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Time to End Presidential Press Briefings?

Personally, I enjoy watching Sean Spicer spar with the press. It’s good entertainment. But press briefings don’t make sense in 2017. And they certainly don’t make sense for a Trump presidency. I’ll tell you why.

The role of press briefings is to create two complementary illusions. The first illusion is that the administration is providing new and useful information. That rarely happens. And when it does, it could have been done more easily in the form of a press release in response to a written inquiry. A written response can be faster than a press briefing because it doesn’t depend on a scheduled meeting time in the future.

The second illusion created by the press briefings is that “news” is being manufactured in that room. The reality is that artisanal “gotcha” moments are lovingly crafted by the press. That means the so-called news from press briefings is generally fake news, and that would be true no matter the administration in power.

It can be super-expensive for a news organization to do investigative journalism. It might take months to do the research and it can result in no story at all. But the gotcha questions at a press briefing are cheap, and they are the incubators of fake news that feed the media machine. That’s good for the press, but the public doesn’t need any of that, except for entertainment. 

The other big reason for eliminating press briefings is the uniqueness of President Trump. No surrogate can speak for our current president and expect to stay consistent and accurate. The president’s persuasion system involves a lot of flexibility with the facts, as well as moving people’s attention and energy where he needs it. Realistically, no surrogate can hope to match what President Trump does, or even to stay consistent with it. And as long as the president is willing to do lots of on-camera interviews, the press should get plenty of easy-to-mine news right from the source. No press briefing needed.

Imagine, instead of press briefings, the White House creates a web page to handle questions from the press. The page would give special question-asking privileges to the legitimate press, along with follow-up privileges as needed. And answers could be provided all day long, as questions arise. Some of the answers can be in the form of video clips, for easy sharing. Perhaps even the questions from reporters could be in video form. The public could weigh in on both the questions and the answers.

This system would provide faster and more precise answers from the White House. The only downsides are the press would have fewer gotcha stories, and their correspondents would have less camera time. But I think they can get over that.

You might enjoy reading my book because press briefings and communication.

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The Short Attention Span President

When I am listening to advice from others, 99% of the time I exhibit a short attention span. The other 1% of the time the advice is worthy of a listen. In that rare case, I can listen all day. Given the situation I just described, would you say I have a short attention span?

Suppose you give me a briefing book with thousands of facts and I only seem to care about three of those facts. And then I succeed at whatever I’m trying to do with my three facts. Given that set of circumstances, would you say I am incompetent?

Part of the fun of watching the press cover President Trump is that they don’t have a leadership filter. Most writers and TV news people have never been leaders in super-complicated industries. President Trump has. And let me tell you a few necessary skills a leader in that situation needs to possess:

1. No patience with long explanations. If an advisor can’t put the USEFUL information in summary form, ignore and move to the next advisor.

2. Ability to know which variables are sufficient to make the decision. 

A president needs those two qualities. Otherwise, the job would overwhelm. if you are one of the advisors who doesn’t get enough attention from the president – because your explanations of things are overly wordy or useless – what message do you leak to the press?

Answer: You say President Trump has a short attention span. 

You get this same situation with almost every CEO of every large organization. In larger companies, underlings rarely think the CEO is sufficiently well-informed to make decisions. I write a comic strip about this sort of thing. It’s a universal phenomenon in large organizations.

And what happens if you are an advisor who puts together a brief that is too long and too complicated for a president with a hundred issues swirling around in his or her head? When your president skims or skips your brief, you start whispering to associates that he has no appetite for knowledge. You probably don’t leak the other explanation – that you are bad at summarizing.

Let me give you some context that might help here.

One of the patterns I observe in U.S. politics is that Democrats organize around the general concept of fairness for all people, including non-citizens. Republicans are more oriented toward the psychology of motivation. And that means you can easily put the wrong filter on your analysis of how much information a president needs before making decisions. The fairness president needs different information than the motivation president. Each would stop the learning when they had enough for their purposes, which are different.

For example, let’s say I’m a Republican president and you are trying to explain some policy options to me. As soon as you begin your description, I can see that your recommended approach would demotivate my base. That’s a non-starter. Do I need to hear the rest of your details? Skip it. Don’t need the details.

President Trump has navigated complicated business situations for decades. I’ll bet during those years he exhibited what others might label a short attention span and a low interest in details. Yet he succeeded, bigly. Same situation when he ran for president. He ignored a lot of details and won anyway.

Generally speaking, if you see a person who is a failure in life ignoring advice and eschewing knowledge, the best explanation for that situation is you are dealing with an incompetent person.

But if you hear allegations of a short attention span in someone with a multi-decade history of successfully navigating complicated industries, be open to the possibility that the messenger is pushing useless information on an executive who is good at knowing what matters and what does not.

From my limited vantage point, I can’t tell if President Trump is ignoring useful information from aides or useless information. The only thing I know for sure is that it would look the same to both of us.

Until he succeeds. 

You might enjoy reading my book because I left out all the things you don’t care about.

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The Slow-Motion Assassination of President Trump

I saw this quote on today: “The episode is the latest woe for Trump, whose administration is engulfed in a series of scandals linked to Russia.”

A “series of scandals linked to Russia”? Would it be equally accurate to characterize it as a series of stories manufactured by the media, none of which have been confirmed to be a big deal?

Today’s headline news is that an alleged Comey memo indicates President Trump tried to obstruct justice in the Flynn investigation by saying to Comey in a private meeting, “I hope you can let this go.”

Key word = hope

How did the New York Times characterize Trump’s expression of hope?


Do you see Trump asking Comey to end the Flynn investigation in the quote “I hope you can let this go”?

All I see in that sentence is “duh.” Obviously Trump HOPED his friend and advisor Flynn would be okay. Did it need to be said? Was there some confusion on this point with Comey? Did Comey enter the meeting thinking maybe President Trump wanted to see his friend and advisor Flynn get eaten by the system?

I’m no lawyer, but I can’t see any judge or jury in the United States prosecuting someone for expressing a hope that the future turns out well for his friend.

Watch the headlines and pundits today transmogrify “hope” into “asked to end the Flynn investigation.”

That isn’t news.

That is an assassination.

I also think we are seeing with the recent leaks the first phase of Mutually Assured Destruction of our government. The leaks will destroy Trump if they continue. But if that happens, no Democrat and no anti-Trump Republican will ever be able to govern in the future. Payback is guaranteed. The next President to sit in the White House will be leaked to the point of ineffectiveness. And that’s how the Republic dies.

That isn’t necessarily bad news. The Republic form of government doesn’t make sense in the modern world anyway. We already evolved into a form of direct democracy via social media and polling. Our politicians can’t risk going against a big majority – even for noble reasons – because social media will organize to drive that person out of office over the issue. In effect, we are already a direct democracy. The Republic is already history, except in a technical sense.

If you can sit passively while watching the Opposition Media turn “hope” into “asked Comey to end the investigation,” you are part of the slow assassination of President Trump. And you are also part of the slow assassination of the next president, and the next. If Trump goes down from leaks, Mutually Assured Destruction kicks in automatically.

On the plus side, the public has the power and the moral authority to strip the Opposition Media of its power and take control of the government via the weight of public opinion. But that probably won’t happen because of our old friend confirmation bias. Confirmation bias makes the innocent word “hope” look like “Asked him to end the investigation.” Trump’s critics will see it that way. And if they do, your next president might be Elizabeth Warren.

She should last about two years.

You might enjoy reading my book because the Republic is a direct democracy now.

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A Quick Look at President Trump and the Big Picture

Let’s take a look at the things that are going well for President Trump, and the things that are not, and see if there is a pattern. Here I will include topics that are not necessarily the president’s accomplishments or faults. I’ll simply describe the current state of things.

Things That Are Positive

The economy

Trade deals

China relations

Russia (our frenemy) is working with the U.S. on Syria, North Korea

China is putting pressure on North Korea


Healthcare progress (more to do)

Supreme Court nominee confirmed

Tax reform maybe

Optimism for an Israeli-Palestinian “deal”

Safe Zones coming along for Syrian refugees

Illegal immigration down over 70% because of Trump’s persuasion alone.

Business confidence high.

Things that are Negative

Unproven allegations of Russian collusion with Trump campaign.

Trump claims he invented the phrase “prime the pump.”

Trump tweeted a warning that Comey better be careful what he says because he might have been taped in the White House. But such recordings haven’t been confirmed. Or denied.

Critics say Trump is crazy.

Trump claimed his campaign had been “wiretapped” by Obama, but it might have been only incidental surveillance. Or not. We’ll probably never know.

Critics say Trump is a loose cannon.

Critics say “words matter” and Trump is careless with words.

Trump’s approval rating is abysmal.

There is “chaos” in the White House

Trump doesn’t study topics in detail.

Trump might fire people on his staff for various reasons.

There is in-fighting with Trump’s staff.

Trump got two scoops of ice cream when others got one.

Trump threatened to end press briefings but probably didn’t mean it.

Trump is influenced by whoever gives him the latest article that is sometimes fake news.

Trump calls the mainstream media fake news.

Trump has criticized the courts, judges, and anyone else you are not supposed to criticize as a president.

Health care didn’t get passed on the first try. And still needs work.

Trump will be impeached or jailed any day now for whatever.

Trump keeps relying on trusted family advisors such as Jared Kushner and Ivanka.

Trump fired Comey as both sides wanted, but his timing raised suspicions, and he talked about it wrong in an interview. Also didn’t coordinate with his communication staff.

Trump says things that do not pass the fact-checking.

Trump doesn’t realize that his business skills don’t translate into government. (This was the same reason people said he couldn’t win the election.)

Things that Might Be Good or Bad (Depending on your Point of View)

Trump is prioritizing jobs over climate risks in the near term.

Trump is reducing government regulations.

Trump is moving responsibility for several topics to states, per the Constitution.

Did you find the pattern?

All the important stuff is trending positive. Trump is not the sole cause of all that goodness, but he hasn’t broken anything important. That counts too. We’ve had plenty of presidents who broke stuff. Think of Nixon’s price caps, Carter’s hostage rescue mission failure, and Bush-the-younger’s Iraq war. When presidents don’t break anything, that’s a big deal

The topics that are problematic for President Trump include unconfirmed gossip, rumors, fake news, irrational worries, imaginary problems, trivial matters, and simple differences in political priorities. 

As I recently said on Twitter, President Trump’s approval rating is low, but that can be explained two ways. One explanation is that the president is not doing a good job and people can see it with their own eyes. The other explanation is that citizens are actually grading their own cognition and don’t realize it.

What’s it look like to you?

You might enjoy reading my book because of patterns.

I’m also on…

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How to Know You Won a Political Debate on the Internet

Do you remember the time you changed a stranger’s political opinion on the Internet by using your logic and your accurate data? 

Probably not. Because that rarely happens. If you were paying attention during the past year, you learned facts don’t matter to our decisions. We think they do, but they don’t. At least not for topics in which we are emotionally invested, such as politics.  (Obviously facts do matter to the outcomes. But not to decisions.)

So how do you win a political debate on the Internet when people refuse to change their opinions? I propose the Cognitive Dissonance test. If you can trigger your opponent into cognitive dissonance, you win. That’s usually as far as a political debate can go. Generally, you can’t change people’s minds, but you can back them into a corner and make them show a “tell” for cognitive dissonance. That’s essentially a white flag that says, “I have no logical argument, so I will say something ridiculous and act as though it is not.”

The problem with cognitive dissonance is that it can be hard to know whether your opponent is experiencing it or you are. It looks exactly the same to you. The person in the illusion can’t tell the difference. You need some sort of simple and objective sign to know when cognitive dissonance is in play and which one of you is experiencing it. And I have just that.

You can detect cognitive dissonance by the following tells:

Absurd Absolute

An absurd absolute is a restatement of the other person’s reasonable position as an absurd absolute. For example, if your point is there is high crime in Detroit, the absurd absolute would be your debate opponent saying something such as “So, you’re saying every person in Detroit is a criminal.” When your debate opponent recasts your opinion to include an “absolute” word, such as every, always, never, all, completely, universally, and the like, you are seeing cognitive dissonance. 

Some people call what I just described a strawman argument. But a strawman argument refers to any sort of inaccurate recasting of your opponent’s argument. That is the generic case. I’m referring to a specific strawman argument that uses an absurd absolute.  When your debate opponent recasts your point as an absurd absolute, you won the debate. That’s as far as you can go.


Analogies are good for explaining concepts for the first time. But they have no value in debate. Analogies are not logic, and they are not relevant facts. An analogy is literally just two things that remind you of each other on at least one dimension. When I see a cauliflower, it reminds me of a human brain, but that doesn’t mean you should eat brains in your salad. When your debate opponents retreat to analogies, it is because they have no rational arguments. You won.

There’s a reason your plumber never describes the source of your leak with an analogy. He just points to the problem and says it needs to be repaired or replaced. No one needs an analogy when facts and reason can do the job.

Attack the Messenger

When people realize their arguments are not irrational, they attack the messenger on the other side. If you have been well-behaved in a debate, and you trigger an oversized personal attack, it means you won. When people have facts and reasons in their armory, they use them first. When they run out of rational arguments, they attack the messenger. That is the equivalent of throwing the gun at the monster after you run out of bullets.

People are mean on the Internet all the time. Being an ordinary jerk might not be a tell for cognitive dissonance. But when you see an attack that seems far angrier than the situation calls for, that’s usually cognitive dissonance.

The Psychic Psychiatrist Illusion

The Psychic Psychiatrist Illusion involves imagining you can discern the inner thoughts and motives of strangers. I’m talking about the unspoken thoughts and feelings of strangers, not the things they have actually said. If your debate opponents retreat to magical thinking about their abilities to detect secret motives and mental problems in strangers from a distance, you won.

I’m not aware of any science to back my description of the tells for cognitive dissonance. But generally speaking, if your debate partner leaves the realm of fact and reason for any of the diversions I mentioned, you just won the debate. Declare victory and bow out.

You might enjoy reading my book because every person in the universe raves about it.

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The Comey Firing

What do Bernie Sanders’ hair and CNN have in common today? They are both saying, “Comey” every time you look at them.

The news coverage of Comey’s firing has become excellent entertainment. This is the biggest cognitive dissonance cluster bomb we’ve seen since election night. This one has everything.

For starters, the topic is too complicated for the public, and even the pundits. That creates a situation in which we’ll all invent our own version of the movie in our heads. Where there is confusion, complexity, and emotion there is usually lots of cognitive dissonance. We got all of that.

My cursory understanding of the topic is that Trump’s critics say he fired Comey to put a chill on the FBI’s investigation of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. This theory sort-of-almost makes sense, in a hypothetical and indirect way. I could see how taking out the top dog would make the underdogs at the FBI worry about going hard at the President. On the other hand, the people doing the actual investigation are professionals, and there would be too many witnesses if they did a bad job. So that doesn’t pass my sniff test. But I can’t rule it out, either.

President Trump’s official reason for the Comey firing has to do with a loss of confidence over his handling of the Clinton email investigation. The beauty of that official explanation (true or not) is that it is making heads explode with Democrats and the Opposition Media. How dare President Trump fire the person we publicly demanded he fire!

Now we have a bizarre situation in which both sides (Demcrats and Republicans) wanted Comey fired, but they had different reasons for wanting it. Democrats were upset that he might have torpedoed Hillary Clinton’s campaign by talking about the Weiner laptop discovery of additional Clinton emails close to Election Day. And Republicans hated Comey for not pursuing a criminal case against Clinton for her email server misdeeds. That’s the perfect set-up for cognitive dissonance. I’ll explain:

Democrats and the Opposition Media reflexively oppose almost everything President Trump does. This time he gave them something they wanted, badly, but not for the reason they wanted. That’s a trigger. It forces anti-Trumpers to act angry in public that he did the thing they wanted him to do. And they are.

Trump cleverly addressed the FBI’s Russian collusion investigation by putting the following line in the Comey firing letter: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

That one odd sentence caused every media outlet to display the quote and talk about it, over and over. And when you focus on something, no matter the reason, it rises in importance in your mind. President Trump, the Master Persuader, made all of us think about the “not under investigation” part over, and over, and over.

The trick here is that members of Trump’s campaign might be the ones under investigation, not Trump himself. But that’s where the complexity of this topic is useful to the Master Persuader. The viewing public won’t make that distinction. All they will hear – over and over – is the “not under investigation” part.

I’ve taught you in this blog that the right amount of “wrong” is what captures our attention and creates a memory. Trump’s odd inclusion of the “not under investigation” line is just wrong enough that we can’t move past it. It is persuasion-perfect.

The best explanation I have heard for the timing of Comey’s firing is that it comes soon after the Assistant Attorney General was confirmed, and he is Comey’s official boss. You need a proper boss for a proper firing. And it came right after Comey embarrassed himself by getting some facts about the Clinton email situation wrong in front of Congress. There is no perfect time to fire a person, but this was close to perfect. 

My favorite part of this firing – from a persuasion perspective – is that it is such a strong move. The pure dominance of the play is what will stick in our minds. This was some ballsy Presidenting. That’s the lasting takeaway. You’ll remember the boldness long after you forget the timing and the details.

I’m also fascinated by how quickly the media turned on Comey after he was out of office. Apparently lots of people were afraid of him. No one mentioned that fear BEFORE he was fired, so I assume they really were afraid of him. Now people on both sides can’t stop yammering about how scary he was. Clearly it was a good firing for the country, regardless of the timing and the details.

My opinion of Comey’s handling of the Clinton email issue remains the same. I believe he sacrificed his career and reputation to avoid taking from the American voters their option of having the leader of their choice. If Comey had pushed for Clinton’s indictment, the country would have ended up with a President Trump without a “fair” election. That was the worst-case scenario for the country and the world. Comey prevented that disaster while still making it clear to the American public that Clinton was not guilt-free with her email server. He let the voters decide how much weight to assign all of that. In my opinion, Comey handled the Clinton email situation like a patriot. The media is spinning the situation as “making it all about himself.” That’s true in the same sense that a Medal of Honor winner who jumped on a grenade to save his buddies is “making it all about himself.” I don’t disagree with the characterization that Comey was trying to be the “hero” because that’s how it looks to me too. 

I once heard a story about a guy who pulled a woman out of a car that was on fire. He got burns on his arms doing it. He saved her life, but I don’t like him because he was trying to be a hero. That guy made it all about himself.

I’m sure Comey had his flaws. But I don’t think his handling of the Clinton emails was among them. I assume historians will think otherwise.

My Video Lessons on Writing

I made a short video of my writing tips. I hope you will find it useful. You can view it here:

You might enjoy reading my book because Bernie Sanders doesn’t Comey his hair.

I’m also on…

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Where’s My Immigration Prediction Model?

If scientists can make climate prediction models that are reliable (or so they tell us), why can’t they do the same with Muslim immigration predictions?

Predicting the average temperature on Earth ten years from now is hard. There are too many variables. But predicting the outcome of immigration policies probably involves far fewer variables. All we need to do is look at other countries that experienced lots of Muslim immigration and subtract out the countries that reversed the trend with military force, because I assume we wouldn’t see any of that in the United States, especially if the immigrants are legal. 

A good immigration prediction model would find the “tipping point” where the percentage of Islamic population nearly guarantees the entire country will become Muslim in the long run. Is that 10% or 65%? I have no idea.

Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion. Birth rates are high, followers are motivated, and the system is hard to leave once you are in it. If any country in the world allowed unlimited immigration forever, that country would likely become Islamic in the long run, although it might take a few hundred years. But no country allows unlimited immigration, so that isn’t a realistic scenario.

A realistic scenario is what the United States and much of Europe are experiencing. We have to decide the rate and type of immigration that will be good for the country. But if we don’t know where the tipping point is, how can we make informed decisions?

My provocative thought for today is that the pro-immigration people and the anti-immigration people are actually on the same side and don’t know it because no one has made an immigration prediction model. For this claim, I will exclude the extremes on both sides, so subtract out the true open-border globalist on the left and the pure racists on the right. We’ll focus on the sensible middle that wants some degree of immigration while maintaining the good parts of the existing culture. But how does either side decide how much is the right amount of Muslim immigration, and how much is too much? Where’s my immigration prediction model?

Suppose I said to you that 20% Islamic population will guarantee that eventually – perhaps in a hundred years or more – the country will have a dominant Islamic culture, with all that implies for women and the LGBTQ community.

I don’t know if having 20% Muslim citizens is anywhere near the tipping point. But consider that gays represent perhaps 10% of the country, and that was enough to change laws. Consider that the United States is strongly pro-Israel while the Jewish population of the United States is under 2%. The size of the minority seems less important than their level of motivation. Muslims appear to be motivated.

The weird thing about the immigration issue is that the only people with coherent opinions are the ones on the extremes. The racists on the right are repugnant, but their opinions are coherent, given their preferences and priorities. Likewise, the open-border globalists have an approach that you might find impractical and dangerous, but it is a coherent philosophy, and easy to understand.

The people who don’t have coherent opinions on Muslim immigration are the so-called reasonable people in the middle. It is nonsense to argue about whether our Muslim immigration policies are good or bad without the benefit of knowing where the tipping point is, if such a thing even exists. My guess is that the pro-immigration people and the anti-immigration people would agree we shouldn’t go past the tipping point. But if neither side knows where the tipping point is, you can’t call the opinion on either side sensible.

So that’s where we are on this issue: The extremists on both sides are repugnant and/or stupid. But they are the only ones with policy preferences that are rational – based on their priorities of course, not yours. The so-called sensible people in the middle (including me) have opinions that are effectively nonsense because we don’t know where the tipping point is.

You might enjoy reading my book because of your tipping point.

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The Healthcare Confusopoly

Years ago I coined the term Confusopoly to describe any industry that benefits by keeping consumers confused. For example, mobile phone carriers know their offerings are too confusing for consumers to compare one company to another on cost. That is clearly intentional. If consumers could compare offerings it would drive profit margins to zero fairly quickly. By keeping their service and pricing confusing, they keep margins high.

Insurance companies are also confusopolies. So are law firms. And the entire financial services industry is little more than a confusopoly. All of those services can be simpler, but to simplify would invite real competition. No seller wants that.

Now look at the healthcare bill in the news today. Do citizens understand all the implications? No, clearly.

Do members of Congress understand all of the implications of the new bill? Not a chance in hell.

Who is behind this confusion?


The insurance companies are keeping the healthcare topic confusing because that’s how you keep margins high. If Congress or the public ever started to understand healthcare, we would know which buttons to push to lower the profit margins in the industry. But by keeping things complicated, no one can explain to anyone else what needs to be done for the public good.

My recommendation to the public is to refuse to re-elect any politician who votes for a healthcare bill that YOU don’t understand. If you don’t understand a healthcare bill, that means it is designed to screw you. 

To be fair, I doubt politicians see this situation as a confusopoly. They probably just think some things are complicated by their nature, and this is one of them. They might also think they understand the big points. But that seems unlikely to me. A few politicians, such as Rand Paul, might dig into the details and grasp most of it, but the majority will not.

I’m opposed to any healthcare bill that isn’t easy for the public to understand. If the President wants the public to back a particular plan, he needs to give us something simple. Otherwise, my preference is for no new healthcare bill.

You might enjoy reading my book because of it is simple.

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The Resistance changes its attack from “Russian Puppet” to “Trump is Crazy” – Which Works Best?

I’m watching this week as the so-called “Resistance” movement changes their attack on Trump from “Russian Puppet” to “Trump is crazy.” This has the look of a coordinated change. Watch how often you will see “Trump is crazy” articles and commentary in the coming weeks as the Opposition Media tests this new line of attack.

Trump eviscerated the “Russian Puppet” line of attack by lobbing 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base under the nose of Vladimir Putin. That made Trump look very un-puppetish. And it dismantled the Resistance’s primary line of attack. They needed a new approach.

The Resistance’s new approach is “Trump is crazy.” This persuasion play is strong because it will work well with future confirmation bias. You can make almost anything sound crazy if you try. For example…

  • Did Trump not know Andrew Jackson died before the Civil War? He must be crazy!
  • Did Trump make an exaggerated claim about something like he always does? He must be crazy!
  • Did Trump say something provocative that worked in his favor even if you don’t understand why? He must be crazy!
  • One sign of a persuasive attack is that it primes people for confirmation bias. Once you start seeing Trump as crazy, you’ll automatically see it in everything he does. If he forgets something important, crazy! If he gets a fact wrong, crazy! If he gets tough on an adversary, crazy! If he says he will do something that is hard, and you don’t think he can get it done, crazy!

    The “crazy” approach is good persuasion. I give it an A+.

    And how did The Resistance learn to do persuasion this good? They might have learned it from Trump himself.

    One of President Trump’s best persuasion tricks is to prime people for future confirmation bias. For example, when he called Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” you knew there would be situations in the future in which the media pointed out something untrue that Cruz said. As soon as that happened, Trump’s nickname would get stickier. 

    Trump did the same trick with Crooked Hillary and Low Energy Jeb. You knew there would be future stories about Clinton doing sketchy things, true or not. And you knew there would be future video footage of Jeb looking less-than-energetic. Once Trump framed his opponents, voters started filtering their observations the way Trump wanted. Confirmation bias does the rest. That’s good persuasion.

    The Resistance’s “Russian Puppet” persuasion wasn’t terrible, but Trump slapped it down with his missile attack on Syria, combined with some fiction that Russian relations were at a new low. (That was never real.)

    This new line of attack on Trump is far better because there will be an endless stream of new “evidence” of Trump being unbalanced. That evidence will be nothing but Trump acting the way he always acts, but the Opposition Media will have no trouble framing it as crazy.

    This one is dangerous.

    You might enjoy reading my book because sometimes you are crazy.

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    Pre-Bribing a President

    It is illegal to bribe a president. But it is totally legal to pre-bribe one. 

    Here’s how a pre-bribe works.

    When a president leaves office, you offer the ex-president an enormous speaking fee. Let’s say $400,000. The ex-president does the speech and banks the money. The ex-president has no power at that point, so the speaking fee can’t be seen as a bribe because there is no quid pro quo.

    But what about the president that is in office while this happens? Do you think the current president notices when the the prior president gets a $400,000 payday for an hour of work?

    It would be hard to miss.

    So let’s say the company that hired the ex-president asks for a meeting with the current president. Do you think the company gets that meeting? And do you think the current president bends over backwards to get them whatever they need?

    He does if he wants a $400,000 payday after leaving office. That’s a pre-bribe.

    Totally legal.

    I agree with those who say President Trump hasn’t done enough draining of the swamp. But I do like having a president who could turn down a $400,000 payday without blinking. And that’s not nothing.

    By the way, do you remember when Trump famously claimed he was worth $10 billion and his critics said it was closer to $3 billion? If Trump has a successful presidency (which I predict will happen), the Trump brand will be worth at least $10 billion at the end of his term. That would be no surprise to anyone who read the book that Trump’s childhood minister wrote.

    You might enjoy reading my book because I am writing another one.

    I’m also on…

    Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

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    Using Persuasion to Create Assets Out of Nothing

    Yesterday President Trump unexpectedly said he would be “honored” to meet North Korea’s Kim Jung-un. 

    And that’s how a Master Persuader creates an asset out of nothing.

    I’ll explain.

    By holding out the possibility of meeting with Kim Jung-un, President Trump has conjured out of thin air a virtual “asset” that he can use for negotiating with North Korea. I’m sure the North Korean leader would like the international respect and recognition that such a meeting would confer. Best of all, Jung-un could use that future meeting as evidence for his citizens that he stared-down America and negotiated a great deal in which we remove some of our military assets while they end their nuclear weapons program. Or something like that.

    The point is that President Trump created this “asset” out of nothing but persuasion. Now Kim Jung-un has something to gain, and something to lose. And that option simply didn’t exist a week ago. 

    Do you think this was a unique situation?

    Consider that President Trump has already built a border wall with Mexico out of nothing but persuasion. Immigration from Mexico is down more than 50% just from Trump’s persuasion alone. I suppose we will get something like a physical wall someday too. But for now, Trump’s Wall of Persuasion is doing a lot of work.

    Now take a look at the stock market. Optimism about a Trump presidency has increased the value of the stock market by a gazillion dollars (approximately) since election day. In other words, President Trump’s persuasion created a lot of something out of nothing. Again.

    I hadn’t heard much about the alleged trillion dollars held offshore by American corporations until Trump started talking about repatriating it. If the tax code is tweaked just right, much of that money will come back. That’s like Trump’s persuasion creating something out of nothing too.

    President Trump cancelled TPP, criticized NAFTA, and warned China that trade negotiations will be aggressive. That collection of persuasion will probably create money out of nothing for America.

    Before President Trump came to office, some NATO countries were not paying their agreed share of the expenses. Now countries are starting to step up. That change came from nothing but persuasion.

    If you think climate prediction models are unreliable, President Trump just conjured up a few trillion dollars in cost savings by favoring job creation and economics over CO2 reduction. Obviously that could be the wrong bet, but you see a consistent pattern: Trump traded something that might not be based on reality – the fear of global warming – for something he knows is real – the economic growth and cost savings.

    President Trump’s tax plan will attempt to conjure up free money too, using a Trump variant of supply-side economics. The idea is that by cutting taxes you stimulate the economy and make the tax cuts pay for themselves by creating more income that can be taxed. In the past, corporations would have banked the extra cash from any tax savings and continued moving their operations to cheaper offshore workers. But in the Trump administration, moving operations outside the USA is harder. That means corporate tax savings will have a far greater chance of leading to higher employment here. And employment is THE biggest variable in economic prosperity. If the tax cuts create higher employment, Trump will have once again conjured something out of nothing.

    A year ago, President Trump’s critics were calling him a “con man.” But they never said he was bad at it.

    You might enjoy reading my book because of all the reasons.

    I’m also on…

    Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

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    The North Korean Weapons Test Pattern

    We’re seeing speculation in the press that the United States might be behind North Korea’s recent failed missile tests. By way of context, North Korea has had some bad patches before, but they experienced a new streak of “bad luck” at about the same time President Trump got into office.

    Probably a coincidence.

    Find the pattern on this Whencast from WhenHub (my startup). You can share this on social media.

    You might enjoy reading my book because the test launches went well.

    I’m also on…

    Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

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    Solving The News Bubble Problem

    The technology for delivering news to consumers is too good now. Facebook, for example, can serve up only the types of content they already know will interest you. The problem with that model is that each political group ends up in an information bubble where they only see the stuff with which they already agree. That doesn’t make for a healthy republic.

    So how do you solve that?

    I would like to see special URLs (like Bitly shortened links) that automatically bring the best counter-points with every political story. And let’s say the selected story plus the best counterpoints pop up in a split-screen format, so you can’t miss the opposing views. 

    That would give publications the option of creating these special “balanced” links or sometimes ignoring them and going their own way. This system would improve over time because consumers would complain when the balancing links are omitted, and they will complain when the balancing links include weaker counter-arguments than are available. So as long as the public is watching, balance should come to the news links over time.

    Alternately, the big publishing companies can continue to do their bubble reporting and a third-party could create the “balance links” for anyone who wants to Tweet or share responsibly. 

    Regular readers of this blog will recognize this as the “bad version” of an idea that is useful as a starting point. I make no claim that this idea can work as described. Maybe some of you have ideas for improving it. That’s how things get done.

    It’s a system, not a goal.

    You might enjoy reading my book because it is all about how systems are better than goals.

    I’m also on…

    Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

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