Monday, March 30, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Social distancing? What social distancing? The day after:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Doctor Mengele Rising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Random Thoughts On Frail Existence

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

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

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

So, how is everybody coping? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Let's Hear It For Some Anti-Party Unity

"Well-played, Bernie," simpers Michelle Cottle of the New York Times today as she ever so "gently and gratefully" shoves Sanders into the memory hole that she and her cohort were so feverishly digging for him and for America for the better part of the last year.

Joe Biden is so great and such a savior that even the coronavirus couldn't keep legions of his fans away from the latest batch of Democratic primaries. 

Yes - Michelle Cottle really does come right out and gush that tens or hundreds of thousands of voters unnecessarily exposing themselves to infection is so well worth it so long as it achieves "party unity" and the removal of Donald Trump from office this November.

Cottle further insinuates that the pandemic will only get worse the longer that Sanders "reassesses" his campaign. His supporters must socially distance themselves, pronto, before he kills her. And then Joe Biden will give all of us an avuncular hug... or grope... or if we're really lucky, a long lingering hair-sniff.

 This primary began with a sprawling, at times overwhelming, field of candidates. Campaigns rose and fell and rose again as Democrats agonized over which contender had the best shot at defeating President Trump — their absolute top priority. Once actual voting began, the race quickly boiled down to two clear and competing visions: one of electrifying revolution and one of reassuring restoration.As is often the case in presidential politics, things could have broken a different way based on a thousand different factors. (Just ask Hillary Clinton about that.) But whatever hope Mr. Sanders had of wooing more people into his camp effectively died with the arrival of an apolitical black swan in the form of a pandemic.
When Biden won South Carolina and Barack Obama put his discreet thumb on the magical scales to effect a veritable party convention of centrists to nominate Uncle Joe, the pandemic was still only a blip on the media radar. Those were still the days when Russia was the only existential threat, newly encapsulated by Democratic propagandists in the person of Bernie Sanders. 

That the pandemic has had little to nothing to do with Bernie's defeat is beside the point when it becomes a talking point.

But in order to cover their own asses, all that Michelle Cottle and all the folks at the Times, the Post, and MSDNC have to do is pivot from red-baiting to disease-baiting Bernie Sanders. At the same time, they pretend that Biden's wins actually mean something.

Cottle cynically and cloyingly absolves the media of all blame for Bernie's losses , ridiculously claiming that he can't go on TV as much to make his case because the pandemic is interfering with all the positive coverage he allegedly would have gotten after their coverage of Amy Klobuchar's fifth place victory over Bernie's first place showing in Nevada. Or was it New Hampshire?

The thundering hooves of the mainstream media's horserace coverage are like the pitter-patter of tiny raindrops compared to the pandemic. The election has faded in importance in the space of a nanosecond, but still they persist in obsessively fact-checking Donald Trump, as though his lies were more deadly than the lethal virus.

Who cares about Biden or any of them when the lack of toilet paper is second only to the daily overriding fear of the premature deaths of ourselves and our loved ones?

The corporate media, even as they boast of reporting from the quarantined confines of their luxury basement bunkers, certainly seem to care. They have been too well-programmed with the official petty narratives to abandon them just because of a pesky old plague.

"On Tuesday night, the cable news shows kept interrupting their analyses of the primary results for virus updates," Michelle Cottle disingenuously marvels in her own alleged analysis of the death of Bernie's "brand."

My published response to her clueless condescension:

And well-played, New York Times, for the relentless campaign of red-baiting and fear-mongering and marketing of the sexist "Bernie Bro" trope that helped to give us Joe Biden.
Bernie or no Bernie, the revolution from neoliberal predatory capitalism to social democracy is already underway, courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic. Shrill cries from centrists of "but how you gonna pay for that?" are already turning into distant memories.
  The cry for "party unity" is also sounding more grotesque by the minute, given that what we really need is human unity on a scale not seen since who knows when. Biden's latest victories are pyrrhic ones, especially in light of the Democrats refusing to cancel Tuesday's primaries and willfully herding vulnerable older people in large crowds into polling places. Since Biden's victory was all but guaranteed anyway by superdelegates regardless of the once-feared Sanders plurality, the continuing marketing of illusory participatory democracy is both stupid and cruel 
History, if we do have a history, will remember Bernie as a kind man who stuck to his principles and simultaneously and tragically lacked the necessary cutthroat political skills to call out Biden's right-wing career until it was far too late. That is my main beef with Bernie. He put comity over taking the gloves off on behalf of his millions of supporters.
  Lesson learned. Revolution never comes from within a presidential campaign or from elected officials.
On that note, the enforced isolation of the pandemic has not had the desired or expected effect of people crying on their couches as they hope against hope for Biden Party Unity as the panacea against both disease and against Trump.

New York's Upstate-Downstate Housing Alliance, to which I have belonged for the past year, just succeeded in enforcing a statewide moratorium on evictions. That's not good enough, though, so we are now clamoring for a moratorium on all mortgage, rent and utility payments for the duration of the catastrophe. Looming rent strikes and other boycotts of capitalism are what's scaring both sorry sides of our political duopoly into issuing stimulus checks for every American. It's not because they love us. They're perfectly OK if we die, but they're also desperate to win elections and hold on to power.

They will soon get the message that their one or two thousand bucks aren't going to cut it.

I see us going the way of Britain, for hundreds of years one of the most class-based and imperialistic countries on the planet, answering  its physical, emotional and economic post-World War II trauma with the National Health Service.

The unicorns and puppies once so derided by neoliberal naysayers and corporate shills are already dancing in the detritus of this horrific viral pandemic. Medicare For All is coming for those of us lucky enough to survive the last gasp of neoliberlal capitalism.

Monday, March 16, 2020

In the Good Old Hunkertime

Before the CNN Go! app which streamed the Democratic debate got up and went, I managed to watch about half of last night's show. Either Joe Biden was fed massive doses of a secret stimulant drug before airtime, or what we saw was a cyborg standing in for Joe Biden. He utterly failed to meet expectations for one of his epic freeze-ups or terminal meltdowns. Pick your metaphor. Because  Biden actually sounded more coherent than he has in many years.

He sounded especially and chillingly cogent when he echoed the neoliberal talking point that Medicare For All is not the miracle drug we need to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Look at Italy, he scoffed. They have guaranteed care and people are still dying. What we need is a surge, folks, as in the military. Never mind that the military enjoys its own socialistic health care delivery system.

As far as Bernie was concerned, what a thrill that not once did he utter the dreaded words "Joe is a good friend of mine" during the debate. Although Joe "won" the night simply by sounding minimally and shockingly coherent, Bernie won the night by expressing more empathy for suffering people than Biden has ever been capable of in the whole last half century of his right-wing political career.

With massive lock-downs being ordered by the hour and state primaries being cancelled, it is even becoming doubtful that Biden will have the requisite number of delegates to win the nomination in the traditional way. The other week, I was half-joking when I speculated that the convention will be cancelled and that a small group of elite Democratic officials will nominate Biden or another corporate tool aboard billionaire megadonor Dave Geffen's deep-cleaned jumbo luxury yacht.

And that brings up the general election itself. Although Donald Trump does not have it within his emergency powers to call it off, states themselves could postpone the election if the virus is still raging. By the time November comes around, we may have full-fledged anarchy, or rule by military junta (Biden's "surge") or at best, rule by individual mayors, governors and local councils.

The "future" as a concept has been turned right on its ear. So has the all-American religion of consumerism.

Either wealth begins to be immediately redistributed to ordinary people in the form of a permanent and universal guaranteed income, or ordinary people will begin taking matters into their own hands if they don't first begin succumbing to starvation, chronic maladies, violence, exposure and despair in such record numbers that they will swamp the COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates.

I hate to clue Uncle Joe in, but we're in the middle of a revolution right now, whether he likes it or not. He can take a return to the glorious Obama years and shove it.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Everybody Is An Exile

Like many of you, I am seesawing between mild concern to barely suppressed panic during the COVID-19 pandemic. As an over-60 person with a few chronic health issues, including intermittent asthma, I am among the millions at increased risk of death if I get sick. So I am self-isolating, and hoping for the best. 

My son and daughter-in-law both have careers that bring them in intimate daily contact with distressed and/or sick people. I especially fear for their safety, because it is just about inevitable that they will be exposed to the virus. Then, best case scenario, they'll have to self-quarantine.

 What is truly scary is that those whose careers are in health and public safety will be out of commission in ever increasing numbers. People increasingly will be completely on their own.

The response at the highest levels of government itself has been nothing short of sickening. The Federal Reserve was lighting-quick to pump a trillion and a half dollars into Wall Street without so much as a "but how you gonna pay for it?" The US Senate, for its part, left town without voting on Nancy Pelosi's dismal House bill offering such a pittance to regular people that it amounts to a slap in the face. Most workers will not in fact qualify for paid sick leave. 

The richest oligarchs and the biggest corporations (read: the political donor class) have been carefully exempted from having to compensate their sick workers and family caregivers. Jeff Bezos will not have to spend one dime of his vast obscene fortune to do right by his Amazon employees.

Just as the banks were deemed too big to fail when the financial system crashed in 2008, corporations are being deemed too big to be humane while enjoying their own human rights under the Citizens United ruling and their socialism-for- the rich handouts.

Meanwhile, the corporate media are covering the government's free virus testing concession as a major victory. But something so radical as actual free medical treatment for sick people?? Not so much. 

But cheer up, proles, because some Internet cable companies have magnanimously pledged not to cut people off from service for 60 days when they lose their income and can't pay the bill .Oh, and Walmart and other retailers have generously offered their parking lots as testing venues. Transportation is on you. Sickness is no excuse not to have skin in the game and abandon your personal responsibility.

So here's the existential dilemma. How are normal people supposed to join together in solidarity and protest when we must isolate ourselves in order to barely keep on existing? As it stands, the Internet is a lifeline absolutely necessary for children to learn and friends and families to communicate. Forget about 60 days of guaranteed service and late fee waivers. The Internet should be permanently declared a public utility, owned and controlled by the public. It shouldn't cost anything.

Predatory capitalism dies so, so hard. 


If you watched Donald Trump's grotesque press conference in the Rose Garden yesterday, and you were already feeling queasy, his performance amid a supporting cast of loathsome disaster profiteers from the retail and drug companies was enough to make you reach for the barf bowl. As proof that late stage capitalism is at its very core profoundly stupid as well as banally evil, the way that the assembled tycoons and sycophants glad-handed each other shows they truly believe that their wealth makes them impervious to what strikes terror into the hearts of mere mortals.

The way that Creepy Veepy Mike Pence paid homage to Trump  and licked his shoes made me fear that he'll come down with hoof and mouth disease along with the Coronavirus that Trump has been exposed to on more than one occasion.

Here's the New York Times comment I wrote on Maureen Dowd's column, "Plagued By the President":
Trump might brag about being untested, but the fact remains that he has been tested and found pitifully and severely wanting - no more so than during this past week.
 If Trump could carry a tune as well as he carries polluted water for his oligarchic cronies, he would have burst into song at the press con which conned nobody, not even the sycophants and Trump rat packers with the dollar signs glittering in their eyes. The aging obese Sinatra wannabe effectively wheezed out "call me irresponsible, call me unreliable, throw in undependable too."
Do his foolish alibis bore us? Uh-huh.
 Do we think he's not too clever, but still adores us? Yes to the first, hell no to the second. He bores us and scares us to death at the same time.
It's undeniably true that he's irresponsibly mad. Not about you, though. He is just plain mad. Not the criminally insane kind, because then we'd have to forgive him for he knows not what he does. It would take until the end of time for all the millions of people he has harmed and continues to harm with his vile words and cruel policies to read out their victim impact statements.
 The bejeweled prosperity gospel charlatans and their GOP cohort peddle their snake oil and lay their hands on Trump and tell us to pray away the plague the same way they told the LGBT community to pray away the gay, But judging from his ever deeper bronzed facial hue, Trump seems to have been self-isolating in the White House tanning bed. Maybe he's trying to burn away the germ.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Love and Greed In the Time of Coronavirus

The tipping point finally arrived on Wednesday. It was the day most people realized that the coronavirus pandemic is not a minor, "this too shall pass" inconvenience, or the kind of economic downturn amenable to the usual massive government bailouts of the rich and the comfortable, and punishments for everyone else.

This time is different. It was only a couple of days ago that the rich were still smugly kvelling that yes indeed, they are different from you and me. That famous observation by F. Scott Fitzgerald and its retort, allegedly by Ernest Hemingway - "yes, they have more money!" - have not been viewed by the Ruling Class Racketeers as either a withering critique or joke. It was both a compliment and a badge of honor.

Even as the new plague was overspreading a woefully unprepared globe, Wall Street erupted with glee last week when Joe Biden crushed Bernie Sanders in Democratic primary elections. On the day after Super Tuesday, predatory insurance companies gained $48 billion in "market value."

Today, that same stock market effectively crashed as Donald Trump unilaterally banned airline travel from Europe to the United States.

If that wasn't bad enough, Hollywood megastar and Democratic Party donor Tom Hanks announced that he and his wife had contracted the coronavirus. Although one may assume that they have excellent private health insurance and a whole team of round the clock doctors and nurses catering to their every health care need, the news that the rich's bodies are not so different from yours and mine - that they are made up of the same immune systems, flesh and bone and tissue - is vying with news of rationed ventilators in Italy and toilet paper shortages everywhere.

The plague suddenly has gotten very real. Everything is being cancelled, from the basketball playoffs to the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City, which actually threatens to be de-gentrified as the wealthy flee to their country homes and their yachts, much as the nobility fled the cities during the plagues of the Middle Ages.

To call these ripple or even domino effects is a bit bland. Wait until the Amazon fulfillment centers can no longer fulfill. Not only because their underpaid and overworked and uninsured workers get sick, but because the merchandise is no longer being delivered, let alone manufactured.

Maybe then they'll finally start calling it a plague.

As Albert Camus wrote in his famous novel of the same name (La Peste):
"Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise....
"When a war breaks out, people say 'it's too stupid, it can't last long.' But though a war may well be 'too stupid,' that doesn't prevent it lasting. Stupidity has a knack for getting its way, as we should see if we were not so much wrapped up in ourselves."
The current plague will either be the end of globalized neoliberal capitalism, or it will be the toxic engine turning our carceral/surveillance oligarchic system into a full-fledged global totalitarian police state.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump's solution to the catastrophe - besides building both virtual and physical walls to keep the enemy immigrants and germs out - is to bail out his own hotel chain and to offer low interest loans to businesses. He also aims to stealthily destroy the Social Security trust fund by imposing a "temporary" payroll tax holiday.

For their own part, the congressional Democrats are offering insufficient increases in nutrition programs, mandatory sick days and expanded Medicare  for coronavirus, but not for other medical conditions. Think of the deliberately complicated paperwork and stress on an already over-stressed health care system. Think of the deliberate shortage of government bureaucrats necessary to handle the paperwork. "We meant well" will be repeated by the minute.

 To put the paltriness and the downright cynicism in perspective, the $250 million in additional funds they propose for Meals on Wheels tor the vulnerable elderly is less than half the amount that Michael Bloomberg just spent on his aborted presidential run.

Bernie Sanders has one last chance to make a moral case for his agenda when he debates Joe Biden in Arizona in D.C. this weekend. If we don't acknowledge that we're all in this together, we might as well start placing bets on what will kill us first: the coronavirus, or pathological neoliberal capitalism.


On to New York Times comments.

Paul Krugman is calling for a permanent stimulus package. Unfortunately, since he aimed his post at what he calls "a very wonky audience" and not normal people, it did not get the prominent placement in the regular opinion section or the audience it deserved. Perhaps if it had contained the requisite Bernie-bashing to accompany its dig at Joe Biden, it would have fared better in the product placement department. This one was a bit of an off-brand outlier, published when the Times was still publishing coronavirus updates next to a weirdly cheerful BP-ish avatar. He writes:
OK, if you’re still with me: I hereby propose that the next U.S. president and Congress move to permanently spend an additional 2 percent of GDP on public investment, broadly defined (infrastructure, for sure, but also things like R&D and child development) — and not pay for it.
Of course, Krugman waited until Bernie had been safely trounced by Biden to espouse what sounds awfully close to the anti-austerian Modern Monetary Theory championed by Sanders's economic adviser Stephanie Kelton and others, and which Krugman has previously derided.

My published comment:
If you're a normal human being reading this post, it makes perfect sense even if you don't understand the wonky charts and math. The message of a more humane and rational way of doing things still comes through.
 Trouble is, the politicians running the place are not normal human beings in that their fealty to the donor class of plutocrats has literally removed them from reality. The only norms they seem to care about are the rhetorical ones that Trump violates each and every day. It's that he is just so darned vulgar about trampling over the poor and working class.
 Never mind just him and a possible President Joe not welcoming Paul Krugman's suggestion for a permanent stimulus. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked the spirit of her guru, the late billionaire austerian Pete Peterson when she successfully restored the "PayGo" rule last year. Only three of her Democratic members (including AOC) dissented from the requirement that all new deficit spending be offset by cuts to other programs. Exceptions would be made for emergencies like pandemics but of course then everything goes back to abnormal as soon as is inhumanely possible.
  You'd think, wouldn't you, that all the critics of single payer health care would finally realize that allowing 80 million people to remain underinsured or lack any coverage all is not only cruel to them but injurious to the economy. The louder the centrists shriek "but how you gonna pay for that" at presidential debates, the more abnormal they sound.
And here's my response to Krugman's subsequent column, on Trump's refusal to acknowledge that a pandemic even exists - all of a piece with the whole history of right-wing denialism. (Of course, the Democrats at least have the grace to admit when a problem exists before not solving it, for which we should be eternally grateful!) His column was written before Trump finally went on TV Wednesday night to struggle through a tortured teleprompter rendering of "if we think it, it will leave."

My published comment:
Not that I wish anybody ill, but you do have to acknowledge the serendipity of Trump being exposed by N degrees of separation to the coronavirus at CPAC. If that's not the height of irony in this age of willful reactionary ignorance, I don't know what is.
 It turns out that Republicans are a lot more fact-based than they want to admit, once they start quarantining their own depraved cowardly selves out of an abundance of self-protective caution and everybody else be damned.
Today it's Ted Cruz in Texas. Dare we hope that tomorrow it might be Trump in Mar-a-Lago? While he's resting up and luxuriating in a tubful of gallons of black market hand sanitizer, he might even be convinced (lulled? terrorized?) to sign legislation sending stimulus checks to every man, woman and child in America - if only as a blatant Hail Mary pass to stimulate his fevered base's enthusiasm for his increasingly fragile reelection campaign.
 But seriously, I can also foresee him cancelling the election entirely due to the state of emergency that he himself has exacerbated by dint of his own criminal narcissism. His pal Rudy Giuliani almost succeeded in cancelling the mayoral election after the 9/11 panic, after all.
As far as the "market" and investor anxiety over the plutonomy is concerned, pardon me if I don't feel as sympathetic as I probably should. If Wall Street finally stops profiting off pollution, wars, and the misery and preventable premature deaths of others - I say tough cookies.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Trump Fears Bernie, Not Biden

With the coronavirus spreading and the economy crashing, Donald Trump is said to be desperate for Joe Biden to hurry up and win the nomination over Bernie Sanders. 

But he is damned if he does get his wish, and he's damned if he doesn't.

First of all, Biden is so far to the right that he might as well be a Republican himself. Trump, who has vowed to cut Social Security and Medicare, will be hard pressed either to pay grudging homage to Biden's own long crusade to cut Social Security and Medicare, or he will forced to publicly defend FDR's New Deal from Biden's depredations. Neither tactic is likely to make him feel comfortable. Then again, he's always bragged that he thinks the avoidance of hypocrisy is for chumps. And it certainly would not be the first time he attacked an opponent from the fake-left. 

A Trump/Biden general election would play out more like the GOP primary which Trump thought he'd avoided as the incumbent president. So unless the campaign devolves into two old reactionaries arm-wrestling or holding push-up contests or trading ornery senile insults on the debate stage, this match-up would be quite the yawn if its only theme is "Corruption V. Corruption."  Turnout also likely would be quite low; the youth vote in particular, which has thus far failed to materialize for Bernie in the vast numbers predicted, would effectively be nonexistent in the general. 

In Michigan, where some of Bernie's poll numbers lag behind Biden's by more than 20 points on the eve of the primary, Biden has already beaten Trump to the punch in 2016 by endorsing, in a $200,000 paid speech, Republican Fred Upton in his ultimately successful congressional run. The Democratic establishment has studiously avoided confronting this inconvenient fact in its own desperate attempt to construct a millimeter of space between the two right-wing reprobates.

  There is no possible way that Trump would ever be able to successfully accuse his fellow racist, sexist, corrupted corporate tool of being a socialist, as he is wont to do with Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the "Opposition."  His supporters are not as stupid as they're made out to be by the liberal press.  The awful, uncomfortable truth is that Trump and Biden are more alike than they're different.

 To achieve the continued enthusiasm and rally turnout of human bodies to which he is accustomed, Trump would much prefer to stick to the tried and true (but false) GOP narrative of the "radical" Democratic Party - to which he himself belonged in the not so distant past. 

It's really hard to accuse Joe Biden of being soft on immigration when activist Latinos heckle him at nearly every event for his own cruel deportation record in the Obama administration. Biden was Obama's xenophobic point man in Latin America, strong-arming leaders in Mexico and elsewhere to keep Central American refugees far, far away from the US border.

So unlike the liberal donor class and the liberal punditocracy, Trump appears not to have written off Bernie Sanders quite yet. Unlike Biden, Bernie has an actual moral leg to stand on when he's standing up to Trump. 

It could be that, unlike the Democratic establishment, Trump pays some actual serious attention to other polls revealing that Bernie has an even better chance of beating him that Biden does.

Trump's America First Action Super PAC is certainly worried enough, or pretending to be worried enough, to have sent out the following S.O.S.  over the weekend:
I'm going to keep this email short and blunt.
We must move quickly before things take a turn for the worse.
Bernie Sanders is building a full-fledged army of socialist grassroots warriors to take down President Trump and Vice President Pence.
It's up to us to put an end to this.
In other words, despite tweets siding with progressives in accusing the Democrats and the media of slimingBernie, Trump is effectively campaigning for Joe Biden on the very eve of the all-important Michigan primary. Just as Hillary Clinton thought she was cleverly installing Trump in 2016 as the "pied piper" candidate who'd be as easy as pie to beat, so too is Trump going full Machiavellian with the bipartisan red-baiting of Sanders.

He wants Biden and he doesn't want Biden. He wants Bernie to be a foil to Biden and he wants to beat Bernie. In other words, he's trying to gaslight everybody into the desired state of confusion. He is the depraved human iteration of Doctor Doolittle's Pushmipullyu. He not only double-talks, he double-talks from every orifice.

I would also quibble a bit with the survival of the "grassroots socialist army" hinging upon Bernie's own electoral fortunes. The movement now has a life of its own and will notfold in the event that Sanders loses the nomination and fulfills his promise ( cringe-worthily reiterated on the Sunday talk shows) that he will campaign for his "good friend" Biden.

It turns out that the America First Action Super PAC might be even more of a head-fake than it it appears. They weren't asking for dollars - of which they have hundreds of millions aplenty from various corporations and oligarchs - but for a signature on a petition. AFA's founder, Randy Perkins. heads AshBritt Environmental, a disaster/defense contractor. Perkins has been accused by various public interest groups of skirting the law which forbids federal contractors from contributing to political parties. Other AFA contributors include mega-donor Sheldon Adelson as well as some of the shady characters associated with Rudy Giuliani and "Ukrainegate."

My conclusion? They want to beat Bernie to install Joe Biden to get Hunter Biden to get the ultimate Russiagate Revenge against the Democrats. And I also think Trump is afraid of Bernie and is mentally sending the Democratic bigwigs a dozen roses and a magnum of Dom Perignon by way of cheap secret thanks for orchestrating his victories.

Whoever said bipartisanship and triangulation are dead is nuts. 

Correction: whoever said bipartisanship and triangulation are dead forgot to notice that this is a Machiavellian Duopoly, whose oligarchic members must sometimes pretend to hate each other to maintain the increasingly fragile illusion that our elections are free, fair and democratic.

So many head-fakes, so little time. 

And this isn't even counting Hillary Clinton's not so stealthy comeback campaign.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Aesthetics of Disaster Capitalism

Why does the New York Times's digital masthead graphic of the deadly coronavirus bear such an uncannily perverse resemblance to the BP logo?

New York Times Serene Green Virus
Cheery Major Polluter Logo

If you thought Donald Trump was the only propagandist trying to soft-pedal a major disaster, think again. 

Think back, for example,  to when the Obama administration engaged in its own shameful cover-up of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion for months until underwater footage of gushing oil finally compelled the president to take one of his kids for a quick dip in the Gulf to prove that no disaster is too horrible to abandon our inner Doctor Pangloss.

 Just as BP still tries to portray itself as an environmentally friendly corporate citizen, it seems that the subtle aim of the Times and the ruling class it serves is to quell fears of the deadly virus by painting it in soothing glossy colors. The Gray Lady's pleasant zen-like Mandala is the exact opposite of the microscopic images which more realistically portray Covid-19 as an angry red ball with spikes,or only slightly less alarmingly as a brownish grayish blob festooned with little hairy tentacles.

Scary, Ugly Reality

New York City, the global wealth capital of the world, now threatens to overtake China and Italy as the Covid-19 capital of the world. The governor declared a state of emergency as known cases statewide have spiked to 89 and are exponentially increasing by the day. Since the viral disease is covered by the corporate media as even more of a  deadly threat to Wall Street profits and plutonomic growth than it is to the health of mere mortals, it is incumbent upon the citizens and readers of the Times to panic responsibly. 

Maybe if we meditate upon the Gray Lady's mandala version of a deadly pathogen we will be more apt - if we're in the wealthy minority - to valiantly continue taking in Broadway shows and shopping at Bergdorf-Goodman for the latest in the increasingly rare lines of designer face masks and hand sanitizers.

The Times, liberal science-believing purveyor of propaganda that it is, at least has the decency to place a realistic yet very discreet black border around its mellow yellow/green serene virus illustration. That proves resistance to Donald Trump, who persists in oafishly viewing the pandemic through his terminally cracked rose- colored glasses. His soul brother Rick Santelli even went on TV to suggest that we quickly infect ourselves just to get it over with, as if we were toddlers whose mothers once thought it was as good time as any to expose the kids to chicken pox before they started school to avoid falling behind the rest of the class.

As far as the still-existing, wildly profitable, unaccountable and climate- destroying BP is concerned, it has recently emerged that the effects of the Gulf "spill" are even worse, nearly 10 years later, than we first thought. Satellite imagery had only revealed two thirds of the total damage. In other words, according to a new study, the hundreds of millions of crude extended to a geographical area 30 percent larger than originally reported. 

And the Trump administration continues to drill down both in criminal ignorance and in grossly accelerated off-shore drilling. Unluckily for the current cast of characters occupying the White House, they can't hide sick and dying and dead people as well as the last occupants were able to hide a sick and dying and dead ocean.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Full-0f-Woe Super Wednesday

Look on the bright side, fellow progressives and socialists. Because as far as Joe Biden is concerned, his slew of primary wins hasn't even happened yet. He thinks that they will happen tomorrow, or on what he adorably dubbed Super Thursday. 

Wednesday's children and Sandernistas might be full of woe today, but just wait until tomorrow. Because while the fortune-telling nursery rhyme predicts that Thursday's child has far to go, Biden will only keep demonstrating how disturbingly far gone he truly is.

Godzillionaire Mike Bloomberg has dropped out. But as of this writing, E
lizabeth Warren was still in, despite coming in third in her own home state of Massachusetts. Her top-secret Super PAC might soon make her an offer she can't refuse, however, and stop writing the checks that are keeping her campaign on life support. My prediction is that she will drop out and repeat what she did in 2016: refuse to endorse Bernie.

I hope I'm wrong, because in refusing to endorse Bernie she will be destroying her progressive brand and burying what is still left of her political career.

I think the original Democratic Party game plan was to keep Liz in the race all the way to the convention, just to siphon votes away from Sanders. I highly doubt that Barack Obama included her with the other candidates he obviously called after Biden's South Carolina win to make them the charm-offensive offers they couldn't refuse. She can't stand Biden, in particular his authorship of the bankruptcy bill favoring credit card companies and banks and punishing regular people, particularly women.

As Biden continues making what are still too kindly being called "gaffes," the media will get over its Super Tuesday group orgasm soon enough. At least Ronald Reagan had his rote acting skills to mask his own dementia most of the time. 

As far as the "shock" of Biden's wins is concerned, remember that until a few weeks ago, he was the front-runner for the better part of a year. He would have to literally stop campaigning and giving interviews from here to the convention to pull off a Reaganesque head-fake. His failure to even campaign in the states he won has itself been a winning strategy up to now. This is largely because the field was so thinly spread. And likely because enough voters were so spooked by the media's relentless fear-mongering and red-baiting that they pulled the lever for someone they think they know.

Now that it's just him and Bernie, Biden can no longer hide while he runs. For its own part, the Democratic Party is so bankrupt that it has made Joe its sacrificial lamb at the altar of the Trump Temple, just to keep an FDR-style liberal like Sanders out of the White House. 

When you think about it, this is really a form of elder abuse by the party leadership. It doesn't matter that Biden's vice president would be the real heir or heiress apparent for 2024 and probably already running things the minute Uncle Joe stumbles through the Oath of Office, should he miraculously beat Trump.

If the rumors are true and Biden names Stacey Abrams his running mate before the nomination, then Sanders will be free to follow suit and prematurely join forces with a firebrand like Nina Turner. 

Thankfully, Bernie did not mention that "Joe is a good friend of mine" in a speech to supporters on Tuesday night. But he did seem compelled to add that "Joe is a decent guy" before noting his vote for the Iraq War, his support for job-destroying trade deals and his career-long crusade to cut Medicare and Social Security. If that's decency, then I don't know what Bernie's definition of pathological cruelty is.

Stay tuned.