A Long and Sordid Tradition

Our former—and perhaps our future—president, after being convicted of 34 felonies, submitted to an interview with his probation officer on Monday. Even Nixon was never made to do that.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “…there is no new thing under the sun.” Maybe the Bible is fallible after all. Who’s going to tell Samuel Alito, Mike Johnson, and the rest of the theocrat caucus?

We can state with confidence that, in our 267 years, we have never before reported on a tossup presidential election in which one of the top candidates is an habitually bankrupt con artist bearing all the hallmarks of dementia, who has been seen on live TV leading an insurrection, and who, given his theft of Top Secret documents, might reasonably be suspected of having committed treason.

So, yes, things are terrible. They could always be worse, though—as anyone who’s watched a person-in-the-street interview of late must realize. Imagine if a single juror had tipped the balance, and he’d been found innocent. Unanimous, on all counts, in a case not subject to presidential pardons: let us take comfort from that, because we’ll be needing all the comfort we can get.

Now that the Miscreant-in-Chief has been called to account for a few brief excerpts from his multi-volume rap sheet, some members of his cult—who, unfortunately, rule the U.S. House of Representatives—naturally feel entitled to persecute any Democrats who dare try to govern.

Take, for example, Hunter Biden. He’s not even in government. His father is, though, so he’s fair game by association. For eleven days, he owned a six-shot .38 Special Colt Cobra revolver. If guns were cars, that’s a Honda Civic. We have yet to hear any allegations that he ever even fired it at a range, never mind at a Black Lives Matter protestor.

He lied on the paperwork when he bought it, though, and that, in the eyes of the Trump cult, makes him a heinous criminal deserving of the maximum sentence: 25 years in prison.

Meanwhile, for shooting three protesters against police violence in Kenosha, Kyle Rittenhouse became an instant MAGA hero.

Fans of irony got a brief thrill when it looked like the GOP front-runner’s felony convictions might cost him one vote this November—his own. Florida law prohibits felons from voting until they’ve served their full sentence. And yet, and yet…with this guy, it’s always, and yet….

Setting aside about a bushel of well-picked-over nits, all he’s got to do is not be behind bars on Election Day. Given his track record for eluding justice, that doesn’t seem too challenging. If all else fails, perhaps Florida Governor Ron DeSanctimonious will swallow the last vestiges of his pride and make that problem go away.

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Invisible Accordion

Any card-carrying MAGAMobster would no doubt by now have diagnosed us with terminal Trump Derangement Syndrome. While it’s true that we see no redeeming social value in him, we hardly believe that he’s the sole source of all the world’s ill. He’s more like the worst-ever flare-up of an ancient ailment.

Let us briefly, and seemingly at random, recall the illustrious Thomas C. Durant. In 1856, Durant’s Mississippi and Missouri Railroad (M&M) completed the first bridge across the Mississippi River. Shortly afterwards, a steamboat hit the bridge. Steamboat companies sued to have the obstruction dismantled. Durant lawyered up, and a six year legal battle ensued. Durant ended up winning, and his lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, ended up President.

In 1862, Lincoln picked the M&M’s Council Bluffs, Iowa location as the eastern end of a proposed transcontinental railroad, to be built by Durant’s newly-founded Union Pacific. Congress granted the railroad 100 million acres of public land—an area equivalent to the State of Montana. Aware that such largesse might spark temptation, it limited the number of shares a stockholder might own. Durant blew through that like a locomotive through kleenex.

“Since the government paid for each mile of track laid, Durant overrode his engineers and ordered extra track laid in large oxbows. In the first thirty months, the Union Pacific did not extend further than 40 miles from Omaha, Nebraska. As the federal government was waging the Civil War, Durant avoided its oversight on railroad construction.

“During the Civil War, Durant made a fortune smuggling contraband cotton from the Confederate States with the help of Union General Grenville M. Dodge. When the war ended in 1865, the Union Pacific put extra labor on. It completed nearly two thirds of the transcontinental route. Durant employed Dodge as the chief engineer along the Platte River route.

“One of Durant’s biggest coups was the creation of Crédit Mobilier of America. …

— Wikipedia, Thomas C. Durant

The directors of the Union Pacific (UP) engaged in stock manipulation by paying Crédit Mobilier in bank checks, which Crédit Mobilier then used to purchase Union Pacific stock. In every major construction contract drawn up between the Union Pacific and Crédit Mobilier, the contract’s terms, conditions, and price were offered and accepted through the actions of the same corporate officers and directors, operating on both sides of the contract. The underlying fraud of a common and unified ownership of two companies that shared principal officers and directors was not revealed for years.

The deal generated $43,929,328 (equivalent to over $724.9M in 2020) in profits for Crédit Mobilier. The directors reported this as a cash profit of only $23,366,319.81. These same directors were the recipients of the undisclosed $20,563,010 Union Pacific share of the total profits.

— Wikipedia, Crédit Mobilier

The New York Sun broke the story on September 4, 1872.

The Justice Department investigated, and determined that more than 30 politicians from both parties had received shares, but filed no charges. Congress investigated 13 current and former Members of Congress; only two were censured. Rep. James A. Garfield was among those on the Justice Department’s list. Less than ten years later he was elected President.

Congress found that James W. Patterson, a Senator from New Hampshire, gave Crédit Mobilier official Oakes Ames $7,000 to invest for him. Patterson claimed that since Ames gave him no written receipt, he was unaware that he owned some of the stock. A report to the Senate said that Patterson gave a false testimony to both the House and Senate committees. By this time both the house and the senate were recommending that he be expelled. Patterson’s term ended before Congress could’ve taken further action.

With Friends Like These…

More recently—that is to say, just over a century ago, in January of 1923—President Warren G. Harding and his Director of the Veterans Bureau, Charles R. Forbes, had a frank exchange of views in the White House, i.e., Harding, with his hands around Forbes’ throat, was shouting, “You double-crossing bastard!”

Forbes was a fanatic for fiscal discipline when it came to paying out pensions or providing services for veterans. The Bureau’s money flowed like water, though, when it went into his own pocket. “I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight,” said Harding. “But my friends, my goddamned friends, they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights!”

What Does It All Mean?

The reader may well wonder if we have a point here. To be honest, we sometimes wonder ourselves. The intricate skulduggeries of our elected representatives and their powerful friends have a hypnotic effect. We could contemplate them for hours, like great works of art. We do have fish to fry, though. Let’s have done with them before they start to stink up the place.

Our thesis, such as it is, is that today’s generation of Durants and Dodges and Ameses need the same things that those 19th century OGs did—cooperative allies in government willing to put policies in place that will provide them with opportunities to maximize value for shareholders—who, in these days of massive stock buybacks, are likely to be themselves.

In April, 1912, President and future Supreme Court Justice William Howard Taft called for the creation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He said the “government needed to deal with a group that could speak with authority for the interests of business.” And bingo—there it was.

Sixty years later, future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell wrote an historic memo to said U.S. Chambers of Commerce. Powell’s memo called for the creation of what turned out to be the Heritage Foundation. It, and similar propaganda mills, and a coordinated national crusade, were needed, Powell said, to defend the dwindling rights of the beleaguered rich from those uppity damned union workers. We paraphrase, of course.

Powell’s memo catalyzed the previously dog-eat-dog world of business. CEOs came to understand that they had more in common with each other than they did with their employees. About a year earlier, Milton Friedman had expounded his theory that shareholder value was the new Holy Grail. Between them, these two bright ideas spelled the end of the good times for U.S. workers.

Productivity—and profits—have soared, while wages have stagnated. Public interest think tanks like Common Cause and Public Citizen can point to a hundred studies showing that people desperately want health care, child care, gun control, a clean environment, and and family leave, but they’re no closer to having them now than they were decades ago.

The rich now compete in the Opulence Olympics, frittering away “surplus value” stolen from ordinary people juggling two and three jobs.

How do you get those who are hanging by a thread to vote for politicians waving sharp knives around? Roll out that old time religion: pie in the sky, bye and by.

It’s an incredibly effective ploy. Reagan invited in the evangelicals to harvest their votes. He’s long gone, they’re still here. It’s just that now, instead of being coddled by the Party, they’re in charge.

The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 is, at 900 pages, a tome of Biblical proportions. That figures, since the plan is as authoritarian as the Old Testament. It lays out how things will be done after their unholy anti-president sets fire to our obsolete Constitution.


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