Archive Page 2

Shameless name-dropping

Perhaps I might be indulged in some personal reminiscence. Now in my 71st year I look back in amazement at some of the people I have been privileged to have met, worked with, known as friends, or even just crossed paths with. Living in Washington DC for much of my adult life brought me into contact with many famous, accomplished people. Without any intent of pretending that these contacts have made me other than the simple person that I am, I would like to share some of them.

My first brush with celebrity came when I was in the Air Force and selected to participate in a special mission. My teammates and I were summoned to the office of the Director of the National Security Agency, then Vice Admiral Noel Gaylor. Tall and resplendent in his gold-trimmed dress whites, the former test pilot made quite an impression on a 24-year old Air Force Staff Sergeant. Along with the rest of the mission participants I received a personal letter of commendation from Admiral Gaylor after the successful conclusion of the program, something I treasure to this day.

After I left the Air Force in 1972, I went to work at the University of Maryland as a laboratory technician. The department in which I worked hosted a number of famous scientists including Jan Oort who discovered the Oort cloud from which comets visit our region of the solar system. I remember him as a short, stooped man with white hair and a dignified air. The director of the institute was Jim Yorke who not only was a key player in the development of the mathematical field of chaos theory, but the person who coined the term “chaos theory.” It should hardly be surprising that I was entirely intimidated to be appointed as the staff representative to the department faculty senate. I never became comfortable addressing the distinguished scientists I worked with by their first names, no matter how much they insisted that I do.

During this same period, the professor I worked for convinced me to do est. Aside from whatever value I derived from it—rather more than I expected, actually—I got to meet a future Nobel laureate, NASA scientist John Mather, and a world-class musician, violinist Joshua Bell. Both were utterly charming and entirely unimpressed with themselves.

While at the University of Maryland and for some dozen years after I worked on a variety of NASA contracts through the university and several aerospace companies. During that time, I was fortunate to have met a number of astronauts. The most interesting was General Tom Stafford who flew on Gemini missions six and nine as well as into orbit around the moon on Apollo X. He was especially proud of having participated in the joint US/Soviet Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. After lunch, he presented me with a signed copy of his book. My colleague who had set up the meeting warned me that I had better read it because if I met again with the General, he would quiz me on it.

At one point, I decided that pursuing a master’s degree in satellite systems engineering would benefit my career. Life intervened and I never did get very far in the program but I did have the honor of having Mike Griffin, later to become Administrator of NASA, as one of my professors. Mike was, and I presume still is, a true space cadet in the best sense of the term. His enthusiasm for space was infectious. I think that NASA would be better today had President Obama kept him on.

Besides meeting interesting people, I occasionally got to visit some interesting places. One such was the laboratory at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California where Ted Maiman invented the laser. Since a good bit of my career involved work on lidar—laser radar—that was particularly meaningful. Some years later, on a business trip to the United Kingdom I stayed at the Brownsover Hall hotel in Rugby where Sir Frank Whittle developed the jet engine just before World War II. His work room is preserved as a museum.

The year I spent working in the Washington marketing office of the Hughes Aircraft Company gave me a small taste of insider DC. It turned out that owning a tuxedo and being able to get a date on short notice made me one of the go-to people when a company bigwig was unable to make an event. One afternoon I was asked whether I could attend a dinner hosted by the American Enterprise Institute at a downtown hotel. After quick phone call to a friend and a dash across town to change I found myself among a who’s who of the Republican establishment. The keynote speaker at the dinner was Dick Cheney who was at the time considered a possible 1996 presidential candidate. At the next table sat Ed Meese, formerly Ronald Reagan’s Attorney General, and Jack Kemp, former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and Congressman from Western New York. A couple of tables over were Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. My date accosted General Colin Powell as he passed and asked to shake his hand, to which he graciously agreed. At the end of the evening we passed Justice Scalia on a payphone in the lobby trying to summon a cab. I was tempted to offer him and his wife a ride, but chickened out.

Another dinner I attended was to honor the country’s astronauts. The evening’s speaker was Al Gore. At the time, I bore a strong resemblance to the Vice President and was amused when a Secret Service agent did a double-take as I walked past him.

My years as a member of Mensa also brought me into contact with some fascinating people among them Adrian Cronauer, memorialized by Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam, and the late Tandyn Almer, whose writing for the Beach Boys included Along Comes Mary. At Mensa gatherings on the West Coast I even got to meet a couple cartoon characters, or rather their voices: June Foray (Rocky the Flying Squirrel) and Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson).

Then there was the time when I left a famous person fumbling for words. I was introduced to Ted Koppel at a reception at the National Press Club. I was struck by how short he is. Anyway, as I shook his hand I said, “Mr. Koppel, I hold you personally responsible for my being chronically late for work,” referring to the late hour at which his program Nightline aired. He stuttered something about getting a VCR as I moved away as gracefully as I could.

There have been others, of course. Some I have forgotten and a few have names that are not especially well-known. One of the latter being a losing gubernatorial candidate who had been president of a company I worked for. Even though he was a Republican I would have voted for him if I could have. I still find it odd to have been on first name terms with retired generals and admirals as well as a couple fairly high-ranking government officials. But, with a few exceptions, the more famous those people were, the less presumptuous they were. In the end, we are all just people and, in our country, equals. Still, it is fun to bask in a bit of reflected glory from time to time.

Goose, meet gander

Everyday it is becoming more apparent that Russia interfered in our recent presidential election. As unsettling as that is it is also rather ironic considering that the US has a long and sordid history of doing just that to other countries. A brief review is in order:

Perhaps the most famous example of US interference in another country was the 1953 CIA-engineered coup in Iran that restored the Shah to the brutal Peacock Throne. The animosity that intervention engendered boiled over in 1979 and underlies the tensions between our two countries to this day.

A year later the CIA the overthrew the president of Guatemala and installed the first of a fifty-year line of right-wing dictators. The poverty these despots have allowed to persist continues to play a major role in driving Guatemalans to immigrate illegally to the US. And the malign hand of the US in Central America was not lost on the young Che Guevara who witnessed that coup first hand.

During the same period, the US intervened in the governments of the Philippines and Lebanon, not for the first or last time in either country. And, of course, this was also when the US involvement in Vietnam began as the Eisenhower administration scuttled the scheduled 1955 national referendum in that country. More than 58,000 Americas and perhaps millions of Vietnamese paid for that bit of hubris with their lives.

One of the more notorious examples of US meddling in other nations was the 1973 CIA-backed military coup that took the life of freely elected Chilean president Salvador Allende. It was not until 1993 that some semblance of freedom returned to that country after the death of dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The US predilection for interfering in other countries did not begin in the mid-20th Century. Rather it dates to the early part of the 19th Century with the Mexican War when the United States wrested away a significant part of our southern neighbor. Before that we tried unsuccessfully to seize part of Canada in 1812. But that failure did not stop us from trying to grab part of Pacific Canada in the 1840s.

Sadly, the fact is that the US has been the most expansionist, interventionist country in the world almost since our inception. Perhaps getting a small taste or our own medicine from the Russians will, when dust inevitably settles, cause us to reevaluate our place in the world. Even more sadly, it is impossible to see that happening any time soon.

Trump on tap

It has become abundantly clear that Donald Trump’s response to critical news reports is to deflect and lie. The latest flap over his and his campaign’s contacts with Russian officials is a case in point. When the press reported that Trump surrogate and current attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had met at least twice with the Russian ambassador to the US during the campaign, the Donald responded with angry tweets accusing then-President Obama of illegally tapping the phones at Trump Tower. Mr. Obama has denied ordering any such wiretap and both the Director of National Intelligence and of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have said categorically that there was no bugging of Candidate Trump or of his campaign. It is worth parsing these statements carefully to try to determine the truth.

First, though, let us consider the process through which such surveillance might be implemented. Before anything happened, someone at the FBI would have to suspect that some law was being broken. That suspicion could have arisen from any of a number of sources. Perhaps NSA intercepted unusual funds transfers between Russian banks and entities associated with the Trump organization or campaign. Persons with security clearances, including, one presumes, Senator Sessions, are required to file reports of contacts with certain foreign officials. Maybe one or more of those reports raised a red flag. It is no secret that the FBI monitors the activities of some, if not all, foreign diplomats in the US. Maybe they saw something that appeared questionable. And then there is always the possibility that someone within the Trump campaign blew the whistle on a perceived impropriety. In any case, if the FBI became suspicious, they might well seek a warrant for a wiretap. That warrant could be issued by a Federal Court in the District of Columbia or, if there were a national security issue at hand, by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court. In an extreme case where human lives or critical national security interests were at stake, the FBI could initiate the wiretap before obtaining the warrant but that seems unlikely in this case. With the warrant in hand, the FBI, quite possibly with assistance from NSA, would establish electronic surveillance of communications to and from the Trump offices. Most likely NSA would mount a parallel effort against the backchannels from the Russian embassy for which they would need no warrant. The information generated by the intercepts would be processed and analyzed by the intelligence and law enforcement communities then presented to the appropriate prosecuting authorities.

But this case is a bit different because of the political sensitivity associated with surveilling a nation campaign, especially against the candidate of the opposition party. Against the backdrop of the Watergate scandal everyone involved surely exercised the utmost discretion. Here is how I believe events unfolded:

Sometime in the earlier days of the Trump campaign, the FBI became aware of questionable contacts between members of that campaign and the Russians. Paul Manafort, in particular, clearly engaged in dubious activities. I would not be at all surprised if money were being channeled to the Trump campaign from Russian interests as well—a clear violation of US election laws. Being aware of the political ramifications, the FBI most likely took the matter to the Attorney General who consulted President Obama who told them to stand down until after the election. I suspect that Director Comey’s ill-timed and unethical comments about Clinton emails, that may well have cost her the election, could have been a misguided attempt on his part to be even-handed. In any case, on November 9 or shortly thereafter, I imagine that the FBI took the matter to the FISA court and obtained a warrant to monitor communications between the Trump transition team and the Russian government. After the inauguration, as Trump appointees filtered down into the Federal bureaucracy, someone learned of the top-secret wiretap and informed Trump who responded with a typical tweet storm. Go back and read the statements from Obama, the FBI, and the DNI. They are all consistent with this scenario.

And this, I believe, is the history of the matter heretofore. What emerges in the next weeks and months promises to be interesting at the least and frightening at worst. The evidence of Russian interference in our election and influence over the Trump administration is becoming difficult to ignore or to dismiss as “fake news.” There is a lot of smoke coming from Trump Tower these days and it is hard to believe that there is no fire there.

Agent Trump

Let me begin by noting that I was a Russian linguist in the US Air Force and so I am quite sure that I know more about Russia and Russians than do most Americans. I am also an avid reader of history, so I believe I know more than many about the Cold War and the arms race. That background has led me to the conclusion that the Russians are not, and never have been, the threat to the United States that our leaders have led us to believe.

Russian behavior before, during, and since the Cold War has been entirely consistent with their thousand-year history of authoritarian rule, a national inferiority complex vis-à-vis the West, and a strong culture of religious or ideological mysticism. Post-World War II Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe was not about communism; it was about fear of Western invasion. By the late 1980s, the Soviets finally came close to achieving strategic parity with the US but the enormous cost of doing so bankrupted the country leading to its economic and political collapse in 1991. Since then post-Soviet Russia has watched as its western buffer crumbled and NATO advanced to the borders of the motherland. Perhaps the last straw was the defection of Ukraine to the West. German troops were again, figuratively and in some cases literally, on Russia’s doorstep. Besides symbolically taking back Crimea, which Ukrainian-born Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had ceded to Ukraine in the 1950s, there was little they could do about it.

Throughout the Cold War, the US was two steps ahead of the Soviets in the arms race. Despite the few areas in which they had technical superiority over the US—rocket engine design, for example (current US Atlas V and Delta 4 launchers use Russian-designed engines)—they never had a qualitative military lead over the US and their quantitative superiority in tanks, troops, and nuclear warheads was never sufficient to give them an edge. Perhaps the most ironic incident I recall was the panicky announcement by the Nixon administration that the US was in grave danger because the Soviet Union had tested their first missile with multiple independently-guide reentry vehicles (MIRV). That very same week the US Minuteman III carrying MIRVs became operational. The Cold War was, and its chilly aftermath remains, more about the profits of the US military industrial complex than about defending the United States against a marauding USSR.

There is one field, however, in which the Russians are the best in the world: human intelligence. They cannot come close to the technical prowess of the National Security Agency or the National Reconnaissance Office but when it comes to developing and exploiting human spies, they have no peers. Which brings me to the real point of this piece: Russian infiltration of the 2016 US election with the aim of accomplishing through subterfuge what they could not do militarily: roll back NATO from their western frontier.

Like any good undercover operation, the compromise of the US 2016 election was developed over a long period. The first thing the Russians did was to identify individuals who could be recruited, knowingly or unwittingly. As Malcolm Nance details in The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2016), Russian spymasters look for certain character weaknesses that they can exploit to turn a person into an asset: avarice, cupidity, and narcissism. One person fits that profile perfectly: Donald J. Trump.

Just when the Russians began grooming Trump as an asset is unclear. His first foray into Russia was in 1987, a year before he first put his toe into the presidential candidate pool. But the internal chaos leading up to the demise of the USSR forestalled any deals. After the Soviet Union collapsed, a small number of entrepreneurs—if one can call them that—became extraordinarily wealthy privatizing Soviet state enterprises. Many, if not most, of them looked to the West to invest and hide their wealth.  Real estate was a favorite investment, especially in large American cities, and Donald Trump was one of the highest flying real estate moguls in Manhattan. Russian investors lavished money on Trump, buying condos in his buildings and reportedly bankrolling several of his grandiose plans. When those plans collapsed into bankruptcy it is likely that Trump was left owing considerable sums to Russian oligarchs. But it is probably after Trump again considered a bid for the Republican nomination in 2004 that the Russian government recognized that he could be exactly what they were looking for. From then on, Russian cash poured into Trump’s coffers. Persistent rumors suggest that the Russians cashed in their second chip, cupidity, when Trump took the Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow in 2013 and is said to have engaged in what can only be described as tawdry behavior with Russian prostitutes, who were quite possibly in the employ of Russian intelligence. The last character flaw, narcissism, was probably the easiest for the Russians to exploit. Trump is surrounded by toadies with connections to Moscow.

As I suggested earlier, I think it unlikely that Trump is a witting Russian agent. I doubt that a professional intelligence service would hire someone as volatile and unpredictable. But it does seem possible, and indeed probable, that Trump is an unwitting Russian asset sitting in the White House. His inchoate America-First rhetoric fits perfectly with the Russian desire for the United States to disengage in Europe. Without US participation, NATO will probably reverse its expansion into Eastern Europe. Trump’s belligerence in the Middle East makes Russia appear to many in the region as a sane alternative to the US. His promised torpedoing of the Iran nuclear treaty will surely drive that country farther in to the arms of the Russian bear. His apparent determination to make an enemy of China will strengthen Russia’s position in the Far East while slowing China’s growth as an economic superpower. And his hostility toward Latin America may well make Russia appear a reasonable alternative partner for that region. All in all, Trump being Trump is very good for Russia’s interests.

The evidence that Russian hackers interfered in the US election is incontrovertible. Their finger prints are all over the attacks on the DNC and DCCC computer systems. It seems possible, even probable, that Edward Snowden is a Russian asset. His trail to the position that allowed him to steal so much information from NSA seems hardly accidental as does the fact that after Trump was elected talk started of his repatriation. Contacts between Trump surrogates like Michael Flynn and the Russian government have been too numerous to be coincidental. Key Trump appointees, notably Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have long-standing connections with Russian commercial interests.  

It does not require a conspiratorial mind to believe that, having failed to best the US in overt military and economic power, Russia has, at last, succeeded in beating us through the black arts of espionage where their millennium of experience in insurmountable. Who knows, perhaps it is for the best. Trump himself and his crackpot ideas will not last very long. The very character defects that made him a useful target for the Russians will not likely survive the US legal system very long. The autocracy he threatens will probably mellow into a form acceptable to Americans just as democracy in Russia evolved into a tsarist model with which the Russians are more comfortable. But whatever the future, it seems certain that the Russians have won this round.

Police state

This morning I was bullied by a New York State Trooper named David A. Kemp on behalf of a biker friend of his who objected to my non-threatening email telling him to stop harassing me on Facebook. (See my earlier post Resist and the emails in question below.)  Not only was the trooper was rude but he lied by saying that what I had done was illegal. At one point, he pushed his way into our house and shouted at me. And without my permission, he went to the back of my house to record our car license plates.

This is what Trump’s police state looks like. In fairness, the state police sergeant to whom I complained was fairly conciliatory but this incident should never have happened. I have sent a message to my state assembly representative advising her of this abuse of police power. I urge anyone else subject to this sort of right wing harassment to so likewise.

 

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Golden Bunkers

In its January 30th issue, The New Yorker ran a piece by Evan Osnos, Doomsday Prep by the Super Rich, describing the elaborate measures many billionaires are taking to protect themselves in the event of civil unrest. Those run the gamut from purchasing million dollar luxury condominiums in decommissioned missile silos to buying second (or third or fourth) homes in such presumably safe countries as New Zealand. There is a delicious irony to the rise of this survivalist movement among the very wealthy as billionaire Donald Trump is inaugurated president surrounded by a cabinet from the top 0.1%. Including the $20T national debt run up by tax cuts that largely favor the wealthy, during the past 36 years something of order $30T has been redistributed from ordinary Americans and their progeny to the financial elite. History strongly suggests that the resulting wealth inequality, by far the worst among developed countries, will inevitably lead to social instability. The longevity of the United States owes a great deal to leaders like the Roosevelts and Kennedys who recognized that the interests of their privileged class lay in keeping inequality within acceptable limits. The billionaire preppers would do well to realize that for a fraction of the cost of buying foreign refuges and building bunkers they could reverse the current drift toward anarchy by simply paying their fair share of taxes.

Resist

Free speech is under attack in a very real way. Post something about Trump that someone does not like and you may well find, as I did, your home address posted on Facebook. You might receive an email with a printout from one of those background check sites, full of inaccurate information and the names of people you do not even know. Your ex-wife, who lives in a different state, might receive a phone call telling her that the Trumpster in question has “friends in law enforcement.” You might find this person plastering Facebook with your Twitter account, your Gravatar, copyright material from your blog, and screen grabs of your Facebook posts. If you report those to Facebook you are politely informed that they do not violate their “community standards” but that you have been blocked from posting for a week because you called someone a right-wing coward. When you report the harassment to the police they tell you that none of this is illegal. These are the same police who claimed that saying “fuck” on your deck is illegal (it isn’t).

I know who is harassing me. He is a local businessman catering to a knuckle-dragging segment of the community. He apparently feels that it is his responsibility to protect the world from my having more than one Facebook account. I have created multiple accounts because Facebook’s biased “community standards” result in my frequently being blocked from posting because I offended some thin-skinned yahoo. I am looking into pursing legal action against this person because I will not be silenced by a fascist bully. I urge everyone to stand up to suppression of their rights to speak their minds. We will only survive the Trump regime by refusing to back down in the face of right wing tyranny. And if the harassment continues, I will organize a boycott of this person’s business and that of anyone else who tries to stifle free speech.

Have a nice day.

The second shoe drops

When the Soviet Union collapsed on December 26, 1991 worn out and bankrupt from decades of Cold War and a seemingly endless involvement in Afghanistan, I remember wondering when the other shoe would drop. Tomorrow, January 20, 2017, it will do so.

With the demise of the USSR, Russians experienced the first real taste of democracy in their thousand-year history. But that was short lived as a few people, oligarchs as they were known, became fabulously wealthy privatizing the assets of the state economy, basically looting the bones of the old order. With wealth came political power and the oligarchs conspired to put a compliant former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, into the position of a modern tsar, an autocrat accountable only to his billionaire patrons.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the election of Ronald Reagan ushered in an era of unprecedented transfer of wealth from ordinary Americans to the very wealthy through tax cuts, massive borrowing, and financial legerdemain. The top 0.1% of Americans cashed in the equity built up in the country over generations through leveraged buyouts and the dismantling of profitable companies. They even stole the equity in the homes of middle and working class Americans by stoking refinance fever leading to a housing bubble that burst leaving the banking class ever wealthier and ordinary people deeply in debt. In 1981, when Reagan took office, the US had nearly the lowest level of wealth inequality in the world; by 2017 we were the third least equal country in the world.

Money, of course, has no patriotic loyalty. American billionaires are no different than Russian ones and they all share the same goal: domination of the world for personal profit. So, it should come as no surprise that Russia’s plutocratic leader would conspire to put into the American presidency someone who shares his avarice and disdain for ordinary citizens. And it should not surprise anyone that US President-elect Donald Trump is eager to dismantle NATO, the only thing standing in the way of Russia reestablishing hegemony in Eastern Europe. His choice of a Secretary of State with close business ties to Russia is another indication of the collusion among the oligarchs of East and West.

In 1991, it seemed as though the United States had won the Cold War and brought democracy to Russia. In fact, age-old Russian autocracy prevailed and, with the inauguration tomorrow of Donald J. Trump, has brought the United States to heel.

Rest in Peace United States of America. Born July 4, 1776. Died January 20, 2017 of a self-inflicted wound suffered on November 8, 2016.

We live in interesting times.

The “good” news

For the most part, I am an optimist. I believe in the basic goodness of people and their general good intentions. Lately I have had to try to reconcile those beliefs with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. I think I have finally made some sense of it.

Since Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981 I have watched with dismay as trillions of dollars have been transferred from average Americans and their progeny to the top tier of the super wealthy. The total net worth of the US population is around $86T of which $37T is held by the top 1%. In 1979, the top 1% had a combined net worth of about $2T which represented 24% of the total net worth of $8T. Adjusted for inflation, the net worth of the wealthiest 1% grew from $7T to $37T while the total net worth of all Americans went from $28T to $86T. In other words, 52% of the increase in wealth went to the top 1%.

Where did that $58T in increased net worth come from? Well, some $20T was borrowed, more than $3T of it from the Social Security payments of working Americans. Much of the rest represents financial legerdemain funded in in part by deferred maintenance of our national infrastructure.  According to the American Society of Civil Engineers we need to spend nearly $4T in the next few years just to stay even. Estimates of the cost of developing a current state-of-the-art infrastructure range as high as $20T. So basically, the very wealthy have stolen some $40T from average Americans since Reagan began the looting. And that does not include the $1.5T in student loan debt or the $1T in credit card debt that average people have incurred while taxes on the wealthy were cut time and again.

So what does this have to do with the election of Donald Trump? Well, a lot as it turns out. By the early 1990s working class people were beginning to feel the pinch of job losses and stagnant wages as companies downsized or moved manufacturing overseas. Republicans under Newt Gingrich shifted the blame from the wealthy to the very poorest Americans, mostly African Americans they claimed were lazy welfare cheats. White America responded by giving the GOP control of Congress which they used to accelerate the theft. Through the early 2000s as the cost of needless wars soared and further weakened the economy, the GOP sponsored the Tea Party to capitalize on the distress of the working class by again blaming those even more disadvantaged. Meanwhile the wealthy were stealing the equity from people’s homes through re-finance mania leading to the economic crash of 2007/2008. The right blamed the mortgage crisis on the Community Redevelopment Act, claiming that banks were forced to make loans to unqualified black people. Rural whites, who had been duped into using their houses as virtual piggy banks through repeated cash-out refinancing, ate that up. The election of the first more-or-less black president, Barack Obama, was the final straw for redneck America; their anger stoked by endless whispering that he was a secret Muslim born overseas. Republican-dominated state legislatures nationwide launched a campaign to disenfranchise as many minority voters as possible. Meanwhile, Russian president Putin, seeing an opportunity to bring the US to its knees without firing a shot, ordered a covert disinformation campaign to elect Donald Trump. Now the US and Russia were both to be led by corrupt oligarchs. The triumph of the wealthy, begun in 1980, was now complete.

By now you are probably asking why I am optimistic.  Like I said, I have faith in the basic goodness of people. The shamelessness with which Trump is larding his cabinet with incompetent billionaires intent on crushing everything the US has accomplished in the past century will soon have its effect. The economy will stall and go into recession as it has under every Republican president since Taft. The promised jobs will not return from China and Mexico but prices will skyrocket as Trump alienates our trading partners upon whom we rely for nearly all of our consumer goods. His belligerent foreign policy will see the US embroiled in more regional wars and subject to more terror attacks. His attacks on blacks, the LGBT community, Latinos, Muslims, and others will almost certainly lead to civil unrest and quite likely widespread rioting. In short, Trump will crash the ship of state into the rocks of public outrage. The outcome will be the collapse of Reaganism that has dominated US politics for a generation. If we are lucky, sane heads will prevail, the Democratic and Republican parties will both field rational candidates and our ship of state will right itself in good order. If not, we are likely to have to endure a period of fascism like Germany did on its way from a belligerent monarchy to a social democracy. But whatever the short term outcome, it seems certain that Trump’s election will have been the bitter pill that saves the US in the long run. And that will be a good thing.

Who hacked the DNC?

Everyone seems to be convinced that the Russians hacked the DNC and other Democratic Party entities in an attempt to throw the election to Donald Trump. But did they really do it? Perhaps not. A cyber-attack of this sort could be construed as an act of war or at least grounds for serious economic sanctions. Would the Russians really take such a risk knowing, as surely they would, that they would be found out? I am dubious. The Russians are certainly capable of meddling in the affairs of other countries but they are not, as a rule, reckless about it. So that raises the question: if Russia did not do it, who did?

I think we can rule out a couple other state actors with the ability to do so. China would seem to have little to gain from a Trump presidency given his open hostility toward them and overtures to Taiwan. The same is true of North Korea and Iran. Israel is a possibility given their right-wing government and antipathy toward Secretary Clinton, but they are so dependent upon US financial and military air that it is hard to see that they would take such a risk.

Perhaps the answer is closer at hand. Remember that shortly before the election, FBI Director James Comey wrote a letter to Congress implying, falsely, that he had damning evidence against Ms. Clinton. Many, including Nate Silver, suggest that his actions gave the election to Mr. Trump. Surely the FBI has the means to hack the Democratic entities that were attacked and, one presumes, the ability to cover their tracks. While it is distressing to think that another country intervened in our election in favor of a candidate who clearly is not in our national interest, the possibility that this was, in effect, a coup d’état from within our own government is far more frightening. Further evidence that this might have been the case is the unprecedented influence of right-wing senior military officers in the putative Trump administration. Before we rush to condemn the Russians for interfering in our democracy, perhaps we should look to see whether we have a democracy left at all.