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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

READING THE TEA LEAVES

We have all been wallowing in schadenfreude over Jeff Sessions’ discomfiture.  I say, in wartime, you take your pleasures where you can find them.  But if I may, I should like to wax at least semi-serious for a moment regarding the Russia connection.  It is genuinely weird, and for someone like me who remembers the Cold War vividly, truly bizarre.  That American politicians and their advisors should be playing footsie with Russians is strange enough, but that the politicians should be Republicans is really Alice-Through-The-Looking-Glass cognitively unsettling.  The Russians?  Not the Germans, or the British, or the French, or even the Chinese, but the Russians?  North Koreans would be even weirder, but only a little.  What on earth is going on?

I can think of only three plausible explanations, ranging from scrimy to Manchurian Candidate.  Here they are:

Explanation 1:   Trump got wind of Russian hacking and with a wink and a nod intimated his willingness to talk up the delights of Putin, the legitimacy of the invasion of Crimea and Ukraine, and the outdatedness of NATO in return for help in winning the election.

Explanation 2:    Trump out and out cut a deal with the Russians to do all of the above, no winks and nods involved, just a straight-up deal by the pseudo-author of The Art of the Deal.

Explanation 3:     Trump is a bought and paid for Russian asset, purchased by loans from Russian Oligarchs [I love that phrase], and kept in line in return for debt forgiveness for the six hundred million or more that Trump has borrowed from the Oligarchs to prop up his perpetually failing business.

Where lies the truth?  My guess, based on the available evidence and strained through the tea leaves, is door number three.


Any opinions?

44 comments:

Chris said...

You forgot explanation 4: This is borderline cold-war mentality coming from the democrats, and there is no Oz behind the magical curtain.


Meeting with an ambassador, or talking to one over the phone, is not definitive evidence of moral culpability or treasonous guilt.

Let's not jump to incriminate people, be they republicans, or otherwise.

David E said...

There is a fourth option. The new administration is first and foremost a kleptocracy. To me the most reasonable explanation is that all the Russian dealings involving Trump and Kushner and Manafort were to benefit real estate and consulting efforts. As other players, like Sessions, came on board, some of them might have helped to either grease wheels or make discreet inquiries into whether previous bargaining was going to be a problem. Wheeling and dealing and playing cleanup.

There is a part of me that refuses to believe that even THIS administration would stoop so low as to make political deals with the hegemonic competition. I fervently hope it's all been greed and not treason.

Chris said...

For those that think explanations 1-3 are live options, please read the following:

https://medium.com/theyoungturks/the-basic-formula-for-every-shocking-russia-trump-revelation-e9ae390d9f05#.x1krneksm

David Palmeter said...

I tend to agree with #3. One plausible explanation for his refusal to make his tax returns public is that they would show a lot of financing from Russian banks. I hadn't though of loan forgiveness of some sort, and that certainly is a possibility.

Chris said...

Or he's just not as rich as he says....And revealing this fact would hurt his inflated mask of self-esteem.

s. wallerstein said...

I think that if Trump were a Russian asset, he would be so valuable to them that they would have told him to keep a lower profile about Russia, not to say good things about Putin during the debates, maybe even to criticize Putin from time to time. Can you imagine what that would mean to Putin to have a Russian agent in the White House? So if we assume that Putin is a very professional intelligence guy, he'd have instructed Trump to hide their ties more professionally.

Ed Barreras said...

I have an aunt who's a fairly typical right-winger. On her Facebook -- which represents most of the contact I have with her -- she mostly posts pictures cutesy crochet projects and maudlin "uplift" memes with a Christian inflection. But every so often she'll post some dumb meme taking a shot at "the libruhls."

I remember one of these that she posted back during Russia's incursion into Crimea, when Obama was being heavily criticized -- especially by the right -- for his supposed passivity in the face of Putin's aggression. It was a picture of Putin over the caption "Barack Obama? Never heard of her." Putting aside the racism and sexism, what's interesting about this is the manifest admiration for Putin, who's percieved as bold and manly even while he's supposed to be our geopolitical foe.

Why is the right playing footsie with Putin? Well, first, they like the fact that he allegedly (probably) brought down Clinton. They get to impose their agenda, and that's all that matters. But also there's the fact that Putin is an authoritarian kleptocrat with imperialist ambitions who seems intent on keeping his majority-white country free from the scourge of tolerance for LGBT people and other minorities, and who generally displays contempt for liberalism and the rule of law. In other words, he's their ideal leader.

David Palmeter said...

Chris, S. Wallerstein, Ed Barreras--good points all.

Chris said...

I can't repeat this enough. There is NO SMOKING GUN for the FOLLOWING accusation that people on this blog, in the papers, on tv, and across the Democratic party, repeat ad nauseum:

"the fact that he allegedly (probably) brought down Clinton"

But even if we assume Vladimir Putin loaded up his Microsoft Laptop, hacked John Podesta (who also left his e-mail phone unattended in a taxi cab for hours), and then e-mailed Julian Assange directly "Hey bro, check this shit out", Hillary's LOSS does not fall on Putin's shoulders. The fact that there was stuff in Hillary's e-mail that was damnable to Hillary, is the fault of Hillary and her staff, NOT PUTIN.******

Moreover, to go against the leaking of powerful players e-mails DURING ELECTION TIME IS TO IMPLICITLY ENDORSE A LOW INFORMATION/NOT FULLY INFORMED election result.ººººº The fact that MORE INFORMATION led to a DECLINE IN SUPPORT FOR HILLARY is a GOOD PRODUCT OF DEMOCRACY, NOT A NEGATIVE. I imagine if we hacked Bernie Sander's e-mail, it would be boring to say the least and would have near zero impact on his voter turnout.

This cold war liberalism has got to stop. Due process is not a value to give up. Access to Information is not a value to give up. Party over morality is immoral.


****** I do not support Putin. I do not support Trump. Do not read the above as an endorsement of either, because it isn't. Nor am I a Russian plant, or taking money from the Russians. I'm just someone who likes due process, and open access to information of my rulers. Values the left once held until it became partisan.

ººººº I wish Trump and his team had their e-mails leaked, not because I hate Trump (I do), but because it would have made voting for him a MORE informed decision.
------------

Chris said...

Thank you David!

Ed Barreras said...

Chris, how is that article supposed to convince us that 1-3 are not live options? To say that something is a live option is to say that it's possibly true, and 1-3 still seem to me possibly true. The article doesn't really attempt to argue otherwise. Rather it's a plea for skepticism regarding the flare-ups in the Russia story. And if you ask me, it doesn't even succeed in that regard.

The author points to Claire McCaskill as someone who ended up looking "foolish," but he doesn't mention that McCaskill's meeting with the Russian ambassador, which took place more than 3 years ago, was attended by a dozen other Senators. This is quite different than Sessions, at the time a top advisor to the T***p campaign, meeting privately one-on-one with the ambassador a month before the election, when the Russia hacking story was being heavily covered in the media. And evidently, it's standard practice for note-takers to be present on both sides during such meetings. But so far Sessions's office says they don't have any notes, and Sessions now says he doesn't remember what was discussed during the meeting.

Also relevant to this discussion, vis-a-vis the tax returns, is the fact that established banks won't loan to T***p, and Donald Jr. is on record saying that "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of our assets."

But it would take too long to rehearse all the evidence that, at the very least, 1-3 are live options.

Chris said...

"Chris, how is that article supposed to convince us that 1-3 are not live options?"

It wasn't.

As you say: "The article doesn't really attempt to argue otherwise. Rather it's a plea for skepticism "

Seeing has Wolff had NO option 4 with skepticism in it, I thought the article would help in exactly your assessment.


Everything else is circumstantial evidence, not enough to be confident in 1-3, and forego skepticism for 4.

I'm not saying, and never had said, Trump is innocent of Russian Collusion. But I stand by this:

"This cold war liberalism has got to stop. Due process is not a value to give up. Access to Information is not a value to give up. Party over morality is immoral."

s. wallerstein said...

Chris,

This is a blog, not a trial.

That is, we are only speculating about the nature of Trump's link to Russia. We are not trying him nor do we have the power to do so. Thus, we need not follow due process.

I agree with you that "party over morality is immoral", even though being tribal from time to time is one of life's great pleasures.

Ed Barreras said...

Chris, I could not disagree more with almost everything you said.

First: If I thought there was a smoking gun, I wouldn't have said that Putin "probably" brought down Clinton. I would have said that he certainly did.

Second: Assuming Putin is responsible for the hack, I think it's perfectly accurate to say that he "brought down" Clinton -- meaning simply that his actions were the proximate causal agent in her political demise.

Third: Suppose it's discovered that T***p himself knew that the Russians had the DNC/Podesta emails and planned to leak them so as to inflict maximal damage on Clinton. But suppose that there was no direct evidence of quid pro quo. That is, no statement of T***p saying "if you release the emails, we'll do your bidding." Rather, there was merely an implicit understanding that he was their guy, and they would help him win.

Would this constitute an impeachable offense by your lights? It seems that it wouldn't, since the minority-president could just argue that it was a good thing the Russians released information on Clinton. It was ultimately in the public's interest, and if he just happened to be the beneficiary of that action, well then so be it.

Fourth: I entirely disagree with the following statement: "The fact that MORE INFORMATION led to a DECLINE IN SUPPORT FOR HILLARY is a GOOD PRODUCT OF DEMOCRACY, NOT A NEGATIVE." In fact, I think it's false to say that the electorate -- all 120+ million of them -- were better informed as a result of the DNC/Podesta leaks. People are ill-informed in general, and a great deal of what they "know" is filtered through the media as well as the spin emanating from the various campaigns. And insofar as people were led to believe, because of the leaked emails, that Clinton was just as corrupt/bad/dangerous as T***p, democracy was ill-served.

If I had those emails in front of me and could make the decision to leak them or not, I wouldn't. I would destroy them. To understand why, I commend to you Brian Leiter's "The Case Against Free Speech."* One thing Leiter points out is that although we tend to reflexively think of "epistemic paternalism" as a bad thing, we have in fact institutionalized it at the level of our federal courts.

For example, a judge might withhold evidence from a jury (say, an especially gruesome crime scene photo) if he thinks it will unduly prejudice their judgement, even if such evidence is germane to establishing a defendant' guilt or innocence. And, Leiter asks, if we accept such epistemic paternalism in our courts, where at most a few lives are at stake, why wouldn't we accept it in our elections, where the fate of the Republic is potentially at stake? This is not an argument that's easily dismissed.

*
http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1931&context=public_law_and_legal_theory

Ed Barreras said...

Also, I grew up in a union household whose founding member was actually prosecuted for alleged commie sympathies. So find it vaguely nauseating when people compare the present situation to the Cold War.

And it seems to me that the true advocates for due process are the people calling for an independent counsel to look into the Russia connection.

Howard said...

What would Ronald Reagan say? It's impossible to imagine even George W. Bush's Republican party going along for the ride or such a large swath of the public. Something, or a few things must have changed and it isn't just Trump

Chris said...

"This is a blog, not a trial.

That is, we are only speculating about the nature of Trump's link to Russia. We are not trying him nor do we have the power to do so. Thus, we need not follow due process."

That's fine, but no one is speculating anything skeptical. Speculation is beginning with guilt, not both guilt and innocence. Trial or not, that's seriously problematic until a smoking gun emerges.
-------------
First, the move from allegedly to probably is not a sound one.

Second: " I think it's perfectly accurate to say that he "brought down" Clinton -- meaning simply that his actions were the proximate causal agent in her political demise. "

So Clinton isn't the proximate cause of her own downfall? All the legitimate concerns about ties to wall street, appointing top level positions to Clinton Foundation donors, being a total robotic phony, legitimate concerns about her servers (of course some were illegitimate), her hawkishness, her policy shifting, those aren't proximate causes? Give me a break. That's partisan crap. Clinton's downfall was over-determined. Singular causality here is nonsense.

Third: There's a distinction between letting a man in power of another country wink and nod to influence an election, and the benefit of information distribution of those in power. Should Trump have said something if that happened, yeah probably. Should he be impeached for it? Yeah probably. At this point I'm ready to impeach him just for his mannerisms, let alone his heinous policies, general incompetence, etc. Did I benefit from the leaks too though? Yes. Did all voters? Yes. Because information in a democracy is plus, not a minus [keep in mind Hillary has done the same wink-nod you funnel info/money here, I'll look out for you game too - doubt you'd be typing away for her impeachment].

"In fact, I think it's false to say that the electorate -- all 120+ million of them -- were better informed as a result of the DNC/Podesta leaks. People are ill-informed in general, and a great deal of what they "know" is filtered through the media as well as the spin emanating from the various campaigns. And insofar as people were led to believe, because of the leaked emails, that Clinton was just as corrupt/bad/dangerous as T***p, democracy was ill-served."

Is literally what Trump says/does regarding alternative facts. You want to dictate how people receive and mediate empirical data? Christ. More information is good. How people take it in is problematic, but saying because they didn't take it in the same as you is BAD FOR DEMOCRACY teeters on a rather fascistic principle.

"If I had those emails in front of me and could make the decision to leak them or not, I wouldn't. I would destroy them. To understand why, I commend to you Brian Leiter's "The Case Against Free Speech."* One thing Leiter points out is that although we tend to reflexively think of "epistemic paternalism" as a bad thing, we have in fact institutionalized it at the level of our federal courts. "

Gross. Fascist.
I feel like Wolff's example, sitting across from an apartheid supporter, how otherwise was quite intelligible. I don't recognize the world you live in, and I don't want to participate in it. Politically, you're definitely my enemy, and you've chosen, as Wolff would say, the wrong side.

s. wallerstein said...

Chris,

Is Ed really a fascist in your opinion? Is he really your enemy?

From where I sit, you both seem like potential allies. Both supported Bernie Sanders, for example, and I'm sure that you both agree on 92 out of 100 selected political and social issues.

Ed Barreras said...

Chris,

You haven't presented any counter-arguments to Leiter. In fact you haven't read his article. So it's pointless to go on. But I wonder, do you think the federal rules of evidence are "gross and fascist"?

Here's a thought experiment. Suppose the Russians came to you before the election and said they had Hillary's emails and T***p's emails, but they were only going to give you Hillary's, and it was up to you to decide whether to release them or not. T***p's emails would remain with them under wraps. Would you release Hillary's emails? Perhaps you would. But it seems to me that a reasonable person could just as easily decide that such a situation would be fundamentally unfair -- that it wouldn't serve the interest of transparency so much as it would amount to a handicap for T***p. And so they'd decide not to release the emails. This would be an example of epistemic paternalism. It would cut against the principle of the-more-information-the-better. And it would be entirely justified.

Ed Barreras said...

And by the way, if you had read Leiter's article, you would see that it's conclusion is the exact opposite of fascism. He says that while in principle we do need an "epistemic arbiter" for our politics (the equivalent of the role a judge serves with respect to a jury), in practice it would be nearly impossible to insistute one. So we must err on the side of freedom, while perhaps taking some cautious actions at the margins.

Again, you would only know that if you had read the article.

Furthermore, you called me fascist for saying that I wouldn't have released illegally obtained, private information that evidenced no prosecutable offense -- and that I wouldn't have done so for the sake of keeping an actual fascist from high office. I call that being reasonable.

Anonymous said...

From where I sit, you both [Chris or Ed Barreras] seem like potential allies. Both supported Bernie Sanders, for example, and I'm sure that you both agree on 92 out of 100 selected political and social issues.

I'm not Chris or Ed Barreras and I'm not taking sides in their discussion, although I'm not indifferent to it.

My question is to S. Wallerstein. Is it enough for two sides to agree on many/most things to be potential allies, even if they disagree on a few extremely important things?

I ask that because Chris and Ed Barreras disagree on subjects that I suppose leftists would consider fundamental: one represents a more democratic stance, the other a more paternalistic one (even though it fits better, I know you don't like the word elitist, so paternalistic it is).

Chris said...

"Is Ed really a fascist in your opinion? Is he really your enemy?"

Yes, deference to power is a sickness.

Also, even if we come to the same conclusions (e.g., Go Bernie) how we got there is equally important. For instance, if someone agrees with me that there's an earthquake in Haiti, but I think it's due to weather patterns, and they think it's due to God's judgment, we have problems....
------------
Ed, because I haven't rushed to read a philosophers essay in the past half hour or so doesn't place me in a position to not comment on our STARK differences in political positioning. Yeah, I would leak the info******. Similarly if a tech industry Apple/Google type, loyal to the Clinton machine (e.g., eric schmidt) offered me only Trump's e-mail, but had both, I would leak that too. Because I'm not a partisan hack. I actually believe in an informed democracy, with open information, checks on real power, etc. Negative consequences will occur, but that's part of being open to democracy.

I know what paternalism is. Not a fan. We've had a long history of paternalism for non-white races, for non-male genders, for people of a lower income, for people of another culture, etc. It's always a disaster. You can espouse it for those democratic citizens, but I'm not hopping on board. As Kant would say, you can't universalize being a democratic selectivist (made up word) when its convenient for just you.

[None of these thought experiments avoids the fact that Hillary's downfall was overdetermined, not uni-determined.]

"Furthermore, you called me fascist for saying that I wouldn't have released illegally..."

The thought experiment contained NOTHING about legal consequences, so that's a variable you can't introduce later. No, I wouldn't leak either if the consequences were foreseeable jail for me. More because I'm a chicken, and less because I think legality is indicative of morality. If the reason you won't leak is JUST BECAUSE IT'S ILLEGAL, that's rather silly. If the reason you won't leak is fearing foreseeable jail, that's reasonable, but not included in the thought experiment.

****** I do not support Putin. I do not support Trump. Do not read the above as an endorsement of either, because it isn't. Nor am I a Russian plant, or taking money from the Russians. I'm just someone who likes due process, and open access to information of my rulers. Values the left once held until it became partisan.

-------------------

Wallerstein, forgot to tell you a while back, I do think the SF Novel Solaris aspires to the greatness you've found in non-sci-fi work.

Chris said...

Anon, I'm a libertarian socialist. Hence my horror at state paternalism, and deference to power.

s. wallerstein said...

First of all, thanks, Chris, for suggesting a SF novel which aspires to greatness. I haven't read it, but maybe I will some day.

For Chris and Anonymous,

Politics seem to be about reaching certain objectives. I agree with Chris that means are important as well as ends, but what Ed Barreras says about withholding
Clinton's emails doesn't seem to me to be so horrendous. I probably would have released Clinton's emails myself, but then again, I'm not likely to ever be in a position of so much political responsibility. I also would say that looking back on my life (I'm almost 71), I tend to err on the side of being excessively truthful and frank (aka having a big mouth). Sometimes being less frank and truthful is a good idea, although as I said, I would have released Clinton's emails. Total disclosure: I detest Hillary Clinton as well as Bill and have detested them for years and that may distort my political judgement about them.

Anyway, in politics there's a main enemy or several main enemies in a society as complex as the U.S. today and I'd say off-hand that the main enemies or some of the main enemies in the U.S. today are Trumpism, neoliberalism, racism, homophobia and sexism. It seems that anyone who is truly against Trumpism, neoliberalism, racism, homophobia and sexism (I may have left something out, but you get the idea) is on my side and is a potential ally. I'm not going to worry about their motives, how they arrived at that position or whether they share my intense dislike of Hillary Clinton, the New York Times editorial and op ed pages and, yes, of cold-war anti-communism. Quite the contrary, I'll welcome them aboard because we need all the support we can get.

Ed Barreras said...

Chris, I have no idea what you're talking about when you say "deference to power." I wanted Clinton to win not because I was eager to submit to her superior wisdom, but because I thought she offered the best hope for achieving my desired political ends -- and not only that, but the alternative, as we've seen, is something approaching actual fascism! You bring up paternlaism against non-whites, etc. Well guess what. All that's coming back with a vengeance. And there's no guarantee that we'll be able to stop it. That is frightening, and it's another reason why I supported Clinton, who was MUCH the lesser of the two evils.

Also, you seem to be confused by my reference to "illegally obtained communications," thinking I was somehow making reference to legal consequences for someone who disseminates leaked material. In fact, none of the media outlets that published Clinton's emails are under the least threat of sanctions for doing so. Which is as it should be. Rather, I was only intending to reference one reason why I, personally, would not choose to disseminate the leaked emails if given the chance. You said this makes me a fascist; I'll let anyone who might be reading this to decide whether you're right or just being hysterical. (You're being hysterical) And yes, it is appropriate to point out that you hadn't read Leiter's article, since that was the context in which you called me a fascist, when in fact Leiter's conclusion is the very opposite of fascism, as I explained. (Also, you didn't answer whether you consider the federal rules of evidence a form of fascism, as they absolutely institute a form of paternalism.)



Ed Barreras said...

S. Wallerstein, Thanks for being reasonable, as always.

Chris said...

Another serious worry Wallerstein is the constant removal closure of access to information in the state, sentencing of whistle blowers, states secrets clauses, etc. I consider this on par with many of the other issues you mentioned. We have a total loss of privacy for the citizenry, and a total shadow government in terms of executive decision making.
------------
I started calling you a fascist here (which was before Leiter):
"In fact, I think it's false to say that the electorate -- all 120+ million of them -- were better informed as a result of the DNC/Podesta leaks. People are ill-informed in general, and a great deal of what they "know" is filtered through the media as well as the spin emanating from the various campaigns. And insofar as people were led to believe, because of the leaked emails, that Clinton was just as corrupt/bad/dangerous as T***p, democracy was ill-served."

Ed Barreras said...

Chris, this is getting tiresome. But for accuracy's sake, you said the above "teeters on a rather fascistic principle." The Leiter reference was what elicited the actual shriek of "fascism." And in any case what I said above is absolutely consonant with the points Leiter makes in his article (and I note that you didn't answer his challenge about the federal rules of evidence), so the point stands. I will grant you one thing, though: there is something profoundly anti-Kantian in this argument. But let me clue you in on something -- and this will come as a shock so be sure you're seated -- not everyone who disagrees with Kant's ethics is a fascist.

Chris said...

No, but people terrified of others autonomy who seek to control it via paternalism are fascistic.

Ed Barreras said...

The idea, again, is that we should err on the side of liberty while still recognizing that some non-state institutions, such as Fox News, are not entirely benign; nor are they committed to facilitating some unproblematic notion of human autonomy. I suppose by "fascistic" you mean anyone who disagrees with you on these points. That's fine, I guess. On the giant Venn Diagram representing Brian Leiter and Mussolini, I suppose there is some overlap. But it seems to me you've stretched the definition of "fascism" so far as to render it meaningless.

Chris said...

If you say one more Brian Lieter, the lord will forgive you your trespasses.

Ed Barreras said...

Right, because it's not like his paper was a topic of this conversation. You're starting to look ridiculous. Grow up.

Ed Barreras said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Frankly, there is something surreal about this discussion, particularly considering the intellectual stature of the public involved.

One side assumes the role of arbiter of what the public can or cannot know.

If I had those emails in front of me and could make the decision to leak them or not, I wouldn't. I would destroy them. To understand why, I commend to you Brian Leiter's "The Case Against Free Speech."* One thing Leiter points out is that although we tend to reflexively think of "epistemic paternalism" as a bad thing, we have in fact institutionalized it at the level of our federal courts.

For example, a judge might withhold evidence from a jury (say, an especially gruesome crime scene photo) if he thinks it will unduly prejudice their judgement, even if such evidence is germane to establishing a defendant' guilt or innocence.


The claimant, that is, is the one who decides what is to be divulged and what not.

Says who? The claimant himself advances no argument. There is indeed an argument, he says, but you have to read Brian Leiter's paper.

Except that the Leiter paper does not seem to say what the claimant believes it says.

The judge's prerogative is not absolute, unqualified as the claimant seems to believe. Quite to the contrary, it is very qualified. In effect, a judge who acted in the manner the claimant suggests would get him/herself in deep shit. The reason is evident: if he/she could do what the claimant suggests, there would be no reason for courts of law.

What the Leiter paper does say seems well-represented by this paragraph

To sum up the discussion so far: ordinary people in the United States are charged with making findings about the truth of what transpired in disputed incidents that come before the civil and criminal courts. No one thinks they should be exposed to a freewheeling marketplace of ideas, an unregulated and unrestricted presentation of evidence and arguments; instead, the basically untrustworthy laypeople are subjected to the paternalistic care of a judge, whose job it is to decide what they can safely hear that might actually facililtate their correct findings of fact, allowing for their cognitive and other biases and limitations. There is no free speech in the courtroom, and no one thinks there should be.

In other words, if the especially gruesome crime scene photo the claimant mentioned were indispensable to determine the defendant's guilt or innocence, the judge could not withhold it from the jury, for this would not facilitate their correct findings of fact, but make it impossible.

Beyond the court of law, the claimant intends to establish a censorship. Presumably his superior wisdom entitles him to that position. After claiming that that Putin "probably" brought down Clinton he would need to argue that the email release was not indispensable to the voters...

Are we to accept that because he is one of the "good" guys?

----------

In this thought experiment

Suppose the Russians came to you before the election and said they had Hillary's emails and T***p's emails, but they were only going to give you Hillary's, and it was up to you to decide whether to release them or not. T***p's emails would remain with them under wraps. Would you release Hillary's emails?

I would release HRC's emails, adding a note to each and every single release, stating that the source of the emails claims to have T***p's emails, but refused to divulge them. It's up to the public to decide what that means.

(The same anonymous)

Chris said...

"Are we to accept that because he is one of the "good" guys?"

Thank you!

Anonymous said...


Everybody knows they know better what should be divulged and what not. You've gotta love censorship.

Arkansas Bill Attempts to Ban Books by Howard Zinn in Schools
March 2, 2017

As reported in the Arkansas Times, pending legislation would prohibit any publicly supported schools in Arkansas “from including in its curriculum or course materials any books or other material authored by or concerning Howard Zinn.” The bill, submitted by Representative Kim Hendren (R), can be read in full here.

https://zinnedproject.org/2017/03/arkansas-bill-bans-zinn-schools/

s. wallerstein said...

We're all Howard Zinn fans here, but what if there was bill to not use any books by
Milos Yiannopoulos in the public schools or public libraries? Not to ban him, but not to use any public money to buy his books.

I live in Chile and I notice that there are no books authored by Augusto Pinochet (he wrote or had ghost-written several books justifying himself while dictator) in the public library. I think it's fine that they do not use tax payers' money to buy Pinochet's books and they do have a decent collection of books by human rights victims during his dictatorship.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Jeez Louise. Nobody ever did that to my books. What do you have to do to get banned in this country?

Ed Barreras said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed Barreras said...

Anonymous,

The example of gruesome crime scene photos is mentioned by Leiter, as is a defendant's prior criminal history (which is perhaps a more apt example in this context.) Furthermore, I never said judges can withhold indispensable evidence from a jury. Rather I said they can withhold probative evidence.

You raise a good point about the assumed superior wisdom on the part of the would-be censor. Indeed, that concern central to the issue of censorship. (Would that my former interlocutor in this conversation had been so sensible.) I feel it's appropriate to type up a lengthier response. Check this space tomorrow or perhaps the following day.

Also, the URL I posted to the Leiter paper was an unfinished draft. New URL is at the bottom. And I think it's apt to draw attention to the paragraph immediately following the one you cited, which is this:

By contrast, when these same laypeople are asked to choose a President, someone who will decide American tax policy, whether to go to war, the correct approach to climate change, and who should get healthcare, the basic constitutional posture in the US is that everyone (whether person or corporate entity) should be able to say almost anything, and without any meaningful restrictions on the advantages that accrue to those with wealth and access to the major media of communication. Can we explain why the public sphere should be a free-for-all of distortion and misinformation, as it too often is in the US, while the juridical sphere, where matters of life and death, freedom and incarceration, wealth and penury, are decided, is not?

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2450866



https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2450866

Paul Kern said...

It seems to me that much of this argument hinges on issues of what constitutes “democratic” values vs non-democratic values. On the one hand we have someone who seems to argue that we should instrumentally act democratically i.e. vote, be transparent, submit to values of equality, liberty etc. On the other hand, we have a person who sees that democracy is a contingent circumstance that sometimes results in non-democratic outcomes and, consequently, wants to mitigate those effects by acting non-democratically in hopes of reaching a more democratic product. American history is fraught with examples of non-democratic outcomes perpetrated in the name of democracy, e.g. slavery, child labor, capitalist exploitation, Jim Crow, examples ad nauseam. The question is, does democracy always right its own ship via the democratic process? To my thinking the answer is no, not always, for example,the decision in Brown vs The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas was not an instrumentally democratic process, in fact, it could be argued that it was a paternalistic one, yet, it resulted, albeit with mixed results, in creating a space for greater democracy. That history is contingent and not an unending set of success stories would indicate that democracy is not a one way street despite our wishes that it was.

Anonymous said...

S. Wallerstein,

Let's not play childish games, S. Wallerstein. I'm too old for that crap. You are the intellectual.

You understand the problem.

How would you guys argue against the Bill proposed by Representative Kim Hendren (R), from the great state of Arkansas? For that matter, how would you guys argue against a censorship law applying to US media?

You understand that Hendren can perfectly claim he is the "epistemic arbiter" in the case of Zinn's book, or in the case of evolution by natural selection, or in the case of religious education, or in a thousand other hypotheticals. You guys have just given him the argument and defended it here. You surely understand that, don't you?

And unlike you guys, Hendren is in a position to propose bills and vote for them.

I would have thought all that is clear enough.

In case it's not clear, let me try this: you guys just sharpened the knife they can put against your throat. Is that clear and funny enough, now?

Ed Barreras said...

(1/2)

Anonymous,

I have no idea if you or anyone is still following this thread, but here is my promised reply.

Saying to the would-be censor, "Why should I credit your claims to superior wisdom?" makes sense if he will regularly be censoring material behind closed doors, as it were, with no public accountability.

But that is not the situation you find yourself in with regard to my hypothetical scenario. In that scenario, I am telling you exactly what act of epistemic arbitration (I think "censorship" is somewhat misleading; see TWO below) I propose to carry out. And I am offering you reasons for my decision. I am not asking you to trust my judgement on decisions about which you will remain in the dark. Rather I am revealing to you what my judgement is; you are free to decide whether, on this basis, I'm one of the "good guys" or not.

I conceive of this as a "break glass in case of emergency" scenario. Now there is a question about what makes me think I'm possessed of the wisdom required to break the glass in the first place. This is somewhat separate from what was discussed in the above paragraph.

And my answer is that I do, in fact, think I'm possessed of so-called "superior wisdom" in the realm of politics, and in all likelihood so do you! Are you agnostic as to whether your political opinions are more sound than those of, say, the legislator who wants to ban Howard Zinn's books? If not, then you are claiming superior wisdom.

To be sure, this notion of "wisdom" is relative. We should all maintain awareness of gaps in our knowledge and empathy. Still, it seems impossible that any of us could have political convictions at all absent evaluative concepts such as "superiority of wisdom."

Now let me say something more about the issue of the DNC/Podesta emails and epistemic arbitration.

I agree with Leiter that epistemic paternalism for electoral politics is warranted in principle, given that 1) such paternalism is taken for granted across a great number of our central institutions, and 2) the "unfettered circulation of ideas" has been a disaster even, as Leiter says, "by Enlightenment standards." We are witnessing the catastrophe of the T***p presidency, though hopefully he's on his way to collapsing by his own corruption and psychopathy. Yet even if he does, more disasters almost certainly await us, especially from climate change, which our duly elected politicians continue to ignore.

However, I'm against epistemic paternalism on the grounds that, in practice, it would be impossible for our capitalist-democratic society to install an office that could consistently and reliably make the "right" decisions for every matter of political importance. In other words, we wouldn't get a tempering of Fox News's influence; we'd get more banning of Howard Zinn's books.

Granted that this is my position, I don't see how it's in any way inconsistent or hypocritical of me to propose, in a fantasy thought-experiment, a situation in which I myself would be justified in acting as an epistemic arbiter given the right conditions. After all, I haven't expressed disapproval of epistemic paternalism in politics as a matter of principle. To the contrary, I have said that it is warranted, and in fact urgently needed.


Ed Barreras said...

Here, then, are the reasons I would withhold the DNC/Podesta emails if somehow, miraculously, I were given the chance to.

ONE:

Again,T=this was an emergency election. Donald T***p is the most odious, lying, incompetent, menacing, racist, demented, delusional, irredeemably corrupt politician any of us is likely to see in is or her lifetime. Yet he's not half as bad as Steve Bannon, his former campaign manager and now closest advisor. Any legal means to stop them -- that is, any means that wouldn't themselves inflict irreparable harm on our Republic -- would be justified.

TWO:

These were illegally obtained, private communications. The authors/owners of the emails have not assented to their publication; hence nobody has a legal right to see them. And incidentally, this fact renders the situation distinct from the example of governments banning books -- what we might think of as a more straightforward example of censorship. The latter constitutes a thwarting of free expression, and is illegal according to our current laws.

To be sure, the communications in question contain matters of public interest, and we can say that while the public doesn't have a legal right to see the documents, it has a moral right to know what their prospective leaders are up to. This is certainly true. But the question here is whether this moral right is absolute or whether it can be arbitrated, especially given an emergency circumstance.

THREE:

It was inevitable that the content of the emails would be distorted by what Leiter calls "private sector propaganda", i.e., the majority of the media. Indeed, we have seen how grotesquely sensationalized the Clinton email scandals did become.

We all know the iniquities of garbage paddlers like Fox News, Breitbart, Drudge, etc. (which sadly remain enormously influential). But the so-called mainstream media is no help either. It was reported that the number of hours each of the three major network news programs spent covering Hillary's email scandals exceeded the combined number of hours they spent on discussions of policy.

This is an outrage, of course, but it's to be expected. In addition, as is often noted, the media is in thrall of this dubious notion of balance, which convinced them they had to present Clinton's character flaws and misdeeds as somehow on par with T***p's. Now I'm no great admirer of Clinton. Still, if she had received nothing but positive coverage, and the minority-president had received nothing but negative coverage, that would have more accurately reflected their respective suitability for the office.

THREE:

The public is generally very poor at assessing epistemic merit. This may be an uncomfortable subject, but it is not an elitist fantasy. It has been demonstrated empirically ad nauseam via public opinion surveys showing large swaths of the public to be gobsmackingly ignorant about even basic matters of fact.

FOUR:

The communications contained no evidence of criminal malfeasance; hence, from a legal standpoint, "whistle-blower" considerations don't apply.

FIVE:

This one deserves special emphasis, as it gets to the heart of the current brouhaha over Russia. It is the fact that the leaked documents were stolen by the Russians in order tip the election toward the Republican candidate. (Let's assume that, in my thought experiment, I know this to be a fact, though in reality I do think it's highly likely to be true.) In that case, the decision to release the emails would not be without known undesirable repercussions. To release them wouldn't just be to expose "the truth" about the DNC and Clinton; it would also be to do Putin's bidding. Thus, an epistemic arbiter would have to take into account Putin's motives as well as those of the T***p campaign, and whether he or she would be effectively executing a plot that was hatched through an illegal act of collusion.