Sanders Seen As Front Runner For 2020 Democratic Nomination

Bernie Sanders is repeatedly topping lists of potential 2020 Democratic candidates for president. The latest is a list at The Fix of The top 15 Democratic presidential candidates for 2020, ranked:

1. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (Previous: 1)

must-read story from Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti recently showed how Sanders conspicuously seems to be addressing the shortcomings that hampered his candidacy in 2016 — most notably his lack of familiarity with foreign policy and of inroads with powerful pro-Democratic groups, such as the American Federation of Teachers. Sanders has done nothing to diminish speculation that he will run again; the biggest question is, and will be, his age (76) — as it is with Brown (79) and Biden (75).

Complaining of a lack of familiarity with foreign policy is a bit of a stretch considering how Bernie Sanders has a far better track record than Hillary Clinton did when it came down to the decisions they made. I am hoping that greater study of foreign policy might lead Sanders to giving more priority to reducing foreign interventionism in a future campaign.

Joe Biden follows at 2nd, Elizabeth Warren is 3rd, Kirsten Gillibrand is 4th, and Kamala Harris is listed as 5th.

Brent Budowsky, writing at The Hill, wrote yesterday that Sanders would be the instant frontrunner if he runs:

If Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) decides to run for president in 2020, he would be the instant frontrunner for the nomination and favored in the general election against Trump or any other GOP nominee. If Sanders decides not to run, there is a strong likelihood that the ultimate nominee will campaign, win and govern as a true progressive in the Sanders mold.

When historians look back on the Sanders campaign in 2016, they will note two fundamentally important and lasting contributions that Sanders and his supporters made.

First, the Sanders platform in the 2016 primaries, which was significantly but not fully included in the Democratic platform at the convention, will provide the policy blueprint for the next Democratic presidential campaign and the next great Democratic president.

The progressive populist policies of William Jennings Bryan evolved into the progressive populist presidency of Teddy Roosevelt. The populist policies of Teddy Roosevelt, when he campaigned to regain the presidency as the progressive candidate after abandoning the Republican Party, were largely incorporated by Franklin Roosevelt into his New Deal.

Similarly, the programs championed by Sanders in 2016 will largely be adopted in the Democratic platform in 2020 and fervently championed by the 2020 nominee, whether it is Sanders or a similar candidate.

The second historic legacy of the Sanders campaign in 2016 was that he challenged, and defeated, the old style campaign fundraising paradigm of previous major candidates. It was revolutionary and historic that Sanders energized a gigantic army of small donors and became a fundraising leader who changed campaign fundraising forever.

The Sanders small-donor paradigm thrives today in the pro-Sanders group, Our Revolution, and in the enormous impact small donors have had since 2016, most recently in the Alabama Senate election.

Repeated polls showing that Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the country (while the favorable ratings of Clinton and Trump continue to decline) is another point in his favor.

While early predictions for presidential nominations are often wrong, it is encouraging that Sanders has been named by so many sources as the likely front runner for several months. For example, as I posted in July, Vox, A Voice Of The Democratic Establishment, Now Realizes That Bernie Sanders Is The Democrats’ Real 2020 Frontrunner.

We certainly cannot count on the Democrats making the wisest decision, considering that they essentially rigged the nomination for Clinton in 2016 despite all the evidence that Clinton would have difficulty winning and lagged about ten points behind Sanders in head to head match-ups against Republicans. There are also many in the Democratic establishment who are more concerned about maintaining their positions than what is best for the party, and for the country.

Establishment Democrats Again Trying To Smear Jill Stein

I have my doubts as to whether the request for material from former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein by the Senate Intelligence Committee will amount to anything, but establishment Democrats cannot contain their glee. Here is the response from one former Clinton aide who was just one of many Clinton supporters to demonstrate their McCarthyism with chants claiming their unproven (and unlikely) assertion that Jill Stein is a Russian agent:

Others responded by pointing out how weak the logic is that being placed at the table as Putin at an event makes one a Russian agent:

Pictures with the tweet show both Hillary and Bill Clinton sitting with Putin.

When it is a political opponent, Clinton supporters typically consider any form of an investigation being evidence of guilt. However, when it comes to Clinton, they conveniently forget the recent investigations which showed that Clinton was guilty of highly unethical behavior.  The State Department Inspector General’s report showed that Hillary Clinton violated rules designed to promote transparency as Secretary of State by exclusively using a private server and failing to turn this email over for archiving as required by law until forced to after she left office. The FBI report revealed that Clinton repeatedly lied to the public and press on multiple points regarding the email scandal, and that that Clinton and her colleagues were  “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

Clinton supporters have been trying to smear Stein since the election under the mistaken belief that if Stein wasn’t running they would have picked up her votes. In reality, few who voted for Stein would have voted for a corrupt war monger like Clinton. Even if, which I think is unlikely, it turns out that Stein was a Russian agent, and this was revealed during the campaign, I might have voted differently, but still would not have voted for Clinton.

A spokesperson for Stein provided the following statement:

Responding to a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence request for documents pertaining to interference in the 2016 election, former Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein said she is cooperating by sharing all communications relevant to the committee’s mission. “We take seriously the issue of potential interference in our elections, as demonstrated by our continuing efforts to investigate the integrity of the 2016 election and examine our voting machines that are widely known to be vulnerable, but which still have not been examined for evidence of interference. To restore trust in our elections and democracy itself, we must safeguard our elections from all potential sources of interference, whether by foreign state actors or domestic political partisans, criminal networks, lone wolves, or private corporations – including those who control voting software.

Our campaign has observed the highest standards of transparency and integrity in our interactions with foreign nationals as well as Americans. Our communications with Russian individuals regarding an invitation to speak on international relations at the RT 10th anniversary media conference will confirm what we stated publicly at that time and since: that we did not accept any payment or even reimbursement for the trip, and that we made the trip with the goal of reaching an international audience and Russian officials with a message of Middle East peace, diplomacy, and cooperation against the urgent threat of climate change, consistent with long-standing Green principles and policies.

We strongly support legitimate inquiry into any illegal activity in our elections – including quid pro quo deals, money laundering, corruption and violation of campaign finance laws. At the same time, we caution against the politicization, sensationalism and collapse of journalistic standards that has plagued media coverage of the investigation. In the current climate of attacks on our civil liberties, with the emergence of censorship in social media and the press, criminalization of protest, militarization of police and massive expansion of the surveillance state, we must guard against the potential for these investigations to be used to intimidate and silence principled opposition to the political establishment.

Stein said that she would release a more comprehensive statement about the investigation in the near future.

Jill Stein was also interviewed by The Intercept:

Stein clearly resents the Senate’s attention vis-à-vis  electoral interference and foreign meddling: “This smacks of the dangerous underbelly of these investigations. The extent to which they exercise overreach, politicizing, and sensationalism is a danger to democracy, especially in the current climate of all-out war on our First Amendment rights. This is not a time to be attacking the rights of political speech and political association.”

…It’s safe to assume the Intelligence Committee is interested in anything pertaining to Stein’s now-infamous attendance of an RT gala in Moscow, at which she was seated and photographed with Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Stein told The Intercept that as she has routinely appeared on RT and expects to hand over communications related to booking those TV segments and other “administrative” messages between her campaign and the Russian network, as well as “logistical” messages about the Moscow event. Stein also noted that before her Moscow visit, she had “requested to speak with either Putin or [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov, or someone in the Russian government, to be able to discuss our policies, because I was there to advance our agenda for peace and climate action and diplomacy and nuclear weapon abolition.”

Stein says this request was not granted. Stein also maintains that she declined to let RT pay for any portion of her trip to Moscow and further denies requesting or receiving any other assistance, monetary or otherwise, from RT, the Russian government, WikiLeaks, or the Trump campaign, adding that any dialogue or cooperation with Trump “would have been quite contrary to our values.”

When asked why she had attended the gala and sought an audience with Putin, she told The Intercept that “we sought contact with every powerful world leader we had access to,” and that the Russian government was of particular interest because of its involvement in the Syrian civil war. “We don’t have any reason to suspect that there was any backdoor communication,” Stein said. “We were very much focused on the substantive issues of the elections, and we avoid like the plague manipulations and machinations in order to make things happen behind the scenes.”

 Stein also described the dinner, along with how minimal her contact was, in this interview with Jeremy Scahill.

Democratic Commission Recommends Changing Rules Which Rigged Primary For Clinton And Cost Democrats The White House

The Democrats lost an election they should have won in 2016 due to rigging the nomination for a candidate too weak to win the nomination on her own, and who was unable to beat a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump in 2016. Having been exposed for rigging the nomination has also alienated many potential voters, putting the party in danger of further losses. The party created a “unity commission” to make recommendations to change some of the party rules which led to the catastrophe in 2016.

Hillary Clinton’s strategy was to promote the view that her nomination was inevitable, and the party’s rules played into this. This included restricting debates so that opposing candidates would receive far less coverage and have less of an opportunity to build early momentum, along with superdelegates and front loading of southern states. While in 2008 the popular vote in Iowa was released, this was not done in 2016, harming Sanders who probably won the popular vote but did not receive a proportionate number of delegates due to having his voters more heavily concentrated in college towns. Failing to announce the popular vote also harms candidates who might receive a significant number of votes but fail to receive delegates.

These rules played into Clinton’s strategy of appearing inevitable by having the news media reporting a strong lead for Clinton in delegates after the votes in New Hampshire and Iowa, despite Sanders receiving more votes. Then there were the shenanigans by Harry Reid in Nevada, followed by favorable states for Clinton on Super Tuesday.

On the other hand, if Clinton had been faced with more debates prior to the primaries, had no lead due to  superdelegates, she didn’t receive assistance from the party in Iowa and Nevada, and didn’t have the southern states coming up next, it is doubtful she could have own. The party also helped in other ways including  changing of fund raising rules to help Clinton, voting restrictions, and giving Clinton unprecedented control over the party during the primary campaign.

Although Bernie Sanders showed an ability to bring many new voters into the party, primary and caucus rules often prevented many of these potential Democratic voters from participating. This both helped Clinton in the primaries and hurt the Democrats in the general election

ABC News reports:

Sources close to the commission who have seen working drafts of its current report tell ABC News the panel plans to recommend dramatic cuts to the individual voting power of superdelegates and new rules around caucuses and primaries to improve access for voters and recordkeeping.

Sources close to the commission say the group’s likely recommendation on superdelegates will be for some select superdelegates such as Congress members, governors and former presidents to continue as unbound superdelegates, but to change the rest of the system so the votes of all other superdelegates are pooled or bound in another way to match up with to the popular vote totals from their respective states.

“One of the big problems you had in the 2016 election was that one candidate had 400 or more quote-unquote “delegates” before a single voter had cast a vote,” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told ABC News of the primary race between the eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton, and Sanders. Weaver now sits on the unity commission.

“So you had Iowa, which was basically a tie, and after New Hampshire the pledged delegates were close to even, but the reporting on TV was 400 for one [candidate] and 50 or 60 for the other candidate. It creates the perception of inevitability from the get-go,” Weaver said.

Sources tell ABC the group will also likely recommend that caucus states allow absentee voting, written votes to facilitate recounts, and record-keeping — all of which would enable voters who can’t participate in long caucus events to quickly write and submit a first-round vote and leave.

In addition, there will likely be recommendations that states report statewide vote totals. In the past, states had only been required to release final delegate totals and not popular vote totals, a practice that many say hurt underdog candidates in early states who may have won 6 or 8 percent of the vote statewide, but not enough to secure a delegate.

The panel is also expected to make recommendations for dramatic changes to how states run primaries.

Commission members appointed by Sanders largely lobbied for the party to mandate open primaries across the board. But that position, sources tell ABC News, was not the consensus of the majority of the commission.

Instead, as a compromise to open up the voting process to new party members, the group will likely suggest that the party penalize states that require residents to switch their party affiliation long before their scheduled primary. In the large, politically progressive state of New York, for example, independent voters who wanted to participate in the 2016 Democratic primary had to have changed their party status a full six months before the primary voting day.

The final document submitted from the group may also include language compelling states to allow same-day party registration.

These proposals from the “unity commission” still need to be approved by the party leadership–the same leadership which recently purged progressives and thought it was a good idea to allow lobbyists to be superdelegates. These are also the same people who thought it was a good idea to rig the 2016 nomination and ignore both the  graft and corruption of Bill and Hillary Clinton and  that her views which are far closer to the views of George Bush and Dick Cheney than much of the Democratic base. It remains to be seen how the party will respond to these recommendations.

Judicial Watch Releases Documents On Bill Clinton’s Tarmac Meeting With Loretta Lynch

Judicial Watch has released information “29 pages of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documents related to the June 27, 2016, tarmac meeting between former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton.” The meeting took place shortly prior to when James Comey interviewed Hillary Clinton regarding classified information on their private server. Their press release concentrates on accusations that “FBI officials were more concerned about leaks than the actual meeting itself. ”

This could be seen as analogous to those who are more concerned with action against those who allegedly hacked the DNC email and released it to Wikileaks as opposed to what was revealed about the actions of the DNC in their email.

In reading through the docments they released, I thought that their greater concern was more a matter of concern over potential security threats from discussing security procedures used by the FBI and Secret Service.

I am surprised that Judicial Watch did not concentrate on what I found to be the most interesting section. See the final document per the link above, which was sent to Michael Kortan, assistant director of the Office of Public Affairs at the FBI, with the name of the sender from the FBI redacted. The document responds to media reports that the FBI ordered no cell phones, photos, or videos at the meeting:

First of all, it isn’t the FBI’s job to to tell journalists or private citizens they can’t take photographs of a former president and the Attorney General? What were the agents going to do, arrest people for taking a picture or video?

Also, if there was nothing wrong with the meeting and it was totally innocent, why were the federal agents instructed to demand no one take a picture?

From there the selection goes on to note that while it is bad that the meeting was held because Hillary Clinton was under investigation, but questioned whether concentrating on Hillary Clinton is “actually letting Lynch and Clinton off the hook a bit.” The document notes that “Clinton himself is under investigation as the Grand Poo-bah at the Clinton Foundation.” Further down on the page it questions: “If the State Department and Hillary Clinton acted improperly or illegally by commingling staff and by granting favors to Clinton Foundation donors, isn’t the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton equally guilty of wrongdoing?”

In the next paragraph: “This may explain why  a day after the surreptitious meeting in Phoneix. Lynch’s Justice Department informed a judge they were going to drag their feet on the release of emails connected with the former president’s foundation and the State Department.” It notes that the DOJ filed a motion seeking a 27-month delay in the release of some documents and that “the public would not be about to read the communications until October 2018, about 22 months into her prospective first term as President.”

The document concludes: “I guess when this all adds up, its clear why Lynch and her FBI agents were so intent on keeping this inappropriate meeting a secret.”

It is also clear why Bill Clinton would want to keep this all a secret. The Clintons have been found to have unethically received payments from multiple parties with decisions before the State Department. This included both donations to the Clinton Foundation and unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton also ignored the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State to disclose such contributions.

Fox Wins First Annual Fake News Trophy

Donald Trump recently called for a Fake News Trophy on Twitter. While I can understand that Donald Trump might be upset with CNN (the Clinton News Network), his attempt to exclude Fox from the award backfired. After all, Fox probably does remain the largest major source of false information after Donald Trump himself. Earlier this month the Washington Post Fact Checker found that Trump has made 1,628 false or misleading claims over 298 days since becoming president.

Rasmussen, the Republican-leaning polling outfit, conducted a poll to award the Fake News Trophy. Despite the biases of Rasmussen, the First Annual Fake News Trophy went to Fox. While there was the expected partisan bias in the results, overall Fox did win at 40 percent, with CNN well behind at 25 percent. From Rasmussen:

Trump suggested earlier this week that the media should award an annual Fake News Award for the worst coverage of his presidency but left Fox News out of the running since it is the only network the president and his supporters believe gives him fair coverage. But 40% of all voters think Fox News should be the winner of the first annual Fake News Trophy.

CNN is in second place with 25% support, followed by MSNBC (9%), ABC (4%), CBS (3%) and NBC (2%). Six percent (6%) say the award should go to someone else, and 11% are undecided.

A closer look finds that while 53% of Democrats and a plurality (42%) of voters not affiliated with either major party declare Fox News the winner, just 24% of Republicans agree. Forty percent (40%) of GOP voters opt instead for CNN, a view shared by just 13% of Democrats and 24% of unaffiliateds.

Republicans and unaffiliated voters are more critical of MSNBC than Democrats are, too. Views of the other networks are more comparable among the three groups.

Quote of the Day: Trevor Noah On Bernie Sanders’ Grammy Nomination

“So Bernie Sanders is in the running for a Grammy, and you know right now someone at the D.N.C. is going, ‘All right guys, how do we rig this for Hillary?’” — Trevor Noah after Bernie Sanders  received a Grammy nomination for  the audio book version of his book, Our Revolution.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Under Obama Discussed Blowback From Clinton For His Investigation Of Classified Information Sent Over Her Private Email Server

Former Intelligence Community Inspector General under Barack Obama, General Charles McCullough III, discussed the retaliation from the Clinton campaign for investigating the presence of classified information in email sent with Hillary Clinton’s private email server. As I posted in January 2016, General McCullough sent a letter to leaders on congressional intelligence committees indicating that the email on Hillary Clinton’s private server contained classified information, leading to further investigation.

The State Department Inspector General position was left vacant while Clinton was Secretary of State. After the post was filled, the State Department Inspector General report did indicate that Clinton had acted in violation of the law.

McCullough was interviewed by Tucker Carlson. While I hate to use Fox as a source, they are the network which carried the interview and therefore have the report. From their report of the interview:

A government watchdog who played a central role in the Hillary Clinton email investigation during the Obama administration told Fox News that he, his family and his staffers faced an intense backlash at the time from Clinton allies – and that the campaign even put out word that it planned to fire him if the Democratic presidential nominee won the 2016 election.

“There was personal blowback. Personal blowback to me, to my family, to my office,” former Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough III said.

The Obama appointee discussed his role in the Clinton email probe for the first time on television, during an exclusive interview with Fox News aired on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” McCullough – who came to the inspector general position with more than two decades of experience at the FBI, Treasury and intelligence community – shed light on how quickly the probe was politicized and his office was marginalized by Democrats.

In January 2016, after McCullough told the Republican leadership on the Senate intelligence and foreign affairs committees that emails beyond the “Top Secret” level passed through the former secretary of state’s unsecured personal server, the backlash intensified.

“All of a sudden I became a shill of the right,” McCullough recalled. “And I was told by members of Congress, ‘Be careful. You’re losing your credibility. You need to be careful. There are people out to get you.’”

But the former inspector general, with responsibility for the 17 intelligence agencies, said the executive who recommended him to the Obama administration for the job – then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper – was also disturbed by the independent Clinton email findings.

“[Clapper] said, ‘This is extremely reckless.’ And he mentioned something about — the campaign … will have heartburn about that,” McCullough said…

As one of the few people who viewed the 22 top secret Clinton emails deemed too classified to release under any circumstances, the former IG said, “There was a very good reason to withhold those emails … there would have been harm to national security.” McCullough went further, telling Fox News that “sources and methods, lives and operations” could be put at risk.

Some of those email exchanges contained Special Access Program (SAP) information characterized by intel experts as “above top secret.”

WikiLeaks documents show the campaign was formulating talking points as the review of 30,000 Clinton emails was ongoing.

The campaign team wrote in August 2015 that “Clinton only used her account for unclassified email. When information is reviewed for public release, it is common for information previously unclassified to be upgraded to classified.”

McCullough was critical of the campaign’s response, as the classified review had barely begun. “There was an effort … certainly on the part of the campaign, to mislead people into thinking that there was nothing to see here,” McCullough said.

McCullough discussed opposition from the Clinton campaign, Congressional Democrats, and some at the State Department for his desire to investigate Clinton’s actions. This included threats that he would be fired:

“It was told in no uncertain terms, by a source directly from the campaign, that we would be the first two to be fired — with [Clinton’s] administration. That that was definitely going to happen,” he said.

McCullough said he was just trying to do his job, which requires independence. “I was, in this context, a whistleblower. I was explaining to Congress — I was doing exactly what they had expected me to do. Exactly what I promised them I would do during my confirmation hearing,” he said. “… This was a political matter, and all of a sudden I was the enemy.”

…Asked what would have happened to him if he had done such a thing, McCullough said: “I’d be sitting in Leavenworth right now.”

James Comey’s report showed that Clinton and her colleagues were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” While he declined to recommend prosecution, his report also demonstrated that many of Clinton’s public statements regarding the email scandal were false. Comey’s letter to Congress late in the campaign is on the long list of Clinton’s excuses for losing to Donald Trump. McCullough noted in the interview that the FBI’s involvement might have been avoided if Clinton had been more cooperative in the investigation:

Speaking about the case more than a year after the FBI probe concluded, McCullough in his interview also addressed the possibility that a more cooperative State Department and Clinton campaign might have precluded the FBI’s involvement from the start.

“Had they come in with the server willingly, without having us to refer this to the bureau … maybe we could have worked with the State Department,” he said.

Of course there would also have not been an FBI investigation if Clinton had not violated the law with her use of the private server. In addition, the scandal might not have repeatedly made news if Clinton had been more honest, as opposed to being constantly exposed for lying.

Democratic Insiders See Bernie Sanders As Top Contender For 2020 Nomination

It is rather ridiculous to try to predict the 2020 nominee this far in advance, but encouraging to see the rankings from The Hill. In an article entitled How Dem insiders rank the 2020 contenders, Bernie Sanders is listed first:

1. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Advisers to the senator are telegraphing that Sanders is eyeing a 2020 run — and his network is already ready to go, with supporters convinced that he was the candidate who would have beaten President Trump in 2016.

“His people have never gone away,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “And he has a loyal core following out there that will be with him come hell or high water.”

Also working in Sanders’s favor, Bannon said, is the leftward shift of the Democratic Party.

“The Sanders wing is becoming the dominant wing of the party,” he said.

Still, strategists note that Sanders would be 79 in 2020, which could work against him at a time when Democrats are hungry for change.

Following Sanders are: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Sherrod Brown, and Deval Patrick. As is typical in such horse race coverage from the media, there is virtually nothing said about the comparative views or records of the candidates.

It is hopeful that the Sanders wing is referred to the dominant wing of the party. This is also not an isolated view. For example, last July I had a post noting that Vox, A Voice Of The Democratic Establishment, Now Realizes That Bernie Sanders Is The Democrats’ Real 2020 Frontrunner. Of course all available evidence does suggest that Sanders would have won in the general election. He did ten points better than Clinton in head to head polls against Trump, he had far more support among independents and even Republican voters than Clinton had, he was stronger in the rust belt than Clinton, he had no email scandal, and had nothing to fear from leaks of DNC email by Wikileaks. If Clinton supporters claim that Clinton lost due to Comey’s letter or Wikileaks, they should admit that the candidate who would not have been affected by either would have had a better chance to win.

Of course Clinton supporters are not that rational–and some are still not giving up. One of the more ridiculous articles posted recently is from Salon entitled  Here’s your leftover turkey: The case for Hillary Clinton 2020. Needless to say, the case is not very strong, unless you consider being a war monger who came close to Donald Trump, but still lost, to be  points in her favor.

Shocking: Russia Caught “Meddling” It Its Own Parliamentary Elections

Hysteria about Russia, fueled by Hillary Clinton’s drive to divert blame for her loss to Donald Trump, continues to spread. The scare about Russian Facebook ads and Twitter accounts looks ridiculous when the facts are seriously analyzed. We are repeatedly seeing hysterical headlines, sometimes claiming to contain the smoking gun, only to quickly find that the initial report was incorrect. A column at Bloomberg News looked at some recent examples, starting with the report that money was sent by Russia to embassies with the indication, “to finance election campaign of 2016.” To some that was seen as proof that Russia rigged the 2016 election. The more plausible response:

The Trump-Russia story is becoming surreal. It’s worth pausing for a minute and applying a tool that’s getting rusty from disuse — Occam’s razor, and specifically Isaac Newton’s take on it: “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.”

Here’s a simple example. BuzzFeed on Tuesday came out with a story about the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation checking into 60 transfers sent by the Russian Foreign Ministry to embassies around the world with a note that the money was meant “to finance election campaign of 2016.” Russia says that meant the Russian parliamentary election that took place in September 2016, not the U.S. presidential election. The voting for that election was organized in 147 countries; some 1.9 million Russian expatriates could come to hundreds of diplomatic missions to cast their votes, though only some 216,000 ended up doing so.

This is an obvious, simple explanation for the transfers. If U.S. election interference was intended with the funds, would a Russian government agency openly transfer money to “finance” it and label it as such? Why would the Foreign Ministry transfer money for a U.S. election meddling effort to dozens of diplomatic missions far from U.S. shores? The transfers arrived in early August, just in time to organize the polling stations for the Sept. 18 Russian election. But BuzzFeed pumped up the drama: “Just as the U.S. presidential election was entering its final, heated phase, the Russian foreign ministry sent nearly $30,000 to its embassy in Washington.” After the story ran, the Russian Foreign Ministry provided the obvious explanation; BuzzFeed added it to the piece without altering its ominous tone.

So the latest smoking gun re Russia showed that Russia was “meddling” in the Russian parliamentary elections.

The same column looked at the exchange of email between Donald Trump, Jr. and Wikileaks, which fueled attacks on Wikileaks after one of the messages was  edited in a way that seems to play into the Clinton attacks that Wikileaks aligned with Russia. Their bogus claims tying Wikileaks to Russia leads to the false claims that Donald Trump, Jr. communicating with Wikileaks is an act of collusion with Russia.

The actual text of the exchange looks more like Wikileaks was trying to entice Donald Trump, Jr. into releasing his father’s tax returns by acting as if Wikileaks was trying to help Trump. It certainly would have made no sense for Wikileaks to have acted neutral or pro-Clinton in such negotiations. This is also consistent with Assange’s statements that he regretted that his releases of information on the 2016 presidential candidates were limited to Clinton, but Trump did not have a government record to expose. Releasing Trump’s tax returns would have certainly provided such desired balance. Unfortunately Donald Trump, Jr., who has shown a willingness to collude with not only Wikileaks but with Russia, did not fall for this. Hopefully Trump’s tax returns will be released instead as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Of course Assange very likely did have a strong objection to Clinton considering how her record of both extreme hawkishness and extreme hostility towards government transparency conflicted with two of Assange’s priorities. He might have also been influence by the widely reported, but never verified, claims that Clinton had advocated killing Assange in a drone strike.

The Matrix made this offer which is relevant to current politics, even if the context is different: “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

The number of people attacking backers of transparency such as Wikileaks and Edward Snowden again this week (including many faux-liberal Democrats) shows that far too many Americans (again including many faux-liberal Democrats) will take the blue pill over the red pill every chance they have.

Porn Star Running For Democratic Nomination & Other Political Briefs

Are we now Italy? The Hill reports that a porn star has announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination:

A porn star and a rapper say they have what it takes to win the White House in 2020.

Cherie DeVille, who’s starred in such videos as “Ass Planet” and “Hot Tub Hottie,” says she was inspired to run for office out of her “personal frustration for the current political climate.”

When Donald Trump won the election last year, DeVille — who’s running alongside rapper Coolio — says she sobbed. “I didn’t cry because I hated [Trump] specifically, I cried because of what I felt that meant for the direction our country was going in.”

“We’re voting for people as if we’re on a reality television show, and my concern is if we continue to purely vote for celebrities, or political figures, or the most entertaining, they’re not always going to be quality politicians,” DeVille told ITK on Tuesday.

So the 39-year-old adult film performer decided to toss her hat in the political ring, saying she’s planning on running as a Democrat.

“If our criteria now for becoming a political official is minor celebrity, I have that,” says DeVille, who boasts 190,000 Twitter followers. “I feel like I can be potentially what I’m feeling the American people — for better or for worse — want, which is interesting news, scandalous news, you know, not ‘boring’ political news.”

“But at the same time [I can] do what the American people really need,” she continues, which is “having a person with integrity, and having someone listen to the people, and actually care about America in public office.”

A former physical therapist, DeVille — whose campaign slogan is “Make America F—— Awesome Again” — says a lot of people “giggle” when they learn that “Gangsta’s Paradise” rapper Coolio is running as her VP.

The Guardian has a story under the headline Christopher Steele believes his dossier on Trump-Russia is 70-90% accurate. So, in other words, he admits that his dossier, which fueled much of the Russia-gate hysteria (and which Clinton and the DNC hid the fact that they paid for) could be 30% false.

Portions of the left and libertarian right do often share some views in common. For example, CounterPunch today has a post on The Logic of Drug Legalization:

The Drug Lords of today exist because of the extraordinary profits resulting from criminalization. Estimates run in the half a trillion range globally per year. By way of comparison there are only twenty or so countries with a national economy of that size. The situation is exactly analogous to the prohibition era. When gunfights, beatings, murders and firebombs were the business strategy of choice for the pushers of alcohol. Once booze was legalized the bootleggers were immediately driven out of business. Alcohol is heavily taxed today there are however no Bootlegging Lords on the playground pushing cheaper booze on our children.

Nor would such pushers exist for any other drug that we might choose to legalize. Sure the criminals could evade the cost of taxes on their product but there are enormous costs incurred by criminal enterprises that don’t apply to legal ones. This is why marijuana today is sold for hundreds of times what it costs to grow. Our legal producers will not be faced with those costs and so can sell to us below current prices on the street. With profit margins cut to the bone the ‘dread lords and masters’ that control the illegal drug market today will simply melt away like the last snow before the advancing spring…

Matthew Yglesias writes at Vox, Bill Clinton should have resigned: What he did to Monica Lewinsky was wrong, and he should have paid the price. What is amazing about this is that it comes from a usually very pro-Democratic Party source. Now that they aren’t concerned about white washing the past for Hillary, some Democrats might be able to face the truth about at least some aspects of their party.

Also at Vox, yet another reason to oppose the Republican tax bill: Republicans’ tax bill could trigger a $25 billion cut to Medicare.

Periodically I see articles from people who have good intentions but don’t understand how health care really works argue that we should end private practice and have all doctors become employees to save costs. The reality is that this trend has increased costs rather than save money, as discussed in this article at Modern Healthcare entitled Hospital-employed physicians drain Medicare:

“When hospitals grow their physician network, with a subsidy of $150,000 to $200,000 per physician, they have to cover those costs by driving ancillary services and (getting more people) in hospital beds,” said Dr. Jeffrey LeBenger, CEO of Summit Health Management, an integrated, physician-led independent physician group that includes some 800 doctors. One of the main drivers of physician acquisitions is to increase referral networks, he said.