Mans Behind the Curtains

The sun is shining today, and we plan to lay in it on our building’s unfinished roof, so just some brief thoughts on political misdirection to follow.

It’s always humbling to realize you had no idea what was really going on, and yet, that’s the feeling most of us are subjected to daily relative to national, state, and even local politics. Technocrats and career politicians make decisions behind closed doors/in private Zoom rooms that bear very little on most people’s needs and reflect very little most people’s wants. This is one reason why good investigative journalism is so important, and one reason why oppressive regimes everywhere look to suppress independent media.

Thankfully, here in the US, we have tremendous independent media outlets like Democracy Now!, and it was through DN! that I came to the daily COVID-19 newsletter of David Dayen. Outsider to DC that I am, I wouldn’t have guessed that a key reason why Mitch McConnell is pushing to let “Blue States” go bankrupt (in what Governor Cuomo has generously called “one of the really dumb ideas of all time”) is Republican antipathy to public sector unions and a Republican desire to liquidate the massive public sector pension obligations sitting within many state and municipal budgets, and yet, according to Dayen, that’s exactly what McConnell’s hard line is all about.

Similarly, as an outsider to Georgia politics, I wouldn’t have put together that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is pushing to partially “reopen” the Georgia economy (a process which started this morning) less out of servile and idiotic fealty to the President (who – having initially given his go-ahead for the reopening plan – of course, promptly turned on the hapless governor), and more – as journalist George Chidi suggested, also on Democracy Now! – out of a desire to “reduc[e] the potential unemployment insurance costs to the state.”

Of course, even as the President has suggested injecting bleach and spewed constant lies, mis-, and disinformation at his shameful (and shamefully uncritically rebroadcasted) daily “press briefings,” he has been masterful (or masterfully used) in distracting the public at large from his real agenda through his obscene antics. Such has been the modus operandi of his presidency that – mock his bombast and buffoonery as we must – it’s impossible not to admit that he has been effective (or effectively used) in driving through tax cuts, deregulation, Federal bench (including Supreme Court) appointments, and now this massive corporate giveaway of a “bailout” – and effective is a drastic understatement. What’s been “accomplished” in the last 3+ years threatens to reshape our country for at least a generation, and has badly (further) tilted the already very tilted table against those of us who hope to address climate crisis before it’s too late through a reimagining and remaking of almost everything about how the world works.

Meanwhile, as New York State faces a “$13.3B shortfall” in its budget, one imagines that the same Governor Cuomo who raked McConnell’s “dumb idea” and made political hay out of this admittedly heartwarming Red State-Blue State-divide-crossing letter (accompanied by a single N95 mask) from a farmer in Kansas, came out yesterday with the following statement regarding culpability for the pandemic:

The president says it’s the World Health Organization, and that’s why he’s taken action against them. Not my field. But he’s right to ask the question because this was too little, too late.

One imagines this sudden bolstering of the President’s racist and deeply destructive position on the WHO by the now internationally-revered, mainstream liberal-darling Governor has something to do with the meeting the two men had earlier this week at the White House and some private agreement reached between the two Queens boys.

Is this how the world should work? Obviously not. Is this how it works? Evidently so. And as – operating as “a one-woman Congress” – Nancy Pelosi, with Chuck Schumer at her side, ushers to passage one after another disastrous “relief” bills – bills that neglect, as Dayen wrote on Wednesday, “payroll support, vote by mail guarantees, postal service funding, expanded health insurance, workplace standards, rent relief, state and local government money, you name it” – we witness ourselves dug ever deeper into a hole it may prove impossible to climb our way out of in the coming decade.

Yesterday, I continued my critique of our shockingly unreliable COVID-19 data in this city, state, and country, while last week, I pointed out how blatantly uncritical (at least some of) the scientific press had been in reporting on early signs of the “effectiveness” of Gilead’s experimental COVID-19 treatment, remdesivir. Now, the same website reports, “New data on Gilead’s remdesivir, released by accident, show no benefit for coronavirus patients. Company still sees reason for hope”; thank goodness Gilead hasn’t given up “hope” on making all the money their investment bankers want them to

It’s Saturday, though, and the sun is shining, so let’s end with some hopeful numbers for a change. Doug Henwood has a short post up on prospects for the 2020 general election encouragingly titled: “Biden by 20,” in which he relies on a simple model with a good track record to predict a landslide for our doddering Quixote of a candidate. A few caveats in Henwood’s words:

I should attach some consumer warnings here. The model predicts the popular vote, so it called Gore the winner in 2000 and Clinton in 2016 (which, if we had a sane electoral system, they would have been). And 2020 is a completely wacko political year, featuring a lifeless challenger to a mad incumbent in the midst of a pandemic-induced economic crisis. But the conclusion here is that no matter how things look now, if we have an election, it’s Biden’s to lose, a formulation that admittedly may inspire more doubt than confidence in the prediction.

Here’s to Biden pulling through in November. The world needs it. If he hadn’t already committed to choosing a female running mate (and let’s hope she’s as progressive, visionary, forceful, and principled as he is none of the above), I’d suggest he choose this verbal cannonball of a man instead. I don’t know if this is performance art, agit prop, or just the caged anger it seems to be of a decent, salt-of-the-asphalt New Yorker, but, whatever it is, you won’t want to miss it. As our man puts it: “We need a real fuckin’ plan.”

Damn right. Here’s to a better world.

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