Friday, January 21, 2022

Biden Will Fight For Your Right To Be Exploited

If you didn't watch Joe Biden's long-awaited and long-winded press conference this week, relying instead on the big  "takeaways" reported by the mainstream press, then you might be under the impression that the only news the old codger made was the commission of yet another faux pas.  Biden admitted he won't start a war with Russia if Vladimir Putin merely makes an "incursion" into Ukraine. Biden would tolerate him merely playing pinko toesies under the table with the US client state, but anything beyond first base, like full penetration? Forget about it!

So many official Washington heads proceeded to explode at the mere prospect of an utter failure of war in our time that Biden was forced to quickly backtrack. Even a minor overstepping of the boundaries of propriety by Putin will now result in Biden donning the requisite suit of shining US armor to defend global democracy as it is defined by the capitalist elites. He will impose upon Russian citizens, hundreds of millions of them, draconian economic sanctions  such as the world has never seen. And given that sanctions against innocent bystanders, as a sociopathic means of punishing and weakening their rulers, often includes starvation, disease, and freezing or sweltering to death - essentially, genocide by deprivation - sanctions can actually do more harm to humans than guns, bombs and ground wars can.

It was Secretary of State Madeline Albright, remember, who looked back so fondly at Clinton-era U.N. economic sanctions against Saddam Hussein's Iraq and grimly boasted on "60 Minutes" that the resulting deaths of half a million children had absolutely been "worth it." 

Fast forward to 2022 and poor Joe Biden has found himself once again the awkward position of having to defend his own sanity and cognitive state for the "gaffe" of not being threatening enough to Russia on live TV. He already has had to atone for so prematurely withdrawing from Afghanistan after a 20-year war and occupation via  issuing lethal sanctions against the Taliban and thus exposing innocent Afghans to more hardship. It is essentially trading one form of torture and abuse for another.

Biden, like every president before him, is being forced to prove his bellicosity and mental functioning and hegemonic IQ at every turn. The only way American presidents can prove themselves worthy and strong, in fact, is how many bombs they can drop and how much misery they can foment throughout the world. Violence is the one surefire way to engender respect from their financial backers at home, as well as the fear and loathing from much of the rest of the world. Admiration, not so much. 

When critics from both parties and the corporate media openly chat about Biden being cognitively impaired, it is mostly limited to what they view as his global power stumbles.  

He did, in fact, offer full and convincing proof of his truly dangerous and  longstanding delusional state at his press conference, not about his war skills abroad, but when he opined that he has actually over-performed on the domestic front. The trouble is, he smirked, Americans just don't realize how great things are, or at least that the bad things are getting better. His real disease is mental capture by the cult of neoliberal capitalism and the use of a nostrum restricted to some good hard gaslighting messaging to his allegedly befuddled constituents. 

Or, as Biden strove to explain his overachievement problem to a reporter:

And so, the problem here is that I think what happens — what I have to do, and the change in tactic, if you will: I have to make clear to the American people what we are for.  We’ve passed a lot.  We’ve passed a lot of things that people don’t even understand what’s all that’s in it, understandably.




He rephrased his follow-up answer by comparing his assigned task to the epic achievement of finally getting at least some of the dolts to understand the 2,000-page kludge known as the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, For the sake of placating the press corps, if not educating the masses out there in TV Land, Biden tried to finesse it even more:

You know, one of the things that I remember — and I’ll end this with — I was talking with, you know, Jim Clyburn, who was a great help to me in the campaign in South Carolina.  And Jim said — and when he would endorse me — and there was a clip on television the last couple days of Jim.  And it said that we want to make things accessible and affordable for all Americans.  That’s healthcare, that’s education, that’s prescription drugs, that’s making sure you have access — access to all the things that everybody else has.  We can afford to do that.  We can’t afford not to do it.

All together now, Proles:

What do we want?


When do we want it?

Now!  Someday!

 When it comes to neoliberal dogma, Joe Biden's mind is absolutely functional and absolutely clear. The myelin sheaths guarding the nerve fibers of his cerebral cortex are fully protective of the ageless market-based notion, for example, that "health care" doesn't actually mean guaranteed, free-at-the-point-of-service health care. It only means that you have an absolute right to travel freely from your home to any hospital emergency room. You will then be guaranteed physical access to its doors and to whatever treatment regimen that your junk insurance product will deign to pay for, or whatever assets you have to relinquish in medical bankruptcy court. Ditto for education. Anybody is free to apply to any school. It's the getting in and paying the price of tuition and future onerous education debt that's another story. You have access to the same dreams that rich people have access to. Everybody sleeps, after all. You are absolutely free to window-shop till you drop and gaze longingly from afar at the promised land of health and security. If you work hard, you are free to gain as much access as "everybody else." Access is all on you, the individual.

"So, I tell my Republican friends," Biden went on, "here I come. This is going to be about what are you for” —what are you for'  — and lay out what we’re for."

It's the Accessibility and the Affordability, stupid!

It's also about the divided government of oligarchs being one great big happy family that pretends to be dysfunctional to keep us all in suspense. War and surveillance are the great unifiers.  I don't see, for example, any outrage or aghastitude by corporate media accounts of the presser about this particular Bidean "gaffe" -

I think the report card is going to look pretty good, if that’s where we’re at.  But look, the idea that — Mitch has been very clear he’s going to do anything to prevent Biden from being a success. 

And I get on with Mitch.  I actually like Mitch McConnell.  We like one another.  But he has one straightforward objective: make sure that there’s nothing I do that makes me look good in the mind — in his mind with the public at large.  And that’s okay.  I’m a big boy.  I’ve been here before.


That admission makes his Ukraine gaffe pale in comparison. Upton Sinclair was right. The two permissible party cults in the United States are the two right wings of one bird of prey. Biden knows it's all a game and Mitch knows it's all a game, and media pundits know it's a game. They and their corporate conglomerates invest in and profit by culture wars and identity politics, taking a side and suckering in all the pawns that they can crowd onto their game boards, till one falls off to make room for the next one.  

Judging from the millions of un-pawned people up and quitting their jobs or going on strike, and students walking out of classrooms in protest of sloppy Covid protocols, and tenants taking to the streets against greedy corporate landlords, the days that the likes of Biden and McConnell could count on the Dupes of the Duopoly may turn out to be just figments of whatever it is that passes for their imaginations.

Friday, January 14, 2022

The Political Play Is Literally The Thing

Poster From John Carpenter's The Thing

Because despite all the suspense and the horror and the shape-shifting and the gaslighting, our current crew of political actors are discovering to their great chagrin that there is a limit to the times that you can remake a smash hit and create a franchise, and still expect people to show up at the box office to gawk and tremble and purchase the merch.

Even Dick Cheney playing a rehabbed Darth Vader at the January Sixth Capitol extravaganza, and even Nancy Pelosi piping in ditties from the cast of the neoliberal Broadway hit Hamilton to paper over her crass championship of congressional insider trading, did not garner the ratings and the rave reviews the producers obviously intended and fully expected. 

Joe Biden, plain-speaking actor that he fancies himself to be, had already addressed the reality of the elites' declining ratings a few years ago during his campaign for the White House. He acknowledged the truth of The Thing to be self-evidently apparent. 

 But despite that brief moment of candor, he still made a great big show this week of marching to the Capitol to pretend to be "fighting for" the right of every American to score food and water from their fellow citizens while standing in long lines to vote. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema managed to steal top cinematic billing from his latest role, as she histrionically pretended to hate the same filibuster reform that Biden now pretends to love Not even his shout-out to dead racist Senator Strom Thurmond at his Georgia performance earlier in the week swayed Sinema to change her mind or her script. And why would it, when even the supporting cast and crew of what the late Glen Ford dubbed the Black Misleadership Class boycotted Biden's performance? 

Striving mightily nonetheless to perform his trademark down-home candor while admitting that mail-in ballots and food and water for waiting voters are GOP mountains far too high for him and the Democrats to climb, Biden plaintively remarked at the end of his truncated Capitol cameo part that "the honest to God answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done."

But actors must do what actors must do, and summoning up his very best Jimmy Stewart Mr. Smith Goes to Washington impression, Biden raised it to the next decibel and growled “As long as I’m in the White House, as long as I’m engaged at all, I’m going to be fighting.”

Are the Oscar nominations already a done deal, and I'm too late to register to vote? Oh, wait... mere audience members are not allowed to vote in the Oscar elections. Elites not only have weighted votes in "democratic" elections, they also have exclusive votes when it comes to nominating one another's theatrical performances. That goes not only for people employed in the movie business, but for the financiers of the movie business. Here's looking at you, Jeff Bezos, who pays no personal income tax but just donated a hefty sum to help construct the Chicago shrine of that consummate political actor, Barack Obama.

But all hope should not be abandoned. Because it is the Republicans, of all the villains in the annals of performative villainy, that just announced that they will no longer participate in the quadrennial spectacular known as the Presidential Debates. Of course, they are probably planning a whole series of alternate entertainments in the slasher genre that promise to be a lot more horrific and profitable than those boring affairs we're so tired of sitting through. Whatever the form of Campaign 2024, it will be a real Thing, what late critic Roger Ebert called "a great barf bag of a movie."

Speaking of ennui and nausea, Bill and Hillary Clinton reportedly are not only bored with being pariahs, but they smell the anemic Biden blood in the water and are planning a comeback. According to Politico, they are especially heartened that the latest "American Crime Story" season, depicting the Lewinsky scandal, did not get big ratings. Perhaps it was because the series was aired on a subscription channel, and the proles are already maxed out on inflated rent and food bills?

But here's The Thing, or as Joe Biden riffs on and on about it ad infinitum, Here's The Deal, Folks.  The horror show will end only when we stop buying tickets for the privilege of helplessly gawking at whatever capitalistic life-forms that The Thing is currently mutating into and at the same time to resist being assimilated into its maw. The Thing that the political-media-military-carceral-surveillance complex is selling is nothing more and nothing less than fear itself.

We just have to stop being awed by political performers and their stale narratives. Instead, we might take a tip from the simultaneously cruel and egalitarian Aztec civilization and, as recounted by the late David Graeber and David Wengrow in their riveting new book "The Dawn of Everything," we should subject all aspiring and de facto elected officials to an acid test involving "fasting, sleep deprivation, blood-letting and a strict regime of moral instruction."

We should implement a Dick Cheney reverse torture regimen on their sorry selves. Psychological, of course. Maybe do a little enhanced interrogation at least.

"Clearly, taking up office in this indigenous democracy required personality traits very different to those we take for granted in modern electoral politics," the "Dawn" authors observe in dry understatement about the Aztec proles.

Just imagine Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi being forced to relinquish their faltering theatrical careers for a long stint in political rehab and public self-abnegation as the only way to prove to the audience just how sincere they really are, and how much they truly feel our pain. Actually doing the right thing as opposed to being seen as doing the right thing should be a requirement for everyone entering public service, and a litmus test for staying in their positions once chosen. The goal should not be the acquisition of power, but rather the privilege of representation. No wonder the corporate press hates this book.

The mere thought of these miscreants having to publicly flagellate themselves in front of the cameras in order to prove their bona fides makes me feel better already. It makes me feel like torturing them, if only rhetorically, for yet another day.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Brace Yourselves For a Bracing 2022

 I know it's early days yet, but my nomination for the most annoying phrase of 2022 is "bracing for."

In lieu of paying people to isolate and quarantine during the worst outbreak of Covid-19 yet, our leaders are instructing us to simply brace ourselves for the inevitable. People will simply have to sicken and die if capitalism is to survive. So take one for the team, Proles. Go back to work and school. Take a tip from Joe Biden, who reassured us just the other day that we have every reason to be "optimistic about 2020." After all, if you heard him say that, it means that you survived the First Plague Year and that you are still alive, even if just barely.

 Uncle Joe is adhering perfectly to the modern job description of US presidents. To wit: Always Campaign, Never Govern. Leave the governing and policy formation to the billionaire donor class and to the Pentagon and the CIA. 

So I say give the poor guy a break. Since he was effectively prevented from physically campaigning during the final year of this country's most recent money-soaked perpetual campaign, that's all the more reason for him to go full Proust and search for lost time. He has every reason to be retroactively hopeful about 2020, because his depressing promise to donors that nothing would fundamentally change under his watch is what paradoxically propelled him to his less than stellar victory over Donald Trump.  

Since that miracle occurred, can you really blame him for continuing to indulge in such magical-thinking episodes as insisting that unvaccinated young children will be safe in their unventilated school buildings at the very same time he claims that this is a pandemic of The Willfully Unvaccinated? If he admitted that the current outbreak of the Omicron variant is directly attributable to the parallel pandemic of windfall Wall Street profits and super-spreading corporate greed, not to mention his own failure to prepare and to protect the country, then his snow-job might lose what little magic it still retains. This is despite social media going nuts and describing him as a "bad-ass" for bravely allowing snow to fall upon his heavily guarded self as he alit from Air Force One during this week's blizzard. It's called bracing oneself for low approval ratings amongst multiple bracing catastrophes - in lieu of actually doing anything to help people.

If, Biden insinuates, you can't be optimistic about the fortunes of the weaponized oligarchy, then please just accept your fate so as to appease the mightiest of them all, The Almighty Guy in the Sky. “There’s a lot of reason to be hopeful in 2020. But for God’s sake, please take advantage of what is available,” Biden scolded.

The  other thing that "we" are all supposedly bracing for is the dreaded anniversary of the Capitol Riot, a/k/a the attempted Fascist Coup. They are doing their utmost to make January Sixth the most awesome holy day of national obligation to come around year after year after year since September Eleventh.

Joe Biden will mark the new solemn day of remembrance and fear with a campaign event cast as a  major speech to the Nation - not about improving people's lives, mind you - but about Speaking Truth to Power, carefully limited to Donald Trump's lies. He will not, for example  (as two sources dished to Reuters), touch the voting rights crisis with a ten foot pole.

Good Catholic that he is, Biden should know that January Sixth is also the Feast of the Epiphany, or what Christians used to mark as Twelfth Night back when there was still a long Yuletide season and people weren't forced back to work after only one or two legal days off for the holidays. Besides the name of the day marking the Three Kings' legendary homage to the infant Jesus after following the star of Bethlehem, "epiphany" also describes "a moment when you suddenly see or understand something in a very new or clear way."

And notwithstanding the ruling class's apparent failure to see the Capitol riot and attempted coup not only as a result of Donald Trump's corruption and incitement to violence but at least partly as a manifestation of the legitimate angst of the working class, said working class certainly has signaled its own long-delayed epiphany about how badly neoliberalism has screwed them over for the last 40-plus years. They are quitting their jobs in unprecedented numbers.

 The most recent Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) reveals that a record 4.5 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in November, an increase of more than 380,000 from October 2021. Most of those finally deciding to take this job and shove it were employed in the low-paying hospitality and service sectors, which now advertise the most job openings in the country. At the same time as "the Great Resignation," however, more than six million Americans have gotten new jobs, which ostensibly pay better wages and offer more benefits. After nearly half a century, labor is finally gaining the upper hand again.

No wonder Biden is nostalgic for 2020, when the pandemic and the ruling class's refusal to handle it has rightly weakened the ruling class and strengthened the resolve of the rest of us, shifting our priorities so inexorably that the erstwhile Movers and Shakers are bracing themselves for the Great Revolt following the Great Resignation.

Never ones to let such a serious crisis go to waste, though, they will no doubt pair the January Sixth anniversary with the Nine-Eleven Anniversary to justify the imposition of even more surveillance and repression upon the citizenry, which as a body are simply not going to take any more of it.

Biden can nonsensically call the slowly collapsing ruling order a "pandemic of the unvaccinated" till he's blue in the face, but his swirling, scapegoating blizzard of fear-mongering, alternating with the obligatory insipid platitudes, makes crystal clear to the vast majority of us just what their vile agenda truly is.

Ask yourselves this: why have more 700 alleged Capitol rioters been arrested, but the supposedly reviled and existentially threatening Instigator-in-Chief not only remains free, but continues to grow rich and powerful while holding his political rallies? Could it be because Trump is essentially just the oppositional wing of the ruling oligarchy, and vital to the liberal, "Democratic" party side, because he makes them look so good by comparison? 

Vigilantism and militia movements in service to the ruling class are not just the bailiwick of the right wing faction. As chillingly headlined in the Jan. 5th edition of the New York Times:

While the Justice Department has called the inquiry one of the largest in its history, traditional law enforcement officials have not been acting alone. Working with information from online sleuths who style themselves as “Sedition Hunters,” the authorities have made more than 700 arrests — with little sign of slowing down.

The government estimates that as many as 2,500 people who took part in the events of Jan. 6 could be charged with federal crimes. That includes more than 1,000 incidents that prosecutors believe could be assaults....

But a big question hangs over the prosecutions: Will the Justice Department move beyond charging the rioters themselves?

So far, the department has provided no public indication of the degree to which it might be pursuing a case against former President Donald J. Trump and the circle of his allies who helped inspire the chaos with their baseless claims of election fraud. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is scheduled to give a speech on Wednesday, one day before the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, but is not expected to provide any signals about the direction of the department’s investigation. A spokeswoman said he would not address any specific cases or individuals.

It's all about surveilling, intimidating and controlling the masses of people. The rich and powerful make no secret of despising regular people, whom they find convenient to pit against one another by virtue of their alleged cultural differences and political allegiances. They have taken to admitting that their concern about the threat to democracy has nothing to do with the ongoing threat to the lives and livelihoods of actual people.

If the title ("Is Democracy Failing and Putting Our Economic System at Risk?) of a recent Brookings Institution (a neoliberal Democratic Party-aligned think tank) paper doesn't make what the elites are truly bracing for clear enough for mere mortals, then the lead paragraph, penned by a Harvard Business School poobah, certainly should:

"I think the decline of democracy is a mortal threat to the legitimacy and health of capitalism."

Since democracy and capitalism are defined as the exact same thing according to neoliberal ideology, the Demos, or people. are not actually part of this pathocratic equation, are they?

The Brookings Paper, by the way, was produced in conjunction with the neoconservative United States Democracy Center, whose own chilling mission statement is heavy on weaponized police protection of oligarchs to protect them from the Demos. Its board of advisers is a rogues' gallery of Bush-era Iraq War architects, surveillance privateers, military brass and GOP bigwigs who are now finding unabashed common cause with centrist Democrats. This should give absolute lie to the controlled media narrative of "divided government" and congressional gridlock. 

For as long as the bipartisan protect racket can embrace Trump as their main scapegoat, as long as they can delay holding him to account, then their increasingly undemocratic and repressive hold on power will persist.

Their problem is, they just aren't all that bright. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

You Are Expendable

 Of course, you already knew that. But now that the political apparatchik ostensibly in charge of national "disease control" has admitted that the running of the "economy" is more important than controlling diseases, all the platitudes in the world aren't going to do the overlord class a damned bit of good any more.

Just weeks after President Biden warned of a winter of pain and death from the COVID-19 pandemic, his administration has not just stopped at abruptly shortening by half the time that infected "asymptomatic" or exposed people must isolate. They can now return to work without the benefit of testing to determine whether they are sick and/or pose a risk to others. A winter of pain and death, no matter how annoying or scary it may sound, must never stand in the way of capitalism, or what the officials are euphemizing  as "everyday life."

Their convoluted logic is that since the Omicron variant of the disease itself is spreading so quickly, then people have to get over it even more quickly. You're in a race against your own bodily functions and response to viruses! You are, after all, an entrepreneur of your own health. Vax early, vax often. Be sure to hate and fear the unvaxxed and unboosted as you go responsibly about your own assigned task of wellness. 

These affected workers, the politicians and paid-for health experts tacitly acknowledge, do not come from the ranks of the Clerisy, or from the Professional-Managerial Class, who may continue to work safely and remotely from their homes if that is their preference. Those being precipitously forced back to work are from the service economy: the flight attendants, the teachers, the nurses, the cleaners, the food servers, the retail staffers - just about anybody, really, that the upper classes deem to be essential to their own comfort and well-being.

A flight is a terrible thing to cancel. Children, too, must continue to learn to compete in improperly ventilated buildings, even though more of them are getting hospitalized from the Omicron variant, and the under-fives are not even yet eligible for the vaccine.

The new recommendations “balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses,” inanely remarked Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control. “These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”

Walensky did not offer one shred of evidence that halving the isolation time without follow-up testing ensures that people can be safe. She didn't mention that vaccinated people can still infect others if they have a breakthrough case. She didn't mention that the airline industry put pressure on the CDC to ease restrictions affecting their bottom line. So much for all the virtue-signaling talk from enlightened liberals about following The Science . She is unabashedly engaging in magical thinking at best, or cynically flouting her brand-new credentials from the Dr. Oz School of Charlatanry at worst.

As for Biden, he seems to have just given up, pivoting from waging a war on COVID to pleading that COVID is not really his problem. Here he is, via the New York Times, taking a page straight out of the Republican playbook of bashing centralized federal solutions to problems and crises, and championing states' rights instead:

In a conference call with governors on Monday, President Biden spoke of cooperation at various levels of government. Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas, praised the president’s plan to give away 500 million rapid at-home tests, but said that federal efforts to stanch the infections must yield to state remedies.

 “Look, there is no federal solution,” Mr. Biden replied. “This gets solved at the state level.”

"Ultimately it gets down to where the rubber meets the road, and that’s where the patient is in need of help or preventing the need for help,” he added.

The best translation I can come up with for that glob of gibberish is that Biden is throwing tens of millions of Americans right under the neoliberal wheels of the bus that go round and round. And it will be up to the roadkill patients themselves to get help. Or, if they are irresponsibly unvaxxed or unboosted, they are not to expect any help at all from the government. And that includes scoring those free at-home tests that Biden may or may not provide.

Medical ethicists may be aghast and appalled at the ignorance and cruelty on full display at the very highest levels of the Bipartisan Party (h/t Gary Shteyngart), but CEOs and corporate boards and investors are ecstatic about the recent Expendability Directive, especially if they themselves have the luxury of working remotely and not having to risk being infected by the forced labor pool. 

As one Ivy League health expert cherry-picked by the Times put it about the lack of testing at the end of the new truncated isolation periods: "Given the tests are not widely available it's a reasonable approach."

He may as well have said that given the lack of food, allowing people to starve to death is also a reasonable approach. It's all about the enlightened laws of Cause and Effect. 

And just as "everyday life" is their code for working till you drop, the constant litany of Follow the Science  turns out to be nothing but plutocratic code for their true and everlasting mantra: Follow the Money.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

War On Earth, Bad Vibes To Humans

 For one brief shining moment this past weekend, the New York Times broke out of its role as establishment mouthpiece and publicist for the powerful, and practiced some real journalism. 

"Hidden Pentagon Records Reveal Patterns of Failure In Deadly Airstrikes" was the banner headline of the two-part blockbuster written by Azmat Khan.  Of course, euphemizing the US government's decade-long campaign of drone terror and mass murder of civilians in the middle East as a tactical "failure" is the very essence of Timesianism.

Still, it's the body of the two-part piece, based upon a five-year-long investigation by the Times - including successful Freedom of Information lawsuits for Pentagon records, visits by reporters to the cratered, ruined physical sites of the atrocities, and interviews with survivors - that should be horrifying all who read it, and more than enough to call Congress back into session to start a full investigation and a full public airing of the smoking gun evidence of some of the worst war crimes in all of recorded history.

Khan writes, 

The trove of documents — the military’s own confidential assessments of more than 1,300 reports of civilian casualties, obtained by The New York Times — lays bare how the air war has been marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children, a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.

The documents show, too, that despite the Pentagon’s highly codified system for examining civilian casualties, pledges of transparency and accountability have given way to opacity and impunity. In only a handful of cases were the assessments made public. Not a single record provided includes a finding of wrongdoing or disciplinary action. Fewer than a dozen condolence payments were made, even though many survivors were left with disabilities requiring expensive medical care. Documented efforts to identify root causes or lessons learned are rare.

The air campaign represents a fundamental transformation of warfare that took shape in the final years of the Obama administration, amid the deepening unpopularity of the forever wars that had claimed more than 6,000 American service members. The United States traded many of its boots on the ground for an arsenal of aircraft directed by controllers sitting at computers, often thousands of miles away. President Barack Obama called it “the most precise air campaign in history.”

This was the promise: America’s “extraordinary technology” would allow the military to kill the right people while taking the greatest possible care not to harm the wrong ones.

Sadly, though, the timing of the Times in finally choosing to report what outlets like the Bureau of Investigative Journalism were writing about a decade ago was way, way off. Within 24 hours of publication, the war crimes blockbuster was knocked off the top of the digital front page by the utterly shocking news that Joe Manchin was finally done playing with the dead mouse known as the Build Back Better bill. It must be a bit of a relief that the elite movers and shakers and opinion-makers can ignore the mass drone slaughter so smoothly bragged about by Barack Obama, and instead direct all their news-cycle ire against the Democratic Party's latest designated Bad Cop. Manchin had the nerve not only to totally blindside the hapless and lackadaisical and totally complicit Biden, but to go on Fox News, of all places, to make the Big Reveal!

So Biden (who, to his credit, has reportedly greatly decreased the drone murders of innocents abroad) will react by seeming to reverse course and promising to deliver rapid Covid tests to every American household, without people having to go through a predatory insurance middleman after all! Not only that, he has also scored himself a brand new adorable  puppy named Commander.  Heartwarming story upon heartwarming story will make people forget all about their evictions, the resumption of their student loan payments and their lost paychecks due to the increasing number of ad hoc business closures resulting from the Fourth Wave of the pandemic.

Speaking of waves, unindicted war criminal Barack Obama was spotted cavorting in them, just as the big Times story broke, on his annual holiday vacation in Hawaii.

As the Times series on the drone slaughters and their coverups establishes - in case after case after gruesome case -  there has never been any accountability. Any accountability is reserved for the exposers of war crimes, like Julian Assange and Daniel Hale, the former drone operator who was sentenced last June to 45 months in prison for the crime of leaking documents on war crimes to the press - the same kind of documents that the Times now finally sees fit to print, to little or no reaction from either the political class or from the rest of the corporate media. I guess everybody's too busy tweeting about their "mild" Omicron test results while gaslighting the unvaxxed.

Here, meanwhile, is my published response to the Times war crimes story:

As Smedley Butler observed, war is a racket. And as long as members of Congress are among the racketeers, keeping their jobs by providing their districts with military bases, weapons and bomb-manufacturing plants and jobs, and all the countless other perks associated with global, institutionalized terrorism and death, these politicians will never hold their uniformed, hideously be-medaled partners in crime accountable for the atrocities.

What this country needs is another antiwar movement. Easier said than done, of course, given the end of the military draft and the transformation of fighting forces into flying predator and Reaper drones.

At the very least, we should be able to extend our newfound anti-racist "wokeness" to the essential racism that is inherent in all of this slaughter. As Judith Butler has observed, these casualties of war - demeaned as collateral damage and "mistakes that were made" by the generals - amount to deaths that are not deemed to be grievable. No surprise that the US has refused to become a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which is designed to bring justice to war criminals. In fact, Congress even passed a law that any US official arrested overseas on war crimes charges must be rescued by any means necessary. They don't even try to cloak the consciousness of their own guilt.

Revelations as published here should at least put pressure on the Biden administration to drop the charges against Julian Assange.

Well, since I wrote that comment a few days ago, Biden has announced that he is sending everybody in America a free nasal swab, calling out the troops to administer more shots, and showing off his new puppy. So let us all hold our collective breaths while we still have the breath to hold.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Rewards of Rapacity

"For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe," thundered Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. this week.

Michael Steinhardt

Whereupon the outgoing Democratic prosecutor promptly forgave the billionaire raptor, dropping a four-year criminal investigation in exchange for the octogenarian promising to stay out of the criminal antiquities racket for the rest of his life. He didn't even have to pay the usual sweetheart tax deduction of a fine that criminal oligarchs commonly use to buy their way out of accountability on the relatively rare occasions that they do get charged. 

Steinhardt is doubly protected, though, always having had the protection racket known as the Duoply on his side. What the corporate media are not reporting about this sordid case is that it was largely Steinhardt's hedge fund money that forged the Democratic Party's hard right turn in the late 1980s with the founding of the Democratic Leadership Council. A major financier of Bill Clinton's campaign for the presidency. Steinhardt naturally was named the very first chairman of the DLC, as well as heading its inaptly named think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute.

Oh, and he also was one of the chief architects of Clinton's notorious pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.

So, like any oligarchic raptor worth his salt, Steinhardt is not only proclaiming his innocence, he is playing the victim card this week. The New York Times (which dutifully ignored Steinhardt's arguably worse crime of transforming the Democratic Party into the rapacious corporate entity that it is today) reported:

In a statement on Monday, his lawyer, Andrew J. Levander, said: “Mr. Steinhardt is pleased that the District Attorney’s yearslong investigation has concluded without any charges, and that items wrongfully taken by others will be returned to their native countries. Many of the dealers from whom Mr. Steinhardt bought these items made specific representations as to the dealers’ lawful title to the items, and to their alleged provenance. To the extent these representations were false, Mr. Steinhardt has reserved his rights to seek recompense from the dealers involved.”

Good luck suing af least a few of the mobsters he trafficked with, because they are not as lucky as Steinhardt and unlike him, were convicted on the thefts and are sitting in Italian jails.

Vance, who had once declined to prosecute Harvey Weinstein even after a police sting operation captured his predatory behavior on tape, and who gave the Trump children a pass for allegedly defrauding investors after they donated to his campaign, made a valiant effort to explain why he is now protecting Steinhardt from accountability:

In explaining the agreement not to prosecute so long as Mr. Steinhardt abides by all its terms, Mr. Vance said the arrangement would allow for the items to be “returned expeditiously to their rightful owners” rather than being held as evidence. It would also help his office to “shield the identity of the many witnesses here and abroad whose names would be released at any trial.”

Translation: any criminal trial would open up a whole can of writhing plutocratic worms complicit in Steinhardt's antiquities-trafficking racket. It's the same logic now being used in the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial, where prosecutors have abruptly announced that they will be resting their case at the end of the week -  before, apparently, the names of any VIP enablers/clients/blackmail targets can get dragged through the mud. It's called going through the motions in a futile attempt to prove that Lady Justice is blind.

Steinhardt himself must know what a travesty his own case is. He actually railed against the Obama administration's own kid glove treatment of Wall Street predators after the meltdown of 2008. As Reuters reported at the time, 

 “What we really needed a long time ago was a recognition that there were villains apace. The evils of the financial system should have been recognized long before this,” said Steinhardt, who no longer manages billions of dollars but whose counsel is sought on Wall Street and among select politicians.

Steinhardt seems to have been practicing the fine art of projecting his own venality onto others. Even while preaching deficit-hawk austerity for the masses for upwards of three decades, he had been a known trafficker in stolen relics. This activity was not just pursued for the years that Vance acknowledged in his press conference, but during the entire time frame this Wall Street "luminary" was advising, donating to, and influencing politicians from both factions of the Uniparty.

 As the Times reported in its article on the agreement with Vance's office, way back 1995 a stolen golden bowl dating from 450 B.C. was seized from his home and returned to Italy, with similar confiscations and protestations of innocence and ignorance on Steinhardt's part sporadically continuing ever since.

And there was never any accountability. Only one year before the golden bowl incident, Steinhardt was then-President Bill Clinton's honored guest at a gala DLC Christmas holiday dinner. From the official transcript of Clinton's remarks:

Hillary and I are delighted to be here. I was so glad when Michael Steinhardt and Al From and Will Marshall came up on the stage. I thought we were occupying the right wing all by ourselves here tonight. [Laughter] I want to—it'll get funnier as you think about it.

 The bellies of the assorted plutocrats in attendance must have been shaking like a million golden bowls full of jelly. They were stuffing themselves with the stewed viscera of the working class and poor that the DLC (now known as New Democrats or "moderate" Centrists) have been preparing for the ultra-rich gourmands ever since, right along with their fellow chefs from the GOP.

Reward of Cruelty (William Hogarth)

In that speech, Clinton made no secret of his party's new right wing bona fides, and he also made no secret that the mass punishment of struggling people was rooted in the cult of elite rapacity. Neoliberal capitalism was, and is, an ideology. The looting, accompanied as it was by cynical calls for diversity and tolerance, was what they thought they could they could get away with. It was always about pitting "hard-working" folks against hordes of alleged loafers. The fostering of resentment kept the citizenry in line by redirecting their ire against each other and at one or another of the permitted two parties, or what Upton Sinclair described as the two right wings of one bird of prey. 

With Steinhardt no doubt beaming in approval on the stage back in 1994, Clinton delivered exactly the kind of divide and conquer stemwinder of a speech that his owners paid him to deliver. He co-opted race as a flimsy means to differentiate the two parties, using buzzwords to disguise the fact that his own reactionary policies - like welfare destruction  - were both racist and sexist to their very cores.

Well, we did a lot of things that they didn't like very much, especially after it got explained to them, as we say at home. I think I was right when I opposed discrimination and intolerance, but a lot of folks thought I was just more concerned about minorities than the problems for the majority.


We believe the promise of America is equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. The Democratic Party's fundamental mission is to expand opportunity, not Government. America must remain energetically engaged in the world, not retreat from it. The United States must maintain a strong and capable defense. The right way to rebuild America's economic security is to invest in our people and to expand trade, not to restrict it. We believe in preventing crime and punishing criminals, not explaining away their behavior. The purpose of social welfare is to bring the poor into the economic mainstream, not to maintain them in dependence. Government should respect individual liberty and stay out of our private lives and personal decisions. We believe in the moral and cultural values most Americans share, individual responsibility, tolerance, work, faith, and family. We believe American citizenship entails responsibilities as well as rights. And we mean to ask our citizens to give something back to their communities and their country.

Fast forward nearly thirty years, and Joe Biden - himself one of the original founding members of the DLC - is hosting an eerily similar "democratic" global leadership conference. The main difference is that this one is directed by a predatory superpower at the rest of the world

This is the same Clintonesque administration which insists that "we" cannot afford to send cheap Covid testing kits to every household in America, but which will willingly spend a trillion dollars a year on weapons and hardware to surveil, harm, and kill people all over the globe.  It is this endless violence that enables predators like Michael Steinhardt to reap the rewards of the systemic, institutionalized rapacity that calls itself the United States of America.

Underground "tomb raiders" are not so underground anymore. They are operating right out in the open for all to see, if only we still had eyes. They're counting on everybody either fighting one another in the divide and conquer culture wars manufactured at the very top, or simply donning our Melania Trump couture and trying to ignore the depravity of the ruling class, as we struggle to survive for yet another day.