Monday, November 30, 2020

Resisting Neoliberal Mollification

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

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

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

Kim Kardashian?!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 20, 2020

Team Biden's Left Derangement Syndrome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Oligarchic Gaslight In America's Twilight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thursday, November 12, 2020

    All the World's a Staged Coup

    Donald Trump is at heart a showman and a provocateur, so his purging of the Pentagon and his charges of election fraud and refusal to concede are probably just the latest clumsy tools in his bottomless "make me the center of attention" toy toolbox. Or so I'd been thinking.

    But now that journalists whom I respect, such as David Sirota and the writers at the World Socialist Website, are laying out perfectly plausible scenarios for how an honest-to-goodness military coup and/or the overturning of election results by Republican legislatures in such key battleground states as Pennsylvania, to be later upheld by the right-wing Supreme Court, I'm beginning to have some uncomfortable second thoughts.

    And the fact that the New York Times, heretofore the mainstream media champion of #Resistance, Inc, is downplaying the coup narrative and enlisting two of its top national security reporters (a/k/a CIA mouthpieces) to do so, also makes me wonder what is really up. As long as the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff remains in charge, the Times article reassures us, there is no possible way that the right-wing ideologues and cronies that Trump has appointed to key positions will have the power to do much at all.     

    And while the Republicans are making their own big show of supporting a second term for Trump, behind the scenes they reportedly are making arrangements to brief the Biden transition team on classified national security and intelligence matters. This to the ultimate benefit of the Uniparty and the military-industrial complex which each faction so slavishly serves.

    Meanwhile, even if and when his physical coup fails, Donald Trump will have won in the psychological warfare category. Isn't he just taking his own page from the Clinton campaign's "we wuz robbed" playbook? Two can play the government-in-exile game as easily as one. The Trumpian restoration movement is already a done deal, and Campaign 2024 will be in full throttle before you know it.

    Not that the defeated president's mischief-making doesn't have a bright side. The powers-that-be are aghast, for example, that Trump might finally order all the troops home from Afghanistan after a two-decade occupation. He is threatening to declassify documents that allegedly prove beyond all reasonable doubt that Russiagate is the fictional product of the de facto CIA/DNC Partnership. He is threatening to fire Gina Haspel, the CIA director who not only destroyed tapes documenting Bush-era torture but who allegedly presided over some of the torture sessions herself. 

    Even when Trump does ultimately leave office, the permanent security state fears that he will become a walking, talking Wikileaks, spilling all kinds of state secrets and chipping away at whatever legitimacy and public support they still enjoy. If they're not also fearfully mentioning that he might pardon Julian Assange, it is probably because they don't want to give him any more ideas on how to jeopardize their reputations and careers.

    Isn't it nerve-wracking enough that Trump is considered a long shot to replace Alex Trebek on Jeopardy?

    Here, though, is the bottom-up coup that the oligarchs and their bickering apparatchiks are really afraid of. (warning: contains strong but very refreshing language.)

    Monday, November 9, 2020

    The Nightmare-To-Nap Transition Must Fail

    We were deafened by the sound of jubilant crowds singing Hamilton show tunes in the streets, we were dazzled by the sky above Wilmington's Chase Center shrine to capitalism and entertainment lighting up with fireworks spelling J-O-E in garish patriotic hues, we were brought to tears by the president-elect shaking his fist, quoting the Bible, and blessing the great American war machine.

    What better way to prove to the whole world, yearning for a return to American supremacy. that our long fascistic nightmare is finally over?

    Now comes the hard work. The Democratic leadership's immediate task (besides pivoting from the Putin scapegoat to the AOC/Squad scapegoat to explain its electoral failures) is to start slathering so many globs of greasepaint on the Trump-cracked visage of American hegemony that it would make Hamilton fold and Broadway dim, had they not already closed and dimmed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    So the incoming Biden team is raising the curtain on a brand-new website which, if it doesn't put you right to sleep after that weekend champagne brunch you learned that you'd feasted on if you are an MSNBC-watcher or a New York Times subscriber, is at least designed to seduce you into the semi-waking world of a rebranded Normal.  

    They're giving us a teaser of their play in four acts: Covid-19, Economic Recovery, Racial Equity and Climate Change. I call it a teaser because there is no actual dialogue or plot. It is still very much in the treatment stage, when they're all sitting around and pitching vague ideas. For now, the audience will just have to exist on the hype and be left guessing whether the final product will be a tragedy or a comedy.

    This is the typical gambit of the Neoliberal Players who've been touring the country and the globe with their stale scripts for the past forty or so years. Only the top billings and the costumes periodically change, while the repertory ethos itself stays relatively intact.

    Under the working title of "Economic Recovery," for example, we don't learn anything specific about how Joe Biden will tangibly make our lives better. We learn only that Joe Biden believes in you and respects you, as long if you get up every day to work hard to "sustain America."

    "Make no mistake. America has been knocked down," he announces, as though people are either too stupid to realize they've been knocked down, or worse, are in complete denial. But he wants you to know that he believes in you anyway!

    And really, who needs Medicare For All when all you really need is folksy Uncle Joe - actually an unnamed spokesperson for Uncle Joe -  reassuring you that for him, "health care is personal."

     He believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have access to affordable, quality health care. He knows that no one in this country should have to lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering, “what will I do if she gets breast cancer?” or “if he has a heart attack?” “Will I go bankrupt?” He knows there is no peace of mind if you cannot afford to care for a sick child or a family member because of a pre-existing condition, because you’ve reached a point where your health insurer says “no more,” or because you have to make a decision between putting food on the table and going to the doctor or filling a prescription.

    You don't have the right to health care. You only have the right to peace of mind knowing that you can "access health care" by some unknown means, which perhaps includes crawling on your hands and knees to the nearest private equity-staffed emergency room. You at least should have the god-given right to score an affordable sleeping pill to prevent you from worrying about death or bankruptcy or starvation.

    Biden's public relations people go on to blather about an imaginary world where everybody who works hard should get a fair shot and a fair shake, which actually skates dangerously close to plagiarizing Barack Obama. And why wouldn't it, since it's probably the same P.R. team that is still churning out this verbiage.

    Biden, we are told,plans to tear down the systemic racism that he had such a large part in building with his Crime Bill, by "investing in" Black, Latino and Native American entrepreneurs and helping them to "access" affordable housing. This is in lieu of actually creating a government-run jobs program and building new public housing stock.

    To see this agenda through, President-elect Biden will make new, bold investments and speed up the timetable for many of the 10-year investments he has already announced. He has a plan to pay for the ongoing costs of the plan by reversing some of Trump’s tax cuts for corporations and imposing common-sense tax reforms that finally make sure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.

    Beware the neoliberal buzzword "common-sense." It's just a sneaky way of saying that the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer while perhaps getting an extra crumb here and there so that they'll still have enough strength left to toil for the rich.

    As David Harvey explains in A Brief History of Neoliberalism, this constant touting of "common sense"is simply a gaslighting ploy to create and enforce consent in the targeted populace:

    "It is not the same as 'good sense' that can be constructed out of critical engagement with the issues of the day  'Common sense' can, therefore be profoundly misleading, obfuscating or  disguising real problems under cultural prejudices. Cultural and traditional values (such as belief in God and country or views on the position of women in society) and fears (of communists, immigrants, strangers or 'others') can be mobilized to mask other realities. Political slogans can be invoked that mask specific strategies beneath vague rhetorical devices. The word 'freedom' resonates so widely within the common-sense understanding of Americans that it (per Gramsci) becomes 'a button that elites can press to open the door to the masses' to justify almost anything."

    As long as the right buzzwords, like "fairness," "common sense," "access, "democracy" and "freedom" are used, all the economic power resting in a few elite hands can gain at least a modicum of, if not popular support, at least popular submission.

    We snooze, we lose.

    Barack Obama's sonorous voice had the magical effect of anesthetizing liberals, who became so rudely awakened when Donald Trump was elected. Joe Biden has no such oratorical talents, no comparable ability to obfuscate the cruel neoliberal agenda with anything close to Obama's glibness and charm and charisma. 

    For such small favors, we should be grateful and optimistic.

    Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are just the impetus we need. They should inspire us to get up every day to sustain and hone our critical thinking skills and anger to unprecedented levels. They actually do make it ridiculously easy, not least because both have a tendency to go off their neoliberal buzzword scripts, revealing their true personalities and agendas.




    Wednesday, November 4, 2020

    Happy Undecided Election Apocalypse Day!

     Well, my pipe dream from yesterday of a Biden blowout and a chastened Trump certainly went up in a quick puff of bitter acrid smoke, didn't it? I was right about one thing, though. And that was the uniformly vapid, stunned, slack-jawed faces of the news personalities who had been confidently predicting a Biden landslide. They just couldn't keep up with each others' lame excuses and platitudes.

     It feels like 2000 all over again. Hanging chads to go with your morning hangover, anyone?

    Without winning the Senate,  and even if he does finally squeak through, Joe Biden will be a terminally damaged president from Day One. I look on the bright side of this scenario, though. The honeymoon will be over long before he ever makes it to the White House if he does in fact make it to the White House. His failure to swiftly dispatch Trump says more about him than it does about the millions upon millions of voters who turned out in record numbers to cast their ballots this year, right in the middle of a pandemic. The trouble is that they turned out for Trump at least as vigorously as they turned out to vote for what is essentially a negative candidate in an empty suit, a/k/a the "Not-Trump."

    Correction: Joe Biden's suit is empty only insofar that he lacks ideas to make life better for people. (More on what he's full of in a minute.) He not only refuses to make meaningless promises, he relishes rubbing your face in your pile of misery. There will not only be no Medicare For All (which, according to a Fox News exit poll conducted Tuesday, 70 percent of all voters of both parties desire) but he vows to veto such a bill if it ever crosses his desk. There will be no guaranteed income, no Green New Deal, not much of anything at all.  Instead, his suit is full to bursting with war plans for the voters' sons and daughters, accolades for the "good rich," and ornery scolding of anti-racism protesters, whom on more than one occasion he has characterized as looters and property-destroyers. He and his party seem to be under the impression that their voting base (the ones who don't finance their campaigns and dictate policy, anyway) are a crew of masochists just dying for the whip and chain treatment from good old Uncle Joe.

    It gets worse. Trump was not only holding his own as of Wednesday morning, he was actually picking up more support from Black and Hispanic people, and women. The one demographic where he's falling short is white men. More white men were voting  for Biden than were voting for Trump. You know - the demographic that the liberal class has been denigrating for the past four years as racist sexist reprobates. So it will be interesting to see how the Democratic Party twists this inconvenient statistic into a big soggy undigestible pretzel. But I suspect it will have something to do with Russian disinformation and Putin meddling with the brains of Black people, Hispanic people, and women of all races, colors and creeds.

    In other words, even if he hobbles over the finish line, Joe Biden will not enjoy much of a popular mandate. His political capital will consist of a handful of plug nickels in the pocket of his empty suit. The fruits of his victory will be shriveled and sour. The grimmest part is that he and his party will no doubt use their close call to move even further to the  right, choosing to interpret the unexpectedly large turnout for Trump as the stupid voters' desire and need for even more punishment. As Barack Obama chided a disgruntled foreclosed electorate in announcing new anti-deficit measures when he lost the House in 2010, "You have to eat your peas!" 

    A decade later, it'll be the same old bipartisan story: the bottom 80 percent of the "soul of the nation" must be cleansed with the stiff wire brush of austerity.

    Of course, when Joe Biden insipidly talks about fighting for the soul of  the nation, what he really means is the rotten core of Neoliberal Capitalism and its defenders in the permanent Military/Surveillance State. Trump had the untoward effect of making too many people take to the streets, demonstrating against a police state whose main function is guarding the  security and property of the grossly wealthy, who had already staged their own coup 40-odd years ago. They got Ronald Reagan to join financialized capitalism and government at the hip, not only creating a permanent ruling class but inculcating the philosophy of cutthroat competition and consumerism into the very fabric of everyday life. The destruction of organized labor was their coup de grace, with Bill Clinton putting on the finishing touches with the end of cash aid to the poor, the deregulation of Wall Street, and the media consolidation of the Telecom Act.

     The elite owners are always in need a slick president who can pretend to be on the side of the lower orders to keep the lower orders relatively placated and subservient. With Donald Trump, however, they ended up with one of their own kind who was not adept enough to keep his mouth shut while doing their complete bidding. In that blunt way of his, he appeals to a sizeable segment of the population despite his criminal ineptitude in dealing with the worst pandemic in modern history.

    Just weeks after recovering from the virus himself, Trump was holding multiple rallies a day. Biden barely even campaigned. It turns out that the Invisible Man was not such a hot candidate after all.


    But do they really care if he loses, when they can fund-raise every single day as the Resistance Fighters of the Fake Opposition?

    Tuesday, November 3, 2020

    Happy Election Apocalypse Day!


     'Twas the day before Election Night, and what should appear, but boarded-up buildings, folks quaking in fear.

    Or at least that is what the TV and establishment media are reporting and graphically showing us. If people aren't shooting each other over lawn signs bearing the grimacing dentured visages of one or the other of our unattractive geriatric candidates, they're roaming the highways looking for a campaign bus to run off the road. 

    Either people really are going sincerely insane over an election that will essentially determine which man will get to serve the oligarchy for the next four years while screwing everyone else, or we're all just unwitting, unpaid actors on a stage or unpaid amateur Kayfabe wrestlers in an invisible ring.

    Are either Trump or Biden really worth fighting with your relatives over, and losing friends over?  Why can't everybody just make it the five-minute civic duty that it was intended to be, a mere blip on the radar of our lives?

    Election Night feels almost like Christmas Eve. (And yes, it should be a national holiday with mandatory voting.) We'll finally find out who's been naughty or nice. And when it's all over, it'll probably feel just like the letdown that children get after opening the very last present underneath the Christmas tree. That is if Biden wins in an undisputed landslide. No more guessing, no more wishing. You got exactly what you wanted, but it just didn't give you the euphoria that you were expecting.

    Here's one of the Doomsday scenarios that nobody is talking about, because doing so would tamp down the fear and excitement and hurt the ratings:

    Joe Biden wins so resoundingly tonight in a few early key battleground states that there can be no question of fraud. Trump concedes at around 3 a.m.,graciously calling Biden to congratulate him.  All his threatening talk turned out to be just talk! He turned out be nothing but a great big blustering fake. Who could have guessed? What a bummer. What a letdown for all the prognosticators who were forecasting a coup. They'll be as open-mouthed and flabbergasted as they were on that dreadful night four years ago when the Inevitable Hillary lost.

    Scattered riots might break out and a few irate people will shoot each other because that is what is expected of them, and networks with air to fill and fear to foment will have to cover even a deflated aftermath like it's the outbreak of Civil War 2.0.

    Meanwhile, Trump will be seeking and signing non-prosecution agreements with various state attorneys general as part of his deal to go away quietly. He'll be putting out bids for multiple post-presidential reality TV shows as well as inking movie and book and branding and motivational speaking circuit deals. Like Obama, he will forgo the traditional presidential library and start fundraising like mad for a Trump Presidential Entertainment Resort complex complete with a professional golf course and with no books except for his own self-glorifying memoirs. All his presidential papers will be selectively digitized.

    Biden will be putting his own finishing touches on his bipartisan cabinet, collating the various recommendations from Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.

    With the Democrats attaining a slim majority in the Senate, they'll immediately let bygones be bygones with the Republicans. Like Harry Reid before him, new Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will make a gentlemen's agreement with a pretend-conciliatory Mitch McConnell to keep the filibuster in place in exchange for McConnell's promise not to abuse it this time.  As a sign of his temporary good faith, McConnell will even agree to a watered-down Covid relief package. Trump agrees to sign it in exchange for a pardon from Joe Biden. Biden will channel Gerald Ford and declare that our long national nightmare is over. He will also channel Barack Obama's refusal to prosecute Bush-era torturers and war criminals by vowing that we must look forward and not backward.

     Trump's rehabilitation will begin.

    That is just one of a zillion scenarios. We'll know soon enough if mine is a crazy pipe dream. But just in case Santa is watching, let's at least try to pretend to be nice to one another. Because the ruling oligarchy is simply not worth losing our humanity or our lives over.

    Sunday, November 1, 2020

    On Being Greenwalded

    Glenn Greenwald's beef with The Intercept, it seems to me, has just as much to do with the violation of his contract as it does with his editor censoring or attempting to censor a piece he wrote about the Hunter Biden scandal, a/k/a "Laptopgate."

    As a co-founder of the news organization that paid his salary, Greenwald had written a clause into his contract which granted him total editorial independence and immunity from the dreaded blue pencil of any editor. It's the rare journalist indeed who can draw a handsome salary with one hand and not only write freely with the other, but never even have to bodily show up in the newsroom.

    The feeble legal defense being proffered by The Intercept editor is that this immunity only applied to his opinion pieces and not to his news pieces. Given that Greenwald has always written with a civil libertarian slant, the line between news and opinion as it pertained to his work has always been on the fuzzy side. His muckraking articles, at least the ones that I've read in the last decade or so, have always had his unabashed, often sarcastic, and righteously indignant persona running right through each and every one of them.

    Although I'd immediately plopped The Intercept right on my eclectic "Blog Roll" almost the minute it went live, I recently found myself reading it less and less, as his work began appearing less and less, and as the rest of the site began going more and more mainstream. When his articles did appear, they were relegated to small-font headlines at the bottom of the page. So rather than checking in every day, I started checking in once or twice a week, at most.

    Just because Greenwald is now gone from the site, however, doesn't mean I'm going to ban The Intercept from my own blog list. There's already enough cancel culture out there. I still enjoy reading some of their writers, including Ryan Grim and Lee Fang, while giving others a pass. James Risen, whom I used to so admire for his fight against the New York Times for its own censorship of his investigative series on the war crimes of the George W. Bush administration (until Bush was safely re-elected and after Risen had threatened to go public and independent with a book), has now devolved into a Russiagate mouthpiece for the CIA. I would assume that the undoubtedly generous pay package that Risen is getting from billionaire Pierre Omidyar has a lot to do with his pivot to cooperation.

    Of course, since Greenwald himself is reportedly a millionaire thanks to his reporting on the Edward Snowden leak, with the Pulitzer and the Oscar that went along with it, he certainly is in no danger of starving. To his credit, he is continuing the good fight along with a precious few other independent journalists who are still publishing and broadcasting on a national and even international level from widely visible platforms.

    As a journalist myself, the closest I've ever come to national "recognition" was my decade or so writing reader comments on the New York Times. before new "community" management and a sharp rise in subscriptions after Trump was elected resulted in most of my commentary being suppressed. I finally decided to quit the endeavor when moderators approved one too many comments hysterically accusing me of being a Trump supporter, a single-handed Hillary-defeater, a Russian asset, or all three. 

     McCarthyism has developed an undeniable liberal bias, and it's become all too damaging to way too many people. 

    All the journalists who are now so gleefully and maliciously piling on Glenn Greenwald are probably afraid for their own jobs. With just days to go before the presidential election, none of them wants to be viewed or remembered as the writer who gave us four more years of Trump because they either defended Greenwald, or they dared even ask a question about the Biden scandal. To delve into this story, if it doesn't kill their careers outright, will damage their access to the expected Biden administration.

    During my own very first reporting job in the late 70s, at an extremely conservative local newspaper (the long-defunct Newburgh, NY Evening News) a Republican named Joan Shapiro was running for mayor in that majority Black city on the racist "law and order" platform that was so popular at the time. One Saturday morning, as I was perusing the previous night's police blotter at the cop shop, I came across the arrest sheet of Shapiro's own teenage son, who'd been busted with a bunch of his buddies in a vandalism spree. I duly wrote up the incident in my usual low-key crime report roundup, and it passed inspection by the weekend editor, who got a pretty good chuckle over the irony of it all.

    And then, come Monday morning, all hell broke loose. Since the newspaper had endorsed Shapiro, and its top brass very much shared her paranoid concerns about Black crime, I was in big, big trouble. My male boss informed me that I had done a very mean bitchy thing, reducing a female candidate to tears and deliberately trying to ruin her political career.

    Long story short: Joan Shapiro went on to win that election in a landslide as well as a second term. Me? From that day on, until I finally resigned (when the paper was sold and upon being offered the coveted 6 p.m. - 2 a.m. graveyard shift), I  was silently frozen out of big assignments. My offense was that I had violated the unwritten rule which applies to journalists everywhere: Be a crusading muckraker, sure, and win awards for investigative series, and expose the bad guys - but only as long as the bad guys aren't big advertisers. and only as long as the bad guys don't belong to the favored political party, or only as long as they don't belong to the same country club as the boss.

    So, yeah, I definitely empathize with Glenn Greenwald. I can also empathize, to a certain very minimal extent, with the fellow journalists who are piling on - or just as bad, staying completely and complicitly silent. The story of "you have to go along to get along" is as old as human civilization itself, and it applies to every profession.

    One good thing about writing this blog for the past 10 years is that I can write whatever I want, with total editorial independence. Nobody is going to fire me, although the censorious Google algorithm has certainly buried me, right along with most other independent bloggers and Youtubers from both the right and the left.

    Censorship is real. Big Brother is real. So kudos to Glenn Greenwald for sticking to his principles and - to the probable chagrin of his former employer - bringing all that much more attention to political hypocrisy and corruption. I hopes he sues for breach of contract.

    In closing, though I have already written to most of you individually with only a few more thank-you notes left to compose, let me express my profound gratitude for the fantastic reader response to my recent fund-raiser.

    Above all, please keep the great comments and suggestions coming!