#$@&%*!

There are times when I near the point of total despair. This week’s Congressional hearings into alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election are such a moment.

Answering questions about Russia, FBI Director James Comey said the following:

He [Putin] hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flip side of that coin was that he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.

They engaged in a multifaceted campaign to undermine our democracy.

They were unusually loud in their intervention. It’s almost as if they didn’t care that we knew, that they wanted us to see what they were doing.

Their number one mission is to undermine the credibility of our entire democracy enterprise of this nation.

They’ll be back. They’ll be back, in 2020. They may be back in 2018.

Also, in response to the question ‘Would they like to see more Brexits?’, Comey said ‘Yes.’

These statements were described by the BBC as ‘things the FBI knows about Russia’. Note the use of the word ‘knows’. In a previous post, I pointed out the need to differentiate between fact and opinion. In his evidence to Congress, Comey didn’t say that these things were his opinion. He stated them as facts, as things he ‘knows’. Putin ‘hated’ Clinton; Russians’ mission ‘is’ to undermine American democracy; ‘Yes’, they do want more Brexits, etc.

But what evidence did Comey produce to support what he was saying? None. These were opinions, masquerading as facts, not actual facts. So the question which then arises is whether Comey’s opinions on Russia are ones we should trust.

The organization he heads – the FBI – is an internal policy agency. It isn’t its job to analyze Russia, Russian politics, or Russian politicians, nor does it have the expertise to do so. It doesn’t know what’s going on inside Vladimir Putin’s head; it doesn’t have an inside line to what Russians are thinking about their ‘mission’ and whether they want to undermine American democracy; it doesn’t have any particular knowledge about what Russia’s leaders think about Brexit.

Simply put, unless  he has been spending the last few years learning Russian, speaking to Russians, interrogating Putin and his ministers, reading Putin’s speeches, analyzing what well-researched publications have to say on the subject, and the like (which of course he hasn’t), Comey isn’t qualified to make judgments of these sorts. And he certainly isn’t entitled to present them as definite facts.

Nor are his Congressional interrogators any better.

Take this exchange between Comey and Representative Jackie Speier (who had previously called Igor Sechin ‘CEO of the Russian gas giant, Rosneft’):

Speier: Do you know anything about Gazprom, Director?

Comey: I don’t.

Speier: Well, it’s a – it’s an oil company.

#$@&%*!

#$@&%*!

It’s RosNEFT stupid! It’s GAZprom!

And what about Comey? One minute he’s telling us with 100% confidence that he knows exactly what they’re thinking in the Kremlin, something which even the most seasoned Kremlinologists would have to admit they don’t have the faintest clue about, and the next he’s admitting that he doesn’t even know what Gazprom is.

#$@&%*!  – He doesn’t know what Gazprom is!!! But yet, he ‘knows’ Moscow’s innermost secret plans!

These guys are clowns. They are beyond ignorant, because they are ignorant even of their own ignorance.

#$@&%*!

#$@&%*!

#$@&%*!

#$@&%*!

Nobody should take these hearings in the slightest bit seriously.

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30 thoughts on “#$@&%*!”

  1. I think the key is to realize that to those people, no one who is not American matters in the least. And no American who is not rich and influential matters much either.

    Hence they don’t know anything about “abroad”, and it doesn’t bother them that they know nothing because it doesn’t matter.

    Hence, too, they are appalled and shocked when mere foreigners disobey or ignore commands that they have been given by Americans.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “#$@&%*!

    #$@&%*!

    #$@&%*!

    #$@&%*!

    That’s it! An irrefutable proof that Russian Hackers managed to hack Paul’s (always so polite, self-controlling and particular of what he allows himself to say) account and now spread their Pяopaganda!

    P.S. As for the sentiment expressed in the article above… Professor, forgive me my familiarity, but:

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    1. This post is set to smash my record for views in a single day by a massive margin. Perhaps I should lose my cool more often. The internet seems to like intemperate language.

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      1. ” Perhaps I should lose my cool more often. The internet seems to like intemperate language.”

        Boobs and kittens. That’s what you need for a smashing hit twitt/blogpost. So, if you aim for a record breaker…. 🙂

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      2. “Will this do? It is at least Russian:”

        Oh, yes! Now, you’ve learned the Secret of Kung-Fu The Net, Paul! Go forth, and be invincible! 😉

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  3. Fortunately, while the divided US elite has a civil war with itself, the rest of the world can breathe a little easier, because the U.S. elite are now too busy to conspire to wage additional aggressive wars.

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    1. Once or twice he does indeed say that; other times he just states these things as facts: ‘Would they like to see more Brexits?’ ‘Yes’; etc.None of which alters the reality that as head of the FBI he has no specific expertise on these matters, and that he is also clearly utterly ignorant about Russia and so should not be treated as an authority on these issues.

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      1. You mean like in the exchange here:

        SCHIFF: Would they have a preference for a candidate who encouraged Brexit and other departures from Europe? Would
        they like to see more Brexits?

        COMEY:Yes.

        Seems like common sense to me.

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      2. Testimony of high officials on matters of great state importance should not be opportunities for speaking what one personally considers ‘common sense’ and lending it the authority of high office, and pretending that one’s own version of ‘common sense’ is fact.

        What you think is ‘common sense’, I would say, as somebody who has studied the subject in some detail, is ill-informed speculation. So, again, if you present your ‘common sense’ as fact and lend it the authority of your office, you deceive.

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      3. re: common sense-

        This happens all the time, to all kinds of professionals, and not just in politics. It especially happens when professionals take the role of selling something.

        Congressional hearings are by their nature a public spectacle, the grandstanding is very normal for the committee members at least (questions that morph into extended monologues etc).

        Comey seems good at cultivating the suspense and mystery with his audience. Maybe even the attention brought by innuendo. If it was all “yes sir”, “no sir” like the other guy who testified, nobody would watch. I get the feeling he is there among other things to defend the FBI’s slice of the state-power pie. In that context, the block-quote in the article, which comes off as a call to arms, is really just a request for a bigger budget, made directly to the appropriate budget managers. (The very credibility(?*) of US democracy is under threat. Presumably, the FBI can protect you, if they have the resources…) Comey is selling his own importance. At the same time he was, I think, making the claim that the FBI’s internal processes are less wild and inaccurate than some of its competitors. Here he is bringing home the sale…

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  4. Given the way Russia was opposed to our meddling in the Ukraine it seems common sense. So we disagree there.

    Having read through a lot of the KGB archives that made it to the West after 1991, what they are accused of doing in the 2016 election cycle is just a continuation of what they did / what they would have liked to been able to do before to the ‘Main Adversary’. What do you think of Mitrokhin’s stuff? Or the History of the KGB written under Chebrikov? There are some others you might recommend?

    I think the bigger issue was the poor questioning on the part of the committee members. About half the time they were trying to score political points than conduct a real investigation.

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    1. ‘About half the time they were trying to score political points than conduct a real investigation.’ I believe that is pretty much standard for these sorts of events. Similarly, select committee meetings in Canada and the UK.

      It’s a long time since I read the Mitrokhin Archive. Can’t say that I remember enough of it to make a meaningful comment.

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    2. “…a continuation of what they did / what they would have liked to been able to do before to the ‘Main Adversary’.

      Wait-wait-wait-wait! Full stop here!

      So, you sincerely, religiously believe (aka “relay on YOUR common sense”) that if:

      a) Someone has the potential to do smth
      b) Someone did smth similar in the past.

      than you can abscond with any proof and reliable data and facts and just make bold claims unopposed?

      Bravo, Mr. Smith! Allow me to furiously handshake you! Men like you prove that even moss-covered academia, that prefer their Ivory Towers to the bluster of our low, commoner lives, still is capable of expressing something from the Age when all the Humanity was young. I mean the cavemen distorted perception of the cause and effect and their belief in the Magic(k).

      Please, make my day – say that you are a Positivist to boot!

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  5. What is maddening about hearings like this, well, actually, is everything from beginning to end. Having people who know nothing about the subject parading as experts. Assuming that people with zero understanding of the Russian language can conceivably be experts. Assuming that all that one needs to know about a country can be summarized in a sentence or two, and that sentence basically needs only to identify said country as wearing the black hat (so that those in the audience can properly interpret the movie). That Americans are not aware that there are lively debates inside Russian policy circles trying to figure out how to find a modus vivendi with Europe and with the US, and that there is by no means any sort of unanimity about whether a Europe united or divided is better (but rather a stronger leaning toward a Europe united, as far as I can tell). And of course the queen concept: that if you understand Putin, your work is done: you have understood all you will ever need to know about Russia.

    What it all amounts to is the utter, utter oversimplification of everything, the stubborn refusal to even consider that possibly reality might be complex. Americans have been at this for a long time now, and not only vis-a-vis Russia.

    For the past six months, though, the Democrats seem determined to come up with a world view that is just as stupid and baseless as Trump’s birther movement. I feel like here in the US I am living in the political equivalent of a playpen filled with spoiled four-year-olds taking turn getting back at one another. Bloody inspiring spectacle.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ‘Americans are not aware that there are lively debates inside Russian policy circles trying to figure out how to find a modus vivendi with Europe and with the US, and that there is by no means any sort of unanimity about whether a Europe united or divided is better’.

      An excellent point. Alas, nuance and understanding of this sort are not popular.

      Are our efforts to improve matters doomed from the start? I feel we must try, but affairs like this don’t inspire confidence in success.

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  6. Four-year-old Donny: ‘Obama is not legitimate because he was born in Africa!’

    Four-year-old Chucky: ‘Trump is not legitimate because he’s friends with Vlad!’

    The rest of the planet: ‘Oh great. Now we have to find a new babysitter for the Americans.’

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  7. Paul, I so sympathize with your frustration. I don’t think we can afford to just quit though. I very much admire your efforts on this blog, btw. Please do continue! I read it much more often than I comment. But as for the way forward, I can see no other course than bringing into conversation persons on all sides who are willing and able to embrace complexity. That is what I am trying to do at any rate with our efforts, as you know, to jump-start a dialogue on political philosophy, in other words, a dialogue that takes truth and politics both seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “‘Americans are not aware that there are lively debates inside Russian policy circles trying to figure out how to find a modus vivendi with Europe and with the US, and that there is by no means any sort of unanimity about whether a Europe united or divided is better’.”

      What these Russian policy circles don’t get is that the USG will never negotiate with Russia. The whole purpose of the demonization campaign against Putin since 2003 has been to render him someone who must be destroyed, not negotiated with. It just got turned up to 11 after he spoiled the Maidan plot by making off with the best part of Ukraine, Crimea, and the naval infrastructure there. Russia now dominates the Black Sea, which infuriates the U.S. and NATO.

      It matters not what Russian policy circles come up with, the Anglosphere Foreign Policy Elite & Punditocracy (AFPE&P) have no interest in negotiations, but require their unconditional surrender on everything, just like in 1991. Oh, and Putin’s head on a plate.

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