ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, October 30

Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
Linked articles in bold purple

◆ Today’s legal developments: Separate post at ZipDialog

  • Paul Manafort indicted by Special Counsel Mueller
  • Low-level figure in Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleads guilty to making false statement about Russian contacts

Tony Podesta, top Democratic lobbyist, resigns from his self-named firm amid Mueller investigations (Politico)

[Tony] Podesta has long been a larger than life figure on K Street, growing his business from a boutique firm into a massive lobbying and public relations operation. He is well known for his flashy dressing, vast art collection, generous campaign donations across all levels of Democratic politics and, of course, for his brother John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. –Politico

Experts say Manafort charges under foreign-agents law could spell trouble for Mike Flynn, Tony Podesta (Washington Examiner)

The main allegation is that Manafort was working for a Kremlin-backed group in Ukraine.

Two key points here:

  1. FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, has been used for criminal indictments less than 10 times since 1966
    • I believe there has only been one conviction
  2. So, its use by Mueller against Manafort should frighten Flynn, Podesta, and other lobbyists

 

 

 John Podesta, Debbie Wasserman Schultz told Senate Intel they didn’t know of dossier funding: report (The Hill)

The interviews took place before it was disclosed that Clinton’s campaign and the DNC had paid for the research. It is against the law to make false statements to Congress. –The Hill

Comment: They’ve gone full Sgt. Schultz. They know nothing.

And, of course, Hillary has gone mute.

By the way, her Democratic Party frenemy, Sen. Elizabeth Warren uses a different test pattern when she goes silent:

House of Cards collapses: Netflix cancels series after this year’s production is completed amid sex charges against star Kevin Spacey (Daily Mail)

This comes after ‘Rent’ star Anthony Rapp gave an interview claiming that a then-26-year-old Spacey tried to sexually assault him when he was 14 in 1986

Spacey responded to that allegation with a rambling statement in which he said he did not recall the incident, apologized to Rapp and then came out as gay.

‘I am sorry that Kevin only saw fit to acknowledge his truth when he though it would serve him — just as his denial served him for so many years,’ said Zachary Quinto. –Daily Mail

 

Comment: There are two separate issues here.

One is despicable, if Spacey actually did what he is accused of, namely sexual assaults, especially against children.

The other is openly gay actors attacking Spacey for not coming out earlier as gay. That is a completely distinct issue. They want to build support for open declaration of their sexual orientation. On the other hand, he has a personal right to privacy.

The privacy versus openness issue is interesting and debatable.

The sexual assault allegation are not. They should be investigated for criminal activity. Spacey gave a non-denial apology, saying he didn’t remember, might have been drunk, etc. (I would note that, if he did indeed proposition youngsters, there may well be other instances, which can be investigated.)

Those who say “we all knew” were morally (if not legally) complicit if they knew about assault allegations.

Coming out as gay at a moment when he is being accused seems like throwing dust in the air, trying to obscure the truly serious allegation.

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Manafort Indictment and More: What They Mean

Paul Manafort indicted by Special Counsel Mueller

The charges against Manafort and his business associate are that they should have registered as foreign agents for a pro-Russian Ukrainian entity, for which he did work until 2015.

Those dates are well before he worked for the Trump Campaign, and the indictment itself has nothing to do with the 2016 Presidential Campaign.

Comments: If Manafort has any information to implicate Trump or Trump associates, the Special Counsel now has leverage to acquire it.

Second, even if Manafort’s indictment had nothing to do with Democrats’ allegations of “Trump’s Russian collusion,” it is never good when your campaign manager is swept up in such indictments. At the very least, it suggests the Trump Campaign hired him without knowing about these connections.

Third, the indictments show the long-term efforts of the Kremlin and its allies, such as those in Ukraine, to insinuate themselves in the American political process.

Fourth, if other lobbying firms did this kind of work for foreign entities–and I’m sure some well-connected firms did–they must read this indictment with a shudder.

Low-level figure in Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleads guilty to making false statement about Russian contacts

The contacts yielded nothing and the Trump campaign wasn’t interested in what he had to offer.

As CNN describes (and then spins) it:

Papadopoulos “falsely described his interactions with a certain foreign contact who discussed ‘dirt’ related to emails” concerning Hillary Clinton. Records also describe an email between Trump campaign officials suggesting they were considering acting on Russian invitations to go to Russia.

Comment: The last sentence is mostly spin. The actual response was that the Trump campaign was not interested in what Papadopoulos was pushing to them.

Comment #2: The White House notes that Papadopoulos was a volunteer with little activity and later said that the Mueller information about Papadopoulos was provided by the White House itself.

Comment #3: This guilty plea came several weeks ago. Why did Mueller’s office wait to release the information? The most plausible explanation (to me) is that they wanted to show that the Manafort, which is unrelated to Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign (so far as we know), was accompanied by investigations that did involve the campaign.

Tony Podesta, influential Democratic lobbyist and brother of Hillary’s campaign chair, stepping down from his firm amid Mueller probe (Politico)

The investigation into Podesta and his firm grew out of investigators’ examination of Manafort’s finances. Manafort organized a PR campaign on behalf of a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. Podesta Group was one of several firms that were paid to do work on the PR campaign to promote Ukraine in the U.S.

Podesta Group filed paperwork with the Justice Department in April stating that it had done work for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine that also benefited the same Ukrainian political party that Manafort once advised. Podesta Group said at the time it believed its client was a European think tank untethered to a political party. –Politico

Comment: The sleazy connections between Democratic and Republican insiders with lobbying firms is exactly why Americans think Washington is a swamp.

 

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ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, October 25

Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
Linked articles in bold purple

◆ There are three stories today about Russia’s involvement in US politics, and all three are bad for the Democrats

How big the stories become–how serious the resulting scandals–depends on additional investigation and investigative reporting.

 Story #1: That scandalous, largely-discredited “Russian Dossier,” which led to the federal investigations of the Trump Campaign, was financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s Campaign 

The Washington Post broke the story (link here) They report that the Clinton campaign, using a Washington lawyer as a cutout, retained Fusion GPS to do the dirty work. Fusion GPS has fought strenuously to prevent any disclosure of who paid them and invoked their 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress.

The Clinton campaign, like others, used a lawyer to hire these contractors so their communications would be protected by attorney-client privilege.

The Clinton people have never acknowledged a connection to Fusion GPS or the dossier.

 Story #2: Mueller’s Russia Probe turns toward key Democratic insiders

Paul Manafort is also a major target but, according to reports, this top Republican operative worked closely with the Podesta Group, closely aligned with the Clintons.

The news is here:

A thus-far-reliable source who used to be involved with Clinton allies John and Tony Podesta told Tucker Carlson that press reports appearing to implicate President Trump in Russian collusion are exaggerated.

The source, who Carlson said he would not yet name, said he worked for the brothers’ Podesta Group and was privy to some information from Robert Mueller’s special investigation.

While media reports describe former “Black, Manafort & Stone” principal Paul Manafort as Trump’s main tie to the investigation, the source said it is Manafort’s role as a liaison between Russia and the Podesta Group that is drawing the scrutiny.

The “vehicle” Manafort worked for was what Carlson called a “sham” company with a headquarters listed in Belgium but whose contact information was linked to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. –Fox News

Comment: National news media have not reported this news.

Story #3: Russian bribery, money-laundering, speaker fees to Bill Clinton, and over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec. of State and the Russians were federal approval to buy US uranium assets 

Actually House Republicans announced two new investigations (link here):

In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration’s approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States’ uranium. –New York Times

Comment: The NYT story downplays the significance and suggests it is all simply partisan squabbling about a now-departed administration.

I think they underestimate the possible ramifications of both investigations.

The Uranium One deal is a particularly thorny issue for the Clintons and the Obama Administration because Obama’s FBI and DOJ knew of Russian bribery and other criminal activity before the deal was approved. Congress was not informed, as it should have been. Their objections might have blocked the deal. The public was kept completely in the dark. Mueller was head of the FBI at this time. One of the Russians reportedly involved in this illegal activity was given a US visa twice during this period by Hillary’s State Department. One major question is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from these Russia issues, will appoint a Special Counsel to investigate this and perhaps the Clinton emails, where then FBI-director Comey wrote a memo clearing Hillary long before key witnesses had been interviewed.

The most important implication: The FBI (under Mueller) looks to be deeply compromised.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not run for re-election. He and Sen. Bob Corker (D-TN), who is also retiring, lacerated Pres. Trump in speeches, interviews, and social media. Their rebukes are reported here (Reuters)

Flake’s attack was on Trump’s conduct and dishonesty. Flake’s actual voting record is very supportive of Trump legislation.

Flake, who has very high disapproval numbers in his home state, was likely to lose his primary contest.

The local Arizona paper features this headline: Flake’s retirement opens floodgates to potential GOP candidates (Tucson.com)

All those candidates are pro-Trump, but some are from more traditional elements of the party, others from the Bannon wing.

The paper also notes that a divisive primary and an open seat gives the Democrats a chance to win for the first time in years.

China’s Xi reveals Communist Party leadership, buttresses his own position and refuses to name a successor (BBC)

All seven members of the Party’s Standing Committee were in their 60s. Rising stars in their 50s were not included.

Comment: The absence of an heir-apparent, Xi’s cult of personality, and his name’s inclusion in the party constitution all raise speculation he might eventually seek a third-term, which had been ruled out after Mao’s death.

Today in campus lunacy: Univ of Illinois education prof attacks difficult mathematics courses as evidence of white privilege (Campus Reform)

“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” [Prof. Rochelle] Gutiérrez argued [in a book aimed at K-12 math teachers].

Truly, you cannot make this up. Here’s what the professor writes:

If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”

To fight this, Gutiérrez encourages aspiring math teachers to develop a sense of “political conocimiento,” a Spanish phrase for “political knowledge for teaching.”

Comment #1: Please note, Prof. Gutiérrez thinks it is rank racism to judge people in a math class on whether they can reason abstractly. In fact, math is abstract reasoning.

Comment #2: Why, Professor, does all this whiteness and white privilege in math not seem to hold back Asians and Asian-Americans in US math classes?  This is not a trivial issue or mere debating point. Note, too, that many of the Asian-American students come from lower-income families. Hmmmm.

Comment #3: Gutiérrez is a professor of education, where this kind of political blather, masquerading as scholarship, is commonplace. Poor scholarship and political propaganda are major problems in Ed Schools across the country. So is the soft curriculum, which leads to adverse selection (namely, compared to other students, those who major in education consistently have some of the lowest SATs and lowest GPAs outside their majors).

I remember all the justified complaints by feminists when a Barbie doll said, “Math is hard.” They said, rightly, that the comments were demeaning to women and sending the wrong message to girls. Sorry to see Prof. Gutiérrez sending the same message to minorities and dressing up in the costume of social justice.

 

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Hat Tip to

◆ Tom Elia for the math-is-whiteness story