Did Trump Scam Russia’s Putin?

Now that the FBI might be investigating Russian involvement in the U.S. 2016 election, we need to ask ourselves a serious question: Did Vladimir Putin just become another misled investor scammed in a Trump deal?

Buyer’s remorse

Given the shoddy ROI of then-mogul Trump’s real estate deals, Russian President Putin may want to reconsider what — if anything — he bought from the @RealDonaldTrump Administration. Did Moscow make as big a miscalculation dealing with President @RDP as American voters made by voting for him? Did our Ice-to-Eskimo selling Commander in Chief just sell Borscht to the Kremlin?

Seriously. Someone tell me what they think the ultimate benefits are for Russia or what Russia’s ultimate threat is to the USA here, in terms of this being worth the cost (triggering a serious anti-Russia backlash).

Is the @RealDonaldTrump Administration going to make more classified U.S. intelligence data available to Moscow, to the detriment of U.S. allies in Europe, Israel, etc.? Is Bannon going to sell Alaska back to Russia? Is the U.S. going to start importing billions of dollars of Russian oil? Is the U.S. going to provide financial/material support to the Russian military to invade/occupy Eastern Europe, or maybe re-invading Afghanistan?

That first one does seem realistic. Add to it the idea that a Russia-influenced @RDP Administration will weaken NATO: if not by reducing or delaying U.S. financial/material support, then by influencing other NATO members to do the same.

But if those are one’s concerns (they are among mine), then why would either of those matter? What is NATO for, someone like Bernie Sanders might argue, except preparing for military conflicts that NATO’s very existence might be helping create?

And putting this in the context of Russia and the world…Broadly speaking the strategic options for Russia, Putin’s Smiling Autocracy aside, is either (a) translating natural resources (oil, gas, minerals) into more innovation and economic growth outside of those extractive industries or (b) decline and vulnerability relative to neighboring EU and China. It’s hard to imagine how one gets to Option (A) without more cultural and economic engagement with the rest of the world — more trade, more liberalization, etc. Putin’s approach to that will be more like that of similarly autocratic-capitalist China and the Gulf States, but that doesn’t change the overall trend.

So really, it seems like the most substantial reason to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 election is *that there was involvement*, more than what that involvement might yield. It’s the fact that the @RealDonaldTrump crew made shady plans with agents of the Russian government, even if the ineptitude of their schemes reach Bluth-like levels.

Or am I missing something?

Time for a Narrative Hackathon

Last year I felt that something like a nationwide “Public Testimonies about the Others Who Hurt Them” was coming.

It hasn’t happened on a grassroots level, so instead it is coming from Washington DC — straight from the swamp to your drinking water, so to speak.

On the one side is President @RealDonaldTrump’s “Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement office, or VOICE.”


On the other side is the “Saved by American Immigrants National Taskforce” or “SAINT”, proposed by Rep. Jared Polis.


I think there is a better way to do this. The D.C. approach will dramatize the pain already packaged in political agenda — basically just providing ammo to every opportunist and sociopath hunting prey in the political and personal environment.

This isn’t just about pain even though pain definitely matters — the pain people feel and the pain people feel played a *huge* role in the election choice between Sanders, Clinton and Trump.

But what is constructive about sharing pain is what *story* we fit the pain into. That’s how we fight the evils inside us and in our society: what makes you feel pain and what makes others feel pain.

One approach I really like is inspired by the Remembering the Ones We Lost movement in South Sudan. People post (anonymously or not) the names of those killed by the ongoing civil war or its consequences (hunger, disease, etc.) This website and the surrounding movement has accomplished what millions of foreign intervention has not — catalyzed a powerful non-partisan peace movement. That movement has created space for a real national identity to fight the deadly “tribe against tribe” idea that has killed so many over the past 50+ years.


Well if it works in South Sudan, you can be *damn* sure that something like it will work in the USA. Our “tribe against tribe” takes a different form but it kills and maims just the same, and with the same consequences: lives lost and wealth destroyed.

Another thing I want to experiment with is a “Narrative Hackathon”: a collaborative contest to rewrite the current narrative, the current paradigm (as the excellent Donella Meadows points out, this is one of the most powerful leverage points: https://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/article/leverage-points-places-to-intervene-in-a-system/).

In some ways this is what is already happening organically with Social Media, and the rest with Nature (environmental changes moving us and our wealth around the globe, a very physical feedback mechanism). That’s why we have a confluence of some very populist presidencies alongside some very dramatic increases in demographic change and communications technology — more friction, more reactions, and more ways to describe both.

But I think we can do it in a Contest/Hackathon format as well. Get the right participants from a diverse range of backgrounds and political alignments, give them the right incentive (cash? prestige?), give it the right sponsors and structure…and bam.

Or we can just let the “best worst choice” factory up in Washington D.C. keep doing what it’s doing.

Overreaching for Impeaching

We need to keep their impeachment expectations low, fun as it is read in tea leaves this GOP’s intrapersonal dialogue (Russia Hawks vs Solidarity vs What Happened to My Party).

  1. Does anyone really see a strong and cause-effect link between the leaking of Clinton’s emails (the only direct Russian interference, right?) and (a) the low overall voter turnout, (b) the deliberate DNC sabotage of the Sanders campaign (the email hack only made it public), or © the appeal of key Trump Campaign platforms like repealing “Obamacare”, the Mexico/USA wall, and ethnically targeted deportations?
  2. Putting too much hope in impeachment means even *more* of a burnout/stressor when it doesn’t come about…and that should be more of a concern in the long term, when you look at the buoying public appeal of a military-intel coup.


And the “Treason matters more than sexual indiscretion” argument gets snagged on reality — the GOP and DNC leadership’s takeaway from Special Counsel investigations (Clinton, Reagan, Bush 1, Bush 2, Obama) was that these investigations are dangerous double-edged swords, so they turned those blades into nerf foam.



Demonizing Trump Demonizing the Media

Feeling pedantic so I got to jump on this antihistorical “Demonizing the press is how dictatorships start” meme going around (currently popularized by Senator John “Am I Criticizing the Right Thing? I Have Compromised my Values so Many Times I Don’t Know Anymore.” McCain).


Dictatorships don’t just “start”. They coincide with very dictator-friendly conditions — usually a history of strongly centralized authority over the press, finance, security, business regulations, movement across borders, etc. along with a culture of obedience (and sometimes even affection) for a Ruler. They coincide with conditions of significant anti-foreigner/anti-minority feelings among a mostly homogenous population, usually based in recent history of conflict and grievance…and not “they took our jobs” grievances but “they took our territory” grievances. Jews in Germany for example were .75% of the population (~505k people out of a total population of 67m).

Remember this was some of the founding logic behind the American experiment: use geography and a constitution to break out of the old context/pattern of Feudal/Monarchical Europe.

So when Hitler, Stalin et al. do “start” their dictatorships, that doesn’t begin with demonizing the press as an institution. They amplify the xenophobic anti-liberal popular sentiments that already exist in the press and use that to take over or shut down the smaller, more politically progressive press institutions. Dictators aren’t known for their original ideas, but for being a kind of Thug Celebrity that rallies and popularizes and organizes bad ideas and their adherents into a powerful movement. Hitler, that Poster Child for Evil, got a lot of his ideas from the free press of the era (for example, the popular sentiments of Austrian mayor Karl Lueger).

Now as to the “demonization” of the press in the USA…that is a question of degree once you look outside the Red Cloud of Rage most of us get when viewing the @RealDonaldTrump Administration.

The “new press” displacing/reforming the “old press” is a recurring pattern in the USA, not a little bit tied to who is literate enough to read them, how much time they have to read, and how enfranchised they are to act on what they read. Start with the competing maelstrom of pamphlets in the American Revolution, enter the Muckrakers, and then the explosion of alternative online media in our recent years.

If the “traditional press” was doing such a fantastic job, then why the popularity of Huffington Post, Radio Free America, Wikipedia, the Daily Show/Colbert Report, the Daily Kos, Mother Jones, etc.? Because most existing media is usually catering to/captured by established interests. That’s what happened during Vietnam, during the Civil Rights Era, and during the Bush ’43 Administrations. Folks seem surprised that “alternative media” isn’t just a tool for progressives and the Left.

Anyone remember the interaction between the Occupy Movement and the mainstream press? And how many of us today pull our news from our preferred online sources, or even our preferred online *summaries* of other online sources? Anyone paying attention to the role of sites of 4chan and Reddit in the online vanguard of @RealDonaldTrump’s pre- and post-presidential propaganda?

None of this is to defend President @RealDonaldTrump. This is to add a little clarity to the phenomena of dictatorship and anti-press press in the USA.

Because you can’t out-lie a liar. I get the value of narratives and stories, but that doesn’t work when you start talking about history — especially not researchable history.

Clarity matters, especially if you want to hit President @RealDonaldTrump where it counts: in his patterns. Specifically, the patterns of thought and power that he emerged from into the highest political office in the USA: a false paradigm perverted by age/income/gender/ethnic biases; misguided distributions of rights, wealth, information, and trust; unjust exclusion from markets of ideas and goods; and other crap.




The Moscow City Shuffle — Overthinking the Shifting American Right/Left Positions Towards Putin and…

This is an interesting piece from Debka File (Debka is a somewhat Israel-Aligned Intelligence Analysis website). Would love to get ya’ll’s thoughts on this. (Article Link: http://www.debka.com/article/25875/Why-Trump-and-US-intel-clash-over-Russia)

Growing up with books like “Political Pilgrims” (http://a.co/cYa9PA8), there is quite a shift from the Cold War days with the Popular Left’s turn against Russia/Moscow — not just being against Putin, but indiscrimintely using “Russia” and “Moscow”.

Likewise from what little I ever learned about KGB “Dezinformatsiya” and even more contemporary information about the extent of Russian intelligence operations in the USA, it is surprising to see how quick people are to leap to the conclusion that they have out-sleuthed a generations-old spy culture that was dogfighting the British Empire back when the USA was in World Power diapers.

The shift among the American Right is harder to read. The neoconservatives still seem to look at Russia as if the Cold War never ended, and in plenty of ways I think they are right. But maybe it is the break with the Bush/Rice era that the vigilance against Russia is seen as outdated or ignorant or maybe just unpopular.

And how odd to see the Left praising the efficiency and principles of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies! How glad they are to see the CIA, NSA, et al. weighing in on domestic politics now.

I am uncomfortable with the New Right (or “Alt Right” as Huffington Post et al. label them) pundits seem to cheer Putin. I worry about their grounding in history, and perhaps being this Russia’s new wave of fellow travelers in the USA.

I wonder how much of these shifts are intentional and how much are unintended “drifts”. I can imagine that many of the U.S. Elite now see China as the Long Term Enemy with Radical Islam as the Short Term Enemy, with Russia as an ally in both fights.

Pres-elect Trump says he is taking back the Winston Churchill bust that the Obama Administration ineptly rejected. Maybe the Trump Team is resuming Churchhill’s complicated relationship with the Russia of Stalin’s USSR?

Perhaps they see Putin’s victories in George and Ukraine as signs that it is better to work with him than to beat him, especially when working against “The Real Enemies”. Then maybe they see the precedent of recent decades — Putin/Medvedev playing the role of “Beneficent Dictator” for USA logistics and military operations in Afghanistan/Iraq/Syria etc. — as a sign that Russia is easier to work with when you give in.

How successful will these be?

For one thing, the Chinese threat isn’t really “China” but the Recidivist/New Chinese Right (the new generation of Political Military Elite who grew up believing their own rhetoric of Superiority over the USA, as well as real Chinese successes in technology and economic growth).

In that context, how will the -Stans see a U.S. lean/deference towards Russia, and will this incline them more towards a China that is already building out more and more infrastructure and investment?

What effect will this have on NATO? And when European governments like Germany’s come to another moment of Restructuring their Relationship with Russia (they still get a lot of natural gas from Russia, increasingly trade more with Russia, and have at least one ex-PM who works for the European-side of a Russian oil/gas company), will they lean more towards Russia/Putin? And in what way will this stir the forces straining the capacity of the European Union?

We could play the Counterfactual/Alternate Future game all day (and I’d love to, if anyone wants to posit anything in the Comment section).

Also, I wonder what roles the Israeli Government factions and Israeli Lobbies in America are playing in this shift.

Is there some hubris on the American side? Probably. And maybe the Trump Admin and New Right think that they can play Putin.

But I imagine it could more easily work the other way around.

What do you all think?

Trump Protesters: Agent Provocateurs or Punches for Peace?

Inside the Protest That Stopped the Trump Rally, Politico

Donald Trump’s baffling explanation for violence at his campaign rallies, Washington Post

I’m wondering about the purpose of protesting at Trump rallies. It certainly seems unlikely to make a statistically significant number of Trump supporters change positions. Same for anyone who doesn’t already see Trump as “risky” (for the country, the GOP, for whomever).

Even if the point is to agitate against Trump supporters (i.e. provoke a response), I have to raise the same questions.

Maybe the point is to provoke Trump and Trump’s more extreme supporters into behavior that publicly destroys the Trump “brand”, i.e. makes his campaign toxic for donors, career campaign staff, etc. Get more video/audio of protesters being punched, of racist/sexist language/gestures from Trump supporters.

If *that’s* the goal, then I hope the protesters are well-organized, well-disciplined and strongly motivated, because they will need to take punches while not throwing them. And they’ll need excellent PR/journalism support.

I’m comparing this in my head to the protests and rallies (and boycotts) of the Civil Rights movement and opposing American involvement in Vietnam. There, the protests had a more measurable impact because (a) they created discomfort for politicians and voters, (b) these protests/rallies/boycotts were tied to a set of successful PR/outreach campaigns (see the history of the Rosa Parks story), and maybe most importantly, (c) they were working *against* something that was directly and tangibly at odds with widespread American values.

That’s not the case with the Trump rallies. So if the purpose of the Trump protests is not to provoke the Trump Campaign into a public relations meltdown, what does one do with a protest at a Trump rally?

What does one even protest? Certainly not the legality of Trump’s campaign: his right to run for office, his followers’ right to support him, even his right to voice his most extreme campaign platforms.

What about protesting Trump’s campaign and rallies as inciting violence? One can point to inflammatory rhetoric. Especially at Trump rallies, the Trump campaign (personnel, narrative, etc.) either tolerates or at times even condones aggressive physical confrontation with any non-White/non-female persons openly opposed to Trump.

Is that the goal — to dissuade the Trump campaign from its open tolerance of those who abuse non-Whites/non-Males (physically, verbally, through economic/social discrimination, etc.)?

If so, they’d have to follow up with a Chicago-style disruption at most major Trump rallies. That kind of coordination and effort is hard. And unlike the Civil Rights/Vietnam protests, it’s hard to link the protests to a PR-appropriate legal or moral issue.

And if that’s the only approach available, that will *certainly* bring out the more verbally/physically extreme Trump supporters. That may already be happening, depending on whether you believe Russia Today (“Twitter group vows to protect Donald’s supporters following clashes & stage attack”)