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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“Mitt” the Movie and Obama the Juror

“Mitt” the Movie

At long last I watched the Netflix film “Mitt” a documentary about Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 runs for President.

If more folks had seen this side of Mitt, he might be President today. When the film ended even I felt bad for how severely I had judged him. Any suspicions that Romney is Fred MacMurray’s Steve Douglas from “My Three Sons” are confirmed in this documentary. Mitt is truly from a different age. He is wholesome to the core. Very devoted to family and to his religion.

In a telling moment Mitt complains about his lot as the “flipping Mormon”. He remarks that he can’t change the Mormon part and then quickly corrects himself that he WON’T change the Mormon part.

Other notable moments are his intense admiration for his father George Romney and his brutal honesty in the wake of his 2012 defeat where he refuses to say in his concession speech that all will go well with Obama. “I’m not going to be soothing” says Romney.

I have a problem with the way the film was edited. Seeing Romney go through the 2008 primary process humanizes him. We don’t get to see him go through the 2012 primary process and how hard he had to fight in an anyone-but-Romney lead up to his nomination. So the Mitt we see in 2012 is a hardened Mitt missing the softer edges that made him sympathetic in the film’s first half.

Still what stands out is Mitt obsessively picking trash off the floor when he’s nervous, his decent self deprecating humor, and the degree to which his family adores him – and how hurt they are by the process of running for POTUS. If nothing else, this film is a cautionary tale for the families of Presidential hopefuls.

Obama the Juror

It started on July 20, 2009 when Lynn Sweet asked Obama to weigh in on the arrest of Professor Skip Gates (a question she would never have asked a white president). Obama, self important bloviator that he is, fell right into her trap:

I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That’s just a fact.

While I felt at the time (and still do) that both Gates and the cop were stupid, Obama would have been wiser to say “no comment”. Or better, “Lynn would you be asking me this if I were white?”

Then on March 23, 2012, he did it again:

My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. All of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves.

This comment became more absurd the more we learned what a thug Trayvon was. Again, refusing to comment on an ongoing investigation would have been smarter.

But wait, there’s more. This past Friday Obama felt compelled to comment on the murder of three young North Carolina Muslims:

No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.

Only one problem. We do not know with certainty that the victims’ religion played a role in their deaths. Again, Obama plays juror and renders verdict before all the evidence is in.

Obama may feel some special pressure as the first black President but this series of public pronouncements just comes off unpresidential at best and negligent at worst. Sometimes the best thing to do Mr. President is just shut up.

Just shut up.

What do you think? The bar is open.

The Brutal Truth About Poverty (and Other Thoughts)

The Brutal Truth About Poverty

At a recent RNC meeting, former (and soon to be?) presidential candidate, Mitt Romney said:

THE ONLY POLICIES THAT WILL REACH INTO THE HEARTS OF AMERICAN PEOPLE AND PULL PEOPLE OUT OF POVERTY AND BREAK THE CYCLE OF POVERTY ARE REPUBLICAN PRINCIPLES, CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES … AND WE’RE GONNA BRING THEM TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND FINALLY END THE SCOURGE OF POVERTY IN THIS GREAT LAND.

Pardon my French but, in a word, bullshit. It’s not that conservative principles can’t “end the scourge of poverty”. It’s that nothing can. You see, it’s all about the human condition.

On paper, socialism is the only economic model that wipes out poverty (and extreme wealth as well). The problem is that socialism is antithetical to human nature. Socialism makes no room for selfishness.

Capitalism, on the other hand, is perfectly suited to human nature. Unfortunately, like the balance sheets that document its progress, capitalism is a zero sum game. There are winners and losers, assets and liabilities, whole swaths (of people) that must be written off.

Anyone who tells you his ideology will wipe out poverty is lying to you. If you don’t want to be poor, the only way out is to work your ass off. No system is going to save you. And since there will always be those unwilling or unable to work their ass off, there will always be poor people. Poverty is here to stay.

Was She REALLY Raped – Part 1

Between yesterday and today the GOP-run House watered down an anti-abortion bill which originally allowed for rape exceptions if the rape had been reported to the police. Republican women objected and demanded the police report requirement be excised.

Folks, this is one area where the PC talk needs to end. In what fantasy land are women incapable of lying about being raped? If I don’t pay my bills with the reason that my bank account was hacked and emptied, my billers are going to want proof. Did I file a claim? Did I report the loss to any authority? Why is the charge of rape (a deadly serious crime) the only one that can be levied carte blanche with no proof whatsoever? Forget proof – with NO ATTEMPT to seek justice?

In the world of insults to humanity, abortion ranks right up there with rape. If we are going to use a crime (rape) as a reason for the drastic step of terminating a pregnancy, then there ought to be some evidence that the woman treated the crime like a crime and reported it.

Was She REALLY Raped – Part 2, the Cosby Edition

I have little doubt that in the course of a long marriage, Bill Cosby was unfaithful, probably more than once. Many men think with the wrong head and this applies double to famous men.

But the MORE women who come forth with drug-cum-rape charges against Cosby the LESS I believe it. It starts to go into Ripley’s Believe it or Not territory. A half dozen women? Yeah I could have bought that. But more than two dozen?

Why would there be a rush for the rape bandwagon? I have a theory. Bill Cosby was one of the few brave black men to pull the covers off the “black community” and tell young black men and women to get their act together. Blacks hate nothing more than one of our own airing our dirty laundry and calling us to task in public.

And in a community dominated by single mothers, who will take the most offense at failures in child rearing? On Larry Wilmore’s new Comedy Central show, “The Nightly Show”, an editor of Ebony magazine, Jamilah Lemieux, could not help but mention Cosby’s lecturing. Besides his former co-star Phylicia Rashad, you don’t see many black women (or women in general) coming to his defense.

Cosby broke the “rule” that you NEVER suggest black folk have any accountability for their own situation. Now he’s paying for it big time.

What do you think? The bar is open.