I know, I should probably not waste everybody’s time commenting on this nonsense, but the push on it has been massive, with it seeming to influence a lot of people it should not, so I have decided some push back is called for, even if those who should see it do not. I am partly triggered in this by getting defriended on Facebook yesterday by a generally intelligent libertarian academic economist I know who started massively linking to every crackpot pushing this nonsense, and when I pointed out some serious problems with all of it and declared the whole thing to be “insane,” I was told that my “TDS was showing” and was defriended. As far as I am concerned, TDS is people who believe lunatic lies by Trump, showing as a result their own derangement.
As part of all this the Trump media push on this is massive. I am not sure it held for the whole Sunday-Saturday week, but reportedly for at least a substantial portion of last week Fox News was spending more time on this story than on the pandemic, no distraction with this, of course. And this was not as in there might be two sides to it, at least not on Hannity where I have kept an eye on it. He has been for quite some time pushing for investigations of how the Russia investigation started with a demand that people go to jail for it for a long time. So he has been all u-rah-rah to Trump coming on to Fox News on Thursday morning with his completely off the wall claim that “This is the greatest political scandal in US history,” repeated several times, along with his demand that Senate committees drag lots of people in and that Obama, Biden (of course), Comey, and Brennan should all go to jail for 50 years, although he has not mentioned any actual crimes for which they should go to serve these long sentences that would effectively put them away for life. Both Sens. Grassley and Graham have jumped sort of to attention to promise hearings on all this, although the generally odious Graham did show some streak of sanity by saying he would not call Obama before his committee, perhaps aware that the guy is the most popular political figure in the country, warning “Be careful what you wish for,” although I did not see him ruling out dragging Biden in.
So have there been any actual crimes in all this “Obamagate” as Trump has now repeatedly labeled it? Not much. Probably a majority of the talk in this past week and a half or so as this has ramped up has been about the unmasking of former General Michael Flynn. Hannity has all but frothed at the mouth over the supposedly awful “unmaskers,” who seem to be as bad as Islamic terrorists, if not Commies in the 1950s. Of course, unmasking is a completely trivial and ordinary thing that goes on all the time, with the rate of it higher under Trump than under Obama. Officials ask the NSA for the identity of an American identified in a phone call with some foreigner of interest. This does not mean their identities become public, which rarely happens. In 2017 there were over 8,000 such unmaskings, with the requests needing to be approved by NSA. In 2018 this hit an all time record of over 16,000, approximately one per half hour, with that number falling back to something over 10,000 in 2019.
Apparently between his appointment as incoming National Security Adviser and Trump’s inauguration, about three dozen officials requested him to be unmasked, some of them on multiple occasions. Note that while they may have suspected it was him, they did not know this when they made these requests. While there has been a big focus on Flynn’s Dec. 29 phone conversations (two of them) with former Russian Ambassador Kislyak, the majority of these unmasking requests, which were granted as legitimate, came in mid-December due to other phone calls he was in on, the contents of which remain unpublicized to this point. The Dec. 29 ones, which were later leaked to the Washington Post that published about them on Jan. 12, were especially important in that they made it clear that Flynn had lied to incoming VP Pence about making promises to the Russians about weakening sanctions just imposed by Obama to punish them for their interference in the US election, which lie Pence had publicly pronounced. This would lead Trump to eventually fire Flynn, and it was this matter that Flynn lied to the FBI about on Jan. 24, although they did not coordinate with the DOJ when they spoke with him. I note that two days after the election when Obama met with Trump, he specifically advised him not to appoint Flynn to anything due to his screaming incompetence, with Obama having fired Flynn from being director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA, Pentagon junior cousin to the CIA). There is an old Cold War era Washington joke that goes: “The CIA director testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee, ‘The Russians are coming!” Then the DIA director testifies and says, ‘The Russians are coming tomorrow!” and then the Air Force Intelligence director testifies that, ‘The Russians arrived yesterday!””
I find it a sign of Flynn’s screaming incompetence that as a former DIA director he did not realize that when he started having phone conversations with the Russian ambassador and who knows who else we do not still know about that NSA would be listening so any lies he would tell later would be caught and that indeed he would get unmasked by a gazillion officials all over the security establishment. And he has now committed perjury by withdrawing his confession of lying to the FBI, with all this pile of Trump media people pressing for Judge Sullivan to drop his case now that AG Barr has requested it, since AG Barr is clearly such an honest and straightforward player himself, given how he blatantly lied about the Mueller Report when it came out.
So, roughly coinciding with Barr’s move was that of Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Grenell declassifying and bringing to the Dept of Justice, with Fox News filming his arrival there with a briefcase containing them the roughly three dozen names of people who dared to unmask Flynn. Barr promptly transmitted these names to various GOP senators, three of whom then made the list public so Hannity and others could staart denouncing these evil unmaskers, triggering them to start receiving death threat from lunatic Trump followers. I note that Grenell’s sole experience in intelligence or foreign policy matters was his recent bout of serving as ambassador to Germany where that government requested he be removed, a request that was ignored by Trump. Shortly after he arrived in Berlin, Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear JCPOA, and Grenell then issued a demand that no German businesses have any dealings with Iran, a demand that was ignored aside from the German government’s demanding he be removed.
Ah ha! At least one possible crime has been identified! (This has been “the scandal in search of a crime”) In Friday’s WaPo, Trump fan Mark Thiessen (who I grant has on rare occasions criticized Trump mildly for this or that) published a column in which he declared “Flynn isn’t the one who committed a crime” (yes, he did). According to Thiessen the crime is the leaking of the stories about Flynn’s Dec. 29 phone calls to Kislyak, about which he lied to Pence and others in the incoming Trump admin, which led them to fire him. Thiessen proceeded to identify 8 out of this three dozen people who might have been the evil leaker (although he only listed 7 names), and thus possibly open to being prosecuted, if only DOJ can figure out which one it was. This was the set of people who supposedly not only reuested unmasking of Flynn from NSA, but were actually given his name (allthough apparently in some cases these requests were made by staffers in their offices without even the main person even knowing about it, this being so routine). Obama’s name was not among the 7 Thiessen listed, but Biden’s, Clapper’s, and Somantha Powers’s were.
Obviously there is attention being paid to Biden in this regard, and no doubt we shall hear a lot about this from the Trump media mob, with him possibly even being demanded to testify before one of the Senate committees. However, it is almost certainlhy not him or even one of his staffers. Why not? The one unmasking request that came out of his office did so on Jan. 12 (not mentioned by Thiessen but reported elsewhere in WaPo), the day the leaked story appeared in WaPo. So quite likely somebody in his office sent the request after seeing the story in the paper. Anyway, not the leaker.
Curiously another name is somebody I never heard of, one Stephanie L. O’Sullivan, identified by Thiessen as “a CIA official whose name is redacted.” What? He does not explain where her name was redacted. If it was redacted in the report given by Grenell to Barr, how did it come to be unredacted and made public? This looks like illegal leaking of its own, of a still hired person in the CIA whose identity is supposed to be kept secret. But ah, obviously this shows how the evil Deep State was after Flynn and the whole Trump administration, blah blah blah. The hypocrisy of this particular piece of this just stinks to high heaven.
Anyway, I realize that this is pretty complicated. But that may be why I see a need to put it out there as there is no doubt the Trump people will be putting out distorted and wildly exaggerated versions of this big time. So, here it is, for any of you who have made it this far. And that is enough from me on this, at least for now. Stay well, one and all.
Addenda: In today’s Washington Post, Ruth Marcus noted something I had forgotten: it was Michael Flynn who led the chants to “Lock her up!” at the 2016 GOP convention. Of course such a worthy cannot be locked up himself.
For the record, here are the 7 people listed by Thiessen in his column as being candidate leakers (or maybe somebody from one of their staffs, although he does not mention that possibility): former VP Joe Biden, former UN ambassador Samantha Power (Fox News commenters have made much of her, who supposedly made 7 unmasking requests, how dare her!), former DNI (not Acting) James R. Clapper, Jr. (why would somebody in his position have any authority to make such a request?), former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, deputy nation intelligence director Michael Dempsey, ah, and the above-menioned Stephanie L. O’Sullivan, whose name was supposedly “redacted,” but I missed that she also is a “former deputy national intelligence director.”
Oh, and in Trump’s diatribes on all this he has called this “the greatest political crime” as well as “scandal” in US history. Maybe a “political crime” is not quite the same thing as a “legal crime,” although, wow, there is this case of leaking!
“by a generally intelligent libertarian academic economist”
There ain’t no such animal. Libertarian disqualifies anyone from being intelligent.
Otherwise, excellent synopsis.
This is all fair criticism but it still falls for the fundamental misapprehension surrounding this whole story.
It is not possible for unmasking to be targeted.
The unmasking is simply when an official wants to know who is the US party in a communication. Therefore, it was impossible for the Trump campaign to have been targeted.
The fact that members of the Trump campaign came up so often during unmasking requests simply points to the campaign’s unprecedented number of contacts to Russian intelligence.
This story is basically the bank robber complaining that his privacy was being violated by the security cameras at the bank documenting his crime.
This is whack-a-mole. The universe of whackjob conspiracy theories is large and expanding. It is constrained not by reality but by human imagination. The idea is not to engage in rational discussion, it is to exhaust the opposition. Not unlike creationism. Or climate change denialism.
On the peripheral issue of your libertarian friend, there is an intrinsic dishonesty in libertarianism. It pretends to be a philosophy that can be known and used by a community. In reality, libertarianism is nothing more than the apotheosis of solipsism. Since every libertarian is his/her own definition, there is no philosophy, only self. The rest is just misdirection.
To those declaring it is impossible to be intelligent and a libertarian, I pose my friend Tyler Cowen, who runs Marginal Revolution, although so moderate a libertarian some denounce him as a traitor. But he claims to be one, and he is very intelligent indeed.
I thought I made it clear that people requesting unmasking did not know who they were asking about. If they did, they would not need to request an unmasking. They would already know. BTW, the proper name for unmasking is “unminimizing.”
Apparently Barr is unilikely to prosecute either Obama or Biden, much to the annoyance of Trump hardliners.
In today’s WaPo there is another curious bit. Apparently all those unmasking requests for Flynn were irrelevant, not that this will save thos folks from being subpoenaed by Graham. It was the FBI, not the NSA, that listened to the crucial Dec. 29 phone calls, and Flynn’s name was not redacted in their report.
Molly Roberts in WaPo notes that a virtue for Trump of this “Obamagate!” is that even though it is nearly total crap, it is so complicated and has so many connections that it can be invoked for all sorts of things, a new buzzphrase for Trump followers who can use it ans abuse it to their endless delight.
I do not share your opinion of Cowen’s intelligence, but even if I did there is a small matter of that libertarian character flaw.
I’d take a look at some of his commentary regarding the financial crisis to argue with you, but dealing with people like that make my hair hurt.
Does this mean that Obama was working with Q all the time to liberate the mole children under Central Park and then sell them into slavery at a Washington pizzeria?
Or, is ObamaGate about the fact that the real Barack Hussein Obama (born in Hawaii) was murdered by the KGB and replaced by their child sleeper agent?
Considering Comey supported Trump and extended the bogus email investigation(which should have never started), Donny better watch it.
There may be a character flaw, but Cowen set a record as the youngest chess champion in the state of New Jersey (since broken) and has published books on a very wide array of topics. He is not only very intelligent, but polymathic in his knowledge. Lately hae has been interviewing definitel brilliant people in many disciplines, who all seem to pretty much accept him as more or less their intellectual equal.
You can dislike him for his ideological views and declare hi to have character flaws all you want, but intelligent he most certainly is.
It is entirely possible to be intelligent and also full of shit.
JackD – Cowen is a spinmeister – like David Brooks in the print world is.
WRT Cowan, he’s another example of the fact that In humans, the traits of high intelligence and good judgement are unlinked.
Yeah, he’s a peach.
“I was hoping to chill out on Father’s Day, perhaps see the latest Tom Cruise sci-fi blockbuster, or stroll along the Hudson with my girlfriend. But then I read a New York Times essay so repugnant that I had to respond.
“The Lack of Major Wars May Be Hurting Economic Growth,” by economist Tyler Cowen, is muddled, crammed with confusing caveats. But its central thesis is that the recent economic stagnation of affluent nations might be a consequence of too much peace.
The “possibility of war,” Cowen explains, “focuses the attention of governments on getting some basic decisions right–whether investing in science or simply liberalizing the economy. Such focus ends up improving a nation’s longer-run prospects.”
Cowen worries that a recent downturn in war—at least compared to the apocalyptic first half of the 20th century–has led to economic “laziness”; he calls us “slacker-oriented.” This rhetoric comes close to that of warmongering social Darwinists like Teddy Roosevelt, who once declared, “All the great masterful races have been fighting races.”
Costs of War Project: http://costsofwar.org
Cowen tries to distinguish between preparation for war—or what I would call militarization–and war itself. But of course this distinction yields an absurdly one-sided analysis. You could construct a similar argument for the benefits of cancer by pointing to all the terrific research and innovation and high-end jobs resulting from cancer and neglecting to mention the death and suffering it causes.”
It’s silly to conflate every aspect of the Flynn case as if it were one single thing to consider. He got unmasked a lot. I agree that’s not a big deal. But that is not truly germane to his criminal proceeding. There we see a judge thinking about adding perjury to this stupid situation. So let’s say he tries that. Flynn’s lawyer informs the court he felt intimidated by the DOJ to plead guilty and that intimidation carried over to swearing he wasn’t intimidated in court. Then the DOJ confirms that indeed they intended to intimidate Flynn and his original counsel, because there was no way they could not prove their case or any case at all against Flynn and did not want to participate in routine discovery process in attempting it. The Flynn prosecution was a bag of dung and that provides 99% of the energy carrying the rest of the nonsense along.
Having sat through trials occurring and one involving myself, I have had the privilege of hearing plea bargains being made. Typically, it is arranged between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. The prosecutor makes an offer and the defense says yea or nay and may do a counter. The prosecutor may say ok or may say no, this is the best I can do and recommend to the Court which I believe the court will accept. The prosecutor confers with the Court for which the Defense is present. No decision is made on acceptance by the Court until a Hearing is held.
In the Hearing, the Court will ask the Defendant a series of questions such as pleading guilty to a specific charge or charges, whether they have been promised a lesser sentence, are they doing this of their own volition, will they accept the decision of this court, etc. This is not occurring in a matter of seconds. It takes a degree of time to transact. In the case of this judge, it was asked of him to hold another(?) Hearing to get more of the detail in record.
No one forced Flynn to plea bargain. He could have went to trial and make the court work. He chose to plea bargain in a court hearing stating he was guilty of this charge(s) and was doing so of his own volition. Now he is committing perjury.
The Defendant lied to the court (which includes Mueller). He is a white Lt. General in the Army. If he was African American and not of any substance, none of this would be happening. Flynn is a lackey for the person in the White House today who is just as crazy and is willing to throw anyone away as Hitler did with millions of people as demonstrated in the pandemic. We have a DOJ Attorney General who is willing to fabricate, obstruct, and basically lie to the public and the court.
Flynn is guilty of perjury now. This is what they will hang him on. There is one in this chain who could see this differently than I only because he knows more about the court than I do. I will wait and see what he says.
To those of you trying to declare Tyler Cowen a bad person (I see most now admitting he might be smart), he is not. I know him very well personally, and he is a moral and honorable person who has done many good things for other people. I happen to disagree with him on quite a few things, and have had some very heated exchanges with him on Marginal Revolution some times. But he is not a bad person.
For those of you thinking you have outed him by quoting this or that thing he said or did you dislike, try 94-year-old Nobel Prize winner, Vernon Smith, the Father of experimental economics, who was a socialist in his youth but now publicly identifies himself as a libertarian. He is another I know well personally, a great guy. Go ahead, those of you think it is impossible for somebody to be both a libertarian and a decent human being, see if you can come up with any dirt on Vernon.
I think Ru basically covered it. I am not a lawyer, but I would add that there is a widely known problem of prosecutors pushing plea bargains on defendants. But the real problem is them pushing defendants to confesss to crimes they did not commit. But that is not what is involved here. Nobody is disputing that Flynn lied to the FBI just as he lied to incoming VP Pence. Nobody forced him to do that. Your whining is simply irrelevant and misplaced.
Despite my overwhelming conviction to supporting agnosticism, I must admit that Donald Trump makes a very compelling case for atheism.
I will place my bets on Joel for understanding libertarianism for what it is. The objectivists like to think they are different from libertarians since they are so much the same. Barkley Rosser makes a very compelling case for anti-intellectualism, but I have heard it before.
My dislike for Cowen comes from his stances on economics. Those are differences of opinions, and understandable.
What really gets me is that his supposed “libertarian” philosophy is simply a defense of his economic thoughts. He really doesn’t believe in it, he just uses it as a defense, and sometimes as offense.
In March I was engaged in a discussion at his website. Every claim I made on the subject (doesn’t really matter what it was), was backed up by factual support of my thoughts.
Suddenly, all of those posts were deleted without explanation or even mention. I found that beyond offensive, and just another proof of Cowen’s “Libertarian Deception”. I posted one last time, and the irony of the lack of response further proves his deception:
February 23, 2020 at 2:08 pm
Last one forever.
“Within the free speech movement, there is a small set of individuals that refer to themselves as ‘free speech absolutists.’ This is a title we should all proudly embrace, even though some would argue these people are endangering democracy.
A free speech absolutist supports free speech in every possible way, rejecting any exceptions to the rule. Once an exception to the rule is introduced, this paves the way for other exceptions, including those that can be expanded and exploited, like an exception for so-called ‘hate speech’.
The exception for hate speech is at the core of the free speech debate. The more radical authoritarians seek to exploit the rule by including offensive words, microaggressions, and other relatively harmless words under the hate speech label. The absurdity of declaring words as hateful based on something as subjective as offense is quite clear to anyone that values freedom of speech.”
While Flynn is a questionable figure with his Iran warmongering and the former tenure as a Turkey lobbyist, it is important to understand that in Kislyak call he mainly played the role of Israel lobbyist. This important fact was carefully swiped under the carpet by FBI honchos.
Only the second and less important part of the call (the request to Russia to postpone the reaction after the Obama expulsion of diplomats) was related to Russia. Not sure it was necessary: Russia probably understood that this was a provocation and would wait for the dust to settle in any case. Revenge is a dish that is better served cold. Later Russia used this as a pretext to equalize the number of US diplomats in Russia with the number of Russian diplomat in the USA which was a knockdown for any color revolution plans in this country: people with the knowledge of the country and connections to its neoliberal fifth column were sent packing.
But Russian neoliberal compradors were decimated earlier after EuroMaydan in Kiev, so this was actually a service to the USA allowing to save the USA same money (as Trump acknowledged)
Also strange how former chief of DIA fell victim of such a crude trap administered by a second, if nor third rate person — Strzok. Looks like he was already on the hook and, as such, defenseless for his Turkey lobbing efforts. Which makes Comey-McCabe attempt to entrap him look like shooing fish in tank.
Note to managerial class neoliberals (PMC). Your Russiagate stance is to be expected and has nothing to do with virtue.
The article at https://beinglibertarian.com/free-speech-no-exceptions/ was terrific. In that light then Cowen and a lot of other Libertarians are just Sears Libertarians rather than real Libertarians.
Frank Zappa-Cosmik Debris
Yep. When it is convenient.