Today I’m commenting on some of the lies and distortions that the mainstream media shovel at us. And I’m not talking about Fox News but so-called reputable sources like The New York Times. I’ll start with a couple of juicy murder mysteries since, as they say in the news business, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Next is a follow-up to the last post, with more information about inflation, and after that, some concerns about Ukraine. To cheer you up I’ve added an inspirational poem at the end.
Was it Suicide—or Murder?
How can we forget Jeffrey Epstein, who together with bosom buddy Ghislaine Maxwell trafficked underage girls to his rich male pals? The guys who frequented his private island insist they are purer than the pope, but at least one of them—Prince Andrew—agreed to pay an estimated $16.3 million to a victim. Well, actually his Mama is paying a big chunk of it. The poor prince hasn’t had a full-time job since 2002.
Epstein’s other visitors include Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and Victoria’s Secret chairman Leslie Wexner. Those are just the ones we know of.
On August 10, 2019, Epstein was found hanging in his cell in Manhattan. When he was placed in the Security Housing Unit, the jail assured the Justice Department that he would have a cellmate and that a guard would look into the cell every 30 minutes. On the night he died, the cellmate had been removed, and the guards didn’t come by for at least three hours. The cameras in front of his cell “malfunctioned” that night. Supposedly Epstein attached a sheet to the lower bunk, tied the other end around his neck, and threw himself forward, breaking three bones in his neck.
Michael Baden, MD, the forensic pathologist, didn’t believe it. He questioned whether Epstein, who was almost 6 ft tall and weighed 185 pounds, could have been able to hang himself from the lower bunk. According to other forensic experts and studies, such broken neck bones are “more common in victims of homicide by strangulation” than in suicides. Nevertheless, the official autopsy report ruled it suicide. Later articles in the Times and the Guardian accepted the official line and no longer mention the possibility of murder.
On February 19 Jean-Luc Brunel, another of Epstein’s associates, was found hanged in his cell in Paris. He was under investigation for rape and trafficking of minors. The French prosecutor’s office says that early indications point to suicide. Brunel’s legal team says it was suicide as well. What a coincidence…
Meanwhile, Ghislaine Maxwell is in a Brooklyn jail, awaiting a sentencing date of June 28, after being found guilty of sex trafficking. Her relatives have expressed fears for her safety. According to her brother, she is on suicide watch and the guards wake her up every 15 minutes. According to the Geneva Convention, sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Perhaps if she survives until the end of June, she’ll have come to understand that her life depends on keeping her mouth shut.
Darn. I guess we’ll never learn all the names in Jeffrey Epstein’s little black book.
Inflation–Whose Fault is It?
My last post focused on the loss of real purchasing power by the American working and middle classes. To recap, what we could buy for our wages was at its peak after World War II but has steadily diminished since. Causes include (but are not limited to) consolidation of ownership into a few monopolies and the decline of unions. To that I would add globalization, meaning that most manufacturing and customer service jobs have been shipped to low-wage countries. Cost of production goes down but prices stay high, or go even higher.
After reading my post, a neighbor told me that many articles in the mainstream media are blaming the current high inflation rate on stimulus checks given during the pandemic. I checked, and what I found mostly came from Republican sources.
Steven Nelson, writes in the New York Post, which was a liberal paper until 1976, when Rupert Murdoch purchased it. Now it’s become a right-wing rag. According to Nelson, President Biden conceded that the “stimulus funds…he signed into law are in part to blame for demand exceeding the supply of goods, causing a backlog at major US ports and the highest rate of annual inflation since 1990.” He says we need to reduce government spending.
Steven Rattner, is a Wall Street executive who contributes right-wing op-ed pieces to the New York Times. He says inflation is being caused by consumers chasing too few goods with too much money. And the money came from “vast amounts of government rescue aid (including three rounds of stimulus checks),” and adds that we need to reduce the deficit by cutting spending.
Although neither Nelson nor Rattner spell it out, they clearly mean we need to spend less money on aiding ordinary workers. They don’t say a word about reversing Trump’s tax cuts, or cutting the military budget.
Writers for more middle of the road and liberal publications disagree:
Shane Croucher, a senior editor for Newsweek, says federal spending is a minor factor in inflation, the major one being chain disruptions. Lucia Mutikani, writing in Reuters, points to rising wages and increased demands for good. But neither discusses the role of multinational corporations, who’ve raked in billions in profits during the pandemic.
Onward, from B.S. to Ph.D. (Piled Higher and Deeper)
Day after day, hour after hour, the news is full of stories about how terrible Vladimir Putin is. Of course he is. The invasion of Ukraine is a monstrous crime. But I have some concerns:
1) Why is it that the moment we pull out of Afghanistan, we’re likely to get into war with Russia? Maybe not directly, at least I hope not–just through Ukraine as a proxy. On the other hand, we’re sending 7,000 troops to Eastern Europe right now.
2) The press beat the drums for war in Afghanistan, in order to capture one man, Osama bin Laden. How many innocent Afghans did we slaughter? Then it beat the drums for war in Iraq. Remember all those non-existent weapons of mass destruction? Why should we trust the press in reporting what’s actually going on in Ukraine?
3) On February 23, a day before the invasion, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright wrote an op-ed piece in which she described Putin as cold-blooded, “almost reptilian.” She’s probably right. She also says, “America must insist that Russia act in accordance with international standards applicable to all nations.” Perhaps she’s forgotten that when the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iraq, sanctions that caused around half a million children to die for lack of food and/or medicine, she said it was a hard price to pay, but the price “was worth it.” Talk about cold-blooded—it wasn’t her children who died for the sake of oil company profits. Personally, I’d be happy to see her and Putin in the same prison.
3) Putin doesn’t want Ukraine to join NATO. If Mexico signed a mutual defense agreement with Russia and had missiles aimed at the U.S., we wouldn’t like it either. The Pentagon has provided $2.7 billion in military aid to Ukraine since 2014. https://www.stimson.org/2022/u-s-military-assistance-to-ukraine/ Again, if Russia provided that much in military equipment to Mexico, we’d be nervous too.
5) Guess who’s been paying for all that military equipment? The same taxpayers who paid $2.3 trillion for the Afghanistan War—that means you and me, not the rich. “ProPublica found that while the median American household earning roughly $70,000 per year paid 14% in federal taxes each year, the 25 richest Americans (by Forbes’ tally) paid a “true tax rate” of just 3.4% on wealth growth of $401 billion between 2014 and 2018.”
Well, that’s enough of the grim side of things. Here’s the poem I promised you:
A Too Warm Winter Day
On a February day that feels like May
another warning of global warming
an old woman shrugs off her worries
walks up and down the streets
and through the park
to snatch these moments of joy
before inevitable dark.
The first few crocuses and irises unfold
the first frog in the bog emerges, his croaks
drowned by an incessant car alarm
that shatters the happy afternoon.
The woman imagines hurling a stone,
shattering the windshield. Instead she hurries on,
past mustard in bloom, the adoration of bees,
the scream of a saw cutting steel
in a nearby factory. Rounding another corner
she strolls through a redolence of daphne,
then diesel exhaust, then marijuana.
Down by the railroad tracks
a young man runs past her. He’s tearing
along the trail, staring
at his phone, talking to someone
who isn’t there, oblivious of all
but his invisible friend, caring only
to complete his exercise.
Above them, in the skies,
two crows torment an osprey;
on either side tangles of ivy
attempt to strangle groves of madrone—
creatures determined to thrive, despite
the poisoned soil of what
was once a creosote plant.
Now it’s a superfund site.
The old woman pushes on, alone,
also determined, hungry to see the light
of yet another day.
And then goes home.