Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Crouching Cuomo, Hidden Biden

Is the unified Biden-endorsing Democratic leadership already finessing plans to replace Uncle Joe with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo?

An email slugged "Official Democratic Poll" asking voters nationwide to share their feelings about Cuomo landed in my inbox yesterday:
"In these uncertain times where we're depending on our mayors and governors to save our lives, Andrew Cuomo has shown incredible leadership. He's doing what Trump isn't."
 Of course, the official tracking poll devised by the Stop Republicans.Org data team is essentially fund-raising spam  It's just another name for the Progressive Turnout Project, which is just another name for Progressive Takeover. It's a Chicago-based party veal pen run by a trio of former Obama and congressional campaign operatives. In order to participate in the "poll" attesting that you admire Cuomo and can't stand Donald Trump, you must first give them your money.

The phony poll could also serve double duty, though, to gauge Democratic voter support for a Cuomo run. Uncle Joe, the presumptive nominee, is carefully never even mentioned in the email.

The increasingly fragile-sounding and reclusive Biden certainly must be giving Team Obama some second thoughts. Under the guise of party unity, the manufactured positive Cuomo media coverage and name-dropping could also be the sound of them sharpening the same set of long knives they used to plunge into Bernie Sanders on that infamous South Carolina night only a few months ago.

Then again, they could simply be using Cuomo as a proxy or a magnet, drawing in more voters disenchanted with Biden, who now also faces credible sexual assault charges that he is probably too senile to even respond to personally. In contrast, we are supposed to be irresistibly drawn to a brand of authoritarian thuggery (Cuomo) that sounds a lot more erudite than Trump's ravings.

For the centrist wing of the party, Cuomo is actually too good to be true. He accomplished the single-handed feat of striking Bernie's name from the New York primary ballot before the June voting was ultimately canceled due to the coronavirus. This underhanded ploy served the dual purpose of avoiding the embarrassment of Bernie coming too close to Biden and also discouraging disappointed Sanders voters from showing up at all to cast their ballots for the progressive candidates also running for local and state offices.

Besides outright replacement of Biden, or simply using Cuomo as cover for their zombie candidate in the basement, the third possibility is that the Democrats are not so much interested in winning as they are in raising tons of money as they pretend to "resist Trump." In their cores, they love Trump. He makes their own corruption smell sweet by comparison as they give him most of what he wants. Both parties, after all, serve the same oligarchic masters.

This email push-poll spam is a new tactic for the PTP. It's set up exactly like the Republican email "polls" testing how much you love Trump and hate socialist Dems like Nancy Pelosi, who are so Marxist that they're in bed with Wall Street.

Alex Morgan, the "progressive" group's field director, told The Hill last year that his PAC's $46 million budget would be used to open 66 field offices and hire  1100 workers to knock on the doors of the 7.1 million people who did not come out to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“We don’t waste money on TV ads, direct mail, or anything else that’s just white noise to most voters," he bragged before sending out his own blast of white noise emails this week."We can't rely on the high energy we saw in 2018 to carry over to 2020 unless we start engaging with voters now.... if we wait until September to counter Trump with field efforts, we're toast."
“We focus our efforts on what works best — multiple in-depth conversations with voters who are disillusioned with politics as usual. Democrats haven't been doing a good job of speaking to them on an intrinsic level beyond broad party platitudes, and Progressive Turnout Project is aiming to change that.”
Then Covid-19 happened. Depth conversations between voters and political canvassers would morph right into conversational death traps. So brace yourselves for what will very likely be an unprecedented and relentless onslaught of political emails engaging you on such substantive topics as The Incredible Cuomo and Be Very Afraid of Trump. The hordes of operatives must have some way to spend their hundreds of millions of dollars to extract even more hundreds of millions of dollars from you in order to live the pre-pandemic lifestyles to which they have become accustomed. 

Since even former Bernie Sanders campaign operatives have to eat, they've started their own PAC to "rally progressives" around Hidin' Biden, who "has shown a willingness to move in a more progressive direction" by deigning to allow Sanders  a bit of input in the creation of a pandemic task force operating out of Joe's basement bunker.

As proof of the progressive direction that Joe is heading, his busy little fingers typed out their own mass email Tuesday:
Hey there, I'm Joe Biden and I'm writing to you about a truly special moment in our campaign.
This afternoon, Secretary Clinton announced she's endorsing  us.  I'm so proud to have her support.
The letter is nothing but a slavish testimonial to Hillary, and how they used to have breakfast together at his vice presidential mansion when they were both in town, and how he learned how powerful she was when he didn't run for president himself. Her candidacy was so wonderful and so historic that this email reads like a de facto endorsement of a Clinton restoration. So when I clicked on the source of the encomium, it shockingly turns out it was not sent from Biden Basement Central at all, but from Onward Together - Hillary's own super pac!

His probing fingers probably didn't even write the email themselves. If they had, Joe would've inserted at least one "Here's the deal" or "I'm the guy" or "C'mon, man!"

So in the spirit of Hillary, please join Joe in the Battle For the Soul of Our Nation. Liberals are urged to tune in to the suspense of which lady will win his vice presidential beauty contest even as they lambaste Trump over his treatment of women.  Each and every one of these liberal #MeToo champions is still in it to win it despite Tara Reade, and Anita Hill before her. In fact, like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, he is using and hiding behind powerful women to defend him. Stacey Abrams, high on the list of vice presidential picks, points to the New York Times's smear piece against Tara Reade as evidence of his innocence. It's the same thing as Dick Cheney pointing to the Times articles spoon-fed by the Bushies to reporter Judith Miller as "proof" that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons.

It's also all too sickeningly reminiscent of the Democratic Party's shoddy treatment of Monica Lewinsky during the Bill Clinton scandal. You might remember that Gloria Steinem acted the same part that Stacey Abrams is now playing for Biden.

"I'm not here to ask you for money," Biden's fingers meanwhile reassure recipients in his closing policy argument. "I know first I have to earn it. So I'm asking you to think about what is at stake, give me a chance, and join my campaign."

Whereupon he only asks for money once you press the link he has so thoughtfully provided as a way to keep his word and to immediately earn your trust.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Capitalism Is a Crime Against Nature

My daily after-work zen routine used to be to retreat to my own little backyard nature sanctuary and sit as still as a statue in order to get as close as possible to the birds flocking to the multiple feeders I'd placed on the branches of our overgrown pussywillow tree.

One particularly fine afternoon as I was sitting and contemplating, a sudden shadow streaked across my peripheral vision. A hawk,with deadly and surgical and absolute lightning-speed silence, had swooped down and captured one of the hectoring bluejays fighting over sunflower seeds that had fallen to the ground. The  multiple species congregating in the tree in varying degrees of peace - finches, chickadees, nuthatches, other blue jays - did not fly away home in fright. To the contrary. They immediately sounded a deafening mutual alarm while pursuing the hawk back and forth across the yard for a good 10 minutes before at last settling back down in the feasting tree.

This memory has come back to haunt me as I've witnessed the predators of neoliberal capitalism and their political lackeys swoop down on the worst human catastrophe of our lifetimes, perhaps one of the worst of all time. But unlike the perfectly evolved hawk, our 21st century Ruling Class Raptors are nothing but grotesque, clumsy mutations. They destroy and they kill far more than they can ever personally consume in a million of their lifetimes. They seem to have lost the evolutionary ability to sneak up on their prey, as they did with varying degrees of success before this pandemic and economic collapse.

Now we can see and hear them coming from miles away in a toxic cloud as they screech out their greed and unsheathe their talons, in gross anticipation of wiping out entire flocks and destroying their homes and food supplies in the process. How long do we let this happen before we regular humans put aside our differences and rise up in solidarity to attack our mutual enemy in order to save ourselves?

As Russian polymath Pyotr Kropotkin argued in Mutual Aid, his 1902 treatise against the pseudo-science of Social Darwinism espoused by the likes of Herbert Spencer, the response of the multiple bird species in my backyard is the rule of all life on earth, rather than the exception. Far from what Thomas Hobbes called a constant war of all against all for bare survival, it is cooperation, not cutthroat competition, which really has enabled species to thrive.

In The Descent of Man he (Charles Darwin) gave some powerful pages to illustrate its proper, wide sense. He pointed out how, in numberless animal societies, the struggle between separate individuals for the means of existence disappears, how struggle is replaced by co-operation, and how that substitution results in the development of intellectual and moral faculties which secure to the species the best conditions for survival.
Then came Late Stage Capitalism, or free market neoliberalism, or corporatism, or the class war, or Social Darwinism on steroids and crack.

Kropotkin laid out in Mutual Aid the case that "we" were far more advanced and psychologically healthy in the Middle Ages. Nowadays, the neoliberal dogmas of personal responsibility, personal entrepreneurship and competition have been drummed into most of us right from birth. The medieval guilds, on the other hand, ensured justice for most, if not all, and protection from the feudal lords who ruled for centuries before they, too,  were finally destroyed by capitalism. Even the lowly serfs had their own guilds. So did virtually every trade and profession.

Fast forward to 2020, and Amazon warehouse workers organizing unions and wildcat strikes are fired by Jeff Bezos, who has personally accumulated an additional $24 billion since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Meanwhile,his vast monopoly engages in Orwellian surveillance of its workers in an effort to quash any incipient mutual aid and solidarity.

Fast forward to 2020, and President Trump insanely suggests that we inject ourselves with household disinfectant as a prelude to "re-opening" the country while building more walls to keep invisible enemies out.

Fast forward to 2020, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo blames the jobless for their own plights because they didn't choose careers in "essential fields" - such as Amazon fulfillment and treating Covid-19 patients while denied face masks and forced to dress in plastic garbage bags because of a dearth of pandemic gear.

Fast forward to 2020, and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden joins Trump in senile xenophobic rhetoric against our fellow human beings in China.

Fast forward to 2020, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell advises states to declare bankruptcy in lieu of helping their residents...and make it "legal" to loot public pension funds. 

Fast forward to 2020, and Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, in calling for the plutonomy to be reopened, states "there are more important things than living."

Fast forward to 2020, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi goes Marie Antoinette one better and brags on national TV about all the boutique ice cream she has stashed in her $24,000 freezer - before returning to Washington to give more aid and succor to billionaires in the cynically named Paycheck Protection Act. (And no, Marie Antoinette did not actually say "let them eat cake" before tumbrelling to her own ultimate reward.)

 "There is no alternative" and "there is no such thing as society" - the infamous quips uttered by Maggie Thatcher before her own devolutionary descent into drooling senility -  have become the official twin anthems of the Ruling Class Racketeers. They are being blared out of a bullhorn heard 'round the world.

George Carlin famously said you'd have to be asleep to actually believe in the American Dream.

Fast forward to the nightmare of 2020, and you'd also have to be deaf and blind and drugged and comatose not to be aware of the regressive mutated raptors swooping down upon you.

Kropotkin wrote, a mere 15 years before the French Revolution-inspired Russian Revolution:
More than that; not only many aspirations of our modern radicals were already realized in the middle ages, but much of what is described now as Utopian was accepted then as a matter of fact.; We are laughed at when we say that work must be pleasant, but "everyone must be pleased with his work, a medieval Kuttenberg (Germany) ordinance says, "and no one shall, while doing nothing, appropriate for himself what others have produced by application and work, because laws must be a shield for application and work."
There was actually once a law on the books that decreed happiness and forbade plunder and inequality! So isn't it long past time we all went medieval on Trump, Pelosi, McConnell, Cuomo and the whole perverted, mutated lot of them? We might not permanently defeat them, but like the multiple species of smaller birds in my one little backyard, we do have the innate power to annoy and harass them into beating one of their historical, cyclical retreats.

It's a law of nature. It's how we not only survive, it's how we thrive against all odds and against all predatory political oddities.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Austerians At the Gate

The neoliberal deficit hawks are already sharpening their talons in anticipation of the dessert to follow their multi-trillion dollar CARES feast at the Chateau Fed. But since our fine upstanding plutocrats and overlords must never be seen as the gluttons and exploiters and predators that they truly are, they have already made the "tough choice" of forgoing the Baked Alaska in favor of eating the wait staff themselves for dessert

In case you still hadn't heard, "we" are all in this together. And therefore, it is you who will pay. You, the designated wait staff of America, were in proximity to the table, were you not? And after all, you're (maybe) getting those $1200 stimulus tips.

Before it begins to dawn on you that this isn't a fair outcome, and that those promises of a better life after you're dead are palling, the media-political complex is only too happy to gaslight you.

They're playing their usual divide-and-conquer games to keep your attention safely diverted from the reality that they want to eat you. This week's spectacle is an endless loop of astroturfed Tea Party throwbacks blocking hospital entrances and traffic and even accosting the doctors and nurses who are trying to take away their freedom to bear arms and spread their germs and get back to work serving the plutocrats.

Pick a side, any side. It'll take your mind off mourning for your relatives and friends if only you can simply learn to direct all your anger at the people the Overlords have carefully selected for you to hate.

If you're getting tired of hating Trump, now you can hate the orchestrated mobs of Confederate flag-carrying patriots. Conversely, if you're getting tired of helplessly hating Dr.Anthony Fauci and the health experts telling you to socially distance and cover your faces, now you can direct your wrath at all the scary nurses and orderlies, the designated co-opted darlings of the liberal elite.  Celebrities are even staging virtual concerts and fundraisers for these "front line warriors" and doing nothing at all for you.

But back to those plutocratic plans for your not so distant future.

The plans are ugly, but thanks to the propaganda skills of the New York Times, they are presented seriously and with as much obfuscation as they can muster. As I hinted at the beginning of this piece, somebody has to pay for all the gastric pain that will afflict the currently non-existent Unborn as mysteriously as the coronavirus is afflicting millions of people right now. All of our children and grandchildren, whether they be rich or poor, will eventually all be as #All In This Together as millionaires and bus drivers are in it now.

Veteran Timesman and maitre d' to the oligarchy Carl Hulse solemnly explains:

Just last month, Congress allocated and President Trump signed into law a series of bills that spent an estimated $2.6 trillion — the equivalent of twice the annual discretionary federal budget. And that does not take into account the certainty of much more spending on the way, including the $250 billion currently teed up to replenish a small-businesses aid program and hundreds of billions of dollars more sought for hospitals, states and cities. Something will eventually have to give. (my bold).
Hulse immediately turns to Maya McGuineas, the D.C. queen of the austerians and one of the lizard brains behind the Bowles-Simpson "Catfood Commission" tapped by Barack Obama in 2010 to cut the deficit by having the trillion-dollar war industry "share the sacrifice" with struggling Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid recipients.

A brand new "eye-popping" report by her lobbying organization, the Wall Street-financed Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget, reveals that as a result of the pandemic and the bailouts of the already-rich, the annual federal budget deficit will quadruple. And even though the cost of federal government borrowing is zero and the money need never actually be paid back, the wait staff will have to pay it back. The little people must be disciplined to accept their punishment both now and forever.

Taxing the rich would "crater the economy" Hulse uncritically quotes Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania as saying. And since the Social Security trust fund is dwindling and Medicare is "broke," the beast of old and sick people will have to be starved so that the rich may live.

And quoting another CRFD board member:
“Once we get beyond this disaster, some very hard choices will have to be made, or you will have a federal government that is simply crippled in terms of being able to respond to crisis — whether it is a coronavirus or a natural disaster or a military conflict or economic downturn,” warned Mr. (Senator Kent) Conrad.
This, of course, makes no sense. Punishing the poor and the sick will not enhance our oligarchy of a government's ability to respond better to future emergencies. It will do the exact opposite. As the neoliberal politics of the last 40 years have demonstrated only too well, it is public program-destroying austerity that cripples the ability to respond to a crisis. Thanks to austerity, there is even a shortage of cheap cotton swabs with which to test for Covid-19. Thanks to austerity, hospitals have closed. Thanks to austerity, nurses have resorted to wearing garbage bags as protective gear and even being fired if they complain. Thanks to austerity, celebrities donate money to deliver pizza to the nurses as a substitute for safe working conditions and universal guaranteed health care for all.

But Hulse is sympathetic to the lie. These poor politicians currently have no choice but to spend with abandon. Because it's an election year!

"There is no choice now, but there are tough decisions ahead," he concludes in a piece posing as a straight news article.

You might remember Carl Hulse as the Times server-scribe who was honored by, among others, Pete Peterson/CRFB acolyte and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at the infamous Georgetown house party thrown last summer by Times columnist Maureen Dowd. It's a small world and a big club, etc.

But take heart, Times readers. Because right below Hulse's plutocratic propaganda was printed a fiery oppositional op-ed by none other than Bernie Sanders. He boldly ripped the gluttonous austerians a brand new one -

Should we really continue along the path of greed and unfettered capitalism, in which three people own more wealth than the bottom half of the nation, and tens of millions live in economic desperation — struggling to put food on the table, pay for housing and education and put a few dollars aside for retirement? Or should we go forward in a very new direction?In the course of my presidential campaign, I sought to follow in the footsteps of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, in the 1930s and 40s, understood that in a truly free society, economic rights must be considered human rights. That was true 80 years ago and it remains true today.
Now I will do everything in my power to bring this country together to help Joe Biden defeat the most dangerous president in modern American history. And I will continue to make the vigorous case that we must address the inequalities that contributed to the rise of Donald Trump, whose cruelty and incompetence have cost American lives during this pandemic.
Oh. I guess Bernie forgot that Joe Biden was a big loud vocal supporter of Maya McGuineas's Catfood Commission and had even publicly blamed the Republicans in a speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention for squelching its efforts to cut Social Security, raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and reduce corporate tax rates. He bragged on many occasions that he was willing to make the "tough choices" that even too many members of his own party were not.

So, my published response to Bernie's op-ed:
(Sanders writes) "If there is any silver lining in the horrible pandemic and economic collapse we’re experiencing, it is that many in our country are now beginning to rethink the basic assumptions underlying the American value system."
I'm curious whether Joe Biden, whom Bernie urges us all to "come together" to support to overturn Trump, is among those beginning to rethink those basic assumptions underlying the value system whose noxious end-product is Trumpism.
 If not, a President Biden will only enable the subsequent rise to power of somebody a lot smarter and more dangerous than Trump.
  Last I heard, Biden only goes so far as lowering the Medicare age to 60. If we're lucky, that negotiating starting point might end up with Republicans grudgingly agreeing to not raise the age to 67 as Barack Obama himself suggested back in 2011 as part of his own ill fated "Grand Bargain" with the GOP.
  Biden has spent the last nearly half century of his political career trying to cut Social Security and Medicare and calling such cruelty "tough choices." He recently vowed to veto M4A if by some miracle it ever passed Congress and arrived at his desk.
I'll consider voting for Biden if he copies this excellent op-ed by Bernie Sanders word for word and then signs his own name to it.
The keyword there is "consider." I might think about it seriously if he signed the editorial in blood, but given his history of serial lying, probably not even then.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Fun and Games at the Apocalypse

When Donald Trump first began ranting against the WHO, I thought he was talking about the legendary rock band and its socialist frontman Roger Daltrey, and not the World Health Organization. I mean, who in their right mind would ever rail against the World Health Organization right in the middle of a pandemic?

Well, eminently sane sociopath that he is, Trump is simply trying to deflect attention from his own bungled and belated response to the Covid-19 plague. His rationale, which like most propaganda does contain a grain or two of truth, is that the WHO had initially taken China's word for it that it had the outbreak under total control and not to worry. Taking a page verbatim from the classic authoritarian playbook, Trump himself proceeded to fly in the face of all fact, claiming that the crisis is under his total and absolute control, and not to worry.

And that got me thinking back to my original mistaken impression about exactly WHO Trump had been really ranting against. One of the rock band's biggest hits was Teenage Wastelandwhich does sort of describe Trump's cabinet of sycophants and trust fund kiddies, including his very own Jared and Ivanka.  And that hit song in its own turn got me thinking that T.S. Eliot's famous line in The Wasteland has never been more apt. April is indeed the cruelest month.

Congress cruelly ignored the pain and suffering of the masses while it allowed the Fed to secretly give trillions of dollars of public money to oligarchs and corporations under the grotesquely named CARES Act. They govern neither in prose nor in poetry. As far as they're concerned, the initials T.S. might as well stand for for Tough Shit. You're on your own, proles. Tighten your belts and share the sacrifice.

And even as they turn the screws, they pretend to be aghast that some of the $1200 "stimulus" checks will be delayed because Trump has insisted that the Treasury affix his own name to them. He had originally wanted to sign them himself. So terribly, terribly shocking to all those who cling to their norms and cynical acronyms.

But it could always be worse. Trump could have insisted on sending out fake Monopoly money with his picture on it, as contained in his own cheesy version of the Depression-era board game.

 Unfortunately, the initial groups of recipients will not receive Trump's limited edition collectors' checks, because they will get the funds electronically, by direct deposit.

The people to receive the paper checks are among the country's neediest and most marginalized  -  that is, if they ever receive the money at all. They first have to locate a computer with a connection in order to access the Treasury's internet portal to apply to be last in line for the money. They also have to provide a physical address. And with so many poor people facing evictions (if they are not already homeless) both internet access and existence in a physical building are insurmountable barriers for them, even in the best of the worst of times.

Too many people with no money and no jobs had already lost their modest Baltic Avenue homes back in 2009, when Barack Obama bailed out the banks and enabled the same criminal bankers to fraudulently foreclose on millions of mortgages before renting the plundered property back out to the evictees at exorbitant rates. And the people, still lectured they have to be in the neoliberal game to win it, just keep right on landing on Boardwalk and Park Place, and told that they can never, ever pass GO. 

But since the masses must continue to be entertained lest they emerge from Lockdown and riot in the streets, we now come to the long awaited sequel to that classic buddy comedy, The Three Amigos.

Because two of its leading men have a well-known "frosty but cordial relationship" and the third marquee actor is given very few lines of his own, and because the plot also has an element of horror to offset the treacle, the movie's working title is Bernie and Biden and Barry, Oh My!

The opening scene has Bernie Sanders juxtaposed with a near-aphasic Joe Biden. The Vermont senator urges his supporters to "come together" and vote for his good friend. In case you don't get the message, Bernie's side of the schizophrenic screen bears a prominent "Biden For President" logo.

The Revolution is cancelled. Long Live the Elite Task Forces!

In a subsequent interview with the Associated Press, Bernie Sanders goes even further and as much as calls his supporters traitors if they do not vote for Joe Biden. The Revolution is cancelled. Long live the corporate Democratic Party voter-shaming!

The next scene has Barack Obama appearing solo from an undisclosed location. Some say he's holed up at his Washington mansion working on his memoirs, while others speculate he's social-distance partying at his sprawling Martha's Vineyard oceanfront estate. But since this is, after all, nothing but a movie, my guess is the setting was the famous $35 million Shark House in Hollywood, where the Obamas reportedly stay whenever they're in town to perform their Netflix and Democratic fund-raising duties. (Joe apparently needs tons of money to catch up with Monopoly Man.) Discreet predator that he is, though, Barry filmed his endorsement of Biden in front of the standard anodyne photos and knick-knacks rather than in front of one of the home's built-in shark tanks.

The audience cannot be expected to absorb more than one stingray or electric eel at a time, can they?

And Obama doesn't get top billing in The Three Amigos for nothing. His acting skills and his timing are as slick as they ever were.

Anybody can deliver a political endorsement speech. But only an Obama can actually pull off smirking a political endorsement speech. He can barely restrain his own cynical grin as he praises the miracle of millions of newly jobless people still being able to enjoy their expensive employer-based health insurance right in the middle of a pandemic.

Warning: the following scene is not recommended for sensitive viewers:

 Since every disaster comedy buddy flick must have a leading lady - and every revolution needs its Marie Antoinette - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is here to add her own nurturing feminine touch, straight from her luxury vineyard estate outside of San Francisco.

  Are you hungry because the grocery shelves are bare and you don't have any money anyway? All you need to survive quarantine and fend off disease is a wildly expensive stainless steel restaurant-grade freezer. Nancy says that you, too, can order one straight from the Internet and then stock it with a small fortune in designer ice cream.

Let them eat Haagen-Dazs! The all-American brand might sound Danish, but forget Nordic-style single payer health care. The confection that Nancy Pelosi favors is pure American capitalism. "We're capitalists. That's just the way it is."

In other words: T.S.

As Eliot  wrote in The Wasteland: "I think we are in rats' alley/Where the dead men lost their bones."

  “What is that noise?”
                          The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
                           Nothing again nothing.
“You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember nothing?

Monday, April 13, 2020

Pandemic Trumpery

Democratic leaders are in a real quandary. As much as they'd love to give more aid, sustenance and comfort to ordinary Americans suffering so horribly through this pandemic, doing so would only prop up "Trump's economy" and boost his re-election chances. People having more cash in their pockets and food in their bellies would only end up thanking Donald Trump for the relief. And that will never do, Because beating Trump in November is more important to the feckless Democrats than making people's lives better in the here and now. 

As Michael Grunwald chillingly writes in Politico, since putting compassion over winning back power would be "politically clueless," House Democrats are loath to use the enormous leverage they now possess to ram through such measures as emergency single payer health legislation, a guaranteed income package and forgiveness of debt.

Why? Because Trump wants these things too. Not because he's even remotely humanistic, of course, but because he wants a second term, even if it means having to relinquish his own clueless "all Democrats are socialists" manufactured hysteria for the duration of the crisis.

Therefore, the Democrats are effectively claiming that they now have no other choice but  to "resist" Trump from the right wing of the political duopoly.  

Grunwald writes:
For example, they want to pump money into underfunded state agencies overwhelmed by unemployment claims, which makes sense on compassion and policy grounds—but that would also be a political bailout for Republican governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis. And while Schumer’s call for a “heroes fund” to increase the pay of essential workers during the crisis is a worthy idea, it’s not hard to imagine the heroes being grateful to Trump for the extra cash.
The art of negotiation is about using your leverage to get things that your counterpart doesn’t really want to give you, and Democratic leaders don’t really seem to want to do that.
If millions of people have to needlessly suffer and even die and become martyrs for the Democratic Party cause of retaining Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker and installing Joe Biden in the White House, then that is the price we have to pay. This is not only a matter of Greater Vs. Lesser Evil, it is a matter of Feckless vs. Feckless. Which of our two corrupt parties can win the contest of loathsomeness?

Simone Weil, my favorite French philosopher, was right. The only and ultimate purpose of any political party is to win power and then to hold on to power. Never has her assertion been more glaringly proven than during the ongoing pandemic catastrophe.

Since winning power entails the generation of "collective passions" in the electorate, it's even harder to fathom why the Democrats have put up a senile groper and accused rapist as their presidential candidate. Does the sight and sound of Joe Biden rambling in his basement bunker generate any passion other than disgust - or at best, sheer boredom? 

Weil writes:
"Political parties are organizations that are publicly and officially designed for the purpose of killing in all souls the sense of truth and of justice. Collective pressure is exerted upon a wide public by the means of propaganda. The avowed purpose of propaganda is not to impart light, but to persuade. Hitler saw very clearly that the aim of propaganda must always be to enslave minds. All political parties make propaganda. A party that would not do so would disappear, since all its competitors practice it... Political parties do profess, it is true, to educate those who come to them: supporters, young people, new members. But this is a lie: it is not an education, it is a conditioning, a preparation for the far more rigorous ideological control imposed by the party upon its members."
So Grunwald's premise that the Democrats are "terrified of being seen as obstructionists" if they dare to play hardball with Republicans is just excusing them and ascribing their inaction to well-intentioned timidity. The truth is that the Uniparty actors are simply playing the parts they've been assigned for the ultimate benefit of their oligarchic donors and for the increasingly hollow cliffhanger entertainment of the rest of us.

Propaganda and platitudes and posturing simply don't have the oomph they used to, especially when the thrust of the elites is on "opening up the economy" while ordinary humans in the millions are bleeding from their open veins.

"How the poor people found the insufficiency of those things, and how many of them were afterwards carried away in the dead-carts and thrown into common graves of every parish with those hellish charms and trumpery hanging about their necks, remains to be spoken of as we go along." -- Daniel Defoe, Journal of the Plague Year.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Bye-Bye Bernie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Peak Death, Peak Greed

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

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

He depressingly concludes:

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 2, 2020

We Have Officially Entered the Twilight Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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