Wednesday, December 30, 2020

America Gets Mitch-Slapped

One of the more gleefully repulsive enforcers of our Great American Oligarchy is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. His latest act of villainy is nixing a floor vote to give modest, one-time $2,000 relief checks to people struggling to survive during the worst biologic and economic catastrophe in modern history.

Well, he is willing, but there are strings attached. Actually, there are reinforced steel chains attached. People will only get the extra money, McConnell smarmily insinuates, if the Democratic Party-aligned social media companies are made bereft of their legal protections. Some of them - namely Facebook and probably Google - already face antitrust lawsuits because they own and control the entire world, and censor content that their "deep state" Establishment partners don't like. Republicans also want them stripped of their legal protections against also getting sued for third party defamation contained in public commentary.

 McConnell is further demanding that people lose more of their voting rights through a crackdown on alleged electoral fraud. In other words, he wants the power to thwart the public will and to nullify electoral results he doesn't like by expanding voter disenfranchisement into a redefinition of American citizens as real or incipient fraudsters. 

As far as the fortunes of the coddled Silicon Valley billionaires are concerned, I say why not take them all to court at every opportunity? The liability shield protecting them was enacted way back in the 90s, long before they morphed into the monstrous undemocratic and unaccountable sovereign surveillance and data extraction states that they are today. Solve the problem by simply breaking them up.

  But McConnell's disenfranchisement gambit is a whole different story. It is not only a poison pill, it is a million-gallon cocktail of arsenic, strychnine and ricin spelling absolute and speedy doom for the body politic.

If McConnell has his way (and when hasn't he gotten his way?), then the only stimulus we'll get, on top of those seductive $600 love-taps, will be a hard, resounding and very contemptuous bitch-slap in the face.

As far as President-elect Joe Biden is concerned, he already has pre-emptively vowed never, ever to "embarrass" McConnell and his other Republican friends in public. “My leverage is, every senior Republican knows I’ve never once, ever, misled them,” he bragged to a select group of establishment journalists recently.

His leverage with the American people is, he doesn't need the American people. He has never cared whether or not we know that we are being misled because a majority of us elected him as our newest misleader.

Rarely, in fact, do the interests of the predatory pathocrats and the interests of dispossessed people align. It's about as rare an event as Jupiter and Saturn aligning in the night sky every 600 years or so. But, as spectacular a sight as Republicans and Democrats, and Wall Street and Main Street, all joining together in the common humane purpose of meaningful pandemic relief may be, it is largely an illusion. Just as to the naked eye Saturn and Jupiter seemed to be embracing in a blaze of light while 456 million miles apart, so too is the comity between politicians and their constituents, the Haves and the Have-Nots a matter of highly skewed perspective. It's hardly the dawning of a New Age of Aquarius.

But it could be a glimmer. Senator Bernie Sanders is doing his theatrical utmost to, as David Sirota describes it, not only embarrass McConnell, but "out-McConnell McConnell." He is putting a hold on the veto override vote for the defense appropriations bill (the death industry's corporate welfare package) and his bravura performance at least is forcing the Senate to stay in town for the New Year's holiday. Come 2021, the wars and the weapons profiteering will seamlessly continue as though Bernie's  filibuster never even happened.

It all comes down to the pair of Senate runoffs in the state of Georgia, culminating next Tuesday. Two plutocratic GOP grifters, who each got even richer on insider trading deals after secret Covid-19 briefings early this year, are struggling in the polls against two centrist Democrats being bankrolled by corporate interests.  For purposes of winning power, the whole quartet is championing those $2,000 relief checks. The outcome will determine whether McConnell continues to rule the Senate.

Original Check Champion Donald Trump, who these days more resembles a mutilated turkey on the golf course than a lame duck in the White House, is said by the corporate media to have "blindsided" the Duopoly with his sudden demand for the added money, after Congress had worked so hard giving ordinary people the equivalent of half a month's rent and wealthy bosses a tax break on their three-martini business lunches. The media are no longer reporting the original story, which had Trump figuratively bound and gagged by his White House minions after he called for $2,000 checks long before the midnight compromise between Republicans and Democrats was finally reached.

Despite the questionable motivations behind his sudden concern for the masses of people as he exits the White House, Trump's words are having their beneficent effect, in that they expose the political perfidy in his various bipartisan enablers. He also just shockingly ousted Barack Obama from his 12-year reign as the Gallup Poll's Most Admired Man In America. 

Miracles do happen. Illusions replace illusions. The Emperor always does have new clothes. But there will also always be outsiders to point out the naked truth to anyone who's interested in seeing or hearing it, not to mention acting upon it.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Peace On Earth

 Merry Christmas, belated Chanukah, Solstice, Kwanzaa - and last but certainly not least, Festivus For the Rest of Us. Despite our overlords doing their utmost to spoil this holiday, here's hoping that there is not too much gruel in your Yule this year.

Meanwhile, here at Sardonicky we will continue to do our best assailing and wassailing the obscenely wealthy pathocrats among us all year round. Back in medieval times, when Christmas actually was celebrated more like our own modern day Halloween, the serfs would go door to door demanding food and money from their particular overlords. The tradition was that the rich would invite the poor into their warm, well-lit homes in the deep dark of winter for cash tips and seasonal treats, which usually included a well-fortified mystery liquid from the Wassail Bowl.

Rich and poor at least made an occasional pretense of getting along back in the good old bad days. The exception was during times of plague, when the peasants got so desperate that they began escalating wassailing into armed home invasions. So there must be some kind of genetic plutocratic memory at work stemming from those days of yore, because the rich certainly have been operating with a siege mentality lately. Their Republican representatives, especially, act as though billionaires will starve if the masses of people get one-time $2000 checks to help tide them over during our own plague. The Democrats talk as though they really want to give people some holiday relief. They don't, after all, call their theatrics Pro Forma sessions for nothing!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Slash Away and Dash Away: A Hallmark Covid Christmas Special

 Do you have the sneaking suspicion that the 5,600-page Covid relief bill just passed by Congress has more than a few Secret Santa gifts for the corporations and oligarchs snuggling deep within its luxurious, high thread-count sheets?

Congress has done what it always does best: waited until the very last possible minute in a manufactured crisis to pass something, anything, before an artificially imposed deadline which comes right before the Christmas holiday. Then they call it a miraculous bipartisan victory.

Just imagine. They passed their miracle "stimulus" package just as Saturn and Jupiter were converging in the night sky, in a reprise of the Star of Bethlehem legend surrounding the birth of Jesus himself! 

Forget the Covid-19 pandemic and how it affects you and your loved ones.  Congress critters have been busily jostling for camera position as they shove to the head of the line to get vaccinated, even as the heroes they pay lip service to -  frontline workers such as doctors, nurses, public safety personnel, grocery store clerks and teachers - have to patiently wait their own turns. The politicians insist that they are doing so for purely altruistic reasons having to do with the legal requirement of "continuity of government."  

I mean, you can't expect our elected leaders to keep hammering us with their cruel austerity measures if they are not themselves hale, hearty and healthy, can you?

Here, via Time magazine, is just one of the statistical charts that should have the leaders of the richest country on earth hanging their heads in shame instead of bragging about their bipartisanship while they shoot themselves up with precious vaccine in what is just their latest outrageous act of political theater: 

Inadequate doesn't even begin to describe the miserable Covid relief package passed on Monday. As one commentator put it, the one-time $600 stimulus payment to qualifying Americans is tantamount to a restaurant patron tipping a waiter a measly quarter. It's worse than simply forgetting to leave a tip because it is a deliberate insult. Or put another way, $600 is what rich people think poor people think is a windfall. They either don't know or they don't care that it won't even cover half a month's rent.  But just in case, and to prove they are not complete Grinches, lawmakers also gave renters one more month of reprieve from eviction.

Although I have been boycotting the Times comment section for months, I did feel compelled to post the following riposte to Krugman's neoliberal narrative, which ever so conveniently completely ignores the permanent economic underclass of millions upon millions of people:

The debate over giving aid to the unemployed vs giving aid to the non-unemployed skirts uncomfortably close to the right-wing cant that pits the "deserving poor" against the lazy slackers. This specious argument is why we don't have free college and other social benefits enjoyed by many another advanced country. Naysayers claim that if there is free tuition for everybody, spoiled rich kids will be lining up at the trough, champing at the bit to get into a public university or community college.

Give me a break! The fear that better-off people are cashing in on a universal benefit, that they might be getting a paltry $600 or $1200 government check at the expense of the unemployed simply deflects attention from the fact that billionaires increased their wealth to obscene new levels during this awful pandemic. The CARES Act was the most massive upward transfer of wealth in modern human history. It was and is disaster capitalism on steroids and crack. The Sophie's Choice between helping the unemployed and helping everybody just because they are human beings also pits ordinary people against each another. The non-unemployed include millions of people not counted in statistics because they gave up looking for work years ago. They include senior citizens and the disabled who are barely making ends meet. Eight million more people have been categorized as "officially" poor this year. Our "reps" just can't let austerity die, even with thousands dying needlessly all around them.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Just Who Is Getting Hammered?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, blandly admitting that his cruel denial of direct cash aid to Americans has led to the two sleazy Georgia GOP candidates getting so "hammered" by desperate voters that his majority power is threatened, appears to be relenting. He reportedly has agreed to try and cheaply bribe people with a new round of one-time stimulus payments of about $600. If it comes at all, this monetary relief will not come in time to buy the kids Christmas presents this year.

It will, however, come just in time to justify imposing a new round of austerity on people in the new year in collusion with a new administration - a/k/a the third term of Obama, which itself was the third term of Clinton. Forget moving on from Donald Trump. We're right back to the Trump Prequel.

Octogenarian House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who ensured last year that the so-called "Paygo" rule requiring that all new government spending be offset by cuts to other programs, will remain in charge of the lower House despite a campaign led by comedian Jimmy Dore to shame the progressive Democrats to vote her out unless she agrees to bring a Medicare For All vote to the floor. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, despite agreeing that the current conservative party leadership has got to go, pleads that there is nobody willing, able or qualified to take Octomomma Bear's place.  It's a pitiful rationale of StayGo as far as the unpopular Pelosi is concerned. They hate her but they'll vote for her anyway because she is less evil than a vacuum. Plus, she is the one who vacuums up all the money from the oligarchic donor class and holds it tightly in her designer handbag for disbursement to only those Democratic politicians willing to do the bidding of the donors.

Meanwhile, tens of millions of people are getting hammered financially, physically and emotionally. It's elected officials like Pelosi and McConnell, in thrall to the ruling oligarchy, who are willfully wielding the hammer and crushing the bodies and spirits of their constituents in a veritable orgy of violence. With the "official poverty" rate increasing by another couple of percentage points, this is by far the worst  pandemic of political malpractice and manufactured misery in modern American history.

And the evil is being perpetrated with breathtaking cynicism. An app that actually calls itself Robinhood only got a friendly little wrist slap of a warning fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission for bilking mainly young members of the Precariat out of millions of dollars in an online stock trading scam. Although the trades were advertised as being commission-free, the SEC complaint said, customers were never advised that this upfront savings then translated into them paying higher prices for the actual stocks that they were betting on. The price difference was then funneled from Wall Street trading firms right back to Robinhood, whose owners, as of now, are stunningly not being criminally charged as individuals.

 Are we going on a general strike yet? Or is everybody too hammered on booze, drugs, despair, or just plain old boredom to even realize how badly our elected "reps" and their owners are hammering us, all day and every day?

Friday, December 11, 2020

A Neoliberal Christmas Carol

 How do billionaires and celebrities avoid looking like complete jerks as they jostle to be among the first in line to receive the Covid-19 vaccine?

Easy - they pretend that it's all for charity. 'Tis, after all, the season for noblesse-obligin' -  that special time of year when the wealthy suck up public acclaim for their do-goodery as they continue screwing everybody else.

So to avoid giving the awful impression that they're cutting in line to get the vaccine, economist Richard Thaler suggests in a New York Times op-ed that they simply bribe nudge their august selves into their accustomed and deserved places as Alpha-dogs at the head of the pack. 

First, the very purpose of the charity auction would be to redistribute money from the rich to the poor. Think of it as a voluntary wealth tax. This money could be used to help people who have suffered most in the pandemic: those who have lost their jobs and face evictions, whose health has been permanently impaired, who face grievous hardship of all kinds.

Depending on the prices and quantities, billions of dollars could be raised that could be spent to help those who need it most. Robin Hood in action!

Of course, with a single payer health care system, a federal guaranteed public housing policy and a basic universal income we wouldn't need the selective and voluntary self-serving charity and bribery schemes of the rich, would we?

Thaler, at the very height of the 2008 financial meltdown that resulted in 94 percent of all the "lost" household wealth geysering up to the same wealthy miscreants whose speculative crime spree had spawned the crisis, actually released a book called Nudge, cowritten with Obama adviser Cass Sunstein. It was widely praised by corporate types as a kind of neoliberal bible for centrist policy wonks and technocrats who want to be seen as caring and concerned as they craft such austerian solutions to misery and want as cutting Social Security and unemployment benefits.

Thaler was duly rewarded with the "Nobel" memorial economics prize the following year for his paternalistic libertarian work positing that credentialed experts, both inside and outside of government, know what is better for people than people do themselves.

 One of the book's more whimsical policy prescriptions was to make it harder, if not impossible, for people to sue doctors and hospitals. If patients were required to waive their legal rights at the time of treatment, the authors claimed, then doctors and hospitals will be less likely to commit malpractice. And the obscene costs of the for-profit mess known as the US healthcare system would magically go down. In other words, with tort reform, who needs Medicare For All?

 It should come as no surprise that Thaler was also among the first "public intellectuals" to peddle the magical thinking concept of "herd immunity" when the pandemic erupted last spring. It's a way to force people back to work and discontinue their benefits before a vaccine becomes available.

And now that we still will have to wait for many long months before everybody gets vaccinated, the New York Times has given Thaler a platform from which to sell the junk theory of "trickle-down" inoculation as a natural adjunct to the equally fraudulent school of supply-side economics. This body of neoliberal thought falsely claims that since obscene wealth in just a few greedy hands will "trickle down" to the rest of us, there is no need for the wealthy to pay higher taxes to fund programs benefiting regular people.

Of course, since Thaler is on the "liberal" Democratic side of the oligarchy, he does magnanimously allow in his Times op-ed that vulnerable people like medical personnel, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions should get the vaccine first. Only then should the rich and famous shove ahead of the rest of us and relabel their selfishness as charity. He writes:

  At that point, perhaps sometime early this winter, suppose a small proportion of doses are sold in what would amount to a charity auction. Who might be the winning bidders? Very wealthy individuals and high-tech companies are likely to account for some of the demand, along with businesses that employ high-profile talent like professional athletes and entertainers. Just imagine how much the National Basketball Association, whose season will start , around Christmas, would be willing to pay to ensure that none of its players or staff would be infected! The same goes for Hollywood studios and television production companies that are eager to go back to work.

Thaler rationalizes this grotesque shamelessness by marketing it, as I mentioned above, as a kind of trickle-down protection for the unvaccinated teeming masses. He never mentions just how this voluntary largesse would be distributed to the poor and less fortunate. Maybe it's because philanthrocapitalists rarely give their cash directly to those who need it. Rather, they park it in one another's tax exempt foundations and other financial shelters.

Still not buying the charity auction of vaccine idea, proles? Not to worry. Thaler next grabs the concept of Lesser Evilism out of his bag of neoliberal tricks. If we don't allow the Elite to get the vaccine before we do, a "gray or black market" trafficking in precious vaccine is bound to emerge. So nudge yourselves into accepting the class system as an immutable law of nature. Rich and powerful people always have gotten superior health care, so it is no use complaining. Especially now, at this dangerous time. 

Thaler writes that eventually, we should all be required to carry a health photo ID and passport with proof of vaccination at all times. We need to be "nudged" in the right direction using whatever tactics of fear and intimidation that it takes for the Elite to get the Plutonomy (an economy for the richest) moving again and people toiling again.

 If Ebenezer Scrooge had found redemption today instead of nearly two centuries ago, he would have given Bob Cratchit a supermarket discount coupon instead of a Christmas turkey and a deferred tax credit instead of a raise. He would have promised to give Tiny Tim access to affordable health care once he reached early adulthood, or middle age at the very latest. He would have urged them all to hold on for just a little bit longer as he himself voraciously sought and received glowing publicity for the awe-inspiring miracle of his own new-found wokeness and the glory of his good intentions.

Rather than use their platforms to try to shame and pressure the Congress, which they have bought and paid for, to do right by the people, our own modern plague-profiting Scrooges are outdoing themselves with various humanitarian pledges. Even in the middle of a pandemic when millions of people are sickening and dying and going hungry and losing their homes and their jobs, the Season of Noblesse Obligin' must never be canceled.  The obscenely wealthy are at it again, investing in atonement hedge funds, and betting heavily on no-risk moral default swaps.

Miracle of miracles, their Christmas future is not at all the horrific nightmare one that Charles Dickens prescribed for Scrooge. Their Christmas future is right now, in the form of positive coverage of their aspirational  beneficence.

 If 2050 rolls around, and the world's worst polluting capitalists have not, after all, attained their noble goal of trapping all that excess carbon in special underground vats, will anybody remember what they promised back in 2020? Will anybody still be alive in 2050 to bother holding them to their promise?

The whole objective is to make environmentalists shut up during this sacred season and to "nudge" the Biden administration into going easy on its own aspirational executive orders. And the corporate media are only too happy to help spread feel-good propaganda messages like this one:  

CHICAGO, Dec 10 (Reuters) - United Airlines said on Thursday it had committed to a multimillion-dollar investment in a project to remove carbon dioxide from the air through air direct-capture technology as part of a plan to be 100% “green” by 2050. The project, 1PointFive, is a partnership between Occidental Petroleum Corp subsidiary Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and Rusheen Capital Management that plans to build the first U.S. industrial-sized direct air capture plant that would permanently sequester 1 million tons of CO2 each year.That’s the equivalent of what 40 million trees can do, but covering a land area about 3,000 times smaller, United said, adding that direct-capture technology is one of the few proven ways to correct for aircraft emissions.United declined to provide further details on the investment amount. (my bold)

(And the Reuters reporter certainly didn't insist upon any.)

Meanwhile, to deflect attention from the disproportionate Black morbidity and mortality rate from Covid-19 (as a direct result of  overcrowded housing and the higher rates of pollution in poor neighborhoods), a consortium of corporate CEOs have just announced, to great fanfare, that they will be hiring a million more Black employees.... by the end of the decade. They were shattered, they say, by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. They have therefore pledged to begin a start-up to conduct a study to identify potential job applicants.

If these people think that we're all snoozing while they proclaim how Woke they are, then they're the ones who are dreaming. They can plaster the charity label on their massive campaign of theft, oppression and pollution all they want, they can try and "nudge" us into accepting their nonsensical nostrums and agenda of harm all they want. But we're on to the Con. Or at least we should be.

Who can't but notice, for example, the stark derangement of Special Climate Envoy John Kerry, who is actually trying to recast big polluting subsidized oil companies as sympathetic plague victims?

 "I'm reaching out to them because I want to hear from them," he told NPR. "I'm listening to what their needs are so I can understand what the possibilities may be."

"'Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. 'Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!'” -- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Let Them Smoke Dope

  "It would be stupidity on steroids" for Congress not to pass a pandemic bill whose essential core is the shielding of employers from liability for workers who get sick from Covid-19, either by being forced back on the job, or being forced to work under unsafe conditions. So said multimillionaire Senator Mark Warner on the unveiling of bipartisan legislation which would also cut already-expired federal unemployment benefits right in half, forgo sending Americans a second round of $1200 stimulus checks, and utterly fail to protect people from a looming spate of evictions and foreclosures.

Democrats, after pretending for months that this liability shield was the only obstacle to them agreeing to the much more generous package then being proffered by Republicans, now plead that it's the best we can hope for. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo helped foam that runway for them when he absolved New York nursing home operators from culpability as the virus rampaged through his state's care facilities last spring. He was then handsomely rewarded, not only with campaign contributions from the same operators, but with a special Emmy award for his performance artistry during press conferences. There's a lot more money where that came from, from nursing home lobbyists and myriad other corporate predators, and Congress critters of both parties all over Plague Nation have their grasping arms stretched out so far they're practically dislocated from their shoulders.

Since it would indeed be stupidity on steroids for them to stop enabling capitalism on crack, the House of Representatives went whole hog and also finally voted to decriminalize marijuana last week. The stated objective is to rectify the institutional racism which has disproportionately jailed Black and Brown people for minor drug convictions.

 From the New York Times:

“The effects of marijuana prohibition have been particularly felt by communities of color because it has meant that people from the communities couldn’t get jobs,” Representative Jerry Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview.

Mr. Nadler, who spearheaded the legislation with Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California and the vice president-elect, described the collateral consequences of a conviction for marijuana possession as creating “an often-permanent second-class status for millions of Americans.”

 The subliminal objectives of what amounts to a political stunt are twofold  First, Joe Biden, one of the leading instigators of the War on Drugs and the ensuing mass incarceration via his 1994 Crime Bill, can be seen as redeeming himself. Second, by tacitly (and ever so magnanimously) encouraging people to smoke pot, politicians from both parties hope to deflect attention from the fact that no pandemic relief is coming, and that the political class has abandoned people during the worst public health crisis in US history.

As of last week, Covid-19 is now the official leading cause of death in America. Some 11,000 additional people died of the virus in just the last week of November, with the death toll expected to reach half a million by March - when, President-elect Joe Biden desultorily forecasts, a more robust "stimulus" package may or may not come to pass. In the meantime, folks, just try to hang on. Smoke a little pot. But if you get the munchies, you're on your own. Maybe you can look at Youtube clips of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bragging about her designer ice cream stash before she "caved" to Republicans.

 Everybody must get stoned in one way or another. Can it also be a coincidence that even Bob Dylan just caved and has sold his entire catalog to the music publishing division of Vivendi, the giant media conglomerate headquartered in France? Now owning one of the "Big Three" recording giants, Vivendi has recovered from a series of bankruptcies because of overleveraging. In 2002, Mitt Romney's Bain Capital was among the private equity vultures that swooped down to glut themselves on the leavings. 

Mitt Romney is also an integral  part of the small bipartisan Congressional cabal which authored the latest corporation-friendly Covid-19 relief package. It's a small world, a big club, and -- altogether now - You Ain't In It.

As Mitt Romney would say, if you haven't stashed away that first and only $1200 stimulus check like Nancy Pelosi's ice cream, or if you foolishly blew your entire temporary unemployment windfall on food and rent, then you obviously don't care anything for your own lives. You didn't save for the proverbial rainy day. He won't even let you ease the pain of plague-enhanced bipartisan austerity by letting you smoke marijuana for medical reasons. He'll fight legalization with his whitened teeth, his manicured nails and his gleaming little stones.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Snap, Cackle, Prop(aganda)

 The unavoidably ubiquitous Barack Obama went on Snapchat the other day to advise people who are fed up with police brutality to just snap the hell out of it and avoid using such "snappy slogans" as Defund the Police. By placing more importance on their own lives than upon the fortunes of Democratic Party politicians, Obama chided, activists risk not getting what they want. They risk alienating a whole alleged country full of racist voters through their shrill insistence upon the right to live.

If that scapegoating and gaslighting isn't humorous enough for you, Barack and Michelle Obama will also be producing a new comedy series for Netflix about the madcap morons in the Trump administration. Liberals who've been thriving on virtue-signaling cackles and guffaws during the past four nightmare years cannot just be expected to quit Trump cold turkey, can they? It's not enough that Netflix is  already running a widely-panned film (Hillbilly Elegy) which belittles the Hollywood stereotype of the Trump voter. Citizen-spectators will still need stronger and stronger fixes of Trump while Joe Biden goes about the sober adult work of filling his government with friendlier, smarter, more diverse types of warmongering fascists. Trump withdrawal will get underway with a vengeance before the man even lands back in Mar-a-Lago to found his own media empire and produce his own counterprogramming.

 Netflix subscribers got their early warning a week ago when the streaming giant abruptly announced that it that would be "updating" its pricing policy in order to bring more exciting programs to its dwindling audience. There's no word yet whether Rachel Maddow will cross over from MSNBC to reprise her role as Russiagate maven, or whether the Obamas themselves will make cameo appearances in the docu-comedy  series, or whether there will be a bipartisan Breaking Bad-inspired episode about the Obamas and the Bushes and the Clintons shooting each other up with Covid-19 vaccine on live TV. 

The working title of the series is "When They Go Low, We Do Low Comedy." Only kidding! The actual working title, according to Vanity Fair, is "The G Word." Don't ask me what the G stands for, but it probably has something to do with graft or grift or maybe it's grandiose or grotesque or gruesome. From the article:

Ayway, The G Word will reportedly be “part documentary, part comedy sketch,” and we do hope that at least one episode has a sort of Drunk History vibe, with someone loaded and slurring while recounting Kushner pounding his fists on the desk and yelling, “Do you know who my father is??” We also hope that that episode follows in the footsteps of the Obamas’ first documentary, American Factory, and wins a slew of awards even though that’ll probably result in Trump shitting out his small intestine.

Thank goodness for the mature elite media counternarrative to Trump's soul-destroying vulgarity.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Resisting Neoliberal Mollification

  It's probably just a coincidence, but almost as soon as I signed up for Biden Transition updates, I started getting spammed by something called the Ozy Daily Dose. At first, assuming that they were just the latest snake oil come-ons from Dr. Oz, I trashed them. But late last week, one particular email slugged The Power Brokers of the Biden Era so piqued my interest that I threw caution to the winds and I opened it.

"They may not be in the White House" Ozy teasingly dished. "but that doesn’t matter. While Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks dominated headlines this past week, the truth is that most Washington policymaking happens behind the scenes long before it lands in front of the federal agencies or on the Resolute Desk. Today we explore the Biden power brokers who may not be obvious from the outside but will play crucial roles across the country — and the world — for the incoming president." 

I was duly dosed with a list of five names (including two couples) who will be operating as a kind of deep state cabinet pulling all the strings at Joe Biden's White House. In apparent order of importance, these alleged top-secret enforcers are Barack and Michelle Obama, former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and.... Kim Kardashian.

Kim Kardashian?!?

Yes, gentle readers, The Daily Dose is pure claptrap. But it is claptrap conceived by two Goldman Sachs alum-chums and spread like a social disease thanks to the lavish financing of billionaire Apple heiress Laurene Powell Jobs and other investors. It is not your ordinary spam. It is undiluted neoliberal propaganda filet of prime spam in a gold-plated can.

Before I get any further into the oligarchic power behind Ozy, their rationale for choosing the Obamas as Number One power brokers is interesting, to say the least:

The cachet they have, both with the Black community and Democrats in general, will be key in mollifying the base even as Biden potentially faces a struggle to get legislation passed through a closely divided Congress — whether or not Democrats nab the Senate with a Georgia double.

In other words, Barack and Michelle are the designated drugs with which to anesthetize people as they're being sliced and diced into even tinier little pieces by neoliberal capitalism's relentless scalpel. Barack, in particular, is preternaturally adept at mollifying people. As he himself blandly acknowledges in the latest volume of his auto-mythography, he was able to mollify untold thousands of people with his drones. He had to mollify them in order to save them, before they ruined their own lives with all the bad choices they were making.

"In places like Yemen and Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, the lives of millions of young men...had been warped and stunted by desperation, ignorance, dreams of religious glory, the violence of their surroundings, or the schemes of older men. They were dangerous, these young men, often deliberately and casually cruel. Still, in the aggregate, at least, I wanted somehow to save them — send them to school, give them a trade, drain them of the hate that had been filling their heads.

"And yet the world they were a part of, and the machinery I commanded, more often had me killing them instead."

 If only Kim Kardashian had just a hundredth of the influence that the chill and chilling Barack Obama has, we might actually stand a chance to survive the Great Mollification that the oligarchy is prescribing for us. Kim just wants to release a few carefully selected people from prison from time to time and co-opt the racial justice movement to burnish her own brand, without caring at all that her fellow neoliberals are co-opting her at the same time to put the gloss of sex and celebrity on their reign of economic terror.

The Ozy Media Empire is there to help them achieve their goal of anesthetizing the public and tamping down social movements against the most extreme wealth disparities in human history.  Not for nothing is their target audience the "millennials" who are gravitating to socialism in ever increasing numbers because a government owned and operated by billionaires has nothing to offer people but a whole lifetime of debt and precarity. And not for nothing is Ozy's "power broker" listicle sponsored by Noom, a Dr. Oz-like diet and lifestyle app accused in a class action lawsuit of bilking its customers out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ozy is literally almost everywhere. Ozy is to media as Amazon is to commerce. From Forbes:

In addition to offering daily content through their digital platform, OZY currently powers three primetime television shows on PBS and the BBC, with a growing slate of programming in development. Their podcast, The Thread, is entering its third season, while their annual OZY Fest steps into its fourth year, merging live music and curated conversations with leaders across industries. OZY currently services 3 million subscribers, with a loyal audience of over 40 million followers.

 (Now, those numbers are fudged at an even greater rate than Donald Trump inflated his own inauguration numbers. Since I am unwillingly on their email list, I am counted a subscriber. They could have gotten my name and address from the Biden team. But they could just have easily gotten it from the email list of the New York Times, with whom they partner. When they talk about the corporate media being consolidated, they certainly ain't kidding!)

Although they're as scammy as Dr. Oz and aim to be as quirkily cool as Ozzie Osbourne, the name of this media megalith actually comes from the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem Ozymandias. 

Since the poem is about a "colossal wreck" of a bygone pathological narcissist whose legless and armless monument is now crumbling in the desert, you might be tempted to think that the Ozy honchos are either being archly self-referential, or that they're too ignorant to realize Shelley was insulting oligarchs. 

But co-founder Carlos Watson puts his own interpretation on the poem. Shelley, it seems, simply didn't know what he was writing about. Watson says:

 The poem is commonly read as a warning against outsized egos and the impermanence of power. But we choose to read it differently. To us, it's a call to think big while remaining humble. Admittedly, ours is an unconventional interpretation – because that's who we are. In a world littered with conformity, we like to see things differently.

To that perverted end, Watson cobbles together such humble  trendsetters as Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates and George W. Bush to help his audience feel that they, too, are part of a progressive plutocratic movement where capitalism just keeps right on expanding. He can rewrite history and misinterpret literature and shrill his Ode to the West Wing all he wants, but we, the "pestilence-stricken multitudes," don't have to listen to him no matter how insistently he fills our email folders with his globs of gourmet spam.

Rolling Stone aptly called the most recent Ozy confab "a neoliberal nightmare." Sadly, the last two Ozyfests in Central Park (closed to the public for the for-profit occasion) had to be cancelled, in 2019 because of a capitalism-engendered record heat wave and this year because of the capitalism-enhanced Covid-19 pandemic.

To combat neoliberalism in all its insidious and odious forms, we can take heart from Percy Bysshe Shelley's immortal words of nonviolent resistance in The Masque of Anarchy: 

Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Team Biden's Left Derangement Syndrome

 If you persist in bugging him about climate change and social justice and health care, Joe Biden won't just stop at covering his ears and rescinding that gracious invite to the kiddie table. He'll have one of his lackeys publicly accuse you of being a terrorist.

Not even Donald Trump, refusing to concede the election while willfully ignoring 200,000 daily new cases of Covid-19, has rated that epithet from Team Biden. That is just how much the corporate Democratic Party despises the left.

 From the article "Is the Left Wing Overplaying Its Hand?" in Politico:

"They can  either continue to just beat the drums on the streets or they can start to leverage the relationship they have. It's up to them what strategy they adopt."

The left wing's publicly aggressive tactics could lead Biden to just tune them out altogether. "If all you do is escalate, then people eventually think that you're enemies and not friends and they're like, 'We don't negotiate with terrorists,'" said Jess Morales Rocketto, a Democratic strategist who supports many of the left wing's goals. 

Morales Rocketto was referring to criticism of Biden by the Sunrise Movement for his selection of Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), a recipient of oil industry largesse, for his administration, along with the Justice Democrats and other progressive groups slamming Biden's stuffing the White House with various cronies and lobbyists. Biden has also named his pal Bruce Reed, the architect of the infamous austerian Bowles Simpson "Catfood" Commission, to his staff - an ominous signal that cuts to social programs in the middle of a pandemic are very much on the grownups' table.

By mouthing her assurances that she shares progressive goals with the same groups that she also obliquely accuses of terrorism, Morales Rocketto is of course engaging in nothing but good old fashioned gaslighting.

You might be tempted to buy into her sincerity and working class bona fides, given her leadership position in the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She certainly sounds like she might be a former housekeeper, nanny or caregiver who rose through the ranks to organize, doesn't she? And her group certainly sounds like a labor union.

She's not, and it isn't. The Alliance is a Democratic Party-linked advocacy organization whose objective is putting a working class and community organizing gloss on the corporate party while herding real domestic workers to the polls. It also purports to help low-paid servants to "improve their skills" in such areas as preparing nutritious meals for the children of their wealthy employers. For $5 a month, anyone can join this club and be part of the "movement" and even sign up for medical and dental discounts and special deals on theme park tickets. 

Before embarking on her current dual roles of bashing progressives as domestic terrorists while purporting to champion domestic workers, Morales Rocketto was employed by Obama For America, Hillary For America, and the Democratic National Committee. She won a coveted spot on Time Magazine's "Next 100"" roster in 2019, even scoring a written tribute from Hillary Rodham Clinton herself.

And since she's friends with George Clooney and in her "most badass" accomplishment ever, once confronted Ted Cruz in an elevator while she works tirelessly raising millions of dollars to reunite parents and children at the border, could Team Biden have possibly picked a better surrogate with which to attack the left and tamp down all that rude talk of climate justice, health justice and social justice?

One thing they aren't considering: that the critics and the protesters and the agitators might not even want a seat at Biden's precious table. Maybe getting Hillary Clinton to write nice things about us is not on everybody's bucket list. And who but the most craven careerist would ever want to be to carved up and eaten alive by a gang of criminal goons?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Oligarchic Gaslight In America's Twilight

If the billionaires who own the place want their failing state to turn an even bigger profit for them, their first task is to ensure that the superfluous population keeps fighting among themselves instead of punching up at them, their real oligarchic enemy.  

Only in America could the worst pandemic in modern human history vie for media attention with the tragedy of "divided government" and a supposed mass outbreak of violence and verbal vitriol among ordinary people fighting with each other over masks and political parties that don't care about them. If people weren't supposedly fighting each other all the time, they might stop and remember that three out of every four of them, both conservative and liberal, want the government to provide and finance their health care. And then, if people started making demands to benefit one and benefit all, the media would finally be forced to cover and report on what people really want.

To prevent that from ever happening, we're instead being fed competing stereotypical culture war narratives aimed at deflecting our attention away from the cruelty emanating from the highest of high places and directing our ire toward a whole panoply of Others. Fox News viewers get a cartoon picture of snobbish "woke" latte-sipping socialists and their hired Antifa thugs, while MSNBC fans learn to abhor supposed hordes of racist anti-mask cultists who always vote against their own interests. 

If you don't think that this hand-wringing narrative of Divided Regular Americans is all part of the plan and the "fix," look no further than two articles in Tuesday's New York Times. Regarding the tactics and aims of the ruling oligarchy, they are case studies in both self-contradiction and gaslighting.

The first, concerning "Biden's Economic Plan For the Virus," casts the oligarchs as deeply concerned and caring souls who only want the best for each and every one of us. They care so very much, in fact. that part of their propaganda is aimed at us with actual bullet points:

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris yesterday outlined their plan to help restore the economy while battling the coronavirus, calling on Congress to act immediately and insisting on the need for bipartisan cooperation.

  • Biden and Harris spoke from Wilmington, Del., immediately after meeting via Zoom with business and labor leaders. In his remarks, the president-elect described that conversation as "very encouraging," painting it as an example of his campaign message - national unity - in action.

  • He said that both the C.E.O.s and the union bosses had agreed that the government must act boldly to bring the economy back up to speed. “I wish you could’ve heard — corporate leaders and labor leaders singing the same hymnal here,” he said.
  • That touchy-feely propaganda about a meeting (to which the public was not invited) of a new era of rich and poor being all in this together is directly contradicted by the article in the same issue called "In Georgia, Private Equity Is Investing in Divided Government." Centering around a pair of runoff elections early next year which will determine the Senate majority, it bluntly asserts that without manufactured gridlock, the rich cannot possibly get richer at the expense of everyone else. The fix is in. Despite what their lackey Joe Biden tells us,  the ruling oligarchy doesn't even remotely want to fix what they themselves have broken. And Biden knows it:

    Government gridlock protects private equity’s business model, ensuring that major changes proposed by Democrats, like Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Stop Wall Street Looting Act, won’t become law, Mr. Valadez said. (Richard Valdez of the nonprofit Americans For Financial Reform.) Mr. Biden got the most direct contributions associated with private equity in 2020, but Republican Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, John Cornyn of Texas and Susan Collins of Maine were the next-biggest recipients, reflecting the sector’s preference for divided government.

    Still, the Times must go through the motions of providing fair and balanced propaganda, evidenced by its Dealbook subsidiary's hosting of a concern-trolling online summit starring such oligarchic luminaries as tech mogul Bill Gates, who has no qualms about departing from his own area of expertise to pontificate about vaccine confidence. They're saving Elizabeth Warren for the end of the long day, when people are beginning to get fatigued and tuning out, to prod her about how her mild anti-corruption bill would hurt Wall Street, pretending that it actually has a chance of passing, not to mention ever being enforced if it does get passed after the requisite watering down. They want assurances from Warren that Joe Biden will treat them well, pretending (yet again) that there is a slight chance he will not treat them well while wagging the occasional scolding finger at them for appearance's sake.

    Given his administration appointments so far, they haven't got a worry in the world which they have plundered to near-extinction.