SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday November 23, 2019 - 11:12:00 AM

The Awesome Power of Ivankanomics

During a November 12 speech to the Economic Club of New York, Donald Trump proudly and loudly boasted that his daughter, Ivanka, had personally "created 14 million jobs—14 million and going up."

It will come as no surprise that Trump's claim didn't actually jibe with the facts.

Since Trump became president, the entire US economy has added fewer than 6 million jobs. So Trump's boast must mean that the other 8 million of the First Daughter's job-creation miracle must have occurred in low-pay, overseas factories, where most of her lines of designer goods have been manufactured. 

Meanwhile, at the same time Trump was digging for dirt on Joe Biden's son (forget, if you will, Donald Trump Jr.'s secretive meeting with those Russians in Trump Tower), White House advisor Ivanka was busy harvesting the fiscal fruits that come with Oval Office access. 

In Trump's first year in office, for instance, Ivanka joined China's President Xi Jinping for a dinner at her dad's Mar-a-Lago resort and walked away with a prized set of trademarks that allowed her to start selling her jewelry, bags, and "spa-services" to the good people of China. 

The nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has long-demanded an investigation into whether Ivanka employed her executive access to profit in ways that violated federal law. (The controversy led Ivanka to step down as head of Ivanka Trump Marks LLC in 2017. She officially closed shop in 2018.) 

Not to worry: Ivanka and husband Jerrod Kushner continue to thrive. In 2018, their combined income ranged somewhere between $29 and $135 million

If the House Intelligence Committee wants to expand its investigations into White House corruption, the saga of Ivanka and Jerrod is ripe with possibilities. 

And I think I've got the perfect name for the scandal: 



Don Jr.'s Sinister Crusade to Provoke Civil War in America 

Donald Trump Jr. recently staged a visit to UCLA where he appeared with Charlie Kirk from Turning Point (which has been described as "an astroturf nonprofit funded by the Koch Brothers"). 

According to Mari Matsuoka, a volunteer with Refuse Fascism, Trump Jr. "is not the joke on Saturday Night Live" or "the obnoxious persona exchanging banters on The View." In fact, Matsuoka says, "Donald Trump Jr.'s attack dog role is serious and vicious and can be seen in this Turning Point video."  


The NRA: Gunning for its Critics 

Trump's video is not unique. It unspools in lock-step with another video from the National Rifle Association that also pushes the message that liberals, leftists, and young activists pose a threat to American freedom and democracy. 

In a time when mass shootings are occurring on a daily basis in shopping malls and schools across the nation, the NRA wants to be seen, not as a powerful right-wing political lobby that values weapons over safety, but as "Freedom's Safest Place." The NRA is promising to "fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth." 

It was the following video that helped convince the City of San Francisco to label the NRA a "terrorist organization." 


Quid Pro Quo 

There's nothing inherently evil about a quid pro quo exchange. You give me a dollar, I'll give you a cupcake. 

The problem with Ukrainegate is not the withholding of favors in exchange for foreign cooperation. As Mick Mulvaney underscored, this happens all the time. It's a big part of how nations conduct foreign policy. 

You want $400 million? Okay, we've got that quid; here's your standard, run-of-the-mill quo: (1) Our enemies have to be your enemies and (2) you have to spend that money on weapons built by US companies. 

(Here's an interesting, overlooked fact: "foreign military assistance" is actually a shadowy scam used to "launder" money from taxpayers' wallets into the corporate coffers of politically powerful military contractors like Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, Northrop-Grumman, et al.) 

Trump's real crime is not quid pro quo (although he could be charged with probe pro quim); the key here is whether the "quo" involved traditional acts of statecraft in the service of clear foreign policy objectives or whether the "quo" was intended to personally benefit our cumquat-complected Quid Kid—in this case, by manipulating the electoral process to steal a second term. 

(Here's another example of illegal Trump-style quid pro quo: handing out hush-money in exchange for covering up flings with porn stars and an alleged "love-child.") 

Quo Pro Quid 

In his dealings with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump has been accused of bribery. But his greatest crimes involve sanctions—the opposite of bribery. 

Unlike bribes, which promise to grant money, access, or acceptance, sanctions impound wealth, restrict access, and ostracize the unfortunate targets. In Trump's case, he has used economic sanctions against foreign nations that have earned his disfavor. He employs sanctions to hobble entire economies, to reduce trade in food and fuel, to drive citizens into poverty in hopes of igniting "popular rebellions" capable of toppling governments. Sanctions have been called an "act of war." 

In the words of the International Action Center

Sanctions are war, comparable to weapons of mass destruction. They impact whole countries, resulting in chronic shortages, economic dislocation and chaotic hyperinflation. Those who impose sanctions aim to induce artificial famines, disease, poverty, and despair among the most vulnerable. In every country, the poorest and the weakest—infants, children, the chronically ill and the elderly—suffer the worst impact of sanctions. 

So far, Trump has unleashed this weapon against the citizens of Cuba, Honduras, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and Venezuela. 

Needed: A Constitutional Amendment 

When Washington drops the Sanctions Hammer on a foreign government, it risks committing a crime against humanity—as defined by the Nuremberg Principles, the United Nations’ Charter, and the Geneva Convention. 

This is why we need a new law—perhaps even an amendment to the US Constitution. 

Under Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution (also known as the War Powers Clause), the power to declare war is vested in the Congress, and Congress alone. 

After the attack of September 11, the House of Representatives abrogated its constitutional role by granting the president an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Terrorists (AUMF). Responding to the 9/11 attack (carried out by a team largely composed of terrorists from Saudi Arabia and bankrolled by Saudi money), George W. Bush used this new power to attack . . . Afghanistan. 

Since its passage, the AUMF has been used by three presidents to attack foreign nations that never threatened the US. So far, the targets have included Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Now the fear is that Trump may invoke the AUMF to attack Iran. 

Attempts are currently underway to strip the AUMF exemption from the FY2020 Pentagon Budget. This is an essential step if we are to return to the rule of constitutional law. 

Now, another Amendment is needed: An extension of Article I, Section 8 that would declare that only Congress can impose sanctions on a foreign country. 

Cholesteral Hands on Deck 

According to presidential press secretary Stephanie Grisham, the president's recent hospital visit is no cause for alarm. Trump, she assured, "remains healthy and energetic without complaints, as demonstrated by his repeated vigorous rally performances in front of thousands of Americans several times a week.” According to a White House press statement, during his brief hospital stay, Trump met with the family of an injured soldier and thanked the medical staff “for all the outstanding care they provide to our Wounded Warriors." 

Why was "Wounded Warriors" in upper case? Does the White House now recognized this term as a new branch of the military, alongside the Special Forces and Navy SEALS? 

Impeach All the Presidents 

Maj. Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer and former history instructor at West Point who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sjursen recently penned an article for TruthDig that offered a blistering critique of the Trump impeachment scandal, the congressional response, the media coverage, and the public response: 

Oh, it’ll make for great entertainment, thrilling a corporate media that long ago abandoned news for spectacle. But as has become the American way, it will invariably ignore the systemic rot that made Trump’s election, and the dictatorial actions of recent presidents, possible in the first place. 

So here’s my modest proposal for Congress and the American people, if (or more likely when) the former fails to deliver: 

Impeach the military-industrial complex and the venal corporate arms dealers, the “merchants of death” who profit from worldwide slaughter.  

Impeach the “revolving door” generals like Jim Mattis who slide seamlessly from the military to the boards of the nation’s largest defense contracting firms.  

Impeach the militarized police forces and mass incarceration structure that transform impoverished black and brown communities into occupied enemy territory.  

Impeach yourselves, Congress, for being asleep at the wheel for decades now, for wallowing in tribal stalemate and eschewing your constitutionally mandated duty to declare and oversee this nation’s wars.  

Impeach the whole damn system of American empire, both at home and abroad. 

Mark These Words 

On November 20, Reader Supported News posted a special online message: a Funding Appeal that included the following quote from Mark Twain: 

"The liberty of the Press is called the Palladium of Freedom, which means, in these days, the liberty of being deceived, swindled, and humbugged by the Press and paying hugely for the deception."  

(Sadly, rumors of the death of the printed word have not been "greatly exaggerated.") 

Recreating Nature by Removing Life 

At the same time the world is undergoing a Sixth Mass Extinction, clever men in lab-coats and business suits are working with the military-industrial-academic-complex to create an alternative universe of robotic fauna. This electrically powered, remotely controlled menagerie of mechanical mutants includes replicants built to resemble insects, birds, dogs, horses, eels, snakes, and dolphins. (You can watch them all on YouTube.) 


But most of this lab labor has been devoted to creating humanoid robots endowed with the agility, speed, and power needed to perform as super-troopers on the battlefield and robo-cops in our neighborhoods. 

One peculiar aspect of what we might call Creation 2.0 is the gender divide. The humanoid robots paraded by the Pentagon are built to resemble muscular, hulking men. So why aren't there humanoid replicants that resemble women, you might ask? 

Unfortunately, there are. But because these robots are being created by male scientists (who tend to be young, single men) these humanoid machines have been configured to resemble attractive young women. These so-called "fem-bots" are currently part of the workforce in Japan, where they serve as hotel check-in clerks, karaoke singers, and even sex-partners ready to rent in Tokyo's robot brothels. According to reports in the Japanese media, these sex-bots have become so popular with Japanese men that the ready availability of "silicon women" has lead to a troubling decline in Japan's birth rate. 

Cyber Dating Is about to Get Really Weird 

Why waste time on Tinder when you can purchase your own plug-in girlfriend? I'm here to tell you that this stuff is for real, and here's the proof. A San Marcos company is now marketing Harmony, an "anatomically correct" sex doll with a patented animatronic talking head, programmable personalities and a personal memory. 


The fellow featured in the videos been obsessed with these robots for the past 20 years. Swap a new face; reprogram the voice and personality. Dating made easy or dating made queasy? 

The San Diego Union-Tribune has some reservations, citing concerns that the doll’s artificial intelligence could be hacked to make it kill its owner (a la “Westworld”). 

A Think Tank for Peace? 

Invitations are being sent out announcing the imminent debut of a unique, new Washington landmark—a think-tank devoted to the cause of peace. The "launch reception" for The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft is set for December 4. Its founders explain that the Quincy Institute exists "to promote ideas that move US foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace." 

An admirable goal, to be sure. But couldn't the QIRS's founders have found a venue with a more peaceful vibe than the one they chose? The celebration is set to be held in the Ballroom of the Reserve Officers' Association of the United States (1 Constitution Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002). 

Donald Trump Does Time