Friday, January 21, 2022

Biden Will Fight For Your Right To Be Exploited

If you didn't watch Joe Biden's long-awaited and long-winded press conference this week, relying instead on the big  "takeaways" reported by the mainstream press, then you might be under the impression that the only news the old codger made was the commission of yet another faux pas.  Biden admitted he won't start a war with Russia if Vladimir Putin merely makes an "incursion" into Ukraine. Biden would tolerate him merely playing pinko toesies under the table with the US client state, but anything beyond first base, like full penetration? Forget about it!

So many official Washington heads proceeded to explode at the mere prospect of an utter failure of war in our time that Biden was forced to quickly backtrack. Even a minor overstepping of the boundaries of propriety by Putin will now result in Biden donning the requisite suit of shining US armor to defend global democracy as it is defined by the capitalist elites. He will impose upon Russian citizens, hundreds of millions of them, draconian economic sanctions  such as the world has never seen. And given that sanctions against innocent bystanders, as a sociopathic means of punishing and weakening their rulers, often includes starvation, disease, and freezing or sweltering to death - essentially, genocide by deprivation - sanctions can actually do more harm to humans than guns, bombs and ground wars can.

It was Secretary of State Madeline Albright, remember, who looked back so fondly at Clinton-era U.N. economic sanctions against Saddam Hussein's Iraq and grimly boasted on "60 Minutes" that the resulting deaths of half a million children had absolutely been "worth it." 

Fast forward to 2022 and poor Joe Biden has found himself once again the awkward position of having to defend his own sanity and cognitive state for the "gaffe" of not being threatening enough to Russia on live TV. He already has had to atone for so prematurely withdrawing from Afghanistan after a 20-year war and occupation via  issuing lethal sanctions against the Taliban and thus exposing innocent Afghans to more hardship. It is essentially trading one form of torture and abuse for another.

Biden, like every president before him, is being forced to prove his bellicosity and mental functioning and hegemonic IQ at every turn. The only way American presidents can prove themselves worthy and strong, in fact, is how many bombs they can drop and how much misery they can foment throughout the world. Violence is the one surefire way to engender respect from their financial backers at home, as well as the fear and loathing from much of the rest of the world. Admiration, not so much. 

When critics from both parties and the corporate media openly chat about Biden being cognitively impaired, it is mostly limited to what they view as his global power stumbles.  

He did, in fact, offer full and convincing proof of his truly dangerous and  longstanding delusional state at his press conference, not about his war skills abroad, but when he opined that he has actually over-performed on the domestic front. The trouble is, he smirked, Americans just don't realize how great things are, or at least that the bad things are getting better. His real disease is mental capture by the cult of neoliberal capitalism and the use of a nostrum restricted to some good hard gaslighting messaging to his allegedly befuddled constituents. 

Or, as Biden strove to explain his overachievement problem to a reporter:

And so, the problem here is that I think what happens — what I have to do, and the change in tactic, if you will: I have to make clear to the American people what we are for.  We’ve passed a lot.  We’ve passed a lot of things that people don’t even understand what’s all that’s in it, understandably.




He rephrased his follow-up answer by comparing his assigned task to the epic achievement of finally getting at least some of the dolts to understand the 2,000-page kludge known as the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, For the sake of placating the press corps, if not educating the masses out there in TV Land, Biden tried to finesse it even more:

You know, one of the things that I remember — and I’ll end this with — I was talking with, you know, Jim Clyburn, who was a great help to me in the campaign in South Carolina.  And Jim said — and when he would endorse me — and there was a clip on television the last couple days of Jim.  And it said that we want to make things accessible and affordable for all Americans.  That’s healthcare, that’s education, that’s prescription drugs, that’s making sure you have access — access to all the things that everybody else has.  We can afford to do that.  We can’t afford not to do it.

All together now, Proles:

What do we want?


When do we want it?

Now!  Someday!

 When it comes to neoliberal dogma, Joe Biden's mind is absolutely functional and absolutely clear. The myelin sheaths guarding the nerve fibers of his cerebral cortex are fully protective of the ageless market-based notion, for example, that "health care" doesn't actually mean guaranteed, free-at-the-point-of-service health care. It only means that you have an absolute right to travel freely from your home to any hospital emergency room. You will then be guaranteed physical access to its doors and to whatever treatment regimen that your junk insurance product will deign to pay for, or whatever assets you have to relinquish in medical bankruptcy court. Ditto for education. Anybody is free to apply to any school. It's the getting in and paying the price of tuition and future onerous education debt that's another story. You have access to the same dreams that rich people have access to. Everybody sleeps, after all. You are absolutely free to window-shop till you drop and gaze longingly from afar at the promised land of health and security. If you work hard, you are free to gain as much access as "everybody else." Access is all on you, the individual.

"So, I tell my Republican friends," Biden went on, "here I come. This is going to be about what are you for” —what are you for'  — and lay out what we’re for."

It's the Accessibility and the Affordability, stupid!

It's also about the divided government of oligarchs being one great big happy family that pretends to be dysfunctional to keep us all in suspense. War and surveillance are the great unifiers.  I don't see, for example, any outrage or aghastitude by corporate media accounts of the presser about this particular Bidean "gaffe" -

I think the report card is going to look pretty good, if that’s where we’re at.  But look, the idea that — Mitch has been very clear he’s going to do anything to prevent Biden from being a success. 

And I get on with Mitch.  I actually like Mitch McConnell.  We like one another.  But he has one straightforward objective: make sure that there’s nothing I do that makes me look good in the mind — in his mind with the public at large.  And that’s okay.  I’m a big boy.  I’ve been here before.


That admission makes his Ukraine gaffe pale in comparison. Upton Sinclair was right. The two permissible party cults in the United States are the two right wings of one bird of prey. Biden knows it's all a game and Mitch knows it's all a game, and media pundits know it's a game. They and their corporate conglomerates invest in and profit by culture wars and identity politics, taking a side and suckering in all the pawns that they can crowd onto their game boards, till one falls off to make room for the next one.  

Judging from the millions of un-pawned people up and quitting their jobs or going on strike, and students walking out of classrooms in protest of sloppy Covid protocols, and tenants taking to the streets against greedy corporate landlords, the days that the likes of Biden and McConnell could count on the Dupes of the Duopoly may turn out to be just figments of whatever it is that passes for their imaginations.

Friday, January 14, 2022

The Political Play Is Literally The Thing

Poster From John Carpenter's The Thing

Because despite all the suspense and the horror and the shape-shifting and the gaslighting, our current crew of political actors are discovering to their great chagrin that there is a limit to the times that you can remake a smash hit and create a franchise, and still expect people to show up at the box office to gawk and tremble and purchase the merch.

Even Dick Cheney playing a rehabbed Darth Vader at the January Sixth Capitol extravaganza, and even Nancy Pelosi piping in ditties from the cast of the neoliberal Broadway hit Hamilton to paper over her crass championship of congressional insider trading, did not garner the ratings and the rave reviews the producers obviously intended and fully expected. 

Joe Biden, plain-speaking actor that he fancies himself to be, had already addressed the reality of the elites' declining ratings a few years ago during his campaign for the White House. He acknowledged the truth of The Thing to be self-evidently apparent. 

 But despite that brief moment of candor, he still made a great big show this week of marching to the Capitol to pretend to be "fighting for" the right of every American to score food and water from their fellow citizens while standing in long lines to vote. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema managed to steal top cinematic billing from his latest role, as she histrionically pretended to hate the same filibuster reform that Biden now pretends to love Not even his shout-out to dead racist Senator Strom Thurmond at his Georgia performance earlier in the week swayed Sinema to change her mind or her script. And why would it, when even the supporting cast and crew of what the late Glen Ford dubbed the Black Misleadership Class boycotted Biden's performance? 

Striving mightily nonetheless to perform his trademark down-home candor while admitting that mail-in ballots and food and water for waiting voters are GOP mountains far too high for him and the Democrats to climb, Biden plaintively remarked at the end of his truncated Capitol cameo part that "the honest to God answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done."

But actors must do what actors must do, and summoning up his very best Jimmy Stewart Mr. Smith Goes to Washington impression, Biden raised it to the next decibel and growled “As long as I’m in the White House, as long as I’m engaged at all, I’m going to be fighting.”

Are the Oscar nominations already a done deal, and I'm too late to register to vote? Oh, wait... mere audience members are not allowed to vote in the Oscar elections. Elites not only have weighted votes in "democratic" elections, they also have exclusive votes when it comes to nominating one another's theatrical performances. That goes not only for people employed in the movie business, but for the financiers of the movie business. Here's looking at you, Jeff Bezos, who pays no personal income tax but just donated a hefty sum to help construct the Chicago shrine of that consummate political actor, Barack Obama.

But all hope should not be abandoned. Because it is the Republicans, of all the villains in the annals of performative villainy, that just announced that they will no longer participate in the quadrennial spectacular known as the Presidential Debates. Of course, they are probably planning a whole series of alternate entertainments in the slasher genre that promise to be a lot more horrific and profitable than those boring affairs we're so tired of sitting through. Whatever the form of Campaign 2024, it will be a real Thing, what late critic Roger Ebert called "a great barf bag of a movie."

Speaking of ennui and nausea, Bill and Hillary Clinton reportedly are not only bored with being pariahs, but they smell the anemic Biden blood in the water and are planning a comeback. According to Politico, they are especially heartened that the latest "American Crime Story" season, depicting the Lewinsky scandal, did not get big ratings. Perhaps it was because the series was aired on a subscription channel, and the proles are already maxed out on inflated rent and food bills?

But here's The Thing, or as Joe Biden riffs on and on about it ad infinitum, Here's The Deal, Folks.  The horror show will end only when we stop buying tickets for the privilege of helplessly gawking at whatever capitalistic life-forms that The Thing is currently mutating into and at the same time to resist being assimilated into its maw. The Thing that the political-media-military-carceral-surveillance complex is selling is nothing more and nothing less than fear itself.

We just have to stop being awed by political performers and their stale narratives. Instead, we might take a tip from the simultaneously cruel and egalitarian Aztec civilization and, as recounted by the late David Graeber and David Wengrow in their riveting new book "The Dawn of Everything," we should subject all aspiring and de facto elected officials to an acid test involving "fasting, sleep deprivation, blood-letting and a strict regime of moral instruction."

We should implement a Dick Cheney reverse torture regimen on their sorry selves. Psychological, of course. Maybe do a little enhanced interrogation at least.

"Clearly, taking up office in this indigenous democracy required personality traits very different to those we take for granted in modern electoral politics," the "Dawn" authors observe in dry understatement about the Aztec proles.

Just imagine Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi being forced to relinquish their faltering theatrical careers for a long stint in political rehab and public self-abnegation as the only way to prove to the audience just how sincere they really are, and how much they truly feel our pain. Actually doing the right thing as opposed to being seen as doing the right thing should be a requirement for everyone entering public service, and a litmus test for staying in their positions once chosen. The goal should not be the acquisition of power, but rather the privilege of representation. No wonder the corporate press hates this book.

The mere thought of these miscreants having to publicly flagellate themselves in front of the cameras in order to prove their bona fides makes me feel better already. It makes me feel like torturing them, if only rhetorically, for yet another day.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Brace Yourselves For a Bracing 2022

 I know it's early days yet, but my nomination for the most annoying phrase of 2022 is "bracing for."

In lieu of paying people to isolate and quarantine during the worst outbreak of Covid-19 yet, our leaders are instructing us to simply brace ourselves for the inevitable. People will simply have to sicken and die if capitalism is to survive. So take one for the team, Proles. Go back to work and school. Take a tip from Joe Biden, who reassured us just the other day that we have every reason to be "optimistic about 2020." After all, if you heard him say that, it means that you survived the First Plague Year and that you are still alive, even if just barely.

 Uncle Joe is adhering perfectly to the modern job description of US presidents. To wit: Always Campaign, Never Govern. Leave the governing and policy formation to the billionaire donor class and to the Pentagon and the CIA. 

So I say give the poor guy a break. Since he was effectively prevented from physically campaigning during the final year of this country's most recent money-soaked perpetual campaign, that's all the more reason for him to go full Proust and search for lost time. He has every reason to be retroactively hopeful about 2020, because his depressing promise to donors that nothing would fundamentally change under his watch is what paradoxically propelled him to his less than stellar victory over Donald Trump.  

Since that miracle occurred, can you really blame him for continuing to indulge in such magical-thinking episodes as insisting that unvaccinated young children will be safe in their unventilated school buildings at the very same time he claims that this is a pandemic of The Willfully Unvaccinated? If he admitted that the current outbreak of the Omicron variant is directly attributable to the parallel pandemic of windfall Wall Street profits and super-spreading corporate greed, not to mention his own failure to prepare and to protect the country, then his snow-job might lose what little magic it still retains. This is despite social media going nuts and describing him as a "bad-ass" for bravely allowing snow to fall upon his heavily guarded self as he alit from Air Force One during this week's blizzard. It's called bracing oneself for low approval ratings amongst multiple bracing catastrophes - in lieu of actually doing anything to help people.

If, Biden insinuates, you can't be optimistic about the fortunes of the weaponized oligarchy, then please just accept your fate so as to appease the mightiest of them all, The Almighty Guy in the Sky. “There’s a lot of reason to be hopeful in 2020. But for God’s sake, please take advantage of what is available,” Biden scolded.

The  other thing that "we" are all supposedly bracing for is the dreaded anniversary of the Capitol Riot, a/k/a the attempted Fascist Coup. They are doing their utmost to make January Sixth the most awesome holy day of national obligation to come around year after year after year since September Eleventh.

Joe Biden will mark the new solemn day of remembrance and fear with a campaign event cast as a  major speech to the Nation - not about improving people's lives, mind you - but about Speaking Truth to Power, carefully limited to Donald Trump's lies. He will not, for example  (as two sources dished to Reuters), touch the voting rights crisis with a ten foot pole.

Good Catholic that he is, Biden should know that January Sixth is also the Feast of the Epiphany, or what Christians used to mark as Twelfth Night back when there was still a long Yuletide season and people weren't forced back to work after only one or two legal days off for the holidays. Besides the name of the day marking the Three Kings' legendary homage to the infant Jesus after following the star of Bethlehem, "epiphany" also describes "a moment when you suddenly see or understand something in a very new or clear way."

And notwithstanding the ruling class's apparent failure to see the Capitol riot and attempted coup not only as a result of Donald Trump's corruption and incitement to violence but at least partly as a manifestation of the legitimate angst of the working class, said working class certainly has signaled its own long-delayed epiphany about how badly neoliberalism has screwed them over for the last 40-plus years. They are quitting their jobs in unprecedented numbers.

 The most recent Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) reveals that a record 4.5 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in November, an increase of more than 380,000 from October 2021. Most of those finally deciding to take this job and shove it were employed in the low-paying hospitality and service sectors, which now advertise the most job openings in the country. At the same time as "the Great Resignation," however, more than six million Americans have gotten new jobs, which ostensibly pay better wages and offer more benefits. After nearly half a century, labor is finally gaining the upper hand again.

No wonder Biden is nostalgic for 2020, when the pandemic and the ruling class's refusal to handle it has rightly weakened the ruling class and strengthened the resolve of the rest of us, shifting our priorities so inexorably that the erstwhile Movers and Shakers are bracing themselves for the Great Revolt following the Great Resignation.

Never ones to let such a serious crisis go to waste, though, they will no doubt pair the January Sixth anniversary with the Nine-Eleven Anniversary to justify the imposition of even more surveillance and repression upon the citizenry, which as a body are simply not going to take any more of it.

Biden can nonsensically call the slowly collapsing ruling order a "pandemic of the unvaccinated" till he's blue in the face, but his swirling, scapegoating blizzard of fear-mongering, alternating with the obligatory insipid platitudes, makes crystal clear to the vast majority of us just what their vile agenda truly is.

Ask yourselves this: why have more 700 alleged Capitol rioters been arrested, but the supposedly reviled and existentially threatening Instigator-in-Chief not only remains free, but continues to grow rich and powerful while holding his political rallies? Could it be because Trump is essentially just the oppositional wing of the ruling oligarchy, and vital to the liberal, "Democratic" party side, because he makes them look so good by comparison? 

Vigilantism and militia movements in service to the ruling class are not just the bailiwick of the right wing faction. As chillingly headlined in the Jan. 5th edition of the New York Times:

While the Justice Department has called the inquiry one of the largest in its history, traditional law enforcement officials have not been acting alone. Working with information from online sleuths who style themselves as “Sedition Hunters,” the authorities have made more than 700 arrests — with little sign of slowing down.

The government estimates that as many as 2,500 people who took part in the events of Jan. 6 could be charged with federal crimes. That includes more than 1,000 incidents that prosecutors believe could be assaults....

But a big question hangs over the prosecutions: Will the Justice Department move beyond charging the rioters themselves?

So far, the department has provided no public indication of the degree to which it might be pursuing a case against former President Donald J. Trump and the circle of his allies who helped inspire the chaos with their baseless claims of election fraud. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is scheduled to give a speech on Wednesday, one day before the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, but is not expected to provide any signals about the direction of the department’s investigation. A spokeswoman said he would not address any specific cases or individuals.

It's all about surveilling, intimidating and controlling the masses of people. The rich and powerful make no secret of despising regular people, whom they find convenient to pit against one another by virtue of their alleged cultural differences and political allegiances. They have taken to admitting that their concern about the threat to democracy has nothing to do with the ongoing threat to the lives and livelihoods of actual people.

If the title ("Is Democracy Failing and Putting Our Economic System at Risk?) of a recent Brookings Institution (a neoliberal Democratic Party-aligned think tank) paper doesn't make what the elites are truly bracing for clear enough for mere mortals, then the lead paragraph, penned by a Harvard Business School poobah, certainly should:

"I think the decline of democracy is a mortal threat to the legitimacy and health of capitalism."

Since democracy and capitalism are defined as the exact same thing according to neoliberal ideology, the Demos, or people. are not actually part of this pathocratic equation, are they?

The Brookings Paper, by the way, was produced in conjunction with the neoconservative United States Democracy Center, whose own chilling mission statement is heavy on weaponized police protection of oligarchs to protect them from the Demos. Its board of advisers is a rogues' gallery of Bush-era Iraq War architects, surveillance privateers, military brass and GOP bigwigs who are now finding unabashed common cause with centrist Democrats. This should give absolute lie to the controlled media narrative of "divided government" and congressional gridlock. 

For as long as the bipartisan protect racket can embrace Trump as their main scapegoat, as long as they can delay holding him to account, then their increasingly undemocratic and repressive hold on power will persist.

Their problem is, they just aren't all that bright.