Thursday, March 25, 2021

Why Is Kamala Harris Canoodling With Austerians?

Vice President Kamala Harris is taking a fair amount of heat this week for partnering with notorious horndog Bill Clinton, of all people, for a discussion on women's issues during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Clinton has been serving a long stint in the media doghouse ever since the #MeToo movement gained momentum during the Reign of Trump Terror, and scandals ranging from the Monica Lewinsky saga to Clinton's association with pedophile Jeffrey Epstein started getting re-examined with fresh sets of woke eyes. Harris's marquee role at the Clintons' annual "Global University Initiative"  is therefore being widely lambasted as a ham-handed effort to both salvage Bill's tattered reputation and to unofficially re-cement the entire Clinton clan's role as major players in both the Biden administration and the Democratic Party.

As one editorial puts it, the very idea of Kamala Harris and Bill Clinton getting together to discuss "empowering women and girls of the world" is a bad joke, especially since the former president still considers himself a victim of the women and girls he has abused through the years. It's really hard to woke a comatose horndog, but Harris plans to give it the old college try anyway at her alma mater, Howard University.

What's being ignored in the critical coverage of this gabfest is that the occult purpose of the Clinton Global Initiative University is the imposition of crushing austerity on the women and girls (and men and boys) of the world.  Not for nothing does major funding for this week's confab with Kamala Harris come from the Peter J. Peterson Foundation. Begun by the late Wall Street billionaire and deficit hawk sponsor of Barack Obama's so-called Cat Food Commission and its efforts to cut Medicare and Social Security, his think tank continues to spread the thoroughly debunked claim that government spending for the greater social good is bad for economic growth - a/k/a the unfettered growth of predatory capitalism.

Kamala Harris's participation in this oligarchic enterprise, which is now desperately trying to cloak itself in the masks of feminism and diversity, should disabuse us of the notion that the Biden administration is the most progressive one since FDR. With most of the relief measures in the "rescue" legislation - expanded unemployment insurance, modest food stamp increases and tax credits with direct cash disbursements to needy families with children - set to expire within the year, it should be obvious that their placement of a band-aid on the festering societal wound that they themselves created more than 40 years ago is mainly designed to placate an increasingly restive population.

The Clinton Global Initiative University continues to press for austerity, and it does so by infiltrating the nation's colleges and universities with the specious message that the economic pain of indebted students is due not to debt peonage imposed by greedy lenders, but by greedy older people depriving them, the young future leaders and budding entrepreneurs of America, of the success that they deserve.

"It's Up To Us," the students are instructed, to become politically engaged enough to willingly join the oligarchs in the austerity program. "Get Involved! Join the Movement!" the Clinton website urges, boasting that 131,000 college kids already have signed the pledge to become deficit hawks.

Among the solutions that the Clintons' Campus Crusade For Austerity urges the young people to clamor for is privatizing Medicare with a "premium support program," and raising the Social Security retirement age. It also suggests replacing the income tax with a "progressive consumption tax" - which many critics say is actually regressive, given that poor people must spend most of their incomes on necessities. 

Therefore, immediately after being empowered by Bill Clinton and Kamala Harris at Friday's CGIU "plenary session," participating students will meet privately in an "Office Hours" chat with Hilary Allen, the program director for It's Up To Us, along with "special guests" from media monolith Verizon, another co-sponsor of the conference. According to her bio on the Clinton Foundation website, Allen was inspired to become a "radical moderate" by billionaire Daniel Lubetzky,  founder of KIND snacks, who proved to her that as long as the KIND label is slapped on predatory capitalism, who cares about the actual hidden ingredients?

To that end, Hillary Clinton herself will join the fun, leading yet another plenary session conversation with the theme of kindness promotion, which is mainly achieved by Chelsea Clinton's "Too Small To Fail" initiative to combat poverty by reading to children in laundromats.

As for Kamala Harris, hopefully she will have soaked up so much kindness and empathy by canoodling with the Clintons that her upcoming junkets to Central American countries so devastated by neoliberal US plunder that record numbers of refugees are crossing the Mexico-US border, will convince those political bosses to keep their subjects from ever even reaching Mexico in the first place. This act of American empathy will be accomplished by billions of dollars in kind bribery cash to be paid directly to the political bosses.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, in other words, rumors of the death of the Neoliberal Project and its relentless imposition of austerity and pain on the suffering masses of the world have been greatly exaggerated, Rescue Plan or no Rescue Plan.

And stateside, at least 30 million retired, sick, poor or disabled people have yet to receive their $1400 "stimulus checks." It seems that Congress unkindly forgot to appropriate the funds for the Social Security Administration to compile a list of beneficiaries for the IRS. You know... the desperate people that the Clinton Foundation and its corporate sponsors want you to believe are stealing our futures.

Friday, March 19, 2021

The Purge of the Stoners

 It's a good thing that Barack Obama has modestly shot down all those pleas from his adoring fans to team up with his old pal Joe in some capacity in the new administration. Because as a self-confessed pothead in his younger days, even Obama might not have passed muster.

The Daily Beast reports that Biden has summarily purged "dozens of young White House staffers" who admitted past marijuana use, either by firing them, suspending them, or sentencing them to work from "remote locations." This crackdown came as something of a shock, given that the administration had previously assured job applicants that they wouldn't be rejected just because of a little recreational marijuana use in the distant past. Even staffers who indulged in the 14 states in which cannabis is now legal were canned.

The official explanation for the purge is that pot use, even past pot use, presents a potential national security risk. Not to mention an international security risk, given that Obama had created his own Kill List  and declared all those thousands of innocent bystanders blasted to smithereens by his drones to be terrorists - unless they were found innocent post-mortem. Which they never were, not only because their unidentifiable bodies were in pieces, but because Obama's serial killing spree had made it far too dangerous for US officials to travel to the scenes of the crimes in order to investigate their own crimes.

So it kind of makes you wonder what Joe Biden himself was smoking when he blabbed to George Stephanopoulos on ABC this week that he thinks Vladimir Putin is a cold-blooded killer who "will pay a price" - details of which will be announced at a later date. This ominous remark was strangely inserted right in the middle of what is being hyped as his American Rescue Tour.

  Since Biden is failing to rescue student debtors from their onerous burdens, it is therefore absolutely vital for him to reset the American mood from despair to one of fear of an outside enemy. Biden's idea of a rescue is not to forgive debt, but to give it tax-exempt status just in case a portion of it is ever erased. It was, after all, then-Senator Joe Biden himself who wrote the bill which bars the discharge of student debt in bankruptcy court. Owe till you die while Russia and China are sowing discord in our democracy.

Here's my take on the White House purge of the potheads. Biden could be reviving the War on Drugs to help promote his son Hunter's upcoming memoir detailing his own rescue from drug abuse. It was this addiction, we are asked to infer, which propelled Hunter on his own ruinous journey to national security riskiness, via his sketchy and very lucrative deals in Ukraine and China. Biden is simply giving the same tough love to his young staffers that he has given to his own son.

 Nobody gets a free pass... unless it is on Air Force Two on a drug-free nepotistic junket to Beijing.

Ever so coincidentally, in a newly-released report, the intelligence "community" officially now has "high confidence" that Russia was behind the New York Post's scoop on Hunter's shenanigans, published in the final weeks of the presidential campaign and purged from Twitter and from all respectable mainstream publications who feared losing access to power.  

According to the latest New York Times article in the Russiagate franchise,

While it was declassified by the Biden administration, the report is based on work done during the Trump administration, according to intelligence officials, reflecting the vastly different views that officers had from their political overseers, who were appointed by Mr. Trump.

The report rebutted yearslong efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to sow doubts about the intelligence agency's assessments that Russia not only wanted to sow chaos in the United States but also favored his re-election.

As you may have surmised by now, I am not a member of the "I Was So Wrong About Joe Biden, He Is the Greatest Progressive Since FDR!" Club. And I don't know about you, but all this scary talk about sowing doubt about the sowing of chaos just to sow doubt only makes me want to go out and score a lid and mellow out and then sow all the seeds from my stash.

We have to do whatever it takes to #Resist the Biden era's melding of the revived Partnership For a Drug-Free America with the Partnership for a Criticism-Free America. Because afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted are no longer what journalism is all about. What it does seem to be all about is the consolidated careerist media's access to the powerful, and the avoidance of cultural cancellation at all costs. 

There's a new designer drug going around that aims to get you high as a kite on one-time $1400 relief checks and temporary help in paying your health insurance shakedown artists.

The Biden team and its entire media chorus are nothing but pushers. Just Say No, before your brain fries like an egg.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Rescue: The Major and the Minor

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is a little bit like the saga of Biden's rescue dog. It seems that Major inflicted a "minor" injury on a White House lackey this week. Now, depending upon your point of view, both the bite and the bill are either boldly aggressive attacks portending future behavior,  or they're nothing but ineffectual nibbles that don't even leave a mark.

Whatever the case may be, I think it's safe to assume that Joe "nothing would fundamentally change" Biden would never tolerate any broken skin in the game on his watch.

Meanwhile, "landmark" and "sweeping" are only two of the gushing, go-to words the corporate media are using to hype the legislation expected to passed handily in the lower House and landing on Biden's desk for a triumphant televised signing ceremony. Gone are all the terrible memories of Donald Trump's own stingy approval of a mere $1,800 in direct cash aid to the majority of Americans last year. Because just as the fairytale princess once spun straw into gold, the Biden administration has magically transformed those promised $2,000 checks into $1,400 checks right before our very gullible eyes. It's a page right out of the playbook of that sly old yarn-spinner himself, Bill Clinton. It was he who set the centrist stage for all manner of austerian bait and switch gimmicks when he folksily and patiently explained, over and over again, why people simply cannot have nice things. "It's arithmetic!"

Therefore, the title of the latest episode: "$1,400 Is the New $2,000."

In this best of all possible Panglossian worlds, the American Rescue Plan will cut child poverty almost in half! Therefore, if you're a very lucky kid, you will not be among those left drowned at the bottom of the half-full glass.

But the private insurance predators? They not only will float buoyantly to the top, they'll be riding a wave. The plan vastly increases their government subsidies to a veritable tsunami of sensible, arithmetic-based windfall profit. Rather than enact even temporary single payer universal health coverage during this terrible pandemic, our leaders have instead rationally decided to fork over billions of dollars to surfer sharks in suits, so they may go about their normal business of denying our claims while collecting their co-pays, premiums and deductibles for services rendered within very strictly proscribed networks in the health care marketplace. 

So, if you're like the uninsured 64-year-old man who tested positive for Covid antibodies but negative on the molecular test, you are now personally on the hook for a $22,368 hospital bill and deemed ineligible for government reimbursement. And even if you're a Covid patient who passed all the tests but whose primary pre-existing condition was exacerbated by the virus, then you're out of luck too.

Gig workers, among other precarious people suffering through the economic effects of the pandemic, may or may not be helped by the American Rescue Plan, which will allow them to retain "skin in the game" by either shopping around for cheaper Obamacare product or getting a nice discount on their pricey employment-based Cobra plans. The New York Times reports that musicians and actors have lost their insurance coverage in droves over the past year, not only because they were out of work, but because predatory insurance companies raised their rates even as they reaped in record profits - courtesy of government subsidies which continued flowing in to their coffers unabated. Insurance companies justify raising the rates to "health care consumers" by pointing to the high costs of the pandemic to their investors.

The Rescue Plan will also bail out 185 multi-employer pension plans, thus saving the retirements of about a million people. It will not, however, extract this money from the private equity vultures who actually looted these pension plans in the first place.

In more rescue largesse in this best of all possible neoliberal worlds, student borrowers who have a portion of their debt forgiven will no longer be on the hook to the IRS for the phantom income derived from their erased debt. In other words, the tax man won't come after you for the wealth you derive from your negative bank account. It's the arithmetic, stupid!

But act now, because many if not most of the rescue plans contained in the Biden offer are set to expire in 2025, if not sooner.  This artificial and rather cynical cut-off date gives Democrats the ability to fund-raise like mad during the election year of 2024 as they "fight for" you with every pragmatic fiber of their beings.

Better to die slowly, in increments, than be thrown right to the dogs by those nasty old Republicans.

Unless, of course, the dog is Major Biden, who is just the latest actor in the Twitterverse culture wars so carefully manufactured to distract us from all our petty cares and worries.

Bite Me

Monday, March 1, 2021

America Has a Pope-Queen

 My first reaction upon learning that an obscure Senate parliamentarian named Elizabeth MacDonough had not only single-handedly nixed passage of a $15 minimum wage through the budget reconciliation process, but that Joe Biden "respected" her ruling, was one of absolute chagrin.  Here I was, along with millions of others, so hopelessly addicted to binge-watching The Crown on Netflix, that we didn't even realize we'd had our very own Queen Elizabeth this whole time. She'd been discreetly presiding over the Sceptered Isle of the Senate for the entire past decade!

Granted, she has been pretty easy to miss, given that she only speaks publicly once a year, and that speech is to an arcane youth group. This is not fair. The least she could do is deliver an annual Christmas address to the nation, if not ink a Netflix deal or at bare minimum, go on The View.

 So much for us vanquishing King George in the American Revolution. Admittedly, we in the United States have always craved a monarch, making Hollywood celebrities and rock stars our sloppy seconds. This inbred authoritarian longing also helps explain the fascination many of us in the Colonies have with vapid exiled multimillionaires Prince Harry and Meghan, who are set to regale royalty fans with their own two-hour Oprah tell-all next week. 

But since Harry's granny, Elizabeth II, is only a constitutional monarch, a figurehead with no real power, I think it's high time that Her Majesty's subjects erupt in jealousy for our possession of an all-American monarch who has even more power than our semi-democratically elected president. This unelected and secretive and unaccountable official is able, with the dismissive wave of her little royal finger, to order millions of her subjects to survive - with a stiff upper lip, of course - on $7.25 an hour. 

Joe Biden himself is such a stiff that he would never dream of demanding to know, along with millions of outraged minimum wage reform proponents, who just died and made her Queen.

Born-again self-proclaimed progressive, cosmetic/gender diversity booster, and good Catholic that he is, Biden has actually gone way beyond royalty deference and effectively elevated Elizabeth MacDonough to the status of Pope. Thanks to a Vatican ruling by one of the previous popes in Rome who declared himself infallible, every subsequent pope is deemed to be infallible. The Pope has a direct line to and from God himself. Nobody must ever question what the Pope says, no matter how bizarre or how cruel. When, for example, the Pope forbids Catholic women to use birth control and outlaws remarriage after divorce, and bans abortion even in cases of rape or incest, there are no grounds for appeal. 

Catholics don't like it much, but what can they do besides leaving the church or opening themselves up to excommunication? Biden says he doesn't like Queen-Pope Elizabeth's decision either, but he views it as so infallible that he dare not try to reverse it. 

For their own part, senior Democrats, including Kamala Harris, have also followed suit and pragmatically abandoned all hope for fear of entering the hell of party and donor retribution. Senators Ron Wyden and Bernie Sanders renounced their own workaround bill, which would have penalized major corporations for failure to pay employees at least $15 an hour, for the very plausible reason that major corporations would easily have found their own workarounds to the odious requirement of paying workers a decent wage. 

Therefore, with Biden's abject surrender to Elizabeth of the Senate, not even the Supreme Court can be prevailed upon to overrule the Parliamentarian and declare her de facto unitary powers to be unconstitutional. Not that the Court ever would, of course, entertain such a thing. The reactionary majority would likely reimpose slavery if they could, guided by their own cynical reliance on the glorified pantheon of slave-holding "originalist" writers of the Constitution. This infallible document is either to be literally interpreted as a Bible, or conveniently ignored whenever the bottom line of capitalism is threatened, or twisted into a subversive parody of itself when, for example, assault rifle profiteers and sociopaths can legally define themselves as well-ordered militias.

Joe Biden, reactionary originalist stiff that he also is, claims that his hands are tied on the parliamentary minimum wage defeat. His overruling or firing of Pope-Queen Elizabeth would be a mortal sin, punishable by condemnation by his financial backers, who also own and control the Democratic Party.

So, although theoretically his hands are not tied - because both Catholic dogma and his own electoral mandate do acknowledge the concept of free will - Joe Biden is afraid of catching hell from the oligarchs he serves, the pantheon of demi-gods presiding at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable who adamantly oppose a $15 minimum wage - which, by the way, should not be confused with a living wage, now estimated to be about $24 an hour at the bare survival minimum.

He did promise these movers and shakers that "nothing would fundamentally change" when he became the figurehead president. The infallibility of capitalism will never be challenged by him, loyal courtier that he is.

As he goes about the business of having no power, it turns out that even with his hands tied, he is still capable of dropping bombs on Syria without the approval of anybody, not even the Pope-Queen herself. Congress, however, theoretically does have the power to stop the bomb-dropping. But once again, the rule of adhering maniacally to the Constitution whenever it's convenient and blandly ignoring it whenever it's not, especially applies when it comes to the unitary executive's power to wage war and kill people whenever the mood hits him, or whenever the de facto kings in the profit-driven "defense" industry (the Pentagon) order him to.

Biden press secretary Jen Psaki, meanwhile, soothes that Biden will spend the next few days... or weeks (or months, or years) figuring out "the best path forward."  Whenever people are being denied nice things, politicians can always fall back on evoking the Bible. Joe Biden, even with his hands tied by a tangle of silly string of his own making, is made to sound as though he is a saint, forever and always seeking the way, the truth and the light.

While Joe Biden is bound, the rest of us gag.