A reading lesson from today's Times!


Manafort versus "the Trump campaign:"
It's a reading lesson from above the fold on the front page—on page A1—of today's New York Times.

On line, the Times begins with a bungled headline.
Three reporters take over from there:
LAFRANIERE, VOGEL AND HABERMAN (1/9/19): Manafort Accused of Sharing Trump Polling Data With Russian Associate

As a top official in President Trump’s campaign, Paul Manafort shared political polling data with a business associate tied to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday. The document provided the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race.

Mr. Manafort’s lawyers made the disclosure by accident, through a formatting error in a document filed to respond to charges that he had lied to prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, after agreeing to cooperate with their investigation into Russian interference in the election.
Regarding that headline, sad! The front-page report doesn't say that Manafort has been accused of sharing polling data with a Russian associate. It says he did share polling data, according to a "disclosure" in a document filed by his own legal team.

Presumably, some editor composed a slapdash, inaccurate headline, one which moved from a "disclosure" to someone being "accused." That said, our lesson concerns the second sentence in paragraph one, a sentence which goes like this:

"The document provided the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race."

That sentence is highly equivocal—needlessly so, in fact. That said, does the document in question provide any evidence that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russians? Or does it simply show that Manafort did? (Along with Rick Gates, his right-hand man.)

We ask for an obvious reason. As everybody knows, and as the reporters later note, it's widely understood that Manafort was "deeply in debt" to Oleg Deripaska, an (allegedly dangerous) Russian oligarch for whom the polling data seems to have been intended.

For many months, it has been widely reported and suggested that Manafort was trying to use his role in the Trump campaign as a way to make himself whole with Deripaska. This suggests an obvious possibility, one the Times reporters mention in paragraphs 5 and 6:
LAFRANIERE, VOGEL AND HABERMAN: “This is the closest thing we have seen to collusion,” Clint Watts, a senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said of the data-sharing. “The question now is, did the president know about it?”

The document gave no indication of whether Mr. Trump was aware of the data transfer
or how Mr. Kilimnik might have used the information. But from March to August 2016, when Mr. Manafort worked for the Trump campaign, Russia was engaged in a full-fledged operation using social media, stolen emails and other tactics to boost Mr. Trump, attack Mrs. Clinton and play on divisive issues such as race and guns. Polling data could conceivably have helped Russia hone those messages and target audiences to help swing votes to Mr. Trump.
Is it possible that Manafort was playing this game as a one-man operation? Of course it is! If that's the case, how wise was it to start this report by talking about possibility that "the Trump campaign" had been "trying to coordinate with Russians?" Were the reporters possibly moving beyond what they actually knew?

We cast ourselves in the buzzkill role for an obvious reason. The liberal world is deeply in love with trying to lock "the Trump campaign" up. On liberal corporate cable, tribal entertainers havebecome expert at overstating every suggestion or indication, all in service to the desire to say or suggest that they've finally been caught.

We love to get out over our skis; we hate the idea of waiting for full information. It seemed to us that the Times reporters were playing that game in their opening paragraph, the paragraph which appears beneath the headline which some editor blew.

As Professor Harari has noted, we humans love to move beyond what we actually know! We thought of that fact when we read this later passage:
LAFRANIERE, VOGEL AND HABERMAN: Both Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Mr. Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, according to a person knowledgeable about the situation. Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person.
Say what? Most of the polling data in question was drawn from public sources?

If true, that suggests that Manafort, an inveterate scammer, was possibly trying to scam his Russian associates with publicly available data. More to the point, we've already seen at least one major cable pundit say the data in question "must have been" private, proprietary data because there would be no need to pass on public data.

We're sorry to say that the miscreant was Frank Figliuzzi. He spoke to Brian Williams:
FIGLIUZZI (1/8/19): I always like it when we accidentally learn things, Brian. Sometimes it's the best kind of learning when knowledge falls into your lap and we get a little bit smarter about what's up with the Trump campaign.

So today, we're faced with a question. Why would the campaign chairman for President Trump be providing what must have been internal poll data? Why do I say "must have been?" The Russians don't need to get public poll data from Manafort. They can read that in the newspapers.

So here is this kind of proprietary poll data going to a Russian that everyone believes is at least connected to the GRU. But in looking at his bio, I think he might have been a GRU officer at one time. And what would the expectation be? He's not going to go home and stick the polling data on his refrigerator. He`s going to do something with it.
The Times report had been on line for hours. Figliuzzi blew past what it actually said, and Brian didn't correct him. So much for the lofty goal of "getting a little bit smarter!"

This is the service corporate cable provides. In similar ways, these entities defeated Candidate Gore and Candidate Hillary Clinton, back when anger about Bill Clinton's sex acts was the biggest thing in their world. It's how we got Bush, then Trump, though you'll never be told that.

Above the fold on page A1, should the Times have jumped from "Manafort" to "the Trump campaign?" We'd say an editor should have worked with that. That said, to assess the caliber of one editor's work, take a look at that misstated headline.

On balance, our upper-end political press corps just isn't especially sharp. This has been a major problem for decades, but our upper-end mainstream guild doesn't discuss itself.

Trump may have known about this matter, of course. That said, there's still no way to know. Rather than wait for the facts to emerge, some will improve the tale.


  1. We won the midterms by a landslide, nobody cares about Russia anymore, the country is turning progressive.

    Americans are even starting to have a vague understanding of our marginal tax rate system, and how that top rate only applies to income over a certain amount.

    1. I hear your sentiment, but having been skeptical of the Russian collusion issue, it is starting to seem like there is something there. This looks bad.

    2. I just have to wonder how anyone can maintain skepticism about the investigation when there are so many court actions, plea deals, investigators hired and dollars spent, and even supreme court decisions now that indicate there is something substantive being pursued. I realize that the Republicans managed to maintain "show trials" and investigations of Benghazi and Clinton's emails, but they weren't able to involve the FBI or anyone outside the politicized legislative hearings in any ongoing way. This current situation is very different from that one.

      How does all of this smoke not signify fire when there is so much of it and actual people have gone to jail because of their involvement? When does skepticism become denial?

    3. Whether or not the person sitting in the White House got there by colluding with a hostile foreign power transcends who won what election.

  2. What a horrible crime: sharing polling data with your coworker! I'm speechless... A bombshell! The walls are closing in! This is definitely the beginning of the end! Impeachment is the sure thing now!

    Meanwhile, what do you think about the “Integrity Initiative” affair, Bob?

    New Documents Reveal Covert UK Military-Intelligence Smear Machine Meddling In US Politics

    Not interested, eh? Yeah, you only read the goebbelsian establishment press. Nothing else attracts your attention...

    Truly brilliant journos, like Mark Ames and Max Blumenthal need not apply...

  3. Bob does a great job of establishing how bad the media are at their jobs. However, as a matter of substance, if Manafort was sharing polling information with Russian agents at a time when he was the campaign chairman, I'm not sure that it matters whether he did so as a private person or in his official role. I'm also not sure how you could ever tell the difference.

    From my perspective, the "witch hunt" was begun to find out what was going on between the Russians and people in the Trump campaign. This pretty much confirms that there was "collusion" between Manafort and Russian agents. Whether or not Trump was aware and complicit, that's a huge deal, and really the point of the entire investigation from the start.

    It's always been possible that Trump, himself, didn't know what was going on. But if that's the case, I don't know how to explain his constant attacks on the investigation and his refusal to simply state that Manafort was a bad guy who shouldn't have been doing what he was doing and that's why Trump fired him before the election. Trump's actions to the contrary are pretty damn suspicious in that regard.

    1. @johnny
      Excellent comment. Spot on.

    2. If this was only some wrongdoing by Manafort to pay his personal debt to one of Putin's oligarchs, why was Don Jr. and Kushner involved in that meeting in Trump tower and why were there so many other contacts with Russians up and down the campaign staff and Trump family? For that matter, how did Manafort get his job with the Trump campaign in the first place?

      It isn't really possible that Trump had no idea what was going on, especially since Trump is routinely described as a micro-manager of the things he cares about. There are a lot more Trump actions that are pretty damn suspicious.

      And why does Somerby ignore all of that stuff to take Manafort's actions in isolation even from Manafort's own behavior.

  4. “Were the reporters possibly moving beyond what they actually knew?”

    I’m so old that I remember way back on Tuesday, Jan 8, 2019, when Somerby chastised the media for *not* speculating about Trump’s inevitable war that seems to exist in Somerby’s imaginings.

    And then there’s the insistence from even farther back (Monday, Jan 7!) that the media are derelict in their duty if they do not speculate about Trump’s obvious “mental illness.” (Obvious to Somerby apparently).

    But the media (and “liberals”) are “over their skis” when they plausibly speculate about possible illegal actions of the Trump campaign.

  5. Honestly, forget California. Bunch of freaking hippies with no idea how to handle a fire like a real man. Am I right? Who's with me? Right David? Right Mao?

    ok yeah yeah, FEMA has only sent millions of dollars, not billions, yeah yeah 60% of forests in CA are managed by the federal government, ok yeah yeah Stafford Act bla bla bla

    Californians are too wimpy to pick up a rake, serves them right anyway for living next to forrests.

    1. I LOVE dembots' fake outrage. Could you produce some more for me, please? And be more dramatic.

    2. Fake outrage? Let me.
      We need a border wall to keep the billions of terrorists who aren't coming to the U.S. out!

      How did I do?

    3. Weak, dembot. If you can't do drama, at least your bullshit sarcasm should be interesting.

    4. 11:54,
      Not bigoted enough for you?

  6. Somerby's relentless focus on details while ignoring the larger context and the picture formed by many such details, suggests he is not playing devils advocate but has some problem processing information. It may be that he has brain damage of some sort, perhaps Parkinson's disease or something else that affects the frontal lobes, or he is an actual Trump supporter and not any kind of left-of-center voter. He continually posts these "defenses" of Trump and his crew, all hinging on splitting the finest of hairs, to the point where his posts make little sense taken together with other facts that have been established (not alleged, established).

    I just don't believe Somerby is doing this in the spirit of better reporting. I think he believes Trump is an innocent stooge, that the South will rise again, and that men should make all decisions for women (frail creatures that they are).

    I hope Somerby will hang up his skiis. No one needs to have confusion sown on the left when there is so much of it already on the right.

    1. Trump's persona on twitter, at press conferences, at rallies etc. is a put on, he's playing a WWE character to better facilitate his con.

      Somerby's posts of late are of the same vein, he is playing a role to provoke. I'm not going to guess his motivation but it could be as simple as boredom.

    2. I don't believe that Trump is playing on Twitter. His behavior when he is trying to be presidential is consistent with his twitter persona and I don't think he is deliberately messing up then. I've met Trump supporters who think he is playing a big joke on everyone. I think they are the ones being played, for money. Trump even monetized his speech last night by fundraising off of it.

      I believe Somerby is being paid by Russia to disrupt the left.

  7. Clearly, reporters have a duty to point out the implications of Manafort’s actions vis-a-vis the Trump campaign. Not doing so would be a disservice to the public.

  8. Kevin Drum today displays more cluelessness about issues affecting women. He thinks Aziz Ansari didn't do anything wrong and should be forgiven because he made an insincere apology and besides, he didn't do anything really wrong.

    Men, including Kevin Drum (despite his being married and elderly and not much of a womanizer), need to understand that when a woman says "no" any continuing effort to engage in sex constitutes assault, no matter how tentative her tone of voice and no matter how nice the evening has been up until the, or how much money the guy spent on the date.

    Ansari's crime was to continue to pressure his date sexually after she said no. Period. End of story.

    He may consider himself some kind of feminist ally, but as long as he regards sex as a commodity and women as gatekeepers, he is mixed up and mistaken and wrong. Women are people and sex is something people do together, not something women give or withhold from men. If a man thinks of sex separately from the person, he is being a jerk and if he acts on those thoughts when the woman doesn't want to pariticpate, he is committing assault.

    A woman doesn't have to fight the man off or call the cops or scream or anything else -- she just has to say no. Ansari admits this woman said no. But then he claims the sex was consensual after she explained that she was pressured after she said no, and that this was wrong of him. That isn't consensual.

    Kevin Drum thinks we should forgive men who want to engage in nonconsensual sexual activity short of rape (or other sex crimes such as public masturbation). He thinks women will need male allies. But women must ask -- with friends like this, who needs enemies? It is the thinking -- the treatment of women's consent as trivial or unimportant -- that is wrong, not the sex. Without consent, all sexual activity is wrong, a form of assault, an abridgement of the right of women to say no to sexual activity.

    Kevin is as mixed up as Aziz Ansari. No one cares if men who mistreat women start to feel bitter when the women complain. It perhaps never occurs to them that women cannot participate in any relationship with men without fearing that they will be forced into some sexual activity they don't want -- and that women might start to feel bitter about that? Kevin is an ass when it comes to women's issues. His comment thread isn't doing much better.

    And don't get me started on Al Franken. Kevin thinks he was innocent. Does anyone really think Franken would have resigned if he didn't have problematic issues in his history with respect to his treatment of women? Liberal guys needs to understand that simply labeling yourself a feminist isn't going to work unless you have a history of treating women like actual people, even when it comes to sex.

  9. As Bob points out, some of the polling data shared was public information. But, even the internal Trump Campaign polls had limited value IMHO. There were lots of polls. There's no reason to think that Trump's internal polls were the most accurate available. The Russians could have accessed other polls that were just as reliable. Or, just as unreliable, since none of the polls did well in the 2016 election.

    1. Oh, well in that case it was OK to collude with the Russians. But if that collusion was so ineffective, how did Hillary lose and someone like Trump get elected?

    2. Good question. @7:56. IMHO Trump was a dreadful candidate, for a host of reasons, not least "grab them by the pussy." (However, I have been pleasantly surprised by his performance as Prexy.) Trump won because the Democrats chose the only candidate who could have lost to him, and then she ran a terrible campaign. If she had just campaigned more in PA and MI she would have won.

      In a way, Comey cost the Dems the election. If he had simply followed the law, Hillary would at least have lost her security clearance. That would have forced her out of the race. Biden would have replaced her trounced Trump in a landslide.

    3. Lost her security clearance for what? Because the media pretended to care that Republicans pretended to care about her email protocols?
      Big fucking deal. So big, Kushner and Trump's grifting daughter (who both work in the administration) use personal servers to send government emails, yet not a peep from the media, Republicans, or dipshits like you who spent 2+ years making believe you gave a shit when you didn't.

    4. "However, I have been pleasantly surprised by his performance as Prexy"

      I'm still waiting for your grandkids to die from mercury poisoning, before I wholeheartedly agree.

    5. More feeling, dembot, please. I don't quite believe you.

      Describe, in detail, how eagerly you're waiting for his grandkids to die. How foam is dripping from your dembot mouth and nostrils.

    6. Of course I want DavidinCal's grandkids to die from unfettered capitalism. Communism doesn't work.

    7. "However, I have been pleasantly surprised by his performance as Prexy."

      He couldn't get the wall built, but his Administration's mistreatment of immigrant families is winning you over anyway. Color me shocked. LOL.

    8. i am no lawyer so I can certainly be wrong, but I don't think it matters if the information was useful, I think it is the intent behind the actions that matter legally. I mean, wasn't that the issue with the Trump Tower meeting, it didn't matter that there was no useful information exchanged, the legally important point is whether there was intent...

  10. It's common for campaigns to get approached by Russia to support them, but usually they are turned down. The Trump campaign was welcoming.

  11. I'm happy to see resident dembots so excited.

    It's been a while since the last 'bombshell', eh? What, a couple of months?

    1. Remember "No collusion!"?
      Those were the days.

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