Managing the information fire hose

How do we manage the information fire hose when critical public news breaks in an area with significant technical jargon, precedents and folk ways breaks through the barrier of interesting to vital. How do we, people who want to be reasonably well informed, differentiate between the spectrum between expertise to bullshit to active noisemaking to drown out the signal?

For health insurance and health finance, I have an advantage. At this point, I can filter information streams where some people say very little but are extremely information and value dense, to daily reads with something interesting to say where I can trust that I am not going to chase references to people with interesting things to say but have to be approached with care to active bullshit artists. Those categories are independent of political affiliation. I have liberal and conservative high density information providers, I have liberal and conservative bullshit artists that I just don’t read. This filtering was developed over years of participation in the conversation.

National security law, money laundering, counter-intelligence are all areas that I know exist and I know some people are worth tracking. David Ignatius at the Washington Post is a pipeline to the three letter agency world. Bradly Moss is an acknowledged expert on clearances. The Brookings Lawfare blog is a collection of experts who are trying very hard to write for both a professional audience and an informed lay audience. There are others, but I don’t know who they folks are.

As this issue increases in salience people emerge from the woodwork. Some of them know what they are talking about (much like some anonymous guy at an almost top-10,000 blog proved that he knew what he was talking about on health insurance) and some don’t. Yet they offer nuggets that could be very tempting to chase for confirmation bias reasons.

How do we manage the information fire hose to at least flag the actively negative contributors to net knowledge and hopefully filter out or at least minimize the noise from the occasionally interesting but often non-contributory voices.

We’re lucky here at Balloon Juice. We have two domain area experts, Adam and Cheryl, sharing with us. But as issues outside of our normal experiences dominate the political discussion, how do we find people who know what the hell they are talking about without wading through a river of nonsense?

You know what to do

The Trump Administration in an attempt to otherize non-white people and scare the living bejesus out of the Republican marks base has set up a hotline to gather reports of crimes committed by aliens.

NASA has recently been finding planets that might be in the Goldilocks zones and evidently those inhabitants are causing a lot of trouble on earth. So if you see any strange people near Roswell jaywalking, give the hotline a call.

Competency and conscience

I want to highlight two events from yesterday.  First James Joyner’s response to the mass resignation of the membership of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders:


And secondly, the decision by Admiral Harward to turn down the National Security Advisor position because he could not bring in his own staff:

Both of these moves in isolation make perfect sense. One is because the admiral thought he would not be able to do a job to his personal perception of acceptable competence without his ability to choose his own staff and the other is because clear moral lines were passed.

And the downside is exactly what James outlines. Acts of either professional competence or personal competence where integrity requires disassociation and resignation means the replacement will be far worse. Personal integrity of the competent and well meaning leads to governance by the Brietbart comment section, third raters and grifters.  We are getting the Provisional Coalition Authority on the Potomac where Heritage interns are overqualified compared to the other applicants who actively want the job.

For the career civil service folks as well as political appointees who are more conservative than my preference but are fundamentally competent, this is a nasty acid test of their personal beliefs.  Are their beliefs better served by remaining for fear of who replaces them, or to leave once a red line is crossed.  I don’t know what the right answer is for anyone, I just know that it is an acid test for integrity.

Emoluments question

I am not a lawyer. But I have a legal question regarding the emoluments clause that could be the start of a constitutional confrontation. Lawyers in the audience, please tell me where I am going wrong in the following scenario?

Let us assume a foreign government official without diplomatic immunity from Fredonia stays at the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. tonight. The Trump Hotel is still owned by the President. He had not given a credit card to hold the room. The foreign official is conscientious and checks out tomorrow morning. He receives a charge for the room. He refuses to pay for the room as it would be an emolument. He offers to place the money into escrow until the dispute can be resolved.

At that point the hotel management has two choices. Eat the loss to not embarrass the boss or initiate civil or criminal action to get the room fee? If they choose the second option, the entire question of what is an emolument has to be answered. Is that correct?

What am I missing here? And if I am not missing anything big, how do we recruit a good test case?

Monday Evening Open Thread: Show of Hands

A generic silhouette of Holiday Cheer, made vulgar by the limitless imagination of American consumers. Because what use are mittens, without hands? [NSFW]
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The taco trucks are coming! Open Thread

Journalism is being committed by Joy Reid over on MSNBC.

Joy Reid: Forgetting your friends, aside, it seems that over all Hispanics are rejecting Donald Trump in huge numbers. Can you refute that?

Marco Gutierrez (Latinos for Trump): Yes, because the polls are done in two blocs. You have the born citizens here, and then you have me, like I was born and raised in Mexico; my section it’s more against Donald Trump because of the relationship that they have with the unlawful immigrant, illegal or undocumented, however you want to call it. And, but you have the natural borns that are more in the 40 something percent.

Reid: That … actually, you have no, I mean you have to present some sort of name of a poll, because there’s actually no numbers or research to support what you just said – You just gave us a number out of whole cloth.

Reid: Are you not at all concerned that Donald Trump is so alienating people with his tone last night, that yelling into the prompter speech, and just his tone towards undocumented migrants, toward immigrants in this country that you are now facing a Barry Goldwater moment for your party?

Gutierrez: Yes, but you know Donald Trump is a genius at delivering a message and, yes it was a tough message to deliver, but he did it in a way that’s showing us we have a problem, and the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and different times different problems. Yes indeed there is a lot of people… my colleague [NY State Senator Adriano D. Espaillat] here wouldn’t be here, but we need to understand that this is a different time and we are having problems here.

Reid: What problems? What problems are you taking about?

Gutierrez: My culture is a very dominant culture and its imposing and its causing problems. If you don’t do something about it you are going to have taco trucks on every corner.

Reid: Wait a minute, wait a minute, I’m sorry, hold on for a second, I’m going to have to let Adriano in here, I don’t even know what that means and I’m almost afraid to ask.


Sometimes the old ones are the best ones… Open Thread


I’m sure I have told this story before, but digging that version up would require me to give a shit, and I don’t, so I won’t.

It may have been 1992, because I think it was the same year that I got on the pull with Jodie Foster at an Oscars party and she kept doing the Clarice Starling voice.

Donald and Ivana’s marriage was on quite the downward spiral. Donald’s mother Bitsy had moved in to the grand granny flat attached to whatever monstrosity of an apartment the Trumps lived in that month, presumably so that she could mediate between them. Why she thought bunging me in the spare room would help, I shall never know. Maybe she just needed someone to verify to the girls at brunch that every single word of her stories was true.

Anyway, things were pretty bad between Donald and Ivana. The previous day, she had locked him in the wine fridge for three hours and then pegged a Lalique paperweight at his head during dinner. His hair protected him from too much damage, but still, things were a bit tense the next morning.

Donald had skipped breakfast and was hiding away in the bathroom – a pink marble horror, an apotheosis of bad taste with a gold bidet, the centerpiece of which was a massive curtain-lined shower with a stone mosaic of Donald as Caesar accepting the homage of the Nereids splayed along one wall.

After a bit of grunting – the walls in Trump buildings are never very well insulated – the shower started, and we could hear him launch into some warbling Andrew Lloyd Webber tat in his creepy falsetto.

Ivana had been in a very chipper mood all morning, playing with her pekinese Frou-Frou in the main lounge, showing it pictures of Donald and teaching it to growl and show its little teeth like Bill O’Reilly. Suddenly, she sprang up, grabbed the dog in her arms, stormed over to the bathroom, flung the door open and launched Frou-Frou over the top of the curtains and into the shower.

There was a yelp from Donald, followed by a doggy growl that, amplified by the peculiar acoustics of the bathroom, sounded like Cerberus discovering he had an extra head, then a scream of terror and pain from the Donald as Frou-Frou latched onto a testicle with his teefuses.

Donald rocketed out of the bathroom, a shower curtain tangled about his neck, his hair all fallen back and flapping behind his head like a miasma of umber doom, his belly jiggling, and Frou-Frou, teeth firmly ensconced in Donald’s left ball, bouncing up and down like a very angry pendulum, and at the top of each arc a tiny jet of wee would come out of the little doggy, like a celebratory fountain.

How we laughed.

Someone should exercise their First Amendment rights and put a doberman into Donald’s shower next.

[Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931), Portrait of a Lady, Lina Bilitis, with Two Pekinese, 1913.]