Trump Family And Elite Corruption

Here we are, nearing the end of Donald Trump’s administration. He may have only been a one-term president, but he has left quite a wake in his passing through the halls of power (not unlike Merry Brandybuck tossing stones into the lake beneath the western walls of Moria). It might not settle back down very quickly, if it settles down at all. Now the Clinton Democrats, for good or ill, will be back in power. Joe Biden, no stranger to D.C., is Trump’s replacement. He brings much political and personal baggage with him, as the campaign season demonstrated. The focus on his son, Hunter Biden, didn’t cost him the election. But it didn’t help either, considering his weak victory against a weak incumbent (similar to the Fellowship of the Ring escaping the Watcher in the Waters by running into the caves of Moria).

The recent focus on the Hunter Biden scandal re-opened some dark corners from the previous scrutiny into Ukraine. Specifically, it brings back to mind the investigations into the bipartisan collusion involving Ukraine and Vladimir Putin (John Podesta, Clinton Democrats, and Ukraine). The topic remains as relevant as ever. But, as expected, the years of scandals and investigations get lost in the shadows as the glare of political theater and media melodrama takes center stage. It’s not clear what more is known now than in previous years. There have been so many scandals and allegations that it’s hard to keep track of them all. If you want a quick summary, there is a decent piece by Joseph W. Kopsick, Evidence of the Trumps’ and Clintons’ Possible Collusion with Russia and Ukraine (Incomplete). However, he doesn’t link to any sources of evidence or quotes. It is a summary of accusations made, not a summary of the arguments for and against the question of the validity of the accusations.

Some accusations are weak and invalid. Consider how Joule Unlimited and Rusnano is used to claim a direct connection, possibly a point of corruption and collusion, between John Podesta and Vladimir Putin. There is much criticism about the perceived lack of compelling evidence (Travis Gettys, Fox News hypes WikiLeaks claims about Clinton’s ties to Russia — just as Trump asks followers to watch). Is it possible? Sure. But is it proven? Not even close. Then again, such a hypothetical link is not implausible, considering we know Podesta’s brother had no problem knowingly working with an organization involving someone backed by Putin. Still, speculation is not enough to justify an accusation. Just because I don’t trust the Clinton Democrats doesn’t mean I trust the slanderous agenda of Fox News and Trump. Outrage for the sake of outrage is not my cup of tea.

Besides the implications of bipartsan collusion are much more compelling and damning. But neither side wants to touch that or even acknowledge it. This is why Democrats want to implicate Trump in the crimes of Paul Manafort. The fact of the matter is Manafort’s main guilt, at least in terms of Ukraine, involved acts prior to his becoming Trump’s campaign manager. Sure, they had some business associations in the past and they ran in the same social circles, at least since the Reagan era. But even Trump should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Anyway, if one wants to paint Trump as a Russian asset or otherwise compromised, it’s not hard to do. He has been in the immediate orbit of those like Vladimir Putin for decades, along with personal connections and business dealings with Russian oligarchs and Russian mafia figures, often tied to Putin. The sale of property far below market prices implicates Trump in money laundering with the Russian mafia.

The potential wrongdoings that could be investigated and prosecuted are numerous. This corruption is an open secret. If you’re interested in the detailed case against Trump, check out Jay McKenzie’s series: Trump, Putin and the mob. Research collection. Part 1: Trump campaign connections.Part 2: #BudapestBridge and the Hungarian connection to TrumpPart 3: Ron Lauder, Bibi Netanyahu and their friends at Breitbart; Part 4: Paul Manafort was the Kremlin’s point man on the Trump campaign; Part 5: Twitter, Russia and Silicon Valley’s “Persian Mafia”; & Part 6: Trump, Felix Sater and their ties to mafia Don Semion Mogilevich. Agree or disagree in the significance of the entanglements of Trump and his minions, one thing that can’t be doubted is the existence of corrupt cronyism, not to mention the geopolitical power and financial profit of their machinations. Nonetheless, that is a far cry from proving Putin got Trump elected. But it sure does corroborate how enmeshed he was with complex webs of unsavory figures.

One might add that Paul Manafort wasn’t a nobody who just showed up on Trump’s doorstep right before his campaign began. They may have not been close friends and Trump may have had a genuine senior citizen moment in his claiming to not have immediately remembered Manafort, but their relations were far from distant or superficial. Their dealings go back to the 1980s when Trump, as with Ronald Reagan, was one of the first clients of Manafort’s firm. Whatever other associations they may have had over the decades, six months before joining Trump’s campaign in March of 2016, here is what was going on: “Felix Sater and Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, work together on a Trump Tower Moscow deal. Donald Trump signs a letter of intent on the deal in October of 2015.” Then three months in as campaign manager, Manafort was at the “meeting held at Trump Tower between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives” (McKenzie, Part 4). One can sense underlying connections.

Keep in mind that Manafort was involved as a foreign agent in Ukraine for at least a decade. He may have been there as early as 2004 during that country’s presidential election (Mustafa Nayem, AMERICAN SPIN-DOCTORS ON YANUKOVYCH’S SERVICE; from ACTION UKRAINE REPORT – AUR – Number 833, U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC)) or, according to another source, even earlier in 2003 (Yulia Tymoshenko and John Does 1 through 50 v. Plaintiffs; United States District Court for the Southern District of New York). Certainly, he was a notorious and powerful Ukranian actor beginning at the latest during 2005.

And by 2006, when living in Trump Tower, Manafort was “hired by Oleg Deripaska and paid $10 million a year to improve Vladimir Putin’s image with the west” and “to lobby directly for Vladimir Putin” (McKenzie). Also, “Paul worked closely with, at least, two Russian intelligence officials in Ukraine — Viktor Medvedchuk and Manafort’s assistant, Konstantin Kilimnik. Manafort worked with Kremlin propaganda there to help elect a pro-Putin candidate, which, we now must admit, is exactly the situation we saw in Donald Trump’s campaign.” Essentially, “Paul Manafort was Putin’s employee for several years.” It’s hard to imagine Trump was clueless of the existence of Manafort and all that he was doing.

Here is McKenzie’s description of the decade spent in service to Putin and his minions, overlapping with the work he began doing with Trump prior to the campaign: “Consider the amount of work Manafort did from 2005 onwards with the men involved in the 2004 election rigging. Also remember that Manafort’s allegiances did not shift. He began work with Oleg Deripaska in 2000–01. He was introduced to Yanukovych by Deripaska. Manafort began to work with Putin directly in 2006, and Paul continued to work for Yanukovych until 2014, when he fled Ukraine and began living in exile in Moscow.” Manafort had a well known reputation for the work he had done there. It was as significant as his reputation in New York City and Washington, D.C.

It wasn’t only that Trump had to know the kind of people he was getting in bed with. He was already in bed with them. When pointing to them being part of the same social circles, this includes Putin himself and numerous Russian oligarchs, the latter only allowed to be in that elite position because they worked for Putin or otherwise served his interests. As a conclusion, McKenzie states that, “Who is the most common and recurring link between Firtash, Mogilevich, Deripaska, and Fred Trump’s former righthand man? Simple, it’s former Trump campaign chairman and Trump Tower resident Paul Manafort.”

Not even Fox News is able to deny the obvious: “Investigating the business ties between Russia and those in President Donald Trump’s orbit is a legitimate exercise. One-time Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was an advisor to the pro-Russian Ukrainian president. Former Trump advisor Carter Page had energy deals involving Russian companies. Former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn gave a nicely paid speech in Moscow as a private citizen and was less than complete in explaining his conversations with Russian officials. And then there is the simple fact that Attorney General (former senator) Jeff Session, while a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, communicated with the Russian Ambassador” (Peter Schweizer, Trump vs. Clintons’ Russia ties (guess who always got a free pass)).

Of course, Fox News tried to downplay the import with lesser evilism, a tactic also used by DNC-aligned media. But it doesn’t feel overly satisfying to argue about whether Putin, as geopolitical puppet master, has reached further up the asses of the Trump gang or the Clinton gang. A political independent and equal opportunity critic has a hard time making sense of most of it. All that becomes clear is that the halls of power and financing are flooded with devious and sinister actors, and very little of it has to do with partisan politics. One begins to sense what is meant by references to the shadowy deep state.

To suggest that the Russian and related investigations were partisan fake news is total bullshit. The conflict certainly was spun by corporate media for the purposes of corporatist politics, but both sides participated in the staged production because both sides hoped to keep the real issues out of the limelight. Maybe it all comes down to power, as spoken through the language of wealth. Money knows no party lines nor national boundaries. Whether Republicans or Democrats hold the presidency, those benefitting from American business interests always seems to somehow involve profit for Putin-backed companies and Russia oligarchs. This was seen with uranium during the Obama administration (Democrats, Russians, and Uranium). And it was seen with steel during the Trump administration (Steve Horn, Behind Trump’s Push for “American Steel” in Pipelines, Another Russian Company with Putin Ties Stands to Benefit).

For many years, there were those who rightly pointed to the legalized bribery as a means for powerful interests to buy access and benefits. Besides the Uranium One scandal, this also included the Saudis having donated to the Clinton Foundation to ensure they would receive a generous arms deal from Hilary Clinton when she was Secretary of State (Clinton Foundation–State Department controversy). Those involved all operated within the letter of the law and maintained careful divisions to allow for plausible deniability, but any honest observer would admit that it is bribery and corruption. This was the infamous pay-to-play. This subverting of democracy is so normalized as to hardly be scandalous at all, at least to the mind grown cynical.

Donald Trump, in many ways, maybe doesn’t get criticized as harshly as one might expect. Everyone already knew he was a sleazy businessman before he was elected. Well known is his having run businesses into the ground, declared bankruptcy over and over, evaded debt collectors, cheated business partners, refused to pay contractors, and mistreated employees. Then there are outright scams like Trump University. Only his wealth and high-powered lawyers have saved him from the consequences and punishments that he deserves. All of that is on top of a lifetime dwelling in the swampy waters of the elite, from New York City to Washington, D.C. to Moscow and beyond. Surely, his close ties to the political elite in both parties, including the Clintons, helped protect him and his business interests.

Trump and his entre family were born in the swamp and have flourished there. The Trumps, in ever seeking profit, haven’t even pretended to care about democracy, but that is no surprise to their supporters and so outrage is limited. No one, Republican or Democrat, ever expected Trump to be anything other than a slimy swamp creature. In fact, Trump proudly campaigned on being corrupt, arguing that only someone as corrupt as him could fight corruption, as strange as that might sound to a mind not totally demented by the brutal logic of power. With such open corruption, it’s hard to attack Trump’s corruption as a weakness or a failure. It is simply who he is and why a certain kind of person voted for him, not that this minority of supporters exactly gave a public mandate to be wantonly corrupt. Still, it must be admitted that he was, in his own way, honest about his dishonesty.

Besides, it’s not like Trump is an anomaly. This is a family of corruption with a dishonorable legacy that goes back generations. Trump and his siblings, when they were still young, initially inherited money from their father, Fred Trump, as part of various illegal tax evasion schemes. And this continued into the 1990s (David Barstow, Susanne Craig & Russ Buettner, Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father). Their wealth was built on real estate and construction in New York City, but it was initially accumulated by the grandfather, Friedrich Trumpf, who made his first fortune by running an illegal brothel during the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon. It was in New York City, though, that the family more fully got involved in corruption and criminality. That place was infamous for its machine politics that was well oiled with bribery, kickbacks, and graft; cronyism, favoritism, and nepotism.

The Trump family fit in perfectly well. New York City politics and big biz was enmeshed in Tammany Hall, along with boroughs and municipalities run like fiefdoms, not to mention powerful organized crime that controlled the construction industry. One didn’t become a wealthy businessman, particularly in real estate, in that climate without being a criminal and working with criminals. The evidence points to both Donald and Fred having bought politicians. This behavior became far darker as Donald began working closely with the local mafia, such as laundering money, a practice that he did with foreign organized crime as well. There was also mortgage fraud and much else that ties him to the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of the closest cronies of the Trump family. This corruption was later joined with that of Jared Kushner’s family by way of marriage to Ivanka Trump.

That decadent culture of open corruption is probably why Trump is so cavalier about his own malbehavior, with a confidence that people like him are above the law because they have deep pockets to buy the legal outcomes they so desire. Such vast moral depravity was normalized for him in childhood when he got his first taste of American-style capitalism. It was only natural for him to continue this behavior once he formally entered politics, although he had been closely tied to the political elite his entire life. As promised, President Trump ran the country like a business and, in his experience, that means corruption by default. He doesn’t know how to run a business honestly, an alien concept to his mind.

Only part way through his term as president, there was documented 2,000 instances identified as “conflicts of interest between his business interests and his duty to the country as president” (Gretchen Frazee, Trump criticizes the Bidens, but his own family’s business raises questions). That happened in less than three years and he was only warming up. He really upped his game in this last year when he knew he was running out of time before the scam would be up and he has ended up adding more than another thousand conflicts of interest (Julia Conley, ‘An Astonishing Rate of Corruption’: Trump Has Amassed 3,000 Conflicts of Interest Since Taking Office). Also, that is only looking at the conflicts of interest, not the hundreds of other forms of corruption such as selling key political positions to private power, as seen with a tidal wave of regulatory capture. Then, on top of that, there are the near endless activities of his own family the he nepotistically inserted into power while they continued to push various family financial interests, often using their political position to ensure backing and funding or else to promote products.

So, why haven’t the Trumps been nailed for their known illegal actions? And why hasn’t Trump been impeached, as impeachment doesn’t even require proving criminality? “THE DEFENSE GOT ONE THING RIGHT at Donald Trump’s Senate trial,” writes Jim Lardner (Mapping Corruption: Donald Trump’s Executive Branch). “The case against him was thin, his team kept saying; and so it was, compared to the enormity of this administration’s other offenses.” It makes one wonder why the DNC and deep state that is portrayed as hating Trump chose such a weak case that would guaranteed he would get away without punishment. There were so many crimes that, if prosecuted, could land Trump and family in prison. The defenders of the Establishment wanted to put on a good show for the viewing public and they wanted to send the clear message to Trump that he needed to back down, but actually destroying one of the highest and most powerful of the ruling elite would set a dangerous precedent.* The weakness of that particular legal case, though, should not be taken as innocence, as Lardner makes clear:

“Set aside the hate-mongering and the stream of conspiracy theories and demagogic bombast. Trump has sowed corruption of a breadth and brazenness unseen in the far-from-innocent annals of our nation’s history. In three years as president, he has transformed the executive branch into a giant favor factory, populated with the agents or willing partners of virtually every special interest. Add up all the routine, daily outrages—the quasi-bribery and quasi-extortion, the private raids on public funds, the handouts to the undeserving, the massive flow of cash, jobs, and freebies back in return—and Trump’s attempt to squeeze a little re-election help out of the fragile government of a desperate Eastern European country does not loom particularly large in the reckoning.

“Adding it all up is a challenge, though. It’s hard to fathom the depths of the kleptocracy when there’s so much happening on the surface to divert us. The corruption most directly in our faces involves the looting and skimming and self-dealing of the president and his family. Our first hotel-owning president has inspired a parade of foreign diplomats and domestic lobbyists to pay tribute with overnight stays that are functionally indistinguishable from bribes. The Secret Service has blown over half a million dollars on golf carts protecting a leader who has spent nearly one out of every three days of his first term at one of his resort properties, which get free advertising on top of the revenue from lodging his guards and retinue. Ivanka Trump snags a valuable set of Chinese trademarks on the same day she dines with Xi Jinping. Kellyanne Conway hawks Ivanka’s products in TV interviews.

“But the personal corruption of the Trumps themselves perversely masks the sliminess perpetrated by literally thousands of presidential appointees, from Cabinet officials to obscure functionaries. Amid all the distractions, it’s hard to focus on the more consequential crookedness and follow out the plotlines of all the sordid stories, and grasp the brutal consequences visited upon countless people. We lunge from scandal to scandal without ever filling in the bigger picture, or taking proper account of all the knaves, thieves, and corporate stooges and their handiwork.”

Trump was never going to drain the swamp, no more than Trump’s cronies in D.C. were going to take down Trump. Here is the difference that is offered to the American public, typically framed as ‘lesser evilism’. The Trumps will punch you in the face and kick you in the balls to get what they want and then walk away with piles of money, whereas the Clintons will put a friendly arm on your shoulder and look you in the eyes as they slip a hand into your back pocket (maybe while starting another war to profit the military-industrial complex, a war that the corporate media won’t report on). Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

With Trump as patriarchal mob boss, the blatant thievery and thuggery is the supposed ‘honesty’ that Trump supporters so adore. This administration’s corruption has become so bold that it defies any need to be hidden, any pretenses of respectability. It might not be long before other politicians follow the example of the Trumps, as the entire elite loses all shame and fear. Then it will be normalized and full-on fascism can begin. This means that the equivalent of Manafort and the Podesta brothers could operate out in the open where eventually not even Federal investigators might be able to touch them.

All of that said, in the end, is Trump’s misbehavior really worse than the decades of conniving that built the American Empire in the first place such that it could be taken over by someone like Trump? The American ruling elite have been undermining democracy and overthrowing democratic governments for more than a century. Are we surprised that democracy here at home has suffered in our being publicly shamed on the international stage by Trump’s buffoonery? When Democrats had the presidency and majority control, did they constrain executive power according to the Constitution, instead of expanding it further? Of course not. We never would have had a Trump presidency without the Clinton dynasty and the Bush dynasty, without the systemic moral rot of administration after administration.

So, here we are. President elect Joe Biden will cobble the pieces back together, smooth over the threatening fractures, make the American Empire respectable again. This will inevitably fail in the long run, as democratic reform can only be delayed for so long before something else forces change. The corruption will continue to get worse, as will the public outrage. Next up might be a truly competent dictator, maybe sooner than some expect. Then Democrats will speak nostalgically of the Trump era when things weren’t so bad.

* * *

* Then again, some argue that, once the Trump family is out of power, they could become less protected from a deep state that may perceive them as having gone too far and so potentially could use them to set an example to keep the rest of the oligarchy in line. And the other oligarchs might not feel forgiving toward the Trumps in having threatened the Establishment with dangerous political games. Even the most horrific of crimes can be tolerated, as long as they are in defense of power itself. Trump’s presidency, instead, has left that system of power in shambles and that harms the interests and agendas of many people who otherwise would be extremely tolerant of the shenanigans of someone like Donald Trump. This plutocratic family might find it’s luck has run out.

“Trump is more vulnerable to prosecution,” Jon Schwarz explains, “than other presidents because he’s engaged in so many potential nontraditional presidential crimes. With the invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush committed what the Nuremberg trials referred to as “the supreme international crime” of initiating a war of aggression. But there was never any chance that he’d be punished for this, because the entire U.S. power structure agrees that American presidents have the right to do it. Same for conducting thousands of drone strikes or torturing people around the globe. By contrast, Trump has engaged in many comparatively small, shabby, possible criminal activities outside of his presidential duties” (Losing Could Expose Trump To Prosecution For Any Number of Crimes).

This probably won’t happen. But it could. No president has ever attacked the deep state before, even if it was merely political theater. The deep state doesn’t like to be forced out into the open through involvement in partisan fights and campaign rhetoric. Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon who will shrink away into the shadows after being ousted from power. And in finding his entire family having gained the status of pariah, Trump’s antics as an attention whore could get worse. Various actors in the Establishment might decide that it will need to fully and finally put the uncouth Trump clan back into its place. If the Trumps fight back, they might just make it worse and force empty threats to become real prosecutions. They’d be wise to tread lightly until events cool back down. Those in power would prefer that Trump simply concede power and just go away.

* * *

As the main target of hatred for nearly the entire political right, along with more than a few on the political left, there has been decades of criticism, analysis, and investigations about the Clintons and their cronies; not to mention the endless conspiracy theories. But now the Trump dynasty is in the spotlight. For those interested, there has been an unsurprising increase of investigating reporting on the details of depravity for this scandalous family:

24 thoughts on “Trump Family And Elite Corruption

    • I feel entirely unexcited about power returning to the Clinton Democrats. Even worse, it is Biden who is one of the most right-wing in that crowd. It causes me some dread. But it’s hard to imagine what four more years of Trump would’ve been like. It surely would’ve been a disaster like never before seen.

      Trump would’ve guaranteed the decline of the American Empire in speeding up the process, a not entirely bad prospect considering. Biden, on the other hand, is actually going to try to accomplish what Trump promised in making the American Empire great again. As a hardcore neocon, he has his work set out for him.

      Alliances will need to be rebuilt and trade deals re-established. The projection of American power will have to be reinforced and re-enforced. The Biden administration, with bipartisan support, might need to invade a few more countries just to remind the world we are still the leading global superpower and so not to be underestimated.

      It’s all so depressing. The hopes for reform retreat to the horizon once again. We will be returning back to business as usual. Empires don’t run themselves. There is work to be done. But I’m not sure the DNC posturing of respectability politics is up to the task. We might be too far gone for status quo ‘moderation’. Peter Turchin predicts the next decade will be a tumultuous period, as events may have already been set into motion.

    • In writing this post, I came to realize that Trump is worse than I thought he was. And I already had an extremely low opinion of him. What was brought out in all the reporting is how much corruption itself is the family business of the whole Trump family and across so many generations. There was another angle I didn’t mention, though. I saw an interview with Mary Trump, Donald’s niece. Her father, Fred Trump Jr., was the black sheep of the family, which is to say he apparently had moral character. He didn’t want to be part of the corrupt family business and so sought an honest living.

      So, Fred Jr. was disowned by his and Donald’s father, Fred Sr. Donald looked up to his older brother and the two had a good relationship. But when their father turned on him, so did Donald. Mary thinks that is when Donald essentially turned to the dark side. That is to say it wasn’t inevitable. Within a story of corruption, there is also a tale of tragedy. No one is born evil. Nothing forced Trump to follow in his father’s footsteps. Even at a fairly young age, he could have retired or spent his life as a philanthropist. He didn’t need the money.

      In fact, for all his business conniving and chicanery, Donald Trump made less money in his failed business career than he would have if he had simply put his inheritance into passive investments. That is true with his corruption as president as well. For all his angling for the Art of the Deal, he actually hasn’t profited all that well these past four years. He probably would’ve made far more money if he had stayed in the private sector. And he’ll never be able to get away with his former corrupt business practices with all the scrutiny he’ll now get. The good times are over for him.

    • By the way, are you very familiar with Steven Bannon? I’m sure you know of him more generally as he has been in the news a fair amount in recent years. But he has an interesting background. He comes across as a slovenly loser, but he actually is well educated and well read, not to mention extremely wealthy. He had multiple successful careers, both on Wall Street and in Hollywood. He still makes good money from his earlier investment in Seinfeld. So, he is able to play his political games because he is independently wealthy and has too much time on his hands.

      I knew of his work before I knew about who he was. After he became Trump’s campaign manager, I realized he was the same guy who had made some documentaries. One of his documentaries was about Strauss and Howe’s generations theory and I share that interest, which is why I had bought a copy of it during the Obama administration. The documentary is rabid right-wing propaganda that somehow blames the hippies for everything that has gone wrong in American society. It’s quite over the top in its melodramatic music and imagery.

      Still, the theory it’s based on is not right-wing schlock. It’s somewhat well known among the political elite. Bill Clinton has also read Strauss and Howes’ work. It’s a compelling theory that makes both general and specific predictions based on a study of historical cycles. Bannon hoped to use it as a playbook to gain power and push his fascist agenda. So, he signed on for Trump’s campaign in seeing it as the perfect opportunity to smuggle in his ideological aspirations. He declared t was going to be as exciting as the 1930s, the last time fascism seized the Western world.

      With these dark fantasies swirling around in his mind, he helped shape Trump’s campaign rhetoric in pushing economic populism and old school progressivism. It was Bannon’s vision behind campaign promises of economic renewal, jobs increase, and infrastructure rebuilding — the kinds of things that were achieved not only in FDR’s Great Society but also Hitler’s Nazism. According the Fourth Turning theory of generational change, we had been entering a period of crisis in recent years, a prediction made back in the 1990s.

      An important prediction was more specific. Whichever party was in power when the crisis hit would be out of power for a generation. Bannon was betting on the notion that the full crisis was the 2008 Recession and that it would be blamed on the Obama Administration in having failed to come to terms with the growing populist outrage. This was taken as an opportunity for a demagogue like Trump, but Bannon couldn’t control Trump who turned out to be incompetent and a loose cannon. Instead of responding to crisis, Trump made it worse and actually relished in creating more crisis.

      Basically, Bannon’s scheming backfired. It turns out the 2008 Recession was simply the beginning of crisis. Future generations, though, will remember the full crisis as having hit in 2020. Trump, not Obama, will be permanently identified with the era of crisis. That means it will be the Republicans, not the Democrats, that will be out of power for a generation. Well, that is assuming that Strauss and Howe were correct. But it does give one much food for thought. Bannon’s machinations turned out to be too clever but lacking in genuine insight and wisdom. His rising star has fallen.

  1. I dread violent revolution. I dread so much about our world today. Human nature is so very, very black. Fear is the dominant motive. Grab everything for myself, do down my neighbour, climb to the top of the greasy poll.

    Even if we lived in a society where scarcity had been abolished there would still be people playing the power game. There would still be malice.

    I know this sounds ridiculous but I was watching Star Trek Discovery recently. Ridiculous stuff you might say but I have been fascinated since I was a child by a “force” for good. The world it portrays is very like the Culture of Scottish socialist and science fiction author Ian Banks. Star Trek is far less sophisticated, far less intellectual and yet the “Good” it portrays is equally compelling.

    In the Culture, its citizens want for nothing. There is no want and even such things as depression can be cured by “glanding” the right chemicals. The Culture is run by “minds” of infinite sophistication.

    I realize all this sounds absurd in the current context and yet that is what I dream of. A society of good where there is no want. A society which spreads through the universe putting out fires and nastiness.

    I suppose the roles of the Federation and the Culture are not so far removed from that of an all powerful god. Perhaps that is why I have always been so profoundly moved by religion East and West, even though I am not a believer in the Abrahamic god.

    • Your vision resonates with me. I grew up in the Unity Church, a New Agey / New Thought sect of Christianity. The theology I was raised on is that God is love, the world is good, and the human mind is a powerful creative force. It was an extremely idealist vision that I wholeheartedly believed in when I was younger. The core of that faith remains in me, even if the religious aspects have not.

      Decades of depression tarnished my faith and experience of the adult world has not encouraged a sense of hope and optimism. Starting in high school, I was already having doubts growing in me. It was partly from being a late Cold War child who grew up watching post-apocalyptic movies that didn’t give me a bright sense of the future. I remember in elementary school writing a story about the survivors of mass catastrophe. And in high school, I wrote some papers on pollution and overpopulation.

      But even with all of those concerns darkening my young mind, my religious faith remained and in some ways strengthened. I wanted to believe that something better was possible. And I would get a taste of it when I went to church youth camp where people were so kind, caring, and supportive; where others also held a positive view of the world and humanity. I remember, in 11th grade, being hit hard by reality after returning from one of those events and going to school the next day. It was hard to hold onto that sense of faith in love and goodness when I saw how most people acted in the “real world”.

      It was also during high school in the early ’90s that Star Trek: The Next Generation was on tv with Deep Space Nine coming shortly after. I’d regularly watch both shows with my father and it definitely shaped me, offering an alternative vision to all of those post-apocalyptic films from the ’80s. You are correct about the inspiring post-scarcity society that was portrayed, but there were always hints that humanity had gone through a violent time to get there. In the 1986 The Voyage Home, it shows a future where whales have gone extinct, indicating some kind of major environmental catastrophe.

      Some details of the immediate future history were clarified in an episode of DS9 when some of the crew traveled back in time. By the early 2020s, there is mass unemployment and Sanctuary Districts are established in every major city in the United States. They are debtor’s prisons set up as inner city ghettos where the poor, homeless, and mentally ill are trapped within walled neighborhoods. The rest of society considers the problem solved and these people are forgotten, but overcrowding and worsening conditions creates conflict.

      Then in 2024, the Bell Riots happen when there is an uprising in a Sanctuary District and it forces the public to become aware of what is going on. This leads to an era of reforms, but societal problems continue. World War III begins in 2026 with decades of nuclear cataclysm, genocide, and eco-terrorism that doesn’t end until 2053. The post-atomic horror lasts until 2079. Most of the major cities are destroyed, few governments remain intact, and 600 million humans die, not to mention what probably is mass extinction of so many other species.

      Despite all this, space travel advances during the 2030s and first contact with the Vulcans happens in 2063. The realization that humans are not alone in the universe inspires mass social change on Earth. In less than two generations following the post-atomic horror, humanity eliminates poverty, disease, war, hunger, hopelessness, despair, and cruelty. That means, according to Star Trek future history, the next century will be very hard times but they can be taken as the birth pangs of a coming utopia.

    • It’s interesting that even the writers for Star Trek weren’t able (or willing?) to imagine a future that doesn’t lead us to and through violence in the near future. That seems to be a common tendency, but it’s admittedly sad commentary on the self-enforced limits of the human mind. Radical imagination seems to require radical dislocation of the status quo.

      It’s much easier to see the immediate situation as tragic, whereas optimism and idealism often requires us projecting far into the future. Star Trek future history doesn’t exactly disagree with the post-apocalyptic movies of the late Cold War. It simply tacked a utopian vision on top of it, as if violence and death were a prerequisite for motivating change.

      It’s similar to the pattern that, in the 18th century, Americans, British, and French were unable to imagine and enact democratic reforms until after the mass violence of multiple failed revolts and successful revolutions. We humans typically require a lot of bloody convincing before we’ll relent to allow progress and improvement for the public good.

      • Let’s not be too hard on “Wagon Train to the Stars.” Roddenberry did the best he could in the face of Hollywood insiders and network censors. ST is science fiction, and even the best of our science fiction posits a dystopian future (and “the future is now”) may, can or will or does precede anything else. (Oh, gee, thanks linear time models.)

        • It doesn’t particularly bother me. I still love the show. And I tend to take entertainment for what it is without judging it for what it isn’t. I can watch a Hallmark movie with my mother or a children’s show, and in either case appreciate it on its own level. I’m a simple soul when it comes to entertainment. I just like being told a story. The fact that Roddenberry and the screenwiters were able to slip such a utopian vision in at all was amazing and inspiring.

        • There is this: “It is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism.” It’s variously attributed to Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Žižek but also Bruce Franklin in talking about J. G. Ballard. Interestingly, here is how Jameson put it in context:

          “Someone once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. We can now revise that and witness the attempt to imagine capitalism by way of imagining the end of the world.”

          So, there are two impulses that are expressed as distinct visions of the future. One leads to Star Trek utopia. And the other leads to post-apocalyptic or Cyberpunk dystopias. But both are about a world transformed by industrialization and technology.

          • I’m not sure it was so much a take on anything in particular. It’s more that we, including Roddenberry and myself, have been living amidst this transformatinon of industrialization and technology. Roddenberry was one among many to offer an extension of the ongoing ‘present’ into the future.

          • I wasn’t necessarily implying industrialization and technolgy as causal forces, per se. Just the conditions of the modern era while some new era might be taking hold, whatever the causal relationship or significance of factors involved.

          • “It is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism.”

            Tell me about it. In a ST future wherein money had supposedly been done away with, they needed something to represent exchange. Ergo, we got “credits.” 😀

            Not sure if you’re familiar with the work of Stuart Kaufman, but he suggests money is a form energy — like everything else.

          • Kaufman’s name sounds familiar. I’m fairly sure I’ve seen his books around. It’s the type of thing I might read when in the right mood.

            I’d say money is a symbol of energy. So, commerce is a symbolic exchange. All fungible wealth is imaginary. That is fine as long as others agree on the shared fantasy of a particular ideological realism.

            The point is that we humans require symbols of social relating. Money is one possibility. Societies have been built around other symbolic systems. But it’s hard for us to imagine an entirely new order unlike anything that came before.

            That is the challenge of SF. Star Trek solved the problem most of the time by remaining fuzzy on the details.

    • Throwing some LOTR references was more for my own amusement. But I figured someone else might also appreciate them.

      Anyway, I’m glad it was informative. That is the purpose. I inform myself and then write about it, in the hope that it might inform others.

      It’s the wondrous power of knowledge. Pass it on!

      “Knowing is half the battle.”
      ~ G.I. Joe

      “Take a look. It’s in a book.”
      ~ Reading Rainbow

  2. “<a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/nov/14/donald-trump-concede-election-republican-donors-covid>Millions who should be ranged against the American oligarchy are distracted and divided – just as their leaders want“

    • “The president-elect aspires to find a moderate middle ground. This will be difficult because there’s no middle. The real divide is no longer left versus right but the bottom 90% versus the oligarchy.”

      Exactly! But I don’t see the proposed solution happening. And the author must realize the radicalism that is disallowed by default within corporate politics. How could the DNC oligarchy cut their ties with oligarchy? They are the oligarchy.

      “Biden and the Democrats will better serve the nation by becoming the party of the bottom 90% – of the poor and the working middle class, of black and white and brown, and of all those who would be $47tn richer today had the oligarchy not taken over America.

      “This would require that Democrats abandon the fiction of political centrism and establish a countervailing force to the oligarchy – and, not incidentally, sever their own links to it.

      “They’d have to show white working-class voters how badly racism and xenophobia have hurt them as well as people of color. And change the Democratic narrative from kumbaya to economic and social justice.

      “Easy to say, hugely difficult to accomplish. But if today’s bizarre standoff in Washington is seen for what it really is, there’s no alternative.”

    • Populism” is the buzzword right now. Everyone’s trying to figure out what it means, but I suspect that’s because people think there are “left” and “right” versions of it — not without good reason, but there we are.

      Everyone wants a “party of the People” (woohoo!), but we don’t have one and “proportional representation” would be more appropriate, in any case.

      • Populism is one of those things that simply does not fit the left-right paradigm in a good way.

        The left and right does point to certain meaningful distinctions when understood in the long view of international history, at least as framed in broader Western politics beyond the United States alone. But populism is an amorphous beast and our reactionary age can make populism quite dynamic in being hard to pin down.

        Generally speaking, ‘populism’ often is used to refer to social unrest that threatens to become revolt. In this, it’s typically the comfortable classes saying that they are feeling a bit uneasy about the rowdy masses demanding representation, demanding to be heard and have a seat at the table.

        So, to call people populists can be a slur, most often implying ‘right-wing’ populists when the liberal class speaks of it. There is the fear of rising authoritarianism. But history shows us that sometimes it was a fearful liberal class that ended up supporting authoritarians to put the rabble back in their place.

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