São Paulo looked a little grim when we arrived on Saturday. Or maybe it was just us.

In addition to a non-performing left hand, we came with a nasty cold.

Experts estimate that European diseases killed as many as 90% of the precolonial population of the Americas. We feared our Irish virus might finish off the rest of them.

So, we kept to ourselves on Saturday, just looking out at the grey world beyond the hotel’s window…and catching up with the news…

Corruption contest

The big question inquiring minds wanted answered over the weekend was: Who’s more corrupt?

The first contenders were the Bidens. The Hill was on the case:

In his own words, with video cameras rolling, Biden described how he threatened Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March 2016 that the Obama administration would pull $1 billion in US loan guarantees, sending the former Soviet republic toward insolvency, if it didn’t immediately fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. […]

“Well, son of a bitch, he got fired […],” Biden told the Council on Foreign Relations event. […]

But Ukrainian officials tell me there was one crucial piece of information that Biden must have known but didn’t mention to his audience: The prosecutor he got fired was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings that employed Biden’s younger son, Hunter, as a board member.

US banking records show Hunter Biden’s American-based firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, received regular transfers into one of its accounts — usually more than $166,000 a month — from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015, during a period when Vice President Biden was the main US official dealing with Ukraine and its tense relations with Russia.

But the weekend competition for ‘Most Corrupt’ status was intense.

Hard on the heels of the Bidens was the Trump family. Many are the allegations against the Trumps — pèrefille, and fils — for the usual sort of double-dealing, but last week brought a new and clearer charge. CBS:

President Trump admitted Sunday that he discussed Joe Biden in a phone call with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July, seemingly confirming reports that he discussed a potential investigation into a domestic political opponent with a foreign leader.

‘“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son (contributing) to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Mr Trump told reporters at the White House before departing on a trip to Texas.

Cast your vote

We can end the contest right now. Who do you think is really corrupt? A) Joe and Hunter Biden or B) Donald Trump and his boys?

If you answered either A or B, you’re not thinking hard enough. Because, if the stories told in the press are true, the best answer is C) all of the above.

The Bidens appear to have taken advantage of an opportunity for financial gain engendered by a degenerate, full-spectrum empire. (It may cost taxpayers a trillion a year, but at least some Americans make a profit from it. That, of course, is why we have a Deep State empire.)

Donald Trump saw his opportunity from another angle. If he could get a foreign country to snoop on the Bidens, it might up his own chances of holding on to power. ‘Sleepy Joe’ might soon become ‘Dirty Joe’ and lose the votes of those who expect their presidents to be clean.

Here at the Diary, we condemn neither man. Presidents, like plumbers, are rarely unsullied. And if we were in their positions, we might do the same.

So, we turn away from indignation and look at how their positions came to be…

Always greedy

Man is easily corrupted; that will not come as news to anyone. He is always greedy. Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal…it hardly matters. He is always ready for a little hanky-panky if he thinks he can get away with it.

But in a more honest period, a Ukrainian gas company has little need for an American lawyer who knows little about natural gas and can’t speak the national language.

But in comes a big, big empire with a deep, deep state…and the doors are unlocked, the liquor brought out, and the maidens tied to their beds.

And nothing provides richer targets of opportunity, with so little personal risk, as overextended, reckless overseas meddling.

Contracts are let. Experts are hired. Think tanks are engaged. Warplanes are commissioned. And the media trots behind like a camp follower.

What is better for selling the news than a good war? Besides, the nation’s honor and credibility are at stake!

Not enough

What is really at stake is money. Money is spent to destroy a nation…and then more is spent to build it back, pretty much as it was before.

And the common people have no idea what is going on. They don’t know what the foreign entanglements are really about and wisely don’t care.

Iran…Yes, the ayatollahs look menacing, but so do the Saudis.

Russia…Putin is a ‘strongman.’ Is that bad or good?

China…Wasn’t it nice of them to send us all this cheap stuff? Hope they don’t ask us to pay for it…

It is all ignorance and irrelevance to the public. But to the insiders, every intervention has dollar signs on it. Power corrupts, goes the saying. And as the power of an empire matures, corruption spreads.

‘Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac,’ said Henry Kissinger. Is it any wonder that the Bidens and the Trumps feel a little randy?

You can’t be too cynical about politics. Instead, the challenge is to make sure you have enough cynicism. You’re going to need a full tank of it just to get through the next few years.


Bill Bonner