How Did We Get Into This Mess?

Monbiot, George (2016)  How Did We Get Into This Mess? London and New York: Verso.

how we got into this mess

“This apparatus of justification, or infrastructure of persuasion, and the justifying narratives it generates allow the rich to seize much of our common wealth, to trample the rights of workers and to treat the planet as their dustbin. Ideas, not armies or even banks, run the world.  Ideas determine whether human creativity works for society or against it.” (1)

The Propaganda of the Pundit Class

morning joe in pajamas

Morning Joe (Biden) continues, every weekday morning, to infuriate me.  The Morning Joe show is doing in 2019 exactly what it did in 2015 and 2016, i.e., inserting itself into the election process by giving outlandish amounts of coverage to one candidate.  In 2015, 2016, it was Donald Trump.  Almost every Morning Joe started off with clips of Donald Trump speaking.  Then, the program allowed him to phone in daily comments.  Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were whoring around at Mar-A-Lago even after the election.  They broke with Trump only after he threatened to out their adulterous affair.  Now, though, you would think that Joe Scarborough had fought against Trump from the date of his (Scarborough’s) birth.  Scarborough and Brzezinski are hypocrites and liars, both of them.

Now, they are on the “elect Biden” train, relentlessly repeating that Biden is the “frontrunner” and citing endless polls most of which are biased towards older respondents and people with land lines.  They are making daily assertions that all the money from donors is going to Biden, that Bernie is “in trouble,”  that people are supporting Biden because they want to “beat Donald Trump.”  That people don’t want to vote for Bernie Sanders because they don’t want to change the entire economic system at a time when the economy is doing so well.

Let’s take that last assertion first.  The economy may be doing well for the Scarborough’s and the Brzezinski’s of the world and the rest of the upper, upper class, but it’s not doing well for regular people.  And, those regular people are about to lose 1) their health care, 2) their protection from insurance companies and predatory rules about pre-existing conditions, and 3) their ability to keep their children on health insurance until 25.  Second, Bernie Sanders is not going to change the entire economic system.  He is going to make sure, however, that this economic system functions with more justice.  It is a stupid lie and irresponsible distortion to argue that Bernie Sanders advocates anything other than a social democratic system that protects ordinary people from the predatory behavior of the upper class and corporations.

Scarborough and Brzezinski, however, attempt to create the impression that Biden is the only candidate that can beat Trump.  People sometimes argue with me that what people like Scarborough and Brzezinski say is irrelevant.  I understand their point to a certain extent.  But, I hear their propaganda parroted back to me over Lunch with Southern Ladies.  The received wisdom of the pundit class, repeated relentlessly becomes the cheap analysis of ordinary people who don’t care enough about politics to study and read.  These cheap clichés become the basis of their voting.

 

Things We’re Thinking About: Medicare for All, Drug Companies and Price Fixing, Harris, Iran, Malcolm Nance

bernie

Things We’re Thinking About Today

  • Sanders and Elijah Cummings have committed to holding drug companies accountable for a massive price-fixing conspiracy. Generic drug companies reportedly engaged in an effort to obstruct a congressional investigation held in 2014 into price fixing practices of several companies.  As Sanders’ website states:  “Executives at a dozen leading pharmaceutical companies reportedly were found to have engaged in an unprecedented cover-up. They deleted their text messages, coordinated their responses, and lied to our offices in order to conceal a massive conspiracy to fix prices for generic drugs, raising them by as much as 1,000 percent.  As they managed this criminal scheme at golf events, parties, and industry meals, these executives demonstrated once again that fraud is their business model. How many have died as a result of this illegal racket to push generic drugs for asthma, cancer, H.I.V., and high cholesterol out of the reach of the neediest Americans?  Americans must not be forced to continue paying outrageously high and inflated prices for the medicine they need.  Congress must stand up to the powerful pharmaceutical industry and substantially lower drug prices in this country.”
  • Meanwhile, Trump pardoned Conrad Black a man who fleeced millions from shareholders. Black had written a glowing book about Trump.
  • Kamala Harris is a co-sponsor of Sanders’s plan to create Medicare-for-all. Sanders sees no role for private insurance companies.  Sanders is the only Democratic candidate who unequivocally says we should get rid of private insurance.  Harris over the weekend seems to have backtracked on her position of getting rid of private insurance companies.
  • Neither Klobuchar, O’Rourke or Swalwall support Medicare for All.
  • Buttigieg opposes having the federal government produce and sell generic drugs to lower drug prices. Both Sanders and Warren support this move.
  • Biden sees Trump as an “aberration.” After Trump is gone, he says, things will get back to “normal” and the Republicans will work with Democrats in a bipartisan manner.  As Sarah Kendzior has written, this level of “delusion is dangerous.”
  • Tim Kaine says that he has information that the Trump administration is “poking” Iran to try to generate a reason for intervention.
  • On Monday, the Saudis claimed that their oil tankers had been damaged and blamed Iran. Many military commentators, including Malcolm Nance, were highly skeptical.
  • Yemen’s Houthi rebels conducted drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities on Tuesday.

Biden Does Not Get a Pass

biden

The day Joe Biden announced he was running for president all the major CNN and MSNBC political programs showed his campaign video in full.  It played over and over and over again, on every program, for hours.  I don’t remember similar coverage being given to any of the other Democratic candidates in the race.

So, once again, the corporate media refused to acknowledge or refused to not repeat the same mistake made in 2016 – i.e., giving one candidate billions of dollars in free air time and thus boosting his campaign.  I don’t think this is an accident.  Biden is clearly the darling of the corporate media punditry.  I think he has worked mightily to be so.

Not only was there wall-to-wall coverage, the coverage of Biden’s announcement and especially the video was uniformly positive.  On Morning Joe, the reaction was gushing.

In the run up to the 2016 election, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were up Trump’s ass so far they would be hard pressed to find themselves.  They did fawning interviews and reveled in the access they had to Trump.  Up until Trump threatened to out their adulterous affair, every Morning Joe show began with extended clips of Donald Trump.  Mika even sought permission from Trump to ask him certain questions in an interview.

In 2019, the coverage of the Biden campaign is similarly gushing.  Donnie Deutsch talked about how “touched” he was by Biden’s video.  The panel all agreed that Biden could touch the hearts of the voters.  Maybe, they implied, Biden was just what we needed.

But, as Sam Seder recently pointed out on the Majority Report, Biden’s roll out was far from unproblematic.  Even before the announcement, there were numerous stories in the press about Biden’s absolute failure to respect women’s personal space.  Sam Seder referred to it as Biden being a person living in a world where you never had to even think about other people, much less their personal space.

The Biden staff was well aware that there was a “woman problem.”  Even before the announcement, they floated the prospect of choosing Stacey Abrams as Biden’s running mate.  One of the big problems with this was that they failed to consult Abrams.  Biden, without permission, used Abrams to try to deflect attention away from his past problematic behavior with women.  He not only, in floating this prospect, assumed that Abrams should welcome a subordinate position like Vice President, he used Abrams as a sort of human shield to protect himself from sexist and racist criticisms.

Then, after announcing his candidacy one of the first actions taken by his surrogates was to attack Elizabeth Warren with an extremely patronizing tweet cattily dismissing Warren as a “beloved” law professor who would have never come to prominence without Obama and Biden’s mentoring.  Warren was in fact, chosen by Harry Reed to sit on a special committee during the financial crisis.  That, and her untiring advocacy for consumers, brought her to national attention, not any actions of Biden or Obama.

It is not surprising that Biden would have taken on Elizabeth Warren from the beginning.  Warren knows exactly who Joe Biden is.  She has crossed swords with him for years over his past support for bank and credit card companies.  Biden has long cozied up to the same sort of corporate interests that got Clinton in trouble in the 2016 campaign and that made her unacceptable to the progressive wing of the party.

In fact, Biden and Elizabeth Warren clashed repeatedly when Biden was the architect of legislation that went easy on corporate interests while proposing draconian penalties for the working poor.

Biden, for example, crafted a bankruptcy bill that stipulated students could not discharge their student loan debts by going bankrupt.  At the time Biden whined incessantly about the wrong sort of people being able to escape their responsibilities by going bankrupt.  I don’t know that Biden ever took on as a problem the fact that corporations routinely go bankrupt, dissolve themselves, and then recreate themselves anew under another name and continue to do business.  I don’t think Biden was that concerned with the scofflaws evading the full impact of bankruptcy if they were rich and corporate.

But, Biden didn’t attack Warren’s political positions.  He didn’t say that she was on the side of the consumer and he was on the side of the banks and big business.  He instead tried to portray her as a “beloved professor” I assume trying to diminish her and tar her with the “egghead” label.  It’s great living in a society in which being smart and educated is a negative.  On top of that, Biden’s surrogate said that Warren was essentially created by Biden and Obama.  The cheek.

As if this wasn’t enough evidence that Biden and his people regard women as props to be used for Biden’s convenience and to advance his ambition, Biden included in the video the story of Heather Heyer without even bothering to contact her mother to ask permission.

But the worst problem for Biden’s rollout (not mentioned in the corporate media coverage) was his history of performance when he held the powerful and pivotal position of Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.

I think I watched every second of that hearing and it is still painful for me to remember it.  I will never forget the nasty, arrogant, demeaning behavior of scum like Arlen Specter who were essentially allowed to “terrorize” Hill (Majority Report).  It was only later that I found out that Biden had refused to call as witnesses, two other women who could have corroborated Anita Hill’s testimony about Clarence Thomas.  This action is inexcusable, simply inexcusable.  But, on top of that, Biden also refused to include Hill’s lie detector test results as evidence before the committee.

The Biden camp, trying to get out in front of this certain criticism, first started trying to explain away Biden’s behavior at the hearings.  Biden stated that he felt really bad about what “happened” to Anita Hill.  But, nothing “happened” to Anita Hill. Something was done to Anita Hill first by the disgraceful and perverted Clarence Thomas and then by the men (like Biden) on the Judiciary Committee.  When this strategy had played out, Biden phoned Hill.  When asked why it took so long, Biden commented that he didn’t want to “invade her space.”  If that was a joke, I don’t think it was funny.  To her credit, Hill refused to accept Biden’s “apology” as enough.  It wasn’t nearly enough and as Hill pointed out, he needed to apologize not only to her, but to all women.

On the View, Biden again repeated that he was sorry for the “way she was treated” as if this had nothing to do with him.  He also said: “I don’t think I treated her badly.”  “How,” Biden asked (I assume seriously) “do you stop people from asking inflammatory questions.” This is the kind of manipulative and crafted answer that assumes people are stupid and incapable of either memory or logical reasoning.  The criticism of Biden was not the behavior of other members of the committee.  It was that Biden himself had made at least two crucial decisions that ensured that Hill would be dismissed and to the eternal shame of this country that Clarence Thomas would be appointed to the Supreme Court.

As members of the panel on the Majority Report pointed out on a recent podcast, even if this had been the issue (the nasty, arrogant, contemptuous behavior of other members of the committee) Biden could, as chairman, have easily done something about that as well.  He could at least have pointed out that the nature of the questioning was out of order and outrageous.  He did not.

In fact, what Biden did was much more serious than any performance by Spector.  The world would arguably have been a different place for women had those other women’s testimony been brought forth and considered and shown to the American people.  Would it have changed everything?  No, but it would have could have been a pivotal turning point similar to the prosecution of Harvey Weinstein and the Me Too movement.

There is no statute of limitations for this sort of seriously damaging behavior and Biden doesn’t get to squirm out of it.