Only in a time of great political polarization can you prosecute your political enemies and stay in power. If things are at all bipartisan your supporters will not look kindly on throwing the other side in jail. This is part of why Trump was impeached twice, why he is being charged with so many crimes, and why I fully expect Biden to be impeached before the election. This is a very polarized time and if everyone hates each other they don't mind if you threaten the other side this way.

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Reading the "comments expressing concern" section has further confirmed my suspicions that Bay Area Rats and SSC/ASC folk aren't capable of thinking about policy, and somehow this remains the case in spite of being vastly superior at doing actual policy research (and at thinking in general).

I honestly don't have a solution here. If you talk to another bay area rat, you won't get any better, because they're just as bad at thinking about policy. I guess you move to DC and meet a ton of EA-adjacents there?

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Aug 11, 2023·edited Aug 11, 2023

>I agree this is a much more likely threat model, and I’m interested in what factors generally restrain criminal prosecution of opposing politicians and journalists (even if you think it happens sometimes, why doesn’t it happen more?). Virtue/norms/gentleman’s agreement? Or is there some balance of power consideration that makes it hard to do?

I think the primary limiter is a party's confidence level about the progress of their capture of an institution. The FBI, CIA, and other intelligence agencies are approaching that tipping point. The Universities and Press already have. Our courts are probably the only limiting factor right now, but unfortunately for the country, lots of cases pertaining to politics can be brought in DC, which has a corrupt jury pool and a pool of mostly captured judges.

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>You said: "As for the Democrats, I think it’s against their ideological DNA to do Mafia-style killings. I’m not being some misty-eyed optimist here"....

>I stick to my distinction between the mainstream Democrats and FALN, just as I would make a similar distinction between mainstream Republicans and right-wing terrorist militias.

Exceedingly low hanging fruit, but the Weather Underground, a far left criminal gang bombed banks and government buildings including the Capitol Building. One member, Kathy Boudin, murdered a bank guard to steal $1.6M and then went on to be the mom of Chesa Boudin, Democratic DA of San Francisco, who to my knowledge has never denounced her. That's at least one Democratic politician with "Mafia-style killings" in his ideological/actual DNA.

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> Perhaps Philip Short's or Steven Lee Myers's books might have been the better choice, a little more detached from Russian inside baseball. (Or perhaps inside basketball; there's a Nets joke in there somewhere)

Or perhaps a Nyets joke?

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> I’m interested in what factors generally restrain criminal prosecution of opposing politicians and journalists (even if you think it happens sometimes, why doesn’t it happen more?).

It's pretty easy to prosecute enemies, but it is very hard to get convictions in America. The Judiciary is mostly independent, and you can never count that you'll get a judge that is in your side. Juries are almost certainly going to have members from both parties, even in a place as Blue as DC, so you have to convince someone to convict one of their own tribe. You could use bribes or threats, but if that gets out, you'd start a civil war.

Finally, if you successfully convict the person, they are likely to end up a martyr, see Trump's rising poll numbers, there's a small chance he might get elected from prison at this rate. If you fail to convict beyond a reasonable doubt, then he can claim full exoneration and complain about the witch hunt.

Countries where this can work would already need the media completely under their thumb to limit the potential downfalls, but it's not a great way of getting the media under your thumb from the current status quo.

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Alex wrote this: "This account misses something fundamental in my view. I myself was born in Russia and lived most of my life there, participating in some of the events described in the post, such as the 2011-2014 protests. What is really crucial for understanding how Putin came to power is *how bad the 90s were*. The GDP per capita fell by half (by way of comparison, the GDP per capita fell only about 25% during the Great Depression in the US)."

I will add that ALSO Russia's economy absolutely took off in the ten years after Putin came to power. Something like a 6x increase in Russian GDP in a decade:

1990: $500B

2000: $250B

2010: $1,500B

*I* would be (EXTREMELY) skeptical about the folks and the ideology who where in charge from 1990 - 2000 and be willing to put up with a lot to (a) have it stop, and (b) see my standard of living actually rise and rise a lot.

What would the arguments against Putin look like? Russia never tried REAL liberal democracy/capitalism?

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The fact that some people are still thinking that "the shock therapy" was justified makes my blood boil. We should have properly learned the historical lesson that "anything but communism" is a terrible stance after the rise of Adolf "the lesser of two evil" Hitler to power and the consequences of it.

Communism in Russia was severely descredited and lacked political will behind it. People were optimistic to the change of course. All that had to be done to ensure that the old regime didn't return was not to tremendously fuck everything up with the new market economy. Which wasn't supposed to be that hard, considering how inefficient the command economy was, nearly any possible move should have been an improvement. But tremendously fuck up they did, creating the most strawmanish form of crony-cleptocracy as if directly from soviet propaganda thus discrediting democracy, market economy and liberalism to even highter extents and inoculating several generations from this ideas.

Of course, this directly led to the rise of a quasi-fashist dictator who at first looked as a savior just by contrast. And lo and behold, this quasi-fashist dictator is now waging a "blood and soil" war in Europe. And yet, even ofter all this, we seem not to have learned our lessons.

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Thought experiment: in the unlikely scenario where Ron DeSantis becomes frontrunner for the Republican nomination, do you expect him to be indicted? I think the obvious answer is no. And that's because Trump's indictments (and impeachments) were caused by Trump having an unusual disregard for the law, rather than by Democrats abusing power to prosecute their enemies.

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> the conspiracy version requires us to believe that insurgents like Shamir Basayev were willing to lie about the origin of the bomb to help Putin for some reason.

Shamil (not Shamir) Basaev disavowed the bombings in 1999.

“Today, in an interview with Radio Liberty, Khattab said that he does not fight women and children. According to him, Russian law enforcement agencies are trying to blame him on their failures in the fight against unknown terrorists. "He set specific military tasks, and explosions of peaceful houses in Moscow or in other Russian cities are not among them," Khattab said. The field commander admits that some of his words, spoken between battles, may be misinterpreted by journalists, but Khattab says that he never threatened to kill the civilian population of Russia. "Dagestan's destruction from the presence of Russian troops," he says. According to Shamil Basayev, professionals working in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB of Russia know perfectly well who can be behind the explosions of residential buildings in Moscow. He is sure that statements about his involvement in the attacks are designed for the layman. Basayev claims that the explosions in the Russian capital are the result of a power struggle in Moscow. "The main thing is that the President be elected democratically," Basayev believes.” September 1999

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“Majority of Russians hardly believe in God, but find some kind of church desecration (and what Pussy Riot did would qualify in people's mind) to be disgusting”

I think that’s fairly universal. In your head substitute mosque or synagogue, if not.

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It does seem like there's a debate to be had as to whether the first domino has fallen with regards to political prosecutions in the US. It feels like it could go either way from here.

Ultimately, there may be other ways to accomplish the things that a political prosecution accomplishes, that are even easier to get away with.

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> Soviet / Russian universities sometimes admit and keep mediocre students who are good in sports to score some cookie points with the higher authorities

As opposed to American universities? (Yes, I know they're doing it for a different reason.)

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There has to be a balance between prosecuting politicians who commit crimes and not prosecuting them when it's just political persecution from their opponents.

If every politician gets prosecuted, that's bad, but if no politicians get prosecuted, that's also bad. The challenge is striking the right balance. In the last 50 years, three Presidents (Nixon, Clinton, Trump) have face serious legal peril (Nixon was pardoned after resigning, Clinton was impeached but not convicted and then beat a bunch of attempts to prosecute him before they went to trial, Trump is ongoing). The other six (Ford, Carter, Reagan, both Bushes and Obama) were clean enough not to really have too much to worry about (even Iran-Contra never got near the Presidents).

That strikes me as a reasonable level of balance: if you do the normal sorts of things that Presidents do, you'll be OK, even if some of those could technically be regarded as a violation of a law. If you cross a line, then you'll get prosecuted. And that applies to both parties: Clinton was shady enough that he got into a lot of legal difficulties.

At lower levels, criminal investigations and prosecutions (mostly for political corruption) happen often enough that they're not even necessarily headline news, but the vast majority of politicians go through a career without facing legal consequences.

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I want to push back against this:

"This sounds like a conspiracy theory on par with "9/11 was an inside job".


There are several reasons why the two are not comparable. First there is basically no evidence that Bush did 9/11, whereas there is plenty of circumstantial evidence Putin was behind those bombings. It would also be a lot more difficult to get multiple people to sacrifice their own life for your conspiracy compared to just placing a couple of bombs in an appartment building.

Second, Putin could just have the lower level people executing on this assasinated.

Third in a deeply corrupt system without rule of law where bribery and assassination of political enemies is not exactly uncommon, it is a lot easier to get away with a scheme like this. For starters Putin would probably know a fair number of people who he could order to kill someone from his FSB and St Petersburg days. He would have a lot more tools at his disposal to punish/reward co-conspirators than Bush would have. It would be far more riskier to blow the whistle on Putin than on Bush.

In a system with stronger rule of law where this would be very uncommon, the moment Bush would approach someone to assassinate someone, that person would now have a lot more leverage over him than in the same scenario with Putin's Russia in the 90's, early 2000's that has more of a "law of the jungle" system as opposed to "rule of law". And there would be powerful institutions that could be used to persecute and make Bush's life very difficult in the US. Which were not really present in Russia during that time.

You would also need a proper free press to blow the whistle and properly spread this information, which was missing in Russia and present in the US. Further incentivizing people to keep quiet.

Finally we even have strong evidence of at least 1 assassination associated with the bombings, Litvinenko!

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About Navalny. It is true that his earliest agenda is ultranationalistic and bad, but since then he has become undoubtedly a force for good in Russian politics. He exposed a LOT of corruption in the government, and led efforts to consolidate voting against the ruling party officials (so called Smart Voting), which succeeded in many places despite the elections being rigged. Then he was poisoned by the FSB, managed to recover, and returned to Russia knowing he would be arrested, and has been in prison ever since. When he tried to run for president in 2018 and when he made public (from prison) his views on the desired future for Russia, there were no traces of the ultranationalist agenda. In this context, seeing him dismissively mentioned (guy doing a genocide infomercial) exclusively in the context of his old views feels wrong and unfair (for me as a liberal Russian), and not unlike judging a person by their 15-year-old tweet which they now disagree with.

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I was looking forward to this post, dictator's club comment highlight articles are nearly as good as the articles themselves.

I'm starting to grow a theory myself about how dictators come to be dictators and holding on to power: it's never against or in spite of the people. Dictators also need consent, but in a different currency than democratic leaders. On the other hand, in the zero-sum game a dictator wins when becoming and staying a dictator, somebody needs to be paying. That is the middle class in its entirety and most of the upper-middle class. A dictator who only slightly tilts elections (5% or so) and holds the media power only needs around 30-40% of the voters to stay loyal to him. The cheapest loyalty to buy is the loyalty of the poorest, which can be in the form of generous unemployment benefits (I mean minimum wage generous, not Norwegian unemployment benefits generous), early retirement schemes, benefits for people who look after others in their homes, direct monetary benefits to rural farmers instead of subsidies which would necessitate for them to actually farm their fields so they can now directly cash the checks while fields lay empty, and the kind. Once a dictator-to-be who is merely a democratically elected leader for now chooses to buy the cheapest 40% of the people, which are usually the least educated 40% and secures the next elections with them with a landslide, next is to this way or that way take over media. Media in itself is barely profitable, so fellow oligarchs who are fed gov't contracts can be ordered to buy media outlets as the price of those contracts. Once the 40% and the media are in place the rest is easy. Win every election, stuff the judiciary with your people, and get the productive people of your country to pay for all that.

Many productive people will immigrate to better pastures, but the majority either has too many connections in the country to leave, has a job that's only valued locally (for example lawyers who are proficient with your country's laws and cannot enter bar in another), or simply cannot find a job abroad yet (it's not easy). In a decade or two, professions that used to earn a couple of times the minimum wage will be earning more or less the minimum wage. They might just choose to do an easier job and make a similar amount of money, but not everyone does that because they respect their jobs or something. In the end, the extra taxes that they pay are fed to the 40% and the system goes on.

I don't want to make this post any longer, but so far any hole I can think of in this scenario has a fix unfortunately. I would've thought in the long run the loss of productivity would tank the economy so hard even the 40% would be impossible to buy, but then the education becomes so bad it becomes easier to buy them.

So I can say that the secret ingredient to a dictator rising is him making the top 0.1% and bottom 40% allies, squeezing all the juice in the middle among themselves and keeping the system running.

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"Soviet / Russian universities sometimes admit and keep mediocre students who are good in sports to score some cookie points with the higher authorities..."

Wow, that sounds deeply corrupt. So glad we don't do that here in the US.

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Regarding the comment suggesting that Putin is smart, I don't think it's evidence for that claim.

Maybe he's smart, maybe he's not. But it's not at all clear that ability to hire talented, smart advisors is even positively correlated with intelligence. Indeed, you might even imagine that smart leaders have more trouble bringing themselves to hire competent managers because the want to inject their own ideas into everything or assume that they can do everything better than the experts (think physics disease).

Probably, ability to select and listen to talented advisors is more important than being smart. Unfortunately, there is a temptation to use 'smart' to describe whatever trait causes one to make good decisions.

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When talking about the FBI having political bias, don't forget that James Comey, director of the FBI, broke with precedent to make an announcement about the whole Clinton email situation 1 week before the election specifically to sabotage her and get Trump elected.

Ultimately, I think the CIA and FBI are not Democratic leaning at all, they just appear that way because they're conservative in the traditional sense of the word and opposed things like the ending of the Iran deal, America lessening its NATO obligations, anything else that made America less of an international influence, which Trump was strongly pushing but which wasn't otherwise a mainstream element of Republican policy until Trump made it so.

If you were to ask most senior CIA/FBI/military officials what kind of leader they would most prefer, I'm pretty sure they would pick a Mitt Romney/George H.W. Bush type pro-military conservative over any Democrat, but any centrist Democrat over an isolationist anti-establishment Trump type of politician.

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For those who like decision theory applied to Putin and his cronies contemplating to kill 300 countrymen to boost his reelection chanches, you are likely to enjoy Taibbi's story about how the people behind the "9/11 conspiracy" must have weighted the pros and cons, before they reached their decision. I copy-paste part of the story here, as it does not seem to be available through google.

Scene: A secret meeting of the Project for a New American Century, April, 1999.

In attendance are Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Irv Kristol, and ... others.

Cheney, standing at the head of the table and glaring downward, addresses the group:

Cheney: Gentlemen, we stand at a crossroads.

Kristol: (whispering to Feith) I love it when we stand at a crossroads!

Feith: (giggling) Me, too. But I never know what to wear.

Cheney: Do you assholes mind?

Kristol: Sorry, Dick.

Feith: Me, too.

Cheney: Okay. (Clears throat). As I was saying, gentlemen, we stand at a crossroads ...

Kristol: (in Bill Murray-esque fashion, mimicking suspense-movie soundtrack) Dunh-dunh-dunh!

Feith: Dunh-dunh-dunh! Dunh ... duh-duh-dunh!

Cheney: Oh, for fuck's sake.

Kristol: (laughing) Okay, seriously, Dick, I'm sorry.

Feith: (still laughing) Duh-duh-duh ... .

Kristol: Shhh!

Feith: Okay, okay. (to Cheney) No, it's okay, Dick, you can go on.

Cheney: You're sure? No more jokes to make? Guys want to do your goddamn Katherine Hepburn impersonations or something?

Kristol: (Channeling "On Golden Pond") Come on, Norman! Hurry up! The loons, the loons!

Feith: (whispering) Shut up, for Christ's sake! (to Cheney) Our lips are sealed, Dick. Honest.

Cheney: Okay. Jesus. As I was saying ... we, uh, stand at a crossroads.

(Pauses warily, continues). I think we all know about Marion King Hubbert's projections about the future of oil reserves. Once oil "peaks," America -- an empire whose power is based almost entirely upon its oil dominance -- will officially be on the decline.

Wolfowitz: So what's your point? We're all old anyway. Who cares what happens 20 years from now?

Cheney: The point, Paul, is that the American empire as we know it will collapse within 20-30 years unless we find massive new supplies of oil and find them fast. By 2010 we're going to need to find fifty million additional barrels of oil per day. And there's only one place where we can get that much oil ...

Kristol: Sweden!

Feith: Of course. Let's invade! I hate those goddamn speed-skaters anyway.

Cheney: No, you assholes, not Sweden. Iraq. It's the only major oil-rich state whose reserves haven't been mostly exploited. There's probably seven million barrels a day minimum just sitting in those fields -- and the worst thing is, unless we get in there soon, it's all going to go to the French, the Russians and the Germans, since Saddam will sell to all of them long before he deals with us, assuming his UN sanctions get lifted at some point.

Wolfowitz: My God.

Cheney: So it's clear we've got to get in there. Are we agreed on this?

All: Agreed.

Cheney: All right. Well, I've got a plan.

Wolfowitz: We get George elected in 2000 and go in, right? Tell the public Saddam's in violation of his UN restrictions or some shit like that? He is anyway, isn't he?

Cheney: No, that would never work. The public would never stand for it.

(Everyone bursts out laughing)

Cheney: Seriously.

Wolfowitz: Oh, wait -- you're serious?

Cheney: Absolutely. No, I think the way to go is to cook up some kind of justification. Something that will really get the public behind the invasion ...

Feith: I know! We go to the UN, show bogus photos of Saddam's secret store of chemical and biological weapons, evidence of his nuclear weapons program. Tell the world he's planning to attack.

Cheney: No, no, that's not vivid enough, not Band of Brothers enough. We need the people all lathered up, their mouths full of spittle, howling for blood, like pit bulls. You guys need to think to scale, think big, think like Michael Bay.

Feith: Michael Bay, Jesus. Okay, okay, what, then?

Cheney: We bomb the World Trade Center.

Kristol: Perfect! And blame it on Saddam!

Cheney: No, we bomb the World Trade Center and blame it on Osama bin Laden.

Feith: Oh. How?

Cheney: Easy. First, we cultivate 19 suicidal Muslim patsies from a variety of Middle Eastern countries, I'd say mostly from Saudi Arabia. We bring them to the U.S., train them at U.S. flight schools. They

should be high-profile terrorist suspects who are magically given free reign by the security agencies to travel back and forth to various terrorist training camps to study passenger jet piloting. Actually that

process is already underway now. Our friends in the Clinton administration are seeing to it that four groups of Arab men are being brought along by the FBI and the CIA.

Wolfowitz: How is it that the Clinton administration is already helping us with this, when we haven't even planned this yet?

Cheney: They just are. Okay?

Wolfowitz: Okay, fine. And what do we do with these hijackers?

Cheney: We sit idly by while they plot to hijack a series of passenger jet planes and crash them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House.

Wolfowitz: And how do we get them to do that?

Cheney: We just do. You see, we worked with these people back in the old mujahadeen days in Afghanistan. So naturally we're still thick as thieves with them.

Feith: Oh, of course. So we get them to fly into these buildings. And the impact from the planes will bring down the World Trade Center.

Cheney: No, Doug, dammit, you're not following me. The impact from the planes most certainly won't be sufficient to knock down the Towers. We know this because we've privately conducted studies which show that the Towers will easily be able to withstand impact by two jets loaded to the

gills with jet fuel. That said, the jets will likely cause skyscraper fires hot enough to kill everyone above the point of impact; we're going to have to assume, of course, that the exits from the higher floors to

the lower floors will be mostly blocked after the collisions. So assuming we crash the planes about two-thirds of the way up each of the towers early on a business day, we're looking at trapping and killing a good three, four, maybe even five thousand people on the upper floors.

Feith: Fantastic. I love killing people in the finance industry. It's too bad the people on the lower floors will get to escape.

Cheney: It is too bad -- especially since we're going to blow up the rest of the building complex anyway.

Feith: We are?

Cheney: Yes. You see, the way I see it, our best course of action is to first crash planes into each the towers, trapping and killing those thousands on the upper floors of each building. After the impact, of

course, the people on the lower floors will find their way out of the building and on to the street, where they will achieve relative safety -- at which point we'll finally detonate the massive network of

explosive charges we've secretly hidden in the buildings in the weeks and months prior to the attacks.

Feith: Wait, why did we do that again?

Cheney: Because the buildings wouldn't have fallen down unless we did.

Wolfowitz: But why do we need the buildings to fall down?

Cheney: Because the events of the day will be insufficiently horrifying and impactful without the building collapses.

Feith: So why don't we detonate the charges earlier, so that we can kill the people on the lower floors, too?

Cheney: That's a good question. At some point we have to sacrifice effect for believability. You see, if the planes crash into the buildings and the buildings immediately collapse, everyone will be

suspicious and they'll immediately be onto the presence of the explosives. So what we have to do is let the planes crash into the building, give the jet fuel time to start fires that will "soften" the

building core, and then we detonate the charges. Afterwards, we'll be able to argue that the fires coupled with the impact actually caused the buildings to collapse.

Feith: Why will we be able to argue that? Didn't our studies show that impact and fire alone wouldn't have caused the buildings to collapse?

Cheney: Those were our secret, far-more-advanced studies, done with secret, far-more-advanced military technology. The vast majority of the world's civilian structural engineers, however, can be counted on after the incident to conclude that the buildings collapsed due to a combination of fire, impact, and the knocking off of fireproofing from the building beams.

Feith: Why can they be counted on to conclude that?

Cheney: Because that's what our secret research shows their not-secret research will show! Jesus Christ, work with me on this, will you?

Wolfowitz: I think I get it. We crash the planes, kill everyone above the impact of the planes, let the people underneath the impact out to safety, then collapse the buildings about an hour or so later using the explosives that we pointlessly incurred months and weeks worth of career- and life-threatening risk to covertly plant in a building complex visited by hundreds of thousands of people every week.

Cheney: Exactly! The actual deaths will mostly be caused by the planes. But we'll incur the massive additional risk simply to destroy the building, for effect, because it will look cool and scary on television.

(Excerpt from Matt Taibbi's book " The Great Derangement", Spiegel and Grau 2008.)

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The question I really want to know after reading this is "Is Putin smart or just lucky?"

His teachers and KGB bosses never seemed to think he was anything special.

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Aug 11, 2023·edited Aug 11, 2023

>At each step in his career, he was promoted for no particular reason, or because he seemed so devoid of personality that nobody could imagine him causing trouble.

There's a satiric comedy episode where Putin is shown as Klein Zaches called Cinnabar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KO4cENShCZI

(Klein Zaches hasn't been translated to English, AFAIK https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Zaches_called_Cinnabar)

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Aug 11, 2023·edited Aug 11, 2023

> I stick to my distinction between the mainstream Democrats and FALN, just as I would make a similar distinction between mainstream Republicans and right-wing terrorist militias.

Why? Two sentences prior, the post you quote points out:

> Obama commuted the sentence of of Oscar Lopez Rivera, the leader of the FALN Puerto Rican terrorist group.

If former President Obama is not a mainstream Democrat, who is? What's the type specimen for a mainstream Democrat who is far removed from Obama? What non-laughable definition of a mainstream Democrat excludes Obama?

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It's interesting that people don't think the Democrats have the stomach for this given Assange's position. Trump started it, but the Democrats are the ones effectively torturing him now.

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Posting comments of your commentary I find quite rewarding to read. Different perspectives widen the view. Thanks

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Aug 14, 2023·edited Aug 14, 2023

>> Many of the worst perpetrators are still free and supported by the left: For example, Obama commuted the sentence of of Oscar Lopez Rivera, the leader of the FALN Puerto Rican terrorist group.

>> A summary of this is here: https://status451.com/2017/01/20/days-of-rage/

Scott replies:

> I stick to my distinction between the mainstream Democrats and FALN,

> just as I would make a similar distinction between mainstream Republicans and right-wing terrorist militias.

Huh, I didn't realize a Republican President had pardoned the leader of a right-wing terrorist militia. (I bet it was Reagan.)

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I'm disappointed no one understands the real story behind why shock therapy worked in Poland, but not Russia. Jeffrey D. Sachs, the architect of both programs explains why here. https://www.npr.org/transcripts/1097135961

Basically the US wanted Poland as an ally and wanted to crush Russia. The key would have been some monetary support to tamper down the inflation, the US blocked it and that somewhat forced the firesale of state assets that created the oligarchs.

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I recently heard of the "Western Goals Foundation" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Goals_Foundation

Quoting verbatim from Wikipedia:

"After the Watergate and COINTELPRO scandals of the early 1970s, several laws were passed to restrict police intelligence gathering within political organizations and tried to make it necessary to demonstrate that a criminal act was likely to be uncovered by any intelligence gathering proposed. Many files on radicals, collected for decades, were ordered destroyed. The unintended effect of the laws was to privatize the files in the hands of 'retired' intelligence officers and their operatives."

Seems related.

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I agree it appears there's not enough common reality between us to make progress on the original disagreement. I observe that it was significantly my meta-framing of the discussion that made the level of disconnect evident instead of just shouting at each other. I will endeavor to respond to new ideas/analysis, and in some cases to consolidate/summarize on an idea that you didn't address, without relitigating; this is still a lot to say because yes this has gotten voluminous and also most of your final post is totally new-to-this-thread content disputing the consensus view of what the Insurrection was/did (much more extreme claims than skepticism about one particular grand jury bill). I will primarily follow your ordering of ideas, because the benefits of restructuring mostly apply in dialogue. 

>> Normal people can't read laws and understand them. That's why lawyers ... exist

The civil court system is substantially skewed toward common law, where encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of precedents matters a lot. All aspects of the system are technical and opaque so that there is a lot of comparative advantage time value in having people specialized in it. However the US criminal law system is conventionally a codified system built on a common law foundation for axiomatic understanding of undefined terms; if you can read the statute, that tells you what the law is.  You consult a lawyer on criminal matters because a) if you're charged or otherwise interacting with the CJ system, then the comparative advantage expertise argument applies, and b) it's hard to figure out which laws you have to look up. However, looking up a law is sufficient to know that law. (Non-rigorous citation: https://www.upcounsel.com/lectl-common-law-legal-system-and-the-criminal-law) So EG the statute on fraud that I cited representing it as ~"lies of all sorts" supersedes any common law convention that was more narrow to financial crimes. Of further note, if I'm reading the code annotations right, section 101 was initially enacted in 1948, so it post-dates and therefore wholly supersedes the Hammerschmidt citation vis-a-vis federal code.Incidentally, it seems like you disapprove of the common JD prerequisite to bar exams; if so, we found a place where we are copacetic, I agree that this denigration of apprenticeship in a trade that is almost entirely craft and experience is rather a shonda. 

>>"not a Bayesian"

"Bayesian evidence" means the idea that small evidences can be meaningfully suggestive, especially in combination, even when short of dispositive proof, and that this is important because dispositive proof is rare. Maybe you're unfamiliar with that meaning, even though you're commenting here? I'm not especially "a Bayesian" myself, but there's a more fundamental disconnect if you don't accept that this concept is valid. Your reaction is what I'd expect if I had said "incontrovertible proof for Bayesians, who are of course the ultimate arbiters" (which, fair, Bayesian absolutists can be annoying) and you made no substantive response to my observation that 'lawsuits ALL failed, some dismissed with prejudice, some resulted in sanctions against involved parties". This fact pattern should make it harder for us to believe that the true thing is "they were working legitimately" and easier to believe that the true thing is "they were working illegitimately", in a way that neither "suits all dismissed" by itself nor "1 or a few suits, of which 1 dismissed with prejudice/sanctions" would require (dismissals are marginal if any evidence about good faith, even if ratio'd; 1 red flag could be aberrant). It probably also makes it easier to believe that the true thing is "there is a fundamental conspiracy against them", but rule of law isn't a conspiracy and many of our systems depend on operators applying good faith, so if operators demonstrably apply bad faith, it makes sense to sanction that. Obviously 'demonstrable' is a question of fact not law, and we'll probably disagree about whether it's true / court-provably true. 

>>Exceptional... even Nixon wasn't charged

It's worth reiterating: the charges / act of charging is exceptional because the circumstance is utterly unprecedented, mobs have never before roamed the Capitol looking to capture and hang the VP. The most consequential act of Gerald Ford's presidency was that he nigh-immediately pardoned Nixon so that he couldn't be prosecuted for crimes, it was otherwise considered almost inevitable that he would have been. So the implication that this treats Trump's crimes as "more serious than Nixon's" isn't going anywhere. But also... these are more serious than Nixon's crimes: whatever else he did, Nixon let the votes speak when people cast them; he may have been all about putting fingers on the scale, but he never actually tried to knock the scale over and record his own ideas as official weights. 

>>Mueller reportMueller left open some questions about Trump specifically because DOJ policy prevented him from considering charges against the President, but he indicted 20+ Russian operatives for election interference under charges like 'conspiracy to defraud the US' and 'conspiracy against the US', and he convicted Rick Gates and Paul Manafort on the same (campaign chairman and deputy chairman, not trivial lackeys, corruptly pardoned by Trump).  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mueller_special_counsel_investigation#Criminal_charges"Collusion" as you well know was never a legal term, Mueller conservatively interpreted it as quid-pro-quo and other direct agreements. Anyone who wants to take up the banner of "Trump technically didn't violate any specific laws when he collaborated with an opposed foreign power to get elected" is welcome to it - specific legal violations really aren't the point when it comes to recognizing the difference between personal and national interest, and the prioritization between them. https://www.factcheck.org/2019/04/what-the-mueller-report-says-about-russian-contacts/

This extends a long tradition of GOP campaigns actively undermining the national interest for their own advancement against incumbent Democratic administrations - Nixon interfered in LBJ's Vietnam peace talks in 1968, Reagan interefered in Carter's Iran hostage negotiations in 1980. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/06/nixon-vietnam-candidate-conspired-with-foreign-power-win-election-215461



>> January 6th

We know conclusively that infiltration of the Capitol was planned by Proud Boys etc. There are an extraordinary number of data points, including criminal convictions of leadership in groups that Trump specifically communicated with in advance, demonstrating that the Insurrection riot was deliberately coordinated. You won't acknowledge this, asserting that 'riots can just happen', etc. Obviously you doubt whether particular people planned it when you doubt that it was planned; but that prior doubt is factually incorrect. https://time.com/6277254/proud-boys-verdict-jan-6-insurrection/

Given this, Trump must have: wanted to stop it, or been indifferent to it, or wanted it to continue; he must have: been surprised, or known about it in advance. Etc. A theory that accepts the riot was planned, and explains the apparent communications and motivations between Trump / WH and rioters, and explains the memos proposing subversion of the ECA, while maintaining Trump didn't conspire to use those people to disrupt the Joint Session, would be interesting and impressive. Hand-waving it all way isn't.

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