What if you hold a meeting without bringing your own translator?

by on July 19, 2017 at 12:25 am in Economics, Education, Uncategorized | Permalink

No, I don’t approve of the second Putin-Trump meeting, but I’d like to consider this as a game theory problem without its current political connotations.

Why is it bad to attend such a meeting without your own translator?

Let’s say I meet with a Greek, to talk about debt renegotiation, and don’t bring my own translator.  You might think I am at the mercy of the other translator, the one hired by my Greek peer.

But how so?  If the Greek speaker wishes to mislead me, he doesn’t need a biased translator to do so.  He can just lie to me or otherwise mislead me in the original Greek.  Either translation, from an American or Greek translator, will communicate the same lie or deception.

Alternatively, assume I believe there is some “noise” between the Greek statement and its translation into English.  Some of this may stem from the imperfections of the translation process itself, or perhaps the translator has her own agenda.

If I bring my own translator, that removes the influence of the agenda of the Greek translator, but probably keeps the noise and imperfections.  But is that good or bad on net?

1. I now face risk from the agenda of my own translator.  That may be more biased or skewing than the agenda of the Greek translator, especially since it may relate to splits within American rather than Greek politics.

2. It might be better if I am fooled by a Greek translator who to some extent wishes to subvert the interests of her own government.  For instance, the Greek translator might wish to keep smooth relations by not communicating all of the cuss words behind a threat.

3. The Greek speaker might in fact know he is regularly subverted by his own translator, and adjust his words accordingly.  The “subverted” communication, as conveyed by the Greek translator, may in fact be the intended message, and thus there is little harm from the subversion.

4. By not having your own translator present, you are keeping as private information what and when you will reveal to your own countrymen.  That may put you in a stronger bluffing or bargaining position.

4b. In the other direction, note you may wish to have your own translator so that your negotiating partner can do without his!  That may put him in a stronger position with respect to his home interest groups and thus facilitate a deal.

Overall, it is not obvious that I am so much better off having my own translator.  In fact, it seems your own translator is there, to some extent, to constrain you, as is evident from some of the discussion of the Putin-Trump meeting.  For instance, it is being claimed Trump might have wanted to say things to Putin that no American functionary could be allowed to hear.  If that is true, it might be bad for America, but it need not be bad for Trump’s self-interest.

On this question, the economics of having your own note-taker, or your own taping mechanism, might be very different from that of translator, but that would be another post.

1 Thanatos Savehn July 19, 2017 at 12:31 am

So I go to a meeting, unfamiliar with all the tongues of Babylon, and hear some little man chirp to a tune I cannot understand. This troubles you why? Do the soundless ants and worms and termites interrupt your sleep?

2 Skeptic July 19, 2017 at 12:36 am

Tyler,
What exactly is tbe relevance of you not “approving” of the second Trump-Putin meeting??

3 Peter Gerdes July 19, 2017 at 5:20 am

If he hadn’t said it the post would have implicated he did approve of it…or at least didn’t overtly disapprove.

4 y81 July 19, 2017 at 6:12 am

It’s important to advertise your anti-Trump bona fides regularly when you are in an academic setting. You must remember that unlike most of us, Tyler lives and works in an environment in which violence against those with the wrong political views is widespread. So let us judge not nor be overly disdainful of his constant virtue signaling.

5 Rich Berger July 19, 2017 at 7:57 am

Not just the academy, but also Bloomberg and his other projects. The left’s “disapproval is vicious and personal.

6 Thiago Ribeiro July 19, 2017 at 8:22 am

“You must remember that unlike most of us, Tyler lives and works in an environment in which violence against those with the wrong political views is widespread.” Really? Scott Adams told everyone who would listen that he was supporting Clinton because he feared violence from her supporters (a brilliant endorsement if I ever saw one). So what “most of us” means? In Brazil, political violence is almost non-existent, but people in the USA complain all the rime they are being terrorized by Democrats, Republicans, the state, the police, liberals, etc.

7 MMK July 19, 2017 at 8:45 am

Think of violence classification in a similar fashion to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Brazil has not reached the “self-fulfillment” part of the pyramid. Political violence in the US is more or less caused by a lack of anything else to do. What is the meaning of life when you have a liberal arts degree and a Netflix subscription? What next if not punching Charles Murray?

8 Thiago Ribeiro July 19, 2017 at 10:50 am

So that is what Americans become: a demoralized, bored populace seeking desperately the next mindless thrill, be it drugs or violence against their own brothers and sisters… I can not imagine Brazilians behaving this way, our moral values are so strong.

9 Viking July 19, 2017 at 10:55 am

What do you mean, no political violence? The guy who robbed me at gunpoint in Rio was definitely a democrat.

10 Thiago Ribeiro July 19, 2017 at 11:21 am

No he wasn’t. Brazilians do not interefere in the internal matters of other countries. And crime is relatively rare in Rio de Janeiro (despite American Olympic athletes’ lies to the contrary). Only a minority of the population resorts to crime.

11 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 11:40 am
12 Thiago Ribeiro July 19, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Wikipedia ia not the suoremer arbiter of truth. Most Brazilians lead safe lives. I have never been robbed, kidnapped, tortured or killed. In the city I live, crime colapsed. My homemcitynwas one of the mist violent in Brazil, but with the economic reforms is mostly peaceful. Crime has risen recently in Rio de Janeiro, but is way below the historical high and the problem is being addressed by the proper authorities. Brazil, unlike America, soesn’t have to yield to vigilantism. The institutions are working, the systwm is working.

13 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 3:04 pm

LOL no. Glad to know you haven’t been killed, though. I wasn’t sure.

14 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 9:53 am

He is demonstrating that he is not in the minority unmoored from reality.

https://twitter.com/Evan_McMullin/status/887453912696893440

That third of a third may be vocal here, but It is only a 0.333 * 0.286 = 0.0952

15 Saint-Frusquin July 19, 2017 at 12:44 am

Yeah, that’s why rational people use prices for arbitrage and not diplomacy. Add a little love for those to come & welcome to Econ101

16 derek July 19, 2017 at 12:44 am

Was there a second meeting, or is this another ginned up controversy by the same people who buried the Obama promise of more flexibility after the election?

And by the way, isn’t the real question whether the president should conduct the affairs of the country to satisfy CNN and the NYT who seem to have gotten everything wrong so far and seem to represent almost nobody?

17 Alain July 19, 2017 at 1:25 am

They have a very solid constituency: their fellow snowflakes in liberal arts colleges.

18 Nick July 19, 2017 at 2:15 am

The White House itself confirmed the meeting. Go peddle your pro-Trump conspiracy theories elsewhere.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/18/trump-and-putin-undisclosed-second-meeting-white-house-confirms

19 derek July 19, 2017 at 2:19 am

Some secret meeting.

As I said it is nonsense ginned up by a ridiculous press. It was a dinner, they were talking in a room filled with other people.

Amazing how secret it was. So secret that it was in the open, lots of people saw it.

20 derek July 19, 2017 at 2:20 am

By the way the ‘Secret’ headline is pure fiction, and you fell for it.

21 Dick the Butcher July 19, 2017 at 7:52 am

Just about everything that the media airs and progressives believe is “pure fiction.”

At least, they are consistent.

22 Mike W July 19, 2017 at 9:11 am

Huh? “Fell for it”??

23 Boonton July 19, 2017 at 6:12 am

“And by the way, isn’t the real question whether the president should conduct the affairs of the country to satisfy CNN and the NYT”

Conduct the affairs? You mean foreign policy? A foreign policy would be very interesting should the Trump Presidency ever get around to having one.

This is not about not approving of a foreign policy but a president whose relationship with Russia is deeply compromised. The only question is whether the source of this compromise is corruption, as it appears to be the case for some of his family members and close ‘friends’, or simply childish stupidity were this man-child has come to believe Putin can be “my friend” based on warm tweets about him from his alt-right peeps and the fact that his bankers were very friendly about giving his business financing when American banks wrote him off.

24 Mark July 19, 2017 at 1:02 am

Putin knows English well enough. With a translator, he gets more time to study Trump’s reactions to what he says. He also gets more time to consider his own responses to what Trump says, while ‘waiting’ for the translation.

25 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 1:09 am

I’m obviously no fan of Trump, but people are making way too big a deal of this particular ‘thing’. Can’t a president have a chat with another country’s leader without it being traitorous?

I’m glad the media makes a big deal out of everything Trump does because that’s part of what’s containing him. But this is definitely a nothingburger.

26 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 1:34 am

‘Can’t a president have a chat with another country’s leader without it being traitorous?’

Who knows? But I really don’t see Putin defecting to the West any time soon, regardless of Trump’s deal making skills.

If Trump is acting as president, there is no good reason not to have available the customary resources that presidents avail of when talking to foreign heads of state, as the president represents the United States of America, not himself. This is not the same as traitorous, of course.

27 Chip July 19, 2017 at 2:25 am

An antagonistic media is healthy. Too bad it decided to look the other way when the last administration weaponized the IRS and NSA, had secret meetings on the tarmac during FBI investigations, blundered its way through foreign affairs and doubled the debt.

As for “containing” Trump, what are you thinking of in particular? He wants to cut taxes and prune the regulatory state. This is a libertarian blog. What exactly is being contained during this absolutely epic immolation of media credibility.

Speaking of which, the secret second meeting with Putin is being denied. It may be true but at this point it’s clearly naive to trust the first take on news stories.

28 Chip July 19, 2017 at 2:53 am

No one out-cucks me, not even you Prior.

29 Chip July 19, 2017 at 2:54 am

Listen to yourself. The evil Trump-Putin cabal is so deeply sinister and secret that they decided to discuss their nefarious plans at a G20 summit in the same room as other wold leaders and have it predictably lead the news the following day.

Maybe they’re planning a secret moon base. With lasers.

30 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 3:08 am

‘Listen to yourself. The evil Trump-Putin cabal is so deeply sinister and secret that they decided to discuss their nefarious plans’

No, I have been talking about how the president of the United States uses American provided translators when involved in official business with foreign leaders, unlike Prof. Cowen’s made up scenario.

Further, it was pointed out that personal affairs, such as if Trump and Putin were just talking about marriage, would not be official business per se, and just like Colin Powell did, Trump trying to keep his private affairs separate from government record keeping requirements is understandable.

Of course, one would also have to accept the idea that during a major G20 meeting, the two leaders of the leading two nuclear powers just happened to be hanging around with nothing better to do.

Which, actually, is just like the way people like Kushner and Manafort apparently attend meetings with Russians during a presidential campaign. Though to be honest, I’m not sure which of Donald Jr.’s explanations is to be considered worth quoting, as not all of them can be considered accurate in the light of following ones.

31 Chip July 19, 2017 at 3:35 am

“No, I have been talking about how the president of the United States uses American provided translators when involved in official business with foreign leaders, unlike Prof. Cowen’s made up scenario.”

Sure doesn’t dound like it to a cuck like me.

32 Jan July 19, 2017 at 6:45 am

Bless your heart. How do yo think you found out about any of those truly massive, Watergate-level scandals you mentioned?

Good thing the briefings are off camera. Keeping the media honest, that.

33 Chip July 19, 2017 at 11:22 am

The IRS was being sued and federal judges started ruling in favour of the targeted groups. Lerner quickly gave a press conference in which she blamed a local office, took the fifth and resigned.

The NSA unmasking story is emerging because there’s a new government disclosing it.

The tarmac meeting was reported by a local journalist who went on O’Reilly to discuss.

See what’s happening here? Your worldview rests upon a jenga block of lazy assumptions. It’s a tribal perspective.

34 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 11:42 am

Chip, please tell us you are claiming that you are not coming from a tribal perspective. Because laughter heals the soul.

35 Harun July 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Do you think Judicial Watch is the media?

Why does an NGO need to be in charge of investigating this stuff?

Media is too busy? Maybe dreaming up new softballs for Obama?

Do you ever wonder if they could have produced Lerner’s emails in say 1 month if Obama had made a single call to the IRS…remember he claimed to be as angry and upset as everyone else.

But he allowed his IRS to dawdle and stonewall for several years. so much for “the most transparent administration.”

36 spencer July 19, 2017 at 10:41 am

Curious, how did you lean about the meeting on the tarmac ?
I learned of it from press coverage.
Did not sound very secret to me.

Can you tell me how it was secret?

37 Chip July 19, 2017 at 11:04 am

It was a local Phoenix reporter.

The national media ran with ‘they discussed grandchildren.”

And the story died. If you really believe it was reported properly, then what did they really talk about, why did Lynch later ask the FBI to change the ‘investigation’ to a ‘matter,’ why didn’t Lynch recuse herself from further Clinton matters etc.

If this was Trump Jr caught meeting the DOJ during an FBI investigation it would be Armageddon. And somewhere in that gray matter of yours, you know it.

38 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 11:23 am

There is hella more evidence that Trump Jr, and Kushner, and Manafort did not just discuss “adoptions.”

39 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 11:44 am

Chip’s not wrong about this. There are tribalists on both sides. Chip is of course one, just on the other side from anon/shrug/polarbear. That tarmac meeting was hella shady and if Trump or a surrogate did it there’d be a media firestorm.

40 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 1:08 pm

The problem with both-side-ism is that it requires that facts on the ground always be symmetrical.

Why would the world be that convenient?

41 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Here’s a fact: there are blind partisans on both sides. The worst kind of partisan is the one who doesn’t even think they are one.

42 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 1:32 pm

You sound like you think facts don’t matter, only the people you want to argue with.

I see it the other way around of course.

43 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 1:37 pm

And you sound like someone who doesn’t understand partisanship. Back to our anonymous lives I guess.

44 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Got any links to any facts that say this is a good time in American governance?

Or are you going to pull that weird thing again where you say things are not good .. but only partisans would complain about those true, bad, things that you yourself agree ..

45 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Why would I waste my time with this, you are strawmanning and misunderstanding my point like crazy. Find your own links, or don’t, anonymous pixel guy.

46 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 1:49 pm

Well, seriously you should only be here if you believe it will help build a better political economy.

47 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 1:52 pm

LOL, now you’re telling me what I should and shouldn’t do with my time?

48 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Are you revealing that you aren’t here for a better world? Just to be the message king?

49 Harun July 19, 2017 at 1:58 pm

+1

50 Pshrnk July 19, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Gotta agree with @msgkings. Trump is a punk, but their dinner chat was likely nothing more than thug lust.

51 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 9:43 am

In terms of the game theory, that seems to be the right answer. If A understands only A, but B and B’ understand both A and B,

then not only delay, but B and B’ can also consult freely.

52 Moo cow July 19, 2017 at 1:02 am

It’s been said that Trumps lawyers always met with him in pairs, because his recollection of what was discussed was so untrustworthy, they always wanted a witness present.

I imagine he will be able to relay any recollection of what was discussed he wants to. They talked about adoptions!!! Only the Russians could say different, and they likely won’t. They are playing him like a violin.

The Chinese Century began November 9, 2016 anyway, so not sure it matters much.

Cheers.

53 cliff arroyo July 19, 2017 at 1:32 am

Diplomats bring their own interpreters to make sure the other side’s interpreter is doing their job as much as anything else.

54 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 1:35 am

Shhh – let’s not bring up facts.

55 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 11:45 am

+1

56 Ray Lopez July 19, 2017 at 1:42 am

Game theory; it’s Greek to me.

Books I’ve read and will re-read on game theory:

“The Evolution of Cooperation” by Robert Axelrod (a pioneer in the field; turns out btw the most simplistic TIT-FOR-TAT is the most successful strategies for Prisoner’s Dilemma)

“Prisoner’s Dilemma” by William Poundstone (physicist writes on the Cold War and narrative histories of game theory)

“Moral Calculations” by Laszlo Mero (mathematician writes how a ‘mixed-strategy’ of government and private industry is always more effective than a pure ‘Ayn Rand’ or ‘George Mason University’ Libertarian system, because of the element of time: while eventually all monopolies and all market imperfections will disappear under the invisible hand ‘eventually’, that is before the heat death of the universe, the visible fist of the state will speed up the time constant and make a mixed state/free market system move towards equilibrium a lot faster, or that’s the claim).

57 conor g July 19, 2017 at 1:56 am

I have worked with translators. A translator that works for you can alert you to signaling that is lost with the verbatim translation. The other party can mutter “how do I explain to this idiot what is going on” and have that not translated. This is valuable information. The other party gets to hide its outbursts and initial reactions that we use to read and respond to in normal conversations in our own language. You lose all of that context.

58 Kevin P July 19, 2017 at 2:05 am

This analysis may be right in those particular circumstances, but in many cases there are good reasons to bring your own translator:

1. If the meeting has some kind of formal output, like a joint declaration or a contract. Your translator will help you to confirm that the Greek version says what you think it says. Especially important in places like China where a discrepancy in the two languages of a bilingual contract is resolved in favor of the local language version.

2. If the meeting isn’t one-to-one. If you’re at the mercy of the other party’s translator, they get to listen in to what you’re discussing with your colleagues while still being able to talk between themselves in private. Even in a one-to-one discussion, the side with the translator has the advantage of being able to say “wait, don’t translate that” if they quickly realize they shouldn’t have said something.

59 Gordon Mohr July 19, 2017 at 2:09 am

There’s an award-winning short film, ‘Diplomacy’, that’s about… um, the importance of diplomatic translators.

It’s hosted by the writer/director on Vimeo: Diplomacy

60 Doug July 19, 2017 at 2:15 am

The problem is not being tricked, it is that, as you show, the only motive for leaving your own translator behind is to keep the discussion secret.

61 bellisaurius July 19, 2017 at 7:36 am

This is where I am too. I agree with Tyler on the advantages of not bringing a translator, but those ‘constraints’ and ‘agendas’ that are so briefly mentioned might actually be, y’know, laws; especially if the translator is a career civil servant.

62 Nick July 19, 2017 at 2:22 am

It seems that in this post, Tyler assumes literally the *best* case for it not being bad for the US, at every point making assumptions that push towards it not causing problems for the US, and even then it only comes out middling/neutral for the US overall, whereas any other case except for this best case scenario would end up bad to very bad for the US. Hence if we view all cases as a probability distribution, on average this is, as the headlines would suggest, bad for the US.

I appreciate the attempt to be apolitical and consider things objectively, but by only mentioning this best case Tyler is himself misleading people from the actual probable result.

63 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 2:35 am

No, Prof. Cowen is far too experienced to be so easily typecast. See how easily you skipped over this – ‘If that is true, it might be bad for America, but it need not be bad for Trump’s self-interest.’

That is the sort of thing that can be pointed out when someone brings up the fact that Trump may, again, simply be trampling on various national security protocols that have been developed over decades.

64 Nick July 20, 2017 at 2:17 am

If it’s bad for America, it’s bad. Who cares if it’s good for Trump himself? Trump literally colluding with Putin at this meeting would also qualify as, “Bad for America, but not bad for Trump’s self-interests.” (Note I’m not saying that’s what he did, but if literal collusion doesn’t make the meeting bad by a given qualifier, it’s a bad qualifier.)

65 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 2:32 am

That Guardian article has this nugget, which is just absolutely striking – ‘Trump was not joined in the conversation by his own translator, which is thought to be a breach of national security protocol. The White House later said that the translator who accompanied Trump spoke Japanese, not Russian, and that was why Trump and Putin spoke through the Russian translator.’ https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/18/trump-and-putin-undisclosed-second-meeting-white-house-confirms

So, you are the President of the United States of America, and the only translator you apparently have available at a major G20 meeting only speaks Japanese? Really? Because such a display of sheer incompetence is what used to be so commonly decried by some concerning the fecklessness of the Obama Administration.

Of course, this assumes that you actually believe anything that the White House asserts, in a world where its alternative facts are the only ones that matter to itself.

66 Chip July 19, 2017 at 2:49 am

Uh huh. This is the the same Guardian that rushed to the defence of the dossier claiming girls urinated on Trump in Moscow.

https://www.google.ca/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/12/intelligence-sources-vouch-credibility-donald-trump-russia-dossier-author

Personally I think Trump is an annoying prick, but watching the hysterical meltdowns of his critics has been just incredible. For a people on the precipice of AI revolutions many of us are clearly no more rational than members of the Papuan cargo cult.

67 Chip July 19, 2017 at 3:10 am

Because the secret and lengthy collusion between Trump and Putin dating back years would logically culminate in Trump Jr responding to unsolicited emails from obscure Russian lawyers claiming info on Clinton dealings with Russia.

The Trump Jr meeting was both stupid AND proof that there wasn’t much else flowing between Trump and Russia.

A child could figure this out.

68 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 3:14 am

Well, no doubt a child could certainly keep making up such silly excuses.

Like I said, just be entertained at the show – don’t be a participant.

69 Boonton July 19, 2017 at 6:55 am

Indeed, it’s absurd to believe Trump’s sexual habits could possibly ever have been ‘unconventional’. I mean really, when has the combination of arrogance, ego, unlimited resources, and maleness ever resulted in such a thing in human history?

70 R Kelly July 19, 2017 at 7:59 am

Stick it!

71 +1 July 19, 2017 at 1:26 pm

+1

72 The Anti-Gnostic July 19, 2017 at 8:07 am

The lives of very wealthy people tend to be rather conventional. Deviancy shouldn’t be assumed of people because it’s, well, deviant. But the Left is running around with their hair on fire at this point, so they’ll grab anything and screech about it, no matter how picayune or outlandish.

73 Boonton July 19, 2017 at 9:24 am

Trump is not like most wealthy people. Whose assuming deviancy? The argument is that we should reject the dossier out of hand because it’s story of Trump visiting Russia (which we know he did) included him doing things with Russian prostitutes.

That may or may not be true. I’m sure intelligence operatives like to gossip in their own shop way and strange stories have longer legs than mundane ones. It’s also possible an agency might want to purposefully mix in untrue stories with true ones in a dossier in case it is made public or leaked….the untrue stories could be quickly debunked to cast doubt upon the credibility of the entire report.

I’m fine with being skeptical about the dossier but that goes both ways. Assuming nothing in it is true because you want to bet the farm on Trump having a totally mundane and uneventful sexuality seems less of an act of skeptical inquiry and more grasping at straws.

74 Boonton July 19, 2017 at 9:28 am

It also occurs to me that the entire thing might be made up except the prostitute story. If Putin wanted to blackmail Trump, then what better way than to leak a bunch of mundane untrue stories *but* include one story that only Trump and the prostitutes would be expected to know.

This could work as a masterful bluff…even if Putin doesn’t have anything else really damaging on Trump, it might just send the impression that Putin knows everything and cause Trump to cater to his interests simply because Trump will assume Putin has more real info than he really has.

We are dealing with a very stupid and very corrupt man here. And he has ‘our back’ against Putin.

75 The Anti-Gnostic July 19, 2017 at 11:27 am

That’s a fine word salad. Now maybe you can explain why the Russian government wants the US political leadership to: ban Muslims from certain countries; build a wall on the southern border; pursue a ‘national interests’ foreign policy; favor domestic industries and employees in trade negotiations; remain closely allied with Israel; give local law enforcement a more free hand; and spend gobs and gobs of money on the military.

76 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 11:50 am

A-G what the Russian government wants is to sow chaos and cynicism in Europe and the US. They want us to mistrust our institutions and elections. This makes Putin more powerful and more secure. Not hard to see, if you put down your Trump-colored glasses.

That said I personally think the peeing story is fake because Trump is a known germaphobe. Probably doesn’t even use prostitutes for the same reason, why would he ever have to?

77 The Anti-Gnostic July 19, 2017 at 12:07 pm

American bourgeois and prole cynicism and mistrust of US institutions strengthens Putin … how? W. Bush was widely reputed by the Left to have stolen the 2000 election. Did that “strengthen” Putin? Please be specific. The Chinese are pretty famously cynical. Is that the source of Putin’s power?

Americans are cynical about the institutions because they caused an enormous financial crisis for which they got bailed out over broad and widespread voter disapproval, they evangelize for crackpot political correctness, they broadcast their loud disdain for flyovers, and they espouse and execute policies that make Americans strangers in their own country. Is Putin–who is apparently an extremely busy man–working Goldman Sachs, the universities, the press, the EU, the Merkel government, the Mexican government, and Lutheran Social Services as well?

There is no rigor to your thinking.

78 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 12:17 pm

I can’t make your brain work better A-G, just putting the pixels out there. There are many smart people in this comment section who would be so much more interesting if they managed to drop their tribal mood affiliation (Team Red, Team Blue, Team Rand, etc). You’re one of them. Evidenced by your inability to understand my point here.

79 Boonton July 19, 2017 at 2:42 pm

That’s a fine word salad. Now maybe you can explain why the Russian government wants the US political leadership to: ban Muslims from certain countries;…

I doubt Russia or Putin cares that much about these things. Neither does Trump as evidenced by the pathetic ‘implementations’ of these alleged policies. I suspect Putin simply wants leverage for things that are not very exciting on the geopolitical level. Lifting of the personal sanctions on his cronies, letting them have their mansions in the US back, supporting the Syrian regime to allegedly ‘fight terrorism’. Will Putin get that? In a different world where the administration wasn’t as much of a fuck up he probably already did. In this world even his Republican supporters in Congress don’t really trust him on Russia policy.

80 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 10:36 am

Don’t want to cross any invisible lines, but there are recent articles pointing out precisely what parts of that dossier have been confirmed. Including things strenuously denied by the Trump Administration, until Donald Jr. confirmed them.

81 Dave K July 19, 2017 at 4:33 pm

Hey look, it’s eight years ago!

“Personally I think Obama is an annoying prick, but watching the hysterical meltdowns of his critics has been just incredible.”

Could also be written about Hillary. Just flip on top-rated Fox News or scroll through Breitbart or any site from the right and watch everyone continue to salivate over any headline about Obama or Hillary. I’d wager my salary that Fox, Drudge and Breitbart have had more Hillary and Obama headlines this year than CNN, NYTimes, WaPo, etc. One only needs to visit Trumps old tweets to watch him meltdown over Obama. Are you new to politics?

82 Chip July 19, 2017 at 2:38 am

For those still clinging to the Russia-collusion story ginned up by the Clinton campaign and pushed slavishly by the media ever since, a new report predicts US energy exports will rise four-fold between 2016 and 2020, making the US one of the world’s top 10 exporters and sounding a death knell to OPEC inflated prices.

http://money.cnn.com/2017/07/11/investing/us-oil-exports-opec-shale/index.html

Now consider:

Russia gets half of its revenue from oil.

Clinton campaigned on cutting US oil use by 1/3 within 10 years.

Trump vowed a “golden age” of energy production.

Add these together along with the 10% boost to military spending and renewed US commitment in Syria and somehow people still conclude Putin prefers Trump. Socrates would weep if he saw critical thinking in the 21st century.

83 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 2:50 am

‘report predicts US energy exports will rise four-fold between 2016 and 2020’

Well, the U.S. remains a net oil importer ‘In 2016, the United States imported approximately 10.1 million barrels per day (MMb/d) of petroleum from about 70 countries. Petroleum includes crude oil, natural gas plant liquids, liquefied refinery gases, refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel, and biofuels including ethanol and biodiesel. About 78% of gross petroleum imports were crude oil.

In 2016, the United States exported about 5.2 MMb/d of petroleum to 101 countries. Most of the exports were petroleum products. The resulting net imports (imports minus exports) of petroleum were about 4.9 MMb/d.’ https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=727&t=6

So. part of that increase – call it 5 mbd – will go to simply erasing American oil imports. Anything above that could be exported, of course. On the other hand, considering that the U.S. has yet to match its early 70s domestic oil production – https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MCRFPUS2&f=A – and is currently still requiring imports, one can prettily easily dismiss such fantasies. If the U.S. can easily increase its oil production 50% in 3 years, it still would not be a net oil exporting nation (a portion of America’s oil imports are also exported after refining).

84 Chip July 19, 2017 at 3:03 am

Okay, let me figure this out.

So Trump secretly knows his energy policies won’t in fact lead to more exports that depress international – and Russian – prices and therefore his secret Putin deal remains on track.

And maybe that increase to defence spending was in fact directed to the purchase of more potato peelers while Putin giggles uncontrollably in his summer dacha.

And when Hilary offered a reset and Obama secretly promised “more flexibility after the election” these actions were actually code for ‘we’re nuking the Kremlin if you so much as sneeze toward Riga.’

Foreign policy is so confusing.

85 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 3:12 am

‘Okay, let me figure this out.’

Apparently, you haven’t figured out what was laid out for you, which had nothing to do with foreign policy but was instead information concerning American net oil imports and oil production.

It is absurd to believe that the U.S. will be increasing domestic oil production 50% in 3 years, which is the bare requirement for the U.S. to no longer be a net oil importer.

(I could also talk about how a low oil price kills American shale production, something that the Saudis understand, though you may not.)

86 Chip July 19, 2017 at 11:27 am

Dude, if you don’t think US policy on energy – particularly fracking – has an impact on OPEC and prices, then there ideally is no hope.

I used to be puzzled by such closed-minded thinking. Until I realized it’s really just another manifestation of religious belief. Some people are hard-wired for it and there’s nothing that can be done.

87 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 11:53 am

Yeah, prior is mentally ill.

88 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 1:03 pm

And to think that parenthesis enclosed part showed that not only Americans are aware of how important the price of oil is, so do the Saudis, still the world’s swing producer.

Because it was the Saudis that demonstrated, again, they are there ones to have a real impact on OPEC and prices. And thus managed to hurt both Iran and Russia, while reducing America’s own oil production, which was not profitably sustainable at an oil price that even today, the Saudis are willing to accept.

Again, the real point of that information from the EIA is that the U.S needs to increase domestic oil production by 50% to stop being a net oil importer. Talking about the U.S. becoming a net oil exporter in 3 years is fantasy.

Further, the continuing disorder in Venezuela threatens a significant source of American oil imports – any growth in American domestic production in the next three years just might be needed to compensate for dramatically lower production there. This will not effect OPEC, by the way. Unless the U.S. is unable to make up a major import shortfall, of course.

But you seem to still not understand that if the price of oil is dramatically lowered by American produced shale oil, American shale oil is produced at a loss. Nobody in the American domestic oil industry wants to see a barrel price of $35, and they will need to cut production if that price is achieved.

89 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Hey, msgkings, since if you answered it is likely gone, but how was the puffins post epic trolling? ‘I’m a puffin’ was not a very enlightening answer from another commenter, to be honest.

90 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 1:18 pm

@prior: I’d tell you but it’s way more fun watching you suffer trying to figure it out.

91 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 1:50 pm

No suffering, it was just a bit of the hopefully under the radar reminder of how this comment section works.

So, Prof. Cowen engaged in epic trolling because ‘I’m a puffin’ is where it stands. Respect.

92 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Sure, prior, go with that.

93 Boonton July 19, 2017 at 6:18 am

Isn’t it amazing Trump did all this in 6 months without actually implementing any policies. Putin doesn’t care that Trump wants to increase military spending. The US has more military than the rest of the world combined. If it builds another aircraft carrier or two that doesn’t change the equation for Putin.

“renewed US commitment in Syria” What exactly has Trump committed the US too in Syria?

“Russia gets half of its revenue from oil. …Clinton campaigned on cutting US oil use by 1/3 within 10 years.”

Actually if the US reduced its use of oil that would expand US exports while at the same time causing prices to lower. You’re just reinforcing the reasons why Putin enjoys having a useful idiot in the WhiteHouse.

94 Chip July 19, 2017 at 11:08 am

You’re like one of those Japanese pachinko games. No matter where you drop the ball, it clickety-clicks into the same hole every time.

95 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 10:03 am

Is this the stuff they are pushing you?

https://twitter.com/prchovanec/status/887672240678076416

Brings new meaning to “something in his feed.”

96 polly July 19, 2017 at 3:58 am

Am I the only person who was reminded by this post of the poisoned goblet double bluff scene in ‘The Princess Bride’?

97 Mike July 19, 2017 at 4:55 am

Exactly!

98 Daniel Weber July 19, 2017 at 10:51 am

I thought of that TNG episode where learning a common language together was part of the peace negotiations.

99 Mark July 19, 2017 at 12:20 pm

“Putin and Trump at Hamburg” probably wasn’t much like “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”

100 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 11:54 am

Inconceivable!

101 Luis Pedro Coelho July 19, 2017 at 4:56 am

One element that makes the meeting asymmetric from the start is that Putin understands English, but Trump does not understand Russian. Thus, Putin and his translator can exchange private information (the translator may, for example, add some comments in addition to translation) while Trump would not be able to do so in English.

102 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 11:54 am

Trump seems to barely understand English as well.

103 Thiago Ribeiro July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

This is what America has become. A 21th Century Rome falling to the Barbarians amidst bitter partisanship and a crazy Caesar. How low the mighty have fallen.

104 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 11:56 am
105 Anon7 July 19, 2017 at 5:25 am

Talk about being naive. While serving as secretary of state Thomas Jefferson also hired Philip Freneau as a translator but whose real job was editing an opposition newspaper, thus establishing the tradition that no president–especially a Republican one–should trust the backstabbing bureaucrats in Foggy Bottom.

106 Boonton July 19, 2017 at 6:27 am

I think Tyler’s point is valid. Meeting with someone and only their translator might normally not leave an intelligent leader at a disadvantage….it might even be an advantage in that it projects the leader does not need ‘his’ translator.

However the US does not have an intelligent leader and he is a person who appears to be deeply compromised by a corrupt relationship with Putin. Even worse, he appears to be the type of person who can be deeply compromised without even realizing it, susceptible as he is to flattery, cheap adoration and other trinkets of emotional barter.

Any meeting he has with Putin is a problem, but at least public meetings or ones with other ‘professionals’ have a bit of a check. A meeting like this simply tells us he does not care about perception and he does not realize there’s a lot more reality in perception in this case than his view of the matter.

107 rayward July 19, 2017 at 6:30 am
108 chuck martel July 19, 2017 at 6:32 am

” having a conversation with a former KGB officer,”

President George H. W. Bush talked to lots of evil foreigners. He was once not an agent of, but the head of, US spy agency the CIA.

109 Boonton July 19, 2017 at 9:33 am

I wasn’t a fan of Bush, but do you think he was trustworthy when speaking with ‘evil foreigners’ without the immediate chaperoning of ‘grownup’ advisors? Can you honestly say the same about Trump?

110 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 10:21 am

Why shouldn’t I like our CIA more than their KGB?

We were the good guys. We didn’t have the gulags.

111 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 10:33 am

Shame that things have been rearranged, but yes, George Bush was the former head of the CIA. He was not a trained CIA agent however, which is not exactly a trivial distinction.

112 Evans_KY July 19, 2017 at 6:48 am

When your opponent is a former KGB agent, caution is advised. A cup of tea laced with Polonium-210?

My 8th grade history teacher once said, “Russians do not negotiate or pander. They will murder your entire family and everyone you know to get what they want.”

I wish I could say this is a rookie mistake. History and context are important. How can you negotiate without knowing the game you are playing?

113 The Anti-Gnostic July 19, 2017 at 8:10 am

LOL at citing an 8th grade teacher for anything.

114 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 10:18 am

It would not be a stretch that this was personal experience.

My girlfriend was once directed into a soccer field by police. They needed a bigger crowd. She saw someone shot in the head, were told they could leave. Communists.

That is the Communism that many of you here correctly hate, but you strangely believe that is just “gone” from former Communist countries, and former Communist agents.

Are you keeping up on the number of activists and reporters killed in Russia?

It may not be as public as the soccer field, but it is a loose secret for the same reason – to frighten and prevent dissent.

But sure, laugh and slap backs with the guy. Be “proud” to meet him.

115 Just Another MR Commentor July 19, 2017 at 10:57 am

I like how the Russians are supposedly still Communist even though the USSR hasn’t existed for 25 years.

116 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 11:19 am

I understand that you are purposefully misreading that, but I will explain it clearly:

It wasn’t just disregard for property rights that made Communists bad. It was disregard for human rights right down to human life. That was why they even could kill so many. The state was superior to the life of an individual.

So how should Russia and Putin show that they have really left that behind? Respect both property rights and the rights of their citizens?

As far as I know, they do neither, seizing companies and killing critics fairly regularly.

117 Just Another MR Commentor July 19, 2017 at 11:38 am

Yeah because they’re authoritarians but that doesn’t make them communist. The world is full of tin-pot dictators, they all aren’t communists.

118 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Does it really matter what the label is, JAMRC? Point being the Russian way isn’t much different now from when they had a different label.

119 Just Another MR Commentor July 19, 2017 at 3:15 pm

“Does it really matter what the label is, JAMRC?”

It certainly matters.

120 Mitt Romney July 19, 2017 at 12:02 pm

This guy gets it. I tried to explain it all to Barry O back in 2012, but he wouldn’t listen. Good to see the Democrats back on the ball here.

121 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 1:14 pm

If I recall correctly you viewed Russia as a conventional threat, to be answered by US military buildup?

I think we ended up with a Russian threat, but a bit different than that.

122 Chip July 19, 2017 at 11:32 am

Right, so when Bill Clinton took $500,000 for a speech to a Russian bank in Moscow while Hilary was at State, this was merely thee-dimensional chess that surely screwed Putin whereas Trump Jr’s idiotic escapade is the undermining of the Republic.

123 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 11:35 am

Heh, this guy must get paid by the “Clinton.”

124 bill July 19, 2017 at 6:52 am

Putin speaks English. One reason he had a translator there is that the translation buys time to think between each response. I’ve seen other foreign leaders use this tactic as well.

125 Todd July 19, 2017 at 6:56 am

“it might be bad for America, but it need not be bad for Trump’s self-interest”

oh, no worries then.

126 rayward July 19, 2017 at 7:23 am

A benefit of reading this blog (besides access to Cowen’s broad reading list) is that it allows me to see the world in a much different light. For example, I’m an old-fashioned conservative, which means order and stability are high priorities for me, as are the institutions and norms of behavior that are integral to order and stability. Here, chaos isn’t a bug, it’s a feature, as is the destruction of institutions and norms of behavior. That Trump may have sustained his business empire with the flow of cash from Russian oligarchs and the Russian underworld likewise is a feature not a bug, for it promoted the free flow of capital to the U.S. Being a libertarian (or Randian) means never having to say you are sorry. That doesn’t mean a libertarian would support murder, because the victim might be a productive cog in the economic engine and will be missed. Trump’s crimes, such as they are, promote economic efficiency, scarce capital flowing to markets where it’s needed most. Capitalism, at its core, has no conscience; institutions and norms of behavior are designed to promote and sustain the existing upper class not the most efficient allocation of resources. The destruction of institutions and norms of behavior is essential to overcome order and stability (and complacency) and achieve the most efficient allocation of resources. Let Trump be Trump. Further reading: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/18/books/review/devils-bargain-steve-bannon-donald-trump-joshua-green.html

127 Boonton July 19, 2017 at 9:36 am

I’m not really following this. If Trump was never elected President he would probably be pushing TV shows, resorts and trinkets with his name one them. Nothing would have stopped him from taking investment dollars or loans from Russian bigwigs.

Meanwhile as President he threatens to approve or disapprove large mergers based on whether or not he likes the coverage he gets from media outlets owned by those entities.

How does this meet the needs of an honest old school conservative or newer Randian type of libertarian?

128 spencer July 19, 2017 at 10:58 am

Curious, how did you lean about the meeting on the tarmac ?
I learned of it from press coverage.
Did not sound very secret to me.

Can you tell me how it was secret?

129 Boonton July 19, 2017 at 11:07 am

If all you read was the NYT, you would be well versed in the details of the IRS doing ‘extreme vetting’ on Tea Party groups, the so-called ‘tarmac meeting’, Benghazi, the debate over describing terrorism as “Islamic” or not, and many more things the right thinks are only discussed on Fox News. The reverse does not hold.

130 Chip July 19, 2017 at 11:13 am

A local reporter in Phoenix broke the story. It was secret until he did.

131 Boonton July 20, 2017 at 5:51 am

“secret” meaning until the story broke, it wasn’t a news story. That’s not an insight and who breaks a story doesn’t really matter much. If you read the NYT you read a lot about the IRS and you read about tarmac and you read about email servers and Whitewater. The first to break a story doesn’t really matter. The NYT broke the story about NY Governor Spitzer spending thousands on escorts. Today a story might be broken by a reporter in Phoenix, tomorrow the LA Times, the next day the BBC. If you always wanted to be there to see a story break you’d have to consume almost every media outlet all the time.

132 The Anti-Gnostic July 19, 2017 at 11:40 am

Great job conserving absolutely NOTHING, pops.

133 The Cuckmeister-General July 19, 2017 at 7:23 am

Anyone who keeps going on about Trump and Russia is a cuckold. The rest of you are also cuckolds by virtue of even being here!

134 Bill July 19, 2017 at 7:40 am

Trump can credibly say that, without his translator present, his comments were mistranslated, and therefore didn’t say what Putin believes he said.

Trump as the grandmaster of strategy.

135 Borjigid July 19, 2017 at 8:34 am

I’m sure that the Ethiopians don’t regret relying on Italian translators for the Treaty of Wuchale.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Wuchale

136 Alistair July 19, 2017 at 8:55 am

Don’t 2 translators provide cross-checking for each other? And minimise translation error?

“Hang on a minute…is that the best way to translate that Idiom?”

137 CM July 19, 2017 at 9:29 am

I don’t think you can analyze whether or not this was a good or bad decision without looking at the overall context. If it was a dumb decision because of the context then it was a dumb decision. It does not matter if the decision could have been a good one in some other context. Here the context should have lead Trump to handle the meeting differently. He is under relentless scrutiny for his connections to Russia. A private meeting with Putin, without an American translator or other official present, creates the appearance that he has something to discuss with Putin that no American ears can hear. That’s politically costly. His staff is going to have to spend time and energy responding to it. The media is going to talk about it rather than Trump’s policy goals or accomplishments. And It potentially could sow doubt in the minds of our allies. This was a mistake regardless of whatever analysis might apply to a similar meeting held with a generic head of state.

138 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 10:34 am

All good points, and we are still left with the question: why does Trump find Putin to be the most attractive leader in the world?

Is there any game theory advantage for the US? For Trump? Or is it all emotional and destructive?

139 The Anti-Gnostic July 19, 2017 at 11:37 am

Strategically, to team up against that ambitious Asian elephant in the room. Personally, they’re both alpha males who enjoy theatrics.

140 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 11:39 am

Ok, giving you a chance to flesh this out, isn’t the EU a more formidable economic partner? The primary risk being economic?

141 The Anti-Gnostic July 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Europe is full of net tax consumers and undergoing significant demographic change. In a couple of generations, France will be the second Muslim country after Pakistan with nuclear weapons.

142 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Every country is full of “net tax consumers” (kids, old people, etc). Can you name one that isn’t? Also, in a couple generations won’t many other Muslim countries have nukes, besides Pakistan?

143 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 3:15 pm

I would say anything “in a couple of generations” is not the hottest problem today.

Why not middle class prospects here and now?

144 The Anti-Gnostic July 19, 2017 at 11:19 pm

@msgk – Sure every country has net consumers. But unless the makers outnumber the takers then it only ends one way.

145 The Anti-Gnostic July 19, 2017 at 11:49 pm

@msgk – also, right now there is NATO consensus that Israel should be the hegemon in the region. Lots of Muslims itching to see a different outcome. This underscores the idiocy of granting NATO membership to Turkey.

146 msgkings July 19, 2017 at 12:03 pm

+1 to A-G

147 CM July 19, 2017 at 12:20 pm

I don’t think there is any advantage for the US in how this was done. I get the argument that Russia could be a very valuable strategic partner and why the US might want to try to develop such a partnership. But I think that goal would have been better advanced by a normal meeting (i.e., with a US translator and/or some other official second). I don’t think there is any advantage for Trump unless he really needs to talk to Putin without the prying eyes of other Americans or their allies.

148 Anonymous July 19, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Russia might be useful in a few regional squabbles, but that is all.

149 prior_test3 July 19, 2017 at 9:43 am

This place is starting to reach Bradford DeLong levels of self-regard and active disregarding of anything that may lower it, but let us link to the people who actually do translation for the president in such settings, the State Department Office of Language Services – ‘The Office (“LS”) carries on a tradition of language support for the conduct of foreign policy that dates back to 1789, when it was founded by Thomas Jefferson, the first Secretary of State of the United States of America. Today, we are are home to approximately 20 direct-hire diplomatic/conference interpreters working in a dozen languages and 12 direct-hire diplomatic translators who work in about 15 different language pairs. These professionals work with staff project managers and hundreds of carefully tested and vetted independent contract interpreters and translators to ensure support in every language required by the White House, the State Department, and our other federal clients. We support the conduct of diplomacy and foreign affairs as well as foreign assistance and exchanges programs.’ https://www.state.gov/m/a/ols/index.htm

150 Eric Johnson July 19, 2017 at 11:05 am

No worries. The alien’s translator assured us the title of the book says “To Serve Man”

151 Carl Kibler July 19, 2017 at 1:38 pm

I disagree with this position because it’s arguing that less information is better. A second translator adds a check on the first translator’s efforts. You can use 1 primary translator and have the 2nd (your own) correct or add clarification if needed, or later report extra substance. Second translator is an error-checking opportunity and encourages extra honesty by both translators, plus captures extra context that can be added later to the overall understanding.

152 Nigel July 20, 2017 at 5:32 am

You might want to rerun the game theory, replacing ‘translator’ with ‘witness’.

153 mike July 20, 2017 at 11:13 am

I’ve lived and worked in countries of the former Soviet Union, trying to help with fiscal reform programs. I’ve met with ministers of finance, parliamentarians, clerks, etc. and I would NEVER go to a meaningful meeting without my own translator (one who has some substantive knowledge of the message I’m delivering). To fail to do so would be malpractice.

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