Essay Larry Bensky

Plague Journal #9: Follow the Money, Discover the Stench

There is talk – just talk so far – about cancelling some of the massive, totally unnecessary death culture abundance. But just how much we even spend on it is 'classified.'

Larry Bensky, a long-time radio and print journalist. has been writing his “Journal of the Plague Year” since mid-March for the legendary Anderson Valley Advertiser.  He welcomes your comments and suggestions:

Berkeley, CA – May 18, 2020 — With the still largely undefined and unvanquished coronavirus continuing to ravage the world to an unknown degree, the spotlight now seems to be shifting to another unknown, undefined, and unvanquished phenomenon.  Money.

Massive budget deficits are projected for just about every national, state, international and local jurisdiction. Revenues are way down because people are not buying very much other than supposed essentials. People are buying not much of anything because they mostly lack money to do so. The instrumental ability to spend money has advanced well beyond people’s ability to back up their expenditures  with…deposits! 

The federal government isn’t blinking. as flood waters rise.  There is talk – just talk so far – about cancelling some of the massive, totally unnecessary  death culture abundance.  Aircraft carriers.  Nuclear weapons “modernizations.”  Research into killing by  the oxymoronic “artificial intelligence.”  All go blithely on…  How far on?  We are, of course, not allowed to know that.  After all, it’s only our money! 

In an unusually oblique article  even for its always superficial, laconic coverage of the military/industrial playground, the NY Times tells us that “cuts in the National Counterterrorism Center will amount to “about 15 percent of the work force.” 

And how many people and dollars might that be?  “The precise size of the National Counterterrorism Center is classified,” we’re told.

Scurry, if you will, to that entity’s website.  You will find an impressive pile of gobbledygook.  The Center coordinates, disseminates.  Investigates.  Produces studies.  None of which we’re privy to.  Although the abundant hackers, governmental  staff and  free-lancers who work on such things no doubt see them.  And no doubt realize that some of what they’re seeing is “false flag.”  Meaning plausibly framed and stated documents meant to misdirect and ill-inform whoever comes upon them.  So our government then has to have another level (or two, or five, or a million) one of which is genuine.  Or a composite can be made that’s genuine.  Dizzy yet?

San Diego Aircraft Carrier 0158 / Photo by SMWalton73 / licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Senators Shelly Moore Capito, the West Virginia Republican chair, and Jon Tester, the Montana  ranking minority member of the Senate’s Department of Homeland Security Committee might, or at least could, know what’s real.  And how much taxpayer money is spent creating “information.” Or perhaps the Senators who head at least five other Senate committees with apparent jurisdiction in the “national security” area  might or could know these things..

But  an hour or so  spent by a “civilian,” (me) looking around the internet reveals scant items on  the subject. Or on the legislative bodies and legislators involved, who confine their rare remarks to bellicosity and “patriotism.”  There is some amusing (you get your tiny slice of amusement where you can in this domain) press release traffic back and forth about the Texas Congressman, John Ratcliffe, who, without any relevant experience or skills, is being nominated to head the agency. Replacing a temporary chair who could not continue to “serve” because he wasn’t confirmed by the Senate, and his appointment – which lasted a year –  expires without confirmation.  

One journalist who – bless him! – is trying to swim through the sewage is David Graham in The Atlantic.  Ratcliffe, Graham relates, was previously proposed by Trump, but had his nomination withdrawn “after it became clear that Ratcliffe had practically no qualifications for the job, and those he did have were badly misrepresented.”  However, this week, Maine  Republican Senator Susan Collins, who has an undeserved reputation of standing up to Trump,  said she’d support Ratcliffe’s nomination in committee. Meaning he’s likely to go to the full Senate for a vote. Meaning he’ll be confirmed.

Among Ratcliffe’s inadequate qualifications are his career as an anti-immigrant pro-religion, pro-gun, anti reproductive choice elected and appointed official in Texas government.  Like so many anti-democratic House Republicans, he got elected because of a particularly egregious gerrymandering of Congressional districts back in 2003. Done seemingly illegally by then House leader Tom Delay (who resigned from Congress  in 1996 after damaging reports of financial irregularities)  The redistricting was ruled legal by the Supreme Court in 1996, and helped produce a radical shift in the Texas House delegation from 17-15 Democratic to 21-11 Republican. 

There is no indication on  Committee Chair Capito’s capacious web site that she has anything to say about any of her theoretical responsibilities on the Terrorism Subbcommittee.  There is nothing specific on ranking Demcratic Senator Tester’s pages that would indicate he  has anything to say about his responsibilities. Ditto their equivalent members in the House, where there are no fewer than sixteen committees and subcommittees with dozens and dozens of members working on some element of presumed threats to all of us. Add staff and consultants and you’re well into the hundreds.

The phrase “billions of dollars” is an indigestible one for most people.  But if we knew  say, the cost of one “modernized” missile versus what it would it would cost to provide face masks for each and  every citizen?  Might,we then as the saying goes, have our consciousnesses raised?  Estimates for the weapons are in the $500 billion to $1.2 trillion range.  You can get a package of 100 masks  for $15 or less. Do the mask math!

Test, track, isolate. Generally considered to be what works in battling COVID-19.  Relatively easy to understand as concepts.  But it can get relatively complicated real fast – such as when you hear that  a leading medical manufacturer is promoting a standardized coronavirus test that has a failure rate preliminarily estimated at 48%, according  to independent evaluators.  That manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories, with annual sales of  around $30 billion, estimates the test failure rate is .002%.

Hello?  Senator Capito?  Hello, Senator Tesler?  Watcha got on this?

It gets worse, as it always seems to.  Now the bad includes someone who hitherto has been hel up as part of the good.  The anti-Trump.   Not given to bragging or lying or confused syntax,  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo would seem to be on the side of the hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 victims.  Now it turns out that he is one of a number of governors who have signed legislation that would bar victims of medical malpractice in nursing homes from suing for damages in nearly all cases.

“Liability protections for healthcare providers such as hospitals and skilled nursing and assisted living providers and their employees in emergent circumstances are quite common as these limited protections allow providers and staff to focus on the provision of necessary care while constantly adjusting to ever changing rules and orders associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

Stephen B. Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association, an industry group,  to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.

Cue the research team bursting at the starting line to start finding out if there’s any corollary between the $37 million raised by Governor Cuomo in the last election cycle and the $27 million spent on legislative lobbying by nursing home groups like Hanse’s.  Ready, guys and gals?  GO! (See last week’s essay in this series, “Journal of the Plague Year # 8” for a personal tale of nursing home horrors)

And if you want to drill down more locally for a tale of budget misallocation in times of scarcity, how about a look at the Alameda County Supervisors’ vote last week to add $106 million to the  county Sheriff’s office budget?  At a time when the county is facing a $72 million deficit in its $3.1 billion budget?   It’s supposed to help with the notoriously poor mental health care of inmates.  But – a sheriff’s office?  Mental health?  Surely it should be a priority for society.  But  is that what a sheriff is trained to do?  The gun and badge and all that – is this cosplay or what? The now generally accepted understanding that too many people are being locked up for too long for flimsy reasons – does this not apply right here in our own backyard?

And now – what was the cost of those masks, again?

Mental health, by the way, is notoriously neglected in our health care non-system.  And If the impact of the coronavirus is having a psychological impact on you or someone(s) close to you, get ready for that to get worse as well.  A just released study done at San Diego State and Florida State universities says that “more than one in four U.S. adults now meet the criteria that psychologists use to diagnose serious mental stress and illness. This is a 700 pecent increase over just two years ago.”  Rising depression and suicide rates can be expected. (Time Magazine, “How is COVID-19 affecting our mental health?”  5/25/2020)

Recent Headlines:

“Places without social distancing have 35 times more potential coronavirous spread,
study says”

“Trump sets goal of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses by January, but scientists
doubt it”

“Trump Jr. Posts Baseless Claim About Biden.”

“New Cases in U.S. Slow, Posing Risk of Complacency. Spikes Feared as the Very
Steps That Curbed Virus Are Lifited”

“Burnout Smolders Among Medical Workers”

“As Neighboring Countries Closed, Sweden Stayed Open. A Deadly Month Shows
How Risky That Was.”

“Why Bombs Made in America Kill Civilians in Yemen”

“America’s Cities Could House Everyone if They Chose To”

“Health or wealth? GOP’s economic focus might win.”

“Reviving an Agenda, DeVos Funnels Relief to Private and Religious Schools.”

“As Virus Hit New York, the Rich Hit the Road”

“Fit Some Fun Into Your Week”

[To read previous entry of the “Journal of the Plague Year” click here]

Larry Bensky
Larry Bensky

Larry Bensky is a literary and political journalist with experience in both print and broadcast media, as well as a teacher and political activist. He is known for his work with Pacifica Radio station KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California, and for the nationally-broadcast hearings he anchored for the Pacifica network