Quick Thoughts on the Coronavirus Crisis

As-Trump-Rips-Deep-State-Fauci-Goes-Facepalm-Knowing-Why

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?

 

Bernie and Biden: The Debate

again
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in 2019

W.J. Astore

In last night’s debate, Joe Biden ran away from his own record.  Suddenly, Biden is against fracking.  He’s for Elizabeth Warren’s education plan.  He’s against subsidies for fossil fuels.  He’s for a $15 minimum wage.  He’s against Super PACs and for public funding of elections.  He’s never tried to cut social security.  Just about the only progressive policy he remains against is Medicare for All, which he says is simply too expensive to countenance.

Biden also wanted to drive the narrative by saying he was picking a woman as vice president and a black female as the next justice to the Supreme Court (Anita Hill, perhaps?).  I’m not sure why Biden thought a female VP-candidate was such a big deal; Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, and of course Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016.  Months ago, I foresaw Biden/Kamala Harris as the DNC dream ticket.  Older white guy, younger black woman, perfect!  Except that they’re both establishment tools whose views are safely unprogressive.

Joe Biden was so eager to claim he agreed with Bernie Sanders that my wife quipped, “He’s a #MeToo candidate!”  Along with his new “me too” tactic, Biden also likes to say, “I’m the guy,” as in “I’m the guy who supported gay marriage publicly” or “I’m the guy who engineered the Paris Climate Accords.”  To Biden, being present at or near the creation of something means that he created it.

Biden’s new strategy was obvious; it was essentially the same one Hillary adopted in 2016 to neutralize Bernie.  FAKE LEFT, RUN RIGHT.

Biden is now faking that he’s sensitive to progressive concerns.  But like Hillary he’ll run to the right if he wins the nomination.  And, like Hillary, he’ll lose to Trump.

Of course, much of the debate focused on the coronavirus and the government’s response to it, and both men said reasonable things.  Watching as much of the CNN post-debate coverage I could stomach (not much), all the “journalists” on the panel saluted Joe Biden for his fine performance.  Indeed, there wasn’t a single progressive on the panel.  No one took Bernie’s side.

Naturally, there was no discussion in this debate of America’s wars or its colossal military budget.  The military-industrial complex went unnoticed and unchallenged.  Indeed, Biden suggested that the military is somehow going to ride to the rescue by erecting tent cities during the coronavirus crisis.

Biden kept mentioning all the time he’d spent in the White House Situation Room, so much so that “Situation Room Biden” could be his new handle.  All talk of Biden’s “gaffes,” i.e. signs of cognitive decline, was banished, but of course CNN reminded its viewers that Bernie had recently suffered a mild heart attack.  Biden, naturally, asserted he had a clean bill of health.

And so it went.  Overall, by running away from his own record and lying consistently through his blindingly white teeth, Joe Biden probably fooled enough people to vote for him while handing the Democratic establishment the victory they crave most of all: keeping the progressive base powerless and firmly in its place.

A Joe Biden Thought Experiment

download (1)
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.

The Cold, Cynical, Corporate DNC

 

biden
Biden briefly mixed up his wife and sister in a speech this week.  It wasn’t a good look for the gaffe-prone former VP

W.J. Astore

Is it OK to feel sorry for Joe Biden?

I remember him running for president in 1988.  It was a disaster.  He plagiarized speeches and lied about his college record.  To be specific, he claimed he graduated in the top of his college class, with three degrees, on a full scholarship, while winning an award from the political science department.  The truth was he graduated near the bottom of his class, with one degree, on a half-scholarship, while winning no such award.  When it comes to talking about his record, Biden’s got more than a little of Trump in him.

Biden has never done well running for president — until these last eight days, when victory in South Carolina led the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to go “all-in” on him.  Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar conveniently dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden (no collusion here, people!), and other prominent democrats quickly followed suit in singing Biden’s praises.  Rumor has it Barack Obama was involved behind the scenes, making phone calls, twisting arms, getting the corporate tools to line up behind his former vice president (not that they needed much convincing).

In a way, it worked too well.  Biden vaulted ahead on Super Tuesday and is now the front runner and presumptive nominee.  The DNC, and Daddy Warbucks Mike Bloomberg, are pledging undying love and lots of money.  Even Kamala Harris, the little girl who was so, so hurt by Biden’s opposition to school integration, is now a big Biden booster.  What happened?

The answer is obvious.  A cold, cynical, corporate DNC decided Biden was the best man to stop Bernie Sanders.  Stopping Bernie and stomping on the progressive base of the Democratic Party is the paramount goal of the DNC.  And they are likely to achieve this goal.

What the DNC doesn’t really care about is defeating Donald Trump.  Good thing too, since Joe Biden can’t do that, and the DNC knows it.  Assuming he’s the nominee, Biden is going to be humiliated in the general election.  His weaknesses, which are legion, play to Trump’s strengths.

People are hiding this harsh reality from Joe Biden.  And maybe he’s hiding it from himself as well.  I really don’t want to get into signs of Biden’s cognitive decline, for even if he were sharper, let’s say the Joe Biden of 2012, he’d still lose to Trump, and badly.

I’m sure the DNC is already generating excuses for the post-election press conferences in November.  They’ll say things like Bernie hurt Biden by staying in the race too long.  They’ll claim Russian interference again in Trump’s favor.  Perhaps they’ll say the economy was too strong, or they’ll blame millennials for not voting, or they’ll condemn the electoral college, and so on.

The real reason will be staring back at them.  Joe Biden is exactly the wrong candidate to go up against Donald Trump, but no matter.  Four more years of Trump is far better than a principled progressive agenda advanced by a man of integrity like Bernie Sanders.

Did I mention the DNC is cold, cynical, and corporate?

Tulsi Gabbard Is Invisible!

download
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

biden
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.

The Democratic Debates, Part 9: Special Bloomberg Edition

5352
Look at the billionaire wanting to be called on

W.J. Astore

Feeling my own pain, I watched last night’s Democratic debate from Nevada, which I have to say sparkled in the first hour as Elizabeth Warren tore into Mike Bloomberg for his racism and sexism.  Indeed, all our regulars took their shots at the billionaire, but I thought Warren landed the most telling ones.  Throughout the proceedings, Bloomberg largely looked bored; perhaps he was mentally counting the billions he’d saved under Trump’s tax rebate for the richest.

Anyhow, I somehow endured the entire two hours, though the dishonest questioning of Bernie Sanders by the panel put me on edge.  Basically, they hinted he was an un-American socialist-communist who’d soon collapse from another heart attack.  It was that bad.

Here’s how I see the candidates and their performances, post-debate and in alphabetical order:

Joe Biden: I think he profits the most from Bloomberg being on the stage, because Uncle Joe no longer has the worst record.  As the other candidates went after Bloomberg, Biden could wax nostalgically about the good old days under Obama.  He did OK.

Mike Bloomberg: Mayor Mike is a mega-rich old white guy consumed by his own ego and smugness.  He didn’t even bother trying to connect with people.  Money is his connection.

Pete Buttigieg: Mayor Pete is mega-poor young white guy consumed by his own ego and smugness.  As he got into a few tussles with Amy Klobuchar, I found myself rooting for Amy.

Amy Klobuchar: She’s good when she’s delivering prepared lines, but she faltered when asked about her inability to name the president of Mexico.  She was both defensive and disingenuous, not the best combination.

Bernie Sanders: Bernie is always Bernie.  Consistent passion on behalf of workers is his sweet spot.  He hit a home run as he talked about socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor.

Elizabeth Warren: Something about the presence of Bloomberg lit a fire under Warren.  She had someone to torch, and she hit the target.  She also brought her remarks back to people of color on several occasions.  Perhaps her best debate performance yet.

As usual, the mainstream media was awful.  Did you know capitalism is the religion of America?  Apart from Bernie, the candidates professed their belief in capitalism as if the almighty god of America is Mammon.  Then again, our money says “In [this] God We Trust.”  In all seriousness, there’s something truly unseemly about all the money-grubbing in these debates.

Of course, you already know what was missing in this debate.  There were no questions on foreign policy.  None on America’s wars.  None on the military-industrial complex.  None on Iran or North Korea or Venezuela.  There were questions on trade that involved China and Mexico, but that was about it.  But at least climate change was discussed.

Most revealingly of all, the candidates were asked if the candidate with the most delegates should be the party’s nominee, even if that candidate lacked the requisite number for a first ballot win.  All the candidates said, “let the [rigged] process play out,” meaning let the establishment’s super-delegates determine the winner, except for Bernie, who is likely to be the candidate with the most delegates who gets screwed by the DNC this summer.

And there you have it.  Time for a third party and a true political revolution, Bernie.