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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

ENOUGH!

I have read with some bemusement the extended comments on this blog about the charges that Russia interfered with the American election.  At first I was put in mind of a fine old 1967 comedy, The President’s Analyst, starring James Coburn.  The plot is far too convoluted to summarize.  Suffice it to say that for most of the film, the story seems to be about a conflict between the FBI and the CIA.  The FBI agents are all identically dressed in dark suits, ties, and hats, are utterly humorless, and are all 4’11” tall.  The CIA agents are dressed in shaggy sweaters and tweed coats with elbow patches, and look like a gathering in a Senior Common Room of an elite private college.  In a brilliant dénoument, it is revealed that the real power behind the throne is neither the FBI nor the CIA but – wait for it – THE PHONE COMPANY.   I believe the whole thing is on YouTube.  It is lots of fun.

But then I thought, What am I supposed to make of these ever more convoluted speculations about false flag operations and political leanings of the FBI and the CIA, not to speak of the bizarre fantasy that Trump will achieve a rapprochement with the remnants of the old Soviet Union?  What do I know? 

Well, I do not know what the CIA wants [although I was once interviewed for a job by someone representing himself as a CIA recruiter.]  And I do not know what the FBI wants [although I have been interviewed twice by two somber men, claiming to be from the FBI, who were charged with determining whether I was sufficiently loyal to the United States to be trusted as a private in the United States Army.]

Did Russia attempt to interfere in the American election?  Of course it did.  How do I know?  Because it was in its interest to do so, and I assume it acts in its interest.

Where does this stop?  Did the Holocaust really happen?  Were six million Jews killed in the Death Camps?  I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.  Perhaps it is all a terrible slander on the noble German people.  I do know that twenty-one Jews were killed in the Death Camps.  How do I know?  Because they were my relatives.  Here are their names:

Bernard Zarembovitch
Marguarite Mendels
Juliette Zarembovitch
Lucienne Zarembovitch
Leontine Gutman
Leonie Zarembowitch
Salomon Zarembowitch
Hélène Zarembowitch
Isaac Gutman
Salomon Sidlovski
Isaac Waldmann
Rachel Sidlovski
Samuel Levy
Salomon Levy
Madeleine David
Henri Isaac Levy
Dora Levy
Rachel Weinstein
Fanny Ratzkovski
Leon Elkind
Sylvain Rochow

I suggest that we all stop this idle armchair quibbling and put our energies to trying in some way, any way, to make this a better world.  Which brings me to Jerry Fresia, but I am too angry to respond to his thoughtful and moving comment.  Sufficient unto the day …


29 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

Of course there were a lot of countries besides with an interest in interfering in the U.S election and with the technological know-how and the money to do so: China, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan, India, everybody in Europe, etc.

If we assume, as you claim, that countries with an interest in interfering in the election of another will do so if they have the ability to do so (and I accept that claim), then there was a whole of interfering going on and undoubtedly there has been a whole lot of interfering going on in previous elections.

Now I can think of a lot of reasons to single out Russian interference instead of, say, Indian interference, but the subject certainly seems worth discussing.


Ed Barreras said...

The CIA allegedly based its assessment on "an overwhelming swell of circumstantial evidence," per the New York Times. One wonders just how much of such evidence would satisfy those believers in the bizarre fantasy you allude to.

Now I'm just as motivated in my thinking as anyone, but I belive the reports, not least because the circumstantial evidence that's already known to the public is pretty overwhelming: T***p's businesses are entangled with Russian financiers in Putin's inner-circle, he wouldn't release his tax returns, Paul Manafort was basically on Putin's payroll, Exxon exec is new chief diplomat, T***p Jr. held private meetings with Russian officials over the summer, etc.

Also to place in the "circumstantial" bin: the fact that Putin is viewed as something of a hero in the Neo-Nazi alt-Right circles, which headed by the minority-president-elect's new chief advisor. They view Putin as a white Ubermesch protector of "Western values."

Chris said...

This is, simply put, a straw man and a false equivocation.

At least be open minded to the other side please:

https://theintercept.com/2016/12/10/anonymous-leaks-to-the-washpost-about-the-cias-russia-beliefs-are-no-substitute-for-evidence/

Daniel Langlois said...

I suggest we put our energies into idle armchair quibbling. ;)

Daniel Langlois said...

I'm just personally actually highly amused by the phrase 'idle armchair quibbling'.

Interlocutor: What is the relationship between logic and truth?
Reply: Who cares!! details details!! what are you an economist?

As to the matter at hand, I get that the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing U.S. officials briefed on the matter etc. Democrats and some Republicans in Congress are calling for a full investigation into Russia's election year activities. The White House said Obama has ordered intelligence agencies to review cyber attacks and foreign intervention etc., and deliver a report before he leaves office.

Anonymous said...

Remember that across intelligence agencies there is complete agreement that Russia was involved in the hacking of the DNC. The only issue under dispute concerns Russia's motives. The CIA has publicly endorsed the position that Russia intended to swing the election in favor of Trump. Whatever motives you think the CIA may have, their judgment fully comports with my understanding of recent political events.

Chris said...

"Remember that across intelligence agencies there is complete agreement that Russia was involved in the hacking of the DNC. The only issue under dispute concerns Russia's motives."

That doesn't follow. They also universally agree there is a war on terror and we need to forego civil liberties to pursue it. Neither has been established by anything close to legitimate evidence. They also claimed Assange and Snowden damaged clandestine operations against terrorist and led to the death of US lives, but can't produce that evidence either. So, in this case, like all others, if all these intelligence agencies (including the coast guard!) say Russia hacked the DNC, could we get any proof beyond word on mouth? Moreover, hacking the DNC and hacking the vote are two different things. Can we get some kind of hacking log? Some IP reports? A tapped phone call? A DDOS report? Something even my local internet service provider could offer... Anything?

How telling that we believe the intelligence agencies when it's in the Democrat's favor, but for everything else everyone is skeptical. Pretty partisan pattern. And when people like Jerry or myself point out some pretty low hanging fruit requests, we are told to just be quiet and equivocated with Holocaust deniers? Ugh what has 'the left' come to.

Daniel Langlois said...

'Did Russia attempt to interfere in the American election? Of course it did. How do I know? Because it was in its interest to do so, and I assume it acts in its interest.'

Wow, just wow. How do you know? You don't.

Daniel Langlois said...

I hope the questions do eventually get harder than whether there is a war on terror. US declaring and waging a war on “terror” makes a war on terror.

We might have a discussion about the way the war on terror has been conducted, and how this has led to many voicing concerns about the impact on civil liberties. Then again, there are other concerns, too -- the cost of the additional security focused changes, the implications of the invasions and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan..one may ask, what has the US to show for its decade of effort? Has it been winning the war on terror?

Anonymous said...

Fact 1: Even if we had the evidence related to the hacking before us, most of us are not competent to assess it.
Fact 2: Regardless of your view of the agency, if any agency is competent to make that assessment, it's the CIA.

The point is that among intelligence agencies, the disagreement is about the motive behind the hacking, not whether or not it was done by Russia. No one privy to the evidence apparently doubts that it's a Russian operation. You can talk about doubting all intelligence organizations tout court, but that is a different issue. I would recommend you not let your healthy distrust of authority muddle your judgment.

Daniel Langlois said...

Just because a person's got a motive doesn't mean they're guilty. I heard that somewhere -- and I recall it was actually in 'A Few Good Men'. So okay, put that on a t-shirt maybe.

For me, the larger point would be whether it is difficult to see that Marx's logic, like Hegel's logic, isn't terribly good. What is 'Marx's logic?' This sort of thing: A drop in the rate of profit is attended by a rise in the minimum capital required by an individual capitalist for the productive employment of labour; required both for its exploitation generally, and for making the consumed labour-time suffice as the labour-time necessary for the production of the commodities, so that it does not exceed the average social labour-time required for the production of the commodities..anyways, it's like this..There is a certain very vocal school of defenders of High Culture who look about themselves today and see a wasteland. I agree with that conclusion. If you don't know that marx's logic isn't terribly good, then you don't know. I advertised a larger point, I guess we got a *much* larger point!

Chris said...

Anonymous, Fact 1 and 2 are red herrings though. According to the NYTimes:

"The C.I.A.’s conclusion does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election, several American officials, including some who had read the agency’s briefing, said on Sunday. Rather, it was an analysis of what many believe is overwhelming circumstantial evidence — evidence that others feel does not support firm judgments — that the Russians put a thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump, and got their desired outcome."

So even the CIA itself is doubtful of its own evidence. Thus Fact 1-2 are red herrings!

And:

"And yet, there is skepticism within the American government, particularly at the F.B.I., that this evidence adds up to proof that the Russians had the specific objective of getting Mr. Trump elected."

Source:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/11/us/politics/cia-judgment-intelligence-russia-hacking-evidence.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1


So I repeat, asking for SOME evidence, is NOT TANTAMOUNT to HOLOCAUST DENIAL (despite Professor Wolff's aggressive assertions to the contrary). If the CIA can doubt its own claims, and the NYTimes can doubt them, why can't the readers of this blog doubt them until evidence is put forward?

Chris said...

" No one privy to the evidence apparently doubts that it's a Russian operation."

Except for the very people privy to the evidence.
Jesus....

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength!

Anonymous said...

I don't see your point. Fact 1 and Fact 2 are about responsibility. Again, the disagreement is about motive, not responsibility. So even if you think the CIA has the wrong judgment about motive, you have no strong basis to doubt that Russia was responsible, barring some independent evidence that you have.

Jerry Fresia said...

Your list of names was so powerful. Difficult to read, even - wondering, imagining each of their horrible misfortunes, as my eyes seemed to feel and touch the letters in each of their names. Did you know most of them personally? It is fitting that you posted their names. In an odd way, for a fleeting moment, they are again alive, speaking to us, reminding us silently, profoundly.

s. wallerstein said...

Chris certainly has a point when he says that it's weird that people who don't trust the CIA suddenly decide to trust it when it says something that agrees with what they want to believe.

David Palmeter said...

I think saying you do or do not trust the CIA at all times in all places on all issues is oversimplifying. One thing worth looking at is ostensible motive--why would the CIA want to make this up? To the contrary, my guess is that they'd prefer not to begin the next 4 years with the President outraged at them. I also note reports that all of the intelligence agencies agree on the fact of Russian hacking and selective disclosure. This disagreement is over intent--did the Russians intend to help Trump or not? Putin's preferring Trump to Clinton makes a lot of sense to me.

Tom Cathcart said...

I'm speechless. Why does starting an investigation require hard evidence? It's not like we're basing an action---like, say, declaring war on Russia---on circumstantial evidence. We're talking about starting an investigation!! If we had incontrovertible evidence, we wouldn't NEED an investigation.

Chris said...

Wrong question David. The question is why would news outlets, political operatives, and partisan players want to amplify and augment a story which in fact states:

"The C.I.A.’s conclusion does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election, several American officials, including some who had read the agency’s briefing, said on Sunday. Rather, it was an analysis of what many believe is overwhelming circumstantial evidence — evidence that others feel does not support firm judgments — that the Russians put a thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump, and got their desired outcome."

So even the CIA itself is doubtful of its own evidence. Thus Fact 1-2 are red herrings!

And:

"And yet, there is skepticism within the American government, particularly at the F.B.I., that this evidence adds up to proof that the Russians had the specific objective of getting Mr. Trump elected."

Source:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/11/us/politics/cia-judgment-intelligence-russia-hacking-evidence.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1

Chris said...

"Why does starting an investigation require hard evidence?"

Because escalating tensions with Russia is reckless, and could be one of many catalysts for eventual war.

Anonymous said...

For the 1,000th time, you don't need to trust the CIA at all to accept that Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC. The only unique thing that the CIA is claiming is that Russia hacked the DNC in order to tip the election in favor of Trump. And if you believe the latter, you don't need to do so because of the CIA's conclusion. You might reasonably think so given the numerous connections between Trump's aides, advisors, and Russia.

"Because escalating tensions with Russia is reckless, and could be one of many catalysts for eventual war."


And escalating tensions with China isn't?

Ed Barreras said...

Chris, Tom's point, I gather, was that overwhelming circumstantial evidence can be reason to open an investigation. Suppose this evidence were made available and you personally found it compelling. Would you still insist that we should drop the issue because of the potential for eventual war? In that case, why keep insisting that the public see the evidence? Why not just admit that the possiblity for a very bad outcome is sufficient reason to put a lid on the whole thing?

And how far do we extend this principle? Suppose there were overwhelming circumstantial evidence that voting machines were hacked. Should we not investigate that for fear of the civil unrest that might result?

Also, regarding the NYT report, in the phrase "others feel [the evidence] does not support firm judgments," it's not clear that "others" refers to people within the CIA.

Anonymous said...

Here is the case made in the NYT.

Tom Cathcart said...


"Because escalating tensions with Russia is reckless, and could be one of many catalysts for eventual war."

Chris, isn't that sort of like a George Wallace-type argument for not aggressively investigating racial murders: might escalate tensions with the white population, maybe even cause a race war?

Unlike your example of Belize, there's lots of circumstantial evidence that Russia tried to make mischief, even if they weren't motivated by preferring a particular candidate.

1) European countries have claimed that it happened to them in their elections.
2) Some significant portion of the intelligence community and the FBI thinks the dots connect.
3) Unlike Belize, there's plausible motive for Putin preferring Trump: "useful idiot;" opening for Russia to exploit their financial entanglements with Trump (with deliberate obfuscation of that issue by Trump's refusal to divulge his tax records); Trump's mysterious support of Putin; Hillary's support for sanctions.

None of this is, of course, anywhere near conclusive, but the stakes here are very high. If we can't trust the results of our elections, or even the freedom of the process from foreign intrusion, and we don't even ask questions about it because we're afraid we'll upset the balance of power, then God help us.

Chris said...

"And escalating tensions with China isn't?"
False disjunct, I never supported such a thing, and it's not reasonable to presume I do. You either support tensions with Russia or China is like saying a Zebra is either black or white. Please.

"Suppose this evidence were made available and you personally found it compelling. Would you still insist that we should drop the issue because of the potential for eventual war? "

No I wouldn't.

"In that case, why keep insisting that the public see the evidence? Why not just admit that the possiblity for a very bad outcome is sufficient reason to put a lid on the whole thing?"

Two reasons.
1: because every second of every day there's a possibility of numerous bad outcomes. I could have ran my car accidentally into the woman who will cure cancer today, so I best not drive - since it's possible. It's not a 'sufficient' reason.
2: Because the Obama administration has been one of the most clandestine administrations (if not the most clandestine) in history. Prosecuting more people under the espionage act than all previous administrations combined, and aggressively pursuing whistleblowers. We need a shift in transparency, accountability, and public democracy. I'm all for investigating and double checking elections IF AND WHEN evidence is provided, not WORD OF MOUTH from state institutions notorious for their lying and double-handedness. If this was Bush, Cheney, or Nixon making the same accusations, I suspect I would be reading fundamentally different comments from people here.

I agree with Stein, Sanders, and anyone that thinks we should of course verify and double check all election results. I wouldn't be slightly surprised if election rigging took place from the DNC, Clinton's cronies like Brock, Russia, the RNC, Venezuela, or as Trump put it, some 400lb kid in his bed on a laptop. But, ever since Clinton started losing ground there has been a rapid increase in an old-school cold war mentality to see Russia and Putin behind EVERYTHING, even when the evidence 1) doesn't exist to support the claim (e.g., Assange got all his leaks from Russia, Snowden is a Russian sleeper agent), or 2) is circumstantial E.g., this case), or 3) there's better evidence to account for the phenomenon needing explanation (e.g., the Podesta leaks are accountable in terms of Podesta losing his cell in a taxi, and falling prey to an e-mail phishing scam). And that is dangerous, and escalationist (I know that's not a real word).

Please read:
https://theintercept.com/2016/10/11/in-the-democratic-echo-chamber-inconvenient-truths-are-recast-as-putin-plots/

Tom comparing the black community and white police, to Russia is apples to tricycles (even oranges are too similar). The power differentials, geopolitical relationship, and nuclear arsenal, render the two not equatable.



I see per usual Professor Wolff, instead of discussing the reasoned argument I put forward (be it right or wrong, it's earnest with premises and a conclusion) has resorted to ad hominem again in this morning's post. Unnecessary. There's not I'm saying that derides from a closed off ideology. I'm engaging in the same evidence everyone else, is deriving different conclusions. If my conclusions are erred I'm open to being shown how, and where, the err occurs. I'm not as open to attacks on my character though.

Chris said...

https://theintercept.com/2016/12/14/heres-the-public-evidence-russia-hacked-the-dnc-its-not-enough/

Ed Barreras said...

Chris, I'm not quite clear. Are you for or against a congressional investigation? Earlier I you indicated that you weren't, for the reason that it may escalate tensions.

Anonymous said...

I was not making the following claim: if you don't support an investigation in Russia, you support escalating tensions with China. That would be an absurd claim. The reason I brought up China is because I think it's ridiculous to focus on some hypothetical conflict with Russia that might be caused by an investigation while Trump is instigating an actual one with China.

Suppose there were two rival teams of doctors secretly surveilling your every move and collecting biostatistical information about you without your cognizance. The two rival teams both come to the conclusion that you have pathogen X, but disagree about whether you acquired pathogen X from carrier A or from carrier B. Representatives from both teams come before you and say "You have pathogen X, but Team P believes it was acquired from carrier A, while Team Q believes it was acquired from carrier B." For whatever reason, they do not show you the charts or the test results. Suppose, further, one of the doctors is known to you as a generally cruel and vicious person: perhaps he has engaged in dangerous experiments on his patients without their consent in the past. However, you do know that both doctors have the relevant expertise and competence to make the diagnosis. It would seem to me that, in this case, you still have at least a prima facie reason to believe you have pathogen X, regardless of your doubts about whether it came from carrier A or carrier B. If you agree, and if the analogy holds, then it follows that there is a prima facie reason to believe that Russia was involved in hacking the DNC, regardless of your doubts about whether it was to tip the scale in favor of Trump (as the CIA concluded) or merely to promote mayhem (as the FBI concluded).

Chris said...

I am for the investigation into a SPECIFICALLY RUSSIAN HACK if evidence beyond circumstantial speculation is presented that Russia played a role in the rigging of the election. Otherwise, yes I worry it's unnecessary escalation.