Why Waste Time on Trump?

Counting2Ten

One, Two, Three, Four, Five?

My friend Danny writes from Greece the other day, “Why do you waste your time on Donald Trump? He’s just a moron.”

Yes, I suspect he’s a moron but I’m not sure that time spent on him is wasted. I don’t regard him so much for himself as for what he represents–the United States of America, with all that implies. Not so long ago, just the mention of that hallowed name would elicit respect verging on reverence. The United States had tipped the balance toward victory in both world wars and had gone on to set the benchmarks for science, technology, education, and democracy. Today, tragically, “the United States of America,” has lost most of its gloss. It sounds almost as ironic as “Great Britain.” If anything characterizes both of these once-great nations today, it’s the velocity of their race to the bottom.

There’s also a matter of reality vs. mythology. The “English gentleman” was never a  gentleman, and he’s even farther from that ideal today. Boris Johnson, for example, has all the right credentials. The so-called English gentleman was responsible for enslaving and plundering the sovereign wealth of millions of people around the world in order to dot the Home Counties with those gracious palatial mansions, if anything gained by thuggery can be deemed “gracious.” The British Empire, established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries, originated with overseas possessions and trading posts. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for more than a century, the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire illegally and immorally held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area. (Numbers from: Wikipedia)

US History Is Equally Grim

As for the United States, it was founded largely on genocide, cynicism, and lies. With their mouths full of “democracy,” their fists were full of native lands and natural resources, their hearts full of greed. Between 1830 and 1850 members of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations were forced by President Andrew Jackson to traverse the Trail of Tears to the badlands on the other side of the Mississippi, renamed the “Indian Territories.” In the process, these Native Americans, who had acceded to US government demands to abandon their traditional way of life in favor of agriculture and commerce, were obliged to forfeit their farms and businesses in the Southeast. Even that atrocity was not enough. Later the Indian Territories were grabbed for white exploitation.

With the same ruthless expedience, dubbed Manifest Destiny, and overlapping with the Trail of Tears on the timeline, the Americans extended their southern border down to the Río Grande. It was in 1848 after the Mexican-American War–actually an out-and-out American land grab–when, in accordance with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico “ceded” to the United States more than a third of its territory (the current American states of California, Nevada, and Utah, along with portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. Considering these seizures, as well as all of Texas, Mexico lost 54% of its pre-1836 territory in the harmless-sounding “Mexican Cession.” What the 11th-grade American-history books don’t tell you is that, while the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was being negotiated, US General Winfield Scott’s troops were occupying the Mexican Capital.

The Wanton Dismantling of America Is Not Even Illegal

These smash-and-grab policies extend down to our own day. The motives are the same and so is the American modus operandi. I’ll spare you the list of victims. You read the papers. Ironically, it’s not the rest of the world that receives the principal brunt of Donald Trumpism. It’s his own countrymen and women. President Trump, anointed by his country’s big-money interests is delegated to impose their retrograde ideology, which can be summed up as “dismantle the American government so business can take over.” He and his ghoulish cohorts are progressing apace, and it’s not even illegal.

Donald Trump didn’t become President just by accident or Russian intervention. Thanks to the confluence of an ignorant electorate that had been betrayed by generations of American politicians and the economic clout of big business, Donald Trump was well and truly elected. He enjoyed the backing at the polls of major segments of the US voting population, including not just semi-literate hillbillies and white supremacist thugs–though there were plenty of them. His voters also included cast-offs from America’s once-great industrial workforce as well as former solidly-middle-class citizens reduced to working McJobs and wondering how they’re going to send their kids to college. The former, after decades of America-the-Beautiful and Support-Our-Troops brainwashing, lacked all political criteria, and the latter were striking back at the system for betraying and impoverishing them. (Author’s note: Yes, America is undeniably beautiful, but so is almost every other country, something most Americans don’t realize. As for the troops, they definitely need supporting but the best way to do that is to bring them home, not send them into another hell hole.)

U.S. manufacturing jobs have declined steadily, from around 28% in 1960 to 8% in March 2017. Manufacturing employment has fallen from 17.2 million persons in December 2000 to 12.4 million in March 2017, a decline of about 5.7 million or about one-third. (Source: Wikipedia) This is what the American working class is up against, watching the jobs-and-benefits capital of the world become the Rust Belt. An article published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (minneapolisfed.org) has this to say on the subject:

The fall of the Rust Belt extends back to the 1950s when firms such as General Motors and U.S. Steel dominated their industries and were among the biggest, most profitable businesses in the world. The Rust Belt was an economic giant at that time, accounting for more than half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs in 1950 and about 43 percent of all U.S. jobs. But after 1950, the Rust Belt began a long downturn.

Moreover, the fact that its share of U.S. manufacturing jobs fell so much demonstrates that the Rust Belt’s fate was not simply part of the general decline in U.S. manufacturing. The Belt’s downturn was uniquely deep and long-lived. Indeed, since 1950, no region of the United States fared worse economically than the Rust Belt.

When we refer to “big- money interests” we’re talking about the great energy companies, of course, but also banks, hedge funds and insurance companies, big pharma and tobacco, and the military/industrial complex, each with its own destructive agenda. And let’s not forget America’s deranged billionaires, who are striding out across the country–and the globe–like exquisitely-coifed Godzillas (e.g. Robert Mercer whose SCL Group provided financing and essential technical support to the Brexit campaign in the UK, or the Koch Brothers‘ self-interested meddling in Venezuela.) Against such formidable enemies–Yes, enemies. We’re talking about an adversarial system here.–“We the people,” don’t stand a chance.

New Legality, New Reality

How is it possible that such malfeasance on the part of the American government was actually legal? The principal factor in the process had to do with fixing elections through new campaign financing regulations. This was the result of the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), which opened the doors for corporations to spend money on electioneering communications and to directly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates. This decision breathed new life into an already vigorous lobbying business in Washington. It was the task of the lobbyists to channel corporate money into the election coffers of “sympathetic” politicians. As it turned out, there was no shortage of candidates whose sympathy could be purchased, and lobbyists were soon calling the tune in the nation’s capital. Though it wasn’t their own tune they were calling, rather that of their “sponsors.” That serve-the-sponsors procedure soon passed down to practically all the members of the House and Senate and goes a long way towards explaining the mediocrity and unscrupulousness on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Are there exceptions to this phenomenon? Yes, but far too few.

It is not an exaggeration to affirm that an American member of Congress’s first priority is neither the wellbeing of their constituents nor the security of their country. It’s purely and simply to get elected–or more frequently re-elected. The magic bullet for getting elected is money. To what extremes will Congressional candidates will go to grasp that money? They will go far. They will give a virtual blank check to oil and coal interests to despoil the earth, the water, and the air. They will savage the country’s budget in order to entitle the military/industrial/congressional complex to wage perpetual war, though they know that war does not make America safer, rather more insecure. Perhaps gravest of all, the power of moneyed interests to dictate policy for their own nefarious ends negates utterly any notion of ethics or humanity in government. They are prepared to see the whole country reduced to the condition of Flint, Michigan. (The latest news from Flint, September 9, 2019: Amid Water Crisis, Michigan’s Top Health Official Said Flint Residents “Have to Die of Something,” Scientists Say)

Decency and Hope, Plowed Under

If an ounce of decency remained after the Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump presidencies, it has long since been plowed under, and the whole world is aware of that fact. All world leaders, with the possible exception of the poor, shipwrecked Brits, distrust the United States explicitly. That condition of alone and distrusted is not an enviable position, friends. Ah, but they have many friends and allies around the world, you say. Not exactly. Those “friends” are mainly purchased or coerced and the “allies” are either bribed with cold cash and armaments or cajoled with promises and threats. What does the United States have to do to turn an independent country into an ally? It’s not necessary to “win the hearts and minds” of the whole citizenry. Usually, it’s enough just to bend the wills of a few high officials. How many of these well-placed running dogs does it take to deliver a country into the hands of the US? Not that many, actually. Usually, it’s a bargain. In the final analysis, the common interests the United States shares with their ill-gained “allies” are the uncertain promises of profit and plunder.

Who’s at the head of all these sinister shenanigans at home and abroad? President Donald J. Trump. If you’re going to try to stop him you had better start now.

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Washington’s Hollow Men Write Their Own Ticket–and Yours 2/2

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to media mogul Rupert Murdoch as they walk out of Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen

Where the money is, billionaire media mogul, Rupert Murdoch with Donald Trump.

Does President Donald Trump Even Exist?

Does he even exist? Or is he just an empty shell, selected for his flashiness and impropriety, traits guaranteed to take our eye off the ball while his handlers re-stack all the decks. There’s an exact word in the dictionary for this kind of cheap distraction with worthless nonsense. It’s called “trumpery.” Samuel Johnson, in his  dictionary of 1755, assigned three meanings to trumpery:

(1) Something fallaciously splendid; something of less value than it seems
(2) Falsehood, empty talk
(3) Something of no value; trifles

(See the Merriam-Webster definition here.)

If we look behind the advisors at the President’s backers and influencers, the panorama is even more depressing. What are President Trump’s principal influencers are made of? I’ll give you a hint. It’s mainly money. One of the earliest of these wise men is Rupert Murdoch, a superannuated nationalized American media mogul born in Australia who has always been associated with yellow journalism and right-wing causes in all places where he has substantial media holdings: among others Australia (Leader Newspaper Group, Quest Community Newspapers), the U.K. (Sky  UK) and the United States (Fox News, News Corporation. 21st Century Fox). Continue reading “Washington’s Hollow Men Write Their Own Ticket–and Yours 2/2”

Washington’s Hollow Men Write Their Own Ticket–and Yours 1/2

Trump_Cabinet_Categorized

The “experts” in President Donald Trump’s first cabinet.

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

T.S. Eliot
(Full text here.)

Beware the Lycanthropic Superpower

There’s a prima facie case for believing that President Donald Trump’s dubious curriculum and limited intellectual and moral capacities are sufficient justification for asserting that he exercises very little power in the White House. What, after all, can a man who doesn’t read contribute to decision making at the world’s highest level?  That leaves us to believe he’s just a straw man, a placeholder for the oligarchs that really run the United States in every significant respect. The obligatory next question is: Do the oligarchs themselves embody the necessary intellectual and moral capacities?

Since the only values recognized by the USA’s neo-con ruling class are economic in nature they are the only values the Trump administration proposes and promotes. They give no credit to human, nor historical, nor esthetic nor ethical considerations. The mythical “market” rules: just the bucks and the bling, and the faster the better. They know this scenario is essentially based on lies but they will continue to employ it as long as it works.

In matters of international politics the values of the American strategists of permanent war are equally bleak, just brutal smash-and-grab tactics, applied around the world, their aim to consolidate the United States as the world’s pre-eminent lycanthropic superpower.

What Ever Happened to the Free and Fair Election?

Just over two centuries ago the United States of America was cast in the Constitution as a democracy, albeit limited and imperfect. Women and slaves couldn’t vote, for example, and the election of the President was indirect, via an “electoral college” created by the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Founding Fathers didn’t trust the unwashed masses; neither has any US American administration since. Even so, it was a step forward over Europe’s absolute monarchies.

Then, as now, the authenticity of a democracy depended upon free and fair elections. Without elections free of fraud and outside influence a “democracy” is a democracy in name only. Flash forward 231 years. How is the United States doing today in matters of preserving democracy? Not terribly well, it seems. Today the great election influencer is money. According to the Wikipedia, in 2009 the Washington Post estimated that there were 13,700 registered lobbyists and described the nation’s Capitol as “teeming with lobbyists.” The ratio of lobbyists employed by the healthcare industry, compared with every elected politician, was six to one, according to one account. (Could this be why the United States doesn’t have proper universal health care, like nearly every other country in the industrialized world?) This is just healthcare lobbyists; the ratio of the total is more like 16 to one. Someone has to pay all these lobbyists. Who pays and what do they get in return?

According to Tom Murse, writing on the ThoughtCo.com website,

Lobbyists are hired and paid by special interest groups, companies, nonprofits and even school districts to exert influence over elected officials at all levels of government. Lobbyists work at the federal level by meeting with members of Congress to introduce legislation and encourage them to vote certain ways that benefit their clients. But they also work at the local and state levels as well.

What does a lobbyist do, then, that makes him so unpopular? It comes down to money. Most Americans don’t have the money to spend on trying to influence their members of Congress, so they view special interests and their lobbyists as having an unfair advantage in creating policy that benefits them rather than the good of the people. 

Lobbyists, however, say they simply want to make sure your elected officials “hear and understand both sides of an issue before making a decision,” as one lobbying firm puts it. Together they spend more than $3 billion trying to influence members of Congress every year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.

PACs and Super PACs Thicken the Plot

The “political action committee” (PAC) dates from a 1943 CIO union initiative, but it has come a long way since then. Its latest iteration, from, 2010, is the Super PAC, thanks to two judicial decisions that revolutionized campaign financing in the United States. A Super PAC may not make contributions directly to candidate campaigns or parties but may engage in unlimited political spending independently of the campaigns. Unlike traditional PACs, they can raise funds from individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups without any legal limit on donation size. (Emphasis mine.)

That is to say, they can exert massive influence the outcome of elections. The bottom line is that big money, whether individual billionaires, companies, trade associations or unions, can now virtually buy legislators. The process is admittedly indirect but mortally effective. The United States government has become a commodity in their much-vaunted free-market economy. It has passed from democracy to “democracy.” There is only one limit on the power of the Super PAC: how much money are they willing to spend?

Add to the lobbyists and the Super PACs, the legislators’ self-arrogated right to redesign their congressional districts to assure their own re-election (gerrymandering), a grotesque and anti-democratic practice that is also legal.

gerrymandering1

The Spanish philosopher and essayist, José Ortega y Gasset, wrote in his Meditaciones del Quijote, “Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia y si no la salvo a ella no me salvo yo.” (I am myself and my circumstances and if I don’t save them I don’t save myself.) President Donald Trump is himself and his advisors, and he doesn’t seem capable of saving either them nor himself. Without personal resources, without civilized criteria, nor advisors who are more than neophytes, party hacks and generals, the President is a hollow man.

Go to part 2/2
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