Your Health is in Your Hands

I’ve come to realize that the emphasis on vaccines to the exclusion of other public health measures is a neoliberal solution to the pandemic.

It is not hard to understand why the magic bullet of vaccines–to the exclusion of all else–has been so fervently grasped during the pandemic. Exclusive reliance on vaccines has been a great way for our corrupt, incompetent governments to show they know what they are doing. The vaccines have been an ideal way for corrupt medical-industrial corporations–including the biggest offender, Pfizer–to launder their images and make us feel all warm and fuzzy after so many earlier scandals, like Oxycontin and Vioxx. And, of course, the vaccines have been comforting to us, the public, promising to bring “Zero-Covid” (false), to provide long-term immunity (false), and to end transmission (false).

The Biden administration has maintained a pattern of declining to use its power and influence to promote public health measures beyond vaccination. They built their whole pandemic response around the fact that to be vaccine maximalists they would have to be public health minimalists. The entire pandemic response hinged on vaccination as a silver bullet. Meanwhile, they framed vaccination as a way to opt out of the pandemic while encouraging the vaccinated majority to scapegoat an unvaccinated minority, allowing our corrupt leaders to shift the blame away from themselves for their other failed public health policies and our corrupt “health” corporations to shift attention away from their profiteering. Divide and rule par excellence.

The Biden administration’s pandemic response would focus on vaccination and medical treatment while largely rejecting other public health measures ­– so-called “non-pharmaceutical intervention” policies ranging from masks, to contact tracing to mass testing to temporary closures of non-essential businesses. For the vaccinated and boosted, Biden’s message was: Keep Calm and Carry On, all will likely be fine. And for Wall Street, the speech was meant to provide a crucial piece of reassurance: There would be no federal support for public health measures that restrict commerce. Enacting a right to paid sick leave, especially  in the midst of a pandemic, should be a no-brainer, if our feral elite saw the needs of constituents as paramount.  Alas, it’s donor priorities that define the political agenda. So employers now insist on sick workers returning to the workplace, under threat of termination, no matter how sick – not to mention contagious – each may be.

Of course, that’s not how they see it.

Who ya gonna believe me or your lying eyes?

I’ve also come to realize that we will have to pry neoliberal market solutions from the cold-dead-hands of the modern Democratic Party.

Actions like rapid antigen testing, contact tracings, paid isolation, providing at home care and support to the isolated, installing improved ventilation in schools and public spaces are all community or society responses while vaccines are individual ones. Instead our “public health” officialdom spent the time banning early treatment of Covid and suppressing information about cheap and effective drugs — in the service of preserving the emergency use authorization and the concomitant liability shield for big-Pharma vaccines.

A perfect example of this neoliberal bent has been the way in which, rather than the US government mailing at home Covid tests to all Americans, the Biden plan has been for people to have to buy the tests then turn around and have to get reimbursement from their insurance companies. It’s the perfect blend of market based transactions and complications. What could go wrong? Meanwhile, people in jobs without insurance are the ones who need available tests the most!

What’s super crazy is that at this point everyone knows it’s an airborne virus that can infect anyone. Rich or poor. However, it appears that maintaining the power relationship between capital and labor is sacrosanct with public health a distant second. Just like in the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash, saving the banks took precedence over saving American homeowners. Going further, the dominant ideology in America seems to be that the private market can and will meet human needs, and that any expansion to public health care provision is an attack on business.

Our policy of saving the economy vs saving American citizens can be seen most clearly with this statistic. Last year in the US over 400,000 people died of COVID, while two people in China died of COVID. It says everything about our priorities. And the best part–our feral elite have seen the wealth explode during Covid even as hundreds of thousands have died. China’s leaders, “totalitarian tyrants”, as our corporate media never tires of reminding us, apparently cared enough about their population to stop Covid, even at economic cost. Our leaders, seeing that Covid was a huge profit opportunity (billionaire wealth has about doubled) decided that mass death and disabling was a cost they were happy for their “free” subjects to pay.

Our leaders kill and hurt us for money and power. That’s been their M.O. since Reagan and Thatcher took power.

Thatcher, articulated the justification: “And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.”

In other words, it’s all on you the individual.

This was revealingly reflected in recent federal public health messaging, where personal responsibility and the individual choice to get vaccinated became the central themes. “Your health is in your hands,” CDC chief Rachel Walensky told the public.

Update: The hits keep coming

“In a mid-December interview, Vice President Kamala Harris attempted to defend the administration’s belated actions by claiming the White House “didn’t see Delta coming” and “didn’t see Omicron coming.”

But former federal vaccine scientist Rick Bright disputed Harris’ narrative, writing on Twitter that he personally warned the Biden transition team in December 2020 that ‘variants were coming and we needed plans and action immediately.’

‘They all knew,’ he added.”

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Failing Upward

It’s pretty rich that a lot of business and management books tend to be written by US military leaders even as they have a well documented record of failure.

Here’s how it works.

No American general has been disciplined for overseeing the catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, nor for lying to Congress about these disasters. The opposite has occurred. They have been promoted, and when they retire from the military, they tend to march into well-paid positions as board members in the weapons industry or Wall Street. The ongoing scandal has become so obscene that an Army officer who served two tours in Iraq wrote a now-famous article in 2007 that noted: “A private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”

It’s apparent that there’s been a total lack of accountability within the senior leadership of the U.S. military for Iraq and Afghanistan, among other disasters. Indeed, the generals have, almost to a man, cashed in, none more so than General Stanley McChrystal, who actually was fired for cause. The vast majority of today’s generals retire with six-figure pensions and go immediately to work for the military-industrial complex. In place of George Washington, their role model is a hedge fund buccaneer.

And, of course, generals like McChrystal write books about model leadership. That’s right, books on management excellence are written by losers, in a society that claims to be meritocratic. What does that say about us except that we have a culture of elite unaccountability?

We should not be surprised. America in 21st century excels in elite unaccountability. Just look at the number of bank CEOs who faced criminal charges after the 2008 financial collapse (zero), or the number of Sackler family members who were criminally charged after their company, Purdue Pharma, started an opioid epidemic with OxyContin that killed hundreds of thousands of citizens (also zero), or the number of billionaires who avoid paying income taxes (lots of them). And let’s not forget the politicians and pundits who engineered the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and suffered zero consequences. It’s not clear who takes their cues from whom, but it is obvious that all of our increasingly feral elite benefit from the con.

Most recently, Biden’s spokesperson scoffed at the idea of delivering free COVID tests to people’s homes, Biden’s consultants aided Big Pharma’s efforts to kill promised drug-pricing legislation, and Biden’s White House is promising no more stimulus legislation, no matter how much worse the pandemic gets. Meanwhile, the CEO of Delta Airlines asked the CDC to reduce the recommended quarantine time to 5 days and in an amazing coincidence the Biden Administration complied.

At this point, it’s obvious that Biden is advancing all Trump’s policies more effectively than Trump and actually doing things that Trump only talked about. But, of course, this dynamic is something that neither team red or blue will acknowledge. Instead it’s just more tribal nonsense about fascism or communism, ad nauseam.

Going further–our bi-partisan elite and their institutions, including the media are the real problem. This ongoing phenomenon bleeds into the decline not only in the performance of government but in the perception of its performance. All of the lack of accountability for our elite has had a corrosive effect of trust among Americans. Previously trusted authorities that we relied on to better understand the world are long gone. Which organization do you still trust? FBI? CIA? FEMA? DOJ? CBS? ABC? Fox? CNN? Before their behavior during the pandemic I would have said the CDC, FDA, and NIH. Now? Portions of those three should be razed.

As we navigate the Roaring 20’s the US is at real risk of becoming a failed state, largely because of the late-Soviet Union level of incompetence and venality of our elites, and the resulting failure of the government to handle crises and even operate as anything other than a vehicle for looting.

Our world is ultimately governed by physics, specifically gravity. As the old saying goes–what goes up, must come down. In other words: failing upwards won’t be an option for much longer.

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What if?

I’m fascinated by Hauntology, Mark Fisher’s formulation from his superb book–Capitalist Realism, where he wonders what would have been if there were an alternative to neoliberalism. Fisher feared that we were losing our ability to conceptualize a tomorrow that was radically different from our present and asks what happened to the future?

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, globalization, finance capital, mass consumerism, and mass media have asserted dominance over not just every sector of the world but of our social relations, our behavior and minds, our hopes and dreams. But this economic and cultural hegemony doesn’t exist purely in recognition of itself; its power and very presence is “haunted not by the apparition of the spectre of communism, but by its disappearance.”

What haunts us isn’t merely an imagined idyllic time before global market crashes, terrorism, and the constant interconnectedness of a digital, online world, but what might have been if the imposition and then acceleration of neoliberalism was frustrated by an alternative. Inundated and obsessed with the past and locked into a dismal present, we long for lost futures.

What if we had chosen a different path in response to the stagflation of the 1970’s? Perhaps a true democratic-republic with a robust, caring society, instead of a selfish neoliberal market economy?

In the US the dismal future of neoliberalism and capitalist realism was laid out forcefully with the Powell Memo. Corporate attorney and future Supreme Court justice, Lewis Powell recognized the dangers of alternatives to capitalism, especially at the university setting. The the campus agitation and revolt of the 1960’s had made a strong impression on him and he argued for a response. The result was depressingly brilliant–make students pay for their education and their parents pay pay for everything else. Instead of publicly funded higher education, where arts, critical thinking and critique could flower, there would be debt. Instead of a strong safety net and web of infrastructure there would be the market, where you could pay for all the services of the state.

And now there’s another book out that examines how all of this turned out.

Neil Vallelly’s Futilitarianism: Neoliberalism and the Production of Uselessness is a polemic against the emptiness of the neoliberal era. It examines both its ideological roots, history, and political culture.

Neoliberals felt that by encasing the market from democratic pressures and disciplining the population by gutting agency-enhancing social programs, the narrow freedoms remaining to individuals — to compete and consume in the market — would lead them to become immeasurably more productive, often by necessity in a sink or swim world. They also believed (erroneously) that people would become much, much more creative when the nanny-state was eviscerated.

Instead neoliberalism has taken away a lot of creativity, joy and social interaction, things that make life worth living, because ultimately neoliberalism is a moral project. Neoliberalism from the beginning was conceived as a fundamentally moral project to make the world safer for property while fashioning individuals into entrepreneurs of the self.

The dark side to this is the responsibilization of the individual for all their problems, even those that don’t fall under their control. Worried about global warming? Don’t blame big oil, think of how often you tossed a can into the trash rather than recycle. Can’t get insurance or pay your medical bills? Consider cutting back on alcohol and bad food to save money and improve your health. The result was not just a depoliticization of life, but a dynamic of disempowerment through futility. As the 1 percent internalized the sense that they alone were responsible for their success, so too was everyone else made to feel like the cause of their own failure.

This leads to the sense of futility and emptiness Vallelly powerfully diagnoses as emblematic of neoliberal capitalism. Communities and political movements are disaggregated into atomized individuals and identities. If fact identity politics is the perfect embodiment of neoliberalism, something that liberals don’t want to discuss. Instead, individuals and groups are paradoxically made to feel that relentless but narrow self-improvement, the pursuit of wealth, power, and status within the system is all that matters, and that they are powerless to change that same system.

One of the most alienating features of neoliberalism is how it naturalizes history out of existence. Since there is “no alternative” to the world as it is, aesthetics becomes the endless recycling of cultural images and symbols from the past, a pastiche of postmodern nostalgia for a time where people could actually make a difference. Even language, arts and music becomes increasingly incapable of bearing the gravitas of meaning we need it to burdened as it has become by commercialization. The commodification of creativity is one of the hallmarks of neoliberalism, which has the frustrating ability to mutate faster than the forces that oppose it. The upshot is that our world has become increasingly inauthentic.

At this point, the very idea of the common good is under relentless attack. The real animus behind these attacks is hostility to the idea of the society, the notion that we should care about and for one another, the very idea that we have interests in common that we can and should address collectively, through government as well as other forms of social organization.

Since caring for one another is our natural state, a sustained program of propaganda is in place to convict us that the only values are wealth and self. Hence capitalist realism and Hauntology have come to dominate American culture even as everyone pretends to ignore it.

Even as Mark Fisher critiqued neoliberalism and capitalist realism while asking how its inconsistencies might be challenged, the toll that it took on him was always apparent. Unfortunately, Fisher articulated the feelings of sadness or despondency that seem increasingly common across the political spectrum. Finally, it was too much to bear. Suffering from depression and haunted by capitalist realism, Fisher committed suicide in 2017.

As we get ready to celebrate the birth of a true revolutionary, one who rejected the exploitive empire of his time, it’s more important than ever that we honor Fisher by agitating for an alternative to a system that seeks to reduce everything that was once regarded as personal or unique or holy to the status of interchangeable, salable commodities.

Merry Christmas.

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Madmen

We are ruled by madmen. And, as the recent appearance on Fox News by Senator Roger Wicker demonstrates, not very smart ones at that.

Wicker stated on a Tuesday Fox News appearance that he strongly supports keeping US military action on the table if Russia invades Ukraine, up to and including a first-use nuclear attack.

“I would not rule out military action,” Wicker told Fox News host Neil Cavuto. “I think we start making a mistake when we take options off the table. So I would hope the president keeps that option on the table.”

“What does military action mean, senator?” Cavuto asked.

“Well, military action could mean that we standoff with our ships in the Black Sea and we rain destruction on Russian military capability,” the senator replied. “It could mean that. It could mean that we participate – and I would not rule that out – I would not rule out American troops on the ground. You know we don’t rule out first-use nuclear action. We don’t think it will happen. But there’s certain things in negotiations – if you’re going to be tough – that you don’t take off the table.”

Wicker’s not just your average dim-witted senator, he’s on the Senate Armed Services Committee, where “supposedly” he gets briefs on Russian military capabilities. By his comments it’s obvious that he must have fallen asleep during the part in the briefing where they informed him that it’s not 1991 anymore and the US Navy cannot “standoff” with their ships in the Black Sea and “rain destruction on Russian military capability.”

Those days are long gone. Any US ship that enters the Black Sea has a life span of minutes thanks to advances in Russian military capabilities, especially hypersonic missile technology.

There’s a reason for these Russian military advances, by the way.

Anyone who has paid attention to US foreign policy since the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact alliance, 1989-91, would realize that America’s bipartisan foreign-policy elite has pursued a disastrous course of action. Despite promises to the contrary, that elite has led the charge to add members to the NATO alliance, taking the anti-Soviet military and political organization right up to the Russian border and staging military exercises uncomfortably close. Not only that but the U.S. has also stationed anti-missile weapons systems in NATO-member Poland, formerly a member of the Warsaw Pact, while arming and training the Ukrainian military, which is not a member of NATO.

Let’s also recall that in 2014 the U.S. stage-managed a neo-Nazi-supported coup against an elected, Russian-friendly president in Ukraine, knowing full well how the Russians would react. Fearing US/NATO encroachment, Putin’s government annexed Crimea with its strategic warm-water Black Sea naval base, which has been part of the Russian security system for over 200 years.

Traditionally it’s been the Republicans who’ve been the most Russophobic but since Trump and Russia-gate the Democrats have become even more fervent warmongers. Recently the Democrat-controlled House approved a $768 billion defense budget, $24 billion more than President Biden asked for, because why the hell not? We may have just put an end to our twenty-year misadventure in Afghanistan, but the power of the military/industrial/complex necessitates that we agitate for military confrontations with Russia over Ukraine.

Putin insists that NATO not expand any further, but the US position is that NATO’s inclusion of former Soviet possessions is purely an alliance affair. Meanwhile, Biden threatens more harsh economic sanctions and even more US troops to Eastern Europe if Putin doesn’t acquiesce by, among other things, moving his troops away from the Russia-Ukraine border.

Would the Biden administration then back down or go nuclear? Who is eager to find out? Those considerations aside, the U.S. government should simply stop fanning the Russophobic flames simply because a war would be incredibly stupid.

Nevertheless, it could possibly be, therefore, that reckless hawks in the U.S. establishment might in fact engineer some form of military intervention in Ukraine. While Senator Wicker is stupid, his gambit represents the domestic aspect of US foreign policy. Any compromise with Russia over Ukraine, risks Biden being seen as weak. Republicans already pre-emptively have blamed what they call Biden’s ‘weakness’ for having encouraged ‘dangerous adventurism’ from Moscow.

Talk about projection.

If this were to occur, the results would be catastrophic. Quite apart from the risk of nuclear war, Russian forces colossally outnumber not just the Ukrainians, but any forces that the United States and NATO could or would deploy quickly in Ukraine, and would therefore win a ground war with NATO. 

Rather than repelling a Russian offensive, the United States would therefore be faced with the prospect of planning a great and horribly bloody war to recover lost Ukrainian territory. This would also risk becoming a world war; for it is virtually certain that China would exploit a war between the United States and Russia, thereby threatening the United States with the risk of two wars simultaneously – and defeat in both.

To put all of this into context, recalcitrant Democratic Senators, led by Joe Manchin, balk at spending on domestic priorities with Build Back Better, yet have zero qualms about spending untold billions on a possible war in Ukraine, a place that few Americans could find on a map.

Of course, with the madmen we have as leaders, war could easily happen by accident because of a combination of hubris, American exceptionalism and ignorance.

While it’s only fair to give a shout out to our madwomen here and here and here, the fact remains that it’s mostly the madmen driving the war train.

Then there’s the undeniable fact that our rulers are impoverishing and killing us, because it benefits them. This is America, where Amazon workers are barred from leaving the warehouse as an F-3 tornado barrels toward them, and where if your kid gets cancer you have to sell your house and live in your car.

So that raises a question. Are the madmen and women that rule us incompetent or evil?

Why not both?

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Schizophrenia

Liberal pundits wonder whether the appeal of conspiracy theories is due to the fact that the “real” stuff is constantly evolving and complicated. “As with religion, belief can be a huge comfort in the face of fear and confusion.” Nevertheless, liberal pundits assure us that they will “defend the truth furiously”.

How nice.

Instead, I would argue that Americans are absolutely correct to distrust elite, liberal “truth”. After all, just in the last 20 years there’s been an elite, liberal consensus that the invasion of Iraq was a dandy idea. The occupation of Afghanistan was going swimmingly. The Wall Street Crash was caused by profligate American homeowners and excessive Chinese savings, rather than bankster criminality. Quantitative Easing (QE) saved the US economy from imminent collapse. Austerity is just what the doctor ordered to reinvigorate the economy. Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide. Etc.

I think the popularity of conspiracy theories is a measure of the degree to which Americans no longer trust the conventional wisdom. That’s an explosive issue just now for good reason because  the conventional wisdom of our time is fatally out of step with reality.  Look across the whole range of acceptable views presented by elite policy makers and pundits, and by and large you’ll find that a coin toss will give you better guidance. 

And not just their acceptable views but lies that these very same policy makers and pundits have actively promoted. There’s the lies leading up to the invasion of Iraq. There’s the lies about the Wall Street Crash. Hope and Change. There’s the lies about Ukraine and Syria and Libya and Yemen. There’s the lies about austerity, public/private/partnerships and neoliberalism. The way they continue to lie about Julian Assange, who’s now being extradited to the country that plotted to kill him. “Media freedom plays an indispensable role in informing the public, holding governments accountable, and telling stories that otherwise would not be told. The U.S. will continue to stand up for the brave and necessary work of journalists around the world,” claims Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, delivering a whopper at the Orwellian-named Summit of Democracy.

Like I always say–you can’t make this shit up.

Then there’s Russia-gate, which has fatally wounded elite credibility. The last five years have delivered Americans into a culture of unreason of the kind they have been prone to indulging periodically throughout their history. Salem witch hunts, anyone? It is made in equal parts of a native insecurity and anxiety, of paranoia and of irrationality. To understand this condition, we must recognize it as the work of a diabolic alliance comprised of the Democratic Party’s corrupt leadership, the F.B.I. and other law-enforcement agencies, the national security apparatus and its many appendages, and the media. It is no longer controversial to speak or write of a Deep State that controls this country.

The corporate media led by the New York Times and Washington Post were particularly culpable in promulgating Russia-gate. The Washington Post played the starring role in the cover-up. Congress’ hometown paper was the main venue through which U.S. officials illegally passed classified information to prosecute a campaign against a sitting president, validating a conspiracy theory that they helped to invent in part to cover their own flanks.

It turns out that the real story of Russia-gate was the role that elite, liberal media played in an intelligence operation to first spy on a presidential campaign and then discredit the results of a democratic election and undermine the legitimacy of a presidential administration. And now the vary same liberal media has the nerve to lecture the Americans who no longer believe a word they say on the danger of conspiracy theories.

What makes the astounding incompetence of today’s expert opinions and their condescending lectures so toxic is that nobody in the corporate media, and next to nobody in the political sphere, is willing to talk about it.  No matter how disastrous the consequences turn out to be—no matter how often the economic policies that were supposed to yield prosperity result in poverty and misery, no matter how often programs meant to improve the schools make them worse, no matter how many drugs released on the market as safe and effective turn out to be neither, and so on at great length—one rule remains sacrosanct:  no one outside the professional/managerial/class is supposed to question the validity of the next round of expert-approved policies, no matter how obviously doomed to fail they are.

Accountability for our feral elite? Don’t be silly.

On that note, perhaps the conspiracy theories bandied about by the American public is a form of national schizophrenia?

Gregory Bateson, in a fascinating series of articles collected in his book Steps to an Ecology of Mind, discussed the way that schizophrenia is created by this kind of suppression of the obvious in a family setting. Insist to a child from infancy onward that something is true that the child can see is obviously not true, punish the child savagely every time it tries to bring up the contradiction, and there’s a fair chance the child will grow up to be schizophrenic.

Conspiracy theories in society are the collective equivalent of schizophrenia in the individual, and they have the same cause: the systematic gaslighting of individuals who know that they are being lied to.

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Oncoming

What we thought was the light at the end of the tunnel has turned out to be an oncoming locomotive.

The new Omicron coronavirus variant has the potential to take us right back to the beginning by virtue of being vaccine resistant. This variant also has the potential to be very, very bad. Even calling it a variant may be a misnomer; it is more likely to be another strain and could even be SARS-Cov-3. We don’t know for certain, but based on the sequence, it seems to be completely resistant to the current monoclonal vaccines.

Even with the vaccines the response to the pandemic has been an ongoing debacle. For example, in the US Covid deaths in 2021 have surpassed those of 2020.

If we had competent leadership class we might have been able to prevent this. But we don’t do public health in the US. We do “for profit” healthcare, where the sicker you are the more profitable you are to the system. (So long as you have the Do-Re-Mi, as Woody Guthrie memorably put it). Instead, during Covid-19, we get hagiography of Dr. Fauci and a total faith in an extremely risky vaccine only solution.

As Yves at Naked Capitalism writes. “By letting business drive public health policy with its quest for a “return to normal,” the entire last year was squandered, not just NPIs, but testing, contact tracing, international infection control standards, everything. We said this amounted operational to “Let ‘er rip.” B.1.1.529 may show us the true cost of that recklessness. And where did the recent rounds of bad variants come from? This is three times – Kent, India, now South Africa – where the Anglo incubation reservoirs that capitalism creates have spilled over into waves of world-wide infection.”

As GM, one of the doctors who comments at NC, warned, “Consider yourself fully unvaccinated from now on and go back to March 2020 precautions.”

Not to be too cynical but new variants from unvaccinated areas that force us to get boosters is literally the business model of big-pharma corporations like Pfizer. As a Pfizer financial analyst said in a Wall Street conference call. “There will be new variants emerging from abroad that can evade the vaccine. And how will variants emerge from abroad? Well as outbreaks occur in non-vaccinated parts of the world, new strains will naturally occur as the virus mutates. If the rest of the world gets vaccinated, however, new variants won’t arise.”

What Pfizer really wants is to be able to charge $150 for a vaccine that they are charging only $19.50 now. So it’s actually against their financial interest to have the rest of the world vaccinated. If the rest of the world gets vaccinated, they won’t necessarily be able to sell expensive booster shots in rich countries.

Yeah.

I’m not an anti-vaxxer but I am a critical thinker and much of what our government has done since the inception of the pandemic has been highly questionable if not criminal.

Which brings us to the new book by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., entitled–The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health.

Kennedy writes, “The very governmental health regulators, social media eminences, and media companies that idealistic populations relied upon as champions of freedom, health, democracy, civil rights, and evidence-based public policy seemed to collectively pivot in a lockstep assault against free speech and personal freedom. Suddenly, those trusted institutions seemed to be acting in concert to generate fear, promote obedience, discourage critical thinking, and herd seven billion people to march to a single tune, culminating in mass public health experiments with a novel, shoddily tested and improperly licensed technology so risky that manufacturers refused to produce it unless every government on Earth shielded them from liability.

Across Western nations, shell-shocked citizens experienced all the well-worn tactics of rising totalitarianism—mass propaganda and censorship, the orchestrated promotion of terror, the manipulation of science, the suppression of debate, the vilification of dissent, and use of force to prevent protest. Conscientious objectors who resisted these unwanted, experimental, zero-liability medical interventions faced orchestrated gaslighting, marginalization, and scapegoating.”

Kennedy goes on to critically examine liberal icon–Dr Fauci–who emerged as the antithesis to the Orange Menace, and appeared to be the nations pandemic savior. However, what Kennedy finds is a 50 year career advancing big-Pharma interests over public health, culminating in his handling of Covid-19.

Kennedy claims that Fauci consistently priortized pharmaceutical industry profits over public health. “As the world watched, Tony Fauci dictated a series of policies that resulted in by far the most deaths, and one of the highest percentage COVID-19 body counts of any nation on the planet. Only relentless propaganda and wall-to-wall censorship could conceal his disastrous mismanagement during COVID-19’s first year. The US, with 4 percent of the world’s population, suffered 14.5 percent of total COVID deaths. Blinded by generously stoked fear of deadly disease against which Dr. Fauci seemed the only reliable bulwark, Americans failed to see the mounting evidence that Dr. Fauci’s strategies were consistently failing to achieve promised results, as he doggedly elevated Pharma profits and bureaucratic powers over waning public health.”

There’s also the economic costs of Dr. Fauci’s. policies. “Dr. Fauci’s business closures pulverized America’s middle class and engineered the largest upward transfer of wealth in human history. In 2020, workers lost $3.7 trillion while billionaires gained $3.9 trillion. Some 493 individuals became new billionaires, and an additional 8 million Americans dropped below the poverty line. The biggest winners were the robber barons—the very companies that were cheerleading Dr. Fauci’s lockdown and censoring his critics: Big Technology, Big Data, Big Telecom, Big Finance, Big Media behemoths (Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch, Viacom, and Disney), and Silicon Valley Internet titans like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Larry Ellison, and Jack Dorsey.”

The new Omicron variant seems to put all of this capitalist accumulation at risk but not to worry. After the massive Wall Street sell-off on Black Friday, President Biden declared that his administration would not implement “shutdowns or lockdowns,” vowing to “reopen our country … reopen our businesses” and … “reopen our schools.”

Essentially, Biden delivered to Wall Street a clear message: There is no level of pandemic death that will cause the US government to interrupt the holiday shopping season. 

The market immediately rallied. “The S&P rose by as much as 1.5 percent Monday,” NBC News noted, “as investors seemed to be reassured by President Joe Biden’s remarks.”

What all of this demonstrates is that the lives of the American population are completely meaningless as far as the financial oligarchy is concerned and furthermore, everything is going as planned.

Update: Not a bug but a feature.

Pharma companies are earning more than three times in profits off vaccines…in one year…than what it would actually cost to vaccinate the world.…once and for all.

It would take less than one-third of what pharma companies are earning from one years’ vaccine profits to vaccinate the entire world for good.

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Dark Comedy

Watching our feral elite fly into terrain is terrifying but there’s some inadvertent humor along the way. You just know it’s going to end in tragedy but damn if it isn’t funny. Kind of like Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Take that whole “rule based international order” our foreign policy mavens keep blathering about. I mean who are they fucking kidding? Is there anyone left out there who believes that shit? And Anthony Blinkin. He seems so clueless and out of his depth that one almost longs for the predictable bellicosity of a Pompeo or Bolton.

Almost.

I have a question. With all the threats to start a shooting war with Russia over Ukraine and China over Taiwan, how completely out of touch with reality can US leaders be?

What’s crazy is that after Biden promised a new era of American diplomacy, his foreign policy team is now widely acknowledged to have instead brought U.S. relations with Russia and China to all-time lows. Judging from the March meeting of Secretary of State Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan with Chinese officials in Alaska, Biden’s meeting with Putin in Vienna in June, and Under Secretary Nuland’s recent visit to Moscow, U.S. officials have based their encounters with Russian and Chinese officials on ultimatums in order to act tough for domestic audiences instead of seriously trying to resolve policy differences.

Of course, the beginnings of this descent into madness were provoked by the Orange Menace, who seems to have single-handedly caused our feral elite to lose their minds. Indeed, the 2015 rise of Donald Trump, a development that provoked a hysterical reaction in the establishment wings of both the Democratic and Republican parties, which became far more severe after Trump’s unexpected 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton.

Instead of asking themselves why they and their policies had grown so unpopular that a faux-populist outsider who had been massively outspent on advertising could win, leading Democrats instead adopted the lunatic excuse that Russian President Vladimir Putin had arranged Trump’s elevation, somehow managing to overcome their multi-billion-dollar presidential campaign with the help of a few thousand dollars of display ads on Facebook.

That liberals could swallow such absurdities was surprising, but those debilitating conditions turned out to be widespread within our establishment media and political worlds, and this bizarre Russia-gate narrative dominated the first couple of years of the Trump presidency, reducing American politics to a farce.

Yours truly had to deal with the madness. During the early days of Trump’s presidency I can’t tell you how many conversations where the person I was talking with would stammer with stunned disbelief that I did not believe the claims about Russia, Russia-gate, Trump, and Putin that were so universally believed and promoted within mainstream liberal circles.

What’s dismaying is that all of this domestic, partisan nonsense has made our world increasingly dangerous. The combination of a relentless media demonization of Putin’s Russia and the creation of potential military flash-points in Syria and Ukraine produced an extremely dangerous world situation. Our current confrontation with Russia might be even more perilous than what we had faced at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, yet almost none of the corporate media outlets articulate how dangerous all of this is.

And, crazy, stupid, as the recent pronouncement by NATO poodle, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, demonstrates. Stoltenberg called the events of January 6 “an attack… on the core values of NATO.” 

Yeah, like the head of NATO has any business pontificating on values or democracy after NATO destroyed Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria, while relentlessly encircling Russia with new members.

This comes on the heels of the latest in the Russia-gate saga, where it turns out that the whole thing was made up. But, of course, the perpetrators have moved on with zero accountability, or shame. The problem with this is presuming that our feral elite possess a sense of guilt. Take Adam Schiff and the Steele dossier. While even the Washington Post has admitted that it got the Russian collusion story wrong in light of the findings of Special Counsel John Durham, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is still insisting that he was absolutely right to promote the discredited Steele dossier. Schiff’s interview on NBC’s Meet the Press may be the final proof of the death of shame in American politics.

What all of these stories have in common is the fecklessness of our feral elite. The US endlessly proclaims itself a meritocracy but from my vantage point there appears to be a pattern of elite’s being rewarded for being wrong in the right way and failing upward while the people who’ve been right are punished. Some meritocracy. More like oligarchy.

Of course, this sort of thing is in line with historical behavior of elites in crumbling empires. To wit, the crisis in American society stems from our operating system–capitalism and the oligarchy it has produced. Vast inequality, poverty, unemployment, crumby social welfare and healthcare, housing and education, and so on, are all rooted in this system that causing our nation to implode

Maybe this dim realization is why our feral elite are completely loosing it and threatening war with Russia and China. Dying empires are dangerous, especially ones with a vast nuclear arsenal. To accomplish this they’re aggressively propagandizing us into consenting to insanely dangerous escalations geared toward maintaining a US empire that massively rewards this psychotic elite. Meanwhile, I’m seeing signs everywhere that the managers of empire are preparing to do some very, very crazy things in order to maintain their dominance. 

Buckle up.

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Help Wanted

I have never seen anything like the employment situation now. There are help wanted signs prominently displayed at every business in America, yet hardly any takers. What’s going on?

Perhaps giving America workers a year off to contemplate their employment situation wasn’t such a great idea? One of the outcomes of the pandemic has been that workers seem less willing to tolerate low wages and challenging work conditions. The pandemic has also revealed that the most important people in the economy are those who actually produce and transport goods and foods; they are also among the worst paid and treated people in our society. Now many hourly workers want more pay and/or better conditions. However, many employers think the answer lies in finding more desperate prospects.

I suspect a lot of people found that the money they made from their Mcjob was easily offset by a higher quality of life. Such people may be lured into job situations that don’t stress or incur child care costs but they are unlikely to rush back to serving maskless assholes at Starbucks for 10 bucks an hour.

Companies like FedEx, Amazon, Uber etc, who rely on this ‘race-to-the-bottom’ desperation model and screw their workers are now “struggling to hire people” and are being forced to pay higher wages.

What’s clear is that 40 odd years of neoliberal infestation has made work for many a living hell. In this neoliberal period, the ‘labour shortage’ narrative is often just a mask to hide what the employers really want or do not want. Neoliberalism offered up an ideological justification to a way to attack trade unions and start to undermine the full employment system (ie. New Deal) that had delivered such gains to workers. The neoliberal ideology relied on the creation of a fictional world where cutting wages, cutting job security, denying rights of association, imposing onerous key indicators (delivery times etc) was the way forward to prosperity.

The so-called ‘labour shortage’ is also an indicator of management greed and short-sightedness. Rather than being a shortage of workers, there is a shortage of workers who will tolerate the indignity of low wages, onerous conditions and capricious management. It is also a union versus non-union type of discussion where the unionised work places generate high productivity and worker attachment, while the non-unionised workplaces find it hard to attract reliable staff and blame it all on ‘labour shortages’. Corporate America calls this a “labor problem” whereas those of us who’ve paid attention know it is a management problem. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that unfettered greed backfires.

This is the neoliberal ideology that corporate America has embraced. The profound reluctance of companies and managers to accommodate reasonable demands of employees they’ve been able to squeeze harder and harder over decades isn’t about commercial logic or inability to pay more. Corporate profit share as a percentage of GDP has been at insanely high levels for over a decade. Most can pay more, which is the change that would demand least of managers. It’s that it offends their sensibilities. Remember that the last decade in particular has featured the worst sort of electronic-Taylorism: employees being monitored intensively and held to explicit output standards. After being able to impose sadistic work pacing (see Amazon warehouses), facing a worker revolt is intolerable. They can’t believe it happened and reassure themselves that it won’t happen again.

Here’s the thing–corporate America’s profits are soaring while American workers share of the pie has dwindled. If corporate America was serious about solving the labor shortage they could offer higher wages, and given the gap between labour productivity growth and real wages growth, that has seen massive redistributions of national income away from wages to profits, that would hardly be ‘unaffordable’. They could also offer work to unemployed workers and offer them training.

A recent Rand Corp study conceptualized the transformation in power relations between capital and labor. It showed that the wealthiest 1% have taken $50 trillion from working Americans during this period, making our country less secure, (and, I would argue, setting the stage for the election of Donald Trump). The reason for this is that the New Deal/Post War Liberalism created a large middle class, and even manufacturing workers could support a four person family on one salary, while neoliberalism produced a society where the good working class jobs were lost and families needed two salaries and a lot of debt to get along, while all unavoidable costs like healthcare and housing and education (since almost all good jobs are closed without it) skyrocketed.

This wealth transfer (theft) occurred as the Democrats transformed from a political party that represented workers to one that represented the Professional/Managerial/Class. Hmmm. I wonder if these two developments are related?

Like I’ve stated repeatedly–politics is who in our society gets what and who in our society pays the costs of these policies.

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Winter is coming

The corporate media that spent months breathlessly flagging Russia-gate is quiet now that the Durham investigation is close to unraveling it. And Durham’s investigation only just getting started. The key takeaway is that it was a coup, set in motion to overturn the election of Donald Trump. Many of the key figures in the national security state (deep state) had switched allegiance from the GOP after Trump’s takedown of Jeb Bush and were planning on serving in the Hillary Clinton Administration. To wit, they weaponized the intelligence and justice apparatus in order to take Trump down.

Last week, John Durham’s grand jury issued its third criminal indictment in the Trump-Russia collusion hoax. The person who was arrested may be obscure and the news buried after Virginia’s bombshell election results but Durham’s investigation maneuvers are a big deal. It shows that the special counsel’s probe is methodically unraveling a huge conspiracy, seemingly engineered by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and implicating James Comey’s FBI, as willing accomplices. These indictments, interestingly, also illuminate the complicity of the Brookings Institution, a Democratic Party leaning think-tank, in the conspiracy to depose Trump.

The question now is whether Durham will be allowed to go all the way to the top and expose the full extent of this malfeasance and charge those who planned and executed it.

I have my doubts.

What’s truly funny is that Trump, with his clownish incompetence, was never the threat to the national security establishment as they imagined. He was always outside his element as a New York City businessman without a claque of Washington insiders to run his administration. The only danger Trump posed to elite institutions was from his propensity to pull the mask off the face of the American empire.

I remember telling anyone who would listen that Russia-gate was bullshit but all of my New York Times reading friends and family were absolutely convinced that Trump was a Russian secret agent who would be arrested and frog-marched from the White House at any moment. But it was obvious that the whole point of Russia-gate was to hobble Trump’s foreign policy edicts and turbo-charge a new Cold War with Russia. The real impetus for Russia-gate had been Russian efforts to stymie the Ukrainian coup and prevent the US from seizing their naval-base in Sevastopol. Even worse, from the US national security state viewpoint, was the successful Russian intervention into Syria to help defeat the Sunni jihadists the US was using as terrorists proxies to overthrow the government of Bashar Assad. Russia-gate was also intertwined with Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks exposure of Hillary’s emails. Democrats still blame WikiLeaks for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat to Trump because it released verified Democratic Party emails that illuminated the rampant corruption in the party.

Most of this was obvious. Anyone who didn’t know, who was paying attention, was an idiot, but most of those who said otherwise were liars or propagandists.

The problem in America is that we’ve been inculcated to believe authorities that have the “right” shared values and for liberals the New York Times is like the voice of God. This is also a reflection of the hidden nature of power in American society. Liberal or conservative belief is made possible only because every day we face endless propaganda: in our schools, in our places of higher education, in the workplace, and most especially from the corporate media. The propaganda system tightly constrains our understanding of political and ideological realities to make them dependent on the priorities of the national security state.

Thanks to the sources that I have developed over the years, I have a pretty good handle on the corporate media propaganda and how it’s deployed. Hint–the serious propaganda is aimed at elite audiences.

Probably my most important source in debunking Russia-gate was the late independent-journalist Robert Parry and his site Consortiumnews.com, but here were many other brave journalists (all independent) who went against the overwhelming corporate media consensus. Matt Taibbi, Michael Tracy, Aaron Maté, and Glen Greenwald were early to raise serious doubts about Russia-gate.

Greenwald has a new article out where he pillars the Democratic Party’s hypocrisy when it come to justice. “This internal contradiction in Democratic politics was vividly illustrated by the fact that — though they will now deny it — the most revered and admired figure over the last five years in liberal politics was Robert Mueller, named in 2001 by George W. Bush to be FBI Director and then in 2017 by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be Special Counsel investigating Russiagate. Liberals did not even bother hiding their glee at the prospect that Mueller was coming to arrest and imprison as many of their political adversaries as possible. They sung songs in his honor and danced to their fantasies about the next convictions. Every indictment was cheered, every prosecution applauded, every punishment lamented for being insufficiently harsh, as their favorite cable channels were filled to the brim with the very life-long federal prosecutors their ideology ostensibly opposed. Throughout the Trump years, Democratic politics was driven at its core by a bloodlust to imprison Trump, his family, his aides and his supporters for as long and as harshly as possible. Cravings for punishment and prison, at its core, was what drove the arousal of Russia-gate.”

Now that the Durham investigation is circling back to Hillary Clinton it will be interesting to see how the elite Democrat politicians and their corporate media hand-maidens react. Then there’s the political angle. With Russia-gate exposed as a fraud, and with many of the Democrats campaign promises unfulfilled a majority of midterm voters may well conclude that the Democrats are crooks who don’t deserve their vote. Which, in my humble opinion, is justified. Because here’s the thing–the Democratic Party is the political arm of the US’s establishment’s liberal flank. The New York Times is the propaganda arm of the US’s establishment’s liberal flank. The structural function of both institutions is to make genuine progressive change in America impossible.

As I’ve said before–the Democratic Party needs to go the way of the Whigs.

Burn it down.

Update: It’s good to be able to tell your corporate media-duped friends and family that you were right and their “trusted sources” were lying but so what? Five years too late and still more to go before the principals are on the dock. So what difference does revealing it now make? The coup succeeded: whatever Trump might have done was stymied and Putin was established as The Enemy.

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The world we live in now

The Obama Administration’s failure to prosecute the banksters in the wake of the Wall Street Crash has been an ongoing topic here at Camelotkidd so I’m glad to see a new podcast exploring the subject.

I’m referring to Meltdown, a new podcast series from investigative journalist David Sirota and documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney about the 2008–9 financial crisis and its aftermath that debuted last week. 

The meltdown they’re referring to is the Obama Administration’s political response to the Wall Street Crash— a response Sirota asserts is deeply interwoven with both the Democratic collapse of 2016 and the continued rise of the extreme right. “This is why,” he explains at the end of the series’ first episode: “. . . the meltdown of 2009 is this generation’s pivotal moment. Not the bank failures or the stock market crash in 2008. Those were obviously disasters. But the political disaster that came after. Our government stopped working for its citizens during a moment of profound crisis. We need to unbury this moment, to reexamine it. Because the failure of government then gave us the world we live in now.”

Causing some 2.5 million home foreclosures between 2007 and 2009, the crisis liquidated working- and middle-class bank accounts, destroyed lives, and spread a plague of misery and despair throughout the US body politic. Wall Street would be bailed-out with trillions of Federal spending, while ordinary citizens caught in predatory mortgage schemes would be left to twist slowly in the wind. Home foreclosure, in fact, became a burgeoning industry unto itself, as ad hoc courts worked hand in hand with big banks to eject people from their homes.

Even though there was copious evidence of elite criminality, nobody went to jail. Well, Bernie Madoff went to jail, but he ripped off rich and powerful people, and we can’t have that now can we?

Obama was a first-term Democratic president with a majority in Congress and an uncompromising Republican opposition. A country disillusioned by a previous administration’s corruption and mismanagement. A working class struggling through an economic downturn. But, a political elite and corporate media calling not for aggressiveness and boldness, but for half measures and compromise. Even worse, calling for austerity in the face of the economic calamity.

If this sounds familiar, it is not only because it describes this current moment, but because it is the experience we lived through 12 years ago – a political meltdown that destroyed many Americans’ remaining faith in their government, and ultimately birthed Donald Trump’s presidency.

That political meltdown crushed faith in hope and change, and led straight to the Tea Party and then to MAGA. And if Democrats continue making the same choices again, we should expect the same results – or worse.

We got lucky with Trump. The next right-wing populist will be more competent.

Gonzo journalist Matt Taibbi, who’s perceptive analysis of the economic and political factors that led to Trump’s victory, has nothing but praise for the new podcast. “What happened over the course of the next eight years, when the dream of forever-rule evaporated and the Democrats found themselves having to explain being vanquished by a foul-mouthed game show host, is the subject of Meltdown. To this day, the all-but-mandatory explanation for the Democrats’ 2016 disaster is a combination of racist reaction and Russian interference. Though race certainly played a significant role, the deeper explanation, still taboo, is the perception that the Obama administration’s handling of the 2008 crash was both corrupt and profoundly disillusioning. When the SS America struck an economic iceberg, the country watched Democrats fill the lifeboats with guilty bank CEOs, then waved from the horizon as everyone else went down with the ship.

Meltdown not only tells that story, it connects it to the Democrats’ political present and future. Sirota describes how the party’s misplaced faith in a Solomonesque business model — take money from Wall Street donors and deliver big for them on policy, while making gestures of sympathy toward the wider base of voters — opened the door for a canny political opportunism of Donald Trump. The psychology of the Democratic Party is to believe it’s always enough to be a little better, a little more sane, a little less craven than Republicans, but voters don’t see it that way. In a crisis, a leader in full control of the government has to act decisively, and be seen doing so, or risk being replaced by someone promising such action.

Trump hammered Obama on corruption and favoritism, painted Hillary Clinton as the sequel agent of Wall Street, and won making promises of sweeping action. This, Sirota says, is how “hope and change became MAGA and mayhem.” In an interview with Useful Idiots, he explained how the series was intended to be a wakeup call for Democrats, who continue to head off real examinations of their recent past, inviting, perhaps, repeats of the same self-inflicted disaster. Many disasters followed the 2008 financial crisis. But possibly the worst was the mass popular disillusionment that resulted from Barack Obama’s failure to help the victims and punish the wrongdoers — a failure that led to Donald Trump.”

In retrospect I’ve come to believe that the Obama Administration was the culmination of the Democrats long march from a party that represented workers to one that represented finance. Wall Street definitely knew something the rest of us didn’t, as the amounts of money Obama raised from investment banks attested. Then there’s the fact that one month before the presidential election of 2008, the giant Wall Street bank Citigroup submitted to the Obama campaign a list of its preferred candidates for cabinet positions in an Obama administration. This list corresponds almost exactly to the eventual composition of Barack Obama’s cabinet.

My liberal friends are worried about me because of my relentless focus on the Democrats even though the Republicans are worse. I get that people are deeply scared of an authoritarian GOP and growing threats to our democracy but as I’ve said before–we know Republicans are evil. It’s their brand. But, if we’re to have any chance of turning this sucker around we need a party that represents us not a bunch of mealy-mouthed traitors. Are the Democrats a political party that’s capable of fighting for justice or simply the lesser-evil?

The timing for this series is almost perfect as the Democrats are gutting the Build Back Better series of policies that were aimed at helping Americans hammered by the economic disaster brought on by the pandemic. This behavior is completely at odds with the response to the Great Depression, and not really adequate to the crises that we face. It’s the opposite of the cautionary tale in meltdown: the FDR story. Franklin Roosevelt came into office at the start of Great Depression and made very explicitly clear, that he understood the connection between economic policies and democracy. Basically, if you get into office making economic promises and you try to deliver on those promises, that’s the best way to fight off the rise of fascism. If you don’t deliver for people, right-wing authoritarians and fascists are able to make an argument, an anti-democratic argument, “Hey, they didn’t solve your problems. Democratic institutions won’t solve your problems. We will.” FDR explicitly made clear that his New Deal was not only morally necessary, not only economically good policy, but absolutely crucial to tamping down public support for fascism in America, which was on the rise at the time.

The latest Democratic betrayal shows that no progress can be made without changing the institutional structure of American politics.

Perhaps it’s a Whig moment?

To have that happen we need to make sure that the Democratic Party loses so irrevocably in 2022 and 2024 that it goes up in a puff of smoke, never to be seen again.

Burn it all down.

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