What Do Democrats Fear from Russia?

On Februray 15, the New York Times wrote an editorial called, “Mr. Trump is Blind to Russia’s Threat.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/14/opinion/trump-officials-warning-russia.html

I thought that here I would find what the Democrats fear from Russia.  What is Russia’s threat.  I was not frightened by the editorial.  It seems the  main threat is Russian meddling in our elections, although it also mentions aggression against Ukraine, weapons deals, and human rights abuses.  This is a far cry from the threat by Khrushchev that “We will bury you,” and installing missiles in Cuba. It said the senior intelligence officials who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee said they had not been asked “to take measures to combat Russian interference and protect democratic processes.”  There is no allegation that the Russians have physically manipulated the voting process by hacking voting machines, but rather that the Russians have used campaign dirty tricks to support some candidates (Trump and Sanders) over Hillary.  Lee Atwater would be proud the Russians learned from his playbook.

The implication is that the NYT believes that democracy in America is extremely fragile, although so far I have not heard any responsible source, including the NYT, say that Russia was responsible for Mr. Trump’s election.  Rather it looks like it’s just sour grapes from  the NYT and other Democrats.  The NYT thinks it is the most important paper in the world, with the smartest reporters and editors.  It was fully supportive of Hillary Clinton, writing many articles and editorials daily during the campaign supporting her and telling the American populace to vote for her.  And America ignored them.  So now they blame a handful of Russian nerds sitting in a dark room in St. Petersburg for her loss.  They claim these few nerds were more powerful than the vaunted New York Times, not to mention the Washington Post, the major networks, and most other media outlets (except Fox).

Mr. Mueller has indicted thirteen Russians for election meddling.  The NYT probably has that many reporters covering Congress, much less the White House, or campaign stops around the country.  Are thirteen Russian hackers really that much more powerful than the New York Times?  If so, then the Russians are supermen, and the NYT editorial should have said that we should fear the Russians because they are supermen, not because they have some good hackers.

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What Russia Did on Social Media Was Not Illegal

What the Russians did on social media during the 2016 election was not illegal.  It may have been mean-spirited or morally dishonest, but it did not violate the law.  It’s not illegal to create bots on social media, and it’s not illegal to spread fake news, unless it violates an old, somewhat irrelevant law, such as libel.  See

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/27/technology/social-media-bots.html

This article reports on the creation of millions of Twitter bots, many based on real people, which are sold to minor celebrities and others to increase the number of their Twitter followers.  The article implies in passing that fake users may also be a problem for Facebook, but it only reports on Twitter.  Facebook has somewhat more stringent controls on who can open a Facebook account, while Twitter has almost no controls.  It does, however, claim that it does not want fraudulent users and removes them when they are called to its attention.

The Twitter bots in the article are mostly used for advertising, but some are political; usually there are bots that espouse both sides of controversial issues, some leftist bots, some conservative bots.  However, the article does not claim that this activity violates any laws, although it may violate Twitter policies.

If it’s not illegal for a company in Miami to do this, it doesn’t seem like it is illegal for a business (or government) in Moscow to do so.  Fake news is a problem, but so far not illegal.  The bigger problem is that Americans are so gullible that they fall for it.  I don’t see how the government is going to limit fake news without getting into censorship.  Alreeady I think some of the procedures instituted by Twitter and Facebook border on censorship, although as private entities they do not have same high bar that the government does.

Another consideration is that through the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe the US has directed news at the old Soviet Union, and now at Russia for many years. Although it was not fake, it was intended to bring down the Soviet Union, and it did.  I would guess, although I do not know of an example, that the CIA has planted fake news over the years.

In a brief web search, I found this article about the CIA deceiving not only the Soviet Union, but the American people as well.

http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v09/v09p305_Marchetti.html

What’s going on now with fake news is bad, but it’s not new.

 

Debt Service and Mick Mulveney

People are talking about the huge deficit Trump’s new budget will create and what that will do to the overall deficit.  The stock market tanked recently when there were fears that inflation was returning and the Fed would raise interest rates higher and more quickly.  So far, nobody is talking about what happens when these two things come together.  A huge public debt and high interest rates mean that paying interest on the debt will take up a bigger and bigger piece of the federal budget, leaving less money for everything from the military to medicare.  It’s a problem that only gets worse.  Higher debt means investors from pension funds to the Chinese government will be less willing to buy US bonds, and that will mean the government will have to pay higher interest to get people to buy them.

Mick Mulveney, Trump’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is the man who is supposed to keep the budget under control. I worry that he will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor in the Reagan administration, David Stockman.  Stockman and his Republican colleagues encouraged Reagan to cut taxes deeply.  Their idea was that once taxes were cut, there would be no money to fund the liberal programs, like Medicare and food stamps, that they disliked.  However, Stockman misjudged Reagan.  When push came to shove, Reagan was unwilling to cut these programs that helped poor and ordinary people. Reagan was too soft-hearted for Stockman.  As a result, Reagan cut taxes, but not spending, leading to huge deficits and the federal debt that we face today.

It now looks like, not only Trump, but the entire Republican party (except for Rand Paul) has followed in Reagan’s footsteps and ceased to worry about unfunded government spending and the deficits and increased debit that it brings.  Stockman has gone on to make millions in New York, but so has Donald Trump.  Nobody knows what the mplications are of this debt load, because there has never been anything like it before.  What it brings for smaller nations who have less control over financial markets is usually austerity and recession to pay for the years of carefree spending.  We’ll see if the US profligacy will end any better will end any better than it has for other nations.

One example that worries me, given the important role of Jews in the US government and the financial sector, is Germany between the world wars.  Germany found itself in terrible financial straits after World War I.  It could not pay the huge debts it had incurred to finance the war.  It printed money and inflation became rampant.  At that time Jews became very prominent in German business and financial affairs.  One study reports that

In the early 20th century, a dense corporate network was created among large German corporations, with about 16 percent of the members of this corporate network of Jewish background. At the centre of the network (big linkers) about 25 percent were Jewish. The percentage of Jews in the general population was less than one percent in 1914.

https://www.uni-trier.de/fileadmin/fb4/prof/SOZ/APO/Windolf/ZUGJewishElite.pdf

This outsized influence of Jewish businessmen and bankers enabled Hitler to blame the Jews for many of the hardships the average German population was experiencing in the 1930s.  It influenced many average Germans to accept his increasing persecution of Jews.  Let us hope that America does not end up like Germany, with Jews presiding over a failing country that cannot pay its debts.  Chuck Schumer, Steve Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, Michael Bloomberg, Lloyd Blankfein, Larry Fink, Larry Ellison, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg and company would do well to help America get its financial house in order,