Vladimir Putin’s motives

Update, March 14, 2018: I have previously expressed deep skepticism regarding accusations that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election in favor of Donald Trump.[1] While proof for these claims remains yet to be had, it is much less reasonable[2] to think that Rex Tillerson’s termination[3] is unconnected to his comments on Russia’s culpability in a nerve agent attack in Britain.[4] I am now compelled to accept as probable the worst suspicions about Trump’s alleged relationship with Russia which, by the way, do not necessarily involve voluntary collusion, but may rather entail collusion under duress. And because Trump is so shameless, I’m now deeply suspicious that this involves something rather more serious than “golden showers.”[5]


This is the kind of topic I never really want to get into. I’m not a psychologist. But for me, claims that the Russian government interfered with the U.S. presidential election require a demonstration of evidence and motive.

The evidence is shaky at best. First, it’s all classified, which means we can’t examine it, the methods used to obtain it, or the reasoning used to reach its conclusions.[6] Then there’s the whole Cold War history, of which this smells too much like a continuation, of demonization of then, the Soviet Union, and now, Russia.[7] Then there’s the oddity that the claim is that the Russians “hacked” into Democratic National Committee servers, of which the National Security Agency should have hard evidence, when the evidence is reportedly circumstantial.[8] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Blaming the Russians,” Not Housebroken, December 17, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/12/12/blaming-the-russians/; David Benfell, “Vladimir Putin’s motives,” Not Housebroken, December 17, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/12/15/vladimir-putins-motives/
  2. [2]John Cassidy, “Rex Tillerson Gets Fired the Day After He Criticized Russia,” New Yorker, March 13, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/rex-tillerson-gets-fired-the-day-after-he-criticized-russia; Jonathan Chait, “Trump Denies Russian Guilt in Murder. Tillerson Admits It, Is Fired. Hmm,” New York, March 13, 2018, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/03/trump-russia-innocent-rex-no-guilty-trump-youre-fired.html
  3. [3]Ashley Parker et al., “Trump ousts Tillerson, will replace him as secretary of state with CIA chief Pompeo,” Washington Post, March 13, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-ousts-tillerson-will-replace-him-as-secretary-of-state-with-cia-chief-pompeo/2018/03/13/30f34eea-26ba-11e8-b79d-f3d931db7f68_story.html
  4. [4]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Russian spy: UK to expel 23 Russian diplomats,” March 14, 2018, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43402506
  5. [5]Greg Myre, “A Russian Word Americans Need To Know: ‘Kompromat,'” National Public Radio, January 11, 2017, http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/01/11/509305088/a-russian-word-americans-need-to-know-kompromat; Jeff Stein, “Trump, Russian Spies and the Infamous ‘Golden Shower Memos,’” Newsweek, January 10, 2017, http://www.newsweek.com/trump-russian-spies-infamous-golden-shower-memos-541315
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Blaming the Russians,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9151
  7. [7]Andrew Cockburn, “The New Red Scare: Reviving the art of threat inflation,” Harper’s, December, 2016, http://harpers.org/archive/2016/12/the-new-red-scare/
  8. [8]William Binney, et al., “US Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims,” Consortium News, December 12, 2016, https://consortiumnews.com/2016/12/12/us-intel-vets-dispute-russia-hacking-claims/

Blaming the Russians

Update, December 13, 2016: Six former intelligence agency employees have written an open letter offering substantive reason to doubt claims that Russians hacked into Democratic National Committee systems. In essence, they point out that “a key mystery is why U.S. intelligence would rely on ‘circumstantial evidence’ when it has the capability for hard evidence.”[1] In addition, while I barely allude to the original Cold War in what follows, the history of that Cold War and the propaganda that was integral to it offers additional considerable reason for doubt.[2] Given all this, it seems more likely than not that the accusations being made against Russia are substantively false.

Update, December 15, 2016: In what follows, I question not only the use of classified evidence—which remains deeply problematic—but the apparent absence of a motive for Russian President Vladmir Putin to interfere in U.S. elections. It turns out that Fiona Hill covered the question of Putin’s motive in Vox in July.[3] I have been distrustful of Vox in recent months on anything having to do with the U.S. presidential election because, like other outlets, it appeared to have degenerated to functioning as a propaganda organ for Hillary Clinton’s campaign,[4] and I am dissatisfied with some of Hill’s evidence, how she pulls it together, and with her reliance on innuendo with regard to Putin “still think[ing] and act[ing] like a KGB operative,”[5] but there is substance here. Is this substance compelling? I take this question on here.

Update, December 17, 2016: In what follows, I point out that classified information and the conclusions drawn from that information cannot be scrutinized. We do not know how this information was gotten because cannot know the methodology (and its strengths and weaknesses). We do not know the argumentation used to support these conclusions. George Beebe explores in magnitudes of order more depth that I ever could just what this means.[6] Meanwhile, Juan Cole notices a resemblance between the demonization of Putin and old Cold War techniques.[7]

Update, March 14, 2018: I have previously expressed deep skepticism regarding accusations that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election in favor of Donald Trump.[8] While proof for these claims remains yet to be had, it is much less reasonable[9] to think that Rex Tillerson’s termination[10] is unconnected to his comments on Russia’s culpability in a nerve agent attack in Britain.[11] I am now compelled to accept as probable the worst suspicions about Trump’s alleged relationship with Russia which, by the way, do not necessarily involve voluntary collusion, but may rather entail collusion under duress. And because Trump is so shameless, I’m now deeply suspicious that this involves something rather more serious than “golden showers.”[12] and Juan Cole, who has commented on the Democrats’ defeat previously,[14] is back with a needed corrective.[15] Read more

  1. [1]William Binney, et al., “US Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims,” Consortium News, December 12, 2016, https://consortiumnews.com/2016/12/12/us-intel-vets-dispute-russia-hacking-claims/
  2. [2]Andrew Cockburn, “The New Red Scare: Reviving the art of threat inflation,” Harper’s, December, 2016, http://harpers.org/archive/2016/12/the-new-red-scare/
  3. [3]Fiona Hill, “3 reasons Russia’s Vladimir Putin might want to interfere in the US presidential elections,” Vox, July 27, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/7/27/12304448/putin-elections-dnc-hack
  4. [4]Thomas Frank, “Donald Trump is moving to the White House, and liberals put him there,” Guardian, November 9, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/09/donald-trump-white-house-hillary-clinton-liberals
  5. [5]Fiona Hill, “3 reasons Russia’s Vladimir Putin might want to interfere in the US presidential elections,” Vox, July 27, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/7/27/12304448/putin-elections-dnc-hack
  6. [6]George Beebe, “Russia’s Role in the US Elections: The Case for Caution,” National Interest, December 16, 2016, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/russias-role-the-us-elections-the-case-caution-18756
  7. [7]Juan Cole, “Demonization of Putin as ‘Personally’ behind Clinton Hack is old Propaganda Technique,” Informed Comment, December 16, 2016, http://www.juancole.com/2016/12/demonization-personally-propaganda.html
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Blaming the Russians,” Not Housebroken, December 17, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/12/12/blaming-the-russians/; David Benfell, “Vladimir Putin’s motives,” Not Housebroken, December 17, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/12/15/vladimir-putins-motives/
  9. [9]John Cassidy, “Rex Tillerson Gets Fired the Day After He Criticized Russia,” New Yorker, March 13, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/rex-tillerson-gets-fired-the-day-after-he-criticized-russia; Jonathan Chait, “Trump Denies Russian Guilt in Murder. Tillerson Admits It, Is Fired. Hmm,” New York, March 13, 2018, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/03/trump-russia-innocent-rex-no-guilty-trump-youre-fired.html
  10. [10]Ashley Parker et al., “Trump ousts Tillerson, will replace him as secretary of state with CIA chief Pompeo,” Washington Post, March 13, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-ousts-tillerson-will-replace-him-as-secretary-of-state-with-cia-chief-pompeo/2018/03/13/30f34eea-26ba-11e8-b79d-f3d931db7f68_story.html
  11. [11]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Russian spy: UK to expel 23 Russian diplomats,” March 14, 2018, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43402506
  12. [13]
  13. [12]Greg Myre, “A Russian Word Americans Need To Know: ‘Kompromat,'” National Public Radio, January 11, 2017, http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/01/11/509305088/a-russian-word-americans-need-to-know-kompromat; Jeff Stein, “Trump, Russian Spies and the Infamous ‘Golden Shower Memos,’” Newsweek, January 10, 2017, http://www.newsweek.com/trump-russian-spies-infamous-golden-shower-memos-541315


    Democrats have been blaming everyone but themselves for their election defeat last month, a behavior ought to be disqualifying. They are unwilling to accept that they have absolutely no one to blame but themselves for having chosen to nominate such a terrible candidate. So now they’re blaming Russia[13]Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller, “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House,” Washington Post, December 9, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/obama-orders-review-of-russian-hacking-during-presidential-campaign/2016/12/09/31d6b300-be2a-11e6-94ac-3d324840106c_story.html

  14. [14]Juan Cole, “Why the White Working Class Rebelled: Neoliberalism Is Killing Them (Literally),” Truthdig, November 9, 2016, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/why_the_white_working_class_rebelled_neoliberalism_is_killing_20161109
  15. [15]Juan Cole, “No, America, It Wasn’t Russia: You Did This to Yourself,” Truthdig, December 10, 2016, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/no_america_it_wasnt_russia_you_did_this_to_yourself_20161210

We have failed the test

A test that any species in an ecosystem must pass in order to survive is to successfully adapt to its ecosystem. Humans have, since the Neolithic, imagined we are different, that we can adapt the ecosystem to our needs instead.[1] This is very likely a deadly arrogance on our part as climate change is but one of several existential threats we now face.[2] Read more

  1. [1]John H. Bodley, Victims of Progress, 5th ed. (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2008); William J. Burroughs, Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University, 2008); Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1991).
  2. [2]Nathan Curry, “Humanity Is Getting Verrrrrrry Close to Extinction,” Vice, August 21, 2015, http://www.vice.com/read/near-term-extinctionists-believe-the-world-is-going-to-end-very-soon; Dahr Jamail, “Are We Falling Off the Climate Precipice? Scientists Consider Extinction,” TomDispatch, December 17, 2013, http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175785/tomgram%3A_dahr_jamail%2C_the_climate_change_scorecard/; Cheryl Jones, “Frank Fenner sees no hope for humans,” Australian, June 16, 2010, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/frank-fenner-sees-no-hope-for-humans/story-e6frgcjx-1225880091722; Edward “Rocky” Kolb et al., “Three minutes and counting,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 19, 2015, http://thebulletin.org/three-minutes-and-counting7938; Rachel Roubein, “Doomsday Clock one minute closer to doom,” McClatchy, January 10, 2012, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/01/10/135466/doomsday-clock-one-minute-closer.html?rh=1; Ian Simpson, “Doomsday Clock stays unchanged at three minutes to midnight,” Planet Ark, January 27, 2016, http://planetark.org/wen/74074; Robert Socolow et al., “An open letter to President Obama: The time on the Doomsday Clock is five minutes to midnight,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 14, 2013, http://thebulletin.org/open-letter-president-obama-time-doomsday-clock-five-minutes-midnight; Phil Torres and Peter Boghossian, “The Looming Extinction of Humankind, Explained,” Vice, August 18, 2016, http://motherboard.vice.com/en_au/read/armageddon-comma-explained