Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Pandemic of Structural Violence

The Powers That Be are probably ruing the day they prematurely ended the pandemic lockdown. That is because they no longer have any legal grounds to order protesters off the streets and highways and back into their homes. All they have is tear gas and rubber bullets... and if comes to it, real bullets, tanks and drones.

The fully one-fourth of the national workforce that is now officially unemployed finally have the time for a brand new job. And that job is to vent their fury at the political officials who have made most people's lives a living hell long before the Coronavirus ever showed up to throw capitalism into such a state of disarray. 

The tipping point for many was the broad-daylight Memorial Day police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Just as Congress hasn't bothered to hide its own massive and criminal multitrillion-dollar giveaway to the rich under the cynically-named Cares Act, the officers didn't bother hiding their own public execution of Floyd from a crowd of distraught onlookers, their cell phone cameras whirring. Is the police knee pressing on Floyd's neck and squeezing the life out of the man really all that different from Nancy Pelosi's stiletto heel squeezing all hope of health care, guaranteed housing, food assistance and direct cash aid from hundreds of millions of American citizens?

It's considered chic for both liberals and never-Trump conservatives to foist most, if not all, of the blame for 100,000 Covid-19 deaths in the United States on his administration, while they ostentatiously wring their hands over his dangerous tweeted medical advice. But it was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who closed city hospitals and cut Medicaid funding before refusing to shut down the state for weeks after the virus had already started spreading like wildfire. It was Cuomo who absolved nursing homes of accountability before he sent elderly hospital patients to their deaths at these state-sanctioned warehouses for the disposable. It was Cuomo who appeared on the floor of the Stock Exchange the day after the Floyd killing to maniacally cheer the opening bell of profit and greed even as his constituents stand in line for hours for meager pickings from food banks. It was Cuomo who has refused to give relief to renters even as his legislature plans to bail out the state's landlords, using the tax money paid by New York's potential evictees.

Of course, they all mouth the necessary platitudes and they feebly call for justice for George Floyd even as their own hands are caked with decades' worth of dirt and blood.

If they immediately fire the bad cops and even charge them with murder when faced with incontrovertible evidence of their guilt, they think they can absolve themselves. But the fact is that the police are in essence mere servants of the oligarchs. They act as a buffer zone between the poor and the rich. The plutocracy draws its domestic armed forces not from within its own class, but from the ranks of the working poor, integrating them into its program of economic and political oppression. Police forces are the low-intensity (usually) military ops for the elites.

It's a class war and it's a race war, and it's all right out there in the open. Racist dog-whistles are quaint relics. The Trump-style bullhorn has officially evolved into the state-sponsored snuff film.

Of course, the political-media complex strives mightily to reframe their deliberate policies as a culture war, pitting various segments of the working class and underclass against one another. In Minneapolis, we see self-described rednecks with shaved heads guarding convenience stores against "looting" by black people. Pick a side, and it will take your mind off the real looting of the treasury and the commons by the billionaires and corporations. 

 Neighborhoods on the elite chopping block have been transformed into military Human Terrain Systems. CCTV at every intersection allows real instances of urban violence to supplement the fictional fare that Hollywood produces to frighten us into submission. If citizens can envision urban areas and housing projects as hotbeds of savagery, then citizens can also accept more police and more jails. It's an endless propaganda feedback loop, in which both the cognitively superior "liberal" elites and the fundamentalist right-wingers are manipulated into joining forces in their hatred of the "Other". One side calls them IQ-deficient gun-loving losers in need of a hand up rather than a handout. The other side calls them godless moochers and takers lolling about on their hammocks of dependency.

And the elites meanwhile moan and groan about why can't "we" just all get along, because "we" are all in this together. If you call them out, you're being "divisive."

Any day now, they will declare a victory in their valiant fight against racism by organizing a cocktail summit between the paranoid white "Karen" and the black bird-watcher whose upper middle class Central Park confrontation was the top story before the Minneapolis police execution spurred even Donald Trump to call for FBI intervention.

Meanwhile, here are your two pre-approved "lock em up" choices in the coming election. As Biden advised in a 1994 Senate speech touting his Jim Crow crime bill, "we shouldn't really care why they are sociopaths."

All we should care about is the sad truth that each contender for the highest office is a sociopath who is shamelessly courting the votes of the very same people they've spent their entire long careers demeaning, robbing, cheating and oppressing.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Once In Love With Bernie....

 The reputation and standing of Bernie Sanders within the Democratic Party is more important to him than his delegates' First Amendment rights to free speech. Therefore, in hopes of avoiding another outbreak of democratic protest against another rigging of another primary election, the Sanders campaign is demanding that his hundreds of delegates sign a pledge to never, ever publicly "attack" presumptive nominee Joe Biden or any other party bigwig. They must also never disparage mainstream journalists, consultants, cable news shows and party spokespeople.

As a delegate who worked his or her heart out for Bernie, anything you say, or any independent thought that you publicly express, is as good as coming from the mouth of Bernie himself. As such, according to the warning salvo:
 “Before tweeting or posting from your personal social media accounts,ask yourself these questions: If this appeared on the front page of The New York Times, would it compromise Bernie Sanders’s message, credibility, or reputation? Could it potentially risk your standing as a delegate? When re-tweeting or sharing information from others, are you applying necessary skepticism?”
His team is also asking that each delegate sign a nondisclosure agreement, lest any revolution that is not a slogan be televised, live-streamed, shared on social media,  written on comment boards and Internet chat rooms in any way, shape, or form. Refusal to promise to keep your mouth shut will pre-empt your participation in the convention.  If you break the agreement by, for instance, merely talking to a reporter or tweeting a renegade thought while at the convention, you will be kicked out. You may not take candid photos backstage or at "closed press events."

These admonitions presuppose that there will be an actual physical convention as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on and Joe Biden has yet to emerge from his basement bunker.  

If you do go to the live or virtual convention and breach the agreement that you signed, you must immediately surrender to the proper authorities and fess up. To wit:

"If you believe you have made a substantive mistake, alert staff on the Delegates Team to determine a course of action. Deleting something does not make it go away. Do not take action before consulting the Delegates Team."

And you must also promise to snitch on your fellow Bernie delegates if you discover them exercising their First Amendment rights without prior approval. At the same time, you must promise not to retaliate against anyone - say, a Biden delegate - who chooses to exercise his or her own First Amendment rights by acting confrontational or rude. You must turn the other cheek and remain silent, as is your right whenever you're arrested and handcuffed.

Although he has suspended his campaign, Sanders remains on the ballot in remaining primary states in the belief that the more muzzled, cowed delegates that he can amass, the more leverage he will exert over Biden and the corporate wing of the party. Actually, with few progressives even raising an eyebrow over the most massive congressional transfer of wealth to the already wealthy under the CARES Act, is there any other wing but the right-wing, corporate one?

As the Washington Post reports, his strict rules against free speech are angering some of Bernie's delegates. One of them already broke the rules by leaking the five pages of rules to the newspaper, without obtaining the express prior permission of the Sanders campaign.

So we'll have to wait and see whether Bernie Sanders's confident prediction that "at the end of the day, they'll be voting for Joe Biden" comes to pass.

His streak of authoritarianism probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise, since earlier this month he didn't even bother showing up to be the one necessary vote to block Senate passage of an expanded Patriot Act,  which allows the FBI to search your internet search history without a warrant. In effect, it allows what Bernie calls "the most dangerous president in history" to legally spy on you for any reason at all.

Bernie Sanders is refusing to comment or even say where he was during the crucial vote, which wielded one more death blow to what is left of our democracy and the Fourth Amendment.

Maybe he signed a pledge or non-disclosure agreement.

Wink, Nod, Bump, Grind, Repeat

Monday, May 18, 2020

Fast Times At Covid Corporate High

It was hard to miss Saturday night's glitzy Graduate Together show broadcast in primetime over all the commercial TV and cable networks, and live-streamed on Facebook, Youtube and many other social media platforms.

 Its marquee attraction was former President Barack Obama, whose virtual commencement address to the nation's quarantined high school seniors was covered as a major political news event by the corporate media. (It followed a separate address, sponsored by JP Morgan Chase, to graduates of the nation's Historically Black Colleges.)

Obama's performance was augmented by song and dance routines and motivational speeches by students who had entered to win a spot in what might be called the Bootstraps Inspiration Sweepstakes. One girl gushed about her success being the result of a heroic mother working three jobs to pay her college tuition. The lesson this student learned was not that no parent should ever have to work three jobs, or that no student should ever be in onerous college debt, Her message was that it is incumbent upon the youth of America to "demand more" and show up to vote for politicians who will also pay proper verbal respect to hard-working parents like hers.

Although our disrespectful and disrespected current president was never mentioned by name, a distinct anti-Trump current ran right though the High School Musical program. The liberal politics of orchestrated diversity and slick entertainment and inspiring vignettes served to distract the audience from the true, underlying agenda and profit motive of the show.

A joint project of Hollywood's Entertainment Industry Foundation (ETF), the XQ Institute and the LeBron James Family Foundation,, the show's occult purpose was to gin up public enthusiasm for the complete oligarchic control of our public school systems. It was one giant infomercial for school privatization.

As the Jonas Brothers crooned, and activist Malala Yousafsai championed the rights of female students, a scrolling chyron at the bottom of the screen urged viewers to visit a "Rethinking High School" website. One click brought you to the XQ Foundation,  a think tank bankrolled by billionaire Apple heiress Laurene Powell Jobs and led by former Obama administration officials and investment bankers and hedge fund operators.

It's just another variation on the same old refrain from those smash capitalistic hit jobs on public education and teachers known as No Child Left Behind and Race To the Top. 

Following the neoliberal mantra of never letting a serious crisis go to waste, ETF CEO Nicole Sexton told Variety that Obama's participation in the infomercial was neither the surprise nor the altruistic rare treat that corporate media had been promoting it as:

 "We have a long-standing relationship with XQ Institute, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to challenging traditional education platforms and ways of teaching. This period of time has taken that to a whole other level. But through XQ’s networks, there were a number of students and educators and families across the country who expressed sadness about the missed opportunity to experience the wonderful rites of passage tied to high school graduation. XQ came to us and said, “Let’s talk through what we could do with a telecast,” and we took that to our board.
 We have 11 board members, four of whom are executives for the four major networks. It was instantaneous. They all got so excited. There were a lot of people recognizing that there are going to be seniors who will miss these wonderful rites of passage and asking, “How do we fill that void in a way that really celebrates them?” So our networks at the national level had been exploring different ideas. And then when that opportunity came to them with a formidable partner like XQ, it was literally a no-brainer for them. Within an hour, they came back and said, “Yeah, we want to do this as a roadblock.” And within 24 hours, I had the date.
The CEO of the XQ Institute is Rosslyn Ali, former deputy Obama education secretary for civil rights. Its parent organization, the Emerson Collective, is managed by former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, author of Obama's punitive Race To the Top initiative, as well being Rosslyn Ali's current and former boss.

The XQ Institute uses the same obfuscatory vocabulary to hide its for-profit motives as other finance capital-backed school "reform" initiatives run by such billionaire luminaries as Bill and Melinda Gates and the Walton Family Foundations. 

As school privatization critic Diane Ravitch outlined several years ago in her book Reign of Error, common tropes are that public schools are failing, that mainly poor and minority children are "trapped" in these failing schools, that unionized teachers are not up to the challenge of training children for the "jobs of the future," that there exists a "skills gap" in the job marketplace that unionized teachers cannot bridge, and that if only we can bring some of the same good old market-based creative destruction (closures) to schools as private equity brings to business in order to "rescue" them, then all might be well. And be sure to use the word "choice" in every other sentence, as though you actually had one.

To further hide the gross profit motive of placing education of children into the hands of greedy and unqualified venture capitalists and oligarchs, education reform cultists also commonly and cynically frame their agenda as "the civil rights issue of our time." 

Ravitch continues:
"Their policies, they say, will make our children into 'global competitors.' They will protect our national security. They will make America strong again. The corporate reformers play to our anxieties, even rekindling dormant Cold War fears that we may be in for jeopardy as a nation of we don't buy what they are selling. The critics want the public to believe that our public schools are a clear and present danger to our society. Unless there is radical change, they say, our society will fall apart. Our economy will collapse. Our national security is in danger."
And these are the people who complain that Donald Trump is the guy who brought fascism to the country. How convenient. What a gift both Trump and the coronavirus pandemic are giving to the school privatization movement. 

Due to the pandemic, there's been been a slight change in plans and a tweak in the propaganda delivery. Since society has already failed and the economy has already collapsed right before our eyes, the new message to investors is that Remote Learning Is Fun and Profitable. 

All that America's education policy makers have to do is dream and imagine the possibilities. And the XQ Institute is here to help with its pharmacopoeia of hallucinatory drugs.

One of the first steps is to do away with democratically elected local school boards - or at least, to seed them with XQ-funded candidates. This is euphemized on their website as " empowering local communities." Their accompanying illustration is thus one of clenched fists rising in protest against traditional schools.

Speaking directly to local and state legislators and governors, XQ waves wads of money to legions of innovators in contests to redesign their local high schools to neoliberal expectations. A big part of freeing students from the schools they are trapped in is in getting them unpaid internships for the jobs of the future - or "Innovation Schools."

What could be more radical and innovative than never re-opening the shuttered schools at all in favor of remote learning and de facto serfdom - or opening them at vastly reduced physical capacity? Think of the real estate. Not for nothing are the boards of directors of reform organizations rife with property developers and real estate magnates. 

If you watched Saturday's graduation show and clicked on the incessant advertisement link to XQ, you were treated to an avalanche of reform Newspeak that would bury even George Orwell. The language is that turgid and uninformative. You will be led down endless alleys and mazes in search of the perfect Covid Academy merchandise and tips.

One such link is to an outfit called Envision Learning Partners. The essence of this experience begins a mission statement in ALL CAPS. Because, let's face it, by the time you find your way to this site via the long and windy road that XQ has provided for you via the gala star-studded TV graduation special, your eyes are already glazed over. An example of school reform Newspeak:


In other words, Teach to the Test. Pandemic or no pandemic, keep rating teachers as failures if their students from poverty stricken neighborhoods don't score well. And with Zoom replacing the classroom, they are guaranteed not to do well. In the small print at the bottom of the page  Envision finally sees fit to divulge that it is a for-profit charter school conglomerate in the business of selling test-taking kits to teachers and school districts who must buy them if they are to succeed in the Education Marketplace. They need a lot of 'elp.

For as Barack Obama advised graduating seniors in the keynote address of Disaster Capitalism's gala graduation party:
Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy — that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way — which is why things are so screwed up.... >When you need help, Michelle and I have made it the mission of our Foundation to give young people like you the skills and support to lead in your own communities, and to connect you with other young leaders around the country and around the globe.
He might as well have been speaking his empowering message into the un-monetized wind. Before Covid-19 struck, socialism was just as popular as capitalism among the young adults surveyed. People both young and old still have their brains and they still have their eyes to envision what myriad and deliberate screw-ups that the lords of unfettered capitalism truly are.

Here's the commencement address that should be broadcast far and wide. As Marxist economist Richard Wolff argues, what we need is not a glitzy graduation show or remote learning-by-oligarch. During this national lockdown, what we need is an education reform program that would pair millions of jobless but eminently skilled and qualified professionals from many fields with millions of quarantined students. The sessions would be one-on-one, the teachers would be paid by the government, and the students would not be indebted for life.

That's how reimagining and rethinking high school - or any school or functional democracy, for that matter - would ideally sound.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Neoliberalism Stinks

I got a weird phone call on Saturday afternoon from a guy who said he had just left a "medicine delivery" at my front door. Since I don't take prescription drugs, I was puzzled. But in a brief burst of the same kind of wishful magical thinking that has taken the ruling class by storm, I thought that maybe some Good Samaritan had left me a bag of marijuana along with the thrice-weekly meal deliveries I've been getting from my county's "Project Resiliency" program.

So when I opened the door only to discover a beautiful Mothers Day bouquet from my son, I thought that I must be finally losing my hearing as well as my mind. Then I read the name of the florist on the attached card - "Meadow Scent."  My hearing was still more or less intact! Then I started to worry anew, because when I thrust my nose into the little red flowers and yellow tulip buds, I could not discern any meadow scent let alone any aroma whatsoever. Was my smell going? Was I exhibiting the first telltale symptom of Covid-19?

I suppressed that thought, and called my son on Face Time to thank him. Suddenly the room started to spin. But it was only my just-turned-two granddaughter gaining control of the phone so that I could converse with her dolls. Which I did.  For quite some time.

The next day, I got a "Happy Mothers Day" email from one of this blog's readers, in which I was cheerfully referred to an article about the "real" Lord of the Flies. Much to my edification and relief, it chronicled the adventures of a group of Tongan boys who, bored with their parochial school routine, ditched classes in favor of a nautical joy ride that culminated in their being marooned on a small Pacific island for more than a year. Contra the Hobbesian plot of the grim William Golding novel, these boys survived by dint of mutual aid, and cooperation. But when they were finally rescued, they were not completely celebrated for their resourcefulness and courage. They were briefly jailed for having stolen and wrecked the boat they used for their escape.

It's the kind of crazy reaction being leveled against the nurses who are fired for speaking out against the working conditions in our for-profit health care marketplaces, or for wearing unapproved protective gear as they work double overtime shifts saving the lives of pandemic victims.

It's why multiple generations of American high school students who are taught that history is nothing but a series of endless wars and cutthroat competition and who never learn the meaning of "civics" are forced to read "Lord of the  Flies" in English class.  I had to read it, my children had to read it. We all hated it. When my daughter was a sophomore, her reading assignment over the Christmas break was... you guessed it. The season of peace and joy was ruined by the feral antics of teenage boys and the murder of Piggy.

"All against all" has been drummed into most of us from our earliest, most susceptible formative years. It's just the way it is, people. 

So no wonder, as the British medical journal Lancet flatly reported in December 2009 on the passage of Obamacare :"Corporate influence renders the US government incapable of making policy on the basis of evidence and the public interest."

The structural social violence perpetrated against the citizenry was underway long before Donald Trump became its convenient scapegoat during this pandemic. Trump simply makes it easier for the de facto architects and enablers of a historically cruel system to look virtuous by comparison.

Now that tens of millions of American workers have lost their precarious employer-based health insurance, these anti-Trump architects and enablers are still adamantly opposed to Medicare For All. Their idea of a solution is to bail out and prop up the predatory insurance industry rather than treat patients who've already lost their jobs and livelihoods. To keep United Health Care and Blue Cross solvent, the government will shoulder hospitals' costs of Covid-19 treatment and only Covid-19 treatment - and perhaps increase Obamacare subsidies to those jobless people who were just kicked off their health insurance.

Barack Obama, in a "private" conference call with his government-in-exile last week, purported to be shocked and dismayed by Donald Trump's "chaotic" response to the pandemic:

"This election that's coming up on every level is so important because what we're going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party. What we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided and seeing others as an enemy - that has become a stronger impulse in American life. And by the way, we're seeing that internationally as well," Obama was cited as saying in the private call according to Yahoo News, which said it obtained a tape of the call on Friday.
"It's part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anaemic and spotty. It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset - of 'what's in it for me' and 'to heck with everybody else' - when that mindset is operationalised in our government.
"That's why, I, by the way, am going to be spending as much time as necessary and campaigning as hard as I can for Joe Biden," he said.
Obama's critique of the Trumpian "what's in it for me" Lord of the Flies ethic harkens uncomfortably back to his own personal ambitions. Chicago physician and social epidemiologist David Ansell recounts in The Death Gap a conversation he had with Obama at a 2003 fundraiser he co-hosted for him when he was running for the United States Senate:
In the living room of a modest single-family home in the neatly manicured South Shore neighborhood of Chicago, I asked the future president his position on national health care reform. His words presaged what came to be known as "Obamacare." 
"I'm a proponent of a single payer system," he responded. But he explained that the political power held by the health insurance companies was so formidable that opposing them would be political suicide.... Single payer will never get passed in the United States," he concluded.
Obama admitted that his political career trumped everything. This brand of raw selfish careerism is commonly lauded as being "realistic" or "pragmatic."

Here's some more classic Kabuki theater in which Hillary Clinton extracts a vague promise from a barely-there Joe Biden to use the pandemic to try to discuss better access to the possibility of universal health care. She ominously uses the same crisis rhetoric that former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel used to bail out Wall Street at the expense of Main Street - before proceeding to subsidize the health care industry through a bill which the insurance and pharmaceutical companies wrote.

These corporatist leaders still purport to be amazed that there exists what Ansell calls a "death gap" in America, most recently exposed by the disproportionately high Covid-19 mortality rate among black and brown people. Their contrived moment of discovery is similar to that evinced among the ruling elite when Hurricane Katrina inordinately harmed the poor people of New Orleans while those with the financial wherewithal managed to escape.

Since that disaster culminated not only in widespread death and damage and displacement, but in the complete for-profit privatization of the  city's school system, just imagine what the forced closings of our entire nation's public schools will do for predatory capitalism.  Now that the Covid-19 plague is also affecting children with a Kawasaki-type syndrome, we have to ask whether neoliberal politicians will use it as the perfect disaster capitalism excuse never to reopen them at all.

The writing certainly seems to be on the wall in New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo has convened a task force to set the education policies of the future. Ominously called "Reimagine Education," it will involve the branded expertise of billionaire and education privateer Bill Gates and will deliberately exclude teachers, parents, current school administrators and students. This is right in the wake of Cuomo cutting billions from the state's Medicaid program right in the middle of a pandemic:
The governor’s announcement of a partnership with the Gates Foundation was immediately met with forceful opposition from New York educators and parents who are critical of the foundation’s role in developing the Common Core academic standards and linking student test scores to teacher evaluations.
Teachers were also concerned that the governor was looking for ways to supplant some in-person teaching, with the state teachers union president, Andy Pallotta, saying that “remote learning will never replace the important personal connection between teachers and their students.”
How much would you like to wager that American students will continue to be taught Lord of the Flies with the aid of a robot teacher and Bill Gates's monopolistic software?  Topics of discussion might include whether Sartre was right, and hell really is other people, and the desirability of living in enforced quarantine as isolated ants who are nevertheless all digitally connected in service to Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.  It sure beats the hell out of fear of the latest manufactured or hyped-up threat, such as murderer hornets.

With that depressingly dystopian thought, I think I'll go try to smell my flowers again. 

I only hope that enough of us wake up sooner rather than later to smell the coffee.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Capitalistic Necromancy

The Grand Re-Opening of the United States, a/k/a  global Blooperpower, will proceed despite the expected septupling of Covid-19 cases in the coming months. The death rate itself is expected to double to nearly 3,000 Americans a day by June 1st.

Call it depraved indifference to human life,call it Newgenics, call it a crime against humanity or call it genocide . All of these appellations would be correct. But the media-political complex idiots running this show are, with various degrees of rationalization and gaslighting and coercion and propaganda and magical thinking, actually celebrating the increased morbidity and mortality as the regrettable but acceptable "collateral damage" of any typical Blooperpower war for profit and democracy.

If you or a loved one is personally affected by the enhanced infection rate as a result of their cold-blooded policies, just think of yourselves as patriots who are nobly sacrificing yourselves for your country and the American Way of Life.  You wouldn't want your failure to enlist and get with the program to label you a traitor or a draft dodger, would you?

The well-padded gourmand and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went on CNN to warn that we will simply have to "swallow the idea" of losing thousands more lives. He said that being forced into quarantine is every bit as "sad" as dying from Covid-19. I mean, if you can't  breathe while your labor is being extracted from you, then there is no point in even breathing. Buck up, you rotten bunch of death-haters and emulate of the Greatest Generation who so willingly fought and died for us in World War II. Heaven forbid that those extra hundred thousand body bags that the Trump administration so thoughtfully ordered for you went to waste, after all.
“Of course, everybody wants to save every life they can ― but the question is, towards what end, ultimately?” Christie asked. “Are there ways that we can  thread the middle here to allow that there are going to be deaths, and there are going to be deaths no matter what?”
This is the very definition of extreme centrism, or what the corporate media likes to euphemise as pragmatism or moderate politics. And if you don't like it, then you're simply being unreasonable. There is no alternative.

An internal government report obtained by the New York Times this week projects 200,000 Covid-19 new cases each day by the end of May, as compared to 34,000 daily cases now. That is a nearly seven-fold increase in less than a month. Donald Trump and his collaborators would probably characterize this as a Lucky Seven victory for them in the lottery of life. Because the house always wins. 

At least for now. How many patriots actually will stand up and say "I regret that I have only one life to give for my Trump, my Christie, my McConnell , my Pelosi, my Smithfield Farms, my Jeff Bezos?"

Friday, May 1, 2020

The Lusty Month of May

What if they opened up the economy, and nobody came?

The inhuman irony of half of US states choosing today of all days to begin easing restrictions on going back to work should not be lost on us. Forcing people back on the job on the very same day that the rest of the civilized world marks as a holiday for labor rights, when at least 63,000 citizens have already died and millions more infected, the message could not be more explicit.  

In a subverted twist on the right-wing biblical nostrum "he who does not work shall not eat," the ruling class's new improved implicit mantra is "both he who does work and he who does not work shall not only not eat,  his premature death will be his own fault whatever choice he makes. We, the Job Creators,  absolve ourselves of all legal and moral responsibility."

Since nothing must ever keep Donald Trump from his Big Macs and other artery-clogging animal flesh, he has ordered that the country's infested meat-packing plants be kept open, worker safety be damned.

The common topic of debate among the pundits and the policy-makers is not over whether to give people universal guaranteed income and health care during the pandemic. It is over how many of our deaths are worth the return of unfettered capitalism, historic wealth inequality, and unmitigated greed. 

The United States had "officially" abandoned its shameful eugenics and blatant Jim Crow policies only when our leaders realized that they had directly inspired the Nuremberg Laws and the Nazi extermination camps. Post-World War II, the American Century was declared by the victorious ruling elites whose propaganda goal was to become a kinder, gentler Imperium bringing democracy to the rest of the world and destroying the New Deal under the guise of fighting Russia and communism.

The pandemic has provided these rulers with a unique opportunity. It is accomplishing what mass sterilizations, voter disenfranchisement and cuts to social welfare programs never could.  In varying degrees of doublespeak and euphemisms, they recommend that the country "gradually" be opened up so that good old Laissez-Faire can do the trick. The fact that this pandemic is  disproportionately sickening and killing Latinos and Blacks in particular, and poor, sick and old people in general, is simply a fringe benefit for an oligarchy that has spent the last 40 years culling the American herd.

The designated working class guinea pigs of the oligarchic eugenicists are, however, refusing to go gently into that rotten night. Labor journalist Mike Elk, who has been tracking news reports of labor strikes throughout the pandemic in his Payday Report blog, notes this is no easy task, given that the pandemic has also accelerated the closings of local news outlets which otherwise would have been covering these strikes. As it is, the mainstream corporate press is accentuating astroturfed uprisings backed by right-wing groups. We are told that armed militias are out in force, demanding the right to die in the name of American economic freedom.

But as Elk reports, there have been at least 150 wildcat strikes since early March. Some have involved sick-outs, others were temporary walkouts settled almost immediately with employers.  It's as impossible to learn the true total of these labor actions as it is to know the full extent of Covid-19 morbidity and mortality in the deliberate absence of adequate testing.

And it's not just workers who are striking. It's the nation's renters. Estimates are that a third to as much as one half of tenants are unable to pay May rent, making it the largest de facto rent strike in the nation's history. Thus far, calls for a rent freeze for the duration of the pandemic have mostly fallen on deaf political ears.

As is the case with the mass wage stagnation which preceded the current unemployment crisis, the housing crisis has been brewing for a long time. The majority of low income earners were already paying more than half their wages on their rent before the pandemic threw them out of work. 

As a whole, landlords are not only not sympathetic, they are acting downright psychopathic. On a personal note, my own landlord just sent me a notice increasing my rent by 16 percent beginning on June 1st - this is on top of the 25 percent hike he levied last year to keep up with the "going market rate" in my increasingly gentrified area. Fortunately for me and other abused tenants, though, the greedster did not supply the 90 days notice now required in New York for people who have lived in their apartments longer than two years. His self-defeating flouting of the law, coupled with the state's temporary stay on evictions, at least gives me and the others some housing security for the next three months, along with the time to fight the extortionist attempt at rent-gouging.

Our solidarity with one another is our strength. And the bastards know it.

And there's no law that says we can't also be blissfully joyful as we go merrily astray, either.

Happy May Day, everybody!