Michael Wolraich's picture

    Trump-Putin Quid Pro Quo?

    Did Donald Trump agree to a quid pro quo with the Russian government? This is what we know.

    On March 19, 2016, John Podesta received an email, purportedly from Google, warning him of a potential security breach. He clicked the link and inadvertently delivered his email account to state-backed Russian hackers.

    Two days later, on March 21, Donald Trump announced his five-person foreign policy team, which included Carter Page, a previously unknown investment banker with extensive dealings in Russia.

    On March 28, nine days after the hack, Trump confirmed to the New York Times that he had hired Paul Manafort. Manafort had recently returned from Ukraine, where he helped organize the Russian-backed Ukrainian opposition. 

    On March 31, Trump met with his foreign policy advisors at the new Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., where they discussed the Republican Party's position on arming Ukraine against pro-Russian rebels.  According to advisor J.D. Gordon, Trump opposed this language in the RNC platform because "he didn't want to go to 'World War Three' over Ukraine."

    Fast forward three months to July 7. After receiving permission from the Trump campaign to visit Russia, Carter Page gave a speech in Moscow criticizing U.S. sanctions against Russian officials. “Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption, and regime change,” he argued. During that trip, Page allegedly met with high-ranking Russians who were targeted by the sanctions.

    Back in Cleveland two weeks later for the Republican National Convention, Page met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Jeff Sessions and Trump advisor J.D. Gordon also met with Kislyak at that time.

    During the convention, Gordon led the effort to soften the Ukrainian plan in the Republican platform. When that story broke after the convention, Paul Manafort denied any connection, claiming, "It absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign" 

    But Donald Trump himself contradicted Manafort, telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos, "They softened it, I heard, but I was not involved." When Stephanopoulos asked him, "Why is that a good idea?" Trump curiously replied, "Well, look, you know, I have my own ideas. He's not going into Ukraine, OK? Just so you understand. He's not going to go into Ukraine, all right?"

    J.D. Gordon initially denied influencing the Ukraine plank, then admitted it but said Trump wasn't involved, then confessed that Trump had instructed him about the platform language at the March 31 meeting.

    Fast forward to August 21, Trump confidante Roger Stone tweeted, "Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel," indicating that he knew about the hack.

    A few weeks later, on October 7, Wikileaks released the first batch of Podesta emails--hours after the notorious Access Hollywood tape surfaced.

    Finally, on December 12, Senator John McCain hand-delivered to James Comey a dossier from retired MI6 spy Christopher Steele. The dossier alleges that  "the Trump team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise defense commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine, a priority for Putin who needed to cauterise the subject...This was managed on the TRUMP side by the Republican candidate's campaign manager, Paul MANAFORT, who was using foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries."

    The FBI is believed to be investigating Russia's connections with Manafort, Page, and Stone. That's as much as we know. If any of them get indicted, pay close attention to March 2016. That was when Podesta was hacked. That was when Trump brought in Page and Manafort. That was when Trump allegedly instructed Gordon to soften the Ukraine language. If there was a quid pro quo deal with Russia, this is when it happened.



    And what's the Constitutional remedy?

    Lemme check, here it is:


    The President of the United States, with the agreement of 34 Senators, may do whatever the fuck he pleases without fear of removal.


    I believe that is article XV, section b.


    The Founders, in the wisdom, bequeathed to us a strong executive...

    If it goes down, I figure it happens like this: One or more of Trump's people are indicted amid revelations of a quid pro quo arrangement with Russian authorities. Under pressure, Congress appoints a special prosecutor a la Ken Starr. The prosecutor investigates and reports that Trump broke the law. As the pressure intensifies, Congress impeaches and convicts.

    Obviously, the Republican congress would resist heartily, but 1) many Republicans prefer Pence to Trump, and 2) if this gets really ugly, Republicans may not have a majority in two years.

    That said, I'm not sure what law would actually be broken in this case.

    You know there doesn't have to be a crime. An impeachable offense is what ever the congress says it is. Trump is unstable. The stress of the power and responsibility of the presidency exacerbates that instability. The loneliness and separation from ordinary human contact that comes from being at the pinnacle of power exacerbates it as well. He's already spinning out of control and he could become dangerously unstable. I'm not joking. I'm seriously scared. If he does something crazy enough that a sufficient majority see that instability he could be impeached. Congress could find a reason.

    But we're no where near anything like that. His base sees nothing. The republicans that are rational and sane are not ready to abandon a republican president. Though that support is slipping slightly things will have to get much worse before impeachment talk has any basis in reality.

    Very true, but without a crime I have a hard time imagining what would lead Republicans to finally throw Trump under the bus.

    What happens if Trump is proved to have conspired with the Russians to rig the election and commit treason, as we're getting close to witnessing now.

    (and remember, it wasn't just Podesta's gmail account - they stole the DNC's entire oppo research file & posted it)

    Who becomes President? The Vice-Presidential crony of the election theft? 

    Or what procedure is used to find a more palatable choice?

    Then Pence moves into the White House unless he gets impeached or resigns during the scandal. If it happens under a Republican majority, this process would likely be orderly (excluding Trump's antics, uprisings my Trump supporters, white supremacist violence, etc.) But if Dems capture Congress in the midterms, I imagine they would try to impeach both of them. If they were successful, the House would choose replacements.

    So the Republicans were right to steal the election and support the incompetent, crooked candidate. No downside for them - Pence or Ryan.

    Yeah, but if Republicans impeach Trump, it will tear them apart. They'll see severe defections from irate Trumpers on one end and disgusted independents on the other. It would be worse than what happened after Watergate.

    I doubt it - they've recovered from their scandal-plagued years of 1973 - now they've gotten over self-loathing on the campaign trail.

    Fair question, and I think the best answer is that the constitution can only provide a remedy when those in power allow it to.  It's a system based on norms; there are lots of known unknowns (as the way that guy would put it), first and foremost what happens when the president says NO.

    Michael, I really do appreciate the timeline, because it's almost clicheish but things are moving very rapidly in fact.

    I'm glad you appreciate it. I started writing it up for my own benefit because I've had trouble keeping track of everything and then decided to blog it. There are other timelines out there of course, but they're so scattershot that I've found it hard to follow the thread. So I tried to focus specifically on the potential quid pro quo with the Podesta emails, ignoring Flynn, Sessions, the Putin bromancie and other details that may or may not prove relevant.

    Great job and a fantastic deal made with a fantastic guy -  link Trump Met Russian Ambassador at Reception During Campaign:

    Meeting at odds with spokeswoman’s denial of any contacts

    Trump met (Russian ambassador) Kislyak during a VIP reception April 27, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel shortly before a foreign policy address, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. In the speech, Trump said an "easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia" is possible.

    Interesting addition, thanks.

    More extensive timeline here. The one about Assange demanding his own security team at the Embassy - Russian, of course - rather amused/amazed me, while Anne Applebaum's July article is rather spot on and prescient.

    And we never got much followup on the 2 state voter registration offices that were hacked (ref: Michael Isikoff) & whether any more were hacked later - more energy was spent exclaiming that all election systems were safe, without much speculation on what exactly the 2 hack attacks were after & whether this could have been repeated undetected & with great effect elsewhere.

    And then there's the article/Russian-ties analysis that posits that Trump has been a Russian industry front since forever, and that the $900M tax writeoff was a red-herring - for a country turning Yeltsin  popularity around from 8% to 60% with billions at play, some billions to Trump who proved quite the team player, evangelist & money-laundering channel over decades was an easy call. Why this Manchurian Candidate wasn't caught out earlier is a huge question - willful blindness?

    And Michael Flynn back in the news for illicit lobbying. I tell ya, Trump's first 100 days will go down in history.

    Updated--Comey is having a closed door meeting with Senators, and that it is with the Gang of 8 in connection with Trump's Trump Tower claims. 

    Michael - your blog is premised on the received wisdom among the liberal establishment that "we know" that "state backed Russian hackers" breached the DNC's computers and delivered politically compromising materials to Wikileaks.  This may be true but we don't know it. 

    As far as I can tell, PC World has done a good job examining the actual evidence.  It noted in a January article that the FBI and CIA are relying on claims by private security firms based on evidence which the firms have not provided to the government investigatory agencies.  PC World speculates that the FBI and CIA may have conclusory evidence that they don't want to reveal but the article's sub-headline is  the "U.S. has yet to offer new evidence -- or a smoking gun -- proving the Kremlin’s involvement."

    In December, Ars Technica - a technology website - wrote:

    the US government's much-anticipated analysis of Russian-sponsored hacking operations provides almost none of the promised evidence linking them to breaches that the Obama administration claims were orchestrated in an attempt to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

    There is no reason to attribute pro-Trump motives to either PC World or Ars Technica.  The circumstantial evidence as you set it out chronologically seems strong and neither outlet contends that the Russian government wasn't behind the leaks or didn't sponsor them.  But we simply don't know that Putin or some other high-level Russian government official or officials are responsible.

    Given the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia and the Wikileaks dumps that occur when Trump is in need, do you believe it is more likely, or less likely that there is Russian involvement? 

    Do you support an independent investigation? This is the only thing being asked for at this time. Would you trust the results of an investigation done by a GOP-controlled Congress?

    The problem RMRD is that the supposed proof that the Russian government hacked the DNC hasn't been produced for the American people to review.  Julian Assange says it wasn't the Russians.  He might be lying but then again he might not be.

    Edit to add: I absolutely support an independent investigation and no I would not trust a Republican-led one.

    Yes Hal, you've played this game before.

    In 1340, we didn't know the New World existed, so we must not know it exists today, eh? "Pope Ignatius reported in Ars Religica that the world is shaped like a pancake or perhaps like the top of an anvil"

    There was lots of pushback from the left back in December claiming because the FBI & CIA hadn't briefed every lefty blogger with confidential data, it must not have happened. Apparently folks are much more convinced today - even Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel, my go-to on security issues.

    And it's funny that the PC World guy you reference reported back in June that Guccifer's hack of the DNC was actually a front for the Russians.

    So day late, dollar short. The world's round, not flat, and seems to be spinning faster & faster.

    Do you think that your insistence that Clinton and the neolibs are not to blame for Trump's win might cause you to embrace with blind enthusiasm any alternative explanation?

    Hillary got hacked by the Russians. Trump is the clear and present danger now. Trump is in league with the Russians. Wikileaks is in league with the Russians. Trump says that Obama committed treason. Trump has no proof. Republicans are allowing a Russian puppet to remain in charge. We need independent investigations to prove Trump is a Russian puppet and to refute his slander against Obama. How long are you going to divert from the danger of Trump?

    Do you think that your insistence that Clinton and the neolibs are to blame for Trump's win might cause you to reject with blind enthusiasm any alternative explanation?

      I don't reject the claim that the DNC was hacked by Russia.  I reject the claim that "we know" that the DNC was hacked by Russia.  I thank PP for referring me to Empty Wheel which he claims is his go-to source for information on security issues.  Here's what Marcy Wheeler had to say on January 4:

      I’m working on a series of posts to point out existing holes in the claim that Russia hacked the DNC. None of them mean I am yet convinced it is someone besides Russia. But there are holes in the story that no one wants to acknowledge. And those who want to argue the case is solid would do well to at least answer them. In this one, I want to point to a curious piece of evidence in a necessary part of the evidence: how GRU is alleged to have hacked the DNC.

      I have looked somewhat closely at her subsequent posts.  She has not stated since with any greater degree of confidence that the case against Russia is unassailable or even stronger.

      No, you questioned PP's objectivity. And in response, I questioned yours.

      You make a just point Mike and I will respond to it in the next paragraph.  First though, I will defend my answer to your rejoinder to the question I posed to PP.  You questioned my objectivity based on the assumption that I "reject with blind enthusiasm any alternative explanation".  That premise is false since I do not reject with enthusiasm the explanation that Hillary's loss resulted in part from Wikileaks.  By contrast, the premise underlying my question to PP was eminently fair given his history of staunchly defending Clinton and neoliberalism.

      That said, my response to you was flip.  I am sure that I am less inclined to believe the FBI and the CIA in this case than I would otherwise be given that their theory does at least partially blame Trump's appalling win on foreign interference, most likely at Trump's explicit or implicit behest, rather than to Clinton.  I also think this story may be a distraction from the Democratic Party's disastrous embrace of neo-conservatism/neo-liberalism which I firmly believe must be reversed for us to take our country back. 

      Still, I have tried to keep as objective as I can be.  As I indicated to RMRD, I do think an independent investigation is warranted.  In addition, I have tried to review the extant information as fairly as I can. 

      The reason white voters supported Trump was not because of positions taken by the Democratic Party. Many Trump supporters admitted that they didn't believe that Trump would build a wall, etc. The reason Trump won is because of a hardening of racial bias among white voters.


      Ignoring that fact would be disastrous for the Democratic Party.

      Edit to add:

      Sanders-backed candidates underperformed, to be polite, in 2016.


      Centrist and Hillary supporter Kirsten Gillibrand has rejected all but one of Trump's cabinet nominees. She has been more Progressive than the so-called Progressives 


      well if you are going to frame that phenomenon in context of what the Democratic party should do about it, I would like to be blunt about it. And I hope that it doesn't offend you, but it is political reality as I see it.

      Let me give the background first. Coming from a white Midwestern family with a lot of working class people in the extended family, and frankly some of those might be racist and though I don't stay in touch, probably some Trump voters.. But also from a nuclear family with higher education and with mixed race younger members, including one 1/2 Afro American.married to 100% Afro-American, and a genuine African immigrant as well.

      I think what you call racism, and you are certainly entitled to, has evolved to this: we are sick of your bellyaching about getting your two acres and a mule and all the lives matter stuff etc. etc. after 8 years of an elected Afro-American president. It's: you had your chance, we gave you your president, and in the case of Trump voters it's: he ignored us (incorrectly, I admit,but that's how I believe they feel), and you're still bellyaching about life being unfair, sorry, you had your turn, now we want ours.

      Personally, I think continuing with traditional liberal political correctness about race will be very bad for the Democratic party. Especially as the next generation is so racially mixed. The whole argument is way beyond them, like ancient history Especially in a world where dopey white kids buy most of the rap produced by black rappers and try to imitate them.

      You know, despite Trump's anti-immigration efforts, in NYC, we are seeing a big influx of African immigrants. Many with very dark skin. What do you think they think of traditional Democratic politically correct narratives about race and unfairness of this system to Afro-Americans? They want to be here, they chose to be here. Things change, everyone's attitude about race has to change, not just white Americans.

      People really just have to let go of past paradigms. We are becoming a mixed race society despite pockets of what is still called "the Afro-American community" Do you have any idea how even some people who are not Trump voters are beginning to resent that there is still something considered "the African-American community?" That African Americans still separate themselves into a separate community, after 8 years of having a black president with a high approval rating? A community that still considers itself more "disadvantaged" than the poor of other races?

      I do  think honestly think that is a major part of the problem, rmrd.

      AA, the bellyaching meme proves my point. Discussions of working class has come to mean white working class. Blacks are stereotyped. I pointed out that Trump assumed Rep. John Lewis represented a poverty-stricken neighborhood. He sees blacks as trapped in Hell. Trump got pushback on that stereotype from the black community.

      The reason that blacks "separate" themselves into a "separate" community is that when they see an unarmed person strangled to death for selling loose cigarettes, they worry about the safety of their relatives at the hands of police. Wealthy blacks tell stories of police harassment. Those experiences form a common bond. When studies are done on receiving state of the art health care despite the same level of income and insurance or access to home or business loans despite income and credit levels, blacks and other minorities come out on the short end. That is the reality.

      When a NYC prosecutor failed to get an indictment on the office who choked an unarmed man to death using an illegal chokehold, former RNC chairman Michael Steele noted that a black man's life was not worth a ham sandwich given that a Grand Jury would indict a ham sandwich. Republican Senator Tim Scott talks about being pulled over by police 7 times in one year. Blacks have different experiences. Your POV about black bellyaching is very common.

      Have you discussed how your particular family members feel about the legal system and the police? 

      I can't help the fact that some people dislike the fact that there is an African-American community. I don't view it as different from working class whites or white middle class that people want Democrats to seek out. I expect Muslim Americans to speak out about Muslim bans and Latino Americans to speak out about deportations. I think that members of diverse communities can point out problems impacting them directly. Jeff Sessions may get general pushback back if he goes after marijuana, but he will get specific attention from black and Latino communities when he enforces voter suppression. I think the diversity is a good thing. I know Muslim Americans have shifted to the Democratic Party because of Islamophobia.


      I suspect Haitian Americans and immigrants from Africa find toleration of racism in the GOP as a reason to support Democrats but I have no solid data.


      Hmmm, this discussion took a strange turn. I have a feeling the black community was pretty patient & undemanding with Obama, and basically was content just to have a black president - unlike everyone else, they didn't seem to assume they'd get any special favors (though it seems there's a fair amount that came through HUD, etc that might be labeled as such - Obama being reluctant to crow too much about actions, possibly as would create too much a target & backlash, or just his nature). Even with all the illegal mortgage foreclosure (wiping out the 90's increase in black home ownership I'd been so proud of) and the unrelenting sky-high unemployment, blacks didn't seem to complain that much.

      In any case, I wasn't persuaded by the Trayvon Martin case (as we went through countless times here), and the idiot in Ferguson who'd just ripped off and shoved a Korean store owner didn't make a great community model either, but the steady evidence of excessive profiling, tasering, physical abuse, planted evidence, etc make for a rather jarring contrast to the idea that a black president might symbolize a sea change in treatment of blacks. We're not talking about college loans or minimum wage or health insurance - we're talking basic safety & survival, without which all other niceities like holding a job or raising kids safe & secure disappear. 

      The jingoism shocked and scared me, and I think in a large way reflected the conditions that have given us Trump, and I trace it back to our shitting-our-pants fear post-9/11 when terror began to consume us.. I'd presumed people would be shocked by police throwing a suspect in the back of a van unsecured and driving him around until he broke his back. But then there are so many videos and stories, it just piles up. A college campus, some white guy's been assaulting people, so security shows up and does what comes natural - arrests the nearest nigger. Doesn't matter that 20 people told him he had the wrong man. It's like the worst of Southern jokes I heard growing up or something out of Blazing Saddles, except it's not a joke. The video of a sting team tackling a black basketball player in suit & tie in front of a fancy hotel. Police tasing an unconscious man on the BART platform. Tasing or shooting an epileptic. The building in Chicago they take black suspects off-the-books to "interrogate". And yet white America largely shrugs and says "blue lives matter" - cops no longer need to know how to talk to people, not even kids -  they just need to pull a taser or gun and get to work - strangling, shooting, beating, all's forgiven. A cop took a visiting Indian grandpa (obviously confused with a darkie) who didn't understand English walking around his son's neighborhood, and flipped him on his face from 3 feet up, breaking his back. A video of a cop talking to a black guy sitting on his mother's porch, telling the cop the neighbor can vouch for him - until finally the cop escalates to punching the guy & dragging him off for not giving up his phone. A black football player protests by refusing to stand for the pledge of-allegiance - and white America plays its military patriotism card - not pledging at a football game is an insult to the troops - forget death-by-chokehold - It's Rams vs. Packers night, dammit.

      And then you get a cop on the stand and he sounds like Jeff Sessions trying to explain how many Russians he did or didn't meet with, or what his position on racism is. It's a dirty business, and they're almost never held accountable.

      I think I was going somewhere else with this - wanted more emphasis on women this election, did think there'd be more attention to poverty, new jobs ideas etc - but it's hard to get fancy when you suck at the basics. Our war on Islam & "terruh" is largely an extension of our fear of & inability to assimilate black Americans. We already tried those internal walls - Anacostia, Algiers, East St. Louis, Compton,... Anyway, it's basic - no class of people can sit by and watch themselves be hunted down. It's not something that will wait for white folks to get their better jobs, well then again, yes, it always does, doesn't it. We waded into the problem in the 90's, came up with some good solutions & bad, but at least we tried. This past year, we just got lost in verbiage, and the problems remain. Maybe the police abuse will just give way to farcical pseudo-history, like Ben Carson dreaming of black slaves as immigrants being processed through Ellis Island.


      The discussion did get weird. Blacks had our President and we are still complaining. Wow!

      When you look at the marches organized by Moral Mondays and Black Lives Matter, they are multiracial. The Selma march was multiracial. Sharpton reached out to include Gays in the Stop and Frisk protests. The Million Man March focused on only black men. Even black women were excluded. That reflected the patriarchy of the Black Muslims. More recent protests have been more inclusive. 

      There was a sense that Occupy Wall Street was not welcoming to blacks and there was little to no outreach to the black community. The Women's March was inclusive as was the Day Without Women. Times change. It is disheartening to hear the blacks had their President so they should just shut up.

      The working class is under siege. White, black, Latino, and Asian workers are under siege. Everybody should protest. We should be together, but black protest is often seen as different from the grievances of whites. Blacks and Latinos do have different experiences. The NFL had to be forced to interview coaches from minority groups because NFL owners rarely would hire qualified black coaches. We now have black coaches who have taken their teams to the Super Bowl. Blacks had to claw for every inch of progress they made, and they will not stop complaining when they see injustice. Ofttimes they have to begin protests as a single group. They gain the attention of others with good hearts and a multiracial protest results. The Fight For Fifteen, for example, had a large number of minority protests at its core. Bellyaching is what blacks call just another day in the U.S.A..

      On the other side, it sometimes feels to me like protests are just a retread, and in the age of the expanded internet and everything else in flux, the black community could come up with a far more active & effective advancement strategy. When they were under slavery they managed to make sure many could read despite bans. Now we have people starting multibillion dollar dot com companies from their dorm rooms, and the black strategy to get out of having 1/20th the savings of whites is ...........? I'm fine with affirmative action and such, but I see way too few goals and too much simply reacting. Caveat being I may simply not have the news, but you'd think it'd be on Huffpost and Facebook and whatever if something impressive was going forward. What's the agenda for 2050, or will we still by recycling the same old problems, softened by a bit of celebrity exposure?

      If we take a step back, blacks are bellyaching about the same things that whites. The middle class of both groups is diminishing. Some have no problem with whites complaining but are tired of hearing black complaints. There is sympathy for coal miners in West Virginia and factory workers in the Rust Belt who are unemployed, but the urban unemployed are considered trash. Drug addiction in coal country and the Rust Belt has become an urgent medical concern (until Trump and the GOP cut healthcare). Drug addiction in urban areas is considered a crime. It is amazing that this clear cut difference in the approach to drug addiction stares people in the face and they deny that things are not unequal. Of course there is always the black friend or black family member by marriage they use to show they are not biased.


      Getting to your question of entrepreneurship, blacks start businesses at a higher rate than whites. Access to finance to keep the business afloat is a limiting factor. 


      Blacks and Latinos lost more wealth than whites during the recession and the housing bubble.


      I would also note that Mark Zuckerberg''s wealth has zero financial impact on a middle class white person. Whites who complain about black bellyaching completely miss the point that blacks are complaining about issues that will impact whites at some point. Drug addiction should have been treated as a medical condition from the beginning. Trump will bring that change crumbling to the ground. Targeting of home buyers should have been illegal. Trump just raised mortgage bills by executive order. Under Trump, brokers don't have to work in the best interest of their clients. Whites should be thankful that blacks are bellyaching. It is a warning about their future. I am able to say this because I have white friends.

      Yes, blacks got butchered in the last recession, and I was never comfortable settling for the metric "blacks usually have 2x the unemployment of whites", and again I thought home ownership once an ideal element to getting and keeping a toehold in the middle class - it's criminal that we let banks (or paid them to) reverse a decade worth of initiative and progress. I'm not so bothered by worse rates - there's greater risk too, bad but not horrid - it's the sheer arrogance of the illegal mortgage repossessions and robo signing.

      Article on black entrepreneurship is interesting - may be useful to get more mentoring/startup incubator action to improve the types of businesses started or basic steps that improve longevity. I'm not really gunning for Zuckerberg - he's an outlier. It's the solid average I want - healthy, steadily improving black commerce that puts economic power and decisions in black hands. Everything else seems to be charity or a crapshoot. Anyway, probably not much gov assistance on that front the next 4 years anyway. Maybe Silicon Valley can break with tradition.

      As for addiction, yeah, midwest rural meth labs and heroin addiction are a new epidemic. Black junkies and crackheads are an old stereotype. It just gets old. Like busting up the table with welfare reform (better w/o the followon "compassionate conservative", yhe feeling turns to "do something, anything", but we did that with incarceration in the 90's - a rather Procrustean solution we're still paying for.

      See below

      We are all trying to be objective, Hal, but the human mind is incapable of objectivity. Even worse, it is incapable of objectively measuring how objective it is. If you were the most biased person in the world, you would still think you were more objective than people who disagreed with you. Such is the conceit of the mind.

      Even though we have no way to measure the objectivity of our own thoughts, we can still strive for humility by acknowledging our own biases and resisting the temptation to dismiss the objectivity of others.


      What about the guy that calls the balls and strikes?

      Totally crooked

      I'm with ya, Bruce, I have this argument all the time. wink You know what  I think is a major part of the problem? The predominance of adversarial argument and debate in this country contributes to a mistrust of a single human being able to approach objectivity. You know what profession does that adversarial stuff all the time for centuries? No, the answer is not accountants or doctors or umpires. cheeky

      Edit to add: I think this country started buying into postmodernist theory about truth with the O.J. trial. I'm serious. That is when news reporting changed to all talking heads adversarial all the time.

      OK well to be fair my point was not that everyone is equally biased or that you can't strive to be more objective. It was that you can't know if you're actually achieving it. The only way you would know if you're an objective umpire or judge is if other people praise your objectivity.

      Of course, if you always call strikes against the same batter that might suggest...

      ok shoulda left umps out of my comment. the way I understand it from sports fans I respect for their objectivity is that they all are prejudiced sons of bitches

      I praise your objectivity all the time - when you call it my way. Whiich isn't so much. So I guess it *is* rigged...

      Hey Peracles, Sean Spicer was dittoing you today,

      How does Trump feel about official statistics? 'They may have been phony in the past, but it's very real now'

      (I am surprised to learn just now on googling that lies, damn lies and statistics goes back at least to Mark Twain and Disraeli, so forget what I said elsewhere about the O.J. trial....)

      Are you referring to Chief Justice John Roberts? The guy who claimed "I have no agenda." “I will remember that it’s my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.” I'm  not convinced he's all that objective. I have to agree with MW, "Totally crooked."

      Hal, it's March 10, not Jan 4 or December. Time moves forward. Marcy has written columns since then where she refers to inside information from her contacts that seems to confirm Russian action on this (much of this info will still be classified for fairly obvious reasons). While I doubted her back in January, I wasn't so blinkered or partisan that I completely ignored or dismissed her logic. But as facts come out, we should try to update and put the earlier speculations and mistakes away and move forward.

      I'm with you PP on moving forward but I didn't see anything at Empty Wheel that suggested that she had concluded that there appeared to be confirmation of Russian involvement.  Maybe you could cut and paste the specific verbiage to which you refer?

      January 11: re: Christopher Steele's dossier: "For what it’s worth, I find some of it very credible. Some of it accords with stuff I know. Others of it conflicts in material ways with well-sourced information I know. I find other claims transparently silly (such as the report that anyone believed Trump didn’t have serious business ties to Russia). That may simply speak to the credibility of the individual underlying sources, or it may speak to the dossier generally. I don’t yet have an opinion on that."

      Since then she's spoken of the GRU (i.e. "Guccifer" vs a 2nd Russian hacker group, & what their different aims were, the weaseling around of Trump's group with the steady divulgence of more Russian info, etc. Sorry, out of time & was actually going to get a book read this eve... :(

      We all believe many things that we don't know for certain. Most of these beliefs are based on what authorities and experts tell us--scientists, journalists, doctors, economists, the national weather service, etc. In this case, the authorities are the CIA, FB, and NSA which have expressed  “high confidence” that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” Could they be wrong? Of course. Should people question their conclusions? By all means; skepticism is healthy. But lacking certainty isn't the same as disbelieving.

      Response to PP above

      Came across this article about blacks in STEM programs and why they are often out of the loop of how Silicon Vallley hires workers


      When hiring is based on a limited Rolodex of people, you wind up with the same problem that the NFL had when it came to excluding black coaches. Society is geared to keep blacks out of the loop. Blacks are viewed as problems, something W.E.B. DuBois noted. Trump could lie that Obama was not born in the United States. Trump said that investigators in Hawaii could not believe what they were finding. He never released information. He now says "Never mind". Trump's election bid started with a racist lie. Trump now claims that Obama bugged Trump Tower. He offers no proof. Instead of being called a liar, reporters are going down the rabbit hole of Congressional investigation. There will be more Congressional investigation of Trump's slander than there will be about Trump's ties to Russia and Wikileaks. I can't see how Trump gets handled and not bellyache that racism allowed him to be taken as a serious Presidential candidate and able to get the press not to dismiss his delusional claims about President Obama.

      Add in ageism - anyone over 30 is suspect or over-the-hill in IT, and I believe (as a unsubstantiated guess) a fair number of blacks take longer to get a degree due to working, etc. Plus in IT, it's mostly about specific skills - you know this language, this web framework, this database, this cloud technology...  I disagree that EE or Mechanical Engineering are very transferable into IT jobs - you're going to be doing either programming or systems administration or other hard-core activity in an environment where they're continually downsizing & letting fewer employees do the wrk of more - there's not a lot of room to learn on the job, at least not the basics.

      But the "it's not who you know, it's who knows you" part seems accurate and very limiting.

      You can't do engineering if you can't program. Heck you can't do Sociology if you can't master the math to do statistics. 

      I remember Physics majors telling me they were better programmers than Computer Scientists. They weren't, even though for particular domains of Physics research some were quite competent at for example modeling fluids or handling nuclear reaction simulations - 1 example of programming, but only distantly related to what VMware or Google or Salesforce are doing. But in any case, when headhunters come calling, they want to know "do you know Ruby, Elkstack, Docker & AWS Cassandra", and pretty much anything that doesn't fit goes in the trash. There is 0 industry appetite for retraining people in anything. So yeah, if an Engineer can teach him/herself these skillsets, and put up a credible CV, they may get an interview. Or find a friend of a friend to push them forward in the process.

      BTW - how did we get so far away from Michael's thread? In this case, with the overload of Trump/Russia discussions, I don't particularly mind, but in general funny how these threads take off.

      It began with a complaint about blacks still bellyaching despite having "their" President for 8 years. I thought the complaint ignored the current situation ignored current phenomena like voter suppression, police abuse,, targeted high risk home loans, etc. The complain may have reflected anger because I repeatedly suggest that many whir voters won't return to the Democratic Party for the same type of racism that led many Southern whites to reject the Democrats after the Civil Rights bills.

      There are many recent books about backlash to black progress and why bellyaching persists including:

      "White Rage" by Carol Anderson and "Stamped From the Beginning" by Ibram Kendi. Both argue that black progress results in a racist pushback since black immigrants came in chains."Hillbilly Elegy" makes the argument that economic devastation and distrust of government explain the options whites have about the reason for their status.The book suggests racism is not a major factor. We all have tribal rationales.Black complaints are bellyaching. White complaints are justified. Both groups are fighting for crumbs.

      Chris Hayes and Bernie Sanders are doing a town hall in West Virginia tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how members of the town feel about Trump's first 50 days. 

      Regarding Michael Brown, there is new video footage that adds questions about what happened in the store prior to the homicide.


      hmmm,too bizarre, imma shutup now.

      Michael, I like this timeline. It's not so "gotcha!" as some of what's out there, in which a conversation is had and two days later the "proof" of the collusion is trotted out as if one led directly to the other. Real life, of course, is not like the movies, where people change their minds about things in a crucial moment, do so decisively, and the consequences are visible within a 96 minute run time. In the real world, people talk, they say nothing's changed, then they go off and think about things for awhile, and somewhere down the line, the force of their new thinking finds an issue to act on.

      I'd like to see more timeline events along these subtle lines. Who first used the phrase "World War 3" about the Ukraine, to Trump or his advisors, which ones, and how many times? It seems like a pretty specific turn of phrase that must have been burbling in Trump's mind for awhile (although with Trump's attention span maybe not.)

      Also, almost every public act represents some preparation, however mundane. When did each player make travel reservations, or call their grandmother to let her know they wouldn't be attending her 85th birthday party? And if they simply didn't show up at the party to avoid having to make up an excuse because the truth wouldn't work, that's a clue too.

      Will you be adding to this timeline?

      Thanks, Erica. It's great to see you back at dag. Good questions. I can't answer the 85th birthday party question, but I do have some relevant tidbits about Trump's ideas.

      He mentioned WWIII in September 2015, not in reference to Ukraine but Syria.

      "They want to start World War III over Syria. Give me a break," Trump said at the State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.

      "You know Russia wants to get ISIS right. We want to get ISIS. Russia’s in Syria. Maybe we should let them do it?," he continued. "Let them do it. What the hell are we crazy?"

      Trump tends to reuse stock expressions, so I suspect that don't-want-to-start-www3 is just one of his standard retorts to internationalists, than a thought-out geopolitical worldview. (Note: It's hard to search for this because of all the clutter from articles warning that Trump will start WWIII.)

      More interestingly, Trump also expressed support for Ukraine in September 2015:

      Trump was speaking to the Yalta European Strategy Forum, an annual gathering of politicians and businesspeople organised by Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk. Former UK prime minister Tony Blair is a frequent guest at the forum, and spoke on Friday in a discussion with former Israeli president Shimon Peres. Trump’s video link was subject to a delay of several seconds, which appeared to confuse Trump. Nevertheless, he was able to touch on a number of major foreign policy issues in his opening remarks.

      “My feeling toward the Ukraine and towards the entire area is very, very strong. I know many people that live in the Ukraine, they’re friends of mine, they’re fantastic people,” said Trump, who referred repeatedly to “the Ukraine”, apparently oblivious to the fact the use of the definite article when referring to the country is considered insulting by Ukrainians.

      Trump praised Germany’s decision to take in Syrian refugees and proposed creating a “safe zone some place in Syria” in order to stop the flow of migrants travelling to Europe.

      He criticised Germany and other European countries for not doing enough to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, however.

      “We will make statements and I think those statements will be honoured,” he said of a putative Trump policy towards Ukraine. “The fact is that the Ukraine is an amazing place. These are people who know what’s right and they’re not being treated right.”

      It was a change of tune from last month, when Trump said he “wouldn’t care” whether or not Nato accepted Ukraine as a member.

      “Viktor I’ve known for a long time and he is a tremendous guy,” said Trump of the Ukrainian oligarch, who is married to the daughter of Ukraine’s former president, Leonid Kuchma. “When he was up seeing me I said I think I can learn more from you than you can learn from me.”

      Trump spoke repeatedly about respect, noting that the world does not respect Barack Obama. He also accused Europe of lacking respect for Ukraine: “I don’t think that the Ukraine is given the proper respect from other parts in Europe. And this is a respect that the Ukraine deserves and they have proven this over many years,” he said, to a smattering of applause.

      When asked about what changes a President Trump would make to the US military he said: “Our military would be very, very strong. Hopefully to a point where we wouldn’t have to use it because frankly we are not respected to the same extent we were in the past.”

      Unfortunately, Trump’s video link was cut off before the assembled politicians had a chance to begin a question-and-answer session with the Republican frontrunner.

      So what happened between September 2015 and March 2016 to change Trump's point of view?

      Trump, March 2014: “We should definitely do sanctions and we have to show some strengths. I mean, Putin has eaten Obama’s lunch, therefore our lunch, for a long period of time,” Trump said. “I just hope that Obama, who’s not looking too good, doesn’t do something very foolish and very stupid to show his manhood.”

      On the other hand, Trump questioned Russia's responsibility for MH17 in October 2015.

      How easy it is for authoritarian liars to, at their convenience, flip the propaganda, (can't help it, but I read this guy's 1000 page diary.)

      Lingua tertii imperii - . August 29, 1939 - Lingua...there is no longer any talk of Bolshevists, but instead of the Russian people.

      [ Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, (August 23, 1939) ]


      I think you were more correct when you cited the vox populi on another thread. That is the main modus operandi of the charismatic populist to float with the wind. A totalitarian state may initially gain its power through populism, but after it gains power it might enforce ideology antithetical to the vox populi. Just struck me reading this March 12 piece from the NYT on Modi in India:

      Mr. Modi’s message has turned 180 degrees. In 2014, he promised “minimum government, maximum governance” — a streamlined administration that would not interfere in the private sector. He talked about attracting multinationals with tax breaks, about privatizing state companies and business-friendly land reforms. Now he speaks only of helping the poor, providing loan waivers to farmers, giving out free cylinders of gas and cleansing the system of corruption and the streets of filth.

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