Tuesday, March 14, 2023

And the Award Goes To...

 The hits just keep on coming. Who needed the Oscars orgy when we already had enough free reality to keep us engaged?

 In the space of only a few weeks, Joe Biden has sided with race-baiting Republicans in blocking criminal code reforms in Washington, D.C.; signaled that he will revive the cruel policy of jailing migrants in family detention centers; approved massive oil drilling on pristine federal land in Alaska that will release nearly 10 million more tons of carbon into the atmosphere: presented to Congress the most expensive military budget in history; accelerated plans for war with China by outfitting Australia with nuclear attack submarines; and rescued with public money a horde of tech millionaire depositors after their sketchy bank went bust.

Meanwhile, there is nothing in Biden's budget to either battle the still-raging Covid disaster, or to rescue tens of millions of poor Americans from the disaster stemming from the recent congressional cuts to food stamp and Medicaid benefits.

This is not just eugenics. This is blatant and vicious social class cleansing.

All of  the escalating predations and policy reversals under Biden and the complicit, corrupt courts and legislatures are interrelated, of course. What happens in Alaska will not stay in Alaska. Biden's deliberate acceleration of climate change will spur ever more migrations of desperate people trying to escape from locales whose crops will fail as a direct result of Biden's order to drill, baby, drill. More migration will necessitate the construction of more for-profit prisons, both for immigrants and the US-born multitudes who, if they are turning to crime in greater numbers, are doing so largely out of desperation.

 In its insane quest to remain the world's sole remaining superpower, the US hegemon under Biden isn't just marching to World War III. It's racing to World War III. It is precisely because the United States military is the world's largest consumer of fossil fuels and its champion global  polluter that it will need to extract more fossil fuels to wage more wars whose ultimate purpose is to extract more fossil fuels and more precious minerals in its quest to be the big global winner in a macabre contest of ecocide and homicide.

As for Biden, he seems to be in a race against his own 80-year time span. The White House seems to think that by presenting us with one crisis or attack after another, we'll become too befuddled and shell-shocked to react much before the next salvo.

They will, at the same time, try to divert our attention from Biden and his sinister aviator sunglasses onto the gruesome specter of Donald Trump - or worse, onto his more intelligent and even more slimily dangerous ideological spawn, Ron DeSantis.

 They'll also make a pretense of fairness. To name just one example of their placatory double talk, Biden is coupling the rape of Alaska via Conoco-Phillips's "Willow Project" with an executive order barring any drilling in the Arctic Ocean. He doesn't see fit to mention that oil companies themselves don't even want to drill in the Arctic because the US/Canada controlled western portion of the coastline is too dangerous and too expensive for them to exploit. Since it's not as dangerous or expensive to drill for oil in the more placid eastern, Norway and Russia-controlled portion of the melting Arctic, Biden's decision for Alaska makes perfect sense. His military bases in Norway and his alleged order to blow up Russia's Nord Stream pipeline last fall were only the opening gambits in a total world war for oil.

 The polite establishment media, for their part, are fretting about his legacy going down in flames. Still, as the New York Times euphemizes the rise of Biden the Berserker, his punishment of migrants and his nixing of the "soft on crime" policies in largely Black and liberal Washington, DC, is just Uncle Joe returning to his more comfortable "centrist" roots.

After two years championing some of his party’s top progressive priorities, the president lately is speaking more to the concerns of the political middle, seeking to recapture the more centrist identity that long defined him....

During the 2020 Democratic primary campaign, he overcame liberal rivals like Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and positioned himself as a sensible centrist in the fall campaign when he defeated Mr. Trump. After taking office, however, he adopted some of the more expansive policy goals of the progressive wing. He cast himself as a new-generation Franklin D. Roosevelt pressing for a modern-day New Deal, with large-scale spending on climate change, social welfare programs and student debt relief that will add trillions of dollars to the national debt in years to come.

It was all a con, people! Joe Biden was never on our side. He's had a whole half-century in politics to prove just whose side he is on.

 Framing the destruction of the planet around one mediocre elected official's political identity and prospects certainly helps them to ignore the terrifying truth that if everybody on earth is suffering, the survivors of Biden's onslaught will not much care about his legacy. If they're the wealthy benefactors of his legacy, they and their descendants can honor his birthday every year on their mega-yachts on rising oceans and in their gated communities in tropical Greenland or even from their planned space colonies.

The role of journalism in this time of the decline and fall of the American empire is not so much to inform its consumers as it is to alternately comfort them and blame all of society's ills on one or the other of the two oligarch-controlled political parties -  whose own main role is to control the population by dividing people against one another.

Speaking of their implicit role of comforting the comfortable, the Times and other establishment media's overwrought, glowing, nonstop coverage of the Oscars actually vied for precedence with the Arctic drilling threat and the meltdown of Silicon Valley bank over the weekend. Gawking at Lady Gaga's see-through dress was bound to divert our attention from bank meltdowns and global warming and political malfeasance. Right?

I didn't watch the Oscars because I don't care and I don't have cable. I can, however, personally boast of having a few degrees of separation from this year's Academy Awards. Portions of "The Whale," whose lead player Brendan Fraser won best actor honors, were filmed at my apartment complex in upstate New York, just as the Covid pandemic was entering its second year.

I wrote about the abysmal treatment of the tenants of my building at the time. The gist of it was that neither the movie's producer nor the apartment management company got permission from the residents to invade our space. Nor did they compensate us for the inconvenience of literally being made prisoners trapped in our own apartments just so they could make a movie about a guy trapped in his apartment due to obesity and depression. (As an update to that original blog post, I did later file a complaint with the state attorney general's office for violations of the "right to quiet enjoyment." They took my complaint seriously and I eventually won a four-day rent abatement from the landlord.)

I haven't seen the movie, which got mixed reviews. But leave it to the New York Times (whose real estate section had already covered my complaint about the building being converted into a movie set) to include in its own negative review a classist dig at the apartment complex where I still live.

The movie camera, guided by Darren Aronofsky and his go-to cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, also stays indoors most of the time. Occasionally you get an exterior view of the drab low-rise building where Charlie lives, or a breath of fresh air on the landing outside his front door. But these respites only emphasize a pervasive sense of confinement.

The trailer of the movie actually included a shot of the drab exterior in order, I suppose, to give potential viewers a respite from the confinement. If you want to watch and judge the aesthetics of the acting and architecture for yourselves, here's the clip:

Okay, so now that I've deflected your attention from all the overriding unpleasantness, I'll close this post with some more reality, cloaked though it may be by the media establishment fantasy couture that we've come to expect.

This month's "best performance by a self-proclaimed disinformation expert" award  is hereby presented to:

For those of you who missed it,  the explosion of the Nord Stream pipeline which Joe Biden had as much as admitted was in the works has now been blamed by unknown government officials upon unknown "pro-Ukrainian forces" These forces were under the direction of neither the United States nor of its client state of Ukraine, over which the United States has no control despite its funding of the proxy war against Russia. The Times article reads like an unfunny remake of "Duck Soup," in which a country called Prokrainia goes to war against another country called Sylvania, all thanks to the largesse of the richest country on earth, aptly named Freedonia.

The reviews are in, and they're really, really bad. The New York Times reader commentariat, at least, were having none of this Mystery Science Theater plotline. So I didn't teel too bad when the Times censors rejected my own comment:

The Times has finally -finally! - deigned to respond to Seymour Hersh's scoop about the Biden administration blowing up the Nord Stream pipeline.  According to the government, either "pro-Ukrainian forces" or the Russians did it.

So this is how the Times answers all its critics who were wondering why on earth it had not reported on Seymour Hersh's scoop. I suppose the NYT couldn't keep up the "censorship by omission" policy any longer. It's like Mayor Pete finally going to East Palestine almost two weeks after the train disaster. Better late than never!

To their credit, though, the reporters writing this tongue-in-cheek story don't really try all that hard to hide the truth (or their own embarrassment) as they euphemize a skilled navy seal dive team into some fantasy "pro-Ukrainian" forces. Can't you do better than that, NYT?

  1. You at least could have repurposed your last exciting episode, the one about the Chinese spy balloons. A theory that UFOs piloted by space aliens, who then converted them into invisible submarines to blow up pipelines would have been more plausible than this sad attempt at fooling maybe a couple of people. "It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids, without the knowledge of the individual, certainly without any choice. That's the way your hardcore Commie works." - Gen Jack D. Ripper, Dr. Strangelove.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Joe Biden's Sickly Plan To "Save" Medicare

 What safer place to kick off one's campaign for a second term than in the friendly "rich, white and blue" pages of the New York Times?  If you're an age-addled Joe Biden who must often rely on the cue cards supplied by your minions, publishing a "guest op-ed"  certainly beats holding a press conference and facing possibly hostile questions from the media.  Of course, it being the corporate-sponsored Washington press corps,  any hostility would probably be restricted to goading Biden into cutting health care rather than expanding it. 

It is far, far safer to pen (or have an underling pen) a gaffe-less and gutless essay in which the highest-rated responses in the readers' comments section are in the vein of "thank you for being a friend, Mr. President!"  It's perfect way to be seen as big and bold rather than as the sniveling and craven politician that he truly is.

Because when you carefully read between the lines of Biden's essay, there are all the usual buzzword-heavy signs and symptoms that this Medicare plan is just one more neoliberal head-fake to maintain, even enhance, the status quo of American pain and suffering. Nothing would still fundamentally change under this president's second watch.

It starts out with a real bang of a whimper, as Joe Biden actually tries to distance himself from the position of power that he has occupied for the last half-century: 

Only in Washington can people claim that they are saving something by destroying it.

The budget I am releasing this week will make the Medicare trust fund solvent beyond 2050 without cutting a penny in benefits. In fact, we can get better value, making sure Americans receive better care for the money they pay into Medicare.

He doesn't spell out his definitions of "value" and "care" in this campaign speech of an essay. He doesn't mention that his administration has already begun a pilot program that stealthily privatizes Medicare. Called the REACH program, it aims to move Medicare enrollees into private, for-profit managed care plans without their understanding or consent. This will result in the same kinds of restrictive networks and the rationing or denial of care that already operate in other for-profit "health maintenance organizations," or HMOs.

And as much as Biden pretends to chide "MAGA Republicans" in his op-ed, his privatization scheme is a direct offshoot of Donald Trump's own maga-rific agenda. Uncle Joe has simply changed the name of the horror that punishes the innocent and rewards the lords of capitalism.

As we have already seen with the cost-cutting-for-profit railroad disaster in Ohio, whenever private equity and shareholder interests hold sway, the rights of regular people disappear into a toxic mist. This will also hold true for Medicare privatization. Money might be saved for the investor class. Lives, not so much.

But back to Biden's mendacious op-ed.

The Inflation Reduction Act ended the absurd ban on Medicare negotiating lower drug prices, required drug companies to pay rebates to Medicare if they increase prices faster than inflation and capped seniors’ total prescription drug costs — saving seniors up to thousands of dollars a year. These negotiations, combined with the law’s rebates for excessive price hikes, will reduce the deficit by $159 billion.

He forgets to mention that the price reductions of which he boasts are only for 10 drugs  and they will not go into effect for many years. The exception is for insulin, which voters of all ages must often take to stay alive and, of course, vote in the next national elections.

 And as long as Biden mentions absurdity, isn't it insane how he keeps harping on about reducing the almighty deficit as though it were more important than reducing people's pain and anxiety? This is dog-whistled pandering to his Wall Street donors, pure and simple. Remember, he is only "asking" them to pay a smidgen more in taxes to pay for his deforms. This is money that will only grow exponentially for them once the stealth Medicare privatization is a done deal. It's the destruction that he only pretends to decry as he hypocritically poses as the savior of seniors. Or, as he specifies cynically, at least for another generation.

Here is my somewhat whimsical and censor-proof published Times response to Joe Biden:

Since this budget plan for Medicare is purely aspirational, and doesn't stand a chance of congressional passage, then why is it so limited?

Negotiations with nihilistic Republicans should start from a position of strength Politely asking the wealthy to pay just a wee bit more of their "fair share" in taxes is the same old, same old signal of defeat. It is a veritable invitation to a sausage-making party with the Party of No (and not a few of those "moderate" Dems.) If the Democrats are lucky, they'll get a deal for a tax increase beginning a decade from now for those making a million and up. Since Mr. Biden made no mention of the Medicare eligibility age, I can only assume that he is willing to raise it, just as President Obama offered to do during his "Grand Bargain" negotiations with John Boehner. The only reason that the eligibility age hasn't changed is that the Tea Party nihilists thought raising it by two years was just not cruel enough. I'd feel somewhat better if Joe Biden's plan to "protect" Medicare at least included a vow to maintain the current eligibility age. I'd feel a whole heckuva lot better if he'd embraced Bernie Sanders's plan to lower the eligibility age to 55. I'd be in heaven if the president threw all caution to the winds and began clamoring for Medicare For All, or at for least for the public option that he promised during his first campaign.