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Calcified Corporatists: Dems Out-Lefted by Trump on Healthcare

The Democrats have placed on glaring display their lack of self-awareness as well as their corporatism. In response to the health crisis that is a pandemic, the party, as well as its nominee, has shown how out of touch they truly are. In this piece, I want to look at the Corporate Democrats’ ‘response’ to the health crisis and compare it to that of the Trump Administration. This will likely not be popular among Democratic partisans, but that is irrelevant. Your party is proving itself to be a collection of out of touch elitists. Their response to a pandemic is yet more of their failed ideology. They have refused to adapt to the situation. They embody the phrase that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The criticism is apt.

Exhibit A: Hillary Clinton: Let them Buy Insurance

We begin with the political zombie that just will not die. On the third of April, Mrs Clinton tweeted that in response to this pandemic, Trump should ‘Re-open the health care exchanges’. This is a reference to the Affordable Care Act. This piece of legislation compelled citizens to purchase health insurance in the private market. Government-mandated purchasing of private insurance: land of the free indeed. So, Secretary Clinton’s solution to a pandemic was to once again force people to buy private insurance. A simple question, Madame Secretary: using what? The immediate context is that people have lost their jobs! They have no money with which to buy insurance. What would you have them use? Blood plasma?

The sheer elitism in her comment says it all: let them buy insurance. You lost your healthcare because you were laid off due to no fault of your own? Well, why not just buy some insurance using the savings that you do not have? The Secretary is evidently not aware that almost half of Americans cannot afford a one-off $400 emergency, to say nothing of recurring monthly payments. She is aware that many people’s healthcare is tied to the very jobs they have just lost, but she still wants them to buy insurance. Incredible. So out of touch, so elitist. Finally, it is noteworthy that her response to this crisis was, at least in part, to funnel yet more money to the private sector. The insatiable greed of capitalism never takes a back seat, does it, Madame Secretary?

Exhibit B: Joe Biden and the Veto Pen

During an interview on MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell posed the following question to Joe Biden

Let’s flash forward: you’re President. Bernie Sanders is still active in the Senate. He manages to get Medicare for All through the Senate in some compromised [form]…Nancy Pelosi gets a version of it through the House of Representatives. It comes to your desk. Do you veto it?

Actually a decent question there. Consider this: all of the political work has been done. The battle is won. The bill has made it through the House and the Senate. All Biden has to do is sign it. He still said he would veto it. Now, before anyone argues that this was three weeks ago, nothing has changed. In a more recent interview in the last few days, Mr Biden said he still opposes any form of single-payer Medicare for All, despite accidentally arguing for it. Hashtag coherence.

Let us ignore for the moment the raw political stupidity it takes to alienate your base by saying you would scuttle their chief issue. Focus instead on the sheer lack of courage and leadership on display. Mr Vice President, it is not a crime to change your position to adapt to changed circumstances. It is not ‘politicising the tragedy’ to call for a Medicare for All system in response to this pandemic. Indeed, the very mental flexibility that such a change would involve is the most important character trait of a President. Your continued insistence, Sir, that Medicare for All is dead despite its wild popularity will suppress the Democratic base. This is because, as I said previously, they have no reason to vote for you.

Blindsided from the Left: Trump Responds 

President Trump’s response was to, in the words of former Obama health official Andy Slavitt

Announce another plan. People without insurance can get cared for for free. And hospitals would get paid for at Medicare rates.

In other words, even without private health insurance, citizens (no mention of age) can go to a hospital and receive care and treatment, free of charge. In addition, the government would pay for the cost of the consultation, testing and treatment at Medicare rates. So the coverage offered in Medicare is being extended…to all. Hmm – where have I heard something like that before? Medicare…for ALL! You calcified corporate cuckolds have officially allowed Trump to take the left-wing position on healthcare! Jesus Christ how can you be so incompetent?! You clowns are so far up your own arses that you cannot even play the populist part for purposes of a pandemic (or, more cynically, an election year).

This is, in all likelihood, what Trump is doing: assuming the role of a populist on the issue of healthcare for purposes of an election cycle. His ability to read the room that is the electorate and assume a popular position is part of the formula of his success. However, motivations to the side for a moment, this is the correct position. Whether or not he realises the precedent that adopting such a plan puts in place (why should this system only apply to COVID-19) remains to be seen, but on this issue he is right.

Trump is assuming the role of a populist

Conclusion: Die, Democrats, Die

This incident is a shining example not only of Trump’s ability to read the electorate but of how utterly calcified and corporate the Democratic party is. The sheer political ineptitude of refusing to adapt your position to circumstances is actually remarkably conservative. In previous pieces, I discussed conservatism’s petulant insistence on sticking to their guns and demanding that reality bend to their ideology. The Democrats are doing the exact same thing. Hey, Dems: when you are out popularised by Donald Trump, you need to, like the dying animal you are, walk into the forest and not return.

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Neoliberalism, COVID 19 and Priorities: Hypocrisy Exposed

In this piece, I want to look at two policies from the Morrison Government in response to COVID 19. The first concerns a plan for free childcare for the duration of the pandemic. The second concerns economic stimulus. Both of these policies are good ideas. However, we cannot ignore the context in which they are taking place. Specifically, these policies are in response to a global pandemic. It took a viral outbreak with almost a million cases and fifty-thousand deaths to bring about these incremental (and temporary) examples of social progress.

Both of these facts around this part of the government’s response expose the brazen hypocrisy at the core of Neoliberalism. The takeaway is this: these governments have the money for increased social safety net programmes and infrastructure, but they choose to not invest in these things. To put it crudely, the issue is not ‘we can’t afford these programmes’, you fuckers are just unwilling to pay for them! A blank cheque and the keys to the treasury for the political donor class with crumbs and scraps for the serfs! As the Irish poet W.B. Yeats said ‘the centre cannot hold’.

Neoliberal Hypocrisy, Part One: Scott Morrison’s Free Childcare

Per The Guardian, the Morrison government is introducing a payment that will effectively make childcare free. The payment, which the government will distribute to childcare centres, will represent 50% of regular fees. Centres receiving such a payment will be required to not charge parents any fees. Set aside for the moment the fact that Peter Dutton and his wife own a string of childcare centres. Even I am not cynical enough to suggest that this was the motivation behind the payment. However, it is interesting to note that the payment went to the businesses rather than the people. Neoliberals to the core.

The payment will last for the duration of the COVID 19 pandemic. Taking a broader perspective, childcare in Australia is notoriously expensive, costing anywhere up to $18,000 a year. The pandemic has motivated the Prime Minister, albeit in his usual business-friendly manner, to subsidise this crucial service. This raises the obvious question: if the government can do this now, the money clearly exists to implement it. Childcare is essential if households are to have two incomes, which is becoming increasingly necessary. Thus, it seems a good boost for the economy to have childcare be government-funded. Since the economy is all neoliberals care about, this just might be how we sell it to them.

Lest I be too critical, this is actually a good idea. However, we should not ignore the fact that it took a pandemic for Mr Morrison to do this. Note too that this will be temporary. Once the pandemic passes the pseudo-deity Surplusius Maximus will render its head. It will demand virgin sacrifices. Just you wait.

Neoliberal Hypocrisy, Part Two: Scott Morrison’s Economic Stimulus

The second act of government policy in response to COVID 19 that warrants attention is the economic stimulus package. Like the childcare policy, this includes many good ideas, including raising the rate of Newstart as well as direct cash payments to affected citizens. This, again, is a good idea, but the context is less positive for the government. Calls to increase the rate of Newstart have long fallen either on deaf ears or received cries of ‘we can’t afford that’. The current stimulus package appears to suggest otherwise. To paraphrase what I said above, you have had the money but not the will. Before anyone argues that these are extraordinary circumstances, stop and reflect. If it takes extraordinary circumstances for the government to increase what amounts in many cases to subsistence (and below) levels of social support, what does that say?

I want to be absolutely clear here: these policies are good ideas. As convoluted and at times contradictory as Morrison’s message has been on this virus, the economic measures are good ideas. So I am not critical of the policy per se. Rather, my focus is on the underlying ideology. Specifically, the fact that it took such a pandemic to force Neoliberals to act with basic compassion. This ideology is clearly incompatible with a functioning social democracy. So how does this metaphorical oil slick continue to survive in the beaker of water that is social democracy?

The Balancing Act: Neoliberals and Social Programmes

Any attempt to roll back popular, universal programmes will be wildly unpopular, and the neoliberals know this. The FDR Administration during the Depression introduced Social Security as well as the New Deal. These policies proved very popular (famously, term limits were introduced because of Roosevelt). Conservatives since have tried to privatise Social Security in various ways. Sneakily, such attempts at privatisation have taken place under the guise of ‘reform’ and ‘saving’ the programme. Cost is the chief gripe. Various lefties have taken to saying mockingly ‘How-yi-gon-pay-friiiiiiit’ (How are you going to pay for it) in reference to conservative opposition to popular social programmes such as M4A. You can see where this is going.

The sheer hypocrisy of neoliberal attitudes to social programmes comes out when you consider the gargantuan corporate bailouts, to say nothing of the ever-increasing military budgets. Evidently, when the priorities are those of the corporate elites, money is no option. Trillions upon trillions of dollars for the war machine and corporate welfare. But if someone has the gall to say ‘hey, there seems to be a lot of money available. Let’s do this policy to help the wider society’, the outrage that pours forward is palpable.

It is fitting to end where I began (albeit crudely): you fuckers have always had the money, but it took a fucken crisis for you to grow a conscience!

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Krystal Ball Demolishes Joe Biden

Krystal Ball of Rising on The Hill TV recently made a comment that perfectly encapsulates Joe Biden and the Democrats. I want to give her comment, delve into the details and extrapolate a little.

The Krystal Ball Looks into You, Part One: Swing that Axe!

On a recent edition of Rising, Krystal offered this pearl of wisdom on Joe Biden. For full context, he was on MSNBC doing an interview about COVID-19 among other topics. Krystal said

He [Biden] is actually perfect. He’s a perfect emblem of a dying, gasping, hollow husk of the Democratic establishment. He’s the perfect emblem and mascot for that. When I see him out there [in the media] I think ‘Yeah. This is exactly what they want. It’s exactly who they are. Just some empty husk, reading from notes so that they can push and direct in the right direction. Ultimately what is he promising? Nothing will fundamentally change. You don’t need to do anything. Just man the ship, and put the regular people back in place. That’s all that they’ve ever promised

That was a barbed-wire wrapped sledgehammer strike to the skull. What a brilliant encapsulation of the rotting hulk that is Joe Biden and the Democratic Establishment. Ok – praise over, let us delve into this.

In Biden, we have a rich, old, white, corrupt candidate who is politically illiterate and quite incompetent. He openly serves the donor class (see this segment about his donors having veto power over his VP picks) while paying lip service to the liberal base through identity politics. He promised to put a black woman on the Supreme Court and pick a woman for his VP. Could there be a better encapsulation of the Democratic Establishment? Corporatist economics under a veneer of wokeness.

The Krystal Ball Looks into You, Part Two: A Propped Up Puppet

Krystal has provided insight into Biden’s true role in this process. His role is basically as a puppet for his younger VP pick. Mr Biden has clear cognitive decline, and it looks increasingly unlikely that he would serve one full term, never mind two. His Vice President, whoever it may be, would likely serve out his term when his cognitive decline renders him unable to serve.

Krystal and Saagar (her co-host on Rising) also discussed the possibility of a Reagan-Bush style situation, where the VP becomes the presumptive nominee to replace their boss. The result would be twelve years of Democratic rule, specifically of the neoliberal variety. When Joe Biden told a room full of wealthy donors that nothing would fundamentally change, his role was thus crystalised: he was a status quo manager. He was not an agent of change (even Obama had the good sense to run on that)

Showing how little she cares for the norms of Washington DC, Krystal even added that Biden’s role was to ‘put regular people back in place.’ A sort of ‘return to normalcy’ if you will. See, these inept and out of touch clowns think that Trump is the problem. His lack of civility and mean tweets (ignore his policies since they agree with him there) are the problem. If we can remove Trump, even if we have to put the corpse of Joe Biden in there, things will return to normal. Why Joe Biden though, you may ask?

The Krystal Ball Looks into You, Part Three: Status Quo Joe

Extrapolating from Krystal’s comment slightly, Biden’s coronation at the expense of Bernie Sanders is easily explained. In contrast to Trump, who has the annoying habit of saying the quiet part loud when it comes to Washington serving the corporate elites, Biden knows the score. The former Vice President has been in this town for nearly half a century and knows (or used to know) how to do the elites’ bidding without being so open about it. Trump lacks that subtlety. Sanders was never an option for the corporate media since he represents the people and not the corporations. So Biden was the only option. He will restore dignity to the oval office. He will say ‘America’ as he bombs the sh*t out of brown people. Biden will say ‘freedom’ as he cuts corporate taxes. He will put a corporatist black woman on the Supreme Court.

Conclusion: Joe Biden, the Base and the Future of the Democratic Party

Never wonder why various lefties, notably Kyle Kulinsky of Secular Talk, are saying not to vote for Joe Biden. It does not matter, they say, whether you live in a swing state or a safe state: do not vote for Biden. Lest you think this is sour grapes for the establishment screwing Bernie Sanders, what motivation does the left have to vote for Joe Biden?

He does not agree with them on policy, which is what they care about the most. Biden said he would veto M4A because of ‘its price tag’. That is such a bogus talking point since M4A actually saves money. I ask again: why should the left vote for Biden? Because Orange Man Bad? What policy-based argument do the Democrats have to entice their base to vote for Biden? The party is not, contrary to their own beliefs, entitled to the votes of their base. They must earn them, something Biden has no intention of doing.

Joe Biden thus represents perfectly not only the ‘dying, gasping, hollow husk’ of Krystal’s comment, but the wider disconnect between the Democratic Party and its base. The base is focused on policy, and they have a very specific agenda. Failure to meet them where they are, to say nothing of being openly hostile to their agenda, does not bode well for the future of the party. In addition, no amount of shaming them, or threatening them with Trump if they do not vote ‘the right way’, will bring them on side. The fundamental disconnect between the Democratic Party and their base could not be starker. Joe Biden is the perfect representation of that disconnect. Do not be surprised, Democratic Establishment, when the base does not vote for you when you gave them no reason to.

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COVID-19 and the Exposure of Neoliberalism

The acolytes of neoliberalism are likely to view this piece as politicising the current crisis. I care not. For decades we have been told that coddling big business and the rich will generate a prosperous society for all. This was always a lie, but until recently the oligarchs have been able to get away with it. The ever-increasing demands of the petulant child that is modern pseudo-capitalism have been tied successfully to the prosperity of the wider society. Any attempt at reform, to actually distribute some of the prosperity to the peasants was decried as socialism. This while these hypocrites gladly partook in consistent corporate socialism. As I stated in a previous post, socialism per se is not the problem; it just has to go to the right people.

The COVID 19 pandemic has exposed the utter failure of neoliberalism. Whether it is the utter obsession with getting the peasants back to work, up to and including sacrificing lives to the market gods, or the refusal to lock down countries because freedom, this philosophy is exposed. Even Morrison said that his measures to stimulate the economy, more than half of which were for the banks, should not go so far as to ‘bury the budget for a decade’. He is still obsessed with his blessed budget surplus. Neoliberalism is thus exposed as a fair-weather philosophy. When everything is fine and the economy (the stock market) is doing well, it and its advocates are fine. But when a crisis hits and the government is actually required to, you know, do something, they are utterly out of their depth.

The Failure of Neoliberalism, Part One: Government Fails because we Broke It

There is an old rightwing trope that says

The nine most dangerous words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’

Government is not the solution, so the logic went, it is the problem. What they did not tell the rubes to whom they sold that snake oil was that the reason government did not work is that they broke it. They defunded the various agencies (looking at you Trump for firing the pandemic experts at the CDC and cutting its funding among many others) which created the situation of their not working. This is the charge often levelled at the right of creating their own success. They break government, usually by defunding it, so it is ineffective and then say it does not work so this function of government must be privatised.

It is noteworthy that it is only ever those aspects of government that help the ordinary Joe and Jane that are undermined though. If an aspect of government can help the donors of the corporate cuckolds who currently occupy the majority in the representative body, that will be funded to the hilt (quite literally in the case of the armed forces). This is yet another version of socialism is not the problem, the wrong recipients are.

The Failure of Neoliberalism, Part Two: Profit Motives in Essential Services 

As I stated in a previous post, certain essential services such as health, the armed forces, prisons and so on have had a profit motive built into them. The private sector does everything better because competition, they whined. This turned out to be a lie, of course. The result was policy being guided towards increasing the profits of these industries. Famous examples include private prisons demanding that laws be changed to place more bodies in beds. In the context of the current crisis, the for-profit health industry in the United States is the most egregious example. One woman, for instance, received a bill for nearly $35k for her COVID 19 treatment. Yes she had an underlying condition, but still, it takes a particularly ghoulish governing philosophy to profit off people’s sickness, but this is what the American health system has done. Tieing private profit to public services is yet another of the major failings of neoliberalism.

Where to Now? The Next Order

When the world eventually recovers from COVID 19, serious structural questions will be asked, at least by those outside the corporate establishment. Clearly, neoliberalism was not equipped to handle the crisis that was COVID 19. Demands for structural reform will come thick and fast. Here is a list of suggestions for these reforms. A new Bill of Rights so to say

  1. The Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, at the local, state and federal level, shall be duly elected by the people. The electoral process shall also be funded by the people through tax revenue. Any and all donations from any third-party source for any reason, are hereby deemed unconstitutional and will be prosecuted. Elections shall be clean. Any previous rulings, legislation or executive orders/actions on this topic are hereby voided. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action.
  2. There shall be no monopolies, whether of media or any other commodity. Pre-existing monopolies shall be broken up. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action.
  3. The financial industry, including but not limited to, banking and investment firms, shall be limited in terms of their value. This will be known as the ‘too big to fail, too big to exist’ clause. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action.
  4. A minimum hourly wage shall be set, and chained to inflation and productivity. In addition, a Universal Basic Income shall be instituted. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action
  5. The social contract shall be enforced; education to all levels, universal healthcare and generous pensions/social security shall be paid for out of tax revenue. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action
  6. Tax evasion by corporate entities shall be investigated and, if a violation is discovered, prosecuted and the revenue recovered three fold. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action.
  7. Free-trade agreements from previous times are hereby declared null and void. No agreement of such a nature shall be entered into under any circumstances. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action
  8. The domestic rights of free speech, freedom of the press, assembly, protest and petition for redress of grievances shall be upheld.This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action
  9.  The use of military force, under the supreme command of the Executive, shall only be undertaken in response to an immediate and materialised threat; pre-emptive war shall not be undertaken under any circumstances. Such actions shall be grounds for impeachment of the Executive. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action
  10. The privacy of the people in their persons, papers, effects, residences, electronic devices shall not be violated without a warrant obtained from an impartial judge under strict scrutiny with probable cause. Extraordinary circumstances shall not serve to circumvent this provision, nor to lower the legal standard. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action.

Pipedreams? Perhaps, but it is wise to ask for much more than you hope to get.

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American Corporatism on Display: The COVID-19 Response

In a recent piece for this site, I suggested that the response of the Trump Administration put ideology before people. Well, Congress has just proven that theory correct with its economic package in response to the virus. To the surprise of precisely no-one, the corporate socialism rolls on while the peasants beg for crumbs. In this piece, I want to look at the provisions of the plan, sourced from a Senior Democratic Aide in the Senate. Various news articles will fill in the other details.

Background and Overview: The Package: From Original to Final Version

The watering down process that is legislative negotiation in the Senate worked its magic on this package. The grand rhetoric that was Trump’s initial address got hit in the face with the shovel that is Congress. Talk of covering ‘the cost of the healthcare for the coronavirus’ soon became covering the testing, without mention of the actual treatment. Talk of ongoing Universal Basic Income (UBI) soon became a one-off, means-tested payment. More details on this below, but you can see the bigger picture here. What began as good ideas (even if they likely did not go far enough) became weak half-measures during the legislative process. But we have not even gotten to the corporate socialism aspects yet. I would like to focus first on the weak measures designed to help the people. After an overview and setting the scene, we now turn to some of the details.

The Package, Part One: Sick Leave

You could be forgiven for thinking that the opposition to payments to, and legislative protection of, the peasants came from Republicans. However, the majority of the opposition, and caveats, to the idea of UBI actually came from Democrats, specifically the leadership, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Originally, broad sweeping worker protections were in place, specifically a $104b package focused chiefly on paid sick leave. Then, as you might expect, cries of ‘what of the profits’ came forth on cue from the GOP. To his credit, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), did say to his caucus to essentially shut up and vote for it, but the intent was clear.

Apparently, however, McConnell does not quite have the level of control over his troops that he thought he did. Republicans put forth amendments that watered down the bill, naturally, and now merely 20% of workers will actually receive paid sick leave. The amendments exempted some types of businesses from the paid sick leave provision and provided various other pro-corporate loopholes. Nothing changes, just the date.

The Package, Part Two a): Attack of the Democrats! Direct Stimulus and UBI

Initially, both President Trump and his Treasury Secretary supported an emergency UBI. This represented direct cheques being made out to the population to keep the economy going. Capitalism survives by people having money to spend, and UBI would have addressed this. So this was a good idea and credit where it is due. Then came the Democrats. The Week reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi first floated the idea of means-testing stimulus payments. The rationale was that she did not want to ‘write checks to millionaires’. The ability of the Speaker to say that with a straight face is impressive since she is a renowned corporate sellout.

The Speaker also does not seem to understand the concept of universal inherent in universal basic income. Her suggestion that writing cheques to millionaires somehow delegitimises a good idea is ridiculous. By her logic, the wealthy should not be able to benefit from medicare or other universal programmes. Such programmes are funded by tax revenue like the rest of the government. To suggest that the wealthy are somehow immune to this crisis is absurd on its face. Now, is it true that the wealthy would be able to financially weather the crisis more easily than the average person? Yes, but universal means just that: for all. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All does not exclude the wealthy: why should UBI? Pandemics do not care about your income level!

The Package, Part Two b): Political Ineptitude in Focus: The Democrats 

Trump and his Administration are outflanking the Democrats on their left. The sheer political ineptitude of the Democrats is remarkable. The ostensible party of workers is being outflanked on the left by a faux-populist. Trump essentially said get the cheques out now – and he was right. The Democrats and their paperwork and their means-testing are precisely not what is called for in a crisis! It is this utter lack of leadership, compassion and basic common sense that will cause Biden to lose to Trump in November! How politically tone-deaf are the Democrats?! They have allowed Trump to assume the mantle of popular leader in a crisis through their insistence on playing politics. Thank you, you inept buffoons, for handing Trump a sledgehammer with which to hit you. 

The Package, Part Three a): Corporate Socialism 

A Senior Democratic Aide in the Senate unearthed the corporate socialism aspects of the bill

  1. a $500b corporate slush fund
  2. Weak stock buy-back language that the Treasury Secretary can ignore.
  3. Executive compensation limits only last two years
  4. Language on ‘worker retention’ is weak with various outs for companies
  5. No language to guarantee that workers will benefit from the bill
  6. Little transparency of the bailout process (how much and where it goes)
  7. No specific provision to eliminate eviction or foreclosure.

Ok, so we have half a trillion dollars for the corporate sector with essentially non-existent or weak as p*ss rules attached. Basically let the corporations loot the treasury and be quiet. 2008 ring any bells? Now to be fair corporations did not cause this crisis. A pandemic is genuinely unforeseeable. To that extent, I understand a limited business bailout. But the attached rules are pathetic.

Focus for a moment on one issue, stock buybacks. This is businesses buying their own stock to artificially inflate its value. This should be illegal since it is fraud: buying your own stock (which you clearly think is a good buy) which creates artificial confidence around it which you then use to sell at a higher price? The language in this bill is notably weak and places very few constraints or limitations on the money paid to the corporate sector or what they do with it. Would I go so far as to temporarily nationalise businesses (or even industries) that receive a government bailout? Perhaps that goes a little far. However, it would be a nice turnabout on the dogma of ‘privatise the profits, nationalise the losses’.

The Package, Part Three b): Austerity?

The staffer outlines more problems, but the highlights are these

  1. No additional funding for Food Stamps
  2. No funds to help with the treatment of the uninsured

In other words, the most vulnerable are on their own. Recall too that Republicans have cut Food Stamps multiple times in recent years. To not increase the meagre amount of Food Stamps, even temporarily, in the midst of a crisis shows a remarkable degree of callousness. Finally, health insurance companies will be allowed to make an exorbitant profit from this crisis on the backs of the most vulnerable.

I end with a quote from Stephen Colbert. This was done in character many years ago, and its relevance has only increased with time

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it

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Joe Biden, Establishment Candidate: An Analysis, Part One

The establishment has coalesced around former Vice President Joe Biden. Following the withdrawal of Mayor Pete and Senator Amy Klobuchar the night before Super Tuesday (nothing suspicious there), the fix was in. Biden did very well on Super Tuesday and took a delegate lead over America’s Dad, Bernard Sanders. However, the former Vice President did not receive the ‘front runner treatment’ the way Sanders did. No tough questions or increased scrutiny for Biden. The reason for this is clear enough: Biden is an establishment candidate and a corporatist. The questions I hope to answer in this piece and those to come are these: Who is Joe Biden as a candidate? What is his record? Does the base, who the establishment is now going to demand support Biden, have any reason to do so?

Joe’s Record, Part One: Bipartisanship, Part a) Background 

Initially, bipartisanship seems like a positive thing: both sides agreeing to come together and pass legislation. The media certainly grants much praise for this. What they do not tell you is the substance of the bipartisanship, because that is both irrelevant and inconvenient. It is irrelevant because what they compromised on is not as important as that they compromised. To reveal the substance is inconvenient because the compromise typically involves some policy in favour of the rich and against regular people.

Harper’s Magazine is scathing in its criticism of bipartisanship

It was bipartisan accord, after all, that brought us the permanent war economy, the war on drugs, the mass incarceration of black people, 1990s welfare “reform,” Wall Street deregulation and the consequent $16 trillion in bank bailouts, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, and other atrocities too numerous to mention

Sums it up well. Bipartisanship is pretty well always in favour of the military-industrial complex, or the banksters or some other rich group and against the people. But what has this to do with Joe Biden? Answer: he has been at the very centre of this process for decades. A couple of examples will suffice.

Part b) Example 1: Segregation

The first example is the infamous ‘busing’ issue. This refers to debates in the Civil Rights Era concerning racial integration of schools. Joe Biden agreed with those who opposed integration. He had, again in the words of Harper’s

a shared opposition to federally mandated busing in the effort to integrate schools, an opposition Biden predicted would be ultimately adopted by liberal holdouts

In other words, not only did Biden support racists who believed in segregated schools, he expected ‘liberal holdouts’ to fall in line. So little has changed in forty-five years. Democrats agree with Republicans (Biden was doubtless not alone) and demand the base fall in line. Nothing changes just the date.

Example 2: Crime

The second example is, if possible, far more egregious and concerns crime. In the 1980s, being ‘tough on crime’ was one of the mantras of the day. Biden worked with notorious racist Senator Strom Thurmond to pass a series of crime bills that would have made Draco of Athens blush. Among the highlights, we have, again from Harper’s

The 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which, among other repressive measures, abolished parole for federal prisoners and cut the amount of time by which sentences could be reduced for good behavior. The bipartisan duo also joined hands to cheerlead the passage of the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act and its 1988 follow-on, which cumulatively introduced mandatory sentences for drug possession. Biden later took pride in reminding audiences that “through the leadership of Senator Thurmond, and myself, and others,” Congress had passed a law mandating a five-year sentence, with no parole, for anyone caught with a piece of crack cocaine “no bigger than [a] quarter.” That is, they created the infamous disparity in penalties between those caught with powder cocaine (white people) and those carrying crack (black people)

So Biden was a drug-warrior with all the inherent racism that comes with it. He was a tough guy against those who had no money and no power. This is your Democratic candidate for President?

Reflection: Past is Prologue?

Now you might say that the events I have described in this piece are from more than three decades ago. While that is factually true, it leaves out rather important details. There is a saying ‘you are what you do’: a version of actions speak louder than words. The political version of ‘you are what you do’ is ‘you are your record’. It is not relevant how long ago these incidents took place. They are still fair game and there is tangible evidence of a lot of this including Biden’s own words on video as well as his quotations to the media. Biased as the media is, its usefulness in quoting people’s own words is not to be doubted.

Also, does the Democratic Party seriously think that Donald Trump of all people is going to ignore Joe Biden’s poor record? No matter how loud you screech some version or other of ‘Have you no sense of decency, Sir?’, he is going to hammer Joe Biden on his support for NAFTA, PNTR with China and other trade deals, among other issues. His support for the trade deals just mentioned will have consequences in the Rust Belt where Hilary lost in 2016. This piece represents but a small sample of Joe Biden’s atrocious record in politics. I pass over in silence his votes for the Iraq War in March of 2003 as well as the infamous PATRIOT Act of 2001.

Conclusion: A Warning

The Democratic establishment has coalesced around a corporatist – again. His record, much like Mrs Clinton’s before him, poses serious issues for electability. This is truly ironic since the media has been insisting that Biden is the most electable. The petulant children in the establishment have gotten their way: they are sitting at the adults’ table. Let us see if they like the taste of the poisoned chalice that is running a corporatist against Donald Trump.

More on Joe next time.

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Principles Dropped in Real Time: Bill Maher Loses His Mind

Over the last year or so, I have been quite critical of HBO’s Bill Maher. Formerly an acerbic firebrand during the Bush Administration, this softened during the Obama years. However, like so many in the elite echelons of the Democratic Party and the media class, the election of Donald Trump had a profound effect on him. He developed a bad case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. This is the idea that everything Trump does, whatever the actual consequences, is bad because Trump did it. This takes the pithy form Orange Man Bad. The actual substance of the act is not important: Trump did it therefore bad because Orange Man Bad.

In this piece, I want to take a look at Bill’s most recent New Rules segment on his show Real Time. In it, he tells Democrats to basically take money from corporate lobbyists and SuperPACs because Orange Man Bad. This is a useful example of principles being abandoned quite literally in Real Time.

Bill Opens His Bazzoo, Part One: What Principles?

Bill opens his final New Rule, which is typically an editorial comment on an issue of the day, with this

And finally, New Rule, Democratic candidates have to stop telling me who they will not take money from. Money? From bad people? I don’t care if they’re bad. I just want to know if their money is good.

So the point here is to set aside corruption, set aside the fact that corporate and billionaire money usually comes with policy strings attached; set all that aside because Orange Man Bad. He accuses all Democrats of not taking billionaire and corporate money. The reality is that, in fact, only Bernie Sanders has actually done this. More to the point, his campaign, which is entirely funded by the people (aside from a few unions), has been remarkably successful. So it actually is possible to run a campaign without reference to what is in all but name the American Aristocratic Class.

Bill then makes a flagrantly dishonest comment about fundraising when he says that

Bernie Sanders does the best among Democrats, raising $46m in February, but in the same period the Republicans raised $86m. Some of it from Americans!

Did you catch it? He compared the fundraising efforts of one man to an entire party! Remarkably dishonest commentary: an utterly false comparison. But then recently Bill has never let the facts get in the way of discrediting populism. Also, nice subtle dig there at Trump and Russia there, you corporate hack.

Bill Opens His Bazzoo, Part Two: Purity Tests – Again

Maher then turns his attention to the Democrats (read Sanders), saying

Democrats are competing to see not who can attract the most donors, but to see who can refuse the most: because they’re pure: Pure losers!

Yes, because the process of running for political office is actually a circus where you see who can amuse the donors the most. It is for this reason that you run for office: to raise money! To sellout! To be a streetwalker for corporate and billionaire wants while playing the civility card! I shall show decorum as I bomb the sh*t out of brown people and cut corporate taxes, Good Sir! Makes me sick.

Bill then focuses on the fact that Sanders has taken no corporate or billionaire money, saying

Bernie Sandes brags that he accepts no money from corporate PACs, SuperPACs, follil fuel, insurance [and] drug companies. No siree: if you want to give Sanders money you had first better be able to prove you don’t have any

The bias is strong in this one. So if a citizen does not have the multi-millions or billions of dollars that the corporate and rich worlds have, they have no money? Now you might say that is a strawman of what he said – not by much. Also, a none-too-subtle dig at populism there Bill: only the poors support Sanders. The principle of electoral funding is the same for Sanders and the other candidates, even if the source is different. Contributors, whether PACs with unlimited funds or Mrs Smith in Virginia with $18, want you to implement certain policies. There are expectations attached to political contributions whatever the source. Regular citizens have money, Bill, just much less than the elite world of which you are so clearly a part.

Bill Opens His Bazzoo, Part Three: Standards as Unilateral Disarmament and Revisionist History

Bill then comments that having a campaign funded by the people and refusing corporate and billionaire cash is ‘vanity’, adding

It’s unilateral disarmament: it’s bringing a hug to a gun fight

That is mindless crap. The Sanders campaign has run ads both in support of his own policies and against his opponents. The Senator also has many fan-made ads (how many other candidates can say that?). So the idea that a populist campaign cannot compete is simply not supported by the evidence.

In a remarkable piece of revisionist history, Bill takes us back to 2008 and notes that no-one took more Wall St cash than (then Senator) Obama. Bill notes that Obama took their cash, got elected and then

Passed the biggest Wall St reform in generations

Ok, the ‘biggest Wall St’ reform to which he refers is the Dodd-Frank Bill, which had loopholes through which a truck could be driven. Also, after the 2007-8 crash, not a single banker was even prosecuted, never mind gaoled. Oh yes, Obama was so tough on Wall St. Indeed, to this day, he gives speeches to Wall St for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yeah – proper Wall St Sherrif he was.

Bill Opens His Bazzoo, Part Four: He Did It First, Pathetic Spin and Optics

In what is perhaps the weakest argument in the entire segment, Maher then says that if Trump can take money from disreputable sources, so can Democrats. Yes, because nothing quite legitimates bad behaviour like seeing someone else do it. By his logic, if I see a soldier murder someone, I can do it too. Idiot. It truly is remarkable how poor his argumentation is.

Bill then attempts to rationalise taking bribes (which is what campaign contributions are) by saying such contributions are ‘fines’. Fines typically are not paid voluntarily, Bill. Furthermore, fines usually do not influence policy the way political bribes do. He then shifts his focus to Democrats, specifically Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, returning money they received from Harvey Winestein because ‘the money didn’t rape anybody’. Seriously: Maher has no concept of political optics. To keep that money gives the impression, whatever the reality, that you support Winestein. Perception is more important than reality in politics Bill, even when it comes to money. 

Bill Opens His Bazoo, Part Five: Some Fleeting Sense at Last

Maher attempts a pathetic hypocrisy burn on Sanders by describing his donors as ‘a donor class’ since half of adult Americans live near the poverty line. While it is true that not everyone can afford to donate to political candidates, do you think Bernie is going to ignore those who were unable to contribute? He is unlike other politicians, Bill. He does not only listen to his donors. To think this man was once considered an intellectual is amazing.

All is not lost though: he does offer a ray of hope, however fleeting

The only fair solution is complete public financing of campaigns. But until that happens, get off your high-horse about ‘winecaves’ and billionaires who want to help

Right, and those billionaires ‘who want to help’ are doing so for entirely altruistic reasons and want nothing for themselves. Do you hear yourself, you out of touch elitist clown? They want to help, alright: help themselves! The idea of the benevolent billionaire as somehow the compromise in the current system is absurd.

Bill’s Trump Derangement Syndrome went off the scale when he said

Purists say [in reference to billionaires] you can’t buy an election! I say, against Trump, please do!

This drew loud cheers from his audience. Wow – so Bill is willing to risk oligarchy to see Trump out of office. His hatred of Orange Man burns so strong that not only should Democrats have no principles, they should prostitute themselves to billionaires.

Conclusion

This crap continues, but I think I have made my point. Maher has advocated a Faustian bargain due to his hatred of Orange Man. He is so blinded by hatred that he would advocate open oligarchy, where the elections of what used to be a Constitutional Republic and a Representative Democracy would now be up for grabs to the highest bidder. If you think this hyperbole, consider this: politics is like the law, built on precedent.

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Ideology Über Alles: The White House and COVID-19

A well-established trope of modern tory governments is their stick to your guns at any cost, utterly blind adherence to their ideology. No matter what happens, the answer is always more of their ideology. Now, you might say that is true of political parties the world over, and there is some truth to that. But there is a crucial difference. Non-tory governments have the situation impact their policy while still reflecting their ideology. Tory governments, by contrast, have their ideology as the assumed truth and they apply it come-what-may. While both sides are ideological, the order there is critical. Tory governments force reality to bend to their ideology, while non-tory governments let reality influence their response, even if it is ideologically driven.

We saw a real-time demonstration of this utterly idea-free ideological purity earlier this week in the Trump Administration’s response to the coronavirus. Their response shows not only where their priorities lie, but also just how much of a plutocracy or an oligarchy America has become. We will see how other forms of ideological extremism have come to the fore in this situation too, whatever the reality demands.

Ideology Über Alles, Part One: Economics

The stock market reacted to the outbreak of COVID-19 by losing thousands of points in a matter of days with no end in sight. Now you might ask why we should care if a few investors lost a little money in their gambling scheme. Twenty years ago that would have been true. But we live in this Brave New World of Socialism for the Rich. The investor class has, since the crash of 2007-8, been the subject of ongoing coddling from their political clients in the government.

This coddling assumes the form of bailouts, tax cuts, subsidies, deregulation etc. The rich are the centre-piece of the economy, they tell us. If we coddle them (though they never call it that) the prosperity will trickle down to the rest of you peasants. This brief overview of the treatment of the rich provides vital context for the Trump Administration’s response to the virus: tax cuts.

You heard: tax cuts. The administration is discussing whether it should engage in what MSN called

[a] targeted tax cut package… [and] whether the White House should lean even harder on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates

This is only part one of the Administration’s response. In the next section, we will look at the ‘scientific’ and ‘medical’ responses. For now, look at what this says about where the Administration’s priorities lie. The focus is on helping the monied class, through tax cuts which are obviously for the rich. Two reasons for this. First, any long-term tax cut (without a sunset clause) is always for the rich. Second, this was in direct response to the stock market volatility.

Oligarchy Exposed

The game is laid bare, my friends. The response of this openly plutocratic government to thousands of people dying around the world is to focus on how it affects the sacred rich. The thirteen people who have died, and the chaos created around the country? We might get to that, but be serious: rich people matter more than terrified peasants. We look after our own here in the corrupt corridors of power. Money, and those with it, matter more than a few dead serfs. When will the members of the Trump cult realise he cares not a fig for you (or the rest of the regular citizenry for that matter)?

The optics of the response need not have been this bad. Even if you wanted to respond to the economic effects, which, due to the entangled nature of commercial and investment banking, are considerable, common sense demanded that you not make that the focus.

Ignorance Personified: Trump Responds

Trump’s personal response to the virus outbreak was, as one might expect, woeful. Social media provided some commentary on the President’s ‘insights’ from an interview with Sean Hannity.

Remarkable, is it not? Trump is openly dismissive of the experts and the number they have announced because what he says is true because he is Donald Trump. He identifies it as ‘coronaflu’ and not a virus. My favourite part of the summary is his suggestion that people with the disease return to work. Not only is this fundamentally irresponsible from a medical perspective, it also shows a quite callous disregard for the sick. The President is effectively saying ‘GET BACK TO WORK!’. He simply lacks the empathy (like a certain Prime Minister I could name) to offer human responses. All he can see is the consequences for him and his fellow rich people. Ordinary people do not enter into the equation.

Ideology ÜBER Alles, Part Two: Religion

Prior to introducing the religious aspect of this, a section from later in the MSN piece demands attention

These ideas [from the White House] would not be designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but they would seek to arrest the economic fears spreading through the economy

A little deconstruction, if I may. The focus, you will note, is not on actually, you know, helping stem the flow of the disease. No no no. See, we do not actually care about that. The previous section offered some points on the economic bias present in the Administration’s response. But religion plays a role also. The Administration put Mike Pence in charge of the response. Pence is a well known christian extremist who, as governor of Indiana, exacerbated an HIV crisis (admittedly through delay rather than religion).

Where his religion does play a role in the coronavirus response is this photo of him and his team attempting to ‘pray away’ the virus. He also supported ‘therapy’ for ‘people wanting to change their sexual orientation’. Even if this is not explicitly ‘gay conversion therapy’ (complete with electrodes), it does not look good. Pence also openly argued in the House of Representatives for ‘intelligent design’ to be taught in schools. Yeah. A man hostile to evolution is being placed in charge of the response to a biological threat. Ideology trumps (pardon the pun) reality every time with these clowns.

Good luck, America.

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Democracy as Farce: The Fall of The Democratic Party

When Rome transitioned from being a Republic to an Empire, she maintained many of the previous institutions, terms, and labels. Consuls were still elected, the Senate still met and many other aspects of the Republic continued to exist. Even the man in charge, Augustus, was called ‘leading citizen’ (princeps). It was an utter farce, of course, since Augustus was completely politically (and more importantly militarily) dominant. But it looked good. Augustus masked his dominance using familiar terms and people went along.

We see a similar situation occurring in the United States right now with the Democratic Party. I recently wrote of the plot to steal the nomination from America’s Dad Bernard Sanders using Superdelegates. I want to delve into some aspects of this plot that I missed in that piece. Specifically, I want to deal with the idea that ‘Democracy’ and ‘the Democratic Process’ is as much a farce for the Democrats as princeps was for Augustus.

Democracy as Farce, Part One: Muh Popular Vote!

One aspect of the 2016 result that the media will not let us forget is the fact that Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote. Ok – so the popular vote is what should determine the outcome of the electoral process; got it. Except no. Such is not the case when it comes to the Democratic Primary and Mr. Sanders. Returning to 2016 briefly, if we compare delegates in the primary to electoral college votes, Mrs. Clinton got more individual votes, but she did not win enough delegates. The Democratic establishment has spent nearly four years since election night complaining about how undemocratic the electoral college is. Calls for abolition came thick and fast.

Do you see the clear double standard here? When Mrs. Clinton lost the delegate count but won the popular vote, the popular vote was the metric for victory. Yet, if Mr. Sanders wins the popular vote in the Democratic Primary but happens to fall short of a majority of delegates, the popular vote is suddenly meaningless. It is almost as if the truth is a moving target based on whether the corrupt liars in the media and the DNC like the candidate. Seriously – spare me your lying, self-serving hypocritical nonsense. Democracy in the Democratic Party is a sham and a farce.

Democracy as Farce, Part Two: The Buzzwords 

The Democratic Party is big on using lofty yet quite meaningless buzzwords to make the heels click. Democracy, the Democratic Process, Our Republic and the much-vaunted Rule of Law. Much like the Romans whom they parallel so much, ‘Democracy’ and ‘The Republic’ are codewords for retaining aristocratic and plutocratic control. How truly ironic it is that the so-called party of the people, the Democrats, have a process that is quite literally able to overrule the vote of the peasants if the lords disapprove.

It may surprise some to learn that Republicans – you know them – the ‘fascist’ party – do not have Superdelegates. If it had been up to the party elites, Donald Trump would never have become the nominee in 2016. But the vote of the people stood and the party nominated Trump. Ok – when a party that Noam Chomsky described as a radical insurgency is more democratic (at least on the issue of nominees) than the ‘party of the people’, said party has a serious problem.

The party who fearmongered about ‘election interference’ in 2016 is doing so again in 2020. Muh Russia is once again the culprit. Hey, Dems: the 1950s called, they would like their scare tactics back. The lack of self-awareness it takes to accuse another country of election meddling as you openly plot to interfere in an election is breathtaking. You care not a fig for Democracy. It is, appropriately enough, a fig-leaf to cover and provide legitimacy for what is increasingly a kleptocratic oligarchy.

The Fall of the Democratic Party

I touched briefly in the last piece on what the consequences would be if they used Superdelegates to steal the nomination. The Sanders wing of the party (which represents the base) would likely revolt and depart in disgust. The Party thus has a choice: they can respect the Democratic will of the voters or they can install a candidate and expose American Democracy for what it is: a meaningless charade designed to have the peasants rubber-stamp the coronated corporate candidate of the elites. A meaningless veneer of legitimacy placed over the rotting, corrupt and kleptocratic shell that is The American Experiment in Self-Government.

Install a candidate at your peril, Democrats. You will lose young people for a generation and beyond. Your future political existence is on the line here. Do not screw this up. If you believe in Democracy (literally people-power) then you have no choice but to let the result stand – whatever it is. Your hypocrisy on the popular vote will be exposed as what it was: a child changing the rules so they always win. Such a child soon learns that they have no friends since no-one wants to play with them.

Conclusion

Part of me wants them to do this: not because I want to see America’s Dad Bernard Sanders get screwed, but to see this rotting hulk of an establishment fall. They are such a paper tiger: no actual ideas, faux resistance based on ‘tone’ and ‘civility’ and utter and complete political weakness. They often run as ‘republican lite’, which essentially means they agree with Republicans on the economy, war, and most other issues but they do not hate gays. This corrupt, syphilitic monstrosity needs to fall. Political parties, as Keith Olbermann once said, destroy themselves; they are never destroyed by outside forces. They cause their own destruction. Mr. Sanders is either going to reform the party or the party will commit seppuku in public. Either way, change is coming.

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Crouching Party, Hidden Dagger: Sanders, the DNC and The Brokered Convention

America’s Dad Bernard Sanders looks increasingly likely to secure at least a plurality (if not an outright majority) of pledged delegates and thus the nomination. The corporate establishment is thus forced into a delicate situation. In the last few days, some have ‘bent the knee’, which warrants some discussion. However, there are also plans in the works to have what is called a ‘brokered convention’. This is a strategy designed to use Superdelegates to effectively steal the nomination from Bernie Sanders. If he does not have a majority on the first nominating ballot at the convention, there is a second ballot. This is where the Superdelegates come in. In this piece, I want to discuss the establishment figures ‘bending the knee’ to Sanders, the issue of Superdelegates and the brokered convention and what such a brokered convention would mean for the future of the Democratic Party.

Many figures in the establishment have noticed that Sanders is where the power is. Like any other political invertebrate, they bow at the knee of power. Now, it is true that they damn with faint praise, but this is considerable progress. The establishment has been going through the five stages of grief around Bernie Sanders, and we now seem to be approaching the final stage: acceptance. But, as we will see, there is a catch.

Genuflecting at the Altar of Power, Part One: Nancy Pelosi for the Politicians

The news of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressing ‘comfort’ with Sanders at the top of the ticket first broke on The Hill’s Rising with Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti. Pelosi had previously expressed opposition to Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and other parts of the Populist Left Agenda. Her political bona fides with the Left are thus rickety at best. In her most recent statement, she may not have explicitly endorsed Sanders, but her statement that ‘I think whoever our nominee is, we will enthusiastically embrace…’ speaks volumes. In particular, about the change in the establishment’s attitude toward Sanders. They now appear to be living their conviction of ‘Vote Blue No Matter Who’. Their hostility to Trump is such that any Blue will do. Maybe. Below we will see how this looks to be a ruse to distract from the plans for a brokered convention.

Genuflecting at the Altar of Power, Part Two: Chris Matthews for the Media

As I discussed in my last piece, MSNBC actor Chris Matthews recently compared Sanders’ Nevada victory to the Nazi occupation of France. To his credit (how voluntary it was is unclear) Matthews did apologise to America’s Dad for his poor choice of historical analogy. This is yet another example of genuflecting at the altar of power. Anyone unsure of this should consider all of the other lies, smears and misrepresentations of Sanders in the media since 2016. This is the first time he received an actual apology. What could have changed from 2016 to now? Simple: Sanders is the centre of the dance, and if there is one thing the media thrives on, it is access.

Some journalists, because of their hostile coverage of Trump during the campaign, were denied access early in the administration. The media has no intention of allowing that to happen again. There is also the fact that MSNBC is losing the ratings war as well as the propaganda war. In my last piece I mentioned that woman who said she supported Sanders precisely because of MSNBC’s hostility to him. The network sees some sort of shift is needed (if only temporarily) and so they are playing the game. Also, as I said above about Mrs Pelosi, Matthews’ apology and promise to ‘elevate the political discourse’ could well be sleight of hand to distract from the plotted brokered convention. We turn to that now.

The Plot to Stop Dad, Part One: The Brokered Convention

The New York Times reports of a plot to use Superdelegates, along with the pledged delegates of other candidates, to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination. At the recent debate, the candidates were all asked if the person with the most votes should be the nominee. All candidates, Bernie Sanders excluded, said that ‘the process’ should ‘play out’. The ‘process’ to which they refer is that of a multi-ballot system and potential Superdelegates. Superdelegates are quite literally ‘beyond normal delegates’. The term refers to party insiders who are ‘wild cards’ and can vote as they (or more likely the party leadership) pleases.

According to the rules set up as part of the Reform Commission, Superdelegates would only have a vote on the second ballot. Such a ballot would only take place if a majority was not achieved on the first ballot. It must be noted that this was a compromise position: Sanders never wanted Superdelegates at all. But he compromised to have them on the second ballot only. If he only has a plurality of delegates, a second ballot would become necessary, and this is where things get ropey. The Superdelegates, party insiders (read corporatists) remember, would vote for some corporate candidate. This would, in a very real sense, overrule the will of the voters.

What is amazing about this is the fact that the media has said some version of this throughout the primary. If you combine the votes of Mayor Pete, Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden, Bernie loses, they said. Ignore the fact that this is not how elections work and focus on the subtext. Combining the votes (and by extension the delegates) of the corporate candidates is, in the minds of the media, a legitimate strategy for defeating Sanders.

The Plot to Stop Dad, Part Two: Consequences for The Party

The Times piece comments that the Superdelegates acknowledged the risk of ‘intraparty damage’ if they tried to stop Sanders. It is almost as if they know that Superdelegates are by definition undemocratic. However, they also do not seem to care. The issue for the establishment is not, despite their seeming obsession with it, defeating Donald Trump. Rather, the issue for the establishment is maintaining their own power, wealth and control. They are also likely to be so naïve as to expect Sanders’ supporters to fall in line behind the chosen candidate.

This partially explains the notably tepid comments from Pelosi, Schumer and even Hillary Clinton. They have all said some version or another of ‘I will support the nominee’. People who are so openly hostile to one candidate are usually only willing to make such statements if they know that this candidate will not be the nominee. These comments also lay the foundation for the demand that Bernie supporters fall in line. We said we would support the nominee, why are you refusing to support the nominee? The sheer cynicism, manipulation and Machiavellian nature of this entire conjob is remarkable.

Finally, what would the consequences be for the Democratic Party were Sanders to be denied the nomination by Superdelegates? In short, chaos. Those who have supported Sanders and seen how the media has treated him would likely, in the words of Common Dreams, revolt. If the establishment uses an undemocratic process (Superdelegates) to overrule the will of the people, that would likely be the final straw for the Progressive wing of the party. Burn the f*cker down, they would likely yell – with some justification.

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Media Muppet: Chris Matthews Says The Quiet Part Loud

Chris Matthews of MSNBC said the quiet part loud recently. He asked his fellow panelists if ‘Democratic moderates’ (we will get to that) would prefer Trump over Sanders as President. This fascinating quip offers some insight into a question I have long wrestled with: in a hypothetical Trump v Sanders race, what does the media do? They hate both Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump (for equally vacuous, non-policy reasons). So how do they cover such a race? Chris Matthews offered some insight into that question, and we will get to that, but for now, I think some analysis of his quote is warranted.

Matthews and the ‘Moderates’, Preface: Unscrambling the Corporate Speak

Chris Matthews offered the following statement on MSNBC

I’m wondering whether the Democratic moderates want Bernie Sanders to be President? I mean that’s maybe too exciting a question to raise. They don’t like Trump at all. Do they want Bernie Sanders to take over the Democratic Party in perpetuity? He takes it over he sets the direction for the future of the party. Maybe they’d rather wait four years and put in the Democrat they like

Some unscrambling of his corporate nonsense is necessary before proceeding. When he uses the term ‘Democratic moderates’, he means establishment insiders (including the media) and corrupt corporatists. The phrase refers to Party Bosses and leadership. His comment does not refer to actual moderate voters (remember them, Chris?). Matthews, in addition to apparently not caring a fig for voters, cannot say that based on the facts. Bernie Sanders, as part of his recent crushing victory in Nevada, actually won among self-described moderates and even conservatives. Even accounting for the fact that that was a single state, and that voters know very little of labels, his base is by no means as narrow as these corporate hacks would have you believe. So, moderates, in Matthews’ mind, refers to party leadership and media insiders (rich people all) and not voters.

Matthews and the ‘Moderates’, Part Two

Matthews then asks if said ‘moderates’ (again understood as corporate and media insiders) want America’s Dad Bernard Sanders to ‘take over the Democratic party in perpetuity’. It is true, as Matthews points out, that a Sanders takeover would set the agenda for years if not decades to come. Matthews and his fellow rich corporate shills cannot handle the idea of a populist left Democratic party that would actually, you know, win elections since their own taxes might be raised a little. Cry me a river: you have officially become the conservatives we long suspected you were. Selfishness manifested as a political ideology describes you perfectly.

Matthews ends his rant with the idea that ‘moderates’ wait four years and put in a ‘Democrat they like’. That remark is best understood as one who knows that their role in politics is to increase funding for the military, cut corporate and rich people’s taxes and be left-wing on social issues. Such a politician would be an acceptable status quo manager, as a good corporate President is supposed to be. Returning to Matthews for a moment, it is actually not clear what he means when he essentially says that these ‘moderates’ wait four years. Are they to sit this election out (whatever that means). Does this amount to a surrender to Mr. Sanders and his movement? If they do nothing, would Sanders and his movement not take over the party precisely as Matthews fears? Mr. Matthews has been rather incoherent and flagrantly emotional on-air recently, but this is something else.

Sanders, Trump and The Media: What to Do?, Part One: Trump

The prospect of a Bernie Sanders nomination leads to a discussion of the media’s treatment of such a general election. As mentioned in the opening, the media despises both of these candidates, but for different reasons. When it comes to Trump, the media’s disagreement is surface-level nonsense about ‘tone’ and ‘civility’. By contrast, for all their outrage, the media actually agrees with Trump’s policies on many economic issues, and on other issues, they ‘resist’ from the right.

As an example, how much critical coverage did you see on MSNBC of Trump’s tax law, under which 83% of the benefits went to the top 1%? Turning to resistance from the right, consider Rachel Maddow’s coverage of Trump withdrawing some troops from Syria. It was, say it with me now, done to appease drumroll – Russia. The media’s ‘criticism’ of Trump is not substantive because they agree with much of what he is doing.

Sanders, Trump and The Media: What to Do?, Part Two: Sanders 

Now, you might say that the media’s ‘criticism’ of America’s Dad Bernard Sanders is not substantive either. This is true however he is a true threat to the kleptocratic oligarchy that America has become. Trump said all the right things to different people at different times even if they were contradictory. Sanders has actual plans – sentences with verbs in them – to fundamentally change the increasingly oppressive and stagnant economic system under which the average American lives.

Even if the media hates Trump, I would suggest that they hate Sanders more. America’s Dad is not beholden to interest groups and he cannot be bought. Corporate influence means nothing to him: he represents, as Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski said recently ‘big poor’ [a play on big money or big pharma]. A truly diverse, multiracial working-class coalition backs this man, and the media and their fellow members of the insider cocktail circuit are terrified. Finally, much like his predecessor FDR, America’s Dad Bernard Sanders welcomes their hatred.

Conclusion: Out of Touch Media and The Gasoline Firehose 

The media does not seem to realise that the more they rage against Bernie Sanders and his supporters, the more popular he becomes. They have taken the mask off and proved the old quip about the media: that it is a group of billionaires paying millionaires to tell the middle-class to hate and fear the poor. I use this analogy often, but I do so because I believe it holds some truth: the media attacking Sanders, and particularly his supporters, is the equivalent of a firehose pumping out gasoline. It will explode in your face. Ignore for a moment the fact that petulant demands of ‘unity’ while slamming voters are mutually exclusive. The larger point is that attacks from the media make him more popular. When he is ‘attacked’ in these ridiculous ways, he raises more money. One SuperPAC running ads against him even stopped doing so because he raised so much money as a result of their hacky ads.

To bring this full circle, Chris Matthews said the quiet part loud: the establishment Democrats hate Bernie Sanders more than they hate Trump. As I hope I have shown here, that says much about not only the nature of the media’s disagreement with Trump, but how they would cover a potential Trump v Sanders general election.

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The Media Loses Control (Of The Narrative)

The bias of the media, but particularly MSNBC, against Bernie Sanders has seemingly reached its zenith. Host Chris Matthews compared Bernie’s win in the Nevada caucus to the Nazis entering France in June of 1940. You heard: Matthews compared an electoral win by a Jewish candidate, whose family members died in the Holocaust, to the Nazis. Stay classy there you political hack. In this piece, I hope to do three things. First, I want to look at Matthews’ remarks in a wider context, for he is hardly alone. Then I want to respond to calls that he should be fired for these remarks. Finally, I want to look at the great secret that this saga reveals.

Chuck Todd and ‘Digital Brownshirts’: Evidence Of A Larger Problem

Matthews is the current focus of the ire of the politically sane. But he is by no means the only pundit to make a Nazi reference about Bernie Sanders. Chuck Todd quoted an article wherein Sanders’ online supporters were called ‘Digital Brownshirts’, a reference to storm troopers in Nazi Germany. Todd went on to ask ‘what if you can’t win the presidency without an online mob’. That insidious remark requires some dissection.

What these petulant media types refer to as ‘an online mob’ is actually a passionate base of supporters. These people see ridiculous or uninformed takes that establishment types put on social media and they school them with the facts. These establishment types, not used to being people calling them on their lies, are lashing out because there is now a counternarrative. So-called Legacy Media (read establishment papers and TV) no longer have a monopoly on the flow of information. The advent of social media, for all its flaws, has broken this monopoly. Since Legacy Media cannot counter with facts, all they have is smear tactics and character assassination.

This explains the ‘Bernie bros’ narrative, where the media demonises Sanders supporters as nothing but angry white men. This is false as Sanders has a widely diverse coalition, but never let the facts get in the way of the narrative. But there is a contradiction at the heart of this strategy. The very voters they are demonising as ‘angry’ and ‘uncivil’ are the same voters they would demand fall in line and ‘unify’ around the media’s coronated nominee. Shaming voters for daring to support a non-corporate candidate then expecting them to fall in line behind a corporate candidate is madness. To demand unity after demonising voters is delusional. The Democratic establishment has clearly lost its mind.

The ‘Online Mobs’ Explained

To Chuck Todd and his fellow media midgets: why do you think Sanders and Trump have these passionate online followings? It is because, unlike you corporate shills in the media, these men have actual appeal. Now, who they appeal to and the basis of that appeal is totally different (no false equivalence here), but they are populist candidates who appeal effectively to their bases. These people are not ‘mobs’, they simply believe in their candidates and provide counterpunches to your deluge of corporate nonsense. Granted Sanders’ supporters are much better informed and their critiques of the media go beyond that great clunker Fake News, but the principle is the same.

HALT!: Chris Matthews and Cancel Culture

Matthews’ on-air antics have become increasingly unhinged following Sanders’ recent political success. The host infamously feared execution in Central Park under a Sanders Presidency in light of his wealth. Matthews looks increasingly like a child on whom it is dawning that some of their toys are about to be taken away. Matthews’ reaction is every bit as petulant as that child. He knows that part of Sanders’ agenda is a wealth tax, which is a small tax on wealth above a certain amount. The point of this is to partially pay for the populist reforms on which he ran. Taxing the good to benefit the poor?! The outrage!

Following the occupied France comparison, calls came thick and fast for Matthews’ termination from MSNBC. This has become standard in recent years: someone says something outrageous; the mob bays for blood and then claims moral superiority when the offender jumps or is pushed. This need not be the case regarding Chris Matthews. Instead, let him stay on the air and continue to expose the increasingly petulant oligarchy that America has become! Let him continue to make outrageous comparisons to gas chambers and other elements of the Nazi regime about a Jewish candidate! Let the corporate media structure commit suicide in public at the prospect of an actual populist candidate who wants to serve the people instead of the corporations!

In other words, my advice to anyone calling for Matthews to be fired is to play the long game. Between Matthews, the rest of the corporate media and the increasingly out of touch faux saviour Bloomberg, the establishment is doing your job for you! The establishment’s increasingly unhinged defence of their own privilege and wealth is a real-time political ad for revolution in America!

Conclusion: The Not-So-Hidden Secret

The petulant behaviour of the establishment, as well as the nature of their attacks on Sanders, shows that they are worried beyond measure. In addition, it shows that they have nothing of any substance to say in refutation. This is the great secret of this entire media tantrum: the peasants rejected your propaganda. They had the nerve to vote for the non-corporate candidate. You have no sway anymore. Hell, one woman even said she voted for Bernie Sanders precisely because MSNBC was so hostile to him. A useful real-time demonstration of propaganda rejection. The media has lost control of the narrative and they are lashing out like the thwarted children they are.

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Another John Clarke Inspired Sketch: Mr Saye De Pledge

In the Style of Our Late Master, Mr John Clarke

Brian: Now, your name is De Pledge?

John: My name is De Pledge, yes Brian, good evening

Brian: Have you got a first name?

John: Saye

Brian: Saye De Pledge. Is your brother Sine De Pledge?

John: That’s right Brian

Brian: Alright, Saye, your special subject tonight is nationalism

John: You mean, Patriotism, don’t you Brian?

Brian: No – it definitely says nationalism

John: Oh – alright then – basically the same thing anyway

Brian: Good luck, Saye, your time starts now. How did the parliament vote on Tanya Plibersek’s proposal to have school children pledge allegiance to Australia?

John: The right way, Brian

Brian: And what way was that?

John: They voted in favour of that great patriotic idea, Brian

Brian: Is it wise to have kids at school reciting some jingoistic slogans without understanding them?

John: I think it is, Brian. It gets them ready for voting when they’re older

Brian: Correct

John: Correct

Brian: Have there been any comments on the pledge or its content?

John: Well I did hear one bloke say ‘How good is a pledge of allegiance?’

Brian: Has anyone said anything critical of the pledge?

John: There actually was a fair bit of unpatriotic behaviour, Brian

Brian: Hang on – you just equated being critical of a pledge of allegiance with being unpatriotic

John: Correct. It’s good being on Team Australia, isn’t it, Brian?

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Destroying an Oligarch: Shooting Down the Bloomberg

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is running for President on the Democratic side. Mr Bloomberg, despite corporate media’s kvetching, is, in fact, an oligarch attempting to buy the nomination. He has spent more than $300m of his own money so far on advertising and plans to double that moving forward. Van Jones of CNN once said that Hilary Clinton ‘lit a billion dollars on fire’ in reference to her 2016 campaign. Mr Bloomberg is on track to do the same and more. But what is it that Bloomberg actually represents? What is his record? How did he govern in his former role and how does that translate to being President of The United States?

Refloating the Bloomberg, Part One: Stop and Frisk

It is perhaps useful to start with the most infamous aspect of Bloomberg’s record when he was Mayor of New York City: the notorious Stop and Frisk programme. This was a dramatic increase in the powers of law enforcement to stop citizens on the street and ‘pat them down’ in search of contraband. No warrant was required: looking suspicious (whatever that means) was grounds prima facia. Well, it turns out that there is, in fact, a definition of ‘looking suspicious’: having brown or black skin. If you think this hyperbolic or rhetorically charged, there is statistical data to back up the fact that stop and frisk was prejudicial and clearly racist. On average, 78% of stops from 2003-2013 were of black or brown-skinned people. Until quite recently (understood as just before he decided to run for President as a Democrat), Bloomberg defended this policy.  

Stop and Frisk Exposed: Attack of the Facts

Leftie commentator Benjamin Dixon has unearthed such a defence from as recently as 2015. The audio that Dixon exposed contains the following gem that would, in any sane world, render Bloomberg’s political career terminal

95% of your murders – murderers and murder victims – fit one MO. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities sixteen to twenty-five. And that’s where the real crime is… You wanna spend the money on a lot of cops in the streets. Put the cops where the crime is, which means in minority neighbourhoods.

So virtually all murders are committed by, and against, minorities. Not just in New York, but in every city. It is the definition of a hasty generalisation to assume that because a statistic holds in a particular location that it can be generalised to ‘every city’, and Bloomberg is a fool for saying so. Also, put the cops where the crime is, which means minority neighbourhoods? Wow. So minorities (read non-whites) commit crimes because that is just how they are. He either does not know or does not care what a total frickin racist he sounds like. As I said before the quote, in any sane world Mr Bloomberg’s political aspirations would be rendered terminal by such comments, but we do not live in a sane world.

Refloating the Bloomberg, Part Two: Which Party Is He Anyway?

This section comprises two parts: Bloomberg’s endorsement of Bush 43 at the 2004 Republican Convention and his financial contributions to Republicans in the 2018 midterms.

First, the GOP Convention in 2004. Mr Bush had been appointed President by the Supreme Court in 2000 amidst much chicanery in Florida where his brother was Governor. Bush started the Iraq war on false pretences and utterly politicised the fear of the post 9/11 world. He was, in short, a terrible President. Mr Bloomberg’s decision to endorse Bush in 2004 after all of his blunders in office suggests either rank partisanship, bandwagonism or woefully inept political assessment. His political affiliation also changed with the times. Bloomberg was formerly a Democrat until he changed his affiliation in 2001 to become a Republican to run for NYC Mayor. He then endorsed a Republican President in 2004, and now expects to be taken seriously as a candidate for the Democratic nomination. Spare us, Mr Mayor: you are a political weathervane.

The second example of Bloomberg’s political opportunism concerns the 2018 midterm elections, with particularly nasty consequences. Bloomberg spent more than $10m to aid in the re-election of a Republican Senator in New York. The candidate won by 1.5 points over the Democrat. The result was Republican control of the Senate. This led to the nomination and confirmation of right-wing ideologue Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. This shaped the Court for decades. In the future, all the 5-4 decisions that strip away, say, abortion rights, can be laid at the feet of one Michael Reubens Bloomberg.

Refloating the Bloomberg, Part Three: Rundown of His Record and Proposals

During his time in politics, Bloomberg put in place/supported some of the following policies

  1. He has taken diametrically opposite positions on the issue of the minimum wage. He both blocked an increase as mayor of NYC and recently supported an increase. Given that the minimum wage is one of the New Left’s major issues, it takes a great deal of nerve for Mr Bloomberg, with his record, to expect them to support him.
  2. He banned so-called ‘Big Gulps’, that is large servings of sugary drinks. It had a series of loopholes through which a truck could have been driven, and it was ultimately struck down by a court. A remarkable example of nanny-state authoritarianism on which the New Left would not support him.
  3. His own issues page says that as President he would ban so-called flavoured e-cigarettes as well as menthol-flavoured tobacco products. His rationale is that the companies who make these products are profiting off the health of America’s children. Will somebody not please think of the children! Mr Mayor, you are either shortsighted or silly: that same rationale could be used to ban many things! It is also noteworthy that he did not say he would ban all tobacco products. Consistency, thy name is Bloomberg

Conclusion: Be Gone, Oligarch! 

My message to Mr Bloomberg is as follows:

In an era of anti-establishment politics, the image of an oligarch (and that is what you are) attempting to buy an election through a personally funded media campaign will go down like the Hindenburg. Also, you have nothing to sell that will counter Trump. You are a standard corporate neoliberal running on values and all the other substance-free crap of which corporate Democrats are so fond.

To paraphrase Cromwell as I did in an earlier piece

Depart, I say, and let us have done with you!

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A John Clarke Inspired Sketch

In The Style of Our Late Master, Mr John Clarke

Brian: Now, your name is Reid?
John: My name is Reid, yes Brian, good evening
Brian: And what do you do, Reid?
John: I’m a Doctor, Brian. I work in the department of health
Brian: Right – and what’s your surname, Reid?
John: Alldebooks
Brian: Reid Alldebooks
John: That’s correct, Brian. Good evening
Brian: Now, I understand that the government is issuing a health warning?
John: Yes, Brian. The Minister thinks there’s not enough fear in the electorate to guarantee a coalition victory at the next election, so a warning about a non-existent threat was deemed necessary, and health is always a good target area. It was that or Muslims
Brian: Why would the government issue a warning against a non-existent threat?
John: Government research has found, Brian, that when people are afraid they tend to fall in line easier, and since the government doesn’t have any actual policy to crow about, fear was deemed the next best thing.
Brian: Right. And what is this threat, Reid?
John: Well Brian, it’s a fairly rare disease called Oppositionitis. It’s an inflammation of the Opposition.
Brian: Right – and what are the symptoms?
John: Symptoms, Brian, include protesting, particularly around traditional industries. Um – forgetting your place and not acknowledging your superiors, particularly in the religious and political spheres – that’s another major symptom of Oppositionitis. Symptoms also include social media criticism of the Prime Minister and the government generally
Brian: Like the hashtag scottyfrommarketting?
John: Are you feeling alright, Brian?
Brian: Yes, I’m fine, Reid. What does the government plan to do about this disease?
John: Well, they’re introducing laws to counter the symptoms of the disease
Brian: Such as?
John: Well the Religious Discrimination Bill for one. This establishes a clear religious hierarchy in Australia
Brian: I thought free exercise of religion was protected in the Constitution
John: It is, Brian, but it turns out that the protections don’t define religious exemptions to existing laws that are inconvenient to religious bigots
Brian: Right. What about the other symptoms? What is the government doing about them?
John: Well the government plans to introduce laws restricting protest, particularly against traditional industries such as coal and the horse-and-buggy industry
Brian: Restricting protest? People don’t have a right to voice their opinions?
John: Of course they do, Brian. Just in designated areas…far from where they can be seen or heard.
Brian: Reid, why doesn’t the government cure the overall disease instead of targeting the individual symptoms? The symptoms you describe could easily be cured by some policy changes
John: Brian, the body doesn’t adapt to diseases. It uses its immune system to rally the troops and excise the disease permanently. Whoever heard of the body adapting to a disease?
Brian: What does the government hope to get out of this?
John: As a result of infringing on the basic rights of Australians to criticise their government and generally be free, Brian, the government expects to be returned to office, of course.
Brian: Reid, thanks for joining us.

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