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By Douglas Moran

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About this blog: Real power doesn't reside with those who make the final decision, but with those who decide what qualifies as the viable choices. I stumbled across this insight as a teenager (in the 1960s). As a grad student, I belonged to an org...  (More)

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Expert witnesses are more than experts. Plus my 7 fundamental impeachment questions

Uploaded: Dec 7, 2019
Articles and books bemoaning the public's distrust of "experts" have been appearing for many years. One near constant is the author's refusal to acknowledge the extent to which that distrust has been earned and confirmed. Such betrayals of trust seem to be rarely punished, and too often rewarded.

I came to this young, with the 1971 publications of the ^Pentagon Papers^ which indicated that the "experts" advising and setting the US policy on the Vietnam War had less knowledge of Vietnam's history than was available to a high-school student in a rural county.

One of the ideals of universities and tenure for professors was that, by providing protection from retaliation, it would foster providing their expertise to facilitate public debate on issues. Yet universities routinely allow their professors to flaunt their credentials to shill for clients. I'll leave it to you to speculate as to the motivation, whether it be for a cut of the fees or to be more attractive to professors who seek to enrich themselves from such activities or ... While Medical Schools have long had problems with corrupt faculty, I realized how bad the situation was during the ^Microsoft browser monopoly trial (253 F.3d 34)^ (1998-1999). Presented as an expert witness, the head of MIT's Sloan School of Management gave testimony that was so transparently nonsense that the judge immediately caught it. And it made headlines. I had been planning to double my alumni contribution to MIT, but when they did nothing about this, I halved it and later ended it.

Which brings us to the example of Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan and her appearance as a purported "expert witness" in the impeachment inquiry before the House Judiciary Committee on December 4. She was identified as an expert on the US Constitution. But as I listened to a recording of her opening statement, my reaction was that it was pure partisanship.(foot#1) I heard no evidence of Constitutional expertise, unless you regard tidbits from an introductory textbook or simple web searches as such. And because she treated speculation, interpretation and multi-step hearsay as fact, I would not have guessed she had training as a lawyer.(foot#2)

For legal analyses of relevant portions of various prominent events, one of my favorite sources is the YouTube channel of Quebec lawyer ^Viva Frei^. Some of the videos are explanations of the law, or his understanding of US law, and some are analyses of the lawyers and witnesses and how effective they were (or weren't). I prefer his channel over similar ones because he is high-energy and more to the point.

In his video of Dec 5, "^'Constitutional Experts' Impeachment Testimony EXPLAINED | Rep. Gaetz Examination | Viva Frei Vlawg^" (14:56), he not only points out some of the good and bad of the questioning, but raises questions about whether Karlan's obvious partisanship didn't make her a bad choice for the Democrats. For me, it also raised questions about her judgment in accepting the role.

The comments on the Weekly's news article on Karlan's testimony "^Stanford law professor testifies to Trump's 'abuse of power' in House Judiciary^" (2019-12-05) tend to the current partisan talking (shouting?) points that dominate the media.

In the remainder of this blog, I want to get away from all that and present a structure for what I regard as the key questions that you should be listening for and evaluating. Before I get to questions about Trump's actions, I will set the context with questions about the Bidens' actions.

----Q1. Did Hunter Biden "sell" his father's office?----

Lobbyists for the corrupt Ukrainian company Burisma got meetings with high-level officials in the State Department after pointing out that the Vice President's son was on Burisma's board (you can web search for details).

The Obama Administration was worried about such incidents, as evidenced by the briefing that they gave to their nominee for Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. The New York Times had also raised the issue.

Christopher Heinz severed his business relationship with Hunter Biden when Biden joined the Burisma board in 2014. Heinz is the stepson of John Kerry, who was then the Secretary of State. A spokesman for Heinz attributed this separation to Biden's "lack of judgment in this matter".

My assessment is that it is implausible that Hunter Biden wasn't told multiple times that he was selling high-level access to the US government, or at the very least, creating the appearance that he was.

----Q2. Did Joe Biden facilitate Hunter's selling of his office?----

Many presidents have been plagued by relatives trying to exploit their familial relationships, to the extent that a president should be empowered to have one relative confined for the duration of his tenure has been half-jokingly suggested multiple times.

Then there have been president's who have appointed relatives and associates to positions of power and refused to remove them despite overwhelming evidence of corruption. For example, Ulysses S. Grant would be regarded as a great President if not for this.

Hunter Biden's appointment to the Burisma board is somewhat tangled, but includes his accompanying his father on an official trip to Ukraine, giving at least the appearance of an endorsement by Vice President Biden. I have seen mentions, but no details, of similar circumstances in Romania, for which Joe Biden was also the designated lead for the Obama Administration.

However, it is the Chinese variant that most disturbs me and many of my friends who had security clearances. We would have had our clearances lifted for a minuscule fraction of Hunter's situation. And there were even jokes that if this had been an espionage novel, there would have been a lethal overdose (Hunter was an addict) or a tragic accident.
Details: Hunter accompanied Joe Biden on an official trip to China, after which the government-owned Bank of China created a $1B investment fund with Hunter on-board. Other Chinese government entities added at least another $500M to the fund. This gave China numerous ways to manipulate, compromise and corrupt Hunter, and through Hunter to manipulate and compromise his over-protective father, the Vice President. Somehow this hasn't gotten much discussion in the media.

My assessment is that Joe Biden facilitated Hunter, contrary to Joe's claim. If Joe didn't approve, why did he have Hunter accompany him on that official trip to China if not to signal his approval/desire/...? Consequently, I would judge Joe Biden to have been at least an accessory to the apparent selling of his office.

----Q3. Did Joe Biden quash the investigation of Burisma to protect Hunter?----

This is widely treated as a simple question, but its multiple parts need to be addressed independently.

Q3a. Would an investigation of Burisma turn up illegalities or improprieties by Hunter?
Possibly, but since the investigation hasn't happened, there are only conjectures. For example, was part of the money being paid to Hunter and his company ($1M) in fact being laundered, that is, passed back to corrupt Ukrainians?

Q3b. Did Joe Biden quash the investigation of Burisma?
Not directly. By his own statement, he did get the prosecutor fired, which resulted in the termination of the investigation. However, that this was Biden's intent/goal is only an inference.

There are three prominent explanations for why Biden might have wanted the prosecutor fired. First, the claim that prosecutor Shokin was corrupt. Second, the claim that Shokin was moving too slowly against corruption. Both these explanations are offered by Biden and his defenders, despite being largely incompatible. Add to this that I haven't seen the "for example" that regular readers of this blog know I love. Consequently, neither of these is even mildly credible to me.

The third has a level of detail that appeals to me. Unfortunately, most of the media is ignoring this explanation and thus not providing challenges to its accuracy and credibility. This explanation is that prosecutor Shokin was moving against Burisma, having raided the company and the oligarch to seize records and other evidence, and freezing the oligarch's assets. Shokin's successor terminated the investigation and unfroze the oligarch's assets, which the oligarch promptly removed from the reach of the Ukrainian government (to North Africa?). Since the result of the removal of Shokin was to quash the investigation, the inference is that that must have been Biden's intent, but again, this is only conjecture.

Q3c. Did Joe Biden actually get prosecutor Shokin fired?
The primary evidence I have seen for this is a video of Biden bragging that he threatened to withhold $1B in military aid unless Shokin was immediately fired. There are reasons to be skeptical of Biden's statement. First, he has long been known for going beyond embellishing accounts and for "remembering" events that never happened. Second, it is unclear how far back his currently visible decline in mental acuity goes. Third, there seems to be a substantial gap (3 months?) between when his threat was supposedly made and when Shokin was forced to resign. However, Shokin has said that the then-Ukrainian president said that it was pressure from the US that necessitated his removal. But this is hearsay.

----Q4. Should an investigation of the Bidens' and Ukraine be classified as "digging up dirt"?----

When a colloquialism such as "digging up dirt" is crucial to the description of events, it triggers suspicions that someone is trying to sneak something by me (itself a colloquialism). Often, they are trying to warp my understanding of what happened with an imprecise phrase that provides them with deniability for their disingenuous statements, that is, allowing them to claim that I am at fault for misinterpreting what they said. My sense of "dirt" is roughly embarrassing items that are irrelevant to the issues at hand. I am consigning a more detailed analysis/explanations to the footnotes.(foot#3)

If you assess the Bidens' behavior related to Ukraine to be decidedly above the level of mere "dirt", ask yourself how that should impact your consideration of claims by people who trivialize that behavior.

The next thresholds are whether it rises to a level that warrants/justifies an investigation, followed by a level that calls out for such an investigation.

----Q5. Did Trump actually set forth a quid pro quo in the July 25 phone call?----

The only person who was listening to the call and publicly testified is Lt. Col. Vindman, and he acknowledged that there was no quid pro quo. Witnesses who believed that there was a quid pro quo based it on speculation, inference or interpretation of what they heard from others, often after it had passed through the interpretation and spin of several people. From the fragments of their testimony that I watched, my sense was that their inferences might have arisen from pique over being bypassed or having their recommendations overridden (similar assessments have appeared in the media).

On the other hand, I haven't seen an explanation for the Trump Administration delaying the aid that I regard as having enough elements to be credible. But it is credible that the White House is so chaotic that it couldn't produce such an explanation.

The non-implementation of the supposed quid pro quo is not proof that there wasn't one because the revelation of the hold on the military aid could conceivably have torpedoed it. But you might choose to allow this as weak evidence that there wasn't a quid pro quo.

What that leaves me, and possibly you, with is the ^transcript of the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy^. At the top of page 3 is the "I would like you to do us a favor" statement by Trump.
Crucial!: This is not about investigating the Bidens, but rather a confused statement about foreign interference in the 2016 Presidential election.
Note: There was Ukrainian as well as Russian interference, although the impeachment advocates are trying to suppress discussion of the Ukrainian aspect by falsely characterizing it as denying the Russian interference. The Ukrainians had understandable concerns that a Trump victory would tilt US policy in favor of Russia and away from Ukraine, and thus they supported Hillary Clinton. That Trump was aware of credible claims of Ukrainian interference is relevant here, but not the details.(foot#4)

It is on the next page (page 4) that Trump brings up the Bidens:
"The other thing. There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ...It sounds horrible." (ellipsis in the transcript)
To me, this sounds off-handed, not something being pushed. It sounds like Trump's interest is in being able to say to "a lot of people" that he is doing something -- to get them off his back (colloquialism chosen for being imprecise). The double mention that Biden's comment had fomented this controversy reinforces my sense that this likely wasn't important to Trump. And the response by Zelenskyy is not that of someone of whom a demand is being made, for example, he isn't clarifying what is expected of him.
Note: Someone believing that they can infer what Zelenskyy inferred Trump was implying is not evidence, nor even credible speculation.

The transcript had been in the news for several days before I read it, and my reaction was that it was nothing like what the media was describing. Read it for your own reaction.

----Q6. What were Trump's possible motivations in encouraging investigation of the Bidens?----

This is more an exercise in reminding ourselves about how much we don't, and can't, know in this regard.

Q6a. Do Trump's motivations matter?
If you believe that the suspicions about the actions of the Bidens warrant investigating, you may decide that this fell within the actions President-who-is-Trump should have done and that the motivations of Trump-as-politician don't matter.

If you think that politicians shouldn't be allowed to investigate their challengers, would you actually condemn a District Attorney for investigating allegations that a challenger was involved in trying to rig the election? Similar for a mayor telling the police not to investigate potential crimes by a challenger. As others have pointed out, such a policy would open the gates to criminals simply declaring that they are running for District Attorney or similar office to shield themselves from investigations and subsequent prosecutions for their criminal activity.

Q: Why should such a policy protect candidates from investigations, but not officeholders? After all, wouldn't it be better for the electorate to learn of the questionable activities of the candidates before they are elected, rather than having to go through the disruptive process of removing them from office?

However, the use of investigation as harassment should not be tolerated. The intense Republican harassment of President Clinton probably harmed the US national security (Iraq, al Qaeda ...). The non-stop Republican investigations of Obama disrupted the functioning of Congress to the extent that it spawned overuse of Executive Orders. And the Democrats seeming notion that virtually anything Trump does or says is grounds for impeachment has probably weakened his administration's ability to deal effectively with the long-standing China trade problems and with North Korea, Iran and various other important international issues.

Q6b. Did Trump perceive Biden to be enough of a threat to warrant these actions?
One of the persistent observations from those who delve deep into the polling data -- definitely not me -- is that much of Biden's support is unenthusiastic and tenuous. The advantage of greater name recognition is ephemeral. The belief that he is more likely to beat Trump is actually a negative belief about the other candidates, and something that one or more of them could overcome. Biden's fundraising problems and candidates continuing to enter the race further point to Biden's perceived weakness.
On the other hand, you shouldn't assume that what you are hearing about Biden's prospects is the same as Trump's assessment.

----Q7. Did Trump's delay in military aid to Ukraine damage Ukraine's defense or hurt US national security interests (a tentative impeachment claim)?----

First, recognize that during the Obama Administration, the Biden-led Ukraine policy was to provide only non-lethal aid to Ukraine despite the recommendations of the national security agencies and requests from Ukraine for weapons to beat back the Russians. The Trump Administration reversed this policy and provided a range of weapons, notably the ^(FGM-148) Javelin^ anti-tank missile. Ignoring the obvious contradiction is simply automatic, mindless partisanship by the Democrats.

The ^transcript of the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy^ has Zelenskyy saying "We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes." (bottom of page 2). If the translation and notes are correct, the presence of "almost ready" is revealing, although I have seen no discussion of this in the media. First, it indicates that Zelenskyy was unaware of the hold on the aid: If he had been and wanted to gently introduce the topic, he would have omitted the "almost" and said "we are ready to buy". Similarly, the inclusion of "almost" indicates that there was no urgent need.

Aside: If the impeachment advocates actually believe there was a "quid pro quo" by Trump and it is ground for impeachment, why doesn't an almost identical "quid pro quo" by then Vice President Biden disqualify him from becoming President (assuming you believe Biden's claim)? Apparently, "Rules for thee, but not for me."

My assessment: There is no credible evidence presented to support this charge. The logical fallacy of the charge seems to be that of "If it possibly could have happened, then it must have."

----Conclusion----

My intent with this break-down and summary is to help you escape the clutter of trivialities and irrelevancies that clutter most of the media.

If you have what you believe to be fundamental questions that would help regular citizens think through this controversy, please share. However, please don't try to pollute the comments with the too common, inane, partisan talking (shouting?) points of the day. Recognize that my intended readership is well past tuning those out.

----Footnotes----
1. Pamela Karlan opening statement:
Video: ^WATCH: Pamela S. Karlan's full opening statement| Trump impeachment hearings^ (9:02) - PBS NewsHour.
Video with auto-generated transcript: ^Pamela Karlan delivers opening statement at impeachment hearing^ - ABC News.

2. Pamela Karlan failing as an expert witness:
The role of an expert witness is to aid the court, or equivalent, by gathering, analyzing and presenting evidence in the area of their expertise, and keeping their personal agendas and biases out of it (unless they want repeat business). From Pamela Karlan's opening statement:
- "The very idea that a President might seek the aid of a foreign government in his re-election campaign ...",
- "Tells me that when President Trump invited -- indeed demanded -- foreign involvement in our upcoming election ..."
- "The evidence reveals a President who used the powers of his office to demand that a foreign government participate."
Notice that these are Democratic Party talking points. They involve highly debatable trains of arguments. They crucially depend on subject matter far outside Karlan's expertise, for example,
- President Trump's pattern of communication with other world leaders through an interpreter,
- methods of corruption and money laundering using go-betweens such as consultants,
- politics and recent history of Ukraine, and
- the logistical status of Ukraine's military.
Furthermore, in the ^Viva Frei video^ cited in the main body, ^Karlan claimed elsewhere such disgust with Trump that she crossed the street to avoid walking in front of a Trump hotel (@7:44)^.Although this was (inexplicably) not brought up in the cross-examination, the subsequent segment in the video shows cross-examiner Gaetz botching questions intended to further show Karlan's bias.
To Karlan's credit, she at least made an effort to acquaint herself with the underlying "facts". Unfortunately, she did so by spending tens of hours reading the House Intelligence Committee's 300-page report.She should have done what the other two Constitutional experts called by the Democrats did: They announced that they were treating the report's claims as facts and as their starting point for their opinions.
"Garbage in; garbage out" (GIGO) was inevitable.

3. Digging up dirt:
I checked a range of dictionaries, both prescriptive -- how you should use words -- and descriptive -- how words are actually being used. Most gave "dirt" the meaning of information that was at a level of being embarrassing, with some extending it up to being damaging, with "damaging" being left open to interpretation.
I was somewhat surprised that none of these definitions included important intuitions of mine.
(1)The word choice of "dirt" is important. Dirt is a temporary blemish on your appearance, but is easily brushed off or otherwise cleaned up. In contrast, "throwing mud" implies something that sticks, and "sliming" has other connotations.
(2)It is "dirt" if it has little or no relevance to the pending decision on that person, but is likely to have a significant impact on that decision. For example, if a successful person had been a poor student decades before. For example, a successful person had had an early business failure due to a poor business plan or poor execution. However, it is not "dirt" if his business was shut down because of fraudulent or dangerous business practices. Question: If his failing business had burned down and there were suspicions that it was insurance fraud arson, what circumstance would have you judge whether this was "dirt"?
(3)This phrase involves a search that hopes to find something negative. For example, this does not include looking for incidents that establish a pattern of relevant behavior, such as the police/prosecutor looking for additional burglaries that may have been committed by their suspect. That is legitimate investigative practice.
(4)This phrase implies desperation by the person/group doing so, often because they don't believe that their legitimate arguments will prevail.
(5)This phrase carries an expectation or implication -- but not a presupposition -- that there is "dirt" to be found.

4. Ukrainian interference in 2016:
Paul Manafort was a political consultant who worked both on Republican campaigns, including Donald Trump's, and for foreign governments, including the pro-Russian Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych. A subsequent government supplied information about Manafort's previous corrupt practices which led to his very public ouster from the Trump campaign (there were no charges of corrupt practices by him related to the Trump campaign).
Democratic National Committee (DNC) contractor and staffer Alexandra Chalupa -- of Ukrainian ancestry -- made multiple visits to the Ukrainian embassy in Washington DC and to a member of the National Security Council in the Obama White House. That person is the same as the one identified as "the whistleblower" on the Trump-Zelenskyy phone call of July 25. His identity is widely known, but I am self-censoring.There are lots of claims and counter-claims about her activities for the DNC in the 2016 election.
There are various other claims of Ukrainian interference in the election, but I have not seen the support required to give them any credence.


----
An ^abbreviated index by topic and chronologically^ is available.


----Boilerplate on Commenting----
The ^Guidelines^ for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.
A slur is not an argument. Neither are other forms of vilification of other participants.

If you behave like a ^Troll^, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.
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Comments

 +   16 people like this
Posted by Fact check, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Dec 7, 2019 at 8:48 am

Fact check is a registered user.

Please fact check.
Jennifer Williams, VP's aid on Russia and Ukraine was also on the call and publically testified.

There are other omissions and inconsistencies in your statements above. Please don't be partisan especially if you accuse others of it.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center,
on Dec 7, 2019 at 10:18 am

Neal is a registered user.

Your comments about Pamela Karlan were spot in. Her body language and vitriolic presentation just reeked of partisanship.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Dec 7, 2019 at 11:13 am

mauricio is a registered user.

[[ Deleted: partisan posturing, including that Trump takes orders from Putin. ]]


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 7, 2019 at 3:51 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Fact check

> "Jennifer Williams, VP’s aide on Russia and Ukraine was also on the call and publicly testified.' (typos corrected)

I missed that among the witnesses who testified about their opinions of what they thought might have been said.
A basic rule on presenting arguments is to have your best and most bullet-proof arguments first. And if you are not obliged to listen to all the arguments, it is reasonable to infer that if what the presenter gives as their strongest arguments fail to hold up, then their lesser arguments can be dismissed out of hand.

> "There are other omissions and inconsistencies in your statements above."

"Omissions" : Of course there are. For example, the House Intelligence Committee report was 300 pages. I have a tendency to be overlong, but I can't and won't compete with that. This blog was my attempt to boil things down to what I see as the 7 fundamental questions that would determine how I would decide the current impeachment issue.

"Inconsistencies" : Unavoidable. There have been inconsistencies between the many witnesses, between statements by the same witness and within single witness statements. It was/is the obligation of the impeachment advocates to untangle this and to lay out explanations for the inconsistencies. To my reckoning, they have failed badly in this.

> "Please don't be partisan especially if you accuse others of this."

While I have strong political views and advocate for them, they do not align with either the Republican or Democratic Parties (Aside: If I were a Republican partisan, I would have used "Democrat Party").
Followers of this blog will have seen that I have very negative opinions of both parties. For example, the title of my 2017-07-16 blog " California Democrats seek to revive the Republican Party: Republicans expected to resist"


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 7, 2019 at 3:54 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

I have removed 9 posts that were off-topic WhatAbout-isms (7 from the same alias which may or may not be the same person) and 3 ad hominem attacks/insults that are routinely posted to my blogs. And counting.

Note: Statements that there are other reasons to impeach Trump, or disapprove of him, are off-topic. The topic here is impeachment as laid out by the US House of Representatives.

Update:
Note: I also remove comments characterizing the removal of off-topic comments and ad hominem attacks to me being partisan. Such comments are ad hominen attacks, but as a computer scientist, I appreciate the recursion.

I expect commenters to recognize that there are few black-and-white/binary/Manichean choices in the everyday world. For example, just because someone doesn't conform to your partisan beliefs doesn't make them a partisan of what you choose to regard as the sole "opposite side".


 +   18 people like this
Posted by Michael O., a resident of Stanford,
on Dec 7, 2019 at 7:42 pm

Having to erase so many comments that you consider ad hominem suggests that you may be being overly sensitive, and that people are on to something. I did not say in my deleted comment that YOU were partisan, just that your comments were partisan. They ARE partisan. Try not to be so sensitive about it. You are not neutral, like a computer algorithm; you have opinions and people are pointing them out to you. Please stop erasing comments. You are engendering a conversation and I just don't understand at all why you are stifling it. If you want to invite people to your living room, dictate what people can talk about, shut them up when you don't like what they say, then you should do that. This is a PUBLIC forum, not a private one -- but you act as if it is your own private space.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 7, 2019 at 8:20 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Michael O.

The meaning of "partisan" is not someone who disagrees with your beliefs. The Merriam-Webster definition is "a firm adherent to a party, faction, cause, or person. especially : one exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance"

> "Having to erase so many comments that you consider ad hominem suggests that you may be being overly sensitive..."

Saying that I only have a blog because I am blackmailing the publisher, or saying that I should be writing for Breitbard instead is not being personally sensitive, but being sensitive to my intended audience being put off by having to wade through the nonsense and potentially not reaching or contributing substantive information and opinion.

> "I did not say in my deleted comment that YOU were partisan, just that your comments were partisan. They ARE partisan. Try not to be so sensitive about it."

A comment is partisan only if it arises from partisanship, not because it is similar to one held by some partisan somewhere. Otherwise "The sun rises in the east." would be a partisan comment.

> "You are not neutral"

I don't pretend to be. But that doesn't make me a partisan - see the definition at the beginning. Critiquing a partisan argument/case does not make you a partisan -- see comment above.

> "This is a PUBLIC forum, not a private one"

This is a public forum with a set topic, with me being the moderator. If I were moderating a forum on the potholes on El Camino becoming craters and ravines and someone wanted to talk about extending BART, I would not hesitate to shut them down. In online forums, people who clutter the comments with off-topic comments, insults, ad hominem attacks, ... are equivalent to those who try to shutdown conventional forums by shouting down the legitimate participants.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 9:17 am

Firstly, I will admit to not reading the article, but reading the questions and some of the above comments.

I think, like Doug, that the wrong questions are being asked and very important questions are not. I think Biden knows that because there are snippet videos of him losing his temper and calling the questioners "fat" and "old" for asking these types of questions at campaign Q and As. I also think that Pelosi is being very wary as she was equally angry when asked by a journalist if she hated Trump and her angry reply was to defend her Catholic faith and saying she doesn't hate anyone or anything, but loves everyone. A very strange answer to someone who also supports late term abortion which is against all teachings of the Catholic church.

I think the important things here are being buried. We do not hear whether there is any evidence of wrongdoing by Biden which would make Trump's action seen in a different perspective.

We do need to know the answers to Doug's questions. Thank you for asking them. I think we should dig deeper before anything else is done. I think we should also dig deeper and ask the right questions rather than ignore the inconvenient other side of the story in all political discussions. Unfortunately, the media tends not to do that. It takes eloquent political commentators with their own You Tube Channels to do the job that mainstream media will not do.

There is a lot wrong with the impeachment


 +   18 people like this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 12:31 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The blogger is basing some his anti impeachment talking points on comments by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. [[deleted section: Presents belief that behavior by a House member as if it were evidence of what Trump did and whether it is impeachable]].

The term "partisan" is an understatement when it comes to Rep gents, yet the blogger has no problem using someone from the political extreme Right as a reference point, while he never uses anybody on the other side of the political sense. Here goes the charade that the blogger is "non partisan", yet he is very quick to delete posts that contradicts his views, calling them partisan. if there is a more hyp[ocritical, one sided heavy handed approach to blogging while pretending to be "non partisan", I have yet to see one, yet this blogger is allowed to blog on Town square, and, laughingly, describe his blog as "A Pragmmatist Take".


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Mr. Smith, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 12:59 pm

"Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan"

I didn't hear all of her testimony. As I understand it, she testified regarding the constitution. What did she say about it that was partisan or incorrect?


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 3:33 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Mr Smith

The problem with Karlan's testimony is not that what she said was incorrect, but that she said little/nothing of substance relative to the question at hand. I would summarize her testimony as "I believe that the Democrats' allegations are entirely true and Trump should be impeached." She presented no legal explanation for that, and consequently she presented nothing that would help if the allegations were partially true (establishing thresholds for impeachability).

There was no mention of what previous Presidents had done near an election that involved foreign actors and that could have influenced voting. Ditto for multiple Presidential candidates. And since there was no mention of this, there of course could be no discussion of whether those actions should have been impeachable.

Please follow the links I provided and listen for yourself or read the transcript (with auto-gen errors).


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 5:44 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: mauricio

> "The blogger is basing some his anti impeachment talking points on comments by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. ... the blogger has no problem using someone from the political extreme Right as a reference point,..."

This requires time to not be linear. My questions arose long before hearings. For example, at the end of Q5, one should infer that my questions about the contents of the phone call arose when I read the transcript a few days after it was published.
Similarly, my questions have been raised by many others of varying politics. They warranted presentation in this blog because they are so poorly represented in the mainstream media.
To imply that the questions were evenly faintly original to Gaetz gives him far too much credit.
Aside: Representative Gaetz is over-represented in the highlights of hearings because most of members of Congress are so horrible and incompetent at questioning -- for example as seen in the Congressional hearings on the social media companies.

Mauricio is using the common sleazy "logic":
- You did X.
- Nazis do X.
- You are a Nazi.
to which the routine response is of the form:
- Let X be breathing.
- To not be a Nazi, you must not breathe.

---------------------------------------
> "he never uses anybody on the other side of the political sense"

This blog was responding to what was well-represented in the media. If readers are unfamiliar with that, it would be trivial for them to consult a media site, a news feed or do a simple web search. I am not going to make my blogs even longer by repeating common knowledge.
BTW, I did provide links to Karlan's opening statement, so "never" is an exaggeration.

> "yet he is very quick to delete posts that contradicts his views, ...(blah, blah, blah)...

Mauricio has a very expansive notion of "contradict". He claims that Putin is controlling Trump and despite no credible evidence of this and substantial evidence to the contrary, he believes that his unsupported belief should be treated the same as evidence-based analysis and opinion.
The blog's title includes "Pragmatist" to signal/emphasize that the discussion expects evidence-based content.


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Posted by Mr. Smith, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 6:06 pm

"There was no mention of what previous Presidents had done near an election"

Where's that thought from? Did one side bring that up, or seek to somehow make it relevant?

Aside from that, are there archives that allow one to see the deleted comments? I'm curious as to the partisanship or what comments went counter to "body language and vitriolic presentation".


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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 6:23 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Mr. Smith

There is this thing called "precedent" that routinely used by lawyers in addressing the interpretation of the law. I'm surprised that you are unaware of this.

> "Aside from that, are there archives that allow one to see the deleted comments?"

No.

> "I'm curious as to the partisanship or what comments went counter to "body language and vitriolic presentation"."

No comments were deleted in this regard.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Mr. Smith, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 6:51 pm

"There was no mention of what previous Presidents had done near an election"

"precedent"

True - as far as I'm aware, no President has ever allegedly asked another government to supposedly interfere. Has it occurred before?

"No comments were deleted in this regard."

You are nothing if not precise.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 7:22 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "as far as I'm aware, no President has ever allegedly asked another government to supposedly interfere. Has it occurred before?"

My statement include Presidential candidates.

Obama: wait until after the election... (Russia?)

candidate Reagan: former-CIA director Casey as a member of his campaign is widely believed to have encourage the Iranians to not release the US hostages before the election.

candidate Nixon: Claims of interference with the 1968 Peace Talks with Anna Chennault as the most mentioned pipeline to the South Vietnamese government (and the Taiwan government).

FD Roosevelt: WW2: Coordinated with a massive British propaganda effort within the US, including presenting a British-forged map of Nazi intentions for the Americas. The British propaganda was to build support for FDR's policies regarding WW2 and undermining his political opponents (isolationists and others).

Wilson: WW1: Again a substantial British propaganda effort in the US promoted getting the US into the war. Wilson ran for re-election on staying out of the war, but quickly switched to joining the war. That the British didn't work to defeat him suggests that he was coordinating with the British. Aside: The US and British propaganda activities during WW1 revolutionized commercial marketing.


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Posted by mini D, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 10:41 pm

[[ Deleted: well over the threshold of being troll-like behavior. ]]


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Posted by Mary O, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 9, 2019 at 3:21 pm

Mary O is a registered user.

Mr. Moran,

[[ Deleted. Ad hominem attacks, but mostly misrepresentation of what was said.
For example, despite a headline of "Expert witnesses are more than experts", she portrays me as arguing that Karlan isn't an expert.]]

This editorial, in my opinion as a lawyer, has truly lost sight of the main issue before the House and the American people, "WHAT HAS DONALD TRUMP DONE?"

From your piece, it's very easy to guess that you have had absolutely no training as a lawyer or have studied the US Constitution.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 9, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Mary O

> "This editorial, in my opinion as a lawyer, has truly lost sight of the main issue before the House and the American people, "WHAT HAS DONALD TRUMP DONE?" "

This blog was addressing what the Democrats in the House were claiming that Trump did that was impeachable. If you actually are a lawyer, you should understand that trial-like proceeding limit the scope of what is relevant.

> "From your piece, it's very easy to guess that you have had absolutely no training as a lawyer or have studied the US Constitution.

On the latter you would be very wrong.
As to the former, it doesn't take a trained lawyer to spot when lawyers have utterly failed to address the questions before them.


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Posted by Mary O, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 9, 2019 at 4:08 pm

Mary O is a registered user.

@Moran. You're right in that you didn't really present an argument - you stated that you didn't think she was an "expert witness" because YOU didn't here evidence of Constitutional expertise. You deleted my single point. You're not qualified to make that determination. And, the Canadian lawyer you cite is not qualified to offer advice on the US Constitution.

"Which brings us to the example of Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan and her appearance as a purported "expert witness" in the impeachment inquiry before the House Judiciary Committee on December 4. She was identified as an expert on the US Constitution. But as I listened to a recording of her opening statement, my reaction was that it was pure partisanship.(foot#1) I heard no evidence of Constitutional expertise, unless you regard tidbits from an introductory textbook or simple web searches as such. And because she treated speculation, interpretation and multi-step hearsay as fact, I would not have guessed she had training as a lawyer.(foot#2)"


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 9, 2019 at 4:21 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "And, the Canadian lawyer you cite is not qualified to offer advice on the US Constitution."

I did not cite him for his opinion on the US Constitution, but for his commentary on the effectiveness of the cross-examination and the witness response.
If you can't see such a basic distinction, I really hope that you aren't a practicing lawyer.

> "...you stated that you didn't think she was an "expert witness" because YOU didn't here evidence of Constitutional expertise."

And I gave the readers a links to listen to and/or read her testimony to decide for themselves.
I also note that you have failed to provide a single instance of what you believe to be relevant Constitutional expertise that Karlan provided during her opening statement.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Mary O, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 9, 2019 at 5:24 pm

Mary O is a registered user.

@Moran. The four Constitutional law experts were not there to demonstrate or prove their expertise as Constitutional law experts;
[[ Blogger: Again with the misrepresentation of what I said. Providing expertise is different from proving expertise. As a violation of the guidelines against misrepresentation, the remainder was deleted.]]

Why did you ignore the testimony of the other three Constitutional law experts?

[[ Blogger: because Karlan is local (Stanford Law School) and was subject of a news story here on PaloAltoOnline with reader comments that I linked to.]]


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Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Dec 9, 2019 at 5:53 pm

"----Q1. Did Hunter Biden "sell" his father's office?----"

Of course he was. Or Burisma thought he was. But did he actually have anything to sell, or was he slyly putting the sting to a bunch of corrupt gas peddlers, to the tune of $50k/month?


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Posted by Terry, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Dec 9, 2019 at 8:02 pm

@ Mr. Douglas Moran, you have earned my respect, and I want to thank you for taking time to share your thoughts.

As a Stanford alum, I was appalled to see Ms. Karlan's performance. To me she appeared as a 3rd rate community college instructor.

I plan on contacting the Stanford Law School dean and explaining why I am removing Stanford from my estate plan.


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Posted by III, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 10, 2019 at 7:38 am

III is a registered user.

[[ Deleted. Off-topic in ways outlined above. ]]


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Posted by Error Needs Correction, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 10, 2019 at 10:29 am

The original blog above says: "The only person who was listening to the call and publicly testified is Lt. Col. Vindman, and he acknowledged that there was no quid pro quo."

No, Vindman did not acknowledge that. Rather, here's an excerpt from Vindman's deposition, given under penalty of perjury:

"On the 10th of July, this -- it became completely apparent what the deliverable would be in order to get a White House meeting. That deliverable was reinforced by the President. The demand was, in order to get the White House meeting, they had to deliver an investigation. That became clear as time progressed from how this thing unfolded through the 10th all the way through the conclusion."

To demand an investigation in order to get a meeting is a "quid pro quo."

A second person who heard the call and testified to the quid pro quo was Jennifer Williams, cited above. A third person was listening to the call and also testified to the quid pro quo. He was Timothy Morrison, deputy assistant to Trump.

There's a fourth person who heard the call but did more than listen. He actually spoke up during the call. His name is Donald Trump. He later said of the call, "I mean, I asked it very point-blank, because we're looking for corruption. There's tremendous corruption. Why should we be giving hundreds of millions of dollars to countries when there's this kind of corruption?"

The corruption he explained in the same interview was the theory that "the" DNC server (there were actually many) from the 2016 election had gone to the Ukraine (totally debunked). But note Trump tied the investigation of that "corruption" to the giving of hundreds of millions of dollars, which of course he at that moment had held up giving to the Ukraine and was discussed earlier in the call. So it's fair to characterize his statement as identifying a quid pro quo, as many have done.

A tip to Moran: Before you question the expertise of others, please strive to get your own facts right.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Green Gables, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Dec 10, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

Unfortunately, Tom Campbell, who taught in the Law School at Stanford, and was a expert in Constitutional Law, and was our Congressman for a few years, was never called to testify [portion removed.] He no longer is a Republican having left the party a year (or so) ago.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Former PA resident, a resident of Mountain View,
on Dec 10, 2019 at 1:46 pm

Interesting arguments. I applaud your effort here to "help [readers] escape the clutter of trivialities and irrelevancies that clutter most of the media."

It does seem as if, once again, posted commentary here veers toward the same "inane, partisan talking (shouting?) points" you warned about, with petty little digs at previous comments added for variety. Apparently, some of the "usual" PA-Weekly Town-Square commenters treat any commentable content on the website as chiefly an outlet for their compulsive repertoire. On this blog, often they don't even bother reading the original essay above that they are responding to. When you post analyses that challenge our existing assumptions, the practice clearly runs afoul of people who aren't interested in examining their assumptions at all -- only in asserting them ad nauseum -- therefore they also won't or *can't* understand why their comments bring forewarned editorial intervention. For that reason they're certain to protest such intervention, even to post gratuitous ad-hominem mischaracterizations of this blog on the comments pages of innocent unrelated bloggers. So, edit away!


 +   6 people like this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Dec 10, 2019 at 3:56 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[[ This person's comments are now being deleted because of his persistent refusal to follow this blog's guidelines, despite numerous reminders.
I don't have any other mechanism for trying to discourage such abusive behavior.

PS: His comment here violated the guidelines.
]]


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 10, 2019 at 4:38 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Error Needs Correction

> "...No, Vindman did not acknowledge that. Rather, here's an excerpt from Vindman's deposition,..."

Under cross-examination, Vindman abandoned his claim of a quid pro quo. The primary talking point by anti-impeachment commentators was that Vindman was upset with the policy of the national security bureaucracy being overridden by elected officials (Trump) and supported this with snippets from the hearing. I didn't see contradicting video from the pro-impeachment side and I wasn't willing to wade through the full session.

> "... testified to the quid pro quo."

The impression of those witnesses of a quid pro quo is not backed up by either observable events nor testimony of Trump's retraction of the supposed quid pro quo. With neither of those, I can't give any weight to those impressions. It's similar to reports of a man walking through a muddy field, but no one able to find footprints.

> "His name is Donald Trump. He later said of the call, "I mean, I asked it very point-blank, because we're looking for corruption. There's tremendous corruption. Why should we be giving hundreds of millions of dollars to countries when there's this kind of corruption?" "

So your argument now is that Trump's concern was a legitimate part of his duties as President: To ensure that taxpayers money was being well and properly spent. If the funding was going to disappear into a cesspool of corruption, it wasn't going to make any significant difference to Ukrainian defense. Thus withholding it was preferable to dumping it into that cesspool.
But that is my opinion/preferences and one way in which I significantly part ways with the Democratic Party (The Republican Party prefers to dump taxpayer money into the bank accounts of their very rich supporters, with which I also separate myself).

> "The corruption he explained in the same interview was the theory that "the" DNC server (there were actually many) from the 2016 election had gone to the Ukraine (totally debunked)."

"Totally debunked" is a phrase now used by Democrats and the media aligned with the Democratic Party for claims where they have no legitimate response to the evidence.
Your statement here is more confused and lacking logic than Trump's statement in the phone call.

> "...was discussed earlier in the call."

I see no such connection in the call. Because of the involvement of translators, the call would have proceeded slowly, as witnessed by how quickly one can read the semi-transcript vs the "wall-clock" duration reported for the call. I see no such connection being made in the semi-transcript, and in the actually drawn-out conversation, the parties would have needed to explicitly cite connections.

> "So it's fair to characterize his statement as identifying a quid pro quo, as many have done."

And many have found otherwise. And as I noted above, there is none of the supporting evidence of one.

The Merriam-Webster definition of quid pro quo is "something given or received for something else. also : a deal arranging a quid pro quo".

I have seen no claim that the first part happened. There is no evidence of an arrangement being made unless you permit person X believing that Zelinskyy inferred that Trump was implying such a deal and that Trump inferred that Zelinskyy implied that he was accepting such a deal. Or that person Y believed that X believed that. Or that person Z believed that Y believed that.

> "A tip to Moran: Before you question the expertise of others, please strive to get your own facts right."

This puts the comment in the grey area for being deleted as indicating that you might not be willing to engage in civil, substantive discourse.
Also you have repeated a false charge -- "question the expertise of others" - addressed in comment of "Mary O". There is a fundamental difference between criticizing an instance of providing expertise and of the possessing of expertise.

In this thread I am being very lenient of people presenting what they could legitimately believe are "facts", except easily identified partisan talking points. The presentation and questioning of evidence has been so drawn out, tangled and contradictory that some mistakes here are quite understandable and not evidence of being disingenuous or dishonest.
Unfortunately, the bulk of the major "news" media outlets are too partisan to be trusted, although some of the appearance of partisanship may be churnalism, ignorance, incompetence and clickbait.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Dec 10, 2019 at 8:00 pm

We're weary of all this. It's convoluted.
I would vote for Bloomberg or Klobuchar.
I am very opposed to Biden with Harris as VP [portion removed.]
I can't stand Trump and believe he's violated the Emoluments (sic) Clause, however I don't know what's customary behavior for Presidents on phone calls, so I don't know what to make of the “charges..."


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Why?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 11, 2019 at 1:14 am

Why was @Green Gables' comment not deleted but merely edited? There were a lot of other law professors who could have testified. So what? It's not relevant to the discussion.

And who @Anonymous would vote for is also irrelevant to the topic.

Trump's interest in corruption is selective. See Web Link

The AP News Fact Check Web Link said, "The Defense Department had already certified to congressional committees on May 23 that Ukraine had made enough progress on reducing corruption to receive the military assistance."


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 11, 2019 at 2:02 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Why?

> Why was @Green Gables' comment not deleted but merely edited?

The editing and deletion are done by the Embarcadero Publishing staff in addition to me. I am stricter, but when they edit, I tend to accept.

> lots of other law professors that could have testified. ... would vote for...

Green Gables point seemed to be that with some many others available, there wasn't an excuse for the Dems to use Karlan.
I took Anonymous comment as an expression of how the hearings have affected her/him. Marginal, but more relevant than the majority of comments.

> "The Defense Department had already certified to congressional committees on May 23 that Ukraine had made enough progress on reducing corruption to receive the military assistance."

Congress has long been requiring that the Defense and/or State Department need to certify progress on this or that. It has never been more than virtue signaling: Any aid package big enough to draw the attention of Congress involves purchasing US products - typically weapons - which in turn involves US jobs which in turn involves constituents and political contributors. Although a certification may provoke some controversy, they are provided even when it is transparently ridiculous.

Consider the recent Washington Post revelations that the Pentagon has been knowingly lying about supposed "progress" in Afghanistan for almost two decades, $1-2 Trillion, 2300 troops killed in action + ??? "non-combat" deaths, ??? non-military US people dead (State Dept, contractors, mercenaries ...), ??? US people maimed, ...
If one gives even a scintilla of credibility to such a US government "certification", they are quite naive.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Scotty, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Dec 11, 2019 at 2:06 pm

Scotty is a registered user.

I think what's important in any expert testimony is that you are "selling". Selling your ideas and your beliefs in a way that others buy into your way of thinking. Professor Karlan was just a poor salesperson. You simply cannot insult your way into people's hearts and minds. Great blog Doug. Thanks for keeping on topic.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Former fan, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 13, 2019 at 1:01 am

[[ Blogger: I was about to delete this comment for multiple violations of the guidelines, but decided that it was in interesting example if you focus on how he reaches his decision that I am a partisan on this topic. See my comment immediately below.]]

"using the common sleazy "logic":
- You did X.
- Nazis do X."

I'm hearing a lot of accusations that some Democrats were against Trump from the beginning, therefore all the of many millions of Democrats in the country (and even the ones who didn't like him from the beginning - for legitimate reasons) couldn't possibly have any legitimate reasons for opposition and regardless of what questionable, immoral, untrustworthy, and possibly illegal things the POTUS does, any Democrat anywhere must be acting from blind bias, and no opposition or criticism whatsoever can be legitimate if it opposes your guy. You have basically said as much in your posts related to the Kavanaugh confirmation.

I am not a partisan, by the way, I tend to be on the side of democratic homeostastis and freedom, and will and have voted for whomever I think will help maintain our government of by and for the people. I'm afraid I have to side with the posters who have tried to point out to you your own partisan behavior that you don't seem to want to confront. Just because you have criticisms for both parties does not mean you aren't a partisan; just because others level really harsh criticism against one party doesn't mean it is undue or even that they are a partisan, and just because you level criticism against both doesn't mean you aren't.

I am also a big fan of learning from history. I strongly recommend to you to learn about what Germany did after the war (WWII) to come to terms with what the general population did during the war. Children questioned parents about what they did (and didn't) do, the society had a lot to come to terms with. They of course wanted to understand how to prevent what happened from happening again. When you study that period and the response to it, and you study the speeches of Hitler (which every school child does in Germany), you are trying to understand not how a nation of millions of evil people came to do such evil things, you are trying to understand how millions of decent, good people allowed and enabled such evil. It's certainly not helpful to namecall with the term Nazi, but it's really a slap against people who suffered from the evil to dismiss concerns by saying that if you don't see full-blown Nazi Germany, any mention of Nazis is beyond the pale.

The whole point of all that deep self-examination was to understand how it is that a regular nation of good and ordinary people, people who don't think of themselves as any worse than you do yourself, can end up protecting and fostering such evil (not the first evil in history, either). The attempt to end the war earlier called Operation Valkyrie might have been successful if not for the cowardly actions of a few ordinary people who probably felt that they were just doing their jobs.

When you dismiss people who are trying to apply the hard-learned lessons in cautionary ways in our own society as if no such concerns are legitimate unless we have a full-blown Nazi regime, you are denigrating and invalidating the important efforts made to understand what happened and ensure something like that never happens again. The time to apply the lessons is BEFORE they get bad, not after they are too bad to ignore. You may disagree with how people apply the lessons, but dismissing their input offhand because you think any comparison to Nazism is beyond the pale is a slap in the face of anyone who cares about the lessons of the past preventing that from ever happening again.

Notice I have not said anything about you or anyone else being a Nazi, that was not my intent -- it was to get you to think about having a more open mind about understanding how things develop and better honoring opinions that don't exactly align with yours.

Re: Afghanistan. The lying was not limited to Afghanistan, the same exact phenomenon happened in Iraq -- analyses of what went wrong also discuss the utter disconnect between reality and what officials said and believed(Republican officials more than anyone, let's be real -- I know you're going to come back and try to make it seem like Obama invaded those places and place undue emphasis on anything Democrats did in coping with what Republicans got us into while lying to themselves the whole time apparently, and yet still you will not be able to see your partisanship. The greater emphasis on getting power and keeping it -- "permanent Republican majority -- through avoidance of the honing forces of a marketplace of ideas has made Republicans lawmakers more prone to engaging in this kind of disconnect, and lying to themselves, as we are seeing in the impeachment hearings.

Other evidence of your partisanship, the emphatic claims that there is no evidence of bad behavior in relationship to Russia/Putin. Flat earthers can claim there is no evidence the earth is round if they choose not to see it.

I am bothering to write this because I used to really enjoy your blog and believed your claims of being a pragmatist. You're becoming more and more a partisan than a pragmatist and you don't even see it. Sad.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 13, 2019 at 4:39 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Former fan"

Most of his comment concerns my response to comment by mauricio.
You can find that response above using this link, or by searching within this webpage for the second instance of "gaetz" or "putin", or using its date -- Dec 8, 2019 at 5:44 pm -- for scrolling.

As I said in the prologue added to his comment, I am using that comment as an opportunity to illustrate some of the decisions I made as moderator. If there are serious violations of the guidelines, I try to edit out the inappropriate part. But if there are too many problems, or the edit isn't easy, I tend to delete the entire comment because I want to spend my time responding to legit comments.

Underlying this commenter's statement seems to be a rejection of the Rule of Law and no understanding of why others -- such as me -- see it as so important. I don't think he realizes that he is treating opposition to show trials / kangaroo courts as blind support for the accused. As I understand his argument, he thinks Trump can and should be impeached and removed for reasons that are not part of any impeachment articles.

This presents a difficult decision for me as moderator. He doesn't seem to be consciously mischaracterizing others, but the comment has great potential for provoking many counter-attacks (not discussion) and off-topic comments. You might ask yourself whether you would edit/delete it on such grounds.

"using the common sleazy 'logic': ..."

The omission of the first two words of the sentence "Mauricio is" is a flag to me that the commenter either intended to take it out-of-context or use it as a justification to go off-topic.

> "... no opposition or criticism whatsoever can be legitimate if it opposes your guy. You have basically said as much in your posts related to the Kavanaugh confirmation."

I suspect that the commenter hopes that other readers will not check and simply believe this misrepresentation.
He is referring to my blog of 2018-09-30 "Kavanaugh-Ford: A widening societal division on justice" and my responses in the comments.
The last section/paragraph of that blog is "No, I do not support Judge Kavanaugh. ..." Moreover, the topic of the blog were the foundational principles of due process of law, presumption of innocence, and evidence-based decisions. I had brief call-outs to the Kavanaugh hearing -- they provided then-current examples of the abuses.

> "...just because you level criticism against both doesn't mean you aren't."

Seems to be arguing that he can declare me to be a partisan despite my behavior being the opposite of its definition. Also disagreement on fundamental principles (with the parties) is not "criticism".
This sort of "I know what I believe and I don't care about evidence" violates the blog's guideline for a productive discussion.

> paragraphs 5-7

Claiming intellectural and moral superiority: This might reinforce/tip my judgment on other aspects.

Hyperbole. Portraying current US as potentially on the slippery slope to Nazism.
The Nazis engaged in genocide/mass murder against ethnic groups -- Jews, Gypsies, Slavs -- and other groups -- homosexuals, Socialists/Communists, ... The former based on ethnic/racial purity beliefs. Massive repression of opposition. Massive propaganda. They applied non-Marxist Socialism -- on a nationalist basis rather than a class basis -- with wage and price controls, confiscations, and a significant degree of central control. They worshipped strength, especially as expressed in the conquering other nations. ...

> "It's certainly not helpful to namecall with the term Nazi..."

It is the Progressives and others on the Left who routinely call those who do not agree with them "Nazis", or "White Supremicists" or "Racists" or ... This is seen in signs at protests and comments by prominent Progressives in media appearances.
This confirms my concern about how the out-of-context opening ("... sleazy 'logic' ") was going to show up.

> "When you dismiss people who are trying to apply the hard-learned lessons in cautionary ways in our own society as if no such concerns are legitimate unless we have a full-blown Nazi regime, you are denigrating and invalidating the important efforts made..."

There it is: Demonizing those that have other perspectives. This alone would have earned deletion.

> "I know you're going to come back and try to make it seem like Obama invaded those places..."

More demonization using a false claim.
Note: Not a "lie" because that characterization would require me to believe that he knew, or should have known, the claim was false, and I believe that he was only spitting out whatever he thought would help his position based on its "truthiness".
However, such statements do contribute to a decision to edit/delete.
Aside: Indirect evidence that I opposed the Iraq War from before the invasion: Search for "knight" in my blogs "Joe Simitian talk: Listening to Trump's America: Bridging the Divide" (2017-10-15) and "This time we're not lying. HONEST! No, really!" aka "Highly partisan media, the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect & examples from my history" (2018-01-19).

> "Other evidence of your partisanship, the emphatic claims that there is no evidence of bad behavior..."

The phrase was "no credible evidence" (emphasis added). Such a crucial misrepresentation (and implicit denial of the Mueller Report) strongly indicates that he is unlikely to be an honest participant.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Former fan, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 14, 2019 at 2:15 am

[[ Blogger: Readers: Normally I would delete a comment such as this because it is not responsive in a meaningful/substantive way to my response to his earlier comment.
I am leaving it up for anyone who wants to wrestle with the issues of moderating an online discussion. If you were a commenter and there was a response that made a string of misrepresentations, unsupported charges, ... about you and what you said, what would your reaction be if you wanted to continue to participate in the discussion? Ask yourself what level of moderation you would keep you from figuratively stomping out of the forum. Recognize that moderation to reduce abusive behavior directed at you may well have a false positive, causing a portion of what you said to be edited/deleted.

To get you started on spotting violations, this commenter repeats his assertion that I am partisan in my blog cited above about the Kavanaugh hearings (Web Link). He failed to give an example or other info that could be responded to.
Blogger's prologue ends]]

"'I don't think he realizes that he is treating opposition to show trials / kangaroo courts as blind support for the accused. "

No, I think he's coming from a perspective that interpreting something that ISN'T a show trial/kangaroo court as one is a partisan act demonstrating blind ignorance of facts and blind support for the "accused"." I think a lot of people think the articles are too limited, that the Republicans are right about at least one thing that this is going too fast and that things like the POTUS' constant lying, fragile and easily manipulated ego, personal vindictiveness, potential personal enrichment from the office (e.g., the hotel in WA), and a lot else relative to the Constitution should be on the table.

We are a nation of laws, and our legal system operates on precedent. I remember the Clinton impeachment and the years of relentless actual witchhunts into Whit eWater, etc (which resulted in NOTHING, by the way, the impeachment substance came from Paula Jones depositions -- today this POTUS hasn't gone through anything nearly like that despite far greater indications of the need to). All the crocodile tears about unfairness are not consistent with precedent that many of these Republicans themselves set. This POTUS got special counsel from his own party rather than the ultra-partisan rightwing Ken Starr, etc.etc.

(The histrionic language around "coups"and "kangaroo courst" is ignoring the fact that even if the POTUS were removed, an elected person of the same party and administration would then be President. Not a few people believe this is the intent of this whole thing from the Republican side, they just wanted it to happen after the election so the possibly better campaigner could get the win for the party. And then 45 go on Fox news to continue stirring the pot with a ginormous salary. From that standpoint, it is at least easier to see both sides' emphasis on speed here.)



This isn't the first time you have brought up Nazis, or lambasted posters for bringing up Nazis. I, too, was addressing your moderation, hoping to help you get some perspective on the issue and how to interpret and use such references with more understanding. You are once again bringing up the outsized and evil endpoints, not examining the very ordinary elements that led up to those.

Even your use of the terms "hyperbole" and "slippery slope" evidence an utter lack of understanding of what I just wrote. I once again implore you to spend some time reading what I wrote and really studying the issue, the way the Germans do, in order to gain perspective. You mentioned that the Nazis engaged in genocide of groups like homosexuals -- are you aware that gays, Catholic Priests, and other groups also had to wear patches on their clothing in ordinary life, identifying themselves as such for a period before much worse things happened? (Today, nasty Twitter posts by the powerful regularly put ordinary people in line for death threats.) Things didn't just suddenly go bad when the bad guys got into power, there was a gradual, accepted dehumanizing of groups first -- which IS a lesson we should be taking from the past, it does not mean people are calling someone else a Nazi or engaging in hyperbole -- I am overtly asking you not to dismiss the very real lessons by claiming any invocation of the lessons is hyperbole. That was the whole point of the movement of German self-examination after the war that continues to this day. (In China, foreigners were made to wear armbands, were later put in concentration camps, and we now know the Japanese occupation forces were working with the Nazis on using gas to exterminate groups there as well. But even people who grew up there and went through that, carrying the armbands identifying them as Americans, being put in camps, for example, didn't make the connections to the atrocities in Germany.)

Again, talking about the issues is not akin to calling someone a Nazi. Warning about the Nazi propaganda tactics, like the Big Lie -- bald-faced pushing for something so outrageous that people believe it because how could anyone make such an obvious big lie? -- or the lie told a thousand times becomes the truth -- is not akin to saying we are on a slippery slope to Nazism, it is learning the lessons of that history, learning lessons about the unfortunate power of those tactics. (with the knowledge that things CAN go off the rails if we do not, whether or not they are. Very different than what you are arguing.)

> "When you dismiss people who are trying to apply the hard-learned lessons in cautionary ways in our own society as if no such concerns are legitimate unless we have a full-blown Nazi regime, you are denigrating and invalidating the important efforts made..."

"There it is: Demonizing those that have other perspectives. This alone would have earned deletion."

How is talking about dismissive BEHAVIOR, and trying to get you to understand a common, deep history lesson that people in Germany study (which you dug in on demonstrating you don't understand by once again taking the perspective that any mention of Nazism is hyperbole -- read again what I wrote above) "demonizing" someone? I'm trying to get YOU to not demonize posters and to have a more open mind, by understanding something that would inform your perspective. That should NOT earn deletion, in keeping with the stated goal of your blog, it should ideally get you to at least think about and be pragmatic about it.



"I suspect that the commenter hopes that other readers will not check and simply believe this misrepresentation."
See, there you have just made my point exactly (and attempted to "demonize" me). In no way did I "hope the other reader will not check," on the contrary, I wrote assuming other commenters, like me, actually read your blog, and remember how partisan your representation of the Kavanaugh hearings was. It's part of this discussion that you don't think you are being partisan, and irrelevant whether you "support" Kavanaugh or not to whether your arguments were/are partisan.


"This sort of "I know what I believe and I don't care about evidence" violates the blog's guideline for a productive discussion." This right here gets to the heart of your partisanship, especially in how you are moderating. What you think of as "evidence" or "unbiased" is way, way more partisan than you are willing to admit to yourself, and you seem very touchy about anyone hitting that on the nose. I am not saying this to accuse you of something and create an argument, I am trying to get you to examine your own position and how you come to it, which is the whole point of your blog I thought.


"It is the Progressives and others on the Left" Language like that DOES demonize whole groups. You've just done it yourself, do you not see that? I know plenty of "Progressives and others on the Left" and engage in frequent political discussions with people, and don't know ANY who call anyone who doesn't agree with them a "Nazi." Please note that you are the one who invoked that, I have been trying to talk about how you can develop a more holistic understanding of applying history and understanding when other people are, rather than jumping to such biased conclusions and assuming any mention is hyperbole.

I have heard a friend who grew up in Germany, and thus had to study the speeches of Hitler, point out the similar devices used during the 2nd Bush's administration at the time. She was not a political person or a partisan, here again, she was not in any way trying to say Bush was Hitler or going to be Hitler -- did you just jump to that conclusion? -- she was pointing out the effective devices of manipulation, lessons learned, and yes, with the cautionary backdrop (but that is NOT the same as suggesting a slippery slope).

When you jump to conclusions about any mention of those lessons, you are inadvertently denigrating the very efforts to understand what happened and apply those lessons. I think what the Germans continue to do in that regard is a great gift to the world, I am trying to convey that studying that (and I don't mean spending an afternoon on the internet) is highly eye opening and would give you a very different perspective than you evidenced above.

> "I know you're going to come back and try to make it seem like Obama invaded those places..."
>>More demonization using a false claim.
Your fast and loose use of the word "demonization" is itself "demonizing" (by you apparent standard). Good on you that you didn't do that above, I think. False equivalencies are the rule of the day, so I actually think it's great that you didn't come back with one on that issue. Unfortunately, you don't see how often you do in other posts.


"The phrase was "no credible evidence" (emphasis added). Such a crucial misrepresentation (and implicit denial of the Mueller Report) strongly indicates that he is unlikely to be an honest participant. " Please explain more fully. Maybe I have misunderstood your comment earlier.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Former fan, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 14, 2019 at 9:53 am

>[[ Blogger: Readers: Normally I would delete a comment such as this because it is not responsive in a meaningful/substantive way to my response to his earlier comment.
I am leaving it up for anyone who wants to wrestle with the issues of moderating an online discussion. If you were a commenter and there was a response that made a string of misrepresentations, unsupported charges


Doug: Thank you for at least being big enough to leave up the discussion that you disagree with, but you haven't been big enough not to characterize what I have said in a manner the YOU have made unsupported judgments about, characterizing what I have said as unsubstantive when I have had the courage to make deep points despite your clearly not having the background and repeating beliefs without getting such background (re: discussion about references to Nazis).

Your saying something is a "string of misrepresentations" and "unsupported charges" is based on your belief that you are not partisan, which from my perspective is what is unsupported, since your main support for that is that you level criticism at both parties. I have addressed that in my posts already.

Please go back and read what I wrote with two things in mind:
1) There was no intent to attack you, rather, I see you as an intelligent person who is capable of self examination, but who has been blind to an increasing partisan taint to an otherwise good blog. Again, that is not a criticism of you, but a plea for you to do some self-examination at this point in time, and not just dismiss people's points from a perspective that I hope you will consider is becoming more partisan. Just consider it.
2) Read what I wrote without the emotional overlay of a wrong belief that someone is attacking you, that's not the intent. Overtly sit there and understand that I am trying to make a point to reach you, not attack you. Imagine a friend with whom you have spirited discussions but who is emotionally on your side. Reread what I wrote with that in mind. Not everyone would be capable of that - I am hopeful you are.

I think your responses have been more ad hominem and emotional, than anything I have written, and less supported. However, I appreciate that you have been willing to talk, and not just offhand delete them, which has been a criticism others have had of your blog when you see something you disagree with.

One sign that you may be becoming partisan is the emotional reaction to points someone is making that present that idea to you. You believe you are not partisan, therefore, you see any discussion in which that is said in a certain light from the getgo (your responses are evidence of that).


I am still waiting for your clarification relative to the last point in my response. What you seem to be holding up as "credible evidence" is again coming more and more from a partisan framing. Let's use the Nazi discussion as an analogy. Do you think that the vast majority of millions of people in Germany during WWII have what you see as "evidence" and were just ignoring it? Or do you think they didn't have evidence and are excused from any moral failings related to what happened if they weren't an active member of the Nazi party? Again, studying history sheds a lot of light on how that situation could have been avoided, and the avoiding part isn't when things are on the verge of genocide or a system is in the throes of an ideology that gets people to do bad things they don't see as bad.

The thinking goes: I am not a bad person, and I wouldn't overtly lie, therefore, anything that comes out of my mouth or that I do must not be a lie or bad.

You can't start from a place of believing that you cannot yourself become partisan, especially in this environment, if we are to believe that you prioritize pragmatism. I am bothering to take the time to have this exchange, not to attack you -- please consider that has not been the case -- but to reach you because I believe in what you are trying to achieve with this blog.

At the point where you don't feel you have to attack or delete someone who disagrees with you, as you did me above, because you understand where they are coming from and are taking points that disagree with yours seriously (because understand you are not infallible), then you will have the confidence not to constantly insert a framing and attack of any poster who disagrees with you at the head of the post.

Believe me, I do appreciate that putting yourself out there like this on a blog like this is hard. You are willing to deal with tough issues -- and I for one appreciate(d) you and your blog for that reason. But the fact that you don't even see your much more aggressive and unwarranted attacks in just this exchange should be cause enough for you to do some self-reflection. Asking you to consider your own partisan framing at this point in time is NOT an attack on you. It is in keeping with the whole ethos of your blog, and done with caring not mal intent.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Former fan, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 14, 2019 at 9:54 am

Sorry, it was not my intent to post that twice -- the browser wouldn't post it so I tried again and added a bit. Please do delete the first of the two as a copy.
[[Blogger: First copy deleted. The existence of two copies is referenced in subsequent comments.]]


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Former PA resident, a resident of Mountain View,
on Dec 14, 2019 at 12:35 pm

Agreed, the self-styled "former fan" failed to meaningfully answer your original and telling response; further comments largely added just more spin, rhetoric ("coups"), clear mischaracterizations, what-about-isms, and constant arguments-by-assertion.

If nothing else, a reasonable editorial stance might limit total comment *lengths* just to spare readers. [[Blogger: deleted portion about duplicate posting.]] even the very first comment by that same person was, numbingly, several times average length. (Strunk and White: "Vigorous writing is concise.")

That person denied personally knowing examples of (to quote the actual original Moran point) 'Progressives and others on the Left [calling] those who do not agree with them "Nazis", or "White Supremicists" or "Racists" or ... [as] seen in signs at protests and comments by prominent Progressives in media appearances' but that denial hardly answers the point, given ample reported examples (start locally: Rebecca Parker Mankey's nationally-reported outburst in Palo Alto). And that comment came from someone who adds 'I am not a partisan, by the way, . . .' followed by things like 'Not a few people believe this is the intent of . . . the Republican side, . . . then 45 go on Fox news. . ." The blogger cited a "string of misrepresentations" and "unsupported charges" because that is what "former fan" wrote, not because of "your belief that you are not partisan" -- this was clear to anyone who doesn't insist on interpreting reality with the particular selectivity of the "former fan."


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Former PA resident, a resident of Mountain View,
on Dec 14, 2019 at 12:40 pm

On a separate point, I haven't seen every comment that was deleted here, but those I saw were a mix of crude ad-hominem attacs, cliché "shouting points," and a few careless misrepresentations, long proscribed in the routine "Boilerplate on Commenting" above.

Granted this is subject matter where emotions soar; but in NO case have I seen any comment deleted because it "contradicts [the blogger's] views." That and the more-extravagant complaints that appear here (and even sometimes spill into other blogs) are sheer lies and rationalizations from people who can't face serious, carefully-argued examination of what they wrote.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by adobe, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Dec 14, 2019 at 12:45 pm

"Vigorous writing is concise."

Oh, well played madam, particularly in this 'blog'!


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Why?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 15, 2019 at 2:16 am

@Green Gables

Here's an editorial former Congressman Tom Campbell, who is a law professor at Chapman, wrote: Web Link

In short, he said Trump should be impeached.


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