Quick Thoughts on the Coronavirus Crisis

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W.J. Astore

As millions of Americans are laid off or lose their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis, they often also lose their employer-provided health care.  You think maybe it’s finally time for Medicare For All?

Americans will have to rely increasingly on credit cards, which charge usurious interest rates of 25% or higher, even as the Fed has lowered the prime rate nearly to zero for banks.  Any chance that banks and credit card companies will dramatically lower their rates to help Americans in this time of crisis?

Speaking of credit card companies and high interest rates, guess who their greatest friend was in the U.S. Senate.  Yes, Joe Biden, Senator from Delaware, where laws favor banks and credit card companies.

Speaking of Joe Biden, guess who’s been virtually invisible during the coronavirus crisis.  His handlers apparently think Joe isn’t ready for prime time.  Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has been raising millions for charity and promoting sensible ideas that are later adopted by the Trump administration.

The DNC, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer don’t know what to think or do until their corporate masters provide guidance or give them permission.  Meanwhile, the Trump administration and the Republicans are filling the vacuum, even as they push legislation that supports their pet ideas and programs (restrictions on immigration, further attacks on public education, and the like).

Party-line Democrats want payments to Americans to be means-tested.  Yet help to corporations is never means-tested.  What gives?  In the spirit of trickle-down economics, expect a few drops of assistance to the poor and buckets-full of support for the rich.

Huge crises don’t always produce good leaders.  The Great Depression exposed Herbert Hoover and his small-minded thinking.  COVID-19 is exposing Trump for what he is: ignorant, lazy, incurious, incapable of empathy, petulant, and vain.  Meanwhile, as an alternative, the DNC puts forward Joe Biden, a corporate tool in his late seventies showing signs of confusion and cognitive decline.  Sadly, it’s not true that strong leaders arise to meet the moment — not in this White House, not in this corrupt political system.

Americans have been told for decades “You can have it all.”  To have “No Fear.”  To take selfies of ourselves and revel in our own individualism.  Even after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, our leaders told us to go shopping and visit Disney, to consume and party.  Now we’re being encouraged to come together, to help one another, to be unselfish, to live a life that’s not self-centered.  But in many cases it’s too late.  People aren’t listening.  They’ve been told forever to focus on themselves and their own self-actualization.  And you just don’t flip a propaganda/conditioning switch that easily.

That said, I salute our doctors, nurses, other medical personnel, and first responders.  I salute everyone working at supermarkets and hardware stores and the like, serving us all despite the risks.  I meet my neighbors on walks and I admire the spirit of friendliness and our collective willingness to help one another.  We’re going to need this spirit to get through the weeks and months ahead.

“Keep calm and wash your hands” is a sign I saw at my local bank.  It’s not the worst advice.  Be safe out there.

Update (3/23): To no surprise, a deeply corrupt and compromised political system is responding to this crisis in a deeply corrupt and compromised way.  Truly, this is a national emergency. And what is Congress doing to help ordinary people? Virtually nothing. The Senate’s “relief” package is relief for the rich and corporations and industries.

In this immense crisis, we are seeing the sheer awfulness of the religion of American capitalism.

As Trump has dithered and Biden has remained invisible, Bernie Sanders has led the charge, raising millions for charity and fighting for workers.  Why can’t people see this?

 

A Joe Biden Thought Experiment

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He’s a cool dude.  He’s still got it.  Right?

W.J. Astore

What if Joe Biden had decided to run for president in 2016 — and won?

And what if, while in office during his first term, he started showing signs of cognitive decline like the ones he’s shown on the campaign trail in 2019-20?

Wouldn’t many, if not most, people have advised Joe Biden to step aside, to be a one-term president?  Because we know the demands of the presidency are tough enough on men (I say “men” because all our presidents, so far, have been men) in their forties and fifties, let alone a man in his late seventies, a man who’s had two cerebral aneurysms, and (again) a man who’s shown signs of confused speech, among other difficulties.

I think this is a reasonable conclusion.  President Joe Biden may well have stepped aside in 2020, perhaps to allow his vice president to run.  And in this thought experiment, I’m guessing Hillary Clinton would have been the loudest person advocating that he step aside “for the good of the party and the country,” i.e. so that Hillary could take his place and run yet again.

But of course today’s reality is vastly different.  Biden didn’t run in 2016.  Hillary lost.  We got Donald Trump.  And now Biden is already being anointed by the DNC as the last best hope of defeating Trump in November.

With all this in mind, I’ve been reading about Biden’s preparations for the upcoming debate this Sunday.  I see where there’s talk of allowing him to sit (lack of endurance).  I see where he’s being advised to keep his answers short and simple (because his train of thought tends to derail when he attempts to string sentences together).  And I think to myself, does this make any sense for a man preparing for four tough years as the next president of the United States?  The next leader of the free world, as we used to say and sometimes still do?

If we were electing a man (or woman for that matter) to our local school board, and if he were pushing 80 and becoming less articulate, and various “handlers” for this candidate were trying to limit his public exposure, we’d probably vote for a different candidate.  Not because of ageism but because we know public service is demanding and even unforgiving, and not all are capable of meeting those demands.

I’d add something else as well.  What if Joe Biden was Josephine Biden, approaching 80, and having difficulty speaking.  Would we be willing to give this woman the benefit of the doubt, or would we dismiss her as “dotty,” as an old biddy, as well past her “sell buy” date?  I owe these questions to my wife, who pointed out, quite accurately I think, that Joe Biden is getting a pass in part because he’s male.  Sure, he’s getting older, but he’s still got it, the old buck!  But do we really believe this?

To show I’m not so young myself, I was watching “Gunsmoke” today and one of the characters had a memorable line.  He said the law can’t protect an old man from playing the fool.  And I thought of Joe Biden and whether certain powerful elements are allowing him to play the fool for their own reasons.

What say you, readers?

P.S.  Readers of “Bracing Views” know I support Bernie Sanders, who is a vigorous 78 years of age.  This is not about age.

Tulsi Gabbard Is Invisible!

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The Invisible Woman

W.J. Astore

Last night, I caught a snippet of MSNBC as the panelists talked about the upcoming debates between two white men in their late seventies.  Nobody mentioned that a woman of color in her late thirties had also qualified for these debates, and an Iraq war veteran to boot: Tulsi Gabbard.

Today, I saw an article at the New York Times with the plaintive title: “Was It Always Going to Be the Last Men Standing?”  Here’s the online summary of the article:

A two-man race? Women aren’t surprised

“One of the hardest parts of this,” Elizabeth Warren said as she withdrew from the presidential race on Thursday, “is all those little girls who are going to have to wait four more years.”
The senator’s exit essentially winnows what had been a diverse Democratic field to two white men, and the debate over an enduring question — can a woman win the presidency? — remains unresolved, our politics reporter Lisa Lerer writes in a news analysis.

I like that little caveat of “essentially winnows.”  Because Tulsi Gabbard is still in the race, has qualified for the debates (under the old rules), and is being treated like a non-person by the cynical, corporate, manipulative, and dishonest Democratic National Committee.

People are still telling me to “vote blue no matter who,” even as Tulsi is denied her right to be heard, and even as the DNC conspired to eliminate all moderate challengers to Joe Biden so that they could block Bernie Sanders.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden, to put it gently, has shown serious signs of decline and will be 82 years of age in 2024.  He has called for cuts to social security and has been a water boy for decades for credit card companies and their usurious interest rates.  He voted for the Iraq War, supported job-eliminating trade agreements, and is a servant of Big Pharma and the health insurance industry. among other faults.  And has everyone suddenly forgot his creepy tendency to touch women, to sniff their hair, and otherwise to invade their personal space?

If only we had a woman of substance to challenge these two ageing white men, Biden and Sanders.  If only she was principled, perhaps even a different religion (Hindu?), perhaps even a woman of color, perhaps even a war veteran, perhaps even principled in her stance against wasteful, regime-change wars.

But where are we to find such a woman?  Because I’m sure the DNC would embrace such a paragon of diversity committed to truth-telling.  Wouldn’t they?

Update (5:05 PM EST): Tulsi eliminated from the final two debates with a new DNC rule:

https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/486348-new-standards-eliminate-tulsi-gabbard-from-next-democratic-debate?__twitter_impression=true

For what it’s worth, I posted this personal note on social media:

I know politics is divisive or boring to many. But here’s the story. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has changed its rules to muzzle Tulsi Gabbard, eliminating her from future debates. Remember when the DNC rewrote its rules to allow billionaire Mike Bloomberg to debate?
We’re left with two old white guys, aged 78 and 77, to represent Democratic diversity and “wokeness.” Meanwhile, Tulsi, a woman, an Iraq war veteran, and a Hindu, is cast into the darkness. And while I like Bernie Sanders, I would love to hear a young woman speak against the stupidity and wastefulness of America’s wars, which is the core of Tulsi’s message.
And, of course, look when the DNC announces this rule change: late on a Friday afternoon, when they assume it will go unnoticed. It’s all so cynical and sad.
When the Democrats lose to Trump again in November, remember this moment, among so many other cynical decisions by the DNC.

Biden Is Back as the DNC Prepares to Lose Again

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Prepare for lots of malarkey

W.J. Astore

Last night’s election results show a big delegate haul for Joe Biden, as the Democratic National Committee (DNC) conspired to eliminate Biden’s main challengers for the “moderate” vote, Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar.  That conspiracy worked, boosting Biden to wins and cutting into Bernie Sanders’s haul of delegates.  When the results from California are final, Biden and Sanders may be roughly equal in delegates, setting up a two-man race that’s reminiscent of Hillary-Bernie in 2016.

As my wife quipped this morning: The elections are rigged.  No Russians required.

Speaking of rigged elections, the DNC is putting its thumb on the scale yet again by changing the rules so that Tulsi Gabbard won’t be allowed to debate, even though she qualified with a strong showing in American Samoa.  Here’s how Caitlin Johnstone put it:

The establishment narrative warfare against Gabbard’s campaign dwarfs anything we’ve seen against Sanders, and the loathing and dismissal they’ve been able to generate have severely hamstrung her run. It turns out that a presidential candidate can get away with talking about economic justice and plutocracy when it comes to domestic policy, and some light dissent on matters of foreign policy will be tolerated, but aggressively attacking the heart of the actual bipartisan foreign policy consensus will get you shut down, smeared and shunned like nothing else. This is partly because US presidents have a lot more authority over foreign affairs than domestic, and it’s also because endless war is the glue which holds the empire together.

And now they’re working to install a corrupt, right-wing warmongering dementia patient [Joe Biden] as the party’s nominee. And from the looks of the numbers I’ve seen from Super Tuesday so far, it looks entirely likely that those manipulations will prove successful.

All this means is that the machine is exposing its mechanics to the view of the mainstream public. Both the Gabbard campaign and the Sanders campaign have been useful primarily in this way; not because the establishment would ever let them actually become president, but because they force the unelected manipulators who really run things in the most powerful government on earth to show the public their box of dirty tricks.

Just so.  The DNC and its machine, including the corporate-owned mainstream media, have been fighting since day one to smear and red-bait both Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders.  They will do most anything to deny the nomination to Bernie, handing it to Joe Biden, a man who is well past his prime, and who will almost certainly be humiliated and then defeated by Donald Trump.

But, to quote Jimmy Dore, the Democratic establishment would rather lose to Trump than win with a truly progressive candidate like Bernie Sanders.

Even Donald Trump knows the score.  He tweeted that: The Democrat establishment came together and crushed Bernie Sanders, AGAIN! Even the fact that Elizabeth Warren stayed in the race was devastating to Bernie and allowed Sleepy Joe to unthinkably win Massachusetts. It was a perfect storm, with many good states remaining for Joe!

So, I hope Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard join forces and run together as third-party candidates.  For if the choice is between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, that’s really no choice at all.

Update: Mike Bloomberg has dropped out, endorsing Joe Biden.  Surprise!  In a truly democratic party, news that a Republican-leaning, Stop&Frisk billionaire endorsing Biden would be a big negative.  But not in Biden’s moderate right Democratic Party.

Warren will probably drop soon and likely will endorse Biden.  She’s probably negotiating her price right now, just as Mayor Pete and Amy K. did.

But here’s the reality: A moderate right party (the Democrats) will not defeat a hard right party (the Republicans) in November.  Not with Joe Biden at the helm.  Just think of the enthusiasm gap between these two rightist parties.

Grim news, but there you have it.

Rally ‘Round the Biden

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Bernie and Jane Sanders with Joe Biden

W.J. Astore

Three days, three candidates, three exits.  First, Tom Steyer.  Next, Mayor Pete.  And now Amy Klobuchar.  Pete and Amy are dropping to clear a path for Joe Biden, and indeed Klobuchar has already endorsed Uncle Joe.

The Democratic establishment thinks this is a good thing — the best way to block Bernie Sanders.  But is it?

In debates featuring six or more candidates, Joe Biden was able to elide or hide, to a certain extent, his dubious record, since he had so little time to speak.  When he did speak, he came across as angry and sputtering, often garbling his message.  Now that there’ll be fewer candidates, Biden won’t be able to hide his poor debating skills as easily.  This can’t be a good thing for Joe.

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg also takes votes from Biden.  Will he drop out as well?  He can’t be bribed, so how will pressure be applied to get the Master of Stop & Frisk to go away?

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren recently claimed she’s in the race until the convention.  That can only mean one thing: she’s in the race to block Bernie.  In which case, she’ll be rewarded with — something.  A VP slot under Biden?

I still think the dream ticket for the DNC is Biden/Harris.  And it’s a guaranteed loser as well.  But who cares about winning, right?  As long as Bernie Sanders’s attempt to mobilize the people is defeated.  That is “winning” for the DNC.

As my Kiwi friend just said to me via email:

Democrats now have to choose between Sanders, Biden, Bloomberg…and Elizabeth Warren. Not the most, er, diverse field ever offered to the electorate.

Fascinating times – I still am staggered at how the DNC and mainstream media just cut out Tulsi Gabbard like she was an “unperson” in the Soviet era. One minute she was there, next minute gone.

I still hope Bernie prevails, and if he does, I hope he has the guts to pick Tulsi Gabbard as his VP.  Now is not the time for half-measures, Bernie.

The Democratic Debates, Part 10: Goin’ to Carolina

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Before things got ugly

W.J. Astore

Last night’s debate from South Carolina had much sound and fury, signifying nothing.  Early on, the moderators lost control, and the candidates (or “contestants,” as Bloomberg called them) interrupted and shouted over each other most of the night.  The overall impression was a Democratic Party without a core message; the overall winner was Donald Trump, who was hardly criticized (and indeed he was praised by Bloomberg for allegedly rebuilding the military).

As usual, the mainstream media (MSM), this time CBS, came off poorly.  As an old friend quipped to me, the MSM is clearly a Russian asset.  The usual “gotcha” questions were aimed at Bernie: Why does Russia support you; Why do you criticize Israel — the implication being that Bernie is a self-hating Jew; Will your programs bankrupt America; Is America ready to elect a socialist; and so on.

The so-called moderates like Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg were given plenty of time to make their case, and no “gotcha” questions were aimed at them.  Still, no candidate stood out in a positive light, which overall is a win for the front-runner, Bernie Sanders.

In fact, Bernie had a moment of courage (at least for this crowd) when he dared to criticize American foreign policy for its one-sided support of Israel as well as past interventions on the behalf of authoritarian dictators in places like Chile in 1973 as well as Iran in 1953.  Naturally, he had little time to make his points, and his critique of the Saudis and their authoritarian record was drowned out.  But, again, he alone of the candidates on that stage was willing to speak some unpopular truths to the American people, so kudos to him.

All night long, Bernie’s fellow “contestants” tried to paint him as a radical red.  But, as Bernie himself said, what’s so radical about single-payer health care, a higher minimum wage, and free college tuition in state schools?  It’s not like Bernie is calling for a government takeover of the means of production, i.e. real socialism.  However, the debate moderators were not about to make any fine distinctions, or any distinctions at all, between Bernie’s sensible calls for moderate reforms to crony capitalism and rabid communism.  And so the debate went nowhere.

Anyway, here’s a quick take on the seven candidates contestants:

Joe Biden: Once again, Biden came off as angry.  His message, such as it is, was that we need to return to the good old days of Obama.

Mike Bloomberg: Smug, arrogant, and dishonest, Bloomberg almost blurted out that he’d bought the new 2018 Democratic class in Congress.  It was his most honest moment of the night.

Pete Buttigieg: Smug, arrogant, and dishonest, Mayor Pete is a fresh-faced Ted Cruz.  Lyin’ Ted — meet Lyin’ Pete.

Amy Klobuchar: She said the biggest misconception about her was that she’s boring.  I’m not sure that’s a misconception.

Bernie Sanders: Passionate as ever, you can tell Bernie is fed up with these so-called debates.

Tom Steyer: The billionaire with a heart — compared to Bloomberg, at least.  Steyer tried to attack Trump and mentioned climate change, but issues didn’t matter in this sad debate.

Elizabeth Warren: Once again, she nailed Bloomberg for his racism, sexism, and his failure to disclose his tax returns.  She tried to position herself as the reasonable alternative to Bernie for progressive-minded Democrats, but it’s hard to see her surviving Super Tuesday.

If you missed this “debate,” count yourself fortunate.

Presidential Democrats?

W.J. Astore

Tom Tomorrow has the perfect comic to sum up America’s recent Democratic primaries for president:

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How can Bernie Sanders be electable when he keeps winning elections?  A paradox for sure.

Of course, the whole argument against Bernie Sanders is as dishonest as the primary process is long.  Let’s imagine Bernie Sanders gains the nomination and then defeats Trump in November.  Is Bernie going to become a dictator and enact all his “crazy” socialist ideas by fiat?  Surely, mainstream Republicans and Democrats in Congress are just going to roll over and approve all of Bernie’s “radical socialist” agenda.  Right?

If Bernie were to win, he’d obviously face strong opposition from establishment elites, who would oppose and try to block everything he’d try to do.  That said, the rich and privileged obviously don’t want to bother with such battles; they’d rather just nominate a “safe” centrist, or, even better, a person from their own ranks, like Mike Bloomberg.  You can count on Bloomberg acting to protect Wall Street and the 1%.  He’s got billions of reasons to do so.

As Bloomberg is foisted upon us by the lapdog media, other centrist candidates continue to fight for whatever money is left to sustain their campaigns.  Mayor Pete is flitting from fund raiser to fund raiser (shaking more money trees in wine caves?); Elizabeth Warren is making appeals to party unity (good luck with that); Joe Biden is straining to remain relevant (no more malarkey?); and Amy Klobuchar is seeking any traction she can find in a campaign characterized by market-tested bromides (“I know you, and I will fight for you,” a variant of Bill Clinton’s “I feel your pain”).

The best way to judge the candidates is by the enemies they make, which is why I strongly support Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.  Yes, Tulsi is still in the running, perhaps only until Super Tuesday on March 3rd, but her message against regime-change wars and the military-industrial complex is much needed.

Go Bernie.  Go Tulsi.  We need leaders who are unafraid to speak truth.