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independence day. this independence day is like no other, as is the state of the nation: covid-19 numbers are spiking, widespread protests against racism continue, and a lack of leadership at the helm of the government is more evident than ever. all of this begs to ask: how do we celebrate this independence day—together, socially distant, or at all? what are the implications of celebrating a country in this current state? tom and rp unpack patriotism and its ever-changing definition on a remarkable july 4th weekend.
tom scott is chairman & co-founder of the nantucket project. rp eddy was the architect of the Clinton administration’s pandemic response framework and the United Nations response to the global AIDS epidemic & is CEO of global intelligence firm Ergo.
rp is co-author of the best-selling award-winning book Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes with Richard A. Clarke, Former National Security Council counterterrorism adviser.
[00:00:16] Hi, everybody. My name is Tom Scott. Welcome, Fourth of July weekend. It’s Fourth of July time. I can’t believe it’s that time again, mostly because I sort of for some reason, I had this psychological sense of it will end, the summer will start, we’ll do summer and then we’ll have the Fourth of July.
[00:00:38] It’s like here I am in the garage.
[00:00:40] Here comes the Fourth of July and Robin Till stay home.
[00:00:47] I mean, it’s you know, I as usual, I don’t know exactly how to consume or or consider the News of the World.
[00:00:58] And let me just add that there was a moment earlier this week, and I think I’m still there, but I was very cognizant of how how much I was there earlier in the week, which is.
[00:01:16] This world is completely chaotic. I don’t know where anything in this world stands. And just as an example, like what’s the Republican Party? Who’s on the right? What does the left stand for? What’s next with George Floyd? What’s next with Kofod? What’s going to happen to the economy? Where are the kids going to school. I could go on and on and on. You know, there’s just so many things going on. And it does feel to me like we’re now all speaking a form of psychobabble. Now, I just want to add that in part because of the show, because people communicate with me about the show through social media. I’m more in Facebook in particular than I used to be. And Facebook is a mess. I mean, it is just a mess. The back and forth and the things people say and the things that they post, it’s just like, why how can that be enjoyable to somebody? Now I understand why it’s a dopamine rush. Like, I understand the the car wreck aspect to it. I’m not seeing the the joy or the information side of what it is. So anyway, I just said a lot.
[00:02:23] But but I really in my whole life I’ve never felt so strongly. And it may just be an emotion of of sorts, but I think there’s actually a lot of logic in it where I feel like, what is this country like? What is this moment?
[00:02:37] We are, yeah. I mean, we’re leaderless. We’re rudderless. We don’t know which way the oceans are moving. You asked a lot of great questions. We don’t have a lot of the things that often give us solace. We don’t have sport unless you want to watch MDMA all day or South Korean baseball. And into your first point, we thought that perhaps this would be some degree return to normalcy and it’s not. And then you’d have like these memories we have. Right. Fourth of July with your friends huddled together, drinking beer, trying to find the cold beer in the cooler. That’s full of melted ice watching fireworks go off. And, you know, for some of some people, maybe they’ll get to do that, but it’s going to be a very different circumstance. You know, I was what I think I mentioned as far as walking through a Home Depot the other day and most people had masks on and it just sort of struck me like, holy shit, I’m walking through a Home Depot and I want as masks on like we are. I mean, obviously we know what we’re in. But if you really pull back and look at what’s going on here, you know, we are in the middle of a pandemic. Someone wrote recently that it’s an omni DEMICK, meaning everyone’s having their own personal experience in that different different groups, different minority groups, differently.
[00:04:01] Socioeconomic groups are experiencing this very differently. Different states are experiencing this very differently. Different countries are experiencing this very differently.
[00:04:09] And and then we all individually are experiencing differently. Some of us know people who have died. Some was don’t. Some people think it’s a hoax? Some people know it’s not. And that swirl. That chaos, that it’s very ripe for disinformation and it creates it creates a deep unease. So, you know, my barometer for this is my my children won’t say which one of them, but one of my children and my youngest is six. So you’re six, 11 and 14. One of them hid himself away in this rental condo the other day, was crying. He’s a very, very with it smart boy. And one thing’s been different here that CNN has been on the TV all day because of some folks that were with like to watch that. And we don’t watch that generally. So he’s seen a little bit of that. He’s well aware of what’s going on. But he was crying and it took a long, long time to get him to understand and to explain to me why. And he said, I’m afraid that all my friends will die and I’ll never see them again.
[00:05:20] And I think that we as adults know that we. We rashly know that’s not the case.
[00:05:27] But it’s not you know, it’s scary for him.
[00:05:33] And I think a lot of us have fears that are in that direction. Hey, look what’s really going on here. And we know everyone’s not going to die. But it also makes us very, very ripe for other scary news. So you saw, oh, my gosh, there’s a new H1N1 virus coming from China. Like, wow, like we’re on razor’s edge. I’ll leave it at that. Anyway, he was fine, by the way. And then he explained he was also very sad. He didn’t have a school work packet. So we’re going to find a printer or print out his work package. So it was like a sad news and an inspirational thing. He was upset about it.
[00:06:09] I’ve been through the work packet panic before. I know it. That is, you know, and as I look at this today, before we came on, I just took another look at sort of some of the headlines. You know, what’s going on in Hong Kong is really intense.
[00:06:24] I’m sure is the you know, there’s a headline here. The hundreds who served under George W. Bush will endorse Biden. You know, they’re going to do it in sort of a collective format. And it goes on and on. I mean, obviously, the covered numbers. Let me ask you. Koven question. I know the president took a lot of grief for what the numbers are going up because they’re doing more testing.
[00:06:50] I think I mentioned this to you the other day, and it is sort of a silly point on one hand. But on the other hand, isn’t that true? Aren’t we doing a lot more testing now? Yeah, well, first.
[00:07:01] He said it twice. So the first time he said it, I said he can’t be that stupid. He said, you know, he said we should get the exact quote, but it was. The more testing we do, the more cases we find. So I told them to slow down the kept testing and then his spokesman came out, said he was joking, which is their trope. You know, he was joking about injecting disinfectant. Well, we’ll watch the video. He wasn’t joking at all. He was joking about more testing. Stop the testing because that equals more cases. He wasn’t joking at all. He then said it again the next day. So when it when coming out of his mouth, we have two chances of looking at it. It appears this man thinks about testing the way you think about testing pregnancy. If you don’t test a woman who’s pregnant, she’s not pregnant. If you don’t write down the number of school shootings, you don’t have school shootings or something like something. Apsley just makes no sense. Any of us like that. Now, is it true that you find more cases, thereby you have the ability to give more treatment and save more lives and reduce the virus more if you test more? Yeah. Is it true that by testing we’re going to find more cases? Yes, it is. You test the air, you find none. Just everyone. You find them all. Now, the question that I think you’re asked, whether you are asking is, for example, Florida. Florida appears to be in really dire straits, like the disease is going straight up in Florida. Is that because of more testing? Yes. Is it because of more D disease? Also disease growth? Also, yes. So the disease is actually organically growing at an alarming rate in Florida and a bunch of other states, including where I am today in Idaho. Is that just because we’re finding more cases from testing? Absolutely not. It is really, truly growing.
[00:09:05] You know, the quote is, if we stop testing right now, we’d have a few cases. Ethicist thinks is a grammatical challenge within that sentence. There’s a lot there’s a lot there. I’m not sure exactly what he meant, but you can sort of interpret it in a variety of ways.
[00:09:27] And so.
[00:09:30] In Idaho, for example, just and I know that there’s there’s not a ton of science here, but what you observe is how different is is it than what you would have observed back here?
[00:09:40] Very different. But I but I it’s not one where were you? Anyone would walk around and go, oh, my God, look at these idiots. It’s not that by any measure, it’s, you know, shared consequence. They in Idaho, even now, there’s a great irony for us being here. We are in this state with, I think, the fastest growing caseload per capita. And we left the state with the fastest reducing caseload per capita. So Connecticut has done an extraordinarily good job. Governor Lamont will get great kudos for what he’s done. He’s a friend of mine. So obviously keep that in mind. But the numbers don’t lie. Idaho has the fastest growing count, but very different and very different numbers. So Connecticut, you know, you have tens and tens of thousands of cases. Idaho, I think we’re still below 10000 cases. So people don’t know people who’ve died. It’s not really hitting folks, et cetera, et cetera, yet. And I hope it doesn’t, but statistically it will. So I went into a bike shop to the day I had my mask on. You know, we I was socially distance. They had the right signs in the door. They limit the number of people in the store. But no one had a mask on. And these are the people who work. There are bikers, right? They’re super fit. And we talked about the disease. And one guy was concerned about long, long, long term lung damage. Other than that, there wasn’t a lot of concern. So they just they don’t they haven’t seen it yet. So, no, there’s not as much mass wearing at all. We walked down the street the other day yesterday to get some ice cream with the kids. We order masks on and. Instead, here’s here’s what wasn’t said. Instead of people looking at us like we were we were the alien other because we had masks on and they didn’t. A lot of people actually who had mass in their pockets or mask their hands, put their masks on when they saw it coming. So I think, you know, from that little experiment.
[00:11:39] The word. The words, you know, it’s pretty it’s pretty clearly understood now that wearing a mask is at least a social good, if not a biological necessity. A medical.
[00:11:51] Is the if you are going to outline and I don’t know that you have any give any different views on, just be a behavioral. Patterns. I mean, I give you a here, here. Here was a line I heard a lot this week.
[00:12:11] You need, like, a lot of heavy incoming virus to get it.
[00:12:19] Yeah, we talked about that before. I mean, we hope that’s right. We don’t know the answer to any. We don’t know the answer to that question for sure.
[00:12:29] But there’s a lot a lot of anecdotal evidence that says me walking down that street and calling Idaho an infected person walks by me. I walk by them.
[00:12:42] We exchange, you know, just recip respirator at air. He’s infected. I’m not. Do I get infected? So there’s first. First of all, the question of where is that person in his viral load? Right. So how much virus is in him? How much is he explicating? Then the question is, how’s my immune system? It’s strongly believed that your immune system can can create an initial assault against initial insult. So if a little bit of the virus gets in my nose, there is a belief that my initial immune system can battle off a small insult.
[00:13:26] A small call it a dose of the virus from that exchange and that I walk away completely unscathed.
[00:13:36] And in that case, if you tested, you would have you wouldn’t show up now and you do not thank you.
[00:13:40] And you do not come up later. Seropositive. You didn’t go through enough of an immune generation to be able to be to create the antibodies for future defense against a disease. So in that instance, what we understand now is most likely not a problem. Now, what if alternatively he sneezes right at me and it may get a ton of spittle on me. And he is at peak viral load and he appears to be a super spreader. So some people and it’s not clear if it’s their biology, if it’s literally their mouth and throat the way they speak. Some people spread 10 times more than other people. My guess is it’s like close talkers who actually just really the physics of their mouth. Just a lot of spittle coming out loud. Close talkers, lot of expiration. So let’s imagine. Boom. I just get hit with this huge amount of big, huge, disgusting sneeze right on my face. Now you’re starting to like, wow, OK. Maybe you could get infected that way. Now, when you science is an arguable confined space. Longer term exposure, lots of exploration. You’re gonna get sick and the case study that really made this clear to me was about a choir in a church where basically everybody there got got sick because of one person. So, again, keep you know, we again, we learn through models. We learn through stories, you know, learn through stats. So just as you think about these things, think about two dynamics.
[00:15:18] Think about the meat processing plant. Right. Close proximity, many hours, cold, damp, no UV light and people right next to each other. It rips through the meat processing plant, spreads disease. Think of a prison high density. It rips through prisons. Think about low income, high density housing families. You know, three people per bedroom. It rips through those areas. OK. So that’s where it spreads. And then if this choir you’re inside a room, you’re singing, you’re you’re spending a lot of respiration back and forth, like that’s high spread.
[00:15:54] It turns out the protests, thank God, have not been cause of large spread. Why you’re outside. There’s usually light, there’s wind motion. You know, the it’s not sitting in one area getting denser and denser.
[00:16:07] Now, also do note in protests, people are yelling, talking very loudly. There is a lot of exploration. So and by the way, there was a pretty good amount of Maheswaran in the protest so far as you can tell, by looking at videos. So. So, yeah, we do believe now the problem with all this, Tom, is, look, we went through this with my family yesterday walking down the street. I know one of the kids says we’ll wait. We’re outside. We don’t wear masks. Nonono. So maybe everything I just said is true. We don’t know for sure, but everything I told you is is probably correct. So far as I understand now, we are very, very bad at risk analysis.
[00:16:47] There is an article near times that had exactly that headline today, which kind of made me smile because we said this in our first meeting. Right.
[00:16:54] Humans are about it. Here’s a better word, better at risk analysis, whatever it is, because we forget consequence, right?
[00:17:03] So risk equals consequence, times likelihood. So now just imagine I’m like, hey, I kids, don’t worry. You take your mask off or walking on a big open sidewalk. There’s not a lot of people around. And that guy comes down and he sneezes right in my face and I get sick. The consequence is so dramatic in that instance. Well, the likelihood might be small. So what’s the cost to me? Keeping a mask on as I walk down the street and with a chance of walking to somebody? The cost is super low. Throw a breath mint and by the way, so you don’t get mass breath. I know that’s something I pride myself on, not having bad breath like it’s, you know, all of us like it. I freak out if someone tells me I have bad breath happens like once a decade. Oh my God. I feel so bad about I want to call everybody up and apologize. So, you know, mass breath is a problem. So throw a breath mint in or double scrub your teeth before you go. Don’t drink it. As I learned yesterday, don’t drink a cup of coffee and throw a mask on. You’ll be tasting a cup of coffee for now.
[00:17:57] You know, so many you some bad science.
[00:18:06] Connecticut doing great. Connecticut is doing just civilly speaking.
[00:18:10] Connecticut is doing great. So that would so. So, one, if you know A plus B, transitive property thing I would do here is I would say, OK, so then therefore, if I observe the behavior of people in Connecticut, there’s behavior of people in Connecticut seems to be functional. It seems to work. And that and what I see in Connecticut is just for example, I have not been in Starbucks for more than 15 seconds. And I go everyday now. I order ahead when I’m in Starbucks. I’ve not once seen anyone without a mask. Not one time. Everyone has on a mask every time I go in and out. They’re not very close to me. I get my coffee now. I spray my coffee with alcohol because I’m sort of a freak about it. OK. So that’s that. And that’s the time each day where I’m the biggest interactive with people. Now I do the similar same thing in the supermarket. I go to the supermarket, they’ve got the hand sanitizer at the door. I put on the mask. I sanitize my hands, I shop in peace, I stay away from people. And then I leave and I get back outside and I wash my hands again and I go on my way. The one other thing I want to point out is that in my town and in your town, they’ve closed what is effectively the main street for parts of the main street for dining and dining protocol. As you walk in and out of the outdoor dining with a mask, when you’re seated, you do not wear a mask. Your servers wear masks. And that’s kind of life. I mean, you know, let me throw one more thing in there. The gym, the gym. I don’t get. OK, so I go to the gym almost every day now. And I where I work, have worked out, worked out outside. One hundred percent of the day is me and Joe. Another guy I know are the only people who work out outside that I don’t get.
[00:20:00] I look at that. I don’t get that at all. And I’m going to text. The governor today and remind him of that. I’m sure he knows that, but I don’t get that at all.
[00:20:12] Yeah. I mean, they’re in there every day, and when I. So I have to go in to get my equipment, come out, do my workout and then bring it back in in the end. And when I go back in and each time I wear a mask and I do the spray and when I’m in there I’m kind of like, whoa, I’m in the death zone here.
[00:20:28] I think these guys are all sweat. So here’s here’s part of this year. Here’s like, here’s why.
[00:20:35] Pick a state that isn’t. Pick a city basically that isn’t, you know, the New York metro area.
[00:20:41] Seattle, New Orleans, pick a state or city that hasn’t had a crisis yet. So here we are calling out. Right. And there’s two dramatically different things here versus what’s going on in, for example, New York metro area. So one is people just aren’t doing what you’re doing. Right. They’re not doing the hand sanitizer program. They’re not doing them scoring program. They’re not doing the social distancing program. Right. So those things are huge. It’s not happening here because, again, they they just don’t get it right because they haven’t learned it. Now, just footnote. They were doing things like that in South Korea for years before Saar’s Kobe to Cauvin, 19, showed up because of their memory of Meurs just as disremember. So they were used to those behaviors in South Korea as an example. And in Japan and in in a number of other countries that have done really well, they were used to those behaviors before Korona showed up. So guess what? When Crenna showed up, they had a natural defense. They already were doing fine. You know, they already were doing those behaviors. And then when they were told to double down on those behaviors, it was very easy to do. There’s other reasons, and that’s why many of those countries, all those countries are doing beautifully. And we look like a frickin dumpster fire and they look like a gar, a garden party. Right. So. So that’s part one.
[00:22:07] And can I assume that they’re behaving in the ways I just said? Is that generally.
[00:22:11] Well, yeah. Yeah. How do they go out to lunch to. They’re not like all. No. They’re not locked in their room at all. Go, go.
[00:22:18] South Korea. Japan, you know, Japan is a little different. They they’ve been they’ve been kind of open for business whole time, but they’ve been doing really good mask wearing and a bunch of their, you know, the sanitation steps you took.
[00:22:28] And they’re fine. They’re better in a much, much, much, much better. Like orders of magnitude logarithmically better than they are embarrassing. So that’s part one, right? You have those just sanitary behaviors and you can think of a thousand analogies. Right. So, you know. I don’t know. I could find only examples, I can think of her fellow fairly disgusting. But we know that when we use sanitary behaviors, we don’t get sick. OK, fine. That’s part one. Here’s part two. It’s the amount of disease that’s just endemic, right? The amount of disease that’s floating around. And I’m trying to find the right analogy. So here’s what I’ve come up with. So a vending machine at, you know, a vending machine. So I’m picturing because we watch friends all the time. The vending machines and friends. I sorry. I mean, the office. So the vending machine, it’s got 50 pieces of candy or chips or bags you can get. So imagine a vending machine that every interaction you have turns one of the dials and out drops whatever’s in that machine. So in New York, at the peak of the crisis, the vending machine, of course, was in our example is full. And like, you know, half of all, to be accurate, probably 20 percent of the things the vending machine where a virus, 80 percent were an apple. So you pressed, boom, what do I get? Boom, one fifth of the time out dropped the virus. So now now you’ve got a viral insults and you’ve got, you know, are you ready for this or not? So boom, outcomes of virus. Did you wash your hands? Did you wear a mask? Were you social distance? Were you able to grazed by that one? No problem. Hey, victory. Now, here now. So now in Connecticut, Tom, ironically, that vending machine is like five percent virus. Ninety five percent not meaning a vast majority of people who are tested in Connecticut. Less than five percent have the virus. So every interaction you have with a person, you know, statistically, 95 percent chance you’re not actually confronting the virus. New York, during the peak, there was a 20 percent chance, you know, four times more, 40 percent more likely you work in fighting the virus. So you’re at bat. You know, you you had you had you know, when you press the vending machine, you were getting a virus opportunity, the chance to get infected, much, much more likely historically. New York, you know, two months ago now in Idaho, less than Connecticut.
[00:24:48] Now, thankfully, the number is nine. So on a gross volume aren’t very high in a per capita volume are very high. But on a growth volume, on a growth basis, they’re quite high.
[00:24:57] So, again, you better as the disease. And so what ends up happening and this is I hope I’m not losing you, but not I’m not losing the audience here.
[00:25:06] But what ends up happening on a large scale basis is you get to where a leader from the CDC two days ago said we are now in America, which is basically there’s so much disease here now that a lot of the institutional public health tools will no longer work.
[00:25:26] What am I talking about? Mass wearing? Absolutely handwashing. Absolutely. Social distancing. Absolutely must. You must do. You must do. And they are really your only line of defense if you don’t lock yourself at home. But testing and tracing, particularly contact tracing, probably will not work in America anymore. Why? There’s just too much disease running around. There are too many outbreaks in too many places. So the end that’s on one side and then on the other side. Call it the demand side. On the supply side, the ability to supply that need. We do not have sufficient contact tracing skills in almost any state in this country. Maybe Massachusetts does. Maybe so. Very few states have the ability to contact trace. The disease is so rampant now that many states are just asking to even try.
[00:26:16] So so what we’ve talked about a lot is it’s a whole lot easier to deal with these things early on in the progression.
[00:26:25] You have to nip it in the bud. We did not nip it in the bud. We now have a massive forest growing of this disease. The vending machine is very full and we don’t have the ability to do some of the public health tools we need to do it. So as we’ve said over and over, it gets down to you. It’s you not going in the gym. It’s my kids wearing the mask on the street. And it’s the person serving the food, wearing a mask, et cetera. So it’s totally and completely up to individuals right now. So just to be explicit, what the leaders of the U.S. Public Health Service CDC said last week, that the disease is too rampant for us to do effective contact tracing anymore. Right. It’s really, really up to us now.
[00:27:13] Can we talk about. I want to get your feedback. I read the story about the bounty rush in Afghanistan, bounties on U.S. soldiers. It’s one of these stories where depending on.
[00:27:26] The source, the details, it could be a big story, could be a medium story. Could be a small story. What do you know about it?
[00:27:35] I guess a couple of things I might know that others don’t know immediately is so quickly. The story is that the Russian government offered members of the Taliban or other people in Afghanistan bounties cash for killing American soldiers. Wow. That’s pretty shitty, right? Meaning just to be explicit, like, hey, Afghanistan, private X or Taliban member X, if you go blow up a Humvee, you go shoot a sniper round into an American Marine or whatever it is, we’ll give you 10000 bucks, whatever the number is. Which, of course, is the king’s ransom in these countries. So it’s an assassination, right? Paid assassination. Russia’s not at war with us. It’s a war crime. No, it’s just a fucking evil thing. Right. So let’s start with that.
[00:28:25] Now, here’s what I know, that maybe most people don’t live with this kind of reality. That’s not shocking. Covert, it’s horrible, it’s illegal, it’s wrong. America does not do that. Don’t let anyone tell you, oh, we do that, too. They just got caught. Bullshit. We do not.
[00:28:45] At all.
[00:28:48] But in the dark world of covert activity, this isn’t unheard of. Why does Russia want to do this? Is it because they want Afghanistan to win the war and kill American soldiers, like in a one to one battle? No, it’s because they want to keep us on our toes. They want to keep us chasing our tail. They want to keep us in a panic mode. Why? Same reason they want to fuck with our elections. Same reason that they they just the more confused and desperate and panicked we are, the better it is for them, just zero battle as just a zero balance of power equation by them.
[00:29:28] So that’s why they want to do it.
[00:29:32] Now, the quick show, that’s like that’s sort of, you know, paragraph three in the stories, paragraph one and two in the news stories in America are what did Trump know and when did he know it and what he’d do about it? So the liberal media would like us to believe that Trump. Here’s here’s what like the liberal media would love for us to believe right now. And they’re teasing this. And I don’t know if it’s true or not. Trump fully knew this. The intelligence community came to him, gave him complete awareness that this was happening on date X. And then, you know, in the time after that, he continued to pander to Putin and be friendly to Russia. He never raised it. He never pressed them. And look, this soldier, this airman, this Marine was killed, assassinated. And that bounty program buyer, Russian paid Afghanistani soldier during that program. And Trump did shit about it. So that’s like that’s the worst case scenario. We don’t know if that’s true at all. I think we I think we understand now that American military members were killed by Russian paid assassins in this instance. That’s really bad. What is not known yet, and it will clearly be known unless they destroy their records, is if President Trump is briefed on this or not. The director of national intelligence, who’s nominally the absolute head of the intelligence community, above the CIA, above the NSA, above the CIA, above all that.
[00:31:02] It’s an on again, I say nominal because the system’s not really been rationalized yet. That person came out with a press release yesterday, I think, or two days ago, and said the president was not told of this.
[00:31:16] That person, the director of national intelligence right now is a partizan selected, highly partizan person. He is not a proven long term intelligence professional.
[00:31:26] And by the way, that’s why his appointment was very controversial. Normally in these jobs, you don’t really want a partizan as much as you want an expert professional. And this guy is neither. He’s a partizan. So that’s you know, that’s the story. My. So what has to happen? It’s pretty obvious we have to figure out. I launched it in the reality versus political reality.
[00:31:54] It’s gonna be muddy anyway about what Trump did. No, it didn’t know. No, I think we are pretty clearly understand at this point the man apparently he talks eighty five percent of the time during his intelligence briefings. Right. We know he makes bad decisions. I happen to think he’s. Now we know he makes bad decisions. And when he does rarely take his intelligence briefings, he doesn’t listen, he talks and tries to prove the intelligence briefer, how smart he is on these topics versus having the best expertize in America presented to him so he can make informed decisions. He likes to spend this time apparently showing off to the briefers about what he knows. So he doesn’t listen much anyway. So was it in what’s called the PDB, PDB, the president’s daily brief, which is a very, very special document that’s put together the entire intelligence apparatus every day, focuses on what do we tell the president today? It’s an amazing focus of intellectual effort.
[00:32:50] And that document, the PDB, is guarded like the king’s treasure. I mean, it’s, you know, the tiniest number people get to see it. It’s got unbelievable secrets in it. It’s presented to the president. They worked really hard on how to present and who presents what. You know, there’s a big dance around this.
[00:33:06] It’s a ballet and.
[00:33:09] And was it in there or not? We don’t know.
[00:33:12] But if it was at all ever briefed to him, a competent leader who holds this holy mantle of power in America. And here’s why it’s holy. Here’s why it’s holy to be present United States. This example. Exactly. You are the ultimate safeguard in this instance for American lives. So if it had been raised with him one way or the other and they said, hey, we’re not so sure our confidence in this intelligence is this sourcing is not so great. This is kind of how you determine if you listen to intelligence or not a competent leader. And I don’t know if he did or didn’t, should say put on stop what you’re telling me that Russia has a bounty program, possibly even 10 percent likely on our troops. Get to the bottom of that right now. I need an answer to that. That’s a humongous deal. Deal with it. And we don’t know that he did that or not. But my guess is that’s not the way he operates. And apparently that’s not how he uses his intelligence briefings to God interact and said he uses it to show off. So, I mean, come on, what point are we going to recognize this guy is just a total buffoon and it just sort of expect the worst. And that’s about where it appears he’s going to meet you on these issues. Sorry.
[00:34:23] I mean, I know that’s a little more political than we’ve been, but this is an issue that really bothers me. And having worked in intelligence for a long, long time, this is appalling.
[00:34:36] And my expectation is that nothing will come of it because it’s just too muddy and it’ll stay muddy and that’s what it’ll be. I think that’s right.
[00:34:46] But it also points to. So let’s imagine that the honest answer is no. No one ever briefed the president. So now, look, to be fair, if it was a really bad source, you know, walk in. Right. Some guy walks into the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and says, you know, whatever it is, I have this information, pay me for it. And his story doesn’t hold together. This happens every day.
[00:35:06] People show up to the U.S. government, say, I have a secret. I want to tell you. You take care of me, happens constantly. And so a big part of the frontline of U.S. intelligence and U.S. diplomacy is fending off this disinformation, these these liars. So it’s the magic comes and it’s super weak and it’s not well sourced.
[00:35:23] It’s not reliable. There’s no there’s no backup evidence. You could absolutely. It would be OK if that wasn’t proven or sorry.
[00:35:29] Brought up to the president what we learned. So the story that came out a couple days ago, the initial reporting said America got turned on to this possibility because we found caches of cache caches of U.S. dollars in some F in some Taliban strongholds that we overran. Right. So so we busted down the door and some Taliban room and found, you know, ten thousand U.S. dollars, which is a humungous amount of money for them to have whatever the number is. Five thousand, ten thousand twenty thousand. I don’t know as we’d shut as we chase down where this cash come from. We came up with this reality that the Russians were paying bounties. Right. So that was the initial story that didn’t really ring true to me. By the way, that wouldn’t be that alone. You’d have a pretty hard time creating very, very credible intelligence around that to bring to the president, because you’d only have human sources. You’d have a couple young Taliban foot soldiers. They’d tell you, oh, yeah, the Russians gave it to us. Who’s the Russian? I don’t know. This and that. You know, saturate the news yesterday, which seemed more like the way America would have high confidence in intelligence was about movement of cash out of bank accounts we know are controlled by Russians. So now you’re getting into like what’s called maybe more signals intelligence versus human intelligence, much more reliable generally. You can really audit the information.
[00:36:48] You don’t have to see if, you know, Taliban foot soldier acts as lying to you or not. You know, you’re actually looking at the transfer numbers. And so that’s that’s what the intel was.
[00:36:59] And so if that’s the case and someone didn’t brief the president, that’s a failure of leadership underneath the president. And that ultimately actually gets to a failure of his leadership for not having the right people in the right positions.
[00:37:11] And we saw that in the Navy with the Captain crosier’s situation with the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Right. So Crosier probably made a good decision. He then got relieved by the acting secretary of Navy who proved who proved to be a very incompetent leader. And he was like the third secretary of Navy in that position, the Trump administration, because they were just a series of poor picks by the president over and over and over.
[00:37:37] I know. I’m rambling.
[00:37:38] Last point I would ask you to look at the Trump the Trump cabinet positions, the people in national security positions picked by Trump, including chief of staff positions. You’d find every single one of them who has left has done so criticizing the president.
[00:37:53] So suffice it to say, he doesn’t pick great people or which was what he’d want us to believe, or they they are of some value and they come out, they criticize him later. But the leadership dynamic is clearly not working. And here’s an example of where that may have failed to bring proper intelligence to the commander in chief of time we needed.
[00:38:11] There’s a fair amount of talk about how he’s going to bag it.
[00:38:16] No, I don’t believe it. You don’t believe it? No, I think.
[00:38:22] I think his fear of what comes without presidential immunity is so strong. I think the Dunning Kruger effect on him is so real, meaning he thinks he’s much smarter than everybody else. Meaning he thinks he can pull a trick on us that, you know, will make him win. I think his narcissism is so overwhelming and I think the breadth of tools he has available to him is so vast. And he knows that that he’s not going to give up without grabbing all sorts of clubs out of his golf bag, all sorts of weapons from his arsenal and flinging them at the situation to see what happens. I strongly believe this man does not want to get out of the Oval Office for a variety reasons. One being he fears prosecution from the Southern District of New York, perhaps for crimes related to sexual activity or other things. And while he has the cloak of immunity, presidential immunity, which he has, you know, he’s protected from that. So I think that is a strong motivator for him not to lose, not to walk away. That might be a little shocking for people to hear me say that. But I don’t say that.
[00:39:33] I say that based on talking to people who are aware of potential prosecutorial activity against him. So, no, I think nothing he can do in advance of that.
[00:39:46] Right. I. The president apparently cannot pardon himself. I think is what we learned during the Nixon administration. I could be wrong. And but what he tried to do was fire the prosecutor from New York. He tried to put a loyalist in that job. He went golfing with Adam Clayton Powell. I think that’s his name. Head of the FCC. Right. And they had a conversation. And at the end of the conversation, he announced rapidly he was going to fire the lead prosecutor in the southern district of New York. So the FDNY Southern District in New York is also nicknamed the sovereign district nickname of New York, because they pursue things a politically historically most you know, a lot of prosecutors offices do. Cuz you put a loyalist in there, I suspect the plan was get in there, figure out what kind of trash they have against me and crush it while I still am in power. And thereby I can reduce the chance of having trouble when I no longer presidential immunity. That’s my theory. Not just mine. And of course, that got foiled and he wasn’t allowed to do that. There’s a real conundrum about Attorney General Barr, who does not have the authority to fire that prosecutor, firing that prosecutor and claiming that the person who does have the authority to do it, the president ordered him to do it than the president claiming, no, I had nothing to do with this. So it’s really a bit of a goat rope on that one. So that’s one thing he could do. But look. But, Tom, what I’m referring to isn’t about what he does about that persay. It’s about what he does to try to ensure he doesn’t have to leave office. And so, you know, that gets to, you know, probably some very untoward activities that we’re going to see in the next couple of months. And in fact, I’ve historically I’ve said the last few months that look for August, September, October and and into November, obviously to be a really, really rancid time in America and a really horrible time for how we treat each other. And massively that’s sadly divisive, mostly partizan.
[00:41:50] I was just reminded that because there will be so much mail in balloting that that timeframe might move up, that if you wanted to embarrass the president, for example, an October surprise they used to call it, maybe you should make it a September surprise if the president wanted to do something on his end instead of making it in October, maybe June, September, so that that whole world might accelerate a little bit, too. We might. So it might be more like July, August, September versus moving that I had one or two work months where we’re gonna see a huge amount of ugliness.
[00:42:24] Not that’s what I think is going to happen. And so, I mean, you know, voter suppression by Republican governors I think will be a big deal.
[00:42:35] And I think the president’s instinct, of course, is to divide. You know, that’s where he that’s where he’s best. That’s his best animal instinct. I think that’s working against him now. So we’ll see. So Hong Kong.
[00:42:55] The. I think I’m pretty correct in saying that if you if you’re if you if you live in Hong Kong, you were raised in Hong Kong, you essentially live in a place that is not so unlike living in the United States. The freedoms that we have in the United States, the financial systems we have in the United States, it’s very much like growing up and living within the United States. And basically what China has done is China has made a move to make Hong Kong effectively exactly like China, which is to say. You know, if you if you make trouble, I’m going to bring in to China and put you in a jail in regular China. That’s how that’s gonna go down. A Mai Mai characterizing that correctly. And B, if I am right, imagine.
[00:43:43] As an American, how you would react to that? To me, it seems impossible that the culture of Hong Kong will ever accept the culture of China without, frankly, a lot of bloodshed.
[00:43:54] May sound dramatic, but I just don’t see it happening.
[00:43:58] Mm hmm. Yeah. So just quickly to sit at it, previously a misnamed the head of the SCC who Trump tried to put in as the lead prosecutor NSD and why the name was Jay Clayton.
[00:44:10] So we try to put and not not Adam Clayton Powell in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s a real sad story, Tom. You’re exactly right.
[00:44:21] Yeah, so Hong Kong is very much like New York, you know, a year ago. Free speech. You know, pretty clear, pretty fair system of jurisprudence. And now through this accelerated in various assertive national security law promulgated by Beijing, they are now going to live under, as you well put it, you know, sort of like the same mandates, same laws as you’d have in Beijing, which means living under a totalitarian, totalitarian demagogery.
[00:44:55] Communist. And, yeah, so it’s really shitty. And there’s there’s not much that’s going to happen. So there’s not much you can do about it. You have an optimistic view.
[00:45:05] It sounds like, which is that the people of Hong Kong, the culture of Hong Kong, couldn’t, you know, will will not in any near term be morphed into looking like the culture of Beijing or Shanghai. Now, to be clear, you walk around the streets of Shanghai, you don’t feel like you’re in a totalitarian state. You feel like you’re in a thriving capitalist area. And half of half, that’s half. It’s half correct. But you also are in a place where if you get on your phone and try to access the wrong thing in the Internet, A, you can’t because it’s all locked down. There is no freedom of information. And B, if you write the wrong thing, you can go to jail for life. Or if you do the wrong thing, you can be executed by the state and they bill your family for the bullet. Right. I mean, it is a it’s a harsh reality. It just doesn’t appear to be until you scratch at it in Hong Kong’s head in that direction. I’m not as optimistic as you that the culture and people of Hong Kong and Hong Kong’s will be able to resist that for long. I hope that China is somewhat thoughtful and careful about how they implement the national sovereignty law in Hong Kong, how they implement this reintegration, that you’re smart enough, at least pragmatically smart enough, not to just drop the hammer and crush everybody. But at the same time, they clearly are going to have to show that they’re in charge now. So there will probably be protests today, tomorrow. Coming up. In Hong Kong, they will have to be large or people won’t do it. They’re going to want to find safety in numbers in Hong Kong and in those protests, I think the Chinese government will probably have to insist on the arrest of a few people. And the, you know, what we would probably call know really cruel treatment to them to show the people of Hong Kong, hey, you know, so new sheriff in town, new set of rules. We’ll see. And why do I say pragmatic? Because they still have to live in the international court of public opinion to some extent. Beijing does. They still want to entice Taiwan into their borders eventually, although that they must know that’s not going to happen peacefully.
[00:47:14] And so ideally, they don’t come out and act like complete rogues and crush everybody. We’ll see. But it’s going to be fascinating and somewhat horrible to watch. Thank you. It’s very sad. Yeah. Jerry Cohen from NYU, who is one of the best experts on China and Hong Kong, wrote yesterday in a piece that didn’t get enough coverage that, you know, he’s he’s been doing this for 60 years. He’s there’s really no one smarter on this from the American side. And he said. You know, the spirit of Hong Kong will survive. Don’t worry. When she’s out of office, this will be changed. And I think that’s another example of overoptimism. She’s not leaving office anytime soon unless it’s feetfirst and. This is a new, assertive China. So that’s really a punch line. China, historically, the sum of Mao’s Tennant’s kind of lie laid in wait, laid quietly and and amassed its power and its arms and its economic strength, which it’s done and now encourage this. And it always kind of sat back and didn’t act very assertively. And that’s change we see. We now clearly see a more assertive China. So the Sleeping Dragon has a woak to use. Some of the language of the conversation in Hong Kong is one of the places where the Talon’s or the flames have landed most hard. And we’ll see, you know, how long that persists. So I would probably disagree with you that Hong Kong will come out of this with the same spirit it had a year ago.
[00:48:52] Yeah, yeah, and I guess for me, I mean, for whatever reason, between what’s been going on in the United States, I watched I’m not done yet, but I’m watching the movie Reds again. I’m watching Babylon Berlin.
[00:49:04] Which which rights are you watching? Watching the Warren Beatty o k rom movie I was thinking of what’s that movie where the kids run up in the hills and they say Wolverines over Hanieh Red Dawn Red, Dark Red, Dawn, Lovebug.
[00:49:19] But Redds is incredible. And then there’s Babylon, Berlin. It’s just so good. It’s so well done. Three seasons. It’s on Netflix, it’s subtitles.
[00:49:28] But man, it really describes like the drama behind a revolutionary moment in in Germany. And then you know what’s going on in our own country, and it’s very hard for me to imagine people like us living under a resent a regime like you see in China.
[00:49:51] But, you know, time will tell and these things are different. Let me mention one more thing and then we’ll go. But, you know, Mississippi. Mississippi. The change in the Mississippi flag. It’s been an incredible few weeks for this kind of stuff.
[00:50:05] You know, NASCAR statues and now Mississippi, you know, the Mississippi state flag with the Confederate emblem. Pretty amazing. Pretty amazing. What’s what’s happening right here. And, you know, I have to say and it did that for me. It’s.
[00:50:30] It’s overdue, but I’m not from the South and I you know, I my perspective is is different from many peoples. It seems like the right thing to do. But let me just say why I’m so amazed by it is this is not the first run at this stuff that’s been going on as long as I’ve been alive. But this just in the last few weeks that this change has come fast and it’s powerful.
[00:50:55] I yeah, Aymen. I mean, I am I have just zero zero tolerance for a Confederate flag.
[00:51:02] Right. It’s a flag of treason. It’s a flag of failure. It’s a flag of slavery. It’s a flag of genocide.
[00:51:08] I mean, it’s fucking appalling that someone would wave that thing. Sorry, I keep cursing, but I just find that I mean, what what an emblem of idiocy and horror.
[00:51:18] And the thing that makes even worse, as we know, is these Confederate statues and the application, the Confederate flag to the Mississippi flag and other flags was done well after the Confederate after the Civil War. It was done as a move to remind African-Americans that the KKK lingers, that they are subject still to massive oppression just to try to put fear in their hearts. You know, just a just evil, right. Like many of the statues that were put up were of of intentionally of the most racist and evil Confederate leaders, not of the even of the people who were excellent at building the Confederacy on the battlefield. It was people who were hurt the most atrocious to slaves. And that was done by the KKK. Many of those statutes were put up for those reasons in the in the early and in mid nineteen hundreds. Well, after the war.
[00:52:05] So it’s just appalling. Thank God they’re coming down. Thank God this came off the flag. And shame on anybody who who pushed against it in the decades passed. But yeah. Yeah, it’s great. It’s great. It’s really it’s it’s terrific that we’re finally getting there. And it it there’s some lesson in here about how hard it is to get things done in this democracy.
[00:52:30] You know that it’s taken some of these statues have been taken down, quote unquote, illegally. Well, not quote unquote. They’ve been taken down illegally. But I think by most people’s measure, properly, correctly, like this should have happened so long ago. And, you know, this is what federalism is interesting.
[00:52:49] I mean, it’s. Well, you know Bryan Stevenson. When he talked about themes in his book, I’ve read his book, which I commend what it’s called Just Mercy. And he describes that, you know, he would bring these cases in late 90s and they were mostly black men, mostly on death row. All certainly in his view and mostly proven. So to be wrongly accused or wrongly convicted, I should say, of horrible crimes, often with the death sentence as a penalty.
[00:53:23] And the thing that he talks about is that let’s say he would lose a lot of these cases in the 90s and he’d retry them in the 2010s, let’s say. Well, the thing he would say is like the legal strategy was exactly the same. It’s just the narrative of the of the world changes the same. Legal facts meet a different fate as the narrative of the world changes. And so the narrative of the world is changing. You know, one of the most impressive things in the last few weeks to me was NASCAR. Like, they jumped on that and said, no, no rebel flags at NASCAR ever again. They got behind Bubba Wallace and like all marched in unison with him and it was like, wow, bang. Like, we’re gonna we’re going to confront this head on. And they did. It was really impressive.
[00:54:07] We were talking the other day about some friends of mine and I apparently George Floyds, four year old daughter.
[00:54:15] Said My daddy changed the world. Not obviously entirely understand what’s going on in the world and sadly not having a daddy anymore, but saying my daddy changed the world. And.
[00:54:33] You know, there are potentially very I mean, there what we’re talking about are silver linings on the Slow Motion murder of a defenseless man by our police force.
[00:54:47] The silver linings might be quite strong here. And we might be finally waking up to, as you put, as you put it, like the necessary cultural shift on some historical horrors that we got to just change. So maybe an end. Imagine if the George Floyd protests. And all this social observation that’s happened since his murder mobilizes more voters of any sort in this next election.
[00:55:24] That will have changed the world when more people vote, Democrats win, if more African-Americans vote, historically, Democrats win if more young people vote. Historically, Democrats win. And historically, young people and African-Americans and other minorities don’t vote at the same rate as older white people. Same proportion. So there’s I mean, I think everyone knows this now, but there’s this voter mobilization is the number one key for Democrats to win if George Floyds murder mobilizes more voters. That could be the way that Donald Trump loses. And Joe Biden becomes president. And that, as George Floyds, four year old daughter put could have changed the world. And it’s not just America. Right. The president had state sits on a mantle with influence across the entire world, obviously.
[00:56:23] So Arpey, she’s six years old. Her name’s Janet Gianna Floyd and I have it. Let’s just look at it real quick on two slots, Sheriff, to go right back work. She would never say the word daddy’s changing the word very cute kid.
[00:56:46] And powerful and sad.
[00:56:53] I remember when when my friend John O’Neill died on 9/11, which is a whole nother story, obviously. I called up a dear mutual friend of ours and I had the sad news to report to them that they had found John’s body. We were pretty sure he was dead. They found his body very soon after the tower had collapsed. And I called up and John had died, a hero truck running in and out of the tower, saving people. Well aware that that second tower was going to fall. In his suit with his, you know, Bruno Magli shoes on, meaning not prepared for this. And he was pulling people out of the lobby. So I said to our mutual friend, at least John died a hero. Here comes another curse. And he said, fuck that. Go tell that to his son. Who’s going to now not have a daddy? So. While it’s true that George Floyds murder appears to be making a massive and positive impact on the world right now, that little girl is gonna grow up without a daddy.
[00:57:55] So Fourth of July, I hope everyone has a safe one.
[00:58:00] All right, great. Happy. I guess I’d be Fourth of July everybody then. Stay safe.