and, possibly, destroyed entirely. And the rest of the world, having gotten used to a president who hated his country, led from behind, and was predictable about both, needs to deal with the instability that comes from a patriotic dynamo who addresses issues on an as-needed basis.

Peter Viggo Jakobsen is the latest to sound my theme, at least when it comes to foreign affairs. The only difference is that, while I offer a three-sentence theory, he has a well-developed argument, complete with facts and examples. In other words, read him on the subject, not me.

Even the anti-Trump Jonah Goldberg gets that Jeff Sessions was set-up: I disagree with Jonah Goldberg when it comes to Trump. Having said that, I still think he’s one of the smartest writers and thinkers around. To my mind, he’s like a person with a monomania — a little crazy about a single thing, but sane in all other regards. (And I can guarantee you that, if he thought about me at all, Goldberg would say exactly the same thing, except for the bit about being one of the smartest writers and thinkers around.) All of which is to say that when even Goldberg springs to the defense of a Trump appointment, you know that’s a worthy defense:

The crux of the controversy is Sessions’s flawed reply to Senator Al Franken (D., Still Not Funny). The Washington Post launched this frenzy by reporting that Sessions’s answer to Franken’s supposedly probing question was not entirely accurate.

But here’s the thing. In this nearly 2,000-word article, the Post apparently couldn’t find the room to include the actual question Franken asked. Instead, the authors wrote:

At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

I am not saying that this is an indefensible paraphrase of Franken’s question. Certainly, a lot of Democrats think this gets to the heart of it. But a lot of other people think it doesn’t capture it at all.

Here’s what Franken’s asked Sessions in its entirety:

CNN has just published a story and I’m telling you this about a story that has just been published, I’m not expecting you to know whether it’s true or not, but CNN just published a story, alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week that included information that quote “Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” These documents also allegedly say quote “there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Again, I’m telling you this is just coming out so, you know . . . but, if it’s true it’s obviously extremely serious. And if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russians in the course of this campaign, what will you do?

A reasonable person — a category that I think includes Jeff Sessions — can read this and believe that the crux of the question Franken is asking can be found in that last sentence: “And if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russians in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

And it just so happens that’s the question Sessions answered.

I know this is a wild-eyed bit of speculation on my part, worthy of a French existentialist, but I’m going to stick to my guns on this assertion.

Now, as Bill Clinton said to the Shoney’s hostess who asked him to sign her boobs, stay with me. If you think this is a reasonable interpretation of what actually transpired, or even if you don’t, but you can muster the kind of open-mindedness that our heroic champions of the Fourth Estate constantly boast of possessing in greater portions than the plebes who read their newspapers, you might think that the people reporting the news would include this news (a.k.a. fact) in their news report.

Of course, you would be wrong.

By paraphrasing the question, the reporters took what was a debatable interpretation of events and made it an objective account of events — or at least that’s what they were endeavoring to do.

Personally, I think leaving out the question is akin to reporting back from Skull Island that you found a giant gorilla, but forgetting to mention the dinosaurs.

The scandal of fake hate crimes. Everything I said about Jonah Goldberg also applies to Kevin Williamson. Take away the Trump monomania and there are few people smarter than Williamson or better able to distill something to its essence. So it is with the rash of hate crimes that the media routinely attributes to Trump (who apparently brainwashed his evil supporters into doing them), only to later bury the revelation that the hate crimes were in fact hoaxes. Williamson nails it. After providing a few examples of hate crime hoaxes (along with a link to a comprehensive hoax database), he has this to say:

The Left desperately wants Americans to be indecent people who go around attacking Muslims and foreigners with funny names, but, by and large, we aren’t. Campus feminists desperately want “rape culture” to be a reality, and so they invent phony rape stories from Duke to the University of Virginia, making sure to target fraternities and sports teams, which are to them symbols of patriarchy. These stories are given currency and credence by incompetent journalists such as Sabrina Erdely and her editors at Rolling Stone, none of whom had the intelligence or grit to question the transparently false claims made in “A Rape on Campus.”

Here is the thing: It is not only the hate crimes that are fake. For the most part, the hate they are intended to highlight is fake, too. No matter how many times Jamelle Bouie of Slate insists that American conservatism is an ideology founded in white supremacy, no matter how many times the halfwits at Salon claim that the neo-Confederate impulse is the motive behind Republican policy ideas, no matter how passionately every third-rate intellectual from Bennington College believes that “all heterosexual sex is rape,” it is not so. These claims are as fictitious as the made-up rape at the University of Virginia — they are simply more general.


The Republican party within living memory was led by a Jewish man. The Democratic party just came within a hair of elevating to its highest institutional position a man who has long associated with the worst kind of anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists, racists, and lunatics, who has worked with them and apologized for them: As it turns out, Keith Ellison will only be elevated to the rank of No. 2 rather than given the top leadership position in the party. There have been pogroms in modern American history: A notable one happened after the Reverend Al Sharpton gave a number of speeches denouncing Jewish “bloodsuckers” and delivered a stirring denunciation of Jewish merchants in which he insisted “You got to pay!” at a venue in which was hanging a banner reading “Hitler Did Not Do the Job.”

Whatever happened to Al Sharpton?

Do you know why there has not been a string of fake hate crimes and acts of violence conducted by right-wing hoaxers? Because the Right does not have to make this stuff up: Left-wing rioters really did set fire to Berkeley when an unpopular right-wing speaker was invited to campus. They really did burn Baltimore. Jeremiah Wright really is part of a loony race cult. Van Jones really is a 9/11 truther and an apologist for Mumia Abu-Jamal. No need for fiction.

I couldn’t agree more.

Strident Lefties creating Righties. The conservative movement did not entice me. The Progressive movement drove me away. I couldn’t take the lies about Israel, the lies about guns, the lies about blacks functioning only when government cares for them, and the lie that Islam, as written, as opposed to as practiced by most of the world’s Muslims, is inherently a religion of peace. This was all untrue, so I had to look elsewhere. Likewise, when it came to abortion, I couldn’t take the raging death cult (more proof here, if you need it), and I ended up backing into a pro-Life corner I never thought I’d inhabit.

I’m not the only one whom the Left’s lies, anger, and obsession pushed into another place entirely. Two former Lefties offer their conversion stores, here and here.

Why the Left hates people. In the second of the two linked articles, which is actually a few years old, Danusha Goska talks about the fact that, for all the Left’s showy high-mindedness, Lefties don’t like people. Perhaps because they believe in humankind’s perfectibility through heavy-handed government intervention, they have no tolerance for people who refuse to be perfected. They like people in theory but the fact of them irritates and disgusts them.

I see conservatives going the other way. We recognize that humans are deeply flawed and that nothing makes those flaws worse than giving any single human being or small group of human beings too much power. The best way to handle flawed people is to diffuse power. Then, give all those diffused people freedom with natural consequences, plus a moral structure and a system that. independent of government intervention, encourages virtue and discourages vice. People aren’t inherently good, but they can be channeled into goodness, although not forced.

Funnily enough, what flows from this conservative approach is that conservatives are able to view their each of their fellow humans as someone to be taken on his or own merits, rather than as a troublesome widget who’s intent on destroying the government’s well-functioning cogs. Just sayin’.

Math and refugees. The Left earnestly assures us that Muslim immigrants are innocent! Innocent, I tell ya! It’s a set-up. Trump’s demonizing them to stir America’s evil passions so that he can gain total world domination. (I’m not sure how the Lefties get from Step A to Step Z, but they think they’re on to something.) Of course, when you’re a Leftie, math is hard. How can one explain to them that, while Muslims constitute only .9% of America’s population, Muslim refugees make up almost 30% of the FBI’s terrorism investigations. Considering how peaceful they are, the violent ones sure get around.