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There Oughta Be a Law!

Imagine you’re job hunting and you come across the following job requirement in the job listing:

Applicant must be at least 35 years old and a natural born citizen of the United States having resided here at least 14 years

That’s it. Nothing else. 

Now look at the following job qualification:

Applicant must be at least 8 feet tall and be able to understand what the “top” of something is. He must also be familiar with Christmas trees and ornaments. Applicant must be able to take instruction

The second reasonably detailed qualification applies to the Abominable Snow Monster from the holiday special, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. 

The first job qualification is for the leader of the free world, able to launch enough nuclear missiles to destroy the planet. 

I have to think the founders had such profound faith in the American people that they wanted the presidency open to just about everyone. Of course, in the 1780’s “everyone” was white men but I digress. 

The notion of a President “of the people” is quite seductive. Andrew Jackson sold himself on this premise. However Old Hickory had been a Senator and Governor. 

It is simply amazing that despite this skimpy job qualification statement from Article II of the constitution, all we have gotten so far for Presidents have been folks with a military or government service record, without exception. Folks like Herman Cain or H. Ross Perot tried to break the pattern but failed. The pattern has remained undisturbed … until now. 

I think it’s time Article II was amended. I can’t say that military or government service, per se, should be a requirement but some evidence of past civic duty should be in there somewhere. Donald Trump, unique among the 44 men who have held this office (remember Grover served two non-consecutive terms) has no history of civic duty. This does not make him a bad man but it does raise the question of whether he really understands how to serve others in a selfless fashion. 

The daunting truth is that Donald Trump is no more qualified to be President than you or I. He is a successful businessman with no real interest in government except when it serves as an opportunity for self-aggrandizement. His ride to the White House was fueled on the catharsis he provided to millions of disaffected Americans. But catharsis must be backed up by minimal qualification. I absolutely love driving my car but I have no business running a car company. 

Donald Trump is a mixture of Cliff Clavin from the sitcom Cheers (the pub know-it-all) and Archie Bunker, a man possibly very decent but severely limited by a world view shaped by stereotypes and checkout counter tabloids. I didn’t consider Bunker a racist. I considered him profoundly ignorant with a fear of the unfamiliar born of ignorance. I feel the same way about Trump. 

Someone with civic experience would never have leaped into the travel ban that Trump implemented. Cliff and Archie would. 

Age and citizenship are no longer sufficient qualifications for the Presidency. Not when the very existence of a nation (and even the world) is at stake. Until now, the common sense of the American people has relatively protected us. That barrier to calamity has disappeared. 

We have a man in the Oval Office no better prepared for the presidency than the Abominable Snow Monster. Article II is partly to blame and needs fixing in no short order. 

What do you think? The bar is open. 

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Russia and the US Presidential Elections

The country is abuzz over the recently-released de-classified version of the Intelligence Community (IC) report on “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections“.  The report, a compilation of CIA, FBI, and ODNI investigations, asserts that Russia attempted to influence the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election by various means.  To support such a claim, the report offers little more than circumstantial evidence.  The lack of substantial evidence, however, is the least of the problems that should be found with this report.  The greater issue, and one that will likely be ignored, is that Russia has been doing much of what the report claims, for years–including the 2012 US Presidential election.

While not getting deep into the methods used in the report, it is worth noting up front that all the public is permitted to see is the de-classified version.  The very first bit of writing in the report tells us that they cannot tell us everything because a lot of it is classified and part of national security secrets.  Of course, what is being kept secret is how they actually reached the conclusions in the report.

The Intelligence Community rarely can publicly reveal the full extent of its knowledge or the precise bases for its assessments, as the release of such information would reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future.

Thus, while the conclusions in the report are all reflected in the classified assessment, the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods.

Were this an academic paper submitted by an undergraduate student, it would receive a failing grade and scathing comments in the margins about the lack of methodological data.

What we do know is that the so-called evidence of direct Russian involvement in the actual hacking of DNC computers did not stem from FBI or CIA analyses of those computers.  In fact, neither the FBI nor the CIA ever looked at those computers at all.  Instead, the computers were looked at by a private 3rd party group who gave its investigative conclusions to the IC.  Why didn’t anyone from the government look at those computers, and what methods did the 3rd party investigative team use?  Good questions.  The FBI alleges the DNC refused to let them look and the DNC alleges the FBI never asked to look.  What’s the truth?–who knows.  Again, were this a student research paper it would be returned rife with red ink.

The IC report offers a variety of “Key Judgments”, the first of which is that Russia has increased its “longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order”.  Yet, while admitting this is a “longstanding” Russian policy, the report conveniently fails to mention just how far back that policy goes.  And we know that it goes back to at least the 2012 US Presidential elections, when Russia was asserting the elections were rigged.  Back then, the pro-government Russian group, Izvestia, claimed:

The procedure for the election of US President November 6, 2012 (prior to the day of voting) does not comply with the international principles of the organization of the electoral process. The principles of universal and equal suffrage, the authenticity and validity of the election, transparency and openness of elections provided by the US authorities is not satisfactory. (Translated using Google Translate)

In other words–your election doesn’t pass our smell test.  If that isn’t an attempt to “undermine the US-led liberal democratic order” then what is?

Part of the circumstantial evidence of Russian meddling is that it displayed clear favoritism in the outcome.

Putin publicly indicated a preference for President-elect Trump’s stated policy to work with Russia, and pro-Kremlin figures spoke highly about what they saw as his Russia-friendly positions on Syria and Ukraine. Putin publicly contrasted the President-elect’s approach to Russia with Secretary Clinton’s “aggressive rhetoric.”

The United States is inarguably the most powerful and influential nation on the planet with a long history of challenging Russian and Soviet hegemony.  Is there a time in recent history when Russia did not display a clear favorite in a US Presidential election?  It sure wasn’t in 2012, when Russian Prime Minister, Dmitri Medvedev, exclaimed, “I am glad that the man who considers Russia the number one enemy will not be president. That’s ridiculous, some kind of paranoia. Obama is a known, predictable partner.”  To juxtapose just how different were the positions of 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney and sitting-President Barack Obama, the former went on record calling Russia our greatest geopolitical foe, while the latter was caught on a hot mic promising greater flexibility in pro-Russian policies after the election.

The most important portion of the 2017 IC report is also the least covered–while the computers of private election entities were infiltrated, official electronic election machines were not.  There is absolutely no proof, or claim, of Russian involvement in the voting or vote tallying process.  In fact, the report concludes, “DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”  In the 25-page report, the word “tallying” appears a mere two times, both times in a single sentence twice repeated.  That’s it.

To be clear, there is little doubt that Russia did everything the IC report claims it did.  But what exactly did Russia do that it hasn’t done in the past?  The answer seems to be “very little”.  The IC report concludes that Russia will take what it learned in 2016 and apply it to future US elections.  But it has already done that, applying what it learned in 2012 to 2016.  Russia has displayed a history of questioning the legitimacy of US elections, yet this is the first time it’s being called subversive.  Russia has displayed a history of declaring its preferences in the outcome of US elections, yet this is the first time it’s being called subversive.  The only difference between 2012 and 2016 is the alleged cyber intrusion–a difference that is so minuscule that it is neither substantiated by actual IC investigation, nor is it said to have affected the actual electoral process.  In fact, the exact opposite is claimed.

If the proof of Russian meddling is in the pudding, it’s a sparse portion of a stale dessert that is several years old.  Donald Trump may well have benefitted from Russian influence in our 2016 election, but if this report is proof of that, then it must also be concluded that Barack Obama benefitted from it in 2012.

And there sure aren’t any Intelligence Community reports alleging that, are there?

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Russia Did Not Hack the Election 

If I hear this one more time on the news I’m gonna shoot my TV, Elvis style:

Russia hacked the 2016 election. 

No, they did not!

Russia did not alter the voter rolls nor did they tamper with data collected from voting machines. THAT is hacking the election. 

If you believe American intelligence, Russia, with Putin’s knowledge or direction, hacked the email accounts of the DNC and John Podesta, Clinton campaign chairman. These were then turned over to Julian Assange whose organization Wikileaks leaked them to the press. 

Could the content of those emails have influenced voters? Certainly. That is not the fault of Assange or Putin. That is the fault of the ethically challenged writers of the original emails. 

President-elect Donald Trump looks foolish denying Russian involvement but his motive is understandable. The Russian “hack of our election” is a distraction from the fact that both the Clinton campaign and the media misread the American public. They can’t accept their culpability in Trumps election so they stoop to delegitimize it. 

Russia didn’t hack the election. They enabled us to look behind the curtain and see the Clinton contingent for the hot mess they really were. 

What do you think? The bar is open.