Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/17/18: Mueller And A Movie

Good afternoon..

1 Well, we have some exit poll results…on my integrity and denial question in the Mueller indictment post I started at 4 am, hence the late Warm-up. Based on the comments so far, I am going to be disappointed: the “Trump is guilty of something” crowd is, so far, arguing that an indictment statement including  “There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election” means that the President’s election was illegitimate and that he is guilty of wrongdoing. We also have such jaw-dropping moments as a commenter praising the Mueller investigation for not leaking the indictments beforehand—wow. Leaks are unethical, and when a grand jury is involved, illegal. The leaking from the Mueller investigation and the Justice Department have been a national disgrace, and we are now at the point when government lawyers not breaking the law is deemed worthy of praise in some quarters.

Of course, we don’t know what was leaked. Since leaking grand jury testimony is so serious and always sparks its own investigation, I wouldn’t bet against reporters having been tipped off, but using the advance notice to prepare their “Trump’s still guilty!” responses.

A better example could not be found of how the the news media and the intentionally divisive partisan rhetoric of the past decade have caused a fracture in the ability of Americans to perceive facts unfiltered by confirmation bias. I find this disheartening. But exit polls are not always accurate…

2. An unexpected take on the indictments. Eccentric conservative blogger Da Tech Guy  had some interesting observations:

“Section 1 and section 24 notes that it’s against US law for “certain foreign nationals” to enter the US without a visa providing truthful and accurate information to the government. Apparently these laws don’t apply to dreamers and those who brought them…section 41 talks about identity theft including social security numbers; again, this could be a charge against the DACA kids…Section 85 completes the list, the illegality here is that they pretended to be Americans and didn’t register as foreign agents while doing activities that if done by Americans would be completely legal…Does that mean that DACA folks and illegals who have held political rallies will be indicted next?…Section 89-95 on count 2 and section 96 again notes identity theft and moving money via such theft., boy this could be an indictment of the illegal alien DACA crowd if they wanted. But they don’t.”

3. Ethics movie review! I watched Denzel Washington’s “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” twice last week, in part because it is a legal ethics movie, and in part because Washington’s portrayal of an idealistic autism-spectrum civil rights attorney whose ethics alarms get corrupted is so unusual for him. I’ll basically pay to watch Denzel play canasta.

I wanted to slap screenwriter and director Dan Gilroy silly for allowing the film, which otherwise I thought was a fascinating character study, to be marred by ridiculous legal ethics gaffes and legal howlers. I blame laziness, and even that doesn’t cover it.

Hollywood keeps negligently, or worse, intentionally misinforming the public about the legal profession and the law. This does real harm, not just to the public when they are working with lawyers, but the legal profession. The ABA and other bar associations should be actively fighting this misinformation. The profession should have issued a press release condemning the movie’s errors, which were so egregious they could not have been innocent. For example—oh, all right, spoiler alert

  • Israel’s disillusionment begins when he is told by the slick head of another firm (Colin Farrell) that Roman’s lionized mentor and partner, who has suffered a terminal stroke, gave the other firm “kickbacks” for cases. No lawyer calls case referrals “kickbacks,” which are unethical and illegal in many industries. Not the law, though. Referral fees are not illegal, or, done properly, unethical. Referrals are essential to the functioning of the justice system: lawyers pass along cases to lawyers who are better equipped by experience and resources to handle the cases properly. The fact that the receiving lawyer pays a portion of the fee to the referring lawyer helps provide incentive for lawyers not to keep cases for themselves that the client would be better served by having another attorney handle.

The technical term is fee-splitting: it must be disclosed and approved by the client, and the total fee must be reasonable. In many jurisdictions, like the District of Columbia, to receive a referral fee ethically a lawyer must at least “take responsibility for the case,” meaning some kind of oversight.

  • Israel  is a crusader against the practice of criminal plea bargains prompted by unethical prosecutors over-charging defendants. He has a client with serious charges against him who wants to make a deal: he’ll reveal the whereabouts of a dangerous gang-leader, but only if the prosecutor agrees to probation, for the frightened defendant is certain that he will be killed in prison. Israel has a meeting with a typically stressed and distracted prosecutor who offers to take the information about the gang leader’s whereabouts but only in exchange for a lesser prison term, not probation. The defense lawyer disparages the offer and tries to bargain for the deal his client wanted and needs, but the prosecutor abruptly withdraws the offer. Later, Israel’s client is murdered in prison. His new boss excoriates him after learning from the prosecutor that Israel had “pissed” on her offer. He tells Washington’s character that he had “broken the law” by not relaying the offer to his client.

This is wrong. To begin with, there is no “law,” just an ethics rule. Lawyers are required to relay an offer to the client, and cannot reject them unilaterally, although TV shows and movies show lawyers doing this all the time. However, there is no rule that says that a lawyer can’t try to negotiate after he receives an offer that he knows, based on the client’s instructions, the client will not find acceptable.  That’s all Israel was doing, and I  doubt that any disciplinary panel would find that he had rejected an offer by trying to get a better one. The prosecutor could have and should have said, “Nope, that’s the offer. Take it or leave it. That’s final.” Then the lawyer has no choice but to bring the plea deal to his client. Not only was what Isreal did not a crime, it probably wasn’t an ethics breach either.

  • This and other misfortunes prompt Israel to lose his faith in his profession and high ideals. Single, acetic, without a family, a car or a good suit, he secretly passes along the secret of his dead client regarding the hiding place of the murderous gang member, and collects a $100,000 reward. Later, when this comes out, his breach of attorney-client privilege is described in the film as a crime, and it is even implied that Israel could be jailed.

Utter nonsense. Revealing a client’s privileged communications is a terrible ethics breach, though in this case somewhat mitigated since the client was dead and the information got a killer off the streets. It is no crime, however. Israel faces disbarment, but no arrest or criminal charges.

There is no excuse for a major movie getting so much that is basic regarding the profession it purports to explore so wrong.

4. Back to the Mueller indictments…Ann Althouse made me happy. I don’t commonly appeal to authority, but I do respect Althouse, a good legal mind, and independent thinker, and like me, a frequent curmudgeon and iconoclast. I just saw her analysis of the new media spin on the indictments. Here is a sample, but do read it all:

The editors of the NYT in “Stop Letting the Russians Get Away With It, Mr. Trump.” [are] pointing at the new indictment as if it makes it obvious that the Russians already did something that amounts to a profound national security threat. But it’s far from obvious. In fact, I can’t see it at all.

“On Friday, Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election, filed criminal charges of fraud and identity theft against 13 Russian citizens and three Russian organizations, all alleged to have operated a sophisticated influence campaign intended to “sow discord in the U.S. political system.”

So… they engaged in speech and they meant to “sow discord.” I can’t see that as a profound national security threat. If we were to adopt that view and act upon it, there would be a profound threat to freedom of speech.

[“Specialists” at the Internet Research Agency] posed as Americans and created false identities to set up social media pages and groups aimed at attracting American audiences.”

Another day on the internet — people pretended to be what they are not. If you’re going to assume that readers of the internet are so naive as to take the crap that pops up on line at face value, you’re making the argument that we can’t even have a democracy at all. People are too stupid to vote. But we’re on the alert — even when we read the New York Times — that somebody’s always trying to con us.

“The broad outlines of this interference have been known publicly for a while, but the sheer scope of the deception detailed in Friday’s indictments is breathtaking.”

Eh. I’m still breathing.

“By the spring of 2016, the operation had zeroed in on supporting Mr. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”

Because it was more chaos-y. So what?

Exactly. Or to quote Da Tech Guy again, “This doesn’t even reach the level of small potatoes, and anyone who tells you any different is a liar trying to spin you.” The rapidity with which the anti-Trump media and resistance pivoted to “See? By not taking this seriously, Trump has endangered our elections!” is breathtaking.

But exit polling…

 

71 Comments

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71 responses to “Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/17/18: Mueller And A Movie

  1. charlesgreen

    ““Trump is guilty of something” crowd is so far arguing that an result including this statement —“There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”—means that the President’s election was illegitimate and that he is guilty of wrongdoing.”

    Who is making this claim? Not me. Not Chris. I’m not aware of any other Lefties hanging out here who could have been making this claim. Who are you talking about?

    Let me be clear at least for me.

    1. Trump was legitimately elected (though he’s one of several Presidents who also lost the popular vote).
    2. Trump as yet has not been found “guilty” of anything.
    3. The debate about whether the election results were actually influenced by the Russians is unsolvable by nature.
    4. Nothing in Mueller’s most recent indictment changes any of the above facts, nor claims to.

    Again – who are you talking about?

    What IS clear is that Trump’s oft-repeated claim that the “whole Russian thing” is a hoax, 400-pound guy, “you’re the puppet,” and all the rest, is finally exposed as Fake News of the rankest kind.

    The Russians did mount a considerable effort, aimed mainly at upending our democratic systems, with Trump as the eventual intended beneficiary (along with Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders). Trump can no longer claim otherwise.

    • Trump has never denied that the Russians were engaged in this stuff. He has denied that it changed the results of the election, which, if not provable, seems overwhelmingly likely. Remember that Hillary has blamed the Russian for her loss, which is intended to delegitimize his victory.

      Meanwhile, perhaps I misunderstood: what was ” That, however, leaves a mountain of other worrisome, and probably criminal, activities still of concern to the nation.”? supposed to imply, if not wrongdoing by the President? Widespread drug dealing in the inner cities? Insider trading on Wall Street?.

      • Rich in CT

        NPR explicitly pointed out that the Acting Attorney General’s statement “hedged” by stating that the only this indictment said that no Americans knowingly communicated with Russians, implying that future indictments may still point to wrong doing by the President and/or his campaign.

        • But they are making that assumption, and that’s spin. It was plain English. There is nothing in this indictment that... This was, in fact, the matter under discussion. If a judge says, “You have been found not guilty of the charges against you” is that a hedge? Why would Rosenstein say that at all, if he was sandbagging? Just to be an asshole? Because if he said it knowing there was hard evidence of either an effect on the election or Trump campaign involvement, suggesting otherwise would be the ultimate dick move, no? That’s not how Rosenstein operates.

          Comey, yes.

          • charlesgreen

            “But they are making that assumption, and that’s spin.”

            That’s not how I see it. I see it as Rosenstein being very clear about the precise boundaries of this indictment, taking clear to state what conclusions can and cannot be drawn from it.

            Your analogy with a judge saying “not guilty” is not quite apt; in that case, the finding is final. This indictment is anything but, and Rosenstein is taking care to be precise about the non-finality.

            Of course, it falls on deaf ears with this President, who is determined to eke out a “not-guilty” plea despite the non-finality of this stage of the Mueller investigation.

            I’d be shocked if this were the last indictment to come down; but, we’ll see.

            • That was NOT what my analogy suggested. My point is that a judge saying “You are not guilty of THIS” is not read as, “Oooh! He’s hedging! He knows he’s guilty of something else!” Same here. And the indictment IS final, as far as those indicted go. This can’t even go to court!

      • Chris

        The section Charles quoted from your post strikes me as a blatant lie about the argument we have been making in that thread. This is also a lie:

        Trump has never denied that the Russians were engaged in this stuff

        Yesterday I showed you three separate occasions where Trump denied that the Russians were engaged in this stuff.

        Why do you keep spreading this lie?

        • Here, I’ll run this response twice:

          As I commented on one of your supposed ‘examples,” you are being an asshole. A recap: You linked to this, https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/13/politics/trump-unconvinced-russia-meddled-election/index.html and wrote,

          Seriously, Jack. How can you assert that Trump has never denied that Russians attempted to interfere? That is a lie. You are promoting a lie. And it is a lie driven by bias toward the media and the left.

          I’ll expect a retraction. “Unconvinced” does not and has never meant “denied.” Talk about lying. And the very link you gave debunks YOU:

          Trump has only begrudgingly acknowledged that Russia may have interfered in the election. In a press conference as president-elect, Trump said, “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.” At a June 2017 press conference in Poland, he again said Russia meddled in the election, but added that “other people and other countries” likely did as well.

          Oh, is begrudgingly accepting now “denying” Chris? THAT’S what I mean by spin. And lying, biased, CNN says that Trump said “I think it was Russia” before he was sworn it.

          How much do you want to discredit yourself by taking this road, Chris? I think you are smarter than this. I hope so.

          This tweet:

          “The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?” is clear to all but those who will not see. The “hoax” is the claim that the Russian ads effected the election (which they almost certainly did not) You can tell that because the next line is “Whataboutism”: he’s saying, “How can you claim these ads swayed the election when the entire MSM was slanting coverage to elect Hillary?

          Good point.

          Just stop it.

        • Stop calling me a liar, Chris. I’m not going to tell you again.

          He has said that he accepted the intelligence agency’s verdict that the interference was going on. He has said that he believes the claim that it affected the election, that Russia “hacked the election” as you and Charles have both erroneously said ob occasion, is a hoax. He has denied that the Russian were trying to get him elected. I doubt that as well. One cannot be working to accomplish what one knows, or thinks one knows, is impossible.

          You have never shown me a Trump statement that said that the Russians were not engaged in disinformation and dirty tricks during the election.

          • charlesgreen

            Here are some actual tweets from @realdonaldtrump where he talks about the Trump-Russia Hoax.

            Stock Market hit another all-time high yesterday – despite the Russian hoax story! Also, jobs numbers are starting to look very good!
            12:30 PM – 15 Jul 2017

            Do you notice the Fake News Mainstream Media never likes covering the great and record setting economic news, but rather talks about anything negative or that can be turned into the negative. The Russian Collusion Hoax is dead, except as it pertains to the Dems. Public gets it!
            9:19 AM – 16 Jan 2018

            Well, now that collusion with Russia is proving to be a total hoax and the only collusion is with Hillary Clinton and the FBI/Russia, the Fake News Media (Mainstream) and this phony new book are hitting out at every new front imaginable. They should try winning an election. Sad!
            9:32 AM – 5 Jan 2018

            Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence…..
            7:19 AM – 6 Jan 2018

            …money to Bill, the Hillary Russian “reset,” praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company. Trump Russia story is a hoax. #MAGA!
            9:35 PM – 27 Mar 2017

            While the Fake News loves to talk about my so-called low approval rating, @foxandfriends just showed that my rating on Dec. 28, 2017, was approximately the same as President Obama on Dec. 28, 2009, which was 47%…and this despite massive negative Trump coverage & Russia hoax!
            7:46 AM – 29 Dec 2017

            Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence…..
            7:19 AM – 6 Jan 2018

            While the Fake News loves to talk about my so-called low approval rating, @foxandfriends just showed that my rating on Dec. 28, 2017, was approximately the same as President Obama on Dec. 28, 2009, which was 47%…and this despite massive negative Trump coverage & Russia hoax!
            7:46 AM – 29 Dec 2017

            The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?
            6:46 PM – 8 May 2017

            Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!
            7:47 AM – 7 Aug 2017

            Also: on September 8, 2016, in a Larry King interview, Trump said when asked if the Russians were “disrupting the elections, “I think it’s probably unlikely. I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out. Who knows? But I think that it’s pretty unlikely. But, you know, who knows?”

            In the second presidential debate, Trump said, ““I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — she doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia is because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia.”

            On December 11, 2016, two days after the CIA concluded that the Russians intervened in the election to support Trump, he said, ““I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. I don’t know why, and I think it’s just — you know, they talked about all sorts of things. Every week, it’s another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the electoral college. I guess the final numbers are now at 306. She’s down to a very low number. No, I don’t believe that at all.”

            And, just for good measure:

            Snowing in Texas and Louisiana, record setting freezing temperatures throughout the country and beyond. Global warming is an expensive hoax!
            1:27 AM – 29 Jan 2014

            “President Obama is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”
            –Clint Eastwood
            4:48 PM – 10 Sep 2012

            My take: First of all, this is the language of a demagogue who plays fast and loose with words. I will give him credit, he rarely slips in omitting “collusion” from his hoax claims. But anyone listening to him knows what he means – the whole thing is a Dem-Hillary-Press conspiracy against him. He uses “hoax” as a code word, and just like it worked for him against climate, Obama, and the press, it’s working for him with way too many people on this blog.

            • But words have meaning, Charles. The collusion allegations are distinct from the meddling allegations. And if he did not in fact collude, he has every justification to call it a “Hoax.” Those are useful: thanks.

          • Chris

            Stop calling me a liar, Chris. I’m not going to tell you again.

            I did not call you a liar. I said you were promoting a lie.

            I did notice you never answered charles when he asked you who was making this argument:

            the “Trump is guilty of something” crowd is so far arguing that an result including this statement —“There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”—means that the President’s election was illegitimate and that he is guilty of wrongdoing.”

            That was a dishonest assessment of our arguments.

            He has said that he accepted the intelligence agency’s verdict that the interference was going on.

            Yes, halfheartedly, and after multiple instances of him denying Russian interference.

            Here’s one example of him “accepting the intelligence agencies’ verdict that the interference was going on:”

            QUESTION: Mr. President, you said, just now, that you believe Russia indeed was responsible for the hacking of the DNC and John POdesta’s emails, et cetera.

            TRUMP: All right, but you know, it could have been others, also.

            That’s an acceptance? It’s a pretty weak one. Not as bad as when he said he believed Putin and that he believed the intelligence community in the same interview. Does a denial not count if it comes in the same interview as an acceptance?

            Jack, every fact-checker that has evaluated Trump’s claim that he never denied Russian meddling has declared his statement false. Yes, they have their biases against Trump–and I’m sure you can understand why people who devote their careers to checking facts would have a natural bias against a person who literally doesn’t know what facts are–but you also have your own biases against the media and it often leads you to defending Trump when he deserves no such defense.

            Here’s Glenn Kessler:

            Here are numerous examples, in the form of a timeline up until Inauguration Day. Note, for instance, that when The Washington Post reported on Dec. 9, 2016, that the CIA had concluded that Russia, in its efforts, favored Trump — a fact confirmed by the special counsel’s Feb. 16 grand-jury indictment of 13 Russians and three companies in a long-running scheme to criminally interfere with the 2016 election —Trump said on Fox News, “I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it.” He asserted the source of the story was not the CIA but Democrats.

            Kessler also catalogues some of his most blatant denials:

            “I think it’s probably unlikely. I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out. Who knows? But I think that it’s pretty unlikely. But, you know, who knows?” If Russia were involved, Trump said he hopes “somebody’s going to be able to find out so they can end it because it would not be appropriate at all.”

            3:00
            The first Clinton-Trump debate, in three minutes
            Here are the key moments from the first 2016 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

            Sept. 26, 2016: In the first presidential debate, Trump refused to blame Russia.

            “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay? You don’t know who broke into DNC.”

            Oct. 7, 2016: U.S. intelligence agencies released a joint statement saying they were “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.”

            Oct. 9, 2016: In the second presidential debate, Trump again refused to blame Russia.

            “I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — she doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia is because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia.”

            This is called flip-flopping, Jack. Yes, at times Trump has begrudgingly accepted the fact of Russian meddling. But at other times he outright denied that it happened, making your statement that he has never denied it false.

            • Chris

              Oh, and here’s another one:

            • None of which has a thing to do with Trump denying Russian interference, as I pointed out with your own links.

              You, for one, are a member of the “Trump is guilty of something” crowd, among many. Charles has been saying that he is betting that Trump is impeached—what does that mean to you?

              • Chris

                None of which has a thing to do with Trump denying Russian interference, as I pointed out with your own links.

                There’s no way you even read my comments before writing this. I’m done with this conversation.

                • You’re acting like an idiot, and a fraud. The indictment did not mention the DNC hacks, nor has it been definitively determined that Russia was responsible. Then you went all the way back to the debates. The issue has been the conduct of President Trump, who agreed that Russia was interfering right after he was elected.

                  You’ve been spinning, insulting, denying deflecting and misleading, shifting goalposts when rebutted, and embodying the worst of the qualities I wondered in the post whether the emotionally committed to undoing the election could muster the integrity to suppress. And I’ve been more than tolerant,

                  Damn right you’re through. You’ve abused the privilege. This is your last “Trump-Russia” conspiracy comment. I’ll give you another chance when the Mueller investigation concludes.

                  • Finally read through all the comments.

                    “I’ll give you another chance when the Mueller investigation concludes.”

                    But that could be 2020…though 2024 if Trump is re-elected. Because this doesn’t stop until the Democrats get what they want.

    • Charles write: “The Russians did mount a considerable effort, aimed mainly at upending our democratic systems, with Trump as the eventual intended beneficiary (along with Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders). Trump can no longer claim otherwise.”

      To use the word ‘upend’ is very misleading. If they did anything at all it was to make certain suggestions to people about how certain people or events might be seen. They did not, nor could they, ‘upend our democratic system’.

      There were hundreds and thousands of nationals using those techniques and they cannot be said to have ‘upended’ the system. Yet one would have to admit that what these nationals did, and what much journalism does, and much political activity, can be said to abuse democratic processes.

      How would you describe what the Russians intended to gain by seeing Trump elected over HRC? If there was a motive what was it? What do they gain?

  2. Paul Schlecht

    1- ”There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity.”

    Does this leave the shrillest of the shrill with but two alternatives:

    1- Another indictment is forthcoming that will implicate an American(s) and/or
    2- Lefty can declare that The Donald is not an American?

    • charlesgreen

      Oh I’d bet money on the first.

      • Paul Schlecht

        “Oh I’d bet money on the first.”

        Shucks CG, I’d have laid odds you weren’t a betting man…

        • charlesgreen

          Join me on Predictit.org

          • charlesgreen wrote, “Join me on Predictit.org”

            Charles,
            Sites like that are for foolish people with way too much time on their hands. Join you there, I think not.

            • charlesgreen

              A fool I am, and too much time on my hands may be true as well. All of us fools are figuring a Trump impeachment at about 30% odds.

              If you disagree, then perhaps you can pick up some easy money. (But I’ll warn you, those guys with time on their hands are non-partisan when it comes to taking either side of a bet—their only loyalty is to green).

              • You’re no fool, my friend, but that statement is signature significance for either believing the Democratic Party is dangerous to democracy and you don’t care, or crippling Trump derangement. If you just are gambling on impeachment without conviction, then you think Democrats are insane. They would lose support, and destabilize the system, all for the pleasure of President Pence. Conviction takes 2/3 of the Senate, and the odds of the Democrats taking the Senate are a lot worse than 30%
                I assume you are gambling that the President will actually commit impeachable offenses beyond question. That’s pure bias. There is no rational basis for those odds at all.

                • charlesgreen

                  Jack, Predictit.org is an academic experiment in markets, as applied to political issues – an attempt to determine the wisdom of the crowds, or lack thereof.

                  As such, it makes markets in hundreds of scenarios: who will win the next German election, whether a given law will pass before the end of the year, who the most likely Democratic candidate for president will be, who will be the next Supreme Court justice to leave the court, what the margin of victory will be in the Pennsylvania 18th district special election, and so on.

                  As they put it:
                  ———–
                  PredictIt is a research project of Victoria University of Wellington. In order to take full advantage of the research opportunities presented by prediction markets like PredictIt, we make our data available to members of the academic community at no cost. PredictIt’s market data offers researchers a wealth of information that can be used to further our understanding of a wide array of subjects in fields of study as diverse as microeconomics, political behavior, computer science and game theory. PredictIt is excited to support the work of our researcher partners as they push the boundaries of human knowledge.

                  PredictIt’s data partners represent universities and research organizations across the United States and around the world.
                  ————–
                  Choosing to place a bet on the likelihood of a particular event has nothing to do with ethics or with the legal nature of impeachable events, for example, but merely with the probability of things happening. Your claim that “there is no rational basis for those odds at all” is unfounded. Everyone on there is doing their best to read the various tea leaves in the most rational way possible, given all the available data, and some of the discussions are quite insightful.

                  I personally find it useful as a way to test my own biases: to give my own confirmation bias a shot of cold water in the face. I have found that if all I do is bet my biases, I lose real, cold, hard money. I find losing money to be a better corrective, to be honest, than to be lectured by partisan haranguers, as occasionally happens in these pages, though I do try that approach as well.

              • charlesgreen wrote, “A fool I am…”

                A person certainly can’t be a fool if they don’t do foolish things; however, doing a foolish thing does not make the fool; a pattern of foolishness must exist to be fairly labeled a fool.

                Charles you are not a fool.

  3. John Billingsley

    2. I wondered why the Russian agents just didn’t enter the country from Mexico and head straight to San Francisco for sanctuary. Visas? We don’t need no stinkin’ visas.
    4. I thought Ann was at the top of her form on this one.

  4. charlesgreen

    Here’s what that well-known leftist publication The Economist has to say:

    A 37-PAGE indictment against 13 Russians issued on February 16th by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is packed with damning, astonishing evidence that Russian agents meddled in the presidential election of 2016. Still, one passage stands out as a reminder of the perils faced by American democracy, and of how much is stake as Mr Mueller’s probe unfolds in coming months.

    The passage reproduces—apparently verbatim—what seems to be a confession by Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina. She is one of the Russians charged with creating multiple, false American identities, to post, monitor and update social media content designed to deepen racial and partisan divides and stoke Americans’ distrust in their political democracy on behalf of the Internet Research Agency, a secretive organisation funded by an oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin.

    “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke). So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with the colleagues,” Ms Kaverzina allegedly wrote to a family member “on or about September 13th 2017”, to use the clinical language of the indictment. The alleged internet troll added: “I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people.”

    At the simplest level, the passage is shocking because of the perfidy that it casually confirms. Go one level deeper, and it is intriguing because it offers a rare glimpse of the tools available to Mr Mueller as he conducts the counter-intelligence part of his probe. It appears to show that his team had access, just a few months ago, to emails written by Russian agents, even after they knew that their actions were under investigation.

    But its real impact lies in the comparison that it begs with President Donald Trump, and his statements about Russian election-meddling and the credibility of the FBI. To spell it out, a Russian internet troll, upon being “busted” by the FBI, demonstrated appropriate alarm and guiltily busied herself with covering her tracks. Contrast that respect for the FBI and fear of America’s wrath with Mr Trump’s own public statements, tweets and equivocations around the same time.

    On September 22nd 2017, shortly after Facebook gave congressional investigators evidence of at least 3,000 political advertisements bought by Russians on its internet platform during the presidential campaign, the president repeated his assertion that the idea that Russia had any hand in the election was an invention. “The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?” he tweeted.

    Ms Kavezina regarded being “busted” by the FBI as a crisis. Well she might. With forensic precision, Mr Mueller’s indictment charges the Internet Research Agency with spending more than $1.2m a month in the latter stages of the American presidential campaign. Scores of agents allegedly created hundreds of false social media accounts to bombard conservatives with invented stories of voter fraud by Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate. They created fake left-wing accounts to suppress the non-white vote. In the words of the indictment, “On or about October 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the ORGANIZATION-controlled Instagram account “Woke Blacks” to post the following message: “[A] particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.”

    The indictment details how Russians devoted much energy to stoking tensions against and among American Muslims, at one point allegedly using the Facebook group “United Muslims of America” to promote a rally in Washington, DC at which they paid an unwitting American to hold a sign (which Russians had produced) showing Mrs Clinton and a quote attributed to her stating “I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom.”

    In August 2016, the indictment reveals, the Russians wired money to help an American build a cage large enough to hold an actress dressed as Mrs Clinton in prison uniform. Following the Watergate-era advice, “follow the money”, the indictment lays out in great detail the Russians’ use of stolen American identities and illegal bank accounts to fund their work. “Busted”, as Ms Kaverzina puts it.

    In contrast America’s elected president has spent months resisting the verdict of his own intelligence services that Russia hacked the election. Visiting Asia in November 2017, Mr Trump noted to reporters that Mr Putin had assured him that Russia did not meddle in the election. “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Mr. Trump said.

    Ms Kaverzina, an alleged foot-soldier in Russia’s information war against America, sounds sobered by the idea of the FBI on her trail. Not Mr Trump, who fired the first FBI director that he inherited, James Comey, and has since accused him of being a “political hack” and the orchestrator of a “witch-hunt” that has left the FBI’s reputation in tatters.

    Mr Trump, echoed by apologists in Congress, has repeatedly scorned the idea that Russia—if it did meddle in American politics—tried to help him. In late December 2017 a Republican member of Congress, Francis Rooney of Florida, called for a “purge” at the FBI, describing the Russia probe as “off-the-rails” and the work of the “deep state.” He was echoed a few days later by Representative Matt Goetz, a fellow Floridian, who called for Mr Mueller to be fired. Other members of Congress have suggested that Russians would logically have preferred Mrs Clinton to win because she was so weak in standing up to Mr Putin.

    The indictment leaves that line of Trumpian defence in bad shape. It quotes instructions from bosses at the Internet Research Agency to staff, chiding them during the early stage of the presidential primary process to attack such Republican rivals as Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, as well as Mrs Clinton. “Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them),” says one instruction cited by the indictment. Once Mr Trump sewed up the Republican nomination, all efforts were bent to helping him. As the indictment notes:

    “On or about September 14, 2016, in an internal review of an ORGANIZATION created and controlled Facebook group called “Secured Borders,” the account specialist was criticized for having a “low number of posts dedicated to criticizing Hillary Clinton” and was told “it is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton” in future posts.”

    After the indictment was made public on February 16th at a press conference conducted by the deputy attorney-general, Rod Rosenstein, Mr Trump moved the goalposts. Rather than denying that Russia interfered in the election, he noted with satisfaction its finding that the Internet Research Agency began to target American politics in 2014, before he had declared his candidacy. Ignoring the detail that the indictment was wholly silent on whether the Trump campaign knew of other Russian activities, such as the theft of Democratic emails by hackers, the president tweeted: “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!”

    Mr Trump followed this up with a statement calling for a line to be drawn under the whole matter. Unblushingly, he urged calm in the name of defending America and the institutions that he usually delights in calling elements of a corrupt “deep state.”

    His statement read: “It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions.”

    If Mr Trump really has had a change of heart, and now believes that the Mueller investigation needs to be shielded from outrageous partisan attacks, he is in luck. Thanks to the indictment setting out just how much evidence he has gathered, Mr Mueller has just made himself much harder to fire. This “slight crisis” has some way to run.

    • adimagejim

      The vaunted Economist also endorsed that great economic genius of our times and oh-so worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Barack Obama, for President against Mitt Romney. ‘Nuf ced. Next.

      • charlesgreen

        So, you’re willing to toss out one of the most respected publications in the world because they endorsed the winner of the US presidential contest?

        As you put it, albeit misspelled, ‘nuf said.

        • isn’t a foreign publication endorsing a candidate in our Presidential election meddling? I view it as such.

          • Touché! That is a very interesting point.

            I was going to suggest that ‘the Russians’ were not ‘meddling’ in our democracy but rather and somewhat strictly, participating in our democracy if, taking The Economist as an example (written by an invisible mob and with articles never signed), one considers the ‘free flow of information’ to be the most salient sign of democratic life.

            (Still it was my understanding that The Economist was a more Libertarian than a Left-leaning journal, no?)

            • charlesgreen

              The Economist certainly has libertarian leanings; more to the point, it has classical conservative leanings. The last thing I would accuse it of is being left-leaning – I was being tongue-in-cheek with that characterization.

          • Errol

            So if I, as a non American said anything that can be interpreted as endorsing one candidate over another it would be election meddling? I would have thought that that was free speech. Or does America only allow free speech for Americans?

            • America’s Constitution does not apply to anyone outside the country. It’s also about government action. By the way, the indictments against the Russians are arguably an attempt to criminalize free speech. That’s most of what they did. Lies are free speech. Ads are free speech. Fake rallies are free speech.

              A foreign person or agent or government seeking to influence our elections? Obviously meddling, but unethical, not illegal.

              • Chris

                yone outside the country. It’s also about government action. By the way, the indictments against the Russians are arguably an attempt to criminalize free speech. That’s most of what they did. Lies are free speech. Ads are free speech. Fake rallies are free speech.

                A foreign person or agent or government seeking to influence our elections? Obviously meddling, but unethical, not illegal.

                How, then, are they being indicted?

        • adimagejim

          It’s an homage to a baseball billboard from the early 1900s, ‘Nuf Ced McGreavy. Get over yourself.

          The Economist is biased beyond recognition. Enjoy the Kool-Aid.

          • Charles isn’t up on his Red Sox lore. “Tessie”!

          • charlesgreen

            I did not know that baseball reference, glad to know it and thanks for the education.
            The Economist is still, however, one of the most exacting and objective assemblages of news in the world. Can you cite an example of where you consider it to be “biased beyond recognition?”

    • Junkmailfolder

      Minus 1000 legitimacy points for any publication that says that Russia “hacked” the election.

      Question for you, Charles. Do you believe Russia set out to help Donald Trump from the beginning, or simply tried to sow discord by trying to discredit whomever they thought was the front runner?

      In either case, does that change your opinion of the severity of the Russia problem?

      • charlesgreen

        “Do you believe Russia set out to help Donald Trump from the beginning, or simply tried to sow discord by trying to discredit whomever they thought was the front runner?”

        I believe the second. Which is precisely what Mueller’s indictment shows, through direct quotes from some of the Russians. They got involved before Trump was even a serious candidate, and piled on to him (and Stein, and Sanders) as the three most discord-sowing candidates.

        “does that change your opinion of the severity of the Russia problem?”

        If anything it increases my concern. The Russians are continuing today, with the help from other gleefully anarchistic hangers-on, by piling on whatever the day’s most divisive issue might be. Hence in the last few days we’re seeing fake news reports about attacks on white people at showings of Black Panther, and about how the Florida shooter was allied with white supremacist groups.

        It’s all one pattern – the attempt to divide Americans against each other. That’s what Putin desires, that’s what the indictment uncovers. And yes it is very serious.

    • Chris

      Thanks for that, Charles. I’m particularly interested in this quote from Trump highlighted in the article:

      “The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?” he tweeted.

      Jack, can you please explain how Trump is not referring to the idea of Russian meddling as a “hoax” in this tweet? You can’t say that he’s referring just to the investigation into his campaign here, because that makes no sense in context; he is saying the idea that Russia planted Facebook ads is part of the “hoax.”

      Yesterday I showed you three examples of Trump denying that Russia meddled; this would seem to be a fourth.

      Are you ready to concede that you were wrong when you said Trump has never denied Russian meddling?

      • As I commented on one of your supposed ‘examples,” you are being an asshole. A recap: YOU linked to this, https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/13/politics/trump-unconvinced-russia-meddled-election/index.html and wrote,

        Seriously, Jack. How can you assert that Trump has never denied that Russians attempted to interfere? That is a lie. You are promoting a lie. And it is a lie driven by bias toward the media and the left.

        I’ll expect a retraction. “Unconvinced” does not and has never meant “denied.” Talk about lying. And the very link you gave debunks YOU:

        Trump has only begrudgingly acknowledged that Russia may have interfered in the election. In a press conference as president-elect, Trump said, “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.” At a June 2017 press conference in Poland, he again said Russia meddled in the election, but added that “other people and other countries” likely did as well.

        Oh, is begrudgingly accepting now “denying” Chris? THAT’S what I mean by spin. And lying, biased, CNN says that Trump said “I think it was Russia” before he was sworn it.

        How much do you want to discredit yourself by taking this road, Chris? I think you are smarter than this. I hope so.

        This tweet:

        “The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?” is clear to all but those who will not see. The “hoax” is the claim that the Russian ads effected the election (which they almost certainly did not) You can tell that because the next line is “Whataboutism”: he’s saying, “How can you claim these ads swayed the election when the entire MSM was slanting coverage to elect Hillary?

        Good point.

        Just stop it.

      • This is perhaps the most help I can offer:

  5. Zanshin

    The rules of the games the elite(s) play among themselves are probably more subtle than I can understand but we all recognize the You scratch my back and I will scratch your back.
    However. Trump, being the counterpuncher he is, can certainly live the rule, If you hit me, I will hit you harder.
    My guess is that he waited long enough to be sure he is in the clear regarding this investigation and now it will be his turn to instigate an investigation of Hillary Clinton.

    • charlesgreen

      “My guess is that he waited long enough to be sure he is in the clear regarding this investigation and now it will be his turn to instigate an investigation of Hillary Clinton.”

      My guess is the firestorm has just started, and he is jumping the gun in his response. But we shall all see.

      • In your different posts on this blog, or anywhere, every written in detail about what you think is going on in this country and in ‘the Halls of Power’?

        I understand that you live in DC and have a long-standing interest in politics but I have never been clear on what your interest is or how your profession connects to that.

        I am not asking about any of that necessarily. I am wondering if you have read articles or can link to sources that attempt to explain what is really going on, that is, behind the scenes.

        As far as I am aware no one on this blog talks much about that. Even Jack does n’t talk much about it (though once he seemed to give agreement to me when I wondered if the ‘deep state’ and deep-state interests should be considered. The meta-politics of the politics of the US one might call it.

        I cannot make sense of it. I am looking ‘through dark glass’.

        Is it as simple as a ‘democratic establishment’ with a particular and wide base (incorporating far more of the POC and supporting the more ‘alternative’ political and sexual choices among different social sectors) that is doing battle with an older establishment, and with a base that is older and whiter? Is it that this democratic-popular base was set to continue in the Halls of Power but was thwarted?

        Or is this some sort of democratic-socialistic establishment that more properly want to create in America a more socialist sort of national government and is again thwarted by ‘Trump’ and whatever he represents?

        Or is it an older ‘conservative-religious’ class, with also ties to money and industry and power that is in a power-struggle with a newer, competing (arising) class or power-structure?

        There has to be someone somewhere who is writing coherently and rationally on ‘the real causes’ in operation here.

        • charlesgreen

          Alizia, many on this post won’t like it, but one insightful narrative comes from Atlantic editor and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, in a new book called Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic.

          It’s got a bias to it, but the bias is very clear and he’s quite open about it. It does meet the bill, however, for an intelligent narrative about what’s going on.

          It was recommended today by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

          And if I may say pre-emptively, anyone who rejects a book by a senior editor of a major publication who used to work for a Republican President, recommended by a sober CNN reporter, BECAUSE of those qualifications, reveals something else about what is going on.

          • I spent some time reading on the Amazon site, both the pro and the contra. My sense is that the book might be too partisan. He is so very much enmeshed in ‘the system’ that it appears he cannot achieve a position far enough outside and above to shed the sort of light I need.

            So, it would seem that this amounts to more ‘opinion’, more of an attempt to get at a meta-political stance, but it fails. I also have a sense that the man has too much of an established position to uphold. And then there is the issue of authors who write books to take advantage of currents and, in the process, make lots of money. In this way (I opine but I have very little right to do so because of my general ignorance) it could amount to members of the circus writing about other members of the surface.

            I will continue to read some of the 5 star opinion essays about the book. Not sure if I want to spend $13 (Kindle) if it won’t provide what I am looking for.

            I wonder if it might make more sense to turn to a foreign perspective? An outsider looking in.

            • charlesgreen

              He is very much in “the system” – the old classical conservative GOP system of the US. No one would mistake him for Obama, Democrat, leftist.

              No question about it, that colors his viewpoint: but he’s also been around, and brings some historical perspective. The first chapter basically argues that Trump was no accident: the seeds were sown for decades, and he just happened to be the individual who fit the needs of the time.

              That, and the chapter on the startling degree of economic nepotism that has already taken place, I found enlightening.

              But I agree with your approach; reading a lot of 5-star reviews, both pro and con, is always useful.

              • I agree that the elite establishment (both parties) have taken the opportunity to make themselves wealthy at the expense of those who elected them. Insider trading is legal for Congress, for example.

            • charlesgreen

              And I too would be very interested in an outsider’s perspective, i.e. someone from Europe, or perhaps Asia. Let me know if you find one.

    • Chris

      If you hit me, I will hit you harder.
      My guess is that he waited long enough to be sure he is in the clear regarding this investigation and now it will be his turn to instigate an investigation of Hillary Clinton.

      Shame that the “me” in that philosophy really just means “me,” and not “my country,” and that Trump has more interest in hitting back at his opponent in the last election than he does in hitting back at Russia’s attack on our democracy.

      • Junkmailfolder

        How is spreading disinformation an attack on our democracy?

        • Chris

          “When a country can come interfere in another country’s elections, that is warfare. It really is because you’re making sure the democracy shifts from what the people want to giving out that misinformation. And we didn’t just see it here. … They are doing this everywhere and this is their new weapon of choice.”

          –Noted communist sympathizer and black-clad member of Antifa Nikki Haley

          http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/19/politics/nikki-haley-russia-warfare/index.html

          • Junkmailfolder

            What a weak argument. Advertising forces no one to change their minds. And even if it could, it is by definition still what the people want. It is still democracy.

            Obama probably affected many people’s opinions when he offered his opinion about Brexit. Did he commit an act of war?

            • Chris

              You don’t know the difference between expressing an opinion and engaging in a cyber-warfare campaign.

              • Junkmailfolder

                Is the only difference that a foreigner is involved with the second? Because there are plenty of Americans (especially who subscribe to the idea of cultural appropriation) whose goal is to divide Americans against each other, and express their opinions to do so.

  6. Charles writes: If anything it increases my concern. The Russians are continuing today, with the help from other gleefully anarchistic hangers-on, by piling on whatever the day’s most divisive issue might be. Hence in the last few days we’re seeing fake news reports about attacks on white people at showings of Black Panther, and about how the Florida shooter was allied with white supremacist groups.

    It’s all one pattern – the attempt to divide Americans against each other. That’s what Putin desires, that’s what the indictment uncovers. And yes it is very serious.

    It is an interesting perspective. I find oit hard to get around it. Yuri Bezmenov (among others) gace somewhat convincing expositions on how Marxian subversion occurs. I suggested to Zoltar one of his YouTube presentations.

    However and according to his analysis he would describe the destruction of the religious base of a nation; the destruction of or the weakening of the family; the encouragement of ‘sexual deviation’; of feministic rebellion, of ethnic rebellion, as the result of a cynical Marxist project. According to this analysis then it was ‘Marxist operatives’ who ‘marched through the istitutions’. And some of these political and social actors (the so-called Frankfurt School) were foreigners and ‘guests’.

    According to this analysis, or continuing the analysis, what is needed to combat Marxian radicalism is a return to ‘conventional values. So, not an increase in Left-Radicalism but putting a stop to the continuing spread of the infection.

    What I do not quite understand is this continuity of Russian purpose with Soviet-Communist purpose. Russia is not now a communist force. Russia is not interested in undermining its own civic and social structures, but quite the opposite! It resists homosexual activism, insults against ‘traditional religion’.

    So let me get this straight: now Russia is attempting to sow discord among us in order to further the Right? And the Russian-inspired forces of traditionalism are attempting to undermine the established Left-leaning American state?

    Requires more explanation! 😉

    • charlesgreen

      I think it’s more simple than that. Russia is a failing state, run by a kleptocrat who is the wealthiest man in the world. Part of his strategy, which goes back to the Czars, is to deflect from horrific social statistics by blaming foreigners. Anything that can make the US look foolish, to poke a stick in its democratic eye, and to turn inward against itself, keeps the US from stopping his encroachments into Ukraine et al.

      And it’s worked out very well for them. Trump has basically withheld sanctions, and refused to attack the Russians verbally.

      • Those are good points. Especially if Anna Politkovkaya’s arguments have merit:

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Putin%27s_Russia

        But I would ask another question: Who do you think would fulfil the role of America’s critical Anna Politkovskaya? It is an honest question. (The Guardian (England’s Commie publication) calls here a ‘Hero among the Hacks’.

        Noam Chomsky?

        By the way have you yourself every read Chomsky?

      • Point of order: the sanctions were further reaching than any Congress has any right asking for, in that they tie the hand of the Executive, and may be unconstitutional.

        Trump may or may not have been right to stop them, but he WAS right in that it was an encroachment on the executive role in our government.

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