Monthly Archives: May 2020

On the Way to Buy Groceries

privilege

Garwood, NJ May 2020

I am reminded of realities of some uncomfortable realities. I didn’t go to any protests today, not only because I’m afraid of Covid-19, but because they erupted so quickly I hadn’t mentally prepared myself to find one. When I read the news today, “oh boy,” and looked at photos of dozens of American cities in flames, the only thought I had was “well here it is, 1968 all over again. The only thing missing is the assassinations.”

But that’s not quite right. In 1968, the cities erupted because Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were murdered, the former by a Palestinian who resented his support for Israel, the latter almost certainly by US military intelligence who resented his opposition to the war in Vietnam. In 2020, the cities erupted because George Floyd, an ordinary man, not a Nobel Prize winner or a former Attorney General, was murdered by the Minneapolis police.

So it’s not really a matter of “first time as tragedy, second time as farce” so much as “first time as tragedy, second time as a consequence of the first.” Martin Luther King was murdered by the United States government because he was a threat to the military industrial complex and the American ruling class. George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis Police because 40 years of neoliberal capitalism has created a society where many lives simply don’t matter, where racist cops have a license to kill.

I have no idea where the current crisis is going to lead us. Will it be the fall of neoliberalism? Or will we get out of the closet fascism? My bet is on the latter, but only time will tell. In any event, I recall the words of John F. Kennedy. “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” Colin Kaepernick lost his career because he protested against police brutality peacefully. He took a knee. We should have listened more closely to what he was trying to tell us.

The Bastille has Fallen

Well, one petty little Bastille in Minneapolis.

It’s a start I guess. But with the number of agents provocateurs I’ve been reading about having infiltrated the protests in Minneapolis, this could mean anything. I suppose the governor’s going to send in the National Guard. I have no idea what the Minnesota National Guard is like. Back in the 1960s, most state national guards were all made up of rich kids, far right wing draft dodgers like George W. Bush. These days, I suppose it’s just people in it for the part time job training. In any event, things are spiraling out of control faster than even I had imagined. What these means for the Presidential election — will there be a Presidential election? — is anybody’s guess.

But you’d be naive if the Republicans won’t exploit this incident to try to dampen turnout among Biden’s upper-middle-class, professional base in the suburbs.

Some False Flags in Minneapolis

It’s always difficult to keep track of anything during a protest, especially one that turns violent, but it looks like both individual police officers and store owners are destroying property and trying to pin it on the protesters. Apparently, a local journalist was also caught making fake gunshot sounds into his microphone. Once again, I’ve never even been to Minneapolis so who knows, but here’s a Twitter thread trying to make sense of it all.

 

My guess is that there are most likely Republican operatives in the crowd in addition to the police. Images of violent chaos in the big cities will almost certainly peel off some of Biden’s upper-middle-class professional supporters and either keep them home or push them into voting Republican. But what really strikes me is how all of this is unfolding in familiar ways, in spite of the coronavirus. I suppose the requirements to wear masks in public is a double edged sword. It makes it more difficult for the police to identify and arrest leaders, but it also makes it easier for agents provocateurs to stir up trouble in order to justify a crackdown.

Critical Support for Looters

As I’ve said repeatedly, the election this fall is Joe Biden’s to lose. Trump has failed to establish the kind of rapport with the media that comes almost effortlessly even to criminal incompetents like Andrew Cuomo and George W. Bush. I suppose he could try to tweet his way around CNN and MSNBC, but I don’t think it will be enough.

The Republicans, however, have one last card to play. People are getting desperate. What’s going on in Minneapolis is only the beginning. This Summer, as the money and food run out, people will feel less hesitant about taking to the streets to riot. Protests against police brutality almost always become protests against private property, against the unequal distribution of wealth.

This is more of a problem for the Democrats than for the Republicans. For Republicans, it’s pretty simple. “Shoot to kill.” For the Democrats it’s a lot more complex. This Spring, just after Super Tuesday, the DNC expelled the last remnants of New Deal liberalism from the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party ideology, a marriage of convenience between conservative, pro-Wall Street economics and leftist identity politics, depends upon an alliance of upper-middle-class white professionals in the suburbs and working class blacks.

Covid-19 will test this alliance. When the protests in Minneapolis against police brutality turned violent, the corporate media shifted on a dime. They stopped talking about racism and started talking about looting. Conservatives, in turn, stopped yelling about “fake news” and quickly amplified the narrative, so familiar from Hurricane Katrina, that the protesters are a threat to private property and need to be put down. The question is whether or not those “Karens” still full of rage about Hillary Clinton’s defeat (Is there a male equivalent of a Karen? Honky? Cracker?) will continue to side with those elderly black voters in South Carolina, or will thy desert the bourgeois, liberal identitarian coalition and start calling for blood? Will they stop talking about Russians and start talking about the safety of our neighborhoods and “good” schools?

The jury is out.

As for me, I support looting, but with certain reservations. Don’t loot small businesses. Don’t loot property owned by immigrants. Don’t loot bike stores, but by all means loot the hell out of big corporations like Target and McDonalds. When I saw the video coverage of people carrying merchandise out of Target, I didn’t see criminals. Indeed, if you want to steal the easiest way to to it is to form a corporation and get bailed out by the government. What I saw were poor and working class people living check to check willing to risk jail time for a few hundred dollars worth of groceries and consumer goods. Look at this video. Do these look like criminals to you? To me they look like scared, desperate people hoping that in a few months they’ll have money to buy food.

But as I said, my support for looting is critical, not unconditional. In the long run, I don’t think it’s an effective strategy. Covid-19 isn’t changing anything. It’s accelerating social and economic trends that were already going on, even before the lock downs. The ruling class doesn’t want brick and mortar stores. They want more Amazon. They want to store their goods in huge, militarized warehouses, and ship them to customers via privatized couriers like UPS and Fedex. They don’t want restaurants and coffee shops where people sit down together. They want us to order our coffee and fast food on an app, and pick them up at the drive through. Neoliberal capitalism wants to shred the very last social ties between flesh and blood people and replace them with bits and bytes.

A more effective form of looting might be to drive an 18-wheeler through the gates of an Amazon warehouse and “liberate” everything inside. At the very least it might give Jeff Bezos a heart attack. But in the end, Amazon’s insurance company will pay up, then declare bankruptcy. President Biden, or President Trump, in turn, will declare the insurance company “critical infrastructure” and bail it out at the taxpayers expense. But don’t get me wrong. Loot. Loot. Loot. Loot until every talking head in the media breaks down and cries on the air. By all means storm the Bastille, but keep in mind that sooner or later we’re going to have to cut off the King’s head, and then we’re going to have to defend the revolution against the white terror (which will take the form of “concerned citizens with AR-15s) that’s sure to follow.

Black Irish

A black family in Midland Texas is held at gunpoint by an army of local police. According to “Redfish” the young man’s crime was running a stop sign.

 

I’m struck by just how much the behavior of the police in Midland resembles a scene from the underrated 2018 film about the Irish potato famine Black47.

 

In a society based on the oppression of a racial, ethnic or religious underclass, the local police always seem eager for an excuse to shoot someone.

Duck and Cover (1951)

When I was a child in the late 1970s, the Cold War was beginning to heat up again. The Cuban Missile Crisis was well before my time, and I was too young to remember the way the United States and the Soviet Union both went on high alert during the Yom Kippur War, but I vividly remember the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. In fact, I was so utterly certain that there was going to be a nuclear war that I refused to do my homework for weeks. Why bother? As Barry McGuire said in his classic song Eve of Destruction, “if the button is pushed there’s no running away. There will be no-one to save with the world in a grave.”

In 1951, the Federal Civil Defense Administration, commissioned a short movie called “Duck and Cover,” which was written and narrated by Robert Middleton, directed by a man name Anthony Rizzo, and made with the cooperation of the New York City school system. I have no idea how widely it was shown back in the 1950s, but it’s a hilariously stupid piece of security theater designed, not to save lives, but to scare the ever living hell of the American people. While the end of the United States nuclear monopoly in 1949 hovers menacingly in the background, Middleton never mentions the Soviet Union. On the contrary, nuclear war is presented as a vague, ill-defined existential threat, the omnipresent specter of death that could emerge over the horizon at any moment, far more terrifying than an attack by a rival power like the Russians. The world of Duck and Cover is menaced, not by communists, but by a dark, capricious God, the kind of perverse deity dramatized so well by Ingmar Bergman in The Seventh Seal.

Duck and Cover is a perfect encapsulation of our government’s use of the Covid-19 pandemic. Like the weaponization of nuclear energy in the service of mass murder, Covid-19 is not entirely an accident. While of course it wasn’t designed by the Chinese or the American government, it is the natural, organic emanation of neoliberalism capitalism, the inevitable result of the destruction of the environment in China, and the financialization and de-industrialization of the American economy. The Chinese ruling class raped their own land in order to profit off of their abundant supply of cheap labor. The American ruling class established “just in time” supply chains all over the third world because they didn’t want to pay Americans a living wage, or, God forbid, that capitalism is prone to periodic recessions that need to be mitigated by government action. So the virus migrated from Wuhan to northern Italy, where it was brought to the United States by rich New Yorkers jet setting between the Upper-East Side and Milan, and carelessly released into the nursing homes by Andrew Cuomo.

While the Korean War and the Cuban Missile Crisis didn’t mean the end of the world it doesn’t mean that that Cold War didn’t kill anybody. The Cold War killed a lot of people, millions of Vietnamese, hundreds of thousands of Indonesians, Congolese and Cambodians, tens of thousands of Chileans, Argentinians, and working class American draftees. The Cold War was the best thing ever to happen to ruling class, and even upper-middle-class Americans. They made a fortune in defense contracts. They got to kill socialism for good. Even today, in the middle of a pandemic, we’re told that we can’t have universal healthcare because Bernie Sanders said some nice thing about Cuba’s literacy program. But, as Martin Luther Kind said in his speech at the Riverside Cathedral, the speech the military industrial complex killed him for, “we were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”

Covid-19 will end the way the Cold War did. It won’t. It will also disproportionately affect the working class, and the poor. We could end the pandemic if we chose to, if we established some sort of Universal Basic Income that would allow people to stay home, if we put our healthcare system on a war footing, and took it out of the hands of the insurance companies, if we nationalized all of the vacant housing in New York City, and used it to isolate and quarantine people already infected (instead of sending them into the nursing homes). But we won’t, and by “we” I mean “those rich motherfuckers who rule over people like you and me with an increasingly more blatant disregard, even for capitalist democracy.” Their “solutions” will be just as useless as the idea that you could protect yourself from a nuclear attack by ducking under your desk at school, and they will be permanent. Indeed, mask shaming, social isolation, restrictions on the right of assembly, heavily manipulated, compressed telephoto shots of stupid people at the beach, fulsome praise for “essential workers” they have every intention continuing to shovel into low-paid, deadly “front line” jobs,  and universal, high tech surveillance are all part of a society that was beginning to emerge, even before the pandemic hit.

Yet, the people responsible for the filthy disease currently ripping apart the last of our civil society, the people who made its worldwide spread inevitable,  have names and address.  Their castles in the Hamptons and penthouses on Central Park West are hard to miss. We know where Andrew Cuomo and Donald Trump live. Dare I hope that in the very near future we might all meet up — with or without masks — and drag our rulers out of their towers on Wall Street down to the public square to the guillotine? Or will we just continue to tell our children to “duck and cover?”

Attempted Homicide by Cop

A video of a recent incident on the Upper West Side of Manhattan has blown up on Twitter. A 40-year-old white woman is walking her dog in Central Park. A 58-year-old black man tells her to put the dog on a leash, and a confrontation ensues. We don’t know what happened before the video, but in the footage circulating on social media, the woman calls 911, fakes being attacked, and roughly handles her dog. The historian Rick Perlstein calls her actions “attempted homicide by cop.”

 

Interestingly enough, when the cops did arrive at the scene, they acted in a reasonably intelligent manner. They simply said “nothing to see here. Both of you move along.” As far as we know they didn’t try to arrest the man, and they didn’t take sides with the woman, who clearly racialized the confrontation in her 911 call. It’s hard to imagine her getting on the phone and saying something like “a white man is threatening my life.”

Most of the newsworthiness of this incident comes from our expectations of the way the NYPD normally handles confrontations like this. The woman clearly assumed that the 911 operator and the police officers would take her side and arrest the man. The people on Twitter who doxed the woman and attempted to get her from her job, clearly assumed that in most cases the police officers would have taken the man to Central Booking on Centre Street, where he would have been in great danger of contracting Covid-19. The woman’s employer, who put her on “administrative leave,” and the animal shelter that made her surrender the dog, clearly believed she acted with malicious intent, that it was more than a petty verbal confrontation, that she was actively trying to do the man harm. Yet the NYPD, as far as we know, uncharacteristically, kept their cool and remained neutral.

The lesson, I suppose, is that if everybody could reasonably assume that the police always act in a reasonable manner none of this would have happened.

I’d write in Genghis Khan

cenk

I personally am sick to death of having to choose between white men.

On a more serious note, the choice in 2020 isn’t between George W. Bush and Hitler. It’s between George W. Bush and Pat Buchanan, between a neoconservative party of the Wall Street elite and a right wing populist party of  cultural conservatives and sun belt capitalists. I suppose Biden is slightly to the left of where Bush (a fundamentalist Christian) was on social issues, but honestly not that far left. He voted consistently for the Hyde Amendment when he was in the Senate. He wrote the Patriot Act. He was one of the architects of mass incarceration. Forget about socialism. Currently, the United States doesn’t even have a bourgeois liberal party, just two right wing extremist fronts for the oligarchs and the military industrial complex.

Genghis Khan/Subutai 2020: If you’re going to make me vote for a mass murderer, he might as well be the best.

The One Percent Doctrine is Back

Back in 2001, Vice President Cheney argued that any step you take to prevent terrorism, however ridiculous, is worth doing if it has even a one percent chance of working.

If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_One_Percent_Doctrine

It’s been resurrected.

 

Back in 2001, it was conservatives who were acting like irrational authoritarians. Now it’s liberals.

These says it seems as if many elite liberals aren’t going to be happy until we’re all wearing Hazmat suits for the next 50 years. It might make sense in a limited setting, like in a hospital, but there has to be an endgame for it, or they’re simply going to keep piling up restrictions until everybody’s basically carrying their house along with them whenever they go out to buy toilet paper.

In any event, the media sees their role as enforcing compliance, not informing. So it’s going to be non-stop “you must wear a mask a tall times” propaganda for the next 5 years. Maybe the right was onto something when they said they’re going to force us all to wear burkas.

As per usual, when reading any article in the New York Times its important to look for the buried lede.

Still, he and other experts acknowledge that face shields have their limits.

Just like masks, they must be removed when eating in cafeterias or restaurants. And studies on how effectively they can reduce a person’s viral exposure are scarce.

“Studies are scarce?” You don’t say.

But perhaps my skepticism is really all about my “toxic masculinity” and my “white male privilege.” After all, if people in Singapore are doing it, why can’t Americans? The numbers say something very different. Back in March, Andrew Cuomo knowingly released people with Covid-19 into the nursing homes. That spiked the death totals in New York and New Jersey.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is facing new criticism after the Associated Press reported Friday that a state directive led to over 4,300 still recovering coronavirus patients being sent to New York’s “already vulnerable nursing homes.”

“It was a death sentence,” tweeted Daniel Choi, a doctor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. He called the directive a “horrendous idea” and “definitely not something any doctor taking care of nursing home patients would have signed off on.”

The state health department directive, issued March 25, barred nursing homes from requiring patients deemed “medically stable” from being tested for Covid-19 prior to admission. Cuomo, a Democrat, rescinded the order May 10, but not before thousands of infected patients likely entered nursing homes and contributed to the coronavirus’s spread.

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/05/22/cuomo-order-sent-estimated-4300-covid-19-patients-nursing-homes-denounced-single

The chances of anybody in their 20s and 30s dying of Covid-19 remain pretty remote. Here in New Jersey over 50% of the Covid-19 deaths have been people in nursing homes over 80.

Covid-19 and terrorism are both real.  But neither is an excuse for any and all restrictions our incompetent governments want to impose on us all. So why are they doing this? The media and social media hysteria over a recent pool party in the Ozarks is a case in point. It wasn’t gun toting hillbillies in the South who spread the virus throughout the United States. It was wealthy New Yorkers going out to their Summer homes. But the worse Covid-19 seems, the more universal a disaster it appears to be, the more they can create the illusion that “we’re all in this together.” It helps them to hide the incompetence, not only of Trump but of wealth ruling class liberals like Andrew Cuomo and Phil Murphy. Focusing on those dumb hillbillies out in the Ozarks distracts us from all of those rich Wall Street assholes abandoning the city they’ve made so expensive and so unaffordable for the past 20 years to go out to their beach houses in The Hamptons or their ski lodges in Vermont. It’s working exactly the way the “war on terror” made us all look away from George W. Bush’s incompetence in the Summer of 2001 or the American ruling class’s deep ties with Saudi Arabia.

Are Human Babies Kosher?

I’m a Lutheran and I can eat pretty much anything I want, but I’m asking for a friend. In any event, that brings us to Katha Pollitt, the Nation’s longtime feminist writer, who declares that even if Joe Biden boils and eats babies, she’ll still vote for him.

I would vote for Joe Biden if he boiled babies and ate them. He wasn’t my candidate, but taking back the White House is that important. Four more years of Trump will replace what remains of our democracy with unchecked rule by kleptocrats, fascists, religious fanatics, gun nuts, and know-nothings. The environment? Education? Public health? The rights of voters, workers, immigrants, people of color, and yes, women? Forget them. And not just for the next four years: A Trump victory will lock down the courts for decades. I cannot believe that a rational person can grasp the disaster that is Donald Trump and withhold their support from Biden because of Tara Reade.

https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/joe-biden-tara-reade-allegations/

I myself doubt Joe Biden eats boiled baby. Having dined with people Biden’s age, my guess is that boiled baby flesh is a bit too tough for sleepy Joe, and that he’s probably more into macaroni and cheese and liquefied peas. Boiled baby can be a great hangover food if you’re in your 20s, but when you’re pushing 80 it’s a bit too rich to digest.

I’m personally a little skeptical about the idea that Joe Biden raped Tara Reade. An old professor of mine was accused of something very similar by a graduate student, and he was ultimately cleared. I’m not saying politicians don’t crudely assault junior staffers in Washington, but I also think that it’s probably a bad idea to accuse a man of committing a serious crime unless there’s real evidence. We have plenty of proof that Biden is a misogynist and a reactionary. His support for the Hyde Amendment and his behavior towards Anita Hill during the confirmation of Clarence Thomas are part of the public record. We really don’t need he said, she said debates from the 1990s.  I doubt Biden would even remember if he assaulted Tara Reade anyway.

That being said, the reasons why Kata Pollitt thinks Tara Reade is lying reveal a lot about bourgeois American feminism. They are essentially two.

1.) To paraphrase long time Hillary Clinton ally David Brock (on Anita Hill), Reade is nutty, and a little bit slutty. Pollitt vehemently denies that she’s biased against Reade because of her class, but it’s clear that Reade is not the kind of woman elite Acela Corridor feminists would have brunch with. She’s “not our kind dear” as the WASPS (or is it the British) would say.

2.) Tara Reade is pro-Russian, or at least was pro-Russian, and women who have previously expressed positive opinions about Vladimir Putin can’t be raped. It’s not that, like Norma McCorvey, who brought the landmark lawsuit Roe vs. Wade to the Supreme Court and who later became an anti-abortion activist, Reade is being paid off. Its that pro-Russian women in the United States are by very definition crazy.

You can call me a sexist or an incel if you want (I’ve been called worse) but here’s my harsh opinion of elite, bourgeois feminism. Most rich white ladies who call themselves “feminists” don’t care about stopping rape. Since they believe that all men are rapists, and many of them have husbands, sons, and brothers, they want to make sure that only the “right” kind of men get a pass. For feminists like Kata Pollitt, the rapes Donald Trump has allegedly committed are serious crimes. The sexual assault Joe Biden has allegedly committed is just a fact of life. Get over it.

What really bothers Kata Pollitt isn’t the fact that Tara Reade may or may not have been sexually assaulted by Joe Biden, but the idea that it may benefit “Bernie Bros.” For feminists like Kata Pollitt accusing a political opponent of rape or sexual assault is a powerful weapon in your political arsenal not to be “appropriated” by men. Whether or not it’s true is besides the point. The real issue is that men shouldn’t be allowed to control the narrative.

When I started writing this piece too many long days ago, Trumpies, Berners, and many feminists alike supported Reade’s allegation, first made public on March 25 on Katie Halper’s podcast, that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 when she was a staffer in his Senate office. I was on the fence. I wrote, “I’d like to know more” on Twitter and Facebook and was reviled as a feminist hypocrite—interestingly enough, mostly by men. It was also mostly men who demanded that I sign on immediately to #IBelieveTara.

In the end, the idea that Joe Biden and Bill Clinton have the right to commit sexual assault is a “feminist idea.”