Friday, December 29, 2017

Do We Have Proof Of Collusion?

I've recently started corresponding via email with a friend who is viscerally anti Trump.  He has been sending me a series of articles promoting the notion that Trump needs to be impeached for this or that reason.  His latest recommendation is a  New York Times bestseller Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.   My friend suggests that this book confirms that Trump colluded with the Russians to beat Hillary last November.  I'm open to the possibility, but to date, I haven't seen any proof of it.

I recently came across an article about an interview with the author, Luke Harding.  I sent the link to my friend along with my own ideas on the article.  

I came across this article about an interview that Luke Harding did about his book Collusion, which I believe you told me you are reading now.  The original article is by an author whom I do not know, Caitlin Johnstone on a website with which I am unfamiliar,  The link I sent you is from which is an aggregator website.  They post articles from all over the web, some with attribution, some without.  I know Zerohedge very well as a source of "alternative" opinion.  Some conventional sources would label them crackpots.  I wouldn't go that far, but I certainly scrutinize very carefully anything I read there.  Click on the Zerohedge homepage after you have read the article and watched the interview if you want to get a taste of the kind of stuff they publish. 

The article boasts at how skillfully the interviewer, Aaron Mate, destroyed all of Luke Harding's weak arguments and how thoroughly discredited his collusion narrative was.  I didn't see it that way at all.  But I do not think Harding did anything more than propose some not unreasonable possibilities.  I have the same problems with his conclusions as I do with yours.  He makes a great case that Russia interferes in elections, (we do that too) and that Putin is a bad man, and that Trump has had business dealings with Russia, and that Putin had reasons to despise Hillary and prefer Trump, and that Trump is a shallow "malignant narcissist" of the type that Russian agents would try to entrap with so called "honey pot" tactics.  But nowhere....NOWHERE, is there any definitive link between these facts, and the unsubstantiated conclusions that both you and Luke Harding make based on what we actually know.  The fact that you don't like Trump doesn't make your conclusions any more valid.  Not even the fact that you really really really don't like Trump makes your conclusions any more valid.  As conservative writer and podcaster Ben Shapiro says, "Facts don't care about your feelings!"

But I've got a bone to pick with Johnstone and Mate as well.  I don't think Harding proves what he think he proves, but neither do Johnstone and Mate discredit Harding.  In my opinion, Harding makes a very cogent case, a speculative case mind you, of a scenario that COULD fit the facts as we know them.  That speculative scenario forms a framework around which Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation should proceed.  I think it is prudent to pursue those possibilities while also keeping in mind that the dossier upon which much of this speculation depends was compiled and paid for by Trump rivals as opposition research.  That clearly introduces the possibility of a conflict of interest.  It doesn't irreversibly taint the evidence, but it does cast a shadow over its credibility that must be taken account of. 

Harding claims he has presented evidence of collusion.  The author and the interviewer deny any possibility of collusion.  All of them are wrong.  Harding and you are wrong to claim you've proven anything.  The author and the interviewer are right to claim there is no proof, but wrong to claim there is no possibility of collusion.  The truth, and my position, lies somewhere in the middle, at least until Mueller or someone else can come up with something better.

I am uncomfortable with the fact that my reasonable demand for proof is in some circles equated with their unreasonable assertion of no collusion.  Many of the "no collusion" crowd are extreme left wing activists and downright Communists.  Not the sort you would expect to be defending Donald Trump until you consider that what they are really doing is defending Russia.  I don't like being lumped in with that crowd.  It seems that the "no collusion" coalition is composed of Communist Russophiles on one side and Kool-Aid drinking Trump robots on the other.  I am neither.  The venue in which this interview took place was a program called Real News, and it runs on the RT Network.  RT stands for Russia Today, and that network is widely considered an arm of Russian propaganda. The article points to some Tweets from Glen Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill describing how badly Harding failed to make his case.  Greenwald and Scahill tweet prolifically about how lacking in proof the collusion accusations are. Greenwald and Scahill are both left wing journalists, and both write for the Intercept.  I have some respect for both of them as they (at least Greenwald) figured prominently in bringing Edward Snowden's revelations to the public, but as I have subsequently seen more of their writing, it is clear to me that they both are often apologists for the Russians so I don't know if their interest in Snowden had to do with a genuine concern for privacy or just an opportunity to embarrass the United States. Maybe both.   I'll continue to ponder the possibilities there and read their stuff skeptically.   But back to this article I am sending you.  It also cites The Nation as one place where the interviewer in this piece, Aaron Mate, has published.  Indeed, The Nation, through its editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, has staked out the editorial position that the collusion accusations against Trump are groundless.  In my opinion, The Nation is a totally discredited left wing publication that has for decades apologized for Russian actions while spouting antiquated Communist rhetoric.  Once again, they are paradoxically among Trump's greatest defenders.  Or more accurately, they are among Russia's greatest defenders.  Politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows. 

So, enjoy the interview.  Try to understand why I object to Harding's conclusions, and recognize that not all skeptics of collusion are collusion deniers with personal  agendas.  Some of us just insist that you meet the burden of proof standard.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mr. President: I've Written Your Next Speech

I've been listening to the Sunday shows this morning,  and I only learned about Saturday's events in Charlottesville from that venue today.  I was amazed and angered by the skewed manner in which the media are portraying this event and more particularly the president's response to it.

I won't bother to recount the details of the event.  You can get those here, along with video of Trump's somewhat clumsy statement.  Oddly enough, I thought other parts of the statement were clumsier than the part objected to by journalists.  The press conference where Trump delivered this statement had originally been scheduled for something to do with veterans.  Trump felt compelled to retain what must have been elements of the original speech.  That was the most awkward part of the speech for me.  Trump talking about the horrible events in Charlottesville in one sentence, and the great jobs numbers in the next.  Classic ham handed Trump.  But I'll post the more relevant partial quote from the president's speech below, because that is what I really want to address.

"We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia.  We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides.  On many sides.  It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It's been going on for a long, long time.  It has no place in America."

Everybody has their knickers in a twist because Trump seemed to ad lib the part "on many sides".  Trump detractors accuse Trump of excusing the violence by creating a moral equivalence between racial violence from white supremacists, and presumably political violence on college campuses by left wing groups such as Antifa.  Maybe that is what he was doing, and if it was, I believe that drawing the comparison is entirely justified.

Left leaning media may not want to call out the violent anti free speech intimidation tactics of the left, but Trump was right to do so.

Some of those speaking most passionately against Trump this morning were black members of the press and the punditocracy.  They  drew heavily from justified grievances about slavery, Jim Crow laws in the south, and on-going racism whether of the harder or softer variety.  I have little doubt that their expressions of grievance were heartfelt and sincere.  That doesn't mean they were right to blame Trump for the actions of white nationalists.   The obvious passion with which they hold and express their opinion has no relation to the legitimacy of their position. As Ben Shapiro says, "Facts don't care about your feelings."

The media and the political class are choosing to ignore the fact that the speech did, in fact, condemn the white supremacist violence.  It just didn't  call out the groups by name.  I suppose Trump could have specified the KKK and other white supremacist groups by name, but he didn't.  As one commenter on CNN's State of the Union said to the other more outraged members on the panel, "Trump is never going to check all the boxes to satisfy you."  I couldn't agree more.  If he spent five minutes condemning the KKK, the media and virtue signalling Republican politicians would complain that the events warranted a ten minute speech and was therefore a "dog whistle" to his racist constituents.

The Sunday shows also spent a lot of time citing comments from David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, claiming to be in support of Trump in his quest to "take back America".  It is troubling to me that Duke should try to claim that his cause and the president's cause are one in the same.  It should trouble Trump as well.  For that reason alone, I'd like to see Trump come out with a more forceful speech condemning the Klan and other associated white supremacist groups.  Trump seems to instinctively resist bowing to pressure from the press to behave in certain conventional ways more to their liking.  In principle, I agree with Trump on this behavior.  Fuck the press and what they think he should do.  As Trump famously said, "I'm president, and they're not."

But I think the circumstances of Duke's presumption of sharing common ground with the president warrant the president breaking from his previous habits.  Trump should make another speech.  I've taken the liberty of writing it for him.

It's come to my attention that certain members of the press have been critical of me for not specifically naming the perpetrators of Saturday's violence in Charlottesville.  Let me put that matter to rest right now.  I condemn in the strongest possible terms the egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence committed in Charlottesville by neo-nazis, the KKK, and other white supremacist groups.  There is no place in America for the tactics of intimidation and the ideology of hatred that those groups espouse.  Furthermore, I would like to disavow the leadership of those groups of any notions they may have that my agenda to Make America Great Again and their twisted agenda of violence and division are in any way similar to one another.  There is no room in America for your ideology, and there is no room in my coalition for it either.

As someone recently pointed out, there will be some for whom no amount commitment on my part will ever be enough.  I will never check enough of their boxes for them to be satisfied.  If this short statement takes me five minutes to deliver, there will those who will complain that the matter deserved at least ten minutes, and that anything less constitutes a "dog whistle" of support for the racists and the bigots in our country.  That accusation is false, but that's politics.

The events in Charlottesville were horrible.  Any perceived shortcomings in my statement in response to those events represents nothing more than petty sniping from a hostile press, counting of coup from an opposition party desperate to manufacture an issue to run on, and virtue signalling from members of my own party to whom my presidency feels like a threat to the status quo they so cherish.  These forces would have you believe that the horror and revulsion you rightly feel about the events in Charlottesville should be transferred to me because I gave a speech they think could have been better.  I think most Americans see through that.  For those who don't, I only ask that you give my remarks some consideration.

There you go Mr. President.  That wasn't so hard was it?  You're welcome.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Biggest Losers from Comey Testimony Could Be Loretta Lynch and Hillary Clinton

I am beginning to see a whole new narrative developing out of the Comey testimony. When I first heard James Comey explain about Loretta Lynch having asked him to refer to the Hillary email probe as a "matter" rather than an investigation, I thought it was embarrassing for Lynch, but not rising to the level of obstructing that investigation. Besides, she is out of office now, so what does it matter.

But Comey also references another DOJ/Lynch related issue (45sec into this video) upon which he says the Senate Intel Committee had been briefed which he thought significant, but wholly mischaracterized in its coverage by the press.

I believe that issue was probably email(s) from the DNC to the Justice Department which were evidence of collusion to obstruct the Hillary email investigation. Those emails were generally debunked as fake, but Comey apparently doesn't think so.

Lindsay Graham briefly alluded to them as well at 2min 20sec into this interview this morning on Face the Nation with John Dickerson. He apparently thinks they are real also. 

And now we have a special counsel, largely thanks to the efforts of James Comey. That special counsel will request Comey's memos for the record. All of his memos for the record. If he wrote several about encounters with Trump that made him uncomfortable, what are the chances he wrote one about this/these encounters with Loretta Lynch?

Once the special counsel gets wind of this, he can take the investigation wherever it leads him.

So all you hard core Trump fans/Comey haters: James Comey might just be the avenue through whom the corrupt DOJ of Loretta Lynch, and maybe even Eric Holder before her is exposed. And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Comey had this in mind all along.

Picture this: James Comey is responsible for the Clinton email investigation, and finds all the evidence of Clinton wrongdoing that he described on July 5, 2016. But Loretta Lynch heads the DOJ and won't prosecute and Comey works for her. So what does Comey do? He holds the presser without informing Lynch prior to doing so, exposes Hillary's transgressions, and then, only because he knows a prosecution will never happen under Loretta Lynch, he says he'll not recommend charges.

Now Comey has the opportunity to expose the entire stinking mess by getting a special counsel appointed. Brilliant!

It could potentially lead to corrupt officials at the DNC, and maybe even to Hillary herself.

We'll see who'll be badmouthing James Comey then.

This is an article from the 24 May Washington Post describing a rather convoluted and as yet unsubstantiated linkage between the DNC and the DOJ.  If you have trouble accessing the article, try opening the link in a private window.