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Friday, April 19, 2019

GOOD FRIDAY


I want to say something about the Mueller report, but I first I need to make at least a brief response to the many interesting comments sparked by my recent posts.

First things first.  I am appalled, chagrined, and embarrassed to admit that I wrongly attributed the invention of Linear Programming to Wassily Leontief instead of to Leonid Kantorovich.  Leontief invented input-output analysis.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.   Or, as they say in the neighborhood I came from, SCHMUCK!

Second, I hope it is obvious by now that regardless of my feelings about Mayor Pete, if the wins the nomination, I will work as hard for him as I did for Clinton, whom I hate.  I can be rightly accused of many things [including ignorance – see above] but not of self-defeating political purity.

Finally, from the comments, including a fascinating screed passed on to me by Professor David Auerbach, it is obvious that I don’t know beans about Accounting.  The example I gave in my essay was what we philosophers call a thought experiment, or as it is now referred to, a trolley car.  However, the knowledgeable critiques of my cardboard example simply confirm my central point, which is that the sort of market based determination of economic decisions which von Mises argued would always be superior to socialist planning are now impossible, and have long been replaced by decision making that has an unavoidable quasi-political structure.  There is much more to be said, but I want to talk about Mueller.

Some commentators on this blog have pooh-poohed the charges of collusion, insisting that there is no evidence of that, even though, to many of us, the evidence has been in plain sight.  Now that the Mueller report is available, even with redactions, I think the facts are clear.

Let me begin with the word “collusion.”  By now we all understand that there is no statute concerning collusion.  There are statutes concerning conspiracy, including, but not limited to, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO statute.  Mueller concluded that he did not have admissible evidence sufficient to make a case beyond a reasonable doubt of violations of RICO and other applicable statutes.

Bummer.

However, that does not even address the question whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  That is not a legal question [there being no statute criminalizing collusion].  That is a question of fact and ordinary English usage.

So, what is collusion?  Or rather, what does the word “collusion” mean in ordinary English?  Well, I asked Google, and this is what it told me:

“Collude:  cooperate in a secret or unlawful way in order to deceive or gain an advantage over others.”  [By the way, nice note:  the word comes from the Latin meaning “to play together.”]

Did Trump and his campaign cooperate in a secret or unlawful way in order to deceive or gain an advantage over others?  Did they ever!  Mueller’s report is replete with countless examples of exactly that.  I won’t go through them all.  You can do that yourselves.  With whom were they cooperating?  With the Russians, with one another, endlessly, clumsily, eagerly, enthusiastically, sometimes successfully and other times not.  Did they collude?  From the detailed evidence of the Mueller report, they seem to have done very little else!

Did it do any good?  Who the hell knows?  It is hard enough to tell whether TV advertising helps a campaign, whether personal appearances help, whether free media help, whether having a deep baritone voice helps.  But did they collude?  Did they give it the good old college try?

You bet!

18 comments:

marcel proust said...

RE: the invention of linear programming... Kantorovich was clearly the first but several others are credited with having developed it independently shortly thereafter: Koopmans and Dantzig in particular. Just as Wallace and Darwin share credit for evolution by natural selection and Newton & Leibniz share credit for inventing calculus, it seems only just that others be credited alongside Kantorivich for the invention of linear programming.*

*I am confident that our blogging host will be very understanding of the importance of correct attribution of credit for intellectual advances ;-)

marcel proust said...

The link in my comment was not obvious, so I am repeating the footnote containing it:

*I am confident that our blogging host will be very understanding of the importance of correct attribution of credit for intellectual advances. ;-)

Robert Paul Wolff said...

If I understand basic emojis, ;-) conveys wry amusement, yes? In all events, your confidence is well-placed. :)

Chris said...

From the report:

1. "The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

2. "The investigation examined whether [contacts between Russia and Trump figures] involved or resulted in coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia providing assistance to the Campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future. Based on the available information, the investigation did not establish such coordination."

3. "The investigation did not establish that [Carter] Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 election."

4. "The Office did not identify evidence in those [contacts between Russians and people around Trump after the GOP convention] of coordination between the Campaign and the Russian government."

5. "The Office did not identify evidence of a connection between Manafort's sharing polling data and Russia's interference in the election ... [and] the investigation did not establish that Manafort otherwise coordinated with the Russian government on its election-interference efforts."

6. "The investigation did not establish that these [contacts between Russians and people around Trump during the transition] reflected or constituted coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia in its election interference activities."

7. "The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons conspired or coordinated with the [Russian disinformation campaign]."

David Palmeter said...

Chris,

This is what puzzles me: Since there was no “collusion” and Trump knew that, why did he go to such lengths to prevent the investigation? Why did others, e.g., Flynn, lie about their Russian contacts?

An inference--more accurately, a guess--is that Trump feared any investigation into his doings because there is much there that he could damage him if disclosed. I don't know what prompted Flynn to lie--perhaps he was afraid that the truth could damage Trump (and himself).

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...


To Chris' first point: "did not establish" is a legal term of art which means there was insufficient evidence to support an indictment which is only issued if there is high likelihood of conviction. It does not mean there was no bad, possible illegal behavior.

Dean said...

With all due respect (really), I think Christoper @8:02PM misses a point in Chris @1:09PM's recitation. Of course the investigation communications are crafted in legal terms of art. That is the discourse we're dealing with *on top of* breathless media (and "establishment Democrats') accounts anticipating a sure downfall of Trump. So now the media must deal with the words on the page, and words on a page are almost always subject to interpretation, hence the text, with its constellation of "legal terms of art," becomes the forum for continuing the inane debate about what should have been the outcome of the investigation. The fact of the matter, however, remains that none of the desired outcomes emerged. A Russia/Trump nexus is decidedly not the threat the breathless media and solipsistic Democrats assured us it has been.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Dean, there is a reality represented in the report that does not match Chris' recitation that this is all a 'big nothing burger' nor Maddow's hopes and dreams. Maddow should have spent more time investigating the incalculable harm Trump is doing everyday instead of being guided by her wish fulfillment dreams as certainly as Trump is guided by his narcissism and sociopathy.

Finally, I would note that the Special Counsel investigation clearly demonstrated that the Russian interference/cyber warfare is a threat.

Dean said...

I call unfair, Christopher. Yes, there is such a reality, but Chris was (not that I speak for him) merely pointing out that the anticipated/hoped for/assumed/known results didn't pan out. I don't take his comment as an assertion that the report is a "nothing burger."

"Finally, I would note that the Special Counsel investigation clearly demonstrated that the Russian interference/cyber warfare is a threat."

No argument. But I said that "a Russia/Trump nexus is decidedly not the threat." Russian interference? Sure. Welcome to the 21st century.

Matt said...

People wanting to understand the report would do better to read this than to take Chris's summary at face value:

https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-mueller-found-russia-and-obstruction-first-analysis

Jerry Fresia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Fresia said...

Regarding the pooh-poohing of Russia-gate: in my case I have pooh poohed not collusion (lord knows how much Trump wanted that tower built) but the hacking of the DNC by the Russians which was the event that 17 US intel agencies (announced HRC) found to be an “attack on our elections,” later elevated to an “attack on America” itself. That the NTYs soon after corrected the number (it was only 4, with one agency providing a summary of the “assessment” by the other 3 whose investigators were hand-picked by the Clinton team.) Just yesterday, however, Congressman Jefferies made the “17 intel agency” claim again. So much for sober, responsible, disinterested investigators in this matter.

Bill Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA, along with other Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have stated that given forensic data, hacking of the Podesta emails was “impossible.” To support this claim they have provided a good deal of technical data
(see report in The Nation http://bit.ly/2UIecmq). Yet Rachel, Mueller, and all the rest have never interviewed Binney, et al. So one side has technical and intelligence expertise and FACTS. Mueller who claims to have evidence, produces none publicly, and yet Democrats fall all over themselves boldly lining up behind Mueller, a man who lied in a public setting, before Congress, about evidence, once before. (WMDs, http://bit.ly/2IxDGwC)

What he does do, however, is indict Russians who are unlikely to show up for trial. Those (VIPS) who have decades of experience in these matters argue that the indictment of Russians is a “political document” given that Mueller believes that no Russian will surrender to a US court. But guess what, one does (has this amazing story been covered by the MSM?):

“Thus, his team seemed taken aback when one of the alleged ‘troll farms’ showed up in Washington asking to be heard. The prosecution’s initial response…was to seek a delay ‘on the astonishing ground that the defendant has not been properly served – notwithstanding that the defendant has shown up in court and asked to be arraigned.’ When that didn’t work, prosecutors tried to limit… access to some 3.2 million pieces of evidence on the grounds that the documents are too ‘sensitive’ for Russian eyes to see. If they are again unsuccessful, they may have no choice but to drop the charges entirely, resulting in yet another ‘public relations disaster’ for the Russia-gage investigation.” http://bit.ly/2GzayTs

I don’t know what evidence “has been in plain sight,” but if someone believes that the Russian “hacking” of the DNC is settled science, I would urge scholarly disinterest. Personally, I will wait for the evidence to be made public in a court of law before I jump on the bandwagon.

Dean said...

I read the Lawfare piece yesterday. To my mind, it harmonizes with Chris' summary. It's also explicitly a "first crack," which is all anybody at this stage could be expected to provide.

Chris said...

To be clear, I never said, or even implied this was a nothing burger. I literally just quoted directly from the report. All subsequent conclusions about me, from a pasting, are contrived. I actually think establishing innocence isn't nothing, in ANY trial, of any kind. Being found guilty is just as important as not being found guilty. So it's still a burger.

Someone asked why did Trump try to squash the investigation if he's innocent. Well to me that's obvious for two reasons 1) He could be innocent of election collusion but still scared that any investigation will uncover things he's not innocent of (of course he's a crook). E.g., the cops could raid someone’s home looking for drugs, and find arms. 2) Trump HATES (I mean really is inflamed to the very core of his being) bad press, and people not thinking he's the greatest, best, most biggest, excellent, good, man around. Any investigation into him, of this sort, suggests he's not. So why did Trump try to squash the investigation? For the same reason he lies about attendee numbers at campaign events.

For the rest of you harping on the legal definition and how the investigation did not *prove* he was innocent, I repeat: LOOK INTO RUSSEL's TEAPOT. You cannot *prove* the non-existence of something, you can only establish its dubious nature. Mueller cannot prove big foot isn’t hiding one tree over, let alone that Trump didn’t send carrier pigeons to Russia with secret collusion messages.

Dean said...

Precisely, Chris.

However, you can prove the non-existence of some things. For example, if somebody maintains it rained on such-and-such a day in Chattanooga, you can establish evidence sufficient to prove that it did not rain. If somebody falsely accuses you of damaging his or her property, you can present the undamaged property to prove no such thing happened. And so forth. Of course, this doesn't mean you will convince people invested for some reason in a different outcome.

Everybody knows that legal proof isn't logical proof, but an attempt at a best fit of a kind of logic to a messy real world. Yet the Mueller report appears and, suddenly (in fact, even before it appeared), everybody's a lawyer, judge, shaman, and literary critic.

Chris said...

Yes, I do know there are some things we can disprove - like can a triangle have 86 sides, but when we are talking about conspiracies there's always some deeper (or shallower?) level the theorist can appeal to.

Also, thank you for clearly and rationally defending me from my contriving detractors ;)

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

This has all been absolutely not fascinating. I appreciate that others on this bog seem to know how Chris approaches things, but I don't. Thus I seem to have misinterpreted the meaning of his post of the quotes (which is easy to do if there is no other explanation provided by the author). Not wanting to cause Chris any further agita that may result from my contriving detractions ....I'll do my best to refrain from further detractions. :-)

Chris said...

No worries !