Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Bye-Bye Bernie

The biggest rationale for Bernie Sanders staying in the race was the very real possibility that Joe Biden might collapse, either physically or mentally, before Election Day. With so many states cancelling primaries due to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden reaching the requisite majority is doubtful. The Democratic National Committee likely will still have had to change its rules to allow the loathsome "I'm the guy" guy with the most votes to become the nominee of the party.  

Forget about the dreaded second ballot. There won't even be a first ballot, whether at a public convention or in a back room on a billionaire's yacht.

Today, Bernie relinquished any remaining leverage he still had over the corrupt Democratic party. Was his heart ever really in actually winning in the first place? With sickness and misery raging all around me, I must confess that I don't much care at this point whether he was sincere or whether he was a sheepdog herding the straying-from-neoliberalism lamb chops into the Democratic fold prior to shearing if not outright slaughter.

To be fair, though, Bernie probably rushed the performance of his last bow in order to prevent any more infections among voters, who risked their very lives going to the polls in Wisconsin yesterday.

Even with the country in economic and social shambles, the corporate media propagandists are busily trying to sell the narrative that the barely-there Biden will now finally be free to forge a "unity ticket" to attract both Republicans and "progressives." The fact that he's also under pressure to name his entire cabinet right now is probably a good sign, because if he chooses a retro Obama era cabinet lousy with corporate CEOs and Citigroup and Goldman Sachs bankers and war-mongering neocons who style themselves as "liberal interventionists," then we won't have to wait till November to find out that the beatings will continue and that we'll be well and truly screwed for at least another four years. With Biden's insane vow that there will be no single payer health care system under his watch and with a thousand more Americans dying of the virus in just one day, many of us won't even be around to vote for anybody.

It'll be interesting to see whether Biden would retain torture maven "Bloody Gina" Haspell as his CIA director, or whether Russiagate troll and Kill List architect John Brennan would get his old job back.

The news that Black people are being disproportionately infected with and killed by this virus should also give Biden and the centrists some serious pause. Black voters didn't come out for Hillary Clinton in 2016 because she was such a horrible candidate. And they might not come out for Biden in 2020 - because despite Jim Clyburn's previous success at herding his South Carolina constituents into the Biden tent, the voter rolls will be purged more effectively by sickness and death than by the standard kind of suppression so beloved of Trump and the Republicans.

Depending on your perspective on probably the most important Greater Lesser Evil election theater of our lifetimes, it's also probably a relief that at least the televised debates will also be a no-go.  Trump will be deprived of the opportunity to upstage and destroy Biden before a live audience. One-on-one Face Time sessions between these two doddering dolts will just not have the excitement and drama of the unreal real thing we've already been enduring for far too long.

I have already written for far too long and far too often about the corporate media's unfair and disgusting coverage of Bernie Sanders, as well as Bernie's own self-defeating knee-jerk "Joe Biden is a good friend of mine" reactions to any and all invitations to destroy Biden's candidacy while he still had the chance. I'll leave the post mortems to others and also avoid reading all the phony ass-covering praise of Bernie Sanders popping up all over the corporate media. 

Life is, quite literally, way too short and too precious to dwell on this stuff. Because as I have also written before, revolution never comes out of a presidential election. 

I hope my readers are all safe and in good health.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Peak Death, Peak Greed

If the dueling headlines Global Stocks Rise To Record Levels and US Coronavirus Death Rate Doubles In Five Days aren't enough to wake people up to the grotesque reality that "No, Virginia, we're not all in this together," then nothing ever will.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, considered one the country's more prominent liberal public influencers, merely ascribes the horrendous political response to the pandemic to "learned helplessness" while marveling that not only did the  CARES bill contain barely minimal relief for regular people, but that the dastardly Donald Trump actually signed it into law.

He depressingly concludes:

We know what we should be doing in terms of economic policy, and Congress passed a relief bill that, while flawed, was better than I expected. But right now it looks as if our response to the economic emergency will fall far short.
My published comment:
Let's hope we become so adept at sewing our own face masks out of old pillowcases that once this plague abates, the streets will fill with millions of homemade yellow vests waging a long overdue battle against the plague of neoliberal capitalism.
  The same free marketeers who've claimed government is the problem for the past 40 years are first in line to cash in on a multi-trillion dollar slush fund created by the CARES package. Meanwhile, the rest of us are still waiting for those insulting $1200 "stimulus" checks that won't even cover a month's rent.
 Private equity stands to make another record killing. snatching up even more distressed property, destroying livelihoods and raising rents. While the rich enjoy full mortgage freezes for the duration, the have-nots are only granted a temporary stay on evictions.
 The rich only feign concern once infected homeless people threaten their own health. In Vegas, the casino hotels stand empty while the evicted homeless are sleeping on parking lot concrete. And the casino known as Wall Street soars.
 This crisis is not a matter of politicians' "learned helplessness." It's a matter of deliberate, greed-fueled sadism The only way they govern, in fact, is by crisis. They then claim that rewarding themselves and punishing the rest of us is the only way to "solve" - that is, to feed upon - the crisis.
  For the cannibalistic oligarchs, this pandemic has got to be the biggest, fattest, juiciest steak they've ever been served.

The link inserted above on private equity is a how-to guide for the greedy, published by the National Law Review. Venture capitalists are advised to move fast, stress their connections to other greedsters, and take advantage of the fact that normally prickly-stickly banks are so overwhelmed with requests for bailout cash that they'll overlook any potential grift. And best of all, the loans made to "small business" applicants from the private equity/vulture capital biz might never even have to be paid back at all! Anybody can be an elite deadbeat like Donald Trump, as long as that anybody is already a member of the One Percent.

Not for nothing is Trump himself touting an unproven malaria drug cure for the coronavirus. He has, after all, his own "small" financial stake in the drug's manufacturer. He therefore fits the purposely vague definition of the beleaguered "small business" owner being given the bloodsucking chance of a lifetime in the CARES package.

As the National Law Review so discreetly advises hungry vampires: "Our sources tell us that the thought was that this initial round of relief should be for 'Main street, not Wall Street.' However, that perception didn’t consider all the small companies that are owned, in part or whole, by PE or VC but that are not “Wall Street” types.  Our sources note that people in the Administration and on the Hill are aware of this and that it might be addressed in future actions."

So act now while manufactured chaos and crisis rule the day and before the already terrorized little people find out they've been sucked dry in their sleep.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

We Have Officially Entered the Twilight Zone

When all else fails, you can always count on Blooperpower USA to revive its stupid, cruel and ineffective War on Drugs - that is, the relentless war against poor and dark-skinned people both at home and abroad. The war on drugs is especially necessary when the poor and dark skinned targets live in a country with valuable natural resources coveted by the US corporations which actually  own and control Blooperpower.

The latest drug war surge is also meant to divert our attention from the sad truth that what is still insanely called the world's sole remaining superpower is so lacking in even the most basic drugs and other medical equipment to combat the virus that we are forced to import face masks and other material from China and Russia. 

In a vain, pathetic attempt to save orange face, and divert attention from the ongoing economic and social collapse of the richest country on earth, Donald Trump aims to start another war or three. And appropriately enough, he announced his plans on April Fools Day.

Before he could utter even one of his endless lies, before he could praise himself and tout the latest pitiful half-measures to combat the pandemic, he announced on Wednesday that he is sending the US military to the shores of Venezuela to combat an alleged epidemic of drug trafficking.

No matter that it's Colombia, not Venezuela, that is and always has been the major drug trafficker in the region. If drugs are trafficked by a right-wing CIA-backed "partner" of the United States, it's fine and dandy with the leaders of both our corrupt political parties. But if drugs are trafficked from a socialist country, it is not okay. No matter that calling, with no evidence, President Nicolas Maduro a drug kingpin and putting a $5 million bounty on his head is only the latest gambit to plunder Venezuela of its oil on behalf of Exxon-Mobil and other major polluters. No matter that the plundering of its oil is not even cost-effective. since Saudi Arabia is already glutting the world market with its own cheap oil.

What matters is the war of late stage capitalism against any form of socialism, wherever it exists in the world and wherever it threatens the Overlords of Blooperpower, who never let pesky reality - say, like  the crew of one of the US Navy's biggest vessels coming down with the virus - ever get in the way of their greed. Trump, who couldn't even be bothered to evacuate these sick or exposed sailors, must think that fleets of warships steer themselves.

Just as corporate CEOs place profits and economic growth above the well-being of the working class, so too has the Pentagon placed the safety of its valuable high tech arsenal of weapons on the stricken aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt above the the health of the sick and endangered sailors on board.

Sounding a lot like the Wall Street executives calling for Americans to return to work even if they risk getting sick, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modley insisted that evacuation is not an option. "This ship has weapons on it, it has munitions on it, it has expensive aircraft, and it has a nuclear power plant. It requires a certain number of people on that ship to maintain the safety and security of the ship."

And with the safety and security of the fossil fuel industry being one of the utmost priorities of Blooperpower, the regime change coup and possible US invasion of Venezuela proceeds apace, no matter the pressing needs at home.

The A.P. reports:
The deployment is one of the largest U.S. military operations in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama to remove Gen. Manuel Noriega from power and bring him to the U.S. to face drug charges. It involves assets like Navy warships, AWACS surveillance aircraft and on-ground special forces seldom seen before in the region.
Even as American corporations and private equity vultures are licking their chops at the prospect of exploiting the pandemic and looting the multi-trillion dollar slush fund disguised as a pandemic relief package, Trump hilariously blustered on behalf of himself and his whole cabal of mobster cronies:
As governments and nations focus on the coronavirus there is a growing threat that cartels, criminals, terrorists and other malign actors will try to exploit the situation for their own gain. We must not let that happen."
Of course, with the American military apparatus outright refusing to practice even basic social distancing to protect the troops from the virus, one might well ask whether the troops will even stay healthy enough to overthrow the Maduro government on behalf of the overlords of predatory capitalism.

Only top military brass are working from the safety and security of their own homes and videoconferencing over which global site they'll spread their lethal virus of oligarchy to next.

Wouldn't it be something if the troops emulated the wildcat strikers of Amazon and Instacart and refused to follow orders?

What if they gave a war and nobody came for the understandable reason that nobody was healthy enough or alive enough to fight it?

One thing's for sure. Everything will change.  As Rod Serling used to say, "You are traveling to another dimension, not only of sight and sound but of mind."

The only uncertainty is whether we'll keep descending into chaos and confusion and barbarism, or whether this pandemic journey will culminate in "a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination."

If we imagine a better wondrous land emerging from the complete overthrow of corporate rule, we might yet  live in a country where nobody ever goes bankrupt when they get sick, and everybody has a decent secure roof over their heads, and where endless wars for profit and oil are reduced to nothing but a bad, vague memory.

Keep up the fight, but above all, please stay safe that we may live to fight the bastards for many days, months and years to come.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Gloom of Plague...

... stays the couriers of the Permanent Security State from the swift completion of their appointed task of #Russiagate fear-mongering.

As dozens of people are dying in New York every hour of Covid-19, and the portable refrigerated morgues are outnumbering the ambulances parked outside metropolitan hospitals, and the whole nation is in various stages of misery and panic caused in large part by our government's criminal failure to heed warnings and to make the most basic preparations, the New York Times today sounds the warning that it's still those damned Russians who are sowing the political discord and the social strife!
Ahead of November’s election, American intelligence officials and others are on high alert for mischief from Russia’s Internet Research Agency.
Just because government prosecutors just dropped the criminal case against the Russian troll farm doesn't mean that the RIRA isn't still a clear and present danger. Normal people might have characterized their campaign as a few hundred cheesy, cartoonish Facebook ads. Yet, in the midst of the worst human catastrophe of modern times, a virus spreading death and pain and grief and financial ruin all over the world, the New York Times today bemoans the "incendiary spreading" of Facebook messages which stoke discord on race issues. These kinds of ads, we are supposed to believe, helped to hand the 2016 election to Donald Trump.

In other news, the Paper of Record did not even bother to report on Saturday night's race-based rioting in the streets of Newburgh, a poor city located only about one hour north of its vast newsroom. Crowds took to the streets when a city councilman wrote an incendiary Facebook post claiming that police had fatally shot an unarmed black man. (Body cam footage later showed the man firing a gun at cops who had approached him with an arrest warrant for illegal gun possession.) Irate citizens rapidly emerged from Lockdown. Rocks and bottles were thrown and fires set in the street. One police officer was shot and wounded.

Hundreds of cops from miles around duly converged on the scene. There was not one face mask or canister of hand sanitizer among them, given that the ridiculously praised Governor Andrew Cuomo has not supplied them to law enforcement agencies. Cuomo is simultaneously refusing to back down from his nefariously neoliberal plan of cutting the state Medicaid funds - which most residents of this historically impoverished city rely upon for their health care. He is forging right ahead with his campaign of austerity, notwithstanding the congressional bailout package offering billions of dollars to shore up New York's Medicaid budget.

Social distancing? What social distancing? The day after:

Information on Newburgh's civil unrest has been hard to come by even in local media, given that there is very little local media left. The lack of advertising revenue engendered by the pandemic is rapidly shuttering even the skeleton crewed newspapers and news sites that still exist in small towns and big cities all over the country.

 The lack of coverage of what in normal times would be considered news in the public interest speaks to the dangers of ultra-consolidated media. Journalism in the control of only a few corporate hands serves both to suppress reality and to disseminate whatever skewed version of reality the oligarchs and their corrupt politicians want us to consume. 

Therefore, the ever more powerful New York Times shields us from the crimes of the oligarchy by spreading the manufactured news that the Internet Research Agency has evolved beyond Amateur Hour - progressing from telltale grammar, syntax and spelling errors to nefariously cutting and pasting "chunks of text" from other sources, like Wikipedia, in order to avoid detection.

The Russian trolls, the Times warns even as the corpses pile up right outside its own windows,  also are also shockingly republishing Facebook and Twitter screenshots of posts created by "real Americans." Be afraid, be very afraid.

So in order  to make Real America great again, plague or no plague, the Intelligence Community and its various Wall Street and weapons industry-financed think tanks and media outlets are warning the quarantined, the sick, the grieving and the newly unemployed that the Russian trolls' latest sneaky tactic has been to deliberately set up new social media accounts with fewer followers. What you cannot see is even more dangerous than what is right in front of your lying eyes!  Russian invisibility is even more incendiary than the actual fires being set by the increasingly desperate people in your own town or city.

These propagandists are the same Cold War 2.0 troops who were caught with their pants down when the Coronavirus hit. Of course, as the pandemic was spreading from China to the rest of the world, the Real American Cold Warriors and their corporate media lackeys were too busy impeaching Trump on the Ukraine bribery scandal, aka Son of Russiagate. That is, when they weren't too busy cashing in on the coming plague and dumping their stocks without informing the public of what was about to hit us. 

Donald Trump is far from being the only pathocratic clown in these United States of Kakistocracy.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Doctor Mengele Rising

The only way that Donald Trump and his kleptocratic cronies can make their America great again is to make their servants work for them again. This is notwithstanding the corrupt political duopoly's relative pittance of $1,200 checks and a few extra months of guaranteed enhanced unemployment benefits. These are nothing but the shiny little baubles they twirl before us in order to mask the multi-trillion dollar permanent slush fund that they've allocated for themselves.

Democracy is not only a myth, it has officially been declared a dead myth. This is especially true when more than a few "experts" and media propagandists have openly asserted that if people have to die so that they and their Plutonomy may live, so be it.

As they plunder the wealth of a nation and a globe in their orgy of disaster capitalism overkill, all remaining shreds of their propaganda masks are getting ripped off their smirking faces at the speed of the avoidable death rate directly attributable to the orchestrated dearth of the cheap face masks essential to protect human beings from infection by COVID-19.

The value they place on money over human life has always been a given. It's just that, until now, they've been fairly subtle about it, succeeding, through their political lackeys,  at convincing enough people that this is still a democracy because we are allowed to vote every two and four years.

With their own lives at stake even as they rob and plunder in full public view,  they're caught between the rock and the hard place of both despising us and needing us. Their contempt has only served to once again display the abject fear they so nakedly exhibited when Bernie Sanders had briefly appeared to be beating Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination.

Much to their chagrin, the coronavirus is now more threatening to their continuing rule than a million Bernie Sanders could ever be. They can't cheat the virus, red-bait the virus, lie the virus out of existence, or make fun of the virus's odd little spikes the way that they made fun of Bernie's Brooklyn accent, wispy hair and flailing arms.

It seems like only yesterday that  MSNBC legal analyst Mimi Rocah went on the air to complain that "Bernie makes my skin crawl." Fast forward a couple of months, and she's got herself an enemy that actually infiltrates your skin and has the potential to drown you to a painful death as your lungs fill up with fluid.

Not that she and her fellow plutocrats had to worry about Bernie, who just caved by not showing up for the final vote for the aforementioned corporate coup and slush fund bailout of the despised billionaire class.

Matt Stoller@matthewstoller·Love all the Bernie stans arguing that for practical reasons he *had* to compromise and do what Schumer wanted. I don’t remember such charitable feelings when Elizabeth Warren organized her Medicare for All plan. Weird double standard.
So how ironic that the non-wealthy service sector - which runs the gamut from nurses and teachers and child care workers to sanitation truck drivers and delivery people and grocery clerks - turns out to be more indispensable than the corporate media borg and the leagues of scolding neoliberal Thought Leaders and lecturing elite technocrats!

When Donald Trump says he wants America's churches packed by Easter, what he really means is that he wants the service sector back on the job by Easter so that the oligarchs can enjoy the glorious Slush Fund Resurrection of their wealth and power in ungodly comfort as they feast at the altar of Mammon. Who's going to make all the beds and manicure all the lawns at Trump's properties, maintaining him and his class in the comfort to which they have become accustomed?  We certainly cannot expect Melania to load her own dishwasher or Ivanka to do her own hair and makeup.

Or as Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacecic so bluntly puts it, "Healthy workers below about the age of 55... we'll gradually bring those people back and  see what happens. Some of them will get sick, some may even die, I don't know.... Do you want to suffer more economically or take some risk that you'll get flu-like symptoms and a flu-like experience? Do you want to take an economic risk or a health risk? You get to choose."

To make matters even worse, with the Hamptons and Martha's Vineyard now full to bursting with off-season wealthy New York City refugees, Flyover Country is actually warning rich potential virus-carriers to stay the hell away. Several upstate New York counties, for example, have informally banned them from entry. These well-heeled refugees find themselves being treated uncomfortably similarly to the "illegal" migrants they have either caged or enslaved at sub-minimum wages, as the need and their whimsy dictates.

Despite the pyrrhic Senate victory which officially turned the Republic into a formal rather than de facto neofeudal oligarchy, the class war is getting turned right on its ear. Now it's the poor who have established gated communities to keep out the rich. The poor all over the world are refusing in ever increasing numbers to return to work and to risk their lives for abysmally low remuneration and no benefits.

We are rightly outraged by pundits and politicians glibly discounting both the working class and the indigent as expendable, and treating our health and survival as secondary in importance to the economic growth that benefits only the few. We purport to be astounded that in Italy, elderly pandemic victims are being denied ventilators in favor of giving younger victims a fighting chance at survival..

Italy has single payer health care, which gave Joe Biden the perfect hook to decry Medicare For All at the recent debate with Bernie Sanders. He didn't mention that the outsourcing of manufacturing of medical equipment in the "free trade" deals he has spent his entire political life championing is what has led to the global shortage of life-saving supplies to fight the virus. The health care systems offering free treatment at the point of entry have nothing to do with the virus's morbidity and mortality rates.

Biden campaign adviser Ezekiel Emanuel, for example, has long advocated for letting old people die when they are no longer useful to society and to the bottom line.

In a controversial 2014 Atlantic piece, the self-described "medical ethicist" and leading Obama administration health official wrote:

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic....
 Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal.
I reject this aspiration. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop.
Emanuel apparently has not advised his own client, the 77-year-old cognitively declining Joe Biden, that he is already two years past "the pretty good age to stop."  But perhaps instead, he has suggested that Biden be kept out of the public eye as much and as long as possible to stop all the public speculation about his cognitive decline.

(For more on Emanuel's neoliberal ethic, please read "Medicare, Doctor Mengele, and You.")

To mangle both the Mengele metaphor and the late great George Carlin: not only is it a big club that you ain't in, they want to club you over the head with it. 

While they're wielding their weapons, let's wield ours with a massive general strike. Let's stop making their beds, mowing their lawns, tutoring their pre-Ivies, paying their rents, building their mansions, cooking and delivering their food, fighting their wars, and manipulating their balance sheets to effectuate their tax evasions.

As soon as this pandemic ends, and it will end, we must don our yellow vests. We might not win, but at least it will feel good trying. At least we can make them feel moderately uncomfortable about killing people in new record numbers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Obama's Reaction To the Pandemic: Gimme

Using the tenth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act as a hook, former President Barack Obama on Monday sent out a mass email  urging donors to give to his foundation so that he can help certain select people help other certain select people. 

You didn't expect him to change his harsh neoliberal tune and call on government to help people, did you? Not even one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in modern history will ever spur him to support expanding the ACA into a true single payer, Medicare For All system.

At a time when at least a quarter of the US population is either uninsured, or so underinsured that they're afraid of going to the doctor because of the cost, Obama cynically called the for-profit corporate coup known as the ACA the "culmination of a movement for universal coverage."

Leaving at least 80 million people uninsured or underinsured is based upon Obama's "simple, deeply held conviction (that) in the richest country on earth, high quality affordable (sic) health care shouldn't be a privilege for the few; it should be a right for all."

Still talking out of both sides of his mouth after all these years, which is so much more erudite than the odious Donald Trump's snorting out his utter nonsense in a perpetual noxious stream.

I mean, can you imagine Trump ever schmoozing bullshit with the unctuous self contradictory skill of Obama? Historically it has been the job of leaders both present and past to narcotize people by uttering pretty words in complete sentences that at best say absolutely nothing and at worse are dog whistles to the oligarchy that nothing fundamentally will change. When serving the rich at the expense of the poor, it is necessary to make the poor think their leaders care about them.

Even more sinister, they also use their pretty words to gaslight the have-nothings. If you can't help others and help yourself and be grateful that a lucky few have better insurance than you do, then there must be something profoundly wrong with you.

Here's some typical Obama neoliberal double-talk contained in Monday's self- congratulatory, buck-raking missive:
"Since then, the Affordable Care Act has helped millions of Americans access care, lower their health care costs and receive treatment - Americans who would have been left on their own in the old system. In just a few years, it covered half the country's uninsured. That's not to say it;s perfect  - no major piece of legislation is - but it saved lives, expanded access, cut down on medical-related bankruptcy and made our nation healthier and more equitable. It's progress worth protecting and building on until we finish the job of covering every single American once and for all."
The bipartisan group of racketeers known as the United States Congress is heeding Obama's words. Their definition of "covering people once and for all" is to let you die and then cover you with dirt in mass graves. Burial costs will be billed to your meager estates or survivors, if any. Don't look to the government. Look to your own selves and be kind to your neighbors even as you are forced to distance yourselves from one another. Because it's the self-satisfied thought that counts, as opposed to the next hot meal or paycheck or prescription.

Obama went on to brag and beg:
Especially during moments like these, we see the impact of that work... demonstrating the obligation we all have to look out for one another. Donate today to support the Obama Foundation's Work."
Now, in case you're wondering what the Obama Foundation's work consists of, some of those details were contained in a separate buck-raking email he sent out last week, just as the world was going into pandemic lockdown.

He gave top props to Obama Foundation Asia-Pacific,which, he boasted,  "distributed 7,000 thank you notes and care packages for medical staff currently on the front lines of the outbreak."

Paper and ink cost money, wealthy donors and Obama access-seekers! Forget about ventilators and face masks when it is so much more satisfying to feel warm and fuzzy as you hunker down in the Hamptons and speed-dial your concierge medical teams every time you feel a sneeze coming on. While you are in quarantine, what you really need in these "challenging difficult times" is not the money and the food craved by lesser mortals. What Obama's donors need are "stories of hope." (Not for nothing have Barack and Michelle transformed themselves into Netflix media moguls as well as global philanthrocapitalists!)

Obama's first pandemic email combined an appeal for foundation money with a long scroll of links to happy-talk, feel good stories about people lifting themselves and their neighbors up by their own bootstraps.

"Think of it as the virtual hug you (maybe) didn't know you needed," he simpered. "Our team will continue to add to this steady stream of global hope, but we need your help. Tell us about the stories, big and small, that are lifting your spirits."

Included in Obama's weak but steady stream of inspiration driblets is a tweet lauding the multimillionaire professional basketball players who, by temporarily covering the salaries of laid-off gig workers in their organizations, are "setting a good example during a challenging time. A reminder that we're a community and that each of us has an obligation to look out for one another."

Obama thus dog-whistles his assurances to the political donor class that their wealth will never be taxed or diminished just because millions of people are losing their jobs and getting sick and dying when they can't afford to "access" the medical treatment they need and deserve.

He practices his Social Darwinism - survival of the richest - cloyingly. Trump practices his without the classic Obaman artifice and charm offensive. That's why wealthy liberals hate Trump so much. He doesn't bother with the Obama-style moralizing niceties that make greed and record wealth inequality look downright beneficent.

And in the spirit of the 2011 Wisconisin public employees strike, from which Obama infamously called back his original field organization after promising unions that he'd put on his marching shoes and come to their aid whenever they needed him, his Democratic Party just announced that the Wisconsin primary will still insanely go on as scheduled on April 7, pandemic or no pandemic, lockdown or no lockdown. Only the little people wear marching shoes and only for the rare occasions they are allowed to partake in a semblance of participatory democracy.

The feeble yet nonetheless cruelly neoliberal Joe Biden is still only the "presumptive" nominee and he needs Wisconsin to sew it up against Bernie Sanders, whose own spirited virtual town halls have been offering a stark contrast to Biden's barely-thereness. His latest bumbling speech urges not Medicare For All or universal basic income, but for Trump to call out the military to build an "arsenal of democracy."

"We have to start planning now," Biden sagely slurred. To heal the sick, we must also demand that Republicans immediately withdraw their latest court case against the Affordable Care Act. Then, presumably, people will have an infinitesimally better chance of paying through the nose and jumping through endless hoops to get a slight chance of access to an opportunity of survival.

The Democrats have got you covered. So give them credit where it's due, because they always aim to add a stitch here and a patch there to the threadbare shroud that they have so thoughtfully constructed for you. They will even offer you a decent burial with a nice sermon about accessing a better life in the Great Hereafter. The Republicans, on the other hand, will just spit on your naked corpse before tossing it in the river and then billing you for the funeral.

Isn't our one-party system a work of absolutely staggering genius?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Random Thoughts On Frail Existence

Thanks to all the contributors to the comments section for all your outstanding posts and links!

Like everybody else, I'm awaiting the details of the top-secret trillion dollar-plus stimulus package currently being tied up in slippery snakelike ribbons by the Senate racketeers..It's always a bad sign whenever you don't get to see what's in one of these emergency measures before it's too late. It's also a bad sign when the individuals and families allegedly -maybe-  on the receiving end of pennies to the dollar awarded to the usual corporate grifters of the world are being cynically referred to as "workers" and "taxpayers." This would seem to leave out the growing masses of the unemployed, the disabled and others who already are too poor to pay any taxes at all.

The odious "skin in the game" mantra of our neoliberal overlords is as much a part of their rigid brains as the coronavirus becomes a literal and lethal part of every human cell that it invades. 

So, how is everybody coping? 

Whenever panic and depression threaten to overwhelm me, I do artsy-craftsy stuff... for hours on end. I may not have a toilet paper and bleach stash, but I do have my yarn stash, accumulated for more years than I want to admit. There are lots of crocheted hats and maybe an afghan in the future, which I now count by the day rather than by the month or the year.

For pure mindless enjoyment, I also highly recommend adult coloring, which has a similar effect on the brain to valium or xanax.  My set of 36 Prismacolor pencils has become as necessary to me as my daily peanut butter sandwich.  And when I get tired of blending and burnishing, there are plenty of coloring tutorials on YouTube. Watching Chris Cheng do her thing accompanied by Erik Satie's piano music is guaranteed to lull you right to sleep if you're not careful. And of course there is the late painter Bob Ross on Netflix, whose 30 year old PBS demos do much to sooth the savage pandemic panic beast.

If it's stimulation you need, the inimitable Jimmy Dore is now streaming from his Pasadena garage almost daily. Don't just get mad. Get mad and get your news and info from a comedic lefty perspective at the same time.

I find that I have lost much of the concentration necessary to read deeply since the quarantine. Maybe it was the subject matter of Albert Camus's The Plague, which I hadn't read since high school and which took me over a week to slog through before I finally finished it. Too close to home, perhaps. But still, an invaluable psychological and philosophical treatise about the human condition in general as well as what it's like to live through a pandemic. It brings out both the best and worst in people, for sure.

Now I'm reading the much lighter The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell, which I downloaded from the New York Public library. It's about a psychiatrist in interwar Czeckoslovakia who has just taken a job at a hospital for the criminally insane, originally a medieval fortress built above a series of caves once believed to be the entrance of hell. Escapist horror is so much more edifyiing than real horror. Especially when it's well-written.

Speaking of which, here's a New York Times comment I wrote in response to Maureen  Dowd's profile of the national antidote to Trumpian horror, aka renowned epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Given the double peril of Trump's daily press cons and the danger of infection, it's probably time to stop covering them.
This daily ritual is not information, or even run of the mill propaganda. It's pure torture for everybody concerned. Trump's rhetoric is nothing but a giant toxic sneeze of disinformation. Perhaps one pool reporter could attend, based on a Shirley Jackson-inspired lottery system. That way, Trump's magic potion cures and odes to himself could be discreetly muted, if not ignored outright out of an abundance of journalistic responsibility and the ethics which are so sorely lacking in the highest office in the land.
Because which is more dangerous - Trump's reckless handling of the pandemic, or the pandemic itself? That is the question. It's noble enough to quarantine yourself, lose your income and your job and your social contacts, your health, and perhaps even your very life without also having to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Trump-enhanced misfortune.
 I had to stop watching him yesterday because his xenophobic insinuation that migrants and refugees are the ones bringing the virus over our precious border made me want to hurl. It has been the inaction at the highest levels of government, of politicians in service to the uncontained greed and venality of the oligarchs and corporations, which has helped spread the disease all over the world.
We must find a way to quarantine all of them.
  Universal basic income and Medicare For All!
On the bright side: have you noticed that the Coronavirus has at least temporarily quashed the unreal Russiagate scare as well as the media's presidential horse race theatrics? Also, there is a lot less pollution. The pandemic could be nature's own dispassionate way of protecting itself from global warming in particular and mindless capitalism in general.

Dispassionate but not fair, given that the rich historically fare better than the poor during times of catastrophe. There is a whole new media subgenre of coronavirus celebrity. The rich are different in that they get testing and treatment and also the means to escape to their second or third homes or their islands or their yachts. For every thousand diagnoses that go ignored, there's a constant stream of  Idris Elbas and Sophie Trudeaus for the unwashed, untreated, uninsured masses to identify with.

Mike and Karen Pence testing negative makes the headlines and washes all that negativity right away. Where there's a healthy Mike Pence, there is hope, proles! 

Thanks again, readers. Please keep the comments, tips and links coming. I think we can all keep each other sane for the duration. A few laughs now and then would also be in definite order.