Thursday, March 26, 2020

Britney, Fran and more

Following up on yesterday's "Thank you, Britney," this is from Nick Barrickman (WSWS):

Pop music celebrity Britney Spears’s social media account went viral on Monday when a re-tweeted post calling for people to “re-distribute wealth” and “strike” was featured in her Instagram feed. The singer has 23.7 million followers.

The quote—taken from the Instagram feed of writer Mimi Zhu and in reference to the impact of “social distancing” measures adopted in response to the coronavirus pandemic—reads in part, “During this time of isolation, we need connection now more than ever.” It further says, “We will learn to kiss and hold each other through the waves of the web. We will feed each other, re-destribute [sic] wealth, strike. We will understand our own importance from the places we must stay. Communion moves beyond walls. We can still be together.”
Spears, most recognizable for a string of multiplatinum-selling “teen pop” hits in the late 1990s, highlighted her comment with three red rose emojis, generally identified with socialism.
Spears’s graphic caused sensation across social media as her post was picked up and shared millions of times. The vast majority of commentary has focused on the phrase calling for wealth redistribution and what was interpreted to mean a “general strike.” Spears has not offered any subsequent public comment on the statement. Generally friendly references to “Comrade Britney” have popped up all over the place.
Zhu, in an interview with Paper Magazine done shortly after the Spears comment went viral, said that “we are in such a time of confusion, disconnect, and despair that I felt it really important and necessary to write about that for my own sanity and mental health … At least in New York, all of my friends got pretty much laid off [due to coronavirus shutdowns]. A lot of people are stressing about rent, basic necessities, and how to live and just kind of carrying all that.”
“With all that anxiety and confusion I knew I had to write what I wrote, and there were definitely socialist undertones,” she adds, “because in general that is what I do believe in.”
Meanwhile, actress Fran Drescher, responding positively to a tweet denouncing the “wealthy owners of capital [who] want labor to return to work” and calling for a general strike, wrote on her twitter account, “I agree. Capitalism has become another word for Ruling Class Elite! When profit is at the expence [sic] of all things of true value, we gotta problem.”
One sympathetic commentator noted jokingly, “Britney Spears and Fran Drescher both went full Trotsky today. Now we’re getting somewhere.” Another suggested, “I didn’t really expect the revolution to be led by Fran Drescher and Britney Spears, yet here we are and I’m absolutely fine with it.”

In a further sign of the times, an Instagram video by rap recording artist Cardi B has also gone viral due to the singer’s comments excoriating the generally self-absorbed attitude of the wealthy toward the impact of the coronavirus on society.

SLATE's Jeffrey Bloomer notes:

This may sound more like a few typo-ridden platitudes (“re-destribute”?) than a political declaration, but Spears’ Instagram army did not see it that way. “Britney Spears said ‘GENERAL STRIKE,’” one commenter observed. “Queen of proletariat.” And it wasn’t just the words: The triad of roses in the caption was clearly an allusion to the favored emoji of the Democratic Socialists of America, to which Spears was just as clearly pledging her loyalty. Soon, the post went viral on the left-wing internet, where it launched a meme: Comrade Britney. The revolution-minded masses were only too happy to raise their fists in solidarity with their new soldier: “i wasn’t expecting comrade britney spears today, but this is welcome,” one wrote. The DSA itself seized the moment: “Comrade Britney knows: together we can build a better world, because capitalism is Toxic,” the organization wrote on Twitter.

Related, Jake Johnson (COMMON DREAMS) reports:

In a fiery speech on the Senate floor Wednesday ahead of the chamber's passage of a massive coronavirus stimulus bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders ripped his Republican colleagues for doing everything in their power to ensure that poor and vulnerable people receive less financial assistance than they desperately need in this moment of nationwide crisis.
"Now I find that some of my Republican colleagues are very distressed. They're very upset that somebody who's making 10, 12 bucks an hour might end up with a paycheck for four months, more than they received last week," Sanders said, referring to the group of Republican senators who threatened to delay passage of the stimulus bill over its temporary expansion of unemployment benefits, which they described as overly generous.
In response, as Common Dreams reported, Sanders vowed to hold up the stimulus legislation with a demand for stronger conditions on the bill's "corporate welfare fund" if the Republican senators refused to drop their objections to the unemployment provisions.
The Senate ultimately defeated an amendment by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) that would have limited unemployment benefits and the stimulus bill passed Wednesday night by a vote of 96-0.

"Oh my god, the universe is collapsing. Imagine that?" said Sanders, waving his arms in mock distress. "Somebody who's making 12 bucks an hour now, like the rest of us, faces an unprecedented economic crisis with the $600 bucks on top of their normal, their regular unemployment check, might be making a few bucks more for four months. Oh my word! Will the universe survive?"

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, March 26, 2020.  When does the corporate press plan to address the economic anxiety facing so many Americans over the coronavirus, Joe Biden doesn't want anymore debates, a woman steps forward to detail what she says was an assault by Joe, Iraq still has no new prime minister, and much more.

Am I missing the great reporting being done right now about workers?  I'm not seeing it.  Big media or small media, corporate media or allegedly independent media, I'm not seeing it.  In the best of times, it usually falls down to just David Bacon covering workers.

These aren't the best of times.  Who's reporting on the tragedies right now?  Am I missing it?

I'm going through the e-mails this morning and it's one heartbreak after another.

One man is thinking of killing himself.  He's responsible for a family member in assisted living.  His job keeps slashing his hours.  He's not going to be able to afford the bills but he thinks if he kills himself the life policy might pay off.  It most likely won't.

The only person who is speaking about the anxiety level right now on the national stage is Bernie Sanders.  No one else appears get it.  Certainly not self-involved celebrities who think the worst crime in the world is boredom -- their own.  That they're bored right now -- as a 40-something hospital worker is found dead of coronvirus with her four-year-old child next to her -- goes to just how shallow, pathetic and unneeded they are.

Yesterday, we noted the health clinic workers whose hours were being slashed to 20 a week.  A number of e-mails came in from people who could relate because the same had happened to them.  Where in Congress proposed stimulus crap is there anything about "You can't be dropped from your insurance"?  Because I've gone through about 30 e-mails this morning where people have been reduced to 31 or less hours of work a week.  If you go under 32, you aren't full time and you can lose your insurance.

Where are these stories in the press?

Where is the sense of urgency?

Now I'm calling out Nancy Pelosi near daily but she is exactly right not to rush to back up the current b.s. put together by the Senate.  In what world do Americans in a crisis 'deserve' only a one-time payment of $1,200?  And that payment is estimated to arrive no sooner than May 6th if the package passed both Houses and was signed by the President today.

Every American should be getting $2,000 a month throughout the pandemic.  But Bernie and the squad are the only ones who seem to get that.

Here is the crap -- the useless crap -- that passes for 'dialouge' and 'discussion' instead.  From MSNBC trying to force Senator Elizabeth Warren to embrace corporatism:

Stephanie Ruhle: I want to bring in Massachusetts Democratic senator and former presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren. Senator, thank you for joining me this morning. Before we get into the bill, what we are asking every individual and company to do right now because of the health crisis is shut down temporarily, but we still have bills to pay. Every one of us. Do you support the idea of putting all of it on hold for two months, meaning no one owes anything, sort of a national economic holiday, the government takes over?

Elizabeth Warren: So, look, I think that is one approach that we can use. Another approach we can use right now that's in the bill that's pending in the Senate is to put cash into the hands of the American people. There are a lot of different approaches we could use here to be able to relieve the suffering that people are feeling, but we've got to move, and we've got to move quickly on behalf of the American people. And playing political games like Mitch McConnell was doing on the floor last night is simply not helping on that.

SR: But Senator, if you're just sending cash to every American, that certainly helps cushion the blow for the time being, but as I mentioned before, we're about to face a wave of bankruptcies for businesses big and small. If we just pay people for a couple of months and businesses are no longer in existence, they won't even have a job to go back to.

EW: Of course, and that's the reason that we need to make sure that there's help both to businesses and to individuals, but in both cases, notice where you focus this, Stephanie, is making sure that the help is making it down to the level of the individual worker. So for example, part of what we're proposing is cancel student loan debt. That will mean for tens of millions of people, they just got more money in their pockets. That's one bill they won't have to worry about. Also increasing Social Security and disability payments by $200 a month, doing it every month for the next two years. That's additional income that seniors can rely on. Having an unemployment system that is now expanded and covers gig workers and part-time workers and gives them a higher Social Security payment, that makes sure that we're directing money to people who are out of work and getting it straight into their pockets. And, the money that goes to big corporations is to say that's fine. We're willing to help the big corporations understand this is a time of crisis, but there are going to be some strings on that money to make sure it's not just used to pay executive salaries and payouts to shareholders and that that money goes right down to supporting people's paychecks. What we're looking for here is to make sure that whatever taxpayer dollars go in, they're there not to help the tree tops, but to help the grass roots.

I never understand why physically ugly people get hired for TV.  Who wants to watch Stephanie?  Clearly, no one -- as evidenced by the ratings.  But she serves her corporate masters and always has so her ugly, pinched face goes out over the airwaves.

From Hamilton Nolan's piece at IN THESE TIMES:

“We must reopen the economy,” you say. “It is vital that we send people back to work,” you say. Well, it sounds important. By all means—you first.
The cure must not be worse than the problem, the president says. It is important that we not disincentive work, right-wing economists say. Keeping things closed could devastate the economy, business leaders say. These things are a tradeoff, you see. Yes, some people will die if we put everyone back to work sooner than the health experts say. But these things are inevitable. And the economic damage could be awful if we don’t.
Okay. All of you line up, to report to work.
Lloyd Blankfein, the reasonable cheerleader for restarting commerce, you can be a doorman, throwing open the doors of your Manhattan office building for all the bankers to return to their desks. The doorman, who prefers not to die, can be the CEO of Goldman Sachs. That office is sufficiently large for social distancing, I’m sure.
Art Laffer, the discredited economist, can be a waiter in a crowded restaurant. A waiter, who prefers not to die, can become an economist. No waiter could be a worse economist than Art Laffer, anyhow.
Let the lieutenant governor of Texas, raring to sacrifice himself on the altar of the free market, become a grocery store worker. Let the CNBC pundits become retail cashiers. Let the Washington corporate lobbyists beating the drum for restarting production become warehouse workers. And let the regular people who work in crowded restaurants and crowded stores and crowded warehouses and crowded factories take jobs in statehouses, and on cable TV, and at think tanks. It is only fair that the bold leaders urging us all to be brave enough to disregard scientifically sound warnings of millions of deaths in order to prop back up American business be the first ones out there, in close proximity to the infectious public, getting coughed on as they enable each and every one of the transactions that will get money flowing again. That is what leadership is all about.

Besides, there will certainly be a number of job openings in politics and cable TV punditry and think tanks once all of those free marketeers go out into the workforce and promptly catch coronavirus.


Stephanie wants to try to shame Warren into accepting nonsense.

"But Senator, if you're just sending cash to every American, that certainly helps cushion the blow for the time being, but as I mentioned before, we're about to face a wave of bankruptcies for businesses big and small. If we just pay people for a couple of months and businesses are no longer in existence, they won't even have a job to go back to."

What Elizabeth Warren should have replied: "Hey, bitch, if we don't send cash to every American, they're not going to have a place to live in or food to put on the table.  Why don't you take the corporate stick out your ass, stop whoring, and start thinking about the people?"

That's what Elizabeth Warren should have said.

People like Stephanie should be booed in public.

This is class warfare that the Stephanies are carrying out and they're trying to pretend otherwise.  "I'm thinking of the economy!"  No, you're not.  If you're thinking of the economy, you're figuring out how to get money in the hands of the American people to keep the economy going.

When the pandemic is over and isolating is no more, I hope people boo Stephanie every time she goes somewhere to eat, I hope wait staff refuse to serve her.  She's is not helping the American people, she is only whoring for the corporations.  We look the other way on this reality and we reward her behavior.  She needs to be held accountable.

Speaking of accountable, Joe Biden wants to keep Hidin'.  After embarrassing himself repeatedly this week, over and over, trying to 'connect' with the voter -- as polls show him to be an iffy candidate, Joe declares we don't need anymore debates?

Really?  Our nation is in a pandemic?  How are you going to address it?

We need that April debate.  The debates have allowed Joe to lie and to ignore issues and to let his dentures come loose and dance around in his mouth and to have a blood vessel pop in his eyes and to tell racist stories about Corn Pop and others.  They haven't addressed leadership.  Joe has none.

We're in the midst of a pandemic.  Joe and Bernie have both had time to absorb that reality.  It's time for them to debate real issues and to do so before the American people.

While Joe flounders around trying to string together words into a coherent sentence, Bernie continues addressing reality.

That's last night.

Joe keeps getting protected by the corporate press.  Every woman who claimed any sort of assault or attempted assault by Donald Trump was paraded in front of the American people by the media.  But Joe's special, he has to be protected.  So the media continues to ignore Tara Reade.

Krystal Ball interviews Ryan Grimm below about his report yesterday for THE INTERCEPT.

How does Anita Hill get to work for TIMES UP and also get to be the woman who offered Harvey Weinstein advice on how to stop the press from reporting on his assaults?  The corruption runs so deep.  If TIMES UP had any self-respect at all, they would announce that they were no longer associated with Anita Dunn who, by the way, works for the Joe Biden campaign today.

Katie Halper interviews Tara Reade below.

Is Tara telling the truth?

I don't know.  I know that it's a serious charge and she's come forward so we should all be aware of what she's stating and we should decide for ourselves whether we find her believable or not. The only way that happens is if the press covers the story.

Women have been dehumanized by powerful politicians for decades. Tara Reade, had shared her 93’ sexual harassment by Joe Biden & when revealed turned away by Time’s Up.  
I’ve had enough of this. #IBelieveTara  

To get legal help, Tara Reade reached out to Time’s Up, established in the wake of the #MeToo
movement to help survivors tell their stories. She was turned down. #IBelieveTara

You cannot, morally, both believe Tara Reade and cast a vote for Joe Biden. Fortunately he’s not the nominee yet so there’s time to prevent having to make that choice.

He is not the nominee.  The press never wanted to vet Joe on his treatment of women.  When Lucy Flores came forward to share her story, the press pretended like Joe apologized (he did not) and then they never held him accountable for, days after the 'apology,' making a joke of it while speaking to a union.  He was also assisted by people like Alyssa Milano who rushed in to prop up Joe and speak for him.  Heaven forbid a man ever has to answer for his own behavior, right?  When not hiding behind women's skirts -- usually their wives -- they're dependent upon women like Alyssa to serve as their handmaidens.

And never forget the very telling moment in the debate where Elizabeth Warren was raising the very serious issue of Michael Bloomberg's workplace harassment and two women -- Gayle King and Norah O'Donnell -- shut down the discussion because they wanted to give lip service to the very 'important' issue of 'electability.'

Iraq is addressing the coronavirus.  AFP notes that the curfew in Iraq has been extended to April 11th.  Fadhel al-Nashmi (ASHARQ AL-AWSAT) reports:

Most Iraqis who have died from the coronavirus haven’t had traditional burials after many graveyards refused to receive their bodies.

Families of the victims are now facing a challenge of properly burying them amid the threat of being exposed to the virus and transmitting it to others.

The traditional graveyards, whether those designated for the Shiite community in Najaf or the Sunni sect in Diyala, do not allow for the burial of COVID-19 victims.

The Health Ministry has so far announced 30 deaths from the coronavirus. However, people are concerned that the virus could be transmitted through dead bodies.

Observers warn against the accumulation of bodies in hospitals in the event of a rise in the number of victims.

Malik Kadhim Ismail al-Shammari, 67, died from the disease six days ago, but his body remains in Ibn al-Qaf hospital because his family hasn’t been able to find a burial place. The family is appealing to the religious authority in Najaf and the Iraqi government to find a solution.

The coronavirus is also prompting withdrawals.  THE NATIONAL reports, "France will withdraw its contingent of troops from Iraq, mostly trainers to local armed forces, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the chief of staff said on Wednesday.  France has around 200 military personnel working in Iraq either as trainers or in the headquarters of coalition forces in Baghdad."  Jason Ditz (ANTIWAR.COM) adds:

With 26,000 confirmed cases in France, the military is being sought to do more to help with the pandemic, and that’s going to be more possible for them if they aren’t deploying troops across the world in other operations.

Iraq has made clear recently they wanted foreign troops out anyhow. France was only engaged in training there, and they have suspended that for the sake of getting the troops out of the country and back to France soon.

In other news, AP reports two rockets hit the Green Zone today.  As the Green Zone remains under attack, Iraq still hopes to have a prime minister soon.  Iraqi president Barham Salih announced Mohammed Allawi as prime minister-designate.  He wasn't able to put together a Cabinet and he announced that he was resigning as prime minister-designate.  As noted in March 17th snapshot, Salih has now named Adnan al-Zurufi prime minister-designate.  Nazli Tarzi (ARAB WEEKLY) offers this background on Adnan:

Since 2003, Zurfi, 54, has held various political posts. He entered the post-Saddam political arena as a Dawa Party-aligned parliamentarian before securing his candidacy as mayor of Najaf after vetting by Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator Paul Bremer.
Zurfi was Najaf mayor from 2004-05 and 2009-14. In the intervening years he secured a seat on Najaf’s Provincial Council and served in the Interior Ministry as an assistant.
No different than members of the governing political class, Zurfi was an ardent opponent of Saddam Hussein’s government, attending Iraqi opposition conferences, including one at the London Hilton, he revealed previously to Iraqi satellite network Alsumaria News.
Against the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war, Zurfi joined the Dawa Party in 1983. He was sentenced to life in Abu Ghraib prison in 1988 for ties to militant groups. He escaped after the 1991 uprising aimed at ousting Saddam.
Fearing rearrest by regime forces, Zurfi fled to Saudi Arabia’s Rafha camp before migrating to the United States. In 1994, he settled in Chicago and later in Dearborn, Michigan. He then returned to Iraq to carve out his place in the new Iraq.
Zurfi’s opponents, largely pro-Iran cohorts and militias, cite his time in the United States and dual Iraqi-US citizenship in alleging Zurfi is an American agent. Not even Zurfi’s image as a Shia moderate who studied Islamic jurisprudence has blunted criticism against him.

Despite Zurfi’s intimate ties to parties and paramilitaries aligned with Iraq’s clerical establishment, he was categorically rejected by hardliners connected to Tehran. Factions that represent the self-prescribed Islamic Resistance pointed to Zurfi’s membership in former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Victory Coalition, Al Nasr, as proof of his US leanings.

YENI SAFIK offers this on reaction among various groups to Adnan:

Even while welcoming the appointment, Kurdish and Sunni groups have remained cautious. Top Shiite leader Muqtada Sadr refused to comment but said the issue concerns only to the Iraqi people. In other words, Sadr called on Iran and the U.S. not to interfere in the process. He did not oppose Zurfi's candidature in principle. But it is worth considering that Sadr, whose political maneuvers are unpredictable and is known for switching sides, may have made a surprise choice.
Ammar al-Hakim -- cleric and politician who led the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, from 2009-2017 – also did not oppose Adnan Zurfi as a name. But he criticized the appointment process, questioning procedures and demanded consensus.
As for the former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is in the same political coalition as Zurfi, is one of the prominent players supporting the new prime minister.

The following sites updated: