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How to Stop Russian Election Interference

2018 February 1

Let us take as a given that Russia interfered in the last US election, though many of the accusations are unconvincing, some may be true.

Why did they interfere?

They most likely did so because having a President in charge who was somewhat favorable to Russia is in Russia’s self interest. Remember that Russia is under US led economic sanctions.

There is a case to be made that what Russia did was simply what Russia should have done: it was in Russia’s self-interest, and Russia should do what is in its self interest.

Moreover, it was the same as what the US does, all the time, to other countries, including to Russia. When America thinks that a country should have different leadership, it tries to make sure that happens. Such operations include political support, propaganda and often support for violent actions. Money is funneled to opposition factions. The color-revolutions were US supported, so were the Maidan protests which overthrew the elected Ukrainian government and caused the most recent large crisis with Russia, but there are many many examples including extensive support for anti-government forces in Iran.

The US does this because they think it is in their interest. If they think a democratic party is good for the US, they support it, but dictators and anti-democratic coups have received support as well.

So what Russia is doing has a lot of precedent.  The US is not some trembling innocent suffering some unspeakable crime. The better analogy is a serial bully who got his eye blacked by a past victim.

From the outside Americans screaming about this look like a bully screaming “how dare you do to me what I do to everyone else. I’m going to bury you!”

This does not induce sympathy.

Still, we can make a strong case that countries shouldn’t interfere in other countries internal political affairs, especially including elections.

I think that the Russians might be willing to agree to that.

So the sane method of dealing with this issue, which virtually one will agree to, would be negotiations.

Americans and Russians get together and have frank talks, which amount to a peace treaty: we won’t do it to you, if you don’t do it to us.

They might even extend that to not doing it to other countries.

This is the actual road out, though it seems laughable because it’s really impossible to imagine. Both America and Russia have been interfering in many countries for a long time, though America is the champion of the last 30 years or so, and by a wide margin.

But if you don’t want someone to hit you, perhaps you shouldn’t hit them?

The problem here is that this can’t stand alone. If the US retains the ability to sanction other countries economically, in ways that are so damaging they kill vast numbers and impoverish more, which it does, who is going to agree to just sit there and take it?

And the US does have this ability, for now, due to its control over the world payments system. The US Treasury can unilaterally sanction countries and firms, and no one can stop them, because banks outside the US feel compelled to obey as any transfer that touches on the US triggers US law, and the payment system is US built and controlled.

Most foreign debts are also subject to either US or British law, as the Argentinians learned to their great cost.

But then don’t sanctions fall under “don’t interfere with other countries?” Perhaps the US might also wish to stop sanctioning countries. Almost every case has done more harm than good, and the sanctions almost always hit ordinary people harder than leaders, even when they are targeted at the richest.

The way to have peace, is to leave other people alone.

I know that this runs exactly against the American character which is “hurt them until they do what I want”. It runs directly against how American disciplines its own people, which is “if you don’t cooperate, you’ll be poor and miserable.” (See how felons are treated after their incarceration for the most direct example.)

But perhaps, just perhaps, the best results in this world rarely come from hurting people till they submit, however long that takes.  (See Cuba and Iran for how long it can not work.)

Oh, sure, sometimes it does “work”. The US has overthrown many countries governments, and gotten many other political parties elected. No one can deny this. But somehow, doing so often leads to even worse situations down the line. It seems that if you hurt people enough they resist and start hating you and act against you and try to get a government they like that doesn’t like you and so on.

Sanity is saying “ok, ok. Let’s stop this cycle of reciprocal hurting people.”

But that has to start and be credibly initiated by the worst abuser. And though most Americans won’t admit it, that worst abuser is America.

This has been another episode of “kindergarten level ethics for adults.”

If you don’t like it when someone does it to you, don’t do it to other people.

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40 Responses leave one →
  1. shargash permalink
    February 1, 2018

    “But that has to start and be credibly initiated by the worst abuser. ”

    Russia recently proposed a mutual ban on foreign election interference. The US rejected it, with one official from State saying “We would have to give up democracy promotion in Russia, which we’re not willing to do.”

    A while ago (early in this century, iirc) Russia proposed a treaty on cyber warfare. The US rejected it because (at least in part) “attribution is impossible” (heh…attribution for me, but not for thee).

    What is a country supposed to do if every attempt to put some mutual boundaries around behavior is rejected, because the other party reserves the right to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants?

  2. Robert Mcneilly permalink
    February 1, 2018

    In simple terms:
    Don’t start no shit, won’t be no shit.

  3. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 1, 2018

    The answer to Russian Meddling in America’s Elections is easy.

    Ban all Social Media.

    Russia is merely leveraging THIS. Remove THIS, and you remove Russian Meddling. Social Media is not valueless, its value is actually Less Than Zero, meaning it’s highly destructive.

    Former Facebook Exec Says Social Media Is Ripping Apart Society —‘No Civil Discourse, No Cooperation; Misinformation, Mistruth.’

    Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.

    Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

    He went on to describe an incident in India where hoax messages about kidnappings shared on WhatsApp led to the lynching of seven innocent people. “That’s what we’re dealing with,” said Palihapitiya. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.” He says he tries to use Facebook as little as possible, and that his children “aren’t allowed to use that shit.” He later adds, though, that he believes the company “overwhelmingly does good in the world.”

    I know this will never happen but it should. It will never happen because Social Media is considered Progress and nothing can ever stand in the way of, let alone undo, PROGRESS.

    If Social Media is Progress, and it is by conventional standards, the goal of Progress must be the nihilistic destruction of consciousness since consciousness has now been determined to be an unintended byproduct of entropy.

  4. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 1, 2018

    What is a country supposed to do if every attempt to put some mutual boundaries around behavior is rejected, because the other party reserves the right to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants?

    Perhaps it can start rebuilding its infrastructure rather than worrying about Russian Ethnics in former Soviet Satellite States.

    The Russia Left Behind — A Journey Through A Heartland On The Slow Road To Ruin.

    Even The Stalinists were better than this.

    I’m sure some Russian Troll will come along and say 98% of Russians are perfectly fine with a crumbling infrastructure if it means “saving” “ethnic Russians” in Estonia by invading it and occupying it.

  5. BlizzardOfOzzz permalink
    February 1, 2018

    I take it as self-evident that Russians buying a miniscule quantity of Facebook ads promoting Black Lives Matter is not consequential. Would it crack the top 1000 most important issues? (no) Yet it has been the top covered news story and absorbed Congressional attention for a full year. Interesting isn’t it? What do we make of it?

    It’s so immediately jarring that people instinctively try to resolve it by imagining what facts are being withheld. Maybe there is a smoking gun that is too top secret to tell anyone, or is too complicated to explain to laymen. Maybe it is all just a conspiracy by the intelligence agencies to manipulate events. We are all in the dark, where we are likely to stay.

  6. V. Arnold permalink
    February 1, 2018

    Are you all really that fucking stupid?
    You buy this bullshit meme as real?
    Lordy, lordy, we’re genuinely fucked!

  7. BlizzardOfOzzz permalink
    February 1, 2018

    V Arnold – it’s required of libs in good standing to believe it (even though “it” is ill-defined and changes daily). It’s not a question of true or false but of religious heresy.

  8. realitychecker permalink
    February 1, 2018

    Every society or group needs some rules to set the outer boundaries of permissible behavior..

    Every individual within the society can gain an advantage by violating those rules.

    Technology has made it easy for bad actors to escape the ‘local’ consequences of shaming, so shame and shunning do not work like they did pre-Internet.

    Something more direct and effective is required to make people afraid to break the rules of society. An immediate direct benefit from rule-breaking will never be completely overcome by a weak or unreliable bad consequence imposed by society.

    But in the modern enlightened West, we have long agreed that it is useless to punish. Maybe even immoral (Fainting couch, stat!)

    Rinse and repeat.

  9. nihil obstet permalink
    February 1, 2018

    An easier way to stop “interference” in elections is to set up a fair and open system of elections. The government allows dark money in politics and then shrieks “Foul” when they think somebody they didn’t want to play uses it? I object to the National Association of Manufacturers, AIPAC, Big Pharma, and Goldman Sachs interfering in elections as much as the Russians.

    And I don’t even know how the reasoning goes for blocking foreign communications on elections. The SC has ruled that money is speech and election expenditures are therefore protected free speech. Have they also ruled that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech” actually means that the law can protect Americans from speech that the government doesn’t want them to hear by abridging the free speech of non-Americans? Either money in elections isn’t really speech and can therefore be regulated as part of free and fair elections or it really is speech and all can try to persuade.

    Whatever we object to the Russians doing to persuade, we should also object to Americans doing. And we should set up a system that does what we claim we want it to do.

  10. Willy permalink
    February 1, 2018

    How does one punish when the punisher in chief tries to shame virtually every organization of which he isn’t a part? If it’s always going to be fake news or fake law enforcement, somebody in a position of respect needs to be respectable.

  11. February 1, 2018

    But this pre-supposes, he said naughtily, with his tongue buried deeply in his cheek, that Russian election interference and American election interference are actually morally equivalent. If America is the fruiting body of human achievement, then surely a certain moral asymmetry holds here.

  12. Willy permalink
    February 1, 2018

    America used to be the fruiting body of human achievement. It’s a rotting mass now. Other players now vie for world leadership. If Trump want’s to make America great again, he may have to first, restore some things to the way they once were.

    I really don’t think he’s the guy that’s going to do that. I also don’t think he’s anywhere near smart enough, nor his Republican enablers nearly smart enough, to be able to know how to do that.

  13. BlizzardOfOzzz permalink
    February 1, 2018

    “World leadership” is idiotic. Why would you even want that? It’s the whole problem. DC wants to be the capital of a world empire, so US citizens are just an annoyance to their designs.

  14. Willy permalink
    February 1, 2018

    Better us than them. Current them is China. Other famous them’s included the USSR, Nazi Germany, the British Empire… I like us better /s.

    Actually, I meant “leadership” in terms of a free civil society, where good guys mostly win and bad guys mostly lose. Causing chaos and quagmires isn’t that.

  15. February 1, 2018

    America used to be the fruiting body of human achievement. It’s a rotting mass now.

    *continuing naughty mode* But perhaps it is only so because Russia did not accept its place as resource colony, rebelling as though a root rebelled against the true flower.

  16. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 1, 2018

    I wonder if Trump will shell Congress like Yeltsin shelled Parliament when Parliament refused to cooperate and dug in its heels?

    I hope so — THAT would be F*CKING AWESOME!!

    Bring it on, I say.


  17. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 1, 2018

    If Trump is Yeltsin, who is the American version of Putin now rising through the ranks?

    Spot him and neutralize him before he gets too far, this Rising Star consolidating his power in the shadows as we type.

  18. Synoia permalink
    February 1, 2018

    though America is the champion of the last 30 years or so, and by a wide margin

    Only since 1987 or so?

    I believe your darts missed the double 20. Twice.

  19. bruce wilder permalink
    February 1, 2018

    For the most part, those complaining loudest about Russian meddling in the election do so in highly abstract terms. When they get to specifics, the charges become not just hypocritical but ridiculous as to specific means and scale.

    The official reports put out by the Obama Administration at the end of December 2016 and early January 2017 complained at length about the news channel, RT. RT is openly doing things that are perfectly legitimate within the theory of American democracy. They cannot be banned by law or policy, and a treaty that stood down U.S. sponsored news operations abroad would be at odds with the same principles.

    The attempt to blame the Russians for dirty politics on social media — Twitter bots and Facebook fake news — is based primarily on the activities of a commercial operation based near St Petersburg that apparently hired itself to all comers. Rarely discussed or even referenced are the native partisan operations carried at larger scale during the last election. The scale and sophistication of propaganda operations has grown steadily over the last few decades. That the numbers and pay of so-called PR operatives far outweigh the numbers and pay-scales of journalists is one indication of the problems developing, as is the absorption of “news” operations into giant media conglomerates and networks.

    American politics is paid for by corporate business interests and a handful of billionaires. Interfere with that at your peril.

  20. escher permalink
    February 1, 2018

    I’ve yet to see a reason to take “Russian election interference” any more seriously than Birthergate. Well, except that this time it’s people I used to respect who are pushing the nonsense, and falling for it.

  21. bruce wilder permalink
    February 2, 2018

    @ escher

    The most alarming aspect of Russiagate may be what the viability of this narrative reveals about the debility of the institutions of public discourse and the elite that peoples those institutions. There has been an evolution after all, from roots in Whitewater and WMD. Whether it is the capacity to reason or the felt moral responsibility to reason that has eroded most I could not say. This society appears to imagine there are no consequences when an amoral elite gives itself over entirely to grift.

  22. EverythingsJake permalink
    February 2, 2018

    So many things to enrage. Not on point I guess, but this one boils my blood and I need to vent. Perhaps somewhat related to indifference to human suffering. Such capacity we have for good, such a disappointment that our overwhelming choice is for evil:


  23. V. Arnold permalink
    February 2, 2018

    February 2, 2018

    Vent on; “Insulin” is vent-worthy indeed!
    Insulin should be available free of charge to those needing it for their very lives.
    Healthcare systems outside the US generally provide good care at minimal cost; mine is about $13 USD per month. My Thai wife’s is free because she’s a retired civil servant/teacher.
    U.S. healthcare is a criminal enterprise…

  24. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 2, 2018

    Insulin should be available free of charge to those needing it for their very lives.

    It should at least be as inexpensive as High Fructose Corn Syrup (and the like) and all the products that use it.

    In otherwords, the cost of treating the symptoms of Diabetes should match the cost of the nutrition-less Diabetes-inducing precursor products the Evil Marketing Geniuses coerced people into consuming.

    And no, when it comes to Advertising & Marketing, it is not Free Choice, especially when these Evil Pedophiles market & advertise to children and they do.

    How much is Insulin in Russia? Surely if Putin isn’t evil, it should pretty much be free. Right?

    Health Experts Urge Facebook To Shut Down Messenger Kids

  25. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 2, 2018

    Nothing Earth-Shattering will come of Russia Gate. Perhaps a smattering of Plea Bargain Deals, that’s about it.

    It was always for political purposes so the Dems could retake Congress in 2018 and the Presidency in 2020.

    Justice has never been the goal, but rather it has always been intended as a Smear Campaign for political purposes (whether there is any Truth to any of it is irrelevant).

    THESE PEOPLE, ALL OF THEM regardless of which side of the Political Duopoly Coin they feign to represent, are PURE MACHIAVELLIAN EVIL.

    Braindead Eternally & Blindly Faithful Dems, Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

  26. Hugh permalink
    February 2, 2018

    Everybody spies on everybody. Everybody interferes (if they can and as far as they can) in everyone else’s affairs and elections. This is the world as it is. We can take sensible steps to protect the integrity of our elections.

    Public financing.
    Third party access to the ballot.
    Strict limitation of purging voter rolls.
    Anti-gerrymandering district drawing.
    National voting on a Sunday or as a holiday.
    Paper ballots that can be counted mechanically and checked and recounted manually.
    Far, far better political coverage of the issues and much less of the horse race,

  27. nihil obstet permalink
    February 2, 2018


    A little too modest on some of the steps.

    Not just public financing, but reducing the cost of campaigning. Any media organization that sells political ads should be required to provide political ads free of charge — I’d go for requiring the issue of vouchers that can be redeemed by a candidate at current advertising rates, so the candidate can choose whether to blow the whole wad on 15 mins. of Superbowl or run a bunch of 30-sec. spots.

    Stop the first-past-the-post electoral districts. Use proportional representation instead. Gerrymandering then becomes a dead issue and third party candidates become viable.

  28. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 2, 2018

    Any media organization that sells political ads should be required to provide political ads free of charge….

    Even if it’s the Russians or the Chinese or the Iranians or the Islamic State purchasing the ad?

  29. bruce wilder permalink
    February 2, 2018

    Maybe tax all advertising heavily enough to reduce its volume and undermine the viability of “advertising-supported” “free” media. And, do not have political advertising of the thirty-second spot variety?

  30. bruce wilder permalink
    February 2, 2018

    It is the reflexive nature of the spiral of the attention economy that sucks up all the intelligence out there. Russiagate is not about Russia; it is about Trump — and not about Trump as anything other than a character from reality-teevee, a televised car wreck you cannot take your eyes off. Nothing else gets any attention, any deliberate consideration.

    When the bottom falls out, the inability of any political institution to respond intelligently will be manifest.

  31. nihil obstet permalink
    February 2, 2018

    @The Stephen Miller Band

    Maybe the context of providing free political ads wasn’t clear enough. The point is that public financing should not be necessary for an essential public purpose of use of the airwaves or the government-produced internet. The free ads wouldn’t go to the purchaser of the advertisement, but would be provided to candidates under the same kinds of rules that govern public financing of elections now. And yes, if the medium accepts money for political ads from any source, that medium must provide a free platform to candidates according to the rules for campaigning.

  32. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 2, 2018

    Thanks for clearing that up, nihil.

    I agree with your assessment then, with a caveat. The populace needs to be sufficiently educated, meaning the capacity for objective & critical thought & analysis is engendered, for any of this to be effective. Otherwise, it’s pearls before swine if the candidates and the process is on the up and up and let’s face it, it will be a long time coming before that’s the case.

    Currently, the media — to include social media coupled with a woefully inadequate, in the least, educational system — have rendered a dumbed-down, easily-manipulated citizenry.

  33. rangoon78 permalink
    February 2, 2018

    Maybe it’s like Ray Charles said “Georgia, the road leads back to you’
    Watching this new round of cyber-attribution hysteria, I got a queasy feeling. Even Dmitri Alperovitch’s^ name sounded familiar. I looked through my notes and remembered why: he was one of the minor online voices supporting the idea that the cyber attacks against Georgia were some kind of Russian plot. Back then, he was in charge of intelligence analysis at Secure Computing Corporation, a cybersecurity company that also made censorship tools used by countries like Saudi Arabia. He was now not only running his own big shop, but also playing a central role in a dangerous geopolitical game.

    In other words, the election-hacking panic was a stateside extension of the battle first joined on the ISP frontiers of the Georgia-Russia war. Impressionable journalists and Democratic party hacks who ignore this background do so at their peril—and ours.

    ^Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and chief technology officer of CrowdStrike, the firm that first identified Russianhackers as behind the DNC …

    John Bumgarner, member of the United States Cyber Consequences Unit* did a research on the cyberattacks during the Russo-Georgian War. The report concluded that the cyber-attacks against Georgia launched by Russian hackers in 2008 demonstrated the need for international cooperation for security. The report stated that the organizers of the cyber-attacks were aware of Russia’s military plans, but the attackers themselves were believed to have been civilians.

    *The United States Cyber Consequences Unit
    THEY’RE JUST A Beltway think tank, but what a great name. Also, their boss is a guy named “Scott Borg.”

  34. Blissex permalink
    February 3, 2018

    «I’ve yet to see a reason to take “Russian election interference” any more seriously than Birthergate.»

    My impression is that the russian fantasy is payback from the democrats for birtherism, and especially for Trump’s birtherism. Which may or may not have been a fantasy, but it was about an insignificant point, symbolic of the feeling that many Usians felt that because of his ethnic origins and childhood abroad Obama was not a “real american”, while instead his life was pretty much the epitome of americanism.

    «I object to the National Association of Manufacturers, AIPAC, Big Pharma, and Goldman Sachs interfering in elections»

    According to the Supreme Court you are objecting to free speech…
    Anyhow you mention AIPAC, which is nominally an USA pressure group, but the russian fantasy is the more ridiculous not compares to corporate pressure groups, but to the “realpolitik” of the situation, where the biggest foreign sponsors of USA politicians are the governing families or parties of Saudi Arabia, Japan, Israel and China, via various fronts or nominees, and usually with the device of providing gigantic post-retirement rewards.

    But they don’t need to be post retirement, this is the word from the Supreme Court:
    «In a series of cases over the past 40 years, we have spelled out how to draw the constitutional line between the permissible goal of avoiding corruption in the political process and the impermissible desire simply to limit political speech.
    We have said that government regulation may not target the general gratitude a candidate may feel toward those who support him or his allies, or the political access such support may afford. “Ingratiation and access . . . are not corruption.” [Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n, 558 U. S. 310, 360 (2010)]. They embody a central feature of democracy — that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.
    Any regulation must instead target what we have called “quid pro quo” corruption or its appearance. [See id., at 359.] That Latin phrase captures the notion of a direct exchange of an official act for money. [See McCormick v. United States, 500 U. S. 257, 266 (1991).] “The hallmark of corruption is the financial quid pro quo: dollars for political favors.” [Federal Election Comm’n v. National Conservative Political Action Comm., 470 U. S. 480, 497 (1985).]»

    The Supreme Court the ruled that large monthly payments by corporations to *serving politicians* were perfectly legal ways to “support candidates who share their beliefs and interests”, as long as they did not ask for any specific favours.

  35. bruce wilder permalink
    February 3, 2018

    @ Blissex

    Presumably, the one red line left is to deliver income or substantial gifts directly to a serving official with specific discretion over the donor’s distinct material interests. As we have seen with Senator Menendez, even that is not a bright line anymore.

    Revolving doors, expectations along a career path and ideological coincidence of views are all fine. Hillary Clinton, between gigs, “earning” millions with her scintillating wit and soaring rhetoric is fine.

    It is not just Republican justices who have lost their moral compass.

  36. different clue permalink
    February 4, 2018


    This anti-Russianitic McCarthyism may be more about revenge for Birtherism. It may be payback for the Rs using McCarthyism on the Ds for some decades. So now the Ds will use McCarthyism on the Rs for a while.

  37. February 4, 2018

    Willy: “America used to be the fruiting body of human achievement.” Oh, really? When was this? When we were driving the pre-Columbian inhabitants off their land, perhaps, and herding them into reserves, which we then stole from them all over again? Even a casual look at US foreign policy over the years belies your claim. It’s not a secret, it’s just that we’ve always celebrated our bad behavior, rather than seeing it as a problem.

    And what is “fruiting body” anyway? Mandos strikes again.

  38. Willy permalink
    February 4, 2018

    Maybe “fruiting body” was his sarcastic nod to the conservatives here who believe the good ole USA is/was the flower of human civilization? If they’re talking about things like opportunity or technology, they may have a point. But quite obviously, projected concentrated self-interested power has been a very bad thing for many.

    ‘The fungus’ appears to now be consuming itself. In my view, Trump isn’t doing anything obvious to change this, very unlike what he’d promised. Unless I’m mistaken, and the swamp really is the FBI, the big media, academia, and whatever it is Trump doesn’t like, the swamp remains.

  39. Blissex permalink
    February 4, 2018

    «the one red line left is to deliver income or substantial gifts directly to a serving official with specific discretion over the donor’s distinct material interests. As we have seen with Senator Menendez, even that is not a bright line anymore.»

    I may be remembering it wrong, but that red line has been breached already in the case of the notorious Chris Christie of New Jersey:

  40. February 4, 2018

    A fruiting body is the spore producing organ of a fungus. So if the USA is the fruiting body, of what body does it fruit? LOL.

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