Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Abandon Hope, Get Out and Vote

That giant sucking sound you may or may not be hearing is the death of any second stimulus package for pandemic relief. If you're not hearing it, it's because the corporate media have chosen not to write the obituary. Besides, they're way too busy covering the tech moguls and congress critters convening remotely to argue yet again about all that horrible misinformation and disinformation and discord-sowing on the Internet. 

They're too busy to cover their own cover-up of the hard truth that our politicians have deliberately refused to help their constituents.

So, to distract you from the reality that there will be no more $1200 stimulus checks and no more enhanced unemployment benefits to help stave off hunger and eviction, the New York Times is running on its front page two side-by-by side photos of extremely well-stocked refrigerators. You are asked to guess which one is a Trump voter's and which one is a Biden voter's. There are apparently no other types of Americans who eat. There are no third party voters, no write-in voters and no abstaining voters. There are also apparently no Americans with bare refrigerators, despite the fact that at least eight million have slipped into poverty just in the few months since the pandemic aid dried up.

In case that fun fridge quiz didn't distract or satiate you, the Times is also running "The Anxious Person's Guide to the 2020 Election." Some people apparently are so jittery that they don't even know when Election Day is. Or at least the Times thinks so, because it is the very first topic on their list of existential anxieties. To further distract the anxious from their empty refrigerators and bank accounts, the Times also soothes the fears of people who can't sleep at night because they don't know what a naked ballot is. 

Nowhere on the Times front page is there any announcement that, due to the lack of agreement on a new economic package, we're all screwed until at least next month, next year, or possibly forever. 

Meanwhile, we are drowning in the third wave of the Covid pandemic. Or, according to some experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, we are still riding the first wave that is cresting again. 

It's really a tsunami of destruction for all but the extremely rich, for whom the pandemic has been a windfall. Jeff Bezos has made so many more billions from Covid that he is reportedly now trying to add CNN to his global empire, further controlling the establishment "narrative" which aims to limit and suppress all sources of independent journalism and independent thought. Increasingly, one of the main functions of establishment media, as the above two examples in Wednesday's New York Times show, is to infantilize and gaslight the news-consuming public.

We're not only flailing around in a monster wave of disease, we're caught in the undertow of reactionary political malpractice. We are crashing ashore and getting sucked back out to sea at the same time, just like in a real tsunami. No wonder we're anxious.  

A Google search of "Stimulus Bill Dead" brings up a Times article titled "Dead, Alive, or On Life Support: Confusion Reigns on Stimulus" - dating all the way back to October 8.

Only two articles from the front page of my Wednesday search -  one from Forbes and one from New York Magazine - make the straightforward announcement that the stimulus deal is completely and ignominiously dead. To make this blunt admission is as much to announce that America is a failed state only six days before the election. No wonder the voter-shaming, click-baiting Times and other outlets aren't touching this harsh reality with a ten foot pole. Headlines of "probably dead," "could be dead," "could it really be dead this time?," "not really dead," or "alive again" do nothing but paint a rosy picture and keep the audience captive as they anxiously expect their elected reps to buckle down and help them.

Meanwhile, these outlets marvel that their audience members are waiting in such record long lines to vote, without really questioning why these unconscionably long lines exist in the first place. (hint: no new federal stimulus aid to the counties, states, towns and cities responsible for keeping the polling places open and adequately staffed.)

Ed Kilgore of New York Magazine is one of the few journalists who isn't ignoring or soft-pedaling the truth and promoting false hope. He writes that "there is no reason to think a stimulus deal will be imminent even after the election, when the incentive to make voters happy will have disappeared."

Actually, they have no incentive to make us happy now, right before an election, the only time they traditionally are forced to make an effort to make us happy. They aren't even pretending to care, not even in one of those rare intervals when we are allowed to hold them accountable. Even if they lose, they win. Elected office is increasingly viewed as the stepping-stone to vast wealth and new career opportunities - on cable TV, the vast networks of corporate-funded think tanks, private equity firms, hedge funds, and good old-fashioned direct lobbying, which is now known as "consultancy" to sidestep laws barring our public officials from cashing in too quickly.

Heck, they cash in while they're still in office. Look at all the stock-dumping and insider trading that members of  Congress did when they got their secret briefings early this year about the coming pandemic. 

Maybe sometime between now and the inauguration of the next president, people will finally start recovering from their presidential horse race psychoses and begin adding the words "strike" and "new parties" to their vocabularies. 

And beating their addiction to the Times, MSNBC, CNN, Fox and the rest of the Groupthink Conglomerate by spending more time reading books and alternative media. We have to learn to evict Trump from the squatting position he's taken up in our brains, with the aid and encouragement of the establishment media. This is regardless of whether he wins or loses.

And if he does lose, we have to be vigilant lest Joe Biden puts us all to sleep with his neoliberal reasonableness and those dreaded common-sense solutions and rhetoric about rich and poor being all in this together.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Debate & Switch Finale: A New Translation


 For those who missed it because life is too short and the prospect was too disgusting, here is Sardonicky's deconstruction and enhancement of the final debate between the two right-wingers currently running for president.

Trigger warning: although widely praised by the corporate media as being more "civil" than the first Hindenburg disaster of a debate, detailed discussions of actual policies that will help ordinary people were few and far between, from either candidate. But if anyone wants to fact-check my own interpretation of the event, please feel free to check out the official transcript. 

I think you might find it even more horrifying than my condensation.

I've abridged the dialogue, often modifying it into what I believe are the core intents and  hidden agendas of both the candidates and the NBC moderator.

 DT is Donald Trump, JB is Joe Biden, and KW is Kristen Welker, the moderator.


KW: Mr President, you have two whole minutes to blather about Covid.

DT: Two million people were expected to die but the bastards lied, they didn't follow through and actually croak. So the sub-excessive mortality rate is a huge win for me. And we keep pounding down those spikes. We pound those spikes good and hard in all the battleground states. We pound them and people right into the ground and stomp all over them until only the tippy tops are showing. We pound them down with Operation Warp Speed and a vaccine that will be announced right before election day and might possibly maybe probably be available sometime next year.  Myself, I'm immune, so who cares? We're rounding the turn.

KW: Over to you, Veepy, how would you lead the country out of this crisis?

JB: Anybody responsible for 220,000 deaths should not remain president. He has no plan. But I will take care of this. I will make sure we have a plan. I will make and implement a plan even before I am inaugurated. Because here's the deal.  My remaining time could be as short as the half-minute I have to answer these questions.

KW: Prexy?

DT: Even if we don't have a vaccine, the military will distribute it. The generals are just sitting around twiddling their thumbs and dropping their bombs just waiting to distribute a hundred million vials of the stuff. So it might as well already exist. Did I tell you I'm totally immune?

KW:What do you say, Mr. Veep? Forty percent of Americans say they won't take the vaccine if it's approved. What will you do to convince them?

JB: I'll make it totally transparent. None of that cherry-flavored red stuff in a vial. I will make it so totally clear, you'll be able to see right through it. This fella Trump thought he was the Easter Bunny bringing eggs last spring. He has no clear plan. I have a plan to have a clear plan myself eventually, something that is not as vague and fuzzy as my answers are here tonight. It's going to be a long dark winter.

KW: Trump, he says you have no plan.

DT: It's not going to be a dark winter at all. That science stuff about the days getting shorter is from China, which if you pound a spike in the ground long enough and as strongly as I do, it goes right through the earth and then you find out that it's always nighttime in China while it's  sunny in America. When Joe ran it, the Swine Flu it was a total disaster.

KW: Your response, Veepy?

JB: My response is he's a total racist xenophobe. He said the Chinese president was being transparent. The only transparent thing is my plan for a vaccine. Trump here says the pandemic is going to be over soon. Hah!

KW: Trump?

DT: I didn't say over soon, I said learning to live with it. Joe just locks himself up in his basement. You call that living? I wish I could put myself in a basement. The only time I ever went in a bunker was after I had my military fire tear gas into a crowd of peaceful protesters so I could hold up a Bible outside a church. I meet a lot of Gold Star families who lost their kids in the line of fire of our endless wars of expansion, and these grieving people are the ones who spread their virus to me. But it would have been horrible not to let them hug me and their germs contaminate me, because as president you always have to put yourself in the line of fire, I'm cured and I'm immune, so everybody else should get infected because it's a walk in the park. If people can't voluntarily catch Covid, we won't even be a capitalist nation any more!

KW: Joe, respond to that in 30 seconds or less.

JB: People are learning to die with it. Trump never said it's dangerous, and we're dangerous. You take no responsibility for danger.

DT: I do take responsibility, but it's not my fault. It's China's fault and Nancy Pelosi is out there dancing on the streets of Chinatown. And Joe, you called me a racist and a xenophobe for closing China!

JB: No, I said you were xenophobic for closing the border to Chinese immigrants,

KW: V.P. Biden, let's move on from your plan to get a plan on Covid into the real nitty-gritty of having a strategy for devising a strategy to deal with people's  feelings about shutdowns and quarantines.

JB: I want to shut down the virus, not shut down capitalism. Trump's ineptitude is what shut down the country. He was stuck in a sand trap at his golf course. We need safe openings. But no bars and gyms.

DT: Democratic states are shut down, and they're dying. And he supports dying people and places! My young son tested positive and he didn't die. Harrumph!That makes my spawn so superior to New York and California.

KW: Prexy, you demanded that schools re-open. But many of them are shutting down again. What say you?

DT: We have to open our country because there is tremendous drug abuse. The cure can't be worse than the disease. And he (Biden) wants to shut it all down!

JB: Not true! I want plexiglass dividers in restaurants. And by the way, all you teachers out there — not that many of you are going to die, so don't worry about it. Don't worry about it. Come on.

DT: New York is a ghost town. You want to eat in a cubicle wrapped up in plastic inside a Tupperware container? You can't do that to my wonderful beloved city that I abandoned for Florida, because I can never eat lunch wrapped in plastic in that town ever again! Since I'm leaving, everybody's leaving.

KW: Your turn, Veepy.

JB: Seems like only 20 minutes ago I scoffed at this fellow for claiming that we're rounding the corner on Covid. That's malarkey, because here's the deal: in New York they already rounded the curve on Covid after thousands of people needlessly died from it. Now let me plagiarize my friend Barack Obama a wee bit and repeat there is no Red America or Blue America, there is the United States of America! All masks are created equal!

DT: Look at Michigan, which is like a prison. By the way, Kristen, thanks for not asking me about my role in the right-wing militia's kidnapping plot against the Democratic governor there, or any of that other coup plot stuff. But wherever there are Democratic governors there are spikes that are not being pounded into the ground as hard as I can pound them. We have to protect our seniors with diabetes and keep pounding down those spikes.

KW: Mr. Prez, why did you call renowned epidemiologist and liberal hero Dr. Anthony Fauci a "disaster?"

DT: I love disasters. I get along very well with disasters. Some of my best friends are disasters. Fauci I think is a Democrat but that's okay. Everybody makes mistakes.

JB: Trump knew about the dangers in January and didn't tell the American people. He said he didn't want people to panic. But let me tell you something. Americans do not panic. But he panicked. His folks went to Wall Street and told them to panic and sell short because it's dangerous and we gotta keep moving.

DT: You're the one that takes all the money from Wall Street. I could make them give me all the money I wanted but I don't need it, I'm already as rich as sin.

JB: Average contribution $43.

KW: Let's get on to another pressing kitchen table issue that is on the minds of All Americans. Foreign and Russian interference in our elections. How will you deal with this, Joe Biden?

JB: Everybody has to take the pledge. Whenever the booming and privatized Security Industry announces a threat, anybody who interferes with our propaganda will have to pay a price. And that includes non- believers. Everybody has to take the pledge.  Russia and China will pay a price, when I am president, for interfering with American hegemony. I don't think Trump has said anything to Putin about interfering. Nothing good happens, like a new war for instance. Putin is paying a bounty to the Taliban to kill our guys who've been occupying Afghanistan for the last 20 years.  I believe everything I read in the New York Times,  and why wouldn't I? I am often one of the anonymous sources who dictates this bullshit to the Times. I am the authority. Take the pledge and defeat this fascist!

DT: Joe takes money from Russia.  When Russia took over that submarine port (Crimea) Joe Biden was in charge and he let them do it. I can red-bait like the best of these war-mongers.Nobody is tougher on Russia than me. Didn't I refuse to renew the nuclear arms treaty? What more do you possibly want from me? And all these emails about your kid Hunter taking money from Ukraine, when are you going to come clean with the American people, Joe?

JB: I have never taken a penny from a foreign source in my life. I am not addressing how many pennies my son took. And that is because the mainstream media is not only not really pressing to explain those leaked emails about Hunter, they're either suppressing the story or calling it a bunch of malarkey. End of story. What about Trump's tax returns, which are perfectly okay for the media to steal and print? If you won't talk about your corruption, why should I talk about my corruption?

DT: I've been under audit since I was in the womb. And I don't make money from China, I just have a few secret bank accounts there besides the one I closed. Joe, why are you called "Big Man" in those emails? 

KW: Prexy, but when are you doing to release the same tax records that the New York Times has already printed?

DT: The IRS not only treats me terribly, they treat me horribly, even worse than the Tea Party gets treated. Not to mention unfairly.

JB: Oh come on now, folks!

DT: I was put through an impeachment witch hunt. What about you, Joe? Millions of dollars and houses all over the place.

KW: All right, gents, all this corruption is just canceling itself out. So let's move on to asking Joe Biden about his son's sleazy consulting gig with a corrupt Ukrainian gas oligarch. Do you regret this scandal, Veepy?

JB: Here's the wheel and deal, folks. All the Democrats in the impeachment testified that I did my job impeccably. End of story. Period, period, period.

DT: The Hunter gig was a hundred percent dishonest.

JB: Everyone, meaning my Democratic friends and media pals, testified we did nothing wrong in Ukraine.

KW: Okay.What about your businesses and personal properties, Prez?

DT: I have bank accounts all over the place. I was a businessman doing business.

KW: Okay.

DT: Big difference, he was the vice president of the United States, his family was getting rich like a vacuum cleaner.

KW: Okay, now we have to move on from the first moving-on and I am not kidding this time. Let's move to a broader China than the one you and Hunter did business with. By that, I mean let's revisit that whole Covid Transparency thing that we we already moved on from once in this soap opera. VP Biden, how are you going to  make China pay? Please, for once in your life, be specific when I vaguely ask about China broadly.

JB: I'd play by the American Supremacy rules, unlike him. Also too, China would have to play by the rules. I'll fly right through their no-fly zones. Heck, I already flew our bombers right through that airspace. Trump doesn't play by our rules, he kisses up to thugs like Kim Jong Un.

KW: Oh, all right then, Let's move on to North Korea.

DT: Hold on there. His son walked out of China with millions.

JB: Not true, not true.

KW: All right then, let's take a detour back to China if you really insist.

DT: I am making China pay. I made them pay $28 billion to our farmers.

JB: That was American taxpayers' money, not yours.

DT: No they devalued their currency and the farmers got the money.

KW: Your response, Veepy?

JB: I can't say it's not true about the Trump aid to farmers. So I'll deflect and say that I don't want to make this all about me. This is about your family sitting around the kitchen table, worried about their tires going as bald as the backs of our heads. Scranton, Scranton, Scranton. 

KW: Beat the buzzer, Donald. Ten seconds and counting.

DT: Kitchen table is typical politician-speak. Let's get off China, let's talk about sitting around the kitchen table. Come on Joe, you can do better.

KW: Okay then, let's deflect from farmers deflecting from kitchen tables and go back to North Korea by way of the China detour. Why are you so lovey-dovey with Kim Jung Un, Mr. Prez? You have 30 seconds to explain your position on world-destroying nuclear war, because we have many more important topics to move on to.

DT: Barack Obama told me when I won the election that the biggest threat to world peace was North Korea. There has been no war with North Korea on my watch.

JB: I had to make it clear to North Korea that here's the deal, they had to be part of the deal. We're going to continue to control them. And what has he done? He's called this nuclear-capable thug his good buddy. North Korea has to be a nuclear-free zone while we keep building our own trillion-dollar nukes. It's the exceptionally American way.

DT: A good relationship with the leaders of other countries is a good thing.

JB: We had a good relationship with Hitler before he invaded the rest of Europe. Me and Obama chose to starve North Korea into submission, and then the thug refused to cooperate with us. Come on, man!

KW: Let's move back to American families sitting around the kitchen table. The Affordable Care Act is moving back to the Supreme Court and families might lose the privilege of paying exorbitant rates to the health care insurance industry. So what would you say to those families, President Trump?

DT: I terminated the individual mandate. But pre-existing conditions will always stay. Not that they'll be covered, mind you, but we will always be stuck with the conditions we are often born with or irresponsibly develop. Joe Biden is going to terminate all that great big beautiful profitable private health care! The job being done on American health care and on sick people has been absolutely incredible. The rest of the advanced world is looking at us in awed amazement.

JB: Obamacare will become Bidencare, with a public option. What this means is, we will bypass Red states that have refused to expand Medicaid and automatically enroll them in my strictly means-tested plan. Folks who are struggling to pay the high premiums and deductibles and co-pays to the private insurers whose stock went sky-high when we cheated Bernie out of the nomination will not qualify for my  public option unless they fall below our ridiculous measurement for poverty. I beat out 20 other Democratic primary challengers because even though more than 80 percent of my party's base favors Medicare For All, they obviously like me a lot more than they care about their health. I will never advocate for single payer health care, even in the middle of a pandemic. Like I said when we started, people are learning how to die with it. Take the pledge! If you like your plan you can keep your plan even if you don't like it.

KW: But, given that my own NBC employer is funded by corporations and insurance companies, wouldn't your plan cause losses in our ad revenue and take us one step closer to socialized medicine?

JB: That's ridiculous. Health is not a privilege, it is the human right to compete and pay a private corporation for something that every other advanced government in the world automatically provides for its people.

DT: Bernie Sanders wants it, and the Democrats are going to get it. Joe claimed to be against fracking, too, before he is suddenly for it.

JB: I beat all those people  - not because they dropped out en masse when Barack gave them a friendly prodding phone call - but because I didn't agree with them. Just because I once tried to cut Social Security and Medicare don't mean a thing when you ain't got that swing.... state of mind.

DT: The Stock Market will boom when I'm re-elected.

KW: As the Democratic candidate and leader of the party, Biden, why aren't you involved in getting the stimulus through Congress? 

JB: Scranton, Scranton, Scranton. Hardscrabble kitchen tables. Sleepless nights worrying about the medical bills. Scranton.

KW: Let's round the curve before the ratings of this spectacle flatten out, and move on to another 30 second pivot point. But about the Covid relief bill, Mr. President? People are either sitting around the kitchen table, or tossing and not turning the corner in bed.

DT: Nancy Pelosi.

JB:  Mitch McConnell. But when I am elected, to plagiarize Obama again, there will no red states and no blue states, only the United States of America. McConnell will melt right in my arms.

And here's where I get really radical. Just because I was a right-wing austerian my entire political life, I'm going to jump off a cliff here and embrace deficit spending for a change. Or at least that is my current aspirational plan.You'll just have to stay tuned for my cabinet appointments to get a hint as to whether I'm serious about his or not.

DT: No increase in the minimum wage, because people in Alabama are used to having nothing. You already know how I feel about spoiled rotten New York.

JB: Our first responders deserve a minimum wage of $15. Because by the time it finally passes, it will not by any stretch be a living wage. So I'll go out on another limb and be for it. 

KW: On to immigration. What about the caged children and the missing parents?

DT: Latino parents are al coyotes who took money to bring strangers' kids across our borders. It was Obama who built the cages. And anyway, they are very clean cages. Other countries look at our cages and are amazed. We are working as hard to reunite the children and parents as we are at hammering away the Covid spikes. In other words, maybe it will all just go away if we only ignore it long enough.

JB: Pictures of kids in cages makes us the laughingstock of every other nation. The well-being of children pales in comparison to the hit that our reputation as savior of the world has taken. When Barack was president, we imprisoned the parents and children together in what we called Family Detention Centers. We only threatened to take the kids away one time, when the mothers staged a hunger strike at our condemned facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Which, by the way, is in the same state as Scranton Scranton Scranton. Oh, and I was only the powerless vice president when Obama deported more people than all other previous presidents combined. It was a mistake. But I won't mention my part in going down to Mexico to make sure that Hondurans and other Central Americans never got past their border on the way to our border.

DT: I hate to love to say this, but the only illegals who ever show up in our courts voluntarily have low IQs. 

KW: Okay, let's move on to race in America. Mr. Veep, I want you to talk directly to the Black families about The Talk.

JB: My daughter is a social worker. Rich Black people get stopped by the police as often as poor Black people. That is my way of ignoring the Class War, by the way, and feeling good about representing the rich of all races.
Even if you're making $300,000 a year you're still a victim. It's about having the ability to be free from violence as you are accumulating wealth.

DT: In 1994 you did such harm to the Black community with your Crime Bill. You called them super-predators.

JB: No I did not, that was Hillary Clinton. I called them thugs and hoodlums out to rape my wife and my daughter, you racist pig. You, who called for the death penalty for the Central Park Five even after they were cleared. Our character is on the ballot, Look at us closely.

DT: Hunter Biden is the Laptop From Hell.

JB: It's a Russian plot. Hundreds of my Deep State colleagues say so, who needs evidence?

KW: I thought we were talking about race. What about your support of the white militia movement,  Prexy?

DT: I am the least racist president of all the racist presidents.

JB: You support the Poor (sic) Boys.  This guy has a dog whistle as big as a foghorn, while my own is very tinny-sounding and proper. Everybody voted for my Crime Bill. Mistakes were made. At the very end of the Obama administration, we released a tiny percentage of people serving long sentences for minor drug crimes. Obama had a legacy to protect and a book to write.

KW: Let's leave our token discussion of climate change  for the very end, when the attention span of our audience is faltering. Because Big Oil advertises on NBC

DT: I love trees, air and crystal clear water. Since I love them they will take care of themselves. But look at those filthy shithole countries, Russia, China and India.

 JB: Climate change is an existential threat to humanity. I do not support the Green New Deal. I will create millions of new green jobs, though, because it's good for Wall Street.

DT: You are jumping through hoops for AOC+3. You want to knock down buildings and put small windows in buildings like holes. You said we're going to have a very dark winter! Windmills kill birds.

JB: I never said I oppose fracking! We need fracking to transition to clean energy, the same way we capitalists need predatory private insurance to transition to single payer in the next century.

DT: Yeah, so Black people who live right near oil refineries and chemical plants might get sick from pollution, but at least they don't need a car to get to their great oil refinery jobs to get rich.

JB: When I was growing up, our car had oil on the windshield, so I can relate to Black people in those fenceline communities. I am not banning fracking! Wall Street says there will be good paying jobs to capture all that excess gas we extract from the earth. I will replace oil over time. Eons of time we don't have, after I am dead.

KW: We're out of time, gentlemen.

DT: Nothing succeeds like success. Nothing exceeds like excess. I am both. Vote for me!

JB: I will be the president of all the people. There is no rich America, there is no poor America. Folks, we're all in this together with Jeff Bezos and United Healthcare. Choose hope over fear. Vote for me!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Big Business of Fear

 The Paper of Record is running yet another big front page advertisement for the highly competitive private cybersecurity industry, whose stock prices seem to rise every time the Media Industrial Complex announces a new foreign threat.

The New York Times's latest scare piece, written by a crack team of two lead reporters and three contributing staffers, has the FBI and National Intelligence directors using information provided to them by several of these private security firms. The businesses sounded the alarm that Iran and Russia both are "hacking" publicly available voter registration rolls. Iran then supposedly sent spoof emails from "The Proud Boys" to some voters in Alaska and Florida. Vote for Trump, or else! was the threatening message allegedly traced by one Silicon Valley firm to a server in Estonia.

Russia is not doing anything specific or new at this precise moment, but they have "inspired" Iran, the article claims. So why not give them a gratuitous mention?

I don't know why they even bother. I've been getting extortion emails direct from the Trump campaign all week long, warning me that since I have not donated any money to re-elect The Donald, they have officially placed my name on the dreaded Joe Biden Supporter list for all to see. The only way I can get taken off the blacklist is to fork over some cash to Trump.

I also get a lot of emails from the Democrats slugged "Final Notice" in hopes of scaring me into opening them because they so resemble those terrifying cut-off messages from the power or cable company.

But I digress. My main beef with the latest Times fear-mongering is that they buried the unintentionally hilarious lead deep within their thinly-disguised advertisement for Security, Inc. They quote Senator Angus King (I-Maine) as saying:

“This may be the beginning of a more concerted operation. They don’t have to do anything; they just have to make people think they are doing something.” (my bold.)

"They" were intended to mean our alleged foreign enemies.  But it could also be easily interpreted to mean that the public-private partnership which is making tons of money manufacturing and marketing all this fear on a regular basis are the ones who have to make people believe in their endless streams of bullshit.

You probably notice that the Times always tries to feebly cover its ass when writing the propaganda on behalf of the Security-Industrial complex. They put the Big Lie in the headline and in the first few paragraphs, knowing that many if not most readers will not proceed beyond this point.  Then they get on with the disclaimers and the waffling. Such as:

There was no indication that any election result tallies were changed or that information about who is registered to vote was altered, either of which could affect the outcome of voting that has already begun across the United States. The officials also did not claim that either nation hacked into voter registration systems — leaving open the possibility that the data was available to anyone who knew where to look.

The voting rolls throughout the country are with very few exceptions widely available, either online or in physical public office space. How else could our home-grown political candidates know where to send their own fear-mongering flyers about their opponents into people's homes? 

The main qualms that the Times seems to have in spreading the latest fearsome propaganda is that it threatens to directly benefit Trump's own propaganda: that the election results will be rigged against him. That puts Rachel Maddow, the prima donna of the pro-Democratic #Russiagate propaganda franchise into a real quandary. Even Democrats and their wealthy donors invest heavily into these private security firms and profit mightily from them.

So she had Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on her show Wednesday, right after the "authorities" made the latest Big Reveal to assure the liberal audience that despite all Trump's lies about election rigging, his administration is telling the absolute truth when it blames Iran and Russia!

“From the briefing, I had the strong impression it was much rather to undermine confidence in elections and not aimed at any particular figure,” he smarmily told Maddow, according to the Times article.

Although the FBI and Trump's national intelligence director made the announcement of the "threat," the Times then reassures its readers in a rather oblique way that since it was a handful of private companies which provided the information to the government agencies tasked to protect the citizenry, it's all legit. 

Proofpoint is casually mentioned, almost in passing, as the source of information that the fake "Proud Boys" emails emanated from a server in Estonia (which, unlike the secret public voter rolls, apparently cannot be used as a proxy by any average Joe or Jane who goes to an Internet proxy site for purposes of hiding one's identity.) 

Visit Proofpoint's glitzy website and the first thing you learn is that October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month! It includes a quarterly Threat Report to incentivize customers and investors, along with publishing its own Threat Blog. Gary Steele, the company's founder and CEO, lists his main credential as being a "thought leader" who is regularly featured by the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Forbes, Fortune, Fox Business and other media outlets with a concentration on business rather than on national security and foreign affairs. He has a bachelor's degree in computer science.

The New York Times goes on to uncritically quote John Hultquist of the firm FireEye in an attempt to further bolster the credibility of Russian and Iranian election interference. "Their focus is to prey on existing fears that election infrastructure will be subverted and hacked, as well as fears of voter intimidation," he said, before going on to promote his company's big free ad in the Times on Twitter.

FireEye, for its own  part, does not at all prey upon existing fears through its own employee recruitment pitch:

 At FireEye, we fight evil  by bringing together frontline human expertise, nation state-grade threat intelligence and innovative technology – creating a unique innovation cycle that allows us to provide the most effective cyber defense platform for our customers.

As an innovator, thought leader and trusted advisor, you'll relentlessly protect our customers from the impact and consequences of cyber attacks.

Are you ready to join us on our mission?

According to his bio, before spinning through the revolving doors to a career in the rapidly expanding private security industry, Hultquist was a "senior US intelligence analyst" who was "involved in counterinsurgency operations in the US Army."

Don't just take FireEye's word for it, though. In an effort to triple-verify its propaganda message, the Times next turns to the competing Trustwave, which went the extra mile and discovered that those free, publicly available voter rolls were also being offered for sale on the Dark Web! Whether any rube of an adversary was dumb enough to buy information that is there for the legal taking, the Times does not say. But the company's global vice president, Mark Whitehead, told the paper that he had immediately and patriotically notified the FBI of the attempted scam.

“The consumer and voter databases that we discovered hackers are currently selling significantly lowers the barrier to entry for nation-states to execute sophisticated phishing, disinformation and intimidation campaigns,” Mr. Whitehead said.

Trustwave's own team of "ethical hackers" calls itself SpiderLabs. 

As a master's degree graduate of the NSA/Homeland Security "Cyber Defense University," you'd think that Whitehead could easily have accessed the government's very own existing database of every email on the planet, stored in a massive Utah desert warehouse, to get the same information for absolutely free, without the need for spidery ethical hackers spinning their sticky public relations webs for fun and big, big returns to investors.

What is with the fancy two-word names of all these private security companies, anyway? Double the titles, double the fear, double the profits. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Woke-Washed and the Vote-Washed

 Neoliberal capitalism never dies, much less fades away. It just keeps right on reinventing itself and gaining strength, even as the world collapses around it.

With millions of Americans in increasingly dire straits due to the federal government's failure to provide even a modicum of renewed relief in one of the worst pandemics in human history, you'll be happy to learn that Facebook is here to help. Its billionaire CEO Mark Zuckerberg just ostentatiously forked over another $100 million to help keep the polls open next month,  ensuring the "safety and efficiency" of ballot-casting.

He also has recently financed a study which concludes that the way for corporations to help disabled, sick, overweight, elderly, gay, transgender, and racially marginalized people is to use more of them in their advertisements. The more that an oppressed population group can be used in commercials, the higher the profits will be for corporations like Facebook, which are absolutely loath to pay taxes that would help fund social programs and Covid relief for the people who need help the most.

Neoliberal "woke-washing" has, of course, gained a whole new head of steam since the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is a novel way of keeping capitalism-spawned systemic racism and record economic inequality - and the resulting social unrest - under strict control, so that the rich can get even richer as they pretend to care. The public relations message is this: it's not a living wage, guaranteed health care, food and housing that people need. It's recognition. It's either seeing others who look like you on TV and in social media ads, or it's getting the chance to appear in one of these commercials yourself to sell stuff that makes rich people and corporations even richer.

But lest you get too far ahead of yourselves, remember that your very first acting job is to vote, to elect the politicians who will help the rich get richer. Vote-shaming marketing campaigns are fine. But the Facebook CEO is going that extra mile in directly funding the election of politicians who will do Facebook's bidding. Woke-washing and vote-washing have joined forces as the most important weapons in the Zuckerberg arsenal, to defend him both against future antitrust suits and to combat the widespread criticism of Facebook's political ads and other nefarious marketing, surveillance and propaganda operations. 

As much as acknowledging that the United States is a full-fledged oligarchy, albeit one that still requires the occasional rubber stamp of legitimacy from the unwashed masses, Zuckerberg writes:

“Voting is the foundation of democracy. It's how we express our voice and make sure our country is heading in the direction we want. Priscilla and I remain determined to ensure that every state and local election jurisdiction has the resources they need so Americans can vote.”

To help nudge the country in the direction that he wants, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan had already sent $250 million  to Chicago's Center For Tech and Civic Life, before upping the ante by another hundred mil last week. This organization's board of directors is a bipartisan mix of private equity moguls, former campaign operatives, McKinsey consultants and neoliberal think tank leaders. Its executive director, Tiana Epps-Johnson, founded the Center and financed it with the help of a generous Obama Foundation "fellow" grant. She said she will use the $350 million donated by Zuckerberg to disburse Covid protective gear and extra hazard pay and hire temporary workers - aid which the Trump administration refuses to provide to help ensure that more voters show up and local elections can run more smoothly.

Joe Biden, vice president under philanthrocapitalist and media mogul Barack Obama, has been a vocal critic of Facebook. The keyword here, of course, is vocal. Because as much as they deign to remind us every four years that "we" have a voice, it's still their money that talks.

Okay, so now that you've mailed in your ballot, already voted in person or at least made a plan to vote, you can finally lean back and relax by going online to be pressed to Buy Stuff. Even if you are poor, you still can feel a little better watching people who look like you trying to sell you Stuff that you can't afford. And if you can't afford Stuff because you have no job, no savings and can't even make the rent, an acting gig in a new slew of Woke-Washing diversity commercials might just be in your future.

Facebook recently commissioned the Geena Davis Institute to conduct a survey whose results claim that 70 percent of respondents want to see more diversity in online advertising. (Geena Davis is a Hollywood actress who started the Institute after her own acting jobs dried up due to systemic ageism in the film industry. Among her corporate endeavors is the annual film festival in Bentonville, Arkansas, bankrolled by the hometown Walton billionaires of Walmart.)

The Institute's Facebook study revealed, among other shocking things, that "even though 19 percent of Americans have some sort of cognitive, emotional or physical disability, only 1.1 percent of (advertisement) characters did." 

I doubt that the mass despair engendered by Covid alone, and the government's criminal neglect of same. could possibly have factored in to these results, given that a CDC study recently revealed that a not-insignificant percentage of the US population is now so depressed as to be suicidal.

But be that as it may, for according to the Facebook press release just published in Adweek:

It’s everyone’s responsibility to speak up about bias and stereotypes. All brands have an opportunity to step up, not only through increased presence of underrepresented groups, but through portrayals that are more authentic and empowering.

And it also may lead to better business results. In a Facebook analysis, we found that campaigns with more diverse representation had a 90% likelihood to be more effective at driving ad recall compared to campaigns with single traditional representation.

Thanks to Facebook's largesse, the Geena Davis Institute study coordinator is able to conclude:

I’ve observed that not only is eliminating harmful bias in advertising the right and responsible thing to do, it can lead to better results. I’ve even seen studies showing that creative with more diverse representation can boost stock price. As a general rule, I believe what’s good for our society is good for brands!

She got it a little backwards. Because the first tenet of neoliberalism is that when something is good for brands, only then can it be deemed to benefit "society." Societal good is a marginalized person being displayed and noticed for the ultimate profit of the user. A marginalized person is mainly being valued as a commodity and a marketing tool.

Just as Madison Avenue once used only young sexy women to sell everything from cars to mouthwash, so too can the ad industry now use marginalized or "exotic" people to sell any number of products. The Institute tells Facebook exactly what the ethics-challenged Zuckerberg paid them to suggest:

 Get specific in your briefs, scripts and casting documents—include gender, race and sexual orientation. Consider using an intersectional lens even if (and especially when) it’s not related to the brand or the message of the campaign. (my bold.)

Intersectionality pays! If a transgender person is selling a Chevy, be sure to mention their identity bona fides along with the misleading mileage stats so that the audience may feel more smugly tolerant as they shop for the latest gas-guzzler.

Advertisers can even combine woke-washing and vote-washing with good old fashioned green-washing.  For example, if a physically challenged actor is shilling for Exxon-Mobil, the theme of the script can be that even disabled people have the god-given right to be an Energy Voter and breathe in the sublime air of freshly fracked gas. The subliminal message to viewers? You cannot possibly champion disabled people and support the Green New Deal at the same time. You should wash all that angry knowledge about the oil industry's criminal role in climate change right out of your brain.

The possibilities for malign oligarchic intersectionality are as stratospheric as Mark Zuckerberg's vast tax-proof wealth, and as deep as the poisoned oceans, and as unrestrained as the greedy reach of capitalism itself.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Show Must Go On

 It's hard to believe that in just a few short weeks (if the polls are right)  Donald Trump will officially become a lame duck president. I'm already envisioning the ebullient crowds chanting, as they did outside the Bush White House when Barack Obama beat John McCain in 2008: "Na Na Hey Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye."

But I am also envisioning ultra-right militias showing up to do battle with the ephemeral Marxist/Antifa/Biden forces that supposedly are taking away all their freedoms.

The ugliness threatens to far outweigh the joy and relief that the long national nightmare of Trumpism is over. Because it won't be over. Even before he was elected thanks to the archaic Electoral College and the economic inequality of neoliberal capitalistic rule, Trumpism was always simmering just below the surface. Reversing the flood will be no easy task, and it will take a lot more than a corporate Democratic president's few token sandbags to do it.

Lame Duck Donald, if he wasn't joking at one of his recent Covid-spreading campaign rallies about fleeing the country to avoid prison, could start acting more like a high-flying reanimated Pterodactyl. He won't be going down without a fight, even if this fight doesn't include the highly prophesied legal challenges to the election result.

 Out of revenge, he would refuse to sign even a bare-bones stimulus bill that does not personally and directly benefit himself and his clan and grant him and them immunity from prosecution for all past, present and future crimes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is no doubt correct when she claims that all he cares about, right this very minute, is his name on $1200 stimulus checks to help his re-election chances.

Post-defeat, President Duck a L'Orange will be so busy stuffing his own carcass with Treasury loot that he'll make the Clintons' alleged absconding with White House furniture and memorabilia as they left office in 2000 look even pettier than it did at the time.

The mischief that this man can still do and the violence that he will still be able to foment from his continuing position of power are incalculable. The boast that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it might even be put to the ultimate test. Would the Republicans, even assuming that they'd still barely control the Senate in January under a Biden presidency, finally help remove him from office in November or December in the interest of the survival of their own corrupt party? Because if he does lose, and loses badly, the country might not even be able to wait a few more months for his final departure.

Of course, with no pandemic relief in sight, a lame duck Congress could single-handily transform America into a virtual abattoir as Joe Biden bides his time till Inauguration Day. Who needs a sane, functional president with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel in virtual control of both the public purse and the Republican Party? Having distanced himself from the White House after the bipartisan CARES package for the plutocracy gave him and his class everything they wanted and more, McConnell has no incentive at all to cooperate with any president, whether Democrat or Republican.

Even if Trump is ultimately tried and convicted of a crime, he will get his own reality show. "Celebrity Apprentice" will morph into "Celebrity Ex-President" or maybe "Orange Is the New Orange" filmed in a luxe Club Fed, where Trump in a jumpsuit can promote QAnon conspiracy theories to his heart's content. Stay tuned for a cable bidding war to end all bidding wars to determine where Trump decides to take his talents after he leaves Washington.

Meanwhile, whoever said that divisiveness and partisan "gridlock" are preventing our elected representatives from doing anything for the public good should ponder this grisly image:

That's maskless ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein giving a "full body hug" last week to maskless Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham after the Duopoly, at the behest of polluting Dark Money, successfully rammed through Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination for a full body vote. They were congratulating themselves on the awesome civility with which they stabbed the body politic right in the back. Or maybe it was the skill with which they attached the silencer to the assault rifle aimed at America, allowing one more right-wing jurist to avoid answering even the most basic and pressing existential questions, including whether she "believes" in the capitalism-engendered climate change destroying all forms of life on Earth.

 How do we explain this oligarchic merry-go-round, these endless variations on one grotesque theme?

 Let us at least try to count the ways: 


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Censorship and Narrative Are Incestuous Bedfellows

*Updated below.

I'll admit it. I am a diehard fan of the New York Post. I have been for most of my adult life. Who couldn't be a fan of a tabloid that once famously screamed "Headless Body Found in Topless Bar?"

To be precise, I don't read the Post as much as I scan it. If its scandals and scare headlines do nothing else, they greatly enhance the effects of my first cup of morning coffee. My daily hit of Post is the necessary prelude to seeing what the New York Times is up to. It's also fun to count the hours or days that it takes for the Times to catch up to the Post's scoops on the latest grisly crime or celebrity death.

As I am writing this blog entry at 9 a.m. on Thursday, more than 24 hours have passed since the Post broke the story of Hunter Biden's laptop (fake? hacked? stolen?). And the Times was still not On It. Not that I really expected them to be. No other major publication, as far as I could tell, was touching it at first either.

But what's unsettling is that unlike its fellow Narrators, the Times wasn't even covering the real story - which is that Twitter and Facebook had unilaterally blocked all links to the Post article and had even blocked the accounts of some of the more prominent users promoting it. In the coup de grace, Twitter blocked the entire account of the New York Post itself.

The real story now is not the chronic Hunter Biden mess. The real story is that a handful of Silicon Valley billionaires have arrogated to themselves the power to control everything we see and hear. That these billionaires also happen to be the incestuous bedfellows of the so-called Deep State/ a/k/a the Permanent Ruling Class, should be even more cause for alarm.

They are flailing and they are scrambling to explain themselves to the American public. They haven't had time to contrive or peddle the usual Kremlin narrative. They have not been able to tie the Delaware computer repairman - who claims he copied Hunter's hard disk after Hunter apparently was so messed up on drugs that he never claimed or even paid for the repairs to his machine - to Vladimir Putin and his election-meddling. discord-sowing, democracy-destroying army of Internet trolls.

And in their rush to censorship, they have given a great gift to Trump. They really are out to get him, and by extension, his supporters.

I'd given the Post article a cursory skim on Wednesday morning. My skepticism was immediately aroused when the name of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani appeared in connection to it. The Post is openly backing Donald Trump's re-election and digging up Biden scandals by the score. Could it nonetheless be true that Hunter Biden is even more of a scammer and influence peddler than we knew, selling access to his father regardless of whether he could actually produce his father in the flesh?  Is it also possible that Joe Biden lied through his teeth when he denied either knowing what Sonny Boy was up to, or that he'd had his own direct part in the grift? Of course it is. But when weighing whether a piece of journalism is trustworthy or not, you must always look at the sourcing and the context. And that especially goes for the Paper of Record (the Times) and its pro-war propaganda quoting unnamed officials.

Long story short: I took the whole thing with a pebble sized grain of salt. I figured that diehard Trump supporters would promote the story, and that diehard non-Trump supporters would scoff at it, or just ignore it. I never figured that the reading public would be denied the chance to even see it in order to draw their own conclusions. I, personally, didn't find the piece compelling enough to either think about or blog about on Wednesday. 

But here I am on Thursday, blogging about it. And wondering whether this censorship had the Democratic Party's hand on it, or whether Joe Biden himself raised enough of a stink about it to get his Facebook/Twitter CEO/ Deep State donors to help stop its spread. Despite polls that show Biden winning in a landslide, you have to wonder what they might have to hide and fear.

You also have to wonder what the Times has to fear by deliberately not informing its readers about the censorship and the slap in the face to the First Amendment. Then again, they are barely covering Julian Assange's extradition hearing and the dangers to press freedom that the Wikileaks prosecution presents.

The Post debacle is a lot harder to suppress, of course.They call the boomeranging, mushrooming effect that its Biden story has elicited the Streisand Effect, after the phenomenon of Barbra Streisand once drawing outsize attention to the location of her luxury estate through her strident complaints about the tabloid press publicizing the location of her luxury estate.

Tonight's dueling presidential Town Halls are another example of the Censorship Industrial Complex hard at work.  When the privately-run Commission on Presidential Debates decided to cancel the second official debate because a Covid-stricken Trump balked at the event being aired remotely, ABC-Disney agreed to host a solo Town Hall for Biden. A since-recovered (or so we're told) Trump then made a sweet deal with his alma mater, NBC, to headline a similar event for him, at the exact same time and on the exact same date. 

This ratings-driven "Battle of the Presidential Network Stars" is, of course, just the latest blatant example of broadcasting against the public interest. MSNBC star Rachel Maddow, who has become fabulously wealthy off the Trump-Hate/Russiagate Narrative franchise (#Resistance, Inc) is helping her network's ratings immensely by pretend-biting the very hand that feeds her. She is even leading the pack of censorious liberals who are urging people to protest! But what this really means is  that millions more will Tune In to watch even more of Maddow's censorious commentary as she leads the post-game NBC panel manufacturing the outrage.

Maybe some enterprising YouTuber can contrive a split screen image of Biden and Trump talking over one another at their dueling town halls. It would essentially be a repeat of their first Wrestlemania debate.

There is simultaneously not enough choice and too much choice.

 With Halloween approaching, there are literally hundreds of other, better horror movies streaming endlessly out of our smart screens to keep us occupied.

And if that doesn't appeal, don't forget that there is always the horror of our uncensored, day-to-day lives to fall back on, to keep us at least tenuously riveted to reality.

*Update: The New York Times has finally weighed in, via an article time-stamped 11.43 a.m., on the censorship. The Gray Lady can't ignore the uncomfortable fact that Twitter had also suspended the account of the Trump campaign for promoting the Post's Biden story. The Times piece uncritically reports that the campaign's promotion of the Post article violated the social media giant's rule against promoting stolen material.  The Paper of Record thus tacitly gives its own stamp of approval to Twitter's claim that, because Hunter Biden's emails were private and allegedly "hacked," evidence of any wrongdoing by the Bidens contained therein should be and will be suppressed. This specious rationale for censorship is identical to claims that the Wikileaks revelations about Hillary Clinton's chicanery are suspect on their face -  not because they are not true, but because of the means by which they were obtained. The story that the Clinton emails were hacked by "the Russians" has been repeated so often that it is an article of faith, although it has never been proven.

 It's another sad day for journalism.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Guns, Fetuses, and For-Profit Health Insurance

 What could be more important during this dangerous pandemic and its ensuing mass human misery and despair than the topics in the title of this post?


Thus far in the Senate's Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Amy Coney Barrett, this trifecta of partisan wedge issues has reigned supreme. With the showboating and grilling not even reaching the midpoint as of this writing, I suppose we can still hold out hope that one lone legislator comes out and asks Barrett for her initial visceral reaction to meeting Donald Trump in the flesh for the first time. Given that she has coyly refused to commit to recusing herself on his likely legal challenge to Joe Bidens predicted landslide victory, I doubt she'll be giving even the slightest hint of any human reaction. Not even in the unlikely event that a senile Judiciary Committee member veers off script and blurts it right out. As of Tuesday, Dianne Feinstein, 87, was living back in the 1950s, haunted by anecdotal memories of her peers' back-alley abortions. She is afraid that era will come back in the event of a Barrett confirmation, because Roe v Wade is not yet, according to Barrett, a "super precedent" exempt from overturning. Of course, the nominee will not say whether or not she'd vote to overturn it because she reassuringly won't be "queen of the world" with the power to overturn anything until and unless a challenge "winds its way" up to the highest court.

With corporate lawyers and oligarchs controlling all three branches of the US government, I just cannot not get the image of side-winding slithery snakes in suits out of my head.

 I was actually waiting for one of the inquisitors to press Barrett on the unseemliness of holding the first day of this rushed hearing on Columbus Day, a national holiday whose symbolism is integral to the culture wars which artificially separate the Republicans from the Democrats. To hear Trump's GOP tell it, any defacing or tear-downs of statues of the invaders, slave-owners and ethnic cleansers of yore is not to be tolerated. So why were they conducting government business on such a sacred day when all good patriots should be marching to honor Columbus and battling all those Woke Antifa hordes in our midst? Since Columbus was bankrolled by good Catholics and Inquisitors Ferdinand and Isabella,  somebody at least could have asked her if the Columbus Day session had offended her religious sensibilities.

Instead, the Republicans on the panel can't shut up about the Democrats attacking her Catholicism (which they aren't) and the Democrats telling one maudlin story after the other about the lucky people whose lives and bank accounts were saved by the Affordable Care Act. These heartbreaking stories are designed to instill guilt into a woman who has already experienced a whole lifetime of absorbing Catholic guilt, and who uses the so-called Ginsburg rule of never disclosing to the public what she thinks about any issue with which she might be confronted as a Supreme. This convenient unwritten rule gives her and other judicial nominees an easy out that mere mortals can never get away with in a job interview. If past writings and deeds are revealed, the nominees can easily dismiss them as the writings and deeds of a private citizen. We are supposed to believe that once judges don their magical black robes, they magically strip themselves of prejudices, not to mention their very fallible humanity.

Is anybody buying this nonsense?

Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois broke ranks for a bit when he challenged Barrett on a recent dissenting opinion in which she argued that a convicted felon's right to own a gun is a Second Amendment right, whereas the stripping of the voting rights of convicted felons is a matter for individual states to decide. Just as she was holding forth like a twisted pretzel on the rights of states to bar ex-cons from voting, but claiming that a mere fraudster should be entitled to bear arms, C-Span broke away from this important and interesting exchange to cover the pro-forma convening of the (empty) lower House.

The House was not actually meeting to discuss anything so mundane as Covid relief, or how to combat Donald Trump's ominous plans to "monitor" polling places on Election Day. But C-Span had to do its own patriotic duty of filming the solemn pounding of the gavel. And then everybody went to lunch. And then I took the opportunity to write this quick blog post before getting back to the depressing Senate spectacle.

Eric Levitz has an interesting piece at New York magazine which discusses the "Constitutional originalism" embraced by Barrett and her hard-right mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. This legal principle is nothing but a smokescreen for conservative hypocrisy. It's impossible, Levitz writes, to fall back on a "strict" reading of the Constitution because its wording was always made deliberately vague.

When justices claim the authority to determine the unequivocal meaning of a phrase at a given point in history, they are not demonstrating judicial humility but supreme arrogance. The farcical nature of the originalist enterprise was made plain in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller. Then, Justices Antonin Scalia and John Paul Stevens each produced their own historical monograph on the Second Amendment’s contemporary meaning, which arrived at antithetical conclusions that just so happened to line up perfectly with each jurist’s ideological tendency. The opinions nevertheless had one thing in common: Both were poorly regarded by actual historians.

Barrett did give one clue during Tuesday morning's session on how she squares her professional legal life with her religious life. After arriving at a decision that might be hurtful to a human being, she testified, she then asks herself how she would feel if, for example, it was her own child bearing the brunt of it. If she concludes that her decision was still a fair one no matter how injurious to this hypothetical child of hers, then her conscience is entirely clear. She has proven to her own satisfaction that she was in the right. She not only examines her conscience, she cross-examines her conscience. And she never has to look back. Second-guessing herself is apparently not part of her repertoire.

This courage of her own convictions is so absolutely and rigidly righteous, it should scare people.

And both the Democrats and the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were glowing in their effusive praise of how well-behaved and how quiet  six of her children were, sitting behind her in the audience. (The seventh, a boy with Down Syndrome, was left at home, but was very excited to see Mom on television, she said.)

Somebody should ask her how she feels about Trump's penchant for making fun of disabled people.

There are plenty more smart,  qualified and well-credentialed people just like Amy Coney Barrett waiting in the right wings, ready and willing and able to challenge Joe Biden or Kamala Harris or another conservative neoliberal Democrat in 2024.

If you think, correctly, that Trump is a menace, then just try to imagine a Trump with a high IQ who knows when to keep his or her mouth shut while sowing conscience-free chaos.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Off With Their Heads

 What is the country for, but to support its prince in his enterprise?

-- Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

While the American punditocracy is busy deciding which insipid courtier won the vice presidential debate  - was the "pivotal moment" the fly resting on Mike Pence's stiff white coif, or was it Kamala Harris bragging about all the generals and reactionary Republicans who are backing Joe Biden? - the rest of the country is wondering when the hell they'll be getting more Covid-19 relief.

As aristocratic scolds like Michelle Obama love to remind us all day and every day, our job as citizens is not to make strident demands for guaranteed health care, housing and food. It is to Vote for a more "soothing" Joe Biden as if our lives depended on it, even more than we depend on food, health and shelter. Because choosing a third party candidate, such as a Green, who supports universal health coverage and a pro-environment, antiwar agenda would just be, Mrs. Obama chided this week, simply "throwing away your vote."

That statement pretty much tells you what the country is really for. And it ain't for you. What is an election for, after all, but for the lesser people to give the quadrennial stamp of legitimacy to a cabal of princes and wolves?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also made it absolutely and chillingly plain this week that her priority is not restoring the nation's actual people to health, but to restore her exiled Democratic Party to power. Sending those $1200 relief checks to people struggling to pay their bills would only make Donald the Usurper look good, the same way that Henry VIII tried to make himself look good 500 years ago by handing out baskets of leftover food to the poor at Christmastime.

That was a monarchy and this is a democracy, by golly, so Madam Speaker is not about to stoop to Noblesse Oblige - not when she views the deliberate withholding of direct cash aid to hundreds of millions of people as just the right hook to get them out there to vote. And they say King Donald is the demented one, the way he cut off the desultory-at-best negotiations on pandemic relief between her and Treasury Chancellor Steve Mnuchin in a fit of steroid-enhanced pique.

But since wealthy people still have to get around their playground of an exploited planet, Pelosi and Mnuchin were reported to be feverishly working on a stand-alone bailout of the polluting airline industry. Airline stocks soared anew as these two courtier/oligarchs renewed their negotiations. This was despite the fact that Pelosi had previously denounced negotiating Covid relief in such separate, limited packages, because "they (the party currently in power) don’t want to put food on the table and rent in the pockets of the American people, crush the virus, support our heroes, and the rest.”

Because here's the thing. Stand-alone stimulus checks sent out to needy Americans would bear Donald Trump's name on them, and could conceivably garner him extra votes. It's much better, Pelosi insinuated, to draw out the mass hardship for several more weeks or months to achieve the noble goal of Joe Biden winning the election.  If Nancy Pelosi can make enough people too hungry, homeless, terrified, desperate or disgusted to follow Michelle Obama's hectoring advice to get out there and vote, then at least they won't be voting for Donald Trump.

(Update: As I was writing this article, Pelosi had flip-flopped - once again - to calling for a broader stimulus package, including checks. I believe that this topsy-turvy negotiation process is mainly theater, to keep us properly gaslit as we wait in suspense for the barest kind of relief, and then both sides can declare victory.)

 When you hear them warn that "everything is at stake" in this election, maybe they can make you forget about the big juicy steak you can't afford.

What Pelosi and the Democrats are essentially saying is that American children going to bed hungry or families getting evicted for just a little teensy while longer is certainly better than having Trump in the White House for another four whole horrible years. Let them eat Biden, who promised his Wall Street donors that under his rule, "nothing would fundamentally change." 

This is being sold as a choice that we can all believe in.

 As the Red Queen lectured Alice in Through the Looking Glass: "You may call it nonsense if you like, but I've heard nonsense, compared to which that would be as sensible as a dictionary."

Vote for the Lesser Greater Nonsense!

Because the United States, ranking first or near-first in the world in Covid cases, despite having the most expensive health care system in the world, is not the "slow country" which the Red Queen scoffed at, nor is it even (not quite yet anyway) among the "shithole countries" that King Donald sneered it.

"Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place," she lectured to the panting, befuddled Alice."If you want to get somewhere else, you have to run twice as fast." 


And political courtiers talking fast and folksily (yet wolfishly) out of both sides of their mouths is also an absolute must if the princely enterprise that is America can continue to thrive, and so that the political courtiers can fulfill the great American meritocratic dream of one day becoming full-fledged princes and media moguls themselves.