Thursday, September 14, 2023

To the Grifters Belong the Spoils

In the olden days, leaders of warrior-states would at least give the appearance of waiting for the peace treaty niceties to be completed  before proceeding to their final, more leisurely phase, of plunder. Think about the Marshall Plan's reconstruction of Germany after World War Two. The bankers and investors waited until after V.E. Day before they occupied and rebuilt the place with the American military and the nascent CIA to perpetually in place to guard all the loot.

But with so many corrupt officials and arms dealers and rag-tag mercenaries already on a rampage of raping and pillaging in Ukraine, it's never too soon for the elite investor class to personally step in and cash in on the investments which the US and European publics have made on their behalf, even in the midst of bloodshed.

 If the bribe-taking and bribe-making can start right now, and at the very highest levels, then the wealthy investors in the military-industrial complex can only grow richer that much sooner.

To that end, President Biden is simply being proactive  He is appointing Penny Pritzker, one of the world's richest women and one of the  Democratic Party's wealthiest donors, to oversee the entire economic plunder rebuilding of Ukraine, even as the US proxy war with Russia waged on valuable Ukraine real estate is still grinding on with no end in sight.

 No end that has been announced publicly, at any rate. So even as they continue to send our billions of dollars and their outdated depleted uranium and cluster bombs, maybe they know something we're not supposed to know. Ukraine, and its US puppet master, are losing to Russia. Team Biden wants to beat the Kremlin to the punch while the getting's still good.

Therefore, former Obama Commerce Secretary and Hyatt Hotel heiress Penny Pritzker has been outlandishly awarded the allegedly sovereign state of Ukraine, to control as she sees fit. Or in euphemistic New York Times headline-speak: "Biden Taps Penny Pritzker to Drive Ukraine's Economic Revival."

It's the new definition of the Pritzker Prize for outstanding achievement by an architect. 

The proof that Ukraine is currently naught but an American rump state whose residents are being needlessly killed and maimed in the hundreds of thousands, is right here in the curdled journalistic pudding:

Ms Pritzker, 64, will encourage pro-investment strategies in Ukraine while also drumming up public and private investment from other nations, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the appointment was not yet official. She plans to travel to the country in the coming weeks to begin assessing the state of its economy and to meet with political and business leaders. The White House will announce the appointment on Thursday. Ms. Pritzker will work from the State Department, reporting to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.

She apparently will not be meeting with everyday struggling and oppressed Ukrainians. This is purely a matter of elites talking to other elites. It's a matter of the Times blandly discussing the joy of oligarchic greed with its own elite target audience. 

It's pretty much the same way that written discourse functioned in the Middle Ages.  The late philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre pithily described the medieval scribes as mere parasites of the similarly parasitic nobility that they wrote for. If the peasantry was discussed at all, the narrative was not to them but about them. Therefore, the Times would never dream of either castigating Biden or evoking images of Pritzker in $600 Manolo heels, so gruesomely sidestepping Ukrainian corpses in her pursuit of war booty. 

The oligarchs running the world don't even bother to hide their psychopathic greed any more, even shamelessly trumpeting it all over the front pages with their anonymous sources. Th Times article about Biden presumptuously bestowing one of his main political funders with a veritable country of her very own is emblematic of how the corporate sponsored media operates today. Neo-feudalism is a big part of neoliberalism.

Even so, why announce Penny Pritzker's new role as Queen of Ukraine now? 

Let's put on our speculative hats. Biden's poll numbers are still plummeting, and Donald Trump could very well put the kibosh on both war and further liberal plunder of Ukraine if he is re-elected. Better for Joe Biden to get in now while the getting's still good, especially with liberal pundits now openly calling for him to drop out of the race. 

Rumor has it that Barack Obama is the real power behind the scenes. And since Penny Pritzker was perhaps the main financial force behind his own rise to power and his current status as a centa-millionaire celebrity and media mogul. maybe Obama made Biden an offer he couldn't refuse. It might have gone something like this: "I'll keep quiet about your failing re-election campaign, as long as you do me one little favor. Give my sugar mama Penny financial control of a whole foreign country. Nobody can ever have enough power, prestige and pennies." 

For more info on Pritzker and her dynasty, you're invited to take a stroll down the seamy side of memory lane, and read the piece I wrote about Barack and Penny way back in 2013.

Plus ca change. Ka-ching goes the beat of their hearts.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Free Speech For Me, But Not For Thee

It is a truth increasingly, if not universally, acknowledged that the Democratic Party hates democracy .In fact, it absolutely loathes democracy. Its refusal to schedule any presidential primary debates is bad enough. But it's now reached the point where that most sacrosanct pillar of liberalism - the First Amendment to the US Constitution - has been rendered anathema to the experts of the liberal class.

Why? Because a trio of federal appellate court judges has ruled that the Biden administration overstepped its bounds in pressuring the social media giants of Silicon Valley to censor content  Since the lawsuit was brought by a couple of Republican states' attorneys from Missouri and Louisiana, it is dismissively described by the New York Times as a "victory for conservatives." It is not only not something to be celebrated by liberals, this upholding of speech rights is something to be chagrined about. The immediate implication in the Times article is that if Republicans support a good thing, it is automatically demoted to a bad thing, or at least a thing that is highly suspect.

Democratic critics of the court ruling say that the Biden administration and its adjacent federal bureau of investigation were only trying to suppress information about the Covid pandemic that was not based upon scientific fact. These posts contained unsanctioned discourse about vaccines, masks, medication and lockdowns which the government deemed to be false and dangerous.

It's being sold as a battle between (noble) Sanctioned Information and (malign) Unsanctioned information. But at its heart it is the class war between unfettered capitalism and any freelance discourse that threatens the profits of unfettered capitalism.

The legal skirmish is even more specifically between and among the infinite varieties of snake oil. Truth or falsity is not the issue. The issue is who gets to control the production of the snake oil.

The Ivermectin treatment for Covid, for example, may or may not be bogus. It may or may not be efficacious.  That controversy is beyond my expertise and purview - and anyway, it is not the point. The point is that alternative medicine, particularly of the unpatented or patent-expired kind, might endanger the profits of Big Pharma.

Snake oil salesmen have always been an integral part of the American landscape. Plenty of people have died over the years and the centuries by relying on the little liver pills advertised in what used to be a wealth of periodicals in this country, the magnetic gizmos to cure disease and the Goop and the blood plasma transfusions for eternal youth. And of course, there's the old standby of simply praying away whatever ails people. Nobody ever said that free speech and religious cults had to be perfectly reasonable, sane or beneficent. Bullshit has always been baked into this human-inhabited planet of ours.

Not for nothing is the Times article on the First Amendment ruling written by a reporter who works on the "Misinformation Desk."  Whether this new beat is a warning that the Times itself is misinforming you is left unsaid. But Pulitzer Prize-winner Steven Lee Myers immediately sets the desired snake oil tone, albeit one with the requisite gravitas. He is qualified to write about misinformation, insinuates a blurb appended to his article, because he once wrote a whole book about Putin. His misinformation expertise spans the entire globe, as a matter of fact.

So right off the bat,  it is incumbent to describe the First Amendment ruling as purely a Republican thing. That the liberal ACLU crowd also approves the Appellate decision only gets a brief mention several paragraphs in - only once readers already have been triggered to despise it.  Myers finally also allows that "others" besides Republicans also are not okay with government censorship. But as an example of this outlying otherness opposed to government censorship, he gives us Robert F Kennedy Jr, -  who, besides defending the First Amendment, is also described as an anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist.

How do you know that journalism in the public interest has gone the way of the rotary phone? When the Paper of Record sees fit to replace its Climate Desk with a Misinformation Desk

Misinformation is a fluid word, interchangeable with Disinformation and the even more dreaded Malinformation.  It can be defined as any information, whether it be true, false or in-between, that does not pass the smell test of the delicate upturned noses of the Established Order. Information must always be disbursed from on high and never from the ground up. Brains must be well-credentialed, preferably from the Ivy League and well-funded think tanks. That is why the Times and other corporate media outlets will never, ever admit that their own Russiagate narrative was and is a huge hoax, born fully formed of the 2016 electoral defeat of Hillary Clinton. That is why the Paper of Record's own current disinformation campaign is insisting that the millions of premature deaths and the lifelong disabilities from Covid 19 are just like the seasonal flu. If their cherry-picked "experts" are unconcerned about the latest surge of new strains, then neither should you be. Cases are mild, especially if you're a celebrity with concierge health care and live-in help. Any information to the contrary makes you a mere personal anecdote-spreader. If some vulnerable people are "falling by the wayside," in the unfortunate euphemistic words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, that's just the way the eugenics cookie crumbles.

The First Amendment has been tacitly amended, you see. It may not be invoked by the lower orders or by other renegades or heretics or irresponsible people, especially those belonging to the wrong political party or refusing to join any political party at all. The only safe snake oil is the kind that is well-dressed, smells heavenly, and is bottled in expensive crystal decanters. Ir is usually only accessible to, and accepted by, those with the disposable incomes with which to unlock a Times paywall or to afford a cable subscription.

The Times article on the court ruling, what with its Pulitzer stamp of approval, therefore fairly reeks of class snobbery, as do most of the subscriber responses to it. Not only was the legal decision upholding the First Amendment rendered in the deep South (New Orleans) it was rendered by a mere three judges. The backwardness of the thing is a given.

Although the First Amendment says nothing specific about an inherent human right to free speech, and only bars the government from policing speech, the Times is having none of it. It actually euphemizes the ongoing censorship efforts as "the government's ability to combat false and misleading narratives about the pandemic, voting rights and other issues that spread on social media."

That sentence broadcasts sloppy lazy thinking and/or deliberate, misdirecting vagueness. The conflation of the various conflicting theories and studies about a misunderstood series of diseases caused by Covid with easily debunked lies about polling places and election dates is ridiculous on its face. And even if you think it's ridiculous, then you are urged to take the next suggested step and get all freaked out about all the unnamed "other issues" that spread like deadly pathogens all over the Internet!

The  newspaper does not, of course, directly critique the Biden White House, the FBI, the Surgeon General or the Centers For Disease Control for their own mal-informative actions, such as as precipitously and falsely declaring the pandemic to be over. It certainly has not examined or retracted its own mal-informative reporting about the contrived and debunked Russiagate narrative with which it explains the defeat of Hillary Clinton and the rise of Trump and Trumpism. You see, the snake oil being dispensed from the crystal vials of capitalistic media has been fully tested and approved. It atomizes the doses into a fine mist, keeping you alternately anesthetized and coked up with partisan rage. It aims to choke people into a state of atomized, isolated helplessness.

In its official response to the Appellate Court, the White House doubled down, tripled down, infinity-downed and sprayed its own snake oil with toxic abandon: 

“This administration has promoted responsible actions to protect public health, safety and security when confronted by challenges like a deadly pandemic and foreign attacks on our elections,” the White House said in a statement. “Our consistent view remains that social media platforms have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects their platforms are having on the American people but make independent choices about the information they present.”

Of course, congress could pass a law reversing the protections that social media behemoths currently enjoy from libel or slander suits brought by injured parties. But that might damage the government's self-assigned role as censorship police.

Whatever happened to the idea that the best weapon against bad speech is better speech? The government and the ruling class it serves, however, find it more expedient to counter what they deem to be bad speech with lies and disinformation that suits their own agenda and serves their own needs. If they spritz out their nostrums often enough, the hope is that the body politic will have no other recourse but to helplessly absorb them by osmosis, making them integral parts of their being. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Biden's Band-Aid Sampler Pack

Joe Biden's poll numbers are still in the tank despite the carefully-timed cascade of criminal indictments against Donald Trump. Therefore, the White House has decided to do something really radical. They will announce the 10 lucky winners of the Medicare price negotiation sweepstakes even earlier than originally planned! 

Come Tuesday, tens of millions of Americans going broke because of the high cost of prescription drugs - or, more accurately, the tens of millions of Americans who have forgone the drugs because their cash already has run out - will finally discover whether their particular medication will be somewhat more affordable, beginning as early as 2026.  Since older Americans vote in far higher numbers than younger people do, the Lucky Ten probably will be treatments for diseases that inordinately affect the elderly.

Tuesday's desperate campaign stunt highlighting Biden's drug band-aids of the future has more than a few catches.  His team should know they're in trouble when even one of their most reliable New York Times centrist stenographers -  David Leonhardt - can make  only a wishy-washy case for them. Leonhardt and co-writer Ian Prasad Philbrick have made a feeble try anyway, even awarding Biden with the title "Doctor Spend Less" as a way both to cement his deficit hawk cred and to make voters forget that during his first campaign, he'd promised to push for a public health insurance option - the standard centrist bait and switch for a true single payer system. That promise was dead in the water by inauguration day.

The Times starts out with a handy, damning chart showing that health care costs in the United States are more than double those of other advanced countries. They then pitch the half-hearted hope that readers will conclude that eventually lowering the prices for only 10 drugs will make even the slightest dent in American health care costs.

It turns out that there are limits to even what media stenographers for the Democratic Party are willing to do, as they ruefully admit that lowering drug costs for older people will probably incentivize the rapacious drug companies to  raise the prices of these same 10 drugs for people under age 65. (Not to mention raising the prices of the thousands of drugs not in the Lucky 10 for patients of all ages. 

These unlucky patients would, of course, include some of the same younger people who will have to start repaying their onerous student loans next month. These are some of the same younger people who turned out to vote for Joe Biden in 2020, based solely upon his promise to at least partially forgive student debt for everybody, with no need to jump through the endless hoops of "means-testing."

Now, this is not to say that Joe Biden is ignoring younger people or worse, completely throwing them to the wolves.  Far from it. You see, the president sent out his good friend Bernie Sanders to New Hampshire and the cable talk shows over the weekend to warn progressive people of all ages that a vote for a primary challenger or for a certain Green Party candidate will be a vote for Donald Trump, No matter that these same disaffected souls would just stay home if there was no alternative to either Trump or Biden. Sanders just repeated the spoiler canard. Failing to pull the lever for Biden would be ushering in a new era of fascism and the complete privatization of Social Security and Medicare. It would rob all the uninsured student debtors of their last best vestige of hope of actually living to 65. It would also end Bernie's task of continuing to ineffectually urge Biden to do more progressive things, such as "going after corporations."

But back to the New York Times's even worse than half-hearted defense of Doctor Spend-less's Sampler Pack.

"Some people will save a lot of money," the article quotes one health researcher as hoping. The people who will save are the tiny minority of seniors who actually still have the retirement savings to spend on their drugs.

 But nevertheless, the Times persists in denying reality. Or maybe they're just being cynical when they write of the futuristic Medicare Drug Discount bonanza coming soon to a dystopian hellscape near you:

Biden and his aides understand that these policies are popular with swing voters, who, as this newsletter has described before, tend to lean left on economic issues while being more conservative on many social issues. That’s particularly true of swing voters who don’t have a four-year college degree. The president has described his health care policies as part of “Bidenomics in action.”

There's some occult snobbery built into that last paragraph. It implies that young "swing voters who don't have a four-year college degree" are so stupid as to believe that lowering the prices of only 10 drugs for the 65+ crowd is pretty much equal to Medicare For All . Maybe these voters will also forget that even during his first run for the White House, Biden had vowed to veto M4A if by some miracle it ever reached his desk after passing both houses of congress. Team Biden knows full well that polls show that at least 70 percent of Republican voters also favor single payer health insurance. 

About those older voters: Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, they are now able to buy their hearing aids over the counter, the better to hear Biden reading off the telerompter to tout Bidenomics.

He is also, according to the Times. "trying" to enforce the Trump-era bipartisan law that prevents health care private equity vultures from sending out surprise bills to patients. It seems that the usual loopholes preventing enforcement were written into the legislation by the lobbyists working for private equity surprise-billers.

Now, in case you are thoroughly discouraged if not downright jaded by the Big Ten Sweepstakes, here are some consolations courtesy of Times:

--Five of the major predatory drug companies are still headquartered right here in the USA. Your drugs might be manufactured off-shore in low-wage sweatshops, but the CEOs still occupy their Wall Street corner offices. America is already great.

--Drug companies say lower prices on 10 drugs will hamper innovation. They are lying! They will keep re-patenting old drugs for fun and profit. It's the American way.

-- Nobody really knows yet whether the drug savings for older people will translate to higher costs for younger people. You'll just have to wait until after the 2026 band-aid reform package slowly goes into effect to find out. The election is in 2024, so what nobody knows yet cannot possibly hurt Biden you yet.

-- Perhaps most important of all, soothes the Times,

  • Biden has suggested that if he wins re-election, he will try to take more steps to reduce medical costs. Among them: making Obamacare subsidies permanent and capping insulin costs for privately insured Americans. “There’s more to do,” he has said.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The Contrived Dichotomy of Power Politics

As much as I've tried to ignore the hype, it has become near- impossible to avoid the media-manufactured reality that Decision '24 is now officially underway. It's hard, because the first Republican primary debate tonight is being marketed as a blockbuster double bill. Or more accurately, it's a teaser for the much more thrilling show of Donald Trump and his racket getting booked on yet more criminal charges. Seeing as how Trump is skipping the debate, his fans will likely also skip the debate in favor of a third big draw - the rumored Tucker Carlson interview.  The target audience for the actual debate itself are the Democrats, who are reported to be getting the popcorn and the booze ready in anticipation of just how boring and out of touch Ron DeSantis will be, and how many zingers Chris Christie will manage to lob, and how many of the candidates will visibly squirm when asked if they will sign a loyalty oath to support the ultimate victor (who, by popular polling and media acclaim is said to be the absent Donald Trump.) The mainstream media outlets are rife with articles about all the complicated different ways that your captive eyeballs can glue themselves to the Fox show - not to mention all the takeaways to be had from doing your civic duty of watching it, and then listening to rival cable channels analyzing it to death into the wee, bleak hours of Thursday morning and beyond.

The more I think about it, the more I doubt that the general election will, in fact, be a contest between Trump and Joe Biden. Trump looks more bloated and pasty by the day. He is spending all his political contributions on his own legal defense. His only campaign theme is martyrdom. The phony appeal to the working stiff is running a sloppy second. 

And between the Hunter mess and his own visibly deteriorating mental and physical state, Joe Biden will be lucky to outlast even his first term in office. The establishment media, which had breathlessly reported on his visit to Maui, went into radio silence mode in the wake of the actual visit. If you wanted to find out that Biden actually compared hundreds of people losing their lives to the worst United States fire in more than a century to a minor kitchen fire decades ago in his Delaware home, when -no joke - he nearly lost his wife, his cat, and his vintage Corvette, then you had to read about it in the New York Post or The Daily Mail. The New York Times abruptly stopped its own Biden-Maui coverage after a last photo of the president waving from Air Force One en route to Hawaii. Meanwhile, they are oh so subtly boosting the hapless Kamala Harris and keeping Gavin Newsom on 24-hour call. Little by little, they seem to be giving up on their Philip K. Dick simulacrum of a president. He's winding down, creaking to a halt, and painfully so. It's a case of political elder abuse if there ever was one. Dianne Feinstein is still around, in part because she serves to make Biden seem spry.

As a matter of fact, the Times coverage of the Maui catastrophe already had been taking second place to the Trump indictment, and which unknown GOP politician had just made the donation/polling cut for the debate. One of them, I forget his name, apparently got hurt in a basketball game and may or may not appear.  This news is interspersed with breaking news accounts of which Trump racketeer has had his or her mug shot taken in Georgia.

To the extent that the corporate media are covering such news as that food insecurity in the richest country on earth has increased for the fifth straight month, or squeamishly euphemizing the mass expulsion of millions of Medicaid recipients from their health care as "the Great Unraveling" rather than eugenics on steroids, or is downplaying the surge  of still more coronavirus strains in an increasingly strained denial that many more people are getting sick, you'd be pretty hard-pressed to learn about these things even if you're a stalwart doom-scroller of approved news sites. Read the comments section of any Times article trying to convince you that catching Covid, and catching it often, is actually good for your immune system. The definition of "mild" has been upgraded to anything that doesn't kill you within a week. And even then, you will be said to have died "with" Covid, not of it. New public health emergencies will be declared over your dead bodies, if not theirs. 

It's all Trump all the time if your reading is restricted to consolidated Democratic Party-aligned media. It's all Biden scandal all the time if you're more inclined toward the right-leaning outlets. Personally, I always sample everything out there.

Everything is centered on all this divisiveness that has supposedly reached such new epidemic proportions. The sub-headline in an otherwise good Times article on the health and financial effects of the Palestine, Ohio train disaster is that residents have allegedly returned to a "newly divided community." The contrived dichotomy of partisan politics must always take precedence over human solidarity, which is very threatening to the powers-that-be. 

If you consider yourself a lefty and you take too much issue with the Democrats, you're either a closet Trump supporter yourself or you are propelling others into a Trumpian orbit of doom. You could even be a Putin plant if you're anti-war.  You can preface your Biden or anti-military critiques with all the Trump disclaimers you want, and it still won't matter. If you raise your voice and persist on harping on Medicare For All, then all you will succeed in doing is ushering in a reprise of fascist rule under Donald Trump or one of his imitators. Think, for example, of Mike Pompeo,  or some other more intelligent version of Trump. Or don't even take the trouble to think, because Victoria Nuland, the newly appointed acting undersecretary of state under Biden was also a protegee of Dick Cheney.

Because of course, we already live under fascism in this country. Bertram Gross wrote about it a long time ago in his book "Friendly Fascism." So did Sheldon Wolin with his critique of "inverted totalitarianism." It's also known as corporatism, or rule by predatory capitalists. Its appeals to patriotism and nationalism may vary in intensity depending on the party in power, but it transcends all the usual geographical boundaries, which are artificially put in place by the same corporatists in every single one of their bloody climate-destroying wars for endless profit.

Getting you to fight with your neighbors and even with your family members over allegiance to one of the two US-based corporations known as legacy political parties is exactly what they want. It's their weapon on of mass distraction, so you won't focus over-much on your lack of medical care, a livable income, secure housing or a lifetime of education debt. Keeping your focus off their relentless exploitation of humanity is of the utmost importance to them. Heaven forfend that you would expend whatever physical or mental energy ou still have in organizing a labor or rent strike, or a patient-led occupation of a private equity-owned clinic or hospital.

Howard Zinn had it right when he said it's not who's sitting in the White House (or spieling on a Fox News  "debate" stage)  that should concern us, but who is out there marching or sitting in the streets or any number of semi-public spaces.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

How Biden Could Win

 According to an article in Politico,  the White House is in a hand-wringing frenzy over all the red states that are gleefully cutting millions of people off Medicaid. Mass removals began in late spring, when Joe Biden officially and prematurely declared an end to the Covid public health emergency, That action brought, in millions of cases, an abrupt end to guaranteed medical coverage for struggling people. For the three years of the emergency, they'd been spared all the onerous bureaucratic hoop-jumping and dire need-proving in order to get care. 

 His declaration ending pandemic aid, the apologetics narrative goes, resulted from a relentless and irresistible pressure campaign from the governors of these same red states - states that never in a million years would give the election to that rascally radical socialist Joe Biden.

Now, it's the Biden administration's turn to be seen as "pressuring" these same red states to please don't be so hasty and enthusiastic about it. Spread the pain out more discreetly in hopes nobody will notice. You see, when an estimated 15 million struggling Americans are expected to lose Medicaid coverage by next year, just when Campaign '24 goes into full swing, Biden's boast that people are better off due to his "Bidenomics" miracle recovery might fall a tad flat

That's what the Democrats are most worried about: not winning the next election. The fact that millions of people already have been kicked off the Medicaid rolls, just as Covid cases increased by a whopping 50 percent this summer, is of secondary importance to them.

So rather than Biden taking to the bully pulpit to blast Republicans for kicking people off their health coverage when so many more are getting sick, his administration is reported to be quietly cajoling right-wing governors in states like Texas, Florida and Arkansas to go a little slower with the sadism that he himself facilitated with the stroke of a pen. In Arkansas alone, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has already kicked off more than 300,000 Medicaid patients from their coverage in the past few months - including more than 100,000 children.

According to Politico,

But the administration has refused to publicly criticize individual states or even identify which ones it believes face the most serious issues, for fear of damaging its relationships with them. Though GOP-led states like Texas and Arkansas rank among the most aggressive in cutting people from Medicaid, states with Democratic governors such as Kansas and Kentucky are also dropping enrollees at high rates.

As long as it's bipartisan, it's like that sickly-sweet old Smuckers syrup TV commercial: it's just got to be good.  The problem is that during election season, the too-blatant embrace of eugenics as official US health policy is not a good look. 

But here's the dilemma. As the Duopoly is well aware, poor people don't turn out to vote in as great numbers as more well-off people. Therefore, all the Democrats think they  need do is to impress the well-off by posturing as "trying" to ameliorate the cruelty that they themselves passively-aggressively helped bring into being. As for the Republicans, they've apparently convinced enough of their constituents that losing their own health care is not as bad as the undeserving lazy malingerers of legend getting some of it. "Let them eat resentment" is one way of putting it. This works especially well where gerrymandering is the booster shot of choice.

The liberal opposition is the maudlin political theater described in the Politico article: 

On Capitol Hill, senior Democrats have grown increasingly frustrated with the administration’s approach, questioning its effectiveness and pushing for more aggressive steps — such as cutting off critical funding.... Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who chairs the committee that oversees Medicaid, likened some states’ attempts to stop people from losing coverage to “waving at somebody as their car goes by, and going, well, we contacted you.” 

Heaven forfend that the Democrats run the risk of being called socialists by going so far as to bring single payer health legislation up for a floor debate.  If everybody had health care, liberal politicians  would never again have to exert themselves uttering empty threats to cut off funding to those mean old states. Without manufactured gridlock, they wouldn't even know what to do with themselves.

And with Covid cases rising quite drastically in the United States this summer, and with the number of Long Covid cases being a public health crisis in and of itself, President Biden could, with just another stroke of his executive pen, re-declare a public health emergency and order guaranteed health care for every man, woman trans person and child in this country, with no requirement to prove either financial need, employability or moral deservingness. All of those tens of millions of people who don't vote because they are too poor, too sick or too tired to care or expect much from politicians might change their minds and turn out for Joe Biden at the polls in 2024. He'll at least have earned his bragging rights.

Then again, they worry, if too many people get too healthy they might also develop the energy to take to the streets in protest of such things as student loan debt, capitalism-fueled climate disasters, and America's endless wars. And then what good would a second term for Biden and even a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress do them?

 Keeping the masses of people down and out is the engine that keeps the oligarchs who fund and control the politicians in power.  And tying for-profit predatory health coverage to one's work is the main way for the overlords to crush unions and to keep labor in line.

The fact that life expectancy in the United States is decreasing, and the suicide rate in this country increased to historic levels last year is, after all, just what the concierge doctor ordered for his wealthy clients. 

In the first few years of the pandemic, the suicide rate had actually decreased, given that most people got government stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment benefits, maximum food aid, and yes... Medicaid coverage. The suicide rate increased just as the temporarily enhanced welfare state, which had cut the rate of child poverty in half, began to be dismantled as a matter of deliberate bipartisan design. People who'd finally caught a break by having enough to eat and getting protection from evictions, suddenly had it all yanked away from them. 

These suicides are very much part and parcel of what Case and Deaton have accurately called "deaths of despair." The last thing in the world that desperate people need right now is some politician telling them that they're better off than they think they are.

Meanwhile, the bipartisan policy now in cruel effect is essentially just a dead heat on a merry-go-ground. The Republicans pressure the Democrats to kill off more poor people, and then the queasy, compliant Democrats pressure the Republicans to tone down the sadism just a wee bit. The actual people are crushed under the political stampede before they're fatally ejected from the rickety roller coaster. of late capitalism. (They just aren't personally responsible enough to fasten their frayed seatbelts!)

Welcome to the Eugenic States of America.

Monday, August 7, 2023

The Conscience of An Elite

Revolutionary Brooks (graphic by Kat Garcia

 New York Times columnist David Brooks peered into his magic mirror recently and had a Eureka! moment. Could it possibly be that he and his righteous bipartisan group of anti-Trump resistance fighters themselves could have had a role in the rise and continuing popularity of Donald Trump?

 Brooks, who has made a whole career out of demonizing the poor in his biweekly columns, has belatedly come to the realization that the disdain that his elite class harbors toward the "lesser people" is what contributed to mass resentment and the American turn to right-wing populism.

"What if we're the bad guys here? Brooks disingenuously mused, much to the chagrin of more than 4,000 responding Times subscribers - whom the Times has relentlessly indoctrinated over the last six years that the only thing they ever have to hate and fear is Trump himself, as well as his hordes of fascist Trumpies. The only thing that has sustained the liberals of the Professional-Managerial Class (PMC) since Hillary Clinton was trounced in 2016 are the fumes of their own moral rectitude, which is all the justification they need for the financial gains they've accrued at the expense of the have-nots. It was not neoliberal austerity policies and the offshoring of jobs that created Trump supporters, they insist. It is their incipient racism and deplorable stupidity they display in voting against their own economic interests. And besides, many Trump voters, if not wealthy elites themselves, are tacky uneducated small-business owners, like the used car salesman who rips off other uneducated people for a living.

Wealthy Democrats themselves cannot possibly be racist, because not only did they vote for Barack Obama, they still revere him. Since Obama and other Black people are now more often elevated to positions of power, it makes it so much easier for "woke" elites to ignore the worsening structural racism and class inequality that directly supports their own lives and lifestyles. Their self-declared wokeness enables them to become the same kind of censorious, reactionary authoritarians they accuse the more extreme Republicans of being. Brooks sounds like a born-again woke liberal himself when he writes:

The most important of those systems is the modern meritocracy. We built an entire social order that sorts and excludes people on the basis of the quality that we possess most: academic achievement. Highly educated parents go to elite schools, marry each other, work at high-paying professional jobs and pour enormous resources into our children, who get into the same elite schools, marry each other and pass their exclusive class privileges down from generation to generation.

Brooks counted more than 900 times that Obama used the word "smart" to describe his policy decisions, ascribing its use as a way of dissing non-educated people. (I have a different interpretation, included in my published comment to his opinion piece, reposted below).

Brooks goes on, accurately enough:

Like all elites, we use language and mores as tools to recognize one another and exclude others. Using words like “problematic,” “cisgender,” “Latinx” and “intersectional” is a sure sign that you’ve got cultural capital coming out of your ears. Meanwhile, members of the less-educated classes have to walk on eggshells because they never know when we’ve changed the usage rules so that something that was sayable five years ago.

The big tell that Brooks is blowing so much hot air is that he offers no policy solutions in the way of wealth redistribution, higher taxes on the rich, a debt-free college education and affordable housing, guaranteed single payer health care, and increased Social Security and disability payments to begin to stem the resentments that have given rise to Trump. Instead, he merely aims to "raise awareness" among the self-satisfied and comfortable liberal class. As long they merely acknowledge their privilege and they tone down the scolding just a tad, the have-not crowd will shut up and magically fall into line.

Brooks is an even worse phony that he was before anti[Trumpism bit him in the ass, when he openly but so delicately and obliquely blamed the poor for their own plights. It's just as bad to concern-troll as it is to scold while annoyingly continuing to praise one's own inherent goodness In fact, it's even worse.

Here's how I responded to Brooks' straining effort at constipated wokeness:

 Brooks, falsely correlating higher socioeconomic status with higher intelligence, completely ignores the plight of college-educated debtors. They were fed the line that "smart" people were destined for success. And the exact opposite has turned out to be true.

 Politicians like Obama were wont to use the word "smart" in conjunction with cuts to the social safety net. Another neoliberal buzzword I've come to loathe is "common sense." Translation: if you don't believe in austerity, you just are not getting with the program. You aren't a credentialed expert. Another similar catchphrase is "sharing the sacrifice" which posits that taxing rich people at slightly higher rates would balance out gratuitous cuts to food stamps and Medicaid.

Sure, we're all in this together, even as the richest billionaires at least doubled their wealth since the economic collapse of 2008 and the Covid pandemic.

Trump is very much the creation of the neoliberal thought collective. Anti-Trumpers can roll out any number of indicted hideous Trump-heads on their shiny golden legal platters, but most people, too worried about their next rent payment or the next unexpected health crisis, could not care less at this point.

Thank goodness for the (brilliant but starving) writers' strike, and for Cornel West being one of the few remaining voices of moral rectitude.


Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Dueling Grifters

The more they indict Trump, the higher his poll numbers go. This latest appalling state of affairs is giving the voter-shaming, message-tweaking members of the PMC (professional managerial class) quite the galloping  case of PTSD. (current and post-traumatic stress disorder).The poor things went to all that trouble of inventing the #Russiagate franchise way back in 2016 and later impeaching Trump in a glitzy series of televised docudramas, only to have a nation of Deplorables thumb their noses at all their good intentions. The masses of people have become so incorrigible that they can't even appreciate the Bidenomics Miracle smacking them upside their empty llttle heads. 

The liberal class and their neocon colleagues of the Deep State don't seem to realize that in offering up Donald Trump's hideous head on a series of spinning legal platters is no substitute for lack of health care, food, affordable housing, climate crisis solutions, student debt relief and inflation-engendering corporate greed. 

It has gone way beyond the proverbial tragedy and farce at this stage of the collapse of the American Empire. If there will be any presidential debates at all between Biden and Trump, they will devolve into bickering over which aged white man is the worse crook. 

More people than ever are amenable to the creation of a third party. Even though he has not yet won the Green Party nomination, Cornel West is polling well. The liberal class thus find themselves in quite a quandary, wondering how to smear West without seeming like the racists they accuse the MAGA hordes of being. So right now, their tactic is to accuse him of being a spoiler, fatuously assuming that he is taking votes away from the senile corrupt Joe Biden, while pretending that West simply does not exist.  (RFK Jr is a lot easier to criticize and thus deservedly receives more aghast negative attention.)

This will not be a presidential campaign about the suffering of everyday people. This will be a campaign conducted by dueling criminal prosecution and defense lawyers about whose crooked client most deserves your vote.

The cascade of indictments of Trump is obviously politically motivated, given that his supposed "resisters" sat on their thumbs regarding his criminal enterprises until the current horserace got underway. Biden was able to duck public accountability during the pandemic lockdowns by hiding in his basement. This time around, the best he can do is retreat to his beach house as the coordinated indictments come fast and furious. It is probably no accident that Trump was finally indicted over the January 6th riots during the exact same week that Biden's influence-peddling scheme with his son threatened to grab away all the public attention.

And of course, Trump is not actually being charged with leading an attempted coup but merely with spreading lies and disinformation about a "stolen"election. 

The public is being cordially invited to guess who his six co-conspirators will turn out to be. Much to the chagrin of the "rules-based order" spinning their narratives, however, the deplorable public is too busy worried about their survival to care about what a bunch of rich oligarchs and their lawyers are up to.

The political-media complex never did want to pay much attention to who empowered Trump in the first place: themselves.

Meanwhile, they're desperately trying to change the conversation over their botched proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. Far, far below the myriad scare headlines in the New York Times about the never-ending Battle Against Trump is an article titled "Ukrainian Troops Trained by US Stumble in Battle."

The Ukrainian draftees did not pay attention in their crash course in advanced American war-making.. Apparently, the Ukrainian soldiers equipped with billions of dollars in weapons simply are not sophisticated enough to absorb all the nuances of American aggression. They even  damaged a whopping 20 percent of the tanks and other high-tech sophisticated killing machine so graciously bestowed upon them.

“Arguably, the problem was in the (naive) US assumption that with a few months of training, Ukrainian units could be converted into fighting more the way that American forces might fight, leading the assault against a well-prepared Russian defense, rather than helping Ukrainians fight more the best way they know how.” the Times quotes a spokesman for the cynically named Carnegie Endowment for Peace as saying.

Those Ukrainan draftees rank right down there with the American electorate. Neither the war nor the election are going well for Biden. It's all the fault of people with no money and power - not the fault of a senile and corrupt president and his criminal cohort. 

So let's roll out another indictment or two and throw more billions at the war profiteers to substitute for health care and debt relief.

One consolation in this era of Post-Tragical Farce is that the ongoing writers' and actors' strike is putting a damper on the Hollywood propaganda traditionally churned out in such vacuous abundance as to put a happy face  on the predatory capitalism that is both silently and loudly killing us all.

What will the culture war pundits even have to talk about once the war between Barbie and Oppenheimer gets stale and the Trump indictments lose what little public relations effectiveness they still enjoy?

Monday, July 31, 2023

A Note From Sardonicky

With so many people suffering from catastrophic climate change throughout the world, it probably sounds petty of me to complain that environmental conditions in my own neck of the woods have had an adverse affect on this little blogging enterprise.

Two episodes of toxic smoke from Canadian wildfires worsened my asthma. And in between the smoke events, there was that "thousand-year" rainstorm here in the Hudson Valley. To cap it all off, my apartment's 15-year-old rooftop HVAC system failed last week, sending indoor temps soaring into the 80s at times. The corporate landlord's response was abysmal, to say the least. The property management's business model is that as long as they are "seen trying" to address an emergency caused by their own lack of maintenance, they were in the clear. They kindly advised me to simply open a window, as they lackadaisically dispatched one unqualified handyman after another, only to to give up in defeat. At the end of  Day Four, a certified HVAC specialist finally discovered that the problem was caused by a corroded switch within the rooftop unit.

This episode is, of course, just one microcosm of the class war of predatory capitalists against the have-nots. An article (paywalled) in The Washington Post blithely recommended sufferers to exhibit some good old American can-doism by.... you guessed it.... opening a window. And how about those allegedly ubiquitous cooling centers that people lacking transportation are supposed to so easily and magically access?

Rather than declare a climate emergency, Joe Biden also went the neoliberal "resilience" route, promising the sweltering folks better weather forecasting and maybe even some free government water - once dire need is proven. 

So anyway, my apologies for the lack of posts this month. But now that I am starting to get my physical and mental strength back, I think (hope) that August will be better. 

Thanks, everybody, for continuing to visit the site. It will always be free, for as long as it exists.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Elite Patriotism: One NATO, Under God

Although a new poll reveals that fewer people than ever now describe themselves as being "extremely proud to be an American" the New York Times approvingly reports that sales of overpriced Fourth of July T-shirts have never been better 

Apparently, proclaiming blind sartorial devotion to your country on this Independence Day erases any need to actually experience the unconditional love, either for your country or most especially for your less fortunate fellow humans.

If you buy a $60 red, white or blue T-shirt from the American Giant corporation and you wear it at a Martha's Vineyard or Hamptons barbeque, you can hide the awful truth that for the very rich elites of the owning class, the most important fealty is to the bellicose, borderless feudal kingdom still quaintly known as NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.)

Borders and nation-states are for alternately containing and expelling the little people, who if they do wear a Fourth of July T-shirt, it's probably cheaply made in China. And that is not very patriotic at all, insinuates the Paper of Record, given that "we" are in competition with China and may even go to war with them.

If you’re leaning into Americana to sell items that aren’t American made, I find it disingenuous,” said Kristen Fanarakis, the founder of Los Angeles-based fashion brand Senza Tempo and an advocate for locally made apparel.

 The virtuous rich, for their part, wear made-in-America patriotic couture that is, according to one overpriced T-shirt manufacturer, directly inspired by the bipartisan "America First" ethos of "corporate boardrooms and policy circles in Washington, DC."

Make that the oligarch-inspired revolving-door world of the war-hungry Atlantic Council, the American Enterprise Institute, consolidated media,  the State Department, and the whole sticky web of public-private entities that work in solidarity and cooperation to bring feel-good democracy to the subjects/consumers of One NATO, Under God.

Meanwhile, news that fewer everyday US residents are fanatically devoted to their heavily weaponized and border-controlled nation-state would be encouraging were it not for the fact that a terrifying four out of every 10 Americans still describe themselves as "extremely proud" patriotic extremists. The vast majority of respondents told Gallup pollsters that they are "very" or at least "moderately" patriotic, while only a dismal four out of a hundred had the actual guts to admit that they are not patriotic at all. 

Now, I would hazard a very unscientific guess that at least some of the people who were called by Gallup and asked to rate their patriotism might have been cowed into swearing what they construed to be a loyalty oath on demand. Who knew if that phone call was a trap being laid by Homeland Security? Who knew if their answers would end up in some top secret NSA database somewhere out in the desert? And, come to think of it, who in their right mind picks up the phone when an annoying pollster calls at the dinner hour? 

Meanwhile, since the "economy" is allegedly on such an awesome upswing, those deficient in the patriotism department should just get a dose of corporate propaganda therapy.

Paul Krugman, liberal columnist at the Times, has made the gaslighting of dissatisfied and struggling Americans into his own cottage industry. His Fourth of July column is no exception. Life is so good, according to something called the economic Misery Index, so why are people such ungrateful sad-sacks? Will they finally wake up and give Joe Biden a little credit? 

But are people noticing this improvement? Traditional measures of economic sentiment have become problematic in recent years: Ask people how the economy is doing, and their response is strongly affected both by partisanship and, I believe, by the narratives conveyed by the news media. That is, what people say about the economy is, all too often, what they think they’re supposed to say.

Are these the same people who claim to be extreme patriots because that's what they think pollsters want to hear? Anything is possible, especially in the NATO Feudal Kingdom, where the rulers create their own alternate realities (like "we're winning this war and spreading democracy!") on such a tiresome regular basis.

Conservative columnist Gabriel Nadales expands upon the Krugman narrative when he glibly writes that the main reason that patriotism is on the decline is because those damned people just don't think properly. They are the unfortunate wrongthinkers.

Dwindling patriotism in America could be due to the increase of Americans sadly believing we are a country in decline. But it doesn’t need to be that way. Although it is fair to say America may be on the wrong track in certain respects, America has the 11th highest GDP per capita, according to the World Bank. Our system of government has been a model for countries across the world. The American flag remains a symbol of freedom and justice for those living in oppressed places like Hong Kong. 

Talk abut faulty thinking skills. The American flag itself is a terrifying symbol of oppression in too many colonized, bombed, exploited, invaded and economically sanctioned places throughout the world. The "thought leaders" spanning the A-to-B political spectrum of neoliberal capitalism are churning out the same narrative at the same time that they bemoan non-existent divisiveness in each other. The reality is that they are conjoined twins sharing the same capitalistic brain.

On that note, here's wishing all you  out there a happy and smoke-free celebration of our great American Founding Myth.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Bile Rises In Your Throat


(photo credit Kat Garcia)

It may look like a misty Monet watercolor,, but let me assure you that it's hard to breathe here in the Hudson Valley of New York. This is the second lengthy  episode of smoke we've experienced here in less than a month.  

Despite the extremely unhealthy quality of the air,  it feels much worse in other parts of the United States.  Southern and western locales may be escaping the smoke but they are not escaping thelife-threatening  heat. For example, it reached 114 F in Nashville on Thursday And of course it's pure hell for the Canadians, whose prime minister reacted to the first major spreading smoke event in early June  by jetting off in a plume of carbon to Ukraine, where he gave that country's president his personal assurances that he would keep the money bombs coming like the good little NATO member that he is.

The ongoing climate disaster has meanwhile been knocked right off the front pages thanks to a slew of reactionary Supreme Court rulings, including the rejection of Joe Biden's pathetic student loan forgiveness plan, a repudiation of LGBTQ workplace rights, and an end to affirmative action in college admissions.

The New York Times, for one, is ever-reliably framing the ruliings around Biden's political prospects and the outrage being expressed in "a chorus of Democrats" who will waste no time seizing on the rulings as more campaign issues with which to flail helplessly. These are some of the same people who supported then-Senator Biden's bill which forbade the discharge of student debt in bankruptcy court, lest such an action offend his banker buddy constituents. Something tells me that Joe Biden is secretly very relieved that the Court saved him the trouble of throwing more people under the bus all by himself.

This way he'll still be able to reassure his donors that "nothing will fundamentally change" while at the same time telling campaign crowds that his empty bellicose rhetoric on their behalf is a monumental accomplishment.

Thanks to the Supremes, Democrats won't have to make any policy promises of their own at all. They'll just keep right on shooting diseased Republican fish in a barrel, adding their political smoke to another epidemic of choking and gagging -  and all without ever  having to utter the dread words "Medicare For All."

The Duopoly is working out very well for the lords of neoliberal capitalism.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Biden's Slow Walk To High Speed

Comparisons of Joe Biden with FDR just refuse to die, despite the president's ostentatious return to his center-right roots, stuffing his administration with Wall Street cronies, and allowing food aid and health care and rental assistance programs to expire with his cruelly premature cancellation of the Covid-19 public health emergency.

Biden's minions are nonetheless trying to keep the FDR mystique alive by ludicrously comparing his piecemeal initiative to expand internet access to Roosevelt's own massive Rural Electrification Act. Since it's costing more in 21st century dollars to build broadband capacity than it did to electrify rural areas during the Great Depression, they're even insinuating that Biden is superior to Roosevelt. 

The first trick is to call it "historic," as the White House is doing with its time-delayed dribbling out of $40 billion worth of grants to states who must submit detailed plans to get even a down-payment, possibly next year, on the promised funds. The bulk of the money would not be out the door until 2030, at the earliest. This is according to the Commerce Department, whose ex-Google assistant secretary will be in charge of vetting the applications.

And we all know what happens whenever these grants remain unused for what is deemed  to be too long. As with the unspent Covid relief funds, presidents can simply bide their time and make deals with Congress to "claw back" federal grants from recalcitrant, or struggling, or corrupt states - all in the name of tackling the federal deficit and giving more tax breaks to the wealthy and buying more guns and bombs for Permawar. This is just the deal that Biden made with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on those unspent pandemic funds. They will help defray the costs of the still-enshrined Trump-era tax cuts for billionaires.

So even while the money for the broadband infrastructure projects will be cynically slow in coming, the White House itself is wasting no time in the self-aggrandizing department. When it comes to bragging in an election season, the need for speed is of the essence. Biden, his staffers and even his family members will be "fanning out" all over the country to tout both his aspirational accomplishments and his long-expired accomplishments, and to outlandishly insist that right now, this very minute, in the spirit of FDR, they "are delivering on their historic commitments."

If you dream of a high speed connection to Amazon to gawk at stuff that you can't afford because Biden reneged on his promise to raise the minimum wage, it will come. If you can't believe, or you're not fond of nightmares,  then you ain't American, and you will probably vote for Trump (or what Biden once called "the other Biden.')

Of course, they will be very careful with their actual words. You will only be guaranteed future "access" to "affordable" high speed Internet, not only to connect with family, friends, school and job, but to "access" fee-for-service health care over the Internet. This will probably be monopolized by Amazon, once they get those pesky privacy concerns out of the way.

To cement the ethos that we must all strive to be good soldiers for the cause of Capitalism, the Biden administration has dubbed the program BEAD - Broadband Equity Access and Deployment. This is a triple neoliberal buzzword whammy if there ever was one. 

They love to spout the word "equity" to disguise the fact that they will protect structural inequality to the death. It has been ingrained in us that it is absolute privilege to pay for the Internet - which, in a truly equitable society, would be declared a public utility and a free public service. But since this is an alleged democracy, some Internet users are more equal than others.

The word "access" is bandied about as though a thing, such as medical care, is there for the taking,, rather  than of being cruelly dangled just beyond our reach, due to our inability to pay for it.  It's too bad that the patient died, seeing as how in the greatest country on earth, she had such unlimited opportunity to strive for proximity to the gleaming private equity-owned hospital right down the street.

The fact that Biden is also only touting "access" to an Internet connection means that if you are very lucky, you might even get to see underpaid gig workers stringing cable from your kitchen window - assuming, that is, that if you have a roof over your head.

Finally, they just can't seem to get war and killing off their diseased minds for even a minute, what with the word "deployment". We must, apparently, never forget that life in America is a constant battle and that we must always be in competition with one another as we selfishly strive to fulfill our own individual career goals and passions.

 Biden and his kin and his cronies are "fanning out" to draw a BEAD on us with their weapons of social mass destruction, even while they cynically campaign on promises magically redefined as accomplishments. This is while a third of this country's inhabitants are in dire need of a giant fan to sweep away all the choking smoke and smog engendered by the massive forest fires in Canada. 

The amelioration of capitalism-induced global warming is not part of of the president's Investing in America tour. As a matter of fact, Biden added to the pollution in hazy Washington, DC when he brought the entire Beltway to a halt this week during evening rush hour -just so that he could attend a closed door fund-raiser in a nearby wealthy Maryland enclave. This is otherwise known as putting the "private" back in that ballyhooed equity.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Elites Cash In On the Necro-Market

We always knew that capitalism kills. But this is getting downright ridiculous.

Three events-cum-scandals in the space of little over a week are cause for renewed despair. But they also provide a paradoxical glimmer of hope.  Despair, because the levels of depravity to which the Lords of Capital have sunk are almost beyond the realm of imagination. Hope, because whenever the mask is so regularly ripped off the visage of capital, not even all  the plastic surgery propaganda in the world can prevent the gobbets of rotting flesh from peeling away and exposing, for all the world to see, the hollow skull beneath the skin.

If this imagery is too hyperbolically grotesque for you, then just take a look at the first Gross Event/Scandal on my list. Harvard University, America's oldest and most prestigious institute of higher learning, has been caught selling body parts right out of its medical school morgue.  Granted, the morgue's director at least had the decency to bring human eyeballs, brains, flayed skin, and other organs home before he and his wife actually sold them over the Internet in the apparently booming necrophilia marketplace.

But coming as it does so closely on the heels of shocking revelations that Harvard was actually founded and funded by wealthy human  slave-traffickers, and has directly profited from colonialism and slavery ever since, the selling of body parts news puts a real damper on its ability to profit from both the living and the dead. Whether Morgue-Mart is more disgusting than its long-running public exhibition of the corpses of enslaved Africans and murdered indigenous people is open to question.  But its  more recent human remains scandal must be causing prospects to think twice about donating their own corpses to this elite institution for "scientific" study.

But true believer in the evolving capabilities of capitalism that it is,    Harvard will no doubt move on. Perhaps the trustees can start a body buyback scheme in much the same way that oligarchs and CEOs do stock buybacks as a way to both avoid paying income taxes and to keep prices for the barely living teeming masses of the world artificially high. Body-part laundering and sales are already a reality in much of the world. For all we know, there's even a thriving hedge fund where the obscenely rich can bet on and profit from any sudden body-part shortages. Or maybe they can go full Steampunk and hire gig workers as body-snatchers who sneak into cemeteries at night and dig up graves. The fresher the better.

The second gross event-scandal was, of course, the implosion of the Titanic submersible during a jaunt which allows billionaires to indulge their own necrophilia habit. Sadly, since their jerry-rigged death tourism capsule met its own demise a mere 1,600 feet from the original shipwreck, those on board probably never even got their $250,000 money's worth. They never had the chance to gawk at death before they themselves died.  Also sadly, their bodies are probably not recoverable and therefore not fodder for a shrine or museum of their own. Harvard must be so disappointed. (Meanwhile, media coverage of the hundreds of money-less refugees believed drowned when their ship capsized off the Greece coastline this week was minimal at best.)

And speaking of disappointment, the third event-scandal I've chosen to discuss might seem, on the surface, to lack the requisite grisliness for all of you horror fans out there. But nonetheless, the pompous state visit, the gluttonous dinner, and the congressional fete for Indian president Nerendra Modi fits well into the genre of the slow-burn, shadowy, evocative horror. The blood-splatter and torture are left to the imagination.  The pod-people starring in this show looked like normal overdressed rich people - on the surface anyway. They didn't leave the audience vomiting in their seats or fleeing the theater or (horror of horrors) demanding a ticket refund.

You are no doubt already familiar with the respectable political horror genre. Knowing that people get tired of constant blood and gore and monsters, the showrunners of political pomp have to lighten things up once in awhile. Just as Americans forgot the original horror of Frankenstein's body-part monster by falling in love with TV's Herman Munster, so too is Modi transformed into a benign character for purposes of profits over people, capitalism over humanism, and of most immediate importance, the bolstering of Joe Biden's "decent" avuncular image as he runs for re-election. Dark Brandon is now (mis)cast as a shrewd diplomatic salesman.

The New York Times performed its own traditional role of transforming monsters into pragmatic, even heroic,  guys who join forces to do battle with whatever Greater Evil has been designated. If the United States and India can play Godzilla and Mothra, teaming up to make a ton of money for a select few by pretending to do battle with Ghidorah the Three-Headed (say, Russia, China nd maybe Iran) monster, while a few hundred thousand toy bystanders (collateral damage extras) are crushed in the process then it will have been worth it. It's simply the price of doing necro-business.

The Times-speak translation of the above:

Two and a half years into his administration, the democracy-versus-autocracy framework has, therefore, become something of a geopolitical straitjacket for Mr. Biden, one that conveys little of the subtleties his foreign policy actually envisions yet virtually guarantees criticism every time he shakes hands with a counterpart who does not pass the George Washington test. Even some of his top advisers privately view the construct as too black-and-white in a world of grays.

This rationalization is nothing new. It is baked into the very fabric of capitalism, dating in the American version right back to colonial-era Harvard, where President Increase Mather's nepo-baby Cotton went on to become a Salem Witch Trials inquisitor. It's not surprising therefore, that more than three centuries later it turns out that one of the top purchasers of the Harvard morgue's body shop runs a "doll" store right near Salem.

Lately there's been a lot of talk about fascism, The New York Times most recently sugarcoated the inclusion of neo-Nazis in Ukraine's fighting forces by euphemizing it as a "thorny" issue whose main danger is not its far-right fascist ideology but in the prospect that Russia would use the reality of modern-day Nazis as a propaganda tool.

Speaking of fascism, the mainstream corporate media are still busily pretending that Donald Trump is the sole progenitor and operator of the American version. 

Even if you don't agree with the premise that fascism has always been an integral feature - not a bug- of United States leadership, just look back to how the American ruling class made common cause with its German counterparts during and in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Even when the US government became aware of the Holocaust, it made a point to artificially separate the financial backers and profiteers of the Nazi atrocities from the inner circle of Hitler and his uniformed henchmen.

Under the direction of future CIA founder and director Allen Dulles, the US made up a "White List" of German oligarchs who supposedly were anti-Nazi, but who had profited mightily from forced labor and money and property looted from the millions of Holocaust victims. 

As Christopher Simpson wrote in "The Splendid Blond Beast,"

Although they were not Nazi ideologues, most of them had made their peace with the Nazi party and served in trusted positions throughout the Hitler years."

He added that one such White Lister, Hitler-era, oil magnate Karl Blessing, was later falsely puffed up in the New York Times as an anti-Nazi resistance fighter who spent years hiding out from the Gestapo.

Simpson observed that powerful people like Dulles believed that "competent governmental authorities, operating within a moral framework,,(were)motivated by a sincere sense of U.S. national security, and national interest - themselves, for example'

 He and his cohort "repeatedly reached secret verdicts they believed necessary to to construct a postwar order that fit their idea of progress, and they reached them with a clear conscience.

I'd make one quibbling correction. They reached them with no conscience whatsoever. The lack of conscience is the definition of sociopathy. It's also the main feature of capitalism itself.

The horror.