You might not have noticed, especially in light of the relentless drivel put out by the mainstream media in an effort to distract you, but the oligarchs have entered the final stages in their efforts to own and control everything and leave the rest of us living like serfs in some bleak rerun of the feudal ages. Trump, it turns out, is the perfect vehicle for this purpose and is all too willing to aid the wealthy – of every country, not just the US – to strip the commons bare and set us against each other. The man is inherently stupid, barely literate, easily manipulated, venal to a remarkable degree, and extraordinarily greedy. He is also a vicious shit – never discount that part of his makeup. He and his family are daily making personal profit from his position and it would be laughably simple to show that he is running afoul of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. In fact, the photogenic new ruling prince of Saudi Arabia is currently making the rounds of American glitterati, boasting that Jared Kushner gave him classified information in exchange for promises of loans, information which let the prince know who his enemies were in the old regime so he could imprison them and snatch leadership for himself. [See Note 1.] Now, anyone who thinks the Trump/Kushner family would never use their security clearances for personal gain must not have taken even a passing gander at the members of this grifting lot. However, neither party in Congress will ever broach the topic of emoluments, as they share the same basic goals as Trump; and these goals happen to be the ones that the oligarchs, the wealthy, and the corporate cartels demand be fulfilled. Trump is getting them there, hence Trump will not be escorted off stage. Congress will not stand up for the people because they simply do not see the public as their employers. They will not serve the best interests of the people, whom they loathe and largely view as a nuisance. I cannot understand writers who propose the notion that Trump is “being used against his will” (by the military industrial complex/the CIA/the powers behind the curtain who have threatened him and are making him do these things) or that he is not to be blamed because he is “no different” than the last couple of presidents. While it’s true that he is a continuation of the trajectory, he cannot be held innocent of the results of his actions, which he takes voluntarily. It is irrational to suggest that he has some fundamental disagreement with his own policies.
All that being said, we must remember that the choice offered to the US in 2016 was between the uncouth imbecile named Trump and the neoliberal, bloodthirsty Hillary Clinton. The Clinton Foundation, which was allowed to rake in international donations while she was Secretary of State, would no doubt have continued operations had she won the presidency. Clinton made it clear that she had no interest in public spending, calling reduced college tuition and universal healthcare ‘unreasonable dreams’. She also constantly beat the war drums, and has long called for direct aggression against Russia, China and Iran. She was the architect for the invasion and destruction of Libya, a crime that should have taken her and Obama straight to the Hague. Everything I write about Trump, his family, and his administration could just as easily pertain to a Clinton regime; just swap out a few names. In rough figures, 25% of the eligible voters chose Trump and 25% chose Clinton. Half the eligible voters did not vote at all. I think the 50% who stayed home took the best position. There was no point in endorsing the electoral farce that was imposed on the public in the last election.
Trump will be the face of the empire for awhile. It is important to both hold him accountable for his time in office and at the same moment understand that he is just the latest iteration spewed out from the maw of a plutocratic power structure that has no national borders. And so I when I write using particular names, remember that the names are easily interchangeable with others.
We are told by Trump, the media and Congress that we need to bomb Syria even more often, using bigger weapons, because al Assad has supposedly just gassed some of his own people again. We are expected to believe that immediately after Trump announced he wants the US out of Syria, the cagey Assad staged an assault on civilians in Syrian order to lure us into the perpetual bombing of his country and that what he most desires is eternal US interference with his domestic affairs. The whole story makes no sense. No investigation has taken place, no proof of blame has been offered, but just as in the lead-up to the Iraq war, we are given a tale where the ending is already assumed. The media must bear much of the blame for this. The “reporters” who refuse to investigate the truth, who make a deliberate choice to air whatever bullshit line is fed to them by the oligarchic warmongers, are collaborating with powers that will end up killing us all. There is no excuse for this – none. We have communication networks such as the internet and phone systems that allow information to travel globally and that are easily accessed. It is only the desire for personal gain that prods media personalities to repeat prepared lines rather than ferreting out the truth.
We are told by Trump, the media, and Congress that we should bomb North Korea because they might have nuclear weapons. No-one can say how it is that the US gets to decide who has nukes or how it happens that the US can arbitrarily take military action against the other countries that are developing them. Those precepts are just taken as a given. Trump is going to a) have Kim Jong-un assassinated, b) preemptively nuke North Korea, c) negotiate with North Korea, d) let South Korea negotiate with North Korea, e) let South Korea engage in talks but then scuttle any resulting agreements, or f) do nothing, and hope Kim keeps his fat mouth shut for awhile until we decide which country to bomb next and that may or may not be North Korea. Most likely answer is f, because Syria, Iran and the dread Russia also need to be taken out and it is unclear at this point in which order we will proceed. Economic demands require a new blood infusion, however, so some country or another is going to get it. And any provocation, no matter how obvious a false flag it is, will be used to wag that dog.
In the meantime, our own country is being stripped bare. Trump and both houses of Congress are racing as swiftly as possible to ruin the environment, pollute the water and air, give tax cuts to the wealthy, use almost all tax monies to bloat the Pentagon while any spending on the actual population is wiped out. We are told by Trump, the media, and Congress that this is a good thing, a necessary thing. Barack Obama, we are told, was not pro-military enough and “decimated” our military forces. Yet Obama shut not a one of those 900+ bases we have around the world, he sent the military into even more countries than we were already interfering with when he took office, he greatly intensified the drone-bombing of multiple other countries, and he consistently increased the Pentagon’s budget year over year. It was Obama who signed into law the first NDAA that authorized a president to assassinate even American citizens at his personal discretion, and he signed all subsequent NDAAs, each of which included that same clause. That anyone on the planet believes the crap that Obama was not militant enough is proof that propaganda works and that the cheese has totally slid off our crackers.
Congress managed to pass a tax cut scam that so blatently engorges the coffers of the already wealthy and the biggest corporations that the fact that it didn’t, by itself, lead to a revolt is astonishing. Those fuckers just openly passed a bill that adds to the “deficit” (a deficit which only exists because the US created the Federal Reserve and dropped the gold standard, choosing to let private banks create money that is loaned to the government at interest). The same tax bill brazenly doubles down on the now-proven nonsensical trope of trickle-down supply-side economics. They are already telling us that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will have to be slashed in order to pay for this nasty piece of lobbyist-written work, despite the fact that the bill itself already cuts half a trillion dollars from Medicare over the next ten years.
But the Democrats were too busy talking about the DACA kids at that juncture to spend much time talking about the goodies in the tax scam. It was a peculiar choice of sticking points, given that the Democrats had ample opportunity to address that issue when they were in the majority under Obama and they had exactly zero interest in addressing it then. Bringing up the topic of DACA was a ruse to obfuscate the fact that the Democrats really had few objections to the tax bill; in fact, the Democrats enthusiastically supported cutting corporate taxes, as they were quick to point out. Few details of the tax bill were were discussed publicly by either party. There can be no doubt that this was done intentionally with bipartisan cooperation; let us not forget that it was under Obama’s first term that he and the Democrats brought into being the “cat food commission”, whose job it was to look into ways to cut the so-called “entitlement” programs. The commission was disbanded because the public wasn’t quite ripe enough to pluck yet, but the thinking never went away. Now is the propitious time, obviously; they have managed to brainwash the public into believing, with the sure conviction of the new convert, that any money spent on themselves is money spent foolishly.
One of the overlooked details is this (and this is the only detail I am going to get into right now): there is a clause in the tax bill that switches the way inflation is measured from the current Consumer Price Index (CPI) to a “chained” CPI. The measure of inflation is used as a determinant for figuring tax rates, social security payments to retirees, funding for programs such as Medicaid, Headstart, food stamps, etc. Right now, the government uses a variety of indices in its CPI figures and the official inflation rate is kind of a mixed bag of several of them. By switching to a “chained” CPI, inflation is artificially held to a lower number; for instance, the “chained” CPI carries an assumption that if the price of beef goes up, people might buy chicken instead. That might be a reasonable assumption, although eventually one runs out of substitutes. I mean, if the price of chicken goes up next, they assume people will buy oatmeal instead. Eventually, they are assuming we are all eating grass. You see how that works. The “chained” CPI even goes so far as to offer this substitution model for dissimilar items: if the price of food goes up, the assumption is that people will cut back on buying heating oil. Presto-change-o, the consumer has not suffered from an increase in inflation!
The government publishes both the traditional and the “chained” CPI numbers every month now, and one can see that the “chained” CPI numbers suspiciously do not include some common household expenses, such as housing costs. I can only assume this is because the price of renting or buying a home has grown so preposterous since ’08 that it would completely wipe out the official mantra that there is no inflation.
By using the “chained” CPI, Congress is already chipping away at retiree income, social programs, and raising the tax rate on lower-income workers. They don’t have to openly attack SS, for example; simply by switching how they measure inflation, they are using a back-door method to reduce benefits. Not one single Democrat issued any statement, much less any objection, to this clause in the Republican’s tax plan. Slowing those SS benefit increases would save around $125 billion over a decade, without the political pain of cutting benefits directly or raising the access age. The Republicans didn’t have to specify they want to cut Social Security or Medicare. They just did so, and with a tool the Democrats won’t ever repeal. It’s brilliant, if you admire that sort of cynical maneuver. These misanthropes are ruthless.
The omnibus spending bill that was passed most recently is equally odious, although no objections were raised by anyone except the strange occupants of the farthest right fringe, who are repulsed by having to share even the oxygen in the room with what they consider the underachieving. The Democrats helped to pass that bill, giving as their excuses the military, which has to be supported at all costs and thank God this bill does that plus some, and that a few little coins were kept in there for some public programs. Never fear, however; Trump and the Republicans are working on a plan to get rid of some of the ruinous public spending that accidentally got included, and I am sure the Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief that they don’t have to do anything to fight it, as it doesn’t depend on their involvement at all. Their civic affectations are not bearing up well under scrutiny, anyway; best to lay low for awhile. And forget any minor Republican insurgency that might serve as opposition against this latest plan – Republicans have no pretense of community responsibility to maintain.
Let’s go back to a month ago when Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic advisor, announced his resignation after Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel, a trade war measure that Cohn opposed. (By the way, in another example of misuse of office, Ivanka Trump’s clothing line is exempt from the latest batch of tariffs, imposed on China. The White House explains that this is simply a happy accident of the algorithm they used to decide what items to include or exempt from the tariffs . That right there is what you might call a “lie”. [See Note 2.]) Cohn had gotten what he came for: the tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. Of course, that tax bill will end up ruining the economy and decimating the working class, but what’s that matter to someone like Cohn? It was interesting to see one of the really big confidence men bailing out at this juncture; one might speculate that Cohn knows there is going to be some bad economic news headed our way and wants to be well out before the stink sticks to him (too late, Goldman Sachs dude). Cohn was replaced by Larry Kudlow, a CNBC talking head, who is best known as a reformed coke-head and a fool who has the amazing ability to be wrong on everything remotely related to money, yet still manages to find a job in front of a camera opining on economic matters. Being a blithering idiot, he was the most obvious choice to advise the current administration on financial policies, and has actually been doing so behind the scenes since Trump announced his candidacy. He hates the “giveaways” to the mere commoners in the budget bill (as does Trump, who almost didn’t sign the thing because of them) and has begun touting a little-known method to weed these repugnant items out of the law post ipso facto. The Republicans can use something called the Impoundment Act, which was written and passed in 1974. This Act allows the president to rescind (i.e., retroactively erase) funds that have already been approved by Congress. I had never heard of this before, although it was used under Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush a couple of times. Amazing to find out about the voluminous ways Congress has gone about side-stepping the Constitution over the years. In any case, Trump can target up to $117 billion – the difference between his request for domestic non-defense spending and the level that was actually included in it. If he chooses to employ it, he would propose the items and amounts he wants cut, and Congress has 45 days after his proposal to approve the package. The vote would be a simple majority vote, meaning the Republicans don’t need any Democratic support to alter federal spending more to their liking.
Non-defense spending is a relatively small portion of overall spending; the non-defense discretionary budget only accounted for roughly 15% of all federal spending in 2017. However, this portion of the budget is the part that Trump has the ability to cut through impoundment. He has suggested many of the programs he would like to eliminate before now, so his list will not surprise anyone if and when he comes out with it. Since he has objected to the following items before, and has already stated he wants to save money (that was given away with the tax bill, one might note) by cutting them from the 2019 budget, the proposed programs to be rescinded might look something like this, just for starters:
• The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP ($3.4 billion in one-year savings)
• International financial assistance for global climate change initiatives ($160 million)
• Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($480 million)
• Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants ($3 billion)
He also proposed cutting:
• Amtrak grants by $757 million
• HUD rental Assistance Programs by $4.2 billion
• The Federal Work Study program by $790 million
• State Department Educational and Cultural Exchange programs $475
The above details about the CPI and the Impoundment Act are but small samples of the general trend against the best interests of the people who live here in the US that has been ongoing for a generation now. Of much wider import are the greatly accelerated attacks on the environment and food systems. The choices made by the Trump administration are disastrous, but let’s not pretend that the previous administrations were exactly safeguarding the health of the planet, much less that of the people who live on her. These are issues where the media and Congress again refuse to speak up, and yet, like the relentless drive to more war, will end up killing us. We are letting the oil companies frack the entire country and the surrounding bodies of water, which is causing oil spills, earthquakes, and a constant infiltration of fracking chemicals into our water. A four thousand square mile area of Texas is heaving and sinking due to oil extraction activity, and this is in an area of the country where our government decided it would be a good idea to bury nuclear waste. The Pentagon is working on a plan to genetically alter some forms of sea life so as to use them for military purposes. One third of all American wildlife species are headed for extinction. The mega corporations Bayer and Monsanto are seeking to merge into one company, which will make them for all intents and purposes the owner of almost all the seed stock and much of the cropland on the planet. The EU has already approved the merger, and the Trump administration is expected to do the same. These two companies have worked in tandem for several decades now and have been allowed to poison the world with pesticides and chemicals, destroy native seed stocks in order to replace them with genetically modified “food” crops, and drive farmers across the globe out of business. Monsanto, in particular, has been the recipient of financial backing and unceasing efforts to make it the primary food source in every country from people like the Clintons, Bill Gates, and Pierre Omidyar. [For links to articles on all these topics, see Note 3.]
We have to do better than this. We have to learn how to turn off the constant propaganda that incites us to hate one another and keeps us cheering for the slaughter of some group or another of strangers across the planet. We have to take care of this planet and of each other. It doesn’t matter what name you call it, what “ism” it goes by, but there is a societal system that works better for us all than capitalism. And there are better people around than the oligarchy that wants to control our every move, spy on our every communication, and drive us to some final dismal destruction of ourselves. We really are all stardust, and we need to regard each other and our fellow creatures with the respect and admiration that our common origin deserves. For despite the humble beginnings of life on earth which arose accidentally from the dust of the cosmos, that dust formed a myriad of life-forms, all intrinsically related and yet each wonderfully different.
About two weeks ago, I was thinking about this turning point in our history and realized that it is somewhat comparative to that of Louis XVI of France in a couple of ways. He (Louis XVI) announced he wanted to do away with serfdom as a “populist” reform measure, an idea which pissed off the nobles; in the end he listened to the wealthy and gave up the notion, thus abandoning the lower classes who had thought he would usher in a new era. Then he deregulated the grain market, sending bread prices soaring (turns out deregulation has a very long history of being bad for the working class). Then he decided to support the colonists (in what would become the US) in their fight against Great Britain and this took France into debt and dire financial straits (turns out getting involved in other people’s wars has a very long history of being a bad fiscal idea and bad for the working class). His indecisiveness and waffling, which always seemed to end up with him supporting the nobility, erased all the popularity he had once enjoyed. In an effort to bolster support for himself, he considered starting some new invasive wars, but as it happened, the public didn’t particularly find this a compelling sales pitch when they found out about the scheme.
Finally, the people rose up and took his head.
And then France embarked on a decade of wars anyway, which flowed seamlessly into the Napoleonic Wars, which lasted until 1815 – all told, 23 years of continuous warfare with multiple countries on several continents after Louis XVI was beheaded (turns out humans have a very long history of stupidity and apparently a genetic defect that leads them to kill each other with abandon and glee on a constant basis). So… vive la revolution, etc., but beware what follows? We better chose more carefully this time. I will repeat the sentence with which I started this blog so many years ago: Be a good human.
(I was tickled by the synchronicity, if you will, of hearing Richard Wolff, just five days ago, mention the same bit of history in the following discussion between him and Chris Hedges regarding the coming collapse of the American capitalist system. The following video is about half an hour long, and certainly worth the time.)
Economist Richard Wolff discusses the coming economic collapse of the United States of America with Chris Hedges.
Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman bragged of receiving classified US intelligence from Jared Kushner and using it as part of a purge of ‘corrupt’ princes and businessmen, DailyMail.com can disclose. […]
Note 2: The justification for the tariffs on the grounds of national security is a fiction created by Trump in order to apply the tariffs. US law allows the President to impose tariffs unilaterally for reasons of national security, but the trade arguments going on right now certainly don’t rise to that level. Furthermore, the areas in which we are accusing China of malfeasance are already being arbitrated in the World Trade Organization; there is no reason for other actions at this point. Aside from the claim of dire national security issues, tariffs can only be applied by Congress and Trump knows that won’t happen. This is an abrogation of power by the President and should be opposed for that reason alone.
[…] Many of the products branded by Ivanka Trump’s fashion and clothing line are manufactured in China. And China recently approved three new trademarks for Ivanka Trump’s brand there–on the same day she dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping in her official capacity as White House advisor.
Exempting clothing from the new round of U.S. tariffs therefore stands to immensely benefit the value of Ivanka Trump’s personal brand. Meanwhile, domestic clothing manufacturers have cried foul.
In a statement reacting to the tariffs and Trump’s noteworthy exemption for Chinese-produced clothing, Rick Helfenbein, chief executive of industry group the American Apparel & Footwear Association said, “This would directly raise costs on domestic manufacturers and impact our ability to grow Made in USA.”
Law&Crime reached out to Ivanka Trump’s press office for comment, but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association welcomed the decision by the Trump administration to avoid taxing American consumers by excluding new tariffs on apparel, footwear, travel goods, and related products imported from China.
The association’s President and CEO Rick Helfenbein released the following statement:
“We are pleased with the administration’s decision to avoid adding tariffs to U.S. imports of apparel, footwear, and travel goods from China. Tariffs are a hidden, regressive tax on Americans and such a decision would have had a disastrous impact on American consumers,” said Helfenbein.
“At the same time, we are concerned that the list includes tariffs on machinery used in our domestic manufacturing process. This would directly raise costs on domestic manufacturers and impact our ability to grow Made in USA. We will express these concerns with the administration in the coming days, and look forward to working with them on the core concerns of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer in China.”[…]
Note 3: Various articles of interest on the environment, Monsanto, and stardust.
The Pentagon’s Scary Plan to Militarize Ocean Life:
America’s wildlife crisis; one-third of species are vulnerable to extinction, a crisis ravaging swaths of creatures, conservationists say in call to fund recovery plans:
Radar images show large swath of West Texas oil patch is heaving and sinking at alarming rates:
Bayer and Monsanto have a long history of collusion to poison the ecosystem for profit. The Trump administration should veto their merger not just to protect competitors but to ensure human and planetary survival:
The Bayer-Monsanto Merger Is Bad News for the Planet
Joni Mitchell was right, we really are all stardust:
May 8, 2018 at 2:10 pm
New reader here, El Paso, TX. We have a coffee shop the WoodShed wheres go in the morning. At 6am I was just 3rd of the regular crowd shuffling in and it was still quiet. I handed my phone with this article on to LeeRoy, our TrumpLover (seriously love like a child still fully in love w.JFK and seeing no flaws whatsoever (that was me for so long but so long ago seems now). I don’t want to read that LeeRoy declared without a glance not accepting the phone. Chris, a seriously liberal arguer to LeeRoy both always smashing their paddles on the water loudly usually, took the phone. He never looked up till he said Wow. LeeRoy took the phone muttered through the first paragraph while I kept said keep reading and he did. Wow great writing he said eventually and handed me the phone while mentioning that he himself has “written at least 1,800 pages” (of fox regurgitation no doubt) and wondered aloud whether anyone wanted to read it (apparently not). Other shufflers were there by then. All that read it agreed you transcend politics and every single one said what a great article. The myriad conversations occurring around the joint were for the first time in forever uplifting and above silly political idiocies being loudly thrust at each other. I realized that even the ones on the tables and benches against the wall all buried in laptops and cellphones (this was the first and probably only time I carry my own phone into the WoodShed cuz I never do that as it is entirely the opposite of the point of going there in the first place) all and each probably think that they are the only one. I realized maybe we all kind of do and that is part of the point of the putarchs’ imposition of the idea of separateness as you described above. Reminded me of an old math joke: Then here at Step 45 a miracle occurs. Thank you for the excellent stardust and for the helping us all see beyond and above the matrix.
May 8, 2018 at 2:15 pm
Thank you for sending this comment to me, ElPaso. I can’t tell you how much it moved me and how much I appreciate you taking the time to write it.
I am always surprised to find out that anybody even reads this little blog and that anyone does, much less thinks it wasn’t a waste of time, lifts my heart.
Thanks so much and take care,
PS: My kids and I love that math joke! Made me laugh out loud when I read it in your comment.