Friday, September 24, 2021

The Horses' Asses of the Apocalypse

 It took a valiant effort, but Joe Biden managed to use practically every cliché in the book to try and explain away the horror of Haitian refugees getting whipped and prodded like cattle by the Horsemen of the Homeland Apocalypse (aka, the Border Patrol.)

 After assuring a reporter that he takes "full responsibility" for the cruel treatment of the migrants, Biden quickly cast the blame upon everyone and anyone but himself. He even seemed to blame the actual victims when he garbled: "To see people treated like they did, horses barely running them over and people being strapped. It was outrageous. I promise those people will pay.”

He is already seeing to it that one subset of "those people" will pay immediately, without so much as a court hearing on their asylum requests, by being shackled and herded onto gleaming airplanes, to be unceremoniously dumped into their ravaged native land, regardless of the fact that many have not lived in their native land for years and have no home to go back to.

Or, "those people" could mean the Homeland cowboys, who were legislated into being after 9/11 with the great enthusiasm and a very hearty thumbs-up from then-Senator Joe Biden himself. The president is now trying to pretend they are a bunch of outlaws who are not operating under the direct and explicit orders of the United States government. Biden is just sorry that they got caught doing the jobs that they were hired and trained to do, and acting like they were enjoying themselves.

Biden therefore announced that the Department of Homeland Security will be investigating itself and leveling "consequences" upon person or persons or scapegoats unknown. Some 20-year-old kids will be no doubt be perp-walked, much as the US Army grunts like Lindy England were, when all on their own under orders, they tortured Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

Meanwhile, it seems like only last month when Biden promised "consequences" for the deaths of US troops in Afghanistan, and his  military minions promptly launched a Reaper drone attack against an innocent Afghan family, the designated "those people."  A mistake was made, but only because the US government got caught. Collateral damage happens. War is foggy, you see.

The worst thing about the atrocious treatment of the Haitian refugees for Biden, though, is that the photographic evidence of systemic US cruelty - rather than the cruelty itself - is an embarrassment to him personally. It makes him look bad, especially when the images were released just as he was belligerently touting American peace, love, democracy and freedom to the rest of the world at the United Nations' annual summit this week.

“It’s an embarrassment. It’s beyond an embarrassment. It’s dangerous, it’s wrong, it sends the wrong message around the world or sends the wrong message at home," he fumed, ending his spiel with the obligatory "It's not who we are!"

It's hard to emphasize enough just how craven and downright psychopathic this statement is. Biden is saying right out loud that he is more concerned with the optics of the situation than he is with the suffering of the potentially thousands of desperate human beings that he is deporting without so much as a court hearing. His spin doctor, Jen Psaki, had been equally callous the day before when she glibly announced that in the future, Homeland cowboys will not be deployed in open spaces where they can be seen and photographed whipping people. They will only mount their horses to go after migrants in areas with tall grass, where the cruelty will be less likely to witnessed and documented. More discreet methods of detention and expulsion will be used, so as to avoid upsetting Joe Biden and his party and his donors.

Not that his erstwhile defenders and enablers were all that enchanted with Status Quo Joe before the refugees began arriving in Del Rio, Texas. The tide of elite opinion had already begun to turn against him when he ended their extremely lucrative two decade-long adventure in Afghanistan. His saber-rattling against China, meanwhile, is making the oligarchs nervous because of all the lucrative business deals and investments that they have there.

It's gotten so bad for Biden, in fact, that even the long media embargo on Hunter Biden's laptop scandal is finally beginning to be lifted. Joe Biden's own Justice Department also has implicated his national security adviser, the former Clinton campaign operative Jake Sullivan, in the criminal indictment of Clinton lawyer Michael Sussman and by extension, the entire #Russiagate franchise scam.

Perhaps worst of all for Biden, mainstream media outlets, including the Paper of Record, are even beginning to compare him to Donald Trump. 

Naturally, this orchestrated weakening of Joe Biden by the elites dovetails perfectly with their orchestrated weakening of his Build Back Better legislation, which they despise because it threatens to give people a pathetic modicum of relief from their elite-orchestrated hardships. Not for nothing has the establishment media long overpraised Biden's underdone agenda as a "sweeping" progressive undertaking, the likes of which have not been seen since the New Deal. They were hyping it with a frenzy, inspiring the desired paranoia in the wealthy pathocratic class. Now they're in the next phase, lowering our expectations and preparing the ground for the final collapse. 

To make the letdown complete, they've not forgotten to add the traditional Debt Ceiling manufactured crisis and countdown to Shutdown Armageddon to the orchestrated mix. They're reckoning that once again, people will be so abjectly grateful to their leaders for reaching a compromise at the last possible minute, ensuring that at least the woefully inadequate Social Security checks will still be going out, that they'll forget all about all the broken promises.

Meanwhile, we'll always have their clichés to tide us over. As reported by The Hill about the legislative negotiations:

A senior Democratic aide said the revenue framework will serve as a template for negotiations with moderate Democrats on the size and scope of the bill. (Nancy) Pelosi called it a "giant step forward."

Some rank and file Democrats complained they have absolutely no idea what this language even means for the "larger process." But recognizing the "mounting pressure to show movement," The Hill continues, "Biden stepped up and held meetings with moderates and progressives from both parties."

What, you expected him to step up and mount a horse and start whipping them into shape and finally doing right by the people who elected him, and them?

Notwithstanding that the phrase "moderates and progressives from both parties" is not only a disinformation embarrassment but an act of journalistic malpractice, let's remember that whips and chains are reserved only for the most desperate members of the human race. The elites have their frameworks and their templates and their arcane processes to propel them in their ever more gigantic steps forward to power and wealth at the expense of everyone else.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Oh Say, Can You AOC?

Lots of people professed to be shocked, shocked when Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of all the democratic socialist celebs, so jarringly appeared amongst the bright stars and broads in stripes at this week's opulent Met Gala. 

But why shouldn't she be there? The theme of this year's exclusive charity fashion event was, after all, "American Independence." And nothing says independence like wearing a white designer gown with bloody red letters spelling "Tax the Rich" all over the back of it. It would have been so tacky and off-putting to guests who'd paid $35,000 a ticket if she'd plastered the slogan like a banner on the front of the dress where they'd actually have to look at it while schmoozing with her.

The font was eerily similar to the notorious "I Don't Care, Do U?" 
message worn on the back of Melania Trump's jacket during her trip to the border to visit immigrant prisons. 


 Maybe you would have preferred that AOC show her working class bona fides by wearing her old bartending duds, just to entrap the guests into ordering her to fetch them another drink. And worse, if she'd accessorized it with an Abolish ICE insignia, they'd only complain that their drinks were too warm, and demand a refund on their tickets.

Although AOC had a masked male lackey so gallantly holding up the streaming train of her gown as she made her grand entrance past people protesting neo-feudalism behind police ramparts, she had already pre-emptively lashed out at what she called her "haters" by tweeting that she and the gown's Black immigrant designer were about to "kick open the doors of the Met." She'd only meant to be figurative, of course, even strategically quoting Marshall McLuhan for the woefully non-savvy hordes of haters out there: "The medium is the message."

But the message-bomb that was meant to burst in the rarefied air at the Met Gala turned out to be kind of a dud, once word leaked out that designer Aurora James is actually a native of Toronto, Canada and is the girlfriend of wealthy Seagrams heir Benjamin Bronfman.

AOC aims to have her cake and eat it too. She is both the user and the used. She used Met Gala founder and storied Vogue editor Anna Wintour to help elevate her brand and her progressive platform.  Wintour is a major political power player and one of the Democratic  Party's most successful bundlers and fundraising event hostesses, having raised millions of dollars for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. But she has also faced significant criticism from even her own staff for excluding black and brown people from her publishing and fashion empire.

As a New York Times critique published a year ago told it:

As Ms. Wintour ascended, Vogue’s publication of “hurtful or intolerant” content rarely resulted in lasting negative attention for her. But Black journalists who have worked with Ms. Wintour, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution, said they had not gotten over their experiences at a magazine whose workplace mirrored its exclusive pages.

Under Ms. Wintour, 18 people said, Vogue welcomed a certain type of employee — someone who is thin and white, typically from a wealthy family and educated at elite schools. Of the 18, 11 people said that, in their view, Ms. Wintour should no longer be in charge of Vogue and should give up her post as Condé Nast’s editorial leader.

“Fashion is bitchy,” one former Black staff member said. “It’s hard. This is the way it’s supposed to be. But at Vogue, when we’d evaluate a shoot or a look, we’d say ‘That’s Vogue,’ or, ‘That’s not Vogue,’ and what that really meant was ‘thin, rich and white.’ How do you work in that environment?”

Fast forward to the Met Gala one year later, and AOC, who is Puerto Rican, was personally invited by Wintour herself, in an epic feat of woke-washing, to sit at the main table, helping to burnish her own neo-diversified brand. The splashy but rear-facing "Tax the Rich" message was, of course, safely hidden from the sensitive view of the very rich, very white, and very thin Anna Wintour. If AOC knows that she herself was used as a mere ass-covering accessory, as were the rest of the minority models, movie stars and designers at the event, then she didn't let on.

Meanwhile, if she doesn't challenge Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for his New York senate seat in a primary, she will be among the first in line to succeed him when he retires. And from there, she will no doubt make a run for the presidency. To achieve her goals, she is going to need Anna Wintour. AOC's attendance at the Met Gala was nothing if not one long drawn-out dog whistle to the ruling class that she is absolutely no threat to them.

We'll just have to wait and see whether she and her Squad entourage follow through on their threat to kill the Senate's bipartisan infrastructure bill currently in front of the House unless the already watered-down $3.5 trillion social welfare bill passes first with the unanimous Democratic support that it needs.

The latest offer on the negotiating table  to "centrists" is to delay Medicare dental coverage for the elderly until 2028. What, after all, are a few million more lost geriatric teeth, oral infections and associated morbidity and mortality in the grand scheme of things? It may be the American twilight's last gleaming, but at least if the rich get taxed the cajoling AOC way, we'll have some gleaming choppers or shiny dentures to look forward to - if we can only hang on for a few more years in fires, floods, heat waves and hurricanes.

 As sick as we are and as sickened as we might feel, let's be healthily skeptical of AOC and of course, of every other politician who claims to feel our pain. Despite her melodramatic kvetching about "I and my body (being) relentlessly policed from all corners,"  criticism of the powerful by the powerless is not hatred at all. It's an attempt both at self-preservation and the preservation of society as a whole. It's actually a form of love.

Meanwhile, I say let AOC pursue her transactional career in political performance art. Don't let the shallow spectacle get you down. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

A Nine-Eleven State of Mind (lessness)

The official mantra being intoned ad infinitum throughout the world today is "Never forget."

But notwithstanding the surface appearance of soul-searching with all the maudlin remembrances by the mainstream media in the wake of the "official" end to the Afghanistan War, there's still quite a bit of selective memory at work to help keep the mythology of "we were attacked for no reason other than they hate us for our freedoms" alive. The common 20th anniversary critique still hinges mainly on the overreaction to the attack by our leaders, and not what caused the attacks in the first place: the abandonment by the CIA of its Al Qaeda creation and its valuable asset in the proxy war against the then-USSR - a disgruntled Saudi ex-royal named Osama bin Laden.

As you probably heard, the CIA has embarked on a marketing campaign to display its softer side through the magic of Woke-Washing. As long as they hire more women and ethnic groups to prove their diversity cred while not actually diverging from their core mission of relentless regime changes, dirty wars and other rogue activities, then it's all good.

The New York Times's Maureen Dowd, therefore, dutifully bashed the "toxic masculinity" and machismo of the Bush and Trump administrations as the root cause for post-9/11 insanity and war, while also owning that such female hawks as Condi Rice and Hillary Clinton were enablers of same. But Hillary was mentioned only insofar that as a senator, she had voted with the Bushies to invade Iraq. Left unmentioned by Dowd was her later outsize role, as Obama's secretary of state, in the war of aggression against Libya and its oil.

Dowd actually characterized the media-hyped nutritious sandwich filling that was Barack Obama a "respite" from GOP male supremacy.

My response to the Times:

The "respite" that was the Obama presidency is a matter of style rather than substance. Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations revealed in 2016 that his administration had dropped an average of 72 bombs a day, for a grand total of 26,171 in just that one year alone. Obama also vastly improved upon Bush's deadly record by expanding the secretive Special Ops campaigns to more than 70 percent of the entire globe, or 138 separate countries. So is it righteous to give Obama a pass for a "respite" just because he was the model of adult discretion and didn't wear his macho bellicosity on his sleeve like the oafish Bush and Trump? I think not, but telling the truth might destroy the carefully marketed mythology. Maureen Dowd does have a point about women leaders not being more peace-loving and kind than men. Who can ever forget Madeline Albright enthusing that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children during Clinton-era sanctions were "worth it?" And then there was Hillary Clinton laughingly bragging that "we came, we saw, he died" upon receiving news that Libyan president Gaddafi had just been sodomized to death with a bayonet. Libya, by the way, has become a modern slavery marketplace since Clinton played a major role in the "humanitarian intervention." The official "forever war" in Afghanistan may be over as far as US boots on the ground are concerned. Try telling that to the seven Afghan children killed by a US Reaper drone strike just the other week.

9/11/21:The Usual Suspects Perform

It could have been worse. George W. could have shown up and shared another piece of candy with Michelle while Bruce Springsteen crooned and strummed to the crowd in an act of anesthetized and sanitized remembrance.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Gaslighting New York Times

At the same time that the Biden Administration and the slim congressional majority are studiously doing nothing to keep millions of people from being kicked off their unemployment benefits, kicked out of their homes, protected from predatory Covid hospital billing even as the Delta variant has created a surge in cases and deaths, the New York Times cynically assures us in a front page headline that "From Cradle to Grave, Democrats Move to Expand the Social Safety Net."

They seemingly forgot to insert the word "holes" after "safety net."

Millions of people, many with no insurance, will be forced to go back to their miserable minimum wage jobs just to barely survive. But we should take heart knowing that Bernie Sanders is out there in Iowa, fighting his lonesome heart out to expand Medicare coverage to dental, hearing and vision benefits for the lucky few. Mothers facing eviction. frantic about their unvaccinated kids returning to school and day care only to be quarantined once the inevitable virus outbreak occurs, should be grateful that at least they'll continue to get their temporary $300 tax credits to tide them over, regardless of having no safety or stability in their actual housing situations.

This mere promise of a few relative crumbs in the face of overwhelming mass misery depends, of course, upon the whims of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and his moll Kyrsten Sinema of New Mexico as they threaten to side with the Republicans against this looming scourge of socialistic humanism. It also hinges upon such powerful lobbies aa the American Dental Association, which will fight tooth and nail against older people keeping their teeth by way of "onerous" Medicare coverage for their mouths. Besides, with the emergency increase in SNAP (food stamp) benefits also expiring in many states, to coincide with the forced return to school and work, people simply won't have any more time to waste on chewing nutritious food. (The Biden administration's modest increase in permanent SNAP benefits, to an average of $157 per eligible person per month beginning in October, still will not offset the expiring benefits for many recipients, which were raised to maximum levels under the Families First Act of 2020.)

If you really must persist in wasting your time worrying about your next meal or getting sick as you're forced back to work, and the kids are forced back to school, here comes the Times's resident centrist economist, David Leonhardt  to tell you that your fears about Covid are not only totally overblown, they are wildly misplaced. Although there are 160,000 new cases and 15,000 deaths from Covid occurring every single day, Leonhardt looks on the bright side.  "Only" one out of every 5,000 vaccinated Americans is testing positive for breakthrough cases on any given day, based upon one sampling conducted in a whopping three whole communities. These studies, by the way, were conducted when most kids were not yet in school. And they only apply to adults.

Leonhardt blithely writes:

In Seattle on an average recent day, about one out of every one million vaccinated residents have been admitted to a hospital with Covid symptoms. That risk is so close to zero that the human mind can’t easily process it. My best attempt is to say that the Covid risks for most vaccinated people are of the same order of magnitude as risks that people unthinkingly accept every day, like riding in a vehicle....

What about children? I’ll dig into that question in a coming newsletter.

Well, meh. Collateral damage in the weak, unproductive and non-voting population can be counted once the service economy is back up and humming and neoliberal capitalism is saved.

I am certainly no epidemiologist or statistician, and the following factoid is admittedly anecdotal, but at the State University in New Paltz where I live, where students had to show proof of vaccination before they were allowed back on campus a couple of weeks ago, there are already 56 active student cases out of 1,626 individuals tested - an increase of 10 cases since last week and a positivity rate of  3.4 percent. Since Aug. 23, there have been 76 infections and 20 recoveries. Three percent of on-campus students have been exempted from vaccination for medical or religious reasons.

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Obama Iconography Tour

 The insipidly iconic Mona Lisa sadly will not be embarking on any more world tours to entertain and inspire the teeming desperate masses of our dying planet. For despite the pleas of French officials anxious to prove their diversity cred, her handlers at the Louvre nixed the idea for good and all in 2018.  La Giaconda, as she is also known, has become so fragile that every time the art medics remove her from her bulletproof glass-encased frame for her annual airing, a new crack extending from the tips of her fingers to the top of her forehead grows just a wee bit wider. She'll never leave home again. There's even been talk of canceling her altogether, given that not only is she falling apart, she is vastly overrated as a work of art. She is above all a marketing product of unfettered capitalism.

No such danger for the more nouveau official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama, which the art-marketing world declared to be instant classical icons the very minute they were unveiled at The Smithsonian for good and all in 2018  The Obamas themselves may have developed some cracks in their own carefully curated images as a result of that ill-advised pandemic birthday bash they staged earlier this month at their faux chateau on Martha's Vineyard. But you wouldn't know it from the sold-out opening of the Brooklyn Art Museum leg of their national iconography tour this past weekend. 

 Advance reservations, proof of vaccination and photo I.D.s are all required to stand in awe before the Obama simulacra for no longer than 15 minutes. Tickets are already going fast, according to the Brooklyn Brownstoner, a real estate guide whose core mission is alerting the upwardly mobile to the latest million-dollar bungalow in Crown Heights.

Not for nothing is one of the major financial sponsors of the show a New York real estate developer and gentrifier named Donald A. Capoccia. Other backers include Hollywood director Stephen Spielberg, racehorse  breeder Robert Meyerhoff, and insurance tycoon Tommie Pegues. 

The tour's biggest corporate sponsor is the notorious Bank of America, which reached one particular sweetheart settlement (out of several) with Obama's Justice Department for mortgage and securities fraud that actually gifted it with $2 in government credits for every dollar that it returned to its foreclosed victims. Bankrolling the Portraits Tour is the least that BOA can do for its loyal protector.

In case you can't score the same sort of timed tickets to gawk at and take selfies with the Obama simulacra that the Louvre requires of tourists to gaze upon the Mona Lisa, please don't despair. You can have all the time you need to eyeball facsimiles of the facsimiles of the Obamas in a very special souvenir coffee table book published just for the occasion.

The Smithsonian gift shop ever so subtly pitches the merch to the discerning art lover: 

After witnessing a woman drop to her knees in prayer before the portrait of Barack Obama, one guard said, “No other painting gets the same kind of reactions. Ever.” The Obama Portraits is the first book about the making, meaning, and significance of these remarkable artworks.

Richly illustrated with images of the portraits, exclusive pictures of the Obamas with the artists during their sittings, and photos of the historic unveiling ceremony by former White House photographer Pete Souza, this book offers insight into what these paintings can tell us about the history of portraiture and American culture. The volume also features a transcript of the unveiling ceremony, which includes moving remarks by the Obamas and the artists. A reversible dust jacket allows readers to choose which portrait to display on the front cover.

If you didn't fall for that pitch, then you might be suspected of occult Donald Trump fandom. Worse, if you don't think that Obama starting more wars, dropping more bombs, deporting more migrants and evicting more people from their homes than any other modern president were positive achievements by the Adult In the Room,  then you might as well just stoop to sneakily viewing them right here, for free, in all their glorious lo-def pulchritude: 

Or, if you tastelessly insist upon realism in your art:

Meanwhile, if you're among the millions of renters in Brooklyn and all over America who are in imminent danger of losing your home because the Supreme Court cruelly overturned the national eviction moratorium, don't fret. Because arch-conservative Trump appointee Amy Coney Barrett showed that she really does have a heart after all, in favoring Obama and unilaterally denying a bid by environmentalists and neighborhood preservationists to block construction of his massive shrine. (dare to read the fact-based criticism of this vanity project at Jackson Park Watch.)

  Look on the bright side, naysayers! To prove that there's no such thing as the class war, to demonstrate that there really is equality between plutocrats and struggling renters, the Obama Foundation will now be forced to pay rent. They signed an unconscionable lease with the strapped city of Chicago for a staggering $10 yearly rate (not a typo!)  for the next 99 years. Lucky people like you and me, on the other hand, have the freedom to commit to unconscionable leases every single year of our lives.

 And what's with people needing affordable housing and boring public parks anyway? According to the Obama Foundation, what people in the Jackson Park area need most of all is a state-of-the-art recording studio in the neighborhood to inspire, empower, and uplift them. As Obama himself was always wont to say: "Don't be cynical. Stop complaining. Get out there and vote!"

As the cutting-down of as many as 800 shade-providing, pollution-filtering, oxygen-creating, art-inspiring trees in Jackson Park begins, the Obama project explains that all that iconic lumber will be responsibly used to custom-build furniture to fill his own monument.

 The Foundation celebrated the groundbreaking like this:
The project serves as a catalyst for long-overdue investment in and around historic Jackson Park — creating a new destination to move visitors from hope to action, breathing new life into the park, and delivering amenities and economic benefits to the community the Obamas called home."

Notice the past tense. Besides their mansion in Washington, D.C. and their ocean-front chateau on Martha's Vineyard, the Obamas are also constructing a winter vacation compound in Hawaii. They will breathe new life into the South Pacific air even as they help exterminate life in the actual Pacific Ocean. As ProPublica reported last year, Obama friend and Foundation president Martin Nesbitt finagled an expansion of the sea wall to ensure that they get the privacy they crave. This construction will endanger such species as monkfish and sea turtles, and is otherwise banned in Hawaii. Nesbitt, incidentally, is also one of the backers of the current Obama Icon Tour, whose ostensible purpose is to foster good will and art appreciation among Peoples. 

Climate change? When you have a manufactured icon sharing the planet with you, what more could you possibly want? For as long as their shell games are plastered with enough glitter to disguise the gruesomeness, as long as there's oligarchic Superglue both to sniff and to mend the widening cracks in their facades, as long as glib performance art is more valued than human decency, there will always be Obamas.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Fog of Public Opinion

Nearly half the US population now wants government to censor online "misinformation." And an even greater number of American citizens are totally on board with the tech oligarchs of Silicon Valley taking it upon their august selves to censor everything that we see, hear, and read.

At least, that's according to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. But before you conclude that your fellow human beings have suddenly become the victims of an epidemic of  Authoritarian Personality Disorder, a different survey conducted at around the same time found, paradoxically enough, that most Americans also think that the government should do a lot more to rein in the tech oligarchs of Silicon Valley.  

People are ambivalent, and confused, and they have been since the dawn of time. So what else is new? 

And polls are definitely skewed. The one just concluding that the American appetite for censorship has increased by a whopping 33 percent in just the past three years is, of course, directly linked to the Covid pandemic and the mixed messaging on vaccine efficacy emanating from both reliable ("scientific") and unreliable ("partisan") sources. Given that the definition of "government" itself is also so skewed along partisan and class lines, the results of this poll are probably unreliable on their face.

 But pollsters gotta poll. How else can our politicians serve the public? How else can our politicians get away with not only doing nothing to make people's lives better, but blaming all the divisive and divided people out there in the hinterland who, stupid as they are, were nonetheless smart enough to vote them into office? 

Manufactured public opinion stalemates are just what the pollster ordered to effectuate legislative gridlock, which in turn only helps the rich to grow richer and the poor to grow not only poorer, but as atomized and isolated and oppressed as is inhumanly possible.

The subliminal message in the recent Pew poll results is that only ignorant right-wingers are against benevolent censorship by the government-tech consortium of thought leaders. Educated liberals supposedly are the ones who want the discourse controlled. Ergo, if you don't like censorship, then it automatically follows that you are a Trump supporter, a Russian asset, a non-woke bigot, or any number of distasteful things you would never be caught dead being.  Everything must be deemed misinformation and disinformation until proven otherwise by a shadowy panel of unnamed experts.

 From the Pew Research Center's synopsis of the pro-censorship poll results:

Partisan views on whether technology companies should take such steps have also grown further apart. Roughly three-quarters of Democrats (76%) now say tech companies should take steps to restrict false information online, even at the risk of limiting information freedoms. A majority of Republicans (61%) express the opposite view – that those freedoms should be protected, even if it means false information can be published online. In 2018, the parties were closer together on this question, though most Democrats still supported action by tech firms.

Corporate Democrats and their acolytes began supporting censorship in droves just as Donald Trump took power and the paranoid Russiagate propaganda franchise dreamed up by the defeated Clinton team took off and infiltrated mainstream media with a vengeance. The ultra-right Republicans later wasted no time in weaponizing Covid, turning both the disease and its preventions and its treatments into another front in the perpetual Culture Wars. These dueling propaganda campaigns are at their cores an intra-oligarchic battle that simultaneously serves to entertain and terrorize the hapless spectators in the stands while effectively keeping their minds off such monstrous scandals as the orchestrated, deliberate, bipartisan lying about the war in Afghanistan.

The alleged majority of  people who want the "government" to stop the bad actors from spreading lies about vaccines and the pandemic should also ponder what late great muckraking journalist I.F. Stone had to say: All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.”

What with climate catastrophes, refugee catastrophes, health catastrophes, is it politically correct to say that government is collapsing, and disaster is already here? Maybe Pew can do another poll to see what people think about that, not to mention ask them what they're smoking these days.

And about that poll purporting to show that increasing numbers of people are craving the censorship drug to keep them feeling safe and secure? Read the fine print about their methodology, and you find that the 11,000-odd respondents are part of a pre-selected American Trends Panel (ATP) who have been recruited ("persuaded") over the years to take part in frequent and very time-consuming public opinion surveys. Although new people are recruited all the time, Pew acknowledges that 

 Another concern is that repeated questioning of the same individuals may yield different results than we would obtain with independent or “fresh” samples. If the same questions are asked repeatedly, respondents may remember their answers and feel some pressure to be consistent over time. The reverse is also a concern, as respondents might become “conditioned” to change their behavior because of questions asked previously. For example, questions about voting might spur them to register to vote. Respondents also become more skilled at answering particular kinds of questions. This may be beneficial in some instances, but to the extent it occurs, the panel results may be different from what would have been obtained from independent samples of people who have not had the practice in responding to surveys. Fortunately, research has detected no meaningful conditioning on the ATP.

So have the people who have been recruited also been subjected to polling to find out whether they've been overly conditioned by polling itself? Remember, there would have been plenty of cross-over between the respondents who wanted more censorship by Big Tech one week, but more reining in of Big Tech just a week or two before. 

I myself was once recruited by a polling outfit during the 2012 presidential campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and I agreed to participate. It took a good half hour of my time. I remember answering "none of the above" to several multiple choice questions which I considered too artificially narrow in scope. I even asked the pollster whether my own ad hoc answers would be accepted. (They would not be.) When I said that I would not be voting for either Obama or Romney but would be casting my vote for Jill Stein, my answer was duly entered as "not voting."

But according to Pew, being subjected to continuous polling not only forces people to clamp down on their previous answers and opinions for the sake of consistency, it also nudges them to get out there and vote for the candidates they were so narrowly asked about!  I guess that makes me a polling failure. I am not an ideal candidate for the ATP Club.

How many people who don't automatically hang up the phone when a pollster invariably calls right in the middle of dinner are just plain lonely and desperate for the sound of another human voice? How many answer because they have a home and a phone in the first place, meaning they are minimally well off, have plenty of disposable time, and don't have to work two or three gigs just to make ends barely meet, and are therefore not much in favor of radical social policies outside of the parameters of the polling questions? How many respondents engage with pollsters just to mess with their heads? 

I don't know, but maybe they can do a poll about it.

Meanwhile, what are all my fellow Sardonickists thinking (or smoking)?

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Making Sense of the Census

 The bad news for reactionaries is that for the first time in American history, white people are rapidly becoming outnumbered by black and brown people and people of Asian descent, but especially by those identifying as mixed race, who now represent the majority of younger people surveyed.

The good news for reactionaries is that the fastest-growing metro area in all of America is The Villages of central Florida, a planned retirement community made up almost exclusively of well-off conservative white people. They might also take heart from the rapid growth in Phoenix, an historically conservative city in an historically conservative state.

The bad news for reactionaries is that the denizens of The Villages are old, and young people in general are giving them fewer and fewer grandkids. Not because the childless all hate kids, but because they can't afford them due to education debt, low wages, unaffordable housing and lack of medical care - especially in the age of Covid.  And so, when the Villagers and their ilk die off, black and brown and Asian and mixed-race people will outnumber white people by even greater percentages.

 As far as Phoenix is concerned, the climate crisis alone ensures that the lack of water will force the denizens of the desert to move sooner rather than later.

The only thing that might keep white reactionaries still believing that they rule supreme by superficial dint of their skin color will be if elderly Florida resident Donald Trump (or, god forfend, a younger smarter reactionary) wins back the White House and a GOP Congress abolishes the Census for good and all, thus completing the disenfranchisement of black, brown, Asian and mixed race people for good and all. They can make up their redistricting maps the same way that Trump once used a black sharpie to draw a fake hurricane trajectory on a map.  If they can only stop counting inconvenient people, then maybe we will cease to exist!

From the New York Times:

The data offered the most detailed picture of race in America since the last decennial census in 2010, —and they are also the basis for redistricting, a process in which state legislatures redraw voting lines based on changes in their states’ populations.

The increase in the numbers of people who identify as Asian and Hispanic was less dramatic than in previous decades, but still much more robust than the increase in the number of Americans who checked the box for white or Black.

The good news (or so they think) for the liberal side of the gerontocracy is that will now glom on to their shallow identity politics platform with an even greater vengeance. Their challenge is to prevent increasing numbers of leftist or socialist black, brown, white, Asian and mixed-race candidates from winning seats in Congress and in state legislatures while still professing to fight against the structural racism and classism that they themselves continue to champion and perpetuate, if only by orchestrated inaction. To "moderates" like them, it doesn't matter that black and brown people comprise the majority of the unvaccinated, largely because they have no paid time off, no reliable transportation and less "access" to the Internet - not to mention the historical lack of medical care in general. It's so much easier for these political leaders and pundits to blame ignorant white anti-mask cultists for the spread of Covid, rather than their own failure to enact Medicare For All, loan forgiveness, guaranteed income/living wage of at least $25 an hour, and subsidized child care.

One snippet of good news for the poor and working class is that just like their GOP partners in crime and political theater, these corrupt Democrats are also getting older by the day. In some rare cases, they might actually retire from public service even as, thanks to their own guaranteed no-cost health care, they defy the plummeting life expectancy rate in the richest country on earth.

The bad news for the poor and working class is that red-state Florida and Texas stand to gain the most House seats in redistricting, while the blue states of New York and California stand to lose the most. 

New York and California, despite their Democratic majorities, are losing voters precisely because they have set the records for the most extreme wealth inequality in the United States. Once the eviction moratoriums expire, this juxtaposition of billionaires and homeless people will become more glaringly obvious than ever. It will be harder than ever for liberal elites to point their enlightened scolding fingers at Florida and Texas and claim moral superiority just because they ever so occasionally deign to elevate brown, black, Asian and mixed race people to their own ranks, using them as cynical token cover while the planet burns and they fly their private jets to one another's yachts and transactional birthday parties.

Perhaps the worst news of all for the historically marginalized minority communities whose numbers are growing is that they will not be able to keep their precarious communities together long enough to draw new voting districts, as the housing and eviction crises get worse by cruel design. Solidarity among people is simply not in the interests of the billionaire class. They can remain obscenely rich only as long as too many people remain obscenely poor.