The corporate media has become such a vast wasteland it is impossible to watch. If you just lump together the nightly news on MSNBC alone, it is a collection of celebrity worship, quoting of rap lyrics as if they were great literature, political gossip, endless discussions of things that MIGHT happen on Capital Hill. Added to that are long winging narratives designed to demonstrate that the Republicans are hypocrites (we would have never guessed) and (I’m sure that will stop them). There is also the moaning and hand-wringing about how the Repubicans can be the authoritarians they are. In case you haven’t noticed, a great proportion of the nightly news is also composed of “breaking news” about investigations, or potential investigations. Then, after a few days, these investigations are dropped like hot potatoes and we never hear of them again.
I could go on for hundreds of words, but…podcasts are the only answer for those of us who are intensely interested in politics and see the corporate news for what it is – a means of “cooling out the mark.” The mark is us.
Heather Cox Richardson co-hosts a really good podcast covering various interesting subjects. The podcast is called “Now and Then.”
If you would like to listen to a discussion of the history of cults in the U.S. and the implications for the current cult we see developing, this podcast is really good.
In the past two days I have listened to three interviews with Indian journalist Barkha Dutt about the stunning second wave of COVID deaths in India. Dutt lost her own father to COVID within the past week. She comes from what she describes as a privileged family in India, but even so, she was not able to get the medical attention that could have kept her father alive. The desperation in her reporting and in her voice are inescapable.
After it became apparent that a second wave of COVID was out of control in India, a number of journalists posted photographs of vastly overburdened crematoriums operating all over the country. There was also video footage of hospitals that are so over run patients are laying on the ground, or on flattened paper boxes with IV feeds hanging from the limbs of trees. Family members are desperately running from hospital to hospital seeking medical attention for loved ones, and individually searching for oxygen and taking it to those lucky enough to be in hospitals.
According to Dutta, India was incredibly complacent after the first wave of COVID. Most people thought the worst was behind them. The Indian government failed to buy adequate supplies of vaccines to cope with a possible second wave, rejected the idea of buying vaccines that weren’t completely made in India and even gave vaccine away after the first wave. Politicians continued to have enormous rallies without any social distancing or masking and the government allowed masses to gather for religious services.
Now, a second wave has hit India and even the official statistics of deaths are stunning. And, as Dutt reports, the official statistics, alarming as they are, are grossly underreporting the number of deaths. Dutt has talked to crematorium workers who report burning over 120 bodies a day. This is one crematorium in one location. Government statistics for that region, report something like 47 deaths for the entire city.
Dutt has said that she can’t even estimate how extensive the underreporting is. She said that she has seen instances where there is as much as a four-fold difference between the official statistics and those she estimates for a city.
To add to the problem, some testing facilities have been asked to decrease the amount of testing so that there will not be so many cases reported. This is reminiscent of actions taken by the Trump administration when COVID case counts became politically embarrassing.
Dutt argues that the Indian government was outrageously complacent and did not adequately prepare for the possibility of a second wave of COVID. She also reports that people in India while initially forgiving of the mistakes of the government, are now angry.
Some people are blaming health care workers for the lack of vaccines and infrastructure, but in fact, it is the fault of the government. Citizens, she says, have been left to fend for themselves. Whether you survive this pandemic depends on who you know and how strong you are. It is survival of the richest and the most connected. People feel that they are out there all alone, she says. There is no state apparatus to turn to for help at the hospitals or the crematoriums. It is just every person on their own fighting for resources. You can hear the fear and desperation and anger in her voice.
This is what the social configuration looks like when the state breaks down in a complex society. This is exactly what the Republicans have in mind for this country. They have worked for decades to destroy the faith people had in the government. They have worked tirelessly to block any policy that would have allowed government to improve their lives of the citizenry. They have blocked any policies which would have even allowed the government to function. Republicans are against effective programs to deal with COVID because successful state intervention in a crisis might have caused people to start understanding and valuing the role of government in a complex society. An effective government response to COVID might cause people to question whether the state is the enemy.
Numerous corporate journalists (who are like parrots) are now having a field day talking about how the Republicans have ceased to be ideological. Nothing could be further from the truth. They have been and are now conducting an ideological fight for a world where life is each against all, where the wealthy and the powerful can secure access to health and clean food and clean water and the rest of us fight it out on the street as did Dutt’s family when they went to have her father cremated.
This is the world Republicans are ushering in. The reality is staring us in the face every day, with every news report, but the reality is so disturbing Americans cannot and will not look at it. They would prefer to watch corporate news hosts make celebrities out of the hundreds of thousands of people who needlessly died because of a refusal to allow the government to act. They would rather watch hosts quote rap lyrics as if they were great literature, follow the soap opera of the royal family, or interview each other about their books (which all say that the institutions are holding and everything’s fine). The American people would, in other words, prefer to do anything, anything but look at the stark reality of the world the Republicans are preparing us for.
And, we should remember that many of these Republicans have no investment in this world. They truly believe that this is the “end times,” and that in a very short time they are going to be leaving the rest of us behind while they ascend to heaven. So, far from being free of ideology, they have the most destructive ideology on the planet. They believe that the worse things get the better because that brings us nearer to the end of the world.
If you want to know what that world is going to look like, just take a look close look at India.
Dutt was interviewed on Christine Amanpour’s nightly news program and by Ian Bremmer on his podcast, Gzero World (5/8/21)
Dereck Chauvin put his knee on the neck of George Floyd, stared into the camera and dared us to do anything about it.
Donald Trump did exactly what Chauvin did – he put his knee on the neck of democracy, decency, legality. He stared into the camera and dared us to do anything about it.
Putin has done exactly what Chauvin did – he has put his knee on the neck of Navalny, stared into the camera and dared us to do anything about it.
These are lessons, authoritarian lessons. They are demonstrating to us that that they can do whatever they want. They can even murder one of us right in front of our very eyes and we can’t do a damn thing about it.
We have won tonight, in the Chauvin case. We have won because of the mobilization of millions of people putting pressure on the system to live up to its ideals. We have won because of the courage and discipline of a group of witnesses. We have won and we can win again.
We must stand together and stand up to the boot of authoritarian rule on our necks. We stopped them with the Chauvin verdict. That’s why the legal system avoids jury trials if at all possible, especially for powerful defendants. We can, and we must stop them again. We must demand that the participants in the corrupt crime spree that was the Trump administration are held to account. We must demand that dangerous men like Putin and the oligarchs that surround him are held to account.
If we do not see, truly see that these actions are preparations for authoritarianism, they will come back for us. They are obviously not phased in the least by the electoral defeat in 2020. The tidal wave of voter suppression being orchestrated by the Republicans is just another way to take power because they cannot win it legitimately. It is their way back in power. We must take them seriously or we will find ourselves in 2022 and 2024 with another authoritarian take-over of the governmental process. If we flirt with that possibility, we may never recover.
That look you saw on Chavin’s face when he was kneeling there, crushing the life out of a man, is the same look you would see on the face of Bill Barr, Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Pompeo, Pence, Steven Miller, Manafort and many others while they crushed the life out of anyone who opposed them if they thought for one minute they could get away with it. If we let them get away with it, they will crush the life out of democracy and our lives will be unalterably changed. If we don’t take them seriously, if we don’t fight them we will find ourselves living under that knee being given the same compassion and respect Dereck Chavin gave George Floyd.
This is by far the best podcast out there. I know the corporate media is seductive, but your time would be better spent giving this a listen. Sam Seder puts together some of the most interesting and pertinent interviews available.
“Sam hosts writer and political analyst Jared Yates Sexton to discuss his new book, American Rule: How a Nation Conquered the World But Failed Its People, and why the foundational myths of American Exceptionalism have such a hold on the populace.
Sam and Jared explore the stories Americans told themselves throughout the country’s history, from how the process behind writing the Constitution to how the “Mound Builders” stories helped justify indigenous Americans’ slaughter. The two consider how these stories have shaped the populace’s thinking and why it’s essential to reject politics as a spectacle.
The Nevada Independent is reporting that Trump’s campaign and Nevada Republican Party officials have filed an emergency appeal requesting the Nevada Supreme Court to immediately order Clark County to stop processing mail ballots.
Even though a District Court last week, issued an order denying their request, they have gone to the Nevada Supreme Court. The request is for Clark County to stop using an automatic signature verification machine and to stop “duplication” of all mail ballots. The “duplication” occurs when a mail in ballot has something wrong with it that prevents it being processed by a machine, so another ballot is created to record the vote.
If Clark County doesn’t immediately stop counting, the attorneys argue, “Nevadans – and the rest of the country – will be left wondering whether the results of the election are legitimate.”
The Registrar of Voters in Clark County has stated that if the use of the signature verification machine is stopped, it is unlikely that they will be able to complete the counting of ballots by the deadline set by state law.
And, this is exactly the intent. The Republicans will do anything to win, anything.
It is tempting to think that authoritarian governments come to power through sudden and dramatic coups, but often they do not. Instead, they come to power through a creeping co-opting of authority. This is the preferred method, the most successful method of taking control.
A sudden, dramatic take-over of a society provokes resistance. Sliding the society into authoritarianism accomplishes the same thing, but doesn’t so dramatically jar everybody’s sensibilities.
The Trump Administration could try to cancel the 2020 elections and stay in power. But, that would draw a backlash, and hopefully a powerful resistance. The Republicans would prefer to to stay in power through a manipulated election, and that is what they are seeking. Republicans want the show and appearance of an election without the actuality of an election, i.e., they want a pre-determined outcome. In other words, they want exactly what Putin has.
It is clear that the Republicans want to remain in power by manipulating the 2020 election process. They do not want to bring troops into polling places and seize ballots, but they are not above doing that if they must. They are clearly planning strategies for both eventualities.
One of the techniques authoritarian governments use to bring about illegal and unconstitutional change that ensures the maintenance of their power is to test out their intentions ahead of time. Test, measure reaction, pull back if necessary, test again or go forward. The history of the Trump/Republican administration is one of using this strategy.
On first consideration, this might seem counter intuitive. Why would they signal in advance their intention to subvert the law? Why alert the opposition so they can prepare?
One very good reason is to inoculate citizens and the media, slowly injecting the idea of electoral intervention a little at the time so that if it becomes necessary, the idea will not be totally new.
First, this means that Republican supporters will be brought along carefully, introducing them to the idea, signaling what may come. Second, the introduction of the idea allows time to lay the foundation of the argument of why this may become “necessary.” Third, the advanced announcement, or threat, causes the opposition to go on alert. As time passes though, and other threats are issued, the heightened sensitivity can’t be maintained, and the opposition relaxes.
The Republicans have turned this threat/reaction circle into a joke, a way of ginning up outrage among their opposition which they then ridicule. The legitimate outrage at the idea of the subversion of democracy becomes an object of mockery. So, Republican supporters know exactly how to react to this moral outrage if and when it actually happens. They jeer, mock and dismiss.
Fourth, the announcement alerts the opposition, but through repeated threats, the opposition wears down and the heightened sensitivity cannot be maintained. The press loses interest in even covering the threats because they aren’t new. The press and the citizenry become desensitized.
The Republicans have used this tactic repeatedly through various surrogates and through Trump. At the moment, they are testing the waters of electoral interference through people like Roger Stone. There are a number of reasons why Roger Stone is not in prison. First, he was paid off so he would not do a deal with prosecutors and tell them about the Republicans’ various corrupt activities. Second, Stone functions as an effective mouthpiece. He publicly says that the Republicans should do this or that. Then, Republicans wait for the reaction. That reaction informs them of just how far they can go.
Roger Stone, stated over the weekend on Alex Jones’s Infowars that Trump and the Republicans should seize total power over the society and jail opponents including Bill and Hillary Clinton should he lose to Biden. Stone argued that Trump should consider invoking the Insurrection act. He also recommended arresting Harry Reid.
Stone said: “The ballots in Nevada on election night should be seized by federal marshals and taken from the state. They are completely corrupted. No votes should be counted from the state of Nevada if that turns out to be the provable case. Send federal marshals to the Clark county board of elections, Mr. President!”
Later, attacking the Democratic governor of Nevada, Steve Sisolak, Trump said: “This is the guy we are entrusting with millions of ballots, unsolicited ballots, and we’re supposed to win these states. Who the hell is going to trust him? The only way the Democrats can win the election is if they rig it.”
On Sunday, on ABC’s This Week, senior Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller also attacked mail-in ballots in Nevada. He also called Sisolak a “clubhouse governor … who, by the way, if you go against him politically … politically speaking, you’ll find yourself buried in the desert.”
So, the Republicans are signaling that they may intervene in the election if it becomes necessary, telling their supporters what to expect and providing a rationale for the clearly illegal and unconstitutional action.
Stone, in the interview, advocated “forming an election day operation using the FBI, federal marshals and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections [to results] and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity.”
In an interview broadcast on Saturday night, Trump told Fox News he would happily “put down” any leftwing protests about the results of the election. “We’ll put them down very quickly if they do that,” he told Jeannine Pirro.
As well as signaling his supporters and threatening his opponents, this move is also a head-fake. In other words, Republicans are shouting from the media mountain tops that they may well physically intervene in the election, seizing ballots, sending in troops. The corporate media spends hours and hours talking about this and pointing out the obvious fact that it is illegal and unconstitutional. But, what the Republicans are hoping for, banking on, is that they can accomplish the same take-over of the election process through more covert means, voter purges, voting machine processes that are impenetrable and therefore subject to manipulation, refusing to count mail-in ballots that come in “late,” closing polling places, etc.
The Republicans are stealing the 2020 election. They are doing so behind our backs and in front of our faces.
There are two documentaries out about Jeffrey Epstein. One, “Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein?” is part of a series by Investigation Discovery. The other is a Netflix release “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” based on a book by James Patterson.
But, as Elizabeth Vos points out in an article in the Consortium News (6/18/20), neither covers Epstein’s place in a larger political narrative. In treating Epstein’s activities as separated from their political context, they turn Epstein into a sexual predator, committing crimes that float free of their political context.
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell were part of an international scheme to compromise and then blackmail influential people. There is evidence that this operation was part of the compromising of the Republican party long before Trump became the nominee.
Even though Epstein’s death in prison is widely accepted and indeed repeatedly reported as a “suicide” no thinking person can accept that narrative on face value. There is so much that is suspicious about the death and there is a plethora of evidence of the interests of powerful and rich people in his silence. Epstein knew the secrets of a lot of powerful people and his death was essential to protect those people. The refusal of the media to question that death is just part and parcel of their subservient status with regard to those in power.
Ghislanie Maxwell, who had finally been arrested in New Hampshire on July 2, 2020, is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, the former owner of the New York Daily News and The Mirror. He was given what Vos describes as a “state funeral” in Israel after his mysterious death in 1991. Maxwell “fell off” his yacht in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, much like enemies of the Russian state repeatedly “fall” out of windows.
Israeli sources say that Epstein worked for Israeli military intelligence. Ari Ben-Menache, a former Israeli intelligence officer, told Consortium News that Robert Maxwell introduced his daughter and Epstein to Israeli intelligence after they engaged in a blackmail operation for Israel.
According to Ben-Measche’s book “Epstein: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “[Epstein] was taking photos of politicians f**king fourteen-year-old girls — if you want to get it straight. They [Epstein and Maxwell] would just blackmail people, they would just blackmail people like that,” he says in the book.
Trump and the Republicans are working to establish a Christo-fascist one party authoritarian state. The corporate media refuses to take this situation seriously, acting as if Trump’s personal disdain of science is just that, some kind of personal peccadillo. It’s not. The Republican party has worked for decades to erode public confidence in science and the scientific method.
Crucial people in the Trump administration and the Republican party think they have a religious mission to subvert democracy in this country. Bill Barr (who numerous pundits on MSNBC assured us was an institutionalist) is just one example. These people detest science because science has rules, can demonstrate facts that contradict religious belief. These are people who do not want there to be any objective reality outside their own authoritarian determination of truth. Science is a threat.
The Republican Party has spent decades fighting against science. The science of climate change is a good example. They must discredit science to discredit what is now agreed-upon scientific fact – the planet is warming, disastrously, and it is the effect of man-made (and therefore correctable) behavior. But, acknowledging the reality of climate change means interfering with profits from fossil fuels. The Republicans would rather savage the planet rather than cost the 1% profits.
As Malcolm Nance pointed out this week in an interview, these people are a lot like terrorist fanatics, they think they are protected by God from the effects of their behavior. These folks think they can pursue profits and destroy the planet and they will not be affected.
As just one illustration of this thinking, last week there was video of people coming out of a religious service where people congregated regardless of the Coronavirus. One woman stopped to talk to the reporter, and said: I’ve been washed by the blood of Jesus. What she is saying is that she won’t be affected by the Coronavirus because God is protecting her.
This is dangerous thinking. Extremely dangerous thinking. And, it prevades an entire political party in this country. These are not just a few isolated people.
Trump’s administration is packing the scientific agencies like the CDC with appointees who have no respect for, and positive suspicion of science. Robert Redfield is one example. Redfield has essentially been given a pass by the corporate media.
The following are excerpts from an article about Redfield that took 5 seconds to find on the internet.
Redfield’s “…nomination was considered controversial, and was opposed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which cited Redfield’s lack of experience administering a public health agency, his history of scientific misconduct, and his religious advocacy in response to a public health crisis. Earlier reporting refers to his advocacy of a religious agenda in response to the AIDS crisis.”
In a statement by the President of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Dr. Peter Lurie (published (3/21/18), the CSPI deemed the appointment of Redfield “disastrous” for at least three reasons. 1) Redfield had no experience running a public health agency and has no relationship with state and local public health officials. 2) Redfield had been “credibly accused of scientific misconduct for exaggerating the benefits of a putative HIV vaccine.” Redfield was investigated for this by the military. 3) Redfield had supported a variety of policies related to HIV/AIDS that “are anathema to the great majority of public health professionals: mandatory HIV testing, reporting of positive HIV results to public health without the patient’s consent and quarantining of HIV positive individuals in the military.”
Redfield in this public statement was called “a sloppy scientist with a long history of scientific misconduct and an extreme religious agenda.”
Further excerpts from an article in Mother Jones: Choma, Russ (3/7/2020) “Trump’s CDC director has a history of controversial…”
Redfield “… also has a long history of being a close ally to conservative politicians and their pet theories on HIV and AIDS.”
He advocated investigating the sexual histories of those who tested HIV positive.
Redfield advocated similar ideas outside of the military, aligning himself with a conservative Christian group called Americans for a Sound HIV/AIDS Policy (ASAP) which supported similar steps in the general public (mandatory testing and quarantines) to control the spread of the virus. According to Foreign Policy, in the introduction of a book by ASAP’s founder, Redfield rejected the medical norms for handling the epidemic and called for a more faith-based approach:
“It is time to reject the temptation of denial of the AIDS/HIV crisis; to reject false prophets who preach the quick-fix strategies of condoms and free needles; to reject those who preach prejudice; and to reject those who try to replace God as judge. The time has come for the Christian community—members and leaders alike—to confront the epidemic,” Redfield wrote.
Redfield named the breakdown of family values and increasing number of single-parent households as key factors responsible for the spread of AIDS.
“In the 1990s, Redfield endorsed an unproven HIV vaccine as a huge breakthrough. It wasn’t, and Redfield was investigated for scientific misconduct for his role in continuing to push the vaccine. (He was later cleared of accusations of misconduct.) He also publicly lobbied for legislation sponsored by a conservative member of Congress that would force medical workers to get tested for HIV and AIDS and lose their licenses to practice if they were infected. More recently, in the early 2000s, Redfield remained adamant that the best way to contain the AIDS epidemic in Africa was to encourage abstinence, monogamy, and the use of condoms only as a last resort.”
Redfield was not the Trump administration’s first choice for CDC director; she resigned after she was found to have traded tobacco stocks while running the CDC. Despite loud calls from CDC watchdogs like the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which accused Redfield of having a bad record “and an extreme religious agenda,” Redfield was appointed in 2018.
Redfield has enabled Trump’s politicization of the government’s response.
And, Deborah Brix has been a close associate of Redfield’s.
According to information reported by Wikipedia:
“Redfield continued studies of the…vaccine; the results of his 27-author phase II clinical trial were published in the Journal of Infectious Disease in 2000, with Deborah L. Birx as lead author. Redfield’s multi-site study, a collaboration between the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health, laid the groundwork for future vaccine development and provided a better understanding of the biologic basis of HIV infection and its interaction with the host immune system. The work did not, however, result in an effective vaccine.
“The 1993 investigation did say that Redfield had an “inappropriate” close relationship with the non-governmental group “Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy” (ASAP), which promoted the gp160 vaccine. The group was founded by evangelical Christians that worked to contain the HIV/AIDS outbreak by advocating for abstinence before marriage, rather than passing out condoms — a view Redfield says he’s since changed.
Redfield served on the board of ASAP, which gay groups criticized for anti-gay, conservative Christian policies, such as abstinence-only prevention. Redfield also authored the foreword to the book co-written by ASAP leader W. Shepard Smith, “Christians in the Age of AIDS” which discouraged the distribution of sterile needles to drug users as well as condom use calling them “false prophets.” The book described AIDS as “God’s judgment” against homosexuals. At the time of his nomination to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Redfield maintained close ties with anti-gay and anti-HIV activists, although he has publicly supported the use of condoms and denied ever promoting abstinence-only interventions. However, in the 2000s, Redfield was a prominent advocate for the ABCs of AIDS doctrine which promoted abstinence primarily and condoms only a last resort.
These people are dangerous, driven by religious fanaticism, and in charge of government agencies.
A discussion of politics, law, justice, and crime.