Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Onward, Christofascist Soldiers

 Barely a week after promising at least another $40 billion in subsidies to US weapons manufacturers for the war in Ukraine, and mere days after grotesquely demanding that surplus Covid aid money be used by cities to hire more armed cops, Joe Biden shuffled off to Buffalo to decry hate and violence in his boilerplate response to the latest domestic mass shooting.

The corporate media dutifully are not calling this out as rank hypocrisy, but instead are once again portraying the Commander in Chief as the Consoler in Chief. What they're really trying to accomplish in the coverage and narrative of the weekend's upstate New York grocery store massacre is that the strict line of demarcation between the acceptable, state-sanctioned violence waged only out of love, safety and democracy, and the unacceptable freelance variety perpetrated out of racism, hate and evil must be maintained at all costs.  War, of course, is not deemed to be a hate crime. That its global victims are disproportionately black and brown is not deemed to be racist.

Joe Biden and the Democrats once again are mouthing their feeble, meaningless entreaties for "modest" and "common-sense" gun law reform. They ignore the obvious culprits: the gun manufacturers and arms dealers themselves, and especially the private equity firms and "holding companies" which own them and finance them and profit from both the state-sanctioned and freelance violence which they enable. 

In his stale litany of platitudes, Biden certainly does not include the armed forces and the weapons industry as part of the white supremacist establishment which has ruled this nation since its inception. It's only when the movement goes rogue and freelance that the real supremacists with the real power get all upset, or at least pretend to. 

He also won't pay much if any lip service to the enforced control and impoverishment of most US citizens by the American oligarchy and its enablers in the professional-managerial class comprising the top 10 percent of income earners. Not for nothing did impoverished Buffalo elect its first socialist mayor in a Democratic primary last year, only for her victory to then be thwarted by an influx of Republican money and a write-in campaign to fix the runoff for her centrist Democratic challenger. 

Biden certainly will not call for a punitive tax on the obscene profits of  the weapons manufacturers that are promoting and enabling both state-sanctioned violence and the renegade variety. To the contrary: under the fig leaf of "humanitarian aid" to places like Ukraine, the weapons industry is one of the biggest recipients of government welfare. Wall Street would have a hissy fit if war and local police states were taxable, as would the investors that finance and control both our establishment political parties.

Both the Buffalo shooter and the young man who committed the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre used Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifles.  This past February, the Sandy Hook parents finally reached a $73 million settlement with Remington, which under the laws of corporate bankruptcy was a heavily insured holding company in the process of selling itself and changing its name, so that shadow owners and investors in assault weapons can continue raking in the profits and whitewashing their reputations under the musical chairs business model. This reality makes the Sandy Hook victory both pyrrhic and premature, despite what plaintiffs' lawyers crowed at the time. From CNN's report:

The families have also “obtained and can make public thousands of pages of internal company documents that prove Remington’s wrongdoing and carry important lessons for helping to prevent future mass shootings,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys said in a news release.

“We established what was clearly true … the immunity protecting the gun industry is not bulletproof,” plaintiffs’ attorney Josh Koskoff said in a news conference in Trumbull, Connecticut. “We hope they realize they have skin in the game, instead of blaming literally everybody else.”

The Buffalo gunman's manifesto, pointing to the racist "great replacement theory" as the impetus for his crime spree, rightly puts the onus on various elected GOP nut-jobs and Fox News for spreading the paranoid propaganda.

However, this concentration on white supremacist hate speech again lets Wall Street off the hook.

The very name of "Freedom Group" - under which the  Bushmaster assault rifle and other models were owned and manufactured until the Sandy Hook atrocity - points to the essential right-wing extremism of its corporate owners and investors.

Freedom Group was simply the name of a subsidiary of the Cerberus Capital Management private equity group. Cerberus, you might remember, is the vicious three-headed dog of Greek mythology that guards the gates of hell. So you probably can at least give these corporate psychopaths a few extra points for being so self-aware. 

As tbe New York Times reported in a 2011 investigative article, rumor among paranoid right-wing circles at the time had it that Democratic megadonor George Soros was buying up big, but financially struggling, assault rifle makers for the express purpose of putting them out of business permanently. No such luck:

Mr. Soros isn’t behind the Freedom Group, but, ultimately, another financier is: Stephen A. Feinberg, the chief executive of Cerberus.

CERBERUS is part of one of the signature Wall Street businesses of the past decade: private equity. Buyout kings like Mr. Feinberg, 51, try to acquire undervalued companies, often with borrowed money, fix them up and either take them public or sell at a profit to someone else....

Why Cerberus went after gun companies isn’t clear. Many private investment firms shy away from such industries to avoid scaring off big investors like pension funds.

Yet, in many ways, the move is classic Cerberus. Mr. Feinberg has a history of investing in companies that other people may not want, but that Cerberus believes it can turn around. When Cerberus embarked on its acquisition spree in guns, it essentially had the field to itself.

If Democrats and pundits really wanted to put the onus on the Republican party side of the Duopoly for the rise in white supremacist gun violence, they might point out that former Vice President Dan Quayle sat on the board of Cerberus in Freedom Group era, and is still in charge of "global investments." The Board has also included a couple of retired generals, who during its ownership of Bushmaster facilitated the sale of assault rifles to the US military as well as to the burgeoning demographic including all the many varieties of disturbed or propagandized civilians of the United States.

Cerberus changed the name of Freedom Group to the more innocuous "Remington Outdoor Company" after a great public outcry, post- Sandy Hook shootings. Ironically, the father of the Cerberus CEO himself had lived in a gated community in Sandy Hook.

The younger Feinberg, with a net worth of $1.5 billion, was named by Donald Trump to chair the President's Intelligence Advisory Board. Cerberus then owned DynCorp, a major contractor with the American security state, which then got folded into another private security contractor, called Amentum. Under Trump Freiberg was tasked with "vetting" people employed by the CIA, despite having no "intelligence" experience himself.

Meanwhile, the latest listed owner of the Bushmaster assault rifle company is Crotalus Holdings in Sun City, Nevada, whose rather murky official trademark is "Proud To Stand With America's Finest."

It still has the same old friendly cartoon logo, an over-fanged blood-red snake with a gun.

From the company website:

Bushmaster Firearms™ is excited to announce our return. We are not an affiliate with any other firearms manufacturing companies. In times to come, our array of products will provide Proven™ perfection to all.

And just in case, despite the outlandish trademarking of the word "Proven," you still thought that the Bushmaster and all its assorted ammo and gear are violent things being recklessly marketed to one and all, they are deadly serious about putting the missionary back in the Mission. The quote on the bottom of the web page selling assault rifles should prove it to everyone's satisfaction:  

 Bushmaster Firearms™

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5:9

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A Blob Divided Against Itself Can Only Replicate

 The US foreign policy establishment, often described as The Blob by Washington insiders, was suffering a rare attack of indigestion last week. It seems that the reach of a few of its slimy tentacles had exceeded their grasp. So replete was the Blob upon the gourmet feast known as Ukraine, so giddy was it from the bubbly champagne of public approval for its propaganda campaign to effectively transform Ukraine into an emotionally appealing 51st state, that it forgot that bragging too much about bloodthirsty gluttony does have consequences. It makes people queasy just having to listen to it spewing its gastronomic excess.

Some supposedly renegade individual replicants ventured out from the Blob Proper last week and dished to the New York Times  that it was the Blob itself which had steered its Ukrainian proxy fighters toward some soon-to-be assassinated Russian generals. It was the Blob itself which had targeted the location of the flagship of the Russian fleet for its blowing-up by same proxy fighting force.

This ill-advised chest-thumping, this direct provocation of a fellow nuclear power, was so over the top that it even prodded the latest designated nucleus of the Blob - President Joe Biden himself - into dishing to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that he would not tolerate any of his tentacles ever going rogue in such an unseemly manner, ever again. He apparently even used the F word or worse while  threatening to hunt them down. But this is so moot, because cutting them off will only make them stronger. Slime molds of such superior quality can easily regenerate themselves. Just as the Washington war/security establishment has long used fellow Blobster Friedman to sell its wars of aggression and related regime changes for the benefit of American capitalism  so too does it now use Friedman as journalistic damage control.  Friedman is the ultra-soft washcloth to gently but firmly dab away the blood from Biden's hands, in the process also disguising the fact that these expensively manicured hands are really the giant tentacles of one great big engorged slime mold.

After Friedman ludicrously praises Times reporters for their intrepid digging for spoon-fed goodies from their government partners, he writes: 

At the same time, from everything I have been able to glean from senior U.S. officials, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, the leaks were not part of any thought-out strategy, and President Biden was livid about them. I’m told that he called the director of national intelligence, the director of the C.I.A. and the secretary of defense to make clear in the strongest and most colorful language that this kind of loose talk is reckless and has got to stop immediately — before we end up in an unintended war with Russia.

This is the same president, mind you, whose own notion of diplomacy  for the prevention of nuclear destruction of the whole world is the reckless goading of Vladimir Putin, calling him a war criminal and a genocidal maniac who must be removed from power. The very idea that Biden is even remotely upset about the unseemly chest-thumping by the lesser tentacles in his administration is therefore laughable on its face.

Even so, this is the delicate stage in the US war on Russia where sympathy for everyday Ukrainians must be maintained at a fever pitch so that the American public will not rebel once the Blob takes an even more direct role in the war. It was only a few weeks ago that independent critics of the proxy war were being dismissed as Kremlin stooges, when they pointed out the factual truth that there is a proxy war going on here.  

But as quick as a slime mold replicates in the woods, the official narrative now acknowledges that this is indeed a proxy war - but only because Biden and the Blob have been "dragged into" one by the evil Putin. It is still a heresy to place the actual beginning of this war against Russia to 2014, when the Obama administration orchestrated regime change in Ukraine.

The Blob (which very much includes the corporate media in its body) is still selling the narrative that the war had its beginning with Putin's own invasion of Ukraine, that it has occurred in a vacuum, and that the incursion of NATO up to Russia's own border in defiance of an agreement made in the 1990s not to do so has nothing to do with it, that the Minsk Accord calling for a diplomatic solution to territorial disputes around eastern Ukraine were never ignored by the "West," that Biden's  economic sanctions, pre-Putin invasion, to make ordinary Russians suffer were a provocation if not an act of war itself.

As much as US political leaders pretend to bemoan the "divisiveness" of the domestic culture wars, which they've played such an integral in promoting for much profit to their corporate sponsors, they also love to pretend that their periodic internal agonizing and spirited debates are proof of a healthy functioning democracy. They pretend that they're wringing their hands over the tragedy of a war they had no part in creating. What they're really doing is flailing their slimy tentacles like whips, striving to manufacture our consent for yet another endless war.  And this particular war may well live up to the 1914 hype of being the "war to end all wars" - but only because the use of nuclear weapons will ensure that never again will humans be able to fight another war, let alone win one.

To hear Friedman tell it, the Blob is naught but a hapless collection of iron filings being inexorably drawn into the maw of a Blob with an irresistible magnetism in its own tentacles. 

"The staggering takeaway from these leaks is that they suggest we are no longer in an indirect war with Russia but rather are edging toward a direct war — and no one has prepared the American people or Congress for that," Friedman disingenuously writes.

Well, consider yourselves gently prepared if you haven't been paying attention up till now.  As for Congress, their unquestioning appropriation of tens of billions of dollars to enrich the weapons industry, in the space of only a few months, for waging the "proxy war" has already implicated them in full knowledge of what they do. The so-called progressive caucus in the lower House apparently never dreamed of leveraging its own bellicose vote in order to force passage of the social welfare programs and Covid relief bills currently stalled in the Senate. People can suffer indefinitely, but war is always time-sensitive. At least that's what Speaker Nancy Pelosi grotesquely implied.

The view of Biden and his team, according to my reporting," Friedman concludes, "is that America needs to help Ukraine restore its sovereignty and beat the Russians back — but not let Ukraine turn itself into an American protectorate on the border of Russia. We need to stay laser-focused on what is our national interest and not stray in ways that lead to exposures and risks we don’t want."

Um... Ukraine has been a protectorate, or at least a beholden client state, of the US at least since 2014. Much of its own mainstream media is directly funded by NATO and USAID, which themselves are funded by weapons manufacturers and oil companies. 

Until Ukrainians were fetishized by the Blob as worthy freedom fighters and trendy cultural icons even deserving of a Bono concert, Joe Biden displayed his true colors. As vice president, he traveled to Ukraine and informed them they'd have their pensions reduced, their retirement ages raised, their costs for fuel increased -  in a country where the average salary is $775 a month - as IMF punishment for official corruption. This is while his son Hunter was making tens of millions of dollars sitting on the board of a corrupt Ukrainian gas company.

Another fun fact about slime molds is that they pride themselves on their diversity. Even in nature, they come in every color except green. So it's only natural that the Washington variety of the Blob is so adverse to a green new deal, not least because the military is the biggest fossil fuel polluter in the entire world.

 For a creature lacking a brain, the slime mold that inspired "The Blob" movie that in turn inspired the folksy moniker for what used to be called the Military-Industrial Complex, it is marvelously efficient at finding food, traveling ridiculous distances, and of course, constantly evolving and shifting its shape and replicating itself and growing without limit almost at the speed of light. As one scientist so vividly put it in a PBS News Hour segment about the species,

 They form strange and sophisticated shapes – some resemble honeycomb lattices, others blackberries. And then there’s the slime mold known as “dog vomit,” because it looks just like the stuff. Some remain microscopic, and others grow rogue, forming bulbous masses, as long as 10 to 13 feet. Yet humans largely ignore them.

“Very few have been consumed as food. You can’t build a house with them. They escape our noses most of the time,” (Professor Steve) Stephenson said. 

Slime mold is a lot like war -  what is it good for?



Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The Great Roe v Wade Leak

 It's tailor-made for the midterms. Both parties will fund-raise like mad as the Supremes keep us in suspense for another month or two as we await the final decision. Remember, the leaked document, written by Samuel Alito, is still only a draft. The court may not overturn Roe v Wade as much as punt it back to the states. And conservative states already have gone full bore ahead with their own draconian abortion bans or restrictions.

So who leaked it? My guess is that one of the liberal justices accidentally on purpose left it on her desk where an underling found it. But who knows, and what difference does it really make? We kind of knew this was coming.

At least they can't blame it on Wikileaks, whose founder Julian Assange is still rotting in a rotten British prison as he awaits extradition to the States for trial under the Espionage Act, which was originally passed to quash dissent from American citizens during World War I.

Maybe they'll find a way to blame Russia, which as the USSR actually was the very first nation in Europe to legalize safe, free, hospital-based abortions in 1920 - albeit with eventual restrictions. In 1936, Stalin  made abortion illegal again, except when the mother's health was endangered. This was because war and (sometimes orchestrated) famine had caused the population to drastically plummet. But at the same time, the USSR built more nurseries, more obstetric facilities and increased welfare payments to large families. In that regard, they were certainly a lot better than our own modern Republicans, whose concern for human life is severely restricted to the nine months a citizen stays in the womb. 

 Of course the kids living under Stalin were raised like robots in preparation, for many of them, their ultimate purpose as cannon fodder. As a matter of fact, once the Soviets had prevailed over Nazi Germany in World War II, the generous payments to fecund families were summarily and severely reduced.

Fast forward to more modern times, and the abortion debate in Russia is very similar to that in the United States.  The procedure is restricted and very actively discouraged - once again, because population growth has slowed.

In the United States, the birth rate is also down, at least in part because people of child-bearing age can no longer afford to bring children into the world. Wages are still stagnant, and housing is both unaffordable and hard to find. 

So while Republicans are brazen in their misogynistic and Christian fundamentalist reasons for opposing abortion, the Democrats have passive-aggressively and lackadaisically declined to encode it into law for all the many decades that Roe v Wade has been in effect, and for all the times the party has enjoyed super-majorities in Congress. Then there's the inconvenient reality that Ruth Bader Ginsburg refused to retire when there was still a chance to impede the rightward lurch of the court. 

And another unpalatable truth is that, despite the US hegemon's recent heavy reliance on unmanned drones in the waging of the Forever Wars, there is always the continuous need in bellicose nation-states for a steady supply of that all-important cannon fodder,- or least enough human flesh to sit in the trailers and operate the drone joysticks.

Let's hope that just like they did back in the early years of the 20th century, the women who are now protesting and demanding their civil rights in front of the Supreme Court will also morph into antiwar activists and labor unionists, and then the whole neoconservative/neoliberal project comes crashing down as a sort of collateral damage to all the pathocrats who are currently running the place. 

The Supremes, convenient targets for our wrath that they are, certainly do not operate in a vacuum. Notice, for example, the lack of Democratic interest in impeaching Clarence Thomas despite the malign political activities of his soulmate and life partner Ginni.

Monday, May 2, 2022

The Unbearable Brightness of Democratic Being

 Another week, another New York Times article about elite Democratic Party angst. The gaslighting theme, as ever, is that voters are ungrateful wretches who refuse to hear the message about all the great things that Joe Biden and his party have accomplished.

The electorate just doesn't get it. After all, writes the Paper of Record with an apparent straight face, "many Democratic candidates are raising vast sums of money, a sign of voter engagement."

Actually, it's an unmistakable sign of the record engagement of wealthy donors who, as that famous Princeton study proved way back when, usually get whatever they want in the way of tax breaks, antisocial policies and investment opportunities (private gains via socialized losses.)

But still, the Democrats will go through the requisite motions. They'll most of all have us reminisce over those long-expired, long-exhausted Rescue Plan benefits. And Joe Biden, to prove how much he cares about you, is carefully considering limited and mean-tested student debt forgiveness. He will begin hitting the road with a vengeance to spread the feel-good message in order to, as the Times headline puts it, "brighten his presidency and the national mood."

One of his very first stops to help lift our spirits will be on Tuesday at a Lockheed weapons plant in Alabama.  This facility manufactures the thousands of anti-tank Javelin missiles that his administration is sending to unknown hands in Ukraine. So if your mood is not instantaneously brightened by the sight of the Commander in Chief surrounded by all those shiny phallic symbols of death, then you probably need a mental health intervention to strengthen your libido. For as Theodore Roosevelt himself famously thundered over a century ago in the lead-up to the War To End All Wars: "By war alone can we acquire those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life!"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi virtue-signaled the importance of gender parity in equating killing with caring. She cares so much about human struggles, in fact, that she did both T.R., and Joe Biden one better, all but unilaterally declaring war on Russia on Sunday. "America stands firmly with Ukraine. We are here until victory is won," she orgasmically gushed upon being gifted the Order of Princess Olga medal from heartthrob Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Not for nothing is this powerful feminist icon royally described by corporate media as "third in line to the presidential succession" in her own country.

The peasants just don't get it. The Dems have to fight "the Russians"  over there so that they don't have to fight for you over here. Over There, Say a Prayer, and Beware, for the Yanks are coming and they won't stop till it's Over, Over There. Or, as the New York Times a tad less jingoistically puts the party's existential exasperation with the lower orders not getting with the Neo World Order:

How much time should they spend trying to show voters they grasp the pain of inflation, compared with efforts to remind them of low unemployment? Should they pursue ambitious policies that show Democrats are fighters, or is it enough to hope for more modest victories while emphasizing all that the party has passed already?

My published comment on the article:

 It seems that every time a prominent Democrat appears on the corporate news shows, it's to agitate for war and billions of dollars in weaponized "humanitarian" aid for the people of Ukraine, the latest designated pawns in the endless US wars for oil, for profit, for global real estate. War is an investment opportunity for the wealthy donors who fund both our major political parties.

But student loan forgiveness, continuation of subsidized Covid treatment for poor uninsured people, renewal of modest cash aid to children? Where is the profit in that? Of course, since they can't say that directly because it would hurt their re-election chances, they turn to the usual cynical platitudes. Their go-to refrain is that helping people in their everyday lives would unfairly benefit the "undeserving". Take your pick of who the undeserving are: if they aren't residents of "crime ridden communities" who'd only use the benefits to score drugs, then they are those ubiquitous children of millionaires champing at the bit to avoid paying their alleged student loans. As far as his devotion to the working stiff is concerned, Joe Biden has yet to cancel the lucrative government contracts with Amazon, which is trying to squash labor unions. So far, he is ignoring his "good friend" Bernie Sanders's appeal to rectify this oversight. Voters are noticing the political cynicism as well as the money-soaked corruption which exists all across the designated A-to-B political spectrum.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Cheats and Tweets (and Cheetos)

To mangle T.S. Eliot, this is the way the world ends, folks - not with the bang of nuclear World War III, but with the whimper of a tweet.  Elon Musk, the world's richest billionaire whose very name exudes rank ferality, just bought Twitter and is taking it private.

The corporate media monolith and of course the Twitterverse itself are in a veritable frenzy of belching out What This All Means. If you look on the bright side of things, Musk promises that the algorithm, which now favors some users over others, will become open-source. The methods of our manipulation will be visible to one and all. The Musk oil salesman will teach us to embrace the new freedom of our servitude. Dissidents will no longer be banned or censored.... unless, of course, they reside in either the Ten Percent Far Right or the Ten Percent Far Left, which shall be defined by Elon Musk himself so as to conduct censorship in the most libertarian and transparent way possible.

And if, as diehard users fear, Twitter devolves from its current high-minded civility into such a free-for-all Babel that nobody can even hear himself Tweet, shouldn't we view it as a respite rather than a tragedy? This is especially true if it is deemed unusable and/or untouchable by the ruling class influencers and scolders who currently manufacture and control the "discourse" and the "narrative." Or, Elon Musk could suddenly become bored and shut the whole enterprise down on a whim, but in such an ironclad patented legal way that nobody else can ever revive it in any form whatsoever.

Alternatively, if the ruling class twitterati find themselves simply unable to quit Twitter, they at least might finally be spurred to follow through on their heretofore flimsy threats to hold it, and all the remaining social media giants, legally accountable for the material they allow to be published on their platforms. The elites might even become so desperate that they seize the companies altogether and place them in the public domain, just like our other for-profit public utllities, such as life-sustaining water.

Elon Musk may own the world, but as a person born outside of these United States of non-Usian parents, he at least can never buy the actual presidency - notwithstanding the fact that he and his oligarchic cohort effectively own the government - otherwise known as privatized profit at socialized cost. 

As you may have gathered by now, I don't care one whit about Twitter and its future. I did mindlessly sign up for it when it first appeared, but I abysmally failed at tweeting out even one single tweet. 

If Twitter disappears, as I sincerely hope that it does, journalists will actually have to write articles whose paragraphs are separated by plain indentations instead of those ubiquitous, supposedly pithy Tweets or at minimum, numerous links to Tweets themselves. Following these links only requires me to register in order to read them. And life is way too short as it is, especially with Hitler Putin threatening to nuke us or at least mess with our power grid, at which time the existential angst of whether to tweet or not to tweet while obsessing over followers and ratios will be rendered absolutely moot.

In other news, Big Oil is paradoxically balking at Joe Biden's kind offer to drill baby drill the whole world into extinction. The reason? The oil companies are afraid they won't be able to keep fuel prices high and their profits higher if they extract too much.  Or as the New York Times explains it, 

The biggest reason oil production isn’t increasing is that U.S. energy companies and Wall Street investors are not sure that oil prices will stay high long enough for them to make a profit from drilling lots of new wells. Many remember how abruptly and sharply oil prices crashed two years ago, forcing companies to lay off thousands of employees, shut down wells and even seek bankruptcy protection.

Who knew that greed had its upside as far as the environment is concerned? Perhaps our lawmakers can stop subsidizing these companies and the courts can stop offering them bankruptcy protection even as they pocket their windfall profits from price-gouging during times of war and plague.

One more bit of good-bad news before I go. PepsiCo, which  owns the Frito-Lay division of junk food as well as its diabetes-causing sugary sodas, reports that its own profits have risen only modestly, those rises being due solely to the obscene price increases it has recently plopped on its products. In other words, if they hadn't raised the price of Cheetos and Lays potato chips so drastically, then they would be in the hole. Or, to put in Timesplaining-speak:

Like other food and beverage companies, PepsiCo is walking a fine line, determining how much it can raise prices on its key products before consumers balk and either buy less or seek out cheaper substitutes. Still, acknowledging that consumers are facing higher prices in all aspects of their lives, executives said they would be watching behaviors closely as they weigh further price increases for the year.

So that makes me wonder whether the real reason that Netflix is losing so many subscribers is that the high cost of noshing while watching has forced people to make the hard choice to just give up the watching, which is much less addictive than sugar and salt. And pretty soon they won't be able to afford the noshing either. Cheetos already are threatening to become a delicacy affordable only by the board members of Exxon-Mobil, Twitter, Netflix and PepsiCo itself.

And with the prospect of losing access to Twitter for lack of the bitcoin price that Elon Musk is said to intend charging for the service, without the gas to drive their cars to the grocery store to buy the Cheetos, without the cash to pay to watch Netflix cake-baking shows, without, perhaps, even the electricity to plug our devices in to achieve blissful forgetfulness  this overreach by the voracious class of capitalist greedsters might be just the thing that we need to survive as a species... if, of course, they don't kill us, their hosts, first with their own addiction to endless war.

"Hey You, Get Under My Bus" - photo by Kat Garcia

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Let 'Er R.I.P.

 The Biden administration on Monday ceded what little public health authority that it had still chosen to wield to a Trump judicial appointee - and a grossly unqualified appointee at that. The White House couldn't even wait until the ink was dry on her decision or before airline passengers had safely landed on the ground before declaring that mandatory masking in mass transport was at an end.

Pilots hastened to congratulate their passengers at 35,000 feet for finally achieving their long-sought freedom to spread their germs to the vulnerable person or the unvaccinated baby sitting next to them. Death and taxes may be inevitable - especially on Tax Day Monday - but masks shall never be!

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki bluntly announced that the TSA (Transportation Security Agency) would ignore the pre-existing Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order to continue the mandate at least until next month. This is despite a 47 percent increase in new Covid cases nationwide reported in the last week. (The increase is likely a gross understatement, given that the government no longer tests, tracks or even treats Covid patients, especially when they are poor and uninsured.)

The beleaguered TSA at long last will be able to return to its core mission: groping and scanning passengers for the prevention of in-flight terrorism, and checking their shoes for bombs and ammo.

Meanwhile, to enhance the magical thinking magic of the No More Masks Day decision, the Easter Bunny himself crashed Psaki's press briefing, fresh from his rolling exercise on the White House Lawn. The fairy tale actually had begun quite early in the day, when Bunny prevented Biden from talking to the assembled media with just one swipe of his big furry paw.

Just when you thought the day couldn't get any more phantasmagorical, Senator Elizabeth Warren mendaciously announced in a New York Times op-ed that "Democrats are the party of working people."

But clinging tenaciously to a vestige of reality nevertheless, Warren did quickly admit that her lead sentence was just more of the same old gaslighting rhetoric:

Ahead of the 2020 election, we advanced ideas and plans that we believed would, in ways big and small, make our democracy and our economy work better for all Americans. Across this country, voters agreed with us — and gave us a majority in Washington so that we could deliver on those promises.


Warren then proceeds to follow the same old Democratic recipe: blame the Republicans, blame the Republicans and then blame the Republicans some more. But if they are to prevent a bloodbath in the November midterms, Dems have to go beyond better messaging. They have to work overtime to "convince voters that we can deliver meaningful change" in other ways than simply bashing Republicans (not to mention  beating them at their own nihilistic game by allowing a hack Trump judge to make public health policy.)

Deliverance, virtue-signaling Democratic-style, versus deliverance backwoods Dickey novel Republican-style, in Warren's world would entail abolishing the filibuster and thereby forcing the inbred congress-critters to vote in full public view - as if bellowing out ignorance and hatred in public is not a good and positive thing for their own electoral prospects.

Oh, and the corruption! Warren does deserve a little credit for taking a baby bunny-sized swipe at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her vast enrichment courtesy of decades of insider trading. But Warren is also careful not to mention Pelosi by her actual name. And she is also careful to mildly suggest that Biden cancel some student debt by executive order. However, in narrowly framing her proposal in identity politics, around the benefits that would  accrue to women and racial groups rather than to all debtors of all classes, genders and ethnicities, she passive-aggressively instigates more of the same divide-and-conquer culture war resentments that she just accused the Republicans of fomenting.

She uttered not one word in favor of this country's burgeoning bottom-up labor movement and Amazon unionization when she criticized Jeff Bezos and Amazon. For someone who claims that the Democrats are "the party of working people," her emphasis on simply taxing billionaires and corporations - without a parallel call to then redistribute the wealth by way of public benefits, such as guaranteed free universal health care for all people - falls flat. 

She supplements her strict, party-line casting of blame for all manner of domestic misery on the GOP and Putin and the interruption of the supply chain with a brief nod to the "political consultant class" and its messaging trope as a substitute for concrete action. She has not a word to say about Biden's recent order allowing more oil and gas drilling on public lands.

It is certainly no accident that besides the Times giving Elizabeth Warren column space, its resident pundit Maureen Dowd did her part over the weekend by taking the  previously maligned Bernie Sanders out of mothballs and freshening up his wispy white fur for purposes of sheep-dogging more disgruntled voters to Get Out There and Vote for Democrats in November to forestall the umpteenth apocalypse. As far as I know, Maureen Dowd is not related to the delusional Elwood Dowd, played by Jimmy Stewart in Harvey, which is the name of his jumbo invisible rabbit friend. Feel the Bern, believe in the Bern and vote for the corporate Dems! Hear it often enough, and you, just like Elwood's friends and family, will also start to believe in imaginary bunnies, especially the genuine ones wearing oversized mittens.

 Never mind that the Democrats themselves are courting Armageddon with a vengeance, cheerleading the US proxy war against Russia, a nuclear power. Democratic Senator Chris Coons was just the latest hack to call for US troops on the ground in Ukraine when he appeared on a weapons manufacturer-sponsored "news"  show  on Easter Sunday.

But back to the New York Times. The controlling Sulzbergers just named Joseph F. Kahn to replace executive editor Dean Baquet, who is being forced to step down at the age of 65 solely because of family "tradition." 

The new chief's biography reads like a parody of the elite meritocracy: Harvard-educated scion of a big box store empire, brief stint at the Dallas Morning News before becoming bored by "local" news and deciding to return to Harvard and "pivot to China," as an independently funded student and journalist, a series of quick professional promotions, marriage to a former World Bank official.

From the Times puff piece announcing Kahn's appointment:

After returning to New York in 2008 as an editor, Mr. Kahn helped launch The Times’s Chinese-language website in 2011, a multimillion-dollar investment at a time of financial scarcity for the company. About six months later, Mr. Kahn was part of the team of editors who decided to publish an investigation into the hidden wealth of China’s ruling class, over the strident objections of the Chinese government....

Mr. Kahn will be taking charge of The Times when many Americans distrust mainstream sources of news, and disinformation tactics are growing increasingly sophisticated. In the interview, he acknowledged that his experience with Chinese officials, well versed in propaganda and deception, was newly relevant.

“I would not have thought,” Mr. Kahn said, “that being a foreign correspondent in China would be good preparation to be executive editor of The New York Times in 2022.”

I don't know whether to interpret that statement as Kahn championing freedom of the press in a repressive regime, or Kahn bragging that he learned censorship techniques from the best of the best.

Judging from the Paper of Record's ongoing devotion to quoting unnamed senior officials promoting US wars of hegemony, with little to no outside dissent, I would have to guess the latter. That the war is drowning out pandemic news on the front pages and in the lead stories of virtually all corporate media in the United States, I would definitely have to guess the latter.

Not that Covid coverage is not continuing. Star Times economics columnist David Leonhardt, for example, continues to scoff at the faint-hearted and pretends, day after day, that there are no poor or uninsured or chronically sick people living in the Land of the Free. Pay no attention to those "big screaming headlines" announcing that Covid is still very much with us. After all, if 82-year-old Nancy Pelosi gets it and is "just fine," then you will be just fine too.

He doesn't seem to realize that in such a wildly unequal country, there is Elite Covid, and then there is Proletarian Covid for everyone else. Leonhardt actually seems to think that since rich people with unlimited financial and medical resources are able to recover, then so should everybody else, even without paid time off, household help, reliable transportation and a bank balance. His basic metric is that there are fewer hospitalizations for the virus than there were at the start of the pandemic, when there were no vaccines. He conveniently ignores the fact that there are also many fewer hospitals serving poor and rural areas in the United States. But nevertheless, he persists:

Going forward, this newsletter will begin to pay less attention to statistics on coronavirus cases and more attention to statistics on hospitalizations. “Looking at the data in the same way we’ve been accustomed over the past two years can be misleading,” Spencer (a cherry picked epidemiologist) said.

We won’t completely ignore the case numbers, because they still have some relevance. But the cases data has become both less reliable and less meaningful than earlier in the pandemic.

In other words:

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Monday, April 11, 2022

All They Are Saying Is "Give War a Chance!"

 This video is guaranteed to depress the hell out you and/or scare you to death. It also, hopefully, will spur you on to even greater anger at the reckless ruling class racketeers known as the foreign policy Blob. They're an incestuous clan of careerist Republicans and Democrats and their wealthy donors, the permanent security state, the  corporate media, and Hollywood. Their de facto motto in the United States' ongoing proxy war against Russia is "We're all neocons now!"

The program features The Nation editor Katrina van den Heuvel, foreign policy critic and University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer, ,and Jack Matlock, the ambassador to the former Soviet Union in the Reagan and Bush I administrations. 

Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Fog of War, Brain Fog of Warmongers

I guess we could look on the bright side of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Covid diagnosis this week. She will be forced to postpone her provocative trip to Taiwan, which is the next apparent site of the US hegemon's "bait and bleed" operation to stop their global competitors (Russia and China, for now) right in their economic tracks by goading them into wars against their weaker neighbors.  Even the risk of nuclear war is not preventing the American gerontocracy from trying to maintain their increasingly tenuous status as Sole Remaining Superpower.

Of course, the really bad news about Pelosi's diagnosis is that even though she smugly boasts of having the emerging elite strain of the disease (she feels great because she is uber-boosted!), research clearly shows that she still is at risk for the brain fog and other sequelae in Long Covid. And since, at 82 years of age, her increasingly incoherent speech patterns might also be indicative of mental decline, the prospect of a post-Covid Pelosi traveling the globe seems especially dangerous.

It's not as though she and her cohort were not already certifiably insane. Their seemingly deliberate ploys to infect their unmasked selves at various self-congratulatory galas in the past week, and then to tweet out cheery messages of how well they're feeling and how noble they're being by isolating themselves, comprise an obvious public relations gimmick to goad the rest of us into following suit. Never mind that the elites get paid when they're out sick and have the insurance and unlimited tests and medications and wait-staff to make it all so tolerable and brag-worthy.

 The exquisite irony of them even cavalierly exposing themselves to the disease at a White House celebration of the Affordable Care Act should especially not be lost on us.

As PBS approvingly gushed,

Obama returns to the White House on Tuesday for a moment he can savor. His signature Affordable Care Act is now part of the fabric of the American health care system, and President Joe Biden is looking to extend its reach. Sign-ups under the health law have increased under Biden’s stewardship, and more generous taxpayer subsidies have cut costs for enrollees, albeit temporarily.

Didn't anybody ever tell them that stretching delicate fabric will decrease its life expectancy, if not completely ruin it?

This latest bit of White House theater is downright cruel, given that Congress has yet to renew free Covid testing and treatment for the tens of millions of uninsured citizens - the disproportionately black, brown and poor people who already were disproportionately dying from the disease - and they've agreed among themselves not to renew Covid relief for the rest of the war-torn and climate change-torn world. They seem to think there's an invisible barrier protecting the Homeland from non-American virus particles, which must be absolutely thrilled that they're being allowed to keep thriving and mutating and sneaking past Border Patrol.

For as Shakespeare observed in Hamlet,

“I do repent; but heaven hath pleas’d it so

To punish me with this, and this with me,

That I must be their scourge and minister.

I will bestow him, and will answer well

The death I gave him. So again good night

I must be cruel only to be kind.

Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.”

To divert us from the crass ingratitude that we might be feeling during these times of financial distress, meanwhile, we are supposed to cheer for the bipartisan confirmation of the first female black Supreme Court justice, revel in Congress's heroic federal criminalization of lynching, and celebrate Joe Biden's historic proclamation of the Transgender Day of Visibility. None of this political theater will do a damn thing to make people's lives better. In fact, the sheer insanity of the ruling elite will make our lives exponentially worse with every passing, cynical gesture. 

Another example of cynical kindness is Biden's extension of the student loan moratorium only through September, when he has it in his power to declare a full-scale debt jubilee and permanently forgive the loans. However, since the elites declare that such a jubilee would also unfairly reward the subset of well-educated debtors making a decent salary, they scold that permanent forgiveness would be a slap in the face to other struggling workers. Cruelty is thus conveniently redefined as kindness to the "deserving" - while the only true winners are the rent-seeking, debt-free oligarchs.

 Cruel kindness/kind cruelty  can be taken away at any moment, making the month-to-month brand of relief arguably more stressful for the desperate than a complete cutoff of help would be.

And then there is the temporary increase in SNAP (food stamp) benefits, extended last year under the Families First Act. In order for recipients to qualify for a second monthly federal stipend of as much as several hundred dollars depending on family size, each state must make a monthly application for a "flexibility" waiver from the Department of Agriculture. This availability applies only for as long as federal and state public health emergencies are continued. Not knowing from one month to the next whether or not the supplemental grant to buy increasingly costly groceries will be forthcoming makes it difficult for families to budget from one month to the next. North Carolina just became the first state to officially cut off the supplemental SNAP benefits to recipients in that state, just at a time when food prices are rising so drastically.

This week's orchestrated super-spreader event to mark Obamacare - complete with the Great Man himself deigning to show up to "savor the moment" as if it was foie gras sadistically whipped up from the livers of tortured geese - would not have been complete without another adorable Joe Biden gaffe. This is what he tweeted out to celebrate a tiny revision of the law, which allows previously excluded family members with pre-existing conditions to begin purchasing insurance product next year - provided, of course, that they have the financial means to do so.

In America, health care should be a right — not a privilege.

The fact-checked, corrected version:

In America, health care is a right only for the privileged. 


Foie Gras For Me. Expiring Cheez Whiz For Thee