Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Pathocrats At Play

Even calling it a proxy war is starting to get a little bit precious. In case we needed any more evidence that the United States is simply using Ukrainian bodies and Ukrainian real estate for its war with Russia, no longer bothering to hide the fact that Ukraine is naught but its Cold War 2.0 vassal state, comes news that US Attorney General Merrick Garland personally traveled to Ukraine on Tuesday to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Russian war crimes.

Apparently, there is no official in Ukraine, either presidential, judicial or parliamentary, who is capable of appointing special prosecutors. The United States is in full charge and in full control of its puppet regimes.

In a buried paragraph of exquisite understatement, the New York Times casually mentions, almost in passing, that

His overseas travel comes at a particularly tense moment in his tenure at the Justice Department, on a day of dramatic congressional testimony about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that prompted many Democrats to renew their call for him to prosecute former President Donald J. Trump and his allies.

When a nation's top cop is being spread this thin, making him the personification of American "policeman of the world" exceptionalism, it kind of makes you suspect anew that the Trump Show Trial is totally just for show. The testimony elicited Tuesday from the various targets of Trump's coup attempt was, you have to admit, rather compelling, with a whole parade of GOP election officials and politicians swearing that they feared for their very lives as they were so terribly torn between appeasing Trump and thwarting him.

 Merrick Garland  certainly picked a good day to skip town and meddle in the war crimes of others. Then again, the congress-critter (Bennie Thompson) in charge of  the Show Trial has already signaled that he would not be forwarding the panel's findings to the Justice Department, which is said to  be conducting its own casual investigation into what they're touting as the biggest, most horrible alleged threat to our "democracy" in the history of American history. All this, while Trump still plays golf with impunity.

Of course, the Ukraine prosecutor whom Garland is taking it upon himself to appoint has the requisite deep ties to the American security state and its NGO cutouts. What the Times doesn't report is that, before becoming the top cop in her own country,  Irina Veneditkova was a faculty advisor at the Pennsylvania-based Leavitt Institute For International Development, which is funded by what it calls "private donations." In other words, it is very possibly a CIA front organization dedicated to regime change and capitalistic plunder.

 Its founder, David Leavitt, is also currently Utah's Republican county attorney.

But just like Garland, Leavitt doesn't let his job fighting malfeasance in The Homeland take away from his ongoing work in Ukraine, to which he personally traveled earlier this year, ostensibly to find American homes for refugees, and otherwise "spreading democracy, ethics and the rule of law" to that country and its Eastern European neighbors. 

He and other beneficiaries of the neoconservative/ liberal interventionist model of war are not spreading themselves too thin at all. They are simply spreading democracy in the form of suctioning up the wealth of nations to line their own bottomless pockets or those of their clients. Or as the glossy Leavitt website more delicately spins it:

Organized in 2005 by David and Chealthlom Leavitt, TLI operates under the premise that seasoned legal professionals can share their experience and knowledge in order to help push democratic reforms.

TLI began with private donations from the Leavitt family and friends and a small handful of volunteers. Today, TLI operates in multiple cities in eastern Europe, teaching and shaping the minds of the next generation of leaders.

As part of its efforts, TLI involves some of the brightest international relations specialists and legal minds throughout the world to teach democratic principles, rule of law, and ethics. TLI teachers are experienced judges, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, and legal counselors from the United States and Canada. They lecture on a variety of subjects and make a lasting impression on the minds of their students.

Among the board of directors of TLI is Natalie Jaresko, an American who has previously worked with the State Department, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Treasury Department - in other words,  the "Blob" -  who was integral in the neoliberalization of the former Soviet Union. In other words, she was a player in the 90s "Harvard Boys" collective, enabling a group of oligarchs to impoverish the Russian people after the Soviet Union collapsed.

As Ukraine's US-installed finance minister, her mammoth task was imposing austerity on regular Ukrainians once the US-manufactured coup in 2014 was a done deal.  Jaresko later brought her economic talents to the US territory of Puerto Rico with her management of the Oversight and Management Board and the subsequent imposition of crushing austerity programs for the regular residents of that particular territory.

It's a big club, as George Carlin used to say. You ain't in it, but Merrick Garland, David Leavitt, Natalie Jaresko and new US-appointed "war crimes prosecutor" Veneditkova certainly are. When you consider that they're all just part of the same big fat blob-club, then it doesn't seem  so weird for Merrick Garland to be calling the legal shots in a foreign country. How could the US possibly be meddling in what is its own conquered territory? They are imperialists, after all, and it behooves them, for democracy appearance's sake, to utilize the requisite number of native experts to do their bidding.

Of course, neither the US nor Russia have signed official international war crimes treaties. The US even has a law on the books requiring it to rescue any of its own club of accused war criminals (think of Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Obama, Biden et al) should any of them ever find themselves on trial in The Hague.

So while the Times and other establishment media clutch their pearls over the Trump Show Trial and Garland's absence from The Homeland, they don't even pay lip service to Julian Assange, the imprisoned exposer of American war crimes who is currently under orders by a complicit British official to be extradited to the United States for prosecution under the archaic "espionage act." That law was a fraud right from its World War I start. It was enacted as a means for persecuting antiwar activists and whistleblowers then, and it's being used as such now.

As much as the purveyors and beneficiaries of predatory capitalism choke on their own hypocritical excesses, it will never stop them from gorging themselves till they burst. They're relying on public apathy and the efforts of the courtier establishment press to either maintain it, or to redirect citizen ire against an outside enemy. Think about the scourge of Putinflation, for example.

Maybe the constant exposure of the pathocrats and their foul deeds by what remains of our free press will amount to a forced dietary intervention. As exhausting as this task is, giving up simply doesn't seem like the best option, not even in this, the terminal phase of civilization.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Then As Farce

The People's Party, which made its national debut to much progressive fanfare a couple of years ago, is now ginning up enthusiasm for the presidential candidacy of YouTube personality and standup comic Jimmy Dore.

Why not? Ukraine elected a TV comedian as its own president, and Volodomyr Z. certainly has set establishment and media hearts a-thumping all across the A to Be duopoly back here in the States. Let's face it - after the electorate getting relentlessly regaled by matinee idol Barack Obama and tabloid charlatan Donald Trump, contemporary politicians almost have to be pre-existing celebrities in order to capture any public attention at all.

 Donald Trump won in the GOP primaries because he acted more like a Borsht Belt comic in the Don Rickles genre than the standard noxious cutout Republicans on the 2016 debate stage. Even if you logically thought the guy was a clear and present danger to the earth and all humanity, you couldn't help but appreciate the zingers he aimed at Jeb! Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and that whole free-market gang.

Hillary Clinton certainly was no match for him. All he had to do was juxtapose his boundary-free media persona against this bellicose and humorless former Goldwater Girl, and the victory was his. As long as a life-long grifter can make you laugh right along with him as he makes your grievances and your darkest unspoken impulses his very own - with no punishment and with such an outlandish reward for him - then at least you don't feel so all alone in the world... for whole minutes at a time.

Joe Biden, sadly, is certainly no entertainer.  He was able to beat Trump in 2020 largely because the pandemic kept him locked up in his basement most of the time. Today, with everybody insanely unmasking as the virus rages on, the Democratic Party is in a veritable frenzy of loud whispering about his lack of popularity with the masses. All of a sudden, they're discovering that he is incapable of telling a good story or selling their Narrative Du Jour. And these days, "stories" and acting ability are really the only qualifications that a potential president needs. So when, in a sort of desperate Hail Mary move, his handlers finally sent Joe to a pre-recorded late night comedy show to entertain the folks at home, he simply ended up parodying his own failure to even basically communicate, let alone regale.

"So there’s a lot of major things we’ve done," Biden garbled to Jimmy Kimmel. "But what we haven’t done is we haven’t been able to communicate it in a way that is ah um…make me say another way.”

Politicians like Obama used to say "Make me do it!" as a disingenuous way to gaslight citizens for their own failure to clamor loudly enough for such nice things as single payer health care and debt-free college.  And since even the sympathetic Kimmel could not make Joe Biden form a complete sentence, he gave up completely and just cut to commercial from the political commercial.

In the most delicate kind of tip-toeing way to describe Biden's mental lapses (a/k/a "gaffes") the New York Times is obliquely urging him to fade gracefully into the sunset and not seek re-election. Former Obama adviser David Axelrod displayed his own skills at the glib doubletalk that his boss was so famous for, when he unctuously told the newspaper from both sides of his mouth:

“Biden doesn’t get the credit he deserves for steering the country through the worst of the pandemic, passing historic legislation, pulling the NATO alliance together against Russian aggression and restoring decency and decorum to the White House, And part of the reason he doesn’t is performative. (My bold) He looks his age and isn’t as agile in front of a camera as he once was, and this has fed a narrative about competence that isn’t rooted in reality.”

Translation: sure, the guy is senile, but if you think so, its a mistake on your part and you are an awful, awful person, unlike concern trolls like me, David Axelrod.

And that detour from the ostensible topic of this post brings us back, on the long and winding road of political propaganda, to the nascent Jimmy Dore campaign for president. The main reason that I still watch Dore is for his "telephone interviews" with vocal impersonator Mike MacRae, who does a spot-on, hilarious David Axelrod as well as a perfect obstreperously incoherent Joe Biden.

Otherwise, Dore's shtick has been hit or miss for the last year or so, not least because of his rants about the pandemic, largely focused on medications that liberals don't like. There's also been a decidedly misogynistic slant to the show lately, emphasizing the looks and dress of certain female politicians and celebrities. His guest list, which used to include a wide variety of pundits, politicians, labor leaders and academics, has been largely diminished to a couple of fellow male white comic sidekicks allowed to chime in from time to time to bolster Dore's opinions.

 His interviewing style leaves a lot be desired as well, because these spots are all too often comprised of Dore beating a point to death, often bragging that he is the only guy to cover stories that put the establishment in a bad light, and then asking the guest to comment on the rant. When, for example, writer Chris Hedges appeared on the show last week, he was barely able to get a word in edgewise. More and more, the segments on the Dore show revolve around the latest mean Tweet that some liberal troll or media rival aimed at Jimmy and who was then severely "ratio'd" as a result.

I find myself tuning in less and less, and shutting it off as soon as Dore once again ventures into Covid rant territory, or Amber Heard or AOC territory,  amidst non-stop whining that YouTube is going to yank his channel away from him any day now.

But with a million YouTube subscribers and a nationwide standup tour, Dore certainly has his fans. And that brings me to what appears to be a hastily written and unedited email that I got yesterday from People's Party founder Nick Brana:

Millions lack food and health care and live paycheck to paycheck. Poverty wages now gutted by inflation. Eviction and homelessness sweep every city. Desperation so deep it drives people to opioid addiction and mass murder suicide. The looming fall of the dollar and depression. A dying empire lashing out for war with not one but two nuclear powers. The major left wing party in this country leading the charge for annihilation and censorship.

Thankfully, I and many others have recently found real hope and joy in the prospect that Jimmy Dore could run for president of the United States.


Jimmy has been considering a run for president with the People’s Party for the past several weeks. We’ve been discussing it with him and Stef and have developed a fifty state campaign and ballot access plan with organizers and leading ballot access attorneys. 

The crowds in Des Moines, Omaha and Kansas City erupted in cheers when Jimmy surprised everyone at his live stand up shows last month and said, “I’m thinking of running for president,” and took townhall style questions for the first time....

Jimmy would be the most popular comedian to ever run for president. He would be the first candidate with his own hugely popular online show — something that has only just now become possible due to the rise of the internet and independent media.

This missive goes on for almost the length of an interminable Jimmy Dore rant, so I'll give it a rest.

Despite the Dore candidacy being non-serious, disingenuous, and at worst, cult-like, it might even do some good. It would bring the whole class war cause of almost everything bad in this country right into the forefront. Since our whole society is tragically crumbling all around us anyway, what harm could a little more farce possibly do?

 But if he wants to get any traction at all, I think Dore should ditch the struggling People's Party, which is actually registered as a fundraising political action outfit. He should run as a Democrat to get even a slight chance of getting on a nationally televised primary debate stage and insulting all the wannabes waiting in the wings - such as the insufferable Pete Buttigieg and corrupt New York City Mayor Eric Adams, to name just two of the centrists under loud whispering consideration by party bigwigs. If a New Age outlier like Marianne Williamson could get a podium spot last time around, why not Jimmy Dore in 2024?

After all, the Democratic Party is all about the spectacle, as the January 6 Capitol Riot series now playing on the small screens of America has shown. Even if you think that Dore is funny or informative less than half the time, we can still use all the laughs we can get. And the comfortable and the powerful certainly deserve all the affliction that we can hurl at them.

I'm interested in hearing what readers think about all this.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

No Biz Like Congressional Show Biz

The people in charge of the country are now openly admitting that the select committee hearings on the attempted January 6th coup will be more of a glitzy political ad dressed up as a nail-biting Netflix series than it will be a slow, plodding search for truth and justice. But it will most assuredly have the "American way" written all over it.

Just to make sure that the watching public tunes in, the Democrats on the committee have hired the former head honcho of ABC-Disney to be their show-runner. The series will thus be heavy on the teasers and the cliff-hangers. Live action will be interspersed with "never-before-seen" footage of the riot, along with secret tapes of Ivanka and Jared dishing the dirt to the committee in secret.

The news site Axios, which also has its own series on HBO-Max, had the big scoop on the secret show-biz brains behind the show, with Mike Allen breathlessly gushing:

    James Goldston, former president of ABC News, and a master documentary storyteller who ran "Good Morning America" and "Nightline" — has joined the committee as an unannounced adviser, Axios has learned.

    Why it matters: I'm told Goldston is busily producing Thursday's 8 p.m. ET hearing as if it were a blockbuster investigative special. 
      He plans to make it raw enough so that skeptical journalists will find the material fresh, and chew over the disclosures in future coverage.
        And he wants it to draw the eyeballs of Americans who haven't followed the ins and outs of the Capitol riot probe.

        The so-called "probe" has only been ongoing for the past year and a half, with only a few of the hundreds of relatively low-level participants being charged and/or convicted thus far. The plot about the plot advanced ever so slightly this week with a carefully planned show "teaser" of five members of the Proud Boys right-wing militia group belatedly being charged with sedition.  This will add some much needed oomph when the TV Special is able to cast these characters as bona fide marquee traitors, rather than the usual boring old suspects not even rating a screen credit.

        Remember when the corporate media were singing the constant refrain of "The Walls Are Closing In" regarding Trump and the drip-drip-drip narrative of #Russiagate, until it finally ended up as a sorry little puddle of nothingness? Well, they are urging you to keep the hope alive, because this time around, as one Democratic operative promised, the walls are now closing in so hard that the dome will be blown right off the Capitol, what with all the brand-spanking new plot twists and big reveals coming out of this televised extravaganza.

        The New York Times, which tried to keep its own gushery in strict control, buried the lede that a corporate media mogul is being allowed to run this official public inquiry into the attempted overthrow of our allegedly democratic system. But the Grey Lady still was refreshingly honest in describing the hearings as nothing more than a prolonged political ad designed to increase the chances of Democrats in the midterms. The headline makes it perfectly clear that the real purpose of the hearing is not to punish Donald Trump or his high-ranking minions, but to keep the Donald Trump menacing myth alive in the brain fog of the apathetic electorate. The motive is right there in the headline:

        Jan. 6 Hearings Give Democrats a Chance to Recast Midterm Message

        With their control of Congress hanging in the balance, Democrats plan to use made-for-television moments and a carefully choreographed rollout of revelations over the course of six hearings to remind the public of the magnitude of Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the election, and to persuade voters that the coming midterm elections are a chance to hold Republicans accountable for it.

        It is an uphill battle at a time when polls show that voters’ attention is focused elsewhere, including on inflation, rising coronavirus cases and record-high gas prices. But Democrats argue the hearings will give them a platform for making a broader case about why they deserve to stay in power.

        “When these hearings are over, voters will know how irresponsibly complicit Republicans were in attempting to toss out their vote and just how far Republicans will go to gain power for themselves,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, the Democratic campaign chair.

        That would be the same Sean Patrick Maloney who heads the fund-raising arm of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and who recently muscled his way into a redrawn district for fear he couldn't even win back his own constituents in the mid-terms.

         "Maloney’s move may be the most brazenly selfish district hop in American political history," writes The Intercept. "That’s not said lightly, given that Maloney is operating in an industry — politics — that is populated almost exclusively by some of the most craven, attention-seeking people in our society."

        Having just binged on the entire Sopranos series, I can't help but think of the Select Committee hearings as a show about feuding organized crime families. Will the audience root for the Democrats or the Republicans in this derivative mob war? The latter already are streaming out their own counter-programming, gleaned mainly from never before seen X-rated outtakes from Hunter Biden's laptop, featuring his naked self pointing a gun at the cameras like a deranged Christopher Moltisanti, and thus making a complete mockery of the Dems' latest gun "control" theatrics. 

        We are expected to empathize with the vulnerability and panic attacks of a bunch of sociopaths who just unanimously sent unlimited dollars to fight a proxy war in Ukraine,  but who quibble and moan about spending any more money on the health care of their constituents, right in the middle of a pandemic. At least Tony Soprano always paid the hospital bills of his mob rivals after he busted their kneecaps or otherwise beat them to a bloody pulp.

        As it is, in "real" life, the White House mob reportedly has been discussing how many people they can decently allow to die of Covid before they can finally stop pretending to care.

        So fuggedabout reality. It's on with the show because the show must go on. 

        It was French philosopher Guy Debord who wrote that "the spectacle is essentially tautological, for the simple reason that its means and its ends are identical. It is the sun that never sets on the empire of modern passivity. It covers the entire globe, basking in the perpetual warmth of its own glory."

        We the spectators can channel-surf so obsessively that more often than not, we simply give up and don't watch anything at all. It is the opposite situation in our political system, however, which has only two channels to present to us the hopes and dreams and narratives which they've so carefully manufactured for us..

        This Manichean state of affairs is exactly how the populace is controlled by the owners and purveyors of information. They have attempted to commodify our very attention. So if we do tune in to Thursday night's corporate political extravaganza, we paradoxically will be united by the spectacle at the same time that we are isolated from one another. The more that we remain glued to the tube, as Debord wrote, the less that we can think, let alone live.

        And that is by design. That is the whole point.

        No word yet if the enhanced political propaganda posing as a legal hearing will itself be interrupted by ads. But I wouldn't be surprised.

        "The spectacle is capital accumulated to the point where it becomes image." - Guy Debord.

         "Sometimes it's important to give people the illusion of being in control." -- Tony Soprano.

        Wednesday, May 25, 2022

        Maudlin Tears of the Pathocrats

         Fresh from his World War III-mongering junket to Asia, highlighted by his provocative vow to militarily defend Taiwan in the event of aggression by China, Joe Biden again wondered aloud why there is so damned much gun violence back in The Homeland.

        He wondered anew why this violent nation of ours can't stand up to the "gun lobby -" as if it hasn't rewarded and enabled gun manufacturers and their Wall Street investors more and more with every passing year. He and other politicians in both our ruling class parties performed another round of quickly evaporating maudlin tears, this one for the Texas children killed in Tuesday's mass shooting. One of the two right wings continues to mindlessly champion the rights of the "responsible" gun owners, and the other one addresses the pathology of 331 million US citizens owning almost half a billion firearms among them as a malady needing only a few "common-sense" gauze pads to make the whole boo-boo disappear. As if properly registering one's weapon and proving one's mental health bona fides were themselves more than conscience-salving band-aids for the root cause of increasing shootings: unfettered predatory capitalistic rule by a relative handful of oligarchs, leading to depression, anxiety, poverty, no health care in a pandemic, and violent acting-out on a record scale. 

        Biden recently kvetched in an "off the record" interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that he despairs of ever "uniting" this country. His agenda has nothing to do with uniting Democrats with Republicans, not least because most voters in the US don't belong to either elite party. Rather he aims to unite Americans around common propaganda, for the ultimate benefit of the security state and its plutocratic profiteers.

        The late Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci observed during the rise of fascism, prior to World War II, that hegemons can only maintain power through the repression and oppression of their people while simultaneously orchestrating people's tacit consent to be repressed and oppressed - whether through government propaganda, news organs, or other influence campaigns. The fact that Biden's own ill-conceived "Disinformation Board" was so deservedly short-lived is not that right-wing factions waged a "disinformation campaign" against it. It was because too many people across the spectrum were wise to the fact that they were being played, as in the ongoing elite suppression of our unsanctioned speech.

        Biden and his fellow elites are upset that their domestic propaganda, their bellicosity, and their ham-fisted attempts at censorship ("unifying the country") of non-elite views are such failures. They are grasping at all manner of "outside" enemies to try and divert our attention away from their own pathologies. And in that process, they are endangering all of us.

          The USA may have the military might, but as far as any follow-up Marshall Plan to preserve and enhance its global hegemony is concerned, things have gotten very topsy-turvy indeed. Rather than a Berlin airlift, it is that same post-war Europe, which America has treated as its vassal state for nearly 80 years, which is now flying baby formula to our shores.  Biden was so busy globe-trotting and selling the next world war that he apparently hadn't known there even was a shortage, and that American infants have been in danger of starving en masse for at least the past six months.

        It's also the height of irony that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg simultaneously defended and blamed the oligopolistic system responsible for the domestic baby formula shortage, even as our neoliberal government was finally forced to intervene and aid the same oligopoly which it has deemed to be the most virtuous and common-sense source of life for our babies.  Even more supremely ironic, perhaps, is that Buttigieg's late father was one of the world's premier Gramsci scholars who translated his prison writings into English for the enlightenment of any American who cares to read them, and be inspired by them.

        So when Biden and his fellow politicians claim to care so deeply about "our beautiful children," do not believe them for one instant. All they care about is getting re-elected. And even if they lose, they win.... through their corporate-funded think tanks, their closed-door fundraisers, their nepotistic corruption, their TV gigs, their forever-wars. 

        As John Mearsheimer lays out in "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics" hegemons can only achieve and maintain their superpower global hegemonic status if they are already regional hegemons. And the iron grip that the US has had on Central and South America and the Caribbean now appears to be finally loosening. Several of these nations are boycotting this year's Summit of the Americas, because current host Joe Biden is not inviting leftist countries Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba to participate.

        ABC-Disney, one of the very few state- and corporate-sanctioned sources of information and manufactured consent still remaining, is very worried that a more unified and recalcitrant southern hemisphere might put a damper on the global hegemony and wars that it so handsomely profits from:

        A hollow summit would undermine efforts by the U.S. to reassert its influence in Latin America when China is making inroads and concerns grow that democracy is backsliding in the region....

         The uncertainty is a sign of chaotic planning for the summit, which is scheduled to take place in a little more than two weeks in Los Angeles. Normally, gatherings for heads of state are organized long in advance, with clear agendas and guest lists.

        “There’s no excuse that they didn’t have enough time,” said Ryan Berg, a senior fellow in the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “This is our chance to set a regional agenda. It’s a great opportunity. And I’m afraid we’re not going to take it.”

        And that is such a damned shame, just when Biden was thinking of easing the economic sanctions on starving Venezuelans and their babies by graciously allowing Chevron back into Venezuela to exploit its starving people and their babies. That is the same Chevron, remember, which bypassed the US judicial system and tried, convicted and imprisoned environmental lawyer Steven Donziger for the affront of having won  a major pollution case against the oil giant when it committed fraud and pollution in Ecuador.

        Biden and his bipartisan corporate cohort have brought a whole new meaning to Hannah Arendt's banality of evil.  People the whole world over are noticing not only their systemic ingrained evil, but also their essential stupidity.

        What with climate disasters, societal collapses and insane wars, that essential stupidity can be a cause for either optimism or pessimism. Either the stupidly powerful destroy themselves, or their stupidity is so powerful that it translates into longevity. 

        Unfortunately, when the powerfully stupid and the stupidly powerful talk about loving children, they're mainly talking abut their own offspring, and their offspring after them. 

        Tuesday, May 17, 2022

        Onward, Christofascist Soldiers

         Barely a week after promising at least another $40 billion in subsidies to US weapons manufacturers for the war in Ukraine, and mere days after grotesquely demanding that surplus Covid aid money be used by cities to hire more armed cops, Joe Biden shuffled off to Buffalo to decry hate and violence in his boilerplate response to the latest domestic mass shooting.

        The corporate media dutifully are not calling this out as rank hypocrisy, but instead are once again portraying the Commander in Chief as the Consoler in Chief. What they're really trying to accomplish in the coverage and narrative of the weekend's upstate New York grocery store massacre is that the strict line of demarcation between the acceptable, state-sanctioned violence waged only out of love, safety and democracy, and the unacceptable freelance variety perpetrated out of racism, hate and evil must be maintained at all costs.  War, of course, is not deemed to be a hate crime. That its global victims are disproportionately black and brown is not deemed to be racist.

        Joe Biden and the Democrats once again are mouthing their feeble, meaningless entreaties for "modest" and "common-sense" gun law reform. They ignore the obvious culprits: the gun manufacturers and arms dealers themselves, and especially the private equity firms and "holding companies" which own them and finance them and profit from both the state-sanctioned and freelance violence which they enable. 

        In his stale litany of platitudes, Biden certainly does not include the armed forces and the weapons industry as part of the white supremacist establishment which has ruled this nation since its inception. It's only when the movement goes rogue and freelance that the real supremacists with the real power get all upset, or at least pretend to. 

        He also won't pay much if any lip service to the enforced control and impoverishment of most US citizens by the American oligarchy and its enablers in the professional-managerial class comprising the top 10 percent of income earners. Not for nothing did impoverished Buffalo elect its first socialist mayor in a Democratic primary last year, only for her victory to then be thwarted by an influx of Republican money and a write-in campaign to fix the runoff for her centrist Democratic challenger. 

        Biden certainly will not call for a punitive tax on the obscene profits of  the weapons manufacturers that are promoting and enabling both state-sanctioned violence and the renegade variety. To the contrary: under the fig leaf of "humanitarian aid" to places like Ukraine, the weapons industry is one of the biggest recipients of government welfare. Wall Street would have a hissy fit if war and local police states were taxable, as would the investors that finance and control both our establishment political parties.

        Both the Buffalo shooter and the young man who committed the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre used Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifles.  This past February, the Sandy Hook parents finally reached a $73 million settlement with Remington, which under the laws of corporate bankruptcy was a heavily insured holding company in the process of selling itself and changing its name, so that shadow owners and investors in assault weapons can continue raking in the profits and whitewashing their reputations under the musical chairs business model. This reality makes the Sandy Hook victory both pyrrhic and premature, despite what plaintiffs' lawyers crowed at the time. From CNN's report:

        The families have also “obtained and can make public thousands of pages of internal company documents that prove Remington’s wrongdoing and carry important lessons for helping to prevent future mass shootings,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys said in a news release.

        “We established what was clearly true … the immunity protecting the gun industry is not bulletproof,” plaintiffs’ attorney Josh Koskoff said in a news conference in Trumbull, Connecticut. “We hope they realize they have skin in the game, instead of blaming literally everybody else.”

        The Buffalo gunman's manifesto, pointing to the racist "great replacement theory" as the impetus for his crime spree, rightly puts the onus on various elected GOP nut-jobs and Fox News for spreading the paranoid propaganda.

        However, this concentration on white supremacist hate speech again lets Wall Street off the hook.

        The very name of "Freedom Group" - under which the  Bushmaster assault rifle and other models were owned and manufactured until the Sandy Hook atrocity - points to the essential right-wing extremism of its corporate owners and investors.

        Freedom Group was simply the name of a subsidiary of the Cerberus Capital Management private equity group. Cerberus, you might remember, is the vicious three-headed dog of Greek mythology that guards the gates of hell. So you probably can at least give these corporate psychopaths a few extra points for being so self-aware. 

        As tbe New York Times reported in a 2011 investigative article, rumor among paranoid right-wing circles at the time had it that Democratic megadonor George Soros was buying up big, but financially struggling, assault rifle makers for the express purpose of putting them out of business permanently. No such luck:

        Mr. Soros isn’t behind the Freedom Group, but, ultimately, another financier is: Stephen A. Feinberg, the chief executive of Cerberus.

        CERBERUS is part of one of the signature Wall Street businesses of the past decade: private equity. Buyout kings like Mr. Feinberg, 51, try to acquire undervalued companies, often with borrowed money, fix them up and either take them public or sell at a profit to someone else....

        Why Cerberus went after gun companies isn’t clear. Many private investment firms shy away from such industries to avoid scaring off big investors like pension funds.

        Yet, in many ways, the move is classic Cerberus. Mr. Feinberg has a history of investing in companies that other people may not want, but that Cerberus believes it can turn around. When Cerberus embarked on its acquisition spree in guns, it essentially had the field to itself.

        If Democrats and pundits really wanted to put the onus on the Republican party side of the Duopoly for the rise in white supremacist gun violence, they might point out that former Vice President Dan Quayle sat on the board of Cerberus in Freedom Group era, and is still in charge of "global investments." The Board has also included a couple of retired generals, who during its ownership of Bushmaster facilitated the sale of assault rifles to the US military as well as to the burgeoning demographic including all the many varieties of disturbed or propagandized civilians of the United States.

        Cerberus changed the name of Freedom Group to the more innocuous "Remington Outdoor Company" after a great public outcry, post- Sandy Hook shootings. Ironically, the father of the Cerberus CEO himself had lived in a gated community in Sandy Hook.

        The younger Feinberg, with a net worth of $1.5 billion, was named by Donald Trump to chair the President's Intelligence Advisory Board. Cerberus then owned DynCorp, a major contractor with the American security state, which then got folded into another private security contractor, called Amentum. Under Trump Freiberg was tasked with "vetting" people employed by the CIA, despite having no "intelligence" experience himself.

        Meanwhile, the latest listed owner of the Bushmaster assault rifle company is Crotalus Holdings in Sun City, Nevada, whose rather murky official trademark is "Proud To Stand With America's Finest."

        It still has the same old friendly cartoon logo, an over-fanged blood-red snake with a gun.

        From the company website:

        Bushmaster Firearms™ is excited to announce our return. We are not an affiliate with any other firearms manufacturing companies. In times to come, our array of products will provide Proven™ perfection to all.

        And just in case, despite the outlandish trademarking of the word "Proven," you still thought that the Bushmaster and all its assorted ammo and gear are violent things being recklessly marketed to one and all, they are deadly serious about putting the missionary back in the Mission. The quote on the bottom of the web page selling assault rifles should prove it to everyone's satisfaction:  

         Bushmaster Firearms™

        Blessed are the peacemakers,
        for they will be called children of God.
        Matthew 5:9

        Tuesday, May 10, 2022

        A Blob Divided Against Itself Can Only Replicate

         The US foreign policy establishment, often described as The Blob by Washington insiders, was suffering a rare attack of indigestion last week. It seems that the reach of a few of its slimy tentacles had exceeded their grasp. So replete was the Blob upon the gourmet feast known as Ukraine, so giddy was it from the bubbly champagne of public approval for its propaganda campaign to effectively transform Ukraine into an emotionally appealing 51st state, that it forgot that bragging too much about bloodthirsty gluttony does have consequences. It makes people queasy just having to listen to it spewing its gastronomic excess.

        Some supposedly renegade individual replicants ventured out from the Blob Proper last week and dished to the New York Times  that it was the Blob itself which had steered its Ukrainian proxy fighters toward some soon-to-be assassinated Russian generals. It was the Blob itself which had targeted the location of the flagship of the Russian fleet for its blowing-up by same proxy fighting force.

        This ill-advised chest-thumping, this direct provocation of a fellow nuclear power, was so over the top that it even prodded the latest designated nucleus of the Blob - President Joe Biden himself - into dishing to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that he would not tolerate any of his tentacles ever going rogue in such an unseemly manner, ever again. He apparently even used the F word or worse while  threatening to hunt them down. But this is so moot, because cutting them off will only make them stronger. Slime molds of such superior quality can easily regenerate themselves. Just as the Washington war/security establishment has long used fellow Blobster Friedman to sell its wars of aggression and related regime changes for the benefit of American capitalism  so too does it now use Friedman as journalistic damage control.  Friedman is the ultra-soft washcloth to gently but firmly dab away the blood from Biden's hands, in the process also disguising the fact that these expensively manicured hands are really the giant tentacles of one great big engorged slime mold.

        After Friedman ludicrously praises Times reporters for their intrepid digging for spoon-fed goodies from their government partners, he writes: 

        At the same time, from everything I have been able to glean from senior U.S. officials, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, the leaks were not part of any thought-out strategy, and President Biden was livid about them. I’m told that he called the director of national intelligence, the director of the C.I.A. and the secretary of defense to make clear in the strongest and most colorful language that this kind of loose talk is reckless and has got to stop immediately — before we end up in an unintended war with Russia.

        This is the same president, mind you, whose own notion of diplomacy  for the prevention of nuclear destruction of the whole world is the reckless goading of Vladimir Putin, calling him a war criminal and a genocidal maniac who must be removed from power. The very idea that Biden is even remotely upset about the unseemly chest-thumping by the lesser tentacles in his administration is therefore laughable on its face.

        Even so, this is the delicate stage in the US war on Russia where sympathy for everyday Ukrainians must be maintained at a fever pitch so that the American public will not rebel once the Blob takes an even more direct role in the war. It was only a few weeks ago that independent critics of the proxy war were being dismissed as Kremlin stooges, when they pointed out the factual truth that there is a proxy war going on here.  

        But as quick as a slime mold replicates in the woods, the official narrative now acknowledges that this is indeed a proxy war - but only because Biden and the Blob have been "dragged into" one by the evil Putin. It is still a heresy to place the actual beginning of this war against Russia to 2014, when the Obama administration orchestrated regime change in Ukraine.

        The Blob (which very much includes the corporate media in its body) is still selling the narrative that the war had its beginning with Putin's own invasion of Ukraine, that it has occurred in a vacuum, and that the incursion of NATO up to Russia's own border in defiance of an agreement made in the 1990s not to do so has nothing to do with it, that the Minsk Accord calling for a diplomatic solution to territorial disputes around eastern Ukraine were never ignored by the "West," that Biden's  economic sanctions, pre-Putin invasion, to make ordinary Russians suffer were a provocation if not an act of war itself.

        As much as US political leaders pretend to bemoan the "divisiveness" of the domestic culture wars, which they've played such an integral in promoting for much profit to their corporate sponsors, they also love to pretend that their periodic internal agonizing and spirited debates are proof of a healthy functioning democracy. They pretend that they're wringing their hands over the tragedy of a war they had no part in creating. What they're really doing is flailing their slimy tentacles like whips, striving to manufacture our consent for yet another endless war.  And this particular war may well live up to the 1914 hype of being the "war to end all wars" - but only because the use of nuclear weapons will ensure that never again will humans be able to fight another war, let alone win one.

        To hear Friedman tell it, the Blob is naught but a hapless collection of iron filings being inexorably drawn into the maw of a Blob with an irresistible magnetism in its own tentacles. 

        "The staggering takeaway from these leaks is that they suggest we are no longer in an indirect war with Russia but rather are edging toward a direct war — and no one has prepared the American people or Congress for that," Friedman disingenuously writes.

        Well, consider yourselves gently prepared if you haven't been paying attention up till now.  As for Congress, their unquestioning appropriation of tens of billions of dollars to enrich the weapons industry, in the space of only a few months, for waging the "proxy war" has already implicated them in full knowledge of what they do. The so-called progressive caucus in the lower House apparently never dreamed of leveraging its own bellicose vote in order to force passage of the social welfare programs and Covid relief bills currently stalled in the Senate. People can suffer indefinitely, but war is always time-sensitive. At least that's what Speaker Nancy Pelosi grotesquely implied.

        The view of Biden and his team, according to my reporting," Friedman concludes, "is that America needs to help Ukraine restore its sovereignty and beat the Russians back — but not let Ukraine turn itself into an American protectorate on the border of Russia. We need to stay laser-focused on what is our national interest and not stray in ways that lead to exposures and risks we don’t want."

        Um... Ukraine has been a protectorate, or at least a beholden client state, of the US at least since 2014. Much of its own mainstream media is directly funded by NATO and USAID, which themselves are funded by weapons manufacturers and oil companies. 

        Until Ukrainians were fetishized by the Blob as worthy freedom fighters and trendy cultural icons even deserving of a Bono concert, Joe Biden displayed his true colors. As vice president, he traveled to Ukraine and informed them they'd have their pensions reduced, their retirement ages raised, their costs for fuel increased -  in a country where the average salary is $775 a month - as IMF punishment for official corruption. This is while his son Hunter was making tens of millions of dollars sitting on the board of a corrupt Ukrainian gas company.

        Another fun fact about slime molds is that they pride themselves on their diversity. Even in nature, they come in every color except green. So it's only natural that the Washington variety of the Blob is so adverse to a green new deal, not least because the military is the biggest fossil fuel polluter in the entire world.

         For a creature lacking a brain, the slime mold that inspired "The Blob" movie that in turn inspired the folksy moniker for what used to be called the Military-Industrial Complex, it is marvelously efficient at finding food, traveling ridiculous distances, and of course, constantly evolving and shifting its shape and replicating itself and growing without limit almost at the speed of light. As one scientist so vividly put it in a PBS News Hour segment about the species,

         They form strange and sophisticated shapes – some resemble honeycomb lattices, others blackberries. And then there’s the slime mold known as “dog vomit,” because it looks just like the stuff. Some remain microscopic, and others grow rogue, forming bulbous masses, as long as 10 to 13 feet. Yet humans largely ignore them.

        “Very few have been consumed as food. You can’t build a house with them. They escape our noses most of the time,” (Professor Steve) Stephenson said. 

        Slime mold is a lot like war -  what is it good for?



        Tuesday, May 3, 2022

        The Great Roe v Wade Leak

         It's tailor-made for the midterms. Both parties will fund-raise like mad as the Supremes keep us in suspense for another month or two as we await the final decision. Remember, the leaked document, written by Samuel Alito, is still only a draft. The court may not overturn Roe v Wade as much as punt it back to the states. And conservative states already have gone full bore ahead with their own draconian abortion bans or restrictions.

        So who leaked it? My guess is that one of the liberal justices accidentally on purpose left it on her desk where an underling found it. But who knows, and what difference does it really make? We kind of knew this was coming.

        At least they can't blame it on Wikileaks, whose founder Julian Assange is still rotting in a rotten British prison as he awaits extradition to the States for trial under the Espionage Act, which was originally passed to quash dissent from American citizens during World War I.

        Maybe they'll find a way to blame Russia, which as the USSR actually was the very first nation in Europe to legalize safe, free, hospital-based abortions in 1920 - albeit with eventual restrictions. In 1936, Stalin  made abortion illegal again, except when the mother's health was endangered. This was because war and (sometimes orchestrated) famine had caused the population to drastically plummet. But at the same time, the USSR built more nurseries, more obstetric facilities and increased welfare payments to large families. In that regard, they were certainly a lot better than our own modern Republicans, whose concern for human life is severely restricted to the nine months a citizen stays in the womb. 

         Of course the kids living under Stalin were raised like robots in preparation, for many of them, their ultimate purpose as cannon fodder. As a matter of fact, once the Soviets had prevailed over Nazi Germany in World War II, the generous payments to fecund families were summarily and severely reduced.

        Fast forward to more modern times, and the abortion debate in Russia is very similar to that in the United States.  The procedure is restricted and very actively discouraged - once again, because population growth has slowed.

        In the United States, the birth rate is also down, at least in part because people of child-bearing age can no longer afford to bring children into the world. Wages are still stagnant, and housing is both unaffordable and hard to find. 

        So while Republicans are brazen in their misogynistic and Christian fundamentalist reasons for opposing abortion, the Democrats have passive-aggressively and lackadaisically declined to encode it into law for all the many decades that Roe v Wade has been in effect, and for all the times the party has enjoyed super-majorities in Congress. Then there's the inconvenient reality that Ruth Bader Ginsburg refused to retire when there was still a chance to impede the rightward lurch of the court. 

        And another unpalatable truth is that, despite the US hegemon's recent heavy reliance on unmanned drones in the waging of the Forever Wars, there is always the continuous need in bellicose nation-states for a steady supply of that all-important cannon fodder,- or least enough human flesh to sit in the trailers and operate the drone joysticks.

        Let's hope that just like they did back in the early years of the 20th century, the women who are now protesting and demanding their civil rights in front of the Supreme Court will also morph into antiwar activists and labor unionists, and then the whole neoconservative/neoliberal project comes crashing down as a sort of collateral damage to all the pathocrats who are currently running the place. 

        The Supremes, convenient targets for our wrath that they are, certainly do not operate in a vacuum. Notice, for example, the lack of Democratic interest in impeaching Clarence Thomas despite the malign political activities of his soulmate and life partner Ginni.