Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Mangling Munching Manchin Machine

(Say three times fast)

Just like clockwork, the Democrats are out in coordinated force, blaming sexism and xenophobia as the core occult reasons for the opposition to party operative Neera Tanden's confirmation to the Biden cabinet.

Granted, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is full of noxious hot air when he points to the "incivility" of Tanden's thousands of vitriolic deleted tweets, aimed both at Republicans and progressive Democrats in the Bernie Sanders wing, as his reason for not voting for her to lead the Office of Management and Budget.  In tandem with that nonsense, he apparently believes that it is the very height of civility to deny his own constituents, living in one of the poorest areas of the country, a rise in the minimum wage to 15 lousy bucks.

So while Republicans (and Manchin) are crying their crocodile tears and claiming they are victims of Tanden's Mean Girl Syndrome (because they only want unity!), the Democrats are perfectly willing to forgo legitimate criticism of her corruption in order to defend her. When you have identity politics to fall back on, the sky is the absolute limit when it comes to glossing over such inconvenient facts as Tanden's call to attack Libya to get at its oil, her past efforts to destroy Social Security and Medicare, her red-baiting of any and all critics of neoliberalism and Hillary Clinton, her leadership of a Democratic slush fund disguised as a think tank (Center For American Progress, or CAP) , her acceptance of corporate bribes from billionaires and corporations to run said slush-tank, her physical assault of a former employee, and her destruction of a blog run out of CAP offices once employees began to unionize.

This is the woman that Joe Biden cynically proposes to control the purse strings of our country and to manage our lives in the process. It is a scary scenario, to put it mildly.

So it is all the more disheartening when even progressive stars like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez leap on the Identity Politics bandwagon in order to defend the bullying Tanden against that traitorous bullying misogynistic villain Joe Manchin. AOC actually helps to ridiculously lump Tanden in with two other more liberal endangered Biden nominees, Hispanic Xavier Becerra and Native American Deb Haaland, as a way to further paper over Tanden's despicable career.

We are supposed to believe that just because Indian-American Neera Tanden once survived on food stamps and lived in public housing, she will suddenly divert from career script and champion poor people. In an absolute subversion of the mantra of Martin Luther King Jr., we are asked to judge Tanden based solely upon the color of her skin and the configuration of her XX chromosomes, rather than upon the content of her truly rotten character.

The glossy veneer barely disguising all kinds of corruption and the record inequality which is carefully engineered and maintained by the political class and its partners in consolidated media is a very flimsy substitute for legislation in the public interest, run by true public servants rather than by the career-climbing servants of the oligarchy.

Witness, just as the latest example of this performance art, Monday night's candlelight vigil spectacular starring Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to mark the 500,000 American deaths from Covid-19. Media reviewers have glowingly called their tasteful tableau such a powerful and refreshing step up from Donald Trump's own criminal callousness.

Because there's nothing like a shiny solemn candlelight vigil to substitute for a single payer health care system, regular Covid relief checks, and student debt forgiveness, right? 

Because things that help ordinary people are treated by the permanent ruling class as veritable plagues against free market capitalism. The body politic, to our leaders, is itself nothing but a Mean Girl calling them nasty names and hurting their feelings, when all they want is Unity and Civility. Harrumph!

Mangling Joe Manchin, meanwhile, dutifully plays his own designated role as the bad cop/useful idiot who prevents the noble and empathetic Joe Biden from completing his incremental agenda. Not formally defecting to the Republican side of the duopoly is simply a clever bargaining chip on Manchin's part, of course. He can dangle the threat of defection over their heads for the duration of his tenure, in the process giving his co-conspirators all the cover they need to implement their occult austerian agenda as they hide beneath their candle-lit masks of beneficence.

Just as the Tea Party Republicans once thwarted Barack Obama's hideous "Grand Bargain" with former House Speaker John Boehner to cut Medicare and Social Security, so too are right-wingers thwarting Neera Tanden's big career move to chief crook and budget-slasher. Sometimes you just have to pick your crooks and decide which bad guys you want to root for, to give you the slightest serendipitous bit of respite from the munching maw of neoliberalism.

Mangling Manchin may end up accomplishing some good in spite of his horrid old self. Then again, he could make a deal with Biden, who might agree to trash his minimum wage promise in exchange for Manchin changing his mind on Tanden.

As the New York Times frames the saga in its own extended mangled metaphor of an article, the White House is still "giving her confirmation a shot" while Tanden herself is "committed to rolling up her sleeves." Ouch.

It is so essential to remain vigilant as we're relentlessly regaled by these never-ending vigils, produced so carefully for our relief and stupefaction.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Facebook Follies: Underhanded Down Under

 by Valerie Long Tweedie

What is going on between Australia and Facebook?

As you already probably know, news is very expensive to produce. Research, investigative journalism, and foreign bureaus with "feet on the ground" are expensive to fund. The main source of revenue for newspapers and news outlets is advertising, which has been declining since people have been getting more and more of their news on-line. News organizations that have gone on-line attract advertisers by keeping track of how many people go to their sites for news. But this is not enough.

Sadly, lots of small, local news outlets have had to go out of business and even the bigger ones are having to lay off journalists and other staff. This means the Fourth Estate and an independent media, which is the watchdog of our democracy, is in peril.

Facebook and Google, because they are the biggest beneficiaries of Australians linking news via their sites (FB made .7 BILLION last year off of Australians via advertising revenue but only paid a paltry 2.4% tax), have been asked to negotiate in good faith with the media companies to help offset some of their costs. Google, has done this. Facebook has been very belligerent about it from the start and threatened to cut all of Australia off of the FB platform.

What Facebook actually did on February 18 was block all news links not only coming out of Australia but also all international sources. So someone like me who links to U.S. sites in my FB comments has had all my links blocked. However, what they did that was really egregious was, in their efforts to take on the Australian government in a power play, they became very punitive. They cut off a lot of platforms like the Department of Health - right before we start our vaccine rollout on Monday.

 Why is this important? Because after years of encouraging organisations to use Facebook to distribute important information to the public (from which FB benefits through the gathering of information on all of us and then targeting advertising back to us - for a profit), they cut off a vital source of information on where to go for vaccines and links to places to sign up for vaccines in the middle of a pandemic. They have also blocked sites where people can go to get help if they are being abused or suspect children are being abused. They have blocked weather platforms in the middle of the summer - which means bushfire season in Australia - again, alerts to where fires are and how to avoid them. Cottage business-people like Sally, who has a tiny home hairdressing salon, or the woman who makes Thai food out of her kitchen and takes orders for dinner or community organisations like the local little league groups have all been abruptly cut off.

After giving away a product for "free" - which people have all signed onto - many probably not realising just how much personal information FB has been gathering on them and selling on for a profit - Facebook has suddenly cut them off. Why? Because Facebook wants its users to pressure the government to stop trying to make them contribute to the news media sources they benefit from.

So why should most FB users care if they are only sharing shallow content memes, recipes and pictures of their dogs? Because others are using FB and Google to access and share information in this highly technical world that is often very hard for many people to navigate. We should all care that a company that is acting very monopolistic is flexing its muscle against a very reasonable request from a sovereign nation simply because it doesn't want to share a little bit of the vast wealth it is getting from the citizens of that very sovereign nation.

Right now, Australia is a test case on two fronts. China is flexing its muscle against us - and turning back our products like fresh lobster and lumber at the Chinese ports - because our government has had questions about the origins of Covid 19, spoken out against the corporation Huawei and most importantly, because the Australian government has spoken against China's incursion into the South China Sea region. In the same way, Australia is a test case for how a powerful multinational tech company like Facebook can influence a sovereign country's laws and policies. The reason FB is fighting so hard is because this highly profitable corporation doesn't want other countries with equally stretched media outlets to follow suit. In essence, it doesn't want the gravy train to end. But it isn't just Facebook. Other powerful tech corporations are watching the power game and will also follow suit - as will many multinationals - if Australia blinks. This is why this fight is so important to all of us who want fair and democratic countries.

The question is do we want a democratic government (as imperfect as it is) with politicians we can vote in and out of office making the rules and laws for our country? Or do we want giant for-profit corporations making the rules and laws?

Note: Many of you who read this will ask, "Why is she on Facebook anyway?" I admit, my links to relevant news articles seem out of sync with what most "friends" are posting. These people do seem shallow and naïve in their belief that all will be well if they keep an upbeat attitude.

But how are we to educate others about the important issues if they only get their news from Fox or CNN or Facebook? They can and are being completely cocooned in their echo chambers of friends who are like them. Sometimes I want to give up and quit. And then someone makes a comment that they like what I am posting and that it is informative. I don't think I am changing the world. In fact, I know most people probably see my posts and scroll by. But we who know better, know these are perilous times and if we can reach only one person each, we can together make a difference. When I first found Sardonicky, I was very naïve about politics. I thought the NYT was a great source of accurate information and that my government was pretty much protecting my middle class interests. Over time and because of Karen's essays (and comments in the NYT) and many of the seasoned commenters on this site, I learned what was really happening in the world. The truth is heavy and hard for most people to hear and accepting the truth is a slow process.

Now, having said all that against Facebook. The reality is the Liberal government (The Republicans of Australia) is caving into pressure from the big corporate media in Australia - think Rupert Murdoch. Google has made a deal to pay for content but only with the big players. - Which means the little players are left to struggle along as always. The other issue is just because the big media players are getting millions a year (Murdoch's corporations are getting 30 million a year), there is no guarantee that this money is going to go to journalism. So the fight for truth and justice via the media might be a red herring.

I still come down on the side of thinking we need to limit the power of Facebook. The corporation claims that cutting off non-new platforms like weather, vaccine sites and little ma and pa sites was just a glitch and will be rectified. But this corporation has been threatening to do this for months, and has had months to plan its execution.

I suspect that every step has been calculated.


(Valerie Long Tweedie is a teacher living in Adelaide.)

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Joe Biden Is As Depraved As Ever

So a president creepily calls an eight-year-old girl whom he just met "Baby," and then further demeans her by ordering her to stop worrying her pretty little head about ever catching Covid, and other children ever catching Covid, or even about her parents and other children's parents ever catching Covid. 

You're forgiven if you thought that I was talking about Donald Trump.

But since it was Joe Biden's exhibition of creepiness and mendacity and sexist disdain, delivered in that over-familiar grandfatherly way of his, the whole world is feeling ever so much better now. Or so the gushing corporate media informs us.

Video of Biden's comforting bald-faced lies to young Leyla Salas at a CNN town hall Tuesday night quickly garnered thousands of "likes" and countless glowing media reviews.   

Her mother Jessica addressed Biden:  "As we’ve been talking about coronavirus, which is very real and scary and it’s especially scary for children who may or may not understand. My children Leyla, 8, here and my son Mateo 7 at home often ask if they will catch COVID and if they do will they die. They are watching as others get the vaccine, and they would like to know when will kids be able to get the vaccine.”

Biden telegraphed the aggressive lie he was about to tell the child by prefacing it with the usual condescending flattery beloved of hucksters and politicians from time immemorial: "Leyla, beautiful name!"

With that obligatory gaslighting out of the way, Grandpa Joe got away with a whole series of whoppers.

“We haven’t even done tests on children as to whether or not certain vaccines work or not or what is needed. You’re the safest group of people in the whole world, number one. Number two, you’re not likely to be able to get exposed to something and spread it to mommy or daddy. And it’s not likely that mommy and daddy will be able to spread it to you either. So, I wouldn’t worry about it baby, I promise you. But I know it’s kind of worrisome.”

My own two-year-old granddaughter recently caught Covid from her Daddy, who caught it at work because his job does not allow him to work from home. The spreading of this virus occurs in thousands if not millions of other families every single day.

The whole point of Biden's act of shameless lying to a little child is to get the schools reopened so that Mommy and Daddy can get back to work and won't have to rely on paltry government relief checks while they inconvenience their bosses with their chronic absences from work. For the leader of a party which so prides itself on its devotion to "facts" and "science," Biden is certainly not living up to the standards of what the liberal class  calls the "reality-based community." Of course, when liberals criticize Trump and the Republicans for their own ignorance and stupidity, they're also willfully ignoring the truth that Trump and the Republicans are mainly feigning their own ignorance and stupidity as a sick way to impress a voting base that they, in turn, condescendingly assume are stupid and ignorant.

It's a vicious cycle and a closed feedback loop. The relentless performance of ignorance and stupidity at the very highest levels of the media-political complex does (unlike their wealth) have the effect of trickling down on the audience. This result is desirable for them, not so much for us. Think, for example, if Biden's reassuring lies make children and the adults who love them now think that they're so impervious that they don't have to wear masks any more.

Biden, a much more seasoned politician than Donald Trump could ever hope to be, is able to hide his disdain for people by flattery, cajolery and "harmless" teasing. He topped off his shameless lies to Leyla by joking, "Oh, you're getting old. You're in second grade!"

This avuncular joshing only serves to trivialize the girl's extremely rational and fact-based concerns. Maybe somebody can tell Biden that children have a pretty good sense of when they're being lied to and don't much care for good-natured and insincere teasing from adults that they don't know. There's something creepy about strangers feigning intimacy with your kids. I know it always made my maternal hackles rise. I suppose Leyla and her mom could be somewhat grateful that at least social distancing etiquette precluded Biden from grabbing their shoulders or - god forbid - sniffing their hair at the CNN town hall.

Biden's depraved idea that kids, working parents and teachers are somehow miraculously immune from Covid also was broadcast at his last debate with Trump, when in calling for schools to re-open, he preposterously said: "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."

This cavalier remark, coming as it did within the hailstorm of Trump's own preposterous lies, garnered zero pushback in the corporate media. It is apparently acceptable to Joe Biden that a certain percentage of educators do die from Covid in the interests of capitalism. This is the same kind of depraved thinking that makes a certain amount of civilian fatalities (euphemised as "collateral damage") acceptable in our endless wars of aggression.

Looking back over the transcript of that final debate with Trump, I'm reminded that Biden also framed the Black Lives Matter movement in a truly bizarre way, claiming that wealthy Black people get stopped by police as often as poor Black people do, and therefore we should not demonize any wealthy people.

"It's about having the ability to be free from violence as you're accumulating wealth," he actually said. It's not, apparently, about having the right to be free from violence as you're walking down the street and not making any money out of simply living.

That twisted, market-based neoliberal logic also was manifested at this week's CNN town hall with Biden's strange rationale for not forgiving $50,000 in student debt through executive action. Falsely claiming that he doesn't have that authority (although he does, he says, have the right to cancel $10,000 of a person's debt) he then went on to warn that Ivy League grads would only unfairly bilk the government on loan forgiveness largesse and thus steal funds from Pre-K programs.

 It's the same old, same old kind of means-testing rationale that dooms social programs for people who need help. Conservative politicians erect strawmen, such as Reagan's famous Cadillac welfare queen, to justify cuts to programs. This argument is also currently being made to reduce the amount of Covid relief, for fear that too many wealthy undeserving people and other cheats will score government aid.

It's a variation of "the whole class must be punished" if the culprit does not come forward. And since the culprit in our neoliberal oligarchic system is alternately an outright figment of the fevered reactionary imagination or the reigning principal of the school himself, the punishment and the beatings of the powerless by the powerful will continue. Until, perhaps, the powerless revolt.

Another example of Biden's twisted reasoning for not giving people nice things in order for them to even survive in a time of unprecedented crisis is his refusal to order single payer health care for the treatment of pandemic victims.

During the primary campaign, even in the face of polls showing at least 80 percent Democratic support for Medicare For All, Biden doubled down on his own opposition. That Italy was then reeling from a Covid outbreak and its hospitals were overwhelmed was all the proof Biden needed to conclude that Italy's single payer system does not work. He actually correlated universal health care and guaranteed coverage with the actual disease. He insisted that Italy's humane payment system had an adverse effect on the pandemic.

How is this fallacious nonsense any different from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blaming liberal wind turbines for his state's devastating winter weather crisis and humanitarian catastrophe?

Unlike Joe Biden, I am not a medical expert who, by the wave of a magic wand and shameless lying to a child, can make Covid go away. So I will not speculate whether he suffers from clinical dementia.  But judging from his half-century as a right-wing politician relentlessly trying (and often succeeding at it) to out-Reagan Ronald Reagan himself, I think it's safe to say that this man is as depraved as they come.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Impeachment In a Can

For one brief shining moment on Saturday, the Trump show trial actually threatened to turn into the real deal, with testimony from real human witnesses to enhance the speeches. The disturbing film footage of the Capitol riot, complemented by Trump's own spittle-inflected incitement voiceover, should have been a prima facie case for unanimous conviction. But that would have meant that the acquitting GOP senators' own lust for power and fear of Trump took second place to meting out justice.

Then, just as suddenly as the Democratic impeachment managers moved to extend Impeachment 2.0 into a case that even the most hardened Republican would be forced to squirm through, they folded. It seems that the Senators of both sides of the Duopoly have so much love in their hearts that they simply could not bear to miss Valentine's Day at home. Also, with such a prolonged exercise in justice that human witnesses and other supplementary evidence would entail, Joe Biden would be thwarted from his sublime reaching across the aisle and making friendly deals with some of the same 47 GOP senators who had just voted to acquit Donald Trump, giving their tacit stamp of approval to an attempted coup.

Now, to be fair, an extension of the trial would also have opened the door for Republicans to call their own witnesses. Nancy Pelosi, for example, would have been raked over the coals, forced to answer why she didn't request beefed up police protection for her members on that fateful day, despite plenty of warnings of mob violence. It also would have opened up the dreaded Hunter Biden can of worms.

Therefore, the public is being asked to empathize with the Democrats' political dilemma and to actually believe that justice will eventually prevail once the Dems get around to congressional investigations into the insurrection - after of course, they pass Covid relief, accomplish immigration reform, address the climate catastrophe and "do" health care.

In other words, politicians on both sides of the aisle will give each other cover as they try keep their respective rancid cans of worms glued firmly shut until they finally rust and crumble into the memory hole of nothingness.

 And meanwhile, the media will do its own part of making the story about all the "breakout stars" of Impeachment Theater, and how the show trial was, at its very essence, their audition for higher office.

"Though impeachment is an inherently political process," as Politico dishes in a piece about the latest manufactured group of rising stars to entertain and seduce and distract the viewing public,"elected officials typically don't like to admit that working as a manager can come with electoral benefits. They were required to walk a careful line when making the case that Trump incited a mob at the U.S. Capitol. Still, strategists from both sides of the aisle acknowledged their roles likely furthered their careers."

Not that the legacy stars didn't also have their moment in the sun. Nancy Pelosi theatrically "crashed" the post-acquittal press conference of Democratic impeachment managers to deliver yet another bravura performance of a "scathing" indictment of Republican cowards, while demurring that "it had not been my intention to come for this press availability."

Since the show must always go on, the national corporate media are either already camped out at Mar-a-Lago or en route in order to cover the widely anticipated opening act of Donald Trump's Revenge Tour  Refusing to cover him is not an option for the press, because their clicks and ratings have dropped so precipitously since he left office. Film of an empty podium at his gilded Florida palace is bound to attract more eyeballs than the latest White House press briefing, Since Biden Spin Doctor Jen Psaki has asked that reporters submit their questions in advance, the better for her to answer them truthily and transparently, there is no longer even that element of unscripted surprise and comedic improv so essential for the maintenance of good ratings.

While the corporate media performers are attempting to stave off the boredom and tedium of not having Trump fill their empty spaces, they're promoting daughter in law Lara Trump's quest for a North Carolina senate seat and drumming up publicity for daughter Ivanka's own moves to oust Marco Rubio in the Florida senatorial primary. Because no matter how tainted, political dynasties must never be allowed to die. 

In other news, a study by the esteemed British journal Lancet reveals that fully 40 percent of all Covid deaths in the US could have been prevented. These deaths are not only attributable to the incompetence and corruption of the Trump administration, they are the direct result of the free-market neoliberalism of the last 40 years, not to mention the colonial and imperialistic roots of American society itself.

One of the Lancet group's prescriptions, sensibly enough, is the implementation of single payer health care in the United States. But it can't even get a theatrical floor vote in the Democratic-controlled House. And Biden has infamously vowed to veto such a measure, commonly known as Medicare For All, should it ever reach his desk.

There are too many rusted cans in the landfill known as American democracy to count. And don't even get me started on the worms.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Biden's Rescue: Mean, Meandering, Moronic

Joe Biden's idea of bigness and boldness is inexorably and neoliberally shrinking.

Those $2,000 checks going out to every American on Day One? Once Donald Trump had belatedly approved a second round of checks after Christmas, bringing the total amount of the two rounds issued during his administration to $1800, the amount of the third round was quietly reduced by Team Biden, lest people start getting too greedy and expecting more than their share.

 And now, lest people expect even more of their reduced share, Team Biden has agreed that this third reduced round of checks should be means-tested, with only those people making less than $50,000 entitled to get the full amount.

So despite all the laudatory media coverage (here and here for example) that has the Democrats finally - finally! - learning their lesson from the inadequate stimulus legislation of 2009 and the futility of negotiating in good faith with Republicans, Joe Biden just cannot help himself. He will continue negotiating with himself, a/k/a his own inner Republican.

The upshot is that we will be getting less cash pandemic aid from Biden than we did from Trump, given that the new president has shown zero enthusiasm for regular relief payments going out to people - not only for the duration of the pandemic, but for as long as the economic sequelae of the pandemic last. All indications are that these economic sequelae will last for years if not for entire lifetimes and even extend into future generations. Because those small businesses are never coming back. Those service jobs are never coming back.  Rents and home purchase prices are never coming down, because private equity vultures are seizing all that distressed property and artificially increasing the value, making shelter even more of a commodity and investment source of extractive income for the wealthy, rather than the basic human protection from the elements that it traditionally was. 

If there is one thing that the Democratic Party strives for, meanwhile, it is to be seen to be doing the right thing. Thus the careful, obfuscatory language of the New York Times lede about Biden's "rescue" package:

Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration barreled ahead on Wednesday with a $1.9 trillion economic rescue package, even as they signaled a limited williingness to scale back direct payments to Americans in hopes of attracting Republican support. Voting mostly across party lines, the House adopted a budget that included President Biden's sweeping pandemic aid plan, laying the groundwork for Democrats to push it through, if necessary, on a simple majority vote, without Republican support.

 That paragraph is, of course, pure doublespeak. At the same time that Team Biden is barreling ahead, they're magically pulling back. It's the old Michael Jackson political moonwalk trick all over again, just the way Barack Obama used to dance it out of both sides of his mouth. Maybe if the corporate media keeps calling Biden's crumbs for the masses his "sweeping pandemic aid" plan loudly enough and often enough, the public will get a mental picture of the army of brooms in The Sorcerer's Apprentice swooshing away all the cares and worries and suffering of an entire population in one gigantic fell swoop. Maybe the public will not notice that the Democratic plan is naught but a worn-out dust rag. And even if they do notice, maybe they'll nonetheless be abjectly grateful that Biden's crumbs certainly are more palatable than the jug of arsenic being proffered by those nasty old Republicans. 

Therefore, time is of the essence, and Biden wants to move quickly to prove his housekeeping skills, literally sweeping his original promise of $2,000 checks for every US resident right under the proverbial rug. 

“We can’t walk away from an additional $1,400 in direct checks, because people need it,” Mr. Biden told the House Democrats, according to the people, who detailed the conversation on the condition of anonymity because the discussion was intended to be private. “I’m not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to people."  

But, doing that old Michael Jackson routine again, Biden added in a sly whisper that he is perfectly okay with reducing the actual number of people included in his promise. Some needy people are more needy and deserving than others. All needy people are not created equal.

The Times uncritically adds, 

It was part of a two-track strategy that Mr. Biden and Democrats are employing to speed through the relief package: Show Republicans that they have the votes to pass an ambitious plan with only Democratic backing, but offer to negotiate some details in hopes of gaining Republican support.

Again, with the sports metaphor. The Biden Rescue Plan sounds like a hybrid athletic event which combines curling with speed-walking, with lots of brooms and little stones shaped like cartoon bombs and arm-flailing and frenetic expert commentary to keep the crowds riveted on all the slo-mo action.

So while you're nodding, nearly napping, suddenly there comes a tapping from the Senate chamber door, and who pops into the Times article but new Majority Leader Chuck Schumer,  alliteratively garbling :“We're going big and bold. We cannot dawdle, we cannot delay, we cannot dilute, because the troubles that this nation has and the opportunities that we can bring them are so large.” 

That just about sums it up, sports fans. What possible good are troubles if we cannot bring opportunities to them? 

Also - how many stimulus checks could Chuck Schumer shuck if a Chuck Schumer could cut checks?  

While you're pondering that, weak and weary, here's another choice bit of stimulus from Chuck to help sweep your blues away:

Monday, February 1, 2021

Marge & Darrell & Ted & Alex

 Just because Congress now resembles a typical American high school, what with all the armed federal troops protecting the premises from armed adolescents posing as elected reps and credentialed support staff, doesn't mean that the typical cliques and petty scandals and rampant cheating cannot go on as usual. Politico has a new gossipy piece up, dishing about the six distinct frosh cliques already forming in the lower House: the hardcore Trumpies, the Republican Resistance Fighters, the Texas Six, the anti-Squad Force, and Friends of the Squad. They're mixing, they're mingling, they're trashing each other in the very best Heathers tradition.

 Politico doesn't go so far as to report that voting is already underway for the winners in various "most likely to" categories for the 2021 congressional yearbook. But here's my own inside scoop:

Class Clown: The heavy favorite to win in the crazy department is, of course Marjorie Taylor-Greene, the Q Conspiracy Queen of Georgia. When Marge isn't calling for the assassination of House Headmistress Nancy Pelosi, she's chasing fellow freshman Cori Bush down the hall shouting racist epithets. She's in no danger of being expelled for uttering her terrorist threats quite yet because, democratic institution that it is, it would take two thirds of her colleagues to kick her out. And quite a few of them, especially the Anti-Squad and the Texas Six, are almost as zany as she is.

Richest Frat Rat: California's Darrell Issa dropped out of Congress High in 2018 to spend more time with his money, but now he's back on campus to reclaim his Right-ful place as the richest jerk ever to grace Hallowed Hall with his presence. Worth as much as half a billion bucks, Darrell ran for a seat in another Golden State district which was recently vacated by convicted felon Duncan Hunter. Issa barely beat a Democrat who was even more conservative than he was, largely because his opponent bragged to voters he would not support Joe Biden because he is too liberal. I have no insider info yet as to whether Darrell will resume his career as a lowly 68 year old freshman gazillionaire, or whether he still packs the seniority clout he'd amassed when he precipitously left Hallowed Hall only two years ago. Besides, his theft of a Maserati and a concealed weapon conviction back when he had just dropped out of real high school have apparently been expunged from his official record. 

Creepiest Campus Creep: Ted Cruz always reminded me of the child-stalking predatory preacher played by Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter.

But he has long since advanced from performing his depraved Dr. Seuss bedtime filibusters for the prevention of the prevention of cruelty to all living things. His senior prank this year has been the radical aiding and abetting of Donald Trump's attempted coup.

Best Put-Down Artist On Campus: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Alex to her friends, AOC to everyone else ) in full view of her 10 million Twitter followers very publicly just humiliated Ted Cruz, spurning his oafish and very disturbing advances to crash the Wall Street frat party of day traders with him. AOC wouldn't be caught dead with Ted, for the simple reason that Ted already tried to have her murdered once.  She is still understandably traumatized by the Siege of January Sixth, on top of trying to recover from the "violence" of comedian Jimmy Dore calling her out for her M4A #Force the Vote wimpiness. AOC certainly didn't achieve her hard-won slot in Hallowed Hall trouncing creepy BMOC Joe Crowley only to then let Creepy Ted sic his Proud Boys and Bugaloo Bois goons on her. Reddit, forget it. These games must stop. But her deluge of pithy tweets must never end.

So there you have them: Marge & Darrell & Ted & Alex starring in a movie about a motley crew of politicians, hailing from swing and non-swing districts alike. Don't forget to vote for the ones you hate, the ones you love, the ones you love to hate and the ones you hate to love. Your vote, as always, will mean absolutely nothing because it will never even be counted. Only your clicks will count, and your personal data will be duly collected the better to efficiently target you with a deluge of ads that never stop. 

It's all a show to keep you either lulled to sleep and spurred into a state of relentless and helpless rage.  Pass the popcorn, and try not to choke on it as you are regaled with the outlandish triple feature plot of Divided America, the New Dawn of Democracy and United We Oligarchs Stand.  

Meanwhile, it is very important not to confuse Marge & Darrell & Ted & Alex with a less flamboyant but much more powerful clique of "moderates" who are all piling into bed together to try and convince their audience that austerity for the masses of people is cool and adult. If you don't think that Mitt Romney and Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and Thom Tillis have the power to swing Joe Biden into agreeing that cutting federal pandemic aid by two-thirds is a titillating S&M turn-on, then you not only don't know plots,  you are not very skilled at suspending your innate power of disbelief in the interests of unity and soul restoration.

We've seen how this particular show ends hundreds of times before. The performers outstare each other, multiple platitudes are mumbled, nothing much happens, and then they all go home to multiple dwelling places. through any number of revolving doors.