Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Surreal Times In the Good Old USA

Can't order find common cause with chaos? Can't sanity and insanity just please finally get along?

It's long past time to get realistic and pragmatic and centrist, people. Joe Biden's Build Back Better legislation is as good as dead in the polluted water.  So let's give three cheers for the new and improved Whittle Down Worse Wisely agenda, which is certainly a lot smarter than the reckless Shave Away to a Sad Pile of Sawdust that those nasty old Republicans are rooting for. 

American politics can be visualized as a Salvador Dali painting. As Albert Camus observed, the essence of surrealism is that it is both irrational and triumphant. "The surrealists, while simultaneously exalting human innocence, believed they could exalt murder and suicide," he wrote in The Rebel.

 The New York Times is only too happy to aid and abet the Democrats at their own hard passive-aggressive work of whittling down wisely in order to placate their murderous mutual overlords. The main tactic is to frame the narrative into an honest debate between two equal factions: the very sincere, poor people-hating deficit hawks, and the equally sincere, innocent, and very smug climate catastrophe acknowledgers.  You see,  the issue is not one of life and death. The only issue is how "we" can sustain economic growth. Everybody can irrationally agree, after all, that there can be a bright side to cancer.

Or as tax and economics reporter Jim Tankersley more decorously concern-trolls it:

It is a stealth battle over the fiscal future at a time when few lawmakers in either party have prioritized addressing debt and deficits. Each side believes its approach would put the nation’s finances on a more sustainable path by generating the strongest, most durable economic growth possible.

Get it? There are only two designated "sides" in this surreal intra-oligarchic debate. Tankersley actually recasts the Wall Street-spawned Third Way think tank as the environmentally conscious liberal good guy in the contrived narrative, while arch-conservative economist Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute gets to be magically transformed into a "centrist."

Strain is such a reasonable, moderate guy that his solution to poverty is to give unemployed people a bus ticket out of town so they can find a job at sub-minimum wage to help them get back on their feet without any of those horrible government handouts.

Third Way, founded by the late billionaire Pete Peterson for the sole purpose of unraveling the New Deal via deficit hysteria, desperately wants the separate infrastructure bill to pass, given that it contains so many corporate subsidies for the repair (and privatization!) of our crumbling roads and bridges. Therefore, the Times turns to Josh Freed, Third Way's vice president in charge of climate and energy, for the requisite scientific expertise. Freed says the reason to reverse climate catastrophe is not so much to save lives now as it is to avoid wasting money on the victims of future disasters, which would put a real damper on the profits of the ruling class.

Or, as Freed more decorously concern-trolls it for easy digestion by Times readers:

“Those are the table stakes for the reconciliation and infrastructure debate. It’s why we think the cost of inaction, from an economic perspective, is so enormous.”

Translation: investors have to extract and spend public money - not their own hoarded wealth, mind you - in order to make enormous private profits later. And it's all for the good of the planet. This is otherwise known as green-washing everything in sight to slap an Earth-friendly gloss over corporate greed and rapacity.

Freed, an alumnus of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also serves on the board of the Clean Energy Leadership Council. which according to his Third Way profile, is "an organization dedicated to equipping a diverse set of emerging leaders with the skills and expertise to lead the transition to a clean energy economy."

Have you ever noticed that these philanthrocapitalist do-good fronts are never about solving problems in the here and now, but all about capitalism tooting its own horn and gauzily imparting its skills and inspiration to the youthful leaders of Tomorrow?

And sure enough, the Clean Energy Leadership Council gets the bulk of its funding from energy companies and their various representatives and lobbyists. The notorious Con Ed of New York is listed as a "foundational partner," along with the public-private New York State Energy Research and Development Association. One "kilowatt supporter" is listed as Van Ness Feldman LLP,, a law firm which boasts on its own website that it is one of the nation's top three lobbyists for the oil and gas industry. It also boasts of its "diversity and inclusion," proving once again that the Greenwashing/Wokewashing Partnership is a ubiquitous plank in corporate propaganda across multiple industries.  Pollution and greed are proud equal opportunity employers.

Another kilowatt supporter is an outfit called Adaptive Change Advisors, which modestly claims on its website that it has taught everybody from White House personnel to Google, to Microsoft, to the United Nations to the World Bank how to win friends and influence people. Based upon a Harvard University-developed system, it is essentially about elites instructing elites on how to be more elite. If there is any adapting to be done, those targets shall remain nameless. But you know who you are! I am taking a wild guess that Advanced Whittling For Dummies is part of its core curriculum. Also too, there are probably instructions on how to write a concern-trolling New York Times article which frames narratives and phony debates around rich-people interests, while hammering home the point that There Is No Alternative. So, Lessers, adapt to murder-suicide already!

Did I mention that Jim Tankersley, author of the aforementioned misleading New York Times think piece, is also a "media fellow" at Stanford University's neoliberal Institute For Economic and Policy Research? This particular think tank was founded by the late George Shultz, who held four different Cabinet positions in Republican administrations and who later headed the Board of Directors of Theranos, whose own founder, Elizabeth Holmes, is currently on trial for defrauding investors. His other claims to fame were leading the global energy company Bechtel and devising George W. Bush's policy of preemptive war.

Why else would there be no mention of the US Military being the biggest single polluter by fossil fuels on the face of the planet? Why else do you never read about the "affordability" of war in the New York Times, or in any of the five or six media conglomerates and allied tech titans that own both the discourse and the means of delivering the discourse?

There used to be a great journalistic organization called Muckety, which actually drew convoluted spider-webby diagrams explaining how virtually all the members the ruling class are interconnected.  One day, the site simply disappeared off the Internet without a trace and with no explanation.

Convoluted diagrams that resemble hairy spiders are so headache-inducing anyway. So I'll let the late great George Carlin whittle it all right down for ya:


Mark Thomason said...

"Why else do you never read about the "affordability" of war"

These are the people who believe in The Short Victorious War. That was the title of a book about the beliefs of both Russians and Japanese leading up to the horrors of the Russo-Japanese War.

GHW Bush actually delivered a net real profit on the Persian Gulf War. After contributions of allies to offset costs, the US government made a profit.

Reagan's bullying of tiny countries was also grand show at very little cost, in Grenada and Panama as examples.

Bill Clinton used cruise missile strikes that way. The missiles were already paid for and aging out, and they gave great show at only sunk costs, not any new real costs. The dead could be and were only non-people, but still useful as display.

They really believe it is cheap, to near free, and sometimes profitable. No cost.

Then we wasted trillions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Did they learn from that? Anybody believe for a hot second they learned anything from that?

Now we see a run up to drone and cruise missile attacks on Iran, maybe some stealth bombers presumed to be totally safe at a cost no more than training flights they'd make anyway.

And for Taiwan? The shape of it as short victorious and even profitable is not yet clear, but it is very clear they are thinking of it that way, treating the prospect that way.

These war criminals expect to get away with it. That's why we don't hear any of their flacks talking about costs. They don't see any. Blind to the possibility.

Marcus A. A. said...

Aloha Karen, You know I always quoted Carlin. I knew you were on target, thanks for showing the man.

Jay–Ottawa said...

More and more, the honest writers that remain are getting desperate and writing angrier stuff, less and less pulling their punches as in days of old in the newsroom. Why? Well, they feel like the guy in charge of tolling the bells loud in the night to warn the village that a flood is about to sweep the whole town away. They keep tolling harder and harder until the bells are doing full 360s. But still the town stays comfortably in bed, some of relaxed citizens sitting up but busy scrolling around with their so-called smart phones.

Karen has just written a pretty heavy piece, full of contempt for the liars, thieves and biblically evil people in charge of everything. Find me a champion, someone who can put an army together, to give the corrupt elite the boot. Till then, the elite will continue to move the goal posts of hardship further down the charts until 80% of the population is poor and broken.

Even the cool, sharp, rational Ralph Nader is filling his weekly columns with undiluted vitriol. What a fine job he does this week in his sketch of the "malicious" Senator McConnell. The other interesting bloggers, Taibbi, Maté, Hedges, Greenwald, Yves Smith, and "b" at MoA, also dazzle you with notes of despair often with undisguised contempt and mockery. The absurd, as Karen points out, is no longer a sideshow in the museum; it's an everyday reality.

Get used to it.

No, dammit, do not get used to it.

Like frogs in the warming pot, we keep getting used to it. The writers mentioned are showing us ways to resist with the few tools left to us. They lately do so with the most vivid columns ever. Some lift our plight to the level of art or the biblical narrative. They mock the torturers in their face, to include the sidekick cons who keep selling us hope as we are dragged back to our cells.

If you've worked at it for a long time, you've learned how to laugh at serious reversals. Before the oppressors lobotomize us as they've virtually done with Assange, let's let loose the catcalls while we can. Yeah, mess up Thanksgiving Dinner with straight talk (in slow, measured tones) about the mess we're in. If you're not as angry and passionate in the telling as Carlin, then your humanity must have slipped away when you weren't paying attention. Mockery, tough humor, unmaskings, music, art and song, and the finger can still be aimed at the right targets: the heartless superrich and their enablers, which include the Pollyanna presstitutes of the MSM who run interference for the rich bastards.

These are such interesting times, and the few honest writers that remain are making sure we don't miss a thing as this marvelous gift, the faint blue dot, goes down the drain.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Among devout Christians of a certain stripe one question is often repeated in this or that situation: "What would Jesus do?"

In face of Senator Joe Manchin's blocking the bill taxing the rich and otherwise carrying on bill after bill as if he were the president calling the shots, I ask "What would Pres Lyndon Baines Johnson do?"

Instead of rolling over and playing dead as President Joe Biden keeps doing, LBJ would pick up the phone and threaten Manchin with pulling every federal dollar out of West Virginia. Then he'd send a squad with truckloads of dollars to WV to undermine Manchin at every turn, right up to Manchin's next campaign for re-election. By the time LBJ had finished squashing Manchin politically, even the coal barons of WV (duly taken care of on the side) would have turned against Manchin.

Come to think of it, that's probably what Jesus would do too.

General Jinjur said...

Buffy suggested something a bit more extreme but similar about Gandhi…

Jay–Ottawa said...

C'mon, general, you tease, what did the Queen Mother to Be say should be done to, for, at Gandhi?

Erik Roth said...

"There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls."
~ George Carlin

“The more you can escape from how horrible things really are, the less it's going to bother you … and then, the worse things get.”
~ Frank Zappa

So, what then must we do?
What would Bonhoeffer do?
Surely we must do something.
Good for us that Karen Garcia is howling true.

Jane Fonda on the climate fight: ‘The cure for despair is action’ —
Sometimes the only way to get attention is to break the rules. Fifty years after my first arrest, I’ve embraced being locked up in the name of the planet. As Cop26 nears, here’s why it’s time to rise up.
23 Oct. 2021 ~ by Jane Fonda

Wrong side of the law. Right side of history: the activists arrested in the name of the planet —
From grassroots campaigners to Hollywood actors, 21 climate rebels tell their stories.
Tap on each activist to read their story.
23 Oct. 2021
Interviews: Elle Hunt, Sam Wollaston

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

"What would Pres Lyndon Baines Johnson do?"

"Instead of rolling over and playing dead as President Joe Biden keeps doing, LBJ would pick up the phone and threaten Manchin with pulling every federal dollar out of West Virginia. Then he'd send a squad with truckloads of dollars to WV to undermine Manchin at every turn, right up to Manchin's next campaign for re-election. By the time LBJ had finished squashing Manchin politically, even the coal barons of WV (duly taken care of on the side) would have turned against Manchin."

Yep! LBJ is turning into one of my political heroes - Now, I understand why he had to play so dirty.

But we all knew when Biden got the Democratic nomination - seemingly out of nowhere - that he was just window dressing for keeping the status quo.

voice-in-wilderness said...

My reading this month is a reminder that Democrats need to be much smarter about learning from polls and in the resulting messaging they use, not to make untested assumptions about the voting of various blocks, such as women and minorities. See, for example, the analysis in "Jacobin", November 9th, titled Commonsense Solidarity. This will leave progressives intensely frustrated, a reminder that they really do not have a political party to represent them.

As an example of fraught messaging, the Democrats are in danger of giving the GOP something as explosive as "defund the police." I've been following what was first reported in the WSJ about giving compensation to families separated in the Trump era, with the number $450,000 out there. Biden stated that compensation was deserved, but disavowed any compensation number. Almost any number will be treated with outrage from many sources. Not only from ordinary voters, but already I've seen an essay from the remaining group of 1979 Iranian hostages who were promised compensation under President Obama that has not been delivered. Tick, tick, tick ...