How the Impeachment Saga Ends

With help from game theory, the Asch experiment, and the fact that fish rot from the head down.

My sister posed an interesting question the other day. If I were a Republican, she asked, and, based on evidence, came to the conclusion that the president should be impeached, how would I vote? I said I would vote to impeach, to which she replied, “No you wouldn’t.”

I said yes I would, to fulfill the oath of office and to my duty to the country. Then I would go home, pack up and move to another state. Immediately. But not everyone has that luxury. They might live in a small town. They might have a large extended family. All would become targets forever more, from angry townsfolk to all sorts of crackpots on the Internet. We live in an ochlocracy now.

The Asch Experiment

For those wondering “what happened” to Lindsay Graham, Hugh Hewitt, Ron Johnson, Glenn Beck, Will Hurd, Nikki Haley and Elise Stefanik, or how Austrians clapped for Hitler during their own annexation, or how Bitcoin went to $20,000, here you go. Of course, the politicians might have one more reason: money. Do we have any idea how much dark money has flooded into the United States since Citizens United, and how much of it might not be kosher?

If you’ve never seen this classic experiment by Solomon Asch, now is the time. Note that conformity drops dramatically when people are allowed to express their opinions anonymously. This is why secret ballots are necessary, but alas, they are not available to politicians.

Here’s another one, a segment from Candid Camera turned into an ad for Prudential.

Game Theory 101

Given the sheer number of people involved and the fact that this is a one-shot finite game, the predicted Nash equilibrium is MUTUAL DEFECTION, aka throwing others under the bus to save yourself.

We saw a lot of that in action this past week during the hearings. There were also a lot of denials by those implicated in the scheme: Rick Perry, Mick Mulvaney, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, and of course, Trump.

Somebody ordered the Code Red, and it wasn’t any of the people that testified. At the moment, the final five are holding strong in their prisoner’s dilemma game because Trump has blocked access to all of them them, their communications, notes, etc. We shall see how long that lasts.

They all want to survive the game, and the only way to do it is for all of them to maintain silence. My bet is Rudy cracks.

The Wisdom of Warren Buffett

Wells Fargo Bank was in deep trouble in 2017. There had been a bunch of scandals and lawsuits around questionable practices in several areas of the bank’s businesses. As an investor in the bank, Buffett gave an interview to CNBC where he famously said,

What you find is there’s never just one cockroach in the kitchen when you start looking around. Anytime you put focus on an organization that has hundreds of thousands of people ... you may very well find that it wasn’t just the one who misbehaved that you find out about.

While it is true that the CEO can never be sure that there are no bad apples in the bushel, the reverse — where the fish rots from the head — is a much more serious problem because what you have is a criminal organization.

How This All Ends

I’m going to re-up a thread from my Twitter dated November 13 that incorporates game theory, the Asch conformity experiment and rotting fish heads.

  1. OK, I think we know how this impeachment thing ends. No good arguments so far to refute any of the sworn depositions and the sequence of events. For convenience, let's consolidate the Trump demands into one phrase, the "Code Red."

  2. One angle of defense is that no one with first hand knowledge that Trump ordered the Code Red can be found. That's because everyone who dealt directly with Trump are either refusing to give a deposition or have been prohibited from doing so by the claim of presidential immunity.

  3. Except Gordon Sondland, who is scheduled to testify publicly on November 20.

  4. Sondland will be asked if this phone call took place, and if Taylor's report is accurate. There are only three possible answers: yes, no, and "I don't recall." A fourth possibility is Sondland is found swimming with the fishes in the Potomac River before November 20.

  5. If Sondland answers yes, no one else is available to confirm or deny since everyone who directly dealt with the president will not testify. Regardless, the defense will be Trump is entitled to call a Code Red, that if the president does it, it's legal and unimpeachable.

  6. The only potential game-changer would be the testimony of @AmbJohnBolton but it doesn't seem like he will do it, given the ongoing standoff and lawsuit.

  7. Perhaps the issue of Bolton will be resolved if there is a trial in the Senate. So let's assume Congress approves and sends up articles of impeachment. The defense will continue to be, if the president calls a Code Red, it is legal. Senators vote along party lines.

  8. Anyone who knows history or has seen Lord of the Flies knows Republicans are in too deep. They have the numbers in the senate, so the gavel will go down for acquittal. All Heil Trump, and history records the end of the American republic, #Election2020 be damned.

We got a preview from Will Hurd today. Even though the game is only at half-time, the fix is in. The plan is to use the OJ Simpson glove defense (or any of the other ones); after acquittal, Trump will promise to find the real culprit for the American people.

For those interested in how today’s events parallel those in history, Mike Duncan gave an excellent interview for his book on how the Roman republic came to an end. Podcast here.

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