around the web: cults

The Cult of the Professional Class, an essay by Kristine Mattis, appeared in April 2016 on the left-leaning website and is still relevant. Naked Capitalism calls the cult "PMC" (professional-managerial class). Mattis describes the background and the agenda of these creatures (Ivy League, pro-war, pro-"markets," condescending) and you could certainly see from her description in 2016 how they would react to Trump (horror, followed by four years of bogus Russiagate narratives) and how they would handle covid (demonizing the vaccine-hesitant).

Apogee, writing on The Saker blog, identifies two cults reacting to covid, and distrusts them both equally: "Faction 1" (Governments, Big Pharma and Pro-Vaxxers) and "Faction 2" (Dissidents). The PMC has mostly lined up with Faction 1, of course. Apogee also identifies "Faction 3" (The Quiet Ones): "These are the knowledgeable, the educated; they may be accepting of vaccinations or not; and this group wants to discuss these events with smarts and sense in terms of how modern humanity should and can handle this global outbreak."

Apogee gives a good rundown at the end of the post of how different countries are handling covid, and the status of the outbreak in those countries. This is a needed reality-check to all the Faction 1 vs Faction 2 fighting that has embroiled the USA.

Update: Good critique of the covid response from the left is rare. Many so-called progressives have moved to the authoritarian right on the subject of mandates, wishing death on the vaccine-hesitant, etc. Fabio Vighi has noted the timely appearance of a health emergency just as bank bailouts were beginning; his views are discussed more pointedly in Off-Guardian.

robert w. malone interview

Jimmy Dore talks to Robert W. Malone about vaccines, antivirals, etc: YouTube
This goes against pharma lobby narrative so it may not be up long (I have a copy if you'd like to see it).
Predictably the Wikipedians have included caveats about Malone in their entry about him. Again, to be expected for anyone not sticking to the party line.

Update, Sept. 24, 2021: I took down this post for a while after a friend described Malone as a charlatan. I'm putting it back up with heavier qualifications. Much of what Malone says makes intuitive sense whether or not he's right about all of "the science." We should be able to discuss which of his claims have merit and which don't. The interview has been up on for 10 days on YouTube without interference. As I wrote almost a year ago, "Just because the Covid truthers are wrong about this being a manufactured crisis, doesn't mean evil technocrats aren't waiting in the wings, hoping it will provide a technological 'reset' that benefits the largest and most vile corporate actors." Malone isn't saying it's a manufactured crisis but he is right to question the role of large pharmaceutical companies (which stand to benefit from vaccinations) in crafting a narrative that their products are the only solution to the pandemic. That's fair for any non-expert to ask.

a dish best served hot

Excerpt From Max Blumenthal's book, The Management of Savagery:

The catastrophic and catalyzing events of September 11, 2001, unfolded live on one of New York City’s top morning talk shows.

At 9:01, Howard Stern delivered a brief update about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, gashing open the face of the tower and sending plumes of smoke into the sky. “I don’t even know how you begin to fight that fire,” he commented. Then, without missing a beat, the legendary shock jock returned to an inane yarn about his date with former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson at a seedy Midtown bar called Scores.

“I felt her butt,” Stern bragged to his randy co-hosts. A highly involved discussion ensued about his failure to “bang Pam Anderson.”

“I wasn’t gonna sit there and work it all night,” Stern explained moments before the second plane hit. Then, as soon as Tower 2 caught fire, he quipped, “I’m telling you, it was Pam Anderson’s jet.”

Minutes later, Stern’s producers began piping in audio from the local CBS affiliate, setting a traumatizing aural atmosphere that recalled Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds.” Stern apparently realized the flames were the product of a terror attack, probably by Muslim extremists. Confronted with a national calamity, he and his shrieking sidekick Robin Quivers immediately shifted gears.

“We’ve gotta go bomb everything over there,” Quivers insisted. “We’ve gotta bomb the hell out of them!” Stern added. “You know who it is. I can’t say but I know who it is. This is more upsetting than me not getting Pam Anderson!”

As the smoke engulfed lower Manhattan, Stern descended into a series of genocidal tirades. “We’ve gotta drop an atomic bomb,” he proclaimed.

“There has got to be a war,” Quivers demanded. “But a devastating war, where people die. Burn their eyes out!”

Thirty minutes later, as the news of mass civilian casualties poured in, Stern had transformed into a cartoon villain: “Now is the time to not even ask questions. To drop a few atomic bombs. Do a few chemical warfare hits! Let their people suffer until they understand!”

“Because we haven’t been bothering anybody,” Quivers interjected. “They started screaming about colonialism. We stopped.”

Moments later, Stern repeated his call for nuclear annihilation. “Blow them all to sky high!” he said. “Atom bombs! Just do it so they’re flattened out and turned into a paved road and we’ll take the oil for ourselves.”

This was not right-wing radio, but one of the consistently most highly rated morning shows in the country. Stern’s exterminationist diatribes demonstrated how deeply the neoconservative mind-set had been inculcated into mainstream American culture, how it had been simmering just below the surface of the bawdy blather that normally dominated the drive-time airwaves and was waiting to explode upon what PNAC described as “some catastrophic and catalyzing event.” [link added -tm]

bag of money for evictions

Cory Doctorow writes about evictions and skewers a right-wing talking point about "people who don't want to work" (quoted at length to get the whole crux of the argument):

When it comes to delivering aid to the wealthy, conservatives hate red-tape. When it comes to preventing working people from starving or becoming homeless, conservatives put on a paperwork parade that outshine the pettiest Soviet commissar.

This contradiction arises from a cornerstone of conservative ideology -- the idea of "learned helplessness." Learned helplessness is a real thing that psychologists can induce in lab animals, discouraging them to the point of fatal listlessness.

But that's not what conservatives mean by learned helplessness. For them, learned helplessness is the evidence-free conviction that if you give a person a "handout," they will lose interest in "hard work."

Think of all the fast-food "entrepreneurs" whose signage proclaims "no one wants to work anymore" because of "government handouts," conspicuously failing to mention sub-starvation wages, irregular shifts, and abusive working conditions.

In conservativism, wealth is providential. Markets reward virtue, so the wealthy are inherently virtuous. They know the value of "hard work" and aren't at risk of "learned helplessness" so they can get "bailouts" (not "handouts") without risk of "perverse incentives."

But conservativism contains a contradiction: because capital -- by definition -- earns its returns from someone else's labor, any bailout is also a potential handout. If you save a locked down "heroic small business" with payroll support, you also "pay workers to stay home."

And if you bail out landlords by making up their tenants' missed rental payments, you also let the tenants "live for free" (ignoring for the moment that landlords whose mortgages and living expenses derive from tenant payments are literally "living for free").

So here we are, about to endure a gaping, generations-long self-inflicted wound [mass evictions due to covid -- tm]. We're about to cost millions of renters their homes and potentially put their landlords in default because evicting a tenant doesn't get you a nickel in back-rent.

You couldn't ask for a neater demonstration of the extent to which "conservative business acumen" is a LARP -- a set of culture-war performances rather than any kind of meaningful attention to profit and loss.

Because saving millions of your fellow Americans from destitution and homelessness isn't merely the right (and, you know, Christian) thing to do -- it's also the smart business move. Homelessness is infinitely more expensive than rental assistance.[1]

State conservatives are refusing to hand out $41.3b in order to create a decades-long cycle of public liabilities that will easily cost a hundred times that amount, and they're not just hurting poor people -- they're euthanizing a whole shit-ton of rentiers[2]!

As David Dayen writes in The American Prospect, it's the kind of thing you'd expect from a party[3] with "two primary core talents: selling quack supplements and lowering taxes."

After all, if you campaign on eliminating government due to its incompetence, then governing incompetently is a feature, not a bug. But for the nation (and the world) which needs its government to manage climate, pandemic, etc, this is a serious bug.

Meanwhile, Dayen has a great suggestion for how to dispense with all the red tape and save landlords and tenants.

Just station a federal official with a "big bag of money" in every eviction court.[4] Every time a judge hears evidence that a tenant is behind in the rent, the official makes them whole out of the big bag of money, and the eviction is cancelled.

This is literally the worst way of doing it, a monumental waste of court resources and an inhumane way to treat tenants (and landlords, too). The only thing worse would be to allow that wave of looming evictions to wash millions of our neighbors onto the streets.

1. Note what Doctorow is doing here: switching from talk of a business budget to a government budget. The cost of homelessness doesn't affect an individual business' bottom line, except perhaps in raised taxes. As for the mega-corporations, Amazon showed great opportunism in subsidizing trailer parks for its homeless workers.
2. Rent-seekers, an increasingly common species of capitalist that adds nothing to the economy and lives off a stream of payments --tm
3. Both parties --tm
4. For budget-balancers: The bag of money could come from, say, closing several hundred military bases we don't need, especially ones in Syria. -- tm