Saturday, September 19, 2020

RIP-Roaring RBG Coverage

I'll leave the "live updates" on Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death to the New York Times. Ditto for the overwrought canonization of a judicial bureaucrat marketed for the past decade or so as a "living icon" and a "rock star." Because if anybody was a beneficiary of liberal identity politics and the mass marketing of image, it was certainly "The Notorious RBG."
Therefore, in this Age of Marketed Wokeness, any mention of Ginsburg's Supreme Court decisions siding with the police over ordinary citizens likely will be buried right along with her. Admittedly, some bold obituary writers are ever so delicately tip-toeng around her whimsical friendship with the late rabid reactionary Justice Antonin Scalia. This is being breezily dismissed as comity among colleagues in an exclusive venue. It's similar to Bernie Sanders calling Joe Biden "a good friend of mine" despite their policy differences. You see, our rulers co-exist in an exalted realm. We mere mortals, on the other hand, are viciously and unreasonably divided against one another. Or so we are told by the ruling class's media propagandists, who rely upon fomenting divisions among the citizenry so that they may go about their exalted business of screwing the citizenry and redirecting the wealth of the citizenry to the oligarchs.

I suppose we should at least be grateful that unlike her Supreme Court colleague Elena Kagan, Ruth didn't also go on violent animal-hunting junkets with "Nino."

So before the accolades fade into the ether and before the warm body is even decently buried, the Narrative is of course all about RBG's replacement. Will Donald Trump be able to force through a nominee before the election or in a theoretical lame duck session?
If Trump does get his way, but then Joe Biden wins the presidency by virtue of being the designated negatively charged force to neutralize Trump, will he and a Democratic majority then proceed to pack the court by finally ending the filibuster? After all, his good friend Bernie did predict that the right-wing Biden will magically transform himself into FDR if  only we hold our noses and give the man who created the Prison-Industrial Complex one more chance. 

I'm not holding my breath. Both parties love the filibuster when they're in the majority, and pretend to hate it when they're in the minority. So, as Biden himself likes to say, "Nothing will fundamentally change."
You might remember that back in 2011, when the Dems still held the Senate majority, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell were every bit as palsy-walsy as RBG and Nino were, even almost as tight as Bernie and Joe. They made a "gentleman's agreement" that neither one of them would ever abuse their filibuster privileges. And we all know how that worked out in the Republicans' favor, with the full wink-wink complicity of the feckless Dems.
 Reid, gentleman punk that he was, did the same thing a year later, but only after sternly threatening a few minor tweaks to prevent the GOP from flouting democracy in too impolite a manner. Of course, now that both he and Barack Obama are out of office, they're both falling all over themselves demanding that the filibuster be forever and permanently buried right along with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose own dying wish was not to be replaced by the current president. 

The most that Reid eventually accomplished was the imposition of the really scary-sounding "nuclear option" the following year, in order to prevent the filibustering of judicial nominees, allowing a simple up or down vote rather than the "super-majority" still required for the prevention of most legislation even remotely benefiting ordinary citizens. This feat by Harry Reid is what has allowed
for the confirmation of almost all Donald Trump's federal court nominees.  It was all part of the plan which allows Democrats to flail helplessly in public as they act out their designated role as the good cops and fundraise like mad for the #Resistance.

Filibustering, once glorified as the lone bravery of the principled Senator played by James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, actually has a more sinister original meaning. When it comes to Republican filibusters, they really do adhere to the original definition of the term: "irregular soldiers who act without authority from their own government, and are generally motivated by financial gain, political ideology, or the thrill of adventure".The etymology is as tortuous as the Senate itself: from the Spanish "filibustero" to the Dutch "vrijbuiter" to the English "freebooter."
So why stop at abolishing the filibuster? Maybe it's time to abolish the whole senate, or at least pack it to the gills with representatives based upon the population of any given state. That way, low-density states won't have the undemocratic, outsized power over us that they do now. That way, the iron claw of the oligarchy might even start to lose its grip and we can finally wrest the wealth of a nation right out of their cold dead hands.

 Now, wouldn't that be a nuclear option of a change that we can all believe in! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

When Journalism Becomes Corrupt Boosterism

Forget about Joe Biden's promise to restore The Soul of America - whatever the heck that even is. How about restoring the heart, soul and purpose of journalism, a/k/a The Fourth Estate?

Granted, "afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted" was always more or less the aspirational motto of American journalism.  As Edward Bernays noted nearly a century ago in his seminal Propaganda, at least one quarter of all the front page articles in the New York Times were unabashed corporate or government propaganda. Still, the line between the news pages and opinion pages was almost always taken seriously, If you wanted to sneak a point of view into a straight news story, then you had to go about it stealthily, through the discreet use of innuendo, or the occasional omission of a salient fact.

Not so in the Age of Trump, when reporters double as #Resistance Fighters in the interests of careerist justice. And with only eight weeks to go in this sad, scary and ridiculously close presidential contest between a carnival barker of a mob boss and a mediocre career politician teetering on the edge of dementia, the line between reporting and punditry has been erased right off the journalistic ethics map.

It is no longer enough to dispassionately expose Trump's serial crime spree. It is incumbent upon the increasingly consolidated corporate media to also become the unabashed boosters of the #resistant Democratic Party, which itself might be better described as a coalition of corporate and military/security state interests whose sole agenda is the return to the same neoliberal status quo which produced Trump in the first place.

Fox News, which for decades had been the de facto propaganda arm of the Republican Party, now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of criticizing its erstwhile biggest fan, Donald Trump, himself now reduced to manically re-tweeting various right-wing websites and dark web conspiracy groups.

The turn of the "liberal" media to outright party boosterism took off like a shot last week with the obviously orchestrated Atlantic scoop that Trump had been overheard, a couple of years ago, disrespecting the military by calling dead soldiers "losers" and "suckers". The only shocking thing about this belated reportage is the amount of time it took for four anonymous sources to become shocked and appalled enough to spill the beans to The Atlantic, or alternatively, for the magazine itself to become shocked and appalled enough to finally publish them. It's as though they were hoarding the Big Reveal, that Trump is a clear and present danger to national security, for the sole purpose of winning an election. 

The owner of The Atlantic just happens to be billionaire Democratic mega-donor Laurene Powell Jobs, whose Emerson Collective think tank is headed by former Obama Education Secretary and school privateer Arne Duncan. Her editor and the author of the Trump story is neoconservative pundit Jeffrey Goldberg, who proved his own boosterism bona fides years ago by cheerleading George W.Bush's invasion of Iraq. If you point out these facts, or if you notice that within hours of the article's publication, the Democratic Party was already running slick TV ads expressing shock and outrage about Trump's remarks, or that Joe Biden already had a major speech written on the subject, complete with the inevitable comparison between Trump's spurious bone spurs and the noble military service of the late Beau Biden, then you are in danger of being exposed either as a Russian operative or loony conspiracy theorist.

 You are not, however, in any danger of being exposed as a closet Republican. That is because the Democratic Party has embraced with open arms such "moderate" Republicans as unindicted former Michigan governor and Flint water-poisoner Rick Snyder while relegating Bernie Sanders supporters ("purists") to the dust with a whole chorus line of high-kicking designer jackboots.

You are hereby on strict notice. With only eight weeks to go in The Race, ask not what Joe Biden can do for you. Ask instead what you can do for the Biden-Soul of Your Country.

That's a tall order for sure, especially if you've lost your job and your health insurance and you might be kicked out of your rented digs once all those eviction moratoriums conveniently expire right after the election.

So why not forget about your own fear and trepidation as you are being pressured to declare publicly that yes, you will hold your nose and vote for Joe Biden. Wallow instead in the high-minded fear and trepidation that your financial and intellectual superiors are also wallowing in. They are, deep within their credentialed souls of America, veddy veddy afraid. They're just like you!

"Our Democracy Is Deeply Imperiled," is the top news story in Wednesday's Guardian, and it is tailor-made to get you gripping your nose in a frenzy of highly motivated fear, relying as it does on the "ominous forebodings" of five "leading figures in the non-partisan (my bold) world of democracy reform and civil rights."

Notwithstanding that with the exception of the head of the NAACP, which does not endorse candidates, The Guardian's "non-partisan" sources all have close or even direct  ties to the Democratic Party. Vanita Gupta, CEO of the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, is a former Obama administration official. Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice is a former Bill Clinton speechwriter. K. Sabeel Rahman, currently CEO of the Demos think tank, hails from the oligarch-funded New America Foundation, which is led by former Clinton State Department official Anne- Marie Slaughter.

And then there's Deirdre Schifeling, the founder and director of "Democracy For All 2021."

"A few years ago," credulously writes Guardian chief US correspondent Ed Pilkington, "she came to the realization that there was a growing disconnect between the will of the American people and their political representation in federal and state governments."

Would it be indelicate or even treasonous of me to surmise that Schifeling arrived at her Eureka moment as miraculously late as The Atlantic came to its own shocked realization that Trump doesn't care about dead soldiers - because her paycheck depends upon her not realizing that this reality existed even when Joe Biden was vice president?

Democracy For All is a project of the dark money SuperPAC called the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which also paid the PR firm of Anita Dunn, Biden's deputy campaign director, the whopping sum of $3,2 million for its own "consulting work" in 2018.

This is chump change next to the $140 million furnished by Sixteen Thirty's anonymous donors to other "left-leaning" organizations and political campaigns in that mid-term election year, which ushered in a hyped-up "Blue Wave" of centrist Dems, many of whom hail from the military and the CIA.

As Politico reported about Sixteen Thirty last November:

The spending was fueled by massive anonymous donations, including one gift totaling $51.7 million. That single donation was more than the group had ever raised before in an entire year before President Donald Trump was elected. Most of the group's funders are likely to remain a mystery because federal law does not require "social welfare"-focused nonprofits to reveal their donors.
The group's 2018 fundraising surpassed any amount ever raised by a left-leaning political nonprofit, according to experts, who pointed to the Koch network and the Crossroads network as rare right-leaning groups that posted bigger yearly fundraising totals at the height of their powers.
This is the kind of operation that The Guardian's Ed Pilkington actually casts as being in "the world of democracy reform and civil rights." It kind of makes you think that their definition of democracy reform is simply getting rid of it, and that civil rights are plutocratic rights, and plutocratic rights are civil rights.

Not for nothing, moreover, are the Democrats moaning about "fake news" and Russian interference in said democracy. As the Center for Responsive Politics reported recently, Sixteen Thirty also funds numerous party-aligned news sites which dishonestly pose as local independent journalism outlets.

Democracy For All 2021, which depends entirely upon dark oligarchic money for its very existence, nonetheless brags on its website, without a hint of irony, that it wants to "ensure transparency for all political spending."

It's no surprise that Democracy For All's idea of an anti-Trump health care platform is restricted to reproductive rights. Forget about polls showing that the majority of Americans support Medicare For All. Because 70 percent of Americans also support the be-all and end-all of Roe v Wade! 

If you demand both, then you're apparently asking for way too much. You have to pragmatically pick the battles that are so carefully selected for you by the credentialed Knowledge Class.

Pilkington explains:
Yet Schifeling found herself spending more and more of her time defending Planned Parenthood against the aggressive attacks of a small minority of extremist anti-abortion politicians. Despite the settled nature of the law, and the clear progressive bent of public opinion, women were finding it increasingly difficult in practice to secure their reproductive rights.
 She reached a reluctant and unhappy conclusion: “Our government is not able to represent the will of the people.”
Since then, Schifeling and her peers have been looking at the causes of this dysfunction and searching for solutions.
Schifeling has not yet come to the reluctant realization that affording guaranteed single payer health care to all citizens in the middle of a pandemic is among the obvious solutions for this dysfunction. We wouldn't want Democracy For All (Wealthy Socially Liberal People) to explode, or for their lifestyles to fundamentally change, would we?

It's their constant searching that really counts, right along the complicity of the churnalists operating right out there in the open as oligarchy-boosters. 

They don't call it the Media-Political Complex for nothing.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Salongate Threatens To Overshadow Russiagate

You know what really blew my mind about Nancy Pelosi's illegal blowout? The surveillance video proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that she does indeed have her own hair. And here I'd been laboring under the petty impression that she wears a wig. She is, after all, 80 years old, and only half of all women still have a full head of hair by the time they reach 65. 

So instead of using her outdoor San Francisco press conference to bitch about being "set up" to break the law, she should have bragged about having the tresses of a woman half her age. She could also have mentioned that the combover of her frenemy and legislative dance partner Donald Trump hides such an unsightly bald spot that it's exposed with every gust of wind. She certainly took full advantage of the strong Pacific breezes blowing out her own blowout for that natural tousled look. The sad upshot was, she didn't look half as bad as she sounded. Blaming others for one's own bad behavior is something that Trump does. Maybe it was Salongate coming the same day that the Kennedy she'd endorsed for the Senate was so badly beaten. 

 She should probably just stick to the expert finger-wagging, laconic speech-ripping and grimacing Kente cloth-kneeling that she is so good at from now on, or at least until that magical day when she is beaten in a primary, and/or quits Congress forever to spend more time with her designer ice cream stash.

Trump, of course, will never keep his mouth shut or quit the presidency, even if Joe Biden squeaks through. I don't think, as others do, that he'll refuse to physically leave the premises on Inauguration Day. I think they'll still be counting the votes and litigating the results well into 2021. The interregnum between Trump I and Trump II, or worse, between Trump I and Biden I, will be toxic no matter how you slice it.

But back to the important stuff. Pelosi also could have claimed that the grainy footage of the black-robed woman with the slicked-back  hair was either Judge Judy Sheindlin or Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, both of whom have forsworn the high maintenance carefree blowout for the more severe kind of 'do that doesn't require constant attention from the concierge glam squad that's usually at Pelosi's beck and call whenever one of her servants picks up the phone to order a session.

The Speaker Sneaks (Pelosi)
Justice Ginsburg

Judge Judy

Naturally, the New York Times and Washington Post are barely covering the frippery of Salongate - not when there's the outright flummery of the continuing Russiagate saga with which to send chills and thrills down the spines of the American electorate.

The latest episode has our old indicted (Mueller Theatre charges since dismissed) friend, the Internet Research Agency, allegedly setting up a website with which to attack Joe Biden from the left. Using such well-known and trustworthy sources as "The Authorities" and "Officials"  the establishment media are again gaslighting the public and sowing doubt about all the information that we do not read in the Times and the Post, or watch on CNN and MSNBC.

Unless I'd had the Times to fill me in, I never would have known that an obscure site called even existed, and that it not only "tricked" real American independent journalists into writing for them, it actually paid them for writing for them. This practice of paying real money for freelance content is actually becoming quite rare in the Land of the Free.

Intrepid Times reporter Sheera Frenkel tracked down one of these American writers, who admitted by email that the editor of Peacedata not only is not a Real American, but that he also (suspiciously) wasn't as obsessively interested in criticism of Trump as more trustworthy media outlets must be in order to rake in millions of new subscribers. This freelancer further said that he's turned down payments of between $75 and $200 per article, claiming that he preferred to provide copy for free. And that kind of leads me to believe that the Times source may himself not be a Real Struggling Freelancer at all. The doubt is being sown so hard that I can almost feel the furrows deepening in my brain.

Oh well, I'm probably just jealous that Peacedata never noticed Sardonicky, or solicited any of my articles in its terrifying Internet search for lefty dupes who'll stoop to writing for money.

 So I think I'll just call it a day and go wash my hair with my cheap Suave shampoo and then it let it air-dry into silky flatness the way I always do.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Black and Blue In America

Culture wars which pit various factions of the poor and working classes against one other are almost always created by and waged for the ultimate benefit of the oppressive oligarchy.

That is why the Movement For a People's Party, whose 4+-hour streamed convention on Sunday was trending at #2 on Twitter, is receiving so little media coverage. It's the bloody and sometimes lethal street battles between social justice protesters and right-wing militias in a few US cities that are gobbling up all the headlines. 

It's as though a story about the burgeoning solidarity among regular people must not be allowed to take attention away from the professional marketing of fear. The increasing numbers of people who are refusing to succumb to fear and hatred of the "other," and who are also taking steps to politically organize themselves outside the confines of the two-party system strikes fear into the heart of the ruling class.

If all we hear about are Trump's tweets, and tut-tutting punditry about Black on Black violence, Black on White Violence, White on Black Violence, White on White Violence, Antifa and QAnon Violence, the propaganda about Russian Interference in Our Democracy, it just sucks us into their divide-and-conquer program and deflects our attention away from the real war, the violent class war of the Rich against the rest of us.

It tries to transform our fear of Covid-19 into fear of the Other. It tries to redirect our rational anger about the failure of the corrupt political duopoly, to both prevent disease outbreaks and to ameliorate the devastating social and economic effects of the pandemic, onto one or the other of the senile presidential candidates. The ruling "donor" class, through its political operatives, has made the conscious choice to abandon tens of millions of vulnerable people to needless suffering and death, while Wall Street posts record gains.

So, who are you going to vote for, Trump or Biden? Which side are you on - Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter? By presenting us with such limited choices and bemoaning the "divisiveness" without exploring the longstanding, underlying causes of it, maybe the Duopoly can lull us or scare us into thinking that we have no choice at all. And that it's all our fault.

For starters, one thing we should keep in mind is that protest-busting cops function as the hired weaponized buffer zone between citizens and the ruling class. The fact that America's municipal police forces have been become increasingly militarized in recent decades, with even small town departments now heavily fortified with tanks, drones and grenade launchers, is testament to the essential brutality of thst real war, the class war of the rich versus the rest of us. The oligarchic forces, be they Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, DEA, ICE, National Guard, Homeland Security, Border Patrol or cops on the beat, are mainly comprised of working class people from the same distressed communities where "civilian" jobs have been destroyed by the cruel ravages of neoliberal capitalism and its corporation-serving "free trade" deals. All you need to achieve the  American Dream of a secure job and a decent wage is a gun, a uniform, and a pension -which may or may not be there for you once Wall Street gets done fiddling with it.

Donald Trump does not, of course,  give one single damn about either police officers or about the marginalized assault rifle-toting vigilantes acting in his name and upon his inflammatory tweeted instructions. Nor do Joe Biden and Kamala Harris give one solitary damn about the Black victims of the police violence and privatized prison gulags which they have funded and championed and overseen their entire political lives. Cops, vigilantes and protesters: they are but interchangeable pawns and props and scapegoats in the cynical power game.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose $50 billion-plus personal fortune makes him one of the richest and most powerful men in the world, did in fact boast that "I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world."

This man, an honored prime time speaker at the Democratic National Convention a few weeks ago, had launched his own ill-fated run for the presidency last year by apologizing for using this private army to racially profile ("stop and frisk") Black and Brown men in record, relentless numbers for the crime of merely existing. His neofascist policy, eventually declared unconstitutional, was what really "inflamed tensions" between communities and the private army acting at the behest of Bloomberg and the other lords of capital. These armed forces were not a few "bad apples," These were regimented troops under strict orders to fill a quota imposed by a racist billionaire mayor and even funded by some of the same corporations now trying to make a cynical buck off the Black Lives Matter movement.

It was unsurprising, therefore, when the New York City police union blasted Bloomberg for the fake apology he offered in the standard venue beloved of any pandering Democratic politician worth his salt - a Black church.
“Mayor Bloomberg could have saved himself this apology if he had just listened to the police officers on the street,” said the union’s president, Patrick Lynch. “We said in the early 2000s that the quota-driven emphasis on street stops was polluting the relationship between cops and our communities. His administration’s misguided policy inspired an anti-police movement that has made cops the target of hatred and violence, and stripped away many of the tools we had used to keep New Yorkers safe.”
That's all well and good. But I'm waiting for that magical day when the cops in riot gear being deployed all across America to quash the biggest protest movement in US history finally do the right thing. I hope they do what Tsar Nicholas II's own private army did during the March 1917 mass demonstrations against that particular authoritarian regime. I'm waiting for them to mutiny, to put down their arms and their tear gas canisters, and to take the side of the protesters.

How long can it humanly take before sheriff's deputies and city marshals get disgusted enough to side with their own neighbors and refuse to serve millions of landlords' warrants on all the renters facing eviction this year because Congress has refused to offer emergency relief to them?

Matthew Desmond writes in the New York Times that
Marshals that carry out evictions are full of suicide stories: the early morning rap on the door followed by a single gunshot from inside the apartment, the blunt sound of giving up. From 2005 to 2010, years when housing costs were soaring across the country, suicides attributed to eviction and foreclosure doubled.
A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control has revealed that the stress of the pandemic caused one out of every four young adults to seriously contemplate killing themselves within the past 30 days. Unpaid caregivers, essential workers, and Black and Brown people also reported harboring suicidal thoughts at rates far above average. Recommendations by study researchers include the government giving more financial support to individuals and localities in order to reduce mental stress and racial disparities in health care.

In Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, published last fall just before the Covid-19 outbreak, economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton write that paradoxically enough, it is the for-profit US healthcare system itself which is the leading cause of these deaths by suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse. The costs of our privatized, for-profit healthcare system are "like a tribute that Americans have to pay to a foreign power," similar to the unconscionable reparations Germans were made to pay after World War I. 

The obscene amount of money that impoverished Germans had to pay to the victors was proportionately far less than Americans have to pay for medical care today, the authors write.  Even if our system were delivering results, which it is not, the cost would still debilitate the economy. Although avuncular billionaire Warren Buffett compared our health care system to a tapeworm, Case and Deaton aptly describe  it "as more like a cancer that has metastisized throughout the economy."

Couple that with suicide-inducing evictions and egregious rent hikes, and you've got yourself a state that has gone far beyond failed.

Just as our health insurance premiums and deductibles and "surprise" medical bills sent out by private equity-owned hospitals are tributes imposed by the oligarchy on those whom they've effectively colonized, so too are rents.

Political economist Thomas Piketty in his book Capital and Ideology also compares the victims of contemporary predatory capitalism to the colonized subjects of an imperialistic foreign power: 
"In other words, the rest of the world labored to increase the consumption and standard of living of the colonial powers, even as it became increasingly indebted to those powers. The situation is like that of the worker who must devote a large portion of his salary to pay rent to his landlord, which the landlord then uses to buy the rest of the building while leading a life of luxury compared to the family of the workers, which has only hhis wages to live on. This comparison may shock some readers (which I think would be healthy) but one must realize that the purpose of property is to increase the owner's ability to consume and accumulate in the future."
Lacking even a wage with which to pay the tribute of rent, or a basic guaranteed income or health care in the middle of a pandemic, people are realizing that their choice is not limited to Trump and Biden, or choosing between protesters and cops.  The choice is between succumbing to despair and taking to the streets. Or starting a third political party. Or joining a revolution that's overdue by about 250 years.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

GOP Confab: Tony Soprano Complains About "The Mob"

The  oligarchic bickering within the suffocating confines of our two-party system has reached full throttle this week with the Republican side's version of reality.

  Who even needs a party platform, when the GOP train already left the station quite a while ago? But if you act now, perhaps you too can catch up and score a one-way ticket to hell on the Donald Trump special.

But first, you have to dodge all the "socialist mobs" that are fleeing the crime-ridden cities to attack white people in the pristine suburbs. And stay patriotically paranoid at all times, because Joe and Kamala are popping up at every curve, blocking the tracks with their hammers and sickles and threatening to derail the freedom train with all that Marxism. (If only!)

To help set the mood and the desired tone, the notorious St. Louis couple arrested for aiming their guns at peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters earlier this summer showed up in the first class dining car to warn passengers that Joe Biden's party wants to "abolish the suburbs" and allow low-income apartments to replace big single family homes. (again - if only!) 

"Make no mistake," recited Patricia McCloskey. "No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats' America!"

"If you don't stand up for yourself, the Mob will try to destroy you!" subtly chimed in her aggrieved multimillionaire husband Mark.

You really do have to hand it to the Trump Crime Family, who have the chutzpah to cast themselves and their supporters and sycophants as the victims of mob (read: Black. progressive) oppression. The real oligarchic mob bosses, the real usurpers of democracy, will say whatever it takes to transform themselves into the Usurped. As the late Christopher Hitchens once said about the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, Donald Trump's whole shtick is similarly all about "co-opting populism in the service of elitism."

So. semi-adept conductors that they are. the Trumpies have  thoughtfully staffed their virtual Dog-Whistlestop campaign train with dozens of token Black Pullman porters - even one renegade Black congressman, Democrat Tim Scott - as supposed proof that Donald Trump is not the hardcore racist that those damned Wall Street socialist elitists are always making him out to be. If you hop aboard his train, he'll punch your ticket so many times that you'll barely feel him punching you right in the face.

Despite trying to beat the Dems at their own shallow diversity/identity politics game, however, Trump still hasn't quite mastered the art of pandering and co-opting the pain of others with the finesse necessary to pull it off. He simply cannot resist making himself the centerpiece of every hard luck story. Each of the designated sufferers who appeared on opening night to tell their sad stories were also required to proclaim themselves saved by Trump and by Trump alone.  One cancer patient as much as suggested that Trump had single-handedly cured her disease by fast-tracking an experimental drug.

 This is a huge step up from Biden trying to beat the Republicans at their own cruel right-wing game by throwing cold water all over a dying Medicare For All advocate with a feeble "I get it, man" as he vowed to veto any future single payer healthcare legislation. 

Trump doesn't merely play a quack doctor on TV. As another regular person convention speaker testified, Trump has nobly abandoned his previous carefree billionaire lifestyle in order to sacrifice himself for the country.(doing, I suppose, the unaccustomed hard work of personally looting the public treasury on his own behalf rather than relying on lawyers and bribed politicians.)

 This buffoonery was designed to be in such stark contrast to last week's very serious Democratic convention, where Joe Biden marketed the notion that his personal warmth and "decency" and shared national grief over the death of his son should erase any desire or need that voters might have for health care and other frivolous things

So it's a real quandary. Do we cast our lot with the death by a thousand cuts/ benign neglect, liberal interventionist imperialism, and syrupy platitudes of the Democrats, or do we join the screaming brutal descent into fascist hell with Donald Trump?

Neither of the above, you say? Well, it turns out that there might be a third choice after all, an option which, for some strange reason, the corporate media are not bothering to tell you about. 

There's going to be a separate People's Party Convention, to be held online this coming weekend, And everybody is invited.

Now, before you scream the word "spoiler" at me, please rest assured that this convention is not (yet) an actual third party with a place on the ballot. For now, it's all in the planning stages to explore how we can finally wean ourselves away from the toxic teat of the corporate duopoly. 

Call it a pipe dream if you like, but even failing at this goal is certainly better than never having tried at all.

Friday, August 21, 2020

DNC Finale: As Snug As a Bug On a Smug Repug Mug

The Democratic confab is finally dead and buried, save for the bounty of stale takeaways and sugary leftovers and touchy-feelies still being peddled by the party's corporate media propagandists.

But here are a just a few of the inappropriate observations which should be noted but which were not included in the New York Times's wrap-ups of the dreary takeaways.

I want to know if those were real tears in Obama's eyes, designed to augment the long-perfected catch in the voice for the projection of performative sincerity. Or, whether the shiny moisture was really a drop of glycerin expertly applied just before filming by a Hollywood special effects person. Color me suspicious.The desired message seemed to be that if the legendarily stoic former president - so annoyingly hyped as No Drama Obama throughout his tenure -  is feeling this rattled and upset about Trump and the post office, then the rest of us should be having a complete nervous breakdown. If we're not crying and gnashing our teeth, then we are not patriotic.  But don't demand guaranteed mental health care for all, though. Get out there and vote, ya lousy bunch of cynics!

 How about the symbolism of that bug landing on billionaire Michael Bloomberg's smug mug - not once,but twice - during his own stentorian speech? It first alit below his stone-dry right eye before perching just above his curled sneer-hole. Like most of the dog-whistled reassurances to Wall Street and war profiteers sprinkled throughout the jingoistic Democratic festivities, this has a double meaning. It first proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the poor people-hating  - but environmentally conscious - Stop and and Frisk mayor really is a two-faced phony. But here's the really scary part. The fact that the bug finally flew away on its own. without the stoic Bloomberg even having to flick it away with that perennially wagging finger of his, proved beyond all doubt  that he is also the Lord of the Flies. This feat of Bloombergian strength was probably enough to bring real envious tears to the eyes of fellow finger-wagger Obama, who needed vast fleets of unmanned predator drones to achieve his own bug-splat.

Everybody who's anybody is weeping real crocodile tears of admiration for 13-year-old Brayden Harrington, who attested that fellow stutterer Joe Biden inspired him enough to talk publicly about his disability. Young Brayden, you might remember, was originally selected by the vice president's staff on the pre-Covid campaign trail to ask a question for an utterly spontaneous campaign photo-op.

The New York Time's Wajit Ali's gushing was typical of the reactions: "Brayden stood up last night, and he gave us the best reason to vote for Biden. Trump has no response to this, because it would require him to have empathy and kindness."

The co-optation of Brayden Harrington serves two purposes. First, the emphasis on Biden's own history of speech impairment deflects from the glaring evidence that his often disjointed remarks are also symptomatic of early-stage dementia. Secondly, it provides another point of contrast to Trump, who is either too stupid or too self-sabotaging to co-opt the trials and tribulations of individuals in order to enhance his own political fortunes.

So, my own main wrapped up takeaway from the four nights (two of which I deliberately missed, because mental health) is that Joe Biden is being sold as a warm, fuzzy security blanket covering an entire planet that is currently writhing in pain on a bed of Trumpian nails. We'll finally feel so safe huddling beneath his platitudes, his gaffes, his gropes, his empathy, his decency, his bereavements, his humanity, that we won't even realize that Blankie Biden is smothering us with all that warmth. If you lost a loved one prematurely or have untreated medical issues yourself because of lack of health insurance, you'll forget all about Uncle Joe's adamant opposition to Medicare For All. Because he'll always give you a pat on the head or get your phone number in an elevator while you suffocate to death under all that folksy, toxic warmth.  At least you'll find comfort in the fact that, as you turn blue in the face, you'll have Voted Blue, No Matter Who.

The New York Times approvingly headlines Biden's vow that "I will draw on the best of us" as though it wasn't a threat to continue extracting the toil, sweat and blood of the poor on behalf of the rich.

If that prospect isn't macabre enough for you, then you can always bask in the horror of Donald Trump inappropriately transforming the East Room of the White House into a funeral parlor for his deceased younger brother Robert. I wonder if the eulogy will include fond memories  of Donald teasing and torturing his sibling throughout their childhood and anecdotes of his habit of stealing and hiding young Bobby's prized toy cars in the attic, and how Old Man Trump used to punish and berate the younger boy for losing his stuff all the time.

Without Robert to kick around, Trump never would have gotten the head start in bullying and grifting he needed in order to get where he is today. 

Maybe he can continue his eulogy into next week's GOP convention, and milk his brother's death at least half as much as Joe Biden grotesquely milks the loss of his son Beau at every opportunity.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Quadrennial Follies: Pandemic Edition

I've been offline for a second entire week this month, due to a combination of a tropical storm, neglected infrastructure and the typically shoddy customer service from the Spectrum monopoly.  So I apologize for the radio silence and for my inability to moderate and publish the handful of reader comments that were lost in the ether for the past seven days.

Not that I was totally disconnected from the world of manufactured opinion, consent and news, mind you. I still was able to get NPR (National Public Radio), so I learned on the morning after the big event that Joe Biden had chosen Kamala Harris to be his running mate.

After listening to NPR for days on end, I remember why I'd stopped tuning into it a decade ago.

With its combination of Trump disgust and associated Russophobia brought to the level of barely contained hopeless and helpless hysteria, sponsored by more craft beer microbreweries, sustainable gourmet food emporiums, artisanal coffee roasters, Ivy League tutoring services and more pretentious New-Agey stuff than I ever knew existed in upstate New York and adjacent New England, it was, in fact, a virtual teaser for this week's Democratic National Convention. With very few exceptions - notably,an excellent "Fresh Air" interview with human rights activist Sister Helen Prejean - I found NPR to be just as off-putting in its own smarmy way as any drivel belched out by Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.

During one call-in segment on the locally-produced "Round Table" breakfast show, a woman describing herself as the manager of an upstate New York trailer park described her tenants as "lovely people" who, despite their hard-knock lives, are still true believers in Donald Trump. Why oh why do "these people" always vote against their own interests? And why oh why do they resent the well-meaning and earnest and fact-based NPR crowd so much?

"Racism" was the unanimous verdict of the panelists, who proceeded to lambaste Trump's stereotypical misogynistic characterization of Kamala Harris as "nasty." One panelist had a thesaurus magically to hand and proceeded to properly enunciate all the synonyms for "nasty." Another panelist decried the media's disrespectfully sexist habit of referring to the candidate only by her first name. This is so unfair, she said, because they call him Biden rather than just plain Joe, and they always call him Trump instead of Don. There were also the requisite quotes from Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

God help me, but I found myself commiserating with the elite-hating trailer park folk as my own bile rose in response to the limousine liberalism of the NPR experts.

The emphasis on identity politics serves, of course, to shield Harris from such legitimate critiques as her prosecution of the poor parents of truant children and her use of prisoners as unpaid or barely paid firefighters. her prosecution of low level drug offenders and her refusal to prosecute Trump Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin or his California bank for foreclosure fraud.

Mass liberal hatred of Trump fills the vacuum of the Democratic Party's having no agenda of its own to make people's lives better. "Remote" describes both its convention broadcast method and its relationship to the non-wealthy.

Desperate Housewives actress Eva Langoria glamorously and seamlessly took over last night where NPR left off, acting as the hostess of the Democratic Party's quadrennial national convention. I very naively thought that absent incessant chants of "USA! USA! USA" brayed out by delegates decked out in their garish hats after every sentence by every politician with a speaking role, the event would be more palatable.

How wrong I was. This convention is not a celebration. It offers no hope. It should actually be called Quadranimus, because it is nothing but four years of elite #Resistance and moneyed hate and fake despair and rancid concern-trolling all rolled up into four days.

I should have taken a drink every time that Bernie Sanders uttered the word "unprecedented" and Michelle Obama used the word "folks," and when each of them mentioned "shtruggle." If I had, I would be having one heck of a hangover right about now.

While the Democratic Party has been moving inexorably to the right over the last four or five decades, the 2020 convention was the first time they've totally come out of the closet. Former Republican governor and presidential candidate John Kasich, awkwardly playing the role of Dorothy, was filmed literally standing at a fork in a road. Some brainless talking scarecrow had apparently whispered in his ear and instructed him to take the route all the way to Oz and to Joe  A trio of Republican women (former New Jersey Gov.Christy Todd Whitman and CEO Meg Whitman and Staten Island GOP machine politician Susan Molinaro) were granted more speaking time than progressive dynamo Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

Those GOP mavens admittedly were hard acts to follow, but Bernie Sanders did his very best, lauding Joe Biden's gracious gesture of lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 as another magical fork in the road to the Emerald City of true guaranteed single payer health care. This tortured detour is certainly better than Trump defunding the Post Office so that your Amazon package arrives in two weeks rather than within the promised two days. Isn't it? Isn't it? 

The situation is so dire that Nancy Pelosi is going one step beyond praying for the low-status victims of the Covid-19 crisis currently being co-opted by the Dems for their Quadranimus show, and is actually calling her members back to Washington to block Trump's wholesale destruction of the US Postal Service for his own crass political purposes. In order for Pelosi and the Democrats to return to power, voters must not only be shamed and terrified into picking Biden, but they must also have the option of using the mail to do so. This is especially true for those vulnerable uninsured voters who are being told by Bernie Sanders that they must survive until the age of 60 to get a slim chance of access to guaranteed government-run coverage before they die of their untreated diseases. Because it seems that even the much-ballyhooed public option promised by good old honest, decent, empathetic Joe Biden has already been quietly tossed down the memory hole.  

Barack Obama, meanwhile, emerged from his taciturn turn at his sprawling Martha's Vineyard estate to offer some "unusually sharp criticism" of Trump's attempted destruction of the Post Office and its resulting vote suppression.

“What we’ve seen, in a way that is unique to modern political history, is a president who is explicit in trying to discourage people from voting,Obama said on Cadence13’s Campaign HQ podcast in a discussion with his former campaign manager David Plouffe. “What we’ve never seen before is a president say, ‘I’m going to try to actively kneecap the Postal Service to [discourage] voting and I will be explicit about the reason I’m doing it.’”
“That’s sort of unheard of, right?” he added. “And we also have not had an election in the midst of a pandemic that is still deadly and killing a lot of people, and we still don’t know the long-term side effects of contracting the illness.”
But back in 2009, his first year in the White House, Obama was singing a very different tune. In true Republican fashion, he defended his own abandoned promise of a health insurance public option by likening it to the "inefficiency" of the US Postal Service. He made the preposterous claim that in order for a thing to be efficient, it must be privatized, competitive and profit-seeking. Since the taxpayer does not fund United Health or Blue Cross, Obama suggested, then why should the public fund the postal service?

 "I mean, if you think about it," he said, "UPS and FedEx are doin' just fine.  It's the post office that's always havin' problems."  (Yeah, he was at one of those folksy, g-droppin' town halls).

Obama failed to mention that the Post Office wasn't doin' so good in large part because Congress had bipartisanly passed a bill requiring the USPS to fund its pension and health plans 75 years into the future - in other words, to pay for the benefits of future postal workers who haven't even been born. 

The destruction wasn't started by Donald Trump. He has simply revved it up to Mach speed and boasted about it more, while fully exposing the anti-labor machinations operating in both parties for the last 40 or 50 years.