Category Archives: Cronyism

Are They Really Out to Get Trump? Sometimes paranoia is justified, by Philip Giraldi

The answer to the title question keeps edging closer to yes (see Let’s Connect the Dots). From Philip Giraldi at lewrockwell.com:

President Donald Trump is not exactly known for his self-restraint. The recent firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey was not handled with any delicacy and has unleashed a firestorm of criticism coming from across the political spectrum. And since Comey’s abrupt dismissal the backstabbing has become even worse, with many coming around to the view that Trump is actually crudely threatening Comey over the issue of what might or might not have been said at dinners and meetings between the two men.

What exactly drove the firing at this time remains somewhat of a mystery though the media has been quick to link it directly to Trump’s reported anger at the seemingly endless investigation into his Administration’s possible ties to Russia, an investigation that nominally Comey headed as FBI Director. But that explanation somehow makes no sense as even a white-hot Trump would have realized that getting rid of Comey would only make the Russiagate problem worse as everyone would assume cover-up and would come after the White House with even greater intensity, which is precisely what has happened. Was Trump dumb enough to dig himself into a deeper hole? Possibly, but it seems unlikely.

What is real, however, is that constant innuendo means that anti-Russian hysteria has been mounting, including completely speculative pieces wondering whether the entourage of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had sought to sneak a recording device into the White House during last week’s visit.

And what if there really is a conspiracy against Donald Trump being orchestrated within the various national security agencies that are part of the United States government? The president has been complaining for months about damaging leaks emanating from the intelligence community and the failure of Congress to pay any attention to the illegal dissemination of classified information. It is quite possible that Trump has become aware that there is actually something going on and that something just might be a conspiracy to delegitimize and somehow remove him from office.

To continue reading: Are They Really Out to Get Trump? Sometimes paranoia is justified

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State of Denial: The Economy No Longer Works As It Did in the Past, by Charles Hugh Smith

As a general rule, the less a government involves itself with an economy, the better the economy does. The opposite is also true, and the US economy the last twenty years is living proof. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

There’s no Plan B for a state-corporate form of central-planning capitalism that is no longer functioning.
If there is one reality that is denied or obscured by the Status Quo, it is that the economy no longer works as it did in the past. This is the fundamental economic context of our current slide into political-social disintegration.
The Status Quo narrative is: the policies that worked for the past 70 years are still working today. Boiled down to its Keynesian state-corporate essence, the Status Quo economic narrative is simple:
All we need to do to escape a “soft patch” (recession) is for governments to borrow and spend more money to temporarily boost incomes and demand until the private sector gets back on its feet and starts borrowing and spending more.
To help the private sector, central banks lower interest rates so it’s cheaper to borrow and spend.
As soon as the private-sector borrowing and spending rises, we can raise interest rates and trim state fiscal stimulus (i.e. governments borrowing and spending trillions more than they did before the recession).
But the inconvenient reality is these Keynesian policies no longer work. Fiscal stimulus (governments borrowing and spending trillions more than they did before the recession) has continued for a decade–or in Japan’s case, almost three decades.
The Keynesian gods have failed, but the worshippers of these false idols have no other form of black magic to turn to.
Why is fiscal stimulus now a permanent policy? The answer is uncomfortable: if fiscal stimulus is withdrawn (or even trimmed), the economy immediately goes into a self-reinforcing contraction.
As for near-zero interest rates: after 10 years of supposed “recovery,” central banks are terrified of pushing rates higher by quarter-point baby-steps, for the same reason that fiscal stimulus cannot be withdrawn: raising interest rates to historic norms would immediately send the economy into contraction.

“Probably More” Links Between Clinton & Russia Than Trump, GOPer Exclaims, by Tyler Durden

If you’re going to go after Trump and team for alleged Russian connections, what about the Clintons’ connection to Russia, which appear to be much more extensive? From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

A clearly frustrated Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said Sunday that there are “probably more” connections between Hillary Clinton and Russia than there are between Moscow and President Trump.

During an interview with John Catsimatidis that aired Sunday on New York’s AM 970, The Hill reports that the lawmaker said:

I am not aware of any evidence whatsoever of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia or between Russia and the Trump campaign,”

 “There is probably more evidence of links between Russia and the Clinton campaign than anyone even could imagine between Russia and people involved in the Trump campaign,”

Whether this was a response specifically to this week’s New York Times’ “Russia-Trump Nexus” op-ed desperation, or more generally the tack that Democrats nationwide seem to remain focused on is unclear. However, as Investors.com’s John Merline details below, Rep. King may not be far off the facts…

The Hillary Clinton-Russia Nexus

The acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, told Congress on Thursday that President Trump’s firing of James Comey has not derailed the agency’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Hillary Clinton campaign. Which is good news. Despite Mrs. Clinton’s assertion that the idea of collusion is “a total hoax,” and despite many unknowns, the links continue to pile up. Here is a partial accounting of the connections we do know something about.

THE CLINTON FAMILY BUSINESSThere may be no Clinton Foundation office in Moscow or St. Petersburg, but it is not for lack of trying. Bill Clinton received half a million dollars in 2010 for a speech he gave in Moscow, paid by a Russian firm, Renaissance Capital, that has ties to Russian intelligence. The Clinton Foundation took money from Russian officials and oligarchs, including Victor Kekselberg, a Putin confidant. The Foundation also received millions of dollars from Uranium One, which was sold to the Russian government in 2010, giving Russia control of 20% of the uranium deposits in the U.S. —  the sale required approval from Hillary Clinton’s State Department. What’s more, at least some of these donations weren’t disclosed. “Ian Telfer, the head of the Russian government’s uranium company, Uranium One, made four foreign donations totaling $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all such donors,” the Times has reported.

To continue reading: “Probably More” Links Between Clinton & Russia Than Trump, GOPer Exclaims

 

Trump Surrenders to the Iron Law of Oligarchy, by Dan Sanchez

Have Donald Trump’s aspirations to take on the Deep State and drain the swamp already been deep-sixed? From Dan Sanchez at antiwar.com:

Many observers, especially among his fans, suspect that the seemingly untamable Trump has already been housebroken by the Washington, “globalist” establishment. If true, the downfall of Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn less than a month into the new presidency may have been a warning sign. And the turning point would have been the removal of Steven K. Bannon from the National Security Council on April 5.

Until then, the presidency’s early policies had a recognizably populist-nationalist orientation. During his administration’s first weeks, Trump’s biggest supporters frequently tweeted the hashtag #winning and exulted that he was decisively doing exactly what, on the campaign trail, he said he would do.

In a flurry of executive orders and other unilateral actions bearing Bannon’s fingerprints, Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, declared a sweeping travel ban, instituted harsher deportation policies, and more.

These policies seemed to fit Trump’s reputation as the “tribune of poor white people,” as he has been called; above all, Trump’s base calls for protectionism and immigration restrictions. Trump seemed to be delivering on the populist promise of his inauguration speech (thought to be written by Bannon), in which he said:

“Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes – starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.

To continue reading: Trump Surrenders to the Iron Law of Oligarchy

The Horror! The Horror! by Jim Quinn

A powerful Deep State with extensive expertise in persuasion and propaganda and an easily duped public are the recipe for disastrous policies at home and abroad. From Jim Quinn at theburningplatform.com:

I’m constantly amazed by the ability of those in power to create a narrative trusted by a gullible non-critical thinking populace. Appealing to emotions, when you have millions of functionally illiterate, normalcy bias ensnared, iGadget distracted, disciples of the status quo, has been the game plan of the Deep State for the last century. Americans don’t want to think, because thinking is hard. They would rather feel. For decades the government controlled public education system has performed a mass lobotomy on their hapless matriculates, removing their ability to think and replacing it with feelings, fabricated dogma, and social indoctrination. Their minds of mush have been molded to acquiesce to the narrative propagandized by their government keepers.

“The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.”Thomas Sowell

With a majority confused, distracted, malleable, willfully ignorant, and easily manipulated by false narratives, heart wrenching images, and fake news, the Deep State henchmen have been able to control the masses with relative ease. The unanticipated rise of Donald Trump to the most powerful role in the world gave many critical thinking, anti-big government, skeptical curmudgeons hope he could drain the swamp and begin to deconstruct the massive out of control Federal bureaucracy.

His rhetoric during the campaign about repealing the disastrous Obamacare abortion, cutting taxes, dismantling Federal regulatory red tape, making Mexico pay for the wall, dumping Yellen, favoring higher interest rates, and not interfering militarily in countries who are not threatening the United States, appealed to many libertarian minded people.

I’ve watched with disgust over the last month as the promises of non-interventionism by a presidential candidate have been broken by the third consecutive president. George W. promised a humble foreign policy with no nation building. He had criticized the Clinton-Gore Administration for being too interventionist:

“If we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I’m going to prevent that.”

With 9/11 as a convenient excuse, he invaded sovereign countries based on flawed data, passed the 4th Amendment destroying Patriot Act, allowed neo-cons to create a Orwellian surveillance state, and permitted the military industrial complex to regain its power and control over the political apparatus in Washington D.C. With no Cold War to fill their coffers, neo-cons in Congress, warmongering think tank co-conspirators, military brass and their arms dealer cronies needed to create a new war to keep the racket going.

To continue reading: The Horror! The Horror!

The Real Barack Obama is Finally Exposed to Everyone, by Michael Krieger

Most SLL readers are doing their best to forget Barack Obama. They certainly don’t need a reminder that Obama was a self-serving sleaze ball, but evidently the Great One’s hefty fee for a speech to a Wall Street brokerage has opened some eyes among former supporters. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

There is no reason for the Democratic Party to exist.
– Jimmy Dore

I’ve been surprised by the number of people who lived in total denial about who Barack Obama actually was throughout his entire administration, suddenly pointing out the ethical and demoralizing implications of his recent decision to accept $400,000 for a speech to Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald.

For myself and countless others, the writing was on the wall from virtually day one when he appointed Wall Street sycophants Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers to senior positions within his administration. Then came the policies, which were even more generous to Wall Street than any cynic could imagine. I posted countless pieces on Obama’s cronyism throughout his Presidency, constantly referring to him as an oligarch-coddling fraud, which his record unquestionably confirms.

It wasn’t just Wall Street either. Although his protection and empowerment of that industry was particularly shameless, he coddled and elevated corporatism and cronyism generally throughout his eight years. As I observed in the 2015 post, Cronyism Pays – Eric “Too Big to Jail” Holder Triumphantly Returns to His Prior Corporate Law Firm Job:

Trying to determine Barack Obama’s most corrupt, crony appointee presents a virtually impossible task. Every single person he’s appointed to a position of power over the course of his unfathomably shady, violent and unconstitutional presidency, has been little more than a gatekeeper for powerful vested interests. Obama’s job was to talk like a marxist, but act like a robber baron. In this regard, his reign has been an unprecedented success.

To continue reading: The Real Barack Obama is Finally Exposed to Everyone

The Corporatocracy, by Robert Gore

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The interests of Washington and large corporations have merged so completely they are now inseparable.

America’s large corporations and its government have merged. Or was it an acquisition? If the latter, who acquired whom? Unfortunately, the labels affixed to purely corporate combinations lose their analytical usefulness here. While the two retain their own distinct legal structures and managements, so to speak, such a close community of interest has evolved that it’s no longer possible to separate them or delineate their individual contours. Political labels are no help; the ones most often used have become hopelessly imprecise. The Wikipedia definition of “fascism” is over 8,000 words, with 43 notes and 16 references.

However, the conjoined blob is so big, rapacious, and intrusive that akin to Justice Potter Stewart’s famous non-definition of obscenity, everybody knows it when they see or otherwise come into contact with it. This article will use the term “corporatocracy.” It’s less letters, dashes, and words to type than “the corporate-government-combination.” No serviceable understanding of either US history or current events is possible without close study of the corporatocracy. Unfortunately, such study, like entomology or cleaning septic tanks, requires a stout constitution. But take heart, entomologists grow to love their creepy crawly things, and septic tank cleaners say that after a few minutes you don’t even notice the smell.

A cherished delusion of naive liberals holds that big government is a counterweight, not a partner, to big business. Such a rationale is touted when the righteous demand new regulation, the public and media endorse it, the legislators pass it, and the president signs it into law. However, there are always unpaved stretches on the road to hell—once regulation is law, the righteous, public, media, legislators, and president, and their ostensibly good intentions, are on to the next cause.

In the quiet obscurity they relish, regulators and regulated get down to doing what they do best: bending the law to their joint benefit. Business, whose P&L’s can be powerfully affected by regulations, hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers in a never ending effort to tilt the playing field in their direction, and improve bottom lines, stock prices, and executive bonuses. The return on such investment is far higher than on old fashioned expenditures like research and development, plant and equipment, and job-creating expansion.

PRIME DECEIT TORCHES THE SWAMP!

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Not-so-naive liberals, professed conservatives, and apolitical opportunists work both sides of the street. The revolving door ensures that all concerned do well. Playing this game isn’t cheap, which serves as a barrier to entry to scrappy competitors who compete those old fashioned ways: innovation, hustle, and better products and services at lower prices. Regulation cartelizes industries; look, for instance, at banking and medicine. No surprise that regulatory barriers are one of Warren Buffett’s favorite “moats”: deep and hard-to-cross waterways that protect durable commercial advantages.

Washington doesn’t just fortify favored corporations’ business plans. A $4-plus-trillion-a-year enterprise, the government is the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services. Procuring those contracts employs more armies of lobbyists and lawyers, and has a powerful effect on policy. The shoddy premises supporting the welfare and warfare states, and their epic waste, are obvious to many of the taxpayers forced to underwrite them. They’ve decried them for decades, and voted for candidates promising to cut welfare, waste, war, and taxes. However, beyond voting, taxpayers can devote little time to stopping or slowing the gravy train. Their resources are infinitesimal compared to the resources its passengers expend to keep it running.

The modus operandi for Washington and big business have converged. Debt, its issuance and marketing, is the pillar of the financial nexus and revolving door between Washington and Wall Street. The government and its central bank artificially pump up the economy and hide its deterioration with debt and machinations: ultra low interest rates, quantitative easing, and debt monetization. Big businesses lever their balance sheets to pump up their stock prices or make acquisitions, machinations that do nothing to improve core businesses but often hide ongoing deterioration.

The history of any long-running government program is a catalogue of failures and expanding budgets. Washington cherishes failure, the fountainhead of larger appropriations and more power. Success would put bureaucrats out of work and give politicians less influence to peddle. Likewise in business, failure has become much more acceptable than it was during those bad old days of cutthroat capitalism. Marissa Mayer’s undistinguished five-year tenure at Yahoo, while perhaps not a complete failure, certainly can’t be termed a success. Nevertheless, she’s walking away from the company with at least $186 million for her middling endeavors. Given all that discrimination out there against women, one can only imagine what she would have made if she were a man.

Silicon Valley puts billions into companies like Uber, AirBnb, Snapchat, and Lyft that lose those billions and will continue to do so for the foreseeable—and probably the unforeseeable—future. Private equity shops load up companies with debt that gets paid out as special dividends to the private equity shops, leaving the indebted and enfeebled companies unable to compete and the rest of us wondering how such rape is legal in our rape-conscious age. This recipe for inevitable failure is now playing out in the beleaguered retail sector, which would be nowhere near as beleaguered if it wasn’t so beset with debt.

Tesla, a stock market darling and the quintessence of companies in which failure is the business plan, milks Wall Street for financing and Washington (and a bunch of state and local jurisdictions) for subsidies. It has lost billions during its ten years of existence, but its many admirers sing the praises of CEO Elon Musk, always using the term “consummate salesman”—perhaps it’s on his business card. Musk and fan club dream of “the next big thing” and engage in mutual masturbatory fantasies of transforming the world…and Mars. All this is harmless enough as fodder for dazzling audiovisual presentations and slick speeches, but downright dangerous when real billions, private and public, gets sucked in.

Meanwhile, the corporatocracy crucifies an old-line, profitable corporation, Volkswagen, that cheated on one of its hundreds of thousands of regulations. It undoubtedly wasn’t the cheating that got VW in trouble. Regulations are made to be cheated—it’s impossible to run a business without doing so—but the proper offerings must be made to the corporatocracy. If that were not the case, there would be Wall Street, Pharma, and Defense Contractor wings at federal penitentiaries. VW didn’t kowtow low enough or pay high enough to the bureaucrats and politicians, who retaliated, probably “nudged” by a VW competitor.

As a successful businessman, President Trump knows many of the corporatocracy’s skims, scams, and schemes. Perhaps that will enable him to keep his pledge and drain the swamp. However, it’s extensive, fetid, and teems with loathsome creatures, so a bet he’ll succeed involves exceedingly long odds. You’re probably better off buying Tesla stock.

A BLESSED TIME WHEN THERE WAS NO SWAMP

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