July 20, 2018

My take on the Green Party's "decentralization" key value

Note: I had submitted a version of this for the Green Party's Green Pages. Unfortunately, I have been told that it is short-staffed on its editorial committee at this time.

I was going to publish some version here anyway, but wanted to get something out before the GP National Convention is done, so here we go.

==

"Decentralization."

It's one of the Green Party's Ten Key Values.

But, beyond that, for many Greens, it's a shibboleth.

Should it be?

I think not.

In fact, along with some other Greens, such as Bruce Dixon, Mark Lause and perhaps Howie Hawkins, among others (my opinions are ultimately my own, though), I think it's as much impediment as party benefit. 

That's both on matters of party organization and on how to implement particular issues, should Greens gain major state or national offices.

I'm not a pilgrim. I've voted Green for president every election this century. I've voted Green in most state races where I've had the option in Texas. I've been to Green state conventions. I've signed ballot access petitions.

That said, I've probably learned more about the Green Party, in details of its polity, organization and history, in the past two years than in the dozen-plus before that.

I've heard comment about things such as the GPUS being "the 51st state party" and similar. And, I think even if a sketch, it's not a caricature, and it's more true than false. (Sadly, one reason it isn't totally true is that several state parties are semi-defunct, so it's more like "the 37th state party.")

The 2004 presidential nominating process is arguably one example. Different state parties' stances on fusion candidacies if their states allow them, or not, is another. Whether to have dues-paying membership is another.

I'm not arguing for abandoning the idea entirely. Centralization is no more a shibboleth for me than decentralization. I do think it needs to be dropped as a "Key Value," though. Along with that, the national party needs to be more empowered for creating greater unity across state party positions. It also needs to include clear positions forbidding state party delegates or administrators from engaging in activities to boost candidates of other parties or candidates of other parties. Lause notes the New York state party pushed for such an issue for the national party to adopt in 2004 and it didn't happen. That needs to be revived. Standard minimum requirements for state administrative positions would also be good. Per Dixon, the lack of centralization, and lack of organization that goes with it, arguably contributed to problems at the 2017 national meeting.

On political positions, de-emphasizing decentralization would also be good. Greens need to look national-first for many issues, starting with core issues of environmental concern. Other regulatory issues, including financial regulation above all, are also not amenable to decentralization.
Yes, many Greens will note that the description of decentralization doesn't make the party's focus on that absolute. However, from what I've seen on social media, many "in the field" Greens take it as at least near-absolute.

Per Lause, Dixon and others, better organization and clarity at the national level would not only trickle down to the state level, but promote better political focus there, too. Both, and others, discussed these and other issues at the recent Left Forum in New York City.

Will Rogers once said, "I'm not a member of any organized party; I'm a Democrat."

What would he say of today's Greens?

Note: I have blogged before about all Ten Key Values.


July 19, 2018

The 80-20 rule, online commentary and Popehat

The 80-20 "rule" has several variations, like 20 percent of an organization's members do 80 percent of its work or similar.

My adaptation here? If I agree with on on about 80 percent of political philosophy, and that 80 percent for both of us is, in America, at times outside the beaten political, sociological or legal path. we'll probably disagree a lot on the other 20 percent.

Take Ken White, the libertarian-leaning lawyer and former federal prosecutor known as Popehat.

I was curious on his take on end-of-term Supreme Court cases for this year. Specifically, the travel ban, NIFLA (the California anti-abortion clinics) and Janus (the public sector employees' mandatory donations case).

So, I perused his Twitter.

Unfortunately, Popehat loses me at his sixth tweet in a thread that is related to this issue:
I responded:
And, that's that.

No, I"m not a lawyer, but a 30-sec teh Google earlier in the day had already led me to the Abood case backgrounding this, after I read the Janus ruling. I know Ken White knows what Abood is, and that it was adjudicated 41 years ago, so how he can claim that Janus's issues at hand were "new-fangled judge-created exceptions or asterisks to First Amendment protections," I don't know, to put it politely. To put it less politely, I call bullshit, Ken. And, in the wake of NIFLA, several online newsmags mentioned the Planned Parenthood vs Casey and SCOTUS saying, yes states could require doctors to talk about abortion alternatives. (More on Abood and the thread of labor history from there to Janus here.)

Ken, if you want to claim Abood was wrongly decided, that's one thing. (I'd still disagree with you, of course.) BUT, that's not what you claimed. Your statement is pretty clear, and in light of Abood — highly wrong. Deal with it.

In a new Tweet, Ken says:
Which, on my reading of the Abood background to Janus, leads me to stand by my take on last week's Tweets. This isn't Ken just projecting himself into the thinking of a majority of the Supreme Court; it's his personal take.

Ken has the invitation already issued to provide more clarity.

On further exchange of Tweets, Ken admits "new-fangled" is vague, but his admission is in a sense that seems to stand by the idea that Janus is de novo in some way, IMO:
That's my take.

As to whether the big picture is his personal take, or his "projecting" into the thinking of the SCOTUS five, Ken says:
To which, I responded:
And, I'll stand by that as well.

Plus, Ken, you're a lawyer. Even in a brief Tweet, you know something about clarity and precision in language, as I do as an editor.

And, if you wanted to offer your take, you had time on that thread last week. Or, simply, add one tweet to make clear this was your attempt at mind-reading the Court, but that you didn't personally agree with all of it. After all, you weren't retweeting somebody else. And, you started the thread claiming you were rejecting others' interpretations.

So, this is not just reading the mind of SCOTUS with your interpretation. By rejecting other interpretations, I infer you are saying yours is better. And, thus, not just interpreting but taking a personal stance.

Phrasing it another way, and getting rid of the issue of normative, which can mean several things, whether you intend it as a narrow jurisprudence term or more broadly — I read you as saying Janus (and NIFLA, let's not forget) were correctly ruled, were correctly ruled without this being some new conservative legal onslaught (I'll agree; it was Kennedy being his true self more bluntly) and you presenting WHY you think they were correctly ruled. And, on Janus, you're wrong in light of Abood; in NIFLA, you're wrong in light of Planned Parenthood v Casey.

Or, if I'm more generous one way, less another, your interpretation / mind-reading of the Court is itself a fail. That's because, for the same reasons. Obviously Janus wasn't introducing anything new, nor was NIFLA.

(And, this back-and-forth has given me the second most popular tweet of the last 30 days and another in my top 20). I'll probably do a breakout of this into a separate post. Exactly what it says will depend on what Ken says, or does not, on his blog. That said, he has more true-blue libertarians than him among commenters, who probably love Janus; I've seen "taxation is theft" comments semi-regularly. And had people over there attack me occasionally on my Missouri prof and free speech post which got some publicity off Ken.)

Jeff Toobin also calls out the wrongheaded thinking of the Court on Janus, and with that, either the support for such wrongheaded thinking Ken offers, or that he indulges himself.

Per other comments on Twitter, I held off on this to see if he would actually do a blog post about any of the three cases, since he said his tweets weren't necessarily about his personal take.

And, other than two posts that were briefs about his podcasts, no, his first full post was about Brett Kavanaugh and free speech. And, Ken, you are simply wrong about political money as free speech. (It's also an area where Glenn Greenwald is wrong. Glenn has pronounced himself perturbed or similar by Citizens United but has yet to repudiate it, let along the Buckley decision that started this nonsense.) Political speech is ultimately parallel to advertising, though not exactly the same.

Finally, Ken, judges like Kavanaugh, and constitutional law scriveners like you, engage in "results oriented jurisprudence" just like anybody else. Stop pretending with the slapping of labels on others.

July 18, 2018

Kawhi to Toronto

Well, the Malcontented One (and Uncle Dennis) are now out of the hair of Gregg Popovich and the rest of the San Antonio Spurs.

It's a blockbuster. Kawhi Leonard PLUS Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and 2019 Toronto first-rounder.

Winner? Not immediately sure who wins long-term if Toronto pulls off the unexpected and resigns Kawhi, but even then, it's not a slam dunk.

Winner for one year short-term? Toronto, especially with LeBron gone from Cleveland.

Kawhi Leonard (top)
DeMar DeRozan 
Especially in the postseason, this gives them a better set of competitors.

Winner long-term if Toronto can't resign Kawhi?

Spurs, of course, but not necessarily hugely. DeRozan does have one more year on his contract — two years, plus a third year player option — left. But, he's only two-thirds of Kawhi's value on Win Shares and one-half, if that, on VORP. If Pops can get him to play better D, that ups his value. But, that remains to be seen if it can be done.

Green is a moderate loss to the Spurs. They'll have less three-point shooting, but, he might have left the team as well after next year.

Poeltl is not a stretch 4 and never will be. But, he's a good rim defender and an efficient scorer. That said, a two-bigs offense with him and LaMarcus Aldridge would likely congest the floor and won't get too many minutes. Still, he gets out from a logjam with Jonas Valanciunas and others.

The draft choice is fairly highly protected, on slots 1-20. It reverts to two seconds if it is in that slot. Also interesting that Pops didn't get — didn't want?? — Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby.

Red Satan has a timeline of the whole process, saying the quad issue may go back to late in the 2015-16 year. From that year to 2016-17, his last full year, his 3-ball percentage and rebounding go down, his free throws go up. Minutes per game unchanged. He had a career year on 3-balls in 2015-16, so maybe don't read too much in that. How big was his left shoulder injury? Unknown, since it was his left.

Did Tony Parker inflame Spurs-Leonard tensions with his "my injury was worse" comment? Possibly, but by then Uncle Dennis was running the Kawhi Show, and maybe this needed to be said.

Red Satan tackles this in a more detailed backgrounder. It spells out — no real shock if one was reading between the lines — that Kawhi and Uncle Dennis think Pops "used" TP et al, even at that players-only meeting?

Did he? Somewhat, at times, I'm sure. But, the players called their own players-only meeting. Even if Pops was already pushing the needle a bit, these are veteran players on a veteran team. From the Spurs' POV, ESPN says they wish that, if Kawhi and Uncle Dennis were that worried, they'd have decided to take the whole year off, and do so from the start. In that case, of course, the team could have asked for a medical exemption and gotten a replacement. They wouldn't have pushed Kawhi as much — either Pops or the players — with that. But, Leonard refused, when asked multiple times.

Is Pops blameless? No. That said, I think he carries no more than, oh, say, a 25 percent burden if you're going to try to put percentages on it. And, I think he would fess up to that much. At the same time, I doubt that Uncle Dennis would fess up to even 25 percent, let alone more.

Deadspin adds gas to the fire with this semi-serious, semi-snarky take. Perhaps Uncle Dennis, as well as Kawhi himself, held himself out of much of the year to protect his free agent value. Doubling down on Deadspin, maybe they decided to have Kawhi play a few games, then a few more, so that he didn't look TOO injured.

And, will Manu Ginobili be back for one more year? I think so. And, with Green gone, his 3-balling will get used.

Overall predictions?

Toronto wins Atlantic Division and No. 1 seed in East — at least, if Kawhi plays either halfway happy or contract year energetic.

Spurs stay in playoffs in West, probably about 4-5 slot. Pops may not be done wheeling and dealing yet, etc.

Give Toronto a B-plus overall on the trade and give the Spurs a B for getting as much as they did when no market materialized with other teams. But, if the Sixers offering was legit and firm, per Red Satan's analysis, give the Spurs no more than a B for not taking it, as I think it was a better offer.

Give Kawhi and Uncle Dennis a C-plus. Maybe a B for legit medical concerns but a D-plus/C-minus for how they handled this.

And, long term? Who knows who's speaking for Kawhi when he says he doesn't want to go to the Lakers to be second fiddle to LeBron? I suspect Uncle Dennis. I suspect that this may be taken into consideration next year by some GMs dealing with his free agency.

Speculation the Drakes will flip Kawhi to the Lakers? Unlikely. A healthy Kawhi gives them a shot at the NBA Finals. Whatever package the Lake Show would offer back does not.

July 17, 2018

TX Progressives talk Trump, death penalty, pollution

The Texas Progressive Alliance is old enough to remember a time when Republicans thought cozying up to Russia was a bad idea (your blogger will have an updated report on the "12 Russians" indictments and the Trump-Putin summit next week) as it brings you this week's roundup — and as one member celebrates the Cardinals firingMike Matheny.

Off the Kuff reviewed the prognosticator projections for Texas' Congressional races.

SocraticGadfly talked about how the latest animal research seems to partially refute some ideas of Elizabeth Loftus' claims about how memory can operate.

Neil at You Need To Act Right Now detailed steps he was taking to defeat Trump and Trump's wickedness. Everything we do in this regard has value.

The NAACP had its annual convention in San Antonio and talked about getting out the black vote and continuing to fight disenfranchisement laws.

State Rep. Joe Moody calls for the abolition of the death penalty in Texas.

The Texas Trib notes how Greg Abbott is building on Rick Perry in consolidating trhe governor’s power.

State Rep. Joe Moody calls for the abolition of the death penalty in Texas.

Sanford Nowlin frets about the state of local media in San Antonio, though his worries apply to most metropolitan areas.

Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer describes the politics behind why Texas is likely to continue to oppose Medicaid expansion. The Texas Observer notes that, for similar reasons, automatic voter registration, ie, "motor voter," same-day registration and other ideas, won't happen.

Erica Schommer decries the planned reopening of the Willacy County Detention Center.

Equality Texas responds to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Greensource DFW says bacteria could decompose those nasty paper bags — and produce electricity in the process.

Downwinders at Risk stumbles on an old clean air fund and asks questions about it while suggesting it could be repurposed.

Backstory — your blogger was in Lancaster at the time, and trongly supported the coalition’s work to block coal-fired power plants. He does remember, and notes, that Cedar Hill and Duncanville refused to join Lancaster and DeSoto among Best Southwest cities. Back to you, Rob Franke.

July 15, 2018

Cardinals can Mike Matheny while flailing at midseason

I've been wanting the Birds to say sayonara to Mike Matheny as manager for years. Hell, I wanted John Mozeliak to hire Terry Francona instead of Matheny to fill the Tony La Russa retirement in the first place.

And, now he's gone. Along with hitting coach John Mabry and his assistant Bill Mueller.

I was going to do a midseason update blog in the next day or two anyway, and now I have the perfect additional reason.

Matheny, as Bernie Miklasz said recently, even with Mike Maddux as his new pitching coach, still hasn't learned how to manage a bullpen. Or starters at times. And, even with Jose Oquendo back coaching, the team is still boneheaded at times on the basepaths.

So he needed to go. But ... a midseason firing is very rare in St. Louis. The last time? As the Red Satan noted, more than 20 years ago, when Mike Jorgenson, as an interim, replaced Joe Torre.

But ... Bernie halfway predicted this Friday, including Mabry going, too. Mueller may have been collateral damage or a "message." Sunday, DeWitt said the team needed "a fresh voice and some new leadership." (Per that piece, Mark Budaska comes up from Memphis to replace Mabry.)

And, the biggie, as Red Satan notes? The team winning percentage has dropped each year from 2015 on.

This is the typical stir-up-the-team midseason firing. Will it work?

Probably not. Fangraphs has the Cards' playoff odds at 20 percent, and that was before Saturday night's loss to the Reds. (Back to back stinker home losses to Cincinnati probably contributed to the trigger being pulled.)

Dexter Fowler, the second bad FA signing by Mozeliak after Mike Leake — who is sucking more for Seattle this year than the Cards last year, if that's consolation to some fans who saw his post-trade 2017 peak with the Mariners — was followed by Marcell Ozuna as a bad trade instead of the team waiting out the Marlins (if Derrick Goold is passing on true dope on that) and signing Christian Yelich instead, may be a permanent dead weight thanks to Mo throwing him under the bus.

Matheny's reportedly using Bud Norris as a bullpen snitch, if even half true, has poisoned things there.

Injuries to Yadi Molina and Paul DeJong hurt, but not THAT much. If you're leaning on your 35-year-old catcher and your second-year shortstop to be that much of the offensive spark, you got bigger problems.

Sure, there may be a mild bump, but ... the team is not that good. Ozuna may still have shoulder problems, Tommy Pham may not hit last year's peaks, and who knows elsewhere?

As for "next year"? Mike Schildt is clearly an interim (I think).

But, maybe Schildt should NOT be an interim. I don't know if Yadi is the best batter on the team right now or not, but Schildt put him in the 2-hole for Sunday's game, and modern analytics says that's where the best guy should hit. (Actually, he's not, and Matt Carpenter should be in that slot, not leadoff, going by OPS+. Also, without totally throwing him under the bus, Ozuna should be moved down one spot, or more, from cleanup.)

Goold said Joe Girardi will be among those considered, passing on a tweet from Jon Heyman. That's the fricking kiss of death. Pass, unless Girardi has fixed whatever issued led the Yankees to fire him. If I recall, Girardi was analytics-resistant, and not always regarded as friendly to younger players. Definitely not the right fit.

Speaking of firings and fixings, maybe it's time to move on from Mozeliak. Bill DeWitt, feel free to pull a trigger. A year ago, when he did a sort of midseason shakeup, or threatened to, Mo said he believed in being held accountable himself. Good. Get rid of him.

As DeWitt said in the Bernie "decoder" piece, the offense sucks. DeWitt thinks it has potential to do better. Is it more that, or does it actually suck due to talent issues, in which case a new president or super GM is needed as much as a new manager?

A new PBO, or whatever title you give him, with Girsch, might bring new angles to on-field management, minor-league development and free agency.

St. Louis has declined as a destination for top-level free agents. So, look for more mid-level ones and use incentive-heavy contracts.

July 14, 2018

Rosenstein's 12 Russians, Seth Rich, et al
vs Trump, Putin Did it and Democrat nuttery

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, acting on the all things Russia investigation of special prosecutor Robert Mueller, has nailed 12 Russian coonskins to the indictment wall.

Mueller has indicted 12 Russian nationals, all alleged GRU employees, as announced by Rosenstein. Indictment claims one or more of them stole the credentials of a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee employee. From there, they allegedly got in the DCCC computer network, installed malware to keep their access open, etc., transmitted info from that network to a server computer in Phoenix, got into the DNC network via the DCCC network, implanted the same malware, and sent info from DNC computers to a server in Illinois.

(We now have a 13th indictee, Mariia Butina, in a separate part of the investigation. She reportedly was under the handling of Alexander Torshin of Russia's central bank and working with NRA member Paul Erickson as a go-between. Exactly what she allegedly did wrong seems a bit murky at this time.)

Also addressing the download speeds issue, it seems, per Nathaniel Freitas mentioning the use of cloud computing, it is alleged that the 12 Russians got access to other DNC docs that were stored on cloud computers.

There are a couple of things we should note.

First, while the indictment alleges conspiracy between the 12 and a U.S. Congressional candidate (page 15) and a state-level lobbyist (page 16), no collusion is alleged with the Trump campaign. And even those two do not rise to criminal collusion unless the persons involved had a good idea they were interacting with Russians for nefarious purposes.

Second, in muddying the waters, they allegedly stole Black Lives Matter info, then released it to a reporter while the 12 were in Guccifer 2.0 persona (page 16). The reporter contacted them back. This would seem to indicate the 12 were in the business of throwing shade on the U.S. electoral process in general. And, tho Rosenstein most certainly will not name him, who IS that reporter?

Third, also on page 16, who is the "person in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump"? Off the top of my Nixon-tattooed back, that sure sounds like Roger Stone.

Fourth, "Organization 1" sure sounds like WikiLeaks, of course.

Fifth is the use of cryptocurrency to pay for much of the needs of this operation. (This is going to make intelligence and national-level police agencies not just in the US but around the world increase their monitoring of cryptocurrency systems.)

Sixth, while there may not be any new collusion evidence (probably because there was none), the indictments clearly fuel obstruction of justice issues vis-a-vis Trump himself, per Lawfare. (It must be remembered that Lawfare is basically the left-hand side of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment.)

Seventh, outside of the Rosenstein indictments and the ongoing Mueller investigation, I feel pretty confident that Donald Trump did not collude with Vladimir Putin or anybody employed by the Russian government to get elected.

Has he, though, for some time before his election, "colluded" with Russian oligarchs to be a washing machine to launder their ill-gotten money? Quite possibly, per Adam Davidson. Has he used the power and office of the presidency — and did he hint at this while campaigning — to enhance this? Also quite possibly. Is this an Emoluments Clause issue? Maybe, but likely impossible to prove.

Also, as David Klion and many others have noted, Jared Kushner and other Trump family members and allies also face money-laundering scrutiny. And, those Russian oligarchs got their money and their power, as Klion notes, because the neoliberal capitalists behind the bipartisan foreign policy establishment set them up.

But, but, Hillbots, the bipartisan foreign policy establishment and others will say, Russian oligarchs all answer to Putin, so surely this proves Trump-Putin collusion.

Tosh and tommyrot.

Putin has more than enough money. Beyond that, he's about power, not money. Beyond that, he's about being a Russian patriot and restoring Russian hegemony and superpower status.

Before the election, while we know that they disliked Hillary Clinton, we also know that Kremlin insiders — career bureaucrats of political operations, not oligarchs — preferred her to Trump because of her experience and stability. And, as far as we know, Putin has signed off on this.

To phrase this one another way, while Russian oligarchs may do Putin's bidding, Putin doesn't do their bidding.

And, Putin himself, before his meeting with Trump, noted:
"Where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him? He defends the interests of the United States of America. I defend the interests of the Russian Federation."
Indeed. And if oligarchs don't align with those interests, Putin moves on.

Eighth, as far as everything the GRU agents allegedly did, the U.S., and the rest of the West, hoist itself by its own petard in 2009. Whether Putin would have honored an international cyberconventions treaty may be debated, but one could have been in place. Thanks, Obama.

Ninth, none of this should be construed as giving credence to the fevered brainstorms of either David Corn and Jon Chait or the Kossacks Marcy Wheeler and Bmaz, unless the reporter she references happens to be the same one as in Rosenstein's filing.

Tenth, it should also not should it be construed as giving credence to every bit of handwaving and whataboutism at Consortium News. At Consortium News, I presume Joe Lauria is doing this because Ray McGovern is unavailable, or else exhausted from fellating Darrell Issa yesterday.

To answer some of Lauria's whataboutism:

Russia doesn't have an extradition treaty with the US (and doesn't extradite Russian nationals in general), so, of course, we will have things that never see the light of day past these indictments. Duh. And, the fact that material facts presented in the indictments are not legal evidence does not at all mean that these things don't exist as empirical evidence, contra what Joe seems to imply and presumably wants most readers to infer.

As for the timing of the indictments? I'm glad Joe is a mind-rider. Joe, do you read crystal balls at Renaissance festivals? Also, last I checked, Great Britain, where Trump was at yesterday, is not Russia. Yes, Trump is meeting Putin on Monday. But, the idea that these indictments would change the meeting is laughable. For them to have that effect, if timing were deliberate and being done in an effort to restrain Trump, Rosenstein should have announced them before GOP Congresscritters went to Moscow a week ago.

And, derp? Rosenstein offered Trump the option of a pre-Helsinki or a post-Helsinki announcement and Trump chose pre-Helsinki.

Also, directly contradicting and undermining Lauria, Lawfare, at the obstruction of justice link above, notes:
But, to be clear, Mueller was not trying to make a press statement. We know that not merely because that’s not the way Mueller operates but also because Rosenstein said specifically at his press conference that he had briefed the president on the matter before Trump left town—days before the Strzok hearing yet also mere days before Trump has a scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Double derp.

As for the FBI and bias? Garrett Graff, in a guest column at the NYT, is the voice of reason, saying the problem is NOT Peter Strzok, but the NY office of the FBI leaking, that undercuts both the whatabouters and the wingnuts.
 The office has long been a source of meddlesome leaks, in part because of the intermixing of F.B.I. agents and New York Police Department officers who have close relationships with the city’s press corps. 
More derp.

Related, specifically, to Consortium News' old reliance on Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity's split decision reliance on "The Forensicator" for claiming that download speeds precluded Russkies from doing much of this? Old Forensicator, as of Sunday, had not posted anything about the indictments.

Eleventh, per the above, it should most definitely not give any credence to any wingnuts, and any spinning by them needs to be challenged.

I'll stand on the take of James Risen, who is not a total friend of an alleged "deep state," over both the whataboutism above and the wingnuts below. And, re both groups, I'm going to quote:
It wasn’t Seth Rich, the murdered young Democratic staffer whose name has been dragged through the mud by countless fringe theorists, and whose parents are now suing Fox News for propagating such lies. 
It wasn’t an inside job by the Democrats themselves, as a group of out-of-touch former intelligence officials tried to convince themselves and the world.  The Mueller investigation isn’t a “witch hunt,” as Donald Trump and his loyalists have repeatedly claimed.

I especially like his take on VIPS. (The link is to the Aaron Mate piece at The Nation that I've blogged about.)

I'm not following Risen down the collusion road, though, and I'll note that, per Wen Ho Lee, he's not a total enemy of the intelligence establishment, either. The GRU folks had started the hacks long before the July 27, 2016 callout by Trump. And, per some people who are not whatabouters or wingnuts who still don't see collusion.

For example, as for claims by H.A. Goodman that "no DNC servers" and "no Russian hacks" have been found. It is true that, ever since its original denial to James Comey, the investigation has used mirrors and information from the servers from CrowdStrike, per the Hill. That said, CrowdStrike is probably not competent enough to successfully fudge DNC servers. And, yes, we still need the word "alleged," H.A., but the Russian hacks IS the indictments.

That said, Goodman, who probably never really was a Berniecrat in 2016, just an anti-Hillary Clinton wannabe, and who is now a gun nut as part of being a Trumper, has low credibility on this. (And, I called him out on Twitter about "never really a Berniecrat.")

Disobedient Media claiming Guccifer 2.0 never leaked anything damaging to Clinton is absurd if one assumes he/they was the main Wikileaker as well as setting up DCLeaks. The claim that it leaked info damaging to Trump is even more laughable.

More laughable yet is its making insinuations because certain things aren't detailed in the indictment when in reality that's how indictments work. It also, in the piece I'm reading but will not link, says what I see as deliberately confusing, and deliberately rhetorical, questions about timelines, like "Why didn't X say this in January 2017?" Because that was 18 months and much less research ago? Derp.

I've fired another shot across the Twitter bow indicating that left-liberal and leftist friends of mine who I follow there primarily for US political reasons should stop retweeting DM without good warrant.

Here's what MediaBias FactCheck says:
Disobedient Media is a news and opinion website with a right wing bias in story selection and reporting. Disobedient Media uses moderate loaded words and tends to source well to credible information. Occasionally they will source to some pretty far right sources. 
So, stop retweeting them just because they have blog posts that involve data dump shitstorm blizzards. They're not the worst; they reject QAnon type nuttery, for example. But they're not the best, either.

Twelfth, there ARE legitimate, non-wingnut critiques of some of the indictment. Already in late 2016, Jeffrey Carr cautioned about not reading too much into Yandex email accounts, other than that smart Russians wouldn't use them.

I also wrote myself about Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear in early 2017, based on Carr and other people. Maybe what Carr said then about the Yahoo hackers will be true about the GRU 12: They were independent Russian actors, even if working for the GRU.

I want to specifically reference a Carr link inside there. He's right that we need a disinterested bipartisan look at such things. Disobedient Media and H.A. Goodman aren't disinterested. That said, I'd go beyond Carr to say, Hire people who we know are connected to the Green Party or Libertarian Party as part of that look.

And, he doesn't blog a lot, but I am waiting for what Carr might have to say on the indictments.

Jonathan Turley, whose legal insight is generally of high quality, is not drinking the Kool-Aid, either. And Glenn Greenwald has not one, but two parts, of transcripts of a debate with a think tank leader over what's good, bad and ugly in the Trump-Putin summit. (I largely agree with Glenn while saying he misses Trump's egotism in wanting a 1-on-1 with Putin, and that if he doesn't trust his conventional GOP foreign policy advisers, that's ultimately on Trump for bad hirings kowtowing to the GOP half of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment.)

It's "interesting" that a fair chunk of Fox News people not named Sean Hannity are taking the "conventional" line on the summit. More evidence there that Faux isn't quite as monolithic as many —occasionally me, too — like to believe.

Thirteenth, this is not the last I'll have to say here. I'll probably have brief updates in the next week or so if Forensicator, Clevenger or others, either others of note for connections to all this, or others of note for insight into all of this, weigh in.

July 13, 2018

Mike Trout is not actually chasing Babe Ruth

Mike Trout: Possible
single-season GOAT?
Starting with David Schoenfield, folks at ESPN baseball coverage, and now ESPN Stats and Info, have been claiming that Mike Trout is chasing Babe Ruth, namely Ruth's 1923 season, for the best year in baseball history by WAR.

He's not, unless he's trying for second place.

You see, I got curious, and went on Baseball-Reference myself.

The best year in MLB history is NOT Babe Ruth's 1923. Not at all.

But, who?

It's Walter Johnson's 1913.

Walter Johnson: The
current WAR GOAT
The Big Train had 15.0 WAR on the mound, compared to Ruth's 14.3 at the plate.

Now, somebody will pop up that single-season WAR numbers can vary half a WAR point, so just maybe Ruth is ahead.

Nope.

Johnson also had 1.4 at the plate for 16.4 WAR total.

Now, ESPN Stats and Info had one of their staff snootily tweet back to me when I tweeted this, that it was about position players only.

Well, Schoenfield never said that.

This dude said "it was implied."

I said "oh really"?

He then said that WAR favored pitchers, especially in the dead ball era.

First, as I've blogged before,1913 was semi-live ball, not totally dead. About all rules had been standardized, homers were up a tick, doubles up two or three ticks, etc.

Second, if you throw out pre-1920 years, as I then told this guy, half of the top WAR years were by batters anyway. (I took top 50 and threw out from there.) One third of post-1910 were, and almost all of the 1910-20 years that stay are Johnson's. Take top 50 and ties I then said "bye!"

Let's look at modern pitchers — post-1910, in my take — who are at least in the ballpark of the Babe's year.

Johnson, again, 14.8 in 1912
Dwight Gooden, 13.3 WAR (an under-21 record) in his phenomenal 1985
Pete Alexander, 12.7 in 1920
Walter (Guess Who) Johnson, 12.7 in 1914, part of a phenomenal three-year stretch.
Steve Carlton, 12.5 in 1972
You know Who, 12.5 in 1915, part of a phenomenal four-year stretch
Ed Walsh, 12.2, 1912
Roger Clemens, 12.1, 1997
Hal Newhouser, 12.1, 1945
Bob Gibson, 11.9, 1968
Old Pete, 11.9, 1916
Ferguson Jenkins, 11.9, 1971

So, ESPN Stats and Disinformation Guy? Not Even Wrong. That's 13 seasons by 9 pitchers. Even if we go to 1920 or later, we have seven seasons by seven pitchers. Post-integration?  Still have four seasons by four different pitchers.

Besides all of the above, it's fun busting ESPN's chops and doing so in a better-informed fashion than Deadspin.

July 12, 2018

David Corn and Jonathan Chait face-off
in the Putin Did It nutbar playoffs

I was wondering what Ken Silverstein was referring to on Twitter Monday when he posted some convoluted art with Donald Trump's and Vladimir Putin's mugs front and center and more flow chart lines than some old BASIC programming skit from the 1980s.



I found out Tuesday: It's Obama fellator Jonathan Chait, moving from crack-smoking to the glue-sniffing stage of lunacy in a long, long, long-form piece for NY Mag claiming that Trump has been a Soviet/Russian asset since 1987. No, really.

First, to address some of Chait's basic nuttery with mugshots on the US side of the graphic. Michael Flynn? A nothingburger, overall, as I noted here, who was ultimately, it appears, working for Turkish President Erdogan and Israeli Premier Netanyahu. Manafort? An all-purpose grifter most of whose most recent grifting was working for Ukrainians of various stripes, primarily pro-West, pro-NATO ones.

The meetings in Trump Tower, where Russians own apartments? Gee, Jon, where's Jill Stein sitting at the same table as Putin.

I ultimately refer to a recent piece by Jack Matlock, who happened to by our ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1987. Matlock scorns the Hillbot-lauded "17 intelligence agencies" report by DNI James Clapper on Jan. 6, 2017 as cherrypicked not just for its analysis, but which of the minority of those agencies were actually asked to participate.

Ambassador from 1987-1991, during the fall of Communism and the old Soviet Union, and a Foreign Service careerist, Matlock would surely have known if Donald Trump were being cultivated as a Soviet/Russian asset. It also ignores that it would have been hard for Vladimir Putin to be personally recruiting Trump during the Donald's 1987 trip to Moscow, as per Wiki, Vlad the Impaler was still stationed in Dresden, East Germany at that time.

In the blue corner, or the other blue corner, to riff on boxing, we have David Corn, who published a whole book of Putin Did It nuttery along with Michael Isikoff. Corn, aka Hillary's Lapdog, aka Steele's Bellboy.

Corn goes for the JFK route, implying that we have an American version of "While England Slept." He joins Chait in claiming the "mainstream media" has failed to denote enough coverage. Really? Who printed the "17 intelligence agencies" lock, stock and barrel? Who prints every move of special prosecutor Robert Mueller?

Here's Corn's capper:
Trump and Putin have jointly worked to disappear perhaps the greatest crime ever committed against American democracy and their respective complicity in this villainy.
Actually, no. 

I can think of many worse crimes.

  • The Supreme Court's misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment almost from the moment the ink was dry through Plessy v. Ferguson.
  • Dred Scott.
  • The foisting of a House of Lords-type Senate on the American populace.
  • The first Red Scare after World War I.
  • The second Red Scare after World War II.
Those are just starters. They took about 30 seconds to think up.

Beyond that, as a response to both Corn and Chait, Matlock has also decried Russiagate hysteria in general.

The two of them have surpassed even the nuttery of former Kossack Marcy Wheeler, aka Emptywheel.

Don't worry, this could escalate.

As I said on Twitter, next, Corn needs to try to top Chait's claim that Trump was a Russian asset since 1987 to claim that Kremlin scientists kidnapped Trump's mom while pregnant and altered his DNA.

They've even topped the latest from Alex Jones.

This all said, I think we need another bracket or two for a real playoff on this, like the World Cup or the NBA Finals. A person like Louise Mensch would of course be a ringer and be thrown out.

But, Sarah Kendzior? Rachel Maddow? Bring em on!

July 10, 2018

TX Progressives roundup while waiting for Trump's SCOTUS Godot

The Texas Progressive Alliance wonders when Trump will start conscripting people into his trade war and some of its members wait to see how much Democrats will raise their Oh the SCOTUS cries against Greens and others as it brings you this week's roundup. (And that Go Dough is Brett Cavanaugh.)

Dos Centavos urges Democrats to not lose their nerve in the #AbolishICE debate.

John Coby calls out Dan Patrick's bad math on metal detectors.

Off the Kuff made more comparisons to 2014 on relative levels of enthusiasm and candidate fundraising.

Grits for Breakfast deplores Texas politicos’ hysteria about opiates when meth is the more serious problem in this state.

The Observer reruns the column Molly Ivins wrote in 1973 after the Roe v Wade decision was handed down.

Stepping outside politics and into world sports culture, SocraticGadfly suggests ways to either improve on the current shootout method or reduce them in World Cup games.

Jeff Balke laments the things that Houstonians do during floods even though they should really know better.

Paradise in Hell continues to be our foremost interpreter of Donald Trump.

Stephen Young calls Ken Paxton the state’s luckiest politician. Young now adds that Paxton worries Tex-ass could become a sanctuary state for abortions.

Staying at least three steps ahead of former Observer partner Robert Wilonsky, Jim Schutze says the Margaret McDermott Bridge faces more inspection issues — and a worst-case nightmare.

Vanessa Eichler argues that inadequate funding remains the biggest problem in Texas public education.

Equality Texas is bringing town hall meetings on the ramifications of the Masterpiece CakeshopSupreme Court decision to Dallas, Waco, San Antonio, and Houston next week.

David Bruce Collins says the Kimo Jiménez situation got overblown with incorrect info but eventually handled reasonably well, with the state party noting  Jiménez was not an actual member. He encourages people to get involved, at least a small bit, with the Green Party.

Bonddad talks about the GOP turning out its base.

March for our Lives, the gun control movement lead by Parkland school shooting survivors, visited Houston.

Brains and Eggs noted the Fourth of July fireworks hypocrisy that MAGA-heads must follow.

July 09, 2018

Mice offer more partial refudiation of Elizabeth Loftus

Elizabeth Loftus, selectively focused memory psychologist.
That would be memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, who makes good money to peddle a seemingly Freudian-based version of "false memory syndrome," and not always correctly or scientifically.

Research on lab rats has already indicated that memory can be more malleable than Loftus presents.

The latest research? It's on mice, not rats. And, it shows that mice can be made to recover seemingly forgotten memories. This, too, is important. And deserves several paragraphs extracted:
Having encountered patients who couldn’t remember their early years, Sigmund Freud first coined the term infantile amnesia in the late 19th century. Since then, scientists have tried to understand why humans, nonhuman primates, and rodents alike experience this phenomenon. Whether these lost memories were due to improper storage or inefficient recollection was unknown. 
 In this latest study, Paul Frankland, a psychologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and his colleagues sought to establish which of these possibilities was operating in mice. … 
 Frankland and his colleagues were able to switch on these memory-encoding neurons at 15, 30, and 90 days after the initial foot shock. At every stage up to young adulthood, the mice recalled their infant memories and froze when put back in the box. 
 Frankland’s team has previously shown that one reason why infantile memories are lost is because the adult brain adds new neurons to the hippocampus that replace the old memory-encoding neurons. However, this study shows that young adult mice tend to retain traces of their earliest memories.   
 “The findings of later accessibility of early memories are reminiscent (no pun intended) of those we see with human children,” writes Patricia Bauer, a psychologist at Emory University who was not involved in this research, in an email to The Scientist. Older children who are given cues can be prompted to remember events from their infancy. Unlike mice, episodic memories in humans are “not only hippocampally dependent, but also are personally relevant.” Still, she says, “we must be cautious about generalizing the present findings” to humans.
First, the third paragraph.

Such memories are retrievable. Period. And, relevant to Loftus and her paid expert witness testimony in courts, these were fear-based memories.

Second, the fourth paragraph. To the degree Loftus was working with scientific information 20 years ago, the idea that humans regularly grew new neurons, let alone in specialized brain areas such as the hippocampus, was not broadly accepted. We have that as a different model of brain development now.

Third, the last paragraph. It appears this applies to adults.

And, on counseling. The difference between cue-provision and coaching can be a fine one at times. The likes of Loftus would probably like to obliterate it to uphold their stances.

Also, kind of sadly, Texas civil liberties and criminal justice blogger Grits for Breakfast thinks Loftus is the bee's knees.

July 06, 2018

Bart Ehrman hits a foul ball with rise of Christianity book

Type your summary here Type rest of the post hereThe Triumph of Christianity: How a Small Band of Outcasts Conquered an EmpireThe Triumph of Christianity: How a Small Band of Outcasts Conquered an Empire by Bart D. Ehrman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Nice try in theory, falls well short in reality

This was a book tough to rate.

I generally like Ehrman. I generally think that mythicists unfairly belittie him, though I disagree with some specifics of his own supporting material offered for a historic Jesus.

The idea of the book isn’t new, but presented in popularizing form from a knowledgable New Testament scholar, promised to be good, possibly very good.

But, it fell short. Short enough in some ways that I took fairly detailed notes at chapter breaks.

Without explicitly saying so, Ehrman seems to indicate that Christian evangelism and Christian miracle-working both had modest-to-moderate boosts for the early decades of Christianity, but no more than that, and then it was primarily word-of-mouth, just like you and I buy a car or toothpaste today.

However …

First, the evangelism issue is nowhere near as simple as Ehrman paints.

First of all, we know that Christianity was NOT the only evangelistic religion of antiquity, contra what Ehrman implies, and even semi-directly says.

Ashoka’s Buddhist missionaries to the West went as far as Macedonia and Cyrenaica circa 200 BCE. Four hundred years later, Clement of Alexandria and other Christian fathers knew about ongoing Buddhist proselytizing. And, Will Durant even speculated it may have been an element in Christian missions. See more here.

Either Ehrman is surprisingly uninformed here. Or else, Ehrman’s definition of antiquity is narrow. Neither speaks well for this book.

That said, per reading between the lines in Acts, and in some of Paul’s letters, and my take on J. Massyngberde Ford’s Anchor Bible volume on who wrote the original core of Revelation, we know that at least a few followers of John the Baptist evangelized.

Paul himself mentions Apollos and Peter, even talking about Peter getting paid to take his wife with him.

So, Ehrman has a foul ball here.

On the miracle working, whether real or not, Ehrman doesn’t mention that this was common outside Christianity. Indeed, Jewish charismatics such as Honi the Circle Drawer come to mind. Or Morton Smith’s “Jesus the Magician.” Or the name Simon Magus. Ehrman doesn’t go into a lot of depth here. He even mentions Apollonius of Tyana, the contemporary of Jesus, but never goes into detail about his own reported miracle-working.

So, if Christian miracles were more powerful than Jewish, Greek philosophical, or pagan religious ones, why? They were all common. Ehrman doesn't discuss why Xn magic was considered more powerful, whether it had a big effect on recruiting or not.

And Ehrman knows "winners write history" on this just as much as anything else. The Old Testament illustrates that with the famous, and surely legendary, battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

It’s true that no ancient author writes an unbiased account of this in detail. But Ehrman, while noting that no actual such miracles likely happened, doesn’t explain why Christians were perceived to be (as he would seemingly have us believe) better miracle-workers or magicians.

The real issue is that, in the Greek world, outside of Apollonius and presumably other neo-Pythagoreans, plus healing miracles claimed at the temples of Asclepius, miracles weren't a big part of the religious framework. Outside of shape-shifting and adopting human guise, the Olympians have no preachers to even perform miracles. And, the likes of Honi aside, this wasn't a big deal in much of Judaism, either.

So, to the degree Christians performed sleight-of-hand, they had relatively minimal competition. To the degree they performed faith healings, they did it away from temples.

Beyond the miracles issue?

If evangelism were as low as Ehrman thinks it was after Paul, and pagans and philosophers did magic, too, then why was word-of-mouth as successful as Ehrman thinks it was? Word of mouth 2,000 yrs ago presumably was based on testimonials just as much as today.

Reality is that, with people like Polycarp, or Clement of Rome, their letters to other churches were surely part of an ongoing program not just of church maintenance but church planting and spreading. Look at the pseudo-Pauline letter to “Ephesians.” Originally a circular letter, it probably was written in similar spirit.

This may not have been as big a deal as modern Christians sending missionaries to New Guinea, but it wasn't nothing. I see it as more than Ehrman implies.

And, the third failing, a partial one.

I agree with Ehrman that many of the details of Rodney Stark’s projected growth rates of Christianity don’t withstand scrutiny.

However, even though Decius’ persecution wasn’t specifically against Christianity, Diocletian’s was. In a sort of analogy, American whites will start to flee suburban neighborhoods and even whole communities when an influx of minority population, and above all, African-American population, hits a certain percentage, usually around 10 percent.

Ehrman doesn’t ask if a similar phenomenon were in play here. If it was, his believed population percentage of Christians, empire-wide, was too low at the time of Diocletian to be such a trigger. Now, the persecutions were carried out most commonly in the eastern half of the empire, and we have some fairly good indications Christianity was stronger there.

Nonetheless, Ehrman doesn’t follow up.

A fourth problem? Per a commenter to my review?

Of course it was "word of mouth" how Christianity spread. There were no newspapers then, let alone radio, TV or Facebook. Handwritten books were expensive and time-consuming to produce. Ehrman does note that in a early Christian worship service, the leader might be reading from a copy of a letter of Paul or a gospel to an audience that was mostly illiterate and thus couldn't check the book themselves, either.

But, why would one pagan trust another who had joined not the "nutty enough" (from many pagans' point of view) Judaism, but a "nuttier yet" derivative of Judaism? Being someone's neighbor, or coworker at work outside of home, didn't necessarily mean trusting them that much. How much would a neighbor believe a neighbor who said something like "But THIS miracle was REAL!"?

So why WERE Christian "magoi" believed more than pagan ones at Asclepian shrines, similar ones from followers of John the Baptizer, or philosophical wonder-workers?

A fifth partial failing, in my opinion?

Ehrman seems to believe Christianity was not just majority-gentile, but strongly so, by circa 100 CE.

Yet, he fails to mention the “desynagoging” that happened circa 100 CE, per John. If this really did happen, it undercuts Ehrman’s thesis. If it didn’t, he should have offered a bit of exegesis on John here to explain this.

Despite John speaking bluntly of “the Jews,” I think something did happen.

I mean, in "Zealot," Reza Aslan appears to get this more correct! (He later goes on to get it incorrect, despite evidence he presents; but, that's Aslan in a nutshell.)

My personal guesstimate? At 100 CE, overall, Christianity was 25 percent Jewish, 65 percent "godfearer" Gentiles, and 10 percent Gentiles with little to no previous contact with Judaism. In a place like Corinth, I believe Paul had already been bringing people like this in, and that scared Jerusalem far more than godfearers being considered their equals.

Finally, Ehrman makes a partial version of the same error Stark does on population growth, and it’s connected to his overlooking or ignoring Buddhist evangelism.

He focuses on growth within the Roman Empire.

Armenia became officially Christian in 301 CE, nearly a century before Theodosius so proclaimed Rome. Various kingdoms that today make up Georgia became officially Christian before that time. Ulfilias proselityzed Goths, presumably with some Goths previously Christian, before Theodosius. Legends of Thomas Christians aside, there were Christians in India before this time. Ditto for ancient Nubia, beyond Rome’s Nile frontier.

In critiquing and criticizing Stark, I have noted all of this and said that at least 10 percent of Christians at the time of Constantine were outside imperial borders.

And, of course, by the period that closes Ehrman’s book, Christianity had not swept “the world.” It probably hadn't swept the Eastern Roman Empire; I suspect it had many closet pagans still. That's true in spades for the Western Empire.

Finishing up this last section of the notes as I got ready to post this led me to take Ehrman down from three to two stars. Several three-star readers seemed too kind in their detailed reviews.

Ehrman – and his agent who suggested this – should either have committed to an additional 20-30 pages and more rigor, or else suggested this as a series of magazine essays only, or similar.

Sixth and in brief? Christianity had the upper hand on established paganism in being able to mutilate statues of Zeus, etc., and say, "Look, nothing happened." That said, yes, Christians did the same to more rustic pagan icons among the Germans, etc. On the other hand, Joe Stalin could have said the same after shuttering churches across the USSR.

That said, this not the only clunker, in my opinion, that Ehrman has wrote. I didn't care for "Jesus, Interrupted" either.


View all my reviews

July 05, 2018

World Cup and penalty kick shootouts — a whole new idea

I'm a casual fan about the sport, but not an idiot about it. One of the biggest frustrations is the number of top-level matches, especially at the World Cup, that get decided in shootouts.

Shootouts are luck of the draw, on whether a keeper guesses right or not on his jump side anticipation, followed by luck on whether or not, if either does deke moves, a keeper or the shooter can fake the other out.

One way to avoid that would be to increase scoring chances.

IMO, the easy way to do that without going way overboard is widening the goal by, say, 4 feet to make it 28 feet wide. Or, less drastic might be to make it 26 feet wide. Emphasizing the other dimension, a 9-foot high goal would offer even less reward, but some more than now. A 9x26 might be less than 8x28, but fairly wide open.

I don't know if making the penalty box shallower than 18 yards, or narrower, or both, would benefit offense more, or defense more.

Eliminating offsides rules and allowing "cherry picking" sounds too drastic.

==

Option B is reform the shootout.

Here's how.

Get rid of keepers.

Move shooters back to midfield.

Additional requirement is that ball cannot hit the ground more than three times, or something, before crossing the goal line and into the net.

A premium mix of accuracy plus leg strength on the line, without trying to outguess or outpsych a keeper, and thus, without luck.

And, contra England manager Gareth Southgate, while there is a degree of skill in a shootout, there's also still much more luck than would be in my system.

A friend of mine has since suggested another idea. Kind of like Capture the Flag, have a ball at center pitch and a player from each team on his goal line. They race for the ball at the center, and whoever gets it tries to score, one-on-one. Again, a time limit, say, 1 minute, would seem to be in order.

July 03, 2018

Happy Fourth! Enjoy those freedoms!

Well, not totally. If you're a secularist, don't forget that NONE of the Supreme Court believes that the First Amendment's freedom of religion guarantees you freedom FROM religion. None. Sorry, but it's true.

FDR's first two of his Four Freedoms might not totally apply to you, either.

But, the last two?

Freedom from fear?

Fear takes many forms ... including medical bankruptcy fears because your precious "benefits," if you have them, don't cover enough.

Freedom from want? Contra wingers, actual want exists in America, among young and old, white and non-white alike.

Freedom of time? Not if you're working more hours than ever before, more than most OECD nations, and without guaranteed paid vacation days, enslaved by and also a bit self-enslaving to the late-stage capitalism rat race, especially in an ever-bulging metropolis that has less and less uniqueness.

Freedom of thought? Not hardly, if you succumb to social media bombardment, whether over the materialism of that late-stage capitalism, the hollow ideas and claims of most political thought and other things.

You want freedom?

Be Sartrean or better, Camuean. Albert Camus with my bits of nuance. Be a Neo-Cynic, with my update on Diogenes. In various ways, sub rosa or openly, fight the power that be. Or an updated Janis Joplin, through those philosophers, remembering that "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose."



MAGA-heads, enjoy being suckers for capitalism. Enjoy shooting off those made in America fireworks that Trump has surely gotten you, along with the made in America "gimme" US flags.

What? They don't exist?

Maybe MAGA is just another word for nothing left to learn.

Sing it, Janis!



And remember she was spoofing the capitalism that has become more late-stage today.

Mueller Time new angle: How serious to take Emptywheel?

Over the past year, I've believed, until recently, almost totally in the claims by Consortium News, and somewhat lesser by people like Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, that Putin Did NOT Do It on massive election interference in the US.

(See bottom of post for occasional updates that will eventually be turned into new posts.)

I still think there's blatant Hillbot claims that are overblown about what the Russians DID do, and I also know that much of what Robert Mueller has on Paul Manafort is him grifting for Ukraine, rather than Russia, as I noted here.

That said, there's an increasing belief in my mind that Seth Rich did  NOT steal any DNC emails. (Or, per that, other people at the DNC.) Related to that, at a minimum, there's the strong belief that the Consortium News / Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity claims that Putin henchmen couldn't have downloaded the initial, spring 2018 emails quickly enough is on thin ice and was on thin ice from the time the claims were made.

Seeing all of this in light of Consortium News being riddled with conspiracy theorists is why I de-blogrolled it.

That's the backdrop for something new, and seemingly big.

Marcy Wheeler, aka Emptywheel, has put forth a bombshell claim. Big enough to top Memeorandum.

She says she personally knows a journalist who was helping Russky operators. Helping them enough she turned said person into the FBI.
Sometime last year, I went to the FBI and provided information on a person whom I had come to believe had played a significant role in the Russian election attack on the US. Since that time, a number of public events have made it clear I was correct. 
I never in my life imagined I would share information with the FBI, especially not on someone I had a journalistic relationship with. I did so for many reasons. Some, but not all, of the reasons are:
  • I believed he was doing serious harm to innocent people
  • I believed (others agreed) that reporting the story at that time would risk doing far more harm than good
  • I had concrete evidence he was lying to me and others, including but not limited to other journalists
  • I had reason to believe he was testing ways to tamper with my website
  • I believed that if the FBI otherwise came to understand what kind of information I had, their likely investigative steps would pose a risk to the privacy of my readers
To protect the investigation, I will not disclose this person’s true identity or the identity and/or role I believe he played in the attack. … 
The other reason I’m disclosing this now is to put a human face to the danger in which the House Republicans are putting other people who, like me, provided information about the Russian attack on the US to the government.
Well, that's pretty serious. IF it's meaningful.

If this is even 50 percent true, it finishes sinking the Consortium News / Ray McGovern / VIPS battleship.

But is it?

Let's examine a bit further.

"Serious harm to innocent people"? Can't be physical harm, unless Wheeler is refusing to file charges against someone for aggravated assault. If she means something like gaslighting, well ... we don't know what it is since she didn't spell it out.

Most the rest of this is similarly vague.

And, "privacy of my readers"? Like she thinks the FBI is going to look up the IP addresses of every person reading, or even every person commenting? Yikes if you're really saying that.

And questionable. Unless the FBI thought you were a "person of interest" in this "Mister X's" shenanigans, there's little likelihood they would investigate all of your readers. They might investigate the set of readers that commented on your site and/or Twitter AND ALSO commented on "Mr X's" blog and/or Twitter or Effbook.

This comes off as a "Trust me, dear readers" post. Well, I'm not a regular reader, so I don't. I don't MIStrust, but I don't really trust this at face value, either. And, judging by July 5 and onward Twitter response ... yeah, some readers are going that route.

Now, we have a counterbombshell at Consortium News, originally from his own site. Jack Matlock, former ambassador the USSR, says the "17 intelligence agencies" report of early 2017 was politically motivated. First, an overview, for those to whom this isn't already known:
The report states that it represents the findings of three intelligence agencies: CIA, FBI, and NSA, but even that is misleading in that it implies that there was a consensus of relevant analysts in these three agencies. In fact, the report was prepared by a group of analysts from the three agencies pre-selected by their directors, with the selection process generally overseen by James Clapper, then Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
In other words, the cherry-picking was set up in advance. Remember the "aluminum tubes" of 15 years ago?

From there, Matlock said he found unusual both the omission of the State Department's intelligence arm and the inclusion of the FBI.

That leads to this:
As I was recently informed by a senior official, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence Research did, in fact, have a different opinion but was not allowed to express it. So the January report was not one of the “intelligence community,” but rather of three intelligence agencies, two of which have no responsibility or necessarily any competence to judge foreign intentions.
But wait, that's not all.

Matlock calls Guccifer 2.0 a "fabrication." I'll venture that the "retired NSA technical experts" may be the people who worked to compile evidence for VIPS. Does that mean that Forensicator is one of them? (Oh, and contra one Twitter buttinski, of course's it's of value to know who Forensicator is, given VIPS split report and other things. This isn't like blind-screening male vs female first violin candidates, or other issues in the arts. Unlike you, I try to avoid buying anonymous pigs in pokes on science or technology issues, and since he pops up nowhere before the DNC emails download question, I can't find other stuff on him.) And, speaking of, Matlock notes that Ray McGovern helped in preparation of the document. On the third hand, with this originally at his own website / blog, heading there, Matlock decried "Russiagate hysteria" a month ago.

To which Wheeler says, on Twitter:
And, this, when I told her I'd take Matlock first.
And, I've exited the conversation there, and made sure that I don't see more conversation for right now. That's because I DO care about facts, and since I'm not one of your "Dear Readers," I don't buy your claims at face value.

Speaking of?

The really big issue is Wheeler calling on people to refute her.

HOW, as I told her back on Twitter. You have an unnamed "Mr. X" with no details of what info you gave the FBI. There's nothing to be refuted without empirical data. Again, back to the "Dear Readers, just trust me" angle.

As far as some of the other stuff, as Aaron Mate noted on Twitter, that Trump wanted to talk to Syria is nothing new. And? Maybe not in the exact way Trump is doing it, and not for forming an anti-Iran coalition, we need to get out of Syria, period.

In fact, much of the piece seems to focus on "Mr. X" and his relation to Syria issues.

Given that Ray McGovern is so nutbar as to think Devin Nunes is a genius, here's Marcy's latest take on him, "the half-wit running our intelligence oversight." I'd agree with that. So would a lot of others like me, who do NOT think "Putin Did It," certainly not to the degree Wheeler claims.

That said, Marcy Wheeler is ultimately a Democrat. She's a Democrat who is a Kossack alumnus. Is Markos still looking for sekrut librulz in the CIA? She's a Democrat who tosses around allegations as though they were proven fact — not as badly or as baldly as a David Corn, but not incredibly behind him, either.

She's a Democrat who is right about the Jill Stein recount, but overblown at best and wrong at worst about Jill Stein the person. (Update: It was actually fellow former Kossack "Bmaz" who wrote this post. Given that the byline line of her site isn't highly visible, yes, I missed that this was a guest post. And, Marcy, if that's the first thing you found to nitpick ... that to me is just further indication of how thin your stance is.)

I searched Marcy's site, and she has basically no postings about the Green Party. She has just a couple of late-2016 ones about Stein, which come off as sour grapes. So, I quote (from the Bmaz post):
Jill Stein, admittedly, always struck me as a bit of a naive and somewhat unhinged candidate.
Naive? Not at all. Ardent, but short of unhinged? Yes. And, I've criticized both her campaign and her recount.
What Jill Stein is doing is blatant self promotion, list building, reputational repair where it is undeserved, and slush funding for an incoherent Green Party.
This is pure ignorance, re the Green Party. Given that the Party executive committee refused to support the recount, they get no money from this. Only Stein does. (And I just Tweeted her this.)

And, her response? She does note that the post is by Bmaz. OK .... my countertweet:
That's that. And Bmaz was an even bigger deep-fried anti-Green Dem-only Kossack disciple than Wheeler was, IIRC. AND !!!! Bmaz on his Twitter lists Emptywheel as his web location. So, that's that, Marcy. Bite me.

And, ironically, in another blog post of mine where I had previously linked to that post AND noted that Bmaz had written it, I have confirmation of Bmaz being a deep-fried anti-Green Dem-only Kossack dumb fuck. I excerpt the following:

Kos, yes, THAT Kos, (said) that West Virginia coalminers deserve to lose their insurance and die early if that's a result of voting Trump.

Then, there's Kos alum Bmaz:
Not even worth responding to, though I've gotten part of a group fire on Twitter on this.

Hilariously, on Emptywheel, he tells people in this post (the same as I misidentified the authorship this time) its time to move beyond 2016. But, on Twitter, he still can't do that. THAT, in a nutshell, is Clintonistas' own Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

That said, I agree with "moving on." But, I don't practice unilateral disarmament, or singing Kumbaya.

Actually, Bmaz does deserve a response, now.

I'd like to be crystal clear: You're a fucking asshole and have been so ever since Kos days. And, you and Marcy probably both support Jill Stein being hauled before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Back to the original thread.

And, yes, I think you are touchy, Marcy, if you're going to bitch about a byline on a secondary link — and one with which I said I partially agree. I think you're even more so if that was the first thing you picked out when you Tweeted back to me.

At the same time, Wheeler fully rejects the Hillbot route:
The vote differential, again in Wisconsin for instance, between Clinton and Trump currently stands at 27,259 votes. Yes, that is less than the total of Stein, so despite the wild claim she threw the election that some Clinton supporters have thrown, I will not. Some Stein voters were never going to vote for Clinton; so while Stein’s vanity run deserves ridicule, it does not, in and of itself, “prove” Clinton would have won but for Stein.
At the fourth time, the picture for this blog post is Stein at Putin's table. (That said, one Green Party presidential nomination candidate, Bill Kreml, is on record as it being a dumb idea.)

At the sixth time, Wheeler has a past history as a Democratic Party operative at the county level, per Wiki.

I think all of this is necessary for background.

I await finding out who Wheeler's fellow journalist is. And, even more, beyond Wheeler's blog post, how likely Wheeler's claims are about this person.

That's because, while the VIPS claim is not fully proven, it may well still be true, among other things. And, state election departments have already rejected claims their systems were hacked.

So, per a further review of Wheeler's site, already in December 2016 Wheeler was making claims not proven then nor proven today, such as: 
This is the part that has always been missing in the past: how the documents got from GRU, which hacked the DNC and John Podesta, to Wikileaks, which released them.
That came up when I did the "17 intelligence agencies" search.

Wheeler seems to have had some degree of skepticism, but ... scratch that. Any possible skepticism of hers is pretty modest. Anyway, her claims about "hacked the DNC" remain unproven, at least for public consumption. There also, at least at one time, were other candidates besides Seth Rich and Putin both on the possible hacking.

Anyway, that was one of only two hits on that search. Why? Maybe Marcy lost interest. Maybe, as other people noted even more than her the Mack-truck sized loopholes on that, she moved on.

Or because she believes "Putin Did It" is a slam dunk after all. (And she may be calling interest in the Steele Dossier overrated because of reported Clinton campaign connections to it.) And, she'd be wrong. Bmaz also drinks deeply from the Putin Did It Kool-Aid.

Also, she thinks the Internet Research Agency indictments are a much better deal than Aaron Mate, per my Manafort link above, believes. (She also ignores that such indictments violate at least the spirit of the First Amendment, or so I see them doing.)

In other words, on her "journalist" claim, I just don't know at this time how much of Wheeler's skin in the game is her actual cybersecurity knowledge and writing about that, and how much of it is Democratic Party former operative background. (For the one snarker on Twitter, that's a use of quote marks as reference quotes, not scare quotes. Derp.)

But, given what I've grokked, I'll call it a 50-50 split off the top of my head.

And so, while thinking her reporting is interesting, I'd take it with a grain of salt, starting with the header: 
Putting A Face (Mine) To The Risks Posed By GOP Games On Mueller Investigation
Yes, the GOP has played games. So have Democrats, specifically, various iterations of the "Russiagate Hysteria" mentioned by Matlock. And, since I'm not part of the duopoly, I can say there are more than two sides here.

And, although page clicks are much less important than in the past, I put a "no follow" on Marcy's post.

So, again, no more than 50-50 on seriousness level. If some wingnutistan blogger was the attempted computer hacker, and allegedly was helping Putin from his parents' basement, we'll laugh about Marcy later.

That said, it's almost certainly not a stereotypical wingnut blogger. She claims to be "friendly" with the person.

And, no, I'm not wasting further time fishing through all her posts and guest posts to see exactly where she falls on "Putin Did It." I did tell her that I still stand pretty much where I did before reading.

Meanwhile, Jon Chait and David Corn are doing their best to stay ahead of Wheeler in the Putin Did It nutbar competition.

Updates below: