The plague infection rate accelerates

The New York Times reports:

 The United States recorded more than 1.9 million new infections in July, nearly 42 percent of the more than 4.5 million cases reported nationwide since the pandemic began and more than double the number documented in any other month, according to data compiled by The New York Times. The previous monthly high came in April, when more than 880,000 new cases were recorded.

Dr. Birx believes the plague has entered a new phase of development:

As the plague goes, so goes GDP.

When Washington embraces one purpose

 

For a moment, the plague brought together our supposed representatives, who typically are befuddled by gridlock and acrimony. Robert Brenner wrote:

There has been, and will be, no serious challenge to the corporate bailout [the CARES Act, Pub L 116-118] because the Democratic Party, no less than the Republican, strongly supports it. The rescue should not be particularly associated with the Trump Administration, though the President of course pushed hard for it. The top leaders and chief funders of both the two main political parties strongly identified with the handout, and overwhelming majorities of their followers in Congress went along more or less enthusiastically.

For Congressional Democrats, being gutless has its costs. Brenner continued:

The strategy of the dp’s top leaders appears to have been to allow the Republicans to take chief credit for the bailout, while quietly ensuring its ratification, as it was a top priority of their most important allies, ‘the donors’ — viz., their corporate backers—and was supported by the great majority of the Party’s elected officials in Congress. They apparently hoped that, with the victorious corporations’ spectacular gains grabbing the headlines, they could pry compensatory concessions from the Republicans for their other constituencies — on unemployment insurance, medical equipment and health care, and for supplementary or substitute salaries, as well as support for small businesses. But the fatal flaw of this approach was that, by allowing the Republican Senate to shape the legislation, the Democrats gave up their major source of political leverage, which lay in their House majority. Once the cares Act was approved, Schumer and Pelosi were obliged to admit, implicitly, how far they had fallen short by announcing, immediately upon its ratification, that they would call for a new expanded version of it.

What we saw in March was political theatre meant to serve as a legitimation device for what amounts to the removal of trillions of dollars by the already wealthy and some well-connected corporations. The plague that is killing thousands provided a pretext for this remorseless wealth-taking without pride. The commoners, on the other hand, were provided with a one-time payment of $1,200, a meager month of minimum wage income; expanded unemployment insurance, set to expire soon; and a limited rent holiday. Each of these provided only a starting point for supporting the well-being of most Americans. What was needed was debt forgiveness, jobs, income maintenance, health insurance, etc. What was provided was hardly sufficient to fend off the disaster. Unemployment remains high while the GDP has plummeted and remains negative, according to Shadow Stats. The money used to fund this orgy showed that the federal government has always had the capacity to generate the money needed to pay for programs, services and items most Americans need. Single-payer health care anyone? Jobs for all?

Most Americans will pay the costs incurred on their behalf by their representatives. Deficit hawks The wealthy and influential, on the other hand, were protected from the consequences of this event.

Trump makes history again

The New York Times reports:

The economic collapse in the second quarter was unrivaled in its speed and breathtaking in its severity. The decline was more than twice as large as in the Great Recession a decade ago, but occurred in a fraction of the time. The only possible comparisons in modern American history came during the Great Depression and the demobilization after World War II, both of which predated modern economic statistics.

To be fair to Trump, a thought that makes me choke, the problems expressed by the recent economic catastrophe were the product of the neoliberal project that has dominated the American political economy since the late 1970s. Financialization, globalization, deregulation, stagnate wages, militarization — these produced a relatively resourceless society and political economy. The United States can annihilate life on the planet, but it cannot solve problems other countries can address with difficulty, but successfully. Washington did manage to transfer trillions of dollars to the corporations and oligarchs who fund the two cartel parties.

We knew it would come. Here it is….

Trump the desperate Tweeted:

With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???

Even the Congressional Republicans dismissed this one.

The self-cancelation of militant tolerance

 

I finally read the Harper’s Letter and can report that I was satisfied by what I found. What did I find satisfying in a missive that has annoyed so many critics? Consider the following passage:

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.

This passage might seem suitable and proper for most liberals who read it. Only a disturbed individual, a sadist, would embrace intolerance, who would shame and ostracize others based on a spurious moral certainty. Nevertheless, I find the passage very improper since the writers reveal themselves as deaf to the performative contradiction that defines the Letter as a whole. As a performative, an act that attempts to alter the world. It counsels the audience that reads it to never censor, shame or ostracize those who hold opposite positions. The letter asserts a norm. It seeks to prohibit actions meant to achieve certain results. It seeks to interdict the range of actions for its intended audience. Yet the Letter as written contradicts the norm asserted by the performative since it would censor, shame or tacitly ostracize those individuals who read (or hear it) but who also disagree with the norm or its applicability to the current situation. The Harper’s letter thus offers a self-excepting argument. It excludes the writers from the normative requirements it prescribes for others. The writers-signers of the letter stand apart from the public debates in which they want to intervene. They act as judges certain of their judgment. But not as participants in a debate.

The signees of the Letter can choose this position if they want. That is their right. But we might wonder what makes them so special that they need not observe the norm they prescribe for others? A God might enjoy this authority, but humans are fated to stand with other humans, and should address them as such.

Now consider the following: What if the current social and political moment requires decisive and timely action which liberality in practice would undermine? What if eggs need to be broken, lines in the sand drawn and defended, enemies and friends identified? If, today, a social and political revolution might be a remote possibility, a pipe dream or artifact of an acid trip, that makes a revolutionary event no less desirable given the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Hope is given for the sake of the hopeless, as Walter Benjamin once averred. We must look towards hope since it is not as though really-existing-liberalism currently provides us with feasible options, a path we can take without strain, meant to address the ecological crisis; the emerging depression; 500 years of genocide, ethnic cleansing and racism; war-making without end; the rapid emergence of an active authoritarian regime in the United States (which might replace the inverted totalitarian system now in place); the waning of nature’s bounty due to the super-exploitation of the planet; etc. In fact, liberal modernity is complicit in each of these harms. Why, for instance, should a self-aware left reject a political project that ends with the utter defeat of its political opponents? Because that project would be intolerant? What do we owe the Gates and Bezos, the Saudis, the Trumps and Bibis of the world? Should we concern ourselves with scoundrels like Obama and the Clintons, Biden and Gore, Pelosi and Schumer? What morally defensible claims do these men and women have on the wealth and power they hold? Why reject radical action (be it reform or revolution) when the political opponents of the left seek (and have achieved) the utter defeat of the left and who willfully participate in the endgame of human civilization, a goal in which they are joined by erstwhile leftists who offer compliance in place of a counter-liberal, anti-systemic project? I found reading the Harper’s Letter satisfying because it delivered what I expected: Bunk in defense of the status quo. As such, it is irrelevant when evaluating what is possible. The Letter was that predictable that I could have written it myself even though I would not endorse its content. I would counsel others to be clear about our current situation, which is dire. For once, the wolf is at the door, pounding loudly. We ought to answer in kind.

Trump. He’s famous, you know

trump-resist-edit

A photo taken at a parade in Düsseldorf

Just saying

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Hate, and its antidote

A few decades ago an elderly Jewish friend and I walked down a spacious avenue located in a multi-ethnic Brooklyn neighborhood. We passed a Hasidic Synagogue as we neared out destination. I never learned the name of the sect that used an inconspicuous Brooklyn home for their house of devotion, but I knew I did not care much for them because they prominently placed a sign in the yard that commanded: “Women must enter in the rear.” I often wondered for whom the sign was meant. After all, sect members would know which door they were to use to enter the building. But why would Sheila, a hypothetical mail lady, or Joyce, a hypothetical EMT, care a damn for their belligerent demands? I remembered the paradoxes of tolerance the sign always brought to my attention.

It was around the moment we passed the Synagogue that my friend said something to this effect:

Friend: “You just do not understand. Because you are not Jewish. They [the Goyim] will always hate us. It can happen here.”

“It,” of course, was a Holocaust. My friend’s fear of another catastrophe originated in his having been a young Jewish refugee who fled pre-war Poland and his knowing that his extended family had perished during the Holocaust. Encountering anti-Semites over his long life not only magnified his fears, these experiences turned them into something that could be called an unshakable belief in the fearful risks that went along with being a Jew. These risks reflected his belief in a recurring anti-Semitism. It may be surprising that these elements combined to redoubled his commitment to revolutionary socialism, a family preoccupation that lasted generations. But Zionism was not his thing. Besting anti-Semitism, on the other hand, was part of his being.

Friend: “Only a classless society will save the Jews from mass murder.”

My reply was measured and calmly stated:

Me: “While it is true that Anti-Semites can be found across the world, that some live in the United States and that a Holocaust occurred in and around Germany, I am nearly certain that ‘The Jewish Question’ is not an issue here. The ‘Black Question,’ on the other hand, drives and has long driven American reactionary politics. If we were to see anything like the Holocaust in the United States, it would likely feature a Black final solution as an animating goal.”

My friend replied: “You just do not understand.”

As we neared the falafel shop that was our destination, a mentally deranged black man carrying a large portable toy phone approached us and began spewing anti-Semitic rants about the shop (it was owned and operated by Sephardic Jews) and its mostly Jewish patrons. My friend, who considered himself a tough guy even though he was then old and partly disabled, looked a bit stunned by and scared of the crazy man with his phone and sadistic tirade. I, on the other hand, found the him annoying if only because he had undermined the point I had made a few moments before.

So, when his phone rang, I blurted out: “That’s for you. It’s Hell calling.” My friend looked relieved by my response or, perhaps, because a Goy had defended him against this kind of nonsense. We then walked towards the shop, a place where, as a Goy, I sometimes had personally experienced bias. Our lunch was uneventful.

If we can thank Donald Trump for anything, it might be this: The Trump campaign and election spurred the bigoted elements in the United States to emerge en masse and to assert themselves boldly with pride. Shameless anti-Semites, Islamophobes, Homophobes, White Nationalists, religious fundamentalists, etc. appear to believe it is their time to be seen and heard. Trump, briefly put, cleared a public space in which they can be who they are, where their aspirations appear legitimate, in which their presence can be known. Trump’s victory even inspired some to act without restraint. Crime and murder, hatred and war circulate in the air we breathe. Self and other, us and them, friend and foe, purity and filth — these are terms in which the bigots express themselves. Within such an environment the violence of the few clarify and expose the aspirations of the many. (What might be the goal of exclusionary violence but genocidal cleansing or purification of the land?) Although America’s hate-addled monsters are a minority and the energetic popular response to Trump’s prejudices should encourage everyone with more than a bit of good will in their souls, the United States still contains the social resources needed to mount collective expressions of hate. We need only to recall the potential violence on display during the Tea Party’s moment to glean the truth of this claim. Likewise, the many death threats directed towards Barack Obama and the First Family. So too the use Trump made of his followers to harass and intimidate his opponents. These individuals and groups intended to draw boundaries, and would use the blood of their opponents to do so. They wished to exclude others from White America. Moreover, we have also seen that American’s institutions can use these popular mentalities as a basis for attacks on the presence of human diversity within the country, to justify its imperial politics abroad and to suppress dissent at home. This situation is both disturbing and unsurprising. For what is Trump’s America but an enraged Uncle Sam with a loaded pistol and a nearly empty bottle. We Americans have been in this situation before. We know Uncle Sam has never been mentally fit or morally respectable. He has long had innocent blood on his hands.

My friend firmly believed that a (Marxian) revolution was the only feasible solution to the anti-Semite problem that once vexed Europe, that a classless society provided the only durable haven for the Jews. He believed no one would molest the Jews once the world had neither Yids nor Goyim, that is, once it had only human beings, liberated, free and happy. An inclusive solidarity would make these hatreds all but impossible, their condition of possibility being the assertion of those differences which efface our common humanity, differences that, in his mind, reflected the conflict of the contending classes.

He might have been right about this. (I, on the other hand, do not believe antagonistic class relations are the first cause of every form of oppression and misery.) Of course, our world remains polluted by hate and fury as well as class cleavages. It does not feature an inclusive solidarity. Nor institutions that promote such. Oppression and exploitation, conflict and war are our overbearing realities. A common humanity that affirms difference is thus a socio-political project, not an undeniable presence in the world. My friend’s implicit belief in an inevitable and pervasive anti-Semitism, one so stubborn that it survives every attempt to shame it into oblivion, may be more ‘realistic’ than not. Who is to say otherwise when we know Trump’s ascent includes many anti-Semitic episodes as obvious by-products? Nevertheless, even if we are fated to confront anti-Semites along with the race-haters, Islamophobes, etc., we know that many will oppose bigotry because bigots of every stripe are barely tolerable impediments to realizing the good life. The project, to be sure, makes our common humanity a living presence in an inhospitable world. Solidarity is always an antidote to hate.

Melissa McCarthy slaps Spicer and Trump

Deutschland zweiter, den Vereinigten Staatem zuerst