Tuesday, December 28, 2021

You Are Expendable

 Of course, you already knew that. But now that the political apparatchik ostensibly in charge of national "disease control" has admitted that the running of the "economy" is more important than controlling diseases, all the platitudes in the world aren't going to do the overlord class a damned bit of good any more.

Just weeks after President Biden warned of a winter of pain and death from the COVID-19 pandemic, his administration has not just stopped at abruptly shortening by half the time that infected "asymptomatic" or exposed people must isolate. They can now return to work without the benefit of testing to determine whether they are sick and/or pose a risk to others. A winter of pain and death, no matter how annoying or scary it may sound, must never stand in the way of capitalism, or what the officials are euphemizing  as "everyday life."

Their convoluted logic is that since the Omicron variant of the disease itself is spreading so quickly, then people have to get over it even more quickly. You're in a race against your own bodily functions and response to viruses! You are, after all, an entrepreneur of your own health. Vax early, vax often. Be sure to hate and fear the unvaxxed and unboosted as you go responsibly about your own assigned task of wellness. 

These affected workers, the politicians and paid-for health experts tacitly acknowledge, do not come from the ranks of the Clerisy, or from the Professional-Managerial Class, who may continue to work safely and remotely from their homes if that is their preference. Those being precipitously forced back to work are from the service economy: the flight attendants, the teachers, the nurses, the cleaners, the food servers, the retail staffers - just about anybody, really, that the upper classes deem to be essential to their own comfort and well-being.

A flight is a terrible thing to cancel. Children, too, must continue to learn to compete in improperly ventilated buildings, even though more of them are getting hospitalized from the Omicron variant, and the under-fives are not even yet eligible for the vaccine.

The new recommendations “balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses,” inanely remarked Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control. “These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”

Walensky did not offer one shred of evidence that halving the isolation time without follow-up testing ensures that people can be safe. She didn't mention that vaccinated people can still infect others if they have a breakthrough case. She didn't mention that the airline industry put pressure on the CDC to ease restrictions affecting their bottom line. So much for all the virtue-signaling talk from enlightened liberals about following The Science . She is unabashedly engaging in magical thinking at best, or cynically flouting her brand-new credentials from the Dr. Oz School of Charlatanry at worst.

As for Biden, he seems to have just given up, pivoting from waging a war on COVID to pleading that COVID is not really his problem. Here he is, via the New York Times, taking a page straight out of the Republican playbook of bashing centralized federal solutions to problems and crises, and championing states' rights instead:

In a conference call with governors on Monday, President Biden spoke of cooperation at various levels of government. Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas, praised the president’s plan to give away 500 million rapid at-home tests, but said that federal efforts to stanch the infections must yield to state remedies.

 “Look, there is no federal solution,” Mr. Biden replied. “This gets solved at the state level.”

"Ultimately it gets down to where the rubber meets the road, and that’s where the patient is in need of help or preventing the need for help,” he added.

The best translation I can come up with for that glob of gibberish is that Biden is throwing tens of millions of Americans right under the neoliberal wheels of the bus that go round and round. And it will be up to the roadkill patients themselves to get help. Or, if they are irresponsibly unvaxxed or unboosted, they are not to expect any help at all from the government. And that includes scoring those free at-home tests that Biden may or may not provide.

Medical ethicists may be aghast and appalled at the ignorance and cruelty on full display at the very highest levels of the Bipartisan Party (h/t Gary Shteyngart), but CEOs and corporate boards and investors are ecstatic about the recent Expendability Directive, especially if they themselves have the luxury of working remotely and not having to risk being infected by the forced labor pool. 

As one Ivy League health expert cherry-picked by the Times put it about the lack of testing at the end of the new truncated isolation periods: "Given the tests are not widely available it's a reasonable approach."

He may as well have said that given the lack of food, allowing people to starve to death is also a reasonable approach. It's all about the enlightened laws of Cause and Effect. 

And just as "everyday life" is their code for working till you drop, the constant litany of Follow the Science  turns out to be nothing but plutocratic code for their true and everlasting mantra: Follow the Money.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

War On Earth, Bad Vibes To Humans

 For one brief shining moment this past weekend, the New York Times broke out of its role as establishment mouthpiece and publicist for the powerful, and practiced some real journalism. 

"Hidden Pentagon Records Reveal Patterns of Failure In Deadly Airstrikes" was the banner headline of the two-part blockbuster written by Azmat Khan.  Of course, euphemizing the US government's decade-long campaign of drone terror and mass murder of civilians in the middle East as a tactical "failure" is the very essence of Timesianism.

Still, it's the body of the two-part piece, based upon a five-year-long investigation by the Times - including successful Freedom of Information lawsuits for Pentagon records, visits by reporters to the cratered, ruined physical sites of the atrocities, and interviews with survivors - that should be horrifying all who read it, and more than enough to call Congress back into session to start a full investigation and a full public airing of the smoking gun evidence of some of the worst war crimes in all of recorded history.

Khan writes, 

The trove of documents — the military’s own confidential assessments of more than 1,300 reports of civilian casualties, obtained by The New York Times — lays bare how the air war has been marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children, a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.

The documents show, too, that despite the Pentagon’s highly codified system for examining civilian casualties, pledges of transparency and accountability have given way to opacity and impunity. In only a handful of cases were the assessments made public. Not a single record provided includes a finding of wrongdoing or disciplinary action. Fewer than a dozen condolence payments were made, even though many survivors were left with disabilities requiring expensive medical care. Documented efforts to identify root causes or lessons learned are rare.

The air campaign represents a fundamental transformation of warfare that took shape in the final years of the Obama administration, amid the deepening unpopularity of the forever wars that had claimed more than 6,000 American service members. The United States traded many of its boots on the ground for an arsenal of aircraft directed by controllers sitting at computers, often thousands of miles away. President Barack Obama called it “the most precise air campaign in history.”

This was the promise: America’s “extraordinary technology” would allow the military to kill the right people while taking the greatest possible care not to harm the wrong ones.

Sadly, though, the timing of the Times in finally choosing to report what outlets like the Bureau of Investigative Journalism were writing about a decade ago was way, way off. Within 24 hours of publication, the war crimes blockbuster was knocked off the top of the digital front page by the utterly shocking news that Joe Manchin was finally done playing with the dead mouse known as the Build Back Better bill. It must be a bit of a relief that the elite movers and shakers and opinion-makers can ignore the mass drone slaughter so smoothly bragged about by Barack Obama, and instead direct all their news-cycle ire against the Democratic Party's latest designated Bad Cop. Manchin had the nerve not only to totally blindside the hapless and lackadaisical and totally complicit Biden, but to go on Fox News, of all places, to make the Big Reveal!

So Biden (who, to his credit, has reportedly greatly decreased the drone murders of innocents abroad) will react by seeming to reverse course and promising to deliver rapid Covid tests to every American household, without people having to go through a predatory insurance middleman after all! Not only that, he has also scored himself a brand new adorable  puppy named Commander.  Heartwarming story upon heartwarming story will make people forget all about their evictions, the resumption of their student loan payments and their lost paychecks due to the increasing number of ad hoc business closures resulting from the Fourth Wave of the pandemic.

Speaking of waves, unindicted war criminal Barack Obama was spotted cavorting in them, just as the big Times story broke, on his annual holiday vacation in Hawaii.

As the Times series on the drone slaughters and their coverups establishes - in case after case after gruesome case -  there has never been any accountability. Any accountability is reserved for the exposers of war crimes, like Julian Assange and Daniel Hale, the former drone operator who was sentenced last June to 45 months in prison for the crime of leaking documents on war crimes to the press - the same kind of documents that the Times now finally sees fit to print, to little or no reaction from either the political class or from the rest of the corporate media. I guess everybody's too busy tweeting about their "mild" Omicron test results while gaslighting the unvaxxed.

Here, meanwhile, is my published response to the Times war crimes story:

As Smedley Butler observed, war is a racket. And as long as members of Congress are among the racketeers, keeping their jobs by providing their districts with military bases, weapons and bomb-manufacturing plants and jobs, and all the countless other perks associated with global, institutionalized terrorism and death, these politicians will never hold their uniformed, hideously be-medaled partners in crime accountable for the atrocities.

What this country needs is another antiwar movement. Easier said than done, of course, given the end of the military draft and the transformation of fighting forces into flying predator and Reaper drones.

At the very least, we should be able to extend our newfound anti-racist "wokeness" to the essential racism that is inherent in all of this slaughter. As Judith Butler has observed, these casualties of war - demeaned as collateral damage and "mistakes that were made" by the generals - amount to deaths that are not deemed to be grievable. No surprise that the US has refused to become a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which is designed to bring justice to war criminals. In fact, Congress even passed a law that any US official arrested overseas on war crimes charges must be rescued by any means necessary. They don't even try to cloak the consciousness of their own guilt.

Revelations as published here should at least put pressure on the Biden administration to drop the charges against Julian Assange.

Well, since I wrote that comment a few days ago, Biden has announced that he is sending everybody in America a free nasal swab, calling out the troops to administer more shots, and showing off his new puppy. So let us all hold our collective breaths while we still have the breath to hold.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Rewards of Rapacity

"For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe," thundered Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. this week.

Michael Steinhardt

Whereupon the outgoing Democratic prosecutor promptly forgave the billionaire raptor, dropping a four-year criminal investigation in exchange for the octogenarian promising to stay out of the criminal antiquities racket for the rest of his life. He didn't even have to pay the usual sweetheart tax deduction of a fine that criminal oligarchs commonly use to buy their way out of accountability on the relatively rare occasions that they do get charged. 

Steinhardt is doubly protected, though, always having had the protection racket known as the Duoply on his side. What the corporate media are not reporting about this sordid case is that it was largely Steinhardt's hedge fund money that forged the Democratic Party's hard right turn in the late 1980s with the founding of the Democratic Leadership Council. A major financier of Bill Clinton's campaign for the presidency. Steinhardt naturally was named the very first chairman of the DLC, as well as heading its inaptly named think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute.

Oh, and he also was one of the chief architects of Clinton's notorious pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.

So, like any oligarchic raptor worth his salt, Steinhardt is not only proclaiming his innocence, he is playing the victim card this week. The New York Times (which dutifully ignored Steinhardt's arguably worse crime of transforming the Democratic Party into the rapacious corporate entity that it is today) reported:

In a statement on Monday, his lawyer, Andrew J. Levander, said: “Mr. Steinhardt is pleased that the District Attorney’s yearslong investigation has concluded without any charges, and that items wrongfully taken by others will be returned to their native countries. Many of the dealers from whom Mr. Steinhardt bought these items made specific representations as to the dealers’ lawful title to the items, and to their alleged provenance. To the extent these representations were false, Mr. Steinhardt has reserved his rights to seek recompense from the dealers involved.”

Good luck suing af least a few of the mobsters he trafficked with, because they are not as lucky as Steinhardt and unlike him, were convicted on the thefts and are sitting in Italian jails.

Vance, who had once declined to prosecute Harvey Weinstein even after a police sting operation captured his predatory behavior on tape, and who gave the Trump children a pass for allegedly defrauding investors after they donated to his campaign, made a valiant effort to explain why he is now protecting Steinhardt from accountability:

In explaining the agreement not to prosecute so long as Mr. Steinhardt abides by all its terms, Mr. Vance said the arrangement would allow for the items to be “returned expeditiously to their rightful owners” rather than being held as evidence. It would also help his office to “shield the identity of the many witnesses here and abroad whose names would be released at any trial.”

Translation: any criminal trial would open up a whole can of writhing plutocratic worms complicit in Steinhardt's antiquities-trafficking racket. It's the same logic now being used in the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial, where prosecutors have abruptly announced that they will be resting their case at the end of the week -  before, apparently, the names of any VIP enablers/clients/blackmail targets can get dragged through the mud. It's called going through the motions in a futile attempt to prove that Lady Justice is blind.

Steinhardt himself must know what a travesty his own case is. He actually railed against the Obama administration's own kid glove treatment of Wall Street predators after the meltdown of 2008. As Reuters reported at the time, 

 “What we really needed a long time ago was a recognition that there were villains apace. The evils of the financial system should have been recognized long before this,” said Steinhardt, who no longer manages billions of dollars but whose counsel is sought on Wall Street and among select politicians.

Steinhardt seems to have been practicing the fine art of projecting his own venality onto others. Even while preaching deficit-hawk austerity for the masses for upwards of three decades, he had been a known trafficker in stolen relics. This activity was not just pursued for the years that Vance acknowledged in his press conference, but during the entire time frame this Wall Street "luminary" was advising, donating to, and influencing politicians from both factions of the Uniparty.

 As the Times reported in its article on the agreement with Vance's office, way back 1995 a stolen golden bowl dating from 450 B.C. was seized from his home and returned to Italy, with similar confiscations and protestations of innocence and ignorance on Steinhardt's part sporadically continuing ever since.

And there was never any accountability. Only one year before the golden bowl incident, Steinhardt was then-President Bill Clinton's honored guest at a gala DLC Christmas holiday dinner. From the official transcript of Clinton's remarks:

Hillary and I are delighted to be here. I was so glad when Michael Steinhardt and Al From and Will Marshall came up on the stage. I thought we were occupying the right wing all by ourselves here tonight. [Laughter] I want to—it'll get funnier as you think about it.

 The bellies of the assorted plutocrats in attendance must have been shaking like a million golden bowls full of jelly. They were stuffing themselves with the stewed viscera of the working class and poor that the DLC (now known as New Democrats or "moderate" Centrists) have been preparing for the ultra-rich gourmands ever since, right along with their fellow chefs from the GOP.

Reward of Cruelty (William Hogarth)

In that speech, Clinton made no secret of his party's new right wing bona fides, and he also made no secret that the mass punishment of struggling people was rooted in the cult of elite rapacity. Neoliberal capitalism was, and is, an ideology. The looting, accompanied as it was by cynical calls for diversity and tolerance, was what they thought they could they could get away with. It was always about pitting "hard-working" folks against hordes of alleged loafers. The fostering of resentment kept the citizenry in line by redirecting their ire against each other and at one or another of the permitted two parties, or what Upton Sinclair described as the two right wings of one bird of prey. 

With Steinhardt no doubt beaming in approval on the stage back in 1994, Clinton delivered exactly the kind of divide and conquer stemwinder of a speech that his owners paid him to deliver. He co-opted race as a flimsy means to differentiate the two parties, using buzzwords to disguise the fact that his own reactionary policies - like welfare destruction  - were both racist and sexist to their very cores.

Well, we did a lot of things that they didn't like very much, especially after it got explained to them, as we say at home. I think I was right when I opposed discrimination and intolerance, but a lot of folks thought I was just more concerned about minorities than the problems for the majority.


We believe the promise of America is equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. The Democratic Party's fundamental mission is to expand opportunity, not Government. America must remain energetically engaged in the world, not retreat from it. The United States must maintain a strong and capable defense. The right way to rebuild America's economic security is to invest in our people and to expand trade, not to restrict it. We believe in preventing crime and punishing criminals, not explaining away their behavior. The purpose of social welfare is to bring the poor into the economic mainstream, not to maintain them in dependence. Government should respect individual liberty and stay out of our private lives and personal decisions. We believe in the moral and cultural values most Americans share, individual responsibility, tolerance, work, faith, and family. We believe American citizenship entails responsibilities as well as rights. And we mean to ask our citizens to give something back to their communities and their country.

Fast forward nearly thirty years, and Joe Biden - himself one of the original founding members of the DLC - is hosting an eerily similar "democratic" global leadership conference. The main difference is that this one is directed by a predatory superpower at the rest of the world

This is the same Clintonesque administration which insists that "we" cannot afford to send cheap Covid testing kits to every household in America, but which will willingly spend a trillion dollars a year on weapons and hardware to surveil, harm, and kill people all over the globe.  It is this endless violence that enables predators like Michael Steinhardt to reap the rewards of the systemic, institutionalized rapacity that calls itself the United States of America.

Underground "tomb raiders" are not so underground anymore. They are operating right out in the open for all to see, if only we still had eyes. They're counting on everybody either fighting one another in the divide and conquer culture wars manufactured at the very top, or simply donning our Melania Trump couture and trying to ignore the depravity of the ruling class, as we struggle to survive for yet another day.