Sunday, October 30, 2022

Using the Pelosi Attack As a Cudgel To Stifle Dissent

"Barack Obama Lamented the Attack on Paul Pelosi. Then He Got Heckled," indignantly exclaimed the New York Times in one of those annoying two-sentence headlines that are specifically designed to push the outrage button.

Obama, with a well-worn penchant for lecturing mere citizens for having the occasional audacity to raise their voices and talk back to their rulers and other experts, was not about to let Friday's vicious attack on Paul Pelosi go to waste. He led the Democratic Party charge in making it a campaign issue in its own right, conflating the assault on Pelosi with the plague of "incivility" sweeping the nation. 

Now, in case you were wondering what two separate hecklers actually shouted out to Obama at a midterm campaign rally in Detroit on Saturday, the article doesn't say. The subject matter is not the point. The etiquette is. So despite the fact that it didn't hear or report on the words, the Times doubled right down in decrying the continuing "incivility" in politics. The second shouter was even "escorted out" of the rally by armed security guards. That factoid alone should leave readers drawing the conclusion that anyone daring to interrupt such a revered politician in these fraught times is by very definition a violent being, and a clear and present danger to the status quo.

The Times's implied characterization of both the hecklers as anti-Pelosi thugs is not supported by any evidence whatsoever.  According to the Paper of Record, it went down like this:

“We’ve got politicians who work to stir up division to try to make us angry and afraid of one another for their own advantage,” Mr. Obama said. “Sometimes it can turn dangerous.”

Moments later, the man, who was not identified, shouted “Mr. President” at Mr. Obama, creating an off-script exchange that the former president tried to use to drive home his point. The rest of what the man said was not picked up by microphones or cameras.

“This is what I mean,” Mr. Obama said. “Right now, I’m talking. You’ll have a chance to talk sometime.”

What, exactly, is "uncivil" about prefacing a shouted statement with the honorific "Mr President?'  

And despite the article's original claim that the outburst was the direct result of Obama's remarks about Pelosi, the paper belatedly admits that the shouting didn't erupt until "moments" after that part of the speech sympathizing with the House Speaker's family had concluded.

Obama himself jumped at the chance to make a triple connection: the violent rhetoric of the extreme right, leading to the attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, followed by disruptions at the campaign rally that he was headlining.

With the advantage of a stage and a microphone and an armed security detail, Obama continued to hector the first heckler: 

Mr. Obama told the man, “You wouldn’t do that a workplace. It’s not how we do things. This is part of the point I want to make. Just basic civility and courtesy works.”

That actually speaks whole volumes. Obama admits that the capitalistic workplace is about as far away from democracy that you can get in America. When you go to work, you are expected to leave all your basic human rights and needs at the door, lest you lose your job and the ability to even live. If you are, however, properly quiet and obsequious to your boss, then you will be left alone until such time that you get old or sick or hurt, or become otherwise unprofitable or redundant.

"Basic civility and courtesy works," all right - for the anti-union bosses, owners, and the investors in the company.

Obama, meanwhile, got the crowd firmly on his side and not on the side of the two dissenters. Even as he decried how Republicans cynically pit regular people against one another for their own enrichment, the former president himself pitted the people in the crowd against each another. It was a massive pile-on. The people who cheered and applauded Obama  for "schooling" the hecklers probably never even heard a word of what they said. As far as they were concerned, rudely interrupting a celebrity politician automatically cancels out all concerns or grievances, no matter how legitimate they may be.

It turns out there are more ways than Trumpism to threaten an alleged democracy.

"You'll get a chance to talk sometime," were Obama's own dismissive parting words to the first interrupter. Of course, as far as the professional political class is concerned, the only proper place to "talk sometime" is inside a voting booth every couple of years. Or on very special, rare occasions, it may be acceptable to participate in a very civil, polite march against Donald Trump, or against the right-wing thugs on the Supreme Court... as long as it's not anywhere near their homes or favorite restaurants, of course.

In the interim, liberals are often urged to thrill to the virtue-signaling words of Michelle Obama: "When they go low, we go high." So, as fascistic as the Republican Party may be, professional Democrats themselves must constantly strive to be above it all and to civilly reach across that proverbial aisle to them, even to the point of their arms getting ripped out of their sockets. How else can they politely collude on waging the forever wars, and cutting Social Security as the price we all must pay for their cordial midnight agreement to raise the debt ceiling?

The trouble is, despite what these professionals say, the government and its two establishment parties are not just like a family. The CIA is neither intelligent nor part of a "community."  Calling the US war machine the Department of Defense is a sick joke. But it's ever so civil.

Politics is not and never was civil. Nor should it be. It's always a struggle and it's often messy. Therefore, the top-down lectures about "civility" from a former president who deported more people, dropped more bombs, prosecuted more whistleblowers and waged more wars than any of his predecessors are laughable on their face. 

Obama lecturing others about "civility" is, however, the time-honored way in which rulers shut down opposition and the voicing of legitimate concerns. The ploy of immediately going on the offensive against powerless people also serves to conveniently absolve themselves of culpability for their own foul deeds. After all, since they themselves have such impeccably good manners and have such well-modulated, reasonable tones of voice, they can get away with anything.

Obama himself has crafted such an incandescent and impervious media image that of all the basketball teams on the planet, he is reportedly choosing to buy a stake in the Phoenix Suns. As one NBC sports pundit tells it, "the money guys would be so happy to have him in the front."

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

All They Are Saying Is, Give War a Chance

 Only days after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was heckled at a town hall in her Queens district for her support for the US's proxy war with Russia, what with the increasing chance of nuclear weapons, the House Progressive caucus sent a polite letter to Joe Biden, asking that he at least consider diplomacy at some vague point in the future.

The reaction to the dreaded D word was swift and it was hysterical. It came from what can now only be termed the Neocon Party, a consortium of Democrats and "moderate" Republicans and their assorted partners in the Deep State/Permanent Ruling Class/Blob, along with their shills in the corporate media. With such a tsunami of outrage coming at them, Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal quickly withdrew their baby toes from the shallow River of Peace and hastened to strenuously wipe them dry with the American flag of freedom. 

 Jayapal contended the letter was released by staff without proper vetting and said it improperly conflated her caucus’ position with GOP divisions over providing more aid to Ukraine aid, which Democrats back. She withdrew the letter after the embarrassing intra-party feud.

“The Congressional Progressive Caucus hereby withdraws its recent letter to the White House regarding Ukraine,” Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state, said in a statement. “The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting. As Chair of the Caucus, I accept responsibility for this.”

Nobody wants to be accused of being a Putin puppet or a Trump cultist,  or even of whispering the reality that Ukraine itself has been a full-fledged American puppet state for almost a decade, if not longer.  Its first post-coup finance minister was, after all not only American, she was an alumna of both the US Treasury and State Departments. She became a Ukraine citizen one day after getting the chief financial officer post in 2014. Its president, Zelensky, is a made-for-American TV actor whose last gig was, in fact, the lead in a hit Ukrainian TV show.  But to even hint that the United States is shamelessly using one of the poorest, most oppressed European countries as cover for its rapacious war for the globe's energy and other resources would be an insult to a weakening Superpower. 

 So would mentioning that Joe Biden is a consummate hypocrite. The man now mouthing such concern for the suffering Ukrainian people  himself increased their suffering when as vice president, he ordered their parliament to raise their retirement ages and to stop subsidizing their high energy costs. The imposition of austerity on regular people was necessary, he said, to pay back a fortune in predatory IMF loans and to atone for the country's political corruption. This was during the same time that his own son was raking in millions sitting on the board of a corrupt Ukrainian energy company.  

Instead of directly confronting Biden in her letter, Jayapal flattered him, gushing:

 Your support for the self-defense of an independent, sovereign, and democratic state has been supported by Congress, including through various appropriations of military, economic and humanitarian aid in furtherance of this cause. Your administration’s policy was critical to enable the Ukrainian people, through their courageous fighting and heroic sacrifices, to deal a historic military defeat to Russia, forcing Russia to dramatically scale back the stated goals of the invasion.

She then ever so so gently pivots to the specter of World War III and nukes, suggesting that it might behoove Biden to talk to Putin, despite the White House's insistence that it will prevent any such meeting from taking place at an upcoming summit, lest a ceasefire ensue. This avoidance might prove to be very difficult, given Biden's penchant for losing his way when departing from various stages, and even forgetting how to get home after a tree-planting ceremony right in his own backyard this week. So wouldn't it be something if Biden's senile confusion led to the inadvertent beginning of the end of the war? Anyway, it's fun to imagine Biden barging into Putin in the VIP steam-room or in a soundproof gold-plated bathroom stall.

But I digress. Even before her forced "clarification" followed by the full retraction, Jayapal's entire letter reads like a case study in Orwellian "war is peace" Newspeak. Although war is indeed hell and a prime cause of worldwide inflation, famine, poverty and death, she agreed that it is simply not US Superpower's place to put pressure on its vassal state to sit down with Putin.

This specious argument for endless grinding war and death is like a mafia boss complaining that he doesn't have the power to call off a hired hit, let alone a full fledged mob war. Not only would stopping the bloodbath be unethical, it would hurt the feelings and disrespect the dignity of his devoted hired hitmen. Worst of all, the godfather himself would lose face and the respect of his entire extended family of consiglieres and capos.

So even as the world starves and burns, American hegemony will gorge itself, all the while covering its own rear end by feigning subservience to the very puppet regime that it created in the first place.

And thus, sensibly sensing that she and her progressive caucus were on the verge of violating the sacred principle of Omerta, with possible consequences including loss of access to the Neocon Party's ATM machine, Jayapal quickly backtracked, even before her formal retraction, vowing: "Let me be clear. We are united as Democrats in our unequivocal commitment to supporting Ukraine in their fight for their democracy and freedom in the face of the illegal and outrageous Russian invasion, and nothing in the letter advocates for a change in that support.”

Repeat after me and write it on the blackboard a hundred times: "D stands for Democrat - not for Diplomacy!"

Jayapal and her caucus have shown themselves to be more devoted to their careers ("party unity") than they are to saving the world from poverty, starvation, displacement, hunger, and even from a nuclear holocaust. That is some dedication! To Jayapal's credit, though, she at least wrote her retracted, wishy-washy letter, thus making the slightest little crack in the hegemonic propaganda. Whether this crack widens despite herself, or whether her caucus is able to mend their booboo with multiple gobs of Superpowerglue and billions of dollars more in war appropriations remains to be seen.

True to party-politics form, Jayapal is passive-aggressively blaming the release of the letter on an underling who sent it out by total mistake - but of course Jayapal is taking full responsibility for the "slipup".

Now get out there, proles, and vote as if your very lives depended on it. You can even use the write-in option while doing your democratic duty. Or, you can just leave it blank in the French way, as I did for the New York State Senate contest several election cycles in a row. Even though it turned out that "Blank" got way more votes than my unopposed GOP Senator John Bonacic, Senator Blank was still denied the election, and Bonacic usurped the will of the voters and took office again and again. It was a real slap in the face to Our Democracy™. Go figure. 

On the bright side, when I do vote next month, I will be the lucky recipient of this award-winning sticker from the Ulster County Board of Elections:

It's the creation of 14-year-old Hudson Rowan of Marbletown, NY, who on the urging of his mom, entered the county's art contest for teenagers, most of whom are of course too young to vote. H
udson told the media that his multicolored "robot spider crab" is meant to symbolize the globe-encompassing chaos that is electoral politics. His entry actually got more votes than there are registered voters in all of Ulster County.

So much for the voter apathy that the politicians are always kvetching about.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

When All Else Fails, Shame the Voters

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is blaming the unappreciative audience for their tepid response to the latest episode of the House's January Sixth Extravaganza. Given the fawning media reviews of her own bravura performance, the low ratings are such a downer, especially after all the trouble that she went to in keeping it entertaining. She'd even arranged for her videographer daughter to be on-set to film her up close and personal, vowing to punch Donald Trump in the face and then "go to jail" for doing so. If we couldn't even share her outrage over the "poo on the floors" of the sacred Capitol, or think about the custodians who had to clean the mess up, then there must be something horribly wrong with us.

So to remind us of what we missed, MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell lackadaisically wound up her corporate game-arm and pitched her softball to Pelosi last week:

  In one new poll, again, 39 percent of voters say that they would vote for an election denier – and this included some Democrats and independents – if they liked their stance on other issues. How do you explain that?

Pelosi: I don't – can't explain it.  I think it's a tragedy for our country that people don't value the vision that our Founders had about a democracy, what our men and women in uniform fight for, about freedom and our democracy, here and other places in the world and, again, what that means to our children.  We have to give them – many children born now will live into the next century.  We have to make sure they have a planet that is safe, that – a democracy that is strong and values that are respected and agreed upon.  That's not what – the path that the Republicans are on.

Pelosi did depart from her voter-shaming exercise at least long enough to admit that her own particular version of "democracy" is strictly confined to people voting on Election Day, and that their votes then be accurately counted. Whether or not they will eventually count in the halls of poweris left studiously unmentioned. The tragedy for Pelosi is that people who've had it drummed into them for most of their lives that "there is no alternative," and that they have no real power, still cannot just pull themselves out of their doldrums long enough to cast a ballot for someone else to "represent" them. For pre-selected politicians to win and to keep power, voters must persist in believing that they can't manage either their own lives or the problems of society as a whole. They need some sort of savior or expert or Mother Superior to do it for them.

The tragedy for Nancy Pelosi is that too many people are getting too wise to the con to even bother participating in the holy sacrament of voting booth communion. Or else they're just flat-out heretics, opting for devil-worshiping the corpus of Donald Trump and his imitators.

After all, our assigned role as US citizens is to be consumers in the marketplace and attendees at the spectacle - not activists in direct politics or actors in improvisational, experimental theater. 

 It has been drummed into us by a consolidated media that only a select category of people are fit to act and to govern.  Since "representative democracy" has devolved into professionalized politics coupled with public apathy, the real tragedy is that Nancy Pelosi thinks that the same old drugs and cattle prods will continue to hook and lull and scare people, getting them alternately high on proxy wars and anesthetized by the Broadway version of Hamilton and scared witless by Trump. 

She is essentially blaming the oppressed and exploited and disheartened for their own inability to thrill to the spectacle, whether it be of the high priests and priestesses huddling behind their poop-spattered walls, or soldiers and civilians spattered by the blood of the US Imperium's perpetual global wars for "freedom."  

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders reprised his own role as relief pitcher for the Dems, appearing on CNN to warn that young people and working class people won't turn out to vote unless the party starts concentrating on economic issues to supplement their promise to "fight for" abortion rights:

I think what the Democrats have got to say is we are going to stand with working people, we’re prepared to take on the drug companies, we’re prepared to take on the insurance companies and create an economy that works for all of us.

 Well, as long as they "stand with" their constituents and "prepare to" devise an appealing agenda with just a few short weeks to go before the curtain rises on Election Spectacular '22, it seems like it's a little late to be learning new lines, let alone rewriting the whole plot. And these are the alleged professionals with the experience that you, supposedly, so sorely lack.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Abortion Economics, Neoliberal-Style

With a GOP midterm blowout almost a forgone conclusion, the Democrats finally seem to be heeding the warning that their one-issue campaign on abortion rights is not quite catching on with the inflation-battered electorate.  They're just now beginning to take the Clintonoid nostrum of "It's the Economy, Stupid!" to heart.  Or so it may seem.

Because if Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams's own version of the intersectionality between reproductive rights and economic rights is any indication,  their messaging pivot to bread and butter issues becomes just more tasty fodder for the right.

Here's the MSNBC appearance by Abrams that has Republicans reaching for the knives and forks:

The right has immediately taken out of context her clumsy statement that "having children is why you're worried about your price for gas, it's why you're concerned about how much food costs."

This seeming correlation of child-bearing with inflation has "shocked political observers," crowed the reactionary New York Post, its own interpretation being that Abrams claimed that it's more cost-effective to kill babies than it is to feed them.

"Despicable," chimed in Ted Cruz in his best Texas drawl version of Bugs Bunny. 

"Demonic," Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona alliteratively agreed. 

Isn't it awful that those elitist Democrats are now reduced to even blaming kids for having the effrontery to be born?

Lather, rinse, repeat. Stacey Abrams is now doing what the Dems do best: defending themselves against scurrilous charges of perfidy from the Republicans - in lieu of, say, the feckless Dems coming up with a new agenda for the greater good.

If only Abrams could have supplemented - nay, prevented - her mad scramble to damage control with some radical policy prescriptions to appeal to the voters, then it might have been a whole different story. What if she had gone beyond merely acknowledging that women who are forced to bear children are condemned to poverty, by first of all admitting that this is precisely because Bill Clinton colluded with te GOP to abolish Aid to Families With Dependent Children back in the 1990s?  What if she had proposed single payer health insurance for all people, from cradle to grave?  What if she had proposed universal government-subsidized child care, the construction of guaranteed housing, a debt-free higher education? Then, perhaps, the fascist Republicans would have a lot more fodder to chew on besides the Dems' alleged new plot to sell the unwanted fetuses of the poor for food, a la Jonathan Swift's satirical solution to the Irish potato famine. 

What really would have riled them up was if Abrams had called for taxing the rich and corporations at Eisenhower era levels - in Georgia and throughout the country - in order to pay for all these radical new programs for the greater good.  A demand to end the forever-wars might have done the trick as well, despite the GOP's current totally phony opposition to funding the US proxy war in Ukraine.

As it is, given that Abrams's $20 million-plus campaign is funded by tax-averse corporations and wealthy liberal donors, she has had to settle for criticizing Brian Kemp, Georgia's current governor, for his refusal to allow Medicaid expansion in the state under the privatized Obamacare regimen, along with his vicious refusal to avail the state of even the very temporary and very inadequate rent relief and eviction protections afforded by last year's American Rescue Plan.

The standard neoliberal messaging about the economy prevails. As the Democratic platform pertains to women in particular, as long as they are recognized as full human beings with full-spectrum "access" to health care, and as long as they "work hard," then any relief from their economic burdens by the government will remain piecemeal, temporary and strictly means-tested. The shame poison pill will remain.

Interestingly enough, Stacy Abrams's remarks about abortion and inflation were in response to former President Barack Obama's own complaints last week that when it comes to their messaging and campaigning,  the Dems have been a real "buzzkill." 

It does, after all, sometimes take a scold to scold a scold.

 "You know, sometimes, people just want to not feel as if they are walking on eggshells. And they want some acknowledgment that life is messy and that all of us at any given moment can say things the wrong way, make mistakes.” Obama lectured in a Pod Save America podcast.

Here's looking at you, Stacey, Obama might have added were he as prescient as he pretends. As it was, he showed his own respect for womenfolk as he clumsily dished that his elderly mother-in-law is "struggling to learn the right phraseology to talk about issues" from his exasperated and long-suffering wife Michelle. This re-education vocabulary regimen stems from GOP blowback over such slogans as "defund the police," he lectured. 

I wonder if the learning of proper phraseology could be made intersectional with politicians' acknowledging that people's lives are miserable, thus teaching the lower orders that as long as they and their diverse identities are "recognized" by the ruling elite, then their desire for food, shelter and health care will disappear with just the right dose of Neoliberal Narrative. A spoonful of messaging might help the messiness go down, in other words.

I wonder if Stacey Abrams is thinking up some radical new phraseology with which to convey her very own heartfelt "Thanks, Obama" message.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Uncle Joe's Folksy Foolery

The New York Times did a deep dive into its thesaurus over the weekend, and came up burbling more euphemisms and excuses for Joe Biden's serial lying habit than I ever thought could be contained in just one little "think-piece."

Such infamous whoppers as Biden claiming personal involvement and even arrests in civil rights protests, his house once almost burning to the ground after a lightning strike, his going to college on a full scholarship and graduating at the top of his law school class, his theft of a British politician's hard-luck life story all get explained away by the Times and its sources. The lies are magically transformed into "embellishments," "exaggerations," "folksiness," "yarn-spinning," "grandfatherly," and "relatable story-telling."

Biden's apologists both inside and outside of the White House bizarrely cast his serial prevarications as proof of what a decent, honest man he truly is. What in lesser mortals might be diagnosed as a profound character flaw or a personality disorder becomes empathy gone wild in the president of the United States. Biden tells his self-aggrandizing lies purely out of selfless concern for, and solidarity with, the common man.

 “President Biden has brought honesty and integrity back to the Oval Office,” said Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman. “Like he promised, he gives the American people the truth right from the shoulder and takes pride in being straight with the country about his agenda and his values; including by sharing life experiences that have shaped his outlook and that hardworking people relate to.”

The Times then reverts to formula, covering its own journalistic ass by allowing a contrarian ethicist to briefly weigh in and to actually utter the words "lies" and "falsehoods" as they pertain to Biden. However, this pseudo-balancing act comes only after several paragraphs of defensive bathos,  and only after the obligatory observation that Donald Trump is the undisputed grand champion of presidential lying. He set the bar conveniently low for Biden and for all presidents. Truth and lies - and their importance - now might as well be included in the doctrine of Unitary Executive Power, in which US presidents redefine not only the Constitution, but reality itself, bequeathing their pathologies to their successors and enshrining them as the "new normal" - or, if you will, Normalcy, which Calvin Coolidge effectively decreed would replace the word "normality" in the dictionary. 

Meanwhile, assuming that the Times is wrong, and that you actually do care about Biden's lies as well as about the possible blowback from his bellicose rhetoric, how can you tell when he is, in fact, lying?  Could he possibly be as much a chronic liar as, say, the stereotypical teenager?

Probably not, but there are a few "tells" to help those of you who think that Uncle Joe's folksy warning last week (to a roomful of billionaires with deep donor pockets) about the coming Armageddon could indicate a disturbing cross between Chicken Little and The Boy Who Cried Wolf. 

Whenever Biden moves his mouth, and intersperses a remark or an anecdote or a doomsday warning with the phrases "This is the God's honest truth," "I give you my word as a Biden, " No Joke!," "This Is Not Hyperbole" or "No Lie!" grab the salt shaker off the table pronto, and take it with the requisite grain or two.

The context and the settings in which he says stuff are also important clues. For example, if he reminisces about growing up among Puerto Ricans during a visit to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, your confabulation-detector should start buzzing right away.

This also applies to the luxury setting last week in which he recklessly sounded the alarm about nuclear Armageddon.  According to the press pool report of the private event, Biden meandered through his standard talking points before concluding with Putin:

We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis. Weve got a guy I know fairly well, he said of Putin. Hes not joking (my bold) when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is you might say significantly underperforming. I don't think there's any such thing as the ability to easily (use) a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon. I didnt realize how much serious damage the previous administration did to our foreign policy.

Pool listened to the remarks from a staircase next to the room where the event was taking place and could not see much. Looked like there were large art pieces on every wall around the room. We were ushered out at 7:53 as Sen. Peters took the mic. We came in as James Murdoch was introducing the president. There was a lectern set up but the President moved to the middle of the room.

So... is Biden's assertion that Putin is not "joking" a tacit acknowledgment that it takes a liar to know a liar? What's more, Putin did not so much directly threaten nuclear war in a speech last week as he observed that the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Japan at the end of World War II. Whether this should be interpreted as a veiled threat is up for debate.

It's telling that the press were crammed into a stairwell during the glitzy fundraiser and thus could see neither Biden's facial expression nor those of his audience. Were these wealthy people looking fidgety and bored as the president droned on and on with his standard stump speech? Did Biden sense this, and think he could get them to write bigger checks if he put a little unscripted folksy nuclear fear into the mix?

After all, thanks to the Citizens United ruling, unlimited dollars are weighted votes with a lot more power than the standard human vote. And billionaires are a pretty paranoid bunch to begin with. Just look as Jeff Bezos thinking he can escape the global catastrophes that obscene wealth has wrought by colonizing Mars. Just think about Mark Zuckerberg urging everyone to don one of his reality-denying headsets and join him in an alternate cartoon Metaverse. 

The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying, but they keep lying to us, and we keep pretending to believe them. Elena Gorokhova

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Pity the Poor Congress-Critter

 The 535 high-net-worth Congressional servants of oligarchs, war profiteers and corporations are becoming very rattled by the growing number of threats being leveled against them by a very tiny subset of the electorate.

Two articles in this week's New York Times squarely point the finger of blame at the generic public itself, rather than at the Congress which is theoretically elected to represent the interests of the public.

 The first piece conveniently ignores this year's five-point dive in the already-rock bottom approval ratings and myriad justified reasons for anger against the legislative body, concentrating instead on people having racial and gender-based motives for the mostly verbal, but sometimes physical, threats. This has resulted in several members having to dig deep into their own pockets for security - beyond the $10,000 that they just allocated themselves for that purpose.

Even in the second article, in which the Times explores the "toxic relationship" between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, blame is once again deflected away from the petty and the powerful. and toward regular people. If Pelosi has called McCarthy a moron, among her other pithy insults,  and if McCarthy once quipped that he'd like to beat the Speaker over the head with her own gavel, then it's all the fault of the teeming masses. The paper quotes former Democratic Speaker Dick Gephardt as saying: 

“This disdain is really part and parcel of where we are in the country between the parties and between people. Congress is a reflection of the people. If the people are polarized and divided and hateful, then Congress is going to be the same.”

Gephardt, one of the original architects of the right-wing Democratic Leadership Council in the 1980s and now a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs and the private health insurance cartel - among other antisocial corporate entities - not only shows his own disdain for the electorate with that glib statement, he also pathologizes them.  He essentially claims that "the people" are so diseased that even two of the most powerful politicians on the entire planet are unable to withstand the malignancy of the lower orders. 

 It should thus come as no surprise that Gephardt has also successfully lobbied Congress to protect the patents of the profiteering pharmaceutical industry and block the manufacture of more affordable medicines for those horrible polarized people.

To delve into the rampant, pre-existing corruption that has long been an integral strand of the congressional DNA is obviously more than either Gephardt or the Paper of Record can bear to contemplate. They also have no interest in mentioning the studies which reveal that since the rich and powerful bankroll Congress with their often-dark money, Congress usually gives the rich and powerful whatever they want in the way of legislation and public policy. The exceptions seem to come only once every two or four or six years, at election time. A recent example of this truth is President Biden's own belated and obviously grudging approval of only some education debt forgiveness for only some student borrowers.

The recent kvetching from elites that our "democracy" is so suddenly under attack by a monolithic Trumpism is also disingenuous, given that the aforementioned studies (Gilen and Page) concluded nearly a decade ago that it is the elites themselves who endanger what passes for democracy with their outsize influence, especially with the recent Supreme Court decisions which bestow political speech rights upon the wealth of billionaires and corporations. How can democracy, or rule by the people, possibly be threatened when it already has devolved into an oligarchy? (Hint: it's predatory capitalism itself that is under threat - from a resurgent labor movement to climate activism to the independent journalism running rampant on the Internet despite their best efforts at censorship.)

It's funny how the definitions of "people" and "public" also keep changing according to the evolving needs of the ruling elites themselves. Of course, since everyday Americans (actually, our votes) are now enjoying one of those rare periodic bursts of minimal leverage, it is incumbent upon them to dose us with gaslight even as they allow the electorate their brief turn in the limelight. Their personal fear of violence and loss of power must be coupled with the instillation of fear of certain manufactured enemies of their own choosing.

This cycle, Republican elites are recycling the dog-whistled fear of immigrants and crime in the streets, accusing Democrats of wanting to abolish police departments and to let murderers roam free courtesy of modest bail reform agendas. Democratic elites, who had nearly half a century to codify abortion rights, warn the populace that Republicans want to kill women. These issues, manufactured and enhanced for our voting pleasure and incessantly broadcast in negative attack ads, conveniently blot out any mention of the inflation and the wealth and income inequality and the basic unaffordability of life itself that are foremost on the minds of people. We are voting to avoid something rather than to gain something. Fear is the only way they can get us to the polls next month.

Meanwhile, our politicians can so, so relate to you! These poor vulnerable souls are threatened with even worse things than we are being threatened with. Our rent may be too damned high, but just look at what they have to fork over for bodyguards! They're not threatened because they're corrupt, or because they won't give us nice things, like pandemic relief and a living wage law. According to the Times, they're threatened solely because they are targets of racism and misogyny. If you can't relate, for example, to the fear of Maine Republican Susan Collins when she had a storm window broken at her house in the wake of her vote for anti-choice justice Brett Kavanaugh, then who can you relate to?

After all, she is as human as you are, as human as Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Black and Muslim and apparently is being attacked purely on the basis of her gender and skin color, and not for her support of Palestine.. Ditto for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who never met a creepy incel Twitter troll she wouldn't feistily engage with, and who considers voters who are justifiably angry over her retreat from Medicare For All legislation to be incipiently "violent" whenever they show up to protest at her district office.

By concentrating on the direct physical and even sometimes-armed physical confrontations with lawmakers, especially with women of color,  and expressly linking these threats to the January 6th Capitol riot, the Times is tacitly warning us to tone down our own legitimate anger at the people we vote to represent us and end up betraying us. You never know when your justifiably angry voice will become a trigger for the nut-job next door, or way across the country, to act out violently and even kill a politician.

But to show how terribly fair that this establishment rendering of a profound social problem is, the article reports that nearly a third of the threats are made by Republicans and almost one quarter are made by Democrats. This little nugget had the result of infuriating not a few party-loyal readers, who accused the Times of "both-siderism," and "false equivalency" - thereby confirming the elite claim that this nation's polarization emanates from the bottom up, that it is not a carefully nourished if not wholly manufactured Divide and Conquer technique and media narrative employed by the powerful to stay in power, ever since the dawn of what passes for civilization.

Given they have chosen to ignore the myriad reasons why citizens might confront or attack elected leaders, the Times measures the intensity of the threats by the dollars that the congress members spend on their own security. Liz Cheney, the neocon pro-war anti-Trump dynastic Republican, must be especially vulnerable, the article implies, because she's spent the most money of anyone in her party for her security detail. That apparently puts her in the same boat as Missouri Democrat Cori Bush, a Black progressive representative who once had to live her car after an eviction. Ditto for Senators Ted Cruz and Raphael Warnock, who have achieved a measure of collegiality and bipartisanship simply by virtue of having spent roughly equal amounts of money to protect their bodies from the ravening mob.

The Times concludes its article by linking the increasing threats with the near- fatal shootings of Democrat Gabrielle Giffords and Republican Steve Scalise in the years before Trump came to power. The paper does not mention that both of these assaults were committed by people with significant psychiatric issues.

The paper also somehow forgot to mention that Giffords was a staunch gun rights advocate before she got shot and changed her mind, and that Scalise voted against gun reform even after he nearly died from a bullet wound in the torso.

And, tellingly, no Democratic politician has yet spoken out against the recent veiled death threat made by Donald Trump against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It must not fit the narrative, for some reason.

The ultimate inconvenient truth is that the bipartisan Congress has always enthusiastically rubber-stamped weapons sales and trillions of dollars for both direct and proxy wars, and has also approved violent economic sanctions against the poor people in authoritarian regimes that it wants to overthrow - all in the interests of "democracy." 

Since democracy is their buzzword for capitalism, I suppose we should at least give the elites some credit for veracity as they moan, all day and every day, that democracy is now under such unprecedented attack. Something has got to give as the rich no longer hide that they got that way by stealing from the poor, and that they despise and blame the poor for it.

So, it's hard out there for the average high-net-worth individual in Congress. They comprise a living buffer zone between the ultra-high-net worth individuals who bankroll them, and the low/no-net-worth individuals that they use as cover to install themselves in office every two or six years.

 Maybe if we had a multi-party or parliamentary system instead of a de facto House of Lords with two right wings, and they were actually held accountable even in the off-season, they wouldn't be feeling so damned vulnerable right now.