Doing Advance Work

News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

US officials found no evidence that Russia sought to influence Nov. 2016 US election. Actions were continuation of spy vs spy operations which Russia has conducted for decades-NY Times, Nov. 1, 2016

"“It isn’t about the election,” a second senior official said, referring to claims of Russian interference. Rather, it's "an intensification of spy-versus-spy operations that never entirely abated after the Cold War."...

10/31/16, "Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia," NY Times, Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers

"A version of this article appears in print on November 1, 2016, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: After Lengthy Inquiries, Officials Doubt Trump Has Direct Link to Russia."...
"Investigators, the officials said, have become increasingly confident, based on the evidence they have uncovered, that Russia’s direct goal is not to support the election of Mr. Trump, as many Democrats have asserted, but rather to disrupt the integrity of the political system and undermine America’s standing in the world more intensification of spy-versus-spy operations that never entirely abated after the Cold War but that have become more aggressive in recent years as relations with Mr. Putin’s Russia have soured. 

A senior intelligence official, who like the others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a continuing national security investigation, said the Russians had become adept at exploiting computer vulnerabilities created by the relative openness of and reliance on the internet. Election officials in several states have reported what appeared to be cyberintrusions from Russia, and while many doubt that an Election Day hack could alter the outcome of the election, the F.B.I. agencies across the government are on alert for potential disruptions that could wreak havoc with the voting process itself."...

[Ed. note: On June 30, 2016, Pres. Obama requested foreign monitors for the November 2016 US presidential election].

(continuing): "“It isn’t about the election,” a second senior official said, referring to the aims of Russia’s interference. “It’s about a threat to democracy.” 

The investigation has treated it as a counterintelligence operation as much as a criminal one, though agents are also focusing on whether anyone in the United States was involved. The officials declined to discuss any individual targets of the investigation, even when assured of anonymity."...


Added: The US government--not Russia--sought to "undermine America’s standing in the world more broadly" when on June 30, 2016, Obama requested foreign monitors for the November 2016 US presidential election, Miami Herald via Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

10/21/16,  "International monitors for a US election--just like in Haiti," Miami Herald, Andres Oppenheimer, columnist 

"For the first time ever, the Organization of American States will monitor the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, putting the United States in the same league as Haiti and other politically volatile Latin American countries.... 

The head of the OAS observation mission to the U.S. election, former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, told me in an interview that the outside scrutiny was requested by the U.S. government on June 30.

The OAS has been monitoring elections in Latin America and the Caribbean for the past 50 years, most recently in Haiti, Guatemala, Colombia and Peru. Usually, governments request these missions to generate domestic and foreign confidence in the electoral process and to help prevent post-electoral violence. 

In this case, the OAS will deploy election observers in up to 15 U.S. states, including New York, California, Ohio, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Florida will not be included because of a state law that prohibits such outside election missions, she said. 

Chinchilla told me that the OAS is more than happy to conduct its U.S. observation mission, among other things because it will help debunk a frequent excuse by Latin American authoritarian regimes for not accepting outside electoral monitoring missions. 

“Many of them say, ‘If the United States doesn’t allow observers, why should we?’ ” she explained."...


Added: Again, US personnel--not Russia--cast doubt on "the integrity of the political system" and undermined "America’s standing in the world more broadly." Per a Dec. 2015 published article, John Kerry said he still thinks the 2004 US election was rigged by the Bush campaign and has shared this view with at least one foreign leader. In particular, Kerry says they rigged the vote in Ohio.



Republican party has exhausted ideological theme of 'free markets' it has ridden since about 1980. Enter economic nationalism and Donald Trump to give the Republican Party a reason to exist-Sept. 2015, Ian Fletcher

Sept. 2015 article:

"The Republican party has essentially exhausted the two ideological themes it has ridden on since about 1980-- free markets and social conservatism -- and needs new ones to survive."

9/30/2015, "Donald Trump Is Trying to Save the Republican Party From Itself," Ian Fletcher, Huffington Post
"I'm neither endorsing nor condemning Mr. Trump, but I do think he's trying to save the Republican party from itself in a very rational way. The last thing he is is a clown or dilettante. (OK, maybe a clown.)
Why? Because the Republican party has essentially exhausted the two ideological themes it has ridden on since about 1980-- free markets and social conservatism -- and needs new ones to survive.
Any ideologues out there, I'm sorry: American history makes quite clear that partisan ideological themes don't last forever, in either party. They're good for a few decades, then they evolve or get dumped....
First, consider the exhaustion of free-market ideology. This doesn't mean that free markets per se, which obviously have enormous validity, are dead as an idea. But it does mean that pushing even further in the direction of free markets is dead as an idea.
Why? Most obviously, the 2008 financial crisis, whose effects we're still dealing with, was an effect of markets allowed to run amok, not of markets being insufficiently free. (Yes, I know you can blame it all on the government, but that's a tendentious "reality is the opposite of what you see" argument.) 
There's a happy medium between too much and too little regulation, and we've basically reached the limit of our ability to improve our economy by deregulating further. 
In public perception, this wasn't always the case. It certainly wasn't in 1980, when Ronald Reagan rode this theme to victory. And argue the timing if you like, but surely the reader recalls the romanticism about markets of the late 1990s? Remember California deregulating its electricity market in 1996? (Which handed control over to Enron, by the way, and led to blackouts in Silicon Valley.)
So "Even freer markets!" has lost its credibility as an ideological theme. If you disagree, then what industries would you now propose to deregulate, and how do you think that would improve things?
The increased public interest in economic equality is also playing a role here. There are conservative policies that reduce inequality, but they're old-school paternalist conservative policies, not free-market conservative policies. (Some people will tell you that "conservative" simply equals "free market," but this is simply ignorant of history, though I don't have the space to elaborate here.)
Social conservatism is a more complicated topic, but in a country where both public opinion and the Supreme Court support, to take the obvious example, gay marriage, it doesn't look like a net electoral winner from now on....
So what's the Republican party to do? Luckily, there are other right-wing themes out there to be had, though not an infinite number of truly big ones, substantial enough and popular enough to float a national political party on.
Enter nationalism. Specifically, economic nationalism, because the economy is what voters care about most. Mr. Trump's protectionism is a form of economic nationalism. So is his stance against immigration. (Again, I take no position on the merits, but anti-immigrationism is definitely a form of economic nationalism.) 

Trump is not the first person to come up with this strategy: as I noted in an article during the 2012 election, Mitt Romney was going in this direction already, albeit much less aggressively than Trump.

Romney pledged to crack down on China's currency manipulation. He threatened the use of countervailing duties if necessary, a serious and previously ideologically taboo attempt to blunt America's trade deficit. He said illegal immigrants should "self deport."

Why was Romney less aggressive? For one thing, that was several years ago, and the causative trends hadn't yet gone so far. Two, he wasn't a billionaire, only a humble multi-millionaire, so he had to cater to the Republican donor class. Which, while not sincerely socially conservative, very much adores free-market ideology as the perfect rationalization for their crony-capitalist reality. (Their interpretation of "free" markets is "government won't interfere with private distortions of markets in my favor.")
Come to think of it, even Patrick Buchanan got there first, in the sense of taking economic-nationalist positions (anti-free-trade, anti-immigration) as a Republican primary candidate in 1992. 
But Buchanan, of course, never attracted more than a fringe following. It's no mystery why. One, he wasn't a billionaire who could finance an entire campaign while defying the donor class and cowing the Republican establishment with the tacit threat of a third-party run tipping the election to the Democrats. Two, the credibility of "even freer markets are always the solution" economics hadn't exhausted itself in 1992. (As noted above, it didn't even peak until the late 1990s.) Three, there was not yet a collapse of social conservatism forcing a search for new ideological themes.
Even poor old H. Ross Perot fits perfectly into this picture. He was a trade hawk, anti-immigration, and relatively socially liberal. But he tried to do it without the legitimacy and infrastructure of an established party, and his political inexperience led to him getting spooked out of the race by, among other things, Republican dirty tricks. Still, astonishingly popular with the voters for a while.
So economic nationalism is a rich theme that's been waiting to be exploited for a long time. Like, say, civil rights in the early 1960s. Mr. Trump's comically blustering persona, which seems to confuse a lot of commentators, fits perfectly into this picture. Why? Because it enables him to seem much more right-wing than he really is, which is essential to retreating from obsolete rightist positions without incurring the wrath of primary voters. (Trump's the most experienced show-biz politician since Reagan; of course he figured this out.) Every time some liberal yaps about his being a dangerous crypto-fascist menace, it re-glues this mask, though one of his biggest vulnerabilities is that it will fall off.
The bigger joke is that the Republican establishment is fighting so hard against being saved. They may be the last to figure this all out."


Saturday, December 3, 2016

2016 Connecticut voting mirrors pattern across the country that helped Trump win: Many former Obama voters chose Trump over Hillary-The Day, Dec. 3, 2016

12/3/16, "From Obama to Trump: Four southeastern CT towns switch from blue to red in 2016," The Day (New London, Connecticut) , Martha Shanahan

"In 2012, voters across the region liked what they saw in Barack Obama. The president won the popular vote in 24 of the 25 towns in New London County in his bid for re-election, mirroring the support he got in Connecticut and across the country.

Four years later, four of those towns had had enough. In Ledyard, Montville, North Stonington and Salem, turnout went up, support for Democrats went down and Donald Trump won hundreds more votes in each town than both Mitt Romney in 2012 and Trump's rival in 2016, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

They're not alone — 40 other Connecticut towns flipped from Obama to Trump this year, and only about 10 flipped from Romney to Clinton.

On the whole, the state stayed blue. But the way voters in these four southeastern Connecticut swing towns behaved in the election — and the way they look — mirrors the parts of the country that helped Trump win."...


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Luis Tiant: Castro's Cuba 'took away the freedom, the happiness, the dreams'-Nov. 26, 2016

image from espn

note: hope above will get you to the Luis Tiant quote about Fidel Castro. i can't make links until my broken shoulder mends. susan


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

30 years after globalization began we have Brexit, President-elect Trump, and the irrelevance of describing political differences as either 'left' or 'right'-Foreign Policy, Simpson

"Left and right are the defining concepts of American politics, yet a Republican candidate (Trump) was able to dominate the primary season without mentioning them at all."  7/15/16

11/14/16, "The Two-Hundred-Year Era of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ Is Over," Foreign Policy, Emile Simpson

"The political categories we've inherited are obsolete, but we don’t have anything to replace them with yet."...
"Before the primaries, it was possible to dismiss the electoral relevance of white working-class America, and those left behind by globalization more broadly, and many did: Look no further than the desiccated Washington-consensus platitudes regurgitated by Hillary Clinton and most of the Republican primary candidates.

Despite Trump and Bernie Sanders’s unexpected success in the primary campaigns, before Nov. 8, denial — most often heard in the form of a “surely Hillary can’t lose to Trump” plea — remained rife. But truth, whether electoral or existential, cannot be repressed forever. Now that the American sovereign being has made its biennial apparition for all to see, nobody can deny the fundamental changes in its personality.

Of course, this new political reality is not confined to the United States. We saw it with Brexit, we see it in populist movements across Europe, and we will see it again in the French and German elections next year.

Brexit and Trump were not anomalies, accidents of political history that can be explained away to maintain the integrity of the inherited notion that “normal” politics involves competition between a center-left party and a center-right party. Rather, in my view, they are symptomatic of a paradigm shift in the configuration of Western political life, one which has only just started.

Consider the familiar political category of left and right, which since 1945 has provided the basic organizing category of political differentiation in Western democracies across the vast majority of issues. Although the language of left and right dates to the French Revolution, the category started to take substantial political meaning in the late 19th century, and was forged over the following decades on the anvil of intense political fights over industrialization in the West, and all the changes in economic, social, and political relations that came in its wake.

The crucial point is that left and right are symbiotic, because they represent both sides of the argument over the problem of industrialization, over which there are good arguments to be made on either side. It is the interaction of these arguments set up by the mediation of the left-right categorization that produced sensible compromises across a whole range of issues.

Thus, the near-universal acceptance of the left and right categorization as a basic political normality after 1945 allowed for a long period of relative domestic stability in the West. Political argument between center-left and center-right parties was ordinarily contained to questions of distributive justice, that is, the allocation of goods within an established political framework.

2016 tells us that this world is now gone. Civil arguments about distributive justice seem quaint, as identity politics — the demon that the post-1945 world sought to contain — once again rears its ugly head.

2016 has made plain that the political categorization of left and right inherited from the industrial era is ill-suited to organize political discussion and competition over the actual problems faced by postindustrial societies. The fundamental issue the West faces today is how to handle globalization. That should be the fundamental organizing principle of political difference.

After all, it was the globalization of the 1990s, inspired by the neoliberal economics of the 1980s, that pushed the West into a postindustrial phase in the first place, as manufacturing jobs moved to emerging markets. That was great for western shareholders; not so great for western factory workers. The left and right model of political normality started to come apart; 30 years later, we have Brexit, President Trump, and the prospect of Président Le Pen.

There are good arguments to be made on both sides of the globalization debate — neither unrestricted globalization nor hard protectionism are appealing. Thus, for Western political life to normalize again, a basic category of political difference must develop that actually maps onto the lived experience of the present day, rather than shoehorning the problems of the 21st century into a political model inherited from the 20th. This category should evolve such that one side is broadly against globalization, and the other broadly for it.

If political discourse operated within this framework, the legitimate arguments that exist on both sides of the divide could produce sensible compromises that would move Western politics back into the realm of distributive argument, and away from the dangers of identity politics.

As things stand, issues that arise are treated through the default left-right categorization, which no longer makes sense. The left, for example, tends to be more internationalist on social issues like multiculturalism and immigration, but more nationalistic on economic issues like trade, outsourcing, and tax regulation. The opposite is true of the right.

As a result, in both the United States and the United Kingdom, the people who are winning referenda and elections are those appealing across traditional left-right divides
through policy choices that would in the last century would have been seen as eclectic, to say the least.

In the United States, Trump has promised mass infrastructure investment to create jobs, normally associated with left-wing big government and Keynesian economics, but also deep tax cuts, normally associated with right-wing small-government and Chicago School economics.

In the U.K., Theresa May’s government speaks of having a “proper industrial strategy,” sounding like a Labour Party government from the 1970s, but simultaneously talks a big game on new trade deals with India and China, which if achieved, would presumably wipe out the U.K. low-skilled manufacturing jobs that her industrial strategy presumably aims to protect.

In short, to actually build an electoral base sufficiently large to acquire political power in the West today, one has to more or less ignore the conventional twentieth century positions associated with left and right. Plainly, however, this approach carries serious risks.

The first is that as the traditional left-right framework of distributive justice type arguments is broken up, there is little to stop identity politics from infecting political discussion. This is exactly what we have seen in Brexit and Trump’s victory, and what we will undoubtedly see in the French and German elections in 2017.

The second risk is that politicians end up promising all things to all people, but end up pleasing nobody, fueling political frustration. We’ll see in four years if Trump can bring home low-skilled jobs through protectionist tariffs and boost the U.S. economy at the same time. That assumes Trump is even serious about protectionism. If it turns out to have been a bait and switch move, stand by for rust belt rage in four years’ time.

Likewise, we’ll see if Theresa May can manage to keep foreign companies in the U.K. if the country prioritizes immigration controls over access to Europe’s single market. The people who will lose out most, should foreign companies relocate to the continent, are the working-class voters who were told Brexit would boost the economy.

In sum, 2016 has diagnosed the political malady the West faces, but has not revealed its remedy: Populists have gained power by identifying grievances to which liberals were blind because they couldn’t see past the populists’ vulgar froth; but the populists have no better idea of how to resolve those grievances. This does not a recipe for political stability make.

On a positive note, however, the populist victories in the U.K. and the United States may reset politics in the West in a way that confronts the problem of globalization head-on, rather than trying to explain it away to preserve the left-right account of politics. This is long overdue.

Left and right is no longer an adequate categorization of political difference: it is a trophy of political stability handed over from the industrial age, where it made sense, to the postindustrial age, where it doesn’t. It is no accident that political movements which defy this categorization are winning. A paradigm shift has started.

But it has not ended: We are just in the turbulent transitional phase. Until the West organizes itself around a new political categorization that treats globalization as the fundamental factor of political life — as industrialization was in the last century — we will have a hotchpotch of left and right policy mixed together by all parties, with little to differentiate themselves except identity.

Yet in transition lies danger; the barge can capsize in the storm. The foundational principle of civic equality in liberal democracies is that no citizen has greater rights than another to define the state. The moment “We the people” becomes a slogan of political division, not political unity, is the moment this ideal has been jettisoned – the moment the virus of identity politics has infected the American body politic. Let us hope it does not corrupt its noble soul."

"Emile Simpson is a research fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. He was formerly a British Army officer."

Added: July 2016 article notes "left" and "right" political divisions no longer apply:
"The way we think of left and right is a relic of the Cold War....Left and right are the defining concepts of American politics, yet a Republican candidate (Trump) was able to dominate the primary season without mentioning them at all."  

7/15/16, "A complacent elite is to blame for politics being turned upside down," UK Catholic Herald, Robert Wargas

"The way we think of left and right is a relic of the Cold War. Reality is catching up."

"Trump...rarely talks about "left" and "right" and those movements’ foot soldiers, “liberals” and “conservatives”. Odd, isn’t it? Left and right are the defining concepts of American politics, yet a Republican candidate was able to dominate the primary season without mentioning them at all.
There’s a reason: Western political systems are in the middle of a realignment. The way we think of left and right is a relic of the Cold War....

We are heading for a politics in which the divisions are no longer just left and right, at least not in the sense we’ve used those terms for the past few decades. The shift is splitting all current movements into nationalist and internationalist wings – or perhaps populist and establishment, middle class and upper class, or urban and provincial.

This is happening because so many of the traditional features of left and right no longer apply to them. A working-class white person seeking representation used to find it in the left. Now what does he get? A movement telling him to check his “privilege”. A conservative used to be able to count on the right to make the case for cultural assimilation. Now he, too, is told to be quiet and make way for “progress”....

Mainstream Democratic and Labour leaders support large-scale migration into their countries; mainstream Republicans and Tories do so as well, in practice if not in theory. All mainstream liberals and conservatives support free trade, and all are equally likely to regard sceptics of pure free trade as rather “challenged” individuals.

If “left” traditionally meant state control of the economy, why does today’s left spurn trade regulation? Because the left is internationalist. But the right, at least nowadays, is also internationalist....All sides frame foreign policy debates in terms of helping foreigners: taking in refugees, “liberating” other nations and the like. Believing that a country’s foreign policy should primarily benefit that country’s citizens is now akin to revealing some perverted fetish.

Millions of Americans...don’t accept a bipartisan consensus that was formed without their input or permission. Its partisans grew so resistant to reform they treated their own citizens as a kind of plague to be contained in the hinterlands, not as stakeholders with genuine concerns."...



Three in Minnesota active terror cell convicted of attempting to fight for Islamic State. One also used US taxpayer provided federal student loan money to finance a trip to Syria. Three others to be sentenced Wed., Nov. 16 on terror as well as murder charges-WCCO, CBS Minnesota

"On Wednesday, Mohamed Farah, Adnan’s brother, along with Abdirahman Daud and Guled Omar will be sentenced. They were all convicted not only on terror charges but conspiracy to commit murder."

11/15/16, "3 More Convicted Terrorists Sentenced In Minneapolis Federal Court," WCCO, Minneapolis, CBS Minnesota, Esme Murphy

"Three more convicted terrorists learned their fate today in a Minneapolis courtroom. All admitted to trying to leave Minnesota to fight for ISIS.
A federal judge sentenced Hamza Ahmed to 15 years in prison. He sentenced Hanad Musse and Adnan Farah to 10 years each.

Once again there were signs of obvious tensions at the courthouse. Judge Michael Davis began the day by warning everyone in court that anyone threatening anyone at the courthouse could face arrest. He underscored the seriousness of the case by reminding onlookers that the defendants were part of an active terror cell.

Hamza Ahmed was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 23 years supervised release on the terror conspiracy charge and a charge of student loan fraud. Ahmed had drained his federal student loan account to finance a trip to Syria. Ahmed apologized in the courtroom, saying “I refuse for this to be my legacy. I will come back and I will help my community.”

Hanad Musse was sentenced to 10 years and 20 years supervised release. He told the court, “I was reckless and selfish. I would tell young ones to stay away from terrorism. Don’t make the mistake I made. I am sorry.”

Also receiving a 10 year sentence and 20 years supervised release was Adnan Farah. His older brother Mohamed was found guilty at trial and faces a possible life sentence [to be announced Wednesday, Nov. 16]. Adnan Farah’s attorney Kenneth Udoibok said while his client received a long sentence, it’s still five years less than what prosecutors wanted.

“He will come out of prison with enough time for life, and to that extent I am grateful for the judge,” Udoibok said.

Farah’s mother Ayan also had words of support for the judge. “Thank you so much. He gave [him] the low sentence for my son, and I appreciate it 100 times a day,” she said.

On Wednesday, Mohamed Farah, Adnan’s brother, along with Abdirahman Daud and Guled Omar will be sentenced. They were all convicted not only on terror charges but conspiracy to commit murder. They’re facing up to life in prison."



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I'm the daughter of an Eagle Scout (fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Mets) and a Beauty Queen.