Trump Pump and Dump

A “pump and dump” scam is a method used by unscrupulous investors to take money from “get rich quick” investors. It was common in penny tech stocks during the ’90s, and is openly advocated by virtual currency (“E-coin”) investors today.

Pump and dump starts by sending the victims a notice that an asset is “ready to move.” A large purchase is placed to drive up market valuation. When the victims pile on to take advantage of the “opportunity,” the price continues to rise. The scammer sells back into the market, reaping profits. When the victims run out of money, the asset valuation returns to its original value, leaving the victims with nothing.

Now we might not be terribly sympathetic to the get-rich quick investors, but it is worth noting that Trump has a history of association with Mafia pump-and-dump operators. With him as president, they have a bold opportunity.

This one relies on the futures markets using a technique called a short-sell. Organizations wishing to secure the price of an asset will place an order today, taking the risk that the price will fall in the future. A virtual seller can reap a profit by taking the risk, hoping that the price will indeed fall so that they can buy the asset for less than the buyer paid for it.

As the futures markets have evolved, they have come to include almost every financial asset, include stock market exchanges.

Now imagine that you have a president that likes to make threats of trade wars. You notice that the market drops like a bomb on the day of the announcement, recovers for a couple of days, then tanks again when a new announcement is made. Investors that know the timing of the announcements can short the index, reaping profits each time the market falls.

Of course, we don’t need such imagination. We have such a president, who excels at saying alarming things that destabilize markets. Now add his association with mafia market manipulators, and you have to wonder…how much money is his family making (including the Kushners) each time an announcement is made? How much money is Carl Icahn making?

Armed with Love

The Monastery is the forum maintained by the Universal Life Church. As a non-denominational sect (anybody can become ordained), it attracts people with diverse agendas. One of them posted an article on youth standing up for gun rights. The dialog in the forum was deprecating on both sides. I wrote a long response that emphasizes my perspective as a Christian, but couldn’t post it. After reconstructing it after the first failure, I tried several more times, but kept on getting an “invalid security token” message.

Alas: I’ll post it here.


 The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their peers are involved in a sacred purpose. They are confronting the insanity of a culture that celebrates death, and seeking to assert their preference for a culture founded upon love and hope.

The culture of death is pervasive. It includes the military (who now dominate our police and the larger private security services), the defense industry, the gun industry, much of our entertainment industry, and a political party that motivates its base through messages of fear. This is why the gun rights advocates are so strident and persistent in forums such as this: they have a vested interest in continuing to exploit paranoiacs that hate government.

For this is the central issue they raise: the untrustworthiness of government. Modern governments don’t need a military to control their populations (as foreseen in 1984). They have the tools of propaganda, public utilities, corruption and foreign conflict. When these are exercised, there is no need for military tyranny. That these are exercised most zealously where gun rights advocates hold power is indicative to me. But were those tools to be renounced, I would imagine that most gun buyers would prefer to take a vacation in Hawaii. This is the hope held out by our youth.

As for God, when Jesus led his disciples out of the Last Supper, they sought weapons for protection. One sword was found, and then a second, and then Jesus intervened: “Two is enough.” So he was clearly in favor of arms control. When one of them was actually used, we should note that the hardened warriors of the Temple Guard did not respond. They were overawed by Jesus’ grace. So he healed the wound and offered his Last Teaching before his Passion: “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.”

This is to warn us that heaven will not accept the fear that motivates us to rely upon weapons, or the fear we create thereby in others. Instead, we are not to resist evil (as he taught more than once) but to submit and infuse the situation with love. This He did himself on the cross, submitting to death and suffusing it with love. His command was that we should do the same. To those that follow, there is no fear in death, for they see their Savior waiting there to welcome them into a place forever without fear.

As I stated, our youth are engaged in a sacred purpose. I went out to MSD HS, and on the Friday of their return to school sat across the street and prayed over them. I can testify that I have never encountered a group of people more open to the healing power of love. Those that rail against them need to look into their own hearts and consider the state of their souls. Complain not of the mote in your neighbor’s eye.

The Ideology of Massacre

Prior to 9/11, the most destructive terrorist attack in America was the bombing of the Murrah Building in 1995. One-third of the nine-story building was destroyed, and casualties were concentrated in the day-care center on the first floor.

The perpetrators of the attack, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, were motivated in part by the actions of the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas. Both incidents involved compounds led by apocalyptic leaders that believed the government was a tyrannical conspiracy. Disaster evolved when normal law-enforcement procedures were initiated against paranoiacs that resisted contact with the outside world. Their possession of gun arsenals was a particular problem.

Where most might have seen government missteps as indicating problems in practice in dealing with a new sub-culture predisposed to violence, the separatist militia movement saw things differently. Propagandized by Reagan’s “government has a boot on your neck” rhetoric and Gingrich’s anti-government messaging, the two incidents in jurisdictions a thousand miles apart were taken as proof of tyranny. Buoyed by this political rhetoric, McVeigh and Nichols saw themselves as freedom fighters, exercising their Second Amendment rights to strike a blow against the ATF agents housed in the Murrah Building.

Gingrich never recognized this connection, because his strategy had much narrower political motivations: attain Republican control of a Congress that had been dominated by Democrats since the New Deal. Rather than deal with specific issues, Gingrich attacked the government as a whole, indicting the Democrats by association. The reverence in which Gingrich is held by the movement reflects the continuing effectiveness of that political strategy: smearing government and blaming Democrats for all of its defects.

It’s the smearing government part that relates to mass murder in our public schools. To a young adult, a public school is the only governmental agency they interact with. When bureaucratic procedures fail to protect students from abuse (as in Columbine) or impose sanctions for paranoid aggression (Parkland), to justify mayhem the affected parties have only to make the same step made by McVeigh and Nichols.

What needs to be understood is that the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment zealots in the Republican Party advocate openly for that step. They characterize gun ownership as an essential element in maintaining a free society, a characterization that makes sense only if guns are actually used by individuals in resisting authority. It is this logic that requires the provision of military-style weaponry to the public, which when turned on unarmed civilians results in heartbreaking trauma.

So for Gov. Scott in Florida and others to assert that these incidents are reflections of “pure evil” should be seen as a self-indictment. These incidents reflect people doing what you tell them they should do, against a government that is incapable of controlling the dangers that your rhetoric incites.

The Answer is Right in Front of You

In my last post, I took a long view of the process through which we as a nation have struggled against the forces of Mammon – the tendency to reduce all human relations to currency.

There are two positive paths forward from the crisis we are now in. The first is to trust in historical trends and human steadfastness. The second is to mature in our relationship with God.

History is on the Side of Justice

Hope is found in this simple historical fact: this pattern of oppression has been experienced again and again through human history. When wealth and production become decoupled (as we see with outsourcing from America since 1970), financiers eventually control politics because debtors must continue to pay interest on their obligations in order to maintain access to additional financing.

This is a fun game for the financiers until tangible goods begin to decay. This was first evident in the Rust Belt, but is now visible in America’s degraded infrastructure. Initially the cost of living rises as the population attempts to preserve its lifestyle, but in Detroit and Flint we see the end point: a dramatic decrease in the standard of living that drives down the value of property.

When there isn’t anything worth buying any more, what’s the value of money?

Ultimately this leads to the collapse of currency and the dissolution of nation states (such as during the American Revolution, driven primarily by taxation issues, and in current events as California and New York actively rebel against federal myopia on climate change, trade, human rights and taxation). In that liquidation, regulations are established to prevent recurrence.

Those regulations must cover the reach of the financial system, and so we see that government always expands in the aftermath of collapse. This happened not long after the Revolution of 1776 when the original Confederation of States was reorganized as a Federal system under the US Constitution. It occurred again after the Great Depression, when the bureaucracy was expanded to regulate interstate corporations. After World War II, the shell of global financial regulatory systems was set up in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Union.

We should be encourage now that we are faced with the final stage of harmonization of financial regulation. Commerce is now global, and English is established as the language of business. All we have to do is organize the political will to establish that framework.

And, despite resistance, the financiers have always been unable to prevent that step – largely because they eventually discover that there’s nothing left to cheat out of the impoverished masses, and turn on each other. The financial game is no longer worth playing, and those that want to make money return to the problem of trying to create value.

Maturation in God

When asked about the age that we are in now, Jesus made vague remarks about “wars, and rumors of wars,” foul weather and disease. When I first read that material, I thought “Well, when has this ever NOT been true.”

But there was a reason, for Jesus had already told them the answer. The age ends when we learn to love God and our neighbor.

When I make this point to people, I follow it up with the observation that “there’s a conspicuous omission there.” Most of them recognize that it’s “myself.”

Loving unconditionally, as God loves us, has the problem that the beloved can abuse our trust. We see this arising again and again in the Old Testament. The Fall, the Flood, the silence in Egypt, the punishments for the Golden Calf, the rules regarding access to the Holy of Holies, and the Fall of Jerusalem are all motivated by the pain suffered by the Most High due to the infidelity of the Chosen People.

So love is metered out to us in the measure that we are trusted to use it. If we don’t respect God, we lose his love.

That shouldn’t surprise us.

In recasting faith as a process for regulating the flow of power from the Most High to our neighbors, Jesus was offering this wisdom: we are the instruments that God has placed on this earth to regulate the flow of power to others. God seeks to empower us, and when we empower others, their witness is a testament to our worthiness to receive power.

On the road to Jerusalem, the Apostles argued over the rights of each in the realm to come. Jesus rebuked them with the parable of the talents. Two beneficial paths are identified: if you have skills that will allow you to help others, God will give you power when you exercise them. If you do not have skills but invest your strength in support of those that do, God will give you power to facilitate that work.

But if you hide your power because you fear to lose it, you will be lost, because to enter the kingdom of heaven requires far more power than you can hold in your self. You can only enter in relationship with others that hold you in loving regard, preserving your spirit from the enormous forces that swirl around the Most High as he seeks to fulfill his compact with us.

How does this work against criminality in business? Because when we hold someone in our loving regard, we know when they are endangered. We can feel it even from a distance, and that knowledge forms a cyst around those that would do ill to us and others.

Of course, in that knowledge, we have two choices: we can choose to do unto the criminal as they did to us, or we can ignore them and focus on constructing functional relationships. When we get wrapped around the axle by management wrangling at work, this is what I tell my peers: “Forget them. We are here for each other, and every day that I am here I will do my best to help you succeed.”

This is what Jesus meant we he said “pick up your cross and carry it.” When we devote ourselves to that task, there is no weakness to exploit in the bonds of good will.

Conversely, we do create a culture that justifies financial fraud in that passive investments are merely an attempt to profit from the labor of others. If we are seeking to get more than we deserve, why shouldn’t our financial advisers do the same?

So this is the bottom line: stop worrying about yourself, and focus on caring for others. And as you do, remember this: there is a billion times as much energy leaving the sun than warms the earth. That’s enough energy for every eight people to have a planet of their own. There is nothing that we can’t do once we have earned the right to it, and nothing that we need fear from those that have.

Because we will rest secure in the knowledge that, as God, they exist only to love us.

Please, Fire Mueller

The breadth of the GOP conspiracy in the 2016 election was illustrated yesterday when, in response to a demand from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that the FBI produce all documents related to the Steele dossier, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray scheduled a surprise visit with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Nunes, a member of the Trump transition team, is obviously a conflicted choice for chair of a committee so essential to unraveling the Russian investment in Donald Trump. The free press has been steadily amassing evidence that Trump is a Manchurian candidate whose political ambitions were stimulated and financed by Russia, and whose fragility and incompetence alone make it inevitable that American will be humiliated by the two criminal super-powers, Russia and China.

My guess is that Rosenstein and Wray presented evidence that Nunes has been interfering actively in the Russian investigation, probably by funneling information through to the Trump Administration, thereby confronting Ryan with criminal complicity if he did not act to protect the investigation.

But the American public should be tired of this charade. In hearing after hearing, Republican lawmakers have strutted and huffed and humiliated the most dedicated members of American law enforcement. Those individuals have been unable to defend themselves against slurs and innuendo because it would compromise the active criminal investigation led by Mueller.

So I hope that part of what Rosenstein and Wray conveyed to Ryan is:

Go ahead, punk: make our day.

If the investigation is shut down, all these figures will quit, and in defense of our democracy will air publicly everything that they know, exposing GOP criminality to domestic and international condemnation.

The only question left in the balance is whether the Republican base is sufficiently indoctrinated that they will swallow whatever Fox News broadcasts regarding the “Deep State.” Fox News claims that in order to protect the federal civil service jobs targeted by budget cutters in Congress, the right-wing leadership of the FBI is manufacturing evidence that the GOP is a criminal enterprise. That claim is ludicrous on its face, but if the base remains firm, the GOP may indeed be able to hang on to power in the mid-term elections, largely because they have gerrymandered the electoral map to disenfranchise Democratic voters.

But given recent special election results, the odds are long against it.

A Republican friend at work, in the immediate aftermath of the Trump victory, mournfully predicted the death of his party.

I fear that the other alternative is destruction of our democracy as it is transformed according to the Iranian, Chinese and Russian model: pro-forma elections among candidates hand-picked by kleptocrats dedicated to ensuring that the federal bureaucracy no longer intervenes in their rape of the middle class.